Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Getting Fucked

There's been a lot of talk about bailing out homeowners so they can stay in their homes and bailing out the auto industry so they can keep people employed and bailing out Wall Street so it won't collapse the economy. (Turns out some of that bailout money is going toward bonuses). But what about the renter who in the face of a huge housing bubble acted responsibly and didn't buy something he could only afford if prices went up indefinitely, and instead put his money into the stock market? Not only did I miss out on the housing bubble, but I'm also missing out on the bailout. In the meantime, I lost 60 percent of my net worth when the burst housing bubble killed the stock market! Where's my bailout? Oh, bailing me out isn't important because I was responsible and will still buy goods and keep the economy going even if I don't see a dime of it.

This really is socialism when car companies produce shitty cars that are bad for the environment, and we bail them out. When bankers take irresponsible risks and we bail them out. But citizens who paid their taxes and their bills and acted conservatively with their money - we're getting fucked. It's a transfer from the responsible to the greedy and the needy without our consent.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Get Michael Pollan a Cabinet Post

Of all the problems facing us today, the destruction of our food supply by corporations and government lobbyists is probably the easiest to fix and one that might have the broadest consequences. As Michael Pollan has written about in his book In Defense of Food, the modern food industry has run roughshod over our eating traditions, and the results have been catastrophic. We're so worried about making health care universal and/or affordable, but we would need only a fraction of it if we just ate properly. But we don't eat properly because our food system is designed for quantity, addiction and profit rather than quality, health and taste. Pollan refers to numerous studies done on the Western diet's affect on people from native populations who had almost zero incidence of heart disease, cancer and diabetes before adopting it. They found that as soon as people adopted our eating habits, they got our diseases.

What's worse, our medical industry works hand in hand with the food industry, creating treatment for symptoms, but rarely addressing the underlying problem. So people take statins for the heart disease they have because they eat processed grains that flood them with too many Omega-6 fatty acids and inflame their systems. Instead of getting off the fake food and eating more organic fruits, vegetables and grass-fed meat, people continue with the Western diet and pay into the health care system. The medical profession has a vested interest in keeping us coming back for more treatment, and the drug companies lavish our doctors with unethical perks to persuade them to prescribe their products.

The good news is that it's an fairly easy solution - educate people to eat properly (not as per the AMA's faulty recommendations - they were part of the war on fats, and actually encouraged transfat consumption over natural products like butter), and watch the need for and cost of health care diminish to a fraction of what it is currently. The main obstacle to educating people on their health is that there's tremendous profit in having us eat processed foods. After all, you can patent the formula to Coca Cola, but you can't patent organic peaches. And growing organic takes more effort, and is harder to do on a large scale. But it's important not only because pesticides are harmful, but also because anything that artificially kills pests and diseases breeds produce that didn't have to develop the defenses itself. And many of the antioxidants that product against cancer and lower the risk of heart disease develop in plants to defend against bacteria themselves.

So there is an enormous vested interest in keeping us buying food from a box and also in using harmful chemicals that deprive us of essential nutrients. To that end, there are companies who commission studies designed to show that pesticides aren't harmful, and who hire lobbyists who make sure the laws on what can be sprayed on food and what can be run off into the environment are lax.

But if the population became truly educated about what they ate, they could vote with their dollars at farmer's markets and collectives - they could grow extra food in their back yards, they could swear off the fast food, and the food from a box. Moreover, they could make it known to their representatives that they want the food (and drug) companies to be held to high standards, and bloggers could call out the worst offenders and disseminate information to the public at large.

But just as President-elect Obama encouraged people to get involved in his campaign by creating a movement for change and setting up the infrastructure, he could also speed up this process of education about health vastly by enlisting his support, encouragement and network. With two foreign wars, a massive financial crises and huge entitlement liabilities, this might seem like a low priority, but it's not. It would solve the health care problem within a couple years by cutting the cost enormously. It would also have an enormously beneficial effect on the work force - people would be energetic healthy and productive - and it would be hugely beneficial to the environment. And there would not need to be a major outlay of cash.

Now that we're only beginning to understand fully the ways in which Wall Street and other corporate interests gambled with our pensions and retirement accounts to rack up huge profits before needing a bailout, it's important to go further and realize that the food and drug industry are doing the same in matters of nutrition and health.

So get Michael Pollan a cabinet post - (or at least a meeting) with our new president.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Obama's Strategy on FISA

Was debating with a friend about Obama's support of FISA - I think no big deal, he thinks it undermines Obama's credibility entirely.

