Saturday, February 23, 2008

Quick Flick Pick: We Are All Going To Die Edition

By Creature

Olbermann, along with the great Dan Froomkin, tackles the latest and most obscene playing of the fear card yet. The GOP, and corporatist shills like Democrat Rockefeller, should be ashamed, but since all souls involved have been sold to the dollar, why would they?

A more reality-based response can be found here.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Questions 67 & 68

By Carl

A question occurred to me this morning in the shower.

Yes, I shower every Saturday, whether I need it or not.

Why is it Obombers assume all Hillaryites will vote Democratic, yet expect to unify Republicans behind Obama?

Are they suggesting Republicans are somehow more enlightened than Clintonistas?

I say this after all the smug snark and ridicule I've taken at various blogs for being so full-throated in my support of Clinton, and I say this despite my pledge to support the Democratic candidate no matter who she is.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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De Profundis

By Capt. Fogg

"These kinds of things are always very unfortunate." said John McCain, referring to the indictment of the latest Republican. Arizona Congressman Rick Renzi now has extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and a few side dishes on his plate. Is anyone keeping score to see which party has the highest body count? I would be curious to know.

These kinds of things are not always so unfortunate. The depths of our planet's oceans may be dark and inaccessible but the political exploits of recent history often seem to have been swallowed up, or covered up by an ocean of forgetfulness. Of course John McCain wasn't convicted of taking, along with four other congressional crustaceans, large amounts of "campaign" money and expensive vacations from convicted racketeer Charles Keating, the man who eventually cost taxpayers $3,400,000,000. McCain vigorously intervened on Keating's part and Keating's conviction was overturned on a technicality.

Depending upon which side of the political species divide you live, it's either one of the skeletons in McCain's closet or ancient history from which we must "move on" but as far as the general public knows or cares, it might as well have been dumped into the depths of the Mariana's trench. McCain, who once sent constituent Joe Bananas a birthday card is once again, like Brutus, an honorable man. An honorable man who has never done anything like making friends with lobbyists to betray the public trust. An honorable man and a Baptist, or at least the lifelong Episcopalian became one when he started sucking up to the religious right in South Carolina. Of course he has never been baptized in that church, but that's all in the past - or not in the past, to be more accurate.

With a man who campaigns on his honesty, is it fair to address his evasions and misstatements? I'll leave that to you, but although McCain's talk may be straight, his facts aren't. He may not have slept with Vicki Iseman and she may never have used his friendship to further her clients' interest, but he has certainly had less savory bedfellows and when he says: "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust," I don't trust him.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Lone Star State listens to Dems debate

By Carol Gee

Texans and the nation listened and watched together last night as CNN moderated the latest Democratic presidential debate. People gathered in cities and towns and in the country, watching from TeeVees at the ranch to urban watering holes. Today's post is a digest of Texas opinion about the debate and what it could mean to the March 4 primary outcome.

Texas Democrats seemed very glad just to be together. The debate was marked by more than one standing ovation from the audience. There is a certain amount of pride engendered by being a place that matters to the eventual election outcome. Houstonians cheered their candidates at sports bars, according to the Houston Chronicle. To quote:

Darla Kendzor, 31, of Houston, said Clinton's debate abilities helped her communicate her vision more clearly than Obama was able to articulate his.

"I think this is her forum," Kendzor said. "This is where she does well. She lays out her plans well. There's no fluff. Obama is not as detailed or clear. He repeats what she says about the issues. His ideas on the issues are not as developed."

Not far away at the Monsoon Wok & Lounge on McKinney, several dozen Obama supporters kept their eyes riveted on five TV screens scattered across the room as they munched on eggrolls and buffalo wings.

Seated at the bar, 24-year-old Ronethea Williams clapped loudly when Obama remarked that "Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die."

Williams said she was initially a "Hillary fan" but changed her mind.

Watching the Clinton-Obama presidential debate last night in Austin was for me very enjoyable and just about what I had predicted. It was, for the most part, very civil and had a good bit of substance. It did not plow much new ground, however. Dallas Morning News reporters CHRISTY HOPPE and GROMER JEFFERS JR. wrote by far the best article covering the content of the debate in the state. To quote:

In a critical debate that could help determine the Democratic nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama walked in lock step on the policies needing change but broke ranks on who could deliver it.

The largely civil discussion Thursday night included a few terse exchanges but was mostly memorable for Mrs. Clinton's emotional conclusion, tinged with a notion that she could lose but asserting that either candidate would serve the country well.

These two leading Democrats apparently still have a deep commitment to avoid splitting the party, no matter what. The Austin American Statesman saw the debate as more contentious than I did, however, calling it "prickly" during the second half. The paper reported that:

Nearly 2,000 people attended the invitation-only debate, mostly guests of UT and the Democratic Party. The audience included Democratic Texas lawmakers, 400 UT students and 200 registered Texas voters who won tickets in two separate drawings that thousands entered.

Democratic consultant Kelly Fero rated the debate a toss-up, though he said Clinton may have won some points with her closing remarks.

"In general, she was more energetic and dynamic, while he was more low-key and quiet," he said. "Close — just like their poll numbers in Texas."

Calli Rudebusch, 18, a UT freshman from Conroe majoring in government, said that seeing Obama in person solidified her support of him (she said she already voted for him). But she was thrilled to get Clinton's autograph and be there to witness history from her bleacher seat near the Longhorn band.

"I really feel that 20, 30 years down the line," she said, "I'm going to look back and go, 'Wow, I was there.' "

Former President Bill Clinton said again at a post debate rally that his wife absolutely must do well in the Texas primary in order to win the nomination. To quote from

Clinton again said he is confident that March 4 primary wins in the key states of Texas and Ohio.

"If she wins Texas and she wins Ohio, she will win Pennsylvania and she will be the nominee," Clinton told the crowd of hundreds.

"It is all up to you."

. . . She has so far focused her Texas visits largely on the U.S.- Mexico border in an effort to capture the support of Hispanic voters. She campaigned in Laredo earlier Thursday and was due in Dallas and Fort Worth on Friday.

Hillary Clinton will be in my part of Texas today. I will surely go to see her if I can. I got a phone call from her campaign with an offer of free tickets if I would leave the house right then and vote early for her. It was an interesting offer, but I did not take it up. It is just under two weeks until I get to cast my votes for the nation's next president. I would be happy with either candidate, but I will vote for Obama.

