Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cheers for Rev. Wright

As off-base and far-out and wacky as Rev. Wright may be, I still think he is a genuine, authentic American and deserves a lot more respect. How many true Americans don't harbor some kind of suspicion about something or believe in some sort of oddball conspiracy theory? At least Rev. Wright is being honest and direct, with absolutely zero attempt at "spin." Barack's Rev. Wright is definitely my kind of guy! I'd much listen to him than Barack. That does not mean that I agree with everything that he says, but I do appreciate his honesty and candor. Frankly I am a little bit offended at Barack's tone. He knew what Rev. Wright was all about, but it wasn't such a big deal to him, but now that he is running for president, in theory in pursuit of a "new politics", he belittles someone who is so much more honest and candid than himself. Shameful. I can more easily forgive Rev. Wright for his quirky beliefs than I can forgive Barack for saying that he, unlike Hillary, et al, is above it all, and then turning around and proving that he can play "old politics" with the best of them. What a fraud.

I would like to see Barack volunteer Rev. Wright to debate Hillary one-on-one. That would be a great match-up! They could sell tickets, and maybe do it in Vegas. Maybe Rev. Wright could invite himself. Or maybe Hillary could invite him.

I am sure that there are plenty of people in "the black church" and "the black community" who share Rev. Wright's believes and biases, just as there are plenty of whites who share beliefs and biases just as off-beat if not odious, but for Barack to try to spin his way away from his own past tolerance so cleverly seems to be an insult against a large number of people, not to mention Rev. Wright himself.

And remember, the issue here is not what Rev. Wright believes or whether Barack shares any of those beliefs, but the fact that Barack was so tolerant of those beliefs for so many years and only now has had a change of heart that he refuses to acknowledge. That is what critics are referring to. The issue is not for Barack to issue denials about beliefs today, but simply to acknowledge that he was so tolerant of such objectionable beliefs for so long. Personally, I suspect that Barack was simply doing the "politically" expedient thing to do years ago by politely and tolerantly listening.  But now, Barack refuses to own up to his own actions or inactions years ago, and that is the issue, not what Rev. Wright may do or say today.

I do wonder how "in touch" Barack is with even the core "black church" and working class black community in America. Sure, plenty of blacks support him, but how deep is the underlying cultural affinity? Was his passion for his church and pastor really that deep, or was it much more "practical" if not political in nature?

I think Barack's problem is that his "blackness" is only skin-deep. Even Bill Clinton has more "inner blackness" and connectedness to the core black community than Barack.

I still think Barack has a shot of getting past all of this, but he will have to do so by transcending all of these distractions rather than resorting to spinning himself away from his own history with a lot of clever, smart-mouth sound-bites or diversionary speeches. Transcendence requires deep candor, not spin and cleverness.

The ultimate problem here is that the underlying agenda of The Progressives is to defeat their foes, not to embrace them. Barack needs to embrace Rev. Wright and all others in America that he may disagree with, and simultaneously recognize differences and tolerances and then gradually and incrementally work through compromises and accommodations, but The Progressives' and Barack's own mockery of a "new politics" encourages spin over accommodation. Rev. Wright is not a core problem for Barack. What is a core problem for Barack is his own refusal to admit to his own humanity and to acknowledge a deep and passionate sense of humility. What we have instead is "Yes we can!" run amok.

Rev. Wright deserves an apology from Barack.

And the American people deserve an apology from Barack for his ongoing refusal to acknowledge that he is not just as much an "old" politician as the rest of them.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What really defines the middle class these days?

During this presidential primary season, it is clear that the Democrats consider an income of $250,000 as marking the upper end of being "middle class." That seems high, but maybe it is not. I would have said something in the $85,000 to $150,000 range or say $100,000 or $125,000 to pick a single number. I suppose it depends on how you characterize the quality of life that comes with being middle class. Does it mean that you can afford to send three kids to "some" college, or send all three to the top ivy league universities?

To me, being middle class is more a matter of a sense of security than what you can technically afford. By my definition, very few people have truly secure streams of income. So many people who may have incomes above $100,000 today may be one pink slip away from falling a dozen rungs down the ladder.

I think we do need to distinguish at least lower-middle, middle-middle, and upper middle class. Sure, a couple of attorneys or professors might well be "struggling" on $200,000 per year, but that is an entirely different "class" of struggle than a household with an income of $35,000 and three kids. And each of these tiers probably has three sub-tiers. I would suggest that the middle-middle class ranges from $50,000 to $100,000, with some clear distinctions in lifestyle and choices between the $50,000 to $65, 000 range, the $65,000 to $85,000 range, and the $85,000 to $100,000 range. I freely admit that some people would insist that the $85,000 to $100,000 range should be considered upper-middle class.

Now, the question becomes whether the upper-middle class extends only from $100,000 to $125,000, to $150,000, to $175,000, to $200,000, to $225,000, to $250,000, or even beyond.

If we read the Wikipedia article on middle class, we find that the defining characteristics are no income or spending per se, but degree of economic independence and degree of social influence and power. The lower class has no economic independence and no social influence or power. The upper class has both economic independence and social influence and power. The middle class has a degree of economic independence but not a great deal of social influence or power.

I would draw the line between middle class and upper class as whether a household has to spend most (more than 75%) of its energy focusing on maintaining economic independence. If the household income is high enough, the household can spend most (more than 75%) of its energy either on other pursuits such as charity, social causes, etc. or pursuing additional income not because it is needed for economic independence but simply for the satisfaction or power that comes with it.

My 75% threshold is arbitrary. It could be 80% or 90% or 60% or even 50%. I would note that even households with very modest incomes manage to squeeze in some amount of non-economic social efforts such as volunteering, church, youth activities, charities, social organizations, etc. The issue is whether the household income is sufficient so that the household can choose to reduce income in favor of non-economic activities without feeling any significant financial pinch.

One could take the approach of defining upper class as a household than absolutely does not need to work to maintain its economic independence. So-called "trust babies" would fit this bill.

OTOH, there are plenty of households which have very high incomes but do not have the wealth to support a middle-class life style solely on income from wealth and investments. They may in fact be on a path to the upper class, but they have not yet arrived. I have argued that you need $50 million to be comfortably wealthy. Maybe we need another category called working wealthy which covers households which are clearly capable of living the lifestyle of the upper class, but only because they are working a very-high-paying jobs.

So, I am torn here by using the criteria of not needing to work for upper class while households with very-high incomes of $500,000 or more clearly do not have the same issues as the true middle class (e.g., whether they can afford to send their kids to top-tier universities or even private schools).

For now, I am going to suggest that my working wealthy should in fact be categorized as upper class.

Alas, that still does not finish the job. What about households earning between $150,000 and $500,000? Where do you draw the line? $250,000 seems rather arbitrary. I will suggest that the primary criteria is the extent to which the household shares the common middle class issues. I suggest that you are no longer even upper-middle class if you meet at least a few of these criteria:

  • You can afford to send your kinds to private school
  • You can afford to send three kids to top-tier universities without any financial strain
  • You never worry about the cost of health care
  • You can afford to own or at least rent a yacht
  • You can afford to give each of your kids a high-end automobile
  • You live comfortably enough on a single income that having significantly higher income from a second income in the household is not a significant incentive to do so

It is possible for investment bankers and hedge fund managers and high-end attorneys and doctors and professors to reach those levels of income that allow them to live a lifestyle comparable to those who are truly wealthy, but an average attorney or professor could well fail to meet more than one or two of my criteria for being working wealthy and hence on the bottom rungs of the upper class.

So, if we have a household with two attorneys or two professors earning over $150,000, the question is whether they really do need most of that income to maintain basic economic independence. There is a vast gray area since obviously they may "need" the income to afford a summer house and two high-end automobiles, but maybe they could live just as comfortably with a more modest summer cottage and mid-range automobiles. The extent to which they can freely choose to spend money on high-end luxuries gradually begins to phase the household from middle class to upper class. If they can only afford the luxuries with two earners, that says that maybe they are still middle class, but that they may simply be straddling the fence between middle class struggling to make ends meet for non-luxuries and upper class "struggling" to decide which luxuries to choose from.

In the end, I think it all comes down to degree of choice that a household feels that it has. The threshold for entering the middle class is that you have sufficient income to afford what a person with common sense would consider basic necessities for a modern household, such as not worrying how to pay for food, access to basic health care, can afford basic amenities such as cable TV, Internet access, annual vacation, etc. I would define the upper class as having the flexibility to take on a fair amount of non-financial activities without putting their financial independence at risk.

