Sunday, November 30, 2008

Geithner & Summers: Financial Enablers Return

Admittedly, the economy will be first and foremost on Barack Obama's presidential agenda. The president-elect has liberally sprinkled ex-Clintonites throughout his early cabinet and administration posts, but filling the Treasury with acolytes of former Fed boss Robert Rubin is worrisome.

Amidst, calls to bailout ex-Enron enabler Citibank, the fingerprints of Rubin lie within that companies financial blunders and the economy as a whole.

The Sunday New York Times ran a lengthy article on Citibank's foolish investment practices which enhanced the short term while nearly ruining the country's one-time largest bank.
Citigroup insiders and analysts say that Mr. Prince and Mr. Rubin played pivotal roles in the bank’s current woes, by drafting and blessing a strategy that involved taking greater trading risks to expand its business and reap higher profits.
It was under President Clinton that Rubin, under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Financial Services Act repealed much of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act allowing banks to consolidate seemingly every financial service under one house. Citibank was one of the main beneficiaries of the act allowing it to absorb Travelers Insurance.

With the picks of New York Federal Reserve boss, Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary and former Clinton treasury chief Lawrence Summers, the point that the same guys at the helm during the nascent stages of the financial debacle have resurfaced under a Democrat in Washington.

It's inevitably that Geithner, while lauded as intelligent and capable, will have to answer questions why Wall Street, located in his jurisdiction, did not prepare for its precipitious fall.

The mentor/pupil scenario that Time magazine puts forth in the Dec. 8 issue is a bit disconcerting also. According to the articles, Geithner (the pupil) was given the secretary's job on the basis that he could "handle" Summers (the mentor). Presumably, Summers would have been reunited with the Treasury office is not for his sexist remarks about women while at the helm at Harvard.

We are to be believed that Summers will not wield power from the National Economic Council and the same people who felt deregulation was a viable option 10 years ago will see the nation's economy differently today?

It was a bit disingenious and politically expedient for Obama to vow to bring change to Washington without a few old hands, yet choosing the very men responsible for the crisis that may swallow his presidency is extremely foolhardy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rhonda Becomes Invisible


Try sitting on the sidewalk. The rhythm of the noontime San Francisco foot traffic is steady on the corner of 2nd and Market, and the skies have been graying on the verge of rainfall. Businessmen and tourists stroll by and hover over you. This is the epitome of power, like Cassius Clay looking down at a destroyed Sonny Liston.

From this vantage point you become invisible. You don't really see more than shiny loafers and stylish pumps skitter across the cold concrete. This angle doesn't allow for much eye contact, either way. For a homeless woman named Rhonda this arrangement makes her disappear. Her obscurity lets passersby off the hook. I don't see you and you don't see me. People like Rhonda are easily forgotten.

Rhonda has made her home on 2nd Street for 10 years or as far as anyone around here remembers. John, the shoeshine man on Market, remembers her that far back, and the manager at the Men's Wearhouse, whose wall Rhonda uses as a backrest, agrees. "She thinks that's her home," says John, who is has been a fixture on that corner for 20 years. Members of The Commonwealth Club may have passed her by on their way to a fanciful speech on the downfall of our society, or something like it.

Rhonda's spot is quite large. She lies sideways on the sidewalk. Her elbow propping her body up against a few worn blankets -- a homeless Cleopatra without consorts. To her left is a large cart filled with a sleeping bag, cardboard boxes, half of a broom, a sheet of plastic to shield the rain and various sundry items. "Nothing I have is worth anything," she says.

Rhonda herself is a large African-American woman, though the the multi-layers of shirts, coats and sweaters makes her look rounder than she really is. She says she is 72, but like a lot of what she will tell you, this is subject to debate. The upper bridge of her teeth is gone, along with a few on the bottom, and she tugs a dark blue knit cap to her eyebrows and covers her ears. She's listening to her radio with her earphones. She likes R&B music with a little jazz. She listens to KBLX and sometimes the news to pass time.

There is no denying that Rhonda is one of many homeless people suffering from mental illness. Our conversation devolves into a jumble of non sequiturs and delusions of grandeur, but in between she realizes her life is not what she once imagined.

"I don't want to live like this -- like some wino -- or some dope addict," Rhonda says, "I don't want to be one to beg the streets. I don't want to be a panhandler." By all accounts, she does not ask for money, though she wears a small button on her coat saying donations are welcomed. She says she typically receives $5-$10 per day. She does, though, beg for food, saying "I love to eat."

On this day, she was nibbling on graying pieces of chicken presumably from the Subway two doors down. She would not say whether the sandwich shop gave the food or she found it in a garbage can. With Thanksgiving around the corner, Rhonda says she might visit a local soup kitchen or get in line at Glide Memorial nearby.

"Everybody who loves me helps me," she says, "There's a lot of people who hate me and do nothing."

John says there's a woman who visits Rhonda every day and gives her food and other necessities, but Rhonda doesn't want to talk about it. She calls her "just a friend."

Having survived on the streets for over 10 years, Rhonda has seen awful things. She says she was stabbed early on when another homeless person attempted to steal her purse, and she says she has been in the crossfire of numerous gunfights. Her meager possessions are also always in danger. "You can't leave nothing. You can't even close your eyes with all these vagrants and dope addicts around," she says.

Like many of the downtrodden among us, Rhonda is prone to alcoholism. "I love to drink liquor, especially gallons of liquor," she says, "I hate to even drink if it isn't a gallon."

John has seen her go on binges and notes "when she drinks, she gets the good stuff," but also says she doesn't bother anybody. The manager at the Men's Wearhouse agrees and says it is that fact that justifies not bothering her in return.

"She cleans up after herself. She sweeps her spot. If she would be throwing chicken bones all over or using it as a bathroom it would be different," he said.

Before I leave, Rhonda shakes my hand and blurts out, "I'll probably be locked outdoors for Thanksgiving." As I rise from a kneeling position next to her, my face floats out of her view and our line of eye contact is broken. All I become is just another pair of black shoes walking away from her and Rhonda becomes invisible again.

