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October 5, 2008

Guilt by Association

Filed under: Politics — CPav @ 10:02 pm
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If you find yourself paying attention to the McCain/Palin campaign’s current and future efforts to brand Barack Obama as questionable based on his association with former 60s radical William Ayers, referred to inaccurately by Sarah Palin 3 times on Saturday alone as “palling around”, please take the time to read my friend Mike Wallack’s excellent compare and contrast over at Mike’s blog, Me me me me me


August 26, 2008

What You Mean “WE”, White Man?

Filed under: Politics — CPav @ 7:36 am
Tags: , , , ,

I just saw a John McCain commercial for the umpteenth time where he distorts Obama’s tax plans (the plan does NOT call for taxes on families until their combined income reaches $250,000, no matter how many times McCain says it does), but I was struck by one word in the ad. The narrator is saying how Obama doesn’t get it with the plight of the ordinary family, “but we do”.

That word “we” bothers me.

  • John McCain owns between 7 and 11 houses and condos (exact counts depend on if you count the two guest houses on one property as separate houses), but he has to ask his staff how many. I own one house.
  • John McCain spends $250,000 a year on household help. I don’t have any household help that doesn’t live under my roof, and I certainly don’t pay them. In fact, I don’t make $250k in two years, so I couldn’t pay it for my household help in one.
  • John McCain doesn’t know what kind of car he drives. I drive a beat-up 1999 Mitsubishi Mirage, and have to make sure to tuck the rubber insulation back into the rear driver’s side door when I close it.

So I’m not sure which “we” John McCain is talking about. Near as I can tell, the only “we”s we’re both part of is Americans, white guys and politicians. And I’m pretty sure none of those are it.

Well, maybe the white guys. But that comes later in the campaign.

The 300 Project: 11/127

May 31, 2008

Bill Clinton and Barack Obama: An Imaginary Conversation

I was looking for this for my wife, and figured I’d share it with everyone. This is a piece by columnist Maureen Dowd, presenting an imaginary conversation between Bill Clinton and Barack Obama regarding the possibility of Hillary Clinton serving as Vice President under Barack Obama.


The 300 Project: 28/103

May 24, 2008

My Vote

I try to be fair and balanced in everything I do. I came into the political season with an open mind. I don’t believe in political parties, except as an indication of a person’s general philosophies. To say “Democrats are x” or “Republicans are y” has slightly more meaning than saying “redheads are x” or “left-handers are y”, inasmuch as Democrats or Republicans have chosen which party to join, presumably on the basis of common beliefs and goals.

I have chosen not to affiliate myself with a particular party. Oh, I suspect that somewhere in my early days as a voter, I put my name on the Democrat rolls; these were the days of Reagan’s ascendancy, and I was sure he was going to get us into World War III. But I have never campaigned as a member of a particular party (at the local level, it doesn’t matter, at least in our city), and, if asked, I identify myself as an “small ‘i'” independent.

Which is a long way of going around to say that I came into the political season with an open mind. (Actually, it’s a long way to come back around to it, as I started this post that way.)

On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee got my interest quickly, as he made a couple of appearances on radio shows I listen to, and displayed a sharp and often self-deprecating sense of humor, but the more I learned of his beliefs and background, the less he appealed to me. Having seen more than one friend (and my self) laid off while the CEO who presided over the dismantling of the company got stock options and a golden parachute, I had little interest in Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani has always struck me as abrasive and one-note, benefiting from his “leadership” during 9/11, while dodging responsibility for the fact that it was his prior decision-making that crippled emergency response on that horrible day.

Which pretty much left John McCain. John McCain, who was an intriguing candidate against George W. Bush back in 2000, but who has fallen lockstep behind the President since. John McCain, who has abrogated his much-vaunted maverick status through his wrong-headed support for the war in Iraq, and whose “straight-talk express” has seemingly come derailed under the weight of trying to appease both the religious right and the middle-of-the-road independents that the Republicans will need to win in November.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton was the presumptive nominee, and I didn’t have much problem with that, though there were potential problems in that Senator Clinton was a fairly divisive figure; she was one of those politicians that people either loved or hated, with very little in between. I had pretty fond memories of the Clinton era, and have always thought that Bill Clinton got a raw deal. It would have been interesting, given all that’s come out about the current administration, to see what would have happened if Congressional Democrats would have had the same taste for blood and tenacity to go after W the way the Republicans did Clinton.