But then I started thinking about why Obama would support FISA since he had to know it would get MoveOn and their ilk up in arms. And then it dawned on me that's precisely WHY he did it. What better way to appeal to the center and center-right than to say: "The far right AND far left are both angry with me." In other words, it's not about FISA or telecom immunity at all. It's about sacrificing a relatively small issue to generate the backlash from the left he needs. It's like microfracture surgery - the doctor scrapes the bone to cause bleeding and create scar tissue to cushion the joint. He's scraping the left just enough to cushion his reception with a significant portion of the electorate outside his base.

It's not his centrist stance on FISA that will win him votes. It's that he doesn't look quite so beholden to the left.

I think that's a good rebuttal to all the pundits who try to argue that supporting the FISA compromise and tacking to the center substantively won't help. No it won't, but their overheated criticism surely will!

When given the choice between believing that Obama is tone deaf and doesn't realize what's obvious to the left-wing pundits, or believing that this black man with a Muslim name who is the frontrunner for president of the United States is playing the game at a more subtle level than they can even fathom, I'll go with the latter. These people are like financial pundits slagging Warren Buffett's stock picks. If Obama weren't the smartest guy in the game, we wouldn't even know who he was.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Send In The Lorax

Because the California Bar Exam is only weeks away, I don't have time to do a proper post.  But I did want to take a minute to note the disgusting irony of the Bush administration declaring polar bears a threatened species as a result of global warming, and only a month later issuing what are in essence grants of immunity to oil companies searching for oil and gas off northwestern Alaska. 

In addition to the obvious link between oil/gas and global warming, the regulations provide five years of legal protections for the named companies if Pacific walruses or the 'threatened' polar bears are harmed by the companies drilling or pipeline activities.  

Guess declaring a species to be threatened doesn't imply we want the threats to cease. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Victims Forever

There are a lot of reports of Clinton supporters pledging to support John McCain this fall. This is ironic for a few reasons.

First, they know that McCain would almost certainly appoint a pro life justice to the Supreme Court in the next four years, likely overturning Roe v. Wade, something that's supposedly dear to Clinton and certainly most feminists.

Second, Obama's policies are almost identical to Clinton's substantively, and McCain's are virtually opposite. This shows that the decision to abandon Obama is largely emotional - and is most likely driven by a feeling that somehow Hillary was wronged, or cheated out of the election. This idea of Hillary's victimhood first at the hands of an unfaithful husband and then by a right-wing attack machine and finally a sexist press and an unfair primary process, the latter ideas stoked by Clinton herself, has driven some supporters to reject Obama - even though he hasn't done anything sexist and certainly won fair and square despite long odds.

But the final and most striking irony is that because of this, some Clinton supporters are pledging to vote for McCain who abandoned his first wife (who had been disfigured in a car accident) for a younger, healthier woman! I mean of all the people to support - these lost Clinton supporters are choosing someone who actually ditched and cheated on his wife to punish Obama, who is by all accounts faithful to his!

Think about that for a moment - all those people who identify with Hillary as a victim are voting for a victimizer to spite a man whose campaign for the most part took the high road. It's almost as if they resent Obama's lack of identification with black victimhood more than McCain's willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade and his abandoning his wife because she was no longer attractive.

But I suppose that's what the mentality of victimhood is - not merely someone who's been wronged, but one who ensures that the wrong repeats itself and perpetuates one's identity as a victim. And come to think of it, Obama's more of a threat to their identity than McCain is. Obama is a counterexample to them - he shows there's another way to proceed. McCain is the other side of the same coin - he commits the outrages that they feed on. So if McCain gets elected, they can continue to whine and complain. If Obama gets elected, and asks blacks to rise above victimhood, those women are going to have to go along, too - or look feeble and pathetic by contrast. What a nightmare - to have to take responsibility for your own lives!

Clinton Should Not Get Help for Her Campaign Debt

The NYTimes reported today that Clinton has a debt of about $21 million and talks about her options for retiring it, one of which was raising more money from her supporters, another of which was having Obama's supporters help raise money. Both options strike me as ridiculous.

First off, the Clintons' net worth was more than $100 million before the campaign started. Why should people struggling to make ends meet give them a dime? (I'd presume most people who aren't struggling gave the $2300 maximum). The Clintons can retire the debt personally and still have $75 million or so in the bank, with plenty more to come now that Bill's free to continue speaking and having other undisclosed business dealings.

The idea of Obama supporters giving Clinton money is laughable. Clinton was throwing good money at bad long after her only hope for winning was an Obama meltdown. While people have given her credit for "grit" and "determination," in most other endeavors this would just be considered poor judgment - racking up debt in pursuit of a lost cause. And that's fine if she's going to take responsibility for that poor judgment and pay for it out of pocket. But to ask people for money in a bad economy to free her from its consequences is bad form.

