Friday, August 29, 2008


I was thrilled with the speech itself, especially loving the focus on working class issues. Sirota says: "The speech is probably the most populist national speech Obama has given." and I agree with that wholeheartedly. It looks like Obama is solidifying his attacks on McCain from a populist point of view, and that is great news for our chances of winning and for the pressure it will put on him to actual pursue this progressive politics while in office. It's also not an easy living up to the hype when the last speech you gave at a democratic convention is widely considered to be one of the best given in the last 10 years. Well done.

What did you think?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

E Clodibus Unum

Today we here at COYOTE H.Q. are happy to announce the creation of a new alliance, aimed at freeing the Democratic Party from the iron fist of Obamism. Obama may be wildly popular, articulate, and clean, but we have weapons of our own: a baffling hatred of our candidate, and insupportably extreme rhetoric! Seriously, try reading the latest entries at the main PUMA site, they make no sense whatsoever.

As it turns out, Hillary supporters with PUMA and we humble Edwards backers at COYOTE aren't the only ones looking to resurrect dead campaigns. No, we’ve been joined by a variety of folks looking to raise their candidates primary run from the grave, and enjoy the fruits of a horrible zombie campaign which seeks only to sustain itself with the flesh of living, healthy candidates.

To that end, we introduce:

TIGER:Tis Important Gravel Elongates ’is Run
Apparently founded by semi-literate Irish immigrants, this group supports the man Jon Stewart famously referred to as ‘the most Zen candidate in American politics.’ If the spelling of the group name is any indication, expect scathing invective to be hurled at Obama in a thick brogue.

DOG: Dodd Over God
A group of radical religious extremists seek to overthrow not only Obama, but apparently God himself and replace both with Chris Dodd. No clues yet as to their motives for this.

DINGO: Dennis’s Interests Nullify the Goals of Obama
Look at Kucinich, that guy is such a bizarre gnome-man.

Welcome to the party, guys! Go nuts, McCain is picking up the bill for this one. Remember, your candidate wasn’t beaten because the other guy was more popular, it was because of entrenched anti-French-Canadian, anti-Catholic, and anti-Elfin biases, respectively. Here is a really cool picture of a coyote riding a train, as promised last time:

I wish we had coyotes freely using public transportation here in DC, guy looks pretty chill.

Thoughts on the convention

I've been able to catch pieces of it live, and other parts on youtube.
  • The Ted Kennedy tribute was moving, and seeing him speak was something else. For events that are usually nothing more than showpieces, that was genuinely powerful.
  • Anyone who reads this site knows my feelings on Hillary Clinton, but I've got to say, she has shown an amazing amount of class. She could have mailed it in, she could of stolen the headlines, but instead she did exactly what she needed to do. Her speech was good, but her calling for Obama's nomination to be approved by acclimation was truly phenomenal.
  • Peter DeFazio and Austin Goolsbee talking about fair trade? David Sirota did it, and there may be hope for Obama's trade policy after all.
  • Gov. Schweitzer is awesome, and should be parked in front of a microphone between now and the election.
  • Joe Biden showed his strengths yesterday by devoting 95% of his speech to attacking McCain. More of this, please.
  • This type of crap is pretty depressing.
  • Speaking of depressing: I know he's gonna be at Obama's speech, but how the fuck was Wes Clark not on stage last night? Sure a national security night featuring only pro Iraq war people is a great message to send, it's just that he's a better speaker than any of them (Except Clinton) and he was against the war from the begining, you know, like that guy we nominated.
  • There has been some criticism of the Obama campaign editing the speeches given at the convention. Sadly, they robbed us of what would have been the best line of the whole event, courtesy of Dennis Kucinich:
    “They’re asking for another four years — in a just world, they’d get 10 to 20.”
  • Corruption Defined: Matt Stoller, Glenn Greenwald, Jane Hamsher and others discover something fantastic: So let's get this straight: The Blue Dog Democrat (the openly corporate whore wing of the democratic party) has a party... paid for by AT&T, who they might have just helped by being the lead group to flip and pass this thing. AT&T gets amnesty from aiding President Bush spy on Americans courtesy of the Blue Dogs, while Blue Dogs get cocktail weenies and free booze from AT&T. What a wonderful system we've got going here. Be sure to check the link for the video of them trying to interview the attendees. Give them credit, at least they know they have something to hide!
  • This tool makes word clouds from anything, and here are clouds from the speeches given at the convention. I can't tell you how awesome this thing will be for the Republican National Convention.
  • I'm actually really excited for tonight. In addition to that whole history thing, I'm pumped for the speech, especially if the rumors are true and it's focused on working class issues. The bar couldn't really be set higher with that whole 80,000 people thing, so let's hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Announcing a new PAC: Say hello to the COYOTES!

Woe unto Obama. Recent nationwide polls indicate that Barack still has a lead, while the GOP has yet to find an effective attack on the Democratic candidate. Contributions continue to flow, giving him a large cash advantage. Meanwhile, the Republicans still can’t muster any enthusiasm for their McCain.

Many people would like to have you believe that this is all good news for Obama. The mainstream media, on the other hand, knows better. They realize that even if he wins the presidential election, he will forever be a loser if he can’t bring in the PUMAs. This new group has basked in the media spotlight for weeks, while the ongoing stories of their nearly unrivalled political power fill the nation with awe. Millions, maybe billions of dollars! Ah right, turned out to only be a few thousand. Well still, huge numbers of voters! Not enough to show up in any polls or anything, but… Hey, look at their latest rally, a huge crowd stretching back to the horizon! Turned out to only be a small throng though, maybe a handful depending on your standards. Still, the media insists they’re a force to be reckoned with, so that’s what I’m going to assume is true. Look, we’ve even had posts here trembling with indescribable terror from their Herculean strength.

Now I’m proud to announce the newest irrelevant Democratic splinter group: the COYOTES! That’s right, it stands for Clods Ordering Yes (Onwards!) To EdwardS. So what if Edwards dropped out of the race, has endorsed Obama, and has in the meantime been subjected to the humiliating discovery of his ongoing affair while his wife fights cancer? It’s time to fight for what Edwards promised us: a clod in the White House!

Coming soon, the first official press release from COYOTE headquarters, some COYOTE trivia, and maybe some pictures of actual coyotes, they’re pretty cool.

PUMAs invade Denver: ROAR!!!!

For those who don't know, (or those who aren't planning to crash their happy hour with DCJonesy, Jack and I) PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) is a coalition of Hillary supporters who aren't supporting Barack Obama for a variety of inane reasons/conspiracy theories, each one stranger than the last. Are there really people this stupid, you ask? Well, luckily for us, they have a poorly written blog to capture all of their outrage! Some Highlights from the last few days:
That was Hillary’s message to us. KEEP RUNNING. Never give up. Never quit.
Cause that was definitely Hillary's message last night. That may seem strange to you or I, but PUMAs speak in a code where no matter what Hillary actually says... they're clued in on it's real meaning.
I'm pretty sure PUMA HQ=Hallway of local Motel 6 if that picture is to be believed. Also, I think "crying and yelling with joy" might be my new favorite expression. You gotta love a blog post written in all caps. CAN'T YOU TELL WE'RE YELLING WITH JOY HERE AT PUMA HQ?!

This next one might be my personal favorite. First the clip of these idiots getting interviewed and (owned) by Chris Mathews of all people, and then read the amazing recap of how it went down if saw the event through PUMA vision:
Just got back from our Union Station rally in front of the MSNBC tent. We STOLE the show! Chris Matthews was there; David Shuster was there — Riverdaughter was leading the charge and had everyone chanting No We Won’t!, What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like! Sexist Pig (to Chris Matthews himself!) HILLARY! Will post photos as they come up.
We got ourselves a posse and went down to Union Station in front of the MSNBC kiosk. We protested and shouted slogans (in NPR-speak) and completely drowned out the Obamaphiles.

