Thursday, July 31, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"Perhaps the only thing more outrageous than Exxon Mobil making record profits while Americans are paying record prices at the pump is the fact that Sen. McCain has proposed giving them an additional $1.2 billion tax break."

-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama on July 31, 2008
High Prices, Big Profits

Today, July 31, 2008, Exxon-Mobil announced second quarter earnings of $11.8 billion, the largest quarterly earnings posted by any corporation in world history. (Royal Dutch Shell announced a profit of $11.7 billion.) The previous record was held by.... Exxon-Mobil. Their profit margin: 10.85%.

In response, Democratic Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey were joined by Democratic U.S. Representatives Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois at a press conference to blast the profits of Big Oil while Americans are paying record prices at the pump. The hill.com reports

Democrats criticized Exxon Mobil for spending $89.5 billion in stock buybacks over 2005-2007, and just $2.9 billion in research and development during the same time. They sent a letter Thursday calling on the oil company executives to invest their profits in alternative sources of energy.

Still, Republicans will repeat their mantra: "drill, drill, drill." It would be too generous to suggest that they are innocently being held up and played for suckers by "the most selfish group of companies that I've ever seen," as Schumer described them. No, they are fully aware that their policies have one motive: fatten the profits of the oil industry.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Saga Continues

As CQ Politics reported July 3, 2008, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D.-MI) on May 22, 2008 issued a subpoena to force Karl Rove to testify before the Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee on July 10, 2008. Congressional Democrats want to inquire about the firing of several U.S. Attorneys and, especially, "about allegations that the Justice Department has engaged in politically motivated prosecutions of Democratic officials, including former Alabama governor Donald Siegelman."

In a development as stunning as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, Rove refused to testify- citing executive privilege- and "offering" instead to testify in private with no oath and no transcript. On Wednesday, July 30, 2008 the Judiciary Committee voted 20 to 14 along party lines to recommend to the full chamber that the former political and policy (simultaneously) advisor to President Bush be held in contempt.

On July 31, 2008 U.S. District Judge John Bates, a Bush 43 appointee, ruled there is no basis in case law for Bush Administration officials former legal counsel Harriet Miers, Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and Rove to invoke executive privilege to avoid responding to Congressional subpoenas.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded as expected:

It certainly strengthens our hand. This decision should send a clear signal to the Bush administration that it must cooperate fully with Congress and that former administration officials Harriet Miers and Karl Rove must testify before Congress.

And when they don't testify? What will Pelosi do then? Since the Democrats gained "control" in January, 2007, Congress has, at the insistence of the White House: repeatedly funded the Iraq war without conditions; enacted the "Protect America Act" giving President Bush new powers to eavesdrop without a warrant; defeated a bill to increase intervals between deployment of American troops; enacted the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 giving immunity to telecoms for breaking the law and squashing any realistic chance of investigating Bush's NSA spying program; and so much more. To call the Pelosi leadership "spineless" would be a childish, ad hominem attack- but she has displayed a marked proclivity to being intimidated by an extraordinarily unpopular president.

Deja vu?

Back when the tapes of the anti-American, anti-Caucasian rants of Jeremiah Wright became widely circulated, Senator Barack Obama on March 14, 2008 condemned the statements of his pastor of twenty+ years. He declared

I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.

Then Rev. Wright went before the National Press Club. Big mistake- at least for Obama. The Senator knew that he had to distance himself not only from the statements but also from the individual himself. He appeared to most observers to do this by asserting at a press conference, in a statement and in response to subsequent questions:

The person that I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago....Well, as I said before, the person I saw yesterday was not the person that I have come to know over 20 years....Now, to some degree, I know that one thing that he said was true, that he was never my, quote/quote, “spiritual advisor.” He was never my spiritual mentor. He was my pastor. And to some extent how the press characterized in the past that relationship, I think, was inaccurate.

Now to the present:

In his new song, "Politics: Obama Is Here," Ludacris- the Artist Formerly Known As Christopher Bridges- condemns George W. Bush, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton while heralding Barack Obama. Here are some (or perhaps all) of the offending lyrics:

Hillary hated on you, so that b^$&%* is irrelevant.... paint the White House black and I'm sure that's got 'em terrified
McCain don't belong in ANY chair unless he's paralyzed
Yeah I said it cause Bush is mentally handicapped.


The Obama camp reacted quickly as campaign spokesman Bill Burton told Politico:

As Barack Obama has said many, many times in the past, rap lyrics today too often perpetuate misogyny, materialism, and degrading images that he doesn’t want his daughters or any children exposed to," said spokesman Bill Burton. "This song is not only outrageously offensive to Senator Clinton, Reverend Jackson, Senator McCain, and President Bush, it is offensive to all of us who are trying to raise our children with the values we hold dear. While Ludacris is a talented individual he should be ashamed of these lyrics."

Note Burton's points: the song is "outrageously offensive" and Ludacris "should be ashamed of these lyrics." Nothing about Ludacris himself being shameful, that his lyrics (as those of this song indicate) frequently are offensive, and certainly nothing suggesting Obama is displeased that one of his favorite rappers heartily supports him. Shades of March 14.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Reversal For McCain

John McCain, seeking the Republican nomination for president, on justice for Osama binLaden:

On October 23, 2007 at a weapons factory in Rochester, N.Y.: "I will follow Osama Bin Laden to the gates of hell and I will shoot him with your products."

On January 19, 2008 in Columbia, South Carolina: "My friends, I want to stand before you now and tell you that if I have to follow him to the gates of hell I will get Osama Bin Laden and I will bring him to justice. I will get him!"


John McCain, on July 25, 2008 (according to cnn.com), campaigning for the general election:

Sen. John McCain on Friday said as president he would consider bringing Osama bin Laden to justice through a Nuremberg-like international trial.

He told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We have various options. The Nuremberg Trials are certainly an example of the kind of tribunal that we could move forward with. I don't think we'd have any difficulty in devising an international -- internationally supported mechanism that would mete out justice. There's no problem there."


Hell.... or The Hague? Apparently, John McCain isn't sure. Or he has conveniently changed his position for a general election audience.
McCain And The Border

It's challenging to figure out where John McCain stands on almost any issue, no more so than illegal immigration. Though the co-sponsor (with Ted Kennedy) in 2005 of "comprehensive immigration reform," the Arizona Senator later stated that he would vote against his own bill if it again came up for a vote in the Senate. though it is extremely unlikely the indentical bill ever would be re-introduced.

Speaking in San Diego before the National Council of La Raza on July 14, 2008, McCain responded to a question by proposing "one single, comprehensive bill -- but first we have to assure the American people that the borders are secure," then adding that if politicians fail to do that, "then we don't pass the legislation."

At first glance, this should assure opponents of illegal immigration. But at second glance, this is the same fellow who, in statements consistent with that before La Raza, said the following:

"And we're not going to erect barriers and fences." (Republican Presidential debate in New Hampshire, June 5, 2007)

"I commit to securing the borders first. We can secure those borders. As president, I would have the border state governors certify that those borders were indeed secure." (September 5, 2007 at University of New Hampshire)

Senator McCain may simply be trying to confuse the electorate about illegal immigration. More likely, however, he has decided that as President, he will entice governors of border states to sign a statement "certifying" that the borders are secure (thus "assuring the American people that the borders are secure"), then proceed to try to implement a guest worker program and probably a path to citizenship for individuals already here illegally.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Simplistic Question, Predictable Response

NBC News has been touting one of the six questions asked in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of 1,003 registered voters conducted July 18-21, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. Respondents were asked "As you think about the presidential race and the direction in which the next president will take the country, who do you think would be the riskier choice for president–John McCain or Barack Obama?"

Not surprisingly, the response was Barack Obama- 55%, John McCain- 35%.

This was about as suspenseful a question- in reverse- as asking "who is more likely to bring about change, John McCain or Barack Obama?" Change is by nature risky. And Barack Obama, the new kid on the block, personifies change. John McCain looks, and sounds, like the same old thing.

The Illinois Senator said much the same when asked by Tom Brokaw on the 7/27/08 episode of Meet The Press:

And then there is this as well, which is an important question that we asked our audience. "Who's the riskier choice" to be the president with two wars and an economic meltdown going on at home? Senator McCain does much better in that poll than you do. Does that surprise you? (Note Brokaw's misleading addition of the phrase "with two wars and an economic meltdown going on at home.")