Update: Reports have just come in that a Dallas policemen has been killed in a motorcycle crash in the line of duty as he worked with the Dallas motorcade. Senator Clinton has just expressed her deepest condolences to the family and to the Dallas police department at their great loss. Senator Clinton came to the podium at what would have been the Fort Worth rally, and announced that it would be inappropriate to hold it under the circumstances. Then she headed back for the Dallas hospital to be with the policeman's next of kin. The Metroplex will be somber today as we realize that life is precious, and law enforcement is ever vulnerable.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Lingering debate thoughts

By Creature

I don't want to beat last night's debate to death, but what the hell.

First, Hillary's close. As I said last night she managed to get the last word and close big... but not this big:

Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson:“What we saw in the final moments in that debate is why Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. Her strength, her life experience, her compassion. She’s tested and ready. It was the moment she retook the reins of this race and showed women and men why she is the best choice.”

Huh. "Retook the reins"? "Next president"? Basically it was a rehash (not to mention a bit of plagiarism) of her New Hampshire moment. Which tells me her guru Mark Penn lost the message argument. He wants the commander-in-chief message up front, yet she ended by showing her human, and best, side. Some people (MSNBC?) also thought it was her concession moment. I say no. Again, it was her New Hampshire moment. And, only time will tell if it worked (again).

Next, superdelegates. I believe it was Chris Matthews' panel last night that said she threw in the superdelegate towel. No way. Now, she did not engage the issue, but she said "those are the rules." Which means she will use those rules to her advantage, and she will screw the will of the people (which is why those rules were put into play to begin with).

Finally, the "Change You Can Xerox" line. While, yes, it fell flat and got booed, it is the headline today. I wonder if in some backward way it will manage to slip into peoples mind and chip away at Obama's core message, his core authenticity.

OK, that's it. I think it's cat blogging for the rest of the day.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Texas debate review

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Make sure to check out Creature's excellent live-blogging post below. He hits all the right points. See also Joe Gandelman, who has a thorough round-up over at TMV.

CNN has the full transcript here.

Ambinder: "It was Obama's debate for most of the night. HRC needed him to stumble; he did not."

Crowley: "Both Hillary and Obama had good moments and bad tonight. None were indelible. Several times in this campaign I've felt like we saw status quo debates which didn't change a pro-Hillary dynamic. This time the status quo clearly helps Obama."

And that's pretty much it. It was a substantive (and civil) debate on the issues, and it was pretty much a tie.

I thought Clinton did very well on health care and that both of them did well on immigration and on most other issues. Her plagiarism charge was weak, and it was received poorly, and rightly so. She was also clearly pandering to Edwards, speaking his language and addressing his key issues in order to try to secure his endorsement.

Obama looked quite presidential and yet tired and unenthused for much of it. On the whole, I wasn't terribly impressed by his performance, but hers wasn't much better, if at all. Which is to say, they were both fine -- long (and solid) on policy, short on theatrics (which speaks well for the state of the Democratic Party -- its two main contenders for the nomination are both strong. (Although, as Turkana points out over at The Left Coaster, they both argued, wrongly, that the surge in Iraq is working. It isn't, and they should have said so forcefully.)

Overall, it probably didn't -- and won't -- make much of a difference.

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Make it 11 in a row for Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Obama has won 10 contests in a row, right? Wrong! He's actually won 11 in a row.

Yesterday, Democrats Abroad released the results of its vote, a protracted affair conducted around the world from February 5-12, and, once again, Obama was victorious:

-- Obama: 65.6%
-- Clinton: 32.7%

So it's one more CHECK for Obama, with a greater than 2-to-1 margin of victory, a 33-point difference. I'll be sure to add this one to our table.

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Mind the gap -- it's closing

By Michael J.W. Stickings

New poll numbers, via The Plank: "The new ABC News/WaPo poll has Clinton ahead of Obama by 7 in Ohio and 1 in Texas. She had double-digit leads in both states last week. Meanwhile, Rasmussen has Clinton up three in Texas (last week he had the New York senator up 16)."

RealClearPolitics is a good resource for state-by-state polling. Here's Ohio and Texas. The trend in both states is clear: Obama is closing the gap in dramatic fashion. Note, too, that ABC News/WaPo has Clinton up by just one point in Texas.

Clinton continues to have a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania, which will hold its primary two weeks from today, but the trend is the same there as in Ohio and Texas: Obama seems to be catching up.

Elsewhere, Obama is up by ten in North Carolina, another fairly big state that hasn't been getting much attention (because it is expected to go for Obama and because Clinton has been ignoring it, like so many other states).

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McCain untamed

Guest post by Swampcracker

There is one thread in the recent NYT narrative that is consistent with other accounts of McCain's infamously idiosyncratic personality. According to the story, McCain's staff had to run interference to keep him from getting into deeper doo-doo:

Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself -- instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

McCain was in Iraq last year, and his official escort was none other than my son-in-law, whose responsibility is to accompany celebrities and politicians on official visits to the war zone.

According to Captain Son-in-Law, John McCain has a stubborn and obtuse way of not paying attention to protocol -- as in "Sir, we are running late. We must leave NOW!" In other words, he does not listen to handlers despite the implication that his dawdling may put others at risk.

Time will tell whether or not there is merit to the NYT story. Nevertheless, here is a legitimate question for voters to consider: How sound is McCain's judgment as our possible future commander-in-chief?

(Another observation about Senator McCain's quirky personality: He never flushes the john after he uses it, at least according to Captain Son-in-Law.)

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Change you can Xerox"

By Creature

From tonight's debate, here's Hillary taking her plagiarism attack a step too far. Actually, this clip really encapsulates the race to date: Hillary attacks, Bill attacks, the people get turned off, and Obama soars. [h/t: TPM]

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The Texas Showdown Live

By Creature

7:54 - It seems like a lifetime ago since these two presidential hopefuls last faced off. A lot has changed. Obama is now the clear frontrunner and it's Hillary who has to make some kind of move. My only prediction for the evening: Hillary will use the word "solutions" a lot.

8:00 - Obama wins in the cheering department, for sure, and I just don't get the golf-like whispering during the photo shoot. CNN could have switched up the seating and set, no?

8:06 - Hillary's opening statement: 36 years ago it all started for her and she too can reach across party lines. Who knew?

Obama's turn: He's making nice with Hillary right off the bat. He's steeling for the fights to come. Obama seems a bit flat.

8:18 - Cuba first. Would you talk to Raul? Obama backs off a bit on his willingness to "talk" to our enemies. It's all about preparing first. Hillary agrees. And again, Hillary reaches out to the Right. Am I sensing an early theme?

