Archive for August, 2008

Cats are Deceitful: The Sequel

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

This Saturday night video is brought to you by the same guy who brought you “Cats are deceitful…” although he calls it “Let me in.”

The Crimes Behind Cindy McCain’s Fortune

Saturday, August 30th, 2008


[Photo courtesy of PaisleyPitbull licensed under Creative Commons.]

Cindy McCain – who was among the first people in the country to question Michelle Obama’s patriotism after Michelle’s poorly phrased comments in Wisconsin early this year – is now incredibly offended by Barack Obama’s suggestion that it is her husband’s fabulous wealth and opulent lifestyle that has made him less sensitive to the vast majority of Americans with only one home whose incomes have fallen despite the economy’s growth under the Bush administration. No – she apparently wants Obama to come up with another reason to explain away her husband’s doubling down on the economic policies of the Bush administration and calling for massive tax cuts for the biggest companies and the richest individuals while cutting taxes far less than Barack Obama would for 90% of Americans.1

To counter the suggestions that her fortune left her and John McCain out of touch, she defended her family’s fortune:

My father had nothing. He and my mother sold everything they had to raise $10,000. I’m proud of what my dad and my mother did and what they built and left me.  And I intend to carry their legacy as long as I can.
(Added after watching the complete interview): My father is the American dream!

She really makes it sound like there must be an inspiring story behind how James Hensley’s net worth went from $10,000.00 to over $200,000,000.00. It brings to mind Richard O’Connor, who, in writing how the oil barons created their vast fortunes, paraphrased the great storyteller Balzac:

Behind every great fortune, there is a great crime.

The corollary would be that behind a large fortune is a decent amount of crime.

The story of Cindy McCain’s father, James Hensley, begins when he ditched his first wife for a younger woman after returning from World War II a hero (Sound familiar?). He got involved with a character named Kemper Marley who is variously described as a rancher, a businessman, a murder suspect, and a top figure in organized crime in Arizona. While working for Marley, James Hensley and his brother were convicted of the felony offenses of concealing black market liquor sales and conspiracy. Later Cindy’s father was charged with falsifying records to evade taxes – although these charges were dismissed, no doubt due to the diligent work of one of Arizona’s top defense lawyers, William Rehnquist.

After getting through these legal difficulties in the early 1950s, the brothers Hensley bought a horse track – with several mobsters as silent partners. Cindy’s father, though, was yearning for a measure of respectability, and sold his stake in the track in the mid-1950s. Luckily for James Hensley, he got out just a few months before a statewide scandal focused on the track, making life difficult for his brother and all of the other owners. Hensley’s brother continued at the track and eventually was sent to prison in the late 1960s after he sold his portion of the track to Marley and a mob-connected front.

Meanwhile, Cindy’s father had decided to start a beer distributorship:

According to the official founding myth, Jim launched his own beer distributorship, Hensley & Company, in 1955, with the help of a $10,000 loan. (Unaccounted for is how a cash-strapped ex-convict would have secured the exclusive right to distribute Budweiser in Phoenix.) The distributorship became Hensley’s first step in a long march to respectability.

By most accounts, Cindy’s father worked hard to make his distributorship a success. And as Arizona began to grow in the sixties boom with millions of people moving to the southwest, Hensley’s beer distributorship grew with it – leading to the fortune now estimated in the hundreds of millions which financed John McCain’s start in politics and the McCain’s opulent lifestyle.

To wrap up this story, Cindy McCain says her father had nothing; and through hard work, his fortune is now worth hundreds of millions. But untold is that this fortune is based on gambling and liquor, mobsters and political connections, working hard and cutting corners, and always staying one step ahead of scandal and conviction. Because of his crimes, his connections and his hard work, he was able to provide Cindy McCain with a life of luxury. When the young Cindy wrecked her Porsche, her father bought her a Mercedes Benz. When she became a teacher and was criticized for driving a car that was too flashy, her father bought her a second car to drive to school. And of course, Cindy can’t imagine, even now, how anyone can get around Arizona without a private plane.

