Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Man, A Gun, And A Shooting

It seems that sometime-star wide receiver Plaxico Burress of the New York Giants has a bit of a legal problem.

Mr. Burress appeared with Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce and running back Ahmad Bradshaw at the entrance of the Latin Quarter nightclub in mid-town Manhattan. Then, according to the New York Daily News

all walked through metal detectors - at which point, Burress informed security he had a gun. He was then pulled aside and frisked, revealing a handgun tucked in the waistband of his sweatpants, sources said. A manager was called over, and, after a brief discussion, he decided to allow Burress to keep the weapon. Burress said he needed the firearm because he was bedecked in jewelry and carrying a wad of cash. A security guard was assigned to the players. Burress then asked to go to the VIP area and was escorted up a flight of stairs. At some point, the gun jostled loose from the waistband, and as Burress - who was holding a drink in his hand - grabbed for it, a round went off.

The guys left the club, the gun (later retrieved) was taken to New Jersey somewhere by Pierce. The wide receiver went home and, accompanied by his wife and a friend, arrived at New York-Cornell Hospital in his Cadillac Escalade. He was checked in at 2:45 a.m. and was released some ten hours later after being treated.

A hospital spokeswoman told the Daily News (two consecutive days) that Burress had never been there but Giant employees reported it to the New York Police Department, and Burress probably will be charged with criminal possession of a weapon. Burress' gun had a permit for his gun in Florida, where it had been purchased, but it was not registered in New York.

As someone who is as fond of the New York Giants as, say, a Boston Red Sox fan is of the New York Yankees, I always will defend the right of a Giant receiver to blow a hole in his right thigh. Still, it does raise in a reasonable person at least four "what was" questions:

.... the night club doing a) letting in a guy with a gun; b) not reporting the shooting to police; and c) cleaning up afterward (which, admittedly, follows logically from not informing the authorities)?

....the hospital contemplating apparently committing the Class A misdemeanor by not telling police (who were first notified by the Giants organization) that someone had admitted with a gunshot wound? Two obvious possiblities, neither pretty: the facility was covering up for a celebrity (Burress had given his name as "Harris Smith" but he was recognized by hospital workers); or the facility typically covers up for violent offenders by not reporting the presence of their victims to law enforcement authorities.

....the NYG football team (which at least didn't cover up the incident) thinking when it allowed both Bradshaw and Pierce to play in the game (won by the Giants 23-7) on Sunday against the Redskins? Probably the organization recognized the legal issues in which it would have been involved by taking immediate action against the players, primarily an appeal by the National Football League Players Association and the players' attorney(s). Still, the NFL personal conduct policy (as of early 2007) includes

It will be considered conduct detrimental for Covered Persons to engage in (or to aid, abet or conspire to engage in or to incite) violent and/or criminal activity. Examples of such Prohibited Conduct include, without limitation: any crime involving the use or threat of physical violence to a person or persons; the use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime; possession or distribution of a weapon in violation of state or federal law....

....a guy who would accidentally shoot himself doing with a gun in a nightclub? Not figuratively, but literally- what would he be doing with it? A fellow who recently signed a five-year, $35 million contract would be able to hire a bodyguard or two.

At least, the New York City Police Department should be commended. As of this point, it- almost alone- has done nothing irresponsible, morally reprehensible, or criminal.

Friday, November 28, 2008

At Wal-Mart

Those men and women hungry for bargains on Black Friday can sure kill the holiday spirit.

The New York Daily News reports that 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour, a (temporary) maintenance worker, was trampled to death after a Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream, N.Y. store opened at 5:00 a.m. the morning after Thanksgiving. One employee described the victim as "bum-rushed by 200 people" while "they took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me." Employees unsuccessfully tried to save the victim and contain the rioters, some of whom, when told they had to leave the store, reportedly kept shopping while screaming "I've been on line since Friday morning!"

Police arrived and the store was closed- till 1:00 p.m., when hundreds of shoppers were welcomed. A spokesman for the Nassau County (N.Y.) Police Department stated that an investigation would be conducted to determine whether anyone responsible for the death of Mr. Damour could be identified. He also commented that Wal-Mart had insufficient security on hand.

Perhaps the District Attorney's office might want to consider the possible culpability of the corporation in this affair. Meanwhile, we can lament yet another demonstration of the secularization, and commercialization, of Christmas, as noted by Ian Anderson/Jethro Tull here and here.



Rush, Barack, And The Market

Rush Limbaugh, the biggest of the big of talk radio, assured us on November 6, 2008:

The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen. Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression. He hasn't done anything yet but his ideas are killing the economy. His ideas are killing Wall Street....

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 780 points since Obama won the election, and he hasn't passed anything yet. The seas have not parted; the sea levels have not declined.


President-elect Obama announced his economic team on Friday, November 21, 2008. The previous day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had closed at 7552.29, Nasdaq at 1375.12, and the S&P 500 at 752.44. As of the end of the day today, November 28, 2008, these averages stood at, respectively: 8829.04; 1535.57; 896.24. This would be an increase for the Dow Jones Industrial Average of 16.9%, Nasdaq of 11.7%, and the S&P 500 of 19.1%. This since President-elect Obama announced the people who will help him take charge of the economy, after eight years of neglect.

Limbaugh concluded "Obama is not facing a sinking economy. He's not facing a sinking economy. That's exactly right. He's causing it! He is causing the sinking economy." O.K., Rush: after nearly eight years- 408 weeks- of George W. Bush, President Bush has had nothing to do with our economic calamity. After 0 weeks as President, Barack Obama has caused an economic crisis.

It's hard to believe, but there are people who listen to Rush Limbaugh and take him seriously.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hatred Of America From The Right

Thinkprogress.org reports that on his November 25 radio program, right-wing talker Glenn Beck stated

So the question is, do states have the right to secede anymore? Because it was a compact. It’s not perpetual. In fact, in the Declaration of Independence it says it is our right, it is our responsibility to get away from a government who doesn’t listen to us any more.

Do you even have a right to do that as a state any more? Do you have the right to say, “You know what, you guys are going down a path that I don’t even agree with”? Is that even possible?


You will recall that Sarah Palin and husband Todd Palin attended the 1994 convention of the Alaska Independence Party (motto: Alaska First-Alaska Always"), at which time Todd joined the party, where he remained a member for several years. Demonstrating that her sentiments had not materially changed, Mrs. Palin recorded a video greeting that was played at the 2008 convention of the AIP in Fairbanks. Besides referring to Alaskans as the "hardest working, most grateful Americans" (which leaves those of us from the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere out), Governor Palin told the Party to "keep up the good work, and God bless you."

There you have it: two of the luminaries of the Republican right- the talk radio host with more listeners than all but two other individuals, and the GOP's vice-presidential nominee in 2008 (a few months after she lauded the secessionists in Fairbanks). What is it with the right wing of the Republican Party? Why are they intrigued by secession? And why do they always blame America first?

A Sales Job

An evangelical minister in Texas has come up with a twist on the "health and wealth gospel"- believe in God, pray to God, and prosper- of nouveau Christian clergymen.

Reverend Ed Young of the Fellowhip Church in Grapevine on November 23 urged married couples in his congregation to engage in a week of "congregational copulation." The following Sunday the 47-year-old Reverend Young, who has been married for 26 years and has four children, urged the couples to "keep on doing what you've been doing this week. We should try to double up the amount of intimacy we have in marriage. And when I say intimacy, I don't mean holding hands in the park or a back rub."

