Thursday, September 25, 2008

Agree to the bailout, or else

Is this "economic crisis" the new 9-11 -- a scary tool to achieve concessions from the American people? Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctine, seems to think so.Listen to her on Democracy Now.
Klein says that "now is the time to resist Wall Street's shock doctrine."

"Be afraid, be very afraid," seemed to be President Bush's message as he advocated a $700 billion bailout plan. In a nationally broadcast address last night, he asserted that if the government doesn't purchase billions of worthless investments with taxpayer money, the entire economy might collapse. And just to be extra persuasive, he made it personal. If the bill is not passed, you could lose everything -- your house, your job, your retirement savings, access to credit.

"The market is not functioning properly. There has been a widespread loss of confidence, and major sectors of America's financial system are at risk of shutting down. ... Without immediate action by Congress, America could slip into a financial panic and a distressing scenario would unfold," the President said.

Seems to me the markets are functioning properly. The writing is on the wall. Fear and retrenchment are rational responses to what is unfolding. The pyramid scheme of worthless derivatives is crashing down and investors are leery. Sounds about right. Major Wall Street Institutions have vaporized and people are spooked. Also, sounds right. We are in the "distressing scenario."

Why is it that worshipers of the "free market" are now eager to engage in the largest ever exercise in corporate welfare?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Shh...did somebody say "Great Depression?"

Next year, we'll have a huge vegetable garden. I can feel my immigrant grandmother's instincts in my bones. Use what resources you have. We have some land. Get the ground ready for spring. Clean out the weeds. Amend the soil. Let manure work itself in over the winter. Tidy up the cold frame so it's ready to go.

Grandmother didn't garden because she needed to clear her mind or because it was chic. She gardened to feed her family during the Great Depression. My mother recounted feasts -- borscht, fresh baked chicken, cucumber onion salad, fresh eggs from the chickens -- in the midst of the Great Depression. Her hunger was satisfied with home grown goodness, the best her mother could provide. But my mother also remembered begging for new shoes and being told she'd have to wait. Grandmother couldn't grow shoes in the garden any more than Grandfather could find work on the streets of Chicago.

Mother's family knew abundance and lack.

With the current financial meltdown of the shadow banking world, movers in the know are uttering bleak words. Mark Patterson, co-founder and chairman of distressed investor MatlinPatterson Global Advisor said Tuesday that the odds of a Great Depression this year are between 20 and 25 percent .

But, if you are already unemployed and hungry the odds of a Great Depression are irrelevant. You are already experiencing need. Michigan has been in a so-called "one-state recession" for about two years. You say tomato; I say tomahto.

According to recent reports, even once booming West Michigan is hitting bottom as thousands enter extreme poverty. And the Salvation Army in Farmington Hills is giving out over 250 free loaves of bread in a day. Median family income in Farmington Hills in 2006 was over $85,000, well above U.S. median income, yet these people are lining up for free bread.

Yet, some movers and shakers persist in saying there are investment opportunities in this meltdown. Tell that to the children in poverty. "Buck up, little kids, you might be hungry, but there are some terrific deals in the banking sector and they're giving out bread in Farmington Hills."

Too bad the manure on Wall Street isn't good for the garden. There is so much of it these days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Michigan, you could be the next Ohio

To a tried and true Michigander, this is a chilling thought. We don't want to be Ohio; we want to beat Ohio. But only on the football field, not at the game of corrupt elections, thank you very much.

The Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee are suing the Michigan GOP as a result of investigative journalism by the Michigan Messenger. Well, it wasn't even really hardcore "investigative" just the result of a well-conducted interview by a seasoned journalist. According to the Michigan Messenger, the Michigan GOP wanted to suppress votes by challenging people in the foreclosure process. The GOP denies it, because it really is repugnant. The Messenger stands by its story.

Some salient quotes about GOP strategy:

Laura Bush to the Michigan delegation at the recent GOP convention:
“I think Michigan can really be in play this time,” she said.
"We want every single Michigan independent. I want you to feel the pressure, because Michigan could be the Ohio of this election.”

Paul Weyrich, father of the conservative movement on the advantages of low voter turnout:

Here's a Project Vote explainer about caging.

