Sunday, August 31, 2008

Palin Giggled as Shock Jocks Called a Cancer Survivor "A Cancer" and "A Bitch"

Then Anchorage Daily News described Sarah Palin's behavior during an appearance on a local radio show "conduct unbecoming a governor." Earlier this year, Ms. Palin appeared on the "Bob and Mark" show, which the paper describes as "a sophomoric venue," and she "came off looking immature herself, almost high-schoolish." The hosts referred to a fellow Republican opponent as "a bitch" and "a jealous woman." That opponent is also a cancer survivor, but that did not stop the shock jocks from calling her "a cancer" herself.

Did Her Honor the Governor stop them and tell them that they went too far? Did she try and distance herself from their insults? Nope. She just sat by and giggled while they trash-talked her opponent. I know Dick Cheney has lowered the bar for Vice Presidential decorum (and who would have thought it could have gone lower than Spiro Agnew?), but don't we need a Vice President who acts more honorably than your average junior varsity cheerleader?


Police Come Up with Effective Alternative to "Shoot First"

Back in 2005, I got labelled "pro-looter" by several local right-wing bloggers because I dared to deviate from their "shoot first and let God sort them out" idiocy during Katrina. The St. Bernard Parish Sheriff has come up with a creative alternative that avoids the hair trigger response and seems to separate the wheat from the chaff: he intends to send anyone caught looting to the state pen.

NOLA quotes the Sheriff:
As soon as we announced we would be taking people to Angola, you could see the dirtbags starting to leave the parish," he said at a news conference this evening. "It was like somebody sprayed for roaches" ....

"Once you get up there, who knows when you'll get back," Stephens said. "There's a lot of paperwork involved, and the storm will probably set things back even farther."
Sounds fine with me, unless FEMA fails to do its job and fails to get water to survivors for 5 days again. Starving and thirsty people who steal food and water shouldn't be sent to prison for stealing food and water if the federal government does not step up to rescue them.

FBI Hunts Down GOP Protestors for "Fire Code Violation"

Despite the fact that John McCain has stripped down the GOP necktie party to just the essentials so that he can hop a special charter to be in Louisiana for his Gustav make over, protestors are being taken into custody in Minneapolis not for potential disorder or destruction, but because there were too many of them at one gathering in violation of fire codes.

Geez, if that's all the authorities have on the protestors do we still live in "the land of the free"?

Troubling, But Unconfirmed News on Poor People Trapped in New Orleans

I cannot confirm this in the mainstream media, but the Anarchist News Service reports the following:
Mayor Nagin tells people to "get the hell out," yet most poor residents of New Orleans don't have the money to travel, because it is the end of the month. The government didn't send aid checks this week and with stores closing this weekend, New Orleans residents left behind will have no access to food and water.
Does anyone have any more info on this?

Counterintuitive ICE

After making the largest workplace bust in U.S. history and scaring the hell out of a Hispanic community in Mississippi as Gustav's bearing for the Gulf Coast became clear, ICE is now urging immigrants to evacuate in advance of Gustav's landfall. They're promising no check points along evacuation routes, but I wouldn't buy it if I were an immigrant.

It looks like a choice between their lives and keeping their families together. It sounds like ICE is forcing something akin to Sophie's Choice.

No Blaming Hurricane Survivors Victimized by FEMA This Time

90-95% of the residents of coastal Louisiana have evacuated farther inland. 18,000 New Orleaneans took advantage of the city's assisted evacuation program. Highway speeds have been reduced to 10 miles per hour. Commenters are saying on line that it is taking 9 hours to get from New Orleans to Mississippi on I-59. Many South Mississippi gas stations have run out of gas. Many of the Mississippi National Guard now helping Katrina victims living in temporary government housing were not around to assist 3 years ago with the Katrina evacuation because they had been sent to Iraq.

UPDATE: NOLA video of the deserted Downtown NO streets and the obvious presence of National Guardsmen.

Mo-Do Blows Past the Palindrones

Maureen Dowd skewers the Sarah Palin apologists and stretches the logic of their wishful thinking to hilarious proportions:

Enthusiastic Republicans don’t see the choice of Palin as affirmative action, despite her thin résumé and gaping absence of foreign policy knowledge, because they expect Republicans to put an underqualified “babe,” as Rush Limbaugh calls her, on the ticket. They have a tradition of nominating fun, bantamweight cheerleaders from the West, like the previous Miss Congeniality types Dan Quayle and W., and then letting them learn on the job. So they crash into the globe a few times while they’re learning to drive, what’s the big deal? ....

This chick flick, naturally, features a wild stroke of fate, when the two-year governor of an oversized igloo becomes commander in chief after the president-elect chokes on a pretzel on day one.

The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it’s close to Alaska. “Back off, Commie dude,” she says. “I’m a much better shot than Cheney.” ....

“The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.,” President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene [back at the White House] while she changes Trig’s diaper. “Now that Georgia’s safe, how ’bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?”

Aboard the Double Standard Express

HT to the Southcomm blogger who broadcasted the salacious innuendo that a Knox County Republican blogger (among several wildly imaginative others) read into the botched peck on the cheek that Barack Obama gave Jill Biden on stage after her husband's acceptance speech. (Keep in mind that the Knox blogger is an avowed Southern Baptist, which may explain his Victorian knee-jerk. The genesis of the Southern Baptist Church was the defense of slavery, and it's explosion in the 20th Century is marred by a legacy of church support for segregation. Combine that with the Baptist obsession with abstinence, and you get the picture; but, I digress).

The space Southcomm wasted even paying attention to what is obviously an innocent miss of aim (when you give someone who has no record of hitting on women in large venues the benefit of the doubt) gives me the opportunity to underscore the double standard applied to black and white candidates.

There was a modest blogstorm on the right regarding the peck, and that virtual circle jerk was given credibility at some media sites like Southcomm. I believe that if Obama had been white, works-righteous bloggers and their media megaphones would not have posted like voyeuristic Puritans.

And yet, John McCain is not getting the same blog or media attention for eyes that seem to wander across his running mate's (or in his words, his "soulmate's") goods during her introduction speech in Ohio:

That's not ogling we can believe in. You can bet that if McCain were black, bloggers would be tearing up the prospect of a single glance at a white woman in a suggestive way.

Palin Said Obama "Doing Just Fine"

Sarah Palin from the New Yorker via TPM:
"Something's kind of changing here in Alaska, too, for being such a red state on the Presidential level. Obama's doing just fine in polls up here, which is kind of wigging people out, because they're saying, 'This hasn't happened for decades that in polls the D' "--the Democratic candidate--" 'is doing just fine.' To me, that's indicative, too. It's the no-more-status-quo, it's change."

I Cannot Believe She Was Actually Once on a School Board

Putting a scaled map of Alaska next to a map of Delaware to support the argument that Sarah Palin is more qualified than Joe Biden is like arguing that the biggest kid in the class is the smartest because he's the biggest.

It makes for interesting geography but stupid logic.

I Wonder If They'll Invite Kanye West?

It's hard not to be cynical about the improved response Republican leaders are making toward New Orleans this year as opposed to their awful neglect in 2005 after Katrina hit.

But John McCain's tentative plans to convert the Republican National Convention to a service-oriented telethon and to insert himself into storm-affected areas ASAP after landfall smacks of shameless political opportunism and public relations. It smacks of philanthropic cover for partisan purposes.

Odds are good the RNC won't be inviting one person to another Red Cross fundraiser:

Levees Likely to Top Again

It's not exactly the kind of surge John McCain wanted to talk about at next week's Republican necktie party in Minneapolis. The National Weather Service is expecting a 15-20 storm surge by the time Gustav makes landfall, likely as a Category 4 Hurricane. Incomplete levees located in the New Orleans area's West Bank could be topped and levees protecting the Upper and Lower 9th Wards could be tested.

In other news hurricane-related news, the National Guard has arrived in New Orleans and Louisiana is requesting 1,500 troops from other states including Tennessee. Unfortunately, it looks like private security contractor Blackwater is also on the way, which probably means the American taxpayers will be paying them at least $950 per day per mercenary again.

