Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain: Ready to teach.

Even her supporters aren't saying that she is experienced enough to be president:

I realize, of course, that she’s totally unqualified to be President at this point in time. If McCain were to die in February 2009, I hope Palin would have the good sense to appoint someone who is more ready to be President to be her Vice President, on the understanding that she would then resign and be appointed Vice President by her successor. (Lest anyone say that this is an absurd, unconstitutional or undemocratic scenario, recognize that this is pretty much what would happen in a Parliamentary system where, if the head of government dies, a successor is chosen by the party.) Palin is absolutely not ready to be President now, but that is a problem that is very easily dealt with if she is and the governing party want to do so.
But, as Ezra Klein and James Fallows have pointed out, that's not the only danger for Sarah Palin. The truth is she's simply going to screw up. Barack Obama has shown he is ready to be president by the simple fact that he has never once screwed up. He's mangled the odd line but overall he's done nothing, in eighteen months of scrutiny, which would make you think he doesn't understand the brief. No matter what the subject, he has been ready with an articulate answer. The only time he was perceived as perhaps weak, when Russia and Georgia kicked off, has been taken care of by the nomination of Biden for the VP slot.

As Fallows says, a slip of the tongue can set off international tensions:
If someone is campaigning for the presidency or vice presidency, there's an extra twist. That person has to have a line of argument to offer on any conceivable issue. Quick, without pausing in the next ninety seconds, tell me what you think about: the balance of relations between Taiwan and mainland China, and exactly what signals we're sending to Hamas, and what we think about Russia's role in the G-8 and potentially in NATO, and where North Korea stands on its nuclear pledges -- plus Iran while we're at it, plus the EU after the Irish vote, plus cap-and-trade as applied to India and China, and what's the right future for South Ossetia; and let's not even start on domestic issues.

The point about every one of those issues is that there is a certain phrase or formulation that might seem perfectly innocent to a normal person but that can cause a big uproar. Without going into the details, there is all the difference in the world between saying "Taiwan and mainland China" versus "Taiwan and China." The first is policy as normal; the second -- from an important US official -- would light up the hotline between DC and Beijing.
And as Ezra points out, what's going to happen will be embarrassing:
She's going to get questioned on issues she doesn't fully know or understand, and grilled in ways she's completely unused to, and she's not going to commit a gaffe. A gaffe is when you misspeak. She simply won't know the answer. And that will be much more damaging.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Palin personally; in fact, if I'm honest I feel quite sorry for her. McCain's misjudgement has placed her in way above her head.

But, as Ezra also points out, McCain is undermining his entire campaign here:
Meanwhile, McCain is on record, on tape, saying that his main criteria for vice president will be finding the person "most qualified" to assume the presidency. This question strikes right at the heart of his claim to "superior judgment" and a grave, dignified approach to national affairs. This was not the pick of a man who takes seriously the need for experience, knowledgeable leadership in a moment of global turmoil. This is a pick that suggests the stakes aren't that high, and that most any talented politician can do the job. It's the basic problem with Palin: She destroys his message.
McCain's entire campaign has been asking if Obama is "ready to lead?" And now he admits that his own VP isn't ready?
"[Sarah Palin is] going to learn national security at the foot of the master for the next four years, and most doctors think that he'll be around at least that long," said Charlie Black, one of Mr. McCain's top advisers, making light of concerns about Mr. McCain's health, which Mr. McCain's doctors reported as excellent in May.
And yes, I did laugh at the notion of McCain as "the master". On what bloody planet is that true?


But the good thing is that "the master" is starting with a totally blank canvass. lists candidates positions on various matters. Palin has lots to say about oil and drilling, not to mention her war against polar bears, but she has no position on corporations, families and children, Foreign policy, Free Trade, immigration or technology.

I think the world will have to wait quite a time while "the master" puts her through her paces.

Cafferty: Does McCain Undercut His Own Message With VP Pick?

Cafferty says, "This could be ball game over." I don't know if it will be but I agree with Cafferty that it should be. It shows that McCain utterly lacks judgement. It's simply the most insane choice he could have made.

Daily Show: The new VP.

Jon Stewart finds Sarah Palin to be comic gold. How could anyone miss the humour which McCain has dished us up?

Mayor Orders the Evacuation of New Orleans

The news from New Orleans is almost too horrible for words:

City officials ordered everyone to leave New Orleans beginning Sunday morning — the first mandatory evacuation since Hurricane Katrina flooded the city three years ago — as Hurricane Gustav grew into what the city’s mayor on Saturday called “the storm of the century” and moved toward the Louisiana coast.

The mayor, C. Ray Nagin, said Hurricane Gustav was larger and more dangerous than Hurricane Katrina, and he pleaded with residents to get out or face flooding and life-threatening winds. “This is the mother of all storms, and I’m not sure we’ve seen anything like it,” Mr. Nagin said at an evening news briefing. “This is the real deal. This is not a test. For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
I can't help thinking that this must be, on the eve of the Republican convention, John McCain's worst nightmare. The last thing he needs, as he tries to distance himself from the failings of the Bush administration, is the nation to be reminded of - in Obama's powerful phrase - "a government that sat on its hands while a major American city drowned before our eyes."

And, lest we forget, Bush was actually with McCain, celebrating his birthday, whilst the people of New Orleans were abandoned.

For what happened in New Orleans was the most dreadful example of the Republican philosophy that the government should not involve itself in the lives of the people and that, where possible, it should stay out of people's affairs.

Because of this flawed ideology the Bush administration failed to recognise that what was happening in front of their eyes was a national emergency and that it required a national response.