This article and other by me can be found The Commonwealth Club blog at

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Turner Tells Old War Stories; Reveal Little About Ted


This article and others by me can be found at the blog of the Commonwealth Club of California. Click here to read more.

When Dr. Gloria Duffy, the Commonwealth Club's president and CEO, began a question to Ted Turner with "Mr. Turner," the cable news revolutionary deadpanned, "Call me Ted."

That, of course, is the title of Turner's autobiography slated to debut at number eight on the New York Times bestseller's list.

The humorous retort was emblematic of an evening featuring Turner's thoughts on the economy, foreign affairs, his children, ex-wife Jane Fonda and pet projects such as nuclear disarmament and global warming.

When asked why he had little involvement in the dot-com boom of the late 90's, Turner said facetiously, “Has there ever been anybody who ever led more than one revolution in one lifetime? Martin Luther King had civil rights, but that’s all he did. Alexander the Great conquered the world, but that’s all he did.”

Turner, who turned 70 Wednesday, sounded at times like an elder who claimed to have forecast every important event with the aid of hindsight.

On the demise of newspapers: "It's obsolete technologically. I saw that 40 years ago."

On the automobile industry: Turner said he "studied the situation" during the 1974 energy crisis and begrudgingly purchased a compact Japanese car.

On the rise of digital photography: Turner said he realized film was in trouble when he tested digital cameras 15 years ago.

It is undeniable, though, that Turner's wild-eyed vision of a 24-hour cable news network changed the media landscape forever. In some of the most interesting moments of the hour-long conversation, Turner described with wonderment how the Big Three networks failed to see the potential of cable news.

He described the network's vast infrastructure as being "1,000 times bigger than mine" and furiously worked to build the network from scratch without arousing the attention of the networks.

“I figured they were like a pack of hounds and I was going to be like a rabbit. I had to stay out in front of them because if they ever caught me they would tear me apart like a pack of hounds do a rabbit,” Turner said.

Calling himself a "global worrier," Turner mixed humor with real concern for the economic well-being of the country. At one point, he said people should welcome children back to the nest if the economy continues to spin downward.

“I’m really worried that we’re going to have a meltdown," Turner said, "But, I’m already thinking in terms of offering my children to move back into my house with me. If you remember "Sanford & Son," you know Lamont and Fred seemed happy.”

When asked if he believed the automobile industry should be bailed out, he said, "I don't think so" and instead offered his own idea for a bailout of the restaurant industry. "You can’t go more than three days without eating.” said Turner who owns Ted's Montana Grill with 50 restaurants in 18 states.

Turner believes the economy will distract president-elect Barack Obama's attention from other pressing issues like global warming, poverty and nuclear weapons.

He also agreed with Obama's desire to talk with our enemies, in particular, Iran. “I would meet with them and see if I could make them laugh," Turner said, "How can you sit there with a straight face? We’ve got 12,000 nuclear weapons and we tell Iran they can’t have any, but it’s okay for Israel to have them. They look at Israel as a danger. I think we all got to get rid of them or we’re all going to have them.”

Similar to numerous reviews of his book, Turner focused very little on his early years. The suicide of his father and abuse and the death of his sister to Lupus were touched upon but Turner offered little or no real insight, despite Turner's belief that you cannot know someone without understanding where they came from.

Turner did speak about his famous ex-wife Jane Fonda who wrote a section of the autobiography, revealing warts and all. “I’m good with that," said Turner. "I mean, after all, what’s she suppose to say? We got divorced. There must have been some problems.”

Despite the breakup, Turner indicated the two still share a good relationship. Fonda attended his birthday bash last Saturday featuring Burt Bacharach.

“She came to my birthday party. I talk to her just about every week to get my dose of humility," Turner said, "My father use to say that a few fleas were good for a dog, they reminded him that’s what he was.”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Did Latino Voters Really Turn Red States Blue?


This article and others by me can be found at the blog of the Commonwealth Club of California. Click
here to read more.

Conventional wisdom says Latino voters greatly helped Barack Obama become president-elect, but do the numbers back up such an assertion?

Frederico Pena, the former secretary of energy under President Clinton and mayor of Denver, told the Associated Press earlier this week that battleground states such as Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Florida would not have been won by Obama if not for the Latino voting bloc.

Poll numbers show voters backed Obama over Sen. John McCain by a 2-to-1 margin. McCain's 31 percent was significantly lower than the 44 percent President Bush garnered in 2004.

But, Mark Krikorian, writing "The Corner" blog at National Review, has an alternative view of the Latino vote's tangible power in this year's election.
According to the usual suspects, the benchmark in garnering Hispanic votes for Republicans is Bush's 40 percent showing in 2004. So what would have happened if McCain had matched Bush's performance, instead of the 31 percent he actually got? Based on CNN's exit polls, McCain still would have lost Nevada, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, not to mention, say, California and New Jersey. Conversely, even if Obama had won 90 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas, instead of 63 percent, he still would have lost the state. With the possible exception of North Carolina, where the results were close but the number of Hispanic voters is too small to register in the exit poll, there doesn't seem to be a single state where the Hispanic vote was critical to the outcome.
If the Latino vote didn't sway a single state one way or the other, what gives? Why are Latino leaders patting themselves on the backs and Republicans stressing over the loss of a group perceived to be "conservative-ready"?

The importance of Latinos voting in greater numbers for Democrats, along with their demographic growing larger and tending to be younger, in general, could portend great discomfort for future conservatives trying to win not only presidential electoral politics, but governorships in the West and seats in Congress.

An article at U.S. News indicates Latinos' switch toward Obama may have been part of an overall disillusionment by all demographics from eight years of President Bush.

Economic factors are on the minds of most Americans but may have hit Latinos harder. According to the article, Latinos are twice as likely to receive high-interest loans than whites, putting them at risk for financial upheaval in this tumultuous financial climate.

Disproportionately higher unemployment for Latinos may have also changed perceptions, as did the relative absence of gay marriage (excluding California and two other states) and abortion as issues to stoke latent conservative values Latinos tend to possess.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Obama's Gonna Take Our Guns, Ma; Let's Go To Walmart


The Los Angeles Times asks today is Obama's election "a turning point in the perception of blacks?"

