August 2008 Archives

Frank Rich noticed it too

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I've written more than once about the state of the media, lamenting the mush and drivel and desertion of duty that is so prevalent. Frank Rich noticed it too and today he wrote about it.

All week long a media chorus had fretted whether he could pull off a potentially vainglorious stunt before 80,000 screaming fans. Well, yes he can, and so he did.

But was this a surprise? Hardly. No major Obama speech -- each breathlessly hyped in advance as do-or-die and as the "the most important of his career" -- has been a disaster; most have been triples or home runs, if not grand slams. What is most surprising is how astonished the press still is at each Groundhog Day's replay of the identical outcome. Indeed, the disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year's story.

Frank goes on to outline how the Obama campaign was not taken in by this narrative but that the McCain campaign was.

Learning about Sarah Palin - Bio, Timeline, Troopergate, Alaskan media

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This post is divided into 4 sections. The first is the timeline; the second a series of quotes from Alaskans about Palin. It's followed by a review of Palin's video and audio record. The fourth section contains many direct links to Alaskan media coverage of Palin, followed by coverage from national media and blogs. Significant articles are added to that section as they become available. I intend to continue updating it. Please comment if there are significant items I've missed.

I think what puts Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's running mate in sharpest perspective is this biographical timeline of her career thus far by KTVA news in Alaska.

This is it:

Feb. 11, 1964 -- Born in Sandpoint, Idaho.

1982 -- Graduated from Wasilla High School in Wasilla, Alaska.

1987 -- Graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho.

August 29, 1988 -- Married Todd Palin, whom she would have five children with.

1992-1996 -- Entered public life, serving two terms on the Wasilla City Council.

1996-2002 -- Elected mayor of Wasilla City, Alaska, for two terms until term limits forced her from office.

2002 -- Lost her first statewide campaign for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor.

2002 -- Frank Murkowski left the Senate to become governor and named Palin chairwoman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

2003 -- Split with the party leaders by battling Randy Ruedrich, the head of Alaska's Republican Party.

2006 -- Upset then-Gov. Murkowski in the Republican primary, then defeated former two-term Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, in the general election.

2007 -- Pressured lawmakers to get the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act passed, to build a natural gas pipeline to deliver 35 trillion cubic feet of North Slope natural gas to market.

Aug. 29, 2008 -- Chosen as Sen. John McCain's vice-presidential running mate in the 2008 election.


That's all of it. Really. Presidential historians and scholars are stunned. The New York Times did a biographical feature article: Palin, an Outsider Who Charms

M-D Poll: Lieberman vs. Palin

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Greg Sargent at TPMElectionCentral posted about the results of the Mason-Dixon poll (pdf) which was done on Aug. 25th & 26th.

You would think that Joe would at least help a McCain/Lieberman ticket in Florida and Connecticut but you would be wrong. The pollsters were prescient enough to have included Sarah Palin's name in the poll as well.

Greg summarizes the poll this way:

Twenty-seven percent of voters in Florida, where there's a large concentration of Jewish voters, say they're less likely to back McCain with Lieberman on the ticket. Half that -- 14% -- say they're more likely. Fifty-six percent say Lieberman's presence would make no difference.

Polls have shown that Lieberman on the ticket would even hurt McCain in his home state of Connecticut. If Lieberman hurts McCain in Connecticut and Florida, where the heck would Lieberman help him?

Well, I'm sure that simplified McCain's selection process.

Now we just have to figure out criteria he was using which told him a governor of Alaska not quite 2 years into her 1st term is qualified to be president if he drops dead. Which really isn't all that remote a possibility given his age and the toll that not-torture inevitably took on his body.

In the Recognize / Not Recognize question in the M-D poll, she had a 75% Don't Recognize response.

They also asked would your vote be more likely, less likely or not affected if she was the veep choice. And it's here that you can see why perhaps McCain chose her.

It doesn't make any difference whether or not her name was on the ticket. 62% said it would have no effect on their vote, 33% weren't sure, 4% said less likely and 1% more likely.

So who knows what went through McCain's mind.

Obama's choice of Biden looks even better from this angle.

Barack Obama's night in Denver

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We sat in front of our tv like many other millions of Americans not fortunate enough to be present in Denver's Invesco Stadium to see history made in person. But we did see it made.

denvercrowd1.jpg First, John Lewis reminded us of how our nation has moved forward though not always smoothly but definitely forward in providing opportunity and equality for all of its citizens. He touched my heart with his story. It is so fitting that he was present at the main event. And what a main event it was.

84,000 people representative of us all, cheering, on their feet, crying, moved, invigorated, amazed, dancing, joyous, proud.

And into their midst strode Barack Obama to deliver a pitch-perfect address denverobamaspeech2e.jpg that accomplished so many things but foremost, established the legitimacy of his candidacy for President of the United States. It was not just inspirational though it certainly was inspiring. It was hard-hitting, precise, touching, visionary, inclusive, and left us in no doubt that Barack Obama will be an outstanding president, a leader who will take this nation forward into a better future.

It's difficult to choose just a portion of the speech because it is such a power whole but these words illustrate the breadth of what he had to say to us all:

The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.

So I've got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore.

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And it was with these words that Barack Obama reaffirmed our nation and invited us all to share his vision:


This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.

That promise is our greatest inheritance. It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours - a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.

But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.

"We cannot walk alone," the preacher cried. "And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back."

America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back. We cannot walk alone. At this moment, in this election, we must pledge once more to march into the future. Let us keep that promise - that American promise - and in the words of Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

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We've been called to action and as a nation, we cannot afford to fail to respond. We can't turn back. It's time to step into America's future with the thoughtful, firm leadership of Barack Obama.


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If you haven't viewed Barack Obama yet, do take this opportunity to do so.

The complete transcript of prepared remarks is available below the fold.


The Big Tent: Bloggers and democracy

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minnpostbigtent.jpgThe Minnesota Post did a really nice article on The Big Tent. Actually if I'm envious of anything, it's of the bloggers who are hanging out in the Big Tent this week, making connections with each other, with all the non-bloggers who stop in to see what this cool new thing is. I'm sure it's crowded and electrical outlets to recharge stuff are at a premium but still.

By the way, the picture to the right by the Minnesota Post is of John Aravosis interviewing Markos. John posted video of the interview on Americablog.

Susan Gardner of Daily Kos was interviewed and among the other things she said was this description of who was at the Big Tent and why. I think it's one of the best descriptions of the blogosphere, left and right, that I've seen.

"We have ongoing dialogues about what policy should be, what elections are like. We're ordinary people extraordinarily interested in politics."

Exactly. Wish I'd said that. The article goes on to note:

Kerry's speech gets rave reviews

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The nattering nabobs at MSNBC blew it last night. CNN caught on part way through. And hurrah for C-SPAN and PBS, the only tv channels to have the good sense to allow viewers to watch all of the convention speakers. John Kerry stepped up to the podium after Bill Clinton had raised the energy level in the hall, and knocked one out of the park.

Josh Marshall called it The Golden Speech and said "in its own way I think the speech I just saw John Kerry give is the best one I've heard at this convention. And I do not have any doubt that it's the best I've ever heard from him." Emphasis is his.

It got rave reviews at/by Daily Kos, Steve Benen, Andrew Sullivan, Ta-Nahisi Coates, BalloonJuice, The Jed Report, Al Giordano, Karen Tumulty, Jack & Jill Politics, OpenLeft, mydd, Huffington Post, Crooks and Liars, Rod Dreher, Daily Intel, Reason Online, MalContends, and Democratic Underground. This list coud be 5 times as long but you get the idea.

Here's the video if you haven't seen it yet. It's worth your time.



JK did what those of us who follow him closely know he can do and has done before. Just watch his Dissent speech. And as he has before, JK gave us a masterfully delivered speech yesterday. It's hard for me to pick out my favorite excerpts. I'd end up excerpting most of it so go see the full transcript of his remarks as delivered below the fold, courtesy of Lynn Sweet at the Sun Times, if you can't watch the video.

A little more background: he also did a session for the New American Foundation in the morning which got rave reviews from publius.
 

It's Official!

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hillaryacclamationofobama.jpgAfter a call for nomination by acclamation made by Sen. Clinton, the Democratic party has nominated Barack Obama for the office of the president of the United States. It's official. Lots of cheers and tears.

Rep. John Lewis brought the historic perspective... reflecting on how they fought to even be able to vote and to see this today is amazing. He said he'd cried earlier and didn't think he had any more tears left in him. An historic moment indeed.

Hillary's Smash Hit at the 2008 DNC

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Hillary was great. She did exactly what needed doing right from the start of her speech. And all the nattering nabobs of negativity are just nattering nincompoops looking for a way to say something controversial so they can get paid for spinning.

In case you missed it, here's the video. Her delivery was spot on.



Other people thought so too. The Boston Globe called it "The Speech of her Life". The right-Leaning Us News and World Report did a roundup of the rave reviews. Margaret Carlson at Bloomberg had a great take on it. The LA Times has a transcript of the actual speech up. Blogger reports from the floor of the convention indicate that it was really inspiring there as well.

The disunity myth being pushed by the nattering nabobs is just that - a myth. From MissLaura at dkos: "Blue Hampshire blogger Mike Hoefer got an important piece of PDMA (Party Disunity My Ass): Kathy Sullivan and Mary Rauh, New Hampshire state co-chairs of the Clinton and Obama campaigns, respectively, address the traditional media's insistence on pushing the myth of disunity."

The audio is not great but the gist of it is, what party disunity? They both say that the media has blown it way out of proportion.

Speeches you didn't see unless you were watching C-SPAN

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There have been some good speeches at the DNC thus far but you wouldn't know it by listening to the nattering nabobs. Of course, there's the Jim Leach speech which isn't barnburner quality but is one of the most thoughtful, substantive speeches that's been delivered thus far. Then there's Gov. Brian Schweitzer's speech which just rocked.

Here's one of the best snippets:



Boy, did he nail that one. If you don't have time to watch the whole thing, you might want to check out the selection of dead-on quotes from last night's speeches by Muzikal203. Check them out even if you do watch it.

Here's the complete speech video clip.



Then there's Dennis Kucinich. He's a little farther left in the Democratic continuum than I'm generally comfortable with so I didn't watch his speech on C-SPAN. But someone highlighted the youtube clip on dkos so I checked it out. He really got the delegates fired up. But you never saw a minute of that on any of the network or cable news shows.



As for tonight, I expect John Kerry will be in fighting form and of course, Bill Clinton is always entertaining no matter what he talks about and then we'll top the evening off with Joe Biden, Sounds like a lively evening ahead.

And remember C-SPAN is definitely the way to go. No nitwits nattering away ignoring the action at the convention.

Jim Leach vs. the Nattering Nabobs

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I saw Jim Leach's speech on Monday night and despite his very low key style, it really hit home. I knew right then that I wanted to find a transcript and reread his words. As I recall, the chattering heads were saying that no one really hit back at the Republicans on Monday evening. Well, they think that because they were all busy talking over Jim Leach and didn't hear him say this:

The party that once emphasized individual rights has gravitated in recent years toward regulating values. The party of military responsibility has taken us to war with a country that did not attack us. The party that formerly led the world in arms control has moved to undercut treaties crucial to the defense of the earth. The party that prides itself on conservation has abdicated its responsibilities in the face of global warming. And the party historically anchored in fiscal restraint has nearly doubled the national debt, squandering our precious resources in an undisciplined and unprecedented effort to finance a war with tax cuts.

Re-read that paragraph. That's why Republicans for Obama exists. Rep. Leach continued on, not pulling any punches.

America has seldom faced more critical choices: whether we should maintain an occupational force for decades in a country and region that resents western intervention or elect a leader who, in a carefully structured way, will bring our troops home from Iraq as the heroes they are. Whether it is wise to continue to project power largely alone with flickering support around the world or elect a leader who will follow the model of General Eisenhower and this president's father and lead in concert with allies.

Whether it is prudent to borrow from future generations to pay for today's reckless fiscal policies or elect a leader who will shore up our budgets and return to a strong dollar. Whether it is preferable to continue the policies that have weakened our position in the world, deepened our debt and widened social divisions or elect a leader who will emulate John F. Kennedy and relight a lamp of fairness at home and reassert an energizing mix of realism and idealism abroad.

The portfolio of challenges passed on to the next president will be as daunting as any since the Great Depression and World War II. This is not a time for politics as usual or for run-of-the-mill politicians. Little is riskier to the national interest than more of the same. America needs new ideas, new energy and a new generation of leadership.

Hence, I stand before you proud of my party's contributions to American history but, as a citizen, proud as well of the good judgment of good people in this good party, in nominating a transcending candidate, an individual whom I am convinced will recapture the American dream and be a truly great president: the senator from Abraham Lincoln's state-Barack Obama.