Obama was a fairly unknown quantity. He promised (promises) change and hasn’t become entrenched in the ways of Washington, DC, so he may well be in a position to bring about some of the reforms he promises. But whether he has the connections or the pull to actually do so remains to be seen.

As the campaign progressed, though, Clinton and Obama distinguished themselves to me, in opposite ways. While Senator Clinton is certainly to be praised for her stick-to-itiveness and determination, I’ve become disenchanted by the constantly shifting rules, benchmarks, and goallines. Last year when the DNC penalized Michigan and Florida for moving their primary dates, Senator Clinton observed that the two primaries were obviously meaningless and the votes wouldn’t count. She expressed no problem with this. In fact, her reaction was just the opposite. Now that she needs those votes to bolster her tenuous and ridiculous claim that she’s leading in the popular vote, she’s comparing the votes’ not counting to the civil rights movement. She says that the only thing that matters is the popular vote, but her only hope of getting the Democratic nomination at this point is to get the superdelegates to overturn the popular vote in her favor. And Bill Clinton, who’s part and parcel of any Hillary Clinton presidency, has, quite frankly, embarrassed himself and whittled away much of the good will he had as a result of the relative prosperity of his tenure, and the crashing disaster of what followed.

Obama, on the other hand, has been gracious and eloquent, and has impressed me quite a bit. Contrary to what the media and pollsters might have us believe, intelligence is not a bad thing, and while none of the candidates have any real claim to being the “guy (or gal) next door”, Obama seems to be at least within striking distance of remembering what it’s like to be a common person. For all of Clinton’s “I’m fighting for you” rhetoric the past few weeks, she doesn’t even know how to work a convenience store coffee machine. Yeah, I’m probably making too much of that, but heck, it resonated.

Yes, Obama’s speeches have been somewhat lacking in specifics, but those are there on his web site. In these days of the 30-second sound byte, there’s no time for specifics anyway, and in our YouTube environment, if you say too much, then individual sentences will be brought back to crucify you.

And let’s be real here. The description of the job may be “the most powerful man in the world”, but that’s not really true; the successful President will surround himself with knowledgeable experts and actually listen to their advice, not clear them out the moment they say something he disagrees with. The successful President will actively seek knowledge, not just those facts that either support his already-formed beliefs, or those that can be manipulated to do so. The successful President will build consensus, not division, and will not take the “my way or the highway” approach that has been part of American politics for too long now.

And I believe that the current candidate who is best positioned to do all of this is Barack Obama.

The 300 Project: 26/101

May 18, 2008

ONYD – Hillary’s “Hardworking…white” Apology

Filed under: Politics — CPav @ 1:09 am
Tags: , , , ,

On Wednesday, Senator Hillary Clinton told the AP that she shouldn’t have made her “hardworking…white Americans” comment, and that she doesn’t like the racial tension that’s become part of the Democratic primary process this year.

The ONYD is for the fact that this “apology” came two days AFTER she won a lopsided (but meaningless, except in giving the voters a voice) victory in West Virginia, which is made up largely of hardworking white voters who were quoted in various publications as being very open and almost proud of their racism.

Oh, and the fact that it was her husband, not the Obama campaign, who claimed to have the “race card” played against him (and then denied saying it, even though it was on the radio — audio link here).

The 300 Project: 23/98

May 5, 2008

We Don’ Need No Stinkin’…Economists?

Filed under: Politics — CPav @ 7:48 am
Tags: , , , ,

In my Gas Tax post last night, I noted that there was a lack of support from economists — and, really, anyone not affiliated with the Clinton or McCain campaigns — for the McCain/Clinton gas tax proposals.

