Thursday, January 31, 2008

About This Blog

For quite some time I've been a contributor to All Things Democrat. I am frankly mystified and honored that I, a near illiterate 40 hour 5 day a week working dude, would be invited to post along with the other contributors to ATD. Since I've commenced to posting there on a somewhat regular basis I thought I'd leave a word on this blog regarding where I'm going with this blog. Which is basically nowhere for the forseeable future!

There are times when I have something to say which may not be entirely appropriate for a Democratic rah rah site, so I'll keep WDL open for such occassions. But posting here will be very sparse so if you care to stomach my ranting about partisan politics, be sure to check out ATD. Thanks.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Remember Another S.C. Primary Winner

Bill Clinton responded to a question about why Senator Obama is having to run against two Clinton's by invoking Jesse Jackson's primary victory's in South Carolina.

Clinton swears that was not an attempt to inject racial politics into the debate... and even though I am an Obama supporter, I have to agree with Bill on this one. In fact considering previous South Carolina primary winners may be cause for believing that Obama is on the march to the White House. After all Governor Clinton carried the state in the 1992 primary. But sadly, when we consider that Bill has been widely labeled as the 1st black President, maybe invoking past primary winners actually does raise racial questions. Shucks! There goes my illogical attempt to justify President Clinton's oddly out of context 'Jackson won S.C.' too answer.

This past weekend has only served to further settle my opinion on the state of affairs regarding the Democratic nomination. The behavior of the Clinton campaign after Obama's landslide victory veered from classless to weird to maddening. I think it was classless to lose the primary but forgo the standard post election perfunctories and continue campaigning through out the evening as if S.C. never really mattered. It was weird to have Bill Clinton be the voice of the campaign immediately after the votes were counted and classless for him to brush aside the results as meaningless in the face of the upcoming super primary, and Florida. It is underhanded and maddening for the Clinton's to start chortling over Hillary's certain win in Florida after all the campaigns agreed to forgo campaigning in that state, insuring her uncontested victory. Clinton's Jesse Jackson answer to a totally unrelated question was weird, classless and maddening.

I've spent the last couple of weeks fighting the impulse to go along with the rest of the crowd and start bashing on the Clinton's. I've been a fan for a long time, and even when I decided to support Obama I was careful to note that I held the Clinton's in high esteem. I thought a lot of the criticisms against Bill could be chalked up to the media putting an unfair focus on stuff that really did not deserve that focus. As a longtime fan of the President and his wife it is easy to chalk up the overwhelming noise against them to the same old unfounded and unreasoning Clinton hatred.

But the 'Jackson won S.C. too' answer, coming as it did completely out of context to the question asked of Clinton, crossed a line from my perspective. There can be no doubt now as to what Bill is doing. It is Nixonian/Rovian and ugly. At this point Bill is damaged goods and he would do his wife and the Democratic party a huge favor by retiring from the scene, at least for the duration of this election. He is doing great work beyond politics, and he needs to focus on that for the time being to rehabilitate his image in his own party. I say this as a true fan. I still have his autographed picture and fondly remember him signing it on a rope line.

The wave of Kennedy endorsements for Senator Obama have come at a crucial time in this nomination process. I only saw a brief blurb of Kennedy's speech immediately prior to coming to work, but that one small part was very exciting.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Those Pesky Canadians Keep Calling Torture Torture

The Government of Canada has disclosed that the Canadian military in Afghanistan have stopped handing prisoners over to the government of Afghanistan after monitors found evidence that those prisoners were being abused and tortured. Notably, this decision was made by the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan, and that person deserves another star... or whatever it is that signifies advancement in the Canadian Armed Forces. Another maple leaf maybe? Well another honorific insignia anyway! But, as is my wont, I digress!

The prisoner transfers were stopped after Canadian monitors visited a prisoner who showed injuries from being beaten and given electric shocks. The monitors were actually able to find the instruments used to torture the prisoner after he told them to look under a chair in his cell, where they located an electric cord and a rubber hose.

