Thursday, January 31, 2008

My Dear John letter


by Don Wheeler

Yesterday I (along with thousands of others) received a Thank You e-mail note from John Edwards. It was a nice thing to do and it was clear he had an additional purpose in mind, judging from this passage:


“And, along the way, all of you who have been involved in this campaign and
this movement for change and this cause, I am asking you to continue speaking
out for those who have no voice, just as Elizabeth and I will continue to do. We
need you.

Do not turn away from the great struggles before us. Do not give up on the
causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible, because
it's time for all of us -- all of us together -- to make the two Americas one.
We need you.”


It was more than just symbolism too, when once he had made his statement, he turned and went to work on a Habitat For Humanity Home in the 9th Ward of New Orleans. That’s our guy.


Well, I want to thank John Edwards – personally and publicly for what he has done for me.

Dear John,

It has been my honor and privilege to work in The Campaign To Change America for more than a year. I have gained so much through the experience and it is entirely possible I might never have had these benefits had you not sought the Presidency and talked about what you talked about.

Thank you for inspiring me. No one has done that in my adult life before you.

Thank you for insisting presidential aspirants have specific proposals for the citizens to evaluate.

Thank you for standing up for the Katrina victims in New Orleans. My niece has given many months of service there in rebuilding. Your notice, your words honor her efforts and those of so many more people trying to right a wrong of our government.

Thank you for drawing attention to global poverty – a cause my mother gave many years of service to addressing. Again, you have honored her and all those who do that important work.

Thank you for reminding those of us who are able to stand up for, and speak on behalf of all those people without the ability or the access to do it for themselves. Though I don’t remember you presenting it this way, I’m sure you know that it is every bit as important for us to do these things, as it is for them.

In short, thank you for reminding me of what is truly important, and blazing the path of possibilities.

I will never forget you, John Edwards, and hope to stand with you again soon.
Sincerely and with deep appreciation,
Don Wheeler
South Bend, IN

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

So goes populism

by Don Wheeler

I am feeling sorry for myself, my daughter and my country today.


John Edwards leaving the race is a wicked blow. I have spent over a year in the Campaign To Change America and what makes it really hard is that I didn't just throw in my time and and my money - I threw in my soul.

Since Dr. King was murdered in 1968, the silence has been deafening regarding poverty issues and the struggle of the working poor to achieve middle class status. Until John Edwards brought up the subject again, I'd sort of lost track of the fact that we hadn't been talking about it - at least as a nation. So there's that.

This is particularly bad news for Indiana progressives, because it will certainly ensure the Republican nominee Indiana's electoral votes. I know that Edwards would have had a tough time winning our state in the general election, but he had some appeal to rural voters the other two don't. Lets be honest, there are certain constituencies in our state which are not particularly cosmopolitan. So there's that.

It has been infuriating today to hear all the laudatory comments about John Edwards (suddenly) that any objective analysis would have recognized long ago. It's as though the popular media suddenly read his position papers, listened to his speeches, witnessed his works, etc. Had they used that approach earlier, this election might have lost the "Survivor" theme which has characterized so much of the coverage. But "Survivor" is wildly popular and profitable, isn't it.

Maybe we should sell naming rights for our Presidency. The Haliburton/Blackwater Bush Administration just rolls off the tongue. Just think, we could fund wars outside the budget process!

Oh, I guess we kinda do that now.

To be fair, Senator Obama made some very gracious remarks in front of supporters. I thank him for that. Senator Clinton, not so much.

John urged us to not turn away from the fight, not to give up. I'm sure I'll heed his request soon.

Today, it's a little tough.

Address to supporters in New Orleans

by John Edwards

Thank you all very much. We're very proud to be back here.

During the spring of 2006, I had the extraordinary experience of bringing 700 college kids here to New Orleans to work. These are kids who gave up their spring break to come to New Orleans to work, to rehabilitate houses, because of their commitment as Americans, because they believed in what was possible, and because they cared about their country.

I began my presidential campaign here to remind the country that we, as citizens and as a government, have a moral responsibility to each other, and what we do together matters. We must do better, if we want to live up to the great promise of this country that we all love so much.

It is appropriate that I come here today. It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path. We do not know who will take the final steps to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but what we do know is that our Democratic Party will make history. We will be strong, we will be unified, and with our convictions and a little backbone we will take back the White House in November and we'll create hope and opportunity for this country.

This journey of ours began right here in New Orleans. It was a December morning in the Lower Ninth Ward when people went to work, not just me, but lots of others went to work with shovels and hammers to help restore a house that had been destroyed by the storm.

We joined together in a city that had been abandoned by our government and had been forgotten, but not by us. We knew that they still mourned the dead, that they were still stunned by the destruction, and that they wondered when all those cement steps in all those vacant lots would once again lead to a door, to a home, and to a dream.
We came here to the Lower Ninth Ward to rebuild. And we're going to rebuild today and work today, and we will continue to come back. We will never forget the heartache and we'll always be here to bring them hope, so that someday, one day, the trumpets will sound in Musicians' Village, where we are today, play loud across Lake Ponchartrain, so that working people can come marching in and those steps once again can lead to a family living out the dream in America.

We sat with poultry workers in Mississippi, janitors in Florida, nurses in California.

We listened as child after child told us about their worry about whether we would preserve the planet.

We listened to worker after worker say “the economy is tearing my family apart."

We walked the streets of Cleveland, where house after house was in foreclosure.

And we said, "We're better than this. And economic justice in America is our cause."

And we spent a day, a summer day, in Wise, Virginia, with a man named James Lowe, who told us the story of having been born with a cleft palate. He had no health care coverage. His family couldn't afford to fix it. And finally some good Samaritan came along and paid for his cleft palate to be fixed, which allowed him to speak for the first time. But they did it when he was 50 years old. His amazing story, though, gave this campaign voice: universal health care for every man, woman and child in America. That is our cause.

And we do this -- we do this for each other in America. We don't turn away from a neighbor in their time of need. Because every one of us knows that what -- but for the grace of God, there goes us. The American people have never stopped doing this, even when their government walked away, and walked away it has from hardworking people, and, yes, from the poor, those who live in poverty in this country.

For decades, we stopped focusing on those struggles. They didn't register in political polls, they didn't get us votes and so we stopped talking about it. I don't know how it started. I don't know when our party began to turn away from the cause of working people, from the fathers who were working three jobs literally just to pay the rent, mothers sending their kids to bed wrapped up in their clothes and in coats because they couldn't afford to pay for heat.

We know that our brothers and sisters have been bullied into believing that they can't organize and can't put a union in the workplace. Well, in this campaign, we didn't turn our heads. We looked them square in the eye and we said, "We see you, we hear you, and we are with you. And we will never forget you." And I have a feeling that if the leaders of our great Democratic Party continue to hear the voices of working people, a proud progressive will occupy the White House.

Now, I've spoken to both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. They have both pledged to me and more importantly through me to America, that they will make ending poverty central to their campaign for the presidency.

And more importantly, they have pledged to me that as President of the United States they will make ending poverty and economic inequality central to their Presidency. This is the cause of my life and I now have their commitment to engage in this cause.

And I want to say to everyone here, on the way here today, we passed under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night. And we stopped, we got out, we went in and spoke to them.
There was a minister there who comes every morning and feeds the homeless out of her own pocket. She said she has no money left in her bank account, she struggles to be able to do it, but she knows it’s the moral, just and right thing to do. And I spoke to some of the people who were there and as I was leaving, one woman said to me, “You won’t forget us, will you? Promise me you won’t forget us.” Well, I say to her and I say to all of those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you.

But I want to say this -- I want to say this because it’s important. With all of the injustice that we’ve seen, I can say this, America’s hour of transformation is upon us. It may be hard to believe when we have bullets flying in Baghdad and it may be hard to believe when it costs $58 to fill your car up with gas. It may be hard to believe when your school doesn’t have the right books for your kids. It’s hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard.

But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you, once again. And we will lift you up with our dream of what’s possible.

One America, one America that works for everybody.

One America where struggling towns and factories come back to life because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil.

One America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college. They will be honored for that work.

One America where no child will go to bed hungry because we will finally end the moral shame of 37 million people living in poverty.

One America where every single man, woman and child in this country has health care.

One America with one public school system that works for all of our children.

One America that finally brings this war in Iraq to an end. And brings our service members home with the hero’s welcome that they have earned and that they deserve.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.

But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a millworker’s gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine.

And I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard – all those who have volunteered, my dedicated campaign staff who have worked absolutely tirelessly in this campaign.

And I want to say a personal word to those I’ve seen literally in the last few days – those I saw in Oklahoma yesterday, in Missouri, last night in Minnesota – who came to me and said don’t forget us. Speak for us. We need your voice. I want you to know that you almost changed my mind, because I hear your voice, I feel you, and your cause it our cause. Your country needs you – every single one of you.

All of you who have been involved in this campaign and this movement for change and this cause, we need you. It is in our hour of need that your country needs you. Don’t turn away, because we have not just a city of New Orleans to rebuild. We have an American house to rebuild.

This work goes on. It goes on right here in Musicians’ Village. There are homes to build here, and in neighborhoods all along the Gulf. The work goes on for the students in crumbling schools just yearning for a chance to get ahead. It goes on for day care workers, for steel workers risking their lives in cities all across this country. And the work goes on for two hundred thousand men and women who wore the uniform of the United States of America, proud veterans, who go to sleep every night under bridges, or in shelters, or on grates, just as the people we saw on the way here today.

Their cause is our cause.

Their struggle is our struggle. Their dreams are our dreams.

Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what’s possible, because it’s time for all of us, all of us together, to make the two Americas one.

Thank you. God bless you, and let's go to work.

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ted Kennedy writes Karita Hummer, and she writes back

by Karita Hummer

http://passionateprogressivepatriot.blogspot.com

Dear Karita,

Barack Obama inspires me.

That's why I'm about to take the stage with him here in Washington and endorse his campaign to become the next president of the United States.

It's that simple. Through Barack, I believe we will move beyond the politics of fear and personal destruction and unite our country with the politics of common purpose.

All Democrats in this race have strong ideas to address the challenges before our country. But Barack is the candidate who can inspire Americans to act and bring us together to achieve those goals -- an economy that works for everyone, health care for all, and at long last ending the war in Iraq and bringing our troops home.

Join me and become part of the Obama campaign today:

http://www.democraticmajority.com/obama

I remember another leader who inspired the nation, especially our youth, to fulfill a promise of change. Those inspired young people marched, sat in at lunch counters, protested the war in Vietnam and served honorably in that war even when they opposed it.

That leader challenged them to ask what they could do for their country and, together, they changed the world.

So in the words of that leader, John Kennedy: "The world is changing. The old ways will not do... It is time for a new generation of leadership."

I have found that next generation of American leadership in Barack Obama.

Take a moment to join his campaign:

http://www.democraticmajority.com/obama

I respect the strength, the work and dedication of two other Democrats still in the race, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. They are my friends; they have been my colleagues in the Senate. Whoever is our nominee will have my enthusiastic support.

But I believe there is one candidate whose extraordinary gifts of leadership and character match the extraordinary demands of this moment in history.

Barack will be a president who refuses to be trapped in the patterns of the past. He sees the world clearly without being cynical. He fights for the causes he believes in -- but refuses to demonize those who hold a different view. He's tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to "the better angels of our nature."

In Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity, but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be.

I love this country. I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I've seen it. I've lived it -- and with Barack Obama, we can do it again.

Sincerely,

Senator Edward M. Kennedy


My letter to Senator Kennedy, in response to his letter to me regarding his endorsement.

******** ******** ******** ******** ******** *****

Dear Senator Kennedy,

If you see all those good qualities in Barack Obama, good, but I can tell you I do not think he has lived up to those ideals on the campaign trail in Iowa against John Edwards. There was one man who showed the gift of character and leadership in Iowa, and throughout; and that was John Edwards. He showed the greatest degree of ethics, whereas Obama was very unfair in characterizing John Edwards' record as newly populist, and showed questionable ethics in bussing all those students in from Illinois and Indiana. Don't think he was so ethical toward Ms. Palmer in Chicago some time ago either. No, there has been one person who has not compromised his principles and ethics and that has been John Edwards.

It is not unethical to fight for what you believe in; no, that is an obligation. When the debacle of the election in 2004 occurred, with all its irregularities, anomalies and disenfranchisements, on the night of that fateful "election", one man opposed capitulating so soon, and was ready to fight the irregularities, that was John Edwards.

That is not the politics of destruction; it is backbone. And you should know the difference. Obama, on the other hand, went in to the Senate and made very little more than a whimper about all the election fraud that your nephew, RFK, Jr. has since so clearly identified in his report and that so clearly disenfranchised so much of the African-American vote in that election.

(I do wonder if Obama, as he entered the Senate, had not already set his sights on 2008, and the election of 2004 was far behind as far as he was concerned.)

Senator Kennedy, Obama may remind you of John Kennedy. But John Edwards, because of his commitment to economic justice, reminds me of Bobby Kennedy, who I supported (and whom I helped draft to become a candidate.) By the way, I supported your own candidacy when you ran for President.

This year I support John Edwards because of his conviction and determination to give our country back to the people. He has diagnosed the problem correctly and has the right idea for what kind of remedy is required to bring about economic justice in this country.


For me, economic justice and greater opportunity for all are the most compelling reasons to support a candidate, and this year the candidate with the greatest promise for achieving such ends is John Edwards.

Karita Hummer

Swiftboat John Edwards? (or) Would you rather know the truth?

The following is courtesy of Democratic Underground.com. They cite many sources for the material used. This is pretty lengthy, but it is the first thorough analysis of John Edwards' Senate record that I have seen.

A few exerpts from "Edwards' proven track record", then the link:

The swiftboating of Edwards' record continues from the Obama camp his
record deserves another thread. We Edwardians should never forget it was Obama
and his lemmings who swiftboated Edwards. It wasn't Hillary. Tip of my hat to
PurityOfEssence for his great job researching Edwards' record....

He only sponsored two bills, but he co-sponsored a whopping 203 in his six-year term. This is a partial list of them (yes, I omitted the Patriot Act and IWR; much has already been said about them) and bears a quick skimming. They’re in chronological order, so details can be found fairly easily. The two bills he sponsored were for research into the “fragile x” chromosome associated with mental retardation, and the “Spyware Control and Privacy Act”, an important early bulwark against attempts to compromise our computer privacy. This last one is a true civil-rights issue, taking on corporations and attempting to secure the rights of individuals, and it’s visionary stuff.

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d106:SN03180:@@ ...

Russ Feingold said he was a “terrific asset” in getting campaign finance reform through. He was the person who deposed Lewinsky and Jordan in the impeachment trial; quite an important task to entrust to a newcomer in literally his first year in office.

His opposition to Ashcroft in the confirmation hearings was vigorous and mesmerizing, even if it didn’t work. This is also the guy who tirelessly fought to keep the sunset provisions from being stripped out of the Patriot Act. His votes on labor and trade are solidly leftist, although he did vote for the China Trade Bill. Then again, since this was something Bill Clinton was solidly for, he was voting with his party. (Funny how Hillary supporters take him to task for this vote…) He also (along with Dodd and Biden) voted against the free trade bills with Singapore and Chile, unlike Senator Clinton, who voted for them.

Here’s a guy who constantly brought up the issue of “predatory lending” even though he hailed from a state with a huge banking and financial services industry. If you listen to or read his stump speeches from late ’02 and early ’03, you’ll wonder what the hell his detractors are talking about when they say that his populism is a new tack; his platform was economic and worker-oriented from the beginning, telling of how the Bush Administration was systematically shifting the burden of taxation from wealth to wages.

So here’s that partial list of the bills he co-sponsored. This is not a list of his votes, just those bills he actively got behind and worked to get passed. This is hardly the stuff of a closet conservative or an opportunist, as he’s been tarred, nor is it the record of someone who was just phoning it in. I would request, in interest of fairness, that the deriders among you at least skim through this VERY long list; it’s all pure fact.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=132x4240333


Monday, January 28, 2008

On The Endgame, Or, Whither Goes Edwards?

by fake consultant

As of this writing, four states have made their Democratic Presidential candidate preferences known; and for most voters the choices seem to be coming down to Obama or Clinton.

Which has not been so good for the John Edwards campaign.

While it is theoretically possible that he might yet surprise us all and garner the nomination, for the purposes of today’s discussion I’m going to assume that he won’t.

If that’s true, and the nomination is out, what might Edwards have in mind going forward?

I can’t say for certain...but that won’t keep me from guessing...which is what this discussion is all about.

The first place to start seems to be to identify what possibilities are open to Edwards, walk through each of those scenarios in turn, and see if we can’t gain some knowledge through the process.

So other than winning the whole thing, what might his options be?
I see five possibilities:

He could seek a deal to advance his personal or political interests, or to advance a particular cause.

He could remain in the contest, not with the intent of winning, but with the intent of denying victory to another.

He could seek another office. For example, he might run against Elizabeth Dole for Senator from North Carolina.

He could seek an Al Gore-like status in the political community by seeking to create a movement that outlasts this electoral cycle...essentially making him a “transelectional” political figure. (Another variant on this theme would leave Edwards as a sort of “public lobbyist” leading a “Two Americas” PAC.)

He could withdraw from the election into private sector employment, or some version of retirement.

Now let’s examine each of these scenarios in detail:

--First, the potential for dealmaking. When considering the possibilities here we have to ask two questions: who, from the Edwards point of view, has the most to offer in a potential deal; and which of the other candidates has the most to gain from an alliance with Edwards?

While the most likely choice for Edwards from a philosophical perspective would be Obama, I would suggest that ship has probably sailed (although there are rumors that suggest otherwise). South Carolina’s results suggest Obama has little to gain from Edwards except support among white males—but Obama was more successful at attracting white males than the Clintons.

If a backlash develops against the Clinton campaign tactics on February 5th, the advantage would likely continue to be Obama’s among most groups except possibly Hillary’s older white female base, with the biggest question being whether Obama can sustain his levels of younger voter turnout.

If Edwards remains in the campaign, and he were to retain the white male voter advantage as he did in South Carolina, this would suggest Obama can win without a deal with Edwards—assuming the manner of delegate distribution is somewhat similar to the vote counts. In this scenario I assume Superdelegates are primarily committed between Obama and Clinton, leaving Edwards little influence in how they are distributed.

If all of the above is true, that leads me to believe that the candidate with the most to gain from an alliance with Edwards might actually be Hillary. Consider that such a match would align older white females with white males. There is also the potential for the Clintons to access Hispanic and Asian votes (California and New York...) that are not currently aligned with Obama, potentially creating a 50% + 1 victory. The Clinton campaign could certainly combine their current message with the Edwards message in synergistic ways.

What might Edwards gain from such a deal? The most likely result would be a commitment to advance the “Two Americas” brand and program in a Clinton Administration. He could presumably negotiate a Cabinet position...especially in these days before February 5th as the Clintons do whatever they must to try to “lock out” Obama from the nomination.

Would he be willing to make such a deal? I have no idea...but I’ll bet the Clintons would.

--Would Edwards remain in the race to deny victory to another? I am not in a position to give a certain answer, but we can offer a flight of imagination to examine: if Edwards tried to make a deal with Obama, but such a deal could not be concluded, or if Edwards was unwilling to make a deal with any candidate...then the South Carolina results suggest Edwards could continue to siphon off enough voters (and delegates) to keep Hillary off the podium at the Convention.

Could Edwards, just by hanging around, deny Obama the nomination? Statistical probability suggests Obama cannot count on the support of younger voters to the extent he has up to this point. There will be smaller percentages of Black voters in future primaries than there were in South Carolina. With this in mind, such a possibility is certainly not beyond contemplation.

In order for all this to be successful, Edwards would need to retain his current level of support or improve upon it in the immediate future.

As I say, I can’t offer an opinion as to the probability of this set of explanations, but the potential for such actions is there.

--Might Edwards decide at this point to run for another office? Dennis Kucinich has left the race for the Presidency to concentrate on gaining re-election to Congress, and it is possible that Edwards might choose such a path for himself as well.

His very own North Carolina would be the perfect place for such a move—Senator Elizabeth Dole is a weak re-election candidate in this cycle with no “star” Democrat having yet emerged in opposition. If Edwards were to withdraw and place the bulk of his current resources into a Senatorial race he would be far better financed than Dole, with equal or better name recognition and a better record for this cycle...not to mention that Dole has no real weapon to use against Elizabeth Edwards, should the two of them choose to run against Dole.

--Does Edwards find his future as a transelectional figure? There is evidence to support the proposition that he could. Here’s what we know: First, there is today an organization called One Corps that is operated in parallel with the Edwards campaign; and it is dedicated to providing a place for volunteer activists to gather in an effort to alleviate some of the disparities addressed by the “Two Americas” discussion.

It is not difficult to imagine Edwards travelling around the nation addressing One Corps events and giving a “Two Americas” presentation that over time has an effect similar to Al Gore’s not-so-quixotic journey giving the “Inconvenient Truth” lectures...and it’s not so tough to picture Edwards linking up with Bill Gates, Jimmy Carter, Bono, and others, to take the whole thing international—essentially creating an worldwide “People’s PAC” that could influence policy here and abroad around the growing “Two Worlds” question.

--Might Edwards simply leave the race as other Democrats have done? As of today the Edwards camp seems determined to continue the journey, presumably seeking a role to play either in this phase of the campaign, in the runup to the convention, or at the convention itself.

If this continues to be true, it suggests that Edwards is more likely to remain than to withdraw, as long as he has access to resources...and as long as neither Clinton nor Obama do something so odious as to make Edwards feel he can no longer deny the other his support.

And with all that said, it’s probably time to sum it up:

--It is entirely possible that either Edwards or one of the other candidates might be seeking a deal.

--It is also possible that Edwards will not be making any deals, but is remaining in the contest to deny another the nomination.

--Edwards might seek another elective office, and opportunity exists today in North Carolina.

--He might choose to advance causes he finds important beyond this electoral cycle by enlarging the One Corps structure or something similar.

--He might simply withdraw into retirement or private sector employment. My own “guesstimation” is that he will be unlikely to do so when the option of One Corps already exists--and offers an excellent “fallback” position for a potential ’10 or ‘12 campaign cycle candidate with no particular contest yet identified.