It’s easy to see how someone who has led the life that Cindy McCain has can believe that a little bit of hard work will get you a few hundred million – and how someone who’s father bought her a second car to keep the other teachers from making fun of her luxury car could fail to sympathize with the average American having trouble paying all of their bills. It’s not impossible for someone living such an opulent lifestyle to understand and advocate for the middle class and the poor – look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt – but if you are instead are insisting on economic policies that benefit the richest individuals and the biggest corporations – it’s hard not to see a connection.

It’s a bit rich2 of Cindy McCain to defend herself and her husband by invoking how hard her father worked for his fortune. And it’s yet another demonstration of how “in touch” she is with the concerns of most Americans.

N.B. This post was written in the midst of an obviously contentious election campaign – one in which I had strongly considered supporting Senator John McCain – as I’ve detailed elsewhere – but after careful evaluation, had come to the conclusion that Barack Obama was the only candidate suited to our current challenges. While I stand by the content of the post, in retrospect, the tone is a bit overheated. I don’t especially care where her fortune came from. The Kennedy fortune is widely rumored to have come from similarly shady sources – and I don’t hold it against them. But in the context of a campaign in which Obama’s every contact with a questionable individual was the subject of advertisements and smears by the McCain campaign, I found it astounding that this rather close contact with unsavory characters was mentioned in passing but not explored.

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  1. Would she prefer Obama infer actual malice, placing ideology above country, or class warfare to explain away McCain’s insistence on screwing the middle class? []
  2. Referring to the 4th and 5th defintiions in the link. []

She was born with ovaries! I was born with ovaries!

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Michelle Cottle over at The New Republic suggests what the Hillary supporters’ response to McCain’s pick of Palin should be:

How insulting, how condescending, how downright patronizing of Senator McCain to attempt such ham-fisted identity politics. Does he really think women are so pathetic, so irrational, so weak-minded that a former supporter of the proudly pro-choice, feminist, progressive, grand and glorious Senator Clinton will now look at this staunchly conservative, possibly promising but currently totally unqualified woman from Alaska and think, She was born with ovaries! I was born with ovaries! Hell yeah! You go girl!

The Single (Compound) Sentence That Describes Why I Support Obama

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Why I Support Obama

Obama is a liberal pragmatist, with a conservative temperament, who seeks to understand the world as it is, to identify our long-term challenges, and to push (to nudge it) in a positive direction by tinkering with processes and institutions and creating tools to get people more involved in the government.

The sentence was buried in this post.

Why I Oppose McCain

He’s an excitable guy, reputed to be so unstable you can’t wear a tie around him, with an economic policy identical to Bush’s, benefiting the biggest corporations and the richest individuals – after Bush’s policies have been proven disastrous, shrinking the middle class, and leaving our economy less stable – coupled with a foreign policy more hawkish and more determined to undermine the international order than Bush’s, but based on the same misconceptions and moral cowardice – after Bush’s foreign policy has made our country weaker in nearly every region in the world.

Why I Support Obama Over McCain

Enough. We need Change, Before It’s Too Late.

And I’m confident Obama can pull this off.

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VPILF Palin

Friday, August 29th, 2008


[Image by triciaward licensed under Creative Commons.]

Clearly McCain sees his only route to victory in grabbing a hold of Hillary Clinton’s supporters. I don’t think this move gets him these supporters. She’s pro-life and very conservative. Unless Hillary’s supporters want a woman vice president more than every other issue, then Palin won’t win them over.

But this move does enhance the McCain brand in a way that the rest of his campaign has not. It makes him seem the forward-thinking maverick while solidifying the Republican base that was never comfortable with him. She can launch attacks against Obama and Biden and watch them try to figure out how to go after a woman without being accused of misogyny again.

It’s a shrewd move.

Her two major positions are:

  • Attempting to force drilling at the Artic National Wildlife Reguge;
  • Being anti-abortion (I refuse to call anyone for the death penalty and against abortion, pro-life).

Her personal story involves her choosing to have and raise a child with Down’s syndrome.

McCain will make the case that Obama is weak on national security; Palin will make the case that we need to drill and then drill more. And then she will make the appeal to Christians that McCain feels uncomfortable talking to.

