Big Brother is Listening to You

A disturbing report on the Big Brother front:

A terrorist surveillance program instituted by the Bush administration allows the intelligence community to monitor phone calls between the United States and overseas without a court order as long as one party to the call is a terror suspect.

Adrienne Kinne, a former U.S. Army Reserves Arab linguist, told ABC News the NSA was listening to the phone calls of U.S. military officers, journalists and aid workers overseas who were talking about “personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism.”

This is how it starts and one reason why the Patriot Act is dangerous.   We already have “unpersons” (enemy combatants), and now surveillance is being stepped-up.   Next come the Thought Police and the Ministries of Truth and Love.   George Orwell is someone I’d not like to see proven right.

Barns and Bios

UPDATE (25 Oct): Replaced second video that somehow was switched on the Brightcove server.

(Nod: Marc Ambinder and Ben Smith, respectively)

You Betcha!

Tom Toles is great.

Pushing Luck

Let’s Debate! (Part 3)

Yay, another “debate.”   I was glad to see that both candidates were willing to eschew the debate rules to allow for some actual debate.   Tom Brokaw didn’t like that so much.

Senator McCain came into the debate needing a game-changing moment, something to either damage Senator Obama or give himself a huge lift.   Neither happened, so this was a lost opportunity for McCain and a loss overall.   Obama owned McCain tonight.   He connected with the audience and the viewers at home, and he was clear, physically secure, stylistically sound, and very presidential.

Some thoughts:

John McCain is old. While not ever mentioned directly or indirectly, the generation gap between Obama and McCain was stark.   McCain really seemed like a old man.   In several camera angles while Obama was delivering an answer, McCain was in the background wandering around the stage aimlessly.   He made several attempts at jokes (hair transplants?) that he was the only one laughing at.   And he twice made the comment that we need someone with a cool or steady “hand at the tiller.”   Maybe this is a generational thing, but I had no idea what that meant.   (A tiller is “a bar or lever fitted to the head of a rudder, for turning the rudder in steering.”)

My friends. A quick search through the transcript yields 19 times that McCain said the phrase “my friends” an average of about 1 time every 5 minutes.   He has turned a phrase meant to be endearing and connecting into a tired, overused (old?) phrase.

Hypocrisy. McCain: “We don’t have time for on-the-job training, my friends.”   Because your vice presidential pick is oh-so ready to lead on day one.

Petraeus. For all of McCain’s praise and name-dropping of General Petraeus, he ought to understand what Petraeus said about declaring victory in Iraq.   McCain and Governor Palin both repeat the line about winning in Iraq and leading troops to victory, but the general says this: “This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade… it’s not war with a simple slogan.”   The McCain campaign, of course, would have us all thinking differently.

McCain’s contempt of Obama. Let the video speak for itself:

Obama. He had two highly connecting responses.   On service:

And the last point I just want to make. I think the young people of America are especially interested in how they can serve, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in doubling the Peace Corps, making sure that we are creating a volunteer corps all across this country that can be involved in their community, involved in military service, so that military families and our troops are not the only ones bearing the burden of renewing America.

And on health care:

Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.

Michelle and Barack. While the McCains left the hall, the Obamas stuck around well after the debate ended to chat with audience members voters.   One more reason why they can connect so well with regular Americans even though they’re painted as “elite.”

Growing Up

James Fallows at The Atlantic writes this:

In these circumstances, and with a presidential election four weeks away, is it conceivable that candidates will waste time arguing whether one of them has been in the same room with a guy who had been a violent extremist at a time before most of today’s U.S. citizens were even born? (William Ayres was a Weatherman in the late 1960s. Today’s median-aged American was born around 1972.) Of course, it’s not only conceivable: it’s the Republican plan for this final push “turning the page” on economic concerns and getting to these “character” and “association” questions about Barack Obama.

Grow up. If John McCain has a better set of plans to deal with the immediate crisis, and the medium-term real-economy fallout, and the real global problems of the era fine, let him win on those. But it is beneath the dignity he had as a Naval officer to wallow in this mindless BS. I will say nothing about the dignity of a candidate who repeatedly winks at the public, Hooters-waitress style.   A great country acts great when it matters.   This is a time when it matters for politicians in the points they raise, for journalists in the subjects they write about and the questions they ask of candidates. And, yes, for voters.

Changing the subject, aka “hey look over there” politics.

