Saturday, February 02, 2008

Approaching the Half-Way Mark

At my Friday weigh-in, I was 216 pounds. That's about the same as Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson in their primes. So, I'm not in bad company even if I still have 36 pounds to go before reaching my target of 180.

Here's the run-down of where I am. Weighing 216 means that I lost about 4 3/4 pounds last week and that I've lost 27 pounds altogether since I started the diet 28 days ago.

I'd say that's a decent bit of dieting and I'm still pretty surprised that I'm progressing so fast. My initial goal was to about half a pound a day, but I'm losing about 3/4 pound/day. That's mostly a reflection of how fat I was at 243 and I know all the biblical invocations about pride.

But what the hell, I'm not a Christian anyway.

My big thing this week is brussel sprouts. I'm almost as obsessed with the brussel sprouts I'm now eating as I am with the sweets and pizza I'm not eating.

Maybe my next obsession will be water.

Anyway, ultimate goal was to lose 63 pounds. So I'm only 4 1/2 pounds from being half-way there at 211 1/2. That's my goal for next week, to get myself half-way home to the end of this diet.

If only I could develop any enthusiasm for a healthy lifestyle.

Quick Hillary Notes

Who's the Establishment Candidate? With the Kennedy family, Oprah Winfrey, and a bunch of Democratic governors endorsing him, Barack Obama now looks much more like an establishment candidate than Hillary. There's a "Clintonista" faction of people like Terry McAuliffe in top Democratic circles, but it's just a faction. Broader Democratic elites haven't been any more accepting of Hillary Clinton than the media. They're living the fantasy that Obama will take the country beyond the "politics of polarization" and that they can all be moderate and collegial and that they won't have to fight to get anything done. When will they ever learn?

How Valuable the Kennedy Endorsement? Not very. Ted Kennedy's a much more compromised figure than even Bill Clinton. Decades after Chappaquiddick, Kennedy was still partying like it was 1959. And how does a Kennedy endorsement make Obama look young and vital? Although Kennedy's done many valuable things as a legislator, he's a throwback to the mind-boggling hypocrisy of the John F. Kennedy administration (Sing "Happy Birthday, Mr. Presid-e-e-e-nt" in your best sing-song voice to get an idea of what I'm talking about) and a dinosaur who embarrassed everybody at the 2004 Democratic convention.

Not a great moment for Obama.

Hillary More Inspiring than Obama. One of the things I found interesting about the Thursday debate was that Hillary Clinton was more inspiring than Obama on issues like health care. Hillary started with a strong statement Democratic Party principles of universal access to health care and then talked about the details of her proposals. That gave her proposals a sense of drama and purpose that Obama's litany of details couldn't match.

The Bill Problem. I don't have much of a problem acknowledging that Bill Clinton's undisciplined, shoot-from-the hip pronouncements and "it's all about me" narcissism would be an occasional problem for a Hillary Clinton administration. But it also looks like a manageable problem because Bill Clinton can recognize when he screws up just as well as anybody else can and now he's sticking to his talking points. One of the things I like about Hillary, and about Bill, is that they learn from their mistakes. I haven't seen that in Barack Obama or his people yet.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Is Ann Coulter Biting the Hand

Ann Coulter remains an inspiration to media whores everywhere.

As unhappy as she is with the Republican primaries, she still figured out a way to get herself a lot of media attention by declaring on Fox that she would support Hillary before she voted for John McCain.
No, and if you're looking at substance rather than whether it's an R or D after his name, manifestly, if our's candidate than Hillary's going to be our girl, Sean, because she's more conservative than he is. I think she would be stronger on the war on terrorism. I absolutely believe that.

Like most of Coulter's stuff, this is very clever. But there's a little honesty wrapped in Coulter's relentless cleverness. The clever part is that she got a nice little three-fer out of her Hillary endorsement. Of course, she managed to lash out at McCain and get some publicity for herself (need to sell that next book!). But Coulter also lashed out at Hillary by giving her an "Ann Coulter endorsement" that Coulter knows will hurt Hillary among Democrats.

Atta girl, Ann!

But Coulter's also being honest to the extent that she's always thought that Hillary would keep the troops in Iraq indefinitely.

I've heard her say that on right-wing radio.

