Tuesday, September 30, 2008
It's an old joke, and more on why it's stuck in my memory at the end of this post.
To suspend, or not to suspend. That's the question Fox News asked of John McCain. Of course, the first suspension of his campaign, was not really a suspension, and it wasn't suspended as long as he said he'd suspend.
So why not consider another suspension. Why keep us in suspense?
As for the red suspender joke, it was sprung on me by a New Britain fireman when we were on a kindergarten field trip at old No. 6 firehouse on Kensington Avenue. The fireman found out I was the son of a fire lieutenant, and said, "So you must know why firemen wear red suspenders."
Of course I didn't, and because I didn't know, I was the center of derision. My classmates laughed. The fireman laughed. I didn't think it was funny. Still don't, some 51 years later.
It's Banned Books Week, in case you didn't know. And as you might guess, the banned books are always the ones worth reading. Any book, and the ideas therein, which can scare the powers that be, is worth getting a look at. For Banned Books Week events in CT, look here.
Morning Edition had a nice piece on banned books, librarians and The Grapes of Wrath this morning.
It featured discussion of Rick Wartzman's new book, Obscene in the Extreme. The heroine of the story is librarian Gretchen Knief, who stood up to the book burners in Bakersfield CA, but was not able to prevent town leaders from banning the book, which eventually became an American classic.
It's important to remember that librarians have often been on the front lines in defense of freedom of expression in this country. Here in Connecticut, we must never forget that it was a group of librarians who stood up to the Bush administration, the FBI, the Patriot Act, Homeland Security in defense of the constitution when they stood up against a National Security Letter at the risk of their own careers and freedom.
Thank a librarian the next time you check a book out.
Monday, September 29, 2008
I heard Courant managing editor, Barbara Roessner on the radio this morning, and as she recited the reasons why the Courant has redesigned it's print edition (the world is changing, competition for breaking news with the internet, readers with less time), she seemed a little jaded, maybe even bored - as if she'd recited this list several times over the past couple of weeks, and didn't quite believe it herself anymore. (She didn't mention Sam Zell once.)
Roessner, who in managing the redesign, has responded dutifully to a hopeless and thankless task. But she used the words "taut" and "dense" to describe the redesigned daily.
I think the words I would use are "garish" and "shallow."
I still can't understand why a newspaper would redesign itself so that people like me, longtime subscribers, who like to read a substantial paper, would feel disappointed and alienated. At the same time, the Courant seems to be appealing more to a younger, internet reader who will never approach an honor box, a newstand, or god forbid, fill in a subscription application. Maybe I should simply go each day where the print edition seems to point me - to the internet version of the paper.
The new Courant seems to be designed for people who don't like to read newspapers. Maybe who don't like to read at all. If the New York Times is a newspaper, the "new" Courant is a bad PowerPoint presentation - outlines, tidbits, photos, graphs, illustrations, sub-heads, call-outs, all crammed onto some very busy, very jammed pages.
I was really interested in reading the front-page story about Chris Dodd, but I found it strangely difficult to make my way through. Do I really want some sub-head writer telling me every three paragraphs what I'm about to read?
As for the front page illustration of Dodd (there he is in all his impressionistic triple-chinned glory), I can't imagine it will sell many papers. If it's front-page, magazine appeal, the Courant is going to have to go with someone like Hillary Duff, and forget the senior Senator from our state. And Lord help us then.
I've said in a previous post that the Reader Speak headlines seem to pander to the kind of online readership which consists of lurkers, looking to spew some anonymously vile epithet. A thoughtful reader comment, will not necessarily be expressed as a single-sentence reflection. So what we'll get is neither the ugly insult, nor the considered opinion, but something in between - a short, tedious, pedestrian, anonymous blurb like "His character was in contrast to the selfishness that is so common today, and which has cause our economic situation." So, who the hell cares, except the person being quoted.
As for news, or lack thereof, it's already obvious that there will be less of it all way round. Less international, less national, less local. And what we do get will be condensed, digested and served in an easy-to-read fashion. I spent 20 minutes with the Sunday Courant. Less time with today's. I've got time on my hands that I'll spend at HuffingtonPost, nytimes.com and Salon.
While there's precious little in the way of story on the front page (3 by my count), page 2 and 3 actually begin to look like a newspaper worth reading. But from pages 4-9, where, based on a four-column model, there appears to be 480 column inches, there are, in fact, about 72 inches of news copy, and a whopping 408 inches of advertisements. That should make the ad department very happy, if the surfeit of ads doesn't drive circulation down.
Oddly, the copy-heavy ad for the Amish no-flue fireplace mantle, in Sunday's Courant, was almost as interesting a read as any of the stories in that section (and greater in depth).
The rest of the paper is just as distressing - the lack of distinguishable state and town section, the appearance of classifieds on page 2 of the CTLIVING section, the constant reference to things not in the paper but on the web (does anyone really believe that someone moves easily from a printed reference, to an internet site?), an editorial page diminished by half, and a lot of news written by non-state residents.
Coincidentally, my subscriber invoice arrived in the mail the day before the "new" Courant hit my doorstep. Before I mail it in, I want to be sure that these first few days are not an indication where the paper will end up.
Maybe, like a bad haircut, it will grow out.