8:28 - Very wonky so far and no elbows in sight. Hillary's doing much better on the economy question. She's appropriately animated and strong. Hillary: "end the war on science." Nice touch.

8:33 - Immigration. Right-wing heads across the country explode as both agree on a path to legalization. Obama: work with Mexico. Yes, the real solution to immigration is lifting up, not building fences. So far Bush seems to be getting the brunt of the negative.

8:45 - Break number one and I'm kinda bored. Sometimes too much political watching can be a bad thing. Lost is on soon. Maybe I'll live blog that instead.

8:50 - John King tries to pull a Blitzer and pick a fight by bringing up the candidates campaign rhetoric. Hillary hits Obama with the all hat and no cattle line. Obama gets to get lofty and, yes, we are not delusional. Campbell Brown pushes the fight angle more. Silly season indeed. Jeez, can we get back to the wonk? Obama: I have to admit, some of my speeches are pretty good. His best moment so far, by far. I can't believe she's still pushing the plagiarism theme. Sorry, Hillary, if you hadn't lost me (and the audience) before, you just did now. Politics as usual.

9:10 - Back from break number two. Commander-in-Chief question. Nope, Hillary wants to get back to health insurance. This is good, actually, because she's fighting on a legitimate difference, not on bringing down hope. Back to commander-in-chief, and Obama gets in his Iraq and better judgement line. Nice.

9:25 - The questioning moves on to the surge. Obama brings up his initial opposition to the war again. He's baiting Hillary into an authorization fight. Will she take it? Beats me, another commercial. Doesn't this thing end at 9:30? Do I smell overtime?

9:38 - Superdelegates. Let's hear this. Hillary: these are the rules, it will sort itself out. Bull. Obama: these primaries and caucuses count for something. It's the will of the voters, stupid.

Final question: the moment that tested you the most? Obama uses it to go biographical. Hillary brings up Monica (not in so many words) as her test. Huh? Hillary is honored to be a part of this. They shake hands and Hillary managed to get the last word and end on a high note.

Well, that's it. No gaffes, no real blows, no nothing. I can't see how this changes the equation at all. If this is the case it must be called a loss for Hillary, because she is the one who needed to make a splash.

I'm sure I'll have more later, but for now thank goodness for my DVR... on to Lost.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Popular vote update through 19 February contests


Through the primaries and caucuses of 19 February, the cumulative popular-vote percentages of the candidates are as follows.

49.44 Obama
44.90 Clinton
02.95 Edwards
00.33 Kucinich
00.12 Gravel
02.26 others

39.86 McCain
29.45 Romney
20.85 Huckabee
04.63 Paul
05.20 others

Yes, that's right: Obama is closing in on a majority of the popular vote and now leads Clinton by nearly five percentage points. So much for his winning streak resting on small states! Seems there are some Obama voters in the states Clinton is "winning," too. Presumably they also count. Through Super Tuesday (5 Feb.) it was Clinton 46.55, Obama 47.08.

And that's also right: McCain has yet to crack 40% of Republicans, and Huckabee's percentage continues to grow. Through Super Tuesday it was McCain 38.32, Romney 32.56, Huckabee 18.99. Since Romney dropped out, Huckabee's vote percentage has grown more than McCain's.

(Cross-posted at the temporary home of Fruits & Votes.)

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Gay tectonics

By Capt. Fogg

There have been some earthquakes in Israel of late and there's no doubt as to the reason. Even though there have been earthquakes felt at every square inch of the planet's surface ever since it had a solid surface, these are the result of tolerance. Israel decriminalized homosexuality in 1988 and has since affirmed civil rights for homosexuals and the beards are all in an uproar.

That's right, an end to the marginalization and dehumanization of gay people has made the ground shake and we know it's true because Israel's own religious right says so. It's Yahweh, shivering in disgust and anger -- the same old Yahweh who sat still and silent while they burned babies, Druids, heretics, Gypsies, Jews, Templars, and scientists in Europe; the tyrant El who is the servant of evil; the impotent imp who occasionally destroys all life, but sleeps through millennia of slavery, cannibalism, nuclear warfare and even the presidency of the idiot Bush; the same shop worn bogeyman that has simultaneously punished and justified every war, every last human action, at least according to the ecclesiastical leeches who have sucked the life out of humanity since some proto-hominid man-beast figured out that it was easier to scare people than to work.

There is no freedom under the God these people have invented and precious little decency, love or compassion and if there ever is to be religious freedom it will be taken from the religious right by force.

(Cross posted from Human Voices.)

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The John McCain story

By Carol Gee

As I am writing this Senator John McCain is before the early morning news media cameras attempting to "resolve" to get out in front of the current New York Times hot story, to "move on," from the issue involving himself and a lobbyist. The Senator has denied everything, including what the unnamed aides have said as sources in the story. Senator McCain said, "I am very disappointed in the article and it is not true."

There is a kind of familiar feel to it. But now it has become as much about the messenger as the message. It is rather painful to watch. I am tuned in to MSNBC's Morning Joe. Continuing to focus on The New York Times, host Joe Scarborough has talked at length all morning about the "lack of real substance" in the story with his sidekick Mika Brzezinski. Mica says the NYT "is on the spot here."

Now we get to hear Chris Matthews explain it to us. Naming the NYT, "the best paper in the country, the best at getting sources, careful," Matthews continued, "This is classic John McCain -- it is explosive -- he handled it very quickly... I'm going to go over the story line by line." Later Matthews continued, "We'll hear from Media Matters on this. How would conservatives respond at the beginning? Everybody will go to general quarters."

David Gregory reminded his companions, "We're not engaged in press criticism here. We aren't able to make judgments... But I would ask, how do you as a voter evaluate John McCain. We do not yet know the impact. We will have to watch Mike Huckabee's reaction. I don't think we can judge yet. What are the unanswered questions? Gregory did note that Senator McCain "had declined to be interviewed for the piece." Gregory talked about the Senator's "bringing in Bob Bennett, preferred to handle it behind the scenes."

Pat Buchannan was at high decible rant, saying, "McCain put his credibility straight on the line up against the New York Times, whose integrity is now on the line. The story was a head shot. They were going for the kill. Now they have to now decide what to do next."

