Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Quote of the Day 7/31

""The American way is not single-payer, government-controlled anything. That’s a European way of doing something. That’s a, frankly, a Socialist way of doing something... If single-payer systems are cracking all over the world, why would we do it in America? Michael Moore wants to take you to Cuba for your health care. Anyone want to sign up? I didn’t think so. Maybe the Democrats will sign up."

- Rudy Giuliani giving an important health care speech in New Hampshire before an audience of Conservative think tanks and interest groups. NBC reports: he didn't outline specifics of a plan, but railed against Michael Moore and Democrats. He cited long wait times in Canada for even MRIs and took issue with the potential cost of Democratic-proposed universal health care plans. When pressed by a questioner on what steps he would take on health care, Giuliani said, first, he would "bring down the cost, so other people can afford it." Then, "give people a tax advantage to go buy individual insurance."

I don't pretend to be a health care expert, and I don't know the feasibility of covering a country with 300 million people, but close to 50 million people don't have health care in this country and something has to be done about it. This is primary season, time for politicians to make political headway, but can we hear SOME specifics? How, specifically, will you address health care in your administration? And spare me the Michael Moore/ Cuba crap please... what a waste of time.

John Edwards is the only candidate I know of who outlined a comprehensive plan. When asked if his plan would call for a tax hike he replied, "Yes."

My hope is that health care doesn't turn out to be for Democrats what abortion has been for Republicans, where the party wants the issue more than they care about the cause. Republicans use abortion to motivate their base and attract voters, so, politically speaking, some might want to keep abortion legal, so they can criticize it. I just hope Democrats don't plan on running the same "broken healthcare system" speeches every election to motivate their base.

Ok, I'm rambling and I have to study. I haven't been posting too much, because it's the middle of finals for my summer program. Two more tomorrow, and it's off to Paris on Thursday. I'll be back in the good ole' USA August 7. Hopefully some other bloggers will be posting.

And if you want to contribute to SAM email me or just comment to a post.

Monday, July 30, 2007

For Romney, it's Family First

A mayor with more baggage than the Howells on Gilligan's three hour tour. A Mormon representing "Liberal America," and marketing himself to the Christian Right. A 64 year old senator with a SAG card in his pocket, and a 39 year old trophy on his arm.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Republican presidential candidates.

But it's all in how you look at it:

America's mayor, the man who packs the emotional punch of a hurricane. A political legacy with a record of broad-based appeal, and success in business and administration. A two- term southern senator claiming the mantle of Ronald Reagan, with the skills to back it up.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the front- runner. He has the most money, the most press, and the most support. But he's vulnerable. You know that crack about his baggage? Well it's an understatement. He's been divorced twice (once from his cousin), and had how many wives, Rudy? (see pic to right); he's estranged from his only son; has a history of supporting gay rights, abortion rights, and gun control; and the firefighters' union is trying to rip down his 9/11-hero persona with a slew of charges. I mean they are just itching to swiftboat this guy back to Brooklyn. Bottom line: he is not the conservative or establishment darling George W. Bush was, not by a long shot.

Meanwhile, Thompson hasn't even declared yet, so he's relatively new to the equation. Without his presence, John McCain's meltdown would have put Romney in a one on one match up with Giuliani. That was Romney's goal when he got his campaign together a year ago, so you know he's disappointed to even deal with big Fred.

The two each have to be the anti-Rudy, and whoever does the best job will square off with the Mayor for the nomination. So they share a goal, but also a problem: neither of them really is the anti- Rudy.

Romney is the son of the former governor of Michigan, and a practicing Mormon. His religion does not easily jibe with more mainstream Christian faiths. Also, he served as Governor of liberal Massachusetts, where he ran as a pro- choice moderate, never much caring about the social issues that have motivated conservatives in the recent past.

He has since "rethought" his stance on abortion and stem cell research, but voters may not buy what Republican candidate Tom Tancredo called "a conversion on the road to Des Moines, not Damascus."

Thompson doesn't offer bedrock conservatism, either. As reported by the Washington Times, "[His] most-oft-cited credential is his 86.1 percent lifetime (1995-2002) Senate vote rating compiled by the ACU, the leading arbiter of conservatism." However, this rating was consistently lower than his fellow Senator from Tennessee, Bill Frist, making him, the Wash Times snickers, the "liberal Senator from Tennessee." There are also questions that Thompson lobbied for a pro- choice group.

So neither have the record to stand up boldly against Giuliani as the "Conservative" choice. But that doesn't mean they won't do it anyway. For Romney, who married his high school sweetheart some thirty years ago, winning that battle means focusing on his family. The Romneys have five sons (all of whom are visible on the campaign trail), with five daughters-in-law, and ten grandkids. They'll all be in Iowa for the Ames straw- poll on August 11.

"I can't wait for you to meet our family," Romney says.

Yeah, no kidding.

Giuliani is on his third wife and isn't on speaking terms with his last one, or their son. Thompson is on his second, a very accomplished (and very hot) former political consultant, 24 years his junior.

In the early, small states where politics is retail and many voters actually meet each candidate, this advantage is huge.

Romney is the only leading candidate taking the part in the Ames straw poll. He leads in Iowa and New Hampshire. So his strategy is to come out strong, establish himself as a force, and hope his momentum carries. Without those early states Romney is a dead duck, but with his family by his side, he's looking good.

The other two guys know it, too, their strategies basically concede Iowa and New Hampshire (which the reshuffled primary calendar allows them to do).

Thompson will hope Giuliani takes Romney out in the big states in the Northeast and West, while he focuses on the South, setting up his preferred two man showdown.

There seems to be something missing in this equation. Perhaps someone with the conservative chops to actually be Giuliani's legitimate counterpoint. People are talking about former Speaker Newt Gingrich making a run. He has done zero to quiet the speculation, either, recently evoking Stalin (yes, Stalin) by calling the current field "pygmies." But I doubt he'll run.

The funny twist is that for all the talk about how Romney's Mormonism may hurt his campaign, it has had, shall we say, an unintended benefit of leading to quite a large (and photogenic) family. So sometimes a weakness can turn into a strength.

I guess it's all in how you look at it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Quote of the Day 7/30

"I have worked my best to give happiness to the Iraqi people, to bring a warm smile to their lips and my mission is accomplished."

- Jorvan Vieira, head coach of the Iraqi soccer team who beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 to win the Asia Cup in one of sport's all-time upsets. Vierira, a Braziallian who signed a one year coaching contract with Iraq, resigned after the championship.

Fast Times. Long Letters


When she was in high school, Hillary Rodham had a friend named John Peavoy. The two weren't very close, but kept in touch through letters spanning Sen. Clinton's college years at Wellesley (1965-1969).

The New York Times recently visited Mr. Peavoy and took a look at his collection of 30 letters from the future lawyer, First Lady, Senator, and would-be president. The Times reviews the letters and offers some snippets, but not the long exerpts for which I hoped.

The author of the piece, Mark Leibovich, characterizes the letters as "by turns angst-ridden and prosaic, glib and brooding, anguished and ebullient." The Senator's intelligence shines through, at age 19 she is writing introspective phrases like

"Sunday was lethargic from the beginning as I wallowed in a morass of general and specific dislike and pity for most people but me especially."

What's really interesting about the letters is that they were written at a time of profound transition for Clinton, and they reflect intense self- examination. She went away to school as a staunch Goldwater- Conservative, mirorring her father's strict views, but you can see her ideology begin to shift as the Vietnam movement continues. She eventually becomes critical and frustrated of her then- fellow Republicans, and feels alienated from her father.