Unlike most political pundits, Coulter tries to get under the surface of candidate statements to guess the direction a politician would take in office. On the one hand, Coulter basically sees McCain as an aggressive reform liberal than most Democrats despite his current nods to the right. On the other, she views Hillary as a steady imperialist who would stay in Iraq despite her stated policy of withdrawing American troops.

For Coulter, that makes Hillary a clear choice over McCain.

But being clever doesn't make Coulter right.

Hillary Clinton isn't any more of a steady imperialist than Dennis Kucinich. In 1998, the Clinton administration wanted to invade Iraq over Saddam's booting out the inspectors, but they desisted because they couldn't get any support for the adventure.

In 2002, she was in the ambivalent position of believing that Saddam Hussein deserved to be overthrown. But that wasn't her main thought. Sen. Clinton by then, Hillary preferred inspections and negotiations over invasion but also decided not to be identified with anti-war sentiment. Playing politics, she voted to authorize a war she really didn't want.

As president, Hillary would still much prefer negotiations over military conflict. That's exactly what people like Coulter hated about Bill Clinton's administration. Likewise, I think a Hillary administration would be a much steadier hand at negotiating than either Obama or the temperamental John McCain.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back to the Real World of Blogging

9:30--Obama on Iraq--strong on his initial opposition to the war--But I would feel better if he were stronger on his current opposition to the war.

9:32--Hillary on Iraq--I like her on her principles of "coercive diplomacy" to make "bad actors" "change their behavior"--But she's not convincing. She says that she didn't realize how obsessed Bush was with invading Iraq. If that's the case, Hillary is the only person in the U. S. who didn't know how determined Bush was to invade. Not completely sure of herself on Iraq, Hillary is talking just as slowly about Iraq as Obama was talking about health care.

9:37--Obama wants to be "right on day one."--

9:48--It's winding down and Obama and Hillary start to talk about the campaign and filling offices--

I thought it was a very good debate. Hillary was better on health care and immigration, but Obama was better on Iraq. I'd still rather have Hillary at the top of the ticket, but the debate looked like a high-level draw to me.

More Live Blogging

8:54--Hillary's principle of respecting dignity of every person--nice.

And then a break.

With either a black guy or a woman guaranteed to be the Democratic nominee, we Democrats have already broken a lot of new ground with the 2008 election. That says a lot about the Democratic Party and the political coalition that has built up around the Democratic Party.

8:58--Back to the debate. I've got to pick up my daughter Katy in twenty minutes. Must remember.

Obama's talking about his experience and how he can "bring people together" and "overcome the special interests"--For Obama, it's skill and personal characteristics vs time spent in the system. All of this sounds like 1992 to me.

Hillary wants to "bring people together" as well.

9:05--Time for a civics lesson to daughter Tess--One of her classmates is referring to Hillary Clinton as the "mother of our country" is she wins. She reminds me that she has shaken Barack Obama's hand at the rally we intended last August.

9:08--Obama on the Clinton administration--shifts to his "bringing in a whole new generation of voters"--Is it the "nuts and bolts of legislation" or "reaching for something higher?" Shouldn't Presidents be able to accomplish both.

9:10--Hillary Clinton answers the dynastic question by wanting to be judged on her "own merits"--Great line here--"It might take a Clinton to clean up after the second Bush."

Must pick up daughter no. 1

Live Blogging Democratic Debate

8:07 Obama's Introductory Remarks--I don't like the pale blue tie--Pretty uninspiring version of Obama. He wants to get past the divisions of our country. Big deal! Is it just "the past vs the future?"

8:10, Hillary's remarks on the problems we face are authoritative and she's speaking in a commanding style. Of course, I thought John Kerry was commanding in his last debate with Bush.

8:12, Hillary's turquoise jewelry. Good. Too much detail on her differences with Obama. What about some compelling general themes of how she's different? Why isn't George Lakoff advising her? "Not more of the same--That's good!"

8:14, Obama--too much detail as well. Snore! What about expanding on the moral imperative of providing universal health insurance. Obama and Hillary on first name basis. Nice to know they're friends.

8:17, Obama too soft on mortgage lending industry and "lobbying interests"--where's the fire? Obama is too wordy--not confident enough on the logic of his policy proposals.