As the Boston Globe noted today:   [via]

The best way to watch a political convention is on C-Span. That way Americans can make their own judgments unfiltered, without being told what to think by the nattering nabobs of TV commentary. [...]

Had the commentators not been so busy filling airspace and paid closer attention to what was happening on the podium, they might have had a different take. On Monday a speech by former Representative Jim Leach, an Iowa Republican, ably set the framework for his own party's failings, besides delivering a bipartisan endorsement of Barack Obama. His address wasn't electrifying TV, but it was a more articulate critique of the Republicans - and from a former loyalist, too - than many Democrats have mustered.

They read my mind.


The complete transcript and video clip are below the fold.

Hillary Clinton and PUMAs

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Just ran across this and I wish that the PUMAs would watch and really hear what Hillary Clinton had to say in her press conference yesterday.



Here are some loosely transcribed snippets:

"I support Barack Obama.  We do NOT want a McCain administration. ... If you voted for me, you have much more in common with Barack Obama on every point that I campaigned on, everything I care about. ... We can't wait.  We have to do it right this time. ... Everything I want to do on health care, on the economy, on the climate depends on Senator Obama being in the White House."

I don't know how she could say it much more clearly.

I know that the stories of their numbers and their impact has been way overblown by the chattering classes. Yet I'm frustrated that these women have created the opportunity that allows them to do that. Here's hoping that Hillary can get through to them.

UPDATE: She repeated it here when she talked to the Hispanic Caucus. It looks like they got it.

Need a new excuse? Borrow McCain's. "But I was a POW."

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McPow.jpgHow many times can John McCain and his campaign use "but that doesn't count because I was POW" before it becomes a punch line?

I don't know but they're working hard on figuring it out. Actually, I think it's already become the punchline. [via]

Here's how the McCain campaign responded to the general hilarity and the Obama campaign's responses to McCain's Politico interview gaffe about not knowing how many houses he owned.

"This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years -- in prison," spokesman Brian Rogers told the Washington Post.

For those of you who haven't kept track, the McCain campaign also cited McCain's POW years in explaining away the deficits in his health care plan, the Miss Buffalo Chip gaffe, his infidelities in his first marriage, and in dealing with the allegation that he broke the rules and listened in on Barack Obama during the Rick Warren forum. And now he's rolled it out yet again on The Tonight Show last night with Jay Leno .

Later, he asked McCain: "For $1 million, how many houses do you have?"

At that, McCain got serious, saying he had been imprisoned for five-and-a-half years during the Vietnam war, and that "I didn't have a house. I didn't have a kitchen table. I didn't have a table."

If it can be used as the excuse for anything as McCain seems to think, you ought to feel free to borrow it.

Rachel Maddow spells it out best here. Watch the part from 0:44 to 3:29 and just tune out Buchanan as best you can.



I think he's already crossed the overuse line. Every time he uses it from now on, it will be examined in light of all the other misuses and its effectiveness is lost right there. From this point on, his use of it slips into self-parody.

In any case, I like TPM's characterization of it: the POW-POW-POW defense. I think that should be the short-hand reference from now on, as in, "Say did you see McCain POW-POW-POW'ed again?" Just give him a day or two. I'm sure we'll have a couple more examples to add to the list.

The state of the media: Fox's Brit Hume caught in a lie - Updated

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Last night I happened to pause on Fox News as I was going from C-SPAN to MSNBC for Michelle's post-speech coverage and heard Brit Hume say that Sasha piping up and asking Daddy where he was, gave Obama a chance to correct what he had said before. The other person on with him said 'oh?' And Brit went on, 'yeah, he said St. Louis the first time.'

I was surprised because I hadn't heard Barack say St. Louis but I wasn't paying that close attention to just what city he had said.

Well this clip makes it clear that Barack didn't slip at all and Brit Hume made that up out of whole cloth. Yep. Brit Hume lied on TV.



Here's what's funnier.

John Hinderaker over at Powerline blog just repeated Hume's lie without verifying it. Highly illustrative of just how the smears get passed from one Republican mouthpiece to another.

The most impressive performance turned in at the Democratic convention last night was by one of the Obamas' children. When Barack appeared on-screen at the end of his wife's speech, he delivered his usual gaffe, announcing that he was in St. Louis when in fact he was in Kansas City. At the end of the bit, his daughter gave him chance to retrieve the error by asking, "What city are you in, Daddy?" The second time, he got it right.

Nice catch!

Nice catch indeed. Thanks for demonstrating just how you pass along the smears from the mothership, John.


UPDATE: He does say St. Louis after he says Kansas City as his opener when he's introducing the Girardeau (sp?) family.

Guess I should have watched the clip a third time. Sorry Brit and John.

Blogging the convention opening

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I've got C-SPAN, MSBNC and CNN all set on my remote control. I was surprised at the hubbub at the Chris Matthews show which was broadcast from MSNBC's outdoor stage. It was the battle of the Hillary supporters; the ones who've converted to supporting to Obama and the ones who are still focused on supporting Hillary. It was so loud and raucous that it clearly destroyed the ability of Chris and his guests to focus on other discussions.

Chuck Todd, Howard Fineman and Mike Barnicle had a pretty pragmatic take on it. Chuck in particular noted that the supporters who haven't given up Hillary's candidacy are a very small group relative to all the supporters that are out there. One of the three compared them to Ron Paul supporters. Very loud, very good at acquiring media attention but totally insignificant as far as the overall support for Obama is concerned.

Later Rachel Maddow made an observation that really struck me.

The American people need to be convinced that American leadership in the world isn't something that we do with a B2 bomber.

Precisely.

David also had Nicolle Wallace from the McCain campaign on and she let slip something that I'm sure she'll hear about from her colleagues later. She said, "Given the climate, I'm surprised that we're still in the race."

Note that was a McCain campaign staffer admitting that they don't really have a chance.

Ted's going to be showing later though evidently the flight out was rough on him and they're not sure if he'll be up to speaking. And everyone's looking forward to Michelle.

As for Obama, he was at the Iowa State Fair today. At some point, he was answering questions in a town hall type setting and he did more than just answer the last question. Just check this out.

Messing up my blogroll

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Well, they've done it. I clicked on The Carpetbagger Report in my blogroll to see what Steve Benen had to say about Biden and got reminded of his post earlier this week announcing that he, Kevin Drum and Hilzoy are going to play hopscotch on the blogs. And, yes, in the process, ruining my blogroll list.

Actually congratulations to all three. Kevin Drum will be leaving the Political Animal blog at The Washington Monthly to start blogging at Mother Jones under his own moniker. Steve Benen will close out The Carpetbagger Report and start blogging at the Political Animal along with Hilzoy who's already confessed that he loves Obsidian Wings so much, he can't give up the habit and will still be blogging there as well.

So Kevin's at MJ, Steve and Hilzoy are at Political Animal/WaMo and Hilzoy's still at ObWi. Add that to Yglesias's from The Atlantic to CAP and Ta-Nehisi's move to The Atlantic and it sure does make hash of a blogroll and links in a hurry. Hope they don't wipe out The Carpetbagger Report archive and break all my links.

So it's Obama and Biden

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So it's Obama and Biden and the cool 1st rally together photos will come later. He's a solid pick. Kudos to the campaign for a obama_biden-05.jpgmasterfully managed VP announcement. Kept everyone on the edge of their seats.

Did all that this week and painted the picture of just how out of touch with everyday Americans McCain is with his dozen or so houses. Houses for which he pays more in salary to people who keep them clean than most people ever hope to make in a year.

I think that Obama and Biden are going to have fun together in this campaign season. But more important I think that the two of them will be tremendously reassuring to our allies and non-allies around the world as well as to the economic and business communities. A solid progressive ticket that's committed to pragmatic governing.

Dave Stewart released a new version of the song he co-wrote with Bono yesterday and it's pretty cool. It's called American Prayer. It's got a lot of layers in it.




Good song and Stewart wrote up some lengthy notes including who all appears in the video on the more info dropdown on the song on youtube.

But my favorite is still will.i.am's Yes We Can.



UPDATE: Now here's someone who was prescient. This video was created and uploaded to youtube on Jan. 5, 2008. He's added a note to keep an eye out for an updated version now that it's official. But I have to say, I'm truly impressed that this person figured it out so early. [via]






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John McCain: Houses and other things he'd rather forget

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Sidenote: for ease of loading and reading, all the links to video clips below will open in a separate browser window.

Unless you've been completely out of touch with TV and political news coverage online, you know by now all about John McCain's number of houses gaffe during his interview with Politico reporters.

Pile that on top of his answer of $5 million to Rick Warren's question of How much is rich? at the Saddleback forum, Phil Gramm's statement that Americans concerned with the economy are a bunch of whiners, and McCain's insistence that the economy is fundamentally sound and -- Eureka! I'm sure the Obama campaign team felt like they'd struck gold and they sure didn't waste time capitalizing on it.

First up is their ad "Seven". Here's the video if you haven't seen it but you don't have to click on it unless you really want to see it uninterrupted because if you watch the news coverage, local and national, of the gaffe, you'll see it.

Obama expanded on it in his speech (video) in Chester, VA in a way that got all the hand-wringers in the blogosphere and chattering class cheering about him stepping up and hitting back. But Obama really brought home why this gaffe moment (video) is important in Chesapeake, VA Thursday evening.

How is this actually playing in the burbs? On the local news? On the national news? Are they hearing about it? In a word. Yes. It definitely broke through the barrier.

First up are 2 summaries of the national news video coverage. The first National Coverage video clips includes CBS, CNN, MSNBC, more CNN, ABC. There's a couple items in common but the second National Coverage video clips includes NBC's coverage which the first does not.

How about local coverage? Well, they covered it in Raleigh, Milwaukee, Erie, and on Fox in Philadelphia -- this one is great!

As for the houses themselves, the Washington Post has the details about them. And both BraveNewFilms and JedReport posted videos on them sometime ago. BraveNewFilms also includes a little lifestyle commentary with a look at McCain's $520 Ferragamo loafers and Cindy's private jet, "the only way to get around Arizona". BraveNewFilms has more on McCain in their The Real McCain video series.

In this shorter clip, ProgressiveMediaUSA gives McCain The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous treatment which has a few new facts in it I hadn't seen elsewhere. Did you know that McCain carries one of the super elite, by invitation only, black American Express Centurion cards?

And then there's the DNC's contribution (video) -- just a little humor, John:

All that good video to watch and we haven't even gotten to all this:

   - McCain's history with the Keating 5 (1, 2, 3)
   - filing false income tax returns (1)
   - his topgun, party hard, playboy days with his 5, count'em, 5 airplane crashes (1, 2, 3 )
   - his implied dissing of fellow Vietnam POWs (1)
   - lieing about his voting record to a veteran (1)
   - his affairs, both early and late, (1, 2)
   - doubletiming & dumping his 1st wife Carol for meal-ticket 2nd wife, heiress Cindy (1, 2, 3)
   - why & how the story of Cindy's drug abuse & criminal misuse of her charity came out (1)
   - John's legendary temper, dirty tricks & his need to get even (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

Oh and then there's the age/health issue which when your body suffered non-torture as his did, definitely has an impact on health and ability. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

And we haven't even dipped into his policy knowledge issues, his flip-flops, his pandering, his connection with Jack Abramoff and his crew, and lack of management skills.

Can we get rid of him now? Please?

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LiebermanAPSokolowski.jpgJoe Lieberman has done it again. Stepped up on the world platform and embarrassed the good people of Connecticut.

What did he do this time?

He's calling for Russia to be kicked out of the G8. In other words, sucking up to his pal, John McCain. Yep, right there in the sunshine of Warsaw, Poland, standing right next to his buddy, Sen. Lindsay Graham, both on their way home from meddling in Georgia, he said this according to the AP:

He advocated a range of steps that the world community should take to "hold Russia accountable," including expelling it from the G-8, which includes the world's leading industrialized nations, and keeping it out of the WTO.

"The G-8 should become for a while the G-7 until Russia proves that it is capable of being a law-abiding member of the international community," he said.

He said he and Graham also want the U.S. Congress to refuse to ratify a pending U.S.-Russian deal on civilian nuclear cooperation, and have signed a letter to President Bush asking him not to present the plan to Congress.

Lieberman also renewed a call for the Georgian military to be beefed up "with sophisticated anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems."

Asked if Russia should also be stripped of the right to host the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, he said that step should be taken under consideration later.

Are these guys teaming up with John McCain to restart the Cold War all on their own? And yes, McCain is certainly part of this mess. Remember Lieberman has a Zell Miller moment at the GOP convention coming up and he owes it all to McCain and his own expert ability in sucking up.