Here's my suggestion. All Courant writers and editors, grab your clippings and leave your desks now. Rendez-vous at the Red Rock. Write a declaration of independence in the form of a business plan. Put up a couple grand apiece and start a new Connecticut online news site. Beat the new Courant at its own game. There are stories to be written. Ads to be sold. Pocket the money that's going to Zell.
Listening, last night, to Randy Newman cruise through his, ahem, "hits," it was clear that seated before me on the stage of the Calvin Theater in Northampton, MA, was a major American talent.
As he said last night, his recent creative period has only produced six song in nine years, (or was it nine songs in six years), but those songs are undeniably original Randy Newman songs. The kind of songs that no one else could, or would write, and precious few could perform.
At 64, Newman's voice has neither mellowed gracefully, nor disintegrated. He can still barely wander outside of the narrow mid-range where his croak of a voice feels comfortable, and when he does, well, the results are unpredictable. But that is at the essence of his charm - to write perfectly singable songs that he doesn't really sing. It's not surprising that some of his songs are a bit more like a musical conversation than an aria.
He began with "It's Money That I Love," and didn't look back for half an hour as he explored his oeuvre, and acknowledged the smattering of applause at the start of well-known, well-polished and well-loved Newman classics like "Short People," and "Marie."
He sampled generously from his latest effort, "Harps and Angels," singing about potholes on memory lane, and warnings to the boys about when they lay you on the table.
Newman was having a bit of difficulty with the Steinway keyboard, or was it his fingers rebelling after a few nights on the road at joints like Carnegie Hall or Boston's Symphony Hall. At midpoint in "My Life Is Good" Newman's digits seemed to wander onto an errant chord and he announced, "Are there any doctors out there? I think I just had a small stroke." But his fingers wandered astray a half a dozen times during the evening leaving Newman to admit, in one of his last numbers, "God, I'm playing so shitty tonight."
It was a minor distraction in an evening where Newman's stories were as hilarious as ever, his songs, as simple and beautifully expressed as they are, served to skewer our notions of power, comfort and fame, or in a half dozen common words, tore to the heart of a complex emotion.
Towards the end of the show, he actually asked for requests. The room was suddenly alive with titles from throughout his career as he launched into "I Love LA." As he turned toward the keyboard for the first chords of "I Think It's Going To Rain Today," someone shouted out for the obscure, "My Little Buttercup," which Newman began to play. Then he lamented, "Aw, I've gone and ruined the mood," as he returned to the brilliant classic of loneliness and desperation.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
It's easy to be a reformer - as John McCain brags - putting scoundrels in prison. Jack Abramoff may be the most famous of crooked lobbyists to risk the wrath of McCain. But as the New York Times points out this morning, in eliminating Abramoff, McCain actually provided benefit to tribal lobbyists who had supported his campaigns.
It isn't a gamble to go against your own party, if, in the end, you benefit personally.
The Times article begins with an anecdote of a winning night at the tables that McCain had right here in Connecticut (actually on sovereign Pequot nation property). Seems like, on that night, he was very lucky. Isn't it a cliche that one way of siphoning unregulated donations to a politician is to let him win at the poker table?
I guess the odds were with him. And he didn't have to ride the Fung Wah bus home.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
The Hartford Courant reports that Creepy Joe™ Lieberman's poll numbers are so low that according to pollster Chris Barnes, "He's really polling as a weak Republican, rather than a wounded Democrat."
Not surprising, when he's on the stump for John McCain, and even when he's spouting about the importance of bipartisanship, he's on the radio with Dennis Prager tearing down the Democrats and defending the recalcitrance of Republicans in negotiations on the financial bailout.
Lieberman doesn't have good word one for his Democratic colleagues, but he sees John "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" McCain as a financial savior.
What's Lieberman gonna do next year. Fox News presents: Lunch with Lieberman - News, Views and Recipes.
So, this is the Hartford Courant revolution. A sideways masthead. First in the country. Oh, oh, my knees are shaking.
It's important not to jump to conclusions, but it appears, already, that the Hartford Courant makeover will include a few things that will make it less a newspaper, and more a print promo for its website.
Reader comments at the top of page one. Are you kidding? A one-liner from the comment section? Is that news or is that pandering?
The masthead itself, running along the left margin (it's in the "gutter"), will turn the corner with a bold ".com." Oh gosh, is that off the hinges, or what?
Big pictures on page one! Why not all pictures, and appeal to even the illiterate?
International news and national news will be digested, and spit out as a condensed "brief," because we can get that news elsewhere (in fact, we'll probably be able to get most of the "news" in the new Courant, elsewhere).
Breaking news relegated to the website. A website, I'll admit I use regularly, and am regularly frustrated with as I search, and search, and search for opinion columns and news.
There will, inevitably, be less news. Certainly less local news (and that hardly seems possibly - because less than "precious little" would be - "next to nothing?")
And, BTW, the video clip of the "exclusive, sneak peek" at the new Courant was broadcast on Fox 61, owned by the Tribune Corporation, the parent of the Courant. It's not a news story but a PR puff piece. It seems that when the Courant has news of its own, it will either bury it (as in any specific notice of employee layoffs and departures), or it will provide it to its own media outlets first. I can hear the howls if Jodi Rell gave an exclusive on a new state program to a single media outlet.
Let's see if the Courant will report on its declining circulation once the "new" Courant hits the streets.
This is not a makeover, it's a senior citizen with dementia sitting in bed at a nursing home wearing a G Unit hoodie, and Akademiks baggies and a SoCal cap. Print that on your masthead.
