Saturday, August 2, 2008

McCain's Negative Track May Work

Josh Marshall at TPM calls this a must-read today, and said much the same thing himself yesterday. Save to read if you're not in the mood for possible harsh truth.
the motor behind his operation now is Steve Schmidt, the shaven-headed strategist who earned his bones running Karl Rove’s war room in 2004, Frenchifying and de-war-heroizing John Kerry. What Schmidt and his associates have apparently concluded is that McCain’s weaknesses—on the election’s most salient issues and as a candidate—are so pronounced and Obama’s vulnerabilities so glaring that the low road is their guy’s best, and maybe only, route to the White House. They’ve concluded, in other words, that even if McCain may not be able to win the election in any affirmative sense, he might still wind up behind the big desk if he and his people can strip the bark off Obama with sufficiently vicious force.

The Anthrax Caper

I took a Glenn Greenwald hiatus for awhile. There's only so much I can take of hypocrisy, deceit, corruption and generally fatalistic information before I'm on overload. But, of course, Boingboing had to point me there when I was fooling around looking for something light.
Better read this. It's important to remember.
Then go to Greenwald if you want it all. Personally, I can wait, so I'm not even going to link. Go google. Sigh.

Glenn Greewald's article in Salon about Bruce E. Ivins' suicide is fascinating. Ivins was a senior biodefense researcher at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. He committed suicide in July shortly before the FBI was going to indict him for his alleged role in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
Here are a few excerpts, but the entire article is worth reading:
If the now-deceased Ivins really was the culprit behind the attacks, then that means that the anthrax came from a U.S. Government lab, sent by a top U.S. Army scientist at Ft. Detrick. Without resort to any speculation or inferences at all, it is hard to overstate the significance of that fact. From the beginning, there was a clear intent on the part of the anthrax attacker to create a link between the anthrax attacks and both Islamic radicals and the 9/11 attacks.
During the last week of October, 2001, ABC News, led by Brian Ross, continuously trumpeted the claim as their top news story that government tests conducted on the anthrax -- tests conducted at Ft. Detrick -- revealed that the anthrax sent to Daschele contained the chemical additive known as bentonite. ABC News, including Peter Jennings, repeatedly claimed that the presence of bentonite in the anthrax was compelling evidence that Iraq was responsible for the attacks, since -- as ABC variously claimed -- bentonite "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."
But bentonite was never found in the anthrax, and Greenwald says ABC News didn't acknowledged this until 2007, and only after Greenwald's "badgering them about this issue." That means, says Greenwald, the four "well-placed and separate sources" ABC claimed to have fed them "false information that created a very significant link in the public mind between the anthrax attacks and Saddam Hussein."
After all, three days later, McCain and Joe Lieberman went on Meet the Press (on October 21, 2001) and both strongly suggested that we would have to attack Iraq. Lieberman said that the anthrax was so complex and potent that "there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program." As I said, it is not possible to overstate the importance of anthrax in putting the country into the state of fear that led to the attack on Iraq and so many of the other abuses of the Bush era. There are few news stories more significant, if there are any, than unveiling who the culprits were behind this deliberate propaganda. The fact that the current GOP presidential nominee claimed back then on national television to have some "indication" linking Saddam to the anthrax attacks makes it a bigger story still.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Onion!

Happy weekend.

Oy, Gonna Be All Attack, All the Time

McCain's new ad. How well does the Messiah theme work on ordinary Americans who aren't the Christian fundamentalist base? I am also thinking Magic Negro here. Feh (spits).

Mall-Wart, er, Wal-Mart Officially Goes Republican

From the Wall Street Journal. Now I know many readers think the WSJ is a Republican tool, but that is not the case except on the editorial page. I vouch for its reporting as first rate. And Murdoch doesn't care, really, whatever makes money, the reason he threw a fundraiser for Hillary. Inside baseball, I know.
Without further ado, then:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.
In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.
According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.
The actions by Wal-Mart -- the nation's largest private employer -- reflect a growing concern among big business that a reinvigorated labor movement could reverse years of declining union membership. That could lead to higher payroll and health costs for companies already being hurt by rising fuel and commodities costs and the tough economic climate.

