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                                       politics + culture

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Jake Tapper and ABC News: "bloggers"

Jake Tapper has a blog at ABC News, Political Punch, and the comment policy there is bizarre.

They delete almost any comment I've ever made but leave up the most bone-headed, right-wing trollish posts ever.

Now, I'm not known for making comments worthy of deleting (I'm not offensive, insulting, or rude...and try to make substantive, thought-provoking points), but Mr. Tapper's staff seem to have a fondness of deleting almost everything I post! It's reached a point where readers respond to my comments, but the comment itself has been removed.

How many other comments is Political Punch deleting, and, if the policy is to delete comments of some users why do they leave up so much offensive dreck?

The comment deleting policy at Political Punch is something to keep in mind next time you read the cesspool that is the comment section there. ABC isn't just okay with that state of the comments on Political Punch, but has worked to make it that way.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary Clinton: politics as usual

From MSNBC today Clinton claims victories in Michigan and Florida, states where Obama did not campaign (he wasn't even on the ballot in MI), in violation of her own Pledge and previous commitments.

Further, Clinton plays politics with her negative campaigning. 68% of Pennsylvanians said she ran a negative campaign. The New York Times editorial board roundly denounced her negative campaigning and assigned responsibility for the negative tone of the 2008 race to her.

It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race.

This is the kind of politician her campaign is claiming should be our next president?

Clinton = politics as usual. 68% of Pennsylvanians agree.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bill Clinton: "They played the race card on me"

This WHYY interview is revealing of Bill Clinton's bitterness about the reaction to his Jackson comment after the South Carolina primary:

“I think that they played the race card on me. We now know, from memos from the campaign that they planned to do it along.” - President Bill Clinton.

And that’s how President Clinton begins his answer to WHYY’s Susan Phillips who, during a phone interview earlier this evening, asked the President how he feels about one Philadelphia official who says she switched her support after interpreting Clinton’s remarks in South Carolina as an attempt to marginalize Obama as “the black candidate.”

Clinton goes on to say that “you have to really go some to play the race card on me.” He lists a number of his accomplishments on behalf of people of color, inexplicably putting the fact that he has “an office in Harlem” at the top of the list.

Am I feeding resentment by playing this radio clip? I don't think so. I think it should be heard and discussed. Bill Clinton's accusations about playing the race card are a serious matter.

Listen to President Clinton in this clip and especially listen to the undertone of what he's saying.

I'll spell it out from my point of view. Bill Clinton is clearly saying that African-American voters "owe him" on some level whether that's on the level of respect or voting for his wife. He also feels angry enough to hurl some pretty divisive accusations inside the Democratic party. Personally, however, I find it shocking that Bill and Hillary Clinton, a couple who are essentially asking all of us Americans to return them to the White House, would talk like this.

It's destructive. It's bitter. It's assuming the worst of others. And it's not fitting for an ex-President in my opinion.

Should people respect Bill Clinton? Of course. But not when he talks like this. Not when he makes accusations like this. That is a kind of politics of destruction.

That is not "chilling out" and it makes talk of a "Dream Ticket" sound pretty naive at this point.

Ed Rendell failing to win the youth vote

In general, insulting the people you are trying to persuade is a bad idea.

Rendell: But what I find amazing, particularly because our students are brighter than ever and it doesn't matter whether it's Penn or Lasalle or whatever, the students go and drink the Kool-Aid of a wonderful speech...

For what it's worth, "drinking the Kool Aid" is either a reference to the mass suicide of Jonestown or the drug-taking of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters.

Either way, it has nothing to do with where millenial voters (voters born after 1975) are at today. As someone who has met, literally, thousands of Obama supporters, I can also say that "drinking the Kool Aid" is an epithet so far off the mark that it's not even an insult.

Anyone who would use the phrase has already proven that they have no idea what they are talking about. Obama's supporters are dedicated, sincere, informed and for the most part, pretty damn pragmatic. Major misstep for Clinton and Rendell with the youth vote.

Btw, this HuffPost commenter highlights the deception in Rendell's reference to Clinton's "action" for young people. Obama co-sponsered the very same bill:

Have to question Rendell's comment at the end of this video that HRC introduced and passed a student loan bill. I just did a search on thomas.gov and could find no such bill. The only thing I could find is a bill (S.1642) introduced by Senator Kennedy. Hillary was a co-sponsor, along with more than a dozen other senators...including Obama. Can anyone find something I missed?