While no knockout punches were scored in the Presidential debates last night as far as words go, but strictly in terms of body language Obama was a big winner. He seemed relaxed, confident, assured and knowledgeble. McCain seemed like the grumpy old man he is. In fact, he reminded me of someone who never seems to have a pleasant word for anyone - Abe Simpson.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Certainly, McCain could not abide a deal done Thursday. That would mean he'd have no excuse for backing out of the debate with Barack Obama Friday.
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd has called the last minute Republican balk an attempt to save McCain's candidacy.
Barney Frank, aghast that the Republicans had walked out of emergency negotiations Thursday night, complained loudly that the Republicans were more interested in politics than with coming up with a solution to America's financial problems.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
What we don't know, can't hurt us. Or can it?
So, we have a Presidential candidate who has found a way to avoid a debate in which he will clearly be at a disadvantage. He's retreated from a cozy relationship with the press, to one which is downright frigid. He puts his campaign on "hold" though it doesn't seem to include not running commercials, or keeping his advisors from commenting in the press.
And a vice-presidential candidate, who is truly, "Bush-in-skirts," in the way she demonstrates a remarkable incurious attitude to anything outside of her immediate purview. Visit a foreign country? Why bother, Alaska is just fine. Think about the national economy? No need, Alaska's got oil. Worry about war, famine, disease? No worry, trust in Jesus.
We are now faced with a campaign willing to do damn near all to prevent us from knowing anything about them.
And so, as Glenn Greenwald apologizes, he got Sarah Palin wrong, and his revelation has come via Katy Couric.
Bad enough he's trying to avoid Obaman. He's frightened of Letterman too.
As I was running through the Charlotte Airport last night, I couldn't help but notice the unmistakable chimp-like mug of the leader of the Western world staring absently at the camera, lips flapping, as the words of an empty-headed speech ran in closed captions in the sports bars on the concourse. Most eyes were trained on the other screens, carrying late-season baseball. I didn't have time to catch more than a few lines, but I knew immediately that Bush was playing his trump card, fear, to frighten the American public, and intimidate lawmakers into joining him, lockstep, in one more preemptive strike into unfamiliar territory.
Upon arriving home and reading the text of his speech, I knew I was right.
Bush was providing a warning to the American public, but, like 9/11, it is coming months too late, and only after the disaster has happened. Large corporations aren't the only thing facing bankruptcy. The President is writing another bad check.
One could only imagine what another President might have said under the circumstances. What would FDR, JFK or even Ronald Reagan have said? A reality check for the American public is in order, but what the country doesn't need is the panic-inducing performance our current president delivered. What the country needs is truth, encouragement, direction and leadership. George Bush fails on all accounts. John McCain is now trading in similar theatrics. Obama is moving cautiously.
Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
We traveled all around the sprawling city of Houston yesterday, and while there is the occasional home with a tree through the roof, the damage from Ike seems largely to be downed electrical wires, shingles and tiles blown off roofs, and the resulting water damage.
Things were different in Galveston. Seawater washed over much of the island, and while many of the island's structures were saved by the miraculous engineering structure of the sea wall, those buildings not protected by the wall were flooded at best, and washed away, at worst.
The west side of the island suffered most, but we also traveled to a neighborhood on the bay side (the side of the island facing the Texas mainland), and many of the homes were totally destroyed. These were older homes not built with first-floor-breakaway techniques, and they were swept from their foundations and largely torn apart.
I talked to a few of these homeowners, who lost everything, and they seemed to be in shock about returning to a lot empty of everything but the detritus of their lives, and the the strange detritus of other people's lives. Most smiled and shrugged and admitted they didn't know what they would do until they talked to their insurance people, and to FEMA (Lord help them).
I can't upload photos from my hotel room for some reason. I'll put some up tomorrow when I get home.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The financial bailout legislation is getting closer examination, and it appears that 30 words in the legislation give the Treasury of Secretary the kind of power that the Bush administration has been accumulating for seven years.
Our own Chris Dodd has an alternate plan that is getting some positive attention.
I was thinking of Dante's Inferno when I looked down at my feet at the Marriott in Houston at 11 pm where I had just arrived after a day in modern air travel hell. The rug pattern was spiraling circles, and it felt exactly like my day.
After the usual rushing around at home - getting the kids to school, packing, picking up the things at work I had forgotten to pack Friday, I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I breezed through the TSA checkpoint, and even had time for some coffee. The first leg, to Philadelphia was uneventful, but once in the City of Brotherly Love, things changed.
Our US Air Flight left slightly late, and the pilot announced there was a half hour backup of planes waiting to take off. We were second to go, when the pilot came back on to announce that there was some indicator that things weren't right, so we were heading back to the gate to have maintenance check the situation. Another 45 minute wait. Then we were told the plane could not fly and we had to "deplane," but that we ought to wait in the gate area for news of another plane to carry us to Houston.
By the time I got to the gate, the line was mammoth, and moving slowly. After another 40 minutes, the flight agent announced that if Houston was our final destination we had to get to Gate 28 (we were at 18) for our only chance of getting to Houston today.
I ran to the gate, and the line was short, but the gate agent there was angry at the intrusion of a hundred last minute travelers.
"You don't exist," he told me as he punched futilely at his keyboard (Why are airline systems so hopelessly complicated?) "You've got to go to customer service."
