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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

If Rules Are Rules, Hillary's Cheating

The world woke up this morning to the knowledge that Hillary Clinton won the Florida primary for the Democratic Presidential nomination. If we are to believe the Democratic National Committee and Howard Dean, this Clinton victory, like Michigan before it, is meaningless, as the delegate slates will not be seated at the Democratic Convention. This is as a punishment to those two states for cutting into the established line of primaries set forth by the DNC, and agreed to by all the candidates for the nomination.

So why is Hillary Clinton smiling?

The first reason is obvious. Just days after Barack Obama handed her her backside in the South Carolina primary, any good news for the Clinton campaign is welcome. One year ago, it was presumed that Clinton would have solidified her hold on the nomination by this time in the primary/caucus process. Now the Clinton camp finds themselves in the fight of their lives against Obama, with every sanctioned race highly contested between the two candidates.

Securing the nomination is all about delegate counts. With a close two-way race, the unseated delegates in Florida and Michigan may very well prove to be the margin of victory. If they are seated, which the DNC is currently stating that they won’t be.

The Clinton camp is currently working very loudly behind the scenes to browbeat the DNC into seating the delegates from Michigan and Florida. Thanks to her attempted end run around the current nominating rules, Howard Dean is now placed in a no-win situation. If he seats the delegates, he risks the wrath of the large number of new voters that the combination of Barack Obama and the malfeasance of George W. Bush have brought into the nominating process. If he doesn’t seat the delegates, it will more than likely start a fresh wave of criticism from James Carville and the other DLC types who opposed him as head of the DNC in the first place, and who are now mostly in Clinton’s camp.

After polls closed in Florida, Hillary Clinton mysteriously appeared in the state. Despite the fact that all candidates had agreed not to campaign there, the Clinton camp took the strategy that since the polls were now closed in Florida, it wasn’t technically "campaigning". This is the same attorney-like parsing she uses on the campaign trail attempting to explain her vote to authorize the Iraq War. It also bears a striking resemblance to "it depends on what your definition of is is". And she criticizes John Edwards for being a trial lawyer? That’s rich.

Ever since I was a boy and engaged in contests ranging from tag and kickball to Monopoly and Battleship, there has been a word for people who attempt to change the rules in the middle of the game. The word is cheater. By attempting to amend the rules of the nominating process to which she agreed, Hillary is trying to cheat her way to victory just as much as my brother was whenever he tried to move his aircraft carrier in Battleship after the game started.

On January 20, 2009, we will have somehow survived (if we’re lucky) 8 years of this kind of behavior emanating from the current denizen of the Oval Office. Putting a Democrat in the White House shouldn’t be about subsidizing the underhanded for the sake of the Executive Branch operating under a Democratic banner. It should be about real, honest change in direction and policy for the country. Replacing one cheater for another guarantees that the only change will be on the nameplate on the door.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Edwards Voter's "Plan B"

It’s barely the end of January, and I already hate the 2008 election season.

I’m an unabashed supporter of John Edwards. I’ve been a supporter of his going back to when he originally won his Senate seat in North Carolina. Since the New Hampshire primary, I’ve had to accept the reality that he’s once again not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States.

When one connects the dots, one realizes that a candidate like Edwards, with a pro-worker, anti-corporate message, has little chance for the White House when multinational conglomerates like GE, Viacom and Time Warner run some of the main media outlets. Given this, perhaps my endorsement of Edwards’ candidacy can be construed as na├»ve, but if ever there were a time in America for optimism, the final year of the Bush Administration would certainly qualify. I felt that Edwards gave America the best chance at a recovery from the bottom up. It looks increasingly like this once again isn’t his year, and that’s truly a shame.

So I’m left – stuck with? - Obama and Clinton.

The debate a few nights ago in South Carolina bluntly reminded me why I never liked Bill Clinton and voted for Perot twice back in the ‘90’s. Hillary Clinton, like her ex-president spouse, has a tendency to speak for a long time without saying anything. Based on the amount of damage George W. Bush has done to this country over the last 7 years, this election more than any other requires forceful leadership. I’m not looking for a lot of big words and amorphous ideas. While Obama and Edwards gave what sounded a lot like a plan to end the Iraq War by the end of 2009 in the last debate, Clinton hemmed and hawed and gave us all a "maybe if" scenario. In the absence of a plan, I assume that the war continues under Hillary Clinton for a long, undetermined period after January 20, 2009 if she’s elected. For a debacle as enormous as the Iraq War, any person with a conscience shouldn’t have to think twice about ending this war as immediately as possible upon taking the White House. Hillary Clinton isn’t even in the proverbial parking lot of the stadium that houses this idea.

