Saturday, May 10, 2008

A gruesomely destructive message

By Creature

Looks like Bob Herbert didn't get the memo that the Clintons will be running a kinder, gentler campaign as the clock runs out. This from today's NYT:

He can’t win! Don’t you understand? He’s black! He’s black!

The Clintons have been trying to embed that gruesomely destructive message in the brains of white voters and superdelegates for the longest time. It’s a grotesque insult to African-Americans, who have given so much support to both Bill and Hillary over the years. [...]

But it’s an insult to white voters as well, including white working-class voters. It’s true that there are some whites who will not vote for a black candidate under any circumstance. But the United States is in a much better place now than it was when people like Richard Nixon, George Wallace and many others could make political hay by appealing to the very worst in people, using the kind of poisonous rhetoric that Senator Clinton is using now.

I too believe the landscape has changed. I may be wrong, a lot of people may be wrong, but it's a chance I and millions of others are willing to take. I'd rather bet on the best of human nature than the worst (I believe that's what makes me liberal, after all). Hillary Clinton has based her campaign, since Iowa, on the worst. The difference between now and her pre-North Carolina and Indianapolis rhetoric is that now she has ditched the dog-whistle and picked up a bull horn.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Well, this is ugly!

By Carl

I guess you can add this to the Big Shitpile, as my buddy
Blogenfreude likes to call it:

US banking giant Citigroup has said it wants to sell $400bn (£205bn) of assets over the next three years as part of its bid to return to profit.

It has $500bn of "legacy assets" that it wants to reduce to $100bn.

(ed. note: term of art: "legacy assets" = bad loans and investments)

For the largest bank in America, if not the world, to write off $400 billion dollars (roughly the GDP of Indonesia) is a serious blow to any "economic stimulus" the Fed rate cuts have provided. To make up for this slashing, Citigroup will likely have to cut jobs, raise fees and find new sources of income (read that as:
dip deeper into your pocket). Particularly in light of the fact they've lost $15 billion in the last six months, and probably will post a loss for the second quarter again (even allowing for this announcement), this does not bode well for the American economy.

We need only
look to Japan in the late 80s and early 90s for a lesson in this scenario: overvalued real estate creating speculative purchases creating a banking crisis (Shinsei Bank, I should disclose, is a holding of mine through a private equity venture, and is only getting back on its feet now) creating economic stagnation despite an equivalent prime lending rate of zero percent.

When your government is practically *giving* you money and your economy can't stir itself, that's a deep, deep depression.

A trailing economic indicator of any recession is the stock market indices. In Japan's case, a recession that began in 1989 didn't bottom out in the Nikkei until 2003.

Keep that in mind, since economists and Republicans tout the S&P 500 or the Dow as a marvel of the American economic engine.

Will we be hit as bad as this? Probably not. The American economy is more globally oriented today than the Japanese economy was in the 90s, altho the Japanese had strengths that America never really implemented (the
keiretsu), and the real estate bubble doesn't seem to have affected commercial real estate here, as it did in Japan.

But make no mistake: the warning signs from Japan should be heeded.

(crossposted to
Simply Left Behind)

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Tortured Thinking, Part II -- the Witnesses

By Carol Gee

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, held a hearing on the subject of torture this week. This eye-opening session was spotlighted in my May 8 post, "Tortured Thinking, Part I -- the Players." It was a summary of what House Members are seeking regarding what happened with the issue of detainee interrogations. Since the beginning of the administration, the subject of how to interrogate has been a problem. A number of legal memos have emerged, as well as the identities of the key players, top to bottom. Committee Democrats, chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler D-NY, and supported by the overall Committee Chairman, John Conyers D-MI, questioned a panel of legal experts, upon whom today's post focuses.

Chairman Nadler swore in a panel of witnesses who gave a more in-depth picture than we have previously known of our nation's recent history of "severe interrogation," what some see as torture. Witnesses included British law Professor Phillipe Sands and Georgetown Professor David Luban. Other witnesses were former administration Counsel's Office lawyer David B. Rivkin and Professor Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild. Links to their prepared statements are included. Their statements are not covered here but summaries of the main points made by each, follow the Committee's questions:
  • Witness prepared statement: Philippe Sands, QC
    Professor of Law
    University College London
    Matrix Chambers

    Professor Sands recently researched the history of Bush administration actions around the torture issue ; it is chronicled in his illuminating article, "The Green Light."
    Chairman Conyers asked Professor Sands about what else to do. The professor said, "The country is at an important moment, and it is best to eventually unite amongst ourselves and move on from 2002. We need to find out what actually happened, however, crucial facts about the military involvement must be found out and the CIA stuff remains, Sands said. He added that David Addington's testimony is pivotal due to his "deep involvement. He was the leader of the pack, driving the policy, assisted by DOJ Counsel Haynes." Sands recounted the trip that Addington and a group of high administration officials took to visit Guantanamo "to see the place and the detainee causing all the difficulty, Mohamed al-Khatani, whom they thought was the 20th hijacker."
    Rep Mike Pence R-Indiana asked about the British experience of 15 years of bombs and the IRA. Sands said having so many lives on the line is the "heart of the matter" in every country that deals with terrorism. Sands said that the British military eventually came to consensus that coercion of detainees does not work, just as did the U.S. military and the FBI. U.K. authorities "tried all the hooding, etc. in the 1970s, and it created outrage that extended the conflict with Ireland for 15 extra years." Sands urged dropping the term "war on terror" because it makes the extremists into "warriors" and creates "good recruitment arguments." Sands noted that President Bush, unfortunately, doesn't ask advice from other countries.
    Rep. Artur Davis, D-Alabama, had an excellent discussion with Sands about the fact that Israel has fore-sworn torture, feeling that their democracy is stronger. Sands also said the the "ticking time bomb theory is completely hypothetical."
    Rep. Darrell Issa R-CA's discussion elicited from Professor Sands that, "The Army Field Manual is a sensible guide to use for interrogation. Sands regrets that the President vetoed good legislation prohibiting the use of water-boarding. He also recounted a conversation with an unnamed foreign head of state, who pulled a copy of the Yoo memo out of his pocket and asserted to Sands, "Why not do it?"
    Rep. Keith Ellison D-MN asked Phillipe Sands the question, "Does torture work?" Sands recounted his 1 and 1/2 years of investigation of the interrogation of one man, the so-called 20th hijacker, al-Khatani, "and the torture produced nothing. You cannot determine what is true with this method. For example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ("KSM," thought to have masterminded the 9/11 attacks) was tortured and confessed to everything. Coerced information leads to excluding the facts that are true.
    Rep. Bobby Scott D-VA asked Sands what is the affect of allowing troops to use torture. He answered, "Military morale is degraded, and exposes members of the military as well as U.S. nationals in foreign lands to higher risk from enemies." Sands reported that he has been contacted by many members of the military who are pleased by how the investigation is proceeding.
    Rep. Mel Watt D-NC asked what the committee should do next? Sands gave this advice. "Just document the facts needing exploration. Exercise prosecutorial discretion with your subpoenaes. The Committee can do this. Just ask all the lawyers about all the facts. Regarding other aspects, torture violates the Geneva Conventions. The U.S. has the obligation to investigate and prosecute or extradite officials to other countries who bring up charges against U.S. officials. "The U.S. must handle this or other countries will," he warned.
    Rep. Steve Cohen's D-TN questions to Sands elicited further leads from Sands to the Committee that should be investigated: for one, the high level of tension regarding
    the move towards aggressive interrogation at Guantanamo. Look into "Spike" Bowman's concerns that were brushed off by DOJ Counsel Haynes. Find out what Haynes' role was, what did he do to Khatani, and what did Donald Rumsfeld do? Sands said that Haynes already knew of Yoo's DOJ sign-off memo before the first trip to Guantanamo. Evidently, Haynes put the blame on two military officers, who've now been prosecuted. One was Diane Beavers who has been hurt by the public revelations, "outed." All these facts need to be investigated by this committee, Sands concluded. (See "The Green Light" article linked above to flesh out this imformation completely).