Whatever happened to the DumpJoe site? I think it's time we resurrected it and started tracking all the idiocies and embarrassments he's inflicting on us.

Obama: Preaching to the waiters, Huguenots & the First Amendment

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NCJan raised an interesting point of discussion today about Barack Obama's appearance in Rick Warren's Saddleback Forum.

Did Obama pull a Colbert?

As far as the Saddleback thing goes, couldn't Obama have pulled a Stephen Colbert/Press Club thing that night?

By that I mean, while McCain was speaking to the audience in front of him and ignoring the fact that the nation was watching, Obama was speaking to all of us.

I remember when Colbert's first reviews came out, everybody in the traditional media thought he had bombed. That's because they were taking their cues from the people in the room. ... And sure enough, days and even weeks later, Colbert's performance was upgraded to brilliant. It is still remembered. It is memorable.

I think that by sticking to his guns on things like choice, Obama was "playing to the waiters" in that crowd. In this case, the waiters were all those pro-choice Republican women who were, by the very nature of patriarchal right wing religion, standing "in the back of the room" that night.

I think she's onto something there. Given the subsequent McCain campaign efforts to find out if a pro-choice Veep nomination would help or hurt him, I suspect that the McCain campaign itself recognizes that it has cut off all the Republican pro-choice women. Of course, all the pushback about choosing a pro-choice Veep nominee and how it would completely dissolve the Repub base coalition means McCain is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

Contrast that with what Barack Obama accomplished at Saddleback. In addition to reaching out to the Republican prochoice women, he established himself more firmly as a thoughtful Christian. I just ran across this blog post, "Obama Shows Guts", by David Brody, a reporter/blogger with the CBN network about Obama's appearance at the Saddleback Forum.

The fact that Barack Obama would show up at an Evangelical Church and take the tough questions is a credit to him. I mean he knew he was the visiting team so to speak yet he handled these questions like he has in the past: with relative ease.

Brody commented on the 'when does a baby get human rights' question and noted "But look, the guy is pro-choice so did anybody really expect him to answer it with a fervent "at conception" answer? He was kind of stuck and it showed. But let's remember for many others in the faith community who aren't as conservative an answer like that may have been just fine. Obama's main focus is not to win over the die hard conservative Evangelicals. He's trying to appeal to the broader faith community and the latest polling shows he's doing a pretty god job of it."

He concluded his assessment this way.

Overall the night was a success for Obama. He didn't get put on the spot too much with the abortion questions. He handled the "Jesus" question about his faith with ease and maybe most important he looked comfortable up there. His answers were nuanced quite a bit unlike McCain's quick direct answers. That was a big difference between the two of them. Obama sees more shades of gray. McCain sees the World a lot more black and white. That was on clear display. By watching Obama and McCain go back to back tonight, I think it offered a stark contrast on how they both approach the hot button social issues. But Obama has very little chance with die-hard pro-lifers anyway. Instead, Obama's goal is to come across as a caring family man who takes his faith and set of values very seriously. That plays to the broader audience. A forum like this only helps him in that regard.

I think that Brody's post supports the contention that Obama was looking beyond the people in the room. It certainly supports my contention that Barack did just fine at Saddleback. He did what he needed to do though he shouldn't have to do it. And that raises this question.

Why is such a religion focused discussion a part of our democratic selection of a president anyway?

I can remember discussing our Huguenot ancestry with my mother (who's a missionary) while I was growing up in Liberia and concluding that the separation of church and state was a good and proper thing. It wasn't so long ago that people were persecuted and killed for being the wrong kind of Christian by other Christians which, BTW, Obama did subtly underscore in his response about evil being perpetrated on behalf of the good and that good intentions didn't necessarily mean doing good.

Kathleen Parker commented on the separation issue today as well, asking how Thomas Jefferson would have responded to questions about his position on evil and his relationship with Jesus Christ?

What would have happened to Thomas Jefferson if he had responded as he wrote in 1781:

"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Would the crowd at Saddleback have applauded and nodded through that one? Doubtful.

By today's new standard of pulpits in the public square, Jefferson -- the great advocate for religious freedom in America -- would have lost.

And the point that Ms. Parker makes is a sad one. Thomas Jefferson would have flunked at the Saddleback forum. All the chattering classes would now be talking about how poorly he did and out of touch he was. One of our country's most esteemed Founding Fathers wouldn't have made the grade at Saddleback or on the cable news shows. One can only imagine what the Fox Noise channel types would have had to say about him.

We, collectively and individually, owe so much to Mr. Jefferson. He fought long and hard for our rights to free practice of religion and freedom from religion which culminated in the First Amendment which, in case you need a refresher, reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

What a sublime sentence. So much democracy is caught up in that one statement.

The people at religioustolerance.org remind us of the history of it.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is also the first section of the Bill of Rights. It is arguably the most important part of the U.S. Constitution, as it guarantees freedoms of religion, speech, writing and publishing, peaceful assembly, and the freedom to raise grievances with the Government. In addition, it requires that a wall of separation be maintained between church and state. [...]

The roots of the First Amendment can be traced to a bill written by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) in 1777 and proposed to the Virginia Legislature in 1779. It guaranteed freedom of (and from) religion. After an impassioned speech by James Madison, and after some amendments, it became law on 1786-JAN-16.

In the spring of 1778, the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia, PA. They resolved three main religious controversies. They:

  • Decided that there would be no religious test, oath or other requirement for any federal elected office
  • Allowed Quakers and others to affirm (rather than swear) their oaths of office
  • Refrained from recognizing the religion of Christianity, or one of its denominations, as an established, state church.

But there was no specific guarantee of religious freedom.

Jefferson was pleased with the constitution, but felt it was incomplete. He pushed for legislation that would guarantee individual rights, including what he felt was the prime guarantee: freedom of and from religion. Madison promised to promote such a bill, in order to gain support for the ratification of the constitution by the State of Virginia.

In 1789, the first of ten amendments were written to the constitution; they have since been known as the Bill of Rights. [...]

Shortly after Thomas Jefferson was elected president, some Baptists from Connecticut asked that he declare a national day of fasting in order to help the country recover from a bitterly fought presidential campaign. He disagreed, feeling that the Federal government should not recognize a day set aside for religious reasons. In his reply of 1802-JAN-1, he stated:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

What a brilliant idea. Thanks, Mr. President.

Now we just need to start teaching the First Amendment and what it means to all of us because somewhere along the way, there's a lot of people who seem to have forgotten it.

The American Future Fund: 2008's version of the SBVT Liars?

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Jason Hancock of the Iowa Independent has an investigative report about the American Future Fund which should be of interest to anyone disgusted by the Willie Horton and SBVT Liars brand of slurs which were tossed about in past elections.

In fact, 2 of the principals in the group are directly tied to and responsible for that trash.

The Washington Post reported in March - and [Tim] Albrecht [AFF communications director] confirmed to Iowa Independent -- that Ben Ginsberg, of the high-powered D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, is the group's legal counsel. Ginsberg resigned as chief outside counsel to the Bush-Cheney campaign in August 2004 when it was revealed that he was also providing advice to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that sponsored error-laden attacks on the military service record of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

Larry McCarthy, president of D.C.-based media firm McCarthy Marcus Hennings, is AFF's media strategist. In 1988, McCarthy produced the infamous, racially tinged Willie Horton television ad that helped then-Vice President George H.W. Bush bury Michael Dukakis under charges that he was soft on crime.

The organization is currently active in close "congressional races from New York to Louisiana to Minnesota and Colorado. It is one of the most ambitious conservative independent expenditure groups to emerge in 2008. Most observers expect AFF to begin increasing its role in elections around the country, stoking speculation that it will spend heavily to prop up lightly funded Republican campaign committees."

What is of more concern is the manner in which it has been organized with regard to the tax code and FEC reporting requirements.

Because of the way the group is organized under Internal Revenue Service guidelines for nonprofit organizations it does not have to disclose its donors and is not governed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Pew Center Report: Integrators, Net-Newsers, Traditionalists & Disengaged

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A new Pew Research Center Report on their biennial news consumption survey (pdf), conducted in primarily in May 2008, found "four distinct segments in today's news audience: Integrators, who comprise 23% of the public; the less populous Net-Newsers (13%); Traditionalists -- the oldest (median age: 52) and largest news segment (46% of the public); and the Disengaged (14%) who stand out for their low levels of interest in the news and news consumption."

In reviewing the definitions of the various categories, I'd have to say that the blogosphere population probably falls heavily into the Net-Newsers category.

Integrators

Integrators, who get the news from both traditional sources and the internet, are a more engaged, sophisticated and demographically sought-after audience segment than those who mostly rely on traditional news sources. Integrators share some characteristics with a smaller, younger, more internet savvy audience segment.

Like web-oriented news consumers, Integrators are affluent and highly educated. However, they are older, on average, than those who consider the internet their main source of news. Overall, Integrators spend more time with the news on a typical day than do those who rely more on either traditional or internet sources; far more enjoy keeping up with the news a lot than in any other news segment.

Integrators also are heavier consumers of national news -- especially news about politics and Washington -- and are avid sports news consumers. Television is their main news source, but more than a third cite the internet as their primary source of news during the day. This reflects the fact that a relatively large proportion of Integrators log on to the internet from work (45%).

Net-Newsers

Net-Newsers are the youngest of the news user segments (median age: 35). They are affluent and even better educated than the News Integrators: More than eight-in-ten have at least attended college. Net-Newsers not only rely primarily on the internet for news, they are leading the way in using new web features and other technologies. Nearly twice as many regularly watch news clips on the internet as regularly watch nightly network news broadcasts (30% vs. 18%).

This web-oriented news segment, perhaps more than the others, underscores the challenges facing traditional news outlets. Fewer than half (47%) watch television news on a typical day. Twice as many read an online newspaper than a printed newspaper on a typical day (17% vs. 8%), while 10% read both.

However, Net-Newsers do rely on some well known traditional media outlets. They are at least as likely as Integrators and Traditionalists to read magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and somewhat more likely to get news from the BBC.

Fully 82% of Net-Newsers get news during the course of the day, far more than the Traditionalists and the Disengaged, and slightly more than the Integrators. Nearly all who get news at this time go online for information (92%). Yet they do tap traditional sources at other times of the day; nearly two-thirds get news late in the evening and of these, more rely on television news than the internet.

Traditionalists

Despite sweeping changes in the news landscape, Traditionalists remain the largest segment of the overall news audience. Compared with the Integrators and Net-Newsers, Traditionalists are downscale economically -- 43% are not employed and 60% have no more than a high school education.

Television dominates as the favored news source among Traditionalists. And at each time of the day -- whether morning, daytime, dinner hour, or late at night -- overwhelming majorities who get news at these times cite television as their main source. Unlike the news Integrators, or those who mostly get news from the web, most Traditionalists say that seeing pictures and video, rather than reading or hearing the facts, gives them the best understanding of events.

Disengaged

Most Americans fall into the three core news audiences -- Integrators, Traditionalists, or Net-Newsers. The fourth group -- the Disengaged -- are very much bystanders when it comes to news consumption. They are less educated on average than even the Traditionalists and exhibit extremely low interest in -- and knowledge of -- current events. Just 55% of the Disengaged get any news on a typical day, and just 20% know that the Democrats have a majority in the House of Representatives.

In my household of 4 people, I think we would all fall into the Net-Newsers category. Three of us have configured our browsers configured with iGoogle for newsfeeds. The other one (me) hits the NY Times, Washington Post and the political blogs online first thing every morning. We all listen to NPR in the morning, every morning. One of us also listens to NPR's All Things Considered in the afternoon daily, the others catch it as they can. One sees the local daily newspaper, primarily for the suduko and crossword puzzles but also the local headlines. None of us watch local TV news. All of us watch video clips of news online at least several times a week. Two of us read the weekend/Sunday editions of the New York Times and the local paper, The Connecticut Post. We occasionally watch cable news, MSNBC or CNN, though never the regular network TV broadcasts. We do know that we are atypical news consumers - far more connected and conversant in national and international news than our neighbors, family and friends.

Our news consumption habits place us in a group that is and will be growing. The Pew report notes that "since 2006, the proportion of Americans who say they get news online at least three days a week has increased from 31% to 37%. About as many people now say they go online for news regularly (at least three days a week) as say they regularly watch cable news (39%); substantially more people regularly get news online than regularly watch one of the nightly network news broadcasts (37% vs. 29%)."

Changing their ways

What I wonder is why the cable news and traditional nightly network broadcast news organizations don't make it easier to view and share their news segments online. They've gone to all the trouble and expense to produce them. They have them in digital format. Why not make them available to people who didn't happen to be parked in front of a television at the time they chose to air them? And the ability to both view and share easily may win them more viewers in the long run.

