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Saturday, March 01, 2008
Say What?

Get this absurd description of the Weather Underground:

A few weeks ago, there was a flurry of media interest in a professor named William Ayers, a former member of the radical Weather Underground (technically an early-'70s collective, but in spirit a '60s hangover), who once served on the board of an anti-poverty group with Obama and donated $200 to his campaign.

An early-'70s collective? Like the Symbionese Liberation Army was a food bank, and the Manson family was a commune?

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Feeling Sorry for Michelle Obama

Gosh, look at how tough things have been for her:

As she has many times in the past, Mrs. Obama complains about the lasting burden of student loans dating from her days at Princeton and Harvard Law School. She talks about people who end up taking years and years, until middle age, to pay off their debts. “The salaries don’t keep up with the cost of paying off the debt, so you’re in your 40s, still paying off your debt at a time when you have to save for your kids,” she says.

Save for your kids? For what? Oh, so that they don't have to pay the lasting burden of student loans? And most studies indicate that the salaries do keep up with the cost of paying off the debt. Unless you do as she suggests, which is not to go into the corporate arena:

A former attorney with the white-shoe Chicago firm of Sidley & Austin, Obama explains that she and her husband made the choice to give up lucrative jobs in favor of community service. “We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we’re asking young people to do,” she tells the women. “Don’t go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we’re encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond.” Faced with that reality, she adds, “many of our bright stars are going into corporate law or hedge-fund management.”

Boo, hedge funds! Of course, as York points out, going into community service hasn't been quite the sacrifice for Mrs O that she would like to claim:

In 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mrs. Obama’s compensation at the University of Chicago Hospital, where she is a vice president for community affairs, jumped from $121,910 in 2004, just before her husband was elected to the Senate, to $316,962 in 2005, just after he took office.

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Friday, February 29, 2008
This Soldier Was Already a Winner

Even before he won the lottery:

After completing two tours in Iraq, Sgt. Wayne Leyde won $1 million from a scratch-and-win lotto ticket on Tuesday.

Now that he's won, Leyde, a 26-year-old member of the Washington National Guard, says he's still going to volunteer to go back to Iraq for a third tour and won't spend any of the money in the meantime.

Feel-good story of the day.
Dionne Tries the Reagan Comparison

Badly, of course.

Yes, Obama gets his crowds swooning. So did Reagan. It's laughable to hear conservatives talk darkly about a "cult of personality" around Obama. The Reaganites, after all, have lobbied to name every airport, school, library, road, bridge, government building and lamppost after the Gipper. When it comes to personality cults, the right wing knows what it's talking about.

What's the difference, class? That's right, the conservatives did their swooning after the fact. After we'd seen what he was like as a president.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
But Who Will Pick Up Fatina Abdrabboh's Keys?

Heheh, Harvard is instituting "women's-only" gym hours for Muslims and other gals who feel "uncomfortable" exercising around men:

Harvard University has moved to make Muslim women more comfortable in the gym by instituting women-only access times six hours a week to accommodate religious customs that make it difficult for some students to work out in the presence of men.

Fatina Abdrabboh somehow managed to work out with men around, including a rather famous one.

Suddenly a man, out of breath, but still smiling and friendly, tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Ma'am, here are your keys." It was Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore had gotten off his machine behind me, picked up my keys, handed them to me and then resumed his workout.
Rezko Deal Heating Up As Obama's Poll Numbers Climb

The Democrats could be looking at a serious case of buyer's remorse in another month or so, the way things are going. The Times of London does a quick rundown of the "other end" of Barack Obama's deal to purchase his house.

A British-Iraqi billionaire lent millions of dollars to Barack Obama's fundraiser just weeks before an imprudent land deal that has returned to haunt the presidential contender, an investigation by The Times discloses.

The money transfer raises the question of whether funds from Nadhmi Auchi, one of Britain’s wealthiest men, helped Mr Obama buy his mock Georgian mansion in Chicago.

A company related to Mr Auchi, who has a conviction for corruption in France, registered the loan to Mr Obama's bagman Antoin "Tony" Rezko on May 23 2005. Mr Auchi says the loan, through the Panamanian company Fintrade Services SA, was for $3.5 million.

