Sunday, March 02, 2008

Iraq and Iran heart eachother, at least on camera

In a continuing reminder of the failure of the Bush invasion and occupation of Iraq, we see that one side-effect is that we now have an Iraqi leadership increasingly friendly with the Saddam (and U.S.) enemy Iran. How peachy are things between the two countries? Quite peachy, in quite a contrast with our situation:

Pomp and ceremony greeted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his arrival in Iraq on Sunday, the fanfare a stark contrast to the rushed and secretive visits of his bitter rival U.S. President George W. Bush. Ahmadinejad held hands with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as they walked down a red carpet to the tune of their countries' national anthems, his visit the first by an Iranian president since the two neighbours fought a ruinous war in the 1980s. His warm reception, in which he was hugged and kissed by Iraqi officials and presented with flowers by children, was Iraq's first full state welcome for any leader since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

I am actually not so sure this is a bad thing, however. If both the U.S. and Iran are allies with Iraq, that becomes a common denominator between our two countries, and might lead to a diplomatic detente with a new U.S. president. Maybe.

Wow Bill Maher's New Rules from the other night, brutal and hilarious

Watch the whole thing. This is, well, politically incorrect:

Hope in Kenya

This is a few days old (Feb 29), but still worth writing on. Kofi Annan got the job done, and many Kenyans were demanding reconciliation. From the New York Times:

Kenya’s rival leaders broke their tense standoff on Thursday, agreeing to share power in a deal that may end the violence that has engulfed this nation but could be the beginning of a long and difficult political relationship. The country seemed to let out a collective cheer as Mwai Kibaki, the president, and Raila Odinga, the top opposition leader, sat down at a desk in front of the president’s office, with a bank of television cameras rolling, and signed an agreement that creates a powerful prime minister position for Mr. Odinga and splits cabinet posts between the government and the opposition.

But wow a lot is going to have to happen to repair the economic, social, and human damage that has occurred over the past two months:

There is also a deeply divided country to heal. More than 1,000 Kenyans have been killed and hundreds of thousands driven from their homes in an uncharacteristic burst of violence set off by a deeply flawed election in December. Much of the fighting, like the voting, has been along ethnic lines.... The controversy spawned bloodletting across the country, with supporters of Mr. Odinga and Mr. Kibaki attacking one other in brutal battles. Few were spared. Entire villages were razed. Women and children were burned alive.

The international community needs to move in fast, efficiently, and constructively. Let's go.

Republican loon watch

From TPMtv, Josh Marshall highlights the worst of the worst this week. Hard to watch, but it serves to remind us how nuts some of these people really are.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Obama closing in on Hillary for a lead in superdelegates

Another sign this thing is wrapping up for Obama:

The Associated Press reports that Barack Obama has picked up 25 super-delegate votes in the two and a half weeks since his narrow Super Tuesday win, a sign that those in the party establishment are lining up behind the candidate expected to win the pledged-delegate vote. Only 60 supers are now separating them by the AP's count, and Hillary has even lost a net two since Super Tuesday. It's the kind of news that should calm any fears — or dash any hopes, as the case may be — about super-delegates deciding the nomination over the popular will.

Though 60 isn't negligible, there are still a lot of non-committed superdelegates out there.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Aww, Israel has them too! Right-wing nuts say earthquakes cause by homos

Of course they are! From Andrew Sullivan:

An Israeli MP has blamed parliament's tolerance of gays for earthquakes that have rocked the Holy Land recently. Shlomo Benizri, of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party, said the tremors had been caused by lawmaking that gave "legitimacy to sodomy".[...] He called on lawmakers to stop "passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the state of Israel, which anyway brings about earthquakes."

I mean, the guy's name is Shlomo. Maybe he's still bitter about being made fun of as a kid: "Shlomo the homo!"

Or maybe gays really do cause earthquakes. If so I want to learn how.