Fallout continues. This is a big story, if you use the amount of space used at the website Memeorandum as any gauge. Fully 3/4 of their headline and link space is taken up with this explosive story. The McCain campaign staff is dismissing the story as based only on anonymous sources. John Weaver, named in the story, has denied being the source of the leak. There is more from the NYT's head, Bill Keller: "We think the story speaks for itself. We publish stories when we think they are ready. It was a long time in the works [including lawyers looking at it]. No one has challenged what we have reported" [what the aides said]. Questions remain with Joe of MSNBC about the placement of the story and the timing of its release. Mike Huckabee has responded with supportive comments about Senator McCain.

When this news came out, a phrase popped into my head and it has not left. "This is a watchbird watching you," from Askville, refers to a cartoon character that I used to shame my children into behaving back in the late 1950s. I regret that I did that. I learned later that it was not the way to change children's behavior. I was not a model for an appropriate nonjudgmental attitude. Hootsbuddy's Place explains the phrase for us:

"This is a Watchbird..."

This is what I think of as a "Watchbird" post. I haven't come to any conclusions yet, but I have enough reservations about both links to read what they have said with respect.

The Watchbird was a creation of
Munro Leaf whose cartoons from the fifties always ended with "This is a Watchbird watching a [whatever]. And this is a Watchbird watching YOU." Maybe it was this early training that made part of me into a Watchbird. I dunno. In any case, it missed the mark. I was suppose to identify with someone in the cartoon, not the Watchbird. I guess even at that early age I was more prone to judging than being judged.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A measure of progress

By Carl

An Open Letter To Hillary Clinton

Dear Senator Clinton,

You are beset by woes, to be sure, and your campaign, while not on its last legs, has lost a lot of steam over the past two weeks.

I endorsed you over Senator Obama because, frankly, you had the experience, ideas and policies that are best for this nation. It troubles me to see that your campaign is so ineptly run right now.

I would still endorse you. I am not about to abandon a ship because there's a gash in the side. We can keep it afloat.

Me, I'm just a schlub blogger... with an IQ that's measured on scales that ordinary people can't even approach. I learn. I learn by doing, by making errors, but also by observing. You have some smart people around you, but you are too loyal to them by half, and they clearly don't return the favor. I've been involved in Democratic politics for forty years, ever since I handed out flyers in the fifth grade for Hubert Humphrey.

I can't, despite the thousands I've raised and given your campaigns, e-mail you directly, so I thought I'd drop you a note. I don't know that you'll ever read this, but I hope you will.

I have a strategy that I believe would work to getting you back in the game. You may not be able to win outright, altho I think this strategy could overwhelm Senator Obama's message of hope. This strategy will guarantee you stay in the hunt into the convention and possibly force a second vote, when all bets are off and committed delegates can be wrested away.

As all good strategies are, it's at once simple... we're talking sound bite simple... and hard. Hard to implement, hard to fully flesh out, and hard to present unless you have a grasp of everything in your campaign. And I think you could. You don't now, but you could.

Here's the deal: you spend a lot of time and energy pointing out, correctly, Senator Obama's inexperience. Having him as President is a little like, I don't know, asking George W Bush to run an oil company: having never done it properly, he'd probably do a lousy job, and there's nothing in his CV that indicates he can do the necessary work or stand by the courage of his convictions.

And that's fine. For starters. I think you've set the groundwork for my proposal.

This becomes a two-pronged attack, which I would call "show 'em, don't tell 'em".

See? As I said, simple.

First, the time has come to issue a comprehensive plan for your first term. You say you'll be ready on day one to lead. You say you have (and I have seen) programs thought out, put down on paper, proposals for legislation, and proposals on how to pay for them.

That's great. Now let's give the people the HOW bit: How is this all going to help them? Words are fine, but as you and I know, words are nothing unless you can back them up with your strength.

Take any topic, let's say, energy independence. You do see how this ties into other issues that are tragically frightening the working and middle classes of America, don't you?

More money for gas and heating oil means less money to buy food or worse, to pay for the increased mortgage payments on their readjusting loans. You NEED to start making this case. You need to show how plowing billions of dollars into energy research will create jobs that pay far better than the lagging personally unproductive work that we Americans are struggling with.

How a new direction doesn't promise hope, it promises jobs and wealth. And you need to be detailed about this. You need to show exactly how a billion dollars poured into renewable energy programs will create over $20 billion dollars in high paying tech oriented jobs that aren't about to go away in the next ten or even fifty years: jobs that, like the auto industry before them, could practically be handed down, parent to child.

Security, in other words, and how economic security will help promote physical security by making people who right now are lost and hopeless (why else would they respond to a flim-flam artist?) care once more about the world around them. We've had eight years of negligence.

It is time to disabuse our citizens of negligence and grant them to the rights and privileges of a free society, one where our greatest enemy is not our own government. You cannot have true national security until all the people in the country, and I include undocumented workers here, have a clear path to opportunity and betterment. Only you have made this path clear, but only because I can read and understand your programs.

You need to show the fractal nature of society, how a rancher in Wyoming who takes the manure from his cattle and processes it can provide energy for the worker in Arkansas who turns on a light, and how your administration will work tirelessly to find the solutions that guarantee the promises that Senator Obama has made.

See? As I said, difficult. But you have in your camp a gifted orator, one who can write the speech that you need to have written, one who can explain all this in terms of the fears and anger of the average American at forces beyond his or her ken, and how you can turn the reins of control back over to him/her.

We live in a maelstrom. We need more than the life saver that Senator Obama tosses to us like Groucho Marx to Thelma Todd in Horse Feathers. We need a longboat, pulling us ahead through the turbulent times to calmer waters. And we all need to pull it together.

And so do you, Senator.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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The Obama sweep

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Even at my most optimistic, I thought Obama would win Wisconsin by 8-12 points. Turns out I was wrong. The won by 17, yet another decisive victory on a night when he won his ninth and tenth contests in a row, a post-Super Tuesday sweep. Let's add the latest votes to our table:

-- Louisiana (2/9): CHECK (57-36 -- 21 points)
-- Nebraska (2/9): CHECK (68-32 -- 36 points)
-- Washington (2/9): CHECK (68-31 -- 37 points)
-- Virgin Islands (2/9): CHECK (90-8 -- 82 points)
-- Maine (2/10): CHECK (59-40 -- 19 points)
-- Maryland (2/12): CHECK (60-37 -- 23 points)
-- Virginia (2/12): CHECK (64-35 -- 29 points)
-- D.C. (2/12): CHECK (75-24 -- 51 points)
-- Hawaii (2/19): CHECK (76-24 -- 52 points)
-- Wisconsin (2/19): CHECK (58-41 -- 17 points)

Before the sweep, I thought Obama would probably do very well but that he could lose in Washington, Maine, Virginia, and/or Wisconsin. But look at those results. Ten contests, not a close result anywhere to be found.

