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16 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:25 pm

A Suggestion for John McCain


From official photo (cropped)

If John McCain wants people to take him seriously on the economy, if he wants them to forget that he owns seven homes and has a net worth in the tens of the millions, he might want to leave Cindy McCain at home.

It’s pretty hard for people to listen to your promise to make things better when the Queen of the American Express Black Card is sitting next to you wearing an outfit that cost more than most of your audience makes in a month. . . .

Images via Wikipedia

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9 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
06:55 pm

Meghan McCain Knows More about National Security than You Do


Or anyone else for that matter:

“No one knows what war is like other than my family. Period.”

I’m glad we got that cleared up.  I know that if I were a soldier or a member of a military family, I would want a pampered little princess telling me that I don’t know what war is like.

Last time we checked in with Meghan, she and her (paid-to-be-her) friends were having fun joking around with Henry Kissinger and pretending to be actual working people.  Those wacky kidders!

Since that was quite a while ago, I thought I’d stop by and see what America’s favorite beer heiress has been up to lately. So I went back and checked her blog.

The sacrifices I make for you people.

Turns out there was some kind of convention or something in St. Paul last week.  Who knew?  Here are a few of the photos that Meghan’s “friend” (if “friend” is defined as a full-time professional photographer that either the campaign or mommy has hired to follow Meghan around) took for her, along with the captions Meghan wrote for each photo.

Meghan:  “I want a ‘WE LOVE CINDY’ sign!

…because it’s the only way she can get Mom’s attention?

Meghan:  “McCain-Palin water bottles!”

. . .because Republicans have not done enough to trash the environment!

Meghan:  “During Dad’s intro video, there was a baby picture of me on the huge screen.”

. . .because Republicans NEVER exploit their children for political purposes!

Meghan:  “More Kissinger!”

. . .because all the other Republican war criminals were either in Washington or sent overseas.

Okay, hang on a second.  Kissinger in a cowboy hat?  WTF?  That’s almost as strange as a pitbull wearing lipstick.  And what is up with Meghan’s odd obsession with Kissinger?  This is the third or fourth post I’ve read where I wanted to scratch my eyes out with a dull spoon she had photos of Special-K.

Meghan:  “This baby’s outfit is so cute.”

. . .because I swear to God that we Republicans will never ever ever. . .well, hardly ever. . .ruthlessly exploit children for political imagery.

Meghan:  “Babies always bring a smile to mom’s face.”

. . .except after Botox sessions.  And how many times do I have to say it??? Republicans absolutely DO NOT EVER exploit children for political purposes except when we want to.

You can almost read Cindy’s mind here:  Trig, you’re worth at least a million votes to us, kid.

Meghan:  “Mom looks fabulous!”

. . .because it’s not every day that you can put together a $300,000 outfit to talk about helping poor people in New Orleans.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  I now understand why John McCain hates the bloggers.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:00 pm

Live Blogging Cindy Lou McWho


9:38   This just doesn’t sound genuine to me.

9:39  Get the federal government under control and out of our way.  Except of course, for all that disaster relief you were just talking about.

9:40  “The hand we feel on our shoulder belongs to Abraham Lincoln.”  Yeah, Cindy, he’s trying to show you the door.

9:41  Crowd is hushed.  Lack of interest or rapt attention?  Hard to tell.

9:41  I’m sorry but she is is so reading.

9:42  Looks like she’s still wearing the same pearls from Monday night, but I think the $200,000 earrings are AWOL.

9:42  What kind of father would a man be?  Ask the kids from his first marriage.

9:43  John McCain is a steadfast man who will not break with our heritage.  That sure sounds like code to me.  As in the other, uppity guy will.

9:44 I just realized who she reminds me of — those upper-class elitist sorority cheerleaders from Animal House.  Oh, and Everclear’s “Volvo Driving Soccer Mom.” And if you think about it, she married Senator Blutarski!

9:45  Sarah Palin in da mansion house!

9:46  Your husband is quiet about his service?  I will grant you he was a hero, but quiet?  Have you listened to the other speakers?  Did you not read the advance text of his speech?