Like I said, dedicated, sincere and informed...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

McWhorter and Loury

John McWhorter and Glenn Loury have been, far and away, the most worthwhile duo to watch on Bloggingheads.tv, period. Their most recent episode, "Michelle Obama Ain't a bargainer" is golden.

I'd go further and make a point that dovetails with a key unspoken aspect of the McWhorter and Loury discussion: if the 2008 campaign were, at this point, as many people expected, simply a contest between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, we wouldn't be watching John McWhorter and Glenn Loury have this kind of excellent, insight-filled discussion on Bloggingheads.tv.

I said previously that Barack Obama was the driving force of the 2008 campaign, that without him this campaign would not have the substance and drive it does. In response to Loury's ongoing support of Clinton, I'd like to expand on that.

There's a point in the discussion when Loury responds to what had been a series of celebrations of Barack Obama by McWhorter with a summary of how he views the core rationales for supporting her:

Loury: Several reasons, one is...I think she's more competent. I genuinely do. I understand that that question is arguable. But every time I hear them discuss affairs of state, including in that debate last night, I come away from it with the sense that her grasp is deeper and that her vision is more mature. And, you know, there's gonna be experience. Experience has been made into a bad word. [snip]

How did experience become a bad word? How did a lifetime or decades of experience at the top of American government get equated to having had the foresight or the judgment to stand against the war which I was against from the very start just like Barack Obama. So, I think she's better qualified and I just think again that that showed last night.

They were asked some questions about foreign affairs and so forth and they were also asked some questions about domestic issues and her answers were just more elaborate, richer and more thoughtful in my opinion.

McWhorter:...well, they are.

Loury: The idea that some talking head on MSNBC is going to dismiss all that as wonkery. I'm just too serious a person to be persuaded by that. Wonkery is exactly what I want in the person whose finger is on the button. That's what I want. I want wonkery in the person who's gonna be making the decisions that are going to be affecting life around me. So I think she's better prepared to be president of the United States.

Secondly, I'm gonna just confess here. Some people vote because, well, the guys black, I'm black, let me vote for the guy. That's not me. I vote because the woman's 60, I'm 60, let me vote for the woman.

In other words, what I'm saying is there's a generational connect that I have with Hillary Rodham Clinton. And not only with her. Yes, we are baby boomers. Yes, the 60's were the formative decade for us. Sorry, that's true. Yes, we were quite numerous in that we've had an outsized impact on the culture for decades and I'm sure that Generations X, Y and Z are sick and tired of it. I understand all of that. Nevertheless, we 55 to 65 year olders have journeyed through life to reach the prime and the peak of our capacity. All of it has come to now. And now's our time, you know, is kind of my feeling.[snip]

I really admire her grit. I admire her toughness. You know, the kitchen sink? From my vantage point in this campaign she's endured a great deal. She's kept her chin up. She's soldiered on. She's fought the good fight.

I disagree with Loury here. If Hillary Clinton serves as a kind of stand in for the baby boomer generation, forged in the crucible of the 60's, and whose life experience has now yielded a wisdom that leaves her newly competent to govern with a wise wonkery like Plato's guardians, why did Clinton vote for Bush's misadventure in Iraq? That's not some idle question; it goes right to the heart of the matter.

One of the reasons Clinton appeared appealing the other night was that she gave the most unequivocal answer she has ever given about her position about withdrawal from Iraq. Her answer in the Pennsylvania debate, however, was nowhere near what her position was at the outset of this campaign. (Initially she would not commit to a withdrawal timeline with any teeth at all. It was not clear that Clinton would withdraw from Iraq in her first term in office.) It's also nowhere close to what she said, four long years ago in 2004, when Bill and Hillary's equivocations about the war in Iraq helped reelect George Bush to a second term.

The Clinton position on Iraq belies every argument Loury makes for her. What did Viet Nam teach her generation that Clinton somehow forgot when she cast her vote for the AUMF and against the Levin amendment? Why, in the cauldron of the 2004 election, did Bill Clinton come out in support of the President's policy in Iraq and Hillary adamantly refuse to reconsider her vote for the AUMF? More to the point, how does that now prove that Clinton is "better qualified" to lead in 2009?

It doesn't. Clinton's position on Iraq proves exactly the opposite.

