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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

March 11, 2008

 

The Good News - The Bad News

I got the spin for President Bush to use as he tells us all the bad news about the jobs lost in his economy for February. You see, someone in the White House has to tell the American people that 63,000 jobs were lost, and for the second month in a row, his administration had a net loss of jobs, a feat he accomplished almost each and every month in his first term. So here is President Bush's spin:

"My fellow Americans. Today, the economic news is mixed. The good news is that the unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent. The bad news? Ah, forget it - doesn't matter."

But the bad news really does matter. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the short month of February 2008 lost 63,000 jobs from Bush's economy, while it treaded in other horrific news as well.

The Civilian Labor Force, which is the number of Americans who are either employed or listed as unemployed , has dropped from 153,82, 255,000 lost their jobs while another 195,000 simply fell off the unemployment roles. Now when 195,000 people fall off the unemployment rolls to lower he unemployment rate by one point (one-tenth of one percentage point), you might call it good news, as I'm sure the Bushies will. However, when those 195,000 people added to the 255,000 who used to be employed, it just can't be spun that way, no matter how hard they try.

And to add salt to our collective economic bad news, the number of those not counted at all (those able to work but not seeking jobs) rose a staggering 644,000 Americans. That's an additional 644,000 Americans who have either won the lottery or just given up.

How many people win the lottery each month? I forget, but I bet 644,000 of us didn't get the big bucks.

To add to the bad news part of the news is where those 644,000 people aren't working. Those who produce (Goods-Producing) goods in the US have lost 89,000 jobs and they are the big losers. Manufacturing alone lost 52,000 jobs while the Construction industry (-39,000). the retail trade (-34,000) and even professional and Business Services (-20,000), those high paying jobs of tomorrow (which aren't here today as promised) have also decreased.

In fact, among the only sinners were the Education and health industry (+30,000), which include those health care insurance companies who are raking in our middle class dollars; the Leisure and Hospitality sector who are hiring because the dollar is so low compared to other Western world (and some Third World) nations that it pays for Europeans to come here to grocery shop (if they could); and - get ready for this one - OUR GOVERNMENT, which increased their payroll by some 38,000 jobs.

That's right, boys and girls, the Bush administration - the guys who like to call themselves "Conservative" and the keepers of "small government", have added an additional 38,000 jobs to their payroll paid by us, the American middle class.

Amazing, huh?

While our average wage for the month of February rose by less than three-tenths of one percentage point (0.28%), the amount we pay for stuff (the Consumer Price Index, or inflation) skyrocketed by four tenths of that same percentage point, almost double. And that figure doesn't even include gasoline. After all, we wouldn't want to alarm anyone, now would we?

Another factor which the BLS report doesn't mention is the number of American families working two or more jobs. I mean, if counting jobs is the measuring device which the Bushies like to use, then my household counts as four jobs with only two working people. How many more of us are hogging all the jobs I wonder?

In the end, in no way can anything this report says be misconstrued as "good news", no matter what spin the Bushies will attempt to put on it. And in the end, our president will tell us all that it's just OUR boat which the rising tide hasn't lifted.

I just hope we all don't drown waiting for help.

-Noah Greenberg



What a Putz!

I had an article all ready to go last night (see above). With all of the bad news about the Bush economy and the loss of jobs for the second month in a row, the last thing I wanted to write about was the Democratic New York Governor renting hookers.

Yet, here I am.

I don't really know if I want Elliot Spitzer to resign his office. Should I? After all, when Senator Larry Craig was arrested in a Minnesota Airport bathroom for offering sex to a male undercover police officer I screamed "Leave him alone!" After all, it was two consenting adults and I just really didn't see the crime, with the exception of what he did to his wife.

Similarly (or not so), when Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican from Florida was found trying to (and some say successfully so) "get together" with young boys under the charge of the House of Representatives as pages, I screamed just as loudly to get him out.

