Sen. Hillary Clinton was recently on David Letterman to announce her Top 10 campaign promises:
10. Bring stability and long term security to The View.
9. Each year, on my birthday, every American gets a free cupcake.
8. You will have the option of rolling dice against the IRS for double or nothing on your taxes.
7. If you're having trouble getting a flight and Air Force 1 is available, it's yours.
6. My Vice President will never shoot a guy in the face.
5. Turn Gitmo into a Dairy Queen.
4. For over a century there have been only 2 Dakotas... I plan to double that.
3. We will finally have a president who doesn't mind pulling over and asking for directions--- am I right ladies???
2. I will appoint a committee to find out what the heck is happening on Lost.
1. One more pants-suit joke and Letterman disappears.
Friday, August 31, 2007
Sen. Hillary Clinton was recently on David Letterman to announce her Top 10 campaign promises:
Thursday, August 30, 2007
In an effort to resuscitate a once promising campaign, Sen. John McCain's team has released this very high quality 12 minute video on johnmccain.com.
The video focuses on McCain's inspiring story as a POW in Vietnam, and the qualities and perspective he'd bring to the job of president. It begins with amazing footage of a 31 year old McCain being interviewed by his captors.
After his near miss in 2000, McCain made the strategic mistake of ditching his Straight Talk Express, maverick persona and cozying up to the party's conservative establishment. He embraced President Bush (literally) and courted the religious-right he had stood up to in his first run for the White House.
But a funny thing happened on his way to the nomination... he was never accepted by the Bush crowd, and he lost his identity as a straight shooting independent and the considerable support that came with it.
Now his campaign is struggling to continue.
However, no one can take McCain's story away from him. In Vietnam, he volunteered for dangerous missions, spent more than 5 years in a POW camp (mostly in solitary confinement), and showed undeniable character.
His campaign may not be looking too good right now, but I wouldn't count McCain completely out. Either way, with his resume, he doesn't have to prove anything to anyone.
3 months after he began "testing the waters," Fred D. Thompson is ready to announce his candidacy for President of the United States. People have been getting a little frustrated with Big Fred, who certainly took his time coming to this decision. On a morning conference call with supporters, Friends of Fred (Thompson's campaign) announced their "next steps," which includes a webcast (a la Hillary Clinton) on September 6 to formally announce.
In an unfortunate twist, this means that NBC will pull all Law & Order re-runs in which Thompson appears, which sucks because those are the best ones. NBC is forced to do so because there would be complications with laws on equal time for political candidates.
Mitt Romney has a new new TV ad that's running in Iowa and New Hampshire, and I have to say I really like it.
It captures your attention and touts the candidate's strengths in a unique way. Also, it invites you to wonder what Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson would look like on a long run (ewwwww).
The Government Accountability Office has leaked its report on the progress in Iraq into the news media, before it's given to Congress on Tuesday. It seems to undermine next month's White House progress report, which, in all likelihood, will present a rosier picture.
On the surge in Baghdad, the GAO says that although sectarian attacks against American forces have dropped, violence against Iraqis is unchanged, and "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."
"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised.
So, when the White House's report comes out in September, it should probably taken with a grain of salt.
For the full story check out The Washington Post.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
No doubt everyone has heard the story of Senator Craig's MN airport bathroom excursion. Chris Meehan has pointed out earlier in this post that this is not the first time the tri-term senator has dealt with homo-erotic situations. In fact, there seems to be a rash of conservative leaders being placed in compromising circumstances their constituents and followers would be surprised to know about.
Now, much has been said of the hypocrisy of these men who engage in lewd behavior, who all the while condemn such acts. One problem is their excuse. It's sometimes the devil and his evil ways. Lucifer made me do it. Other times, it's simply putting up a moral wall that appears impenetrable, then, thanks to some techies on the Hill, the aim chats prove the wall to be paper-thin.
In Senator Craig's case, it's simply denial. Denial that he solicited sex, but admitted to pleading guilty to - wait for it - having a wide stance. A wide stance! Then, he had to assure the world that he's not gay, nor ever has been. This preposterous incident has now led Sen. Craig to inform us of his defecation posture, and a staunch affirmation of his sexual preference, which, as we all know, usually means you're gay...not that there's anything wrong with it.
The sad part is this is probably a lame story compared to what the Conservative Coalition (of the More than Willing) has brought to the public square. State Rep. Bob Allen (FL-R) was so scared of a Black guy, that he offered him twenty dollars to perform oral sex. Now, that's fear. Ted Haggard was so screwed - pun intended - that he had to go to anti-gay camp, or something. Not long after, the man was born again - again. And has anyone seen Mark Foley?
All this is quite indicative of America's compulsion for hypocrisy, which is quite pathetic. Will Senator Craig's wife be demonized for not leaving him? Will Mrs. Vitter be excused for standing by her man, or will she be the new Hill on the Hill? When people vote for style and slogans as opposed to genuine ideas that address problems we face, we get senate debates about a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; not an immigration deal or health care modification. But it's like what Karl Rove teaches us: It's not how you campaign or govern, it's whether you win the suckers' votes. It's the power, stupid.
from last night's Letterman...