Obama replied in part:

No, because, let's say we had reversed--or rephrased the question. Let's say the question had been, "Who's more likely to bring about change in the country?" I suspect I would beat Senator McCain handily. Or another way we could have phrased it was, "Who's more likely to maintain the status quo?" Well, John McCain would have won that poll handily.

Exactly right- I just wish I had written this before Obama said it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Stepford Party

In the aftermath, a few weeks ago, of passage of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, there was major and justified criticism of the Democratic-led Congress. And I believe that contributions from the telecommunications industry to the Democratic and Republican national conventions played a role. Still, to keep matters in perspective: while there were in the Senate 21 misguided Democrats who voted in favor of the bill, a majority- 27- of Democrats voted against it. (In that calculation, Connecticut's Lieberman, who voted "aye," and Vermont's Sanders, who voted "no," are counted as Independents; Massachusetts' Kennedy, Arizona's McCain, and Alabama's Sessions did not vote.)

Aside from the Independent (but always caucusing as a Democrat) Sanders, the other Senators who voted against the bill were: Barbara Boxer, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, Daniel Akaka, Richard Durbin, Thomas Harkin, Benjamin Cardin, John Kerry, Carl Levin, Debbie Stabenow, Amy Klobuchar, Jon Tester, Harry Reid, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menendez, Hillary Clinton, Charles Schumer, Jeff Bingaman, Byron Dorgan, Sherrod Brown, Ron Wyden, John Reed, Patrick Leahy, Maria Cantwell, Patty Murray, Robert Byrd, and Russell Feingold.

That would be 27 Democrats. An insufficient number, but how many Repubs voted for the Fourth Amendment? Zero (0).
The Corporate Conventions

I'm still trying to figure out why Barack Obama on July 9, 2008 voted for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, which

- according to law professor Martin S. Lederman, permits the National Security Agency to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and a foreign location, without making any showing to a court and without judicial oversight, whether or not the communication has anything to do with al Qaeda -- indeed, even if there is no evidence that the communication has anything to do with terrorism, or any threat to national security.

- grants retroactive immunity to those telecommunications companies which granted the Justice Department's request to spy (illegally) on American citizens

Among the possible reasons for Obama's vote:

a) a move to the center, the mainsteam media's favorite rationale, given that it sees almost everything in the simplistic terms of liberal vs. conservative;

b) fear of ads from 527 organizations targeting the nominee as coddling terrorists and endangering national security;

c) the interest the candidate has in preserving his own power as President to act as he sees fit in the interests of "national security," notwithstanding the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution;

d) economic interests.

Economic interests? Stephen Weissman, Associate Director for Policy at the Campaign Finance Institute, explained on a recent edition of Democracy Now! that while federal law prohibits unlimited contributions to a political candidate and any direct contributions from a union or a corporation, the Federal Election Commission permits unlimited contributions to the host committee of a presidential nominating convention in the guise that it is aimed to promote the convention city. While companies are not required to reveal what they have given either host committee, Weissman's group has determined that the companies which have given to the 2008 committees have spent approximately $1.1 billion lobbying the federal government since the last presidential election. There are 146 companies which have given thus far, nearly 40 of them having contributed to both parties- er, conventions.

Two of these are the telecommunications giantsComcast and AT&T, among those which collaborated with the Administration's spying formerly prohibited under FISA. (Admittedly, Qwest Communications, which refused the spying request, also is a contributor.) In a recent blog, author and constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald brings us a representation of the attractive bag, replete with company name and logo, every delegate and member of the media at the Democratic Convention will receive from AT&T in Denver. And in the discussion with Weissman and Goodman, Greenwald explains:

the Democrats in Congress just last month gave an extraordinary gift of telecom amnesty to most of the entire telecom industry, including AT&T and Comcast, in order to protect them from lawsuits and in a bill that was written by the telecom industry and their lobbyists. So, to turn around and see such a sort of tawdry expression of the very close relationship between the telecom industry and the Democrats, who had just given them an extraordinary gift, was, I thought, quite remarkable.

Friday, July 25, 2008

An Intimidated Press Corps?

On June 30, 2008, reported Juliet Eilperin of The Washington Post's blog, "The Trail," John McCain introduced a new, improved campaign plane, a Boeing 737-400. That morning, she wrote, McCain senior campaign aide Mark Salter "quipped" "only the good reporters" would get to sit in the specially-configured section for interviews. "You'll have to earn it."

Was this really a quip? In an interview with The Los Angeles Times (video here) of June 19, 2008, McCain biographer Matt Welch explained (quote from thinkprogress.com) that the Arizona Senator is "very open to people. You can come on the bus, everything is great but if he knows or if his team knows that you have a hostile line of questioning or you have a long and well documented critique, they’re not going to talk to you."

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio on July 7, McCain declared "Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed."

Given that a)that's how Social Security- an intergenerational transfer- has always worked and b)there was relatively little discussion of this extraordinary, astonishing comment from a presumptive presidential nominee, could it be that Salter was not "quipping"- and that reporters learned his lesson well?
Another Republican Attack On The Middle Class

I admire consistency, I really do. And so, I admire the Republican Party.

-on 6/10/08, killed a bill (by holding the Democrats to 60 votes, nine short of the number needed to prevent a potential filibuster) which would have (according to sfgate.com) "impose(d) a windfall profits tax of 25 percent on the major oil companies, the proceeds going to subsidize new renewable energy." It would have given government the leeway to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against the OPEC oil cartel and made energy price gouging a federal crime.

-the same day, blocked by a 50-44 voted debate on a measure which would have extended tax credits for wind, solar and other renewable energy sources, opposed by GOP senators because it would have raised taxes on hedge-fund managers to pay for the tax credits.

-on 7/24/08, blocked an effort by House Democrats to release 70 million barrels of (approximately 10% of the total) of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Although 268 voted in favor and only 157 against, the measure failed because it needed a two-thirds vote, as it was brought up under a rule which would exclude amendments. (Republicans wanted a vote on granting new offshore oil leases, presumably so our yet-unborn grandchildren could benefit from a surge in oil production.)

Skeptical of the value or prudence of withdrawing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? This is from the 7/23/08 testimony of Joseph Romm before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming:

The fact is we can easily increase supply temporarily, ease costs, and perhaps disrupt any speculators’ expectation that oil prices are a safe bet for high returns. The United States sits on 705 million barrels of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Since it is 97 percent full, we could sell a half million barrels of oil per day for a year without increasing our exposure to a catastrophic oil disruption. The SPR would still be at 75 percent capacity.

Increasing the oil supply would alter the current psychology that oil prices will continue to rise due to growing demand and fixed supply. Investors and speculators in oil contracts would see that betting on higher prices is no longer a sure thing and it could scare the quick-buck speculators out of the market.

This SPR oil sale would also generate significant funds for the federal government. The SPR oil was bought at an average price of about $28 per barrel. It could sell for the market price, which could be anything from $100 to $130 per barrel. If the average sale price is $115 per barrel, the SPR oil would generate nearly $58 million per day. These funds could provide a rebate to low-income households, finance clean energy technologies, or expand mass transit systems, which have begun to strain under record ridership.


The Repub energy agenda: don't bother OPEC; don't support research into renewable energy sources; don't release oil now which would promptly increase supply and probably curtail energy speculation, thereby lowering prices; grant leases for more offshore oil drilling, which would not increase supplies for several years but might alleviate pressure on the energy industry and the federal government to develop alternative sources of energy. Or more simply, keep demand up, supply down, prices up, profits for the oil industry ever-soaring, and the middle class ever-declining.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iraq Viewed In Isolation

Is this so difficult to understand?

Of course, Repubs don't understand it, or at least pretend not to. Ditto the news media, unsurprising because it has virtually throughout been cheerleaders for the war. Neither, though, do most of the supporters of Obama (though Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state is an exception), which is hard to figure out.

The candidate himself says it over and over. Here Katie Couric in her exclusive interview (with the candidate everyone else has interviewed) tries six times to get Barack Obama to say that the "surge" was successful, apparently because she is one of the many not to understand. The Illinois senator explains that the surge

doesn't meet our long-term strategic goal, which is to make the American people safer over the long term. If that means that we're detracting from our efforts in Afghanistan, where conditions are deteriorating, if it means that we are distracted from going after Osama bin Laden who is still sending out audio tapes and is operating training camps where we know terrorists' actions are being plotted.

