Monday, June 30, 2008

Paul Krugman, Swift Boating?

Is Paul Krugman one of (shudder) them?

David Seaton's News Links

The Obama campaign is alert to the spreading of smears and rumors against their candidate. Apparently they have their work cut out for them. This from the Washington Post.
The new advertisement running in Findlay, in which Obama is pictured with his white mother and white grandparents as he talks about developing a "deep and abiding faith in the country I love" while growing up in the Kansas heartland, is dismissed by residents of College Street as the desperate lies of another dishonest Washington politician. And they say that Obama's moves to put distance between himself and the Muslim community, with his campaign declining invitations to visit mosques and Obama volunteers removing two women in head scarves from the camera range at a rally in Detroit earlier this month are just a too-late effort to disguise his true beliefs.

For the past month, two students from the University of Findlay have spent their Tuesday nights walking from door to door in the city to tell voters about Obama. Erik Cramer and Sarah Everly target Democrats and swing voters exclusively, but they've still experienced mixed results. Sometimes, at a front door, they mention their purpose only to have a dozen rumors thrown back at them and the door slammed. "People tell us that we're in the wrong town," Everly said.
The McCain campaign seems to smell blood in the water. This, again, from the Washington Post.
Sen. John McCain's allies have seized on a new and aggressive line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama, casting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee as an opportunistic and self-obsessed politician who will do and say anything to get elected.(...) "In his time on the national stage, he has consistently put his party and his self-interest first," McCain strategist Steve Schmidt said in the memo. "We have seen Barack Obama forced to choose between principle and the interests of himself and his party. He has always chosen the latter."

Schmidt said in an interview that the campaign intends to point out "every day" that Obama broke his promise to accept public financing for his campaign, and that he has not made good on his pledge to debate his Republican opponent anytime and anywhere.

"It's a statement of fact that he discards people, and he discards positions when they become inconvenient for him," Schmidt said Friday. "When politicians say one thing and then do another, like Senator Obama has done, voters wonder about the steadfastness of the character of the person sitting in the Oval Office."(...) The aggressive rhetoric aimed at Obama began to emerge June 22, when Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, a national co-chairman of the McCain campaign, appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press." The normally collegial senator from South Carolina took direct aim at Obama's integrity.

"He's a calculating politician," Graham said. "The bottom line about Barack Obama, whatever the position -- whether it be Iraq, campaign finance reform, public financing -- he's going to take a tack that allows him to win. He wants to win beyond anything else, even more than keeping his word."

That theme was repeated Thursday in a conference call with reporters about the Supreme Court's decision to affirm the Second Amendment right to own a gun. McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann complained about what he called Obama's constantly changing positions.

"What's becoming clear in this campaign," he said, is that Obama "has demonstrated that there is no position he holds that isn't negotiable. He will say or do anything if it furthers his political purposes."
But, now Paul Krugman weighs in from the New York Times
"Progressive activists, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama during the Democratic primary even though his policy positions, particularly on health care, were often to the right of his rivals’. In effect, they convinced themselves that he was a transformational figure behind a centrist facade.

They may have had it backward.

Mr. Obama looks even more centrist now than he did before wrapping up the nomination. Most notably, he has outraged many progressives by supporting a wiretapping bill that, among other things, grants immunity to telecom companies for any illegal acts they may have undertaken at the Bush administration’s behest.

The candidate’s defenders argue that he’s just being pragmatic — that he needs to do whatever it takes to win, and win big, so that he has the power to effect major change. But critics argue that by engaging in the same “triangulation and poll-driven politics” he denounced during the primary, Mr. Obama actually hurts his election prospects, because voters prefer candidates who take firm stands.

In any case, what about after the election? The Reagan-Clinton comparison suggests that a candidate who runs on a clear agenda is more likely to achieve fundamental change than a candidate who runs on the promise of change but isn’t too clear about what that change would involve.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Mr. Obama really is a centrist, after all." - Paul Krugman, NYT
It seems to me that there are two clear alternatives here:

Either Paul Krugman has joined the Republican attack machine or the Republican attack machine has hit on a very productive, fact based line of attack, one which depends for its effectiveness, not on smears and innuendo but on Barack Obama's observable actions.

Since I find it difficult to believe that Paul Krugman is part of some vast right-wing conspiracy, I imagine that the second line of reasoning is the correct one.

What I think is happening is, that under the pressure of reality a certain syndrome of Obamamania that
Virginia Postrel identified in The Atlantic, is beginning to unravel:
"Plenty of candidates attract supporters who disagree with them on some issues. Obama is unusual, however. He attracts supporters who not only disagree with his stated positions but assume he does too. They project their own views onto him and figure he is just saying what other, less discerning voters want to hear."
Barack Obama has a very thin CV, but a fascinating story and many people have bought into the story. He should stick to the story, it is all he has got.

Changing it now on a daily basis is a fatal mistake. DS

PS: I've just heard the most
amazing and absurd anti-Obama rumor!

Apparently his middle name is not, repeat NOT "Hussein"!

It's HERMAN!!!

Barry thought is was soooo lame that when he was fifteen he asked his mother, Stanley Ann, if he could change it legally, as she had suffered so much ribbing because of her name she gave him permission.

He thought Hussein sounded really cool and the rest is history.

Neat, huh?

Pass it on to see how they squash it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oil and the mother that bore him

David Seaton's News Links
One of my oldest customers is an energy derivatives brokerage, for whom I provide selections of articles and commentary for their webpage.

Thus, for many years now, every week of the year except August, I have had to read dozens of articles about oil.

I don't consider myself in any way an expert on oil, but I read and have read a lot of experts. I have been following oil since when it was absurdly cheap till now, when it is frighteningly expensive.

I would compare myself to a Moroccan cleaning lady in Madrid's cathedral, I know the difference between a priest a sacristan and a bishop and a cardinal, between a choir boy and an alter boy, but at bottom what they are all doing and why remains a mystery to me and I never forget my granny's words, "Be careful Fatima, they may all seem very nice, but never forget, that when that little bell rings they eat human flesh!".

What have I learned?

First, this is a huge question, it is a perfect example of the blind men feeling their way around an elephant.
There are so many factors involved in the price of Oil that chaos theory kicks in rapidly in any analysis. Nobody has the complete picture. In some ways I think even Jim Kunstler is too optimistic, romantic, really.