10. Felt he wasn't incompetent enough for the Bush administration
9. Secretly ordered himself to fire himself
8. Was offered the John Travolta role in the touring production of "Hairspray"
7. Trying his hand at failing miserably in the private sector
6. Didn't want to be around for transition to the Kucinich administration
5. Instead of terrorism, trying to keep Lindsay and Paris off the streets
4. Got a sweet new job at Kinko's
3. Letterman has a guy making a sand sculpture of Biff Henderson
2. Ran out of laws to circumvent
1. Why not go out on top?
Here’s an interesting article on Rudy Giuliani and his terrorism/security credentials…
In the aftermath of 9/11, Rudy Giuliani provided exactly what was needed. He remained calm and resolute, promising that the attacks would far from ruin the world’s greatest city, rather that New York City, and by extension America, would emerge stronger then ever. Rudy Giuliani became America’s Mayor.
He deserves credit for quickly recognizing the psychological component of the attacks and thus coaxing all who were listening to go on living their lives; to not give into the Al-Qaeda’s objectives. Based largely on his experiences of 9/11, Giuliani says he understands terrorism "better than anyone else running for President.” But as the article points out, “being a victim of terrorism, or the steely leader of a recovery, is not necessarily the same as understanding terrorism.”
He has been quoted on the campaign trail in reference to Islamic terrorists as saying, “They want to kill us” and “They hate you.” This is no doubt true, but it says nothing of how he would protect the country from future attacks. All it demonstrates is that now that he is running for President, Giuliani has embraced the proverbial anvil hanging over America’s head. While I recognize that a terrorism/security platform is essentially Giuliani’s only way to the White House, I find it very disingenuous to mount a campaign on a notion of fear when much of your national identity is based a refusal to give into this fear.
The problem with such a campaign, with respect to the voters, is that people end up voting not on the relative merits of candidate A versus candidate B, but instead on the fear of what might happen if they don’t vote for candidate A. It is an empty vote. We are now in the sixth year of the current war against terrorism. Shouldn't a candidate offer something as to what has worked and what hasn’t, what he or she would do differently. Obviously much of what is done is beyond the public eye and not up for discussion, but there has to be more than “they want to kill us” when, as with Rudy Giuliani, this is your defining issue.
"The word today is that an apparently unbeatable ticket could be Hillary for president and Obama as her running mate."
- Fidel Castro, the dying dictator has been writing essays and editorials in Cuban newspapers for the past week. Rumors claim he's already dead, but it seems Castro, who has been a thorn in the side of 10 US presidents (that's gotta be a record), is using his last gasp to write memoirs and recommendations.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reports that Senator Larry Craig (R- ID) was arrested for lewd conduct in a men's bathroom in June. No, he didn't pee on a toilet seat or leave without washing his hands, he allegedly propositioned an undercover officer for gay sex. Think George Michael.
When the officer (who was looking into reports that the airport bathroom had become a meeting place for such activity) took Craig to an airport detention center, Sen. Craig allegedly gave him a business card identifying himself as a United States Senator. "What do you think about that?" he reportedly asked.
Apparently, the officer didn't think much. Craig, who is married, plead guilty to the charge, because he said he just wanted the thing to go away. He said it was all a big misunderstanding. However, there had been rumors about the senator's sexual orientation before, as he was targeted by an activist group that seeks to out gay politicians who are hostile to gay rights.
Craig is up for re-election this year, but calls for his resignation are rampant.
On a side note, CNN reports that Craig has resigned his position as the co-Senate liaison for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Furthermore, the campaign has pulled a video from it's YouTube site in which Craig praises Romney for his "strong family values."
However, the video has been reposted by other users, and you can view it below.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Earlier today, embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigned his office. Gonzales had been the focus of Senate inquiries for his decision to fire 9 US attorneys for seemingly improper political reasons, and his involvement in a domestic surveillance program. Several inconsistencies between his testimony and that of his former aides led to resignation calls over the last few months.
Last month, Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D- VT) told the Attorney General "I don't trust you," because his version of events was so different from previous testimony. Sen. Charles Schumer (D- NY) has been calling for his resignation.
According to the NY Times, Gonzales finally folded his cards after offering President Bush his resignation on Friday. The President refused, but said the two should chat face-to-face. Gonzales and his wife flew down to Crawford, where the President was presumably clearing some brush, and the two men had dinner.
By the meal's end, Bush, reluctantly, accepted Gonzales' fate.
Although the released statement gives no reason for the resignation, the justice department has been at a stand-still the past few months because of all the testimony and controversy. In the end, it just proved to be too much.
So now John Aschroft, Colin Powell, Scott McClellan, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, and Alberto Gonzales have all left this administration. And now, it looks like it's down to Dick Cheney and Condi Rice to see who wins the $1,000,000 prize on this season of Survivor: The White House!
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
"Fidel is fine and is very disciplined about his recovery."
- Cuba's Foreign Minister Perez Roque. Fidel Castro relinquished power last year, but, according to the Cuban government, is still consulted on major policy decisions. The 81 year old is said to be in good health, despite rumors (hopes in much of the Cuban- American community) that he died since his last public appearance on June 5.
In my mind the unanswered question remains:
How is Fidel Castro only 81???
Friday, August 24, 2007
“For those who think, ‘Well my child’s doing alright, I don't have to worry about all these black children and brown children,' let me tell you something: Half of the U.S. workforce is going to be black and brown in a few years, so our economy is going to depend on how those children do. Our children, making sure that somebody's working to pay our social security, is going to depend on those children working.”