9:47  Wait a second.  McCain told Time last week that “we don’t discuss our sons’ service.”  Whoopsie!

9:48  For Cindy McCain:  “The American Dream” is a black American Express Card and $200,000 earrings.

9:49  Look left, read three lines.  Look center, read three lines.  Look right, read three lines.  Look center, read three lines.  Repeat until comatose.

9:50  Do you realize, Cindy, that the same people who smeared Bridget as “John McCain’s illegitimate black baby” are now running your husband’s campaign?

9:52  Props for the token Rwandan refugee, but “In my box tonight?”  You have a box?

9:52  Cindy is using this poor woman.  Using her.  It’s as cynical as Sarah Palin’s exploitation of her children.

9:53  I think there’s a good reason that Cindy McCain’s speech is taking place outside the prime time hour.  The McCain campaign better hope that this speech.

9:55  Four words:  local station morning host.

I know I’m being pretty harsh on her, but that was not a help to McCain’s campaign.  It was elitist, upper class, and incredibly condescending.  I don’t see that helping the McCain campaign.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:37 pm

Cindy Lou Who (The Motion Picture)


The Cindy McCain video may be the most nauseating pile of horse crap that I’ve ever seen.  And WTF was up with the angelic choir?

Oh, by the way.  That wonderful father?  HE WAS A FELON.

Oh, by the way.  That handsome Captain John McCain?  HE WAS MARRIED.

And she camped in the Kuwait desert for FIVE WHOLE DAYS.

Oh, by the way.  Her outfit on Monday night cost THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

Sorry for the caps, but I’m screaming at the screen right now.

One last thing:  has anyone else noticed that her video has a longer run time than Sarah Palin?

Molly just made the point that this is so over-the-top it’s going to backfire.

Notice there are no hand-made signs for Cindy.  Heh.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
08:15 pm

Elitism Watch


Don’t you just hate wealthy elitist snobs who think they’re better than small town folk?

I hope Sarah Palin opens up a can of whoop-ass on them.

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4 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
03:38 pm

Hurricane Cindy and the RNC’s Potemkin Gustav Relief


On Monday, I had this to say about the the Cindy and Laura show, a.k.a. the Republicans’ hurricane Gustav relief efforts:

Cindy McCain look like, uh. . . .  Well.  Hmmmm.

How do I put this?

She looks like she spent more money on her dress, pearls, make-up, manicure, and hair than the Republicans will raise on behalf of Hurricane Gustav victims.

Turns out I was more right than I thought:

Yes, something from Arizona was certainly shining at the convention, but it wasn’t the sun. It was Cindy McCain’s citrine dress from Monday night. And her three-carat diamond earrings. Oh, and don’t forget the Chanel J12 white ceraminc watch.

Cindy’s dress, designed by Oscar de la Renta, cost $3,000, and the watch, another $4,500. Her four strand pearl necklace cost between $11,000 and $25,000, and her shoes set her back $600. But the real whoppers were the earrings, priced at $280,000, putting the total cost of the outfit beteween $299,100 and $313,000.

Here’s the only press report I could find about the RNC’s hurricane relief campaign.  Just so you know, it’s from Fox:

As Gustav pummels the Gulf Coast, several delegates are missing the breezy, beautiful weather locally to man the phones at a telethon effort set up at the downtown Hilton in Minneapolis. About 150 red phones were set up in the ballroom and Cindy McCain not only helped make the calls, she and husband John McCain donated $25,000 dollars to relief efforts. In all, 90 delegates, volunteers, campaign staff and others in the Twin Cities for the convention were helping out at the telethon.

The telethon opened at 2 p.m. ET and had raised $1.165 million by 3 p.m. ET. One donation was in the form of $1 million, but officials would not release the identity of the donor.

If the $1 million pledge actually comes through, then the Republicans did a worthwhile thing (more on that in a second).  But if it didn’t, that means that they raised $165,000, or $140,000 if you don’t count the McCains’ contributions — or about half of what Cindy’s outfit cost.

But even if the $1 million pledge comes through — and even if the RNC/McCain campaign managed to raise more money than this report indicates, there is still one little fact that isn’t going anywhere:  Cindy McCain spent between twelve and fifteen times as much on her outfit as she and her husband donated to Hurricane Gustav relief efforts.