Dems' early voting in Texas primary 10 TIMES higher than in '04

Wow... and this is good for Obama. And good for Dem chances in November (not that we *really* have a chance at Texas, but you never know):

Turnout on the first day of early voting was up all across Texas, according to initial numbers from the Secretary of State's office. But Houston and Dallas were off the charts — the numbers show a 10-fold increase over 2004. In Harris County four years ago, only 728 people showed up for the Democratic primary on the first day of early voting. Yesterday it was 9,243. In Dallas, the first-day turnout jumped from 913 in 2004 to 8,615 yesterday. That would seem good news for Obama. Other urban counties such as Travis (Austin) and Bexar (San Antonio) showed six-fold increases. In El Paso, it tripled.

The Onion asks locals what they think of Bush's abstinence AIDS policy

Bush: Keep Abstinence In AIDS Plan

President Bush wants to keep a contested provision in his global AIDS package in which one-third of all prevention spending goes to abstinence education. What do you think?

"How much was allocated to dry-humping and finger-banging education?"
-Roger Davidson, Health Inspector

"This is fine as long as the other two-thirds is going towards funding cutting-edge abstinence research."
Amanda Troughton, Apartment Manager

"Exactly how much money does it cost to tell people not to have sex with each other?"
Duncan Pertwee, Library Aide

National news in a frenzy over McCain/Female Lobbyist story

So if you are running as the up-standing, uncorrupt, anti-lobbyist and special interest candidate, this is not good. From the story of record, which broke this last night, the New York Times:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers. A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

I'm pretty sure we don't know enough to understand the full extent of this relationship--just close friends and colleagues? A bit more? A lot more? But regardless, being that close with a lobbyist while you are chair of the Senate Commerce Committee is not a good thing.

Mike Huckabee, who is still in the race against McCain, must be laughing that "miracles do happen" (when asked why he's in the race, that's his response...). How crazy would it be for Huck to get this afterall? And poor Mitt Romney; a day late and dollar short.

What a campaign............

PS: Considering all of this, I suppose it could be worse. In light of Mark Foley, Larry Craig, and the rest of the anti-gay gay Republicans, at least this lobbyist was a chick and not a dude!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Two very different campaigns, shown by CNN cutting from Obama's speech to McCain's

You can see it in the YouTube below. At about minute 3:05 CNN's gay Anderson Cooper interrupts Obama's inspiring, energetic, new speech to switch over to McCain's victory speech (both candidates won all three Potomac primaries last night: DC, MD, and VA).

And what a speech McCain's was. He was speaking as if it were 1953 and the U.S. had just bowed to the imposing force of Red China and a nuclear USSR. Such gems as--and these are direct quotes--we are fighting people who "despise our freedom," the Democrats will try to "placate implacable foes," and America is "the last best hope on Earth."

Heavy. And I love the six old white men behind McCain compared to 17,000 people packed into an arena in University of Wisconsin. I need to send Obama more money.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pretty funny--McCain parody of Obama's Hope YouTube

The inspiring Obama video was making its way around the internet last week, and you can watch it here. But this post is for laughing. At McCain:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Yesterday's primary results--Obama sweeps, Hillary weeps (not really), and Huck surges

I don't these results are what most expected; I didn't. Obama just destroyed Hillary in Louisiana, Nebraska, and Washington State. Said another way, all over the damn country. On the Republican side, the media narrative has definitely changed from "McCain is the nominee and just has to unify the party" to "Huckabee is winning primaries still? Potentially in the north?"

The details:

Kansas, GOP (100% reporting)
Huckabee - 60%
McCain - 24%
Paul - 11%
Louisiana, DEM (100% reporting)
Clinton - 36%
Obama - 57%
Louisiana, GOP (100% reporting)
Huckabee - 43%
McCain - 42%
Paul - 5%
Nebraska, DEM (99% reporting)
Clinton - 32%
Obama - 68%
Washington State, DEM (96% reporting)
Clinton - 31%
Obama - 68%
Washington State, GOP (87% reporting, too close to call)
Huckabee - 24%
McCain - 26%
Paul - 21%
Romney - 16%
Uncommitted - 13%


Josh Marshall says this say about the Republican WA State results, focusing on how this is not a good development for McCain:

First thing you have to note is that 74% of caucuses showed up to vote against their all-but-certain nominee. Romney's showing a couple days after dropping out of the race is pretty impressive. And uncommitted even put in a respectable number. The truth is that beside Huckabee's feeble candidate, of the remaining three, one has officially dropped out, another has said he's shifting his focus to his congressional campaign and the third isn't even a person.

