Thursday, April 30, 2009

"White House Sorry After Biden Remark"

Just saw that headline on, in reference to Biden's comments about the swine flu. I don't think what he said was really that bad, but what is the over/under in Vegas for how many times you are going to see that headline in the next 4 years?

The best part was Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' statement: "I know what he said, and I am telling you what he meant to say". I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot of that too in the coming months and years.

Facebook lawyer wants to be CA AG

Chris Kelly, the Chief Privacy Officer at Facebook, is gearing up to run for Attorney General of California. His joining a crowded Democratic field- SF District Attorney Kamala Harris, LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo (he got beat by Jerry Brown in 2006), Assemblyman Ted Lieu and Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico are among the other contenders.

Kelly already has a Facebook app (never seen a person have an app devoted to them before)and a web page up. Kind of a given that a candidate will have a web page, but I do remember that the Democratic candidate in the 15th AD (now held by Joan Buchanan) never managed to get a website, despite people offering to build it for him. If he'd gotten 4% more of the vote, he'd have been in the Assembly. Absolutely killed me...but I digress.

In a down-ballot race like AG, it is hard to get your message out in a state like California. TV advertising is pretty much limited to the last week or two of the race- only gazillionaires who self-fund can afford to have ads up prior to that. Ballot designation can have a big impact (that's why you always see things like "educator" and "rancher" instead of "career politician").

I'm sure that Kelly has some cash stashed away, but doubt he'll be able to plop down a chunk of cash like Steve Westly did. I'm sure he'll leverage Facebook, but what else will he do to breakthrough?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Who is Anthony Woods? Does he know John Galt?

I had never heard of him until about 3 weeks ago, but suddenly he's someone that all the major players (you need a heartbeat and good hygiene to be labeled as such) in Contra Costa politics are buzzing about. He's the latest candidate to jump in the race to succeed Ellen Tauscher in Congress. Side note- poor Ellen is like an elderly, sick Aunt who is surrounded by relatives waiting for her to just die already. In this case, they are waiting for her to get confirmed by the Senate and resign her seat.

So why the hype about Anthony Woods? Starts with the bio- he's a young, gay, African-American, Bronze Star winning, Harvard and West Point educated, humanitarian son of a single Mom who supported them by working long hours as a housekeeper. And that's the short version- check out his full bio here. It kind of reminds me of when Jon Stewart played tape of John Edwards talking about how he was the son of a mill worker...very impressive- until Stewart played tape of Obama talking about how his father herded goats. Goat herder trumps mill worker.

This special election is going to be a wild ride. It certainly is hard to imagine that a political unknown could knock off a State Senator, State Assemblywoman and Lieutenant Governor,,,,but dude has a hell of a resume. His website is pretty slick and he certainly seems to have a good grasp of social media. I haven't met him yet, but I'm looking forward to it.

The GOP Map

Much has been made of the shrinking GOP base, how badly they are doing with young people and minorities, and how they are losing moderate voters as they pull further to the right. It's sort of a vicious cycle, because as they lose moderates the remaining voters and elected officials in the party are the kinds of dogmatic conservatives who pull the party further to the right, thus further alienating moderates.

Anyhow, since I was curious, here is a list of the states that voted Republican in 2000, 2004 and 2008 - all 3 elections.

Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Arizona, Wyoming, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Texas, and Missouri. The list kind of speaks for itself, really.

The bad news for the GOP is they don't have much consistent appeal outside of the bible belt and deep south anymore. The good news is you can probably count on those 22 states (159 electoral votes) through just about anything. Anybody who voted for Bush twice, then McCain in 2008, probably will pretty much vote for anything with an "R" next to their name no matter what happens.

Will the last moderate Republican to leave please turn off the lights?

Today's big news is that moderate Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has switched parties, and will now caucus with the Democrats. Now some of this is pure political self-interest. He barely survived a primary challenge by conservative Pat Toomey in 2004, eking out a 51%-49% victory. Toomey looks set to challenge Specter from the right again in 2010, and a recent poll showed Toomey routing Specter 51% - 30%. Specter knows he would lose a Republican primary, particularly with many moderate Republicans having become Democrats in this swing state in past few years (Thanks, Bush/Cheney). His only chance was to run as a Democrat.

But this is about more than Specter's own political ambition. The Republican party has a huge problem right now. Their tilt to the right in the past decade - socially, religiously, and economically - have marginalized them and made them a regional party, based in the deep south. In recent elections, they have seen the Democratic party take every New England Congressional seat, expand into the growing southwest, take the industrial midwest, consolidate the coasts, turn Virginia into a blue state, and even capture states like Indiana and North Carolina in the 2008 Presidential race. As Specter himself noted "As the Republican Party has moved farther and farther to the right, I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party."

