Friday, March 1, 2013

SAM is dead, long live SAM

After almost 700 posts and 32k hits I am moving the site to tumblr. This blog has been inactive the past few years, but was a great hobby for me during law school. I hope to be more active at the new site:

See you there.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Four years ago I did a pretty decent job of predicting Election Night. This time around, my guess is pretty much a reflection of Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight website. I don't think Obama/ Biden will pull out Florida or North Carolina, but they'll get every other swing state and win with 303 electoral votes.

How I see it

Here's how you know President Obama is headed to victory:

  • Desperate Attacks in Ohio: The Romney campaign has steadfastly maintained it would "not be dictated by fact-checkers." Never was this more apparent than in its ads that claimed the auto-industry bailout would lead to Chrysler shipping jobs to China. But in a campaign full of half truths and outright lies, that was a bridge too far. Chrysler called them out, and the claims failed to dent Obama's consistent lead. It seems to me this attack was a last-ditch desperate attempt to swing Ohio. If Romney thought he was ahead there, his campaign wouldn't need to resort to such tactics.
  • Romney tries to open Pennsylvania: Romney spent parts of the week before the election campaigning in Pennsylvania. The Romney campaign claimed it was expanding the map and laying the groundwork for a landslide. Nonsense. Romney campaigned there for the same reason he ran the Chrysler ads, he knew he wasn't going to win Ohio. McCain did the same thing four years ago, making a late and ultimately unsuccessful play for Pennsylvania. Seeing Romney bound around the Keystone state tells me his advisors can read polls better than many of their supporters, who are hellbent on discrediting Silver's math. But if you can't win Ohio, which normally leans Republican, you ain't winning Pennsylvania, which leans Democrat.
Nate knows. And, really, Mitt does, too.
  • Emphasis on tiny states: I actually live in a battleground state media market, New Hampshire. This is just anecdotal evidence, but it seems to me Romney is advertising here far more than Obama. Once again, this tells me that Obama realizes his campaign is 1) ahead NH in polls, and 2) safe electorally without New Hampshire. Romney's appeal for New Hampshire's four electoral votes indicates how desperate he is to patch together 270.
  • Threw up in my mouth a little: Last night I watched 60 Minutes which aired a truly disgusting segment on the broken mess that is the U.S. Senate. It was the typical "Both parties are partisan and don't want to get things done!" B.S. that has made shows like 60 Minutes largely irrelevant. The most odious part was watching Tom Coburn, the ultra-conservative senator, say that the Senate is so lacking in leadership that it is better off broken than functioning. Of course no one called him on his crap, but it's a perfect example of why the Right will always triumph in our system: Conrad and his conservative colleagues WANT that disfunction. Steve Kroft, or whichever dinosaur was interviewing Conrad, kept saying that the American people want the parties to come together to solve problems. But he never mentioned that Republicans do not believe the government should solve problems. They do not believe in government. They joined it to destroy it. So when Conrad tells his constituents the Senate is better off not functioning, he wins. That incentive system is what has destroyed the U.S. Congress.
  • Gross consequences: This messed up system is what allows Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan (!) to tell people to vote with them because they'll be able to deal with Congress. Think of the cynicism. The Congressional Republicans publicly stated their top goal, with the economy in shambles, was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. They fought him at every step to block his agenda. Now, when Romney says he will be able to get things done the implication is clear: We know that if the president wins the Republicans won't let him do anything, so vote for me and since I'm pushing their agenda and we control the House, and Democrats believe in government action, we'll be able to do something. Either reward our terrible behavior or suffer more of it.
  • More awful incentives: A similar incentive system has destroyed U.S. elections. People hate how incessant political campaigning has become and, more than anything, how negative it is. That, too, plays into Republicans' destructive hands. The constant negative campaigning can depress turnout, which helps Republicans. So Republicans go ultra negative, and Democrats (knowing they cannot stay silent) respond with equally negative messages, causing many to tune out and drop out of the process. Again, a win for the conservative movement. Democrats rely on people participating, but Republicans have an incentive to be as negative as possible.
  • Excuses excuses: Just like revisionist historians have credited the financial crisis with Obama's big victory in 2008, expect similar Republican handwringing about Hurricane Sandy. But the fact is Romney's momentum stopped before the storm, and the race is now where has always been, save three weeks between the DNC and the first debate: Obama with a small but solid lead.
  • A battle for the soul of the Republican party will begin on Wednesday, as establishment Republicans seek to wrest their party back from the Koch brothers/ Tea Party wing of ultra conservatism. The team captains already seem to be staking out their ground, with Governor Chris Christie on one end and Congressman Paul Ryan on the other. Because of the primary system, Ryan's scorched earth orthodoxy will likely win out. That is ultimately bad for Republicans, good for Democrats, and terrible for the country.
On that sunny note, I'll wrap this up. Enjoy the returns. And the weeks of Republicans shouting about how the election was stolen (unless Obama loses, in which case it likely was stolen).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breaking: Someone Says Awful Truth [UPDATE]

