Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy New Year

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. As such, it is a time for Jews to review the mistakes they made in the past year and to resolve to make improvements in the upcoming year.

Shana Tova to my Jewish friends and in their honor, a clip from the Daily Show, featuring Wyatt Cenac, who goes to south Florida for a focus group on the first presidential debate:


video

And while we're talking about old Jews in South Florida, I guess I should add the Sarah Silverman video (and, of course, it's the NSFW version):


The Great Schlep from Sarah Silverman on Vimeo.

Maybe I should suggest that my daughter try this with her grandparents, who are headed to South Florida tomorrow for their winter respite. My mother may not be Jewish, but she's an old Italian lady, who thrives on guilt, complains all the time that her kids never call, loves the early bird specials, plays mahjong with her Jewish buddies and lives in Boca for the winter. So, close enough, no?


(Daily Show video via Crooks and Liars, where you can also find the clip from the 1st focus group Cenac conducted)

Cartoon of the Day


Steve Kelley, Times-Picayune

Read a (Banned) Book



Via Vagabond Scholar, see Banned Books Week and the National Book Festival, 2008, this week (September 27th to October 4th ) is Celebrate Your Freedom to Read!
Banned Books Week.

Each year libraries, schools, and book lovers come together for Banned Books Week, a celebration of the freedom to read without censorship. Of course, if McCain/Palin get elected, they will probably ban Banned Books Week, so be sure to participate this year. The Free Library of Philadelphia has an event October 1 at 7:30 PM. See Phawker for details.

Amazingly, many of the top 100 books have been on Banned Book Lists:

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Ulysses, James Joyce
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Beloved, Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies, William Golding
1984, George Orwell
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Lolita, Vladmir Nabokov
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Their Eyes were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Native Son, Richard Wright
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
Go Tell it on the Mountain, James Baldwin
All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence
Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence
Women in Love, DH Lawrence
A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess
In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
A Separate Peace, John Knowles
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
The Naked and the Dead, Norman Mailer
Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run, John Updike
From Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (source cites reasons why book is banned).

Think about those statistics: Of the Top 100 Novels, 44 have been banned/challenged.

Out of those, I've read all but the following:

Ulysses, James Joyce
The Call of the Wild, Jack London
Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie
Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
Rabbit, Run, John Updike

In honor of Banned Book Week, read a banned book. I think I'll read The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult, which is on a list of books banned in 2007-2008, which I found on my daughter's bookshelf.



(Photos via Phawker)

Monday, September 29, 2008

House on Fire

With the news media focused on the bailout plan to avoid financial disaster till yet another day, as well as the upcoming Palin/Biden debate, the report set to be released today detailing the findings of the Justice Department probe of the US Attorney firings will most likely not get much play.

Murray Waas provides an advance peek into the results of the investigation, Exclusive: Bush appointees attempted to thwart US Attorney Probe:

A report to be made public tomorrow morning by the Justice Department detailing findings of its investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys will say that the efforts of investigators were severely stymied in large part by the lack of cooperation by some Bush administration officials and others outside the Department, according to sources who have seen the report.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the Justice Department’s Inspector General (IG) and the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR.) Both of those internal watchdogs have no potential prosecutorial power, but can make recommendations that career prosecutors take up their work after they finish their final report. It is unclear whether Attorney General Michael Mukasey will do so.

Despite the fact that its efforts were stymied in part by non-cooperation by witnesses, the report will say- not much of a surprise-that several of the firings were due to the politicization of the Justice Department by Bush administration appointees and that the White House played a role in some of them. Investigators did attempt to do as thorough job as possible in investigating the White House’s role in the firings and were assisted by being able to review some confidential White House emails that the White House had been withholding from Congress.

* * * *

The lack of cooperation by some former Bush administration officials with investigators probing the firings of nine U.S. attorneys is not the first time that former administration officials have thwarted investigators probing the politicization of the Justice Department by refusing to answer their questions.

See Investigation Into Firings Will Not Call for Charges.

After a year of investigating the politization of the Department of Justice, the probe was unable to make any definitive findings because the parties involved refused to cooperate and the Departement lacked the ability -- via subpoena power -- to force their testimony. Shocking, I know! As Emptywheel explains, The USA Purge: DOJ’s IG Punts:

Yeah, those key participants: Harriet Miers, Turdblossom, Bush, Domenici and his staffers, Heather Wilson and her staffers, etcetera. What a surprise. Mukasey's refusal to appoint a prosecutor last year--and his ongoing support for the claims of executive privilege and absolute immunity--bought the White House a year in their attempts to stall or quash this investigation.

And, as if you didn't already guess, Mukasey seems unprepared to appoint a special counsel to investigate this--he seems poised to appoint someone internal, just as he did with the torture tape destruction investigation.

I realize that the list is long, but the degradation of the Department of Justice by the Bush Administration is one of the worst examples of lawless destruction of our governmental principles in its long, shameful history. I wrote about Attorneygate many times last year, see here, here & here, but it is an episode in our history that should not be forgotten or overlooked.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Pat Oliphant, NYTimes

An Ode to Ordinary

Now that we've managed to kick the can (our economy) forward a bit longer, we can turn our attention back to more mundane things, like the upcoming presidential election.

We've survived the 1st Presidential debate, and the one & only VP debate is on the horizon for this week. We'll be treated to an episode of what will no doubt be billed as "Sarah Shines."

Sarah Palin evokes many reactions, on many levels, for me. From the petty: her shrill voice makes me cringe; to the important: her policies, such as her pro-gun, anti-choice, fundamentalist, extremist religious views -- make me cringe.

One of the issues that I've touched on before, is the GOP promoted anti-intelligence meme, which is also a feature of the Palin candidacy. As Sam Harris noted in Newsweek recently, in When Atheists Attack:

Still, the problem she poses to our political process is now much bigger than she is. Her fans seem inclined to forgive her any indiscretion short of cannibalism. However badly she may stumble during the remaining weeks of this campaign, her supporters will focus their outrage upon the journalist who caused her to break stride, upon the camera operator who happened to capture her fall, upon the television network that broadcast the good lady's misfortune—and, above all, upon the 'liberal elites' with their highfalutin assumption that, in the 21st century, only a reasonably well-educated person should be given command of our nuclear arsenal.