This wasn't some kind of oversight, this is what these people actually believe.

I remember Republicans at the time arguing that some private companies - Walmart, if I remember correctly, - had managed to get there with water before any Federal government employees and that this showed how the private sector was always better than government at handling emergencies.

What was scandalous about Katrina is that it represented a genuine Republican belief; and what must be scaring McCain now is that a reminder of that flawed thinking might be moving towards New Orleans at the very moment when he wants us all to forget what he and his party actually did.

McCain and his pretty - and almost comically unqualified - Vice Presidential candidate are said to be
planning to visit Mississippi on Sunday to see how preparations for the storm are going.

He'll be working overtime to prove that his response would be different to Bush's, but every day he is forced to walk around talking about hurricanes and hurricane preparations, he'll simply be reminding everyone of the greatest scandal of the Bush administration. The days in which, "a government sat on its hands while a major American city drowned before our eyes."

We all hope that this hurricane does no damage, the people of New Orleans have suffered far too much already, but I suspect - for the most cynical reasons - McCain's is praying harder than any of us.

Click title for full article.

US election: It's the most vicious election campaign ever

There's a very interesting article in today's Observer detailing how this US election is going to be the most vicious ever and how this is mostly down to the Republicans and Steve Schmidt, a protégé of Bush's guru, Karl Rove.

Schmidt works on the principles of repeating simple messages loudly and often. Ads attack Obama as a 'celebrity' or a faux-messiah. By doing so they hope to turn Obama's greatest strength - his ability to inspire - into a fatal flaw. That is backed up by another line: that Obama is simply not fit to be president. NotReady08 is the name of a website set up by the campaign. The language can be harsh. 'We are in the hunt for the White House. Barack Obama is going to have to step up with more than a smart tongue, snappy words and a nice suit,' said Maryland Republican politician Michael Steele.

The campaign will happily twist words. In the ad that Giuliani showed, Obama was hit for referring to the 'tiny' threat from a nuclear Iran. In reality Obama had been pointing out that the problem of Iran was '... tiny compared to the Soviet Union'. Others have interspersed footage of the Democrat candidate with images of Britney Spears. One jokey advert painted him as a Moses-type figure capable of parting the Red Sea. Mocking his message of 'hope' and 'change', radio host Rush Limbaugh has taken to referring on-air to Obama as simply 'the Messiah'.

The Republicans are very good at this shit and they are very good at it because they are the most unprincipled people you are ever likely to meet. They will literally do or say anything in order to win. And, as the article points out, one of the ways that they do this is by acting as if there is no such thing as the past and hoping that the American electorate are too stupid to see what they are doing.

It was to this end that they last week found themselves on the side of Hillary Clinton:
All last week Republicans lauded the achievements and brilliance of Hillary Clinton, seeking to exploit divisions in the Democratic Party. It has rounded up former Clinton supporters who now back McCain and paraded them like captured prisoners of war. '[McCain] really does admire and respect her and honours the campaign that she ran,' said Carly Fiorina, a top McCain adviser. Those are astonishing words from a senior figure in a party which spent two decades demonising Clinton as a left-wing uber-feminist. But that is the key to the success of the Republican attack machine: the past does not exist. What matters is what works now.
And it was to that end that McCain, the man who claims always to put country before party, put a nonentity within a 72 year old's heartbeat of being the most powerful person in the world, in the hope that it might win him a few points in the polls. That decision alone is the most scandalous thing I think I have witnessed in this entire campaign. It reveals McCain to be utterly without substance.

Like his wife lying about Mother Teresa asking her to adopt a child, a lie which McCain must have been in on, he has now shown that he cares about nothing other than victory.

At the beginning of this campaign I genuinely thought of him as a man of honour. That has gone now. Mother Teresa saw that off. I now see a man who will do and say anything, even things which he knows to be lies, if he thinks it might help him. And he has a large army of Republican liars ready to assist, including Jerome Corsi the author of the almost utterly fictional account of Obama's life "Obama Nation".
The Obama Nation has been a bestseller, relentlessly promoted by sympathetic media figures such as Fox News's conservative host Sean Hannity. On his show, Hannity allowed Corsi to claim Obama wanted to allow women to have 'abortions' even after their child was born. Instead of refuting the ridiculous claim, Hannity merely expressed shock. The incident forced a liberal media watchdog to issue an analysis showing Obama had never actually supported the murder of newborn children.
I suppose, speaking from across the ocean, the thing I find most shocking witnessing the way American elections play out, is the role of the media. That people like Hannity, O'Reilly and Limbaugh are allowed to take to the airwaves and spread lies is something which I still find genuinely shocking.

And that they are given carte blanche to do so whilst complaining about "liberal media bias" always makes me think of George Orwell.

And that all of this is coming from a man who stood in front of his nation and claimed that he wanted a "respectful campaign".

The subject arose when a questioner at Episcopal High School asked McCain whether the prospect of two senators running against each other in the fall might lead to less negativity.

McCain said he hopes so, adding that he respects both Obama and Clinton, and believes they respect him. "Americans want more respectful campaigns," he added.

In actuality, McCain has dragged his campaign into the gutter. And, by proposing Sarah Palin as his Vice President, he has shown that he would throw the country to the dogs if he thought it would get him elected. Just listen to the people who know her and how they have reacted to her appointment:

From the Republican State Senate President Lyda Green:

"She's not prepared to be governor. How can she be prepared to be vice president or president?" said Green, a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla. "Look at what she's done to this state. What would she do to the nation?"

