Friday, October 31, 2008

Democracy at Home and Abroad

It is so ironic that the Republicans and Bush the Lesser with their neo-con strike force profess such fervent belief in the democratic process and the spread of democracy across the world, and recently, especially in the Middle East, while they undermine it in America.

Remember how excited Bush the Lesser was about the red fingers of the Iraqi's when they had completed voting several years ago (right after Mission Accomplished).

The irony, of course, it that in that face of that professed passion for the democratic process, the Republicans are the masters and most aggressive purveyors of voter suppression techniques. While the Democrats are working the GOTV effort with all their vigor, the Republicans don't want people to vote. How ironic for such champions of democracy.

It appears that the Republicans may favor democracy and the democratic process overseas more than they do in America.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Over the past several days a cabal of right wing nut cases have gotten on the Obama/Marxist bandwagon. I think I can follow the trail of this absurd talking point. It started with the Florida "newscaster" who asked Biden if Obama was a Marxist. Biden, appropriately, laughed and asked if she was serious and then provided a thoughtful answer.

In the media frenzy to find the latest pungent sound bite, the left picked up the video clip so that my pals and I could laugh out loud at the stupidity and vacuousness of the sheep on the right. Fox, true to form, picked up the Marxist theme. Fox moved the Marxist idiocy into heavy repetition. Then Fox bloviator O'Reilly(Oily)brought the Florida bimbo newscaster(and wife of a Republican operative)onto his show. Of course, Rush Limburger was all over the subject

Next, the Obama/Marxist talking point needed to gain support from senior, thoughtful Republicans in order to gain a strong perch in the political lexicon. Scanning the landscape for the most thoughtful, respected and well credentialed senior Republican to carry water on the Obama/Marxist tripe, they found the former pest control officer ("The Exterminator") Tom Delay.

Delay was thrilled to get some media time. As one of the most ethically challenged former members of Congress, Delay was rummaging in the dustbin of history and the dregs of right wingnut weekend symposia and was desperate for some time on the big stage again. The Obama/Marxist ploy was the perfect opportunity.

If Tom Delay thinks Obama is a Marxist then it must be true. Yeah, and Tom Delay is a great American and statesman when monkeys fly out of my ass.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Flat Screen TV

The economic shock of these past few weeks has been a body blow to the mindless consumerism that infects the United States. Consumer spending has fallen off a cliff.

I think this is a good thing. As I have been saying to friends, "Who needs another flat screen TV." When put in those terms it does seem patently ridiculous. Candidly, no one needs a flat screen TV. We need food and shelter, and given the stupendous increase in obesity and the proclivity for McMansion sized houses, it looks to me like we need a little less food and shelter as well.

Somehow, along the way, things have gotten grievously out of wack. We consume crap we don't need. We go into debt to consume more crap we don't need. I am reminded of the inspiring words from Bush the Lesser after 9/11 when he encouraged us to shop.

And, I am also reminded of the lines from the Dire Straits song from the early 1980's:

Get your money for nothin' get your chicks for free.
I want my flat screen TV

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Elemental Observation

When we elect a President, we are electing the leader of our country. Implicit is the notion that the person elected should exhibit leadership. They should, with the advice and counsel of the people, through their elected representatives, shape the vision and direction for our nation and articulate that vision.

Organizations, over time, begin to exhibit the tone and character of their leader. Whether our experience has been in the public or private sectors we have all experienced that in our own lives. The organization becomes reflective of its leader.

In this presidential election we have certainly witnessed the force of leadership, or lack thereof, in each campaign.

Personally, I have never witnessed a campaign as well run as the Obama campaign. It has been extremely disciplined. It has stayed on message throughout. Its ground game has known no equal. There has been no apparent dissension among its ranks.
Contrast that to the McCain campaign. It has had no strategy but has lurched from tactic to tactic. Dissension has been rampant.

The stark differences between the two campaigns are nothing other than reflections of the sharp contrasts in the quality of the leadership of Barack Obama and John McCain. If voters were to do nothing more than look at the two campaigns and how they are run they would find evidence aplenty for making a thoughtful decision about who should be our next President.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell

The appearance by Colin Powell on Meet the Press this morning was much anticipated. I was awake on the left coast Sunday morning at 6:00AM to catch the live broadcast. The Brokaw interview was artful and Powell was wonderfully well spoken in his answers.

We waited anxiously for the ultimate question. Had Powell made a decision whom to support for the Presidency? His long answer hit all of the bullet points that thoughtful Americans list when considering the same question.