Another interesting note is how she speaks of the opposite sex. She is frustrated by what she perceives as their intense self-absorbtion, writing the “boys [she'd met] know a lot about ‘self’ and nothing about ‘man.’” So she didn't go for the vain, show-off types back in college, eh? Well, we all know how that turned out.

It's an interesting and uncensored insight into an historical figure.

In an AMAZING turn of events, it seems that Mr. Peavoy also has letters from another future political giant, whom he also met early in his college career.

Mr. Peavoy was nice enough to share one of his letters with SAM:

Dear Peavie,

Woooooooooooooooo! I can't feel my face!!!!!!! Oh man, college RULES! We're havin' a big ole Texas BBQ at the frat house. I musta drank bout 14 beers!

Course when I got up to take a leak someone stole my last can of Bud. But I will find that evil doer and bring him to justice. I will be unrelenting and never give... eh, never mind my buddy Brody just got me a new one... YOUR DOIN' A HECK OF A JOB, BRODY!

Some guy named Kerri just showed up talking about how he's signing up for the war, and we should, too. I told him to relax and have a beer. He started drinking one, but up and left when I started singing the Andover fight song from my cheerleader days. I hate that. When you start something, you can't just leave it, you got to finish it, man.

Look at me, I started 15 of em and i finished every dang one!

OK I got 2 go, buddy. Wish you were hear.

- W

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Presidential Policy and The Economy


There were a few questions in regards to the economy and the stock market brought up by Adam’s email last week that were left unanswered. While I did not have an opportunity earlier, I intend to answer those questions. However, I make no claims to be an economist, I have a limited knowledge of economics and I base most of my points on individual opinion rather than on fact so please feel free to comment, rebut or correct any inconsistencies that may arise.


While there is no doubt that the rise in the stock market is a good thing, especially for those who invest, it is important to note that the stock market relies heavily on the global economy and is not just specific to the American economy. It is not an accurate measure of the American economy. All the markets in the world are interconnected and what happens one side of the world will, without a doubt, affect the other side. For example, in February of this year a hiccup in Chinese market caused the Dow Jones to drop 400 points in a single day. This hiccup in China was believed to be Government intervention in the Shanghai market to slow the growth of that booming market. GDP, job creation and buying power are three statistics that give much better descriptions of the domestic economy.


One of the questions from earlier was how presidential policy can affect the stock market. There is saying about presidential influence on the economy that says all presidents get either more credit or more blame than they deserve. While Presidents have very little affect on the economy they do in fact have an affect on the economy. Example: While it is difficult to nearly impossible to prove, you could make the argument that Bush’s tax polices have affected the stock market in a positive way. Stock markets usually rise when there is an influx of investment income, more people investing with more money. You could contribute this increase in the stock market to Bush’s tax polices if you made the assumption that Americans in the higher income brackets are more inclined to invest their tax breaks in the stock market than Americans in the lower brackets. Since the higher income brackets are receiving nearly all of the tax breaks, it is very possible that they are reinvesting their money saved and as I said earlier this is creating a great influx of investment capital in the market and could very well be a contributor to the stock market rise. I would say that assumption is by no means a stretch, and it is very possible that the tax cuts have pushed the stock market higher.


Although the argument has been created that George W. Bush’s tax cuts have benefited the stock market they are having potentially very damaging affects on the economy in the form of Income Inequality. This disparity of income started well before Bush was elected, but his tax cuts are compounding the problem. In the United States the income gap between the wealthiest 10 percent and the poorest 10 percent is the greatest of any other country, except for Russia. Since 1980 the wealthiest third have grown their income by three times the amount of those in the lower classes. Tax breaks on capital gains and dividends have given the top bracket an incredible ability to sustain and grow their wealth, while the lower income classes do not have the adequate supplemental income to take advantage of this break. As Al Gore had ranted about in his race for the white house, 35% of Bush’s the tax cuts were going and did go to the top one percent. The reasoning for this policy was that the top one percent shoulders the load of the taxes so they should get the benefit of the breaks. Apparently the notion that the system was already set up to allow the wealthy to grow their wealth at 3 times the rate of the middle class was not enough. Our founding fathers built this country on the belief that all men are created equal, however, our tax system is set up so that a person born today will not have the same opportunity to grow his or her wealth as another born on the other side of the tracks. For the former land of opportunity , there is nearly a 50% chance that if your father is in the lower fifth of the income bracket than you will be there too. Throughout Europe that statistically is between 25 to 30%.

The Concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, drives social discontent and damages the economy. As a country whose economy has always been driven by the strength of its middle class, the growing issue of income inequality needs to be addressed and it is something the Government and the President can have a significant affect on. After all, many historic revolutions were brought about as a result of income inequality.

Disgrace

Yet again Congress has approved subsidies for crops that are receiving record high prices from the market. It seems to me that this infringement upon the invisible hand of the free market should be stopped immediately. If the industrial farmers of America's heartland were starving and barely making a living I could understand subsidizing their products given that food production is necessary for the health of a nation. Since that is not nearly the case and this bill is clearly vote buying in a number of important Midwest states (Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri), I would like everyone who reads this blog to condemn these unwarranted and unfair farm subsidies.

I should note that the Republicans came out against this legislation, but for all the wrong reasons. They were all for the continued farm subsidies but did not like the fact that the food stamp program was expanded as a result of this bill.

The fact that both parties can agree on wasteful farm subsidies is an embarrassment to the leaders of our country who often proclaim the greatness of free markets and free enterprise.

Here is a link to the story: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/28/us/28farm.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

New Blogger on SAM


SAM is pleased to have a new team member, Charles P. Coleta. Charles graduated Boston College in 2005* with a degree in political science, and now works in the financial industry at the firm State Street in Boston. He is blogging under the name CPC_65.

Here is his first post:

* Editor's note: Charles actually graduated BC in '06, I apologize for any confusion that may have caused.


BOUNCING FROM IRAQ
by Charles Coleta

First blog, very excited. Here we go.

Many opinions about the current war in Iraq. We should pull out altogether. We should do so gradually, with an end date set. We should stay until the fight is over! Not to suggest that any of these, among others, are wrong, but rarely do I hear intelligent conversations about what Americans hope to see Iraq become, and the necessary steps needed to get there.

I'm a Democrat, and have been one for a long time. I can't stand Republicans for reasons articulated quite eloquently by Paul Begala and James Carville in their last political treatise, Take It Back. However, there's something quite unnerving in the standard liberal view of foreign policy that seems to be schizophrenic and leaves America in a worst state. And the troubling aspect is that liberals generally accept this notion, and would like to move forward from this position.

Liberals would want the U.S. to pull out altogether and deal with Afganistan, Sudan, and, for all I know, Cape Verde. Redeployment is the name for such a strategy. Loss of credibily would fit better. For what kind of legitimacy would the U.S. bring to those nations, among other, were it to leave Iraq in the wreck it's in now, only to go deal with what's arguably worse? Consider Somalia today. It's essentially a civilization lost. Guns are more rampant that food and drinking water. U.S. troops were once stationed there for purely humanitarian reasons, reasons that live up to American ideals and everything we've all been taught America was all about. No oil. No platinum. Nothing real to gain other than a country getting back on it's feet. We lose 16 soldiers on a horrendous day of fighting, and it's pack-it-up and pull-out. What followed was Rwanda and Somalia gone awry...awry with Jihadists and Islamists, that is. With that in mind, and considering we have real interests in Iraq (i.e. oil), why would we condemn ourselves to that same history. History that goes beyond the example just provided.