I think, though, the call to “act great” could apply to the Obama campaign also.   Yesterday they released a film about McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal.   While I agree that the scandal was about banking, finance, and corruption and thus has relevance in today’s economic crisis, I remain unsure that it matters in the long-term and unsure if it was wise that the Obama campaign has officially endorsed it as an issue.   I understand the value in talking about it, perhaps from the surrogate level, because it paints a factual picture of McCain.   I hope, though, that Obama doesn’t dwell on this scandal the film has been released, let the media talk about it today, move on tomorrow.   There are far too many present-tense scandals and crises to deal with.

“Debate” Tonight

New rule: we stop calling the “debates” debates.   Merriam-Webster defines a debate as:

a contention by words or arguments: as a: the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure b: a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides

Discussion between two sides.   As in both sides interact with each other.   Now check out some of the rules for tonight:

An audience member will not be allowed to switch questions. Under the deal, the moderator may not ask followups or make comments. The person who asks the question will not be allowed a follow-up either, and his or her microphone will be turned off after the question is read. A camera shot will only be shown of the person asking not reacting.

While there will be director’s chairs (with backs and foot rests), McCain and Obama will be allowed to stand but they can’t roam past their “designated area” to be marked on the stage. McCain and Obama are not supposed to ask each other direct questions.

No follow-ups, no interaction.   What kind of debate is this?   Can you imagine if Lincoln and Douglas had these kinds of rules?

The no follow-ups rule pains me because politicians answer the question they want to answer, not necessarily the one they were asked.   Follow-ups by the moderator (or here even from the audience members) provide a means to make sure they answer the actual question a means to ensure voters are that much more well-informed.   This is what made the Palin-Couric interview so deadly and what doomed the vice presidential debate.

We deserve better than this, Obama and McCain campaigns.

(Nod: Political Wire)

Let’s Debate! (Part 2)

Sarah Palin started the debate strongly.   She connected with viewers, she was cheery, and she was folksy. The problem, though, was she was spouting off canned answers and talking points the entire evening.   Asked about one thing, she talking about something else or didn’t even answer the question.   At one point, she even said:

I may not answer the questions that either the moderator
or you [Biden] want to hear.

Her delivery, while cheery, was rushed, like she was racing to get through all the things she had to remember to say.   It reminded me of preparing for an essay exam in college.   You know the types of questions that will be asked, so you memorize as much as you can, and when you sit down to write your essay, you a) try to remember everything, and b) try to work everything in even if it doesn’t quite fit.   As the debate progressed, she seemed to run out of talking points, and as a result, her answers became less solid.   And for me, at least, the folksyness was too much after 90 minutes.

Joe Biden seemed to start fairly weakly.   He seemed unsure of how to debate Palin.   But once Palin proved she had something to say (no matter the veracity or purpose), he became more comfortable, and he settled into a method of effectively answering questions and calling-out Palin, McCain, and Bush.

In the end, I think it was very clear who prepared for the debate this week and who has been prepared.

Some of my favorite moments (via the transcript):


So you’re going to have to place replace a $12,000 [health care] plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the “Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere.”

About global warming, here’s Palin:

But there are real changes going on in our climate. And I don’t want to argue about the causes. What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?

And Biden’s response:

If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade.

I enjoyed this line from Palin:

People aren’t looking for more of the same.
They are looking for change.

Yes, exactly.   I’m glad we agree.   And I enjoyed this exchange, too:

IFILL: So, Governor, as vice president, there’s nothing that you have promised as a candidate that you would that you wouldn’t take off the table because of this financial crisis we’re in?

PALIN: There is not. And how long have I been at this, like five weeks?

Biden on McCain’s “maverick” status:

Look, the maverick let’s talk about the maverick John McCain is. And, again, I love him. He’s been a maverick on some issues, but he has been no maverick on the things that matter to people’s lives.

He voted four out of five times for George Bush’s budget, which put us a half a trillion dollars in debt this year and over $3 trillion in debt since he’s got there.

He has not been a maverick in providing health care for people. He has voted against he voted including another 3.6 million children in coverage of the existing health care plan, when he voted in the United States Senate.

He’s not been a maverick when it comes to education. He has not supported tax cuts and significant changes for people being able to send their kids to college.

He’s not been a maverick on the war. He’s not been a maverick on virtually anything that genuinely affects the things that people really talk about around their kitchen table.

Can we send can we get Mom’s MRI? Can we send Mary back to school next semester? We can’t we can’t make it. How are we going to heat the heat the house this winter?

