Sunday, November 30, 2008

A plea for the non-expert

I'm gonna go a little "george bush" here, and suggest that perhaps having a cabinet and advisory team composed only of vetted, tested, degreed, published experts is not altogether the best idea.

I don't agree with every appointment Barack Obama has made, but I can understand the rationale behind each. He always seems to get some one on the team who is really smart to complement the person who is the politcal veteran.

And hell, no one's happier than I that Samantha Powers is back on the team.

But what appears to be missing is the common touch. And I'm not talking about Sarah Small-Town or Joe the Plumber. I'm talking about non-politicians, non-bureaucrats, non-Ph.ds, non-Ivy leaguers, non-DC veterans, like a longtime teacher, or the founder of a non-profit that serves a community, or a family practice physician, or a small-business owner, or a veteran reporter, or a veteran who could add some street credibility to all the high-falutin ideas that are about to be thrown around in the Obama White House.

Who would I like to see Obama talk to on a regular basis?

I think, like Truthout, that Michael Pollan is not a bad idea (thanks Susan Campbell for suggesting this). But there's plenty more where Pollan came from, people who don't necessarily have the time or inclination to run for office, but who have the time to share ideas and perspectives, especially with someone like the president, who can get so terribly insulated from the real world.

I'd like someone on the cabinet who would just ask, "Could you explain what you mean?" when some expert comes up with a great plan, or is willing to say, "That doesn't make sense to me." Because what we're finding out, as if we didn't already know, is that the experts don't always have the answers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

James Castle and the art of making art with what you've got

In truth, my long walk down Philadelphia's beautiful, and art filled parkway was a way to kill an afternoon, while my wife spent the afternoon with the womenfolk at an afternoon luncheon, and some post-repast shopping.

We ambled past the Rodin museum where the boys posed like The Thinker. We all paid our respects to the Rocky statue, then raced up the steps toward the museum on the hill.

I wasn't sure how long great art could keep the attention of five year olds, but we breezed through the armor display, and spent a bit of time focusing on some masters of late 19th and early 2oth century art, where the boys lingered a good 15 minutes watching a student artist copying one of the masters.

But we were all taken with the extensive display of art by James Castle, a naif, untutored master who, when he died in 1977, left behind a treasure-trove of simple masterpieces fashioned, literally from string, paper sacks, spit and ingenuity.

We sat, and rested our legs, and watched the wonderful documentary, James Castle:Portrait of an Artist, then walked through the amazing, densely populated exhibit of made-over ads, instructive illustrated booklets, cardboard-cutout portraits, carton sculpture and barnyard illustrations, and each of us was fascinated in our own way.

He was a bit of a recluse, deaf, perhaps autistic and driven by his need to create, and until well into his career, clueless that anyone outside of family and close friends might care about his creations.

This exhibit is well-worth a trip to the interesting city of Philadelphia which understands that art is as important as sports team to make a city alluring.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dr. Doom strikes again

(New York Times photo)

Nouriel Roubini ruined my summer vacation.

It was the first weekend of a week in Maine, and I sat on the cabin deck reading the Sunday Times. When I got to the magazine, I was taken by an article about Roubini, a professor of economics at NYU, who had predicted in 2006 the ruinous recession we're facing today.

In August we had not yet seen the corporate bankruptcies, and the decline in consumer confidence that is now everyday news. We already experienced the collapse of a sketchy mortgage market, one that he predicted two years earlier.

I didn't sleep through the night for three days. I tossed sleepless to a chorus of frogs croaking, "Doom, doom, doom."

His recent predictions in Forbes of what he calls "'stag-deflation' -- a deadly combination of stagnation/recession and deflation," are both frightening and enlightening. He understands the economy at a level few academic or practicing economists seem to. He feels stag-deflation could literally pull the economy down into depression unless some "out-of-the-box" solutions are attempted is dense, sobering, harrowing and essential reading.

One hopes that some of Obama's economic team are reading Forbes.

It makes me want to go out on Black Friday and spend a few bucks to help unclog the credit clog.

If you want more of Roubini, on a daily basis in fact, you can subscribe to his daily RGE Monitor for free.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Slowly, slowly the slime dries in the sun

Creepy Joe Lieberman's character sinks lower still as the Washington Post reveals that he supported the opponents of Sentorial candidates who spoke on his behalf.

What an imitation of a man.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

There's a difference between regret and apology

Creepy Joe™ Lieberman slunk back into Hartford ready to dissemble the truth.

According to a report in the Hartford Courant, he held a press conference, and strangely, had his wife Hadadsah at his side (hiding behind her skirts?), to talk about the economy.

Of course, talk turned to Lieberman's trouble with the Democrats, his potential censure by Connecticut Democrats, and his relationship with the new president.

When asked if he was going to apologize, the Courant reports:

As he did during an interview Sunday with Tom Brokaw on NBC's "Meet the Press," Lieberman expressed regret about some of his criticism of Obama, yet avoided an apology.

"I think they are pretty much the same thing," Lieberman said.

