Friday, October 31, 2008

A dingelhead on the first amendment: Run for cover!

Sarah Palin on conservative talk radio today:

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations...then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

The first amendment says that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech."

Wake up, Sarah! Is there a law against what you are saying? Does the media even pass laws? Are the media and Congress the same thing? Are in you jail? Have you been fined for what you said? Have you been told that if you don't shut up you'll be charged with a crime? (Is that too many questions, with too many big words, for you to keep track of?)

If the answers to those questions are "No", then your first amendment rights have not been abridged. The first amendment says you can say whatever you want. So can I. So can the media. It doesn't say I have to agree with you or nod along. It lets me, and the media, dissent. Down in the lower 48, we call that Democracy. So, bite me.

Your understanding of the US Constitution, however, abridges my right to live in a society where candidates for national political office have the decency to understand the most basic elements of the US Constitution.

Though I am sure it looks that way from Alaska, you are not the center of the universe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Real Montana

Finally, something about Montana that sounds like the real deal.

You can vote however you like

In case you were wondering, these kids will set you straight!

They should be here

Tuesday I’m bringing my beautifully framed photo of Jackie Robinson to an election night party. It would not be a party without him.

After the ‘Barack Special’, I headed out for a walk to the sound of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring. It’s the first track on my Ipod. A quarter mile in I felt so good that I started to run, and I ran for almost 2 miles until I reached a steep hill. I walked up the hill, marveling at the stars. On a clear night in Bozeman, you can see infinity.

My Ipod continued through the tracks in turn, and as I crossed Wilson Avenue two blocks from my house, Amy Martin was singing her tribute to Paul Wellstone. You may remember him: the college-professor-turned-senator from Minnesota was the lone dissenting vote in our tragic march to war in Iraq. He died, along with his wife, daughter and several others, in a plane crash on October 25, 2002.

“And we cry in the night across the nation
There may have never been a time
When we more desperately needed him
They say we all march in lock step
To beat of the war drum
But this man raised his hand and said
No, not in my name
And he spoke for me
And my future children
He left us a legacy
Of what a true hero could be.”

And I sat in the dark on my porch and I shed some tears for someone else who should be here.

Just do it

In the worst of times, this family recognized the needs of others.

"And Cannady said Anne actually goes on, in a sense, telling Smith, "When it became evident late Saturday afternoon of the outcome for Anne, we discussed the organ donation, and knew that that was something she would certainly have wanted to do. Twenty-four hours later, Sunday evening, we were advised that six people had been the recipient of Anne's gift. So there's a legacy that will continue to live on in other people through her. And for that, we're thankful and grateful.""

Surely, in the light of day, when all is well in our lives, we too can sign up to be organ donors.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crocodile Tears from Hypocrites

So spreading the wealth is bad? It's socialism, the scourge of the earth according to McCain, Palin and red-staters.

After his Meet The Press endorsement of Barack Obama, Colin Powell explained taxes and redistribution well:

"Taxes are always a redistribution of money. Most of the taxes that are redistributed go back to those who paid them, in roads and airports and hospitals and schools. And taxes are necessary for the common good. And there is nothing wrong with examining what our tax structure is or who should be paying more, who should be paying less. And for us to say that makes you a socialist, I think is an unfortunate characteriziation that isn't accurate."

So, let's take a look at how federal taxes are 'redistributed', on a state by state basis. Some states pay more in taxes than they get back again. Connecticut gets 73 cents back on each dollar it pays in, California - 80 cents, New York - 82 cents and Washington state - 89 cents. Other states get more back than they pay in: Mississippi gets $2.02 for each dollar it puts in, New Mexico - $2.00, West Virginia - $1.75, Kentucky - $1.48 and South Dakota - $1.51.

Pretty clearly, there is a redistribution of federal tax dollars going on: Some people are getting back more than they put in. It's an outrage. It's socialism. It's a travesty. It's downright un-American.

And weirdly, given the vociferous objection to 'redistribution' from red-staters, red states across the country get much more back from the feds than they put in. Take a look for yourself. And blue states? What a bunch of chumps!

Thank goodness McCain and Palin have stuck to their principles by pointing out the gross inequity of the redistribution of federal tax dollars!