And she’s a former Miss Alaska. And America’s hottest governor.

Bush-McCain Refuses to Make Tough Foreign Policy Choices

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Last night, Barack Obama said:

You don’t defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq.

Joe Biden, in a 2004 interview with Joshua Marshall of the Talking Points Memo, made a similar point, but in a more roundabout way that encapsulates some portion of the difference between the two men and their approach to speaking:

No, I really mean it, ask Norm [communication director Norm Kurz]. I mean Norm’s had to sit through, listening to me in all these things. This is the point that I was trying desperately to make to my colleagues and I tried to articulate it on Stephanopoulos’ show. The fundamental flaw in the neo – forget flaw, the fundamental difference between Joe Biden, John Kerry on the one hand, and the neoconservatives on the other is that they genuinely believe – I’ll put it in the negative sense – they do not believe it is possible for a sophisticated international criminal network that will rain terror upon a country, that has the potential to kill 3,000 or more people in a country, can exist without the sponsorship of a nation state. They really truly believe – and this was the Axis of Evil speech – if you were able to decapitate the regimes in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, you would in fact dry up the tentacles of terror. I think that is fundamentally flawed reasoning. If every one of those regimes became a liberal democracy tomorrow, does anybody think we wouldn’t have Code Orange tomorrow in the United States? Rhetorical question. Does anybody think we don’t have to worry about the next major event like Madrid occurring in Paris or Washington or Sao Paulo? Gimme a break. But they really believe this is the way to do it. [My emphasis.]

Richard Haas, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, has been making the point in broader terms – explaining that we have moved from a unipolar world in which America’s power in every sphere was unrivaled to a nonpolar world in which power is decentralized – and many large corporations have more power than states and local power often trumps world power. Haas sees America as the single greatest power on earth – but rather than understanding the entire world as a system of countries, he sees a vastly more complicated power structure – where a loosely organized band of a few hundred can change the course of the world, and corporations operate according to their own interest rather than national interest; and large countries can exert influence in their backyard without American retaliation (as China and Russia proved recently).

McCain and Bush just don’t get these two realities of the world we live in today – a world in which power is decentralized and not exclusively held in nation-states and a world in which America cannot impose it’s will everywhere all of the time. They act as if we have the power to force our will upon every nation and organization. They do not believe we need to choose between Russia’s cooperation on terrorism-related issues and expanding NATO to Georgia and the Ukraine. They believe we can do both. They do not believe invading Iraq took away resources from Afghanistan – because we can do both. Their is an unreality in these positions, a determined insistence that refuses to make the tough strategic choices that foreign policy is about. That cowardice is at the heart of the Bush-McCain foreign policy. They do not acknowledge the central truth that drove America’s greatest foreign policy successes – in World War II and in the first years of the Cold War:

We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization. We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized.

They insist instead on our absolute power and on our moral purity. Coupling this with a mistaken view of the nation-state as all-powerful, a view substantially at odds with the titular Republican position of focusing on the power of individuals and corporations over that of government, they led us into Iraq, and now they are playing games of brinkmanship with Iran and Russia, in the vain hope that neither sees how weak our hand has become since we invaded Iraq.

Obama, the Lion King

Friday, August 29th, 2008

While Rush Limbaugh thinks the best way to make fun of Obama is to appoint a black man to be the “Official Obama Criticizer” – and allow him to make racially insensitive remarks and “talk ‘hood” – Jon Stewart knows better – and last night, with his show pre-taped but scheduled to run after Obama’s big speech, his show ran this pitch-perfect Obama introduction telling the story of Barack Obama, “which begins 180 million years ago”:

That Better Place Around the Bend

Thursday, August 28th, 2008


[Obama announcing his bid for the presidency in 2007.]

It’s funny to think of how much the pundits were complaining about how the convention speakers weren’t going after McCain before tonight. All that worrying. Yet, now, the plan is clear – all these other speakers were supposed to build Obama up – and then, Obama was supposed to tee off on McCain himself – at the moment of maximum publicity.

