Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune

Scranton never leaves you

After taking our daughter to Miami to start college last week, we spent a few days with my brother and his family in South Florida. His mother-in-law was also visiting and like us, his wife's family is also from Scranton, so we all got a kick out of all of the homage paid to The Electric City after the selection of Joe Biden as Barack Obama's running mate. See The Message. His wife's family are Irish Catholics from Green Ridge, not far from where Biden was born, while our family lived a few blocks from the Hillary Clinton's father's home. see e.g., All Roads Lead to Scranton.

All of us are political junkies, so we spent some time watching the Democratic doings (thank god for TiVo), which was all the more entertaining since the news stories were interspersed with Scranton references. We've all been gone from Scranton for over 20 years (his mother-in-law lives in Arizona and even voted for McCain in 2000), but Scranton is still home for us all. We should have thought to play a beer game every time the city was mentioned, as suggested by Dan Rubin. Scranton, Jewel on the Lackawanna.

Of course, the Scranton connection is politically advantageous for Obama/Biden to emphasize, given the importance of Pennsylvania in the upcoming election. As described in a piece in Politico, Sen. Joe Biden (D-Scranton):

Joe Biden lived in Scranton, Pa., only until he was 10 years old, but you wouldn’t know it lately from listening to him, his running mate Barack Obama and their surrogates.

Since Biden began campaigning as the Democratic vice presidential candidate, he and campaign aides have spent as much, or more, time talking about his ties to the hardscrabble former coal town nestled in the hills of northeastern Pennsylvania as they have about his connection to Delaware, which Biden has represented in the Senate for more than 35 years.

Introducing Biden as his running mate Saturday, Obama called him a “scrappy kid from Scranton who beat the odds,” while Biden said he agreed to run partly “for everyone I grew up [with] in Scranton, Pa., who’s been forgotten.” Both men mentioned Scranton well before either Claymont, Del., where Biden's family moved when he was 10, or Wilmington, Del., where his family lives now.

In the last few days, Biden has called Pennsylvania “home,” a spokesman has attributed his penchant for shooting from the hip to his Scranton roots and the campaign proclaimed him "Pennsylvania's third senator" in an e-mail to Keystone State press.

“I am so proud of representing my state, and it is my state and I love it,” he said of Delaware during a Thursday breakfast speech to Pennsylvania convention delegates. “But, you know, Scranton never leaves you. And Pennsylvania never leaves you,” he said, drawing the biggest applause of the morning.

The Scranton love fest is more than just idle nostalgia, though.

The city is the biggest population center in a key swing area in a key swing state with 21 electoral college votes — seven times as many as Delaware.

But perhaps more significant than Scranton’s impact on the Pennsylvania results is the potential for the city to lend the Obama and Biden ticket some of its unquestioned blue-collar creditability. That could boost the ticket’s appeal nationally to the type of older, white, working-class, socially conservative Democrats who dominate the voter rolls in Scranton and nearby Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton — and who are expected to be much fought over in Obama’s battle against Republican rival John McCain.
Another Scranton native, Mark Jurkowitz, wrote for Real Clear Politics about the city's resurgence -- at least in the news, if not in reality. He notes, in How Scranton Became the New Peoria:

As a native of Scranton, it's fun to see a hot network sitcom that celebrates, or perhaps mocks, the quirky ordinariness of Scrantonians. And don't think we're not proud (The local newspaper website has an interactive "Office Tour of Scranton" to identify local hotspots ranging from a coal museum to the kosher deli.)

But the "Office" renaissance is nothing compared to what happened in the 2008 campaign. In the past few months, this hard-bitten city, known to millions of passing motorists for the junkyard that loomed above Rte. 81, has become the new Peoria--ground zero for old-fashioned American values, the psychic heartland.

It really began with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. As she began to focus on connecting more with regular folk, she embraced her Scranton roots--her father grew up in the city and she spent time there as a child--as a symbol of her grit and everyman empathy.

* * * *

With its population of socially conservative voters who tended to be Democrats by birth, Scranton has been a kind of political bellwether in national elections. But for all the city's attempts to to "get back up," as Clinton would say, no one could have envisioned its emergence as a full-blown icon in this campaign.

In an election in which economic hardship and working class anxiety are crucial issues, Scranton has somehow become a symbol of both the ills and resilience of our society as a whole. And for the candidates, a Scranton background is a badge of honor, a way of saying "I am one of you."

In an interview with the Scranton Times shortly after the announcement of his selection as VP on the Democratic ticket, Biden had this to say about Scranton:
I never left Scranton, as you know. Scranton never leaves you. Scranton is part of your heart. It becomes part of who you are. And I know you probably think that’s crazy, but call guys like BillyKotzwinkle, who wrote “E.T.” (novels), call people who have gone on here, the McGowans . I remember sitting with him and talking with him about building blocks in Scranton. Scranton never leaves you; it’s in your blood. The other side of it is, even though I moved out of Scranton and moved down to Wilmington because there’s no work for my dad back in the mid-’50s, I came home. I spent my summers there with my friends . . . . I mean, I really mean it. Wilmington may have had my head, but Scranton’s always had my heart.
See ‘Scranton never leaves you’.

Now, I don't doubt for a minute that all of the Scranton talk is intended for the points the Democrats hope to score in the election and yet, as cynical as I can be at times, I also believe that what Biden says is true about the fact that Scranton never leaves you. I have been away from Scranton longer than I lived there, yet Scranton is the place that comes to mind when I think of "home."

Scranton's glory days had long passed well before I was born, but the people of Scranton, despite being "scrappy," are still proud, warm-hearted and full of humor. In part, there is some influence that emanates from the proximity of the city to New York and Philly, yet the small town, ethnic character is the strongest reflection of the people of Scranton. It's a good mix. Philly has a lot of ex-Scrantonians (of course, not surprising because there aren't a lot of jobs left in Scranton) living here and we immediately develop a kinship when we meet based upon our shared past.

It can be seen in the first Biden ad, "Scranton" -- playing in Northeast PA:



As Ben Smith of Politico says:
The campaign will run the ad, which ties Biden's biography to Obama's and stresses the Delaware senator’s Scranton roots in northeast Pennsylvania. Biden provides the testimonial as images of Obama with his mother and his grandparents flash on the screen, followed by a shot of him on the trail leaning in to listen as an older white woman says something to him.
The only other note I'd add is that Jurkowitz talks about memorializing Scranton in a song, saying:
The way things are going, Bruce Springsteen will probably write a song about Scranton. (Billy Joel did "Allentown," but he was off by about 50 miles.) All that will be needed to complete Scranton's improbable rise as the touchstone of this year's election will be for a candidate to utter the cliche, "Today, we are all Scrantonians."
He must be too young to remember that Scranton was the subject of a Harry Chapin song in 1974. The song, 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, was about about a trucker carrying 15 tons of bananas who crashed coming down the Moosic Street hill in 1965.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Where Were You?


Mock, Paper, Scissors asks the question, "Where were you on August 29, 2005" -- on this, the 3rd anniversary of Katrina, Three Years Ago Today ….