Let's try to keep Michigan from turning into Ohio. Given our history with Ohio, the very thought of following in their footsteps should send chills down every Michigander's spine. If you have the time, go forth and protect the rights of Michiganders to vote.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Phil Gramm feeds McCain his lines on the economy

As 158-year-old Lehman Bros. investment bank collapsed into bankruptcy, GOP presidential candidate John McCain had the nerve to stay yesterday that the "fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong." Really? Actually this puts him at odds with numerous economists.

He's also been quoted as saying he really doesn't understand the economy -- believable given his statement about good fundamentals yesterday. How then can a guy who admits he doesn't understand the economy make such ridiculous statements on the same day that Wall Street's excesses bring down industry giants?

Phil Gramm, one of McCain's economic advisers, must be whispering these idiotic sweet nothings to the candidate. Gramm prepared the way for this mess in 1999 with the historic Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. This law repealed the depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited a bank from offering investment, commercial banking, and insurance services. This is the real culprit behind our financial mess. Gramm's law freed up banks and insurance companies and investment firms to intertwine incestuously and invent absurdly complex "financial products"amounting to junk. Gramm's modernization of financial services actually facilitated greed and speculation run amok with boundaryless interlocking entities pawning off bad investments to eachother.

Remember Phil Gramm said we're in a mental recession and that Americans who are having a hard time are whiners.

Yesterday, thanks to Gramm-Leach-Bliley, Bank of American purchased Merrill Lynch. Bank of America, has benefited from Gramm-Leach-Bliley with CEO Lewis leading "a buying spree in recent years. In addition to the Countrywide purchase, Bank of America has acquired FleetBoston Financial Corp., credit card company MBNA Corp. and Chicago's LaSalle Bank. In July 2007, Bank of America paid $3.3 billion to buy private bank U.S. Trust Corp. from Charles Schwab & Co." (SanFrancisco Chronicle)

Probably, Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis isn't a whiner. He seems to be at the cutting edge of Phil Gramm's vision for the financial services sector. But even he thinks the economy is tanking. At a press conference yesterday, going over the fundamentals of the Merrill acquisition, Lewis allowed that the U.S. economy wouldn't see significant recovery until 2010, that the financial services sector would continue to spin out and that the next 12 months would be very difficult for economy generally.

Today central banks are scrambling to pump more cash into markets, you know, to keep this fundamentally sound system functioning. Today the Bank of England will inject $35.9 billion and the European Central Bank will pump in 70 billion euros (about $100 billion). But this hasn't settled down markets. This morning International Herald Tribune reports that "Wall St. woes trigger Asian markets sell off." Didn't those investors and central banks get the memo that the economy is fundamentally sound?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin and Clinton on Saturday Night Live

Time for overdue comic relief.

Brace yourselves for more bank and market turmoil

It's going to be a bumpy day on Wall Street.

Lehman files for bankruptcy (BBC)

Wall Street crisis: investors dump shares after Lehman collapse (U.K. Guardian)-- "The London stockmarket nosedived this morning as traders dumped shares and piled into gold and government bonds, following the turmoil on Wall Street."

Global markets dive after Lehman declares bankruptcy (Times Online)

Stunned Merril and Lehman staff eye shifting landscape (Reuters)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New York Times: Once elected, Palin hired friends and lashed foes

Just read it for yourself and resist the urge to write it off as the liberal media bashing conservatives unfairly. It's a breathtaking account of vendettas and cronyism, just the kind that would dovetail nicely with the current crowd in Washington. The report also seems to support assertions that choosing Palin amounts to pandering to religious and social ultra-conservatives. It also reveals Palin's bold political ambition; she wants to be President. Democrats need to spend less time trying to caricature her and more time strategizing how to push back and play offense.


"But an examination of her swift rise and record as mayor of Wasilla and then governor finds that her visceral style and penchant for attacking critics — she sometimes calls local opponents “haters” — contrasts with her carefully crafted public image.

Throughout her political career, she has pursued vendettas, fired officials who crossed her and sometimes blurred the line between government and personal grievance, according to a review of public records and interviews with 60 Republican and Democratic legislators and local officials."