The view does not sound optimistic according to the feature story. The Dean of Public Affairs at UCLA still gets pegged as a music producer and the observance of "DWB" driving while black still exists.

Ominously, "The image of the black man is fear," said Damian Thompson, 35, to the L.A. Times.

Which leads us to this story in today's Chicago Tribune:
Some say they are worried that the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama will attempt to re- impose the ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004. Others fear the loss of their right to own handguns. A few say they are preparing to protect themselves in the event of a race war.
The worry of gun enthusiasts that an Obama administration would curtail their right to bear arms is unfounded.

Realistically, the smoothing of rhetoric from Democrats for the last four years regarding guns has brought significant electoral cache to the party along with governorships in the now purple-turning Rocky Mountain West.

Of course, as a liberal Obama would love to limit gun rights. This is obvious, yet the fervor to achieve that goal is nowhere near important as making the West blue in states like Montana and the Dakotas.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer showed the party how to win in the red West playing moderate politics while toting a rifle and camo gear.

What is worrisome and a bit outrageous about the Tribune story is people would actually tell a reporter they see a possible race war occurring.

So, how would this race war start? Obama signs an executive order allowing all blacks to quit paying taxes? Obama enters a room to "Hail to the Chief" with a hip-hop beat?

Click here to read my posting on the one-year anniversary of the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay at

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama Needs To Go Large With Goals


Here's a truly outside-the-box idea for the next president from Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic.

The title says it all, "Why Obama Should Copy Bush (Really!)"

Of course, Cohn does not recommend emulating Bush by ignoring the Constitution, torture and general spying on the citizenry, but he does urge W.'s one-track mind towards big goals.
One of Bush’s most remarkable qualities--and one, I admit, that I frequently admired--was his stubborn focus on goals and willingness to push political boundaries aggressively. It took a president of uncommon gumption and boldness to push such a radical agenda; America, after all, is not a radical country by nature. But Bush understood political opportunity when it presented itself and he seized it. And while I’d hate to see Obama systematically ignoring policy experts and manipulating intelligence--or deliberately stoking partisan division for the sake of winning elections--I wouldn’t mind if, like Bush, Obama showed the same sort of singular focus.
A good argument can be made the Bush presidency has been highly successful for a select few, but, nonetheless; big promises were made and delivered.

Cohn lists them:

Consider what Bush has accomplished. He has overhauled the tax code, tilting it towards the wealthy and significantly reducing federal revenues. He signed a landmark education reform that changed the curriculum in virtually ever public school. He gutted the regulatory state and hollowed out the bureaucracy. He added a drug benefit to Medicare, thereby enacting the largest single entitlement expansion since the 1960s. He tipped the Supreme Court’s ideological balance with two strongly conservative appointees.

Although gas prices hover just under $2.40 per gallon in the Bay Area, Bush did deliver his oilmen buddies prices 100 percent higher during his two terms.

A week after President-elect Barack Obama's election, there is no real gauge as to how bold his foreign and domestic agenda will be. The naming of Rahm Emanuel as presidential bulldog is a signal that he will be bold domestically with a known quantity both feared and admired for getting things done in Congress.

If Obama decides to shift the country leftward or institiute bold objectives like Bush he will have two things the 43rd president did not have: a clear mandate and confidence in his intellectual heft.

Obama And The Faux Fros

If you write at a black web site like The Root, you can photoshop photos of the next president in various hairdos and get away with it.

You can also find a rundown of hairstyles worn by female politicians here, but not one of Sen. John McCain with a mohawk or Sen. John Kerry with a mullet.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Puppy Dog The Republican Hunter


It's a dog eat dog world out there for Republicans.

William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, writes in the New York Times op/ed page his whole perception of the next four (or eight) years was transformed by the mere mention of a puppy.

President-elect Barack Obama's intention to buy his daughters a puppy during his speech last Tuesday night apparently stopped in its tracks Kristol's belief that the U.S. is still a center-right country and the loss was attributed to a huge anti-Bush vote.

"I gulped," he writes.

And so did I. According to Kristol, the canine portion of Obama's speech could be the most famous since Richard Nixon vouched for Checkers the dog. (Click here to watch Nixon's "Checkers” speech.)
Here, in a few sentences, Obama did the following: He deepened his bond with every dog lover in America. He identified with every household that’s tried to figure out what kind of dog to get. He touched every parent with a kid allergic to pets. He showed compassion by preferring a dog from a shelter. And he demonstrated a dry and slightly politically incorrect wit by commenting that “a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.
What Kristol is actually afraid of is President Bush with a brain; not just the guy you would have a beer with, but the neighbor you would rather invite over for a beer and a barbecue with the family.

For Republicans, it has come to this: posture that the country has not really changed and foster the belief the election of Obama was one entirely fictional protest vote against eight years of Bush.

A staunch conservative like Kristol finds himself confident in the face of the further loss of the new Latino voting bloc, the beginning of a Democratic Southern realignment, the loss of white men, the rise of new first-time voters but it's the sad puppy eyes of the Obama's future pet that has him in shaking in his boots.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Q&A: Two Minutes (Literally) With Rep. Pete Stark


After defeating his Republican opponent with 74 percent of the vote, Rep. Pete Stark thanked his constituency Tuesday night at the Hayward Democratic headquarter wearing a fuschia tie dotted with peace signs. He spoke with the Lunatic Fringe Report:

LFR: Congratulations on returning to another term in office. What are some of the things you will be working on in the next two years?

Rep. Pete Stark: Health care. We're just going to be trying to get health care for everybody. Universal health care is my goal.

LFR:I'm not sure the Senate will get a filibuster-proof 60, but you'll have more in the House and now you have the president. What are the chances of something happening with health care?

Stark: They're good. I think they're great. I think it's one of the most important things right now with the economy turned down more people are losing their health care. It's very irritating. Probably one of the most urgent domestic issues.

LFR: Last question, Barack Obama is now the president-elect. What are you thoughts about the night?