The one option not discussed that I'd find reasonable is not to pay Mark Penn the millions he's owed, and when he sues her, to countersue for malpractice - after all, not only did he run a terrible campaign, he was on the Columbian government's payroll, lobbying for a trade deal that Clinton was criticizing. That's a conflict of interest that might void the obligation.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rehabilitation for Hillary Clinton

This post by "Sean" on FiveThirtyEight.com pretty much articulated my feelings toward Hillary Clinton to a tee.

He wrote this before she made her speech, which ever-so-slightly exceeded my expectations of what she would actually do, but surely fell short of what Sean would deem necessary for her rehabilitation. I tend to agree with him.

The argument is that Clinton poisoned Obama's image in the minds of her supporters by acting like his campaign was dirty, sexist and disrespectful. So even though she's ostensibly thrown her support behind Obama and asked her faithful to do the same, she's done so without healing the perceived wounds. In other words, her supporters still believe that she (and by extension they) were somehow wronged by the process. In that case, they might feel that Hillary has to do this because she's being bullied by Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi et. al., but that they have still been wronged.

Therefore Sean's argument was for Clinton to heal those wounds by acknowledging that the outrage and emotion she stirred up in her followers were based on lies. And that she wasn't robbed, nor were FLA and MICH and that Obama's not by any means an elitist or a Muslim or a sexist. And that her campaign was the one fighting dirty, while his largely took the high road.

If she were to come clean about that, Sean argues, then maybe, possibly, he could see her in a different light.

But she didn't. And so now it's left to Obama himself to reach out to her supporters, and that's going to be far more difficult because she didn't come completely clean.

The more I think about it - it seems that this really isn't over, and she might, over the next six months, subtly undermine him with an eye on 2012. I hope I'm wrong - and that this wasn't a calculated half measure - but instead the best that she could do given who she is.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Get Lost Carl Icahn

I don't know a whole lot about the business of large company mergers and proxy fights, but it strikes me that Icahn should mind his own business and leave Yahoo and its board alone. Who is Icahn - some entitled billionaire who feels the need to buy a large stake and force yahoo to sell Microsoft? Apart from Yahoo shareholders, who stand to see their stock get a bump in the short term, who does that really benefit? Do we need more consolidation of the search business at the top? Are consumers really that ill-served by Google's dominance of the search market? How so?

My only experience with Yahoo is in our business dealings with them at RotoWire, and they're one of the best, easiest and least pretentious big companies we deal with. It would be a shame if they were sold to a company widely reviled as a bully that puts out a mediocre product.

Short-term shareholder value shouldn't be the be-all, end-all of business. I own Yahoo shares, and I don't care about the short-term profit I'd get if Icahn's plan were to go through. I'd rather see the company stay independent.

Perhaps I'm naive here, but hearing Icahn rip Yahoo's management and try to force them to accept Microsoft's since withdrawn takeover bid rubs me the wrong way. What does he even care? The guy is a billionaire already - what good does this do? As usual in mergers, people will lose jobs, and sometimes that's necessary in situations where the underlying business makes no sense, or the merger is highly beneficial to both companies. In this case, Yahoo doesn't want to merge, unless they're blown away by the offer, so why force it?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Getting Views on YouTube

I recently uploaded a six-minute excerpt from my feature length documentary, and I figured by sending it out to all of my friends and business colleagues, as well as posting it on the RotoWire blogs I'd get enough traffic for the clip to go viral. I was wrong - at least for now, and the clip is stuck at about 885 views with more trickling in slowly each day. This was a far cry from the 200,000 I had hoped to get in order to attract the attention of potential distributors.

So I did some looking around the web to find good sites to send the clip to, better search tags to add to it and whatever else I hadn't thought of. And I found this site, Tech Crunch, which no doubt offers sound advice if boosting your views is your main objective.

Suggestions on Tech Crunch include: logging in under many different YouTube usernames and generating fake commentary about your own clip, logging onto message boards with several different usernames and getting into heated discussions about your own clip, etc.

And I thought this was funny because I was feeling guilty at clicking on the video from different browsers and thereby generating multiple page views myself. My naive idea had been that my clip and documentary were actually good, and so once I sent it out to a few hundred people, naturally they would forward it along, and it would blow up. But Tech Crunch pointed out that:

There are tens of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube each day (I’ve heard estimates between 10-65,000 videos per day). I don’t care how “viral” you think your video is; no one is going to find it and no one is going to watch it.