All of this is contingent on Elizabeth Edwards’ health status, I suspect; and an unfortunate change in her current relatively good health could alter all of these calculations dramatically.

And I think, for the moment, that’s where we stand: at a currently unknown point in the Edwards endgame that may become far more clear after the February 5th delegates are counted...or it may become far more muddied, to the delight of every political pundit in the country.

In about eight days, we’ll find out.

Iowa and the caucus - part 3

by Don Wheeler

(this is the fourth installment of my Iowa caucus journal)


It was time to call it a day at the Fort Dodge Edwards office. I was told that my hosts lived out of town and a staffer named Russ volunteered to guide me there. At first that seemed generous but unnecessary – I’m used to finding my way to new locations – but it wasn’t long before I was feeling very appreciative.

As mentioned earlier, a dense fog had settled into the area. A fog like that at about zero degrees seems very strange, and it’s pretty unusual in my experience. There were many times I would lose sight of the taillights of Russ’ car. I was also trying spot potential landmarks, so I’d be able to find my way back the next day. My success in that regard was pretty limited.

Eventually, we made a left off the second main highway we’d been on (poor Russ had made a couple false starts at turns earlier). We followed this new road slowly for several minutes, eventually pulling off onto a narrow lane. A few hundred feet later, Russ pulled up front of an unassuming ranch house. All told, it had taken nearly two hours to get to our destination.

As I got out of my truck I asked Russ “So, what part of Nebraska are we in?” He grinned and said that under normal conditions, it was about a forty minute drive from town. I thanked him for being my guide. There was pretty close to zero chance I’d have found the place on my own in those conditions.

I grabbed some of my stuff and walked with him to the front door. We were greeted by my hosts Colin and Kathy. Russ made introductions, chatted briefly, and made his exit. Poor guy, by this time it was about 10:30 and I have no idea how far he had to go in that lousy fog before he got to call it a night.

The home which had looked rather unassuming from the road was anything but ordinary once inside. It had started life as a modest lake cabin, I suspect, but Colin had added on vastly. Once inside this was not obvious, because the place had a real flow to it and was done in nice wood, quarry tile, carpet and marble. A great bank of windows overlooked the lake – or in my experience, a large area of suspiciously flat snowfield.

(Interrupting this narrative…when I volunteered my services to the campaign, all I asked for was shelter. I came armed with a sleeping bag and a ThermoRest pad. I was not to need them.)

My hosts gave me the grand tour – which included my quarters. I was to have my own bedroom (recently used by David Bonior, former Democratic House Whip and John Edwards National Campaign Chair) and a private bathroom down the hall. The bathroom was gorgeous to say the least, and larger than my bedroom at home. Then we repaired to fire for cocktails and conversation.

Colin is an attorney and a pretty successful one I would guess. He’s done the type of litigation John Edwards is known for, but he’s also something of a General Practitioner as well. It sounded to me that he was kept pretty busy keeping locals out of trouble and straightening out their affairs. Kathy is recently retired as a business manager for a local school district. They are long time supporters of John Edwards, and had hosted at least two house parties for his candidacy. Kathy likes to tell the story that after one of these, Elizabeth Edwards tried to insist she should help clean up. Apparently she (Elizabeth) was talked out of it.

They regaled me with tales of those house parties and the efforts at local support they’d made. Colin had been working hard to recruit an acquaintance in a precinct near the one he was going to captain. His contact (who was a Biden supporter) knew that his first choice was unlikely to be viable in the caucus. Still, Colin was having a tough time recruiting him. This gent also expressed a lot of frustration that a lot of people he was talking to made it plain they wouldn’t vote for a woman or a nig... – you get the idea.

Since Kathy worked the business end of public education, I asked her about an issue our friendly fake consultant http://www.progressivessouthbend.org/2007/07/on-teaching-debt-collection-to-kids-or.html wrote about last summer. Some may remember he had discovered that many school systems had adopted a policy to collect unpaid lunch money from parents by shaming their children. The tactic was to produce lunch for those children, but the meal was different and calculated to be a bit less attractive than the meal presented to the other children.

It turns out Iowa has a similar policy, and I was disappointed that Kathy didn’t see anything problematic about it. Maybe she’ll read fc’s series sometime and change her mind.

At some point, I surrendered to my fatigue and called it a night. I have been hosted well in the Midwest in the past, but never any better than this.

Paul Krugman's Latest Pin Prick Of The Obama Bubble

by grannyhelen

Paul Krugman's piece today is already being derided by some vocal Obama supporters, as it makes the real world argument that any Democratic President will be attacked by the GOP. Although that may sound like a given to those of us here in the grown-up wing of the Democratic Party, to the post-partisan hopedacious crowd this is new to them.

What a hoot.

Krugman, being the realist that he is, feels that the best way to weather these attacks is through a well-formulated platform of detailed policies (and not half-baked compromises right out of the box):

"...I have colleagues who tell me that Mr. Obama's rejection of health insurance mandates -- which are an essential element of any workable plan for universal coverage -- doesn't really matter, because by the time health care reform gets through Congress it will be very different from the president's initial proposal anyway. But this misses the lesson of the Clinton failure: if the next president doesn't arrive with a plan that is broadly workable in outline, by the time the thing gets fixed the window of opportunity may well have passed..."


link: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/28/opinion/28krugman.html?_r=1&ref=opinion&oref=slogin

And although Krugman observes that this primary season has gotten "terribly off track" due to the politics of personalities and celebrity, he does have kind words for the one candidate who has tried to make his campaign about the things that actually affect all of our bottom lines:


"...What the Democrats should do is get back to talking about issues -- a focus on issues has been the great contribution of John Edwards to this campaign -- and about who is best prepared to push their agenda forward..."


Will Americans wake up in enough time to realize that the politics of personality does nothing to help themselves or their families?

I don't know. But I have Hope.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why Edwards Needs To Stay In

by grannyhelen

Okay, let me just objection-handle for a couple of moments. From all appearances Edwards is over 15% in South Carolina, meaning he will earn delegates from this thing when everything's said and done.

Now, before the punditry and the Clinton campaign start spinning all of the various reasons why John should drop out, let me address these concerns now.

*Objection One: The Sore Loser*

To reiterate talking points from a "senior Clinton advisor" this week:

The former first lady's allies say the longer Edwards stays in the race, the more problems his candidacy will cause the party down the road.

One senior adviser to the Clinton campaign said Edwards was "angry" because the primary race isn't turning out the way he had hoped. Now, Edwards just wants to make life miserable for everyone else.

Some think Edwards is playing the role of a spoiler, prolonging the day of reckoning between Clinton and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic front-runners. They fear the longer the Clinton-Obama battle goes on, the harder it will be to heal the inevitable wounds in the Democratic Party. It's time for Edwards to drop out of the race, they say.


link: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_8052139

*Why this is a false meme*

1. As seen by what is widely being acknowledged as a retaliatory vote by African Americans *against* the Clinton campaign tactics in South Carolina, it's pretty damn clear who in this race has already "caused more problems for the party down the road"...and that ain't John Edwards. By playing a cynical race game to try to downplay a defeat in South Carolina, the Clintons have thrown the fragile and often abused relationship between the Democratic Party and African Americans under the bus to achieve their own political aspirations. And they have the temerity to suggest that it's John Edwards who is causing the party problems?

Hillary, puh-leeze. Talk to the hand, girlfriend, cuz we ain't listenin'.

2. "Prolonging the day of reckoning between Clinton and Obama". Cute. As if we're spectators at some type of live computer game where Hillary and Barack are both Death Ninjas.

Uh-huh.

John Edwards being in this race is the tether to Hillary's attacks. She can't go too far out on that limb for fear of alienating folks and sending them his way. An all out flame-war between the Clinton campaign and the Obama campaign does nothing but give the GOP fodder for the general election. *This* is not in the best interests of the party. Edwards has consistently made his campaign about this issues, and his staying in this race is the best hope we have for the primaries to continue to *be about the issues*. Hate the flame wars? Keep Edwards in this thing.

3. John Edwards is "angry" and a "sore loser". Sigh...well at least we know how the Clintons are going to attack *his* character. No, John Edwards is not "angry". Edwards supporters are not "angry". We just want this election to be *about the issues*. And yes, we're in this to pull the debate to the left.

'Nuf said.

*Objection Two: If Edwards Pulled Out Obama Would Win This Thing*

This is the culmination of arguments I've read in threads, and diaries, and all over the place.

*Why this is a false meme*

1. There is no evidence that *all* or *most* of Edwards's supporters would vote for Obama.

2. If Edwards pulls votes from Hillary this only helps Obama in a brokered convention. Edwards has already made several declarations that he and Obama are closer on the issues to each other than they are to Hillary. He has already very publicly called her the "status quo candidate". Therefore, one could reasonably assume that if Edwards were to support anyone in a brokered convention that person would be Barack Obama. Edwards's support may be the deciding factor in such a scenario, and breaking toward Obama would give him the win.

So, Hillary folks: "Edwards is a loser and is hurting the party" won't fly. Obama folks: "Edwards pulling out would give Obama the win" isn't actually the case.

Y'all chill. Edwards is - and should - stay in this thing to the convention.

Peace.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

On Drugs, Or, Through The Looking Glass

by fake consultant

As so often happens, I was getting my daily coffee and doing the blah-blah with my friendly baristas, and in the course of the conversation we discussed how the choices we make about drugs are so strange.

My basic point was that crack is a crime...while coffee is a growth industry...but fundamentally, the two are not all that different.

Then the conversation got really strange: I began to speculate what the world might look like if the reality had been reversed.

The next thing I knew, I was writing this story.
Follow along and we’ll see what happens.
And a small warning: there’s satire ahead, so be careful.

For starters, long-haul trucking might not really change that much; except that truck stops would no longer sell those “energy” pills you so often see near the cash register today, and the diner would be real popular.

I’m old enough that I can remember some of the “vintage” ads—and my favorite would likely feature a wife out for dinner at the neighbor’s house...dessert is being served...and a muted voiced that represents her thoughts says: “He never has a second hit of crack at home...”. The camera then pulls away to reveal the neighbor uses Smaxwell House crack...the smoother, never bitter, more robust crack that really satisfies.

Companies like Folgers and Nestlé would have major operations in Columbia (sound familiar?)—and it’s reasonable to presume that mountainous, tropical countries around the world would also have coca plantations...meaning players we know today in Africa, Indonesia and Asia would likely be involved in the crack business as well.

The restaurant business would be similar but different—some would gather at the all-night diner for a late night pick-me-up (art would be affected as well...imagine what Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” might look like), breakfast would feature Flo down at the Denny’s serving “hits of Joe”; and it’s unlikely refills would be free.

Dunkin’ Doughnuts (and certain Tim Horton’s) would look a lot different...except between 1:00 and 6:00 AM, where things would hardly be any different than they are today.

Just like everything else in America, somebody would come along to “kick it up a notch”; and there’s no reason not to believe a Starbuck’s-equivalent company wouldn’t emerge. Those who are familiar with the arc of corporate history might be able to envision the result: the rise of Crackbuck’s from a single store serving dozens of “hits” a day to a giant chain spreading its unique brand of ambiance so far and wide that eventually you could, as I can today in my own home town, stand in front of a Crackbuck’s, turn around, and see another Crackbuck’s across the parking lot.

Eventually trash cans across the world would be filled with “to go” pipes emblazoned with the Crackbuck’s logo...the words “Venti”, “Grande”, and “Doppio” will likely remain in the lexicon...and it’s not that hard to imagine the migration of the Crackbuck’s brand into “lifestyle” products such as logoed non-spill “commuter pipes”, music, and maybe even movies—“Akeelah and the Buzz” being the first title in the series, and if that’s successful, maybe more.

But just like fine wines, and handcrafted beer, competition would eventually come along.

That’s where I told my baristas they would be in this scenario: the ones with extra skill hand-crafting hits for each individual customer; as opposed to the Crackbuck’s business model of automated crack machines and volume, volume, volume. They would probably be among the group of companies trying to bring more of the crack dollar to the farmer by supporting some kind of an organization like “Pipe of Excellence”.

The ones who aren’t just a “to go” operation; but instead the kind of place where customers sit by the fireplace and linger for a while.

What about offices? For those workers, the endless cubicle hours might well just fly by, and managers could actually find their employees anxious to return the next day. Some may actually look forward to Monday morning gossip, doughnuts, and the office crack dispenser.

Personalized pipes at work would replace the coffee mug; which would itself be an object of suspicion, and the sort of thing you would have to hide if you had one at home and your parents were coming over for dinner.

Mormons would spend less on dental care than other Americans; but due to the enormous volume involved heart valve replacements in this country would be no more expensive than Lasix...and everyone would have their favorite heart valve brand.

Imagine what it would be like for law enforcement: smugglers trying to get coffee into the US hidden in kilos of cocaine, coffee-sniffing dogs deployed at the airports...and along I-95 sheriffs and “Coffee Task Forces” would be constantly seizing the vehicles of those who try to move their illegal beans up the East Coast.

Presumably the jails would be so full of the bean-addicted that alternative means of detention would be studied...which would mean coffee would also be a growth industry, in a “we can charge for home detention” kind of way.

Coffee filters and little tiny baggies will be sold in special stores; and they will be “not intended for illegal purposes”, the owner will tell you, but instead intended for some industrial use—or perhaps, for tea. Melitta products would be something you have mail-ordered into the country in a plain wrapper from Amsterdam.

So what’s the point of all this musing?

How about this: everything I’ve been describing sounds ridiculous on its face...but in contrast, so does the current reality of drug enforcement in this country. Coffee is OK, those “energy” drinks are OK, the pills at the truck stop are OK...and until the beginning of the 20th Century so were the very drugs we’re locking people up for today.

But today, crack is a crime, and coffee is a growth industry.

It’s all very strange, isn’t it?

Friday, January 25, 2008

EDWARDS CAMPAIGN BREAKS ONLINE FUNDRAISING RECORD

In the first 25 days of this quarter, campaign has raised more online than the whole 4th quarter – the vast majority of which will be doubled by federal matching funds

Chapel Hill, North Carolina – As a sign of John Edwards’ growing grassroots support across the country, today the Edwards campaign announced that it has raised more than $3 million online during the first 25 days of the quarter – more than it raised during the whole 4th quarter of last year. Just yesterday, the campaign had one of its best fundraising days, taking in more than $230,000 in contributions. The vast majority of online contributions will be doubled by federal matching funds.

“First, we want to thank everyone who has contributed,” said senior advisor Joe Trippi. “More and more Americans want to get involved in our campaign because they recognize that John Edwards is the only candidate in this race with the backbone to say we are in a fight for the middle class and we can’t negotiate or take money from powerful entrenched interests if we are going to have change – we have to take them on. Our campaign relies on the support of regular Americans, and with their support we can bring real change to America.”

The Edwards campaign has been built on reaching out to all Americans – not just those who can give the maximum donation to the campaign. Edwards is the only candidate who has never taken a dime from Washington lobbyists or PACs. He continues to gain new support as he travels the country to talk with voters about his plans to fight for the middle class.

- Edwards enjoys strong grassroots support with 93 percent of online contributions coming in amounts of $100 or less.
- Fifty-two percent of those making contributions online this quarter are new contributors.

Americans are also responding to Edwards’ Tuesday night debate performance, where he remained focused on the issues that really matter to voters. During the hour following Tuesday night’s debate, the campaign saw a significant spike in online fundraising – setting the pace for days of donations arriving in record amounts. Building on the momentum from Tuesday’s debate, today the campaign released new two ads in South Carolina that highlight Edwards’ commitment to talking about the challenges facing America, instead of attacking his opponents.

For Edwards, a role as possible kingmaker

Democrat May Grab Enough Delegates To Sway Convention

By CHRISTOPHER COOPER
January 25, 2008
The Wall Street Journal

LANCASTER, S.C. -- As the banjo strains of his warm-up act faded to silence, John Edwards took the stage, telling the 200 assembled supporters the truth. "The truth is, I am the underdog," he said. "Everybody knows it."

Indeed, the question among many Democratic Party officials is this: Why doesn't Mr. Edwards fold his presidential campaign tent, just as Rep. Dennis Kucinich formally plans to do today, and Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd and Bill Richardson have already done? Far behind Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Mr. Edwards has all but dropped from sight. Generally ignored by the national press and with a campaign bankroll a fraction the size of his rivals', it would seem that Mr. Edwards is poised to be buried on Feb. 5 when voters in 22 states cast ballots, putting 1,700 of the 4,049 Democratic delegates in play.

ELECTORAL CALCULUS

• The Question: Why is Sen. Edwards, who is trailing far behind Sens. Clinton and Obama, staying in the race?
• The Answer: Campaign operatives say the electoral math could still break his way.
• One Scenario: Mr. Edwards could play kingmaker if his two rivals end up short of delegates.

With South Carolina's Democratic primary set for Saturday, consider the numbers so far: Mr. Edwards sits far behind in the delegate count, with 18, compared with 38 for Mr. Obama and 36 for Mrs. Clinton. A poll in South Carolina shows him drawing within striking distance of Mrs. Clinton for second place in that state's primary. Still, the former North Carolina senator would seem to have to make up tremendous ground to stay competitive for the nomination.

But Edwards's campaign operatives say the math could still break their way. If Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton continue running close and neither succeeds in capturing at least 50%, or 2,025, of the delegates, Mr. Edwards has a chance to play kingmaker at this summer's Democratic convention in Denver. To be sure, a brokered convention almost never happens. But 2008 is turning out to be an unusual political year and few prognosticators are rejecting the idea out of hand.

It is the sort of math that Joe Trippi, senior adviser to Mr. Edwards, said the campaign is banking on. "I think 200 delegates on Feb. 6 is our over-under," Mr. Trippi said. Although he continues to insist that Mr. Edwards has a chance at securing the nomination, Mr. Trippi concedes it is a long shot. More probable: arriving at the convention with enough delegates to tip the scales in favor of either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama. "Edwards is the primary force keeping Clinton under 50%," Mr. Trippi said. "Worst case? We go to the convention as the peacemaker, kingmaker, whatever you want to call it."

As Mr. Trippi figures it, if Mr. Edwards gets more than 200 delegates through the Feb. 5 contests -- just more than 10% of the total 1,700 delegates at stake that day -- he has a long-shot chance of playing kingmaker. If he gets 350, Mr. Trippi said Mr. Edwards is almost assured of playing that role.

Reaching 300 delegates isn't inconceivable for Mr. Edwards, who has managed to snatch around 20% of the delegate total so far. A poll released yesterday by Reuters/C-Span/Zogby shows him with 19% support in South Carolina. Recent polls in delegate-rich states such as California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey give him about 10% of the vote. Nationally, a poll of likely voters conducted this week by The Wall Street Journal shows Mr. Edwards getting 12% support among Democrats.

What Mr. Edwards would want in exchange for convention support remains conjecture. Conventional wisdom holds that he would refuse a vice presidential spot after serving in that role in John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, although Mr. Edwards himself hasn't addressed the question. He continues to insist publicly that his only goal is the nomination -- not a surprise, considering that saying otherwise could hurt his fund raising.

The only clue he has offered is indirect: The populist who announced his campaign in New Orleans has said that poverty issues remain his "life's work." It is conceivable Mr. Edwards could demand the insertion of one or several antipoverty planks in the party's platform.

If Mr. Edwards were running as a Republican, he likely wouldn't be able to play a spoiler role. That nominating contest includes several states where the first-place finisher captures all of the delegates, no matter how close the race is. But Democrats award delegates proportionally, generally by congressional district, meaning that Mr. Edwards could get a delegate simply by taking California's Fresno area, for example.

One unknown: Of the 4,049 delegates who will take part in the Democratic nominating convention, about 800 of them are "super delegates," mostly elected officials and party bosses, who aren't required to pledge themselves to a particular candidate. Although most of these super delegates are undecided, if history is a guide, many will flock to any candidate who stages a late surge.

To work the plan, Mr. Edwards likely will have to continue to run a credible campaign and do well in forums such as the nationally televised Democratic debate set for Thursday in Los Angeles. Otherwise, campaign cash might dry up.
His operatives said money hasn't been a problem: more than $3 million in donations have come in this month. And the fact that Mr. Edwards has opted for public financing -- thought to be a disadvantage in a presidential contest because of the fund-raising collars it imposes -- could be an advantage if the goal is to challenge the nomination of someone else. Opting for public financing means taxpayers match most of the cash contributions a candidate receives.

As the candidates gird for Feb. 5, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are expected to focus on large states such as California (370 delegates), New York (232 delegates) and Illinois (153 delegates). Look for Mr. Edwards to take the contrarian route: Mr. Trippi said the campaign has strong support in smaller states such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Idaho, Missouri and Alaska. The Feb. 5 campaign won't include television-ad buys, Mr. Trippi said.

"Every delegate we get over 200 on Feb. 5 is a step toward a scenario that at worst gives us a shot at influencing the final outcome of this race," Mr. Trippi said.

Steal This YouTube

Congressional Dems cave again!

by Don Wheeler

It's no wonder that we can't get any "love" in this campaign. Backbone and tenacity must be completely out of fashion these days.

The Hon. Nancy Pelosi announced the surrender of extended unemployment insurance benefits and supplement food stamps, capitulating to the minority party in so doing. This was necessary, she assured us, in order to pass an "economic stimulus" package.

This may be most cowardly act (or ommission) yet. We have always, always had these protections at the top of our list when facing any serious economic downturn as a nation.

I am thoroughly disgusted. Apparently, so is Paul Krugman:



Stimulus Gone Bad

By PAUL KRUGMAN
New York Times

House Democrats and the White House have reached an agreement on an economic stimulus plan. Unfortunately, the plan — which essentially consists of nothing but tax cuts and gives most of those tax cuts to people in fairly good financial shape — looks like a lemon.

Specifically, the Democrats appear to have buckled in the face of the Bush administration’s ideological rigidity, dropping demands for provisions that would have helped those most in need. And those happen to be the same provisions that might actually have made the stimulus plan effective.

Those are harsh words, so let me explain what’s going on.

Aside from business tax breaks — which are an unhappy story for another column — the plan gives each worker making less than $75,000 a $300 check, plus additional amounts to people who make enough to pay substantial sums in income tax. This ensures that the bulk of the money would go to people who are doing O.K. financially — which misses the whole point.