This revelation comes a couple of weeks after the disclosure that a training manual used by Canadian diplomats to recognize torture victims listed America among nations which torture prisoners. Following an uproar the Canadian Foreign Minister apologized for including America and Israel on the list, which was reviewed and rewritten. Tellingly, there never has been refutation of the particular charges levied against American techniques which were described in the list. The world knows we use sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, exposure to extreme temperatures, isolation and other forms of "harsh interrogations". We may be off the Canadian torture list, but the techniques we use are still called torture by them as well as the rest of the civilized world.

So... we have two recent bombshells from Canada regarding the outlook they take upon other nations ill treatment of prisoners. In one case they placed America upon, then removed us from, a list of nations which torture. In the next case Canada found evidence that Afgani's were being tortured and stopped transferring prisoners to them. So what we have here is two steps forward and one step back. Which is a far far better record than America has to show on the subject which has been to step back so many times as to completely circumvent the globe in the opposite direction from the direction we once professed to be going.

I do not claim to be any sort of expert on Canadian domestic politics and affairs so consider that fair warning, and a bit of an apology for my friends to the north for what I'm about to say... in my best shoot from the hip in the dark fashion. But this looks for all the world like a struggle between Prime Minister Harper and various other vestiges of government who do not hold Harper's conservative political outlook. How long will it take for Harper to clean up the embarrassing slap in the face of the Afghani government? After all, when the American Neocon World Overlords hear of this latest embarrassment from the Canadian bureaucracy, there are certain to be some harshly worded demands for clarification on Canada's attitude towards our Afghani puppet.

For the grunts doing the good work in the Canadian government, causing Harper to sweat on the international stage by exposing the truth about the use of torture by allies, we really do appreciate the brutal honesty. Honestly, I'm actually a bit jealous. I remember the good old days (about 7 years ago) when America would make noise about the ill treatment of prisoners and people would actually care about what we said. Now we have come to the point that international despots are pointing to America as an example to justify their own hideous practices. Don't let that happen to Canada, and the world will owe you a debt of gratitude.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More Proof That Cheney Is Absolutely Insane

Newsweek has published an article titled "Fishing for a Way to Change the World" which is a lengthy excerpt from author Jacob Weisburg's book "The Bush Tragedy"

I am simply amazed at the utter lack of sense or reasoning which the following revelation shows as relates to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney and Libby believed that Iraq's potential to produce a smallpox weapon necessitated universal vaccination of the general population, something that hadn't happened in the United States since 1972. On the other side of the argument was Donald Henderson, the heroic epidemiologist who led the WHO smallpox eradication program and later became Bush 41's science adviser. After the anthrax attacks, HHS brought Henderson in as a consultant to help develop emergency plans.

When I visited him at his office at the Center for Biosecurity in Baltimore, Henderson recounted a surprise, unpublicized visit he paid to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta with Cheney and Libby on July 18, 2002. Henderson flew down with them on Air Force Two and spent most of the trip explaining to the vice president and his chief of staff why he and other epidemiologists thought a massive vaccination program would be a terrible idea. Even medical professionals were horrified when they saw the range of normal reactions to a vaccination: grotesque scabs, lesions, and pustules. Henderson showed me a pamphlet that HHS distributed to hospitals to document the abnormal reactions: blackened limbs, uncontrolled swelling, and a reaction called progressive vaccinia, in which sores cover the body from head to toe.

Worse than the panic these reactions would cause would be the predictable casualties. According to Henderson, adverse reactions to the vaccine were estimated to kill between one and two out of every million people inoculated. The question of legal liability would be a nightmare. Henderson said that Cheney and Libby didn't seem to disagree with his arguments, which he reviewed with them on the return flight. "I thought, Thank God they've finally gotten the message. Finally we've been able to get it through to them that this just does not make sense," Henderson said.

