Friday, October 31, 2008


Well, it's almost 9 o'clock, when I turn off the outside light and declare an end to Hallowe'en.

The trick-or-treating was light this year -- only about 50 kids, all with parental units waving from the common sidewalk. I like Hallowe'en (so much so that I insist on spelling it the way I was taught to in the 50's), but I hate it when adults trick-or-treat, even if it's supposedly for a infant in a stroller. But there wasn't much of that this year.

The best news is that I have found the words to a Hallowe'en carol I was taught almost 50 years ago, and have been trying to find for years. It is fun to sing.

Hallowee-ee-en, the witch is riding high.
Have you see-ee-een her shadow in the sky?
So beware don't you dare to even boast or a ghost
To your dismay will hear you say
That you don't care, say a prayer
Or it may come and pull your hair

There's a big, black cat a crossing in our way.
Now you've heard of that, bad luck they always say.
Weren't you scared when it stared with eyes aglow
Hear that crow?
There's a thump near the pump
Let's hurry home or a gnome
Will thump a lump upon your dome.

I guess this was a post about history, not politics.

Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel died today at the age of 96.

Studs first came to my attention when, as a teenager, my father recommended Division Street to me. I can't say it changed my life, because I was already well on the road to whatever I am, but it confirmed some things for me. It confirmed that the lives of day laborers, waitresses, and cab drivers are interesting and as worthy of respect as anyone's.

Suellen and I used to live in the same neighborhood Terkel did. Well, not the same neighborhood, exactly, but three blocks away. They call Chicago the "city of neighborhoods," but it's really the city of blocks. One block can be one thing, and the next block can be another thing altogether.

I was giving a walking tour of our Uptown neighborhood to a friend, to illustrate this point, about 20 years ago. Uptown then, and now, is kind of a rough place. But I was showing Georgiana how, even in this rough Chicago neighborhood, you could turn the corner and suddenly you're in another world. Upon which, we turned the corner onto Castlewood Terrace, which is a street where people are not wondering where their next rent check is coming from.

"Studs Terkel lives on this street," I told her.

I don't remember her exact words, but they were something like, "You're full of ****!" Only Georgiana doesn't talk like that, so it was the most polite way possible of saying that.

And as soon as she said it, as on cue, the door of a parked car opened, and out stepped Studs Terkel.

More than once today I've heard Studs called "a Chicago hero." He was certainly that. He was also a crusader for justice that never betrayed weariness or became cynical.

That's no mean trick.

Nothin' Happenin' (except droppin' g's)

Sean Quinn at describes himself as "the only reporter during this election who has actually visited upwards of 50 of John McCain's field offices around the country (13 battleground states and counting)." And his report of McCain's ground game is full of hopeful information:

The busiest McCain office we saw was in Arlington, at the national HQ, but tight security prevented us from getting any pictures. Ironically, that was our first full office, in our 11th battleground state.

Offices in Troy, Ohio were closed on Saturday October 11. With perfect coincidental timing, two elderly women dropped by to volunteer but found the office shut. At Republican state headquarters in Columbus later the same day, one lonely dialer sat in a sea of unoccupied chairs. In Des Moines on September 25, another empty office. In Santa Fe on September 17, one dialer made calls while six chatted amongst themselves about how they didn't like Obama. In Raleigh this past Saturday, ten days before the election with early voting already open, two women dialed and a male staffer watched the Georgia-LSU game. In Durango, Colorado on September 20, the Republican office was locked and closed. Indiana didn't have McCain Victory offices when we were there in early October.

When the offices are open, they have reduced hours. We can confidently plan to get evening good-light photographs of a town after we visit the local McCain office, because we know it will be closing by 5 pm, as the office in Wilmington, North Carolina was this past Sunday. The plan is, get to inevitably closed/closing McCain office, get an hour of photos near sunset, then visit the bustling local Obama office.

In Cortez, CO, we had Republican volunteers pose for action-shot photos. The same in Española, New Mexico. Posed. For some time at the outset, we were willing to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt. They convinced us they were really working, and that we had just had unfortunate timing. It wasn't until the pattern of "just missed it" started to sound like a drumbeat in our ears that we began to grow skeptical. We never "just missed" any of the Obama volunteer work, because it goes on nonstop, every day, in every office, in every corner of America.

We found scattered nuggets of activity. Colorado Springs, Colorado held eight dialers and two front office volunteers. Albemarle County, Virginia had a busy office of 15 volunteers, and we reported that. Last night in Tampa, nine phonebankers were busy dialing at the Republican Party of Florida Hillsborough County HQ when we arrived at 8:00 pm. Seven dialers sat in McCain's Hickory, North Carolina office this past Saturday afternoon.

Those offices seemed busy to us, naturally, because they were explosively full relative to other offices we've stopped in on. But even the Colorado Springs office was dwarfed by the Obama Colorado Springs operation.

These ground campaigns do not bear any relationship to one another. One side [i.e., Obama's] has something in the neighborhood of five million volunteers all assigned to very clear and specific pieces of the operation, and the other seems to have something like a thousand volunteers scattered throughout the country. [Emphasis added.] Jon Tester's 2006 Senate race in Montana had more volunteers -- by a mile -- than John McCain's 2006 presidential campaign.

When Republican volunteers talk to us about how much enthusiasm and participation they notice in fellow volunteers, they mention how many people have come to pick up yard signs or bumper stickers. We haven't yet seen a single Republican canvasser. (The one in Cortez, CO was staged; she said canvassing is the kind of thing she would do, and we made a decision to do the picture because we were concerned with not presenting "balance." There is no balance in the facts.)

When we attempted to visit the Republican HQ in Maryland Heights, Missouri, we saw a couple volunteers populating the office, and we were subsequently denied the opportunity to even speak to volunteers specifically selected so as to be "on message." By contrast, Obama's volunteers own such a piece of the campaign (Respect-Empower-Include) that the problem is they often have too much information, and when the campaign allows me to talk with them on the record I can ask a too-precise series of questions that result in publishing details the campaign later realizes it didn't want published.

We read the published comments from McCain spokespeople that argue the dialing/canvassing numbers are ahead of where they were at the same time four years ago. Well, either the Bush ground game of 2004 was the Big Myth, or those spokespeople are flat lying to reporters, who have no context to challenge those claims because they haven't seen the empty offices the way we have.

The article has pictures taken at each of the campaign sites visited. And this summary:

...John McCain's ground campaign is just not happening. It hasn't been happening, without Sarah Palin there might be four or five volunteers across the entire nation left....

Rape Kits

If the press has not looked into Obama's mysterious, deeply disturbing, and conspiratorial relationship with Bill Ayers deeply enough, as the McCain folks fervently believe, they have not looked into the rape kit issue, either.

The short version is that while Sarah Palin was its mayor, the town of Wasilla charged victims for the forensic rape kits that were used to gather evidence to identify the rapist. Why was that? There's been speculation that it was related with "Right to Life" issues in some way, but who knows? Is that really where "Right to Life" takes you?

Anyway, just because we don't know anything about it doesn't mean we can't make fun of it:

A Must-See Interview

Rachel Maddow makes me wish I had cable (the urge passes, however).

She has a terrific interview with Barack Obama here. In his response to her first question, Obama answers the question I've been wanting to ask him all year:

"Why are you being so nice? Why aren't you giving the Republicans a well-deserved kick in the teeth?"

