Monday, May 26, 2008

Apologizing to Hillary?

Paul Krugman, in his column in this morning's New York Times has the following to say:

This… involved an interview Hillary Clinton gave the editorial board of South Dakota's Argus Leader, in which she tried to make a case for her continuing campaign by pointing out that nomination fights have often gone on into the summer. As one of her illustrations, she mentioned that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June.

It wasn't the best example to use, but it's absurd to suggest, as some Obama supporters immediately did, that Mrs. Clinton was making some kind of dark hint about Barack Obama's future.

But then, it was equally absurd to portray Mrs. Clinton's assertion that it took L.B.J.'s political skills to turn Martin Luther King's vision into legislation as an example of politicizing race. Yet the claim that Mrs. Clinton was playing the race card, which was promoted by some Obama supporters as well as in a memo by a member of Mr. Obama's staff, achieved wide currency.

Why does all this matter? Not for the nomination: Mr. Obama will be the Democratic nominee. But he has a problem: many grass-roots Clinton supporters feel that she has received unfair, even grotesque treatment. And the lingering bitterness from the primary campaign could cost Mr. Obama the White House.

Read the entire column.

If Paul Krugman is being sincere here and this is what he and other Hillary Clinton supporters truly believe then the divide between them and supporters of Barack Obama that he decries is unbridgeable. I, and everyone else I have personally discussed this with (all Barack Obama supporters), gasped with shock and horror when we heard that Hillary Clinton mentioned Robert Kennedy's assassination in the context of why she should stay in the race. This was an immediate reaction before we had heard anyone's spin. This was not a manufactured – it was a visceral response.

If, as Paul Krugman believes, the only hope the Democrats have for winning the presidency in November is for Obama's supporters to admit to Clinton's supporters that she has been treated unfairly by them then we all better get used to the idea of President McCain. How can Barack Obama's supporters admit for the sake of party unity that it was "absurd" to suggest that Hillary's comment was "some kind of dark hint about Barack Obama's future" when that was exactly what it sounded like to us? The only hope for party unity would be for Clinton's supporters to be satisfied with Brack Obama's magnanimous suggestion that she had simply misspoken.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More militant than the government of Israel?

President Bush thinks that history will vindicate him. He thinks that in 20 years historians will look back on his presidency and proclaim that in retrospect he was right and his critics wrong. If he is right then the Middle East is doomed. An editorial in the New York Times this morning points out that Bush turns out to be much more militant than the hardline government of Israel.

Everybody knew President Bush was aiming at Senator Barack Obama last week when he likened those who endorse talks with "terrorists and radicals" to appeasers of the Nazis. But now we know what Mr. Bush knew then — that Israel is in indirect peace talks with Syria, a prominent member of Mr. Bush's list of shunned nations — and it seems as if the president was going for a two-for-one in his crack about appeasement.

If so, it was breathtakingly cynical to compare the leadership of the Jewish state with those who stood aside in the face of the Nazi onslaught, and irresponsible to try to restrain this American ally from pursuing a settlement that it judges as possibly being in its best interests.

Read the entire editorial

Think about what would have to happen in the Middle East in the next few months and years for the situation to be such that historians would later conclude that President Bush had been right and the government of Israel wrong about trying to negotiate with Syria. I would think that all Americans, except perhaps those desiring a world-wide conflagration for religious reasons, would be fervently hoping their president and vice-president are in fact the misguided fools who don't know what they are doing that so many Americans have been saying they are.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It depends on the definition of “working”

Driving back from St. Louis yesterday my wife and I were listening to old blues CDs. Listening to Muddy Water's "I've Got my Mojo Working" I started wondering about what he meant when he said he had his "mojo working." He had gone down to Louisiana to get it, he had it working but "it just don't work on you." Had it ever worked on anyone? By "working" did he simply mean that he had prepared it and was using it according to the instructions? Or did he know it was "working" because it worked on some people, just not on "you"? My wife is strongly of the opinion that he would only say it was working if it had worked on someone. I am not so sure. Would you say you have a magic spell "working" if you had set it into action, regardless of results? What do you think? I have put up a poll on this question over on the right.

