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  • (1)

    I've always had very low tolerance for the talkbox channels. I never watch them, except maybe when I'm in a hotel, offline, and desperate for any timely news. The two exceptions are (1) This Week with George Stephanopolous, whose "round table" has the most entertaining, low-key horserace discussion (and whose A-B-C-D format makes it easy to TiVo past the nonsense blah-blah interviews), and (2) when there's an interesting political or news event happening. This year's campaign coverage, though, has really brought into high relief the 6 Rules of Bobbleheaded Punditry:

    1. Keep talking. Whatever you do, keep talking. Don't pause. Especially when you finish a sentence. In fact, take all periods out of your copy.
    2. Sound like you know what you're talking about. Use a quiet, authoritative tone. Remember Rule #1. Pauses betray an apparent uncertainty or may reveal your lack of ideas.
    3. Look like you know what you're talking about. Alternately frown thoughtfully and raise your eyebrows occasionally for emphasis. If at a table, lean forward and tip your head slightly forward, forearms on the table. If standing, keep your elbows at your side but move your hands up and down, keeping time with your words. Extra points for coordinating with your eyebrows. If possible, hold a clipboard. (See Wolf Blitzer.)
    4. Throw out a Factoid or a Spin Turd.
      • Factoid. It doesn't matter how accurate or relevant it is. We like factoids.
      • Spin Turd. (Advanced pundits only.) Make an outrageous claim that sticks to an undesired candidate. Note: These should be well rehearsed, easy on the tongue, and, whenever possible, coordinated with the Corporate Media Talking Points Committee. The extra work can pay off: Pundits adept at throwing out spin turds can enjoy fabulous careers in punditry. (See Ann Coulter.)

      Use of factoids combined with spin turds can prove very lucrative to the talented pundit.

    5. Remember the names of the other bobbleheads. If you don't seem like part of the family or club, you come off as an outsider, and what could an outsider possibly know?
    6. Don't pick your nose. Really really really. And whatever you do, don't eat the boogers. Wait until the commercial break. You never know when the camera might be on you.
    7. Optional: Know what you're talking about. Caveat: While this can help with regards to bookings on PBS or NPR (though it's certainly not required for those buyers, either), it can get you into serious hot water with the big money market, including FoxNews. Use knowledge with extreme caution.

    There you have it: The 6 Rules that can lead to a successful career as a well-paid Bobblehead.

    Any others I may have missed?

  • (1)
    NIXON ... When it comes to experience, I want you to remember I've had 173 meetings with President Eisenhower, and 217 times with the National Security Council. I've attended 163 Cabinet meetings. I've visited fifty four countries and had discussions with thirty-five presidents, nine prime ministers, two emperors, and the Shah of Iran...

    CHOTINER (privately) Jesus Christ, has he told them how many push-ups he can do yet? What the hell happened to him?

    In last night's debate in Austin Texas, Senator Clinton sounded like the scene from the film Nixon.

    Don't get me wrong. I like Hillary, but last night in the Austin debate with Obama, she bombed.

    Hillary suffers from the malaise of resume-itis. It's what books like, "Getting into the Job Market Past 50" warn us about ... we have too much experience, most of which won't resonate with the young and restless who are interviewing us. Moreover, if she's got all this experience, "where's the beef?" It's all so passive voice, with her, without technically being passive voice. All these things she's worked on, in, with, and through. To what end?

    I am old enough to remember JFK when he ran against Nixon who had been Vice President under Eisenhower, and thus Nixon campaigned on having more experience than did the challenger, Senator Kennedy. The more Nixon told of his accomplishments, the more satisfied Nixon seemed. Kennedy did not question Nixon's "resume," but rather underscored that this was more of the same-old, same-old, whereas we needed a New frontier. He said in the first debate with Nixon, "I am not satisfied ..."

    This is a great country, but I think it could be a greater country; and this is a powerful country but I think it could be a more powerful country.

    I'm not satisfied to have 50 percent of our steel-mill capacity unused.

    I'm not satisfied when the United States had last year the lowest rate of economic growth of any major industrialized society in the world--because economic growth means strength and vitality. It means we're able to sustain our defenses; it means we're able to meet our commitments abroad.

    I'm not satisfied, when we have over $9 billion dollars worth of food, some of it rotting even though there is a hungry world and even though 4 million Americans wait every month for a food package from the Government, which averages 5 cents a day per individual.

    I saw cases in West Virginia, here in the United States, where children took home part of their school lunch in order to feed their families because I don't think we're meeting our obligations toward these Americans.