Another run down another concourse, and of course, another line. The Customer Service counter was a parody. The agents sauntered and yawned, left on breaks and to welcome other flights at other gates. I was in furious conversation with my travel agent (Sanditz Travel and Karen Renehan in Middletown - the best and most helpful travel agent ever), who got me booked on a Continental flight at 5:30, but I had to convince the US Air customer service agent that US Air would pay for the flight. She was easily convinced, but I should have been suspicious.
We rushed the entire length of two concourses, waited for Continental gate agents to show up only to find that the US Air agent had screwed up. We were indeed listed on the flight, but US Air had failed to notify Continental that we were an official transfer. After a long and frustrating conversation with the US Air agent, the Continental agent told us we had to go back to the other concourse (a fifteen minute walk), and get a paper ticket from US Air, that could be transferred to Continental. At this point, the Continental flight was just about to board. I asked if I could purchase a ticket for the flight, and when told I could, I did.
Once we got on the Continental flight, it was delayed an hour on the runway. We arrived after a long, cramped, crowded three hour flight (with meal service, however), to find that our camera equipment had not made it onto "the next flight" as US Air promised, but would probably be in the next day (hopefully before noon).
To end the day, the hotel gave me a non-operable key, and it was a long walk from the check-in desk.
Today we face horrendous post-hurricane Houston traffic, humidity, 90 degree weather and clouds of mosquitoes as we survey hurricane damage for a Connecticut insurance company.
Monday, September 22, 2008
William Greider, whom I've always considered to be one of our smartest, and best-informed political writers, has some legitimate criticism of the bailouts of financial instituions, and the terms of those bailouts.
As Greider suggests, the action of the government is necessary, but it should be accompanied by broad-ranging regulation, stiff penalties, future paybacks, protection against market manipulation, and help for the homeowner.
There are those on Wall Street who see the bailout as a huge opportunity. It's corporate socialism as practiced by the rich, the conservative and the Republicans.
And Greider is not the only one who feels the bailout will not work without strict regulation, and specific stipulations against profit taking. In the New York Times, oppositional editorial writers William Kristol and Paul Krugman don't think much of the offer. And Joshua Holland explains how the bailout privatizes gains while socializing losses.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
John McCain's boneheaded approach to winning an election is to appeal to the innate stupidity of the American voter. And he seems to be succeeding.
Now this. Let's deregulate healthcare so it can be as successful as the banks and insurance companies?
H/T Todd Sanderson.
I've known Paul Rousseau for years. He showed impeccable taste when he produced a folk concert series at the Art Guild of Farmington for a few years, bringing people like Fred Eaglesmith and Micheal Fracasso to appreciative audiences.
He's an impassioned environmentalist, an amazing cook, a spiritual voyager, a practical philosopher, a wide-ranging conversationalist, a spirited lefty and a scratch carpenter. Paul enjoys life.
And in the past few years, he has discovered a new passion, and turned it into yet another skill - brewing beer.
I've been invited to sip more than a few homebrews, and I've suppressed winces, and gulped politely and have issued tactful reactions like, "Mmm. That's interesting." So, when Paul dropped off a few bottles of his homebrew, I expected the worst.
I was happily surprised. The beer was good, very good. It was complex and tasty and the match for many of the microbrews I've enjoyed, and the superior to many more.
So when Paul called to bring another batch of sample bottles to the house for a night of "tasting" and conversation, I arranged a date without hesitation.
Last night Paul and Jess arrived with a small cooler, filled with brown bottles labelled with names like, "Beam me up, Scotch Ale" and "Robin Hood Bitter" and "Cherry Poppin' Girly Beer" and "New Moon Pharm Ale" and "Red Whip Belgian Wit" and "Three Amigos Chereza Stout." The names all come with a story, and as we worked our way through the wonderful beers, the names were explained, the ingredients revealed, the effect on the palate metaphorically described, and the Republican candidates for president and vice-president lambasted.
The evening ended with a counter filled with empty bottles, and my plan to walk to Earth House to hear Megafaun suddenly seemed foolish and difficult. After Paul and Jess left, I walked unsteadily up the stairway, and fell into an immediate, and sated slumber.
I've got an appointment to help Paul make a batch for him and for me, in a few weeks, and I'm already wondering what to call the batch of double ale IPA.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Everyone knows that there are no copyright notices on good ideas, and that good ideas are often not original. And Lord knows, I'm not accusing anyone at the New York Times of reading this blog.
But a week ago, I suggested that executive bonuses be put in escrow to guard against taking money in good times as they take risks which eventually destroy the business that makes them rich.
Today, the Times editorial staff essentially suggested the same thing:
One way to change this would be for banks to hold a big chunk of bankers’ pay in escrow, to be doled out over several years. A bigger share of a bankers’ pay could be made in restricted stock that can only be sold over a fairly long period of time. Golden parachutes could depend on good performance through the executive’s tenure.
Now, there’s a concept.
Why, thanks for saying so.
Nah, he'll always be Creepy Joe™ to me.
But suddenly it's clear where Creepy Joe™ Lieberman found inspiration for his overtly political, totally useless, waste-of-time Senate resolution praising the "success" of the surge. It's a campaign ploy by ultra-conservative warhawk group Vets for Freedom. They just so happened to release a TV commercial asking the public to call their representative to support the resolution.
Strangely, the commercial makes me like Obama even more, even as I laugh at the deification of General Petreus.
