Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Money Don't Vote

Sandy Lakey Introduces John Edwards

This is one of the families that John Edwards represented when he was a lawyer. Very moving. Caution to those who are sensitive: this is also a little disturbing due to the horrendous nature of the injury that Valerie Lakey suffered.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Edwards, Raitt & Browne Rock New Hampshire!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne open a town hall in Lebanon, New Hampshire for John Edwards. They played to a very enthusiastic crowd at the Lebanon Opera House, which seats 800 people, and from what I could see, it was pretty nearly full. The main floor was entirely full. I'm not sure about the balcony, but in any case, it was at least 500 people -- a good-sized crowd for a New Hampshire town hall.

At the start of the show, Peter Coyote, the actor, introduced Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

Raitt and Browne opened their short but sweet set with "World in Motion." The lyrics were right on target for the setting.

Sun going down in the USA
Down on Main there's a family sleeping in a doorway
Around the corner you can hear the sound
People dancing around the golden calf
Those who have not, those who have

On the billboards and the T.V. screens
They got food and cars and toys and trucks and jeans
Like a homeless child's fitfull dreams
Smiling faces free from wanting
Life's abundances beyond counting

World in motion -- speed your changes
Close your distances, find your angels
Lose your fears and meet your dangers
World in motion

Bonnie Raitt talked about why they are touring with Edwards, and said they don't give their endorsements lightly. She talked about Edwards being a man of integrity and said we have to get him elected. Then she dedicated the next song to Elizabeth - "Angel From Montgomery."

They played at least one other song that I don't know the name of, but my video camera is really a digital camera with a 2 GB card that can take some video. I had to conserve space on my card so I could get some of John's speech. So I took some photos instead during their 3rd song.

There was no way I could resist recording this song, one of my favorites by Bonnie Raitt - "Thing Called Love."

After Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne played about four or maybe five songs, Elizabeth and Cate Edwards came out on stage.

Elizabeth was looking very well. She spoke about the way her husband's platform comes deeply from his own personal experience. Specifically, she told a story about how John's mother Bobbie was forced to leave her dream job refinishing antiques when the mill that John's father worked in closed, and their family needed health care. She said that nobody should have to stay in a job they hate or leave a job they love for healthcare.

I recorded some of her introduction on video, but I still had to deal with those limitations of my camera. I had to cut it short to have room for some of John's speech.

Elizabeth is just so straightforward. You know she's not telling you any bullshit. And she's so sweet, with a nurturing "mom" kind of energy. I could just tell everyone in the room loved her.

She introduced her husband, and as he came out I captured this lovely photo of the two of them.

The real star of the show, however, was John Edwards, who gave a fiery passionate speech about the need to reclaim America from corporate interests.

I recorded a good portion of his speech on video. He was really on fire! Talk about showing some passion for the cause! The speech was incredible. Well, you should just check it out...

After a brief, heartfelt speech, he took several questions from the audience on issues ranging from ending the war to health care, to Israel and the Palestinians to Social Security. He gave detailed, specific answers to all of them. I wish I'd been able to record those too, because I think he was really connecting with the voters.

I hope those New Hampshire voters heard what I heard, because what I heard was a man who will fight with everything he's got for you and me, because that's just who he is and that's what it means to be true to himself.

If you can be in Manchester, New Hampshire this evening, there is a similar event at 6:30 p.m. at the Palace Theatre.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

John Edwards- Signing Statements: Des Moines Register Debate

Thursday, December 13, 2007

John Edwards - CNN Focus Group Winner

John Edwards - Fox Focus Group Winner

John Edwards - A New Year's Wish

Excerpt from today's debate in Iowa. Here John Edwards talks about what's at stake in this election.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Harry Belafonte endorses John Edwards!

I think there may be some dispute between supporters of different candidates about who has the coolest celebrity endorsement, but for my money, the best one so far this campaign season is the endorsement of John Edwards today by Harry Belafonte.

Belafonte, who became famous in the 1950s by popularizing Calypso music from the Caribbean, has been a long time human rights activist. Among other things, he worked with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He hasn't stopped working for the betterment of humanity since.

The Life of Harry Belafonte

Belafonte with Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington

From wikipedia:

Like Robeson and other African-American entertainers, Belafonte's success in the arts did not protect him from racial discrimination, particularly in the South of the United States. As a result, he refused to perform in the South of the U.S. from 1954 until 1961. In 1960, President John F. Kennedy named Belafonte as cultural advisor to the Peace Corps. Belafonte was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and one of Martin Luther King's confidants. He provided for King's family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Like many civil rights activists, he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He bailed King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other imprisoned civil rights protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drives, and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963.

In 1968, Belafonte appeared on a Petula Clark primetime television special on NBC. In the middle of a song, Clark smiled and briefly touched Belafonte's arm, which made the show's sponsor, Plymouth Motors, nervous. Plymouth wanted to cut out the segment, but Clark, who had ownership of the special, told NBC that the performance would be shown intact or she would not allow the special to be aired at all. American newspapers published articles reporting the controversy and, when the special aired, it grabbed high viewing figures. Clark's gesture marked the first time in which two people of different races made friendly bodily contact on U.S. television.

And there's a lot more...

In 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador. Following his appointment, Belafonte travelled to Dakar, Senegal, where he served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children. He also helped to raise funds, alongside more than 20 other artists, in the largest concert ever held in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1994 he went on a mission to Rwanda, and launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the needs of Rwandan children. In 2001 he went to South Africa to support the campaign against HIV/AIDS. In 2002, Africare awarded him the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his efforts to assist Africa. In 2004 Belafonte went to Kenya to stress the importance of educating children in the region.

I've been a fan of Belafonte for many years, ever since my mother introduced me to his music when I was probably in junior high school. One year, my sisters and I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, and she told us she wanted a copy of Harry Belafonte's hit record from the 1950s, "Calypso." That was the first time I ever heard of him, and this great album quickly became one of my favorites. I got to see him in concert probably least about 20 years ago now, and it was a wonderful concert!

Since I am a fan of Harry Belafonte, I want to share with you a couple of entertaining videos of him that I found on YouTube. I hope you will enjoy these!

Harry Belafonte on the Smothers Brothers Show

Harry Belafonte on the Muppet Show

Harry Belafonte and Nat King Cole

Belafonte's endorsement of John Edwards today

Here's what Harry Belafonte had to say about John Edwards when he endorsed him today in South Carolina. (Article and Video here.)

Belafonte is a likable, friendly man: one genuinely concerned with people and the state of this country. He says John Edwards is the only candidate also concerned and compassionate enough to try and deal with it.

"I've looked at his platform on education, healthcare, poverty, what young people are going through and I have come to believe he's the best candidate," Belafonte said.

He says all the other candidates talk about the plight of the middle class, While only Edwards talks about the poor.

"I also happen to believe that had he not so forcefully and precisely put the issue of poverty into this campaign, I don't think we'd be talking aobut it as much as we are," Belafonte said.

Belafonte feels Edwards was sincere when he announced his candidacy in New Orleans, saying it showed a commitment to the people devastated by hurricane Katrina.

"I've talked with John Edwards. I've looked into heart and his soul," Belafonte says.

He added that Edwards has the makings of a great president. Belafonte attended a rally with Edwards at the College of Charleston.

Thank you to this great humanitarian, Harry Belafonte, for recognizing and supporting the promise of another great humanitarian, John Edwards.

The above is crossposted from Daily Kos

I would like to add to what I posted previously elsewhere and note that this was an endorsement coveted by others:

President Bill Clinton crashed Belafonte’s birthday party, which was taking place as the Democratic presidential contenders battled for the African-American vote. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were in Selma, Ala., for the 42nd anniversary of the famous voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery. [Bill Clinton went to Selma to join his wife for the commemoration.]

In his remarks, Clinton toasted Harry: “I was inspired by your politics more than you can ever know. Every time I ever saw you after I became president, I thought that my conscience was being graded, and I was getting less than an A. And every president should feel that way about somebody as good as you.”

I asked Harry how he felt about Clinton showing up: “I’m very flattered, OK, but I’m mindful of all the things that need to be done.” In his succinct reply, a lifetime of struggle remembered, a keen-edged skepticism. “He knows what I think. He said I didn’t give him an A.” I then asked him about both the Clintons and Obama going to Selma.

“We are hearing platitudes, not platforms. What do they plan to do for people of color, Mexicans, for people who are imprisoned, black youth? What are their plans for the Katrinas of America?”

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

John Edwards ad - Rigged

I just love this ad. I'm so happy he's speaking the truth about this. Best political ad so far this year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

John Edwards Ramping Up in Iowa and New Hampshire!

Today, John Edwards received the coveted endorsement of Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa's first district! Congressman Braley is one of three Democratic Iowa congressional representatives, and the first to give his endorsement in the presidential race.

Edwards has also launched a new ad to begin airing today in New Hampshire.


Today in Waterloo, Congressman Bruce Braley is to endorse John Edwards for President.

"Today, I'm proud to endorse John Edwards for president," said Braley.

"Throughout this campaign, on issue after issue, John has proposed bold ideas to end the power of special interests in Washington and restore our government to the American people. John is the only Democratic candidate who grew up in rural America, and he has most specific, most progressive and most far-reaching ideas. I truly believe he is the best Democratic candidate to lead us to victory in 2008. With his leadership, I believe we can make his vision of One America a reality."

Congressman Braley is the first of three Democratic Iowa Congressman to announce an endorsement for President. This key endorsement builds on the support Edwards continues to gain in the state. As Jonathan Singer suggests:

First off, this could be the big piece of news in the statewide media Tuesday, and perhaps more importantly it could prompt the national media to remember Edwards, who they have been perhaps too quick to forget given their focus on the scuffles between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. What's more, a Braley endorsement could bring some of the organizational support and expertise that helped put Braley in Congress last fall. All in all, tomorrow should be a good day for the Edwards campaign.

Congressman Braley worked his way through school, as John Edwards did and has a history of fighting for workers' rights.

Braley was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2006 and represents Iowa's first congressional district. He serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure where he is Vice-Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. He also serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Small Business, and is the chairman of the Subcommittee
on Contracting and Technology.

Edwards stated that he is "honored to receive Bruce's endorsement" noting that, "He is a true leader and a strong voice on behalf of Iowa's families. Bruce is committed to ending the power of special interests and making sure all hard-working Iowans have the opportunity to work hard, get ahead, and leave their children a better future. I look forward to joining with Bruce to change our country."

In conjunction with this endorsement, Edwards kicks off his "Building a Better America" week. He will highlight five key planks in his platform:

- Universal Health Care: Edwards will create a true universal health care system that covers everyone in America, brings down costs, and creates more choices and security.

- Good Jobs: Edwards will invest in the good jobs of the future by creating a new energy economy based on clean, renewable energy, rejecting failed trade deals in favor of new smarter trade policies, and eliminating tax incentives for corporations to invest overseas.

- Excellent Schools: Edwards will invest in teachers with higher pay and a new National Teachers University, overhaul No Child Left Behind, and invest more to turn around struggling schools. His College for Everyone initiative will let everyone work their way through college.

- Affordable Housing: Edwards will help families save for a downpayment with a new Get Ahead tax credit, create 1 million housing vouchers to let families live where they choose, build more economically integrated housing.

- Strong Families: Edwards will work with states to offer eight weeks of paid leave to new parents and workers with serious illnesses in the family. He will also create a universal Great Promise program of early childhood education and more than double the child care tax credit.

The Iowa caucus looks like a dead heat in just about every poll recently, no matter which candidate is leading by a couple of points. The Iowa caucuses notoriously hard to poll, however, and one of the reasons is second choices.

If a candidate does not get 15% of the support in a particular caucus location, his or her supporters must choose another candidate. This makes second choice is a major factor, so I think it's good news for Edwards that he seems to be leading by a wide margin as a second choice for many voters in a recent Rasmussen poll.

In terms of second-choices in Iowa, John Edwards tops the list of candidates. He is the second choice for 28% of likely caucus participants. Obama is the second choice for 18%, Clinton for 16%, and Richardson for 15%.

At this time in 2003, Howard Dean was widely expected to win the Iowa caucus. Will Hillary Clinton be the next Dean?

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire today, the new John Edwards ad, "Together," begins airing. In the ad, Edwards explains that he believes you can't get universal health care by giving drug companies, insurance companies, and their lobbyists a seat at the table. Edwards asks

"Anybody who argues that every American is not entitled to health care, I want them to explain to you: What child in this country is not worthy of health care?"

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

I saw John Edwards and Barack Obama at the DNC Fall Meeting: an adventure

On Friday, I went to the DNC Fall Meeting with a friend of mine to see John Edwards. It was an adventurous, though not altogether pleasant, kind of day. Here's my story of a trip to a political event that was unexpectedly eventful. I'll also discuss John Edwards' and Barack Obama's very different approaches to change.

The event on Friday was supposed to be in Baltimore, which would have been convenient for me, but the workers at the original hotel location were on strike, so the DNC moved the location three weeks ago. I say kudos to the DNC for respecting the picket line, and I hope last minute planning helps explain some of the chaos at the event.

My friend Scott and I got up super early to drive to Tysons' Corner, VA, outside DC for the event. Neither of us are morning people. Such dedication!

When we arrived, there were already quite a few people waiting outside, but we were immediately greeted by friendly Edwards staffers. Unfortunately, we had to wait in line for hours; about half of that time was spent standing outside in the cold.

We were told the ballroom access would be first come first serve, and there was only room for maybe 150 supporters (in addition to the DNC members who had a guaranteed seat). There were a whole lot more than 150 guests of the various campaigns there. I kind of think each of the major campaigns had that many of their own supporters there, actually.

The event seemed disorganized. All the major campaigns had a lot of supporters there, including a lot of people from the mine workers union for Edwards. It seemed like the campaigns must have been told they could bring a lot more guests than would actually fit in the room. This could have been because of the change of venue, I guess.

I had heard that they were going to let in about 150 people, but unless they were getting them from somewhere else other than the line we knew about, I don't think they did. I think we would have been in there if they had. Most of the Edwards supporters that were there early, as well as certainly any that came at all late, like some other friends of mine did, were not let into the event. They pretty much cut off the number of people they were letting into the ballroom when they got to the mine workers for Edwards, who were standing a few feet in front of me and my friend.

They let the next couple hundred people into an overflow room, where there was a TV. Some of the Edwards supporters ahead of us, many of them mine workers, had been taken out of the line by one of the Edwards staffers to go and shake hands with John when he arrived. We didn't really know that was what was happening until later, or I would have tried to follow them. So they were no longer with us, and we ended up in a room with mostly Obama supporters and a few Edwards supporters.

There were a lot of Edwards supporters in total at the event, but a few were let into the ballroom, judging by what I saw later on C-Span, a big group got out of line to go shake hands with John (but they were told they could not get into the overflow room if they got out of line), and then another fairly big group were let into the overflow room, so we were all split up. Anyway, our numbers were a lot bigger than they looked on TV.

There was a big TV in the overflow room, so we were not happy that we had driven all that way and stood in line all that time to watch something on TV that we could have seen on C-SPAN.

Then it gets worse.

Howard Dean spoke at the beginning, briefly. Then someone came up to introduce Richardson, and then the sound for the video system cut out. Richardson was talking, but we weren't hearing a thing! There was nearly a riot in the overflow room. I am not kidding you. It was ugly. People were chanting "fix the sound! Fix the sound!" Any of the hotel staff that came in the room to try to do that were getting yelled at by some people. We missed all of Richardson's speech.

When John's speech started and the sound was still not fixed, what was already verging on a riot kicked into a higher gear. Keep in mind everyone had been made to wait for hours, much of it outside in the cold, for something we could have watched at home on C-Span already, and now we couldn't even hear it. Some people walked out, but we stayed, hoping they'd get the sound fixed.

I kept thinking that if John Edwards knew what was going on in there, he would definitely come in after his speech and say hello to people. I had no way of knowing if he knew that, though.

Eventually, one of the Obama supporters sitting near me stood up and told people that she had just asked one of the DNC people very nicely to please try to send the candidates in after their speeches, because a lot of people had come to see them and waited a long time. That was when it dawned on me that I knew some of the Edwards staffers and there was no harm in at least asking a favor.

I went out in search of a friend on the Edwards staff and found him by the Edwards table. (To clarify, I do not work for Edwards. I'm just an enthusiastic volunteer.) I took my friend's hand and said something like "there are a lot of people in the overflow room, some of whom came just to see John, and now we can't hear his speech, and everyone in there is pretty upset right now. Is there any way that John can come in and at least say hi to people after his speech?" My friend sent a text message to someone, and he and the other man at the table told me that if it could happen, it would. I thanked them and went back in the room.

By then, they had fixed the sound at least enough to hear what John was saying, though the quality wasn't great. We heard maybe about the second half of John's speech, which was excellent, although I had to wait until I got home to watch the whole thing, in the video below.

Here's just a short excerpt from his speech that gives a small taste of his passion for this fight for change:

This is bigger than politics. Bigger than any candidate or political party. Because the truth is that it's not just Republicans who built this wall. Democrats helped too. Too many politicians from both parties are choosing self-preservation over principle, compromise over convictions.

"You have a choice in this election. You have to decide what kind of person you want as your next president. Do you want someone who is going to pretend that wall around Washington isn't there, or defend the people who helped build it? Or do you want someone who is going to lead with conviction and tell you the truth, and have a little backbone? Do you want someone who is going to hope that the people who spent millions of dollars and decades building that wall, and have billions more invested in keeping it up, are going to be willing to compromise, to take it down voluntarily? Or do you want someone who is going to stand up to those people and fight for your interests, when the chips are down, when your backs are against the wall, every single day?

"We have a choice in this election. We can keep trying to shout over that wall. We can keep trying to knock out a chink here and there, to punch little holes in it and hope our voices get through. We can settle for baby steps, half-measures and incremental change, and try to inch our way over that wall and toward a better future. Or we can be bold and knock it down.

The speech was all about tearing down the wall around Washington, and it seemed like we were at that moment experiencing another facet of that metaphor, by being kept out in a separate room where we couldn't even hear what was going on at first. His speech was met with enthusiastic cheers by most everyone, including the Obama supporters.

We only had to wait for a very few minutes after John's speech, and sure enough, he came in and shook hands with as many people as he could reach. Everyone cheered a lot when he came in and while he was there. I think it helped make everything a bit better for all the people in the room. I got a beautiful big smile, a handshake, and a "hi darlin'," which was nice.

He stood up on the platform and waved and thanked people for coming. He didn't stay too long, but Obama's speech was starting soon and I suspect he didn't want to be rude and talk over it. I was having problems with my camera, so my photos all turned out bad, but here's one I downloaded from the Edwards Flickr site (from that day, but not the overflow room).

Then Obama spoke, and by then he had gotten the message that people in the overflow room were pretty frustrated, so he gave a shout out to the overflow room. That was very well received, especially since most of the people in the room were Obama supporters. I was ready to leave after seeing John, but the Obama supporters there had been very nice during John's speech and when he came in the room, so Scott and I felt an obligation to be nice to their candidate.

Obama gave a good speech, but digging below the surface of sweet rhetoric, I didn't like some of the things Obama said in his speech. Honestly, he is far too conciliatory for me. (I could not find a transcript of his speech, but I always think he talks far too much about "bringing the country together" and bipartisanship.)

After the past 7 years, I want someone who will take the Republicans and the corporate interests on and fight them. I don't want someone who will try to make nice with them. Negotiations are a necessary part of politics, but you have to start from a position of strength, not a position of compromise.

You can't settle for less before you even get started negotiating because you think you won't get what you really want. Obama's health care plan, which is not universal and would leave up to 15 million people uncovered, is a great example of how NOT to achieve change.

I think this is the essential difference between the approaches to change that John Edwards and Barack Obama are taking. John is a fighter who will take them on. Obama seeks compromise, negotiation, and reconciliation, as evidenced both by his speech yesterday and by the "Carry" ad he's been running in New Hampshire and Iowa, which touts his bipartisanship.

Contrast that with this Edwards ad from Iowa:

Obama spoke in his speech about attracting Republicans and independents. I want to draw a distinction here between a candidate who entices Republicans and independents because he seeks compromise with them (Obama) and a candidate who appeals to Republicans and independents because he takes a strong stand and offers a bold vision and leadership on problems that affect them too (Edwards). After the recent Republican debate, one of the undecided Republicans in CNN's focus group said she would support Edwards (the most progressive major Democratic candidate) because at least Edwards has ideas.

I know which one I want in the oval office and which one I think will work, and that is John Edwards's more confrontational approach. It's called backbone, and we Democrats have been looking for it for a long time.

I think Obama may very well be a nice guy with good intentions. That isn't the point. What we need now is a fighter. We need someone who has taken on corporate interests and won consistently, and that's John Edwards.

The Obama supporters in the room, however, were really enthused by the end of his speech. One woman, obviously thinking I was far more impressed than I actually was, because of my polite cheering, I guess, asked me if I was thinking about switching. I told her absolutely not.

Obama made his supporters wait quite a long time, but when he did come in, he got mobbed. Scott managed to reach over a lot of people and shake Obama's hand, but I was keeping a bit of distance between myself and the thick of the crowd. I have been in one or two intense crowd situations and crowds can freak me out a bit if I feel it will become difficult to move.

Obama gave a short pep talk and then left, and I think most of his supporters followed him, because the room cleared out quickly.

Scott and I stayed and chatted for a long time with a very nice woman next to him, who I had assumed was an Obama supporter, but it turned out she was undecided. She was concerned about electability, so I talked to her about the fact that John seems to be the most electable Democrat based on head to head matchup polls, and also about some of the reasons why I like Edwards more than Obama.

Since all the Obama supporters had followed their candidate, I didn't have anyone trying to argue with me while I pointed out the flaws in Obama's health care plan (the major one is it's not universal) and pointed out why John would be so much more aggressive in pursuing a progressive agenda (because, as I said above, you can't start from a position of compromise). I also told her about his 80 page booklet on policy and where she could download it. She was definitely listening, so that was a good score! I don't know for sure that she will end up supporting him, but she was very receptive.

After we were ushered out of the room by hotel staff trying to clean during the break between sessions, we saw Kate Michelman near the Edwards table, and I blurted out "Kate Michelman! Hi!" She looked like she recognized me, which she probably did since I've been in a small group where she spoke before, and she greeted me like she knew me, but it occurred to me later that she probably had no real idea who I was. Anyway, she was very nice.

After that, Scott and I were both just about weak with hunger, so we found the nearest tolerable restaurant, which turned out to be Panera Bread. Guess who we ran into there? My friend from the campaign staff! He came right up to me and gave me a hug, and we chatted for a little bit. Really nice guy. He was really very appreciative of the fact that he always sees me at Edwards events.

Anyway, so then we drove home through a lot of traffic, only finding out about the Hillary campaign hostage situation when we got to Scott's house. Like I said, strange day.

It was nice of Edwards and Obama to both come in and greet the people in the overflow room, though, so that made up for the other weirdness of the day quite a bit. Both men seem like nice people. I just prefer John's strong confrontational approach. We need someone to stand up for us. We need someone to help us tear down the wall. We need a fighter.

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