Auchi (presumably pronounced "Ouchie") has a shady past:

Mr Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe. He, in a statement from his media lawyers, claims he is appealing against the sentence.

One bit that I had not heard previously:

Mr Obama says he never used Mrs Rezko's still-empty lot, which could only be accessed through his property.

What? It's land-locked? That is an extremely significant detail, because it makes the land essentially worthless to anybody other than Obama.

As always, when looking into the Rezko deal, check with the Marathon Man, who's been covering this story like a blanket.

The land-locked issue lends credibility to this theory advanced by John: remains my belief that the Obamas and the Rezkos had an agreement to slowly buy the lot--reuniting the properties. In other words, a loan that allowed the Obamas to afford their dream home.

Rick Moran ties it to the culture of corruption in Chicago politics, and does a little background research on Auchi:

First of all, his business dealings make Rezko’s kickback schemes for political contributions look like the minor leagues of sleaze. Auchi had a hand in the biggest political and corporate scandal in post war Europe, the so-called “Elf Affair” where $2 billion francs up and disappeared from the French state oil company Elf.

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Monday, February 25, 2008
Desperately Seeking Abramoff

Here's a little bit of sleight of hand from Sam Stein at the Huffpo:

In the 2006 Senate report concerning Abramoff's activities, which McCain spearheaded, the Arizona Republican conspicuously left out information detailing how Alabama Gov. Bob Riley was targeted by Abramoff's influence peddling scheme. Riley, a Republican, won election in November 2002, and was reelected in 2006.

In a December 2002 email obtained by the Huffington Post -- which McCain and his staff had access to prior to the issuance of his report -- Abramoff explains to an aide what he would like to see Riley do in return for the "help" he received from Abramoff's tribal clients.

An official with the Mississippi Choctaws "definitely wants Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation," Abramoff wrote, "including his announcing that anyone caught gambling there can't qualify for a state contract or something like that."

The note showed not only the reach of Abramoff, but raised questions about Riley's victory in what was the closest gubernatorial election in Alabama history.


Siegelman soldiered on after the 2002 loss, running again for governor against Riley in 2006. By then, the extent of Riley's connection to Abramoff was still unknown. Moreover, Siegelman was still under investigation for allegations of bribery. The inquiry, detailed in an extensive 60 Minutes report last night, raised many ethical red flags, mainly over political interference from the Bush administration, specifically Karl Rove. On June 22, McCain issued his Senate report without mentioning Riley's name. And one week later, Siegelman was convicted without the Abramoff email ever being made public.

Okay, so the chronology is screwed up here, apparently intentionally as we shall see, to make the tale look stronger than it is. Let's really look at the facts:

November 2002: Riley is elected Governor of Alabama in the narrowest election for that office ever (Riley won by 0.2 percentage points).
December 2002: Abramoff writes email to "aide". Note that Stein does not say whose aide.
2006: Seigelman "soldiered on". Until he was defeated in the Democratic primaries by Lucy Baxley, 60%-35%. Siegelman is convicted of corruption charges and is currently serving seven years on those charges.

The claim that Stein appears to be making is that Riley opposed gambling in Alabama (true) and that Abramoff's client opposed one particular tribe in that state from offering gambling (true) and that therefore the email (which we later find out was to an Abramoff aide and not to a Riley aide) showed that Abramoff had influence with Riley, even though this was a position that Riley had taken years earlier:

Riley had previously opposed gambling in the state. In the late 1990s, he signed a fundraising letter lobbying against the building of a casino within Alabama. "We need your help today," the letter, which reflected another Abramoff objective, read, "to prevent the Poarch Creek Indians from building casinos in Alabama."

The post also makes a nutty claim about the amount donated by the Mississippi Choctaws:

There was a brief footnote in the report that quoted William Worfel, former vice chairman of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, saying that Abramoff told the chief of a Mississippi tribe to spend $13 million "to get the governor of Alabama elected to keep gaming out of Alabama so it wouldn't hurt ... his market in Mississippi."

Um, $13 million? That's a joke. The Mississippi Choctaws donated a total of about $1.3 million to political candidates and PACs from 1992-2006, and about a third of that was to the Democrats. He's way off base, there.

