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    • The First Great Environmental Crisis Will Be
      Water. As I’ve said for many years. The world is facing an imminent water crisis, with demand expected to outstrip the supply of fresh water by 40 percent by the end of this decade, experts have said on the eve of a crucial UN water summit. I’ll use the US as an example, though this going to effect almost all countries, some much worse than others, and it wi […]
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2008 Unity Pony Deluxe (Elite Edition)

 So you went down to Candidates “R” Us to pick out a new President. Before you barely got on the lot you got accosted by “Slick” the hot-shot salesman. He is really pushy and won’t leave you alone until you buy the advertised special, The “2008 Unity Pony Deluxe”

Slick can rattle off all the factory specs and special features, as well as all the various ways this model is superior to competing models. He tells you that the Unity Pony is eloquent, inspirational, and has 80% better judgment. When you question the undersized resume, Slick explains that the tiny resume is a feature not a bug, because large resumes become clogged with corruption. Yet despite Slick’s hard-sell tactics, you insist on consulting with Consumer Reports before you commit.

Stripped down to the basics, Barack Obama is a 46 year old (47 next month) Senator who is just completing his fourth year in Washington D.C. (If the Senate were a high school, Obama would be a senior) Prior to being elected to the Senate, he spent eight years in the Illinois legislature. He is an attorney (Harvard Law) with a BA in Political Science (Columbia) and is the author of two memoirs. He has also worked as a “community organizer” and as a adjunct instructor/professor at the University of Chicago Law School. His advertised strengths are his eloquence, his judgment, and his ability to inspire people.

Let’s look a little closer at those basics. His education is a undisputed fact, but it is noteworthy that although he was President of the Harvard Law Review while in law school, that particular year was undistinguished if not below average in comparison to other years. The publicity from his election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review led to a contract and advance to write a book about race relations. In an effort to recruit him to their faculty, the University of Chicago Law School provided Obama with a fellowship and an office to work on his book. The book, Obama’s first “memoir,” was “Dreams From My Father” and was supposed to take about a year to complete but wasn’t finished until four years later.

From the NYT:

Mr. Obama was given an office to write in at the University of Chicago through a surprising connection. Douglas G. Baird, a professor who was head of the law school’s appointments committee, had learned of Mr. Obama from Michael W. McConnell, a conservative constitutional scholar then at Chicago whom President Bush would later make a federal judge.

Professor McConnell encountered Mr. Obama during the editing of an article he wrote for The Harvard Law Review, Professor Baird said recently. “He sent a note saying this person is really brilliant, we should have him on our radar screen,” Professor Baird said. Professor Baird called Mr. Obama at Harvard and asked if he was interested in teaching.

“I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something to the effect that, ‘Well, in fact, I want to write this book.’ What he really wanted was the Virginia Woolf equivalent of a clean, well lighted room.” So Professor Baird got him one, a small office near the law library, along with a law school fellowship that Professor Baird hoped might later lead to his full-time teaching.

This was prior to Obama being elected to the Illinois Senate. A conservative Republican helped hook Obama up with a cushy job at the University of Chicago Law School with an office to do his writing in. Not bad for a guy fresh out of law school and no real accomplishments as an attorney. But the book didn’t do so well:

The book came out in the summer of 1995, shortly before Mr. Obama announced that he was running for the Illinois State Senate. At 57th Street Books, in Mr. Obama’s neighborhood in Chicago, a few dozen people turned out for a reading. There were respectful reviews in newspapers including The New York Times and The Boston Globe. Times Books sold 8,000 to 9,000 copies.

“I joke that 290 million Americans did not buy the book,” he said.

Kodansha Globe, a now-defunct branch of a Japanese company, bought the paperback rights for $5,000 to $7,500 and printed about 6,000 copies in 1996, said Philip Turner, Kondansha’s editor in chief at the time.

Senator Obama admits to taking a certain “artistic license” with the facts in his first memoir, changing names and blending characters together. There are questions now about the accuracy of the stories, including his parents’ relationship and his own alleged drug use. The book was reissued after Obama was the Democratic Senate nominee from Illinois, and did better than before:

Crown moved up the publication date, Barnes & Noble increased its order to 20,000 copies, and the book hit the top 50 on Amazon before it was even reissued. Bidding on eBay for a first edition copy hit $255. By December, Mr. Obama was the senator-elect and his book had been on the best-seller list for 14 weeks.


Two weeks before Mr. Obama’s swearing in, Crown announced that it had signed a contract with him for three more books. The first would offer “a window into the political and spiritual convictions that propelled Obama’s recent U.S. Senate victory.” The second will be a children’s book about his life, and the third is yet to be defined.


