aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Of course I was pleased to hear Bill Richardson say just now on The Today Show that his endorsement came as a result of Obama’s speech on race:
I’m a hispanic. And I felt that what he said about being a nation of all us being together and not stereotyping, really clinched it.
I read Richardson as generous in discussing Clinton, and making the call, but as with John Lewis it was an intensely difficult decision and the Clintons didn’t make it any easier.
An example from the NYTimes today:
“An act of betrayal,” said James Carville, an adviser to Mrs. Clinton and a friend of Mr. Clinton.
“Mr. Richardson’s endorsement came right around the anniversary of the day when Judas sold out for 30 pieces of silver, so I think the timing is appropriate, if ironic,” Mr. Carville said, referring to Holy Week.
I once had great admiration for Carville but that’s now long gone. He’s become a smarmy snake-oil salesman who will do whatever it takes to keep his spot on Meet The Press next to his fact-challenged wife.
John Edwards is unlikely to endorse either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton before the nomination is decided, according to interviews with several members of the former candidate’s inner circle.
At least three individuals who have recently spoken to Edwards expect that he will choose to stay out of the fight, though they warn that no one other than his wife, Elizabeth, can be certain of his thinking.
“My gut instinct, at this point: He’s probably going to remain neutral and sort of try to play on that Al Gore status as party elder,” said a former Edwards operative who is in regular contact with the former North Carolina senator and who asked that his name be withheld.
So for the moment it doesn’t look like there are any more big endorsements on the horizon. But then, times change....
Friday, March 21, 2008
Jeremiah Wright - in Macon; on Gays
Wright’s in the news in Macon for a planned October church* visit just days before the November election:
“I’m sort of echoing what Barack Obama said, I’m not going to disown him, no more than I would disown America,” [St. Paul AME Church Pastor Ronald] Slaughter said.
During Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s inauguration, he credited Wright for giving him vision for moving the city forward during an earlier visit to Macon.
Mayor Reichert is white:
“He may say some provocative and insensitive things,” Reichert said Thursday. “But overall his message is wonderful!”
Some accuse Wright of making racially inflammatory and unpatriotic remarks, but both these men will tell you people are missing the bigger message.
“I think we need to focus on the body of work that this man has accomplished, not on 30 second sound bites,” said Slaughter.
“It’s bad enough to take 30 seconds out of 1 sermon and concentrate on it,” Reichert said. “What do you mean? What did you say before that? What did you say after that? How does it all fit in? It’s even worse when you select this out of 20 years worth of sermons.”
As a leader, Wright defied convention at every turn. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year, he recalled a time during the 1970s when the UCC decided to ordain gay and lesbian clergy. At its annual meeting, sensitive to the historic discomfort some blacks have with homosexuality, gay leaders reached out to black pastors.
At that session, Wright heard the testimony of a gay Christian and, he said, he had a conversion experience on gay rights. He started one of the first AIDS ministries on the South Side and a singles group for Trinity gays and lesbians-a subject that still rankles some of the more conservative Trinity members, says Dwight Hopkins, a theology professor at the University of Chicago and a church member.
Huckabee right on Obama and Wright
I have been talking to students about the Obama speech on race all week.
A mixed bag, to say the least. No easy summing up except to say that for a variety of reasons I’ve not been able to sit with any of them through the whole speech (and I wouldn’t say those I’m working with are particularly eager to—it’s long by YouTube standards). They are far more offended by Wright than I’d have expected of a generation that listens to offensive rap lyrics, plays games like grand theft auto, and watches some of the vulgar, offensive and violent movies and cable shows that are out there.
I was as surprised to find at least one religious conservative who votes Republican and emphatically stressed that she is not an Obama supporter say that just because the candidate’s preacher said something controversial, Obama should not be held responsible for the words of his preacher. She seemed to take offense at the idea that she would be held accountable for every word her preacher might utter. It makes me wonder how many other people there are like her around here.
I wonder that especially as I read the transcript of Mike Huckabee’s appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” from Wednesday. You’ll remember that Huckabee was the Republican who carried Georgia in the February primary and that he is himself a Southern Baptist preacher. His topic was Obama’s speech:
“Obama has handled this about as well as anybody could. And I agree, it’s a very historic speech. I think that it was an important one, and one that he had to deliver. And he couldn’t wait. The sooner he made it, maybe the quicker that this becomes less of the issue. Otherwise, it was the only thing that was the issue in his entire campaign. And I thought he handled it very, very well. [...]
“As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say â€˜That’s a terrible statement’ - I grew up in a very segregated South.
“And I think that you have to cut some slack - and I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you - we’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie, you have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant, you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.
“And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment, and you have to just say, â€˜I probably would, too.’”
Emphasis mine. This may be the first time on this blog that I favorably quote Mike Huckabee.
Arianna beats Drudge
Could it be a digital indicator that the Blue states are taking back ground from the Red onesâ€“at least in cyberspace?
In February, for the first time ever, Arianna Huffington’s liberal political mega-blog and news site, the Huffington Post, has apparently surpassed the longtime mighty blog leader, Matt Drudge of the conservative /populist- leaning Drudge Report, according to recent traffic data reports from both comScore and Nielsen Online. (Both are pictured here.)
According to data from Nielsen Online, for example, the Huffington Post’s trafficâ€“as measured by monthly unique visitors in the U.S., at home and workâ€“has more than tripled since last February. In February of 2007, it had about 1.1 million unique visitors, and by February of 2008, unique visitors had risen to 3.7 million.
