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For those of you following along at home, I’m going through Jehovah’s Witnesses apostate internet postings because if anyone is an expert on how thought reform and cult indoctrination works, it’s an ex-JW.  You don’t even need to have been baptized as one (I wasn’t), just growing up with that stuff and getting away from it makes you permanently sensitized to new bullshit techniques.  And given that we are coming up on an election year, it’s really important that we guard ourselves and learn to recognize when we’re being manipulated so we can avoid making another 2 to 4 year mistake.

Today I’m going to talk about something everyone does because it’s necessary component of human nature.  We categorize.  But because those of us who came of age or worked most of our lives in the internet age tend to broadcast our categories to the public, we make ourselves vulnerable to unscrupulous people who use blogs such as this one and places like DailyKos to data mine and focus group concepts that are later used to persuade us to do one thing or another.

To understand how categorization and trigger words work, check out this video by Cult Free Radio on Social Categorization Theory Part1:

and Part 2:

So, how has categorization been used by politicians in the recent past?  I have one personal example that I’ve shared before but it fits into this topic pretty well so I’m going to tell it again.

When I went to YearlyKos 2 in Chicago in 2007, all but one of the Democratic Party candidates for president attended a Candidates Forum, followed by individual breakout sessions.  Hillary’s breakout session was before the forum because the YearlyKos organizers had screwed with her schedule, “inadvertently”, I’m sure.  I had signed up for Hillary’s session because, even though I went to Chicago as an Edwards supporter, I felt that I should try to evaluate her fairly and she was the only female candidate and her session was open where Barack Obama’s was full and I had already decided to take a look at Obama in 2012 because he wasn’t seasoned enough to run for president.

Ok, so Hillary was pretty good in her breakout session.  She was prepared, overprepared, thorough, and had a command of policy that was impressive.  I am forced to sit through a lot of scientific presentations every year and you get the hang of knowing when someone has done their homework and understands what they are talking about and when they are baffling with bullshit.  I can say that based on my experience, Hillary knew her shit.  She was able to mentally walk around a concept and tell you everything about it.  Not only that but you could ask her any question and she had a policy for it organized in her head like an outline with topic, subtopic, points, codicils, subparagraphs, exceptions, and funding mechanisms.  She was that good, which is one of the reasons I am so pissed off that we got stuck with someone who was at best a beginner compared to her.  But I digress.

ANYWAY, after her breakout session, the Candidates Forum was held in the ballroom.  And that’s when the category shit hit the fan.  It became very clear to me, because I spent a lot of time on DailyKos, that some candidates had figured out how to push a Kossack’s buttons.  Much to my dismay, the worst offender was John Edwards.  I sat there stunned as he played that crowd like PT Barnum.  He knew every category and word that would trigger an emotional response from his audience and he used those words shamelessly.  But it wasn’t just that he used those words that made me realize what a phony he was.  It was the rest of this rhetoric was completely devoid of anything else.  At least Hillary tried to explain herself before she was booed.  Edwards didn’t have to do that.  All he needed to do was say the magic words and the Kossacks leapt to their feet cheering and screaming.  It was disgusting.  I decided right there I could never vote for the man.  What he was reminded me more of one of those charismatic sociopaths than a politician.  Ok, some of you are thinking that they’re mostly the same thing, right?  No, I think that a real politician has substance behind the words and Edwards, um, didn’t.

I’m sure that those of you who read the left blogosphere know what he concentrated on.  He used the words “corporate” and “lobbyist” a lot.  But there were others that I can’t remember right at the moment.  He could have used “nuclear”, “genetically modified {fill in the blank}”, “green”, “organic”, “standardized testing”, you know the drill.  You’ve been there.  You probably respond to that too.  We all do to some extent or another.  The problem is they are mental shortcuts and can be used to associate a person to that concept.  Edwards knew (and I’ll tell you how he knew in a sec based on another phenomenon) that if he said the magic words, the crowd would automatically identify him as one of them.  And they did.

Now, how did he know what words to use?  So here’s the other thing I observed.  The Forum happened in August 2007.  By that fall, Edwards was on the ropes.  I think rumors of his messy private life must have become common knowledge among the Democratic operatives.  So, his funding was drying up.  On DailyKos, his followers had been the first to commit the thing I call “The Rec List Hostage Crisis”.  That’s where a pro-Edwards diarist would immediately get a gazillion recommends and shoot to the top of the rec list.  I think Edwards had some regular folks who did an evening summary kinda thing that always made the rec list but more importantly, there were a shitload of conversion diaries.  They were all written the same way.  “Why I’ve decided to vote for Edwards” and then the body of the text was extolling his virtues {{cough, cough}} and a bunch of trigger words.  He doesn’t take corporate money, he’s pure when it comes to lobbyists, blah, blah, blah.  The more I read them, the more I realized that his campaign staff was checking out DailyKos for some time now and had probably used survey information to figure out what makes Kossacks tick and then applied that to the diaries.

But then, Edwards started to fade away.  His campaign was tanking and even Kos said it was a lost cause.  When he finally threw in the towel, the Rec List Hostage Crisis was taken over by Obama people. Same tactics, same fricking buzzwords and trigger words.  The change was so obvious to those of us who were paying attention that there were only a couple of possibilities: A different set of operatives were using the same Edwards’ campaign’s focus group/data mining tools and applying them to the Obama campaign,  or they were the same people.  Actually, I’m betting that it was both.  The Edwards team (and by this I mean a “paid internet campaign staff”) moved over to Obama without missing a beat.  Up went the conversion diaries and all of the love bombing, and the categories and buzzwords and trigger words were beaten to a pulp.  Oddly enough, Hillary’s people didn’t do this.  Maybe we were just not as politically ruthless or we were not interested in platitiudes and categories or Hillary’s campaign wasn’t as active on DailyKos and wasn’t into button pushing or Kos himself had already been bought and paid for by the anti-Hillary elements of the DNC, whoever those people were, and he wasn’t going to let Hillary supporters gain too much of a foothold at DailyKos. Since many Hillary people started to lose TU status at about that time and our diaries didn’t make the rec list in spite of them reaching the recommendation threshold that put diaries on that list, I suspect Kos and his frontpagers made a conscious decision to put the thumb on the scales for Obama and decremented Hillary diaries.  Hope that baby grand piano was worth all of the suffering the country has gone through by defeating Clinton, Markos.

