Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I'm in the middle of Jeffrey Toobin's book on the Supreme Court, The Nine, so the partisan intrusion by the Court into the electoral process in the 2000 Bush vs. Gore case has been recently recalled for me, in all of its infamous "glory."
Acting again to ensure that the Republicans maintain as much control over the electoral process as possible, the Supreme Court upheld a voter ID requirement, enacted by a Republican controlled state legislature in Indiana intended to "prevent fraud" -- or code for the ability to impede the poor and minorities from easily exercise their voting rights.
The SCOTUS Blog describes the result in Court rejects voter ID challenge:
The Supreme Court, voting 6-3, on Monday rejected a constitutional challenge to Indiana’s law requiring voters to show a government-issued photo ID before they may cast a ballot.* * * *
The voter ID ruling may turn out to be a significant victory for Republicans at election time, since the requirement for proof of identification is likely to fall most heavily on voters long assumed to be identified with the Democrats — particularly, minority and poor voters. The GOP for years has been actively pursuing a campaign against what it calls “voter fraud,” and the Court’s ruling Monday appears to validate that effort, at least in part. The main opinion said states have a valid interest in preventing voting by those not entitled to do so, even if there is no specific proof of that kind of fraud in the state.
While the Court’s main opinion said it was “fair to infer that partisan considerations may have played a significant role” in enacting the photo ID law, it went on to say that that law was neutral in its application and was adequately supported by the justifications the state had offered.
Got that? Even though everyone knows that this law was an intentional attempt on the part of partisan Republicans to suppress votes, because they were able to cobble together a semblance of an excuse to justify what they did, it's OK.
The 6-to-3 ruling kept the door open to future lawsuits that provided more evidence. But this theoretical possibility was small comfort to the dissenters or to critics of voter ID laws, who predicted that a more likely outcome than successful lawsuits would be the spread of measures that would keep some legitimate would-be voters from the polls.See also, Supreme Court: States free to require photo IDs for elections.
Voting experts said the ruling was likely to complicate election administration, leading to both more litigation and more legislation, at least in states with Republican legislative majorities, but would probably have a limited impact on this year’s presidential voting.
I guess the best that can be said is to echo the sentiments of Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net:
My first reaction to today’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is that it is not as bad as it could be. But then, my expectations for this Supreme Court are pretty low.
Let's be perfectly clear about this -- I used the word forgotten, not forgetful, in the Caption, referring to John "Double Talk" McCain. I wouldn't want to be accused of ageism because John McCain's so old.
And, as Jon Stewart notes, there is another candidate running for president. Someone we wouldn't want to forget about. It's the media's candidate, Republican John McCain. Stewart best exposes the pass the media provides to McCain, surely just a prelude of what's to come in the fall, when the campaign begins in earnest.
After Jeremiah Wright's appearance on Bill Moyers Journal on Friday evening, I was surprised to see little or no mention of it in the media. See also, Why Is It So Quiet After the Moyers-Wright Interview?.
The blog Make it Stop! Make it Stop! expressed my thoughts on the interview exactly, The Wright stuff:
I hope everyone saw the Bill Moyers interview with Senator Obama's former minister, Jeremiah Wright. From the media coverage and the fiery Youtube video footage--very selectively edited, of course--I was convinced I was going to behold the devil incarnate, right there on pbs. What I found instead was an eminently personable, highly educated and thoughtful individual who kept Bill and the audience spellbound for the whole hour with commentary on the Bible, African-American history, his ministry and congregation, American culture and yes, politics.See also Wright Is Right-On Bill Moyers Last Night and Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers' Journal.
Of course, I didn't understand what all the fuss was about to begin with, since his words expressed the truth, albeit in fiery prose. See Point, Counter-Point. But that was never the point. If the press (and his opponents) couldn't find much of anything in Barack Obama's past or his record to belittle, then try his friends and associates-- a la Jeremiah Wright.
And rather than expose Wright as the reasonable, intelligent man that he is, as was evident in his Moyers' interview, the media waited for the remaining appearances that Wright had planned before the NAACP and the National Press Club over the past few days, since he was sure to say something that could be construed as inflammatory when taken in snippet. Which he did. And they did. Obama Addresses Ex-Pastors Media Blitz.
To see the real Wright, go watch the Moyers' video.
As an aside, it's also interesting that despite the news blackout on the interview, Bill Moyers' blog received over 1800 posts on the interview, mostly positive.
Monday, April 28, 2008
On Saturday night, we hosted an engagement party for one of the LLWL Gang* and a good time was had by all.
Obviously, however, we're really just a bunch of duds. It's clear that we don't know how to have a bang-up affair, like the newlywed couple from Pittsburgh, Love, (Bam!) honor (Pow!) and obey (Wham!): Wedding night brawl lands couple in jail:
There was lots of goodies to eat (my barely used Viking range finally got put to good use by a cooking monster LLWL Gang member) and drink, including the obligatory champagne toasts, along with some delicious desserts. The office gang (and mates) intermingled with friends and family of the happy couple and there was lots of good wishes and cheer.
On Saturday, they were exchanging their wedding vows. But soon, they were exchanging blows -- with each other as well as with members of another wedding party.
"It was pretty wild," said Ross police Sgt. Dave Syska of a post-wedding brawl that landed a bride and groom in the Allegheny County Jail on their wedding night and left two good Samaritans with injuries.
So where did we go wrong? We can't claim an evening to remember like this:
According to a criminal complaint, the Wielechowskis had just checked into the Holiday Inn-McKnight Road in Ross and were ready to enter their room on the seventh floor when they began arguing.
Dr. Wielechowski "then used a karate-style kick with his leg to kick Christa, knocking her to the floor," the complaint reads.
* * * *
Police said both Dr. and Mrs. Wielechowski punched and wrestled with the rescuers, who were left with injuries that included cuts, a tooth knocked out and a possibly broken thumb.
The complaint estimates $1,000 in damage to the hotel, including to the elevator, the planters and plants.
* LLWL = Lady Lawyers Who Lunch (a/k/a my officemates)
Born this day in 1926
The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.