Obama publicly urged the Senate Democrats not to expel Lieberman, but he has yet to return Lieberman's congratulatory phone call. Lieberman said he will reach out once again after Thanksgiving and that he will convey his regrets to Obama.

"In the heat of the campaign, I said some things about President-elect Obama that I could have said more clearly," Lieberman said. "And I said a couple of things that I wish I hadn't said at all."

Hmmm? "Regret" and "apology" pretty much the same thing? Not quite Joe, but your narcissism probably doesn't allow you to see that regret focuses on the inner "me," while apology extends to someone outside of yourself. Your regret is fine, but if it's never coupled with a sincere apology, it's meaningless to anyone else. Now if you had said "remorse" is nearly the same thing, you would be more on target.

BTW, Lieberman seems to be taking a certain amount of glee in the economic downturn in the way it allows him to deflect criticism, and talk about cutting stimulus checks for constituents.

We ain't buying it Joe.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Betrayal is unconventional too

On Sunday's Real Story on Hartford's Fox 61, Creepy Joe Lieberman continued his deflection of criticism, avoidance of blame, and refusal to apologize by calling his actions "unconventional."

In addition, Lieberman seems suddenly concerned with Connecticut. Where was that concern when these troubles were brewing throughout last year when he was on the stump for John McCain.

Lieberman also declares, "I've been a good Democrat," but he seems to forget that he left the party during the campaign against Ned Lamont, and that he campaigned for the Republicans.

He strangely admitted that he feels Barack Obama is still less qualified than John McCain for the role of president, but claims he never said Obama was "unready" during the campaign. Keith Olbermann on Countdown, pointed out the inaccuracy of that statement.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The next time someone suggests an entity ought to be "run like a business," why I....

(Not anymore.)

I've railed against the suggestion for years.

How many times have you heard some b-school grad with a night school MBA say: "the government ought to be run like a business," or "this non-profit ought to be run like a business," or "this event ought to be run like a business."

Well, fuck that.

Would they mean businesses like AIG, GM, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Where are all the mom and pop's when you need them? After all, it's the local banks, and closely-held local businesses which seem to have the best chances of succeeding if the entire economy doesn't go over the edge.

Maybe you've seen the list going around the web advising against buying gift cards at various big box national stores. Get a load, here and here (take these with a grain of salt because these email lists come unbidden without much verification, but they can't be helping retail at these outlets).

So, the feds our bailing out Citigroup, according to reports today. But take some time to read the detailed report of Citigroup's failings in the New York Times yesterday, and you'll be appalled at the way this giant of giants was run. Imagine the employee who screwed things up was making $30 million a year (that's right, a corporate employee - not even a CEO), before he was asked to pack his golden parachute and jump.

What we need is smaller companies and more regulation. The mantra of "bigger is better," has been replaced by "too big to fail." The notion of required annual growth of 20% has been replaced by investors fleeing to government bonds which are paying well below 1%. There's a lesson to be learned, and I wonder, when all is said and done, if this lesson will trump (no pun intended), the eventual greed which will eventually re-emerge.

If I were treasury secretary, these are some of the rules I'd enforce:

- If you get a government bailout, the CEO, CFO, COO, and every president must go.
- Assets exceeding $1 million, of all executives, or all major corporations which have filed for bankruptcy, or are applying for government bailout, will be frozen.
- All financial malfeasance will be considered treasonous (since it could potentially lead to the downfall of the government and the country), and will be treated as such by the courts.
- If you get a government bailout, no executive salary will exceed $250,000.
- If you get a government bailout there will be no executive or management bonuses until the debt is repaid.
- No investment vehicle can be created and sold that is so complex that it can't be explained, in a 20 minute session, to a potential investor from any walk of life.
- Banks must hold the risk for 50% of all the loans they make.
- Banks, insurance companies, and investment houses must once again be separate and distinct entities, not owned together as part of a corporation or conglomerate.
- Pension funds at all corporations must be fully-funded immediately, and not be used as a resource for any other purposes by corporations.

Let's stop pretending that success is dictated by how many companies can be swallowed by a bigger company. Let's return to a time when success meant creating a great product or service, when a 5% return over a long period was adequate and when salary inflation didn't create rock stars out of sociopaths in suits.

Being a party of one means never having to say you're sorry

In which Creepy Joe™ Lieberman spends an entire Meet the Press segment avoiding making an apology, even when pressed by Tom Brokaw.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The road between heaven and hell

If you're interested, and you haven't found it yet, I've begun posting a novel I wrote 20 years ago on a site called, The Road Between Heaven and Hell.

It's the story of the Old Leatherman. Actually it's a parallel story about the Old Leatherman, and a boy who grows up during the time when the Leatherman roamed.

The novel was sort of an exorcism for me. I wrote it to rid myself of all the questions and theories I carried around about this 19th century wanderer.

I was inspired to dig it out because of the publication of Dan DeLuca's new book of research on the Old Leatherman for the Wesleyan University Press. It's called The Old Leatherman too. If you read Dan's book, you'll know that my novel is a complete work of fiction.