This advice is strictly biblical, Reverend Young assures us. He quotes "two shall become one flesh," an apparent reference to Genesis 2:4, which has little if anything to do with sexual relations; and "do not deprive each other of sexual relations," the latter apparently a reference to 2Corinthians 7:5, in which Paul writes "stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer..." Have fun, so God loves you: follow his advice and you'll learn "How to move from whining about the economy to whoopee!”

This sounds a little like the famous Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas (Texas again!), who contends

A lot of psychological principles and even medical principles, you see them coming around to what the Bible said hundreds of years ago: a merry heart is good like a medicine. I’ve read many articles on how a positive attitude, laughing every day and being happy, does help people to recover and live longer.

It's really comforting to think that a sovereign God wants nothing more and nothing less than for us to be happy, "laughing every day (with) a merry heart." For a more traditional, more orthodox (and what is known as a "reformed" perspective) Christian view, check out the writings of Michael S. Horton, PhD. of Westminster Seminary in California.








Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama's Choice

Senator Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) was a very early supporter of, and constant surrogate for, Barack Obama, and fittingly, backed the bid of the Independent Senator from Connecticut, Joe Lieberman, to remain chairman of the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. In an article in Salon, Mike Madden quotes the Missouri Senator as saying:

He has sent a very clear signal since his election -- one of humility and one of reconciliation and healing, and it's very clear to all of us that he doesn't want to play the old political games. Old politics would have been revenge and retribution. New politics would be, let's get to work.

In an ironic way, McCaskill is half right. Unlike the comments of some such as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas ("what happened, happened in the Senate- not in the White House, in the Senate"), McCaskill seems to understand that the primary reason Lieberman (who lost his position as chairman of a subcommittee) was given an ineffectual slap on the wrist was Barack Obama. It was the President-elect's spokesperson, Stephanie Cutter, who, in an e-mail of November 11, wrote Greg Sargent of Talking Points Memo

We aren't going to referee decisions about who should or should not be a committee chair. President-elect Obama looks forward to working with anyone to move the country forward. We'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats. We don't hold any grudges.

If the leader of your party, recently elected in a near-landslide and currently enjoying great popularity, says (through a representative) a)"we'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats" (though evicting Lieberman from the caucus never was on the table); and b)"we don't hold any grudges" toward a politician who has said that you are "a talker" who hasn't always "put country first," the message is clear: I want that guy to remain in a position of influence. And another message: cross me, and I will reward you.

At some point during what he hopes will be an eight-year run, President Obama will be faltering in the polls with little support among the American people. And he will need the vote of a wavering member of Congress, who will then remember the message Barack Obama sent in his advocacy of another member of Congress who actively, and virulently, attacked him throughout the campaign. And that member will know that bucking President Obama carries no retribution and no consequence, except possibly reward.




Al Qaeda Concerned

Did Al Qaeda want Barack Obama to be elected President of the United States?

Evidently, the McCain-Palin campaign thought so. A comment posted in October on a website linked to Al Qaeda called for the election of John McCain. ABC's Jake Tapper reported on his blog on 10/23 that Randy Scheunemann and former CIA chief James Woolsey and Randy Schuenemann responded by suggesting that Al Qaeda preferred Obama. Woolsey asserted "it is ridiculous to believe that in its heart of hearts Al Qaeda wants John McCain to be the President. And it is ludicrous." Scheunemann, one of McCain's foreign policy advisers, claimed "only Senator Obama has advocated withdrawal and surrender to Al Qaeda in Iraq when Al Qaeda was at the peak of its power."

On November 19, Al Qaeda's no. 2 leader posted a statement on numerous militant web sites. In his 11 minute, 23 second video, Ayman al-Zawahiri emphasized "America has put on a new face, but its heart full of hate, mind drowning in greed, and spirit, which spreads evil, murder, repression and despotism continue to be the same as always." He called Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, and President-elect Obama "house negroes" and claimed

You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him). You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America. And so you promised to back Israel, and you threatened to strike the tribal regions in Pakistan, and to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, in order for the crimes of the American Crusade in it to continue.

Al Zawahiri appears to fear his "brothers" will not understand that Americans "continue to be captive to the same criminal American mentality towards the world and towards the Muslims." He finds a need to explain the "criminal, trespassing Crusader, continues to be the same as ever." He seems to be angry that the U.S.A. has chosen as its leader someone who will not incur the enmity in the Muslim world as President Bush and that his co-religionists throughout the world now have a more benign view of our nation.

And what if an Al Qaeda official had delivered this vicious, hateful, bigoted message prior to the election? Almost certainly it would have evoked great sympathy- and empathy- for Barack Obama, a sense that the mission of the Illinois senator is the same as ours. Referring to the Democratic nominee as a supporter of Israel, a Christian, and, especially, as among "the enemies of the Muslims" would have allayed a few of the concerns of voters. His victory would have been almost assured and his winning margin of 6.8% enhanced. It's likely Al Qaeda understood the likely impact of such an attack and wisely (though without avail) held off its denunciation until the election of Barack Obama, an event which appears to have alarmed the terrorist organization.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Emphasizing Race

Sophia A. Nelson, a black former Republican congressional staffer and committee counsel, has written for Sunday's edition of The Washington Post an article which wil delight most of my fellow liberal Democrats. She described the recent relationship between the Republican Party and black America and "why so many of us, including me, ended up, after struggling with our consciences, supporting and voting for the Illinois senator." She argues

After such a devastating loss, Republicans will have to do some retooling. We'll have to decide whether we want to be the party that believes in smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation, or whether we're going to be a litmus-test party that responds only to the demands of social conservatives. But most important, we'll have to confront our most disastrous modern legacy: our poor relationship with black Americans, the very people the party was formed to protect from the expansion of slavery into Kansas and Nebraska in 1854.

Spare me the nod, of dubious sincerity, toward introspection. The party Sophia Nelson supports is for lower taxes for the wealthy, with the resulting higher budget deficit; deregulation of the financial services industry; spying on American citizens; international trade without safeguards for workers or the environment; an energy policy which discourages alternative sources of energy; initiating a war under false pretenses. She's on board as long as it isn't a party "obsessed with religion, guns and abortion," as she approvingly quotes "one black Republican businesman from Virginia."

But of course the GOP ran the a highly secular presidential nominee, John McCain, instead of, say, Reverend Mike Huckabee. And the nominee did not emphasize "religion, guns, and abortion," though he and his running mate were allegedly in favor of the first two and against the third. Instead, the McCain-Palin ticket reflected traditional party values in its denunciation of Barack Obama for "raising taxes" (though the increase would come only to those individuals earning over $200,000, or families earning over $250,000, per year); for being a "socialist" (presumably for his advocacy of the middle class); and for not supporting the "drill, baby, drill" prescription of offshore drilling everywhere, a sop to the oil companies.

And how should the Republican Party change, according to Nelson? She unabashedly recommends more attention to the black community and few, if any, specific programs or policies which would offend the corporate base of the GOP. (Her advocacy of "a Marshall Plan of sorts to rebuild our cities," with her support of lower taxes, reflects either a feint, or agreement with GWB's tax and spend policy.) Instead, she urges her party to "make better use of black veterans of past administrations" and establish "a more thoughtful and soulful politics."

In an election in which our predominately white nation was largely able to transcend issues of race and elect the superior candidate to the Presidency, it is regrettable, and perhaps telling, that a Republican analyst is publicly advocating a return to a more race-based politics.
President Bush And Vacations

The Hill reports that Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have rejected "compromise" legislation worked out by Democratic Senators Levin and Stabenow of Michigan and Republican Voinovich of Ohio and Bond of Missouri. The three domestic automakers would have received a $25 billion loan, to have been taken out of money already approved by Congress to assist the companies in retooling plants to enable them to meet more stringent fuel economy standards.