  • Witness prepared statement: David J. Luban
    Professor of Law
    Georgetown University Law Center

    Professor Luban was questioned by Chairman Nadler. Luban discussed the intervening Supreme Court's decision regrading the application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to detainee treatment. He also elaborated on the legal memos' words about the whole concept of measuring physical pain. Saying that the "severe pain"
    definition, to which the torture memos referred, is a medical emergency that was taken out of the Medicare statutes. He also discussed the memos' idea that prohibited severe physical suffering had to be applied if "prolonged." He noted that water-boarding usually takes just three minutes.
    Rep. Darrell Issa R-CA elicited the professor's information that, during interrogation death threats against the detainee's family are not legally allowed, but that some other kinds of lies to "trick-out information" is permissible, and even moral.
    Rep. Keith Ellison D-MN asked the question whether there had ever been an actual "ticking time-bomb" episode, and he replied that none has ever occurred that has been documented.
    Rep. Steve Cohen's D-TN questions to
    Luban also revealed that British Intelligence has admitted to using five of the 15 different severe interrogation techniques discussed during this hearing.
    Rep. Mel Watt D-NC
    asked, "what should be done about all this?" Luban recommended that we find out what really happened, including what techniques were actually used, publicize all the as yet unrevealed memos, get the full story out, go after legal ethics violations, but not get into the law-breaking aspects just yet, as that would be premature. He added that none of this has been a state secret for three years, denying that excuse to the administration.

To be continued -- "Tortured Thinking, Part III - the Final Witnesses." I encourage you to read "The Green Light" article for Sands' complete narrative of his year and a half investigation. I believe it to be very significant material because so many of the players were quite willing to talk to the professor about it.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Friday, May 09, 2008

November's Child

By Carol Gee

The compassionate among us take in the TV images coming from Burma (Michael's preferred word for Myanmar) and feel saddened by the children, in particular. Compassion must be shared, however, with the children in our own hemisphere who sometimes have it very rough. Today's post presents a few of the facts of childhood poverty in the U.S and Canada, currently and in the fairly near past.

Child Poverty in United States -- (November 2007 Report) "Who are America's Poor Children?" To quote NCCP:

. . . How many children in America are officially poor? Rates of official child poverty vary tremendously across the states.

Child poverty rates across the states, 2006:

* Nationwide, 17% of children live in families that are officially considered poor (13 million children).

* Across the states, child poverty rates range from 6% in New Hampshire to 29% in Mississippi.

Nearly 13 million American children live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level, which is $20,650 a year for a family of four. The number of children living in poverty increased by 11 percent between 2000 and 2006. There are 1.2 million more children living in poverty today than in 2000.

Not only are these numbers troubling, the official poverty measure tells only part of the story—it is widely viewed as a flawed metric of economic hardship (see box). Research consistently shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice the federal poverty level to make ends meet. Children living in families with incomes below this level—for 2006, about $41,000 for a family of four—are referred to as low income. Thirty-nine percent of the nation’s children—more than 28 million in 2006—live in low-income families.

Child poverty in Canada -- (November 26, 2007): "Child poverty rates unchanged in nearly 2 decades: report." To quote CBC News:

The rate of child poverty in Canada is the same as it was in 1989, despite numerous attempts by the federal government to tackle the issue, an advocacy group reported Monday.

. . . The report says that, in 1989, the House of Commons unanimously voted to end child poverty. Eighteen years later, despite a 50 per cent increase in the size of the economy, the child poverty rate remains unchanged at 11.7 per cent, according to the report.

One in eight children in Canada — about 788,000 — live in poverty when income is measured after taxes, the report says, citing Statistics Canada data. When income was measured before taxes, the number rose to one in six children.

Child Poverty in United States -- Over Time: (November 1995 Report). To quote the National Research Council, Board on Children and Families:

  • Poverty among U.S. children reached its highest level in 30 years in 1993. Cansus data for 1994 shows that 15.7 million children, or 22.7 percent, were classified as poor.

  • Children in families continuously on welfare from 1986 to 1990 were 1.6 times more likely to have significant behavioral problems than those never on welfare or poor. Children in families that left the welfare system but remained poor also were likely to have behavioral problems.

  • Home environments of children whose families stopped receiving welfare but remained poor did not differ significantly from those families still on welfare.

  • Inflexible hours at child care centers frequently caused problems for working parents with low incomes, nonstandard working hours or more than one job.

The fallout from the current administration's economic and social policies dusts on the heads of November's Children as well as their parents and grandparents. And this time the debris does not come from a cyclone, but from the blind eyes of greedy or corrupt officials.

From an earlier post I conclude with this beloved nursery rhyme --

Monday's Child

Author: Unknown

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child must work for a living,
But the child that's born on the Sabbath day,
Is fair and wise and good and gay

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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What raw deal?

By Creature

Paul Krugman, economist and Senator Clinton concern troll, in today's NYT:

More tirades from Obama supporters against Mrs. Clinton are not the answer — they will only further alienate her grass-roots supporters, many of whom feel that she received a raw deal.

I ask this in all seriousness: what raw deal? The Obama campaign ran circles around the Clinton campaign. She had the name recognition, the money, the insiders, and yet she still blew it.

If I had to guess, I assume Krugman is talking about the media, but even there I don't think "raw deal." If anything they bent over backwards to keep her in the race with their "never count a Clinton out" mantra.

Maybe Krugman is talking about Michigan and Florida, but, again, what's "raw" about their disenfranchisement. The rules were the same for all involved.

Maybe Krugman is talking about the blatant misogyny and sexism that has permeated the race, but wouldn't that have been offset by the blatant racism?

After having drunk the sugary-sweet Obama Kool Aid, I am probably not in a position to judge the Clinton supporters' bitterness, but, seriously, I'll ask again: what "raw deal"?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Just in case you haven't been paying attention

By Creature

Crusty McSame didn't lose his bearings, he exchanged them for cash from his lobbyist friends (or as McSame likes to call them: his campaign staff).

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Tortured Thinking, Part I - the Players

By Carol Gee

The Senate Committee on the Judiciary/Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, held an important hearing on "Detainee Interrogation Rules" May 6. (The above opening link is to the committee's news release with good highlights of the hearing's testimony). The committee also authorized a subpoena for Bush administration lawyer David Addington, who actually may be willing to testify, though he might not say very much.

Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Conyers D-MI, laid the groundwork for finding out more about the role of senior government lawyers in the development of the legal opinions authorizing interrogation methods via a series of so-called torture memos:

  1. 8-1-02, the Bybee memo to Alberto Gonzales containing a narrow definition of torture -- allowed interrogation methods. Withdrawn in 2004.
  2. 12-2-o2, DOD Secy. Rumsfeld approved the harsher interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay, which may have echoed the earlier memo.
  3. 3-14-03, DOJ John Yoo memo, also involved Jim Haynes, the DOD's attorney for Rumsfeld. It was similar to 8-1-02 but more extreme. This is the memo withdrawn by DOJ lawyer Jack Goldsmith.

Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, swore in a panel of witnesses who gave a more in-depth picture than we have previously known of our nation's recent history of "severe interrogation," what some call torture. Witnesses included British law Professor Phillipe Sands and Georgetown Professor David Luban. Other witnesses were former administration Counsel's Office lawyer David B. Rivkin and Professor Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild. Hat tip to "SmileySam" at Daily Kos for his interesting article on the hearing, including some very good links. Also, this Kos blogger borrows from Dan Froomkin's well-linked blog at the WaPo: "Torture Showdown Coming."

Republicans on the Committee who asked questions included Ranking Member, Rep.Trent Franks of Arizona, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, Rep. Mike Pense of Indiana, and Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Rep. Issa was true to form, picking a fight early with Chairman Nadler over limiting members' opening statements. When denied he demanded a roll call vote on the chair's ruling, resulting in 4 "yes," 2 "no," 1 (Issa) "Hell, no" votes.

Later the Republicans were relatively thoughtful in their questioning. Rep. Franks made a point about the Yoo memo "trying to get specific," asking Professor Luban about the term "severe pain." Luban replied that to him it refers to ideas such as a dentist's drill with no anesthetic or a broken bone. He described water-boarding as "suffering." Rep. Pence discussed his idea that our methods need to be kept secret so that "terrorists could not train themselves to resist specific methods." And he wanted to find out, after 9/11 with addition American lives perhaps on the line, how you gain information from detainees who will not respond to relationship-building techniques, what he termed "the Oprah Winfrey methods." Rep. Issa supports a ban on torture. His question to David Rivkin produced the witness' opinion that, "investigations can "degenerate into a witch hunt." Rep Steve King believes that focusing on the "narrow exceptions" of U.S. torture, rather than our "long history" of justice does a disservice to the country. In asking Professor Sands to give an instance of "when our enemies were more moral that we were," King fell into a delicious trap that provoked wry smiles as he back-peddled from Sands' answer. Sands (a British citizen) said, to paraphrase, "The United States has long been the historical moral leader of the world. And, as I spent the past year working on my investigation of what happened after 9/11, I met many military leaders of whom I had a very favorable impressions. Things went wrong under the political appointees."

To be continued with "Tortured Thinking, Part II - the Witnesses." In the meantime boys and girls, your homework is to read Phillipe Sands' "Green Light." For extra credit you can watch the hearing on C-SPAN television or watch the video posted at the House Judiciary website. (links below)


  • The hearing is available in full at C-SPAN: House Hearing on Guantanamo Bay and Interrogation Rules: Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) presides over a a House Judiciary Constitution, Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Subcmte. hearing on detainee treatment and interrogation techniques at facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They voted to authorize a subpoena for Vice President Cheney?s chief of staff and former legal counsel, David S. Addington to appear at a later hearing. 5/6/2008: WASHINGTON, DC: 2 hr. 22 min.

  • The Senate Committee on the Judiciary -- Committee website

  • " The Green Light." Professor Phillipe Sands wonderful new article this month (should be required reading) in Vanity Fair Magazine, Intro:
    As the first anniversary of 9/11 approached, and a prized Guantánamo detainee wouldn’t talk, the Bush administration’s highest-ranking lawyers argued for extreme interrogation techniques, circumventing international law, the Geneva Conventions, and the army’s own Field Manual. The attorneys would even fly to Guantánamo to ratchet up the pressure—then blame abuses on the military. Philippe Sands follows the torture trail, and holds out the possibility of war crimes charges.

  • Representative Nadler writes at the Huffington Post (11/15/07), "No More Clever Word-play on Torture," on the torture-banning legislation subsequently vetoed by our current president: The Orderly and Responsible Iraq Redeployment Appropriations Act.

  • Nov. 8, 2007 -- Hearings by the same committee on water-boarding torture at Guantanamo Bay.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Racism and euphemism: The exclusionary candidacy of Hillary Clinton

By Michael J.W. Stickings

TNR's Michael Crowley makes a good point in response to the whites-vote-for-Hillary argument coming from the Clinton campaign (and from the candidate herself):

It's definitely uncomfortable to hear her say it, but if Hillary thinks white Americans won't elect a black president, is it so transgressive for her to say it out loud? Everyone in politics and media has been having this conversation for more than a year now. If anything it seems better than reliance on cutesy euphemisms like "working class" or "electability." I'm willing to be convinced I'm wrong but I think it's worth considering this before the latest "race-baiter" pile-on gets underway in earnest.

As I said yesterday, a better justification for the continuation of her campaign is the credible argument that she remains a strong candidate with broad-based appeal: not just working-class whites, but women and Hispanics as well, not to mention much of the Democratic establishment. Obama has won more contests, more votes, more pledged delegates, and, since Super Tuesday back at the beginning of February, more superdelegates, and we must remember Obama's momentum-generating performance on Super Tuesday (when he more or less drew even with Hillary by outperforming her) and sweep of victories up until Pennsylvania, but Hillary, to be fair, has done well, too, posting victories from California and Arizona to Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, to New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts (and she would likely have won Florida and perhaps also Michigan).

But facts are facts, and Obama is ahead with what is an essentially insurmountable lead. It's possible, of course, that Hillary will bow out after a victory in West Virginia (May 13), or perhaps after a victory in Kentucky and a loss in Oregon (May 20). But it's also possible, as some insiders are suggesting, that she will fight it out not just through the remaining contests, which end on June 3, but until the convention -- unless, that is, there is a surge of superdelegates to Obama and/or the party leadership unites in demanding her withdrawal from the race.

The problem is, her arguments for staying in either aren't true (he wins one, I win one, it's close!) or are, as we are now seeing, based on race. The former is predictable political spin. The latter is deeply troubling.

While it is true that Obama has won and overwhelming majority of the black vote and that Hillary has won, in most states, a solid majority of the white vote, or rather of the white working-class vote, Obama's appeal has never been racial/racist. Rather, he has repeatedly called on Americans to address the country's racial, sexual, economic, and other divisions seriously so as ultimately to move beyond them and fulfill America's promise. His appeal is, in a word, inclusionist.

Hillary has been inclusionist, too, and her policy positions certainly are, but the whites-vote-for-me argument is decidedly the opposite.