Lessig launches Change Congress
Change-Congress.org will be a bi-partisan, web-based effort to leverage and amplify the important reform work being done by others. Think of it as a kind of Google-mashup, but applied to politics. Our aim is not to displace primary reform organizations, but rather to complement and feed support back to these organizations. And in the process, we hope to make transparent just how broad and deep the support for fundamental reform is.
Change-Congress.org will develop in three stages. The first layer will give candidates and Members of Congress a simple way to signal their support for any mix of four fundamental planks of reform: (1) a promise not to accept PAC or lobbyist contributions, (2) a commitment to abolish “earmarks” permanently, (3) a commitment to support public financing of public elections, and (4) a commitment to compel transparency in the functioning of Congress. Once a candidate or Member selects the planks he or she supports, the site will give the candidate code to embed that pledge on the campaign website. Citizens too will be able to take a similar pledge, promising to support candidates who match their own vision of reform. When they do, they will be linked back to reform organizations that support each plank.
But the real contribution of citizens will reach far beyond simply making a pledge. Beginning in April, we will launch a second stage to the site: in a Wikipedia-inspired manner, wiki-workers will track the reform-related positions of candidates who have not yet taken a pledge. If a candidate, for example, has endorsed Public Campaign’s bill for public financing, we will record that fact on our site. The same with a pledge to forgo money from PACS or lobbyists, or any of the other planks in the Change Congress pledge. And once this wiki-army has tracked the positions of all Members of Congress, we will display a map of reform, circa 2008: Each Congressional district will be colored in either (1) dark red, or dark blue, reflecting Republicans or Democrats who have taken a pledge, (2) light red or light blue, tracking Republicans and Democrats who have not taken our pledge, but who have signaled support for planks in the Change-Congress platform, or (3) for those not taking the pledge and not signaling support for a platform of reform, varying shades of sludge, representing the percentage of the Member’s campaign contributions that come from PACs or lobbyists.
What this map will reveal, we believe, is something that not many now actually realize: that the support for fundamental reform is broad and deep. That recognition in turn will encourage more to see both the need for reform, and the opportunity that this election gives us to achieve it. Apathy is driven by the feeling that nothing can be done. This Change Congress map will demonstrate that in fact, something substantial can be done. Now.
Finally, the third stage of Change Congress will provide financial support to reform candidates. Following the model of Emily’s List, we will recruit contributors to support Change Congress candidates, both Republican and Democratic, who make reform a central platform of their campaign. Individuals will be asked, for example, to contribute $10/month to five Change Congress candidates. That support will make it easier for those candidates to spread the message of reform, and to define at least one central part of their candidacy to be about reform.
I have huge hope for that work.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
One (Singular) Advantage of Being Black
Jonathan Chait makes an interesting point:
[Obama] may be liberated to operate at a high intellectual level in public because he’s black. I’m not trying to be Gerry Ferraro here; let me explain. Candidates like John Kerry and (even moreso) Al Gore were also very smart, but constantly forced to dumb it down lest they be tagged as out-of-touch elitists. Since the egghead image is so at odds with the prevailing stereotypes about African-Americans, he has much less to fear by speaking at a high intellectual level.
Of course, Obama is extremely intelligent—as smart as, or smarter than, any presidential candidate I can ever remember. Yet I don’t think a brilliant white Constitutional law professor could pull it off. Being black obviously disadvantages Obama in all sorts of ways. But this is one way where it helps.
And while at The New Republic, John McWhorter responded to the speech in a guest post there:
For a light-skinned half-white Ivy League-educated black man to repudiate, in clear language and repeatedly, the take on race of people like Julian Bond and Nikki Giovanni is not only honest but truly bold.
A certain strain of black bloggers will be blowing their tops for a week, while some black writers of mature years will remind us in editorials that Wright’s vision of America is more present-tense than Obama’s speech implies. [...]
Obama knows that anti-whitey sermons are, in 2008, Sunday morning’s gangsta rap--infectious confection.
I’ve been wondering whether the dust-up over Obama and Wright was mere political hardball or based on actual misunderstanding of black community dynamics. Obama has now clarified the latter, to an extent that ought to satisfy any reasonable listener.
Public corruption in Georgia
BULLETIN: Corruption investigation wider than thought. InsiderAdvantageGeorgia has learned from a highly placed source in the legal community that at least one state legislator has"been wearing a wire for the past year” in an on-going and potentially widespread investigation of public corruption in Georgia. This suggests that the federal government may have been involved in an investigation of corruption under the Gold Dome prior to the December, 2007 date suggested in stories related to the resignation and guilty plea by Rep. Ron Sailor. The investigation may reach across both aisles of the House and potentially the Senate according to the source. Updates to come.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
It must be seen in its entirety. It lived up to my every hope. I will watch with groups of students in the coming days and discuss it again and again. The full text is in the extended entry. I urge you to please watch. No excerpt can possibly do it justice.
Standing with Obama
As Obama faces this toughest challenge, I stand with him.
I have wanted him to talk race for a long time. I’m sorry this is how it came about; but better now than later.
He’s been toughened enough in recent days. I believe the man can do it. And having done it, maybe this will lift us out of the muck the Dems have been in these last few weeks.
Doug’s a Temple grad; PA is my childhood home; we love Philly.
