Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hillary Endgame

The Clark Gable Look. The local Hillary campaign set up a table on the Morehead State campus last week and I walked away with a Hillary sign. But I felt like Rhett Butler joining the Confederate Army after they lost the Battle of Atlanta. The big 14 point loss in North Carolina meant that Hillary can't get the nomination as long as Barack Obama stays alive, isn't arrested for a felony, or hasn't been messing around with Congressional pages. Hillary's best hope was that the Obama campaign would deflate when Obama was pressed by the combination of his own bitter people gaffe, the Jeremiah Wright issue, and Hillary's criticism.

But the collapse didn't happen. So, Obama is going to win barring unforeseen contingencies.

Having said that, I don't blame Hillary for continuing to campaign any more than I blame a top athlete like Michael Jordan or Sugar Ray Leonard for coming back too many times. If Hillary didn't have a huge ego and an irrational determination, she wouldn't haven't gotten where she and I don't see any reason for her to drop out until she herself sees that it's over. Likewise, I'm going to vote for Hillary in the Democratic primary here in Kentucky and probably will still post some Hillary-friendly blog items.

But it's pretty clear that the Democratic Primary has entered the end game with Barack Obama at an overwhelming advantage.

Why Did She Lose? I saw an item in Matthew Yglesias about Hillary losing because of her 2002 vote authorizing the war. I don't think that's the case. Hillary's initial support was always fragile and dropped dramatically as a result of her own illegal immigration misstep, her MLK gaffe, and Bill's idiotic comments after the South Carolina primary. The question was whether Hillary could have done anything to make her support more solid going into the Iowa caucuses. I'm not so sure. The Obama people ran a very effective campaign and Obama himself did an excellent job of dealing with crises as they came up. True, the Hillary campaign could have done things better, but Hillary's toughness and tenacity didn't come into focus until she fell behind decisively and had to start really fighting. Given all the mainstream media scepticism, her "Bill" baggage, and the doubts among Democratic elites, I'm not sure that even the best campaign could have solidified her support. In my opinion, Hillary's main weakness was that her initial support was only a couple of inches deep.

Hillary for VP. I don't think that Obama is going to nominate Hillary Clinton for VP but I would respect him a lot more if he did. Obama is not likely to nominate her because Hillary did run an aggressive campaign against him, it might be difficult to imagine Hillary as a member of the Obama team, and Vice-President Hillary Clinton would still be married to her undisciplined husband. But Hillary also brings several advantages to the vice-presidency. In fact, Hillary now connects with white women and white working-class guys whose votes Obama. Likely, she has already shown that she can be a team-player in someone else's administration. Hillary's also very knowledgeable of the federal bureaucracy, has a lot of connections among possible nominees for Supreme Court positions, and has a strong national defense profile. Finally, a Hillary nomination would create a surge of initial momentum for the general election campaign that might put John McCain permanently on the defensive.

An Obama/Hillary ticket would be the strongest ticket for the Democrats in terms of both electability and governance.

And if something happened to Obama, Hillary would be ready to step in on Day 1.

Well, anyway. She'd be ready.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Maybe Billy G. Should Start a Blog

UK basketball coach Billy Gillispie told Ohio freshman Vinnie Zollo that Zollo's decision to commit to Kentucky made Monday "the happiest day of [Gillispie's] life."

According to one recruiting service, Zollo was the seventh rated freshman player in Ohio.

Just think how happy Gillispie would have been if Zollo were rated third.

More on Waterboarding Cedric Benson

A couple of points in relation to the Cedric Benson story.

One of Benson's passengers, University of Texas senior Elizabeth Cartwright, corroborates that Benson's boat had been stopped for "random safety checks" all six times she had recently been on it.

It seems that the police on Lake Travis had a principle of "100% randomness" when it came to Benson's boat.

Benson's attorney Brian Carney is also bringing up waterboarding as an issue.
Carney added Benson did nothing "aggressive" until after he was pepper sprayed, when he started screaming for his mother and the boat. He said officers threw his client to the ground and poured water on him to wash away the spray, causing Benson to choke. "They might as well have been waterboarding him," Carney

The Cedric Benson story isn't getting much play outside sports sites like Fox Sports. Perhaps that's because the police behavior toward Benson has become so normal.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Obama is crushing Hillary 62-38% in North Carolina. I don't think any of the polls saw that one coming even though Obama won by that margin in a lot of red states like N.C., Idaho, South Carolina, and South Dakota.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Getting into Line for Obliteration

I'm not sure why there's such a big brouhaha on the left about Hillary Clinton's comment that the U. S. could "obliterate" Iran if the Iranians launched a nuclear attack on Israel.