The Magic Negro

Lest we forget, there IS a dynamic at play here. Sometimes it's called white guilt.
Stumbled upon it in a comment thread over at TPM.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The McCain "Celebrity' Attack Ad

"Race Card" posts below are about this:

UPDATE: Obama in Iowa today:

Crikey, enough! I'm going for a walk and then, into the garden!

Eeew, the Race Card III

Over at Andrew Sullivan's Salon blog, (oops, I mean The Atlantic) a re-consideration. Of course, it should be noted that the named alternative celebrities don't stand out as empty and vacuous. On the other hand, they're not "sexually available white women" either.
Personally, I think this has the "Harold, call me" tactic written all over it. In case you forget, it's the blonde white floozy in the ad used to defeat black Harold Ford last fall in Tennessee. He's got a good gig now, though, head of the Democratic Leadership Council and vacuous black spokesperson for all things centrist and Republican Lite.

by Chris Bodenner
I'm the last person to buy into the so-called "racist" intentions of mainstream Republicans.  And I think Democrats usually cry wolf on the matter, to the detriment of race relations.  But reading John Riley's post gave me pause:
We just got off a conference call with Camp McCain, defending their new ad comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. They said they thought the ad was legitimate because Obama is a big celebrity..., and Britney and Paris were Number 2 and 3. The problem: Anyone with even a vague sense of pop culture knows that Britney and Paris are yesterday's news. Here's a link to Forbes' Celebrity 100. Paris and Britney don't even make the list any more. Instead, the top 10, in order: Oprah Winfrey, Tiger Woods, Angelina Jolie, Beyonce Knowles, David Beckham, Johnny Depp, Jay-Z, The Police, JK Rowling, Brad Pitt. So, they didn't pick other big celebrities, who were either men, or black, or married. What they picked was two sexually available white women.

Alert, Dem Leader Wants Weed Legal

Rep. Barney Frank (I love Barney Frank) introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana, arguing that people's leisure time is not the business of government. He acknowledges there's little chance it will pass soon.
Of course, the cops HATE this idea.

Eeew, the Race Card III

and Comment O' Teh Day:

TV critic James Poniewozik:
You can make Obama into Britney Spears, or John Kerry, or Malcolm X. I'm not sure you can make him into all three at the same time. (Is there a template in American culture for an Ivy-league-snob, black-militant, out-of-control former Mouseketeer?)

Eeew, the Race Card II

They talk about the "dog whistle" in politics, the one only bigots can hear.
The best summary I've seen so far of the pro-Obama talking points and the "dog whistle" is in a comments secion of TPM today.

So are all of y'all from up North such that you don't recognize that this denunciation is the inevitable follow up of the candidate who's blown the the racial dogwhistle?

I blogged about this back during the meanest, most overheated, part of the the primaries. I'm not going to link to that post, becuase the last damn thing I want to do is stir up old fights with my fellow travellers.

But I will quote myself, (albeit while shamelessly taking the opportunity to correct a few typos in the original):

I've lived in the South, or the border South, my whole life and I'm old enough to remember the bad old days when white supremacy was mainstream political thought. I've lived through the days when racial politics transitioned from fire hoses and bullets and George Wallace screaming "Segregation Now, Segregation Forever" to Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy," Ronald Reagan's speechifying about "states rights" in Philedelphia, Mississippi and Jesse Helms "white hands" ad. (God, I'll never forget how utterly appalled I was by that ad and that whole campaign. In the waning days of the Bush I Administration, I thought the country was past that sort of thing. Now that was naïve.)

I'm a white guy, but I know the politics of racial dog whistling when I see it.