Let's take a look and see how our candidates do here, just to make clear how awful and socialistic the Democrats are in stark contrast to the fair and just Republicans.

John McCain: Arizona gets back $1.19 for each dollar it puts in.

Sarah Palin: Alaska gets back $1.85 for each dollar it puts in.

Barack Obama: Illinois gets back 78 cents for each dollar it puts in.

Joe Biden: Delaware gets back 80 cents for each dollar it puts in.

Whoa, Nellie! My head just did the 'exorcist' spin. John McCain and Sarah Palin are accusing Barack Obama and Joe Biden of being socialists?! Really?

Based on the evidence, I conclude that Obama and Biden are really ineffective socialists, much less effective than, oh say, John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Luckily for the Republican candidates, Colin Powell isn't going to call them a socialist over this. He might, however, think they are hypocrites.

In my email: So Bite Me!

I didn't write this but I fully concur. Now we just have to turn Montana blue.

From: Laura Grindstaff
Subject: An Open Letter
Date: Monday, October 27, 2008, 3:37 PM

Dear Red States,
If you manage to steal this election too we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California , Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss. We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms. Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the country's fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92% of the nation's fresh fruit, 95% of America 's quality wines, 90% of all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, 95% of the corn and soybeans (thanks Iowa !), most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92% of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38% of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or guntha laws, 44% say that evolution is only a theory, 53% that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61% of you crazy bastards believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties. Finally, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace out,
Blue States

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Ghost of Strother Martin

McCain blames the media for his failing and flailing campaign, including his running mate’s unfavorable ratings. Journalists are biased and unfair, or so the story goes.

John McCain has no coherent message, and not because the media has garbled it. He and his campaign have been here, there and thither since the end of the primary season: he’s experienced! He’s courageous! He’s a fighter! He’s an outsider! If you are going to run a campaign predicated on character, it is best to settle up front on what that character is going to be.

And if the theme is experience and judgment, then align your decisions with that: vet your vice presidential candidate, know what you are talking about and save the drama for your mama.

As for his running mate’s poor favorability ratings, Palin blames a media filter that distorts who she is. She says she wants to talk directly to the American public without going through the so-called biased media. But when it comes down to it, she has refused to answer anyone's questions except her own.

Case in point: When NBC's Brian Williams asked her about whether abortion-clinic bombers were domestic terrorists and Palin immediately launched into a condemnation of Bill Ayers. That's not the damn question!

A key to good communication is listening. Sarah Palin has shown herself to be an abysmal listener. Questions are filtered through her own personal lens and the answer that comes out has nothing to do with what was asked and everything to do with what she wants to say. It may make her feel good, but it is deeply unsatisfying to the listener. This, I suspect, is part of our frustration with her interviews: her drivel is unresponsive to the question asked. She makes you wonder if she even heard or understood the question, not a good concern about someone so close to having the nuclear codes.

Reporters have generally been unwilling to point it out to her. Interestingly, when Katie Couric pressed her, Palin admitted responded poorly and later said she was annoyed with Couric for not asking questions she wanted to answer. Welcome to big-time politics, Governor Palin. It’s not about you anymore.

To steal a line from Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke, “what we've got here is failure to communicate.” And it’s not the media’s failure: It belongs squarely on the shoulders of the McCain-Palin campaign.

Guest Post: The Audacity of Chutzpah

[from my mom, who knows what she is talking about]

Last Thursday I shopped at my favorite thrift shop, returning triumphant with five lined and beautiful jackets for $27 (total, not each).

They are all quality label (Ann Klein, Liz Claiborne, Ann Taylor, Talbot's), all like new. As you know, your mother dresses on the cheap from thrift shops, consignment stores and the Talbot's outlet.

Well, that's yet another place where I part company with Sarah Palin. Although we live in Northern Virginia and are counted by the McCain campaign as part of the liberal east coast elite, I've never set foot in Neiman Marcus or Saks. I do confess to buying a bathing suit (on third markdown) at Macy's in the 1970s. It was a Monahan mainstay for 23 years until it literally fell apart in the water at a Hawaiian beach (a fairly racy story for another day).

Returning from my thrift shop excursion, I turned on television news and heard about Guv Palin's new $150,000 high-end (what else at that price?) wardrobe, makeup and hairstyling.

