Archive for April, 2008

Of shaking beds and overactive imaginations

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I probably shouldn’t tell this story on myself, but then there are a lot of things I probably shouldn’t do — most of them, alas, involving the ingestion of calories.

Anyway, my wife and I were asleep in a hotel in Jacksonville, Illinois. We had just arrived that evening in response to a crisis involving my mother (and, yes, this constitutes my latest excuse for missing several days of posting). I was fast asleep — in the middle of a dream, I believe — when I was awakened by the sensation of the bed rocking back and forth. It was really quite a violent shaking, although it subsided within a second of my taking note of it.

Now, my wife is an infamous leg shaker, so although I’d never experienced anything quite this dramatic before, I wrote the experience off to one of her unintentional nocturnal exercise sessions and — as those of us with 53 year old bladders are want to do when awaken after 4:00 A.M. — headed off to the bathroom.

When I returned, however, I was surprised to find myself accused, by my wife, of being the one who had shaken the bed. She guaranteed me it had not been her doing.

Well — and here’s the part I probably shouldn’t tell on myself — I started worrying about it. In my entire life, I can never recall an occasion when, at least while asleep, I have done anything to cause a bed to shake, let alone to cause it to shake like a son of a bitch.

By the time I got up the next morning, I had myself convinced that I’d suffered a seizure during the night. I wondered whether I could safely drive the family home (our two young sons had come alone on the trip). And I’ll admit to worrying at least a little about all of the awful things a seizure could mean in terms of my health.

Still, I dutifully got up and drove the family to Mom’s. Along the way, at my wife’s insistence, we stopped at a shop to buy flowers for the boys to give to their grandmother.

“Hey, did you feel the earthquake last night?” the clerk inquired.


“Yeah, we had a fairly strong quake last night.”

Suddenly, the full implication of her words hit me. “What time was it?”

“Oh, a little after four in the morning.”

And so it was, with considerable relief and a slight twinge of embarrassment, that I realized that my “seizure” had actually been last Friday’s Southern Illinois earthquake.

Like I said, I probably should have kept this to myself. But some bits of self-humiliation are just too good not to share.

Was the debate as bad as they say?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

I’m traveling, so I missed tonight’s Democratic debate. From what I’m reading, however, I gather the questioning was simply awful — a retelling of one right wing talking point after another, with virtually no attention paid to the real issues in the campaign.

If you were watching, let us know in the comments: was it really as bad as they say here and here and here and here and especially here?

The Rise and Fall of the Punditocracy

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

Sitting atop an ancient mountain built out of the corpses of worn out words, the wise old monk of punditry spoke to his students.
“Gather ‘round my children, as I tell a sad tale of long ago: it was The Year of Our Lord, 2008, when the punditocracy faced its second great time of trial. The first great time of trial had been a decade earlier in the waning years of the prior century, when a bold young president, with a knack for the incautious exercise of his loins, found himself in his own time of crisis as a result of an ill-advised encounter with a fair young . . . well, young anyway . . . maiden.
The wise old monk continued. “It was the judgment of the Great Beltway Punditocracy of the time that the sin in question . . . in all of its dress staining horror . . . was beyond the power of redemption. The resulting wound, our ancestors were certain, would most certainly be fatal; they howled and they screeched. They cried out for political blood.”
“What happened then, oh great master?” gasped one student.
“The people yawned.”
“They yawned?” came a voice in disbelief.
“Yes, my child, I’m afraid they displayed not a fraction of the outrage the punditocracy had commanded of them.”
The students sat in stunned silence. Finally one young boy, the monk’s favorite student, spoke, “Did the pundits order the people be put to death for their insolence?”
“No, Grasshopper,” sighed the monk, “alas, they had not the power, though some of them seemed not to realize it. It was a time of shameful public disobedience to the revealed wisdom of the Great Ones.”
The favored student spoke again, “But master, you said that this was the punditocracy’s first great time of trial, not its last. So, the pundits must have survived . . .”
“Yes, indeed,” the monk interrupted, “they lived to pontificate another day. Bruised but unbowed, they journeyed on. But then came their second great time of trial. It was the year of a presidential election, and the punditocracy’s chosen champion, Sir John of the Desert Tribe, was preparing to face one of two possible opponents. One potential challenger was the spouse of the young president who had thwarted the punditocracy during the first great time of trial . . .”

“Oh, no,” said one of the students while shivering in terror.


Kick Lieberman off the bus

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

To state the obvious, Joe Lieberman has the Democratic Party in a bit of a bind.

Clinging to a 51/49 margin in the Senate — with Dick Cheney ready, willing and able to leave his secure location to break tie votes — Democratic control of the body hangs by a microscopically thin thread — a fact Lieberman has been using to his advantage while repeatedly and joyously rubbing the Democrats’ faces in it.

Notwithstanding his repeated promises to the people of Connecticut (who now widely hate his guts, by the way) during his reelection campaign to continue to caucus as a Democrat, he quickly changed his spots (do snakes have spots?) as soon as the election was over. Since then he has repeatedly hinted at a willingness to consider going over to the GOP if his demands aren’t met.