That's pretty much what any American administration would do if Iran nuked Israel.

Of course, I imagine that we'd have to get in line because the Israelis would want to obliterate Iran first.

Personally, I don't care all that much for the Israelis than I care for Iran. But Hillary is just stating the fact of American policy.

Cedric Benson: Waterboarded for Boating While Black

One of the most severely under-reported stories in America today is our hair-trigger police forces. Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson, an African-American, was hosting a gathering on his boat in Texas when he was arrested for what the police call drunkenness and resisting arrest.

Here's Benson's own account as reported by "AFP:"

There was no resistance on my part," Benson said. "Was I drunk? No. . . They gave me a field sobriety test, told me to say my ABCs and told me to count from 1 to 4 up and down. I'm thinking I passed all the tests, did everything right . . . Then the officer told me we needed to go to land to take more tests. I politely asked him why we needed to go to land to take more tests when I took every test. Then he sprayed me with mace . . . I'm not handcuffed. I'm not under arrest. I'm not threatening him. I'm not pushing him. I'm not touching him. And he sprays me right in my eye . . . Nobody saw what he did to me. I started screaming for my mother to come. That's when they put me under arrest. And the officer threw a life jacket over my head.

Once we got to land, the Travis County police grabbed me and kicked my feet from under me. So I landed on my back while I was handcuffed. They held me down and held the water hose over my face. I couldn't breathe. I'm choking. I'm begging the cops, 'Please stop. Please stop.' Then they picked me up and dragged me backward toward their car. And I'm still being polite, asking them, 'Sir could you please allow me to walk like a man to your cop car?' They just kept dragging me on."

The police have a different account, but I'll believe Benson until proven wrong.

In some ways, it's typical police stuff.

There's questioning Benson away from his relatives and guests who might be witnesses:

". . . Nobody saw what he did to me."

Then the police officer took Benson's verbal objection to further testing as an opportunity to spray mace in his eyes:

"I politely asked him why we needed to go to land to take more tests when I took every test. Then he sprayed me with mace . . ."

If Benson's side of the story bears out, the officer was committing an assault and already engaged in a cover up.

Then, the officer took Benson completely away from witnesses so that he and other police could continue to abuse him. This brings us to what's innovative in the police abuse of Benson or at least what I haven't heard of before. Essentially what the cops did was waterboard him.

Once we got to land, the Travis County police grabbed me and kicked my feet from under me. So I landed on my back while I was handcuffed. They held me down and held the water hose over my face. I couldn't breathe. I'm choking. I'm begging the cops, 'Please stop. Please stop.' Then they picked me up and dragged me backward toward their car.
Holding a hose over Benson's face so that he was choking and couldn't breathe is waterboarding and is essentially a controlled form of drowning. That's why waterboarding is defined as torture in both American and international law. Not that being a form of torture would stop American cops. It appears that they're also coming more and more to use tasers as a form of recreational torture.

My question is whether the Texas cops who arbitrarily arrested, abused, and tortured Benson were waterboarding him as a kind of experiment or whether waterboarding had become part of their standard procedure.

The racial angle is also interesting. Hopefully, more of the facts will come out. But it appears at the outset that Benson's biggest crime was being a black millionaire holding a gathering on a nice boat that would fit fifteen people or more. It seems that this was the sixth time Benson's boat has been boarded by police this year.

In other words, Benson was "boating while black."

This kind of policing has its roots in the conduct of white police during the Reconstruction and segregation eras when the police were looking for opportunities to intimidate black men.

Police criminality still seems to be more directed at black people than other groups. Police shootings of African-American males have been an especially serious problem in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH.

Over the last five years however, the cops have developed hair-trigger tempers towards everybody. One of my colleagues made a comment about the high number of police abuse incidents in Lexington, KY and I've heard some ominous stuff from the Morehead State campus. One police officer screamed at one of my colleagues for getting out of his car during a traffic stop. To put the icing on the cake, the officer then filed a complaint accusing my mild-mannered and very short colleague of doing exactly what the cop had done.

It's like the police are looking at the whole American population with the same kind of contempt and hostility they used to reserve for African-Americans. Perhaps the police think that equality means equal exposure to abuse and humiliation rather than equal respect and dignity. But that doesn't make it so.

Not Much Damage to Democrats

There's a CBS/NYT poll out today with Hillary up 12 over McCain and Obama up 11. It's an outlier compared to the other polls, but I think the dynamic is going to be between a big Democratic win and a small Democratic win.

