Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Democrats Debate in Philly – Would You Buy a Used Car From This Woman?

This is a quick take, more depth to follow. For the first time the other candidates took on Hillary and kicked the living crap out of her. The only question is whether enough Democrats saw it to understand what a duplicitous piece of crap she really is. I called her Richard Nixon a few months ago and she was Nixon tonight, minus the flop sweat. It is time for the main stream media, which has fawned over her and anointed her as if she was anything other than the American Evita, to raise the real issues and treat her like the fraud she is.
Several of the candidates were surprising tonight and this is the order I would vote for them based on what I saw and their own histories:

1. Chris Dodd – A shame he’s not being taken seriously. Right on the war, right on the Iran vote, right on Hillary, and most importantly, right on driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. He also has the guts to talk about decriminalizing marijuana.
2. John Edwards – Took it to HRC in a big way. Tough enough, smart enough, and for the first time, made himself look like he really belonged in the top tier.
3. Joe Biden – Still the smartest guy in the room, also the funniest. Went after HRC on her benighted Iran vote, complete grasp of every issue. Given the field, his poll numbers are sad.
4. Barack Obama – Formed a one-two punch against the wicked witch of the East and scored big. Still tends to wander a bit, strong on geopolitics, but the immigration issue is not strong for him or Edwards.
5. Bill Richardson – Strong on Iraq, doesn’t equivocate on most issues. He’s been a Governor, in case you didn’t know.
6. (tie) the Loon and the Liar – Kucinich is right on a lot of things, handled the UFO thing with humor, is in favor of impeaching the scum in the oval office. Still off the charts in too many ways.
The other L word was Hillary, who ducked and dodged and slipped and hopefully, fell. Her defense of her Iran vote was ludicrous and, as I said in my last post, either a lie or a serious ignorance of the middle east. And, as if to prove the point that everyone else made about her duplicity, she took a simple question about driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants and answered it at least two different ways. Anyone who trusts this woman is a fool.

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President Hillary Clinton

No, it’s not a special Halloween edition – The Three Scariest Words. Frankly, President Rudy Guiliani and President Mitt Romney are scarier, although they would be faced with Democratic majority in Congress which would be more likely to fight them than they would Hillary. The Shorenstein Center did a study on the early months of the campaign in the main stream media which noted that there was an emphasis placed almost entirely on the horse race rather than on the policies and potential Presidencies of the respective candidates. Since Hillary is the most likely winner, I figured I’d take a shot at this less frequent kind of analysis.
Now analyzing Hillary is tricky, since it involves parsing her positions in search of the truth, as well as looking at her history. Given that I believe little of what she says on the campaign trail, since most of it is what her pollster, Mark Penn, believes to be what people want to hear, this becomes exceptionally difficult. Let’s look at various issues to see what President HRC would be like.
Her name: I said President HRC but she is now running just as HC – the Rodham having disappeared for this campaign. I assume because polling data indicates that Bill Clinton is far more popular than anyone named Rodham. I assume that once elected, she’ll return to the name she used as Senator.
Iraq: In the early months of the campaign she screamed her big Iraq declaration “If George Bush doesn’t end the war in Iraq by January, 2009, I will!” She doesn’t say that anymore. She refuses to say she’ll end it by 2013. She’s the only Democrat who has not declared that U.S. troops will be out of combat operations in 2009. It’s clear she thinks she has effectively convinced the soft-headed Democrats that she’s anti-war, so she can return to the center for the general election. Her real position on Iraq is slightly to the left of Joe Lieberman. Despite her lie that she voted for the war just to give Bush the leverage to negotiate, there was not one piece of evidence that she opposed military action there, before or after it happened. Bill Clinton publicly supported it, she hasn’t split from him yet. It was not until Mark Penn told her she had to be anti-war to get the nomination that she spoke out against it. Look for the war to continue, albeit with fewer troops, which would happen no matter who the President is. The only way she gets us out is if she thinks she needs to to get reelected.
Iran: She voted for the retarded Senate resolution declaring Iran’s Republican Guard a terrorist organization. She was the only one of the Democratic candidates to do so, I assume because she figures she needs to vote that way for the general election. That the vote could be used by Bush to justify military action against Iran is irrelevant to her, since all that matters is her getting elected. Now that’s irresponsible, but the other interpretation, that she actually believes this to be a good idea is even worse. It demonstrates a frightening lack of understanding of Iran’s internal politics and bodes poorly for her ability to navigate in that part of the world. Of course, her Iraq position sort of does that already, but this is a little scarier. Will she, as a woman, feel the need to never look weak? Will this lead to military actions against Iran? If you aren’t a little frightened of that possibility, you are ignoring both her personality and her history.
Health Care: She will get nothing done on this because she has no ability to reach across the aisle for votes. The GOP will use her as a way to raise money and fire up their loyalists. What she will try to do is come up with a system to get more people health care without hurting insurance companies profits. Good luck with that one.
Trade: Given the amount of money her campaign has received from Chinese sources, many of them questionable, we can expect us to continue her husband’s policy of kowtowing to the People’s Republic. Given her close connections to big business and her husband’s support of Republican trade policies, we can count on more free trade agreements with some cosmetic side agreements which will generally be ignored.
Judicial Appointments: Pro-choice judges will be allowed to apply. The Supreme Court will get it’s first pro-choice judge in a decade, and maybe even a non-Catholic.
Torture: One could assume she would be opposed to it and would also close Guantanamo. But that could run into the “weak like a woman” thing she wants to avoid, so I’m less confident about these things than I might be. Look for more authoritative statements opposing these things, but I’m not sure they will be really meaningful.
Personal Freedoms: Here it gets tricky. The best hint we get of Hillary’s likely position on these things is the concept of “It Takes a Village”. She is a big believer in the nanny state. One of the few issues she has stepped to the forefront of is violent video games, where she shared the lead with Joe Lieberman. My expectation is that she will continue to oppose these things, along with misogynist lyrics in rap music, internet porn, and internet gambling. Both because she probably believes in those things and because it will allow her to show the religious right that she’s not the devil incarnate.
That's right, I'm not a fan. Many of you may find these positions just fine. If that's the case, to quote Hillary herself, she's your girl.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Simple Policy, Hard Decisions

