Friday, October 31, 2008
Oh, That Sneaky Bush: The Bush administration is quietly reducing federal regulations protecting consumers and environmentalists before they leave office on Jan. 20. It is common practice among departing presidents but the Bush people are exceptionally gifted at this. By getting an early start, most of the deregulation edicts will go into effect making them difficult to change once the new president is sworn in. To do so would require special review hearings at every level of government. Most presidents such as Bill Clinton start the process too late. On Jan. 20, 2001, the Bush people killed 294 regulatory edicts Clinton favored because their effective dates for enactment extended past the inauguration date. Some of the Bush deregulatory steps would lift constraints on power plants, mines and farms. Others would clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease control on pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking water standards and lift a key restriction on mountain-top coal mining. "They want these rules to continue to have an impact long after they leave office," said Matthew Madia of OMB Watch, a non-profit group critical of Bush's penchant for deregulations in areas industry wants more freedom. About 90 new regulations are expected to be adopted before Jan. 20. Among others are changes for family medical leave, lower standards for preventing oil spills and a simplified process for settling real estate transactions. The problem with this accepted executive office process is it is too political. Lobbyists play an instrumental role in writing the rules. It handicaps future presidential administrations should they oppose the new regulations. Bush has taken another presidential prerogative to extremes. That is attaching lax enforcement comments on bills he signs into law. Power is omnipresent in the Oval Office. It's been abused. For shame.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Pipeline Pipe Dream: Sarah Palin's signature achievement boasted during her debate with Sen. Joe Biden was negotiating a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to deliver natural gas to the lower 48 states. Now we learn from an investigative report by The Associated Press the bidding process was rigged in favor of a contractor with ties to the Palin administration in Alaska. Among the findings: a) Instead of a bidding process to attract many builders, Palin slanted the terms away from the three giant oil conglomerates who own the drilling rights. b) Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with any potential bidder, Palin telephoned or held meeting with all parties, including TransCanada which eventually was the winning bidder. (c The leader of Palin's pipeline team was a former partner of a lobby retained by TransCanada; the woman's former business partner at the lobby was lead lobbyist for TransCanada for the pipeline team, and a former executive of TransCanada served as a consultant for Palin's pipeline team. d) Four years earlier under different rules, TransCanada submitted a bid without a state subsidy; under the Palin administration, TransCanada would receive a maximum $500 million subsidy. Building such a pipeline has been a dream for years by Alaska and energy executives. Now with rising energy prices and as oil reserves on the North Slope diminish, the rush to build is reaching the critical stage. The former TransCanada lobbyist was appointed after Palin passed new ethic laws which banned lobbyists' from state government for one year following employment as a lobbyist. Palin's staff said there was no impropriety. Her critics, including Republican Sen. Lyda Green, told the AP the presence of TransCanada's past and current employees involved in the negotiating process was wrong and why she voted against the contract. "Every time it (the apparent conflict of interest) was mentioned to the governor," Green said, "it was like 'how could you question such a wonderful person.'" Five companies submitted bids for the pipeline. Four were rejected because they failed to meet the bidding requirements. That left TransCanada as the lone bidder. The company now faces environmental and other government regulations to hurdle. The AP said it does not have the funds or the credit to borrow the $40 billion required to start the pipeline for at least 10 years. That's not exactly the picture Palin painted in her Oct. 2 debate and on the campaign trail. What's worth noting is that it is the media and not the McCain campaign which thoroughly has vetted the candidate who could become our next president. Little wonder even the staunchest Republican conservatives reject Palin as not ready for national office.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Equal Protection: California's Proposition 8 ballot measure on Nov. 4 would ban same-sex marriages. The state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in May, ruling the constitutional ban decided by voters in 2000 violated equal protection rights to gays and lesbians afforded to heterosexual couples. Would you believe opposing campaigns have spent more than $53 million promoting their arguments? The spending is about evenly split. I know many fathers who would kill for a tiny fraction of that dough they fork out on their daughter's wedding. The question boils down to this: Are you really threatened by a same-sex married couple? For straights, it may be repulsive to their sensibilities and religious scruples but nothing else. Really. That is not a reason for discrimination as it wouldn't be for neighbors whether they are black, Muslim, Asian, Filipino or Jews. When the issue is equal protection, the majority loses its right to impose its views on the minority. If you don't like it, ignore them. Recommendation: No on Prop. 8.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Recommendations: No on Prop. 1. Some $58 billion already has been spent on planning for the Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed rail with no end in sight. It should be rewritten to improve and add on rail connectors within the cities. When that is achieved, then go for the 'Frisco link to LA. No on Prop. 3. Nothing against kids. These are private hospitals and should expand without taxpayer funding. No on Prop. 10. Rewrite it without the rebates and it's the best renewable energy proposal ever written. If rebates are needed to sell the vehicles, let the automakers and energy producers subsidize the program. Personally, I would like nothing better than to vote in favor of all three props. But, the timing is terrible.