I will watch with the first real hope I’ve had in way too long.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Silda Spitzer & the perils of postfeminism
Ariel Levy, still* writing in New York Magazine:
Last Wednesday, Silda Wall Spitzer was caught in a trap she’d inadvertently set for herself. Like half of the best-educated and most-privileged women in this country who have babies, she relinquished her high-powered career to devote herself to supporting her spouse and caring for their three daughters. However traditional this idea of wifely duty, it was an open-eyed decision, mulled over endlessly and made on modern, postfeminist terms. Later, in 2005, she even sought Clinton’s advice on becoming the First Lady of New York: “I figured, here’s a woman who also met her husband at law school, who had been a lawyer with a firm, whose husband was a state attorney general,” Silda Spitzer said in 2006. “There really aren’t that many role models for this.” But Hillary Clinton never stopped pursuing her own professional agenda. The Clinton relationship has always mixed romance and ambition, and while the calculated nature of this bargain has at times made Hillary seem less than human, it’s also enabled her, at age 60, to be in the prime of her professional life. That’s a stage many more men reach than women.
During his 2006 campaign, Eliot Spitzer said of his wife, “The fact that she believed in me enough to put her very promising legal career on hold was a great source of inspiration.” While this move may well have helped him achieve his goals, it put Silda Spitzer in the nationally televised bind we witnessed last week. This is a Harvard-educated woman who was once a corporate lawyer who made more money than her husband and was proud of it. But since 1994, the year Silda opted out of the workforce to witness her husband’s first run for attorney general, all her formidable drive has had to be channeled into his career. Fourteen years later, retreat wasn’t possible. As the rest of the state called for his head, Silda told her husband to fight for power. It was a moment Hillary Clinton, no doubt, could have advised her about. But for Silda Spitzer, even more was at stake. And she will not have the consolation of her own career as she comes to terms with the man she gave it up for. In a way, it’s the saddest part of the story, and it exposes the risks women take when they make certain kinds of choices-things that, after Silda, they might not think are safe.
In other postfeminism news, we’ve got the spectacle of a former aide to disgraced NJ governor James E. McGreevey saying yesterday that he had three-way sexual trysts with the gov and his wife that kicked off at T.G.I. Fridays—“but it didn’t seem like he was gay”—denied by Dina and confirmed today by McGreevey.
I’m sorry, but spare me the postfeminism and give me some of that good old-fashioned feminism please!
* A couple weeks ago we learned that Levy’s moving to The New Yorker effective April 1.
The politics of attendance in the GA legislature
Well today Blogs for Democracy’s Mel helpfully follows-up with a letter Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield sent to her constituents:
If you woke up Monday, March 10, morning and saw the front page of the local newspaper (as I did), with my photo among ten state representatives who were described as missing the most votes in the Georgia House of Representatives, you would have been treated to about half of the real story.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to fill you in on the details that the newspaper story failed to mention.
Vote Tally Misleading. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s method of tallying voters is misleading because it failed to count the actual number of total votes missed, choosing instead to count only “unexcused absences.” Given that excused absences are automatically given upon the request of a legislator without any explanation, there is no meaningful distinction between excused and non-excused absences. The reality is that I missed a couple of mornings at the Legislature this session to take my children to the doctor during the cold and flu season. I made the technical mistake of not calling in for an excused absence. Had I done so, I would not have been included in the AJC’s ranking.
Vote Tally Reality.
It is also not particularly meaningful to have a quantitative voting ranking without a qualitative examination of what was actually being voted on. Of my 53 missed votes, almost 70% (36) of the measures passed unanimously, including twelve local calendar votes, two motions to adjourn and two privileged resolutions honoring special Georgians.
Read on. She makes some remarkably good points.
I started out wanting to chew out the AJC reporters for not making the excused/non-excused distinction clearer. But those reporters, Ben Smith and John Perry, apparently went to our good government watchdogs and this is what they got:
A leading advocate for open and responsible government said he found the statistics troubling.
“A fundamental responsibility of being in the General Assembly is to be there, casting votes,” said Bill Bozarth, executive director Common Cause Georgia. “If not for every vote, at least a large majority of the time.”
Excused absences were not included in the totals, although some lawmakers had high numbers of excused absences from voting. Lawmakers don’t have to state the reason why they’ll be absent.
“Ordinarily they tell us,” said Robbie Rivers, clerk of the Georgia House. “We don’t question why â€”- we just take their word for it.”
A fundamental responsibility of being the director of Common Cause Georgia is to provide something more than wrote fodder for a boiler-plate story that obfuscates more than informs.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Banks stop people from speaking their truth
So I just finished telling the tale of cops going bonkers over the possibility that ordinary citizens would have the opportunity to rate their performance on the job.
Which reminds me of a similar story about congress caving to the banking industry at a hearing of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions last Thursday. Elizabeth Warren was a panelist:
The first panel was four regular people who wanted to give first-hand information about their experiences with their credit cards. While the reps from Cap One, Chase and Bank of America went on for hours about their customer friendly policies and how much value they provided free to consumers, the people who had different stories were never allowed to utter a single word.
The people who had been invited to testify had flown in from around the country with their credit card bills in hand, only to learn that they couldn’t talk unless they would sign a waiver that would permit the credit card companies to make public anything they wanted to tell about their financial records, their credit histories, their purchases, and so on. The Republicans and Democrats had worked out a deal “to be fair to the credit card lenders.” These people couldn’t say anything unless they were willing to let the credit card companies strip them naked in public.
Via Kevin Drum, who observes:
Hmmm. That’s pretty much how we used to treat rape victims in court, isn’t it? Why the Democratic majority felt like it had to agree to this “compromise” is a little hard to fathom.