20,000 people come to see Obama in Tamp, Florida

Barack Obama was campaigning in Tampa, Florida yesterday. Although I have not seen much press coverage of it, he drew 20,000 people to an indoor event at the St. Petersburg Times Forum. Blogger Deborah Newell Tornello writes about it here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Broadway Oyster Bar in St. Louis

BroadwayOysterBar, originally uploaded by dvdbarrett.
On a recent trip to St. Louis, my wife and I visited this wonderful bar. Link to Broadway Oyster Bar website. It is on Broadway street in St. Louis, just a few blocks from Bush Stadium. They serve New Orleans style Cajun and creole dishes in an extremely informal setting in an outdoor patio on the side of the building.

BroadwayOysterBarPatio, originally uploaded by dvdbarrett.

The ambiance is very funky and my wife and I found it delightful. I had the jambalaya and my wife had the sampler plate. Both dishes included a steamed crayfish, which we had to ask the waitress how to eat. (It tastes like a little lobster.)

They feature live music almost every evening. We were there early in the evening hours before the band was scheduled to play so we just heard some extremely good recorded music -- Chicago style blues.

If you are a blues fan I heartily recommend you check this place out the next time you are in St. Louis

Friday, May 16, 2008

Younger than John McCain

Check out this blog. It has dedicated itself to listing things younger than John McCain.

My Mother is younger than John McCain.
Here's an email I just received from my mother:
"I am younger than John McCain and I get senior citizen discounts, I can't bend, my knees hurt, and I just went on Medicare!"


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Getting what you deserve

In a memo to be sent to Republican members today, the leadership hints at a new slogan building on the change message that has already been shown to have political resonance with a public unhappy with the nation’s direction.

It looks like Republicans will counter the Democratic push for change from the years of the Bush administration with their own pledge to deliver, drum roll please, “the change you deserve.”

As I have written previously my New England Puritan heritage predisposes me to be pessimistic about what a sinner like me deserves so I respond much more negatively than most Americans to offers to “get what you deserve.” But I do like this new Republican slogan because it sounds like they agree with me that if you vote for them you deserve what you get.

What is wrong with these people?

An op ed piece in today's New York Times by Robert Kaplan talks about a military invasion of Myanmar by the United States as a moral thing to do.

France's foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, has spoken of the possibility of an armed humanitarian intervention, and there is an increasing degree of chatter about the possibility of an American-led invasion of the Irrawaddy River Delta.

It seems like a simple moral decision: help the survivors of the cyclone. But liberating Iraq from an Arab Stalin also seemed simple and moral. (And it might have been, had we planned for the aftermath.) Sending in marines and sailors is the easy part; but make no mistake, the very act of our invasion could land us with the responsibility for fixing Burma afterward.

Read entire article.

Did you or anyone you know think in 2003 that it would be simple and moral to invade and occupy Iraq in order to free it from Saddam Hussein? At least in this part of the country those who agreed that we should invade Iraq did so because of assurances that Iraq posed an immediate threat to the United States. If the stated purpose and only rationale for the invasion of Iraq had been that to do so would be doing a favor for the Iraqi people I don't think there would be much support for it outside of Washington and the part of New York where the NYTimes is written.

Most people I know would never believe that an armed invasion and occupation of a country by foreign troops is ever anything but a disaster for the people being invaded and occupied. What is wrong with these people?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Don’t just do something, stand there.

My brother has been doing a lot of thinking and reading about the Civil War lately. He has been doing this as part of project that started out simply as a desire to help my aunt organize and write a book from all the genealogical information she had accumulated. She has a lot of information she had inherited from her mother, aunts and uncles and grandparents. To this she has added a great deal of information from her own research, traveling all over the country, especially in last few years since she has retired from a career as a librarian.

Of all this information some of the most tantalizing was the handwritten partial Civil War diary of our great-grandfather who had been a white officer with "colored" troops during the Civil War. It was tantalizing and frustrating because we only have parts of the diary and also because there were so many topics and details that we would be interested in today that our g-grandfather had apparently not considered of note and had not written about. In order to make this diary interesting to modern readers my brother feels he needs to add context and additional detail and therefore he has been doing a lot of reading.

Not much has been written about the colored troops in the Civil War and what has been written has little or nothing to say about their training, focusing instead on what they did in battle. The diary, at least the parts we have, is almost all about training and non-combat activities, because that is what most days of a Civil War soldier consisted of, especially the colored troops – the generals did not know how well they would do in combat and so often assigned them other tasks.