I was in Sea Isle City that week. We were there with another couple, who has a daughter close in age to ours. Because our kids attended private schools, they started classes later, so we got to enjoy the beach at summer's end, with less crowds. On the 29th, we spent part of the day on the rides in Wildwood, making the most of the last days of summer.

Here's a shot of sunset on the beach:



Despite our idyllic respite at the shore, I remember watching with horror as the events in New Orleans occurred, waiting in vain for our government to assist. New Orleans is still waiting.

We know that John McCain was eating cake with George Bush on that day. And now, three years later, on his 72nd birthday, McCain once again shows the disdain for the American people by selecting a woman he met just once before offering her the position. A woman who, a mere month ago, dissed the job of VP as "non productive."

I noted shortly after (not long after I began my blog), quoting from a Daily Kos piece:

"Make no mistake: as we watch our fellow citizens drown, starve, and die in the street in New Orleans, its not incompetence or lack of planning that is killing them. It is willful neglect. It is the direct result of reducing the government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." This is what "starving the beast" looks like."
Somehow, with the selection of Sarah Palin to compliment John McCain, I see more of the same.

Cartoon of the Day


David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Daily Star

Change, Republican Style


John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for Vice President shows that Republicans are interested in change too. After all, she's not a blond.

Yet, McCain didn't want to get too carried away with the whole change thing. Not everybody likes change.

She may be a woman, but look at her other qualities. She wears her hair in that oh so flattering bun-thingy. She's a stridently anti-abortion, a creationist proponent, gun-loving reformist (she only has one scandal), former beauty queen who didn't know what the VP does.

Alaskan blogger Mudflats had this perfect initial reaction to Palin, Sarah Palin? McCain’s Next Trophy Girl?:

McCain obviously is looking for the Hillary vote since apparently he thinks women need no other criteria than a set of ovaries to mark their ballot, right? I mean women don’t actually make policy decisions, do they?

He’s also looking for the Evangelical vote. Palin, a creationist, anti-gay, pro-lifer will appeal to this crowd. Her fondness for creationism in schools, and the recent birth of a Downs Syndrome child can’t hurt here.

Did I say recent birth of a child? Why, yes. Our new Vice Presidential candidate has four children plus an infant son. She obviously feels caring for her newborn won’t get in the way of her Vice Presidential duties.

And don’t worry fellas. There’s plenty for you. Sarah won second place in the Miss Alaska contest! Didn’t they have a card for that in Monopoly? And John McCain knows how important it is to have a trophy wife Veep on his arm.

And he followed with, What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective:
Before her meteoric rise to political success as governor, just two short years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla. I had a good chuckle at MSN.com’s claim that she had been the mayor of “Wasilla City”. It is not a city. Just Wasilla. Wasilla is the heart of the Alaska “Bible belt” and Sarah was raised amongst the tribe that believes creationism should be taught in our public schools, homosexuality is a sin, and life begins at conception. She’s a gun-toting, hang ‘em high conservative. Remember…this is where her approval ratings come from. There is no doubt that McCain again is making a strategic choice to appeal to a particular demographic - fundamentalist right-wing gun-owning Christians.
My husband and I discussed his choice and again questioned whether the GOP is intentionally trying to lose the race. After all, things are so bad in so many areas -- the economy, the war(s), our standing in the world, unemployment, healthcare, global warming, the direction of the country, that it might be better to let the Democrats take over for a while, so the GOP could start blaming them for all the woes that we're facing and wait until it looks like things might be on the upswing before trying to regain the White House. The selection of Palin certainly supports that theory.

Steve Benen, who now writes at The Washington Monthly, riffs on the "confounding choice":

* McCain has spent the last several years insisting that the most important qualities in a candidate for national office are experience and a background in national security. Sarah Palin was, up until recently, the mayor of a town of 9,000 people, and is currently the governor of a small state with a part-time legislature, with one-and-a-half years under her belt.

* McCain may want to improve his appeal among women voters, but he skipped right past more qualified Republican women -- women he actually knows -- such as Kay Bailey Hutchison, Elizabeth Dole, and Olympia Snowe, all of whom would have brought genuine credibility to a ticket.

* In an election season in which voters desperately want change, McCain has picked a hard-right conservative. I mean, really conservative. We're talking about a former activist for Pat Buchanan, staunch opponent of reproductive rights, global-warming denier, and skeptic of modern biology. There's a reason every right-wing group in America is jumping up and down with glee this afternoon.

* The usual pattern is for Republicans to reach national office and then face ethics investigation for alleged wrongdoing. This year, the GOP seems willing to reverse this, putting a governor on the national ticket who's already facing an ethics investigation.

* She recently asked what a Vice President does all day. How encouraging.

I would also note that John McCain doesn't strike me as the most enlightened male around (and not just because of the cunt comment to his wife). Admittedly, I normally give 72 year old men a pass on the sexist, Neanderthal man label, but he is running for President, after all. As Benen noted, when he decided to cravenly go for the "babe" as his VP pick (the McCain version of appealing to the woman voter), he didn't select a professional woman who's clearly qualified in her own right. Nope, he picked someone who can serve tea to visiting foreign heads of state.

Phawker put it best, in MCCAIN VEEP: It’s A Girl!:
Three thoughts up front. 1.) You can measure the fear of a man by the extremity of his choices. 2.) His choice is a response to the Democratic party circa last week. Not the Democratic party circa now. 3.) This is like saying to black people, ‘Here’s Clarence Thomas, he’s black just like YOU!’

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Jimmy Margulies, The Record

To Do List

As Barack Obama prepares for his speech tonight, he should keep these words in mind. Jeff Lieber of Daily Kos provided the perfect To Do List, of sorts:

Barack Obama must get a six-hundred and thirty-eight point bounce.

Barack Obama must be inspiring, but not TOO INSPIRING SO AS TO SEEM A PROPHET, and present his ideas clearly, but not TOO CLEARLY SO AS TO SEEM SIMPLISTIC, and with specifics, but not TOO MANY SPECIFICS SO AS TO SEEM WONKY, and be tough, but not TOO TOUGH SO AS TO SEEM TO HAVE GONE NEGATIVE.

Barack Obama must walk on water (but not in such a way that suggests that either he or his supporters see him as a deity) and give a speech in front of 70,000 people (but not in a way that suggests that he's a celebrity) and completely unify the party (but not in such a way that suggests that said party is "liberal") and speak to the base (but not so much that suggests he's "out of the mainstream of America" ) and embrace Democratic ideals (but not so much as to suggest he's "going back to the days of Jimmy Carter") and remind America about all the good that happened under the last Democratic administration (without using the words "Bill" or "Clinton" or "Hope" or "Cigar" or "Blue Dress").

* * * *

Barack Obama must be black, but not too black, and not black while trying to seem white, and certainly not black while trying to be white without trying to LOOK LIKE he's greyish-blue.*

(*Ronald Reagan, with a deep, rich, Coppertone tan is the preferred outcome.)