That proposal sounds like the Administration's approach, and White House spokeswoman Dana Perrino slammed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for allegedly

looking to pick up his ball and go home for the next two weeks — two months — for vacation. And if that is the case, then one can only deduct [sic] that the Democrats don't believe that the auto industry really needs help, and really needs help now.... If the Congress doesn't act this week, and the — one of the companies is in imminent danger of insolvency, we would suspect that they would want to come back and finish the work that they didn't get done this week....I can't imagine a scenario where they wouldn't come back, unless the answer is that they just don't care. And if that's the case, then the American people ought to know that and hear it from them.

So the White House is accusing congressional Democrats going on vacation because "they just don't care" about the "imminent danger of insolvency" faced by the auto companies.

If I represented George W. Bush, I would be careful about charging another branch of the federal government with ignoring a crisis and selfishly going on vacation. For it was on:

-July 5, 2001 that counter-terrorism chief Richard Clarke told law enforcement officials he had gathered inside the White House's Situation Room "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon" (and reportedly directed all counter-intelligence officials to cancel vacations);

-August 6, 2001 that President Bush received the famous Presidential Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside U.S.;"

-August 9, 2001, that the President gave a prime-time television speech to the nation about "a complex and difficult issue, an issue that is one of the most profound of our time"- stem cell research;

-August 12, 2001 that the President left the capital for a vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, not to return till August 31, 2001

-September 11, 2001....
Quote Of The Week

"The UAW can't be the low-hanging fruit. We would respectfully request that others come into the party and sacrifice as well."

-United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger, on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 before the House Banking Committee, responding to criticism from congressmen ignoring the concessions the UAW has been making in contract negotiations with the Big Three automakers

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Dire Situation

In an op-ed column in Wednesday's New York Times, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney joined the Republican chorus calling for the heads of the Big Three automakers. Romney starts out by assuring readers "I love cars, American cars. I was born in Detroit, the son of an auto chief executive," which calls to mind the slant taken by many white people a few decades ago (when bigotry was more acceptable) who would say "some of my best friends are colored but...." You can imagine what came later.

Romney argues

First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.

This echoes comments of other Repub heavyweights. Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina contends "Some auto manufacturers are struggling because of a bad business structure with high unionized labor costs and burdensome federal regulations. Taxpayers did not create these problems and they should not be forced to pay for them." Arizona Senator Jon Kyl claimed on Fox News Sunday "This didn't happen to the auto companies overnight. For years they've been sick. They have a bad business model. They have contracts negotiated with the United Auto Workers that impose huge costs. The average hourly cost per worker in this country is about $28.48. For these auto makers, it's $73. And for the Japanese auto companies working here in the United States, it's $48. So you've got huge costs there." The senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Richard Shelby, today exclaimed "I don't think they have immediate plans to change their model, which is a model of failure." Shelby had previously referred to GM, Ford, and Chryser as "a dinosaur" which "don't innovate." (Not coincidentally, Shelby's home state of Alabama has Honda, Toyota, and Mercedes-Benz plants.)

Kyl's emphasis on wages and benefits of American auto employees suggests what these GOP senators mean by "management model." However, in February, CNN.com reported

The Center for Automotive Research estimates that by 2011 GM's hourly workforce will be only 8% smaller than current levels - but more than four out 10 of those workers will be new hires being paid a lower wage rate.

The current veteran UAW member at GM today has an average base wage of $28.12 an hour, but the cost of benefits, including pension and future retiree health care costs, nearly triples the cost to GM to $78.21, according to the Center for Automotive Research....Ford and Chrysler also have the provision in their new contracts to pay new hires less in salary and benefits.


And USA Today on Monday noted additional, recent cuts made by the biggest of the Three:

-Reduced office supplies. GM used to stock for every possible stationery need. No longer. "The office supply cabinets have only the bare minimum now — inexpensive pads, a few roller-ball pens and wooden pencils," spokesman Tom Wilkinson says.

-No raises. White-collar workers won't get bonuses, raises or 401(k) retirement savings matches.

-Pricier company cars. As of last summer, executives had to pay $100 more a month to use a company car and can't rotate to new ones as often.


The case for a bailout/rescue plan was not enhanced, obviously, by the revelation on Wednesday that each of the three Chief Executive Officers flew to the congressional hearing in a corporate jet. ABC News found that General Motors alone maintains a fleet of seven such aircraft and that CEO Rick Wagoner's trip to Washington cost the automaker $20,000. Nor is it a hopeful sign that "GM and Ford say that it is a corporate decision to have their CEOs fly on private jets and that is non-negotiable," according to the ABC report. The personal profligacy of upper management, which does not appear to be the portion of the "business model" which so concerns Republican lawmakers (AIG still operates a fleet of corporate jets despite being bailed out), is intolerable.

The Bush administration, ever bored with alternative energy, wants the $25 billion in government-backed loans requested by the automakers to come from the $25 billion loan program created by Congress in September to help the companies develop more fuel-efficient vehicles. However, those more serious about both relying on foreign sources for oil and sharply rising unemployment in the United States recognize

The stakes are high. The Detroit automakers employ nearly a quarter-million workers, and more than 730,000 other workers produce materials and parts that go into cars. About 1 million on top of that work in dealerships nationwide. If just one of the automakers declared bankruptcy, some estimates put U.S. job losses next year as high as 2.5 million.

Long-term, there is another serious danger in not granting relief- with numerous and significant conditions- to the automakers as part of the $700 bailout of the less- labor intensive financial services industry. Freep.com reports that on Wednesday House Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D.-Massachusetts, noted

the pay of workers below the executive rank at financial firms was never an issue during the debate of the $700-billion financial industry bailout. He said bankruptcy was being brandished mostly as a weapon against union contracts.

"There is apparently a cultural condition that's more ready to accept aid to a white-collar industry than the blue-collar industry, and that has to be confronted," Frank said.


Or, more bluntly, as one CEO of a Washington consulting firm wrote

the possibility of a meaningful future for American manufacturing would fade. And manufacturing jobs would cease to offer a passport to the middle class.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lieberman Triumphs

The vote is in, and the Senate Democratic caucus has voted 42-13 to condemn Senator Joseph Lieberman for statements made during the presidential campaign, remove him as chairman of the Environment and Public Works subcommittee, and allow him to remain as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.

This was a total victory and complete vindication of the Connecticut Independent. (Thinkpprogress.org reported Monday that the Capitol Hill publication, Roll Call, had reported that Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer plans to deal with climate change legislation at the full committee level next year and therefore Lieberman had little to lose from his colleagues stripping him of that assignment.)

The endorsement of Lieberman was not surprising, given the statement of November 11 by Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter: "We aren't going to referee decisions about who should or should not be a committee chair. President-elect Obama looks forward to working with anyone to move the country forward. We'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats. We don't hold any grudges."

In a conference call with major liberal bloggers today, Democratic Party National Committee chairman Howard Dean appeared to acknowledge President-elect Obama's influence on the vote to appease Lieberman:

So what... if you run and get a mandate for reconciliation, is your first act to kick this guy out of the party?

Well, people of my generation think -- yeah, damn right we should. But in the new spirit of reconciliation, which is why I think Barack Obama got elected by 66% of the under 35 vote, maybe it's not the way.

I'm very willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the Senators and to Barack Obama on that one.


And that sounds a lot like Lieberman's Connecticut colleague in the United States, Chris Dodd, who on November 7 contended:

What does Barack Obama want? He's talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense.