We share video links via IM and email all the time. It makes sense to me that news organizations, both TV-based and print-based, would want to take advantage of the viral marketing opportunity that that kind of sharing makes possible.

[via]

How Thomas Jefferson fought smearmails

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Alright, they weren't called smearmails in his day but Paul Vitello of the NYT reminds us that it was pretty rough back in TJ's day.

When Thomas Jefferson found himself accused of planning to burn all Bibles and legalize prostitution if elected president in 1800, he was ready with a counterpunch that might make today's most vitriolic campaign operatives stop short, if only to gape upon the greatness that once was presidential campaign slander.

Jefferson's rival, President John Adams, was endowed with a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman"; and if re-elected he would crown himself king; and, by the way, he was "mentally deranged."

The author of the attacks was not Jefferson himself, of course, but a master poison-pen pamphleteer named James Callender, who, historians have since determined, was bankrolled completely by Jefferson. (For his efforts, Callender spent nine months in prison under the Sedition Act for saying those things about a sitting president; Jefferson pardoned him immediately after defeating Adams and taking office.)

Billmon and others on Georgia

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The acclaimed Billmon has come out of retirement with an excellent post on why the Georgia-Russia situation wasn't discussed more thoroughly in our Congress and our media in the last few years along with an outstanding history lesson. He's tough to excerpt so I'd recommend going and reading the whole thing first and then returning here.

If you read nothing else here or anywhere else, read the Billmon post.

Jerome a Paris pointed out an article by Anatol Lieven who is a professor in the war studies department of King's College London and a senior fellow of the New America Foundation. He covered the Georgian civil wars of the 1990s as a correspondent for the Times (London). He's written an op-ed in the Financial Times that sums the Georgia-Russia debacle quite clearly.

The bloody conflict over South Ossetia will have been good for something at least if it teaches two lessons. The first is that Georgia will never now get South Ossetia and Abkhazia back. The second is for the west: it is not to make promises that it neither can, nor will, fulfil when push comes to shove.

Georgia will not get its separatist provinces back unless Russia collapses as a state, which is unlikely. The populations and leaderships of these regions have repeatedly demonstrated their desire to separate from Georgia; and Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister, made it clear again and again that Russia would fight to defend these regions if Georgian forces attacked them. [...]

The latest conflict is humiliating for the US, but it may have saved us from a far more catastrophic future: namely an offer of Nato membership to Georgia and Ukraine provoking conflicts with Russia in which the west would be legally committed to come to these countries' aid - and would yet again fail to do so. There must be no question of this being allowed to happen - above all because the expansion of Nato would make such conflicts much more likely.

Instead, the west should demonstrate to Moscow its real will and ability to defend those east European countries that have already been admitted into Nato, and to which it is therefore legally and morally committed - especially the Baltic states. We should say this and mean it. Under no circumstances should we extend such guarantees to more countries that we do not intend to defend. To do so would be irresponsible, unethical and above all contemptible.

To which Smintheus added this comment in a discussion on billmon's excellent post,

It demonstrated that the US won't allow itself to be dragged by 2nd rate powers into their disputes with Russia. Had the US succeeded in gaining NATO membership for Georgia or given military assistance to Georgia in this war, it would have opened the floodgates. Every dispute between Russia and one of its neighbors would have been turned into a make-or-break test of America's determination to contain Russia. Saakashvili was convinced in advance of this war that he could manipulate the US into the conflict. From an interview the day before he ordered troops into South Ossetia:

[Saakashvili] says he cannot imagine the West not coming to Georgia's aid. It would be like the betrayal of Hungary in 1956 or the then Czechoslovakia in 1968, when the Soviet Union's aggressive repression of restive satellites was met with silence from the West.

If those buttons had worked when he started punching them, then every other regime in Russia's vicinity would have started trying them out as well.

All of which prompts me to ask why we weren't examining the moves towards the ex-Soviet Union countries more carefully in the blogosphere. Yes, there were other things going on, the Iraq War, warrantless surveillance, corruption ala Abramoff et al, dirty tricks in the DOJ, the failure of the Katrina response, but foreign policy that commits us to fight on multiple fronts must always be of importance. Any discussion of NATO membership or other similar mutual aid pacts must be examined much more closely in Congress, in the media and yes, in the blogosphere.

Frank Rich sets the record straight on John McCain

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I think Frank Rich earned his NYT salary this week. First, he took a swipe at the 'chicken littles':

AS I went on vacation at the end of July, Barack Obama was leading John McCain by three to four percentage points in national polls. When I returned last week he still was. But lo and behold, a whole new plot twist had rolled off the bloviation assembly line in those intervening two weeks: Obama had lost the election!

Then he was "churlish" enough to point out some actual facts and ended that section by pointing out that the most significant poll was one by the Pew Research Center which found "that only 26 percent feel [they've heard too much] about McCain, and that nearly 4 in 10 Americans feel they hear too little about him." He then proceeded to set the record straight on McCain in blistering language.

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president's response to Katrina; he fought the "agents of intolerance" of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain's imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

Next he delineated just why each aspect mentioned above is inaccurate. He continued on with an assessment of the media's laziness in covering McCain. I suspect he's thinking of the broadcast media types though he didn't say that specifically. TalkingPointsMemo came in for a great acknowledgment of their coverage of McCain.

While reporters at The Post and The New York Times have been vetting McCain, many others give him a free pass. Their default cliché is to present him as the Old Faithful everyone already knows. They routinely salute his "independence," his "maverick image" and his "renegade reputation" -- as the hackneyed script was reiterated by Karl Rove in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column last week. At Talking Points Memo, the essential blog vigilantly pursuing the McCain revelations often ignored elsewhere, Josh Marshall accurately observes that the Republican candidate is "graded on a curve."

Most Americans still don't know, as Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail "McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries' names wrong, forgets things he's said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused." Most Americans still don't know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press's previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express.

He further illustrated the difference in diligence by discussing the coverage of the potential first ladies and here The Jed Report was used as a source on Cindy McCain's numerous residences.

To appreciate the discrepancy in what we know about McCain and Obama, merely look at the coverage of the potential first ladies. We have heard too much indeed about Michelle Obama's Princeton thesis, her pay raises at the University of Chicago hospital, her statement about being "proud" of her country and the false rumor of a video of her ranting about "whitey." But we still haven't been inside Cindy McCain's tax returns, all her multiple homes or private plane. The Los Angeles Times reported in June that Hensley & Company, the enormous beer distributorship she controls, "lobbies regulatory agencies on alcohol issues that involve public health and safety," in opposition to groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The McCain campaign told The Times that Mrs. McCain's future role in her beer empire won't be revealed before the election.

He noted his conversation about McCain's unreliability with Rita Hauser who's co-founded the Republicans for Obama group and concluded his column with this admonition.

As everyone says, polls are meaningless in the summers of election years. Especially this year, when there's one candidate whose real story has yet to be fully told.

So CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC .... consider yourselves admonished and get on with telling all of McCain's story. I have no hope for Fox ever telling anything like the truth.

And thanks, Frank, for speaking out so clearly.

More POVs on the Georgia-Russia conflict

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-- Michael Dobbs deflates the rah-rah mentality in this Washington Post article:  'We Are All Georgians'? Not So Fast.

Actually, the events of the past week in Georgia have little in common with either Hitler's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II or Soviet policies in Eastern Europe. They are better understood against the backdrop of the complicated ethnic politics of the Caucasus, a part of the world where historical grudges run deep and oppressed can become oppressors in the bat of an eye.

Unlike most of the armchair generals now posing as experts on the Caucasus, I have actually visited Tskhinvali, a sleepy provincial town in the shadow of the mountains that rise along Russia's southern border. I was there in March 1991, shortly after the city was occupied by Georgian militia units loyal to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first freely elected leader of Georgia in seven decades. One of Gamsakhurdia's first acts as Georgian president was to cancel the political autonomy that the Stalinist constitution had granted the republic's 90,000-strong Ossetian minority.

After negotiating safe passage with Soviet interior ministry troops who had stationed themselves between the Georgians and the Ossetians, I discovered that the town had been ransacked by Gamsakhurdia's militia. The Georgians had trashed the Ossetian national theater, decapitated the statue of an Ossetian poet and pulled down monuments to Ossetians who had fought with Soviet troops in World War II. The Ossetians were responding in kind, firing on Georgian villages and forcing Georgian residents of Tskhinvali to flee their homes.

It soon became clear to me that the Ossetians viewed Georgians in much the same way that Georgians view Russians: as aggressive bullies bent on taking away their independence. "We are much more worried by Georgian imperialism than Russian imperialism," an Ossetian leader, Gerasim Khugaev, told me. "It is closer to us, and we feel its pressure all the time."

When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there's plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States may have stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West's ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited.

-- Jeffrey Taylor has an excellent background information article on Georgia and Russia in The Atlantic.

Georgia's forty-year-old president, the liberal Mikheil Saakashvili, may possess many admirable attributes--dashing looks, fluency in several languages (including English), a degree from Columbia Law school, and a heartfelt commitment to a Westward-looking future for his country--but strategic acumen, even plain old-fashioned common sense, do not, it is now tragically apparent, figure among them. Rather, Saakashvili is well-known in Georgia for his authoritarian streak and hotheadedness--the most damning character flaws imaginable in a confrontation with the calculating former spymaster and current Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Saakashvili won presidential elections in 2004 promising to impose Tbilisi's writ on the three Russia-backed rebellious republics of Ajaria, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. In short order, without firing a shot, he reclaimed Ajaria and sent its leader, Aslan Abashidze, fleeing to Moscow. But his reckless decision last week to shell and then invade South Ossetia (populated mostly by ethnic Ossetes holding Russian passports) and attack Russian forces stationed there, combined with his now obviously misplaced faith in the senior Bush administration officials, including President Bush himself, who have been glad-handing him since he came to power following the Rose Revolution of 2003, may yet undo his presidency and return Georgia to Russian vassalage.

The pitiable David-and-Goliath asymmetry of Georgia's dustup with Russia, plus Saakashvili's repeated hyperbolic declarations to satellite news stations, have obscured both the United States' culpability in bringing about the conflict, and the nature of the separatism that caused it in the first place.

There's lots more worth reading in Taylor's article. [via]

-- The BBC reports on what it calls the propaganda war between Georgia and Russia as follows: [via]

The Bush administration appears to be trying to turn a failed military operation by Georgia into a successful diplomatic operation against Russia. It is doing so by presenting the Russian actions as aggression and playing down the Georgian attack into South Ossetia on 7 August, which triggered the Russian operation. Yet the evidence from South Ossetia about that attack indicates that it was extensive and damaging.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford has reported: "Many Ossetians I met both in Tskhinvali and in the main refugee camp in Russia are furious about what has happened to their city. They are very clear who they blame: Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili, who sent troops to re-take control of this breakaway region." [...]

-- Michael Walzer of Dissent magazine makes six points about the Georgian and Russian words and actions. I agree with point #3 which highlights the incompetencies of Bush foreign policy and point #6 about needing a better foreign policy discussion. [via]

-- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates makes it clear that there will be no US military intervention in Georgia. The McClatchy article also points out that Gates was at one time the CIA's top Soviet analyst thus presumably bringing a little bit more to the table in terms of knowledge about the ongoing history of the region.

-- There's a second McClatchy article on the impact of Gates' no intervention statement along with more on the ground reporting of conditions, that's worth taking the time to read. They also cover in an earlier article, the Bush administration assertions that they tried to restrain Saakashvili along with noting that those messages may have been very mixed.

More "nuances" in the Georgia - Russia conflict

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Steve Clemons of the Washington Note invited Dmitri Simes, president of The Nixon Center, to do a guest post. Mr. Simes' credentials are impressive and the post he wrote offered both background and questions that are not being seen in the traditional media which is totally focused on the "Russia is the aggressor" theme.

It is remarkable, but probably inevitable, that so many in Washington have reacted with surprise and outrage to Russia's response to President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempt to reestablish Georgian control over South Ossetia by force.

Some of the angriest statements come from those inside and outside the Bush administration who contributed, I assume unwittingly, to making this crisis happen. And like post-WMD justifications for the invasion of Iraq, the people demanding the toughest action against Russia are focused on Russia's lack of democracy and heavy-handed conduct, particularly in its own neighborhood, and away from how the confrontation actually unfolded. Likewise, just as in the case of Saddam Hussein, these same people accuse anyone who points out that things are not exactly black and white, and that the U.S. government may have its own share of responsibility for the crisis, of siding with aggressive tyrants - in this case, in the Kremlin. [...]