The problem with the administration is their inability to internationalize the problem, as Kissinger explained last month on the Charlie Rose program. This is more than just Iraq. How safe should all those little monarchies feel with a collapsed Iraq? Iran may be empowered, but it would have to feel more threatened due to the religious fighting between the Sunnis and Shias that it instigates and is known for instigating. Saudi Arabia would have to re-evaluate the presence of American troops, and see that it would be in a catch-22: Keep the troops, and be condemned for it; kick the troops out, and face a major security problem. Among others, these vital issues ought to be expressed to these countries by their American interlocutors, yet there is this feeling that thia has never happened, and is currently not happening at a pace that would bring about progress.

We need more troops to handle the security problems of Iraq. We need more diplomatic progress (even if it's secretive) to get the regional actors involved. But most importantly, we need to realize what kind of Iraq we want to see and work towards that goal. Otherwise, cut the funding entirely and call it a day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Quote of the Day 7/27

"This stuff's not an accident. Nobody in this room should think this is an accident. You know, I'm out there speaking up for universal healthcare, ending this war in Iraq, speaking up for the poor. They want to shut me up. That's what this is about. 'Let's distract from people who don't have health care coverage. Let's distract from people who can't feed their children.... Let's talk about this silly frivolous nothing stuff so that America won't pay attention.'

They will never silence me. Never.

If we don't stand up to these people, if we don't fight em, if we don't beat them, they're going to continue to control this country. Thye're going to control the media. They're going to control what's being said. They do not want to hear us talking about health care for everybody... You think these people who make $100 million a year want to pay their fair share of taxes? That's what they hire all them lobbyists for in Washington DC."

John Edwards speaking before a crowd of what looks to be mostly blue- haired ladies in Iowa, where he currently leads in polls and has staked his campaign's future.

As Ben Smith points out at his blog for the Politico, there's really no mention of who "they" are. Mr. Smith has a better account of the speech here. I could criticize Edwards for using scare- tactics, but this is what campaigning is. Just like Hillary Clinton is playing the embattled woman card to her advantage (see below post), Edwards is trying to use the BS stories about his hair to his.

Who's to say both aren't right? Edwards does have the most populist message out there, he also has the most comprehensive plan for universal health care.

Either way, though, the speech comes off as either manipulative or paranoid, and maybe even delusional (are "they" responsible for Edward's poor polling numbers and fundraising, too?).

Senators Gone Wild!

A week ago the Washington Post ran an article, in its Style section that noted Hillary Clinton's low neckline in a speech she gave on the Senate floor. The article is pretty ridiculous, but it's in the Style section, and written by a Pulitzer Prize winning fashion reporter.

Crass as it was, the piece was great news for the Senator's presidential campaign. Clinton has made an effort to play up her gender, and its historical significance, in speeches, commercials and emails.

The article has given the issue loads of free publicity, and Clinton has capitalized on it by sending out a fundraising email based on its contents. As Clinton aide Ann Lewis put it,

"Frankly, focusing on women’s bodies instead of their ideas is insulting. It’s insulting to every woman who has ever tried to be taken seriously in a business meeting. It’s insulting to our daughters — and our sons — who are constantly pressured by the media to grow up too fast."

The fund-raising email asks: "Clothes? Cleavage? Make- Up? What's really important in this race?" (A seeming take- off of John Edwards' youtube video about everyone making such a big deal about his hair)

The move is smart because it can even attract more women to vote for (and donate to) Sen. Clinton. All the attention would be to Clinton's political benefit, because it keeps her issue (rightly or wrongly) in the media.

The constant talk about a candidate's gender, a silly topic to begin with, could make some women indignant and movited. Women getting angry that such a big deal is being made is great for the Senator, so long as no one's angry at her.

Honorable Mention...


In a rare showing testicular fortitude, CNN anchor Jack Cafferty refused to report on Lindsay Lohan and demanded that it be removed from his teleprompter. I applaud and thank you Jack.

Casting Couch: Karl Rove


Karl Rove: the man behind the man. Rove has been in politics almost all his life. Despite growing up in the 60s, he has always been a conservative, and dropped out of college to work for the College Republicans and go campus to campus organizing conservative groups (he somehow kept his student deferment out of Vietnam). Basically, the guy was something of a political nerd, lacking charm, looks, and family connections.

Throughout Rove's campaign work he has been dogged by accusations of dirty tricks. He was accused of using racist and homophobic innuendo to turn voters away from his opposition in many campaigns.

Rove came to the national spotlight through his consultation of George W. Bush, the man with charm and family connections to spare. He guided Bush from failed businessman, to the Texas governorship, to the presidency, and along the way picked up the moniker "Bush's brain."

Through his relationship to Bush, Rove has come very rare power and prestige.



That is why (at the suggestion of SAM blogger Doug Flynn) we are casting Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars as Karl Rove. They are that shadowy figure behind the one getting who gets all the attention. They are the voice whispering in their protege's ear.

And they are both pure evil.

"The force is strong with this one."

Click for past casting couch segments:

Bill Richardson

Barack Obama

Fred Thompson

Hillary Clinton

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Re: Adam's Take

A few days ago I posted an email my friend Adam sent me bragging about the Bush administration's effect on the DOW Jones which had just topped 14000 for the first time, and on the economy in general. I tried to be fair and asked what impact the president or the government in general could have on the DOW or the economy.

Adam's funny email here.

I didn't get much of a response. But the Dow took a big tumble today on news that mortgage borrowing has taken fallen. Bottom line? The market is volatile and I still need to learn more about it.

DOW drops more than 300 points.

Quote of the Day 7/26

"Well I also think I'm the most qualified to win the decathlon because I watch sports on TV all the time."

- Sen. John McCain's sarcastic response to Barack Obama's claim that he has the best foreign policy experience of any presidential candidate. Obama said his living and having family abroad gives him unique experience and understanding, and that you can get a better perspective on somethings outside of Washington (he pointed to his early opposition of the Iraq war as evidence). McCain has been in Congress for over 20 years, and was a POW in Vietnam for 5 years (also gives one a unique perspective).

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Curious Case of M. Bloomberg


A lot of people are wondering whether New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run for president, and, if so, what his impact will be.

Bloomberg built a massive media corporation from scratch, and has a fortune estimated to be anywhere between $5-25 billion. He is intriuging because (a) he has done a very good job running the US's largest city, (b) he embodies the disatisfaction with both parties, and most importantly, (c) he is a serious candidate who could use his own money to out- spend anyone else.

So let's look at the first question: Will Bloomberg run?

I think this has a simple answer: yes.

- Last month Bloomberg, a former registered Democrat who switched parties just before his election as mayor in 2001, changed party affiliation from Republican to Independent. A speech explaining the move was basically a diatribe about the failures of both parties and the disillusionment of the American public.

- The mayor is basically touring the country. He was on the cover of Time with CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; the two have taken a lead on issues such as environmental protection and stem cell research. Along the way they have championed the cause of local government, and criticized the feds and partisanship in general. Soon, Bloomberg will be speaking to the National Urban League in St. Louis; the same group is hearing from Democratic presidential candidates this Friday.

- Yesterday, Bloomberg announced that the website domain mike2008.com would now link to his personal site, mikebloomberg.com. He said that he wanted to prevent squatters, and pointed out that mike2007.com and michaelbloomberg.com also link to his site.

OK, here's the thing: Bloomberg is done as NYC mayor as of January 2009. He's in lame duck status right now. Do the actions described above sound like those of a man ready to ride off into the sunset, satisfied with a job well done? Why follow Democratic presidential candidates in St. Louis? Why do you care about cyber squatters? Why shed your party affiliation so publicly? Why the constant talk about how "Americans" (not New Yorkers) are fed- up with partisan politics? You may believe that in your heart, but why make such a big deal about it? What does it have to do with your last year as mayor?

Maybe Bloomberg's explanations should be taken at face value. But I don't think so. I think he's in.