The goal of a stimulus plan should be to support overall spending, so as to avert or limit the depth of a recession. If the money the government lays out doesn’t get spent — if it just gets added to people’s bank accounts or used to pay off debts — the plan will have failed.

And sending checks to people in good financial shape does little or nothing to increase overall spending. People who have good incomes, good credit and secure employment make spending decisions based on their long-term earning power rather than the size of their latest paycheck. Give such people a few hundred extra dollars, and they’ll just put it in the bank.

In fact, that appears to be what mainly happened to the tax rebates affluent Americans received during the last recession in 2001.

On the other hand, money delivered to people who aren’t in good financial shape — who are short on cash and living check to check — does double duty: it alleviates hardship and also pumps up consumer spending.

That’s why many of the stimulus proposals we were hearing just a few days ago focused in the first place on expanding programs that specifically help people who have fallen on hard times, especially unemployment insurance and food stamps. And these were the stimulus ideas that received the highest grades in a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

There was also some talk among Democrats about providing temporary aid to state and local governments, whose finances are being pummeled by the weakening economy. Like help for the unemployed, this would have done double duty, averting hardship and heading off spending cuts that could worsen the downturn.

But the Bush administration has apparently succeeded in killing all of these ideas, in favor of a plan that mainly gives money to those least likely to spend it.

Why would the administration want to do this? It has nothing to do with economic efficacy: no economic theory or evidence I know of says that upper-middle-class families are more likely to spend rebate checks than the poor and unemployed. Instead, what seems to be happening is that the Bush administration refuses to sign on to anything that it can’t call a “tax cut.”

Behind that refusal, in turn, lies the administration’s commitment to slashing tax rates on the affluent while blocking aid for families in trouble — a commitment that requires maintaining the pretense that government spending is always bad. And the result is a plan that not only fails to deliver help where it’s most needed, but is likely to fail as an economic measure.

The words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt come to mind: “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.”

And the worst of it is that the Democrats, who should have been in a strong position — does this administration have any credibility left on economic policy? — appear to have caved in almost completely.

Yes, they extracted some concessions, increasing rebates for people with low income while reducing giveaways to the affluent. But basically they allowed themselves to be bullied into doing things the Bush administration’s way.
And that could turn out to be a very bad thing.

We don’t know for sure how deep the coming slump will be, or even whether it will meet the technical definition of a recession. But there’s a real chance not just that it will be a major downturn, but that the usual response to recession — interest rate cuts by the Federal Reserve — won’t be sufficient to turn the economy around. (For more on this, see my blog at krugman.blogs.nytimes.com.)

And if that happens, we’ll deeply regret the fact that the Bush administration insisted on, and Democrats accepted, a so-called stimulus plan that just won’t do the job.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Up close and personal: John Edwards

Peter Clothier
Huffington Post

They say he's angry. John Edwards, I mean. And I say, well, why not? So am I. Aren't you? I like that bumper sticker that reads: "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

And now, having successfully and unceremoniously booted Dennis Kucinich from the presidential race, how long will it be before the media try the same exclusionary tactic with Edwards? This white male provides them with less fodder than a Hillary or an Obama, woman and black -- the drama that they thrive on and that boosts their ratings. It's an uphill battle for him in the media, against those "front-runners."

I heard Edwards speak in downtown Los Angeles yesterday. I'm sure it was just the standard Edwards stump speech -- I had heard most of the sound bites before, but there was a definite thrill to hearing it delivered in person, in a crowd of cheering supporters.

I had driven downtown to hear the speech at a Service Employees International Union event, and I was glad I'd taken the time and the trouble to go. More than ever, I conclude that he's the right man for America at this critical moment in our history, that he has the passion, the fortitude and the kind of training that's much needed in facing down the powerful special interests that control the political direction of the country. He sees it like I do: that the poor, the working people and yes, now even the middle class need a President who not only understands their predicament but will stand up for their interests.

Don't get me wrong. I think that both Clinton and Obama are good choices. It's great to have an embarrassment of riches amongst the Democrats. And compared to what's being offered on the other side -- by way of both candidates and ideas -- these people are models of democratic principle. What I'm hearing on the other side is nothing but the attempt to out-Bush Bush or, just as bad in my book, out-Reagan Reagan. That we have reached the sorry state in which we find ourselves as a nation today, I attribute in good part to the sway of supply-side economics, false patriotism, and the pathetic, self-first mantra of tax cuts we have heard since Reagan's day.

John Edwards promises to end Bush's war and to attend to such matters as the minimum wage, health care for all, a fair tax code, improved education and employment opportunity for those who have been sidelined by the system, and resistance to the influence of profiteers and lobbyists. I believe him. You get a sense of the man when he walks by, within a couple of yards of you, even if you don't quite get to shake his hand. The French call it a frisson. You catch a whiff of the humanity, the personal power he projects. To actually hear him speak without the mediation of the television screen is to catch some of the genuine passion in which his words originate, some of the personal outrage that fires them, some of the gut-level strength it will take to make the changes that so many of our politicians like to talk about, but on whose lips sound like nothing more than words.

To stand in the crowd as he speaks is also to be infected by the passion and drive of his supporters, to feel a need for change that comes out of deeply felt frustration, even desperation. It's not just seven years of Bush. Those years simply brought matters to a head: the cracks in the dike have burst, like those all too literally in New Orleans, leaving swaths of chaos and despair in every direction that you care to look: the absurd, unnecessary and disastrously-conducted war; a health care system that enriches the insurance companies even as it leaves millions un- or underinsured; a shredded social safety net; an economy in disarray and, surely, entering recession; a rising unemployment rate; schools that fail to provide even the most rudimentary basics of education for too many of our children, especially the children of the poor; a for-sale electoral system that makes a mockery of democracy, rather than a model; a shattered reputation and widespread mistrust abroad... the litany is endless and all too familiar.

As I see it, Edwards is right. This is no time for timid half measures, for accommodation of the interests of the very wealthy. This is not hat-in-hand time any more. This is a job for the ruthless trial attorney who's neither afraid nor ashamed to go for the jugular, and who has the skills and the experience to do it. This is the time to stop pandering to the basest interests of the voters and to make some significant demands of Americans. It's time to demand the sacrifice of just the smallest piece of the comfort and convenience to which we have all grown accustomed, in order to grow in strength as a society and, indeed, as a model to the world.

If not now, when...? If not I, then who? I myself think that John Edwards has it right. The worse things get--and they seem to get worse by the day--the more right he seems to me. He'll need every ounce of energy and enormous popular support to overcome the bias of the media, but I persist in thinking that it can be done.

Debunking the Reagan myth

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

Historical narratives matter. That’s why conservatives are still writing books denouncing F.D.R. and the New Deal; they understand that the way Americans perceive bygone eras, even eras from the seemingly distant past, affects politics today.

And it’s also why the furor over Barack Obama’s praise for Ronald Reagan is not, as some think, overblown. The fact is that how we talk about the Reagan era still matters immensely for American politics.

Bill Clinton knew that in 1991, when he began his presidential campaign. “The Reagan-Bush years,” he declared, “have exalted private gain over public obligation, special interests over the common good, wealth and fame over work and family. The 1980s ushered in a Gilded Age of greed and selfishness, of irresponsibility and excess, and of neglect.”

Contrast that with Mr. Obama’s recent statement, in an interview with a Nevada newspaper, that Reagan offered a “sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.”

Maybe Mr. Obama was, as his supporters insist, simply praising Reagan’s political skills. (I think he was trying to curry favor with a conservative editorial board, which did in fact endorse him.) But where in his remarks was the clear declaration that Reaganomics failed?

For it did fail. The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

Given that reality, what was Mr. Obama talking about? Some good things did eventually happen to the U.S. economy — but not on Reagan’s watch.

For example, I’m not sure what “dynamism” means, but if it means productivity growth, there wasn’t any resurgence in the Reagan years. Eventually productivity did take off — but even the Bush administration’s own Council of Economic Advisers dates the beginning of that takeoff to 1995.

Similarly, if a sense of entrepreneurship means having confidence in the talents of American business leaders, that didn’t happen in the 1980s, when all the business books seemed to have samurai warriors on their covers. Like productivity, American business prestige didn’t stage a comeback until the mid-1990s, when the U.S. began to reassert its technological and economic leadership.

I understand why conservatives want to rewrite history and pretend that these good things happened while a Republican was in office — or claim, implausibly, that the 1981 Reagan tax cut somehow deserves credit for positive economic developments that didn’t happen until 14 or more years had passed. (Does Richard Nixon get credit for “Morning in America”?)

But why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history — particularly right now, when Reaganomics has just failed all over again?

Like Ronald Reagan, President Bush began his term in office with big tax cuts for the rich and promises that the benefits would trickle down to the middle class. Like Reagan, he also began his term with an economic slump, then claimed that the recovery from that slump proved the success of his policies.

And like Reaganomics — but more quickly — Bushonomics has ended in grief. The public mood today is as grim as it was in 1992. Wages are lagging behind inflation. Employment growth in the Bush years has been pathetic compared with job creation in the Clinton era. Even if we don’t have a formal recession — and the odds now are that we will — the optimism of the 1990s has evaporated.

This is, in short, a time when progressives ought to be driving home the idea that the right’s ideas don’t work, and never have.

It’s not just a matter of what happens in the next election. Mr. Clinton won his elections, but — as Mr. Obama correctly pointed out — he didn’t change America’s trajectory the way Reagan did. Why?

Well, I’d say that the great failure of the Clinton administration — more important even than its failure to achieve health care reform, though the two failures were closely related — was the fact that it didn’t change the narrative, a fact demonstrated by the way Republicans are still claiming to be the next Ronald Reagan.

Now progressives have been granted a second chance to argue that Reaganism is fundamentally wrong: once again, the vast majority of Americans think that the country is on the wrong track. But they won’t be able to make that argument if their political leaders, whatever they meant to convey, seem to be saying that Reagan had it right.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Money and influence in polics - Clinton v. Edwards

I think Hillary really stepped in it Monday night.

The topic: Contesting a John McCain candidacy. What follows is an uninterrupted excerpt from the debate in South Carolina:

EDWARDS: I just want to add that I think it's about -- I don't think it's about polls either, Hillary, by the way. But I do think it is about fundamental differences between us and them. And this is a difference that you and I have.

You know, I think that John McCain has made central to his time in public life, in his campaign, campaign finance reform and cleaning up the money in politics. And I think it's dangerous for us to send somebody against him who presents a contrast to what he represents. And I'm proud of the fact that I've never taken money from a Washington lobbyist or a special interest PAC.

EDWARDS: And I have a question -- I have a question that I'm interested in hearing you respond to. You've talked a lot about day one. I've committed -- I don't know what Barack has said about this -- but I've committed not to have any corporate lobbyists working in my White House on the first day that I'm president.

Will you make the same commitment?

CLINTON: Well, you know, John, I will make the commitment to have people in the White House who are honest and trustworthy and put the interests of the United States first. But I think...

EDWARDS: Is that a no?

CLINTON: You know what? I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't know, because I'm not in favor of corporate lobbyists, but you keep drawing these artificial distinctions. You take money from people who employ lobbyists, who are married to lobbyists, who are the children of lobbyists.

And, you know, at some point this gets really hard to take, because if you are someone like I am, who has withstood the full force of corporate lobbyists, starting with the health insurance companies, and the drug companies, and the oil companies, and everybody that I've taken on for all of these years, you know, I think I'm independent and tough enough to be able to deal with anybody. And that's what I intend to do.

(APPLAUSE)

EDWARDS: Those people, though -- here's the problem, Hillary. Everybody is listening. They can make their own judgment about this. They don't have to depend on us. When somebody gives you millions and millions of dollars, I think they expect something. I don't think they're doing it for nothing
.
CLINTON: Well, John, trial lawyers have given you millions and millions of dollars. So...

EDWARDS: And what they expect from me is they expect me to stand up for democracy, for the right to jury trial, for the right for little people to be heard in the courtroom. And that is exactly what I stand up for.

That is not the same thing. That is not the same thing as corporate lobbyists who are in there every single day lobbying against the interests of middle-class Americans
. And I think we need a president who can stand up.

We have a difference about this. You're entitled to your view. But we have a real difference about it.


*******************************

And here's a nice video which captures the general mood of the event. Thanks to JedReport (of YouTube fame) for his efforts.


"Some Say" Edwards Just Wants to Make Life Miserable

by Grannyhelen

This is an absolute hoot! From today's San Jose Mercury News:

The former first lady's allies say the longer Edwards stays in the race, the more problems his candidacy will cause the party down the road.

One senior adviser to the Clinton campaign said Edwards was "angry" because the primary race isn't turning out the way he had hoped. Now, Edwards just wants to make life miserable for everyone else.

Some think Edwards is playing the role of a spoiler, prolonging the day of reckoning between Clinton and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, the Democratic front-runners. They fear the longer the Clinton-Obama battle goes on, the harder it will be to heal the inevitable wounds in the Democratic Party. It's time for Edwards to drop out of the race, they say.


link: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_8052139

Okay, so let's break this down a little. The Hillary Clinton campaign doesn't want John Edwards to say in the race because it "prolongs the day of reckoning between Clinton and Obama". And the "longer the Clinton-Obama battle goes on, the harder it will be to heal the inevitable wounds in the Democratic Party."

Heh.

Let's cut through the butter here. Hillary Clinton desperately wants this to be a two-way race. We saw it in the last debate. By tossing out the word "Rezko", and getting Obama to go down in the mud she's trying to take away his biggest asset. She's trying to change Obama's persona from the "transcendent figure of hope and change" to one of "just your average Chicago pol". Not squeaky clean. Gets just as dirty as everyone else.

And once she has Obama on that level, now she can talk about the choice between one politician or the other one. Now the talk of "experience" and "being vetted" becomes suddenly more relevant. If the choice is between two politicians acting like politicians...well, wouldn't you want to choose the politician who's better playing that game?

And she would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that pesky John Edwards:



And, what's worse? Check out this notable quotable:

At Monday night’s debate, Democratic front-runners Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) repeatedly engaged each other in their sharpest, most contentious debate exchanges yet.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’m John Edwards, and I represent the grown-up wing of the Democratic Party,’ ” Edwards said. “At times like these we need a grown-up.”


link: http://thehill.com/campaign-2008/edwards-on-clinton-obama-we-need-a-grown-up-2008-01-22.html

Edwards has just boxed Hillary in on her knock-down-and-take-Obama-out strategy. The more she insists on flinging the mud and encouraging Obama to respond in kind, the more Pappa John can call back from the metaphorical driver's seat, "Do I have to pull this car over?" Edwards has put Hillary in the position of making him look better - more adult - every time she engages in the poo fight, and even running third that's something that the Clintons (given Bill's own history of only winning his first primary in Georgia) are pretty loathe to do.

No wonder Camp Hill feels like John is "making life miserable for everyone else." I'm sure to them he probably is.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Letter from Martin Luther King III

January 20, 2008


The Honorable John R. Edwards
410 Market Street
Suite 400
Chapel Hill, NC 27516


Dear Senator Edwards:

It was good meeting with you yesterday and discussing my father's legacy. On the day when the nation will honor my father, I wanted to follow up with a personal note.

There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of back and forth in the political arena over my father's legacy. It is a commentary on the breadth and depth of his impact that so many people want to claim his legacy. I am concerned that we do not blur the lines and obscure the truth about what he stood for: speaking up for justice for those who have no voice.

I appreciate that on the major issues of health care, the environment, and the economy, you have framed the issues for what they are - a struggle for justice. And, you have almost single-handedly made poverty an issue in this election.

You know as well as anyone that the 37 million people living in poverty have no voice in our system. They don't have lobbyists in Washington and they don't get to go to lunch with members of Congress. Speaking up for them is not politically convenient. But, it is the right thing to do.

I am disturbed by how little attention the topic of economic justice has received during this campaign. I want to challenge all candidates to follow your lead, and speak up loudly and forcefully on the issue of economic justice in America.

From our conversation yesterday, I know this is personal for you. I know you know what it means to come from nothing. I know you know what it means to get the opportunities you need to build a better life. And, I know you know that injustice is alive and well in America, because millions of people will never get the same opportunities you had.

I believe that now, more than ever, we need a leader who wakes up every morning with the knowledge of that injustice in the forefront of their minds, and who knows that when we commit ourselves to a cause as a nation, we can make major strides in our own lifetimes. My father was not driven by an illusory vision of a perfect society. He was driven by the certain knowledge that when people of good faith and strong principles commit to making things better, we can change hearts, we can change minds, and we can change lives.

So, I urge you: keep going. Ignore the pundits, who think this is a horserace, not a fight for justice. My dad was a fighter. As a friend and a believer in my father's words that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, I say to you: keep going. Keep fighting. My father would be proud.

Sincerely, Martin L. King, III

Monday, January 21, 2008

John Edwards on MLK Day:

The story of the South Bend, IN Natatorium: (updated)

Preserving The Past, Envisioning The Future

This was the title of a seminar presented as part of South Bend's celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Citizens gathered at the Century Center to hear presentations by city officials, clergy and educators speak of the past and future of this building.

As noted in the seminar program:

"The Natatorium is a visible reminder of the history of the civil rights movement in South Bend. The church, particularly the black church, gave both the spiritual strength and the practical labor to initiate and sustain the civil rights movement. The role of the church is critical in maintaining a connection with the movement's past and its power and effectiveness now and in the future. The IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center at the Natatorium will continue to be a visible reminder of the civil rights movement."

The main force behind the transformation of the facility(long in disuse) is The Civil Rights Heritage Center of Indiana University - South Bend. The CRHC sponsors community programs like the Diversity Reading Program, the Summer Leadership Academy, 21st Century Scholars Citizenship Enhancement Program, the Oral History Project and and retracing the locations and events of Freedom Summer.

Dr. Alfred Guillaume of IUSB started off the meeting by framing the discussion a bit. The point of restoring the building and creating historical exhibits, he said, was to make note of South Bend's racist past - but, more importantly - to provide a path to hope, understanding, healing and the elimination of fear. To preserve the past without repeating it.

Dr. Guillaume added that in his view, this was "IUSB's payment of rent to the community".




Next up, Dr Monica Tetzlaff of the CRHC explained the renovated Natatorium would serve to educate the community about the history of civil rights in the South Bend area.

She then went on to explain a bit of history of the facility itself.

The Natatorium was constructed in the early 20th century as a "public" indoor swimming facility. I put the word public in quotes, because it was only open to whites. Dr. Tezlaff made note of the irony that the building even bears the word "public" in it's inscription.

In 1938 the facility was opened to black citizens, sort of. Those citizens were "allowed" to use the Natatorium on Mondays only. The staff even went to the trouble of cleaning and draining the pool every Monday night. I'll let readers use their imaginations about why that was done. This was only accomplished due to a lawsuit brought by concerned citizens, black churches and the NAACP.

But then in 1950, the City needed to make repairs significant enough that a tax was imposed to pay the cost. Because of potential taxation without representation issues, the facility was actually integrated at that point.

She added that plans include involving the city's youth in many ways, and offering speakers for special events as well - as meetings and exhibits, once the complex is completed..

Reverends Timothy Rouse and Dennis Givens of the religious community spoke forcefully of the role - past and future - of black churches in the integration struggle. Rev. Rouse also serves as President of the South Bend Common Council.

Rev. Givens emphasized that he saw programs and exhibits at the new facility as tools to teach respect and self-respect to youth in the community, and to provide "seeds" to build character as well to educate.

Patrick Lynch of the South Bend Heritage Foundation also showed plans for the renovated facility via a powerpoint "flythrough" As you can see in the photos above, renovation of the facility is well underway.

Mr. Lynch explained that the actual pool area (in the rear portion) of the building was demolished in 2006 and a new section is under construction. Part of the old pool area be will inside and there will be visual cues about that history. The bulk of it though, will be outside in a "peace garden". The garden will have what Mr. Lynch termed a "feature wall" in the location of one of the swimming pool walls - complete with ceramic pool tile. The main entry will be in the back, and a meditation walkway will lead one from Washington St. (the former front facade) around the building to the peace garden and the building itself. Some original features in the building itself will be retained and renovated, including the lifeguard booth. A former dressing room will become a small group meeting room which will overlook the peace garden.

The moderator, Karen White of IUSB and the South Bend Common Council, noted that inscribed prisms in the feature wall will be available for $250 and benches in the peace garden for $1000 to interested donors. Any and all contributions would, of course, be welcome.

In the brief discussion after the meeting, a minister noted with dissatisfaction that while this project was going forward, there is no public swimming facility on the west side of the city. He went to characterize what he saw as other problems in that area. His tone indicated he was unsure how much progress had actually been achieved.

*************************************************************

After the meeting, I had a chance to talk with Dr. Guillaume. It turns out the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center is and was a student initiative. While supported by the University in some ways, the CRHC is a recognized student organization which means students run it and fund it.

Dr. Guillaume and I each have experience in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I mentioned to him that for me, Dr. King's message and efforts were about justice. Period. I mentioned to him that it seemed ironic to me that many of the folks who have such energy for civil rights for people of color, seem to have little enthusiasm to support citizens in the GLBT community seeking basic legal protections.

He agreed, making note of the fact that ordinance to provide such protections failed in the Common Council.

We spoke to each other about the fact that Dr. King had widened his cause from racial civil rights, to economic civil rights and opposition to the war in Viet Nam.

"I wonder if Dr. King would have eventually gotten behind this issue," he mused.

Me too.

Don Wheeler


Update: (1/23) Comments from the cross post on Daily Kos


I spent a couple of years in South Bend (1+ / 0-)

I was in grad school at Notre Dame, but managed to have a life in the community as well (I waitressed at a local restaurant and went to a lot of functions in SB).

Thanks for the report, and thank God there are progressives everywhere keeping things moving left! (well, maybe not everywhere)

by casperr on Mon Jan 21, 2008 at 03:19:38 PM PST
[ I spent a couple of years in South Bend by casperr, Mon Jan 21, 2008 at 03:19:38 PM PST (1+ / 0-)
Coretta did: (3+ / 0-)
in 04:

Constitutional amendments should be used to expand freedom, not restrict it, Coretta
Scott King said Tuesday.