Specter was one of only three real "moderate" Republican Senators, and even that was somewhat debatable. And you have to assume that Maine won't be electing many Republicans to the U.S. Senate once Collins and Snowe eventually leave the institution. Basically, the Republicans have lost the middle. Voters in swing districts saw the GOP's move to the far right and elected Democrats to replace them in 2006 and 2008, leaving generally only those Republicans in safe seats in very conservative districts. Their national face is now people like Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich and Michael Steele. That's not a way to appeal to moderates or expand the party's ever shrinking base. Nor is picking off your few remaining moderates, like Specter, with primary challenges from the right.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thoughts on the CDP convention

I only made it up for part of the California Democratic convention, but there were a number of interesting things that transpired. John Burton, long-time political power broker, is the new Chair of the party. To give you an idea of how powerful he is, you can just look at where the convention was held- Sacramento. Normally, the convention alternates between Northern and Southern California. Two years ago it was in San Diego, last year San Jose- traditionally, it would have been back in SoCal this year. Burton, however, initially thought he might face a serious contender for party he had the convention held in Sacramento so that a) legislators (many of whom owe Burton for past favors) and their proxies would have no excuse for missing the convention and b) to keep the convention out of the backyard of his potential challenger.

There is only one person I know who is not impressed by John Burton's power- Reid Lawrence. Young Reid attended the Contra Costa Central Committee holiday party and John Burton was in attendance to announce his candidacy. When John Burton would finish a statement, Reid repeatedly (and loudly) responded "Oh yeah?" I escorted Reid out of the room before he made an enemy for life. Reid then proceeded to almost knock over a 30 ft. Christmas tree.

The gubernatorial contest is starting to grab people's attention. Gavin Newsom presented himself as the dynamic, innovative mayor who knows how to get things done (he may also know how to get things down, but I'll leave that alone). Jerry Brown claims the mantle of experienced operator with the backbone to battle the Republicans. Newsom certainly seemed to win the support of a lot of Young Dems, but most people I talked to rate Brown as the early favorite right now. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was conspicuously absent from the Convention. Rumor had it that he didn't want to appear to be running for Governor until after he has started his second term as Mayor of LA. The most popular event of the Convention was a Young Dems block party on Saturday night that had two main attractions- Newsom and Wyclef Jean.

One of the cooler things of the weekend was that Hillary Crosby knocked off the incumbent Eric Bradely to become the new Controller of the state party. Hillary ran an amazing campaign for an office that many people had never heard of. Her campaign team personally lobbied every delegate and identified her supporters. It was a real tribute to the power of the grassroots to see her pull of the victory.

If you were at the convention, please share your thoughts and let me know what I missed.

Texas leaving the country?

Last week, Governor Perry hinted that Texas just may succeed from the United States if Obama continues to pass policies that the conservative state doesn't agree with. The consensus is that Perry doesn't really want to leave the Union, so much as he is posturing politically, trying to shore up his support with the right wing for a likely primary battle with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. But this begs the question - why is the right wing so excited by talk of succession? I thought these were the guys who love America? The guys who never miss a chance to wave the flag and talk about what patriots they are? But now, just three months after having lost one election, suddenly they can't leave America soon enough? As First Read put it, "Imagine the outcries of patriotism (or lack thereof) if Massachusetts or New York hinted at secession during the Bush years."

Indeed, Texas Republicans are pretty split on the issue, with 48% thinking it would be better to stick with America, and 48% thinking the state would be better off if it were independent. And this isn't a state that has been somehow frozen out of political power, they just had the U.S. President for 8 years! As Kos asks, "Since you've spent the last eight years saying "America, love it or leave it", is that an admission that you don't love America? Because we liberals - We loved it and stayed, even when your idiot of a president was trashing the place." takes an interesting look at the political ramifications of Texas leaving. Basically, the Republicans would lose 2 Senators, a bunch of House seats, and George Bush wouldn't have become President in 2000 (or it would have taken some real magic by the Supreme Court). To highlight what a bad candidate John Kerry was, Kerry would have still lost in 2004 even if Texas's electoral votes are removed. I'm pretty sure Kerry would have found a way to lose even if the whole election was just California, Vermont and D.C.

But all this talk about Presidents and succession misses the truly important point. With Texas out of the Union, there is no way Mack Brown's public whining in 2004 would have jumped the University of Texas mysteriously ahead of Cal in the final BCS poll, and Cal would have finally made a Rose Bowl. Not that I'm still bitter or anything.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"A mixed bag of badassery"

We have talked a bit about the Navy SEALs and the stunning rescue that took place, but I just came across this great quote today from the Navy Times from one of the sailors on the USS Bainbridge when asked about the Navy SEALs who had been on board...

“If I had to describe them in one way, it would be ‘badass,’ ” said a Bainbridge crew member about the embarked special warfare operators. He asked that his name not be used so he could speak candidly. “All kinds of uniforms and weapons. It was a mixed bag of badassery.”

If the SEALs ever wanted a new motto for the group, that would be one of my top picks.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Did Steele blow off the Jews for Tyson?

RNC Chair Michael Steele, who is the brother of Mike Tyson's second wife, attended the premiere of the new documentary "Tyson" but then skipped out the next morning on a scheduled speech to a group of reform Jewish leaders. I'm not sure that Steele will make it to 2010 in his current job. But I will continue to uphold my promise that I will look for every opportunity to mention that the RNC Chairman is the former brother-in-law of my buddy Mike Tyson.

First Lady sneaks out for burgers!

As though Jon and I needed another reason to like her (from MSNBC):

"I went to Five Guys and nobody knew it," she said, naming a popular chain of hamburger restaurants. "It was good."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Big John jumps in

Lt. Gov. John Garamendi announced today that he wants to be my Congressman. Once Ellen Tauscher is confirmed for a State Department post by the US Senate, the 10th Congressional District will have a special election. It must be hard for Garamendi to walk away from his gubernatorial race since it is obvious he really wanted the job- this was the 4th time he was running for Governor, dating back to 1982. With Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom in the race (and potentially Antonio Villaraigosa), Garamendi had little or no chance of winning the nomination.

