June 2008
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Month June 2008

A very bad move by Team Obama

I happened to be watching Face the Nation this weekend when Wes Clark said that “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.”  Pretty gutsy stuff.  Here’s a little more on how the conversation went (very much along the lines of what he’s been saying for a while now):

Underscoring during a national television appearance a position he has been expressing for several weeks, Clark said performing heroic military service is not a substitute for gaining command experience.

“In the matters of national security policy making, it’s a matter of understanding risk,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It’s a matter of gauging your opponents and it’s a matter of being held accountable. John McCain’s never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces, as a prisoner of war.

“He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee and he has traveled all over the world, but he hasn’t held executive responsibility,” Clark said. “That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded – that wasn’t a wartime squadron.”

Moderator Bob Schieffer, who raised the issue by citing similar remarks Clark has made previously, noted that Obama hadn’t had those experiences nor had he ridden in a fighter plane and been shot down. “Well, I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president,” Clark replied.

In a March conference call with reporters while he was still backing Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clark said: “Everybody admires John McCain’s service as a fighter pilot, his courage as a prisoner of war. There’s no issue there. He’s a great man and an honorable man. But having served as a fighter pilot – and I know my experience as a company commander in Vietnam – that doesn’t prepare you to be commander in chief in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved. It may give you a feeling for what the troops are going through in the process, but it doesn’t give you the experience first hand of the national strategic issues.”

That’s tough stuff, and it’s brilliant politics, no?  Wes Clark has all kinds of credibility on this issue, so he’s perfectly positioned to talk about it.  John McCain’s biggest selling point is his alleged military expertise — what better way to throw a monkey wrench into his general election strategy than to have someone like Clark raise serious, legitimate questions about McCain’s qualifications.

Plus, everything Clark said is right.

So, given all that, WHAT THE HELL IS THIS??

“As he’s said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain’s service, and of course he rejects yesterday’s statement by General Clark,” said Obama campaign spokeman Bill Burton.

Are you kidding me?  Let us count the ways in which Obama’s “rejecting” what Clark said is a bad — indeed, potentially disastrous — move.

1. It throws under the bus one of Obama’s best vice-presidential prospects.

2. It makes it nearly impossible for Clark to continue aggressively questioning McCain’s qualifications — something that, up to now, he had done very effectively, and in a way that Obama himself cannot.

3. Perhaps worst of all, it’s very hard to interpret Obama’s move as other than a concession that being shot down and held prisoner does qualify McCain to be president.  And yet, surely Clark is exactly right that McCain’s wartime experiences, as heroic and character-building as they were, did little to “prepare [him] to be commander in chief in terms of dealing with the national strategic issues that are involved.”  If Obama is going to “reject” Clark’s comments along those lines, how can he later credibly argue that he, rather than McCain, would be the superior Commander in Chief?

Obama needs to work much harder to resist the temptation to try to rise above politics as usual at the cost of undercutting the rationale for his own candidacy.  This was a big, big mistake.

School system retirees “double dip” with waiver.

This story should repulse both liberal and conservative. These retired school personnel have been rehired into the school system with waivers which are suppose to be issued when they can’t find anyone else to hire. Isn’t unemployment high, does every teacher and school administrator in the state have a job already? We are talking serious money too. Top earners made $277K, $246K, 227K, $218K and on and on… which will increase their retirement benefits as well. Nearly 100 retired educators in the Commonwealth were allowed to earn their full salaries while collecting full pensions in the past school year, a growing practice critics call state-sanctioned “double dipping.” The retirees collectively made more than $5 million on the job while taking home $5.5 million in pension payments, according to information obtained by the Globe. Can we all agree that this is totally wrong? Every single dollar going into these double dipper’s pockets is coming out of budgets which are already strained. Budgets which are cutting needed programs and teachers while these people are screwing us. I don’t blame the people as much as I blame the system which was created by the union. State law strictly limits how much public retirees […]

Special Tax Policy for Hollywood East!!

Cross posted on ONE Massachusetts As the Governor and the Legislature consider the FY 09 budget's “structural deficit”..  In a Saturday OPED in the Herald, Rep Steve D'Amico points out that our current tax policy that provides tax credits to the movie industry is costing a bundle.  Worth every penny some people think!! The movies have come to Massachusetts in a big way. It seems that every week there is another story in the news about the success of the film production tax credits enacted by the Legislature in 2007. Hundreds of good high-paying jobs! Hollywood East! There is now serious talk about building one or more movie studios here. What the fawning press fails to mention is the cost. Movie producers are eligible for a 25 percent tax credit. Don’t confuse this with a tax break. Movie people don’t pay any sales tax – that’s one of the minor perks of doing business here. A tax credit is like an IOU from the taxpayers. For every dollar Disney or Fox spends, they get an IOU for 25 cents. When they spend $20 million on a big-name star, you shell out $5 million. That actor doesn’t spend his money here; […]

National Popular Vote to be voted on Today or Tomorrow!