Extortion is an ugly thing, isn’t it?  
But the thing about extortion is that it works only for as long as the victim allows it to continue: and it’s time for Senate Democrats to “just say no” to Joe.

Actually, it isn’t even clear that Lieberman formally jumping (or being pushed) to the Republicans would change anything structurally in the Senate. Under the Senate’s intricate rules the current organizing resolution, at least arguably, would remain in force keeping the Democrats in charge. Still, losing majority status would doubtlessly make life more difficult, and the GOP would likely hatch endless schemes to reclaim control.
But frankly, my dear Democratic Senators, I don’t give a damn. Not anymore.
It’s time to kick Joe Lieberman’s sorry butt off the Democratic bus, and let the consequences fall where they may. It’s bad enough that he’s been openly campaigning for John McCain. But his recent endorsement of Bill Kristol’s absurd slander comparing Barack Obama to Karl Marx is a deal breaker. If that doesn’t cross the line, well, then there just ain’t no line no more.

NAPITALIANO: 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.

Lieberman knows he has no future in the Senate. He’s banking on a top job in the McCain Administration; and he’ll be more than happy to use his position as an “Independent Democrat” to help torpedo the Democratic nominee.

Senate Democrats should show this miserable bastard the door, at least in terms of stripping him of his committee chairmanship (which he isn’t doing anything with anyway). If they’re lucky, the Republicans will tempt fate by trying to grab control, thereby tying the Senate up into knots. Nothing’s going to be accomplished legislatively before November anyway. Why not let the GOP take the fall?
Lieberman clearly intends to spend the next seven months as McCain’s puppet master, ever ready to jump in each time he has a senior moment (oldfartgate anyone?): so be it. But we shouldn’t let him carry the banner of a Democratic Senate committee chairman while he’s doing it.

Seriously, could anything be more obvious?

Maybe it would be better if McCain loved war

Monday, April 14th, 2008

John McCain wants to be sure that we all understand one thing very clearly: just because he ferociously favors the Iraq war and gives every indication of wanting to start another one just like it against Iran, doesn’t change the fact that he detests war.

You’re feeling better already, aren’t you? I know I am.

I mean, why should McCain be disqualified from the title of being a “war hater” just because he’s never seen a prospective war he hasn’t loved?

David Vitter probably hates prostitution. Mark Foley, no doubt, detests improper advances towards congressional pages. Just because you lustfully pursue something doesn’t mean you can’t hate it.

John McCain truly and deeply detests wars, he just loves getting and keeping the United States in them. What could be easier to understand?

And they say Richard Nixon was a complicated man.

(Reuters) McCain seeking to assure Americans, “I detest war

Republican presidential candidate John McCain is attempting to reassure Americans that “I detest war” even as he strongly backs the current U.S. war strategy in Iraq.

McCain and his aides point to his past as a Vietnam prisoner of war as evidence that he is well aware of the sacrifices involved in war and not eager to get the United States involved in more conflicts if elected in November.

“Somebody who understands war, understands the military and has foreign policy and diplomatic experience is the best person to avoid war,” said McCain senior adviser Charlie Black. “McCain is the last guy who wants to go to war and he knows all the other steps to do to avoid it.”

I’ll let you in on a little secret: the older I get the less I give a shit what’s in a politician’s heart. Lyndon Johnson, for example, hated the Vietnam War. Around 58,000 Americans nevertheless died there. From a human standpoint, I can feel some compassion for Johnson — a man who quite clearly felt himself trapped by the war. But from the standpoint of what happens in the real world, really, who gives a shit?

What’s important is that our leaders avoid policy disasters like Vietnam and Iraq, not how much their precious souls bleed when they don’t.

So, if John McCain says that he detests war, I’ll take him at his word. But as long as he continues to advocate a dangerously militaristic approach to foreign policy, you’ll forgive me if I don’t take a lot of comfort from that.

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Waiting for Paul Krugman

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Steve here, reporting back for duty. I want to extend heartfelt thanks to Chad and Christy for the superb work they did filling in: I know it was a burden.

Even speaking as a Paul Krugman junkie (I’m reading The Conscience of a Liberal as we speak), I’ll confess to feeling a little irritation over his not so occasional slams on my preferred candidate, Barack Obama. I’m forced to admit, however, that Krugman did draw blood on one occasion a while back when he chastised Obama for coming a bit too close to advancing right wing talking points on Social Security.

Using right wing talking points is, indeed, an unpardonable offense for a Democratic candidate.

So, I’m looking forward to reading Krugman’s next couple of columns (the next one is due up in a matter of hours) to see what, if anything, he has to say about the Clinton campaign’s wholehearted embrace of the granddaddy of all right wing talking points: the one that accuses liberals of being elitists who are out of touch with average people.

(AP) Obama’s remarks give Clinton an opening

A political tempest over Barack Obama’s comments about bitter voters in small towns has given rival Hillary Rodham Clinton a new opening to court working class Democrats 10 days before Pennsylvanians hold a primary that she must win to keep her presidential campaign alive.
Obama tried to quell the furor Saturday, explaining his remarks while also conceding he had chosen his words poorly.