8:19, Problems come up--Obama doesn't like mandates, but Jeanne Cummings points out that Obama's plan doesn't cover 15,000,000 people.

8:25--Hillary starts with reassuring "we few, we happy few" (Yes! that's my first Shakespeare quote of tonight's live-blogging) who are happy with the current system. And . . . my internet connection starts getting spotty. She's stronger on the principles of her plans, therefore sounds better on the details.

8:30--Completely missed Obama's last answer--Hillary's pretty strong on health care. I like the way she's talking about the health insurance industry and their opposition to health care reform.

8:34--Obama on taxes--Pretty good--But "restoring balance" doesn't inspire.

8:36--Hillary paying for health care reform by ending Bush tax cuts for wealthy and introducing electronic record keeping for more than $110 million she needs. Hillary is strong on health care.

8:39--Obama and Hillary now tag-teaming against the absent Republicans. But who's running for president? Who for VP?

On to immigration!

8:40--Obama somewhat hesitant--why isn't the total of the world's information not on the tip of his tongue? Obama against scapegoating immigrants for economic problems of inner-city African-Americans.

Wants to "pulls country together" to get "economy back on track."

8:43--Hillary has more empathy with African-Americans--Employers exploiting illegal immigrants to lower wages. She also has an ability to talk "comprehensively" about "comprehensive immigration reform."

8:51--An eight-minute break to locate 13 year-old daughter

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When the "Base" Isn't THE Base

Michelle Malkin (via Salon) isn't in a very good mood over John McCain's win in the Florida primary. Here's what she thinks McCain's attitude toward the right is:
Insult the base, trash the base, and pay lip service to the base only when it
suits his needs.

Fair enough. McCain doesn't give a damn about Christian conservatives, actively campaigns against corporate interests, and is no friend to the right-wing commentariat. If McCain didn't have to pay lip service to the right on immigration, taxes, and judges, he wouldn't give them the time of day.

But is the right-wing the "base" of the Republican Party? On the results of the Florida primary and the upcoming California, New York, and New Jersey primaries, the answer is probably a big "no." To date, the success of the McCain campaign is an indication that the right is in fact a minority in the Republican Party. The right might be an active minority, an influential minority, and probably even the dominant minority in the Republican Party.

But they still look like a minority and they look like a smaller minority with every McCain win.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hillary and Obama: Shades of 1992

With Bill Clinton's race-baiting of Barack Obama after Obama's South Carolina victory, both sides of the Democratic primary are looking like a reprise of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Barack Obama is doing one side of Bill Clinton's "new Democrat" schtick with his opposition to the "brain dead partisanship" of the past, his ideas about rising above ideology, and his respect for Republican ideas. E. J. Dionne recaptures Bill Clinton's efforts to get beyond partisanship during his first presidential campaign.

The worst thing about all this is what both Clintons are doing to their own legacy as pioneers of an approach that rejected, as Bill Clinton said in a 1991 speech, "the stale orthodoxies of left and right." The great asset shared by both Clintons is their willingness to bring fresh thinking to old problems.

"Our new choice plainly rejects the old categories and false alternatives they impose," Bill Clinton added in that 1991 address in which he offered a long list of new ideas. "Is what I just said to you liberal or conservative? The truth is, it is both, and it is different. It rejects the Republicans' attacks and the Democrats' previous unwillingness to consider new alternatives."

Needless to say, Bill Clinton was not talking much about "stale orthoxies of the left" in 1996 after all of his DLC ideas crashed in the face of right-wing partisanship.

Obama's similarity to Clinton is annoying enough, but what it makes it worse is that Obama's talk about "transcending partisanship" is contingent on the hard fighting that Congressional Democrats, progressive groups, and liberal bloggers have done against the aggressive Republican partisanship of the last 15 years. Now that the various factions of the Democratic coalition have finally turned the corner on the right-wing, Obama's calling for an end to partisan conflict.

To quote one of my least favorite Hillary surrogates, that's "pure fantasy."

At the same time, Bill Clinton and other Hillary surrogates like Andrew Cuomo have been reviving Bill Clinton's 1992 strategy of attacking Sister Souljah to prove he wasn't a captive of African-American interests. That might have been cleverly nasty in 1992, but this year Hillary Clinton has to prove herself to black voters and to white progressives. As a result, Bill's race-baiting comparison between Obama and the non-competitive Jesse Jackson campaign was both disgusting and stupid.