Add to this that the Clintons still have a lot of explaining to do regarding globalization and the adoption of NATFA under their watch, and I find myself rooting against Hillary Clinton, tears and all. Too often, when the economy is explained to Americans, the first phrase coming out of someone’s mouth is "We’re in a global economy now, and to remain competitive……". This is usually followed by a twisted rationalization for why more American jobs must be sent overseas. What it really is is a war chant for more corporate greed and continued concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

Like many Americans, I think there are better ways for the United States to stay engaged in the global economy without Americans losing their jobs and CEO’s getting 8-figure salaries and benefits packages. While the Clintons didn’t invent this behavior, they certainly enabled it when they last occupied the White House. One visit to any number of dying towns in America with an abandoned and shuttered factory tells you all you need to know about who’s losing under the current set of rules. I’m convinced that these rules won’t change under a Hillary Clinton presidency.

For Obama, my reservations about him come from the fact that he hasn’t been on the national stage very long. I also remind myself that he got on the national stage by beating Alan Keyes by 50 points in an election, which is about as difficult a task as boiling a pot of water. However, the election results thus far have forced me to listen to what he is saying. I’m not particularly happy with Obama’s idea of bringing Republicans and Democrats to the table together, as Republicans haven’t demonstrated that they can compromise on anything for the last 15 years. "Be reasonable, do it my way" is not how one reaches consensus. The best solution is to leave the Republicans out in the cold for a time based on the amount of unfettered damage they’ve done to this country. From what I’ve seen, roughly 70% of the electorate would agree with this approach. While still not as compelling a message to me as that of John Edwards, Obama goes far enough into my sphere of belief that I can be counted in his camp if Edwards drops out.

The Wisconsin primary is scheduled for long after the eventual nominee is probably decided. If Edwards is still on the ballot or has staged some kind of miracle comeback by then, he’ll get my vote. I will state that if this year’s Democratic Convention becomes brokered, I would hope that the Edwards delegates have the good sense to go with Obama, for the good of the party and for the good of the country going forward.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mental Jambalaya For The Political Season

In the last week, I’ve had several ideas for diaries, but being a part-time musician, I have so many sounds in my head at any given time that I can’t pick just one to contemplate. With that in mind, I’m just going to throw out these random thoughts for your perusal. Feel free to pick one or more to comment on, and know going in that these are mostly incomplete thoughts smashing together to make one big pot of……..something. I can’t even begin to think of what color this would look like if it took physical form and sat in a cauldron.

  • Campaign Financing – I recently arrived at the conclusion that politicians are going to continue to suckle at the money teat until such time as they become scared to take money from an individual or corporations. It’s obvious that corporate money and the vampiric leadership behind it doesn’t scare them, and currently, individual contributions are more than welcome. Public financing of campaigns can’t get a fair hearing in this environment. Thinking about it, I’ve decided that the only way to make politicians think twice about public financing is to out the personal and professional peccadilloes of individual donors. If you’re interested in campaign reform, go to the FEC website, pull up any candidate and their individual donors and start searching. If you know that one of the donors is having an extramarital affair or runs a floating high-stakes poker game or is a bed wetter, share that knowledge with the world. At the point where every individual check received is a potential scandal, public financing of campaigns should grow some legs. Oh, and don’t bother; I haven’t donated to a candidate in quite a few cycles, so you’ll never know about my underground porn vault….OOPS!

  • New Hampshire Results – The Granite State once again showed the country that if States were people, New Hampshire would be the 89-year-old man in the corner who’s full of piss and vinegar (and it used to be just vinegar; Abe Simpson said that). While he doesn’t know it yet, I think what we witnessed on Tuesday was the last hurrah of John McCain. Mike Huckabee is going to crush him in Republican strongholds in the Deep South, starting with South Carolina. As the obvious begins to show itself, ("Wait a minute….he’s 71 fucking years old!") the bloom will fall off McCain and his accompanying 100-year plan for the Middle East. I am disappointed by John Edwards’ third-place finish on the Democratic side, but I offer my congratulations to Sen. Clinton for her victory.