" Interviews show that Ms. Palin runs an administration that puts a premium on loyalty and secrecy. The governor and her top officials sometimes use personal e-mail accounts for state business; dozens of e-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that her staff members studied whether that could allow them to circumvent subpoenas seeking public records.

Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska professor, sought the e-mail messages of state scientists who had examined the effect of global warming on polar bears. (Ms. Palin said the scientists had found no ill effects, and she has sued the federal government to block the listing of the bears as endangered.) An administration official told Mr. Steiner that his request would cost $468,784 to process."


"She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.

“People would bring books back censored,” recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. “Pages would get marked up or torn out.”

Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.

But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book “Daddy’s Roommate” on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.

“Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,” Ms. Chase said. “It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.” "

Friday, September 12, 2008

Democratic party leader receives threat against Obama

According to a report from WHMI, an FM radio station in Livingston County, Michigan:

"The Secret Service Agency is investigating a handwritten threat that came in the mail yesterday to the Livingston County Democratic Party Headquarters in Brighton Township. Party Chair Judy Daubenmier tells WHMI the handwritten unsigned note was addressed to her. Using racial slurs, the person suggested that it was their fondest hope that Barrack Obama “gets a bullet.” While the area has been noted for its history of racial tension, Daubenmier says when they knock on doors and make phone calls in the county they virtually never hear this type of offensive language. She says the view of this “one cowardly person” doesn’t reflect the general feelings of residents, which is unfortunate given the efforts to rid others’ stereotypically negative views of the area relating to race. Commander of the Michigan State Police Brighton Post Gene Kapp tells WHMI the complete document was handed over to the Secret Service, who will assist them in the investigation. Daubenmier says they will not be intimidated by the threat because they know it doesn’t represent the feelings of the broad community."

Anti-Obama attack ads in Macomb County

Michigan is so critical in the presidential election that Freedom's Defense Fund in Washington has launched an attack ad against Senator Obama in Macomb County, what should be a democratic stronghold.

The ad employs guilt by association and resurrects the Reverend Wright flap. "Barack Obama's spiritual adviser for more than two decades is America's sharpest critic," said Todd Zirkle, executive director of the Freedom's Defense Fund.

To see the ad click here.

According to a press release from the group, the ad is scheduled to run a saturated one-week schedule on cable news networks in Macomb County, Michigan.

"Our donors are demanding that we be strategically relevant in this campaign," continued Zirkle. "We will stay active in Macomb County, as we believe it critical to the Michigan outcome. Michigan will be a decisive to the national result."

Last week, the group ran an ad falsely linking Obama with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Jon Stewart: Sarah Palin - Vet this!

Wikipedia levels the playing field. Scroll ahead to 7:31 in the playtime to see Jon Stewart name the GOP's contempt for people helping at the ground level in their communities.

Palin says she's ready to be President, me too

Ratchet up the OMG factor. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claims that although she's never met a foreign head of state, she is ready to be President of the United States, should it be necessary. Well folks, if she's ready to be President, I'm ready to be President.

Her reasoning? She won't blink. That's right. In an ABC news interview, when asked about McCain's asking her to be running mate she said, "I answered him 'yes' because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink," she said. "So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate."

Maybe the blink factor was important to McCain, because he passed over a number of better qualified Republican women in choosing Palin. Let's see...McCain could have picked Condi Rice, Heather Wilson, Olympia Snowe, Kay Granger, Margaret Spellings, or Elaine Chao (Correcton: Chao is ineligible since she was born in Taiwan)for starters. Or even Lynne Cheney to keep it all in the family. But he picked Sarah Palin who didn't blink and was a bang up demographic fit for getting out the hardcore social conservative base.

But I have to admit, if Obama had asked me to be his running mate, I wouldn't have blinked either. Not because I was committed to the mission or ready to become unconditionally committed to the mission. Rather, because I'd have been in a state of shock. I'd be thinking, "Hey, wait. There have to be better qualified people than me. Better qualified women even. You know, people who've traveled more, have foreign policy expertise, better grasp of geography, have devoted their lives to public service. Why are you picking me? You want a wise-cracking, bird-watching, garden-tending, middle-class, mother of three, former law librarian turned writer to be just a chicken bone away from the Presidency? There must be some mistake. You've got the wrong gal."