It all seemed so logical and simple. We, and the rest of the civilized world, would root out terrorists, would fight them, would fight those countries who gave them haven, and those countries which supported them. This makes sense – if terrorists are the problem, those who help them are part of the problem. As time has gone by, the enforcement of this doctrine has been more and more difficult. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. King George surely had a different attitude toward the Sons of Liberty than we do now. Trying to define Hamas is nearly impossible. When the Russians tried to crush Chechnia, the Chechin rebels were either freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on whose side you were on. It left us paralyzed, between those who seemed to be fighting for independence and a nation-state under attack by rebels using tools which could be described as terroristic.
As bad as those are, the latest problems involving Turkey and the Kurds are far worse. It is very clear that Turkey is being attacked by a terrorist group, the PKK, trying to undermine their government and trying to “liberate” the Kurdish areas of Turkey. They are doing this by crossing the border from Iraq into Turkey and killing Turkish soldiers. It is clear and unequivocal terrorism. The Turks have given parliamentary approval to pursue these people into Iraq. This is where it all gets quite messy for the U. S.
The Kurds are our best friends in Iraq. The Turks are our best friends in the Islamic world – the only stable, secular democracy among Islamic countries. They are a member of NATO and have a government which wants to be part of the western world. In fact, one could say that we are obligated, as a NATO ally, to help defend Turkey against these attacks. Unfortunately, this would cause us to attack Iraq, which means attacking ourselves, which...okay, we’re getting more than a little messed up here. The government of Iraq has little control over Kurdistan. The dirty little secret is that the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region has little control over that region. The PKK has effective control over much of the area and stopping them from their goals will be very difficult. Most likely, their first choice would be Turkey attacking the Kurds, which, they probably feel, would unite the Kurds in opposition to the Turks. Yet what choice does Turkey have? The longer they do nothing, the longer they allow incursions by terrorists to result in the death of their soldiers, the worse they look. And if the secular government of Turkey looks weak, a religious party could well look to seize the opportunity. You can hear the speeches now: “See what allying with the West gets us? See how being friends with the U.S. Is worthless?” Thousands are in the streets now, following the killing of 12 Turkish soldiers and the injuring of 17 civilians in a wedding party with a roadside bomb. Meanwhile, the Kurds have made it clear they won’t tolerate any Turkish invasion to get PKK rebels. Iraq has reacted angrily to the threat of a Turkish invasion of the north.
For many months, experts have been warning that the north of Iraq was going to be the biggest problem there. Those warnings are coming true now. The Turks, justifiably, based on our stated policy and their alliance with us, are demanding we help them against the PKK. The Iraqi government is adamantly opposed to that and our best friends in Iraq, the Kurds, are particularly against it. What’s a superpower to do? The best we can hope for is that faced with such an immensely complex decision, Bush and Cheney’s heads explode. More likely, given their previous performance in the region, they’ll attempt to solve the problem by attacking Iran.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Don't Knock the Rock