It is one thing for the President-elect to forgive, and condone, Joe Lieberman for questioning the patriotism of Obama's fellow Democrats, as when Lieberman on 12/6/05 declared "It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation's peril." Sometimes, however, Obama himself was the target of the virulent attacks. Dick Polman, national political columnist at The Philadelphia Inquirer, neatly sums it up:

When asked last April 14 whether Obama is "a Marxist, as (conservative commentator) Bill Kristol says might be the case," Lieberman replied: "Well, you know, I must say that's a good question." On Oct. 23, Lieberman said that Obama wants to practice "what used to be known as socialist theory." At another point in the campaign, Lieberman declared that, while McCain always put "country first," Obama did not.

And, during his GOP convention speech, Lieberman recited the standard GOP line about how the Democratic candidate is a military wimp who doesn't care about the troops. The key passage: "When others wanted to retreat in defeat from the field of battle, which would've been a disaster for the U.S.A. — when colleagues like Barack Obama were voting to cut off funding for our American troops on the battlefield — John McCain had the courage to stand against the tide of public opinion..." (Italics are mine.)


If it looks like Barack Obama lacks a spine, he's a lot like the former President who tried so hard to deny him the nomination . On October 18, 2005 President Clinton told a business group "I'll tell you the whole story about that budget. Probably there are people in this room still mad at me at that budget because you think I raised your taxes too much. It might surprise you to know that I think I raised them too much, too." Never mind that that the revenue boost contributed greatly to a balanced budget (which in turn helped stabilize the economy), arguably President Clinton's signature contribution to American government.

Bill Clinton always had a need to be liked and not to offend anyone. It could be that a similar instinct is behind the President-elect's yearning to be post-partisan, to cast partisan disagreements aside in order to find common ground, even with scoundrels and Republicans. That could, at least in the short term, prove popular- but it will not bring the "change we need."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"Somebody has to make something in this country and that's fundamentally what this debate is about."

-Senator Debbie Stabenow (D.-Mi.), on MSNBC's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on November 18, 2008, advocating for a rescue plan for the auto companies
High Expectations

There is a major cultural shift taking place in America. I know because I heard it myself on the "tell me something I don't know" segment on Sunday morning's The Chris Matthews Show on NBC. This from Michele Norris of PBS' All Things Considered:

Ms. NORRIS: I've been struck as we talk about change on a big level, what I've been hearing closer to the street, in Chicago, in Pennsylvania, here in Washington, DC, how many young black men are talking about change in their lives. In barbershops, someone told me that 12 people have come in and cut off their dreadlocks. Talking about joining the Army. Talking about, you know, forget about the saggy pants. Pulling their pants up.

MATTHEWS: Oh.

Ms. NORRIS: Leading their life in a different way, and I just think it's really interesting because we talk about change, you know, in buildings and it sounds like this election has really inspired change on a very personal level.

MATTHEWS: They're investing in America.


Someone told Michele Norris that 12 unidentified people in some barber shop somewhere in the black community have cut off their dreadlocks and someone (or is it those 12?) has said something or other about joining the army. And don't forget, young black males now are "pulling their pants up."

Now, as far as I know, Michele Norris never has claimed to be the second coming of Edward R. Murrow. Still, this is really lame, even if she were a rookie reporter for a television station in a small market.

Fortunately, Orin Starn, a cultural anthropology professor at Duke University, did not hear Norris. In a column published in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, Starn reminded us that Barack Obama is similar to Tiger Woods, who "presents himself as something of a 'post-racial' figure, crossing old color lines by virtue of his mixed ancestry." And that "many observers predicted that Woods' example would revolutionize the sociology of golf." But, he notes

Actually, though, golf has gone into racial reverse by many measures. Back in the 1970s, 10 African Americans played on the PGA Tour. A poor Chicano kid from Dallas, Lee Trevino, became one of the era's top golfers.

Today, Woods is the lone black golfer among the 125 card-holding pros, and there are no black rising stars. Two U.S.-born Latinos now play on the PGA Tour, as do an increased international contingent and some exciting new Asian American stars. But the circuit remains overwhelmingly composed of whites from country-club backgrounds.

You don't even see black or Latino caddies anymore, now that carrying the golf bags of someone like Woods or Phil Mickelson has become a lucrative enterprise.

The reasons for the whitening of professional golf are complex. For example, in the age of the golf cart, golfers no longer use caddies, except for the touring pros. This has shut a traditional back door into the game for poor and minority kids. And to train a golf champion takes big money that many black and Latino families do not have.


Bonus analogy: Perhaps you remember one of the feel-good, self-congratulatory stories emerging from the response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that Americans all across the land were turning to God and the house of worship of their choice. Just not true, as reported by religioustolerance.org:

It appears that, with the exception of the New York City area, the increase lasted only about two months. By 2001-NOV-26, attendance had returned to normal. The New York Times cites data from the Gallup Organization, which shows that religious attendance rose from 41% in 2001-MAY to 47% by 2001-SEP-21. By early November, attendance had sunk back to 42%.

According to beliefnet.com, the Barna Group, an evangelical research group, found that the percentage of Americans who believe "moral truth is absolute" dropped from 38% in January 2000 to 21% in fall 2001.

We shouldn't expect too much too soon. As Starn accurately (though unfortunately with a sports analogy) remarks about our incoming President: "his election was a good opening drive. But we still have a long iron over water ahead."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

GOP Common Sense?!

It's difficult to write, but well-deserved: congratulations to the Republican Party for demonstrating sound judgement. The new leadership of the Republican Governors Association was announced on November 14 in Miami at its annual conference. Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue will lead its recruitment effort; Florida Governor Charlie Crist will be chairman of its annual gala; Texan Rick Perry will serve as finance committee chairman; Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour will be its vice-chairman; South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will be its new chairman. Governors Linda Lingle (Hawaii), Jim Douglas (Vermont), and Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota) will round out the executive board of the Republican Governors Association. The leadership somehow will have to survive without the services of the Governor of Alaska. Sorry, Greta.



And in an unrelated (pun intended) gubernatorial development, North Carolina elected as its new governor Beverly Perdue, a Democrat. Thus, our nation- in fact, the South- now has two states with a governor named Perdue, and they are not related to each other. Nor is either associated at all with the Perdue family running Perdue Farms, as I found from Katherine, a customer service representative.

Now where else but on this blog could you find such trivial, useless information?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bush, Palin, And Birth Control

An editorial of 11/9/08 in the Houston Chronicle takes on the Bush Administration for an effort to enact numerous destructive regulatory changes before the Obama Administration assumes power on January 20, 2980. Any proposed change must be published by November 20, 2008 because the public must be given sixty (60) days to comment on any change in regulation before it goes into effect. The editors explain

A Department of Health and Human Services rule change would deny federal funds to family planning organizations and clinics that refuse to hire staffers who will not provide birth control to patients upon request. The regulation would also define forms of birth control as abortion, allowing physicians and others a legal basis for declining to provide family planning counseling that includes birth control techniques.

In the same vein,when asked in October by People Magazine about "abstinence or contraception," Governor Palin replied

....But we have not been ones to say that students, should not know what preventive measures are all about. I've been taken aback by some criticism that mainstream media has thrown my way saying, Oh, what a hypocrite she is and she's now learned her lesson because she's been against sex education in the schools. And I'm like, when? Where? When have I ever said that there should be no sex education taught in our homes or even in our schools?

As the Governor herself might say, gosh, that's just so great. Except that during her (successful) campaign in 2006 for Governor of Alaska, Mrs. Palin had this exchange during an Eagle Forum Alaska questionnaire:

Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?

Palin: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.


It is ironic, but perhaps logical, that the most anti-abortion rights figures tend to be the individuals most hostile to birth control. Think the "starve the beast" GOP attitude toward government: cut its size, thus its effectiveness; the public becomes disenchanted with government and votes for the anti-government party (GOP). And with birth control: discourage birth control; more unwanted pregnancies, and thus more abortions; the base is outraged.