Now, identity politics are at work here, I admit. Members of groups identify with and support candidates with whom they share what they deem to be their defining characteristics. Blacks support Obama, women support Hillary. Hispanics support Hillary, not Obama, but this may be because they don't identify with a black man or because they prefer Hillary's positions on issues like immigration or because Bill has a long and positive history with the Hispanic community. Educated and affluent men support Obama, not Hillary, but this may be because Hillary has presented herself throughout this campaign as a (faux) populist, while Obama seems to be the more educated (though Hillary is certainly highly educated and highly affluent -- it's a matter of perspective).

But do working-class whites prefer Hillary to Obama because of her (faux) populist positions on the gas tax, guns, and other such issues? Or because he seems like a coastal elitist who appeals to university students and addresses issues and engages voters with maturity and intellect? Or because he seems to be out-of-touch when he makes "bitter" comments about small-town and rural voters (even if what he said, however artlessly, was the truth)? Surely the preference isn't based on policy, given that, on policy, the two are very much alike?

(Gasp!) Could it be that working-class whites prefer Hillary because she's... white?

Which is not to say, of course, that all working-class whites are racist, or that such racial considerations, of which they may or may not even be aware, determine how they vote. And yet, the very term "working-class white" is a loaded one. On the surface, it seems to mean whites who work for a living and are somewhere in the middle and lower-middle class, as well as whites who are working poor or somewhere in the class between poverty below and the middle class above. (In short, those with blue collars.) But it also means uneducated or poorly educated whites: Hillary does extremely well with voters who do not have a college degree (and who do not have even less than that).

But this isn't just about working-class whites, it's about whites generally. Hillary wins more of them than Obama does. And, of late, this fact has become one of her core arguments. Once an inclusionist, like Obama, she has, in defeat, become an exclusionist: "Whites support me; therefore, I will stay in the race."

I'm not making this up. In her interview with USA Today yesterday, Hillary argued that she has "a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." However, as evidence, she referred to an AP article that "found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me... There's a pattern emerging here." (Her chief strategist, Geoff Garin, made a similar argument in a conference call yesterday.)

Yes, there is a pattern emerging, and it's Hillary and her campaign making more and more of a racial case for her candidacy. And it's not just about whites generally, it seems, but about uneducated and poorly educated working-class whites. And what she herself is saying, as Crowley points out, is that these whites, or at least many of them, simply will not vote for Obama.

Now, let's not go too far with this. It's not clear that Hillary is saying that these whites would never vote for him, that it is racism (or, less malignantly, racially-motivated identity politics) that is determining their preferences. But, as a part of her overall electability argument, this latest racialization of the race would seem to suggest something like that: "Whites -- or, more specifically, some whites, and a lot of them -- are supporting me in ever-increasing numbers and won't vote for him; therefore, I will stay in the race and continue to make the case that I can win in November and he can't. I won't get into why they won't vote for him, but you can draw your own conclusions."

But -- and this question must be asked -- why? Why do these whites support her and not him? To what extent is (white) racism propelling Hillary's campaign? Yes, there are surely racists among Obama's black supporters, just as there are surely racists among Hillary's Hispanic supporters, and so on, but it is Hillary who is bringing this up, and she is doing so with respect to working-class whites who simply will not vote for Obama.

So enough with the euphemisms. Enough with the coded demographics. (Remember the Seinfeld episode where Elaine thinks she may be dating a black man and he thinks she's Hispanic? Enough with the "should we be talking about this?" avoidance of one of America's most divisive problems.

Let's have it out. Hillary, what exactly are you saying?

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An elegant solution

By Carl

It's not like
this was either unexpected or unfair:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Hillary Clinton supporter Harvey Weinstein threatened to cut off contributions to congressional Democrats unless House Speaker Nancy Pelosi embraced his plan to finance revotes in Florida and Michigan, three officials familiar with their conversation said.

'Nuff said.

If the Democrats have any chance of winning in November, irrespective of who is the nominee, then Florida and Michigan have to be allowed to have their say in the nominating process or precious votes will peel away.


The history of the primary shuffle that created this mess is one that sees the direct involvement (in Florida) of the Republican-led legislature, who moved the Florida primary up knowing full well the rules of the DNC stated that Iowa and New Hampshire were entitled to first votes.

Knowing full well the Democratic National Committee would have to invalidate any primary held, and unseat any delegation chosen, the Republicans could then run ads in this crucial state, reminding voters there how little the Democrats care for Florida's concerns.

And they'd be right. And it would be hard for any candidate to argue against that, and would require enormous amounts of time and money, both of which will be in short supply come the fall.

Michigan is a slightly different case, since it was the Democratic party, along with a Democratic governor, but a split legislature. Here, the party proposed the move, and took it to State Supreme Court, in an effort to enhance Michigan's role in the primary process.

Granholm, it should be noted, has endorsed Obama, who's campaign has worked hard behind the scenes to deprive 25,000,000 Americans the right to vote for a Democratic candidate for President in this critical election.

That's less than one percent of the American population. It makes you wonder what they're so terrified of. But I digress...

There are myriad reasons for either doing a revote or allowing the current primary results to stand, and not one single legitimate reason for denying the vote to these two critical states to the economic and political future of the nation.

Weinstein recognizes this and is offering to privately finance the elections (with some small help). While Obama and to a lesser extent, Clinton have raked in gobs of cash, the DNC is actually running behind its previous contribution levels (probably a result of Obama's fundraising drying up the well... there's talk
he's negotiated a fundsharing deal with Dean).

Weinstein's solution is the best possible one out there: re-run the primaries (since that would place them well behind the February 5 deadline), and allow those results to stand.

What is Obama so scared of? He never seems to take a stand on anything that advances the cause of populist democracy in America...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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White People for Obama

By Creature

Since Senator Clinton's closing argument in this nominating process is that Barack Obama is unelectable in November because white people won't vote for him, I would like to go on record as saying that I am indeed white and that I will be voting for Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, I also have a college degree, so I guess I don't count. Who would have thought going to college would end up being a bad thing?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The latest from Burma -- disaster, chaos, oppression

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've neglected to blog about the horrible devastation in Burma -- one gets caught up in other matters, and far less tragic ones, like the Democratic presidential race -- but, then, I'm not sure what can be said about it that isn't, well, obvious to any human being with compassion.

Except that there is now even greater reason to work to bring down the totalitarian military junta that rules the country -- and brutalizes the Burmese people.

Here's the latest from The Globe and Mail:

Fighting erupted among starving survivors of the [Burma] cyclone Wednesday as the military junta continued to prevent relief workers from entering the country after a disaster that killed as many as 100,000 people.

Aid agencies said they are facing an almost unprecedented situation: a massive catastrophe in a country whose government is blocking any visits by the relief experts who could assess how to tackle the disaster.

Desperate survivors, facing serious shortages of food and water, fought with each other and broke into shops in an attempt to find food. "Our assessment teams witnessed general mayhem," said Paul Risley, spokesman for the World Food Programme, the food agency of the United Nations.

"They said there was civil unrest. People were smashing what was left of the shops to look for food in storerooms."