When he reached his home in Baltimore two hours later, Henderson's wife was waiting with an urgent message to call the office. "They were going to have a press release the next morning announcing that they were going to vaccinate the entire country immediately," Henderson said. "I couldn't believe it." But after girding for battle and taking a 5:00 a.m. train to HHS the next morning, Henderson was relieved to be told that the vaccination plan was off after all. Bush had overruled Cheney.
Vice President Cheney was willing to see hundreds of Americans die and cause a nationwide panic in order to respond to a non existent threat. In fact this was worse than a non existent threat... it was a threat made from whole cloth by people determined to use the specter of 9/11 in order to drive this nation to needless war. George Bush comes out of this particular story actually looking like the reasonable one, but for the fact that he selected this freaking dingbat to be his number two in the first place.

Weisburg uses this story as a demonstration of the deadly earnest drive by Cheney and the neocons to protect this nation from what they were convinced was a truly dire threat by Saddam Hussien. In fact Weisburg believes that the smallpox innoculation plan proves that Cheney did not act in bad faith during the lead up to war in Iraq. Yet Weisburgs benign outlook on Cheney's motives is belied when considered against the recent documentation of the veritable carpet bombing by this administration of lies and deciept in leading this nation to war as documented by the new website The Center For Public Integrity. The graph in that report is particularly instructive. Note the spike in dishonest administration statements as they began the propaganda drive to war, right during the same time frame that Cheney was making his determination to doom hundreds of people to a grotesque death and cause a nationwide panic... before President Bush quashed the scheme.

Frankly, I'm not quite so willing as Weisburg to chalk it up to a misplaced sense of duty by Cheney on this one. Maybe I'm just too jaded and cynical at this point, but after years of seeing Cheney in action I can see him being the trigger to instigate a medical debacle, pointing the finger of blame at Saddam for the nations pestilence, further increasing fear and hatred of Iraq in the drive to war.

I actually find myself hoping that I am wrong... but fearful that I am right.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Exiled To Siberia Guam

The decision to arrest Steven Howards after he attacked confronted Vice President Cheney at a ski resort in 2006 has blown up in the face of the secret service.

In the good old days of the cold war, people in the USSR who crossed the line were sent to exile in far off Siberia to live out their days far from civilization and any ability to further influence the events of the day. I think the arrest of Howards has provided the modern day equivalent of the exile to Siberia, with the arresting agent having been stationed in Guam. Marianas Variety has a great little piece on how agent Virgil D. “Gus” Reichle Jr. of the U.S. Secret Service is training border agents, at no cost to the government of Guam. on how to recognize counterfeit currency, and identity thieves. They aim to stop the influx of tourists who commit credit card fraud and other such heinous crimes.

Thank goodness the secret service is on the case of those ebil ebil white collar criminal tourists in Guam. Actually one suspects that Reichle does not find himself stationed on the moon only because the American government does not have a diplomatic mission there.

Just imagine the fall from grace Mr. Reichle has undergone. From the secret service inner circle, protecting the most powerful men in the world, to giving lectures in Guam on how to recognize rogue credit card expenditures. These guys are trained to take a bullet for the men they protect. Reichle would have thrown himself on a grenade to keep Cheney safe. He would have undergone various forms of mutilation, and deformation to protect his charge... but since Reichle saw fit to arrest a man who attacked confronted the veep, and then took part in a coverup of the circumstances of that arrest, he finds himself languishing in Guam.

Speaking of the circumstances of Howards arrest, I find it very interesting that Cheney's role in the entire affair has been very effectively squashed to this point. Reichle claims that the secret service just wants the entire affair to go away, to avoid "inconveniencing" the Vice President. According to the N.Y. Time article, Cheney's involvement in the affair remains uncertain, and his lawyers have declined repeated request to have him deposed about the affair. Why won't Cheney tell his side of the story here?

With all this in mind, here is my completely unfounded and off the cuff notion about what happened. Keep in mind that this scenario has no basis in fact as far as I know at this point.