- Barack Obama, veering from his stump speech during a rally at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. NBC reports that the crowd was mostly African- American. This raises questions in my mind: what was the purpose of veering off the stump speech? And why the chosen imagery?
Obama was speaking to a mostly black and brown audience, yet he was telling them not to ignore black and and brown children. As if they needed to hear it. So basically, he was really saying, "A lot of white people don't care about the well- being of your children, and that's a big mistake." I would agree with that, but I wonder if he would have given the same speech if the crowd looked differently.
If the answer is yes, then that's an issue he really cares about, and if you do too, he may deserve your vote. If the answer is no, then it seems to be a manipulative way of capitalizing on race without addressing it head-on.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The presidential election is a mere 439 days away... so let's take a quick look at where we're at:
Clinton: Still leading comfortably in every national poll, Clinton has accomplished her main task- she can essentially just play defense and ride out the primary season. In baseball terms, it's like she's a pitcher with an 8 run lead in the 5th inning. She just has to relax, throw strikes, and trust her defense will come through. It's hers to lose, she just has to avoid any major gaffes (shouldn't be a problem for such a seasoned and savvy pol) and downplay her differences from her rivals. That's how you know she's winning, because the press is running with the "experience" vs. "change" theme, and that's a winning theme for Hillary. She's framing the debate, and any time a candidate can do that they're good as gold.
Obama: His campaign is kind of in neutral. He's established himself as the primary alternative to Clinton, which is huge, but that only gets you so far. Obama is still the second banana, and while he's closed (or eliminated) the fundraising gap, he hasn't had as much success with the polling gap. On the other hand, if I were in his campaign I'd be content with his decent polling numbers, because Clinton's support could erode when voters think about her electability in the general election. Look for Obama to give a lot of "Republicans want you to vote for Hillary" speeches this fall.
Edwards: I know I write a lot about him on this site, but I just find his campaign damn fanscinating. Right now, he's attempting to hit the restart button, and do a take two. Serious problems with his cash flow, silly issues with his hair, and the need to reinvent himself have played against Edwards. I think it's too bad, because he has potential. Bottom line: His Iowa springboard strategy is a long shot, and, therefore, so is he.
Giuliani: I have kind of agreed with the "expert" analysis on Rudy: He just can't win, just wait 'til conservative voters get what he's about, and his support will fade. Yet, the man has only gotten stronger. His staying power has been the major story on the Republican side (along with McCain's collapse). That said, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop and I have to believe it's coming.
Thompson: As James Carville put it: "A lot of people want to be president, but not a lot want to go through what it takes to get there." This is a guy who nearly dropped out of his Senate run because he hated the campaign life. Is he ever going to announce? Or does he just like his picture on TV every night (as if the constant L&O reruns weren't enough). If I were Giuliani or Romney, he honestly wouldn't scare me much.
McCain: ... cricket... cricket...
Romeny: He's the favorite by default, I really like his Iowa strategy, and think he would take Rudy out in a one- on- one match up. He's got electability, is faking conservative credentials, and has lots of dough (by Republican standards).
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
If you're living in New England, anywhere in N.E., then you've probably heard or seen at least two (dozen) Mitt Romney for President commercials. These ads tout his record as governor, leadership over the '02 Winter Games, and his successful business career at Bain Capital. Now, presidential ads aren't, as a generally rule, "real" (as we say in the streets), nor should they be taken with anything more than a grain of salt. But there is a real golf between Romney's actual record and what he's been slapping on his resume through these ads.
In particular is his new ad decrying "sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants. In these ads, Romney takes a stab at Giulliani by suggesting that he harbored illegal immigrants by not working diligently at arresting them. He calls the Big Apple a "sanctuary city", along with Newark and San Fransisco; not exactly the best of company mayors from across the land would like to be associated with, especially regarding illegal immigration. The radio ad further embellishes Romney's success at brokering a deal with federal authorities to allow for the MA state police to arrest anyone residing in the state - and thus the country - illegally, and prepare these individuals for deportation.
Here's the gulf: That deal was brokered not in 2003 (when Romney was sworn in), 2004, or 2005, but in 2006, and not even in the first eleven months of that year! It was literally finalized nine months ago, exactly one month before he was due to step down and hand over the Corner Office to a Democrat whom he knew full well would rescind the order. Other than that, Romney has done absolutely nothing close to substantial to "combat" illegal immigration.
Like his stance on abortion, he has simply flipped the flop over to the conservative side for better appeal. It's cool, because that's what primaries are all about. Promise the base the world, but deliver them Burma. But Romney must understand that he's playing with fire while his hands are drenched in lighter fluid. Giulliani isn't exactly Joe Lawless. He's the man that cleaned up New York City (in every major respect), made Manhattan the coolest place in America, and overcame multiple divorces while still serving in government (just try overcoming one, I dare you).
Over four years ago, when the US was preparing to invade Iraq, it did so without the help of its oldest ally, France. Throughout the invasion and attempted stabilization process, France stayed very much on the sidelines, intent to watch the US struggle with an "I told you so attitude."
But all that was under President Jacques Chirac. There's a new shérif in town, Nicolas Sarkozy, who has promised to "thaw" the relationship between the two nations. To that end, the International Herald Tribune reports French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner recently took a three- day trip to Iraq. As Kouchner said: "I believe this is the moment. Everyone knows the Americans will not be able to get this country out of difficulty alone. I really believe that depending on what happens here it will change the world...This is about having an opinion and knowing what positive things one can do and what role France can play in this region," he said, adding that Iraq was "expecting something" from France.