If we have shifted away from the central front of terrorism as a consequence of enormous and continuing investments in Iraq, then that's a poor strategic choice. And ultimately, what we've got to do is - we have to recognize that Iraq is just one of our … security problems. It's not the only one


What I'm saying is it does not solve the broader strategic question that we have been dealing with over the last five, six, seven years. And that is how do we take the limited resources we have, both militarily and financially, and apply them in such a way that we are making America as safe as possible?

A few questions, inasmuch that Obama understands what very few others do:

-When did the goal of American foreign policy become victory in Iraq- Wasn't the Administration at one point concerned about terrorism (or at least pretend to be)?

-Doesn't the surging strenth of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan concern anyone besides the junior Senator from Illinois (and radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, wrong about most things but consistently right about this)?

-Why must we hear only about the surge, as if there is no connection between the improving situation in Iraq and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where our nation is involved in a more critical war?

-Why does the other major party candidate believe Iraq and Pakistan share a border? (O.K., that one is a cheap shot.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Even-handed?

It's discouraging when the major party presidential candidate who has demonstrated on the campaign trail the greater knowledge of foreign policy issues makes an ill-considered comment.

And so it was that Barack Obama took a moment during his statement in Amman, Jordan on Tuesday, 7/22/08 to make a misleading or naive comment(s) about the Middle East in response to a question. He said (pp. 5-6 of transcript)

And I do believe.... that the Israelis and the Palestinians are going to both have to make compromises in order to arrive at that two-state solution.... Now, one of the difficulties that we have right now is that in order to make those compromises you have to have strong support from your people, and the Israeli government right now is unsettled. You know, the Palestinians are divided between Fatah and Hamas.
And so it's difficult for either side to make the bold move that would bring about peace.


Sure, both sides have to compromise, and American and world public opinion was more favorable to Israel back when it was the one doing the compromising and was the cute and cuddly victim. Now, it is no longer perceived primarily as victim- but apparently is still the one doing the compromising.

On Wednesday, July 16, 2008 Lebanese terrorist Samir Kantar, four other militants captured in the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel, and the bodies of 199 Arab fighters were traded for two dead Israeli soldiers in a U.N.-mediated deal.

Kantar, who with the released Hezbollah fighters was greeted by top officials after being flown to Beirut, told cheering crowds at the celebration there that he had returned "to Lebanon only because I want to go back to Palestine with my brothers in the resistance." His humanitarian act? killing an Israeli man in front of his 4-year-old daughter, then killing the little girl by smashing her skull with his rifle butt.

There you have it- bodies of 199 Arab fighters, victims of a war partly spurred by the practice of kidnapping prisoners to bargain for Kantar's freedom; four (live) Lebanese extremists; and one vicious murderer in return for.... remains of two Israelis, whom the Israelis had presumed dead. (That would be 204 to 2.) The prisoner swap, though controversial, largely was supported by citizens of the Jewish state, who long have had a policy of never leaving soldiers on a battlefield.

Over at the Gaza strip, Hamas was so encouraged that it vowed to "capture Zionist soldiers, in order to swap with our sons in prison." (That would be "sons," as in "terrorists.")

So the next time you hear an American politician talking about the need for both sides to "compromise," remember that he really means one party, the side that "has been carrying out unequal prisoner swaps for decades, including handing over 4,600 Palestinian and Lebanese captives in 1983 in exchange for six captured Israeli soldiers." The same side that apparently places a higher value on life.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Limbaugh, Again Confused

I enjoy periodically tuning in to Rush Limbaugh's program with the intent of leaving it on until he says something ridiculous. Today, July 22, 2008, I listened longer than normal, almost two minutes.

Limbaugh was complaining about sponsorship by the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund Annual Conference. The event, described here as "Jesse Jackson's main fundraising event of the year," took place June 28 through July 2 in Chicago.

I don't know why Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sponsored the annual conference of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. But I do know that Limbaugh, after referring to the two corporations as "federal government private sector (which is impossible) mortgage loan institutions," claimed "they're giving men (sic) to the Reverend Jackson. Yet people want more of this! They want more government; I don't get it."

More government? Although founded as a government agency in 1938, Fannie May was converted into a private corporation in 1968. And its own website describes Freddie Mac as "owned by its shareholders and, like other corporations, is accountable to its shareholders and a board of directors." Like it or not, the federal government is socializing risk by bailing out these two corporations. This is not a failure of government, but of two corporations now coming to the taxpayers for handouts- i.e., welfare. True, the federal government has not covered itself with glory in its handling of the mortgage crisis, but then, the Executive Branch has been in singularly incapable hands for almost eight years due in part to Limbaugh, Scalia, and others who thwarted the popular will in 2000.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 18b

Again, here is the comment (p. 4) David Gregory, NBC's Chief White House Correspondent and host of MSNBC's "Race to the White House," made on the 7/20/08 edition of "Meet The Press" (relevant portion in bold):

Can I make one point related to this? I do think that, you know, inside the White House, there's always been a feeling that Al Gore thinks he's got the monopoly on this debate, and so there is sensitivity among conservatives about this that he, he commands the microphone, and nobody else can, can be an entrant into this debate. So I think he's, he's politically divisive in that way. I--I'm hard-pressed to believe that he wouldn't necessarily go in the administration if he got the platform, but I also take seriously the idea that working outside, "so I can keep making money in all of this," but he can also have a really profound impact on the flow of the debate both here and overseas.



Here are those "politically divisive" comments (p. 3) Gore had made on Meet The Press:

Asked by Brokaw how he would "characterize.... no major, sweeping initiatives coming out of this Democratic-controlled Congress, Gore stated the obvious: "well, I think that when, when you don't have 60 votes in the Senate to overcome filibusters, nothing can happen."

Despite Brokaw's goading, Mr. Gore declined to criticize Hillary Clinton over her recommendation of a "gas-tax holiday," replying "I, I disagreed with those who wanted a so-called gas tax holiday. And I think taking it from that to sort of the whole..." He did not criticize fellow Democrat Clinton- who is no longer in the race- but did not criticize even Republican John McCain, who is the presumptive GOP nominee, squaring off against the candidate, Democrat Barack Obama, whom Gore wants to be elected.

And speaking of being divisive! Gore remarked "and, and I think it's an illustration of how this, this climate crisis has to, to push us as Americans to take this issue out of the old partisan squabbling and political fighting that we're--we have to be in this as Americans."

So why does the White House believe Al Gore "thinks he's got the monopoly on this debate?" Why a belief he (selishly) "commands the microphone?" Doesn't the President of the United States (admittedly a position to which Mr. Gore was elected but for which he was not permitted to serve) command the bully pulpit? Mr. Bush has a)committed our nation to combat (twice, in Afghanistan and Iraq) without a declaration of war; b)has claimed for himself, initially without approval, sweeping and extra-legal wiretapping authority; and c)routinely claims "executive privilege" for any member of his Administration asked to testify about any actions or discussions with anyone. And he is afraid of an ex-Vice President?
The Republican Media- No. 18a

When the Sunday morning- or weekday evening- news programs go into their chat mode, a politician, strategist, or talk show host is brought in when the broadcast wants a partisan or hard ideological viewpoint expressed. Apparently, though, NBC's Chief White House Correspondent and host of "Race to the White House," will do just fine., as his appearance on the 7/20/08 edition of "Meet The Press" demonstrated.

Following an interview of Al Gore, Tom Brokaw hosted a discussion including Chuck Todd and Gregory. Gregory (page 4 of transcript) took a couple of unwarranted shots at Gore, the latter of which (in bold) I'll comment on here:

Can I make one point related to this? I do think that, you know, inside the White House, there's always been a feeling that Al Gore thinks he's got the monopoly on this debate, and so there is sensitivity among conservatives about this that he, he commands the microphone, and nobody else can, can be an entrant into this debate. So I think he's, he's politically divisive in that way. I--I'm hard-pressed to believe that he wouldn't necessarily go in the administration if he got the platform, but I also take seriously the idea that working outside, "so I can keep making money in all of this," but he can also have a really profound impact on the flow of the debate both here and overseas.

