Thursday, February 28, 2008

Who knew NAFTA had so many enemies?

I stole the title but it was too good to pass up. Jon Tasini has a great wrap up of the NAFTA debate that broke out last night in Ohio. It doesn't happen that often that politicians openly talk of our country's trade policy(its more of a criticize it in an election year/vote for it the next type of thing), so it's worth a look at the full post that has the text of each speech.
I am entirely not interested in what the candidates said in the past and whether they have changed their positions. Not because it isn't relevant and a legitimate debate. Rather, I think that that focus simply spirals into a pointless rhetorical back-and-forth that obscures this--it is important to focus entirely on what they say TODAY about the future and what they will do about NAFTA.

And there I think lies the true danger. Both candidates are talking about renegotiating NAFTA, using the club that the U.S. will opt out of NAFTA if enforcement is not toughened up on labor and environmental standards. To recap, Sen Obama: "I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced." Sen. Clinton: "I have put forward a very specific plan about what I would do, and it does include telling Canada and Mexico that we will opt out unless we renegotiate the core labor and environmental standards".

This is a frame of thinking that says, really, let's tinker around the edges. Neither candidate is willing to say: we have to abandon so-called "free trade" and start our thinking from scratch. While the two focused a lot on trade and environmental provisions, the real danger, as John Edwards pointed out, are the Chapter 11 provisions in so-called "free trade" agreements like NAFTA that give huge, broad rights to corporations irrespective of the side agreements on labor and the environment.

Edwards took a huge swing at the corporate lobbyists by singling out the NAFTA-like Chapter 11 rights. I explained this briefly (and Public Citizen has a detailed explanation) but the upshot of Chapter 11 rights is this: Let's say a company doing business in a country that is a party to one of these so-called "free trade" agreements believes a law violates rights or protections the company has under the trade deal. The company can take its case before a trade tribunal, which can, then, rule that a law--say an environmental law or labor--is illegal under the so-called "free trade" regime and award tax-payer dollars to corporations. And this tribunal operates behind closed doors, with no public input or scrutiny and none of the basic due process or transparency one would expect in open courts.

This is really huge. These Chapter 11 rights are one of the most odious provisions of so-called "free trade" deals. They allow companies to undercut our democracy--laws that are passed by the people we elect can be overridden by an unaccountable, unelected tribunal.

Until we have a president willing to declare that, from this moment on, trade agreements will be built around the rights of communities and workers, and not corporate rights, we will not end the cycle of so-called "free trade" that is powered by Chapter 11 rights that effectively allow undermining of basic wage levels and social safety nets. It is that simple.

I can't climb into the minds of Sens. Obama and Clinton to understand what makes them really tick on trade. Is it a real belief in so-called "free trade" and the so-called "free market" that have worked so well (note the heavy sarcasm) for people here and abroad? Is it simply a fear that they cannot alienate political contributors, so they must tread lightly on any deep critique of so-called "free trade"? Or both?
(Emphasis Mine)

I basically agree with his take, and the point about chapter 11 agreements is particularly important. Remember that a lack of environmental and labor protections isn't a problem with the deals, the lack of these standards IS THE REASON for their existence. If they had to obey those pesky labor standards and environmental laws, they might as well have stayed in the US! The deals aren't flawed... the model is working exactly how it was planned! The problem is that the model itself is broken, and and if we talk about changing the model itself instead of small changes to a broken system, we might get real change a trade policy that actually raises standards. Maybe not this election cycle, but that day will come.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The end is near

The out of control train wreck that is Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign may finally be coming to a close.

And this really can't come a moment too soon. I was pretty amazed at the media's response to the love fest at the end of the last debate, and then assuming that the rest of the campaign would carry on in that fashion. What on earth would give them the impression that Clinton's campaign would bow out with any kind of grace? Have they been watching this thing? She's going to go out the exact same way she ran this campaign from November on: Throwing haymakers and smearing shit on anything she can find. She'll keep missing, and the attacks won't work, but make no mistake, she'll keep trying. I missed tonight's debate because I was having much more fun a Caps game with my dad, but after watching a recap showing of her conciliatory tone at the end, let me make a bold prediction: She will go right back to throwing haymakers and smearing shit on the walls. Shocking stuff, I know. There's a reason you can't bet on this type of thing, it isn't rocket science.