Evidently, on This Week with George Stephanopolous (which I admittedly did not watch yesterday morning, for a variety of reasons, the most important of which was that I wasn’t awake), a similar point was made:

Mr. Stephanopoulos challenged Mrs. Clinton to name one serious economist in favor of the measure.

“We’ve got to get out of this mindset where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans,” Mrs. Clinton retorted crisply.

So, evidently, those who are trained to be experts in economics are somehow “elite”, and shouldn’t be trusted to evaluate how the vast majority of Americans are affected by something as elitist as the economy.

Fortunately, one of the “common folk” didn’t let her get away with it:

Mrs. Clinton did not even flinch when a woman in the audience, an Obama supporter who said she made less than $25,000 a year, argued she, too, thought Mrs. Clinton was “pandering” for short-term political gain.

“Call me crazy,” the young woman said, “but I actually listen to economists because they know what they studied.”

Have we really reached a point in our society when being educated and speaking well are negatives? Senator Clinton has repeatedly attempted to paint Senator Obama as elitist and out of touch with the common man, ignoring the fact that he was a community organizer and paying off his student loans very recently.

Except for the $1.7 million home that she moved into in Westchester County, New York so that she could run for Senate from New York, Senator Clinton has not, by most accounts, lived in a home that wasn’t owned by the public for quite some time. Somehow one has to assume that she and Bill didn’t stay up at night trying to figure out how to make the mortgage payment on the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion, or the White House. She admitted last week during a staged morning commute with a “common man” that it’s been years since she pumped gas for herself, and was unable to operate a gas station coffee machine without assistance.

And Barack Obama and the economists are elitist?

The 300 Project: 17/92

April 25, 2008

One More Thought on the Popular Vote

Another quick thought on the whole “disenfranchising voters” turnabout by the Clinton campaign (which I wrote about last night):

If Senator Clinton is unsuccessful in her efforts to have all the Michigan votes that she gained seated, with none of the Undecideds going to Senator Obama, and unable to overtake him in the pledged delegate count (and it appears that this will be the case) and, more importantly, the popular vote, then the argument she will be making to the super delegates will run precisely counter to the argument she’s making now, regarding Michigan: She will argue that the popular vote should not be the determining factor, and she should be named the party’s candidate for the good of the party.

I hope I’m wrong, but it appears that Senator Clinton’s devotion to the voice of the people extends only so far as the majority of the people are calling her name.

(For the record, my prediction is that the DNC will seat half of the Florida delegates, proportional to the primary vote, and split Michigan 50/50 for Clinton and Obama.)

The 300 Project: 12/72

April 24, 2008

Pennsylvania Voters Speak (pt 2)

So I started to do an extended post about a fictional Diet Coke survey, in which Coke Zero kicked Diet Coke’s butt in taste tests, so Diet Coke insists on including the results from a location in which only Diet Coke was available to sample, but both times I tried to write it up, I got bored about halfway through. And if I’m bored with my humor, I can only imagine what it would have been like for you.

And no, I don’t have any actual Pennsylvania voters speaking this time, but one of the gossip blogs I frequent does a “Random Photos Part One” post every day, and it drives me nuts that there’s never a “pt 2”. So here you have mine.

After the dust settled in PA, Obama’s camp commented on the fact that Clinton was always favored there, and she really hadn’t made any real inroads into his lead in delegates and popular vote, and Clinton said that this was just more proof that Obama couldn’t close the deal and win big states. Who knew?

So now it’s on to Indiana and North Carolina which, if it breaks the way it’s expected, will end Clinton’s claims that Obama can’t win large states.

My friend Mike Wallack has posted his account of seeing Hillary Clinton speak in his beloved Indianapolis on his blog.

With the math becoming more and more bleak for Clinton to overtake Obama in the delegate count, she’s expressing the opinion that pledged delegates aren’t actually pledged, and are free to change their minds. Sort of like Bill Murray in Ghostbusters — “It’s not really a rule, more like a guideline.”