McCain Surges: The Associated Press Poll released Wednesday has John McCain surging within one percentage point of Barack Obama among likely voters. The poll is the first in several weeks in which McCain picked up valuable support, especially among white voters earning $50,000 or less. An NBC poll had Obama leading by 11 points as late as Tuesday. The AP poll interviewed 1,100 adults: Obama led 47-37 among all adults; he led by 5% among registered adult voters and 1% among those likely to vote. The margin of error is 3.5%. One reason given for the McCain surge was a large number of voters for the first time were interviewed on their cell phones rather than landlines. Since the last AP poll in late September, McCain trails Obama by 4 points compared to 24% among voters earning less than $50,000; among rural voters, an 18 point lead compared to 4; now leads by 20 points among whites with no college education; improved to a 24-point lead over married whites; modest gains among whites of both gender, now leading by 22 among white men and 7 among white women. On the question of whom voters trust most on the economy, Obama led by 6%, down from 15% in the last survey. Voters were skitterish over Obama raising taxes in a economic recession. One McCain surrogate called it "The Revenge of Joe the Plumber Strikes Back." This sucker is one close knock down, drag out fight to the finish.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Rush to Judgment: Rush Limbaugh, the monarch of right wing talk radio, said, repeated himself, refused to back down -- that Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama was racial. Limbaugh questioned why the Republican would desert ranks and endorse a fellow black man. Mt. Rushmore was unimpressed with Powell's reasons ditching the GOP faithful. Said Powell: "If my endorsement of Barack Obama had been based on race only, I would have announced my decision much earlier in the campaign." Limbaugh's ideology blinds his normally good judgment. Several years ago, Limbaugh was fired as an NFL pregame analyst for one of the TV networks for making disparaging remarks about Donavan McNabb, a black quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. He claimed McNabb was hailed as one of the league's top players only because he was black. Despite his stature in the media, it is difficult to cut any swath for Limbaugh because of his heritage and warped cultural views incubated as a child growing up in the South. His fans have forgiven him as an admitted drug addict. To blame race by an American icon is unforgivable.
Joe The Plumber Revisited: The Obama media fan club humiliated Joe the Plumber, John McCain's favorite Middle Class example, for having no plumber's license, owing back taxes and financially incapable of buying his boss's company. All that for asking Obama a simple question on a Toledo, Ohio, rope line. Joe Wurlzelbacher asked Obama why he had to pay additional taxes under the Obama tax plan. The Democratic presidential candidate essentially answered "to spread the wealth." Obama's concept is that in America "one person's struggles is all of our struggles." In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama replaced the idea of an American dream with the century-old progressive pitch of "America's promise." But as Jonah Goldberg in an op-ed column in the Los Angeles Times, pointed out: "The two visions are in opposition. The former is individualistic; the latter collectivist." In America, Goldberg writes, "that's fine because the pursuit of happiness is an individual, not a collective, right." Obama's explanation to Joe the Plumber is a clear and significant expression of his world view, with roots stretching back to his religion and his days as a community organizer. Goldberg says millions of Americans don't share that view. They don't begrudge the wealthy. They want the same opportunity. And, there folks, you have another example of the yawning gap between the ideologies of Barack Obama and John McCain.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Monday Morning Quarterback: The greatest feel good story of the year is the Tampa Bay Rays winning the American League championship. For nine of the past 10 years of their sorry existence, they finished in the toilet of the toughest division in baseball, the American League East. This is a small market team ranked 29th out of 32 teams in payroll. Finishing so many seasons as the worst in baseball, an enlightened management and judicious first round drafting, the Rays picked and groomed outstanding young players they fielded into a first-rate team. It is a remarkable task considering the economics of Major League Baseball. Their path to victory was patterned after "Money Ball" developed initially by another small market team, the Oakland A's. The Athletics under that format reached the playoffs often enough but never the World Series. Despite their unexpected rush to prominence, the Rays only drew an average of 12,000 fans to their home games in St. Petersburg's Tropicana Stadium. It will improve next year whether they win or lose the World Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. But, not by much. Their neighbor to the south, the National League's Florida Marlins, proved that even though they won two World Series in five years. It doesn't matter. America's eroding baseball fans adore a lovable loser turned awesome. Fox, which will televise the World Series, certainly hopes so. Network executives said they may break even if the Series goes only four games. They would have preferred big market teams such as the Dodgers, Cubs or Red Sox. Like a fine wine, the Tampa Bay Rays may have been rushed to glory too fast for the public to appreciate its taste. Meanwhile, my two faves in football played to form over the weekend. USC blanked hapless Washington State and the fumbling, bungling Chargers were short-circuited by Buffalo. What's significant is if San Diego fails to make the playoffs, chances to win an election to build a new stadium dim leaving ownership no recourse but to relocate to another market, probably Los Angeles.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
What It Means: The endorsement will be the buzz in the media and perhaps some voters the next several days but as history proves will likely be forgotten come election day. However, it could resonate in large active and retired military populations in North Carolina, Florida and San Diego. Powell is believed to be well revered by the military. He is best remembered as the architect for the Powell Doctrine as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon during the Bush I administration. The Powell Doctrine was if the U.S. goes to war, it must wield overwhelming force and have an exit strategy. The endorsement also annoints Obama with credibility in his role as commander-in-chief, closing the ominous gap enjoyed by McCain's war and senate record. "I've always admired and respected Gen. Powell," McCain said on the Sunday Fox News show. He cited endorsements of former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, James Baker and Lawrence Eagleberger. "We have a respectful disagreement." The Powell endorsement is just another in a long series of daggers stuck in the heart of the McCain campaign.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Must See: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin appears tonight on Saturday Night Live in a guest appearance as the Republican vice presidential nominee. Here's a convoluted quote from Palin before the show sounding more like her SNL impersonator Tina Fey: "The Opportunity to show American television watchers anyway that you get to have a sense of humor through all of this or even this just this really would be wear'n tear'n on you so an opportunity to show that sense of humor and all that side of all this I look forward to it." You betcha, Sarah. Wink. Wink. Meanwhile, in a more serious venue, retired Gen. Colin Powell who was Secretary of State in the first George W. Bush administration, appears on Meet The Press. Democrats are gushy in speculating Powell will announce his endorsement of Barack Obama. Powell quit the Bush administration feeling he was manipulated. Believed to be a registered Republican, Powell's support of a fellow black leader would be a major coup. The reality is, political endorsements rarely swing voters to one candidate or another.
Friday, October 17, 2008
McCain's Conundrum: No question that the third and final debate Wednesday McCain turned in his best performance. "I'm not President Bush," he scolded Obama who continually refers to McCain as voting 95% of the time for Bush policy programs. "If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Despite his feisty demeanor, instant polls after the debate indicated preference for Obama by a wide margin. Although the McCain campaign has been all over the map unsuccessfully trying to define Obama as an empty suit, the problem he has is not of his making. It's the financial markets meltdown that trumps everything else in this campaign season. The debate was not a game changer. McCain continues to stoke the flames of his conservative base without convincing independents to move in his direction. Democrat analyst Simon Rosenberg said "In the past few weeks, the American people have ... decided they see a future president in Sen. Obama. In Sen. McCain, they see an admirable but aging politician who seems out of step with the moment."
Fact Check: Both candidates distorted and exaggerated the truth. Obama said 100% of McCain's television ads were negative. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers did say nearly 100% of McCain's ads the first week in October were negative. However, over the course of the campaign, 73% of McCain's ads were negative compared to 61% from the Obama campaign. McCain said 45 new nuclear plants could be built right away. Although applications for 24 new reactors are pending, it would take until 2015 for the first to go on line. Current economic conditions with tight money credit likely would prevent nuclear construction estimated at $9 billion per plant. Other repeated charges have been reported and clarified in earlier debate postings.