Kouchner thinks he can be a big help in making a change for the better. Because they haven't been involved, France is in a unique position to be an independent broker in the region. Negotiations between Iraq's Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions could be led by France in the coming weeks, arrangements are reportedly being made. Kouchner was one of the few French politicians who actually supported the removal of Saddam Hussein and he has real experience and credibility in the region.
Meanwhile, the US and UK are welcoming France's presence in a big way. "This is a real bonus. Anything is better than nothing," said one senior UK diplomat. "Kouchner has the credibility and he knows all the players - with his record and his style, you can easily see him doing more negotiation between the parties."
Even French oil companies are getting into the act, as Total (France's largest oil company) and Chevron (its American rival) have prepared a bid to control Iraq's 4th largest oil field. But Kouchner has maintained that no oil executives traveled with him.
Now the foreign minister has the difficult task of selling his people on increased involvement in Iraq... and you thought bringing Sunnis and Shiites together was tough.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in al- Anbar province, [the Surge] is working, we're just years too late changing our tactics, we can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war, we have to be preparing to fight the new war."
- Hillary Clinton (that's right, Hillary Clinton) in a speech to the national VFW. Clinton is staying true to her moderate stance on Iraq, and it really hasn't hurt her in this early primary season, whereas it's going to be an enormous help in the general season. Man, she's smart.
Despite the gradual disintegration of the government, U.S. officials continue to keep the prime minister in power and fighting back calls for his resignation. Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, returned from Iraq noting improved security, but chastising the al-Maliki government as incompetent, and being unable "to make the compromises so essential to ending the violence." With the violence in Iraq so blatantly tribal, it's going to take a strong-willed, center-minded diplomat to try and abate the carnage at least to Mogadishu levels.
Now I have been calling for the U.S. to leave Iraq on it's own terms, and at least leave behind a country that is adverse to the sustainability of Jihadist terror networks. Yet, democracy is not without its struggles, and we are at a critical point when America must be seen standing up for Iraqi democracy and not for any particular Iraqi regime. It would be one stormy short-term, but the U.S. should allow the Iraqi Parliament to have a no-confidence vote for al-Maliki. A no-confidence vote can be seen quite frequently throughout the world, from Western democracies to Israel, and they always shore up public support that the government is serious about moving forward with policies that work. These votes always have detrimental consequences, especially in young democracies like Iraq, but what is to come out of it is even greater. Either the parliament votes to sustain the al-Maliki government, at which point he retains his domestic legitimacy (and thus, internationally as well), or he's voted out and Iraq gets a new Prime Minister and a fresh start. It will probably be more like a bloody start, but democracy would have been exorcised.
Furthermore, a no-confidence vote gives breathing room to the directors of the surge, who will be reporting to Congress next month on the progress of the strategy. Couple that with the reduced violence throughout Iraq as a whole and the administration's hype-up regarding Anbar province, and you have a new political landscape that brings the country closer to a democracy where it's okay to lose an election.
Time to finish up the All Presidential Team.
For our team's coach we want someone with experience. The best coaches are the ones who have been there, but are stopped from competing at the highest level by extenuating circumstances like age, size, or talent. So we'll go with a great American president who would be unable to compete on our basketball team because of a disability. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was an officer in the Navy, but was crippled by Polio as president.
His leadership saw our country through the Depression and the Second World War, and we're betting he could see our team through its tough times as coach. The guy knows strategy, knows how to bring a team together, and knows how to defeat an opponent. He also had by far the most experience as president, and stayed on a little past his prime (the hallmark of many great coaches). Yup, he's the perfect fit.
32nd President (1933-1945)
Height: 6' 1"
School: Harvard (3 of our 7 spots are taken by Harvard undergrads; 6 US presidents went to Harvard undergrad)
For those of you who don't know, basketball's 6th man is the guy off the bench who is brought in to provide a spark to the team. In many cases he's as good (if not better) than some of the starters, but for some reason just performs better as a substitute. He's best when called upon to fill in for a starter, when a star player goes down the 6th man steps in and doesn't miss a beat.
That's why America's Team is rounded out with Harry Truman as our 6th man. Truman succeeded FDR in 1945, and was constantly underestimated by the media and the public.
Truman came to power basically by accident. FDR wanted to run for an unheard of 4th term, but needed the support of Congress to do so. In return, Congress demanded to handpick FDR's vice president. Truman was the only name they could agree on- basically because he was so unknown. He was called "average" Harry, because of his height and because he didn't go to college (he couldn't see well enough for West Point and was too poor for other schools). Truman was a product of a St. Louis political machine, meaning he was a shill for interested parties in the city. In fact, he's probably the most successful shill in US history.
Yet when Truman got into office, he showed the guts and smarts of a great president. Truman was brought off the bench, and stepped into the spotlight like a champ. Today he's revered for his decisiveness and foresight.
Harry S (his middle name was the letter only) Truman's stats:
33rd President (1945- 1953)
Height: 5' 8"
School: William Chrisman High School
So there we have it. Here's America's Team:
Point Guard: George Washington
Shooting Guard: John Kennedy
Small Forward: Teddy Roosevelt
Power Forward:Lyndon Johnson
Center: Abraham Lincoln
Coach: Franklin Roosevelt
6th man: Harry Truman
Monday, August 20, 2007
A recent New York Times column sings the praises of former Senator John Edwards. Its source might surprise you: David Brooks, the Times' conservative voice, appears to really like Edwards.