There has been a lot of outrage in the wake of Indiana U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock's statement last night that he does not support abortion in cases of rape.
“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is a gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Earlier today, Mourdock tried to walk the comments back, saying:
"I said life is precious. I believe rape is a brutal act. It is something that I abhor. That anyone would come away with any meaning other than what I said is regrettable, and for that I apologize."
But I have to confess I am very confused and actually somewhat surprised that Mourdock's quote last night has caused such outrage. To be clear, I think it's a terrible thought, completely devoid of humanity, compassion, and understanding. I also think it's just plain wrong. I disagree with it in every sense, and suspect that Mourdock is the worst kind of hypocrite.

But for all the terrible things that Mourdock's statement is, it's also completely logically consistent with his stated belief. And the belief of our possibly-soon-to-be-vice-president, Paul Ryan.

Paul Ryan and his colleague Todd Aiken
Paul Ryan cosponsored the artfully titled “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.”
“I’m very proud of my pro-life record, and I’ve always adopted the idea that — the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life,” Ryan has said.
Paul Ryan, Richard Mourdock, Todd Aiken, these are all guys on record as supporting a ban on abortion in cases of rape. And if you asked Paul Ryan, and he was honest or just politically stupid, why he thought a raped woman should carry her pregnancy to term, he'd give you some speech about the sanctity of human life. And if you asked him whether he thought God has a hand in creating human life, and whether God's plan plays a role in his belief, I bet he'd say something very similar to what Mourdock said last night. Ryan is clear that his faith in God informs his view on abortion policy. The idea that every pregnancy is a gift from God is completely in line with his stated beliefs. Even if Ryan only believes some variation of Mourdock's statement, we know he agrees with the important part.

This is what these guys believe. When someone slips up and says it plainly there is a lot of coverage and outrage. How about when male U.S. Representatives like Ryan and Aiken introduce legislation that would have impact beyond mere words? How about when a presidential candidate picks a sponsor of that legislation to be next in line for the presidency? Where is the outrage there?

There is none. Whether it's because of laziness, intellectual dishonesty, or a fear of being called biased, the actual policy gets a free ride in the media. Just don't say the belief out loud.

No matter what he said during his debate against Vice President Biden, Paul Ryan personally believes that the government should prevent a woman who has been raped and impregnated from terminating her pregnancy. And if she flouts the law that he proposes, he would presumably like her criminally prosecuted.

But a note to victims in Paul Ryan's America: Just don't ask the government to make raising the child any easier.

UPDATE 10/25/12 @ 7:37pm

Apparently, I'm not alone in my surprise at the shocked reaction to Murdock's comments. The New Republic's Amy Sullivan gives an eloquent breakdown here.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Debate Disaster: Obama's Enthusiasm- Gap and the Return of the Mass. Moderate

Wednesday night's presidential debate was so shockingly one-sided that there are many points that I'd like to make. To the list!

Only Clint Eastwood could have lost this debate

  • If President Obama simply fought Mitt Romney to a draw, especially in light Friday's positive jobs report, this race would be over. Obama had opened up a solid lead about a month before the election. He was an average performance away from shoring up victory.
  • Obama has never been a world-class debater, but he was so bad in Denver that I have only been able to come up with a couple of explanations, let's take them one by one. To the list within the list!
  • Obama looking at Bush 41's watch
    • Coming off of a very strong convention, Obama had been dominating the campaign for weeks. Romney couldn't get out of his own way. There was his bungled foreign trip, a forgettable convention highlighted by Romney failing to salute the troops and a septuagenarian lecturing an empty chair, the 47% recording, and a host of dismal polls. But the Obama camp should have recognized that they were on the verge of victory and that Romney was a smart and capable guy in an absolutely desperate situation. This is a man who has been actively running for president since 2004. Who turned down a $30 million salary in 2009 to run again. A man that is willing to say anything to win that office. Maybe the Obama team, so disciplined and smart for so long, got overconfident and severely misjudged the proper strategy for this debate.
    • After Bill Clinton's amazing convention speech, expectations were high for Obama's address to close the DNC. When he came off as uninspired, some speculated that perhaps he had a warning that September's job numbers would be soft and he wanted to set a more subdued tone. But after Wednesday, when the president seemed like he'd rather have been anywhere else, one has to wonder: Is the man's heart fully in this race? Remember, President Obama and his closest advisors have maintained that from the outset of their campaign in 2007, Obama did not have an unshakable need to be president. And he has had to endure so much, that maybe he's suffering from a personal enthusiasm- gap.
    • Maybe Al Gore was right and the altitude got to him.
  • Many outlets have pointed out, in tones both serious and satirical, that if the purpose of the debate was to make honest arguments for one's positions, then Obama actually dominated. Romney contradicted his own statements and distorted his own positions. Obama called him out (for the most part) and was honest with the American electorate. And it's a sad indictment of our culture and media that Romney's performance can be called a "win." But I can't buy that. For many voters the debates are the start of election season, or at least a time to form strong opinions. Yes, the media should be honest about what Romney said. But the voters who are undecided or uninformed are not watching those recaps anyway (and who can blame them). Obama had a responsibility to call out the BS, at the risk of his image, for the good of his campaign and the country. He failed. But Romney's debate tactics lead to my last point...
  • Romney, fighting off retirement and for his political life, morphed back into the Massachusetts Moderate conservatives reviled all through their primary (who saw that coming?). On Social Security, Medicare, taxes, Romney blurred his differences with the president. He even bragged about his Massachusetts health care plan. One of his advisors almost got fired for doing that this summer! Republicans are juiced up after their nominees excellent performance, and they have every right to be. But how can conservatives feel good when, after they longed for an ideological-choice-election led by Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney saved his campaign by acting like a blue- dog Democrat? Got to turn their stomachs a bit... but I'm sure they'll take it.
He's probably still going to win, though