Several folks are wondering why Garamendi is passing up a chance to take on Republican Dan Lungren in the 3rd CD. Apparently the Garamendi ranch manages to straddle both the 3rd and the 10th CDs (pretty shrewd property).

If Garamendi doesn't win in the 10th this year, will he run in the 3rd next year? He could reuse his Garamendi for Congress materials. Or, would he then run for reelection as Lt. Gov.? I think Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell would be a logical candidate for Lt. Gov., but I haven't heard any intentions other than running for Governor.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times?

I think we can all agree Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is an evil man, one of the major architects of the 9/11 attacks, and a real enemy of the United States of America. I'm not even going to get into the debate about if waterboarding constitutes torture, and what - if anything - should be done to those that authorized its use or carried it out.

But even if we were to assume both that 1) he had valuable intelligence and 2) torture can get you that information reliably, doesn't 183 times seem like kind of a high number? I had always imagined we waterboarded these high value captives once or twice to scare the hell out of them, make them think they were going to drown, and hopefully get some useful intelligence from them. But 183 times? Seems like kind of a random number.

What happened after the 182nd time they waterboarded him where our interrogators thought "you know, I think just one more and he might crack?".

And what happened after the 183rd time where they thought "OK, I'm now sure that's everything we are going to get out of him"? Why not a 184th? You know, just to be extra sure? Maybe during the 183rd Khalid Sheikh Mohammed starting thinking "this is getting pretty old, maybe I should just tell them what they want."

The argument for waterboarding is that its an effective technique used to gather critical information. But if you have to do it 183 times, how effective is it exactly? You may get someone to confess to you just by sitting them in a warm jacuzzi and asking them the same question over and over and over until you get to 183 times - they might just get tired of the relentless nagging.

Reports are that Abu Zubaydah was "only" waterboarded 83 times. Does Khalid Sheikh Mohammed just roll his eyes whenever Zabaydah is bragging about what he went through to other prisoners? Does the Guinness Book of World Records have a category for this?

In all seriousness, I also wonder if these releases by the Obama administration will actually backfire, and in some way work to undercut the gut reaction many people have that waterboarding is, of course, torture? I mean if you can do something 266 times to 2 people, and both are still fine, how bad can it be?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is Obama tough enough? - Part 2

Lately, the GOP has been stepping up their attacks on Obama for being "weak" on foreign policy, criticizing him for shaking hands with Hugo Chavez, and for what they saw as Obama "apologizing" for America's past actions during his trips abroad. We've seen the attacks come from the usual array of right wing elected officials, former officials, and pundits. It's not a new line of attack, throughout the whole 2008 campaign they argued Obama was too soft on foreign policy and military affairs. Indeed its the same argument they have been making against Democrats for decades. And its often been successful for them politically (just ask Presidents Kerry or Dukakis - oh, wait), so its no surprise they are trying to slap the label on Obama as well early in his Presidency.

Personally, I'm not bothered by Obama shaking hands with a foreign leader we oppose. Nor am I upset that Obama admits that America has not been perfect, even as we are a force for good in the world. These are minor symbolic acts. It's a sign of America's strength as a world power that we can deal with people we oppose, and admit when we are wrong. We aren't a petulant teenager - we are the world's most powerful country, and an example to the rest of the globe.

Bush isolated North Korea and Iran, called them both evil, and refused to talk to either country until late in his administration where he began to engage North Korea. Where did that show of "strength" get us? North Korea restarted its weapons program under Bush's watch, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. Iran spent 8 years rapidly accelerating its own nuclear program and is now far closer to having the ability to create nuclear weapons. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, held four summit meetings with Mikhail Gorbachev - a man he once claimed ran the "evil empire". These direct talks with our long time enemy produced, among other things, the INF treaty which reduced intermediate nuclear and conventional missiles. Reagan shook hands with a man many saw as an totalitarian dictator, yet parlayed the talks into achieving goals that he wanted for the country. Bush shunned regimes he (rightfully) despised, and both North Korea and Iran spent 8 years accelerating their nuclear programs. It's not a sign of weakness to negotiate, any more than its a sign of strength to refuse to. As John F. Kennedy said in his inaugural "Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate."

At the end of the day, results are what counts. If Obama ends up harming U.S. interests by negotiating bad deals with Venezuela, and getting suckered by Hugo Chavez - then he should be rightfully criticized. But for shaking the hand of a foreign leader at an international summit? Please. Because we all know that Republicans would never shake hands with anybody our country dislikes or finds distasteful (see picture above).

Imagine for a second if John McCain had been elected President in 2008. Now imagine that in the first couple of months President McCain had increased the number of troops in Afghanistan, slowed the pace of the drawdown in Iraq from what the left had been demanding, increased the military budget by 4%, kept on Bush's Secretary of Defense, approved predator drone strikes on Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, refused to retroactively prosecute those in the CIA who had tortured Al Qaeda suspects, and authorized a successful Navy SEAL operation to kill Somali pirates and rescue captured Americans. The right wing pundits would be besides themselves talking about what a strong President McCain turned out to be, and how muscular his foreign policy was. But of course it was Obama who did these things, and since he is a liberal Democrat he is therefore "weak" on foreign policy and the military.