Anchorage Democratic state Sen. Hollis French said it's a huge mistake by McCain and "reflects very, very badly on his judgment." French said Palin's experience running the state for less than two years hasn't prepared her for this.
But the Republicans have been selling shit as sugar since the days of Lee Atwater, they literally know nothing else:

The father of the modern Republican attack machine was Lee Atwater, a South Carolina native with a passion for blues guitar and brutal politics who, before he died of brain cancer in 1991, wrote letters of apology to many of those his aggressive campaigning had destroyed.

Before his profound change of heart Atwater changed the face of American politics. During the 1970s Atwater showed a flair for making the personal into the political. His tactics were condemned but they were effective, most notably in the destruction of Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and the election of George Bush senior. Dukakis was accused of being a depressive, his wife was attacked as having once burned an American flag and finally he was hit by the infamous race-baiting ad that featured black murderer Willie Horton who committed armed robbery and rape after being released on a weekend furlough programme. 'Lee Atwater ruined the business of politics. It all began with him,' said McAuliffe.

Atwater also mentored the young Karl Rove. Rove, in his turn, mentored Schmidt. 'There is a reason why Steve Schmidt, who was mentored by Rove who was mentored by Atwater, is running John McCain's campaign,' said Joe Conason, author of the book Big Lies. That reason is simple - these tactics work.

So the Republicans, despite promising a "respectful" campaign, are wallowing in lies and half truths and attack ads. And McCain has shown such an utter lack of judgement in his VP pick that his run for the presidency deserves to end right here.

But the well oiled Republican attack dog machine is just beginning to get into gear. Soon, it's going to be sexist to call Palin unqualified and that elitist Obama is going to be looking down his nose at this fine mother of five.

Fasten your seat belts, we're in for a bumpy ride.

Click title for full article.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Obama Ad: No Change

Obama has responded and I note that he is being very careful not to attack her. I don't think he even has to. Her inexperience is obvious.

Sarah Palin: Hillary is a whiner.

I wonder how much McCain looked into this candidate before he picked her, especially as it is rumoured that he hopes to use her to attract former Hillary supporters.

I don't think PUMA will warm to someone who complained that their candidate "whined."

Scarborough on Palin.

Even Joe Scarborough gets the level of insult in this appointment.

McCain and the Beauty Queen.

As McCain promotes his beauty queen to be VP, there's an interesting link between these two videos.

McCain's response to Ron Paul isn't a whole lot better than Miss Teen USA. He blatantly doesn't know what the Hell Ron Paul is talking about and simply talks over him in a failed attempt to hide this fact. Unbelievable.

38 Million View Obama’s Speech; Highest-Rated Convention In History

This is simply astonishing and might have something to do with why John McCain made such a rash knee jerk choice for his VP.

An astonishing 38 million people watched Barack Obama's speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination, a record number for any convention audience.

Mr. Obama’s speech — a historic one given his status as the first African American nominee of a major political party — reached significantly more viewers than the comparable addresses in 2004. Coverage of John Kerry’s acceptance speech in 2004 had 24.4 million viewers; coverage of George W. Bush’s convention speech that same year drew 27.5 million.

The audience estimate of 38.3 million means that Mr. Obama’s speech reached more viewers than the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final “American Idol” or the Academy Awards this year, the Associated Press notes.

Furthermore, the four-night Democratic convention ranks as the most-watched convention of either party, Democratic or Republican, since Nielsen began measuring conventions in 1960.

It'll be very interesting to see what kind of figures McCain attracts next week. There are reports that he is finding it hard to fill a 10,000 seat convention as opposed to Obama who was said to have easily attracted 85,000 according to some reports.

I don't expect McCain to attract anything like that many viewers, although his gun toting, former beauty queen, VP is bound to attract the gigglers.

And there's every chance that Obama's audience is even larger than the figure being given:
Comparisons to previous conventions must include a number of important caveats. For one thing, until the 1980s conventions were shown on just three networks, and they were covered in greater length than they are now. This year’s conventions are being shown on at least ten TV channels. Additionally, consumers have the option to record the convention and play it back later using a digital video recorder, and those viewers won’t be counted for weeks. Perhaps most significantly, this convention is being streamed online on a number of different Web sites, and the Internet audience will be hard, if not impossible, to measure.
I certainly know that most people here in the UK, where it was not shown, have had to watch it through the Democratic Convention website, and I'm not sure those figures will ever be known.

Click title for full article.

Darling warns of economic crisis.

The British Labour Party have been famous for spinning situations to their advantage, which only makes Alistair Darling's recent outburst make one suspect that he must be taking truth gas before he spoke to the Guardian.

He told the Guardian newspaper that the economic downturn would be more "profound and long-lasting" than most people had feared.

The Chancellor admitted the government had "patently" failed to get its message across that it understood people's concerns about rising living costs and growing job insecurity.

He said that voters were "pissed off" with Labour's handling of the economy, a key issue at the next election, and said it was "absolutely imperative" that ministers communicated their intentions better.

This coming 12 months will be the most difficult 12 months the Labour party has had in a generation, quite frankly.

"We have got our work cut out," he said.
I'll say they've got their work cut out. I've literally never heard of anyone winning the electorate over by stating that the country is facing "the worst economic downturn in sixty years".

Whether it's fair or not people will hold the government that has been in power for the last eleven years completely responsible for any economic downturn, so Darling's honesty is startling to say the least.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said Mr Darling had "let the cat out of the bag" about the state of the economy.
For once, one can't accuse the Conservatives of overstating their case.

I'm at a loss to work out what Darling was thinking of.

Click title for full article.

McCain Didn't Even Know Palin Before Picking Her.