I think that the most similar even to happen recently is the sexual tryst of Louisiana Congressman David Vitter, who got caught up in a similar situation regarding the DC Madam scandal.

If I'm true to form, I have to say what I've always said: That the hurt begins and ends with Spitzer's wife and her feelings.

However...

Much like in the case of Craig and Foley (in relation to sexual liaisons) and so many other, mostly GOP political professionals, the problem is hypocrisy. When Rudy Giuliani was closing as many topless bars as he could in New York City as its mayor, then was found to be screwing around on his second wife Donna Hanover - the mother of his two children - it was the hypocrisy that got to all of us.

We Americans forgive, but really, really hate hypocrites and that's just what Elliot Spitzer is - a hypocrite.

Is it just privilege and a sense of entitlement which makes political front-runners do the things they do? In some cases, I'd have to say yes, although I don't think that's what did it to President Clinton. He didn't come from that place, like so many of the very rich sons who become political figures did. Clinton, apparently, had always just been that way.

Some have looked at the Spitzer affair as just another rich kid getting his way, and in some ways, they're right. After all, how many people who frequent prostitutes can afford a $4,300 per two-hour "session" bill?

When former Governor James McGreevy of New Jersey came out of his closet as an openly gay Governor, his second statement was, "I resign." The difference here, however, was that McGreevy gave his sexual partner a job at the expense of New Jersey taxpayers.

Should Spitzer resign? I really don't know. we've seen so many politicians lately use their office for their own, personal gain. All one has to do is take a look at Tom DeLay and his buddy Jack Abramoff to see what happens when politicians do just that.

But it doesn't make what Spitzer did anything less that wrong.

And Spitzer, who uses the protection of New York State police and other state resources as a matter of course, does have to answer to his constituents. And, ultimately, if he isn't impeached and convicted, he'll have to decide what is best for him, his family and the people of New York, in relation to a possible resignation.

Which brings me to Lt. Governor David Paterson. Democrat Paterson from New York City's Harlem, was the senate minority leader. Some have suggested his successful run a the number two spot in Albany was a step in the wrong direction. Paterson, if Spitzer resigns, would be the first ever in two respects: He would be the first African-American Governor of New York State; and he would be the very first blind Governor in US history.

I guess it wasn't a step down after all.

-Noah Greenberg



BushCare / McCainCare - Health Care for (broke) Patriots

It's not that one in six Americans don't have health care, it's just that they don't have health insurance. (And by the way, if 1 out of 6 don't have health insurance, then 5 out of 6 people DO have Health Insurance.) With BushCare / McCainCare they can go to the Emergency Room for primary care.

Bush and McCain have a national health care plan - The Emergency Room. The way you can see a doctor on BushCare / McCainCare when you have diabetes is when you're in a diabetic coma. And if you have high blood pressure you can see an emergency room physician for primary care immediately following your stroke or heart attack.

This shows America's wealth. Why go to a physician for a $50 office visit when you can go to an Emergency Room - at 10 times the cost? Remember, treatment and medication are elements of GNP.

If you have diabetes wait until you're in a diabetic coma. If you have high blood pressure, wait until you have a stroke. You treatment will cost $50,000. That adds $50,000 to the GNP. Pre-emptive care would only add $200 or $1,000 to the GNP. What's more important? GNP or health? If you're a patriot it's GNP! Especially if you're a wealthy patriot and can afford a doctor. Or you can afford to go to Canada for health care. And if the worker drops dead, the general health of the remainder of the population improves.

Remember - what don't kill you, makes you stronger. And by that logic, America is stronger today than it ever would have been if Gore had been given the White House or if Kerry would have won in 2004.

-Larry Furman



Iraq: Helping to Kill Our Economy

For those that wonder what happened to John Edwards, he joined a PAC that links the slowing economy to the Iraq occupation. Here is part of a press
release:

The former Democratic presidential candidate announced today that he is joining a group of anti-war activists who are trying to spotlight the cost of the war and its effects on the U.S. economy.

Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, have joined the Iraq/Recession Campaign, along with John Podesta, CEO of the Center for American Progress, Eli Pariser, executive director of MoveOn.org; and Brad Woodhouse, president of Americans United for Change, among others.

In a conference call this morning, Edwards said he met a lot of Americans on the campaign trail who had "angst" over spending on the war.

"People don't understand why we're spending $500 billion and counting in Iraq at the same time that we've got, you know, 40-plus million Americans who don't have any health-care coverage, 37 million living in poverty, people terrified about being able to pay their bills," he said. "It doesn't make sense to them, and they see no end in sight."

http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/edwards_iraq_economy_tied

Also, Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has linked deficit spending on the Iraq occupation directly to the slowing economy:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23286149-2703,00.html

-Robert Scardapane



CAN THE DEMOCRATS WIN?
by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2008 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.


It’s been a fantastic week for Sen. Hillary Clinton, a terrible week for Sen. Barack Obama and a complicated week for Democrats who want to re-take the White House.

Clinton swept last Tuesday’s major primaries, winning Ohio by 250,000 votes, Texas by 140,000 votes and Rhode Island by 40,000 votes over Obama. Obama won Vermont, the smallest of the four contests. But Obama’s speech after the votes were in and Clinton swept, had the ring of an acceptance speech. Clearly he had expected the night to make him the nominee.

But like many other twists and turns in this election season, it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because things are starting to go wrong in the Obama campaign, which presents problems for the Democrats, many of whom were blindly accepting that he would be the nominee, no questions asked.

It’s taken more than a year, but the questions are now being asked. And Obama seems not to want to give–or even have–answers.

In addition to Obama’s big losses on March 4th, despite having outspent Clinton three to one in Ohio and four to one in Texas, Obama has problems that now have everyone from grassroots supporters to super delegates questioning if he should–or even could–be the party’s eventual nominee.

For the first time in the primary season, Obama was asked last week to answer questions by the press. He didn’t take it well. He didn’t respond with his usual calm and grace. Instead, he refused to answer. And the issues were far from minor.

Obama’s economic adviser Austan Goolsbee was caught having told Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a memo that Obama’s comments about NAFTA while campaigning in Ohio were just political rhetoric and not to be taken seriously.

Harper denies his office leaked the memo to the press, but that’s not the real story. The real story is that there *was* such a memo. The lack of diplomacy shown by the Obama camp had Democratic Party insiders concerned. Obama’s refusal to fire Goolsbee also looked bad for the candidate.

The same day as the Canadian story broke, the trial of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, real estate developer, Chicago “fixer” and long-time Obama friend and financial backer began. Rezko is on trial for a range of corruption charges, including fraud and extortion.

In 2005, Obama and Rezko’s wife, Rita, bought a property together on the same day. Rita Rezko bought the empty lot next to the house the Obamas bought and still live in.

Questions arose about the deal because Obama got the $2 million house for $300,000 below asking price and Mrs. Rezko paid full price for the lot. However, the real estate company from which both purchases were made, said in depositions that it was all one property and the seller had refused to break it up. Which meant Obama and Mrs. Rezko bought the property jointly, in some sort of unwritten agreed upon deal.

That deal has followed Obama ever since and the Rezko trial has just raised the questions anew. Obama has denied any wrongdoing in the land deal and is not currently on the witness list at the trial, which is expected to last for months. However, Obama’s name was mentioned twice in the prosecution’s opening statements at the trial.

There are other issues between Obama and Rezko that are likely to resurface, including the fact that Obama helped Rezko with several land developments he was brokering. Obama has received, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, close to a quarter of a million dollars in campaign funds from Rezko, although he says he has given $84,000 of that to charity. Obama acknowledges that he and Rezko have been close friends for over 17 years. That fact is sure to repeat for Obama.