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Republicans Have a Big Problem And It Ain't Mitt

There is a dirty little secret festering beneath the surface of Governor Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. What started as whispers by the Republican establishment has grown into a murmur, and will likely be heard as a dull roar when President Obama takes his next oath of office in January. The secret is the plain and, for Republicans, painful truth that theirs is no longer a national party.

The Republican party's candidate for president has won the popular vote only once in the last five elections. If President Obama's current lead holds, that will be one win, George W. Bush's squeaker in 2004, in twenty- four years.

As America's demographics continue to shift toward people of color, the Republican message of deregulation and tax cuts will grow more stale and ineffective. Those policies have failed to help middle-  and lower- class families for 30- plus years, but until this decade, Republicans were able to attract those voters and win national elections through social issues. More than just raising wedge issues like abortion or gay marriage, Republicans would often talk about societal decline in racial overtones. Whether it was Ronald Reagan's anonymous welfare queen or George H.W. Bush's Willie Horton ad, Republicans gleefully ostracized minority voters.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Karl Rove's permanent majority.

The country got less white, and it gets less so every year. Working class whites have an interest in the status quo, and can be called "conservative" in the true sense of the word. This group often resents what they see as government intrusion through policies of affirmative action or welfare. Meanwhile, immigrants look to the government to provide a fair system and safety-net as they work to establish themselves. Meaning Ronald Reagan's base is shrinking as Barack Obama's grows.

Furthermore, society's evolving positions (to borrow a phrase) on issues like gay marriage and immigration, have taken once powerful weapons of mobilization out of the Republican arsenal.

So, Republican orthodoxy of tax- cuts and deregulation increasingly has to stand on its own, without social issues and under-the-table prejudice to help win the day.

And the results have not been pretty for Republicans.

Take this summer's nominating conventions, each a chance for the parties to convince the American people of its vision for government. The Republican convention came and went without a ripple, let alone a splash. Meanwhile, Democrats are still riding a wave of support generated by their prime-time speakers. The success of one convention and failure of another was not about Bill Clinton's eloquence or Clint Eastwood's nonsense. Democrats are just selling a product that more voters want to buy.

Make no mistake, the polls in this election will continue to be tight, and the Republican strategy can still work when their side is far more motivated to vote. But that isn't easy to pull off in presidential politics. And thanks to that shift in demographics and increased Republican extremism, there are flat out more people who identify and believe in the Democratic vision than the Republican.

This is something the Romney camp seems to recognize, and since tabbing Ayn Rand in shirt sleeves for vice president, the campaign it has made a hard turn to the center. That includes ads where Romney implores voters that he cares about working people just as much as the President does, and an interview in which he praised parts of Obamacare. His campaign realizes that if only 2006 Governor Romney were running, he'd have a real shot.

As First Read and Politico reported, Republicans have begun to lay the blame for a disappointing campaign on Romney himself, asserting that he did not present the clear case for conservatism. Among them, Governor Chris Christie, eagerly awaiting his 2016 run for the White House, told Meet the Press that Wednesday's debate would turn the election because Romney would  go head-to-head against the president with a message of conservatism. The implication was clear: if the campaign continues to falter it isn't about the opportunity or the message, it's the messenger.

Republicans hope that repeating this lie enough might somehow make it true. But deep down theirs is an inconvenient truth: that in order to reclaim its status as a national party, the Republican party must come to grips with a changed nation. If they don't, they'll look back on this election not as a disappointment, but on the closest they came to the presidency in a generation.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps

It's been a long time since my last post on SAM Online, but I thought I'd return to honor the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

I remember the first time I heard Ted Kennedy speak. I was 12 years old and listening to talk on the radio about Kennedy's race against the first serious challenger (after 32 years) to his Senate seat- young venture capitalist Mitt Romney. It was 1994, and polls were tight, but the buzz that morning was that Kennedy had put the up- start away in the previous night's debate.

