Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Cross posted from The Albany Project

As threatened last week, Liberty Elections Systems, the American name for NEDAP, a Dutch company whose machines have already been decertified in their home Netherlands, has filed suit against the New York State Board of Elections for their rejection last week of Liberty's DRE.

From the Capital Confidential blog (ya, it's back up after getting swamped yesterday):


After 2 hours and 45 minutes of oral argument Monday evening, Albany Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O’Connor denied Liberty’s application for a temporary restraining order to compel the NYSBOE to include Liberty on the list of approved ballot marking devices for selection by the county boards of elections.

Justice O’Connor has scheduled a hearing on Liberty’s Article 78 proceeding (the New York procedure for a writ of mandamus) which challenges the State Board of Elections’ determination for 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 31.


Bo Lipari explains:

The Board's denial of approval was based on the Liberty DREs inability to meet the requirements of Section 7-202(1)(e) of New York State law which states that systems approved by the state board must: "provide the voter an opportunity to privately and independently verify votes selected and the ability to privately and independently change such votes or correct any error before the ballot is cast and counted." As a member of New York's Citizen Advisory Committee, I evaluated the Liberty DRE along with other systems. It's clear to me that the State Board was correct in denying approval to the DRE because it's verification mechanism was completely unusable by voters with disabilities.


Stay tuned for further developments. I would expect the Article 78 request to be denied but you never know.

Friday, January 25, 2008

THIEF!

Harper's Magazine features a great story about President George W. Bush and his favorite painting.

The Slipper Tongue

The painting is called "A Charge to Keep," and President Bush is so inspired by it that he has taken the painting’s name for his own official autobiography, saying:

I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves.


This is simply all too precious. The piece arrived in my in-box this morning as I was preparing to write the following bit of Taoist wisdom:


Cracking the Safe

For security against robbers who snatch purses, rifle luggage, and crack safes,
One must fasten all property with ropes, lock it up with locks, bolt it with bolts.
This (for property owners) is elementary good sense.
But when a strong thief comes along he picks up the whole lot,
Puts it on his back, and goes on his way with only one fear:
That ropes, locks, and bolts may give way.
Thus what the world calls good business is only a way
To gather up the loot, pack it, make it secure
In one convenient load for the more enterprising thieves.
Who is there, among those called smart,
Who does not spend his time amassing loot
For a bigger robber than himself?

In the land of Khi, from village to village,
You could hear cocks crowing, dogs barking.
Fishermen cast their nets,
Ploughmen ploughed the wide fields,
Everything was neatly marked out
By boundary lines. For five hundred square miles
There were temples for ancestors, alters
For field-gods and corn-spirits.
Every canton, county, and district
Was run according to the laws and statutes-
Until one morning the Attorney General, Tien Khang Tzu,
Did away with the King and took over the whole state.

Was he content to steal the land? No,
He also took over the laws and statutes at the same time,
And all the lawyers with them, not to mention the police.
They all formed part of the same package.

Of course, people called Khang Tzu a robber,
But they left him alone
To live as happy as the Patriarchs.
No small state would say a word against him,
No large state would make a move in his direction,
So for twelve generations the state of Khi
Belonged to his family. No one interfered
With his inalienable rights.

The invention
Of weights and measures
Makes robbery easier.
Signing contracts, settings seals,
Makes robbery more sure.
Teaching love and duty
Provides a fitting language
With which to prove that robbery
Is really for the general good.
A poor man must swing
For stealing a belt buckle
But if a rich man steals a whole state
He is acclaimed
As statesman of the year.

Hence if you want to hear the very best speeches
On love, duty, justice, etc.,
Listen to statesmen.

But when the creek dries up
Nothing grows in the valley.
When the mound is leveled
The hollow next to it is filled.
And when the statesmen and lawyers
And preachers of duty disappear
There are no more robberies either
And the world is at peace.

Moral: the more you pile up ethical principles
And duties and obligations
To bring everyone in line
The more you gather loot
For a thief like Khang
By ethical argument
And moral principle
The greatest crimes are eventually shown
To have been necessary, and, in fact,
A signal benefit
To mankind.

-The Way of Chuang Tzu - Thomas Merton


As it turns out Slate's Jacob Weisberg did a little research on the art work for his forthcoming book The Bush Tragedy:

[Bush] came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: "Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught."


I'm not sure there is anything left to be said.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

NYS BOE Selects Voting Machines

Cross posted from The Albany Project

The Times Unions Capital Confidential blog is reporting that the State Board of Elections has agreed on three optical scan compatible machines as acceptable machines for the various county boards of election to select from.


BOE has chosen its voting machines…
January 24, 2008 at 11:30 am by Irene Jay Liu
…and the winners are:

Sequoia Imagecast, Premier Automark with modification requested by the Republicans, the ES&S Automark with modification requested by the Republicans.

All three machines are optical scan machines, none of them are DREs.

Counties must choose their machines by Feb. 8. In a funny twist of irony, if the counties do not choose by that deadline, then the state BOE will attempt to mediate between the two party commissioners to make a decision.

To be clear, this is the list of the approved vendors. Each county will be able to choose the machine they want from the approved list.


How this agreement came about after the debacle yesterday is unknown at this time.

The Times Unions report can be read here.

Bo Lipari of New Yorkers for Verified Voting reports on his observation of yesterdays events at the State Board of Elections on his blog.

Protecting vendors, not voters

"As I sit here, I’m embarrassed. I’m 56 years old, I have been a New Yorker for 56 years, and I’m embarrassed on behalf of the State of New York. I write these words tonight and they come from my heart, but I am not the first to say them. Today they come from me because I witnessed an appalling display of how willing are some in the State Board of Elections to represent the interests of DRE vendors, even when this directly conflicts with the interests of voters and the requirements of state law…"


Read the rest here....

For his reviews of the various machines submitted for consideration see this pdf report.

For the problems with the Liberty DRE that the Republicans tried to force on us yesterday see this pdf report.

More information to come but it looks like New York will be a PB/OS, paper ballot/optical scan voting system state.

Great work and huge congratulations to all the activists that have worked so hard the last few years to make this happen. And Thank you to Commissioner Doug Kellner for standing firm yesterday and working to bring this victory about.

This is just preliminary based on the brief entry on the TU blog but it appears that New York will be a paper ballot/optical scan voting state.

UPDATE:

Let me qualify that... I believe that today's decision, which had a court ordered deadline of tomorrow, was in regard to ballot marking devices to made available for this years fall election cycle.

It is not the final decision.

I should make that clear. It is not the final decision. However, a significant amount of money is going to be spent on these ballot marking devices for this years election.

Reversing ground and later purchasing DRE's would (most likely) make this decision and these purchases redundant. In other words they would be deciding to throw these machines and this money away.

The impact of this decision is that it is now highly likely that New York State will later purchase the opscan machines that are compatible with these machines thereby locking New York state into a paper ballot, optical scan voting system.

I'll wait to hear official word from the Board and analysis from Bo but that is my preliminary take on what has just happened.

UPDATE II:
It appears that Liberty and Avanti, two DRE venors rejected by the State Board, will file a lawsuit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chris Dodd on FISA on CSPAN2 now

The debate on FISA has not officially started.

You can catch it on CSPAN2.

Sen. Chris Dodd is taking the floor now on FISA. Official debate to start in the morning.