I'm no Obama partisan but I've been getting so sick and tired of hearing people who I otherwise respect saying that we have two great candidates... and whatever happens we'll be alright. In one corner we have probably the greatest politician of our generation who if we relentlessly push in the right direction could provide the biggest movement towards progressive ideas in some time. Someone with Bill Clinton like skills without the selling-out. In another corner we have the physical embodiment of everything the progressive left should loathe: A democrat who thinks nothing of turning her back on progressive ideas at the slightest sign of a fight (Health care, war with Iraq, war with Iran, trade, censorship and flag burning idiocy just to name a few). I hope that all these people who would be satisfied with her candidacy realize that the only reason her policies look remotely acceptable now is because the country wants leftist policies. If the country was still 50/50 over the war, trade, or health care, do you think there would be a chance in hell she's going to battle for these causes? Whether sitting silently on Walmart's board while they discussed busting unions, supporting war with both Iraq and Iran because she wanted to prove she was "tough" during her presidential run, she has shown time and time again that she wasn't willing to fight when it wasn't the overwhelmingly popular thing to do.

Hell, in her gut, she may actually be to the left of Obama on a bunch of issues. And I may disagree with how Obama proposes approaching many of these issues. But as for the question as to who will fight for these issues, at least it's a question with Obama.

We KNOW she won't fight. She backs down at the slightest sign of political unpopularity. That is one trait she has proven time and time again throughout her career. We don't know about Obama how Obama will respond to the pressure, but I at least believe he is sincere in pursuing these goals, which means he's already miles ahead of Clinton in that debate. Only time will tell how much he will actually accomplish, or how much he really will hold firm to progressive principles... but with him there's a chance. If door number one is open, and you can see the pile of flaming crap, why on earth wouldn't you take a shot with mystery door #2?

Sure makes sense to me. And it's been too long since I've made a stupid graphic. Fun Times.

It's gonna be a ugly week. But I think the end is near.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Train of Thought Lounge: 1979

I've been in a smashing pumpkins zone recently, and I'd forgotten how tight this video was.

Smashing Pumpkins - 1979

Thursday, February 21, 2008

News round-up

Juan Cole has a great piece of background and a recap of the recent Pakistani elections.

Hillary Clinton's recent attempt to frame herself as the "candidate who gets things done" is pretty absurd, considering how she has done almost nothing to aid progressive policy in the senate. Well the good news is that someone took the radical step of actually looking up their votes and comparing their actual voting records. Check it out, it's a pretty fascinating look at what types of bills they're willing to put they're names on and push.

Racist assholes who aren't rapists but are racist bigots decide to sue the justice system that proved them innocent of rape. Too bad they proved themselves guilty of being racist bigots or I might actually feel bad for them. Well, lucky for them they live in a democracy and not my dictatorship or they'd be in Rykers for the next 15 years for the "thank your grandfather for my white cotton shirt" comment alone.

A cool behind the scenes view of how the NY Times McCain story unfolded, which addresses some of the problems with the story itself.

It's funny, they've had countless democratic debates with this exact same format... would it kill them to allow one debate where they just sat next to each other and actually went back and forth? These debates where they take turns spouting a minute or so of a stump speech really don't accomplish much once you've seen them say about the same thing 20 or so times.

43 Years ago today, Malcolm X was shot 16 times while giving a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights. He was 39 at the time of his death. Malcolm X scholar and Columbia University Professor Manning Marable on his legacy:
"That when young boys and girls look at Malcolm on a mantlepiece, high above them, far beyond reach, they cannot reach or obtain what he achieved. Bring Malcolm down to the people. Honor Malcolm by honoring ourselves, our capacity for struggle, our search for truth and human dignity. Not that Malcolm was right in everything. If Malcolm were here, he'd say, "Don't freeze me and turn me into a statue! Understand me as a person who struggled for dignity, who fought for freedom, and who died trying to live in a way that could bring honor to ourselves." We need to understand that Malcolm's greatness, his courage and dignity are best served by living his creed, by living his legacy, by challenging the power, by fighting for freedom, by linking up with oppressed people, no matter where they may be, by fighting all systems of domination and exploitation, whatever their names are. In this way we not only honor the life and legacy of Malcolm X, we honor the best democratic and liberationist traditions in ourselves."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'

Well, one campaign thinks so.
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign intends to go after delegates whom Barack Obama has already won in the caucuses and primaries if she needs them to win the nomination.

This strategy was confirmed to me by a high-ranking Clinton official on Monday. And I am not talking about superdelegates, those 795 party big shots who are not pledged to anybody. I am talking about getting pledged delegates to switch sides.

What? Isn’t that impossible? A pledged delegate is pledged to a particular candidate and cannot switch, right?