Sarah Palin: Just the average middle class hockey mom, dressing for a dash to Wal-Mart's meat counter.

Lordy, Lordy, Miss Scarlett. I fear I shall swoon. What y’all don’t know about other folks!

In my entire life I never paid more than $80 for any outfit except a winter coat (top price of $125 on that and I wore it f o r e v e r.). Think how much the GOP could have saved if they allowed me the bonding experience of taking Miz Palin shopping. For that I would even take off my Obama button.

With $3,000 at Talbot’s (not even Talbot’s Outlet, shrine to thrift which it is) I could dress the Would Be Veep in enough coordinated skirts, jackets, shoes, handbags and dresses to see her to November fourth’s gala events and the GOP wake beyond.

With just $1,000 at a couple of thrift and consignment shops she could be dressed to kill (or attack, as is her wont) in dozens of outfits, many with designer labels. There would be enough apparel to carry The Guv through to Bristol’s baby’s high school graduation.

As for makeup, did anyone consider the drug store? A good supply of hair styling needs may be found there as well for well under $40. Quality stuff. Vidal Sasson, Pantene et al.

Let’s be clear about this kerfuffle and GOP contributors, please note: The Republicans blow $150K on designer duds and makeup for a candidate when the McCain campaign desperately needs those funds to buy advertising air time.

It makes a lady wonder about what kind of priorities and decisions a McCain administration would make on life and death issues. Oh, yes, remember Terri Schiavo? Remember the Iraq War?

When was the decision engendered to retrofit The Guv at the cost of a new 3br/2b house with a Lexus in the garage in Iowa? My suspicion is the scheme was born when Cindy McCain first laid eyes on The Guv at the deep vetting interview with McCain at his Arizona ranch. Mother’s imagination flashes: Cindy takes one appalled look at Sarah's outfit and thinks "That tacky polyester has to go. Let's get this babe to Neiman Marcus so she will LOOK Republican."

And so they did, also acquiring a hair stylist and make up artist to travel with The Guv at a cost of about $23,000 for three weeks work. That's more than my pension and social security combined for a year.

How could I ever have doubted the empathy, the deep compassion, the McCain campaign has for the middle class? Remember the story about The Emperor with No Clothes? Well, that is not Sarah Palin's story.

Now The Guv's handlers protest the utter unfairness of the press disclosing this. No one had to go through garbage or hack a computer for the facts: The campaign itself reported the expenditures.

One of the McCain whizzes whined that the plan is to give the clothes to charity ("Hey, Sue, look at the bag lady in Dior!"), adding that some of the outfits would be returned to the stores.

Consider the ethics of this: You wear very expensive clothes to campaign events and then return them to the merchants for a refund. What reason do you state for the return?

Reluctance to pay the bill, perhaps. No, customer service might deem that insufficient reason. Perhaps you could plead the outfits didn't photograph well or they smelled after the candidate perspired in them. No wonder many stores require expensive apparel be returns with the original price tags attached.

Just when I think the McCain campaign can't screw up any worse, they confound the world anew with their audacity of chutzpah.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Sarah Palin has largely avoided the so-called mainstream media since her Vice Presidential nomination. In retrospect, I’m not surprised: she’s not of the mainstream and I can understand why she might not want to mingle with them.

Her religious beliefs and practices are a bit odd. Case in point, her ‘blessing’ from Thomas Multhee who laid hands on her to cast away the witches. Seriously, witches. I wonder if the Palin kids get to go trick-or-treating.

Her husband’s political affiliations are also out of the mainstream. The Alaska Independence Party is the Alaska version of the Montana Militia, except that the Montana Militia got a lot more attention back in the day from the mainstream media.

Most odd, to me, is Palin’s weak record at getting her kids through high school. High school. Her son joined the military before graduating. Her daughter joined the campaign trail and will likely have a baby before graduating. Her future son-in-law dropped out of school as well. High school graduation is a pretty mainstream American goal.

What so wrong with the mainstream, and who's out of step with it?

Alternate Reality I

Sarah Palin, in Des Moines IA on October 25:

“See, under a big government, more tax agenda, what you thought was yours would really start belonging to somebody else, to everybody else. If you thought your income, your property, your inventory, your investments were, were yours, they would really collectively belong to everybody.”

She should know.