But let’s not be bitter.  DailyKos will not be playing the role it did in 2008.  It shot its wad on the historic election of Barack Obama and you can’t do that one twice.  Besides, the damage has already been done.  The rest of the blogosphere has been analyzed carefully and you can bet your sweet ass that whoever the campaign operatives are this election season have already categorized all of us and have in turn figured out what categories and words we respond to.  They know that Creative Class ninnies respond to Whole Foods and West Elm and financial products and the value of their 401ks and tenure and stuff like that.  They like the idea of social and economic justice but try not to get too cold at a rally.  They like green as long as it can be bought in a store that features renewable bamboo sheets and towels and flooring.  They know lefties hate the words corporation but fail to distinguish between financial service corporations and other corporations, executives and rank and file.

There is some light in all of this.  I’ve noticed that during Virtually Speaking’s A-Z with Jay Ackroyd and Stuart Zechman, there is a genuine attempt to avoid using buzzwords.  (Anything Virtually Speaking with Dahlia Lithwick is worth listening to as well.  She’s very articulate and tends to avoid buzzwords) Jay and Stuart make a conscious effort to break down words, concept by concept, so that we all know exactly what we’re talking about and the mental shortcuts we use to categorize ourselves are minimized.  Stuart still has some problems with centrists and the DLC which I tend to tune out because he’s still thinking that those organizations are important and I don’t think he’s breaking that down carefully enough or has looked longitudinally to see how the original goals of those entities have changed over time.  Besides, the Democrats don’t need the DLC anymore.  They can tap their funding sources more directly these days without having to pretend they have an ideology.  But I have hope for Stuart.  I feel like a light has clicked on for him and he has a clearer picture of the political landscape than he did even a year ago.  He realizes now that the party is in the grip of a high control group of bad actors.  Whether those actors are just political opportunists or sent in from the finance industry’s central casting, they have turned the party into something unrecognizable to the voter who votes based on core Democratic principles.  And those people have to be opposed and not rewarded or we will not get our party back and that could be a serious blow to our democracy as we know it.

Am I right, Stuart?  Yep. You finally reached the point where we were almost 4 years ago.  Welcome to the club.

Bottom line: there are operatives watching every site.  Wave “Hi!” to them.  They are both Republicans and Democrats.  They are trying to sort through the categories and words that they can use to short circuit your thinking  process.  They know that you will make very quick judgements about what you hear because you have categorized a word and either chosen to add it to your identity or assign that word to another identity.  And they know that you do this unconsciously at a super fast speed and don’t even know you’re doing it.

So, make sure that you use your words carefully.  Avoid jargon as much as possible.  When someone uses the words “green” or “energy” or “pro-choice” or “nuclear” or “triangulate” or “corporation” or “capitalism” or “socialism” or “communism” or “muslim” or “fascist” that you stop and ask yourself, what does this word actually mean in this context?  Is someone trying to bamboozle and hoodwink me?  Can the person who is using this word explain what it means to me in a way that makes sense?

The right is good at using categories.  One recent, particularly egregious example of the use of categories and words was from our good buddy, Glenn Beck, who warned his audience to avoid churches who use the words “social justice”.  It’s hard to understand how anyone could oppose social justice.  It would be like trying to make STDs sound cool.  How do you do that??  If we break down what social justice actually means, it’s equal access to the court system, unbiased treatment in employment, starting life on a level playing field (see Finnish baby boxes), access to a good education regardless of your race, gender, national origin, etc and stuff like that.  And who in their right mind, even in the Fox News audience, has a problem with any of that?  Well, Glenn and his backers do and they wanted to put “social justice” in a category where Glenn Beck viewers will fear to tread.  So, if an Occupier holds up a sign that says “Social Justice for all”, the Glenn Beck viewer now knows to avoid OWS and stop any good thoughts about them.  Maybe Occupiers should try to be more specific on their signs but there’s only so much cardboard you can carry around.

While I’m not going to insist that you should restrict your access to any source of information, consider that radio and television have the advantage of sound, which is very fast.  It is much harder to shortcut the brain using the written word.  Yes, you can back up radio and TV now and replay what you’ve heard but one of the reasons we use radio and audible and TV is so that we can multitask.  So the words go in without careful scrutiny.  When you read, you have to slow down and figure out the word in context.  That’s why I don’t watch or listen to TV and radio news programs anymore.  During the 2008 election year, I had become so sensitized to listening for the trigger words that I found the messaging was driving me crazy.  I felt like I had propaganda autism.  You can’t get away from it in a sound format.  So, I just shut it off.  Maybe you’re stronger people than I am and if you are, load up on as much broadcast information as possible.  You should never cut yourself off from information sources.  Just question EVERYTHING.

The other thing I avoid is too much of the social networking tools.  I have a facebook account but I rarely use it.  I get facebook invitations from people I don’t know and I don’t accept them.  If I don’t know who these people are, why should I invite them into my house?  There is no question that political campaigns are going to use social networking tools like twitter and facebook to promote propaganda and shape election narratives in 2012.  That’s how the vast, unwashed masses are going to get the information that will affect their election decisions in the future.  They will get messages from their friends  who were targetted with a well designed, data mined youtube ad campaign that went viral on Facebook.  You know it’s going to happen.  Again, be very careful and question everything.