The author of To Kill A Mockingbird also said, "Well it's better to be silent than to be a fool." See And They Didn't Read This, Either. Too bad the Bush missed that lesson, among others.
And if you wonder why I'm such a fan, see this: Who Am I?
Saturday, April 26, 2008
So, the South Jersey Republican who makes a living off gullible tourists visiting Philly (since no one from Philly would actually eat his lousy cheesesteaks) is whining because neither Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton stopped by Joey Vento's shop during the campaign.
I've written about Joey Vento, the anti-immigration, son-of-immigrants many times before, who is now claiming that the Democratic candidates are wimps for skipping a visit to his place, Vento to candidates: No Geno’s? No guts. No, Joey, it's not that. It's that they heard not only are you an idiot and an asshole, but that you make inferior steaks too. After 45 cheesesteaks, the best were ...
Oh, and then there's always the issue of the flags. As I mentioned in The Flag Flies, Joey Vento is a big fan of the confederate flag. Joey, if Obama had stopped by, would you have shown off your confederate flag tattoos? Or even better, perhaps he could have draped himself in one of the rebel flags you have hanging around the shop. Maybe you have a lapel pin with the confederate flag that you could have given him to quell those stories that he's unpatriotic because he's just like the other 2 presidential candidates and doesn't wear one.
And one more thing Joey-- that affinity for the Rebel flag. Is that your Southern roots showing? I realize it's not a sign that you're a bigot, it's just a reflection of pride in your southern origins. But which South are you glorifying? Is it South Philly or South Jersey?
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
As I read Karl Rove's words, all I can think of is that he must have been bullied unmercifully as a kid for being a short, chubby, pasty-faced dork.
In his WSJ op-ed hit piece, Rove assesses the Democratic landscape after the PA primary, in
Is Obama Ready for Prime Time?. He claims Obama was "pummeled" by Clinton, who managed to "cobble" a victory despite her own flaws. According to his world view:
After reading Rove's ravings, you would think that the Democrats may as well just pack it in now, since they've already lost the election. Of course, for me, his rants are the biggest favorable endorsement one can get.
The Democratic Party has two weakened candidates. Mrs. Clinton started as a deeply flawed candidate: the palpable and unpleasant sense of entitlement, the absence of a clear and optimistic message, the grating personality impatient to be done with the little people and overly eager for a return to power, real power, the phoniness and the exaggerations. These problems have not diminished over the long months of the contest. They have grown. She started out with the highest negatives of any major candidate in an open race for the presidency and things have only gotten worse.
And what of the reborn Adlai Stevenson? Mr. Obama is befuddled and angry about the national reaction to what are clearly accepted, even commonplace truths in San Francisco and Hyde Park. How could anyone take offense at the observation that people in small-town and rural American are "bitter" and therefore "cling" to their guns and their faith, as well as their xenophobia? Why would anyone raise questions about a public figure who, for only 20 years, attended a church and developed a close personal relationship with its preacher who says AIDS was created by our government as a genocidal tool to be used against people of color, who declared America's chickens came home to roost on 9/11, and wants God to damn America? Mr. Obama has a weakness among blue-collar working class voters for a reason.
Yet, Rove might have missed mentioning a few items of importance in making his predictions of doom. Gee, maybe he ignored the huge increases in voter registration rolls (for the Democrats) and well as record voter turnout. And as much as it can be problematic for the Democrats, the truth of the matter is that the intra-party fighting is the result of the fact that democrats are so enthused for their candidate that they are sniping at each other.
On the other hand, the Republican slate was so lame that Double Talk McCain won by default and the Republicans have to take a double dose of their Stepford juice before they could support him. In fact, I'm willing to bet that Rick Santorum had to take his dose via IV before he was able to pen his latest endorsement of McCain, Why conservatives should support McCain. Of course, he's a Republican, so his earlier screeds against McCain are no longer operative. See, e.g., Even Santorum can’t stay away.
I think that we've thankfully reached the point where the ramblings of Rove are just that.
The post-primary election talk around the lunch table at the office today included a discussion of the impact of race on the outcome. Confirming Ed Rendell's prediction, Ed the Rant-dell, the LLWL Gang* agreed that racial attitudes no doubt factored in (and/or was responsible for) Obama's loss in Pennsylvania. A colleague of ours who spent election day in South Philly expressed his shock at the pervasive level of racism that he experienced while canvassing for Obama.
Of course, that's not to say that everyone who voted for Clinton is racist, but a look at the map showing the election results tell the story best. See THE VOTE COUNT and Suburbs helped fuel Clinton win. And, despite the fact that we aren't supposed to talk about it, The Contest, race is still a big issue in the Keystone State. See also, For Democrats, Questions Over Race and Electability.
As a side note, it's also interesting (but not unexpected) that the day before the election, predictions were that a result of 10 percent or less would be a loss for Clinton, yet the day after the news is all about the big win she had and whether Obama can overcome, notwithstanding that he still is leading. The media just loves spinning the spin.
Our lunch conversation then turned to the issue of which is more pervasive in our society -- racism or sexism? We were fairly divided on the issue, but most seemed to think that sexism is more fundamentally ingrained in our psyche (we're all women, after all, so what did you expect?).
It's true that sexism is a tool used to marginalize, as noted in Sexism is candidate Clinton's primary opponent:
No one has called Barack Obama a witch.The Boston Globe also considered the issue, in Black man vs. white woman, focusing on studies on the issue:
No one has suggested John McCain is too ambitious.
No one has disparaged Mitt Romney for misting up.
No one has accused John Edwards of faking emotions.
No one has depicted Mike Huckabee as calculating.
No one has critiqued the pitch of Rudy Giuliani's voice.
No one says male presidential aspirants are cold or feisty or careless about their cleavage (or any other anatomical feature). If they tear up, or even - gasp! - cry, no one says men are too weak to run the country. If they blow a gasket (a la Bill Clinton), it's manly. If they blow off a question (classic Reagan), it's strategic.
But when a woman has a chance to win the presidency, all bets are off. It's no conspiracy; this is America.