Which brings us to question 2: What impact will Bloomberg have on the race?

Think about it: Obama/ Clinton, Giuliani/ Thompson/ Romney, they exert all that energy, spend all that money just beating the hell out of each other. This is the longest, most expensive, and most competitive primary season EVER.

The dust clears with two candidates left to vie for the presidency. The public is sick and tired of them, of their faces, voices, stump speeches and debates.

Then, let's say in April of next year, a new face emerges. He's talking about the problems of our system- the partisanship and money's influence. But he's different, he has no party, he takes no money. He capitalizes on the frustrations that won Ross Perot (for all his bizarre behavior) 19% of the vote in 1992. But this time that frustration is even more intense, and this guy has the legitimacy Perot lacked.

Oh yeah, and he has more money in his campaign warchest than the other two candidates combined.

Can he win? Probably not, but that's not really the point. The point is, you're Mike Bloomberg, you've never failed at anything, and you're not ready to retire. And someone comes into your office and paints that picture. The time is right, you're told, you're the one guy who can pull it off, the country wants you to give it a shot.

You sit back in your chair and think.

What do you do? I think you run. And while I doubt he'll win, he'll be a more formidible candidate than Perot, and he'll have a big impact on the race.

It may seem that his votes will be split along party lines. But I predict he'll attract more Republican support than Democratic. My reasoning is two-fold:

1- The Dems want this election bad. There are (at last count) 2 fewer Democratic candidates than Republican, but Dems have outraised Republicans by more than $100m, from a far broader base of donors. As tempting as Bloomberg will be they won't risk it. Conversely, Republicans don't seem too smitten with any of their candidates. Newt Gingrich recently called the field pathetic.

2- There has been a split in the Republican party brewing for a while between the "Evangelical wing" who care more about social issues, and the "Rockafeller/Blue blood/ New England Republicans" who care about financial conservatism (read: low taxes). The latter group feels that their party has been hijacked by issues like gay marriage, stem cell research, and abortion. These are not issues they care about (or with which they even agree with the Republican stance). They have little loyalty to "social" conservatism (see Bush's 25% approval rating).

Obviously No. 2 is less significant if someone like Giuliani gets the nom, but the point could be a big one.

So I think Bloomberg is in, and he hurts his former party. And by that, I'm referring to Republicans.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quote of the Day 7/24

“I thought that was irresponsible and frankly naive.”

- Hillary Clinton on Barack Obama's statement during last night's debate that he would meet with antagonistic leaders of foreign nations within the first year of his presidency. She said that she wouldn't risk being used for propoganda purposes.

Obama's camp points out that in April Clinton criticized President Bush for "refusing to talk with bad men." But Clinton shot back that she would never have laid out a timeline.

Clinton is trying to exploit her main rival's biggest weakness- a percieved lack of experience, and I think she's doing it pretty effectively. This isn't a huge issue, but a chance for Clinton to sow some seeds of doubt, and cement her front-runner status a bit further.

Casting Couch: Bill Richardson

In our on going effort decide who would best portray notable political figures in their life story, we come to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.



Mr. Richardson is a proud Mexican- American, and a very accomplished individual. He is a former Congressman, former Secretary of Energy, former Ambassador to the UN, and current governor. He also has a reputation of being something of a ladies man (if you can believe it). He's a good speaker and has a good sense of humor.

So to cast him we need someone with the total package. A modern- day Renaissance man, with all the tools.



Or, we could just go with SNL comic Horatio Sanz because they look so much alike.

Either way.

Click for past casting couch segments:

Barack Obama

Fred Thompson

Hillary Clinton

So Far, No Good


NY Governor Elliot Spitzer, one of my favorite politicians, has come under fire for some shady dealings by his close aides. For full disclosure's sake, I worked (briefly) on Spitzer's campaign for governor after graduating college, and I admire his toughness, zeal, and willingness to fight the big boys.

Governor Spitzer was elected in a landslide last fall (you're welcome), and went to Albany promising to change a culture of corruption and back-room dealing. He made typical big promises, but because of his record as NY's attorney general, and the mandate of his 40- point victory, I really thought he could deliver.

While there's still plenty of time and promise left in the Spitzer administration, his first seven months in office have been more about a very public rivalry with state senate majority leader Joe Bruno (R), than about policy. Now, a new report from Spitzer's replacement (and political ally), AG Andrew Cuomo, states that Spitzer's aides obtained information about Bruno's use of state police under false pretenses, and used it to run politically damaging stories. If that's not bad enough, the subsequent investigation found Bruno's use of police was entirely proper.

The governor is damaged, and his agenda held up. This loss of mojo has led Republicans to hint that they may want to re-examine the recent deal on campaign finance reform. What's worse is that New York's problems sit unaddressed as the media and politicians concentrate on this dirty, but comparatively meaningless, issue.

The link for the article is here.

On a lighter note, I'll be doing another casting couch post later tonight... don't you just love those?

Paul's Take

SAM blogger Paul Bryce gave his take on last week's Iraq debate in the Senate. He emailed it to me, but hasn't posted it yet, so I'll do the honors:

Early Wednesday morning, joining the millions of other Americans glued to their televisions, I checked in on C-SPAN2's coverage of the all night Senate Debate over the Iraq War. When I tuned in, the Junior Senator from Iowa, Tom Harkin, was finishing up, pleading to his Republican counterparts to allow an up and down vote on the Levin-Reed amendment (to reinforce his point, there was a massive "Let Us Vote" sign over his left shoulder). Following Harkin was John Thune, a Republican Senator from South Dakota. He made some statements that I found noteworthy (I apologize for not having direct quotes; I haven't yet found a transcript of the debate)...

For one, he was incredulous to notion that the Democrats would make a distinction between the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq. He said somehow the Democrats have this idea that Afghanistan is a good war and Iraq a bad war. This he reasoned was simply a matter of casualties. We have more troops in Iraq and thus more casualties there. If the opposite were true, the war in Afghanistan would be receiving the same criticisms as Iraq. After all, we face the same enemy in both wars—Al Qaeda.

I hate to break it to the Senator, but all wars are not created equal. And this is what Senator Thune (and many other Republicans) fails to grasp. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are not the same. When the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, it was a direct response to the attacks of September 11 th. We have targeted the Taliban and Al Qaeda the entire time. The war in Iraq, however, was an aggressive act on our part that has morphed from WMDs to liberating the Iraqi people to fighting Al Qaeda there so we don't have to fight them here (even though they are there because we are there). Casualties are not the issue. Americans will accept casualties so long as they are for what we deem a just cause (WWII vs. Vietnam).

The reality is our actions in Iraq have caused us to, in a sense, run in place in the fight against terrorism. The war in Afghanistan was designed to rid Al Qaeda of a place from which to launch attacks against America. To this point we have enjoyed a level of success, although the combination of Pakistan and Iraq has served to limit this success. The Iraqi War, by comparison, has done just the opposite. It has created a new haven for terrorists. In fact, this week, a National Intelligence Estimate warned "that al-Qa'ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), it's most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the Homeland."

So in a way, Senator Thune is right. We are fighting the same enemy, Al Qaeda, in both Afghanistan and Iraq. It is just that we are doing so for very different reasons.

A couple other notes from Senator Thune's speech:
· He read a letter from a Marine serving in Iraq who was asking for an opportunity to finish the mission. He then suggested this was the position of the military as a whole, while providing no factual basis. Senator Webb, whose son is a Marine serving in Iraq, sought to challenge this suggestion by asking the Senator if he believed the members of military were as diverse in their views as the rest of America. Thune dodged the question by saying he couldn't possibly guess the political persuasions of the entire military (apparently he reserves that solely for their standings on the war).
· Senator Thune accused the Democrats of attempting to use the war for political gain. Of course they have. Just like Republicans have (remember the whole "if you're against the war, you're against our troops" thing) and just like the next politician will use the next issue for their own political purposes.