In re-reading it, I'm a bit surprised at how violent the first couple of chapters are. I think it calms down a bit, but I know my re-drawing of life on the road in the late 1800's is not without many hardships, and a modicum of bloodshed.

I'll be posting a new chapter each week, for the next couple of months. It's never been submitted or edited, so your comments are welcome. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks to the several dozen people who have already read the first chapter. There's a new chapter today.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

John Chapman, John Mellor, just because

I finally got around to watching The Future Is Unwritten.

You're after getting the honey, then you don't go killing all the bees.

Hey that was my idea.

(Wave bye-bye, now.)

Gail Collins suggests an early holiday gift from the ever-lame Bush administration.

Can you say WPA?

In his weekly radio/internet address, President-elect Barack Obama vowed to create 2.5 million public works, infrastructure and green energy jobs in his first year in office.

While Franklin Roosevelt's WPA (Works Projects Administration) was instituted late in the economic crisis which became the Great Depression, and hence could not put an end to that slough of despair (it took Pearl Harbor, unfortunately, to accomplish that), it did put millions of Americans to work while building roads, open national parks, create libraries and public buildings, and put hundreds of artists, photographers, writers, historians, musicians and ethnomusicologists to work.

While a lot of economic damage could still be done in the last two months of the disastrous Bush administration, perhaps Obama's early announcements will help forstall a total breakdown of the system (parts of which have irretrievably broken down already), and create a new green energy that can be an engine for economic and environmental progress in the US.

I hope the Obama plan, like the Roosevelt plan, remembers the artists. The achievements of WPA artists is well-documented. Murals, sculptures, important histories, and a vast body of archived folk art resources are all the product of WPA. It would be great that this crisis too fueled an American cultural renaissance.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dimwits, cons, ninnies, narcissists, thieves and liars

Notice how they're all men, and they're all wearing suits.

All week long I've tried to write a blogpost about the failure of American leadership at nearly every level. I've deleted more paragraphs than have ended up in this post, and all that remains is the original blogpost title.

I know I'm not alone in my dismay and disregard for the people who run this country, and who run the big companies in our national and international marketplace.

In my naivete, I guess I expect more from people who have been elevated to positions of power and responsibility, then most of them seem able to deliver as fallible humans. And we as followers, constituents, employees, citizens are frequently too weak or unwilling to throw the bums out, and wrest control of the whole shebang ourselves.

My disappointment is sharpened to a jagged edge this week by the failure of the Senate to impose justice on Senator Lieberman, by auto execs who fly to Congressional testimony in private jets, by insurance companies buying banks so they can be part of the financial (handout) bailout, by bailed-out insurance and bank execs using taxpayer money for bonuses, by a President-elect for whom I still hold out hope who is selecting Clinton has-beens and warhawks for his cabinet, by a lame-duck president who, when he is not absent, is still saddling us with ruinous regulations and by our insistence on using an relentlessly unstable, woefully complex, Wall Street, run by frantic, greedy traders who are like ADD students on amphetamines.

These are whom we choose as our leaders. And when things are going well, we hang on their every word. Read about their amazing exploits. Try to divine the source of their genius. Buy magazines filled with their pictures. Covet books filled with their marketing and management secrets. Crowd auditoriums just to be in the same room with them. Pay them millions of dollars to run our companies, and our country. Hail them as heroes. Weep when they die.

Until the world proves they are asses, and we were bigger asses for thinking they weren't.

I know it's exponentially more complex than I am making it, but:

- How does laying off 52,000 employees help a company or the economy? (doesn't it make both worse?)
- How does laying off 52,000 please investors when most of the laid-off were shareholders, and most of us, who have money in 401K accounts, and mutual funds, can't be happy that such a move will be ruinous to an already ruined economy (Citigroup BTW, fell below the $5 a share threshold and now cannot be held in mutual fund accounts)
- What does the opinion of investors matter when we now know they know so little about anything? (This quote from the Hartford Courant this morning really stuns me - does this "consultant" really believe he knows what he's talking about, or that any of us believe him anymore, when he says: "Investors are concerned about the guarantees embedded in life insurers' balance sheets related to variable annuities," said Donald Light, senior analyst at the Boston-based consulting firm Celent. Some annuities linked to equities "guarantee a minimum level of appreciation, and when the underlying equity investments plummet, that creates liabilities.")
- Doesn't laying of 52,000 employees mean, potentially, 50,000 less TVs purchased, a couple thousand less cars purchased, several hundred less refrigerators and sofas purchased?
- Does laying off 52,000 employees mean the CEO gets to keep his bonus?
- Does any CEO still think that he or she really has a handle on controlling their company, much less the way their company operates in a marketplace controlled by unfathomable forces?
- Can we ever really consider bailing out auto manufacturers who refused to create fuel-efficient cars, much less green, alternative-energy cars?
- Aren't the reprehensible executives and traders who have crippled our entire globe more criminal than someone who rips off an ATM, or robs a bank? Where is the exploding red dye pack for the corporate criminal who walks away with the money earned on the backs of employees and customers?