Or, to put it more sweetly, "Why aren't you making all Republicans run on their record, instead of just McCain?" That's as sweet as I can get. Rachel is sweeter.

If you wonder what it would be like to have a President who gives thoughtful answers to questions (even if it frustrates your desire to kick someone in the teeth) watch this interview.

A Republican Ad You Won't See

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is Norm Coleman Toast?

Let's mix metaphors: Put a fork in him, he's done.

Questions They Forgot to Ask Sarah Palin

This video has it right on several things, including the fact that mainstream media thinks the "End Times" stuff is just quaint religious silliness with no connection to the real world.

But it ceases being quaint if someone who believes we are living in the End Times becomes President. Then American foreign policy gets tied to crazy.

Something Completely Different

This is about neither politics nor history.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on a beautiful blog called Midlife by Farmlight. It's written by a dairy farmer's wife in Iowa, and it's just about her life. She seems to take a camera with her everywhere she goes, whether to the high school football game or to buy netwrap for the round baler, so there are interesting pictures galore.

If that sounds like something that might amuse you, pay a visit.

More on the Infomercial

Publius, in a post called "I Surrender," reflects on the infomercial, and the campaign, generally:

Remind me to stop doubting the Obama campaign. I can't seem to stop it -- the doubt comes [start melody] regularrrr like seeeeeasons. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and each day publius doth worry about something stupid. Today's worry was that the ad was overkill, that it was unnecessary, etc. It literally bothered me all day long.

But then I watched it -- and I honestly thought it was great, and even sincerely moving at times (I'm basically a sucker for stories about his mother). Like everything else they do, it was pitch perfect. It wasn't focusing on Obama (as I feared it would), but upon the struggles of working families and how an Obama administration would address them. I didn't hear the word McCain once.

So I'm done doubting. I'm done saying Axelrod needs to do this or that. My measly pundit powers pale in comparison. I'm like a rope on the Goodyear Blimp.

Did You See Obama's Infomercial?

It was full of feel-good stuff, and it's surprising how positive people's reactions have been to it. Politico had warned ahead of time that it might be overreaching, as the columns at the convention were supposed to be, but it looks like they pulled it off.

The thing that really impressed here, though, was that Obama was able to time his speech to a crowd of thousands in Florida to seamlessly intersect with the taped presentation, and concluded the whole thing on time. How do you practice something like that? Or, more to the point, how in the world did Obama find the time to practice that? On the positive side, this demonstrates a level of competency that has been lacking in the McCain campaign (e.g., Rudy Giuliani at the Republican Convention). More cynically, it raises propaganda to a whole new level.

Update: The infomercial drew an audience of 33.5 million. The air time cost $3 million. So that's 10¢ a viewer. Brilliant.

Does Race Affect Your Perception?

Nicholas Kristof, another NY Times columnist who should be a candidate for the Nobel Prize (for Peace), has an interesting link in today's column.

The link is to a game in which you "shoot" bad guys with guns. Some bad guys are white, some are black. But here's the trick: they're not all bad guys. Some of the men you see have guns in their hands, but some have cell phones or something else. You should not shoot men holding cell phones.

How long does it take you to decide? And is the time affected by whether the man is white or black?

The game keeps track, and gives you a summary like this, which was my own report:

Game Over
Your Score: 325
Average reaction time:
Black Armed:853.08ms
Black Unarmed:917.8ms
White Armed:912.08ms
White Unarmed:851.32ms

The game takes just a couple of minutes, but gives you something to think about for quite a while longer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making Good Use of Sarah

A new Obama ad:

Not a Good Way to Form Foreign Policy

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note had a good description of McCain's approach to foreign policy:

... [T]here are the "realist" Republicans who worry that Mr McCain has been captured by neoconservative advisers, such as Randy Schuenemann, his chief foreign policy guru, who has helped shape the candidate's relatively hardline stance on Russia, Iran and other issues.

This has combined with Mr McCain's tendency to view foreign policy as a kind of "morality play" in which there are people who oppose America and people who do not, they say. Foreign policy was a key reason why Colin Powell, the former secretary of state, chose to endorse Mr Obama on Sunday.

"I don't know of anybody, anywhere other than John McCain who thinks Mikheil Saakashvili is a 'great leader' of Georgia - it is an absurd evaluation," said Dimitri Simes, head of the Nixon Centre in Washington. "John tends to see the world emotionally through characters he knows. And once he has decided who the good guys are and the bad guys are, then facts and context won't affect him."

Emphasis added.

Terrorists in America

This story got sufficient attention. We learned about it, then we moved on.

WASHINGTON – Two white supremacists allegedly plotted to go on a national killing spree, shooting and decapitating black people and ultimately targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, federal authorities said Monday.

In all, the two men whom officials describe as neo-Nazi skinheads planned to kill 88 people — 14 by beheading, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

But imagine how differently it would have played if they were Black Muslims, plotting to decapitate white people and targeting John McCain.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama Zydeco -- Oui, on peut!

From my friend, Kris:

Do You Mind if We Don't Shake Hands?

This fellow narrowly missed a Darwin Award. From the BBC:

A passenger on a French train had to be rescued by firemen after having his arm sucked down the on-board toilet.

The 26-year-old victim was trapped when he tried to fish out his mobile phone, which had fallen into the toilet bowl, and fell foul of the suction system.

The high-speed TGV train had to stop for two hours while firemen cut through the train's pipework.

The man was carried away by emergency services, with the toilet still attached to his arm.

"He came out on a stretcher, with his hand still jammed in the toilet bowl, which they had to saw clean off," said Benoit Gigou, a witness to the man's plight.

The incident happened on Sunday evening, aboard a train travelling in western France between La Rochelle and Paris.

♫ Schadenfreude, Darling Schadenfreude ♫

A wonderful article from the English Telegraph includes this juicy, juicy quote:

Jim Nuzzo, a White House aide to the first President Bush, dismissed Mrs Palin's critics as "cocktail party conservatives" who "give aid and comfort to the enemy".

He told The Sunday Telegraph: "There's going to be a bloodbath. A lot of people are going to be excommunicated. David Brooks and David Frum and Peggy Noonan are dead people in the Republican Party. The litmus test will be: where did you stand on Palin?"
They're just toying with me, right?

You've got to read the whole article.

Update: Check out Jim Nuzzo's Myspace page. He has one friend. And apparently has some sort of weird religious thing against paragraphs.

A Morning Pick-Me-Up

Stolen lock, stock, and barrel from Americablog:

Good morning.

8 days.

This will be a wild, wild week. Lots going on up and down the ballot. At the presidential level, there are a couple things to watch for this week: The first is, of course, how much nastier and uglier the attacks emanating from the Republicans get. The second is how rogue Palin gets because it's looking like she's dumped McCain and has started her 2012 campaign for president. Then, there's the growing GOP in-fighting and back-stabbing, which is just too much fun.

8 days til we change the world. Seriously, these elections are going to change the world. It's been eight long, long years. So we all need to do everything we can do between now and November 4th to make sure it happens -- and, to make sure we truly vanquish and crush the Republicans.

8 days.

Let's get it started...

A Reality Fix

Two gloomy columns on the economy to read today.

Paul Krugman:

Needless to say, the existing troubles in the banking system, plus the new troubles at hedge funds and in emerging markets, are all mutually reinforcing. Bad news begets bad news, and the circle of pain just keeps getting wider.

