Monday, September 29, 2008

1960s Turn, Turn, Turn Becomes 2008s Spin, Spin, Spin

As The Byrds sang in the 1960s, Dear Gentle Reader(s), "There is a season;" and that season is upon us.  This time, however, it is a Spin, Spin, Spin season.

As an example, we might take The Gray Lady's self-flagellating decision to include right wing punditry in its op-ed pages.  Today, she presents "How McCain Wins" by that spinmeister William Kristol. The title is self-explanatory; the content would be risible, were it not for the gravity of the situation should McCain actually (heavens forfend!) win.

A paragraph for your contemplation:

McCain’s impetuous decision to return to Washington was right. The agreement announced early Sunday morning is better than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s original proposal, and better than the deal the Democrats claimed was close on Thursday. Assuming the legislation passes soon, and assuming it reassures financial markets, McCain will be able to take some credit.

Now, doubtless the good senator will "take" credit, which will very likely be "given" to him in any circumstance by right wing pundits and sycophants, but whether or not he has earned any will always be subject for discussion, and, in any event, his decision to return and "suspend," already a virtual fib, doesn't pass the smell test for commendation.

Since not one word of the impending House Republican caucus "revolt" had been disseminated, it will always appear that Senator McCain's decision to go to Washington last Wednesday was based on the perception he could make points by seeming to lead the charge for quick passage of the rescue/bailout plan as of Wednesday morning.

Imagine the good senator's chagrin to arrive in D.C. and discover the impending revolt.  What to do?  Well, DGR(s), he did what he should've done--he sat in on the ill-advised photo-op on Thursday and said virtually nothing.  He added nothing to the debacle nor to the resulting debate.  On Friday he declared victory, packed up his campaign staff, and went on to Mississippi to a bit of a fruitless endeavor at the debate in Oxford.

Kristol discusses none of this.  His paragraph is one of ignoring the facts.  The first Paulson plan was defeated by a Democratic leadership and by them, and Republican senate leadership, amended.  That first amended plan was rejected by House Republicans; the ensuing negotiations produced an amorphous nod to the House Republicans, and the final plan will be debated today.  It remains to be seen if enough House Republican votes will be garnered to pass the bill (the Democratic majority is insisting that there be a bi-partisan buy-in).  In all of this back and forth, though, notice how much of a role McCain played--little to none.

Write on Billy Boy.  Spin on, Dick Cheney acolyte.  But know that your spin season is known.

Trust, but verify, Dear Gentle Reader(s).


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oh, Really?

Sometimes it might be beneficial, Dear Gentle Reader(s), to take a moment to look at some of the cliches people bandy in their discussions.

For instance, in defending the choice of Governor Palin for the Vice Presidential nomination, one Stephen F Hayward is referenced in a Los Angeles Times story discussing "Founding Fathers."  The LAT story maintains:

Stephen F. Hayward took up that argument last week in the Weekly Standard, arguing that the Founding Fathers had envisioned "regular citizens" rising to leadership, in part because they possessed a "self-knowledge" and core beliefs that made them natural leaders.

It might be profitable to remember, DGR(s) that the Founders limited voting primarily to white male property owners.  The 1789 writers of the Constitution had a different concept of "regular citizens" than do we.  Sarah Palin would not have qualified.  Perhaps the Republicans ought not to discuss the Founding Fathers' concept of "regular citizens" in today's political realities.

The cliche is often a good tool for making a point in a discussion.  The cliche is often a sign of weakness for making a point in a discussion.  Always it is the responsibility of the person hearing the cliche to make the distinction between good and weak.

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

United States Department of No!

Kings of old, Dear Gentle Reader(s), had fools; the Vatican has Devil's Advocates; the United States should raise the concept of naysayers to cabinet level.  Presidential policies should be forced to pass the "smell test" before implementation; the Secretary of No should be forced, under threat of incarceration, to present an honest case for "No!" to every other cabinet level or administration bureaucratic proposal; and those honest No! arguments should be made public.

Look at the recent catastrophes which might have been prevented had there been a loud, Constitutionally mandated, naysayer.  Since 1960, we've had the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam involvement and escalation, Savings and Loan debacle, Higgeldy-Piggeldy de-regulation, and the Iraqi invasion.  That covers both political parties, as well as the loss of much blood and treasure.

There's always been some argument, one hopes, before these disastrous policies were implemented, but they were behind closed doors, for the most part, in the various administrations.  The opposition political party doesn't count (obviously).