Fifteen Minutes of Fame: Joe, the plumber, Wurzelbacher of suburban Toledo, Ohio, was mentioned 25 times during the Wednesday debate. McCain, who never met the 34-year-old Republican, epitomized him as a victim of Obama's tax plan. He said Joe was poised to buy his employer's plumbing business but couldn't afford the extra taxes because the company earned more than $250,000 per year. Turns out Joe doesn't have a plumber's license and could be sanctioned by the city's plumbing control board. Turns out, Joe's income last year was $40,000 and unlikely to buy the company. Turns out, Joe's boss filed income tax reported earnings of only $100,000 last year and would not be subject to a tax increase under either an Obama or McCain tax plan. Analysts calculated even if Joe bought the company and earned more than $250,000 the increase in taxes from a 35% to 39% rate would be offset by credits for a employee health benefit plan and elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses. A sublimed Joe Wurzelbacher said Thursday he regretted opening his big mouth and never intended to be subjected to the national limelight. Another McCain miscue.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
The American Dream: For decades, home ownership has been the only sure-fire way for the Middle Class to gain prosperity. It was based on escalating home values until the bubble burst two years ago. Government policies encouraged home ownership allowing people to deduct the mortgage interest from their income taxes. More recently, government policies lowered borrowing standards to almost nothing in effort to attract additional wage earners into the ownership game to achieve the American Dream. Now that it has backfired, economists are waging a debate among themselves. One argument is when government makes residential investment more attractive, it diminishes investment in other areas that would enhance economic growth. The opposing argument of subsides and tax credits allows more Americans to own homes. They recognize the problem that 95 million are paying far more than 30% of their income for their households and 42% of all Americans cannot afford home ownership. The unrelenting push to slash government regulation necessary for a good mortgage market unfortunately has been replaced by private market "products" and mortgage companies leading us into the current meltdown. The winning argument in this debate falls somewhere in between. As one economist put it: The U.S. will remain a mix between a totally free open market such as Hong Kong where economic growth is unimpeded and France where regulations have stagnated growth and disposable income.
Monday, October 13, 2008
A New World Order: With the global financial markets in the tank, an Obama administration inherits never-before seen direct government partnership in our major financial institutions in which a failed policy could bankrupt taxpayers. It's a risky policy aimed at the short-term goal of infusing cash to banks to unfreeze credit and longer-term gamble to stabilize housing prices. Obama is in the process of spelling out how he will tweak the process now being instituted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Several moves are apparent. Democrats will pass another economic stimulus package, ask bankruptcy judges to renegotiate home mortgage rates with lenders and extend unemployment benefits. How Obama will prioritize his domestic spending programs remains a mystery. Without tax increases, his options are limited. What can be expected is a new energy policy strong on renewable and clean air programs, matching funds for rebuilding roads, bridges, sewers and electrical grid transmission lines and college loans in exchange for two years of public service. A national health care program will be introduced but not pushed seriously until the economy improves but still sometime during the first four years of the Obama administration. Defense spending could take a hit if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq. Although more troops will be reassigned to Afghanistan, Obama has said during the campaign that more emphasis will be placed on diplomatic than military force in dealing with the Middle East problems. It all really depends on how far and how long the economy is submerged in a recession if not global depression.