  • Demographics – Bill Richardson is dropping out of the race, if all reports are to be believed. While he had a poor showing for the Democratic presidential nod, I wish him luck in the future. Any way you slice it, this is going to be a year when the true face of America was displayed solely in the Democratic Party. An African-American, a woman and a Mexican- American vying for the same nomination is something for which we can all look to with pride. As a counterpoint, the Republicans brought forth a series of white males who proudly wore their prejudices and their contempt for the Constitution on their collective sleeves. As demographics in America shift over the next 100 years away from an Anglo-Saxon majority, the historians will look to 2008 as the year when Republicans began a slow and steady descent to the depths currently occupied by the Whig Party.

  • Ice Hockey – A slugger hits a home run on HGH, and it’s unbelievable. Two guys drop their gloves and beat each other senseless? DAMN! Now THAT’S reality! So far for the NHL, over 3000 tests for steroids and only one positive test in the bunch, but players have a habit of loading up on Sudafed before a game, for which there is no current testing. And you thought speed freaks with bad teeth were exclusive to Rural America? For shame!

  • Chris Matthews – Sexist douche bag. Need I say more after his despicable performance on MSNBC so far during the campaign season? It’s people like Matthews that make me ashamed of being from Philadelphia. However, I must admit that it’s been awhile since I had a good chicken cheese steak in Milwaukee.

    This is a but a small cross-section of ideas and thoughts currently squatting in my head. The balance of its contents are mostly song fragments, bristly resignation at having to be on a diet and assorted bits of taproom trivia. These will have to wait for another appropriate time and place. Have a good evening.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Choice 1 is Edwards; Choice 1A is Every Other Democrat

I tend to stay out of Three Stooges-style pie fights. For this reason, I have tried to stay away from getting into a discussion about which candidate I prefer from the Democratic field to be the presidential nominee.

The eve of the Iowa Caucuses has me feeling bold as a cold snap embraces me in Wisconsin, a state without a true say in the presidential race. For what it’s worth, I offer that as it was in the 2004 election, my primary choice to be the Democratic nominee is John Edwards.

Since he entered the national stage, Edwards’ mantra of "Two Americas" has resonated with me. Our country, through a series of governmental moves friendly to large American corporations, is coming apart at the seams. Edwards is the only candidate in my belief with a long and well-documented history of fighting for the poor and middle class. While I would have liked to have seen him fight to retain his former Senate seat in North Carolina rather than run for president in 2004, I was with him then in both his presidential and vice-presidential runs, and I have seen no reason to reverse my original decision.

I did take into consideration that fact that he voted for the authorization to use force in Iraq. I like the fact that he has come out and stated that he was flat wrong, rather than mincing words about how George W. Bush corrupted the UN Inspections process. I don’t hear politicians admitting when they make mistakes. While this was a fairly huge mistake, I like a person who sincerely admits his mistakes and learns from them. In my mind, Edwards has done that.

For me, it was also a process of elimination. Mike Gravel is an important man in the history of this country for his leadership in cutting off funding for the quagmire that was the Vietnam War, and his value system remains intact. I believe that anyone who wants to run for president should have a chance to be heard. Because of the orchestrated "debates" conducted by the various news outlets, Gravel barely got a word in. Perhaps because of that it’s pretty clear from poll numbers that he has no traction, so I wrote him off.

The same goes for Dennis Kucinich. From a policy standpoint, I agree more with Kucinich than any other candidate in the race. He didn’t have traction in 2004, and he still doesn’t today. It looks like he may disappear completely from the public eye in the next year, as he’s being primaried in his district in Ohio. So, Kucinich gets scratched off my list.

I was willing to listen to Bill Richardson up until the moment he stated that Byron White was his ideal Supreme Court justice. It’s a shame, because he has more foreign policy credentials than anyone else in the race. Next time, Bill Richardson should remember the name Harry Blackmun. Off you go, Bill!