"Gay and lesbian people have families, and their
families should have legal protection, whether by marriage or civil union," she
said. "A constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages is a form of gay
bashing and it would do nothing at all to protect traditional marriages."


by amberglow on Mon Jan 21, 2008 at 03:21:07 PM PST

I swam at "the Nat" . . . (2+ / 0-)

In the 50s, remember the dressing rooms vividly, the smell of chlorine, walking through the foot bath on the way out to the pool, which was, in my memory, beautiful.

I took side trips with both my daughters to South Bend in the late 90s. So much had changed, including the Natatorium, which was looked so forlorn. I'm sorry it's not serving as a community recreation center anymore and hope more modern facilities equally accessible to ordinary folks have taken its place. I'm glad to hear, though, that young people will remain a focus as the building is transformed into a center for preserving and advancing the story of civil rights in South Bend.
.
Don't ask me nothin' 'bout nothin'; I just might tell you the truth -- Bob Dylan

by ponderer on Mon Jan 21, 2008 at 04:07:59 PM PST











Saturday, January 19, 2008

On Things Odd, Or, What I Think About While Shoveling Snow

It’s been snowing again, which means I have to get the accursed stuff out of the driveway before it freezes into the crust of slipping and sliding that can make that first step such a doozy in the morning.

Of course that leaves me a fair bit of time to think…with all its attendant consequences…and as a result I have not one, but three topics that will be brought to the table. Each is, on it’s own, insufficient for an entire story, but together, they paint an odd pattern of what we see as a people…and what we don’t.

And with that, our first story:

It is early January, and as a result the narrow window is open for that most bizarre of movie marketing rituals: the claim that the title being advertised is “the funniest movie of the year”…which has expanded, not unlike the Academy Awards, to include new categories of recognition: “most terrifying”, “most heartwarming”, and “best family movie” being just a few examples.

And every time I’m exposed to one of these ads-particularly as they get closer to January 1st-I find myself thinking not so much about the first person who ran one of these ads (although that would have been a moment of epiphany worth witnessing), but more about the rest—the person who looked at that first ad and said: “I am so gonna steal that next year”, and of course, all the others who have felt the same way.

There have to be summer marketing lunch meetings (at only the most trendy of LA restaurants, naturally) where high-powered “managers of genius” gather to plan the ad buys for the movies that are scheduled for those release dates; and I suspect at every one there is a subset of that group who gathers--and laughs and laughs and laughs at our odd ability to be swayed by the ads they’re planning to buy.

But that’s an easy one…let’s move on:

Greenpeace is certainly a group that seeks to perform noble work, and at the moment they are on a quest to engage the Japanese whaling fleet in the waters of the Antarctic. And I applaud them for that noble work. But as you’ll see, there’s a twist to the story we’re about to tell that makes this particular noble work seem very odd indeed.

What is going on is that the Greenpeace ship has been searching the ocean for the fleet; which consists of a “processor” or “factory” vessel and numerous smaller vessels which actually catch the whale and bring it to the larger ship.

In the past few days the vessels have been located, and the strategy now is to remain in close contact with the factory vessel. The thinking is that with the Greenpeace ship in close enough range to film the activities on board the Japanese ship there will be a reluctance to process any whales; and at the moment they are correct.

But the Japanese have a plan.

The factory ship has turned away from the support fleet, and they are at the moment headed to an unknown destination with the Greenpeace crew following…but here’s the rub: the Japanese have the ability to be refueled at sea using refueling tenders, and there is no such facility available for the Greenpeacers.

Which leaves Greenpeace in an odd situation: as long as they can continue to burn fuel, which is damaging to the Earth, they can continue their work to save the Earth.

Which brings us to our final odd story of the day:

The Governor of the State of Washington, Christine Gregoire (famous for her amazingly close multi-recount victory in 2004), in an effort to save the reported 200 lives lost to drunk driving, is proposing that the State reintroduce “sobriety checkpoints” as an enforcement tool.

The checkpoints are not in use today because the Washington State Supreme Court found the idea to be constitutionally unacceptable under the State Constitution’s personal privacy protection (see Article 1, Section 7), is more specific than the United States Constitution’s.

There will be many arguments for and against: as examples, supporters might point to the savings of life (“whatever we can do to save even one innocent life is worth it…” seems to be an argument that will be adopted), some might even argue that the privilege of driving overrides any expectation of privacy, and others will presumably argue that by limiting the application of the checkpoints we can limit the damage to civil liberties.

Opponents can be expected to argue that the presence of checkpoints does not create a causal link to savings of life, that perfect correlation of checkpoints and life savings is impossible, therefore some number of lives lower than 200 might be saved, and that the burden of stopping large numbers of the innocent overrides the government’s compelling interest in trying to prevent the loss of life using this tool.

As a cynic, I would also have questions about where these checkpoints might be located. For example, I would be surprised if checkpoints were set up around the hotels where political fundraisers are conducted…or around the stadiums following any professional sporting event. I would not be surprised if minority communities eventually came to perceive them as unfairly targeting their neighborhoods…or if certain (wealthy) communities set them up more or less full time as a way of “guarding the border”. But I digress.

The odd thing about all of this is that even though I vehemently disagree with the Governor’s position, I appreciate the difficulty she faces in trying to balance the two competing -but fundamental-interests involved. The first, her sworn duty to the citizens to protect and defend the State’s Constitution—including its protection of personal privacy; balanced against the second…the duty to protect life and property interests that has led her to offer this proposal.

Which brings me to my final, most odd thought for the day—a defense of politics: despite what we might say about them, the people we might oppose are often decent of heart and well intentioned; and sometimes their perception is that they are forced to choose between more than one “right” answer, as our last example so clearly shows.

This electoral cycle, if we hope to advance causes that matter to us, let’s remember that we will need to unite with those we might not always agree with (remember the purple voters?)…which is why we should consider adopting a Tip O’Neill tactic: the ability to sit down with the other side over a nice dinner…or a game of poker…or a Saturday afternoon BBQ…and come away from the thing with a sense that, despite the disagreements, we can all respect-and even enjoy-our connections as people, and as Americans, and as people seeking to get many of the same things done.

Not only is it a great way to win elections…and a great way to actually govern…it makes for a better country—and if we take the concept offshore, it’s a great way to make a better world.

And that’s what I think about when I shovel snow.
Odd, isn’t it?

Edwards supporters bullied in Nevada

by Krystal Hernandez
Las Vegas, Nevada

The night before the Nevada caucus, the Clinton Precinct Captain stopped by my home. She said she knew I was leaning towards John Edwards.

She went on to say that the Edwards people were already pulling out and asked that I join Hillary because, like Richardson, Edwards would not be a viable candidate. (Imagine - she actually compared John to Richardson) The Hillary supporter also said that she didn't think our precinct had a captain for Edwards.

Yet, I knew John would not be giving up. The Hillary people have a lot of nerve pretending that John is not even in the race. He easily won the debate. Nevada should have showed him more support. Instead, I wonder how many people decided to support Hillary or Barack only because they were told that John didn't have a chance. I know this was happening because my own mother fell into this category. She ended up supporting Edwards only because I called and told her she shouldn't support one of the other candidates merely because she didn't think John would win. The caucus system would take care of that. Others may not have given him a chance, due only to people spreading lies.

When me and my husband arrived at the caucus sight, we were surprised that there was no section set up for uncommitted voters. I wanted to talk to the uncommitted people and tell them how we need John to represent us, the American people. Instead, I had to put up with Hillary and Barack supporters booing and yelling and making ugly comments as I attempted to find out if there were any undecideds among them. I did indeed find some, but it was very difficult to sway anyone, or even attempt to sway anyone, surrounded by these other candidates' supporters. By the way, our precinct only needed 8 people for John to be a viable candidate. I strongly believe that we would have had a chance to get those 8 if there had been an uncommitted section.

The worst part of the caucus was having to leave the John Edwards section and move over to the Obama section. I truly believe John is the right man for the job, but Obama was the best second choice. Still, it was hard to give up.

For some, it was even more difficult. Me and my husband had already decided our second choice, while others had not. For those among the Edwards supporters who had not made up their minds for a second candidate, the Clinton and Obama supporters made their decision extremely difficult. One lady was completely surrounded by members of both groups and successfully driven to tears. She ended up leaving without turning in her preference slip.

Lastly, after moving, I stood next to an Obama supporter who was practically laughing at the aforementioned Edwards supporter, for being overcome by emotion. It made me nauseous. But, she said something that made me chuckle. She said that she, the Edwards supporter, should have known this was coming and made up her mind. She said she should have known from watching tv! I told her that some people don't believe everything the tv tells them.

Her response - "How did you find out about the caucus then?"

In the end, I thought the caucus was an ugly experience and I wish John well in other states. Nevada is definitely driven by the media. It sounds like tv ads may have been the way to go, in Nevada.

Editor's note: I've received several accounts like this. It's clear to me that as tough as the Iowa caucuses were in some ways, there was a civility and sense of fair play not duplicated in Nevada.

Friday, January 18, 2008

What about John Edwards?

Edwards criticizes Obama for view of Reagan

January 18, 2008

By JULIE BOSMAN
New York Times

HENDERSON, Nev. —
The legacy of Ronald Reagan was invoked in the Democratic nominating race on Thursday when John Edwards attacked Senator Barack Obama for remarks he made to a Nevada newspaper suggesting praise for Reagan.
Mr. Obama made the comments in an interview with the editorial board of the newspaper, The Reno Gazette-Journal. He said Reagan had “changed the trajectory of America in a way that, you know, Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.”

“He tapped into what people were already feeling, which was, ‘We want clarity, we want optimism, we want, you know, a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing,’ ” Mr. Obama, of Illinois, said.

Speaking at an event on Thursday, Mr. Edwards told the crowd that Mr. Obama used Reagan “as an example of change,” a description with which Mr. Edwards strongly disagreed.

“When you think about what Ronald Reagan did to the American people, to the middle class, to the working people,” Mr. Edwards said, adding that Reagan was intolerant of unions and the labor movement, he “created a tax structure that favored the very wealthiest Americans and caused the middle class and working people to struggle every single day.”

“This president will never use Ronald Reagan as an example for change,” Mr. Edwards added, referring to himself.
The remarks were made as Mr. Edwards tried to be heard in a race that has increasingly focused on the winners of the two Democratic contests so far, Mr. Obama in Iowa and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in New Hampshire.
Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said Mr. Edwards was mischaracterizing Mr. Obama’s remarks.
“Obviously, Obama strongly disagreed with a lot of what Ronald Reagan did,” Mr. Burton said. “He was simply acknowledging Reagan’s ability to change the political landscape.”

Mr. Edwards has been campaigning heavily in Nevada this week, but is not running television commercials as he marshals resources for later contests. The state’s caucuses will be held on Saturday.

On Friday, he will depart on a tour to include Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia and South Carolina, among the next states to vote.

**********************************

Here's what Mr. Obama said. You decide.

"When the country was so sick of a blue state president, Carter, Reagan was able to tap into it by being 100% red-state," said Obama. "Reagan knew the electorate was so sick of a blue-state president and blue-state policies, they we're willing to go 100% red. Reagan didn't mince words. He ran on a 100% red-state message. When Reagan won with a 100% red state message, Reagan had a 100% red-state mandate. Reagan knew transformation was all about mandate. Reagan ran a clear red-issue campaign. He never reached out to blue. Reagan was able to bowl over any resistance in Congress because he had a clear 100% red-state mandate. When you have a 100% red-state mandate, no one is surprised by what you do. Reagan, therefore, was able to get all the changes he wanted. Reagan was for those reasons...transformational."

Seems to me (disregarding the nod to Reagan for the moment), Mr Obama makes John Edwards' point - rather than his own. Roughly speaking, it says that bold change and a willingness to be confrontational with entrenched interests is what can change the direction of the country, instead of the conciliatory approach Mr. Obama so frequently touts.

Why Obama's Comment Stings My Soul

...Or, Fear And Loathing in the 1980's.

I don't mean this to be a hit diary, or a pile on. But in reading the discussions around the blogs today on Obama's growingly-infamous comment about Reagan's legacy, I feel like some folks just don't get it, they truly do not empathize with those of us on the left who hear the word "Reagan" and see red. I think a lot of this is due to not sharing a common history.

So, briefly, these are some recollections that jump into my brain when I hear "Reagan"...

It was 1980. There was no internet. There was no cable (or at least none in my neck of the woods in small town Nebraska). We got our news from the local paper, the Lincoln paper and four broadcast network stations. I was a bored thirteen-year-old, walking the school hallways with her head stuck in a book and glasses perched on my nose, trying to grow through these years as quickly as possible so I could Get Out. Escape To The Great World Beyond.

In 1980 a lot of stores in our small town still closed on Sunday...and they were still huddled around the town square, encasing the county courthouse. If you wanted something you had to either get it Saturday or drive into Lincoln. We had a local movie theatre that was still open (although the local businesses stopped giving out "movie money" coupons a few years back).

The big news of the day was the Iranian hostage crisis. On the radio in the car, on the TV news at night, in the schools during our discussions of current events, everyone would get updated on "Day Number ____ ", a macabre notation of how many days the hostages had been held. This would be followed up with blurry film footage and photographs of men and women, blindfolded, surrounded by young men with guns. We were treated to reports of what happens when one is being taken hostage. What that feels like. Whether they let you go to the bathroom.

Analysts would discuss the Carter administration's action - or lack thereof. Carter refused to negotiate with terrorists. Eventually we heard news of a downed plane and a failed rescue attempt. People were frustrated and scared. It felt like the one battle in the Cold War that we were losing (regardless of the reality of things - trust me, this *is* what it felt like)...and we all collectively understood the threat that loomed if we let that happen.

It is this environment that elected tough-talking Ronald Reagan. The Man of Action. The choice of "Other" on your ballot. It was hardly the masses yearning for "...a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing." After Reagan was elected and the hostages were freed the country breathed a sigh of relief, patting itself on the back for making the right choice. It was only later on that we would learn it was secret negotiations with these terrorists before we even cast our votes - and not all that tough talk - that freed these hostages.

But with the hostages freed we were still under a threat even more dire, that of total nuclear holocaust. Mutually Assured Destruction had been our policy since Kennedy, and - because we couldn't figure out any other way of going about things - it remained our policy since that time. We watched The Day After on the TV, and talked about that woman's hair falling out after being poisoned by radiation. In Nebraska we had a special network news treat: seeing a model of downtown Omaha being blown to bits in a nuclear blast. Unlike the rest of the country, Omaha would be ground zero in a nuclear war as it was the home of the Strategic Air Command.

We drove down gravel roads that suddenly became paved - roads with no names, only the ones that the locals gave them: "missle base roads". Because, well, they were built to lead to a missle base.

And in the middle of all of this the economy boomed, I went to high school and then college and I have to say, even for the eighties I had *really big hair*. And skin tight jeans. (Ah, to have my pre-mommy body back again).

But I digress.

I went to an Ivy League school "back east", where the campus was buzzing about who got the latest job on Wall Street, where the best place to go shopping was and where everyone wore the standard uniform of leather bomber jackets. And in the middle of all of this we learned, and studied, and discussed the Russian threat, the Eastern Block Countries, the history of La Belle Epoch, and, yes, Mutually Assured Deterence. Professors openly questioned the government's assessments of the Soviet threat, the number of missles they had and the numbers we needed to defend ourselves (as opposed to launching a first strike).

I was fortunate enough to go to Russia.

I hung out with engineering students there who openly questioned *their* government's allocation of resources to build these nuclear warheads. Their lack of testing them, and their dictates to just swap components when there were shortage issues. I saw people carrying briefcases and bookbags, to stock up on certain items that hit the store shelves and then disappeared just as quickly. I saw the cheaply made shoes, smoked the cheaply made local cigarettes and walked the streets where small three cylander vehicles - "put put cars" my friend called them - cruised the streets looking for the impossible to find parking spot.

And after all of this I thought to myself: *this* is the Evil Empire? It seemed like a surreal joke, knowing the trillions we had spent in "defending" ourselves against these folks.

It was then I understood I had been lied to. By Reagan. And that the trillions of dollars of debt we incurred at the expense of mentally retarded people being forced into the streets and government programs being stripped to the bone wasn't about protecting us. It was about something else, a more sinister remake of society that was being enabled by a combination of fear and consumption, forcing us to become a more "me" oriented society and less of a "thou" oriented society.

This is why, today, I was deeply saddened listening to Senator Obama's remarks on Reagan. It just took me right back there to that moment in time when, for me, the lie began.

Again, this isn't a hit diary. Just an explanation of where I'm coming from.

Peace.

UPDATE: I was originally just trying to keep this as an expression of what Reagan was really like and what that election was like, but maybe that was a little too subtle. Sorry about that.

To answer everyone, here is Obama's quote, with the part that I take umbrage at highlighted:

I don't want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what's different are the times. I do think that for example the 1980 was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.


If you notice, people actually *weren't* feeling that they wanted clarity, optimism and a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

People were *in fear*. The 1980 election was about *fear*. It was not about *hope*. The GOP has been attempting to spread the message of Reagan the Great Optimist/Hopemonger/etc. in an effort to cannonize him. This spin is far from reality.

I hope this explains my feelings on the subject a little more directly.

This is a crosspost of a blog entry originally posted on Daily Kos: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/1/16/202428/519/291/438030

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bill O'Reilly - God of Bizarro World

from Media Matters for America

O'Reilly said he's "still looking" for the homeless veterans Edwards (and the VA) say are "out there"


On the January 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly again baselessly challenged Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' January 3 claim that "tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously as veterans will go to sleep under bridges and on grates."

As noted by the blogs Crooks and Liars and The Carpetbagger Report, O'Reilly was discussing Edwards with radio host Ed Schultz when he said, "[W]e're still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, Ed. So if you find anybody, let us know. Because that's all the guy said for the last ... "

When Schultz told O'Reilly, "Well, they're out there, Bill, don't kid yourself," O'Reilly replied, "They may be out there, but there are not many of them out there, OK? So if you know where one is, Ed ... if you know where there's a veteran sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it, is not there."

Schultz then gave O'Reilly "his word" that he would "do that."

As Media Matters for America documented, O'Reilly said on the January 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor that Edwards had "no clue" and then aired his claim about homeless veterans.

In fact, Edwards' claim that there are 200,000 homeless U.S. veterans is supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The VA website's "Overview of Homlessness" states, in part:



About one-third of the adult homeless population have served their country in
the Armed Services. Current population estimates suggest that about 195,000
veterans (male and female) are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as
many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many
other veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty,
lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap
hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.


The Washington Post reported that it had confirmed the veracity of Edwards' claim, noting on January 7:
Several readers have asked us to check this surprising statistic, often used by Edwards. The language may be overly dramatic, but the figure is an official one, from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The department believes that one-third of the adult homeless population of the United States


"have served their country in the Armed Services." A posting on the department
Web site says that about 195,000 veterans are "homeless on any given night" and
perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of
a year.

From the January 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

SCHULTZ: As far as John Edwards is concerned, I think his message is strong and he's got tremendous conviction. But I think he needs a little bit more material than just the "two America" talk. He's got to get --

O'REILLY: Well, we're still looking for all the veterans sleeping under the bridges, Ed. So if you find anybody, let us know. Because that's all the guy said for the last --

SCHULTZ: Well, they're out there, Bill. Don't kid yourself.

O'REILLY: They may be out there, but there are not many of them out there, OK? So if you know where one is, Ed--

SCHULTZ: Well, actually -- now, wait a minute -- two hundred and five --

O'REILLY: -- Ed -- Ed -- if you know one where -- if you know where there's a veteran sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it, is not there.

SCHULTZ: I will do that. I will do that. You have my word on that.

O'REILLY: OK. All right. Now, who do you loathe -- who do you loathe in the presidential race?

**************************

[S]peaking in front of a roomful of homeless vets, Edwards responded, "I heard that, last night, Bill O'Reilly, who's a talk show host, who's heard that I have said this about hundreds of thousands of veterans who don't have a place to live, and were homeless.

And he challenged me about whether that's true or not, whether, in fact, we have that many veterans who don't have a place to live, and some of them are sleeping under bridges. Well, he ought to start by coming to Las Vegas, if he wants to know what's going on.

"America has the responsibility to do something about this. We do. And the fact that this talk show host, Bill O’Reilly, is willing to speak out that blatantly, when he has no idea what he’s talking about, is an example of how America doesn’t understand the problem, doesn’t understand how serious this issue is."

"You know, we've had too many Americans whose voices have not been heard in this democracy. That's what this battle is about.

It is not about me. It is about the cause of giving voice to all of those whose voices are not being heard in this democracy."



John Edwards -

Countdown: See Change

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why does Joe Trippi dress like a homeless guy?

by Don Wheeler

OK, I'm ready for the wrath to come. But check my bona fides. I'll put up my latest post - "I'd storm the gates of Hell..." as evidence as the strength of my support for the John Edwards campaign.

That said, as I watched the segment MSNBC's Airhead in Training Chris Matthews smugly referred to as the "Spin Room" after the Nevada Debate, I was left with a clear impression I didn't much like.

Rodney Slater, Clinton surrogate appeared (remotely) in a dark suit with a bright tie - the sort of attire one associates with a powerful man. And of course, he is one.

David Axelrod, Obama's senior strategist, was a bit more casually dressed and looked more comfortable. Still, his choice of a sport coat, dress shirt with tie and casual slacks seemed somehow consistent with the tone of Obama's campaign - and led me to think the man is relaxed and confident.

Then there was our guy - or, our guy's guy. Mr Trippi chose a rumpled sportcoat over a rumpled polo shirt and blue jeans. And by the way, the coat and shirt combo didn't work in any sense.

And Trippi's outfit was consistent with what seemed to be his attitude about being there. Like it wasn't really worth his time. Like he didn't take any of it seriously. Like it didn't matter.

As I remember standardized testing in my early years, I would often be presented a set (of whatever) in a picture and the question would be "which one doesn't belong?" By that measure, the answer is obvious.

You may think this is petty, but basic impressions - especially for people just beginning to focus on the campaign are formed by many factors. And if I'm the strategist, I'm going to get on top of as many of them as I have a clear opportunity to do so.

And contrast the attire and attitude of his boss. John Edwards has two "uniforms" that I am aware of. Tailored suits and sharp ties, when that is appropriate. The best pressed blue sportshirt and wrinkleless blue jeans when that is appropriate. In either case, no one would make the mistake of not taking John Edwards seriously. He looks like someone who should be taken that way.