In any case, Warren has a good question: does this policy apply to credit card companies too? “I asked if the credit card companies were going to testify to such factual statements, would they be required to produce the data to back up the claims so that we could all see it and evaluate it....I never quite understood the Congressman’s reply.” Actually, I have a feeling she understood it perfectly. It’s only got two letters, after all.
Later on Friday Steve Autrey, one of the people who had been invited to testify before the House subcommittee, made his testimony available as a post on Credit Slips. I’ve excerpted some choice phrases here:
My relationship with Capital One goes back to 1999, when I was solicited with an offer for a Visa card with a “fixed” 9.9% rate card. [In July, 2007] Capital One advised me in a billing insert that my “fixed” rate of 9.9% was being raised to 16.9%. No reason or explanation was given â€“ I was not late on payment, and had not utilized the entire credit limit. This was a unilateral change to the terms of our agreement.
In August, of 2007, I wrote a letter to Mr. Richard D. Fairbank, Chairman, President, and CEO of Capital One, at their McLean, Virginia home office. My written statement will contain a copy of Capital One’s response which includes the line, “Unfortunately, changes in the interest-rate environment or other business circumstances may require us to increase rates, even for fixed-rate accounts in good standing.”
Other issues should be of concern to this committee as well. My wife holds a Capital One-issued MasterCard credit card. Last October, she experienced a medical emergency and had to leave work to spend hours at a medical facility to receive tests and treatment. Arriving home later that evening, she immediately logged on to the CapitalOne.com website to pay her bill online. It was approx. 9:00pm on the due date. Although she made the payment on the due date, it was 6 hours past the 3:00pm cutoff time.
For being six hours late on her payment, she was hit with a $39.00 punitive fine labeled as a “late fee.” That late fee, when added to her account, pushed her balance over the limit by $16.00. It was at this point that Capital One added a second $39.00 fine in the form of an “Over the limit fee” to her account.
Last March Professor Warren discussed the abusive lending practices of credit card companies with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. It’s worthwhile listening. I excerpt some of it here.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Sally Kern’s son isn’t gay
Remember the Oklahoma State pol, Rep. Sally Kern, who said gays are a bigger threat than terrorists?
Jesse Kern, son of Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, said information purporting that he is gay, which has appeared on several blogs, is damaging to himself and his family.
Kern, 31, said he feels the media has a responsibility to seek out the truth, then report it.
Kern, who said he is affiliated with the Des Moines School of Metaphysics, said that he chooses to be celibate, but he is not homosexual.
“First of all, no one’s sexuality is anyone’s business. It is not even my mother’s business,” he said.
“I practice celibacy to give to my God,” he said.
Kern said metaphysics helps teach him such things such as concentration, which has helped him keep focused with all the adverse publicity surrounding his mother’s comments.
Kern said his mother’s comments apparently were taken out of context. He has not chosen to listen to the audio version that has been disseminated widely throughout the nation.
Kern’s views differ from those of his mother, although he applauds her for standing up for what she believes, and thanks his parents for his good upbringing. His father is a Baptist minister in Oklahoma City.
He said the purpose of sex is reproduction, and it is the function of the animal body."But we are more than animals, and we can use sex for a tool of deep relationship with another person.”
Kern added that what is more important than whether it be a relationship with someone of the same sex, is that there “needs to be honor in any relationship whether it is a straight or gay relationship.”
Sounds like we should let him alone and maybe one day he can get through to his mother!
“I would submit to you that the vast majority of the folks in our caucus, particularly those who consider themselves conservative, stand with and support Sally,” said state Rep. Randy Terrill.
Sunstein on ‘the Obama I know’
In The Chicago Tribune Cass Sunstein tells us that for more than a decade Obama was his colleague at the University of Chicago Law School. He details his admiration and concludes:
From knowing Obama for many years, I have no doubts about his ability to lead. He knows a great deal, and he is a quick learner. Even better, he knows what he does not know, and there is no question that he would assemble an accomplished, experienced team of advisers. His brilliant administration of his campaign provides helpful evidence here.
But there is some fragility to the public fervor that envelops him. Crowds and cults can be fickle, and if some of his decisions disappoint, or turn out badly, his support would diminish. Some people think it might even collapse.
My concern involves the importance of internal debate. The greatest American presidents (above all Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt) benefited from robust dialogue and advisers who avoided saying “how wonderful you are” and were willing to say, “Mr. President, your thinking about this is all wrong.”
Because Obama is exceptionally able, and because so many people are treating him as a near-messiah, his advisers might be too deferential, too unwilling to question. There is a real risk here. But I believe that his humility, and his intense desire to seek out dissenting views, will prove crucial safeguards.
In the 2000 campaign, Bush proclaimed himself a “uniter, not a divider,” only to turn out to be the most divisive president in memory. Because of his certainty and lack of curiosity about what others might think, Bush polarized the nation. Many of his most ambitious plans went nowhere as a result.
As president, Barack Obama would be a genuine uniter. If he proves able to achieve great things, for his nation and for the world, it will be above all for that reason.
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Samantha Power in The Chronicle
The Chronicle had a piece on Samantha Power yesterday that put her slip of the tongue in kind context. It’s behind a paywall so here’s a fairly long excerpt:
Even for a prominent intellectual cum foreign-policy adviser, Samantha Power has been keeping a punishing schedule.