Paranoid? Maybe. Far-fetched? Possibly. But most of all, it's a two-fer, a chance to criticize both Sarah Palin and George W. Bush in one post.

Friday, November 14, 2008

God And The Election

The Associated Press reports that Rev. Jay Scott Newman of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina wrote of "Barack Hussein Obama" in a letter distributed to his parishioners Sunday:

Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.

This is only one priest out of the mainstream, I hope (and think) of thought in the Roman Catholic Church. But in an October, 2008 with psychologist and evangelical Christian leader James Dobson of Focus On The Family, vice-presidential candidate (and non-Catholic) Sarah Palin stated (beginning at approximately 8:15):



To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder and it also strengthens my faith because I'm going to know at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done, the end of the day on November 4th.

On November 12, Palin told Wolf Blitzer (begins at approximately 1:10) on The Situation Room:



I think the same thing for our nation as we seek God's guidance, his wisdom, his favor and protection over our nation, that at the end of the day, that the right thing is done.... And I do believe that prayers were answered, others who prayed across this nation in the election that this nation would be protected, that we would be safe, that we would be prosperous and favored.

Let's see if we can sort out this thinking of the Christian political right: We seek God's guidance and protection over our nation, confident that we have put this into God's hands and the right thing for America will be done. Barack Obama- the embodiment of intrinsic evil, or, at least, supporter of abortion rights- is elected.

Perhaps someone should ask the illustrious Governor of Alaska the following: given that an opponent of the pro-life position was selected on November 4 to lead this country, did God in fact see that the right thing was done? Or did He decide not to grant wisdom to the American people and assert His will in the election? And if, directly or indirectly, God did not determine the outcome of the election, does He then prefer we not "be prosperous and favored?"

I am not questioning the sovereignty of God. But unless she has concluded that the election of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, rather than John McCain and Sarah Palin, was a reflection of God's will, Sarah Palin is.
Just Plain Wrong

If I were wondering "why did I subtitle this blog as 'the voice of liberalism from main street, not hollywood boulevard?' I can stop wondering.

It seems that filmmaker/activist Michael Moore plans a spring, 2009 opening of a movie regarding the global financial crisis and the economy of the U.S.A. Says Craig Minassian, described by hollywoodreporter.com as "an entertainment consultant and former Bill Clinton aide":

if Moore offers a prescription for how to improve things, he may indeed find an audience that at this moment is eager for change. But it's going to be hard for him. What this election shows is what's right with America, and sometimes what Michael Moore does is highlight what's wrong with America....The problem with the financial crisis is that it's changing so quickly. I'm not sure how relevant is going to be in six months, and I'm not sure if people want to hear it; my sense is they already have a pretty good idea of a lot of the people who are to blame for it.

This is wrong on so many levels, but here are a few:

- What does Minassian mean by "this election shows what's right with America?" On one level, every election shows what's right (a democratic republic) with America. But is he implying that the election of Barack Obama was right because of his race- and that the election of a white man would have been wrong for the same reason? Maybe not- but he doesn't let us in on the secret.

- Is Michael Moore highlighting what is wrong with America- or rather with corporate greed and incompetence, the war in Iraq, the health care system, an excessively deregulated economy? Is Minassian promoting a Hollywood version of "America: Love It or Leave It?"

- Is there really broad consensus on "who is to blame for it?" From the right, I've heard the names Chris Dodd, Barney Frank, President-elect Obama, Franklin Raines; from those more objective, the names suggested include Alan Greenspan, Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, George W. Bush, and Phil Gramm and his merry band of Republican Congressional deregulators, past and present. (Of course, the first three names constitute two individuals appointed, and one re-nominated, by the President Minassian served.)

You now know as much about this upcoming film as I do, which is very little. But there are many people who bear the blame for this economic catastrophe and if Moore's effort brings these actors to light, a little bit of accountability may develop. After all, there are societies which, albeit wrongly, hang government and corporate officials for far less.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chairman Lieberman

Jane Hamsher of firedoglake.com argues persuasively, and thoroughly, that Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-D., Ct.) should be stripped by House Democrats of his position as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. The most interesting (though not most significant) point she makes might be the comments Lieberman made when he was seeking reelection in Connecticut to his Senate seat in 2006. Below view Lieberman arguing

I want Democrats to be back in the majority in Washington and elect a Democratic president in 2008. This man will frustrate and defeat our hopes of doing that.




It's not the rank hypocrisy or dishonest of Lieberman, perhaps the most active surrogate and spokesman for the McCain-Palin ticket, claiming that he wants to "elect a Democratic president in 2008." Rather, it's the realization that Lieberman, engaged in a tough re-election battle, found it politically advantageous in Connecticut to align himself with the Democratic Party and its efforts at capturing a Congressional majority and the White House.

Connecticut. Two Democratic Senators. Five Democratic, 0 Republican U.S. Representatives. A 10-11% margin for the Democratic nominee in 2004; a 22-23% margin for the Democratic nominee in 2008. (O.K., a Republican governor, but we'll try to rectify that in 2010.) Joe Lieberman, if stripped of his chairmanship of Homeland Security, might bolt to the Repub Party. But if he does (and maybe even if he doesn't), he'll continue to vote issue-by-issue in the United States Senate- and be defeated if he runs for re-election in 2012.
With Her Eyes On Washington

Sarah Palin is obviously considering taking Ted Stevens' Senate seat if he is declared the winner of this month's election and then evicted from the chamber by members displeased by his felony conviction. When asked in an interview aired on November 12 by Wolf Blitzer of CNN's Situation Room whether she wants to serve in the U.S. Senate, Governor Palin responded

I believe that I have — I feel I have a contract with Alaskans to serve. I’ve got two more years in my term. I’m going to serve Alaskans to the best of my ability. At this point it is as governor.
Now if something shifted dramatically and if it were, if it were acknowledged up there that I could be put to better use for my state in the U.S. Senate, I would certainly consider that, but that would take a special election and everything else. I am not one to appoint myself or a member of my family to take the place of any vacancy.


Here is something Governor Earmark will surely consider to determine whether "something (has) shifted dramatically." Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share Production (ACES) Tax was (to her credit) proposed by incoming Governor Palin in November, 2006 and passed by the legislature- which increased the rate- the following month. It is a graduated tax pegged to increasing oil taxes and is described by the Seattle Times as

imposed on the net profit earned on each barrel of oil pumped from state lands, after deducting costs for production and transportation.
The tax is set at its highest rate in Prudhoe Bay, where the state takes 25 percent of the net profit of a barrel when its price is at or below $52.

The percentage then escalates as oil prices rise over that benchmark.


In fiscal year 2008, the state collected approximately $6 billion from this new windfall profits (sounds a little socialistic, dontcha think?) tax and approximately $4 billion from the existing tax on oil revenues. Each resident, adult or child, of Alaska received $2069 from the old tax and $1200 from the new tax from Mrs. Palin's government.

Uniquely, Alaska imposes no state sales or income tax, and it's not difficult to garner an approval rating of 80% when each citizen gets $3269 back from his/her government. (Governor Palin's approval ratings reportedly have now dropped below 70%.) But while on July 15, 2008 the price of a barrel of oil was $138, it was $55.84 on November 12, 2008. That's a pretty steep decline, and it spells trouble for oil revenues- and for tax revenues, even if the price does not fall below the $52 benchmark, beneath which the State of Alaska drops the tax rate.

That would cut deeply into the check received by the people of Alaska from the state government. It might even presage budget problems- and there is nothing that guts a governor's popularity more than the painful decisions necessitated by the requirement that he (or she) balance the state budget, which is required in Alasks as it is in 48 other states.