FEMA aids the Terrorists:


The underlying strategy of terrorism is not to topple governments, but to strike fear into the hearts of the population as a whole. Fear, not just of the potential of another attack, but also, inadvertently, of a population’s own government. Fear of excessive measures to deal with terrorists, but also, fear of failure to act effectively in the wake of another attack, thus undermining the credibility of that government.

FEMA represents that second fear. It recently came to light that the trailers FEMA provided for the victims of Hurricane Katrina had cancer-causing formaldehyde gas at 75 times the federally-allowed maximum for workers. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/19/AR2007071901039.html?sub=AR) Many people got sick, and one even died. What’s worse, FEMA knew about the problem, but refused to take action to remedy the situation. Lawyers advised against testing trailers because that would create a situation in which FEMA would have to do something – and we all know how FEMA feels about doing anything. A FEMA lawyer even wrote: "Do not initiate any testing until we give the OK. . . . Once you get results and should they indicate some problem, the clock is running on our duty to respond to them."

This is not just an outrage, but a demonstration of the weaknesses in our country’s ability to respond to a crisis. Not only did FEMA fail to get people out of harm’s way – they belatedly moved them into further harm’s way and did nothing about it. This undermines the average citizen’s faith in their government to respond and assist in the next crisis – be it a terrorist strike, a viral outbreak, or another hurricane. This creates the very fear terrorists hope to create within our society – fear that our government is not only helpless to prevent an attack, but also the fear that our government will not be able to effectively respond to an attack.

If the government is serious about the war on terror, it should step up its ability to respond and take care of its own.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Casting Couch: Barack Obama

Here's an intriguing one-- casting Barack Obama in the man's life story.


His big ears and charm might suggest Will Smith, but that's too obvious. We need someone a little unexpected for the man who constantly defied expectations. His voice is certainly one of his trademarks-- loud, clear, forceful, powerful. We should go with someone who has that kind of voice. Also we need someone who can get the masses excited, someone with a loyal and broad following. After all this is the man with a 250,000 donor list, the self-proclaimed Hope machine.

So we'll go with...



Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson.

Of course! This guy was the self proclaimed "People's Champion" of Pro-wrestling, but has moved on to bigger and better (?) things with a big movie career. Plus, as SAM blogger Doug Flynn points out, the two are voice TWINS!

Even the Rock's catchphrase fits nicely:
"If ya smellllllllllllllllllll what Ba- Rack is cookin'!"

Past casting couch segments:

Fred Thompson as........... Fred Thompson

Sean Penn as................... Hillary Clinton

Guantanamo


The NY Times runs a big story today on a lawyer who worked in the Guantanamo Bay detention center, and filed a scathing review on the procedure of what are called Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT). Basically, those are hearings to determine whether the person being held is an "unlawful combatant" or if he was taken (and jailed) by mistake.

The man at the center is Colonel David Abraham, a lifetime conservative Republican (he cried when Nixon resigned), who is a successful lawyer in the private sector, and enlisted in the Army Reserve to pay back his country for the opportunities given to his father, an immigrant and Holocaust survivor. Colonel Abraham is now speaking out against a lack of due process given to the detainees in Guantanamo Bay.

Here is one example of what he may have witnessed:

[Abraham] said he was prohibited from discussing the facts of cases. But public information, much of it obtained through lawsuits, includes examples of some of the points he made.

In a hearing on Oct. 26, 2004, a transcript shows, one detainee was told that another had identified him as having attended a terrorism training camp.

The detainee asked that his accuser be brought to testify. “We don’t know his name,” the senior officer on the hearing panel said.


Detainees being held have no access to lawyers, evidence, or opposing witnesses. For its part, the Pentagon points out that these CSRT's “afford greater protections for wartime detainees than any nation has ever provided.” However, the war against terror, as President Bush has repeatedly reminded, is a war that will last generations, so these individuals could easily be held for the rest of their lives.

The article is worth a read and you can find a link for it here.

As for my take, I harbor no illusions about terrorists. I know they want to kill me and my loved ones, and that they hate the things I hold most dear. I still remember 9/11 like yesterday, and don't want to see another one ever again. But there is real danger in our country losing its moral high ground, and no harm in giving these detainees regular trials in the states. Our country is pretty damn good at putting people in jail (we do it more than anyone else), and just wait til some of those maximum security types get their hands on al Qaeda.

Anyone in the know will tell you that information gathered through torture is bunk, so I don't see the value of holding these people in a government facility which has become a powerful symbol for American imperialism and injustice not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world. To be perfectly frank, in the war against terror, I think it hurts us more than anything.

Adam's take

My friend, and consummate conservative, Adam Chmelecki sent me an email a few days back. I just got to it though, pretty funny stuff. Seems that he was jacked up about the Dow hitting 14,000, and about the success our mutual friends were enjoying in the "robust" economy, including his restaurant supply company, Sound Restaurant Supply.

I might as well bring to your attention the fact the yesterday the stock market hit an all time record high. The media wont report on this all that much because of fear that people will credit old G Dubs for turning the economy around and doubling the dow from its low of 700 hundred after 9/11. Everybody screamed that he was protecting the rich with his tax cuts well guess what the rich spend money and now everybody has a higher standard of living. people are eating out and Sound Restaurant supply is there to SUPPLY the Restaurants. Things are so good they even have eric managing projects.....the kid could hardly manage his Madden Franchise now they got him heading up several ventures....Things are so good right now somebody had the nerve to give doug a secretary, (coincidentally there is a new case study for passive aggressive sexual harassment at Mercy College)....so much money is being made the Bomber made a diplomatic trip to london to try and spread some of that fine Meehan Oil to the Brits.....the stock market is looking so good Yoshi got his assembly line hours extended at the Hello Kitty factory in Nagasaki. Republicans Good For The Economy. (Just Playin Yosh, you my man what up)




Well, Adam's email is hilarious, but I know that the president doesn't have much to do with the stock market, and that the stock market is not equal to the strength of our economy (see: deficit, strength of the dollar, consumer confidence, etc.). But the point still stands: the stock market is riding high. Of course it was riding high in the Clinton years, too-- it's a cyclical thing I guess.

What I'm asking is for someone who knows more about this than I (not hard) to explain the cycle of the stock market and its effect on the economy. Comment here or email me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Last True Conservative?


As you have probably gathered by now, I am no conservative. So, for me, there is a lot to like in the current field of Republican presidential candidates. Well, not really. But according to my calculations there is only true conservative on the stage at Republican debates.

Congressman Ron Paul has no shot at winning, but he's speaking truth to power and getting a lot of attention. And rightfully so. He is trying (in vain) to uphold traditional Republican ideals of being against war and government spending. In one exchange with front- runner Rudy Giuliani, Paul took the position that the US had to re-examine its policy of foreign involvement, and that over involvement in the middle east led to the 9/11 attack. Giuliani, right on cue, basically took the "they hate us cause we're free" position (to great applause), to which Paul suggested that Rudy listen to our enemies, or just read the 9/11 Report.

Anyway, even though I disagree with Ron Paul fundamentally, I could see supporting him just because he's so damn intellectually honest. He has made me rethink my policy against trusting people with two first names.

Check out his site here and there's a link for the Giuliani stuff here and here.

With that I'm off to Belgium for the weekend, so I won't be posting. I hope some of you all will though, enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Al Qaeda outlook not good


From the WTF department...