Mr. Obama completed “The Audacity of Hope” in the summer of 2006. This time, he distributed drafts to several dozen friends and Senate staff members, many of whom now advise his campaign. They included David Axelrod, his chief political strategist; Anthony Lake, who was a national security adviser for President Bill Clinton; Gene Sperling, a former economic adviser to Mr. Clinton; and Samantha Power, who recently stepped down as a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama after calling his opponent, Mrs. Clinton, “a monster.”


The book’s release in October 2006 must have been the envy of anyone who ever published a book or contemplated higher office. In Chicago, people started lining up outside 57th Street Books at 4:15 on the morning of Mr. Obama’s book signing. For his Seattle signing, the Elliott Bay Book Company rented the 2,500-seat hall where the symphony performs, sold out the tickets in 90 minutes and reported a level of turnout that topped all previous records at the store for any author, including Mr. Clinton. 

October 2006? Hmmm, what is special about that date? Oh, yeah, it was just before Senator Obama planned to announce he was running for President! What had Senator Obama been doing in the Senate for his first two years? Um, besides writing his second memoir? Well he, . . .uh, . . .did some stuff, and then some other stuff. Seriously, can you name any significant accomplishments of the junior Senator from Illinois for 2005-2006?

Well, his new book certainly sold much better than the first one, but was it any better? Let’s ask Vast Left at Corrente:

In any case, I’m pulling the plug on my plan to review it in full, because I’m finding it seriously depressing, and because if I call bullshit on all of the bullshit, I’m going to get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Maybe we should back up a bit and examine Obama’s times as a state legislator. He was carried to office by acclaimation based on the success of “Dreams From My Father,” right? Not exactly. That might have been the plan, but Obama got “elected” in a manner familiar to Hillary supporters: He got his competition kicked off the ballot.

Having TKO’d Alice Palmer and three others to get in office, Obama spent the next six years voting “present” on every bill that was even remotely controversial. All of his legislative accomplishments took place in his final two years when, you guessed it, he was running for another job. There was another attempt to change jobs in 2000, when he challenged incumbent Bobby Rush for a seat in Congress, but the former Black Panther beat Obama like a red-headed step-child.

 Let’s go back to that NYT article:

Then in March 2004, Mr. Obama’s political and literary fortunes abruptly shifted. His victory in a tightly contested United States Senate primary in Illinois made him an overnight Democratic Party sensation.

“Tightly contested?” From Wikipedia:

In early media polls leading up to the March 16, 2004 primary election, [Blair] Hull enjoyed a substantial lead and widespread name recognition resulting from a well-financed advertisement effort. He contributed over $28 million of his personal wealth for the campaign.

When allegations that Hull had abused his ex-wife were made by the media, Hull’s poll numbers dropped and he failed to win the nomination. Illinois State Senator Barack Obama later became the nominee.

Obama finished 29 points ahead of the second place primary finisher. Then he cake-walked in the general against Alan Keyes after Jack Ryan withdrew from the race following disclosure of divorce records containing politically embarrassing charges by his ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. (Apparently Jack liked getting his freak on with Jeri in sex clubs)  It was probably just a coinky-dink that all that juicy stuff surfaced when it did.

Now we often hear that Senator Obama is an eloquent public speaker. At least we used to hear that. First there was the plagiarism scandal, where Obama was caught using chunks of Deval Patrick’s speeches. It may not be Obama’s fault, as both Patrick and Obama are clients of David Axelrod, raising the question as to exactly whose words they were. But then it was pointed out that Obama doesn’t speak quite so eloquently without a Teleprompter, and his attempts to prove that observation wrong failed miserably. His debate performances started at “abysmal” and improved over the course of a year to “lame.”

Senator Obama’s claim to superior judgment is based almost entirely on a speech he gave in 2002 concerning Iraq. Not only has he shown poor judgment on picking his friends and spiritual advisors, his recent vote on FISA alone brings his decision making skills into question. And he is currently revising his position on Iraq too.

The “inspirational” meme is the most interesting. We have heard repeatedly that Obama has inspired his supporters to “cult-like” enthusiasm, and that he has convinced millions of Americans to donate nearly $300 million to his campaign. But it seems like no one has converted to Obamamania lately. Since March the only “converts” are reluctant supporters, and the donations are drying up. Well, he has inspired a new political movement, but I don’t think PUMA is what they meant.

If Barack Obama is so inspiring, why did he have to knock Alice Palmer off the ballot to win? Why couldn’t he beat Bobby Rush? He certainly didn’t win his Senate seat strictly on his own merits, and his record in office (Springfield or Washington DC) doesn’t demonstrate “inspirational leadership” either.