Pledged delegates are not really pledged at all, not even on the first ballot. This has been an open secret in the party for years, but it has never really mattered because there has almost always been a clear victor by the time the convention convened.

But not this time. This time, one candidate may enter the convention leading by just a few pledged delegates, and those delegates may find themselves being promised the sun, moon and stars to switch sides.

“I swear it is not happening now, but as we get closer to the convention, if it is a stalemate, everybody will be going after everybody’s delegates,” a senior Clinton official told me Monday afternoon. “All the rules will be going out the window.”

Now the Clinton campaign claims this is not the case, but as a recent diary on dailykos pointed out, it's already beginning.
I’m in Vegas and last night myself and a dozen or so other Obama supporters were at the Culinary Union calling our Obama delegates. I probably made about 100 calls and about 95 said Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been calling them "all day" or at least once already.

The fact that they're calling them isn't a big deal, NV's Democratic party put out a list of delegates that doesn't include who the individual is a delegate for. However, we crossed their list, with our list of supporters and we're calling OUR delegates.

What gets me heated is, everyone who said Hillary's campaign called them also said they were encouraged to switch their support from Obama to Hillary . One man even said the person who called him "wouldn't let it go" and when he angrily told them he wasn't going to drop his support for Obama, they just hung up the phone on him.

The Clinton campaign has called me three times already since 2pm yesterday.
She doesn't care about what this would do to the democratic party or that it is extremely dishonest. She only cares about herself and winning, and someone who doesn't care how they win is an extremely dangerous person.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

This is what democracy looks like

Challenger Edwards Wins Stunning Victory Over Long-Time Incumbent Wynn

Kos sums up the bigger picture well:
As I wrote time and time again, we don't have the money to buy off our politicians, and the bad Democrats know we're not about to start voting for Republicans. So the only way we can hold our caucus accountable is to send notice that we will primary them. And sure, they may survive such primaries. But sometimes they won't.

We'll be working this fall for "more" Democrats, but today we struck a blow on behalf of better Democrats.

Our caucus is once again on notice. If they continue to serve corporate interests rather than their constituents, if they insist on remaining aloof to the nation's popular sentiment, they'll get booted in a Democratic primary like Joe Lieberman in 2006 and Al Wynn in 2008.
A win in Maryland, but a message sent to the entire democratic congress.

PS: This is a little late but as some of you know, I've had some sort of flu that has basically put me out of commission since Wednesday afternoon. But now it's on the way out... just like Al Wynn! Damn! Ok, that sucked, but I'm still not 100%, so give me a break.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Go Donna Go!

Crappy whether means that results will be coming in late. You can follow those results for the rest of the night at the post. I was planning to head over to their election night party but being somewhat sick and the bad roads got in the way.

In other news, Obama with a clean sweep, and as E correctly pointed out in the comments a few posts ago, this is serious business for him. Clinton is in serious trouble, and even if she wins Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania (the only states she is still way up in the polls)... she now needs to do so by an almost impossibly large margin. No positive way to spin that, but Mark Penn, knock yourself out.

This just in: Tim Russert states the winner of Pennsylvania will come down to "white men with guns and boats". That horrifying image speaks for itself, but I can't resit:

The Visual Representation of the "Russert Equation"


Long lines at the polls very VERY early this morning when I had to vote, so take that for what it's worth. And if you've been reading here at all for the last couple of months-it shouldn't be too much of a surprise who I voted for in the presidential primary today. But if you're in Maryland's 4th district- be sure to vote for Donna Edwards, who is challenging Al Wynn for his congressional seat. I've been volunteering for her campaign over the past two months- she is the real deal- great on all the issues and it would be a massive boost to the progressive movement to have her in there instead of Wynn.

So Vote!
Vote Obama!
And if it's an option vote Donna Edwards!
It's been a long time since your Maryland/DC primary vote actually mattered! Enjoy it while it lasts!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Reading

Two interesting articles from two of my favorite political writers, David Sirota and Matt Taibbi. First Sirota discusses the intersection of race and class, and what that means for Barack Obama:
In most states, polls show Hillary Clinton is beating Barack Obama among voters making $50,000 a year or less -- many of whom say the economy is their top concern. Yes, the New York senator who appeared on the cover of Fortune magazine as Big Business's candidate is winning economically insecure, lower-income communities over the Illinois senator who grew up as an organizer helping those communities combat unemployment. This absurd phenomenon is a product of both message and bias.