But turn away from the campaign trail, and toward the laboratories where psychologists work, and a fascinating portrait of the primaries emerges. For decades, researchers have been probing bias -- how it arises, how it changes, how it fades away. Their work suggests that bias plays a more powerful role in shaping opinions than most people are aware of. And they suggest that the American mind treats race and gender quite differently. Race can evoke more visceral, negative associations, the studies show, but attitudes toward women are more inflexible and -- to judge by the current dynamics of the presidential race -- ultimately more limiting.I also have to say that I think it's still considered somewhat acceptable to express sexist views. See also, Is Misogyny the Last Taboo?. On the other hand, it's generally understood that racist thoughts need to be silenced, expressed only in code or justified in some other way.
'Gender stereotypes trump race stereotypes in every social science test,' says Alice Eagly, a psychology professor at Northwestern University.* * * *
Race and gender are both traits that we cannot help but notice. One hundred milliseconds after we have first laid eyes on someone, we have made a determination about their race; 50 milliseconds later, we have determined their gender. But the reactions are not identical.
When psychologists talk about bias, they use three technical categories: stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. Stereotyping is cognitive bias, the tendency to ascribe people a set of traits based on the group they belong to (e.g., "black people are good at sports," "Jews are cheap"). Prejudice is an emotional bias, disliking someone because of their group identity. And discrimination is how we act on the first two.
Sexual prejudice isn't terribly common -- male chauvinists don't dislike women, they just have particular ideas about their capabilities and how they should behave -- but with race, stereotypes tend to go hand-in-hand with prejudice.
I wrote about the sex vs. race issue at the beginning of the year, Are You Ready?, discussing a piece by Mark Morford, from the San Francisco Gate, who pondered the question whether the country is ready for the first black or woman president. In The woman vs. the black guy, "Who's more terrifying to red states, smart Hillary or savvy Barack? The nation trembles." The reality is, both are alive and well. But, as Morford says, we need to forget about it & focus on the race to the White House.
As I said then, it would be deliciously ironic, to say the least, if the one good thing to come out of the failed Bush presidency would be that the Democratic nominee, whether Obama or Clinton, would prevail in the general election, despite the race or sex of the candidate. That the backlash against his disastrous reign would serve as the impetus needed to get us past this barrier.
Ending on a lighter note, The Daily Show had a great analysis on the race vs. sex factor:
* LLWL = Lady Lawyers Who Lunch (a/k/a my officemates)
UPDATE (4/25): For more on the impact of race on the race in Pennsylvania, see Dan Rubin's column on the election, Political paradox muddles Montco, as well as a follow up piece at his blog, The Trouble With Obama.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Lost in the dueling, grueling battle between Clinton and Obama is the fact that John McCain handily won the Republican side in the Pennsylvania contest. Of course, he's also the elephant in the room on the democratic side, emerging as the real winner of the Democratic primary.
Clinton certainly chalked up a 10 point victory (much more than I would have expected), but what does she have to show for it? Her chances of prevailing in the end are still extremely slim. Besides confirming that negative campaigning works, it shows that she has been able to divide the party mightily.
In addition to her real constituency, Clinton has managed to garner the votes of the gun-lovers, the pro-life democrats and the racists. So, kudos to you Hillary! Of course, many of these same people will vote for McCain in the fall, whether the democratic candidate is Hillary or Obama, because his views are closer to their values than either of the democrats.
And then there are the Hillary Haters. Those who hate Hillary passionately and those who hate on behalf of Hillary with equal passion. It seems that many zealous supporters of Hillary or Obama have hardened their positions, so much so that they are less likely to support the ultimate winner if it is not the candidate of their choice. A number of my favorite bloggers, for example, have taken sides and seem to be relentless in skewering the opponent.
As the New York Times notes, in Clinton Outduels Obama in Primary:
I realize a win is a win, in Hillary Clinton's view of the world, which is true. But some wins may be more costly than others, especially if you lose the war. This may cost Clinton more than she bargained for in the long run, whether she is able to pull it off or not. The NYTimes' editorial, in what has been labeled as an un-endoresement of sorts, The Low Road to Victory, adds:
Mrs. Clinton’s margin was probably not sufficient to fundamentally alter the dynamics of the race, which continued to favor an eventual victory for Mr. Obama. But it made clear that the contest will go on at least a few weeks, if not more. And it served to underline the concerns about Mr. Obama’s strengths as a general election candidate. Exit polls again highlighted the racial, economic, sex and values divisions within the party.
To take one example, only 60 percent of Democratic Catholic voters said they would vote for Mr. Obama in a general election; 21 percent said they would vote for Mr. McCain, exit polls show.
“This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen,” said Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a Democrat who has not endorsed anyone in the race. “They are going to just keep standing there and pounding each other and bloodying each other, and no one is winning. It underlines the need to find some way to bring this to conclusion.”
The Democratic Party, so energized and optimistic just a few months ago, thus finds itself in a position few would have expected: a nomination battle unresolved, with two candidates engaged in increasingly damaging attacks. At a time when the Democratic Party would dearly like to turn its attention to Mr. McCain, it now faces continued damage to the images of both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.Finally, Dick Polman provided the best parting words, Take these candidates, please!:
Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
Six weeks of bowling and Bittergate and Pastorgate and nonexistent Bosnian snipers....and for what? The Pennsylvania results have essentially changed nothing. There is seemingly no cure for the chronic Democratic migraine - and the fear, among so many members, that they are tearing themselves asunder.
Memo to the voters of Indiana and North Carolina: Take these candidates, please!
(Cartoon via Tom Toles, NYTimes)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Finally, Pennsylvanians get to have their say in the Democratic primary race.