What this world needs right now is a little calming down. Let's shut down Wall Street for a month. Put a moratorium on layoffs and foreclosures. Ban all executive bonuses. Prevent lobbyists from getting any closer than 500 yards from the Capitol. Kill No Child Left Behind. Freeze the assets of every CEO who has led a company to bankruptcy. Let's build some roads, and bridges, and schools and theaters, and thousands of electric cars. Let's demand that every big box store in every community fill their roofs with solar cells, or shut down.

Lets move quietly through the holidays. Treat each other well. Exchange small gifts. Treat our earth as the precious resource it is, and understand that the only way we get through this, is together.

Crawling from the wreckage

Creepy Joe™ Lieberman is emerging from the smoldering heap of the McCain campaign to try to regain face in his home state, and in the nation.

In the process, he's attempting to re-write history, or to ignore any of it that's inconvenient.

His interview with Katie Couric was broadcast yesterday, and he hit the morning TV (Fox 61) and radio shows (WTIC-AM) in Hartford.

In the Couric interview, he backs away from saying that a question about Barack Obama being a marxist was a "good question." Though the facts don't seem to back his adjusted history up.

NAPOLITANO: Hey Sen. Lieberman, you know Barack Obama, is he a Marxist as Bill Kristol says might be the case in today’s New York Times?

Is he an elitist like your colleague Hillary Clinton says he is?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I must say that’s a good question. I know him now for a little more than three years since he came into the Senate and he’s obviously very smart and he’s a good guy. I will tell ya that during this campaign, I’ve learned some things about him, about the kind of environment from which he came ideologically. And I wouldn’t…I’d hesitate to say he’s a Marxist, but he’s got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America.

Maybe he thinks, over the course of four years, that will forgive and forget, like his colleagues in the Senate.

But there are plenty of guys like me who will patiently wait to help remind the electorate when Creepy Joe™ decides to run again.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hopping good

There's a great article on Dogfish Head beers, and their creator Sam Calagione in the latest issue of the New Yorker, their annual food issue. On line there's also an audio interview with the article author Burkhard Bilger.

I love Dogfish Head IPAs (60, 90 and 120), which beer aficionado Kevin Markowski introduced me to one night at Eli Cannon's.

It's great to live in a town where a place like Eli's has always been adventurous in the beers they keep on tap, and their encouragement to sample extreme beers.

Our respected president

Our ship of state is floating rudderless.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It came from the swamp

I didn't get my annual Louisiana fix this year, and I'm feeling it. The annual intake of capsaicin and fat via gumbo, cracklins, boudin, crawfish and sausage, and the endorphin rush it induces has been missing. And the hours of dancing to thumping accordion and fiddle music has left me restless and aching, especially after the Lieberman humiliation.

So I turned to the internet to watch a few episodes of one of my favorite lo-fi, vernacular-drenched, home-baked TV series, the truly inimitable, Swamp 'n' Roll (broadcastinng from Casa Ole in Opelousas, no less), hosted by my good friend Todd Ortego, and his longtime sidekick, Dr. Feelgood.

It's starting to work. A few two-steps with the Black Pot Playboys, some kickin' zydeco with Leroy Thomas, the heartbreak country of Drew Landry. All I need is a good pot of gumbo, and I know how to make that.

Of particular interest in the Swamp 'n' Roll archive is a set with Horace Trahan and the Huval-Doucet band, which now includes the Huval brothers, and Matthew Doucet (who looks the spitting image of his dad Michael). Trahan is back playing mostly traditional Cajun music, but his story is as instructive as it is tragic.

I met Horace first at a festival in Rhode Island when he was still a teenager. He played a mean accordion, and dressed in white shirt, tie, and a dress cowboy hat. No swagger, no flash. He was dedicated to tradition. When I saw him next, in the function room of city hall in Eunice, LA, he was fronting a zydeco band, and a few months later had a monster regional hit with "That Butt Thang," which is about, well, yes.

But instead of exploiting his success, he donated all the proceeds from his successful song to his newly discovered faith, and the church where he was saved. He quit music, then quit the church, then took up illicit substances, had a child, and just recently began playing music again. He's still an amazing player, deadpan and true, and his version of "Uncle Bud," is nearly as compelling as Boozoo's.

If I was in Louisiana tonight, I'd drive over to Casa Ole, where the next edition of Swamp 'n' Roll will be taped, and have a plate of enchiladas, a big margarita, and dance until it was time to change my shirt.

Yeah, huh, you think?

Like I said.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

There's a difference between justice and revenge

And Howard Dean doesn't seem to be willing to recognize it.

I'm sure he understands it. I'm sure he knows that the filibuster-proof Democratic Senate majority is a limp, soggy and unrealistic as a wet dream.

I'm sure he knows he's handing us a fistful of steaming crap because there's no really good reason why Creepy Joe™ Lieberman's Senate colleagues allowed him to retain his position of power without so much as a "I'm sorry. I promise I won't do it again."