So your team is no longer playing and the league championship series are starting tonight – who should you root for? I mean, you don’t have to have a rooting interest, but face it, all sports are a lot more fun if you care. I am here today to make a suggestion. Join the longest suffering fans in the American League and root for the Cleveland Indians.
We all knew about the curse that was on the Red Sox – now gone. And every baseball fan knows the pain of the Cubs, heck, there’s a big sign across the street from Wrigley reminding you how many years it’s been since their last World Series win. But is there really a big difference between 99 years and 59 years to a baseball fan? Look, there may be a few 70 year-old Indian fans who remember 1948 fondly, but seriously, 98% of them have never tasted the ultimate victory.
Cleveland sports fans have never had the best of luck. The Cavs have been a joke, the Browns won a championship in 1964, then, decades later, left town just before they were about to win again. They gave them a new team named the Browns, but they are somewhere between bad and pathetic. There was a time the Indians were good. When the Black Sox were kicked out of baseball, the Indians were the beneficiaries, winning the AL pennant, their first, and the World Series. Yet even that team is known more for a tragedy – the in-game death of Ray Chapman, than their victory.
It was after World War II that the Indians had their first revival, with Bill Veeck owning them. They were the first AL team to sign a black ballplayer, Larry Doby, and he was a key part of the 1948 championship team, led by player-manager Lou Boudreau. The Tribe ran into a Yankee dynasty, finishing second in 1951, 1952, and 1953, Then in 1954 they had a monster season, winning 111 games behind one of the great pitching staffs of all time. Big favorites in the Series, they got swept by the New York Giants, led by Willie Mays. They finished second three times in the next five years. In that stretch a new young star emerged – Rocky Colavito. Good-looking, strong, a monster HR hitting right fielder, with one of the greatest arms ever seen, Rocky was a hero to the fans in Cleveland. They could overlook his strikeouts, even though old-timers would grouse about them. They adopted the saying from the new musical form to express their attitudes – Don’t Knock the Rock. Rocky led the league in HR and RBI in 1958, then led in HR again in 1959, finishing one off the RBI lead for a team that finished second.
Two years earlier, the Indians had hired a new general manager, Frank “Trader” Lane, one of the worst GM’s ever. He loved making trades. When he had the job in St. Louis, he actually had worked out a trade for Stan Musial, before the owner stopped him. In his first two years in Cleveland he made an incredible 59 trades involving 120 players. Late in the 1960 season, he actually traded his manager for another team’s manager. Before that though, he had done the unthinkable, on the last day of spring training in 1960, Lane traded Rocky Colavito. He didn’t like Rocky, Lane felt he should hit fewer HR and get more hits. He actually put a clause in his contract giving him a bonus if he hit less than 30 HR. He traded this 26 year-old star, the most popular player on his team, for Harvey Kuenn, his kind of player, who had led the AL in batting in 1959.
Some say the franchise was cursed because of that trade. Others say Bobby Bragan, the manager whom Lane fired in 1958 actually cursed them. Whoever or whatever was responsible, the Indians entered one of the longest stretches of futility in baseball history. For the next 34 years, the Indians would not only fail to win a pennant, they never finished within ten games of first place. Finally, in the 1990’s with a new ballpark, and an exciting core of young players, the Indians were revived, twice getting to the World Series and twice losing it. A few years later, the team had been broken up, the nightly sellouts at Jacobs Field were no more, and a new regime came in to rebuild – again.
And now they are back, having defeated the Yankees. To my friends in Red Sox Nation – I have to part ways with you on this series, you had your turn, now the Indians fans need theirs. Jacobs Field won’t be Jacobs Field much longer, the name will be sold to some bank, or telco, or meat packing company. It would be great if The Jake could have a World Champion. So for all the legends, for Speaker and Coveleski, for Rapid Robert Feller and Sudden Sam McDowell, for Al Rosen and Larry Doby, for Ray Chapman and Herb Score and most of all for the long-suffering fans of Cleveland – Go Tribe!
(And if you want a political note, along with a copy of the U.S. Constitution and a prayer card, the one thing Dennis Kucinich has with him at all times is a Topps Rocky Colavito card.)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Where Was Alan Keyes?