President Bush's top counter terrorism officials have released a comprehensive anti-terrorism report, the largest one since 9/11. The news is not good when it comes to the war against al Qaeda. It seems that the cease fire negotiated in Pakistan has allowed al Qaeda to reach new strength over the past two years.

While the president has argued that Iraq is the "central front" in the war on terror, al Qaeda has gained strength in the mountains of Pakistan's under the protection of the region's warlords. American officials have been meeting in recent weeks to discuss how to confront the resurgent threat. The report is the consensus view of the 16 agencies that make up the American intelligence community.

The picture to above shows a Pakistani soldier "guarding" its boarder with the warlord region.

Meanwhile, the White House continued to harp on Iraq as the central front in the war on terror, saying that Osama bin Laden (remember him?) also thought of it that way.

Bin Laden was unavailable for comment.

Help Me Out...

Last night the US Senate pulled an all-nighter to dramatize opposition to the Iraq War, and the Democrat's effort to end it. Even though Dems know they simply don't have the votes to stop the funding, the debate continued into the wee hours, and I missed it all. I'm studying in the UK and haven't seen a television in weeks.

If anyone caught some/ all the proceedings or has read or heard anything about them, please let me know.

Thanks

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Marine Challenges Bush and Congress


Last night ABC ran a story called "Inside the Surge". ABC only ran a small portion of this story first shown in England. A British Journalist followed American Marines for two weeks during the surge. This here is the entire video. It is graphic.




How can anyone who forces these brave men to do 15 months in combat and refuse to pass a Bill that would guarantee equal time off to time served still claim to "support the Troops". Senators, such as Lindsay Graham, even go as far as to accuse others, who want to bring these men home, of not supporting the troops. "We have people in Congress with the brain of a two year old and don't know what there doing. They don't experience it. I challenge the President to come and ride along with me-- I'll do another 15 months. They don't even have to pay me", said a Marine from the footage. This feeling is not an exception. According to a the Military Times poll, before the surge only 1/3 of U.S. Soldiers approved of Bush's Handling of the war. Of course the media will never reference this poll and will let conservative politicians put politics in the mouths of soldiers without ever questioning it.

Quote of the Day 7/17

"If we sustain the surge for a year and continue to train Iraqi troops effectively, we can probably begin to draw down in mid- to late 2008. The fact is that military progress on the ground in Iraq in the past few months has been greater than even surge proponents like me expected, and political progress is beginning to follow. Iran is a problem, and we will have to do more to curb Tehran's meddling -- but we can. So if we keep our nerve here at home, we have a good shot at achieving a real, though messy, victory in Iraq...
Following through to secure the victory in Iraq and to extend its benefits to neighboring countries will be the task of the next president."


- Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, founder of the Project for a New American Century, and "Godfather" of the Neo Cons presents his case for a successful Bush presidency in an Op-Ed here

And Ariana Huffington offers her view here

Casting Couch: Fred Thompson

This is a tough one.



For former Senator Thompson we need someone with gravitas, a big voice and a long Hollywood resume. We need someone who really looks like a serious politician (regardless of how seriously he actually takes the job); someone who is a go-to for directors and casting agents when filling the role of a president, senator, police chief, top attorney, or guy-in-the-know.

This has got to be someone who has stage presence, you're not sure what he stands for, but he looks damn good standing there. Come to think of it, I think I know just the guy...

Fred Thompson



Who else but the star of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, In the Line of Fire, and The Hunt For Red October (not to mention all those Law and Orders) could fill the shoes of the two term senator from Tennessee? Ronald Reagan would be proud.

Casting Couch: Hillary Clinton

We at SAM have a few running segments: Quote of the Day, Political Dictionary, etc.

Here's a new one... The Casting Couch- where we take political figures and cast who will star in their life story.

First up: Hillary



We need someone with acting chops, because this is going to be an emotional rollercoaster (maybe someone who can shed a tear or two); we need someone whose got that angular face; and maybe someone with a bit of a political "conscience" to boot. Someone versatile who can play the sympathetic hero, the conniving villan, or the dead pan side kick; also necessary is someone who's experienced MANY hairstyles over the years.

Hmmm... let's go with....

Sean Penn



Any thoughts?

Notable Items, July 16, 2007


Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has threatened to force the Senate into an all night debate Tuesday night if the Republicans continue to refuse an up and down vote for the Reed-Levin Troop Redeployment Bill that seeks provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq. "Now, Republicans are using a filibuster to block us from even voting on an amendment that could bring the war to a responsible end," said Reid. "They are protecting the President rather than protecting our troops. They are denying us an up or down – yes or no – vote on the most important issue our country faces." http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-07-16-iraq-all-nighter_N.htm


Senator David Vitter's (R-LA) phone number turned up on New Orleans escort service just recently. Normally I don't like to acknowledge these incidents, but this is the same David Vitter who claimed in 1998 that Bill Clinton was morally unfit to be president. Well, at least Slick Willy didn't have pay for his (oh, that's right, I went there). Maybe its time for David to step down. He may be morally unfit.


With the September dead line for the Iraq escalation review and report approaching, the White House and Pentagon are preparing for negative review. I know what your thinking, but don't worry they have a back up plan. AN EVEN BIGGER SURGE! Brilliant! http://www.foxnews.com/wires/2007Jul16/0,4670,IraqPace,00.html

68% of Americans now disapprove with the Iraq War; according to a new Newsweek Poll and 64% of Americans disapprove of the Democrats in congress, probably because they are maintaining their reputation of getting nothing done.


Another special note: While American Soldiers continue to fight for Iraqi freedom, the Iraqi Parliament has considered it pertinent to take the entire month of August off, even though they are not even close to reaching any of the benchmarks established. The American Congress, not wanting to be left behind, has also elected to take the month of August off. Our soldiers, regrettably, will not be taking any time off.

Political Dictionary: Sister Souljah Moment


Sister Souljah Moment- (n.) term for when a political candidate speaks out against a group/ figure that is part of his/ her base to show moderation and independence.

Origin- In 1992, during the LA riots, African American radio personality Sister Souljah said:

"If Black people kill Black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?"

Presidential candidate Bill Clinton might have been expected to excuse her comments as he was courting the black- American vote, which is essential to win the Democratic nomination for president. Instead he criticized her:

"If you took the words ‘white’ and ‘black’ and you reversed them, you might think [KKK leader] David Duke was giving that speech."

Clinton was roundly criticized by some of the party's black leadership, but the comment showed him as moderate, tough on crime, and not influenced by "special interests."

Examples-

In his 2000 campaign for the Republican nomination, John McCain called Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance." Fallwell and Robertson were leaders of the Evangelical wing of the Republican party. McCain lost the nomination, and unsuccessfully sought Fallwell's support in his campaign for 2008.

In his current campaign, Barack Obama has been seen as having several Sister Souljah Moments:
He called for an inquiry into DA Mike Nifong's dealing of the Duke Lacrosse case
He called for teacher accountability in a speech before the second largest teachers union
He said that his daughters should not be entitled to affirmative action when applying to college, because the program should take greater account of whether a child is brought up in poverty, rather than race.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Quote of the Day (7/16)

"[The Administration] has f--ked this war up"

Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), in private conversations with Karl Rove about Republican unrest over the Iraq War. Publicly he said:
"The president is a young man and should think about his legacy. He should know history will not be kind unless he can come up with a plan that protects the troops and stabilizes the region.”


For his part, the president doesn't seem to worry about his legacy, as he told 60 Minutes:
“I don’t think you’ll really get the full history of the Bush administration until long after I’m gone."

The Idea Cycle


Has this ever happened to you? You are struck by a problem, issue, or idea - you read about it and think about it, and pretty soon you start to see references to it all around you. You ask yourself, have people always been talking about this and I am just now noticing because it's been on my mind? Or was my original thought a sign of something bigger, was it insightful or maybe part of a trend?