So my thoughts watching the "Spin Room" segment were approximately that it might not matter that (or if) Joe Trippi was the smartest person there. He didn't look like someone who even took himself seriously.

I don't know how good a strategist he is - maybe he's the best that's ever been. I do believe the campaign should think of using a different spokesperson or ask him to make some changes.

People all have different talents and strengths. It's up to the person in charge to figure out the way to make the best use of them.

Voter ID Scam Is The Real Fraud

By Cynthia Tucker
The Baltimore Sun

Monday 14 January 2008

If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Indiana's harsh voter ID law, as its justices seem poised to do, hundreds of thousands of black Americans should march in protest. So should hundreds of thousands of Latino Americans. Native Americans, too. Political activists from across the ethnic spectrum should convene the biggest political demonstration since the historic March on Washington in 1963.Where is the Rev. Al Sharpton when a genuinely critical issue comes along? Where's the Rev. Jesse Jackson?

The GOP-led campaign to pass stringent voter ID laws is a greater injustice than the prosecutions of the Jena Six, more significant than the incarceration of Michael Vick, more damaging than the insulting rants of Don Imus. This is a frankly brazen effort to block the votes of thousands of people of color who might have the temerity to vote for Democrats. And it's un-American.

As happened in several states, including Georgia, the then-GOP-dominated Indiana legislature pushed through a rigid law in 2005 requiring state-sponsored photo IDs at the ballot box. While the Republican spin machine has worked mightily to portray this as an effort to curb voter fraud, it is no such thing. There has never - never - been a single case of "voter impersonation" at the ballot box, with a fake voter using an electric bill or phone bill to pretend to be a valid voter.

Earlier this month, radio journalist Warren Olney pressed Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita about the prosecution of voter impersonation cases in Indiana. "Oh, yeah. We suspect it happens all the time," Mr. Rokita said. "Suspect?" Mr. Olney countered.

"Well, are you saying you want to define whether or not there's fraud based on whether or not its prosecuted?" Mr. Rokita answered, adding, "It's a hard type of crime to catch. ... It's hard to catch one in the act."

OK, then. Got that? It's a little like the search for life on other planets. Extraterrestrials are out there, even if none has actually been spotted.

(If Republicans were interested in actual voter fraud, they would have tightened the rules for absentee ballots, since that's where most voter fraud occurs. But because Republican voters tend to favor absentee ballots, many GOP-dominated legislatures have made absentee balloting rules less stringent.)

But there is evidence aplenty of this: There are thousands of law-abiding registered voters across the land who have no government-sponsored ID - no passport, no driver's license - and who will be banned from the ballot box if the highest court upholds this highly partisan law. It is difficult for middle-class citizens to believe, I know. If you live inside the comfortable economic mainstream, where taking airplane trips and renting DVDs is a routine part of life, you can't imagine voters without a state-sponsored photo ID.

But they're out there. Just ask Mary-Jo Criswell, 71. Her ballot was thrown out when she showed up at her Indiana polling place expecting to use the same forms of ID, including a bank card with a photo, that she had used in the past. She has epilepsy, she says, so she has never had a driver's license.

Citizens like Ms. Criswell are Americans, too, and they have every right to vote. It is elitism, pure and simple, to suggest requiring them to obtain a state-sponsored photo ID is a "minor inconvenience." But that's exactly what Justice Anthony M. Kennedy called it during oral arguments, noting that the law is expected to affect only a small percentage of voters.

That's true. The GOP is aiming at a small pool of voters - mostly poor, often elderly, usually black or brown - who lack driver's licenses. As it happens, they tend to support Democrats. With so many elections decided by a margin of a few hundred votes, Republicans figure they can stay in power by blocking just a few Democratic ballots.

But the Republicans could be in for a jolt. The electorate seems much more excited about Democratic candidates this year. The Democratic presidential candidates have topped the Republicans in fundraising, and in early primary states, more Democratic ballots have been cast than Republican ones.

The way things are going, Republicans running for national office could lose by a lot of votes - not a few. So they'll need a new scam to win elections.

--------

Cynthia Tucker is editorial page editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her column appears Mondays in The Sun. Her e-mail is cynthia@ajc.com.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Edwards Wins Nevada Debate By Staying On Message

by grannyhelen

Here's what you need to know from the Nevada debate tonight: if you want a great, wonkish policy hound, vote for Hillary. If you want a professor who can literally see (and sometimes take) all sides of every issue, vote for Obama.

But if you want a strong leader who will fight for you, your neighbors and the rest of the working folks that you know and love, vote for John Edwards.

With question after question tonight, John stayed on message. The civil rights movement? It was about ordinary folks - just like you and me - who stood up and fought to correct a gross injustice. The economy? The core problem is that there are large, monied interests who are subverting our economic stability, making it harder and harder for working folks to get ahead. Health care? All of us (and I can testify to this from my own personal life) are paying more and more and getting less and less, and we are all one catastrophic illness away from financial ruin.

While Hillary was framing the debate around "black and brown issues" (yes, her words, not mine) and Obama had moments of brilliance tarnished by a tenacious verbosity, John Edwards was short, sweet and to the relevant point: we need to change this country. We need to fix the system to make it work for working people. And we need to do that now.

Anyone who's reading this - the netroots are having a historic drive to raise $7 million dollars for John Edwards this Friday, January 18th. This is unaffiliated with the campaign. It is a people powered push.

If you can, please help us. Whatever you do is greatly appreciated. Visit this link for more details:

http://www.johnedwards.com/action/contribute/mygrassroots/?page_id=Mjc2MDc

Together, all of us working folks fighting strong, we can win this thing and take our country back.

I’d storm the gates of hell with John Edwards – and expect victory

by Don Wheeler

I have the great good fortune to post with grannyhelen, and I’ll piggyback a bit from her post “Why I’m Sticking With John Edwards”

http://www.progressivessouthbend.org/2008/01/why-im-sticking-with-john-edwards.html .

I should be clear that there is nothing she says that I differ with –other than my own circumstance, of course. My support of John Edwards though is highly visceral as well as intellectual. His campaign gets to who I am and the change I want to see in the world.

Aside from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., my only heroes up to now have been my parents.

Anyone who knew my father would describe him as person of high standards, possessing a fiery intellect and unquestioned integrity. Honesty was compulsory in our household, and my first and ongoing training in critical thinking took place at the dinner table every evening.

My mother spent many years working (for small stipends, at best) in Third World countries helping others better their lives – including stints in Guatemala, India and Peru. Her organization sponsors demonstration projects. These projects guide locals to available resources, provide volunteer labor and technical assistance, but the residents plan and implement the projects. They’re also expected to sponsor a project of their own for others.

The projects can be as simple as micro lending programs or as comprehensive as the transformation which took place in Conacaste, Guatemala.

A small mountain village, Conacaste had no running water, no electricity, etc. A good chunk of time was lost to the women of the village as they walked to the river (over a kilometer away) or other basic chores needed to keep their families going.

By the time my mother left, Conacaste had running water, electricity, new businesses and even a social club for the village women. She wrote a very enjoyable book “Between Two Worlds – The Human Side of Development” about her experiences.

People who have read my previous essays may remember my parents were active in the civil rights movement (and included me in the activity) and allowed me my own activism without interference when I was older.

There’s a lot more I could add, but I suspect you get the point. I come from very good people.

Now I have daughter who will turn five in March. Now it is my turn to set the example, to be the change I want to see in the world.

Four years ago, I discovered someone running for President of the United States who seems to feel as I do – someone who is impressed with the idea of doing what’s right, rather than what’s expedient or materially self enriching. Someone who could provide an example to others of the possibilities and was willing to the lead the fight to achieve them. He didn’t win, but I certainly didn’t forget John Edwards.

After he announced this effort from the ninth ward of New Orleans in December of 2006, I spent a great deal of time investigating what he had been doing since 2004. He had clearly done a lot of soul searching about the Iraq War. He had toured the world – witnessing the abject poverty inherent in so much of it. He spoke to not just to leaders, but to the citizens as well. He had formed a poverty center – studying the issues and calling experts together to propose solutions.

This experience clearly has honed his world view. It seems very simple – yet most people either can’t grasp it, or don’t believe it. I’d put it this way: It is in our best interests not to (consistently) act in our own selfish interest.

Grannyhelen noted some of John Edwards’ detailed proposals – and he has a lot of them. I’d point out that if you look at them in their entirety, it’s clear that they form a tapestry to lift people from poverty, keep those not in poverty – but threatened with it – from slipping into it and reclaim our role as an important, responsible world citizen. Or to put it another way, to recognize the advantages he (and I) have had, and pay it forward.

I see what’s great about my country and the people I hold dear in The Campaign To Change America.

And if you missed the short video “Challenge The System: The Edwards Movement Is Growing”, click the link below. It is powerful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsbegLzBHH8#YuXL33cnINQ

I am baffled by people who complain that John Edwards expresses negativity. He has said “The American people are optimistic – relentlessly positive…” as is he. He also recognizes reality, and has ideas about changing it to a better one.

And by the way, take the title of this piece literally.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why I'm Sticking With John Edwards

by grannyhelen

I'm sitting in my tiny dining room/children's play area/throughway between the living room and the kitchen, listening to The Wiggles sing the virtues of olive oil intermingled with the occassional soft murmurs from my four year old as she plays with her collection of stuffed animals, while my son draws in a Charlie Brown coloring book. Outside a heavy, wet coating of snow weighs down tree branches and gives the world the appearance of being covered in so many cotton puffs, hastily glued by an overly-enthusiastic pre-schooler who just didn't know when to stop.

We are a small family of small means, living our small lives in the small rooms of our small, cozy bungalow. Soon I'll have to fix lunch and start nap time, but before I do I just wanted to share some quick thoughts, ramblings really, about who I am and why our family supports John Edwards.

Of primary importance for us is healthcare. Even having decent health care insurance through my husband's work, we are still paying an exorbitant amount of money. Our premiums just rose this year, and there's no reason to not expect they will rise again. Our health care costs are going up faster than any "cost of living" raises we expect to see. Because of this we just can't get ahead.

John Edwards has the best universal health care proposal, for my money. He is also the candidate that I feel wouldn't quit until it got passed. His plan lowers rates through a combination of mandates and subsidies. By allowing government to compete, families like mine could choose to either keep our insurance or opt for the federal government's plan. This helps my kids stay healthier, and helps me if we choose to have another child, and helps our family by stopping the trend of skyrocketing premiums. This is a central issue for us, and one of the main reasons we support Edwards.

Second on the horizon for me is our foreign policy, which stops our country from addressing the pocketbook issues of working folks by funneling billions of dollars away from domestic programs and into things like bigger and better bombs that one hopes are never used. I feel confident all of our Dems would stop the madness in Iraq, and John has called for our troops to be out in ten months. But beyond that, I want to know what type of foreign policy will stop this nonsense from happening again. John has made ending the Bush doctrine of preventive war a central part of his campaign, and has stated clearly that the neoconservative doctrines that pulled us into this war would have no safe haven in his administration:

George Bush's "preventive war" doctrine was crafted by a radical group of neoconservative Bush administration aides. The doctrine holds that America should shoot first and only ask questions later. It rejects the historic grounding principle of America's national security policy, which is that military force should always be an option of last resort. This radical doctrine was a stunning departure from the policy that kept America safe during both World Wars and during the Cold War. The doctrine led directly to the disastrous war in Iraq and is driving the Bush-Cheney approach today to Iran, including Senator Joe Lieberman's resolution declaring Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

As president, Edwards will get rid of the dangerous "preventive war" doctrine and instead rely on proven national security strategies including overwhelming deterrent strength and retaining every option to address imminent attacks.


link: http://www.johnedwards.com/issues/iran/20071105-new-strategy-for-iran/

For me, it's not enough to talk about how the Iraq war was a mistake, or talk about how we need to get out, or talk about who was right and who was wrong at which moment in history. *For me the important question is: what are you going to do to prevent another Iraq from happening.* And again, for my money, John Edwards has issued the clearest statements and most detailed policies to stop another Iraq from looming on the horizon.

Finally, the overarching issue that is important to me and my family is the economy, and here John Edwards has consistently led. He was the first candidate to correctly evaluate our economy not by who the winners are but by who it leaves behind. He was the first one - even before George Bush - to recognize the tell tale signs of our drift into recession and the first one to put forward an economic stimulus package to address it. And he is the only candidate to look at economic policy holistically, not as a series of tax breaks here and there but how it affects so many aspects of our lives, from energy to health care to education and so many more.

If you want to know more about John and his policies, his issues page really lays out how he will govern as President. The link is here: http://www.johnedwards.com/issues/

As a country we're heading for troubled times, times that will call for strong leadership that doesn't just govern by laundry lists and feel good, but that tackles our problems holistically and tells us the hard truths, even when we don't want to hear about it. None of the other candidates in this race hit this right balance for me. That is how John Edwards earned my vote...

...and regardless of how many folks declare his campaign dead, or write him off, or ignore him, he'll continue to have my vote and my support until we decide our nominee.

Challenge the system: The Edwards movement is growing

Nevada update

by Don Wheeler

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Poll: Democratic race in Nevada a dead heat

A new poll by the Reno Gazette-Journal shows a neck-and-neck three-way race among Democrats for Saturday's caucus. On the Republican side, U.S. Sen. John McCain has taken his first lead in Nevada of the election season, and Mitt Romney, who has been working Nevada harder than any other Republican, is trailing in fourth place.

A look at the top line results (more will be posted later this morning):

Barack Obama: 32 percent
Hillary Clinton: 30 percent
John Edwards: 27 percent

John McCain: 22 percent
Rudy Giuliani: 18 percent
Mike Huckabee: 16 percent
Mitt Romney: 15 percent
Fred Thompson: 11 percent
Ron Paul: 6 percent
Duncan Hunter: 1 percent

The poll was conducted of 500 likely Democratic caucus-goers and 500 likely Republican caucus-goers statewide by Maryland-based Research 2000. The margin of error is 4.5 percent.

posted by Anjeanette Damon at 7:06 AM

*********************************

Add to the mix a caucus system much less straightforward than Iowa's.

Nevada has created at-large caucuses to enfranchise casino workers (only in Las Vegas), but gives undue weight to these entities - according to a lawsuit now pending in the Nevada court system.

What's indisputable is that other Saturday workers have no such ability to participate in the caucuses. It's hard to see how this can not be ruled a discriminatory practice.

Here's link to the complaint:

http://vegaspundit.typepad.com/vegas_pundit/files/filed_complaint.pdf

Here's the take from ABC's News blog:

http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/01/tough-guy-pol-1.html

This is how it strikes me. The culinary workers endorsement of Obama certainly seems to have triggered the suit, and the plaintiffs are avowed Clinton supporters. Oddly, it is John Edwards who suffered most from the endorsement - the campaign has strong support among the rank and file members and felt confident of receiving the union endorsement up until recently.

But everyone likes a winner, and when Edwards finished second in Iowa and a distant third in New Hampshire, it's not much of a stretch to think that the union leadership started reading the tea leaves.

From another angle, this looks like another skirmish in what is shaping up to be an ongoing food fight between the Clinton and Obama camps. I wonder if the public will grow tired of this stuff and realize there is another choice.

One can only hope.

The New York Times Opinion Pages

by Don Wheeler

Here's an interesting exerpt from an editorial titled: The Candidates Discover The Economy

The Democratic front-runners have been slow off the mark, but they're catching on. Last week, Hillary Clinton called of a robust short-term stimulus package, including more federal for jobless benefits, home heating aid and grants to states to help prevent forclosures. John Edwards has been pushing a similar plan for weeks. Barack Obama announced a rescue plan that relies more heavily on targeted tax cuts to get the economy moving, and less on direct spending.

The proposals from Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Edwards are closer to what's needed and the type of stimulus that Congressional leaders and the White House should begin to discuss...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/14/opinion/14mon1.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

And in Paul Krugnman's column, "Responding to Recession", once again we find critical analysis of Presidential candidates proposals generally favor the underdog - former Senator John Edwards.

On the Democratic side, John Edwards, although never the front-runner, has been driving his party’s policy agenda. He’s done it again on economic stimulus: last month, before the economic consensus turned as negative as it now has, he proposed a stimulus package including aid to unemployed workers, aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, public investment in alternative energy, and other measures.

He also seems to give credit to Sen. Clinton's more recent proposal. But he has some doubt's about Sen. Obama's ideas.

The Obama campaign’s initial response to the latest wave of bad economic news was, I’m sorry to say, disreputable: Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser claimed that the long-term tax-cut plan the candidate announced months ago is just what we need to keep the slump from “morphing into a drastic decline in consumer spending.” Hmm: claiming that the candidate is all-seeing, and that a tax cut originally proposed for other reasons is also a recession-fighting measure — doesn’t that sound familiar?

Anyway, on Sunday Mr. Obama came out with a real stimulus plan. As was the case with his health care plan, which fell short of universal coverage, his stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right.

For example, the Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy.


In short, the stimulus debate offers a pretty good portrait of the men and woman who would be president. And I haven’t said a word about their hairstyles.

I think we know who's the real progressive in the race.


One America v. Two Americas

from http://democraticunderground.com/

Time for change's Journal

“One America” or “Two Americas” – Important Differences in the Views of Obama and Edwards

Posted by Time for change in General Discussion

Sun Jan 13th 2008, 07:32 PM

I perceive these as dark times for our country. Not only have we just endured 7 years of the worst and most lawless presidential administration in our nation’s history, along with the failure of our Congress to respond accordingly; but it appears likely that for the first time since 1972, when I first became old enough to vote in a presidential election, I will be disappointed in my Party’s choice of nominee. Yes, I’ll still vote for him or her, for reasons that I have previously explained. But if either of the two current front runners wins this nomination I will have difficulty mustering up much enthusiasm – unless I change my mind about them, which is still possible.

Since 1972, my main criteria for feeling good about the Democratic nominee has been adherence to the general liberal principles of the Democratic Party, going at least as far back as FDR and his New Deal. In domestic affairs, that means at the very least, recognizing that the purpose of government is to improve the lives of the American people – not to cater to special interests at the expense of the American people. And in foreign affairs, that means recognizing the basic principles of international law as put forth in the United Nations Charter, especially the principle that war should be used only as a last resort to defend the vital interests of our country

.I have serious concerns about the extent to which our two front runners adhere to those basic principles. In both cases, there is evidence for and against. Though I have serious concerns about both frontrunners, this post focuses on the contrast between the world views of Obama and Edwards, since this is something I have thought a lot about recently. Emphasis of the Edwards campaign on fighting poverty.

My initial opinion of John Edwards was mainly formed in 2003-4 during his presidential campaign. What impressed me most about him was his emphasis on poverty – a theme that I don’t recall being emphasized by a serious major party presidential candidate since I’ve been old enough to vote – with the possible exception of George McGovern in 1972. What was so surprising about Edwards’ emphasis on that issue was that poverty is considered a losing campaign issue in this country. Those most affected by it are the least likely to vote, and they certainly don’t contribute much money to political campaigns. Furthermore, it’s almost impossible to raise the subject without being accused of “class warfare”.

Yet, as I discuss in this post, Edwards has not only made poverty a centerpiece of both his 2004 and 2008 presidential campaigns, but he has developed comprehensive plans for eradicating poverty in our country. This is extremely important in my view. In a slight revision of one of Jesus’ most famous quotes, I would say of presidential candidates that whatever they neglect to do for the least powerful of their constituents they neglect to do for their country.

One America or Two Americas – The striking difference between Obama and Edwards at the 2004 Democratic National ConventionThe contrast between the world views of Edwards and Obama was starkly evident at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when Obama exploded onto the national scene with his “One America” speech. At the very same convention where Obama spoke of “One America”, the theme of Edwards’ speech, consistent with his presidential campaign, was “Two Americas”. That theme indicated a straight forward acknowledgement of the increasing income disparity in our country to Gilded Age proportions and 37 million Americans (12.7% of the U.S. population) living in poverty. Obama’s theme of “One America” was optimistic, hopeful, and “politically correct”, and it was very enthusiastically received by a large number of Americans. Edwards’ theme of “Two Americas” was more daring and less “politically correct”, in the sense that most Americans don’t like to hear criticism of their country. But it certainly depicted the reality of the current state of our nation much better than Obama’s speech did.

An article in The Nation appearing soon after the Convention opined that it isn’t difficult to reconcile Obama’s “One America” theme with Edwards’ “Two Americas” theme. The apparent basis of that opinion was that Obama was speaking of an aspiration, whereas Edwards was speaking of the current reality. But it’s not at all clear to me that Obama was speaking of an aspiration, rather than what he considered to be a reality. For example, Obama said “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America”. That’s a nice aspiration, but it was stated as a fact rather than as an aspiration. I agree more with what Paul Krugman had to say on the subject, in “The Conscience of a Liberal”, as much more reflective of current reality:

The central fact of modern American political life is the control of the Republican Party by movement conservatives, whose vision of what America should be is completely antithetical to that of the progressive movement…

To be fair to Obama, he did note in his speech that there is a lot of work to be done, and he was reasonably specific about some of the issues that need work. I think that this is what gets to the heart of my ambivalence about him. He does in fact espouse many of the liberal principles that are so important to me. But then he says things that seem to negate those principles – even in the same speech or the same book (more on that shortly). He acknowledges many of the problems that we have in our country, but it is not clear to me how serious he is about addressing those problems. Why acknowledge, for example, that “With just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all”, in a speech in which the theme is “One America”?

A few words on partisanship vs. bi-partisanship.

Strongly related to the “One America”/”Two Americas” difference in the views of Obama and Edwards are their views towards partisanship versus bi-partisanship. Obama repeatedly emphasizes the need for more bi-partisanship in our country, whereas Edwards repeatedly emphasizes the need to oppose the rich and powerful in order to provide more opportunities for the poor and powerless. I am much more in agreement with Edwards than Obama on this issue. I believe that Paul Krugman nails the bottom line for this issue very well. Following his above-noted statement on how right wing ideologues have taken over the Republican Party, Krugman continues:

Because of that control, the notion, beloved by political pundits, that we can make progress through bipartisan consensus is simply foolish. To be a progressive, then, means being partisan – at least for now. The only way a progressive agenda can be enacted is if Democrats have both the presidency and a large enough majority in Congress to overcome Republican opposition. And achieving that kind of political preponderance will require leadership that makes opponents of the progressive agenda pay a political price for their obstructionism – leadership that, like FDR, welcomes the hatred of the interest groups trying to prevent us from making our society better.