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

* * * *

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

The devolution of intelligence as a criteria for elective office was also lamented by political writer Dick Polman, in Populism gone wild: Palin latest example of push to mediocrity :

The rise of Sarah Palin inevitably prompts me to ponder the demise of meritocracy in America.

Never mind the fact that her presidential readiness is measured by the proximity of Alaska to Russia, or the fact that the McCain camp listed Ireland as one of her foreign visits until it turned out that her plane had merely refueled on Irish soil. I'm more interested in the simple test that she has twice flunked about her own state - and the fact that John McCain, using grade inflation, gives her an A anyway."

* * * *

Palin, however, is merely the latest beneficiary in the national celebration of mediocrity, much like one of those early-round American Idol entrants who wins insta-fame for being Just Like Us. Lest we forget, the lame-duck administration in Washington has long been dumbing down the standards for public service, by seeking to elevate the ill-qualified to positions of authority.

* * * *

One wonders how the Founding Fathers would view the demise of meritocracy.

Alexander Hamilton insisted in the 76th Federalist Paper that our leaders "would be both ashamed and afraid" to elevate people whose chief qualification appeared to be "insignificance and pliancy." But today Hamilton would probably be dismissed as an "elitist" who cannot relate to the average Joe's apparent yearning for leaders who know just as little about the issues as they do.

So goodbye, Hamilton, and hello Roman Hruska.

The late senator from Nebraska is the guy who once defended an ill-qualified, ill-fated high court nominee by saying, "So what if he is mediocre? There are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they?"

On the other hand, now that's she's had a chance to strut her stuff, Palin may have shown us the limits of how far down we're willing to go in the name of dumb. Truly, especially after Bush, I would never have believed that there was a limit. But, as Kate Phillips of The NYTimes' Caucus blog notes, Curbing Their Enthusiasm:

The drip, drip, drip of bad reviews keeps falling this week against Gov. Sarah Palin, whose two-day segments of interviews with CBS’ Katie Couric have weakened conservatives’ initial embrace of and enthusiasm for the vice-presidential nominee. As if Senator John McCain already hadn’t faced a rough week, which started with conservative columnist George Will bemoaning the Republican candidate’s positions on the economic bailout and suggesting Mr. McCain may be unfit to be president.

Now, conservatives had never warmed to Senator McCain this time around, but they were wowed by Mr. McCain’s selection of Ms. Palin as his running mate and at first, circled the wagons to defend her, despite her lack of foreign policy experience. She talked their values and represented small-town America, something neither ticket had offered to anyone before she surfaced.

But it seems a watershed moment occurred online earlier today when Kathleen Parker, a writer for TownHall.com, reversed her initial support for the Republican vice-presidential nominee and said Ms. Palin should drop out. Put the country first, she basically advised, by saying you need to go take care of your family first.
Daniel Larison of the American Conservative's Eunomia adds, in T-Minus Six Days:
The entire Palin episode has been like some drunken bacchanalia that gave way to a terrified awakening several weeks too late. When her critics were painting her as a new Eagleton, her supporters were laughing at them as lunatics filled with hate, and now they are beginning to think that the haters may have been onto something. The GOP is experiencing self-immolation, and I can’t say that I am very bothered by that.
Once again, parody far surpasses reality in the blending of fact and fiction in SNL's spoof of Palin's interview with Katie Couric. We've reached the point where it's difficult to distinguish between Tina Fay and Sarah Palin -- both their faces and their words.



Via Crooks and Liars, Michael Leddy of Orange Crate Art observes, in Couric and Palin and Orwell:
As George Orwell points out in "Politics and the English Language," one need not take on the responsibility of thinking when composing sentences:
You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connexion between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.
Look at what we have here — ready-made phrases, stray bits of language, as if pulled together from some desperate cramming for an exam: back on the right track, health care reform, job creation, one in five jobs, opportunity, reform that is needed, reducing taxes, reining in spending, shore up our economy, tax reductions, tax relief, the trade sector, the umbrella of job creation.

You know no one's home when we're told that "reducing taxes . . . has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief."
UPDATE (9/29): For more of the chorus of criticism, as the LATimes puts it, see Some on the right are joining a chorus of criticism over Sarah Palin and Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, Palin Is Ready? Please.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Nate Beeler, The Examiner

Busted

Ok, I fibbed -- sort of. I said that I couldn't bear to watch the presidential debates last night, which was true. However, the real truth is that I attended a client event at the Independence Seaport Museum last night, so I only heard the end of the debate on the radio on our way home and watched the some of the post-debate analysis.

I had TiVo'd the debate to watch later, but after listening/reading the wrap up and watching the highlights, I think I'll skip it after all.




Instead, I spent the evening at a black-tie fundraiser, enjoyed a good meal and ended up buying a pair of diamond, orange sapphire and citrine earings at the live auction (pictured), along with a few Silent Auction items. As I've mentioned before, I'm a jewelry junkie (along with a tech junkie and a political junkie . . . ).

So, like the economy, I'm broke.

And the Winner Was


So, despite being a news/politics junkie, I passed on the debate last night. After all, a few hours before the debate, I saw that McCain was declared the winner.

Also, as beautifully expressed by Digby of Hullabaloo:

It's very hard for me to gauge this debate because to me John McCain is quite obviously a crazy, intemperate, nasty old bastard. He was sarcastic, contemptuous and patronizing. I really, really loathe him. But then, I loathe Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck too, who are also domineering, macho pricks. (On the other hand Barack said "I agree with John" about 832 times, so perhaps I'm misjudging him.)
Substitute the word "watch" for "gauge" and you have my feelings on the subject of John McCain.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Cover of the Day


Yet another in a continuing series of spoofs of The New Yorker cover. This one, with my favs Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert, is from Entertainment Weekly. You can read the accompanying interview with the emmy winning duo there.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


Tom Toles, NYTimes

Woe Is Us



So, John McCain "suspended" his campaign so that he could rush back to DC -- as the white knight, of course -- to help save the country from economic collapse.

Call me cynical, but somehow, I just can't picture a rescue coming from Mr. "I don't know nothing about the economy" McCan't. I tend to subscribe to the view of Shaun Mullen on this one, The Staggering Cynicism Of John McCain.