Some peasant managed to break into the Vice President's bubble as Cheney was trying to relax, and Cheney ordered the peasant to be arrested, deported to Guantanamo and tortured (harshly interrogated). The arrest went off without a hitch, but when the President could not be bothered because he was relaxing in Texas, the needed Presidential finding that Howards was an enemy combatant could not be gotten. Once the plan started unraveling the secret service realized that Cheney had Howards arrested for no good reason, and in the best traditions of their craft set about protecting Cheney by commencing a coverup. Once the coverup started to unravel, Reichle as the arresting agent had to go away, and he winds up lecturing Guamian border agents on recognizing counterfeit currency. Rather than Howards winding up in Guantanamo on a waterboard, Reichle winds up in Guamtanamo lecturing about credit card fraud and check kiting schemes. It is oddly symmetrical from my point of view.

It all fits, and that version is just as likely to be entirely true as the next thing you hear from an administration spokestoady, or Mitt Romney, on any given subject as well...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guess Who Is On A Torture List By Canada

Canadian diplomats reading a training pamphlet on how to determine if prisoners have been tortured are given a list of nations which are known to torture. The list includes names like Syria, China, Iran and, sadly... this year America has been added to that horrible assemblage.

The document cites the use of sleep deprivation and forced nudity as torturous techniques currently used against prisoners. These techniques were once recognized by America as torture, particularly when used by the Soviet Bloc against dissenters and American POW's. Yet the debate in America now is focused on whether or not the use of feigned execution by drowning is actually torture. You can almost hear the guffawing of the right wing torture apologista's over the notion that sleep deprivation would be considered torture. After all it was Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld who once justified the use of painfull stress techniques by noting he stood at his desk all day.

Nations which once looked to America to provide international leadership in the cause of human rights are now including us on their lists of nations which torture.
This is real time proof of the complete degradation of this nations image on the world stage, from the foremost international champion of human rights to making an international rogues gallery list of torturers. Shame on this administration for promoting policies which have led us to this pass, and shame on the people who silently sat by and let them do it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Voters Decide: Inspiration Or Chief Exec

Senator Barack Obama gave an interview with the Reno Gazette in which he touches upon the reason I, and many others who do not necessarily hold my political opinions, support him.
“I don’t think there is anybody in this race who can inspire the American people better than I can. And I don’t think there is anybody in this race who can bridge differences ... better than I can.
“But I’m not an operating officer. Some in this debate around experience seem to think the job of the president is to go in and run some bureaucracy. Well, that’s not my job. My job is to set a vision of ‘here’s where the bureaucracy needs to go.’”
Senator Obama's logic here is not a blatant appeal as a candidate of change, but after 8 years of President Bush the change Obama is offering, in management styles alone, can not be greater. Even those who fully support President Bush's policies would be hard pressed to contend that Bush is inspirational. President Bush motivated the American people by pushing fear. The President motivated the Congress when it was in Republican hands through sheer cynical demands of fealty to partisanship and alienated many of his own party in Congress by doing so. The entire administration has been a veritable cult of Bush with members being forced to include glowing references to the President or to mention him a given amount of times on each page of a report, and people who dare to think outside the orthodoxy being tossed aside and then savaged. The President inspires those who he leads him like Kim Jong Il inspires North Koreans.

President Bush used the chief executive model of leadership and has proven very effective at being that type of leader. Bush's record at getting his way in policy battles over the years has been remarkable, and the nation has suffered for that. The Bush record as chief executive was dismal before he was selected in 2000. His disastrous leadership as President will not improve that record, unless you take the perspective of a big oil CEO or war profiteer or some such greed motivated persona that is. The question in the 2004 election of who you think would pull over and help if you were stranded on the side of the freeway with a flat tire... Bush or Kerry, did not consider the rest of the scenario. If both saw fit to pull over, who could be trusted to actually change the flat tire competently, and who would break the jack, lose the lug wrench but put the lug nuts on backwards and leave them loose, causing your car to wreck 2 miles down the road. Bush might have won the personality battle but he can't be trusted with the important things.