Obama has let Clinton characterize the 1990s as a nirvana, rather than a time that sowed the seeds of our current troubles. He barely criticizes the Clinton administration for championing job-killing trade agreements. He does not question that same administration's role in deregulating the financial industry and thereby intensifying today's boom-bust catastrophes. And he rarely points out what McClatchy Newspapers reported this week: that Clinton spent most of her career at a law firm "where she represented big companies and served on corporate boards," including Wal-Mart's.
"If Obama started talking like John Edwards and tapped into working-class, blue-collar proletarian rage, suddenly all of those white voters who are viewing him within the lens of transcendence would start seeing him differently," says Charles Ellison of the University of Denver's Center for African American Policy.

That's because once Obama parroted Edwards' attacks on greed and inequality, he would "be stigmatized as a candidate mobilizing race," says Manning Marable, a Columbia University history professor. That is, the media would immediately portray him as another Jesse Jackson -- a figure whose progressivism has been (unfairly) depicted as racial politics anathema to white swing voters.

Remember, this is always how power-challenging African-Americans are marginalized. The establishment cites a black leader's race- and class-unifying populism as supposed proof of his or her radical, race-centric views. An extreme example of this came from the FBI, which labeled Martin Luther King Jr. "the most dangerous man in America" for talking about poverty. More typical is the attitude exemplified by Joe Klein's 2006 Time magazine column. He called progressive Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., "an African American of a certain age and ideology, easily stereotyped" and "one of the ancient band of left-liberals who grew up in the angry hothouse of inner-city, racial-preference politics."

The Clintons are only too happy to navigate this ugly cultural topography. After a rare Obama attack on Hillary Clinton for supporting policies that eliminated jobs, Bill Clinton quickly likened Obama's campaign to Jackson's, and the Clinton campaign told the Associated Press Obama was "the black candidate." These were deliberate statements telling Obama that if he talks about class, they'll talk about race.

And so, as Marable says, Obama's pitch includes "no mention of the class struggle or class conflict." It is "hope" instead of an economic case, bromide instead of critique. The result is an oxymoronic dynamic.

Obama, the person who fought blue-collar joblessness in the shadows of shuttered factories, is winning wealthy enclaves. But Clinton, the person whose globalization policies helped shutter those factories, is winning blue-collar strongholds.
Second Taibbi's piece looks back at the disgusting acts of Harry Ried and Nancy Pelosi in refusing to actually oppose the Iraq war:
There was much public shedding of tears among the Democratic leadership, as Reid, Pelosi and other congressional heavyweights expressed deep sadness that their valiant charge up the hill of change had been thwarted by circumstances beyond their control — that, as much as they would love to continue trying to end the catastrophic Iraq deal, they would now have to wait until, oh, 2009 to try again. "We'll have a new president," said Pelosi. "And I do think at that time we'll take a fresh look at it."

Pelosi seemed especially broken up about having to surrender on Iraq, sounding like an NFL coach in a postgame presser, trying with a straight face to explain why he punted on first-and-goal. "We just didn't have any plays we liked down there," said the coach of the 0-15 Dems. "Sometimes you just have to play the field-position game...."

In reality, though, Pelosi and the Democrats were actually engaged in some serious point-shaving. Working behind the scenes, the Democrats have systematically taken over the anti-war movement, packing the nation's leading group with party consultants more interested in attacking the GOP than ending the war. "Our focus is on the Republicans," one Democratic apparatchik in charge of the anti-war coalition declared. "How can we juice up attacks on them?"

The story of how the Democrats finally betrayed the voters who handed them both houses of Congress a year ago is a depressing preview of what's to come if they win the White House. And if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame.
Both articles are worth the read. On to Maine! Let's go for the sweep!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

4.3 Million Worth

As reports come out that Hillary Clinton's staffers will go without pay for the next month and that she is loaning herself 5 million dollars to keep this thing going, it's good to know that not everyone is feeling the burn. Not only is chief union busting/Blackwater defending creep Mark Penn still taking his pay, but his it's been revealed that his firm "Penn, Schoen and Bertland received 4.3 million dollars for their work, and that figure doesn't even include another 1.5 million owed that has yet to be payed. But if she wasn't paying him 6 million dollars, who would she get to come up with brilliant spin like this:
"The more that Senator Obama has shifted to becoming an establishment campaign based on endorsements, people said, `You know, it's really Senator Clinton who has the ideas for change,'" Penn told reporters.
Well that may sound incredibly stupid but in fairness to Penn that 4.3 million wasn't by commission, and since he's getting his payday win or lose he's probably fine with mailing it in every now and then. Call it the Vince Carter method, it seems to work out ok for him. Oh wait, nevermind.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday

So I've wanted to write a lot especially with this day coming up, but I've been just to busy and exhausted to do so. But while were getting the results tonight, yesterday one of the better election watchers Chris Bowers predicts a horrifying scenario:

From this point, quick math shows that after Super Tuesday, only 1,428 pledged delegates will still be available. Now, here is where the problem shows up. According to current polling averages, the largest possible victory for either candidate on Super Tuesday will be Clinton 889 pledged delegates, to 799 pledged delegates for Obama. (In all likelihood, the winning margin will be lower than this, but using these numbers helps emphasize the seriousness of the situation.) As such, the largest possible pledged delegate margin Clinton can have after Super Tuesday is 937 to 862. (While it is possible Obama will lead in pledged delegates after Super Tuesday, it does not currently seem possible for Obama to have a larger lead than 75). That leaves Clinton 1,088 pledged delegates from clinching the nomination, with only 1,428 pledged delegates remaining. Thus, in order to win the nomination without the aid of super delegates, in her best-case scenario after Super Tuesday, Clinton would need to win 76.2% of all remaining pledged delegates. Given our proportional delegate system, there is simply no way that is going to happen unless Obama drops out.

So, there you have it. Unless either Obama or Clinton drops out before the convention, there is simply no way that the nominee can be determined without the super delegates. In the broadest definition of the term, "a brokered convention" is a convention that is determined by super delegates instead of nominating contests. Through a deadly combination of a primary calendar race to the bottom and an anachronistic method of delegate selection, we Democrats seem to have already arrived at that point. Short of one candidate dropping out, there is simply no easy way that this situation can be resolved. Given that Michigan and Florida combine for 313 pledged delegates, it is likely that this situation won't be resolved without severe bureaucratic fighting on the DNC rules and by-laws committee, or even a credential fight at the convention itself.

And why should either candidate drop out? Clinton has a large lead in super delegates, and can make a real argument over the Michigan and Florida delegations. Obama, by contrast, will probably lead in pledged delegates at the end of February, and will be able to raise significantly more money than Clinton. And so, we are at an impasse.

My instincts tell me this is a complete disaster, since it will shine light on complicated bylaws and the questionable democratic nature of the delegate selection process instead of on voters. As fascinating as it might be for political junkies, it is not the kind of image Democrats need. We need to figure a way out of this situation in a hurry.
And on that depressing note here's hoping for an Obama landslide tonight to prevent that kind of disaster. It looks like a small loss overall would be a good finish for Obama, since the states that follow super Tuesday are polling his way. I'll update later once the results have come in.


10:40 - So unlike every other primary so far... (surprised by Iowa, really shocked by New Hampshire, angry enough to kick a bike helmet over a house after Nevada, and surprised by the margin of win in South Carolina)... the results were mostly what I was expecting.

10:50 -
Hillary Clinton mentions unions in her speech and you can't be sure but I don't think she's was being sarcastic.

12:30 - Hillary Clinton takes California... so that takes the only knockout punch left off the table. The real shocker of the night has to be Huckabee's performance. That kind of leaves Romney with no where to go, and the GOP in complete, fucking chaos. Hilarious! If Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter trashing McCain wasn't good enough. So no huge upsets, but a great position for Obama heading into the next primaries, while the republicans are on the verge of civil war. All in all, not a bad night.

Friday, February 1, 2008

How good is this guy?

  • 4 Goals(Including OT Game-winning Goal)
  • 1 Assist
  • +4 Rating
  • 5 Hits
  • 1 Broken Nose
  • 2 Sets of stitches (cheek and lip, from separate incidents)
What more can you say. The kid is special. He's the most skilled player on the ice, but he likes to truck people as much as he does score goals. (After being drafted #1 overall, a reporter asked him what he wanted the Washington fans to know about him he only said: "I play physical") I've talked to a few people about this type of thing before, but he's like what Lebron is to the NBA, and what Sean Taylor was to the NFL. Someone with Ove's skill set, speed, agility and balance was not meant to be in a 6-2 220 pound frame. But in those rare cases when you do get that combination of strength and skill, you feel like you are witnessing a force of nature... and last night sure was an example of that.

And like JP said, with the season he's having, maybe it's time to bring out the H-word. All I know growing up as a DC sports fan, I've never seen a player in any sport dominate like this. Not even close.

Oh yeah, what did Ove say about last night?
"Today was special day," Ovechkin said after the team doctor went to work on his nose, which he broke for the fifth time. "I broke my nose, I have stitches, I score four goals. Everything go to my face."
Amazing. Maybe 13 years wasn't long enough...