He voted against even providing for what they call LIHEAP, for assistance to people, with oil prices going through the roof in the winter.

So maverick he is not on the important, critical issues that affect people at that kitchen table.

Finally, Biden had the most powerful response of the evening:


After yesterday’s vote in the House of Representatives on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, there was a heavy, disgusting game of blame being played.   Republican leaders blamed a floor speech by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.   Democrats countered by (deservedly) mocking them.   And then there was this:

This is why people hate politics.   This is why people don’t care anymore and don’t pay attention.   And this is why people don’t vote.

Fine if lawmakers don’t like legislation.   Argue against it.   Suggest alternatives.   But don’t look for excuses to cover your asses.   Now if (when?) the economy tanks this week without Congress passing legislation to attempt a prevention, Democrats can blame Republicans for not acting sooner.   Ugh.   More blame.   Blaming each other, not getting anything done, and who’s left holding the short straw?   You and me.

After the failed vote, lawmakers as a whole have only themselves to blame.   Ben Pershing at the Washington Post offers several reasons why the vote failed (and why lawmakers as a hole are to blame):

1) Poor Salesmanship. Did you know that the general consensus is now that this bill will not cost $700 billion? If you didn’t, it’s because the bill’s proponents did a poor marketing job. From the start, the Bush administration did not do enough to emphasize the point that taxpayers would get at least some of the money back, and that gigantic price tag got stuck in the head of the public (and the media).

The administration was also too eager and ambitious with its initial proposal, alienating many lawmakers right from the start by seeming to ask for the moon — give us everything we want, with no oversight. This White House has long played political hardball, but this was not the time for hardball. This was the time for begging. The administration also let the “bailout” label stick to the package right from the start. By the time President Bush started calling it a “rescue” measure, it was too late.

3) No Center of Gravity. Who’s running Washington right now? Bush is the lamest of lame ducks, with a minuscule approval rating and no clout or political protection left to offer. Bush and Vice President Cheney were reportedly making calls to wavering Republicans right to the end; obviously that didn’t do the trick. Barack Obama and John McCain both supposedly support the bill, but neither of them has been exactly wholehearted in their backing, and there haven’t been any reports of either candidate calling members of their own party to lobby.

House leaders, meanwhile, did support the bill and did whip it. But this wasn’t a party-loyalty vote; lawmakers were asked to vote yes, but they weren’t threatened. They (probably) weren’t bribed. Add all that up, and you had a power vacuum. […]

It’s possible despite weeks of warnings, and a stock market that is cratering as we speak, that a lot of members still aren’t taking any of this seriously enough. And that, ultimately, may be the real reason for today’s vote.

Also, Nate Silver at says the many lawmakers in swing districts that voted against the bill doomed it:

OTHERS = 197 YEAS, 198 NAYS (50%)

Members of Congress: instead of pointing fingers at each other, point them at yourselves.   Accept responsibility and do your job.   That’s what we elected you for, that’s what we pay you for, and that’s what we expect from you.

Cafferty on Palin

If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old’s heartbeat away from being president of the United States, and if that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should.

Let’s Debate!

When I first heard that candidates were allowed to address each other, unlike in past debates, I was excited.   I thought we might actually have a full-fledged debate on our hands.   That hope didn’t quite pan out, but there were a few moments of questioning and interjections.   I would have liked to see more, but since one candidate barely acknowledged the other’s presence (see below), that was pretty hard to do.

McCain closed by noting he doesn’t need on the job training. I’m fairly certain that this argument is so far out the window that it went through the neighbors’ windows and hit the squirrel in the yard seven houses down when he selected a certain governor of a state that begins with A and ends in laska.

McCain exhibited a strong contempt for Obama, not ever looking at him when either candidates were talking or McCain was listening or addressing Obama, and not chuckling at points Obama made that McCain disagreed with but instead snickering and wily sneering at them.

Why does McCain belabor pork-barrel spending?   Are there no other problems with fiscal policy in this country?   Or does he have nothing better to talk about?

Was McCain’s over-defending the war in Iraq a good thing for him or a bad one?

Why won’t Obama say the surge was only a part of reducing violence and not the only responsible strategy?

Overall, a draw; I think both candidates did a good job.   Neither made a game-changing mistake or had a game-changing positive moment.   With McCain’s slipping poll numbers, I think he had more to prove and needed to say something to gain ground or force Obama to say something to lose ground.   That neither happened is a minus for McCain, but we’ll see how the debate plays out in the next few days.