But changing the rules midstream is becoming a Clinton campaign tactic. When the Democratic National Committee told Michigan and Florida that if they insisted on having their primaries before February 5, they wouldn’t count, Senator Clinton did not argue that doing this would disenfranchise the voters. All of the Democratic candidates pledged not to campaign in either state, and Obama went so far as to have his name removed from the Michigan ballot. At the time, Clinton was the presumptive Democratic nominee, so agreeing with the Party that the votes shouldn’t count was pretty much a no-brainer.

Then something happened. The presumption went away. The destined Democratic nominee was suddenly not looking so destined. So those votes, which would have been seen as icing on the cake back in August, are now meat and potatoes. So suddenly, Senator Clinton is a fervent believer that every vote needs to be counted (the phrase “every sperm is sacred” from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life comes to mind for some totally no sequitur reason). Of course, those Michigan voters that showed up intending to vote for Senator Obama? His name wasn’t on the ballot, so those “Undecided” votes don’t count. Evidently, it’s crucial to count every vote, just not every vote.

The 300 Project: 11/71

April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Voters Speak (pt 1)

I have, for quite some time now, been mulling over Barack Obama’s “bitter and clinging” comments, which have been beaten to death by the media and both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.  In preparing, I asked two friends, married couple and Pennsylvania residents Charlotte McDivitt and Eric Kaun, for  their opinions, and whether or not they experienced or witnessed any of the outrage that Clinton and McCain were expressing on behalf of the voters.  While both were quick to disavow their credentials to speak to the issue, I disagree, and present to you the essence of their responses.

Charlotte answered first:

I have heard the comments and really don’t feel offended.  His assessment of small towns in America feeling “bitter” and turning to guns, religion and xenophobia is a fairly accurate call.  Many of the people I know who have guns are republicans.  Many of the more “faithful” people I know vote republican.  Many of the most rebel-rousing people I know who hate or fear illegals are republicans.  Not a surprise, much of Pennsylvania is republican.  Did he lose votes, maybe, but I would argue he never had theirs to begin with.  Pennsylvania, specifically has one of the oldest populations in the country.  The average age here seems to be 3 days dead.

In the 70s and 80s, we were blue collar and lost those jobs.  Our younger generations left in droves for better jobs in bigger cities.  Those of us who are still Pittsburghers can point out specific changes made in the city, county, state over the last 25 to 30 years.  The people still here are “bitter”.  We are bitter that mines and mills closed by the dozens because in a global market, we were unable to compete.  We were overpaid for our jobs and yet we wouldn’t support ourselves, opting for new and shinty and cheaper imported goods.  We all had to have the latest and greatest while paying least price.  We “wal-marted” ourselves into this situation.  We had quality steel, but the prices were huge because our wages were huge.  Japan came in with an abundant and eager workforce which could undercut the price of steel and we didn’t care that it had poor quality control.

With loss of jobs and young people, Pittsburgh then turned to sweetening deals for white collar businesses to establish here.  It worked, although that was a long haul because we had a loss of young and educated people here, so many of the early white collar jobs went to people like Eric, out-of-towners who had the education and needed a job.  These imported people created some more bitterness among the mature population, and caused a “backlash” of sorts as we found many of these imported young people leaving because they can’t find late night nightclubs or places young people want to frequent.

The 90s was a transitional period when white collar began making headway in this blue collar city.  Pennsylvania is a largely mature to old population that votes republican whether it is a good idea or not because they don’t care for change.  We’ve seen a lot of change over the last 30 years and most of it went sour.  Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are the two large cities with more liberal people living in them, but that leaves a lot of empty space for republicans to continue to spread and hate and fear, we call that section, “Pennsyltuckey” around here.

Of the people Eric and I know, better educated people tend to live in the city and are liberals.  There are exceptions to that.  I would say that most of those people are smart enough to listen to the man’s speech, not just a sound byte and vote accordingly.

We have poor options, as always, for President.  A war hero who was despised by his party until he did his “mea culpa” enough to be tolerated.  A woman despised by most women because she is a foreigner to most women – allows or encourages her husband to cheat.  A man of color who seems to be reasonable, in a fairly intolerant America.  Who will win?  I suspect Hillary will take the nomination and McCain will win the Presidency.