The racial dog whistle isn't directed to the people who have swastika tattoos and Klan robes in their closet. It is directed to the angry blue collar white guy who starts all his pronouncements with "I'm no racist, but . . ." and then goes on and on and on about "them" and how "they" act. People who know they're getting a raw deal and need a scapegoat. People who genuinely think it would be profoundly foul and offensive to call a black person "nigger" to his or her face but see nothing wrong with using the word in private conversations with other white people.

I've seen that tune oh-so-skillfully played in a wistful minor key by Jesse Helms and the other Republicans in North Carolina for more than two decades. Mostly, its all about a wink and a nod, a codeword here and a subtle image there and all to convey a simple message: "those blacks are privileged and getting special treatment and stealing your tax money and it just ain't fair." And you quickly learn that when its time to get blunt and say something really foul, they always trot out a black man to say it for them.

The inevitable protestation of complete innocence is the most sickening part of the act. In every case, when someone calls bullshit, the candidate pulls his halo and his best wounded expression out of his desk and sorrowfully bemoans the way his opponent makes everything about race (but, you know, that's how those people are, idn't it? Everything's always a racial thing with them).

And yes, in that same post, I noted how the "empty suit" meme is, in itself, a racial dog whistle--

At another level, however, it is a far fouler, appeal to the prejudices of, say people in a state where the demographics trend white, blue collar and older than just about anywhere else in the nation, than anyone seems to have appreciated, one narrowly targeted to get them to apply their prejudices specifically to Obama.

Barack Obama is a staggeringly accomplished man. Merely to describe his accomplishments makes one sound like a drooling star-struck Kool Aid drinker with a Chris Matthews style man crush. Obama got his B.A. from Columbia, majoring in political science with an emphasis in international relations. He was a community organizer in his twenties who, among other things, was behind a remarkably successful voter registration drive in Chicago. He received his J.D. From Harvard Law, Magna Cum Laude. He was research assistant to Lawrence Tribe, who called him "the most all-around impressive student I had seen in decades." While working for Tribe “Obama analyzed and integrated Einstein's theory of relativity, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, as well as the concept of curved space as an alternative to gravity, for a Law Review article that Tribe wrote titled, 'The Curvature of Constitutional Space.'” In his third year, Obama was elected president of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, he eschewed the incredibly lucrative job offers that await presidents of the HLR, and, instead, went to work with a respected, but small and not very remunerative, civil rights firm in Chicago. He also taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago and, it is said, could have had been full professor any time he wanted, had he not chosen to also pursue a political career. He had a meteoric rise from state senator to U.S. Senator to Presidential candidate. He is the author, the actual author, not some pol claiming credit for the work of a ghost author, of of two best selling books. Both of his books are extremely well written, the first a remarkably insightful memoir, the latter a cogent synthesis of recent events and our political and economic history that lucidly explains where we are, how we got here and what we can do about it. Chock full of policy precriptions, wonky yet readable and remarkably self-reflective.

As a senator, he has sponsored some very serious signature pieces of legislation and gotten them passed while he was a member of the minority. And, oh yes, the guy happens to be the most outstanding political orator of his generation, and may be one of the four or five best in the history of the party. He has created and run a tight, well-run and remarkable harmonious campaign organization that has upended the carefully laid plans of the Mighty and Inevitable Hillary Clinton Machine and run up huge margins against her in, what, fifteen out of the last seventeen states now?

Was he fast tracked by the powers that be in the Illinois legislature and by the Democratic Senate leadership? You bet he was. That's what organizations do with prodigies. Businesses do it, universities do it, the military does it and, yes, they do it in politics.

And yet . . . over and over again, you see him dismissed as “an empty suit.” . . . Empty suit. Pretty speeches and no content. Just a vacuous, content-free pretty boy.

Do you really think anyone would buy that drivel if he were white? . . . “Accomplishments? C'mon, he's a moulie. Columbia? Affirmative action. Harvard? Quota baby. President of the Harvard Law Review? Just a bunch of northeastern liberals exorcising their white guilt. University of Chicago? Reverse racism. Illinois legislature? Blacks takin' care of their own. Senate? Affirmative action. You know how it is today. Those blacks get everything, and us whites get the short end, know what I'm sayin'?”