We had a lot of support from passersby. I was very encouraged that there were many sympathetic people. I don’t think the Obama people knew what hit them. They’ve had such a free ride for so long. No one challenged them. no one was skeptical. They have been handled with kid gloves like pampered little brats. But in the face of all of the people they’ve been calling stupid, old women, they seemed oddly subdued.

Chris Matthews made an appearance and stood there silently while some of us finally got a chance to tell him how we felt to his face. The coward waited until we left before he came down from the stage to talk to the crowd.

I can still remember all those debates when Obama seemed to go out of his way just to ridicule old women. I thought it was a bad idea at the time, but if he'd known then that it would lead to a full-on uprising of 30-40 people at a 3000 person convention, I bet he would have laid off.

But wait, in addition to grade school quality writing, their site also has thought provoking photoshops:
DAMN! I knew there was something that bothered me about Biden!

With these types of leaps in logic, they might as well been hanging around with 9/11 Truthers and anti-Semite conspiracy theorists. What's that you say? They were among the 60 people who attended their conference? Well I guess I should have seen that coming.

Oh and they've made a racist video too? SHOCKING.

Thanks to Kevin K. of Rumproast for his amazing PUMA coverage.

PUMAS! Your entertainment for the 2008 Democratic Convention.

Clinton's Speech

Anyone have strong feelings about Hillary's speech last night? Almost everyone in the press (virtual, print & televised) seems to be loving it – and it was a great speech – but I wasn't as moved as I was by her concession speech back in June. Then again, I saw the concession speech as unequivocally supporting Obama, which most of the media did not for some reason.

"Were you in this campaign just for me?" is exactly right, though.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tight NASA Videos, Part 2

There’s a lot to be said against the space shuttle program, and most of the criticism boils down to the fact that when you attach 2,700,000 pounds of ignited, highly explosive fuel to something as it leaves the planet and then subject it to 3000° F and wildly varying pressures on the return trip, expecting that thing to be reusable basically makes no sense. The space shuttle was supposed to launch once a week and provide a cheap, consistent way to get satellites into space; in actuality, all of the work it takes to maintain the shuttles at a safe level is expensive and time-consuming enough to keep them from going up more than half a dozen times a year. Even with all that painstaking care, we’ve lost 2/5 of the functional orbiters, and the program had to be grounded for years after each disaster.

On the other hand, this is entirely awesome:

And it's Biden...

When we took a look at possible VPs for Obama last week, here's what I wrote about Biden:
Joe Biden: He's a master of colonial rhetoric and imperialistic statements on Iraq. He's prone to gaffes and is a great attack dog in 1 out of every 5 TV appearances. He doesn't really bring anything to the table, and he occasionally takes from it since his previous pro war stance doesn't really mesh with Barack's message. Again, he only looks like an OK option when you compare him with the other people being considered.
Other than the pick itself I've got to give it up to the Obama campaign for how they handled the roll out. First, they kept the press guessing, leaked what they wanted to leak and ran this VP thing as well (or better than) just about anything else in this general election campaign.

Their other success in the VP roll out may not have been intentional, but it was effective none the less. If you had told me 6 months ago that Biden would be Obama's VP, I would have been furious. But after 3 months of VP hopefuls being leaked to the press, with each one being more conservative than the last, it really takes it's toll. Waking up each morning to the latest rumors surrounding Bayh, Tim Kaine or (Are you fucking kidding me?) Chet Edwards without ONE (even remotely) progressive candidate being anywhere near consideration is a much, much, much more depressing subplot here than the pick itself. If the Obama campaign was was using this as a strategy to repeatedly beat the hope out of you and make Joe Biden seem like an acceptable pick, well then I guess it worked. I sure didn't expect my reaction to Biden's selection to be one of complete relief.

Sirota pointed me to something that could be a positive, which is his rhetoric on the economy. I had basically tuned Biden out on these issues ever since he put the bankruptcy bill on his back and rode it to freedom, but he does have a otherwise decent record on working class issues, and he seems much more comfortable using populist rhetoric than Obama does. I know saying "other than the bankruptcy bill" is definitely an "other than that Ms. Lincoln, how was the play" type thing, but having someone who will speak in a populist tone on economic issues is definite upgrade over what Obama's been offering on that front.

And I will say this, the reaction has been great in the mainstream media. Why, I honestly don't know but I stopped understanding how things things work 35 years of experience ago. In my book, Biden's choice undercuts Obama's two biggest strengths, his opposition to the Iraq war and the whole "Change" thing, but then again, that's probably why I don't get paid to write about this stuff.

A few other takes on Biden's Selection:

-Chris Bowers

-Kathy G. (A pretty thoruough look and good back and forth)

-Cheryl Contee from JackandJillpolitics, and she has a round up of reaction from other prominent black bloggers

-Mike Lux (A very positive take)

-Sirota (A good, bad and Ugly type thing)

Obama/Biden 08
What's your take?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday Morning

Obama, in an internal monologue late Friday night: "I'm the guy who has built his campaign on promising change. Hope. New to Washington, idealistic and uncorrupted. I'm clean and articulate, as some clod pointed out. Now it's time to pick a VP who'll be compatible with all that, someone who can stay on message and fits within the narrative!"

*names Joe Biden*

Christmas in August for the Republicans, courtesy of Obama!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Media notes: Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt

This post is not going to be very extensive or researched; I just wanted to ramble for a second about what I have perceived to be unequal treatment between the two biggest newsmakers at this year's Olympics. Without a doubt, Michael Phelps' historic eight gold medals has to be the top story, especially when added to all the ones he's won before. We truly witnessed history in real time and this feat may not be touched for years to come.

I found myself watching every race of his, even the preliminaries because it was just that captivating. This is coming from someone who, like most Americans, could not care less about swimming any other time except for right now. So I don't want to sound insane by suggesting for a moment that Phelps does not deserve top billing here; I'm not.

It's just that you have to consider what Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt has done: he shattered the most glamorous world record there is, the 100-meter dash, the most basic determinant of the world's fastest human. He also easily broke the 200m record (which is his original event; supposedly he entered the 100m trials as a fluke on the suggestion of his trainer and broke the world record this past May, prior to destroying his own record to win the gold in Beijing) and won his third gold today in the 4 x 400m, again breaking a world record.

You cannot say that Bolt isn't an extremely close second to Phelps in terms of having the most incredible Olympics of any single athlete possibly in history. Not that many people are arguing that, actually, but what has me upset is this underlying resentment of Bolt's accomplishments from the media and fan reaction.

It may just be me, and I'm curious as to other people's thoughts on this subject, but it seems like every time Bolt's name is mentioned, it's followed by "never one to be shy," or "as much as he loves the cameras/spotlight/attention," or something along those lines (here is one example in the lead graph of a story on today's gold medal win). Okay, maybe it was a bit much when he shifted down on the last 20 meters of the 100, started pumping his chest mid-race AND STILL EASILY BROKE THE WORLD RECORD. I know that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. But in my mind, that is not enough to chastise him as being selfish and arrogant at every turn.

I don't know, I haven't seen any interviews of him so he may actually be arrogant. Still, if you were that fast seemingly without even trying that hard, wouldn't you have to be kind of arrogant? How can you not enjoy yourself on the world's biggest stage when you're having the kind of success he is?