I am tempted to define yet another category that is not clearly middle class or upper class or even working wealthy. I will call it the working near-wealthy, where the households are clearly spending a lot of money on luxuries or other discretionary expenses or charities but not quite to the level of a truly wealthy household, and maybe they are only able to support this level of near-wealth by having two incomes.

Now the question becomes whether the working near-wealthy are in fact the highest rung of the middle class or the lowest rung of the upper class. Maybe they are in fact both, depending on the context of the question. I am tempted to define the working near-wealthy as the range $150,000 to $350,000. I do not think a household earning $125,000 would be considered "wealthy" by almost any metric and I think that a household earning close to $400,000 would clearly be considered in the working wealthy category. Again, these numbers are quite rough and arbitrary. It so happens that the midpoint of my working near-wealthy range is $250,000. That seems like a good compromise.

After all of this, I am still not sure where to draw the line between middle class and upper class, or between middle class and the working wealthy, other than that it is somewhere between $150,000 and $350,000. OTOH, this issue has only come up in the context of government tax policy. The issue seems to be that the lower tiers of the working wealthy, the working near-wealthy, very much resent being treated as if they were the same as those several rungs higher on the ladder. And the people at those higher rungs still have enough of a "work" mentality that they are happy to keep a few more of their bucks all because politicians want to salve the resentments of the lower rungs of the working wealthy (the working near-wealthy.)

The Democrats seem to understand the economics here and are using it as a wedge issue to separate the lower rungs of the working wealthy from the upper rungs. Giving a tax preference to those people earning $100,000 to $250,000 quiets most of the more intense resentment and assures that the Democrats can count on the support of those upper-middle class voters. Besides, those earning $100,000 to $250,000 are ideally positioned to make substantial campaign contributions. The "calculus" suggests that the number of people earning more than $250,000 is small enough to simply write them off and let them "go Republican."

Incidentally, $175,000 is the household threshold for the fiscal stimulus payments that are going out starting on Monday.

In short, I do not personally think that a household earning $150,000 to $250,000 is necessarily properly considered middle class or even upper middle class, but I can understand why the Democrats are targeting such households and labeling them as middle class.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Is Barack being too cool?

I have to agree with a lot of what Bob Herbert says in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times entitled "Heading Toward the Danger Zone" when he says of Barack that "there is such a thing as being too cool." He refers to:

... Senator Obama's strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination. He may feel he doesn't need to, that he has the nomination wrapped up. But there is such a thing as being too cool.

Hillary Clinton may be behind, and she may lose. But she is now widely seen as the tougher of the two candidates, the one who is more resolute, who will fight harder and longer (and, yes, more unscrupulously) to achieve her desired ends.

An edge in toughness is hardly a good quality to cede to your opponent.

The big issue in this campaign is the economy and jobs. But if you were to ask most voters how Senator Obama plans to fight for them on this crucial matter, you're likely to get a blank stare.

He should be pounding that message home with a jackhammer. Give the voters an economic program to wrap their arms around. Let them know: "I'm for you! And this is what we're going to do!"

Some Democratic officials who were worried about having Senator Clinton at the top of the ticket in November are now expressing concern about Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton's bar-brawl tactics have raised her negatives sharply, but they've also raised doubts about Mr. Obama. Is he a fighter? Is he tough enough to take on the G.O.P.?

One of Senator Obama's favorite phrases is "the fierce urgency of now." There is nothing more fiercely urgent for him right now than to reassure voters and superdelegates that an Obama candidacy will not lead to a Democratic debacle in November.

Yeah, I agree with all of that, but the real bottom line is that Barack and his campaign and his "progressive" supporters really do not see things this way. They see all of this as an "old politics" that does not interest them other than that they seek to replace it with some sort of new and unspecified "new politics" that is somehow above it all.

It is still not too late for the Democratic party and the good people of Indiana, North Carolina, and Oregon, to wake up and recognize that they need to decide what the party stands for in the here and now rather than the idealistic "vision" of an activist wing of the party or the agenda of one man.

The line that really stands out for me is:

The big issue in this campaign is the economy and jobs. But if you were to ask most voters how Senator Obama plans to fight for them on this crucial matter, you're likely to get a blank stare.

It is not that Barack has not offered an economic "plan", of sorts, but that this level of "wonk" policy is simply not a significant component of the platform of The Progressives. They are still hung up on Iraq and see the non-progressives and centrists of the Democratic Party as being as much the enemy as President Bush and Vice President Cheney and al Qaeda and Iran all put together.

The simple fact is that The Progressives have their own agenda and their focus is on them winning the Democratic nomination so that they can celebrate the victory of seizing control of the party. To them, winning in November is actually secondary to winning control of the party. After all, if they lose in November all they will have to do is wait another four years, but meanwhile they can focus on solidifying their power grab.

I do not think Barack considers himself a true Progressive. In fact, he is probably closer to Hillary than he is to the Progressives, but he has decided that for the purposes of his own winning of the nomination he is willing to align with The Progressives. There is the usual caveat about making a pact with the devil.

The Progressives are in fact seething over the fact that Barack has a "strange reluctance to fight harder in public for the nomination." This betrays the fact that the true agenda of The Progressives is not that they are really committed to a new politics that really is better, but that they want to see themselves positioned to influence the levers of power in Washington.

The scary thing here is that I am not sure if Bob Herbert is evolving to my position or if I am evolving to his.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Plenty of room for skepticism about Syrian nuclear plant

There is plenty of room for healthy skepticism about the administration's "message" about an alleged nuclear plant that Syria was allegedly building. In chief:

  1. This facility was under construction since 2001. This is not a new development and did not necessarily repreent an imminent threat.
  2. It is not clear whether any work on the facility was performed in recent years. I suspect that if there was recent work, that fact would have been very highly touted in the leaked reports.
  3. It is not known when the supposed video was taken. I suspect that if the video was fairly recent (last two years or so), that fact would have been very highly touted in the leaked reports.
  4. The Israelis are our primary source on this "intelligence." They have lead us astray before. Heck, they even spy on us! They are not our friends when it comes to pursuing our security needs and concerns in the Middle East.

Recall that the justification for "liberating" Iraq included a lot of old "intelligence", a lot of which concerned efforts that had ceased a number of years before the allegation that there was a "rising" threat.

In short, even if this is (was) a nuclear facility and even if the North Koreans were assisting them, lack of evidence about how recent those efforts were should leave us all highly skeptical.

One question I have: If the video in fact shows that the facility was very, very similar to a North Korean Facility, what leads anyone to believe that it may not simply be based on a video of a North Korean facility?

-- Jack Krupansky

Time to reconsider reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel

Since it now appears that nuclear energy has a very bright future, partially due to the fact that it does not spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and cause global warming and climate change), it makes a lot of sense to reconsider our moratorium on reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The goal of the moratorium was to deter "proliferation" and development of nuclear weapons programs, but I have always been dubious of that "benefit." Failure of the U.S. to reprocess spent fuel does not appear to have deterred North Korea (and Iran and Syria?) or Pakistan or India in any way. We are simply shooting ourselves in both feet. We need to reconsider reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for two purposes: 1) decrease the cost of producing large quantities of new fuel and 2) dramatically reduce the magnitude of the radioactive "waste" that needs to be stored.

Actual radioactive "waste" in spent nucelar fuel is really only about 3% of the weight of the original fuel. The vast bulk is simply unenriched uranium. There is some residual enriched uranium as well as some plutonium. The remaining 3% or so are the nasty "fission products" that do need to be separated and stored. See: Chemical Processes and Nuclear Reactor Fuel:

Spent fuel from nuclear reactors still contains considerable amounts of 235 U but now has generated significant 239Pu.  After 3 years in a reactor, 1,000 lbs. of 3.3-percent-enriched uranium (967 lbs. 238 U and 33 lbs. 235U) contain 8 lbs. of 235U and 8.9 lbs. of plutonium isotopes along with 943 lbs. of 238U and assorted fission products. Separating the 235U and 239Pu from the other components of spent fuel significantly addresses two major concerns. It greatly reduces the long-lived radioactivity of the residue and it allows purified 235U and 239Pu to be used as reactor fuel. (Courtesy of the Uranium Information Center)

Reasonable safeguards can be put in place to reduce the chance of proliferation even if the risk cannot be reduced to zero.