Dick being Dick

Dick Cheney put down his vial of goat's blood long enough to do an interview with Sean Hannity this week. Cheney was the most secretive dude since that other famous Dick (Nixon) so it makes it especially enjoyable that he is now calling on the Obama administration to release documents about waterboarding: "I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was."

Cheney hasn't always been such a huge fan of transparency. There were the undisclosed locations and the fact that the VP's residence vanished (Cheney's dark magic, me thinks). Here's how historian Edward Larson described him: Commentators and comedians have ridiculed Vice President Dick Cheney for invoking executive privilege to deny one set of documents to the Senate Judiciary Committee while, at the same time, asserting that his office is not part of the executive branch so as to deny another set to the Information Security Oversight Office of the National Archives. As a historian, though, I admire the Vice President’s chutzpah. Rather than being laughably ridiculous, his seemingly conflicting and transparently self-serving claims on these matters have at least enough historical support to qualify as artful dodges rather than baseless evasions.

Part I

Part II
Here's a link (embedding disabled for some reason).

Is Obama tough enough?

I think the graph speaks for itself. (from glass tumbler)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fun with teabagging

Last week's tax day "tea parties" are over, but the political left sure had a field day with them - from the hypocrisy of the right suddenly caring about deficits after the last 8 years to the prominent role Fox News played in the events. But few had as much fun with the protests as Keith Olbermann did. Not sure how he managed to keep a straight face as he read the news with one teabagging double entendre after another, but here are two of his more amusing segments for anyone who missed them:

CA 10th Congressional District

We mostly have a national political bent here at No Jibber Jabber, but this post is a bit more local. My Congresswoman, Ellen Tauscher, has been tapped by President Obama to serve under Hillary Clinton over at the State Department. If and when (and the expectation is when since it doesn't appear to be a controversial pick) Taucher is confirmed by the Senate, she will resign from Congress and a special election will be held to fill her seat.

Congressional seats don't come up that often in the Bay Area and there is a whole lot of interest when they do. Term limits in the California Legislature have made Congressional seats even more appealing. For instance, back in 1992, Ted Lempert and Anna Eshoo battled for the Democratic nomination to succeed Tom Campbell. Eshoo pulled out a narrow victory and has served in Congress ever since. In the ensuing years, Lempert was termed out of the Assembly and then had to wait 2 years to run for the State Senate. He was defeated by the then-incumbent Assemblyman Joe Simitian in 2004. Lempert has not run for elected office since then.

In the 10th, the presumed front-runner is Senator Mark DeSaulnier. A long-time County Supervisor, DeSaulnier was elected to the Assembly in 2006 and then he and Tom Torlakson switched jobs in 2008 (Torlakson was termed out of the Senate but had two years left that he could serve in the Assembly.) Torlakson is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2010 and quickly endorsed DeSaulnier to be Tauscher's successor. Joining Torlakson in endorsing DeSaulnier were Tauscher herself and Congressman George Miller. Miller is a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and represents an adjoining district to the 10th.

Many people presumed that with these powerful endorsements that DeSaulnier would clear the field of credible challengers. Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan quickly let it be known that she was interested in the Congressional seat as well. This caught a number of people by surprise because she had elected in November of 2008 in a closely contested race in the 15th Assembly District. Over $3 million was raised to help Buchanan win what had been the last Republican held legislative seat in the Bay Area. If she were to leave her Assembly seat, it would instantly become a top GOP priority to retake it.

Just as we were starting to consider what would happen if Buchanan and DeSaulnier squared off, rumors percolated that Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi was looking at the race. Personally, I thought he was legally obligated to run for Governor every 8 years, but apparently there was a loop hole that might let him run. Big John was not distracted by the fact that he doesn't live in the district. I give him credit for recognizing that the Garemendi for Governor bandwagon was not really a juggernaut.

All 3 potential candidates came to the Democratic Central Committee last Thursday. Buchanan gave a succinct update on the state's financial position (not pretty) and merely stated that she'd have an announcement in the next few weeks. DeSaulnier stated he'd be running if/when there was a vacancy and then talked about the budget situation and the upcoming May propositions (he's voting for them, but doesn't like them).

I think everyone was really curious when Garamendi got up and spoke. He gave a very boilerplate speech about his current mix of anger and optimism. It was a very polished speech, but one that seemed like it could be given anywhere. His staff member gave out some very slick flyers- I was amused that they read "Garamendi 2010"- have flyers, will run. He referred to his "many friends who suggested I run", but didn't name any of them.

My take on the race is that DeSaulnier would beat either Buchanan or Garamendi in a two-person race. If all theree of them run, well, it gets more interesting. Buchanan would certainly seem to be helped by Garamendi entering- if she gets a large portion of women voters, that could be her path to victory.

One of the other fun parts of this situation is that we might have another game of electoral musical chairs. It will be hard to top the famous one in the East Bay, which involved free chicken dinners.

Also, my friend Sean Mykael has the case for Garamendi running in the 3rd Congressional district.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

National Popular Vote Movement

So far, four states have voted to award their electoral votes to the Presidential candidate who wins the most total popular votes nationally, rather than who wins the state itself. For example, if Texas had adopted this plan for the 2008 election, the 34 Texas electoral votes would have gone to Obama (the national vote winner) rather than McCain (the Texas vote leader). This is part of a national movement trying to go around, and functionally eliminate, the electoral college and make the winner of the national popular vote the winner of the Presidential election. The system only goes into effect though if states totaling at least 270 electoral votes - a majority - agree to it. The four states that have already approved are Maryland, New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii - a total of 50 electoral votes.