The official casualty toll remained at more than 22,000 dead and 42,000 missing, but several sources said yesterday that the number could rise to 100,000 dead – a grim prospect that was also raised by Shari Villarosa, the U.S. chargé d'affaires in [Burma], in a conference call with reporters in Washington.

Another 1.5 million people were left homeless by the disaster, and about 24 million are without electricity and running water, according to UN officials and Western diplomats.

United Nations workers said they were stunned by the junta's refusal yesterday to allow UN experts to enter the country. "This was a real shock," Mr. Risley said.

About 40 experts and technicians from UN relief agencies, along with dozens of private aid workers, were forced to sit and wait for another day in neighbouring Thailand, five days after the cyclone smashed into Myanmar's major rice-producing region.

Really? U.N. workers were stunned and shocked? They shouldn't have been. And no one should be.

Have we already forgotten that the totalitarian junta responded to opposition protests by slaughtering Buddhist monks? And that, since the crackdown, it has worked to solidify its brutally oppressive rule? Yes, the U.S., the U.N, Europe, and others (but not China and India, which enable the junta) said the right things, and imposed tougher sanctions, but nothing really changed -- the totalitarians got away with mass murder, are still in power, and have "constitutionalized" their rule.

And now the totalitarians are blocking international efforts to bring aid and relief to its devastated people?

Of course. It's one of the world's most deplorable regimes. And this is what it does to its people.

Which is why, again, it needs to be brought down. Somehow.


I want to repost something I wrote last September during the crackdown:

Can we all please stop calling it Myanmar? That's the name the military junta -- then the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), since 1997 the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) -- gave the country when it declared martial law in 1989.

As Yale law professor Amy Chua puts it in her book World on Fire (p. 23): "Members of the majority ethnic group in Burma are called Bamahs (in the spoken language) or Myanmahs (in the written language). The newly independent state that emerged from the end of British colonial rule in 1948 was called the Union of Burma. In 1989, SLORC changed the country's name to Myanmar. (It also changed the names of various cities: Rangoon, for example, is now called Yangon.) In deference to the democratic opposition party, which has refused to acquiesce in the name change, the United States government currently refers to the country as Burma, and I do the same."

We all should do the same. Burma it is.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The day after Super Duper Tuesday: Reflections on the Obama-Clinton race

By Michael J.W. Stickings

If you missed my live-blogging of Super Duper Tuesday (i.e., the Indiana and North Carolina primaries), with extensive commentary, see here.

Here are some interesting items in the news:

1) At HuffPo, Lawrence O'Donnell is reporting that Hillary will drop out by June 15. Which is to say, she will stay in the race through the remaining primaries but not contest the nomination all the way to the convention. For what it's worth, O'Donnell's source is "[a] senior campaign official and Clinton confidante."

Hillary is still talking about staying in the race, but what else is she going to say?

Steve Benen's take: "Listening to pundits last night and this morning, there was a sense that top Clinton aides and allies would go to the senator, congratulate her on a job well done, and argue that it’s time to wrap things up and make a graceful exit."

Of course, a lot depends on what the superdelegates do. Hillary can look ahead to likely victories in three of the six remaining contests -- West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico -- but a surge of superdelegates to Obama could force her out of the race before June 15.

2) Speaking of superdelegates, the Obama "rollout begins," as TPM's Eric Kleefeld puts it. Obama picked up three more today. Hillary picked up one, Rep. Heath Shuler, who represents a North Carolina district Hillary won yesterday.

3) He isn't a superdelegate, but he's certainly a party elder. George McGovern, a former presidential nominee himself, has switched his support from Hillary to Obama in light of yesterday's results: "Hillary, of course, will make the decision as to if and when she ends her campaign. But I hope that she reaches that decision soon so that we can concentrate on a unified party capable of winning the White House next November."

4) Hillary may be vowing to fight on, but money, or the lack thereof, continues to be a problem for her. While Obama can continue to rack up contributions and spend furiously, Hillary has once again loaned herself a large sum: $6.4 million.

5) But why is Hillary vowing to fight on, given that Obama has a virtually insurmountable lead in terms of both pledged delegates and the popular vote (as McGovern put it, Obama has won the nomination "by any practical test")?

The Daily News speculates on the "ugly truth": She's the preferred candidate of racist, xenophobic, and otherwise hateful white voters. Obama is having trouble with white working-class voters, some of whom (and there is code at work here: "white working-class" can be a euphemism for much worse) are anti-Obama because they oppose (or hate) what and who he is, not what he stands for. Because Hillary has come to be the preferred candidate of the white working-class -- and will win West Virginia and Kentucky, which are demographically in her favour -- she has enough of a base to stay in the race (primary wins in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana are not insignificant, after all).

I'm not sure I buy the "ugly truth" explanation. While it's certainly true that many of Hillary's supporters are hatefully anti-Obama, it's not like she's running a campaign that expresses such hate. Indeed, what is also certainly true is that she remains an extremely strong candidate. She would likely have beaten anyone else for the nomination -- other than Gore, perhaps. But she was overtaken by the powerhouse known as Obama -- and, even then, she has beaten him throughout the country. If there is a reason to stay in the race, it is not to give voice to white working-class voters -- and her support is much broader than that anyway -- but to be handed the nomination by the superdelegates should Obama suddenly falter.

(Then again, the Clinton campaign is making the race argument, as TPM's Greg Sargent is reporting: "On the Hillary conference call, Hillary chief strategist Geoff Garin made the case for her electability in some of the most explicitly race-based terms I've heard yet. Garin argued that the North Carolina contest, which Obama won by 14 points, represented 'progress' for Hillary because she did better among white voters there than she did in Virginia." So it's "progress" to win more of the white vote and to lose more of the black vote? Is Hillary the candidate of electoral segregation? This isn't quite the "ugly truth" explanation, but it does suggest that the best case for Hillary is a racial one. How sad, and pathetic, that her candidacy has come to this.)

As this article suggests, Clinton insiders are talking about taking the race all the way to the convention. But, like their candidate, what else are they going to say?

Again, though, a surge of superdelegates to Obama and/or the party leadership (Reid and Pelosi (official), Gore and Edwards (unofficial)) urging Hillary to withdraw for the good of the party could end the race sooner rather than later.

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The scandal that won't die

By Carl

You wonder how much more of
this story will pop up in the general, should Obama finally secure his victory:

For any spiritually minded, up-wardly mobile African-American living in Chicago in the mid-1980s, the Trinity United Church of Christ was—and still is—the place to be. That's what drew Oprah Winfrey, a recent Chicago transplant, to the church in 1984. She was eager to bond with the movers and shakers in her new hometown's black community. But she also admired Trinity United's ambitious outreach work with the poor, and she took pride in upholding her Southern grandmother's legacy of involvement with traditional African-American houses of worship. Winfrey was a member of Trinity United from 1984 to 1986, and she continued to attend off and on into the early to the mid-1990s. But then she stopped. A major reason—but by no means the only reason—was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright's more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America's favorite daytime talk-show host. "Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey's personal sentiments. "She's always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn't be smart. She's been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright's anger-filled message didn't surprise her. But it just wasn't what she was looking for in a church." Oprah's decision to distance herself came as a surprise to Wright, who told Christianity Today in 2002 that when he would "run into her socially … she would say, 'Here's my pastor!' " (Winfrey declined to comment. A Harpo Productions spokesperson would not confirm her reasons for leaving the church.)