And so you have to game the system to get your video to the top of YouTube or onto key lists where it will be recognized. Which I thought about doing for about 10 seconds and then rejected. It's fake! It's cheating. It's fundamentally not merit based.

But what if through cheating you're able to get something you genuinely believe is good and worked very hard on for years into public view. Surely, the end justifies the means?

It's a fair argument, but I just can't get behind it. Pretending people like your clip is bad for the system, and while plenty of other people do it, it's fundamentally because they lack faith in their creative ability and their ability to adapt and market in an honest way. I'd be thrilled for instance if some big-time blogger picked it up and it spread that way. The key is that people send it along because they genuinely enjoy it.

Sundays Are for Football

Excerpt from the 68-minute feature length documentary on the Hollyweird Fantasy Football League.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Letter to the NY Times re: Clinton's Kennedy Gaffe

While friends of mine worried that this unstable person would destroy the democratic party in her own pursuit of power, I reassured them that like Eight Belles at the Kentucky Derby, she would push it too far, and her campaign would have to be euthanized on the track. I didn't foresee this specific gaffe - only that as her hopes dimmed, the inner sociopath would emerge, and that all but her most committed supporters, people who were dug in beyond all reason would jump ship. The folks at Slate.com compared her to Reese Witherspoon's Tracy Flick in "Election," but I always felt the far more apt analogy was to Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings." "The ring is mine!" she seemed to say with every outrageous tactic and divisive maneuvering.

It seemed so strange that the NY Times and other mainstream media didn't see what was so apparent to so many. Perhaps Frank Rich saw it, and Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic, but so many others kept saying: "We have two great candidates" no matter what kind of campaign she ran, no matter what kind of vitriol her petty and vindictive advisors and increasingly unhinged husband shouted. The Times endorsed this person, and didn't retract it in the face of so much evidence. And now, it's plain as day, thankfully, but this was there all along.

Whether people out of political correctness due to the historic nature of her campaign didn't want to point out that the empress had no clothes, or whether people were really that cynical about politics to be duped into believing that just about anything goes, it's hard to say. But, and I've made this point many times - just because she's a woman does mean she's not a sociopath, and her supporters do a disservice to the many genuinely wonderful female candidates who will surely come after her by sticking with her this doggedly. Clinton and her supporters are making it more difficult for female candidates to get their due by allowing identity politics to cloud their character judgment. As Martin Luther King dreamt, people will one day be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin, and I believe the same thing can be said about the configuration of their chromosomes.

Surely we only want a quality African American candidate like Obama, and just are surely we want a decent female candidate, not just the first available one.

May Clinton's campaign rest in peace, and may we look forward to a female president whose ambition is balanced by decency and integrity.

Just Say Yes: The Moral of the Bush Legacy

One unintended moral of the Bush presidency is that for certain people, it's better to booze hard and snort cocaine than to get clean and find Jesus. Because had Bush remained a fuck-up, he would merely have destroyed his own life and hurt his loved ones. Instead, he got clean, and 4,000 US soldiers and half a million Iraqis are dead.

If the ghost of Christmas past came down and showed George Bush his alternate life - one where, homeless, he pisses himself on a park bench before expiring quietly, and meanwhile, the United States is prosperous, and the world a safer place - I think he'd be morally obligated to go back and choose that fate.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Obama's Deft Handling of Sociopaths

People wonder how Obama would deal with a sociopathic enemy in Iran or elsewhere - I think we'll have a good idea over the next couple weeks. McCain and Obama can trades barbs in the press all they like, but how he's handling the Clinton campaign right now is the best evidence. Even though it's ridiculous to count ANY of the FLA or MI delegates (Clinton agreed to the rules, and Obama wasn't even trying in those states), he's going to compromise anyway (even though it's unjust and wrong) because it appeases the people of those states whose emotions the Clintons have destructively and selfishly stirred up. BUT - without jeopardizing his overall goal in the bigger picture of securing the nomination. In other words, Obama will negotiate with dictators, even legitimize them if he has to, but always with the big picture in mind: the safety and prosperity of America's citizens.

Imagine if in Iran, they chatted with Ahmadinejad, showed Iran some ostensible respect and in so doing quietly wooed the disgruntled Iranian population further and further toward our side. The Iranian people are what's important - just like the voters in MI and FLA. The Clintons are merely an obstacle to be worked around just like Ahmadinejad. The mistake Bush and McCain make is that their disgust with Ahmadinejad causes them not to do what's necessary to reach out to the citizens of the "enemy" who we ultimately need on our side. Obama doesn't let his distaste for Clinton and her unjust behavior get in the way of getting the outcome he needs.