The baseline bill is the Judiciary version that contains retroactive immunity.

The Intelligence version will be debated and it has stripped retroactive immunity.

It appears there are going to be additional new amendments (and old ones) that will be discussed and voted on.

Ben Cardin (D-Md) spoke earlier.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who sits on both Judiciary and Intelligence committees, has offered an amendment so it will be very interesting to see what sort reconciliation between the version he attempts.

Harry Reid has stated that there will be no "silent filibusters" on this bill or these amendments. In other words, if a minority of 40 wants to block a losing vote then they are going to have to be prepared to do the real thing and talk all night. I gather it also means that majority votes win the day. No requirement for 60 vote margins in order to pass a bill or amendment.

This is not necessarily a good thing for Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Russ Feingold, and the patriots attempting to stop this gutting of the Constitution.

Sen. Dodd released the following statement a short while ago:


"Few things are more detrimental to this country than the erosion of and attack on the civil liberties we enjoy. This isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue; this is an American issue. If after debate, the Senate appears ready to pass legislation granting telecom providers retroactive immunity I will use any and all legislative tools at my disposal, including a filibuster, to prevent this deeply flawed bill from becoming law. More and more, Americans are rejecting the false choice that has come to define this administration: security or liberty, but never, ever both. For all those who have stood with me throughout this fight, I pledge, once more, to stand up for you."


We are waiting for Dodd to come to the floor to speak.

UPDATE:
I've just been informed that Senator Edwards will be on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight.

As he has been receiving pressure to act in regard to FISA and retroactive immunity the implication is that he'll have something to say on the subject.

Republican appointee owned by Liberty

Cross posted from The Albany Project

The Times Unions Capital Confidential is reporting in a series of blogs on today's meeting of the State Board of Elections.

Friday is the deadline for the State to report to the Court/DoJ on selection of ballot marking devices to be made available for this years election.

Newly appointed Republican Commissioner Todd Valentine is holding up the works insisting that an apple be called an orange... um... an apple be called a pc... uh... a DRE be called a ballot marking device. DRE's are not ballot marking devices. They are DRE's.

Democratic Co-Chair Doug Kellner flatly refuses to allow Liberty lobbyist Valentine to stick New York with these faulty machines.

With over 100 citizens and activists in attendance the natives are getting restless as the meeting is being delayed.


It appears that the reason for the hold-up at the BOE meeting is because the Republicans want a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) made by Liberty to be approved.

Democratic appointee Douglas A. Kellner is being pressured to approve the system, but he said “I will not vote for a DRE.”

Voting integrity advocates, including the NY League of Women Voters, have raised deep concerns over the the DRE technology. California State purchased DRE voting machinese with their federal dollars, but discontinued their use after problems surfaced.

Todd Valentine, the newly appointed co-executive director (Republican appointee) offered a deal to Kellner. In short, the Republicans will make quorum for the vote, if Kellner agrees to accept Liberty, according to Kellner.

Kellner declined the offer. He is currently up in his hotel room, waiting until the Republicans are ready to meet.

The Republican board members and staff are currently caucusing in a room adjacent to the main meeting space.


The second Democratic Commissioner, Evelyn J. Aquila, is not in attendance today, as she is recovering from surgery.

Your Liberty Lobbying Dollars at work.

For more background on the issue please see New Yorkers for Verified Voting, Bo Lipari's blog, a letter yesterday to the SBOE from the Brennan Center, and the Brennan Center's blog.

Economists predicted Iraq Recession

Think Progress gives us a flashback to numerous predictions of a prolonged stay in Iraq causing recession at home.

“A war against Iraq could cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars, play havoc with an already depressed domestic economy and tip the world into recession because of the adverse effect on oil prices, inflation and interest rates, an academic study [by William Nordhaus, Sterling professor of economics at Yale University] has warned.” [Independent, 11/16/02]

“If war with Iraq drags on longer than the few weeks or months most are predicting, corporate revenues will be flat for the coming year and will put the U.S. economy at risk of recession, according to a poll of chief financial officers.” [CBS MarketWatch, 3/20/03]

“If the conflict wears on or, worse, spreads, the economic consequences become very serious. Late last year, George Perry at the Brookings Institution ran some simulations and found that after taking into account a reasonable use of oil reserves, a cut in world oil production of just 6.5 percent a year would send the United States and the world into recession.” [Robert Shapiro, former undersecretary of commerce in the Clinton administration, 10/2/02]

“Gerd Häusler, the IMF’s director of international capital markets, said that ‘purely from a financial markets perspective, a serious conflict with Iraq would not be a very healthy development.’ … Häusler said there could be a repeat of what happened in 1990 following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, when there was a sharp rise in oil prices.” [World Bank, 9/02]


To which I'll add one more:
Tao Te Ching #30

Not Making War

A Taoist wouldn't advise a ruler
to use force of arms for conquest;
that tactic backfires.

Where the army marched
grow thorns and thistles.
After the war
come the bad harvests.
Good leaders prosper, that's all,
not presuming on victory.
They prosper without boasting,
or domineering, or arrogance,
prosper because they can't help it,
prosper without violence.

Things flourishm then parish.
Not the Way.
What's not the Way
soon ends.

- Tao Te Ching #30 - Ursula K. LeGuin's rendition

FISA, Immunity, and Leadership

UPDATE: The ACLU has the poll numbers showing widespread support for this issue.

Yesterday I wrote about the phenomenon of faith, idolatry, and leadership.

And while stock market meltdowns dominated the news yesterday the battle over our civil liberties reared it's ugly head again.

Former Presidential Candidate Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut received, rightly, a great deal of praise for his courageous stand against retroactive immunity for the telecom industry during his all too short lived campaign:



He has taken a consistent and strong stand against the abuses of our rights by this administration.

Sen. Dodd showed the leadership that I have been looking for in a Presidential candidate.

Yesterday Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher led the way in calling for Sen. John Edwards to lead he other candidates to water.

Speaking of water... did you know that Sen. Dodd's stand against retroactive immunity led to over a half million dollars in contributions from you and your fellow Americans? Many of whom were new supporters and greatly expanded his contact list?

But I digress....

Following in Glenn and Jane's footsteps were Howie Klein, John Amato, Sadly, NO!, and Jason Rosenbaum.

The ACLU has all the information you'll ever need on the issue, the post-Watergate FISA law itself can be found here, and Working Assets CREDO Action (which has just hired Matt Browner Hamlin late of the Dodd campaign to help with the effort) has a petition calling on the Presidential aspirants to get back to Washington and defend the Constitution.

I've read the original FISA law. It was a well crafted piece of legislation that allowed the executive branch to engage in necessary investigation and espionage while providing oversight and protecting our civil liberties. It really does not require much by way of "fixing" in order to adjust to the "Post 9/11" world. All right wing cries of terror and pant-peeing fear not withstanding.

When did the right wing become such wimps anyhow?

But I digress again....

Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid are afraid of appearing weak, soft on terror. What passes for wisdom in Washington circles is that in order to appear strong and forceful they need to cave to pant-peeing Republicans and their all-time worst President.

Let me see if I've got this right...

Caving in and joining in on the pant-peeing terror is strong.

Standing your ground in defense of The Constitution is weak.

Fear is strong. Standing your ground is weak. Uh....