I also don't want to paint this as strictly a racial double-standard in terms of media coverage, even though part of me feels that there is some truth to this. What this is unquestionably an example of, though, is an international double-standard set by NBC, whose coverage of this year's games has been terrible in my book. If an event doesn't feature an American in some way, I feel NBC has pushed it to the background. In fact, most of Bolt's exploits weren't even shown live, thus losing some of their luster. I feel as though this stance has been somewhat justified when it comes to sports such as gymnastics, where the host country is just clearly not playing by the rules. But even in events in which other nations thrive, all you hear is commentary about what the Americans did wrong, or how the Americans could have done better, or excuses for the Americans poor showing, or... you get the idea.

Okay, I feel like I've ranted about as much as necessary here. Whew, I feel a lot better now.

About that Iraqi Surplus...

Since Sirota's post started a debate over at Openleft, and Obama seems to be making it a part of his stump speech, I figured I'd expand a bit on why some of his language on Iraq makes me uncomfortable. First let's take the example from Obama's weekly democratic radio address:

The second thing we learned this week was that the Iraqi government now has a $79 billion budget surplus thanks to their windfall oil profits. And while this Iraqi money sits in American banks, American taxpayers continue to spend $10 billion a month to defend and rebuild Iraq.

That’s right. America faces a huge budget deficit. Iraq has a surplus.

Now, Senator McCain promises to continue President Bush’s open-ended commitment to the war in Iraq, while refusing to pressure Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country.

Let me be clear: we are well over five years into a war in a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. Our brave men and women in uniform have completed every mission they’ve been given. Our country has spent nearly a trillion dollars in Iraq, even as our schools are underfunded, our roads and bridges are crumbling, and the cost of everything from groceries to a gallon of gas is soaring.

Now think for a moment about what we could have done with the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars that we’ve spent in Iraq. We could have rebuilt American schools and roads and bridges. We could have made historic investments in alternative energy to create millions of American jobs. We could have headed-off $4 dollar a gallon gas and begun to end the tyranny of oil in our time.

Colonial rhetoric among politicians and even democrats is nothing new, but this is just upsetting because Barack had been one of the best at avoiding it before this. Let's start with the worst offender here:
Now, Senator McCain promises to continue President Bush’s open-ended commitment to the war in Iraq, while refusing to pressure Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country.
There are tons of problems with the current situation in Iraq, but implying that the Iraqis need to be pressured and are inherently incapable of taking care of themselves is colonial rhetoric at it's finest. In addition, the things we are "pressuring" them to do are things that don't exactly eye to eye with their own self interest. As Naomi Klein stated in an interview a little while back, the main plank of our "pressure" has been getting them to pass the "Carbon Law" which reverses the nationalization of their oil, and opens it up to be used by foreign oil companies. So putting more pressure on the legislature to pass a law that will rob Iraq of it's best resource and make the government hated by their constituents... not really a good thing.

The counter argument to these types of statements is: "They're government gets nothing done, all they do is squabble.", "They won't pass the legislation we've asked them to", and the latest:

"The second thing we learned this week was that the Iraqi government now has a $79 billion budget surplus thanks to their windfall oil profits. And while this Iraqi money sits in American banks, American taxpayers continue to spend $10 billion a month to defend and rebuild Iraq.

That’s right. America faces a huge budget deficit. Iraq has a surplus."

First off, the reason the surplus is so high, is because their legislature hasn't been able to agree to a budget yet, which will account for a large chunk of that money. And why has it been difficult to get all sides to come together on issues like the budget much less something as controversial as the "carbon law"? COULD IT BE BECAUSE THE COUNTRY IS IN THE MIDDLE OF A FUCKING CIVIL WAR? That might have something to do with disagreements. If people think our congress gets deadlocked, imagine how productive a legislature is when a good chuck of the members aren't completely sold on this whole Iraq as a country thing.

In addition, let's go with the other element that is implied with statements like these:
And while this Iraqi money sits in American banks, American taxpayers continue to spend $10 billion a month to defend and rebuild Iraq.
And Carl Levin (D-MI):
“The Iraqi government now has tens of billions of dollars at its disposal to fund large-scale reconstruction projects,” Mr. Levin, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a joint statement with Mr. Warner. “It is inexcusable for U.S. taxpayers to continue to foot the bill for projects the Iraqis are fully capable of funding themselves. We should not be paying for Iraqi projects, while Iraqi oil revenues continue to pile up in the bank.”
Let's put aside for a moment my own view that maybe we SHOULD be paying for Iraqi projects for a decent while after their government is functional since, oh I don't know, the country' infrastructure wasn't great but it also wasn't NON-EXISTENT before we decided to stop by. Whether it's popular or not, it's our obligation to be the leader in a massive international aid campaign to this country for the foreseeable future. I don't care how politically unpopular that is, it's our moral obligation for what the horror and destruction we've caused the country. Period.

But back to the quotes. The implication with those statements is that while we continue to pay halliburton, KBR and other American companies insane sums of money to do small amounts of "reconstruction" work in the country, the Iraq government letting us do all the work, while they sit back and amass massive profits from their Oil industry. Now they are amassing huge profits, but there's a pretty good reason why the can't spend it: They don't have the fully functioning bureaucracies and infrastructure to successfully execute the majority of the work.

If that sounds like problems that a war torn country with a three year old legislature might have, then you'd be right. These type of "brain drain" problems tend to occur in situations where anyone who had enough money to leave, did. The GAO's own report states:

The "relative shortage of trained budgetary, procurement and other staff with the necessary technical skills as a factor limiting the Iraqi government's ability to plan and execute its capital spending," the GAO said.

"Violence and sectarian strife remain major obstacles to developing Iraqi government capacity," it said.

Outside of the rhetoric of a political campaign, even a senior US Embassy official in Iraq explains:

The official told the Reuters news agency the report captured only part of the picture when it said Baghdad was failing to spend on reconstruction, leaving much of the task to Washington.

"The impression that somehow the Iraqis are sitting back on these huge growing balances does not really fit what is happening," the official, who did not want to be identified, said.

The US official said he hoped bureaucratic changes to facilitate contracts and to authorise spending would help Iraqi officials spend the money.

"They are looking for ways to de-bottleneck their own expenditures," he said.

My point is, I understand why this rhetoric is used, and why it is successful. Sadly, in people's frustration over the Iraq (which man, do I understand) they are willing to create black and white answers to complex questions and to place the blame where it doesn't belong. The Iraqi government has it's own fair share of corruption and screw ups but let's be clear: The current situation in Iraq our doing, it came from our decisions, our bombs and our rockets.

This line of campaigning paints the Iraqi government in an overwhelmingly negative light and takes the spotlight away from the real villains and those who truly deserve blame. It may be easy to score political points using colonial rhetoric to discuss the problems of the flegling Iraqi government, but the democrats should resist that urge and save their criticism for the truly responsible parties.

Many democrats won't do that, because they themselves are the ones responsible. They have blood on their hands and they will do anything to cast the spotlight away from their horrific judgment.

But Barack doesn't need to do that. He was right on the war, and he has no reason to focus his fire anywhere other than George Bush, Dick Cheney and John McCain; The people who brought us this war. Brining up the surplus of the Iraqi government as a political attack may be an effective line in a stump speech, but it's an unbelievably simplistic and dishonest way of discussing the situation.

Let's keep our attacks aimed squarely at those who brought us this war, and keep the Iraqi government and Iraqi people out of the crossfire.


I posted this in discussion about attack videos earlier, but thinking about it is making me insane and I think it's a damn good video in its own right.

Here is John McCain at – of all places – the 2006 ALF-CIO annual convention:

He does realize that the (currently $6.55/hr) minimum wage means that many, many actual real life americans make on the order of one tenth of what he was offering?

