Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Voucher Program Shows No Success

In the largest comprehensive study so far of the public funding of private, mostly religious, schools in Milwaukee researchers have shown no progress discernable whatsoever. Analyzing scores from the state standardized test, voucher schools did about the same as Milwaukee Public Schools (some grades were a little higher and other grades a little lower).

Monday, February 25, 2008

How far would they go?

GOP polls to see just how racist and sexist they can be without creating a backlash! You can't make this stuff up.

Oh, wait the above picture is most likely from the Hillary camp.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Kristol and Fear

Bill Kristol is a pundit with power. He is the voice of a very scary group of war mongers that has the ear of a significant segment of the rulers. Here's his advice to Hillary about BO, "use the politics of fear." This is a guy who helped Bush lie to the anyone who would listen about Iraq and is now on the warpath against Iran. It's a fairly telling bit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

McCain: A Maverick?

"A comparison might be useful. Over her time in the Senate, Hillary Clinton has voted with Republicans on any number of occasions. On several key issues, she is more centrist than most of her party—she supports the death penalty, she was a longtime advocate of NAFTA, and she is more hawkish on foreign affairs than most Democrats. Furthermore, if reporters wanted to, they could find plenty of officials from Washington-based progressive groups who would offer critical quotes of her position on a given issue as insufficiently loyal to progressive principles. Yet if a reporter referred to Hillary Clinton as a "maverick," his colleagues would laugh him out of town."

Paul Waldman on the maverick myth.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Problem with a Mixed Economy

Venezuela struggles with food shortages. Why? Producers either won't produce or don't sell. They blame the bureacracy and price controls.

Si Se Puede!

A week or so ago a video started making the rounds that put BO's words to music. I was called "Yes We Can." A parody is now available. Very amusing!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Wither the Surge?

An offensive in the offing against the Sunni Awakening?

If so McCain is in trouble.

Some Fun with Cockburn

"Looking ahead to a Ms. Clinton administration, should it come to pass, we'd guess that the political price tag of an expanded health insurance program will be the privatization of social security, which was proceeding rapidly forward under Bill Clinton until the day that Monica Lewinsky snapped her thong."


"Looking ahead to the fall, John McCain will have the hard task of selling his 100-year American presence in Iraq to a electorate that by a majority of about 70 per cent wants the troops home. If Moqtada al Sadr and the Shia decide to fight it out in a summer and fall campaign against the Sunni New Awakening, and the Surge's supposed success dissolves in a sea of blood he may fare even worse than Bob Dole against Clinton 1996."


"Hillary won eight states ­ Arkansas, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Obama won thirteen ­ Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and Utah where polygamists presumably rallied for Obama in honor of his father."

The entire article.

Obama Fishes for Votes

Justin Elliott
Mother Jones
February 1, 2008

Last week, when Barack Obama became the first major candidate to break the silence on the situation in Gaza, he didn`t criticize Israel, whose blockade of a civilian population has been roundly condemned by human rights organizations, nor did he call for restraint from the United States` top ally in the Mideast. Instead, he fired off a letter to U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad with a resounding message-one that could have been mistaken for words straight from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee`s (AIPAC) website. `The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel.... If it cannot...I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all,` Obama wrote, adding he understood why Israel was `forced` to shut down Gaza`s border crossings.

The letter was notable not only because Obama had distinguished himself from the rest of the field (John McCain later sent a similar letter to Condoleezza Rice), but also because it was a far cry from the Obama of last March, who let slip a rare expression of compassion for Palestinians by an American politician: `Nobody`s suffering more than the Palestinian people` he famously said at a small gathering in Iowa. What ensued in the 10 months between then and now is an object lesson in the intense pressure under which presidential candidates stake out ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the extraordinary effectiveness of the self-styled `pro-Israel` movement. This high-pressured atmosphere goes a long way to explaining why the candidate with the most liberal foreign policy views went out of his way to take a hard line on Gaza.