One thing I am sure of is that future archaeologists digging over our detritus will baptize us the "oil civilization". Our world revolves around oil, first for objective reasons, but then because of its power, magic enters into it too.

There is much argument as to if we are rapidly running out of oil or if there is plenty left. Most of these arguments are magic ones. There are so many sound and reliable experts on either side of the question that I am tempted to say that the "magic quotient" is having a disproportionate effect on the present crisis.

My feeling (this is a blog and not a report) is that what is in crisis at this moment is value itself.

Value is in some sense dissolving and those who hold value are frantically trying to put whatever value they possess somewhere safe. Like a drowning mother throwing her child to a stranger.

This is no longer really about making money, this is about not losing shirts. Oil being the center value of our civilization its paper value is soaring, just as the paper value of gold and wheat. This is not "speculation", this is panic.

Here is a little quote from Nouriel Roubini, to keep my readers busy while I go off to watch the European Nations Football Cup finals. DS

Nouriel Roubini: The delusional complacency that the “worst is behind us” is rapidly melting away…
Abstract: Those of us who had predicted this economics and financial mess (the worst housing bust since the Great Depression, the subprime and mortgage meltdown, the bust of the credit bubble, a nasty liquidity and credit crunch, high and rising oil prices, an ugly recession) well before (in the summer of 2006) 99% of the world had even heard the term “subprime” held to our sound and analytically grounded views that: this would be the housing was not bottoming out, that this would be the worst housing recession since the Great Depression and that home prices would eventually fall 30% plus, that millions of underwater households are at risk of walking away from their homes (“jingle mail”), that the we were in the eye of the financial storm (rather than past it) and this would be the worst U.S. financial crisis since the Great Depression, that credit losses would mount over time well above $1 trillion, that we would have a systemic banking and financial crisis with hundred of institutions going belly up, that the stock market would fall back into serious bear territory after another and last sucker’s rally, that the recession would be deep and protracted (12 to 18 months and U-shaped rather than V-shaped), that the Fed would stay on hold (or even cut rates further by year end) as the economic and financial crisis becomes more severe, that the world would not decouple – financially and/or economically – from the U.S. contraction, that the exchange rate policies of the BW2 countries (partially sterilized intervention creating easy monetary conditions and excessive credit growth) would lead first to asset bubbles and then to rising inflation as the needed real exchange rate appreciation would occur through a rise in prices if the nominal appreciation would be prevented, that BW2 would come under severe strain once this asset bubble would go bust and inflation rose.(...) Certainly the rising financial tsunami ahead as the economic contraction gets worse, the financial/credit losses mount, the credit and liquidity crunch gets worse will test both the ability and the political willingness of the Fed to further bail out major financial institutions that are in serious trouble. So the worst is well ahead of us – not behind us – for the real economy and financial markets. READ IT ALL

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Africa: the merry-go-round from hell

David Seaton's News Links
Africa has become a carousel of horrors that spins through the news.

Not long ago it was Kenya and Somalia, before that it was Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda: always the Congo or Darfur, or the north of Uganda with its child soldiers.

The present “hell of the month” is Zimbabwe and its resident, “devil in chief”, the 84 year old Robert Mugabe, who refuses to leave office.

According to the United Nations World Health Organization, the life expectancy for men in Zimbabwe is 37 years and the life expectancy for women is 34, the lowest in the world.

Zimbabwe has a HIV infection rate, estimated to be 20.1% for people aged 15–49.

Unemployment is estimated at 80%.

The last official inflation rate was above 26,000% a year.

The government no longer publishes official inflation figures, but some estimate inflation as increasing by 26%... per day!

According to the BBC, Zimbabwean dollar fell to 30 billion against the US dollar. The cost of a box of margarine in a Harare store last Monday was 420m Zim dollars and a ham sandwich now costs 3.8 billion.

Mugabe is believed to have many offshore bank accounts and his wife Grace, said to rival the late Imelda Marcos, is reported to have spent millions (of real dollars) on international shopping sprees during the past two years.

Why, having so much money abroad, anyone should wish to govern such a country as Zimbabwe, much less kill in order to do so?

What is there left to steal?

The non-binding UN resolution is certainly a step in the right direction, but as the Los Angeles Times asks, “Will they now act to forestall a repeat of the unchecked excesses of Uganda's Idi Amin, the Central African Republic's Jean-Bedel Bokassa or Congo's kleptocratic Mobutu Sese Seko?”

The recent record of sexual abuses by “blue helmets” in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo would urge caution in their deployment.

What certainly would be counterproductive would be to send white soldiers from former colonial powers or the USA to take and patrol Harare.

Only Zimbabwe’s neighbors can remove Mugabe without making pan-African martyrs of him and his thugs.

The one country that could quickly get Mugabe out is South Africa.

Millions of Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa and public opinion there is hardening against Mugabe. The ruling African National Congress and the trade unions have condemned him, only the South African president, Thabo Mbeki continues to protect the tyrant.

It is useless to pressure Mugabe, for him there is no turning back; the man to pressure is Mbeki. DS

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

... just like the girl that married dear old dad.

Mother and Child, Henry Moore

David Seaton's News Links
I read the following quote in Josh Marshall's blog. If David Seaton had written the following he would have been crucified.
If I were a completely amoral Republican operative, I'd try to find some white women that Obama dated before Michelle and get them into the public's stream of consciousness anyway I could. Its a tactic so vile I don't even like speculating about it, but if you want to be ready for the worst, I think Rove just tipped his hand at where they plan to go. -- David Kurtz
Is this the "conversation" about race that Obama suggested?

Look, if you read me you may have gathered that I think Barack Obama is a fraud, but the last thing I would ever criticize him for is for dating white women. First because it is nobody's business who he ever dated before he got married and second... One of his biggest selling points is that he is bi-racial.

His mother was a white woman f'krisesake! If he found white women unattractive that would be abnormal.

A person's mother in great part determines their relations with all women thereafter. I think this reaction is as true for girls as it is for boys. Mothers form a person's taste in women.