Let Obama Be Bartlet

Maureen Dowd over that the NYT asked Aaron Sorkin, creator and writer of The West Wing, to imagine a meeting of Senator Obama and West Wing President Jed Bartlet (played by Martin Sheen).   As a hard-core fan of the show, I was as giddy as Ralphie clutching his Red Ryder on Christmas morning when I read about this.

Classic Bartlet (er, Sorkin):

GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

Ok, “what’s next”?

(Fellow Wing-nuts will catch the post title’s reference)


The Obama campaign should be running high-road advertisements, whether they be pushing Senator Obama’s plans or critiquing Senator McCain’s.   Like the McCain campaign, however, the Obama campaign has released ads that stretch the truth and distort quotes and past votes in Congress.

Ad one attempts to tie Senator McCain with Rush Limbaugh and out-of-context quotes Limbaugh in a manner that seemingly attempts to pit Hispanics against Senator McCain.   From Jake Tapper at ABC:

First of all, tying Sen. McCain – especially on the issue of immigration reform – to Limbaugh is unfair.

Limbaugh opposed McCain on that issue. Vociferously. And in a larger sense, it’s unfair to link McCain to Limbaugh on a host of issues since Limbaugh, as any even occasional listener of his knows, doesn’t particularly care for McCain.

Second, the quotes of Limbaugh’s are out of context. […]

The greater implication the ad makes, however, is that McCain is no friend to Latinos at all, beyond issues of funding the DREAM act or how NCLB money is distributed. By linking McCain to Limbaugh’s quotes, twisting Limbaugh’s quotes, and tying McCain to more extremist anti-immigration voices, the Obama campaign has crossed a line into misleading the viewers of its new TV ad. In Spanish, the word is erróneo.

In ad two,

Obama says that McCain voted three times to privatize Social Security, and that he is willing to risk the nation’s retirement program on the risky stock market. Now, it is true that McCain did support President Bush’s effort to privatize a portion of Social Security. But it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street.

Ad three (from the same article)

says McCain “voted against tax incentives for alternative energy against ethanol, against fuel cells, against hybrids, against electric cars, against wind and solar, against geothermal.” Then the ad says McCain wants to give $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies. This is all a nifty bit of misdirection. The oil company tax breaks the ad refers to are a corporate tax cut McCain favors, which would apply to almost all profitable companies, not just oil companies including those companies that work on wind, solar and biofuels.

I understand the necessity of the Obama campaign to make low-road hits after the onslaught of similar ads from the McCain campaign.   But surely there are enough critiques to be made of the McCain plan for America that don’t involve stooping to his level of dishonor.

I really don’t understand why someone in the Obama campaign thought this was a good idea.   What a disappointment, Barack.   You’re better than this.   Please remind us.

“They Don’t Flag, You Know, the Molecules”

Kinda reminds you of this, eh?

Silliness aside, there are still so many known unknowns about Governor Palin, and the McCain campaign’s seemingly outright refusal to allow reporters to question her, discover what she really believes, and how she would run the country should the 25th amendment be invoked is astoundingly scary.   But don’t worry, Senator McCain is putting country first.

It’s hard to prepare because I don’t know what she thinks.

Sen. Joe Biden on how he’s getting ready to debate Governor Palin next month.

Snark vs. Serious

Both Barack Obama and John McCain released new ads on the economy.   Compare the message, the tone, and the framing and composition of the candidate in both ads.   Then tell me which candidate is serious and which one is just an empty suit.


Why can’t the media-types grill both sides like this all the time?

Brazil Loves Barack

From The Guardian:

Due to a quirk of Brazilian law, candidates are allowed to run under the name of their choice. As a result, at least six Brazilian politicians have officially renamed themselves “Barack Obama” in a bid to get an edge over their rivals in October’s municipal elections.

No one wanted to be George W. Bush?

A Bridge to Somewhere

The Washington Post’s Tom Toles:

Toles Bridge to Somewhere

And this one:

Toles McSame

“I Can See Russia from My House!”

In case you missed Tina Fey last night on SNL:

Fiscal Conservative


(Nod: Patrick)

¡Sí­, Se Puede!