* * * *

Barack Obama must council his wife to appear strong, but not uppity, smart, but not elitist, sure of herself, yet still subservient and willing to bake a pie and stitch the hem of a skirt. Barack Obama must also convince Michelle to leave her machine-gun, eye-patch and twelve-inch afro back at the hotel.

* * * *

Barack Obama must make Family Circus funny.

Barack Obama must wrestle a live Puma and win over the "sheet-wearing, still-naming-their-sons Adolph" demographic and bowl a three hundred game and prove without a shadow of a doubt that he doesn't want to have sex with someone's white sister and create a car that can drive a hundred miles using only the flesh of a single terrorist and bleed red, white and blue when stuck in the eye with a flag pin.

Barack Obama must ride a camel through the eye of a needle.

See What Barack Obama MUST, SO TOTALLY, ABSOLUTELY DO...

And he also had a few words of wisdom for John McCain:
John McCain... needs to live through his speech.
(Via Martha)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I Wanna Play too

Via Upyernoz, a little convention entertainment that all can play, even if you're not in Denver.

It started with Media Matters, who noted the commentary from Fox after Michele Obama's speech, Fox News' Kelly asked whether Michelle Obama gave "her critics fodder" with word she didn't say:

Fox News' Megyn Kelly noted that during her DNC speech Michelle Obama said, 'The world as it is just won't do,' and then Kelly continued: 'If you replace 'world' with 'country', you are back to the same debate, arguably, that you have been having about Michelle Obama's feelings about the country. Did she give her critics any fodder with that comment?'
Atrois distilled the essence:
If Michelle Obama Said She Hates America

That might cause some problems. If she doesn't say it, or something like it, then Fox News will be there to pretend she did."
From Rubber Hose, fantasy fodder: a game we can all play!
i wonder whether megyn kelly gave her critics fodder the other day. because if you replace the words "this is FOX news" with "i'm not really a journalist, i'm just a shill for the republican party" her statement would be pretty damning.
My turn:
I wonder whether Megyn Kelly gave her critics fodder with her name. It seems she can't spell Megan, but if you replace the words Megyn with Moron, her name would be more appropriate, and there's no way she can pretend otherwise.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


David Fitzsimmons, Arizona Daily Star

A Season & Reason for Hope



I was already teary-eyed before I watched Teddy Kennedy's speech and tribute at the Democratic National Convention, but it was still moving to see the last of the great liberals one more time. Ailing Kennedy addresses Democratic convention. One of the best things about the Kennedys is that they are always there when you need them. For friends, family and country. And, as he said, this is a time of great need.

See also, Ted Kennedy's Likely Last Big Hurrah.

It takes someone like Teddy, whose dedication to a better society -- despite his own personal wealth and current medical condition -- to remind us that cynicism can be overcome on occasion. Despite his personal failings (and who among us doesn't have them?), Kennedy has dedicated his life and career to liberal causes. Watching him speak last night, I thought that he was a perfect example of things sometimes happening for a reason. If he had been successful in attaining the Presidency, he would have served his term (or two) and left public life. Instead, his long career in the Senate has resulted in more benefits to this country (as noted in the tribute) than he might otherwise been able to accomplish as President.

Every once in a while, we need to believe. And now is one of those times. As he said:

I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.

* * * *

The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.

Leaving on a Jet Plane


We flew down to Miami last Thursday with our daughter and flew back home yesterday without her. She's off to college and the beginning of her new life. A happy/sad time for us all. She cried on the way down and I cried on the way back.

As I mentioned before, she's a bit shy and tentative, so she's never been away from home much before. A night here and there at sleepovers, but no away camp or trips without us. She's also had a relatively happy life (other than the usual teenage angst), with good friends and a boyfriend who's a nice guy. So, she wasn't one of those kids who couldn't wait to go away to college to start a new life and reinvent themselves. And, I suppose at least in part because she's an only child, we've been a close family. So leaving was definitely sweet sorrow for us all.

We moved her in to the dorm on Thursday after landing, with the first of many trips to Target to pick up all of the items she needs that we didn't cart down on the plane. We then helped her set up her room and try to organize all her junk in a small space. We thought that she would move in gradually over the week-end and stay with us at my brother's house. However, we didn't realize that they had all sorts of activities planned for the incoming freshmen over the week-end, so she ended up staying on campus. It ended up being a good way to do the transition. We visited her and did a few more trips to Target. My brother just starting working at Target as a pharmacist, so that was the place for us to go. He had also put together a goodie pile of supplies for her, so she's more than set.

One of the things I got her was a Webcam, so she can do videoconferencing with her friends -- and us, of course. I set it up on Sunday and we tested it Sunday night (I have a built in video camera on my new ThinkPad). As I keep telling her, with all of the ways to stay in touch with friends and family, going away to college sure is different from back in the day. For us, long distance was a big deal, so you only spent a few minutes on a long distance call on occasion and never called your friends. I could remember calling collect, with my parents refusing the charges, as a way of letting them know I had arrived safely back home. Letter writing via regular mail was the main means of communication. Now, there's cell phones, text messaging and webcams. Myriad ways to reach out and touch.

She may be gone, but she's never too far away.

(Picture of sunset from my brother's back yard)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Message

The real reason Barack Obama picked Joe Biden to be his Vice President nominee is because he's from Scranton. Forget all that foreign policy expertise and gravitas -- it's the Scranton connection that counts.

As the Scranton Times put it, Biden's NEPA roots run deep:

With confirmation that he’s Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s choice as Democratic vice presidential nominee, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden is the first Northeast Pennsylvania native to become part of a major party presidential ticket.

He was born here, lived in the city’s Green Ridge section, hopped across garage roofs with his buddies, played Little League here, moved away with his family to Delaware when he was 10 years old, but has returned frequently since.

Though he has spent the bulk of his 65 years in Delaware, Scranton is close to his heart.
As the Caucus blog of NYTimes added, Reaction in Scranton to Biden News:

When Barack Obama introduces Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Springfield, Ill., at 3 p.m., there will be a TV-watch party at an Irish pub in Scranton, Pa.

Scranton is not only Mr. Biden’s hometown, but a place where Hillary Rodham Clinton has deep family roots — and a place not all that enthusiastic with Mr. Obama.

Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama in Scranton in the April primary, 74 percent to 26 percent — even though Mr. Obama had the backing of another Scranton favorite son, Senator Bob Casey.

Feelings about Mrs. Clinton’s failure to advance were still so raw there that just last week, her younger brother, Tony Rodham, and other Clinton allies met with Carly Fiorina, a top adviser to Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee.

Ms. Fiorina was on a bus tour of the state, reaching out to disillusioned Clinton supporters who might be willing to cross party lines and vote for Mr. McCain.

While the Democrats who attended the meeting downplayed its significance and called it purely social, it did raise questions about the degree of enthusiasm Mr. Obama might be able to muster there in November.

But short of picking Mrs. Clinton as his running mate, Mr. Obama probably could not have done better to salve the wounds than to pick Mr. Biden, who spent the early part of his life in Scranton and shares its Catholic, blue-collar values.