They went to a clip of an excited Kennedy laying into his rival. A bombastic Boston brouge pierced through my clockradio's modest speakers. I was shocked at his volume, and at how articulate and how passionate he sounded.

You have to understand, if you grew up outside of Massachusetts in the early 90s you knew of Ted Kennedy as something of a punchline. Those years were not particularly kind to Kennedy as his drinking and carousing hit their peaks. His legendary brothers, whose pictures hung on the walls of my bedroom, only exaggerated his flaws.

Kennedy's voice, used tirelessly to advocate for the down trodden, shocked me that morning. I couldn't believe it, but it was equal to his family's incredible legacy. It was big, proud and instantly recognizable- like the man himself. That moment I first heard it, I gained new respect and reverence for Senator Kennedy. And the more I heard him speak and learned about his life and work the more my respect grew. An unabashed liberal, Kennedy rose the minimum wage, passed laws for the disabled, and got poor children health insurance. He made government work, used it to improve society.

I never met Ted Kennedy, but he seemed like my favorite type of person. He seemed to love life, and to be unashamed to live it boldly. He did great things, made some terrible mistakes, and had an impact. He and his family chose the public arena, fought for causes worth believing in and were rarely mere spectators.

Tonight we are without Ted Kennedy's voice, but we should never lose his ideals or the spirit with which he chased them.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mann's Mirror

In his latest film, "Public Enemies", Michael Mann ("The Last of the Mohicans", "Heat", "Collateral") has put up a mirror to our modern society, and in a mature manner consisting of historical perspective and a desire to put the soul of our society on trial, asks simply: Do the ends justify the means. Of course, for Mann, the definition of "ends" begets the means, regardless of answer. Does the Federal Bureau of Investigations stop John Dillinger, a tact bank robber whose only loyalty is to self, comrades and his girl, not his country? Or do they stop, what is at the time, a growing conglomerate of criminal enterprises, working "coast to coast", illegally making upwards of $70,000 a day, circa 1934? Do we stop bin Laden and al-Quaeda? Or do we do something about the Saudi Royal family, the Husseins of Jordan, Mubarak of Egypt, et cetera? Legitimate questions that, to a larger degree, explains the kind of nation we are as much as that which we once were.

In short, "Public Enemies" is about John Dillinger, the consummate criminal, pulling off jobs, evading the FBI and trying to find, in the dark, the outlet from which he could pull the plug on his activities and call it a day. The film provides no detailed background to the life of Dillinger, his partners, nor the G-Men hunting them down. No explanations are needed, as the purpose of the movie is of the moment. With each new bank robbery, or brazen act of defiance by the criminals, or prison break, the stakes get higher for the FBI. From the men they recruit, to the methods they employ, Mann wants us to be the fly on the wall as Director Hoover takes in suggestions and issues newer, more draconian methods. The films pace and tensity make us understand the desperate nature failure produces among results-oriented men; results that, for obvious reasons, must be positive.

Yet, there are more than one set of criminals in the film. Alongside, then opposite, the bank robbers, are the organized criminals. They run the numbers game and sports books, sell the drugs and prostitutes, payoff the authorities, manage the unions, and maintain a level of fear so as not to disrupt the order they have created. By and large, they are the bigger threat to the FBI, indeed the nation. They sell the alcohol during prohibition, while the money Dillinger steals is guaranteed by the Federal Reserve Bank. The unions they run have profound impacts on several industries nationwide, while bureau offices and local police stations devote vast resources to catching one team. It is the mafia and its activities that will infiltrate the very bloodstream of America, from New York City to Chicago to Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Their invisible hand infiltrates political machines, judicial processes and public safety policies. Yet, it is in their favor, possibly on their behalf, that the government, and all its full force, hunts down Dillinger. (And I'll be damned if that hunt itself is not gangsta.)

The techniques the FBI employs is a what's-what of surveillance techniques. They get the phone companies to listen in on telephone conversations, recording them on vinal players, without warrants. They torture members and associates of Dillinger's team to get vital information that proves correct, but the obvious point is the limits to which that information is obtained: How many times would you slap a woman to get what you wanted to know? And what would that do to you? They realize prison cannot hold Dillinger, so it becomes a hunt to kill, not prosecute, which in itself changes the very nature of procedures and narrows logic. All of these techniques Mann shows are meant to hearken back the post-9/11 period; from the hunt of bin Laden (still ongoing), to the government tapping phone calls and bank accounts (still ongoing), to torture and its necessary qualities (possibly still ongoing), we forget just how much of the Constitution we were willing to suspend in order to achieve safety.