So Governor Palin could follow the lead of either: a)Hillary R. Clinton, who was encouraged to run for President in 2004 but decided to run for a second Senate term, gain additonal experience, and run for President in 2008; or b)Barack Obama, who could have run (successfully) in Indiana for a second term as U.S. Senator and run for President in 2012, but decided instead to strike while he was a hot item.

Which course would you think Sarah Palin would choose?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Article Of The Week

Christopher Hitchens is wrong about some things, among them the Iraq War (steadfastly in favor) and Christianity (steadfastly opposed), but he appears to be among the few Obama supporters in the Fourth Estate not to have succumbed to premature euphoria over the election of the first black President.
Hitchens, who supported GW Bush over JF Kerry but supported Obama-Biden over McCain-Palin, apparently was criticized on Australian television "for expressing a few mild doubts about the new president-elect." He writes to

alert us to a related danger, which is the cousinhood of euphoria and hysteria. Those who think that they have just voted to legalize Utopia (and I hardly exaggerate when I say this; have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) are preparing for a disillusionment that I very much doubt they will blame on themselves. The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don't think a diet of hope is going to cover it. Nor even a diet of audacity, though can you picture anything less audacious than the gray, safety-first figures who have so far been chosen by Obama to be on his team?

The "euphoria and hysteria" have infected even some of the more serious and sober of his colleagues, even as some appear self-conscious about their reaction. Writing in Slate, Anne Applebaum notes that after the Iowa primary she wrote that Barack Obama's race would be more of a help than a hindrance to his candidacy, a view which she now assumes confirmed. (It was a welcome deviation, however, from members of the pundit class who routinely implied white Americans were racist without having the courage to use the "r" word itself.) She concludes her recent (11/5) article by, well, concluding

In, the end, it comes down to this: All Americans are told, as children, that "anyone can grow up to be president of the United States." Because we have a black president we can now, however briefly, once again feel certain that it's true.

In his own article, written five days later but not in response, Hitchens says that he was informed by his excited Australian hosts that the first 14 American presidents could have owned Barack Obama, which he refutes by noting "our new president has no slave ancestry, and neither branch of his parentage could have been owned by anybody, or at least not by anybody American." I believe this in itself an effective refutation that this election has proven "anyone can grow up to be president of the United States," though Hitchens (and most of us) does find it a positive sign.

(Sarcasm alert.) The election of a black man with $700-$800 million dollars to spend, with approximately 9% of the American people believing the country is on the right track amidst an economic crisis, is uplifting. Still, I believe with Hitchens that our national challenges will not be surmounted immediately. And contrary to the assurance of another writer, the election of Barack Obama has not definitively proven Martin Luther King's conviction that the "arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Palin Effect

In a column he describes as an "easy postmortem," syndicated neocon Charles Krauthammer of The Washington Post Writer's Group analyzed the loss of John McCain, attributing it primarily to the economic collapse. That collapse was especially destructive to McCain's candidacy because the selection of Sarah Palin to be the "heartbeat from the presidency" exposed the weakness of the ticket in addressing the economic crisis and of the vacuity of the "America First" slogan.

Krauthammer had criticized the selection of Sarah Palin for vice-president but adamantly endorsed the GOP ticket shortly before the election because he much preferred McCain to Obama, especially on the matters of national defense. In like manner, he notes now

Palin was a mistake ("near suicidal," I wrote on the day of her selection) because she completely undercut McCain's principal case against Obama - his inexperience and unreadiness to lead. Her nomination not only intellectually undermined the readiness argument, it changed the election dynamic by shifting attention, for days on end, to her preparedness, fitness and experience - and away from Obama's.

I obviously believe(d) the Illinois senator is sufficiently prepared, fit, and experienced to be President. This is one reason I always thought choosing the Alaska governor as the running mate for John McCain was a mistake. Unable, then, to harp on his experience (as I have on the Palin Blunder) and patriotism (yes, Obama is just as patriotic but doesn't have the P.O.W. experience to highlight), McCain went the economic route. But, as Krauthamer noted,

After all, if even Goldman Sachs was getting government protection, why not you? And offering the comfort and safety of government is the Democratic Party's vocation. With a Republican White House having partly nationalized the banks and just about everything else, McCain's final anti-Obama maneuver - Joe-the-Plumber, spread-the-wealth accusations of socialism - became almost comical.

It was even more "comical" than the effort of the Republican team to compete with Barack Obama on the issue of "change." Barack Obama not only represented change, was not only the embodiment of change, but was change itself. (Note the breathless headlines and commentary, suggesting the purge of our racist legacy, following his victory.) Krauthammer comments

McCain thought he could steal the "change" issue from Obama by running a Two Mavericks campaign. It was a fool's errand from the very beginning. It defied logic for the incumbent party's candidate to try to take "change" away from the opposition. Election Day exit polls bore that out with a vengeance. Voters for whom change was the most important issue went 89-to-9 for Obama.

No doubt Krauthammer's commentary, generally valid, was motivated in part by an effort to deflect blame from the man he claims "will be- he should be- remembered as the most worthy presidentail nominee ever to be denied the prize" (Hubert Humphrey, Al Gore, others; did I mention Hubert Humphrey?. But now comes more objective evidence of the mistake the campaign made just before the Republican National Convention.

Curtis B. Gans is director of the Committe for the Study of the American Electorate. He has concluded (pdf) that the percentage of eligible citizens turning out to vote in this election was at most 1% higher than in 2004, in part because the heralded jump in registration "was driven by Democratic and independent registration and that the long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats." And he found three reasons for the decline in Republican turnout, including

John McCain’s efforts to unite the differing factions in the Republican Party by the nomination of Governor Sarah Palin as vice-presidential nominee was a singular failure. By election time many culturally conservative Republicans still did not see him as one of their own and stayed home, while moderate Republicans saw the nomination of Palin reckless and worried about McCain’s steadiness.

As expected, the selection of Sarah Palin galvanized the base- the Democratic base.
An Easy Call

Loyalty is a virtue, but extremism in the defense of one's colleague may not be.

And so it goes that the Hartford Courant reported yesterday of the Democratic Senator from Connecticut commenting on the Democrat-Independent (elected as an Independent) Senator from Connecticut:

What does Barack Obama want?" Dodd rhetorically asked reporters Friday in Hartford. "He's talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense."

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with Connecticut's junior senator, he issued the following statement:

Today Senator Lieberman and I had the first of what I expect to be several conversations. No decisions have been made. While I understand that Senator Lieberman has voted with Democrats a majority of the time, his comments and actions have raised serious concerns among many in our caucus. I expect there to be additional discussions in the days to come, and Senator Lieberman and I will speak to our caucus in two weeks to discuss further steps.

It seems a bit incongrous or disloyal- no, appaling- for a Senator who was assigned the chairmanship of a Congressional committee- in this case, the Homeland Security Committee- to have been an active supporter of the opposition party's presidential candidate. Yet, we all remember Joe Lieberman at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul this summer endorsing John McCain's candidacy for President:



He didn't stop there. Here he is in Ohio pushing for election of the Repub nominee



And Lieberman by John (and Cindy) McCain's side at Florida International University on October 17:




Even before the general election campaign, Lieberman attacked the Democratic Party, as when he told Bill Bennett on the latter's "Morning In America" (what would Reagan do?) radio program by claiming "the party seemed invested in a narrative of retreat and defeat in Iraq."