See also, Obama Introduces 'That Scrappy Kid from Scranton'.

(Do your own sign @ RedKid, via Blue Gal)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Happy


She is packing the last few things, saying her last good-byes to her friends (and boyfriend) and shedding a few tears in between. And while she really wanted to go away to school, and Miami was her first choice, she's having major angst because it's so far from home. She is a bit shy and reserved -- and hates change -- so the prospect of leaving home is not an easy one for her.

August has been a difficult month for all of us, knowing we're in countdown mode -- until our only child leaves for college. I realized the worst part of having an only child is the leaving. For most families, there are phases -- the first child goes, but there's a delay until the others leave and you face the empty nest. With an only child, it all happens at once.

It was only yesterday that she looked like the picture above and tomorrow she's leaving.

I've given her my few "words of advice" before she goes. I tried to keep it short. Knowing her problems with change, I said she should "Be open." Be open to trying new things, listening to how others do things and seeing other ways to look at the world. Her school has a nice mix of people from all over, including a good sized international population, so she can experience many new ideas. But I also cautioned that it's important for her to "Be yourself." For her to feel comfortable enough with herself, to feel secure with who she is that she doesn't get caught up in the crowd and do something that's not her. I said that it's OK to say no, that's not for me. And finally, I added that she's in college and that I want her to study and work hard. But this is also the best time of her life, so she should just remember: Don't worry, be happy.

And I then played a video of Bobby McFerrin, Don't Worry, Be Happy:



Be open. Be yourself. And don't worry, be happy. I suppose that's all there is to say. I guess she's ready to go.

Cartoon of the Day


Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who You Gonna Trust?

It's as much a reflection of the state of journalism -- and the media -- as it is on the quality of the show itself, that Jon Stewart of The Daily Show is tied with the "big names" of journalism as the most admired journalist.

I have to admit that while I rarely watch TV news anymore, I also rarely miss The Daily Show (and now that I have TiVo, I can watch it whenever, so I never have to miss it). My husband and I were recently discussing the fall of journalism as a force in our lives. We are old enough to remember the glory days of journalism and the importance of the nightly news. We agreed that it was the introduction of the entertainment aspect into the newsroom that has mostly contributed to the decline in the value of the news. And 24 hour cable news? Forget about it.

If you're going to make the news more about entertainment that news, then The Daily Show gets my vote hands down as the best way to combine news and entertainment. Stewart's take on the news of the day is informative and entertaining. Much of the network and cable news rendition of the news is repetitive and stunningly silly. And then there's the propaganda aspect to the reporting of the "news," which diminishes its integrity. The end result is it's all worthless when it's difficult to discern what's real and what's not. See, The Real Fake News.

The NYTimes notes the phenomenon in Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?:

When Americans were asked in a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press to name the journalist they most admired, Mr. Stewart, the fake news anchor, came in at No. 4, tied with the real news anchors Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw of NBC, Dan Rather of CBS and Anderson Cooper of CNN. And a study this year from the center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism concluded that “ ‘The Daily Show’ is clearly impacting American dialogue” and “getting people to think critically about the public square.”

While the show scrambled in its early years to book high-profile politicians, it has since become what Newsweek calls “the coolest pit stop on television,” with presidential candidates, former presidents, world leaders and administration officials signing on as guests. One of the program’s signature techniques — using video montages to show politicians contradicting themselves — has been widely imitated by “real” news shows, while Mr. Stewart’s interviews with serious authors like Thomas Ricks, George Packer, Seymour Hersh, Michael Beschloss and Reza Aslan have helped them and their books win a far wider audience than they otherwise might have had.

Most important, at a time when Fox, MSNBC and CNN routinely mix news and entertainment, larding their 24-hour schedules with bloviation fests and marathon coverage of sexual predators and dead celebrities, it’s been “The Daily Show” that has tenaciously tracked big, “super depressing” issues like the cherry-picking of prewar intelligence, the politicization of the Department of Justice and the efforts of the Bush White House to augment its executive power.

For that matter, the Comedy Central program — which is not above using silly sight gags and sophomoric sex jokes to get a laugh — has earned a devoted following that regards the broadcast as both the smartest, funniest show on television and a provocative and substantive source of news. “The Daily Show” resonates not only because it is wickedly funny but also because its keen sense of the absurd is perfectly attuned to an era in which cognitive dissonance has become a national epidemic. Indeed, Mr. Stewart’s frequent exclamation “Are you insane?!” seems a fitting refrain for a post-M*A*S*H, post-“Catch-22” reality, where the surreal and outrageous have become commonplace — an era kicked off by the wacko 2000 election standoff in Florida, rocked by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and haunted by the fallout of a costly war waged on the premise of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.

Not surprisingly, with the rise of alternative sources of news available, the Pew Study finds:

Since the early 1990s, the proportion of Americans saying they read a newspaper on a typical day has declined by about 40%; the proportion that regularly watches nightly network news has fallen by half.

Of course, as the Times pieces notes, the end result of the presentation of the news as entertainment by television is the dumbing down of America. See, One-in-three Americans struggle badly with current events. Think Progress sums up the findings:
A new Pew Survey on News Consumption released yesterday reveals that viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are more knowledgeable about current events than those who watch Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Larry King, and the “average consumers of NBC, ABC, Fox News, CNN, C-SPAN and daily newspapers.” Thirty percent of Daily Show and 34 percent of Colbert viewers correctly identified Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the majority party in the U.S. House of Representatives, compared to the national average of just 18 percent.
I realize that times are difficult in the journalism and media industry, but the solution chosen by the industry obviously isn't the way to go. A few years ago Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post wrote about the sad state of the news, noting that its problems don't stem so much from the internet or Comedy Central, but from journalists no longer doing what they were supposed to do -- call bullshit. Sounds Like Gobbledygook to Me.

Echoing his sentiments, I said then: The news media is clearly in flux. Surely there needs to be adjustments to accommodate new media outlets, such as the internet. However, as Froomkin says so well, the real problem is that the press has lost it's way. It has forgotten it's mission -- the Fourth Estate's role in society is to be the "keeper of the watch" for its citizens.

Monday, August 18, 2008

If You Don't Know Me By Now


Frank Rich looked at the issue of Barak Obama's poll numbers, which only have him ahead of John McCain by 5 or 6 points, and posits his own reason why. As Rich says, the focus of the media and the McCain camp has been on Obama.

The problem is that it means that no one knows who the real John McCain is -- and that's why he's not further behind. Rich provides some highlights about McCain that many may not be aware of, The Candidate We Still Don’t Know:

What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image. As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the “agents of intolerance” of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.

With the exception of McCain’s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.

McCain never called for Donald Rumsfeld to be fired and didn’t start criticizing the war plan until late August 2003, nearly four months after “Mission Accomplished.” By then the growing insurgency was undeniable. On the day Hurricane Katrina hit, McCain laughed it up with the oblivious president at a birthday photo-op in Arizona. McCain didn’t get to New Orleans for another six months and didn’t sharply express public criticism of the Bush response to the calamity until this April, when he traveled to the Gulf Coast in desperate search of election-year pageantry surrounding him with black extras.