For example, when I was a little kid my late mother was a drop dead redhead with big hooters and I have been happily married to a drop dead redhead with big hooters nigh on to thirty years. But on the other hand my momma was a lousy housekeeper and her messy house embarrassed me with my school friends and so consequently I married a German who is obsessed by domestic cleanliness.... both have/had fantastic senses of humor. My wife is that rarity, a sexy clown.

Moral: mothers are mined and cherry picked for qualities and defects. What a son chooses in women is a judgment of his mother.

Really, in Obama's case the interesting psychobabble point is why somebody who was raised by white women is not married to a white woman himself. I think it was Konrad Lorenz who had all these baby geese following him around because he was the first thing they saw when they hatched and they thought he was their mother.

So, if you are an amateur psychologist (and what American isn't) and you really wanted to delve into Barack Obama's psyche and come up with nuggets of insight into his character, you would begin to study the similarities and differences between Stanley Ann Dunham and Michelle Robinson and I am sure the differences are much more than "skin deep".

An example: both are very well educated women, but Michelle is a very together and responsible mother and very rooted in her community...

You could play this game at cocktail parties from now till the inauguration ball.

I am not at all sure it would do Obama any harm politically: quite the contrary, it has all the human interest, soap opera, telenovela quality infused with pseudo-intellectualism that Americans find irresistible... Me included. DS

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Once I built a tower, now it's done...

"We are so made that we can sustain our existence only in group life. Love is the essence of humanity, love needs something to bestow itself upon; human beings must live together in order to live a life of mutual love." D. T. Suzuki
"I sincerely believe that if you think there's a solution, you're part of the problem. My motto: Fuck Hope!" George Carlin
David Seaton's News Links
Between the two quotes above there is certainly some space and variance of tone, but they are by no means contradictory and Suzuki would have been the last person to deny George Carlin's Zen.

Carlin was certainly right when he saw "no solution" and "no hope". However, it is useful before even thinking about solutions, to identify the "problem".

In my opinion, the distance between the reality we experience in our daily lives and Suzuki's deceptively simple analysis of our species, (which could, in great part, apply to the troop of baboons in the picture), is humanity's "problem".

In fact the distance is so great that many might dismiss Suzuki's analysis as treacly and sentimental when he says, "we are so made that we can sustain our existence only in group life (...)
human beings must live together in order to live a life of mutual love", which, in fact, applies as accurately to any isolated human being as it would to any isolated baboon. A social animal being a social animal.

Over millions of years, our species evolved, like our cousins the baboons, to roam the savannas of Africa in extended families, sharing whatever food we found and curling up together at night to keep warm. Over most of our history that was our life, only of late have we taken a sinister detour. That wandering togetherness is what our brains, inhabiting spirits and digestive tract are built for and look where we are now.

Over a relatively few millennia we have woven ourselves into hell.

Certainly, unless we can recreate the essence of our cooperative origins on a mass scale within our present technological development, there seems to be no solution in sight to this hell we have created.

Perhaps, it will be global warming that
finally returns our remaining descendents to paradise. DS

Monday, June 23, 2008

It must be somebody... probably not you, of course

David Seaton's News Links
From the NYT:
Obama Camp Closely Linked With Ethanol - NYT When VeraSun Energy inaugurated a new ethanol processing plant last summer in Charles City, Iowa, some of that industry’s most prominent boosters showed up. Leaders of the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels Association, for instance, came to help cut the ribbon — and so did Senator Barack Obama. Then running far behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in name recognition and in the polls, Mr. Obama was in the midst of a campaign swing through the state where he would eventually register his first caucus victory. And as befits a senator from Illinois, the country’s second largest corn-producing state, he delivered a ringing endorsement of ethanol as an alternative fuel. Mr. Obama is running as a reformer who is seeking to reduce the influence of special interests. But like any other politician, he has powerful constituencies that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates. (...) Ethanol is one area in which Mr. Obama strongly disagrees with his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona. While both presidential candidates emphasize the need for the United States to achieve “energy security” while also slowing down the carbon emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming, they offer sharply different visions of the role that ethanol, which can be made from a variety of organic materials, should play in those efforts. Mr. McCain advocates eliminating the multibillion-dollar annual government subsidies that domestic ethanol has long enjoyed. As a free trade advocate, he also opposes the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff that the United States slaps on imports of ethanol made from sugar cane, which packs more of an energy punch than corn-based ethanol and is cheaper to produce. “We made a series of mistakes by not adopting a sustainable energy policy, one of which is the subsidies for corn ethanol, which I warned in Iowa were going to destroy the market” and contribute to inflation, Mr. McCain said this month in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo. “Besides, it is wrong,” he added, to tax Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol, “which is much more efficient than corn ethanol.” Mr. Obama, in contrast, favors the subsidies, some of which end up in the hands of the same oil companies he says should be subjected to a windfall profits tax. In the name of helping the United States build “energy independence,” he also supports the tariff, which some economists say may well be illegal under the World Trade Organization’s rules but which his advisers say is not.
I think it must be obvious by now that Obama is bullshitting somebody... but I'm sure you are sure it isn't you.

This is what Frank Rich wrote two years ago (tip of the hat to RC):
The more important issue is not whether Mr. Obama will seek the presidency, but what kind of candidate he would be. If the Democratic Party is to be more than a throw-out-Bush party, it can’t settle for yet again repackaging its well-worn ideas, however worthy, with a new slogan containing the word “New.” It needs a major infusion of steadfast leadership. That’s the one lesson it should learn from George Bush. Call him arrogant or misguided or foolish, this president has been a leader. He had a controversial agenda — enacting big tax cuts, privatizing Social Security, waging “pre-emptive” war, packing the courts with judges who support his elisions of constitutional rights — and he didn’t fudge it. He didn’t care if half the country despised him along the way.(...) The Democrats may well win on Election Day this year. But one of their best hopes for long-term viability in the post-Bush era is that Barack Obama steps up and changes the party before the party of terminal timidity and equivocation changes him.
I guess Rich's question is settled by now. DS

Sunday, June 22, 2008

In the words of our beloved leader, "fool me once..."

"He made a cut-throat political calculation seem like Mother Teresa’s final steps to sainthood."
David Brooks - NYT

David Seaton's News Links

In what seems to me by now another lifetime, I used to be a painter.

I took it very seriously and worked hard at it during what most people (not I) would consider the "best years" of my life.

Was bleibt? What is left of all of that?