Gregory infers that Gore's involvement in the global warming debate is driven by greed- "so I can keep making money in all of this." (Note Gregory is not so honest as to admit "I believe Gore is motivated by money, but rather implies a quote from the former Vice-President.) This may be intended to leave the impression with the viewer that Gore is wealthy only because of his investment in the field of energy conservation. However, in an article posted July, 2007 in fastcompany.com, Ellen McGirt explains (p. 1) of the 2000 Democratic presidential nominee:

In addition to the steady flow of six-figure speaking gigs, he has become an insider at two of the hottest companies on the planet: at Google, where he signed on as an adviser in 2001, pre-IPO (and received stock options now reportedly worth north of $30 million), and at Apple, where he joined the board in 2003 (and got stock options now valued at about $6 million). He enjoyed a big payday as vice chairman of an investment firm in L.A., and, more recently, started a cable-television company and an asset-management firm, both of which are becoming quiet forces in their fields.

That's right: the man who had the judgement to support Gulf War I and oppose Gulf War II got in early at Google, became involved at Apple, and started a cable television company. And criticism of his vision that energy conservation was a growing business would logically come only from hard-core Repub partisans, distraught that alternative energy might cut into the profits of the oil industry.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Controversy On "The View"- 5

I saved this one for last, though again transcribing the important part of the transcript in which the women of ABC's "The View" discussed use of the "n-word" in light of the revelation that Reverend Jackson had used it when admonishing Barack Obama on GOP TV.

WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.

WALTERS: But if I used it...

SHEPHERD: I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth.

HASSELBECK: I just think, here’s the like, how do you, okay, so wait a minute, let’s think about this. This is how I think things can be simplified sometimes. How do you teach children, okay? We should be acting. We’re trying to teach our kids certain things in this world, no? So then are we, are we acting out on what we’re actually preaching them? Am I supposed to tell Grace, "Grace okay, here is [sic] some words you can use, here is [sic] some words you can not." And then but you’re friend over there can use it because-

GOLDBERG: Can I simplify it for you? The little kid is not going to walk up to Grace and say "[bleeped out]" It’s not going to happen. [laughter]

HASSELBECK: It’s an example. I’m just giving an example.

GOLDBERG: But, but I understand your example. I understand your example, but Elisabeth, as I said at the beginning when we first talked about this word, this is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning. I’ve never met [bleeped out], I have never gone to [bleeped out], I don’t know any [bleeped out]. There are [bleeped out]. You can try it, just like you can-

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to.

GOLDBERG: No, no, no, listen to me, listen to me. Just like you can talk about comical Italian people if you were a comic.

HASSELBECK: I’m half Italian.

GOLDBERG: And yeah, so you can say all kinds of stuff. You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works.

SHEPHERD: What about teaching, what about teaching Grace with different things that- There are some things where people are sensitive to. There are some things that we can’t say because people are sensitive to it. Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?

HASSELBECK: Look, I’m not saying I won’t explain to my daughter how to talk about words. I grew up in a household where we didn’t say- I’m half Polish and half Italian. If somebody said to me "you’re a dumb Pollack," it offended me. I never made fun of myself saying, you’re, you’re that word. I’m a this. I never would go into my own heritage and use a phrase that is used against me in the privacy of my own home because I think it perpetuates stereotypes and hate.

GOLDBERG: You have to understand [bleeped out] word that has followed us around, and basically what we did is we took it out the hands of people that were using it and put it into our hands and we use it the way we want to use it and that’s the way it is.

HASSELBECK: Then it sneaks into pop culture then. I’m just trying to get an answer.

WALTERS: You did. You’re not listening you’re just talking. She is saying-

HASSELBECK: - I am listening.

WALTERS: -it’s okay in her culture, but it is difficult as you as a white mother to explain that, that Jeffrey can use it, but Grace can’t.

HASSELBECK: It’s not difficult for me. It’s just an example in terms of general philosophy. I have no problem explaining things to Grace. My thing is that we don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.

GOLDBERG: We do live in different worlds. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s the way it is Elisabeth. This is the way it is. This is how I grew up. My mother could not go and vote in the United States of America, the place of her birth. We, go- wait, wait.

WALTERS: And don’t we want that to change?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we would like to. But you don’t understand.

HASSELBECK: I’m not going to take that away from no.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I, I want you to. But what I need you to understand is the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn’t balanced. And we would like it to be. But you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you, there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you’ve got to know this if you want to know us.

HASSELBECK: I’m not trying to take- I understand. I’m not trying to-

GOLDBERG: But it didn’t sound like it.

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to take that away from you. When we are living in this world and we are living in the world where there is in, in the pop culture, when that word is in use. When there are- [crying] this is upsetting to me because-

WALTERS: Okay, just take a breathe and let someone else talk.

HASSELBECK: I am, I am, but this is a conversation that is hard and we’re going to have it here and we have it here for a while because we love each other. When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place and we feel like we’re in the same world, how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?

GOLDBERG: I can tell you.

HASSELBECK: How?

GOLDBERG: Here’s how we do it. You listen and say "okay this is how we’re using this word and this is why we do it." You have to say, "well, you know what? I understand that, but let’s find a new way to move forward." You must acknowledge the understanding of what it is and why it is in order to go-

HASSELBECK: But when is it time to have the conversation?

GOLDBERG: But we are.

HASSELBECK: We are, yes.

WALTERS: Okay, but one second, let somebody else have a conversation for just one second. [laughter] We have a man- [laughter and applause] We have a man running for president who is 50 percent white and 50 percent black. And one of the things that he is trying to do is to bring people together and there still is racism. I have not heard anybody on this show say the word that you just said. They say the "n" word, we’re so afraid of it. If I said what you said, I would never hear the end of it. But when- wait I’ll grant it. But when you say it’s okay, we are trying to change. This is what Barack Obama and others are trying to do, to move forward. In the meantime, we have to understand that we haven’t gotten there yet. And maybe we should and maybe it’s not okay for you to use the word, but that is the reality, that’s the reality of the moment. And whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.


Barbara Walters and Sherri Shepherd are discussing the use of the n-word by blacks as compared to use by whites:

WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.

WALTERS: But if I used it...

SHEPHERD: I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth.


Don't dwell on Shepherd's hostile, nasty remark "I don't want to hear it come out of your mouth." It would be too easy to call Shepherd hateful and ignorant and leave it at that. And it would be little more (but still, more) than a cheap shot to suggest something wrong with the upbringing of an individual for whom such a mean-spirited word is "a term of endearment."

The real issue in this exchange, as in the entire discussion, is race, especially the means to discuss it. Shepherd contends "it's something that means something way different to me than it does to you." She is not the first person, especially among comedians and others of the Hollywood elite, to argue that black people can say what white people cannot. She's not the first individual to ignore the impact upon youth, of either race, of hearing role models using the term.

Use of the "n" word is unjustified by any group of people. But it is arguable that it is even worse when used by blacks, the group obviously victimized by the term. The speaker finds it so satisfactory, so gratifying, as to use it in public. If white people, failing to understand completely the harm inflicted upon a group of people who are objectified and demeaned by a word, hear it spoken specifically by a member of that group, the message is obvious: it is acceptable. No manner of rationalization can compensate for the presence of the word in public discourse and the increasing acceptance that brings about. As the word is used more and more, it is less stigmatized, its bigoted nature less well internalized.

I don't believe most black adults have the charitable attitude toward this term as do Goldberg and Shepherd, though they seem to believe they speak for everyone of their ethnic group. Perhaps it is fame or the rarefied air of Hollywood and/or New York which has so warped their view of race relations. But something has, and they need to be called on it.
Controversy On "The View"- 4

Again, skip over it if you wish, but here is the transcript of the relevant portion of discussion of the "n-word" on ABC's "The View" of July 17, 2008:


WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.

WALTERS: But if I used it...

SHEPHERD: I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth.