And then I'd say, if the offer was still on the table, "You know, I'd like to sleep on this. It's gonna wreck havoc on my family life, I'll have to drop all my professional activities and I'll have to put off writing the great American novel for a few more years."

Like I said if she's ready, I'm ready.

Top ten reasons women should vote for Obama

The recent buzz asserts women are switching to the McCain/Palin ticket just because Palin is a woman. But seriously, ladies, consider the issues that matter to families. Don't be fooled by McCain's brazen tokenism and PR stunt -- picking a moose-hunting, baby-nursing, gun-toting gal from Alaska.

From the Barack Obama campaign website:

1. Women in business:
"Barack Obama encourages investing in women-owned businesses, providing more support to women business owners and reducing discrimination in lending."

2. Equal pay for equal work:
"Barack Obama believes the government needs to take steps to better enforce the Equal Pay Act, fight job discrimination, and improve child care options and family medical leave to give women equal footing in the workplace."

3. Protecting Title IX:
"Barack Obama supports eliminating gender discrimination in American schools. For 35 years, Title IX has been a bulwark against sex discrimination against students and employees at all levels of education. Obama will fight to make sure women have equal opportunities and access from pre-kindergarten through graduate school."

4. Paid medical leave:
"Expanding Paid Medical Leave: Today, three-out-of-four low-wage workers have no paid sick leave. It is fundamentally unfair that a single mom playing by the rules can get fired or lose wages because her child gets sick. Barack Obama supports efforts to guarantee workers seven days of paid sick leave per year, a moderate proposal that should not impose too onerous a burden on employers. "

5. Reproductive choice:
"Barack Obama understands that abortion is a divisive issue, and respects those who disagree with him. However, he has been a consistent champion of reproductive choice and will make preserving women’s rights under Roe v. Wade a priority as President. He opposes any constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's decision in that case. "

6. Responsible fatherhood:
"Promote Responsible Fatherhood: Obama will sign into law his Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Act to remove some of the government penalties on married families, crack down on men avoiding child support payments, and ensure that payments go to families instead of state bureaucracies."

7. Parents and families:
"Support Parents with Young Children: Obama will expand the highly-successful Nurse-Family Partnership to all 570,000 low-income, first-time mothers each year. The Nurse-Family Partnership provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families."

8. Family farms:
"Obama will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. Obama will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers — not large corporate agribusiness. Obama will close the loopholes that allow mega farms to get around the limits by subdividing their operations into multiple paper corporations."

9. Fiscal discipline in Washington:
  • Reinstate PAYGO Rules: Obama believes that a critical step in restoring fiscal discipline is enforcing pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budgeting rules which require new spending commitments or tax changes to be paid for by cuts to other programs or new revenue.
  • Reverse Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy: Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.
10. Making college affordable:
"Create the American Opportunity Tax Credit: Obama will make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit. This universal and fully refundable credit will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Obama will also ensure that the tax credit is available to families at the time of enrollment by using prior year's tax data to deliver the credit when tuition is due."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Women in white flight to McCain, please reconsider

An ABC/Washington Post survey seems to indicate that white women ditching Obama for McCain-Palin in vast numbers are flipping Obama's advantage to McCain. The UK Guardian speculates "the loss of support among white women could be fatal for his chances of winning the presidency if it was to be sustained. Obama had upset this constituency before the conventions, with many Democratic women unhappy that he had dumped their champion, Hillary Clinton, out of the nomination race."

Ladies, please familiarize yourselves with McCain's positions. This material is from the McCain-Palin website.

On abortion:
"John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench."

Juno was a great movie, wasn't it?

On expanding the military:
"John McCain believes we must enlarge the size of our armed forces to meet new challenges to our security...John McCain believes that the answer to these challenges is not to roll back our overseas commitments...John McCain thinks it is especially important to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to defend against the threats we face today."

Anybody feel a draft in here?

On marriage:
"John McCain believes the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman."
Whip up the base and pray away the gays.

On assault weapons:
"John McCain opposes restrictions on so-called "assault rifles" and voted consistently against such bans. Most recently he opposed an amendment to extend a ban on 19 specific firearms, and others with similar characteristics."

Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

On Supreme Court appointees:
"A President should have confidence in the judicial philosophy of those he is appointing to the bench. That is why he strongly supported John Roberts and Samuel Alito for the Supreme Court and that is why he would seek men and women like them as his judicial appointees."

Load the bench.

On globalization and subsequent outsourcing of jobs:
"John McCain believes that globalization is an opportunity for American workers today and in the future...John McCain understands that globalization will not automatically benefit every American."

Hey, Michigan, outsourcing will go on. Deal with it. No wonder he's sure the auto jobs are not returning to Michigan.

On the war on terror:
"John McCain supported the adoption of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) in 2006...John McCain recognizes that we cannot treat dangerous terrorists captured on the battlefield as we would common criminals."

No habeas corpus in the war on terror.

"John McCain is more concerned with protecting the American people from future terrorist attacks, by killing or bringing to justice those who commit them, than he is with giving terrorists rights that would allow a judge to set them free before they are tried."

Shoot first, ask questions later?

On Homeland Security:
"Public-private partnerships are an essential part of the entire homeland security effort – from planning to implementation and operations."

Entrepreneurs are essential to our economy. More domestic opportunities for Blackwater, perhaps?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Change, yes we can -- the McCain-Palin strategy of repackaging

Cross posted at Huffington Post

Obama says of McCain and Palin "You can’t just recreate yourself. You can’t just reinvent yourself. The American people aren’t stupid."

Oops. But, change? Yes, we can. The possibility to redefine and reinvent yourself is absolutely central to the American experience. It's at the heart of the immigrant story. Come to the new land, reinvent yourself and make your fortune. And if you make a mistake, try again and start over. This is the land of second, third and fourth chances. And rebranding.

Absent from McCain's claims of being a change agent is any admission that his past performance is wanting. He needs to pose as a change agent to win votes. The only reason for him to present himself as a reformer is to bait a citizenry ravenous for change in Washington -- he's betting that voters are so desperate for change, they can't think clearly and discern his rhetorical co-opting of Obama's message of change.

In fact, he seems to be taking a page from Dubya's 2000 campaign play book. McCain is claiming he'll "drain the swamp, "take 'em on" and "bring the right kind of change." While he sounds like a Clint Eastwood character, he actually sounds even more like Dubya on the campaign trail in 2000.

Here's how Dubya took aim at McCain in the 2000 election. From a New York Times article dated February 8, 2000:

"Bush proclaimed today that he was the true reformer in the Republican field and portrayed his chief opponent, Senator John McCain, as someone who 'says one thing and does another.'"

"'If you're tired of no results and simple, empty rhetoric,' he said, 'if you're tired of people who say one thing and do another, come join our team.'"

McCain's Straight Talk Express, while an ironic joke to Obama supporters and intelligent, thoughtful observers, isn't about truth, facts or straight talk. It is about simple, short catch phrases -- verbal gestures that suggest populism and patriotism and the guy next door. The technique is meant to make a false impression, not to persuade on the merits of policy positions. It is calculated deceit to make McCain accessible to masses of voters who don't seem to realize that they're not going to have a beer with a guy owns seven houses and whose wife can afford a $300,000 outfit, no matter how plain spoken he presents himself on TV or at a town hall meeting.

The American people aren't stupid, just gullible and spent. And you only need to fool some of them in a very close race.

Unless Senator Obama has a brilliant trump card he's saving for the right moment, he'd better take off the gloves, quit being politely incredulous and let rip some real straight talk. If he delays much further, McCain's puffed-up fake populism and pretense of being a reformer might stick with voters.

Celebrate Banned Books Week with Sarah Palin: Sept. 27 - Oct. 4

Don't believe everything you read. Sarah Palin is not a book burner or banner, but she does tend toward small town cronyism. Reporting by the Boston Herald gets to the heart of the matter: Palin was willing to fire an employee for not complying with ideology and sent requests for resignation to administrators as "just a test of loyalty."

This morning I received an email sent and resent half a dozen times purporting to list books Sarah Palin wanted to ban from the Wasilla Public Library. Over four days the email has whipped up concern among intellectual freedom fans, book lovers,liberals and Obama supporters.