And so now we're on to March 4, less than two weeks away, with two big contests in Ohio and Texas and two smaller contests in Rhode Island and Vermont. Obama has drawn even with Clinton in Texas, where the hybrid delegate-selection system seems to favour him, and, according to the polls, he is closing the gap in Ohio (a new poll has him down by just 9 points).

So let's add these contests to our table:

-- Ohio (3/4)
-- Rhode Island (3/4)
-- Texas (3/4)
-- Vermont (3/4)

As well as these:

-- Wyoming (3/8)
-- Mississippi (3/11)

I know the Clinton campaign dismisses the small states (i.e., the states Clinton doesn't win) as unimportant and irrelevant, yet another excuse from a campaign full of them, but their contests count, and Obama should win both Wyoming and Mississippi, presuming he doesn't get blown out in Ohio and Texas.

Pennsylvania comes next on April 22, over a month later, another key state for Clinton, but, by then, the race could be over. As NBC's Chuck Todd has suggested, Obama is just "one win away from putting this race to bed" -- that is, a win in either Ohio or Texas.

I don't want to get ahead of myself, and I keep reminding myself that there is still a long way to go, that anything, anything, could happen, and that it's foolish to write off the Clintons, ever, but, after what we saw on Tuesday, after what we've seen this month, on Super Tuesday and through the sweep that followed, Obama is looking awfully good. A win in either Ohio or Texas, once thought impossible, now seems possible, perhaps even likely -- and he could even win both.

But that's the story of the race, isn't it? An Obama win was once thought impossible, the nomination Clinton's to lose. Wasn't it all supposed to be over by Super Tuesday? And yet here we are, the impossible become possible, with Obama the frontrunner, with a clear lead, the Clinton campaign desperate and dirty.

No, it isn't over yet, but the impossible that became the possible may soon be the reality. And what an incredible run it has been so far.

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Satellite shot down, misinformation campaign continues, media play along

By Michael J.W. Stickings

CNN: "The U.S. Navy succeeded in its effort to shoot down an inoperable spy satellite before it could crash to Earth and potentially release a cloud of toxic gas, the Department of Defense said Wednesday."

But, of course, there never really was much of a risk. Indeed, this was all an elaborate, if transparent, cover story. There were other reasons to shoot down the satellite, political-military reasons, but, from the military, there has only been a campaign of misinformation aimed at deceiving the American people.

For more on that, see here.

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All you need to know about John McCain 2

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(This will be an ongoing series at The Reaction. AYNTKAJM 1 is here.)

From Think Progress:

Last week, the Senate brought the Intelligence Authorization Bill — which contained a provision banning waterboarding — to the floor for a vote. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an outspoken waterboarding critic, voted against the bill.

At the time, ThinkProgress questioned whether McCain would stand with Bush’s threatened veto of the legislation. Today, the AP reports that McCain has come out saying Bush should veto the measure, which would make the Army Field Manual the standard for CIA interrogations.


But the vote was not “in keeping” with McCain’s unclear record on torture; in the past, McCain called waterboarding a “terrible and odious practice” that “should never be condoned in the U.S.”

McCain is trying to have it both ways. He claims the CIA should not use “cruel” or “unusual” interrogations, but he is defending Bush’s veto, a clear approval of waterboarding.

Furthermore, what are these “additional techniques” outside the Field Manual that McCain thinks the CIA needs? Marty Lederman noted that the CIA can currently use “stress positions, hypothermia, threats to the detainee and his family, severe sleep deprivation, and severe sensory deprivation.”

A veto would mean the “CIA will continue to assert the right to use all of these techniques.” In standing with Bush’s veto, does McCain, a former prisoner of war, support these types of harsh interrogations, too?

Apparently so. Now that he is, or soon will be, the Republican nominee for president, McCain is evidently looking to appeal to the torture enthusiasts of the right, and, to that end, he seems to be willing to toss his principles, or whatever passed for them, into the dustbin of his own maverick history. In calling on the president to veto this legislation, McCain is signalling that he is now one of those enthusiasts, at least on the campaign trail, and that he approves of the use of torture -- that is, what he deceptively calls "additional techniques".

For more, see Paul Kiel at TPM (who notes that McCain also said that, as president, he would veto legislation, not attach Bush-style signing statements -- which, give him some credit, is a positive commitment), Mark Silva at The Swamp, and Derrick Jackson at the Globe.

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Around the world: Armenia, Burma, Kenya, Kosovo, and Liechtenstein (and Germany)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Some interesting stories from around the world:

1) Armenia: Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian has won presidential election with about 53 percent of the vote. His closest rival, however, former president Levon Ter-Petrosian, is claiming that the vote was rigged. "Very dirty things are happening," Ter-Petrosian said. 15,000 supporters of the former president staged a rally in the country's capital, Yerevan, yesterday. (For more, see here.)

2) Burma: The country's neighbours, including Singapore, "have expressed doubts over the country's new draft constitution, implicitly criticising the Burmese government... The US has also criticised the text and cast doubts over the poll's fairness." A major concern is that pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be barred from running for office. (I recently commented on the situation in Burma here.)

3) Kenya: The situation could soon worsen, as talks between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga seem to be breaking down -- talks mediated by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. "Kenya's opposition threatened on Wednesday to resume street protests in a week if talks fail to end a political standoff in a country still reeling from ethnic violence in which more than 1,000 people were killed." It looks like both sides are preparing for further violence.

4) Kosovo: Independence doesn't come easy. "Serbs in northern Kosovo on Wednesday continued what appeared to be a drive to force a partition... A mob of 300 Serbs wielding clubs and tools gathered on a road near this small village of ethnic Albanians [Cabra] in northern Kosovo, prompting NATO to send armored vehicles and tanks to head them off." (Ah, the Serbs...)

5) Liechtenstein: "The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, put pressure on the Liechtenstein government yesterday to increase the transparency of its banks and other financial institutions amid a nationwide inquiry into Germany's biggest tax evasion scandal. Speaking after a meeting in Berlin with Otmar Hasler, the prime minister of the tiny alpine tax haven, Merkel said Liechtenstein had to 'quickly clear up' a variety of problems, not least the ease and attractiveness its secret bank accounts offered to rich Germans looking for a tax oasis." Said Hasler: "We are on the road to reform." (Fantastic. It's a lovely country -- I've actually been there -- but I'm sure it's also been a lovely place for tax evaders.)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clintonian ethics, a case study: When you're losing, change the rules

By Michael J.W. Stickings

How utterly pathetic is the Clinton campaign? How utterly noxious has it become? And what utter loserdom. Having not won a contest since Super Tuesday, and after yet another drubbing yesterday in Wisconsin and Hawaii, Clinton is now seeking not to win the race by playing by the rules -- that is, by actually beating Obama -- but to win it by changing the rules:

This morning brings the news that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has launched a new
where they are announcing how they are officially preparing to make the case that the rules of the Democratic nomination process should be changed.