In a spirit of bipartisanship bordering on masochism, I watched the Republican Economic debate last night. The usual suspects were there, plus the debate debut of Fred Thompson. Missing was Alan Keyes, who made what can best be described as the ultimate token appearance by showing up at the “Urban” debate hosted by Tavis Smiley, as if to say “look, we have one too”. Of course, when Republicans talk about money, they’re talking to and for white people; mostly rich white people, with a smattering of very rich white people thrown in. So there really was no point in having Keyes show up again.
As for the debate itself, apparently, all these guys believe in the free market. Rudy spent a lot of his time attacking Hillary Clinton. Romney spent his time attacking Rudy. McCain spent his time attacking Iraq. Ron Paul attacked the war in Iraq. Tom Tancredo attacked illegal immigrants and in a mild surprise, Duncan Hunter attacked China. It’s not that Hunter wouldn’t attack the other things, but China appears to be his main target. Sam Brownback attacked single-parent families, while Mike Huckabee hates the IRS. Fred Thompson attacked insomnia, with a performance which could graciously be described as tepid.
If Mitt Romney is the happy warrior in this race – when asked the greatest threat to America’s economic future, he answered, to all intents and purposes, pessimism – then Thompson is the Grinch. It was a little hard to follow at times, through his soporific style, but either things are good and getting worse, or things are not so good and getting worse. Along with being dull and uninspiring, he looks like he hasn’t slept in a few months. He actually makes John McCain look young. This guy isn’t winning anything.
If Hillary is the Democratic nominee, look for steady attacks on any program she might suggest, with words like “socialism” and “HillaryCare” being bandied about. There may have been many changes in Republican philosophy over the last half century – from isolationism to preemptive war, from fiscal responsibility to “let’s spend the grandkids money” – but one thing that has remained fixed like a constellation above is fear of any medical help from the government. Any government medical program, Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, you name it, will inevitably lead to (all together now) socialized medicine. You have to give them credit for consistency, if not intellectual depth or human decency.
The question arises, less than four months from Super Duper Tuesday, what to make of these guys? I may not be the best judge of what Republican voters will decide – but the fact is, the Republican Party has not had this kind of wide open race in anyone’s memory. I think you have to go back to Wendell Willkie to find their last nominee who wasn’t either obvious or the end result of a head-to-head battle, so no one really knows anything here. Looking at this group, it’s hard to find the clear leader. Rudy clearly has a goodly amount of popularity, but just as clearly has many problems with the base. Mitt Romney has been the Washington insider pick for months but he creeps me out and I suspect I’m not alone, even on the right. His religious problems in the South may not be transitory and while he has made some progress in the polls, at least in Rasmussen where he’s in the mid-teens, he’s spent a lot of cash to do it. Add in his horrible Gallup poll numbers (9% in the latest survey) and he looks like a far less formidable candidate than the insiders claim. Thompson, while knowledgeable, is really dull and his numbers have stalled. Ron Paul isn’t getting the nomination, but he has more money than McCain (which is why McCain isn’t winning anything) and could get a surprisingly large share of early primary votes from the outvoted but still existent libertarian wing of the party. Hunter, Brownback, and Tancredo are irrelevant. Which leaves us with Huckabee – solidly conservative, very religious, totally comfortable with himself, not a Mormon, an altogether pleasant fellow. His poll numbers are low – 6% in Rasmussen, 7% in Gallup (although Gallup posits that he could be on the verge of passing Romney) – but I would not be surprised to see him emerge in January as the real conservative standard bearer. I think the nominee comes from Rudy, Romney, or Huckabee, with Huckabee on the ticket in any case.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Whose Side Are You On?

In vetoing SCHIP legislation last week, George Bush, the evil one, demonstrated that he cares as little for the health and welfare of America’s children as he does for the health and welfare of our soldiers and our status in the world. He has called for a “bipartisan solution” to this standoff with Congress, ignoring the fact that this bill is itself, bipartisan in nature. To Bush, the evil one, a bipartisan solution to a problem is one where the Democrats give up and agree with him – see, Iraq funding as an example. It is more than a little sickening, that Bush, the evil one, never showed the slightest interest in vetoing the bloated spending bills coming out of the Republican Congress and which ran up huge budget deficits for six years. Suddenly, the evil one has found “religion”, now spending must be reined in. Of course, the specter of “socialized medicine” was raised by the evil one – men like him always lie and always attempt to use some form of fear-mongering to bring about their unwanted policies. It does not make their policies any less repugnant and it surely does not make them more morally fit to lead.
What should the Democrats do now? First, they should refuse to compromise any further with evil. They must stand up to Bush, whatever the cost. And, like this column does, they must start to use the word “evil” in reference to Bush. It is a powerful word, it is a meaningful word, and in his case, it is a totally accurate word. Democratic Presidential candidates must especially begin this drumbeat. They must not only reinforce that which the majority of Americans believe, but force the Republicans, especially their Presidential candidates, to make their own stand – will they support the evil one, or oppose him? I know the answer, but it is important for Americans to know it too. It is important because in the campaign next year, the Republican candidate will also talk about change, like he didn’t support every disgusting thing done by the filth in the Oval Office. We must force the issue, we must make them, as well as their cohorts in Congress, take a stand. Do you stand with the evil one, or with the health and welfare of America and its children?

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