And he criticized specifically the junior senator from Illinois, who was soon to become officially the Democratic nominee for president:



Imagine what the GOP would do if one of its senators, defeated in a primary, were to run against a Republican senatorial nominee (then run against that nominee and win re-election); attack the Republican Party on what was then the biggest issue in the nation; criticize the presumptive nominee of the Party; and then aggresssively campaign for the Democratic nominee for President, as a surrogate, confidante, and frequent campaigner. At the very least, that Senator would be stripped of his/her role of chairman of a committee, thereby giving way for a loyal, or reasonably loyal, or not extremely disloyal, member of the party to head the committee. And that is how it should be in the case of Senator Joseph Lieberman, lest the Democratic Party strengthen its image as a party without strength and lacking the courage of its convictions, with the backbone of an invertebrate.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Palin, Blaming America

Back in her office in Anchorage, Governor Sarah Palin answered a few questions from the local media. Asked about sexism on the campaign trail, the former vice-presidential candidate alleged:




And so, that's a good question because I think that was a bit of a surprise on the national level is why, you mean, the other 49 states aren't quite there like Alaskans are? Well, come on, follow Alaska's lead and start allowing the equal opportunities and the equal treatment.

Once you get past the whining- is there anything this individual plucked from relative obscurity to have a 50-50 chance at the second highest office in the land doesn't complain about?- there is an interesting comparison between Alaska and the nation.

It's interesting, but not especially surprising, to hear Governor Earmark suggest that the United States of America is chock full of the bigots lacking in her state of Alaska. This is, after all, the governor (though not present) who addressed the 2008- yes, 2008- convention of the Alaska Independent Party, assuring it "Your party plays an important role in our state’s politics...... Keep up the good work, and God bless you." And the mayor who probably attended the 2004 convention of the party in Wasilla. That would be the party with the motto "Alaska First- Alaska Always."




The association with the Alaska Independence Party (and with a husband who earlier belonged to the party), remarks that the rest of America doesn't measure up to Alaska, and her constant invocation of the "Joe the Plumber" slogan on the campaign trail. Not just another Republican politician with little regard for the American people, but one who ironically, and cynically, ran under the banner "Country First."
Media Objectivity

For all his tough questioning of interviewees and remarkable insight he sometimes displays, Chris Matthews periodically blurts out something ludicrous or disturbing.

And so Matthew appeared on his network's Morning Joe two days after the election, discussing the likelihood of Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.- Ill.) accepting the offer from president-elect Obama to be the latter's chief of staff. Credit should go to Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel for their defense of journalistic integrity. The intriguing portion of the discussion begins at approximately 2:25 of the video and continues, off-and-on, till the end at 6:40.





Watch the video yourself, but here are the portions of the discussion I think were most significant:

Matthews: I want to do everything I can to make this work, this new Presidency work....yeah, that's my job....how can you not root for the succcess of a new president?

Scarborough: As Americans, Chris Matthews, we're all rooting for the success of Barack Obama... but you just talked about being a journalist your job is not to question motives and two seconds later, your job was to make this presidency a success. I think this is curious.

Matthews: I think we need a successful presidency.


Stengel: As journalists, we have to hold his feet to the fire.

Matthews can get swept up in the excitement of an event. For the last several years, he has been an eloquent opponent of Gulf war II, just as he opposed the American invasion before it was launched. But characteristically, he was a supporter, arguably a cheerleader, of the effort in those early weeks of the war following what at the time looked like a successful strategy.

Perhaps this is the instinct that led Matthews yesterday to forget (or, less likely, misunderstand) his journalistic responsibility during this period, all the more dramatic and hopeful with the election of the first black president in the U.S. But it is precisely the honeymoon period during which the media must be most skeptical (though not cynical) of a new President/President-elect. As Stengel reminded the audience, Walter Cronkite said "journalists are skeptical so the public doesn't become cynical."

There will be plenty of time for journalists to support Barack Obama- not directly, but indirectly by closely questioning his critics, maintaining a healthy skepticism of the Republican opposition. The website NewsHounds ("we watch FOX so you don't have to") described a conversation between Karl Rove and Allan Colmes on the November 5 "Hannity and Colmes" in what is an impressive demonstration of trying to have it both ways:

Rove also said that Obama ran “a center-right campaign.”

Colmes was astounded. “Center right? Center right? He was accused of being a radical socialist!”

“Well, if you dug in,” Rove said.

President Obama may set forth an aggressive, progressive agenda or a cautious, "post-partisan,"one reflecting his risk-averse nature. Either way, the Repub meme in the new Administration probably will be: He promised us centrist, bipartisan policies and instead he's giving us a polarizing left-wing agenda. At that point, it will be the role of the mainstream media to support the institution of the Presidency- not by blind obeisance to one man but by reasoned skepticism of the oppositions's extremist agenda masked by sloganeering and tired rhetoric.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quote(s) Of The Week


"It would be a mistake to take the success of one man and extrapolate it to the masses."

"Hawaii to Chicago is very different than Mississippi to Chicago."

-Tavis Smiley, from MSNBC's Morning Joe on November 5, 2008, cautioning against excessive exuberance about the impact on society and black electoral prospects of the election of the first black President of the U.S.A.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Divine Intervention?

I have to keep up with the conservative blogosphere..... at least better than I have been.

We all know about how John McCain had spoken to Sarah Palin only twice before choosing her as his running mate; for approximately fifteen minutes at a National Governors Association meeting early this year, and at his ranch in Sedona, Az. on the morning of August 29.

You might also have heard about the cruises to Alaska during the summer of 2007 sponsored by the two most eminent conservative magazines, The Weekly Standard and The National Review and how individuals from each cruise dined with Palin at the Governor's Mansion in Juneau. And how they were utterly charmed by the chief executive who impressed them with her charm, self-confidence, and in at least two cases, her physical beauty (described by The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes as "exceptionally pretty and William Kristol as "my heartthrob").

In her recent article in The New Yorker, Jean Mayer describes the role of these meetings, of John McCain's close advisers, and of palinforv.p.blogspot.com, inaugurated in February 2007 by Adam Brickley. Although now an intern at the popular conservative website townhall.com (and prior to that, an intern at the Heritage Foundation), Brickley then was a junior at the Colorado Springs campus of the University of Colorado.

What really caught my attention was Mayer's description of Mr. Brickley's religious perspective:

Brickley’s family, once evangelical Christians, now practice what he calls “Messianic Judaism.” They believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but they also observe the Jewish holidays and attend synagogue; as Brickley puts it, “Jesus was Jewish, so to be like Him you need to be Jewish, too.” Brickley said that “the hand of God” played a role in choosing Palin: “The longer I worked on it the less I felt I was driving it. Something else was at work.”

Similarly, close to the end (approximately 8:15 of the 9:25 video) of her 10/20/08 interview by the adoring Dr. James Dobson, the professional psychologist who heads Focus On The Family, vice-presidential nominee Palin states



...because I'm going to know, at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done, the end of the day on November 4.

Perhaps both Brickley and Palin, thinking alike, were right. Perhaps God did play a role in the selection of Sarah Palin, which then played a role in what happened on November 4. And what happened on that historic day was the right thing for America.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thank You, Mrs. Palin

Sarah Palin must be one sorry woman.

Governor Earmark said this morning on MSNBC "If I cost John McCain even one vote, then I am sorry about that."

Here are a few opinion polls of the presidential race taken in late October which gave a good idea of voter about about the Alaska governor:

-Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with each of the following candidates on the issues that matter the most to you. . . For Joe Biden: 59% agree, 40 percent disagree; for Sarah Palin: 42% agree, 56% disagree.

-Please tells me whether you agree or disagree that each of the following candidates has the personality and leaderhip qualities a president should have.. Biden: 67%, has qualities, 31%, does not have qualities; for Sarah Palin: 37%, has qualities, 63%, does not have qualities.