Lieberman's bad behavior was rewarded, and it will surely spawn other bad behavior by other despicable Senators down the road.

It isn't revenge to punish bad behavior when it is outside the lines of what's socially or morally acceptable. Lieberman helped deliver a war which has created a river of blood and an ocean of dept. Lieberman has let an incompetent administration get away with murder. Lieberman helped the Bush administration strip civil liberties from US citizens.

Punishing a murderer is not revenge, it's justice. Punishing treason is not revenge, it's justice. Punishing fraud is not revenge, it's justice.

But apparently not in the Senate.

What's more hilarious?

Creepy Joe™ Lieberman's act of contrition: "Look, I appreciate their respect for my independence of mind. (Here, the Senator chuckles.) That's who I am?"

And: "Some of the things that people have said I said about Sen. Obama are simply not true," Lieberman said to a packed room of reporters, just outside the Senate chambers. "There are other statements that I made that I wish I had made more clearly.There are some that I made that I wish I had not made at all," Lieberman told reporters. "In the heat of campaigns, that happens to all of us, but I regret that. And now it's time to move on."

Whatever happened to "I'm sorry. I was out of my mind on Sloe Gin Fizzes. I'm an asshole. I'm in rehab, and it's time to move on."

Or, Ruff Tuff™ Harry Reid's anger: "I pretty well understand anger. I would defy anyone to be more angry than I was."

"Yeah, I was so angry I almost broke a pencil. But I didn't.
I was so angry I almost cursed, but shucks, I couldn't.
I was so angry I was going to raise my voice, but I didn't want to bother anyone.
I was so angry I almost told Lieberman he was a lying, backstabbing, vile, two-faced, egocentric, warmongering, ass-kissing, friend-betraying prick. But instead I told him he was a great man, and a Democrat."

Josh Marshall reports that Lieberman was expelled from his Senate Pilates class. But that couldn't possibly be true. Lieberman's abs are the pride of the Senate, or am I getting him confused with Cindy Crawford.

42 to 13

Can you believe it?

What little respect I had for Democrats in the Senate is gone.

And what will the weasel say?

Letting the bum off the hook

I'm writing this before it happens. Not because I'm prescient, but because I have a feeling I'm going to be mad as hell later today, and not capable of writing my thoughts coherently.

The Senate appears to be poised to let Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman get away with it.

Unfortunately, it's what many of us expected, and dreaded. Ruff Tuff Harry Reid hasn't shown a stiff spine in the entire time he's led the Senate, so how can we expect him to show one now.

Our own Senator Chris Dodd, who is in something of a compromised position, will serve as Lieberman's defender.

What's the example that gets set here? Obama and Dodd would like us to think that their magnanimity, and forbearance will demonstrate a new unity in the Senate which will allow us to reach across the aisle to get things done.

Pardon me gents, but haven't you ever heard the old maxim, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice..."

You can mark the day on the calendar that the most skeptical among us predict that neither the Republicans, nor Lieberman will show cooperation unless their own best interests are served. Lieberman is using you now, as he used you before, and he'll use you again and again, for self-aggrandizement.

The filibuster-proof Senate? Don't make me laugh.

Lieberman is currently a party of one, and the symbolism of the egoism should resonate.

I understand, you're all in the same club, and you'll have to face oily Joe in the elevator, but understand, when you let him back into the fold, he'll be laughing behind your back as the elevator door closes.

As for the Connecticut constituents of Dodd and Lieberman, if this deal gets done, the majority of us will be even more disgusted than we are now. If this deal gets done, it will be all the proof we need that the new Senate, the new attitude, the new openess is exactly like the old.

And, as always, all of us are wrong, and you, you who are so wise that you let a sorry President execute an immoral law, you who allowed our Constitutional freedoms to be stripped away, you who allowed torture and abductions, you who oversaw the demise of the are right.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Creepy Joe™ afraid of Rachel?

I missed it Friday, but caught up this morning. It appears that Rachel Maddow has taken up one of my favorite campaigns, exposing the lies, the manipulations of fact, the distortions of logic, the egotisitical twists in behavior of Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman.

So much so that she's invited him on her show to tell his version of his truth. I say he doesn't have the guts to take her up on it. That's Senator "they'll-take-that-as-a-sign-of-weakness" Lieberman. Much easier to send an 18 year old with a rifle into Iran than it is to walk yourself into MSNBC, isn't it Joe?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dodd plays god

Well, what do you know? Chris Dodd was in Connecticut this weekend's Herald Press, Jeff Mill reports that Dodd reiterated his support of Creepy Joe™ Lieberman while attending a conference on after-school programs.

Dodd cited Barack Obama's support of Lieberman and said again that "“I don’t think my constituents should be penalized” by removing Lieberman from his chairmanship.

Dodd said he would speak in support of Leiberman at the Tuesday Democratic caucus meeting, at which a secret ballot will be taken to determine Lieberman's fate.