Maybe this will help explain things:

 Furthermore, in Silicon Valley’s unique reckoning, what everyone else considered to be Obama’s major shortcomings—his youth, his inexperience—here counted as prime assets.

I asked Roos, the personification of a buttoned-down corporate attorney, if there had been concerns about Obama’s limited CV, and for a moment he looked as if he might burst out laughing. “No one in Silicon Valley sits here and thinks, ‘You need massive inside-the-Beltway experience,’” he explained, after a diplomatic pause. “Sergey and Larry were in their early 20s when they started Google. The YouTube guys were also in their 20s. So were the guys who started Facebook. And I’ll tell you, we recognize what great companies have been built on, and that’s ideas, talent, and inspirational leadership.”

I think we have disposed of talent and inspirational leadership, but what about this “ideas” thingie? Quick, name three original ideas advocated by Barack Obama! Two? How about just one? Aside from slogans about “changing the way Washington works” and similar empty rhetoric, he has offered nada planada.

And as for that part about large resumes getting clogged with corruption, I have two words for you: Tony Rezko.

(Cross-posted at Klownhaus)

Summer Rerun: How to break the DailyKos addiction


This post was originally published on Feb. 19, 2008.

So, you say you want to leave. They’ve insulted and troll rated you for the last time and, by golly, you’ve had enough. You’ve given them the best blogging years of your life. You don’t have to put up with this crap. Do they think you don’t have choices?

The question actually is, do YOU think you have choices? The answer is yes. But you’ve got to get out from this addiction first. You know that DailyKos isn’t good for you but you’re afraid of the big bad blogosphere out there. DailyKos says, “You’re *no one* without me, baby.” You worry, can you be heard? Will your carefully crafted and beautifully written diaries find an audience or will you be cast off into the oblivion of the world wide ether, untethered from the safety of the Big Orange Satan?

Well, here I am, one month and nearly 16,000 hits later. I’ve made lots of friends and people drop by looking for the odd collaboration. It’s quite a lot of fun actually.

But you’ve got to get this monkey off your back first. The thing about this addiction is that the reason you are hooked is because of the interactivity. You can get instant feedback. It’s like a rat hooked to one of those feed bars that deliver a hit of cocaine every couple of minutes. And if that’s your cup of joe, by all means stay, even if they are abusing you. You will become a DailyKos whore, always looking for that next rec, but we will try to avert our eyes.

But if you reached that bottom and there’s no place to go but up, here is my advice for breaking the habit: Get yourself banned.

Now I know and you know that you are not a troll and you have no intention of insulting anyone but banning is the only way. I tried self-discipline, I tried a GBCW diary, I tried vacations. Nothing worked so well as being put on temporary exile. Trust me, this will work. And your friends will find you. In fact, you might want to include your new blogging place in your last diary as a forwarding address. Your account will probably still be there (mine still is so far) and you can still raid your old stuff if you need it. But you will be dead to them otherwise. And that’s OK.

So, how to do it: You don’t have to be inflammatory to be inflammatory. Simply post a diary that wouldn’t have caused a blink last year but will drive the Obamaphiles to extremes. For example, I recommend the following topic for a diary:

Are Obamaphiles using Scientology recruitment strategies?

Draw some correlation between the two (there’s *got* to be one) and then stand back and watch the amazing swarm descend upon you. It will be a sight to behold and in about 30 minutes, it will be over. Quicker than methadone.

Oh, sure, you’ll be tempted to go back and see your friends but without the ability to post or recommend, it gets to be pretty pointless after a few weeks. In the meantime, you’ll be free to explore the rest of the blogosphere, which seems to be populated by a lot of very fine bloggers in the Reality Based Community. And you’ll be happy to know that the DailyKos demographics will be getting pushed even more into the ultraviolet end of the spectra. What credibility it had when you were still there will be one Kossack short. Sort of like “one sandwich short of a picnic”, if you catch my drift.

So, if you want to leave, just do it. We’ll be here on the other side.

Update: Katiebird alluded to this in the comments, if they won’t delete your account maybe you can just ask them to suspend your priveleges. It amounts to the same thing as banning but it’s a lot less upsetting to the Obamaphiles.

Oh, what the heck, go out with a bang and really nail the bastards!

BTW: after you’re banned, just send Markos a quick thank you note for all the fun you had. I really *did* have fun, but it was time to move on. Anyway, you might like to go back someday if they ever regain their sanity and it really was a good site at one time.

Good Luck!