As a result of his research my brother is starting to develop some interesting ideas. It is well known that 80% of the soldier fatalities during the Civil War were from non-combat causes. It is also well known that the South was not so much defeated on the battlefield as much as they were defeated by a lack of resources—the Northern blockade of their ports and the lack of a manufacturing base made their defeat inevitable. Those facts suggest to my brother that the North did not really need to fight at all. All that was needed was to blockade the ports, raise a huge army to protect Washington D.C. and to prevent the Southern armies from invading the North and wait until disease, internal dissention and the lack of supplies defeated them. Lincoln's need for military victories was for political reasons, not a military or logistical necessity. What do you think?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Which of your values do the candidates share?

In his column in today's New York Times Frank Rich, purporting to explain what has been happening in the race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, had this to say:

Hillary Clinton's attempt to impersonate a Nascar-lovin', gun-totin', economist-bashin' populist went bust: Asked which candidate most "shares your values," voters in both North Carolina and Indiana exit polls opted instead for the elite and condescending arugula-eater.

If you are anything like me and most people I know when asked which candidate most shares your values you would not be thinking about Nascar, guns, economists, arugula, Rev. Wright, Hillary Clinton's laugh or any of the other things the media like to talk about in this race. You would say Barack Obama most shares your values because he thinks it was a mistake to authorize President Bush to invade and occupy Iraq. Whenever the media suggest (as they constantly do) that we might consider some other factor (such as the slight differences between Obama's and Clinton's health care plans or Hillary's gender, for example) the idea that the war should be ignored strikes me as weird as if Mrs. Lincoln was asked, "other than that how did you like the play?"

I understand that the campaigns are now focused on wooing over undecided voters, as they should be. Undecided voters are not as concerned about the war; if they felt strongly about the war they would not be undecided. That is why the war in not the only issue the Obama campaign talks about or emphasizes in their advertising campaigns. But Barack Obama talks about the war a lot if you listen to him directly, rather than filtered through the media.

It is as if the Main-Steam Media were trying to create the impression, against all evidence to the contrary, that no one cares about the war. Think about the effect of hearing some idea endlessly repeated. If left unchallenged it can become conventional wisdom. That is what Geico Insurance is trying to do with the idea that Geico Insurance can save you money on your car insurance. They are spending millions of dollars on advertising with the sole purpose of driving that idea into your head in the absence of any evidence that it is true. (If Geico really was the lowest priced insurance they would not have to spend a dime convincing you of that. You would discover that on your own when you compared prices.) It is as if the media were trying to do the same thing with the idea that no one cares about the war.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Rev. Wright controversy a dud.

Now that the votes have been counted in Indiana and North Carolina it seems clear that very few voters who otherwise would have voted for Barack Obama were persuaded not to by the controversial views of Obama's former pastor, Rev. Wright. In exit polls a higher percentage of people who said the controversy was NOT important voted for Barack Obama than the percentage of voters who said the controversy was important to them and voted for Hillary Clinton.

We have all heard television and radio commentators and read newspaper columnists and blogs who claimed that Rev. Wright's statements and views had been very damaging to Obama's chances of being nominated and elected. Some Quad Cities blogs have even claimed that the controversy had finished Barack Obama – "he is toast" according to one commenter. Those people must be feeling pretty foolish now. Perhaps they will be so ashamed at having been proven so publicly wrong that they will abandon political commentary and prediction and devote themselves to some other area of human endeavor – one is which there is no final objective result to prove their opinions wrong, such as flower arranging or feng shui.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A 185 seat Democratic majority in Congress?

Saturday Democrat Don Cazayoux won a special election in the Louisiana 6th Congressional District to fill a vacant Republican seat. That district has a Cook Partisan Index of R + 7, which means that it has been voting 7 percentage points more Republican in national elections on average. Just for fun I decided to figure out how many Republicans there would be left in the House of Representatives if in November the Republicans only won the districts which lean Republican by more than 7 percentage points. According to my count out of 435 Congressional districts just 125 of them have a rating of R + 8 or greater. So in the next Congress the Democrats would have 310 seats, giving them a 185 seat majority, if Saturday's result is a preview of November.

In the campaign for the seat the Republicans tried to nationalize the race running ads talking about Rev. Wright, Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama. Apparently that was not a winning strategy.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Why didn’t Obama walk out

Hillary Clinton asks why Barack Obama didn't walk out of the church, never to return, when he heard Rev. Wright say things with which he did not agree, and apparently that question resonates with a lot of people. I wonder why. It certainly is not because people normally walk out of church or synagogue when they hear the minister, priest or rabbi say something with which they do not agree. Think about it. Have you ever been in a house of worship and heard someone say something from the pulpit with which you did not agree? How many times? How many of those times did you walk out?