The Corner over at the National Review is sniping – nitpicking. They have pronounced the speech “LAME,” “Same old same old of the last two decades,” “pie-eyed utopianism,” “a September 10th convention,” and “This is not a great speech, and it is not a great delivery.” For the coup de grace, Kathryn Jean Lopez suggests “Maybe McCain shouldn’t speak next week and replay this instead?

With that type of response, it’s a wonder the Republicans haven’t been run out of town. Talk about out-of-touch. Or perhaps, these comments are better understood as the rationalizations of the captain of a sinking ship – trying to convince his crew to keep doing their jobs, and the band to keep playing.

Barack Obama gave, tonight, not his best speech – and not his best delivered speech – although it was delivered well and was a great speech. Because of it’s ambition, it could not be perfect. Instead of small perfection – like Obama’s keynote address in 2004 – it was a broad vision, with specific detail, responding to all of the charges thrown against him, and striking at the perceived strengths of his opponent while praising his past opponents and calling on the best in America. It was exactly the speech he needed – accomplishing so much without overstretching. It was truly remarkable.

MSNBC made some headlines for it’s on and off-air catfights recently, but Chris Matthews summarized the highlights and the genius of the speech well in the immediate aftermath:

Keith Olberman: I’d love to find something to criticize about it. Got anything?

Chris Matthews: No. I’ll be criticized for saying he inspires me, but to hell with my critics…I think what he said was about us; and that’s why we care about what he said. It was not about an ego – it was about a country. And when he said it at the end, he really challenged the country to make a decision. He said our strength is not in our money or our military or even our culture – he said it’s the American spirit, the American promise that pushes us forward even when the  path is uncertain. It binds us together in spite our differences; it makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but in what is unseen – that better place around the bend. That is America. And I think that is the challenge. It is an open challenge to the hearts and minds of the country. They can choose him or the other guy. It’s an open election.

But what he was saying is choosing the unknown is what we did when we picked Roosevelt; it’s what happened the country chose Reagan; it’s what they chose when they chose Clinton; oftentimes you have to take the unknowable and move away from the unacceptable. And in this case he’s saying: ‘Place your bets on the 90% not the 10%’ where McCain disagrees with Bush.

I thought it was an amazing..but…I’ve written speeches all my life, of course nothing like this. Let me tell you what was great about it. What he did was – and it’s a military practice – it’s called attacking from a defensive position. It’s how Henry won in Agincourt; it’s how Alexander won; it’s how Reagan kicked the butt of Jimmy Carter. And what you do is this: you take your opponent’s best shot and throw it back at him.

Are we a nation of whiners? If this is an ownership society, you own your failure. Was my upbringing a celebrity’s upbringing? If you’re going to follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell, how about going to his cave and getting him? And how dare you say this election is a test of patriotism when we’re all in this together? It was a great way of throwing back the other side’s best shot and saying it’s full of crap.

Politically, it was a remarkable performance. Now we see if the McCain campaign and the Republican noise machine can match him – or at least neutralize him and his message. “Class warfare!” they will say, because he spoke of how the tax code penalizes work; “Tax and spend” they will say because he want to fix our nation’s failing infrastructure. They will paint him as weak on national security – despite his pledge to build up our military and defend our nation’s interests. They will call the same plays as they have for the past three decade.

I pray that enough of us will choose something better – will choose the unknown over the unacceptable – will choose to find that better place around the bend.

The POW Card

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Mike Luckovich has the perfect response to McCain’s incessant and shameless use of the POW card.

Yet Another Blatant Power Grab By the Obamas

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

According to the Rocky Mountain News:

“I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the future conduct of the roll-call vote,” Clinton said. “All votes cast by the delegates will be counted. and I move Senator Barack Obama of Illinois be selected by this convention by acclamation as the nominee of the Democratic Party as the president of the United States.”

The motion was met with a rousing ovation. It was quickly seconded and approved by the thousands of people in attendance.

Pelosi did not wait for any “no” votes before slamming down the gavel.

Why do I suspect that some PUMAs out there are going to make a big deal about that last event?