In so doing, McCain unilaterally called off the first presidential debate, and dissed David Letterman while he managed to squeeze in an interview with Katie Couric.

But, best of all -- he made time (between cramming to understand the issues), to meet with Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, the uber-rich Lady who recently came out -- for McCain because she was mad that Hillary didn't win. See High-larious. So what was so important for these two gold-diggers to talk about that didn't merit a cancellation in light of the financial crisis? Whatever it was, wanna bet they commiserated about the fact that they both lost a lot of money in the recent cratering of the market?

Here's the video clip in case you missed Letterman's revenge on being stood up by McCain:



And don't miss his Top Ten List: "Questions People Are Asking The McCain Campaign." See John McCain Cancels Letterman Appearance, Keith Olbermann Fills.

It's Morning in America



Wake Up America

As you contemplate the state of our state, consider the words of Dennis Kucinich, Barney Smith, Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Music, Star Spangled Banner, by Jimi Hendrix.

(Via Firedoglake)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Quality of Mercy

UPDATE: The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of execution shortly after 5 pm today, a few hours before Troy Davis' scheduled execution. I had checked the news earlier this afternoon and no announcement had been made at that time. I later received an email from someone who had read my post telling me of the stay. See Supreme Court issues stay of execution for Davis.

According to SCOTUSblog:

The Supreme Court blocked the scheduled execution Tuesday evening in Georgia of Troy Anthony Davis, giving itself time to consider his appeal challenging his conviction for the murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah. The stay order is here. It was issued about two hours before the execution was to be carried out.

The Court is to consider Davis’ petition for review (08-66) at its Conference next Monday. The stay of execution will be lifted automatically if review is denied, the order said. If review is granted, the stay will remain in effect until the case is decided.

Can I say that I am shocked that the Court granted the reprieve. Just when I give up hope for justice from these Justices, they decide to do the right thing.

Perhaps the quality of mercy is not strained after all.

____________________

Via The Quaker Agitator, today at 7 pm, Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed by the state of Georgia. Despite questions of innocence raised in his conviction for the 1989 murder of a Savannah police officer, the state of Georgia appears determined that the show must go on.

As noted in the Huffington Post, Faith-Based Cruelty: The Other Georgia:
Troy Anthony Davis, almost certainly an innocent man, knows. He'll die Tuesday, September 23, 2008. Never mind his conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses, seven of whom have recanted, saying they were coerced by Savannah police and changing what they said in court. Never mind signed affidavits implicating one of the two witnesses who did not recant as the actual killer. Or that there was no other evidence against Mr. Davis -- a total lack of physical evidence -- and no new evidence has ever been heard in court because the appeals process is increasingly restricted. Never mind the national and international outcry, pleas for justice and for Troy Anthony Davis' life.
See also, Anatomy of a Frame-up: The Shocking Case of Troy Davis.

As the time draws near, the options for mercy -- even temporarily -- are dim. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the Georgia Supreme Court denied a request for a stay of execution yesterday, Parole board says it won't reconsider Davis' execution:
In July 2007, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles stepped in and stayed Davis’ execution less than 24 hours before it was to be carried out. But on Monday, the board rejected pleas to reconsider its recent decision to deny clemency on grounds there is too much doubt as to whether Davis shot and killed a Savannah police officer.

Also Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis’ request for a stay of execution. Justice Robert Benham cast the lone dissent.

Davis’ last hope to avoid his 7 p.m. Tuesday execution now appears to rest with the U.S. Supreme Court, where his lawyers have also asked for a stay of execution.

Davis, 39, sits on death row for the Aug. 19, 1989, murder of Officer Mark Allen MacPhail. But since Davis’ 1991 trial, seven key prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.

His claims of innocence has drawn international attention, with Pope Benedict XVI and former President Jimmy Carter asking for Davis’ death sentence to be commuted to life in prison without parole.

With cases like that of Davis', it clear that justice is not the paramount mission of our justice system. If it were, the answer to the question of innocence would prevail over the upholding of a conviction of death. Yet, that is not the case. NPR's Morning Edition covered the case, Execution Nears For Georgia Inmate, noting:

The Southern regional director of Amnesty International, Jared Feuer, says that to this day, no one has looked at whether the evidence points to Davis' innocence or to his guilt. He says the fact that seven witnesses recanted, combined with the absence of physical evidence or a murder weapon, raises too much doubt about whether the state is executing an innocent man.

"And that's why for us, Troy Anthony Davis' case symbolizes all that is wrong with the death penalty," Feuer said. "You have questions of improper witness handling. You have procedural obstacles that get in the way of the truth. You have issues of race and, ultimately, you have a system that can't go back and correct its mistakes," he says.

Davis' life is now in the hands of the Justices of the US Supreme Court, where I fear the quality of mercy may be strained.

An Important Message

In case you missed this important email making the rounds:

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson

Via Hullabaloo

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quote of the Day

Words of wisdom from the De-regulator-In-Chief, John McCain:

Here’s what McCain has to say about the wonders of market-based health reform:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

Via Paul Krugman, McCain on banking and health.

And then there's this, on Social Security:
"Without privatization, I don't see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits," McCain declares at a December 2004 event in New Hampshire.
See McCain Claimed "Privatization" Was Necessary For Social Security.

Scared yet? On Bill Maher's Real Time, Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, gives a lesson in (De)Regulation For Dummies:
The disaster is far from over. They’ve actually just relocated. The disaster was on Wall Street and they have moved the disaster to Main Street by accepting those debts and you said they didn’t have to bomb, the bomb has yet to detonate. The bomb is the debt that has now been transferred to the taxpayers so it detonates when, if John McCain becomes president in the midst of an economic crisis and says look we’re in trouble, we have a disaster on our hands, we have to privatize social security, we can’t afford health care, we can’t afford food stamps, we need more deregulation, more privatization. The thesis of the Shock Doctrine is you need a disaster to rationalize these very unpopular policies so the real disaster has yet to come.The real disaster is the debt that is going to explode on the American taxpayers. And then they do economic shock therapy.