The Kremlin made abundantly clear that it would view Kosovo's independence without Serbian consent and a U.N. Security Council mandate as a precedent for the two Georgian de facto independent enclaves. Furthermore, while President Saakashvili was making obvious his ambition to reconquer Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow was both publicly and privately warning that Georgia's use of force to reestablish control of the two regions would meet a tough Russian reaction, including, if needed, air strikes against Georgia proper.

So it would be interesting to know what President Saakashvili was thinking when, on Thursday night, after days of relatively low-level shelling around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali (which both South Ossetians and Georgians blamed on each other), and literally hours after he announced on state-controlled TV the cessation of hostilities, he ordered a full-scale assault on Tskhinvali. And mind you, the assault could only succeed if the Georgian units went right through the battalion of Russian troops serving as international peacekeepers according to agreements signed by Tbilisi itself in the 1990s.

Under the circumstances, the Russian forces had three choices: to surrender, to run away, or to fight. And fight they did - particularly because many of the Russian soldiers were in fact South Ossetians with families and friends in Tskhinvali under Georgian air, tank, and artillery attacks. Saakashvili was reckless to count on proceeding with a blitzkrieg in South Ossetia without a Russian counterattack.

Continued here

Mr. Simes also appeared on the Newshour along with Richard Holbrooke and made some of the same points there in response to Holbrooke's hammering of "the Russians are the aggressors" party line.

It's interesting to keep the points made in both of those events in mind when considering this item reported by the International Herald Tribune on July 15th.

Georgian and U.S. troops started a joint military exercise Tuesday [7-14-2008] amid growing tensions between the ex-Soviet republic and Russia, a Georgian defense ministry official said.

About 1,200 U.S. servicemen and 800 Georgians will train for three weeks at the Vaziani military base near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, ministry spokesman Mindiya Arabuli said. The drills were planned months ago and are not related to recent tensions over two separatist Georgian regions that are backed by Moscow, he said.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has courted the United States and sent a large contingent of troops to Iraq. His efforts to move Georgia from under Russia's shadow and into NATO have angered Moscow, which has stepped up support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Also Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry started a military exercise in the nearby North Caucasus region. Ministry spokesman Yuri Ivanov said the drill had "nothing to do" with the Georgian-U.S. maneuvers.

Georgia claims a string of recent explosions and border skirmishes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia are part of a Russian plan to annex the regions, while Russia claims Georgia is gearing up for a mid to take control of the regions by force.

Why were US troops training with Georgian troops in Georgia right outside of? Tblisi five months before a US election? The pro forma denial that the military exercises had nothing to do with the two autonomous provinces rings very hollow.

[Update:  strikeout added to clarify the point.  Did not mean to imply direct relationship between joint exercise scheduling and election schedules.]

There are two possibilities: the Bush foreign policy administration is so incompetent that it didn't realize that such activities would push Saakashvili over the edge into imprudent action against South Ossetia. Or the Bush foreign policy administration did know that the activities would push Saakashvili over the edge and went forward with it because the predictable results would support some other action that they want to take.

So what action would neo-conservatives about to be tossed out of power want to instigate? That is the real question.

Could it have something to do with Cheney's wish to invade Iran before he and Bush leave office? There are some outside the US press who think it may have something to do with what's happened.

From The Asia Times,

Georgia is one of Iran's "near neighbors" and as a result of geographical proximity and important political and geostrategic considerations, the current Russia-Georgia conflict is closely watched by Tehran, itself under threat of military action by the US and or Israel, which may now feel less constrained about attacking Iran in light of Russia's war with Georgia.

So far, Tehran has not adopted an official position, limiting itself to a telephone conference between Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, expressing Iran's desire to see a speedy end of the conflict for the sake of "peace and stability in the region". Tehran's dailies have likewise refrained from in-depth analyses of the crisis and from providing editorial perspectives, and the government-owned media have stayed clear of any coverage that might raise Moscow's objection.

Behind Iran's official silence is a combination of factors. These range from Iran's common cause with Moscow against expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), interpreting this crisis as a major setback for NATO's "eastward expansion" in light of the unabashed pro-West predilections of Tbilisi's government, to Iran's sensitivity to Russia's national security concerns. The latter are heightened by the US's plans to install anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe, not to overlook Iran's concern as not to give the Kremlin any ammunition that could be used against it in Tehran's standoff over its nuclear program.

Representing a serious new rift in US-Russia relations, the conflict in the Caucasus, paralyzing the UN Security Council and igniting Cold War-type rhetoric between the two military superpowers, is simultaneously a major distraction from the Iran nuclear crisis and may even spell doom for the multilateralist "Iran Six" diplomacy. This involves the US, Britain, Russia, France, China and Germany in negotiations over Iran's uranium-enrichment program, which some believed is aimed at making nuclear weapons.

Never mind that we've broken our military and are stretched so thin in trying to support two simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We certainly can't support a third war.

What does Dick Cheney have in mind? Was it his intent to draw attacks on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Supsa pipelines thus throwing more uncertainty into the global oil market and increasing profits for the Cheney-Bush families and oil buddies?

Or as some fear, does he want to try out the tactical nuclear weapons we've developed on Iran as per the plan the Pentagon constructed for him? As Scott Ritter has warned, pick the US city you want destroyed. If nuclear weapons are used anywhere in a Muslim state, it is inevitable that the same will be used in retaliation on a US city.

Or do we put this down to incompetence? I'd like to see the traditional media spending a whole lot more time on the motivations behind the Bush administration actions. It would be very enlightening and much more useful than the "Russians are aggressors and rebuilding their empire" line that's currently being pushed.

Georgia - Russia redux

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-- Former Bush administration official Paul Saunders points out "Georgia's Recklessness" in the Washington Post. He notes, in particular, Saakashvili's trampling of democratic principles when it suits him. [via]

-- McCain oversteps, nay, leaps way over the boundary of permissible activity for a presumptive presidential nominee right into conducting foreign policy in lieu of the President of the United States.

-- Mikhail Gorbachev weighs in on the Georgia-Russia conflict and his voice should be heard.

The roots of this tragedy lie in the decision of Georgia's separatist leaders in 1991 to abolish South Ossetian autonomy. Each time successive Georgian leaders tried to impose their will by force - both in South Ossetia and in Abkhazia, where the issues of autonomy are similar - it only made the situation worse.

Nevertheless, it was still possible to find a political solution. Clearly, the only way to solve the South Ossetian problem on that basis is through peaceful means. The Georgian leadership flouted this key principle.

-- Some commonsense analysis by Fred Kaplan at Slate:

Regardless of what happens next, it is worth asking what the Bush people were thinking when they egged on Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's young, Western-educated president, to apply for NATO membership, send 2,000 of his troops to Iraq as a full-fledged U.S. ally, and receive tactical training and weapons from our military. Did they really think Putin would sit by and see another border state (and former province of the Russian empire) slip away to the West? If they thought that Putin might not, what did they plan to do about it, and how firmly did they warn Saakashvili not to get too brash or provoke an outburst?

It's heartbreaking, but even more infuriating, to read so many Georgians quoted in the New York Times--officials, soldiers, and citizens--wondering when the United States is coming to their rescue. It's infuriating because it's clear that Bush did everything to encourage them to believe that he would. When Bush (properly) pushed for Kosovo's independence from Serbia, Putin warned that he would do the same for pro-Russian secessionists elsewhere, by which he could only have meant Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Putin had taken drastic steps in earlier disputes over those regions--for instance, embargoing all trade with Georgia--with an implicit threat that he could inflict far greater punishment. Yet Bush continued to entice Saakashvili with weapons, training, and talk of entry into NATO. Of course the Georgians believed that if they got into a firefight with Russia, the Americans would bail them out.

Bush pressed the other NATO powers to place Georgia's application for membership on the fast track. The Europeans rejected the idea, understanding the geo-strategic implications of pushing NATO's boundaries right up to Russia's border. If the Europeans had let Bush have his way, we would now be obligated by treaty to send troops in Georgia's defense. That is to say, we would now be in a shooting war with the Russians. Those who might oppose entering such a war would be accused of "weakening our credibility" and "destroying the unity of the Western alliance."

This is where the heartless bastard part of the argument comes in: Is Georgia's continued control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia really worth war with Russia? Is its continued independence from Moscow's domination, if it comes to that, worth our going to war? [...]

Regardless of which side started this conflict, and quite apart from its tangled roots (read this and this, for starters), the crisis holds a few clear lessons for the next American president.

First, security commitments are serious things; don't make them unless you have the support, desire, and means to follow through.

Second, Russia is ruled by some nasty people these days, but they are not Hitler or Stalin, and they can't be expected to tolerate direct challenges from their border any more than an American president could from, say, Cuba. (This is not to draw any moral equations, only to point out basic facts.)

Third, the sad truth is that--in part because the Cold War is over, in part because skyrocketing oil prices have engorged the Russians' coffers--we have very little leverage over what the Russians do, at least in what they see as their own security sphere. And our top officials only announce this fact loud and clear when they issue ultimatums that go ignored without consequences.

In the short term, if an independent Georgia is worth saving, the Russians need some assurances--for instance, a pledge that Georgia won't be admitted into NATO or the European Union--in exchange for keeping the country and its elected government intact. (Those who consider this "appeasement" are invited to submit other ideas that don't lead either to Georgia's utter dismantlement or to a major war.)

-- And finally, this one falls in the foolish category: McCain calls the Georgia-Russia conflict the first serious conflict since WWII, apparently forgetting about Korea, Vietnam, the 1st and 2nd Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, not to mention the genocide in Rwanda and Darfur.

Lest we forget who Jerome Corsi really is - UPDATED

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Atrios reminds us all that Media Matters had the scoop on Jerome Corsi, Freeper, back in 2004 when they provided us with a selection of his quotes.

  • Corsi on Islam: "a worthless, dangerous Satanic religion"
  • Corsi on Catholicism: "Boy buggering in both Islam and Catholicism is okay with the Pope as long as it isn't reported by the liberal press"
  • Corsi on Muslims: "RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters -- it all goes together"
  • Corsi on "John F*ing Commie Kerry": "After he married TerRAHsa, didn't John Kerry begin practicing Judiasm? He also has paternal grandparents that were Jewish. What religion is John Kerry?"
  • Corsi on Senator "FAT HOG" Clinton: "Anybody ask why HELLary couldn't keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?"

[...]

Corsi is also a frequent participant in FreeRepublic.com's online forums, posting under the pseudonym "jrlc" since 2001. (Click here to read a full set of Corsi's posts; click here to read the post in which "jrlc" admits to being Jerome Corsi.)

On FreeRepublic.com, Corsi has, among other things, said that "ragheads" are "boy buggers"; referred to "John F*ing Kerry"; called Senator Hillary Clinton a "Fat Hog"; referred to her daughter as "Chubby Chelsie" Clinton; referred to Janet Reno as "Janet Rhino"; called Katie Couric "Little Katie Communist"; suggested Kerry was "practicing Judaism"; and expressed the wish that a small plane that had crashed into a building in Los Angeles had instead crashed into the set of NBC'S The West Wing, thereby killing actor Martin Sheen.

Media Matters then provided a whole series of specific examples of Corsi's freeper postings with links. To be honest, it's pretty sickening to view but after skimming it, I really have to question how any legitimate journalist would even contemplate as reliable anything that comes out of Corsi's mouth.

UPDATE:

Ben Smith added this note about Corsi:

... I'll take the opportunity to plug one of my favorite radio shows, and the place I first heard Corsi: Coast to Coast AM. It specializes in alien sitings and abductions, time travel, other paranormal phenomena, as well as regular guest Jerome Corsi's discoveries on the malign plans for the North American Union.

Read Ron Rosenbaum's classic Coast to Coast AM piece for more. The show airs starting at midnight all over the place, and is great, hallucinatory listening for insomniacs.

And then there's the debunking by the Obama campaign itself, summarized by Jonathan Martin:

unfitcover.jpg

In an move that is one part genuine pushback and one part message-sending, Obama's campaign has released a 41-page PDF file designed to rebut accusations made in Jerome Corsi's book, "The Obama Nation."

The idea is to aggressively fact-check a book that is now No. 1 on the NYT's best-seller list.  But, as made plain by the title and faux book jacket, the goal is also to demonstrate to fretting Democrats, Republicans plotting attacks and reporters watching it all that they won't be "swift-boated" in the way John Kerry was in 2004 starting with Corsi's book, "Unfit for Command."

To prove this point, they don't stop at merely fact-checking each questionable claim in the book -- they also set out to attack Corsi for his fringe views, discrediting the messenger.

Of course, the lies in "The Obama Nation" almost pale in comparison to the bizarre, conspiratorial views that Jerome Corsi has advocated in his broader work," writes the Obama campaign in what amounts to an introduction, noting the author's fear of a purported North American Union, belief that there was a government coverup of 9/11 and past anti-Catholic comments.  