Meanwhile, U.S. policy makers are still balking when it comes to doing what’s necessary to contain the crisis.


What’s happening, I suspect, is that the Bush administration’s anti-government ideology still stands in the way of effective action. Events have forced Mr. Paulson into a partial nationalization of the financial system — but he refuses to use the power that comes with ownership.

Whatever the reasons for the continuing weakness of policy, the situation is manifestly not coming under control. Things continue to fall apart.

Roger Cohen:

I was talking to a banker friend, and he told me the “unraveling” could go on for ages. I thought he meant the unwinding of all the leverage that had inflated everything from the price of stocks to the price of homes.

But, just to be sure, I asked him: “Unraveling of what?”

He paused, before saying, “Almost our way of life.”

A friend of his, he went on, has a horse farm north of New York City. “I told him, for heaven’s sake, you have to get rid of your horses. Shoot them if necessary.”
Oh my.

Update: The LA Times has a sobering survey of stock markets around the world:

Here’s a sampling (not meant to be all-inclusive):

Markets down more than 70%: Vietnam (-70.5%), Peru (-73.2%), Ireland (-73.4%), Russia (-73.9%), Iceland (-88.7%).

Markets down between 60% and 70%: Hong Kong (-60.1%), Poland (-62.6%), China (-69.8%).

Markets down between 50% and 60%: South Korea (-54.5%), Italy (-55.2%), Egypt (-56.9%), Brazil (-57.2%), Japan (-58.1%), Singapore (-58.2%), Turkey (-58.5%), India (-58.3%).

Markets down between 40% and 50%: Great Britain (-42.3%), Australia (-43.3%), U.S.-S&P 500 (-44.0%), Spain (-46.4%), Germany (-47.0%), Mexico (-48.3%).

Note that, for U.S. investors who own foreign stocks, the losses in many cases are worse because the dollar has rallied against most foreign currencies in recent months. A strong dollar means stocks denominated in foreign currencies have even less value when translated into dollars.

For example, the average European blue chip stock is down 45.6% year-to-date in euros, but down 53% in dollars. The euro today plunged to a two-year low of $1.262 from $1.285 on Thursday.
Oh my.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Talkin' Food Pantry

Just a few observations about the Food Pantry, where yours truly volunteers.

• We're seeing lots of new people every week. The new people are not used to coming to a food pantry.

• This week a man told me he hadn't been there in over a year, and couldn't believe how crowded it is now, compared to then.

• The declining economy means more people are coming to the pantry, while fewer people are donating to the pantry. There has been a noticeable decline in the amount of food we have to distribute.

• This week an old lady kissed my hand when I gave her her groceries.

Tell Us How You Really Feel, John

Senator McCain talks about the high priority he puts on safety and the environment when evaluating nuclear power:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Getting Our Priorities in Order

How long has it been since we agreed that politics is show business? Um, two days.

So none of us are surprised, are we, that the highest paid member of the McCain-Palin campaign is (drum roll): Sarah's makeup artist!

Electoral Trivia

We have a few moments to spare, here, so let's play electoral trivia:

The answers can be found here.

1. When was the last time the New York Times endorsed a Republican?

2. What two presidential candidates has the New York Times endorsed three times? (One of these should be easy.)

3. Who is the only third party presidential candidate endorsed by the Times? (History buffs will quibble with this one. The Republican Party was a "third party" in 1860. But that's not the one I mean.)

News from Abroad

My brother, Ted, and his lovely wife, Carolyn, just returned from a trip to Greece. In a note to the family about the experience, he says,

One highlight of our visit to Santorini: merchants trying to lure you into their shops would accost us: "Americans?" Yes. "McCain or Obama?" Obama. "High fives!" Others in our group who answered McCain got this response: "That's your problem!"

The world wants to like America again, and feels like they have a stake in the election.

Some Republicans are Decent People

Thought you'd never read that here, didn't you? The problem is, there just aren't enough of them to form critical mass.

You've probably seen this video, where a confused hater shows up at a McCain rally, spewing his venom. A McCain campaign worker steps in and says, "This guy is wrong, and doesn't represent McCain's views." A bit of decency you'd think the McCain campaign would want shared, right? Wrong.

Which begs the question: why doesn't the McCain camp want this stand-up guy publicized? Is there an answer that doesn't involve the campaign wanting to perpetuate the Muslim/terrorist/Obama connection? The librul media is so unfair to McCain.

Political Porn

The circular firing squads are forming in the Republican Party.

This one was really good.

And then there's this:

An internal document circulating among House Republicans warns of an impending congressional bloodbath, listing 58 Republican-held House seats being at risk, and 11 already considered as good as gone. As many as 34 GOP-held seats are in serious jeopardy of swinging to Democrats, the assessment shows.

Still not satisfied? How about Civil War on the Right?

Conservatives are at each other's throats, and here's what's revealing about how divided they are: The critics of John McCain and the critics of Sarah Palin represent entirely different camps.

And did you see the stories the other day about how Republican Congressional ads are assuming a McCain loss? They're suggesting voters should choose Republicans to keep Democrats from having a filibuster-proof majority.

Well, two can play that game:

McCain's advisers acknowledge that his way back is difficult, but they maintain that there is a way. It requires a combination of smart campaigning, traction for his arguments and what the McCain team hopes will be fears among the electorate at the prospect of a Democrat in the White House with expanded Democratic majorities in Congress.

Vote for Republican Congressmen because McCain is going to lose! Vote for McCain because Republican Congressmen are going to lose!

Now that's a Republican message we can believe in.

What Some People Will Do

If, like me, you've been a Ron Howard fan since The Music Man, you'll get a chuckle out of this.

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

Okay, it probably won't change anybody's mind, but it was nice of Ron to do it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The End of Lunacy?

Would that it were so.

But we've had a step in the right direction. Today's testimony from Alan Greenspan, before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, included these little concessions:

“Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief,” he told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.


“You had the authority to prevent irresponsible lending practices that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. You were advised to do so by many others,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, chairman of the committee. “Do you feel that your ideology pushed you to make decisions that you wish you had not made?”

Mr. Greenspan conceded: “Yes, I’ve found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I’ve been very distressed by that fact.”

I'd like to write more about this, but I owe photographs to a bunch of people in the next 2 days, and I'm going to be out of town for one of them. I will say this: Greenspan's ideology is deeply flawed. It has its roots in his early days as a fan of Ayn Rand. And we'll be paying the price for years.

Update: From the NY Times' endorsement of Barack Obama:

The American financial system is the victim of decades of Republican deregulatory and anti-tax policies. Those ideas have been proved wrong at an unfathomable price, but Mr. McCain — a self-proclaimed “foot soldier in the Reagan revolution” — is still a believer.

Mrs. Palin

From Matt, via his Dad, Dave:

Money Well Spent

It's just shocking how the liberal press (and not a few Republicans) are jumping on Sarah Palin about her family's $150,000 wardrobe, courtesy of contributors to the McCain campaign.

I just don't care. That's $150,000 that won't be spent on disgusting robocalls. But let's keep talking about it anyway, because it sure is keeping McCain/Palin from discussing the important issues of this campaign; viz., the shocking number of parts of the country that aren't "real," and where the Americans are anti-American.