    I'm not satisfied when the Soviet Union is turning out twice as many scientists and engineers as we are.

    I'm not satisfied when many of our teachers are inadequately paid, or when our children go to school part-time shifts. I think we should have an educational system second to none.

    I'm not satisfied when I see men like Jimmy Hoffa, in charge of the largest union in the United States, still free.

    I'm not satisfied when we are failing to develop the natural resources of the United States to the fullest. Here in the United States, which developed the Tennessee Valley and which built the Grand Coulee and the other dams in the Northwest United States, at the present rate of hydropower production--and that is the hallmark of an industrialized society--the Soviet Union by 1975 will be producing more power than we are.

    These are all the things I think in this country that can make our society strong, or can mean that it stands still.

    I'm not satisfied until every American enjoys his full constitutional rights. If a Negro baby is born, and this is true also of Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in some of our cities, he has about one-half as much chance to get through high school as a white baby. He has one-third as much chance to get through college as a white student. He has about a third as much chance to be a professional man, and about half as much chance to own a house. He has about four times as much chance that he'll be out of work in his life as the white baby. I think we can do better. I don't want the talents of any American to go to waste.

    When Hillary cites her resume, she seems satisfied with where things have gone and the implication is that we can expect her to dish up more of the same.

    Obama's supposed inexperience is going for him since he can say that he's not satisfied, no matter how lofty Hillary's resume makes her.

    But let's face it, Obama has the power to attract. Again from the film, Nixon, when he speaks of RFK,

    Bobby's got the magic, like a goddamn rock star. They climb all over each other just to touch his clothes!

    Obama has that magic. He is not running on his resume. He is running on his vision and frankly he comes off looking more presidential than Senator Clinton.

    I could see Hillary as a CEO of one of the Dow Jones Industrials, but not of the United States. She defends her ability to get things done, but what things need doing? A set of programs is not inspiring when there is no vision.

    Her high point in the debate was when she did not let go of the topic of health care. Kudos to both candidates, especially Hillary. Her low point was the plagiarism argument against Obama. Hardly presidential.

    Hillary does not have a vision. She has facts at her fingertips and plans that are ready to go. Yet, does the United states need a Strategic Planner, or does it need a leader who can rally everyone? Not as long as her resumes lacks real accomplishments.

    Hillary does not have the tragic flaws of Nixon, but I close on one last scene fro the film,

    PAT: You want them to love you ...

    NIXON (interjects) No, I don't. I'm not Jack ...

    PAT But they never will, Dick. No matter how many elections you win, they never will.

    Unlike Nixon, at least the fictional one, Hillary could get to be loved, but she's got to get away from the resume, and the past, and her satisfaction with things as the were and the looking backward ... the question remains, has she run out of time to show us that side?

  • (1)

    He's not a natural-born citizen, is he?

    McCain's likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a "natural-born citizen" can hold the nation's highest office.

    Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.

    "There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent," said Sarah Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. "It is not a slam-dunk situation."

    McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.

    So maybe it's a gray area. Isn't this where the self-proclaimed 'strict constructionists' get all holier-than-thou and demand that the Constitution be interpreted as narrowly as possible?

    True conservatives who actually walk the walk and don't just talk the talk must proclaim John McCain as not eligible to hold presidential office.

    Cue the right-wing hypocrisy....

  • (1)

    100 years? 1000 years? 10,000 year? Is John McCain kidding? No. None of the Republicans (nor a few Democracts either) is kidding. America, to them, is to be a colonial empire.

    Never mind how America was founded, as a rebellion against colonialism.

    Iraq is to be an American colony, replete with military bases, a hand-picked government, and precious little involvement of the international community.

    Unlike the British Empire, though, the American Empire is supported by mercenaries. The American military is not enough for Republican ambitions, so we have private mercenaries armed with superior weapons, with little oversight, being paid four times what our youngest and bravest adults are offered for putting their lives on the line.

    It's like the Roman Empire, except that now our mercenaries collect booty not from the vanquished but from our own taxes. Both concepts are horrid. Both concepts are without honor, at least the honor that we talk about when we talk about it amongst ourselves.

    John McCain supports colonialism. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at least claim they are against it.

  • (1)

    Snooping at the passport records of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain by the government a private company contracted by the government is a big deal, but it's the kind of thing that some politicians are pushing to make easier and more widespread. How? With "Real ID" -- the national ID card program that, once upon a time, was the kind of thing that Republicans and Democrats opposed, but now is the greatest new Big Brother kool-ade flavor favored by Republican politicians and neoconservative "thinkers."