Obama`s shuffle with the pro-Israel lobby follows in a long tradition of Democratic candidates facing a litmus test on the issue. Hillary Clinton, for her part, has enjoyed wide support among pro-Israel advocates, having made her peace with them back in 1999 after a controversy involving the lobby hurt her Senate campaign. And as Super Tuesday approaches-the day when many Jewish Democrats vote, in states like New York and California (where respectively 17 and 6 percent of primary voters identified themselves as Jewish in 2004)-Obama has aggressively moved to shore up his pro-Israel credentials, dispatching Jewish supporters to drum up support and hosting a lengthy conference call with Jewish reporters Monday. In part, the call was to counter chain e-mails, which have intensified in recent weeks, painting Obama as a `secret Muslim,` but he also used a chunk of the time to make it known that he was a friend of Israel: `I want to make sure that we continue to strengthen the enduring ties between our people and pledge to give real meaning to the words `never again,`` he said.

From the beginning, Obama has received more scrutiny on the issue of Israel than any other presidential candidate-something of a paradox given that he shares a uniformly pro-Israel record and policy platform with the major contenders from both parties. The suspicion of pro-Israel advocates for Obama was most recently captured in a January 23 Jerusalem Post op-ed in which Danny Ayalon, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., called the senator`s candidacy cause for `some degree of concern.` A memo by a top official at the American Jewish Committee, recently leaked to the Jewish Daily Forward, neatly outlined the roots of this concern: In the late 1990s Obama reportedly called for an even-handed approach to the conflict; his pastor had praised Louis Farrakhan; he has called for diplomacy with Iran; and, of course, he was once photographed breaking bread with the late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said.

There are plenty of other theories for why Obama has been so closely scrutinized on the issue Israel. `One, he is black, and in general it would be expected that black people are more sympathetic to the Palestinian people,` Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine, a group that advocates for the creation of a Palestinian state, told me in trying to explain the scrutiny on Obama. M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, a dovish advocacy group, echoes Asali: `The more right-wing segments of the Jewish community are the least likely to be comfortable with an African-American president.` Two, Asali said, Obama is young and perhaps open to new interpretations of the conflict, and, `thirdly, his middle name is Hussein, so he`s more suspect than a John Smith.`

And no media outlet has done more to pressure Obama on the issue than the New York Sun, the de facto house organ of the pro-Israel lobby. Since its creation in 2002, the newspaper has been practicing a unique brand of gotcha journalism concerning Israel and Palestine. And Obama has consistently responded, no matter how trivial the issue. In March, after George Soros wrote an article calling for negotiations with Hamas, a Sun reporter took it upon himself to seek comments from several Democrats, including Obama. A spokeswoman issued a dissent from Soros and reiterated that the senator shared AIPAC`s position on the issue. A few months later, in response to a Sun query, the campaign distanced Obama from some members of his national church who had passed resolutions critical of Israel. Then, last September a Sun reporter noticed a small barackobama.com ad on the Amazon page of The Israel Lobby, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer`s book that critiques the lobby`s role in U.S. policymaking. Within hours of being contacted by the Sun, the campaign issued a statement slamming the book and had the ad-although it had been completely unintentional-pulled from Amazon`s site.

`[Pro-Israel advocates] have him in a position where he has to keep demonstrating his pro-Israel bona fides,` says Rosenberg. `This is done every four years, pretty much in every election. Whoever is deemed to be the most liberal candidate is put on the defensive on Israel.`

No one knows this better than the candidate deemed most liberal in 2004-Howard Dean. Like Obama, Dean was relatively new on the national scene and possessed liberal-leaning foreign policy views-parallels that help explain why in 2003 Dean faced an Israel problem all too similar to Obama`s today. But Dean went further on Israel, at least rhetorically, than any of the candidates have this cycle, saying the U.S. should be `even-handed,` that `it`s not our place to take sides,` and that `enormous` numbers of Israeli settlements would have to be dismantled. That talk prompted a barrage of negative press coverage and earned him a pair of scolding letters, one from Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and another from 34 congressional Democrats. And, yet, strangely, Dean`s actual position on Israel was expressly in line with President Bush and his Democratic rivals. His campaign was co-chaired by former AIPAC president Steve Grossman. Nevertheless, as Grossman later acknowledged, Dean lost support over those comments. Sound familiar?