Indeed.

Update: I forgot to mention this, but it is big news too: Tonight Obama won 103 delegates to Hillary's 58, putting the current total at 1,012 for Obama and 940 for Hillary. Now, that is just democratically elected delegates, not the Superdelegates that Hillary views as mana from heaven right now (see her pandering to them here. shocker.)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Um... what can you say about a headline like this

Exclusive: Peace Corps, Fulbright Scholar Asked to 'Spy' on Cubans, Venezuelans

With the sub-headline: U.S. Embassy Official's 'Spy' Request Violated Long-Standing U.S. Policy. Indeed.

Whose bright idea was this? To ABC news:

"I was told to provide the names, addresses and activities of any Venezuelan or Cuban doctors or field workers I come across during my time here," Fulbright scholar John Alexander van Schaick told ABCNews.com in an interview in La Paz.

Van Schaick's account matches that of Peace Corps members and staff who claim that last July their entire group of new volunteers was instructed by the same U.S. Embassy official in Bolivia to report on Cuban and Venezuelan nationals. The State Department says any such request was "in error" and a violation of long-standing U.S. policy which prohibits the use of Peace Corps personnel or Fulbright scholars for intelligence purposes.

"We take this very seriously and want to stress this is not in any way our policy," a senior State Department official told ABCNews.com.

More Bush admin incompetency. is it 2009 yet? And by the way, this really hurts the global reputation of the Peace Corps, which has already been strained over the past five years due to the war in Iraq, and, um, Bush.

Just finished Andrew Sullivan's "The Conservative Soul"

And I strongly recommend it.



I am a big fan of Andrew Sullivan's blog, and actually expected this book to have a similar feel--insightful and often clever political analysis, commentary, and editorializing. Instead, this book goes into political philosophy of theoconservative fundamentalists who have extreme influence in today's Republican party and then explains his own views and philosophy (with much greater effect, of course). Very readable, the book also touched on important moment's in Sullivan's life and how we has grown over the years.

Here is a representative paragraph, on nothing less than the U.S. Constitution:

A constitution does something quite miraculous in human affairs, and few constitutions have been as miraculous as America's. What it does in the brutal world of competing human interest and opinions is to change the subject. Instead of focusing on what a polity is for, what meaning it is supposed to represent, which virtues it is supposed to inculcate, a constitution restricts itself to pure procedure. It doesn't tell us what purpose to give our own country or what purpose to give ourselves. It merely says what the state cannot do, and leaves the rest to us. It is a supremely negative piece of positive action. Instead of instructing us what we should do with our lives, it restricts itself to telling us how we do it.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Romney quits race after spending $35 million of his own money on failure

For half a second I felt bad for him, and then I heard about what he said in his departure speech:

Groans erupted among members of the Conservative Political Action Conference gathered in a packed hotel ballroom as Romney announced his withdrawal. To stay in the race, he said, would make it easier for a Democrat to win, "and in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror."

What a douchebag. Yes, a Democrat being elected will be "surrendering to terror". Bush and the Republicans have done so well dealing with al Qaida and getting the world to hate us, they can really talk.

And Mitt, feel proud that you lost to a man who your party hates. Congrats!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama beats Clinton in number of states won with 60+ percent of the vote, 8-1

DailyKos brings up a good point in a long post about how Obama unequivocally won last night. And then he cites this, which is impressive:

States Obama won with (so far) more than 60% of the vote:

Alaska (over 70%)
Colorado
Georgia
Idaho (over 70%)
Illinois
Kansas (over 70%)
Minnesota
North Dakota

States Clinton won with (so far) more than 60% of the vote:

Arkansas

Super Tuesday reaction: The Dems

Unlike the Republican side, there really wasn't a known Wednesday morning headline other than that it was going to be very, very close. And it was--as illustrated in many ways but among them that:

Of all the votes cast on Super Tuesday for the two candidates nationwide, the two candidates are only separated by 0.4 of a percentage point. By midday Wednesday, 14,645,638 votes were reported cast for either Obama or Clinton on Tuesday. Clinton had won 7,295,400 of those votes (50.2 percent) while Obama captured 7,295,400 votes (49.8 percent).