Given the new anxiety over carbon emissions, nuclear energy is once again a relatively safe and very sane energy choice to be given serious consideration. And given concerns about waste storage, reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is really the only sensible route to go.

-- Jack Krupansky

Time to reconsider reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel

Since it now appears that nuclear energy has a very bright future, partially due to the fact that it does not spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and cause global warming and climate change), it makes a lot of sense to reconsider our moratorium on reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The goal of the moratorium was to deter "proliferation" and development of nuclear weapons programs, but I have always been dubious of that "benefit." Failure of the U.S. to reprocess spent fuel does not appear to have deterred North Korea (and Iran and Syria?) or Pakistan or India in any way. We are simply shooting ourselves in both feet. We need to reconsider reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel for two purposes: 1) decrease the cost of producing large quantities of new fuel and 2) dramatically reduce the magnitude of the radioactive "waste" that needs to be stored.

Actual radioactive "waste" in spent nucelar fuel is really only about 3% of the weight of the original fuel. The vast bulk is simply unenriched uranium. There is some residual enriched uranium as well as some plutonium. The remaining 3% or so are the nasty "fission products" that do need to be separated and stored. See: Chemical Processes and Nuclear Reactor Fuel:

Spent fuel from nuclear reactors still contains considerable amounts of 235 U but now has generated significant 239Pu.  After 3 years in a reactor, 1,000 lbs. of 3.3-percent-enriched uranium (967 lbs. 238 U and 33 lbs. 235U) contain 8 lbs. of 235U and 8.9 lbs. of plutonium isotopes along with 943 lbs. of 238U and assorted fission products. Separating the 235U and 239Pu from the other components of spent fuel significantly addresses two major concerns. It greatly reduces the long-lived radioactivity of the residue and it allows purified 235U and 239Pu to be used as reactor fuel. (Courtesy of the Uranium Information Center)

Reasonable safeguards can be put in place to reduce the chance of proliferation even if the risk cannot be reduced to zero.

Given the new anxiety over carbon emissions, nuclear energy is once again a relatively safe and very sane energy choice to be given serious consideration. And given concerns about waste storage, reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel is really the only sensible route to go.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Maybe money isn't really the determining factor

Barack proved one of two things in Pennsylvania, either 1) Hillary is extremely popular and a much better campaigner and that only a massive over-spend of money was able to dent that popularity and political campaign skill, or 2) money is not everything and that you cannot necessarily buy an election even if you out-spend your opponent by two-to-one. If the former is true, it shows a big weakness in Barack's story. If the latter is true, all of the chatter about how much more money he can raise than Hillary is completely irrelevant.

Either Tuesday's results in Pennsylvania prove that Hillary is still very much in the game or that a massive over-spend of money is  grossly over-rated. Either conclusion is a good thing.

The win on Tuesday proves that Hillary does not need to raise even half of what Barack raises.

A lot of commentators were claiming that Hillary is essentially out of money and therefore will soon be forced to exit the race, but they neglect to mention the possibility that donors have decided to give her money only as she racks up wins to prove herself worthy of additional donations. On Tuesday she proved she could win even without the extra money.

The $6 million question is now how much money she needs to spend in Indiana and whether spending any money in North Carolina and Oregon other than the minimum required for a modest "air war" and moderate "ground war". Yes, she does need to spend some money, but Barack has proved (either way) that dumping large amounts of cash into states where she is way behind is neither required nor necessarily beneficial.

I personally am less gratified by her win itself than the simple fact that she won despite spending half as much as her opponent. This is great news for those who still believe that ever-rising expenditures of money are neither required nor a sign of winning.

Personally, I think the media gives plenty of coverage to her campaign and it is sufficient for her to simply be out there "on the stump" and continue to give the media a steady stream of sound-bites. And a few debates don't hurt either.

I personally would really prefer that she stay far away from negative campaigning, but it may simply be a reality of "the game." Even Barack, the so-called agent of change and opponent of "the same old game" of politics as played by Washington insiders was completely unable to resist going negative. So much for his positive and hope-filled rhetoric. He ability to enact change is grossly overrated. As he himself said in his speech Tuesday night, change cannot come from the top, it has to come from the bottom up.

In short, Tuesday seems to tell us that money is not really the determining factor in politics. Let us hope that donors "see the light" and donate conservatively to her campaign, just enough to keep her in the game, but not enabling any over-spending. And, let Obama donors increase their donations and let his campaign increase its spending to continue to prove that amassing huge campaign warchests and massive over-spending cannot buy elections in America. To me, his fundraising seems to prove that his story about "changing the game" is an outright fraud.

The Intrade Prediction Market show Hillary as having a 70% chance of winning in Indiana and Barack having a 40% chance of winning. Barack has a 95% chance in North Carolina and 90% chance in Oregon. Hillary has an 80% chance in Kentucky and an 86% chance in West Virginia. Barack has an 80% chance for the nomination. Hillary has only a 19% chance for the nomination, but that has been inching up over the past few weeks even as Barack was cutting her poll lead in Pennsylvania.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A little less confidence in Barack in PA

I have not seen any election results or exit polls from Pennsylvania yet, but over on the Intrade Prediction Market I see that the chance of Hillary winning in Pennsylvania has moved up from 91% to 95%  since last night. And the odds for Barack have moved down to 7%.

The conventional wisdom is that Hillary will win, but wth no conviction as to what the margin of victory might be.

-- Jack Krupansky

Hillary's chances perking up a little

The Intrade Prediction Market is once again giving Hillary a 15% chance of capturing the democratic nomination. That is not great, but it is trending back up. The market give her only a 9% chance of getting elected in November.

The market gives her a 91% chance in Pennsylvania, a 63% chance in Indiana, an 87% chance in West Virginia, and an 80% chance in Kentucky. Not bad for someone who is basically being written off. I'll refrain from offering the relevant Mark Twain quote.

Her chance in North Carolina is 7%, 10% in Oregon, and 15% in Montana.

After Pennsylvania, a strong showing in Indiana could actually give her a shot at convincing people (e.g., superdelegates) that Obama is not a slam-dunk shoe-in.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, April 21, 2008

Good luck to everybody tomorrow

Good luck to all of the Democrats tomorrow. It is the chance for the voters of Pennsylvania to finally have a real say in who might be running for president in November. I am not a Democrat, so I have no direct stake in the outcome. If the good (but oh so bitter) voters of Pennsylvania want Barack to be their standardbearer, so be it. If they choose Hillary, so be it. Let the voters prevail regardless of what the pundits and "supporters" of either candidate may feel or what they may say in their ads.

It sounds as if Hillary is expected to win with a modest margin (3 to 7%), but I would not bet very much money on any of these polls. It is very possible that she could lose by 7% or maybe even win by 12%.

Oops!... I am doing too much calculation, which is bound to offend some people.

Imagine... in less than 24 hours the polls will be closed in Pennsylvania and within 27 hours from when I write this we will have "the answer" and be able to shift our focus to Indiana where voters are really up for grabs.

-- Jack Krupansky

How dare Hillary use calculation against Barack!

The horror. How dare she? Barack today informs us that Hillary is using calculation against him. How could she? A piece in USA TODAY by Mark Memmott and Jill Lawrence entitled "Obama responds: Says Clinton is using 'fear and calculation to divide us'" informs us that:

... a TV ad just released by Barack Obama's campaign is its response to the spot she started running earlier today about who can best "stand the heat" when things get tough.


The Obama ad asks, "who in times of challenge will unite us -- not use fear and calculation to divide us?" The Obama campaign's answer would be that he's the uniter.

Huh? What on earth does it mean to use calculation against someone or some group? Why can't these people speak in plain and simple English rather that the cryptic notions of a Professor of English from Chicago?

According to my dictionary, one meaning of calculation, is "cold heartless planning to promote self-interest." I presume that this is what Barack is getting at, kind of. But it still does not ring clear as a bell and make any sense in the context of a political ad targeting normal voters. In essence, all political strategy is calculated, including his own. If it is not calculated, then it does not amount to being strategy. Duh! But strategy calculation is what happens behind the scenes. It makes no sense to refer to a political campaign artifact as being a calculation. At least not to voters. Maybe the ad was designed simply to appeal to the creators of political ads.