On the website of these bloodlusting idealogues, you can find Lieberman's co-sponsors of the bill (yes, John McCain, yes, Lindsay Graham, yes, Mr. Crapo!??) and the entire text of the pitifully partisan bill which is designed to attempt to embarass those easily cowed and embarassed Democratic lawmakers.
This is Lieberman's idea of reaching across the aisle...and slapping a colleague in the face.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The kids at Wesleyan are brilliant.
They have their ears tuned to so much interesting music. Friday night they host Megafaun, a band with roots in Wisconsin, and now living in North Carolina.
This band joyously yokes a truly traditional feel, with a wild insistence that folk music (banjo, electric guitar, drums) is participatory music. Pete Seeger is smiling.
They are playing at a Wesleyan-only concert at Earth House tonight. Maybe if you're really nice to a student, you can wrangle an invitation.
I've heard of sticking safely to the security of a scripted answer, but I think John McCain's become a bit deranged by a fear that he'll say something he shouldn't (like, "the basics of our economy are strong").
But that obsession seems to have worked against him in a recent interview with Spanish-language Florida television, where McCain seems to equate José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who happens to be a Socialist (not such an unusual, or repulsive thing in Europe), with conservative foes like Hugo Chavez.
McCain demonstrates his ability to alienate allies is on a par with George Bush.
BTW, you've got to love Time Magazine's headline: The Pain In Spain Falls Mainly on McCain.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is crossing the aisle again.
This time, Mr. Non-partisan is offering up a non-binding Senate resolution to declare the surge, a success.
Less excitable men would wait to be sure the success of the surge sticks. Not Lieberman. He's out ahead of the wave. Look at his support for John McCain, when others had written McCain off. Of course, when you're surfing ahead of the wave, it often crashes down upon you.
Why would Lieberman propose such a resolution. A resolution which Republicans would clamor to embrace. A resolution which would stick in the craw of spineless Democrats who will vote "yes" knowing that a positive or negative vote will call down the harpies of conservatism upon their heads, but a "yes" vote will allow them to say they support the troops.
Lieberman isn't finished punishing the Democrats who he perceives as treating him so badly. You know, the Democrats who have allowed him to keep his chairmanship and seniority even after he works with every ounce of energy to denigrate them. Those Democrats. The ones who aren't like the Democrats that married dear old dad.
Hey neighbor, as co-owners of AIG, what kind of mischief can we make today.
Do we demand the keys to the executive wash room?
Ask that the advertising agency rethink the slogan "The strength to be there?"
Apply the employee discount to our insurance policy?
Come up with a new tag for the TV ads instead of "Never outlive your money?"
Fire all those managers at the 2VP level and up?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
Connecticut Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman claimed in his Judas address at the Republican National Campaign that Barack Obama "is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead, but my friends, eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times for America."
Insulting enough that the former Democrat would dismiss his colleague's record, and his readiness to be President so readily, but now this.
While in Seattle, at a wedding (avoiding Connecticut at all costs), Creepy Joe™, completed the slur by indicating that Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Bush-in-a-skirt, Sarah Palin "will be ready. She's a strong, confident, smart person who has had some executive experience."
For chrissakes Joe, just how stupid do you think we are?
BTW, Creepy Joe™ can't seem to get over the fact that bloggers, protected by the First Amendment, who helped him lose the Democratic party, his party affiliation, and the unconditional support of Connecticut state Democrats.
According to Lieberman: "Honestly, they are taking the party to a place where it shouldn't go. They are taking it to a place very removed from the party I joined when John F. Kennedy was president. They are taking it to a place very different from where it was when Bill Clinton was president."
I think we call that progress, Joe. And my thanks to Dailykos, Myleftnutmeg, CTBob, Firedoglake and all the other bloggers who made your irritation possible.
The Bush is as big a failure as Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers and AIG.
Having worked, and done work for dozens of corporations I always feel ill at ease when anyone suggests that the government should be run like a corporation.
With the news about Merrill Lynch and Lehman Brothers today, it seems obvious that maybe the government ought not be considered a business, or be run like one.
And it should serve as a warning to anyone stupid enough to suggest that Social Security ought to be privatized (John McCain). Imagine where we'd be today if the entire Social Security account were tied to the performance of companies like Merrill and Lehman.
I'm not an economist, and I don't pretend to understand all the complexities of modern finance, but I think I'm smart enough to ask some simple questions about a frustratingly complex system.
Is the modern corporation too complex to be led by a single individual or CEO? Is the single-leader CEO a model too antiquated for companies as large and complex as today's companies?
Should complex, high-risk, high-return, high-loss, extra-regulatory financial schemes be allowed (hedge funds, mortgage bundling, derivative products) without regulation? And if they are, should taxpayers be required to bail them out?
Should executive bonuses be put into escrow for 10 years to determine if the high-risk behaviors of companies have put the fundamental soundness of companies at risk?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I stopped into Central News this morning for the Sunday morning ritual of picking up the New York Times, and allowing Dom to lavish sweets on my boys.
Billy greeted me at the door.
"We didn't get the papers today, Eddie," he said gravely. "The Koppelman guy didn't show up, and he's very reliable."
The HP Koppelman Company distributes newspapers throughout central Connecticut, and the very reliable delivery agent hadn't checked into headquarters, and hadn't made deliveries anywhere in town.
After a cup of coffee, and a bagel at Brewbakers with Paul, Sowgol and Nadine, I returned to Central News and Billy said, "They're not coming today. We're closing early."