HASSELBECK: I just think, here’s the like, how do you, okay, so wait a minute, let’s think about this. This is how I think things can be simplified sometimes. How do you teach children, okay? We should be acting. We’re trying to teach our kids certain things in this world, no? So then are we, are we acting out on what we’re actually preaching them? Am I supposed to tell Grace, "Grace okay, here is [sic] some words you can use, here is [sic] some words you can not." And then but you’re friend over there can use it because-

GOLDBERG: Can I simplify it for you? The little kid is not going to walk up to Grace and say "[bleeped out]" It’s not going to happen. [laughter]

HASSELBECK: It’s an example. I’m just giving an example.

GOLDBERG: But, but I understand your example. I understand your example, but Elisabeth, as I said at the beginning when we first talked about this word, this is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning. I’ve never met [bleeped out], I have never gone to [bleeped out], I don’t know any [bleeped out]. There are [bleeped out]. You can try it, just like you can-

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to.

GOLDBERG: No, no, no, listen to me, listen to me. Just like you can talk about comical Italian people if you were a comic.

HASSELBECK: I’m half Italian.

GOLDBERG: And yeah, so you can say all kinds of stuff. You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works.

SHEPHERD: What about teaching, what about teaching Grace with different things that- There are some things where people are sensitive to. There are some things that we can’t say because people are sensitive to it. Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?

HASSELBECK: Look, I’m not saying I won’t explain to my daughter how to talk about words. I grew up in a household where we didn’t say- I’m half Polish and half Italian. If somebody said to me "you’re a dumb Pollack," it offended me. I never made fun of myself saying, you’re, you’re that word. I’m a this. I never would go into my own heritage and use a phrase that is used against me in the privacy of my own home because I think it perpetuates stereotypes and hate.

GOLDBERG: You have to understand [bleeped out] word that has followed us around, and basically what we did is we took it out the hands of people that were using it and put it into our hands and we use it the way we want to use it and that’s the way it is.

HASSELBECK: Then it sneaks into pop culture then. I’m just trying to get an answer.

WALTERS: You did. You’re not listening you’re just talking. She is saying-

HASSELBECK: - I am listening.

WALTERS: -it’s okay in her culture, but it is difficult as you as a white mother to explain that, that Jeffrey can use it, but Grace can’t.

HASSELBECK: It’s not difficult for me. It’s just an example in terms of general philosophy. I have no problem explaining things to Grace. My thing is that we don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.

GOLDBERG: We do live in different worlds. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s the way it is Elisabeth. This is the way it is. This is how I grew up. My mother could not go and vote in the United States of America, the place of her birth. We, go- wait, wait.

WALTERS: And don’t we want that to change?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we would like to. But you don’t understand.

HASSELBECK: I’m not going to take that away from no.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I, I want you to. But what I need you to understand is the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn’t balanced. And we would like it to be. But you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you, there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you’ve got to know this if you want to know us.

HASSELBECK: I’m not trying to take- I understand. I’m not trying to-

GOLDBERG: But it didn’t sound like it.

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to take that away from you. When we are living in this world and we are living in the world where there is in, in the pop culture, when that word is in use. When there are- [crying] this is upsetting to me because-

WALTERS: Okay, just take a breathe and let someone else talk.

HASSELBECK: I am, I am, but this is a conversation that is hard and we’re going to have it here and we have it here for a while because we love each other. When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place and we feel like we’re in the same world, how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?

GOLDBERG: I can tell you.

HASSELBECK: How?

GOLDBERG: Here’s how we do it. You listen and say "okay this is how we’re using this word and this is why we do it." You have to say, "well, you know what? I understand that, but let’s find a new way to move forward." You must acknowledge the understanding of what it is and why it is in order to go-

HASSELBECK: But when is it time to have the conversation?

GOLDBERG: But we are.

HASSELBECK: We are, yes.

WALTERS: Okay, but one second, let somebody else have a conversation for just one second. [laughter] We have a man- [laughter and applause] We have a man running for president who is 50 percent white and 50 percent black. And one of the things that he is trying to do is to bring people together and there still is racism. I have not heard anybody on this show say the word that you just said. They say the "n" word, we’re so afraid of it. If I said what you said, I would never hear the end of it. But when- wait I’ll grant it. But when you say it’s okay, we are trying to change. This is what Barack Obama and others are trying to do, to move forward. In the meantime, we have to understand that we haven’t gotten there yet. And maybe we should and maybe it’s not okay for you to use the word, but that is the reality, that’s the reality of the moment. And whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.


Hasselbeck and Goldberg discuss the "world," Hasselbeck finding "we live in the same world," Goldberg believing that we're on a different planet:

HASSELBECK: It’s not difficult for me. It’s just an example in terms of general philosophy. I have no problem explaining things to Grace. My thing is that we don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.

GOLDBERG: We do live in different worlds. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s the way it is Elisabeth. This is the way it is. This is how I grew up. My mother could not go and vote in the United States of America, the place of her birth. We, go- wait, wait.

WALTERS: And don’t we want that to change?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we would like to. But you don’t understand.

HASSELBECK: I’m not going to take that away from no.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I, I want you to. But what I need you to understand is the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn’t balanced. And we would like it to be. But you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you, there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you’ve got to know this if you want to know us.



Whoopi Goldberg is enlightening us to the reality that there are "huge problems that still affect us," though she apparently has chosen not to reveal what those problems are, aside from the stigma that she finds unacceptably attached to use of the "n" word. She refuses to acknowledge that "we live in the same world," referring to "when you say we live in the same world." No generosity of spirit here, no understanding that this is the same world with different perspectives. Of course, if we live in the same world we have to find a way of getting along; getting along while living in a different world would require space travel. Ironically, it is Hasselbeck who is acknowledging the hard work of accomodating each other in one country, Goldberg who gives racists and other people of ill will amongst us an excuse to avoid understanding those who are different from them.

I understand there are "huge problems that still affect" blacks. And I wouldn't deprive Ms. Goldberg, who demands all others "know this if you want to know us" of the conceit that she speaks for all Americans of her race. Still, though I for one would like to know more blacks, and whites, hispanics, and Asians, I do not want to know you, Whoopi. And I don't know why anyone would.
Controversy On "The View"- 3

I just can't stop myself from commenting on treatment of the "n-word" on ABC's "The View" of July 17, 2008. So I'll do so again, following the relevant portion of the transcript. Skip over it if you're sick of it by now.


WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.

WALTERS: But if I used it...

SHEPHERD: I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth.

HASSELBECK: I just think, here’s the like, how do you, okay, so wait a minute, let’s think about this. This is how I think things can be simplified sometimes. How do you teach children, okay? We should be acting. We’re trying to teach our kids certain things in this world, no? So then are we, are we acting out on what we’re actually preaching them? Am I supposed to tell Grace, "Grace okay, here is [sic] some words you can use, here is [sic] some words you can not." And then but you’re friend over there can use it because-

GOLDBERG: Can I simplify it for you? The little kid is not going to walk up to Grace and say "[bleeped out]" It’s not going to happen. [laughter]

HASSELBECK: It’s an example. I’m just giving an example.

GOLDBERG: But, but I understand your example. I understand your example, but Elisabeth, as I said at the beginning when we first talked about this word, this is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning. I’ve never met [bleeped out], I have never gone to [bleeped out], I don’t know any [bleeped out]. There are [bleeped out]. You can try it, just like you can-

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to.

GOLDBERG: No, no, no, listen to me, listen to me. Just like you can talk about comical Italian people if you were a comic.

HASSELBECK: I’m half Italian.

GOLDBERG: And yeah, so you can say all kinds of stuff. You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works.

SHEPHERD: What about teaching, what about teaching Grace with different things that- There are some things where people are sensitive to. There are some things that we can’t say because people are sensitive to it. Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?

HASSELBECK: Look, I’m not saying I won’t explain to my daughter how to talk about words. I grew up in a household where we didn’t say- I’m half Polish and half Italian. If somebody said to me "you’re a dumb Pollack," it offended me. I never made fun of myself saying, you’re, you’re that word. I’m a this. I never would go into my own heritage and use a phrase that is used against me in the privacy of my own home because I think it perpetuates stereotypes and hate.

GOLDBERG: You have to understand [bleeped out] word that has followed us around, and basically what we did is we took it out the hands of people that were using it and put it into our hands and we use it the way we want to use it and that’s the way it is.

HASSELBECK: Then it sneaks into pop culture then. I’m just trying to get an answer.

WALTERS: You did. You’re not listening you’re just talking. She is saying-

HASSELBECK: - I am listening.