Lower Than Quayle

The Monkey Cage reports a Rasmussen poll finding that only 29% of Americans believe that Sarah Palin is ready to be president. By contrast a 1988 poll found that 40% of Americans believed that Dan Qualye was qualified to be president.

Tennessee, Georgia Prepare for Louisiana Evacuees

Tennessee is preparing for 6,000 hurricane evacuees with 2,000 expected for Middle Tennessee as Hurricane Gustav bears down on the gulf coast, expected to reach Category 5 status near landfall early next week.

The State of Georgia, which is still trying to bounce back from tornado damage in its northern part, is preparing for sheltering 2,500 evacuees.

Parishes across the Louisiana gulf coast have ordered mandatory evacuations. And traffic going north is steady.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palin Says That She Needs Answers on "Exactly What a VP Does"

A frightening montage on McCain/Palin:

Maybe it's time for John McCain to step up and be "Rolf" to Sarah Palin's "Liesl":

The lyrics just need a slight tweak:
You need someone older and wiser telling you what to do.
I am 70 going on 80. I'll take care of you.

The Corporate Classism of the Democratic Party

HBO Real Time's Matt Taibbi exposes the dark underbelly of last week's convention and the stark contrast between the "free speech" zone set up for common demonstrators to "influence" the convention and the corporate, celebrity-filled parties in Denver where real patronizing, arm-twisting influence actually occurred.

Also, check out Bill Maher's commentary on how the "airbrushing" of John Edwards out of the DNC left the convention with no prominent voice for poor and working class people. Maher argues that Edwards was the strongest voice since Bobby Kennedy on the issue of poverty (perhaps overstatement in that Jesse Jackson's '84 and '88 convention speeches preceded Edwards) and that he was to poverty what Al Gore is to global warming.

Republicans Resort to Identity Politics with Palin Pick

Newscoma spanks the identity politics behind John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin:
It’s about her being a woman and that being the home run out of the park. Not her experience or belief system but the fact that “Hey, look, it’s a girl.” That’s the selling point that McCain banked on but when did it become a gender race and not a presidential race about issues facing this nation? A weakening economy, a war, a global uncertainty about the United States intentions, the rights of individuals … are these not important things to be discussing?

I resent that a woman is, once again, being used as a gimmick. I don’t like that. Palin, however, knew what she was getting into so there’s that.

For my conservative friends, I know this is inspiring. For me, it’s just another objectification at this point of a female but I also know you dig her politics and that’s cool.

But for those left-leaning people who are just voting for McCain because he’s got a woman on the ticket, I can only say, look at her track record and tell me, is this what you want one heartbeat away from the White House?
If "identity politics" is one of the most heinous mortal sins exclusive to liberalism as conservatives are prone to argue, then why is John McCain banking on gender and genitalia to get him elected in November? And why are so many conservatives infatuated with picking a woman simply because she is a woman?

While I voted for Obama in the primary, I have consistently been critical of gushing on the "historic" implications of electing an African American, arguing instead that fitness for office should trump identity. When Branch Rickey broke the color barrier in baseball by picking Jackie Robinson, it was only after Rickey had gone out and worked hard to find that player who combined great (though probably not the greatest) skill with restraint, wisdom, and mental toughness. It would not have served the cause of civil rights or pro sports if Rickey had simply exercised identity politics and signed any great African American player. And Jackie completed the historic pivot. Likewise, Democrats should focus less on Obama's African American identity and more on his fitness for the office.

And I'm no less critical of the sudden gush of passion that the GOP has for playing identity politics or of the desperate-housewifed or soccer-momed Hillary Clinton supporters who are willing to be seduced by the latest Republican gimmick. If McCain wins and Sarah Palin is faced with the prospect of assuming the Presidency under duress and the threat of dire consequences, it won't be her vagina that saves us. It will be her experience and skill, both of which are currently unproven.

Would Palin Be Ready To Face Iraq?

Republican VP selection Sarah Palin on the Iraq War:
I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq.
She goes on in the interview to say that she supports Bush and sees the need for an exit strategy; but seriously, no one expects the Governor of a remote, small state to be ready to tackle the war in Iraq. However, that is the very reason why Americans rely on presidential nominees to choose wisely running mates who do have experience and who could step in to deal with the war.

The irony of John McCain's unwise choice is that he is set on staying in Iraq 100 years. I would think he would pick someone who could carry on that battle rather than someone who hasn't thought very much about it and needs to be coached on foreign policy.

Rove Criticizes VP Choice of Governor/Small Town Mayor

What's good for the goose is not good for the Rover. Back before Barack Obama made his selection of Joe Biden as running mate, Karl Rove claimed that he would probably make the "intensely political choice, not a governing choice" of picking a VP who could help him win a marginal state like Virginia. And then Rove set out to criticizing Virginia Governor Tim Kaine as an "undistinguished" service of three years and a "Mayor of the 105th largest city in America."

Here's the video of Rove's comments:

Now that both VPs have been selected, it's obvious that Obama did not take a page out of the Rove play book as predicted in order to make an "intensely political choice." Why? Because of Biden's experience, credentials, and long-term leadership even as he comported himself an exception to beltway culture. The choice of Biden helps the country more than it helps Obama.

And who is the only presidential candidate left who could be criticized for picking a short-term Governor and a small town Mayor? (Hint: He can't recall how many houses he owns).


UPDATE: Sully's response to Rove's comments:
[Sarah] Palin has been governor for less than two years of a state with 600,000 people, compared to Virginia's 8 million. Before that, she was mayor of a town with 6,000 inhabitants, compared to Richmond's 200,000. Someone able to become president of the United States at a moment's notice? Politically, I have no idea how this will play. As an act of presidential governing, as McCain's first real presidential decision, it was and is fundamentally unserious.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Only the National Guard Stands between New Orleans and a Shooting Match

Sales of guns and ammo spike in the Big Easy ahead of Gustav.

Let's hope that instead of waiting five days to send the National Guard (if they aren't all in Iraq) and overtaxing the local police as they did after Katrina hit, the Bush Administration is already mobilizing NG troops to restore order given the state of emergency. With the Republican National Convention at stake, I'm sure that the White House intends to run this neat and save the failures for a less sensitive occasion.

And let's hope Homeland Security is not sitting on its hands again allowing war profiteer Blackwater security to thrust quietly into the post-hurricane disaster area with no accountability and to the tune of $950 tax dollars per day per mercenary.

Why Did McCain Pick Palin?

The vetting of Sarah Palin that John McCain failed to do is being left to others. And they are turning over stones:
It seems quite clear that [serial contacts about Palin's Alaskan Trooper brother-in-law] emanated from Pallin and that she was actively in it. So she abused her power as governor and then almost certainly lied about her involvement. Why did McCain pick her?
Because his judgment is unsound?

State of Mississippi Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Gustav

Republican Governor says he's trying to protect against price gouging.

Memphis/Shelby County Prepares for 3,000 Gustav Evacuees

1,500 evacuees arrive on Sunday.

Texas Deals with Jindal to Accept 10,000 Louisianians; Dallas Declares Emergency in Prep for Gustav

Dallas (TX) County has agreed to take 4,000 evacuees of Hurricane Gustav.

TPM: Palin Used Executive Privilege to Hide Trooper-gate E-mails

Josh Marshall sends out a heads up that Talking Points Memo is working on a story that Alaska Governor and GOP VP candidate invoked "executive privilege" to withhold e-mails dealing with the case. What kind of security breach in Alaska of all places could warrant invoking "executive privilege"?

Trophy Vice President

Strike a pose. There's nothing to it.

... vogue, vogue.

Pastor Laid Hands on Palin

It seems that Sarah Palin may have skills beyond the gubernatorial: perhaps speaking in tongues? If she is Assemblies of God, it looks like she could join the ranks of John Ashcroft and James Watt as Pentacostals in high ranking federal positions.