Instead of fearing that Obama will be outsmarted by Ahmadinejad (and Bush has truly been in every way as Iran's influence has grown immensely on his watch), let's trust him to outsmart him the way he has with Clinton.

Incidentally, I sent this as an email to one of my favorite political bloggers, Andrew Sullivan, and he actually posted it.

And then my ESPN buddy (one of the two best writers there along with Bill Simmons), Jonah Keri mentioned it in his blog. My readership just jumped from zero to two.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Great Nature Video

Saw this in Andrew Sullivan's excellent blog.

McCain Will Drop Out

I know it seems like a long shot now, but here's what's going to happen. Hillary Clinton will hang around too long, and exit the race ungracefully. All but her most diehard supporters will finally realize what a sociopath she is and happily embrace Obama. He'll build on the enormous network that he has in place, and he'll take on McCain directly.

McCain is already having trouble getting his facts straight on Iraq and the economy, and he'll soon be behind by double-digits. McCain's advisers will mount an increasingly negative campaign, but it will backfire. Obama will demonstrate strength and command of the facts in their debates. McCain will embarrass himself, and Obama will show him compassion and respect. McCain's aides will insist that they need to smear Obama with more Reverend Wright/William Ayers/muslim associations, and McCain will say no. They'll tell him that's his only shot, and McCain, still a man of integrity despite his recent pandering, will bow out.

It will infuriate the right who will say they knew he was a traitor to their cause all along. McCain will exit gracefully, and the right will run a dead-in-the-water candidate like Mitt Romney in McCain's place . Obama will win in a landslide.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Outrage Drug

I've been so worked up about the democratic primary race that I've had to take a two-week time-out between the Pennsylvania and Indiana/North Carolina primaries. Watching cable news channels and surfing web sites like the Huffington Post and Politico was driving me nuts, so now all of that is off limits.

I think those web sites and especially the cable news outlets feed two addictions (and I use that word literally) prevalent in people. The first is the addiction to reading and hearing opinions that reinforce your own. "Thank God other people realize how truly corrupt and unfit to govern Hillary Clinton is. What a relief!" It feels good to read many different opinions and angles on that basic belief that seems so clear to me and cries out for reinforcement in the face of its far from universal adoption.

The other is the addiction to outrage at seeing contrary opinions - some people actually think Clinton has what it takes, is more electable, is not so obviously a robotic sociopath dead set on assuming the seat of power at ANY cost. They think Barack Obama is a fraud, or worse, that America's not ready to elect a black president, so even if he's the better candidate - even if he's the ONLY one with integrity and decency - better to vote for the one we think is more electable. (I feel the outrage bubbling up even as I write this).

Those addictions are what drive the ratings for the cable news shows and the traffic to those web sites. But are they serving any other purpose? Maybe they motivate citizens to write or talk about the issues, but you don't learn much by talking with like minded people, and you don't get anywhere talking to people whose beliefs inspire outrage in you. In short, I'm not sure how constructive the emotional responses are - perhaps a sense of injustice or passion for the truth would inspire some to actually do something about the state of affairs - march on Washington, write to your government officials, campaign for a candidate or donate money to a cause. But otherwise, you're merely driving yourself nuts and perpetuating businesses that have tapped into your addiction.

And the cable networks and political web sites have a sense of what works to drive readership - your outraged attendance will only inspire more outrageous coverage designed either to reinforce your beliefs or rail against it.

This tendency seems to be spilling into sports writing and reporting, to ESPN and elsewhere - there's a sense that saying outrageous things - even things that generate hate mail - will get you noticed. And attention is a kind of popularity - the one that advertisers care about. If you can't stand a particular pundit or his views, the best way to handle it is to turn him off. Don't respond, don't criticize, don't mention him. Your emotional outrage is his oxygen, and you can suffocate him by turning away.

If we want the scourge on our democracy that is cable news to go away, we must collectively resist the temptation to give in to our addictions and watch it. We need to be informed of the facts, but to avoid both like-minded and contrary opinions as much as possible.

The chemistry in our brains that draws us to these emotional states probably isn't that different than the kind that drives us to drink or use drugs.

After a few days of enforced withdrawal, it feels good to just say no.

Waves, Particles, Stocks and Dollars

I can't remember the exact context in which initially I read about this. Apparently, all matter has both wave and particle-like properties.

I started thinking about this in relation to my stock portfolio which fluctuates so much from day to day and week to week. If my stocks went up $1000, should I go out and spend $500 comfortably, knowing I still had half my profits left? But what happens when it goes back down then?