I don't know if Sen. Edwards is the right person to lead the way back to Washington to join Sen. Dodd (and Sen. Feingold I believe) in defending the Constitution or not. I think that whichever of the three Senators shows the courage it will apparently take to lead the way will be the right one. For me the logic is pretty simple.

If you want to be a leader... show leadership.

If you want to prove to me that you can lead the nation... lead the nation.

As New Yorkers preparing to vote on Feb. 5 in our first meaningful Presidential Primary in ages I think Sen. Clinton should show us how much she wants out vote by leading us where we want her to lead us. I think if Sen. Obama wants to show us why we should vote for him instead of our own Sen. Clinton then he should show us that by leading us where we want him to lead us.

It is up to us to lead our leaders into leadership.

Senator Obama's Senate web page and contact information.

Senator Clinton's Senate web page and contact information.

Senator Edwards Presidential web site and contact form.

Senator Obama's Presidential web site and contact info.

Senator Clinton's Pesidential web site and contact form.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Candidate Wars

[UPDATE:] Pastor Dan has a few things to say on the subject over at Street Prophets. Wander over when you are done reading this offering.[END]

I've just finished reading Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich. Tillich is one of the most prominent theologians of this past century. If you are used to philosophical and theological discussions then this is a good read. If not, then you may find it a bit difficult.

Tillich spends 146 pages defining a very difficult word... faith. He opens...

1. FAITH AS ULTIMATE CONCERN

"Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned: the dynamics of faith are the dynamics of man's ultimate concern. Man, like every living being, is concerned about many things, above all about those which condition his very existence, such as food and shelter. But man, in contrast to other living beings, has spiritual concerns - cognitive, aesthetic, social, political. Some of them are urgent, often extremely urgent, and each of them as well as the vital concerns can claim ultimacy for a human life or the life of a social group. If it claims ultimacy it demands the total surrender of him who accepts this claim, and it promises total fulfillment even if all other claims have to be subjected to it or rejected in its name. If a national group makes the life and growth of the nation its ultimate concern, it demands that all other concerns, economic well-being, health and life, family, aesthetic and cognitive truth, justice and humanity, be sacrificed. The extreme nationalism of our century are laboratories for the study of what ultimate concern means in all aspects of human existence, including the smallest concern of one's daily life. Everything is centered in the only god, the nation - a god who certainly proves to be a demon, but who shows clearly the unconditional character of an ultimate concern.

But it is not only the unconditional demand made by that which is one's ultimate concern, it is also the promise of ultimate fulfillment which is accepted in the act of faith. The content of this promise is not necessarily defined. It can be expressed in indefinite symbols or in concrete symbols which cannot be taken literally, like the "greatness" of one's nation in which one participates even if one has died for it, or the conquest of mankind by the "saving race," etc. In each of these cases it is "ultimate fulfillment" that is promised, and it is exclusion from such fulfillment which is threatened if the unconditional demand is not obeyed."


Everyone has something that is central to their being. Their "ultimate concern." Survival... food, shelter, health, companionship, procreation, etc are certainly concerns of this sort. He defines it further by stating it is a purely human "ultimate concern" of a spiritual nature. The word "spiritual" might get cause us some difficulty in conversation but bear with me (and Tillich).

I often define the word "spiritual" as pertaining to my inner life. The part of me that I cannot share with another no matter what words I use or how hard I try. The inner self in each of us. "Spiritual" like "faith" is loaded with lots of baggage. Let's dispense with the historical baggage and find some common definitions we can use regardless of our own personal beliefs or non-beliefs. And let me add that Tillich is clear in separating the words belief and faith. They are not the same. We can believe in things unseen, unknown, unproven, but faith has nothing to do with that.

Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned.

Spirit is the inner, core self.

So what is the ultimate concern of that inner self? What is the core of being?

He concludes the first section with this...

"Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned. The content matters infinitely for the life of the believer, but it does not matter for the formal definition of faith. And this is the first step we have to make in order to understand the dynamics of faith."


So regardless of what religion we are or aren't there is something at the core of our being, an ultimate concern, that invests and expresses itself in every facet of our lives.

The content is of infinite importance to each of us individually but the understanding that the condition, regardless of the contents, exists for each of us is important to understand as our starting point.


2. FAITH AS A CENTERED ACT

"Faith as ultimate concern is an act of the total personality. It happens in the center of the personal life and includes all its elements. Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. It is not a movement of a special section or a special function of man's total being. They all are united in the act of faith. But faith is not the sum total of their impacts. It transcends every special impact as well as the totality of them and it has itself a decisive impact on each of them."


Faith is the most centered act of the human mind. Even in our confusion, or our delusion, it is there in the center... as the center... of our personal life.

Tillich continues a very logical and systematic progression through what faith is and into what faith is not. From there into how we use symbols as expressions of an ultimate concern that is infinite in nature and therefore cannot be captured and expressed in the finite terms of words.

He is very clear that one of the dangers of a finite existence attempting to center itself on an infinite concern is the common fault of accepting something smaller, something finite and tangible as the infinite, ultimate concern. He calls this idolatrous faith. The replacement of the ultimate with the finite. It is a simple, understandable and common trap we humans fall into in our thinking.


"The more idolatrous a faith the less it is able to overcome the cleavage between subject and object. For that is the difference between true and idolatrous faith. In true faith the ultimate concern is a concern about the truly ultimate; while in idolatrous faith preliminary, finite realities are elevated to the rank of ultimacy. The inescapable consequence of idolatrous faith is "existential disappointment," a disappointment which penetrates into the very existence of man! This is the dynamics of idolatrous faith: that it is faith, and as such, the centered act of a personality; that the centering point is something which is more or less on the periphery; and that, therefore, the act of faith leads to a loss of the center and to a disruption of the personality. The ecstatic character of even an idolatrous faith can hide this consequence only for a certain time. But finally it breaks into the open."


Often these preliminary or finite realities are the very symbols we hold up as examples of the ultimate. The infinite, being too big for our grasp (of understanding, language, and hands), is replaced by the smaller more understandable, and therefore more finite, symbol.


"Religion, as everything in life, stands under the law of ambiguity, "ambiguity" meaning that it is creative and destructive at the same time. Religion has its holiness and its unholiness, and the reason for this is obvious from what has been said about religious symbolism. Religious symbols point symbolically to that which transcends all of them. But since, as symbols, they participate in that to which they point, they always have a tendency (in the human mind, of course) to replace that to which they are supposed to point, and to become ultimate in themselves. And in the moment in which they do this, they become idols. All idolatry is nothing else than the absolutizing of symbols of the Holy, and making them identical with the Holy itself. In this way, for instance, holy persons can become a god. Ritual acts can take on unconditional validity, although they are only expressions of a special situation. In all sacramental activities of religion, in all holy objects, holy books, holy doctrines, holy rites, you find this danger which we will call "demonization." They become demonic at the moment in which they become elevated to the unconditional and ultimate character of the Holy itself."


In Zen Buddhism there is a saying, "The finger that points at the moon is not the moon." Do not confuse the teaching, the symbol, the ritual, the words for the real thing. They point at the real thing and then it is up to us to experience that reality for ourselves leaving that which points behind.

There is another saying that goes, "If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him!"

A more violent way (necessarily violent I think) of saying do not confuse the teacher for the experience of the teaching. Both of these say "Do not make idols out of the finite. Step beyond to the infinite."