Stark: It's a new beginning and a change in the direction of this country. I'm excited to go back to work with him.

It's Gonna Be A Long Walk Home


Times have been difficult for Americans. The times we feel today are much different than the angst felt in the first years of the Bush presidentcy.

The pillars of our country--freedom, openness and democracy were smashed with a neo-conservative hammer laying the foundation for the fall of banks and the credit markets.

The excitement of yesterday, though, is tempered by uncertainty. Millions of Americans still wonder with the Christmas season coming how to placate their children while crossing their fingers there's enough money to pay the bills or the mortgage, for that matter.

As Bruce Springsteen wrote, "It's gonna be a long walk home" to our ideals as a people.

I've been thinking of this song, "Long Walk Home" for a few months in anticipation of the election of Barack Obama. (Listen to a snippet, here.)

What is home for us? I think The Boss puts it eloquently when he sings:
My father said "Son, we're lucky in this town
It's a beautiful place to be born
It just wraps its arms around you
Nobody crowds you, nobody goes it alone.
That you know flag flying over the courthouse
Means certain things are set in stone
Who we are, what we'll do and what we won't."
It's gonna be a long walk home, pretty darling.

American History Is Made; Personal Histories Remembered


The New American President:
the land of hope and dreams

HAYWARD, Calif. - At around 5 p.m. Tuesday night NBC called Pennsylvania for Sen. Barack Obama. 

Democratic diehards watching the returns at the downtown headquarters in Hayward burst into cheers after the first of the battleground states went blue.

Rhea Palmer stood in the back with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“I’m thinking about my mom right now,” said Palmer, a resident of Hayward.

Seeing an African-American elected president of the United States is something she says she thought she would never see.

Palmer’s grandmother use to bring her along to work polling places in San Francisco when she was a little girl forging a strong belief in the power of voting.

“My mom would make us vote when we were old enough,” said Palmer “She always told us to get involved and get active in our community.”

While she realizes America still has racial problems, she also sees Obama’s future presidency as an example for other African-American men to follow.

“Seeing him up there gives me so much hope that he can show other young black men what they can do,” said Palmer.

DeWayne Ramsey of Hayward finds the prospect of living under an Obama presidency as a call to the rest of the African-American community to step up.

“This is history in the making,” he said, “You know, not all black men leave their kids. Barack Obama is a family man and this is a slap in the face to that idea.”

Ramsey also views a dearth of well-known black leaders until the arrival of Obama.

“We haven’t had a role model since Martin Luther King,” he said, “Barack Obama is now our role model.”

Democrats hoping to witness history sat in front of the big screen television in rows of chairs while other mobilized for last-minute forays onto the streets hoping to reject proposition 8 from passing.

In adjoining offices, volunteers continued to call voters who had yet to vote as of six in the evening, while lawyers sat awaiting any possible problems at the polls.

According to Edith Looney, director of the Eden Area United Democratic Party, nothing but minor problems were reported around the Hayward area.

As Obama began to tick off key states like Ohio and Florida, the excitiement began to grow. They hooted when Sen. Elizabeth Dole lost her senate seat in North Carolina and clapped their hands when former education secretarty William Bennett announced on CNN, “There’s no Bradley-effect. The country has grown up.”

Steve Bacon, a former member of the Air Force, turned to crowd from his front row seat and read a text message from his phone, “President Bush needs volunteers to get his [stuff] out of the White House. Put me down for the three to eight shift!”

By 7 p.m., anticipation rose as many realized the 205 electoral votes Obama had already received coupled with the likely inclusion of California’s 55 votes, put their candidate within 10 of the presidency.

“This is going to be over by eight,” said Oakland resident Michael Vaughn.

Local politicians such as State Senator Ellen Corbett, Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and former assemblyman Johan Klehs begin to trickle into the offices.

Congressman Pete Stark would later arrive to thank his constituents for returning him to Washington for a 17th time.

Just as Klehs walked in, the crowd began whooping and hollering. The stunned Klehs would later learn the image of Oprah Winfrey on the television illicited the cheers and not his presence.

Just a minute after 8 p.m, the networks called the election for Obama.

Those seated exploded from the seats. Complete strangers embraced, while in a sign of the times, teenagers attached cell phones to their ears to share the news.

A 10-minute standing ovation ensued with a mixture of applause and chants of “O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma!” and “No more Bush!” thrown in for good measure.

Even as the graphic on the screen read “Barack Obama: president-elect of the United States” Michael Vaughn still had not registered what had just occured in his mind.

“I’m looking at the screen. I can read what it says, but I still don’t believe it,” an incredulous Vaughn said.

A young African-American woman stood near the doorway with a blue scarf fitted loosely around her neck. Her hands were clasped near her mouth. Tears were welling up in her eyes mixed with a smile filled with awstruck and content.

A few young girls decked out in their Catholic school dresses sat on the floor. A parent pulled 
one close to explain the historical significance of the moment in their young lives.

As Sen. John McCain gave his concession speech, a red-headed high school girl mocked the Republican and yelled, “Who the maverick, now!”

The mood in the hot and humid offices turned somber as the newly elected president spoke to the throng of supporters in Chicago.

It was as if the weight of the moment hit everyone at once.

Between the idiosyncratic pauses in Obama’s speech you could faintly hear sniffles and quiet weeping.

An older white man stood in the back. His face reddened with tears ready to fall down his cheeks. His lips were pursed as he listened to Obama as if he was holding in the tears from falling.

The mood of Obama’s acceptance speech was a stark difference from the carnival atmosphere which occured when Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992.

There was no dancing, no fist-pumping and vaguely a smile from the new president.
Democrats watching in Hayward seemed to mimic Obama’s tone.

Seated in the middle of the group was a woman, palms laying flat on her lap. Her eyes shut tightly. She was rocking slowly back and forth with each sentence Obama would utter as if in a metatative trance. She seemed in the midst of an act of spiritual cleansing with the pain floating away into the ether.