Her family received over $3300 in payments from the state of Alaska in 2007. In 2006, the amount was just over $2200. Sarah Palin's popularity as governor of Alasksa was due, in part, to her support for increasing that payment by $1200 last year.

Alaska does not grow money on trees. They collect it from oil companies and redistribute it to Alaska residents.

Socialism, anyone?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eight long years

Remember the 'wassssup' beer guys? Well, they're back.

The last eight years haven't been good to them.

But they still know hope.

This may be my favorite Obama campaign ad yet.

Real men live in Montana

I was reading magazines today in Borders.

Three men sat down nearby: one wearing a cowboy hat and the other two wearing baseball caps with farm equipment logos. One had his 3 month old daughter with him. I inferred that his wife was shopping and he was on baby duty. In the hour I sat by them, they changed the baby’s diaper, held her, cooed at her and told her how cute she was. Then she slept and they talked.

Me, I just read magazines.

When they got up to walk away, the oldest of the men, probably in his late fifties, pointed to the New Yorker magazine I’d been reading—the one with the “How John McCain Picked Sarah Palin” headline—and asked: “Did that book tell you where they got her?”

Sensing dangerous territory, I did my best imitation of Sarah-herself: “Well, I think they found her in Alaska.”

“But did they say how they found her?” he persisted.

I ventured further: “It said that Republican officials visited Alaska last spring, and she hosted them at the governor’s mansion. That’s how she met them.”

“I don’t know her but she’s pretty famous now,” he responded.

“Yeah, she’s made quite a name for herself.” I said that with a completely straight face.

And then he said with complete certainty: “Doesn’t matter. They're not gonna do it.”

Maybe he was baiting me, but it didn't seem like it.

He seemed more like nobody's fool.

(props to Richard Russo)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On a lighter note

I have three criteria for shoes:
  • No high heels.
  • No pointy toes.
  • Must be able to walk a mile in them.

Well, four:

  • That mile just might be in snow and ice.

No pretty shoes? No great loss, if you ask me.

Liberal Feminists

Liberal feminists are distinguished by their belief that if only women would act like men then everything would be OK. No changes in society are needed, just changes in women's behavior. Get with the damn program!

As for John McCain's assertion that Sarah Palin is an antidote to the 'liberal feminist agenda':

I don't think McCain would recognize a liberal feminist if she jumped aboard the straight talk express and ran it into a ditch. Neither would Sarah Palin, not even looking in the mirror.

Pity party

Alone among friends and family, I feel sorry for John McCain. I don’t excuse his poor choices but I cringe for what he has become and the promise that he and his advisors have squandered.

In the spring, when it was clear who was left standing, I was certain that Barack Obama would win come November 4. Why? First, because it was going to be damn difficult for any Republican to win in 2008, following years of mismanagement by the Bush Administration. But second, and specific to John McCain as a candidate, I was certain that—someway, somehow—his campaign would implode. I had vague visions of McCain, for example, losing his temper in public or being unable to contain his contempt for an opponent who challenged him.

Certainly, those things have happened, but they are not why McCain’s campaign collapsed. McCain’s campaign began its downward spiral to certain death when its top advisors convinced John McCain that the only way he could win was by tacking right rather than center in the final months of the campaign. In this, McCain was ill-served by his advisors, yes, the very ones he chose to hire and listen to.

The promise in tacking right is simple: it would energize the ‘base’, ensuring that a bloc of voters would get out and vote when they might otherwise take a pass on the election. But the problems in going right are substantial. First, George Bush did not win the last two elections solely by securing the ‘base’: he won two elections by combining strong support from the base with other factions including fiscal conservatives who are now justifiably skeptical of the Republican Party. McCain and his advisors got it wrong: Alone, the base cannot win an election for the Republicans, and this is only going to become a more acute problem in future elections as the racial and ethnic demographics of the US are transformed.

More importantly, however, was the problem of finding a candidate who met two criteria: broadening the appeal of John McCain and appealing to the base. I can see what McCain’s advisors were thinking: “Find a conservative woman to put on the ticket, and that will broaden his appeal and get the evangelical Christian vote out!”

[Footnote: I never believed that Sarah Palin would appeal to Democratic women who had supported Hillary Clinton. Seriously, Republican strategists need to get out a little more: visit with women outside their immediate circles. Then dare to presume that they can predict how women will view a particular candidate.]