Now, Oprah's reasons might indeed have nothing to do with Wright, this is true.

But doesn't this put a pin in the story of Obama's "Oh, I never heard him say anything untoward!" lame dismissal?

See, this is what I don't understand: I've attended services at any number of black churches, for any number of different occasions: weddings, funerals, Sunday service, major holidays like Easter and even one or two standard services.

I've heard some of the fire and brimstone speechifying. And I've even heard some parts that made me, a typical white person, cling tightly to my religion and guns, frustrating me and making me feel a bit bitter for being white.

And I'm not a regular attendee of a large black congregation, so how in the world did Obama miss some of Wright's more... colorful... sermons?

Did he maybe sleep through them? Not likely. It's hard to sleep in a black church. Pastors usually don't drone on.

Now, it's likely true that Obama, who came to the church as an agnostic/lapsed Baptist (parental religion), found a different kind of fulfillment from it than Oprah did. A guidance, if you will.

I don't know. Maybe he never attended service. Maybe his indoctrination into the religion happened over late night poker games in the rectory. Hey, it could happen!

But I find it hard to believe that a black politician from Chicago's South Side had never heard Wright sermonize or speak words of hate about America.

The GOP is waiting to spring this issue in the fall, that much seems certain, and the way Obama has shifted his story -- "well, I would have quit the church if Rev. Wright hadn't retired by the time I came to that decision" -- is just ripe for a swiftboating by the same people who broadcast over and over John Kerry's "I voted for the war before I voted against it."

And frankly, I don't want to have to sit through that film again.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Election about fighting for survival

By Carol Gee

Hillary survives Indiana, barely! Senator Hillary Clinton just barely won more votes than her opponent in the Indiana Democratic primary, held yesterday. With all votes counted, her margin of victory was 51% to Senator Barack Obama's 49%. Ironically, as it stands now, this victory signals that Hillary Clinton now has fewer options than just a day ago. Clinton's campaign is currently on life support, in my opinion. Low on money, lacking support among key elements of the Democratic party, she will ultimately be unable to prevail over her rival with the Super Delegates.

Obama survives North Carolina, easily! At the same time Senator Barack Obama won easily in the North Carolina primary, by a margin of 56% to 42% of the votes cast. The race was "called" for Obama even before the polls closed, using exit polls. Obama's victory speech was powerfully given and enthusiastically received. The front runner looks as if he got back his momentum. The Obama campaign prevailed easily in North Carolina despite just coming out of its most difficult period. In my opinion, the Senator has quickly turned to a general election strategy that will continue his path to the nomination.

This signals the final fight -- Senator Clinton waited until later to deliver her own "victory"speech. She asked for financial support so she can "fight on to the White House," and at the same time promised to fully support the Democratic nominee. Today's conversation will include talk from the Clinton campaign about seating the Florida and Michigan delegations at the Democratic party's August Convention in Denver. The party's credentials committee will meet at the end of this month to decide what to do about those disputes. And Obama will be ready to compromise on credential issues and solidify his eventual support among the former Clinton voters, in my opinion.

Congress will continue to fight with the current administration -- Yesterday, our current president (OCP) sent over a new slate of FEC commissioners on which Congress can begin to chew. If any serious legal disputes pop up along this lengthy election path, they would have theoretically be settled by the Federal Election Commission, still crippled by a lack of sitting members. This is where my optimism weakens. Congress may weaken and allow partisans to gain seats, setting up the possibility of election mischief. But, given the generally positive election mechanics results, we may just be able to survive the entire election cycle and elect Senator Obama in November. Let us hope!

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Our newest ambassador

By Capt. Fogg

One of the weaknesses of our normally peaceful presidential change of watch is that someone like Bush, leaving office peacefully, with ceremony and not in handcuffs, isn't an event that shows the world we have attempted to cleanse ourselves of his administration and its arrogance. Regardless of who his replacement will be, it will be hard to convince the world that our government has any respect for basic human rights, justice or the rule of law.

Newly released Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al Hajj returned to his native Sudan Monday to begin his new mission of United States bad will ambassador to the world. He was held in our Guantanamo prison camp without charge for seven years, apparently because he contributed money to a charity suspected of supporting terrorists, once interviewed Osama bin Laden and worked for a beverage company whose director supported Muslim forces in Bosnia and Chechnya. After seven years -- or as he put it in a televised speech, "after 2,340 days spent in the most heinous prison mankind has ever known" -- he was released. Was this vengeance for his having reported human rights violations in Afghanistan? Maybe, but if this kind of evidence can justify seven years of enhanced interrogation, nobody the US targets for reprisals is safe and of course the world knows it, hates us for it and hates us the more for our not caring, for nattering endlessly about flag pins, what brand of whiskey is preferred and other insanely meaningless crap.

It will take a long time for the image of the US as a dangerous country run by paranoid megalomaniacs and peopled by cowardly, greedy entertainment junkies who have no clue or care, to fade. Who knows if it ever will? Who knows if we ever will be able to get clean of the addiction to diseased patriotism, ignorance, and delusions of grandeur, but if we won't punish Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and the entire cabal, perhaps the election of Barack Obama will to some degree signal that a change has occurred in America. Without that perception, ambassadors like Sami al Hajj will unite the world against us and ignite the passions of ten thousand terrorists. We can chose to become an isolated nation dependent upon the fear of our nuclear weapons for protection, or we can begin to reverse course, to live again as free and courageous people who deal with the world honestly.

Our choices are very limited and there is no perfect candidate, but, for my part, I think Barack Obama, whatever his faults and weaknesses may be, is the best choice we have.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Super-Duperest Tuesday of them all: Live-blogging Indiana and North Carolina

By Michael J.W. Stickings


9:05 pm - Alright, so I'm a bit late to the show. But here we go...

9:06 pm - As you may already know, and should know if you're paying any attention, North Carolina was called early for Obama, right after polls closed at 7:30. He's currently up 60-38, with about a quarter of precincts reporting. Drudge reported earlier today that Clinton insiders were preparing for a 15-point defeat -- expectation-lowering spin, it seemed. But now? The current 22-point margin may not hold up, but it looks like a decisive victory for Obama. Actually, the margin surprises me. The final RCP Average was Obama +8.0. I was predicting an Obama win of 7-11 points.

Obviously, Obama is benefitting from the favourable demographics of the state: it's heavily black, much more so than Indiana. As The Stump's Noam Scheiber has pointed out, though, Obama may also have benefitted from heavy early voting: as many as half a million people may have voted early (that is, before today, in advance polls).

ABC News has more here.

There had been talk of Hillary eating into Obama's support among blacks resulting from the Wright controversy. However, exit polls suggest that Obama won over 90% of the black vote in North Carolina. New voters (mainly, I assume, those who are young and/or were inspired by Obama to vote) are also going for Obama by a huge margin, 68-26.