I suspect that the real truth here is that "calculation" is some kind of insider-politics jargon code word that is misguidedly being slipped out into the general media. Maybe Barack is referring to political calculation, but as if it is somehow in and of itself bad. But why be so cryptic? Maybe he is hoping that voters will be frightened by such a long word, especially those less well-educated and "bitter."

Besides, it is patently obvious that Barack's decision to go negative late in the campaign shows clearly that he himself is not above "cold heartless planning to promote self-interest."

I also suspect that this kind of talk is more common among Progressives chattering among themselves.

What this bizarre language usage shows once again is that Barack and his campaign and supporters really are elitists and out of touch with everyday citizens.

-- Jack Krupansky

Quixotic campaign

I am not sure exactly why, but this word-of-the day seemed rather apropos of the Democratic primary campaign:

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day

April 19

\kwik-SAH-tik\   Audio Pronunciation


Play Podcast


    *1 : foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

     2 : capricious, unpredictable

Example Sentence

     Marta has been desperately trying to convince her friends to give up their cars and computers and return to nature on Earth Day, but it has been a quixotic crusade.

So, who is leading the more quixotic political campaign, Hillary pursuing what many believe to be a lost cause or Barack with his lofty and romantic but impractical ideals?

Well, in less than 36 hours the esteemed and belittled bitter voters of Pennsylvania should have an answer for us.

-- Jack Krupansky

Poor Frank Rich

Wow, you would think that doomsday was upon us the way New York Times Op-Ed columnist Frank Rich goes on and on in a piece entitled "Shoddy! Tawdry! A Televised Train Wreck!" about "the" debate last week. Poor guy. I hate to see even a seasoned journalist suffer so. All I can do is to give him some friendly advice: the end is not near, the sun will come up tomorrow, a Democrat will be elected president in November, and that he should just chill, get over it, and move on. The debate really was not such a big deal... except to those who of full of themselves.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ending the Long War

Is either Barack or Hillary committed to officially ending the so-called Long War, the concept that the so-called War on Terror could last for a generation? Leaving Iraq will not by itself end the Long War. I do not think Hillary is ready to make such a commitment, but I am not exactly sure where Barack stands. Unfortunately a willingness to "fight terrorists" is tantamount to making a commitment to the Long War.

What I am really looking for is a decision to revert to treating terrorism as primarily a law enforcement matter. Sure, we might occasionally resort to a surgical strike here or there for special threats, but what is really needed is to stand down and demobilize the very concept of a Global War on Terror.

So, now, the question is whether Barack is in favor of or opposed to such a demobilization and reversion to treating terrorism as a law enforcement matter.

I am thinking of something more along the lines of fighting drugs and organized crime, both of which have both domestic and international aspects. Sure, there are some war-like aspects to these efforts as well, and certainly intelligence gathering, surveillance, and undercover operations, but as far as the general public would be concerned, we would no longer be "at war."

I took a quick glance at his web site and could not get a quick and clear sense of his overall view of the "War on Terror." He did not have a separate issue bullet for terrorism, but terrorism comes up under several other bullet points.

There is a link to his speech entitled "The War We Need to Win", which suggests that he does still believe in the fight against "extremism" as a long war. He even mentions "taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan" and that "There must be no safe-haven for terrorists who threaten America", suggesting that although Iraq may have been a mistake, he does not view the overall War on Terror as something that he as president needs to declare an end to. He uses strong language to promote the U.S. as "the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny", but fails to back off from the now-entrenched support for the so-called Long War. When he uses language like "The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists", it is difficult to imagine that Barack opposes the so-called Long War. He also talks about sending more troops to Afghanistan, failing to recognize that military action is no more a solution in Afghanistan than it was perceived to be in Iraq. He also lapses into the rhetoric of "They are plotting to strike again."

Barack says that "When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.", but that sounds a lot like a continuation of the Long War rather than a commitment to ending it in the near term.

I would also like to see the so-called Department of Homeland Security disbanded, with each of its organizational units reassigned to their former homes in the federal bureaucracy. Yes, we need better cooperation within and across agencies on intelligence and security matters, but those issues were not automatically resolved by tossing organizational units into one big soup bowl.

Now I know that Hillary is not committed to my vision, but is Barack really offering a vision that is that much better? It appears that the answer is no.

Declaring an end to the so-called and misguided Long War is an urgent need for the country, but it appears that none of the candidates for president are committed to pulling to plug on this dangerous diversion of blood and treasure and attention.

-- Jack Krupansky

Family political dynasties?

One of the political undercurrents this year that keeps poking up its ugly head is the mythology of family political dynasties. It is a completely nonsensical concept. It ranks right up there with the worst of conspiracy theories. Here is the latest example I ran across in an Associated Press article entitled "Philadelphia suburbs hold key to Pa. primary":

"It's nice to be inspired by a politician," said [Name deleted], 34, as he kept an eye on customers entering his arts and crafts shop in the center of town. [Name deleted], among two dozen Delaware County voters interviewed by The Associated Press this week, switched his registration from Independent to Democrat so he could vote for Obama. He said he feared the emergence of White House family dynasties.

"Since I started voting, it's been a Clinton or a Bush," he said.

Where are otherwise-sane people getting this kind of crap from? I think it is a viral theme that is being pushed around the Internet by people who should know better but who also know that there are a lot of gullible people who fall for this kind of stuff. These are clearly the kind of people who cannot comprehend the distinction between correlation and causality.

It is hard to believe that some people somehow see the Bushes and Clintons as the same. Unbelievable. The words "blinders" and "gullible" come to mind.

The telltale sign here is his statement that "It's nice to be inspired by a politician." That is the giveaway clue. Some people are simply clueless and need someone to lead them around with a ring in their nose. They need to be "inspired." They should seek inspiration in religion, nature, community, arts, crafts, sports, or anything but politics. Politics needs to be above all else practical. In the 1930's in Germany we saw what can happen when people allow inspiration and passion be their primary guide to supporting a politician. We need to say no to inspiration and passion as our primary guide in politics.

Inspiration and dynasties. What an interesting combination. I am an independent too, but it really scares me that so many other "independents" are really way off the scale in terms of how they view politics. Even scarier is the fact that Barack tolerates and courts such political extremism. The American people vote as they see fit. To somehow distort their collective wisdom into the concept of a "dynasty" is quite scary indeed.

-- Jack Krupansky

Does money really matter?

One of the eternal questions that the Pennsylvania democratic primary may final answer is whether money really matters in politics. Actually, the primary won't definitively answer the question, but it may offer some clues. The key here two facts: 1) Hillary is expected to win, and 2) Barack is outspending her by an astounding margin of about 2 to 1.

If money alone could tilt an election, surely a 2 to 1 margin would do it.

And surely the "excitement" over Barack and his "message" is plenty of "icing" on that 2 to 1 money "cake."

And, Barack has had six weeks for all of that money to work its "magic."

If Hillary prevails by more than a narrow margin (more than 5%), that would seem to strongly suggest that effort and "message" can prevail over money.

If Hillary prevails by only a narrow margin (5% or less), that would seem to weakly suggest that effort and "message" can somewhat prevail over money, but somewhat suggest that money can somewhat diminish a lead. Then again, it may have been the "powerful" message that was more effective than the money itself.

If Barack wins by a modest margin, that would seem to weakly suggest that money can somewhat overcome effort and "message", but having a "powerful" message may have been as significant a factor as the money alone.

If Barack wins by a wide margin, that would seem to strongly suggest that money can clearly overcome effort and "message." Even then it is still debatable whether maybe the "powerful" message really did prevail and that the money was only a minor or moderate factor.

I am hoping that Hillary will win big simply to convince people that you can win in politics without a financial advantage. If Barack wins, we have this fairly clear message that anyone who wants to win needs to raise vast sums of money, no matter how "powerful" their message. For a candidate who seeks "change" and deplores the "game" of politics played in Washington, that would be a truly horrible message for him to be sending to the American people.

For the record, I have never contributed even one dime to any political campaign, nor do I support "public funding" of political campaigns. The less money spent, the better for everyone. I would support a ban on political and "issue" ads for both TV and radio. Personally, I think media coverage of public campaign events is more than enough exposure. Not to mention televised debates. Does anybody think I am wrong in this approach?

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Was the recession caused by the war in Iraq?