It gave me some interesting ways of attacking problems that most other people in my line of work don't share.

I think one of the most important is a superstitious respect for intuitive flashes that come while staring fixedly at something.

Quoting from memory, I seem to recall the great documentary film maker Robert Flaherty telling of an Eskimo ivory carver caressing a walrus tusk, testing its weight, staring fixedly at it and muttering over and over, "Who are you? Who are you? Who are you?" until he saw within the virgin tusk the figure that was "begging" to come out... and then and only then, would the carver begin to cut the ivory.

George Soro's son says that his father knows when to make one of his legendary speculations, where he risks millions of dollars, when his back begins to ache horribly (boys and girls, don't try this at home).

When you paint, you learn to respect what your subconscious regurgitates when you focus on something with total intensity.

In the end the intuition of the intense observer is his or her best guide through information as thick and swarming and noisy as houseflies in a cow barn.

As my readers surely are aware of by now, I have been decrying Barack Obama for months now, ever since my "bullshit meter" started to go off the dial. Since then I have often felt a bit of a voice crying out in the wilderness.

Even when Obama, in violation of all the UN resolutions and international law, sold the Palestinian people down the river on Jerusalem, nobody, except the rest of the whole world seemed to notice.

But, I am finally beginning to see the wisdom of the endless American presidential campaigns as my "who are you? who are you?" intuitions are beginning to be confirmed by hard facts... domestic hard facts.
Democratic Senator Barack Obama's decision not to accept public funds for his presidential campaign puts the financing system at risk, said Senator Joe Biden, an Obama supporter.

``In terms of undermining the public financing idea for everyone'' the decision ``doesn't help,'' Biden, a Delaware Democrat, said today on NBC's ``Meet the Press'' program. ``It's going to be harder to make the case'' for public financing, he said. (...)Senator Lindsey Graham, a McCain supporter appearing on the same program with Biden, said Obama ``is reinforcing everything that's wrong with politics.''
And of course
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today announced his support for a sweeping intelligence surveillance law that has been heavily denounced by the liberal activists who have fueled the financial engines of his presidential campaign.

In his most substantive break with the Democratic Party's base since becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama declared he will support the bill when it comes to a Senate vote, likely next week, despite misgivings about legal provisions for telecommunications corporations that cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program of suspected terrorists.(...)This marks something of a reversal of Obama's position from an earlier version of the bill, which was approved by the Senate Feb. 12, when Obama was locked in a fight for the Democratic nomination with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Obama missed the February vote on that FISA bill as he campaigned in the "Potomac Primaries," but issued a statement that day declaring "I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty." Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) continue to oppose the new legislation, as does Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). All Obama backers in the primary
All this time, while I am doing my "who are you? who are you? routine, something was at the back of brain, something that if I could just get hold of it, that would explain my entire, intuitive take on Barack Obama. I couldn't get to it... a film... a scene from a film, but I couldn't remember the film. It would come to the front of my mind and disappear...

... and then suddenly it came to me this morning.

It is a scene from Terry Gilliam's little 1981 masterpiece, "The Time Bandits".

The "Robin Hood" scene.

Watch it. DS

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama and the ghost of W.C. Fields

"You can't cheat an honest man; never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump." W.C. Fields

"There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation."
W.C. Fields
David Seaton's News Links
RC, a long time, loyal reader of News Links, sent me an article from The Atlantic that says quickly, fluently and smoothly, what I have long been trying to say with my stuttering tropisms.

Here is a resume of the article:
Barack Obama has brought glamour back to American politics (...) Audiences project onto him the personal qualities and political positions they want in a president. They look at Obama and see their hopes and dreams.(...) Obama’s glamour gives him a powerful political advantage. But it also poses special problems for the candidate and, if he succeeds, for the country.(...) Supporters project onto him the identity they long for in a president. He seems to embody racial harmony and international understanding. Some enthusiasts suggest that Obama’s name and face alone could be enough to calm America’s adversaries and restore the American dream. His glamour explains a campaign paradox: how a man who wrote a race-conscious coming-of-age memoir about his search for a black identity could be touted as a “post-racial” candidate.(...) Obama’s glamour also accounts for some of his campaign’s other stumbles. Plenty of candidates attract supporters who disagree with them on some issues. Obama is unusual, however. He attracts supporters who not only disagree with his stated positions but assume he does too. They project their own views onto him and figure he is just saying what other, less discerning voters want to hear.(...) Unlike Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, the two glamorous presidents who shaped 20th-century American politics, Obama has left his political philosophy a mystery. His call for “a broad majority of Americans—Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill—who are re-engaged in the project of national renewal” is not a statement of principles. It’s an invitation to the audience to entertain their own fantasies of what national renewal would look like.(...) His glamour makes it easy to imagine that a President Obama would dissolve differences, abolish hard choices, and achieve political consensus—or that he’s a stealth candidate who will translate his vague platform into a mandate for whatever policies you the voter happen to support.(...) To rely on illusions is to risk disillusionment. If Obama the dream candidate becomes Obama the real president, he’ll be forced to pick sides, make compromises, and turn “hope” and “change” into policies some people like and some people don’t. Or, like the movie star governor of California, he might choose instead to preserve his glamour by letting others set the agenda. Either way, his face won’t make America’s worries disappear, and his cool, polite manner won’t eliminate political disagreements. Some of his supporters will feel disappointed, even betrayed. The result could be a backlash, heightened partisan conflict, and a failed presidency. George W. Bush ran as a uniter, and Jimmy Carter promised national renewal.
I really can't blame Obama for using his talents to his own advantage, for letting people project their fantasies, with their sidereal distance from reality, on him or for his assuming that everything will all be "alright on the night".

I think that in the best traditions of the republic, he is simply applying on a massive scale, the wise words of W.C. Fields that top this page. DS

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Huckabee speaks... about Obama

``Don't underestimate the extraordinary, substantive moment that Barack Obama's nomination represents in our country.'' Mike Huckabee
David Seaton's News Links
Many long time News Links readers will remember my interest in the former governor of Arkansas, the "give Hope another chance" man, the right Reverend Mike Huckabee

I have to confess that of all the candidates I have seen this year, the one whose natural talent impresses me most is Mike Huckabee.