I found myself in such a situation reading an article in today's NY Times about Democratic presidential candidates. The Times reports that candidates have consistently been using a populist economic theme. Granted it's the primaries, and candidates always veer toward the "extremes," but the article confirmed something I've been feeling for a while now.

I think it's safe for Democrats to be Democrats again.

Bill Clinton taught the party a "third way," which was useful and important to overcome the "tax and spend" stigma and make the party viable again. However, politics (like everything else) is cyclical. And I think we are headed toward a cycle where the majority of Americans are willing to embrace old Democratic ideals.

Let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent expire.

Use the money to help parents pay for their kids education, or to expand health care coverage.

Put a check on the unbridled private sector: Don't automatically support free trade agreements. Negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies.

The 6 years of Republican dominance showed Americans the value of some of the cornerstones of liberalism, as witnessed in the Democrats' midterm victories. Now isn't the time to back down, but to push forward. Because, right now, it's a winning message.

Take Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who beat an incumbent by 12 points for his seat in 2006. He explains his success in a state that cost John Kerry the presidency this way:

“That’s because of the economic populist message. [Ohio voters] voted minimum wage, they voted trade, they voted student loans, they voted health care and prescription drugs, over what their traditional conservative social values might suggest. And that’s the route to winning Ohio for Hillary or Barack or anybody else.”


Indeed, Nancy Pelosi et al. were swept into office on the promise to raise the minimum wage, and cut the gap between the richest and poorest Americans, which is its largest ever (by a long shot).

The return of economic populism has been brewing for a few years now, and I expect it to stick for the near future. Until the cycle turns in on itself again. Sometimes it's hard to tell when one idea produced or simply preceded another. And sometimes it's hard to tell which came first.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/16/us/politics/16populist.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

Information Revolution... for what?


On June 26, 2007, a day that will live in infamy, Paris Hilton was released from prison, serving only 3 days of her 45 day sentence. Oh how the public was outraged. No longer was anybody Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, Black or White, Rich or Poor! They stood together and fought for Justice! Babies were crying, citizens were burning tires in the streets, Tibetan monks were dousing themselves in gasoline and burning themselves alive! Our system is broken, the citizens claimed. It needs to be fixed! (Obviously, I am being overly dramatic).


While the Libby controversy may not be as sexy, as say Britney Spears smashing a car with an umbrella, it by far out weighs the historical significance. Yet where is the outrage? I myself was bothered by it, but I have difficulty finding someone to discuss that with. While we as people should take the responsibility to learn about the current affairs of our country it shouldn't become an investigation. That is what the news media is supposed to be for. Why are we uninformed? In a study done this year, 2007, only 29% of Americans could identify Scooter Libby (http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?ReportID=319). I wonder how many people could identify Monica Lewinsky. Blame needs to be put entirely on the media for this reason, the information revolution. With the advent of the interent, 24 hour cable news and the multitude of newspapers one could buy, you would assume that Americans would be more fully aware of this nations affairs and current events now more than ever, right? Wrong, we as Americans are far less knowledgeable today than our predecessors of 17 years ago. How is this possible in the age of information? Where information is so easily accessible. It's because the media has put "actual" news on the back burner while putting Anna Nicole, Paris Hilton, Mel Gibson and Britney Spears on the forefront and blinding us from important news. The media companies now are more concerned with bottom line profits than they are at informing the public of issues and events that affect their lives and the lives of their children. The media has an absolute obligation to prioritizing relevant and important information over company profits. Gone are the days of investigative journalists. They have been replaced by loud mouthed political pundits, who seek to demonize those who's opinions they differ with and create further division in already divided country.

The day after Paris' release from prison I couldn't walk into a deli, the supermarket or my office without hearing somebody expressing their indignation for her shortened sentence, yet after Scooter Libby's commuted sentence and the politically motivated firings of 8 U.S. attorney's, no talk, no outrage. There was embarrassment and fury when Mark McGwire took the 5th amendment refused to testify over steroids in baseball, but when George W. Bush claims his exceptionally broad executive privilege over anything and anyone that has the slightest smell of a scandal, nothing. Barry Bonds is booed in every ball park he steps into because he cheated at a "game", while Dick Cheney can walk into a stadium of cheering citizens after deliberately presenting questionable or even false evidence that led the country to an aggressive war based on false pretenses that has led to the deaths of thousands. Does anyone care? Yes we do care. However, we have not been given the opportunity to care.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Quote of the Day... and Palma de' Mallorca


"A danger for our Administration is in its competence we seem harsh, in our strength we seem tough, in our pragmatism we seem goalless and idealless."

- Donald H. Rumsfeld, aide to President Richard Nixon in a memo on June 16, 1972. The future Defense Secretary contrasted his view of the Nixon administration with their opponent in the upcoming election...

"McGovern is weak and would be a disastrous President. But his warmth, concern, decency are appealing because people dream, hope, aspire, and want to be better than themselves, want better for their children, and because they have fears."

... on a happier note, I am off to the Spanish island of Palma de' Mallorca tomorrow (check out that picture). I'll be gone until Sunday night, so there will be no posts from me. There will be posts, I hope, from some of my new recruits. New voices from all over the political spectrum. So enjoy!

Please, if you like this site, comment, tell friends and check back regularly!

Quote of the Day

"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried. The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds."

- Dr. Richard H. Carmona, US Surgeon General (2002-2006), testifying before the Senate yesterday that the Bush administration would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or mental and global health issues. Dr. Carmona said that he spoke with 6 prior Surgeon Generals, none of whom recalled such intense pressure. He was even discouraged from attending the Special Olympics, because of the Kennedy family's close ties with the charity.

Breaking News: Alberto Gonzales Lied (again)


In a development that should shock no one...

On April 27, 2005 Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate in the debate on whether to renew the US Patriot Act. He was asked whether he knew of any abuses by the FBI of their Patriot Act Powers. Gonzales answered:

"There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse."


He was lying. And he got caught.

As the Washington Post reports: "Six days earlier, the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.

The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI's use of an anti-terrorism tool known as a national security letter (NSL), well before the Justice Department's inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March."

read the entire article here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/09/AR2007070902065_pf.html

In Gonzales' defense, officials at Justice said they could not be sure AG had read any of the reports from the FBI. Furthermore, a spokesman said that Gonzalez was speaking in context of reports by the department's inspector general before this year that found no misconduct or specific civil liberties abuses related to the Patriot Act.

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, The Post details just what the reports given to Gonzalez said, so decide for yourself.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

WRITE FOR SAM!


Since I have been writing this blog, people have been emailing me with reactions to my posts, and ideas for me to write about.

If you have an idea for something you'd like to see written about here, you should write it yourself. Just email me at chrisjmeehan@gmail.com and let me know. We'll work it out, and you can write on SAM Online as much as you want.

I kind of dreamed this thing up as a political magazine (as you can see from the title bar), and a magazine with a staff of one isn't very good.

So, please, email me and submit!

Barack Obama and the Politics of Black & White


This week, Newsweek profiles Barack Obama, taking special notice of what his candidacy means for, and says about, race in America. The magazine bluntly asks: "Is Barack Obama black enough?"

The article details how Obama's race credentials were questioned by Cornel West, a leading voice for Black America. After West's criticism, Obama reached out to him, and West is now an unpaid adviser on his campaign.

West noted one of his major issues with Obama's race in this way: In his famous speech at the 2004 DNC, Obama said that his Kenyan father saw America as a "magical place." That line underscored a fundamental difference between Obama's experience, the child of a Kenyan and white Kansan, and the majority of Black America, descended from slaves brought to this hemisphere against their will.