McCain's Misguidance: John McCain's strategy to play the underdog may fit his maverick image but it is not resonating with voters. He's all over the map trying unsuccessfully to portray Obama as an unknown liberal with character flaws of judgment based on his lack of experience and naivety. The daily news of a tanking economy is overwhelming his every move with even conservatives scratching their heads wondering why he's spending so much time attacking Obama over his relationship with former domestic terrorist William Ayers. The guilt-by-association attacks didn't work for Hillary Clinton and they're equally ineffective for McCain and his campy running mate Sarah Palin. What they should focus on is an Obama presidency with the unpopular Pelosi and Reid as his chief lieutenants carrying his water bucket in Congress. That is a scary scenario even in the minds of many moderates.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
The Arab Connection: One can only guess where the woman who voiced fear Obama was an Arab where she got that impression. Perhaps, it came from the writings of Jack Wheeler. He was the author of President Reagan's strategy to break the back of the Soviet Union with the star wars race. He later wrote a weekly column on government intelligence activities. Here are excerpts on Obama from a recent email: "The O-Man, Barack Hussein Obama, is an eloquently tailored empty suit. No resume, no accomplishments, no experience, no original ideas, no understanding of how the economy works, no understanding of how the world works, no balls, nothing but abstract empty rhetoric of real substance." Fair enough. Then, he wallows in to the race card. "He has no real identity. He is half-white, which he rejects. The rest of him is mostly Arab, which he hides but is disclosed by his non-African Arabic surname and his Arabic first and middle names as a way to triply proclaim his Arabic percentage to people in Kenya. Only a small part of him is African black from his Luo grandmother, which he pretends he is exclusively." Wait one moment. Since when has Obama rejected his white mother? Never. Wheeler continues: "What he isn't, not a genetic drop of, is "African-American," the descendant of enslaved Africans brought to America chained in slave ships. He hasn't a single ancestor who was a slave. Instead, his Arab ancestors were slave owners...Thus he makes the perfect Liberal Messiah." That seems a disconnect, like saying two plus two equals five. But Wheeler is just warming to the task. "Obamamania is beyond politics and reason," he writes. "It is true religious cult, whose adherents reject Christianity yet still believe in Original Sin, transferring it from the evil of being human to the evil of being white." Now, voters who support Obama are anti-Christ. Really? "Thus Obama has become the white liberals' Christ, offering absolution from the Sin of Being White," Wheeler writes. "The absurdity of Hypocrisy Clothed in Human Flesh being their Savior is all the more cause for liberals to worship him...Thank heavens that the voting majority of Americans remain Christian and are in no desperate need of a phony savior." What Wheeler is saying is that it's okay to be black but not a black slaveholder and white guilt is why white liberals support Obama, something good Christians should avoid. Sounds like Wheeler is advocating ethnic and religious cleansing.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
My Senior Moment: One of the most substantive issues in Tuesday's presidential debate fell below the radar in print and broadcast coverage. That was the question whether health insurance coverage was a right or a privilege. Obama said it was a right. McCain said it was a responsibility of the individual and family. Their answers reflect a fundamental gap between the two. Obama is correct on this one. In our society, we think nothing of paying taxes to our cities and counties for police and fire protection and other public services for the common good. Cops and firemen don't discriminate and drive away if you can't afford their assistance. They are guardians of our public welfare. Our welfare also includes our health. What is the difference between the cops chasing down a robber and a physician diagnosing and treating a disease? They're both the same in my book. The only difference is the former is accepted societal behavior and the latter not. Police and fire protection is constrained by budgets. Why not universal health care based on an individual's affordability to pay the premiums? It's the right thing to do.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Fact Check: McCain repeated his assertion that the U.S. spends $700 billion to purchase foreign oil from countries who do not like us. Actually, a third of that expenditure goes to allies such as Canada and Mexico. Obama said Bush policies supported by McCain stripped regulations on the markets and consumers leading to the financial collapse. Although McCain supports deregulation, he advocated reforms for financial mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years before they were bailed out by the feds. McCain said the last time a president raised taxes -- a jab at Obama -- during an economic recession was Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. Not true. Although the recessions were not as severe as during Hoover's presidency, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised taxes leading to economic recoveries. Obama said McCain's $5,000 tax credit in exchange for treating employers' health insurance contributions as taxable wages amounts to "what one hand giveth, the other taketh away." McCain's proposal in the first years of the system would amount to a savings since the credit would exceed the amount of the tax. Over 10 years as premiums rise, the costs would increase the federal deficit by $1.3 trillion mainly because it would mean less revenue and thereby a true tax break overall. Obama said the cuts in federal spending he envisions would cover the costs of his ambitious domestic spending agenda for such programs as education, renewable energy and health care. His specifics do not bear that out.