So, you think, no where is safe, how am I going to get the information I need to make a decision?  Well, I can’t emphasize this enough but there is no better way to evaluate a candidate than to see that person in person.  (The same thing applies to movements.  Don’t take anyone’s word for it.  Go and check it out yourself) If you have a chance to see a candidate in person, and not in the atmosphere of a debate where they need to more carefully construct their sentences, then go.  Your impression of that candidate will be clearer when there is less of a filter between you and that candidate.  You will be able to tell whether they are comfortable with the material, how often they are pinging you with trigger words to get an emotional response, whether they can field questions on any subject to your satisfaction and whether they project confidence on a physical and mental level.  I can tell you that Obama did not project comfort or confidence at the candidates forum, in my humble opinion.  He looked out of place in a physical sense, as if he was wondering, “what the hell am I doing here up on stage??”   I really felt he needed more seasoning.  But you would only know that if you saw him in person.  Why were the other Kossacks not sensitive to this?  I think they were overwhelmed with carefully constructed messaging from Edwards and they were whipped into a mob frenzy and were drunk with their own power.  A year before, they were just dirty, hippy bloggers.  A year later, presidential candidates were kissing their asses.  That kind of thing tends to go to your head.  And candidates know that and the more ruthless ones will play you like a two bit fiddle.

Ok, I’m going to get some coffee now.  Categorize away.

The gritty truth in Mark Halperin’s pulp fiction

Brook's art project, 8th grade

I haven’t read the book but I did read a lengthy 10 page excerpt on the collapse of the Edwards’ marriage and campaign.  I don’t know if Elizabeth was a saint or Edwards a monster as they were written but it became clear over the course of the past several years that Elizabeth was living her ambitions through her husband. After I saw him in Chicago at YK2, I was convinced that Edwards was a one trick pony and PT Barnum his favorite philosopher.  Whether Elizabeth really ripped open her blouse in an airport parking lot or said the things she said is a bit of a mystery.  People with potentially fatal illnesses and dunces for husbands are liable to do all kinds of strange things.  But we weren’t there and there’s a good chance that some of this stuff was taken out of context for dramatic effect, with Halperin being the uber drama queen.

But following up on what Peter Daou said about Hillary’s campaign, this much I can confirm: her campaign never took the low road with us.  We were never official bloggers for Hillary.  We were a pro-Hillary blog almost exclusively after Obama made the “likeable enough” remark, Michelle Obama chastised Hillary about her tone and said she might never vote for her and the Obama campaign surrogates accused both Clintons of racism.  At some point in the campaign, Peter Daou contacted us and told us that he was at our service.  We could call him with questions and he invited us to the press briefing conference calls that I sat in on.  By the way, if you thought Andrea Mitchell was loathsome before the campaign of 2008, try listening to her oh so bored and this is so tedious and dismissively cynical questioning during a conference call with Howard Wolfson.

Never once did Daou ask us to do anything improper.  We weren’t encouraged to engage in character assassination.  We weren’t part of some big plan to subvert other blogs from within.  Instead, we found that posts that were upbeat and optimistic were sometimes linked to Hillary’s blog.  She and Daou seemed committed to winning the war of the blogs with positivity.  I didn’t feel dirty about my posts.

Daou certainly did sleep with his Blackberry under his pillow.  I emailed him at about 2:30am one morning a couple of days after the RBC hearing.  I was so angry and frustrated.  He emailed me back almost immediately and asked if he could call me the next day.  He did.  At about 7:30am. You can’t get that kind of responsiveness and customer service anymore.  He didn’t let Hillary down with us.  I always appreciated his professionalism and access.  I only wish we could have helped her more in return.  I also wish we didn’t have to go our separate ways from Hillary after she suspended her campaign.  But it wasn’t about Hillary anymore after the RBC hearing stripped our votes of any meaning.  It was about the voters’ war with the party.

But I did notice a common theme to all of the excerpts I read of Halperin’s book.  It seems that everyone was out to take Hillary down.  Edwards, Schumer, Reid, Kennedy.  In fact, her enemies came from within her own party.  And even if what Edwards’ supposedly said about taking Hillary out wasn’t an actual quote from a reliable source, one doesn’t have to look very far to find evidence that the sentiment was true.  The whole history of the primaries was of Obama and Edwards tag teaming to make Hillary look bad from that first extremely nasty debate in Philly to Edwards’ eventual endorsement of Obama.  I don’t think Edwards even knew why he had to bring her down.  I have often found this to be the case in the real working world as well.  Men do this to women and they don’t even have a reason.  Over and over again, I have seen a women achieve some managerial power through hard work and then watched as the men who worked with her or under her snipe and criticize and undermine her authority to bring her down.  She only got to be where she was because of a quota or she’s sleeping with someone or she’s not really that smart.  On and on it goes.  I don’t think they do it consciously.  It’s like some bizarre reflex.

Here’s the truth in Halperin’s book that he probably didn’t even know he was writing: men do not mentor women.  There are some exceptions but that’s the cold brutal truth.  When men say that a woman is polarizing or that she won’t be effective, they are really saying they won’t follow her themselves and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If the powers that be do not stand behind their protege and back her up, she won’t be effective.  If her proposals are not treated seriously, they won’t be taken seriously.  If there is no accountability for the dismissive way that others treat her, all her work will be for nothing.  And that will come to haunt the powers that be because training women is expensive.  You might as well not hire them in the first place if you aren’t going to take advantage of their talents.  Why teach them to read?