Just... wow.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Beer News

A Manifesto (and a Polemic?):

Unlike Jack, I think beer is worthy of both appreciation and enthusiasm. Aside from being one of the oldest continuously consumed beverages in the world (second only to water and tea according to Wikipedia), beer offers flavors, smells and experiences that are unique among all other forms of sustenance. Compared with the fantastic variation, health benefits and relatively low alcohol content of good beer, wine is simply outclassed and liquor too fleeting and abusable.

With this in mind, I have spent a fair part of this summer researching beer. Haha, I know. But it isn't all fun and games: there's a long history and great deal of culture at work behind beer that can be intimidating, yet helpful for understanding what we drink. I hope my posts here will help me to collect my thoughts, motivate deeper research and share what I learn.

The history of U.S. beer is long and complex. After suffering near-extinction in the late '70s and early '80s, creative American brewing experienced a revitalization and is in the process of a downright revolution. While poking around the Brewers Association website, I came across the statistics for this last year of brewing: imports and non-craft beer (e.g., Budweiser) are both up 1.4%, which constitutes reasonably healthy growth. But craft brewing, the term used to designate small-scale, creative production of beer in the United States, is up a gorgeous 12%.

Yet, the beer industry is subject to the same sorts of conglomeration and corporate consolidation as any other major field. Even as microbrews and brewpubs become more numerous and more profitable, large beer keeps getting larger.

Joining the ranks of all of the other major U.S. brewing companies owned by foreign interests, Anhauser-Busch was acquired by the Belgian beer conglomerate InBev last month. Even aside from the fact that the takeover represents a $52 billion transfer of funds and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of employees, this is significant because InBev/Anhauser-Busch is now responsible for an astonishing number of familiar beers. Among many others, the list includes the American Budweiser, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Busch, Natural, and Stone Mill, and the European Bass, Becks, Boddington's, Spaten, Hoegaarden, Franziskaner, Löwenbräu, Leffe, and Stella Artois. Since Budweiser and Bud Light are the largest-selling beers in the world and InBev is no slouch itself, this makes the combined company the largest beer-producing conglomerate in the world (surpassing the previous record-holder, SAB Miller).

According to data released by the Brewers Association (PDF), the largest American-owned brewing companies are:
1. Anheuser-Busch Inc. St. Louis MO
2. Miller Brewing Co. Milwaukee WI
3. Coors Brewing Co. of Golden CO
4. Pabst Brewing Co. of Woodridge IL
5. Boston Beer Co. of Boston MA
6. D.G. Yuengling and Son Inc. of Pottsville PA
7. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico CA
8. New Belgium Brewing Co. Inc. of Fort Collins CO
9. High Falls Brewing Co. of Rochester NY
10. Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner TX

InBev's purchase therefore makes Boston Beer Company, of Sam Adams fame, the largest American owned brewery that brews its beer in the United States. While InBev has pledged to keep all of its newly-acquired American breweries in operation, neither it nor Coors nor Miller are U.S. companies any longer; and all beer produced by Pabst, now technically the largest American-owned brewery, is actually manufactured by SAB Miller in South Africa.

In spite of the dismay voiced by the many lovers of Budweiser, Boston Beer is more worthy of the title largest American brewery than Anhauser-Busch. Founded by 3rd-generation brewer Jim Koch, the company's business model is based on experimentation with actual taste and quality rather than Bud Light's watered-down concept of "drinkability." Although large, and although there are better breweries (there aren't many Sam Adams brews that I'm in love with), the additional focus on quality is certainly a step in the right direction.

How to attack John McCain on the economy

After being infuriated with Obama's unwillingness to speak about the economy with a populist tilt, imagine my reaction when I wake up this morning to see this awesome headline: (Via TomP)

Obama sounds populist themes in Virginia bus tour
Holy Crap. It gets even better:
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama pledged Wednesday to create millions of union jobs in alternative energy and end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas, using tough new populist language to convince voters that he, not rival John McCain, is best positioned to lift the limping U.S. economy.
. . .
Obama stuck mostly to economic themes during his appearance, adopting a pitch that sounded much like Hillary Rodham Clinton in the waning days of her primary campaign. The former first lady defeated Obama in eight of the last 13 primaries using populist language that strongly resonated with rural and working-class voters.
. . .
Obama said it was wrong that the Iraqi government has been sitting on billions of dollars in oil revenue while the U.S. spends billions to rebuild the country.

"We should be using some of that money to rebuild Virginia, laying roads, building broadband lines and putting people back to work," Obama said.

As for tax breaks to companies taking jobs overseas, Obama said: "We sure as heck don't have to give them incentives to move. ... We should give companies tax breaks that are right here."
. . .
"If you give me that opportunity, if you give me that chance, I will fight for you every single day," he pledged. "I'll wake up every day in that White House thinking about those people in Martinsville."
The article references how this type of talk helped Hillary Clinton, and that's actually a bigger tribute to the power of populism more than anything else. If it can make Hillary Clinton sound like a good idea... well then think what it can do for Barack Obama!

Granted, he throws in that line about us spending all of our money to rebuild Iraq, while those greedy Iraqis hoard their oil money, ( a statement that is so absurd I'm gonna write about it at some point very soon) but if use that line in the midst of all those others, it's hard to stay mad at him for too long. And if you thought that was good, and that ad that I posted here yesterday was horrendous, well then get ready for this:

I don't understand how the campaign can put out two ads like that in the span of several days. This ad gets everything right:
  • 1 Theme- Taxes
  • Introduces John McCain's shitty tax plan
  • Good specifics of who McCain's plan helps
  • Rails on outsourcing
  • Rails on corporate greed
  • Rails on Oil companies
  • Says McCain's tax cuts wont help you
  • Says that Obama's tax plan will help you
What a difference a day makes, huh? One theme, reinforcing examples, and then how your plan is better!

Genuinely populist rhetoric, and and genuinely populist ad that should be tremendously effective... I don't even know what to say. This turn around could be a legitimate change of heart on how to attack John McCain on the economy, or it could be message testing. I'd rather it be a change of heart, but we should win either way when this ad tests through the roof.

With more messaging like this this, he'll turn this thing around in no time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How not to attack McCain on the Economy

Last night I saw Obama's new economic ad for the first time:

Funnily enough, Sirota had the same reaction that I did:

I agree that McCain represents a third Bush term on economic and national security issues, and I agree that it is an outrage that we are spending $10 billion a month on the war. But there's something troublingly imperialistic about the underlying message of this ad.

About 15 seconds into the ad, the Obama campaign starts criticizing Iraq for selling oil and making money off those sales - as if that is an outrage, as if, in fact, we should be able to simply take their oil for free.

Don't get me wrong - I think multinational oil companies are gouging consumers and profiteering off a global energy crisis, I think that's awful, and I think we need to much better regulate those companies. But I don't think its bad that the nation of Iraq is making money off a natural resource that it owns, and I don't think that Iraq should have to give away that natural resource to anyone for free.

Yeah, this ad sounds more like a Joe Biden speech than what we've heard from Obama during this cycle. Obama was one of the best at avoiding discussing Iraq in colonial terms during the primary, so let's hope this isn't a trend. But let's ignore the colonial rhetoric for a minute.

The ad straight up sucks, and does nothing to present a clear message or line of attack. There's just too much there to digest, and all of it goes in different directions. The ad mentions all of these topics in 30 seconds:
  • John McCain is like Bush on the Economy
  • Spending money on Iraq
  • The fact that Iraq thinks it's a sovereign nation that can profit off it's own oil
  • The high price of oil in general
  • Getting out of Iraq
  • Better schools
  • No more oil company tax breaks.
Better Schools?!?!? What the fuck is that doing in there? You should include 3 of these at most, and they all need to be directly related, or connected with some common theme. What's the common theme? After watching the ad 5 or 6 times I still couldn't tell you. Something about McCain, Bush, those greedy Iraqis, and Barack will fight back with better schools and taxing oil companies. Not exactly a concise message.