Obama experienced a mini-version of the Dean treatment after his statement about Palestinian suffering in March. When David Adelman, a prominent Iowa Democrat and AIPAC member, shot off a letter to Obama calling the comment `deeply troubling,` a spokesman scrambled to run damage control, telling the AP that Obama believes `in the end, the Palestinian people are suffering from the Hamas-led government`s refusal to renounce terrorism.` Aides met personally with Adelman, who told the Des Moines Register he was `satisfied with their response.`

The campaign let the quote stand for six weeks. Then, in the first debate, before a televised audience of around two million, Brian Williams asked the senator if he stood by his comment. Obama bailed. `Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said.... [N]obody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel...` For the candidate who is selling hope, it was a fairly cynical move.

John Edwards, who has always hewed to the AIPAC consensus on Israel, received little sustained scrutiny on the issue. Hillary Clinton, for her part, settled her debts with the Israel lobby years ago. On a Mideast trip in 1999, the First Lady hugged and kissed her Palestinian counterpart, Suha Arafat, at an event where Arafat had accused Israel of using poison gas on civilians. The incident was pumped into a media firestorm and memorialized in a commercial taken out by the Republican Jewish Coalition. Hillary went on to win her Senate seat in 2000 with an unusually slim majority of New York`s Jewish vote. `The whole purpose of manufacturing that controversy when there was none was to put Hillary in a place where she would have to be hawkish on Israel,` Rosenberg says.` And Hillary has gone for it completely. She`s been compensating for it ever since.` Clinton now effectively outflanks Obama on the right with her call in September for `an undivided Jerusalem as [Israel`s] capital.`

It`s unsurprising, then, that Hillary is clearly the favored Democrat of the pro-Israel establishment. Since 2004 when Obama first ran for Senate, he has received $93,700 of pro-Israel PAC money, while Hillary has gotten $349,073 during the same period. In the 2008 cycle, while the numbers are still quite low, Hillary has attracted five times more pro-Israel money than Obama.

All the same, the Obama campaign`s loud protestations of support for Israel have been enough to placate the New York Sun`s editors, who penned an editorial in early January noting `he has chosen to put himself on the record in terms that Israel`s friends in America...can warmly welcome.` That piece, Politico reported, was `promptly and widely` circulated by Obama`s people.

Even if Obama has allowed himself to be painted into a corner on Israel, some hold out hope that his natural inclinations on the conflict are more moderate than his pronouncements. `Based on my conversations with Obama, I have a very strong belief that he shares the Tikkun perspective, which is pro-Israel and pro-Palestine both,` says Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of the progressive Jewish journal Tikkun. `I`m cautious in saying I`m 100 percent sure because there was a time when Hillary Clinton said, `Michael I`m totally with you and Tikkun on Israel/Palestine.` That was when I was supposedly her guru in 1993. Now, she went a very far distance from that later on.`

Lerner`s likely right to approach the issue with a degree of skepticism. This Thursday Marty Peretz, the pro-Israel New Republic editor, devoted an article to vouching for Obama, declaring he could be trusted by `friends of Israel.` And if the conduct of his campaign has shown anything, it`s that what Obama might believe `in his heart` and how a President Obama would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are two very different matters. `Will he have the courage to stand up to the Israel lobby and push Israel toward peace?` Lerner asks. `I sincerely doubt it. I see no reason to believe that he will take on that struggle.`

Justin Elliott is an editorial fellow at Mother Jones.The article in Mother Jones.

Hillary has been the same on the Palestinian question by the way.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama Wins

In particular he won the REALLY white vote. The question is why did he win Minnesota, Idaho, North Dakota and Utah?

They've seen "Yes We Can" video and a name like Johansson carries a lot of weight out there.

Sheer boredom.