I don't feel too bad about never having heard of Sarah Palin as it turns out McCain doesn't know her either. And I strongly disagree with the notion, as expressed here, that the Vice President only has to be good on three days. McCain's age changes that factor considerably.

Would you back a gun-toting former beauty queen for vice-president?

As a progressive, I am always pleased with something which unites us, and nothing unites people across the planet more than John McCain's choice for Vice President. And from coast to coast in the US people must have greeted the news the same way as it has been greeted across the rest of the planet: "Sarah who?"

John McCain took the biggest gamble of his campaign so far when he yesterday chose as his running mate Sarah Palin, the relatively unknown and inexperienced governor of Alaska, in the hope of reaching out to women voters.

Introduced by McCain at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, Palin made a direct appeal to supporters of Hillary Clinton still upset over her defeat by Barack Obama, praising Clinton for her "determination and grace" in the nomination battle.

Palin's place on the ticket means the November 4 election will produce either the first African-American president or the first female vice-president.

I can understand the logic of reaching out to disaffected Hillary supporters, but anyone who has listened to PUMA supporters and the like over the past few months can hardly have thought that this was a group of people who needed to be wooed. Those insane buggers are in the tank for McCain already.

So it's really hard to see what he thinks he gains by making this choice, especially as one of his arguments against Obama is that he is inexperienced.

Obama has, at least, been tested against the might of the Clinton electoral machine and been forced to show that he could out-organise and out-campaign one of America's shrewdest political families.

Palin has done none of that. And yet she is being proposed as Vice President to, should he be elected, the oldest man ever to become a first term President and a man who has already suffered from four bouts of cancer. The chances of this unheard of woman being made the most powerful person in the world is certainly much more likely than Joe Biden being asked to replace Barack Obama.

And she's on record as saying that she doesn't even know what the VP does:

It is a simply extraordinary choice. I am utterly puzzled at what this unheard of woman is supposed to bring to McCain's ticket.

Indeed, this person has almost no experience of any kind on a national or international level, and there isn't a sentient person on the planet who could argue that she is ready to become commander in chief. And when she's VP to a man as old as McCain then this really becomes a pertinent issue.

It's one of the most reckless decisions I have ever heard of. An truly insane choice for VP. His campaign deserves to sink like a stone. How can a man - that old - choose a VP with so very little experience?

Palin rose to attention in Alaska in 2003 while serving on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, blowing the whistle on violations of state ethical regulations by Republican party leaders.

However, she is under investigation herself over allegations that she dismissed state public safety commissioner Walter Monegan because he would not sack a state trooper involved in an acrimonious divorce with her younger sister. Palin has told US television networks she has "nothing to hide".

Palin eats moose burgers, goes ice fishing, rides snowmobiles, runs marathons, manages a hockey team and owns a seaplane, according to US reports. She is also a Christian.

It's a staggeringly bad choice on so many levels. He'd have been better off with Lieberman for God's sake. When the insane Michelle Malkin says, "I’m impressed. Very impressed" and we know that Bill Kristol has been pushing for her to be on the ticket, that's enough to tell me that she is an extremist. An unqualified and untested extremist at that. Once again we see McCain attempting to please the nutter division of the Conservative base.

“McCain listened to us!” say the Evangelicals. And it’s true. He did.

This is the most reckless choice he could possibly have made and one that deserves to end his bid to be president on the spot. Her debate with Joe Biden will be interesting. (He'll eat her for breakfast.)

She's female and she's Christian. Those appear to be the two factors which swung it for McCain. As I say, it's a staggeringly bad choice. It's very seldom that I am left speechless but in this case...


The New Republic cover this choice under the headline: An Astonishingly Arrogant V.P. Selection

They state:

It may be John McCain's birthday, but it seems like he's the one giving out gifts today. The selection of Palin doesn't simply, as others have pointed out, undermine the notion that Obama is too inexperienced to be president; it gives Obama the chance to actually take the edge on national security while making John McCain's age a central issue of the campaign.

Whatever the political calculations involved in picking a veep, the most important qualification for the vice presidency is the ability to assume the presidency in a crisis. Given that of the last 12 presidents, three have either died or resigned, this is hardly a hypothetical consideration--in fact, given that McCain is 72, it is a very real consideration.

By choosing someone this unqualified and inexperienced, McCain has made his age a relevant factor in this election. Up until now it's been the thing that everyone has been ignoring so as not to seem ageist, but McCain has recklessly thrown it to the top of the in tray and almost demanded that this factor be considered. It is not in his favour to have this conversation, but it's one which his own actions have made imperative. If this old man dies is this woman no-one has ever heard of ready to be Commander in Chief?

At a time when Obama has increased his lead over McCain to eight points, I get the distinct feeling that McCain has cut his own throat here.


On reflection, isn't the choice of Palin actually an insult to women everywhere? Hillary was ready to be Commander in Chief and had a deep understanding of foreign policy. It's like McCain is saying Palin is equal to Clinton which is a simply ridiculous thing to say.

I know there are the PUMA groups who were always ready to vote for this man who opposed women's right to choose, but surely most intelligent women will see this as the insult that it is?


Obama has issued congratulations to this "compelling" new voice on the world stage and has said this, "is yet another encouraging sign that old barriers are falling in our politics."

However, as I suspected, McCain's age has been immediately highlighted:

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton meanwhile blasted the choice and highlighted Governor Palin's lack of foreign policy credentials.

"Today, John McCain put the former mayor of a town of 9,000 with zero foreign policy experience a heartbeat away from the presidency," Mr Burton said in a statement.