Being a woman in the real working world is not a ceremonial position or it shouldn’t be.  The Democratic party did a really stupid thing in 2008.  It dumped one of its brightest stars.  Yes, Hillary’s campaign staff let her down and there will always be a certain class of women who fall for the biting criticism of men and decide to join in.  They deserve what they get and no amount of karma is bad enough for them.  But it is the men of the Democratic party who let us down in 2008.  And until they are gone, no woman should trust the Democratic party ever again.

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Don’t Expect Apologies From the Dark Minions of the Kool-Aid Kingdom

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Dear Riverdaughter,

There is an interesting parallel between the situation of anti-Obama Democrats and that of the members of the resistance in post-WWII France. Given these parallels, I think it unlikely that we will receive an apology from the dark minions of the Kool-Aid Kingdom, generally-speaking. I think it more likely that they will continue to attempt to diminish us, because our existence reminds them of their failings.

Preventative maintenance requires this rider. I know the situations are not equivalent. I’m noting something they share.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that the vast majority of Obama supporters were not engaged in scorched Earth politics. They are not the object of this analysis.

As France re-made herself after WWII, participants in the Nazi/Vichy structures were embarrassed by the very existence of those who refused to participate under Nazi power. They were even more embarrassed by the existence of those who fought the power. The existence of the Resistance stood in stark relief to those who participated in Nazi-esque collusion.

As establishment people, they overcame their embarrassment in two ways. The first thing they did was to deny and exclude access to the power structure to resistance participants. They also worked to remove resistance participants from the structure, where possible.

The second thing they did was fabricate resistance credentials and attempt to bury their collusion with the Nazis. They created the myth of their integrity. By preventing the possibility of comparison through their exclusionary activities, they safeguarded the myth of their integrity. Their large numbers, tied to the fact of their establishment ensconsement, enabled the myth to become reified.

It is unsurprising that the dark minions among Obama’s enablers, who practised scorched Earth politics within the Democratic party and beyond, continue to assault those who worked against his ascendance. We are living examples of their moral and/or intellectual shortcomings.

They are tied to the power structure of the party. The re-writing phase of their autobiographies is underway. Expect some to engage in rearguard, credential boosting actions, like shearing the hair of the less powerful, more identifiable members of the Kool-Aid Kingdom.

These actions will mean little, however, until the history of the Resistance is co-optively revised. To do so, they will need to make us disappear from the public eye, through means that deny our power or diminish our voice.

I expect no apologies from the dark minions of the Kool-Aid Kingdom. I expect they will attack us because it is the only way for the myth of their integrity to take root.

gandalf

Yours,
Steven

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They’re Down With OPP!

   I was disappointed to learn that John Edwards was caught with his hand in the nookie jar the other night.  I was originally an Edwards supporter (because Gore didn’t run) and I began supporting Hillary after he dropped out.  Although I now realize Hillary was by far the superior candidate, I still felt kinda sentimental about John. 

Not anymore.  My sympathies are reserved for Elizabeth, along with best wishes for her health.

John Edwards was seen going to the Beverly Hilton to meet Rielle Hunter (aka Lisa Druck) who gave birth to a child allegedly fathered by Edwards.  Even though the story comes from the National Enquirer, I find it credible because it contains specific details rather than anonymous rumors.  The Enquirer was tipped off and staked out the hotel with several reporters, and Edwards was seen entering and leaving.  Edwards’ latest denial is unconvincing.

Normally I wouldn’t touch a topic like this (yeah, right, who am I kidding) but there is an angle I think is worth pondering.  Who tipped off the Enquirer, and why?

Back in 2004, Barack Obama was running in the Illinois Democratic Senate primary against several opponents, and was running second behind Blair Hull, who had a substantial lead, along with money and name recognition.  But when rumors of domestic violence surfaced in the media, Hull had to resign and Obama went on to win the nomination.

The winner of the GOP primary was Jack Ryan, but he also had to resign when juicy details from his divorce from actress Jeri Ryan were disclosed in the media.  The Illinois GOP asked Alan Keyes to take the nomination, but he was little more than token opposition and Obama was elected.

Last summer and fall, Barack Obama was running neck and neck with Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.  Edwards was the favorite of many in the so-called progressive blogosphere, having been Kerry’s running mate in 2004 and having positioned himself as a “populist.”  Obama needed to eliminate Edwards in order to turn it into a two-person race and to consolidate the anti-Clinton vote which he and Edwards were splitting.

Suddenly, rumors began to surface about Edwards having an affair, a particularly damaging allegation because Elizabeth Edwards was battling cancer and her condition generated enormous sympathy.  Then, shortly before the Iowa caucuses, the National Enquirer reported that Hunter was pregnant with Edwards’ child.  Edwards denied the allegations and a close friend of his, Andrew Young, claimed he was the father of Hunter’s child.  (Young is married with small children)

How much impact this had on the Iowa caucuses is unknown, but Obama finished in first place, with Edwards narrowly beating Hillary to claim second.  Five days later Edwards finished a distant third in New Hampshire, and shortly before Super Tuesday on January 30, 2008 Edwards announced he was suspending his campaign.

With his campaign suspended he was out of the public eye, and the scandal seemed to go away.  Although he stated he was not going to make an endorsement until the primaries were completed, on May 14th John Edwards (but not Elizabeth) unexpectedly endorsed Obama. 

He initially stated he was not interested in being Obama’s running mate, but on June 15th he walked that back and said he would take the job if it was offered.  There were rumors that he was on Obama’s short list of VP candidates, and his name was also suggested as a possible Attorney General if Obama won.

Senator Obama has shown he does not want any independent sources of power within the Democratic party that are not under his control.  He doesn’t want anyone donating to independent groups like Move On, and he hung Wes Clark out to dry when Clark criticized McCain.  For obvious reasons Obama doesn’t want a strong and experienced running mate (like Hillary) because he will look weak and shallow by comparison.  He has also moved the DNC offices to Chicago in order to place it under his control.