Common Cause has announced that the National Popular Vote bill (H.678), which would guarantee the Presidency to the winner of the most votes nationwide, should come up for a vote on the Mass. House floor either Monday (today) or Tuesday and in the Senate on Tuesday! Call your elected officials and urge them to vote yes! A poll on June 3 showed 73% of Mass. voters prefer the President being chosen by the popular vote over the current electoral college. If we pass the bill, Massachusetts will become the fifth state to do so, bringing the total electoral college votes held by NPV states up to 62, or 23% of 270 needed for it to go into effect. (Note that passing it in Mass will have no impact on the upcoming presidential election in November.) It’s about time that all votes for president count equally, regardless of whether they come from swing or non-swing states.

NY Times outlines failed strategy in Pakistan’s tribal areas

This article is quite long, but well worth reading.  As much as anything, it’s an indictment of our dysfunctional intelligence services, as well as a reminder of just how bad an idea the Iraq war really was.  On Iraq and the impact it had on the hunt for bin Laden and more generally on the effort to prevent al Qaeda from reconstituting itself in Pakistan: Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas. When American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq…. In Pakistan, the new operation was staffed not only with C.I.A. operatives drawn from around the world, but also with recent graduates of “The Farm,” the agency’s training center at Camp Peary in Virginia. “We had to put people out in the field who had less than ideal levels of experience,” one former senior C.I.A. official said. “But there wasn’t much to choose from.” One reason for this, according to two former intelligence officials directly involved in the Qaeda hunt, was that by […]

Sara Orozco’s senate campaign kickoff events in Needham & Attleboro a success!

On Saturday, June 28th, Needham Democratic candidate Sara Orozco, Ph.D, joined with family, friends, and supporters to officially kick off her campaign to become the next state senator to represent the Norfolk, Bristol and Middlesex District.  As the only Democrat in the race, Sara is in an all-out sprint to unseat Republican incumbent, Scott Brown.

Moyers Discusses the Myth of Black Emancipation [w/video]

The enslavement of Black Americans did not end on June 19, 1865; it continued until World War II.

In his March speech on race, Barack Obama said:

[W]e do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow….

Legalized discrimination – where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A new book from Wall Street Journal reporter Douglas Blackmon explodes “that history” referenced by Obama and deepens modern understanding of Jim Crow and the Black Codes in Slavery By Another Name – The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II.

The book’s website explains:

Under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized by southern landowners and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Government officials leased falsely imprisoned blacks to small-town entrepreneurs, provincial farmers, and dozens of corporations-including U.S. Steel Corp.-looking for cheap and abundant labor. Armies of “free” black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.

The neoslavery system exploited legal loopholes and federal policies which discouraged prosecution of whites for continuing to hold black workers against their wills. As it poured millions of dollars into southern government treasuries, the new slavery also became a key instrument in the terrorization of African Americans seeking full participation in the U.S. political system.

Bill Moyers talked with Blackmon on a recent episode of Bill Moyers’ Journal (watch an excerpted clip below the flip or the whole interview at PBS where you can also read the transcript):

“It Wouldn’t Be a Championship Without a Homicide” or

“Keeping up with the Joneses, Celtic’s Style.” If this is a third homicide how much does it have to do with Dan “Search and Avoid” Conley’s “inmate’s run the asylum attitude’ towards police misconduct and prosecution.   This is why people keep their bathrooms clean. If you don’t the gross stuff will grow and stink and eventually make the bathroom an unhealthy place which is exactly the opposite of why you have it. To keep you clean and healthy. Yup, call me Chauncey Plumber

Vote to Support the Dogs Today

I just put up a polling question on BlogLeftMass’s group page to see if we, as a group, want to publicly support the measure to ban Greyhound Dog Racing in Massachusetts. I think we know how Lynne will vote, but how will you? If anyone feels passionately (or at all) about the subject and is a member of the group, please go vote how you feel. If you aren’t a member of the group and you’re a progressive blogger, join up! All it takes is a (free) Yahoo ID. If anyone wants to learn more about BlogLeftMass, send me an email. Suffice it to say, we’re the loose, cool coalition of computer geeks and political junkies people who care about progressive politics in Massachusetts, building the movement through strengthening the netroots and engaging in the grassroots, increasing citizen participation, activism. And stuff.  

McCain has Overdue Property Taxes

Newsweek just reported that the McCains are overdue on a tax bill in La Jolla, CA.  It wasn’t like they missed a single payment, they haven’t payed taxes on this property for 4 years.   McCain’s team claimed ignorance.  They were completely unaware of it until Newsweek questioned the unpaid property tax.  But fear not, McCain jumped on the issue and his campaign gave Newsweek a receipt of the past due tax bill.   Shortly after NEWSWEEK inquired about the matter, the McCain aide e-mailed a receipt dated Friday, June 27, confirming payment by the trust to San Diego County in the amount of $6,744.42. But one problem, they didn’t owe $6744.42, they owed $8468.42.  That’s correct, not only were they overdue in paying taxes for 4 years, when they decided to finally pay it, they screwed that up too. County officials say the trust still owes an additional $1,742 for this year, an amount that is overdue and will go into default July 1. Yeah, kind of gives you a good feeling about how McCain manages his finances.