Video on GOP's VP Trooper-gate

Via TPM:

Below the Beltway: Wasilla Ain't Washington

John McCain's arguments against Obama's alleged "lack of experience" are moot with his selection of Sarah Palin. Who the hell is Sarah Palin and would America want her a failing McCain heartbeat away from the Presidency?

We can only surmise that McCain realized that he cannot win the experience argument against Obama and that he is instead strategically trying to peel away disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters from Obama. That assumes that those supporters only vote for candidates based on vagina verification and not because of their qualifications for the office. It also assumes that they need an older white male to ride in and save them from their loss, to fix everything.

But this is no fix. The answers to, "Who the hell is Sarah Palin": she's a former beauty pageant runner-up (that alone ought to satisfy feminists); she's been Governor for a small state for less than two years; before that, she was Mayor of a small town called Wasilla (pop. 5,000--ever heard of it?); she's also embroiled in a controversy over her firing of an Alaskan Public Safety Commissioner who refused to fire her brother-in-law during his bitter custody battle with Palin's sister. So, the answer to, "Would America want her a failing McCain heartbeat away from the Presidency?" ought to be a resounding "No!" regardless of Hillary Clinton's fortunes.

Wasilla is just too far outside of Washington to do us any good.

UPDATE: But Palin does have foreign policy experience. That is if by "experience" you mean her state sits next to Russia:

3 Year Anniversary of an Indelible Catastrophe

New Orleans Currently on the Wrong Side of Gustav

Current computer models for Gustav landfall put it on track to hit Central Louisiana, west of New Orleans as a Category 3 Hurricane on Tuesday:

Such a strong storm is likely to be accompanied by significant storm surge to the east of its central area, and its surge could be higher than that caused by a 115 mph storm, as Gustav is expected to have winds near 130 mph, Category 4 strength, 12 hours before landfall.

The 4 a.m. forecast would have Gustav move slowly west northwest over New Iberia after its initial landfall, taking a full day to reach Lake Charles, still as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of close to 100 mph. Such a slow passage would likely bring intense rainfall to most of south Louisiana.
Tuesday is also interestingly enough the night that the Republicans in Minneapolis are going to be promoting "reform." The Bush Administration's emergency response and Homeland Security are in need of some reform, given their pants-down posture during and after Hurricane Katrina's strike on New Orleans 3 years ago today.

That we might have creole and cajun communities underwater in Louisiana while Republicans are frolicking under the cover of "reform" many miles away would be typical of the last 8 years.

Eric Crafton V. Metro Taxpayers: The Proper Pronunciation of "Frivolous"

Bellevue Council Member Eric "English Only" Crafton is moving ahead with his threats to waste more of your tax dollars on a frivolous lawsuit. No amount is too high to burn for a sore loser. He's already gleefully warned that a lawsuit could cost up to $1 million.

Crafton is playing around with other people's money, which pretty much disqualifies him from criticizing "freeloaders who pick the pockets of taxpayers" as he has done in the past. And instead of questioning his fiscal irresponsibility, his anti-revenue friends at Taxing Tennessee are arguing that oil companies are the ones we've been waiting for.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

GOP's Milque Toast Response Reinforces the Remarkable Strength of Obama's Speech

Later, MSNBC's Howard Fineman said that Republicans were not expecting to be challenged by Barack Obama; they weren't expecting him to try and draw McCain "out of his cave." He also made reference to GOP focus groups that called Obama's speech too negative, which according to Fineman indicates to Republicans that it was effective.

CNN Discusses John McCain's Dilemma with Gustav

John King reiterated tonight that both the GOP necktie party and John McCain's Thursday night acceptance speech could be delayed if "an American city is underwater" due to Tropical Storm/Hurricane Gustav.

6-Mile-Line to See Obama; McCain Can't Give Away VP Intro Tix

During part of the coverage tonight Campbell Brown reported that Denver police told her that the length of one line of people waiting to hear the Obama speech in a huge football stadium reached 6 miles.

John McCain is struggling to attract an audience to tomorrow's Vice President announcement at a venue a fraction of the size of the stadium.

It's not so much that Obama is a hard act to follow. McCain has just failed to capture the imagination of Americans.

Melissa Etheridge Brings It All to the DNC

Obama's Money Quote of the Night

Obama's hell/cave line against McCain was outstanding because it certainly deconstructs the latter's claims about his foreign policy and military qualifications to be Commander-in-Chief.

However, this is really the point where attacks against McCain's claims to have good judgment need to begin, given the near total lack of confidence that Americans have in George W. Bush:
What does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush is right 90% of the time? I'm not ready to take a 10% chance on change.
Americans who want change and vote for John McCain are taking a huge, perhaps fatal risk to get what they want.

Obama Nomination Speech Continued

9:50 -- Says, "I've got news for you John McCain: we all put our country first."

9:53 -- Says if you don't have fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics You make a big election about small things. It's worked before because it feeds into cynicism. Says, "I don't fit the typical pedigree for this office, but I stand before you because something is stirring in this country. The election is not about me. It is about you." This is where Obama usually starts to take off in his speeches. It's the kind of oratory for which he has become famous.

9:55 -- American promise, American spirit keeps others coming to our shores. "That better place around the bend." It is that promise that brought people to the March on Washington 45 years ago. Channeling King: "We cannot walk alone. We cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done." "We must pledge once more to march into the future and hold firmly to the hope that we profess."

9:57 -- That's it. Vintage Obama. Glad to see him take aim at McCain and surprised to hear the speech end with the playing of Brooks' & Dunn's Only in America.

Barack Obama Accepts Nomination

9:23 -- Obama begins: The same party that gave George Bush and Dick Cheney two terms will ask this country for a third. We don't need 4 more years of 8. 8 is enough.

What does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush is right 90% of the time? I'm not ready to take a 10% chance on change. Senator McCain has been anything but independent.

Refers to Phil Gramm's statement that we have become a nation of whiners. Tell that to the farmers, to the military families. These are not whiners. They work hard and they give back without complaint.

Says McCain doesn't get it. He subscribes to trickle down. "Ownership society" = "you're on your own." The market will fix it. Pull yourself by your own bootstraps even if you don't have boots. It's time for them to own their failure.

This is good stuff so far.

9:34 -- Says we are responsible for ourselves, but rise and fall as one nation. That's the promise we need to keep. Change means a tax code that rewards workers and small businesses. Stop giving tax breaks to companies that move overseas. Eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses. Will cut taxes for 95% of all working families. Will set goal of ending dependence on Middle East oil in 10 years. Import 3xs the amount of oil that we were importing when McCain took office. Natural gas. "Clean" coal. Invest in cleaner cars and renewable energies.

9:40 -- Will make certain insurance companies stop discriminating against the sick and those who need care the most. Help families with sick time and paid family leave. Equal pay for equal day's work because his daughters should have the same opportunities as others' sons.

9:43 -- If McCain wants to have a debate about who has temperament and judgment about who is most qualified, that is a debate Obama is ready to have. While McCain was turning his sights to Iraq, Obama was opposing the war. When McCain was for muddling through in Afghanistan, Obama was calling for taking out bin Laden and his lieutenant. Cave quote. That's a winner. If McCain wants to follow Bush with tough talk and bad strategy that is his choice, but it is not what America needs. We are the party of Roosevelt. We are party of Kennedy. So, don't tell me that Democrats won't defend America or keep it safe.

Won't Even Go to the Cave Where He Lives

One of the quotes MSNBC is reporting from Barack Obama's yet to be delivered speech:
John McCain says he will follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives.
That's exactly the sort of offensive that Obama needs to mount. It's the line of attack that I've been waiting for the whole convention. If it comes from the nominee, then all the better.

MSNBC Concedes That It's Choice of Cameras for Obama Speech Work to Republican Advantage

For the past few minutes, Chuck Todd, Tom Brokaw, Keith Olbermann, and Chris Matthews have been discussing the "sky cam" that MSNBC selected to use at Mile High Stadium (it is usually used for sports, not convention events), acknowledging that it was not the choice of the Democratic Party, and they conceded that the Republicans are already using it criticize Barack Obama for trying to make himself look regal. At least they accepting some responsibility for enabling the McCain attack dogs.