The portrait he paints is very interesting. I should point out that I wasn't able to read the entire article because it's in the "Times Select" selection (think ESPN Insider) and requires a subscription. But there are a bunch of summaries and reviews online.
Brooks talks about how every candidate has a story they tell on the stump, "Some talk about being part of a great movement [Obama]. Some talk about surviving an ordeal with a band of brothers [Kerry]. John Edwards’s stories begin with family, continue with work and solitary struggle and conclude with triumph over privilege." Edwards' stump speech, which Brooks calls "the best of the last decade," basically won him his nomination as vice president in '04.
But 2008 isn't 2004, certainly not for Edwards. The people have heard the speech, have met the man. So in reshaping his campaign 4 years later, Brooks expected Edwards to move left, outflanking Clinton and Obama. But, instead, Edwards has stayed true to his populist economic message:
"...it’s clear that the Edwards campaign is based on the same conviction that organized his last campaign: no one understands regular people the way he does. No one else can get out of a bus in places like Pocahontas, Iowa, and bond with the farmers, nurses and hairstylists the way he can. No one else comes from their ranks the way he does." According to Brooks, Edwards' disdain for children of priviledge created a rift between him and Kerry that was palpable in 2004.
In fact, Brooks calls Edwards "a culturally conservative anti-Washington liberal," as evidenced by that "2 Americas" stump speech, which takes Washington to task for creating our country's extreme wealth disparity. The point is that Edwards is a Democrat because he grew up a poor boy in North Carolina; he wants to do for people like his parents, people like the ones he's desparately trying to convince in Iowa.
The major difference between Edwards then and now is that "This time, Edwards is not as exciting a campaigner. But he is more substantive. He seems to have concluded that eloquence alone can’t make him presidential. So he talks less about himself and mixes his bromides with wonkery. His answers on everything from China to ethanol are filled with complex, multipart arguments. He passes on opportunities to be demagogic."
So Edwards seems to be a more attractive candidate now. But the star power of Clinton and Obama and the stench of 2004's disappointment are conspiring against him. Whatever the outcome, he's got an unlikely fan at the Times.
Friday, August 17, 2007
A major criticism of the Bush administration has been that it lets foxes guard America's hen houses. For instance, it let the oil industry influence its energy bill. Another criticism is that the administration has given political appointments to unqualified candidates based on loyalty rather than competence. For instance, Alberto Gonzalez, Michael "Brownie" Brown or Harriet Myers (who was almost "Justice Myers"... wow).
It seems these two criticisms may have converged in the person of Richard Stickler, who, as our country's mining czar, is in charge of mine safety. Well, after over 80 years of improved mine safety, mine deaths have been going up the past few years. And yesterday there was a second tragedy in the Utah mines-- 2 more miners are dead, another 7 injured. This on the heels of 6 miners trapped, and still unrecovered.
So this decline in safety could be just a string of tragically bad luck.
But yet, some saw it coming.
President Bush nominated Mr. Stickler for his current position last year, but was forced to withdraw the nomination amid opposition from ALL the mining unions, families of victims of mining disasters, Senate Democrats, and some Senate Republicans. The opposition was so strong, the Bush had to sneak Stickler in the through the backdoor: a recess appointment, where the Senate doesn't give an up or down vote. What was all the fuss about?
As a mining executive, the guy's safety record sucked.
Now, Keith Olberman and bloggers at Huffington Post are taking Stickler (and President Bush) to task. Check their takes out here and here.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I heard about this a couple of days ago, and The Daily Show ran it last night. It's probably been around for a while, but if you haven't seen it you should...
A 1994 interview with Dick Cheney (then a fellow at a conservative think-tank) reveals that as Bush 41's secretary of defense, Cheney didn't think going into Baghdad was a good idea because of the chaos it would cause. He talks about warring factions, interference from Iran, the destabilization of Turkey, and abandonment by allies that supported the Gulf War.
Ultimately, Cheney says, Saddam just wasn't worth that many American lives.
Okay, so if 9/11 made it worth it to get Saddam, where was this talk from Cheney in the lead up to war? In fact, Cheney said we'd be greeted as liberators, and the whole thing wouldn't take more than a few weeks. Maybe he made a grave mistake, but what changed his mind from 1994 to 2002?
We deserve an answer.
We probably won't get one.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Tommy Thompson's presidential campaign passed away Monday, a spokesman said, after a long bout with obscurity and lack of funds.
Governor Thompson fought hard, right until the end, but after finishing a disappointing 6th of 11 candidates in the Ames, Iowa straw poll, the campaign finally succumbed. Mr. Thompson's campaign will be remembered for its... well, it won't be, but it was apparently a really cool campaign.
Thompson, Wisconsin's former governor, was somber after the news of his campaign's passing-- apparently the two were very close. "I respect the decision of the voters," he said. "If you can't compete in the heartland, if you can't compete in Iowa in August, how are you going to compete in November of '08?" In a related story, Tom Tancredo and Sam Brownback were seen weeping a corner.
"This whole thing just hits too close to home," Tancredo said.
The campaign leaves behind the couple of hundred people who voted for Thompson, and whoever was dumb enough to give it money (interestingly, the campaign's dying words were: "A fool and his money are soon separated.")