They had to step in, but I don’t think they had to step in in the way they did. The reason why the stock market went up on Wall Street today is because it’s Christmas morning. Imagine waking up and being told your credit card debits have been wiped out, your mortgage has been erased. There’s a fairy godmother that has taken care of you. A guardian angel. But actually that’s the tax payers.

See the video at Crooks and Liars.

An Evening of Jazz

It was a month ago today that my daughter left for college. After a period of adjustment, she told me the other day (via IM, of course) that she's not homesick at all. As for those of us left behind, my husband & I have managed to keep ourselves busy, so when we get home, we're just glad to be able to relax and don't notice the vacant sign on the third floor where the daughter resided.

The week-end after she left was my annual family reunion in Lancaster. The next week-end was the annual retreat of the LLWL Gang* in Atlantic City.

And Friday night a few of the LLWL members and I hosted a Reception at my house for Center in the Park, which is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this month with a series of events. Founded in 1968, Center in the Park is a non-profit community center in Northwest Philadelphia primarily focused on the needs of older people. The Center is a wonderful community resource, providing access to supportive services and activities, and was recently featured in Philly Magazine as a worthy charity.

The reception was my idea of the perfect way to entertain. My house, a big old home in Mount Airy, is a great place to have an event and I love to see it put to good use (as I've done before). The Reception was in support of a good cause -- the Center in the Park.

Even better, I didn't have to cook! The kitchen mavens from the LLWL Gang took over my kitchen (which is a cook's dream) and whipped up an assortment of hor d'oeurves and desserts to die for, including a few tasty treats from CIP's 40th Anniversary Cookbook, “Delicious Gems from Center in the Park.”

They were assisted by a few volunteers from the Culinary Program at Simon Gratz High School, who helped with prep, serving and clean-up. They were not only cute, they did a great job -- with a smile. I told them my daughter would be jealous that she wasn't home at least this night!

And best of all, we were entertained by the Young Lions Jazz Trio, a young trio of tremendously talented artists, who provided the smooth jazz sounds for our listening pleasure, as we sipped our cocktails and dined. Here's a sample from these young musicians, who definitely are at the beginning of a wonderful future in jazz:

"Stolen Moments" live at Chris's -2007


After the Reception, we attended a CIP Jazz Concert at Germantown Friends School, which was the perfect ending to a wonderful day. The concert was arranged by Warren Oree and featured The Barbara Walker Story, UCC Royal Brass Band, The Edgardo Cintron Latin Band, & Oree's own Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble. Each performer was different, yet they were all fabulous!