When she arrived in Europe at the beginning of the month, she had spent the previous few weeks crisscrossing the country on a frenetic hybrid book tour and campaign junket for Barack Obama, for whom she served as an unpaid adviser. In the middle of an interview to promote her new book, the adjunct professor of public policy at Harvard University told a Scottish-newspaper reporter, in an arguably off-the-record moment, that Hillary Clinton was a “monster.”
Power quickly apologized. But within hours, the story exploded across the American news media, and she resigned from the Obama campaign.
Last month, before Power’s Europe trip, I interviewed her. She was a nervous wreck even then. Perched on a stool in the corner of a bustling Washington cafe, leaning close, she confided: “I can’t sleep, and I can’t eat.”
It was a surprising admission. After all, Power seemed to be living a charmed life. One journalist had likened the attractive auburn-haired author (who was recently featured in a glamorous spread in Men’s Vogue) and human-rights activist turned academic to a latter-day Joan of Arc, out to save the world. Another scribe had suggested that Power possessed just the right combination of dynamism and “cerebral bona fides” to make her an appealing presidential candidate. In short, she was the epitome of the academic celebrity.
Pretty heady stuff for a 37-year-old who never claimed to be on the receiving end of direct orders from God or to have given any thought to running for elected office, much less the highest office in the land.
And she seemed to find love on the campaign trail: The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday that Power was dating the fellow-Obama adviser and prolific University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, soon to join her at Harvard University.
So why the frayed nerves? Simply put, Power is wildly popular. At a recent talk about her new book, Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World (Penguin Press)-an admiring biography of the charismatic Brazilian-born United Nations diplomat who was killed in the August 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad-she was inundated with well-wishers, autograph seekers, and stargazers.
With charisma and ease, she responded to a plethora of questions that included, for example, Obama and the prospect of U.N. reform. Unfailingly polite and personable-and presumably not wanting to alienate potential Obama voters, she went over her allotted time on her tightly packed schedule. She would be playing catch-up for the rest of the day, and she had been operating at that frenetic pace for weeks on end.
When we finally got to sit down and talk at a favorite tea shop of hers, she took a deep breath and explained her frenzy. “In order to do these really big ambitious books you kind of have to stay out of the daily news cycle a little bit, out of the blogosphere,” Power said, fingering her BlackBerry. But, referring to her work for Obama, she added, “I am in that now, and it has been hard to make sure I am ... being an adequate surrogate for a guy I care about so much.”
Power has spent the last 14 months advising Obama on foreign policy. Though she has always been quick to play down her role, according to The Washington Post, she is-make that was-one of the “most influential” figures in the candidate’s brain trust-"part of a group-within-the-group that he regularly turns to for advice.”
The prominently displayed Obama button on her jacket, as well as the way in which her answers to disparate questions always culminated in praise for the Democratic senator from Illinois, made plain the extent to which Power was consumed by Obama’s bid for the White House. “I have always taken my work very, very seriously, but I have never taken anything quite this seriously,” she said. “When you are out there, you just want to do right by him.”
Power had certainly been out there, campaigning for Obama across the country. And in a previous interview with The Chronicle, Power-who is unscripted and forthcoming in conversationâ€”expressed some trepidation that her blunt style would land her in hot water. “That’s the one thing that terrifies me,” Power acknowledged at the time, “that I’ll say something that will somehow hurt the candidate.” How prescient.
Hillary’s an embarrassment. She should get out.
We’ve gone from an embarrassment of riches—two gorgeous Democratic candidates—to being just plain embarrassed! I thought Hillary would lose on March 4 and be smart enough to leave; I hoped that she’d not be a win at any cost George W. Bush-style candidate.
I thought she was smarter than that. I guess I was just gullibly naive.
Now I read Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker on the Clinton attack machine and know that it’s true, when once I had rejected the Clinton-machine construction.
And while Andrew Sullivan’s been saying it for months, now I can say I’ve been seeing it with crystal clarity with my own eyes in the past ten days so that when Lizza ends his piece this way, I knww that it’s true:
Clinton may be criticized for staying too long in the race and for attacking Obama in ways that his supporters will consider nefarious and desperate. But no one is entitled to a Presidential nomination. As ugly as it looks nowâ€”and as ugly as it is likely to become-if Barack Obama becomes the Democrats’ nominee, he may thank Hillary Clinton for making him a better candidate.
To all my friends calling up to say, “I told you so,” I suggest you send an email. It looks like that phone line is going to be busy for a long time!
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Foes of Sex Trade Stung by Spitzer’s Crash
One advocate said of Spitzer, “he was our hero.” NYTimes:
As New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer had broken up prostitution rings before, but this 2004 case took on a special urgency for him. Prosecuting an international sex tourism business based in Queens, he listened to the entreaties of women’s advocates long frustrated by state laws that fell short of dealing with a sex trade expanding rapidly across borders.
And with his typical zeal, he embraced their push for new legislation, including a novel idea at its heart: Go after the men who seek out prostitutes.
It was a question of supply and demand, they all agreed. And one effective way to suppress the demand was to raise the penalties for patronizing a prostitute. In his first months as governor last year, Mr. Spitzer signed the bill into law.
Speaking of crashes, Spitzer traffic crashed the Times website beginning at 2 p.m. yesterday:
We asked the NYT if the website trouble was the result of the Spitzer scoop, and spokesperson Diane McNulty confirmed that it was, saying that traffic had spiked shortly after the Spitzer article was posted. McNulty said that the hourly Web site traffic between 2-4 pm was a whopping 60% higher that during the same time frame last Monday; meanwhile, NYT mobile almost doubled its traffic for the same time period. Wow — those are pretty big numbers, especially given that eveything is spiking lately due to the election (recall that last Monday was the day before the Ohio-Texas primaries, and there was tons of interest across the board). [...]