Time to round out the starting 5 with the center. The man in the middle. The big man. You can talk about MJ, Dr. J, and all the other great guards in basketball history, but the sport has always been a big man's game. And the man who was probably our best president was also our tallest.
"Honest" Abe Lincoln saved our Union, wrote and delivered the best presidential speech ever, freed the slaves and had a dominating sky hook. Okay, well he didn't perfect the hook like Kareem, but he rose from a backwoods, country lawyer born in a log cabin, to possibly the greatest American ever.
Here's how War and Peace author, Leo Tolstoy put it:
"The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of Lincoln. His example is universal and will last thousands of years... He was bigger than his country-- bigger than all the Presidents together... and as a great character he will live as long as the world lives."
Is there any question that if this guy balled, he'd be a dominant center? He's Shaq, Kareem, Wilt and Bill Russell put together.
16th President (1860-1865)
Height: 6' 4 1/2"; 6' 10" with the hat
School: Hard knocks (self- taught)
Here's the All- Time Presidential starting basketball line-up:
Point Guard: George Washington
Shooting Guard: John Kennedy
Small Forward: Teddy Roosevelt
Power Forward:Lyndon Johnson
Center: Abraham Lincoln
But we're not done yet! The all time team still needs a coach and a 6th- man coming off the bench. So check back soon and see who fills out the roster.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Karl Rove and James Carville: two giants of modern politics, each their respective party's most recognizable "behind the scenes" figure. Each man changed the way the game of politics is played, guiding unlikely candidates to the presidency. Rove, known as "Bush's brain," used wedge issues and mobilized the conservative base as George W. Bush's right hand man. Carville, aka the Ragin' Cajun, revolutionized political message and changed how it's delivered.
Yesterday, in a move that brought Gerald Ford's most famous quote to the minds of many Democrats ("Our long national nightmare is over"), Karl Rove announced he is leaving the White House.
Today, the Financial Times has reaction by Carville, Rove's rival and counterpoint.
Carville analyzes how Rove, despite "spectacular success," lost "a generation of Republicans" for his party. He really takes Rove to task in this. Check it out. In the interest of full disclosure, I worked for Carville in Washington, DC, and think he's the man.
It seems that Elizabeth Edwards has emerged as a pit bull for his husband's presidential campaign. A few weeks ago she told crowds that her husband was better on women's issues than Hillary Clinton.
And she's keeping it going... criticizing Hillary Clinton for refusing to "apologize" for her vote for use of force against Iraq (which contrasts nicely with her husband's apology). She's also called Obama's stance on the war into question. As a state legislator, Obama gave a speech against the prospective war, but Edward's questioned his motivation: "Obama gives a speech that is going to be extraordinarily popular in his district, and then comes to the Senate and votes for funding... so you are going to get people behaving in a holier than thou way."
She's also gone after the front-runners on health care, taking aim at Hillary for saying "we need to develop a political will" to tackle the problem. Ms. Edwards referenced her cancer, and those with whom she's spoken, battling the disease without health care, saying, "We don't need to develop [a political will]."
Obama's health care plan hasn't been spared her wrath, either; it's been criticized as a day late and a dollar short (or, more accurately, 6 months late, and 15 million people short).
Okay, here's the SAM bottom line question: why is Edwards taking them on?
Well, the answer isn't too tough to come by. Her husband's campaign is hurting. He still leads in Iowa, and has staked his future on winning there, but his fundraising numbers and national polling has lagged big time, and he's in danger of becoming obsolete.
Edwards can't go negative himself, primary voters hate when candidates attack each other (remember Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not attack thine fellow Republican). However, voters also dislike when potential first ladies play too large a role in their spouses campaign (think Teressa Heinz- Kerry or Hillary Clinton), and when they get too "mouthy" (for lack of a better term).
But someone from Team Edwards needs to take on the front runners, someone that commands press and voter attention and, more importantly, respect. Ms. Edwards has battled her cancer courageously, so much so that she's untouchable. It's an accomplishment that the woman is still active and passionate. She's become immune from criticism herself, and the campaign knows it.
Who knows if it will be enough, but don't expect the Edwards pit bull to go back in its cage any time soon.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Here we go, time to pick the Power Forward of our all- presidential team. But first, let's do a recap of our team so far:
Point Guard: George Washington. The Father of Our Country, we picked America's first general as our floor general, because of his selflessness and impressive stature.
Shooting Guard: JFK. He takes the two guard spot because the man could flat out score... and he wasn't a bad athlete, either.
Small Forward: Teddy Roosevelt. He wasn't the biggest, but he had the energy and will to be a force.
That brings us to the Power Forward spot... which requires two things: size and the power to intimidate, a la Larry Bird. He's got to grab rebounds, score the ball, and usually lock down the opposition's big man on D.
So we're going with the one and only LBJ- Lyndon Johnson.
36th President (1963-1969)
Height: 6' 4"
School: Texas State University-San Marcos
Johnson was known as the "Master of the Senate" because he basically ran that body as his personal club. He used his imposing presence to physically intimidate other members. He could often be seen bringing a Congressman to a corner, towering over him and peering down in an effort to secure his vote. And it usually worked. Johnson was a Type- A personality if there ever was one ("I don't get ulcers, I give them!"). As a pol he used his size and power to get the job done, we'll bet he'd do it on the court, too.