The MSM can, and will, pretend not to get it. And, indeed, given that most of them seem to have a form of brain damage that causes them to forget anything that happened more than two weeks ago, some of them actually might not get it. They're sheep who are endlessly startled by things they see every day of their banal lives.

Regardless of whether you believed it was happening then, it is unmistakably happening now, and that fact that its happening was almost pathetic in its predicability once the Rovelettes took over McCain's campaign.
Posted by The Commenter Formerly Known as NCSteve.

Eeew, the Race Card!

April 8, 2008, from McCain pro-war rally.
Today, the McCain camp accuses Obama of playing the race card when he said he doesn't look like the rest of the presidents on the dollar bill. All kinds of speculation in the 'spere about this, I reserve judgment. Hell, we already went through this in the primary, we knew it was coming again.

Best Dressed Adendum...or

Comment O' Teh Week:
From Wonkette (yes, I'm that desperate):

‘Vanity Fair’ Thinks Michelle Obama Is A Snappy Dresser

They even called her “our commander in sheath”! Michelle Obama officially joined Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List, while Cindy McCain sat at home and wept into her Chico’s catalog.

(We can't have a First Lady called Cindy, can we? What's next, Brianna? Or Madison?)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Obama the Law Professor

Twelve years at the University of Chicago and "he learned to lie low," says NYT.
He's a smart, ambitious guy and some of his former conservative colleagues apparently resented his non-committal nature. So they haven't much to criticize now that someone's elevating them to the quotable category. Heh.
Kept things to himself, broadly admired by the students.
Some random, insightful quotes:

The Chicago law faculty is full of intellectually fiery friendships that burn across ideological lines. Three times a week, professors do combat over lunch at a special round table in the university’s wood-paneled faculty club, and they share and defend their research in workshop discussions. Mr. Obama rarely attended, even when he was in town. “I’m not sure he was close to anyone,” Mr. Hutchinson said, except for a few liberal constitutional law professors, like Cass Sunstein, now an occasional adviser to his campaign. Mr. Obama was working two other jobs, after all, in the state senate and at a civil rights law firm.

But he was a politician in waiting from day one. How can we deny the basic nature of our elected officials and pretend they are otherwise?

But as a professor, students say, Mr. Obama was in the business of complication, showing that even the best-reasoned rules have unintended consequences, that competing legal interests cannot always be resolved, that a rule that promotes justice in one case can be unfair in the next.
So even some former students who are thrilled at Mr. Obama’s success wince when they hear him speaking like the politician he has so fully become.
“When you hear him talking about issues, it’s at a level so much simpler than the one he’s capable of,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “He was a lot more fun to listen to back then.”

Living Light

most of the contrariennes I know are in the midst of coming to terms with the over-inventory in their lives.
I, for instance, have had a large dining table covered with paperwork ready to sort and dispense with since January. That's seven months of contemplation and, maybe, about two days' worth of actual attack. I had hoped the assemblage would have guilt-tripped me into action.
Maybe tomorrow. Anyway, here are some clutter buster tips that might help.
What I liked best about the general theme is that you pretend to yourself that you're moving (maybe you are even if you don't yet know it) and survey it all with that in mind.
After being forced to use three different remotes last night to watch one DVD, I'm thinking "yeah, I actually need to re-program here."

Pill for Alzheimer's

seems to stop and even reverse progress, says the Brit doc who announced the positive trial results.


Fair International Best Dressed list.
Fran Lebowitz is a Hall of Fame inductee. I kind of liked the German prince. And those Spanish brothers. Can't believe Sarah Jessica Parker made it though.

Fran Lebowitz from brinntanyelle at Photobucket

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Art:Women As Heroes

Neat art/human rights project. More here.

Frogmarch Rove!

