On the road again. Here is your Belmont Prep.
Writing in TIME, Michael Kinsley bashes Bill Ayers but dismisses the importance of a link between Bill Ayers and Barack Obama:
Years later, Ayers threw a fund-raising party for Obama. They sat together on the board of a community group. Is this association between Obama and these dangerous radicals a scandal? Or is the scandal digging up all this ancient history? Those have been the options in the debate. But the truth is a third option: Ayers and Dohrn are despicable, and yet making an issue of Obama's relationship with them is absurd.
Well, before dismissing it, shouldn't Mr. Kinsley inform himself and his readership as to the full extent of the relationship? Bill Ayers was instrumental in setting up the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a project dedicated to public school reform which was launched in January 1995; Barack Obama was the first chairman of the group, and they worked together on it for years. Let's add that the fundraiser hosted by Ayers was in 1995, at the same time Ayers and Obama were buddying up on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge; they were hardly casual acquaintances.
Also keep in mind - Obama's campaign has been lying by omission about this Ayers-Obama link - their "Fact Check" on the two men failed to disclose this connection.
So why the cover-up? I don't know. But I do know that it makes little sense to dismiss a relationship that has not been fully disclosed and is being concealed. Remember the rule - where there's smoke and a guy with a fire extinguisher, there's fire.
FWIW, I am highly confident we will hear more about this before November 2008.
Greg Pollowitz of the Media Blog notes that newly controversial Father Pfleger has disappeared from the testimonials at Obama's website. And here is a report of a $100,000 earmark by Obama for Pfleger's church.
JUST GUESSING OUT LOUD HERE: Jim Geraghty includes a partial transcript of Pfleger's remarks, which included this:
I must now to address the one who says, 'don't hold me responsible for what my ancestors did.' But you have enjoyed the benefits of what your ancestors did! And unless you are ready to give up the benefits — Throw away your 401 fund! [sic] Throw away your trust fund! Throw away all the money that been put away in the company you walked into 'cause your daddy and your granddaddy and your great grandaddy —
(screaming at the top of his lungs)
Unless you are willing to give up the benefits, then you must be responsible for what was done in your generation! 'Cause you are the beneficiary of this insurance policy!
Is it possible that this attitude that all white people are wealthy and have trust funds is limiting the appeal of the Obama campaign to working class whites? Hmm, who else do we know from Team Obama that is constantly whining about her lack of a trust fund? Let's hear from the Sister Grim:
[Michelle Obama] also said that if it were not for her husband's two bestselling books, they both would still be paying off their college debt, even though they are beginning to save for their daughters' college funds. Mrs. Obama jokingly said that she's still hoping for Mr. Obama's trust fund to kick in.
"Maybe we've got some coming from cousin Cheney," she said remarking on the recent discovery that Mrs. Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney are eighth cousins.
Oh, I was snide at the time:
There she goes again, wanting a hand-out form the rich white folk. When will she shed her plantation mentality? And when will she notice that no one gave Dick Cheney a trust fund - his dad was a "soil conservation agent" for the USDA and Dick flunked out of Yale before getting a degree at the University of Wyoming. Maybe history would be different if Yale had offered supplemental classes for hicks from the sticks, as Princeton later did to marginally qualified minorities.
PUZZLES TO PONDER: How many Americans in reality (as distinct from the Pfleger/Obama fantasy world) have trust funds? A quick bit of googling turned up this:
Source of Wealth: Researchers have found that only 15% of HNWIs [High Net Worth Individuals] became wealthy primarily because of inheritance/trust funds, though almost half received some inheritance. The wealthy are now more likely to be self-made, most commonly through, entrepreneurial interests, small-business ownership, investments, or earned income.
I also see this:
The U.S. Wealth Market:
350,000 $10,000 +
590,000 Penta-millionaires or super high-net-worth
2,360,000 High-net-worth ($1 million +)
19,000,000 Mass Affluent ($100k +)
More TalkLeft boosting from Jim Geraghty.
The mystery continues to swirl around Obama's "foreign policy by gaffe" lauded by Matt Yglesias - what in the world could he have really meant when he gave a seemingly straightforward answer to a clear question during the You-Tube debate:
“Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?” asked Stephen Sixta, a video producer who submitted the question for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.
Mr. Obama, the first candidate to respond, answered, “I would.”
Times reporters tried to sort through the latest Obamafuscations:
In the interview Wednesday, Mr. Obama conceded that he might need to do a better job explaining his policy.
“It’s not like this is something that I’ve hid from,” Mr. Obama said. “But there’s no doubt that in a general election, I want the American people to understand exactly what my position is, which has not changed.”
What has changed, he said, is that he now has to rebut accusations by the McCain campaign.
“I didn’t say that I would meet unconditionally as John McCain maintained, because that would suggest whether it was useful or not, whether it was advancing our interests or not, I would just do it for the sake of doing it,” he said. “That’s not a change in position, that’s simply responding to distortions of my position.”
He added: “I think if we lay out repeatedly and clearly my position, ultimately I think I’ve got the majority of the American people on my side on this issue.”
The McCain campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment, has said Mr. Obama’s approach would elevate the stature of leaders with ill intentions.
Susan E. Rice, a senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Obama, said Mr. Obama had conveyed similarly nuanced policy positions on meetings with foreign leaders of enemy nations months before the YouTube debate.
For instance, in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz in May 2007, he said that he believed talks with Iran should begin at a low governmental level even if enrichment continued. But, he said, higher-level talks “will not be appropriate without some sense of progress.” The newspaper also quoted him as saying “we need to check” whether there were leaders with a “more sensible attitude” than that of Mr. Ahmadinejad.
Some supporters of Mr. Obama’s position say he nonetheless offered a less-complete answer at the debate that gave fodder to his critics.
Former Senator Gary Hart, an Obama supporter and a former presidential candidate, said he believed Mr. Obama had learned an important lesson from the experience: “Don’t use that shorthand, particularly when you’re facing a national election and an opposition that’s going to take advantage of everything that can be misconstrued — you’ve got to almost bend over backwards to be explicit.”
I guess that once he "explains" his position to the American people we will understand that his "shorthand" answer of "I would" actually concealed a tremendous amount of detail and nuance. Silly us for misunderstanding.
And if Obama lapses into similar shorthand while President and raises unrealistic expectations all around the world, well, silly world.
I think it is fair to say that the NY Times has not yet cleared the fog. Karl at Team Protein is a skeptic; Jake Tapper of ABC News remains baffled. Allow me to offer a helpful photo of the Obama decision process in action.
In the Field poll, 48% of respondents favored the recent California Supreme Court decision allowing gay marriage; 46% opposed it. By comparison, in the LA Times poll, 52% of all respondents opposed the decision, while 41% favored it.
On the question of a November ballot initiative amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage, in the Field poll the amendment was opposed by (approx) 52% and supported by 41%; in the LA Times poll, that was reversed: 51% of respondents favored the amendment and 36% opposed. Among registered voters in the LA Times poll, the initiative was supported by 54% to 35%.
Why the difference? Beats me; this may just be the excitement of random statistical noise, or differences in weighting various sub-groups.
However, one oddity strikes me - the Filed poll reported a marked generational difference in attitudes:
Californians age 18-29 favor the idea of allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry by a greater than two to one margin (68% to 25%). Those in the 30-39 age group also approve of such marriages by 24 percentage points. However voters age 65 or older disapprove by a wide margin (55% to 36%).
Directionally at least, that jibes with other polls I recall but don't have time to dredge up just now. However, the LA Times poll showed a scarcely notable generational shift. For example, among the 18-34 sub-group, 49% favored the ballot initiative and 40% opposed it; for the 65+ group, 51% favored the initiative and 35% opposed it.
Since the book is a Bush-basher, Scotty needs to be presented by the left as a heroic truth-teller; the Captain notes this won't be so easy:
His status as favored punching bag for the hard Left can best be captured in the Keith Olbermann farewell McClellan received as he exited in April 2006. It will be particularly amusing to watch this fringe try to rehabilitate McClellan now.
The NY Times reports semi-good news on the obesity front:
Hint of Hope as Child Obesity Rate Hits Plateau
Childhood obesity, rising for more than two decades, appears to have hit a plateau, a potentially significant milestone in the battle against excessive weight gain among children.
But the finding, based on survey data gathered from 1999 to 2006 by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published in Wednesday’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, was greeted with guarded optimism.
It is not clear if the lull in childhood weight gain is permanent or even if it is the result of public anti-obesity efforts to limit junk food and increase physical activity in schools. Doctors noted that even if the trend held up, 32 percent of American schoolchildren remained overweight or obese, representing an entire generation that will be saddled with weight-related health problems as it ages.
We get a hint of some income/ethnicity connection:
One trend that has not changed in the new data are differences in obesity risk based on age and race. Children 2 to 5 were significantly less likely to be overweight compared with adolescents ages 12 to 19. While about 14.5 percent of white adolescent girls were obese, the numbers jumped to 20 percent for Mexican-American teenage girls and 28 percent for black teenage girls.