Whatever you think about the electoral college as a mechanism for electing the President, from a practical partisan standpoint this appears to be bad for the Democratic party. So far, its all reliably blue states that have approved the national popular vote plan. If the vast majority of an eventual 270 votes worth of states in this system are blue states it would basically give the GOP one extra way to win a Presidential contest. A GOP candidate could win by:

1) getting the most electoral votes, like now, or by

2) getting the most popular votes (since 270 or so blue state electoral votes would be required to vote for the Republican national vote winner, even if all those states voted Democrat).

A Democrat could only win in this system by winning the popular vote. If a Democrat won 300 electoral votes, but lost the national popular vote 65,000,000 to 64,999,999 then about 270 of those 300 electoral votes would have to switch to the Republican national vote winner. But the same wouldn't be true in reverse if the pattern of only blue states approving this plan continues.

Or am I just misreading this? Always a real possibility.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Obama reelection guarantee

OK, maybe it is a tiny bit early, but I'm going to go ahead and guarantee that Obama will be reelected in 2012. Since his reelection is a foregone conclusion, it makes it all the more enjoyable to watch the positioning for the GOP nomination. That nomination will be about as appealing as a tuna sandwich that's been left out in the sun for 8 hours.

So why am I so confident of the inevitability of Obama? The single biggest factor in a President's reelection is how the economy is performing. Let's take a quick look at the recent history:

1972- Nixon imposes wage and price controls that create an artificial, temporary prosperity. McGovern gets trounced.

1980- Jimmy Carter faces an economy so bad that they create a new term "stagflation". Hello, Ronnie.

1984- After coming out of the 1982 recession, Reagan's combination of tax cuts and increased spending creates a booming economy...and massive deficits. Mondale's famous, ill-advised pledge to "tax you bastards back to the Stone Age" is a huge hit in Minnesota, D.C. and...nowhere else.

1992- George H.W. Bush manages to take his 90% approval ratings in 1991 and still lose to Bill Clinton because of the recession.

1996- Clinton rebounds from the GOP landslide in 1994 and remain in the White House because the economy was just starting to boom.

2004- George W. Bush gets his first win in a Presidential election (still not letting Florida go) in 2004 because a) John Kerry was a complete tool and b) people generally felt OK about the economy.

Based on economic cycles, I think we'll be on the upswing in 2012. If we don't see the economy get better in the next four years, then I don't care if my Internet prediction looks foolish- no one will be able to afford a computer or electricity so it won't matter.

Furthermore, Gingrich, Romney, Palin, Jindal- not really seeing a big winner out there on the horizon.

Only ways I can imagine Obama losing:

Leaves Michelle for Lindsay Lohan
Hires Michael Vick as a dog trainer for Bo
Doesn't listen to Jack Bauer's advice

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Assorted Polling: Good news for Obama

A host of recent polls have been very positive - both for Obama himself and for progressive policies in general.

A Pew poll shows Obama at 61% approval with only 26% disapproval ratings, with 60% agreeing that the government needs to do more to regulate the financial sector (with only 31% opposed), and by a 54% to 36% margin Americans feel Obama's economic plan will reduce the deficit in the long term.

A recent CNN poll revealed that only 26% of America agrees with Dick Cheney's recent claim that Obama's policies have increased the chances of a terrorist attack against the United States, while a resounding 72% disagree. That 26% pretty well tracks Cheney's normal personal approval numbers, and the percentage of Americans who agree with almost any of his policies. But its a bad sign for the GOP - when they can't sell America on fear, they have a tough time winning elections.

Heck, more Americans polled feel their taxes are fair rather than too high. This as we watch the Fox News promoted "tea parties", where small groups of right wingers protested Obama's tax policies (even though all of them making less than $250,000 were getting tax cuts) and the expansion of the federal deficit in general (although strangely most of them were silent while Bush was running up deficit records).

Obama is also the most trusted current political figure, and 71% specifically trust him to fix our economy.

Much of this is the early support of a popular new President, elected with a clear mandate, who has been following through on his campaign promises. But part of it also has to be attributed to the comically poor nature of the opposition party. Following its massive defeats in the 2006 and 2008 elections, the GOP is still staggering about aimlessly, trying to find leaders and a message (one different than their usual stale platform that has been soundly rejected at the ballot box). When your public face consists of such crazies, has-beens, and not ready for prime time players as Michael Steele, Newt Gingrich, Bobby Jindal, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, and Rush Limbaugh - something has gone very wrong. Ironically, many Republicans tried to convince themselves that their party's political ills were all due to Bush's low personal approval ratings. Yet compared to that group, he looks like the most sane, reasonable, well liked leader they have going for them.

The last U.S. World War I Veteran

Did you know there was a living U.S. World War I veteran? I just saw an article on this man, Frank Buckles, and thought it was fascinating. In an era where this country loses almost 1,000 of our World War II veterans a day (a 25 year old drafted in 1942 would now be 92), its amazing to think there is still a World War I veteran around. He is now 108 years old and lives in West Virginia.