They sense they might actually be better dancers than Obama.

They don't know Obama's black.


This from
236 news.

In all seriousness Obama really did win Super Tuesday. He won more states and delegates!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


For left/progressives the line much of the time is, "if we just had the access to the media and money to get the anti-corporate message out there...."

With Edwards we had this.

Here's an analysis that I share:

Weekly Commentary -- Lessons from Edwards' Failure

Despite John Edwards’ talk of going all the way to the convention to take the country back from our corporate overlords, in the end it turned out Eli Manning had more fight in him than Edwards.

Though I personally find this unsurprising, given my perception that Edwards was a poseur and an empty suit, he certainly excited many progressives; it’s worth the effort to try to see what lessons we can learn from his failure.

For a long time, it’s been a majority view on the left that if only someone who had the right opportunities – i.e., had lots of money and mainstream respectability and didn’t believe in UFOs -- would stand up in an election season and promote a strong, anti-corporate economic populist message, the entire game would be changed. Part of the underlying belief was that the masses who don’t vote – usually 45+% of the voting-age population – allow servants of the plutocracy like George Bush to get elected because they are closet socialists and don’t want to sully themselves by voting for a mildly redistributionist pro-capitalist politician. And even for those who end up voting, the reasoning would go, very often it’s like playing eeny-meeny-miny-moe because they don’t get anyone who really represents their interests.

Well, John Edwards raised $44 million in 2007, he’s a former vice presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, and he has excellent hair. Nobody mocked him as a leprechaun or a vegan. And his words – all twelve of them, repeated over and over – were anti-corporate enough that Ralph Nader himself, famous for his claims that there’s no difference between the two main parties, called Edwards a Democratic “glimmer of hope” and said that this was, “the only time I've heard a Democrat talk that way in a long time.”

Well, it’s true that, as his wife pointed out, he had the handicap of being from that ultimate historically disadvantaged group, white males. As politically asinine and overall whiny as her comment was, it wasn’t exactly wrong – Edwards couldn’t really make himself interesting to most, especially when compared with Obama. And it’s true that the mainstream media gave him less attention than the other two – and later panned him for his “divisive” rhetoric.

Even so, he had absolutely the best chance in a long time of catching on with a populist message and it just didn’t fly. In fact, the message did considerably worse than it appears from his vote totals. If you look at exit polls from the primaries, you’ll find that in Iowa and South Carolina those who identified themselves as conservative voted for Edwards at twice the rate as those who identified as liberal, while in general Obama and Clinton spread pretty evenly across the categories. In South Carolina, it was clearest, when white men (the most conservative demographic group overall) voted largely for Edwards.

It’s possible that most of them really weren’t paying any attention to what he said. It’s possible that some of them picked up on his obvious homophobia (which differentiates him from Clinton and Obama). Or, perhaps, just the comforting fact that he was a white man with a Southern accent blinded the conservative voters to all else.

This is not a nicely controlled experiment. Edwards raised money from his hedge-fund cronies to run a populist campaign, he repudiated every single legislative stance he had ever taken, and he generally had difficulty projecting credibility with his new tack. On the other hand, Nader, who had all the credibility in the world in 2000, tried to run outside the two-party system, forgoing the massive institutional support that the system gives by design to the two parties.

Still, put it all together and the results suggest very clearly to me that we should give up on the fetishization of “If we could just get the information/message out” and realize that, even on what ought to be the slam-dunk issue of representing 80% of the people’s economic interests against those of the other 20%, the ground must be prepared.

The right wing has done this so well that even an insane message like “Cutting tax rates always increases tax revenues” seems automatically true to a significant chunk of the population, of media opinion-makers, and of politicians – and even with the rest, it doesn’t qualify you as a wingnut. We have yet to do this with even a much more intuitive message like “When corporations control your health care and are paid with fixed premiums, their profits will be higher the less care they actually allow.”

Until we can do that, we can forget about changing the game of electoral politics in this country.

From Rahul Mahajan's Empire Notes.