Ambinder has more on the exit polls here. Including: "The percentage of Clinton voters who say they'd choose McCain over Obama in a general election is approaching 40% in Indiana." The media will make much of this, but Clinton supporters could eventually soften: would they really support McCain over Obama? I suspect the party will come together to back Obama. As well, many voters who would never (or rarely) vote for a Democrats may have voted for Hillary today. (Rush Limbaugh was encouraging his listeners to vote Hillary. Needless to say, his listeners will either vote for McCain in November or sit out altogether if they consider McCain insufficiently extreme, that is, not enough of a wingnut.

9:28 pm - The results have narrowed in North Carolina. Obama is now up 57-41.

Hillary is up 52-48 in Indiana, with almost three quarters of precincts reporting. More to come...

By the way, CNN has the updated results here.

9:37 pm - Clarifying the Limbaugh point above: The Indianapolis Star reported this morning (scroll down to 10:51 am) that "hardcore" Republicans were coming out to vote in the Democratic primary. In other words, there was a lot of crossover voting.

9:41 pm - The final RCP average for Indiana was Clinton +5.0. I was predicting a Hillary win of 4-8 points. A loss by less than 5 points would be fantastic for Obama.

9:46 pm - CBS News has called Indiana for Hillary. I'm not sure what CNN is waiting for. The question isn't whether she'll win Indiana but by how much.

MSNBC has full exit poll results for Indiana and North Carolina.

The results continue to narrow in North Carolina. Obama is now up by 14 points, 56-42.

9:51 pm - Interesting note from The Plank's Isaac Chotiner: "Chuck Todd just said that Obama aides believe they will come up only 10,000 votes short in Indiana when the vote counting is done." (I've been watching CNN, not MSNBC -- not sure why. It's not like CNN is any good, and the talking heads are especially annoying tonight.) Is this possible? I've used the word "fantastic" already. This would be incredible -- and perhaps mean the end of Hillary's campaign. But it seems unlikely.

9:55 pm - Another great speech from Obama. Obviously, he performs especially well when he wins. This was reminiscent of his election-night speeches during his February sweep.

And I agree with Jason Zengerle: "The most interesting thing I heard in Obama's speech--besides the fact that he called Indiana for Hillary before the networks did -- was his appeal for party unity. A few weeks ago, when Obama spent the bulk of his Pennsylvania concession speech talking about McCain, it seemed forced, like he was trying to deny the fact that Hillary's win was a setback for him. But tonight, he talked about Hillary a lot and he made an explicit appeal to her supporters to back him should he win the nomination. When Obama looked to November after Pennsylvania, it felt fake, like he was a candidate pretending to be unfazed. When he looked to November tonight, it felt completely natural, like he really was the de facto nominee."

He was, in a word, presidential. Again.

9:58 pm - CNN still isn't calling Indiana. Hmmm.

10:35 pm - Here are the current numbers:

Indiana: Clinton 52-48.

North Carolina: Obama 56-42.

In Indiana, as expected -- the county map is here -- Obama is doing well in Marion County (i.e., Indianapolis and surrounding area), where he is leading Hillary 67-33., as well as in other urban counties like Allen (Fort Wayne) and St. Joseph (South Bend), and in Monroe County, home to Bloomington and Indiana University. Hillary is doing well in the rural and small-town areas of the state, as well as in Evansville, down in the south-west corner.

What it all comes down to now is Lake County, up in the north-west, near Chicago, which includes Gary, a city with a pro-Obama mayor and a large black population. Apparently there are a lot of absentee ballots, and no results have yet been released. Obama needs to win the county overwhelmingly to win the state -- and he'll likely win it, but not by enough, given that Hillary has done well in the neighbouring counties. Still, he could pull much closer to Hillary. She's up by 4 points now. What if Obama is able to cut that to 3 or 2 with a strong showing in Lake? He would have far exceeded expectations (although he's exceeded them already), as he is exceeding expectations in North Carolina. In terms of the expectations game, then, he will have won the day. And, as we know, expectations matter. They feed how the media report on and interpret the race.

But this is about delegates. And, with such a strong showing today, Obama has expanded his lead among pledged delegates (and increased his lead in the overall popular vote). The math was already looking bad for Hillary. After tonight, it's even worse. As well, these results counter her electability argument directed at the superdelegates. Is she really more electable? Did she really have so much "tide-is-turning" momentum coming out of Pennsylvania? (Remember that Obama is doing well even after the whole Wright controversy dominated the news.) What do today's results do to convince uncommitted superdelegates to side with Hillary or to persuade Obama's superdelegates to switch sides? Nothing. Yes, Hillary continues to do well among working-class whites, but many of them will vote for McCain anyway and, regardless, many of those who are committed Democrats would support Obama in the general election. If anything, today's results reinforce Obama's frontrunner (and, indeed, presumptive-nominee) status: He is in the lead and has an insurmountable lead among pledged delegates. And, tomorrow, he will be further ahead than he was yesterday.

11:50 pm - The results have started coming in from Lake County, about a quarter of precincts reporting, all -- John King of the Magic Board says -- in Gary. Hillary is now just up 51-49, with Obama taking, so far, 75% of the vote in Lake. That won't hold, I suspect, given that Hillary will win the non-urban parts of the country, but, overall, Obama should win the county and keep the contest closer, or at least much closer than expected. A 52-48 or 51-49 loss would still be huge for Obama. (Yes, how strange it is. A loss can be a "win" in this crazy system.)

12:01 am - Nothing new from Lake County. Hillary could expand her lead in small Union County, on the Ohio border (and King keeps talking about it), but there are still precincts to report in Monroe, Marion, and, just to the north of the latter, Hamilton -- Obama is leading big in all three counties.

12:39 am - More results from Lake: Obama is up 65-35 there, with over half of precincts reporting. It's still 51-49 for Hillary state-wide.

12:45 am - I haven't yet mentioned the Republicans. But I think it's interesting (and significant) that McCain only won 77% of the vote in Indiana. Which means that a whopping 23% of Republicans -- and I'm not being facetious -- voted for candidates (Huckabee, Paul, and Romney) who are no longer in the race. Same in North Carolina, where McCain only won 73% of the vote, with 20% in total going to Huckabee and Paul. "No Preference" even got 4% in North Carolina (on the Democratic side it was just 1%). Can you feel the love?

12:47 am - Michael Crowley: "Other people seem to know things I don't, but Tim Russert is talking about this race in the past tense and Matt Drudge's headline refers to Obama as 'the nominee.' Wow." Yes, wow. I don't put too much stock into what the likes of Russert and Drudge say -- the media are all about the hype -- but it does seem that the dynamic shifted once again with tonight's results. The previous dynamic (or media narrative) had Obama up but weakened by the Wright controversy and other problems and Hillary closing and looking strong. The new one -- and, of course, it's all about the here and now, about what just happened, largely decontextualized and with little to no historical perspective -- has Obama with the momentum and, once more, an insurmountable lead. But he's not yet "the nominee" -- let's not get ahead of ourselves.

12:53 am - Actually, Russert was more blunt: "We now know who the Democratic nominee will be." Well, we'll see.

1:12 am - Well, we're pretty much done:

Obama wins North Carolina by 14 points, 56-42.