This makes me wonder if the Obama campaign was behind the tip-off to the National Enquirer.  Even though the mainstream media whores are mostly ignoring the story, it is enough to provide an excuse for them to pass on Edwards, even if there were promises made to secure Edwards’ endorsement. (“Gee, John, I know we promised you the VP slot, but with this scandal it’s just not possible now.  Sorry“)

I’m just speculating, but it fits the pattern.  The people at the Enquirer know who tipped them off.  Under the circumstances, the identity of the tipster is at least as important (if not more) than the tip.  And since this is the Enquirer, I don’t think they should try to hide behind “journalistic ethics” or any such crap.  C’mon boys, fess up.  Who told you?

(Cross-posted at Klownhaus)

Wednesday: Tell me sweet little lies

learAnglachel and Bob Somerby are channeling Shakespeare. The extended metaphor involves King Lear, Goneril and Regan, and Cordelia. (What kind of parent names their daughter Goneril?? No wonder she had a score to settle.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the play, King Lear, is a self-absorbed, vain man and a bit of a control freak. He challenges his daughters to a “love test” where they are to flatter him with speeches about their devotion and he tells them he will divide his kingdom according to who loves him best. Goneril and Regan outdo themselves in hyperbole. But Cordelia, Lear’s favorite, simply tells her father the truth and doesn’t embellish. She doesn’t think you can just talk about love but you must demonstrate it. And enraged Lear disowns Cordelia on the spot and divides the kingdom between her two sisters. The rest of the play is full of plot twists and double crossing and lots of pathos and death and eventually sophrosyne when it’s too late.

So, anyway, that’s the background for Anglachel’s and Somerby’s commentary. Now, how does it apply to our present situation. Well, Anglachel and Somerby touch on one aspect of the primary season related to the promise to accept public financing but there is another aspect as well and I’ll get to that in a moment. It turns out that last year, several of our fine Democratic candidates took the pledge to accept public financing for the General Election but Hillary did not. Yes, the others prostrated themselves before the press, outdoing each other to prove they were more incorruptable, less lobbyist toe-sucking, more devoted to the purity of the voting public than the other guy. Cordelia, er, Hillary, perhaps knowing how expensive a presidential election could be, just said no. Lear, er, the media, was livid. She was completely diss(own)ed. Well, they would have eventually found a reason to hate, hate, HATE her, but I digress.

So, what happened last week? Barack Obama, that paragon of virtue (oh, *please!*), decides to opt out of public financing. He says he never *really* made a promise and a committment to it anyway. He just said he would support the idea of public financing. It’s like “Blessed are the Cheesemakers”, it’s not to be taken literally. Now, the media and the Obamasphere are shocked, SHOCKED that he would renege on his promise. To be fair, there are a certain number of cynical or completely deluded Obamaphiles who will forgive anything he does. But, then, he also backtracked on FISA as well.

And this where I extend the metaphor a little bit further. Because I remember my days at the Big Orange Cheeto before it became the sludgy birthplace of future spam filter inhabitants when the Kossacks glommed onto whoever would tell them what they wanted to hear. In fact, I remember comment threads where I argued with people about how Edwards wasn’t all he was cracked up to be. He sounded so truthful in thought, word and deed and would NEVER take a dime from a lobbyist, er, federal lobbyist, to be precise. It seems that he never officially disavowed state lobbyists. And he would have NEVER voted for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. And he was completely immune from the corrupting effects of those mean, nasty, greedy corporations and big pharma people who didn’t deserve to live. He would just stop his ears. And why could we be sure he was the boy scout he said he was? Because he *said* so and by golly, that was good enough for most Kossacks. I think it might have been one of the frontpagers even said quite honestly, “He tells me what I want to hear.”

Someday, I would thunder, Edwards and Obama are going to take it all back. They HAVE to take it all back because in order to win, they can not continue to pander to the purity police on the left. They will have to tack right in order to appeal to conservatives and Republicans and swing voters who they will need to win in November. And no sooner does Obama snag the nomination (or so he thinks) than he immediately backtracks on FISA and sells out our civil liberties. He has to do this to prop up his non-existent national security creds. We would have been better off voting for that toothless Kyl-Lieberman amendment that was all symbolism and did not harm any constitutional amendments in the drafting of its legislation. THAT kinda made sense. Did you or did you not approve of state sponsors of terrorism? Hillary voted that having Iran funding Hezbollah was a not such a cool and groovy thing and we should be on record as opposing it. Where was Barack? Conveeeniently AWOL that day.

Here was the bottom line and I never could get the Kossacks to see it: Edwards and Obama knew what sweet little lies to tell them. They told the future Obamaphiles exactly what they wanted to hear. Oh, sure, the Big Orange Cheeto was being infiltrated by clever Axlerod and Trippi trained moles who knew all of the Pavlovian trigger words that would get the Kossacks salivating on command. But instead of being on their guard, the Kossacks and others ate it up. Why? Vanity, I think. They liked the flattery of having the presidential candidates showing up at their YearlyKos forum. They liked the idea that they had something to do with winning the 2006 elections for the House and Senate. They saw 2008 as their moment to purge the government of the corrupt and vile influences of corporations and insider politicians. They were going to be a political version of the Essenes and become more pure than pure. Cleaner than clean. Stronger than dirt. (Those of you who just caught that last reference have instantly aged yourselves)

But Hillary wouldn’t pander. She never courted the Kossacks or the Obamasphere in general. She was roudly booed at the YearlyKos 2007 presidential forum. I know because I was there. It was disgraceful. She was just getting the hang of facing really tough crowds and I could see her physically withdrawing a bit in her chair. “Oooo”, I thought, “She’d better learn to stiffen her spine.” And she did. I never saw a hint of that in her again.