I absolutely agree with that. I think that failure to recognize the need for partisanship in today’s political climate is foolish – as Krugman says.

From Obama’s autobiography – “The Audacity of Hope”:

The thing that bothers me most about Obama’s general views is a few passages from his book, “The Audacity of Hope”. Those few passages worry me far more than his theme of “One America” that he spoke of at the Democratic Convention of 2004. I’ve said before that Obama has a lot of good and creative things to say in his book. So why should I hold a few pages against him, when the good majority of his book is pretty good? That’s what I’d like to explain here, and ask if people think that I’m making too big a deal of this. First I’ll quote some of the paragraphs (all from the first chapter) that upset me the most, and then I’ll discuss why those paragraphs upset me so much:

I also think my party can be smug, detached, and dogmatic at times. I believe in the free market, competition, and entrepreneurship, and think no small number of government programs don’t work as advertised...We Democrats are just, well, confused. There are those who still champion the old-time religion, defending every New Deal and Great Society program from Republican encroachment, achieving ratings of 100 percent from the liberal interest groups … Mainly, though, the Democratic Party has become the party of reaction. In reaction to a war that is ill conceived, we appear suspicious of all military action. In reaction to those who proclaim the market can cure all ills, we resist efforts to use market principles to tackle pressing problems… We lose elections and hope for the courts to foil Republican plans. We lose the courts and wait for a White House scandal. And increasingly we feel the need to match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics.… Yet our debate on education seems stuck between those who want to dismantle the public school system and those who would defend an indefensible status quo, between those who say money makes no difference in education and those who want more money without any demonstration that it will be put to good use…We know that the battle against international terrorism is at once an armed struggle and a contest of ideas… But follow most of our foreign policy debates, and you might believe that we have only two choices – belligerence or isolationism…. Yet publicly it’s difficult to find much soul-searching or introspection on either side of the divide, or even the slightest admission of responsibility for the gridlock…I began silently registering … the point at which the denunciations of capitalism or American imperialism came too easily, and the freedom from the constraints of monogamy or religion was proclaimed without fully understanding the value of such constraints, and the role of victim was too readily embraced as a means of shedding responsibility, or asserting entitlement… All of which may explain why, as disturbed as I might have been by Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980…and his gratuitous assaults on the poor, I understood his appeal. That Reagan’s message found such a receptive audience spoke not only to his skills as a communicator; it also spoke to the failures of liberal government… For the fact was that government at every level had become too cavalier about spending taxpayer money… A lot of liberal rhetoric did seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities… Nevertheless, by promising to side with those who worked hard, obeyed the law, cared for their families, and loved their country, Reagan offered Americans a sense of a common purpose that liberals seemed no longer able to muster….

To be fair, Obama did include a sort of disclaimer:

This telling of the story is too neat, I know… I know of very few elected Democrats who neatly fit the liberal caricature… I won’t deny my preference for the story the Democrats tell, nor my belief that the arguments of liberals are more often grounded in reason and fact.

But in my view the disclaimer was rather weak compared to what went before it. My opinions of Obama’s criticisms of the Democratic Party...This is how I view some of the above quotes by Obama:

“I think that my party can be smug, detached and dogmatic at times… Mainly though, the Democratic Party has become the Party of reaction.”

Those are awfully tough words for a politician to use against his own party. The Democratic Party is not the party of reaction – the Republican Party is. It is statements like these that can and will be used by Republicans against the Democratic nominee, no matter who it is.

“There are those who still champion the old-time religion, defending every New Deal and Great Society program from Republican encroachment…”

The New Deal exemplifies what is best about the Democratic Party. It lifted millions out of poverty at the time, and it served for many decades as a bulwark of financial security for the American people. Republican encroachment against New Deal programs since the early 1980s has been one of the worst things to befall our country. This statement by Obama is something I would expect more from a Republican than a Democrat. It belittles the best of the Democratic Party, and it obscures the pressing need we have to reverse Republican encroachment against perhaps the most successful group of programs the U.S. Congress has ever enacted.

“… and achieving ratings of 100% from liberal interest groups”

When the term “interest group” is used in a pejorative sense it is generally taken to mean a small group that has a financial interest in a particular political outcome. Thus, if the oil industry participates in the writing of energy legislation, it is acting as an interest group. Groups such as the International Red Cross, human rights organizations, or the ACLU, on the other hand, are not “interest groups” in that sense. It seems to me that lumping such organizations under the term “interest group” diminishes them by implying that their purpose is merely to enhance their own wealth or power.

“In reaction to a war that is ill conceived, we appear suspicious of all military action.”

In the first place, members of Congress should be suspicious of all military action, and I have serious qualms about any Congressperson who isn’t. Secondly, this is a straw man statement if I’ve ever seen one. What military action could he possibly be talking about that Democrats were suspicious of but shouldn’t have been suspicious of? If anything, Democrats and Republicans both have been way too eager to facilitate military action that they should have been suspicious of. A statement like this does nothing but give credence to the Republican myth that Democrats are “weak on defense”.

“We lose elections and hope for the courts to foil Republican plans.”

What on earth is he talking about?

“We lose the courts and wait for a White House scandal.”

Wait for a White House scandal? We have a whole pile of more White House scandals right in front us than our country has ever seen, and yet we’re hardly doing anything about it. What is he talking about? Words like this serve only to inhibit Congress from exerting their responsibility to hold the Executive Branch accountable for their actions.

“And increasingly we feel the need to match the Republican right in stridency and hardball tactics.”

When’s the last time that happened?

“Yet our debate on education seems stuck between those who want to dismantle the public school system and those who would defend an indefensible status quo, between those who say money makes no difference in education and those who want more money without any demonstration that it will be put to good use.”

There he goes again giving credence to another Republican talking point: The stereotypical “tax and spend” liberal.

“We know that the battle against international terrorism is at once an armed struggle and a contest of ideas… But follow most of our foreign policy debates, and you might believe that we have only two choices – belligerence or isolationism.”

I find the implication that Democrats have acted as isolationists in regard to George Bush’s “War on Terror” to be ridiculous. The truth is much the opposite – Many Democrats as well as Republicans have served as rubber stamps for the Bush administration’s grab for ever more power and adventurism in foreign affairs. The Iraq War and Military Commissions Act of 2006 are two of the most egregious examples.

I began silently registering … the point at which the denunciations of capitalism or American imperialism came too easily.”

Denunciations of imperialism came too easily?? The United States is currently the most feared and imperialistic country in the world. We have done tremendous harm to numerous countries over the past several decades through our imperialist adventures, the most recent example being our invasion and occupation of Iraq. Denunciations of American imperialism within our own country, especially among politicians, have been far too infrequent. To imply otherwise is to condone and facilitate more of the same.

An overview of the different world views of Edwards vs. Obama:

It has occurred to me that it might be reasonable to excuse Obama’s positioning himself towards the center on the grounds that, as the first African-American in our country to have a good shot at the presidency, he is likely to appear threatening to a number of white voters. By emphasizing “Two Americas”, John Edwards sends out the message that there is something very wrong with our country, and he intends to change it. By emphasizing “One America”, Obama sends out the message that perhaps not much change is needed. Similar signals are given through Edwards’ emphasis on the need to stand up to the rich and powerful, vs. Obama’s emphasis on bi-partisanship. And I suppose that Obama’s criticisms of Democrats, as I recounted above, are meant to further emphasize his “bi-partisanship”.

The end result is that Edwards’ signals are very threatening to the rich and powerful, whereas Obama’s signals are much more reassuring. It doesn’t matter how often he uses the word “change” in his speeches. Though he uses the word a great deal, the message that he sends out is one of status quo rather than of change. It may (or may not) be true that there is enough racism in this country today that an African-American candidate for president has to position himself towards the center or the right – thereby making himself appear non-threatening – in order to have a reasonable chance of winning. But if he campaigns towards the center, then what’s to say that he won’t govern towards the center?

The bottom line for me is this: I feel that at this point in our history we badly need a president who will assertively reverse our move to the far right that has occurred over the past three decades. When our leaders speak about poverty in our country or the need to curb the interests of the rich and powerful for the benefit of all Americans, these issues gain new legitimacy in the eyes of the American public. John Edwards has shown that he is not afraid to aggressively pursue that course of action.

What may have happened in Iowa

from: The Campaign To Change America

by Fieldofdreams

My husband and I were the caucus chair and precinct captain respectively,in our precinct. There is much misunderstanding of the caucus process in the public and in the media. The caucus process benefitted Edwards in that rural communities are given more power than if individual votes are counted as in a primary. However, there are SERIOUS problems with the Iowa caucuses...

First of all, the ONLY requirement to caucus here, is that you must have lived in Iowa for 10 days. You do NOT need to show ID, you do NOT need to show proof of residency upon registering at the caucus site. How many of you knew this? It is strictly an honor system. Your signature is an afidavit and if you are falsely signing in, there is a fine of several thousand dollars. However, this is virtually unenforcable. As a result, especially in the chaos of the huge Jan 3rd turnout, people caucused who should not have. It's easy.

For example, visit a friend or relative for Christmas (more than 10 days before 01/03) and stay to caucus. We've lived in our neighborhood 10 years and I grew up here. We've been canvassing for months. (In other words, we are familiar with most folks in our neighborhood.) 2004 saw a record turnout in our tiny precinct of 60 some people, this year 139. Of the 61 Obama supporters at our caucus, 47 were unregistered, 15 had no ID with them (not required, remember) and 2 of them talked openly with each other about being from California and Wisconsin. And before anyone calls me a racist, almost all of us present at the caucus, including Obama supporters, were of the same color. The caucus chair called the Iowa Democratic Party hotline with concerns about lots of people with no ID that did not appear to be from the neighborhood - again, NOT BASED ON COLOR - and was told that chaos was happening all over the state and that there was basically nothing to be done.

Does Obama deserve credit for having a phenomenal grassroots organization? Absolutely, yes. Did his campaign have non-Iowans caucusing? I believe, yes. Were there enough to determine the outcome? We'll never know. The national Democratic party should become involved in figuring out a fair way to regulate the Iowa caucuses. How about a 30 day residency requirement with proof of residency required at caucus site (like a utility bill)? With Iowa wielding this much power, this problem cannot be ignored.

Joe's take 1/13

Strait of Hormuz Incident; Unexplained Transportation of Nuclear Missiles; False Flag Operations; Impeachment

Dear Friend,

Bush administration and media accounts of the encounter between five Iranian patrol boats and three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz on January 6 continue to unravel.

The patrol boats were initially described by the administration and media as "attack craft" which aggressively threatened and "provoked" the ships, and almost caused them to open fire. A radio communication initially attributed to the patrol boats further intensified the situation, stating "I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes" (1).

(1) Reuters: Iranian Boats “Provoke” US Navy Ships in Hormuz: CNN 1/7/08http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/07/6223/

Multiple lines of evidence emerging since the encounter indicate that the Iranian patrol behavior was much less threatening and provocative than the linguistic "framing" of the administration and media led the public to believe.

(2). There are also now a number of strong reasons to believe that the threatening radio communications did not come from the patrol boats, but instead from a heckler breaking into the radio transmission from a shore station or large ship (3).

(2) Gareth Porter: Official Version of Naval Incident Starts to Unravel 1/10/08http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=40747

(3) The Navy Times: Prankster May Be Responsible for Radio Threats Against Navy 1/11/08http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/011208C.shtmlGiven the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in October, 2000, one can certainly understand how the Navy, administration and media initially described the incident as they did. The question remains, however, why Bush continues to frame the incident as an illustration of extreme Iranian provocation (4), and why the media have been so slow to challenge and correct the account (5).

(4) Associated Press: Bush Insists Iran Biggest Terror Sponsor 1/13/08http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080113/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_mideast;_ylt=AiZXVj0N.PSHLKzrMmRiEKas0NUE

(5) Kristina Borjesson: Does The Hormuz Videotape Literally Produced by thePentagon Mean Cue Up the War with Iran? 1/13/08http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/contributors/1499The question also remains -- could the encounter have turned into a Gulf of Tonkin (6) like manufactured excuse that could have been used by the administration to justify an attack upon Iran (7)?

(6) Wikipedia: Gulf of Tonkin Incidenthttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_Incident

(7) Amy Goodman: Sensationalist Media Did Pentagon's Bidding in Fake Naval 'Provocation' with Iran 1/14/08http://www.alternet.org/story/73618/Evidence is abundant that Bush, Cheney and their enablers have aspired to attack Iran for some time, and that they have been actively searching for and trying to create justifications for such an attack (see 8-10 for recent examples).

(8) Gareth Porter: Cheney, Lieberman and Iran War Conspiracy 8/16/07http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gareth-porter/cheney-lieberman-and-ira_b_60705.html

(9) Gareth Porter: US Tags Iran for Casualties from Its Own Attacks 8/15/07http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/08/15/3183/

(10) Gareth Porter: US-IRAN: New Arms Claim Reveals Cheney-Military Rift 6/21/07http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/21/2019/Could aspirations to attack Iran somehow have been involved in the unbelievable 36 hour sequence of violations of the military's nuclear weapon-handling regulations that occurred in the US last August 29 and 30? On those dates, and in violation of every procedural and chain-of command military regulation, six nuclear warheads were mounted on six Advanced Cruise Missiles at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, loaded on a B-52, flown to Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, and left sitting on the tarmac for 10 hours (11-13).

(11) Dave Lindorff: The Air Force Cover-Up of That Minot-Barksdale Nuke Missile Flight 10/31/08http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/?q=node/57

(12) Robert Stormer: Nuke Transportation Story Has Explosive Implications 10/9/07http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/10/09/4414/

(13) Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya: Missing Nukes - Treason of the Highest Order 11/29/07http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7158Commenting on the massive breach of nuclear weapons security that occurred, Dave Lindorff (14) recently noted that:"[The] incident only came to public attention because three as yet unidentified Air Force whistleblowers contacted a reporter at the Military Times newspaper, which ran a series of stories about it, some of which were picked up by other US news organizations.

An Air Force investigation into that incident, ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, claimed improbably that the whole thing had been an “accident,” but many veterans of the US Air Force and Navy with experience in handling nuclear weapons, as well as experts in arms control, say that such an explanation is impossible, and argue that there had to have been a chain of orders from above the level of the base commander for such a flight to have occurred.Incredibly, almost five months after that bizarre incident (which included several as yet unexplained deaths of B-52 pilots and base personnel occurring in the weeks shortly before and after the flight) in which six 150-kiloton warheads went missing for 36 hours, there has been no Congressional investigation and no FBI investigation into what happened."

(14) Dave Lindorff: 9-11 Cover-Up, Treason and The Bomb 1/7/08http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/?q=node/92Enlarging the focus somewhat, a number of compelling discussions are available about how a "false flag" attack or an attack by al Qaeda might be used by the Bush administration to justify an attack upon Iran (15-17).

(15) Gareth Porter: Could al Qaeda Attack Trigger War With Iran? 6/6/07http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/06/06/1688/

(16) Bruce Reidel: Al Qaeda Strikes Back, May/June 2007http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070501faessay86304/bruce-riedel/al-qaeda-strikes-back.html

(17) False Flag Operationshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_flagThe way to stop this madness, and to restore integrity to our government and hope to our country and world, is to impeach Bush and Cheney. As of today, almost 188,00 individuals have signed the Wexler, Gutierrez, Baldwin (and now Wiener; see 20) petition to begin impeachment hearings against Cheney (18, 19). Conservative "blue-dog" Democrat Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine has also recently called for hearings on Cheney's impeachment (20), and former Senator and Democratic Party presidential nominee George McGovern recently called for the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney (21).

(18) Join Wexler's Call for Cheney Hearingshttp://www.wexlerwantshearings.com/

(19) 117,000 Signatures in 6 Days to Impeach Cheney -- Add Yours 12/20/07http://www.sjvgreens.org/current/impeachCheney5.shtml

(20) Dave Lindorff: Tipping Point on Impeachment is Approaching 1/3/08http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/?q=node/90

(21) George McGovern: Why I Believe Bush Must Go - Nixon Was Bad. TheseGuys Are Worse 1/6/08http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/01/06/6210/

Peace, Joe

-- Joseph Miller

Associate Professor of Psychology
Saint Mary's College
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Iowa and the caucus - part 2




After a warm (not hot) shower at Motel Tobeavoided of Ft. Dodge, I headed into the Edwards office to do my part. In talking with volunteer coordinators prior to my trip, I learned that Karita Hummer would also be working out of this office. I was really pleased about that because she and I had had a lot of contact via the Edwards Blog. I think it's true to say that she and I were each inspired to create our own blogs due to our experience on the Edwards Blog.


When she arrived in the office that morning, we simultaneously figured out who the other was and a big hug was the only thing to do. She'd already been working there a couple days, but I was pleased to be paired up with her for canvassing in the central city area. We took the "Blue Daddy Truck" (daughter Sarah's term), parked it, and I went with Karita to a few houses before we split up.


Ms. Hummer is indomitable. She possesses great heart and a great heart. I watched her scale icy berms the plows had blocked the public sidewalks with again and again - all to get the chance to talk to people about the opportunity they had to elect a truly progressive candidate President of the United States.


We weren't knocking on every door. The campaign had refined lists by this point to undecided voters and voters leaning towards John Edwards. These were the folks we were attempting to talk to. And in Iowa anyway, most of them were willing to talk to us - in fact, many were eager to talk with us.


It was a very cold day. I checked in with Karita from time to time. We warmed up, moved the truck as our area narrowed. It was getting dark as we finally finished up. Karita was of the view we should immediately return to the office. Luckily, I had the truck keys and I insisted we treat ourselves to a decent meal first. She called in for us, and agreed to my terms.

After warming and refueling ourselves, we returned to the shabby storefront office, where there were in excess of twenty people pounding the phones. With no phones available, Karita and I used our own cell phones to contact potential Edwards caucusers. We kept this up until about 8:00 PM.

In the meantime, arrangements had been made for lodging for me.

Also in the meantime, a dense ice fog had settled into the area.

Michiana Call To Action

by Ana Velitchkova
Michiana Call to Action, Publicity Committee

We invite area residents to participate in a Michiana Call to Action, January19-26, 2008, a local response to the World Social Forum’s call for a globalweek of action http://www.wsf2008.net/ . Throughout the week, Michiana residents united to speak out for labor and other human rights, peace and justice, and sustainability will lead us in actions supporting initiatives for social change.

The action week will culminate on Saturday, Jan. 26 with an event at the St.Joseph County Public Library where people can learn more about the World and U.S. Social Forums, reflect on the week’s activities, become familiar with local groups and initiatives, and join in discussions about launching a local social forum process in Michiana.

Since the first World Social Forum in 2001, millions of people from over 130 countries have participated in local, national, and regional “Social Forums.”

Planning team members, including Judith Rubleske, hope to begin a social forumprocess in the Michiana region. “What’s really exciting is that we’re part of aglobal event—that we’re part of a much bigger movement for social justice.”

“The 15,000 people at this past July’s U.S. Social Forum were an inspiration. They reminded us that this country is very diverse but also full of creative and dedicated people” said Jackie Smith, who teaches peace studies at the University of Notre Dame. “If ‘another world is possible,’ they said, ‘another U.S. is necessary.’ Well, if we’re going to change things in our country, it’s best to start right here.”

Fortunately, there’s no need to start from scratch, since “there is an increasing level of democratic citizen participation in thisarea and these events can help us explore new opportunities to work together,”according to Diana Hess, who is active in many local groups, including the Community Forum for Economic Development.

Participants seek to build new alliances and explore strategies for addressing persistent problems of social and economic injustice, violence, racism, and environmental destruction. As Joseph Carbone of Jobs with Justice and the St.Joseph Valley Project noted, “what I’m hoping is that we start some conversations between groups that now have little or no contact. Over time,this can lead to lasting relationships where people cooperate to promote more just and sustainable policies.”

Events will be held throughout the Michiana area during the week. On Saturday,January 26 all are invited to the downtown branch of the St. Joseph CountyPublic Library (at Main and Wayne Streets in South Bend) to learn more about the World Social Forums and about the campaigns that have been part of the Michiana Call to Action. The program will bring together diverse community groups working on issues such as peace, civil and immigrant rights, worker rights, human rights, and environmental sustainability. A key goal of thediscussion is to identify lessons from each others’ experiences that can strengthen social change efforts, and seek new ways to work together to address common problems.

Karl Hardy, of the St. Joseph Valley Greens, sees the call to action as a refreshing change from politics as usual: “The presidential primaries seem sofar removed from the actual problems we’re facing on a day-to-day basis. This week of action gives everyone a chance to lead. We are defining the agenda andexploring ideas of how we can make our city and region a better place to live.

The point is, we don’t have to wait for change from above.”Participation in the Michiana Call to Action is open to all individuals, groups,or organizations interested in learning about connections between global forcesand local problems and in furthering a sustainable and people-centered economy,fighting violence, exploitation, and discrimination, and advancing human rights.

For more information or to get involved, see: http://michianasocialforum.org/

Events:

Saturday, January 19: Earth Friendly Eating – Living Green, 11AM St. JosephCounty Public Library, South Bend (Main & Wayne), Dickinson Room. Learn how food choices affect the environment and our health.

Sunday, January 20: Cool Cities Campaign, 4PM Fiddler’s Hearth Public House(Colfax & Main). The Progressive Town Hall hosts Christine Fiordalis (SierraClub) and guests for a discussion of this national response to the globalclimate crisis.

Sunday, January 20: Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), 3PM NorthernIndiana chapter open house at Rachel’s Bread, 212 W. Washington Street inGoshen. For details, contact Jacob@wandni.org

Monday, January 21: Martin Luther King Day – Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition's Call to end funding for the war in Iraq, 4PM Congressman JoeDonnelly’s office (Colfax, next to SB Tribune building). 5-6PM vigil at theFederal building (Jefferson & Main).

Wednesday January 23: Jobs with Justice action on the worker’s rights, 5-6PMSouth Bend Housing Authority, 501 Alonzo Watson Drive (off of Western, near Kovaleski Stadium). Support JWJ and the Teamsters Union to help local workersachieve the international human right of choosing whether or not they can joina union.