Al Gore is On

7:49 -- On John McCain's assimilation of George W. Bush's policies: "I believe in recycling, but that is ridiculous."

7:53 -- Tell Republicans and Independents "why it's time for a change."

7:57 -- Ties Barack Obama to Abe Lincoln, our greatest President who entered the White House with only experience in the Illinois state legislature, who opposed a war and who was regarded as a great orator.

8:00 -- Wow. It's over. Short speech that helped Obama, but didn't really do much to attack Republicans. I understand that tonight's more of a promotion of Obama, but a few more attacks on the McCain campaign wouldn't hurt.

Steven Spielberg Honors Soldiers and Veterans in DNC Movie

From last night's Democratic Convention:

Gustav is God's Wrath on the GOP?

You have got to love the bunch at ThinkProgress:
Earlier today, ThinkProgress contacted John Hagee Ministries to see if erstwhile John McCain endorser Rev. Hagee saw the Lord’s hand in reports that President Bush might not speak at the Republican National Convention on Monday because of Tropical Storm Gustav.

Back in 2006, Hagee declared that “Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.” Hagee said that “New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God,” because “there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came.”

ThinkProgress asked Rev. Hagee’s spokesperson, Kara Silverman, whether Gustav’s possible impact on the Republican National Convention might be seen as punishment against Republicans for their not having done enough to combat the “homosexual agenda,” or whether this storm could be attributed to some other target of divine wrath.

Ms. Silverman said Hagee had “no comment.”

Tell 'em about the dream, Martin.

There are so many events connected to the Civil Rights March on Washington that occurred 45 years ago this day. John Lewis resisting removing references to revolution and Sherman's March in his speech, Malcolm X ridiculing the march as a Kennedy tool, Kennedy staffers camped out by the sound system ready to pull cables if speeches wandered into unapproved territory, a president discouraging Martin King away from economic solutions. All of those events and many more stand out to me. Those and more:
Mounted in the eagle's eye of the Washington Monument, a CBS television camera showed viewers a thick carpet of people on both sides of the half-mile reflecting pool and all around the base of the Lincoln Memorial. At noon, nearly two hours before the rally began, the police estimated the crowd at more than 200,000 .... [T]he numbers reduced observers to monosyllabic joy. Within the movement, the gathering sea of placards and faces produced the most brain-numbing sight since the first ghost fleet of empty buses chugged through Montgomery.

An ancient man reached halfway across the world to fix the historical moment: W.E.B. Du Bois had died in Ghana .... For those who revered Du Bois, news of his death that very morning came as a shockingly appropriate transition. Gone finally was the father of pan-Africanism, the NAACP, and the Negro intelligentsia ....

King faced ... a giant press corps and listeners as diverse as the most ardent supporters of the movement and the stubborn Congress at the other end of the Mall, where by quorum calls sullen legislators "spread upon the Journal" the names of the ninety-two absent members who might have let the march distract them from their regular business. For all these King delivered his address in his clearest diction and stateliest baritone. Ovations interrupted him in the cracks of infrequent oratorical flourish, and in difficult passages small voices cried, "Yes!" and "Right on!" as though grateful and proud to hear such talk. From the front, a woman could be heard to laugh and shout, "Sho 'nuff!" when King told them about the freedom checks that had bounced ....

The crowd responded to the pulsating emotion transmitted from the prophet Amos, and King could not bring himself to deliver the next line of his prepared text, which by contrast opened its lamest and most pretentious section ....

There was no alternative but to preach. Knowing that he had wandered completely off text, some of those behind him on the platform urged him on, and Mahalia Jackson piped up as though in church, "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin." Whether her words reached him is not known. [Source]

Gustav Makes McCain Blink

John McCain shares the stage with no one, especially not a category 3-5 hurricane: details in the latest update here.

At the Other End of the Mississippi, Gustav Will Probably Upstage the GOP Convention

The Republicans commence their cold war on Democrats (otherwise known as their convention) with speeches by Joe Lieberman, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush on Monday, September 1, on the same day that NOAA projects Tropical Storm (potentially Category 3 Hurricane) Gustav to make landfall on the Gulf Coast proximate to New Orleans. Those speeches will also occur 3 days after the 3rd anniversary of the genesis of the Bush Administration's response failures to Hurricane Katrina hitting the Big Easy.

That's not going to be good public relations for either John McCain or George Bush, since they could likely be reunited in a second detached and callous celebration while Gulf Coast residents suffer through another disaster:

Neither McCain nor his twin Bush were focused on New Orleans during Katrina, and both failed New Orleans in its recovery. If Gustav hits as projected, it will only reinforce their failures during the GOP necktie party.

UPDATE: TPM agrees and forecasts a "split-screen convention" for the Republicans. In my opinion, it could be as damaging to the GOP's brand as '68 Chicago unrest was to the Democrats. 2008 could be the Republicans' 1968.

UPDATE: New Orleans' mass transit to come to a standstill on Friday. Those convening Republicans were never really wild about transportation for the masses, anyway.

UPDATE: Oil companies in the oil-rich Gulf fields start interrupting production and pulling their employees from platforms today in advance of Gustaf. Such an interruption would also be used an excuse for price gouging by gas stations along evacuation routes, which is looting by another name. Republicans generally don't have a problem with that kind of looting because no real estate is violated in stealing people's money for gas. It's what they call the "law" of supply and demand.

UPDATE: Sue Sturgis reports that, despite an Army Corps of Engineer whistle blower's repeated attempts to warn about the unproven weaknesses of the massive hydraulic pumps (supplied by a company with close ties to the Bush family) that drain New Orleans, problems persist. Sturgis also ponders irony:
The White House titled its official evaluation of what went wrong after the 2005 disaster Katrina: Lessons Learned. Here's hoping Gustav doesn't give that phrase the same bitterly ironic twist the insurgency gave the president's assertion of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

UPDATE: The mainstream media is starting to weigh in on the dire consequences for both oil prices and the Republicans of a hurricane in the Gulf. According to MarketWatch:
Crude-oil prices roared briefly back above $120 a barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange as energy traders, betting on supply disruptions, dashed consumers' hopes that gasoline prices would seamlessly extend their descent from recent record highs.

That's simply not going to happen. For all the ruckus about how energy prices have been hijacked by speculators, the underlying fundamentals of supply and demand still apply during hurricane season. And with Gustav bearing the markings of a big, potentially deadly storm, energy traders are not about to let themselves get caught short heading into the three-day Labor Day weekend.

With traders holding the long position, this metaphorically backs the Republicans into a short position, clinging to the hope that they can dodge another disaster and another spike in fuel costs.

If Gustav pounds New Orleans, the deluge will be felt in St. Paul-Minneapolis, reminding voters of the 2005 Katrina disaster that Democrats have hoisted ever since as an example of the current Republican administration's incompetence.

UPDATE: Fox News is reporting that the McCain campaign is having second thoughts about competing for air time with Gustav, so they may move to postpone the GOP necktie party until that point in time at which American attention is less focused on the Gulf Coast.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kerry Delivers Best Salvos Yet at McCain

Senator John Kerry spoke the kind of fighting words that should be the beginning of a sustained Democratic bombardment against John McCain:
When John McCain stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier just three months after 9/11 and proclaimed, "Next up, Baghdad!", Barack Obama saw, even then, "an occupation of "undetermined length, undetermined cost, undetermined consequences" that would "only fan the flames of the Middle East." Well, guess what? Mission accomplished.

So who can we trust to keep America safe? When Barack Obama promised to honor the best traditions of both parties and talk to our enemies, John McCain scoffed. George Bush called it "the soft comfort of appeasement." But today, Bush's diplomats are doing exactly what Obama said: talking with Iran.

So who can we trust to keep America safe? When democracy rolled out of Russia, and the tanks rolled into Georgia, we saw John McCain respond immediately with the outdated thinking of the Cold War. Barack Obama responded like a statesman of the 21st century.