McCain long ago embraced the right’s agents of intolerance, even spending months courting the Rev. John Hagee, whose fringe views about Roman Catholics and the Holocaust were known to anyone who can use the Internet. (Once the McCain campaign discovered YouTube, it ditched Hagee.) On Monday McCain is scheduled to appear at an Atlanta fund-raiser being promoted by Ralph Reed, who is not only the former aide de camp to one of the agents of intolerance McCain once vilified (Pat Robertson) but is also the former Abramoff acolyte showcased in McCain’s own Senate investigation of Indian casino lobbying.

Though the McCain campaign announced a new no-lobbyists policy three months after The Washington Post’s February report that lobbyists were “essentially running” the whole operation, the fact remains that McCain’s top officials and fund-raisers have past financial ties to nearly every domestic and foreign flashpoint, from Fannie Mae to Blackwater to Ahmad Chalabi to the government of Georgia. No sooner does McCain flip-flop on oil drilling than a bevy of Hess Oil family members and executives, not to mention a lowly Hess office manager and his wife, each give a maximum $28,500 to the Republican Party.

* * * *
Most Americans still don’t know, as Marshall writes, that on the campaign trail “McCain frequently forgets key elements of policies, gets countries’ names wrong, forgets things he’s said only hours or days before and is frequently just confused.” Most Americans still don’t know it is precisely for this reason that the McCain campaign has now shut down the press’s previously unfettered access to the candidate on the Straight Talk Express.

This is so true. Some of my misguided friends have on occasion said that they were considering voting for McCain. I've bombarded them with reasons why McCain would be a terrible choice, and luckily, they have been persuaded (either that or they're lying to get me to stop hounding them). See, e.g., No, No, Nanette -- or John.

I have been amazed at how little many people do know of the real John McCain. But it makes perfect sense. As The Carpetbagger Report said:

There’s a very good reason Republicans have worked so aggressively to make this election a referendum on Obama — because if the campaign is about McCain, the Republicans will lose. Badly.
(Cartoon via Steve Benson, The Arizona Republic)


I Have the Dropsies

It's the worst in my house. The reception on my new iPhone 3G, that is.

Lousy reception, dropped calls, the phone freezing up and my email application not working are the major complaints that I've had since I got the new iPhone last week. The Woman in White. In other words, the phone isn't working very well.

When people ask me how I like my new phone, I respond:

I like it, when it works.

I'm not exactly the best ad for the iPhone walking around. The irony of it all is that the very reason to upgrade to the new iPhone is the 3G feature, which is the biggest problem that I've had with my new phone. I have to turn it off most of the time, so I'm back to the Edge system.

Misery loves company, so I guess I can find some solace in the fact that I'm not alone with my tech woes. The Financial Times reports, in Signal gripes mount over new iPhone:

The ranks of unhappy iPhone users continued to swell at the weekend as Apple customers complained about problems maintaining a signal on the company’s new 3G handset.

Over the past few weeks, customers have flocked to Apple’s online support forums to complain about weak or fluctuating signals leading to dropped calls and long download times.

“I have had my iPhone since this past Sunday,” wrote one iPhone customer on an Apple support forum last week.

“The reception issues began immediately with 3G flip-flopping between ‘no signal’ and up to four bars – but usually hovering between none and two.”

Not all iPhone users are reporting problems but a growing number of anecdotal reports from around the world indicates that the phenomenon may be widespread.

Apple has yet to publicly acknowledge the problem, compounding the frustration for some users.

As I've said before, as an early adapter, I expect glitches and bugs with a new product. It happened with the original iPhone and the bugs were eventually fixed, Not the Apple of My (i). But this glitch negatively impacts the use of the product itself, which is not exactly a good thing.

Hopefully, help is on the way soon. iPhone Matters reports, iPhone 3G reception issues to be resolved in next firmware update:
AT&T must be experiencing a significant amount of angry customer phone calls, because they’ve told Apple they want the iPhone 3G’s reception issue to be fixed in the next software update. A specific group of users have been experiencing severely limited cell reception, although Apple isn’t admitting any problems. A report by Nomura analyst Richard Windsor brought the issue a whole new level of attention, and mainstream media outlets have started to pick up on customer complaints.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The House Painter

My latest read is a book that was recommended by a friend of the family. A big part of the appeal of the book for me was the fact that it covers both Philly and Scranton.

Of course, that's not the focus of the story. Rather, the book, "I Heard You Paint Houses," is a true crime genre by Charles Brandt, which tells the story of what really happened to long, lost Jimmy Hoffa. As described in Hoffa Solved, the website devoted to the book:

"I heard you paint houses" are the first words Jimmy Hoffa ever spoke to Frank "the Irishman" Sheeran. To paint a house is to kill a man. The paint is the blood that spatters on the walls and floors. In the course of nearly five years of recorded interviews, long-time Hoffa suspect, Frank Sheeran - nearing the end of his life and seeking redemption in the Catholicism of his Depression Era youth - confessed to Charles Brandt that he handled more than twenty-five hits for the powerful Mafia boss Russell Bufalino, and for his friend and Teamsters mentor Jimmy Hoffa. Sheeran learned to kill in Europe during World War II, where he waded ashore in three amphibious invasions and marched from Sicily to Dachau, compiling an incredible 411 days of active combat in General Patton's "killer division." After returning home he married, had four daughters, became a truck driver, and met Mafia boss Russell Bufalino by chance at a truck stop in 1955. At age 35 Frank Sheeran's life changed forever. He began doing odd jobs for Bufalino to earn a few bucks, getting deeper into the Mafia way of life. Sheeran soon was killing on orders again. Eventually he would rise to a position of such prominence in the Teamsters and the Bufalino family that in a RICO suit then-U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani would name him as one of only two non-Italians on a list of 26 top mob figures. When Bufalino ordered Sheeran to kill his friend and mentor, Jimmy Hoffa, Sheeran followed the order, knowing that if he ever said no to Russell Bufalino about anything . . . .
Sheeran is a Philly native and Bufalino is from the Scranton area, so the local connections made the story especially interesting to me. As I've mentioned before, Russell Bufalino was the head of the Bufalino family when I lived there and I remember being shocked to read a story in Time Magazine in the early '70s, listing him as one of the top Mafia heads in the country -- living in little old Scranton (or even smaller Old Forge). See The Electric Connection. However, it wasn't until much later that I realized that he was a major mafia Don, who was linked to the FBI plot to assassinate Fidel Castro Mafia Spies in Cuba:, and the disappearance of former Teamster President Jimmy Hoffa, The American "MAFIA".

The recent grand jury investigation and indictment of Louis DeNaples, the owner of Mount Airy Casino in the Poconos has resurrected many of those memories -- of Scranton and its Mafia don, Bufalino. As I noted in It's All Who You Know, DeNaples was accused of allegedly lying about his relationships with organized crime figures to win a lucrative gambling license in the Poconos. That is, he is accused of denying his relationship with William D'Elia, the current reputed head of the Bufalino crime family in Scranton and Bufalino himself.