Kyle Moore at Comments From Left Field writes:

Whether Palin was a good pick or not is not exactly relevant. What is relevant is the nature of John McCain’s decision making in this instance.

Let that simmer with you for a moment. At the first sign of trouble, McCain abandoned his game plan and went instead with a high risk maneuver that thus far seems to have some pay off, but is coming with a high cost.

What does that say about how he’ll behave in the realm of foreign policy? Will he abandon any semblance of a safe and tested plan in favor of a high risk move that will put us and our families in danger? What about terrorism? In a McCain administration, I think that this indicates that instead of pursuing a smart and tough anti-terrorism policy, he would engage in a reckless and reactionary response that would only make us less safe and likely put us in another war.

We can discuss the lack of qualifications for Sarah Palin, and there are plenty, but the biggest problem is that it indicates that John McCain’s temperament and judgment is far below the standards necessary to serve in the Oval Office.

This is what many of US senators and US generals have been saying for months now. It's what Obama hinted at recently when he said, "If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next Commander-in-Chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have."

And it's what Thad Cochrane was referring to when he stated:

"The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine," Cochran said about McCain by phone. "He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

This decision is yet another example of McCain showing his recklessness.

Click title for full article.

Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain message: Convention Night.

McCain sends Obama what appears to be a kind message. He congratulates Obama and states, "Congratulations. How prefect that your nomination should come on this historic day" which is an obvious reference to the fact that on August 28th 1963 Martin Luther King made his "I have a dream" speech; the exact same date as when, 45 years later, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination.

There's one thing McCain is not mentioning here as he congratulates Obama and cites the Martin Luther King reference inherent in Obama's timing. Not only did McCain vote against a day to celebrate MLK's life, he also supported Gov. Evan Mecham’s decision to rescind the MLK holiday.

Obama defines his vision.

Forty five years to the day in which Martin Luther King told Americans that he "had a dream", Barack Obama stood in front of a crowd of 80,000 people and delivered a much more simple message. He said that "the failed policies of George W. Bush" were not what the United States deserved, and that America was "better than the last eight years".

He condemned, in as good a refute of Republican ideals as I have ever heard, a government that "sits on it's hands whilst a major American city drowns before our eyes".

He told us that, next week, John McCain would try and persuade us that he was the "Maverick" who could bring change, but that McCain had voted with Bush more than 90% of the time and that we shouldn't "take a 10% chance on change".

And then, in a devastating depiction of McCain and his values, he stated:

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives - on health care and education and the economy - Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made "great progress" under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers - the man who wrote his economic plan - was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a "mental recession," and that we've become, and I quote, "a nation of whiners."

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud auto workers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

Now, I don't believe that Senator McCain doesn't care what's going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn't know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people's benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.
It's devastating because it is so kind. It's not an attack, it's an attempt to understand how someone can can get it so continually wrong. How can anyone look at the legacy of George W. Bush and think that this is something which should be continued? Only a man who lives a life of such considerable wealth, that he is unable to count how many properties he owns, could be out of touch to such an extent.

He then accurately defined the beliefs of the Republicans and of McCain:
For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy - give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is - you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps - even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.
He then defined the differences between how Republicans define progress and how the rest of us do:
We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage; whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President - when the average American family saw its income go up $7,500 instead of down $2,000 like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off to look after a sick kid without losing her job - an economy that honors the dignity of work.
And he spoke, very movingly, about his grandmother and the sacrifices that she had made so that he could stand where he was standing tonight. He spoke of how the struggles of young students reminded him of his mother's struggles. Of how he saw in the faces of young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan the face of his own grandfather. And, in a devastating rejoinder to McCain, he stated:
I don't know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me.
Underlining his entire speech was a rejection of the Republican philosophy. The Republican mantra that "we are millionaires and you can be too if you only don't stand in the way of us amassing more" was utterly rejected. Obama is pointing out that most Americans are not in that club, and probably never will be, and that their hopes and fears and concerns are of a much more elementary nature. They want to work hard, make a decent wage, and see their kids enjoy a better lifestyle than they did. And, most importantly, unlike Republicans, most Americans do not think that "you are on your own".

Obama's story is the American dream. He embodies all that is great in that nation. And he, unlike the Republican version of that same story, has never forgotten how lucky he is to find himself in his current position, nor the debt he owes to the people who made his success possible.

He then spelt out the change that he intends to bring:
Change means a tax code that doesn't reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses who deserve it.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

I will cut taxes - cut taxes - for 95% of all working families. Because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East...

...As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power. I'll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I'll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I'll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy - wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can't ever be outsourced.

America, now is not the time for small plans.
He then spelt out his plans for health care and for equal pay for women stating, "I want my daughters to have the same opportunities as your sons".

He then rounded on what is supposed to be the Republicans strongest card:
When John McCain said we could just "muddle through" in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11, and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he'll follow bin Laden to the Gates of Hell - but he won't even go to the cave where he lives.
And, in what I think is one of his best ever observations, he stated:
You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.
And, finally, he touched on the historic significance of the anniversary on which he was speaking:
This country of ours has more wealth than any nation, but that's not what makes us rich. We have the most powerful military on Earth, but that's not what makes us strong. Our universities and our culture are the envy of the world, but that's not what keeps the world coming to our shores.

Instead, it is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend.
That promise is our greatest inheritance.

It's a promise I make to my daughters when I tuck them in at night, and a promise that you make to yours - a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west; a promise that led workers to picket lines, and women to reach for the ballot.

And it is that promise that forty five years ago today, brought Americans from every corner of this land to stand together on a Mall in Washington, before Lincoln's Memorial, and hear a young preacher from Georgia speak of his dream.