An immediate benefit to Secretary No! would be the necessity of a very strong "yes" position.  If the proponent is aware of an impending strong opponent, solutions will contain more comprehensive thinking, and that will be to the good.

Imagine if a cabinet-level cadre of researchers had been turned loose on the debate about Mr. Hussein's weapons of mass destruction with the explicit instructions of the Constitution to refute the allegations that those weapons existed in reality in 2002. 


What has taken so long for us to see the wisdom of saying "No!"?

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Niggling Pessimism

Do not, Dear Gentle Reader(s), quote me, but memory seems to contain a moment in none of the presidential debates in 2000 in which Al Gore looks at George W Bush and the expression on his face says something akin to:  "What on earth am I doing debating this clown?"

And here we are, in 2008, with John McCain imploding on so many fronts, and Sarah Palin losing conservative support on a daily, if not hourly basis; yet, there's this drip, drip, drip of 2000 which just won't quit. 

Polls indicate a statistical dead heat.

Why is it that the race is still close? 

Has our education system so failed us?

What is happening?

Trust, but verify...and if one verifies, a vote to put McCain-Palin into office in 2009 is just inconceivable, isn't it?


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Monday, September 22, 2008

The Education of Richard Shelby

Senator Shelby, Dear Gentle Reader(s) was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1986; he switched parties in 1994 when the Republicans took control of congress with the Contract with America--remember that one?

Today, one wonders if Mr. Shelby is having some regrets...or if he's planning another switch, having shown his propensity to read the political winds. 

Shelby has come out against the lack of oversight written into Treasury Secretary Paulson's plan to "save" the economy.

Section 8 of the act, as written at this moment, prohibits oversight by courts or Congress.  That's hard to swallow.  Even for Mr. Shelby.

After nearly 8 years of "trust me" from this Republican administration, they want to have Congress issue a blank check for nearly 1,000,000,000,000 dollars without oversight?


Even a turncoat Democrat recognizes the absurdity of that one.

Welcome back, Senator.

Trust, but for God's sake, verify!!!!!


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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Red Buttons and Black Robes

As Cathy might say, Dear Gentle Reader(s), "Aaaaagh!"

Today's The New York Times lead on line editorial carries this headline:  "The Candidates and the Court."  It concerns the likely imminent change in the make up of the United States Supreme Court. 

The discussion centers on Senators Obama and McCain, with the bias of the editorial, to this biased eye, in favor of Mr. Obama, because of his stated inclination to "pick moderate justices, who would probably not take the court back onto a distinctly liberal path, but also would be unlikely to create an unbreakable conservative bloc."  Mr. McCain, according to the Times, "has promised the right wing of the Republican Party that he would put only archconservatives on the Supreme Court."

 No contest, eh wot?

The Times doesn't go into the vice presidential candidates.  Perhaps someone should.  It's been pretty much established that no one wants Governor Palin's finger on the red button, but what about her position on Supreme Court nominees?  James Dobson's ilk?

Goodbye Roe v Wade; hello back alley abortions, again.

Looking a little peaked, there, habeas corpus.

Welcome back tommy guns.  We've missed ya.

Sarah Palin one heart-beat from the presidency?

Forget Palin's foreign policy inexperience, how about her verifiable social experiences and decisions?

Um...what, DGR(s), was McCain thinking?

Trust, but, for the sake of the health of the Union, verify.


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Friday, September 19, 2008

This is the bridge to nowhere; this is the road to the bridge to nowhere...

Ah, Dear Gentle Reader(s), this is a wonderful day for sniggering and snorting and giggling and guffawing.  The Los Angeles Times carries a front page article on a construction site in Alaska.  One's eyes do roll!


There it is.  It's designed to connect to the canceled ("I told Congress, Thanks, but no thanks.") bridge to nowhere.  Construction began in June, 2007.  The bridge project was canceled in September, 2007.  Work on the road continued. 

The mayor of a nearby town has this to say,

On a clear day recently, Mayor Weinstein flew over Gravina Island, looking down on the nearly completed road. "When Sarah Palin goes on national television and says: 'I told Congress, "Thanks but no thanks," ' it's not true," he said. "The implication is we didn't take the money. But we did."
The mayor said he was considering posting a sign on the road for the rest of the world to see. He said it would read: "Built Under Gov. Sarah Palin, Paid for With Federal Earmarks."