    From Ars Technica, we get the quote of the week:

    As I've reported previously, the major problem with Real ID is that local DMV and law enforcement officials will have access to an unprecedented amount of sensitive information on anyone with a Real ID—scanned copies of any documents used to establish identity, like birth certificates, bank statements, pay stubs, property tax bills, and so on, not to mention driving histories from other states. Now imagine all of that data in the hands of a crooked sheriff who's fighting off a reformist challenger in a hotly contested election. Do you really want to live in that world?


    And maybe we should add to the scenario Jon Stokes paints: private companies contracted by governments. After all, the passport breaches were not done by government employees, they were perpetrated by private individuals working for a private corporation.

    In this day and age where our government "outsources" (read: privatizes) so much of its own business, from school lunches to prisons to heavily armed mercenaries in Iraq, where is the line drawn on privacy in a Real ID world?

    Time was that this was a country of people free to live their own lives. Now we have a government that seems bent on controlling and tracking us in all we do, as though we were guilty until proven innocent.

    The tipping point for this political agenda was 9/11, when foreign nationals already on CIA watch lists managed to sneak in and skyjack their way into murderous infamy. The Bush Administration, with general Republican enthusiasm, reacted by pushing for radical new powers to spy not on foreign threats, but on Americans -- none of whom had anything to do with 9/11.

    The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.

    -1984, by George Orwell (Chapter 1)

  • (1)

    On This Week, Republican candidate John McCain defends his flip-flop on the Bush tax cuts: He opposed them because they weren't combined with spending cuts.

    But he would push through his own tax cuts, even without spending cuts.

    Straight talk? Ha!

    And you have to hear him defend his embracing of his own controversial pastor's endorsement. More straight talk there, too. Yep.

    Yes I mock, though I think the nervous liar's giggle was probably genuine.


    [Memo to George: I note that McCain isn't wearing a flag pin, either. So why didn't you ask that, too, if it's such an important issue?]

  • (1)

    Hillary Clinton was grinning from ear to ear while North Carolina Governor Mike Easley endorsed her by saying she's no "pansy."

    It's the kind of veiled homophobic slur wingnuts use. We remind you that both Easley and Clinton are Democrats.

    Never mind the innuendo directed at Barack Obama. What about voters who happen to be homosexual, or happen to think homosexuality is in fact not a mortal sin?

    Ryan J. Davis on HuffPo:

    Now, I know from spending many recesses in middle school being called a pansy that it's just a subtle way of saying "faggot." Clinton stood by while Easley made that comment, smiling away. Speaking to a prominent gay journalist friend of mine this morning, he expressed his frustration with her campaign. "Hillary doesn't care about the gays. It's that simple. We're a political tool, like everything else in that family's orbit."

    Clinton owes the gay community, which she has shamefully used as an ATM during her campaign, an apology for gay-baiting. We're waiting, Hillary.

    Joe Aravosis on Americablog:

    Oh, so Hillary has launched a "culture war" against Obama. And what are the three elements of the culture wars? God, guns, and gays. Hillary already pulled the God and gun card on Obama in Pennsylvania, where she couldn't even say when she last went to church, and then claimed she was a hunter after a lifetime as one of America's top gun control advocates. And now she's gay-bashing.

    So will she denounce Governor Easley? Will the media press her on it, after hounding Obama about Reverend Wright?

    Oh, but let's not pick on Hillary. She's had such a hard life.

    Joe Sudbay on Americablog:

    Think about your daily existence and compare it to Hillary's "tough" life.

    When was the last time Hillary Clinton:

    Went to the grocery store?

    Pumped gas?

    Had to argue with her health insurance company about a bill?

    Had to wait for the cable guy?

    Had a spontaneous, unscripted moment?

    The woman has lived in a protective bubble for over 16 years. She and her husband have hauled in over $100 million over the past seven years. Everyone around her is either paid to be around her -- or pays to be around her. And, she has paid Mark Penn a lot of money to tell her about the lives of real people, gleaned from focus groups and polls. That's her reality and she's not exactly roughing it.

  • (1)

    Angry sentiments like Caryl Rivers' may be understandable, in a sense....

    Does anyone wonder why women who support Hillary Clinton for president get (excuse the vernacular) PO'd at some of our fellow Democrats?

    It's because very time we turn around, someone is dissing our candidate in ways that infuriate us. He (or she) is using sexist, insulting language about the first woman to mount a viable run for the presidency, in ways that, to say the least, we do not appreciate.