I am sure that the ongoing war in Iraq does drag the domestic U.S. economy to some extent, but MoveOn.org is now peddling the theory that the war in Iraq is the primary cause of our current economic weakness, the so-called "recession." I am not convinced. Their "evidence" is a poll that shows that a majority of Americans believe that Iraq and recession are "linked." Granted, there may be some correlation, but correlation is not the same as causality. An email from MoveOn today informs us that:

I'm looking at an amazing new poll.

We commissioned it earlier this year. It shows that voters in all 50 states see a link between the war and our sinking economy. Folks across the country think getting out of Iraq is one of the best ways to help fix our deepening economic crisis.

This message is political dynamite. If the link between Iraq war spending and the recession was in the headlines, John McCain and other pro-war politicians wouldn't get away with their endless war strategy.

We've got to spread the word -- so we're ramping up a massive "Iraq/Recession" campaign to get the message out that the war is standing in the way of economic recovery. We'll use ads, bird-dogging, local press conferences from coast to coast, and a host of other methods to make the point. Will you become an "Iraq/Recession" monthly donor so we can run this critical campaign? Click here to chip in:


Our first step will be to release this new poll next week in hundreds of communities around the country, with the local media looking on. We'll follow that up with a media campaign on the tradeoffs between war and economic progress -- and then a bird-dogging campaign aimed at both Senator McCain and Republican Senate candidates. Everywhere these candidates go, we'll make sure it's clear that their most important economic policy is to keep dumping billions every year into Iraq's unwinnable war.

The ironic thing is that in a normal economy such deficit spending on an expensive war would crowd out other demands for capital, but right now as a result of a loss of confidence in commercial debt, there is incredible, almost insatiable demand for U.S. government debt. Very low yields on government debt are not a sign of the government crowding out competing demand for credit. The most recent 3-month T-bill auction came in at a very skimpy yield of only 1.08%. What this really says is that even the high rate of expenses on the war in Iraq are easily being met by the excess of cash sloshing around in our financial system. Of course this cannot go on forever, but right now it is not at all clear that the expenditures on Iraq are dragging down the U.S. economy, regardless of what opinion polls seem to say.

I am sure that in the coming weeks and months we will hear a lot more of this MoveOn Iraq/Recession campaign, but it is mostly about politics rather than economics.

I am all in favor of getting out of Iraq, but it will not result in some miracle cure for the economy. Besides, it probably won't be until late 2009 or early 2010 when we seel war expenditures begin to fall back to earth. Even then, there will be significant follow-on expenditures simply to repair and replace so much of the equipment that has been worn down in Iraq.

-- Jack Krupansky

Rejoice! The end is near!

I know it is hard to imagine, but in less than four days "it" will all be over. The Pennsylvania primary, that is. I am not going to say that it is a slam dunk for Hillary to win, but that looks as if that will be the case. The main matter of debate is the margin of victory. Will she beat Barack by "double digits", or will the margin be so narrow that the "balance" between the two candidates does not shift hardly at all.

And after this particular "it" really is over, we move on to the next "it" in the "Big It" of the remaining primaries leading up to the convention in August.

The Intrade Prediction Market indicates about an 83% chance of Hillary prevailing in Pennsylvania. It also gives her a 50% chance of winning in Indiana, an 85% chance of winning West Virginia, and a 75% chance of winning Kentucky.

Intrade gives Barack about a 94% chance of winning in North Carolina, a 42.7% chance in Indiana, a 91% chance in Oregon, and an 82% chance in Montana.

-- Jack Krupansky

Are the Democrats doing everything they can to blow this presidential election?

I disagree strongly with the central thesis of the Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by Bob Herbert entitled "Road Map to Defeat." He leads off by insisting that:

The Democrats are doing everything they can to blow this presidential election.

He offers examples from the Clinton years of the Democrats telling us that "they" (the Democrats/Clintons) "tried hard to lose" and "tried to throw the presidency away" and that "have become so psychologically battered."

Mostly he blames the Clintons, letting Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, and Kerry totally off the hook. In his version of history:

That's been it for the party for the past 40 years. The Democrats have become so psychologically battered by these many decades in the leadership wilderness that they consider the Clinton years, during which the president was impeached and they lost control of both houses of Congress, to have been a period of triumph.

Frankly, every presidency has its ups and downs. That he thinks it appropriate to focus only on two negatives and ignore the fact that Clinton was able to get reelected and is still quite popular is a measure of Bob's strained view of the political landscape.

His lead line seems to be a facade for his real message: The Clintons are doing everything they can to win the nomination and prevent Barack from being the Democratic nominee.

He "informs" us that:

The Clintons are running around with flamethrowers, gleefully trying to incinerate the prospects of the party's leading candidate, Barack Obama.

The basic problem here is that Bob has done what a lot of people have done and put his favored candidate high up on a pedestal and reacted violently to any and all criticism of their idolized candidate. Flamethrowers? Gleefully? Come on, Bob. Get real. Like, try to admit that the party has two leading candidates. There is less than a 10% gap between them. In truth, it is The Progressives who are "gleefully trying to incinerate" their enemy.

I disagree with more of what Bob says about the Democrats in general and the Clinton's in particular, but I actually do agree with some of his points.

I agree with him that:

The way for a candidate to eventually change the subject is to offer policy prescriptions so creative and compelling that they generate excitement among the electorate and can't be ignored by the press.

Barack has failed to do so.

I agree with Bob that:

Voters want more from Senator Obama. He's given a series of wonderful speeches, but he has to add more meat to those rhetorical bones. He needs to be clear about where he wants to lead this country and how he plans to do it. That's how a candidate defines himself or herself.

Barack has failed to move substantially beyond the rhetoric and has essentially built his entire campaign around the rhetoric of "hope", "change", and "Yes we can!" Yes, his rhetoric works, and it may be enough to carry him to the nomination and maybe even to the Oval Office, but rhetoric alone will not solve any real world problems at the global scale faced by this country.

I half agree but half disagree with Bob when he says:

Instead, Mr. Obama is allowing the Clintons and the news media to craft a damaging persona of him as some kind of weak-kneed brother from another planet, out of touch with mainstream America, and perhaps a loser.

I agree that Barack is allowing if not outright facilitating the crafting of such a "damaging persona", but I lay 100% of the blame on Barack's own doorstep. By failing to move beyond his trademark rhetoric, Barack only helps to fuel his own "damaging persona."

I half agree when Bob says:

Wednesday night's debate in Philadelphia may have been a sorry exercise in journalism, but even many of Senator Obama's own supporters were disappointed with his lackluster performance.

Yes, it was a lackluster performance, but I do not think the journalism was to blame. Even in the second half when policy was the focus, Barack's performance was decidedly lackluster. Face it, when it comes to policy, Clinton shines. I also disagree with the implied contention that discussion and questioning of values, associations, and character are somehow supposed to be off limits, especially for opponents of Barack due somehow to his special-ness. Besides, I think it was actually a good idea to get all of that "stuff" out of the way early so that the second half of the debate could in fact focus on and close out with a hard-core discussion and debate on policy. If he whole debate had been focused purely on policy, Barack would have looked even more lackluster.

I half agree with Bob that:

The big issues of our time are being left behind as pettiness and mean-spirited partisanship carry the day.

I do agree that the "big issues of our time are being left behind", but I think that started when Barack chose to focus on the rhetoric of "hope", "change", and "Yes we Can!" rather than focus on policy and "big issues." The net result has certainly been a spiral down into "pettiness and mean-spirited partisanship" on both sides. Hillary loves to discuss and debate policy. She would love to engage Barack in vigorous and high-minded discussion and debate on all manner of policy, but it is virtually impossible to do so when Barack refuses and walls himself off from policy discussion and debate by trying to enclose himself in an impermeable bubble of "hope", "change", and "Yes we Can!" rhetoric. If Bob can convince Barack to break out of his bubble on unreality, then we can get back to "big issues of our time."

I do not agree with Bob's thesis that:

... much of the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding Mr. Obama's candidacy has cooled.

The overall level of enthusiasm persists, but maybe it is simply that some of Barack's elitist supporters are now realizing that their guy is a lot more mortal than they imagined. Sure, you can blame The Clintons for showing people that real side of Barack, but that would be blaming the messenger for the unwelcome message.

I half agree with Bob that:

The issues still favor the Democrats. More and more Americans are losing their jobs, and many of those still employed are working fewer hours and cashing smaller paychecks. Vacation plans are being curtailed because of declining family income and sky-high gasoline prices. The value of the family home is eroding.