Is the Governor being truthful?  If she fudges on an issue such as this, what else is getting, um, fudged?

Trust, but verify.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sexism or slow recognition?

Much, Dear Gentle Reader(s), has been made about sexism regarding the treatment of Governor Palin by the mainstream media as well as by the blogosphere.  If one thinks about it, Republican pundits and whiners might have a point when they assert that no one would think of asking Senator Biden if he  has the time to be Vice President, given his extended family.  Shouldn't his family come first, before his political ambitions?  After all, if we have developed a society free of gender bias, shouldn't the same questions about raising family apply to candidates of either sex? 

Theoretically, yes.

Could it be though that what is happening is that the society has not yet caught up with certain configurations of the nuclear family which are particularly late 20th and early 21st century phenomena?

Governor Palin and her husband, Todd, seem to have built the sort of family where the responsibilities have been well divided according to the aspirations of each of the partners.  She wants to be political; he wants to run snow races.  She wins elections; he wins races.  The children seem to be thriving.  What's the problem?

The problem could well be that the primary bread winner has been the governor, and the general society has not yet caught on to the fact that the female, the child bearer, can well be the primary bread winner and have a successful nuclear family.  If the husband has evolved beyond the stereotype of the male-as-final-arbiter and bread winner, isn't that all to the good of society?  To each his own strengths.  Finding a complementary partner to one's strengths is the great challenge of the 21st century.  The Palins seem to have accomplished this. 

It's a giant step forward in the development of a gender-blind society.  We will all benefit from it.  As soon as we understand the accomplishment of the Palin family, the scales will fall from our eyes, and the family/sexist questions will never again be asked.

Congratulations to the Palins.

Now, if they could only rid themselves of the burdens of an evangelical religious background (it's easy, just ask any recovering Catholic--free advice given here), and the buy-in of the Republican Party's winning strategies of the culture wars in which we've been involved since the Southern Strategy, and the insane blinkered NRA interpretation of the 2nd amendment, we'd have a cracker jack couple whom we could emulate.

Trust, but verify.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008


Much has been made, Dear Gentle Reader(s), about Governor Palin and Charles Gibson's interview.  The exchange has some "legs," so it will be around for discussion for a while.  It might be amusing to ponder a couple of points which seem to be getting a lot of attention.

First, there is the inevitable criticism of Mr. Gibson.  Poor Charlie.  One might think that this interview would be a sensational "get."  Well, maybe.  On the other hand, he had undergone some criticism for previously asking "soft" questions and mishandling a debate in April ("The crowd is turning on me.")  So Mr. Gibson found himself "needing" the Palin interview to re-establish his professional bona fides as much as Gov Palin needed to establish herself as credible in the national psyche.

Several have expounded on Gibson's professorial glasses at the end of his nose and a resulting haughtiness.  Some even have made much of the angle of the camera.  If the glasses played a part and if they are necessary for Gibson to see his notes, he could easily adjust that by a slight smile crinkling the eyes as well as an interior adjustment into an "I'm an adult and you're an adult" mind set.  The angle of the shot is not in his control, but there might be a mitigating factor about that, too.  What might also have been noted, and of which not much has been said, DGR(s), would be the governor's posture.  If, at times, Gibson's attitude might have seemed haughty, Palin's slight slouch certainly contributed to that.  "Sit up straight, Ma'am" is a mantra for Palin's handlers for the immediate future.  They should use it often; she should practice the posture often. 

Most comment has been about the "Bush Doctrine" question and response, or lack of response.  Earlier in the week very few people would have remembered, immediately remembered, that is, the Bush Doctrine.  It isn't a phrase in daily conversation.  However, what is in conversation is the pre-emptive aspect of the doctrine.  The governor had been prepped by the McCain campaign handlers for several days, and they missed a beat, at least the beat of the more formal name of the policy. (Recent news reports indicate the existence of more than one "Bush Doctrine."  While that might mitigate the governor's immediate response, that makes the handlers even more culpable, doesn't it?)  The exchange did not go well for Palin.

One wonders, DGR(s), what it is about the governor which, after a few seconds of painful pause, prevented her from saying "I'm not familiar with that phrase" or "I don't know that phrase."  The words Bush Doctrine were the problem.  Some form of "I don't know what that means" would've been the solution. 