There are polls and predictions galore as to who will prevail, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And we know, as Dick Polman so brilliantly (and hilariously) points out, whatever the result, that Hillary Clinton will find a way to say it's all good. Always pleased with where they are. Yes, Hillary is definitely the Everlasting Bunny of the race, so I'm don't expect her to drop out even when she doesn't come anywhere near original projections. On the other hand, there is this, from a former Clinton fan, that should be required reading for Hillary the day after:
I have proudly self-identified as a feminist since age 12, and I have never wavered in my support for both Clintons. But, despite her intelligence and her eloquence, Hillary isn’t the candidate I wanted her to be, and if she can’t convince me, how can she possibly win a general election.See Update from Pennsylvania: If I’m not voting for Hillary then who is? (Via Attytood).
I don’t actually fault Hillary, because as all successful feminists of her generation who struggled to break the glass ceiling—and isn’t this the ultimate glass ceiling—she has absolutely mastered the rules of a man’s world. Unfortunately, the game is changing, and the old rules are no longer good enough. I wanted the first woman president to be better than the men who preceded her and not simply to be better at their politics. I wanted Hillary to rise above the fray, to inspire and to unite, and to humanize, and to finally be the one to change both how we campaigned and how we governed. While I owe Hillary a great debt for paving the way for the next generation of women politicians, I believe that our first woman president will not come from her generation. The price she and her peers had to pay for playing by the rules, as they existed, was too high. The first generation feminists didn’t realize that woman shouldn’t simply strive to succeed at the old rules, but they needed to change the rules themselves.
On the other hand, I recall the words of Jon Stewart, speaking of Obama's gaffe about the "bitter" people of this fine state in which I've lived my whole life. As the video above shows, Stewart ends his comic routine by defining the term "elite" as superior and suggesting that that is the qualification for the presidency that should be in the forefront as we elect our next leader. Think so? As he observes, intelligence should not be a bad word.
This sentiment is echoed in The Observer's Comment is Free, by Michael Crowley, There's real danger to Obama in a cry of 'snob':
In every case, the GOP message to America was the same: the Democratic candidate is too fancy to understand your world. He looks down on you. He is a product of a coastal elite establishment that derides real Americans. Republicans have always known how they would attack Hillary Clinton's character: They've had more than 15 years of trashing her as mean-tempered, ultra-feminist prevaricator. But Obama's comments, which can at least be construed to deride the legitimate faith, traditions and concerns of small-towners, have opened the GOP door to tarring him with the label of elitist snob. This is how it's going to go. In the derisive commentary of the past two weeks, we can see how Obama is heading for the Kerry-Gore-Dukakis treatment. He will be cast as a 'professor' from the university enclave of Chicago's Hyde Park. And just as Kerry was heckled by conservatives for supposedly looking French, the campaign to define Obama as 'foreign', thanks to his Kenyan father and his boyhood years in Indonesia, is already underway.And the final on the other hand is that, whomever ultimately prevails on the Democratic side will have to face John McCain in the fall. Mr. Explosive (and did I mention old?) himself.
The Washington Post had the latest piece on McCain's anger management problem, in McCain: A Question of Temperament. As it noted:
Since the beginning of McCain's public life, the many witnesses to his temper have had strikingly different reactions to it. Some depict McCain, now the presumptive Republican nominee for president, as an erratic hothead incapable of staying cool in the face of what he views as either disloyalty to him or irrational opposition to his ideas. Others praise a firebrand who is resolute against the forces of greed and gutlessness.So the choices are Elitist, Everlasting or Explosive. Today, at least, the choice is clear for me.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Born this day in 1889
Let us pray in this hour that nothing can divide us, and that God will help us against the Devil! Almighty Lord, bless our fight!
~ Adolf Hitler (1930)
Time's 100 Most Important People of the Century had this to say of Adolf Hitler:
Adolf Hitler or the incarnation of absolute evil; this is how future generations will remember the all-powerful Fuehrer of the criminal Third Reich. Compared with him, his peers Mussolini and Franco were novices. Under his hypnotic gaze, humanity crossed a threshold from which one could see the abyss.There is a tendency to characterize Adolf Hitler as the epitome of evil. Evil he was. Yet, evil is not merely the province of Hitler. Rather, if we classify him as the apex of evil, do we not run the risk that we may overlook evil on the horizon or that which may be even closer? Remember, in order to honor the promise of "Never Again," we need to be ever vigilant.
Via Stephen Gimbel of Philosophers' Playground, who notes this "auspicious" day, in It's Springtime for Hitler, querying whether humor can be appropriate in circumstances where the subject of the humor is the source of such horror and devastation. I believe so. And I have to say that Springtime for Hitler is one of my favorites:
Clearly the Bush Administration is not on the same level as Hitler or the Nazi regime, yet it has done tremendous damage to America and beyond in innumerable ways. And I believe that satirizing Bush and his cronies is but one way of dealing with the misery they have wrought, without dismissing or minimizing the reality of it. It's not only perfectly acceptable to do so, it's a necessary anecdote to prevent depression from setting in.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
And speaking of the Democrats, my blogging buddy Susan put it all in perspective:
In any event, I plan to vote for Obama on the 22nd. If Clinton is the nominee, I will vote for her in November. And in any event, to my fellow Democrats: Enough public chatter on this. Now is the time to vote the Party (not individual Democrats); sweep as many Rerpublicans as possible out of office at all levels of government.
John Edwards likewise reminded us what's really at stake in the election during his recent appearance on the Colbert Report, during his version of The Ed-Words -- jet skis, and a few other things. As he said:
It is no secret that both campaigns have sought my support. So far, I haven’t decided which of these excellent candidates I’m going to endorse. On the one hand, I don’t want to be seen as anti-hope. On the other hand, I don’t want James Carville to bite me. So who? Who am I going to vote for in the next to the last primary, North Carolina? Well, I’ll support whoever presents a platform that’s consistent with my values. I’ll support the candidate who’ll raise the federal minimum wage. Someone who’ll fight for the 37 million Americans who wake up in poverty every day. Somebody who’ll protect the interest of working families. Also, I’d like a jet-ski.
(Video via Crooks and Liars)
As I mentioned here, the better Clinton/Obama Philly match-up occurred on The Colbert Report, along with a few good words from John Edwards. I promised one of the LLWL Gang* that I would put this up for her to see.
First up, The Fixer:
And Manufactured Political Distractions are On Notice:
See also, Hillary Clinton And Barack Obama Appear On The Colbert Report.