And they have the huevos to call Democrats elitist?  As Vanity Fair put it, “Wow! No wonder McCain has so many houses: his wife has the price of a Scottsdale split-level hanging from her ears.”

A couple of questions for the McCain campaign:

1.  How much did your relief efforts raise?

2.  Did your campaign donate the time, website server costs, and other associated expenses?  If so, can you account for it?  How do you plan to report these expenses to the FEC?

3.  Were the relief efforts run out of St. Paul separate from or part of the phone banks set up by the AidMatrix Foundation?  If separate, how did you arrange for these funds to get to relief organizations?

4.  Both FEC and IRS non-profit reporting rules require the identification of donors, particularly large donors.  Why are you not identifying the donor who made the $1 million pledge?

5.  How much did Cindy’s outfit really cost?

This whole McCain/RNC Gustav relief operation looks more and more unreal.  Not illegal, mind you, but suspiciously like a Potemkin Village.  Earlier this week, I raised other questions about the McCain relief effort, focusing on the relationship between he McCain campaign, the Bush Administration/FEMA, and AidMatrix, the charity that supposedly is managing the money (and which received a big FEMA contract in 2006):

Aidmatrix may be an entirely legitimate organization, but there’s a real lack of transparency regarding how they got the FEMA contract and how they got involved in the McCain campaign.

To learn the truth, Aidmatrix, FEMA, and the Bush Administration need to answer some questions:

1.  How did Aidmatrix get its FEMA grant?  Was it sole-sourced or competed?  How much is it for?  What percentage of Aidmatrix’s budget comes from the FEMA grant?

2.  If [Aidmatrix's] main focus is logistics — using “advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need” — what are they doing managing donations for the McCain website?  And where will these donations go after they receive them?

3.  Did Aidmatrix get the hurricane relief gig because of [Aidmatrix CEO, McCain supporter and former Wisconsin Governor Scott] McCallum’s connections with the McCain campaign?

4.  If not, why did McCain choose Aidmatrix instead of better-known and more established non-partisan humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross?

5.  Did AIdmatrix inform and/or clear its involvement in the McCain campaign with FEMA or other U.S. government officials?

To see the full post, go here.

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2 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:28 pm

RNC: Unconscious Sexism


Via Marc Ambinder, here’s a photo the McCain campaign is shopping around today:

Okaaaay.

Is it me, but shouldn’t this be either

a) a picture of Todd Palin, Laura Bush, and Cindy McCain, or

b) a picture of Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and John McCain?

And the Republicans are saying that Democrats are sexist?  And that Sarah Palin should be taken seriously?

They’re kinda sorta just maybe almost definitely undermining their own case here.

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2 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:41 pm

RNC: Are the Gustav Relief Efforts Legitimate?


Last night, I watched Laura Bush and Cindy McCain tell delegates at the Republican National Convention that they should take immediate action to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav.

Certainly helping those in distress is something worth encouraging and celebrating.  But how exactly are the Republicans getting the funds they raise to those in need?

You might guess the Red Cross.  But you’d be wrong.

During their presentations, Laura and Cindy encouraged people to go to the website of something called called “Cause Greater.”  I had never heard of this particular charity, so I visited their website.  Here’s a screenshot:

“Cause Greater” is not a charity, but rather a wholly owned subsidiary of the McCain campaign. Rather than directing assistance to existing charities (which is what the Obama campaign has done by encouraging people to donate to the Red Cross and/or Save the Children), they are instead directing charitable donors to a campaign portal that also happens to include a link to the McCain home page.

Wait — it gets even better.

If you look closely at the screenshot, you’ll notice that Cause Greater redirects donors to six sites,  Four link to state-sponsored disaster relief funds.  One links to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a community foundation that has established a Gustav relief fund.  None of those are particularly controversial.

The sixth is something called the Aidmatrix Foundation, which is listed both as a charity working in Louisiana and the place to call if someone wants donate by phone.

