B After The Fact

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Do Democrats Get Out of Suicide Mode? (Another Installment of How To Choose Between Democratic Candidates You Know Are Going to Lose in November)


So, Hillary did not get her 10% victory in Pennsylvania. And her arguments to the superdelegates as to why they should nominate her are no better than the arguments of any other white Democrat who is eligible to run for President. I am forming an exploratory committee.

Hillary did not need to prove it to me, since I have been blogging on this point for months, but she proved it to everyone else -- that the country is not ready for a President who is a person of color.

However, in making her case, Hillary has basically made it impossible to get the support of any person who actually listens to her or her husband speak. I expect Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter to endorse Hillary any day now.

In seeking her less than 10% victory (i.e, a victory not worth a piece of used toilet paper), Hillary made peace with Richard Scialfe, the man who financed the Paula Jones investigation that lead directly to the disclosure of Monica Lewinsky that lead directly to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

To answer a long standing query of my friend, A Red Mind In A Blue State, Hillary has now apologized to the vast right wing conspiracy.

I haven't.

Let Hillary form her owned damned party. (Which I suspect she'll do anyway if she is not nominated.)

Of course, since Hillary is just selfish joke, and a third consecutive Republican term at this point is an existential threat to the Constitution, I will have no trouble pulling the lever for Hillary if she is the Democratic candidate.


I had been saying all along that the country was not ready for a President who is a person of color. Usually, I phrase it cynically. I say that a black candidate will find that no one will vote for him because the Republicans will make sure that the voting booths are broken.

However, the less cynical reason can be found in the issue of the Reverend Wright, and the Philadelphia speech, the best speech a Democrat has made since Kennedy's inaugural speech.

Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell can spend decade after decade spewing divisive lies about all sorts of topics they know less than nothing about. Every Republican office holder has a picture of themselves shaking hands with one of these so-called "Men of God" hanging proudly on their wall. Yet no one really believes that even President Bush takes what these men say seriously.

John McCain hopped on an airplane to beg for the endorsement of Reverend Hagee, the most anti-Catholic person in the Western Hemisphere. Yet we all laugh at McCain's opportunisic pandering of the Texas megachurch vote. No one thinks that Senator McCain hates Catholics. We just assume that poor John -- the man who will have his finger on the nuclear button next January 20 -- is having another senior moment.

Yet the liberal reaction to Reverend Wright and to the entire notion of what Black Ministers may say and do, shows a complete lack of understanding (myself included) of what actually goes on in the black community on a daily basis. Barack Obama was supposed to leave his church? And go where? Do we really know that Reverend Wright is a radical in the broad scheme of things?

Why do we assume that Barack Obama is the only person in the United States who pays 100% attention to everything his minister has to say?

Obama's speech in Philadelphia appears to have been everywhere admired as an act of political jujitsu, and nowhere taken to heart.

Liberal America is not going to elect a candidate from a world they know so little about, and seem so incapable of learning about.

Forget about what's going to happen when Obama has to face Conservative America as well.


It's OK for Hillary to channel Jesse Helms in her race against Obama.

Why isn't it OK for Obama to ask who is going to be holding Bill Clinton's DNA while he's in Washington? Does he get to do a nostalgia tour of the Oval Office on quiet summer weekends?

When is Obama finally going to mention to the family values crowd that the only one of the 3 remaining candidates with no history of marital problems is -- um --Barack Obama?

Oh, we can't mention that John McCain started attending to business with his present wife while he was still married to his previous wife?

When is Obama going to try to backtrack from two of the stupidest things he has said on the campaign trail?

a -- That Hillary Clinton was an important part of the Clinton Administration (she even had her own personal Secretary of State -- Sinbad), and

b -- That Indiana, birthplace of the KKK and Dan Quayle, will be a fair test of how the campaign of an African American is doing.


Hillary has said it over and over. And I am convinced. This entire Democratic primary season is a waste of time. The super delegates can swing the election to either candidate.

However, neither Clinton nor Obama is electable now.

The super delegates can vote as a block to deadlock the convention and slowly squeeze the juice out of the Clinton and Obama campaigns.

People who make that argument, like me, tend to hope that Al Gore will emerge from a brokered convention as the Democratic candidate.

But why should I hate Al Gore so much? What did he ever do to me?

Al Gore spent his whole life looking for a movement he could lead. He has it now. Why make him risk it?