As Obama ended his speech punctuated by the campaign slogan, “Yes We Can,” she whispered the phrase a full second before Obama and slowly opened her weary eyes.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Convoy Of Wheelchairs Tries To Hijack Votes

election day'08: the race to clean the place

I voted this morning. My polling is situated in a mobile home park for seniors where voter disenfranchisement could entail accidentally feeding your dentures into the voting machine.

Seniors limped in and a convoy of electric wheelchairs hummed. I'm a voter ready to make my choices and leave. I was only at the polling place for 10 minutes. In that short time, four voters had their ballots rejected by the machine for having too many votes chosen.

The attendant told them they could fill out a new ballot or resend the current one without the offending office or initiative counted. They all choose to resend. The Price is Right is on in five minutes, honey!

While waiting in line to have my ballot authenticated, a disable man in his 50's put his motorized wheelchair in gear, except it went in reverse sideswiping the machine that counts the ballots. He jabbed at the joystick. The wheelchair shimmied forcefully left and right until he was sufficiently attached to the machine.

He grimaced while an older woman walked over to free him. He did not seem to want help though, mumbling something like the "my wheelchair is stuck! Must....get....loose!"

In the meantime, the machine, lightweight with smooth moving wheels rolled around like R2-D2 hitched to the back of landspeeder.

Somehow the man was loosened from the machine and sped out the door saying "I'm crazy", his voicing trailing as he rolled away.

I think he voted for John McCain.

Don't Trust The Media; I Did Vote!

Monday, November 03, 2008

An Election Day For The History Book

election'08: the race to clean the place - 1 day to go

[This election] will be remembered as the year when the not only younger people revived their interests in the issues but also first time voters. A mandate will be reached...because of this group.

These two lines appeared in LFR on November 1, 2004, on the eve of President Bush's re-election victory over Sen. John Kerry, yet they could be written in the same tone on the eve of the 2008 presidential election.

Ultimately, young voters did not respond any more disproportionately than any other election and the nation endured four more years of President Bush.

It is likely to occur again, yet because of sizable gains among white males, young voters showing up at the polls at roughly the same rate could give Sen. Barack Obama the White House.

Here's what to look for Tuesday:

Like Kerry four years ago, McCain has only a few quite iffy scenarios to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat as he said this weekend.

McCain unrealistically must win a combination of five of six battleground states that include Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Virginia and Colorado.

Kerry needed to win Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida to beat George W. Bush. He only won the Quaker State.

According to data compiled by, Obama leads in all 15 major national polls. More importantly, Obama holds a slight majority of the vote in 14 of the 15 polls, with the International Business Daily poll having him leading 48-43.

Fifty percent is the key for Obama, making any number of undecideds moving to McCain relatively moot.

When it comes to election landslides it is hard to beat Reagan trouncing Walter Mondale by 18 points in 1984 and Richard Nixon laying the wood on George McGovern in 1972.

Presidential "landslide" is a relative term within politics. Where a seven point win other races might be a squeeker, the 6-7 point average margin of victory most polls show for Obama constitute a landslide.

Merely reaching 50 percent would be historical for Democrats. Obama would be the first to do so since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. President Clinton was stymied by third party candidate Ross Perot in 1992 and scored 49.2 of the vote against Bob Dole four years later.

Invariably as it becomes apparent Obama will be elected president, campaign staffers will begin peddling the names of possible cabinet members.

Thus far, Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, a former Clinton staffer has been mentioned as a possible Chief of Staff, while a New York magazine story quotes sources saying Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will not be retained by Obama. In his place another former Clintonite and Harvard president Larry Summers may be summoned.

Obama may go Republican with Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana at the state department and Colin Powell may play some role in bringing the nation's military thought process back to circa 1998.

The losing party usually brings out the knives for their guy's failed attempt at the White House. This year it could get more ugly than usual.

McCain may have religious conservatives angry he did turn towards Jesus before selecting their darling, the lovely Sarah Palin. Old time conservatives are already seething over the loss of the "real McCain", "The Maverick". Of course, this is the McCain persona those same people found incorrigible on Capitol Hill

What is likely to happen in the next few weeks is cover stories and columns showing infighting, constant bickering and a case of too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

Democrats in the Senate need 60 members including Connecticut's Joe Lieberman and Vermont's Bernie Sanders in their caucus.

They appear to be falling just short of sixty with 58 looking likely. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia and Al Franken in Minnesotacould be the key for Democrats to crack a filibuster-proof 60, something a presidential has not had since President Carter in 1976.

In 2000, Al Gore barely won New Mexico. Four years later, President Bush won it by less than one percent. In 2008, New Mexico, with a large influx on Latino voters and a Republican bent on alienating this burgeoning majority, the state is firmly blue for Obama.

The fever may be spreading. Colorado is leaning blue. So is Nevada. Most surprisingly in recent weeks, has been the movement in the electorate towards Obama in Big Sky states like Montana and North Dakota. Neither of these states are likely to turn blue in 2008, but may go the way of New Mexico in 2012.

The World Is Watching; Hoping For Change


election'08: the race to clean the place

By Gabriel de Andrade
Special to the LFR

Watching the run up to this election from Dubai has been both fascinating and entertaining. What I cant get over is how scared Americans seem to be of change. The fact that words such as socialism, which are perfectly normal to use in most of the free world, has some Americans scrambling for cover is quite amusing.

I can't understand is the most powerful country in the world has no problem spending billions of taxpayers money fighting useless wars in distant shores but has a problem with providing its taxpayers with health care. Watching too much Fox News has not helped. I have not come across such a bunch of righteous and ignorant commentators in my life before. I hope that this is only the view of a few and that Americans know better.

A readers poll in today's Gulf News that asks "who would you vote for to be the new US president?" has Barack Obama leading John McCain, 63 to 11. Intrestingly enough, 17 percent of those polled stated none of the above .This is interesting as it indicates to me a general mistrust of any U.S. leadership, however, the general consensus on the Middle Eastern street is anybody but George W. Bush.

Don't get me wrong. I for one and most people out here love the U.S. and its people. But Bush's actions over the last eight years has left a perception his administration had a personal and imperialist agenda. We hope that after today's vote all that will change.