Thursday January 24: Blue-Green Alliance Press Conference, 10AM, further detailsTBASaturday January 26: Michiana and the World Social Forums, 12 Noon-4:30 St.Joseph County Public Library, South Bend (Main & Wayne). Learn about the WorldSocial Forums and the U.S. Social forum. Hear from the organizations andcampaigns that have been part of the Michiana Call to Action, and join in thesocial forum process in Michiana.

Friday, January 11, 2008

New York Post Attacks Edwards, Sarkisyans

Okay, I'm gonna borrow a phrase too often used by the folks across the aisle: this is beyond the pale.

The NY Post, under an article titled, "Edwards' Evil Insurance Plan" defends Cigna, calls Edwards - in so many words - a political ambulance chaser and in the process degrades the Sarkisyans and their fight for justice after the death of their daughter from what appears to be unfair claims practices on the part of their insurance company.

Here's a gem quote right here:

But he's [Edwards] too smart not to know that in this case (at the very least) it's dishonest and ignores important public-policy concerns: Cigna didn't kill Sarkisyan, her disease did.


Based on that false premise of blame the sick patient for dying of their disease (instead of blame the multi-billion dollar health care insurance company for denying life saving treatment that doctors said was both necessary and not experimental), the article then goes on to berate Edwards for using these folks as political pawns in his nefarious scheme to become president and give folks universal health care.

The logic - or lack thereof - is astounding in its pretzel-like twists and turns:

Edwards' grandstanding was irresponsible. Livers are scarce, life-saving resources. Far too few are available; thousands of potential recipients die awaiting a transplant. A transplant for Nataline would have doomed another potential liver recipient to death for want of an organ - or subjected a live donor to risky surgery for little likely gain.

Should one potential recipient be jumped over others because John Edwards has found it politically expedient to champion her cause? Should an organ be used for an unproven indication when it's far more likely to save other possible recipients?

We can't expect parents and even the treating physicians to decide that the prospects of success are so slim or uncertain that their daughter or patient shouldn't receive a scarce, life-saving liver. But public officials, particularly ones who aspire to overhaul the health system, must be able to.


Get it? Those pesky doctors and families of sick and dying people are standing in the way of those "responsible" public officials who need to overhaul the health care system. And if you're sick and dying and need a liver transplant, tough. You can't have one because of the next sick and dying person in need of a liver transplant.

If you want to read this whole excuse for propping up our failed health care system, the link is here: http://www.nypost.com/seven/01102008/postopinion/opedcolumnists/edwards_evil_insurance_scam_797339.htm?page=0

The health care battle has already started, folks, with people like John Edwards being painted as the irresponsible public servants trying to fix the system, and folks like - oh, I don't know, your next Republican congressmen in the pocket of the insurance lobby - as the good, honest public servants riding in on their white horses to save the day.

I'm an Edwards supporter, in no small part due to his stance on health care. This is a fight, the fight has already begun, and we're seeing right now how compromised media outlets like the New York Post are going to be waging it.

That's why I firmly believe any attempt at giving these folks a few bought seats at the table will fail. They won't just eat up all the food, they'll blame the rest of us hungry folks for not having enough food to feed ourselves.

The comeback continent

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Friday 11 January 2008

Today I'd like to talk about a much-derided contender making a surprising comeback, a comeback that calls into question much of the conventional wisdom of American politics. No, I'm not talking about a politician. I'm talking about an economy - specifically, the European economy, which many Americans assume is tired and spent but has lately been showing surprising vitality.

Why should Americans care about Europe's economy? Well, for one thing, it's big. The G.D.P. of the European Union is roughly comparable to that of the United States; the euro is almost as important a global currency as the dollar; and the governance of the world financial system is, for practical purposes, equally shared by the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve.

But there's another thing: it's important to get the facts about Europe's economy right because the alleged woes of that economy play an important role in American political discourse, usually as an excuse for the insecurities and injustices of our own society.

For example, does Hillary Clinton have a plan to cover the millions of Americans who lack health insurance? "She takes her inspiration from European bureaucracies," sneers Mitt Romney.

Or are top U.S. executives grossly overpaid? According to a Times report, Michael Jensen, a professor emeritus at Harvard's Graduate School of Business whose theories helped pave the way for gigantic paychecks, considers executive excess "an acceptable price to pay for an American economy that he believes has outstripped Japan and Europe in growth and prosperity."

In fact, however, tales of a moribund Europe are greatly exaggerated.

It's true that Europe has had a lot of economic troubles over the past generation. In the mid-1970s the Continent entered a prolonged era of sluggish job creation, which contrasted with vigorous employment growth in the United States.

And in the 1990s, Europe lagged behind America in the adoption of new technology. For example, in 1997 fewer than 15 percent of French homes contained personal computers and fewer than 1 percent were connected to the Internet.

But that was then.

Since 2000, employment has actually grown a bit faster in Europe than in the United States - and since Europe has a lower rate of population growth, this has translated into a substantial rise in the percentage of working-age Europeans with jobs, even as America's employment-population ratio has declined.

In particular, in the prime working years, from 25 to 54, the big gap between European and U.S. employment rates that existed a decade ago has been largely eliminated. If you think Europe is a place where lots of able-bodied adults just sit at home collecting welfare checks, think again.

Meanwhile, Europe's Internet lag is a thing of the past. The dial-up Internet of the 1990s was dominated by the United States. But as dial-up has given way to broadband, Europe has more than kept up. The number of broadband connections per 100 people in the 15 countries that were members of the European Union before it was enlarged in 2004, is slightly higher than in the U.S. - and Europe's connections are both substantially faster and substantially cheaper than ours.

I don't want to exaggerate the good news. Europe continues to have many economic problems. But who doesn't? The fact is that Europe's economy looks a lot better now - both in absolute terms and compared with our economy - than it did a decade ago.

What's behind Europe's comeback? It's a complicated story, probably involving a combination of deregulation (which has expanded job opportunities) and smart regulation. One of the keys to Europe's broadband success is that unlike U.S. regulators, many European governments have promoted competition, preventing phone and cable companies from monopolizing broadband access.

What European countries definitely haven't done is dismantle their strong social safety nets. Universal health care is a given. So are a variety of programs that support families in trouble, helping protect Europeans from the extreme poverty all too common in this country. All of this costs money - even though European countries spend far less on health care than we do - and European taxes are very high by U.S. standards.

In short, Europe continues to be a big-government sort of place. And that's why it's important to get the real story of the European economy out there.

According to the anti-government ideology that dominates much U.S. political discussion, low taxes and a weak social safety net are essential to prosperity. Try to make the lives of Americans even slightly more secure, we're told, and the economy will shrivel up - the same way it supposedly has in Europe.

But the next time a politician tries to scare you with the European bogeyman, bear this mind: Europe's economy is actually doing O.K. these days, despite a level of taxing and spending beyond the wildest ambitions of American progressives.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Iowa and the caucus - Part 1


by Don Wheeler


It would be reasonable to think that Iowa would be a lot like Indiana, and Ft. Dodge (pop. 75,000) would be a lot like South Bend, but it seemed to me there were about as many differences as similarities. The terrain is not terribly different - just more hilly and wooded - but other factors are very different.


For one thing, Iowa is much "greener". It is standard to find higher octane (midgrade) 15% ethanol blends at nearly every gas station. The curious thing about it is that it typically costs 20 cents less per gallon than regular. (Why would anyone buy regular)?! You also see a lot of wind farms generating electricity. And Iowa charges a deposit on cans and bottles.


The contrast between Ft. Dodge and South Bend is more dramatic than the population difference would have made me anticipate. In part, I suppose it should be pointed out that the South Bend area includes a sister city and several nearby towns. In Ft. Dodge, other towns are a pretty good distance away- and they're all a lot smaller. South Bend has much more of a "big city" feel, Ft. Dodge is definitely a rural town, despite it's size.


Agriculture is much more important to Ft. Dodge and right now the corn farmers are doing well. There is a high capacity ethanol plant in the area and another under construction. But it can't be a sustainable policy to propel our vehicles by taking food out of the supply pipeline, so it's an open question how long the farmers will enjoy this market. (Isn't it ironic that corn farmers barely make a living when they are raising food, but do well when they are raising fuel)?


Ft. Dodge has many of its own Studebaker stories as well. They may not have lost an employer of thousands of citizens all at once - as did South Bend - but they have steadily lost good paying jobs in mills and production.


There's a Wal-Mart and an old Sears in town, but not much else in the way of "big box" retailers. Some locals told me the best restaurant in town was the Applebys. Most businesses are small and from outward appearances at least, struggling.


The people living there, on the other hand, are friendly and generous. I was quite surprised how willing many of them were to listen to what I had to say - despite the long term onslaught of eighteen campaigns +/- on them.


This being a political blog, I would be remiss in not pointing out this dramatic difference: Iowa holds caucuses in January, Indiana holds primaries in May. That's why I went to Iowa.


Apparently the John Edwards campaign perceived this to be an important area and offered an opportunity to the most progressive candidate. The office was managed by no less than the state Deputy Campaign Director. There were six paid coordinators overseeing nine counties who had been there since July. By the time I arrived, there were about a dozen out of state volunteers and a score or so locals in the office alone. Plus all the folks in the field. This operation represented a pretty serious commitment.


Our headquarters was in an old storefront building, about twenty feet wide and a hundred and fifty feet deep, right downtown. Not posh by any standard, but it kept the wind off us.


I arrived after my eight hour drive and was handed a list of people to call. I gamely went at it for about an hour, but it seemed reasonable to call it a day at that point. Getting a bit lost after leaving the office, I located a dump of a motel to spend the night. It had a bed and heat - and that was about all I needed then.
More to come.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

John Edwards - 36 Hour Marathon for the Middle Class in N.H.

January NPR commentary

The following will air Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 7:35 am and 12:30 pm on WVPE 88.1 FM.

by Don Wheeler

Those of you who have heard my commentaries in the past will know that I often close with: Democracy is not a spectator sport.

That phrase would be an appropriate title for this piece.

I have recently returned from the Iowa caucuses, where I donated a week of my time to the John Edwards campaign. Many people wonder if it is right and/or reasonable that the citizens of Iowa kick off the process of nominating Presidential candidates. Based on my experience – I think so, but that’s not to say the caucus process is not without drawbacks.

I worked in the Ft. Dodge area. Ft. Dodge (pronounced Fo’ Dodge by the locals) is a fairly isolated city of about 75,000 people located about 90 minutes north of Des Moines. The location was chosen by the campaign and four volunteers from California were posted there as well – all of us there at our own expense. It seemed clear the area was considered important to the campaign.

Fort Dodge, like many towns on the prairie has suffered through many plant closings and small business failures. The businesses who haven’t failed are struggling. Corn farmers are doing well for the moment – thanks to the ethanol boom, but there’s no telling how long that will last.

I spent a lot of time talking to people on the phone and at the front door of their homes. Several even invited me in. That was much appreciated – it was bitter cold that week. Considering how much contact the eighteen campaigns had inflicted upon Iowans, I was quite surprised to find a very high proportion of people were still interested and wanted to hear what I had to say. Many folks had seen all the candidates in person, some of these multiple times. It was an unusual occurrence to talk with someone who only knew of the Democratic candidates through their television commercials.

A perfect example of this was an event I helped with on New Year’s Day – with twenty below zero windchills – two days ahead of the caucuses. The room reserved by the Edwards campaign for John’s appearance accommodated 400 with standing room, but there wasn’t enough room for all the people who came – some of whom were there over an hour before the scheduled start time. I’m sure this was true for other candidates as well.

On caucus day itself, I was assigned as an observer and to help our precinct captain in a meeting about an hour west of Ft. Dodge which was held in the home of Jim and Gracia Willis. If you happened to catch the American Public Media program Weekend America, this was the location that they did their segment on. (I’m the guy standing in the blue plaid shirt and a ball cap if you look at the slideshow).

http://weekendamerica.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/01/04/caucus/

I was told to expect approximately 19 attendees, but there were thirty-five, plus me. This was really too many people for their home and I’d challenge the Willis’ claim that things went optimally. I think their view is colored a bit by things going their way.

Nonetheless, the increased attendance of their caucus was reflected state-wide. In 2004, a bit over 120,000 people attended Democratic caucuses – a record. This time nearly 240,000 people made it. Most predictions were for about 150,000. These meetings took place in each of the nearly 1800 precincts of Iowa and had the flavor of town hall meetings.

Some people find it off putting to declare allegiance to a candidate in front of their neighbors. Others may covet the hour and a half required – time which could be spent on reruns of Survivor. A more important drawback is that there is no absentee voting option – if one is out of town or has to work at the time of the meeting, there is no option to weigh in on the outcome. A problem noted by several Iowans I spoke with.

Still, over twenty percent of eligible voters participated – a figure which approaches turnouts in some primary states.

Starting out in a smaller state offers other advantages. Early on, candidates are addressing small groups. This allows voters (from anywhere) direct contact with them. I took advantage of that aspect this past summer.

Furthermore, candidacies not blessed with tens of millions of cash on hand have at least some shot at competing. If the nomination process started in California (for example), it is unlikely that Jimmy Carter’s campaign would have ever gained any traction.

It also gives our candidates a chance to make mistakes and hone their messages.

I’m willing to listen to other ideas, but my experience indicates that Iowans indeed believe democracy is not a spectator sport.

The mad-money primary race

by John Nichols
The Nation

21 January 2008 Issue

Forget the debate about separation of church and state, at least when it comes to this year's first presidential caucuses and primaries. In late December and early January, along the back roads of Iowa and the country lanes spoking out from New Hampshire villages, campaign signs for not just fundamentalist Republican Mike Huckabee but for more secularly inclined Democrat John Edwards ended up sharing front-yard space with Nativity scenes. That's what happens when the nominating processes of two parties get front-loaded into the thick of the holiday season.

That front-loading means that the decisions made before the Twelve Days of Christmas were finished began a frenzy of caucuses and primaries that, in barely a month, is all but certain to identify the presidential nominees. If anything, the sped-up process made Iowa and New Hampshire more important, since strong showings at the start became all the more essential. That's because, despite the candidates' having spent years amassing millions in campaign funds, few will have enough to buy the television commercials they'll need to compete in the February 5 "Tsunami Tuesday," when more than twenty states, from New York to California, will be voting as part of the most absurdly accelerated, money-driven, grassroots-stomping and confusing nominating process in the history of the Republic.

Front-loading is not an entirely new phenomenon. Since the modern primary system came into being in 1968 and 1972, notes Tova Wang, a Democracy Fellow with the Century Foundation, "states have tried to outmaneuver each other for attention and influence" while "the parties have attempted to hold back that scramble." As the 2008 process took shape, however, any semblance of order was lost. What University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato refers to as "scheduling insanity" took hold. With the key players aware that party conventions are little more than theatrical productions, state officials seeking to leap ahead of schedules established by party chieftains no longer took seriously threats by the national committees to dock delegates from the summer sessions. Besides, the starting-gate jumpers calculated, the eventual nominees would invariably allow seating of delegations from states where they must compete in November. So Michigan, Florida and other states set January primary and caucus dates, forcing Iowa and New Hampshire officials to defend their franchises by moving close to Christmas.

"It's awful," says Gwen Carr, a former Democratic National Committee staffer. "No one can make any sense of it except the insiders, and even they are having trouble."

This year's nomination process is troublesome on many levels. And the need to clean it up is an urgent if little understood corollary to the current contest. It's too late to fix 2008, but now is the time to get serious about repairing the process. Every engaged observer agrees that if reforms are not implemented, the front-loading will only speed up in 2012, as states break the New Year's barrier and create a schedule that could see delegate selection begin a year before the party nominees face off.

To halt the slide toward anarchy, reformers must sort through a dizzying array of proposals, from schemes to establish national or regional primaries to a lottery system that would allow time for grassroots candidacies to emerge. They should ask tough questions about whether caucuses are democratic in spirit or practice. They should recognize that Congressional intervention may be necessary to force parties and states to do the right thing. And they must understand, as FairVote's Ryan O'Donnell says, that "once an incumbent is nominated and elected, he or she has no interest in changing the schedule."

If there is no action before next summer's Republican convention, where GOP rules require the party to begin making changes, what O'Donnell calls the "multiple levels of institutional inertia" will kick in, and the opening for reform will start to close. Unfortunately, there's little sense of urgency. More often than not, even activists who have become passionately involved in debates about voting machines and disenfranchisement neglect the need to address the nominating process.

"How the candidates are nominated defines everything else, yet people get so focused on the horse race that they don't always pay enough attention to the need to make the process functional and democratic," says Rob Richie, an expert on electoral systems who directs FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy, which has positioned itself as a key player in the push for reform. "That's the problem, because we have to have more people involved in seeking reform if it's going to happen." Richie is involved, as are assorted reformers, academics, party insiders and political veterans like former Tennessee Senator Bill Brock and California Democratic Party executive board member David Phelps, who have formed a bipartisan Fix the Primaries group, the stated purpose of which is promoting "far-reaching reform options."

The need for a radical reordering goes far beyond the challenges that arose when Iowans struggled to match blue Obama yard signs with green Christmas lights. In a country where the media and political classes far prefer a presidential horse race to the slog of governing, the theater of a front-loaded nominating process is so irresistible that ambitious legislators and journalists exit Washington for Iowa faster than you can say "unfinished business." Obama skipped a key vote on Iran-and then condemned Clinton for showing up and voting with the Bush Administration. Clinton, Obama, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd and John McCain all missed the November vote on the Peru Free Trade Agreement, which set the agenda for future trade debates. This is not a new phenomenon, but "senatorial debilitation"-to borrow a phrase from former Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith, who once proposed a constitutional amendment to boot senators who spent too much time campaigning-is now so thorough that even revelations of presidential lawlessness (for instance, former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's allegation that Bush was in on the plot to discredit former Ambassador Joe Wilson) aren't enough to draw media attention away from kaffeeklatsches in New Hampshire.

Just as governing suffers, so too does politics. "Concluding the nomination process in the winter for all intents and purposes leaves the parties' nominees in waiting, and voters with a vacuum for many months, until the conventions in the late summer," explains Wang. "That gap tends to induce the anointed candidates to focus on raising private money while the public's attention subsides, reducing the amount of time that might be more productively devoted to debating the major issues."

The current nominating process is so antithetical to grassroots activism in any but a handful of states that the best bet is that the two nominees will be more in tune with big donors and Washington consultants than with base voters or the zeitgeist. The front-loading has made Iowa eccentrics and check-writing cynics even more supreme than they already were. And Iowa's supposed make-or-break influence has little to do with political prescience. A candidate's ability to win its caucuses does not necessarily translate into winning the state in the general election-2004 Democratic caucus winner John Kerry went on to be the first Democrat since Walter Mondale to lose the state in November. Yet it was a first-place finish in Iowa that gave Kerry the publicity surge and fundraising force that finished off Howard Dean in New Hampshire. Dean might have been able to undo the damage of Iowa-including the media obsession with his caucus-night "scream"-if he'd had a little more time. But there was no breathing space in 2004, and there is even less in 2008: New Hampshire starts voting less than 100 hours after Iowa caucusing finishes. Then comes the mad rush ending with the February 5 tsunami. "I get dizzy just thinking about it," says a Democratic campaign strategist. "We go for broke in Iowa and New Hampshire, but after that I don't know where to put the candidate, where to buy ads. It's crazy."

Huckabee's surge might appear to call into question a trend that favors name recognition, big money and connections. But even Huckabee's supposedly low-budget campaign-which spent millions in Iowa and New Hampshire-owes less to the media fantasy of his "folksy charm" than a sophisticated appeal to religious prejudice against Mormon Mitt Romney. That reality has GOP insiders writing off the Arkansas evangelical on the theory that, while Huckabee's appeal might prevail in states where low-turnout caucuses and primaries heighten the influence of his evangelical base, he can be stomped in the February 5 "money race." No one knows the minimum needed to compete seriously on that day, but it could easily be $25 million.

Can this rigged system be reordered to create a fair fight in 2012? Yes, but it depends on the ability of reformers to capture a moment when, as veteran political strategist Steve Cobble, a longtime advocate of reform, says, "disgust with how it has all played out will be fresh enough, even among candidates and consultants, to create an opening for real reform."

Unfortunately, even if most of the political class is disgusted, a few key players can still thwart action. After all, it was Karl Rove who effectively created the current crisis when he blocked a Republican task force proposal to restore order with a rational and competitive primary schedule. Under the so-called Delaware Plan, the smallest twelve states would have chosen delegates in March, the next smallest fourteen in April, the next thirteen in May and the remainder in June. The schedule was designed to assure that the majority of delegates would not be chosen until the end, increasing the chance that a long, serious race for the nomination would play out over four months.

The Delaware Plan was to be debated at the 2000 convention, but Rove canceled it. "It had nothing to do with the merits of the plan," explained former Wyoming party chair Tom Sansonetti, who headed the task force. "It was just that the convention was scripted, and there was no room for a floor fight on whether or not the Delaware Plan should be adopted or whether the party was going to stay with its present system." The general sense among political insiders is that had the GOP embraced the reform, the Democrats would have done the same. But when the Republicans stopped talking about repairing the process, the discussion died.

Like many good ideas put on hold by Rove, the Delaware Plan or some variant merits reconsideration. It is far superior to holding a "national primary," which was advocated for many years by progressive reformers. On the surface, a national primary makes sense, as it would allow members of each party to vote on the same day to select candidates. The problem is that in the absence of fundamental campaign finance and media reform, a national primary would replicate most of the pathologies of November elections, with soundbites and thirty-second commercials defining a big-money, small-idea race. The same goes for regional primaries. As Cobble, a strategist for Jesse Jackson's 1988 campaign who is now aiding Dennis Kucinich's quest for the Democratic nomination, says, "The idea of regional primaries taking place on or around the same day is even dumber than a national primary. Not only do candidates have to run media campaigns across various states, which creates a barrier to grassroots and insurgent campaigns; the early stages of the race-which are still likely to be most influential-can be distorted by regional issues that will differ radically if the voting starts in New England versus the South."