"What I believe is that this is an issue that you’re born with. It’s not a choice, it’s not a lifestyle, and I didn’t understand the question. What I thought that the question was — and this was my mind at the time — that there was an implication that politics intervenes with science. And, I always love the word choice. I’m for freedom of choice, I have in my health care plan a choice where everybody can keep their health care plan."
- Bill Richardson, explaining his answer to a question during Thursday's debate on gay issues, in which he said sexual orientation is a choice.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Our quest to shape the nation's ultimate basketball team out of its 43 presidents continues...
Today, we tackle the small forward position. The three spot is usually taken by a bruiser, someone a bit undersized, but with the tenaciousness and toughness to grab rebounds and play good defense. The ability to knock down the open jump shot, or take the ball to the hole is also necessary. Think Charles Barkley.
That's why we're going with the original rough rider, Teddy Roosevelt. TR was average height for his day (about 5' 8") but was powerfully built, and, despite being sickly as a child, developed into a good athlete, outdoors man, and soldier. He also showed his toughness by busting the oil and railroad trusts that dominated the late 19th century, and threatened American liberty.
Roosevelt is commonly acknowledged as being the most energetic figure of his era, which can probably be attributed to his extreme coffee habit (he drank about a gallon a day).
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: fluctuated, but about 190 lbs.
Nickname: TR, Teddy
So, our Presidential line up looks like this:
Point Guard: George Washington
Shooting Guard: John F. Kennedy
Small Forward: Theodore Roosevelt
Last night the Democratic presidential candidates participated in a new kind of debate, one completely on gay issues, televised on the gay network, LOGO.
One by one they sat before a panel of gay leaders and answered questions that centered primarily on gay marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and Don't ask/ Don't tell.
- Obama's compared his parents interracial relationship in the 60s to the challenges faced by gay couples today.
- Clinton's opposition to DOMA and don't ask don't tell, two of her husband's "accomplishments."
- Biden and Dodd didn't go.
- Richardson said he thought homosexuality was a choice.
- The GLBT group that ran the event tried to hold one for republicans, but no candidate agreed to participate.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Yesterday, SAM debuted a new segment: Compiling the greatest basketball team out of our 43 Presidents. We did point guard yesterday, so today it's on to two guard (or shooting guard).
Yesterday we cast George Washington as our point guard, largely because the general's selflessness would allow him to distribute the ball and make the team better.
But at the end of the day, you gotta put the ball in the basket. So our two- guard has got to do some scoring for us.
That's why we're going with (who else?) JFK.
There have been many presidents with solid (ah-hem) scoring ability, but Kennedy was the MJ of Presidential scoring. The rumors about his prowess are legendary (from Marilyn Monroe and beyond).
Also, remember, although Kennedy was plagued by health problems later in life, did letter in football in college.
35th President (1961- 1963)
So here's where we stand with America's Team:
Point Guard: George Washington
Shooting Guard: John Kennedy
Okay, I'm not sure if this is accurate or what. But IOL is reporting the following quote:
"I may re-enter politics at some point in the future because I'm only 59 years old... There is no single [current presidential] candidate that is putting forward a comprehensive argument about the environment or making climate change a priority."
- Al Gore
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
This is an exercise I started doing when bored in class back in high school (so I've had a lot of practice): to make the ultimate basketball team out of our 43 presidents. Now, let's make it official. SAM Online is going to pick the starting 5 of America's ultimate basketball team. Each day we'll try to tackle another position.
Today, let's start at the top, the 1 spot: Point Guard.
Our pick: George Washington
1st President (1789-1797)
Height: 6' 2"
Obviously we were going with a general here, because a point guard (or "floor general") has to lead his troops into basketball- battle. But when it comes to presidents there are a lot to choose from: Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, Dwight Eisenhower, US Grant. But is there any doubt which general will serve as America's one guard?
Standing at 6' 2" in the 17th century, GW would bring Magic Johnson- like versatility to the position. And then there's the key to any good point guard-- selflessness. A great point guard makes everyone around him better. He's not worried about piling up his own stats, but getting the wins and improving the team.
That's why GW is perfect. Washington served two very successful terms as president. He was the most famous and loved person in the new country, and could have served in its highest office for the rest of his life. Most of the country wanted him to, and nothing in the Constitution stopped him. But then he did the ultimate, and walked away.
When word of Washington's planned abdication reached England's King George III, the King whom Washington's Continental army had defeated in the American Revolution, said: "If he does that, he will truly be the greatest person in the world."
Power wasn't simply handed over like that, it changed hands through revolution and coups (and usually still does). But Washington proved his selflessness, and established a precedent of withdrawl every subsequent president followed (save the Roosevelts).
Unselfish play, leadership, and a big frame. George Washington: America's father and Point Guard on America's team.
Monday, August 6, 2007
"I had not heard of that"
- China's director of cultural activities on rumors that China has decided to pressure the Sudan to accept UN Peace keepers as a result of Steven Spielberg's threat to abandon his post as Artistic Advisor for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
China is far and away Sudan's largest trading partner, buying 65% of its oil, and had been very reluctant to pressure the country to accept UN security forces.
China, which as a rule doesn't mettle in the internal affairs of other countries (can you guess why?), made sure there would be no threat of sanctions against the Sudan. In exchange, the fledgling African Union peacekeeping force of 7000 will be supplemented with a force of 26000 UN police and security.