I find him by far the smartest, all round politician of the lot. A southern populist without being racist, a social conservative with more nuances than a Japanese trying to say no.

After the color of Obama's skin, I find Huckabee's ways the most original
political cross dressing in contemporary US politics.

Here is
this from Bloomberg.
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee warned members of his party that any attempt to undermine presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama by ``demonizing'' him would backfire.

``The Republicans will make a fundamental, if not fatal mistake, if they seek to win the election by demonizing Barrack Obama,'' Huckabee told reporters in Tokyo. ``Don't underestimate the extraordinary, substantive moment that Barack Obama's nomination represents in our country.''
How many Republicans do you know, beginning with Karl Rove, who could say that, or even think that?

Republicans certainly don't feel very comfortable with Huckabee, because he is a populist. And it was Huckabee that took the wind out of Romney, who was by far the favorite of the GOP establishment.

Huckabee is a master politician, he knocked Mitt Romney, who spent millions out the race, and did it on a shoestring.

He probably won't be McCain's choice for veep, at this point I think that Mayor Bloomberg (and his money) are what McCain needs most.

For some Michael Huckabee is a joke.

Many disqualify Huckabee for serious consideration because he doesn't believe in evolution.

As to evolution, if the Democrats want to win southern white people or even a lot of evangelical black people, they had better not put evolution at the center of their program, More than religious, this is a cultural thing. Poor people never have liked Darwinism very much... think about it. What does "survival of the fittest" hold for them? What is their role in "the devil take the hindmost"? Jesus offers a far better deal.

Religion and populism go hand in hand. "Religion is the opium of the people" in the same sense that "opium is the opium of the cancer patient". At issue is pain, if you propose no real cure for the disease, why begrudge the palliative drug?

Don't, repeat don't, write Mike Huckabee off,
if the economic crisis deepens and widens, he is going to make his presence heavily felt. DS

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What exactly makes a horse race?

David Seaton's News Links
The "photo finish" above expresses all the excitement of horse racing. One horse is beating another by "a nose".

This excitement generates cash.

A tight race, with an exciting finish that brings the fans to their feet is what horse racing is all about.

The excitement and the doubt about which horse is going to win stimulates betting and fills the race course with regular, paying customers.

For those who organize horse races a photo finish like the one above is the preferred result in every single race. If the results of horse races were preordained, no one would ever broadcast them and no one would ever write about them in the newspapers. Therefore preordained horse race winners would generate no advertising revenues.

Since, unavoidably, some horses are much faster than others, something must be done to "even the odds": a horse racing term if ever there was one.

The track official in charge of doing this is called the "handicapper" and his profession is called "handicapping".

Many readers may have only heard the term, "handicapped" as the politically incorrect version of "physically challenged", the politically correct version takes longer to say, but actually means the same thing as the incorrect version.

In the handicapper's ideal race all the horses would cross the finish line at exactly the same time. To make this happen he "physically challenges" or "handicaps" them by putting lead weights in the faster horses's saddles to make them run more slowly. This is why you see pictures of the tiny jockeys being weighed along with their saddles before the race; to ensure that the total weight that was calculated by the official handicapper is what finally goes on the horse at the starting gate.

The prospective wagerer out to "have a flutter", seeing the handicappers handiwork thinks, "'Flying Dog Food' is by far the best horse today, he's won every race he's ever been entered in, but he's never carried this much weight before and besides, last night it rained and the track will be slow" and thus the punter takes more interest in the race... and maybe bets against 'Flying Dog Food". More action and more commissions for the bookies, excitement, photo finishes, money... Horse racing.

Which brings us to the coming election.

Professor Immanuel Wallerstein encapsulates most, if not all, of the present commentary when he writes:
Barack Obama(...) is going to sweep the elections with a large majority of the Electoral College and a considerable increase in Democratic strength in both houses of the Congress. (...) If one analyzes the situation in detail, state by state, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 in which McCain seems to be competitive today is Michigan. The states that Bush won in 2004 in which Obama is competitive are numerous - Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, and maybe Nevada, North Carolina, and Montana. He's even doing well enough in Mississippi that Republicans will have to invest money and time campaigning there. If Obama won all the competitive states except Michigan, he'd have 310-333 electoral votes. He needs 270.
Not much of a race at this point, is it? All over but the shouting, don't you think? Wake me up when it's over, no?

If you compare the present race between Obama and McCain to Obama and Hillary's battle to the wire, or even McCain's home stretch gallop out of the crowded Republican pack, it all looks pretty boring, doesn't it? ... And it's only June! Finished before it began.

Think of how many people were glued to their TVs as Hillary battled on, how many advertisements those people had to sit through to hear all the pundit's expert drivel... The Obama vs. McCain race is not going to sell much stuff is it?

A real money loser, something that the media have to cover, but nobody much wants to watch.

Think how much more money everybody concerned would make if the two candidates raced neck and neck, through the summer and into the fall.

This race is begging to be handicapped.

A photo finish is the desired result. A cliff hanger all the way down to the wire with everybody glued to their TV sets till the break of dawn on election night... sitting through all those ads.

Remember, in handicapping, the fastest horse has to carry the heaviest weights.

Barack Obama has peaked way too soon. His superiority is beginning to bore. It looks more like a coronation than a race.

Or more like Jesus'
Palm Sunday ride into Jerusalem on a donkey than the Kentucky Derby.

Without any particular malice aforethought the media is going to begin to pick Obama's story apart, just to keep the public's attention from drifting off. They really have nothing better to do.

They have to make a new story out of this.

In the next weeks we are going to see if Obama has what horse racing fans call "heart" or "class".

Monday, June 16, 2008

No world for old men... or young ones either

A lesson in how dangerous problems should be handled
David Seaton's News Links
It's time to take off from Obama baiting and rolling in the dust with his supporters and talk about something of real importance.

We earthlings are at present facing the sort of conjunction of intersecting disasters that America's war fighters colorfully call a "cluster fuck" and which William Butler Yeats more poetically described in his famous, "The Second Coming".
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned

Whoever takes the US presidency next January is going to be facing a world which we little understand and less control... and neither will he.