And besides, whoever did the shopping for her (ironically, it's said to be one of the robocall sleazeballs) did a great job. Exhibit A, via Newsweek, this scarf:

Yep, those are Democratic donkeys.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gallup Daily Tracking Poll

Sempringham will spare no expense to add to your election enjoyment, as long as it doesn't cost us anything.

So, for the next two weeks, we'll feature the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll right under the George Bush Countdown Clock. It updates with the prior three days' poll results every day (including weekends) at about 12 noon Central. The Gallup widget offers looks at several other polls, too, using a drop-down menu.


A Transitional Election

From Politico, a report from a medical student in Evansville, Indiana, about his/her early voting experience:

I squeaked in just before the 7 p.m. deadline to find two very frustrated poll workers and a line of a couple dozen people, due to problems with the computerized voting system not accepting people's driver's licenses. It was taking about 7-10 minutes per person just to get the computer to accept them as valid and to print out their ballot, causing very long delays.

For me the most moving moment came when the family in front of me, comprising probably 4 generations of voters (including an 18 year old girl voting for her first time and a 90-something hunched-over grandmother), got their turn to vote. When the old woman left the voting booth she made it about halfway to the door before collapsing in a nearby chair, where she began weeping uncontrollably. When we rushed over to help we realized that she wasn't in trouble at all but she had not truly believed, until she left the booth, that she would ever live long enough to cast a vote for an African-American for president. Anyone who doesn't think that African-American turnout will absolutely SHATTER every existing record is in for a very rude surprise.

There were about 20 people in front of me but remarkably not a single person left the room without voting over the 2 hours it took to get through the line.

McCain Campaign Unraveling

If there's been one talking head that has risen above the others this campaign cycle, it's Chuck Todd at NBC. He knows his stuff. Which makes the exchange below, between Chris Matthews, Brian Williams, and Todd, so interesting.

According to Todd, "When you see [McCain and Palin] together, the chemistry is just not there. You do wonder, is John McCain starting to blame her for things? Blaming himself? Is she blaming him?"

They're not yet showing us the full interview they're talking about. But their exchange is pretty interesting:

Just Havin' Some Fun

Clothing the Pit Bull

Does this item from Politico make you nostalgic for John Edwards' $400 haircuts?

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

To be honest, it would be naive to be surprised by this. Politics is, increasingly, show business. You need to have your candidate (and the candidate's family) looking good for the 10 seconds they get on national news each evening. (If they're lucky, which Joe Biden certainly hasn't been.) And the Palin family really didn't have much chance to pack their Florida clothes before hitting the road, did they?

It's always nice to see Republicans embarrassed, but they should be embarrassed by what they've done to this country, not by their wardrobe bill.

Update: The Anchorage Daily News offers a slide show of Palin's wardrobe before her nomination for vice president. Any reasonable person can see that the Republicans had to do something!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

McCain's Energy Plan

This graphic, which I found at The Seminal, does a very good job of illustrating the effectiveness of McCain's "Drill, Baby, Drill" energy plan.

[Click on chart for a better look. Then hit back arrow to return here.]

Yeah, that's gonna work.

Wouldn't it be nice to have decisions made based on an analysis of facts, rather conservative ideology?


PBS's Frontline has had some terrific programs over the years. This looks like it could be one of them:

It airs tonight at 7 p.m. Central Time.

Hey Sarah Palin

Suellen got this video from a friend. It's hilarious.

Lyrics are included. Enjoy.

To Spend, or Not To Spend

The lesson David Brooks takes, from the chaos wrought by conservative "principles," is a need to return to conservative principles:

Democrats have done well in suburbia recently because they have run the kind of candidates who seem like the safer choice — socially moderate, pragmatic and fiscally hawkish. They, or any party, will run astray if they threaten the mood of chastened sobriety that has swept over the subdivisions.

Patio Man wants change. But this is no time for more risk or more debt. Debt in the future is no solution to the debt racked up in the past. This is a back-to-basics moment, a return to safety and the fundamentals.

What's he writing about here, really? He's weighing in, with all the weight a conservative can have in the argument (which isn't much, these days), on a question we're facing in the coming months. What's most important to this country right now: bringing government spending under control, or getting the economy back on track?

On the side of limiting spending we have, among others, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation and Concord Coalition. They've been campaigners for years for what they consider fiscal responsibility, which to them means balancing the budget and cutting back on "entitlements," like Social Security and Medicare. They've been very successful in making the need to "cut back on entitlements" part of conventional wisdom.

But there has been some real push-back on this notion in the past few years from economists like James Galbraith (son of John Kenneth), Brad DeLong, and Paul Krugman. And now that we're headed into the worst recession since the Great Depression, they're getting good traction because a pull-back on government spending is likely to exacerbate the shutdown of the American economy. Instead, they will argue, the right thing to do right now is actually to increase the national debt.

It's an interesting argument. And since James Galbraith and Paul Krugman are heroes of mine, you can be pretty sure where I'll come down on it. But I'm looking forward to the debate.

Update: Paul Samuelson at the Washington Post is firmly in the Pete Peterson camp.

The "Mystery" Man

Politico ran a story a couple of days ago headlined, "'Mystery' man lends support to Obama." I thought it was a bizarre story.

Here's a summary: There's a police officer in suburban Chicago named Michael Signator. He met Obama when he volunteered in the 2004 senatorial campaign, and was eventually hired as a driver and aide for Obama. He and Obama became friends.

For security reasons , Obama's presidential campaign refuses to reveal the details of Signator's role, but [Obama campaign spokesman Ben] LaBolt said it brings Signator into frequent, close contact with the Obamas.

"Barack and Michelle Obama regularly confer with Mike, as do senior campaign officials. Sen. Obama has met with Signator both at the Obamas' home and at Mike's," LaBolt said in a statement.

Later, the article says,

Reached by telephone, [Signator] declined to comment on his relationship with Obama and his family, and asked how Politico obtained his telephone number. He directed inquiries to the Obama campaign press office and explained, "I can't do any type of interview at all. I apologize. I'm sorry, and please just disregard this phone number, because I can't take any calls."

The campaign press staff — which at first denied that Signator worked for the campaign, then discouraged Politico from writing about him — declined to set up an interview.

Then there was salary information:

According to Federal Election Commission records, Obama's campaign through the end of August had paid Signator $47,600. The payments, which began in March 2007 at $2,900 a month, dwindled to less than $800 a month in May of this year — a full year after the Secret Service began protecting Obama.

Obama's 2004 U.S. Senate campaign paid nearly $50,000 to Signator, who had a cameo in Obama's 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream."

That's about it. My reaction upon reading it was, "Huh? What was that all about?" The article made my skin crawl because its headline seemed to imply something the article didn't deliver.

Well, call me naive, but I was shocked to see this comment by Digby, at Hullabaloo:

Call me crazy, but I think the Politico just published a story implying that Obama is gay.

The talk radio gasbags will have a field day with this one. Now he is not only a black, foreign, Muslim, socialist terrorist, he's a gay black, foreign, Muslim, socialist terrorist.

What's left? Child molester?


So I wrote Kenneth P. Vogel, the article's reporter:

Excuse me, but what, exactly was that "Mystery man" column about? Digby at Hullabaloo says, "Call me crazy, but I think the Politico just published a story implying that Obama is gay."

