Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Obama's Quiet Rebellion

This short piece from Salon covers Obama's recent visits to New Hampshire and Iowa, examing whether the senator is staying true to his pledge to avoid politics as usual.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

  • Click here for the CNN datebase of coalition casualties in the Iraq War.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Michelle Obama Leaves TreeHouse Board of Directors

TreeHouse Foods, Inc. announced minutes ago that Michelle Obama, wife of presidential hopeful Barack Obama, has resigned as a director of the company where she served on the board since 2005.

Mrs. Obama cited "increased demands on her time" as the reason for her departure.

Sure, she is busy hitting the campaign trail on behalf of her husband, including an appearance on Good Morning America today.

Sure, maybe she resigned from the position because last month she was re-elected to three more years on the board, a term that would overlap with her husband's time in the White House if he becomes president.

If that's the case, though, why resign now?

For the answer, look no further than your neighborhood Wal-Mart.

According to TreeHouse's financial filings, Wal-Mart accounted for 16.1 percent of its sales last year, a 37 percent increase from 2005, making the Bentonville, Arkansas retailer TreeHouse's biggest customer by a long shot.

Meanwhile, Senator Obama openly criticizes Wal-Mart for its anti-union labor practices, including at a recent event in Trenton, New Jersey where he answered an audience member's question about Wal-Mart by responding: "I won't shop there."

Understandably, this conflict of interest has
drawn criticism. So let's be realistic about this: Mrs. Obama needs to sever ties with TreeHouse before this becomes a bigger issue.

Wal-Mart ties have already been a thorn in the side of Senator Hillary Clinton, under fire as she
continues to distance herself from her years on the Wal-Mart board of directors, when she failed to push forth any meaningful reforms of Wal-Mart's labor practices. As Wal-Mart continues to become a contentious issue for Clinton, Mrs. Obama is wise to avoid any potentially harmful confrontations with the bright yellow smiley face.

Yet if Mrs. Obama is going to take an increased role in this campaign, and if this campaign is truly committed to not playing politics as usual, then Mrs. Obama should offer up a better explanation for leaving TreeHouse than "increased demands on her time."

At a time when the nation is just getting to know the fantastic woman standing beside Barack, a more forthright explaination would make a lot of voters proud to support both Obamas.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Financial disclosure forms filed by presidential candidates Wednesday show Barack Obama as the least wealthy of the top-tier presidential candidates, despite the fact that his family reported $991,000 in income last year.

It was an unusually high-flying year for the Obama family, however. $572,000 of the reported income was from Senator Obama's book sales, which surged as he gained national recognition for his leadership on issues like Iraq, alternative energy, health care, and the genocide in Darur.

The Chicago Tribue reported that Senator Obama's financial portfolio is divested of all companies that do business in Sudan.

While Obama obviously won't have to cut coupons to put food on the table, the Obama family fortune is downright meager when compared to the other candidates. Let's take a look, shall we?

  • John Edwards. $479,000 last year in salary. More than $7.5 million from investments with Fortress Investment Group, a New York hedge fund. Net worth is estimated between $22 and $62 million dollars. He said he worked only a few days a month at the hedge fund, so maybe he just didn't know that Fortress owned offshore funds that served as tax havens for investors. Maybe he didn't know that the firm's portfolio included subprime lenders, which provide high-risk loans that often target minorities. Maybe he just didn't know.

  • Lovely Hillary Clinton. Well, she requested a 45-day extension to file her papers. She just needed to get everything in order. I'm going to guess she's doing all right, though. As for Bubba, Former President Bill Clinton earned about $10 million in speaking fees last year.

  • Speaking fees! Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) raked in $11 million by speaking at events around the globe, reminding everyone how qualified he is on issues of national security. His empire, sadly built on the ashes of the World Trade Center, is worth somewhere between $20 million and $70 million. Hate to be harsh on Rudy, but let's face it--just a few years ago his net worth topped out at about $1.8 million

  • Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney became the richest candidate by buying and selling more than 180 companies through private equity funds. His net worth is somewhere between $190 million to $250 million. A healthy chunk of that money goes to the Mormon church, though. It's a rule.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is married to the millionaire daughter of an Arizona beer tycoon. Pretty cool.

So many choices. Hedge fund warrior. Former first lady. Former mayor cashing in on a national tragedy. Uber-wealthy private equity Mormon. Husband of a beer princess. Best selling author.

Hmm...I do love beer. And princesses. But I can't really jive with McCain's stance on Iraq.

I'm going to have to go with the best selling author. I'm sure Senator Obama wouldn't mind if you checked his book out from the library or borrowed it from a friend.