Among boys, Mexican-Americans were also more likely to have a high body mass index compared with white boys. Despite the differences, obesity rates have also appeared to stabilize among minority children.
And this is the Times, so the story closes with a call for a Federal program:
“We still lack anything resembling a national strategy to take this problem seriously,” said Dr. Ludwig, co-author of an editorial accompanying the obesity report. “The rates of obesity in children are so hugely high that without any further increases, the impact of this epidemic will be felt with increasing severity for many years to come.”
Hmm - No Child Left With A Fat Behind?
Obama's intro to his Memorial Day speech in New Mexico:
On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes -- and I see many of them in the audience here today -- our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.
They've fallen - but they've gotten back up! Well, he was in New Mexico...
For most Americans, Memorial Day is a day to honor our nation's war dead. However, the Obama team has re-imagined the holiday, as made clear in this comment responding to an attack from John McCain:
Obama's camp declined to hit back, with spokesman Bill Burton saying "Memorial Day is a day to honor our nation's veterans, not a day for political posturing."
Well, sure, in the sense that every day is a good day to honor our nation's veterans and active-duty soldiers and no day is a good day for political posturing. That said, it hardly seems fair to ask Obama's team the purpose of Veteran's Day.
I DEPLORE THIS POSTURING: Memorial Day is the day that Obama's good buddy Bill Ayers does not stomp on American flags? And Veteran's Day is the day Americans gather to stage burnings of commemorative draft cards? Things will change under President Barack.
BACK IN REALITY: Not surprisingly, Obama's "I see fallen heroes" gaffe was an ad-lib; Fox has his prepared remarks. What's interesting is that we have seen that Obama is a very ordinary impromptu speaker who normally does a great job delivering prepared remarks; now he has gotten fluff-mouth even with a teleprompter. Yikes!
JUST SAY 'UNCLE': At Ace of Spades HQ the Purple Avenger points out that, in his follow-up Q&A, Obama made up more history. From a CBS News account:
Obama also spoke about his uncle, who was part of the American brigade that helped to liberate Auschwitz.
Referring to an uncle who had been one of the first U.S. troops into Auschwitz, the concentration camp, Obama said: "The story in the family is he came home and just went up in the attic."
As the Purple one notes, Auschwitz is in Poland and was liberated by the Russians. And an alert commenter at CBS wonders, what uncle? Obama's mom was an only child and his dad was Kenyan. My guess - Obama was referring to one of his mother's uncles; presumably his grandfather and grandmother had brothers of service age during WWII. And presumably the uncle in question was involved in the liberation of some other prison camp.
So waddya expect - Obama is supposed to fact-check his grampa's ass? Still, it would be nice if our nation's crack journalists had a whiff of a clue that something was awry with this anecdote. [The WaPo Fact-Checker gets the tape of Obama's comment and awards Three Pinocchios.]
THE HEALING POWER OF LAUGHTER: I am warming to the notion of an Obama Ascendancy - he looks good to provide a laugh a minute, which may well repair my broken soul.
AND SPEAKING OF JUST MAKING STUFF UP: Shorter Matt Yglesias: Obama's foreign policy is really just an ongoing attempt to rationalize whatever extemporaneous toad hopped out of Barack's mouth this week. And that's a good thing!
Evan Thomas of Newsweek has advice for Obama on how to deal with the race issue - just say anything:
It would help to be seen venerating your white mother and grandparents as well as your black father. Your mother is a sympathetic figure, fighting to raise a child out of poverty.
Well, it's a bit late to venerate grandma, who was last seen being tossed under the bus as a deplorable racist, just like Jeremiah Wright.
Ands as to mom heroically raising Obama from poverty - please. It has been widely reported that Obama's mother raised him while on food stamps. The inconvenient truth may be that she did this while enrolled in college and relying on her parents in Hawaii. This is from TIME:
When her son was almost 2, Ann returned to college. Money was tight. She collected food stamps and relied on her parents to help take care of young Barack.
Of course, a different version also appears in TIME; this is Obama himself chatting with hagiographer Joe Klein:
"I had to reconcile a lot of different threads growing up—race, class," he told me. "For example, I was going to a fancy prep school, and my mother was on food stamps while she was getting her Ph.D."
The Times profile of Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro includes this:
By 1974, Ms. Soetoro was back in Honolulu, a graduate student and raising Barack and Maya, nine years younger. Barack was on scholarship at a prestigious prep school, Punahou. When Ms. Soetoro decided to return to Indonesia three years later for her field work, Barack chose not to go.
What to believe? Well, food stamps were a pilot program under Kennedy from 1961 to 1964; the states and counties involved did not include Hawaii in an August 1962 expansion, as per this NY Times clip.
The program expanded to 41 states in October 1964; I don't know that Hawaii was included even then, but Barack would have recently turned three, not "almost two" as described in the initial TIME passage. However, since she was in college until 1967 (when she left with her new husband to Indonesia), I suppose that, contra Barack, she might have been on food stamps in 1965 or later. That said, the program underwent major expansions in 1973 and 1974, which coincides with Ms. Dunham Soetoro's return to the US. From Wikipedia:
Well. Whether she was relying on food stamps and her parents while putting herself through college or collecting food stamps while Barack went to prep school in Hawaii (eventually living with his grandparents), this is not exactly the "up from poverty" story most people associate with food stamps. But Evan Thomas of Newsweek is impressed!
The Doctor is in, with a Memorial Day round-up.
I exhort everyone to have a great day, support the troops, enjoy a bit of Americana, and mind the late lightning.
BONUS EXHORTATION: Don't stint with the sun cream! The sun is as high in the sky as it will be in late July but it is more easily overlooked because the air is cooler. The sun cream I am currently
stuck with using, at least until I finish it or lose the bottle, gives my skin a faint bluish hue. Death warmed over? C'mon, I like to think it brings out my baby-blue eyes! Don't let vanity or inconvenience put you on the slow road to melanoma.
Paul Krugman writes about he need for Hope, Change (of tone) and Reconciliation within the Democratic Party. Since he is a long-time Hillary supporter this is especially poignant:
Nor should Obama supporters dismiss Mrs. Clinton’s strength as a purely Appalachian phenomenon, with the implication that Clinton voters are just a bunch of hicks.
Oh, I'll say it - Paul Krugman is not a redneck Appalachian hick. But he must be the loneliest guy at Princeton, and it must be tough seeing that plum appointment in Clinton II slipping away.
The press has reported a bit on the connection between Barack Obama and unrepentant Weatherman Bill Ayers (although most of the press has overlooked their six year relationship on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge). However, Obama has also been linked to Bill Ayers' father, Thomas Ayers, the former CEO of Commonwealth Edison through the law firm Siddely Austin, their mutual interest in education reform, and their mutual service on an education board.
With that in mind, chew on this seeming coincidence:
When Illinois utility Commonwealth Edison wanted state lawmakers to back a hefty rate hike two years ago, it took a creative lobbying approach, concocting a new outfit that seemed devoted to the public interest: Consumers Organized for Reliable Electricity, or CORE. CORE ran TV ads warning of a "California-style energy crisis" if the rate increase wasn't approved—but without disclosing the commercials were funded by Commonwealth Edison. The ad campaign provoked a brief uproar when its ties to the utility, which is owned by Exelon Corp., became known. "It's corporate money trying to hoodwink the public," the state's Democratic Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said. What got scant notice then—but may soon get more scrutiny—is that CORE was the brainchild of ASK Public Strategies, a consulting firm whose senior partner is David Axelrod, now chief strategist for Barack Obama.
Small world - Commonwealth Edison, Thomas Ayers' old stomping grounds, has been cozy with Barack Obama's chief strategist. No, I don't know what it means, but I don't know that it is meaningless.
Lost in the rhetoric was the question America deserves to have answered: Why should we engage with Iran?
In short, not talking to Iran has failed. Miserably.
Bush engages in self-deception arguing that not engaging Iran has worked. In fact, Iran has grown stronger: continuing to master the nuclear fuel cycle; arming militias in Iraq and Lebanon; bolstering extremist anti-Israeli proxies. It has embraced Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and spends lavishly to rebuild Afghanistan, gaining influence across the region.
Well, Bush reached out to our allies (normally a wonderful thing to do, in Kerry World) and let them take the lead on multilateral talks with Iran ("Multilateral" is as cheerful a word in Kerry World as "consensus"). The US is also working with the United Nations and the Security Council, two more of Kerry's touchstones.
The idea that Iran has not been talked to about its nuclear program is absurd.
A FOOTNOTE: Joe Klein of TIME insisted that Iran President Ahmadinejad had no sway over foreign policy; This is from the Times article:
The mood at the London talks contrasted with the atmosphere when the Iranian and European negotiators last met, in Rome five weeks ago. Mr. Solana described those talks as constructive, and met with reporters afterward standing alongside the Iranian negotiator, Ali Larijani. But before the Rome meeting, Mr. Jalili, regarded by many in Iran as a comparative hard-liner, was named to succeed Mr. Larijani as Iran’s chief negotiator.