My wish is that voters would pay attention to local elections as much, or more than national, but that is a grasp.

Eric followed:

There’s no way I can answer better than that… and I sure can’t represent the views of most Pennsylvanians. To quote Ellory Schempp (whose court case as a teenager got mandatory Bible reading thrown out of classrooms – born near Philadelphia, worked at Univ-Pitt for a while): “Pennsylvania is Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between.” That may, of course, be true of most states – Wisconsin doesn’t even have a major city, and is certainly 90% hick, though its history is more progressive in general.

Accusations of “elitism” and “arrogance” frequently amuse me, especially given the governing record of the “regular guy” you’d “want to have a beer with.”  Who the ***k cares whether you can have a beer with the president? That’s a valid criterion? I heard Republican co-workers actually say that. (side note: The Onion has a terrific article about this:

I’ve also lost track of some of the campaign, because I’m moderately bored. I found no substantial difference between the two candidates in debate transcripts (to help offset Obama’s rhetorical advantage) – I don’t believe there’s a real ‘substance gap’ there. And there’s no way on earth I’ll vote another Republican into office (even McCain, the least offensive of the bunch, though a bit of a flake with some bright spots), given the current composition of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. So either Hilary or Obama will get my vote, at least until the mean age of the court dips below 102 or whatever it is.

Anyway: his comments could certainly have been taken out of context, but don’t say anything incorrect on their own. Of course people get bitter. Overall American military and economic prowess naturally create some degree of entitlement, and when that’s yanked away, it’s time to turn back to “what made America great”: God and guns. Or at least to get the dirty immigrants out. Knee-jerk stuff, part and parcel of human nature, though thankfully in this country we don’t actually start slaughtering each other like in some other countries. Thankfully, the religion part has been largely secularized out of our national psyche – secularism being the true foundation of our success – so it’s usually lip service to whatever portion of the Bible one happens to remember and like, rather than faithful adherence to the entire book.

I think, though, that what makes people bitter is the gulf between rich and poor – or corporations and workers – in a democratic society. The gap between promise and reality is large and getting larger, though again we don’t suffer the parade of horrific dictators and deep-seated ethnic bloodshed of some nations…

And there you have it.  I want to let their words stand.  I’ll offer some thoughts on the results of the primary tonight.

<font size=-4>The 300 Project:  10/70</font>

Democratic Cage Match

Senators John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton appeared on last night’s World Wrestling Entertainment television show. I don’t know how it went, given my previous post on not watching tv, and my hopefully previously demonstrated taste, but I received a report that all three gave speeches (probably just taped greetings), and that Obama’s was most impressive, and McCain’s the least. Of course, I’m guessing that now new policy initiatives were announced.

Today is the Pennsylvania primary, something that both Obama and Clinton have been working toward for the last month or so. It’s been nasty, it’s been negative, and it more than likely won’t prove anything.

Unless the voters of Pennsylvania do something totally unexpected and hand Obama the state, the talking points have already been established:

  • The Obama camp will say that the loss wasn’t unexpected, that Clinton was always expected to win the state, and that Obama still leads in the popular vote and the delegate count. If Obama comes within 5 points or so, it will be a moral victory, though no one will say that outright.
  • The Clinton camp will use their victory in Pennsylvania to further their claims that Obama can’t win in large states. I’m not sure how this argument makes sense, since he’s not campaigning in those large states against John McCain, he’s campaigning against Hillary Clinton, another Democrat, and McCain is currently unopposed (more or less), so there’s no real imperative for Republicans to show up to vote. And Pennsylvania isn’t a state either of the Democrats will be expected to win in November.

The only way this ends well is if the voters of Pennsylvania put an end to it now and choose Obama, but even that won’t guarantee Clinton’s exit from the race. I just get the feeling that she’s in this until someone locks her in her hotel room and won’t let her out to campaign.

And am I the only one who thinks that the devil-may-care quality that used to make Bill Clinton somewhat endearing has devolved into a smugness that’s just really irritating?

The 300 Project: 9/69

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