Turns out, however, a qualified, socially conservative, Republican woman candidate is a myth. The Republican Party’s best options – any of a number of women senators – share an irreparable flaw: they are not, as it turns out, sufficiently conservative to meet the needs of this strategy. In particular, on the abortion continuum, they tend towards choice. This, by the way, indicates a significant flaw in the infrastructure of the Republican Party: it espouses a platform of social policies that its most prominent women do not support. Go figure.

So instead of choosing the candidate with whom he was most comfortable – Democrat Joe Lieberman, of the self-imposed political exile – McCain caved to party pressure and acquiesced to the bad advice from his campaign: He chose Alaska governor, Sarah Palin, to be his running mate. Instead of waging a likely bloody and public fight to get Lieberman through the Republican convention, McCain gave up on his vision of reforming the Republican Party and advancing a new way of doing politics. Who knows? Perhaps he decided to do what his party and advisors thought it would take to win this election, hoping to get back to the reforming after he won the election.

But his choice of Palin as running mate backed him into a corner he cannot escape. His campaign, rooted in the premise that experience and judgment matter, botched its most important, most visible decision, the one decision for which there is no do-over: He selected an inexperienced and, now it is apparent, ill-prepared running mate.

After that, what is left of his campaign? He can, unconscionably in my view, defend the qualifications of his running mate; few are buying it. He can try to talk on the issues; the historical context, especially an epic financial meltdown, is not on his side, however, and his running mate offers no buttressing, no insight and no cover. Or he can tear down his opponent; anyone beyond his base finds that distasteful.

Make no mistake: my pity does not lead me to excuse the failings of this campaign. There is no excuse for the anointing of Sarah Palin as emissary to the base: she is unqualified to be Vice President, nay, hardly seems to understand what the job entails, and shows no promise that she can learn the substance necessary to be a national leader.

The divisiveness of the McCain campaign has been stunning, especially in stark contrast with the inclusiveness of Obama’s message. According to Republicans, there’s ‘us’ and there’s ‘them’, and ‘them’s the problem.’ Well, ‘them’ is the problem: the distaste for such discourse among many independent voters, and the ever-growing size of ‘them’ compared to McCain’s steadily shrinking ‘us’.

I have heard that campaign manager Steve Schmidt does not plan to run another presidential campaign. What a relief: that is blessed insurance against the dwindling chances that anyone would be foolish enough to ask. The advisors to McCain’s campaign have made a ruin of things: they did not have a good starting point, but instead of going high, with dignity and respect for themselves and the voters, they went low. And, for the most mundane of reasons -- personal ambition, disdain for an opponent -- John McCain went along.

Nonetheless, I pity John McCain: The historical context is against him, he was ill-served by his closest aides and his ambition got the best of him. It has been painful to watch the final, tragic act in the political life of a man who showed significant independence and promise.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Guest Post: Anatomy of a Distortion

[With thanks to my mom, for giving permission to post her work here.]

Did you know?

Senator John McCain's brother lived for months in 2003 with an Alexandria, VA woman who was arrested by Washington, DC police during a radical mob protest which stormed an embassy, terrifying the occupants. Anne ("Anarchist Annie") Monahan was incarcerated in shackles but, reportedly due to political pull, escaped prosecution in the left-leaning D.C. court system.

She met McCain's brother Joe, a sometimes writer and actor, through theater connections. He moved into her plush Alexandria townhouse in 2003, just as the Iraq war began. Alexandria is often referred to by right thinking Virginians as "The Peoples’ Socialist Republic of Alexandria."

Monahan, known in ultra-liberal circles for her virulent opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq war, has a long history of radical beliefs and behavior. Sources said her own mother often called her a "holy terror."

Monahan marched in anti-Vietnam war protests and sheltered New York college agitators in her home while living in Maryland. At the time she was employed by U.S. Senator Charles E. Goodell, a peacenik legislator from New York whose staff comprised a den of radical thought and anti-administration activity.

Although she maintains the guise of a kind grandmother type, Anarchist Annie is a vocal participant in an Alexandria group which meets weekly in a nearby coffee house, frequently and loudly plotting the radical liberal politics for which Alexandria is noted.