Is that what you're doing? Because, really, if it's not, it was hard to see what was worth writing about here. And if it is, why didn't you say so?

It reads like you thought there might be something interesting going on here, but you really couldn't find anything, and it resulted in one of the creepiest columns I've ever read.

And Vogel responded:

I wasn't implying anything.

Just reporting on the confidants of the man who may well be the next president. Would you prefer not to know anything about them?

And he's right, of course.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Obama Heading Home to Hawaii

When the Obama campaign cancelled a rally in Madison, scheduled for Thursday, there was speculation this was an indicator his advisors thought Wisconsin was solidly in the Obama column. Apparently not.

He is flying to Hawaii on Thursday and Friday to visit his grandmother, who is suddenly very ill. I can't think of anything to say. This is too sad.

The Powell Endorsement

The talking heads and pundits have been arguing about the effect of the Colin Powell endorsement. Conventional wisdom is that endorsements don't move votes. But this comment from Jeffrey C. Stewart at the University of California, Santa Barbara, makes an interesting observation:

The Colin Powell endorsement of Senator Obama for president is a body blow to the McCain campaign. It is not a knockout punch; but it is the kind of blow that sickens a boxer as he returns to the chair, focusing what little attention he has left on what he has done wrong in the fight rather than on what he has done right.

That sounds right to me. This is one that will get in McCain's head and bounce around for months.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Musical Interlude -- Superman's Song

Tarzan wasn't a ladies' man
He'd just come along and scoop 'em up under his arm
Like that, quick as a cat in the jungle
But Clark Kent, now there was a real gent
He would not be caught sittin' around in no
Junglescape, dumb as an ape doing nothing

Superman never made any money
Saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair the world will never see
Another man like him

Hey Bob, Supe had a straight job
Even though he could have smashed through any bank
In the United States, he had the strength, but he would not
Folks said his family were all dead
Their planet crumbled but Superman, he forced himself
To carry on, forget Krypton, and keep going

Tarzan was king of the jungle and Lord over all the apes
But he could hardly string together four words: "I Tarzan, You Jane."

Sometimes when Supe was stopping crimes
I'll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back
On man, join Tarzan in the forest
But he stayed in the city, and kept on changing clothes
In dirty old phonebooths till his work was through
And nothing to do but go on home

General Powell Talks Sense

Oh my gosh. After 28 years of silence, are the grownups actually speaking up again? This is from General Powell's press conference after his Obama endorsement.

Michele Bachmann

In her comment to the Chicago Tribune endorsement post, below, reader Troutay called our attention to Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann, a genuine wacko, and her opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg (and Barack Obama thought his name might be a handicap!).

Bachmann first showed up on my radar when, after the 2007 State of the Union Address, she grabbed George W. Bush by the shoulder and wouldn't let him go until he kissed her. It was a remarkable display. Breathtaking, really.

Since then she has continued to be a piece of work. Read her entry in Wikipedia if you want to know about her Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

Michele got more national attention recently when she went on Chris Matthews' Hardball and said -- oh, just see for yourself:

So it was delightful to read, in the Wikipedia article cited above, that:

Just 24 hours after her appearance on Hardball, her opponent received $450,000 in new donations and a campaign urging Congress to officially censure her was launched with over 35,000 signatures in the first 24 hrs.

And in his Obama endorsement this morning, it was a genuine delight to hear Colin Powell single her out:

You know, we have two wars. We have economic problems. We have health problems. We have education problems. We have infrastructure problems. We have problems around the world with our allies. And so those are the problems the American people wanted to hear about, not about Mr. Ayers, not about who is a Muslim and who's not a Muslim. Those kinds of images going out on al Jazeera are killing us around the world. And we have got to say to the world it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are. If you're an American you're an American.

And this business of, for example, a congressman from Minnesota who's going around saying let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro-America or not pro-America. We have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and in our diversity.

From Troutay's mouth to Colin Powell's ear.

Update: According to, two polls have been taken in the Bachmann/Tinklenberg race. In August, Bachmann led by 13 points. In a poll taken October 10-12 (which was before her Hardball appearance), her lead had dwindled to 4 points, with 15% undecided. In a list of Republicans it would be sweet to defeat, she would be in the top 15 or 20. She'd be higher if she were effective. But she's a freshman Congressman, and a flake, to boot. Still, it would be sweet.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Politico reports that, at his St. Louis rally today, Obama drew 100,000.

St. Louis has a population of about 350,000. Suellen and I used to live in Southern Illinois, and St. Louis was our nearest big city. And let me tell you, that place is closer to Mississippi than it is to Chicago -- geographically, culturally, and politically. This is an amazing thing to me.

A post script: See that courthouse in the background? That's where Dred Scott sued for his freedom. Think about that.

Update: And when the St. Louis rally was over, Obama flew over to Kansas City, where the crowd numbered "only" 75,000.

Another Race-Baiter Joins McCain Campaign

Jake Tapper at ABC News reports:

ABC News has learned that Warren Tompkins, one of the strategists of then-Gov. George W. Bush's South Carolina campaign in 2000 -- which Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., blamed for his family being slimed -- is now a part of the McCain-Palin campaign team, albeit in an "unofficial" role.

Tompkins, a protégé of Lee Atwater, has been dispatched to North Carolina to assess the state for the McCain-Palin campaign, Southern GOP strategists tell ABC News.

The McCain campaign says only that Tompkins has "no official role" with the campaign. The Raleigh News and Observer spotted Tompkins in the state "surveying North Carolina for the McCain campaign to determine what can be done to shore up the state."

Tompkins is the third strategist involved in Bush's infamous 2000 South Carolina primary campaign to hook up with McCain.

Good News in the War on Terror

I tried to think of ways this could be a bad thing. Couldn't think of any:

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Four of the five main online forums that al-Qaeda's media wing uses to distribute statements by Osama bin Laden and other extremists have been disabled since mid-September, monitors of the Web sites say.

The disappearance of the forums on Sept. 10 — and al-Qaeda's apparent inability to restore them or create alternate online venues, as it has before — has curbed the organization's dissemination of the words and images of its fugitive leaders. On Sept. 29, a statement by the al-Fajr Media Center, a distribution network created by supporters of al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups, said the forums had disappeared "for technical reasons," and it urged followers not to trust look-alike sites.

Those Eye Rolls

Obama has made good use of McCain's facial expressions in this ad:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Chicago Trib Endorses Obama -- So What?

For the first time in its 161 years, the Chicago Tribune has endorsed a Democrat, Barack Obama, for president. The text of the editorial is here.

Here's a section of the endorsement that might be interesting to readers outside of Chicago:

On Dec. 6, 2006, this page encouraged Obama to join the presidential campaign. We wrote that he would celebrate our common values instead of exaggerate our differences. We said he would raise the tone of the campaign. We said his intellectual depth would sharpen the policy debate. In the ensuing 22 months he has done just that.

Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

That's very nice.

More on the GOP ACORN Scam

From McClatchy News:

WASHINGTON — An ACORN community organizer received a death threat and the liberal activist group's Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized Thursday, reflecting mounting tensions over its role in registering 1.3 million mostly poor and minority Americans to vote next month.

Attorneys for ACORN — short for the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now — were notifying the FBI and the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division of the incidents, said Brian Kettenring, a Florida-based spokesman for the group.

Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have attacked the group repeatedly in recent days, alleging a widespread vote-fraud scheme, although they have provided little proof. It was disclosed Thursday that the FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter registration applications submitted by some ACORN workers were part of a systematic effort or were merely isolated incidents.

And the Obama Campaign is making an issue out of it, too.

Update: Slate had a great article about this yesterday.

Warren Buffett Gives Us Advice

And when Warren Buffett talks, people listen.

Mighty Oaks and ACORN

When John McCain warned, in Wednesday's debate, that ACORN was "on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history," one that could destroy "the fabric of democracy," I hope Al Gore didn't have a mouth full of his favorite beverage.

There is a reason why, for decades, Department of Justice policy was to not initiate or announce investigations of possible electoral misfeasance in the period just before an election. That was to prevent the electoral process from being manipulated by "investigations" initiated by the party in power, frightening off potential voters for the opponent. Under the Bush Administration this policy has been -- surprise! -- ignored. Thus, Attorney General Mukasey's FBI has opened (and, of course, leaked news of) an "investigation" into ACORN.

So there's a pre-election strategy involved in this ACORN business. But be prepared for the post-election strategy, too. A base that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim who cavorts with terrorists will be easily convinced, if Obama manages to pull off a victory in this election, that a great fraud has been perpetrated. Let's see how that plays out.

Meanwhile, the NY Times editorializes about ACORN here. And one of the (Republican) US Attorneys who was fired for refusing to gin up a bogus vote fraud investigation reflects on the latest developments here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Too Good Not to Share

Via Americablog, this picture from last night's debate:

One of these two is our next president. And yes, it's real (Reuters).

Wisdom, Courtesy of Hillary

Obama, talking at a fundraiser this morning, from First Read:

“For those of you who are feeling giddy or cocky and think this is all set, I just say one word -- I guess it’s two words -- for you: New Hampshire. You know, I’ve been in these positions before where we were favored and the press starts getting carried away and we end up getting spanked. And so that’s another good lesson that Hillary Clinton taught me.”

Running Screaming from the Room

Okay, it's 8:39 a.m. CDT, October 16, and I'm now sick of hearing about Joe the Plumber. Boy, once the news media get hold of a hook, they don't let go.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe the Plumber

The "Joe the Plumber" discussion in tonight's debate was kind of a surprise to me, because I had heard something about Obama's conversation with Joe at the food pantry this morning.

One of the other volunteers was upset about the conversation. She had heard a snippet of it on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, and Limbaugh had run a section about Obama wanting to "spread the wealth around." She was upset that this was socialism, and she is against socialism.

We actually had a nice conversation about it. I brought up Medicare and Social Security, as is my wont. We finally agreed that we need the best from capitalism and the best from socialism. What was so hard about that?

Anyway, here's the video of Obama's conversation with Joe the Plumber, from ABC.

I guess McCain bringing up Joe was a call-out to Rush and his fans.

Debate Reactions Around the Web

From Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly:

In a more general sense, if tonight was McCain's big "last chance" for a game-changing performance, it was a missed opportunity. Opinions will no doubt vary widely, but I thought this was the worst of McCain's three debate performances. On the substance, McCain had nothing new to offer. On his demeanor, McCain seemed angry and dismissive (did anyone count how many eye-rolls we saw?). On rhetoric, he was clumsy and repetitious.

What's more, McCain positioned himself as a far-right Republican at precisely the time Americans want to move away from far-right Republicans. How did McCain present himself to Americans? As an anti-abortion, pro-voucher conservative who wants to slash federal spending and talk about how mean television ads and t-shirts hurt his feelings.

Obama has cornered the market on stature, temperament, and control. Where McCain was nasty, Obama was unflappable. Where McCain was angry, Obama was confident. On the substance, Obama was on message, and just as importantly, made personal connections on the issues he cared about.

I also noticed that Obama seemed to go out of his way to appeal to centrists and independents. While McCain reached out to his base on abortion and vouchers, Obama sought out middle ground on practically every issue.

In the first debate, it seemed to me that Obama won on points. In the second, Obama won by taking control. Tonight, Obama practically won by default -- McCain had an off night when he needed a big win. Watching the two, it seemed to me that Obama is ready to lead, and just out-classed his over-matched rival.

Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

Wrapup: I know I'm partisan, but McCain seemed completely out of his depth tonight. He was flitting from point to point all night without ever putting together a coherent argument, and then grabbing miscellaneous attacks from the rolodex in his head whenever some bright idea popped into his mind. His energy level was weirdly erratic, tired at times but then suddenly perking up whenever he got annoyed by something and remembered some zinger that he wanted to fire off.

McCain also interrupted a lot, and when he did he seemed clearly upset. That really didn't sound presidential. I'm sure McCain thought he was "scoring points" all evening, but his points were disjointed and often inappropriate. I really don't think this kind of thing goes over well, especially when it's sustained for 90 minutes.

Finally, McCain's facial expressions were truly bizarre. He went from angry to annoyed to smug to laughing to grumpy to grinning and then went through the cycle all over again. It was very, very weird.

As for Obama, he was fine. He didn't break through in any way, but he didn't need to. He held his own and that's probably all he needed.

From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

The consensus from initial reactions is that this was McCain's best of the three debates. And I'm not sure I disagree with that. One of the best sum-ups I saw was actually from Republican Mike Murphy, which we'll show you shortly. I think that in formal debating terms McCain definitely did better than in the two previous debates. Often, in formal terms, he had Obama on the defensive. But McCain was just surly and contemptuous through the whole 90 minutes. He looked angry. I mean, let's not kid ourselves: he was angry. That was obvious all the way through. I think that voters will not like that. And just as important it tends to confirm the current narrative of the campaign, which is that McCain is negative and angry.

Obama wasn't perfect. Maybe a bit off his game. But I don't think John McCain helped himself. His gambit in this debate was to say to voters that his anger and passion was theirs. But I don't think he sold that argument. John McCain is just angry. Mainly angry that it's his moment and this upstart named Barack Obama is taking it from him. That's about him, not anyone else.

The Last Debate

Well, what do you think? Is there a winner? We'll get an indication in the next few hours, when the snap polls come in. But the real test, as in the first two, will be how the major polling goes.

I thought McCain had some strong moments, or moments that will come across as strong. McCain looked like he was going to pop on several occasions, and his bouncing around was not attractive. One of the talking heads (David Brooks?) said he wasn't sure he'd want to see that for the next four years. McCain also had moments of incoherence. What was that stuff about different caps all about?

Obama seemed to stay cool for most of it, but I do think he was kind of rattled by the end -- maybe from debating a wild man. His answers were clear and organized, and reflected his clear and organized thinking.

The things people will remember, though, are Joe the Plumber and "If you wanted to run against George Bush, you should have run 4 years ago." And because of that, I give the advantage to McCain.

Set me straight in remarks.

Another thought: One's reaction to the debate may have a lot to do with the network one watched it on. Talking Points Memo quotes David Gergen as saying watching McCain on the split screens was "almost like [seeing] an exercise in anger management." I watched on PBS, which did not use a split screen. You saw only the person who was talking.

Update: CNN's insta-poll says Obama won the debate 58%-31%. CBS's poll of uncommitted voters says Obama won 53%-22%. That's a 27-point spread, and a 31-point spread. I'm amazed. Let's see if that holds up over the next few days. (Please, please, please.)