It's OK not to know something.  "I don't know, but I'll find out" is a tried and true average American response.  The governor should try it out in rehearsal.  With the correct inflection, it'll win hearts.

n.b.  Much is made of the fact that President Bush II doesn't say it much either.  Is it, perhaps, a Republican pathology?

Trust, but verify.


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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

That final cherry on the sundae

Experience, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is the least of concerns regarding elevating Governor Palin to the Presidency.  As others have pointed out, Senator Harry Truman was woefully ignored by President Roosevelt during the final months of Roosevelt's life.  Yet President Truman became a formidable office holder in his tenure, hailed in recent election cycles as a Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief to be emulated.  (True, Mr. Truman had had considerable Washington experience as a senator, and years more earlier as a legislator in Missouri.)

Of course, it will come as no surprise for an admission that Senator McCain's ticket will not be receiving this particular vote on November 4, but that is because the ticket will represent a continuation of Republican party control of the White House and the Supreme Court, both untenable considerations.

Future discussions about reasons to vote for the Obama-Biden ticket will include, with the very real economic benefits which historically accrue to the middle and lower class under a Democratic Party White House, the questionable family decision of Governor and Mr Palin regarding the birth of their son, Trig.

As reported in People Magazine, according to The New York Times, here is the scene in the Governor Palin's hospital room soon after the birth:

Inside Ms. Palin’s room, her daughter Willow, 14, immediately noticed her new brother’s condition, according to People magazine. “He looks like he has Down syndrome,” Willow said. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Ms. Palin had wanted to let the news of the pregnancy sink in first, said Ms. Cole, her friend. She had intended to tell her family more after she returned from Texas. Then the baby arrived.

So, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the governor had known about Trig's condition for months prior to his birth, yet, if the above scene is accurate, she hadn't told his sister about it.  Imagine the anticipation then shock? amazement? concern? which race through Willow's mind as she hurries to get her first glimpse of her new brother, and she sees--What?  But?  Mom?

In all those months the governor nor her husband had the time to discuss this with their daughter?  No breakfasts?  No lunches?  No trips to and from church?

DGR(s), it is simply not credible this hockey mom didn't make time to prepare Trig's siblings for the drastic way the family dynamic was about to change.  What might she not find time for regarding information the American population ought to have?

Governor Palin is, by many accounts, a wonderfully warm person.  But there's a sensitivity gap.  Perhaps that gap is wide enough to give serious pause before considering whether or not to put her finger on "the button." 

That's a serious risk for us to take.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, September 8, 2008

Perplex, Perplexed, Perplexity--One Has to Fit

Why, Dear Gentle Reader(s), do certain elements of the Jewish community embrace the American Christian evangelical?  Now there's a to be or not to be question.

In today's Los Angeles Times (on line link not yet available), Patrick Goldstein writes about David Zucker's support for Sarah Palin, including this:

"I know that liberal Jews regard evangelical Christians as persecutors, but they're actually the best friends Jews have.  They are loyal supporters of Israel, along with wanting lower taxes, smaller government and a strong defense.  To me, they are my best allies."

One wonders if Zucker has ever read any of the literature (?) available on line which discusses the evangelical concept of End of Days.  For a particularly mind-boggling view, you, DGR(s), are invited, and warned, to visit Israel in Prophecy available at the End Times Project.   A lot of Jews, along with a lot of other people are going to die prior to the "return" of the Messiah.  And the evangelicals, as a group, subscribe to the time line of the "return" which includes the destruction of Israel. 

What's perplexing about this is that Zucker is not the only Jew to call evangelicals "best allies."  How on earth can that be?

A close secular Jewish political fellow offers an interpretation something like this:

Those Jews who think the evangelicals are friends to Israel know all about the End of Days.  They consider it to be so preposterous, so inconceivable, that they give absolutely no credence to its possibility.  They are, also, such staunch supporters of Israeli politics and positions, that they willingly and happily accept any and all support.  After all, whatever these loonies think is their business, and if their business compels them to support Israel, all to the better.

OK, that seems reasonable.  They're nuts, but they have some political power, and Israel can use all the support it can get. 

Still, there is this:  Should John McCain become President of the United States and then become incapacitated, the world, and Israel, and Jewish-American supporters of Israel, would be faced with Madam President Palin, an evangelical with her finger on the button.  Would she think, "God's will," and then push it?

What are these supporters of Senator McCain's choice of running mate thinking???

Very perplexing.

Trust, but for heaven's sake, verify.

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

About that "connection"...