Why should Al Gore be hated by every non-white man and every woman of any race in America for stealing the nomination for President?

No. Right now I have some other Tennessee Democrat in mind.

Harold Ford, Jr.

I am sure there are better ideas out there. Let me know.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

How To Choose Between Democratic Candidates You Know Are Going To Lose In November

(Third in an ongoing series)



Since I am blogging, I have the following strongly held opinions about last week's debate, which I haven't seen.

a. I thought some of the questions were absurd, but Obama should have had an answer to all of them. They were none of them hard or unexpected questions.

b. What made them hard for Obama was that, as lame as the Gibson/ Stephanopolous questions were, they were asked out of a false assumption that both candidates seem to accept -- the Pennsylvania primary, specifically, and the general election, beyond, will be decided by so-called "Reagan Democrats."

c. Obama cannot possibly win an election on that basis, and he is unwise to even try. All the "Reagan Democrats" are Republicans. If they weren't, John Edwards would still be a factor in the primaries.

d. The election will be decided on what "new" voters decide to do. John McCain has recently said that the "new" voters will vote for him. Maybe he's right.

e. The other false assumption is that a key issue in the primary campaign is "electability". It isn't true that the superdelegates have to, or are even supposed to, choose a nominee on the basis of electability. Hillary Clinton likes to say that, but what else is she supposed to say? No. Superdelegates are supposed to act in the best interest of the Democratic Party. It may be in the best interest of the Democratic Party to nominate the candidate that will lead to the happiest and most motivated warriors, the ones most likely to give money and time to the Democratic Party going forward.

f. So, for example, a lot of young people will be happy to give their time and passion to elect Obama, even against long odds. A lot of middle age women feel likewise about Hillary. They do not care about their electability in a general election. They care about the progress being made by having the first African-American Presidential nominee, or the first woman Presidential nominee.

g. If Hillary does not win the Pennsylvania primary by more than 10 percent, then the numbers work in such a way that her arguments to superdelegates are no different from the arguments that John Edwards or you or I can make to the superdelegates.

h. The notion that this election was there for the Democrats to win, but for the constant bickering between Obama and Clinton is nonsense. There are no slam dunk wins when your candidate in 2008 is either a woman or an African-American.

i. Hillary can win against McCain if McCain makes enough missteps. He could select any one of the people who ran for the Republican nomination against him to be his Vice President. He could be caught with his pants down (hopefully just figuratively). Facts about his health could come out (he could have a real senior moment on the stump). Facts about his wife's finances could come out (McCain wants the Democratic candidate to accept public finance limits that McCain will gleefully get around by getting loans from his wife). Most likely, if McCain does all those things, Hillary will lose anyway. Even so, Hillary does have that snowball's chance.

j. It still says here that the country is not ready for an African American President. If it turns out the country is ready, we'll never know about it, because there will be no voting booths available for non-whites and other liberal riff-raff to vote from.

k. That was the entire point about the U.S. Attorney scandal.

l. You could still look at all of that and say that the future is with Obama, or with someone more like him. You could still say the right fight is more important than the wrong win.

m. Or you could say that given the stakes, winning is too important to give it up to the romantic vision of youth. A paralysing campaign will leave Hillary Clinton in no shape to govern. It is worth it if it means we can stop digging the hole that the Republicans are so intent on burying the United States in.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

How To Choose Between Democratic Candidates You Know Are Going To Lose In November

(Part of an Ongoing Series)


"But I'm a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall him - If he should get shot in the head by a police officer, or if he should hang himself in his jail cell - or if he's struck by a bolt of lightning, then I'm going to blame some of the people in this room, and that I do not forgive."

Clearly, Hillary is hoping for some unlucky accident to befall Obama and rescue her campaign.

Therefore, if any of Don Corleone's worries should occur to Obama, Hillary should take some of the blame, not because she loves to shoot guns, but simply for the negative karmic energy she is intentionally creating.

In other words, just because she will be the last person standing in such an unfortunate circumstance, it will not mean she is entitled to the nomination. In fact, it should be a disqualifier -- an opportunity for the Democratic convention to seek a nominee who can truly beat McCain.

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How To Choose between Democratic Candidates You Know Are Going to Lose in November

(Part of an ongoing series)

(Not an original thought, but I'll go on record)

Barack Obama said that certain people, who feel left behind in life, may find themselves "bitter". That statement may or may not contain a kernel of truth, but to the extent its true, there are, as Obama himself has admitted, about a million better ways to say it.