One of the reviewers at Amazon.Com had this to say:

"In the first chapter, Tillich introduces one of his key terms - ultimate concern. Faith is the state of being ultimately concerned about something - God - without conditions or reservations. Ultimate concern can be religious or not, and can be misguided (people are tempted into idolatry, according to Tillich, not only by making things such as money, power and fame the objects of ultimate concern, but also by making particular ideas or views of God and religion into inappropriate ultimate concerns). In the second chapter, Tillich explores the ideas of what faith is not - faith is not merely intellectual understanding, emotional bonding, or even an act of will. Faith is rather (going back to the first chapter) an act of total personality - one's whole being is drawn to the ultimate concern."


So what does all this have to do with candidate wars?

One of the examples Tillich used of ultimate concerns other than God was nationalism. A theologian from pre-Hitler Germany, fired by the Nazi's, and then coming to the United States and writing this book at the University of Chicago in 1956, Tillich used known examples of extreme nationalism and the American dream of success.

(he also had a few things to say about fundamentalism and literalists)

We are a politically motivated and driven crowd. Whether our politics are directly our ultimate concern or not does not matter. Whatever our individual faith, our personal ultimate concern, it defines our politics, our views on society, obligation, right, wrong, justice, injustice... and make no mistake it is exactly the same for the other guy.

People... want... to believe.

Particularly after so many hard and desperate years. We want to believe. We want a leader and we want to believe that one of these people will be IT... our leader.

Chris Bowers worried about it with the cult of personality he saw in the Draft Gore efforts. Not everyone felt that way but even as a Gore supporter I saw it too.

Unfortunately, we don't have a horse in this race. Any of the three remaining Democrats will make a very fine Democratic President. They're smart, competent, mostly right on most issues, and so vast an improvement over the Republicans that the difference is immeasurable.

But they ain't ours. Not one of them.

People want a progressive movement leader and they want to believe that one of these candidates will be that person but they won't. And a lot of folks are trying to fit these square pegs into our round holes. I see it in diaries. I see it in blog comments. I see it on email lists. I see in on the ground.

I think what I am seeing is idolatry.

We want to change the direction of the country. We want to change the world. It is of ultimate, or at least penultimate, concern to us. We want a leader who will do that, make those changes. Our desperation drives us away from the ultimate towards the finite. Many of us have made our decisions about who that leader is and now we are trying to force solutions. It is not good enough to settle when the concern is ultimate.

We want to fight but we want to believe in what we are fighting for. And we HAVE to fight for it... yet we're not going to get what we feel this driving need to fight for. We have to settle for something less... and that's not good enough.

So begins delusion and demonic possession. We've lost sight of the ultimate for the finite and become deluded, possessed by the demons of desire, frustration, and desperation.

The long term goal will go far beyond this election or this presidency. Even a two-term presidency. This is but one step along the way. The ultimate concern is a life-time effort for each of us... no matter what our generation... and our kids.

We have the power. And yet we are powerless. We are making change. We are winning. And yet we are not going to get what we want.

Powerlessness is a real bitch. It is very frustrating. Its only cure is acceptance. And that level of letting go is very scary.

I think I'm may write-in Al Gore on Feb. 5 and accept whoever the eventual victor is. I'm not completely happy with any of them but I'll be perfectly happy to see one of them get elected.

I will not see my ultimate concern realized on earth in my lifetime. I do hope to be able to hand my granddaughter the legacy of effecting change that I was given and the better place that I was given. I do hope that she'll see a world much closer to that ideal, that ultimate, and she in her turn will be able to hand it over to her kids.

But I'm not going to get the President I want this election. I'm not going to get the government I want this election. I am going to do everything in my power to get the best of both that I can this time around.

And that's just the way it is... whether I like it or not.

The Adventures of Captain Carnage...

Sterling Newberry has more of the overseas details and the best nickname of the year... Ben Bernanke, Captian Carnage.

It's gonna be an ugly day

UPDATE: Down 400 in the first 2 minutes - ouch! That's gonna leave a mark.

From the CNN front page - Wall Street set to plunge:



If you've ever wondered what it was like in October 1929 we might get a little taste of that this week. International markets plunged overnight based on recession fears and serious doubt about the US market that closed sharply down last week.

Wall street analysts predicting today's trading may see the sharpest decline since the markets re-opened following Sept. 11.

Dow futures were down 4.5 percent while S&P futures lost 5 percent. Such a decline would mark the sharpest drop at the open for U.S. stocks since the first session following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.


The Federal Reserve has just announced it is cutting rates by three quarters of a percent. Don't get your hopes up too much about that as every analyst I've read says that isn't where the problem is.

Bonddad is calling it a Bear Market today. Give him a read. He's got the stats and a lot more knowledge about these things then I do.

It's gonna be a hell of a week. Hold on to your job.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Fasting of the Heart


Tao Te Ching #29
For those who would like to take control of the world and act on it -
I see that with this they simply will not succeed.
The world is a sacred vessel;
It is not something that can be acted upon.
Those who act on it destroy it;
Those who hold on to it lose it.

With things - some go forward, others follow;
Some are hot, others blow cold;
Some are firm and strong, others submissive and weak.
Some rise up while others fall down.
Therefore the Sage:
Rejects the extreme, the excessive, and the extravagant.

- Robert G. Henricks translation

The Fasting of the Heart

Yen Hui, the favorite disciple of Confucious, came to take leave of his Master.

"Where are you going?" asked Confucious.

"I am going to Wei."

"And what for?"

"I have heard that the Prince of Wei is a lusty full-blooded fellow and is entirely self-willed. He takes no care of his people and refuses to see any fault in himself. He pays no attention to the fact that his subjects are dying right and left. Corpses lie all over the country like hay in a field. The people are desperate. But I have heard you, Master, say that one should leave the state that is well governed and go to that which is in disorder. At the door of the physician there are plenty of sick people. I want to take this opportunity to put into practice what I have learned from you and see if I can bring about some improvement in conditions there."

"Alas!" said Confucious, "you do not realize what you are doing. You will bring disaster upon yourself. Tao has no need of your eagerness, and you will only waste your energy in your misguided efforts. Wasting your energy you will become confused and then anxious. Once anxious, you will no longer be able to help yourelf. The sages of old first sought Tao in themselves, then looked to see if there was anything in others that corresponded with Tao as they knew it. But if you do not have Tao yourself, what business have you spending your time in vain efforts to bring corrupt politicians into the right path? ... However, I suppose you must have some basis for your hope of success. How do you propose to go about it?"

Yen Hui replied: "I intend to present myself as a humble, disinterested man, seeking only to do what is right and nothing else: a completely simple and honest approach. Will this win his confidence?"

"Certainly not," Confucious replied. "This man is convinced that he alone is right. He may pretend outwardly to take an interest in an objective standard of justice, but do not be deceived by his expression. He is not accustomed to being opposed by anyone. His way is to reassure himself that he is right by trampling on other people. If he does this with mediocre men, he will all the more certainly do it to one who presents a threat by claiming to be a man of high qualities. He will cling stubbornly to his own way. He may pretend to be interested in your talk about what is objectively right, but interiorly he will not hear you, and there wll be no change whatever. You wll get nowhere with this."