These stories are huge traffic drivers across the board, and here’s another example: The Drudge Report linked to the NY Observer story on its top at around 3 p.m. this afternoon, and the traffic spike temporarily disabled the link and, presumably, has been responsible for site slowness since then (since the piece is still linked in the headlines on Drudge).
Update II: McNulty kindly answered our follow-up question asking if this had ever happened before. Her response: Yes, twice: Once on September 11, 2001 ("we were overwhelmed by the amount of traffic and some people had trouble getting through") and then again on Nov. 12, 2001 when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Queens (McNulty said they had “load issues” but it wasn’t as bad as 9/11). Said McNulty: “It’s hard to tell how either one compares to today’s event given that we have almost 10 times the bandwidth now.”
RELATED: Talk Left has Jeff Toobin thinking he’s holding out for a misdemeanor with a resignation possible tomorrow.
The high level of discourse from our opponents
I woke up to this email response to the high-minded remarks from the elected representative from Oklahoma State Representative Sally Kern.
I have removed the expletives, but preserved the grammatical and spelling errors:
The simple fact is that historicly socities that have openly embraced homosexuality have not lasted very long. Look at the Greeks and Romans. I mean why do you think it was forbidden for so long. Because it caused the fall of EMPIRES you dumbasses. in 100 years you hippys are going to try and tell us that incest is ok as long as you use birth control and you dont have any muntant babies. what in the f!@# is wrong with you people. Im talking history here. Not some biblical event.
The sender identified himself as Jack Handy. Are you laughing yet?
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Yes Pecan or Barackadamia Nut?
Meanwhile, after the Vermont primary, Slate’s Trail Head asked readers to help name a Ben & Jerry’s Obama ice cream flavor.
“Yes Pecan” quickly became the odds on favorite:
Ben & Jerry’s is famous for such flavors as Cherry Garcia (named for the Deadhead), Phish Food (named for the Dead successors), and Americone Dream (named for the not-dead Stephen Colbert), and if Ben & Jerry’s delivered a victory for Obama, then it should also honor him with a taste of his own.
Plenty of you responded with riffs on Obama’s name. Peanut Butter Barackle, Obamana Split, and Barackadamia Nut all raised a chuckle. But it was Aaron Nathan of Amherst, Mass., who really impressed. Eschewing Obama’s name, he reached another level of ingenuity when he sent in his entry: “Yes, Pecan!”
[… scandalous brouhaha omitted ...]
Trailhead reader Gerrit H. mocked up the brilliant pint of ice cream you see above. Tremendous job all around, especially on the blue, red, and white scheme.
Also, several readers have e-mailed telling us that our East Coast bias is on display by thinking “Yes, Pecan!” rhymes with “Yes, We Can!” Down South, pecans are not pronounced pe-CAN, but puh-CAHN, according to Trailhead devotees (Trailheaders? Trailheadians? Trailheads?). Considering Obama adamantly believes in one America, we think he might be distressed by this development. As a result, we’re looking for an alternate flavor for Ben & Jerry’s stores below the Mason-Dixon. The front-runners are currently “Barackadamia Nut” and “Neopolitician.” Got anything better? Let us know.
Via Slate’s Political Gabfest. (BTW, I’m with you, Plotz, on the big Moo!)
Via Blogs for Democracy, “What would Freud say?”
Thursday, March 06, 2008
Democracy is not mob rule (reprise)
I’ve been slow to comment on the outcome of Tuesday. What’s there to say? I was wrong again. I believed we were on our way to an Obama presidency. I am with those who are ready for this to be settled. It’s not. So be it.
Now the blogger and media narrative moves back to trashing the super delegate process as “anti-democratic” and “elite.” I won’t go there.
As I write, Howard Dean is doing an eloquent job of defending that process on The Today Show. In support of Howard, I say again:
As far as I’m concerned, we really don’t get it. Democracy is simply not synonymous with majority rule. It is peaceful self-rule.
At its best, it’s the institutional means to find the most appropriate solutions to social problems, to mediate and reconcile differences, to settle disputes in ways that don’t inspire rancorous violence. It is inclusive; it is fair and equitable; it is just and open.
But that we have come to see democracy as nothing more than majority rule is a very bad thing. Majority rule is mob rule by a better name.
The founding fathers, too, have come to be cartoon characters we use to back-up whatever point we’re looking to make. That’s too bad. My point would be that the worry then was precisely that we would not be able to do it, we would not be able to achieve successful self-rule, so the founding fathers put in place all kinds of admittedly clumsy—some even embarrassing—safeguards to prevent mob rule.
As with the 2000 election, the problem is we don’t do well with breaking a tie. Right now we have a tie. An embarrassment of riches! Two gorgeous Democratic candidates! We should remember that. And going forward maybe we should try to address what to do in a tie.
So I have no problem with the whole super-delegate thing. And I expect the pompous rhetorical declarations of democratic discontent (I love you Chris but that was over the top—and will not happen!) will be forgotten when the deal is brokered, though my high regard for both Hillary & Barack suggests they may settle this on their own.
I’m still hopeful that our party and our two very smart candidates will find a way to work this out. Dean just said:
The tone of this campaign is not nearly as bad as it was in 2004...the fact of the matter is that our candidates have now had 25 million people come out and vote for them. That’s unheard of. And they’re going to have campaigned in virtually every single state. So our folks will have an advantage.