Of course, as with bin Laden, John Dillinger is not the problem, but the symptom. Desperate times produces desperate people, and when you get enough of them, someone is bound to be a stone-cold tactician. Bank robberies then, like terrorism now, are quite difficult to prevent. People are not frisked on their way into a mall on a sunny Saturday anymore than they were put through metal detectors on their way into a bank Monday morning. Funds are replenished as buildings get rebuilt. Lives are taken in the process as people become collateral, and the taking of human beings become the ultimate goal.

Still, in the film, as now, it is amazing just how far the governments will go to keep our collective eyes focused on one hand, while the other exchanges the goods and services they want kept off the books. The money earned through oil pays for Wahhabi teachings in Saudi Arabia, which is no fan of Western ideals and mores. Thus, bin Laden and al-Quaeda may be defeated, but they will always be replaced. There's a scene when a paid officer assures a leading mafioso that he has a way to stop Dillinger, whose activities are leading to a national crime bill that will federalize interstate criminal activity. The very next scene has the cop speaking with an informant, then agents, and a plan is materialized.

Terrorism, indeed Islamic funded, backed and initiated-terrorism, must be fought diligently and to a firm conclusion. It is a difficult task that will have us visit gray areas more than once. Yet, the roots of issues are where solutions can be found, not in the reactions. As much as Afghanistan must be passified for the world's benefit, not much is stopping a plan from being hatched and carried out from across your street (assuming you live in the States, Europe, or other liberally open societies). The goal must be to recruit their recruits away from that lifestyle. People with secure jobs and responsibilities rarely involves themselves in geopolitical matters in such crudely extreme manners. Would John Dillinger exist sans a Great Depression? Would bin Laden be influential sans the Saudi royal family? No one knows the answer, but we do know this: The man behind the curtain, yeah, that guy. Let's start paying some attention to him, and see where that takes us.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Like Obama Mater

I'm not sure Sammag is ready for a religious sermon from the Sheehanator but its going to get is what I posted on

"I'm a devout Catholic going to mass every week, confession every month, going decorate the church tomorrow for the Easter weekend etc. I am also absolutely against abortion, I'm thrilled Obama is coming to ND. I am getting really tired of Catholics who clearly do not understand their own religion. Jesus did not come to this earth to talk with those who thought like him. He invited the most harden sinners to his table and accepted them no matter what their past or beliefs. He came to teach and to show the way. Why not invite Obama to ND, raise the abortion debate and allow Jenkins to discuss the pro life view as I am sure he will? To suggest that ND should only invite those that agree with the Catholic teaching is as snobbish as it is impossible. Where were all you staunch Catholics when Bush spoke at ND even though he was a huge advocate of the death penalty....right nowhere to be found. Whatever happened to judge lest not ye be judged, and judgment is mine sayith the lord? And how about hate the sin and not the sinner......oh I guess those don't count when you throw in politics. The Catholic understanding is that you are to accept and respect all people and not to condemn anyone. This is the same embarrassment as Catholic bishops thinking that it is within their right to deny ANYONE the Eucharist and its saving grace. That isn’t to say that you don’t stand up and scream at the top of your lungs for the downfall of abortion. But to make the next step and condemn a man for seeing it the other way IS NOT (Catholics are you listening) NOT Christ’s teaching. I applaud my alma mater."

I mean it man, has every Catholic forgotten that we are to treat our brother like ourselves? To shun Obama because he is on the other side of the abortion debate is just foolish and hypocritical to everything that being a Catholic is about. He is the President of the United States like it or not and most on this blog well know how hard we worked for a prestigious commencement speaker. Say nothing of the fact that this is a democracy and often time the other guy wins. Celebrate that. ND isn't screaming from the rafters "We love abortion! Can't get enough of it that's why we want Obama!" they are interested in what he has to say on the many many issues that he DOES fall in line with the Catholic teaching, such and health care, the environment, social justice issues, global poverty etc etc. Both Notre Dame and I hate abortion and the fact that Obama has gone ahead and expanded funding for it all over the world. But the answer is not nor will it ever be to condemn and shun him. Where does that ever lead. Bring the man here, pour him a glass of Johnie Walker Blue Lable (we can afford that), tell him how terrible abortion is, and then ask him to give one of his inspiring speeches to the future leaders of the free world. That's how this country works and what Jesus asks of us.
Finally is it so hard for Catholics to be able to seperate a man's accomplishments from a few opinions which we disagree with? The answer is no....that's why Obama carried the MAJORITY OF THE CATHOLIC VOTE in last years election. So why not let him come to the premier Catholic University in the country?

P.S. The downfall of Sammag..say it ain't so!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Buck Stops Where?