At the same time, your portfolio is worth what it's worth at any given moment in time, and that $1000 gain is real assuming I wanted to realize it. So stocks are like matter in that they have this duality about them - they're a fluctuating wave, and also a particle. Once you sell, you get particles (dollars). Of course, those also have wave-like properties as the currencies rise and fall.

I suppose the wave/particle duality paradigm is useful for looking at a lot of phenomena, and it helps us embrace fluctuation and inconstancy more comfortably. Which is good given that we ourselves are particle/waves, too.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Faithlessness of Hillary Clinton

There's a lot of bullshit about who's more in touch with the American people, which includes the usual declarations by both candidates that they're people of faith. But faith isn't about going to church or talking about God, is it? For it to have any authenticity, you'd think it would include a sense of doing your best and leaving the rest of to Providence - or whatever else you choose to call it.

And that's where the Obama and Clinton campaigns differ so starkly. Obama makes his points, does his best and lets the chips fall. If he has an issue with his pastor or some ill-chosen words, he acknowledges the communication error and moves forward.

Clinton on the other hand denied that the Bosnia slip-up was a lie, then when the evidence was overwhelming says that she misspoke. She throws the "kitchen sink" at Obama, feigns outrage at his criticisms of her over NAFTA (which turned out to be true) and cynically tried to exploit Obama's "bitter" gaffe by pretending to be a gun-lover. There's no sense of her getting her vision and message out and being true to herself which is what you'd expect for a person of "faith." There's just no confidence in her message, in the American people or in way of Providence. In fact, it's just the opposite - she seems like a giant ego fighting and scrapping against the way things are to the bitter end.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Letter to Maureen Dowd

I don't mean to single her out for writing a bad column on Obama's "bitter" gaffe - pretty much every pundit did. It's because they're not analyzing what Obama actually meant, but instead what they think the dumbasses in Pennsylvania will think. But apparently those dumbasses aren't as dumb as they think. According to polls, Pennsylvanians actually get Obama's intent. In any event, here's my letter to Dowd:

Ms Dowd,

I usually enjoy your columns, but I find this one to be particularly off base. Not only do you make the mistake that many have of interpreting Senator Obama's remarks implausibly, but you also spin them to fit your half-baked thesis that he can't close Senator Clinton out.

The truth is he has closed her out - just so gently and gentlemanly that you haven't even noticed. Perhaps you would prefer more drama, but it's not his style. She's finished, but in a free country, she's entitled to her delusions, of course.

As for your interpretation of his remarks, he can't possibly believe that people only hunt or attend church because they're broke. He's saying people vote defensively because they've lost hope that the economic situation will get better. They don't trust Washington to fix it (with good reason) and hence they're bitter. So they cling to the couple things they hold dear and vote DEFENSIVELY - do whatever you want with the tax cuts for the rich, but at the very least don't start letting gays marry and take away our guns.

When Kerry lost, the polls showed VALUES played a huge part. That's what it was - that no one trusted Kerry to fix the problems, and the cynical republicans basically said - this guy's an elitist, he doesn't care about you. So vote for us because we're the party of God and guns. And it worked.

That's all Obama was saying - that in the VOTING BOOTH, they cling to these things and vote defensively.

Clearly, no one can seriously believe that hunting and churchgoing only happen when people lose their jobs.

Again, I typically enjoy your column and your wit, but I think you've missed the mark here.

Thanks for the column

Not sure I actually enjoy her columns - some are okay, others are a little gossipy. But I was hoping to get a response. Which I haven't gotten yet.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pundits Get Obama's "Bitter" Quip Wrong

Barack Obama might have "inartfully" described Pennsylvania voters as "bitter", but most of the pundits I read have completely botched the analysis of it. Probably the worst offender - and he's been pretty brutal throughout the campaign season is Mickey Kaus' in his blog on Slate.com - which has also slipped generally.

Kaus cites commentary by Michael Lind and calls it useful:

According to Obama, working class (white) people "cling to guns" because they are bitter at losing their manufacturing jobs.

Excuse me? Hunting is part of working-class American culture. Does Obama really think that working-class whites in Pennsylvania were gun control liberals until their industries were downsized, whereas they all rushed to join the NRA...

This reading of his statement is totally off base. Obama's not saying they're clinging to guns literally as in, they're grabbing a shotgun and hunting only because they're having problems paying the bills. He's saying they're VOTING based on issues like guns, gay marriage and religion because they've lost faith in voting the real economic issues. And they've lost faith for good reason - because politicians have lied to them. So they vote based on these narrow issues instead because at least they can agree on them.