Hillary wins Indiana by 2 points, 51-49. Obama won Lake County 55-45 -- not quite enough to put him over the top. He's down by just 22,000 votes out of well over 1.2 million cast.

Overall, a big night for Obama. We'll have to wait for the delegate totals, but Obama was able to extend his lead in both pledged delegates and the popular vote. And he was able to exceed expectations -- and perhaps to establish a new narrative.

And so now it's on to West Virginia (May 13), then to Kentucky and Oregon (May 20), then to Puerto Rico (June 1), and then to Montana and South Dakota (June 3). Hillary should win West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico, but Obama should win the other three. In other words, the remaining contests could play to a draw. Which would leave Obama still in front, depending on what the remaining uncommitted superdelegates do. It seems unlikely that they would flock en masse to Hillary. With Obama managing to get through a difficult stretch of the race (the Wright controversy, the "bitter" comment, losses in Ohio and Pennsylvania) intact, and doing so well tonight, it seems rather that they would at worst divide evenly and at best commit in large numbers (that is, a large majority of them) to Obama.

But, of course, the race isn't over yet. And, as I said above, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves.

1:28 am - And that's it for me. Thanks for tuning in. Good night.

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Hillary Clinton, elitist gun enthusiast

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is hilarious (and, in a way, deeply disturbing):

It seems that the Clinton campaign has sent out a mailer in Indiana attacking Obama for being, as The Plank's Chris Orr puts it, "insufficiently pro-gun." (Her faux populism, her willingness to do anything to win, including moving way to the right, is astonishing, is it not? Honestly, has she ever been so pro-gun before this? No. She talked up her gun cred in Pennsylvania, trying so desperately to connect with the hoi polloi of rural and small-town America, and she's still beating the same drum. Wasn't she a liberal once upon a time?)

As for the mailer, though, as The Politico's Ben Smith points out, "[t]he image of the gun pictured on the face of the mailing is reversed, making it a nonexistent left-handed model of the Mauser 66 rifle. To make matters worse,... it's an expensive German gun with customized features that make it clearly European." Said one expert, "It's a $2,200 German import -- it's hardly typical of what the average workingman in Indiana uses."

Poor Hillary. She can't even get her faux populism right.

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Obama dilemmas

By Carol Gee

Today, Senator Barack Obama faces a very tough time, as does Senator Hillary Clinton. But their tough days spring from very different causes. They are very distinct people with dissimilar personalities and values. They are not the only ones facing a dilemma today. All of us "political junkies" do, too. We face anxiety, distorted thinking, difficulty maintaining focus, and a hard time thinking wisely. These are subjects upon which I have concentrated in a few of my recent posts at South by Southwest. Today's post collects from that writing in three posts.

Today has voters in Indiana and North Carolina as anxiously casting their ballots as those of us who have already voted. It is basic to voting to want it to make a difference. Sometimes getting back to basics helps me deal with anxiety, as in this post, "Obama's Speech on Race -- Good Reminders" (S/Sw -- 4/2/08):

In this fast moving Democratic political race it sometimes helps to get back to the basics. Here are some of my "bottom lines." Standing back like this helps me maintain my optimism during tough times for my candidate.

  • I have already cast my vote -- for Barack Obama. And I would not do it over because of what happened on 3/18/08, his speech on race. It can be reviewed again from the NYT: "Obama on Race."

  • I will still support whomever is the Democratic nominee in the general election in November. And I hope it is Senator Obama. Neither candidate is perfect. Both have baggage. Each is strong enough to carry it. From Memeorandum -- Glenn Greenwald posted on the Obama speech: Obama's faith in the reasoning abilities of the American public is powerful stuff.

Will the way we think about the Democratic opponents and the overall political situation help us or hurt us? Recently at my other blog, 4/20/08 @ S/Sw, I asked myself the question, "Is there any way to know?" To quote my earlier thoughts on how distorted political or media thinking can cause dilemmas:

With these statements [see colored listing below], is it possible to pick out cognitive distortions that keep some in the political process more upset than is necessary? Can perfectly sane members of the body politic of an entire nation be thinking irrationally, have symptoms of emotional instability?

. . . The body politic does not need a formal diagnosis, in my opinion. We just need help with our perfectly normal adjustment needs. We might need to have an argument with the following thinking distortions:

Not this -- When listening to others I get the impression that some do not have a lot of faith that our nation can right itself ever again. But this -- There is no logical reason that our nation is not capable of making a normal adjustment.

Not this -- People I know think that the Democrats stand a good chance of losing the general election due to their own disunity. But this -- It is OK to believe both candidates' stated commitments to party unity. They will be able to lead their own followers.

Not this -- Her supporters think Hillary Clinton has gotten a raw deal from the press, that she is a victim of gender bias, sexism, etc. But this -- Obama has also experienced racial bias, class bias, etc. That's politics and normal media bias.

Not this -- Occasionally disgruntled people openly say, "We'll never recover. So much damage has been done that it is like the fall of Rome." But this -- Our nation has a good history of resilience and recovery. History shows it may be the end of a conservative cycle.

What has changed? Not long after the very big Pennsylvania primary, I posted "Reflections on the Standoff," 4/23/08 @ S/Sw. I want to quote just a bit of it that pertains to the upcoming dilemma of maintaining focus after the results come in from Indiana and North Carolina:

Obama has shifted his focus to Senator McCain at this point. There are several more things it would be helpful for him to do. Obama should also focus on a positive, tough and smart campaign. There is no good reason in the world that this fine candidate should not come out of the convention with the nomination and with the support of almost all Democrats. Everyone needs to remember the REAL DEAL -- The Republicans need to go down to defeat in November. The rest of it is mere details.

The Best Advice -- Thinking wisely sometimes gets lost in the distractions and the flurry of this hard fought campaign. To close today's post I drew again from "Obama's Speech on Race -- Good Reminders" S/Sw --4/2/08. I called on the wisdom of our elder statesman, former Governor Mario Cuomo of New York. To quote:

. . . In conclusion I include this -- From DMI Blog: Mario Cuomo blogs, came a set of the wise ex New York Governor's blog posts about governance, composed in September of last year. From Cuomo's initial piece I quote:

There is still plenty of time to have a more substantively effective campaign. We can have real debates with ample time for consideration of the questions and presentation of answers; more in depth interviews conducted by thorough and objective interviewers; more published specific statements by the candidates answering the hard questions like “How will you pay for that program?”

All of these intelligent attempts at illuminating the issues and proposed solutions should replace the make believe debates that give a candidate a minute or so to deal with complex issues, distortive 28-second commercials, fierce personal diatribes and the coyness and the simplistic statements we have seen so often in the past.

Having a campaign that reveals all that voters should know – or at least most of it – would be novel, but we have never needed that kind of campaign more and voters should demand it loudly and insistently.

Some years ago I said in a speech that politicians “Campaign in poetry but have to govern in prose.” In fact, if our candidates campaign in poetry instead of good hard specifics, and win, they may wind up governing… in vain.

Mario Cuomo is my favorite politician. I wish he had been president. Now Barack Obama is my new favorite politician. I still wish he will be president.

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