When Loury extols wonkery, he has the wrong candidate. Obama is clearly the candidate poised to bring a refreshing and open-minded approach to policy solutions to our government. What's more, he will do this in full view of the public and not locked away in private; Obama is committed to transparency and sunlight in the decision making of our government. Clinton is not.

Why has Clinton, for all the "elaborate richness" of her answers, simply mischaracterized her history with NAFTA and health care reform outright? When Clinton was elected to the United States Senate she enunciated very clearly what her stance was on root and branch reform in Washington. Incrementalism was the key. Is that wonkery, or is that more Mark Penn fueled, poll-driven policy based on micro trends?

I think we all know the answer.

Without Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain would be locked in a traditional "Red State/Blue State battle." Loury's dream of a kind of rehash of the lessons of the 1960's played out in a battle between a 71 year old and a 60 year old whose lives were utterly shaped by that decade 40 years ago would be at hand.

I don't think that battle or that rehashing would do our nation any good or serve to move us forward.

Without adding fuel to the fire of an inter-generational battle that Loury alludes to, let me say this, if the Clinton campaign wanted to prove that it could do more than run on a Loury-esque "It's our time, we've earned this." platform, Clinton had to reach out to the generations who came after the baby boom and win us over.

There were some very clear ways to do this. One would have been to speak frankly about the error of her vote on the war. The second would have been to engage with voters under 40 in an absolutely new way. (Look at what the Obama campaign has done on and off line.) And, most importantly, Clinton needed to address the reality that for voters under 40, the legacy of the Clinton/Bush years directly impacts our future. The failure to ratify Kyoto, the lack of progress on energy independence, the triumph of big corporations against efforts at sane regulation, the stagnation of wages and the utter failure to make progress on health care reform has meant that 20 and 30somethings now face an adult lifetime without any margin of error dealing with these major issues. Our children face a lifetime of a planet in peril.

The bill for all this was passed to our generation while those older than us profited immensely from an era of cheap oil, SUVs and REITs.

That era is over.

Does that spell competence and wisdom? Does that spell a breadth and depth of experience? I don't think so.

The vote to enter the war in Iraq took place in 2002. We are now electing a president to serve a term that would run between 2009 and 2013. That very same war in Iraq looms large in dollars and lives lost. Nothing has changed in our environmental policy. We have made absolutely zero progress on containing global carbon emissions. We have not even begun to forge the international consensus needed to make the changes needed to address global warming and to address the very real threats to the community of nations posed by nuclear proliferation and international terrorism.

Has Hillary Clinton in the leadership she has shown as Senator given us any reason to think she is ready to undertake that challenge?

Quite frankly, she hasn't. She has not even bothered to take that leadership role. That's the myth of Clinton's competence. Where has she been in the Senate?

Where Loury sees competence and sagacity, I see a candidate who has learned the core lesson of the Bill Clinton years: don't say anything remotely impolitic while fighting a continual rear guard battle with the right wing. That's the old way.

There's a better way. We can make a change. But to achieve that change Barack Obama will need every generation of Democrats united behind him. We cannot afford to be divided. Not with the challenges we face.

One candidate has driven the 2008 campaign. He has raised the money, brought in the new voters, done the mass registration drives, enunciated the policy positions, elaborated the core message of 2008 and campaigned across the entire United States.

If Hillary Clinton wanted to decisively prove her claim to the presidency for the years between 2009 and 2013, she needed to enunciate something more than what she has so far. She played it "safe" when "safe" was actually anything but.

While I respect Glenn Loury and am grateful to have a chance to watch him and John McWhorter discuss the state of the 2008 race, I have to respectfully disagree with the ease with which he yields the entire ground of experience and competence to Clinton.

I do not begin to accept that premise. There's a better way than the Clinton way.

970 agents of change

I was sitting taking a break from phonebanking for Barack Obama today and had a great conversation with Fred Feller, a recently elected national delegate for Obama from CA-09.

Fred won election to go to Denver here in CA-09 last Sunday at a caucus held at Beebe Memorial Church on Telegraph Avenue about a mile from my house in Oakland.

970 of us showed up to vote in that caucus last Sunday. I was a volunteer working the line...giving out information and making sure things ran smoothly...and so I had the chance to speak with almost every last one of those voters.