No, the question must really be why does Barack Obama attend a black church where things are said that sound foreign and strange to me as a white person. Barack Obama was raised by a white mother and white grandparents and we can easily imagine him as an adult attending a white church similar to the ones with which we are familiar. Why does he attend a black church? Obviously he attends a black church because he self-identifies as black, but why is that? To answer that question would require an in-depth discussion of the history of race in America. I don't have the time or inclination to try to tackle that.

Instead, I will talk about ministers who say outrageous things, not the famous Rev. Wright, Haage or Falwell, but my greatgreatgrandfather – Rev. Newton Barrett. The following is an excerpt of a letter I found in my grandfather's papers after his death. The letter is from a cousin of his talking about their mutual grandfather.

You mention that Grandfather was a strict man. We have always been brought up to regard him as a sort of paragon. True he was a gentleman and a scholar, but he had his shortcomings. He was very domineering, an autocrat and a dictator – impatient with those who did not agree with him. He was no diplomat and sometimes did and said things in his capacity as a minister that antagonized his congregation. It took a great deal of tact and diplomacy on the part of Grandmother to get him out of some of the jams he got himself into.

For instance he took a very positive stand against Masonry and I believe even preached against it, perhaps in Elkhorn (Wisconsin). I wonder if some of his feeling against Uncle Alfred stemmed from the fact that he was a Mason. (Allan was a 32d degree Mason, I think.) He also made a religious issue of insurance, which he thought and preached was acting in the face of providence. Ministers today would not be concerned with these particular issues. They have another entirely new set of problems to cope with.

Do you suppose the insurance salesmen and customers in his congregation got up and walked out when he preached against insurance? If they had simply left the church there would have been no need for my gggrandmother to play diplomat.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

100 Years of what?

The Republicans are denouncing ads from the Democratic National Committee and now from that show John McCain answering a question about how long we might be in Iraq "… I don't think Americans are concerned if we're there for 100 years, or 1,000 years, or 10,000 years." The ads then make comments about McCain wanting the current situation in Iraq to continue. The Republicans claim these ads are lies which distort McCain's remarks.

Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan called the MoveOn ad an "assault from the extreme-left playbook" and compared it to MoveOn's newspaper ads last year criticizing Gen. David Petraeus. The RNC also called on Obama to denounce the ad.

Read the entire article.

How can an ad that shows McCain saying the words that he actually said be misquoting and distorting him? The Republicans claim that by not also quoting what McCain said next, in which he imagined the 100 years to be like our long-term military presence in Korea and Germany in which Americans suffer few casualties, leaves a mistaken impression of McCain's views and intentions. I and my fellow Democrats are baffled by these charges. What difference does it make whether we foist most of the fighting off onto the Iraqis while our military people stay in their bases? We would still be continuing the occupation.

I have been giving this controversy some thought and decided that both sides are sincere but just have very different feelings about a long-term American occupation of Iraq. We Democrats, and according to the polls a majority of the American public, want us out of there completely as soon as possible. The vast majority of the Iraqis who live outside the fortified Green Zone do not want us there and our continued presence in the Middle East will inflame anti-American feelings among Arabs and Muslims and aid terrorist recruiting, leaving America less safe. The Republicans think that a long-term occupation is a good idea and think the general public would really not object as long as Americans are not dying in combat.

At least some in the main-stream media seem to agree with the Republicans on this issue. Here is the Associated Press (AP) stating flatly that the Democratic charges that McCain wants to keep us in Iraq for 100 year is a false suggestion that he wants a 100 year war. This taking of sides by journalists is quite unusual these days. For example, when reporting on Republicans claiming that Obama is a Muslim and attended a Muslim religious school as a child the US media (except for a couple of investigative pieces by ABC and McClatchy) did not declare these charges to be untrue. News stories about the issue usually just quoted the charges and then quoted Democrats as saying the charges were untrue as though the author thought both sides had good points to make, or something. When reporting on the Swift-Boat attacks on John Kerry in 2004 the media (except when in rare investigative mode) never said they were untrue.

These so-call journalists apparently are unable to determine whether charges that Barack Obama was raised as a Muslim are a lie. They could not determine whether the Swift-Boat attacks on John Kerry were smears or not. But a claim that McCain's vision of a long-term US military presence in Iraq without many casualties is a call for the continuation of the last 5 years of the US in Iraq –- that is something they are sure is untrue.