Anyway, as time went on, I started to realize that she wasn’t avoiding the blogosphere to snub us, though there might have been some misunderstanding at first as to how important the online cauldron was for message origination and for this I blame Mark Penn. No, what I saw was a person who seem to know where she stood and didn’t feel the need to flatter any particular group. As Wes Clark once said, action follows from principle and that is what I saw in Hillary. She was grounded, she knew her policy landscape and she had a set of guiding principles. She presented them to you and asked her to join her. She didn’t tell sweet little lies that she was going to have to backtrack on later. She was attractive to both left and right and felt no need to pander. That infuriated the blogosphere and they disowned her. How many times have we heard them question whether she was a true Democrat?

As Anglachel sums it up so well:

One of my favorite essays ever is Stanley Cavell’s magnificent work on King Lear, “The Avoidance of Love”. In it, one of his themes was that love, and those virtues that are related to love, such as honor, responsibility, respect, loyalty and honesty, are not things that can be claimed or spoken. They must be demonstrated. They are, to grab some graduate school lingo, performatives, made actual in the doing, and they bear a difficult relationship to language because they are difficult to represent in that way. Declarations of these virtues, most of which either are also political virtues or else have a political correlate, stand in tension with the actions of the one who declares – the act of declaration is an invitation to judge.

Cordelia’s love was ordinary, quiet and steady. It did not change to suit the situation, even as she could see the fate that might befall her unless she submitted to her father’s imperious demands. Lear was not the only person in the room passing judgment.

As for the play, well, it was a tragedy.

I think it needs a rewrite, PUMAs.

Hey! Sweetie, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!

I guess I left NPR on the radio this morning when I got to work. And when I got back, it came right on, “I guess this just slams the door shut on a campaign where the door was already pretty much closed,” some guy said while thinking, WWTSBQ, I’m sure.

Yep, Obama getting beat by a record number of primary voters in a blowout-landslide was successfully overshadowed by the endorsement of a has-been Presidential candidate who didn’t have the nerve to make an endorsement until he was all but certain to be on the winning side (Fred Barnes just called it a Meaningless Profile in Caution). John Edwards endorsed Barack Obama today.

So what? Yesterday, Hillary blew Obama out of the water by the only measure that really counts: Votes. As ronkseattle said, it was, 3-1. Three to One. THREE to ONE. — don’t let THAT door hit you, Barack!

It’s pretty obvious that this endorsement was planned for the day after Obama’s Humiliating Defeat in West Virginia. And (Just like the New Hampshire Debate) the boyz are ganging up on Hillary in a way meant to show just how much more powerful they are than her. I don’t know how successful all this who-ha is. When I got home, they’d just finished showing The Sweetie Clip, it looks like Obama really can’t stop himself.

When will that stupid bitch quit? Well, you fucking, fuckers — Hillary’s NOT going to quit.

[UPDATE] I don’t know how I left this out but, it’s particularly disgusting that they did this in Michigan where both Obama and Edwards totally screwed us all by removing their names from the ballot.

And Edwards?  He’s not worth my spit.

Tuesday: Look over there!

I was listening to Taylor Marsh this morning on podcast, because, doesn’t everyone do that at 2am? She was pondering how the media is going to cover Hillary’s win in West Virginia today. I think I know the answer to this one: they won’t. Oh, it will be mentioned in passing, maybe a 30 second clip, “*yawn*, sooo boring. Besides it doesn’t change anything, Hey! Look at all the footage of the earthquake we have from China!” We’re going to make our own kind of music. For those of you who missed it, here’s Taylor’s latest podcast. It’s a good one.

She also says she got blamed for organizing a letter writing campaign to the superdelegates. Sam Stein at HuffPo writes about Clinton Supporters send Last Ditch Obama Attack Emails to Supers and calls her out but, er, I think it was us that suggested it. If I recall correctly, we recommended politeness. Then again, Donna Brazile seems to be the only one complaining… In any case, Sam should know that any push back directed to the supers is a direct result of the Obama campaign itself and its enablers, like DFA, who is actively soliciting signatures for a petition to gag the supers. We would really appreciate it if Obama’s campaign didn’t encourage stuff like that on its behalf. But that is the divisive nature of *Obama’s* campaign, not Hillary’s. We are not affiliated with Hillary’s campaign. If we’re mad at Obama, the DNC, DFA or Donna Brazile, it’s because they have offende US.

Speaking of US, it turns out that 64% of us want Clinton to hang in there. I interpret that to mean that voters want to have options, not Andrea Mitchell and Tim Russert picking our president. Maybe they are hoping that Oregon sets the record straight and stops Obama. Maybe the Obamagic is wearing off and Clinton is looking like a great candidate. Even John Edwards said as much. That reminds me of something else that Taylor mentioned: Republicans are looking on this with awe because they can’t believe that we are giving them the weakest candidate this fall. She mentions Rush Limbaugh specifically at being astonished at how the Democratic party is about to self destruct by passing up the stronger candidate. I don’t have much to add to that correct assessment except that there is no way I could ever contemplate voting for Clinton as Obama’s VP. If there has to be a unity ticket, she must be at the top. It looks more and more like there will have to be a unity ticket as much as I hate the idea. I think we can get African-Americans to sign on to him being her VP. That would get him the experience he needs and he can run in 2016. It’s the only viable option and would be a killer ticket, even if Michelle wants to dig out someone’s eyes about it. Any other combination of Obama on the ticket is a deal breaker. But the concept is so sensible that we can expect Donna and Nancy to shoot it down.

So, let’s cheer her on to finish out the primary season strongly. The media won’t be satisfied unless she wins 90% of the voters in West Viginia but I suspect that the supers will be happy if she just does very well.