Yen Hui then said: "Very well. Instead of directly opposing him, I will maintain my own standards interiorly, but outwardly I will appear to yield. I will appeal to the authority of tradition and to the examples of the past. He who is interiorly uncompromising is a son of heaven just as much as any ruler. I will not rely on any teaching of my own, and will consequently have no concern about whether I am approved or not. I will eventually be recognized as perfectly disinterested and sincere. They will all come to appreciate my candor, and thus I will be an instrument of heaven in their midst.

"In this way, yielding in obedience to the Prince as other men do, bowing, kneeling, prostrating myself as a servant should, I shall be accepted without blame. Then others will have confidence in me, and gradually they will make use of me, seeing that I desire only to make myself useful and to work for the good of all. Thus I will be a instrument of men.

"Meanwhile, all I have to say will be expressed in terms of ancient tradition. I will be working with the sacred tradition of the ancient sages. Though what I say may be objectively a condemnation of the Prince's conduct, it will not be I who say it, but tradition itself. In this way, I will be perfectly honest, and yet not give offense. Thus I will be an instrument of tradition. Do you think I have the right approach?"

"Certainly not," said Confucious. "You have too many different plans of action, when you have not even got to know the Prince and observed his character! At best, you might get away with it and save your skin, but you will not change anything whatever. He might perhaps superficially conform to your words, but there will be no real change of heart."

Yen Hui then said: "Well, that is the best I have to offer. Will you, Master, tell me what you suggest?"

"You must fast!" said Confucious. "Do you know what I mean by fasting? It is not easy. But easy ways do not come from God."

"Oh," said Yen Hui, "I am used to fasting! At home we were poor. We went months without wine or meat. That is fasting, is it not?"

"Well, you can call it 'observing a fast' if you like," said Confucious, "but it is not the fasting of the heart."

"Tell me," said Yen Hui, "what is fasting of the heart?"

Confucious replied: "The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; hearing with the spirit, with your whole being. The hearing that is only in the ears ss one thing. The hearing of the understanding is another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one faculty, to the ear, or to the mind. Hence it demands the emptiness of all faculties. And when the faculties are empty, then the whole being listens. There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind. Fasting of the heart empties the faculties, frees you from limitation and from preoccupation. Fasting of the heart begets unity and freedom."

"I see," said Yen Hui. "What was standing in my way was my own self-awareness. If I can begin this fasting of the heart, self-awareness will vanish. Then I will be free from limitation and preoccupation! Is that what you mean?"

"Yes," said Confucious, "that's it! If you can do this, you will be able to go among men in their world without upsetting them. You will not enter into conflict with their ideal image of themselves. If they will listen, sing them a song. If not, keep silent. Don't try to break down their door. Don't try out new medicines on them. Just be there among them, because there is nothing else for you to be but one of them. Then you may have success!

"It is easy to stand still and leave no trace, but it is hard to walk without touching the ground. If you follow human methods, you can get away with deception. In the way of Tao, no deception is possible.

"You know that one can fly with wings: you have not yet learned about flying without wings. You are familiar with the wisdom of those who know, but you have not yet learned the wisdom of those who know not.

"Look at this window: it is nothing but a hole in the wall, but because of it the whole room is full of light. So when the faculties are empty, the heart is full of light. Being full of light it becomes an influence by which others are secretly transformed."
- From Thomas Merton's The Way of Chuang Tzu

The sage leaves no traces. She does nothing yet everything gets done. She does by not doing.

"To study the Buddha Way is to study the self, to study the self is to forget the self, and to forget the self is to be enlightened by the ten thousand things." - Eihei Dogen Zenji

When we are full of self, we are blind. We see nothing but ourselves, our wishes, our desires, our thoughts of right and wrong, our will for the world.

When we empty the self of self we become an empty vessel to be filled with the Tao, the will of God.

Only then can we truly be of use to our fellows as we cannot give away what we do not have for ourselves.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Three in the morning

Now I am going to blog something here. I don't know whether it fits into the category of other people's blogs or not. But whether it fits in their category or whether it doesn't, it obviously fits into some category. So in that respect it is no different from their blogs. However, let me try writing my blog.


Great understanding is broad and unhurried; little understanding is cramped and busy. Great words are clear and limpid; little words are shrill and quarrelsome. In sleep, men's spirits go visiting; in waking hours, their bodies hustle. With everything they meet they become entangled. Day after day they use their minds in strife, sometimes grandiose, sometimes sly, sometimes petty. Their little fears are mean and trembly; their great fears are stunned and overwhelming. They bound off like an arrow or a crossbow pellet, certain that they are the arbiters of right and wrong. They cling to their position as though they had sworn before the gods, sure that they are holding on to victory. They fade like fall and winter - such is the way they dwindle day by day. They drown in what they do - you cannot make them turn back. They grow dark, as though sealed with seals - such are the excesses of their old age. And when their minds draw near to death, nothing can restore them to the light.


We all suffer from monkey mind to some degree or other. Caught up in rightness and wrongness, "fixing" wrong and "doing" right. I used to have a friend that like to remind me that we are human beings not human doings.


The hundred joints, the nine openings, the six organs, all come together and exist here [as my body]. But which part should I feel closest to? I should delight in all parts, you say? But there must be one I ought to favor more. If not, are they all of them mere servants? But if they are all servants, then how can they keep order among themselves? Or do they take turns being lord and servant? It would seem as though there must be sme True Lord among them. But whether I succeed in discovering his identity or not, it neither adds to nor detracts from his Truth.


The hundred thoughts, the nine discriminations, the six feelings... which should I feel closest to? Surely there must be one I ought to favor, one that ought to be lord and master of all? I need TRUTH to build my life around!


Words are not just wind. Words have something to say. But if what they have to say is not fixed, then do they really say something? Or do they say nothing? People suppose that words are different from the peeps of baby birds, but is there any difference, or isn't there? What does the Way rely upon, that we have true and false? What do words rely upon, that we have right and wrong? How can the Way go away and not exist? How can words exist and not be acceptable? When the Way relies on little accomplishments and words rely on vain show, then we have the rights and wrongs of the Confucians and Mo-ists. What one calls right the other calls wrong; what one calls wrong the other calls right. But if we want to right their wrongs and wrong their rights, then the best thing to use is clarity.


Words do indeed have something to say. But what they have to say is not fixed. It is all in relation to other words, to the moment, to filter of pre-conditioned thinking they are absorbed through. The words that are said are not the true words. The words that are heard are not the words that were spoken. When we understand each other we really understand our own understanding of each other.


What is acceptable we call acceptable; what is unacceptable we call unacceptable. A road is made by people walking on it; things are so because they are called so. What makes them so? Making them so makes them so. What makes them not so? Making them not so makes them not so. Things all must have that which is so; things all must have that which is acceptable. There is nothing that is not so, nothing that is not acceptable.


A road is made by people walking on it. A thing is so by being so not by being said to be so. Reality is... whether we acept it as being so or not. At the same time we can change our reality utterly and completely simply by changing our mind.


But to wear out your brain trying to make things into one without realizing that they are all the same - this is called 'three in the morning.' What do I mean by "three in the morning?" When the monkey trainer was handing out acorns, he said, "You get three in the morning and four at night." This made all the monkeys furious. "Well, then," he said, "you get four in the morning and three at night." The monkeys were all delighted. There was no change in the reality behind the words, and yet the monkeys responded with joy and anger. Let them, if they want to. So the sage harmonizes with both right and wrong and rests in Heaven the Equalizer. This is called walking two roads.