Fred won enough votes to be an Obama delegate to Denver. Like the other delegates chosen, he will do Obama proud, and I was really pleased to see him taking his Saturday afternoon to call Pennsylvania with about thirty other volunteers at the campaign offices of Congresswoman Barbara Lee...


The line down Telegraph Avenue was long last Sunday.

The activists assembled to participate in the caucus included so many people I know.

Activists who worked to elect Jerry McNerney in 2006, activists who helped elect the millenial candidate Abel Guillen to Peralta School Board, long time supporters of Barbara Lee, and a host of candidates, progressive activists and elected officials well-known here in the East Bay. Professor George Lakoff was there, standing in line with friends like everyone else. Vicki Cosgrove who worked with me on the Chicago Voices program was there, too.

But the overwhelming impression you got last Sunday at Beebe Memorial Church was that here were 970 progressive activists of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities drawn together by our support for Barack Obama.

That's a powerful thing.

It's not powerful just because it set a record for turnout to a delegate caucus in CA-09, it's powerful because of this fact:

Anytime you bring together like-minded people organized for change within a political map in the United States, you create the opportunity to change the balance of power inside of that map.

There are roughly 650,000 residents of CA-09. This is the same as every other Congressional district in the USA (except the few that represent the very smallest states).

What power do 1,000 Obama supporters have to make change in CA-09?

Huge power, if we choose to use it.

That's how politics works.

The most powerful thing you can do as an American citizen and grassroots activist is to locate, identify and collaborate with like-minded fellow citizens who live within the political maps that define your identity.

For me, that's the City of Oakland, Alameda County, California Congressional District 9, the Oakland Unified School District, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, California Assembly District 16, California State Senate District 9, Oakland City Council District 1, and the Peralta Community College and Bay Area Rapid Transit regional boards.

That sounds complicated. It is, at first, but the more you learn, the more empowered you become.

But what I'm getting at is this. We are most powerful when we connect with like-minded citizens who live within the same political boundaries as us.

In a nutshell, talking to 15 neighbors on a consistent basis about making change in your community, and then taking action to make that change, is the most powerful political thing most people can do.

When 970 people in one Congressional District get together and agree on anything, that is a very big deal.


what this means

Folks like Sean Hannity and George Stephanopoulos are agents of the status quo. Their job involves reinforcing the world view of the Corporate Media that defines the political life of our nation.

If we want to make change in this country we have to do two things at once.

First, we have to get together exactly like we do here in the blogosphere on DailyKos or at Netroots Nation. We have to organize with like-minded people nationally in opposition to folks in the media like Sean Hannity and George Stephanopoulos and Ben Smith and Jake Tapper and Chris Cillizza and Ana-Marie Cox, folks who sell and shape the status quo.

That national microphone of the blogosphere is a way we can coordinate and empower fellow netroots activists all over the USA. No matter how often folks belittle and attack the netroots, we should all remember that things were a lot different in American politics before we came on the scene. We are about substance and reform and transparency and change. We are about making progressive policies a reality.

The national corporate media are about reinforcing the status quo. Every time George Stephanopoulos talks about Rev. Wright or Flag Lapel Pins it means we aren't talking about the war in Iraq or how lobbyists killed Health Care Reform or the fact that California now has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation. (Did you know that? Now you do.)


But the other, essential thing we have to do is to get organized locally.

For as important as coordinated national action is, that's not where the real change happens in the United States.

The real power is in folks like the 970 people who took time out on a Sunday afternoon in April to support Barack Obama here in Oakland.

Together we have enormous power. When we organize within our districts and within our maps, that is when we truly begin to overturn the power that folks like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have on our political lives.

The place to change the status quo in the United States is at the local level. If you get 50 like-minded progressive activists together on an email listserv in your community, I absolutely guarantee you that your local elected officials will take notice.

If you choose to run a reform candidate with the support of those 50 local activists, I guarantee you that, win or lose, you will change politics in your area permanently for the better.

That's how American politics works.

If you want to make progressive change in the United States you've got to get organized and you've got to get local.


Fallon vs. Boswell

Take a look at this animated graphic making a progressive challenge against conservative Iowa Democrat, Leonard Boswell.

This is the kind of progressive challenge that gave us Congresswoman Donna Edwards.

We are powerful when we work locally for progressive change.

Will progressive Ed Fallon win his Iowa primary? We'll see. But his campaign has already made a huge difference.