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not an expert on the financial sector meltdown. I understand that banks have on their balance sheets mortgage based derivatives that were vastly overvalued and that this has necessitated an influx of money from the federal government to keep the banks solvent. Outside of these basics, I’m pretty much lost (unfortunately I would guess that 99% of the American people are in the same boat). However, after reading editorials like the following from economist Dean Baker (, it is genuinely difficult to support the current plan or feel optimistic about any sort of satisfactory resolution to this crisis. Although everyone can agree that a functioning financial sector is necessary, it just doesn’t seem right that the banks should be able to eschew accountability. Operating on the fundamentally flawed principle that housing prices would continue to soar into perpetuity, the banks drove themselves into a steep ditch. Ultimately it is going to be the ailing American Taxpayer that shoulders the burdensome and thankless task of dragging them out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Good Night and Good Luck

After 19 months and over 700 posts, SAM Online is going dark.

I started this site during law school for two primary reasons: to offer friends, family and the occasional stranger a place to exchange ideas, and as an outlet for my political energy. The site was more successful on the latter goal, but I hope that everyone enjoyed reading my posts even nearly as much as I enjoyed writing them.

SAM Online isn't dead, I'll be back from time to time and hope that others with permission to post continue (or start). So check back in now and then.

But now I have another outlet for my political energy, indeed all of my energy, a job with Sen. Chuck Schumer. (Working for Schumer is not a job so much as it's a lifestyle).

This has been a fun and interesting experiment. The passion I had for writing about this stuff kind of surprised me, and certainly helped inspire me to pursue a political career after graduation. I'm grateful for that and for anyone who checked the site out.

So please, if you enjoyed the site or want to keep it going in my stead email me at

Stay classy, Planet Earth.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Not (yet) Ready for Primetime Player

Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, the nation's youngest governor, delivered the GOP's response to President Obama's speech to Congress. Over the past few weeks Jindal has emerged as his party's newest, and perhaps brightest, star.  He also showed a willingess to lead with attempts to decline certain portions of the new economic stimulus package.

The media has picked up his scent and the Q&A at the recent governors' meeting in DC looked more like a Jindal press conference.

Many threw around his name last year as a possible VP nominee, but he wisely (or perhaps luckily) stayed off the ticket. At 36 he was just too young to be palatable. During tonight's speech, Jindal showed potential but is still too wooden for my taste. That will improve though, and we'll be hearing a lot more about Bobby Jindal in the years ahead.

(By the way, this is the first post to get the 2012 tag)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wrestler + Uncle Sam = "The Uncler"

This is an amazing parody video from of the award winning pic The Wrestler. In these economic times, Uncle Sam himself stars as the beaten down lead character, Alissa Milano does a dead on Marisa Tomei as Lady Liberty, and Uncle Sam's daughter portrays the middle class.

This is awesome:

Here's the original as a reference:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obstruction Junction

A version of the stimulus bill will pass in the Senate later today, it will then be sent to conference for a compromise with the House version. A preliminary vote had 61 Senators in favor, which includes the support of just three Republicans.

So, out of 219 Republicans on the Hill only three support a path to recovery endorsed by economists of all ideological stripes and the staunchly pro- business US Chamber of Commerce.

When Rush Limbaugh made waves with his "I want Obama to fail" boasts last month, I rolled my eyes and lamented the attention he received. But now, it seems that dangerous sentiment is something of the official position of the Republican party.

Republicans are in the midst of a kind of identity crisis, left to wonder how their "permanent majority" became so thoroughly dismantled. Apparently, many see the rising deficits and increased spending of the Bush years as he party's main problem.

Now, they've found ideological purity at a time when rapid spending of this type is exactly what our country needs.

Alas, this is not a genuine disagreement, but an attempt at sabotage through disingenious allegations of "socialism" and "partisanship" to score political points. This sort of gamesmanship is not new, but it's unfotunate to see it at such a crucial time for our country's near and long- term future.

Oh, and, lest you think Republicans are just purely obstructionist, their alternative? More tax breaks, beyond the $400+ bn guaranteed in the current versions (though that is mostly middle- class relief), and a battle to keep the president from instituting temporary CEO pay caps. Leave our infrastructure to crumble; do not create jobs directly; keep our buildings and schools and medical records inefficient and out of date.

But go and cut income taxes again, cause that worked out so well the last time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Best of '08

I realize that this is way dated, but for all the clips from late- night shows I put on this blog, I never posted one of my favorite skits about the 2008 presidential election. So, I decided to right this inconceivable wrong:

Ladies and gentlemen, Hall & Oates sing the election:

Blago on Letterman

Blagojevich: I've been wanting to be on your show in the worst way for the longest time.