Go Hillary! Rise and Shine.

I want a President who is tough as nails and really knows her stuff!

I started the primary season as an Edwards supporter.  But when I realized Edwards wasn’t going to win, I started looking at Barack Obama.  That was when I discovered that Obama didn’t seem to have any ideology to speak of and wasn’t into sharing details about his proposed programs.  He was for “hope” and “change.”  Like a lot of other people, I wanted more information about what “change” Obama was offering and how he would accomplish it.  Very few of his supporters seemed to be able to verbalize what this “change” would be either.  It also made me angry that Hillary was being attacked in such sexist ways by the Obama Campaign, the big bloggers, the media.  Being a contrarian at heart, I took a closer look at Hillary Clinton.

I had watched all of the debates, and even while I still supported Edwards, I had developed a lot of respect for Hillary’s intellect and her knowledge base.  I admired the way she had all the issues down.  She could talk extemporaneously about almost anything.  Each time I listened to Hillary, I was impressed with her fluidity of speech.  When she confronted an issue, the words just flowed out of her, confidently, clearly, and concisely, and directly to the point.  I knew this had to be the result of many hours of study and active engagement with the material.  I have seen this same fluidity of speech in the academic world.  When academics know their fields inside and out and are enthusiastic about their research, they sound just like that.  Riverdaughter wrote about how she and her colleagues at work look at this kind of wonkishness in a recent post, “Feminists and Geeks” here .

We spend our working days listening to our colleagues give us presentations on the work that they have done. Over the years, we develop a keen ear for detecting who has quality work and who has pretty presentations but is BS-ing their way through 20 minutes. Our support for Clinton has less to do with her being a female and more to do with the quality of her presentation. 

In December, Steve Clemons wrote about his experience of Hillary’s wonkitude  (via eriposte at the Left Coaster)

…one of the things that simply can’t be disputed is her work ethic. I’ve met her a number of times, usually at receptions — and each time I decided not to waste the moment with trivial banter but to throw an idea at her or mention a person or issue that would help me understand how real, how informed, or alternatively — how contrived — she was. Every single time she jumped on the issue I brought up and expressed two or three dimensions to the issue that showed she was deeply steeped in this or that policy. In my New America Foundation role, I helped build and support programs as diverse as debates about genetic scientific advancements to family work issues, health care, and wireless spectrum — not to mention my own core interests in foreign policy, national security/defense issues, and international economic policy. Hillary Clinton and I have had quick encounters that involved her sharing incredibly diverse and serious policy commentary.

The last time I had such a discussion with her was after she had won her last Senate race in New York, and she and Bill Clinton were a bit early to a UN Foundation reception honoring Muhammad Yunus. We had a really interesting discussion about what should be on a roster of 21st century threats and how our national security and foreign policy resources should be reorganized to deal with future challenges rather than keeping vested interests tied to old threats well funded. Her quick grasp of what I was trying to get at — and a detailed response that was serious and level-headed — really surprised me as I’m used to politicians who typically have to fake their way through detail. 

What it all boils down to is that Hillary knows her stuff and she’s into it.  She loves to think and talk about policy, just like her husband.  That must be one of the shared interests that have kept them together.

In addition to being a policy wonk and an excellent communicator and debater, Hillary is tough and unafraid.  Watching her performance in the debates this year, I was reminded of the many times I have seen Hillary on C-Span in various committee hearings.  One really great memory I have of Hillary in the Senate is the time in 2006 when she questioned Donald Rumsfeld about whether his views on the situation in Iraq were trustworthy.  She gave a long summary of the situation at the time and finished with this:

CLINTON:  A recent book, aptly titled Fiasco, describes in some detail the decision-making apparatus that has lead us to this situation. So Mr. Secretary, when our constituents ask for evidence that your policy in Iraq and Afghanistan will be successful, you don’t leave us with much to talk about. Yes, we hear a lot of happy talk and rosy scenarios, but because of the Administration’s strategic blunders, and frankly the record of incompetence in executing, you are presiding over a failed policy. Given your track record, Secretary Rumsfeld, why should we believe your assurances now?

RUMSFELD:  My [pause] goodness[!]

Rumsfeld spoke these words in such a condescending way—as if he were stunned to be spoken to in that way by this woman.  How dare she!  It really was a smackdown.  You have to watch the video to get the full flavor of his reaction.   Hillary Clinton is tough as nails, and at that moment, Rumsfeld had to know it, despite his arrogant response.

Those are the qualities I want in a President.  I want my President to know policy inside out and have a facility for communicating ideas.  I want my President to be strong as steel and have the guts to stand up against all comers.  I have seen Hillary’s toughness and smarts during this primary campaign, and I am confident she can be such a president.

Edwards-Obama (non)Endorsement watch

Well, it’s after 1:00 EST and still no endorsement. It’s gotta be soon, at least hit the evening news in order to whisper that certain sweet nothing into the ears of the undecided former Edwardians and swing a few working stiffs Obama’s way. Hmmm, We’ll see.

In the meatime, I thought I’d follow up on the idea that states that have a threshhold value of African-American voters have been favorable to Obama but those where the AA population has been diluted go to Hillary or are very close:

State Primaries (to Date) %African-American Winner
Delaware 21.51 Obama
Maryland 30.12 Obama
Virginia 20.65 Obama
South Carolina 29.68 Obama
New Jersey 15.19 Clinton
New York 15.80 Clinton
California 6.1 Clinton
Massachusetts 7.58 Clinton

(Connecticut 10.8 Obama 51%, Clinton 47%; Missouri 11.07%, Obama 49.2%, Clinton 48.0% In both of these states, Edwards captured 2% of the vote.)