The House Judiciary Committee is about to recommend Karl Rove be declared in contempt of Congress.
Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films has a petition you can sign asking that Rove be arrested on the charge.
And this short rehash of Rove's record of deception and corruption.

'They Love Me'

Media Matters is fed up with the ongoing misreporting, non-reporting about John McCain and has spent $100,000 in NYC and D.C. to remind "The Village" that they're being watched.

You can sign a pledge to hold the media accountable here.

Sneak Peek

Oliver Stone's "W" opens three weeks before the general election. Hasn't Michael Moore promised something, too?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Episode 4 of 'Fun with War Crimes'

Catch them all here.

Taxes: D's Bad, R's Good. Or Maybe Not

Obama is meeting with a lot of heavy economic hitters today in preparation for turning the campaign towards domestic issues, the last thing McCain wants.

"I used to say that Barack Obama raises taxes and John McCain cuts them, and I was convinced... I stand corrected [about Obama's plans]." Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain's chief economic policy adviser.

But nobody corrects McSame. Or is it McBush.

Time took a closer look and, while admitting it's hard to pin the campaigns down on a lot of specifics at this juncture — 100 days to the election — Obama seems to be closer to what we all want than McCain.

Do This Today

 Just follow the link at the bottom to sign the petition sponsored by Color of Change.

Dear (Contrarienne readers)

LaVena Johnson was a 19 year old private in the Army, serving in Iraq, when she was raped, murdered, and her body was burned--by someone from her own military base. Despite overwhelming physical evidence, the Army called her death a suicide and has closed the case.1

For three years, LaVena's parents have been fighting for answers. At almost every turn, they've been met with closed doors or lies. They've appealed to Congress, the one body that can hold the military accountable. But, as in other cases where female soldiers have been raped and murdered and the Army has called it suicide, Congress has failed to act.

Will you join Mr. and Mrs. Johnson in calling on Congressman Henry Waxman, Chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, to mount a real investigation into LaVena Johnson's death and the Army's cover-up2? Will you ask your friends and family to do the same?

From the beginning, LaVena's death made no sense as a suicide. She was happy and had been talking with friends and family regularly3--nothing indicated she could be suicidal. And when the Johnsons received her body, they noticed signs that she had been beaten.4 That was when they started asking questions.

After two years of being denied answers and hearing explanations that made no sense, the Johnsons received a CD-ROM from someone on the inside. It contained pictures of the crime scene where LaVena died and an autopsy showing that she had suffered bruises, abrasions, a dislocated shoulder, broken teeth, and some type of sexual assault. Her body was partially burned; she had been doused in a flammable liquid, and someone had set her body on fire. A corrosive chemical had been poured in her genital area, perhaps to cover up evidence of rape.5

Still the Army sticks by their story. They refuse to explain the overwhelming physical evidence that LaVena was raped and murdered and continue to claim that she killed herself.

For many Black youth, and working class young people of every race, the military is seen as an option for securing a better future. LaVena came from a deeply supportive family, and while the military wasn't her only option, she was attracted by its promise to help her pay for a college education and the opportunity to travel around the world. She also thought that by joining she could continue her lifelong commitment to serving other people in need. She made a decision to serve in the military, with all its risks, and expected respect and dignity in return.

LaVena's death is part of a disturbing pattern of cases where female soldiers have been raped and killed, and where the military has hidden the truth and labeled the deaths suicides.6,7 In virtually all cases, Congress has been slow to investigate or hold the military accountable in any way. Unfortunately, most families simply don't have the resources, time, and psychological strength to push back.

We can help the Johnsons, and other families, by holding Congress accountable in the LaVena Johnson case and by demanding it investigate the pattern of cover-ups by the military.

Please take a moment to join those calling on Congressman Waxman to investigate the cover-up of LaVena Johnson's death:


Obama button here.