Does he go to VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) events? Is there a table with a bunch of guys talking about Iraq, Korea, and Vietnam, while one guy on the end is there talking about sticking it to the Kaiser? He may be the only person you see complaining about Kaiser that isn't talking about their health care provider.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where we at?

A new poll came out that shows more Americans are thinking the country is getting back on track. It seems like things have stabilized over the last couple of months. People are starting to think the worst may be over, but no one is rushing out and buying a new Escalade.

The single biggest thing President Obama has done to stabilize the economy is to project that he knows what he is doing. The American people aren't expecting things to be fixed overnight, but they want to know we are generally heading in the right direction. McCain lost any chance he had of winning the election when he kinda/sorta "suspended" his campaign. No one, including McCain, seemed to know what he was doing. I shudder to think how bad things might be right now if McCain were President.

Do you think things are better now or are we just in the eye of the hurricane?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pirates vow revenge

So now a pirate spokesman is claiming that Somali pirates were "angered by the U.S. action" and are swearing revenge. I'm sorry, is he saying he is mad that we protected our ship, saved the life of our captured countryman, and took out the pirates who were threatening to kill him? Sure, armed piracy on the high seas is fine, but when you defend yourself - well, that's just going too far.

His protests aside, I think our actions were both reasonable and necessary. Some worry this may escalate the situation, and ramp up violence in future piracy attempts. But the reality is these pirates are thugs who respect force, and can be deterred. Why has piracy seen such a sharp spike in recent years? Because companies have been paying millions of dollars in ransom. And this will only continue getting worse until more countries do what France and the U.S. just did, and react with force instead of payment. If you keep paying ransom, pirates will keep seizing ships.

And you just can't say enough about the amazing job the Navy SEALs did. They parachuted in at dark, boarded the USS Bainbridge, took positions 100 feet away from the captured lifeboat, and waited for their opportunity. Three shots and three kills, all simultaneous. And all from one bobbing vessel to targets behind glass on another boat in the water. There is a great book that chronicles the SEAL training program called "The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228". On average, only about 25% of the men who start BUD/S will actually complete the program - its that grueling. But you can see why the people who do are among the best of the best.

Lastly, let's not forgot all those GOP blowhards who filled the airwaves for days, talking down Obama and our country, saying we couldn't handle the pirates, and claiming Obama was missing in action during the crisis. All while Obama was quietly handling the situation behind the scenes, then authorizing the successful operation that took out the pirates and saved our men. Quite a contrast from George "we'll get Osama Bin Laden dead or alive" Bush, who normally followed his public bluster with a lack of actual results. The folks over at DailyKos put together an excellent compilation of these whiners:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

U.S. Navy 1 : Pirates 0

Well, today certainly ended as a good day for America and for the U.S. Navy, as Captain Phillips was rescued and the whole crew of the Maersk Alabama can now return home safely. It was a brazen act for pirates to attack a U.S. flagged vessel, and America had to send a strong message that such attacks on our merchant fleet will not be tolerated. And we sent that message today, with three of the pirates being taken out by our elite SEAL teams, and the fourth now in U.S. custody. It would have been an international embarrassment if 4 teenage pirates from Somalia could have seized a U.S. vessel, or received a ransom for having captured America sailors.

For the most part, piracy on the high seas is seen as a law enforcement issue, like somebody robbing a store (one that just happens to be floating on the ocean). And unless the lives of our sailors are in danger, the rules of engagement generally prohibit trying to kill the pirates. I think this is an approach we may need to reconsider. Carl von Clausewitz, the famous military theorist, wrote of the rational calculus of war - the idea that countries weighed their war aims against the costs, and when the cost of continuing a war became greater than the gains to be achieved by winning it, they would terminate the conflict. On a smaller scale, we need to make the cost of piracy so high its no longer worth the risk. In an impoverished country such as Somalia, the money to be made from a single successful capture can be many lifetimes worth. But if a pirate knew that if he tried to seize a U.S. vessel he would be killed, no questions asked, its hard to imagine the risk still being worth it.

It's a difficult job for the U.S. Navy. There is a limited number of ships trying to cover an area of ocean over one million square miles. They can't protect every ship or every major route. But so long as they are in the area, able to get quickly to the scene of pirate attacks, they will continue to serve as a major deterrent in the region.

From a political standpoint, this is certainly a win for the Obama administration. It's interesting, though not really surprising, to note that he authorized the use of deadly force here. For days I had been hearing from my conservative friends about how Obama was too concerned with world opinion and making friends, and thus wouldn't allow the military to take necessary action here. One sent me a mocking e-mail about how Obama was willing to negotiate with "moderate pirates". But at the end of the day, he let the Navy do what they needed to do. And instead of negotiating with these thugs, we killed the pirates and freed our citizen.

Coincidentally, the destroyer that first arrived on the scene - the USS Bainbridge - was named for Commodore William Bainbridge, who fought Algerian pirates in the Barbary Wars of early 19th Century. I'm sure he would be very proud of the ship that bears his name, and the men who serve on it today.

Friday, April 10, 2009

ASU not going to give Obama an honorary degree?

ASU was really not going to give Obama an honorary diploma when he speaks there because he didn't have an appropriate "body of work" yet?!