One of the best political messages I’ve ever seen:

Hope and Truth

By now, you’ve probably heard of or most likely received the viral email claiming Barack Obama is a closet Muslim, and that we all should take heed at a possible Obama presidency. I received this email yesterday. Here it is:

Who is Barack Obama ? Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black MUSLIM from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white ATHIEST from Wichita, Kansas. Obama’s parents met at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father returned to Kenya. His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, a RADICAL Muslim from Indonesia. When Obama was! 6 years old, the family relocated to Indonesia. Obama attended a MUSLIM school in Jakarta. He also spent two years in a Catholic school. Obama takes great care to conceal the fact that he is a Muslim. He is quick to point out that, “He was “once a Muslim, but that he also attended Catholic school.” Obama’s political handlers are attempting to make it appear that his introduction to Islam came via his father, and that this influence was temporary, at best. But,in reality, the senior Obama returned to Kenya soon after the divorce, and never again had any direct influence over his son’s education. Lolo Soetoro, the second husband of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, introduced his stepson to Islam. Obama was enrolled in a Wahabi school in Jakarta. Wahabism is the RADICAL teaching that is followed by the Muslim terrorists who are now waging Jihad against the western world. Since it is politically expedient to be a CHRISTIAN when seeking major public office in the United States, Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. ALSO, keep in mind that when he was sworn into office he DID NOT use the Holy Bible, but instead the Koran. Let us all remain alert concerning Obama’s expected presidential candidacy. The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from “the inside out”. What better way to start than at the highest level – through the President of the United States being one of their own !!!! Please forward this to everyone you know. Do you want this man leading our country?…… Very interesting and something that should be considered in your choice. If you do not ever forward anything else, please forward this to all your contacts…this is very scarey to think of what lies ahead of us here in our own United States…better heed this and pray about it and share it.

Since most people when forwarding emails don’t put all their recipients’ address in the BCC field, I had several email addresses throughout the forwarded email chain. So, I decided to send an email to everyone on the list. Here was my response:

Most of you receiving this email do not know who I am. Who I am does not matter; what I have to say, however, does. If you do not know me and wonder where I obtained your email address from, I obtained it from a forwarded email-chain.

The scurrilous email in question purports that Senator Barack Obama is a Muslim intent on destroying the United States from “the inside out.” Interesting, though, that each one of the many fallacious claims are not supported by any evidence or citation, an obvious red flag.

The email is meant only to scare people, and in forwarding it to others and not verifying its contents, we have validated the intent and purpose of this email. If we have two minutes to forward these types of unverified and unsupported emails to our friends and family, surely we have two minutes to perform a simple Google search.

Performing a quick search on “Obama Muslim” is highly enlightening. The first search result, curiously, is a sponsored link (meaning the site it links to paid for the link to be there) from the Obama campaign website. It is ridiculous that the campaign has to spend time and resources refuting these inaccurate claims.

If the numerous quotes and facts on the campaign website are not enough to dispel the rumors, though, then the following two articles are. Snopes, a website dedicated to verifying and debunking urban legends and myths, debunks the original email.

The second article deals with the so-called “madrassa” Obama attended in Indonesia. A CNN reporter actually visited the school to prove this claim false. Watch the reporter’s story and read the article.

Finally, the claim that Obama was sworn into the U.S. Senate on the Koran is also unfounded. Obama was not sworn in on a Koran, but Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota was.

This Obama email smear is the same disgusting type of smear campaign that was waged against Senator Max Cleland in Georgia while running for reelection in 2002 and Senator John McCain in South Carolina while running for president in 2000. Cleland, a Vietnam veteran who lost two legs and one arm in the war, was accused of being anti-American; McCain, who has an adopted Bangladeshi daughter, was accused of fathering an illegitimate African-American child. In both of these previous cases and now, too, in the Obama case, the unidentified accusers are incapable of mounting a substantive issues-based campaign against their targets, so instead, the accusers resort to despicable and monumentally false character smears.

Perhaps we can write this off as “politics as usual.” Sure, this is what hardball politics has come to in the United States. But we owe it to ourselves and to each other to put an end to this type of politics and instead engage in a new kind of politics. Instead of politics of fear, let us embrace politics of hope.

Please, in the future, instead of spreading lies and validating shameless fear tactics, spread truth; spread hope. This country and this world could use a heavy dose of both.

Candidate Guide

For anyone deciding who to support for president, the New York Times has a handy candidate guide to help you out. Check it out!

Fired Up! Ready to Go!

“They said this day would never come.” Well, it came. Obama bests Edwards by 8, Clinton by 9.

“Only Republican Worth Cheating With”

(Nod: Talking Points Memo)

The Joke’s On Us

Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign is solely about two words:

I honestly fail to understand why his supporters don’t see him as the enormous joke he is.