Here’s what their website has to say:

Aidmatrix is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit headquartered in Dallas, Texas, USA, with offices in Germany and India. The Aidmatrix Foundation, Inc. builds and operates powerful technology hubs that support diverse stakeholder groups in their efforts to work together to solve the world’s most challenging humanitarian crises. More than 35,000 leading corporate, nonprofit and government partners leverage our solutions to mobilize more than $1.5 billion in aid annually, worldwide. The donated goods, money and services impact the lives of more than 65 million people.

That didn’t really clear things up for me, so I went to Wikipedia:

The Aidmatrix Foundation, Inc., (Aidmatrix) is a U.S.-based nonprofit 501 (c) (3). It is a supply-chain software developer for nonprofits and those involved in the supply chain of humanitarian relief (disaster relief, medical relief, and hunger relief.) It is headquartered in Dallas. . . .

In 2006, Aidmatrix secured a major cooperative agreement grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to build a national Internet-based network for humanitarian aid. Known as The Aidmatrix Network®, the project was to create a virtual exchange or marketplace that would connect the state and local governments with donors and nonprofits. It focused on in-kind donations management, cash donations management, and volunteer management.

That’s a little clearer, but the problem is that Wikipedia’s editors have posted a warning that this page “appears to be an advertisement,” which means it probably was written by Aidmatrix itself.

But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment.  Aidmatrix uses techology to provide supply-chain logistics support for NGOs working on humanitarian relief and crisis response.  Its website includes statements of support by some well-known NGOs.  Its main donors are the Accenture Foundation and UPS.  It also gets a big chunk of money from FEMA, but it’s not clear how much.  It does not, like many NGOs, have its IRS form 990 available on its website — if it did, we could answer a lot of these questions.

What’s not clear is whether Aidmatrix won the FEMA grant through a competition or if it was yet another sole-source award, which has been the rule rather than the exception with homeland security and defense contracts awarded during the Bush Administration.

Now let’s take a look at their executive leadership.  Their President and CEO is Scott McCallum, who served as (Republican) Governor of Wisconsin from February 2001, when he succeeded Tommy Thompson (after Thompson resigned to become Secretary of Health and Human Services) to January 2003, when he was succeeded by Jim Doyle (who defeated McCallum in November 2002).  Before he became governor, McCallum was lieutenant governor for fourteen years and before that, was a state senator.

Here’s what Aidmatrix’s website says about McCallum:

Governor Scott McCallum has more than 30 years of executive experience leading cross-functional divisions including operations planning, supply management, media and public relations, marketing and development, government relations and strategic partnerships. He served as Wisconsin Governor, with a career spanning more than a decade in public service office. . . .

McCallum acts as President and CEO of the Aidmatrix Foundation, a nonprofit that uses advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need.  As CEO, he has grown the Aidmatrix Foundation to globally transact $1.5 billion annually with operations in six continents to 35,000 nonprofits. The work ranges from distribution of medical products for U.S. Free Clinics and international Non-Government Organizations (NGO) to program partnerships with global organizations like International Red Cross and the World Food Programme.  Most charitable food in the United States goes through Aidmatrix technologies for contribution and distribution. The Aidmatrix bundle of solution systems was recently designated as “the Network” to be used in preparedness for American disaster relief, with endorsements from federal branches and inter-state coalitions.

It’s not clear when McCallum became Aidmatrix’s CEO, but it’s fair to speculate that it was before FEMA awarded it the contract.  An April 2004 press release from the Discovery Institute announcing his appointment as a Senior Fellow says that McCallum is head of the McCallum group and does not mention Aidmatrix.

And yes, you did read that right:  McCallum is a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which is best known for its promotion of intelligent design.  But they also take conservative positions on other public policy issues.  As far as I can tell, the one op-ed McCallum published (on November 16, 2004) under Discovery’s imprimatur focuses on the issue of voter identification, which Democrats have argued is code for voter supression.  In the op-ed, McCallum suggests that there were questions about whether John Kerry “really carried Wisconsin,” and argues that a system requiring photo identification for voting would prevent fraud.

In the end, however, a CEO’s political or religious beliefs don’t matter as long as they don’t affect corporate policy and the person in question is a good manager.  When it comes to Aidmatrix, we don’t know whether those things are true, but there’s no evidence of Aidmatrix advocating the positions put forward by the Discovery Institute.

