Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I met Ralph Reed this morning. He's the little evangelical who ran something called the Christian Coalition a few years back. He ran for the Georgia Lieutenant Governor seat during the last election cycle, but lost, after some negative ethics publicity came back to haunt him. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I think it involved him with Indian (the American kind) gambling and the recently jailed Jack "The Ripper" Abramoff.
But there he was at a weekly breakfast meeting I attend. He's taller than he looks on tv. I always thought he was a tiny fellow, but he's really just thin. Better looking, too. In photos of Ralph, I was always vaguely reminded of Lee Harvey Oswald, but face to face Ralph is actually rather handsome. He's a good speaker, too, and shared his thoughts on the presidential elections. While he made no bones about his position as an evangelical conservative, his analysis was pretty insightful and largely free of advocacy. So, I'll share some of it, imperfectly remembered, here.
Ralph thinks that John McCain has got the red nomination all locked up, pointing out that Mike Huckabee would need to garner 93% of the remaining available Republican delegates to win. Sounds sensible. Unlike many conservatives these days, Ralph is not anti-McCain. He believes that McCain is the only Republican with a real chance to unite the Republicnas and to beat the Democrats. He obviously likes that prospect. Plus, President Bush has recently semi-endorsed him as a true conservative.
Looking across the aisle, Ralph thinks Hillary will probably win the blue nomination, and that she will be forced to ask Barack Obama to be her running mate or risk the outrage of black voters. Ralph says that the Democrats cannot win without at least 80% of the black vote. Interesting. He speaks like someone who has actually crunched the numbers. I'd like to see those numbers myself.
But Ralph also thinks that John McCain, running against Hillary, who's name might as well be "Satan" to conservatives, could reignite some passion in the party. Maybe. Maybe indeed. Since the surge, we seem to be winning the war in Iraq. That could also be stimulus for Republican spirits.
A lot can change in the nine months between today and the election in November. The economy for instance. My own prediction is that the credit mess caused by MBS-CDO defaults will have largely flushed itself out of the economy by November, and the economy will be back on an upswing. (BTW, the credit mess can all be traced back to Traveler's Sandy Weil wanting to buy Citibank. I'll do a post on that separately.) So, with an improving economy and a winning war a distinct possibility, I think it's far too early to count the reds out of this election.
But counting on Hillary Hate is not a good path either. People get tired of hating. People are also get tired of Hillary, and I'm talking about Democrats now. Personally, I think that the reds are indulging in a little wishful thinking by counting on a fight against Hillary. They are not acknowledging that Obama has got some serious momentum working now. He's tied with Hillary for delegates, has 200,000 more popular votes than she does, and is on a 5 state winning streak. Hanging onto the idea that Hillary is the front runner has the whiff of beltway tunnel vision. While the DC pundits cling to her, the rest of the country is lining up behind the Yes We Can Man. Why? So that we can march fearlessly into the future and keep on being a great country.
And that's really what we want. What a welcome change from arguing about gay marriage and school vouchers.
But to finish up on Ralph's thoughts, he's assuming a Hillary-Obama ticket. He goes on to say that McCain will have to have a minority running mate to compete. Ralph suggests that Condi Rice as McCain's vp running mate would siphon some black voters away from the Democrats, or at least enough black voters to win. I don't think so. I think adding a pinch of Condi would be a recipe for electoral disaster. No pun intended, but Condoleeza is one weak sister.
Condi has a tendency to whine when things don't go her way, and she was a terrible National Security Adviser. Remember when she said that "no one could have possibly imagined" that terrorists would use airliners to fly into buildings? How dim must one be not to imagine that? It was her job to imagine such things. And to prevent them. Why this goes largely unremarked upon by our fourth estate, giving her a free pass on her ultimate responsibility, is unknown and unfathomable to me. Was she unaware of the Bojinka Plot, just five years earlier, showing our Arab friends' fascination with the idea of hijacking planes and flying them into buildings? How could she not be?
Another reason Condi would be a bad choice for a running mate is that she is no politico. She's never been in an election. She's a terribly boring public speaker. Aside from being secretly in love with the President, and having a penchant for go-go boots, there is little interesting about her. No sizzle. Condi is basically a misplaced college professor. I'm not trying to imply anything, but on the dirty tricks side of things, her spinsterism will also spark rumors.
