Obama Approaching 500k Donations... BINGO!

Well the last day for Q3 contributions will soon be upon us and the Obama campaign has set the ambitious target of 500k individual donations and 350k unique contributors.  Though we have come to expect amazing fund-raising results for Obama's campaign these figures are once again historic targets.

As of 7:39PM EDT the figures stand as:

347,958 of 350,000 donors
496,655 of 500,000 donations

Having watched these figures ticking over surprisingly quickly the last few critical days my apprehension that his goal could not be reached has given way to a hopeful anticipation.  Those who like to claim that Obama's campaign has lost momentum, purpose or relevance might once again have to work pretty hard to explain away his unprecedented and broadly based support.

[Update] One hour later

As of 8:39PM EDT the figures stand as:

348,413 of 350,000 donors
497,752 of 500,000 donations

That's 455 new donors and 1097 new contributions in ONE HOUR. Wow!

[Update] Another two hours later

As of 10:39PM EDT the figures stand as:

349,216 of 350,000 donors
498,647 of 500,000 donations

That's steady rate of more than 400 new donors and 600 new contributions per hour. Ten per minute, one every six seconds. And I thought this was going to be a close run thing but it definitely looks like he is going to make it.

[Update] Around 3:00AM

As of 3:21AM EDT the figures stand as:

350,055 of 350,000 donors
500,029 of 500,000 donations

CONGRATULATIONS to all of you who donated, canvassed, blogged or talked to your neighbour or workmate for Obama. You are making history!

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Another Hillary Endorsement?

In a very interesting assessment of the 2008 election in some 'off-the-record' remarks recently reported in the national media Bush made some observations on the war, the succession and specific candidates in the Democratic primary contest.  As you may be aware the President occasionally lunches with noted media personalities and while his remarks are not directly attributable he uses the opportunity to get some of his weirder messages across.  I was very surprised to read this account in the Washington Post (emphasis added):

At an off-the-record lunch a week ago, Bush expressed admiration for her tenacity in the campaign. And he left some in the room with the impression that he thinks she will win the election and has been thinking about how to turn over the country to her.


Bush made no explicit election predictions, according to some in the room, but clearly thought Clinton would win the Democratic nomination and talked in a way that seemed to suggest he expects her to succeed him - and will continue his Iraq policy if she does.


"He had kind of a striking analogy," Stephanopoulos said of Bush on air a few hours after the lunch. "He believes that whoever replaces him, like General Eisenhower when he replaced Harry Truman, may criticize the president's policy during the campaign, but will likely continue much of it in office."


According to people in the room, he said Clinton was formidable and will raise a lot of money. He seemed particularly impressed that she has held up so well under the enormous pressure of the campaign trail, noting that running for national office is extremely hard. Just as he had the advantage of having seen it up close during his father's four national campaigns, he noted that Clinton benefits from being on the frontlines of her husband's two presidential elections. Bush added that Sen. Barack Obama was impressive in his own way but the president seemed dubious the freshman senator could win given his inexperience in high office and national campaigning.

Peter Baker - 'The Trail' Washington Post 21 Sep 07

I was startled to note that Bush didn't seem to mind acknowledging that a Democrat might win the general election, and seemed to imply it would be Hillary.  What's going on here?  Is this a Rovian reverse psychology manoeuvre or is there an outside chance Bush is sincere?  Is he really looking for a bi-partisan continuation or resolution of his Iraq war strategy or is this intended to harm Hillary's chances with the Democratic base?

He certainly seems to argee with Hillary's assessment of Senator Barack Obama's inexperience.  Is this yet another ploy?  Personally I believe that an Obama nomination and a populist bi-partisan campaign against them is the Republican party's worst nightmare.  Your comments and any insight on this most curious development welcomed.

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Hsu Charged With Campaign Funding Fraud

Well, the other shoe has dropped in the Norman Hsu case according to the AP this morning:

NEW YORK (AP) -- Federal prosecutors unsealed a criminal complaint Thursday charging Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu with breaking campaign finance laws and creating a "massive" Ponzi scheme.

The complaint says Hsu - who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton and others - violated campaign finance laws by making contributions to candidates in other people's names and perpetrated a Ponzi scheme to defraud victims across the United States of more than $60 million.

Pat Milton - AP Sep 20, 07 2:33 PM EDT

In spite of the prompt response of the Clinton campaign to return the $860k of donations bundled by Hsu it would seem that there is little hope of the monies being re-contributed by the original donors if a substantial portion of these monies are found to have been made through straw donors as is alleged in these charges.  There is no suggestion of culpability on the part of the campaign but it cannot be welcome news given the significant amount, approximately 2%, of the total funds raised for her campaign.