Another update:

Politico did a poll, too, and showed the debate being much closer: 49%-46% for Obama.

And another:

Meanwhile, virtually the entire Frank Luntz focus group on Fox News, which was staged tonight in Miami, said that Barack Obama won the debate. Luntz termed it a "clear majority," but not one person raised their hand when asked if they thought McCain won.

Said Luntz: "None had made a decision to support Sen. Obama before the debate, but more than half supported him after the debate. It was a good night for Barack Obama."

ACORN and Voter Fraud

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been on top of Republican voter suppression efforts for years. It was TPM -- with the help of TPM readers across the country, who reported on U.S. Attorney firings in their own states -- who broke the U.S. Attorney firing scandal.

The background on the scandal was that Karl Rove understood that for Republicans to stay in office, it would be necessary to suppress voting by groups of people who were not likely to vote for Republicans. You know who those groups of people are. U.S. Attorneys were asked to investigate reports of voter fraud, and prosecute the people involved. Sounds fine, but what the attorneys found was that there was really nothing going on, and that their scant resources would be better used prosecuting real crimes.

That was not the response the Bush White House was looking for. It didn't matter if there were real crimes being committed; what mattered was that people engaged in voter registration drives be intimidated and vilified. So if a U.S. Attorney was not willing to follow his or her political marching orders, a replacement would be made.

It is possible that a former Attorney General will go to prison for this -- though not for the crime, for the cover-up.

And that brings us to the current brouhaha about ACORN. Josh has written an excellent essay on the subject here. If you have to deal with wingnuts in your workplace, I certainly recommend giving it a good read. A taste:

ACORN registers lots of lower income and/or minority voters. They operate all across the country and do a lot of things beside voter registration. What's key to understand is their method. By and large they do not rely on volunteers to register voters. They hire people -- often people with low incomes or even the unemployed. This has the dual effect of not only registering people but also providing some work and income for people who are out of work. But because a lot of these people are doing it for the money, inevitably, a few of them cut corners or even cheat. So someone will end up filling out cards for nonexistent names and some of those slip through ACORN's own efforts to catch errors. (It's important to note that in many of the recent ACORN cases that have gotten the most attention it's ACORN itself that has turned the people in who did the fake registrations.) These reports start buzzing through the right-wing media every two years and every time the anecdotal reports of 'thousands' of fraudulent registrations turns out, on closer inspection, to be either totally bogus themselves or wildly exaggerated. So thousands of phony registrations ends up being, like, twelve.

I've always had questions about whether this is a good way to do voter registration. And Democratic campaigns usually keep their distance. But here's the key. This is fraud against ACORN. They end up paying people for registering more people then [sic; sorry, Josh] they actually signed up.

The Obama campaign is starting to talk about this nonsense:

In a conference call with reporters, campaign manager David Plouffe called the charge that ACORN was illegally registering voters (and that Obama had nefarious ties to the organization) a cynical "smokescreen" and an attempt to discourage people from going to the polls.

"This is just the start of what is going to be a very deliberate and cynical attempt to try and create confusion and challenge people inappropriately," he said. "They clearly, strategically, believe the more people who vote in this election, the less their chances are [for victory]."

But in a later essay, Josh had it right. This ACORN nonsense not about this election, it's about the next election:

Let's be clear about what this is. These are random stories about fake vote registrations. The Drudges and Fox scoundrels of the world seem to think that if someone fills out a voter registration card for Mickey Mouse, that Mickey Mouse might show up and cast a vote they're not entitled to cast. It doesn't and there is zero evidence of any voter fraud or anything that would make voter fraud more likely. The level of lying, bad faith or at best ignorance of the people making these claims is really beyond imagining. This isn't vote fraud. There's no evidence of vote fraud. Nothing. This is an effort of a losing political party to a) lay the groundwork for challenging their defeat at the polls b) lay the groundwork to pass laws to make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote.

Pay particular attention to a). Then pray that Obama wins in a blow-out, because if it's at all close, you'll look back on the 2000 post-election with a sense of nostalgia.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


The NY Times/CBS poll has just been released, and it has bad news for Senator McCain:

Over all, the poll found that if the election were held today, 53 percent of those determined to be probable voters said that they would vote for Mr. Obama and 39 percent said they would vote for Mr. McCain.

A fourteen point difference! That's incredible.

Voters who said that their opinions of Mr. Obama had changed recently were twice as likely to say that they had gotten better as to say they had gotten worse. And voters who said that their views of Mr. McCain had changed were three times more likely to say that they had gotten worse than to say they had improved.

And what was it that caused three out of four to say their opinion of McCain had gotten worse? Was it his fumbling about the economy? Not according to the probable voters:

The top reasons cited by those who said that [they] thought less of Mr. McCain were his recent attacks and his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate. (The vast majority said that their opinions of Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, and Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, had remained unchanged in recent weeks.) But in recent days, Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin have scaled back their attacks on Mr. Obama, although Mr. McCain suggested he might aggressively take on Mr. Obama in Wednesday’s debate.


Wow oh wow oh wow. But watch out! As we've seen before, polls can change quickly. This just makes tomorrow night that much more important for McCain. He's got to bring up Ayers (see prior post). But will he get on the voter fraud bamboozlement train? The negative campaigning has backfired on him, but at this point, what alternative does he have?

Taking the Gloves Off

You'll recall that, before the second presidential debate, McCain and Palin said McCain would "take the gloves off" in his debate dealings with Obama. People generally saw that as a promise to raise the specter of Bill Ayers. But he didn't.

Obama was surprised: "I am surprised that, you know, we've been seeing some pretty over-the-top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to my face. But I guess we've got one last debate. So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate."

McCain, who doesn't seem to be able to find one model of honor and stick with it, saw that as a challenge to a duel on the Heights of Weehauken. In an interview with a St. Louis radio station, he said:

"I was astonished to hear [Obama] say that he was surprised that I didn’t have the guts” to bring up Ayers.

"I think he is probably ensured that it will come up this time.”

This might be the only interesting confrontation in the debate, but it's more high risk for Obama than for McCain, who, face it, hasn't got much to lose at this point. The down side for McCain is that it will remind everyone of his negative campaigning, which has not moved the polls one inch but has put everybody in a nasty mood. The down side for Obama is if he is perceived to stammer or seem evasive in his answer.

How will McCain bring it up? And how will Obama shoot it down?

We've got to think the Obama campaign had this thought out long ago. Will his response bring up McCain's own dalliance with a convicted felon and known terrorist? We'll see.

Update: Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly has been thinking about this, too.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Faux News and the Bill Ayers Story

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has a remarkable look at one of the "experts" Sean Hannity at Faux News gave air time to in his "documentary" about Obama. You've got to read it.

Here's part of this "expert's" delusion:

I think a community organizer in Barack Obama's case was somebody that was in training for a radical overthrow of the government. You have to really stretch to believe his story that he was living in New York City. He was earning 50,000 to 60,000 a year. And he left this to come to Chicago, to a city where he knew no one, to suddenly start, quote, "organizing," unquote, people.

In my opinion, Barack Obama had already been influenced by his radical ideology and philosophy, probably had met William Ayers in New York and was coming here to lay the foundations for what he thought would be some sort of a political movement that he would be a part of.

My view is that the community organizing was actually kind of sham event that really Bill Ayers was testing him. Because the way these radicals work, they don't give you a big project until you pass muster with a small project. And so they sent him out to Chicago to see what he would do. He passed the test.