WALTERS: -it’s okay in her culture, but it is difficult as you as a white mother to explain that, that Jeffrey can use it, but Grace can’t.

HASSELBECK: It’s not difficult for me. It’s just an example in terms of general philosophy. I have no problem explaining things to Grace. My thing is that we don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.

GOLDBERG: We do live in different worlds. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s the way it is Elisabeth. This is the way it is. This is how I grew up. My mother could not go and vote in the United States of America, the place of her birth. We, go- wait, wait.

WALTERS: And don’t we want that to change?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we would like to. But you don’t understand.

HASSELBECK: I’m not going to take that away from no.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I, I want you to. But what I need you to understand is the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn’t balanced. And we would like it to be. But you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you, there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you’ve got to know this if you want to know us.

HASSELBECK: I’m not trying to take- I understand. I’m not trying to-

GOLDBERG: But it didn’t sound like it.

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to take that away from you. When we are living in this world and we are living in the world where there is in, in the pop culture, when that word is in use. When there are- [crying] this is upsetting to me because-

WALTERS: Okay, just take a breathe and let someone else talk.

HASSELBECK: I am, I am, but this is a conversation that is hard and we’re going to have it here and we have it here for a while because we love each other. When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place and we feel like we’re in the same world, how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?

GOLDBERG: I can tell you.

HASSELBECK: How?

GOLDBERG: Here’s how we do it. You listen and say "okay this is how we’re using this word and this is why we do it." You have to say, "well, you know what? I understand that, but let’s find a new way to move forward." You must acknowledge the understanding of what it is and why it is in order to go-

HASSELBECK: But when is it time to have the conversation?

GOLDBERG: But we are.

HASSELBECK: We are, yes.

WALTERS: Okay, but one second, let somebody else have a conversation for just one second. [laughter] We have a man- [laughter and applause] We have a man running for president who is 50 percent white and 50 percent black. And one of the things that he is trying to do is to bring people together and there still is racism. I have not heard anybody on this show say the word that you just said. They say the "n" word, we’re so afraid of it. If I said what you said, I would never hear the end of it. But when- wait I’ll grant it. But when you say it’s okay, we are trying to change. This is what Barack Obama and others are trying to do, to move forward. In the meantime, we have to understand that we haven’t gotten there yet. And maybe we should and maybe it’s not okay for you to use the word, but that is the reality, that’s the reality of the moment. And whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.


One portion of the exchange has three of the women contending the following:

HASSELBECK: I’m half Italian.

GOLDBERG: And yeah, so you can say all kinds of stuff. You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works.

SHEPHERD: What about teaching, what about teaching Grace with different things that- There are some things where people are sensitive to. There are some things that we can’t say because people are sensitive to it. Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?

HASSELBECK: Look, I’m not saying I won’t explain to my daughter how to talk about words. I grew up in a household where we didn’t say- I’m half Polish and half Italian. If somebody said to me "you’re a dumb Pollack," it offended me. I never made fun of myself saying, you’re, you’re that word. I’m a this. I never would go into my own heritage and use a phrase that is used against me in the privacy of my own home because I think it perpetuates stereotypes and hate.


Goldberg says "You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works." Is she listening to herself? I suspect Hasselbeck's parents said these things privately but not publicly for good reason: a) they understood that it was in bad taste; and b) they recognized that public airing would only encourage others to use the same language. And as for "that's just the way that works?" Here is something else "that's just the way that works," Whoopi. Blacks and women (among others) lose out on housing or jobs or other of life's necessities because they are black and female- do you like that? Apparently so, because "that's just the way it works."

Uh-oh. As if it isn't bad enough, Shepherd then asks "Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?" There are two reasons: 1) If one believes Ms. Goldberg, who has a moment earlier referred to "a word that has meaning when you give it meaning," you think a word has whatever meaning the speaker wishes to apply to it- unless Whoopi was referring solely to the n-word, which raises a whole set of problems, incoherence among them. So, in the gospel according to Goldberg, the child isn't being hurtful because her "meaning" was not to be hurtful; 2) The person has a hump on his/her back. The child, without ridiculing or stereotyping the individual, has asked his parent about it. That sounds like legitimate curiousity, which if answered would help lift the child out of ignorance. Apparently, Shepherd as a child asked few questions.
Controversy On "The View"- 2

It was the discussion that, though discouraging because of what it revealed by a couple of participants, was one I wish I had seen live. To recap:


WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.

WALTERS: But if I used it...

SHEPHERD: I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth.

HASSELBECK: I just think, here’s the like, how do you, okay, so wait a minute, let’s think about this. This is how I think things can be simplified sometimes. How do you teach children, okay? We should be acting. We’re trying to teach our kids certain things in this world, no? So then are we, are we acting out on what we’re actually preaching them? Am I supposed to tell Grace, "Grace okay, here is [sic] some words you can use, here is [sic] some words you can not." And then but you’re friend over there can use it because-

GOLDBERG: Can I simplify it for you? The little kid is not going to walk up to Grace and say "[bleeped out]" It’s not going to happen. [laughter]

HASSELBECK: It’s an example. I’m just giving an example.

GOLDBERG: But, but I understand your example. I understand your example, but Elisabeth, as I said at the beginning when we first talked about this word, this is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning. I’ve never met [bleeped out], I have never gone to [bleeped out], I don’t know any [bleeped out]. There are [bleeped out]. You can try it, just like you can-

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to.

GOLDBERG: No, no, no, listen to me, listen to me. Just like you can talk about comical Italian people if you were a comic.

HASSELBECK: I’m half Italian.

GOLDBERG: And yeah, so you can say all kinds of stuff. You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works.

SHEPHERD: What about teaching, what about teaching Grace with different things that- There are some things where people are sensitive to. There are some things that we can’t say because people are sensitive to it. Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?

HASSELBECK: Look, I’m not saying I won’t explain to my daughter how to talk about words. I grew up in a household where we didn’t say- I’m half Polish and half Italian. If somebody said to me "you’re a dumb Pollack," it offended me. I never made fun of myself saying, you’re, you’re that word. I’m a this. I never would go into my own heritage and use a phrase that is used against me in the privacy of my own home because I think it perpetuates stereotypes and hate.

GOLDBERG: You have to understand [bleeped out] word that has followed us around, and basically what we did is we took it out the hands of people that were using it and put it into our hands and we use it the way we want to use it and that’s the way it is.

HASSELBECK: Then it sneaks into pop culture then. I’m just trying to get an answer.

WALTERS: You did. You’re not listening you’re just talking. She is saying-

HASSELBECK: - I am listening.

WALTERS: -it’s okay in her culture, but it is difficult as you as a white mother to explain that, that Jeffrey can use it, but Grace can’t.

HASSELBECK: It’s not difficult for me. It’s just an example in terms of general philosophy. I have no problem explaining things to Grace. My thing is that we don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.

GOLDBERG: We do live in different worlds. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s the way it is Elisabeth. This is the way it is. This is how I grew up. My mother could not go and vote in the United States of America, the place of her birth. We, go- wait, wait.

WALTERS: And don’t we want that to change?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we would like to. But you don’t understand.

HASSELBECK: I’m not going to take that away from no.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I, I want you to. But what I need you to understand is the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn’t balanced. And we would like it to be. But you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you, there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you’ve got to know this if you want to know us.

HASSELBECK: I’m not trying to take- I understand. I’m not trying to-

GOLDBERG: But it didn’t sound like it.

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to take that away from you. When we are living in this world and we are living in the world where there is in, in the pop culture, when that word is in use. When there are- [crying] this is upsetting to me because-

WALTERS: Okay, just take a breathe and let someone else talk.

HASSELBECK: I am, I am, but this is a conversation that is hard and we’re going to have it here and we have it here for a while because we love each other. When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place and we feel like we’re in the same world, how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?

GOLDBERG: I can tell you.

HASSELBECK: How?

GOLDBERG: Here’s how we do it. You listen and say "okay this is how we’re using this word and this is why we do it." You have to say, "well, you know what? I understand that, but let’s find a new way to move forward." You must acknowledge the understanding of what it is and why it is in order to go-

HASSELBECK: But when is it time to have the conversation?

GOLDBERG: But we are.

HASSELBECK: We are, yes.