-Do you think Joe Biden is prepared for the job of vice president,or isn't he? 74% prepared, 28%, not prepared, 8% unsure.
-Do you think Sarah Palin is prepared for the job of vice president, or isn't she? 35% prepared, 59% not prepared, 6% unsure.

-If you could vote separately for VICE PRESIDENT, would you be more likely to vote for Joe Biden, the Democrat, or Sarah Palin, the Republican? Biden, 54%; Palin, 37%; neither/other, 3%; unsure, 6%.

If this isn't evidence enough, Roger Simon explained it very clearly this morning in politico:

But a global economic meltdown — plus a shooting war in two countries — helped make superior knowledge seem like a good idea, and the ticket of Obama and Joe Biden seemed smarter than McCain and Sarah Palin.

Could McCain still have won by doing things differently? It is impossible to know, but at least two things will be argued about for a long time:

First, McCain could have picked a different running mate. Though Sarah Palin was certainly a shot of adrenaline into the Republican National Convention, nobody was looking very far down the road. By picking Palin, McCain surrendered his chief argument to voters: that he was a “steady hand on the tiller” and, therefore, a safer choice than Obama. McCain might be a steady hand, but Palin clearly was not, and when you are a 72-year-old nominee, voters are going to look at your running mate pretty closely. If McCain had selected former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, or even Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, he might have done better.

Blame it all on the economic calamity- but if John McCain hadn't selected Sarah Palin, it might not be the senator from Illinois celebrating today.
Article(s) Of The Week

Amid all the accusations about patriotism and associations, ultimately the primary theme (as far as there is one) of the McCain-Palin campaign has been the charge of "socialism," though it appears from their comments that neither Repub candidate knows what is. I wanted to note, therefore, two pieces, the first by Hendrik Hertzberger of The New Yorker, the second on 11/1 by Jacob Weisberg of Slate.

Hertzberger reminds us that Sarah Palin, governor of the Socialist Republic of Alaska, has told The New Yorker "we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Conveniently, we can view the "Image: United States Income Distribution 1967-2003.svg" form, which enables residents of Alaska- even those who have paid no taxes- to get a nice fat check from their government, an approach toward income redistribution and fairness excoriated by that same Sarah Palin on the campaign trail.

Wisberg links to Wikipedia's "Image: United States Income Distribution 1967-2003.svg.," including both a graph and a chart. We learn for instance, that from 1967 to 2003 the median household income of the 95th percentile of the American population jumped from $88,678 to $154,120 while in the same period the median income of the 50th percentile increased only from $33328 to $43318.the Social Security Act (which redistributes wealth), the Americans with Disabilities Act (which also redistributes), educational reform that would improve schools in poor areas, Head Start programs, statutes allowing parental leave, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the progressive income tax, and much more.

Both writers note, of course, that government policies are invariably redistributive. Renowned law professor Cass Sunstein points out

in terms of actual policy, it seems to include the Social Security Act (which redistributes wealth), the Americans with Disabilities Act (which also redistributes), educational reform that would improve schools in poor areas, Head Start programs, statutes allowing parental leave, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the progressive income tax, and much more.
(And the EITC has been a favorite of several Republicans, including Ronald W. Reagan, about whom conservatives have asked "What Would Reagan Do?")

I don't know if the widening gulf between the wealthy and other Americans would narrow in the administration of a Barack Obama, who has run a risk-averse campaign geared to assuring Americans that he is not what they fear in a black man. However, given the extreme rhetoric and proposals of the McCain-Palin team, in which the presidential nominee has taken to referring (ludicrously, if not pithily) to "Barack the Redistributionist," we must conclude that a McCain administration would take us in the wrong direction.
McCain's Newest Hero

At a rally last week in Mentor, Ohio, John McCain described Joe Wurzelbacher as"a great citizen of Ohio and my role model."

You can view below on YouTube below John McCain's role model explaining why he doubts Barack Obama's patriotism: "You know, McCain has fought and bled for our country, loves our country. There's too many questions with Barack Obama and his loyalty to our country and I question that greatly."



John S. McCain: Naval aviator. Prisoner of War. War hero. Navy liason to United States Senate. Member of United States House of Representatives. Member of United States Senate. Candidate for President of the United States (2000). Nominee of his party for President of the United States (2008).

And now at age 72,after idolizing a former two-term President (Ronald Reagan) and a respected General (David Petraeus), his hero now is.... Joe Wurzelbacher?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

"Mine, Baby, Mine"

As reported here on October 31, Jake Tapper of ABC News wrote on Friday that Barack Obama had begun criticizing the Republican attacks on his tax policies. Obama noted "John McCain and Sarah Palin, they call this socialistic. You know, I don't know when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness."

Maybe it all began with Sam The Non-Plumber, A/K/A Joe The Plumber- or perhaps not. The Wheeling (W. Va.) News-Register reported on its blog that a crowd on October 12 in Brush Run Park, just outside of St. Clairsville, Ohio chanted "Mine, Baby, Mine." A bemused Sarah Palin responded "I've never heard that before. Do you mind if I plagiarize that? I'm taking it across the U.S."

And so she has. In a blog on washingtonpost.com, Anita Kumar reported that the following day at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, "The crowd started chanting "Drill, baby, drill." But she corrected them: "It's 'Mine, baby, mine.' " (Palin apparently also referred to the area as "the Hampton Roads," an understandable mistake by someone lacking interest in anything outside of Alaska or her own ambition.) The vice-presidential candidate has continued using the phrase in speeches.

I suppose it's true, as the News-Register reported, that "mine, baby, mine" is merely a variation of "drill, baby, drill," especially as it first was used in coal country. Still, it's an apt description, even a metaphor, for the Republican campaign theme of me first, country last.
Another Day, Another Claim

In what is generally considered a "slip of the tongue," President Reagan in 1988 famously stated "facts are stupid things," misquoting John Adams noting in 1770 "facts are stubborn things."

John McCain, however, apparently agrees with Ronald Reagan. CBS News reports that on October 31 in Des Moines, Barack Obama commented "On the day of the Iowa caucus, my faith in the American people was vindicated and what you started here in Iowa has swept the nation." McCain responded on November 1 in Perkasie, Pa. "I’ve been humbled and honored to have the great opportunity to serve this nation, the greatest nation in the world and defend its freedom and I’ll do that until my last breath.”

I was not amused when Michelle Obama infamously remarked in Milwaukee on 2/28/08 "for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback" Still, Mrs. Obama at her speech to the Democratic National Convention in August put that issue to rest and she aims to be, ultimately, First Lady, not President.

But Barack Obama's statement was simply not the same as his wife's controversial remark this past winter. Check the dictionary for "vindicate:" according to the American Heritage Dictionary: To clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof: "Our society permits people to sue for libel so that they may vindicate their reputations" (Irving R. Kaufman). According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary: 1. To lay claim to; to assert a right to; to claim. [R.] Is thine alone the seed that strews the plain? The birds of heaven shall vindicate their grain. --Pope."

"Vindicate" usually is used by the speaker to verify to others that a claim is true. In this instance(s), it was employed by Obama to point to confirmation of what he already believed, as in "this is what I believed; now here is the proof."

Why has John McCain chosen this late date to manipulate and exploit the words of Barack Obama on love of country when he has been so enjoying fantasizing about a Socialist opponent? Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded to the Arizona senator by noting "It’s pathetic that McCain would take a statement Barack Obama has been making for a year about his faith in the American people and distort it to attack his patriotism." There really is no downside, however, for a candidate whose penchant for dishonesty always has been excused by a media which beginning on November 5 will try to sell the line that the real McCain was the guy they fell in love with eight years ago.

Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it co...