The Post-American Century

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Don Mikulecky is a complexity scientist. A what? Here's his informal definition:

As a complexity scientist, I see all kinds of intricate interconnections and causal entailments.  (If "causal entailment" is too technical a term try "reason why things happen")  So along comes 2000, and the country falls into an abyss of great depth.  Forget "how did it happen" because it will take eons to work out a story for that.  More risky, but more interesting, from my perspective, is the question "why did it happen".  (Answers to "why?" lead to the identification of causal entailment.)

He applies his skills to analysis of Harold Meyerson's piece in the Washington Post which is interesting reading all on its own.

Don answers his why question this way:

So here is my answer. The reason it happened is so we would get to the point Meyerson is so aptly describing in his article. One superpower, no matter who it is, is not going to stay in the catbird seat for long. That is too far from any balance of all the complex forces acting to move the system toward some form of stability. It is basically an unstable state.  Now, let's see what Meyerson says about it all:

These events did not occur in a vacuum. Just a few weeks previous, global trade talks collapsed because China and India believed the proposed regulations would imperil their farmers. When these Doha Round deliberations began in 2001, it was inconceivable that they would be derailed by non-Western powers. By the summer of 2008, however, China and India had attained so much economic clout that they were perfectly capable of bringing the negotiations to a halt.

Notice anything about that scenario?  like the absence of the dominance of Western powers in the discussion?

It's a thoughtful discussion and one that leads into the premise of Fareed Zakaria's book, The Post-American World, which I recommend on its own as essential and very interesting reading. Fareed opens his book, "This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else." But the story of the rise of the rest isn't necessarily the story of the US's decline. Zakaria notes that the US's economic leadership and military superiority isn't just going to disappear. As John Ikenberry's reviewin CFR puts it, "Washington's best strategy, he argues, is to accommodate, rather than resist, these modernizing states, allowing them to become "stakeholders in the new order" in exchange for their strategic cooperation."

I wish Meyerson had followed through in his post as Zakaria did in his book though perhaps, he would need a book to accommodate the length.

Fareed published a lengthy essay based on the book in CFR's Foreign Affairs journal which he summarizes this way:

Despite some eerie parallels between the position of the United States today and that of the British Empire a century ago, there are key differences. Britain's decline was driven by bad economics. The United States, in contrast, has the strength and dynamism to continue shaping the world -- but only if it can overcome its political dysfunction and reorient U.S. policy for a world defined by the rise of other powers.

Also of interest: Zakaria's Newsweek article on 'Obama Abroad'. He delineates Obama's stance from a foreign policy perspective and dismisses all the comments of puffery, and smoke and mirrors.

The Georgia-Russia conflict from other POVs

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The Eurasia Daily Monitor by the Jamestown Foundation provides translation and a rough summary of news in Asia and in particular, the countries of the former Soviet Union from primary news sources in those countries. It seems that the Georgia-Russia conflict may not be the overwhelming, super-strategic move that some neo-cons have named it.

Pavel Baev summarizes it this way:

Moscow was disconcertingly taken by surprise with the sharp escalation of hostilities in South Ossetia last Friday. The most apparent part of the problem was the lack of leadership, as President Dmitry Medvedev departed to a Volga resort and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin went to Beijing to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The greater problem was the serious military and political miscalculations that had resulted in the apparently chaotic emergency decision-making (Kommersant, August 9; Ezhednevny zhurnal, August 8).

It is hard to blame the military for missing the Georgian preparations for the large-scale offensive, since the command of the Armed Forces had been thoroughly reshuffled: The Chief of the General Staff was replaced in early June, his first deputy (the head of the Main Operational Department) was fired in early July and not replaced, and the commander of the Ground Forces was replaced in the first days of August (Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 5).

The main blunder, however, was political, as the Kremlin seriously overestimated its ability to dominate the situation in the conflict zone. The large-scale military exercises conducted across the North Caucasus in July were supposed to demonstrate Russia's superiority in projecting power (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 18). In parallel, the withdrawal of the railway troops from Abkhazia in early August symbolized Moscow's flexibility and responsiveness to the peace proposals advanced by Germany (Nezavisimaya gazeta, August 8).

Putin was confident that his performance at the NATO Bucharest summit had effectively blocked Georgia's Atlantic aspirations; several stern "warnings" should have ensured that Georgia would not dare make any pro-active move. Surprise was so complete that Putin, according to those who saw him in Beijing, was pale with barely controlled rage, which he tried to convey to U.S. President George Bush and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev (Moscow echo, August 8).

As GrandMoffTexan noted, "there's a very different narrative going on here.  Is it possible that Russia is not, like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, implacable and calculating and trying to send us a message with every tick and grimace?"

The Georgian provocation seems to have had an Ossetian provocation.  Here's an article from the day before the Russians invaded Georgia:  

The latest outbreak of hostilities began on July 31 after two roadside bombs hit a Georgian police Toyota SUV near the Georgian village of Eredvi. Six Georgian policemen were wounded (Interfax, August 1). Russian peacekeepers, according to the Russian Defense Ministry, discovered that the bombs were made out of 122 mm artillery shells (www.mil.ru, August 2). The road leading to Eredvi was built by the Georgians to bypass Ossetian roadblocks near the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. Last November I traveled that road in a similar Toyota to visit the Georgian-controlled part of South Ossetia. This road has been a thorn in the side of the Ossetian separatists for some time. On July 4 a car with the pro-Georgian leader of South Ossetia Dmitry Sanakoyev, whom the separatists consider a renegade, was hit by a roadside bomb and shot at on the same road in almost the same spot. Three bodyguards were wounded, but Sanakoyev was unhurt. A surge of tension followed the attack (RIA-Novosti, July 4; Kommersant, August 4).

The roadside bomb attack on July 31 was followed the next day by bloody clashes. Both sides accused the other of initiating the fighting. The Ossetians admitted six dead and 15 wounded, many hit by sniper fire. The Georgians admitted nine wounded. Both sides accused the other of using mortar fire. The Ossetians announced that 29 Georgian solders had been killed but did not substantiate the claim (RIA-Novosti, August 4). The Ossetians began an evacuation of women and children to North Ossetia (a Russian autonomous republic), called for volunteers from the North Caucasus to join the fight against Georgia, and threatened to attack Georgian cities and to cleanse the Georgian forces out of South Ossetia. The South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity claimed that Georgians living in South Ossetia were begging to be "liberated" from the forces of the regime in Tbilisi (RIA-Novosti, August 2, 3, and 4).

Kokoity has announced that some 300 volunteers have arrived in South Ossetia to fight the Georgians and that more are coming (www.newsru.com, August 5). Most of the "volunteers" seem to be South Ossetians that were serving in police and other militarized formations in North Ossetia and were sent south as reinforcements. Kokoity has ordered that these "volunteers" be integrated into the South Ossetian Interior Ministry forces (RIA-Novosti, August 6). Yesterday the Ossetians were reporting fierce battles with Georgian forces, while Georgian authorities and Russian peacekeepers reported only shooting incidents in which no one was injured (Interfax, August 6).

The Ossetian authorities have announced the cancellation of a planned meeting with the Georgian side in Tskhinvali on August 7, while the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it believed the meeting had to go ahead (RIA-Novosti, August 6). Russian peacekeepers say that after the initial flare up of fighting on August 1, the situation in South Ossetia has somewhat calmed. The Ossetians insist that it is getting worse (Interfax, August 6). High-ranking Russian officials, including President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have remained silent about the conflict in South Ossetia.

So how much of this nuance have you gleaned from the American media types?

Not much, I'll bet.

Bookmark the Eurasia Daily Monitor and check its archives for past news summaries.

Another 'Must Read' about Georgia-Russia conflict from The Belgravia Dispatch

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Greg Djerejian has posted another must-read analysis which takes apart the predictable neo-con, McCain response to the Georgia-Russia conflict.

Witness this incredibly poor reasoning by McCain, jaw-dropping even by the standards of the mammoth policy ineptitude we've become accustomed to during the reign of Bush 43 and his motley crew of national security miscreants. Here is McCain:

Mr. McCain urged NATO to begin discussions on "the deployment of an international peacekeeping force to South Ossetia,'' called on the United Nations to condemn "Russian aggression,'' and said that the secretary of state should travel to Europe "to establish a common Euro-Atlantic position aimed at ending the war and supporting the independence of Georgia.''

And he said the NATO should reconsider its previous decision and set Georgia - which he called "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion'' -- on the path to becoming a member. "NATO's decision to withhold a membership action plan for Georgia might have been viewed as a green light by Russia for its attacks on Georgia, and I urge the NATO allies to revisit the decision,'' he said. [my emphasis]

First, what does it matter in this context that Georgia was "one of the world's first nations to adopt Christianity as an official religion"? If it had been the first to adopt Islam, or Judaism, or Buddhism, would the situation be different? Perhaps this might get assorted Christianists in an excited tizzy or such, which come to think of it, might be why some clueless aide to McCain, fresh from a Google sortie, decided to plug this little factoid into his statement. But what is really mind-boggling here is that McCain would have us double-down, and cheer-lead having NATO "revisit" the decision not to extend membership to Georgia! It is precisely this type of profoundly flawed thinking ... that has gotten Georgia into this bloody mess.

There's more, said in the way Djerejian only can do so along with some references to more authoritative, informed views such as those of George Kennan as well as some recent comments by Henry Kissinger.

Then he produces this bit:

So here is where matters stand. Rather than talk and obsess about what we should do, it is the Russians, sad to say, who will determine the fate of Georgia in the coming days and weeks, and so we might take a moment or two and stop and think about what their next moves are likely to be. Will they stop at Gori (just south of Ossetia) as well as a bit to the east of Abkhazia (a similar 'exclusion zone'), or have they now decided to march into Tbilisi and unseat this Government whole stop (I think it's a closer call which way Russia will go than many of us realize at this hour, but won't hazard to make a call just yet. UPDATE: The latest Russian moves would appear to indicate the former). As a Georgian civilian put it more pithily: "The border is where the Russians say it is. It could be here, or it could be Gori". Or, indeed, it could be Tbilisi, as I say.

Meantime, a Georgian soldier tells a U.S. reporter in the same piece: "Write exactly what I say. Over the past few years, I lived in a democratic society. I was happy. And now America and the European Union are spitting on us." They are, aren't they? They had no business making the cheap promises and representations that were made. No business on practical policy grounds. No business on strategic grounds (though I guess it got Rummy another flag, near the Salvadorans, say, for the Mesopotamian "coalition of the willing"). And now our promises are unraveling and nakedly revealed for the sorry lies and crap policy they are, with the emperor revealed to have no clothes, yet again. This is what our foreign policy mandarins masquerade about as they play policy-making, in their Washington work-stations. It's, yes, worse than a crime, rather a sad, pitiable blunder.

And one McCain would have us compound, I stress, again! An honorable man who served his country well, it is clear his time has past and his grasp on the most basic foreign policy calls we'll need to make in the coming years is very tentative indeed. He'll be surrounded by second-tier 'yes-man' realists and residual neo-con swill, few with any ideas worth pursuing if we mean to take the national interest seriously with sobriety and freshness of perspective. So let us help him exit off-stage gracefully, as he served his country with dignity when called upon, but let us not sacrifice our children's future to ignorants with deludely romantic notions of empire. Been there, done that. Indeed, we have a President who has announced a pre-emptive doctrine which allows us to, willy-nilly, instigate regime change when and where we deem appropriate. Who are we to lecture Putin now? What standing do we have to do so? And what parochial and self-satisfied myopia has us indignantly thinking we are some unimpeachable arbitrer of right and wrong in the international system after the disastrous missteps of the past eight sordid years?

If we mean to help the Georgians escape an even worse fate, we must summon up the intelligence and humility to have a dialogue with Putin, Medvedev, Sergie Lavrov, Vitaly Churkin and the rest of them based on straight talk (not of the McCain variety, and if we can somehow find a messenger of the stature and talent to deliver the message in the right way, hard these days), to wit: we screwed up overly propping this guy up and he got too big for his britches, we understand, but for the sake of going forward strategic cooperation (and don't mention Iran here, at least not as the first example)--as well as stopping further civilian loss of life--agree to work with us in good faith towards a status quo ante as much as possible, don't enter Tbilisi, and throw show-boats Sarkozy/Kouchner a bone with some possible talk of a going forward EU peacekeeping role (if non-binding, for the time being). This is roughly what we should be saying/doing now, not having the President step up to the White House mike fresh back from the sand volleyball courts of Beijing to gravely declare Russia's actions are "unacceptable in the 21st century." Such talk will get us nowhere, instead, it might just fan the flames more (as will Cheney's threats of "serious consequences", apparently a favorite sound-bite of his, but this time mentioned only in the context of the U.S.-Russian relationship). Let us be clear: these men's credibility is a sad joke, and Putin knows it only too well. So let's get real. Before it's too late, and more facts are created on the ground, mostly on the backs of innocent civilians throughout Georgia's various regions.