It's not clear how much influence Spielberg, who was under intense pressure from humanitarian groups, had in the matter; however, it is known that China desparately wants the Olympics to go as smoothly as possible. The entire city is undergoing a facelift, for what will be its, and to some extent China's, coming out party next summer.
Sunday, August 5, 2007
According to latest poll conducted by ABC News in Iowa Romney leads with 26 percent, with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 14 percent and Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee tied at 8 percent, followed by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo at 5 percent, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson at 4 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 2 percent and California Rep. Duncan Hunter at 1 percent.
Friday, August 3, 2007
"What about our nation? How 'bout the USA? C'mon!"
- Michele Griffin, a waitress at the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester, NH. Michele reacted to an informal speech given by Mitt Romeny on "Healthcare Diplomacy"-- the exchange of medicines and other goods-- when asked about AIDS in Africa. Griffin, who had just been recounting her troubles with the health care system to a Washington Post reporter, seemed to boil over in frustration. She shouted out to Mitt, who was thrown off his script. He called her back, and the two had a lively exchange.
It's all on video. I think Mitt did a pretty good job, maybe a 6 out of 10. He doesn't get flustered, and he doesn't pander to her, but he fails to emotionally connect the way Bill Clinton would have. Check it out here.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
But unless "Beyond Petroleum" is a reference to pollutants like ammonia and industrial sludge, the British oil giant is not living up to its newly developed image. The BP oil refinery in Whiting, IN (just outside Chicago) has been authorized by state regulators to dump significantly more ammonia (54% increase) and sludge (34% increase) into Lake Michigan. In order to clear the way for a planned 3.8 billion dollar expansion of the refinery, BP will now be permitted to pollute the lake with an average of 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of sludge per day. The expansion will allow the refinery to process Canadian heavy crude oil (extracting petroleum from heavy crude oil is a dirtier process than conventional methods) and is expected to create 80 new jobs at the facility.
This level of increase in pollution is not an inherent consequence of the proposed expansion. The founder of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Lee Botts, has said "We're not necessarily opposed to the project, but if they are investing all of these billions, they can surely afford to spend some more to protect the lake." BP has insisted that there isn't enough room at the 1,400 acre site to upgrade the water treatment plant which could limit the pollution increase. Federal and state regulators have agreed with BP on this issue.
Hold on for one second, I'm going to really try to think outside the box and attempt to come up with solution for this apparent site acreage constraint. This is going to sound completely crazy but what if BP in using its practically limitless financial resources acquired 50 adjacent acres of that prime Northwest Indiana real estate and constructed the water treatment plant there. A minor land acquisition deal, what a radical idea.
Fortunately the BP refinery issue has been noticed by politicians such as Chicago's mayor Daly who has wrote a personal letter to the governor of Indiana asking the state to reconsider its stance and has threatened a law suit (the EPA however at this point has said it would honor Indiana's approval). After the on-going efforts over the last thirty years to clean up Lake Michigan, Daly believes that "the idea of dumping now into the lake again is really unacceptable." These sentiments are shared by the members of the U.S. Congress who passed a resolution expressing disapproval of the plan for the Indiana BP refinery. The resolution passed by 387 in favor to only 26 not in favor of the resolution. Whether such wide spread and bi-partisan political opposition will be enough to derail this project remains to be seen. More information should come available in the coming months.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
I recently ran across this article written by the now deceased George Kennan about American-Soviet relations. It was written in 1951 and titled "America and the Russian Future." As it happened to turn out, the article was prophetic is predicting the demise of the Soviet Union. The reason I am writing about it in this blog is that it had an interesting passage regarding the future of the Soviet Union and how to deal with the collapse that Kennan correctly believed to be inevitable. Here is the passage:
"Forms of government are forged mainly in the fire of practice, not in the vacuum of theory. They respond to national character and to national realities. There is great good in the Russian national character, and the realities of that country scream out today for a form of administration more considerate of that good. Let us hope that it will come. But when Soviet power has run its course, or when its personalities and spirit begin to change (for the ultimate outcome could be one or the other), let us not hover nervously over the people who come after, applying litmus papers daily to their political complexions to find out whether they answer to our concept of 'democratic.' Give them time; let them be Russians; let them work out their internal problems in their own manner. The ways by which peoples advance toward dignity and enlightenment in government are things that constitute the deepest and most intimate processes of national life. There is nothing less understandable to foreigners, nothing in which foreign interference can do less good."
I wonder if this passage might have some relevance for the future of the war that is being waged in Iraq. Perhaps the ultimate outcome of the Iraqi state will look nothing like out governmental system but will still be able to solve problems in its own way. It has been my experience with Americans that we generally believe in universal principles that have application everywhere. It has also been my experience as a traveller that each culture solves problems differently. This is not to say that all methods of solution are equal- often they are not. Generally, systems that protect freedom of the individual and have strong legal systems in place to guard that freedom produce better intellectual discourse on government and, thereby, devise smarter solutions. It should be understood, however, that to judge any other governmental system one needs to take into account the people that produced the system. Nothing is more dangerous for foreign policy than to assume that our way is the only way and that all peoples should emulate US according to our own criteria.
Is their good in the Iraqi national character? I believe there is good but it needs time and peace to be brought out. Can the US provide that time and peace? I believe it is our duty as the country that overturned their previous government to provide Iraq with a chance for self-government.