Instead of capitalizing on the political advantages presented by these issues, the Democrats, with their increasingly small-minded approach to this election, are squandering them.

Yes, the issues favor the Democrats (and Clinton more than Barack), but I disapprove of his labeling criticism of his candidate as being a  "small-minded approach." That is simply a cheap shot by Bob, not unlike his flag jab when he says:

While some of those predicaments raise legitimate concerns (his former pastor, his comments in San Francisco) and some do not (stupid questions about wearing a flag pin), he has allowed them to fester unnecessarily.

I agree that Barack "allowed them to fester unnecessarily", but I disagree with the characterization that questions about "a flag pin" are somehow "stupid." Some people do not consider the flag so important as a symbol while others do. That is the political landscape that we are faced with. Barack has to cope with that reality. Considering the issue of "a flag pin" somehow "stupid" and a "distraction" needlessly belittle a large segment of the U.S. population, not to mention a large segment of the political landscape in Washington, D.C. that Barack keeps claiming that he will be able to work with. And, it makes quite clear that he is an elitist and very out of touch. I think that people could tolerate his refusal to wear a flag pin, if only he gave a full and honest explanation for his choice, but at the debate he evaded the issue:

OBAMA: Well, look, I revere the American flag. And I would not be running for president if I did not revere this country.

This is -- I would not be standing here if it wasn't for this country. And I've said this -- again, there's no other country in which my story is even possible. Somebody who was born to a teenage mom, raised by a single mother and grandparents from small towns in Kansas, you know, who was able to get an education and rise to the point where I can run for the highest office in the land, I could not help but love this country for all that it's given me.

And so, what I've tried to do is to show my patriotism by how I treat veterans when I'm working in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; by making sure that I'm speaking forcefully about how we need to bring this war in Iraq to a close, because I think it is not serving our national security well and it's not serving our military families and our troops well; talking about how we need to restore a sense of economic fairness to this country, because that's what this country has always been about, is providing upward mobility and ladders to opportunity for all Americans.

That's what I love about this country. And so I will continue to fight for those issues.

And I am absolutely confident that during the general election, that when I'm in a debate with John McCain, people are not going to be questioning my patriotism; they are going to be questioning, how can you make people's lives a little bit better?

And let me just make one last point on this issue of the flag pin. As you've noted, I wore one yesterday when a veteran handed it to me, who himself was disabled and works on behalf of disabled veterans.

I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us from what should be my job when I'm commander-in-chief, which is going to be figuring out how we get our troops out of Iraq and how we actually make our economy better for the American people.

The question was not about the country, it was about the symbol. I thought it was quite bizarre to hear him saying:

I have never said that I don't wear flag pins or refuse to wear flag pins. This is the kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us...

When neither the question nor the issue was whether he "said" he didn't or won't where a flag pin, but why he doesn't. He refers to this as a "kind of manufactured issue that our politics has become obsessed with and, once again, distracts us", once again proving that he is an out-of-touch elitist who thinks it is perfectly A-OK to belittle the values of others. He had a clear opportunity to settle the issue, but instead chose to evade and obfuscate.

I once again only half agree with Bob that:

There was always going to be resistance in the U.S. to putting a black person or a woman of any color in the White House. To overcome that built-in resistance, three things are crucially important: new voters have to be brought into the process; the nominee must have an exciting and compelling message; and the party has to be extraordinarily unified behind its standard-bearer.

First, I have to vehemently disagree that there is somehow a priority to "putting a black person or a woman of any color in the White House." The priority should simply be putting the most qualified candidate in the White House, and to ensure that there are no artificial barriers based on race or gender. I do agree that new voters need to be brought into the process, but I disagree that this is somehow only or specially relevant for black or female candidates. I agree that the nominee needs to have a compelling message, but I strongly disagree with any notion of appealing to passion or making a message "exciting." I do agree that the party needs to be unified to some degree, but I think that argues that Barack needs to come out of his bubble and show the kind of leadership that even centrists such as Hillary and myself can find compelling.

I agree with Bob that "It's not too late for the Democrats to pull this off", but I disagree with his presumption that somehow the only way that it can be pulled off is if all Democrats blindly support his preferred candidate.

In short, I think that The Progressives are in fact managing to do everything they can do to blow this election (by focusing too much on the primary and their own narrow, left-wing agenda), but I think that mainstream Democrats are deeply and compassionately committed to prevailing in the general election even if that means leaving a fairly big chunk of the Progressive agenda behind.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, April 18, 2008

We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election - he has a vision to change America

The latest daily email from Camp McCain quotes one of the latest endorsements of Barack Obama:

We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election. He has a vision to change America. -- Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Hamas Prime Minister

The email from McCain's deputy campaign manager says:

During the debate, Barack Obama once again refused to condemn former President Jimmy Carter - who publicly supports Obama - for holding talks with the Hamas terrorist group, a group supported financially, politically and military by Iran.

I personally am quite supportive of president Carter's initiatives and do approve of such side-channel dialogue. But, I do not think that high-profile, publicized "talks" have anywhere near the value of low-key, back-channel "consultations" that focus on lowering animosity, seeking common ground, and slowly and gradually and incrementally exploiting any and all opportunities for building a pattern of cooperation and collaboration over time. I personally do not think that meetings of "principals" is the best route when tensions are high.

Barack gets beat up for his willingness to "talk" with Iran, but the way he phrased it in the debate leaves me wondering if maybe he is a far right-wing hawk dressed in liberal dove feathers:

I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians, where we are laying out very clearly for them: Here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons, but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats toward Israel.

I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is. Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons.

Gee, silly me, I originally thought he really walked to talk with Iran, but now it sounds as if he simply wants to lecture them and deliver ultimatums the way Bush, Cheney, or any good Neo-conservative would. What's the real story? Hillary's response:

We are at a very dangerous point with Iran. The Bush policy has failed. Iran has not been deterred. They continue to try to not only obtain the fissile material for nuclear weapons, but they are intent upon using their efforts to intimidate the region and to have their way when it comes to the support of terrorism in Lebanon and elsewhere.

And I think that this is an opportunity, with skillful diplomacy, for the United States, to go to the region and enlist the region in a security agreement vis-a-vis Iran.

It would give us three tools we now don't have. Number one, we've got to begin diplomatic engagement with Iran. And we want the region and the world to understand how serious we are about it. I would begin those discussions at a low level. I certainly would not meet with Ahmadinejad because even again today he made light of 9/11, and said that he's not even sure it happened and that people actually died.

He's not someone who would have an opportunity to meet with me in the White House. But I would have a diplomatic process that would engage him.

To me, it is like night and day. Barack is clueless and Hillary is as practical as one could hope. A true centrist.

I actually do believe that Barack is more of a centrist than his supporters will let on, but he just isn't ready, and is simply far too willing to tolerate left-wing nuttiness, while at the same time making poorly-phrased statements such as the one quoted above during the debate when they were focused on policy. As they would say in the movie The Golden Compass, his daemon is not yet settled.

-- Jack Krupansky

Transcript of the "bitter" debate

ABC News has posted the full transcript, entitled "Transcript: Obama and Clinton Debate - Full Transcript of the Democrats' Before Pennsylvania Primary", for the now-infamous bitterly criticized bitter debate about bitterness.

Barack is adamant that he wants to reinvent politics in Washington, but the simple truth is that a fair number of people would just as soon see the country give the Clintons another shot at making the most for the country out of their brand of centrist politics. Centrism is not very popular with the elitists, left or right, but it does have racticality in its favor and overall Americans are famously practical, especially those in Pennsylvania.

-- Jack Krupansky

Whining elitists need to "move on"

You have to give credit where credit is due. The elitist "Progressives" organized a massive blogging and commenting campaign in a vain effort to cover up for a dismal performance by their candidate in the debate. They "bitterly" complained that there was not enough focus on "policy", but frankly the differences between the two democratic contenders are so minor that debating them once again would seem like an exercise in futility. Granted, supporters of Barack would of course be incensed that their candidate was being tormented for the first half of the debate, but the idea that somehow character-related questions should be off limits is ridiculous on its face. Hillary would be only too happy to debate Mr. Hope-and-Change for endless hours on any and all manner of nuances of policy, but the criticism was not so much a lack of coverage of policy as the shock and awe of The Cult of Obama having to have their noses repeatedly rubbed in the essential truth that their false god is not really up to snuff for winning a mild debate let alone leading this country.