I noted in this blog a few days ago that there might be several other reasons why Dodd would support Lieberman - his longterm friendship (forty years Dodd claimed yesterday), his need for support during his own scandal (friend of Angelo), his membership in a very exclusive club (Senate - incumbent party), his need to do penance (for supporting Lamont against Lieberman), his real lack of concern for the constituents he represents.

Reporters did not ask Dodd how his constituents would be punished, nor whether he has spent time with constituents to determine their feelings on the topic, nor what the consensus of opinion on the topic was in communications to Dodd's senate office (I'll call tomorrow to find out).

If the words of editorial writers and columnists in and out of the state is any reflection of the feelings of the public, Dodd is wrong, and will resort to the regal Senatorial role of playing god by voting his conscience (or lack therof), instead of voting the will of his constituents.

I think the question that has to be asked is "just how loyal is Lieberman?" Reflections on the past three years would yield the answer, "not very." But ask yourself some of the questions columnists have been asking:

Why didn't Lieberman exercise an of his power of committee chair to investigate the many wrongdoings of the Bush administration?

If he couldn't investigate Bush, why does he deserve to be chairman?

If the Republicans had won control of the Senate, by some miracle, would Lieberman abandon the Democrats to accept a Republican chairmanship?

If the Democrats remove Lieberman from his chairmanship, will he move to caucus with the Republicans, and if that question can be legitimately posed, is it enough of a sign of his lack of loyalty?

If McCain had won and Lieberman had been offered a cabinet position, would Lieberman have abandoned his Senate seat?

If Obama is so concerned about Lieberman, why doesn't he offer him a cabinet post, or a cushy diplomatic position?

Does Lieberman really represent the constituents of Connecticut?

The answers to most of these questions are obvious, and all the more reason to call Chris Dodd's office, or email him now, to voice your displeasure with his support of Lieberman.


Senate office number:(202) 224-2823

The press release we'd all love to read

It goes something like, "We love you Joe, get lost."

If only our lawmakers had the balls and the backbones to write it.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Will tomorrow's newspaper be the last?

The future does not look bright for journalism, but at least one analyst, Paul Fahri, thinks journalists are shouldering too much of the blame.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Erring on Ayers

If you haven't had the opportunity to read any of Bill Ayers' own defense of his life or his relationship with Barack Obama, take the time to her what he said on Good Morning America today. He is honest, smart and forthcoming under the heat of questions by an interviewer who can't believe that political lies might not be true.

Maddow's case against Lieberman

One of the purposes of this blog is to relieve my poor wife from the burden of my constant carping about what's wrong with the world. Still, even when I write of my frustrations with Creepy Joe™ Lieberman, I still tend to vent at home, and I think I've made ever point the brilliant Rachel Maddow did last night on her show, but somehow, Lucy found the totality of the argument more cohesive, and more convincing. So I share it with anyone who may still not be convinced that Lieberman should not be allowed to keep his powerful chairmanship.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Let's invite Chris Dodd to come home and talk to us about Creepy Joe™

Chris Dodd is at the forefront of a movement of Democratic Senators who are lobbying to have Senator Creepy Joe™ Lieberman welcomed back to the Democratic caucus, and returned to his chairmanship of the powerful Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

It seems Barack Obama has signaled a reconciliation with the relcacitrant Lieberman. But Obama has not had to suffer through Lieberman's betrayal of Democratic voters here in Connecticut, or lived in shame with our Senator campaigning diligently and dirtily with the Republic opponent.

And Chris Dodd has taken up the cause. As I posited before, I suspect Chris Dodd has several motives - he's an old friend of Lieberman's; that friendship was strained by Dodd's support of Lamont and this is a chance to get back in the vindictive Lieberman's good graces; Dodd needs all the support he can muster for his fight in the Countrywide Financial scandal; Dodd and Lieberman are Senatorial colleagues, incumbents, and party of the gang of in-the-beltway insiders who would die before actually meting out justice to one of their own.

Several means of "rewarding" Lieberman for his disgusting behavior have been suggested. Everything from stripping him of all power positions and driving him from the caucus, to awarding him minor chairmanships.

But allowing him to return, the prodigal son, and forgiving his outrageous behavior, is an insult to voters and constituents.

It's time for Dodd to come home and face constituents in a couple of town hall meetings this weekend to see how we feel about his rescue of Lieberman. He may have to hear a few unkind words about his mortgage mess, and his mishandling of finance companies that have come before his banking and finance committee, but if he is a man of honor, he should return.

Call his office now, and voice your complaints. Invite him home for a face-to-face, but by all means, let him know that Lieberman no longer represents the feelings and needs of his home state.

Senate office number:(202) 224-2823

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Put the attack dog on a short leash

Paul Abrams, at the Huffington Post, paints a amazingly lifelike portrait of Creepy Joe™ Lieberman and his out-of-control ego.

And he has a solution that makes sense and which dims the spotlight on Senator Attention Hound.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Grovel, wheedle, whine and beg

It's now official. Creepy Joe™ Lieberman's chairmanships in the Senate will come down to a vote of the Democratic caucus next week.