Setting aside for a second the irony of Arizona State (ranked #121 by U.S. News and World Report) telling a former Harvard Law Review President that he doesn't meet their high standards, just what exactly are the requirements for an honorary degree? Did Obama not take enough honorary units? Fail to declare an honorary major by the deadline? I thought the whole point of an honorary degree was that you didn't actually have to do anything. I just hope this doesn't impact his chances of getting into a good honorary graduate school someday.

The good news is apparently ASU has taken so much flak for this, they are reconsidering their position and now seem likely to grant the honorary degree after all. But this, combined with the recent controversy over Obama giving the commencement speech at Notre Dame, makes me wonder just when honorary degrees became such a political hot button?

Ted Stevens files for 2014

Ted Stevens filed this week for the 2014 Senate election, although his campaign people say its not necessarily a sign he is running, but instead so he can accept contributions. Sure, now he cares about making sure all his contributions are legal.

I will say if the Alaska electorate is still hungry for change in 2014, nothing says shaking up Washington like a then 91 year old former Senator, with a history of ethics violations, who has over four decades of experience serving as a D.C. insider.

Taking a step away from politics...

I still remember where I was when I heard the news that Len Bias had died. I had gone to a Terps game the year before and saw him throw down a tomahawk dunk that I thought was the coolest thing ever. When Larry Bird said "This is the cruelest thing ever", I totally agreed. It was hard to feel the same sympathy when it came out that Lenny OD'd on cocaine, but I was still struck by the tragedy of it.

I had the same haunting feeling when I learned that Angels rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart had been killed in a car crash just a few hours after pitching 6 shutout innings against the A's. Two of his friends were also killed and another one was seriously injured. It sounds like some moron with a suspended license got himself liquored up, ran a red light and snuffed out 3 promising lives.

Here was a young man who was just starting to achieve one his ultimate dreams- establishing himself as a major league pitcher. He'd had a couple of appearances with the Angels last year, but due to his hard work and injuries to his teammates he was the #3 pitcher for one of the best teams in baseball.

His dad had flown out from Maryland to watch his son pitch. This is a parent's ultimate nightmare- I can't even imagine what he must be feeling. Maybe there is a small comfort in the fact that he got to see his son live out his dream, but in many ways that just makes it even more painful.

It is just one more reminder that there will never be a better time than right now to give an extra hug to the people you love.

"Captain fails in attempt to flee from pirates"

That's just not a headline I expect to see in 2009. Seems more like one from 1809.


In a previous post, I discussed how the finance industry had gotten out of whack- compensation was not in line with productivity. Look at how hedge funds make money- typically they take 2% annually as a management fee and then they take 20% of profits. If a fund has $1 billion in assets, the managers are taking $20 million per year as a management fee. The fund has to have an annual return of 10% for the managers to make more money off their share of the profits than they make from management fees. In 2008, there were damn few funds of any sort that returned greater than 10%, but the managers still took there 2% management fee.

In the NY Times, Paul Krugman writes about how when baking is "boring", bankers are not paid as well, but the economy is sounder. When we are in an era of superstar bankers, well, DUCK- we are in another gilded age.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

One of the smartest people I've ever met....

I've always had a soft spot for former Republican Congressman Tom Campbell. He just recently stepped down as the Dean at the Haas Business School in order to run for the GOP nomination for Governor. It will be an uphill battle for him because his moderate views often put him at odds with the right-wing. Oh, he's also running against at least two people who can put tens of millions of their own money into the race.

I still think that he would have beaten Barbara Boxer for the Senate (I'm full of revisionist history tonight) if he had been the Republican nominee in 1992. He narrowly lost the nomination to Bruce Herschenson- a hard right candidate who only lost to Boxer by a couple of percentage points.

The LA Times has a profile of Campbell that's worth checking out. I wonder if he will actually run if he determines he has no chance against Whitman and Poizner.

New York, New York

I think the political landscape in NY is pretty fascinating. Two years ago it seemed inevitable that NY would produce a President in the very near future- Clinton and Giuliani were the front-runners for 2008 and Eliot Spitzer seemed to be on a collision with the White House. Now HRC is the Secretary of State, Rudy ran one of the worst Presidential campaigns in history (the "I'll sit out the first 18 states and then make my move" thing didn't work out so well) and Spitzer beat out David Vitter to become the most notorious call-girl client around.

The next wave of politicians is pretty fascinating. The two politicians who replaced Clinton and Spitzer, Senator Kirstin Gilibrand and Governor David Paterson, are both facing primary elections in 2010. As you can see here, they both have some work to do. Paterson is getting absolutely swamped by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. It was just a few years ago that Cuomo's elective career was in serious jeopardy after his bumbling primary campaign for Governor. Now, in a manner very similar to Eliot Spitzer, his popularity has sky-rocketed as he targets the perpetrators of financial shenanigans.

If Cuomo becomes Governor of New York, he'd instantly be considered as a future Presidential candidate. I've always thought one of the most interesting what-ifs of recent political history is: "What if Mario Cuomo had run for President in 1992? Would he have beaten Clinton for the nomination? And would he have beaten Bush in the general election?"

Political Bumper Stickers

As I was driving around today, I came across a car with about 30 political looking bumper stickers plastered across the back of it. There were so many I'm still not sure what color the car was. But as soon as I saw it my first thought was "this person is liberal". And sure enough, they were all advocating various liberal causes. Conservatives often have political bumper stickers, but its usually just one. If you see 3 or more, you know its going to be somebody liberal. And proportionally the more bumper stickers, the more liberal the driver. If you see 30 or more on a car you can bet Fidel Castro himself would walk by, read them, and think "what a nut". Even though 5 of the bumper stickers probably mention him favorably.