Amen.

Republicans endorse Obama

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Fairbanks Alaska Republican Mayor Jim Whitaker endorses Obama as does former Republican Sen. Jim Leach of Iowa who is heading up Republicans for Obama.

"My goal is to let Republicans have a clear understanding that their right to vote should not be restricted by any party affiliation," the borough mayor said. He said the economic and political challenges facing the state and country are broader than political parties alone can address and suggested Republicans should consider crossing party lines by focusing on the strongest candidate this year.

Whitaker, a former state lawmaker, said a comparison of Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain leads him to believe Obama has the stronger "intellectual capacity" and a greater ability to manifest it.

Whitaker, who as a politician has often focused on energy issues, said he sensed an open-minded approach in Obama's campaign toward traditional, alternative and renewable energy issues that can benefit resource-rich Alaska.

H/T to Hope Reborn

Via TPMElectionCentral, Sen. Leach who is a moderate Republican with considerable foreign policy experience spoke on the Obama campaign conference call describing "Obama as the real heir to the internationalist approach of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon."

"In my judgment there's a difference between realism and pseudo-realism," Leach said. "The pseudo-realists believe that we can operate in the world alone, that expanding international law doesn't matter, that things like arms control are false starts."

"You try to work with allies, rather than without them," Leach added. "And that is the kind of realism that I think is common sense to the vast majority of the American people, and that's what Senator Obama is reflecting in so many of his speeches."

A realist is what we need so desperately in the White House. Someone who is able to recognize the pitfalls of the Georgia-Russia situation and set a course that doesn't lead the world into yet another all-out war.

Obama's statement on it yesterday demonstrates that type of leadership. The full statement is below the fold.

UPDATE: And don't forget Susan Eisenhower, Ike's granddaughter and head of The Eisenhower Foundation. She was interviewed recently by the Washington Independent which followed her endorsement of Obama in Feb. 2008, published by the Washington Post.


White House to Eviscerate Endangered Species Act

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Via LithiumCola, It seems that Bush has decided to that agency officials have enough knowledge to replace scientists in evaluating impact of actions on species. Per the AP:

Under current law, federal agencies must consult with experts at the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether a project is likely to jeopardize any endangered species or to damage habitat, even if no harm seems likely. This initial review usually results in accommodations that better protect the 1,353 animals and plants in the U.S. listed as threatened or endangered and determines whether a more formal analysis is warranted.

The Interior Department said such consultations are no longer necessary because federal agencies have developed expertise to review their own construction and development projects, according to the 30-page draft obtained by the AP.

"We believe federal action agencies will err on the side of caution in making these determinations," the proposal said.

Right. And I own a bridge in Brooklyn.

There's more good detail in LithiumCola's post as well as in another post by Patriot News Daily Clearinghouse which has more analysis:

Bush's proposed rules would allow federal agencies to determine for themselves "whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants." This means any project a federal agency would fund, build or authorize (e.g., federal agency approval or permits needed) would no longer have independent, scientific review.

Under existing law, mandatory and independent reviews have been conducted by government scientists for the past 35 years. Under current law, federal agencies must consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service which must determine whether a proposed project is "likely" to jeopardize any endangered species even if no harm appears likely. This initial review enables experts to require accommodations or mitigation measures that provide protection to the threatened or endangered species and determines whether more extensive analysis is needed. A federal government handbook from 1998 concluded that consultations are "some of the most valuable and powerful tools to conserve listed species."

To get some idea of impact, government wildlife experts currently conduct "tens of thousands of such reviews each year:"

Between 1998 and 2002, the Fish and Wildlife Service conducted 300,000 consultations. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which evaluates projects affecting marine species, conducts about 1,300 reviews each year.

[...]

Bush knows that the new ESA proposed rule will be litigated and will likely be overturned by the courts. In 2003, Bush issued similar rules to allow agencies to approve new pesticides and projects to reduce wildfire risks without the pesky inconvenience of needing to obtain consultation from government scientists on whether threatened or endangered species or habitats may be affected by the project. The pesticide rule was rejected by the court and the wildfire prevention rule is currently being litigated.

In the pesticide case, the federal district judge concluded that "to ignore the wildlife agencies is to ignore the law." The judge was also concerned that the pesticide rule was drafted with a "total lack" of "scientific justification" and that there were "disturbing indications" that the Bush administration "deliberately muted dissent from government scientists." This new Bush rule to kill ESA similarly was drafted by attorneys without any input from government scientists, who were first briefed on the new rule last week.

So the Bush administration attempts another backdoor strike at our natural resources on behalf of their business cronies who complain that evaluating impact slows down their projects. Per the Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse post, what's most important to note is how quickly the administrative rule change could be put into place.

The new rules will be formally proposed in the near future. If Bush abides by the usual regulatory rule-making process, then the federal government must publish the proposed rule in the Federal Register to enable the public to read and review the proposed rule.  The public then has 30 days to submit comments on the proposed rule, and the government must consider and provide responses to the public comments.  

The proposed rule could be accepted by the Interior Department as a final rule in only 60 days. This means a final rule could be issued before the November election.

Keep your eyes open for action alerts on responding to this assault on endangered species.

And if you're wondering why it's important, here's another reminder that I saw just yesterday. Basically, the brown snake "all but destroyed bird life on the northern Pacific island of Guam" after its introduction in the 1940s. But what's of interest now is the recognition that the impact of the snake population has changed the way forests grow and may lead to some trees becoming extinct or nearly so which will impact other species.

Messing with history in Georgia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Russia

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John Cole did a Sunday morning round up on the situation between Georgia and Russia. It's a good introductory summary including a link to Greg Djerejian at The Belgravia Dispatch who has apparently come out of semi-retirement from his blog to comment on this situation. John also references Daniel Larison at Eunomia. If you want the short version on background, John's post gives you a start.

Greg Djerejian's post is worth reading in its entirety in that it adds some perspective and knowledge that you won't find in the US press coverage. It certainly hasn't been evident in the NPR coverage.

Steve Clemons who also gave Djerejian's post a nod has his own background summary of the Georgia-Russia clash.

Dimitri Simes, President of the Nixon Center, was one of the leading foreign policy experts in Washington to predict some kind of hot clash between the former Soviet state of Georgia and Russia involving the autonomous provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia at the time Kosovo declared its independence. [...]

... Simes convinces me in his important Foreign Affairs essay, "Losing Russia," that much of what we are seeing unfold between Russia and Georgia involves a high quotient of American culpability.

But it's Daniel Larison at Eunomia who's been discussing this intelligently for a long time and continues to do so in these posts. (He also gives Djerejian a nod.)

He covers McCain's reaction with a nod to John Cole's summary on it in this one: McCain's Georgia Obsession. And in this one: Reflexive Hostility Has Its Advantages.

HIs commentary on traditional news media and columnists' pronouncements and editorials is interesting. I suspect he wouldn't like hearing this but it wouldn't look all that out of place on Daily Kos.

If you skim through those and their associated links, you'll have the equivalent of a crash course on the history of Georgia, Russian and their satellites.

One more thing to be noted and that is that Randy Scheunemann, McCain's chief policy advisor in this area, is neck-deep in lobbying conflicts of interest. Lindsay Beyerstein at Majikthise has an exclusive scoop on just how deep he is and with what dubious (Chalabi) partners. Given what we now know, the prospectus descriptions of what his organization will do for potential clients just scream 'culture of corruption'. TPMMuckraker expanded on his history in Iraq in "McCain Adviser's Horrifying Iraq Track Record: Will the Press Notice?"


Painfully Wrong - UPDATED

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Anyone who's seen John McCain's Painful ad on TV or the web needs to see this video. A little fact-checking demonstrates just how painfully wrong McCain's ad is. And it is painfully damaging to the discourse of democracy that should be taking place and a painful slap in the faces of the American people. Imagine -- John McCain lying. But wait, you don't have to imagine it. Just listen to him. He's lying to you right now and this video tells you just how.



Digg it here. Help it go viral via email, your blog, facebook, wherever. Also don't forget to recommend and favorite it on youtube.

Don't believe the points in this video because it was produced by the Obama campaign? Then check out this fact-check page which lists the lies in the ad one by one and then the traditional media quotations of independent experts and individuals refuting the lies, one by one.

H/T to and updates via Muzikal203

UPDATE #1: Newsweek is also pointing out McCain's lies on Obama's tax policy.

Summary
McCain released three new ads with multiple false and misleading claims about Obama's tax proposals.

A TV spot claims Obama once voted for a tax increase "on people making just $42,000 a year." That's true for a single taxpayer, who would have seen a tax increase of $15 for the year - if the measure had been enacted. But the ad shows a woman with two children, and as a single mother, she would not have been affected unless she made more than $62,150. The increase that Obama once supported as part of a Democratic budget bill is not part of his current tax plan anyway.

A Spanish-language radio ad claims the measure Obama supported would have raised taxes on "families" making $42,000, which is simply false. Even a single mother with one child would have been able to make $58,650 without being affected. A family of four with income up to $90,000 would not have been affected.

The TV ad claims in a graphic that Obama would "raise taxes on middle class." In fact, Obama's plan promises cuts for middle-income taxpayers and would increase rates only for persons with family incomes above $250,000 or with individual incomes above $200,000.

The radio ad claims Obama would increase taxes "on the sale of your home." In fact, home-sale profits of up to $500,000 per couple would continue to be exempt from capital gains taxes. Very few sales would see an increase under Obama's proposal to raise the capital gains rate.
Click Here

A second radio ad, in English, says, "Obama has a history of raising taxes" on middle-class Americans. But that's false. It refers to a vote that did not actually result in a tax increase and could not have done so.

These ads continue what's become a pattern of misrepresentation by the McCain campaign about his opponent's tax proposals.

The Newsweek article goes through a 4 page debunking of McCain't's LIES on Obama's policy. Nice to see some journalists doing their jobs. . . Check out the whole thing and pass it on.

UPDATE #2: CNN breaks them down too:



UPDATE #3: Here's the CNN transcript for the hearing and broadband impaired:

WILLIS: All right. We've got some really interesting numbers here. You know, we were talking just a few minutes ago about the tax policies of the two major candidates out there -- Obama and McCain. How do they stack up? Classic match-up -- Republican and Democrat. Look at these numbers though.

Let's start with low-income folks out there. $38,000 to $66,000 a year. If you're earning that, under the McCain plan, you save about $319. Under the Obama plan, you save over $1,000. So, big benefits going for folks who earn less than $66,000. Now, let's up the ante a little bit. If you're in the middle of the income stream, $66,000 to $112,000, which is actually pretty rich in this country. Your tax bill would come in 1,000 bucks lower under McCain. Under Obama, it would come in 1200 bucks lower.

Now, let's look at people who make a chunk of change. $112,000 to $161,000. McCain, big-time savings there of $2600. Obama, not so much at 2200 when you stack the two next to each other.

But here is the rub, guys. Look at these numbers. If you're super wealthy in this country, Obama is going to sock you with more taxes of more than $700,000. Now, you see the message of that, where he wants to make up tax revenues here.

Interesting stuff from the Tax Policy Center. They are a nonpartisan research organization out of Washington. You see that classic match-up, though.

What's interesting, John, I think, is that you would expect the Democrats to raise taxes on lots of folks, not just the super wealthy. Not the case with Obama. Really going after the super rich here.

ROBERTS: Yes. The whole, I guess, message of this campaign is that -- and Jim Webb was talking about this yesterday, that there's this calcification of, you know, difference between the very wealthy in this country and those who are financially disadvantaged.

WILLIS: Huge gap, growing gap.

ROBERTS: Or even people in the middle class. And I guess they want to try to level that playing field.

WILLIS: They want to level that playing field. And very interesting differences, of course also, Obama giving tax credits to people who don't have income to report. So, very different approach to taxes in this country. Makes it clear as a bell for you out there who are going to be voting in November.

ROBERTS: All right. Lots to consider this year.

WILLIS: That's right.

UPDATE #4: From the Washington Post, here's another good graph to pass around:

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Top that one

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The opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing was stunning. Congratulations to the many highly talented people who created, designed and performed such a beautiful welcome for the athletes.

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VFP: "To the Captain I Saw at Cracker Barrel"

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(This morning's essay on re-entry comes to us courtesy of VeteransForPeace.org...)