So who can we trust to keep America safe? When we called for a timetable to make Iraqis stand up for Iraq and bring our heroes home, John McCain called it "cut and run." But today, even President Bush has seen the light. He and Prime Minister Maliki agree on guess what? a timetable.
Kerry gave the most stirring call to arms of the convention. VP candidate Joe Biden, who just finished, was good but his speech was not nearly as impressive as Kerry's, in my opinion.

McCheney Poised to Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

Sully dishes some sobering news on McCain's foreign policy:
The agenda is war and the threat of war - including what would be an end to cooperation with Russia on securing loose nuclear materials and sharing terror intelligence, in favor of a new cold war in defense of ... Moldova and Azerbaijan. I'm sure McCain would like to have his Russian cooperation, while demonizing and attacking them on the world stage, but in the actual world, he cannot. Putin and Medvedev are not agreeable figures, and I do not mean in any way to excuse their bullying. But this is global politics, guys, and these are the cold, hard choices facing American policy makers ....

John McCain is making it quite clear what his foreign policy will be like: tilting sharply away from the greater realism of Bush's second term toward the abstract moralism, fear-mongering and aggression of the first. Not just four more years - but four more years like Bush's first term. If the Democrats cannot adequately warn Americans of the dangers of a hotheaded temperament and uber-neo-con mindset in the White House for another four years, they deserve to lose.
One would hope that the threat of losing would be enough to motivate Dems, but they seem so acquainted and comfortable with losing that I doubt the aphorism "losing is not an option" means a whole lot to them. But the terrifying prospect of loose nukes and McCain's openness to 100 years of war should motivate the Dems to do whatever it takes--short of disenfranchising voters--to beat the Republicans in November.

Judge Delays Federal Government's Appropriation of Private Property for Border Fence

U.S. District judge in Texas declines to award the Bush Administration immediate possession of 10 acres of private property on the U.S border. Apparently, his reasoning is not based on protection of citizens from federal power, but on the basis of details about boundaries and access. He has ruled that the details of compensation can be worked out of land titles change hands. That's probably a hollow victory for the Texans affected.

The Only Thing They Have to Fear Is Fear Itself

Troubling impressions of the Obama campaign from Denver:
One thing I've come away from here in Denver, in talking to various people, is the sense that the Obama campaign has become consumed with its brand as an end in itself. They did such a good job of packaging hope, optimism, and change that they are now resistant to any campaign strategies or tactics that might, in the eyes of some people, damage the brand.

They remind me of the classic car aficionado who beautifully and meticulously restores a vintage sports car but can't bring himself to risk actually driving the thing ....

A lot of time and energy went into creating this special product. But at some point you have to let go and use the thing for its intended purpose. The sports car is made for driving, tight and fast. The candidate's positive reputation is intended to further political ends, which in the short term means winning election.

Spare No Taxpayer Expense for His English Obsession

Eric Crafton, the Metro Council Member who once blew a gasket on the subject of xeroxing costs, is promising to burn more taxpayer money on English Only by taking Metro to court after the Election Commission voted to keep Crafton's effort to force Metro employees to speak English always and forever off the Nov. 4 ballot.

I wish some industrious English Only opponent on Metro Council would look into how much staff time and resources have been devoted across Metro departments to preparation, consideration, and review of English Only since Eric Crafton first started pursuing the idea in 2006. Now that Crafton intends to take the matter to court, we are told that costs could be as high as $500,000 to $1 million. How much longer are Nashvillians going to tolerate being held hostage to Crafton's costly obsession? Eric Crafton is fiscally irresponsible and wasteful, and somebody should turn off his money spigot or at least dock his council paycheck for these frivolous and self-serving expenses.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

No Way. No How. No McCain.

Forget that one in May where I said that Hillary Clinton missed her perfect opportunity to jump Barack Obama's claim to the title of party uniter and to endear herself to voters for future runs. She reclaimed her chances with a strong message at tonight's Democratic Convention.

She blew the doors off the event (I was going to use the "knocked it out of the park" metaphor, but the media is already overusing the baseball metaphors), and she gave a call-to-Jesus exhortation to her ardent supporters and reminded them that Republicans would bring down everything her campaign is committed to. She passionately promoted Barack Obama from beginning to end and the Obama supporters owe her their deepest thanks for doing everything anyone could have humanly done from a podium in a pivotal speech to rebind the Democrats.

She shined from beginning to end and attacked the Bush-McCain twins exactly where they should be attacked. This was a huge speech, and I have no doubt that when I reflect on the more impressive convention speeches that I've heard in 30 years, this will rank among the most memorable.

UPDATE: Lisa Starbuck at Knoxviews agrees:
I think even Hillary's detractors would have to agree that her speech rocked the DNC tonight and was exactly what the Democrats needed: a great message and a masterful speech, delivered by a pro.

MSNBC is reporting that Hillary received two separate, respectively "rowdier" standing ovations from a contingent of Obama staffers in a offstage room she had to pass through when both entering and exiting the convention stage.

UPDATE: Tennessee's Harold Ford, Jr. is extolling Clinton's speech on MSNBC. He says he can hear Dems repeating the slogan, "No Way. No How. No McCain," even though it is not as effective as "Yes, we can."

UPDATE: Josh Marshall weighs in:

That was quite a speech. It occurred to me as she built to the conclusion in the last few minutes, that the pre-2008 Hillary Clinton would not have been capable of that speech. That's not a dig. But she grew incredibly as a candidate over the course of this campaign. And this was an immensely powerful delivery, and a richly woven together speech. The beginning seemed fine but not remarkable. But it slowly built into something very powerful.

UPDATE: So many Clinton money quotes, so little space:
It makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities, because these days they’re awfully hard to tell apart.

UPDATE: Video of some of Hillary Clinton's "call-to-Jesus" tonight:

UPDATE: A Clinton supporter tells CNN how she will vote and encourage others to vote after Hillary's speech last night:

The Most Insightful Verdict on Michelle Obama's Speech and Its Reception

Comes from Dana Stevens at X-squared:
Sure, as a feminist it would have been satisfying to see her raise a fist in solidarity, but let's face it, this speech wasn't aimed at the likes of us. Her target, which she nailed with impressive deftness, was that vague, elusive and maddening clump of the electorate that still somehow finds Obama's wife too aggressive and scary and un-First Ladylike, what with the fist-bumping and the Harvard degree and the actual opinions on policy.

Watching her bat a thousand in every conventional First Lady category--for God's sake, she's beautiful, stylish, charming, poised, maternal and warm, leaving aside for the moment her obvious accomplishments and intellect -- I wanted to call up these waffling bozos in person and harass them. She's Jackie Kennedy with a working-class back story! What else do you want from the woman? .... If you don't like Michelle Obama after this speech, do you like any flavor of ice cream besides vanilla?

Was Blue Dog Jim Cooper There?'s Greenwald has been covering the Democratic Party's Blue Dog honeymoon in Denver with corporate sponsor and patron AT&T, which also happens to have a hub in Middle Tennessee and to be represented by Congressman Jim Cooper, who also happens to be one of the bluest Blue Dogs.

Greenwald watchdogs the Blue Dogs:
It was really the perfect symbol for how the Beltway political system functions -- those who dictate the nation's laws (the largest corporations and their lobbyists) cavorting in total secrecy with those who are elected to write those laws (members of Congress), while completely prohibiting the public from having any access to and knowledge of -- let alone involvement in -- what they are doing. And all of this was arranged by the corporation -- AT&T -- that is paying for a substantial part of the Democratic National Convention with millions upon millions of dollars, which just received an extraordinary gift of retroactive amnesty from the Congress controlled by that party, whose logo is splattered throughout the city wherever the DNC logo appears -- virtually attached to it -- all taking place next to the stadium where the Democratic presidential nominee, claiming he will cleanse the Beltway of corporate and lobbying influences, will accept the nomination on Thursday night.
It is really not hard to believe why this Democratic Congress is one of the most unpopular in history. They are shamelessly more connected to corporate money and unabashedly less responsive to their constituents.

Here's the video footage of the crew's attempts--hindered by private security and police--to get some surveillance of AT&T wooing Democrats to bed:

Yeah, and wealth shouldn't matter, right?