In other words, he's not saying their culture of hunting or going to church exists only because of bitterness toward the way they've been neglected economically - he's saying that they VOTE defensively to protect what's left of their way of life because they've been given so little reason to expect improvement from government. The Clintons and Bushes despite pretending to be the friend of small-town working-class Americans have abandoned them. They vote defensively, and Obama is explaining that to his supporters - that it constitutes a challenge to his campaign.

The reading by Kaus and Lind is either deliberate spin to make the remarks sound worse, or they're both just stupid.

Also, Hillary Clinton, of course, is the one condescending to the people of Pennsylvania because she panders to that defensive voting - saying, among other things, that she believes in the 2nd Amendment. She's basically saying: "Keep voting on dumb things that aren't really helping you rather than throwing the bums out who neglected you and your families." She's trying to stoke their attachment to these more minor issues which, as Obama implied, serve to displace their real and pressing concerns about their quality of life.

This is similar to the way in which Islamic radicals stoke hatred of the West to young Arabs crushed by poverty and lack of opportunity. Their real anger is toward their governments and leaders, but the militants get them to displace that and direct it toward the West.

I don't think Clinton's strategy will work because Obama spoke the truth, and enough voters in the remaining states will get that.

Friday, April 4, 2008

There Were Orders to Follow

2008 7:43 am

I read a post somewhere saying the mainstream media's not giving this much play, and in truth, I don't really care about it, either.

It's not that it isn't horrendous - it is. But so what? Bush and Cheney and Gonzalez and Yoo and Rove did something else that was horrendous. I mean, no one's going to DO anything about it, so why even waste time on outrage? Why even click on the headline any more. And the media senses this, and that's why it doesn't get much run.

Outrage is great when there's a path to its satisfaction. Will we impeach someone, put him in prison, embarrass him to his face? No, we won't do such a thing. I don't know if anyone watched Jon Miller and Joe Morgan on ESPN's Opening Day Sunday night broadcast, but President Bush stopped in, and they had the most amiable chat imaginable. No one's going to do anything about it, so why bother with this stuff. I don't care to read more. Just do something about it, please. Let's have some accountability. Otherwise, what's one more affront to the constitution or our civil rights?

That's also why no one wants to hear about Iraq any more - because unless someone's held accountable - and I mean seriously accountable - as in liquidating the assets of the neocons bank accounts to pay for veteran's medical care - (which would be a slap on the wrist compared to the true karmic retribution in store for them if such a thing exists) - then it's a miserable story because there's no justice.

That's the real problem with this. And the unlikelihood of justice makes outrage unsatisfying and therefore depressing. So honestly, who cares about these torture memos and what happened in Iraq's prisons and the war profiteering and rendition and Guantanamo and the Patriot Act and warrantless wiretapping and the political persecution of US Attorneys and Katrina - because heads are not rolling.

So please, don't bore me with new revelations that continue to prove something I already knew: that the people in charge for the last eight years did terrible things.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Deadbeat Candidate Offers Economic Solutions

Let's set aside for a moment the irony of a candidate whose campaign was a financial disaster claiming to be the one best able to handle some seriously difficult economic challenges. That's preposterous enough, but what strikes me as worse is who is getting stiffed by Clinton's financial mismanagement.

Turns out it's small businesses in Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire who are still owed money, and the emails and calls to Clinton's campaign are not being returned.

When you consider all the rhetoric about helping working families, protecting blue-collar workers against corporate greed, etc., this strikes me as particularly damning because the campaign is doing the exact opposite - literally. These small business owners and employees can speak up on a small scale, and the Washington Post did a story on it, but in the end, the campaign probably knows that their complaints won't affect the outcome of the race. And for that reason, it's almost more revealing - this is how she treats people when she doesn't think anyone's watching.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What Made Richardson Flip?

There's an article in Slate Magazine by John Dickerson that tries to discern the motive behind Governor Bill Richardson's endorsement of Barack Obama. Dickerson writes:

What's significant about the [Nancy] Pelosi and Richardson duet is that both seem to have made a calculation that in the long-brewing tension between party elites and the new grass roots, they're siding with the latter. These veteran Democrats may be making their moves based on their assessments of Obama as a candidate, but they also may be informed by his success in raising money online and from a huge number of small-dollar donors, which may mean a dilution in the power of traditional rainmakers.

Dickerson brushes aside as a vague possibility that Richardson might actually think Obama's the better candidate, but pushes the idea that where the money's coming from in the democratic party "may" also be responsible.

Now it may, and the assertions here are so flabby that Dickerson could plausibly say that he was just raising certain possibilities, but the tone and underlying assumption is that Richardson made a calculated political move that might be explained by following the money.