LLWL Gang = Lady Lawyers Who Lunch, a/k/a my officemates.
As the resident office political junkie (in an office of political aficionados), I took an informal poll among the LLWL Gang* the day of the latest Democratic debate here in Philly. Obama was the clear favorite, 8 to 3. There were 2 undecideds, who split between Clinton and Obama when asked the "if the election was held today" question. The LLWL Gang is mostly Democrat, but a few members vote Republican at least occasionally. However, there are no McCain backers. Despite a preference for one or the other, all expressed a generally positive view of both candidates and said they would happily vote for the other if he/she was the Party's nominee.
The Day After, I conducted another poll, to see if anyone's mind was changed and/or made up (for the undecideds) after the debate. Although most people thought that Clinton was the "winner" of the debate, no minds were changed because of it. Two others who hadn't participated initially came out for Obama and Clinton, respectively (and neither was swayed one way or another by the debate), for a final tally of 10 to 4, with Obama the clear winner.
I was out of the office attending a seminar (trying to get my legal education credits before the upcoming deadline) and I emailed everyone during a lull in the conference. I even managed to stir the pot a little with some of the responses, but I thought this best summed up things:
I also thought Hillary "won" but for me one debate doesn't a vote make. She'd better be good -- wasn't she some shining star on some debate team way back? They are both plenty smart and she has it over him on the gotchya and artful dodge and obviously, experience - which does not always make one better or wiser. Sometimes it impedes new thought and daring to try something they say can never work. It is the perhaps niave pollyanna in me - I'm not known for being a hard headed realist - that is going for Obama. The guy [Mark Morford, SFGate] who wrote the article tells why way better than I can...It's here. Heart vs experience? Having known personal despair intimately, I'm going for hope that things really could, possibly, maybe, be different.Of course, everyone was unanimous in assessing the media as the BIGGEST LOSER of the debate, a well-deserved award based upon their performance.
Much better than the debate were the appearances of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the Colbert Report during his taping in Philly (see video links here). At least with Stephen Colbert, you don't expect serious discourse about issues that matter.
For the rave reviews of the Debate, see Stephen Colbert:
And Jon Stewart:
As Jon Stewart said:
The first hour of last night’s debate was a 60 minute master class in questions that elevate out-of-context remarks and trivial, insipid miscues into subjects of natural discourse…which is my job! Stop doing my job! That’s what I’m here for! I’m the silly man!(Videos via Crooks and Liars/Stephen Colbert and Crooks and Liars/Jon Stewart)
UPDATE (4/20): Today's Philly Inquirer has an article on the impact of women voters on the Democratic primary results, For women voters in Pa., a shifting landscape. As the article notes:
I tend to agree that the issues tend to override the gender or race of the candidate for many potential voters, including the LLWL Gang. On the other hand, my informal poll of the women in my office shows Obama way ahead, with 71% of the vote. These are professional women (many of whom can be classified as older) who have long supported feminist causes and many of whom have been supporters of the Clintons. Frankly, even I was surprised at the significant percentage supporting Obama.
Allegiances are shifting, and affiliations based on gender and race are weakening, according to interviews in the last week with more than 40 local women voters.
A significant percentage of women still have not made up their minds. In a poll conducted April 2-7 for the Lifetime cable-television network, only 53 percent of Pennsylvania women voters said they had definitely decided whom they would support.
* * * *
Madonna said Clinton was likely to win the women's vote in Pennsylvania, garnering support from older women, with younger ones leaning toward Obama.
But he added, "We're in a very fluid environment in our state."
In the latest Quinnipiac University poll, released Tuesday, Clinton held steady with Pennsylvania women with 54 percent of the vote, compared with 40 percent for Obama.
In a poll two months ago, however, Obama had only 34 percent of the women's vote in Pennsylvania.
UPDATE #2 (4/21): I adjusted the numbers to include me in the vote count. Oops.
* LLWL Gang = Lady Lawyers Who Lunch, a/k/a my officemates
Friday, April 18, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
In honor of the Pope's birthday (he turns 81 today) -- Bill Maher's Final New Rule, which is dedicated to Pope Benedict (who was, as Maher notes, in his previous Vatican job, Pope John Paul’s Dick Cheney).
Of course, I've attended Catholic schools during my entire educational career, from 1st Grade through Law School (with a short reprieve in High School), but I'm not a big fan of the pontiff, who was also a Nazi in a previous incarnation. Also, I was a product of the progressive era of Pope John XXIII, who ushered in a modern, reformist movement in the Church, through the Ecumenical Council called Vatican II. See 1962 Man of the Year: Pope John XXIII. Many of those advances have been eroded by recent hard line conservatives such as Benedict.
And thus the gift of the New Rule. As anyone who watches him regularly knows, Maher is not a fan of religion generally and this one is brutal, but then, so is . . .
(Via Crooks and Liars)
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Giving the campaign coverage a break, there may actually be some good news on FISA/warrantless surveillance front.
Via Michael Froomkin of Discourse.net, comes the news from Glenn Greenwald, in Have Republicans given up on FISA and telecom amnesty?:
GOP is de-prioritizing their efforts to enact the Rockefeller/Cheney FISA bill:I have to say that I would never have believed that we would prevail on this one. You Are a Liar, Mr. President. However, it proves my point that the Democrats in Congress shouldn't just give up when the Republicans threaten to bully them on various measures.
House Republicans are poised to shift their focus from national security to the economy, hoping to rally opposition to what they claim are Democratic plans to raise taxes amid the economic downturn.
Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to announce Thursday that the House GOP floor emphasis will transition away from passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and earmark reform to 'stop the tax hike.'
The article goes on to quote GOP operatives as claiming that they're not giving up on FISA altogether (and the anti-warrantless-eavesdropping ads for which $50,000 was recently raised will be running shortly). But clearly, they have come to accept that they are not going to win the fight any time soon and they are not getting any real political traction from their scare-mongering campaign. Other than AT&T, Verizon, Fred Hiatt and Dick Cheney, there is not -- and there never was -- any constituency in the U.S. demanding new warrantless eavesdropping powers and telecom amnesty. And the ongoing disclosure of still-new secret surveillance programs, combined with increasing dishonesty from the likes of Michael Mukasey and Mike McConnell, only made the prospect of GOP success here that much more unlikely.