Among many "facts" they declare are some accurate ones, such as the idea that superdelegates, which in true nomenclatural dexterity they now term "automatic delegates" "are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party."

But then comes this juicy non-fact:

"FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats' 50-state strategy."

That's not a fact, that's an opinion.

And it's clear evidence (not that there was any mystery about it) that the Clinton campaign is trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Come to think of it, the Clinton campaign has a point. Why play by the rules when you can change the rules at any time? This is where Belichick and the Patriots went wrong. Sure, they were 18-0, but they went ahead and played the Super Bowl by the rules. And so they let Eli Manning drive the Giants down the field for the winning TD near the end of the game and then failed to score on a last-minute drive that went nowhere. What if the Patriots had simply changed the rules? What if, on that play where Manning scrambled and found David Tyree for one of the greatest catches ever, the Patriots had changed the rules so that touching the QB was a sack? Or what if, at the end of the game, they had simply changed the rules of mathematics so that 14 was worth more than 17?

Okay, that's crazy, I know. The rules are the rules, whether in football or mathematics.

But this is the sort of crazy coming from an increasingly desperate Clinton campaign these days. Is it any wonder that so many of us are coming more and more to despise the Clinton campaign? I am an Obama supporter, yes, but I didn't want that support to mean anything other than situational opposition to Clinton. Which is to say, I didn't support Obama because I was against Clinton in any deeply negative way but rather because I liked him more and thought he would make the better president.

This has changed. I am now genuinely opposed to Clinton and her campaign, over which she must be held responsible. It is a campaign that is losing, that is desperate, that is looking for any way to get back on top, no matter what, that is hurling attacks at Obama from all sides, that is, as we can now see, trying to change the rules.

As Steve Benen points out, Clinton still has options and hasn't yet lost the race. This is true. But it also seems that the Clinton campaign has given up trying to win the race legitimately. Indeed, as Jason Zengerle remarks, it might simply be "incapable" of doing that. It's all about the bullshit now, as Matthew Yglesias notes.

And so the attacks will continue, as will the excuses, as will these efforts to change the rules.

In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Adm. Kirk admits to Lt. Saavik that, when younger, he beat the unwinnable Kobayashi Moru test by reprogamming the simulator -- that is, by changing the rules, by cheating. Hillary Clinton is no James T. Kirk, of course, and Kirk had good reason not to believe in "the no-win scenario," but Clinton's last-ditch efforts to change the rules reflects a similar outlook, a similar arrogance, however ignoble.

It is time for Democrats to say NO to Hillary Clinton.

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FRANCHISE ALERT: New health spa craze sweeps the nation

Guest post by Swampcracker

John McCain's latest switcheroo on the Intelligence Authorization Bill leads me to believe that "enhanced interrogation techniques" have gained a new air of respectability. The way I figure, if the most tormented candidate in presidential politics endorses it, then maybe it is time to jump on the bandwagon and get in on a ground floor opportunity.

That is why I have started investigating the latest health spa craze called "water-boarding." I have not seen it firsthand, but I understand it has something to do with taking a "dunk." I am told it improves respiration, or at least the ability to hold one's breath under water.

Aromatherapy bath oils improve the experience. Not the traditional kind of fragrances found in those super-posh spas like the Hanoi Hilton, but a new line of designer scents called Choke, Heave, Swallow, and Spirit of Sanson.

I rate this franchise opportunity a "no-brainer" and plan to be the first in my neighborhood to start one. Of course, Laura Bush, Lynne Cheney, and Cindy McCain will each receive a free introductory gift certificate to try water-boarding for themselves. To build your customer base, it helps to have testimonials from influential people.

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Making noise for the sake of her base

By Creature

Yglesias plays off Schmitt who talks superdelegates. I said this in a post yesterday regarding the poaching story, but it's worth repeating in the superdelegates context. One reason Hillary's people are out there talking about using superdelegates to win (and talking Michigan, Florida, and poaching) is to send a clear signal to her own supporters that they will fight and that they are still in this. She needs to hold on to her own people (no matter how much it turns off everyone else). She needs their money. A mass defection between now and Ohio/Texas would be the actual end of her campaign.

Also, I've come to believe that Hillary will not scorch the earth leading up to, and including, the convention. If things progress the way they have she will gracefully bow out after March 4th. I'm not sure why I've come around on this, but I want to give Hillary the benefit of the doubt.

Update: As if on cue, here are Hillary's supporters making one last ditch effort. She needs them, but they won't hold on forever.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Good landings

By Carol Gee

"Go for the de-orbit burn" -- These dead stick glides to earth of the big old heavy warhorse shuttles remain an absolute miracle to me and other incurably addicted "space junkies." Listening to the NASA channel, it is a tense process. You can hear it in the voices of the people at the consoles and in the pilots' flying the Atlantis shuttle -- voices just a bit rushed report the minute by minute landing sequence. "Copy, good config for the burn," says Commander Steve Frick. The engines will burn for a little over two minutes in a braking maneuver. The shuttle will drop out of orbit at 16,000 miles an hour towards its inevitable fiery 2500 degree reentry into the earth's thin blanket of atmosphere. It has been a 5.1 million mile mission.

The shuttle comes in just west of Cuba, a small country attempting to make a good a landing, itself, after Fidel Castro's resignation from office. We wish them well. Atlantis does a series of "s-turns" to slow its speed. For direction, NASA makes use of the GPS positioning technology, just as if they had "OnStar" and were lost outside of Poughkeepsie. Eighty miles out we get the first dim view of the still upturned shuttle. Twin sonic booms "heralded the arrival of Atlantis." With s-turns to slow their speed, and a big overhead turn towards the field, the shuttle makes an amazing landing at 8:07 CT, with Commander Frick at the controls. We get to see this landing through the same "heads-up display" used the Commander and Pilot in Atlantis -- another one of those "Wow!" things for space junkies.