UPDATE: One American Prospect writer scored a ticket to the Blue Dog affair, and sends a dispatch from inside:
Here's a number I started to tally in my notebook before giving up: the list of sponsors (roughly three dozen) scrolling continuously across the flat-screen TVs above the bar at Mile High Station. Almost every industry had a company or trade association on the roll call: Conoco, Novo Nordisc, Citibank, the National Automobile Dealers Association, and the suddenly embattled National Association of Mortgage Bankers were there, to name a few ....

And it must be noted that, on the eve of a convention about to elect the first majority-party African American candidate in history, "A Blue Night in Denver" was noticeably white. Of course, there is only one African American Blue Dog in Congress -- Georgia's David Scott -- and a mere handful of Latinos, including California's Loretta Sanchez and Colorado's John Salazar ....

If there's not much color in the coalition, neither is there much estrogen -- of the 47-member Blue Dog coalition, only six are women. Of these, two are rookies -- Arizona's Gabrielle Giffords and New York's Kirsten Gillibrand -- and a third who only won her first full term last cycle: South Dakota's Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, who won a special election first before being re-elected in 2006. Perhaps the coalition will change in time with the infusion of these newer, younger members and more input from women.

I asked Democratic pollster and women's vote expert Celinda Lake about this as we strolled along downtown Denver's 16th Street pedestrian walkway. "I think that women voters and women Democrats believe in a proper role for government, and the corporate stuff is a bit of a turnoff," said Lake. "Even the women in the coalition have the most progressive voting records for Blue Dogs, by far."

Support from Their Own

Pew opines:
McCain has been more successful in rallying Republicans to his side than Obama has been in unifying the Democratic Party. Indeed, McCain is now garnering more support from Republicans and white evangelical Protestants than he had June, and steadily gained backing from white working-class voters over the last two months.

In contrast, Obama made little progress in increasing his support among core Democrats since June. In August, 83% of Democrats favored him compared with 87% of Republicans who back McCain. And the poll found that the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate was still getting only modest support (72%) from Hillary Clinton's former supporters.
Are the differences between Republican and Democratic support of their candidates based on different approaches to party loyalty or are they based on Obama's attempt to move to the middle and away from populism after the Dem primaries?

The Taken-for-Granted Urban Vote

In advance of Barack Obama's "re-launch" of an urban agenda, DMI senses that surrogates are going to be advancing Obama's urban policies to give him plausible deniability to more conservative suburban voters, and they respond:
The political reasoning behind Obama’s presumed decision to shy away from urban issues seems obvious: on one hand he must work hard to demonstrate that he can identify with Americans outside of urban areas and, on the other hand, he is expected to pick up the urban vote regardless of whether or not he himself addresses head on the concerns of the nation’s cities.
Though acknowledging that Obama's "paper" urban policy is better than John McCain's irrelevant school voucher solution and his ridiculous "surge against crime" ideas, DMI asks for more:
Being a spokesperson for the nation’s cities does not mean speaking only on behalf of urban elites, nor does it mean speaking only about poverty and homelessness. Rather, this spokesperson would present cities as typical in the economic, social, and cultural challenges they face, but unique in their capacity to confront and overcome them.
My guess is that we are not going to get anything more substantive from Obama than warmed over conservative urban policy. It begs the question: if candidate Barack Obama would choose yesteryear's urban solutions during the campaign, would President Barack Obama use the same to win victories in Congress? If that is indeed the case, then the prospect of winning does not justify holding tongues about the need for progressive urban agenda at the federal level.

Tennessee Farmer in Denver Underscores Dem's Rural Problem

TO blogger Rachel Ferris writes the following dispatch from Denver about a Tennessee farmer's comments to Obama Rural Vote Director Todd Campbell during the sparse Rural Council Caucus session at the Democratic Convention:
Democrats have largely ceded rural areas to Republicans, especially in national and statewide races. The modern Democratic Party is, for the most part, an urban one. That’s not a bad thing. As Rural America loses population, its political influence dissipates as well.

The decline of the farmer was never more evident when, at the end of the caucus, the council opened the floor to questions. David Harper, a row cropper and pasture farmer from Hartsville, Tennessee, stood up to ask if Obama had bothered to engage the Farm Bureau, a non-partisan organization that looks after the interests of its members while simultaneously offering them insurance. Campbell’s roundabout answer was that the Obama campaign intends to reach out to as many rural organizations as possible. Hartman then turned to the audience and asked, holding his hand up, “Are there any farm owners here?” One other hand crept up, belonging to an elderly woman with gaunt, weathered skin stretched across her cheekbones. Hartman turned back to Campbell at the podium and said “That’s rural America…and I’m real concerned about that.”

"It's not about hitting back. It's about hitting first."

While campaign supporters on both Dem and GOP sides are flitting around bickering about who zoomed whose elitism first, the winning side will be the one proactive in attacking the other side. Begala knows:

It's pretty pathetic logic to say that it is fair to raise McCain's many mansions because of the latter's attacks on Obama's celebrity. Obama supporters should have attacked the issue regardless of whether McCain attacked first. His failure to grasp his home ownership is like George Bush, Sr. standing in a check out line to buy socks exhibiting no clue about what he is doing. Stuff like that is deadly. And like Begala says, Democrats should keep on the offensive.

Monday, August 25, 2008

TIF Archipelago

Over at the Nashville Charrette, bzorch wonders about the fallout of Metro Council's approval of the Bellevue Mall TIF :
So the Mall is getting their TIF. I am sure it was reported last week, but it was in the Tennessean article yesterday about TIF financing. The Mall has agreed to build a library for the city in the development. There was no mention of the public space. The TIF is contingent on financing. This may be hard to come by. Especially since many stores are slowing expansion plans. I know there were a few articles written recently that talked about the Council members were beginning to look at their districts for TIF if Bellevue can get it. Is this going to start a trend? Is the entire County going to need to be broken up into TIF districts?

Sign Task Force Includes Billboard Industry Lobbyist

An Enclave reader comments thusly:
Did you notice the co-chair of the LED task force? Her name is Jane Alvis and she is a registered lobbyist for Lamar Advertising. Looks like [Vice Mayor Diane] Neighbors is putting the fox in charge of the hen house. I am still looking to see if Bobby Joslin [owner of local sign company] is on the list.
According to the Metro government website, Ms. Alvis is indeed a registered lobbyist for Lamar Outdoor Advertising. Which billboard opponent does Vice Mayor Neighbors balance her with on the task force?

UPDATE: I received a CC: from the Hillwood listserv earlier this evening saying that the other co-chair, Burkley Allen, is a long standing neighborhood activist from Hillsboro West End.

UPDATE: Another Enclave reader comments:
This task force looks rather one-sided in favor of the business community. Where are the other task force members representing the residential part of the community?

co-chair- Burkley Allen-Neighborhood leader
co-chair- Jane Alvis -Registered lobbyist Lamar Advertising
Dan Haskell -registered lobbyist, Greater Nashville Hotel and Lodging
Debby Dale Mason-Nashville Chamber of Commerce
Patricia Totty- Hadley Park Neighborhood
Anne Withers- ?
Chris Whitson- BZA, Belle Meade resident, doesn't even live in Nashville area governed by sign code
John Brittle- Real Estate
Bob Cooper- Metro lawyer for the Council
Stewart Clifton-Planning Commission
Terry Cobb- Head of Codes Department
Judge Dumas-Environmental Court, who will have to preside over codes violations in court
Anna Shepherd-?
Larry McWhirter- Donelson councilman almost 20 years ago
Sonny West-well enough said here

All they are missing is Joslin and lawyer Tom White. Maybe they are controlling this committee by proxy.

And We Should Take the Time to Do the Work Rather Than Developing Quickly

Richard Lawson seems to be discouraging us from even considering mass transit solutions in connection to May Town Center:
While opponents to May Town Center worry about the risk of development to taxpayers, public transit clearly would require taxpayers to dole out some cash .... Then there are the developers. You might be able to convince some of them to pay for a bridge, but good luck getting them to pony up for public rail.
But Lawson draws a faulty connection between the costs of sewer, water, and other utility infracture (which would benefit smaller numbers of people in the immediate location) and light rail systems (which would benefit a wider range of Nashvillians).