This was the very point that I made to the Democratic Committee when they called twice this week asking for a donation. I told them that I would only contribute to candidates who were trying to throw the bums out -- Democrat and Republican incumbents alike.
Maybe Hillary Clinton is the proof of Barack Obama's point. She is so bitter about the way her campaign is going that she is clinging to a shot & a beer and guns too.
After all, it doesn't seem as those her bitter comments are helping her cause. As Booman Tribune says:
And McClatchy News adds, White women begin to turn away from Hillary Clinton:
You know, all this hand-wringing about young women's alleged alienation from second-wave feminists would have a lot more saliency if Hillary Clinton were not a representative of the New Democratic wing of the party, if her campaign staff and advisers were not dominated by veterans of her husband's campaigns, if she were not running a racially polarizing campaign, if she didn't have severe electability issues (high negatives, issues with the truth), and if she could plausibly represent change and non-elitism after living for eight years in the White House.
People are simply voting against
for other reasons than that she is a woman. . . . I've met a few people at bars over the last two years that have openly admitted that they would never vote for a woman . . . any woman. They weren't Democrats and most of them won't vote for a black guy either. I'm not saying that Clinton hasn't been the recipient of some misogynistic rhetoric from political commentators. But none of it has come from the Obama campaign. Clinton 's problem is not that she is a woman but that, for a whole host of reasons, she is a flawed candidate. Rejecting her is in no way a rejection of feminism. Clinton
Like many women over 50, Paula Houwen was eager to vote for Hillary Clinton for president.I wonder if she had some bitters with that cocktail?
"I was impressed when she was first lady. She wasn't the country's trophy wife," the 56-year-old suburban Philadelphia pharmacist recalled.
Today, though, Houwen's no longer a Clinton fan.
"I do not like the way Hillary Clinton has run her campaign," she said.
Clinton's strongest core of support — white women — is beginning to erode in Pennsylvania, the site of the critical April 22 Democratic presidential primary, and a loss here could effectively end her White House run.
A Quinnipiac University survey taken April 3-6 in Pennsylvania found that Clinton's support fell 6 percentage points in a week among white women. Nationally, a Lifetime Networks poll of women found that 26 percent said they liked Clinton less now than in January, while only 15 percent said they liked her more.
"These are Democratic women who waited all their lives for a woman president, but Hillary is not turning them on," said polling analyst Clay Richards.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
This is for my "favorite cousin" Jimmy, who's April 6th birthday I just realized I missed. The fact that I did is even worse, since we've been corresponding quite a bit via email about the Democratic primary!
With the emphasis on Hillary Clinton's Scranton roots, memories of our younger days have been prominent of late. As I've mentioned before, growing up, my neighborhood was mostly a mix of Italians and Irish (with my grandparents and a number of my aunts and uncles living on the same block). My cousin Jim and I lived across the street from each other and attended the same Catholic grade school, St. Joe's. We walked to school every day together, accompanied by his older sister, Joanne. Clinton's family lived a few blocks away from us as well. See All Roads Lead to Scranton.
The other day, he pointed out Hillary's new TV Scranton ad, Clinton ad features Scranton roots, which is titled “Scranton,” and "contains clips of Mrs. Clinton as a young girl in Scranton and pictures of her father, Hugh Rodham; the former Scranton Lace Co. where her grandfather, also named Hugh Rodham, worked; and the Rodham family’s cottage at Lake Winola."
The Scranton Lace Works was also in our neighborhood, with the tower visible from where we lived. And I know I owned an outfit like that pictured in the ad, with a white organdy frock, white anklets and Mary Janes.
As Jim noted: My God, you'd think she grew up in Scranton. I half expect to find out in the next ad that she in fact did grow up in Scranton and actually walked to school with us in the morning!
Later on, Jim's family moved to the "country," to Moscow, but we still shared the family gatherings for holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, at my grandmother's house.
We know that Hillary's not really from Scranton, since she wouldn't understand the above video or this:
I'm from Scran-on Penn-cil-vain-ya!
P.S. I still have your birthday present from the big one that we missed!
As we get closer to the closely watched democratic primary in Pennsylvania, with pundits trying to figure out how the voters will decide between Clinton and Obama, it is inevitable that the Philly-Pittsburgh comparisons will be made.
I spent 10 years in Pittsburgh before I moved to Philly (where I've now lived for over 20 years), so the contrasts between the two cities are of interest to me. Tom Infield of the Inquirer writes about the differences in Pa. race may be a tale of two cities:
Steelers or Eagles? Pro-football loyalties are not the only differences that divide Pennsylvania's two big cities.I recall that Pittsburgh used to be called the Gateway to the Midwest, which described it perfectly. Although they considered themselves a city from an eastern state, they were definitely more Midwestern in their manners & mindset (not that that is a bad thing). Pittsburgh also has a major chip on the proverbial shoulder about Philly. Always reminded me of the second child's jealousy of the older sibling. Infield captures that sentiment:
In Democratic politics, the contrasts between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are so sharp that they might decide the outcome of the state's presidential primary April 22.
The Pittsburgh area, according to polls and politicos-in-the-know, is Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton territory.
The Philadelphia area is the Keystone State's biggest stronghold for Sen. Barack Obama.
The differences that 300 miles can make stem mainly from one thing: demographics.
"Look at who Barack Obama appeals to," said John Brabender, a Republican consultant from Pittsburgh who is tracking the Democratic race from the sidelines.
Brabender ticked off the list: younger voters, better-educated voters, more-affluent voters - and black voters.
Percentage-wise, Philadelphia has more of all of these.
Neither of the state's big metropolitan areas - Philadelphia ranks fourth nationally; Pittsburgh, 21st - is anywhere near the most youthful, the trendiest, or the fastest-growing.