Mr. Jalili, a previously little-known deputy foreign minister, is said to have close ties to Iran’s volatile president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Prof. Althouse is defending Hillary's right to advance arguments that favor her cause with respect to the questions around the Michigan delegates to the Democratic convention. The reliably calm and thoughtful Andrew Sullivan is calling Ms. Clinton a "sociopath".
Sully's most amusing point is also his first:
How do you respond to a sociopath like this? She agreed that Michigan and Florida should be punished for moving up their primaries. Obama took his name off the ballot in deference to their agreement and the rules of the party.
Oh, poor, noble, long-suffering Obama, to be treated so badly after acting so well. Nonsense. Go back to the coverage at the time that some (but not all) of the Democrats took their names of the Michigan ballot, and it is clear to anyone who cares to reflect on it that Obama took his name off the Michigan ballot in pursuit of his own poiltical advantage.
How so? First, Obama was conceding a state he had no chance of winning:
Four Democratic presidential candidates announced yesterday that they would not take part in the Democratic primary in Michigan, all but ceding the contest in that major state to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is ahead in the polls there and is staying in.
Second, it was a way to ingratiate himself to the good people of the great states of Iowa and New Hampshire:
The Democrats have been under tremendous pressure from Iowa and New Hampshire not to campaign in Michigan and Florida, which have violated party rules by moving up their primaries -- Michigan to Jan. 15 and Florida to Jan. 29 -- ahead of Feb. 5, when many other populous states vote.
Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as South Carolina and Nevada, are furious with Michigan and Florida, saying those two states have forced them to move their own voting dates up even earlier because they want to maintain their primacy in the nominating contests.
Mightn't Obama have believed that conceding Michigan later was worth the possibility of winning Iowa and/or New Hampshire right out of the box?
Finally, because four guys with no chance in Michigan dropped out, it diminished the impact of a probable Hillary victory there:
Debbie Dingell, a major Clinton backer in Michigan, said on MSNBC that she was ''furious'' with the other candidates. Their absence will diminish Michigan's importance in the primary process and probably deny her state attention from the candidates and the news media. Michigan has the nation's highest unemployment rate and has been eager for a spotlight on its woes.
Andrew really should re-connect with the explanatory power of self-interest, and not just as it relates to Hillary.
- I know some Catholics who would disagree with Betsy Newmark about the one acceptable bigotry. Make it two.
- Good, not great: Decision '08 goes to the movies and gives one thumb up to Indiana Jones. I saw it last night and concur.
- Patterico reports on the reporting of a gay marriage poll from California.
- Patrick Sullivan notes that Japan has helped ease the rice shortage.
- The sun is always shining on Obama.
This half-agrees with my official editorial position:
GOP strategists mull McCain ‘blowout’
It sounds crazy at first. Amid dire reports about the toxic political environment for Republican candidates and the challenges facing John McCain, many top GOP strategists believe he can defeat Barack Obama — and by a margin exceeding President Bush’s Electoral College victory in 2004.
...But the contours of the electoral map, combined with McCain’s unique strengths and the nature of Obama’s possible vulnerabilities, have led to a cautious and muted optimism that McCain could actually surpass Bush’s 35-electoral-vote victory in 2004. Though they expect he would finish far closer to Obama in the popular vote, the thinking is that he could win by as many 50 electoral votes.
I have long maintained that McCain-Obama ends in a landslide; I just can't say who will win. People like "Hope and Change, but if "Hope and Change" founders on the very real question of whether the Emperor has any clothes at all, McCain wins.
MORE: May I express my resentment of this Newsweek poll with its Racial Resentment Index?
Obama's race may well explain his difficulty in winning over white voters. In the NEWSWEEK Poll, participants were asked to answer questions on a variety of race-related topics including racial preferences, interracial marriage, attitudes toward social welfare and general attitudes toward African-Americans. Respondents were grouped according to their answers on a "Racial Resentment Index." Among white Democrats with a low Racial Resentment Index rating, Obama beat McCain in a hypothetical match-up 78 percent to 17 percent. That is virtually identical to Clinton's margin in the category, 79 percent to 13 percent. But among white Democrats with high scores on the Racial Resentment Index, the picture was very different: Obama led McCain by only 18 points (51 to 33) while Clinton maintained a much larger 59-point lead (78 to 18).
Who exactly are these high Racial Resentment Index voters? A majority, 61 percent, have less than a four-year college education, many are older (44 percent were over the age of 60 compared to just 18 percent under the age of 40) and nearly half (46 percent) live in the South.
I am withholding judgment until I see comparable polls on "White Guilt" and ageism. I also want to see pollsters probe whether a white woman with Obama's record of achievement could possibly be taken seriously as a Presidential candidate; then they should ask President John Edwards whether a smooth talking white guy with no resume can win the Democratic nomination and the White House.
I ranted about this when Geraldine Ferraro stated the obvious.
PILING ON: Karl at Team Protein is excellent on the deficiencies of the Newsweek poll, as expected.
TIME Magazine profiles the controversial Michelle Obama:
...in recent weeks, Michelle has also become a favorite target of conservatives, who attack her with an exuberance that suggests there are no taboos anymore.
Here is a helpful illustration of rational exuberance.
The latest strike came from the Tennessee Republican Party, which posted a YouTube ad ridiculing Michelle's now famous "For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country" remark. That prompted Barack Obama to throw down a gauntlet of his own. "I would never think of going after somebody's spouse in a campaign," he told Robin Roberts of Good Morning America. "She loves this country ... And especially for people who purport to be promoters of family values ... to start attacking my wife in a political campaign, I think, is detestable."
But is she fair game?
It's a little brazen for Obama to say his wife can't be a target when he uses her as a shield, like a charm against charges that his own biography is somehow too exotic, too alien, too Jeremiah Wright and not enough Norman Rockwell. In his telling, her life as a Chicago city worker's daughter whose family ate dinner together every night, who made it from public schools to the Ivy League to the long, twisting road to the White House, is a tribute to "an America that didn't just reward wealth but the work and the workers who created it."
TIME notes that in her stump speech Ms. Obama includes a tribute to her hard-working parents before morphing into the Sister Grim:
She says she tells the stories to let people know we're not so different from one another, since if we don't realize how much we have in common, we'll never get anything done. And then she lays out her case: the days when a father could support a family on a city worker's salary are long past. She paints a picture of crumbling neighborhoods and failing schools, unavailable health care, shrinking pensions, single parents working double shifts. "This has been the case for my entire lifetime," she says, and warns that "we're raising a generation of 'young doubters,'" children who are insular and timid. "They don't try, because they already heard us tell them why they can't succeed."
This is, apparently, too much for some conservatives. They hear "whining" from a woman preaching a "Gospel of Misery," about everything from her student loans to the high cost of piano lessons. When she describes the steadily deteriorating conditions during her lifetime, they counter with the stats: rising home ownership, falling poverty, a quadrupling of the population with a college degree, an explosion of science and technology and opportunity. When she says that "before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls," conservative blogger and radio star Hugh Hewitt levels his warning: "Whenever someone from the government comes to you and says, 'We have to fix your soul,' be very afraid ... No one believes outside of the hard-core left that government can fix your soul." The National Review put a glowering picture of Michelle on its April cover, called her "Mrs. Grievance" and declared that "Michelle Obama embodies a peculiar mix of privilege and victimology which is not where most Americans live."
TIME then presents a laugh out loud "What's a girl to do" baffler:
They are probably right to think that most Americans have a happier impression of the past 40 years. But the skies have clouded in the past year, and this time around, the attacks make one wonder how those who find Michelle Obama's gritty realism out of bounds would mount a campaign in this climate. By suggesting everything is swell? By gliding silently over the battered economic landscape at home in order to talk instead only about terrorism abroad? That is certainly not where most Americans live either.
Good point! We are having a bad year so what else can a candidate's surrogate do except trash the last forty and declare our souls to be broken? This is a Presidential campaign, not a search for reason and perspective.
As a matter of practical politics, she is in a bit of a box - she can't praise the Bush years; admitting that times weren't awful under Clinton might be perceived as a boost for Hilary; no lib will tolerate her praising Bush I or Reagan; and few Democrats are inclined to wax nostalgic for Carternomics. So trash 'em all!
TIME Delivers a message of Hope and Change:
Whether by coincidence or by design, she has brightened her message recently, talking less about what's wrong than about what's possible. "We live in isolation sometimes, but the truth is that people want the same thing. They're tired of the divisions, they want peace, they want fairness, they want equity," she told a group of phone-bank volunteers on May 19 in Louisville, Ky. "They're willing to sacrifice. They're willing to put things that are valuable to them on the table for the greater good."
Oh, please - she is asking these people to make the sacrifice of voting for a guy who has made the improbable promise to hold their taxes steady and raise taxes on "the rich" while delivering more benefits to the middle class. Heroic! Well, we also have to endure four (or eight?!?) years of Michelle, which is only a sacrifice if you think we were pining for Wild Bill. And given Obama's utter lack of foreign policy experience, I suppose we all may have to sacrifice a few nights of calm, uninterrupted sleep.
It's a cliché of American politics that even in hard times--or maybe especially then--people always vote for the optimist. This does not mean we wish our problems away; only that in good times or bad, we want to think we face obstacles with ingenuity and grit. Maybe Michelle Obama is telling hard truths. Or maybe her truths are not as widely shared as she suggests. Barack Obama's "Yes, We Can" stump speech is wrapped around American decency and imagination. Her story has heroes too, but she doesn't bother to keep the stragglers in the closet.
Ms. Obama has nailed down the "Whiny, Self-Absorbed Pessimist" demographic. Let's see if that becomes a key part of the Obama coalition.
While Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and her advisers insist that she is determined to win the Democratic nomination, friends of the couple say that former President Bill Clinton, for one, has begun privately contemplating a different outcome for her: As Senator Barack Obama’s running mate.
I can think of two reasons for Barack to contemplate this insanity - one is the Godfather's advice to keep your friends close and your enemies closer; the second is the Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals" scenario.
However, the key concept with Lincoln was "team" - he had a number of rivals jockeying amongst each other as well as (potentially) against him, so he could play the shifting alliances against each other (I say this not having read the book, but I did hear Ms. Goodwin discussing it with Don Imus, so I am practically an expert).
The idea that Obama wants to spend four or eight years (or even eight minutes) trying to keep tabs on Hillary's endless machinations as she grooms her own base and tries to claim credit for the accomplishments of the Obama Administration while distancing herself from its failures, all with Wild Bill prancing about doing his satyr dance, defies credulity.
Surely the Democratic party does not lack for boring, reassuring white guys who will bring along most of Hillary's supporters and none of her baggage.
WELL, IF HE IS WILLING TO MEET WITH MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD:
CNN is reporting this morning that the Obama and Clinton campaigns are in formal talks about ending her quest for the Democratic nomination and possibly giving her the VP slot.
These apparent talks are described by CNN as being in a ``very preliminary'' stage and as "difficult."
Presumably they met with no preconditions, but plenty of preparation. In fact, the Obama's campaign had detailed preparations covering A to G and beyond.
David Brooks describes the ascent of the "Alpha Geeks", calling into question my theory that John McCain is cooler than Barack Obama. In Brooksie's formulation, fighter pilots are trumped by guys with cool MySpace pages and blogs. Hmm. I've never been a fighter pilot, but maybe I can get back to you on the other bit...
A MACHISMO RALLY! But wait - Maybe McCain was in Top Gun after all:
With renewed emphasis on Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) training brought on with the establishment of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) in 1968, the availability of A-4 Skyhawks in both the Instrument RAGs and Composite Squadrons at the Master Jet Bases presented a ready resource of the nimble Skyhawks that had become the TOPGUN preferred surrogate for the MiG-17. At the time, the F-4 Phantom was just being exploited to its full potential as a fighter and had not performed as well as expected against the smaller North Vietnamese MiG-17 and MiG-21 opponents. TOPGUN introduced the notion of dissimilar air combat training (DACT) using the A-4E in the striped "Mongoose" configuration with fixed slats.
The small size of the Skyhawk and superb low speed handling in the hands of a well trained aviator made it ideal to teach fleet aviators the finer points of DACT. The squadrons eventually began to display vivid threat type paint schemes signifying their transition into the primary role of Adversary training. To better perform the Adversary role, single-seat A-4E and F models were introduced into the role, but the ultimate Skyhawk was the "Super Fox," which was equipped with the uprated J52-P-408 engine similar to the configuration used by the Blue Angels.
So McCain was Viper or Jester.
The Times runs an op-ed panning the Kennedy-Kruschev meeting to which Obama glowingly refers as one of his inspirations for wanting to meet with the leaders of Iran. Jack Kelly had made the same point a couple of weeks back.
And Joe Klein continues his passion for Presidential fiction on the campaign trail, but this time writing under his own name:
Which raises the question: Who are the bad guys rooting for in 2008? John McCain would have you believe the answer is clear. Barack Obama wants to meet with the leaders of enemy states, especially Iran, "which would increase their prestige," McCain says, and convey the impression of American weakness. To punctuate the point, McCain persistently barks that Obama wants to meet with the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a flagrant anti-Semite but a relatively powerless figurehead. Obama did say during a debate last summer that he would meet with foreign leaders without preconditions. "He shorthanded the answer," Senator Joe Biden recently said. Ever since, Obama has been creatively fuzzy when asked directly if he would meet with Ahmadinejad — and he has begun to point out that the real leaders of Iran are the clerics led by the Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, who controls Iran's foreign policy and its nuclear program. Obama has also been explicit about the need to start with lower-level talks, a presidential summit coming only if there were progress in those negotiations. In his previous, straight-talking incarnation, McCain would have allowed Obama the modifications to his shorthand answer and debated the issue on the merits. Not this year.
After asserting that "I've done some research" and "also checked with the Obama campaign," Klein said that Obama "never mentioned Ahmadinejad directly by name. He did say he would negotiate with the leaders."
In fact, Obama has repeatedly been questioned specifically about Ahmadinejad. At a news conference in New York last September, Obama was asked whether he would still meet with Ahmadinejad. He replied: "Yeah . . . I find many of President Ahmadinejad's statements odious. . . . But we should never fear to negotiate." On NBC's "Meet the Press" in November, he defended "a conversation with somebody like Ahmadinejad."
If Joe Klein is still having trouble with his research, more assistance is available at Politifact of the St. Petersburg Times:
But has Obama said specifically that he’d meet with Ahmadinejad?
We could find no public statements where Obama neatly says “I will meet with Ahmadinejad.” But we believe there are some instances where that was the substance of Obama’s words.
One example came in a press conference in New York City on Sept. 24, 2007 [also cited by Novak].
Question: “Senator, you’ve said before that you’d meet with President Ahmadinejad …Would you still meet with him today?”
“Nothing’s changed with respect to my belief that strong countries and strong presidents talk to their enemies and talk to their adversaries,” Obama responded. “I find many of President Ahmadinejad’s statements odious and I’ve said that repeatedly. And I think that we have to recognize that there are a lot of rogue nations in the world that don’t have American interests at heart. But what I also believe is that, as John F. Kennedy said, we should never negotiate out of fear but we should never fear to negotiate. And by us listening to the views even of those who we violently disagree with – that sends a signal to the world that we are going to turn the page on the failed diplomacy that the Bush Administration has practiced for so long.”
The McCain campaign provided snippets of news accounts of that press conference that left little doubt how the press interpreted Obama’s comments at the time. Check out these headlines: “Obama Stood His Ground Monday On His Controversial Remarks Earlier This Year That He Would Meet With Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad” (from CNN); and “Obama: I Would Still Meet With Ahmadinejad” (from CBS News).
... In those contexts, Obama clearly counts Ahmadinejad among those with whom he would meet. We rate McCain’s statement True.
Klein also describes Ahmadinejad as "a relatively powerless figurehead". Really? I hope he alerted the Obama team, which last fall described Ahmadinejad as a dictator. And the Brits could have used this news, since it was Ahmadinejad who led the way and led the release when fifteen British sailors were captured by Iran last spring.
Rather than following Klein's lead and just making stuff up, the AP tries to explain Obama by taking a different tack, arguing that he has just been making stuff up:
THE OLD SPIN:
In a Democratic presidential debate last summer, Obama was asked if he'd meet the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea without precondition and during his first year in office.
"I would," Obama said.
Since then he has frequently reiterated his belief that no preconditions should be set.
"When you say preconditions, what you're really saying is, 'I'm not going to talk to you until you agree to do exactly what I want you to do,'" Obama said. "Well, that's not how negotiations take place."
Challenged by Clinton in multiple debates, Obama allowed that while he would not set preconditions, he would have "preparations" and would not rush to see certain leaders right away.
The precise difference between preconditions and preparations has not been spelled out. What's clear is that low-level talks would precede any summit, as happens now.
Clinton called him naive. She said she would not risk the prestige of the presidency by negotiating directly with countries such as Iran until they had agreed to change their ways.
Obama called that a case of old Washington thinking.
The new thinking, however, appears not to have been thought all the way through.
Look, Obama is making this up as he goes along. That is not a great practice for a Presidential candidate, and would be a terrible idea for a sitting President. Imagine if Obama had said at a Presidential press conference, rather than a candidate's debate, that he would meet with the leader of Iran without pre-conditions within one year, and then started waffling about the distinction between preparations and pre-conditions and tried to hand-pick the Iranian leader with whom he would meet. It would be comical and embarrassing, like his current performance.
From the Times:
Senator John McCain of Arizona is set to meet with at least three potential running mates at a gathering at his ranch this weekend in Arizona, suggesting that he is stepping up his search for a vice-presidential candidate as the Democratic contest heads toward a conclusion, according to Republicans familiar with Mr. McCain’s plans.
Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a onetime rival for the Republican nomination, have all accepted invitations to visit Mr. McCain at his ranch in Sedona, Republicans said.
Jindal is too young and would represent unilateral disarmament by the McCain campaign, which could scarcely argue their guy is ready to step up and become President but Barack is not.
Crist is a closeted gay, I have read.
Which means Romney is the guy, from this group anyway.
Operation in Sadr City Is an Iraqi Success, So Far
BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces rolled unopposed through the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City on Tuesday, a dramatic turnaround from the bitter fighting that has plagued the Baghdad neighborhood for two months, and a qualified success for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
As it did in the southern city of Basra last month, the Iraqi government advanced its goal of establishing sovereignty and curtailing the powers of the militias.
This was a hopeful accomplishment, but one that came with caveats: In both cities, the militias eventually melted away in the face of Iraqi troops backed by American firepower. Thus nobody can say just where the militias might re-emerge or when Iraqi and American forces might need to fight them again.
While noodling about something else I noticed that by the standards of the early 60's Obama's mother was a gal in trouble when she got married:
Six months after they wed, another letter arrived in Kenya, announcing the birth of Barack Hussein Obama, born Aug. 4, 1961.
Since you ask, abortion was only legalized in Hawaii in 1970, although apparently illegal abortions were common.
It's not a pro-life argument you hear too often. Obama ought to hold himself up as an example of the merits of "safe, legal, and rare". As if.
IMAGINE MY SURPRISE: Can't really glean the "gal in trouble" detail from the Times coverage of the early Obama years.
James Miller, writing in the WaPo, suggests a way for Obama to appease Hillary (ooh, I know Obamites don't like that word "appease") without offering her the VP slot - promise that he will appoint her to the Supreme Court.
Either Mr. Miller or I have lost our marbles - is there any chance in the world that Republicans would ever allow this? C'mon, if Robert Bork wasn't qualified, how could Hillary be?
Mr. Miller says this:
Senate confirmation would be all but certain, even putting aside the gains that Democrats are likely to make in November. Clinton could be confirmed in the current alignment. Democrats would want to support their new president, and those who like Clinton would vote for her. Members of either party who aren't fans might also be happy enough about her leaving the Senate to vote to confirm her.
Dare we even mention the Whitewater/Travel Office debacle? I am a huge fan of "innocent until proven guilty", but that means we don't throw people in jail unless there is clear evidence of their guilt, not that we throw them onto the Supreme Court unless there is clear evidence of their guilt. This is the Times editorial summary of the Ray Report on the Travel office:
The independent counsel Robert Ray has concluded that Hillary Rodham Clinton was ''factually false'' in sworn testimony about her role in the firing of seven members of the White House travel staff in 1993. At the same time he has concluded that he cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that her statements were ''knowingly false,'' and therefore will not pursue criminal charges against her. Judging from the voluminous public record, Mr. Ray's decision to drop the case is legally sound. Judging from the same record, his characterization of Mrs. Clinton's account of her role in the matter also seems on the mark.
...As to Mrs. Clinton's truthfulness, the underlying issue is whether she had any ''input'' or played a ''role'' in the firings, which were themselves legally permissible. On at least two occasions, including sworn testimony to the independent counsel in 1995, she denied playing such a role -- a point made again this week by her lawyers, who said that while Mrs. Clinton had been concerned about financial improprieties in the travel office, she did not ''knowingly'' intend to influence the decision to fire the seven employees. Mr. Ray, although conceding that he could not prove a criminal case against Mrs. Clinton, clearly did not believe this account. He cited conversations and memorandums suggesting that the firings had occurred because White House aides understood that that was the outcome desired by a powerful and persistent first lady.
Or we could re-hash the whole Whitewater debacle (Times summary of final report) with the missing billing records and the phony Castle Grande option deal. Ray did not think he could prove she was lying, but unlike with the missing FBI files, he did not assert her innocence either.
We can't prove she's a crook, so let's make her a judge? I don't think so.
MORE: Jack Balkin questions the political wisdom:
If Obama has something like this on his mind, however, he is unlikely to announce it publicly during the middle of a Presidential campaign. Telling the Republicans that he plans to nominate Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court would be like waiving a red flag in front of a bull. It would make particularly concrete to the conservative base -- who are otherwise wary about John McCain but who are very concerned about controlling the judiciary-- why they needed to defeat Obama in the fall.
THE EXIT POLL: Among the many questions, one caught my eye - was the race of the candidate important to you? The breakdown:
Whites who say yes: 18% of total voters - 88% Hillary, 9% Obama
Whites who say no: 67% of voters; 68% Hillary, 28% Obama
Blacks who say yes: 2% of voters; N/A on breakdown
Blacks who say no: 7% of voters; N/A on breakdown.
Although the breakdown was not meaningful for black voters, black Democrats went for Obama by 91% to 8%. Unless someone can remind me of the major issues differentiating Obama from Hillary, I suspect that Obama's race was important to black voters, their denials notwithstanding.
However, only whites will be accused of racism.
Catherine Price of Salon is not au courant - her lead:
There are a couple of questions in life that seem like they'll never be fully resolved. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
C'mon, every kid knows the answer to that.
DARE WE ADDRESS HER MAIN POINT? Ms. Price is writing on the non-crisis in the education of boys; her inspiration are these Times and WaPo stories based on this 124 page study. (Note - I opened the report and crashed out my PC; might have been a memory issue or something else, but be forewarned.)
This, from both the WaPo and Ms. Price, is a howler:
As for the specific question of whether boys are being hurt by the past 15 years' educational trends, the study points out that the number of boys graduating from high school and college is at an all-time high.
The "number"? Every town in my part of Connecticut has undertaken a high school expansion in the last few years (following the middle school expansions of a few years ago) to accommodate the baby boom echo, so yes, we expect that across America there are plenty of high-schoolers. Can we establish a factual foundation for that? Here is a chap from the Georgetown Office of Admissions:
He added, though, that this year should be the peak of the number of high school students applying to college.
“This year is the official peak of the population, and this is the largest number of high school graduates we’ve seen, so it will begin a slow decline over the next year,” he said.
Or more here.
A different study from 2006 (Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters) found that the graduation rate for boys lagged that of girls, with a notable racial disparity hurting black and Hispanic males. Whether that gap has changed over time can not be gleaned from that report, which is a snapshot rather than a video.
The Times describes the new report as offering this information:
The report points out that a greater proportion of men and women than ever before are graduating from high school and earning college degrees.
Which is it, proportion, or number? Do I have to dare opening that report again? Developing...
OK, per the nine page executive summary it is "proportion", which is actually meaningful. This study notes that women graduate at a higher rate, but adds that the male graduation rate is at an all time high.
There are a few senators who recognize this bill as the bloated monstrosity it is. The last hope is that there are enough of them to uphold Bush's veto.
"A few Senators"? Are any of those Senators named John McCain? Yes, indeed. Are any of them named Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Uhh, no. Neither papers' editorial noted that fact, but this is from Reuters:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican candidate for president, on Monday said he agreed with President George W. Bush's decision to the $289 billion farm bill because it did not cut subsidies to wealthy farmers enough.
"I would veto that bill," McCain said, calling the farm bill an unwarranted handout to corporate farmers and an obstacle to freer agricultural trade worldwide.
None of the three senators running for president -- McCain and Democrats Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois -- voted on the bill. Clinton and Obama applauded Senate passage of the bill and said Bush should sign it.
USA Today got more Obamafuscation from the presumptive Democratic nominee:
Oh, for heaven's sake - now the Obama people want to pretend that Obama's pledge to meet, without preconditions, with the leader of Iran didn't actually represent a pledge to meet with its current President. Joe Klein of TIME wants to ride this pony right into the barn - go, Joe! Their gist - Ayatollah Khamenei, not President Ahmadinejad, is the "Supreme Leader" of Iran.
Let me say that I am delighted to learn of Ahmadinejad's demotion - last fall, he had a higher status in this Obama press release:
...we should never be afraid to confront the ranting lies of dictators like Ahmadinejad with the power of truth and the strength of our own values.
Now he has slipped from "dictator" to mere lackey; how the mighty have fallen!
Well, if Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei is the go-to guy, I suppose it is fair to ask whether he is also noxious. Let's ponder this quote reported in Dec 2000:
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Friday for the destruction of Israel, describing it as a "cancerous tumor" in the Middle East.
"Iran's stance has always been clear on this ugly phenomenon (Israel). We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region," Khamenei told thousands of Muslim worshippers in Tehran.
"The Palestinian issue is not an internal Israeli matter. It involves the interests of the whole Islamic world, including Iran. All should strive to return that piece of land to Islamic hands."
Khamenei offered an alternative solution which he said might be more "internationally acceptable":
"Palestinian refugees should return and Muslims, Christians and Jews could choose a government for themselves, excluding immigrant Jews.
"No one will allow a bunch of thugs, lechers and outcasts from London, America and Moscow to rule over the Palestinians," the ayatollah said in remarks broadcast on state radio.
And can we find a bit of Zionist conspiracy-mongering from Iran's latest leader? Yes We Can!
"Today, I can clearly see that there are certain hands at work to create rifts and schisms between the Shia and the Sunni. The Zionists and arrogant powers are definitely involved in the bloody incidents and explosions taking place during congregational prayers at the mosques and Friday prayer grounds. Muslims have nothing to do with the incidents taking place in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries."
I should add that the footnote claims that is from a June 2005 speech but the link now fails and Google is not delivering other references to the phrase. That said, here is a conciliatory bit from Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei that everyone attributes to Wikipedia; the source is this Guardian article, with no cite at all:
Finally, Ahmadinejad's own call for regime change in Israel - "the occupying Zionist regime of Jerusalem should cease to exist in the page of time" - has been mistranslated and distorted into the notorious phrase, "Israel should be wiped off the map" by the western media. What is never reported is that Ayatollah Khamenei stated unequivocally immediately afterwards that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country".
As to who's on first in Iran, President Ahmadinejad took the lead in 2007 when the British sailors were seized (Joe Klein's comical assertion that Ahmadinejad "has no power over Iranian foreign policy" notwithstanding), spoke at the UN, and came to Columbia, so he is the person one might reasonably expect to meet with an American President.
Regardless, it is absurd that Obama is making these bold promises with no apparent forethought; imagine if, as President, he had made a similar "no preconditions" pledge to meet with the leaders of Iran, Ahmadinejad tried to take him up on it, and Obama then explained that Ahmadinejad was not actuallly the leader he had in mind. Faux pas.
Via Matt Yglesias I see that David Brooks has moved away from the movement:
In the eighties, when he was a young movement journalist, the attacks on regulation and the Soviet Union seemed "true." Now most conservatives seem incapable of even acknowledging the central issues of our moment: wage stagnation, inequality, health care, global warming. They are stuck in the past, in the dogma of limited government. Perhaps for that reason, Brooks left movement journalism and, in 2003, became a moderately conservative columnist for the Times.
The central issues of our moment do not include either education or immigration reform? And I assume the context was domestic public policy, or else the omission of national security is utterly bizarre.
The underlying New Yorker article by George Packer is about the death of the conservative movement. A snippet:
In its final year, the Bush Administration is seen by many conservatives (along with seventy per cent of Americans) to be a failure. Among true believers, there are two explanations of why this happened and what it portends. One is the purist version: Bush expanded the size of government and created huge deficits; allowed Republicans in Congress to fatten lobbyists and stuff budgets full of earmarks; tried to foist democracy on a Muslim country; failed to secure the border; and thus won the justified wrath of the American people. This account—shared by Pat Buchanan, the columnist George F. Will, and many Republicans in Congress—has the appeal of asking relatively little of conservatives. They need only to repent of their sins, rid themselves of the neoconservatives who had agitated for the Iraq invasion, and return to first principles. Buchanan said, “The conservatives need to, in Maoist terms, go back to Yenan.”
The second version—call it reformist—is more painful, because it’s based on the recognition that, though Bush’s fatal incompetence and Rove’s shortsighted tactics hastened the conservative movement’s demise, they didn’t cause it. In this view, conservatism has a more serious problem than self-betrayal: a doctrinaire failure to adapt to new circumstances, new problems. Instead of heading back to Yenan to regroup, conservatives will have to spend some years or even decades wandering across a bleak political landscape of losing campaigns and rebranding efforts and earnest policy retreats, much as liberals did after 1968, before they can hope to reëstablish dominance.
Here's a bit from William Buckley:
Sam Tanenhaus, the editor of the Times Book Review and the Week in Review section, who is working on a biography of Buckley, said that in his final years Buckley understood that his movement was cracking up. “He told me, ‘The conservative movement lost its raison d’être with the end of Communism and never got it back.’ ”
I will add that the Iraq war allowed the Democrats to paper over a lot of their other differences and unite around one issue.
WORTH READING: Packer tackles the question of how Obama might deal with the elitism issue and develop some white working class appeal, then offers a contrast with McCain, who is speaking in a coal-mining town in Kentucky:
McCain appeared to a warm reception. I had seen him in New Hampshire, where he gave off-the-cuff remarks with vigor; when he is stuck with a script, however, he is a terrible campaigner. Looking pallid, he sounded flat, and stumbled over his lines—and yet they were effective lines, ones that Obama would do well to study. “I can’t claim we come from the same background,” McCain began. “I’m not the son of a coal miner. I wasn’t raised by a family that made its living from the land or toiled in a mill or worked in the local schools or health clinic. I was raised in the United States Navy, and, after my own naval career, I became a politician. My work isn’t as hard as yours—it isn’t nearly as hard as yours. I had an easier start.” He paused and went on, “But you are my compatriots, my fellow-Americans, and that kinship means more to me than almost any other association.”
Obama has enough skill and composure to deliver those lines while keeping a straight face; Michelle never could.
Well, if conservatism is dead anyway, what about a McCain-Bloomberg ticket in 2008? Bloomberg might agree, since it gives him an eventual path to the White House, and it surely solves McCain's money problem. McCain and Bloomberg would almost be running as an independent centrist third party, but with no formal Republican candidate taking votes from the right. Wouldn't Republicans simply stay home? Not if the vaunted Republican Attack Machine can paint a sufficiently unappealing portrait of Obama. Groan. Let me hear a "Yes We Can", or at least a "Here We Go Again".
Al Hunt had Bloomberg on the VP short list just yesterday, with analysis that included this:
For McCain, 71, there are two prerequisites: someone who isn't identified with the Bush administration -- if the McCain mantra will be inexperience, the Obama drum will beat about a third Bush term -- and who has some credibility on economic and domestic issues, not among the Arizona senator's strengths.
Fits Bloomberg to a 'T'. However, I should add that Mr. Hunt put Bloomberg on Obama's suggested short list. Well, I am keeping hope alive.
He'll always have Paris. Also Berlin, which Paul Krugman compares to Atlanta, concluding that Europe has done a better job of integrating mass transit into their urban and suburban planning, thereby making a less car-centric society possible.
My question - is it unreasonable to wonder whether the low European birth rates can be tied to their living arrangements? I have lived in Manhattan with two kids, and in the suburbs with more than two. Trust me, or try it for yourself - the suburbs are easier to manage when lots of kids are in the picture.
Or try this simple census survey - how many couples can you think of that met in the cities, had children, and moved to the suburbs? Now, how many couples have kids in the suburbs and then move with them into the city? Hmm...
I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm just noting that the evidence from Europe might suggest that small cars and limited space might be better suited to small families; it seems to be a point that a top-notch, objective economist like Krugman would at least want to address.
With a nod to Memeorandum:
Matt Yglesias notes that even though many parts of the US would be hard to re-engineer, some would be easy, and would provide a logical starting place.
When putting these findings into the context of stable or decreasing urban population, it is clear that the structure of European cities has become less compact. In most cases it is mere a question of taste whether to call it urban sprawl or urban dispersion.
Well, I am all in favor of conservation; I would just like a bit more background on other likely impacts.
LEST YOU WONDER: Folks who make it to the end of Krugman's column will enjoy this:
Still, if we’re heading for a prolonged era of scarce, expensive oil, Americans will face increasingly strong incentives to start living like Europeans — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.
Don't Bogart those urban planners.
Matt Drudge links to a Hill story that badly needs supplementation:
The White House on Monday sent a scathing letter to NBC News, accusing the news network of “deceptively” editing an interview with President Bush on the issue of appeasement and Iran.
At issue were remarks Bush made in front of Israel's parliament earlier this week.
Specifically, White House counselor Ed Gillespie laments that the network edited the interview in a way that “is clearly intended to give viewers the impression that [Bush] agreed with [correspondent Richard Engel's] characterization of his remarks when he explicitly challenged it.
“This deceitful editing to further a media-manufactured storyline is utterly misleading and irresponsible and I hereby request in the interest of fairness and accuracy that the network air the President’s responses to both initial questions in full on the two programs that used the excerpts,” said Gillespie in the letter to NBC News President Steve Capus.
That does not present much with which to opine on the merits of the dispute.
Gillespie objected to "both initial questions"; here is the first as presented by NBC:
RICHARD ENGEL: Good morning, Meredith. I started by asking the President about his controversial comments he made in Israel, which Democratic candidates interpreted as a political attack. You said that negotiating with Iran is pointless and then you went further. You're saying, you said that it was appeasement. Were you referring to Senator Barack Obama? He certainly thought you were.
GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, my policies haven't changed, but evidently, the political calendar has.
Left on the cutting room floor was this:
People need to read the speech. You didn't get it exactly right, either. What I said was is that we need to take the words of people seriously. And when, you know, a leader of Iran says that they want to destroy Israel, you've got to take those words seriously. And if you don't take them seriously, then it harkens back to a day when we didn't take other words seriously. It was fitting that I talked about not taking the words of Adolph Hitler seriously on the floor of the Knesset. But I also talked about the need to defend Israel, the need to not negotiate with the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas. And the need to make sure Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon.
But I also talked about a vision of what's possible in the Middle East.
So Bush did in fact dispute Engel's characterization of the speech. Here is the next question as presented by NBC:
ENGEL: Negotiations with Iran. Is that appeasement? Is that like appeasing Adolf Hitler?
BUSH: No my, my, my position, Richard, all along, has been that if the Iranians verifiably suspend their enrichment, which will be a key, key measure to stop them from gaining the know-how to build a weapon, then they can come to the table and the United States will be at the table.
...then they can come to the table, and the United States will be at the table. That's been a position of my administration for gosh, I can't remember how many years, but it's a clear position. We've stated it over and over again.
But I've also said that if they choose not to do that -- verifiably suspend -- we will continue to rally the world to isolate the Iranians. And it is having an effect inside their country. There's a better way forward for the Iranian people than to be isolated. And their leaders just need to make better choices.
As what looks like an ongoing Brotherhood of the Nerds thing, I can actually offer a plausible explanation of Obama's laughable geography lesson noted most recently at The NRO Media Blog and by Prof. Althouse:
"What it says is that I'm not very well known in that part of the country," Obama said. "Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it's not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle."
First, props to Powerline for their guess:
Maybe Obama thinks states 51 through 57 are located somewhere between Illinois and Kentucky. All I can say is, it's a good thing for Obama he isn't a Republican.
And now, the explanation secretly being invoked by closeted geeks and nerds everywhere - Obama is a Hari Seldon/Foundation fan.
Geez, do I have to explain? The two foundations were located at opposite ends of the galaxy. But "opposite" did not mean "geographical" opposite, it meant cultural opposite. Hello! Doesn't everyone learn this in school?
Clearly Obama, a secret sci-fi fan, thinks that Kentucky is culturally nearer in spirit to Arkansas than it is to the urban, sophisticated Chicago he thinks of when he thinks of Illinois. And he might be right! Per the take-it-to-the bank Wikipedia, Kentucky was a Civil War Border State (Arkansas was a slave state in 1860; if I am reading Barack's old classroom notes correctly, Illinois had not yet been purchased from Russia.) However:
After Reconstruction, most of the border states adopted Jim Crow laws resembling those enacted in the South, but in recent decades some of them (most notably Delaware and Maryland) have become more Northern in their political, economic, and social orientation, while others (particularly Kentucky and West Virginia) have adopted a Southern way of life.
MORE: Something with which Barack can while away the idle hour or two on the road.
Barack Obama majored in international relations at Columbia and was well regarded in some of classes (although he won't release his transcript). That is worth keeping in mind as you wonder whether he really is this stupid or just thinks we are. Here is his latest YouTube classic making the rounds, as excerpted by Jim Geraghty:
"Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That's what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That's what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That's what Nixon did with Mao. I mean think about it. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela – these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union.
Well, yes they are. Geraghty and others make the key point - that Afghanistan also seemed pretty small in 2001, until Bin Ladin used it as a base from which to launch an attack that killed 3,000 Americans.
But let me mock Obama from a different direction - why does he suppose people metaphorically reference the 800 pound gorilla in the room, or the elephant in the room, as opposed to a mouse or a squirrel? He is the IR major and I am sure his guess would be interesting, but my impression is that people pay attention to things that are simply too big to ignore. Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan correctly considered the Soviet Union and China far too big to isolate diplomatically and economically in an effective way. China also looked to be a useful counterweight to the Soviet Union in 1970.
As a bonus question, one might wonder what Obama thinks is meant by the phrase "Only Nixon could go to China"? Hints are offered at Wikipedia, among scholars, and even in the pop culture. Well, here is a spoiler from Wikipedia:
Because Nixon had an undisputed reputation of being a staunch anti-Communist, he was largely immune to any criticism of being "soft on Communism" by figures on the right of American politics. The phrase "Nixon going to China" is thus an analogy which refers to the unique ability that hardline politicians have to challenge political taboos and third rail issues. Only a proven hardline right-wing politician can succeed in challenging a conservative sacred cow, and vice versa for left-wingers.
I daresay Reagan had as solid an anti-Communist reputation as Nixon. Does Obama think he has foreign policy credibility and anti-terror credentials analogous to Nixon and Reagan? When did he acquire that credibility - was it as a schoolboy living in Indonesia, or later as a street organizer in Chicago? Or even later, as a colleague of unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge?
And why does Obama suppose that, regardless of his own high self-regard, the rest of America and the world also sees him in the same clear light as Nixon or Reagan? Kennedy didn't have quite the same fearsome reputation - does Obama think Kennedy's meeting with Krushchev went well?
I'm not sure why a Dem candidate for President wants to insist he is taking his cues from Nixon and Reagan, but let me say this. I knew Nixon and Reagan; I voted for Reagan; and Barack Obama is no Ronald Reagan.
The NY Times tells us that women are under-represented in science and technology because of a deplorable macho sexist workplace environment.
The Boston Globe (owned by the Times, but evidently not read) tells us that women are underrepresented in these fields because they aren't interested.
Dan Drezner has more, but I especially like these two bits from the Globe:
Rosenbloom and his colleagues used a standard personality-inventory test to measure people's preferences for different kinds of work. In general, Rosenbloom's study found, men and women who enjoyed the explicit manipulation of tools or machines were more likely to choose IT careers - and it was mostly men who scored high in this area. Meanwhile, people who enjoyed working with others were less likely to choose IT careers. Women, on average, were more likely to score high in this arena.
Women are more likely to be people-persons. Thank heaven for researchers.
Benbow and Lubinski also found something else intriguing: Women who are mathematically gifted are more likely than men to have strong verbal abilities as well; men who excel in math, by contrast, don't do nearly as well in verbal skills. As a result, the career choices for math-precocious women are wider than for their male counterparts. They can become scientists, but can succeed just as well as lawyers or teachers. With this range of choice, their data show, highly qualified women may opt out of certain technical or scientific jobs simply because they can.
The LA Times contemplates the next Supreme Court under Obama or McCain. This exposition from Obama struck me as outlandish:
Before his election to the Senate, Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He said most cases, even those at the high court, could be decided by looking at the law and precedents.
"Both a [conservative Justice Antonin] Scalia and a Ginsburg will arrive at the same place most of the time," he said during the Roberts confirmation hearings. "What matters at the Supreme Court is those 5% of cases that are truly difficult. In those cases, adherence to precedent and rules of construction will only get you through 25 miles of the marathon. That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspectives on how the world works and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.
"In those difficult cases, the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart."
Kidding? I would guess that the most controversial case of my lifetime has been Roe v. Wade. Does Obama seriously think that a conservative judge commited to applying existing law would have followed most of the way down the trail blazed by Blackmun? I doubt it.
This bit of background on how the court might shift is interesting:
Whoever is elected in November will probably have the chance to appoint at least one justice in the next presidential term. The court's two most liberal justices are its oldest: John Paul Stevens turned 88 last month, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75.
McCain promised that, if elected, he would follow President Bush's model in choosing Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
That could establish a large conservative majority on the court for years. With conservatives in full control, the court would probably overturn Roe vs. Wade and the national right to have an abortion. The justices also could give religion a greater role in government and the schools, and block the move toward same-sex marriage.
If elected, Obama would be hard-pressed to create a truly liberal court. But by replacing the aging liberal justices with liberals, he could preserve abortion rights and maintain a strict separation of church and state.
I assume a more conservative court would chip away at Roe v. Wade, as with their support of the ban on partial birth abortions, but would Roe be overturned, and would that be a bad thing for the nation or the left? The NY Times was oddly reassuring back in 2005. [Patterico describes this LA Times passage as something that would "look great, for example, in a NARAL mailer", but doesn't find the votes.]
As to the notion that a McCain court would slow the march to gay marriage, I can't imagine a McCain court would block laws duly passed by the states or Congress. Of course, libs hoping for an end-run around the legislative process would be disappointed, but surely that is not their hoped-for result under an Obama Presidency, is it? Hmmm? That said, based on the vote counts above, Obama could extend the tenure of some liberal seats but not expand their number.
Washington, D.C. — Republican presidential candidate John McCain's family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, "and he has a hard time thinking beyond that," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., said Friday.
"I think he's trapped in that," Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. "Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous."
Harkin said that "it's one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that's just how you're steeped, how you've learned, how you've grown up."
In less widely reported remarks that were recorded only in the fevered imagination of The Minuteman, Harkin went on to appraise the Democratic Presidential field:
"Frankly, I have a similar problem with Barack Obama", Harkin went on. "Look, the guy is a liberal. I have no problem with that. How could I? I was the most liberal guy in the Senate until he took my crown. But I think he's trapped by the fact that his father was a Communist and his mother was a flower child who never heard a socialist idea she didn't like. When a person becomes a left-winger just to please his parents, where is the understanding and commitment? I don't see any intellectual development here - the guy planted his flag about one micron away from his mom and dad, which makes him a devoted son but not exactly a someone who reached his beliefs after any kind of intellectual journey. Obama has a hard time thinking beyond the box his parents put him in, and that worries me."
Harkin then extolled Hillary, the former Goldwater Girl, as someone who had at least been exposed to some conservative people and ideas before rejecting them.