Hillary Clinton has responded in part, by handing out "I'm Not Bitter" buttons to her potential supporters in the middle of Pennsylvania.

It's hard to know what she is thinking. Obama misspoke, but Hillary panicked.

I've said all along that Hillary's base consisted of people who do not have the leisure time to read blogs all day. But maybe Hillary doesn't see it that way.

Maybe she should be thinking more about her responses to Obama, instead of tossing back shots on a Saturday night

(Have you noticed recently, in moments when she's tossing shots or talking about her background as a hunter, how much Hillary looks like the Big Dog's Mom? I'll try to post pictures, as soon as I can figure out how!)

Anyway Hillary's response indicates to me for the first time that, despite what I've said on a miillion different blogs, Obama has a puncher's chance of winning the Pennsylvania primary outright.

Because Hillary is running around looking for voters who would proudly wear an "I'm Not Bitter" button during this Presidential campaign. And there's a word for voters like that --

-- Republicans

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An Original Observation ...

... Courtesy of my father, who lives in Florida part of the year, and has his ear close to the ground the rest of the time

My dad believes that when McCain wins in Florida in November (and therefore wins the general election), the margin of victory

-- will be from Democrats who are angry at Howard Dean for messing with their primary.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

We Had Legal Opinions

Bush suggested in the interview that no one should be surprised that his senior advisers, including Vice President Cheney, would discuss details of the interrogation program. "I told the country we did that," Bush said.
"And I also told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it."

George W. Bush has an MBA from Harvard. He worked in the oil and gas industry. He is, on his paternal grandfather's side, a 4th generation multi-millionaire. He is, on his paternal grandmother's side, one of the oldest families of wealth in the nation. That doesn't even take into account where Barbara Bush got all of her money from.

I go through that whole litany of George Bush's pedigree to emphasize that George Bush understands the difference between what he has -- a legal memo from John Yoo, an employee of the Department of Justice -- and what he does not have -- a legal opinion.

It is a difference that makes a difference.

I work for a law firm that never has, and never will, issue a legal opinion. We write contracts, we make phone calls, we write legal memos, and we give plenty of advice, but we do not write legal opinions. If we absolutely, positively, have to give a legal opinion in order to close a deal, we hire another law firm that is willing to give legal opinions.

Because when you render a legal opinion, the lawyer is basically guaranteeing the validity of the contract. He is guaranteeing that the oil and gas tax shelter will be deductible under the IRS Rules. He is guaranteeing that that all of the complex and contradictory rules of state and Federal securities law have been complied with, and that no one will be accused of securities fraud.

He is guaranteeing that the entire Executive Branch of the United States government can engage in a perpetual scheme to torture and pay no penalty for it.

And if the lawyer issuing the legal opinion is wrong, it is the lawyer (or rather the lawyers insurance company) that will pay the damages. If the lawyer issues too many wrong opinions, he will become uninsurable -- and will find himself out of business.

In theory, a lawyer who issues an opinion letter blessing, for example, a fraudulent mortgage-backed securities scheme, could theoretically spend time in jail. Although the legal system will not really do that to another lawyer.

A lawyer working for the Justice Department is not on the hook for the damages at Gitmo and Abu Gharib.

So -- as the President certainly knows -- you can not have an legal opinion letter on the legality of torture if you don't have a lawyer who pays some penalty -- like getting waterboarded -- if the opinion letter turns out to be wrong.

And that lawyer is certainly not going to get waterboarded if the person who requested the opinion letter has the power to pardon the lawyer.

The notion that a lawyer in a subordinate position (yes I know John Yoo had a day job, but still, he wasn't the Attorney General) could issue an invalid opinion letter and that the entire executive branch could be allowed to rely on that invalid opinion letter to implement a policy of torture has to fit some definition of "high crime and misdemeanor".

Even if it doesn't, if the Congress understood their jobs -- and how their jobs have been rendered useless by this President -- they would impeach the President just to get this point across -- that the future of checks and balances and that the future of the Constitution is more important then serving whichever lobbyist is making the Congressman rich today.

However, that entire ethic in public service, once hard to see through the mist, has now disappeared completely.

If the President did not intend to hide the entire Executive Branch behind the invalid legal opinion all along, he would not have asked for it. If the opinion --- that basically says that in foreign policy, in wartime, the President can do whatever he pleases -- was valid, Bush wouldn't have needed it.