But compared at least with Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia area, including its four suburban counties, is young and booming.
What was even more interesting was the related article describing the changing demographics of the state, Shift in Pa. population has a liberal, urban edge. Written from the Poconos, the piece notes:
The greater rootedness of the Pittsburgh area has led to a greater conservatism, even among Democrats.
"Many of the Democrats are probably more Republican than the Republicans in the east," Brabender said.
It was there, in 1980, that the term Reagan Democrat was applied. It referred to mill workers in the hills and hollows around Pittsburgh - many of them Catholics with roots in Eastern Europe - who believed in the liberal economics of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal but were with Ronald Reagan on social issues such as guns and abortion.
"A bunch of pointy-headed liberals - that's how Philadelphia looks to the rest of the state," said Bill Green, a Pittsburgh-area consultant who had worked with both major parties.
"They see Philadelphia as an elitist, white-collar kind of place," Green said.* * * *
"Some people say Pittsburgh is more Midwest whereas Philadelphia is more East Coast," he said. ". . . The experiences of the two areas are different."
Slowly but surely, Pennsylvania is tilting southeastward.
As the population shrinks in western Pennsylvania and grows in eastern Pennsylvania, the politically pivotal state is becoming more suburban, more Democratic, more eastern. It is becoming more like New Jersey and less like Ohio.
Since 1970, the 16 westernmost counties have lost about 400,000 people, according to census data. Meanwhile, the 15 easternmost and southeasternmost counties have gained about 900,000.
Here in Monroe County, in the heart of the Poconos, the population grew by nearly 30,000 - 20 percent - between 2000 and 2006 as former residents of New Jersey and New York continued to move in, attracted by lower housing costs and lower taxes. To the north, neighboring Pike County gained 26 percent, and in adjacent Northampton County, to the south, population was up 9 percent in the same period.
* * * *
The gains in the south and east, despite big population losses in Philadelphia, have increased the influence of the state's younger, more affluent, more urban residents. Politically, the shift has made the state less conservative, though it remains less liberal than New Jersey and New York.
Even in Chester County, a Republican bastion, Democratic registrations are creeping up and GOP registrations slipping, though Republicans still hold a registration edge of 48 percent to 37 percent.
We owned a home in the Poconos in the 80s and 90s, and the change in "complexion" of the Poconos during our vacation there last summer was striking. The area, once lily white, is now quite diverse, with the influx of people from New York and New Jersey. But the changes are occurring elsewhere as well:
"Pennsylvania has always had a dual personality," said James Cowhey, executive director of the planning commission of Lancaster County, where the population has grown by 56 percent since 1970. "When you get on the other side of Cumberland County, you can sense the Midwestern nature of the place.
"There's always been that dual personality, but the state used to be in much better balance economically. That's not the case now."
Of the 19 counties with a median household income of more than $45,000, only one - Butler County - is in Western Pennsylvania, according to census data.
And the effect can be seen on voter registration.
New arrivals from urban areas "are going to bring with them more cosmopolitan attitudes," said Jensen, the Penn State demographer. "What are the implications of that in voting for one party or another?"
In the last 10 years, the percentage of Democratic voters has increased in most eastern and southern counties, while the percentage of Republican voters has declined. Statewide, Democrats now hold an advantage of 50 percent to 39 percent, up from 48 percent to 42 percent in 1998.
Based upon these changes, I suppose it's not surprising that Obama is making inroads into Clinton's
And finally, as a somewhat ironic postscript to the "bitter" controversy over Obama's remarks about Pennsylvania voters, I'll Have Some Bitters With My Coffee, are the comments of Tom Infield about some of the labor officials at a Clinton event:
At a Clinton campaign appearance last week on Pittsburgh's South Side, two of the 400 people in her audience were burly officials from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a coalition of labor unions and steel companies.
They complained bitterly about the free-trade pact with China that in this decade has opened up the American market to billions of dollars in low-cost Chinese goods - and has led to the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. (Emphasis added)
Supporters of Clinton? Bitter? Say it ain't so, Hillary.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Like Ed Rendell before him, see Ed the Rant-dell, it looks like Barack Obama is getting into some trouble for speaking the truth about the Keystone State.
The latest is that Obama is being criticized by Clinton and McCain for saying that the people of Pennsylvania are "bitter." Opponents Call Obama Remarks ‘Out of Touch’:
Sounds like the oft repeated "voting against their economic interests" theme that pundits often refer to, no? Thomas Frank wrote a book, What's The Matter With Kansas?, about the phenomenon. Or the words of John McCain, speaking about anti-immigrant sentiment by voters in Iowa and South Carolina. McCain Said It, Before He Attacked It.
At the fund-raiser in San Francisco last Sunday, Mr. Obama outlined challenges facing his presidential candidacy in the coming primaries in Pennsylvania and Indiana, particularly persuading white working-class voters who, he said, fell through the cracks during the Bush and Clinton administrations.
“So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” Mr. Obama said, according to a transcript on the Huffington Post Web site, which on Friday published the comments.The remarks touched off a torrent of criticism from Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain and Republican activists and party officials, all accusing Mr. Obama of elitism and belittling the working class.
Obama responded, Obama Concedes Remarks Were Ill Chosen, noting:
'Lately there has been a little typical sort of political flare up because I said something that everybody knows is true, which is that there are a whole bunch of folks in small towns in Pennsylvania, in towns right here in Indiana, in my hometown in Illinois who are bitter,' Obama said Saturday morning at Ball State University. 'They are angry. They feel like they have been left behind. They feel like nobody is paying attention to what they're going through.'
'So I said, well you know, when you're bitter you turn to what you can count on. So people, they vote about guns, or they take comfort from their faith and their family and their community. And they get mad about illegal immigrants who are coming over to this country.'
After acknowledging that his previous remarks could have been better phrased, he added:
'The truth is that these traditions that are passed on from generation to generation, those are important. That's what sustains us. But what is absolutely true is that people don't feel like they are being listened to.'
See also, Talking Points Memo.