As I wind up this post, The Today Show has footage of a giddy Bush doing a mock soft-shoe dance while waiting for McCain to arrive for his endorsement. Talk about a side show!
Democrats, our time has come. Let’s step up to it!
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Michelle Obama’s a natural
Lauren Collins has an 8,500 word profile of Michelle Obama in The New Yorker this week. I choose to highlight the food quote that would make Michael Pollan smile:
One morning, during a roundtable at Ma Fischer’s, a diner in Milwaukee, Elizabeth Crawford, a recently divorced caterer with two children, brought up the subject of the eating habits of American families. “I really, really hope that Barack will jump on that,” she said.
Then, having given thoughtful but boilerplate responses most of the morning, Obama suddenly departed from her script. It was the most animated I saw her on the campaign trail. “You know,” she said, “in my household, over the last year we have just shifted to organic for this very reason. I mean, I saw just a moment in my nine-year-old’s life-we have a good pediatrician, who is very focussed on childhood obesity, and there was a period where he was, like, â€˜Mmm, she’s tipping the scale.’ So we started looking through our cabinets. . . . You know, you’ve got fast food on Saturday, a couple days a week you don’t get home. The leftovers, good, not the third day! . . . So that whole notion of cooking on Sunday is out. . . . And the notion of trying to think about a lunch every day! . . . So you grab the Lunchables, right? And the fruit-juice-box thing, and we think-we think-that’s juice. And you start reading the labels and you realize there’s high-fructose corn syrup in everything we’re eating. Every jelly, every juice. Everything that’s in a bottle or a package is like poison in a way that most people don’t even know. . . . Now we’re keeping, like, a bowl of fresh fruit in the house. But you have to go to the fruit stand a couple of times a week to keep that fruit fresh enough that a six-year-old-she’s not gonna eat the pruney grape, you know. At that point it’s, like, â€˜Eww!‘ She’s not gonna eat the brown banana or the shrivelledy-up things. It’s got to be fresh for them to want it. Who’s got time to go to the fruit stand? Who can afford it, first of all?”
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Going to bat for Obama
We can only hope the tide is turning and people will really push back against the media machine.
After AP reporter Nedra Pickler wrote a news story highlighting how some fringe Republican operatives were raising questions about Sen. Barack Obama’s patriotism, angry readers dispatched nearly 15,000 electronic letters protesting the piece. Why? Because instead of providing balance and context, which is what good journalism does, the article simply offered a platform for Obama’s opponents to roll out their smears, to broadcast their dark doubts about the senator’s character. [...]
What prompted the organized outpouring of angst last week against the AP was when the website Firedoglake took action, embraced a new organizing tool, tapped into a wellspring of enthusiasm for Obama, and pointed angry readers not in the direction of the AP itself, but toward their local newspaper clients. Why? Because newspapers are more responsive to complaints filed by nearby readers, and because the newspapers pay the AP’s bills as newswire customers.
The riddle, though, was how to help readers contact hundreds of individual newspapers nationwide. “It’s like trying to wrestle an octopus,” says Jane Hamsher, founder of FDL. The solution centered on customizing a software tool that allowed online activists to effortlessly contact their local daily. The tool FDL modified was created by the online communications firm Blue State Digital. Readers simply entered their ZIP code into an on-screen box. The next screen displayed the local newspaper (or newspapers) in their region to be contacted and asked readers to enter their name and other personal information to be sent to the newspaper. The screen provided readers with pre-approved text (i.e., “I hope that in the future we can expect reporting that focuses on the candidate’s positions rather than trying to call into question how much they love the country they tirelessly serve.")
If they wanted to, though, readers could personalize, or create, the letter themselves. Approximately half the letter writers in the FDL campaign wrote their own text. With the third click, the reader’s letter was sent to the newspaper.
FDL’s call to action was posted February 25 and was quickly trumpeted by fellow bloggers, who urged their readers to participate.
The results, according to FDL, as of March 3: 14,252, letters sent to 649 different newspapers located in all 50 states, and from 1,735 ZIP codes. That included more than 1,500 letters to The New York Times, 1,400 to both USA Today and The Washington Post—not to mention 52 to The Denver Post and 21 to the Florida Times-Union.
I keep getting alerts about McCain winning this and that primary. I don’t give a hoot about McCain! But I’m not thinking no news is good news for Hillary.
Could a new media day really be dawning?
As we wait to see if the results are persuasive enough to move Hillary to pull out, let’s look back at some of last week’s media on the medias crush on Obama.
In October of 2006, On The Media talked with National Journal columnist Bill Powers about Obamamania, and he said then that the candidate would go through seven defined media milestones, as every candidate does, and that the press’s passion for Obama would eventually peter out. They had him back last week because it hasn’t:
WILLIAM POWERS: There has been no flop. I laid out the stages five or six years ago. I think I said in the piece, actually, that they tend to happen quickly. And Obama is really the exception to that. He has had a very long, fertile period with the press without a major flop.
He’s had a lot of quasi-flops, mini-flops, you might call them, but he has an amazing ability to bounce back from those, to deflect bad press and sort of move on. I think he’s got the best Teflon we’ve seen since maybe Ronald Reagan. [...]