* LLWL Gang = Lady Lawyers Who Lunch a/k/a my officemates

~~~~
Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week.

Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


John Cole, Times-Tribune

What a Lady


Saying we Gold Diggers have to stick together, former Clinton supporter, the insanely rich Lynn Forester de Rothschild, announced that she was throwing her support behind John McCain. She added that another advantage of the change in allegiance is that she and Cindy McCain can have pearl parties to raise money for the McCain/Palin ticket. Unfortunately, Sarah Palin won't be invited, because she's Valley Trash.

The Daily Intel explains, Insanely Wealthy, Titled Aristocrat Thinks Barack Obama Is ‘Elitist’:

Now she's announcing her support for John McCain for president. Why not Obama? “Because frankly I don't like him,” she told CNN. And why would Forester (who is a voting American but lives at Ascott House, her husband Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild's country estate in Britain) not like the Illinois senator? 'I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him,' she said. “I feel like he is an elitist.'
According to Radar, Rich Hillary Friend Supports McCain, Thinks Obama Is An Elitist:
Forester is a longtime friend of the Clintons, who honeymooned at the White House following her November 2000 marriage to British banker Sir Evelyn Rothschild. But her love for Democrats who have or still are running for president ends there. Forester, unironically, thinks that Obama "is arrogant and has a problem connecting with average Americans." This is a woman, mind you, who splits her time between New York and London, who is the CEO of E.L. Rothschild, a holding company that manages hundreds of millions of dollars in investments across the world, and who is the mistress of two grand British estates.
Oh yes, this Lady is certainly a friend of the people. You can watch her literally look down her nose as she sneers at Campbell Brown, as Brown asks her what makes Obama elitist.



If you're not sure where you fall within the elitist spectrum, you might want to read Mark Morford's column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Are you an elitist? -- 18 revealing ways to know for sure.

The elitist issue has been a topic of conversation among the LLWL Gang. We cannot comprehend why intelligence has become a negative as a qualification for President. Both McCain and Palin were below average students in schools and have clearly not risen above that level in the years since. They proudly assert their lack of intellectual prowess as a plus. And as for George Bush -- we won't even go there. Yet many, like the Lady, denigrate Barack Obama for his superior intelligence, branding him an elitist. It seems that elitist is a mere step up from child molestor (which is worse unless you are a member of the Catholic clergy, in which case an exemption is granted).

As one of the Gang observed, when picking a doctor or lawyer, we want the best person we could find. Who wants the physician who goofed off and finished last in his case to perform major surgery on you? Ditto if you've been charged with a crime and could face many years behind bars if convicted. The last thing you want is for your criminal defense attorney to be a jokster and have a few (too many) beers with you. No -- you want the best there is. Elitist is a plus in this situation, because it means he's intelligent and knows his stuff.

For the final word, I think Kel at The Osterley Times says it best:
That's Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a member of the family who have the wealthiest bloodline on the planet, telling us that Obama is "elitist".

It's official. Irony is dead...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Way Off

A while back, I bemoaned the state of the state, saying that the country seems to be in a god-awful mess. That was back in April. See Off the Track. In my litany of woes, I noted:

Things like:

The Bush/Cheney regime's secrecy, disregard for law and executive power grab, which works to permit these petty little tyrants to amass power in the hands of the few, with the acquiesce of a compliant Congress.

Year 5 of the Worst War in History.

Revelations about the true extent of the Administration's torture program.

A major downturn in the economy, with the Administration arguing over whether this is a recession, while I worry that we're headed into a major depression.

Diminution or elimination of our privacy rights, with wiretapping and other intrusions on our constitutional rights.

A marriage of Church and State, with religious extremists calling the shots.

A press that obsesses over celebrity, but disregards reporting on the true state of affairs that is destroying our country.
Six months later, little did I know how much things would deteriorate, so quickly, especially with respect to the financial market. It seems like we may be skipping a recession altogether and going directly to depression. See The Worst Financial Crisis Since the Great Depression.

Oh great, now I'm sure depressed!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

I normally try not to quote an entire post or essay, but nothing less would do here. I just couldn't resist, since this sums things up so perfectly:

Palin

My Five Stages:

1. Astonishment.
2. Perverse joy.
3. Disbelief.
4. Anger.
5. Abject terror.

I'll be stuck at stage 5 from now until Election Day.

Via Eric Muller, Is That Legal?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cartoon of the Day



Matt Davies, The Journal News

With Liberty & Lies for All

To realize how far we have diverged, one just has to recall the story of George Washington's "I cannot tell a lie," which was ingrained in us as part of the fabric of our history as a nation.

"I cannot tell the truth" may well be the slogan of the times, based upon John McCain's campaign strategy. This was enunciated by the words of Don Sipple, a Republican advertising strategist, who said "I think the predominance of liberty taken with truth and the facts has been more McCain than Obama." See McCain Barbs Stirring Outcry as Distortions. Liberty indeed.

As usual, Paul Krugman of the NYTimes, Blizzard of Lies, hones in on the issue:

Dishonesty is nothing new in politics. I spent much of 2000 — my first year at The Times — trying to alert readers to the blatant dishonesty of the Bush campaign’s claims about taxes, spending and Social Security.

But I can’t think of any precedent, at least in America, for the blizzard of lies since the Republican convention. The Bush campaign’s lies in 2000 were artful — you needed some grasp of arithmetic to realize that you were being conned. This year, however, the McCain campaign keeps making assertions that anyone with an Internet connection can disprove in a minute, and repeating these assertions over and over again.

* * * *

Why do the McCain people think they can get away with this stuff? Well, they’re probably counting on the common practice in the news media of being “balanced” at all costs. You know how it goes: If a politician says that black is white, the news report doesn’t say that he’s wrong, it reports that “some Democrats say” that he’s wrong. Or a grotesque lie from one side is paired with a trivial misstatement from the other, conveying the impression that both sides are equally dirty.

They’re probably also counting on the prevalence of horse-race reporting, so that instead of the story being “McCain campaign lies,” it becomes “Obama on defensive in face of attacks.”

Still, how upset should we be about the McCain campaign’s lies? I mean, politics ain’t beanbag, and all that.

One answer is that the muck being hurled by the McCain campaign is preventing a debate on real issues — on whether the country really wants, for example, to continue the economic policies of the last eight years.

AmericaBlog has a compendium of editorials decrying the lies and negative tactics of McSleazy, Lies. And then there's John McCain's Journey From Maverick to Liar. As Will Bunch notes in his perfectly phrased caption, Wow -- even Karl Rove doesn't approve this message, even Karl Rove thinks McCain has gone too far with his lying ways (sure).

It's gotten so bad that the press is even resorting to using the L word (Lie) to describe it. As The Politico explains, Why McCain is going so negative, so often:

McCain’s tactics are drawing the scorn of many in the media and organizations tasked with fact-checking the truthfulness of campaigns. In recent weeks, Team McCain has been described as dishonorable, disingenuous and downright cynical.

A series of ads — including accusations that Barack Obama backed teaching sex education to Illinois kindergartners and charges that Obama called Sarah Palin a lipstick-wearing pig — have provoked a cascade of criticism of McCain’s tactics.