This was a big trip for the STS-122 crew, and for the cooperating international space community. The 12-day mission completed the installation of ESA's Columbus science module, complete with a French crew member Flight Engineer Leopold Eyharts, deployed to see to the activation of the module and its experiments. It was also a big trip home for Mission Specialist astronaut Dan Tani, who has lived for an extended four-month period at the International Space Station. He lost his mom in a car accident in December and now he is coming home to the arms of his family.

A long convoy of vehicles meets the shuttle crew after the landing. After a period of "safe-ing" the hot, huffing and puffing vehicle, a flight surgeon checks out the crew. There is a private disembarkation, because coming back to earth is a rough experience, particularly for Tani, who will get several weeks of rehab for the after effects of his 120 days of weightlessness. The crew will have lunch with their family members.

"Next stop for Atlantis, the Hubble Space Telescope in late August," says the familiar voice of the NASA announcer. The boys are home and I can breathe again.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Thoughts on Cuba

By Carl

As you must certainly know by now,
Fidel Castro has formally renounced the presidency of Cuba. His brother, Raul, will assume permanently the role he's held for two years now, and hints at democratic reforms.

Naturally, and desperate for any win in a time of political cholera, elements of the right wing in this country are hooting how America's embargo forced this change.

Is it not ironic that those who most loudly espouse democracy and freedom for Cuba are in favor of the embargo that imprisoned and tyrranized her people?

To a point, the embargo had a point. That point was lost at least thirty years ago. Rather than collapse the Castro regime along with the Soviet Union and other communist and socialist states, we allowed it to fester by imposing our will on it. Why? It certainly on its own was no military threat to us, and it espoused no dangerous, violent theosophy to kill us in our beds. Indeed, one would be very hard pressed to find where any terror cell would have stood a chance in operating out of Cuba, no matter how much money they were to throw at Castro.

One gets the impression that Castro actually liked America, he just couldn't stand its leadership. Guantanamo Bay exists not in a vacuum, and indeed, America had to ask Castro's permission to use it as a prison for Al Qaeda suspects.

And perhaps he had a good reason for disliking American presidents and congresses.

By banning Cuban goods (something we had never done with Soviet-produced merchandise, or Chinese, for that matter), we enforced a poverty-stricken people with surveillance and hunger. Poor, hungry people act out. They must be controlled, a lesson not seemingly lost on this nation's government, as it imposes non-FISA surveillance, torture, and national identity cards upon us.

We defeated Communism with butter, not guns. The Beatles brought the West to the Soviet Union. Wrangler jeans. A United States-style union freed Poland. A playwright, Czechoslovakia. Reaganauts can claim the armament race put the Soviet Union out of business, but it was the will of its people who pulled the gates down and padlocked them.

I am fully in favor of ending the embargo now, and I think it's not soon enough. Indeed, Raul Castro had already made inroads into incorporating a China-style fusion of socialism and capitalism, by allowing free market farmer's markets to be established.

The best evidence we can give the Cuban people that freedom, democracy and free enterprise work is by lowering the embargo and opening trade with this nation, by allowing American tourism and business development interests to come in and demonstrate new ideas and new ways of thinking.

And in return, we could learn alot about the Cuban way of doing things, and learn ideas that could benefit us back here at home. These folks have been stuck in a fifty year time warp. There is much they know that we've forgotten in our full court press towards the 21st century.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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My country, 'tis of thee...

By Capt. Fogg

It's starting. Barak Obama is now the Democratic candidate apparent and the Swift Boats are weighing anchor, the slime breweries are bubbling and the Republican Values Vermin are sitting around the cauldron and giggling.

Barack, you see, is a
homosexual junkie, and even though he never went to a radical Islamic school, he did anyway. He's a known follower of Soviet leaders, plans to send our wealth to foreign countries because he is a Communist, and his wife is anti-American. My in-box is crawling with racist "jokes" from people I formerly respected:

"Barack’s first presidential photo will show Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton on his right side and Teddie Kennedy and Oprah standing on his left side," says one.
"The head of the National Black Caucus said on NPR, National Public Radio, that if his boy got in he would make sure that Jessie was made Secretary of something," says another. The viral video: Barack the Magic Negro has crawled out of its coffin again.

It's not as though I didn't expect it and it's not as though every country doesn't have it's unworthies. It's that we don't drag them out into the public square and pillory them any more that makes me so ashamed.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Badger blogging

By Michael J.W. Stickings



7:49 pm - The Politico's Mike Allen is reporting that exit polls in Wisconsin point to a potentially huge win for Obama. But we've all learned not to trust exit polls, right? (I hope you're all nodding along with me.)

8:35 pm -- More on the exit polls over at NRO: 60 to 40 for Obama? Yeah, that would qualify as huge. (But, well, see above.)

8:37 pm -- Ambinder on the exit polls: "A Less Affluent, Less Well-Educated, Economically Sensitive Electorate." In other words, it's the economy, stupid. (And health care.) Which means the state should go for Clinton... right? At least, that's the way it was looking before Obama's recent surge into the lead, back when the nomination looked like Clinton's to lose. Honestly, who would ever have thought that Clinton would lose Wisconsin, or even that the contest would be competitive? She hasn't lost it, I know, but it's prime Clinton terrority. If Obama can win here... well, that would say a lot, wouldn't it?

8:42 pm -- See this from the Obama campaign (quoted at The Plank). See my previous entry. The Obama spin: It's a state Clinton should have been able to win easily. In this case, the spin is the truth, and, to repeat myself, an Obama win here would mean a win in prime Clinton territory. (For more, see MyDD.)

9:01 pm -- CNN calls the Republican primary for McCain. No surprise there. Exit polls do have Obama in the lead, but CNN is not making a projection on the Democratic side.

9:06 pm -- Two others live-blogging Wisconsin: Jeralyn Merritt on the left and Ed Morrissey on the right.

9:22 pm -- CNN calls it for Obama! A huge celebration breaks out in my head.

9:31 pm -- CNN has the updated results here, by the way. Maybe I'll flip over to MSNBC for a change. No, as much as I dislike CNN, it's still preferable to the alternatives. And there are just so many hosts and pundits, and hence so much opportunity for comedy -- mostly unintentional, of course. Fox News is too predictable in its right-wing propagandizing and MSNBC is too much of a testosterone-fest for anyone's good.