The article is a good read.

It uses race as a kind of metaphor: you learn that much of Obama's life has been about creating concensus and compromise, and moving between different worlds- across the political spectrum, from Hawaii to South Side Chicago, from highrise law firms to church basements, and from "white" to "Black" America.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19651719/site/newsweek/

Quote of the Day

“I’m a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he does something like that, I’m walking away with one thing, and it’s not alimony, trust me...”

- Wendy Vitter, wife of Senator David Vitter (R- LA), in 1999 when asked about the infidelities of President Clinton and multiple members of Congress.

Yesterday, Senator Vitter's phone number was found on the DC Madam's list, and he acknowledged his link to the escort service. No word yet on whether Mrs. Vitter has kept up her end of the bargain.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Honorable Judge Harry Stone presiding...


The famous (or infamous) liberal blog dailykos.com has a good run down of a conflict brewing between the Democratic Congress and the Bush administration. It seems Bush has used executive privilege to prevent AG Alberto Gonzalez and Karl Rove's former aide from testifying in the US Attorney scandal.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/7/9/105333/2685

The highlight of this article is the explanation of when executive privilege is appropriate. In this context it seems that it would only preclude communications made directly to the president during his decision- making process. However, the White House has denied President Bush was at all involved in the decision to fire 9 US Attorneys, for what may have been inappropriate political reasons.

There have been statements flying back and forth all day from studs like White House Counsel Fred Fielding, pictured above. Mr. Fielding is not to be confused with prosecutor Dan Fielding of 80s sit-com Night Court, who was played by Emmy winner John Larroquette. In an odd twist, Mr. Larroquette would later guest star on the West Wing as.... wait for it.... White House counsel.

Link to a good article

Here's a solid article by Chuck Todd, NBC's chief political correspondent, on what's changed (and what hasn't) over the first 6 months of the presidential race.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19654377/

Some highlights:

- Mitt Romney leading the GOP candidates in: Money spent, campaign organization, NH and Iowa polls

- John McCain "no longer controls his own destiny, and needs all 3 of his rivals to implode"

- Some Republicans set their social concerns aside because the offense- minded Guiliani is their "general" in the ongoing war against radical Islam.

- Clinton vs. Obama shaping up as contest of realism vs. idealism... seems to be an old storyline on both sides of the political aisle. Sometimes idealism nominations work (Reagan '80) and others they fail miserably (Goldwater '64).

- John Edwards' "window is closing fast"

Quote of the Day


“I tried to avoid this war, I took him through the consequences of going into an Arab country and becoming the occupiers.”

- former Secretary of State Colin Powell at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, revealing that he spent 2½ hours vainly trying to persuade President George W Bush not to invade Iraq

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Busy Sunday for Times Op-Ed


The New York Times, paper of record in the US, published an editorial in the Opinion Section of its Sunday edition calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

It wrote:

It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.


I don't want to slam the Times for being late to the party on this, because I was as well. As the Times put it:

...we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created... we believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq. When it became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that, we argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow.


Because I agreed with that sentiment I figured it would be unfair for me to criticize the Times. But then I remembered, they're the The NY Times and supposed to be smarter and more savvy than me and everyone else.

With that, here are more headlines from this Sunday's Opinion Section:

In Superbowl XLI, smart money on Colts

For good of Country, President Nixon should resign

For good of Career, during Oprah interview, Tom Cruise should sit quietly

Jackson 5 Lead Singer headed down creepy, creepy road

Message to Dean: Avoid Weird Shrieks

Britney Spears won't look hot much longer

Times warns Kennedy: Don't campaign in Dallas

Iraq Invasion probably bad idea

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/opinion/08sun1.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Friday, July 6, 2007

Live Earth and Al Gore Day at SAM Online


Al Gore is my man. What got me on his bandwagon wasn't his fight against global warming, either. There's a chapter in Take It Back, a great book by James Carville and Paul Begala, where the authors describe what an Al Gore presidency would have been like. The man is a bonafied expert on a variety of topics (for instance, as VP he wrote the definitive paper on airport security), and the once popular portrayal of Gore is a gross exaggeration (including his phantom claim that he "invented the internet). Carville and Begala aren't Gore guys, remember, they are Clinton guys-- there's a significant difference. I didn't bring Take it Back with me to England, so I can't quote from it, but it's worth reading- especially that chapter.

My affinity for Gore has grown because of his tireless efforts for the environment, and because he was the first public voice I know of to question the Iraq invasion. Throughout his career Gore has proven to be right far more often than not, and I think he would make the best president in 2009.

However, I have come to the sad realization that Gore is probably done with politics. I hoped his denials were a savvy ploy, an attempt to wait out the hype of other candidates before making a dramatic entrance some time in the fall (right after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for which he is nominated). But it really seems like that's just not going to happen.

Gore told Larry King the other night, "I'm involved in a different kind of campaign, not for myself not as a candidate, but to change people's minds about the most dangerous crisis we've ever faced, and the greatest set of opportunities we've ever confronted to solve this climate crisis."

On the Today Show, Meredith Vieira asked Gore why he wouldn't run knowing how much of an impact the president could have on the climate crisis. He responded that those in power must have the support of the people to make it work. And that's where he sees his role.

Then Al gave his most telling quote:

"I've kind of fallen out of love with politics. ...Whatever experience and talents I've gained over the years -- I think it may well be that the highest and best use of that is to try to bring enough awareness of the solutions to the climate crisis and enough of a sense of urgency that we come together across party lines on behalf of our children."

I'm just finishing up Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason. It's a must read. For those who think that the jury is still out on man's contribution to Global Warming, check out the "Quote of the Day" post below.

Happy Al Gore Day.

Quote of the Day


"... the vast majority of the most respected environmental scientists from all over the world have sounded a clear and urgent alarm... In essence, [they] are telling the people of every nation that global warming caused by human activities has become a serious threat to our common future and must be confronted... In spite of the clear evidence available all around us, there are many who still do not believe that global warming is a problem at all. And it's no wonder, because they are the targets of a massive and well-organized campaign of disinformation pushed by the administration and lavishly funded by polluters...

Wealthy right-wing ideologues have joined with the most cynical and irresponsible companies in the oil, coal, and mining industries to contribute large sums of money to finance pseudoscientific front groups that specialize in sowing confusion in the public's mind about global warming. They issue one misleading 'report' after another, pretending that there is significant disagreement in the legitimate scientific community in areas where there is actually a broad-based consensus...

In early 2007, just as the new international scientific report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was being released, one of these front groups financed by ExxonMobil offered $10,000 for each pseudostudy or paper disputing the findings of the scientific community...

In the case of the global climate crisis, Bush has publicly demeaned scientists in his own administration who author official reports that underscore the extreme danger facing the US and the world. Instead, he has preferred a self interested and deeply flawed analysis financed by the largest oil company on the planet, ExxonMobil...

The Royal Society- the UK's equivalent of the National Academy of Sciences- formally renewed its request that ExxonMobil stop disseminating to the public 'very misleading' and ‘inaccurate’ information that is ‘not consistent’ with what is accepted in the scientific community about the climate crisis. The Royal Society also called upon ExxonMobil to stop paying millions of dollars per year to organizations that ‘misrepresented the science of climate change...'

Another organization of scientists, the US- based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), prepared a lengthy report in 2006 showing that 'ExxonMobil has funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.'

'ExxonMobil has manufactured uncertainty about the human causes of global warming just as tobacco companies denied their product caused lung cancer,' said Alden Meyer, UCS director of strategy and policy. 'A modest but effective investment has allowed the oil giant to fuel doubt about global warming to delay government action just as big tobacco did for over 40 years.'"