The men and women who gathered there could've heard many things. They could've heard words of anger and discord. They could've been told to succumb to the fear and frustration of so many dreams deferred.
But what the people heard instead - people of every creed and color, from every walk of life - is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one.
As Obama speeches go this one was short on rhetoric but much more substantive on policy. He set out clearly the differences between himself and McCain and articulated what defines a Democrat as opposed to a Republican.

He answered those who had defined his campaign as "just words" with a clear definition of what the change he proposes would consist of. His change explicitly rejects the Republican notion that you "are on your own" and calls for a more collective responsibility:
Individual responsibility and mutual responsibility - that's the essence of America's promise.
He calls for a better, fairer, and a more just America. And he points out that the United States, more than any other country on Earth, has the resources to make that dream possible; not just for the few, but for the many.

It is so rarely that a politician comes along who speaks to one's soul. But, on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther's King's historic call for justice and equality, Obama spoke to mine.

And he achieved this not with soaring rhetoric and alliteration, but with the honest integrity of his vision.

Bill Clinton wasn't offering false praise, this man deserves to be the next president of the United States. And he deserves it because, unlike McCain, this man was born into the humblest of families and rose to represent the very essence of the American dream. And, as he made perfectly clear tonight, he rose to his present position without ever forgetting the enormous debt of gratitude that he owes to his family and to the country that made his journey possible.

And, as he stands on the summit of Martin Luther King's mountain, all over the world we wish him well and want him to succeed.


Here's the whole speech for anyone who missed it.


Even Pat Buchanan is calling it "the greatest convention speech" he has ever seen.

Click title for Obama's transcript.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

American Prayer.

This is wonderful. It really says something about Obama's ability to inspire people that so many are working to ensure his victory.

Nor is it simply an American prayer, it's a yearning felt across the globe. And how wonderful that forty five years to the day that Martin Luther King told America that he had a dream, that America's first ever black presidential candidate should address the Democratic convention.

"I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!"

Martin Luther King.
Tonight, MLK's wish will be achieved and Barack Obama will look over the top of the mountain.

Sen. Hillary Clinton Suspends Roll Call Vote.

Yes, I know it's theatre, but theatre can sometimes be incredibly powerful. And which of us, a few short months ago, could have seen Hillary participating in the wonderful way in which she has.

Here she requests that the convention suspend the roll call vote and proclaim Obama as the Democratic candidate by acclamation. The shouts of "Hillary, Hillary" are partly relief and, most probably, genuine appreciation for the way she has come around in a very short period of time.

No-one could have asked more of Hillary in her attempt to unify the party.

Kerry lambasts McCain for "pathetic" attacks.

John Kerry gave a very good speech I thought, pointing out - as he only can - what it is like for someone to be for something before they are against it:

"Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it."

"Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself.
And what’s more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same “Rove” tactics and the same “Rove” staff to repeat the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008."
It's a good line and it's one that the Democrats should utilise to the full. Kerry, the man who the Republicans swift boated, then attacked McCain for the kind of nasty smears which he has employed to disguise the fact that his policies are toxic.
"The McCain-Bush Republicans have been wrong again and again and again. And they know they will lose on the issues. So, the candidate who once promised a “contest of ideas,” now has nothing left but personal attacks."

"How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission, question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother who chose community service over money and privilege that he doesn’t put America first.

"No one can question Barack Obama’s patriotism."
McCain's campaign has been pathetic and nasty and issue free. I'm glad that Kerry said it out loud.

Click title for Kerry's transcript.

Europe must stand up to Russia says UK

There are times when I simply despair, and Miliband's visit to Ukraine - and his silly threats to Russia as he attempts to park Nato on her back door step - is one of those times.

Miliband declared a turning point had been reached in Europe's relations with Russia, ending a nearly two decade period of relative tranquility. He said Tuesday's decision by the Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, to recognise Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia represented a radical break and a moment of truth for the rest of Europe.

"[Medvedev's] unilateral attempt to redraw the map marks a moment of real significance," the foreign secretary said. "It is not just the end of the post cold war period of growing geopolitical calm in and around Europe. It is also the moment when countries are required to set out where they stand on the significant issues of nationhood and international law."

Perhaps Miliband can begin this process by defining the difference between the case for independence as expressed by Kosovo and the case as expressed by Abkhazia and South Ossetia?

For there is, to many of us, essentially none. Other than the fact that Georgia and Ukraine are offering allegiance to the west and clamouring to join Nato. Does that fact mean that the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have essentially lost any say over their own future? Does the fact that Georgia calls itself a democracy preclude the right of any indigenous group to declare independence?

What has been astonishing about the behaviour of the west since Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia has been our almost wilful inability to call a spade a spade, our translucent hypocrisy, our utter insistence that others must do as we say and not as we do, and our complete impotence to do anything other than to utter empty platitudes and meaningless threats.
"Over Georgia, Russia has moved from support for territorial integrity to breaking up the country in three weeks, and relied entirely on military force to do so. In between, it signed a ceasefire agreement which included international mediation as the way forward. If her word is not her bond then she will not be trusted by anyone ... Russia needs to ask itself about the relationship between short-term military victories and longer term economic prosperity." Miliband said the west must now "raise the costs to Russia of disregarding its responsibilities". In particular, Europe should hit back on the oil and gas market, with measures aimed at loosening Russia's powers as a monopoly seller.
The notion of a British member of parliament issuing threats to the Russians regarding her gas markets is almost obscenely humorous. Where does Miliband get off on this? One third of western Europe's gas is supplied by the Russians and Miliband is issuing threats? Russia have already shown how they are prepared to use gas as a political weapon when they cut supplies to the Ukraine, so Miliband is hardly playing to his strongest suit here.