Sacrificial Lambs: Neither candidate enunciated the extreme sacrifices facing Americans in this time of economic chaos. They had their chance and blew it in a direct question from moderator Tom Brokaw. Hate to use this tired phrase, but they tried to apply lipstick to a pig. Well, the pig raised its ugly head today in a report from the International Monetary Fund that a global recession is near and likely to continue well into 2009. The IMF's projection came before the Federal Reserve joined by central banks around the world slashed interest rates to stall the financial meltdown. The U.S. bailout is aimed at thawing the credit freeze by buying mortgage-related bad debt from the financial institutions. It will work only if banks lend between themselves to keep businesses operating and consumers gain confidence in the economic future. Credit availability is likely to remain constrained through next year, the IMF said. The IMF projected growth down to 1.8% in Germany, o.8% in France, 1% in Great Britain, 0.7% in Canada and Japan and drops -- for the first time in five years -- to 9.7% in China and 7.9% in India. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke all have poorly articulated the severity of the crises that consumers can understand. The ball soon will shift to one of the candidate's court. One will inherit this mess. None of us has a clue how he will handle it. There is one more debate between Obama and McCain. It's time for both to stop playing defense and speak the truth. Fat chance.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Voter Backlash? The McCain swiftboating approach could work as it did four years ago for George Bush against John Kerry. Hillary Clinton nearly beat Obama late in the primary campaign with a series of negative ads. Clinton started too late and McCain could experience the same results. Here's the canard: Voters tell pollsters they despise negative campaigning. Political pols know they work and have the data to prove it. But, these are not normal times. Imagine the serious voter trying to decide upon the candidates and hear no solutions to their problems but prattle about the evils of the other guy. There is considerable speculation that McCain will carry his personal attack message into tonight's debate. That should make an entertaining evening but is it too risky even for such an addicted gambler as McCain?
My Take: Both McCain and Obama share the same problem of becoming too specific on how to solve the economic crises. The groundwork is set in concrete with the $700 billion rescue bill signed into law last Friday by President Bush. They both are stuck with it and perhaps even Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson administering it. Remember President Clinton campaigned on a specific economic program in 1992. After looking at the books, he had to ditch his program and go a different route after taking office. Still, both candidates need to weigh in on the economic crises and not Obama's guilt by association relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers and McCain's hot temperament and involvement in the Keating savings and loan scandal. I want to hear more on the policy differences in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. More details on tax cuts and tax increases. More on differences in their health care reforms. More on what areas to cut spending. More on energy and clean air proposals. More on keeping Social Security solvent. More on the criteria needed for appointment of new judges to the Supreme Court. In short, cut the crap and go for the gold.
Monday, October 6, 2008
A Ray of Hope: A search for positive news found only a Washington Post report on voter registration ranks swelled significantly that could change the Nov. 4 election in favor of the Democrats -- if they turn out to vote. In the past year, voter registration rolls have increased by 4 million in a dozen battleground states, 11 of which Barack Obama is targeting that President Bush won in 2004 and 2000. Democrats have attracted twice the number of new voters in Florida, outgained Republicans by a 4-1 margin in Colorado and Nevada and by a 6-1 cushion in North Carolina. Democratic registration in Florida now exceeds Republicans by a half-million. In North Carolina, Democrats have added 208,000 voters compared to 34,000 by the GOP. In Nevada, which Bush carried by 21,000 votes in 2004, Democrats have added 94,000 and Republicans 22,000. Republicans now trail Democrats by 81,000 in the Silver State. In Pennsylvania, a state John McCain is trying to snatch, Democrats have registered in the past year 474,000 new voters while the Republicans have lost 38,000. The Obama campaign projects that for every new voter they register, 80% will vote Democrat and 75% turn out. Although the voter registration drives may assist the Obama campaign, the overall impact of luring millions of new voters into our electoral process is good news. For all the chest-pounding Americans ballyhoo as champions of the democratic process, they are notoriously lax in exercising that right. A 50% voter turnout is considered good. Anything more than a 60% turnout in a presidential election is phenomenal. Such low expectations do not bode well in my book. If you don't vote, don't bitch.