The book's focus is primarily on the disappearance and death of Hoffa, describing Sheeran's relationship with Hoffa as well as Bufalino, who is the one who put the hit on Hoffa. As Brian Burrough, who reviewed the book for the NYTimes, said in Killing Him Softly:

The book Brandt has written gives new meaning to the term ''guilty pleasure.'' It promises to clear up the mystery of Hoffa's demise, and appears to do so. Sheeran not only admits he was in on the hit, he says it was he who actually pulled the trigger -- and not just on Hoffa but on dozens of other victims, including many, he alleges, dispatched on Hoffa's orders. This last seems likely to spur a reappraisal of Hoffa's career. The book's title, in fact, comes from the first words Sheeran says Hoffa ever spoke to him. To paint a house, Sheeran explains, is Mafiaese for killing someone, from the blood that splatters all over the, well, you get the picture.

'' 'Houses' '' is a cut above the usual Mafia memoir. Brandt keeps the focus tightly on Sheeran and Hoffa, quick-marching the reader through Sheeran's rise from carnival gofer to klepto-trucker to union organizer to trusted assassin. The story is told mostly in Sheeran's voice, with Brandt intervening to provide chapters on Hoffa's career and the legal troubles that sent him to prison.
The juxtaposition of the narrators Sheeran and Brandt works quite well in this case, since Sheeran's words don't give the historical perspective that Brandt does in filling in certain sections with details left out by Sheeran. Based upon Sheeran's background and personality, his clipped rendering is part of his character:

Sheeran is Old School, and his tale is admirably free of self-pity and self-aggrandizement. Without getting all Oprah about it, he admits he was an alcoholic and a lousy father. His business was killing people, and, as he learned to do as a soldier at Anzio and Monte Cassino, he did it with little muss, fuss or introspection. He recalls his first assignment from the Philadelphia mob boss Angelo Bruno, whose sole directive was ''You gotta do what you gotta do.''

''You didn't have to go down the street and enroll in some courses at the University of Pennsylvania to know what he meant,'' Sheeran explains. ''It was like when an officer would tell you to take a couple of German prisoners back behind the line and for you to 'hurry back.' You did what you had to do.''

Sheeran had to do a lot, it seems. Working for Hoffa one memorable day, he says, ''I flew to Puerto Rico and took care of two matters. Then I flew to Chicago and took care of one matter. Then I flew to San Francisco . . . to meet up with Jimmy and give him the report.''

'' 'Houses' '' provides two story lines that, if true, further darken Hoffa's legacy. One involves cash payoffs Sheeran says he delivered to Richard Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, in return for Hoffa's presidential pardon or parole. The other is a heavy dollop of circumstantial evidence that Hoffa and his Mafia allies really were behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The evidence, however, is limited to spoken threats and spooky asides, as when one Mafia don asks Hoffa for a favor. For what? Hoffa asks. For Dallas, the don says. This, alas, does fall somewhat short of a smoking gun.

As mentioned by Burroughs, an interesting aside to the story was the bitter relationship between Hoffa and Bobby Kennedy, with the unstated suggestion that the mob was responsible for John Kennedy's assassination as a way to put a stop to Bobby's unrelenting obsession with bringing down the mafia. Surprisingly, despite Bobby's campaign against organized crime -- and Hoffa -- while he was attorney general, the book does not suggest that the mob was behind Bobby Kennedy's killing.

All of the local Philly politicians, such as Arlen Specter, Joe Biden and Frank Rizzo make appearances at one point or another during the early days of their careers. The gossipy tidbits, the inside view of the mob and the story of what really happened to Jimmy Hoffa, all combine to make this a fascintating read.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Matt Davies, The Journal News

Yoo What?

I recently wrote about the sad state of the Philadelphia Inquirer, noting the financial and management decisions that seem to be contributing to its decline. I also observed that I rarely read the opinion page of the Inky anymore, after it started carrying regular contributions from the likes of RickSantorum. See Inquire No More.

Someone pointed out a recent opinion piece, which confirms my view of the editorial page. Inexplicably, it has an op-ed piece by disgraced former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer JohnYoo, with his outlandish rubbish now sullying the pages of the Philadelphia paper. Yoo is one of the creators of the unitary executive theory -- the "All Power to the Pres" theory of governance. The End is Near?. I wrote about Yoo's version of an imperial presidency on several occasions. See, e.g., Yoo Who. He was also a proponent of justifying the use of torture, see The Horror of Yoo.

In his latest nonsense , Yoo argues that the Supreme Court has exceeded its authority by deciding issues of constitutional import in a manner that does not give sufficient weight to the President -- or even Congress. In Supreme Court grabbed more power in recent term, he states:

The U.S. Supreme Court's 2007-08 term had something for everybody. Liberals came away with a victory on the cases testing the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Conservatives prevailed with the court's first defense of the individual right to own and bear firearms. Liberals applauded the prohibition on the death penalty for the rape of minors; conservatives liked the overturning of a campaign-finance law.

But the biggest winner by far was the court itself. Slowly but surely, the justices have expanded their power to make many of our society's fundamental political and moral decisions. Only the court now decides whether schools or the government can resort to race-based preferences when it admits students or doles out contracts. States and the federal government must live by the court's dictates on the regulation of abortion. Whether religious groups can help educate inner-city children or provide welfare services is up to the justices. Use of the death penalty, indeed whether each individual execution will go forward, is ultimately controlled by our unelected judges.

The decisions announced this summer only reaffirm the court's power.

* * * *

Some might prefer that judges still make these decisions because they hear cases in a formal, rational setting and issue long opinions explaining their reasons. Nonetheless, the courts are far from ideal as policymakers: They have great difficulty trading off competing values in these sensitive areas; they are insulated from the political process; and their only access to information comes to them through the narrow lens of a lawsuit.

When the federal judiciary decides national policy on these issues, under the guise of interpreting the Constitution, it prevents the people from making the decisions for themselves.

Imagine that! The Supreme Court is doing a power grab -- by deciding cases properly brought before it through the legal process. The fact that the Justices are doing what they have done since the inception of our system of government, reviewing the actions of the President and the laws passed by Congress to ensure that they do not exceed the powers granted under theConstitution causes Yoo great concern. For Yoo , anything that impinges on the power of the President is illegal, since he is the Dictator-in-Chief (at least until the President is a Democrat).

I'm not sure of the role of the Courts under the warped world view of Yoo. I suppose, like Congress, the Court has a lesser role to carry out the dictates of the President and ensure that the citizens follow the laws as set forth by the Commander in Chief. But they no longer have the last word, according to Yoo:

This is not to deny that there are moments that we need the courts to defend individual liberties against unconstitutional actions by the government. But those moments may not be as ever-present as the federal courts today may think, and the price is not just that the courts may get it wrong, but that the expansion of their powers will sap our energies of republican self-government.