WALTERS: Okay, but one second, let somebody else have a conversation for just one second. [laughter] We have a man- [laughter and applause] We have a man running for president who is 50 percent white and 50 percent black. And one of the things that he is trying to do is to bring people together and there still is racism. I have not heard anybody on this show say the word that you just said. They say the "n" word, we’re so afraid of it. If I said what you said, I would never hear the end of it. But when- wait I’ll grant it. But when you say it’s okay, we are trying to change. This is what Barack Obama and others are trying to do, to move forward. In the meantime, we have to understand that we haven’t gotten there yet. And maybe we should and maybe it’s not okay for you to use the word, but that is the reality, that’s the reality of the moment. And whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.


Despite what was "bleeped out," I think this part of the exchange was really good:

HASSELBECK: I just think, here’s the like, how do you, okay, so wait a minute, let’s think about this. This is how I think things can be simplified sometimes. How do you teach children, okay? We should be acting. We’re trying to teach our kids certain things in this world, no? So then are we, are we acting out on what we’re actually preaching them? Am I supposed to tell Grace, "Grace okay, here is [sic] some words you can use, here is [sic] some words you can not." And then but you’re friend over there can use it because-

GOLDBERG: Can I simplify it for you? The little kid is not going to walk up to Grace and say "[bleeped out]" It’s not going to happen. [laughter]

HASSELBECK: It’s an example. I’m just giving an example.

GOLDBERG: But, but I understand your example. I understand your example, but Elisabeth, as I said at the beginning when we first talked about this word, this is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning. I’ve never met [bleeped out], I have never gone to [bleeped out], I don’t know any [bleeped out]. There are [bleeped out]. You can try it, just like you can-


There is no reason for Hasselbeck- "I'm just giving an example"- to be defensive. Surely, children recognize a double standard- and it's pointless to explain to a child that other children (whom we teach them to view not as blacks, Roman Catholics, gay, etc.) can say things which they cannot. A role model, if a parent, means something to children, who know when we are not "acting out on what we're actually preaching them." (Gosh, I'm actually quoting Elisabeth Hasselbeck!) Recognition of hypocrisy, even if the word itself is not understood, comes early. And acting is a role model is an exercise in an adult holding himself/herself accountable for actions consistent with the guidance being given to children. Yet,Whoopi Goldberg reacted to this scenario with disbelief.... which means she understands little about children or is so caught up in her narrow-minded ideology that she disregards reality.

Then Goldberg, wedging herself into an untenable position, claims the n-word "is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning." This is an odd stance, given that over the decades many whites used the term and were understandably accused of racism despite denying such intent- or "meaning." Perhaps if Ms. Goldberg cracked open a dictionary she would discover that words have meaning quite apart from the political significance she decides, perhaps at a whim, to impart to them. Otherwise, a word would have a different meaning each time it was used (or would it- we couldn't be sure) and no one could be held responsible for any statement uttered out of laziness or ignorance- which, given, the one here by this comedian, would be exceptionally fortunate.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Controversy On "The View"- 1

It now appears that Jesse Jackson used the word "n------" (plural form) when on July 6, 2008 he accused Barack Obama of "talking down to black people" and threatened to remove a critical body part of his. And on July 17, 2008 the women of ABC's The View were talking about it. According to the conservative blog newsbusters.org, this is the (relevant part of) the transcript:

WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.

WALTERS: But if I used it...

SHEPHERD: I don’t want to hear it come out of your mouth.

HASSELBECK: I just think, here’s the like, how do you, okay, so wait a minute, let’s think about this. This is how I think things can be simplified sometimes. How do you teach children, okay? We should be acting. We’re trying to teach our kids certain things in this world, no? So then are we, are we acting out on what we’re actually preaching them? Am I supposed to tell Grace, "Grace okay, here is [sic] some words you can use, here is [sic] some words you can not." And then but you’re friend over there can use it because-

GOLDBERG: Can I simplify it for you? The little kid is not going to walk up to Grace and say "[bleeped out]" It’s not going to happen. [laughter]

HASSELBECK: It’s an example. I’m just giving an example.

GOLDBERG: But, but I understand your example. I understand your example, but Elisabeth, as I said at the beginning when we first talked about this word, this is a word that has meaning when you give it meaning. I’ve never met [bleeped out], I have never gone to [bleeped out], I don’t know any [bleeped out]. There are [bleeped out]. You can try it, just like you can-

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to.

GOLDBERG: No, no, no, listen to me, listen to me. Just like you can talk about comical Italian people if you were a comic.

HASSELBECK: I’m half Italian.

GOLDBERG: And yeah, so you can say all kinds of stuff. You can say the stuff that your mom and dad would say in the privacy of their home and not outside. That’s just the way that it works.

SHEPHERD: What about teaching, what about teaching Grace with different things that- There are some things where people are sensitive to. There are some things that we can’t say because people are sensitive to it. Kids say "why does that person have a hump on their back?" You know, that might hurt their feelings. So why not explain it in that way?

HASSELBECK: Look, I’m not saying I won’t explain to my daughter how to talk about words. I grew up in a household where we didn’t say- I’m half Polish and half Italian. If somebody said to me "you’re a dumb Pollack," it offended me. I never made fun of myself saying, you’re, you’re that word. I’m a this. I never would go into my own heritage and use a phrase that is used against me in the privacy of my own home because I think it perpetuates stereotypes and hate.

GOLDBERG: You have to understand [bleeped out] word that has followed us around, and basically what we did is we took it out the hands of people that were using it and put it into our hands and we use it the way we want to use it and that’s the way it is.

HASSELBECK: Then it sneaks into pop culture then. I’m just trying to get an answer.

WALTERS: You did. You’re not listening you’re just talking. She is saying-

HASSELBECK: - I am listening.

WALTERS: -it’s okay in her culture, but it is difficult as you as a white mother to explain that, that Jeffrey can use it, but Grace can’t.

HASSELBECK: It’s not difficult for me. It’s just an example in terms of general philosophy. I have no problem explaining things to Grace. My thing is that we don’t live in different worlds. We live in the same world.

GOLDBERG: We do live in different worlds. I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s the way it is Elisabeth. This is the way it is. This is how I grew up. My mother could not go and vote in the United States of America, the place of her birth. We, go- wait, wait.

WALTERS: And don’t we want that to change?

GOLDBERG: Yes, we would like to. But you don’t understand.

HASSELBECK: I’m not going to take that away from no.

GOLDBERG: No, no, I, I want you to. But what I need you to understand is the frustration that goes along when you say we live in the same world. It isn’t balanced. And we would like it to be. But you have to understand, you have to listen to the fact that we’re telling you, there are issues, there are huge problems that still affect us. And you’ve got to know this if you want to know us.

HASSELBECK: I’m not trying to take- I understand. I’m not trying to-

GOLDBERG: But it didn’t sound like it.

HASSELBECK: I am not trying to take that away from you. When we are living in this world and we are living in the world where there is in, in the pop culture, when that word is in use. When there are- [crying] this is upsetting to me because-

WALTERS: Okay, just take a breathe and let someone else talk.

HASSELBECK: I am, I am, but this is a conversation that is hard and we’re going to have it here and we have it here for a while because we love each other. When we live in a world where pop culture then uses that term, and we’re trying to get to a place where we feel like we’re in the same place and we feel like we’re in the same world, how are we supposed to then move forward if we keep using terms that bring back that pain?

GOLDBERG: I can tell you.

HASSELBECK: How?

GOLDBERG: Here’s how we do it. You listen and say "okay this is how we’re using this word and this is why we do it." You have to say, "well, you know what? I understand that, but let’s find a new way to move forward." You must acknowledge the understanding of what it is and why it is in order to go-

HASSELBECK: But when is it time to have the conversation?

GOLDBERG: But we are.

HASSELBECK: We are, yes.

WALTERS: Okay, but one second, let somebody else have a conversation for just one second. [laughter] We have a man- [laughter and applause] We have a man running for president who is 50 percent white and 50 percent black. And one of the things that he is trying to do is to bring people together and there still is racism. I have not heard anybody on this show say the word that you just said. They say the "n" word, we’re so afraid of it. If I said what you said, I would never hear the end of it. But when- wait I’ll grant it. But when you say it’s okay, we are trying to change. This is what Barack Obama and others are trying to do, to move forward. In the meantime, we have to understand that we haven’t gotten there yet. And maybe we should and maybe it’s not okay for you to use the word, but that is the reality, that’s the reality of the moment. And whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing.