This time, Joe, it won't be Republicans voting for you.

This time it won't be uninformed voters who you can deceive with promises to work for a Democratic presidency.

This time it will be the colleagues you've been kicking all summer, Joe.

And constituents are making calls to keep you away from a chairmanship.

How does it feel to be so reviled?

And it looks like you might get kicked back. The votes are piling up against you, just like they did against your pals McCain and Palin.

Wear your shin guards. And for all the begging you're going to have to do, wear your knee pads too. And bring some condiments for all the crow you'll have to eat.

We'll all be out here in Connecticut cheering...against you.

Hurling the Herald

I love newspapers. I'm of the age when saying so requires little explanation.

I grew up in a home where my father consumed three newspapers a day. A local morning paper (The Hartford Courant), a local afternoon paper (The New Britain Herald), and a national or regional paper (The Daily News, or the Boston Globe).

I picked up the reading habit early.

I delivered newspapers starting when I was 10. First, it was a wide-ranging route through New Britain, for the sparsely-subscribed-to Hartford Times. Then for five years I peddled the New Britain Herald to nearly every house on a long block of Winthrop Street in New Britain (where many of the houses and apartment buildings have disappeared, and medical buildings are now in abundance). Every day, after the route, I'd sit in front of Marty's, one of those now extinct neighborhood groceries, and, sipping a cold Coke, I'd skim the headlines before I consumed the comics.

I wrote for my high school newspaper, for my college newspaper and when I graduated during a recession with a master's degree in English literature, I worked for a few years as a stringer for The Hartford Times, which, for most of the months of my employ, was breathing with a death rattle. It succumbed shortly after they informed me that my services were no longer needed. Later on I wrote a music column for the New Britain Herald for ten years.

So when I read this morning about the impending demise of the Herald (of New Britain - a mast head, now laughable in its desperate attempt to be a regional, and not a city paper), and the Bristol Press, I feel a melancholy that's laced with worry about what's to become of local news.

We all know that our "state" paper, the Hartford Courant, has all but abandoned local reporting. And because local reporters are so overburdened with a focus spread over several towns, and because they don't often live and work in the towns they cover, they don't, and can't, always get the "whole" story, or they don't get the story right (sometimes not getting the whole story is, in itself, a failure to get the story right).

And we surely can't leave local reporting to the "media," those well-coiffed TV reporters, and the less-than-well-dressed radio reporters clutching MP3 recorders, who breeze in and out of meetings, grabbing a sound bite that may or may not reflect the reality of what happened over the course of an entire lenghthy municipal meeting, feeding incomplete thoughts over satellite feeds, and internet links to an audience who could care less. Besides, the media only shows up for controversy, not for the day-to-day decisions by which every town runs.

Sure, papers come and go. Unfortunately, these days they go far more frequently than they come.

No publisher is standing in line to buy the Herald, or the Bristol Press. No one is standing in line to fill the void with another newspaper. The newspaper business is dying slowly.

No use spending too much time contemplating what killed newspapers, and while TV, radio and the internet have been accomplices, I think it's widely known that business, finance, the free market and capitalism are the chief murderers.

Because even today, when you can find much of the news you need elsewhere, newspapers which are well-written, locally-owned, staffed with knowledgeable reporters and editors, can be and are successful. It's the widespread practice of buying and selling newspapers to conglomerates and chains which has sucked the life out of so many dailies. Paying back the debt for outlandish purchases of well-circulated papers means an inevitable death.

Look at the Herald and the Bristol Press. They were bought by a chain which pared staff, cut editorial inches, filled space with stories generated elsewhere, until readers stopped subscribing, stopped pumping quarters into honor boxes, stopped reading because there was little worth reading. The Hartford Courant beware. And now the Journal Register's stock is hovering at 1 cent a share. The Journal Register is successful at one thing, incompetence.

The press is one of the few trades name-checked in the U.S. Constitution. It is the only trade name-checked honorably (the others being distillers, slave traders and politicians). The founding fathers weren't right about everything (see slaveholding, freedom to vote), but they thought most things through pretty well. They knew, from experience, how important a free-press was to the proper functioning of a democracy, to the prevention of tyranny.

What remains, are newspapers hobbled by debt incurred by corporate owners, local television stations incapable of completeness and accuracy, national television networks embroiled in non-essential controversy and trivia, and the blogs (thank god for the blogs).

New Britain is a city famous for its history of graft and corruption. Not casting aspersions on any current office holders, but imagine what can happen in city government when no one's paying attention. I think history has proven, again and again, that civic leaders at most levels, are incapable of policing themselves.

That's why we need the press. And now two more watchdogs, albeit watchdogs with a feeble growl, and jaws lacking teeth, are gone for good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama's first misstep

So deep a disappointment, so early. Jesus, at least make him grovel.

Connecticut voted for you overwhelmingly, Barack, and this is not what we want.

Harry's hilarious hyperbole

(Fellow travelers? Harry Reid seems to think so.)