"If the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court," Abraham Lincoln argued in his first inaugural address, "the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Tony Auth, NYTimes

In the Shadows


The big news over the past two days in Philly has been the devastating blaze of an apartment complex in Conshohocken late yesterday afternoon, which left 375 people without homes and destroyed several buildings, including one that was under construction. The complex, called Riverwalk at Millennium, is near my office and the smoke from the fire forced us to leave the building shortly after 5 yesterday. In fact, the fire was so intense and spread so quickly that we worried whether it would reach our offices.

As the Daily News reported, Dramatic Conshohocken fire routs hundreds:

Fortunately, Muldoon and all the other tenants of the luxury complex escaped unharmed yesterday when what developed into an eight-alarm fire started in a building being constructed next door and spread rapidly. The building under construction was destroyed and four or five neighboring buildings were damaged, displacing all 375 residents, said Montgomery County's public-safety director.

More than 300 firefighters from all over Montgomery County battled the flames, which roared spectacularly into the evening sky, drawing the curious from a wide area. By 10:30 p.m., the fire that began 5 1/2 hours earlier was under control, Conshohocken fire officials said.

Late into the night, firefighters poured thousands of gallons of water on pockets of the complex that were still burning.

The complex was consider a major part of the revitalization of Conshy. As noted in the Inky, Real estate empire that revitalized the borough:
The Riverwalk project was at the center of the revitalization of Conshohocken, once a factory town on a dirty river that now gleams with rows of high-rise office buildings.

'It was an eyesore before this,' said Vivian Angelucci, a member and past chairman of the Conshohocken Zoning Board, who lives two blocks from the Riverwalk development.

She credited it with bringing more residents and businesspeople into the borough.

Riverwalk at Millennium is an upscale, 60-acre apartment community built between 2000 and 2005 by O'Neill Properties Group L.P., of King of Prussia. The $51.8 million project was built on a former industrial site along the Schuylkill, according to a Web site for the complex.
Our offices have been in Conshy for about 10 years, so we've witnessed first hand the changes and renovations that have swept through the borough.

In fact, we watched the apartment complex being constructed from the view from our windows. And now, sadly, we are watching it come down, as the buildings that were destroyed are being dismantled.


(Updated 8/17 with new picture)

Not For Sale


This is the perfect campaign slogan for John McCain. It says it all.

Based upon this biting, independent "campaign ad" video, Unfit to Lead:




(Via BlueGal at Crooks and Liars and AmericaBlog)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Matt Bors, Idiot Box

Quote of the Day


"Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws."

The words of U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey to the American Bar Association, in announcing that there will be no criminal prosecutions of Justice Department officials who politicized the Department by its hiring and firing practices. See, Mukasey: No prosecutions in Justice hiring scandal. As the article noted:

An internal investigation concluded last month that for nearly two years, top advisers to Gonzales discriminated against applicants for career jobs who weren't Republican or conservative loyalists.

The federal government makes a distinction between "career" and "political" appointees, and it's a violation of civil service laws and Justice Department policy to hire career employees on the basis of political affiliation or allegiance.

Yet Monica Goodling, who served as Gonzales' counselor and White House liaison, routinely asked career job applicants about politics, the report concluded.

I can't wait to see the "Mukasey defense" being used in court proceedings by defense counsel, arguing why their client should not be prosecuted. After all, if it's good enough for the Justice crowd, lawyers all, it should be good enough for the petty criminal on the street. Isn't that what equal justice under law is all about?

(Updated with Cartoon via John Sherffius, Creators News Service)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Playing Games

I haven't watched the Summer Games -- I would say that I'm boycotting the Beijing Olympics, but to be perfectly honest, I probably wouldn't watch them anyway. It's the sports thing.

But I loved The Quaker Agitator's description of the games being played at the games, The Orwell Olympics:

The fireworks were faked.

The singer wasn’t singing.

Those seats are not really all sold out.

The judges aren’t calling the shots fairly.

But seriously, folks. What did we expect?"
And then of course, there was this from the other George. Gawker made me actually giggle with its hysterical riff on the antics of the soon-to-be Former, Bush Looking Drunk At The Olympics:


No one's saying teetotaling President Bush would actually try and sneak some shots of alcohol while enjoying himself at the Beijing Olympics as his apocalyptically bad presidency recedes into history. That's the sort of thing you'd read in, say, the National Enquirer, which as everyone knows is full of trashy tabloid lies. Besides, the president doesn't have to consume actual alcohol to act like a bumbling fraternity president. Still, it's worth noting that Bush
has been doing a funny/terrifying impersonation of a drunk president for all the press photographers at the Olympics. He's even got the red face thing down!





Now, of course, if you were to ask me, I'd say he didn't just fall off the stairs on his way to his seat, he fell of the wagon too!

No New Taxes

I heard this snippet on my way to work this morning. That is, corporations, unlike the rest of us, pay no taxes. See Representation Without Taxation: Study Says Most Corporations Avoid US Income Tax. I have to admit that I am not at all surprised at the fact that corporations pay little or no tax, since they hire a cadre of accountants and lawyers to advice them how to avoid any taxes.

Then, of course, that little gem was followed up by this news:

Military contracts in the Iraq theater have cost taxpayers at least $85 billion, and when it comes to providing security, they might not be any cheaper than using military personnel, according to a report released Tuesday.
Iraq Contracts Have Cost Taxpayers At Least $85 Billion Since Invasion.

So, if you're Blackwater, Halliburton or KBR, I certainly understand why you would want to vote Republican. Ditto if you are any other corporation.

Oh, but funny that. Corporations don't vote. So other than the major owners of corporations (somewhere around a few thousand people altogether), who else would ever vote Republican?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The Race on Race



As I drove to work recently, on my wind-about, back-road route to the office, I noticed that the flag was back. It had disappeared for a while, replaced by another flag whose symbol I couldn't quite make out. This one, however, was clear in it's allegiance.

Shaking my head, I supposed that I wouldn't be seeing an Obama poster in the window any time soon. In fact, I wondered if the fact that Obama had won the Democratic ticket was the impetus for the resurrection of the flag.

A recent Washington Post piece supports this theory -- that Obama's candidacy has been a boon for racist and white supremacist groups, Hate Groups' Newest Target:

Neo-Nazi and white power groups acknowledge that they have little ability to derail Obama's candidacy, so instead some have decided to take advantage of its potential. White-power leaders who once feared Obama's campaign have come to regard it as a recruiting tool. The groups now portray his candidacy as a vehicle to disenfranchise whites and polarize America.

Obama has worked hard to minimize the issue of race in his presidential campaign. When asked about divisiveness and hate, he talks instead about ways in which unity between blacks and whites has inspired him. He chose to "reject and denounce" an endorsement from Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan. Obama quit his church after his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., spoke of racism and oppression in the "United States of white America."

* * * *

The past few months reflect a recent trend of hate group growth, watch organizations said. Fueled primarily by anti-immigration sentiment, white supremacy groups have increased by nearly half since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups. The KKK has diversified regionally and now has about 150 chapters spread through 34 states.

"Our side does better when the public is being pressured, when gas prices are high, when housing is bad, when a black man might be president," said Ron Doggett, who runs a white power group called EURO in Richmond. "People start looking for solutions and changes, and we offer radical changes to what's going on."