    While many of us see Barack Obama as an exciting, able and worthy candidate, and will gladly vote for him if he is the nominee, we do not see the same respect given to Hillary Clinton.

    But Hillary Clinton's problem is Hillary Clinton -- or, I should say, the absence of a sense of who Hillary Clinton really is.

    When I didn't know much about her, back in 1996, I was something of a Hillary fan. I was looking for a button or bumper sticker that said, "12 more years! Bill in '96, Hillary in '00".

    When Hillary ran for Senate, I was a supporter. I would have voted for her, had I still been living in New York.

    But then something changed. I saw her numerous times on CSPAN, speaking here and there, and at least 90% of the time I was left cold, feeling like I wasn't getting a real sense of what she really believed. She started to project that focus-group-tested persona that hid all but the carefully constructed image.

    And then there was the war, and how she claimed to "take responsibility for her vote" for the war -- without really taking responsibility at all, beyond just claiming she took responsibility. No apology. No remorse. Just self-righteousness.

    And then all the strange votes and political positions she took, such as banning flag "desecration" and giving $10k to forced-pregnancy advocate Casey's campaign and on and on.

    Even so, when she finally announced her run, I was hopeful. Her online announcement was, well, okay. At least she seemed like she was trying to be authentic. But she obviously did not "get" the netroots. Her top-down campaign of a few big donors and cultivating of lobbyist money was disconcerting.

    Then she failed to clinch it all by Super Tuesday. Then we started to see many different Hillary Clintons. There was the A-student-who-has-all-the-answers Hillary Clinton. Then there was the teary-cares-so-much Hillary Clinton. Then there was the scolding Barack-has-to-answer-for-his-behavior Hillary Clinton. Then there was the I'm-honored-to-be-here-with-you-Barack Hillary Clinton. Then there was the Barack-cannot-be-trusted-to-be-ready Hillary Clinton. And then there's the Karl Rove-like rhetoric.

    And now we get the "Stay the Course" Hillary Clinton.

    And all this points up how Hillary Clinton is the DLC representative, and the way she's campaigning seems to be more about her control over the Party rather than gaining the nomination.

    Is Hillary the victim of mean media coverage? Certainly in some ways. But even more, Hillary is the victim of Hillary. She has been her own undoing.

  • (1)

    In a classic case of missing the point to strike a righteous pose, this:

    Twice in two days now, I’ve come across news articles using the term “Big Brother” to refer to private sector information practices that affect privacy. Big Brother is not an appropriate shorthand here. In his book 1984, George Orwell gave the name “Big Brother” to the oppressive government that observed and controlled the lives of the book’s protagonists. The unique oppressive powers of this governmental entity were a central motif of the book.

    Jim Harper, of the Technology Liberation Front, a pseudo-libertarian tech blog opposing Net Neutrality, points out that George Orwell's dystopic 1984 was about Communism, and therefore using the Big Brother phrase in the context of corporate invasions of privacy is inappropriate, thus rendering specious, apparently, such perspectives.

    This misses the point, though, doesn't it? After all, what was the primary difference between the totalitarian control of Communism in the Soviet Union and the totalitarian control of Fascism in Nazi Germany? In the latter, corporations collaborated and cooperated with the government in exercising power over the people.

    Perhaps it might be safe to assume that Mr. Harper would not appreciate life under Fascism, either, where claiming it was "Big Brother" would be technically incorrect, but pretty much describe otherwise the same result for the citizens.

    The important distinction, I submit, is not between Communism and Fascism, but between authoritarian and totalitarian trends and values vs. privacy and choice and liberty and even the pursuit of happiness by the people.

    Ironic how people proclaiming "liberation" keep excusing and rationalizing and apologizing for anti-competitive, government-protected corporate power.

    Next we're going to hear how wonderful it would be to have government-financed but purely non-government corporate mercenary forces like Blackwater ruling the streets of America. After all, it wouldn't be "Big Brother," would it?

  • (1)

    If Chris Rock had done the same routine mocking Hillary, it would have been a big collective shrug, and perhaps some giggles. Chris Rock has always been politically incorrect and not one to hesitate poking at our sexist and racist attitudes we like to pretend don't exist.

    But when those things are said by a priest at Barack Obama's church, it's a scandal?

    And Barack Obama is supposed to apologize? Apologize for something someone else said?

    So he's resigned his church. If that's what ended up going on at my church when I wasn't there, I wouldn't be inclined to go back, either.

    But the self-righteous hand-wringing by pundits about this is nauseating. Why not stick to what Barack says, not what other people say?