Watch out, Connecticut, Harry Reid's on the kiss-and-make-up trail.

After scolding Creepy Joe™ Lieberman, Reid's making smoochy noises. That precedes a hearty invitation for Lieberman to remain in the caucus and to keep his chairmanships.

Listen to what Harry has to say about our unapologetic excuse for a Senator:

"Joe Lieberman is not some right-wing nutcase," he said. "Joe Lieberman is one of the most progressive people ever to come from the state of Connecticut."

"One of the most progr.....???" WHAT!!!!!!!

Harry, have you never heard of Ralph Nader, William Sloane Coffin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Roger Sherman Baldwin, Prudence Crandall, Katherine Houghton Hepburn, Thomas Hooker, John Brown, for god's sake, John "his-body's-moulderin'-in-the-grave" Brown.

Reid's advances are, I'm afraid, all just a prelude for him to make excuses ("I confronted him. I told him he was a so-and-so. Then I begged him to keep his chairmanships,"), make amends ("I've known Joe for years, and even though you can't trust him as far as you could throw him, he's a fine colleague who votes with us most of the time, except when it counts,") and then welcome Lieberman back with a tearful bear hug, ("He told me he'd never do that again.")

Which is why we need to find a new leader in the Senate, too.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama: You're on your own little Joey

Rahm Emanuel made it clear that the Obama White House is not interested in what the Senate decides to do about the Lieberman dilemma.

Looks like Creepy Joe™ is going to have to appeal to someone with a less refined sense of decency and forgiveness.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wrong again, Chris

So now Chris Dodd is channeling Barack Obama, and, according to the Hartford Courant, he's saying that the last thing the president-elect wants is a messy fight over Creepy Joe™ Lieberman.

"What does Barack Obama want?" Dodd rhetorically asked reporters Friday in Hartford. "He's talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense."

ADDENDUM (According to this Washington Monthly piece, if Obama allows Lieberman to keep his chairmanship, he allows it at his own risk)

There seems to be two things going on here. One, Chris Dodd, a longtime "friend" of Lieberman is still looking for absolution for supporting Lieberman's opponent, Ned Lamont in the Senate race two years ago.

The other is the protect-your-own colleagiality of the Senate. And while Lieberman shat on this brotherhood repeatedly, by the unwritten rules of this august organization, his defiling act must be forgiven because he is, after all, a brother Senator.

Of course Dodd, who still faces his own problems (remember he is a "friend of Angelo" too), might need the support of his Connecticut senatorial colleague when push comes to shove.

I wouldn't count on it Chris. It's obvious that Lieberman cares about one thing, and one thing only, Lieberman. When he can't win an election legitimately, he changes the rules. When he can't convince his fellow Democrats that the war in Iraq is a wonderful thing, he embraces George Bush. When he sniffs the opportunity to be a powerful cabinet member, maybe even a vice president, he becomes a Republican attack dog on the presidential campaign trail. And now that his bet hasn't paid off, he wants his old job, and his old perks back.

You think Lieberman is going to stick his neck out for you, Chris? Better think twice.

Dodd also raised another ridiculous rhetorical question:

"The question I have to ask myself is: Joe was elected by the people of this state — independents, Republicans and Democrats," Dodd said. "Whatever anger there may exist within a party, I don't think that ought to be visited on the people of the state — and they shouldn't be asked to pay a price for people's political decisions."

You've got to be kidding Chris. Have you talked to any Constituents lately? (That, of course, is, itself, a rhetorical question since you've been laying very low because of the Countrywide scandal.) Most of us would be very happy to have Joe go away, far away.

Lieberman gambled his power and authority in the Senate for a chance to sit on McCain's right hand in the White House. That bet didn't pay off. So now we, the citizens who "elected" him, are left with a flaccid representative unable to wield any influence for his home state.

And what if McCain won? Lieberman would have abandoned Connecticut in the wink of a Palin eye. And he wouldn't have looked back.

Lieberman's been absent from the Senate for the past eight months while he's campaigned for a Republican. We didn't miss him. (You've got some 'splaining to do on that account yourself brother Chris.)

I don't care if Lieberman wants to call himself a Democrat. I just don't want him to call himself a Connecticut Senator.

Resign from the Senate, Joe, and do it quickly. That will avoid the messy politics Chris Dodd is talking about. At the very least, if we really care about avoiding a "mess" Dodd ought to be urging Harry Reid to make an immediate, swift and righteous excision. After all, it's not the Senate, or the electorate, Harry Reid or the Democratic caucus who is making this affair "messy." It's Lieberman again. If he had the dignity to truly embrace reconciliation in the White House and Senate, then he'd leave Washington as soon as possible, return to Fairfield County and spend his time drinking top shelf gin as he sits and commiserates with his hedge-fund-manager neighbors.

Right now, Connecticut has two Senators in trouble. Both are avoiding their constituents. (Have you checked your approval ratings lately?) But it's apparent they are watching each other's back.

But who's watching out for Connecticut? Ned Lamont would have been.