The furor presents a breathtaking contrast to McCain’s image as a kind of anti-politician who plays fair, disdains politics as usual and has never forgotten how his 2000 presidential campaign was incinerated by a series of loathsome dirty tricks in the South Carolina primary.

Current campaign aides and other Republicans who’ve closely watched the race, however, have a very different response to the media elites and good-government scolds: We don’t care what you think.

McCain seems to have made a choice that many politicians succumb to but that he had always promised to avoid — he appears ready to do whatever it takes to win, even it if soils his reputation.

“We recognize it’s not going to be 2000 again,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said, alluding to the media’s swooning coverage of McCain’s ill-fated crusade against then-Gov. George W. Bush and the GOP establishment. “But he lost then. We’re running a campaign to win. And we’re not too concerned about what the media filter tries to say about it.”

Echoing this sentiment, Tom Edsell at the Huffington Post, in McGamble, adds:

So far, based on polling over the past two weeks, McCain's roll of the dice has paid off. Not only has McCain made substantial gains, pulling modestly ahead in most national polls, but his assaults on Obama appear to have damaged the Democratic Party as well, raising Republican hopes of minimizing House and Senate losses."

So where does that leave us? The Anonymous Liberal posits, in The Media's Moment of Truth:

John McCain is on the verge of doing one of two things: he's either about to implode under the weight of his own lies, or he's on the verge of proving, definitively, that there is no political downside to telling an endless stream of bald-faced lies. Sadly, I'm beginning to suspect the latter."

And that's the truth and nothing but the truth.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Stop Sexism Now

video


Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery in most cases, but sometimes it beats the real thing.


(Via Crooks and Liars)

It was a Chelsea Morning

It was a Chelsea Morning, from our Room with a View.



I may have mixed literary metaphors, but our retreat was a successful mix of sun, fun and work. We held our retreat at the new The Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City, with a Stephen Starr culinary week-end. We dined at the Chelsea Prime and Buddakan Atlantic City. And we had breakfast each morning at Teplitzky's, also at the Chelsea. Excellent meals all, with the always great Starr ambiance.

The Hotel was a fun, funky treat for our retreat. Our ocean front view of the sun rise from our '50s style room was the perfect touch for the week-end. The service of the Hotel staff was superb, which added to the pleasure of a relaxing, pampered week-end. For more on the newest addition to the AC scene, see The New Hamptons?


And yet, beyond our beautiful boundary, Atlantic City still needs to catch up with its potential. As I wandered the beach this morning, I couldn't help but feel that this picture captured the essence of much of AC:


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Greetings from Atlantic City



It's that time of year again. Time for our annual LLWL (Lady Lawyers Who Lunch) retreat. Our group ushers in fall with a time to reflect on our past year's accomplishments and plan for the future of our Gang. We've gone from the Mountains of Mohonk to the Beautiful Beaches of Cape May in past years.

This year for various reasons we decided to stay close by, so we picked the garish glory of Atlantic City. Because we stuck close to home, we added a facilitator to our group meeting, to help us focus on the joint goals of our group. In between, some people gambled, walked the boardwalk, enjoyed the ocean and relaxed by the pool at our hotel.

My husband and I met in Atlantic City oh these many years ago (37, to be exact) and the AC of today ain't nothing like I remember from way back then. In fact, I haven't been back since then, so it's hardly the AC I remember!

On the other hand, once you look more closely around, there's still a lot of the old AC under the garish glitter.



However, the beach itself is beautiful and the boardwalk does provide an interesting mix of old and new.


Cartoon of the Day


David Fitzsimmons, The Daily Star

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Case of the Disappearing (L)ink

As always seems to be the case when John McCain is involved, there is the story, the real story and the role of the press in the story. Such is the case with the recent revelations of the story of Cindy McCain's addiction problem in the '90s.

Apparently, a story was posted on the Washington Post, which was later mysteriously withdrawn, leaving only an empty link behind. See, The Case of the Missing 'Post' Posting (Probably) Solved!. The story was later re-posted by the WP, but not an accompanying video or documents.

Eventually, like the caption on the piece, A Tangled Story of Addiction, after a tangled road to virtual print, the fascinating real story has emerged about Cindy McCain's drug problem. As the WP article notes, her difficulties with drug addiction, and the cover-up of her problem, impacted many lives besides her own:

In describing her struggle with drugs, McCain has said that she became addicted to Vicodin and Percocet in early 1989 after rupturing two disks and having back surgery. She has said she hid her addiction from her husband, Sen. John McCain, and stopped taking the painkillers in 1992 after her parents confronted her. She has not discussed what kind of treatment she received for her addiction, but she has made clear that she believes she has put her problems behind her.

While McCain's accounts have captured the pain of her addiction, her journey through this personal crisis is a more complicated story than she has described, and it had more consequences for her and those around her than she has acknowledged.
True, that. According to Amy Silverman, who was a reporter for the Phoenix New Times paper at the time of the original revelations, described her version of the story for Salon, How Cindy McCain was outed for drug addiction:
GOP presidential candidate John McCain's wife Cindy took to the airwaves last week, recounting for Jane Pauley (on 'Dateline') and Diane Sawyer (on 'Good Morning America') the tale of her onetime addiction to Percocet and Vicodin, and the fact that she stole the drugs from her own nonprofit medical relief organization.

It was a brave and obviously painful thing to do.

It was also vintage McCain media manipulation.

I had deja vu watching Cindy McCain on television, perky in a purple suit with tinted pearls to match. It was so reminiscent of the summer day in 1994 when suddenly, years after she'd claimed to have kicked her habit, McCain decided to come clean to the world about her addiction to prescription painkillers.

I believe she wore red that day. She granted semi-exclusive interviews to one TV station and three daily newspaper reporters in Arizona, tearfully recalling her addiction, which came about after painful back and knee problems and was exacerbated by the stress of the Keating Five banking scandal that had ensnared her husband. To make matters worse, McCain admitted, she had stolen the drugs from the American Voluntary Medical Team, her own charity, and had been investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
As expected, the favored press responded with favorable renditions of the story of poor Cindy. However, not surprisingly, they weren't given all of the facts. As Silverman explains:
What McEachern and the others didn't know was that, far from being a simple, honest admission designed to clear her conscience and help other addicts, Cindy McCain's storytelling had been orchestrated by Jay Smith, then John McCain's Washington campaign media advisor. And it was intended to divert attention from a different story, a story that was getting quite messy.

I know, because I had been working on that story for months at Phoenix New Times. I had finally tracked down the public records that confirmed Cindy McCain's addiction and much more, and the McCains knew I was about to get them. Cindy's tale was released on the day the records were made public.

But the story I was pursuing was not so much about Cindy McCain's unfortunate addiction. It was much more about her efforts to keep that story from coming to light, and the possible manipulation of the criminal justice system by her husband and his cohorts.