I know the Kennedy comparisons have been flying fast and furious for a long time, but it is something that we haven’t seen the like of since John Kennedy in terms of being up there on the spot. How are you going to respond to X, Y, Z? And he just slips out of it like a gazelle. I mean, it is incredible, the lightness of foot. He really makes Hillary look like a piker. And that’s something.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So let’s say, let’s just say that next week we find out that Obama is going to be the Democratic nominee. Does that mean the flop is inevitable and it occurs during the general election?
WILLIAM POWERS: I hate to say “inevitable” because that’s a dangerous word for a media critic. I mean, this could be the first time someone doesn’t have a flop, let’s say, between now and November.
But I think it is highly likely, because once he’s got the nomination this storyline of Obama’s rise is over. And reporters will be looking for the next storyline. You basically have to do a correction. Like a sailor, you have to tack in the other direction if you’re a political journalist on a campaign.
Then they talked to New York Magazine’s John Heilemann, who covers Hillary:
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Don’t we assume that when Obama says something he is both sincere and tactical and yet we in the media never put the emphasis on the tactical?
JOHN HEILEMANN: He has managed, I think, very successfully over the course of the last year to portray himself as a man of sincerity and a man of authenticity and a man of conviction. And so when we hear him say something that is tactical, we sort of say, well, it’s a necessary evil. He’s being a politician because he kind of has to right now.
And so there is, yes, there’s a huge amount of subtext and supra-text that has served them incredibly, incredibly well throughout the campaign whereas she, Hillary, that is, came into this campaign with a reputation for being calculating and a reputation for being manipulative.
And so everything we see that she does that is actually kind of standard political fare, we all kind of nod sagely and say, ah, there she goes again, just being the manipulative, calculating Hillary Clinton.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So when are the media going to look themselves in the mirror and say, this isn’t fair â€“ in fact, it isn’t even serving the public?
JOHN HEILEMANN: Well, gosh, I don’t know when that’s going to happen.
That’s, you know, in Never-Never Land that’s going to happen.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: [LAUGHS] Fair enough.
JOHN HEILEMANN: But if you mean when do I think the media’s going to turn on Obama, I think it’s the day that she’s gone.
And, of course, that day could be tomorrow. But so long as we’re talking Never-Never Land, let’s close with a wonderful thought given voice by one of Slate’s cultural critics, Stephen Metcalf.
In their new feature the Cultural Gabfest while speaking of the late night fake news shows’ stock in trade—poking fun at elected officials—Metcalf wonders if it’s not possible that a new day is dawning [Feb. 28 @ 16:23 min]:
Is it possible that because we’ve become so acclimated to ninnies in public office and officialdom as being home to double-dealing morons that our habits of cynicism are so highly developed that we’re going to train them on this person who doesn’t deserve them and maybe we should accept our good luck. We have a public figure that we should be proud of… We’ve developed these highly-honed, sophisticated, wonderful and entirely necessary habits of cynicism, the vehicle for which is humor, and we may just suddenly enter an era of public life in America where they’re obsolete.
Of course I wonder if there haven’t been—no, I’m quite confident there have been—other elected officials who have not deserved the kind of media pounding and scrutiny our market-driven system demands.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Press on/Press off
Digby defends Clinton beautifully, as always. But her point in this important post is to critique both the press and those among us who went along for the ride, and to prepare us for what we’re in for in the months ahead. This passage follows a sampling of the kind of unhinged vitriol Hillary’s stood up to for nearly two decades:
The fact that Clinton kept going, becoming a senator, becoming the first woman to ever win a presidential primary and continues to put herself out there in the face of that kind of psychopathic bile is a testament to her tenacity and commitment. Everybody says they want a fighter. Regardless of who you vote for, the woman deserves respect for refusing to back down from that lizard brain sludge.
And I would warn that if unfair and biased press coverage is now a disqualification for elected office, then I think we’d better think long and hard about whether the Democrats are going to be viable as a political party. Bad press for Democrats is part of the package. ( I would also add that I think it was part of the Netroots job to help fight back media bias against all Democratic candidates, even if as individuals we were pulling for a particular one. That did not happen and I think the Netroots failed miserably in one of its primary missions this time out.)
So what happens now? Well, as I and many others predicted months ago, the media is beginning to feel pressure from Republicans (and perhaps their own professional embarrassment) and are starting to go negative on Senator Obama. Rather than examining their biases and adjusting their coverage to be more fair and dispassionate across the board, they will now “even things out” by being equally derisive, shallow and trivial toward his campaign. We’ve already seen the outlines of it in the last debate.
Read the whole post. In the end, she’s not entirely hopeless:
If he wins the nomination, I am actually quite hopeful that Obama will continue to get somewhat better coverage than our recent candidates. Certainly my limited window into liberal journalism leads me to believe that he will have the support of the liberal political establishment. And that is, unquestionably, a huge asset, certainly compared to Clinton and Gore who were despised by the entire Village.
But if you’ve been observing the way the political and media establishment works for any period of time, you will not be too sanguine that it will make much difference. There are many wealthy, powerful interests out there that do not want a liberal Democrat to have the power to withdraw from Iraq or renegotiate trade deals or create universal health care and they will not make it easy for Obama to win. Those interests also run the media and a fund a fully functional right wing infrastructure that works to guide the election narrative.
Perhaps it won’t happen this time. It’s possible that the era of GOP smears is over or that Obama has personal characteristics that render them impotent and useless. But considering the egregiously sexist Clinton coverage in this campaign and the history of terrible coverage for Democratic presidential candidates since 1988, I think the Democrats would be foolish to assume that. The Republicans are very good at feeding these narratives to the press and the press has always shown itself very eager to gobble them up.