Apparently there has been a falling out between Colin Powell and the Republican establishment. It seems that many conservatives blame Colin for not standing up more firmly to Donald "Henny Penny" Rumsfeld, and preventing Rummy and the neocons from totally screwing up Iraq War II. Also, Colin has now publicly indicated that he has not decided whether he will support the Republican or Democratic candidate this election. Wow! The bottom line is that Colin has become something of a black sheep (oops!) in the Republican family.
Curiously, I think that McCain may have stumbled right into the formula for the success of his candidacy through a seeming faux pas. The 100 years military occupation in Iraq. Nobody really liked the sound of that. But . . . let's stop and think about what just happened.
John McCain has voiced a vision for America's future. A stretch, I know. But I've been pondering what I'm really looking for in my next President. Why am I drawn to Obama (Troops home now) and McCain (Empire forever) when they are so far apart on the issues? I'm looking for a leader. A leader with a vision. A vision of where America should be going, and the will to drive us there. Not some poll driven, vote counting politico who wants to sit in the driver's seat but really just be along for the ride. Let's have a dream! See the future! Let's go there! We're going there anyway, so let's bend it to our national will!
100 years. Where do we want America to be in 100 years? What do we need to do now to get there? Build trains that can run on electicity generated by anything. Clean energy. Plenty of healthy food. Great medical care for all. Shared values. Nice homes. No pollution. Everyone is educated. Drug abuse is rare. Hatred is socially unacceptable. The whole world speaks English and America is admired as a pioneering example of human dignity, peace, and freedom.
Or we just go along from year to year and see what happens. We run out of gas. All high paid labor is exported, so we have 2 classes of people, capitalists and servants. China and India are the world's two superpowers. In high school, kids learn how much U.S. history imitated England's rise and fall.
I'm looking for a man with a plan. Or a woman with a plan. The vision thing. Remember that? Who has it? I'm still not sure. But whoever shows it to me will get my vote.
Bottom Line: Barack looks like the man as of today. But who is a good number 2 for the blues? We need someone with international and defense cred. Too bad John Glenn is a hundred years old. Wesley Clark maybe? On the red side, John McCain with Colin Powell is the key to Republican victory. My liberal distaste for the Bush years could be assuaged by the prospect of these two battle proven war heros leading our country in uncertain times. And the retch inducing stench of the Clintons will certainly make me look for an alternative if Hillary is the nominee, even with Barack on the ticket. If the conservative wing of the Republican party can get onboard, the reds have a real chance. I'll vote for Obama if I can, but not as Hillary's Veep.
Links of the day:
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Sonia Verma in Dubai
A 37-year-old American businesswoman and married mother of three is seeking justice after she was thrown in jail by Saudi Arabia's religious police for sitting with a male colleague at a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.
Yara, who does not want her last name published for fear of retribution, was bruised and crying when she was freed from a day in prison after she was strip-searched, threatened and forced to sign false confessions by the Kingdom's “Mutaween” police.
Her story offers a rare first-hand glimpse of the discrimination faced by women living in Saudi Arabia. In her first interview with the foreign press, Yara told The Times that she would remain in Saudi Arabia to challenge its harsh enforcement of conservative Islam rather than return to America.
“If I want to make a difference I have to stick around. If I leave they win. I can't just surrender to the terrorist acts of these people,” said Yara, who moved to Jeddah eight years ago with her husband, a prominent businessman.
Her ordeal began with a routine visit to the new Riyadh offices of her finance company, where she is a managing partner.
The electricity temporarily cut out, so Yara and her colleagues — who are all men — went to a nearby Starbucks to use its wireless internet.
She sat in a curtained booth with her business partner in the café's “family” area, the only seats where men and women are allowed to mix.
For Yara, it was a matter of convenience. But in Saudi Arabia, public contact between unrelated men and women is strictly prohibited.
“Some men came up to us with very long beards and white dresses. They asked ‘Why are you here together?'. I explained about the power being out in our office. They got very angry and told me what I was doing was a great sin,” recalled Yara, who wears an abaya and headscarf, like most Saudi women.
The men were from Saudi Arabia's Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a police force of several thousand men charged with enforcing dress codes, sex segregation and the observance of prayers.
Yara, whose parents are Jordanian and grew up in Salt Lake City, once believed that life in Saudi Arabia was becoming more liberal. But on Monday the religious police took her mobile phone, pushed her into a cab and drove her to Malaz prison in Riyadh. She was interrogated, strip-searched and forced to sign and fingerprint a series of confessions pleading guilty to her “crime”.