I am not saying here that someone who intends to change the system by way of using experience in the system to get the job done is comparable to Bush by any stretch of the imagination. Simply by dint of supporting policies opposed by the current President, and thus nearly invariably good policy for the nation, changing the system through whatever method will be a welcome relief. So Senator Clinton's approach has value and I will have no problems enthusiastically supporting her if she wins the nomination. I'm certain that a Clinton Presidency would bring a marked change for the better to the nation. In fact I even believe her personal style would be a welcome relief after years spent cringing through the public buffoonery of President Bush ... but I don't believe Senator Clinton would lead the nation by to inspiring us.

Not only would Obama bring a much needed change in policy to the White House, he would bring a much needed change in style used to motivate the nation to reach his goals. Bush has used fear, and Clinton intends to use intrinsic knowledge of the ins and outs of the system to change it. I'm ready for a President who inspires me when I listen to them. It's hard to even imagine how it will be when a President sets a goal for the nation and uses rhetorical inspiration with a call to a greater purpose as motivation for the nation to reach the goal, rather than predicting disaster, ruination and the death of our children if that goal is not attained.

So to sum it up from my perspective, both Clinton and Obama are candidates of change, and either will make a fine President following the disastrous reign of Bush. I'm just ready for a President who leads the nation to change with true inspiration rather than a reliance upon experience in the system in order to get that change accomplished.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I'm heartily sick and tired of this never ending election, and we have barely begun. We have the better part of a year to go of daily media obsession on the personal trivialities of the candidates and heated blather by all concerned. I'm sure some people love this but I am convinced this system would be well served with a drastic overhaul. Would it not be better if we were just now starting to think about who will run for President... and started voting in the party nominations in a couple of months. Have the conventions in late September and stop with the never ending campaign cycle we seem to have fallen into.

Speaking of meaningless heated blather, I must admit to a bit of puzzlement as to what Senator Clinton was trying to say with her, now infamous, MLK/LBJ quote. So let us hearken to what Senator Clinton actually said:
“Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act,” Mrs. Clinton said when asked about Mr. Obama’s rejoinder by Fox’s Major Garrett after her speech in Dover. “It took a president to get it done.”
First off, notice that Senator Clinton gives an answer to a Fox freak, and winds up digging herself out of a hole for the next several weeks. Let that be a lesson Senator! Don't give those Fox cruds the time of day. It is not like Senator Clinton will ever change their minds or win over the Fox News audience... they've already been brainwashed to believe that she is the spawn of Satan.

Moving on, Senator Clinton's point in the above quote seems to be that King needed political leaders like Johnson in order to make the dream come true. That point may be somewhat correct... yet it seems to me in an election which is a drive to be the candidate of greatest change, saying you are LBJ to your opponents MLK is a bit of a miscalculation. In the grand scope of things, comparing oneself to a southern white male from Texas while the other guy plays the role of inspirational movement leader who will be included in the pantheon of timeless personalities from Ghandi to Mandella hardly seems a wise course of action. Maybe next she can claim a historic parallel as Herrod next to Obama as Jesus Christ... I mean after all Jesus never could have been offered as the savior of mankind if he were not crucified by the Romans! It took a Roman puppet to start Christianity! (Not that LBJ is like Herrod mind you... and how the heck did I reach a point in one of my ramblings that I would ever have to toss in such a disclaimer anyway?!)

Getting down to the my take of the history here, I consider that LBJ saw what was happening and assisted the inevitable. I'm not certain that without the social upheaval of the 60's that LBJ would have taken the same stance. LBJ was on the right side, just like FDR was on the right side of increasing the role of women in society and the workplace... just when all the men went off to war and the necessity of the times demanded an increased role by women to get us to where we needed to be. FDR would have been on the right side of the civil rights movement in the mid 60's, as LBJ would have been on the side of expanding the role of women in society in the early 40's.