There is, however, have evidence of McCallum’s management skills during his tenure as governor of Wisconsin:

A big shake-up has occurred in the Wisconsin governor’s office, and that may not be all. The governor, Scott McCallum, a Republican, has been getting a lot of criticism recently for proposing to erase the state’s $1.1 billion deficit by ending aid to local governments.

His management style has also been criticized. Disgruntled supporters say he is short on people skills, slow to cultivate important allies and slower still to respond to requests and calls from constituents.

A poll released a few weeks ago found that 40 percent of Wisconsin residents viewed Mr. McCallum unfavorably and that he might be defeated by any of four Democrats eager to take him on in November.

Little wonder, then, that in recent days Mr. McCallum began firing and hiring, starting with the chief of staff and working down. His spokesman, Tim Roby, explained, ”When you get to the point of people telling you that you’re not the right one for the job of governor of Wisconsin, you get concerned.”

So if he wasn’t a good manager while Governor of Wisconsin, how did McCallum get named to lead an organization that claims to manage more than $1.5 billion in “global transactions”?  What did he bring to the table that made him appealing to Aidmatrix?  And how did McCallum, a lifelong resident of Wisconsin, come to head an organization based in Dallas, where he has no history and no known connections.  Except, of course, this guy.

One other little tidbit:  On February 14, 2008, the McCain campaign announced the formation of its Wisconsin Steering Committee.  Scott McCallum is the first name on the list, ahead of his former boss (and the much more prominent) Tommy Thompson.

Aidmatrix may be an entirely legitimate organization, but there’s a real lack of transparency regarding how they got the FEMA contract and how they got involved in the McCain campaign.

To learn the truth, Aidmatrix, FEMA, and the Bush Administration need to answer some questions:

1.  How did Aidmatrix get its FEMA grant?  Was it sole-sourced or competed?  How much is it for?  What percentage of Aidmatrix’s budget comes from the FEMA grant?

2.  If their main focus is logistics — using “advanced information technology to create efficiencies between donors and those in need” — what are they doing managing donations for the McCain website?  And where will these donations go after they receive them?

3.  Did Aidmatrix get the hurricane relief gig because of McCallum’s connections with the McCain campaign?

4.  If not, why did McCain choose Aidmatrix instead of better-known and more established non-partisan humanitarian relief organizations such as the Red Cross?

5.  Did AIdmatrix inform and/or clear its involvement in the McCain campaign with FEMA or other U.S. government officials?

Josh Marshall, white courtesy phone, please.

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2 September 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:45 am

Laura and Cindy, Burning down the House in St. Paul


America’s new fun couple:

Or maybe not.

Laura Bush looks like she’d rather be under house arrest in Burma.

Cindy McCain look like, uh. . . .  Well.  Hmmmm.

How do I put this?

She looks like she spent more money on her dress, pearls, make-up, manicure, and hair than the Republicans will raise on behalf of Hurricane Gustav victims.

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26 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
09:02 pm

McCain: He Works Hard for the Money. . . .


. . . .So hard for it honey.

Today, Mitt Romney said that John McCain got his seven homes as a result of hard work.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

No, really.

Speaking to reporters at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Romney said that while McCain deserved his houses because of the “hard work” of himself and his family, “Barack Obama got a special deal from a convicted felon.”

“I think it was a strange thing for Barack Obama to seize upon,” Romney said. “If homes is going to be the topic of discussion that Barack Obama is going to end up on the short end of that one.”

He said “short list.” I think that’s Mittspeak for “Oh please please please puhleeeze Mr. McCain.  I’ll be a good little veep.  I’m sooooo sorry I said all those mean things about you.”

Actually, Mittens is telling the truth.   It’s hard work to sleep around on your disabled first wife until you find a hot young heiress.  And it was before Viagra, even.  Now that’s stamina!

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25 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
07:37 pm

Georgia and (Cindy) McCain: No Presumption Here


Cindy McCain is heading to the Republic of Georgia.  Right in the middle of the Democratic National Convention.  And right before Dick Cheney heads there.  But it’s all a coincidence.