And so, I'll be forced to read the New York Times online today. And already, there's some essential reading.
A front-page story which delivers the facts about Sarah Palin's vindictive, corrupt, cronyistic tenure as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska.
A revealing editorial by Frank Rich about the real strategy behind the McCain-Palin ticket.
And while I'm at it, may I recommend a few columns from the opinion section of the Hartford Courant this morning.
There's Kevin Rennie's startling account of his personal witnessing of John McCain's transformation from reformer to scoundrel.
And the Al Hubbard's and Norm Neusner's disturbing account of Chris Dodd's failure to recognize the emerging dilemma at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac when something could have been done to stem the crisis.
The news matches the day. Gloomy.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Guilty as charged. This makes a lot of sense. Sarah Palin as a distraction while the press, and even the liberal blogosphere, ignores Barack Obama.
Time to stop following Karl Rove's slime trail.
George Bush has spent the last seven years not pursuing Osama bin Laden. Now, in the waning days of his disastrous presidency, he has decided it's time to off the reclusive leader of al-Qaida.
So, despite the fact that he will jeopardize any cooperation with Pakistan's government in the hunt for terrorists, the drones are buzzing mountain villages, and dropping bombs on suspected hideouts.
The question, of course, is why now?
Could it be that Republicans think that killing Osama bin Laden would cripple the candidacy of Barack Obama? Obama has repeatedly accused Bush of taken his eye off of Osama bin Laden in his distraction in Iraq.
Could it be that in these last days of his fear-invoking administration, Bush no longer needs the boogie man of Osama bin Laden to wave in the faces of a fearful populace?
Could it be that the failure to kill or capture Osama bin Laden would forever stain even the trumped-up legacy of a worthless president?
After all, what's are the lives of a few innocent Pakistani mountain dwellers compared to the legacy of a strutting Texan.
Sarah Palin, as revealed in her first interview, is a fraud.
In an hilarious, though frightening, skewering by Keith Olbermann, Palin appears to be a buffoon who is unaware that people are beginning to laugh. She says she's an expert on Russia because you can see parts of Russia from Alaska. As Olbermann notes, that would make him Alan Greenspan because from his anchor desk, he can see into the headquarters of Chase Manhattan. By the same logic, Palin would be a planetary expert, because, many of those are visible from Alaska too.
This morning, the New York Times calls John McCain's judgment into question for nominating so willfully naieve a candidate as Palin for so important an office.
And even the ladies on The View, have put real journalist to shame for finally calling McCain on his lies.
If America elects this pair, we will become the laughingstock of a world which has already lost most of its respect for a country that was once noble, fair, generous and sane.
Friday, September 12, 2008
The title of this blog entry is stolen from a very short, very funny song by woefully neglected songwriter Biff Rose, (who coincidentally is getting some attention because a song of his was recently covered by Vetiver, on their new album of covers, Things of the Past. BTW, Rose has been covered by David Bowie - Fill Your Heart from Hunky Dory, and by John Denver - Molly's Song.)
Anyway, the song lyric is, "He's just a shell of a man, but if you put him to your ear you can hear the ocean roar."
It's how I feel about Sarah Palin,
Her interview with the less-than-agressive Charlie Gibson, who put on his serious face, but rarely directly challenged one of Palin's vapid, rehearsed, and contradictory answers. His idea of a "gotcha" was "the Bush doctrine." She was rightfully confused. WTF is the Bush doctrine? To act without thinking? To lie repeatedly with no remorse? To send us into an immoral, murderous, treasury-draining war? To alienate our allies? To rob us of our liberty? To keep administration crimes and corruption top secret? C'mon Charlie.
So what was Palin's response when she finally thought she figured out what Gibson was referring to? She thinks George Bush was agressively pursuing those who are "hellbent on our destruction." Does that mean he's sending the troops into to attack Wall Street bankers, hedge-fund operators and high-risk mortgage lenders?
"Hellbent?" The Bush administration, and conservative zealots like Sarah Palin have done more to bring us to the brink of hell than any terrorist has ever done. We are now a morally and financially bankrupt nation which has abandoned the poor and the middle class for the increasing profit of the rich. We have tortured, kidnapped, imprisoned and murdered in the name of liberty. We have created a deeply secret shadow government of spies, eavesdroppers, felons and mercenaries. We have abetted divisions between race, class, religion and economic status. And we've done it all with our hands on our hearts saluting a flag soiled by a patriotic tunnel vision that doesn't allow us to examine the destruction we leave in our path.
And where does Sarah Palin place the responsibility? In God's lap. And her empty-headed trust in a vengeful God is challenged, she passes the squawling baby of war to Abraham Lincoln.
I know that if I visited the Lincoln Memorial today, Abe Lincoln would have his head hung low.
Saras Palin is bad. As bad as George Bush. Sarah Palin is dangerous. As dangerous as Dick Cheney. She is willing to sacrifice any sense she might have had for honesty and decency to push forward an idealogy which is as frightening as it is divisive. She will push us into war with Russia. She will rail against big government while she fortifies the military industrial complex. Like an inquisitioner blinded by zealotry, she will invoke the name of Jesus as she stands ankle-deep in the blood of the infidel.