Bush wouldn't have needed to go through a nationwide talent search to find the only prominent attorney in the entire country crazy enough to issue an opinion like that.

The President just would have done his job, secure in the knowledge that it really was his job.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Congestion Pricing Hits Heavy Traffic

Another New York Times Editorial bemoaning the most recent hurdle toward establishing "Congestion Pricing" in midtown and lower Manhattan -- i.e. charging motorists an additional toll to drive into certain parts of Manhattan during weekdays.

The current proposed car toll of $8, and the truck toll of $20, was supposed to be an incentive for a less crowded, greener Manhattan. The MTA, perpetually "cash strapped" (according to the MTA that is. An honest audit of their books awaits the End of Days), would use these fees to make capital improvements throughout the mass transit system, providing further incentives for people to us mass transit.

What the MTA is doing with the $2 a day it gets (one-way) from the millions of people it services? Apparently it invests the money in mortgage-backed securities. Three days after the last round of fare increases went into effect, the MTA announced that due to downturns in the real estate market (?), the capital improvements it promised in exchange for the fare increase would have to be cancelled. The fare increase itself remains in full force and effect.

The U.S. Department of Transportation supports congestion pricing, and offered the City of New York $354 million dollars in transportation funds. The deadline for receiving these funds was yesterday. What was so magic about yesterday is -- well I guess you have to know more about magic than I do. One suspects that Mayor Bloomberg asked the Dept of Transportation to put deadline pressure on the New York State Legislature.

Sheldon Silver, the Democratic Speaker of the State Assembly, killed the legislation yesterday afternoon without bringing it up for a vote. He claimed he didn't have the votes. I sort of believe him. He may have been able to cobble together a majority using Republicans, but New York State does not cross aisles that way.

I strongly doubt Silver had, in the famous words of Denny Hastert, "a majority of the majority". Too many outer-borough Democrats opposed congestion pricing.

The sticking point here is that

a. Congestion Pricing means less cars in Manhattan, more cars, congestion and pollution here in Queens as thousands of commuters from the suburbs park their cars here in Forest Hills or Jamaica or Astoria (or whatever the corresponding areas are in Brooklyn and the Bronx) and take the subway the rest of the way.

b. Congestion Pricing, therefore, is simply a scheme to raise the
quality of living standards for the people living in certain parts of
Manhattan at the price (and the costs and fees) of dumping the problems of traffic, congestion, noise and pollution to less politically savvy people.

c. A Congestion Pricing scheme that was really designed to benefit the greatest number of New Yorkers would be more integrated into the Mayor's NYC2030 Plan. No one has heard the words "NYC2030" in over a year. (People say that Bloomberg is a RINO; but like George Bush he spends massive amounts of time and money unveiling plans that he completely forgets about the next day.)

d. The notion that the MTA can be depended on to keep its promises, or keep tabs on the windfall amount of congestion pricing income, is a complete joke, unless the New York Times keeps saying it, in which case it is simply a massive sign of disrespect to those of us who know better. (Everyone)

e. As no one seems to remember from either 9-11 or Hurricane Katrina, when the Federal Government promises "new money", it is normally money that they previously promised -- repackaged.

f. The Mayor is less cynical than I. He expects to see the Federal money. Which may mean that he already knows which of his friends will get the contracts to "privatize mass transit." Which means, of course, that here in the outer boroughs we will soon get to make the switch from adequate mass transportation to no mass transportation. Some friends of the Mayor, however, are about to get richer, richer, richer. As they like to say in The Sopranos "Where's my taste?"

Eventually there will be a congestion pricing plan. And I will bemoan the destruction of so many beautiful neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn to a barrage of pollution, traffic and noise. But the Manhattan-based newspapers will talk about how much nicer Midtown is for tourists. Which counts for something -- but not at the heavy price proposed.

However, I am glad that my elected Representatives, Congressman Weiner, State Senator Stavisky, Assemblyman Hevesi, and City Councilwoman Katz, keep holding out for the best deal possible.

No taxation without services.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

10 Things You Should Know About John McCain (but probably don't)

moveon.org has asked its supporters to send along these 10 things you should know about John McCain But Probably Don't .

The footnotes can be found in the direct link.

1) John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1

2) According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."2

3) His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.3

4) McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."4

5) The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.5

6) He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.6

7) Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."7

8) McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8

9) McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."9

10) He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10