Harmony is when we fit ourselves to our reality rather than trying to fit reality to ourselves.


Now I am going to make a statement here. I don't know whether it fits into the category of other people's statements or not. But whether it fits in their category or whether it doesn't, it obviously fits into some category. So in that respect it is no different from their statements. However, let me try making my statement.

There is a beginning. There is a not yet beginning to be a beginning. There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be a beginning. There is being. There is nonbeing. There is a not yet beginning to be nonbeing. There is a not yet beginning to be a not yet beginning to be nonbeing. Suddenly there is nonbeing. But I do not know, when it comes to nonbeing, which is really being and which is nonbeing. Now I have just said something. But I don't know whether what I have said has really said something or whether it hasn't said something.


Who needs mind-altering substances when you can spend your time pondering this?


"The Way has never known boundaries; speech has no constancy. But because of [the recognition of a] "this," there came to be boundaries. Let me tell you what the boundaries are. There is left, there is right, there are theories, there are debates, there are divisions, there are discriminations, there are emulations, and there are contentions.... So [I say,] those who divide fail to divide; those who discriminate fail to discriminate. What does this mean, you ask? The sage embraces things. Ordinary men discriminate among them and parade their discriminatons before others. So I say, those who discriminate fail to see.

The Great Way is not named; Great Discriminations are not spoken; Great Benevolence is not benevolent; Great Modesty is not humble; Great Daring does not attack. If the Way is made clear, it is not the Way. If discriminations are put into words, they do not suffice. If benevolence has a constant object, it cannot be universal. If modesty is fastidious, it cannot be trusted. If daring attacks, it cannot be complete....

Therefore understanding that rests in what it does not understand is finest. Who can understand discriminations that are not spoken, the Way that is not a way? If he can understand this, he may be called the Reservoir of Heaven. Pour into it and it is never full, dip from it and it never runs dry, and yet it does not know where the supply comes from...."


To know that enough is enough is enough to know. To know that we don't know is enough to know.


"But waiting for one shifting voice [to pass judgement on] another is the same as waiting for none of them. Harmonize them all with the Heavenly Equality, leave them to their endless changes, and so live out your years. What do I mean by harmonizing them with the Heavenly Equality? Right is not right; so is not so. If right were really right it would differ so clearly from not right that there would be no need for argument. If so were really so, it would differ so clearly from not so that there would be no need for argument. Forget the years; forget distinctions. Leap into the boundless and make it your home!"



Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn't know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.



- selections from Chapter 2 of Burton Watson's translation of The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Now... I have just blogged something. But I don't know whether what I have blogged has really said something or whether it hasn't said something.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Pivot (and the pendulum?)

The Pivot

Tao is obscured when men understand only one of a pair of opposites, or concentrate only on a partial aspect of being. Then clear expression also becomes muddled by mere word-play, affirming this one aspect and denying all the rest.

Hence the wrangling of Confucians and Mohists; each denies what the other affirms, and affirms what the other denies. What use is this struggle to set up "No" against "Yes," and "Yes" against "No"? Better to abandon this hopeless effort and seek true light!

There is nothing that cannot be seen from the standpoint of the "Not-I." And there is nothing which cannot be seen from the standpoint of the "I". If I begin by looking at anything from the viewpoint of the "Not-I," then I do not really see it, since it is "not I" that sees it. If I begin from where I am and see it as I see it, then it may also become possible for me to see it as another sees it. Hence the theory of reversal that opposites produce each other, depend on each other, and compliment each other.

However this may be, life is followed by death; death is followed by life. The possible becomes impossible; the impossible becomes possible. Right turns into wrong and wrong into right - the flow of life alters circumstances and thus things themselves are altered in their turns. But disputants continue to affirm and to deny the same things they have always affirmed and denied, ignoring the new aspects of reality presented by the change in conditions.

The wise man therefore, instead of trying to prove this or that point by logical disputation, sees all things in the light of direct intuition. He is not imprisoned by the limitations of the "I," for the viewpoint of direct intuition is that of both "I" and "Not-I." Hence he sees that on both sides of every argument there is both right and wrong. He also sees that in the end they are reducible to the same thing, once they are related to the pivot of Tao.

When the wise man grasps this pivot, he is in the center of the circle, and there he stands while "Yes" and "No" pursue each other around the circumference.

The pivot of Tao passes through the center where all affirmations and denials converge. He who grasps the pivot is at the still-point from which all movements and oppositions can be seen in their right relationship. Henece he sees the limitless possibilities of both "Yes" and "No." Abandoning all thought of imposing a limit or taking sides, he rests in direct intuition. Therefore I said: "Better to abandon disputation and seek the true light!"

From "The Way of Chuang Tzu" by Thomas Merton

Friday, January 11, 2008

Close Guantanamo



For more information see The ACLU

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Snacking on crunchy New Hampshire numbers

All across punditry and blog-land lips and fingers are moving and the same questions are being asked...

What happened last night?

How did she "come back" to win?

Various theories are being offered up. Some based on facts and others *** cough *** Chris *** cough *** Matthews *** cough *** cough *** based on bullshit.

The fun thing about numbers is that they can tell multiple stories depending on which ones you look at, in what combinations and with what weights you view them. Multiple conclusions can be drawn from them that are not all necessarily wrong or even in conflict with each other.

The fun thing about bullshit is that it starts as bullshit, comes across as bullshit, remains bullshit and produces nothing other than more bullshit.

We'll stick to numbers from here on out...

First up... Democrats won last night. Republicans lost. All the numbers say so. No matter in what order or combination they are crunched.

The American public is repudiating Republicanism in a major way.

With all but 1 precinct reporting:

Hillary Clinton (D)- 112,238 (21.35%)
Barack Obama (D)- 104,757 (19.93%)
John McCain (R)- 88,447 (16.83%)
Mitt Romney (R)- 75,202 (14.31%)
John Edwards (D)- 48,666 9.26%)
Mike Huckabee (R)- 26,760 (5.09%)
Rudy Giuliani (R)- 20,387 (3.88%)
Ron Paul (R)- 18,276 (3.48%)
Bill Richardson (D)- 13,245 (2.52%)

Democrats 287,275 or 54.65%
Republicans 238,343 or 45.35%

(which includes the 41 votes for Republican candidate "Vermin Supreme")

Booman points out to us that Democratic turn-out was up 31% from 2004. An increase of about 67,500 votes which in turn was an increase of about 65,000 from 2000.

Meanwhile, Republican turn-out this year is almost exactly the identical to their last contest presidential primary in 2000. They have shown no increase whatsoever and in fact experienced a decrease of about 7% in independent voters.

Head to head Hillary Clinton beat John McCain 55.93% to 44.07%. Likewise, Barack Obama beat John McCain head to head 54.22% to 45.78%.

Overall 61.78% or 525,618 voters out of 850,836 turned out for the primary. Just over one third, 33.76% turned out for Democratic candidates while a little over a quarter, 28.01%, turned out for the Republican primary (including those diehard Vermin Supreme supporters).

The following numbers are approximate based on data from multiple sources and the use of my trusty calculator.

There are 850,836 enrolled voters in New Hampshire, 26% or 221,217 Democrats. 30% or 255,251 Republicans. 44% or 374,368 independents.

On the Democratic side there were 287,275 voters of which 52% (149,383) were Democrats and 42% (120,656) were Independents. I gather New Hampshire has same day enrollment because exit polls state that 6% of voters were unregistered.