As Professor Immanuel Wallerstein writes about a more than probable Obama victory:
His election will mark - mark, not cause - the end of the counterrevolution of the world right of the 1980s. He has rekindled hope, and created space for a more progressive world. But this space is structurally cramped by the constraints of an ever more anarchic world-system. The basic question is not whether he will transform the world and/or restore U.S. leadership in the world-system - he will do neither - but whether he will do as much as it is possible to do in allowing us all to push our way forward. Even if this is less than the world might wish he could do.
I don't think that either the creaky, cranky Senator McCain, or even the winsome Senator Obama, the "latte Lincoln," or "macchiato Mussolini" is really up to the job, but perhaps no one is. Things will be exploding before, during and after the US elections and the Inauguration ceremony.

Let us look at just one coming disaster that would change the world we live in almost beyond recognition: hunger driven "regime change" in Egypt.

Today I'm clipping a piece by Thomas Friedman from Sunday's NYT.

I'm not a huge fan of Friedman's ... (massive understatement) ... but he is a guru for many and he gets around a lot and talks to a lot of people, tardo-capitalism's cheerful chipmunk, a cheerleader for globalization. It is important that precisely Thomas Friedman and not Naomi Klein or Noam Chomsky is writing the following:
The current global energy-food crisis is, understandably, a pocketbook issue in America. But when you come to Egypt, you see how, in a society where so many more people live close to the edge, food and fuel prices could become enormously destabilizing. If these prices keep soaring, food and fuel could reshape politics around the developing world as much as nationalism or Communism did in their days.
Here it is essential to remember that Egypt is the most populated and culturally most the important country in the Middle East. It is also the home of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is potentially the most revolutionary, even more than Iran: if Egypt ever destabilizes, then poof, there goes the Middle East.
For Egypt’s poor, who make up 40 percent of the population, food makes up 60 percent of their household budget. When wheat prices double, because more U.S. farmers plant corn for biofuels, it is devastating for Egyptians, who depend on imported American wheat for their pita bread. Bread riots are now a daily occurrence here.
I said, "poof". What goes "poof" first? The Camp David Accords. Here is how Wikipedia describes their significance:
The agreement also resulted in the United States committing to several billion dollars worth of annual subsidies to the governments of both Israel and Egypt, subsidies which continue to this day, and are given as a mixture of grants and aid packages committed to purchasing U.S. materiel. From 1979 (the year of the peace agreement) to 1997, Egypt received $1.3 billion annually, which also helped modernize the Egyptian military, turning it into the largest in the Middle East. Soviet-supplied until 1979, Egypt now received American weaponry such as the M1A1 Abrams Tank, AH-64 Apache gunship and the F-16 fighter jet. In comparison, Israel has received $3 billion annually since 1985 in grants and military aid packages.(....) The time that has elapsed since the Camp David Accords has left no doubt as to their enormous ramifications on Middle Eastern politics. Most notably, the perception of Egypt within the Arab world changed. With the most powerful of the Arab militaries and a history of leadership in the Arab world under Nasser, Egypt had more leverage than any of the other Arab states to advance Arab interests. Sadat's alacrity at concluding a peace treaty without demanding greater concessions for Israeli recognition of the Palestinians' right to self-determination incited enough hatred in the Arab world to bring about Sadat's assassination in 1981. Egypt was also suspended from the Arab League from 1979 until 1989. The Camp David Accords also prompted the disintegration of a united Arab front in opposition to Israel. Egypt's realignment created a power vacuum that Saddam Hussein of Iraq, at one time only a secondary power, hoped to fill. Because of the vague language concerning the implementation of Resolution 242, the Palestinian problem became the primary issue in the Arab-Israeli conflict immediately following the Camp David Accords (and arguably, until today). Many of the Arab nations blamed Egypt for not putting enough pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinian problem in a way that would be satisfactory to them.
Neutralizing Egypt was probably the greatest triumph of American diplomacy since the Marshall Plan and will ensure that history grants Jimmy Carter much more admiration than his contemporaries ever have.

Not much has been heard from the Egyptians since then (that was the whole idea) and those readers who have no memory of Gamal Abdel Nasser may think I am exaggerating Egypt's keystone quality in the Arab and Muslim world. Rest assured I am not.

An Islamic Egypt in these times would electrify the entire Muslim world... The entire world.

Friedman continues to describe the situation that is developing:
What’s happening is that the basic bargain between the Egyptian regime and its people — which said, “We will guarantee you cheap food, a job, education and health care, and you will stay out of politics” — is fraying. Even with the growth of the last three years, government subsidies and wages can’t keep up with today’s food and fuel price rises. The only part of the bargain that’s left is: “and you will stay out of politics.”
Fuel and food, fuel and food... and the gap between the few and the many, the rich and the poor... more Friedman:
From Shubra we drive into the desert toward Alexandria. The highway is full of cars. How can all these Egyptians afford to be driving, I wonder? Answer: The government will spend almost $11 billion this year to subsidize gasoline and cooking fuel; gas here is only about $1.30 a gallon. Sounds like a good deal for the poor — only the poor have no cars, and the fuel subsidies mean less money for mass transit. Think about these numbers: This year Egypt will spend $6 billion on education and $3 billion on health care, far less than the subsidies for fuel. This is a terrible trap. The subsidies should have been phased out when food and fuel prices were lower. Now that they have soared, the pain of removing the subsidies would be politically suicidal. So education and health care get killed instead.
Now, if I ever saw a recipe for an Islamic revolution, that is it.

Egypt is a much more technologically advanced country than Iran and I have been told they could have an atomic bomb in the twinkling of an eye.

And if I ever saw the recipe for a general war in the Middle East that could collapse the world economy, that is it.

It might be that most of America's troubles stem from trying to control and to dominate forces that are too powerful and too chaotic to be controlled. Instead of steering a course through the debris, disaster is multiplied by trying clumsily to "take the bull by the horns", instead of caping the bull artfully... Too many irons in too many fires, too many cooks, too many broths. DS

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Si non è vero

Scene from a capea
David Seaton's News Links
The other day I posted a version of my News Links post, "The Sword of Damocles" over at TPMCafe. "The Sword of Damocles" was a speculation about the famous/infamous, true/false, existent/inexistent, Michelle "tape/dvd".

I was gratified by the tremendous response I received. The TPM forum is a unique opportunity to take the pulse of any issue and anyone who earns his bread and cheese in political speculation has to be grateful for the opportunity.

That said, I really had to dodge the flung dung.