It is time for these whining elitists to "move on". They say they want to debate policy, but the simple truth is that if they focus on policy, Hillary beats them and beats them handily. All Barack has to offer is inspirational speeches about "hope" and "change", but little in the way of policy that can stand up to Hillary.

In the end, the organizers of the "debate outrage storm" were really simply trying to cynically manipulate the press and media coverage. Hey, you can't blame them for trying, especially when their false god is showing signs of being a mere mortal, but they do need to be called out for doing so.

The email from the manager of Barack's campaign today mentions "pressing issues affecting our country", but I find it curious that Barack finds these "pressing issues" so much less interesting than his vague promises of "hope" and "change". The email tells us that "Barack Obama wants to end the politics of division and distraction in Washington so we can bring about real change for ordinary Americans", but that in an incredibly naive goal. First and foremost, the "politics" in Washington does not originate in Washington. Rather, it originates from all around the country and coalesces and mixes in Washington. As the saying goes, ultimately all politics is local. If anything, Washington is a moderation of all of the politics from around the country. These "divisions" that he imagines as originating in Washington are fault lines all over the country. If you want to fix or address these divisions, you will need to address conditions on the ground all around the country. And as far as "distractions", it is simply not credible for a man who gleefully provides an endless stream of distractions to point his finger at others and suggest that it is their distractions that are the problem.

The real bottom line is that Barack is focusing too much of his attention on addressing the "needs" of the elite in America and being completely out of touch with the interests, needs, and values of his so-called "ordinary Americans." What on earth is so ordinary about being an American, anyway?!?!

Barack had an excellent opportunity to put all of these "elitism" and "out of touch" criticisms to bed and move beyond them on Wednesday night, but he screwed up big time. He could have transcended all of it, but he made the mistake of getting defensive and refusing to move on, basically telling us that as emperor he is politically naked.

Put simply, the false god who preaches against distraction himself worhsips distraction.

It will be interesting to see if The Cult of Obama will finally wise up and stash their elitism in the closet or if they continue to carry it front and center as if it were a badge of honor.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


As I wrote yesterday, Barack is simply unable to let the "bitterness flap" slide and move on. Just a few seconds ago I received the daily email from his campaign. It was entitled "Disappointed." Yeah, I am disappointed to, in him. He is supposed to be the candidate with a lock on hope, and here he is whining to me that his opponents in a political campaign are engaging in... politics! How shocking. He is whining about his opponents rather than focusing on what he can do for America. He writes:

In the last 24 hours we saw renewed attacks from Senator McCain and Senator Clinton.

The same John McCain who voted to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest few said I was "out of touch" when I spoke about the frustrations that working people in this country are feeling.

Maybe that's to be expected from John McCain. But I was disappointed to hear the exact same talking points from my Democratic colleague, Hillary Clinton. When a candidate who believes lobbyists represent "real people" says that I'm out of touch, that's when you know politics is being played.

Well, guess what, that is what politics and campaigns are all about. His opponents are trying to draw a distinction and point out a flaw in his whole program.

The way he says that "you know politics is being played", suggests that the guy is truly clueless about the political process and simply ill-equiped to survive let alone thrive in Washington, D.C.

The truth about lobbyists is that they represent a wide range of interests, from big business to small business, from countries to relatively small non-profit organizations here in the U.S., from drug companies to environmental organizations. They are truly all over the map. Some business, some political, and yes, some even represent what you and I would refer to as "real people." But I guess that if they represent guns and religion then Barack would think unkindly of them, despite the true interests of "real people." If Barack Obama really believes that all lobbyists are equal and evil and that none of them represent interests of "real people", then he is the one that is seriously out of touch.

But the real point here is that he is still struggling mightily to divert the discussion away from his capricious (and elitist) attack on people who happen to live in small towns and happen to value gun ownership and happen to go to church. And maybe they happen not to think kindly of community organizers from big cities.

It will be interesting to see how Barack continues to try to twist away from his elitism problem in the coming days leading up to the Pennsylvania primary. The more he himself keeps mentioning being "out of touch", the more people will start to wonder why he is trying so hard to outrun his own reputation. It is also interesting that he is playing the victim rather than showing some leadership.

Maybe one of these days he will wake up and realize that maybe, just maybe, he might need my vote and the votes of other centrists to beat McCain in the Fall. But, until that day, he remains beloldin' to The Progressives (the elite of the elitists) and of little interest or appeal to me.

-- Jack Krupansky

Evil biofuel

There has been a lot of chatter about diversion of crops to biofuels causing a global food shortage. An article in the New York Times by Andrew Martin entitled "Fuel Choices, Food Crises and Finger-Pointing" chronicles some of the debate. The article concludes by informing us:

But August Schumacher, a former under secretary of agriculture who is a consultant for the Kellogg Foundation, said the criticism of biofuels might be misdirected. Development agencies like the World Bank and many governments did little to support agricultural development in the last two decades, he said.

He noted that many of the upheavals over food prices abroad have concerned rice and wheat, neither of which is used as a biofuel. For both those crops, global demand has soared at the same time that droughts suppressed the output from farms.

The simple fact is that we need biofuels. If that means we need to create incentives to increase agricultural production overall, so be it.

Out of curiosity, I wonder what the presidential candidates have to say about all of this. What change would Barack really make?

Maybe we actually do need some incentives to increase farming and agricultural output in this country, especially if we are producing a product that the world needs and demand is rising.

I'd actually like to see some data on U.S. wheat production.

-- Jack Krupansky

How did Barack get so far out of touch?

This whole "bitter" thing has suddenly taken on a life of its own. You can't blame Barack's opponents for milking it for everything it is worth, but the amazing thing is that Barack himself just won't let it die off. What would have been a minor black eye is now swollen beyond belief because Barack himself keeps rubbing it rather than simple letting it be. Saying people are bitter or angry was not the point or the problem. It was his misguided attempt to make a negative characterization of people's interest in guns and religion that caused the initial harm. Disowning the choice of words was the easy part, but he insisted on not disowning the basic underlying sentiment about a connection to guns and religion. Maybe he actually believes in that connection, in which case he really is out of touch... not necessarily with the core beliefs of The Progressives, but certainly out of touch with how a lot of people see their own values. Yes, we can give him credit for sticking to his core belief even if he wants to change his wording, but it is that core belief that is the sticking point. And he knows it, and that is why he keeps coming back and trying really hard to try to divert discussion to peripheral topics, in somewhat the same manner as he took the Rev. Wright "flap" and turned it into a critique of race relations in America. That was a truly masterful diversion. He isn't beging as successful this time.

In truth, virtually all politicians are hard-core elitists and they know it and everybody else knows it. The problem for Barack is that he is trying to pass himself off as not being an elitist. That is why he is forcing himself to try so hard to fight the "elitist" label. It is almost amusing to see how his own verbal contortions are actually making it very easy for Hillary and McCain to pass themselves off as "one of the guys/girls" and distance themselves from their own elitist backgrounds. He is simply handing them this opportunity on a silver platter. And he is offering them seconds and even thirds to boot!

But he basically has no choice. Not so much in the sense that a politician has to fight off an "attack", but because this particular attack cuts so deeply at the essence of his core political being that it is virtually a stake through his political heart.

He is stuck. Reality tells him that he has to struggle, but the reality is that his struggles are only making his situation worse by drawing additional attention to it and giving his opponents yet another opportunity to yell "Elitist!" That word is to him and the whole Progrssive Movement what the sun is to a vampire.

The situation has gotten so out of control that even several days later, just this afternoon, his campaign manager sent out an email enititled "Who's out of touch?" Reading the email only convinces me that Barack, his campaign, his supporters, and the whole Progressive Movement is "out of touch." Sure, they have managed to con[vince] a large number of "real people" to vote for Barack, but that fact is simply a diversion from the allegation that Barack, et al are at their core "elitists" no matter how much they protest the label. They try to bill themselves as "grassroots", but they are are just as much a political machine as any other political group.

To read the campign email, you would think that they must be reading a different account that the quotes from Barack's own lips:

A few days ago, Barack spoke about the frustrations that working people in this country are feeling and said what we all know is true: that many people are bitter and angry because they believe their government isn't listening to them.

You and I both know that the hope of changing that reality is what drives the unprecedented support for this campaign from ordinary people in every part of the country.