And it doesn't help that the Russians are right on this issue and they know that they are right.

The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have as much right as anyone else to say that they do not wished to be ruled by the Georgians, and we are being utterly hypocritical in attempting to demand that Georgia retains her territorial integrity over two regions who have made it abundantly clear that they do not agree with the status quo.

If we are going to get into an argument with Russia then we should do so only when we occupy the moral high ground. In this case we clearly do not, which is why the Russians are swatting us away like a very troublesome fly.

Over the last eight years we have become used to Bush demanding that reality be what he claims it to be rather than what it actually is, but to see this particular brand of stupidity embraced by a man who many claim may one day be the leader of the Labour Party is disturbing to say the least.

There is no need to tie Britain to the policies of Bush at the very moment when his power is in terminal decline. And there is no point in issuing meaningless threats to the country which supplies one third of Europe's gas when they are in the right and we are in the wrong. And to insist, at a time when we claim to be exporting democracy to Iraq, that the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia must have no say in their own future is simply obscene.

As I say, sometimes I simply despair, and this is certainly one of those days.

Click title for full article.

Bill makes the case for Obama with surgical skill.

Anyone who feared that Bill Clinton had damaged his reputation with the Democratic base, during the bruising battle between his wife and Barack Obama, would have had those fears instantly subdued when they witnessed the reaction of the Denver crowd to their former president.

They cheered so much it began to seem as if they were never going to allow him to talk in the first place.

And, when he did get to speak, he assured them that he was there "to support Barack Obama".

He then emphasised the main point of Hillary's speech last night:

"Last night Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us. Actually that makes 18 million of us. Because, like Hillary, I want all of you who voted for her to vote for Barack Obama."
He then went on to make a speech on policy that reminded us all of why we loved him when he was president. He lambasted the Bush administration's legacy in a devastating manner:

Our nation is in trouble on two fronts: The American Dream is under siege at home, and America’s leadership in the world has been weakened.

Middle class and low-income Americans are hurting, with incomes declining; job losses, poverty and inequality rising; mortgage foreclosures and credit card debt increasing; health care coverage disappearing; and a big spike in the cost of food, utilities, and gasoline.

Our position in the world has been weakened by too much unilateralism and too little cooperation; a perilous dependence on imported oil; a refusal to lead on global warming; a growing indebtedness and a dependence on foreign lenders; a severely burdened military; a backsliding on global non-proliferation and arms control agreements; and a failure to consistently use the power of diplomacy, from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America to Central and Eastern Europe.

Clearly, the job of the next President is to rebuild the American Dream and restore American leadership in the world.
And there it was laid bare, the faults of the Bush administration, the stupidity of Cheney and the neo-cons insistence that the US needed no-one and could bully it's way to whatever it desired.

Standing there, Clinton reminded us all of his time in office, of an America that listened, co-operated, an America that appeared to believe in the rule of law. After eight years of Bush those halcyon days seem a long way off. It's unthinkable that Bill Clinton would have given us Guantanamo Bay, would have dispensed with Habeas Corpus, would have wiretapped outside of FISA.

His very presence reminded us of how far the US has strayed from her ideals and the reasons why so many of us, who had always loved her, found ourselves unable to do so during Bush's arrogant tenure.

And then he delivered his endorsement:

Everything I learned in my eight years as President and in the work I’ve done since, in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job.

He has a remarkable ability to inspire people, to raise our hopes and rally us to high purpose. He has the intelligence and curiosity every successful President needs. His policies on the economy, taxes, health care and energy are far superior to the Republican alternatives. He has shown a clear grasp of our foreign policy and national security challenges, and a firm commitment to repair our badly strained military. His family heritage and life experiences have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation and to restore our leadership in an ever more interdependent world. The long, hard primary tested and strengthened him. And in his first presidential decision, the selection of a running mate, he hit it out of the park.

With Joe Biden’s experience and wisdom, supporting Barack Obama’s proven understanding, insight, and good instincts, America will have the national security leadership we need.

Barack Obama is ready to lead America and restore American leadership in the world. Ready to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States.
He then summed up, in a single sentence, where the Bush regime went wrong and where he had always got it right.
People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
If you ever want a definition of the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats Bill gave it in that single sentence. Bush always favoured the latter and, through his use of torture, his suspension of Habeas Corpus, and a myriad of other crimes and misdemeanors, he utterly squandered the former.

Bill laid out what the last eight years of Republican leadership has meant for American workers.

Look at the example the Republicans have set: American workers have given us consistently rising productivity. They’ve worked harder and produced more. What did they get in return? Declining wages, less than ¼ as many new jobs as in the previous eight years, smaller health care and pension benefits, rising poverty and the biggest increase in income inequality since the 1920s. American families by the millions are struggling with soaring health care costs and declining coverage. I will never forget the parents of children with autism and other severe conditions who told me on the campaign trail that they couldn’t afford health care and couldn’t qualify their kids for Medicaid unless they quit work or got a divorce. Are these the family values the Republicans are so proud of? What about the military families pushed to the breaking point by unprecedented multiple deployments? What about the assault on science and the defense of torture? What about the war on unions and the unlimited favors for the well connected? What about Katrina and cronyism?

America can do better than that. And Barack Obama will.

But first we have to elect him.
He then turned on McCain, acknowledging his sacrifice in Vietnam, and his ability to sometimes go against his party's instincts, but noting that "on the two great questions of this election, how to rebuild the American Dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world, he still embraces the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years."