Her aides say that the timing of the trip, during the Democrats’ convention in Denver, was never a consideration. But that doesn’t mean they’re ignoring the subtext: “She’s on the phone with the World Food Program, he’s on the phone with Sakaashvili,” McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace told me. “It’s like this great picture of what they’ll be like in the White House.” [Link added.]

So who’s presumptuous now?  Sheesh.

Oh wait.  He’s a POW.  And she’s the daughter of a robber baron wife of a POW.  I guess I can’t ask.

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25 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
05:55 pm

The McCains’ Servants: Doing the Math (Again)


I already wrote about this last Friday, but in the sturm und drang surrounding Estategate and VPalooza, I think it got lost.  So I’m going to mention it again.  Apologies to those of you who already read this.

Last Thursday, Politico ran a follow-on story to their “how many houses” scoop, which among other things noted that

The McCains increased their budget for household employees from $184,000 in 2006 to $273,000 in 2007, according to John McCain’s tax returns.

Quite a few bloggers picked up on this, mocking the McCains for spending so much on servants.

But as far as I’m concerned, for people who own ten houses, not to mention other assets, the reality is that $273,000 sounds low, not high.  In fact, if we assume one employee per property, the average sum paid each staff member would put them at or just below the poverty line for a family of four.

In fairness, that may not be accurate.  The McCains may have only two employees, each of whom is being paid over $100,000/year.  Maybe.  But until we know how many “household employees” the McCains have, we won’t know the facts.

So here are some questions the media need to ask John McCain:

  1. How many servants “household employees” do you have?
  2. How much do you pay them?
  3. Do you provide health benefits?
  4. Do you provide a pension plan?

Today I’ll add a fifth:

Are you in compliance with federal laws requiring you to document the U.S. citizenship/green card status of all employees?

That last one just might cause him to blow a gasket.  Come on Lou “Espousing Economic Populism Means I Can Lunch Daily at the Four Seasons” Dobbs, I dare you.

You can find the full post after the  jump.  I think all of it is still relevant.

Read the rest of this entry »

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25 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
02:45 pm

McCain and Couric: More Here Than Just the POW Card


Let’s revisit for a moment McCain’s interview with Katie Couric:

The progosphere has focused on McCain bringing up his POW experience (again).That’s understandable, but there are a couple of other themes here that are worth investigating further.

1.  McCain repeatedly says that he is “blessed” to be so rich — in fact he says it three times.  Here’s the last one:

I am blessed to have the opportunity to be part of a country where you can succeed and do well.

That’s straight out of the “prosperity gospel” concept so popular among evangelicals, particularly mega-church pastors like Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes.  So when McCain talks this way, he’s sending a coded message to the evangelical base:  “I am what you want to become.”  Or to put it another way, “I am the wealth we have been waiting for.”

2.  McCain’s answer is almost entirely devoted to a feint:  discussing not his own wealth (or to be more specific, Cindy’s wealth), but talking about how hard his [late] father-in-law, Jim Hensley, worked to “realize. . .the American dream” after returning from WWII.  This also is code, this time to older voters, particularly those of the “Greatest Generation” who already trend towards McCain, that he understands them better than Obama.

3.  McCain may have made a mistake in raising Hensley:  it’s an open invitation for someone to go back and look at how Hensley made his fortune, which according to at least one account, was not exactly what could be called “a role model for many young Americans.”  In fact, like it or not, McCain’s father-in-law was a convicted felon:

In 1948, while working for the Marley operation in Tucson, Mr. Hensley and his brother, Eugene, were convicted of filing false liquor records and conspiracy in the illegal distribution of several hundred cases of whiskey. James Hensley received a suspended sentence and Eugene was sentenced to a year in a federal prison camp. Five years later, James Hensley and Mr. Marley were charged with violating federal liquor laws again, but they were acquitted.

4.  Listen to the answer one more time.  Here’s what he has to say:

We spend our time primarily in Washington, DC, where I have a condominium in Crystal City; here in this beautiful Sedona that I’m blessed every moment I can spend here; our condominium in Phoenix, Arizona; and a place over in San Diego. The others are also for investment purposes.