On the Republican side there were 238,343 voters of which 61% (145,389) were Republicans and 34% (81,036) were Independents with 5% unregistered voters.

Overall Independents turned out at 53.88% or 38.37% of voters. Democrats turned out at 67.53% or 28.42% of voters. And Republicans turned out at 56.96% or 27.66% of all primary voters.

Independent voters turned out for Democrats at 59.82% and Republicans at 40.18% I am told that "this was the first time since the establishment of the modern New Hampshire primary system that more people voted in the Democratic primary than the Republican primary when both were contested". Not only more but much, much more.


By the way, the DSCC is happy to point out that 50,000 more voters turned out in the Democratic Primary this year (287,275) then voted for Sen. John Sununu in the 2002 general election (227,229). Mr. Sununu is up for re-election this fall and this plus the strong Democratic trends in New Hampshire (both House seats went to Democratic challengers in 2006) do not bode well for his re-election chances. A note of caution however, 434,847 voters re-elected Sen. Judd Gregg in the last Presidential year 2004.

Democrats won almost as resoundingly in New Hampshire as they did in Iowa a few days before.

So... what happened? Why did Hillary Clinton defeat Barack Obama when the polling numbers showed Obama bouncing out of Iowa to a 9-10 point lead in New Hampshire?

Bottom line? Barack Obama never led in New Hampshire.

CNN exit polls tell the tale.

34% of voters in the Democratic primary made up their minds over a month ago. This comes out to:
Clinton: 46,883
Obama: 30,279

17% decided in the last month.
Clinton: 16,604 (running total: 63,487)
Obama: 21,488 (total: 51,767)

10% decided in the last week.
Clinton: 8,044 (71,531)
Obama: 12,353 (64,120)

21% decided in the last 3 days.
Clinton: 20,511 (92,042)
Obama: 22,321 (86,441)

17% decided on election day.
Clinton: 19,046 (111,088)
Obama: 17,581 (104,022)

Actual totals:
Clinton: 112,238
Obama: 104,757

These breakdowns show clearly that Obama was closing and received a post-Iowa bounce. They also show that Clinton had a strong bastion of early support and Obama's bounce was never enough to overtake it.

Punditry claims that Hillary Clinton received her own bounce due to be attacked by Edwards/Obama in the last debate or due to the crying incident or some other form of sympathy vote are not born out here. The slight advantage she shows in election day decisions was not what made the difference. Her early strong start was.

So where did that support come from? Women.

57% of voters in the Democratic primary were women. Clinton received 75,324 votes or 46% of the female vote according to exit polls. Unmarried women made up 22% of the democratic electorate of which she garnered 51% of the voters. Married women made up 33% of the electorate and she garnered 45% of them. In other words Clinton received roughly 25,000 more votes from women then Barack Obama did. She defeated him by about 7,500 votes total.

Age breakdowns are also interesting though not decisive. Hillary outpolled Obama in all age categories except the 18-24 and 30-39 brackets. She outdid him in the 25-29 bracket and a case could be made that this is where she beat him.

If you total Clinton's vote by age bracket from 65+ on down she reaches Obama's vote total of over 104,000 in the 25-29 bracket. Barack outperformed her strongly amongst the youngest age group (18-24) but it didn't matter because she had already beaten him by the time you get there.

Another factor supporting the strong early support theory is the exit polling data that shows 73% of Democrats strongly favored their choice while 23% had reservations about their choice and only 3% were driven by dislike of other candidates.

Clinton outperformed Obama amongst strong supporters 40% to 36% while 41% of Obama voters had reservations about him compared to 37% of Clinton supporters.

One very interesting issue related number seems to rebut conventional wisdom.

43% of Democratic voters favor withdrawal of troops from Iraq as soon as possible. Of those 41% voted for Clinton to 34% for Obama.

51% of Democratic voters favor a gradual withdrawal. Clinton and Obama virtually tied in this group with 40% for Obama and 39% for Clinton.

5% of Democrats prefer keeping troops in Iraq longer and of them 51% favor Obama to only 24% for Clinton.

38% of Democratic voters ranked the economy as their top issue and Clinton won amongst those voters 44% - 35% over Obama. Several more detailed breakdowns of economic circumstances and issues supported this result that voters saw Clinton as better on the economy then Obama.

For those listed Iraq as their top issue (31%) Obama did better, 44% to 35%. This might seem at odds with the previous numbers at first but is not when you consider most Democratic voters preferred a gradual withdrawal or longer stay in Iraq and those voters favored Obama.

Clinton and Obama essentially tied, 37% - 38%, amongst the 27% of Democratic voters for whom Health care was the biggest issue.

Lastly, an interesting breakdown of 58% who felt issues were more important than the 39% who felt personal qualities were more important. Clinton scored 39% - 34% over Obama amongst those interested mostly in issues while Obama led 45% to 37% amongst those that felt personal qualities were more important. This goes directly to the perception of Clinton as the more experienced and serious politician and reflects Obama's personal charisma and rhetoric as well.

A few other interesting tidbits to consider. Hillary Clinton won amongst those that felt the debates were important to making their decision. This might indicate that she did well in the last debate.

As Chris Bowers points out Clinton also led amongst those "angry" with the Bush administration (62% of Democrats) by about 9,000 votes or her margin of victory. Chris believes this is the winning coalition for her. While the number matches I'm unconvinced this was the deciding factor. The time breakdown of strong early and female support... which may well coincide with anti-Bush anger... speaks louder to me.

What is interesting to me is that the candidate that is often perceived as the least liberal candidate, the most in support of the Iraq war, and often, unjustly, accused of being Republican-lite is the one that received the strongest anti-war and angry-at-bush vote. Clinton also defeated Obama across the liberal-moderate-conservative spectrum though by only a point or two in each category.

And in one final note debunking the "sympathy" theory. The exit polls also asked about perceptions of who ran the most "unfair" campaign. The 22% that felt Clinton had run the most unfair campaign were equaled by the 11% each that felt Edwards or Obama had. The breakdown on those votes favored Obama significantly.

Fox Fiction Network

This is wild.

Fox Fiction Network not only spins the news, not only makes it up, not only is a propoganda outlet for one segment of the right wing fringe but when presented with facts from the horses mouth refuting their fiction they "take it under advisement." When presented with the subject of their fiction refuting their story they state their fiction is "well sourced."

In the last couple days Fox News reported that Paul Begala and Jame Carville were joining Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in order to save it.

This was news to Carville and Begala. Carville was quoted as saying:


"Fox was, is and will continue to be an asinine and ignorant network."


Today at the Huffington Post Paul Begala tells the amazing tale of his exchange with Fox Fiction Repeater Major Garrett.


I've been dealing with the media and politics for 25 years, but I've never had a more surrealistic day than January 8. Several times that day Fox News reported that I was joining Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign.


"Surreal" is right. Begala goes on to say...


After I told Fox it wasn't true -- and this is the surreal part -- they kept reporting it anyway. In fact, Fox's Garrett told me he'd "take it under advisement." Take it under advisement? I realize I'm generally seen as just another liberal with an opinion, but this was not a matter of opinion, it was a matter of fact. Fox now knew their story was flatly, factually wrong, and they took it "under advisement."