It was long but I think worth the read, though in this post I'll respond only to one small portion of this extraordinary discussion.

WALTERS: Is it-- and what you’re saying– is it okay for black comics primarily, like yourself when you do an act and so forth, is it okay then to use as it is still done and not okay for white people? Is that the case?

SHEPHERD: Yeah I, I have no problem with them using it. It’s something that means something way different to me than it does to you. I grew up with my family using it. It– for me, I can use it as a term of endearment.


Sherri Shepherd here is saying a) comics can say what others can't; and b) it means something different for her than it does "to you" (by which presumably she meant white people because, apparently, for Shepherd all white people are the same).

Shepherd has, inadvertently, stumbled into a little bit of truth here. It does mean something different for black people than for white people which, fortunately, the latter have come to understand over the past few decades. And it is this impact upon the victims of hate speech that has spurred the efforts of well-meaning individuals to stigmatize this, and other, hurtful language.

There always has been a reservoir of belief in this country that entertainers are allowed to say things the average unsophisticated rube is not. Perhaps it's the idea that bigotry is acceptable when done for a profit (think Steven Colbert's trashing of Catholicism, ironic though it is from a church-going Roman Catholic), or that the harm wrought by hate is inversely correlated with the number of people exposed to it. If that doesn't make any sense, evidently you're not part of the ignorant mass to which Ms. Shepherd would like to consign you.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Patriotic?

Hopefully, I'm merely alarmist but....

Chris Matthews on Hardball on 7/16/08 reported a disturbing result from a CBS/New York times survey in which respondents apparently were asked whether they believed the presumptive Democratic and Republican presidential nominees are "very patriotic." Not surprisingly, 73% of respondents said "yes" of John McCain- but only 37% of Barack Obama. Presumably, given Obama's lead in the polls, this is not an insurmountable burden for the Democrat- but reveals a huge vulnerability for the Illinois senator.
Of Afghanistan And The Surge

There is something about the mess in the Persian Gulf I don't understand.

On tonight's (7/17/08) episode of MSNBC's "Hardball," guest host Mike Barnicle led a discussion with public relations consultant and Repub strategist Mike Paul and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. Recent ads by Barack Obama and John McCain were shown, followed by comments by Paul and McMahon. One such ad was put up by "Vets For Freedom," a third-party endorsement of Mccain in which various individuals emphatically asserted that the "surge is working." McMahon argued soldiers "on their fourth tour" are not anxious to remain in Iraq and "there's a political situation over there that hasn't improved very much."

True enough, and kudos to McMahon for asserting what is, or at least was before the presumptive Democratic nominee's obfuscation, the party's position on the war.

But in reports of 6/30/08 and 7/2/08 The New York Times noted:

the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq.... Current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas (of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan). (Now, there is) a strengthening Taliban insurgency that has menaced NATO forces and reclaimed control over some southern and eastern parts of the country.... (and) more American and coalition troops died in Afghanistan last month (i.e., June) than during any other month since the American-led invasion began in 2001.


So has the "surge" diverted resources from the war in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq? And if so, why haven't opponents of the Bush-Rice-McCain war policy (especially with Obama's emphasis on Afghanistan) not argued that: 1)the military success has resulted from diversion of resources from Afghanistan and 2)the Pakistan/Afghanistan front- not Iraq- is home to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sarcasm At The New Yorker

Harold W. Ross launched The New Yorker magazine in 1925 with a prospectus which famously declared "THE NEW YORKER will be the magazine which is not edited for the old lady in Dubuque. It will not be concerned in what she is thinking about."

Less famously, the advisory board for The New Yorker had been culled from a group known to be the "aristocracy of New York sophistication," the Algonquin Round Table, "a group of exclusive writers who lunched at the Algonquin Hotel for witty conversation and companionship."

Perhaps not surprisingly, fifty-one years later the magazine would run as its cover a map (originating from the nineteen thirties) depicting the world as seen from Manhattan's Ninth Avenue, in which the rest of the world pales in size and significance to New York City. Perhaps readers were supposed to recognize Daniel K. Wallingford's map as satire, a comment on the hubris of New Yorkers. But I think the cleverness was lost on most of us rubes somehow inexplicably surviving beyond The Big Apple.

And into this tradition, at the magazine whose founder said "will assume a reasonable degree of enlightenment on the part of its readers," has stepped the now-infamous Obamas As Muslim Terrorists cover. Editor David Remnick assures Washington Post media critic Howie Kurtz "It's clearly a joke, a parody of these crazy fears and rumors and scare tactics about Obama's past and ideology. And if you can't tell it's a joke by the flag burning in the Oval Office, I don't know what more to say."

Apparently the public, about whom the editor presumably assumes a "reasonable degree of enlightenment," is sufficiently ignorant or bigoted as to necessitate a sophisticated New York publication to lift it up out of its unawareness. And they are surprised, evidently, that many of us did not pick up on this inside joke, so unable to recognize our lack of sophistication as to appreciate the irony, the sarcasm, generously visited upon us by the enlightened souls at The New Yorker. This applies, I suppose, even to the citizens of Dubuque, residents of the state with the highest literacy rate in the nation.

Now, that is what I call irony.
The Supreme Court, Hostile To Workers

On June 19, 2008 the United States Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision written by Justice Stevens (joined by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy, Thomas, and Souter) enjoined enforcement by the State of California of Assembly Bill 1889, signed into law in September, 2000. Among other things, the legislation aims to "prohibit a grant recipient, state contractor, public employer, or private employer who receives state funds and meets other requirements from using state funds to assist, promote, or deter union organizing."

The Court reversed and remanded the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court, which had ruled in favor of the State after the District Court had ruled in favor of the employers. Stevens' opinion argued that by adding Section 8(c) to the National Labor Relations Act, Congress determined, in the words of SCOTUS blog, "noncoercive speech by either unions or employers cannot be subject to NLRB regulation as an unfair labor practice."

The minority noted that a provision preventing the use of state funds for a particular private activity is not a "regulation" in terms of the NLRA,and that states have broad authority to determine how to spend their own money.

Kansan Bob Dole, Senate Majority Leader, Republican National Committee chairman, Vice-Presidential nominee, and Presidential nominee, used to boast that he kept in the pocket of his shirt an index card with the text of the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. But this decision by the Court- with all seven GOP appointees and neither Democratic appointee- in the majority suggests that the high court has followed the lead of Repub politicians in brushing aside this amendment in order to pledge allegiance to the corporate money. The idea that a state cannot prohibit money taken by taxpayers (for whom Republicans continually claim a great bond) from being spent on preventing unionization is breathtaking (or would be, if not such a boring subject).

Election of a Democratic nominee for president is needed to push back against the rightward plunge of the Court in several controversial areas. But a Democratic president also must consider the rights of American workers- and other economic issues- in filling the vacancies that are likely to emerge on the Supreme Court in the next four years.

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Than A Goal

As impressive, but hardly commendable, was Senator McCaskill's obfuscation on yesterday's Meet The Press relative to Barack Obama's position on the Iraq War. She stated (on page 2 of transcript):

He, he has a goal of 16 months, but obviously, the most important thing in getting out...
I mean, obviously, a goal is a goal, and he's been very clear that that's a goal. He's been very clear that he wants to be careful and reasonable about the way--in fact, his phrase is, "I want to be the opposite of what we were when we went in."


Except that it has been more than a "goal." Here is Senator Obama at the January, 2008 Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nevada (approximately halfway through):

I have opposed this war consistently. I have put forward a plan that will get our troops out by the end of 2009.

And here is a portion of Senator Obama's website:

Obama would immediately begin to pull out troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year.

This, of course, is not as much a shift on the war as that of his opponent, who several times over the past few years has declared his fealty to the Bush war policy before recently finding it inconvenient. Still, it's a little discouraging that the presumptive Democratic nominee's zig-zag on major issues is benign only as compared to that of the unprepared, woefully ineffective candidate of the GOP.

False Reality, False Hope

On Friday's episode of " The View ," host Caryn Elaine Johnson , known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, took exception ...