“They took me into a filthy bathroom, full of water and dirt. They made me take off my clothes and squat and they threw my clothes in this slush and made me put them back on,” she said. Eventually she was taken before a judge.
“He said 'You are sinful and you are going to burn in hell'. I told him I was sorry. I was very submissive. I had given up. I felt hopeless,” she said.
Yara's husband, Hatim, used his political contacts in Jeddah to track her whereabouts. He was able to secure her release.
“I was lucky. I met other women in that prison who don't have the connections I did,” she said. Her story has received rare coverage in Saudi Arabia, where the press has been sharply critical of the police.
Yara was visited yesterday by officials from the American Embassy, who promised they would file a report.
An embassy official told The Times that it was being treated as “an internal Saudi matter” and refused to comment on her case.
— Saudi Arabia’s Mutaween has 10,000 members in almost 500 offices
— Ahmad al-Bluwi, 50, died in custody in 2007 in the city of Tabuk after he invited a woman outside his immediate family into his car
— In 2007 the victim of a gang rape was sentenced to 200 lashes and six years in jail for having been in an unrelated man’s car at the time. She was pardoned by King Abdullah, although he maintained the sentence had been fair.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
Monday, February 4, 2008
Obama was repeatedly referred to by the Clintonites as African-American in the Palmetto State. You know, so us white folks would get "the message" that when push came to shove, this high toned black man would not really be on "our" team. The media seemed taken aback by how to characterize these remarks. The reporters clearly knew what was going on. Race was being injected into the race as an issue by the Clintons. If race did become an issue, well then a voter had to wonder what side he was really on, or if he even had a choice at that point.
Before the media could figure this out, the good people of South Carolina figured it out pretty speedy fast. And the majority slapped it down hard. Both Democrats and Republicans. They are sick and tired of being unfairly tagged as a racist state, and they showed it at the polls. After the fact, the media finally determined that the Clinton's plan was an attempt to "marginalize" Obama as a tolerated token candidate, but not a serious contender, much like Jesse Jackson of twenty some years ago. This has seriously stuck in the craw of many life-long Democrats, and has made us look with fresh eyes at the hypocrisy and nakedly selfish ambition of the Clintons. The Clinton after-taste is sour, and I suspect will be long lasting.
I for one am looking at Hillary, and Bill, with a newly critical eye. Hillary's self proclaimed 35 years of public service. Well, for 15 years she worked as a corporate lawyer at the Rose Law Firm. How does that constitute public service? She got herself on the board of Wal-Mart. How did that happen? It seems obvious that being a Governor's wife may been her biggest qualification.
And what has she accomplished in these 35 years? Beats me. Can you name anything? Supporters like to point out that she has visited 80 countries, and knows many world leaders. Who paid for that? And what did it get us? Any accomplishments?
But she promises to fight for us if she is President. She'll be ready Day One. Well, news flash: fighting is hard. What fights has she won? She rolled over like a good puppy for W in going to war in Iraq. But she says that she thought he would use more diplomacy first. That's like giving the car keys to a teenager and making him promise not to go too fast.
Now her Iraq rap is "if I had known then what I know now . . ." Well, she didn't even bother to read the 95 page National Intelligence Estimate that the CIA had prepared on the intelligence used as justification for going to war. Didn't bother to read it. Guess what, it was her job to read it. If she had done her job and read it, then she would have known then what she knows now.
Somehow, Obama did manage to know it then. Lot's of people knew it then. We were promised a "mountain of evidence" from Colin Powell at the UN. I watched that speech and I didn't see any real evidence. Just a series of hearsay and deep voiced, frowny faced pronouncements that this meant time was running out. Danger was imminent. This is called a "conclusory argument" because it has no factual or logical backup, just a stark and baseless conclusion. No critical thinker gives this type of nonsense any credibility. What is at least as shocking as hearing Powell make this type of empty argument with a straight face and without caveats (he knows better) is that the press ran with it uncritically. At least Powell has the decency to be ashamed of his role in this, this . . . whatever a fiasco of this scale is called. The press is mostly unrepentent.
The point of this now to the 2008 Presidential elelction is that Hillary got it wrong because she was derelict in her duty. She did not do her homework and followed the path of political expediency. Getting it right then is when it mattered. Knowing it now is too late.
Let's elect someone who can sniff out the truth before we step into the muck, not after.