That Obama is the clear favorite out here is no surprise. A vote for McCain is perceived as a vote for the status quo. Obama is seen as a young, dynamic advocate for change who will deal with the rest of the world in an unbiased and evenhanded manner.

Believe me, if he gets that right in the Middle East the US will have millions of new friends and will do a lot better in winning hearts and minds than sending troops into villages with candy. I have no doubt that if he wins today he will have is work cut out for him. To rectify the political and financial mess is going to require a massive effort and the support of all who live in the USA.

Although the polls say otherwise there is still doubt out here as to whether the people of the USA will have the courage to elect a leader of color. I sincerely hope that they will show intent and show the rest of the rest of the world how free thinking America really is. I have faith in the American people to do the right thing and hope that America has the courage to do the right thing and put Obama in office.

Gabriel de Andrade is a South African national living in Dubai. Unfortunately, he is also a fan of the Liverpool football club in the English Premier League.

Berman Fumbles Candidate's Final Stand


election'08: the race to clean the place

Call him Chris "my questions were written by elementary school children" Berman.

Sen. Barack Obama (Click here for video) and Sen. John McCain (Click here for video) appeared during halftime of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Washington Redskins game.

The much-anticipated final conversation with voters before America votes tomorrow turned into ESPN's venerable anchor tossing the world's largest softball questions.

In addition, Berman and ESPN apparently believe in equal time while the rest of the broadcast world dropped that "archaic" rule years ago. Berman went on to ask both candidates the exact same question.

Berman started off by asking the 72-year-old McCain, "What did you learn about yourself?" Apparently, realizing you can't teach an old dog new tricks, McCain answered "not a whole lot."

Softball number two: "If you could change one thing in sports, what would it be?" This derivative of "If stranded on a deserted island, what blank would you bring?"

Obama, knowing the college vote could make him president, told Berman he ws tired of computers deciding college football's national championship. Later in the short interview, Obama also said college basketball's Final Four would be the sporting event he would like to attend as president.

The quite lame interviews conducted by Berman were highlighted, though, when Berman asked McCain about the best piece of advice he has received from sports.

Playing off the announcer's famous football call McCain said, "He-could-go-all-the-way!"

On the playing field, the Steelers defeated the Redskins, 23-6, meaning Obama will win the election.

Every election, of course, except for 2004, the winner of the Washington's final game before an election has correctly predicted the winner. Since the Skins lost Monday night, the incumbent president's party will be defeated.

Candidates spent $5 billion dollars campaigning for two years and one simple NFL game is all that is needed?

Hour-By-Hour; How The Election Will Go Down


election'08: the race to clean the place

If you can't be home watching Wolf Blitzer in front of the CNN's large Situation Room screen, here's how the election may go down when the polls begin to close starting with Indiana and parts of Eastern Kentucky at 3 p.m. pacific.

3 p.m. Sen. John McCain should jump out to a quick 19 electoral vote lead with a hard-fought victory in Indiana and an easy win in Kentucky. If, for some reason, Indiana switches to Sen. Barack Obama, the election is over. The networks would also delay calling the Hoosier State until later in the hour or more. McCain leads 19-0.

4 p.m. With wins in Georgia, South Carolina McCain will extend his lead, but ominous sign of his eventually demise will creep with a bitter loss in Virginia and an easy win for Obama in Vermont. McCain leads 42-16.

4:30 p.m. North Carolina and West Virginia go to McCain. Polls also close in the battleground state of Ohio, but, again the networks will hold off calling a likely win for Obama until after five just in case. McCain leads 62-36.

5 p.m. Twenty states begin counting votes as primetime hits the East Coast. The election may well be decided during this hour or, at least, Obama could clinch the presidency with sure-fire large blue states remaining to be won. Florida, Pennsylvania and Missouri could be called within this hour. The combination of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio earlier will likely knock all the air out of any possibility of a McCain presidency. The bellweather Show Me State of Missouri may go to McCain without consequence. Obama leads 177-152.

5:30 p.m. Bill Clinton casts his vote reluctantly for Obama as Arkansas goes to McCain (I know he votes in New York). Obama leads 177-158.

6 p.m. While Obama has not reached the requisite 270 to become president-elect, the writing is definitely on the wall. With McCain roughly 118 electoral votes shy of 270 and large can't-miss states remaining such as New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the big mama--California--McCain is seeking far more than a miracle. Obama leads 246-185.

7 p.m. The state where it all began, Iowa, closes polls for Obama. Utah and Idaho easily go for McCain, while Montana shows signs of turning blue for Democrats in the future, but, today goes McCain's way. Nevada by way of an influx of Latinos and Californians goes blue. Obama leads 258-197.

8 p.m. Officially, the presidency will be won in the West as California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii go to Obama. Obama becomes president-elect of the United States, 335-197.

9 p.m. Unofficially, the state where McCain's campaign ultimately derailed with the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska sends its three electoral votes to McCain. Obama wins 335-20o.

LFR Endorsement: Barack Obama For President

Americans are somewhat reactive in their politics. The rise of a peanut farmer from Georgia was in some part voters washing their hands of Watergate and hoping for a return in the belief in government.

In this election, the American people are yearning for this same cleansing of the national soul. Two wars in the Middle East, an economy nearing Depression levels, at least--chatter about--and global standing in need of a good public relations consultant have American walking around with a haggard look.

The person who can guide America's standing at home and abroad is Sen. Barack Obama. In fact, Americans are blessed to have the only man actually capable of these things actually in the race.

That Sen. Obama burst upon the national scene four years ago and stunned the Democratic party by defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primaries attests to the idea that America is truly blessed by a higher power.

It is in own national DNA to believe this. Colonists of this nation found a land rich in resources, constructed the Constitution and enriched the wealth of the new nation from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Scholars try not to include Manifest Destiny as a popular example of America's greatness, yet its presence directly led to American hegemony in the Western hemisphere and beyond.
Americans are fed up with being pawns in the soulless acts of the Bush administration. They do not desire to simply "shop" to help the country after 9/11 and they are still appalled their government stood back and nearly let an American city drown.
After eight years of horrendous government under President Bush, Americans need to return to the belief that our nation is blessed. At this moment in our history, we need a leader like Sen. Obama to return us to our inherent values of leadership, innovation, strength and intellect.