Let me remind those who wonder whether I know about the Jack Abramoff story, that I forced (with great assistance from Donald Luskin) the retraction of a Paul Krugman column in the New York Times and a related article in the American Prospect on the subject of the Abramoff story.

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Kinsley on the New York Times

This is really well done:

Many readers of last week's New York Times article about McCain, including me, read that article as suggesting that McCain may have had an affair with a lobbyist eight years ago. The Times, however, has made clear that its story was not about an affair with a lobbyist. Its story was about the possibility that eight years ago, aides to McCain had held meetings with McCain to warn him about the appearance that he might be having an affair with the lobbyist. This is obviously a much more important question. To be absolutely clear: The Times itself was not suggesting that there had been an affair or even that there had been the appearance of an affair. The Times was reporting that there was a time eight years ago when some people felt there might be the appearance of an affair, although others, apparently including McCain himself, apparently felt that there was no such appearance.

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What the New York Times Should Have Said

Here's a pretty good rundown:

Sunday, the paper’s “public editor,” Clark Hoyt, weighed in on the controversy. I say “weighed” but his tread was positively catlike. Another missed opportunity, I suppose. But let me help. Here’s what the paper’s public editor didn’t say, but should have: “Get a grip! The function of the Times is not to print ‘news.’ It’s to provide like-minded readers with a comforting view of the world.”

Howard Kurtz:

Leave aside the uninformed charges that the story was politically timed. Forget for a moment that the key sources were granted anonymity. What, in the end, did the paper have? "Disillusioned" former McCain aides who say they were worried that their boss appeared too close to a lobbyist and tried to shoo her away. Details about letters to federal regulators that were mostly old news. And, of course, the suggestion of sex, the rocket fuel that boosted the story into the media stratosphere.

In online comments Friday, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller seemed taken aback by "the volume of the reaction" and "by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision, with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot. And, frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story."

As Kurtz notes, the sex was the sizzle; if they didn't want readers to focus on it, it should not have been included.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Maybe There's Another Possibility?

I have to laugh at this article on the Politico by Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei speculating on why the Right supported John McCain in the recent dustup with the New York Times:

The right-wing response to the New York Times article was in some ways as stunning, and as revealing, as the salacious story itself.

Some of the loudest voices of the modern conservative movement — Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Gary Bauer, — flogged the Times while hardly pausing to consider the underlying facts of the story. Immediately, almost reflexively, these commentators assumed the worst motives and behavior by The Times and accepted McCain’s bland yet broad denials.

Maybe because there was almost nothing to the story? Nah, Allen and VandeHei can't buy that explanation:

The Times’ reporters and editors involved in this story are top-notch. Such stories usually only go into the paper when reporters and their editors feel certain they are true — because they know a vicious response will likely follow.

"Usually?" "Feel certain?" And what was "true"? That the Times didn't have any real backup for the "salacious" parts of their story?
What Is The Fascination with Assassination?

I don't get why there is so much talk about it with regard to Obama. Here's a hilarious, hand-wringing post at the Moderate Voice on a Mexican editorial about how Barack should make Hillary his veep nominee, because at least that way, when Obama's killed we won't be stuck with another four years of the Republicans. Seriously:

What if he were murdered? If Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination and was gunned down before November, what effect would this have on the presidential race?

And the editorial is even more nutty:

The reason I fear for Obama is that despite his being an extraordinary Democratic leader and a notable promoter of change in the United States - a nation that apparently no longer wishes to greet the dawn with news of another bombing attack on a new country at the behest of George Bush - in spite of all this, and even if he manages to win his party’s nomination, goes on to beat McCain in November and becomes the next president of the United States, he could be brutally assassinated, as happened in their time to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X . There’s no reason to kill a McCain - not for his skin color, nor for his political career, nor for his personal name, and it’s impossible to associate him with the Muslims that arouse sop much prejudice in post-Sept. 11 America...

And it's not like this is the first time we've seen this type of speculation. I confess, I don't get it. I suppose the idea is that he arouses the same types of feelings as Kennedy does, and therefore he's doomed to be killed as Kennedy was.


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