Silverman's original story was carried in the alternative weekly New Times, Opiate for the Mrs.. It tells a very different tale that the fairy tale promoted by the McCains. Cindy McCain managed to avoid a 20 year mandatory minimum sentence for her drug use (you know, those mandatory minimums that Republicans like so much?), the physician who volunteered for her charity and wrote the illegal scripts for her lost his license and she fired the man, Tom Gosinski, who turned her in to the DEA for abusing drugs, after he discovered that she used his name on certain scripts. When he sued for wrongful termination, she went after him with a vengence and made sure he had a difficult time finding new employment.

After a 15 year silence (in part, due to fear of retaliation from the McCains), Gosinski -- a conservative republican -- has come forward to expose the Real McCain(s). See Whistleblower breaks 15-year silence to allege McCain hid wife's drug abuse.

The question is whether the press will look at the story differently today. Based upon the burps involved in the Washington Post getting the story out, I'm not hopeful

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fear, Greed & Hate


It's the "ABCs" for the GOP -- Fear, Greed & Hate. When you think about it, there is not any policy position that the GOP advocates that does not fall within one of the 3 categories.

I believe that's why Sarah Palin has become such a phenomenon with the Republican Party faithful. She's a hatemonger with a smile.

Although she has energized the party faithful, I'm not sure that she's won over many of the Hillary crowd. Unless you were someone who was for Hillary Clinton only because she’s a woman (or used that as an excuse to hide behind some racist thoughts), there is no way that you would prefer the positions of Palin to Obama. Obama was hardly my first choice, but there is no way a McCain/Palin ticket could appeal to anyone with any liberal or progressive leanings. An issue by issue comparison shows that Clinton and Palin are exactly opposite on all of the important issues – other than the absence of a penis.

Listing all of the things that Palin stands for, Eve Ensler described what is at stake, in Drill, Drill, Drill:

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.

I believe that the McCain/Palin ticket is one of the most dangerous choices of my lifetime, and should this country chose those candidates the fall-out may be so great, the destruction so vast in so many areas that America may never recover. But what is equally disturbing is the impact that duo would have on the rest of the world. Unfortunately, this is not a joke. In my lifetime I have seen the clownish, the inept, the bizarre be elected to the presidency with regularity.
Likewise, Charlie James provides a profile of Palin for the LA Progressive, in Alaskans Speak (In A Frightened Whisper): Palin Is “Racist, Sexist, Vindictive, And Mean.”:
“So Sambo beat the bitch!” This is how Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin described Barack Obama’s win over Hillary Clinton to political colleagues in a restaurant a few days after Obama locked up the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

* * * *

“It was kind of disgusting,” Lucille, who is part Aboriginal, said in a phone interview after admitting that she is frightened of being discovered telling folks in the “lower 48” about life near the North Pole.

Then, almost with a sigh, she added, “But that’s just Alaska.”

Racial and ethnic slurs may be “just Alaska” and, clearly, they are common, everyday chatter for Palin.

* * * *

But being openly racist is only the tip of the Palin iceberg. According to Alaskans interviewed for this article, she is also vindictive and mean. We’re talking Rove mean and Nixon vindictive.

No wonder the vast sea of white, cheering faces at the Republican Convention went wild for Sarah: They adore the type, it’s in their genetic code. So much for McCain’s pledge of a “high road” campaign; Palin is incapable of being part of one.

Shaun Mullen of Kiko's House also has an excellent three part series on highlights of Palin's career that should not be missed: Part One, Part 2 and Part 3.

And for more of my rants on the female Sid Vicious, see Valley Girls, Sarah-dipity and Temper, Temper.

As I've watched the unfolding of Sarah, with her careful preparation for the prime time playacting in the role of playing VP, I've had to shake my head, because I can't help but be reminded of the story of Eliza Doolittle of My Fair Lady. Obviously Maureen Dowd shared the analogy, in My Fair Veep. That and the feeling that McCain is scurrying around, another Wizard of Oz, hoping not to be exposed as the fraud that he is, hiding behind the curtains manipulating the levers of the campaign.

What else can you expect but movie analogies when the VP is a Tina Fey look-alike? Especially when you'd rather Tina Fey than the real thing.

(Cover via Think Progress)

The Real McCain

Now that he has secured the nomination for President, John McCain has certainly come into his own. And it appears as though the Real John McCain is finally being exposed.

As Steve Benen observes:

It's oddly reassuring to see others reach the same conclusion. Josh Marshall:

All politicians stretch the truth, massage it into the best fit with their message. But, let's face it, John McCain is running a campaign almost entirely based on straight up lies. Not just exaggerations or half truths but the sort of straight up, up-is-down mind-blowers we've become so accustomed to from the current occupants of the White House. And today McCain comes out with this rancid, race-baiting ad based on another lie.... There's clearly no level of sleaze this guy won't stoop to to win this election.

And let's be frank. He might win it.... But what is already apparent is that John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes. So let's stopped being shocked and awed by every new example of it. It is undignified. What can we do? We've got a dangerously reckless contender for the presidency and a vice presidential candidate who distinguished herself by abuse of office even on the comparatively small political stage of Alaska. They've both embraced a level of dishonesty that disqualifies them for high office. Democrats owe it to the country to make clear who these people are. No apologies or excuses.

Andrew Sullivan:

On core moral issues, where this man knew what the right thing was, and had to pick between good and evil, he chose evil. [...]

McCain has demonstrated in the last two months that he does not have the character to be president of the United States. And that is why it is more important than ever to ensure that Barack Obama is the next president. The alternative is now unthinkable. And McCain -- no one else -- has proved it.

Joe Klein:

Back in 2000, after John McCain lost his mostly honorable campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, he went about apologizing to journalists--including me--for his most obvious mis-step: his support for keeping the confederate flag on the state house.

Now he is responsible for one of the sleaziest ads I've ever seen in presidential politics.... I just can't wait for the moment when John McCain -- contrite and suddenly honorable again in victory or defeat -- talks about how things got a little out of control in the passion of the moment. Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

See The Washington Monthly.

So, the question is whether the lies and sleaze will eventually backfire and reverberate against McCain or whether lies and sleaze have become the only effective way to win a campaign in our modern times. If the latter, the Democrats are doomed to perpetual failure, because they (generally) don't do vicious well.

The fact that McCain (and Bush before him) lies, cheats and steals isn't the complete tale of an election cycle gone bad. Of course, the GOP is aided and abetted by the media, which permits the perversion of the process to persist. Adam McKay discusses this at The Huffington Post, We're Gonna Frickin' Lose this Thing:

Something is not right. We have a terrific candidate and a terrific VP candidate. We're coming off the worst eight years in our country's history. Six of those eight years the Congress, White House and even the Supreme Court were controlled by the Republicans and the last two years the R's have filibustered like tantrum throwing 4-year-olds, yet we're going to elect a Republican who voted with that leadership 90% of the time and a former sportscaster who wants to teach Adam and Eve as science? That's not odd as a difference of opinion, that's logically and mathematically queer.

* * * *
So what is this house advantage the Republicans have? It's the press. There is no more fourth estate. Wait, hold on...I'm not going down some esoteric path with theories on the deregulation of the media and corporate bias and CNN versus Fox...I mean it: there is no more functioning press in this country. And without a real press the corporate and religious Republicans can lie all they want and get away with it. And that's the 51% advantage.