McCain is admitting that he has four “primary” residences.  Four!  And that, in his mind, is more than enough of an answer.

That’s even more out-of-touch than not knowing how many houses you own.

So come on, fellow bloggers (and mainstream media), move beyond the POW card.  You could say that there’s a wealth of riches here.

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25 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
12:45 pm

POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW POW! Did I mention that I was a POW?


Last week, I predicted that this election would become a contest of which house Americans most associated John McCain with:

So which meme will the voters choose?  John McCain as rich out-of-touch white guy?  That is what Barack Obama wants you to think.  Or John McCain as heroic former POW?  That is what McCain wants you to think.

The reality, of course, is that both are true.

But only one is relevant:  no matter how great McCain’s heroism, the key question to most Americans is not whether he survived torture but whether he can make their lives better.  To put it another way, heroism can make someone more admired, but extreme wealth can make them less liked.

Sure enough, later that day, the McCain campaign started beating the Hanoi Hilton drum.  Now we have this:

And this:

First Read quotes unnamed McCain aides suggesting that McCain’s prisoner of war experience may become his first response to the attack on his having lost track of his real estate holdings — a non-sequitur, perhaps, but emotionally powerful.

They will be prepared to show McCain’s “home” in Hanoi by using images of his cell. They claim they have not overused the POW element and insist they have “underused it.”

And sure enough, McCain goes there on CBS: “I spent some years without a kitchen table, without a chair, and I know what it’s like to be blessed by the opportunities of this great nation,” he says in response to a question about his houses.

I knew that this would be an issue, but who knew it would be this pervasive?  Here’s my favorite response to this so far, via Down with Tyranny:

Heh.

| posted in foreign policy, media, politics, pop culture | 1 Comment

22 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
04:13 pm

McTV Cribs: Missing the Point on Employees


A lot of bloggers and pundits have been obsessing over the following passage from yesterday’s story in The Politico:

The McCains increased their budget for household employees from $184,000 in 2006 to $273,000 in 2007, according to John McCain’s tax returns.

I understand the reason why people are talking about this — rich people paying servants is not a good image.

But there’s a bigger point here:  how many people are covered by this sum?  Because rich people paying servants poorly is an even worse image.

Let’s do the math here.  Or at least what I think the math might be.

To comply with federal law, McCain, Inc. has to pay both state and federal employment and insurance taxes.  I’m guessing they also provide health insurance.  Not so sure about a retirement plan, but for now, let’s say the answer is no.

Even without retirement, taxes and benefits are still a significant chunk of change.  For the moment, let’s assume that they are equal to about 25 percent of each employee’s total compensation (wages + taxes + benefits).

Okay.  We know they have at least eight homes.  For argument’s sake, let’s say that three of these are rental properties or otherwise not used by the family.  That leaves five homes.  I’m guessing that you can assume a maid or cook at each.  So that’s at least five employees.

Two of the five places are condos, but the other three are homes (I think).  So let’s assume a gardner/lawn care person for each.  That’s now eight employees.  But the Arizona estate probably takes more than one person to care for the lawn.  That’s nine.  And let’s assume that at their main residence, there’s both a maid and a cook.  That’s ten.

So I think I’m being fairly conservative in guesstimating that the McCains have ten household employees.

Now let’s look at that number again:  $273,000.

$273,000/10 = an average of $27,300 per employee.  But that doesn’t take into consideration the cost of taxes and benefits, which we’ve assumed are 25 percent of each employee’s total compensation.  So…

$27,300 x .25 = $6,875

$27,300 - $6,875 = $20,475

According to Wikipedia, the poverty threshold for a four-person family in the continental United States is $21,200.

And last I checked, $20,475 is less than $21,200.**

And that, friends, is pocket change we can believe in.

So I have some follow-up questions for Senator McCain:

  1. How many servants household employees do you have?
  2. How much do you pay them?
  3. Do you provide health benefits?
  4. Do you provide a pension plan?

Oh wait.  He’s a POW.  I guess we won’t get to find out.