This isn't rocket science, this is attacking John McCain on the economy. This should be as easy as it gets. At worst it's appealing to the lowest common denominator by using colonial rhetoric to place blame on a country that we destroyed. At best, it's a terrible ad that tries to do put 6 or 7 different attacks and remedies (Better schools?!?!??!) in 30 seconds, and makes no sense as a result. Neither one is acceptable.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Labor hits back as Rubin gains influence

The AFL-CIO goes after Obama's economic team as Bob Rubin seems to be gaining influence with his campaign:
Blaming unfettered global trade and inadequate government regulation for lost manufacturing jobs and a staggering economy, Trumka's presentation cautions that ``it will do us little good if, when the next Democrat moves into the White House, Wall Street takes command of our country's economic policy.''

Trumka leaves no doubt that the rebuke is aimed at Rubin, Wall Street's most prominent Democrat. It's ``hard to tell the difference'' between Rubin and Republican Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the presentation says. Trumka's critique reflects the concern among organized-labor officials that Rubin and like- minded Democrats may win the behind-the-scenes battle to shape Obama's economic thinking.

``I'm hearing Rubin's name more and more associated with the campaign's economic policy,'' says James Torrey, a top Obama fundraiser and chief executive officer of New York-based Torrey Associates LLC, a hedge-fund investor.

. . .

Rubin, in an interview, says Obama isn't favoring either faction's agenda. ``Very much as President Clinton did, he's focusing on both competitiveness and growth on the one hand, and distribution and fairness on the other,'' he says. ``It seems to me that's where he ought to be.''

Still, the Wall Street contingent's clout has grown within the Obama camp in the two months since Rubin's first-choice candidate, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, conceded the nomination.

A Rubin protege, Jason Furman, is now the economic-policy director of Obama's campaign.

Valerie Jarrett, one of Obama's closest friends and confidantes, attended a meeting hosted by Rubin, 69, several weeks ago and says they've talked by telephone several times.

At an economic forum last month, Sweeney, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and union advocates were outnumbered by the likes of Lawrence Summers, Rubin's successor as Treasury secretary; JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon; former Republican Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill; and former Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William Donaldson, like O'Neill an appointee of President George W. Bush.

Furman, who turns 38 today, disputes the notion that any faction holds sway. ``Barack Obama is somebody who has very strong ideas about economics,'' he says. ``And no one, not Bob Rubin, not Bob Reich, not Rich Trumka, is going to walk into a room and change his fundamental, underlying priorities.''

Even so, some union leaders are already girding to fight for influence in any future Obama administration. If the Rubin camp were to win out, it would boost the odds that an Obama presidency might sidestep significant trade restrictions and sacrifice spending programs for the sake of deficit reduction.

``I worry about his influence,'' says Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers.
The fact that organized labor is willing to be this public about these issues during an election campaign is a key development. For one, it means that they're as worried about prospects of progressive economic policy during an Obama administration as I am. They have everything at stake during this election... and yet they are still willing to put it out there publicly that they're upset with the direction that their candidate has taken.

It also could mean that there is a change of mindset within organized labor. They have been repeatedly shit on by the democratic party over the last several decades, but hopefully a lesson has been learned. It's thrilling to see some push back make to make sure it doesn't happen with this next administration.

Obama has two options. He can take a more populist stance on the economy, take politically popular positions, and win the election by a hefty margin. Or he can talk about the economy in moderated language, take moderate/conservative economic positions to avoid being perceived as a populist, and be tied with John "NAFTA was a good idea" McCain in Ohio.

Your call, Senator.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Monday News Round Up

-Musharraf resigns as president of Pakistan. Juan Cole's analysis:
Musharraf could only have stayed in power in one of three ways. He would have had to be able to block a 2/3s impeachment vote against him in the senate, where his Muslim League (Q) still holds a plurality of seats. Or he would have had to be able to convince the military to declare martial law. Or he would have had to get Bush to intervene somehow.

But the Muslim League (Q) senators and MPs have deserted Musharraf in droves since it became clear that substantial documentation would come out on his corrupt and repressive actions in the course of his impeachment. The provincial assemblies have been passing resolutions against him one by one. He obviously will be impeached if the proceedings go forward beginning Monday.

The officers are said to have refused to intervene on his behalf. A long period of military dictatorship is actually well known in history to worry professional officers, since it promotes corruption, diverts the army's energies into the civil bureaucracy, and makes it a less disciplined and effective force. (It also comes to be blamed for all the country's problems by the public). Given the challenges the military faces in the tribal areas, and with Kashmir heating up, the officer corps has enough ot its plate and seems to be willing to let the civilian politicians take back over politics. (Similar developments occurred in 1988 when Gen. Zia ul-Haq died in a mysterious airplane crash, ushering in a decade of civilian rule).

As for Bush, well, he is said not to be taking Musharraf's calls. After making such a big deal about democratization in the Muslim world, he can hardly intervene to overturn the proceedings of an elected parliament on behalf of a military dictator.

Musharraf seems to have therefore decided to bargain his resignation for immunity from further prosecution and for permission to reside in the country rather than being forced into exile abroad.
-A union within Walmart!:(via openleft)
GATINEAU, QC - August 15,2008 - UFCW Canada members at a Wal-Mart location in Gatineau, Quebec have made history by becoming the only Wal-Mart workers in North America to have a union contract, after a Quebec arbitrator imposed a collective agreement on Friday. The contract raises average wages of the Gatineau Wal-Mart members by more than 30%. Improved vacation provisions are also part of the three-year agreement. The terms of the collective agreement are effective immediately.

A spokesman for Wal-Mart said the company is unhappy with the decision and it is "incompatible" with the company's way of doing business.
Unions "incompatible" with the Walmart's way of doing business. Well, I can't argue with them there!

-Press release from the Obama Campaign:
From the release: "Barack Obama offers a new, tough foreign policy approach that is neither Republican nor Democratic. Obama will implement a strong, smart American foreign policy that makes us more secure at home and advances our interests in the world by ending the war in Iraq responsibly and focusing on the threats of the 21st century -- al Qaeda, nuclear weapons, and energy security."
What the fuck does that even mean? This post partisan crap drives me out of my mind.
Still, this just doesn't make sense to me. Obama is the Democratic nominee and he's presenting this foreign policy to Democrats at the Democratic National Convention, a convention designed by Democrats to elect the Democratic nominee for President. How is his foreign policy approach not the approach of the Democratic Party? As the leader of the Democratic party, he sort of defines what being a Democrat means. Doesn't he?

Moreover, isn't this reasonable foreign policy approach - one that emphasizes ending the war responsibly - something that other Democrats would want some sort of shorthand to run on? Doesn't it seem foolish to just sort of give away the brand of being against the war in Iraq and allow Republicans to avoid the responsibility incurred when they started it?
-Don't worry, stupidity doesn't stop there!:

General Wesley Clark is not attending the Democratic National Convention. I was told by General Clark's personal office in Little Rock that he would not be attending. Clark was informed by Barack Obama's people that there was no reason to come. General Clark has been given no role of any kind at the convention.
What I wrote on Thursday about Gen Clark as a potential VP:
The best choice of the remaining candidates in my opinion. He is a fantastic surrogate and attack dog, progressive on the vast majority of issues and would end debate of Obama's national security experience. Unlike almost everyone else he is unafraid to mention that McCain is a moron without first talking about what a great person he is. At this point Clark would be great, and so much so that with the way Obama's campaign has been running of late I'm not getting my hopes up.
Well, at least I was right about not getting my hopes up... (Bang head on table)
Not VP is one thing, but out of the convention all together? Who the fuck is in charge here?