If the flak with Canada and the Rezko revival were not problematic enough, Obama’s senior foreign policy advisor, journalist and Harvard professor Samantha Power, was forced to resign March 7th, after she was quoted in a prominent U.K. publication calling Sen. Clinton “a monster.” She had previously been quoted making unsavory comments about Israel, including referring to Israel collectively as “bastards.”

Most problematically for Obama, however, in an interview Power gave with the BBC, she said what Obama has been telling supporters–that he will withdraw two battalions a month from Iraq--is just something for the campaign. She told BBC that Obama’s position is not definitive and that whether he withdraws troops will depend on what the situation on the ground is in January 2009.

These Obama’s advisors gave Clinton further ammunition for her argument that Obama is not prepared to deal with foreign policy.

The candidate’s top people were saying one thing on foreign policy to other countries while the candidate himself says another on the campaign trail. This is definitely an issue for Obama who has framed himself as the candidate who can be trusted, who doesn’t do behind the scenes deals, who is utterly transparent on the issues.
But if Goolsbee and Power are Obama’s top advisors, don’t they represent him?

Which is the truth–what they said in memos and in interviews, or what Obama says on the campaign trail?

In addition to Goolsbee on March 4th and Power on March 6th, yet another Obama advisor was caught contradicting the candidate on March 7th.

John Brennan worked for the Bush Administration, heading the National Counter Terrorism Center, before he worked for Obama’s campaign. Like Power, Brennan has a top-flight resume. Not the sort that one would imagine for an Obama supporter, however, as Brennan has a consistently right-wing resume. But Obama has said he will have a cabinet that is half Republicans, half Democrats. It’s part of his plan to bring the country together.

It was Brennan who “modified” statistics for the Bush Administration to make it seem that terrorism hadn’t increased exponentially since the invasion of Iraq. Thus it is not surprising that Brennan supports Bush’s perspective that there should be retroactive immunity for telecoms participating with the Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Except Obama has consistently said he does not agree with retroactive immunity. And Brennan–one of Obama’s three top advisors on foreign policy–supports it. Publicly.

All of which begs the question of what voters are supposed to believe: the statements made by Obama’s closest advisors or what Obama himself says on his campaign trail. Is Obama naive or disingenuous?

So much for the old politics versus the new.

Obama’s recent problems suggest that his facade of perfection is beginning to crack. Or at least that both voters and the media are beginning to want to vet the as yet unvetted candidate. The next major primary is Pennsylvania, which has Pennsylvania voters and politicians in a state of both excitement and shock, since Pennsylvania–while a key state in the general election–has rarely been a player in the primaries due to the late date on which it falls. Clinton’s numbers have risen by 12 points since her wins on March 4th. She now has a double-digit lead against Obama in Pennsylvania.

Yet winning Pennsylvania won’t actually seal the nomination. That task is now unwinnable by either candidate because it takes 2,025 delegates to secure the nomination and the numbers just aren’t there for either candidate to win the delegates they need from the remaining 13 primaries and caucuses.

At press time, Hillary Clinton led the popular vote with 13,571,404 votes, while Barack Obama had 13,562,226 votes. That slender lead in popular votes, combined with the fluid delegate situation–Obama currently leads in pledged delegates, but that is also not a hard-and-fast determinant, as history has proven–means the candidates are literally tied for the nomination going into the Pennsylvania primary.

That means the nomination will now likely be decided by the super delegates or an actual floor vote at the convention in August, two options the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was hoping to avoid. The Democrats haven’t had a battle involving super delegates since 1984. The last brokered convention happened in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt headed into the convention with only two-thirds of the required delegates–the same circumstance confronting both Clinton and Obama now.

No one in the leadership wants the race to go on through August, but avoiding it will be difficult, given the current numbers.

What’s a Democrat to do?