Not, Dear Gentle Reader(s), that it matters, but before one takes the Republican National Committee's claim about how much or how well its candidates relate to "Americans," let's look at some specifics as reported on NPR's "All Things Considered." The recording is entitled, "Diversity at GOP, Democratic Conventions Examined."

At the Democratic convention:

44% minorities

24% Black

12% Hispanic

Slightly more women than men

At the Republican convention:

36 total Black delegates; 1.5%, lowest in 40 years,
highest ever 7% in 2004

5% Hispanic

68% Men

32% women

At both conventions the average age was 57.

Now, which party's convention better reflected the demographics of the population at large?

Trust, but verify.

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Irrelevant Squared?

Dear Gentle Reader(s), here's a tid bit (note how I chose the more formal tid rather than the more common tit--no applause necessary) from The Washington Post:

There was a flutter of attention when McCain campaign manager Rick Davis told a group of Post reporters and editors yesterday that his team was having to rework the vice presidential acceptance speech because the original draft, prepared before Gov. Sarah Palin was chosen, was too "masculine."

So the speeches are written by persons in smoke filled rooms prior to naming the person who will deliver them.  Who says the Party's not important?  The Party controls the message before the messenger is known.

Doubtless the Democratic Party does this, too.

Don't think of John McCain on November 4; think of the neo-cons and the theocons and the God, Guns, and Gays groups.  Then vote accordingly.

Trust, but verify.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Is Irrelevant Possible?

Somewhere, Dear Gentle Reader(s), in the plethora of virtual ink spilled over the possibility of Governor Palin becoming President Palin, is a comment somewhat like, "Don't worry, in the unlikely event of John's death, his people will be there to guide her decisions."  Now, of course, that isn't a direct quote.  So sue me.  (Not really!)

Should one read "between the lines" of that virtual quote, one might find a startling possibility:  The person in the Oval Office is somewhat irrelevant. 

The President, like most CEO's (and there is some historical suggestion that the Founding Fathers intended the Presidency to be the 18th century equivalent of a 21st century CEO--witness the President's Office in the Capitol Building), sets policy; subordinates implement policy.  Subordinate subordinates set rules; subordinates to subordinate subordinates enforce the rules.  That's the way the world works.  Even the world of government of the most powerful nation on earth at this moment.

If that possibility of irrelevance is even slightly possible, it then follows that the electorate should consider the Party even more than it should consider the candidate(s).

Do we wish to return to power for another 4 years the Party which brought us the disasters of the past 7 1/2 years? 

That, DGR(s), is the question.

Senator McCain and Governor Palin--maybe, maybe not.

The Republican Party?  Nope.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin's Abortion Stance

Dear Gentle Reader(s), there might be a problem for Gov. Palin vis-a-vis her stance on sex education and, by extension, reproductive rights for women.

We have this from Politico's Ben Smith's Blog:

Q: Will you support funding for abstinence-until-marriage education instead of for explicit sex-education programs, school-based clinics, and the distribution of contraceptives in schools?
SP: Yes, the explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support.

What, in real terms does that question and answer mean? It means that the Governor supports abstinence-until-marriage to the exclusion of sex-ed programs (what does explicit really mean--sounds like a vague, red-meat-for-the-evangelical crowd--no surprise, the question was posed by Eagle Forum Alaska; EF's most famous proponent is Phyllis Schlafley--'nuff said).

If that's the governor's position, there's nothing wrong with it, although it does seem a tad unrealistic. Anyone who has been a teen who was a teen prior to marriage (anyone you know, DGR(s)?) might think it's a bit unreasonable. Certainly school teachers who work with post-pubescent teens might look askance.

What would be the governor's response to those who might question the efficacy of such a program? Actually, in the light of the current brouhaha with a close relative of the governor, we might safely assume that someone will question that efficacy. Look for a reproductive rights champion to raise it; look for a scandalized anti-choice sycophant to to cry shame and "families are off-limits," although no one will mention the family until the Republicans do so.

Abstinence-until-marriage might be a good theory, and it certainly makes money and garners votes for its proponents, but it is hardly realistic, given that the people most intimately affected by it are human beings given to physical and psychological bursts of energy unlike anything previously experienced by them.

Teens need all the help they can get. They need information. They need support in whatever choice they might be forced to make.

They don't need empty platitudes.

Just ask the governor, if you should happen to catch her in a moment of candor.

Trust, but verify.

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