She is a vessel into which conservative idealogues have poured the venom of their philosophy. She is a blank slate upon which Karl Rove has written his disdain for the freedom and liberty of his countrymen. She is a puppet whose strings are being pulled by the rich and the powerful, who will crush you to make the wine that intoxicates them. She is the opposite of what she says she is, and when she corrects what she says, she is the opposite again.
I'm angry and insulted, and I hope you are too. As Johnny Rotten once sang, "Anger is an energy." I hope this anger drives me, and you, to work our asses off to be sure that this monster is not elected to sit within a heartbeat of the presidency.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Another important essay about framing in the Presidential campaign. Turns out that George Lakoff is worried that the Obama campaign is moving in the wrong direction frame-wise, and conversely, the McCain campaign is defining itself through frames which touch Americans at a deep level.
As Lakoff suggests, when McCain calls himself a maverick, the last thing you want to do is say, "He's not a maverick." Because, while confronting him in a clearly negative way, you repeat his frame ("maverick") and that only reinforces it in the minds of voters. Instead, as Lakoff suggests, forget using the phrase "not a maverick," and use the frame "yes man."
Obama should be saying that McCain is "in with the Washington in-crowd," who use their influence to funnel power to those who are already rich and powerful.
Sarah Palin has frightened Democratic supporters of Barack Obama more than Dick Cheney scratching on your window at midnight, ever could.
Gail Collins is calm, and her Op-ed in the New York Times might calm even the most paranoid of Obama supporters.
The sky isn't falling, all you Henny Penny's, it's just Republicans lowering the level of campaign discussion. Remember, Foxy Loxy is not to be trusted.
(Foxy Loxy in a recent photo.)
Dave Schulz is a wonderful artist, whose work happens to be on display at the Russell Library in Middletown CT, this month.
But he's also a front-yard editorialist. His Burma Shave style, drive-by messages are always on target, and two-sided. Not that he discusses both sides of an issue, simply that both sides of his yard signs carry a message. This is the first time, as far as I know, that Schulz has used a visual only, no words, message for South bound drivers and pedestrians.
To see the work yourself, drive down Ridge south from Main Street Extension, and just as it passes Russell Street, you'll find the signs.
Here's what you'll see driving South.
And here's what you'll see driving North.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
How gullible are we?
"Lipstick on a pig" an insult to Sarah Palin?
Have we ever met a candidate with skin so thin?
And John McCain is abashed? Didn't he refer to his wife, unpoetically, as a cunt?
As it turns out, McCain has used the same phrase, "lipstick on a pig," reportedly often. Maybe he used it on the floor of the Senate, and that's where Barack Obama picked it up.
I guess Democrats ought to learn not to talk metaphorically, especially, if a Republican is within earshot. I mean, what would a Republican do if he/she were described in any of these regionally familiar metaphors.
The reasons for going to war in Iraq were as thin as turnip soup.
When George Bush was asked about his relationship with Jack Abramoff, he looked like a dog shitting a peach pit.
When John McCain said he would run an honorable, respectable campaign, Barack Obama said, "Don't piss down my back and tell me it's raining."
Karl Rove is so so good at convincing the public that he could've sold the pope a double bed.
Dick Cheney is as cold as a welldigger's ass.
And George Bush, dumb as a bag of hair.
Metaphorically speaking Republican's are as sensitive as cowboy's balls on the first day of a cattle drive.
BTW, you can put lipstick on Giuliani, and he's still an asshole.
You can tell I'm not a politician.
If I were Ruff Tuff™ Harry Reid, I'd dump Creepy Joe™ Lieberman in a Stamford minute. There's not much at risk. The Democratic Party in the Senate looks as if it'll pick up enough seats to make Lieberman's vote essential. And even if John McCain wins (Lord help us), Lieberman's seat will be filled by Jodi Rell because the Connecticut State Legislature never took seriously the proposal to make re-filling a Senate seat, a legislative or referendum issue (it doesn't hurt that CT House Speaker Jim Amman supported Lieberman over Lamont, even after Lieberman abandoned the party).
But it turns out that Democratic heads might be turned by money. Money, of all things. Can you imagine. Lieberman has been making generous donations to Democratic Senate races. And, as the L.A. Times' Andrew Malcolm notes, that may make them less likely to leave Joe in the lurch.
It demonstrates, mostly, that Lieberman is a political animal of some skill, and that when push comes to shove, it's his own skin he thinks of first.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
It's foolhardy and dangerous not to acknowledge that Sarah Palin was a brilliant selection by the Rovian branch of the Republican party. As George Lakoff notes (read the entire article -it's important):
Palin is the mom in the strict father family, upholding conservative values. Palin is tough: she shoots, skins, and eats caribou. She is disciplined: raising five kids with a major career. She lives her values: she has a Downs-syndrome baby that she refused to abort. She has the image of the ideal conservative mom: pretty, perky, feminine, Bible-toting, and fitting into the ideal conservative family. And she fits the stereotype of America as small-town America. It is Reagan's morning-in-America image. Where Obama thought of capturing the West, she is running for Sweetheart of the West...
She is also masterful at using the progressive narratives: she's from the working class, working her way up from hockey mom and the PTA to Mayor, Governor, and VP candidate. Her husband is a union member. She can say to the conservative populists that she is one of them -- all the things that Obama and Biden have been saying. Bottom-up, not top-down.
While she is laughably incapable, lacking in credibility, incredibly uninformed, and a shell into which the Republicans are pouring words and idealogy, at the level of policy detail, on another level, a symbolic, metaphoric level, she is perfect for a wide swath of America. Hockey mom. Small town mayor. American rebel.