**Please check (and challenge) my numbers.  I’m neither a math wiz nor an economist.

| posted in media, politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

21 August 2008 Charles J. Brown
10:38 pm

McTV Cribs: Politco Uncovers More


When I was in graduate school, two of my friends and I lived in an apartment known as Chateau Villa.  Or as we called it, House House.

If McCain had lived there, it would have been House House House House House House House House.

Anyway, I think the McCain people are panicking.  So far today, I’ve seen

one,

two,

three (referring to Obama’s home as “a frickin’ mansion”)

separate statements from spokesdroid Brian Rogers.  And as I predicted here, the McCain campaign already is playing the POW card:

“This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison,” referring to the prisoner of war camp that McCain was in during the Vietnam War.

And it’s not over yet — here’s the latest from Politico:

John McCain’s family owns at least eight properties — not the seven Democrats are alleging or the four McCain’s staff identified — according to a Politico analysis of property and tax records, as well as interviews.

The presumptive Republican nominee, though, may have some wiggle room in explaining why he couldn’t immediately provide an answer when asked by Politico how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own. Sen. McCain himself does not own any of the properties. They’re all owned by Cindy McCain, her dependent children and the trusts and companies they control.

Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, did not question Politico’s analysis, but said his boss’s bungling of the how-many-homes question is a nonissue.  “Voters care a lot more about candidates’ personal ethics than about how many houses or residences or doghouses that John and Cindy McCain own,” he said.

Whoopsie!  I think that’s statement number four.  Not that they’re worried or anything.

I wouldn’t want to be in Mr. Rogers’ shoes right now.  He’s beginning to sound like Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House, screaming “everyone stay calm!!!” over and over again, getting more and more hysterical in the process.

One common theme in this tidal wave of Rogersian retorts is Tony Rezko:

[Rogers] questioned efforts by McCain’s Democratic rival, Barack Obama, to exploit the issue, given that Obama benefited from a 2005 land deal with the wife of convicted Chicago businessman — and former Obama fundraiser — Tony Rezko that expanded the Obama family’s newly purchased $1.65 million homestead.  “The reality is that Barack Obama purchased his million-dollar mansion in a shady deal involving a convicted felon, and it raises questions about his ethics and judgment,” said Rogers.

The problem for the McCain campaign is that the Rezko issue is old news, having pretty much played out during the primary.  Sure, their lickspittle surrogates Fox News, Washington Times, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk will go along with their messaging, but I have my doubts that the MSM will buy the ethics ploy.

Furthermore, do they really want to open that door?  Are they sure there are no skeletons in the one of the many closets now owned by the McCains?  Are they absoutely positive that Cindy’s family never did anything unethical?  I’m not suggesting that they did do anything wrong.  But playing the ethics card is basically a dare to the media to “bring it on.”

And sooner or later, the rich girl quotes from Cindy are going to start to do damage.  Take this one, for example:

When I bought the first [condo in Coronado, outside San Diego], my husband, who is not a beach person, said, ‘Oh this is such a waste of money; the kids will never go,’” she said in Vogue. “Then it got to the point where they used it so much I couldn’t get in the place. So I bought another one.”

Oh Cindy, you wacky wacky spoiled princess, you.  Such a kidder!

I loved Hilzoy’s take on this today:

Just the other day I asked myself: self, how many pens do you have? And honestly, I just couldn’t remember. Did I or did I not put a ballpoint from the Karachi Sheraton in my briefcase by mistake? And what about the one that sort of exploded the other day while I was checking my phone messages: did I actually throw it away? And the one I bought in a moment of folly back in the 80s, the one with the sparkly green ink that has completely dried up because I never actually used it: is it still lurking somewhere in my office?

That’s how the super-rich think of real estate:  interchangeable objects to be used and then discarded.  At least that’s what I said to Molly while we were driving to our chalet in the Adirondacks last week.  Or was it the week before, when we were visiting our beach house in Tahiti?

I can never keep those damn houses straight.

If the number of McCain mansions keeps growing, Mr. Rogers is going to have to find a different neighborhood, one that doesn include increasingly monotonous attacks on Obama’s character.

| posted in politics, pop culture | 0 Comments

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