They called me everything but pretty.

I am pleased to share with my readers some of the choicest stuff that that was tossed my way over the "Sword" and a follow up post to it, which I'll reprise below. Enjoy.
God, Seaton, you're a fucking idiot. I NEVER call people that.

From one Obama supporter: Fuck off!

I've suspected for quite a while that you're an intellectually dishonest jackass.

This crap is just wacky with no entertainment value. Except for the freakshow.

Toss him a chicken, see what he does with it.

Seaton, I don't wish to put too fine a point on it but you, sir, are a fool.

David, you are a weasel, and either phony or demented.

Are there any DVD/Videos rumored to be out there which reveal that David Seaton is a convicted pedophile, who can not return to the USA.
So much for the "new politics".

If you are a friend, please don't be upset by any of this, I'm certainly not. "Sticks and stones," as we used to chant as tots. The Obamites haven't gotten to sticks and stones yet... but, only time will tell.

In fact, the above abuse is music to my ears. It means that my probing has connected solidly with an exposed nerve and that a fruitful path of investigation has been revealed to me.

In fact, the reaction I received to my post convinces me more than anything else that there is something to this rumor.

Or perhaps I should say that it proves that there is a tremendous fear among Obamites that there is something out there of equal caliber and destructiveness.

There is a famous Italian saying about certain rumors; "Si non e vero, e ben trovato", it means: if it isn't true, it's well made up. It sounds true because it is made up of many elements that are probable in themselves.

For example if we were going to invent scurrilous rumors about John McCain, we would probably invent things like his having incipient Alzheimer or wearing diapers. Because of his great age, some people might believe it.

However, if we spread it about that he was a shoe fetishist or a child molester or that he took drugs, or often missed his naps, very few would find that credible, again because of his great age.

I really can't imagine either McCain or his supporters mobilizing masses of people to refute any of these inventions, either the credible or the incredible.

In the case of Michelle Obama, this tape rumor is either true or it isn't.... and if it isn't, it will die a natural death, certainly long before November.

However, the hysterical reaction of the Obama campaign and the Obamites in general makes me smell a rat. It proves that as Maureen Dowd writes in the NYT.
“Michelle,” as one political observer puts it, “is a target-rich environment.”
The Obamite reaction will certainly prove to the Rovian, neo-Swiftboaters that they are close to pay dirt.

To anyone with insight, I think it is perfectly obvious that Barack Obama is Hawaii's answer to Tony Blair... a phony: a faux-progressive manipulator. I am sure that Obama's role models are Blair and Reagan... passed through Dick Daley.

The way Barack Obama needlessly sold out the Palestinians the other day at AIPAC proves to me that he'll do the same on health or anything else. He makes John Kerry's "flip flopping" look Gibraltar-like in its steadiness. Except for bare faced Blairian spin, like his race speech, I have yet to see even one moment of genuine political courage in his entire career.

Every day as the campaign intensifies more people are going to be catching on to this and as sympathetic (dog like?) as the media has been up till now in their treatment of Obama, some will be tempted to hold his feet to the fire and obviously the Obama campaign wants to intimidate them. The Spanish call this "curing yourself in health" or "applying a bandage before you are cut".

Noemi Klein writes in the Guardian:
Barack Obama waited just three days after Hillary Clinton pulled out of the race to declare, on CNBC: "Look. I am a pro-growth, free-market guy. I love the market." Demonstrating that this is no mere spring fling, he has appointed the 37-year-old Jason Furman, one of Wal-Mart's most prominent defenders, to head his economic team. On the campaign trail, Obama blasted Clinton for sitting on the Wal-Mart board and pledged: "I won't shop there." For Furman, however, Wal-Mart's critics are the real threat: the "efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits" are creating "collateral damage" that is "way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy ... for me to sit by idly and sing Kum Ba Ya in the interests of progressive harmony".
She was immediately brought to book by an Obamite calling him/herself, "Watching You", citing chapter and verse of "The Audacity of Hope" and warning Ms. Klein to "be careful".

I'm beginning to wish Obama does win, just for the fun I'll have taking the piss out of his starry eyed supporters as he triangulates the conservatives on every issue in true, Clinton (Bill)/Blair fashion and slows down and dilutes every transformational initiative from the left of the Democratic Congress and Senate.

I am beginning to think that I might have as much fun with Obama as I have had with Bush.

If McCain wins, I know I will disagree with him most of the time, but I don't think I'll feel the sort of contempt I feel for Bush or Blair... or Obama.

Back to the rumorology and its effect on the election.

This election is about Barack Obama. How he wins it or how he loses it.

In a certain sense McCain is an "innocent" bystander.

The center of my thesis is that while McCain can't "win", Obama can lose it and the weakest link he has is his wife Michelle. That is because she is a real person, with real opinions, who has spoken her mind without calculating the effect her words might have years later on her husband's fortunes.

She is also a person who belongs to what, in the United States at least, might be called the left.... and the USA is a solidly right wing country by world standards.

With much media complicity, Obama has been able to distance himself from embarrassing associations... up till now. Obama can throw Wright, Trinity, Johnson or the Palestinian people under the bus, but if he tries to throw Michelle Robinson under the bus, she'll cut his effing heart out.

As to the rumor itself... there is one detail that is either true, or the work of master rumor monger: that is the bit about Michelle's denouncing Bill Clinton's inaction on the Rwanda genocide. That is a story that surfaced a couple of months before her supposed speech to the Rainbow/Push conference in 2004 and which quickly dropped out of the public eye, it is a political junky's collector's item, it is certainly something too old and too obscure for a crude forger to either understand or use today. DS

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Sword of Damocles

David Seaton's News Links
I was surprised that Maureen Dowd, of all people, led me to a encyclopedic page of virulently anti-Obama material. Was this advance damage control or just subtly presented, advance damage? Who knows.

The Internet, as I'm sure you all know by now, is buzzing with rumors
of the famous Michelle Obama, "whitey" tape, of which the link of Maureen Dowd's provides this description:
For about 30 minutes, Michelle Obama launched into a rant about the evils of America, and how America is to blame for the problems of Africa. Michelle personally blamed President Clinton for the deaths of millions of Africans and said America is responsible for the genocide of the Tutsis and other ethnic groups. She then launched into an attack on "whitey", and talked about solutions to black on black crime in the realm of diverting those actions onto white America. Her rant was fueled by the crowd: they reacted strongly to what she said, so she got more passionate and enraged, and that's when she completely loses it and says things that have made the mouths drop of everyone who's seen this.

The "tape" is a DVD that Trinity United sold on its website, and possibly offered free for download up until March 2008 when Trinity's site was scrubbed and the DVDs were no longer offered for sale.
The first question is, does the "tape" actually exist?

I would imagine it does, because, strictly as a rumor, this thing would have very short legs. It certainly wouldn't affect the election if the tape never appeared.

There is a certain plausibility in Obamfile's version, if you situate yourself in July 2004, at a conference of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow/Push Coalition, when according to Obamafile, all this is supposed to have happened, then some of the things she is accusing Bill Clinton of are quite reasonable and part of progressive discourse at that time.

For example, it is true that Bill Clinton never moved a finger to stop the massacres in Rwanda.
The information became known in April of 2004, and quite a few well informed black people... and not so black people, rebuked him bitterly for it.

However if the rest of what the website says is true and the tape exists, when and if it is released, then that will be the end of Barack Obama's campaign.
It will all be over but the shouting.

I think the United States is certainly ready to elect an African-American, Obama's success to date proves that, but probably they are not prepared to elect one who appears to be of the radical left to boot.

And if, as the website Maureen Dowd links to says,
Her rant was fueled by the crowd: they reacted strongly to what she said, so she got more passionate and enraged, and that's when she completely loses it and says things that have made the mouths drop of everyone who's seen this.
Then middle-America will have nightmare visions of Obama's Inaugural Ball... and frankly, I don't think middle-America is ready for that yet.

Middle-America has up till now been enchanted with someone who seems to them to combine the gravitas of Colin Powell and the unthreatening charm of Will Smith, with just a dash added of Doctor King's noble rhetoric and delivery. In short someone who embodies all that white America loves in black America and none of the things they fear and loathe. Catharsis. We all live happily ever after.

That the Obama camp is taking so seriously what is only at the moment a rumor, (and a rumor that will fade and die harmlessly if no tape, in fact, exists) then it would appear that the tape's release is imminent. (For what imminent release means, see below.) Otherwise they are only giving body to baseless calumny. Some of what they are planning to do is frankly a little sinister. According to Time:
Obama is enlisting his millions of supporters to help him hunt down and quash these stories, just as those supporters helped him turn his insurgent campaign into a history-making juggernaut.
How exactly are these "millions of supporters" going to "hunt down" and "quash"? Are we talking about out and out intimidation?

Time continues:
Near each rumor will be a fight-back button, offering suggestions as to where and how Obama supporters can call or e-mail to counter the rumors. The site will also have a spot where Obama supporters can alert the campaign to any new rumors they may be seeing on the Web or in their mailboxes or hearing on the telephone.
I think the "fight-back button" is a huge mistake, this is a Skinneristic wet dream for every electronic prankster in America. This would be like an electronic version of a village bullfight, called a capea in Spain, (what they call in South America, a pachanga), with all the local boys risking their lives to lure the bull.

Assuming the tape exists, who are "they" and when would "they" release the tape?

I see four possibilities:
  • Hillary: If she has it, she'll find someone to release it in time for the super-delegates to change their minds with decorum. If the tape appears very soon, shedunnit.
  • McCain: If he has it, he'll release it in the fall, probably the classic "October Surprise". In time for the voters to see it and digest it, but not early enough for Obama to make a Checkers Speech.
  • Reverend Wright: If as they say, the tape was in the Trinity Church catalog, Wright will have some copies lying around for sure. He has access and motive. If he releases it, he'll will do it either right before or during the Democratic convention. So that all hell breaks loose and he can sit back and laugh and laugh as those super-delegates tie themselves into knots.
  • Some fifteen year old kid will launch it from his bedroom computer to impress his friends... Any time he and they get bored. Thus is history written.
As I said, either the tape exists or it doesn't... If it doesn't, the rumor itself won't hurt Obama because, as they say in Spanish, "what doesn't kill you makes you fat". DS

BTW: Now even Muammar Qaddafi is getting into the act. Here is this from the BBC website:
"The statements of our Kenyan brother of American nationality Obama on Jerusalem... show that he either ignores international politics and did not study the Middle East conflict or that it is a campaign lie," he said.

"We fear that Obama will feel that, because he is black with an inferiority complex, this will make him behave worse than the whites."

"This will be a tragedy," Qaddafi said. "We tell him to be proud of himself as a black and feel that all Africa is behind him."
How is that for perverse? Qaddafi has strange taste in clothes for sure, but he is very shrewd and I am sure he knows how his remarks will play on Fox. DS

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bush the Transfomer

(Obama) will have to embrace our national sense of uniqueness and give voice to what Ronald Reagan said of us: “You can call it mysticism if you want to, but I have always believed that there was some divine plan that placed this great continent between two oceans to be sought out by those who were possessed of an abiding love of freedom and a special kind of courage.” Dick Morris

What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. Andrew Sullivan

Magical thinking is a common phase in child development. From the age of a toddler to early school age children will often link the outside world with their internal consciousness, e.g. "It is raining because I am sad".(...) Another form of magical thinking occurs when people believe that words can directly affect the world. This can mean avoiding talking about certain subjects ("speak of the devil and he'll appear"), using euphemisms instead of certain words, or believing that to know the "true name" of something gives one power over it, or that certain chants, prayers or mystical phrases will change things. More generally, it is magical thinking to take a symbol to be its referent. Wikipedia
David Seaton's News Links
For a people once known for their practical, empirical approach to problem solving, today's Americans seem eager to take comfort in evading reality. Eight years of Bush have done great damage to America's inflated image of itself... but probably not enough damage for our own good.

That's why I think it's a shame that Bush can't be president for a least eight years more. In the same way that forty years of Franco's rule was the bitter aversion therapy that finally produced the peaceful, tolerant moderate, open, liberal Spain of today... in a land that had made the word "inquisition" famous; so the Bush years seem to have planted some seeds that, properly nurtured, might actually produce a lucid, practical, American left.

But, alas, I'm afraid that the temptation to continued self-hypnosis may be too great for Americans to resist. DS