The world is made up of 80 percent of people without white skin. The world is watching the rise of Barack Obama as a symbol of what they believe America to be about. A country that does the right thing in the name of freedom, not the colossus that runs over countries without nary a shred of evidence. A country that can surprise you with its compassion and sheer idealism. Every country has racial disharmony, yet have never contemplated making a mixed race man its leader.

Within our borders, more Americans are suffering than ever before. It is no longer just the poor left hanging without support or a recognizable lobby for their plight. It is nearly all of us. Sen. Obama has nicely straddled the line between inciting class warfare and urging those with more to help those with less during his campaign. The rich have become increasingly richer under President Bush and Sen. Obama should symbolize a return to progressive economic policies nearly killed from the time of President Reagan on.

The stark redistribution of wealth towards the rich stood as one of our country's most symbolic troubles--the erosion of the middle class. The financial meltdown which started two months ago seemed to be the clarion call to ordinary Americans that Republican tax policy and the fattening of the rich were to blame.

Sen. Obama believes we need share the wealth, Sen. Joe Biden said it is "patriotic" to pay your taxes. They are both right and Americans see it this way. If we pledge to watch over our neighbors homes and kids and form small communities across the land where hurchgoers easily pass the hat around to help fellow parishioners in need, why would it not be easy for us to recognize during tough economic times the need to help each other?

Americans are fed up with being pawns in the soulless acts of the Bush administration. They do not want to simply "shop" to help the country after 9/11 and they are still appalled their government stood back and nearly let an American city drown.

Sen. Obama is a true populist. Over and over he has espoused the belief the campaign is not about him, but about us. He tells supporters to be ready to do their part. The response to duty is, in turn, overwhelming.

The United States did not become the most powerful nation in the history of man without the fortitude and intelligence it has exuded for over 200 years. After eight years of Bush rule, those principles briefly escaped us, but did not break us. The fact that Americans, with an awful racial history of our own, looked past skin color and put the best man in position to bring us back to be that "shining city on the hill" speaks volumes about us as people.

Will McCain Bring Reaganism Down With him?


election'08: the race to clean the place
1 day to go

Ronald Reagan has been dead four years. Is Reaganism about to near its own demise?

The signs of a final rebuke to Reaganomics, trickle down economics and the stuffing of fat cats coffers or--whatever you want to call it--may lie within the rhetoric of Joe the Plumber.

Sen. John McCain mocked the answer Sen. Barack Obama haphazardly uttered the Ohio plumber that Americans should spread the wealth. McCain not-so-subtlety labeled him a socialist, yet in times like these, the idea, in itself, that Americans should band together resonates more than continuing the same tired economic agenda of the past eight years and, by extension, the past 28.

An article in today's Boston Globe lays out the five questions the election may say about Americans, with number one contemplating an end to the Reagan Revolution.
During the heyday of the Democrats' New Deal coalition, which dominated politics from 1932 until 1980, the idea of spreading the wealth around was hardly political poison - it was the backbone of the party's economic philosophy. Since 1980 and the "Reagan Revolution," however, using tax policies to redistribute income has been widely viewed as an outmoded approach that chokes off economic growth.
Bob Schrum, the Democratic strategist and architect of Al Gore and John Kerry's losing presidential bids, also writes in The Week about the fall of Reaganism.
It is no longer enough to utter conservative epithets like “liberal” and “tax.” McCain’s implication that Obama wants to “spread the wealth” around rather than create wealth is dissonant at a time when Republicans are presiding over the greatest wealth destruction in history. Meantime, Obama has brilliantly pounded two numbers into the national consciousness—$250,000 (you don’t face a tax increase if you earn less) and 95 percent (the percentage of Americans who will receive a tax cut under Obama’s proposal).
Shrum smartly cautions Republicans to not merely mimic Democratic, but to rethink what conservatism means. He continues by saying the GOP can either do this or simply repackage the same product around Sarah Palin in 2012.

This choice, of course, will depend on the size of the drubbing in the House and Senate more than the likely loss of the White House.

If, indeed, the era of redistributing wealth toward the rich is over, it should be natural to assume an age of redistribution back to the middle and lower class is imminent. Some call it a new age of Progressivism.

In any case, it could be the aspect of the possible Obama presidency that surprise many moderates and independents who vote for him tomorrow--he really is a liberal!

LFR Endorsement: No On Prop. 8

President of the United States: Sen. Barack Obama


U.S. Representative (13th): Rep. Pete Stark
Calif. State Assembly (18th): Mary Hayashi

1A: Yes
2: Yes
3: Yes
4: No
5: Yes
6: No
7: No
8: No
9: No
10: Yes
11: No
12: Yes

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Nervous Energy Shadows Moment Of History


election'08: the race to clean the place

Americans across the United States will saddle up next voting machines less than 48 hours from now.

Behind those curtains, many will vote their convictions, the fears and their hopes. It can be said voters will pull levers or punch cards during one of our country's most tenuous moments. Pocket books are bare and the likelihood of filling them seem bleak. The terrorists are still out there, but they still need a willing president to stoke our fears.

These are the reasons people will vote Tuesday. All politics is local and whether your household finances are in order or not, you can't get anymore local that.

But, there is more to this particular election day that is being loss among the squeamishness of certain Democrats bent on willing themselves to believe their man could lose.

On Tuesday night, American may have elected a black man as its leader.

The sheer enormity of that sentence will ultimately tower in history over anything that possibly plays out election day.

Greil Marcus, writing in Salon today wrote:
My whole life, my upbringing, education, travel and talk, from working in Congress as an intern at the height of the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s to every election in which I've ever voted, makes it all but impossible for me to believe that, on Tuesday, a single state will turn its face toward the face of a black man and name him president of the United States.

It's sort of like wondering how it will feel, as a child born in the 70s, how life would change on January 1, 2000--the dawn of a new century. Nothing really changed, but the day was filled with awe and whimsy.