I'm not saying it's impossible that Richardson did this, but why characterize his motive as a "calculation?" Maybe he just genuinely believes Obama would make a far better president? Doesn't that trump all kinds of political motives?

In short, I think a problem with a lot of political coverage is this cynicism that there must be some self-interested motive with Obama supporters the way there is for Clinton's.

I don't know how an Obama presidency would affect my financial interest, but I'm supporting him because I believe he'll do his best to act in the interests of the GOOD. Whatever that is. I haven't been pandered to - I don't care about his health care plan vs. Clinton's - who knows how that will eventually shake out? Can't that be the rationale for a lot of people - even Richardson?

In fact, I think that's what's fundamentally different about Obama's candidacy is that people support him because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that he's out for the GOOD generally, and they trust that if the GOOD is pursued (not the narrow good vs. evil
"good" that Bush pursued), then we will all be better off on the whole.

And I think this is the sense in which Obama intends to transcend the divisive politics of race, gender, etc. There's been some commentary that Obama's failed to transcend race given the Reverend Wright flap, but I don't think he's trying to transcend the topic of race or avoid talking about it - he transcends it by appealing to the GOOD of the whole, not the good for black people or certain divisions of the population in particular.

Clinton incidentally seems to do the exact opposite, pandering individually to blue collar workers, big business, hispanics, women, etc. Of course, her job's tougher because she's got to lie - there's no way to individually look out for every group - if you take care of big business, blue collar workers lose. If you take care of the blue collar workers, big business loses. She essentially has to lie to somebody because somebody's not going to get his back scratched as promised in the end.

But in looking out for the GOOD, there are no losers because everyone has a stake in that - even if it costs some groups financially in the short run.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why There's No Chance for Clinton

Forget about the math - which is reason enough - but I think fundamentally, Clinton can't win because I refuse to live in a world where that's possible. It just won't be brought into being in my reality. Period.

I refuse it. I reject AND denounce it.

And I think a lot of people feel the same way.

It was depressing to be sure when Bush won the 2004 election, but it's not like anyone had much hope for improvement under John Kerry. In this case, to have genuine optimism taken away for what - a petty, dishonest politician of the worst kind - it's an indignity that my world view would not permit.

It's also why the Clintons and the democratic party have no idea what's coming to them if they botch this - the party will cease to exist because enough people know the difference here.

The Fundamental Difference Between Obama and Clinton

Obama's candidacy is fundamentally different from Clinton's because it has vision; she merely has tactics. That's why he's able to give a speech like that in response to the Wright flap, and she's unable to come clean about Iraq. Speaking to the American people honestly is part of that vision, irrespective of whether it ultimately was the most sound tactical move. (Many have argued that throwing Reverend Wright under the bus would have been smarter politically).

The other reason Clinton can't come clean on the war is that it's not the "yes" vote that's dirty, but the motivation. Remember, she didn't even read the intelligence report. And it's not because she was too busy - what could possibly be a higher priority than that? It was because the content of the intelligence report would only be relevant for someone trying to get the vote *right*. She was trying to seem tough on national security. So how can she repudiate the vote? She'd have to admit that she should have read the report and address why she didn't.

So we have a clear choice - pick a candidate who will do his best to get things right, or pick one who will be playing the political game. Sometimes the two overlap, and even Clinton will take action resembling public service. But the vote on the Iraq war was an instance in which they diverged with particularly tragic consequences. There will be other such instances.

Obama should rout McCain - a weak candidate who's not even particularly liked by his own party and who's running to continue the policies of the worst and least popular president in American history. It would be much easier if Clinton put aside her petty ambitions in the interest of the democratic party, but someone's going to have to convince her why that's a smart tactic.

Stop The Monsters

It shocks me that anyone can support Hillary Clinton for president when we so urgently need a genuine leader and credible human being in that job after eight disastrous years. I can understand the frightened superdelegates who fear for their jobs if they jump ship - it's cowardly and despicable - but I can at least understand why they are fearful. But Americans who listen to the candidates, observe their demeanor, the way they carry themselves, the way their campaigns are run, the people who manage them - I cannot, for the life of me, understand how they could be for Clinton. 

I also can't understand what Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, John Edwards and Harry Reid are waiting for. Do you want to give Clinton two more months to sling dirt on the best candidate you've had in 50 years, or do you want to exercise some judgment and courage and endorse the person who has a chance to win in November, and much more importantly, will sincerely undertake the monumental task of setting America back on the right course?

Because in the end, the democratic (or republican) party only has importance insofar as it benefits America generally. If you're not going to show the minimal courage to do the obvious here, what relevance do you really have to America's citizens?