Financing Fraud: Don't be surprised if the Federal Election Practices Commission launches an investigation into possible financial contribution irregularities involving the Obama campaign. Michael Isikoff in Newsweek reports thousands are contributing $200 each under phony names which indicates many may be exceeding the $2,300 maximum any one individual can contribute to a major political campaign. In one case, a donor identified himself as Good Will and place of employment at a Goodwill Charities branch in Georgia. The Obama campaign sent thank you notes to Goodwill Industries for months before the charity repsonded they were unaware of any contributions from its employees in addition to the fact such donations would be illegal from a non-profit group. The Obama campaign has raised the bulk of their contributions through the Internet from individual donors. Campaigns are not required to report donations $200 or less by names, addresses and occupations. Instead, they are lumped together for reporting purposes. Seems nothing escapes gaming the system.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Veep Stakes: One of the more revealing segments of the debate focused on the role each would play as vice president. Biden said he would be Obama's front man driving the administration's programs through Congress as well as Obama's close confidant and advisor. Palin said she wished she had more constitutional and Senate institutional powers than simply on the rare occasions casting a tie-breaking vote. She said McCain has promised her a strong role in pushing his energy program, advocacy for women's equality and for parents of handicapped children.
Fact Check: Palin said Obama voted 94 times to increase taxes or against tax reductions. It was 11 times but only for those earning more than $1 million. Biden complained deregulation of the Bush administration led to the current financial market collapse. Biden voted for the 1999 deregulation bill. Palin said McCain led a movement to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel authored the bill which McCain sponsored but was killed in committee. Palin said she beat the oil industry in Alaska with a windfall profits tax that went directly to the state's citizens. At the same time, she sided with Big Oil on anti-environmental measures as well as supporting drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge which McCain opposes. Biden said McCain supports an additional $4 billion tax cut for the oil industry. McCain's plan would provide tax cuts to all corporations, including Big Oil. Palin said Alaska is building a $40 billion natural gas pipeline through Canada to the states. A license for seed money was awarded to one contractor but construction won't start for six years. "It's not a done deal," Palin said in August. Bottom Line: No major hits, runs or errors.
My Take: Close your eyes, filter out the expectations game and return to the real world. Biden won the debate if not on points certainly on the reassurance of his experience. Instant polls by CNN reflects that edge. The debate was not a game changer. It may push McCain up a few points but only for several days. Hillary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, offered an analogy which matched mine while watching the debate. Rosen projected a scenario of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with Palin sitting in the war room forced to make life and death commander-in-chief decisions. Just can't see that happening. Palin's performance was programmed and borderline robotic. There's no there there. Like Mrs. Clinton told Obama: Wait your turn after you grow up.
No Control Zone: Did you see Bill O'Reilly go ballistic on Rep. Barney Frank? O'Reilly yelled, screamed, taunted, bullied and cast personal insults at Frank who heads the House Banking Committee and spearheaded the Congressional negotiations for a rescue plan of the financial markets. No matter what Frank tried to say about his role involving failed reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, O'Reilly shouted him down. I think I know why. Bill's ego is the size of an inflated hot air balloon. When the segment began, Frank, who can be as nasty as a cornered bantam rooster, was reading the newspaper. His eyes down and continued reading while O'Reilly asked his first question. Finally, Frank slowly raised his head and faced the camera, telling O'Reilly he disagreed with Bill's assertion that Frank was to blame for the bailout of the two financial giants. Frank's demeanor dissed O'Reilly's pompous view of himself and Bill got pissed. The episode is a can't miss Number One on the U-Tube charts. O'Reilly's behavior was disgusting, even by entertainment standards let alone a thrashing of journalistic ethics. Yet, O'Reilly remains and will remain the top-rated news opinionator on cable television. Disgraceful, shameful but not shocking on all counts.
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Thursday, October 2, 2008
Gaffe Central: One can't help but chuckle over all the hype leading up to tonight's vice presidential debate. The Republicans have set such a low expectations standard for Gov. Sarah Palin that she wins just by showing up. They are even attacking Gwyn Iffel, the PBS debate moderator, for having a vested interest in an Obama victory because she has written a book scheduled for publication in November on the rising importance of blacks in American politics. Dennis Miller cracked Palin should pull out the book's galley sheet at the beginning of the debate and ask for Iffel's autograph. Democrats equally are squirmishing over the prospects of Sen. Joe Biden continuing his cavalcade of gaffes which have shadowed him his entire political career. How does he handle a woman, they ask. If he's too condescending, he's male chauvinistic toast, they fear. Viewers will watch with interest much like racecar fans hoping for a spectacular accident on the NASCAR tracks.
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