[Full disclosure: The author, a high school teacher, earned $42,448 in 2006. He has filed for an extension to report his net worth, which he will begin to calculate once he pays off his student loans.]

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother Michelle

Just in time for Mother's Day, USA Today ran this profile of Michelle Obama on its front page.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Guest Commentary: Is Obama a Pixy Stik?

My good friend Adam, a frequent Blog Obama reader, prides himself on being the devil's advocate in just about any situation. In an effort to jump start the comment section of Blog Obama, Adam has submitted this scathing critique of his "beef" with Obama and his campaign.

While Adam's comments do not represent the views of Blog Obama or its moderator, I do think that he addresses a valid concern among many liberal voters. Judge for yourself.


In order to commemorate my triumphant return to the comment section of Blog Obama '08, I submit to you the following diatribe, which is at least semi-related to the post to which I am replying.

Obama has officially become a walking, talking, campaigning Pixy Stik: he's all sugar, no substance. I don't know about you, but I like for my candidates to bring some protein to the table, or at least some dietary fiber...but all I've heard from Obama so far is a bunch of tooth-rotting palaver about what sort of POLITICIAN he ISN'T, when all I really want to know is what sort of POLICYMAKER he IS.

Of course, I may be the only person who feels this way...after all, the way that you Obama groupies have been double-fisting the Barack-flavored Kool-Aid would seem to indicate that you all can't get enough of his sweet nothings. And that's just as well, since if Mr. Pixy Stik ever gets caught in the rain without his harmonious, bi-partisan umbrella, all you're going to have left is a puddle of Kool-Aid and the soggy remains of his paper-based exoskeleton.

(For what it's worth, I would still vote for Obama over Clinton, Giuliani and McCain, because "all sugar, no substance" still beats "all turd, no substance." Sad but true.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The National Guard is Strained, Not Obama

When Senator Barack Obama mistakenly overstated the number of deaths from last weekend's awful tornadoes in Kansas, the usual suspects wasted no time pouncing on him for the error.

"Ten thousand people died - an entire town destroyed," Obama said, late in his speech. "Turns out that the National Guard in Kansas only had 40 per cent of its equipment and they are having to slow down the recovery process."

In reality, Obama was making an important point about how the Iraq War is needlessly draining National Guard resources that are intended to be used in exactly the sort of situation we see in Kansas. Or New Orleans, for that matter.

Yet to hear mainstream media spin this, the real story here is that Barack Obama made a mistake.

"He overstated by a factor of one thousand the number of deaths from the tornado in Greenberg, Kansas," said one pill-popping conservative radio host. "They're saying he's just tired. He's just tired out there, a little fatigued."

Let us not be distracted. It is a fact that the endless stream of National Guard units sent to Iraq deplete the vital human and material assets that are so essential to saving lives and helping communities struck by natural disasters.

The real story here is that the mainstream media prefers to pick apart candidates for innocent verbal missteps instead of focusing on the truth: Resources spent on Iraq War are sorely missed here at home, and will be even more sorely missed should we suffer another devastating hurricane season.

As for the mistake, Obama understands well that it won't be the last time this happens.

"There are going to be times when I get tired," he said. "There are going to be times when I get weary. There are going to be times when I make mistakes."

In a presidential field of career politicians who relentlessly polish themselves in their quests for more power, we ought to remember that at least one candidate is a real human being with a sincere and heartfelt desire to take this country in a new direction. Obama should be applauded for his humility. Meanwhile, let's make sure that the next time disaster strikes an American community, the victims have access to every resource they need.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Obama in the New Yorker

The latest issue of The New Yorker features a profile of Barack Obama, including insights from friends and colleagues who have known him for years.   
Here is an excerpt from the profile, titled "The Conciliator," by Larissa MacFarquhar.
Some people go into politics with an idea; Obama went in with an example. The only politician he discusses at any length in his first book is the black man who was mayor of Chicago when Obama first moved there, in 1985, Harold Washington. Obama doesn't mention what platform Washington ran on, or what he accomplished in office (though he implies that it wasn't much); he talks about the effect his election had on the black community. When he first arrived in the city, Obama noticed that, all over the South Side, people had hung Washington's picture on their walls. "The night Harold won, let me tell you, people just ran the streets," a barber Obama calls Smitty says. "It was like the day Joe Louis knocked out Schmeling. Same feeling. People weren't just proud of Harold. They were proud of themselves." Washington's victory, Obama saw, had produced in people an almost religious feeling of deliverance. "Like my idea of organizing," he concluded, Washington "held out an offer of collective redemption." It is unlikely that Obama would speak of his own candidacy in these terms—that would be embarrassing. But his talk of unity, his avoidance of blame, and his promise to end the war all seem intended to gesture to a similar prospect of redemption: not only for black people but for white people (for voting for a black man), for Republicans (for embracing unity with a Democrat), and for Americans (for saying to the world that the war was a mistake).
The complete profile is well worth the read.  Also, check out the accompanying slide show, titled "The Long Road."

Monday, May 7, 2007

Obama in Detroit: The Age of Oil Must End

Addressing the Detroit Economic Club today, Senator Barack Obama shared his plan to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil.
"The need to drastically change our energy policy is no longer a debatable proposition," Obama said.  "It is not a question of whether, but how; not a question of if, but when."
Obama's plan focuses on three key components:

1. Fuel Economy Standards: Obama's plan would establish a target of four percent increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards each year.  If the target is met for ten years, Obama 's plan will save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day and 20 billion gallons of gasoline per year.

2. Help for Consumers: Under current law, tax credits are available for consumers who buy hybridsbut only if they buy one of the first 60,000 ultra-efficient vehicles produced by a given manufacturer. Barack Obama would lift the 60,000-per-manufacturer cap on buyer tax credits to allow more Americans to buy ultra-efficient vehicles.

3. Help for Manufacturers: U.S. automakers face retiree health costs that add $1,500 to the cost of every GM car. They are struggling to afford investments in hybrid technology. Obama would encourage automakers to make fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles by helping the companies shoulder the health care costs of their retirees. Domestic automakers will get health care assistance in exchange for investing 50 percent of the savings into technology to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles. In addition, Obama would provide automakers with generous tax incentives for retooling assembly plants.

Senator Obama also called for increased use of biofuels.

"The potential for biofuels in this country is vast," he said, "it's time we made them as commonly available as gasoline is now."

"For the sake of our security, our economy, our jobs and our planet, the age of oil must end in our time."


Saturday, May 5, 2007

Obama Weekend Reading

  • From the Chicago Tribune: Pill-popping loud mouth Rush Limbaugh continues to bombard his audience with his patently racist "Barack the Magic Negro" song.

  • From the Associated Press: How presidential candidates pay for the private jets and charters they use to dart around the country.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Race a Factor in Obama's Secret Service Protection

Senator Barack Obama will now campaign under the protection of the Secret Service in the earliest security increase for a presidential candidate who was not already involved in a presidential administration.

"The secretary did authorize and the Secret Service is implementing today protection for presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama," Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said. "We're not going to discuss further details as to the number of resources or as to those protection operations."

According to CBS News, an anonymous law enforcement official stated that the the increase in security was prompted by "general concerns about the safety of a prominent black candidate."

Senator Obama has received no direct threats, although the anonymous official did comment on the presence of "racist chatter" on the Internet, particularly among white supremacist groups.

"I face the same security issues as anybody," Obama told the Associated Press back in February. "We're comfortable with the steps we have taken."

The Obama campaign did not comment on the security increase.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Online Obama Supporter Tries to Sell MySpace "Friends"

The Obama campaign took control of the Barack Obama MySpace profile today, after the profile's original creator, 29-year-old Joe Anthony of Los Angeles, CA attempted to bill the campaign $39,000 plus around $10,000 in fees for the profile and its 160,000 "friends."
The Obama campaign had worked together with Anthony to build the profile, sharing access to the site and control of its content.  As the campaign moves forward, however, campaign officials felt it was important that only those officially involved with the campaign would be able to post content under Barack Obama's name.
MySpace, which reserves the right to take control of a profile at any time, gave control of the profile to the Obama campaign.  Anthony retained the old profile's online "friends" and an "unofficial" Barack Obama profile.
Already, Obama has 13,000 "friends" on the new profile.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Obama Responds to Bush's Veto

"With one stroke of his pen, President Bush has stubbornly ignored the will of the American people, the majority of Congress and, most disturbingly, the realities on the ground in Iraq.

"Now we call upon our Republican colleagues in Congress to help override this veto and acknowledge what the President will not – that there is no military solution to a political conflict that lies at the heart of this civil war.

"Only the Iraqi leadership can make peace, and the best way to pressure them to do so is still a phased withdrawal of American forces with the goal of removing all combat troops from Iraq by March 30th, 2008.

"It is time to end this war so we can bring our troops home and redeploy our forces to help fight the broader struggle against terrorism and other threats of this new century."

-Senator Barack Obama, May 1st, 2007