It is always easy, in the long political theater that comprises our presidential election cycle, to revert to type and echo the narrow interest of our particular cohort. Certainly, in this blog, I have warmly embraced the irreverent, the obscene, the cynical or sarcastic, while pushing for my firmly held point of view.

All of us, in our quiet way, love this country. We are justly proud of what it stands for and what is represents, in finest form, both at home and abroad. Just as you can unconditionally love a child but disapprove of its behavior, you may unconditionally love your country while finding fault with its behavior and the course it has chosen.

In considering this election, thoughtful Americans, I believe, can, as did Colin Powell, come to a belief that Barack Obama is the wisest choice for President of the United States.

Many of us have, over the years, respected John McCain, not only for his historic experience, but also for his dedication to independence and his forthright voice of those independent views. We had no illusions that his maverick quality may have simply been an articulate framing of his consistent reckless behavior, going back across the sweep of this life. That recklessness found latest form in his choice of the unqualified Sarah Palin for his Vice-Presidential running mate and his unfocused response to the current economic crisis. As several wise commentators have put it, he hasn't been "Presidential."

At the same time, the Republic Party has been on an ever slippery slope embracing the issues that drive its narrow base of ill-informed, God fearing, "real Americans," whomever they may be.

In the broadest terms, I see this election as the struggle between Fear and Hope. Or, put in the new age context, it is the inherent struggle between Fear and Love.
Fear drives so much of human decision making. Listening to some of the YouTube clips at Palin rally's I have been chilled by the unthinking fear that comes from the lips of her supporters.

In my view, Obama appeals that noble side of our humanity. He is a very thoughtful man who will listen to wise advisors and consider well all of the ramifications of his decisions. He is charismatic and his eloquence is compellling. Is there anything wrong with eloquence? I think not. We need to be uplifted in this dreary time. It is a time that calls for Hope and Love.

Obama, as a man raised in the third culture, will, to use Powell's term, "electrify" the nation and the world. At the same time, I see in him a man of tremendous discipline. His campaign has been the best organized and most focused of any I have witnessed during my lifetime. I believe that all that we do reflects all that we are. Obama's campaign reflects who he is. Leadership does, indeed, come from the top. Through that lenses, John McCain comes up lacking.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Clogged Arteries

I have just finished reading Barton Gellman's splendid new book on the Cheney Vice Presidency, Angler. It is a compelling and chilling read.

Angler is the Secret Service code name for Cheney. It derives from his affection for fly-fishing in Wyoming. In the Ford Administration where he served as Chief of Staff for a time he was code named Backseat. I would have given him the code name Clogged Arteries.

Gellman gathers together all of the damning information we have picked up bit by bit over the years. He paints an overwhelmingly chilling portrait of a demonic man with firmly held beliefs who subverted our constitutionally based rule of law to carve out unlimited power for the executive and dance around statutory and constitutional limits on bad behavior.

There can be no doubt that a large handful of people inside the White House, the CIA, the NSA and the Department of Justice broke the law. There was a clear criminal conspiracy surrounding the issuance of unvetted Presidential orders on the treatment of detainees. And, it was all orchestrated by Clogged Arteries and signed off on by an incurious President.

Mark my words! There will be pardons issued by President Bush late on January 19, 2009, for as many as twenty people in his administration who run the risk of being criminally charged for their role in the conspiracy. Those pardons, issued before the charging or conviction of a crime will be similar to Ford's pardon of Nixon.

That will, however, not obviate the risk those people will face when they travel outside the United States. They will run the same risk as Pinochet when he was arrested for his Chilean crimes while in Europe. The Clogged Arteries cabal will travel internationally at great risk.

That won't affect Clogged Arteries. He is a short timer, and not just in the White House.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My People, Part II

We flew into Grand Forks, ND last Thursday. The woman at the Avis counter said, "Nice Norwegian sweater, ya." I knew I was in my ancestral home. The sweater, a family heirloom, was worn as camouflage. It was working.

We walked outside and a couple of young men drove up in our rental car. I asked, "Do you want to check our rental agreement and ID?" "Naw," they said. There were no metal stakes ready to impale us. We had landed in a twilight zone.

As we drove east, the landscape is flat as a Swedish pancake. We headed out into northwest Minnesota into the area homesteaded by our grandfather. The plan was to visit the family homestead for the first time and meet as many relatives as possible. We really had no idea what to expect.

Our family lived just north of a couple of small towns, Trail and Gully. They each have a population of 50 or 60 people. Once vital, like so many small towns in the region they have all dried up. There is usually one tavern. Maybe a restaurant. Maybe a gas station. Plenty of empty buildings.