This isn't to say that McCain won't poke his head in front in the polls while Obama and Hillary go at it. But McCain is a quadruple threat for political failure as a presidential candidate. McCain is advocating unpopular policies like continuing the war in Iraq, cutting corporate taxes, and privatizing social security. He's also gaffe-prone and paying for it with his "100 years in Iraq" comment. Third, McCain is a disorganized candidate who hasn't ever been effective at fund-raising. And finally, McCain does not have the support of conservative activists. I've never thought McCain had a real shot at winning and there's no reason to think he does now.

Obama and Hillary are still hammering on each other really hard and the effect of that is to muddle the picture in the sense that the eventual Democratic nominee doesn't have a big lead over McCain. Recently, Hillary's been going up in the polls while Obama's numbers have been temporarily hurt by the Jeremiah Wright story and the incredibly stupid "bitter people" gaffe. Both are rising and falling as the news cycles from Hillary's Bosnia mistatement and Obama's difficulties play out. But they're both still muddled in relation to McCain.

I don't think the muddled picture is a bad thing at all. Hillary's big lead from last fall was extremely fragile and she didn't have enough time to recover once the initial balloon was punctured. The same thing would happen if the Dems were 20-25 points up now. That number would crash as soon as Obama or Hillary goofed up something minor like immigrant driver's licences and the McCain-friendly mainstream media would be working overtime to make sure that such goofs happened.

The Democrats are in good shape now and it's easy to imagine a Democratic nominee stretching out his or her lead in October and winning big in November.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Against Billy Gillispie

Today, I was in Lexington for a celebration brunch for a nephew who was graduating from the University of Kentucky when the name of Coach Billy Gillispie came up.

I should have blogged on this before, but I'm so disturbed by Gillispie that I've switched my local basketball allegiance from the University of Kentucky to the University of Louisville. I still have loyalties to Syracuse and Penn State (the local powers where I grew up), North Carolina (from grad school), Michigan (post-doc), Penn (dissertation research), and the University of California from my time in Oakland. So, I'm always going to be interested in a lot of teams. But I've supported UK basketball and football ever since I moved to Morehead in 1990.

However, Billy Gillispie gives off such a general aura of creepiness that I can't root for Kentucky basketball anymore. The fanatic way he drives his players, the super-high level of piety about himself, and the fact that he has no life outside basketball are bad enough. But I remember a John Clay article for the Lexington Herald-Leader claiming that Gillispie took the same approach to college basketball as the most fanatical kinds of fans. That's the last thing that any sport needs--coaches modeling themselves on the most obsessive and twisted fans.

Somebody at the brunch chimed in that Gillispie was also an alcoholic who wasn't trusted even to drive his own car. I'm not sure about the drinking, but I readily believe that Gillispie doesn't have a basic skill like driving. He probably doesn't have a lot of other basic skills either.

Given that Gillespie seems like a time bomb waiting to go off, even a driven, Type A, domineering guy like Rick Pitino seems like a regular person in comparison. At least Pitino has a wife, kids, friends he pals, and some business interests on the side. All Gillispie has is the next game or the next recruit.

Anyway, I always liked cardinals. I'm rooting for Louisville.

Hillary: The Right Kind of Pandering

I like Hillary Clinton's position on the suspending the gas tax for the summer because she pays for the tax holiday by putting an excess profits tax on the oil companies.
“Senator Obama doesn’t want us to take down the gas tax this summer and Senator McCain wants us to, but he doesn’t want to pay for it. I believe we should impose an excess profits tax on the oil companies. They have record profits that they frankly are just sitting there counting because they are not doing anything new to earn it; they are just taking advantage of what is going on.

“We ought to say: Wait a minute, we’d rather have the oil companies pay the gas tax than the drivers of North Carolina, especially the truck drivers, or the farmers, or other people who have to commute long distances.”
Is the tax holiday pandering? You bet. But the gas tax holiday is the right kind of pandering because it targets the oil companies as the party that should really be carrying the burden of gas taxes. That's why the Hillary camp thinks her proposal is such a big winner despite the media consensus that she's wrong.

Too bad Hillary didn't connect the pandering gesture with more ideas on how the balance between corporate power and the lower 99% of the American population could be corrected. I'd like to hear some proposals on using federal leverage to curb exorbitant CEO salaries, re-establish product safety regulation, push corporate America to be more environmentally conscious, and revise NAFTA to make it easier for governments to regulate business.

Hillary should be pandering on those issues as well.