The money was apparently obtained through a scheme which defrauded investors of up to $60M for non-existent deals to provide bridging finance for the manufacture of designer label fashion clothing in China.  Apparently these monies were then used to make contributions to Democratic candidates, primarily Clinton but also including Obama, Kennedy and others in the Democratic party.  There was also at least one contribution to a Republican campaign as well.  Which of these contributions violated Federal law by being made illegally through other people's identities is not clear.  It may turn out that campaigns which donated these contributions to charity when the original fraud allegations were revealed should have held them in escrow pending this investigation and potentially returned to the defrauded investors.

Norman Hsu's motives are difficult to discern, from all accounts he represents no special interest and sought only to be photographed with the candidates and included in the social milieu surrounding the fund-raising activities themselves.

This will certainly insure a regime of closer scrutiny on bundler contributions by all campaigns with commensurate administrative overheads, but may prove too late to contain the damage to public confidence caused by this incident.  I can think of no stronger argument for a return to public campaign finance and expect this issue to become a topic for discussion in the campaign itself.  I would be disappointed if it doesn't.

[Update] Copy of the Criminal Complaint

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Hillary on Lobbyist Contributions at YKos

The Washington Post has reported the following interesting exchange at the YKos convention which I was unfortunately unable to attend.  I am quoting the candidate's views on lobbyist contributions to political campaigns, and they differ considerably:

Clinton came under attack for declining to join former senator John Edwards (N.C.), who is quite popular with bloggers, and Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in pledging to not take campaign contributions from Washington lobbyists.

"I think my party, the Democratic Party, the party of the people, ought to say from this day forward we will never take a dime from a Washington lobbyist," Edwards said to rising applause from the audience of more than 1,000.

Asked whether she would agree with that, Clinton said, "I don't think, based on my 35 years of fighting for what I believe in, anybody seriously believes I'm going to be influenced by a lobbyist or a particular interest."

With that there were groans and hisses, and Clinton, who had braced for such a reaction and seemingly had waited for it through nearly an hour of debate, responded: "I've been waiting for this. This gives us a real sense of reality with my being here." She added, "A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans."

When the moderator, New York Times Magazine writer Matt Bai, turned back to Obama a few minutes later, the senator immediately challenged Clinton's position.

"I disagree with the notion that lobbyists don't have disproportionate influence," he said. "The insurance and drug companies spent $1 billion in lobbying over the last 10 years. Now Hillary, you were talking earlier about the efforts you made back in '93 [trying to reform health care]. Now you can't tell me that that money did not have a difference. They are not spending that just because they are contributing to the public interest."

With that the audience erupted in cheers of approval, and Edwards, sitting on Clinton's right, joined in the applause.

"I'm losing control," Bai quipped, before giving Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) the floor.

Dan Balz and Jose Antonio Vargas, Washington Post - August 5, 2007

Well, I think there is an issue here and I leave it to the readers to make there own judgements.  I don't know how else to describe Hillary's response except to suggest she is expecting us to take this all on trust.  That may have worked in the past but I hope that times have, or are, changing in this respect.  If we are going to do anything serious to improve the representation of the electorate in the US political process this issue needs to be addressed, and now would be a good time.  In fact, for once, she seems to be in a minority of one among the top tier.  Isn't this an appropriate opportunity to make a case for something better?

Sure, lobbyists represent people, mostly the employees of corporations if you use a financial criteria for analysing the spread of the contributions, and I know that there has been a substantial effort lately to confound the issue in respect of the Sierra Club and other public organisations but the problem is not going to go away unless we are prepared to make an electoral issue about it.

Given that we have just had a significant change in ethics reform in Congress perhaps it is time to make this a more substantial part of the debate about the process we use to elect our representatives, not just the outcomes.

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Obama Will Hit 350k Donations... BINGO!

According to his campaign ticker at 21:46 EDT 29 June 2007 Senator Obama's donor and contribution figures are now 255,594 and 349,364, well on track to hit his target of 350k.

Since JeremiahTheMessiah posted the Night-time Secret diary and by my simple calculations that is 12,530 new donors and 13,130 contributions.

No matter how you slice it that is phenomenal.  I think it is clear that this primary election campaign is headed into uncharted territory.

Update: Sometime after 2:00AM EST the goal was achieved and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of the several bloggers here from myDD vying for the honour of being the 350,000th. Perhaps the good Senator will give him/her a call. Hope so. That was fun!