This list is not exhaustive, I’m just highlighting the trend. Connecticut is a weird, quirky state. I canvassed there for Lamont and would often find public housing projects cheek by jowl to upper middle class houses. It’s got inner city neighborhoods as well as a well marbled suburban landscape. It’s fiercely independent and I found many African-Americans who were absolutely devoted to Joe Lieberman. That state was going to be a toughy because of the very high number of independent voters. Yes, Obama won it but not by much. (O-51%, C-47%) It has an semi-open primary and unaffiliated voters can re-register days before the primary to declare a party at the polls. We can’t rule out that there were a bunch of Independents and Republicans who decided to make their presence known by voting for Obama.

Now, here are the states that remain:

State % African-Americans Latest poll trends

Wisconsin 6.48 Obama small lead
Ohio 12.66 Clinton large lead
Texas 12.09 Clinton small lead
Pennsylvania 11.20 Clinton large lead

Now, a lot of readers are going to think this is being racist. It is not. In order for a campaign to win, it has to be able to “count the votes” and know who is solidly on their side and who is persuadable so all of the GOTV resources can be targeted to those voters. This is why it was so critical for Obama to alienate the African American vote from Clinton. African -Americans might well have voted for Clinton in large numbers had Obama not entered the race. Bill Clinton is a well respected figure in the African-American community (or was before David Axelrod got involved). For Obama, the whole campaign has been one of perception and turning it into reality. So, I guess he’s got that “just think it’s true and it will materialize” thing going for him. He saw the political landscape and knew that there would be a frontloading of heavily African-American states upon which he could count to propel the sense of unstoppable momentum. And how many of us associate Delaware, Maryland and Virginia as states with large African-American population? Unless you live on the east coast, you might not know that so it looks like an huge win. And it is. He got a lot of the rest of the population to vote for him but the demographic that puts him over the top is the African-American one. He couldn’t do that in New Jersey even though he wasted a lot of money here because we just don’t reach his AA threshhold. AND, like California, we have a growing number of Asians who love Clinton.

So, coming up, Obama is going ot have problems. He can only get so many of the young and single-issue voters (like Matt Stoller who pushed the button for Obama just because Hillary voted for the IWR. So, universal healthcare is significantly less important to Matt than holding one person accountable for the war and letting the other *non-voting* candidate get all the credit for being against it without having lifted a pinky to stopping it, but I digress). Obama has to turn out every single African-American voter in the remaining states and that number is finite and likely not going to convert it for him.

His game now is to continue the perception that he is wildly popular and unstoppable. He used all of his “time-out” endorsements on SuperTuesday and can now only appeal to Edwards and Gore. It doesn’t look like Edwards is going to endorse. And as I mentioned yesterday, Obama needs working class stiffs in the rust belt states coming up. The Edwards supporters were not these people. Edwards supporters were traditional liberals ala Paul Krugman who might well have already gone to Hillary’s column. The persuadable undecideds that are left are low-info voters who will make their minds up in front of the machines based on the last voice they heard.

Obama will probably win in WI but it is going to be close, I think. There’s only so much positive thinking you can do to overcome the vote count.

Add another data point.  As this post by Big Tent Democrat demonstrates, Obama spent well over a million buckaroos in Florida in an attempt to win the primary he claims should count, but only if it doesn’t count (if you get my drift).  African-Americans make up ~16% of the population there.  Hard to say if overt campaigning on Obama’s part would have gotten him the win but it’s not for lack of trying with bundles of cash.  BTW, as I suspected, Hillary has been winning these states on a budget.  Maybe that’s because she blew a lot of it on Iowa and NH but you gotta hand it to her, where she has won, it wasn’t by being a spendthrift.  Hmmmm, maybe it’s her message..,

The Obama-Edwards Summit: What it means

obama_flies.jpgFrom ABC News Political Radar, Obama and Edwards Sit Down in North Carolina, the post describes a meeting presumably to talk about an Edwards endorsement. Hmmmm, of course, Obama would benefit greatly from an Edwards endorsement but why? Why not just ask John to remain uncommitted until after March 4? That way, no one benefits and both have to earn delegates the old fashioned way- in the voting booth.

Unless, Obama can’t win votes that way.

Bear with me. I think I’ve mentioned before that Obama is spending money like it’s going out of style. His pattern is to go to the inner city and drum up support among the African-American population. (BTW, this is not a racist comment, it’s just an observation based on that staple of all political campaigns- vote counting.). But he can’t convert the money to a win in states where the African-American vote doesn’t reach a critical mass. In bigger, more diverse states, the African-American vote is more dilute. So, what does he have left in the primary schedule? He has a lot of large, diverse states without a critical mass of his core constituent voters. He needs to capture the working class guys in WI, OH and PA. So, he petitions Edwards for his endorsement. Probably really, REALLY pleads for an endorsement. But the Edwards endorsement will not get him the votes he needs. Why?

Because somewhere on the web, there is an article that shows that populist Edwards, that candidate for the little guy, was the champion for the middle class and elite Democratic regulars. Yep, populist Edwards was really backed by guys like Paul Krugman not Jake the Plumber. It may be one of the reasons he flamed this time out. For some reason, he couldn’t capture the people he wanted to help. Those people are voting for Hillary.

So, what this is telling me is that Obama might be a cocky frontrunner but he’s in deep @#$% in the states he needs to sew this up. I expect the meeting between Clinton and Edwards was somewhat different. More along the lines of, “We’d really appreciate your support, your people mean a lot to us and you know that as far as policy goes, you can count on us to carry your banner in the White House. But if you can’t endorse now, we understand. Maybe you can let things play out and think the matter over after March 4. If there’s anything you need, John, please give us a call. We’re always available.”

Betcha Obama’s meeting involved a lot more sweat.

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