And as Lakoff points out, going after her at the detail, policy level plays into the Republican game plan which they can frame as "Democrats and the liberal media picking on small-town Mom."
So when Barack Obama complains, "C'mon you can't just make things up," he's wrong. They can. They do. And they've done it before and won.
And we must never forget that Palin's description of herself is also true - a pit-bull with lipstick. She will say, and do, anything to win.
Karl Rove got George Bush elected by taking the best of what being a Democrat and a progressive means, and perverting the language into a new frame so that his candidate could pillage the constitution, rape the environment and pander to the rich and powerful, while we all smiled and repeated, "No child left behind...mission accomplished...homeland security...operation enduring freedom..clear skies initiative."
As Lakoff says, Democrats, being Democrats, will mostly talk about the realities nonstop without paying attention to the dimensions of values and symbolism. Democrats, in addition, need to call an extremist an extremist: to shine a light on the shared anti-democratic ideology of McCain and Palin, the same ideology shared by Bush and Cheney. They share values antithetical to our democracy. That needs to be said loud and clear, if not by the Obama campaign itself, then by the rest of us who share democratic American values.
So, how do we re-frame Sarah Palin, and for that matter, John McCain? Here are my suggestions.
Mommie, Dearest - Sarah Palin as Joan Crawford. On the outside, she's the perfect mother. In reality, she's a lying, play-acting, sadistic, powerful monster only interested in making things better for herself, and her rich friends. Like Bush and Cheney, she and McCain will sell the country to special interests, take our freedoms from us, and leave the least powerful of us to fend for ourselves. Oh, she'll take care of us, all right.
Church Lady - Isn't that special? Sarah Palin as a sanctimonious, hypocritical and ultimately unhinged Jesus freak. Do we want another potential president who thinks that God is whispering orders into her ear?
See a sample of Church Lady at Jibjab.
Thurston Howell, III and Ellie Mae Clampett - John McCain as an out-of-touch aristocrat, who's trapped on an island and can't escape, and Sarah Palin as a feisty, pretty, naieve and unsophisticated rich girl, who's beholden to oil wealth. They'd be funny if they weren't so dangerous.
Wasteland of the Free - I don't know of any song which has re-framed the words of conservative leaders to show how antithetical they are to democracy, freedom and caring than Iris Dement's Wasteland of the Free. You can hear it here.
It's been reported that Connecticut's US Senator, Creepy Joe™ Lieberman received a "hero's welcome," on his return to the Senate, yesterday, from Republicans.
And despite the fact that he brags often about "crossing the aisle," it appears he was afraid to cross over to the Democratic side of the Senate floor on his return visit.
He'll be sneaking in and out of the Senate the way he now sneaks in and out of the state of Connecticut.
The Obama campaign has something to say about that.
And so does James Garner.
And so does Talking Points Memo.
And so does Keith Olbermann.
BTW, I think that's "blowing smoke up my canyon."
Monday, September 8, 2008
Oops. It's becoming clear that she doesn't know her fanny from her Fannie Mae.
Still, that doesn't prevent thousands of gullible Americans from embracing her as the conservative crutch John McCain will need to lean on to become president.
Andrew Berends (Wesleyan, 1994) an award-winning documentary filmmaker has been detained in Nigeria for filming a Nigerian army deployment in the oil-producing Niger Delta.
Detained for a week, Berends was released briefly, and re-detained today along with his local translator Samuel George.
A website has been created to help those who are concerned keep up-to-date on Berends' fate, and to direct those willing to take action to the appropriate US officials.
Berends is best-known for his documentary about the war in Iraq, The Blood of My Brother.
There is little more frightening to me than a powerful public official who is ruled by his/her communication with god first, and who uses reason and common sense as a secondary resource.
It's one of the reasons George Bush has been such a terror. After all, wasn't it Jesus who told him to invade Iraq?
And it seems as if Sarah Palin feels that the war in Iraq is a "task from God," as she proclaimed from the pulpit of her former church in Wasilla.
Wasn't our entire American revolution about throwing off the yoke of tyranny imposed by a king who claimed a divine right as monarch?
Where exactly is the outrage that was leveled at Barack Obama, and his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright? Sarah Palin not only attended a church with outrageous beliefs about witchcraft, the coming of the final days, creationism, and the invocation of the "holy spirit," but she has proclaimed that her mission has been shaped by her church experience. And her pastor is (and my apologies to anyone with actual mental health issues) a certified nutcase.
Sample any portion of this video and see if you don't agree:
Some early alternative journalism work is linking Palin, and her church with the Third Wave movement, which promotes domination of the world by an army of Christian apostles (Bruce Wilson's alleged "documentary" is a messy pastiche of horrifying christian rituals, which doesn't prove a damned thing other than some Christian sects are so demented as to pass the holy ghost via cellphone - "Can you hear me now?"). And while the evidence that Palin herself is a Dominionist, isn't exactly clear, what is clear is that she's been close to the center of a movement, that given Homeland Security definitions, might be considered a terrorist organization.
I think anyone has the right to believe whatever fairytale they want to believe, without interference from the government, as long as they aren't hurting anyone else.
But I don't want someone making decision about me, my family, my community, my government and my country, who doesn't have the good sense to tell their Jesus to mind his own business when it comes to making policy.