But the agent of change is not the men who signed the laws while bowing to the inevitable. They should be recognized for being enlightened leaders and embracing the change which was forcing itself upon our society. After all, some leaders steadfastly refuse to accept the inevitable, digging the nation deeper into a hole from which everyone else recognizes at some point we will have to extricate ourselves from. One example which readily comes to my mind is having an oil man as President, doing zilch to wean America from a heavy addiction to oil, and leaving it to the next generation to find a way to get us out of the oil hole.

There is another aspect of LBJ which should have Senator Clinton giving his legacy a wide berth. Johnson's legacy is not solely, or even predominately, tied with his acceptance of the civil rights movement. He is remembered as the President who was destroyed by a war which he could not bring to an end. A war which split this nation and contributed mightily to social unrest and political upheaval. I fear history will be an unkind judge of Senator Clinton's part in the Iraq war. If I were advising her I would suggest that comparisons to LBJ, in any context, would not be the best course of action in pursuit of the nomination of a party which is strongly against a war she voted to authorize.

Let me wrap up by owning my whiteness and allowing that I may not be the most sensitive or best judge of what is or is not offensive. I am convinced that anyone who is determined enough can find offense in nearly any lengthy discourse on race or gender or other such matters. So, if it makes the offended feel any better, just be aware that none of what I wrote in this post was meant to be hurtful. Just chalk it up to me being an insensitive lout!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Case Of The Clash Of Rights With Liberties...

I have just read the most fascinating article which raises an interesting question from my perspective. When the right to a speedy and fair trial of your peers conflicts with the right of your peers to live their daily lives without being molested by the law for no fault of their own, which one should win out. I may have made up the right to be unmolested by the law, but if that is not a right, it should be one... I think the prohibition against illegal seizure of persons should qualify in the following circumstance as reported by the N.Y. Times:
Judge Eaton, of Caledonia District Court in St. Johnsbury, Vt., had an accused child molester to try and too few good-people-and-true on hand to pick a jury from. So he sent the county sheriff and his deputies out to three locations in town — outside the post office, the local Price Chopper supermarket and the Green Mountain Mall — to bring ‘em back alive.

They stopped passers-by and asked if they were residents of Caledonia County; a “yes” answer won a summons to appear at the courthouse for jury duty immediately, right now, this minute. They rounded up 45 people that way in all, to join the 34 already at the courthouse.
Seriously? Simply being a resident was reason enough to demand immediate disruption of the citizens life, with a summons to appear in court for no other reason than the Judge needing a jury, and the prospective juror being in the wrong place at the wrong time? What if a parent were expected to pick up a child later in the day? Just imagine the multitude of circumstances which were not given any consideration whatsoever beyond whether or not the person lived in the right county.

The story goes onto describe how impressing jurors on the spot actually is more common that one might suppose. The reporter found several other cases, and even rulings on the practice by various jurisdictions, with the Indiana Supreme Court banning the practice in that state, but a Pennsylvania appellate court recently ruling that impressing jurors on the spot was legal.

I have been called for jury duty once in my adult life, and the entire pool was sent home immediately after court convened for lack of cases. I would gladly respond positively to the next summons to appear and serve on a jury if selected... assuming that summons to appear was not being handed out on the street by a sheriff with instructions to drop the rest of the day for jury duty.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Feds Can't Pay Their Phone Bill So We're All Gonna Die!! (or maybe not)

Remember how the Administration and their toady apologists were calling "Terrorist Surveillance Program" a vital tool in the war on terror which was responsible for stopping multiple attacks and saving thousands of lives? Remember how they were calling for the reporters at the N.Y. Times to be charged with treason for reporting on the story? Well, if we can judge the necessity of the program by the determination to fund it, it may not have been so vital to our safety after all.