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OSC to Investigate Executive Branch

The now infamous LA Times article has been picked up in a number of lefty blogs and the general consensus of opinion is that this is an attempted whitewash of the prosecutor firing controversy surrounding Gonzales and the Bush administration.

But there are some intriguing possibilities here.  The LA Times says:

The 106-person Office of Special Counsel has never conducted such a broad and high-profile inquiry in its history. One of its primary missions has been to enforce the Hatch Act, a law enacted in 1939 to preserve the integrity of the civil service.

Bloch said the new investigation grew from two narrower inquiries his staff had begun in recent weeks.

One involved the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico, David C. Iglesias.

The other centered on a PowerPoint presentation that a Rove aide, J. Scott Jennings, made at the General Services Administration this year.

Both of these have some potential mileage and one wonders at the timing and intention of this investigation.  Newsweek has an interesting recent article on the Iglesias firing which leads one to believe that Bloch will have no choice but to uphold, or be seen to uphold, the USERRA of which the Bush administration has so vigorously promoted the enforcement.

The Scott Jennings PowerPoint presentation evidence has left unanswered allegations, as anticipated in the Washington Post at the time, in the wake of the appearance of GSA head Lurita Doan before Waxman and Oversight earlier this year.  This resulted in a letter to Rove on 29th March which I am not sure has been addressed by the administration.  The Democrats, however, took the trouble to commission a CSR assessment of the legalities.

So why is the hand-picked Bush insider starting this investigation?  According to the LA Times:

The growing controversy inspired him to act, Bloch said.

"We are acting with dispatch and trying to deal with this because people are concerned about it ... and it is not a subject that should be left to endless speculation," he said.

Personally I think this is an attempt to pre-empt Congressional inquiries, certainly, with a loyalist investigation but I don't see how the Bushies are going to manage this without some adverse findings against their own people.  I suspect we are getting a glimpse of some of the desperation and conflicted loyalties now emerging in the Bush Fuhrerbunker.   I am going to watch this space with great interest.

Update [2007-4-25 5:59:39 by Shaun Appleby]:: The NYT, WaPo and CNN have picked up the story.

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Poll: Why I Really Don't Support Obama

There seems to be two often repeated objections to Senator Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination among progressives.  The first is that he has no substance and the other that he has inadequate experience.

These objections seem quite non-specific and I would be interested to know what, if anything, lies below the surface.  Hopefully the fact that there is a candidate you prefer does not preclude a specific objection to Senator Obama.  Obviously you may have more than one objection to his candidacy but hopefully there is one which you consider the most significant.  Please consider for a moment before answering.

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Obama On The US/Israeli Relationship

According to Haaretz Senator Obama will soon be making a policy speech on the relationship of the US to Israel.  This should be interesting and it is clear there is significant debate, and difference of opinion, on this topic both in the United States and Israel.

The current situation in Israel is very dynamic for a number of reasons, notably the potential for a settlement of the Golan Heights, the formation of a unity government in the Palestinian state, the emergence of a nuclear existential threatfrom a growing regional power, and the declining role of the US as the diplomat of last resort in the Middle East.

Senator Obama on Israel so far:

My view is that the United States' special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.  Israelis want more than anything to live in peace with their neighbors, but Israel also has real - and very dangerous - enemies.
Haaretz interview 15 February 2007

KROFT: Do you have solutions for the Palestinian/Israeli conflict?

OBAMA: Well, probably not solutions that I can lay out in the next two minutes. Look, I think that both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are weary of the ongoing conflict. I think they want to see solutions. What we don't have right now, particularly in the Palestinian community, are a set of leaders who have both the will and the capacity to renounce violence as a strategy to resolve the problems and to actually enforce any agreement that might be reached with the Israelis. And that is something that we can't do single-handedly, but if we're much more active than we've been, if we're paying attention, if we're deploying special envoys, if we are indicating to the Palestinians that we are ready and willing to work with them and the Israelis in finding an agreeable two-state solution, then it is possible that that leadership will emerge.  
60 Minutes interview 6 February 2007

On the other hand, as I was leaving Jerusalem on that final day and looking over the Old City I was reminded of how similar in many ways Palestinians and Jews, Muslims, Christians - how similar all these people were; and that despite differences in language and religion and despite the bitter history of the region it must be possible on some level to have each group recognize the humanity of the other.  
Podcast 24 January 2006

So what more is Senator Obama going to say?  It is pretty clear he will reaffirm the 'special relationship' with Israel, and reassert the basic principles which underpin that relationship.  But will he give any indication that there is room for improvement in the attitudes in the US and Israel which are perhaps making a permanent diplomatic solution more difficult?  Will he provide evidence of his intention to break the logjam in Israeli/Palestinian diplomacy in spite of the controversy this might provoke?  This is very tricky territory and sites in both blogosheres splutter highly accusatory and didactic points of view on this subject with very little common ground.  John Edwards failed to clear this hurdle cleanly and his support among progressives probably took it's biggest hit as a consequence.

There are two opposing views, that it is time the Israelis made more serious commitments to peace by changing policies regarding settlement, territory and occupation versus the insistence that hard-line policies are the only guarantee of Israel's future and that peace can only be achieved through force.  Obviously the solution will fall somewhere in between these two views but for now they seem irreconcilable.  I am hopeful the Senator will give us an indication, at least, of a new approach in this area consistent with his stated intentions to open dialogues with Syria and Iran.

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363 Tons Of US Dollars Were Sent To Iraq

Well, if there was ever a wire service story to confirm ones worst nightmare of mismanagement and expediency in Iraq on the part of the Bush administration, it would run something like this:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said on Tuesday.

The money, which had been held by the United States, came from Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the U.N.-run oil-for-food program and frozen assets belonging to the ousted Saddam Hussein regime.

Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

"Who in their right mind would send 363 tons of cash into a war zone? But that's exactly what our government did," the California Democrat said during a hearing reviewing possible waste, fraud and abuse of funds in Iraq.

This story is the first of many we may hear soon as oversight is applied retrospectively to the administration of public monies in Iraq.

Paul Bremer, who as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority ran Iraq after initial combat operations ended, said the enormous shipments were done at the request of the Iraqi minister of finance.

I'll bet.

A total of $8.8B of monies provided to the Iraqi government was described as 'unaccounted for.'

"We were in the middle of a war, working in very difficult conditions, and we had to move quickly to get this Iraqi money working for the Iraqi people," Bremer told lawmakers.

He said there was no banking system and it would have been impossible to apply modern accounting standards in the midst of a war.

"I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that, with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently," Bremer said.

I haven't checked the dates but assume the Finance Minister referred to was SCIRI leader Adel Abdul Mahdi who had been considered as an alternative to al-Maliki as Prime Minister.

Mahdi represents the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the largest party within a Shiite coalition that emerged as the strongest bloc in elections for an Iraqi parliament...


Mahdi's party, born and nurtured in Iran, guided by a Shiite cleric and backed by a feared militia, unnerves some secular and Sunni Iraqis who say they fear an Iranian-style government run by Islamic code.


During the 1970s and '80s, Mahdi visited Tehran often and joined forces with the Shiite Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Hakim in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The Republicans are accusing Democrats of point scoring. "We are in a war against terrorists, to have a blame meeting isn't, in my opinion, constructive," said Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican.

This story potentially has the mythical, Guiness Book of World Records quality that captures the attention of the electorate.

Hawks and Prarie-Dogs: Bunker Busting 101

There has been alot of talk lately about a military strike against Iran, specifically the undergound uranium enrichment facility at Natanz.  This FYI diary attempts to briefly outline the 'options on the table' from an operational perspective.

First, a little background.  The USAF and the Navy, at immense cost in material and readiness, enjoy a remarkable tactical capability to 'project' power wherever local air superiority can be established.  Which is basically to say anywhere at all for brief periods, at least.  This capability is totally independent of the apocalyptic potential of the US strategic arsenal, the geopolitical elephant in the room.

Our optical and signals intelligence are peerless.  And there is no place to be seen on the globe that the US isn't, potentialy, watching.  Rogue states, consequently, of which there have been any number in recent history, have yielded the skies to us.  There are several ways for them to deal with this, keep moving, disperse, hide among the civilians or tunnel underground and if you look back at US post-war history you generally find our worst enemies ultimately in a network of tunnels.  Korea, Viet-Nam, Lebanon and Tora-Bora in Afghanistan, to name a few.   And if you are planning sinister mischief that is your best option.

The origin of 'bunker-busting' is epitomised in WWII by the titanic struggle between the massive bombs of the RAF and the U-Boat pens of 3m-7m thick reinforced concrete.

The current generation of bunker-busters emerged when traditional iron gravity bombs, supersonic aerodynamics and laser guidance were married with timed fuses and armour piercing warheads to produce weapons which rendered obsolete conventional bunker engineering, raising the ante on protection, and establishing the type as tactically delivered by fast jets.  The Isrealis succeeded without this technology on a similar sort of mission which destroyed Iraq's Osiriq reactor, a ripping yarn of precision flying and cunning intelligence.

Modern  Earth Penetrating Weapons have refined this technology considerably.  But the obvious counter-measure is to dig deeper and reinforce stronger.

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