Thursday night we ate dinner in Fosston. I had Walleye, as in Walleye Pike, a common lake fish of the region. In my big city, nuanced way, I asked the waitress where the Walleye came from. In Seattle we always want to know if the fish we are about to eat is "line caught by a sensitive fisherman." The waitress, responding to my questions said, "The Walleye comes from the company that sells us the fish." Well, alrighty then. Silly me.

Saturday night we went to the Walleye Dinner at the American Legion hall in Gonvick, population 262. It was a packed house. Walleye filet, baked potato, cold slaw and a roll for $10.

Times are tough. They have been tough forever. No jobs for young people, who all leave town. Lots of alcoholism. The economic downturn won't effect Trail, Gully or Gonvick. People were heading out to get a deer. The season opened on Saturday. Everyone was wearing the real camouflage. I had been wearing my favorite baseball cap from my daughter's Pittsburgh Ballet Theater. In Gully I felt a bit like a fruitcake wearing a ballet cap. Fortunately, our cousin runs the Gully Farmer's Co-op and graciously gave my brother and I camouflage co-op baseball caps. My brother calls them "gimme hats," as in standing at the cash register and saying, "Gimme one of those." They don't have "gimme hats" on Wall Street.

I did hear a couple of remarks about the bailout. People thought it was a bad idea. But then, they thought it was a good idea to get farm price supports and get paid to keep their land in the CRP (the conservation program where you are paid to not grow crops). Funny how that works. We are inhibited by our distaste for socialism except when it puts money in our pockets. I have an entire side of my family that holds to that oxymoronic position.

On the way home, we passed through the Minneapolis Airport. We asked the sweet 80 year old woman at the Information booth how to find the Larry Craig bathroom. She said, "That is disgusting." We chatted a bit and she volunteered that she had just voted absentee and mailed her ballot the day before. She went on to say, "I voted for Al Franken and Obama. You don't think I am stupid do you?" She was wonderful.

We spent three days off the grid. No cell service at all. It is another world. People are good and decent and hard working. The cratering of Lehman or Morgan Stanley will not, in any way that I could see, change their reality.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My People

On Thursday my brother and I travel to northern Minnesota to visit the homestead where our father was born in 1915. We have a few hundred relatives in the region. In preparation for the trip we have been listening to Prairie Home Companion on NPR and watching the Coen Brother's Fargo on a continuous loop.

I have found myself slipping into a Scandinavian lilt. I grew up around that wholesome accent. Some wag has, however, raised my ire by a completely unfair juxtaposition of Sarah Palin and Marge Gunderson.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Joe Six Pack

I have been thinking about the debate these past couple of days. I have many impressions. First, it wasn't a debate. Those who say Palin was a great debater are idiots. If this had been a college debate she would have flunked. It fact, I viewed it as offensive, rather than cute, when she said she would say what she wanted to say and not answer the questions. She would speak to the American people How presumptuous and disrespectful of the process.

Her voice is horrible. My daughter called me to say she couldn't stand to listen to Palin. The absence of anything approaching common diction,syntax and accepted grammatical standards of speech is appalling.

She had to look at her three by five cards to get the answers. She talked in sound bites. The format worked for her, because she didn't have to deal with follow up questions. That was her downfall in the TWO interviews she has had thus far that qualify as REAL interviews. The Fox interviews and those by "in the tank" commentators are bullshit. An example is the clarification interview on Fox yesterday where she identified three Supreme Court cases and named three news sources. It was unadulterated bullshit.

It was something to watch the likes of Giuliani do post debate spin and call her the best they have ever seen. Biden, by the way, did a first class job. I was anxious that he might talk too much or make a significant gaff. The only one I heard was Bosniak. That was actually kind of funny. I like Biden.

The Joe Six Pack reference of Palin is, however, what I want to focus on. The follow up question is, "Just who is Joe Six Pack." In my experience Joe Six Pack is a marginally educated white guy with a gut, and a propensity to over consume alcohol. He watches professional team sports and couldn't run a 10K or around the block to save his soul. Joe Six Pack is not a very attractive guy.

What is so interesting about Joe Six Pack and Palin's populist pitch to that demographic is the fact that the Republican's fundamentally don't give a shit about that guy. In fact, all the Republican positions are antithetical to Joe Six Pack, except he doesn't appreciate that fact. And, it is Joe Six Pack's sons and daughters who comprise the overwhelming number of young men and women who die in Iraq and Afghanistan.