That's what progressives can do when we work together. That is how we build a Progressive Majority.


don't believe the hype: get organized

Last Sunday I saw 970 activists who rallied because we support a candidate for President who moves us to get off our asses and work for change.

I also saw something else. I saw a powerful group of people ready to make a difference in California Congressional District 9.

What we need to do is to stick together.

Not two blocks from where we met on Telegraph Avenue to elect national delegates for Obama is one of the most tragically violent blocks in North Oakland. A five-year old child recently died as a result of an illegal handgun kept in a home. A postal worker died in an attempted car jacking on that same block three years ago and three young men were sentenced to life in prison without parole for that heinous and senseless crime.

We have so much work to do together. It is so easy to see Sean Hannity and George Stephanopolous on TV cynically talking about "gun issues" or red-baiting our candidates and think that there is no hope for progressive change in this country.

That is exactly what they want you to think. Don't believe the hype.

Get active. Get local. Get organized and stay organized. We've got work to do in the USA. Barack Obama is providing us with some inspiration and energy. It's up to us what we do with that.

The answer isn't out there. It's the person you see in the mirror every morning.

You aren't alone. I learned that last Sunday. Here in Oakland, there's 970 of me. And we're not going to let Sean Hannity run this country. Not by a long shot.



Thursday, April 17, 2008

David Brooks on the ABC/Disney debate debacle

David Brooks, "No Whining About the Media," thinks that criticizing ABC's conduct in last night's debate debacle on ABC is "whining."

I disagree and cast my lot with this comment maker:

Anyone who was paying attention when Stephanopoulos asked Obama “Does Rev. Wright love America as much as you?” would not be praising ABC for its journalistic integrity. The country has gone through almost 8 years of that sort of jingoist rhetoric and it is the very jingoism that many in the press have fought against.

Asking questions crafted so as to make it impossible for a candidate to give an satisfactory response (”Oh you don’t love America more than Rev. Wright?!” vs. “So you’re saying that Rev. Wright doesn’t love America?…”) is not good journalism. It is repugnant to the idea of having a reasoned debate over the vital issues facing our country and it is thoroughly republican (and I use “republican” pejoratively).

— Posted by Alex

Ultimately, that debate was a disgrace to America. Questions about flag lapel pins? Charlie Gibson echoing GOP talking points with every policy question?

To the millions of Americans who've participated in this historic Democratic nomination campaign, giving money and time and going to the polls in record numbers, this debate was the ultimate disservice.

To Americans facing foreclosure, to our troops in Iraq, to those wounded veterans who've returned to inadequate treatment at Walter Reed, to the citizens of New Orleans, and to those who care about how our Constitution was circumvented to allow for the torture of prisoners last night's ABC was an abject failure.

After watching Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos snidely attack Barack Obama...and Hillary Clinton relentlessly and cynically pile on...it's hard not to think this biggest loser in the extended primary is the culture of our democracy itself.

As a side note, it's pretty clear the folks at Disney have no interest in Democrats going to their theme parks. If ABC News, a division of Disney, is not a paid wing of the Republican Party, it certainly acts like one.

Disney, clearly, could give two hoots about Democrats. Maybe they will care a bit more when folks stop giving them their business.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

little lost pundits

Reading this utterly idiotic non-story from Chris Cillizza which echoes this tripe from Ben Smith which is somewhat reflected in this bank shot post from the Plank...a pattern forms.

You realize that the pundit class doesn't have a grasp of the dynamics of this campaign. Not in the least.

The challenge that Barack Obama poses to Clinton and the GOP is precisely that he has run his campaign as its lone focus and spokesperson.

Clinton is not the lone focus of her campaign.
McCain is not the lone focus of his campaign.

Their campaigns are the weaker for it.

If 2008 were to devolve into a battle between Clinton and McCain....well, as a nation, we would lose the thread what with Bill and Penn and Wolfson and Rove and W and Ickes getting their digs in.

Barack Obama is out there day in and day out answering all the questions and setting the tone of his campaign and this election cycle, for better and for worse. It is a deliberate campaign strategy. He is the driving force of this campaign cycle. Barack Obama is 2008. The news stories, even the critical, sniping ones, are about him. He is getting better as a candidate before our eyes. He is mapping where we, as a nation, will go if we elect him president.

You can't say the same for Chris Cillizza. He does not get it.

And it shows.