Developers are probably only willing to pay for bridges, because they are short-term solutions compared to mass transit systems which have long-term impact: they both take pressure off the environment and make all of those jobs MTC is supposed to create more accessible to prospective employees.  The short-term interests of developers are not sufficient reasons in and of themselves for Nashvillians to support MTC without accommodations made in light rail and greener technologies.

Lawson also calls mass transit initiatives the "cart" before the auto culture's "horse." A more apt metaphor for the internal-combustion-oriented MTC development would be the "horse and buggy," as in "high energy prices and deteriorating sustainability are rendering our unfettered car culture as obsolete as the horse and buggy." The idea of expanding mass transit before allowing sprawl in America's last urban farmland is not "cart before horse." It's more like an idea whose time has arrived. Those like Lawson who keep promoting car culture in the name of new urbanism are quickly falling behind the curve.

UPDATE: Richard Lawson comments below that I totally read the opposite meaning of what he intended in his column.

Risks of Public-Private Development Partnerships Materialize

A 1,700 acre mixed-use development campus outside of Austin, TX, dubbed "Wildhorse Ranch," sits in limbo as promised economic development remains unrealized. Over 700 acres of the proposed development are in bankrupcy proceedings, and the only parcels under contract (about 300 acres) currently have no definite plans.

The public tax dollars invested in the project--those subsidies that developers say they need to make their dreams happen--are going wasted and the concept languishes without any firm direction. It's also privatization run amuck:
  • More than a year the state built a massive toll road on promises of development, no development has occurred
  • The city of Austin agreed to reimburse developers up to $30 million for water and wastewater improvements under the assumption that the subsidies would promote growth
  • A major wastewater facility has already been built at Wildhorse by the project's original developers, and so far they have been reimbursed about $3 million; there are no Wildhorse utility users to pay fees to the facility
The original master plan called for 5,900 homes, but that number was increased to 7,000 when the original developers sold to a new development group, which ran out of money before anything could be built.

It is clear that if the dreaming schemes of developers can easily get ground down by the vagaries of reality, and taxpayers should be cautious about handing their money on the front end to private companies with no guarantees. There is no telling how much money Austin and Texas are going to lose down this public-private sinkhole. And the developers and the tolling corporations have no accountability to taxpayers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Here's One for the New Metro Council Sign Task Force to Chew On

One huge reason that Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors recently appointed a sign task force was because of the controversy stirred up by Charlie Tygard's attempt to allow various non-profits in neighborhood areas to have distracting business-type LED signs.

One of the things the task force should look into--beyond the visually disruptive and potentially collision-causing hazards of large LED billboards anywhere in Nashville--is the possible carcinogenic effects of the main element of light-emitting diodes, gallium arsenide.

Where's the Happy Little Tire Swing?

Courtesy of TPM, Time magazine's Mark Halperine defends McCain taking a no-holds-barred approach now that the number of his houses (which McCain could not recall) has been brought up. Cokie Roberts apparently didn't get an invitation to McCain's estate cook-out and a ride on the estate tire swing, because she points out that Halperine's argument is a stretch since McCain was going to get belligerent eventually anyway and since his houses are a metaphor for the economy apart from Obama's past associations.

Now to the video tape:

Faith, Wealth, and the Presidency

Both Barack Obama and John McCain made unmitigated moves this time around to appeal to Christian faith-based voters. Yet, the hard questions about money and Christian teachings have not been addressed by either candidate, mostly because they haven't been asked.

Here's some great tough questions that one blogger on religion would ask:
If the church is going to measure today's candidates on such "faith and values" issues as abortion. gay marriage, war and the environment, shouldn't wealth (theirs and ours) also be part of that discussion?

I'd like to hear McCain's response to this question: "You are a rich man. You and your wife Cindy own seven homes, which you apparently use just for yourselves and your children. A number of years ago, you adopted a child from an orphanage in Bangladesh. How many more children could you save if you sold five or six of your homes and just used one or two for yourself. As a Christian, do you feel a responsibility to do that?"

I'd like to hear Obama's response to this question: "You are a rich man. A few years ago, you signed two book deals worth nearly $2.3 million. You and your wife Michelle made more than $4 million last year and you own a home worth more than $1 million. What have you done with that money to help "the least of these." I don't mean how many checks have you written to charity. Can you give us specific names of people you have helped?"

What politicians do with their own money says something about their character. It says even more about their faith.
Camels can be put through the eyes of needles more easily than wealthy politicians can address questions about the stewardship of their riches.

Bush Economy Driving Students to Public Schools and Private Schools Out of Business

Thanks to the housing crisis, rising inflation, and growing employment, private schools are losing students to public schools. Some private schools are also closing their doors because they cannot adapt to the mass exodus.

Just Revenue Without the Green

Wouldn't be great to pick up a Nashville paper one day and read about a new MetroCenter car dealership that is one of only a handful in the country certified green? Wouldn't it be great if MetroCenter competed with North Texas to have the most eco-dealerships?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

McWealth: Republican Would Cut His Own Taxes

While some plugged-in, conventional Democrats don't believe that wealth should be made an issue in elections, I do. Not only do I believe it is problematic that John McCain cannot remember how many luxe accommodations he has because he has had so many, but I think it makes a difference that if the White House becomes his latest house he would give himself and (the other wealthiest Americans) even more tax cuts than he has already enjoyed under 8 years of George Bush. More tax cuts to slake his appetite for more amenities to lose count of. And excess shouldn't be an issue? It is certainly not too farfetched to surmise that McCain opposes Barack Obama's economic policy proposals because they threaten his own family's interests, because the Bush tax cuts would roll away from him and his.

Make no mistake. Wealth matters in elections. And John McCain's Republican plan for absolute wealth matters absolutely. To say that is not to engage in class war; the engagement is culture war, a war between different sets of morals.

Biden His Time: Delaware Senator Brings Commoner Cred to the Ticket

According to one WaPo political analyst:

Biden brings far more to the ticket than foreign policy experience. He has a powerful personal story. As a Roman Catholic with working class and Pennsylvania roots, Biden may give the Democrats added credibility among the very working-class voters Obama has struggled to attract in battleground states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. He has longstanding relationships with organized labor that will give an additional boost to the ticket among a constituency of vital importance this fall ....

Biden's persona and a political personality are in so many ways the antithesis of Obama's. Obama speaks with soaring and often inspirational rhetoric; Biden is direct, blunt and plain-spoken. Obama may seem aloof. Biden is always in your face. Obama offers high altitude passion, Biden's passion is ground level ....

[H]e rides the train home to Delaware every night and has never lost touch with the people and neighborhoods of home.
Looks like the Democratic Party may be getting back to its practical, populist roots in the Biden pick.

Obama's Challenge: Playing Catch-up to More Progressive America

While Obama's poll numbers have headed south the harder he runs to what his campaign assumes is the partisan center, a DMI study finds that middle class voters are ahead of the curve on which he lags:
Middle-class voters are split on the presidential race (about half leaning toward McCain and half to Obama) but there’s a lot of agreement around public policy with strong support for progressive measures. 75% of middle-class respondents think a universal national health insurance plan is an excellent or good idea. 71% want to see a law requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave. 78% wish their representative in Congress had voted to expand SCHIP (health coverage for uninsured low- and middle-income kids). 68% say their rep should have voted to make it easier for people to organize labor unions. (the list goes on – check out the poll report itself).