Letterman: Well, you're on in the worst way, believe me.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NYC Life Told Through Legos: Pics of the Day 2/3

Artist Christopher Niemann published these photos capturing life in New York City through an interesting medium-- Legos. Pretty cool stuff. My favorites are the Subway Series (of course) and taxis.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

After a New York Minute

The debacle over Hillary Clinton's Senate seat mercifully ended, but not without significant political fallout. It was an unfortunate affair for pretty much everyone involved, particularly Governor David Paterson, who has been roundly criticized (and outright mocked) for his handling of the situation.

Caroline Kennedy's interest in the assignment was clearly problematic for Paterson. An accidental governor, he was sure to face a tough reelection battle in 2010 and probably a primary challenge as well. The Senate seat provided Paterson a way to clear a Democratic rival with designs on his job-- I'm thinking specifically of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of popular former Governor Mario, but I'm sure there are others-- but Kennedy's hat in the ring threatened that chance.

My expectation was for Paterson to wait for Kennedy to lose momentum and hopefully fall out of favor with the electorate, which never knew her as a pol. Things appeared to be headed that way as she struggled in initial interviews, and polls said voters preferred the attorney general for the job.

But then things took an ugly and surprising turn.

Just as Hillary Clinton was set to be confirmed as Secretary of State, whispers circulated that Kennedy would withdraw her name for personal reasons. Paterson could have left it at that. Instead, sources close to the governor trashed Kennedy, saying the Paterson would not have nominated her anyway because of nanny and/or tax and/or marriage problems. Though he denied knowing who was behind the leaks, Paterson was derided by everyone from Maureen Dowd to David Letterman, and the New York Post's Fred Dicker called him a liar in a detailed report.

Perhaps stranger still, Paterson did not nominate Cuomo, but chose Kristin Gillibrand instead. A one term Congresswoman with (according to Dowd) a less than stellar reputation in the House, Gillibrand has been a friend to the NRA, and stood with former Senate Republican Al D'Amato at her annoucement. However, She fills two of Paterson's main public criteria: She's a woman and from upstate. Presumably, this is Paterson's attempt to build support in the region and appeal to female voters.

But she fails on another key component. As an unfamiliar name, Sen. Gillibrand will have difficulty raising the money or generating the enthusiasm necessary for what will be at least three elections in two years: a primary battle before a special election in 2010, the election itself and the race when the seat's actual term expires in 2012.

She also leaves the 20th district ripe for a Republican pick- off in 2010.

I understand the desire for upstate influence, but about 63% of New Yorkers live in the city, on Long Island or in Westchester county. Picking a woman to fill the seat is also commendable, but Gillibrand's gender is not enough to ensure female support, and any gains may be outweighed by the fallout from liberals and those upset over the Kennedy smears.

Gillibrand deserves a fair shot as senator, and upstaters deserve a voice. But Paterson's decision remains curious. If he wanted to avoid naming Cuomo, who had a messy divorce from Kennedy's cousin Kerry in 2003, out of respect for the Kennedy clan, why the disparaging leaks? If he wanted to use the pick as a political opportunity why not a) pick Cuomo, b) pick Kennedy (with her Obama and Bloomberg ties, deep pockets and wealthy friends) or c) pick a place- holder closely allied with Hillary like my rep. Nita Lowey (although she denied interest in the job).

Whatever the answers, interesting questions abound. And the next couple of years in New York politics should be unpredictable.

Let's look at the winners and losers:

The losers are obvious.

  • Caroline Kennedy. She struggled through a three month political career.
  • New Yorkers. We lost out on a senator with unparalleled access to the president at a tumultuous time.
  • David Paterson. The year he has to live this down before he'll have to mount a primary campaign may not be enough, and he looks more vulnerable than ever.

The winners are less clear.
  • The Clintons. They can't be too upset that one of Obama's biggest primary backers has been embarrassed, and won't get Hillary's old job.
  • Chuck Schumer. Who is now, without a doubt, the top dog in New York politics, especially after Mayor Bloomberg and his camp stuck their necks out for Caroline.
  • Andrew Cuomo. He'd probably prefer to be governor, and, through a series of bizarre events going back to Eliot Spitzer, has a golden opportunity.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Afternoon Links

Chistopher Hitchens on what turned out to be a great day for a conflicted city. (Slate)

Paul Krugman treads through some of the disingenuous reactions to Obama's stimulus plan. (NY Times)

In a long overdue move, auto emission standards are on the rise, thanks to President Obama. (NY Times)

Alberto Gonzales doesn't think the new administration will prosecute him. (Huffington Post)

Just before their new album drops, the E Street Band reflects on the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. (Rolling Stone)


Ireland's the Corrigan Bros. capitalize on the Irish ancestry of the 44th American president:

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thank you, George W. Bush

On Feb. 7 I'm going with a friend to see Will Ferrell's one man Broadway show, You're Welcome America, where he plays our 43rd president.