I'm not sure what explains this though. Are liberals more passionate about their beliefs? Do Republicans just not want to mess up their expensive cars? I'm really curious.

I myself had a "Wesley Clark 2004" campaign bumper sticker, and kept it on until I sold the car it was on in 2007. I'd probably still have it today otherwise. I doubt even Wesley Clark has any of those left - I'm sure he has moved on. But for me it was my way of saying "I voted Democrat in 2004, but knew we shouldn't have picked John Kerry".

Sometime in the late 1990's I actually saw a person with a bumper sticker that said "Don't blame me, I voted Republican". Don't blame you for what? All the peace and prosperity going around? You got it. Every now and again though I run into a conservative bumper sticker that actually makes some sense. I've seen tons of the liberal "war is not the answer" ones, but a few weeks ago I saw a bumper sticker that just said "war was the answer to slavery, nazism and fascism". Touche.

My all time favorite one though is the one pictured above. If it doesn't make sense, you clearly didn't watch the Simpsons enough.

Another Daily Show gem

How the Republicans are confusing them losing with "tyranny"....

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Pretty much sums it up

Not sure that ever qualified as "breaking news" but definitely sums up the Bush era. My first thought was maybe it was from Katrina, but there were so many disasters to choose from under his leadership (and I use the term loosely) its hard to say for sure.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Queen of England touches Michelle Obama!

I've now seen this story all over the web and on TV, and half the reports are making it out to be some kind of mini-scandal or shocking violation of royal etiquette. But when you watch it, it really doesn't seem like much of a big deal. I mean sure, if the Queen reached over and smacked the First Lady in the ass - we may have a breach of decorum on our hands. Or even if Michelle gave her highness the ole' "terrorist fist jab". But this?!

Ted Stevens is still guilty

So, the Alaska GOP is claiming Senator Begich (D) should resign since Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, dropped the indictment against former Senator Stevens (R). Stevens lost to Begich in a close election in 2008, one no doubt that was impacted by Stevens' conviction on seven counts of lying and corruption. Holder took the action due to issues involving prosecutorial misconduct (such as the then prosecutors not turning over all evidence to the defense), and Stevens' lawyer railed against "the improper influence of the corrupt Department of Justice".

Never mind the irony of a GOP Senator praising Obama's DOJ, while slamming Bush's DOJ for being too political and corrupt. The real issue here is Ted Stevens is still corrupt. The man wasn't just cleared of all charges and vindicated, as some in the GOP are trying to pretend. Holder rightfully dropped the case as the prosecution had violated its legal and ethical standards. But lets not forget that a long FBI investigation showed that Stevens was accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of home renovations from an oil contractor he had aided politically with contracts and other favors, and then tried to conceal it.

The amazing part of this to me was even after he was convicted on 7 counts brought by a Republican Justice Department, Alaska voters still almost voted him back in (he lost the 2008 election by 1%, or about 4,000 votes). I guess it takes more than a mere series of convictions on corruption charges to turn off Alaska voters.

And for anyone who missed the classic Ted Stevens' "series of tubes" rant, enjoy....

People the stimulus plan needs to help

Mr. T
The guys in N'Sync who aren't Justin
Whichever of Milli and Vanilli is alive
David Caruso
Isiah Thomas
Joe Millionaire
The Culkin Family
Buddy from Charles in Charge (see here)
White Lion
White Snake
Phillip Michael Thomas
The Full House kids who aren't Olsen twins
Shelley Long
Everyone who left ER not named George Clooney (yes, even the Prince of Soul Glow)
Dave Chapelle
98% of contestants from Road Rules and Real World
Shawn Kemp and family
Travis Henry and larger family
Mr. T (yeah, I know he is in here twice, but he really needs the help)
Jennifer Grey- Apparently, you can put Baby in a corner
Judd Nelson
The Coreys

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Saved by the Bell Stimulus plan

I, like most of you, was stunned when I learned that the economic stimulus package did not contain any money earmarked for a Saved by the Bell reunion. I think we all know that Screech needs a job (further proof here). Let's take a quick look at the post SBTB careers of the stars:

Zack (aka the blond Top Gun)- Didn't hear much from him in the late 90s, but then a solid 5 year run on NYPD Blue (so cool that he replaced the Ricker)

Slater- Definite high point of his post-SBTB career was playing Greg Louganis in a TV movie. I guess he's also been on Dancing with the Stars and co-hosts a bunch of shows.

Screech- Life hasn't been so kind to the Screech man. He hasn't really done anything other than star in a porn (ughhhhhhh). Well, he did wail on Horseshack:

Lisa- She had the Boyz II Men video and not much else.

Kelly Kapowski- For a while, it looked like she'd be the big breakout star when she went starred in BH 90210, but then she fizzled out. Had a nice little stretch on "What About Brian".

Principal Belding- Not much too speak of- things like West Wing where he was "CEO donor #2"

And last but certainly not least:

Jesse Spano: She's found a nice niche on crime shows. Many think the pinnacle of her career was her Oscar-worthy performance in "Showgirls", but I'll have to go with this: