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Birther the Blues

John McCain, doing a feeble impression of the old and reasonable John McCain, says that Barack Obama's name will definitely appear on the ballot in Arizona. He's stating the obvious but it's nice to hear him say it.

David Weigel explains about all the "Birther" lawsuits and beliefs. By the way, the McCain campaign lawyer he quotes in there, Trevor Potter, is the gent you've seen occasionally on The Colbert Report advising Stephen Colbert about his Super PAC.

While we're on this subject: Dennis Donohoe wrote me to say…

I also am confused by what the Arizona Secretary of State is doing. However, I beg to differ when you say that people who questioned Bush's victory over Gore in Florida have dropped the matter. Many public figures (Democrats) still complain about and question the results of that election. I also seem to recall you referring to Bush's "alleged" victory over Gore. However, it may have been a joke or my memory may be bad. Just this past weekend we had a barbecue with friends and one of them brought up the Florida issue and still didn't accept that Bush had won and clearly has not dropped the matter.

You're right. There are Democrats who still moan about Bush/Gore but it's not the mainstream. You never saw Democratic leaders fanning the flames to anger their base the way many elected Republicans still do about Obama's citizenship. I also think there's more to complain about there, not about the count itself but about five Supreme Court Justices who many of us think threw the law and logic aside to just install the guy they wanted.

My own feeling for what it's worth is that we do a sloppy job of counting votes in this country. The banking system would collapse if it was as bad at counting your money as the election system is at counting your vote. I don't think people are stuffing ballot boxes. I think the folks opening them are doing a clumsy job at tallying what's in them. That bothers me as does this mindset of "If we won, the election was fair." I didn't see one Republican who said, "I'm glad Bush won but I'm real uncomfortable with how the counting was done…and how it was stopped."

But getting back to what I said: I should have remembered the Internet Rule that I made up long ago, which is that you need to avoid most absolute statements and stick in a "most" or other qualifier. If I write here that "No one in the world believes that John Quincy Adams is alive and running an Arby's on the planet Neptune," I'll eventually hear from someone who'll write, "That's not so. My uncle believes he has proof of that!" I should have just said that Democrats were more accepting of the loss to Bush than Republicans have been of the loss to Obama.

Birth Marks

This is another one of those "I don't get this" matters. The Secretary of State in Arizona, a man named Ken Bennett, is now saying he might not allow the name of Barack Obama on the ballot in the upcoming presidential election; not unless he has some solid proof that Obama was indeed born where he says he was born. I don't get why he's making a public issue of this.

Bennett says he's not a "birther." Well, of course not. He can't afford to be because he's going to have to accept proof.

We all know who the birthers are. They're people who desperately want to believe that Barack Obama was never really President of the United States. They're not like those of us who didn't like George W. Bush. We liked the idea of Bush not getting a second term but we only briefly indulged our fantasy that proof would come out that Gore had gotten more votes in Florida. Once it was apparent that no such proof would be forthcoming — not that Bush had won fairly but that it couldn't be proven he had — we dropped the matter. Birthers are still demanding recounts of the recounts of the recounts.

Birthers never give up. No matter what proof comes out that indicates Obama was born where he says he was born, they just say "It's an obvious forgery" and it emboldens them to demand something else they can claim is fake. They demand Obama play their game while at the same time fixing the rules so he can never prove what they demand he prove.

Mr. Bennett doesn't have that luxury. At some point, his opposite number in Hawaii is going to send him the kind of affirmation that Secretaries of State always accept from each other. He'll be told Hawaii stands behind Obama's birth certificate and what's Bennett going to do then? Challenge the right of Hawaii to verify its own documents? Argue that the Secretary of State there really isn't the Secretary of State there?

So what I don't get is why he went public with his "Obama might not be on the ballot" thing. He may earn some points from the Birthers in his state today but before long, he's going to disappoint them and be condemned as a sell-out who's joined the conspiracy to keep a Kommie Kenyan in the White House. Not one of them is going to say, "Well, I guess if Ken Bennett accepts Hawaii's word for it, we ought to."

Maybe we oughta start a movement claiming that Ken Bennett isn't eligible to be Secretary of State. And whatever proof he provides of birthplace or residency, we'll just say it was obviously created last Tuesday in Photoshop…probably by the same group that's trying to convince us that Jan Brewer is governor there.

Recommended Reading

Mitt Romney's plan for Medicare is vague, probably deliberately so. The less you divulge of a plan some people won't like, the less likely you are to lose the votes of those people.

Patrick Caldwell summarizes what we know of it. It pretty much comes down to privatizing the system so that the government-run system loses strength and the funding it would get goes to privately-owned, for-profit insurance plans. And the elderly would have to pay a lot more out of their own pockets to get comparable care and coverage. Okay, so Grandma might not be able to afford all her prescriptions but we do have to help the insurance companies make more money and keep taxes low for the wealthy.

Ellen Twain

I didn't think to mention one nice thing about Ellen DeGeneres getting that Mark Twain Award: It reminds us that groups like that so-called "One Million Moms" can stomp their considerably-less-than-two-million feet and denounce someone as a bad person…and fail spectacularly to hurt that person. They demanded J.C. Penney fire her as spokesperson. J.C. Penney said no. J.C. Penney sales went up. One Million Moms crawled away from a confrontation that proved how little power they had. And now Ellen's receiving one of the biggest honors she could possibly receive. I still think they should be honoring folks who have a larger body of work but it never hurts to point out that groups like that are all bark and no bite…unless someone panics at the barking.

Innocence Lost

So did Texas execute an innocent man despite clear-cut evidence that he was innocent? Some folks at Columbia University think they have solid proof that Carlos DeLuna, who died via lethal injection in 1989, was the wrong guy. Why do I have the feeling this will get swept under the rug and never properly addressed?

Recommended Reading

Norm Ornstein used to be one of those talking heads you saw all the time on TV newstalk shows, especially the Sunday morning kind. Now, they don't want him.

What did he do? Well, it might be this book he co-authored that advances the theory that contrary to the frequent consensus on those shows, it is not just a matter of "Both parties are to blame for our problems." Ornstein and his collaborator Thomas Mann have been arguing that the Republican Party is more to blame and is in doing a great many destructive things to America. And now Ornstein can't get on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN or some of the others to say this.

Hmm. If he was on all those channels a lot, some would say it was proof of Liberal Bias and how the mainstream media is controlled by Democrats. What does it indicate if they're not welcoming him to their guest chairs?

Recommended Reading

Here's a long portrait of Arizona's Joe Arpaio, the self-described "America's Toughest Sheriff." In his case, "tough" seems to include a heavy dose of racism and a presumption that anyone who gets arrested for anything is surely guilty and should be treated like dirt. The whole thing is interesting if not appalling but I was especially struck by this…

Meals [for prisoners] were cut to two a day, and Arpaio got the cost down, he says, to thirty cents per meal. "It costs more to feed the dogs than it does the inmates," he told me. Jail, Arpaio likes to say, is not a spa — it's punishment. He wants inmates whose keenest wish is never to get locked up again. He limits their television, he told me, to the Weather Channel, C-SPAN, and, just to aggravate their hunger, the Food Network. For a while, he showed them Newt Gingrich speeches.

The bad meals and physical abuse are bad enough. But don't the Gingrich speeches qualify as cruel and unusual punishment?

Recommended Reading

David Frum on what this election will be about. He thinks it's not the economy, stupid.

And hey, I haven't seen anybody mention this but is this the first U.S. Presidential Election — or at least the first in a very long time — when neither candidate of the major parties had any military experience whatsoever? A lot of voters who once thought you weren't a Good American or even a Good Human Being if you hadn't served are going to vote for a guy who didn't.

Today's Political Comment

These articles about Mitt Romney's alleged bullying annoy me. I want Romney to lose but I don't think anything that's dredged up that might cost him votes is fair game or even fair, period. Even assuming the past behavior is accurately described — which it may not be — people change. They outgrow past assholishness. If a long-ago anecdote reminds you so much of the current guy as to seem like a "life pattern," then all the evidence you need is the way the current guy is acting.

I do think Romney has what some call an "empathy problem." I don't get that he thinks government exists for much purpose beyond serving the needs of people like him. A question I would love to see someone put to him is this…

You've been around wealthy people and successful businessfolks all your life. How often do you see something that makes someone a lot of money…and while it may be legal, it shouldn't be because it's unethical and harms others?

I really don't know what he'd say. If he couldn't cite some examples, I'd think a lot less of him than I do now. If he could, and he sounded convincing when he said, "…and when I'm president, I'm going to do everything I can to fix that," I might have a much higher opinion of the man.

Recommended Reading

Todd S. Purdum on the joys of flip-flopping. There's not a lot wrong with a politician changing his or her mind as long as they acknowledge it's a change, explain why and don't bounce back and forth too often.

Today's Political Comment

We're hearing an awful lot about the Iowa Caucus given how little it ever has to do with determining who the nominee will be. If you put all the names of the candidates in a hat and drew one out while blindfolded, that name would be as likely to be the nominee as the person selected by the Iowa Caucus. In 2008, the Republican winner was Mike Huckabee while John McCain was tied for third. Gee…which one got his party's nomination?

That so much fuss is being made about this rather meaningless primary does not bode well for the future. We have a long way to go 'til Election Day. If they're making this much fuss over a meaningless part of the process, how much are we going to hear about the stuff that matters?

Recommended Reading

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that it be illegal to use a cell phone while driving. I don't believe such laws will ever be passed and if they were passed, I don't believe they would ever be effectively enforced. No one seems to be cracking down too much on folks who ignore the "hands free" laws. Anyway, my buddy Paul Harris makes a good case for why such a ban would be a bad idea.

And on Paul's site, I found a link to this article about how a notable TV infomercial con man has just been ordered to pay a $37.6 million dollar fine for bilking the public. Good.

Recommended Reading

Nate Silver discusses why Mitt Romney is sitting pretty. It's not that he's such a likely nominee as that the others are less likely.

Recommended Reading

In theory, a Conservative is someone who doesn't want change and a Liberal is someone who does. But as E.J. Dionne notes, it's a little backwards in the upcoming presidential election. The Republican candidates are all calling for a complete restructure of how our government operates and the way it relates to the citizens of this country. It's that Obama guy who is defending the way the U.S. traditionally functions.

Recommended Reading

Alex Pareene, who's become one of my favorite online pundit-persons this year, provides a few pointers on how to argue with right-wing relatives who think Obama's a Socialist mole and how Christianity is close to perishing because people say "Season's Greetings." This may come in handy at some dinners this evening.