Then there’s Joe Biden, a windbag with a great deal of useful and insightful knowledge, but a windbag nonetheless. I had my fill of Biden when I lived on the Delaware border on the Pennsylvania side. He should go back to the job of grooming his son to be his successor. Someday, he’ll be remembered as a visionary when I look at a map and see three countries where Iraq is now identified. He just won’t be remembered as a president.

Chris Dodd came close. He has done everything right in the latest congressional session. I agree with a number of his stands on important issues and, unlike his fellow Senators in the race, he’s showing real leadership on the floor of the Senate. Then he appeared on Don Imus’ new radio show on the first day that the old weather-beaten bigot was back on the air. This is an incredible lapse in personal and professional judgment. It has the smell of political calculation and has become a deal breaker for me. Dodd remains my second choice among the field behind Edwards, but I don’t think he has a chance.

Then there’s Barack Obama. I don’t have anything against Obama politically, and I do admire his purity with regard to his consistent opposition to the war in Iraq dating back to 2003. He has moments when the substance of his stump speech reaches inspiring heights.

I have three problems with Obama, two of which become one big problem. For one, Obama is very new. For people like me who have been stumbling in the dark for a long time in search of someone politically palatable, Obama’s born-on date has a lot of appeal. And yet how new is too new? As a junior Senator, I’ve yet to see him grab the saber and charge up the hill for something he believed in. This goes hand in hand with the fact that the only election Obama has won on a national stage was a 50-point drubbing of Alan Keyes to win his Senate seat. To be blunt, a trained musk ox wearing a Brooks Brothers suit could beat Alan Keyes by 50 points. The third reason is Obama’s recent embrace of right-wing talking points, such as pot shots at "trial lawyers" and the last two standard bearers of the party from 2000 & 2004. Throw in his rather alarmist view of Social Security, and I have to conclude that Obama, while new, simply isn’t ready for the new political realities that surround him.

Bringing up the rear is Hillary Clinton. I am rather unique in the world at large, as I am a two-time Perot voter. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton. I’ve always been a left-leaning independent, but there was something about Bill Clinton that I never truly embraced. Based on who the Republican nominees were in 1992 and 1996, history has mellowed me into saying that Bill Clinton was a hell of a lot better than the Republican alternatives offered. I do feel that he has a lot of explaining to do with regard to globalization in general and NAFTA in particular.

As much as Hillary Clinton wants to be regarded as her own person, neither Bill nor Hillary has adequately explained how her presidency would be radically different from what we saw with Clinton Version 1.0. If there was nothing compelling to me about the message the first time around, what is the difference with Version 2.0? I will concede that most of the low points of the Clinton Administration were the product of manufactured right-wing outrage. Economically, with the salient exception of some segments of Silicon Valley, the economy as a whole was in incredible shape compared to now. Yet I didn’t want Bill Clinton then, and I still would rather not have Hillary Clinton now. If I want a good package deal, I’ll go to my local Wendy’s and buy a number 6 combo.

My distrust of all things Clinton is rooted in the belief that these two represent Big Business more often than the people who truly need help in America. The Clintons have always talked a big game with the "It Takes A Village" sales pitch, while at the same time putting American villages out of work as a result of globalization. If you’re looking for someone to stand up to Corporate America, Hillary Clinton isn’t the go-to general for the planned assault. For these reasons, Hillary didn’t make my cut.

Having said all of the above, I can at the very least state that in the absence of a nude picture of the nominee with a farm animal, my vote for President in November will be for the eventual Democratic nominee. Any one of the people above is miles above the unvarnished insanity that passes for the Republican Party. Although I am now a registered Democrat (thank you George W. Bush), I still value my independent streak. I value it so as to not want to sully it with a vote for Michael Bloomberg or any other stiff exhumed by the hacks in Unity ’08. The Democratic Party with all of its flaws still offers the best hope for improvement in the American Condition.

The NHL Winter Classic: Postmortem

Like hundreds of other Americans, I watched the outdoor NHL game yesterday between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres. You would think that having done this once in Canada a few years ago, the NHL would have been better prepared for the game. Instead we got 6 10-minutes periods, constant maintenance to the ice surface and a game that lasted over 3 ½ hours.

If there is a next time, how about four 15-minute periods to counteract wind direction, allowing more lead time before the game for actual ice to form and two zambonis that will work for the duration of the game?

Mmmmm......Bettman. Smells just like fiasco.