-Speaking of the VP, Sirota writes about my ideal pick.

-On a lighter not, for those of you wanted more reasons to love Alex Ovechkin other than the ones mentioned on Friday... (via JP)

XKCD & Voter Fraud

Friday's XKCD (above) raises a worrying issue about both past and upcoming elections. Even from my own limited experience with computers, I can tell you:

1. The only way to keep computers from being hacked or getting viruses is by keeping them isolated. Period. Why on earth are these machines ever hooked up to a network? Why are they ever in a situation where they could possibly get infected with a virus?

2. Almost universally, viruses have to be programmed specifically for the OS that they will infect, and anti-virus software works by looking for particular viruses. In other words, you wouldn't be able to tell whether the voting machines had been affected by a stealthy virus even if the anti-virus software was working perfectly, because the only place the virus would show up would be in the voting machines themselves and so the anti-virus software wouldn't know what to look for.

3. Or, at least that's the only place it should show up. The fact that they think they need anti-virus software raises the possibility of an even more serious concern: what if they didn't bother to program their own OS? Oh my god, I hope they are not running Windows.

There are many reasons to be worried about electronic voting machines. But holy shit: I did not expect severe incompetence on the part of their designers to be one of them. More information is available here. Or, you know, here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Tight NASA Videos, Part 1

As far as I'm concerned, here is an airtight argument for giving NASA all of the funding it wants:

That's our planet. We live there.

It spins. The sunlight reflects off of the cool water of the South Pacific and out into space. You can see it get smaller, as the Galileo spacecraft moves away from it at tens of thousands of miles an hour on its way to Jupiter in 1990.

(More information and a higher quality video can be found at the Astronomy Picture of the Day)

Friday, August 15, 2008

I can feel it in the aiiiir!

And you can hear it in my voice (1,000 points to anyone who catches that reference). The start of the 2008-09 soccer season is upon us and for the Train of Thought club of choice, Arsenal, the season kicks off in earnest tomorrow morning against West Bromwich Albion. In one respect, the start of this season is almost less thrilling due to the fact that soccer never really went away this summer, what with Euro 2008 and even the Olympics to some degree. But for Arsenal supporters such as myself, the end of last season seems like it was years ago.

This is because everyone wrote us off last term, expected us to struggle to finish fourth in the league and Arsenal overcame the naysayers, only to finish agonizingly close to winning the Premiership. Last year also saw the departure of Thierry Henry to Barcelona, a horrifying leg break for Eduardo da Silva, a UEFA Champions League defeat to Premier League rivals Liverpool aided by extremely dodgy refereeing decisions, and the constant presence of this clod.

So this year we signed some players, saw some other bammas leave the club, and will hopefully sign a few more before the Aug. 31 deadline and have a go at this thing. For a comprehensive Arsenal season preview, click here for Arseblog's take (by far, the best sports blog of all-time). Soccernet offers a team-by-team preview for the whole Premier League here.

Some of you may be asking, "Why do you care so much about a team you've only followed for a few years, plays overseas and that you have no real tangible connection to?" Thank you very much, that's a great question and I'm glad you asked that.

To me, this is simply what being a fan is about. It's hard to fully explain why we care so much, even for teams that we grew up supporting. But once you establish that bond, true sports fans will remain loyal to that team forever. With Arsenal, there were a number of qualities that I could identify with and they reminded me of the soccer version of so many teams I follow in other sports. Pretty much, it was JJ that got me back into soccer at the beginning of college and Arsenal was his team of choice, so it only made logical sense that they became my squad as well. Between their attacking, fluid style of play, their legendary players of the past and present and their anti-media darling status in England compared to Manchester United and Chelsea (think how the Redskins are perceived in comparison to the C*wb*ys, Patriots and any team Brett Favre is playing for), it was a no-brainer to put on a red & white shirt every Saturday. Besides, as JJ once pointed out, their logo is a fucking cannon (customary cool old school logo to follow)!

So there you have it. To readers of the blog who don't consider themselves big soccer fans or sports fans in general, it is my aim to get as many people into the sport as possible, whether you decide to follow Arsenal or another team. Also my apologies to RB, an admitted fan of Real Madrid, for single-handedly deciding that the Gunners are the Train of Thought official soccer club, but we have you outnumbered two-to-one here. Here's to the new season, we'll be raising glasses all weekend long to celebrate. Cheers!

Obama Outraises McCain by 6:1 Ratio Among Active Duty Military

(via the ever-succinct and well-informed Atrios)

As one Digg commenter put it, "Why do the troops hate our troops?"

Or, as one Army Specialist put it, "“We’ll complete our duty — I’m deploying next year — because it’s a commitment I made to the nation, not to a president. But we all know that Iraq was a big mistake.”

Whatever the reason, Obama is outraising McCain among American forces currently deployed overseas by a 6:1 margin.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jackson Browne Sues John McCain over Campaign's Illegal Use of Running on Empty

In a beautiful and hilarious twist, Jackson Browne is suing John McCain and the Republican National Committee over McCain's use of Brown's Running on Empty in a campaign ad. Apparently, the McCain campaign was stupid enough to assume that they didn't need to acquire legal rights to the copyrighted song before broadcasting it to millions of people.

Almost more interesting, however, is that they apparently also needed to get personal permission from Browne to use the song. Naturally, this has important implications for the use of music in any campaign – particularly since rock musicians predominantly support democrats.

Browne's lawyers issued the following statement:

"We are confident that Jackson Browne will prevail in this lawsuit. Not only have Senator McCain and his agents plainly infringed Mr. Browne's copyright in Running On Empty, but the Federal Courts have long held that the unauthorized use of a famous singer's voice in a commercial constitutes a false endorsement and a violation of the singer's right of publicity," Lawrence Iser of the Santa Monica, California law firm Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert said. "In light of Jackson Browne's lifelong commitment to Democratic ideals and political candidates, the misappropriation of Jackson Browne's endorsement is entirely reprehensible, and I have no doubt that a jury will agree."


Reasons #301 and 302 why I love Alex Ovechkin

Even during the off-season, the guy is still a freaking hero. First we start with A.O running into a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer at the Olympics(Via J.P):
Near the back, I came upon Alex Ovechkin sitting alone on a wall over a pond. The Russians brought the Washington Capitals winger and reigning NHL MVP here to help promote the Sochi Games.

"You all by yourself?" I asked.

"No, I'm with friends," he said, although they were nowhere in sight.

I told him I was from the Pittsburgh paper and had interviewed him several times.

"Pittsburgh?" Ovechkin said, lighting up a bit. "Tell [Sidney] Crosby hello."

"What about [Evgeni] Malkin?" I asked.

"Him, too."
Simply awesome. Second, via japer's rink and tuvanhillbilly we have this. Apparently it's from a Russian comedy show, but it really speaks for itself.

My mind has been shattered. And we have this guy for 13 years? It's too good to be true.

Is it hockey season yet?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Possible VPs: The Good, the Bad, and Evan Bayh

For whatever reason I had this sense today that Obama was going to pick his VP soon, so I figured take a quick look at the people who are rumored to be in the running.