I’ve written for months now that the only answer for Democrats who want to win the general election is to put both candidates on the ticket together. If the DNC can’t manage to make that happen, then the Democrats don’t deserve to win.

If Clinton had lost Ohio or Texas or both, the argument might have been made that she should drop out of the race. If Obama had been vetted earlier, instead of at the 11th hour, Democrats might not be in this predicament.

But the argument now–irrefutable, really–is that only Clinton is able to win the states Democrats need to win in the general election and Obama has some serious policy problems. Obama also has yet to win a major state other than his home state of Illinois. Conversely, Clinton has won all the biggest states thus far–most especially the key states of California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio, Florida and Texas plus the vital swing states of New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

The off-the-record grumblings within the party elite signal the split that has been caused within the party. Some voice concerns that Obama has won almost only “red states” and caucuses and that the recent stumbles might just be the tip of the unvetted iceberg. There are no caucuses in the general election, just straight voting, and Democrats have been unable to capture any red states since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. What’s more, there are concerns that a significant portion of Obama voters are not actually Democrats and thus not reliable for the general election, particularly against John McCain.

Others complain that Obama voters might be turned off by a Clinton nomination and not vote.

A Pew Research deconstruction of votes cast thus far showed Clinton holds a commanding 82 percent of the total Democratic vote, while Obama has a mix of Democrats, Independents, Republicans and first-time voters.

The only way to secure a win for the Democrats, it seems, is with a combined ticket which would unite Clinton and Obama supporters, who undercut the party with each successive spar.

Supporters of both candidates have been testy and even bellicose on the subject of their personal choices. But one thing has come through the rhetoric repeatedly and disturbingly: Clinton supporters, strong as they are for their candidate, have consistently said they would vote for whomever the Democrat is in November in order to beat McCain.

Obama supporters, including the candidate’s own wife, have been less generous and shown far less fealty to the party, asserting, as Michelle Obama did, that it would be “difficult” to vote for Clinton rather than Obama.

A combined ticket would vitiate that pettiness on the part of Obama supporters.

The job of the super delegates is simple: choose what is best for the party. That means looking at the big picture, not the immediate one. Obama might have the delegate numbers right now and Clinton the popular vote, but Clinton is winning the overall argument for her candidacy. The resurgence of Clinton’s power as shown by the breadth of her win on March 4th and juxtaposed with Obama’s gaffes augurs well for her in the general election. Despite having less money and a less well-coordinated campaign than Obama, Clinton managed to stay on message where he faltered. She maintained her edge to pull off what even disgruntled Hillary haters had to agree was an amazing comeback.

If Democrats want the White House, the only viable answer is a combined ticket. The outrage on either side will be simply too venomous if the DNC or the super delegates choose one and not the other, regardless of who is the nominee and will lose Democrats significant votes.

Obama has accused Clinton of going after him with the kitchen sink. Obama’s weakness in the face of controversy likely did more damage to him on March 4th than the questions themselves. What Democratic voters saw was a candidate who might not be able to stand up to the GOP smear machine.

One thing Democrats know about Clinton is she’s been vetted. The GOP has been after her for years and still has been unable to trounce her. They tried when she was First Lady and failed. They tried to keep her out of the Senate–twice–and failed. They tried to derail her candidacy for president and failed again.

Clinton is the best fighter the Democrats have. A seasoned politician with an agenda for change, she’s proven her mettle and message. Obama has great rhetoric, less good follow-through. Her mettle and his rhetorical flourish together could knock McCain out of the running.

A Clinton/Obama ticket could win in November. If the DNC can’t orchestrate that ticket, McCain wins. Maybe not in a landslide, but in another 51-49 split like 2004 that will further sunder the country and also, like it or not, bring us yet closer to the demise of the Democratic Party in America. The DNC needs to make the so-called “dream ticket” work. Otherwise McCain gets a cakewalk to the White House and brings with him four more years of the Bush agenda.


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-Noah Greenberg