A number of savvy reformers, such as California's Tom Gangale, have come around to supporting a scheme, referred to as the American Plan, that in several senses builds on the strengths of the Delaware Plan. The American Plan is designed to begin with contests in states with small populations and then build over an extended period to primaries in bigger states. The schedule would give candidates with low name recognition and small bank accounts time to score breakthrough wins early and then attract the attention, contributions and support needed to compete with better-known and better-funded contenders in bigger states.

Running from March to June of election years, the American Plan would play out over ten two-week intervals, during which states selected by lot choose delegates. In the first interval, combinations of very small states with a total of eight or fewer Congressional districts-such as New Mexico with five, Maine with two and the District of Columbia with one-would hold primaries or caucuses. The point is to encourage door-to-door "retail politicking" at the opening of the process.

The random selection, via a lottery held a year or more before states choose delegates, would break the Iowa/New Hampshire stranglehold and allow states that are more diverse-such as New Mexico, with its large Hispanic population, and Mississippi, with its large African-American population-to be in the running for first-primary status. It would also stagger the schedule that follows the early contests, avoiding front-loading and creating a situation that would allow grassroots campaigns to build over time, as Jimmy Carter's did in 1976.

Whether the American Plan is the exact fix is not the point. FairVote's Richie and the group of reformers associated with the Fix the Primaries project-which includes Republicans like former Senator Brock and Sansonetti, who have worked hard to advance reforms within their party, along with California Democrats like Damian Carroll and David Phelps-go out of their way to highlight all the serious proposals. These include the American Plan, the Delaware Plan, various regional plans and even the national primary scheme. What they really want is for Congress and the parties to create a bipartisan commission to examine the options.

Party officials don't like the idea of Congressional involvement, as was clear last year when Senators Amy Klobuchar and Lamar Alexander proposed a regional primary system. The parties balked, claiming Congress has no authority to tell them how to nominate candidates. That's not necessarily true. With voting rights laws, federal grants to the states for the purchase of election machinery and federal funding of campaigns, Congress is already involved in the nominating process. This year the Federal Election Commission will give the Republican and Democratic national committees $4 million apiece to run their conventions. As Tova Wang explains, "The balance of opinion seems to be that the federal government can play some role." But what role? Rather than proposing a sweeping fix of its own, Congress might do best by prodding the parties with the universal lubricant of American politics: money. Of course, establishing full public financing remains the most appealing reform. But short of that, Congress could promise federal grants to cover all expenses incurred by states that run primaries on a schedule proposed by the commission and accepted by the national parties. That incentive might also encourage states to do away with antidemocratic caucuses, which in 2004 attracted less than 6 percent of eligible voters in Iowa and less than 3 percent in the ten other caucus states.

Even with prodding from Congress, the challenge of getting parties to embrace workable reforms is daunting. Yet it must become a piece of the broader electoral puzzle. Instead of merely complaining about a process that is not putting all its flaws on display, those committed to democratizing it must challenge the likely nominees to support the Fix the Primaries proposal for a bipartisan commission. And activists should work to assure that this summer's party conventions find room for what Rove shut out in 2000: a serious discussion of how to avoid the chaos of a front-loaded, frequently shifting yet always money- and media-defined nominating process.

Wang points out that the current problems cannot be ignored by those who would repair our political system. "Like other issues that the voting and civil rights communities devote attention to, the flaws in the primary process present a serious challenge to fair and equitable representation," she says. "Now that the primaries are an expected and important part of the presidential election system, reform groups [need to start addressing] them in accordance with the same democratic principles as they do for general elections."

Monday, January 7, 2008

John Edwards - The Sarkisyan Family

Edwards gains 6 points in 3 days in a national poll

by Don Wheeler

In the most recent Rasmusen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll published, former Senator John Edwards has been making hay in the new year. Here are the results from Jan. 3 - 6.

1/3/08 Clinton 41% Obama 24% Edwards 17%
1-4/08 Clinton 38% Obama 26% Edwards 18%
1/5/08 Clinton 38% Obama 25% Edwards 20%
1/6/08 Clinton 36% Obama 25% Edwards 23%

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/daily_presidential_tracking_polling_history

The same poll has showed that John Edwards is the strongest Democrat against any Republican contender. Nationally, he beats John McCain handily - the likely Republican nominee - where Clinton loses badly and Obama is in a real dogfight. Additionally, Rasmussen shows Edwards beating any Republican in Kansas and Oklahoma and highly competitive in several other so-called "red" states.

If electibility is a concern, people should take a hard look at the only true progressive in the race.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

No corporate lobbyists in an Edwards White House

On This Week with George Stephanopoulis, John Edwards was questioned about the New Hampshire Debate, lobbyists and the future of his campaign.

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4093850

Iowa and the caucus - introduction

by Don Wheeler

This post kicks off a series about my decision to participate in the Iowa caucuses effort.


In December of 2006 I told my wife Paddy that if John Edwards chose to run for President again, I wanted to go work on the campaign ahead of the Iowa caucuses for 2008. She agreed - a bit absently perhaps. A couple weeks later, John announced his candidacy from the ninth ward of New Orleans.

In the spring of 2007, I suggested to Paddy we should think about the details of me going to Iowa - and caught the person who knows me better than anyone a bit by surprise. But though she was not a supporter of John Edwards at that point, she supported my intention completely. And she understood how serious I was about it.

It can be very easy after making a claim of intended action to get lazy and find some excuse not to execute that action. That was not a big problem for me, but the idea crossed my mind from time to time.

In such cases, making a further commitment of some kind helps to keep one resolved to the chosen task.

I had seen a lot of video of John's speeches on many topics, read his position papers and policy proposals, but I wanted to see him in person and "take the measure of the man". In August while on his Fighting For One America tour, I noticed that he was scheduled for an early afternoon stop in Burlington, Iowa. That was about as close as he was likely to get to me and figuring the four and one half hour commute each way, would allow me to make a day trip out of the event.

It was a gorgeous day, and Burlington is a beautiful, old Mississippi River town that has seen at least somewhat better days. The event was held in a large outdoor area of The Drake restaurant, which looks out on the river and a really cool bridge which is the conveyance to Burlington from Illinois.

After John and his wife Elizabeth spoke and took questions, many well wishers stood in line to speak with each of them. I was one.

If you ever have been at one of these things you'll know that the celebrity's course often gets deflected, and it's almost like a conga line. After thinking I was just a couple people away from talking to John Edwards a few different times, I almost gave up. But I thought, I drove almost five hours to see him and I was going to at least shake his hand.

Then it occurred to me - he was going to have to board his bus. I withdrew from the throng and posted myself by the door to the bus. As he was about to board, I stuck out my hand and said "Senator, I came from South Bend to see you today. And I'll be back to help with the caucus in January". He looked at me soberly, seeming to size me up and -noticing my One Corps shirt - tapped me on the chest and said "Thank you for that".

So now I had made the promise twice.

I allowed the campaign to choose my post, and they chose Ft. Dodge, IA. As you will learn, this turned out to be an area the campaign considered critical and they devoted major effort and resources to it.

There was a huge dose of serendipity for me on this adventure.

Karita Hummer is someone whom I "met" on the John Edwards blog and considered a friend without having really met her. I not only met her in Fort Dodge - she and I worked in tandem canvassing.

To my surprise, I was assigned the role of an observer at a caucus. That particular caucus was featured on NPR's Weekend America program.

As I headed home, I passed Steve Skvara on I-80 in eastern Illinois. Steve, as you'll recall, was the gentleman who - at the AFL-CIO Presidential forum - posed the question to John Edwards "What's wrong with America and what will you do to change it?" Returning readers may remember I had the privilege to interview Mr. Skvara about health care when he was in South Bend.

So this kicks off my brief odyssey report. I'll talk about Iowa, John Edwards, campaigns and how caucuses work.

If there's a bottom line to my experience, it would be: democracy is not a spectator sport.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I am mad

by Willbet

from The Campaign To Change America

Talking with an on line friend from Ca---

he mentioned the stupid, silly HAIR video and paying $400.00 for a haircut---dumb--yes--the humor in it is lost to many---this stupid thing cost John, at least, this one vote---Since I am one of the members of poverty that John is working for, and yes, I firmly believe he is--I can see how the idea of paying 400.00 for a haircut would turn some off.

It is amazing what folk will key in on to dismiss the credibility of a candidate.How I wish that silly video had never happened.

The other issue he mentioned is immigration--living in Ca--he wants action which for some strange reason, he thinks Preacher Huckabee will deliver--(God deliver me from a preacher in politics)it would seem that there is a need to STRONGLY express the Edwards position on immigration "if" this is a sample of California voters. This person isn't a complete idiot which is why it shocked one so badly. Although, I will work hard to sway this person, not sure I can.

I live in poverty: MY son is in Iraq: His life is in peril, while he knows his parents struggle each day to have necessities. Ironic: He isn't paid well enough to support his family and help his parents, yet, if he left the military, worked for those greedy, corporate mercenaries,(Blackwater is but 1) he could help his parents. Why can't people see that John Edwards isn't playing around with his position on issues---or is that the reason? Have we reached a state of wanting to hear nothing---I, for one, want to hear just what the candidate is offering, bad or good----Perhaps Obama's (have nothing against him) smooth delivery of promises to promise change is what people want---for myself, I want someone who will tell me, specifically where he stands----I don't care where he lives, how he lives, how much his haircuts are, how he made his money---I care that his track record shows that he can take on corporate greed and WIN.

(Btw--I didn't just take his word on this, I checked his record) Corporate greed isn't about the small business which incorporates: IT IS ABOUT THE MEGA CONGLOMERATES-- CORPORATIONS, WHO FEED ON THEMSELVES UNTIL THE ENTITIES ARE SO TIERED AS TO MAKE IT PRACTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW WHO OWNS WHOM OR WHAT---MEANWHILE, ENGULFING SMALLER OPERATIONS/CORPORATIONS WHICH POSE ANY THREAT OF USURPING THE STRANGLE HOLD THEY HAVE ON BUSINESS.

We have no idea who owns this country, except, perhaps China, we can't even meet the interest on our debt to China, Japan, and other creditor nation's central banks. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand: If you have to borrow to survive, it only begets a bigger, deeper hole each time the debt can't be paid; without even considering having to borrow more. This country is drowning in debt and we, the ordinary people, have no real idea of who owns us.Of particular concern is the "private entities", investment brokers who don't have to tell who is in the membership roster. For instance, I would like to know how the Bush family has profited from the war? Papa Bush belongs to a "private" cartel. At least, we know who Cheney partially belongs too, although, it's doubtful that Haliburton is the only cashflow from which he will benefit.

There was a comment on another site, the person liked John, but thought "he was too radical". Unreal, how do we change the path of this country without RADICAL CHANGE. Change, which those who are so afraid of John Edwards, are fighting tooth and nail.

In feudal history, those in power were visible, the peons knew who to attack when enough was enough: One suggests, that in this age, we don't know where the power lies....The following is a quote Sen Edwards made; Over the long term this (CHINA) relationship is at least as important and, arguably, the single most important relationship to America's economic security and safety over the long haul. When 44% of our debt is held by China and Japan, with, I think China's holdings in the trillion---yes, it is important. The question, (which by the way, giving credit where due, Hillary Clinton referenced) is: How do we sit across the table with China, of which trade competition is a critical factor and at the same time, China is our BANKER. Even as limited as I am, I get it. How many folk tell their banker what to do, tell the credit card company what to do---tell the lender the terms for lending to buy a home?Common sense: It just ain't done that way. AND WE AIN'T GONNA TELL OUR BANKER>>>>>CHINA, WHAT TO DO EITHER.

Having a shared background with John Edwards, knowing the sharecropper life, the factory jobs, the poor south, I can see and hear truth in what he is expressing.

I know he knows poverty, that is; financial poverty---although, he had ample riches in family and value of family. I am remembering having nothing to eat but a cold baked sweet potato, that same potato tasted so much better surrounded by family, all grasping at any straw to make life better for all. I, and my siblings were taught to stand together, fight together and for each other. We climbed out of that because we were taught a work ethic, bettering your life meant working, whatever labor was available.

Those jobs aren't available anymore. South Carolina has lost thousands upon thousands of jobs and is still losing. The legacy is; knowing how to do without to benefit the whole; something too many in this country don't want to do--fact is: To pay the debt this country has will require extreme sacrifice, one doesn't see the me, myself and I mentality doing what needs to be done. We have spoiled our kids with credit card debt just to keep up with the neighbors, while at the same time not teaching a work ethic---far too many expecting everything for nothing. The family units of which Edwards speaks, his grandparents, parents, children, is a thing of the past----too spread out, self absorbed---the family he refers to; would not have put a member in a nursing home, it was a given that family took care of family--perhaps, it could be said we were too poor and dumb to know anything else; I beg to differ; there isn't a monetary value that is big enough to put on what was lost. It wasn't always good, it wasn't always generous when family took family in: But it sure beats the hell out of living in cars or on the streets as is happening today. Give me back the old grandmother across the street who sat on the porch, watching, just to tell our parents everything we did and the six of us, almost, always gave her plenty of fuel. She filled a purpose I certainly didn't agree with nor see; all I saw, at that time, was the old bat got us into trouble again; sadly, I do see it today, can appreciate that she cared enough to make what we saw as trouble. We learned.

Lack of health and health care; yes, it put one back into poverty.

John Edwards: He is telling my story, singing my song and I will follow the piper till the end.

Throw some elbows, Johnny

by Lisa in Ohio

(from The Campaign To Change America)

Is it okay to hate Obama?

I'm a nice person most of the time. A church-going, happily married, mother-of-two college professor ... I've been a feminist since the age of four when I watched Gloria Steinem debate Phyllis Schlfafly on the Phil Donahue Show (honest.) I did my PhD. work in African-American and Native American literature. (I'm white, if it matters.) I can't think of a single person in the world whom I actively dislike. Usually.

So not only is it surprising, according to my friends, that I so strongly support the white guy in the race, but now after the caucus results and one too many beers I am succumbing to a growing hatred, building inside me for the past week, toward Barack Obama, who is by most reports a very nice (though seriously flawed) man. He is the obstacle between our nation and the leader it needs!

For four years I have believed that John Edwards would become the next president. He should have been the nominee last time and now, good God, he is SUCH a better candidate than he was four years ago. The man has so much substance. His policies are amazing. He is the anti-Bush ... and only 30% of us are seeing it? (Ten percent, nationally.)

If Obama had stayed the hell out of this race, JRE would have mopped the floor with Clinton tonight.
My heart breaks for John, even moreso for Elizabeth, who needs positive news and happiness so she can stave off her illness until a cure is discovered. Also for our country ... If Democrats reject the most true-blue, progressive candidate we have seen in 40 YEARS what are we good for? With Obama, our November choice will be between Republican and Republican-lite.

John Edwards is a classy guy. The irony is that the Philadelphia debate, which was supposed to be Obama's coming out party in terms of taking on Clinton since he'd run such a lackluster campaign, was the spark Obama needed ... not because he did anything but because JRE chinked away so effectively at Clinton's armor of inevitability. Only to be called "angry" by the pundits (whom I REALLY hate)
.
So, John Edwards, it's time to go after BO. The next debate will be smaller. Call Obama on his hypocrisy for attacking your 527 when he has his own, for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the HMO's, for the weaknesses of his healthcare plan, for STEALING your ideas. If the media isn't going to vet this guy, you're going to have to do it.

And talk about your policies. People know your anti-corporate message, so give us the details of how you will fight.

With more than 60 seconds to speak you'll be able to explain your superior energy and healthcare plans, your response to the Bhutto assassination, your College for Everyone idea. And we'll all pray that enough voters in NH are smart enough to see the difference between substance and style.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dispatch from Ft.Dodge, IA

by Don Wheeler

Happy New Year!

You can really feel the surge on the ground here. There's a very large group of highly motivated staff and volunteers. The effort is highly organized and runs surprisingly smoothly.

I met Karita Hummer ( a fellow Edwards blogger from San Jose, CA) and in fact, we spent an afternoon canvassing together. She's a great lady and a hard worker.

That evening back at the campaign office over twenty of us were pounding the phones for Senator Edwards. The office didn't have enough phones for all of us, so some of us used our own cell phones. It was quite a scene.

The next day I was dropped off in a neighborhood of nearby Rockwell City where knocking on thirty-four doors netted eight pledged Edwards caucus goers. As a lot of people weren't home - I was pretty excited by the result.

Today, Senator Edwards is scheduled to appear in Ft. Dodge at 2:45. We'll be there, of course. I'm really looking forward to seeing him in person again.

My hosts Colin and Kathy couldn't possibly more generous, gracious and accommodating. I'm told they've held multiple Edwards House Parties. In fact, I believe the room I'm staying in was most recently used by David Bonior (Edwards' national campaign Chair).

In short, while the work is sometimes tedious and grueling, the rewards are great and the potential reward is off the charts.

After all, Democracy is not a spectator sport.

Look for more detailed posts after I get back to Indiana.

Obama and the Revolt Against the New Hopeism

There's a revolution happening this first day of the New Year. It isn't on your television screens. You can't read about it in the New York Times or the Washington Post...yet.

But it's all the rage on the blogosphere.

From laptops, and desktops, clad in PJ's and sweats, downing aspirin as they're recovering from New Year's Eve, the political blogosphere is quietly asserting itself against the New Hopeism of Barack Obama.

Let's start with Markos Moulitsos of Daily Kos, who is far from a fervent supporter of John Edwards:

"...Not being blinded by candidate worship, it's easier to sniff out the bullsh**. And you have to have your head stuck deep in the sand to deny that Obama is trying to close the deal by running to the Right of his opponents. And call me crazy, but that's not a trait I generally appreciate in Democrats, no matter how much it might set the punditocracy's hearts a flutter."

link: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/1/1/1 33841/9311/412/428780

Kos is referring to Obama's recent attacks on trial lawyers, unions, and even Al Gore and John Kerry. Add that to the earlier gaffe of having Donnie McClurkin, a gospel singer and proponent of the controversial "ex-gay" movement, sharing the stage with you at a campaign concert fundraiser, and you have a candidate who is running to win the Democratic Party's primary who is simultaneously able to alienate some of its key constiuents.

Politico covers the outrage that unions are feeling against the New Hopeism:

"...I'm taken aback that somebody like Obama would think that Oprah Winfrey has a greater right to participate in the political process than the 4 million people I represent," Edward J. McElroy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, which has spent $799,619 on New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's behalf, said, referring to the television host's high-profile support for Obama. "It's sour grapes. It sounds just like the charges the Republicans make."

Gerald W. McEntee, the president of the other major union supporting Clinton, wrote on The Huffington Post that "the Obama campaign's criticism of our political action committee and some of the so-called 527 efforts, such as the one organized in support of [John] Edwards, is troubling because they are suggesting that workers are somehow a special interest, just like insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry..."

link: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/010 8/7652.html

Matt Stoller of Open Left is even more scathing:

"...Since declaring for President, this person has called Social Security a 'crisis', attacked trial lawyers, associated unapologetically with vicious homophobes, portrayed Gore and Kerry as excessively polarizing losers, boasted as his central achievement an irrelevant ethics bill, ran against the DC establishment while taking huge amounts of cash from DC, undermined Ned Lamont in 2006, criticized NAFTA while voting for a NAFTA-style trade agreement, compiled opposition research on the most effective liberal pundit in the country, refused to promise that American troops would be out of Iraq by 2013, and endorsed the central plank of the Bush-Cheney foreign policy doctrine, the war on terror.

How would you react? You could concoct a 'theory of change' and argue that all of this is just deceptive, and the candidate is worth supporting anyway..."

link: http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?dia ryId=3002

Ian Welsh in Huffington Post does a full frontal assault on the technical aspects of the New Hopeism:

"...Then there's Barack "Consensus" Obama. It's hard to even take this seriously. In 2007 the Republicans in Congress killed, through technical filibusters, almost twice as many bills as any Congress ever has. For the last 7 years, George "I won the vote that matters 5-4" Bush has ruled the country by running rough-shod over the opposition party, giving them essentially nothing. There has been no consensus-driven voting or decision-making in the U.S. in 7 years, and there wasn't that much in the '90s, either. Oh, sure, I understand that Obama and many Americans would like to go back to the land of consensus-driven politics, where there's a center and where everyone works for what is best for America by splitting the difference. It's a pretty picture. But there's no middle left..."

link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ian-welsh/ the-edwards-imperative-b_b_79015.html

Ezra Klein shrewdly observes that the trend of New Hopeism is actually veering away from anything progressives or liberals would embrace as a victory:

"...But Obama's comfort attacking liberals from the right is unsettling, and if he does win Iowa, it will not be a victory that either supporters or the media ascribe to the more progressive elements of his candidacy. Instead, they will search for the distinctions he's drawn, and, sadly, a number of those distinctions point away from the heart-quickening progressivism of much of this race, and back towards the old politics of centrist caution and status quo bias..."

link: http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezrak lein_archive?month=01&year=2008& base_name=the_obama_close#103413

Finally, the New Hopeism has unfortunately lead Obama to embrace the Harry and Louise talking points that helped to successfully torch universal health care in the 1990's:



So, let's review. The New Hopeism uses right wing talking points against unions and trial lawyers. It calls out Nobel Peace Prize Winner Al Gore and Senator John Kerry for being too divisive (link: http://weblogs.newsday.com/news/local/lo ngisland/politics/blog/2007/12/obama_gor e_kerry_alienated_hal.html).

And it's willing to alienate the LGBT community by embracing a troubled man pitching a troubled and harmful philosophy of "curing" homosexuality.

On policies it embraces the Harry and Louise arguments against mandates for universal health care and calls social security a "crisis".

This isn't Clintonian triangulation. It's actually worse than that. It's unilaterally disarming before the first shot's been fired.

In the face of the New Hopeism, John Edwards's fighting words are drawing new praise. To quote Ian Welsh:

"...It's time for a new approach, and amongst the three front runners in the Democratic field, that means Edwards. As with FDR, if his approach works, he will be both the most loved and most hated man in America, and some will wring their hands about how divisive that is. But if "unpleasantness" is what is needed to stop going to war illegally, to end the shredding of the Constitution and to stop the destruction of the Middle Class, so be it. An unwillingness to really fight means that those who will, the Republicans, will walk all over those who won't.

The time for the failed politics of compromise is over.

Now it's time for John Edwards."

I couldn't agree more.