Is this what McCain is suggesting when he asks, as he has at his rallies, "Who is the REAL Barack Obama?" It certainly is. If you doubt that, take a look at this McCain video:

He's John McCain, and he approved that message.

If you just can't spare the time to read the whole Hilzoy story, at least read this part of a court filing made by the same Faux "expert":

6. While plaintiff was absent from his property, this property was seized by the defendant Jews.

7. Substantially all of the "bankruptcy judges" who have had connection with plaintiff's property have been Jews.

8. All of the trustees appointed by said judges have been Jews.

9. All of the counsel for said trustees have been Jews.

10. The Jews speak and intrigue among themselves, but refuse to talk with plaintiff, except when they have him in chains Messiah-style.

11. Defendant Lavien has flatly asserted it is permissible for him to meet in secret with Jewish lawyers to determine how to loot plaintiff's property.

12. Substantially the entire bankruptcy court system in the entire United States is manipulated and controlled by Jewish judges and Jewish lawyers.

13. Although Jews constitute about 3% of the national population, they constitute almost 100% of the bankruptcy court judges and lawyers.

14. In almost 100% of the cases filed in Connecticut, Jewish bankruptcy judges appoint Jewish bankruptcy trustees who choose Jewish lawyers to represent them.

15. The court may take judicial notice of the fact--exemplified in this case--that Jews, historically and in daily living, acted through clans and in wolf pack syndrome to exclude all goyim from their circles.

16. Whatever they may say publically, in private Jews hate Christians, and have paranoid delusions about themselves and Christians. Jews think of themselves as a master race, or "chosen people," and hate Christians for worshiping a man whom Jews assassinated and regard as a poseur.

Something has to be done about Faux News.

Krugman Awarded Nobel Prize!

Paul Krugman, the NY Times columnist who is quoted here more than anybody, has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics. Krugman drops by here frequently (NOT!), so congratulations, Paul.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Wish I Felt Less Uneasy About This

We're starting to see "Obama's won it" stories pop up all over the place.

McClatchy Newspapers is running a story with the headline, "Daring to utter the 'L' word: Obama on track to a landslide".

WASHINGTON — Barring a dramatic change in the political landscape over the next three weeks, Democrats appear headed toward a decisive victory on Election Day that would give them broad power over the federal government.


Three renowned analysts of congressional races — Cook, Sabato and Stuart Rothenberg — this week all increased their forecasts of Democratic gains.

In the House, they expect the Democrats to pick up 15 to 30 seats. In the Senate, they expect the Democrats to pick up six to nine.

"I now can't rule out 60 seats for this November," Rothenberg said. That's the magic number a majority needs under Senate rules to break filibusters — and something that no party or president has enjoyed for nearly three decades.

All tend to agree that the Democrats are all but certain to pick up Senate seats in New Mexico and Virginia. Other potential gains are in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon, Minnesota, Mississippi, Kentucky and North Carolina.

In North Carolina, Dole trails by an average of 2 points. In Kentucky, McConnell leads by an average of just 7 points — he won by 65 percent to 35 percent in 2002.

Even in solidly Republican Georgia, Sen. Saxby Chambliss finds himself in a fight, leading by only 3 points.

"When you're paying attention to Georgia and Kentucky, wow," Cook said. "Who would have thought Republicans would be having problems in places like this?"

Politico says:

Barring a game-changing performance at Wednesday's debate, which is the last set piece of the cycle, expect pundits rushing to stay ahead of the curve to be penning Obama coronations and McCain lookbacks by Thursday morning.

We'll rush ahead of them by saying it's hard to see a path to 270 for McCain barring a new crisis that knocks the economy off of the front page, or at least below the fold.

And this Miami Herald story gives a peek at the finger-pointing that's already started in the Republican Party.

''There are a lot of folks who have never been in a foxhole before and are clearly nervous,'' said Brian Ballard, a major McCain fundraiser. ``There is some finger-pointing going on a little bit too soon.''

Even Gov. Charlie Crist, who helped deliver Florida for McCain during the primary, said he will spend the final weeks before Election Day minding the state's weak economy rather than campaigning for the Arizona senator.

''When I have time to help, I'll try to do that,'' Crist said last week, after he flew around the state with McCain running mate Sarah Palin. Saturday, he skipped a McCain football rally and instead went to Disney World.

Once considered a potential running mate, Crist had pledged to do all he could for McCain and spent several days this summer campaigning for the Republican nominee in and outside Florida. He faults the tough economic times for McCain's difficult time in Florida, where he trails rival Barack Obama by about 5 percentage points in the polls.

Obviously, we'd rather be reading stories about Obama being on top that the other guy. But take it from Al Gore, Tom Bradley, and Douglas Wilder: It ain't over 'til it's over. Okay, that was Yogi Berra, but you get the message.

Update: Steve Clemons at The Washington Note is uneasy, too.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Good News Out of Georgia

If ever there was a man who didn't deserve to sit in the U.S. Senate (and there have been plenty, actually), that man is Saxby Chambliss.

Chambliss is the low-life who beat decorated Vietnam veteran, and triple amputee, Max Cleland by running ads declaring Cleland did not have "the courage to lead."

It worked so well for Chambliss in 2002 that the tactic was reprised in the Swift Boat Liars ads against Kerry two years later.

But like the title says, there's good news coming out of Georgia. Saxby Shameless, as he's known, is running into trouble. Here are the polling trend lines:

And the most recent poll has got it at 45% each. A few months ago, it was too much to hope for.

A Milestone

If you look at the countdown clock above, and if it's still October 11, you'll notice there are just 100 days left in the presidency of George W. Bush.

As Fearless Leader himself so aptly put it, just two days ago:

"We'll get through this deal."

The Madness of King George W

It's probably safe to say that nobody is ever going to write a book on leadership using George W. Bush as a positive example. But that's not the way he sees it:

...[A]s he spends his last months in office trying to avert a global economic collapse, Mr. Bush has been telling people privately that it’s a good thing he’s in charge.

“He said that if it was going to happen at all, he was glad it was happening under his presidency, because he had a good group of people in D.C. working for him,” Dru Van Steenberg, one of several small-business owners who met with Mr. Bush in San Antonio earlier this week. The president expressed the same sentiment, others said, during a similar private session in Chantilly, Va., the next day.

“He said that whoever was going to take over in January was going to have a huge crisis on their hands the day they come into office,” Ms. Van Steenberg added. “He thought by this happening now, that perhaps everyone could see signs of improvement before the next president comes into office.”

Others see it differently:

President Bush peeked out the window of the Oval Office yesterday morning at the crowd awaiting him in the Rose Garden, then went back to pacing. He had little reason to be enthusiastic about the task at hand.

It was the 20th time in recent days that he had tried to calm the markets, according to a CBS News tally. The previous 19 times, the market ignored him and continued its downward plunge. And this time would be no different.

A few minutes before he walked into the Rose Garden to say that "the American people can be confident in our economic future," the Dow Jones industrials were trading as high as 8530. A few minutes after his speech, the index was at 8224.

His chore of reassuring the markets thus completed, Bush turned to more pleasant tasks. He hopped on Air Force One and flew down to Florida for the first of the day's two fundraisers. He had some urgent work to do on the Republican Party's liquidity crisis.