10:32 pm -- What can I say about Obama's speech that I haven't already said on previous occasions? -- here, for example. It was, as always, simply awesome. In contrast, as has become the norm, Clinton didn't even mention the Wisconsin vote, let alone congratulate Obama, in her speech tonight. She didn't even thank the people of Wisconsin for coming out to vote, nor those who voted for her, nor those who campaigned for her, gave of their time for her, sacrificed for her. It's like she's pretending Wisconsin never happened, even though she campaigned there vigorously. She and her campaign have been smearing Obama, desperately trying to bring him down, and have been playing the dirtiest politics of the campaign so far, and yet all they have to show for it is another loss, and Clinton herself won't even talk about it. The contrast between both the candidates and the campaigns is pretty clear in this regard.

10:46 pm -- Obama spoke to 20,000 people in Houston. McCain may be a hero, as Obama himself acknowledges, but he looks puny next to Obama.

10:48 pm -- With 60 percent of precincts reporting it's Obama by 13 over Clinton, 56 to 43.

11:43 pm -- As expected, McCain won easily in Washington and Wisconsin. He even did extremely well among "Republicans" in Wisconsin. No, he isn't some independent usurper of the GOP throne. Conservatives may not all be behind him, but he does seem now to have the party, broadly speaking, behind him, and he is already running as the nominee, pretty much. His speech tonight was directed largely at... Obama. (Of course, Huckabee is still doing fairly well even though he isn't a conventional -- or, rather, establishmentarian -- Republican. McCain would have problems if a mainstream conservative (e.g., a Jeb Bush type) were in the race -- but, then, he wouldn't be in the position he's in if such a conservative were in the race. He is the presumptive nominee largely because the field has been so weak, from a mainstream conservative perspective.)

11:53 pm -- I can't believe I'm about to praise Paul Begala, but, well, here goes. He just referenced Isaiah Berlin. That alone is worth some praise, not least because he did so on CNN and among a group of pundits hardly known for its collective depth. But he also made a good point. According to Berlin, there are foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes know a lot of little things, hedgehogs know one big thing. This is a hedgehog election and Obama is a hedgehog. I would argue that he is also quite the fox -- no double entendre intended -- but the point is well-taken. Obama just gets it. He is the perfect zeitgeist candidate, the candidate who personifies our time, who embodies the sort of leadership that America so desperate needs and that Americans are so desperately craving. Again, though, he isn't all rhetoric, and his campaign isn't just about the concept of change. There is substance there, too -- a lot of it.

12:35 am -- Okay, that was Begala's one shining moment. Larry King just asked him what Clinton should do, and he said take from (and "quote") Edwards on middle-class economic issues. Right, because she's just that sort of populist. Sure, she can do that, but would she be at all credible? No. Larry then asked him if she should go after Obama hard, and he said yes, but only if it's "fair and factual" -- this just moments after he brought up, almost as a casual aside, the bogus (and slanderous) plagiarism accusation her campaign levelled at Obama over those Deval Patrick-inspired remarks. Thanks for getting back to your usual partisan hackery, Paul. You haven't changed a bit.

1:28 am -- Nothing yet from Hawaii, but, in Wisconsin, with 97 percent of precincts reporting, Obama is up by a whopping 17 points, 58 to 41. Yes, a huge win for Obama, outperforming the polls and eating into Clinton's core support areas. Next up: Ohio, where Obama still lags behind, and Texas, where he has drawn even, as well as Vermont and Rhode Island -- all on March 4, two weeks from... well, yesterday (it's long past midnight here in the east). Clearly, Obama has the momentum, but there is still a long way to go.

I'll have more on this later today, as will, no doubt, the co-bloggers. For now, though, I must bid you all a good night. Thanks for stopping by. Take care, everyone.

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Americans, CBS thinks you're all a bunch of idiots

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Which you're not -- not all of you -- right? Seriously, I know you're not.)

So what the hell's a superdelegate?

From the network that gives you Katie Couric doing the evening news, patronizing to the lowest common denominator, comes this juggernaut of condescension:

(Thanks for the tip, Marco.)

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The eyes of Texas are upon...

By Carol Gee

...the candidates for U.S. president.

From my little corner of Texas -- today is the first day of early voting in our state, in Houston, in Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Antonio. The news there, is that there is a political parade headed for the Alamo city. The S.A. Express-News reports:

Barack Obama today. Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy and Mike Huckabee on Thursday. And Hillary Clinton — again — on Sunday.

In a six-day period, five current or former presidential candidates have plans to visit San Antonio.

Barack Obama will be holding a free rally -- "Stand for Change" -- at noon at the Reunion Arena in Dallas on Wednesday, according to The Dallas Morning News. He will visit Houston and San Antonio on Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton has rented the wonderful old campaign headquarters of gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman in Austin. She has also lassoed an endorsement from former Speaker Jim Wright. Obama Dallas reports endorsements from:

  • The San Antonio Express-News
  • The Dallas Morning News
  • The Austin American-Statesman
  • The El Paso Times

Capitol Annex has an especially interesting list of Texas Presidential Primary Endorsements for all the candidates in Texas.

The Texas Primary System -- I'll close with a quote from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Voters Guide explaining the March 4 Primary election:

Democrats:Texas will send 228 delegtes to the Democratic National Convention . . .
Primary: 126 delegates, representing the state's 31 senatorial districts, will vote for candidates based on March 4 election results. . . Special delegates: 35 will be superdelegates . . .who are all unpledged.
Caucuses: The remaining 67 delegates will be chosen . . . from the Democrats who attend the caucuses and 25 will be party leaders and elected officials.

Republicans: Texas will send 140 delegated to the Republican National Convention. . .
Primary: 96 will vote for candidates based on the March 4 election results, three for each of the state's 32 congressional districts. . . more than half the vote gets all the delegates. If no one gets 50 percent. . . then the delegates are awarded proportionately to candidates with more than 20% of the vote.
Special delegates: 41 at-large delegates will be chosen by the overall state results. Three unbound delegates can choose any candidate.

For Texas folks, the main thing is just come to the caucus after voting is over. There will be a precinct leader there to preside. When I became a delegate it was because I had an opening on my calendar for the district convention. But with heavy turnout there may be a bit of competition for the slots.

Dallas, Austin and Houston could go Democrat, but the state is generally pretty "Red." All the Texas conservative Democrats (what they now call Blue Dogs) turned Republican during the Reagan Revolution.

Early voting begins today. We have to use a machine to vote early/absentee, so we will go vote on election day, when we can get a paper ballot. Precinct conventions, what they now call the caucus system, begin at the voting locations after the polls close. Voting is 7 AM to 7 PM. We have to be registered 30 days ahead of time to vote. They stamp your registration certificate with the name of the party for whom you voted. Those who've lost certificates can still vote if their names are on the rolls.

We are excited.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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