George W. Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 2001. I was 18 years old, and politically aware and interested but not ideologically developed. The vote I cast for Al Gore remains my proudest. Before Bush took the oath of office, I had a conversation with my high school girlfriend's father. He'd voted for Bush, and I told him that after Bush was through the country would be worse off economically and socially. He disagreed.

On this, the last night of the Bush presidency, I want to take a look back at his time in office.


Just in case the above anecdote makes me seem like a know it all, indulge me one more. After 9/11, my friend and I were sitting in his dorm room watching ex- presidents and dignitaries file into the National Cathedral for a mass marking the tragic event. Gore was on screen and I remarked, "Man, I voted for him, but I'm really glad that he's not president right now. We need Bush in there." He agreed.

Bush's bravado and cowboy style comforted a nation that had its sense of invincibility rocked. He was a man who would punish those responsible and restore order to our world. Check out this SNL clip, where Ferrell plays the president just after 9/11. The cheers and hoots are remarkable and almost startling.

We craved this kind of call- out, we wanted revenge. Seven years later, this clip is more sad than funny. If you'd told the members of SNL's studio audience that night that bin Laden would be on the run and releasing tapes in 2009 I don't think they'd have believed you. I certainly wouldn't have.

But Bush was his best in those early days, even if he didn't actually accomplish anything. I'd argue the two best moments of his presidency came in late 2001:

Here, Bush is confident and well spoken, even eloquent. He's not giving prepared remarks, but reacting to the emotion of the moment and words of workers at Ground Zero.

I don't like George W. Bush, and I hate the New York Yankees. But this was pretty cool--

The Aftermath

Bush executed the War on Terror in a reckless way that was often politically motivated. The Senate's vote for use of force against Iraq was held right before the '02 midterms, which turned it into a political issue.

Dick Cheney executed his "unitary executive" theory, which gave the president new power at the expense of civil liberties and international law. Neo- Cons executed their Iraq- as- Petri dish experiment for American hegemony in the 21st century unfettered, at the expense of American servicemen and women, uncounted civilians and America's alliances.

And the president wasn't curious enough or interested enough or competent enough to stop them.


The Iraq War was, as John Kerry famously put it, the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. But with improved security in the country it has become Bush's best chance at lasting achievement, and the only thing that could rescue his name from historians' bottom tier of presidents, where he now seems destined to be remembered. A stable democracy in the heart of the Middle East, and the dismantling of an abhorrent dictator is a potential game changer for our world.

But it was sold under false pretenses and done on the cheap. And when it wasn't working, Bush didn't react. The failures in Iraq can fill books. And so it can never be a source of pride for Bush. But it does have potential.

The Economy

For much of Bush's eight years in office, before the economy collapsed in on itself, the country seemed to be doing quite well economically. Unemployment was stable near historic lows, the stock market routinely broke records, and home ownership was at its highest level ever. However, polls routinely showed that Americans didn't feel good about the economy. People didn't feel good about it because it wasn't working for them. Inequality skyrocketed during the Bush years, to levels that surpassed even the "Roarin' 20s."

Through tax cuts and loop holes corporate earnings and income for the wealthiest individuals were unprecedented. Yet the benefits failed to trickle down to the rest of us. And when inflated housing numbers popped they brought the DOW down too, and Bush's signature economic accomplishments were undone while he still lived in the White House.

The Administration

In Paul Krugman's 2007 book The Conscience of a Liberal the economist distinguishes the Republican party of Eisenhower, Nixon and Bush 41 from that of George W. Bush. Bush 43 emanated from what Krugman calls"movement conservatism," and one of its main tenets is patronage based on loyalty rather than expertise.

That became evident as figures drifted from the administration to companies they were supposed to be regulating and back. It was clear after the utter incompetence of horse breeder turned FEMA director, Michael Brown who still enjoyed George Bush's loyalty even as people suffered through the federal government's incompetence.


Bush's presidency might be best understood through the lens of what's known as the Peter Principle. It holds that in a hierarchy, members are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent (their "level of incompetence"), and there they remain.

George Bush rose to a level for which he was simply incompetent.

However, his presidency is not so much a personal failure, I think, as it is a failure of ideology and a corrupt politics. George Bush's disposition and personal character and story made him somewhat of a blank canvas on which movement conservatives could project their vision of government. For eight years we endured that vision.

Now, thanks to that experience, eroding racism and a shift in demographics movement conservatives have turned the Republican party into a mostly regional force. When the party returns to national prominence, we can expect it to look very different.

So perhaps Bush's legacy is that he made today possible. He helped elect the most progressive government since the 1930s. And I firmly believe our country will be better off for it. What's more, he put the country in a place where it was finally ready move past, not so much its racial divisions, but the cultural roils that defined the baby boom generation. Now that our first post- Boomer is in the White House we can close the book on George W. Bush's presidency and that tumultuous age.

So, thank you, George W. Bush.