Update:  Here’s an interesting article that is relevent to the DailyKos addction.  It’s from The Human Nature Review and is called, Sex, Drugs and Cults: An evolutionary psychology perspective on why and how cult memes get a drug-like hold on people and what might be done to mitigate the effects.

I can’t vouch for the level of peer review in this journal but the author makes a lot of good points that bear striking similarty to the DailyKos Action-Attendion-Reward cycle.

Also, the book Snapping by Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman has been recommended to us.  Both of these authors testified before Congress in the wake of the Jonestown massacre and won the Leo J. Ryan Prize named in honor of the Congressman who was killed at the time of the mass suicide in Guyana.

Interesting Note:  The assisant to Leo Ryan, Jackie Speier, was severely wounded by gunshot on the airstrip at the same time Ryan was fatally shot.  She was rescued the next day, recovered fully and continued her career in politics, recently winning a special election to take Tom Lantos’ House seat when he died of esophogeal cancer earlier this year.  You would think she knows a thing or two about dangerous cults.  First thing she did as a representative was deliver a stinging speech against the Iraq War.  She was also a strong Hillary Clinton supporter.  Go Jackie.

Obama’s Runway: A Play in One Terrifying Act.

[photo of Barack Obama, Getty Images; Project Runway logo, website]
[THE SCENE: A theatre with a long runway extending from the stage area. Seated beside the runway in three directors’ chairs are BARACK OBAMA, MICHELLE OBAMA and DAVID AXELROD, Obama’s right-hand man. On the proscenium arch above the stage, a sign reads: “Election Runway – You’re Either In, or You’re Out!” Written below it are the words, “DEMOCRATS ENTER HERE.”YOUNG VOTER #1: OMG, I am like so excited about this election! I can’t believe we get to choose among so many great candidates. Finally, good-bye to Bush and those horrible Republicans!

MIDDLE-AGED VOTER #2: Yeah. God, the Republicans suck. Some of them actually said they didn’t believe in evolution? What century are they living in?


OLDER VOTER #3: Look at us. We represent the best of this country. We’ve got a woman, an African American AND a Hispanic! Those Republicans are so boring. Nothing but white men as far as the eye can see!

[AXELROD clears his throat.]

AXELROD: Okay, people, let’s get this show on the road!

VOTERS [muttering to themselves]: Who’s that guy? What’s going on? Where are the other candidates?

OBAMA [clapping his hands together]: People, please! Can we have a little quiet so we can start the show?

[THE VOTERS quiet down, but look confused. A woman raises her hand.]

WOMAN: Uh, Senator Obama? Where are the other candidates? I thought this was Election Runway!

[While the voters and the judges talk, HOWARD DEAN enters through the stage curtains and switches the sign from “Election Runway” to “Obama’s Runway.” He then bows and exits the same way he came.]

MICHELLE [smiling]: Tell ’em, Barack.

OBAMA: Democratic Voters, this – is Obama’s Runway! As you know, in politics, one day you’re in – and the next day, you’re out!

Continue reading

Wednesday: The Core

Brad Mays, PUMA conspirator and documentary film maker.

Brad Mays, PUMA conspirator and documentary film maker.

As I mentioned last night, I met with Darragh Murphy yesterday in Princeton. I hope she got home alright so, Darragh, if you’re reading this, just wave your hand. We were in Princeton to meet with independent film maker Brad Mays. He’s commenter Lori’s husband. Lori roped him into doing a film for PUMAPac and the concept was interesting so Brad graciously offered to help us out. Little did Brad know what he was getting into. (Why does Rocky Horror Picture Show suddenly come to mind…?)

So, Brad sets up his equipment and Darragh, who conducts an interview as well as Terry Gross, starts asking me questions and in spite of the fact that all three of us met each other only moments before, something wild happened- the conversation went straight to the heart of the situation. It was intense and multilayered and Brad, who thought this was going to be an easy project, got sucked in.

What we were talking about was how did so many reasonable, open, intelligent people change so much in the span of a year. Anyone who attended the YearlyKos conferences in 2006 and 2007 knows what I’m refering to. In 2006, the first YearlyKos as like a big family reunion. Everyone came together in Las Vegas for a single purpose- defeating the Republicans. I can remember Wes Clark, jumping up on a table in the Hard Rock Cafe, giving an impromptu speech and telling us that what we were doing was important and we were “Sooo close” to winning back majorities in the House and Senate but that blogging wasn’t going to be enough. He urged us to get out from behind our keyboards and put our energy into campaigning and volunteering in any way we could so that we could make it happen. And he presented Markos with a medal of sorts, a Clark coin that he used to give out to people under his command in NATO when he was running it.