The Republican party finally got control of both houses and one only has to look at what they have done with it to see the bankruptcy of their philosophy.

They took us from record surpluses to an exploding national debt; from over 22 million new jobs down to 5 million; from an increase in working family incomes of $7,500 to a decline of more than $2,000; from almost 8 million Americans moving out of poverty to more than 5 and a half million falling into poverty – and millions more losing their health insurance.

Now, in spite of all the evidence, their candidate is promising more of the same: More tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that will swell the deficit, increase inequality, and weaken the economy. More band-aids for health care that will enrich insurance companies, impoverish families and increase the number of uninsured. More going it alone in the world, instead of building the shared responsibilities and shared opportunities necessary to advance our security and restore our influence.

They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more. Let’s send them a message that will echo from the Rockies all across America: Thanks, but no thanks. In this case, the third time is not the charm.
He reminded everyone that, in 1992, the Republican charge against him was that he was "too young and too inexperienced", the exact same charge that they are today laying at the door of Barack Obama.

Bill made the case for an Obama presidency with an almost surgical skill, cutting through their arguments with facts and figures, and deriding the cynicism which holds together their entire philosophy. Last night we were treated to a masterclass, to a timely reminder of why hope should always transcend fear. And, yes, to a reminder of why words matter.

Click title for transcript of Bill's speech.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A noun, a verb and P.O.W.

Everyone is noticing. He simply won't be able to keep using this experience as an excuse for not answering legitimate questions.

McCain Ad: Tiny.

McCain's latest ad attacks Obama for saying that Iran does not pose "a serious threat" to America. Of course, to put this into Obama's mouth McCain first has to strip all context away from the remark, which was actually comparing Iran to a real threat like the Soviet Union.

"They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us," he said in arguing for talks with Iran. "You know, Iran, they spend one-100th of what we spend on the military. If Iran ever tried to pose a serious threat to us, they wouldn't stand a chance."
And that's the truth. Iran wouldn't stand a chance against the US. It's a bit like Saakashvili with his 10,000 soldiers taking on Russia. How did that work out then?

McCain's insane foreign policy advisers.

Glenn Greenwald has done a post today about the group of foreign policy advisers who are advising McCain and it really does make for some scary reading. These guys are nutcases.

As Greenwald states:

The foreign policy team exerting chief influence over John McCain is truly more extremist -- in a purer and more deranged form -- than the foreign policy team of the Bush administration. They're not only the most extremist faction in American political life, but also the most delusional. These aren't just the people who led the U.S. to war in Iraq -- though they are that -- but they're also the ones who actually believe that the Bush administration has been far too meek in its assertion of U.S. military force and too passive in its interference in the affairs of other countries. They want to accelerate -- massively intensify -- virtually every one of the polices that has brought the U.S. to such disgrace and near ruination over the past eight years. There is nothing "moderate" or "centrist" about any of them. John McCain is the Candidate of Bill Kristol and Joe Lieberman and John Bolton for good and clear reasons (including in Georgia): he's the best and most devoted instrument to advance their militaristic agenda.

Is there any real discussion of any of that? Hardly.
I am always extremely puzzled as to why, after eight disastrous years of Bush, that the US press don't make more of these guys and what their beliefs actually are. I mean we have James Woolsey, a guy who believes in the WWIV theory and who believes that the US has been at war with Islamists since 1979, when “they [Iranian revolutionaries] seized our hostages in 1979 in Tehran.”

Then there's Bill Kristol, a man who deserves to be laughed at every time he appears anywhere as the buffoon that he is, constantly making wrong predictions like these corkers:

The [Iraq] war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. […] History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts.” [The Weekly Standard 3/17/03]

“There’s been a certain amount of pop sociology in America … that the Shia can’t get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There’s almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq’s always been very secular.” [NPR, 4/1/03]

“We’re not in a civil war [in Iraq]. This is just not true….” [Fox News, 7/15/07]

So McCain is going to be advised by a man who has been wrong in almost everything he has said about the Iraq war and the American press have no interest in that?

Why is it in the United States that the most extremist right wing views are never called out as such? Why do we only ever hear of extreme left wingers and yet pretend that the group who came up with PNAC are somehow centrist?

I suspect it's because the extreme right have now taken control of the Republican party and that extremism is now what Republicanism actually stands for.

I mean imagine any other western nation, with the possible exception of Israel, where someone who came out with the following sentence would be an advisor to that country's elected leaders?
“If we can’t leave a democracy behind, we should at least leave the corpses of our enemies. The holier-than-thou response to this proposal is predictable: ‘We can’t kill our way out of this situation!’ Well, boo-hoo. Friendly persuasion and billions of dollars haven’t done the job. Give therapeutic violence a chance.” [New York Post, 10/26/06]
And yet Ralph Peters is one of McCain's foreign policy advisers, despite calling for "therapeutic violence" as a serious policy.

And we have John Bolton, who I consider the greatest nutcase currently not residing in an asylum, coming out with this:
“While treaties may well be politically or even morally binding, they are not legally obligatory.” [Foreign Affairs, Jan/Feb 1999]
He's advising McCain on foreign policy and he doesn't even regard treaties as "legally obligatory"?

It is worth clicking here to read the long list of, basically, unhinged right wing wackos who McCain has assembled to advise him to get a small taste of the kind of presidency McCain is actually offering.

It's further to the right than even the Bush administration and it's scandalous that the American press are allowing this man to be presented as a "maverick" rather than as the dangerous threat to world peace that his presidency would represent.

Click title for Greenwald's excellent article.