"Take it under advisement?" Fox Fiction then preceeded to amend their report to state that Begala and Carville had been on a strategy conference call for the Clinton campaign.

Ummm... whose "advisement" was that?

After this exchange Begala wonders...


My worry is that if this is what one of Fox's best and most respected reporters is doing, what are the hacks up to?


Well... for those of us that have been paying attention it is clear what the Fox Propoganda Network is up to.

The Fox Propoganda Network is a Public Relations outlet. Their job is to craft a story line. A narrative that sells a particular product. The product their clients want to sell to the American public. They are not alone in this in the traditional media world but they are far and away the most blatant example of out and out propoganda against the American people. "News" has nothing to do with it. "Fact" has nothing to do with it.

Fox Propoganda Network should be subject to the same truth-in-advertising laws as any other corporation trying to sell their snake oil to the public. Come to think of it they should be liable under "lemon laws" too.

Go read Begala's post. He appended a string of emails between he and Garrett that put the complete lie to any claims of credibility on Fox Fiction's part.

The pertinent snippets...

Begala to Garrett:

"... but whoever told you I am joining Hillary's campaign fed you some bum info. It's just not true. Or as I say to my boys, N.H.D. Not. Happening. Dude."


Garrett back to Begala:

"I will take it under advisement."


Begala back to Garrett:

"Just heard you say I was on a conference call with Hillary's campaign yesterday. That's not true. I was not on any conference call with Hillary's campaign - and have had no contact with her campaign for months. No one from her campaign has contacted me -- nor have I contacted them -- and I am not joining in any capacity, paid or unpaid, official or unofficial. I feel like that old Lorrie Morgan song, "What part of 'no' don't you understand?"


I can see how poor Major Garrett might be confused by Begala here. I mean, it's not like Paul was being direct, clear, and to the point here. He really needs to learn to remove ambiguity from his writing.

Garrett "not trying to screw" Begala:

"You also know, or should know, that I'm careful and don't have a reputation for pulling stories out of my ass.
I'm not now. The sourcing is strong, very strong, or I wouldn't go with it."


The... sourcing... is... strong... ?

Begala is the damn subject. How much stronger does a source get then the subject of the damn story himself? Garrett thinks there is a stronger source then Begala himself?

It might not have been Garrett's ass that this story came out of but it sure was someone's and clearly not Begala's or Carville's.

The good news is that Fox has been losing audience for awhile. Even better is that their screw-up locking Ron Paul out of their Fox controlled Republican debates has shown a segment of the Republican audience what the rest of us have known for quite awhile now.

Fox is a propoganda network for a small corporate controlled segment of the right wing of the republican party. Period.

Check out this video at Brave New Films of Ron Paul Republicans going after Sean Hannity with pitchforks and torches.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

In case you missed the Republican debate last night...

An intrepid cub reporter provides the best coverage and commentary available over at DailyKos.

Click your way over for the fight between Sarge, Wrinkles, Bunny Ears, Oily, Beagle Eyes and Carrot Face....

Friday, January 04, 2008

"It's reality. I swear I wish it wasn't, but it is."

An amazing piece from GroupNewsBlog's Lower Manhattanite, Pride and Palpitations, on watching Obama's victory speech last night with his family.

On Obama and race in America

Republicans are ugly.

From freeperville:

Is Hussein Obama the weakest Dem for the General election?
Iowa Caucus ^ | January 3, 2008 | nwrep

Posted on 01/03/2008 9:07:11 PM PST by nwrep

Did the weakest Dem candidate for the general election won tonight? I think so.

By sending forth Hussein Osama out of Iowa, Democrats have unwittingly weakened their general election prospects.

Hussein's exotic mixture of radical liberalism, Kwanzaa Socialism, antipathy towards the unborn, and weakness against his jihadi brethren will all come back to destroy him against almost any Republican opponent, even the snake-grope from Hope.

I think we as Republicans should be celebrating tonight at the coronation of Hussein, in whose presence millions of Democrat women, from elementary school teachers to journalism majors to law school grads to dykes on bikes will go weak in their knees.

As defenders of this great Republic, and of the pinnacle of Western civilization that it represents, we should all come together tonight and agree on a common strategy that will keep the White House from becoming a madrassa.

God Bless America, Land of the Free.


My brother asked me back at Thanksgiving dinner “Is America ready to elect a black man or a woman as President?” To which I answered, “We’re as ready as we’re ever going to be before actually doing it.” He replied, “I hear you… but are we ready?”

If Obama continues and becomes the presumptive Democratic nominee (and his chances got a lot better last night) it is going to get ugly. Real ugly. Racism is alive and well in America. We are ready to elect a black man President and if Obama wins the nomination we will elect him but his campaign, and everyone else on the Democratic side, is going to have to be ready to win a race war. Us white folks are mean sons of bitches when someone threatens OUR power.

I’m not talking about the KKK or Stormfront obvious nutcases but mainstream Mom and Pop white folks that don’t think of themselves as racist but really don’t want those people living in their neighborhoods or dating their daughters. The ones that live in towns across America that are 88% white and 12% other and really don’t have much if any association with black society.

And make no mistake, electing a black man threatens white power, control, and dominance. Note also that Obama is a black man despite being 50% white. We have never claimed half-whites as white. They are black. We don’t claim them as even half white. They are black.

As an aside, it was a revelation to me as a teenager when a friend told me he got the same from black society. That it was a real struggle for him because he wasn’t treated by the black community as black. It had never occurred to me that he wasn’t black despite the fact his skin color was closer to mine then most of our black friends.

The Republicans will come at Barack Obama with the Hussein stuff. The Osama-Obama stuff. The Indonesia-madrassa stuff. Heck! They’ll probably blame the current unrest in Kenya on him and claim that he’ll bring the same to America (something the worst amongst them can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy). But it’ll be race that is their strongest gut level, divisive playing card… and they will use it.

I am half hoping they do and that they overplay their hand. I think we need to be ready to point out the ugliness, the racism, overt and covert, of their actions. They’ll claim we’re playing “the race card” but we can’t be side tracked by that.

And we can’t foist this off on our black friends and compatriots.

This is a battle within white America to get the hell over itself and its... our ... racist past… and present. White Americans need to “lift up” our own people out of these ignorant views. Most whites have no idea just how racist America is. Black people don’t need educating on that subject. They know. White people do. And they need to hear it from other white people. Their peers. Us. Not liberals to conservatives. Not educated to uneducated. Not Democrats to Republicans. White average Americans to white average Americans.

The Obama campaign itself needs to steel itself… and I do mean steel… and be prepared for the attacks. The have to respond and they have to respond well. They cannot ignore it. At the same time they need to stay above them and keep their campaign about a positive vision for Americas future. They can’t allow themselves to get bogged down and lost in a race war.

The rest of the Democratic community needs to be prepared to do the ugly, trench work on this one. We need to talk race and we need to talk it openly and honestly. Preferably not angrily. I’m thinking a passive-aggressive approach may well be best. Let the freepers froth at the mouth about race while we talk dispassionately and openly about it. Let the ugliness be repellant all by itself. I’m not sure. I think it will depend on a case by case basis but I am thinking that is the best overall approach. Shine a light on the ugliness and place it smack dab in the middle of the village square but stand off to the side and allow Americans to say “I’m not like that” and come to the healing message, the reconciliation, of brotherhood and away from the ugly troll of racism convulsing in the light of day.