Via Raw Story we learn that the FBI has accrued thousands of dollars in unpaid phone bills, leading to dropped wiretaps as the phone companies discontinued service.
In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation "was halted due to untimely payment," the audit found. FISA wiretaps are used in the government's most sensitive and secretive criminal and intelligence investigations, and allow eavesdropping on suspected terrorists or spies.

"We also found that late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence," according to the audit by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.
Here we have the Bush administration instituting a program which clearly violates the 4th amendment, and established law, claiming when found out that they were doing it in order to save lives, yet it turns out the program is not even worth paying the bill for. Why be upset at the loss of civil liberties and the horrible precedent set by the President as he willfully violates the law and constitution in the name of safety? This administration is not even competent enough to keep the program running effectively by paying the freaking phone bill.

Why would the administration be willing to bring on a constitutional crisis over a policy which actually proves so unimportant in the long run? Just how freaking vital a tool can the "terrorist surveillance program" really be? Every person reading this can relate to paying the phone bill. The telephone and attendant services, usually, are not vital to the survival of those paying the bill, BUT we make sure to do it anyway... if for no other reason than we owe the freaking bill! Yet in this instance, with the administration using the specter of massive death if they are not allowed to go about trashing the constitution, and crowing about the effectiveness of the program at stopping certain attacks until it was publicised, it turns out that the program is actually not important enough to pay the bill for. That is a pretty low priority and speaks volumes about the real value of the program from my point of view.

I might chortle about this in regards to the "terrorists surveillance program", but it is notable that FBI taps cover far more territory. How many domestic cases were harmed by lost evidence, how many criminals are now on the streets, and how many victims have been harmed because of the administrations patent incompetence?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Toss Tucker, Bring Back Brokaw

There has been alot of attention on the interaction between Tom Brokaw and Chris Matthews during last nights coverage of the New Hampshire primary. Brokaw lamented the pre primary focus by the major media on personalities, gossip and speculation by the entrenched set of talking heads which dominate cable television. Brokaw called for a change in course by the media, wondering why they can't start focusing on issues and policy in what seemed to be a pretty direct assault on the essence of what makes Chris Matthews (here after referred to as Tweety) who he is.

Glenn Greenwald sums up the exchange by arguing that, in the context of talking heads sitting around navel gazing during the vote counting, Tweety must win the day. After all, if Tweety is wrong then the entire construct and formulation by which the mass media drives the news will be brought to ruin. All of Brokaw's high falutin musing about focusing on real issues would never prove successful if his dream show were to be put in competition against the slash and burn political hackery which constitutes modern cable television news programs...

As if to reinforce his own outlook, Tweety took to the cable ramparts this morning and pronounced that the only reason Senator Clinton was elected Senator in the first place is because Bill cheated on her. It makes me feel dirty even going there so after I bash out this post I have to take a shower.

Perhaps you have deduced by my acid tone towards Matthews that I am hardly on Tweety's side when it comes to the role our media should be playing. But I would like to see this tested somehow. Why not give Brokaw the chance to test his theory? If there is a person who could make it work it would have to be Brokaw. He is experienced, not widely assumed to be partisan one way or the other, serious, and generally well suited as the face of a respected news program. MSNBC is looking for a way to shake Tucker off... I think Brokaw would be a great addition, and we would be given a chance once and for all to see if a program focused on issues rather than poo fuffery would do well. I for one think it would.

All of this reminds me of Bill Clinton standing in front of the camera's and lamenting that he could not make his wife younger, or male. This recieved huge play with the personality driven media coverage and I though made Bill look bad, (I immediately thought to myself that Michelle Obama should call a presser and announce that she could not make Obama white, or his spouse a cad for that matter). But what we as a nation really can not change is the plague which passes for mass media in modern society. They force feed us the foibles of the politicians, the tears when the chips are down and the general personality driven story of the day, while giving the issues and policy decisions of the day very short thrift.