Lit 301

Oooh, I guess I had this coming. If I love Annie Proulx and Cormac McCarthy, somebody some day was going to tell me I shouldn't.
Nice hit piece.
This may get Hass's darkly meated heart pumping, but it's really just bad poetry formatted to exploit the lenient standards of modern prose.

I believe I can make an argument for writing about the movement of a horse's bowels (wonder at creation alone seems worth it) but this is fun to think about if you're a reader, if maybe a bit long.
Okay, just one more. This must be some passage I skipped in All the Pretty Horses. Maybe authors know we tend to skip, sometimes a lot, so they just write to have fun. Or just like the way it sounds, knowing you aren't reading it.
Here we learn that out west even a hangover is something special.
[They] walked off in separate directions through the chaparral to stand spraddlelegged clutching their knees and vomiting. The browsing horses jerked their heads up. It was no sound they'd ever heard before. In the gray twilight those retchings seemed to echo like the calls of some rude provisional species loosed upon that waste. Something imperfect and malformed lodged in the heart of being. A thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace itself like a gorgon in an autumn pool. (All the Pretty Horses)

It is a rare passage that can make you look up, wherever you may be, and wonder if you are being subjected to a diabolically thorough Candid Camera prank. I can just go along with the idea that horses might mistake human retching for the call of wild animals. But "wild animals" isn't epic enough: McCarthy must blow smoke about some rude provisional species, as if your average quadruped had impeccable table manners and a pension plan. Then he switches from the horses' perspective to the narrator's, though just what something imperfect and malformed refers to is unclear. The last half sentence only deepens the confusion. Is the thing smirking deep in the eyes of grace the same thing that is lodged in the heart of being? And what is a gorgon doing in a pool? Or is it peering into it? And why an autumn pool? I doubt if McCarthy can explain any of this; he probably just likes the way it sounds.

Obama in Israel

David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post (Dog, I loves me some Intertubes! Imagine me reading the Jerusalem Post five years ago)seems to think a lot of him. Possibly because he's smart and well-informed and thinks. Wow.

Two months ago in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush, coming to the end of a two-term presidency and presumably as expert on Israeli-Palestinian policy as he is ever going to be, was accompanied by a team of no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview with this writer and three other Israeli journalists.

In March, on his whirlwind visit to Israel, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs, chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview our diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and I conducted with him, looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.

On Wednesday evening, toward the end of his packed one-day visit here, Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is leading the race for the White House and who lacks long years of foreign policy involvement, spoke to The Jerusalem Post with only a single aide in his King David Hotel room, and that aide's sole contribution to the conversation was to suggest that the candidate and I switch seats so that our photographer would get better lighting for his pictures.

Several of Obama's Middle East advisers - including former Clinton special envoy Dennis Ross and ex-ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer - were hovering in the vicinity. But Obama, who was making only his second visit to Israel, knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel, and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barack's Back: Media Still Surging

and so, our Comment O' Teh Day from Jason Linkins post at Huffpo.
Not many realize that the "surge" is the most important thing ever discovered by man.

It's more important than fire, the wheel, and the printing press all "rolled" together. In itself that combined threesome is pretty awesome - I'll admit.

And in some circles it is even considered a greater intellectual achievement than the thermos.

Oh, did we mention that despite McCain's and the media's obsession, Gallup's newest tracking poll has Obama with a first-ever 9-point lead? Heh. Landslide, I tells ya!

Medical Truths and Myths

Jane Brody at the NYT explains the truth about ear cleaning, poison ivy from mango skin and eight other things you think you know or didn't know but should.

Weekend Read

There's this surfer dude who lives in a van and also snowboards and mountain bikes and he's, like, also working on a unified theory. You know, that thing Einstein didn't finish.
"I've tried to make the rest of my life good enough that even if the physics theories don't work out," he says, "it wasn't a waste of time."

His name is Garrett Lisi and he's really interesting. I read all seven pages and didn't get bored. I even read the definitions. If he does this, I may have to resign from the Church of String Theory and sign up with E8.

Engineers and Cats

Happy Sunday!