The Good

Wes Clark:
The best choice of the remaining candidates in my opinion. He is a fantastic surrogate and attack dog, progressive on the vast majority of issues and would end debate of Obama's national security experience. Unlike almost everyone else he is unafraid to mention that McCain is a moron without first talking about what a great person he is. At this point Clark would be great, and so much so that with the way Obama's campaign has been running of late I'm not getting my hopes up.

Bill Richardson: Has lots of experience on international affairs and had the best plan to get out of Iraq in the primary. My only negatives are that he's kind of gaffe prone and that isn't really something you'd like from your VP.

The OK

Chris Dodd: The perfect netroots candidate! He's great on civil liberties and pretty bad on banking (he's the chair of the committee) and working class issues! In all seriousness I'd wouldn't but I also be upset with Dodd, and especially with some of the other names being floated out there.

Katherine Sebelius: I know very little about her, and she doesn't have much of a record on anything so it would be pretty hard to predict what she would bring to the table. Not a huge selling point, but it would be pretty cool to have woman VP who isn't a racist clod. Her selection would be nice if only to watch the Hillary-or-no-one-else feminists argue about how picking a woman was disrespectful to Hillary.

The not really OK but so much better than the last two

Joe Biden: He's a master of colonial rhetoric and imperialistic statements on Iraq. He's prone to gaffes and is a great attack dog in 1 out of every 5 TV appearances. He doesn't really bring anything to the table, and he occasionally takes from it since his previous pro war stance doesn't really mesh with Barack's message. Again, he only looks like an OK option when you compare him with the other people being considered.

The Catastrophically Bad

Tim Kaine: He's not a very good speaker. He's "strongly" pro-right to work, a law that comes as close as you can get to outlawing unions. He loves coal. He repealed the estate tax. His record since his election is so bad that the blog that was dedicated to his election, "Raising Kaine", changed their name and disavowed him. No, no and no.

The Evan Bayh
Evan Bayh on Iran:
You just hope that we haven't soured an entire generation on the necessity, from time to time, of using force because Iraq has been such a debacle. That would be tragic, because Iran is a grave threat. They're everything we thought Iraq was but wasn't. They are seeking nuclear weapons, they do support terrorists, they have threatened to destroy Israel, and they've threatened us, too.
As DLC as they come on economic and foreign policy issues, he would be a disaster of a choice. Evan Bayh immediately undermines Obama's message of change and his strong position on ending the war. His pick would be giving as large of a middle finger possible to Obama's progressive support, and while he has made some horrific choices recently, none would be as bad as this. He's spawned a stop Evan Bayh facebook group, which is pretty damn impressive. This pick simply cannot happen.

As of today, the rumor is that it's 50/50 chance that it goes to Bayh. Do you guys have any less infuriating predictions?

Taxes are for poor people and suckers

The next time you hear some conservative go on about how much corporations pay in income taxes, remember this:

Two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The study, which is likely to add to a growing debate among politicians and policy experts over the contribution of businesses to Treasury coffers, did not identify the corporations or analyze why they had paid no taxes. It also did not say whether they had been operating properly within the tax code or illegally evading it.

The study covers 1.3 million corporations of all sizes, most of them small, with a collective $2.5 trillion in sales. It includes foreign corporations that do business in the United States.

Among foreign corporations, a slightly higher percentage, 68 percent, did not pay taxes during the period covered — compared with 66 percent for United States corporations. Even with these numbers, corporate tax receipts have risen sharply as a percentage of federal revenue in recent years.
While United States law has a relatively good tax rate for corporations, most have found countless ways to cheat the government both legally and illegally. If you or I decided to stop paying taxes, we would find ourselves the subject of an audit or jail time, but since most measures of corporate accountability have been completely gutted, there is almost no chance that these crooks will be punished.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ever feel like John McCain is magically guessing where you stand on foreign policy issues? It’s more likely than you think!

Today John McCain took time out of his busy morning schedule, typically filled with hours of awkward pauses and puzzling gaffes, to make a phone call to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. Echoing earlier hawkish statements, McCain told Saakashvili that “all Americans” back his country's efforts to thwart military attacks from Russia.

Am I the only one who doesn’t remember endorsing this statement? I’m sure McCain wouldn’t say something like that without checking first, but I just can’t recall when he asked me. It might have been late last night- I was pretty sleepy for a while, and I would have to be pretty out of it to say that I’m backing Georgia here.

Georgia certainly gets points for being a democracy, I’ll give them that. I also like the confusion their name wreaks on the internet- how many millions of people spent at least a few seconds wondering what a Russian army division was doing just north of Florida? Beyond this their case is pretty indefensible, sadly. Georgian troops, by all accounts other than that of Saakashvili, started the fight by attacking South Ossetia. Given that South Ossetia is deeply tied to Russia (many Ossetians have Russian passports) and with no evidence that South Ossetians want to rejoin Georgia, the attack looks entirely unwarranted. The idea that we are in any way obligated to help Georgia seems similarly absurd. I’m pretty sure NATO and other mutual-defense treaties were designed to help protect against aggression, not to enable small, militarily weak countries to pointlessly attack Russia.

The fact that Cheney and McCain are both vehemently backing Georgia really should have been all the proof I needed that Georgia was in the wrong. Still, I needed more. So I took an internet fieldtrip to try to prove an old theory- if in doubt, see what Bill Kristol has to say about it. Knowing that he’s absolutely wrong on every issue, without fail, 100% of the time, all you really need to do is check out his latest op-ed column. The result of my scientific study? Sure enough, Kristol accuses Russia of starting the conflict despite all evidence to the contrary, and apparently hopes to see American nukes destroying all of Russia at the earliest possible moment.

Next time you’re baffled by a complicated foreign policy decision, don’t just assume John McCain is right. Assume that Bill Kristol is wrong.

Send in the 527s!

Let's hope this is true:

Senator Barack Obama will start looking the other way when it comes to the role 527s and other independent groups play in the election, a source close to his campaign told the Huffington Post.

The implicit acknowledgment that outside organizations have a role to play signifies a marked contrast from Obama's longstanding policy that electoral efforts be funneled through his campaign. A spokesman for Obama, Bill Burton, denied that any policy vis-à-vis 527s -- political organizations that can raise unlimited soft money -- and other outside groups had changed.

. . .

"Independent groups can talk to constituencies where the Obama campaign or the DNC aren't credible messengers. The best example would be Working America and its reach into white working class communities," said Tom Matzzie, who had headed the organization Progressive Media before starting a new group to target right wing financiers. "There are some groups that are ready to take more donations: Working America, VoteVets, the Choice groups and ACORN to name a few. Otherwise it is almost too late to get a new ground group going. A new advertising outfit could be put together by experienced independent campaigners in a few days. The key is not to fund the grab-ass efforts that are mostly a consultant hustle. Instead invest in really good work."

This would be a major positive for Obama, since these groups can start defining McCain the way his ads have been sliming Obama these last weeks. The only possible downsides are that he'd be changing his position allowing them, opening himself to those attacks, and also that it's too late, and that these ads would have been more effective now, rather than late September which would be the soonest they could go up.

The huge positive here is that it seems like the Obama campaign realized they made a strategic blunder, and are willing to admit a mistake by changing their position. This is a big development because with the egos involved in major campaigns like this one, it's a big deal to see people change course rather than putting their heads in the sand and trying to prove themselves right.