While Democrats and folks planning to vote for Obama tended to support these policies most strongly, all the policies mentioned above get a majority of support from Republicans and McCain supporters as well.
DMI also discovers that Congress is able to vote against many progressive and popular initiatives because the elected representatives fail to communicate effectively with their constituents:
If these policies are so popular, why isn’t the nation moving in a more progressive direction? One problem is that most middle-class Americans don’t know how their members of Congress actually voted on the issues in question. While two-thirds of middle-class adults say they try to follow what Congress is doing at least somewhat closely, most get very few communications from their representatives. 72% cannot name a single piece of legislation passed by Congress in the past two years that has benefited them or their families. In part, this reflects a grim assessment of Congress’ efficacy. But it also says something about the lack of connection between the nation’s legislators and their middle-class constituents. 68% of middle-class adults would like their rep to support taxing hedge fund managers at the same rate as others in their income bracket. But 69% don’t know if that’s how their rep actually cast the vote. It’s hard to hold your representative accountable if you don’t know what they’re up to.

Wealthy Elite vs. Middle Class: Pick Your Biden Scorecard

Friends of the wealthy elite give presumptive Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Biden low marks. Friends of the American middle class give Biden high marks.

AP Says Buh-Bayh: Obama's Choice Down to Biden and Edwards

Looks like Southcomm's sources may have been wrong. Obama's making them whiff.

UPDATE: NY Times says it's Joe Biden for sure:
It reflected a critical strategic choice by Mr. Obama: To go with a running-mate who could reassure voters about gaps in his resume, rather than to pick someone who could deliver a state or reinforce Mr. Obama’s message of change.

Mr. Biden is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is familiar with foreign leaders and diplomats around the world. Although he initially voted to authorize the war in Iraq — Mr. Obama opposed it from the start — Mr. Biden became a persistent critic of President Bush’s policies in Iraq.
Obama gains some gravitas. Let's hope it frees him up to return to some of the more liberal, reforming themes that were giving him higher poll numbers at the end of the Democratic Primaries.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Obama Could Pick Bush's Congressman

Texas Democrat Chet Edwards has been thrown into the VP mix.  Poetic, but not exactly inspiring, especially given Obama's anemic poll numbers in the wake of his post-primaries rush to the center.  Perhaps a diversion to get keep people guessing?

He Pulls a Knife, You Pull a Gun

Compare and contrast:
  1. Nuanced, reactive, and vague arguments about "ideas" that usually end up with Democrats in the loss column.
  2. A realistic and proactive approach that gives Democrats a fighting chance:
  3. Stuff like the Swift Boat attacks on John Kerry and McCain's Celeb/P Diddy assault on Obama aren't really about the attacks themselves. In themselves, they're often too cartoonish to be believed in any literal sense. What they're about is smacking the other guy around and making him take it. There's no better way to demonstrate someone's lack of toughness or strength than to attack them and show they are either unwilling or unable to defend themselves -- thus the rough slang I used above. That not only makes the other guy look weak. It also transforms him into an object of contempt, which together are politically fatal. It's this meta-message of weakness that resonates far beyond the literal claims. And it's this that Democrats so often seem to miss -- explaining the factual inaccuracies of the claims, demanding that the attacks stop, all the while reinforcing the intended message of the attacks in the first place.

    You can even catch a hint of the mentality in the McCain camp's huffing and puffing Thursday afternoon. The new and somewhat improbable line from the McCain camp is that they've actually been doing their best to go easy on Obama, to hold back the stuff that would really make him suffer. But now that Obama's gone ahead and raised McCain's inability to remember how many houses, now he's really gonna get it ....

    In effect, the devastating Rezko ad McCain says it never wanted to have to run is pretty weak. Which is pretty much what you'd expect for an ad put together in three or four hours by a campaign shell-shocked by a media firestorm they couldn't put out by screaming POW, POW, POW.

You want to get McCain?  #2 is how you get him.

I Wish We Had a "His/Her Dressing Cabana" Like John McCain's

7 McCain homes have been memorialized in key chains. I assume that more will be added as the Republican Senator remembers where he lives. I know that I keep a picture of my house on a key chain so that I can recall it when asked.

However, one source reports that the number of houses is 8, and that McCain's household budget for domestic servants to care for those homes increased from $184,000 to $273,00 between 2006 and 2007. Most Americans can easily recall how many domestic servants they have: zero.

They increased servants despite the fact that they sold a mansion in 2006. That mansion is up for sale again and its appointments are not just "Old World." To most Americans they are "Off World":
Totally remodeled in Old World style complete w/7 bedrooms in main house & 6 bedrooms in guest houses. Hardwood & travertine floors throughout. Master suite has huge walk-in w/private cantera stone patio w/spa and fplc. Gourmet kitchen has travertine floors, granite counters, comercial SS apliances w/large catering room/butlers pantry off kitchen. 2 guest houses. His/her dressing cabana. Finest entertaining backyard in the Valley - 3 ramadas (2 w/full bar set-up), BBQ, play house, cantera stone decking, pavillion, spa and large lap/play pool. 7 car detached garage...

"Liberal" Media Wined and Dined at One of McCain's Many Mansions

My favorite part of this video of a cook-out for the press at McCain's Sedona estate is the footage of a professional journalist swinging in a tire clutching a wine glass hand (at the end she falls out):

I guess the liberal media is not ever going to give a wealthy Republican Senator a break, even after their estate party.

HT: Talking Points Memo

Antioch Neighborhood's Opposition Race Based?

P.J. Tobia reports that a largely white Antioch neighborhood may have shown ethnic prejudice in opposing the rezoning request of a Hispanic congregation. Reportedly, Council Member Jim Hodge has been leading the neighborhood's charge at the Board of Zoning Appeals, which denied the rezoning request.

One neighbor said she cultivates wildlife and the new church would take out blue jays, robins, and butterflies. I have blue jays, robins, and butterflies all over my small garden, which sits in the middle of a high density, urban neighborhood, so I find this Antioch woman's argument lame on the wildlife score. In fact, if she ever needs more robins, she's welcome to come catch mine. I don't like they way they gorge on my night crawlers.

Suckered Students

College students allege that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) encouraged them to help organize food service workers, using rallies and even hunger strikes, while SEIU made deals with their employers to insure that there would never be unions at some state schools. SEIU is also charged with empowering their employees' attempts to erode workers' rights.

SEIU is a "host committee member" and "an official sponsor" of the upcoming Democratic Party Convention.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Swimming Against the Stream of Material Constellations

Bernard Rapoport, a liberal Texas millionaire, the child of immigrants and one of the more renowned American philanthropists, recently took out a full-page, hard-copy ad in the Texas Observer in order to criticize the modern economic ruling class that misnames itself "capitalist." After quoting Max Weber's famous observation about the potential of capitalism to run roughshod over democracy, Rapoport fires his broadside:
[CEOs who never built a business from scratch, but who are still receiving hundreds of millions in benefits] are not capitalists. They think they are, but they're not. Capitalism is essentially predicated on an individual's coming up with an idea that is going to benefit society, and as a result of utilizing his or her talent, producing a good end. Capitalism involves the investment of capital. It involves risk ....

You would think it would be enough simply to recite the extravagant excesses represented by the salaries of today's business leaders, and reform would follow. Sadly, that is not the case. The heinous mistreatment of something as beautiful as capitalism should not be tolerated. Capitalism is the greatest economic system ever conceived because it comports with the greed instinct. But greed, like any other unsavory potential, must be guarded against. It requires a constant check.
It is really too bad we don't have more "capitalists with conscience" who though hardened by the reality of human vice, value their responsibilities to society as much as they do their own self-interests.

McCain Unsure of How Many Homes He Owns

In an era where many Americans are struggling to meet their mortgage and pay their bills, John McCain's biggest domestic challenge is his inability to recall the number of homes he actually owns. But his staff apparently can do it for him. Is there any better barometer for gauging how far out of touch wealthy Republican leaders are with the rest of America? That they have to rely on their handlers for their basic personal info? Do his handlers pick the clothes he will wear each day for him, too?

UPDATE: the Obama campaign has come out with an effective ad on McCain's housing woes and his disconnect from average people, who could never afford to lose track of their ownership obligations.


UPDATE: Indignation alert via Josh Marshall:
I will not stand by and watch the Obama camp try to claim McCain owns seven homes when he owns at least ten.

UPDATE: Award for the best coinage of a nickname for John McCain's many mansions goes to Southcomm: "McMansions."