With all the progress that people on the left have made over the last five years of the Bush admininistration, it's extremely disappointing that the Democrats seem to be stuck in a 1992 moment.

But this also provides an opening for Hillary Clinton. She could claim that she's already been through an Obama-style campaign and that she's learned the lesson that the right-wing is both committed to extreme partisanship and in control of the Republican Party. By building on her attempts to pose herself as a "fighting progressive," Hillary could both regain the upper-hand on Obama and establish some much-needed distance between herself and the "legacy" of the Clinton administration.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Belly Like Angelina's Lips

I've lost almost 25 pounds now and the news isn't all good. It turns out that Angelina Jolie and I are no longer soul-mates. Before I started losing weight, my stomach was like Angelina Jolie's lips--plump, full, and rounded. Needless to say, knowing that I had something in common with a real celebrity was a big deterrent to going on a diet. But as my belly is shrinking, the skin no longer has as much stomach to cover and it's starting to sag. Ah! The hardships of dieting.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Resistance Was Not Futile

My biggest weakness besides the 1500 calories of sweets I was eating every day is Italian cooking. Lasagna, manicotti, and baked spaghetti--all with extra cheese.

It's too much.

But this weekend, I managed to resist the siren's song of lasagna twice.

We had guests on Saturday and Sunday. Mrs. RSI made her famous spinach lasagna twice and I didn't touch it either time.

Next week, I enter the River of Comfort Food seeking to reverse the constant eating that got me initially got me up to 220.

Down to 215.

Not That Much More Patience

I'm supporting Hillary Clinton because I think she'd make a much better president than Barack Obama or any of the Republicans. But Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama's campaign to Jesse Jackson's losing campaigns is trying my patience. Sure, Bill was frustrated and sure the reporter was relaying an example of how Obama baited him. But those excuses don't wash. Strongly implying that Obama was "just a black candidate" was factually wrong, morally wrong, and totally inappropriate. If Bill's going to be that stupid, then Hillary would be smart to start sending him out to the hinterlands of Democratic constituencies. Maybe she could have him give pep talks to "Investment Bankers for Hillary" or groups like that. Otherwise, she'll lose a lot of her support.

Obama: Creating a Base for Himself

One of the best things to come out of the South Carolina primary was that both political candidates and the media payed close attention to black voters.

Barack Obama was no exception.

It was clear from the early going that Barack Obama was not running as the candidate of the black community in the same way as Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988. Instead, Obama is running as a black candidate on his own account in the same manner as Al Sharpton.

As a result, Obama had to earn the black vote in South Carolina.

And he did.

According to MSNBC, Obama had the most extensive field operation in the history of the South Carolina Democratic Party:

Thus Obama vindicated Sen. Hillary Clinton’s own New Hampshire campaign slogan
when she said, “Some believe you can get change by hoping for it. I believe you get change by working hard.” Democratic activists here in South Carolina said that the Obama campaign had perhaps the most extensive field operation ever seen in this state. The reach of the Obama field operation extended even to such often forgotten places as Allendale County, which has the second smallest population of any of the state’s 46 counties. To cite another locale, Obama had had about 20 supporters working out of his Greenville, S.C. office since mid-summer; Clinton had only five or six starting in the fall, according to one Greenville Democratic activist. The Obama high command showed a skill for picking talent: Craig Schirmer, a veteran South Carolina get-out-the-vote expert, was in charge of Obama’s mobilization effort in the state.

By working effectively for the black vote, Obama was able to cash in on his "racial affinity" with black voters as a black candidate and get 80% of the votes from African-Americans. He was also able to accomplish that in the fierce opposition from the Clinton campaign and that's also to the credit of his campaign.

It should also be added that Hillary Clinton deserves credit for contesting the black vote although she didn't do nearly as effectively as she should have.

My suspicion is that Obama's willingness to really work for the black vote in South Carolina is going to have the further effect of creating a base for him among black Democratic voters nationwide.

That's crucial for his campaign because his "white constituency" of younger voters, moderates, and independents is notoriously unreliable and finicky.

The South Carolina primary was not only a big win for Barack Obama but it strengthened his overall candidacy by pretty much locking in an African-American voting base.

Good for him.