The "dust-up" was about guns and religion, not about what people think about their government. Once again, this sounds like Barack, et al trying to divert discussion away from the central point of contention and turn it into something completely different. Nice Try.

They tried the same diversion tactic a second time:

There's nothing elitist about a movement of more than a million people standing up for a different kind of politics.

They know full well that neither opponent focusing on blaming the movement for being elitist, but rather that Barack himself was an elitist. Once again, a nice try for a diversion and conversion to a different topic. Besides, the the issue for elitism is not so much what your goal is, but your core values, underlying agenda, and where you are coming from. Once again, "the movememt" has sucked in a lot of innocent voters, but the proponents of "the movement" are hard-core elitists through and through. Not that their opponents are any less elitist, but that 99% of the "value" of the whole Barack "movement" is a suspension of belief and a mis-belief that somehow the movement is not elitist at its core.

But wait! There is more!... Enough already. The whole point is that this is just one little black eye and Barack and his campaign should themselves have tried to move on, but they can't.. they simply can't tolerate Barack and the core of The Progressive Movement being labeled as elitist.

The core problem, the core reason that Barack has gotten so out of touch is that he is a "community organizer" at heart and this country, this nation is not "a" community. The Progressive Movement may still be a monolithic "community", and barack may make a great "organizer" and leader for that community, but the president of the U.S. is responsible for an extremely diverse nation and range of constituencies that are pulling in a multitude of directions, not a homogenous community. Barack and The Progressives continue to think about their community and the values of their community, which is why Barack is so out of touch. Sure a large number of voters from around the country have stood up and said "Me! I want to be a part of the Barack community! Let me vote for you!", but only later will they realize that they were signing up for the goals and values of The Progressive community rather than the values and realities of their own communities and their own interests.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Cultural Elitist

Yikes!!! Imagine the pain that Barack Obama must be feeling right now after being accused of being a "cultural elitist." Ouch. And double-ouch for a community organizer. Bad enough that he accuses small town residents as being "bitter" and who "cling" to their guns and religion. Even worse, The Perfect Speaker was forced to admit to having used poorly chosen words, telling us that "If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that."

His great sin is not that we said anything untrue per se, but that he reached beyond basic facts and attempted to add a bit too much color to his behind-closed-doors comment.

He should have stated a much more simple truth: People in small towns really don't give a hoot about Washington and would rather "go about their business" without the meddling of politicians full of vague promises for "change." A lot of people have rightfully tuned out Washington and all manner of politicians, but he should not act so surprised or befuddled by that reality. There was no need to spin it so crazily. Now he has to choke on his own words.

His other great sin is not an "elitism" per se, but simply a bad habit that he contunually lapses into: a belief that he can talk his way out of any difficulty. We saw this with the Rev. Wright flap, where instead of acknowledging the simple truth he chose to "go nuclear" and blame all of America and all Americans for the state of race relations. His pastor problem was unrelated to Americans in general. He tried to connect two dots that were not appropriate to connect. Small towns in Pennsylvannia or Indiana are not so different from elsewhere in America and passion for guns and relgion is not endemic to only small towns. Nor is being "bitter." Barack simply screwed up by trying to "paint" his way out of a corner with too much "color" and misguided detail and refused to admit that that was what he was doing.

Ultimately, the simple truth is that the man who professes such "hope' for "change" is himself inwardly "bitter" and seeking to blame others for his own bitterness. He misguidedly blames Washington for his own bitterness and misguidedly believes that he and he alone can "change" Washington to suit his own fancy, whatever that might be. Maybe his problem is that finally the folks in Pennsylvania have wised up and can see through his vague promises of change and hope. He can label it bitterness, but maybe it is simply reality.

New York Times: Clinton Seizes on Obama Remarks to Question His Appeal to Working Class

Associated Press: Obama's Remarks Gives Clinton an Opening

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Is America seriously headed off on the wrong track?

I half agree and half disagree with the poll conclusion given by the New York Times article entitled "81% in Poll Say Nation Is Headed on Wrong Track". Sure, I am confident that 4 out of 5 Americans are unhappy with a lot of what they hear and see and feel about "the direction of the country", whether it be Iraq, the so-called "War on Terror", the economy, big banks, Wall Street, health care, education, crime, government (too big or too small), etc. OTOH, the idea that there is some general consensus as to what "the" direction or "the" track should be is complete nonsense. There are over 300 million of us Americans and each one of us is entitled to our own personal view of what we think the direction of the country should be. In truth, each of us heads our own direction and the "direction" or "track" of the country is "the sum of all curves", the sum and average of all of our "tracks" and "directions" put together. Maybe what this poll really tells us that that we are all becoming much more self-centered (our selves, our families, our neighborhoods, our peer groups) and less oriented towards the concept of a nation. We see it most emphatically on the far right and far left, where compromise, a time-honored American tradition is now considered a base evil.

One question I wish the Times had asked: Do you personally feel that you know what the right track of the country should be? I'm confident that the number of "Yes!" responses would be quite high. That is the problem. Without a renewed conception of compromise, little progress can be made to get the country onto "the right" track.

Another question I have is the role of the Internet in our current state of affairs. Originally, the thought was that the Internet would help to break down boundaries and facilitate communications, but now it seems that there is a very dark side to both of those "improvements." Enhanced communications is now used as a weapon to attack and destroy your opponents. Sure, boundaries are gone, but only in the sense that online combat between opposing groups is now hand-to-hand.

Somewhere along the way we forgot that "the pen is mightier than the sword", and now we are seeing so many more "pens", whther they be blogs, tabloid editorials, talk radio shows, cable TV shows, or other forms of "New Media" being utilized first and foremost as weapons to beat down and destroy your opponents, rather than being tools for seeking understanding, reconciliation, peace, and harmony.

Sure, maybe America is in fact "on the wrong track", but who provided all these wonderful new tools to help fellow Americans push the country so far off of a common, compromise view of what a "common track" should be?

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Training Barack to be a winner

I am no great fan of Maureen Dowd, but in an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times entitled "The Hillary Waltz" she advises that:

One of the most valuable lessons the gritty Hillary can teach the languid Obama -- and the timid Democrats -- is that the whole point of a presidential race is to win.

That seems like a great characterization of the state of the Democratic primary.

I had to laugh (or did I merely smile?) when she writes:

Whether or not she wins, Hillary has already given noble service as a sophisticated political tutor for Obama, providing her younger colleague with much-needed seasoning. Who else was going to toughen him up? Howard Dean? John Edwards? Dennis Kucinich?

Yes, who indeed can be tougher than Hillary?

She closes with a real challenge for Barack:

Hillary's work is done only when she is done, because the best way for Obama to prove he's ready to stare down Ahmadinejad is by putting away someone even tougher.

It is a real shame that more voters are so blindly unable to sense Hillary's leadership skills.

-- Jack Krupansky

The infamous 2003 Torture Memo

Yesterday we finally had a chance to read the full text of the infamous March 14, 2003 memo from the Department of Justice on the "conduct" of "Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States", AKA The Torture Memo. The memo is described in an article in The Washington Post by  Dan Eggen and Josh White entitled "Memo: Laws Didn't Apply to Interrogators - Justice Dept. Official in 2003 Said President's Wartime Authority Trumped Many Statutes."

The full text of the memo is available as a four-part PDF file:

  1. 2003 Torture Memo - Part 1 (pages 1-19)
  2. 2003 Torture Memo - Part 2 (pages 20-39)
  3. 2003 Torture Memo - Part 3 (pages 40-59)
  4. 2003 Torture Memo - Part 4 (pages 60-81)

It was interesting how the memo spent a lot of effort trying to dance around the meaning of "severe" in "severe pain", trying to suggest that unless some hypothetical level of pain was reached, a lesser level of pain would not constitute "torture." One interpretation was that pain that was not "extreme" would fall under the international Conventions Against Torture (CAT) prohibition of "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment." While there was recognition of a prohibition of "excruciating and agonizing physical pain", there was little attempt to relate that to the real-world experience of how a person with common sense would react to any questionable form of treatment. Personally, it would appear quite obvious to me that a level of pain sufficient to break the will of a hardened terrorist would almost by definition be considered "extreme." After all, if the level of pain was not "excruciating and agonizing", then what exactly was it that caused the prisoner's will to break?

-- Jack Krupansky