To the Captain I Saw at Cracker Barrel

by Richard R. DiPirro, VFP member


Welcome home. Welcome back, sir, and welcome home.

Welcome back to the world you once knew, which looks entirely different to you now, which resembles the world you lived in before but seems drawn like a cartoon now and scored with music you've never heard. Welcome back to a civilization you couldn't wait to get back to, but isn't what you remember at all.

There are people smiling and shaking your hand and slapping your back -- actors in a bad play about the life of someone who looks a lot like you. There are signs and banners and parades and picnics and they whirl around you. You are an observer at the center of everyone's attention.

"Support the Troops!" They yell until they're hoarse -- waving flags and driving cars with yellow magnets, never trying to explain why they weren't with you there, suffering 130 degree heat, shaking scorpions from their boots and feeling the weight of sand settle in their lungs. Welcome home, sir.

I saw you at Cracker Barrel the other morning, sir. I sat and ate my Old Timer's Breakfast and laughed with my wife and forgot about my brothers and sisters living every moment of thirteen months in their own hot hell. I would have missed you if I hadn't looked up when I did from my hash browns and turkey sausage, would have missed that moment I'll never forget.

I saw your boots first, sir and the brown and tan of your desert camouflage and then your face -- a face I knew like my mothers, like my own. You scanned everyone as you walked through the restaurant toward your table, scanned their faces, evaluated their threat potential and moved on to the next.

In Flyover Country, Two Funerals and a Waiting

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As the New York Times pointed out today in a top-page article titled Deadly U.S. Milestone in Afghan War, on July 22 of this year the 500th U.S. troop fatality was recorded in Afghanistan, the home of the Forgotten -- some would say the Abandoned -- War against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Given the time zone/date line difference, that means the 500th fatality described in that article took place exactly a year after I posted the following OP over at Democratic Underground.

The timing matters, because we're heading into this most crucial election season trying to figure out just how and why the Bush administration managed to get our country so deeply quagmired in places like Afghanistan while still squandering trillions of dollars and many thousands of lives in Iraq.

Why? Because we need to know what happened in order to undo as much of the accumulated damage as possible -- which may not be much by now, in terms of relative scale compared to the sheer scope of the insanity, but making the effort with every effort we can muster is absolutely essential in terms of getting our nation back on track again.

With that in mind, it seemed like this would be particularly appropriate timing for me to repost my OP from last summer again -- in part, to remind us all that the less things change, the more they stay insane.



buchan_goerie_sm.jpgErie, Pennsylvania is a small city on the edge of a great lake. It is a quintessentially American community -- so much so, in fact, that it was designated an All-American City by Richard Nixon in 1972. Like many such cities, it has gone through some painful changes over the last few decades as its old industrial economy gradually gave way to a 21st-century technology/service/tourism economy instead. But Erie still typifies what most Americans look for in their home towns: wide streets, good schools, low crime rates, affordable housing, and a generally pleasant quality of life for its citizens.

And like the residents of most American home towns outside the Beltway and between the polarized left and right coast megalopolises, people in Erie are basically centrist by nature. They may differ widely on specific individual issues, but for the most part they share common values and common beliefs with each other and with the hundreds of millions of other Americans who live in what is sometimes referred to as "flyover country."

Politics is something that people do care about in Erie, at least when it impacts their daily lives in some particular way, but they don't obsess about it. They may lean left or right, but they do so with their feet planted firmly in the middle of the road. During the 2004 race, George Bush's single largest campaign-rally audience was in Erie. But in 2004, Erie voters chose John Kerry over George Bush by a solid margin. Professional pundits and politicians and prognosticators do well to pay attention to what happens in Erie, because it is and always has been a bellwether burg for how the American electorate looks at the world.

That's why today, while Pentagon officials pander to politicians and pundits pontificate about how important it is to give the imperialist warmongers in the White House more time to prove their ill-conceived surge is working in Iraq, it's appropriate for us to look at the human costs of making war as seen through the eyes of quintessentially average Americans, as told in the words of four reporters for the award-winning Erie Times-News newspaper and website.

Two funerals in two weeks. Two flag-draped coffins. Two men who gave the last full measure of devotion for the country they chose to serve. And one mother of two sons in harm's way, waiting and hoping and praying that they come home alive this time.

- - - - - - - - -


As Times-News reporter Erica Erwin wrote on July 4,

Alan Sargent stood on the tarmac at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and placed his hand over his heart.

Fifteen yards away, Northwest Airlines Flight 1740 had rolled to a stop outside gate C6.

Sargent watched, waiting, while members of the ground crew crawled through the plane's belly into the cargo hold.

Minutes passed before he saw the flag-draped coffin pass from the hold onto a conveyor belt.

"There he is," Sargent said to himself. "There he is."

[ ... ]

Travelers walking through the C terminal at Cleveland Hopkins paused, pressing their faces against the window panes as a military honor guard marched in lock step to the plane and carried the coffin to a waiting hearse.

Passengers, asked to stay onboard, watched from their seats above.

A baggage handler dressed in shorts and a fluorescent green vest joined police, fire and airport officials in saluting as the coffin passed by.

August 6, 2001 - We Will Never Forget

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Today is a day to remember the 7th anniversary of the PDB delivered to President Bush. The one he received with the comment:

"All right. You've covered your ass now."

The one about which Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor, said:

"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile."

The day after he received the memo the Washington Post noted, "Bush seemed carefree as he spoke about the books he was reading, the work he was doing on his nearby ranch, his love of hot-weather jogging, his golf game and his 55th birthday" .

Per ThinkProgress,

Here's how the administration reacted, according to the 9/11 Commission report:

-- [President Bush] did not recall discussing the August 6 report with the Attorney General or whether Rice had done so. [p. 260]

-- We have found no indication of any further discussion before September 11 among the President and his top advisers of the possibility of a threat of an al Qaeda attack in the United States. DCI Tenet visited President Bush in Crawford, Texas, on August 17 and participated in the PDB briefings of the President between August 31 (after the President had returned to Washington) and September 10. But Tenet does not recall any discussions with the President of the domestic threat during this period. [p. 262]


Today -- 2,557 days later -- Bin Laden still remains free and "determined to strike in U.S."


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Tell me now.

How is it that Republican administrations keep us safer?

How is it that invading Iraq made us safer?

Don't give this administration a 3rd term.

Photo credit:       mock, paper, scissors

----

For more information, please check GWU's The National Security Archive.

H/T to ek hornbeck, the smoking gun, ThinkProgress, and Crooks and Liars.


Learning to Speak Climate

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Thomas Friedman earns his money today. This is another credit where credit is due post about Friedman's column summing up his trip to Greenland.

Sometimes you just wish you were a photographer. I simply do not have the words to describe the awesome majesty of Greenland's Kangia Glacier, shedding massive icebergs the size of skyscrapers and slowly pushing them down the Ilulissat Fjord until they crash into the ocean off the west coast of Greenland. There, these natural ice sculptures float and bob around the glassy waters near here. You can sail between them in a fishing boat, listening to these white ice monsters crackle and break, heave and sigh, as if they were noisily protesting their fate. [...]

Alas, though, I do not work for National Geographic. This is the opinion page. And my trip with Denmark's minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, to see the effects of climate change on Greenland's ice sheet leaves me with a very strong opinion: Our kids are going to be so angry with us one day.

We've charged their future on our Visa cards. We've added so many greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, for our generation's growth, that our kids are likely going to spend a good part of their adulthood, maybe all of it, just dealing with the climate implications of our profligacy. And now our leaders are telling them the way out is "offshore drilling" for more climate-changing fossil fuels.

Madness. Sheer madness. [...]

Greenland is one of the best places to observe the effects of climate change. Because the world's biggest island has just 55,000 people and no industry, the condition of its huge ice sheet -- as well as its temperature, precipitation and winds -- is influenced by the global atmospheric and ocean currents that converge here. Whatever happens in China or Brazil gets felt here. And because Greenlanders live close to nature, they are walking barometers of climate change.

That's how I learned a new language here: "Climate-Speak."

There's more about how speak "climate speak". It's very easy to learn according to Thomas.

Steve Greenberg sums it up well

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Sometimes a picture sums it all up better than words. From the Ventura County Star:

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Grab your tire gauge - Obama's right

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John McCain and the RNC have once again demonstrated their inability to deal with reality. And no less than Time magazine has stepped up to do the honors in highlighting their silliness.

But who's really out of touch? The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

Time goes on to point out:

The real problem with the attacks on his tire-gauge plan is that efforts to improve conservation and efficiency happen to be the best approaches to dealing with the energy crisis -- the cheapest, cleanest, quickest and easiest ways to ease our addiction to oil, reduce our pain at the pump and address global warming. It's a pretty simple concept: if our use of fossil fuels is increasing our reliance on Middle Eastern dictators while destroying the planet, maybe we ought to use less.

The RNC is trying to make the tire gauge a symbol of unseriousness, as if only the fatuous believed we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil without doing the bidding of Big Oil. But the tire gauge is really a symbol of a very serious piece of good news: we can use significantly less energy without significantly changing our lifestyle. [...]

We can use those twisty carbon fluorescent lightbulbs. We can unplug our televisions, computers and phone chargers when we're not using them. We can seal our windows, install more insulation and adjust our thermostats so that we waste less heat and air-conditioning. We can use more-efficient appliances, build more-efficient homes and drive more-efficient cars, preferably with government assistance. And, yes, we can inflate our tires and tune our engines, as Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and Charlie Crist of Florida have urged, apparently without consulting the RNC. While we're at it, we can cut down on idling, which can improve fuel economy another 5%, and cut down on speeding and unnecessary acceleration, which can increase mileage as much as 20%.

And that's just the low-hanging fruit. There are other ways to reduce demand for oil -- more public transportation, more carpooling, more telecommuting, more recycling, less exurban sprawl, fewer unnecessary car trips, buying less stuff and eating less meat -- that would require at least some lifestyle changes. But things like tire gauges can reduce gas bills and carbon emissions now, with little pain and at little cost and without the ecological problems and oil-addiction problems associated with offshore drilling. These are the proverbial win-win-win solutions, reducing the pain of $100 trips to the gas station by reducing trips to the gas station. And Americans are already starting to adopt them, ditching SUVs, buying hybrids, reducing overall gas consumption. It's hard to see why anyone who isn't affiliated with the oil industry would object to them.

In fact, Obama's actual energy plan (pdf) is much more than a tire gauge.

Yesterday he gave a policy address in Lansing, Michigan, on dealing with the energy crisis in the US and our dependence on foreign oil. Here's the video - approx. 34 min.; the transcript of prepared remarks is below the fold.



Juxtaposition

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Here's an amateur response to McCain's Celebrity ad and boy, does it make the point well.



Ah yes, that Reagan coalition they're all so glad to associate themselves with -- a candidate who had celebrity and the ability to inspire with words. What a hypocrite McCain is.

Congratulations David Wade

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In catching up on the news that happened while I was on vacation, I found Chris Cilizza's note on David Wade, Sen. Kerry's main man, signing up with the Obama campaign as the press person for Obama's VP candidate, whoever that may be.

The washingtonpost.com also reported on July 31st.

Senior Senate staffer David Wade is finally cutting the apron strings. Wade is leaving the office of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the only politician for whom the 32-year-old aide has worked in his 11-year career on Capitol Hill, to become spokesman for Sen. Barack Obama's running mate (whoever that may be).

Today is scheduled to be Wade's last day in Kerry's office before he jets off to Chicago to settle in with the Obama campaign.

As our colleague Chris Cillizza reported on his blog, The Fix, this week, the Obama camp already has begun hiring staff members for the eventual veep nominee, signaling he's very close to choosing his No. 2. Wade was hired by Patti Solis Doyle, former campaign manager for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential bid who is now overseeing Obama's vice presidential effort.

"I think Crash Davis put it best: I'm just happy to be here and hope I can help the ball club," Wade told us, referring to the lead character in "Bull Durham," his favorite movie. "Senator Kerry's been like a father to me, and I'm grateful he urged me to do this."

Having worked with Wade in the fall of 2006, I can attest to his quick wit. My favorite of his was his defense of John Murtha on Kerry's behalf against bottom-feeder Karl Rove's mudslinging.

"The closest Karl Rove ever came to combat was these last months spent worrying his cellmates might rough him up in prison. This porcine political operative can't cut and run from the truth any longer. When it came to Iraq, this Administration chose to cut and run from sound intelligence and good diplomacy, cut and run from the best military advice, cut and run from their responsibility to give our troops body armor, and in November, Americans will cut and run from this Republican Congress."

Boston Magazine liked it as well. They included a nice pic of David.

Congratulations, David, and best wishes for success and fun in your new position.