I don't suppose that the fact that over 80% of the country feels that we're going in the right direction would justify him saying that?
Or how about the fact that the citizens of the Commonwealth actually threw out a good number of state legislators -- and a judge up for a retention election -- after they voted themselves a payraise in the dead of the night and the courts upheld the raise for the judiciary? As Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast said:
I see this as a statement of fact, except it isn't limited to Pennsylvania. For nearly two decades, Americans, particularly in blue-collar areas, have seen their standard of living drop. They've seen the jobs that gave them a comfortable life dissappear. They've seen their incomes drop. They've watched as their children joined the military because it was either that or work at Wal-Mart. Politicians have played on their fears of the future by pointing these Americans' attention away from the corporate CEOs making hundreds of millions of dollars a year by sending their factories overseas, and from Senators and Congresspeople who have sided with corporations time after time. They've sold these Americans "trickle-down economics", which told them that if they just sit tight while the rich shovel cash into their pockets, sooner those rich people will piss a few bucks down upon them. They've played on their fears, first of black people (Willie Horton and the Jesse Helms "White Hands" ad), then of terrorists, then of Latino immigrants. They've succeeded by saying, "Look at the guy below you....HE'S your problem, not the guys who talked you into buying a house you couldn't afford, then bundled your mortgage into bogus investments sold by Bear Stearns, whose executives pocketed millions of dollars before the whole scheme went bust, leaving you with a house you can't pay for and can't sell. That guy below you on the ladder is the REAL problem, not a president sho cut taxes to give more cash to his rich friends and who allowed speculators to drive the price of gasoline to $3.25/gallon and heating oil to nearly $4."This isn't some evidence that they are bitter? OK then -- How about mad as hell?
Or maybe this is just one more of those Fake Scandals.
UPDATE (4/13): Via Talking Points Memo, is a clip of Obama on the Charlie Rose Show in November of 2004, shortly after he was elected to Congress, discussing the same issues in more detail, including the fact that this is the underlying theme of the book What's the Matter With Kansas, which I referred to above.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Yesterday at the office, as part of the daily luncheon roundtable discussions, the LLWL* chatted about the issue of Hillary Clinton & how she has squandered much of the support of her "base" -- that is, women like us (liberal, professional women of her generation) who would otherwise be strong allies in her race for the presidency.
When the contest first began, I started out favoring Clinton (not that I thought it mattered that much, since I thought the primary would be decided long before it got to Pennsylvania). After all, she said she preferred diamonds & pearls. In fact, my initial view was that it was exciting that the black guy and the woman were doing better than the white guy. See Are You Ready?. Then, as time when on, despite myself, I began leaning towards John Edwards based upon his position on the issues. Of course, he made things easy by dropping out.
At that point, surprise of surprises, Pennsylvania actually became part of the equation in the Democratic primary race. So, that meant I really had to pick one. I was still somewhat undecided, but pleased with both of the remaining candidates. See Do I Follow My Sex or My Heart?. I enjoyed seeing Hillary open her Pennsylvania campaign in Scranton, my home town. Then, I began having concerns about the manner in which Clinton was conducting her campaign, The Tipping Point and Ferraro & the Furies. The fact that she was a bit too moderate for my liking, along with the increasingly negative tactics waged by her campaign, finally swayed me to commit against her. This was especially true in light of the fact that her chances of winning the primary in the end are nil to worse, and her negativity seem to be helping He Who Shall Be Nameless. The Breaking Point.
This morning I read an op-ed piece by Ann Rosen Spector, a Center City psychologist, which may well have been me writing her column in the Philadelphia Daily News. As she put it, in How Hillary lost my vote:
I really wanted you to be the Democratic candidate and the next president of the United States.
In order to do that, I needed you to be the person I felt you were capable of being. I knew you were smart, funny and kind to your friends and family - I wanted you to demonstrate fairer play in the political arena.
I identified with you because we have some very important things in common.
I, too, am a baby boomer who came of age when women were just starting to enter the professions. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but, like you and so many others, I believed I had the ability, motivation and the perseverance to be successful.
It has never been easy.
Like so many women in our generation, I was often blindsided by the condescension of men toward women, regardless of our credentials (and theirs!) simply on the basis of gender.
She too (like Hillary & me) has a Scranton connection. And has raised daughters and has been in a long term marriage. Our background and sentiments are similar:
The fact that she didn't makes us all losers.
I believe you felt you could outrun all the boys in this race - if the others were Joe Biden, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd.
You were blindsided by Barack Obama - and felt he needed more seasoning, that it wasn't "his turn." And I stayed with you, rooted for you (even though I've admired Obama for four years).
Perhaps I could have continued to hold on, if only you'd stayed on the moral high ground and told the truth.
I don't expect politicians to deliver on all their initiatives. You are a policy wonk, in a way that - even with all my education - I'm not. I don't expect to ever read or understand every detail in your health-care plan. But I'm almost as old as you, and I know that initiatives don't necessarily translate into law, that politicians have to cut deals or they will get nothing done.
I thought it was unfair that likability was considered so much more important in a president than brains. Perhaps I'd enjoy a barbecue at the ranch with President Bush, but what would we talk about? I need someone who can, at least occasionally, use three-syllable words accurately.
To a great extent, I have to vote for the person of greater integrity, who will try to do the right thing most of the time - and I've lost faith in you. You finally lost me at Bosnia. Your claim to have been there during active hostilities has been roundly disproved, and your explanation that you misspoke or were too tired is, at best, lame.
And I'm sad. I wanted you to be what I think is the best part of you.
But, perhaps even more than that, I don't want John McCain. Don't get me wrong, I wish he (or anyone) had beaten Bush in 2000.
But after eight years of ineptitude, lack of moral rectitude and incompetence, I can't think of any reason that a Republican who has cuddled often enough with the Bush administration should be allowed to continue its missteps.
I will cast my vote in the primary for Obama, and hope that, while not perfect, he can unite the red and the blue into a purple nation.
I tried, Hillary. I just wish you had fulfilled your incredible potential.
(Cartoon via Joe Heller, Green Bay Press-Gazette)