Yeah, kind of insane. Add to this that most Dem races shattered records for turnout; in the North, South, Midwest, and West Coast. We're pumped up. In terms of delegates secured (the Dems' delegates are given more or less proportionally to how well you did in the state), it looks like Obama just eked out a win:

Based on a wide variety of sources, right now it's at Clinton 670, Obama 650, but still with 210 to be allocated from California, 47 from Illinois, and smaller amounts elsewhere.


Then, going state by state, this is how it played out (New Mexico is still too close to call):

Obama: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Utah, North Dakota, and Missouri.

Clinton: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

What does it all mean? Practically, we still have a long way to go. And it might come down to the decisions to be made by the hundreds of superdelegates who get to vote for whomever they want at the convention. Ah, but I will say one thing: For the first time in the campaign I think a Clinton-Obama ticket is actually possible. We will see.

Super Tuesday reaction: The Repubs

Going into yesterday, the conventional wisdom seemed to say that Super Tuesday would most likely entail McCain winning almost all Republican contests (the question being by how much), with the remaining going to Mitt Romney, and potentially one or two to Mike Huckabee. The storyline for Wednesday was pre-written as "McCain solidifies his front-runner status; nearing enough delegates to clinch the nomination." Instead, lots of successful McCain stories, but always with a caveat, such was the Washington Post's McCain Wins Big States; Huckabee, Romney Live, or the New York Times' Arizona Senator Surges; Huckabee Strong in the South. Here are the results themselves (most states were winner take all on the Republican side):

Mike Huckabee: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia

John McCain: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma

Mitt Romney: Alaska, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Utah


What strikes me as interesting is that there are some trends -- McCain wins the big states, Huckabee wins the South -- it also just seems kind of random, particularly on Romney's side (exceptions being Mormon Utah and his "home state" of Mass.) But regardless, what this shows is a party truly divided. McCain's inability to win big last night, though albeit with a win at the end of the day, illustrates this. And then you have people like James Dobson of Focus on the [heterosexual, nuclear, preferably white] Family saying things like this:

I'm deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.

I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001, and approached John Kerry about being Kerry's running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.


Apparently he's not a fan of McCain. This is not over yet; I'm hoping that the Huckabee-McCain detente will end soon as Huck tries to exploit the religious rights' apparent aversion to McCain, and McCain fights back calling out Huckabee for the cave man perspective he holds when it comes to social issues and tax policy. We'll see.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lima photo essay 2

Click on the pictures for larger versions.


National Cathedral, Plaza de Armas, Lima.


Peruvian houses, north of the river, Lima.


City bus.


Graffiti, on the way to the beach.


Surfing at the pier, on the Pacific Ocean.

Super Tuesday is upon us

East Coast polls close in the next four or five hours, and then polls throughout the country will close during the following hours as almost half the electorate votes on which candidate from which party will end up facing the other in November. On the Dem side, it promises to be a very close race through and through. And with proportional award of electors (usually by whichever candidate wins each congressional district) it is unlikely that either Hillary or Obama will have enough to clinch the nomination.

On the Republican side, most state contests are winner take all, and McCain looks very strong (though I wouldn't discount Romney getting just enough votes to stay in this thing). Already, the conservative coalition is cracking, with many fundamentalist (and some mainstream) conservatives saying no way to McCain. One of the kings of the gay/abortion choice/science/etc. hatred, James Dobson, had this to say:

With John McCain on the verge of winning the Republican nomination, the once-complacent anti-McCain forces on the right are getting louder than ever. This morning, James Dobson released a statement to Laura Ingraham's radio show, declaring that under no circumstances would he support McCain in the general election — a potential blow to the Arizona senator, since it could discourage turnout among some evangelical voters.


Meanwhile, John McCain decided to answer a number of articles that have been circulating about how many Republican colleagues in the Senate are not particularly fond of him:

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) took a swipe Tuesday at GOP senators who have criticized him during the presidential campaign, saying they “are not the most respected members of the United States Senate.

McCain, who is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination heading into the Super Tuesday primaries, was referring to comments made by five-term Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.). “The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Cochran had told The Boston Globe after his endorsement of McCain’s main rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. “He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.”

This is going to be fun to watch.