So let us put the Brokaw theory to the test, and I can not think of a better way to do it than by having Tucker Carlson exit stage right and letting Brokaw make a run at changing the basic character of the media by example.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm A Believer

What I'm about to say may hardly seem to be the definition of cogent, trailblazing blogger thoughtfulness: I mean I held out for most of last fall hoping Al Gore would enter the race, and then when it became evident that it was getting too late I hemmed and hawed about who I favored in the race to the Democratic nomination. So now that Obama has made it easy to support him by altering the fundamentals of the political universe I once thought I knew... let me give him the much coveted (SCOFF!!) bhfrik endorsement.

See, waiting 'til now to endorse Obama really does ring hollow does it not? I could have done it when Obama was 20 points behind Clinton in Iowa and 40 points back in the national polls, and looked prescient now. I could have done that when all the major Democratic party hacks were endorsing Clinton and crowning her the nominee months before the first vote was cast, and just think about how much more impressive I would look now.

But I do have reasons for waiting for a bit to hop on the Obwagon. Never in a future election will I withold even seeking a favorite until the person I really really want to run lets the time for entrance into the race pass by with passive denials and half hearted responses to questions about their candidacy. I must admit that the non entry of Gore into this race has been a bitter pill to swallow for me, and I won't fall into that hole again.

Next, I really do appreciate all of the candidates for the Democratic nomination. From Gravel to Obama, they all would make fantastic Presidents. Should a Democrat win I truly hope they find a place for every one of these candidates, either in their cabinent or at the table where important decisions are made from time to time if the candidate is already in high political office and does not want to move on.

It is particularly difficult for me to announce for someone other than Senator Clinton, given that she is really trying to follow stratagems I have called for and it may actually be costing her popularity. In several posts I have called for a nitty gritty back alley fighter to be the Democratic nominee in order to combat the certain smears they will face from the Reublican machine in the general election. My perception is that Clinton is trying to prove herself willing to do whatever it takes to win, and she is coming out the lesser for it. If there is a lesson from Iowa, where Romney went negative on Huckabee and recieved a thumping, it may well be that the mean season in our national politics is coming to an end. Could part of the national yearning for change from the politics of Bush include a desire to put the blatant partisan ugliness behind us, and to punish those who go there? Then my call for a back alley fighter is admittedly wrong headed, yet here I go abandoning Senator Clinton, partially for doing what I called on the Democratic nominee to do.

But the kicker for me has been personal experience. I am married to a conservative Mormon. I am not in the business of trying to convert my wife from the conservative darkness, just as she is not in the business of trying to convert me from non Mormon apostasy. We try to avoid talking about the hot political subjects of the day because those disussions can get very argumentative, and the chances of one side or the other persuading the opposite outlook with their logic is just about nil.

My wife started out with a political and religious prediliction to support Mitt Romney. But my wife has become something of an Obamanatic, and this is only getting more pronounced by the day. My everyday life is a testament to me of the cross idealogical appeal of Senator Obama.

And the kicker for me was indeed the result of the Iowa caucus. I watched Obama's speech and despite that fact that he was two dimensional and electronically piped into my living room, I found myself inspired. His message doesn't just reach my wife, and alot of other conservatives who hold my wifes outlook... but he reaches me too.

I've heard the pundits talk about Obama the rock star and how pumped up his crowds get. But that victory speech brought it home for me. Obama is more than a rock star... he is freaking inspirational, and that feeling is held across the political board. I couldn't help but watch that speech and think about my personal experience with my wife and decide that to support Obama going forward.

I remember telling my wife early on when she started warming to Obama. You might like him now, but just imagine a six month stretch where he has to deal with daily attacks from the right wing noise machine... Osama/Obama, Obamanation... all of the childish language with the Islamic hoo haw and so on and so forth. I was convinced that after such a daily barrage that my wife and others like her would never vote for Obama and fear for the children if he ever visited the state. Maybe... just maybe I was wrong, and at this point, I want to find out.

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