“If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that,” Obama said in an interview with the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal.

But the Clinton campaign fueled the controversy in every place and every way it could, hoping charges that Obama is elitist and arrogant will resonate with the swing voters the candidates are vying for not only in Pennsylvania, but in upcoming primaries in Indiana and North Carolina as well.

*  *  *

At a campaign rally in Wilson, N.C., former state Democratic Party chairman and current Clinton adviser Tom Hendrickson said rural voters don’t need “liberal elites” telling them what to believe.

Bill Clinton was the featured speaker of the rally but avoided commenting on Obama’s remarks. When asked about it afterward, he said simply, “I agree with what Hillary said.”

(my emphasis) 

Well, how about it. Paul? It’s clear you’re a Hillary backer. That’s your right. But are you also an equal opportunity smiter of Democrats who use right wing talking points?

I guess time will tell.

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Friday, April 11th, 2008

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Presidential candidates on “American Idol”: Is there a line they can’t cross?

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

Hi. It’s Chad once again. Here’s hoping none of the candidates have to sing to get into the White House.

The three major remaining presidential candidates were scheduled to be on FOX’s “American Idol” last night. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain were going to give taped messages as part of “Idol Gives Back,” a telethon for needy children.

Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times has a transcript of what Obama is going to say. I couldn’t find a transcript for either Clinton or McCain.

The show says the presidential candidates will be on tonight’s edition at 8 p.m. Eastern.

The jokes are obvious: “We’re running the presidential election like ‘American Idol’.” “Well, at least Obama, Clinton, and McCain can all agree on one thing.” “Hope they don’t have to sing their way through the race.”

The bar for media appearances by presidential candidates or presidents has long-shifted since Richard Nixon asked American to “Sock it to me” on “Laugh-In.” Al Gore, while vice president, appeared on “Futurama,” a show where one of his daughters was a writer.

And the “American Idol” audience is huge and young, two things presidential candidates love to be exposed to.

But is it too much? Is there a standard where presidential candidates or presidents should not cross the line?

How shall we respond to the latest from Gen. Petraeus?

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Hi. It’s Christy once again. Did you watch the testimony yesterday from Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker? What should the reaction be? 

Last time General Petraeus came to Congress with a report on Iraq, there was an uproar about MoveOn’s “General Betray Us” characterization that prompted a swift repudiation by Congress.

Senate Approves Resolution Denouncing Ad

Michael Masley, an anti-war activist and street artist based in Berkeley, CA, is asking now if we can’t prompt another swift response from Congress while Gen. Petraeus is in town to testify to Congress. Masley would like Congress to resolve that they and/or all Cabinet members will repudiate profits that they might earn from investments in the ongoing war. He has lobbied Rep. Barbara Lee to introduce such a resolution.

An Associated Press report this week indicates that our legislators have considerable holdings that might enrich them as a result of war.

Lawmakers heavily invested in defense“The [Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics] review of lawmakers’ 2006 financial disclosure statements suggests that members’ holdings could pose a conflict of interest as they decide the fate of Iraq war spending. Several members earning money from these contractors have plum committee or leadership assignments, including Democratic Sen. John Kerry, independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman and House Republican Whip Roy Blunt.

Members of Congress have as much as $196 million collectively invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the onset of the Iraq war, according to a study by a nonpartisan research group.”

Is this the time to address the Blood-for-Oil problem? Should those governing the country promise to eliminate the profit motive from any war-related actions?

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The Clintons?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Hi. It’s Christy from Steve is doing the trial thing, so here’s another entry.

What’s in a name? Hillary Clinton’s name has undergone several transitions* (see below) in her long career, all of which have been duly noted by pundits and criticized. She seems damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. Apparently her campaign had settled on “Hillary.” I’m not sure that was a wise choice since it kind of leads one to “Bill” just as “Ben” leads to “Jen.”

Listening to pundits in recent days, though, and reading a lot of print news reports, leaves me believing Senator Clinton increasingly is being referred to in a new way. To me it’s not a way that seems likely to help her bid for the presidency.

It’s “The Clintons.”

Why is the widely disliked Mark Penn still a top consultant for Hillary? It’s his long history with “The Clintons.” Why does Hillary have high negatives? It’s “The Clintons’” baggage of scandals and investigations. How will Hillary prevail in Pennsylvania? She has the residual love for “The Clintons” of blue-collar voters.

Earlier in the campaign, I feel like Senator Clinton had established at least the perception that she was her own person, and that she would relegate Bill Clinton to doing good deeds overseas if she assumed the presidency. Has that perception been lost?

Democrats backing Hillary now often say other Democrats must be nuts not to see that she represents a return to the prosperity and compassionate government Bill Clinton’s administration stood for.

Democrats not backing Hillary say we must get away from “dynasties” and suggest Bill’s presence means no vice-presidential nominee could do much of anything in her administration.

Is this shift in nomenclature that I describe real and have others noticed it? If so, what does it mean for the Hillary Clinton candidacy or presidency?

* Hillary Diane Rodham, Hillary Rodham, Hillary Clinton, Mrs. Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, The First Lady, Senator Clinton, HRC, Hillary, Billary?