Of course, these views noted in the article just reflect those who are vocal about their sentiments, such as the Rebel Flag waving people inside that house that I pass by on my way to and from work. Others have learned to be quiet about their true feelings -- or have not even acknowledged their racist attitudes. They are in denial about their inner racist and espouse other reasons for eschewing Obama as a viable candidate.

Charles Blow has an op-ed piece in the NYTimes that takes this aspect into consideration in looking at Obama's poll numbers, Racism and the Race:

So why is the presidential race a statistical dead heat? The pundits have offered a host of reasons, but one in particular deserves more exploration: racism.

Barack Obama’s candidacy has shed some light on the extremes of racism in America — how much has dissipated (especially among younger people) and how much remains.

* * * *
Welcome to the murky world of modern racism, where most of the open animus has been replaced by a shadowy bias that is difficult to measure. As Obama gently put it in his race speech, today’s racial “resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company.” However, they can be — and possibly will be — expressed in the privacy of the voting booth.
The impact of racism is obviously difficult to calculate -- but estimates are that it ranges from 15% to 30%, see A measure of racism: 15 percent? and 3 in 10 Americans Admit to Race Bias.

As Blow said:
Think racism isn’t a major factor in this election? Think again.
That confederate flag flying in a town on the outskirts of Philly says it all.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Being Bernie

It's unfortunate that the last time Bernie Mac made the news was related to his appearance in July at an Obama fundraiser, where he was criticized for his raunchy jokes about women, see Bernie Mac Makes 'Inappropriate' Jokes at Obama Fundraiser. As he then said during his routine, he wasn't likely to get the VP spot, because he cusses. True that.

However, as I noted in comments at The Quaker Agitator, I couldn't understand the reaction to his skit. It's humor. It's Bernie Mac. As I observed:

I felt the same way when I heard the reaction to Bernie Mac’s jokes at an Obama fundraiser. He’s Bernie Mac — that’s his humor. What did you really expect? If you find it offensive, he’s not the guy for you. You’re allowed to leave the room when he does his routine.
In tribute to Bernie Mac, who departed this earth way to soon, here's a clip from his King of Comedy routine.



He was a King of Comedy. And funny too.

For more about Mac, see Bernie Mac-A True King of comedy.

Cartoon of the Day


Jim Morin, Miami Herald

The Woman in White



Earlier this week, I posted about my bout of Bad Tech Karma, which has necessitated the replacement of a number of my tech gadgets.

One of my purchases, the new ThinkPad X300, which I just received, was something I was able to justify because my Dell POG (Piece of Garbage) was about to give up the ghost. I also was able to rationalize spending so much on the laptop by telling myself that I didn't upgrade my iPhone when the new version came out recently. In fact, I even wrote about how virtuous I was feeling for not getting the new 3G iPhone last month, iM Feeling It.

No sooner did I speak than fate intervened -- as part of that bad tech karma. My law partner returned from vacation last week with a dead cell phone, which got wet during some outdoor activity. So, she needed to get a new cell phone. We talked about what she should get and came up with the brilliant idea that she should get my iPhone and I'd get the new one. I knew it was only a matter of time. After a few extra rationalizations, of course, I was able to justify getting the White 16GB. And even though the AT&T stores don't have the phones in stock, I was able to go to the Apple store one morning and get one without a problem.

Now that I've replaced pretty much all of my gadgets, my tech karma is happily aligned again.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Inquire No More

I've written before about the slow march toward the demise of the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it looks like the paper may be picking up steam to reach its destination.

The news for the hometown paper looks dire from a financial perspective, as reported by Philly Magazine, which recently reported that the owners of the Inky had entered into a forebearance agreement with their creditors.

Now, via Phawker, I saw the latest "news" on the Inky's new policy decision to hold posting news and articles on its on-line website until its paper version is printed and delivered. As Buzzmachine notes, A stake through the heart of the has-been Inquirer:

What the hell are they thinking in Philadelphia? Inquirer ME Mike Leary just sent a memo saying they are going to hold all but breaking news for the paper and even restrict bloggers from using their blogs to work on stories in progress.

Let me make this very clear to Inquirer ownership and management:

You are killing the paper. You might as well just burn the place down. You’re setting a match to it. This is insane. Even the slowest, most curmudgeonly, most backward in your dying, suffering industry would not be this stupid anymore. They know that the internet is the present and the future and the paper is the past. Protecting the past is no strategy for the future. It is suicide. It is murder. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

And my message to staff, the few of them left:

Get the hell out now! Get away from these fools or you’ll get it on you. Let’s hold a new Norg meeting right now and organize a competitor to the ailing Inquirer. It won’t take much to kill it now. Let’s put it out of its misery.

And my question to readers:

Do you care?

Answer to last question: Yes and No.

Based upon the current paper and website -- no.

I hardly read the print version anymore (although we still get it delivered because my husband likes to read an actual newspaper). Except for one or two articles on the front page, the entire front section of the paper consists of reprints of AP, NYTimes and Washington Post articles. I can read those at the original source, so why bother reading them on a delayed basis in the paper? Even the opinion section mostly carries reprints of op ed pieces from elsewhere, along with the likes of Rick Santorum -- just the sort of outlandish conservative that a liberal town like Philly wants, so I skip over that too. The only thing worth reading is the Local section, to see what is happening in the region. Sometimes, I let the paper pile up over a few days and then just skim through to see what, if anything, is worth reading. This from a person who used to read 5 papers daily (including the Inky), from cover to cover! Overall, with cutbacks in staff and content, the old Philly paper ain't what she used to be.

Even worse, I have to say that I've pretty much given up on the website, Philly.com. It's hard to find anything resembling news between the ads and the fluff stuff. Honestly, I didn't even know that they carried breaking news -- where could they fit it amid the stupid pet tricks?

My distaste for the paper and website doesn't hold true, however, for its bloggers, such as Will Bunch and Dick Polman. I read them daily and hope that this new policy won't impact their efforts, especially that of Bunch, who often provides previews of what is percolating in the newsroom. Unfortunately, that sounds exactly what has become off limits under the new decree. I wouldn't be surprised if the edict weren't directed at him. Which also makes me wonder what he's doing on his "vacation." Hopefully, if he goes elsewhere, it won't be too far from home.

I understand the concept of the Inquirer's new policy with respect to "feature stories," but this seems to go well beyond that. As Steve Outing said, Don’t go backward, newspapers!:

OK, I understand the thinking: The print product is suffering and this is a way to give it an edge — to encourage people to think that there’s some good stuff that you’ll get first by sticking with print.

But this is an argument that has been decided (or so I thought), so it’s disheartening to see a major newspaper go backward.

See also, At the end of the war, Newspapers commit ritual suicide.

I guess this is what happens when you put a PR man in charge. For him, everything revolves around the product he is selling, so the actual journalism is merely the window-dressing for the ad content, not the other way around. But who wants to pay to read ads, other than Brian Tierney?

Too bad you can't wrap fish in a website.