A lot of the left has divided opinions on 527s, but I'm in the camp that says you play in the system we have now, and worry about changing the game when we're in office. While it maybe noble for Obama to try and swear off 527s and the like, I'm just not in favor of coming to a fight with one hand tied behind your back.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Monday News Round up

-The aspect of the John Edwards affair story that really upset me is that there was no reason for this to happen. If he'd just done an upfront admission, knowing that the press would find it (and they would) that would at least give him a fighting chance. The reason so many in the netroots got behind him was that he filled a more progressive void in the primary process. But he knew that this would get out, and while it shouldn't be an issue whatsoever, that frankly doesn't matter with our media, and could have severely damaged our chances in the fall. Chris Bowers offers his take:
Several people seem upset with Edwards because his decision to run for President despite the affair could have put the Democratic Party in a terrible position if he was the nominee. My feeling on that is that Edwards decision to have an affair between two runs for President is demonstrative of a lack of political ability that pretty much guarantees he would never have won the nomination. It wasn't a smart move, and poor political judgment like that can carry over into other areas of political decisions, too. He just wasn't a good enough politician to win the nomination, and so I don't think that is really a concern.
Honestly I just feel crappy about this all around. To be perfectly honest I'm still happy that he managed to get his issues out and push Clinton and Obama further left as long as he did. Oh well, there's a void now for someone who wants to be the face of many of his causes, you know... with less fuck ups. Sherrod Brown 2016!

-As 6.54 discusses below, Georgia and Russia are at war. From what I've read, it's an extremely complex situation, with Georgia's leaders fanning nationalist flames in order to keep their corrupt regime in power, while Russia invaded to reassert it's power. Jerome a Paris has the best piece on this that I've seen so far:
Here are a few facts worth noting about Georgia and the current behavior of its president, Russia, and decision makers in Washington:

First, let's be clear: there are two reasons only we care about Georgia: the oil pipelines that go through its territory, and the opportunity it provides to run aggressive policies towards Russia.

Second, let's also be very explicit: this conflict is not unexpected: it is a direct consequence of our policies, in particular with respect to Kosovo (and to all those that will claim that "no one could have predicted" this, let me point out to this comment, or this earlier one, or this article). I would even go so far as to say that it was egged on by some in Washington: the neocons.

Third, our claims to have the moral high ground are totally ridiculous and need to be fought, hard. This is not about democracy vs dictature, brave freedom lovers vs evil oppressors, but a nasty brawl by power-hungry figures on both sides, with large slices of corruption. The fact that this is turned into a cold-war-like conflict between good and evil is a domestic political play by some in Washington to reinforce their power and push certain policies that have little to do with Russia or Georgia. That needs to be understood.
For John McCain's thoughts on the conflict, check Wikipedia. You can't make this shit up.

-Clod Convention! When these people show up for their march can we round them up and and have the crazy bus take them home? Were not talking about ideology here. Anyone who thinks that Hillary Clinton unfairly lost needs to have their head examined.


News round up of reasons I'm worried about losing the election

-Michael Moore has a great piece in Rolling Stone called "How The Democrats Can Blow It ...In Six Easy Steps". Wanna guess how many we're pulling off this cycle?

-Bob Kerrey is the anti-surrogate. If you can pull Wes Clarke out from under the bus that would be nice. This is speculation, and I'm not getting my hopes up, but man would that be sweet.

-Faaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnnntastic. I know they're worried about losing the election, but this type of behavior is disgraceful and contrary to everything Barack's candidacy is supposed to represent.

-Stoller sums my feelings up pretty well:
The commercials are boring and stale, the messaging towards McCain's attacks just isn't sharp, labor blew a bunch of money in the primary, and they've defunded the additional groups that could really go after McCain for his own corruption. The Republicans might actually be able to outspend Obama, with outside groups and the RNC added in to the total. Moreover, and this I did not expect, mainstream journalists are getting angry with the Obama campaign, because they are getting complaints from the leadership of the campaign even as they aggressively fact-checked McCain's latest salvo of ads. Now I want the traditional media destroyed, but they actually have done a good job proving McCain's ads false this past week (which is what Obama's people wanted). Of course, having the media participate in a liberal-wide hissy-fit was exactly what the McCain campaign sought, so I don't know exactly what the game plan is here.
When John Kerry goes on a Sunday show and says that he's 'in awe' of John McCain's service, but feels free to undermine Wes Clark's, and the Obama campaign thinks of Kerry as their top surrogate, it's shameful. When John McCain's economic advisor calls America a nation of whiners, and we don't hear anything more about that in ads or anywhere else, it's shameful. When the Iraqi PM endorses Obama's call for withdrawal, and McCain still leads on the issue of Iraq by double-digits, it's shameful.
I'm having trouble quantifying how worried I am about our lack of messaging on McCain, and how well they've been battering Obama around. This DHL story should have been the defining moment of McCain's horrific economic record, but without Obama going to Ohio and speaking at the plant, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference. As for being too nervous and the almost daily diaries on Dailykos saying we should sit back and give Obama's campaign the benefit of the doubt, Michael Moore's article said it best:
For years now, nearly every poll has shown that the American people are right in sync with the platform of the Democratic Party. They are pro-environment, pro-women's rights and pro-choice. They don't like war. They want the minimum wage raised, and they want a single-payer universal health-care system. The American public agrees with the Republican Party on only one major issue: They support the death penalty.

So you would think the Democrats would be cleaning up, election after election. Obviously not. The Democrats appear to be professional losers. They are so pathetic in their ability to win elections, they even lose when they win! So when you hear Democrats and liberals and supporters of Barack Obama say they are worried that John McCain has a good chance of winning, they ain't a-kidding. Who would know better than the very people who have handed the Republicans one election after another on a silver platter? Yes, be afraid, be very afraid.

How long till this shit is over?

Some Context for Georgia

In case you haven't been following international news recently, serious shit is going down in Georgia. Despite assurances from Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili that "We're not crazy. We have no interest whatsoever in pursuing hostilities," Russia continues to advance. Even aside from the fact that these developments eerily mirror the plot of Ghost Recon, this is scary.

I don't know nearly enough about the conflict, or international politics in general, to make a real judgment on what's going on, who's in the right, whether this will spark World War III, etc. But with Russia dancing on the world stage once again, I do feel it's worth mentioning two small aspects of their social and political culture.

The first: A few weeks ago, a Russian judge threw out what would only have been the third successful sexual harassment case in Russian history on the grounds that – and I quote – "If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children."

As this Telegraph article notes,

Since Soviet times, sexual harassment in Russia has become an accepted part of life in the office, work place and university lecture room.

According to a recent survey, 100 per cent of female professionals said they had been subjected to sexual harassment by their bosses, 32 per cent said they had had intercourse with them at least once and another seven per cent claimed to have been raped.

Eighty per cent of those who participated in the survey said they did not believe it possible to win promotion without engaging in sexual relations with their male superiors.

Women also report that it is common to be browbeaten into sex during job interviews, while female students regularly complain that university professors trade high marks for sexual favours.

Only two women have won sexual harassment cases since the collapse of the Soviet Union, one in 1993 and the other in 1997.

This is almost beyond my comprehension: apparently, shameful sexual harassment is such a dominant part of Russian sexual culture that the courts won't even hear the cases, let alone rule in favor of the womens' rights. One Hundred Percent of professional women.

Again, I lack the context to judge another society's way of life or political/legal decisions. And to be fair, the population of Russia is dropping rapidly, which my most Russian friend argued presents the legal system with problems that we can't even imagine. Maybe eliminating systematic rape would cause catastrophic population decline.

Or, I dunno, maybe it would help their population growth if women weren't universally harassed and categorically discriminated against. Who's to say?

The second piece of context for the Georgian conflict isn't quite as horrifying, but is scary enough in its own right and has more direct bearing on the situation:

Here's the first verse (of the poorly translated English version):
My boyfriend is dumb.
He smokes and is drunk.
My boyfriend is dumber than Powers, Austin.
I told him, "Get Out,"
I need a new boy.
I thought and I know,
He must be like Putin.