Will Tuesday be any different? The country will go on as did the day before, hopefully, it gets better in the four years, but the bureaucracy will trudge on.

Mentally, the "I never thought I would see this in life time" mantra will pervade the nation. Likely entering the societies lexicon the same way people remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated or when man first walked on the Moon.

Where were you when America elected a black man President of the United States? More importantly, where were you when American once again outsmarted the rest of the world and showed it promise.

Proof Of An Emerging Democratic Majority


election'08: the race to clean the place

Regardless of the outcome of the election, it is undeniable that we are in the midst of a major change within the political identification of a large swath of American voters.

The electoral map, once regionally dominated by red states in the South, Great Plains states and the West and blue states concentrated in urban coastal areas, is now a polka dot of red and blue with red states frequently turning purple to light blue.

One of the legacies of President Bush's electoral triumph, whether through guile, good luck, innovative use of statistical information or downright felonious activity is that he polarized the nation like no other.

A look at the splits from 2000 and 2004 from a chart at shows Bush's dominance in these now traditional red states.

Whereas, the two previous election cycles featured enormous swings in support for either candidates, Bush beat Kerry by 20 points in Indianfor instance and Gore trounced Bush by 27 and 25 in Massachusetts and New York. This time around Obama can claim to have closed the gap significantly in every state Bush won sans Alabama where Obamamania is still as comfortable as a cow in a leather jacket.

Here's's electoral chart:

Obama's lasting electoral triumph will likely be increasing the shading of the West to blue. Colorado, which was not on the Democrats radar four years ago is likely to go Obama's way, while New Mexico, which had been teetering on blue for two elections is solidly in his column.

If New Mexico was a target for Democrats before, it is likely that states like South Dakota and Montana with their gunslinger Democrat in the governor's mansion could be the new battleground states in 2012.

Yet, it would be wise to remember only four years ago Karl Rove was trumpeting the same rhetoric in regards to an emerging GOP domination.

Dick Polman at writes:
Political will is frighteningly fleeting, but a possible Obama administration has the political landscape of Bush in 2004 without the baggage the president still carries today and by proxy John McCain. Obama's brief honeymoon period coupled with a Democratic Congress, done correctly, could set the stage for the expansion of the Democratic rule.

McCain's November Surprise?


election'08: the race to clean the place
2 days to go

Maybe this is all the McCain camp has left? The Associated Press reported yesterday Sen. Barack Obama's aunt--half sister to his father--is living the U.S. illegally.

With three days left until election day and undecideds seeming to be leaning towards McCain, this story may well stoke moderate voters prone to believe some of the outrageous tall tales attached to Obama.

Within the toxic stew of emails and innuendo, Barack is a Muslim, took the oath on the Quran, his real father is Malcolm X and is trained to hypnotically change the minds of voters with the cadence of his speech, this story, apparently true, just add a great bit realism to this sort of voters minds.

The most troublesome part of the piece has an Obama staffer indicating Auntie Zeituni Onyhago and the senator are not close, yet he once invited her to visit the family in Chicago.

Bloggers on the right are salivating at this story, while The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder does not believe the story will gain traction with anti-immigration groups. What Ambinder fails to see with three days to go, groups of any kind do not have the time or sufficient money to jump on a story like this.

This is a gotcha story that perfectly plays to the radical conservative narrative put forth that targets Obama as the Muslim Manchurian candidate ready to turn the nation towards fundamentalist Islam on Nov. 5.

Sure, the story was triggered by the last days of campaign for the sake of influencing voters. Is it fair game? Yes.

In fact, it's far more fair and far more fresh than the idiotic ad running today in Pennsylvania which featured Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

This story is not a gamechanger, yet polling done up to election day may show a tightening of the race by a point or two because of this disclosure. It may also shore up tight races in North Dakota and Georgia for McCain.

In the whole scope of things, Auntie Zeituni may have saved McCain the humiliation of suffering a humbling electoral landslide.

UPDATE: Nov. 2, 2:00 p.m.- The Boston Herald is now reporting Aunt Zeituni falls within a housing loophole that allows her to stay in the country. Housing Authority officials said they were never notified of any deportation orders for Onyango, giving the impression the AP story yesterday emanated from purely political sources.

Unfortunately, the fact Joe the Plumber neither was a licensed plumber nor able to actually buy a plumbing company, failed to sway significant numbers of conservative voters. The Onyango story does not need facts to resonate with voters tempted by exclusion and xenophobia.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Despite Good News Democrats Still Fingerbiting


election'08: the race to clean the place

It's a bit odd to refer to supporters of a candidate as "fans" as the New York Times does today on page one.

"Obama Is Up, And Fans Fear That Jinxes It".

Was this a leftover headline from Philadelphia Phillies fans before clinching the World Series Wednesday?

Aside from the odd title, the story from Michael Powell shows maybe Republicans are correct--liberal are wimps!.

Powell quotes one Obama "fan" saying "The only thing worse than losing is to think that you're going to win and then lose."

The sentiment reveals more about this guy than the rest of the Democratic electorate. He sure seems to refute the old saying, "It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

The repeating nervousness of Obama supporters in numerous articles and countless conversations around the Bay Area is showing less a lack of confidence than an inordinate amount of supreme cowardice.

Voters are issuing the same mantra which involves stolen elections, the dubious tightening of polls and superstition.

One man is even being denied sex from his wife as a precaution against McCain according to the Times piece.

How can Democrats protect the country from terrorist if they tend to wallow in this self-doubting, head in the ground attitude?

True, Democrats have been disappointed in two straight elections, but they are hardly the Chicago Cubs of presidential elections.

Granted, this same anxiety was evident in 2004, yet all the facts are trending towards Sen. Barack Obama this time, whereas, McCain is actually the candidate facing similar roadblocks to the White House, including limited electoral possibilities fairly impossible to overcome.

Obama is the candidate consistently leading with numbers that could easily swell to presidential landslide territory, while holding the cards to far more numerous electoral equations that could equal the 270 needed to win.

It's time for Democratic voters to act like they've won before.