Kate Zernike of the Times talks to political pros about the likely profile of the next woman President (who is unlikely to be Hillary in 2009):
That woman will come from the South, or west of the Mississippi. She will be a Democrat who has won in a red state, or a Republican who has emerged from the private sector to run for governor. She will have executive experience, and have served in a job like attorney general, where she will have proven herself to be “a fighter” (a caring one, of course).
She will be young enough to qualify as postfeminist (in the way Senator Barack Obama has come off as postracial), unencumbered by the battles of the past. She will be married with children, but not young children. She will be emphasizing her experience, and wearing, yes, pantsuits.
Oh, and she may not exist.
But this composite of Madam President is suggested by political strategists and talent scouts, politicians and those who study women in politics. It is based as much on the lessons of the Clinton candidacy as on the enduring truths of politics and the number and variety of women who dot the leadership landscape.
Somewhat bizarrely to my mind, the woman modeled here did not emerge from the military. And why not? Women have been graduating from service academies for a while, and there are plenty of important non-combat career paths that would allow a person to develop some national security credentials over ten years or so. [Hmm, or maybe not.]
Heather Wilson strikes me as someone who should have been mentioned in this article, but wasn't - that makes me think that either there is more to her scandals than I realize, or else the Times is daft (OK, or both).
As to Ms. Wilson's qualifications - she is from a western state, is a graduate of the Air Force Academy (and a Rhodes scholar), gained executive experience running a state agency in New Mexico, has been elected to the House where she served on the intelligence committee, and is now aiming for the Senate. Wikipedia has coverage of her ethics and missing file scandals, which may or may not be why she is not on this Times short list.
Let's get some reaction (via Memeorandum) from the blogs:
I think people were open to the idea of a woman President, but Hillary Clinton did not suit us. We don't want someone else like her. We want someone different. For starters, how about a woman who did not build her political career through her husband?
Karen Tumulty of TIME also thinks it was antipathy towards Hillary, not women in general.
FREE CONSULTING: A friend of mine who does image consulting glanced at the accompanying graphic and had some free advice to a couple of the prospects - Sarah Steelman (R, MO) needs to either lose the Farah Fawcett hair-style or put up a fundraising porno site ("You'll want to see my position for controlling your gun"); Lisa Madigan (D, IL) ought to find something better than the embarrassing high school yearbook photo that screams "Spitball me".
Trying to help.
Another classic correction from the Times:
An article on Saturday about Senator John McCain’s criticism of Senator Barack Obama’s Middle East policy incompletely described Mr. Obama’s position on negotiating with the leaders of countries, including Iran, with which the United States currently has little contact. While Mr. Obama and his aides have indeed described various conditions and limitations on such negotiations, Mr. Obama himself, in a Democratic debate in July 2007, also said he would be willing "to meet separately, without precondition" with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. (Go to Article)
The Times correction is especially timely (even if it took a week) since Obama has re-affirmed the commitment the Times could not discern last week:
The senator repeated his belief in engaging Iran in the way that past president like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan engaged foes and laid a framework for what he believes Iran must do.
"I understand George Bush’s secretary of defense suggests we talk directly to Iran, so I don’t know if George Bush is calling his own secretary of defense an appeaser,” he said. “"It’s time to present Iran with a clear choice. If it abandons its nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, then Iran can rejoin the community of nations. If not, Iran will face deeper isolation and steeper sanctions.”
WASHINGTON: U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates called for more visits to Iran by U.S. citizens on Wednesday, saying private contacts might help bridge differences between the two countries.
Talking at the American Academy of Diplomacy, Mr. Gates said: “We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage with the Iranians and then sit down and talk with them. There are actually many Iranians who visit the U.S. We ought to increase the flow going the other way, not of Iranians but of Americans, and that may be one way of creating some space perhaps over some period of time.”
Gee - Obama pretty much making stuff up. Who knew that the new politics was so like the old politics? Should make adjusting easy!
The AllahPundit has lots more.
The MySpace mom's prosecution threatens us all
No, it threatens any adult who creates a national sensation by cyber-stalking an emotionally troubled 13 year old and driving her to suicide.
After walking us through the legal background, Mr. Manjoo wanders off the legal reservation:
There are no laws against cyberbullying, as Wired.com's excellent Kim Zetter explains. Drew's specific crime, according to prosecutors, stems from her alleged violation of MySpace's "terms of service" -- a lengthy legal document by which you implicitly agree to abide when you're using the site.
MySpace's contract sets down a big list of MySpace no-nos, among them:
impersonating or attempting to impersonate another Member, person or entity;
using any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person or entity, or attempting to do the same;
using any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person or entity, or attempting to do the same;
Normally breaking these rules would result only in a breach of a civil contract with MySpace -- and, thus, no major punishment.
Here's where the law-stretching occurs: In breaking the contract with MySpace, prosecutors say Drew is criminally responsible. She can go to jail, in other words, for failing to heed the legal terms of a Web site she clicked on.
Not so, as the indictment makes clear - the legal theory is that Drew broke the MySpace rules in order to further a conspiracy to commit a separate civil offense, to wit, the intentional infliction of emotional distress. That is two civil violations, not one. [See UPDATE - Manjoo is wrong, but I am not right.]
Now, I am not going to contradict the experts who say that this application of the underlying law regulating computer use and abuse is novel, a stretch, and so on. However, contra Manjoo, mere violation of the MySpace terms of service, or any other firms terms of service, would not create the grounds for prosecution under this theory - a perpetrator would have to violate a relevant TOS *and* then commit some separate tortious act. Hence, overheated rhetoric such as this from Manjoo is nonsense:
This is very bad law. Nearly every site on the planet includes a lengthy terms page, many of them with terribly vague, over-broad proscriptions of the sort lawyers are very fond.
If prosecutors were given wide freedoms to charge folks who violated such things, there wouldn't be enough jails on the planet to house us hoodlums.
MySpace's TOS, for instance, also prohibits posting material that "constitutes or promotes information that you know is false or misleading." How many gossipy teenagers would be hauled into the pokey on that count alone?
Or, this: MySpace says that "band, comedy, filmmaker and other profiles" can't post stuff that "uses sexually suggestive imagery or any other unfair, misleading or deceptive Content intended to draw traffic to the profile."
Posting sexually suggestive imagery on MySpace is a crime? Mariah Carey's lawyers should let her know!
Until Manjoo expands those examples to explain the second civil violation (and I could get behind the idea that Mariah Carey's performances are a breach of something or other), he has nothing. For example, knowingly posting gossipy but false information without any intention of inflicting emotional harm would be actionable how? Answer - it wouldn't be. As a practical matter, citizens should be as worried about Manjoo's faux prosecutions as they are worried about being busted for speeding at 60 in a 55 MPH zone.
So. Do two civil violations normally sum to one criminal charge? Who knows? I can see this case eventually being tossed, but if the woman has to spend years and mega-bucks fighting it, well, boo-hoo.
I am troubled by the venue, however - all the activity occurred in Missouri, but Los Angeles got involved because of the physical location of the MySpace servers. Since an important (and normally utterly un-American) goal here is to punish the accused prior to conviction, I suggest a change in venue - to Anchorage.
IN A CALMER MOMENT: "A Man For All Seasons", about the tussle between Thomas More and some Brit king or other, was brilliant on the importance of upholding the law even when the outcome was undesirable. I'll take two:
William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
Thomas More was a Great American, or could have been. But his wisdom notwithstanding, some slippery slopes are worth standing on - I'll take my chances with this prosecutor on this case.
MORE: Orin Kerr opines:
This case involves a terrible tragedy; I think what Lori Drew did is truly despicable. But the government's legal theory, based entirely on the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. 1030, is very weak. Legally speaking, the prosecution is a real stretch. In my view, the courts should dismiss the indictment. In this post, I'll explain why.
UPDATE: Based on legal advice from Walter I see my error - For current purposes the statute can be broadly divided into sections (a), (b), and (c). Section (a) specifies a range of bad acts which result in a criminal penalty; the very short section (b) criminalizes the attempt to commit acts specified in (a); and section (c) specifies penalties. In section (c), a violation of (a) or (b) with the commission of a tortious act is a felony; under other scenarios, the violation may be only a misdemeanor.
However, the logic of the statute requires an independent violation of (a) or (b). The prosecutor satisifies that by arguing that the defendant did two things - violated the MySpace Terms of Service *and* then obtained information across state lines.
So some of the examples of TOS violations offered by Manjoo would not be covered - I daresay Mariah Carey can post all the racy photos she wants without being charged with accessing information, and I suspect a person could post whatever gossipy news was rattling around inside their head, as long as they don't seek info from others.
However, one might argue that anyone using a GMail account that violates the Google TOS and then engaging in otherwise-harmless correspondence with others is accessing information without authorization, thereby exposing themselves to a misdemeanor charge. (To elevate that to a felony charge, the email correspondence would have to be used in a way that led to a tortious act.) It's impossible to believe that the intent of this law was to criminalize that sort of common and harrmless behavior. That said, I find it almost impossible to believe that an otherwise upstanding citizen would be prosecuted on that basis. On the other hand, who knew that RICO would be applied to securities firms, until it was?