This photo is unretouched.  I *saw* it happen with my own two glassies.

This photo is unretouched. I *saw* it happen with my own two glassies.

It was Clark’s way of saying thanks for all of the work Kos had done to bring us all together at a time when it seemed there was little else between the Rethugs and Democracy but a band of hardass, ragtag bloggers with a killer app.

YearlyKos 07 was not like that. The easy comraderie was gone. The presidential contenders were acknowledging us in Chicago, except for Hillary. There was some controversy over whether she would make the breakout session that was planned for her. There was a scheduling conflict caused by the event planners, as it turned out. But she rearranged her schedule at the last minute and had her breakout before the presidential forum planned for later in the afternoon. I had chosen Hillary’s breakout session even though I was an Edwards fan at the time because I felt kind of sorry for her. Edwards’ session was going to be well attended and there was no more room at Obama’s so I thought, why not? How bad could she be? It turned out that she blew me away even before she took my question at the end. I left her session still planning to vote for Edwards but Hillary had definitely left an impression.

Then I went to the presidential forum and suddenly, everything changed. Edwards instantly mesmerized the crowd. He was playing them like a virtuoso. He knew every word that would get the Kossacks to their feet. Here’s the diary I wrote for the Cheeto that day: Dear John, You lost me today. When I look back on that diary, I see that the seeds of what would happen during the primary season were planted last year. Take a look at the poll that went with the diary. Oddly enough, only 3 points separated Hillary and Barack Obama in preference among the Kossasks after the breakout sessions and the forums. It wasn’t like Barack Obama was some transcendent figure back then in spite of his wild popularity going into the forum. He was only a mere three points ahead of the presumably least popular person there, Hillary Clinton. The trick of “how they did it” is in Edwards’ wild, frenzied presentation that left me oddly cold. Why didn’t I get it? What was *wrong* with me?

My guess was that I share more in common with the Wes Clarks and the Hillary Clintons than the Kossacks. What I noticed in the lead up to the primaries is that most of the presidential candidates openly flirted with the Kossacks. They flattered them, pandered to them. Some even wrote diaries. But not Hillary. I think the exception was when she wrote a small piece for FireDogLake but she didn’t stick around to answer comments. Wes Clark dropped in from time to time but as the season wore on, it became clear that he was no longer welcome. Clark considered himself a Kossack. The Kossacks felt otherwise. Hillary barely acknowledged us and this is, I think, what separated her from candidates like Edwards and Obama. She never seemed to feel the need to go to different groups and suck up to them. She invited *us* to come to her. Where Barack Obama appeared to cater to the lefties at DKos to win their support in the primaries, Hillary stuck to a set of core Democratic principles. Here’s a clip of what I’m talking about, although not exactly the one I was looking for, where she is talking about a core Democratic principle when it comes to health care- shared responsibility:

This response perfectly illustrates Hillary’s appeal to me. She did not try to make a deal and “love the one you’re with” in order to score points with various constituencies. She had a set of core principles and she asked voters to join her there. She leads based on principle. Now, that doesn’t mean that Clinton isn’t capable of playing politics or getting down in the dirt like the rest of them. It merely means that when it comes down to putting her money where her mouth is, she votes and plans and prioritizes based on some inner guidance. I think the only time I’ve seen her slip was on the Iraq War Resolution and even there I can see her struggling internally. I think it was a bad vote but in her voting repetoire, it is one of the very few glaring examples where she doesn’t stay true to herself. On FISA, there is no doubt in MY mind that her vote was predictable. She was always going to vote no. Democrats respect privacy and the 4th amendment. If you believe in those things as core Democratic principles, the vote is not a difficult one. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

So, this kind of stuff came at the very end of the conversation that Darragh, Brad and I had. What came before was more about what happened to the Democrats this year. How did the split happen? And how is it that so many otherwise rational, reasonable people underwent such profound personality changes in order to wholeheartedly support a man of very little means and no qualification?

PUMAs, we’re going to get ourselves a movie! Brad hopes to get a teaser clip for us in a week or so. But there is so much material to cover and the project has so many layers and so much depth that we’ve barely scratched the surface. But we have plans, oh my droogs. And we can all play a part in this endeavor. I’ll be talking about that at the time we bring out the teaser.

In the meantime, I’d like to thank Lori for helping to set this up and having the insight to see where it all fits together. Way to go, Lori!

And for all you Conflucians, here is the perfect song for those of us who lead from some inner core. Our task is to lead the rest of the party back to that place. Now is the time on The Confluence venn ve dahnce: