The Daily Beast website has a special section today devoted to hunger and the working poor. I have an article, based on my book reporting, in this section.
Here’s a link to an article I just posted on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free website on the first anniversary of Obama’s election to the presidency.
A link to my article on today’s Guardian website regarding the Obama administration and marijuana reform.
Truthdig has just put up a long interview with me about my book.
Just a quick note to readers. Having written three books on crime and punishment themes, I’ve moved on. My new book is titled Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger and How to Fix It. The title is somewhat self-explanatory… but I’ll explain anyway: It’s the story of modern-day poverty in America, the sort of poverty that hides behind minimum wage and near-minimum wage employment and that effects tens of millions of Americans everyday. When low wages combine with high energy prices, high healthcare costs, housing bubbles followed by housing market implosions, and decades of head-in-the-sand economic policy emanating out of DC, the result is often “food insecurity.” What that means is that many millions of people in the United States worry about where to get their next meal, how to provide adequate nutrition to their children, how to stock their empty pantries.Breadline USA tells these stories. It is part reportage-based, part the story of my own months’-long experiment with low-income living and the impoverished diet that accompanies this. Breadline USA is published by PoliPoint Press. Its official publication date is June 16th. It’s already available on Amazon. If you read this posting and are interested, please spread the word: on Twitter, FaceBook, etc. And, should you get the urge, perhaps you could go into bookstores and ask for a copy of Breadline USA.
My piece in today’s Guardian newspaper:
Last week I convinced my editors to let me write a piece on the fabled “Brokered Convention.” To
Back in the day, primaries and caucuses didn’t exist. Instead, party bigwigs gathered in smoky rooms, cut deals, gave and extracted promises… fought each other into bizarre, and lengthy, stalemates. Then, gradually the bigwigs began ceding power: from the mid-nineteenth century through the early twentieth century, ordinary party members across the country began taking more control over the candidate selection process.
By the World War One years, at the backend of a decade of Progressive-era election reform, a sort of comprehensive primary system was in place, albeit one that left tremendous power with the party bosses. Ordinary voters didn’t vote for presidential candidates; instead, they voted for delegates – and the delegates didn’t have to tell their voters upfront, and certainly didn’t have to give cast-iron guarantees, as to which candidate they’d be supporting. And, at least in some states, this is how it would remain into the 1970s.
Not surprisingly, throughout the first half of the twentieth century, stalemate was commonplace, as multiple candidates vied for supremacy. Until the onset of televised election coverage, and the rise of a competitive-because-televised primary culture, many leading candidates didn’t even bother to contend the primaries and caucuses, instead relying on unelected delegates – the Superdelegates of their era – or elected-but-uncommitted delegates to end-run the voters and hand them the nomination. In 1924, when the delegates couldn’t agree on a boss-approved man of the moment, the Democrats had to go through an amazing 102 rounds of balloting at their convention before a presidential candidate eventually emerged. Of course, given John W. Davis’s failure to capture the White House that November, one could well argue the sleepless days of head-butting and horse trading were all for naught.
The last time the GOP ended up in a convention tussle was in 1948; the Democrats followed four years later, ultimately choosing Adlai Stevenson, one of the best candidates never to be elected president, as their man. Since then, the increasingly frenzied, media-saturated, primary system has worked more efficiently to generate nominees-apparent.
Of course, there was the snafu in 1968, when police and anti-war protestors clashed outside the Democratic Party’s convention in downtown Chicago, and Chicago’s Mayor Daley was witnessed hurling anti-Semitic diatribes at Senator Abe Ribicoff, after the senator accused his police of employing Gestapo tactics on the streets outside. But that was the last time a convention produced anything more than staged speeches and smooth coronations.
So… back to last week.
After Super Tuesday, the odds seemed pretty good that the Democrats would be heading into their convention in
A week later, however, I have a new prediction to make. While it’s still possible that neither Obama nor Clinton will head into Denver with quite enough delegates to win outright, my guess is Obama will hit town with a large enough lead, say 250-to-300 delegates out of those directly elected by primary and caucus-goers, that the superdelegates will come around without a fight.
Here’s why: with his wins last week, his convincing Potomac primary victories Tuesday, and the likelihood of his winning Hawaii and Wisconsin next week, Obama will head into the March primaries with more declared delegates than Clinton and an unbeaten record nearly a month long. He’s clearly now the front-runner, and that’s a psychological shift of huge proportions. Listen to his speech in Virginia last Saturday and you’ll hear Obama has taken on the oratorical mantle of candidate-designate. He’s invoking history, claiming historical legacies – from Jefferson to Roosevelt to JFK – and he’s daring
It remains to be seen whether there’s as much political substance to Obama as there is image. But, make no mistake about it, that image is astonishingly powerful. In his ability to connect with a mass audience, to shift American culture through the force of his words and the sense of his presence, Obama is showing himself to be a combination of John Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Hillary Clinton’s good, but she’s not that good. Mano e mano, she’ll lose the PR game every time against Obama. And the longer she loses, the harder it will be for her to score those must-win landslide victories in
My prediction? After Tuesday’s wins, the nomination is Obama’s to lose. If he doesn’t screw up dramatically over the next two months, he’ll open up enough of a lead in the delegate count, and carry with him a large enough majority of the states, to make his nomination all but a formality.
Sure, in theory the superdelegates could hand the nomination to
So, no real brokered convention. Oh well… there’s always next time.
Second, while Obama’s clearly the man of the moment, Nevada’s results show that Clinton is a durable candidate. This one’s going down to the wire. And that means that both leading candidates sooner or later are going to have to start wooing Edwards and other leading national players, hoping to cast themselves as the person most capable not just of winning delegates but of building a durable campaign going into the November election.
while Obama’s clearly the man of the moment, Nevada’s results show that Clinton is a durable candidate. This one’s going down to the wire. And that means that both leading candidates sooner or later are going to have to start wooing Edwards and other leading national players, hoping to cast themselves as the person most capable not just of winning delegates but of building a durable campaign going into the November election.
Now the race is on for February 5th, when 22 states vote, including almost all of the states of the West. Indeed the idea of February 5th was initially a brainchild of Western political figures, who hoped to boost the region’s influence by creating a regional super-primary. Both parties are voting in
With California the largest prize, and with much of the West now gravitating westwards (as I’ve talked about in earlier pieces) rather than eastward or southward in the broader regional alliances the states make, the candidates’ campaigns are looking westward … even to areas which will be remarkably non-competitive in the actual November election.
That’s particularly true in Utah, the most Republican state in the union. Only 26 percent voted for Kerry in 2004, and according to Quinn Monson, assistant director of Brigham Young University’s Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, in the ultra-conservative Utah town of Provo, since 1982 Democrats have never captured the allegiance of more than 30 percent of Utah voters. In 1992, when Ross Perot was a third-party candidate, Bill Clinton came in third in
In 2008, those voters will almost certainly come out in strong numbers for any Republican candidate, though perhaps even more so if the candidate ends up being Mitt Romney, who lived in Park City, Utah – the home of the (currently underway) Sundance Film Festival – for years, and who shares the Mormon faith with his fellow Utahans.
Most observers consider
Democrats know they can’t win
While the GOP contest is a closed primary, meaning independents can’t vote, the Democratic one is open, meaning independents can. Since Obama has been polling well with independents, and has also scored well in extremely conservative enclaves, including, as I wrote last week, in eastern Nevada, which is culturally something of an outlier for Mormon Utah, that could make for a tough contest between Clinton and him; and with the national race so close even a Republican gimme-state like Utah can’t be ignored by the Democrats during primary season.
To complicate the story, Rocky Anderson generates tremendous, impassioned, loyalty from his followers. Back in July he endorsed fellow westerner Bill Richardson. Now that
Watching how Utah breaks for the Democrats won’t tell much of anything about the presidential election itself; but with every state primary election still intensely competitive, and with the possibly that a mere handful of delegates could push one or another candidate over the finishing line, even a conservative state like Utah will have a scramble for primary day votes in the coming weeks.
And that brings me to the main point of my article. Rocky
I’d like to see a candidate promise to create a cabinet-level job in D.C. to tackle global warming and start to set in place a national green energy infrastructure. Call it the Global Warming czar, akin to the cabinet-level Drug Czar position. And I’d urge that candidate to declare his or her support for
And while we’re on the subject, let’s broaden the discussion beyond
We’re a long way from November, but I’d love to see a Democratic ticket with not just strong presidential and vice-presidential candidates, but Anderson and Edwards also in the wings. That would be a slate seriously worth voting for.
So, two down, forty eight to go. Yes, primary season is a long process, and, yes, I know, many of you are already bored to death of the horserace.
Will it be Obama, will it be
If you’ve tuned out, I don’t blame you. But I would suggest there are reasons not to do so.
Frankly, the horserace isn’t what’s interesting. Of course it’s important who the parties ultimately choose to be their presidential candidates – after all, like it or not they’re running for the most powerful job on earth, and the outcome of the 2008 election will impact people around the world for years to come. But for all the prophecies and predictions, at the end of the day it’s not the ink spilled and air-time seized by pundits that determines the outcome of these races. It’s not the instant-reaction news stories and it’s certainly not the breathy commentary about who the front runner du jour now is that really matters.
For me, primary season is always interesting for the pure political theater it inspires. Yes, money too-often dominates; yes, the endless commercials and phone bank calls are nauseating, as, too often, is the saturation media coverage. But at the same time, where else on earth do political hopefuls have to put in this much raw energy over this length of time campaigning for votes in the most out-of-the-way places imaginable? Where else do so many ordinary-Joes get to meet senior political figures out begging for their individual votes? Where else do people like Mitt Romney get to spend tens of millions of their own dollars on a fool’s errand, only to be oh-so-publicly, deliciously, humiliated by their putative subjects?
I’m not going to predict winners and losers just yet, but I do think that several factors are coming together to make this election season more compelling and unpredictable than usual. First off is the extraordinarily high voter turnout in both Iowa and
I have a theory about this: the Bush years have been so awful, so embarrassing, for so many people that, like a forest fire, they’ve cleared the dead wood and created conditions for a rebirth. After a forest fire, nature flourishes; after the Bush years, my prediction is that Americans, in reaction, will be less cavalier about their politics, more willing to get engaged in civic processes.
Tied in with this is the language being spoken by all the leading Democratic candidates. As I’ve argued in earlier columns, when even a politician as instinctually middle-of-the-road as Hillary Clinton starts talking the talk of populism and embracing the need for top-to-bottom change, then you know there’s a new political moment emerging. Listen to Obama and Edwards, and you’ll hear some of the most progressive ideas to exit the mouths of senior American politicians in at least a generation. Sure, there’s still sound-bite politics going on, but the sheer caliber, and intensity, of the policy debates is magnitudes higher than it’s been in years. It’s easy to throw mud at American politics, but mudslinging aside there are some fine ideas being bandied about this election season.
In fact, Obama’s victory speech in Iowa and his concession speech in New Hampshire both embraced a language of change and of hope that is so different from the language of the Bush years, and from that of most of the Republican candidates, as to be almost jarring. It’s like listening to Beethoven after overdosing on Kylie Minogue.
Or, to come back to the world of politics, in the calls to action being heard, in the demand for a constructive politics based around hope rather than fear, and in the willingness to use the tools of government to fashion a new social compact (one that, for example, guarantees access to health care for all Americans), we’re seeing a revival of the best strand of American liberalism.
After Herbert Hoover and the onset of the Great Depression,
I’ve no idea if that will happen; but it’s certainly a dream worth clinging to through primary season.
A piece I just wrote for the Guardian newspaper’s comments is free section:
Webster’s dictionary defines “inanity” as a combination of vapidness and pointlessness, as something lacking in substance. Add an “s” into the mix, and the dictionary defines “insanity” as either a deranged state of mind, unsoundness of mind, a lack of mental capacity, or extreme folly or unreasonableness.
For the past day, I’ve been trying to work out how to interpret the Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to refuse to grant
For the past forty years,
In recent years,
For close to three years now, an increasing number of states have joined
So what happened? In mid-December, Congress finally got around to raising national fuel efficiency standards for the first time in over 30 years – calling for average fuel efficiency, spread across the passenger vehicle fleet as a whole, to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020. A few days later, the Bush administration, which only recently even acknowledged the realities of global warming, denied
Is this simply vapid and pointless – in other words inane – or is there a level of extreme folly and unreasonableness rising to the level of insanity?
Well… let’s look at this: an administration that, in theory, is philosophically committed to “states’ rights,” to rolling back big government, has put a kibosh on one of the most important state laws to emerge in decades. A president who has belatedly recognized
This has got to be a PR-miscalculation on a par with… oh, I don’t know, let’s say declaring
In a way, the EPA’s bizarre decision has done the impossible. During a period of intense partisan bickering in
Inane or insane? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.