Looking like required reading for high schoolers with titles like A Clockwork Orange, Canterbury Tales, and Huckleberry Finn, the presence of a dictionary, Little Red Riding Hood, and Tarzan of the Apes suggest the list is fake. These just are not typical book banning choices for prudes or evangelicals.

But could it be true? Reporting by Time Magazine inspired the email rumor.

According to Time, former Wasilla mayor John Stein "says that as mayor, Palin continued to inject religious beliefs into her policy at times. "She asked the library how she could go about banning books," he says, because some voters thought they had inappropriate language in them. "The librarian was aghast." That woman, Mary Ellen Baker, couldn't be reached for comment, but news reports from the time show that Palin had threatened to fire Baker for not giving "full support" to the mayor."

With that, the blogosphere was off and running, spinning yarns about lists.

Housecleaning with a new administration is standard procedure, but public librarians are not political appointees. They are civil servants who conform to professional standards and abide by ethics set forth by the American Library Association.

Maybe this is what ultimately qualifies her to be McCain's running mate: she's a political creature who values loyalty above professional standards and qualifications. If this is the case, the McCain Administration really could be Bush's third term.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The McCain--Palin road show: swagger and cheek in Michigan

McCain and Palin have hit the trail with swagger and cheek -- riding a post-convention boost in popularity straight into Michigan. Some Michiganders seem receptive to the story-telling road show, although many are resisting the snake oil. The hard facts of economic life in Michigan can't be cured with old-time remedies.

If this year's presidential campaigns were books, they'd be a western and an exhaustive non-fiction treatment of some tragic truth -- Louis L'Amour meets a remaindered tome on the demise of American industry. Which would you rather read in your off time? But we're not talking about picking summer reading; we're considering electing the next president of the United States.

The GOP is working one of its stock in trade strategies for electing presidents. Stick a cowboy hat on a guy (or gal) with a can-do attitude and you have a de facto American leader. Remember, Maverick is a legend of the west. And if your protagonist is a western hero in a white hat wrapped in the flag what does that make the other guy? Effete, over-intellectual, hand-wringing, unpatriotic...

What's worse, it doesn't have to be true to stick. Recently McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, told the Washington Post - that the election is "not about issues" but about "a composite view of what people take away from these candidates." Pure political pragmatism. This isn't about speaking truth to power; this is about power speaking myth to voters. This is about winning. Expect negative ads and plenty of misinformation.

A truckload of compelling facts can't necessarily compete with a myth, story and propaganda. Human beings are hardwired for stories. Our subconscious speaks in archetypes and the GOP knows this. So does team Obama, which has come this far thanks to strong message control and branding (Change, Yes we can).

Obama has a can-do attitude, but with a collective sensibility. McCain, on the other hand, is playing to American individualism. Obama wants to invite us to a barn raising with a big potluck afterwards. McCain wants to pace off at high noon and then fence off the back 48. Obama needs to remind voters that McCain will be a continuation of the last eight years. That swallowing more Bush administration "remedies" won't cure what ails us. That to elect McCain is like trying to heal an earache by blowing tobacco smoke into the ear and saying "pain, pain go away, go into a bale of hay." Sure, people tried it. It's even got quaint old west charm. But it doesn't work.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

AP: Michigan man accused of planning anti-GOP attack

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a Michigan man as part of what they say was a scheme to use Molotov cocktails to attack the main arena for the Republican National Convention.

The U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis says 23-year-old Matthew DePalma of Flint was charged Saturday with possessing unregistered firearms.

Authorities say DePalma attended an event in Waldo, Wis., in July called the CrimeThinc Convergence, and told an FBI source he wanted to attack the convention.

An FBI affidavit says DePalma talked about making Molotov cocktails, got the supplies and assembled five.

The affidavit says DePalma talked of attacking Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Associated Press left a message for DePalma's public defender.

Viguerie annoints Palin, "the next Ronald Reagan"

Richard Viguerie, conservative icon, has dubbed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin "the next Ronald Reagan" after her acceptance speech last night.

Even if this is an overstatement, the Democrats seem to have a problem. Palin will mobilize white, middle America. She's an underdog, a hockey mom, a small-town gal, a devoted wife. She can zip up the American dream narrative like a comfy house dress while toting a rifle and flipping griddle cakes. She can line dance her way past accusations of being a Washington insider and talk tough. Well, she can deliver tough lines in a speech anyway.

Did the GOP succeed last night in contrasting their small-town, tough gal with the Democratic ticket? We shall see. Elections are about stories. Voters will eat up stories that resonate with their lives and give them hope. This has been Obama's strength. And now the GOP seems to have found a direct challenge to Obama's "change and hope" narrative. She's a tough gal with a tale. She's not afraid to take on Obama. And she's the only gal on the dance floor.

Biden better get busy.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bonior: the election will be "won at the margins"

Former John Edwards supporter, congressman David Bonior told Inter Press Service (Italy) the presidential election will "be won at the margins."

In an interview with IPS at the Democratic convention, Bonior allowed that the election will be a squeaker nationally and in Michigan.

Picking up that theme, Laura Bush today met with Michigan's delegation at the Republican convention and urged them to work hard for McCain, saying that "Michigan could be the Ohio of this time. Michigan could be the state that carries the ticket for us and carries the election for us."

In a very close race all it would take would be: a little caging, inadequate numbers of machines in heavily Democratic districts, aggressive GOP election challengers at polling places, long lines on a workday, strategic misinformation about where and when to vote, and misinformation about Michigan's voter ID law.

Back to work with Obama the "labor guy"

While a lot of bloggers surf the edge of the news cycle, hoping to be the first ashore with a brilliant insight, one can also take a break -- perhaps lounging under a shady tree with a refreshing drink, getting some perspective on what is really urgent and important. It could take an hour or, in my case, the entire month of August. So now it's back to work. There is a presidential race to parse!

Michigan, according to the latest polling numbers, seems to have morphed from a deep blue state into a pale blue swing state. The latest (8/18-8/21) EPIC-MRA poll of likely Michigan voters has Obama at 43 percent, McCain at 41 percent, undecided at 13 percent. Expect a lot of attention from the candidates as they attempt to solidify core supporters and woo undecideds.

Obama will be the "labor guy," as he told union organizers at Detroit's Hart Plaza yesterday. But what of McCain? Will he court west Michigan as the "family values guy" or will he leave that to running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with a gender-based division of campaign issues? Family stuff, that's women's work. McCain can deceptively appease the religious right trotting out Palin as a distraction from his mixed record on abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage.

According to the Detroit News, McCain's pick of Palin and his appearance at Saddleback megachurch earlier this month are winning the hearts and minds of social conservatives. Yet, it's the undecideds who are really up for grabs and they aren't a monolithic chunk of social conservatives or labor supporters.

Perhaps McCain will present himself as the "upper management guy" delivering more sober and pessimistic anti-union news to the people of Michigan as he did during the primary. However, telling Michigan voters that automotive jobs lost will never return won't win over marginally employed lunch-bucket Democrats, even if it is true.

Obama has a better spin on resuscitating Michigan's terminally ill automotive-centric economy. Automotive jobs lost (nearly half a million in the last ten years) can be replaced with work creating alternative energy -- green jobs -- and the federal government can subsidize the development of this sector. Sounds great. But how can he promise that Michigan will be the center for this activity? Lots of states could use the economic perk of a hot new technology sector and once a government program is established all states will want a shot at winning those jobs and dollars. Unless Michigan's congressional delegation has a lot of favors to call in, don't count on half a million green jobs for Michigan in 2009.

No Republican presidential candidate has carried Michigan since 1988. It is still a blue state. If Obama can appeal to the romantic memory of all that is good about labor unions and organizing and grassroots activity and community empowerment, he has an excellent chance in Michigan. If McCain patronizingly talks about inevitable demise of Michigan manufacturing through globalization and outsourcing, Obama has an excellent chance in Michigan. If McCain goes deceitfully negative, projecting fear and loathing of difference onto Obama, evoking unseen faceless enemies, things may get close.

From my shady spot though, this pleasant peninsula still looks like the perfect backdrop for Obama's economic narrative. Make it a "Main Street" election. Security begins with the pocketbook on the kitchen table.