Think this is some opinion being wryly posited to titillate other bloggers and inspire dialogue with Tucker Carlson or Gore Vidal? Fuck that. Four corporations own all the TV channels. All of them. If they don't get ratings they get canceled or fired. All news is about sex, blame and anger, and fear. Exposing lies about amounts of money taken from lobbyists and votes cast for the agenda of the last eight years does not rate. The end.

Cartoon of the Day


Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembrance of Time Past

Lugosi of Mirth, Musings & More reminiscences about the day before 9/11, as the 7th anniversary approaches. He says, in Remembering 9/10:

Today marks the seventh anniversary of September 10, 2001. Even though that day is fast receding into the distant past, it deserves to be remembered. Here are just a few of the things that made 9/10/01 so unique:
  • There were no armed fighter jets patrolling the skies of the United States, nor was it necessary to dispatch them whenever an airline passenger got drunk.

  • We were able to get on an airplane without eying the other passengers suspiciously. And once the plane took off, all we had to worry about was the quality of the food--or lack thereof.

  • The purpose of flight attendants was to hand out little bags of peanuts and fluff our pillows, not to serve as the last line of defense for the nation.

  • Department of Homeland Security? Never heard of it. What's it do?

  • Terrorism was something that always happened some place else.
* * * *

  • We didn't think twice about getting on the subway, we paid no attention to who else might be on the train with us, nor did we run for our lives if we spotted a lost backpack.

  • Several thousand tourists enjoyed the spectacular view from the observation deck of the World Trade Center today. Assuming it doesn't rain, several thousand more will enjoy it tomorrow.

  • You could look at a crisp blue sky and marvel at its simple beauty.

  • Most of all, it was a day to feel good about the future and our place in the world. After all, this was the United States of America, and everyone loved us.
And, with this, the 7th Anniversary of 9/11, there will many commemorations of the events that transpired on that day. Quaker Dave of The Quaker Agitator notes that some have begun referring to the day as "Patriots Day," as though it is just another national holiday to be observed, like Flag Day. He objected to the apparent evolution of the day into another national day of celebration, Count me out, saying:

And that, to me, is inappropriate.

September 11 is a day to mourn and to reflect. It is not a day to wave the flag. And those who try to use it for that purpose, to promote a cyncial sort of nationalism, are acting inappropriately themselves. They are cheapening the deaths of those who died.

If we're going to "celebrate," better to observe September 10th.

Cartoon of the Day


Chip Bok, Akron Beacon Journal

Monday, September 08, 2008

Cartoon of the Day


RJ MATSON, Roll Call

Temper, Temper

I didn't cover much of the RNC convention mainly because, honestly, I couldn't bring myself to watch much of it (other than Palin's acceptance speech and the parts of McCain's speech that I was able to stay awake for). Anyway, it was covered everywhere in the media and on the blogs, so there wasn't much for me to add.

For my favorite take on the convention, Jon Stewart rules. I've included videos on Sarah Palin and John McCain below.

Now that we're post-convention, Frank Rich's column, Palin and McCain’s Shotgun Marriage, provides the best review of the state of the GOP ticket. Of McCain, he notes:

McCain’s address, though largely a repetitive slew of stump-speech lines and worn G.O.P. orthodoxy, reminded us of what we once liked about the guy: his aspirations to bipartisanship, his heroic service in Vietnam, his twinkle. He took his (often inaccurate) swipes at Obama, but, in winning contrast to Palin and Rudy Giuliani, he wasn’t smug or nasty.

The only problem, of course, is that the entire thing was a sham.

As is nakedly evident, the speech’s central argument, that the 72-year-old McCain will magically morph into a powerful change agent as president, is a non sequitur. In his 26 years in Washington, most of it with a Republican in the White House and roughly half of it with Republicans in charge of Congress, he was better at lecturing his party about reform than leading a reform movement. G.O.P. corruption and governmental dysfunction only grew. So did his cynical flip-flops on the most destructive policies of the president who remained nameless Thursday night. (In the G.O.P., Bush love is now the second most popular love that dare not speak its name.)

And then there's Sarah Palin:

We still don’t know a lot about Palin except that she’s better at delivering a speech than McCain and that she defends her own pregnant daughter’s right to privacy even as she would have the government intrude to police the reproductive choices of all other women. Most of the rest of the biography supplied by her and the McCain camp is fiction.

She didn’t say “no thanks” to the “Bridge to Nowhere” until after Congress had already abandoned it but given Alaska a blank check for $223 million in taxpayers’ money anyway. Far from rejecting federal pork, she hired lobbyists to secure her town a disproportionate share of earmarks ($1,000 per resident in 2002, 20 times the per capita average in other states). Though McCain claimed “she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities,” she has never issued a single command as head of the Alaska National Guard. As for her “executive experience” as mayor, she told her hometown paper in Wasilla, Alaska, in 1996, the year of her election: “It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.” Her much-advertised crusade against officials abusing their office is now compromised by a bipartisan ethics investigation into charges that she did the same.

How long before we learn she never shot a moose?

Given the actuarial odds that could make Palin our 45th president, it would be helpful to know who this mystery woman actually is. Meanwhile, two eternal axioms of our politics remain in place. Americans vote for the top of the ticket, not the bottom. And in judging the top of the ticket, voters look first at the candidates’ maiden executive decision, their selection of running mates. Whatever we do and don’t know about Palin’s character at this point, there is no ambiguity in what her ascent tells us about McCain’s character and potential presidency.
Clearly, their positions on the issues trouble me greatly, but even more worrisome for me is the "character issue." Because their true positions (as is the case with the GOP generally) are diametrically opposed to the public's pulse at the moment (re: the war, the economy, etc), the Republican's are trying to deflect any focus on the issues by looking at "character" issues.

I must really be out of the main stream of political thought, because I shudder to think that on character, the McCain/Palin team would be considered anything but exceedingly scary. In another of a series of mythical Cassandra-like warnings that the press occasionally provides on McCain's temper, the McClatchy News raises the latest alarm, in McCain's history of hot temper raises concerns. It's an issue that I've covered before, see, e.g., History Repeats Itself. For more, see, McClatchy, WaPo and Romney Warn About McCain’s Out of Control Temper.

As I've observed McCain during the course of this contest, I've had glimmers of him that make me wonder if he's actually gotten worse. I don't know if it's the rigors of the campaign, age or illness, but McCain sometimes seems to have gone beyond temperamental and instead has become unstable.

Then, of course, there's the choice of his soul mate, Sarah Palin. Now that we've gotten beyond the "family" stuff related to her, we can concentrate on her pertaining to her stand on the issues. Or we could if we're ever given any positions she's ever taken on any national issue. I've written about her before, see Valley Girls, and I can certainly see that she and McCain can be the nasty twins, if nothing else. If that's what he meant by "soul mate," I'd have to agree. And for a hysterical version of McCain's 3 PM call to Palin offering the VP spot, don't miss the video at Gort42.

Andrew Sullivan writes of Palin in A Wasillan On Sarah Palin, quoting a Wasillan native who remarked that her high school classmates "call[ed] her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness." Sound like any presidential candidate you know?

And in conclusion, I turn to the true voice of politics today --


video


video