Obama campaign signs adorn her house, she sports an Obama button at all times and has been observed "canvassing" otherwise peaceful neighborhoods for the Obama-Biden ticket. Interestingly, Joe McCain recently referred to Alexandria residents as "communists", leading to speculation that he was part of Monahan's far left political circles. "How else could he know about the Commies?" an observer noted.

McCain, a senior advisor in his brother’s presidential campaign, could not be reached for comment on speculation that he is a mole for ultra-liberal elements hoping to defeat the senator from Arizona.

Evidently the apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Monahan's daughter is a professor of sociology at a Montana university. "We all know sociology is the euphemism for teaching socialism and terror in the United States," a Virginia resident said.

But really...

The anatomy of distortion is shown by comparing the above with the truth: The Rev. Anne Monahan, an Episcopal minister, was arrested in the mid-80s for protesting apartheid at the South African embassy. She was one of a group of 80 clergy and laity, led by Bishop John Walker, who staged a peaceful protest. Before arriving at the embassy, the group filled out booking cards for the convenience of the DC police who were to arrest them when they approached too near the embassy.

Wearing plastic handcuffs, the protestors were cheerfully and peacefully transported to the DC lockup where they were booked and released on their own recognizance. In accord with an agreement reached prior to the demonstration, charges were later dropped.

Mrs. Monahan met Joe McCain through her husband, Will, an actor, and the three became friends. When Joe needed a place to stay during a personal transition, he moved into the Monahan's home. Mrs. Monahan was serving a Delaware church at that time and the house was vacant most of the time so McCain became their house sitter.

The Monahans did participate in the Moratorium Against the War and offered one night’s housing and meals to four University of Buffalo students whom they found, hungry and without shelter, on the steps of a Capitol Hill church. ["They were groovy," recalls Monahan's daughter who was five years old at the time.]

Mrs. Monahan was employed as a staff assistant by Senator Goodell. Her main responsibilities were processing grants and loans for sewer systems upstate. Goodell was one of the first Republican senators to oppose the Vietnam War.

The coffee group is a meeting of retired professionals who discuss current events, films, plays, philosophy and good places to eat.

The Monahans' daughter lives a peaceful life, teaching and catering to two beautiful and personable cats. [One of them is named Bessie.]

Speaking to the Thwarting Ploy

Holly Weeks has written a nice little book, "Failure to Communicate" (Harvard Business School Press). She talks about how to approach impossibly awful conversations with effective strategy.

Thwarting ploys are efforts to derail substantive conversations -- by injecting emotion, irrationality, bullying or other distractions. Response to such ploys is hard, because they surprise us and because they take us to uncomfortable places. But Weeks recommends 'speaking to the ploy' -- not ignoring it and not responding in kind, but putting the ploy itself into the light of day.

We've seen thrwarting ploys in the presidential election. We've been distracted by insinuations and direct claims of Obama's otherness: his name is weird, isn't it Muslim and he can't possibly be American.

Well, last night at the Alfred E. Smith dinner, Barack Obama very effectively 'spoke to the ploy' using droll, self-deprecating humor. He followed the rules laid out by Weeks: respect yourself, respect your counterpart and respect the conversation.
  • "Many of you may know that I got my name from my father, Barack. What you may not know is that Barack is actually Swahili for 'that one'."
  • "And I got my middle name from someone who obviously didn't think I'd ever run for president."
  • "My middle name, it's not what you think. It's actually Steve. That's right, Barack Steve Obama."
  • "There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd. I've got to be honest. These guys were serious deadbeats, they were lowlifes, they were unrepentent no-good punks. That's right. I've been a member of the United States Sentate. Come to think of it, John, I'd swear I saw you at one of our meetings."
Obama shouldn't have to speak to these things every day, but it was refreshing to seem him do so last night. Perhaps we can just play that speech over and over again on prime-time television? I think Obama raised enough money in September to do this.

McCain's Campaign Strategy

The model for McCain's campaign strategy goes back about 40 years. Watch this and weep.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rabid dogs and their owners

A couple years ago, I was walking in my neighborhood and a dog ran out of my neighbor’s yard and bit me. I still have the scar on my left leg. To get away from the dog, I scurried up on top of a car. Meanwhile the dog continued to dart about, barking excitedly, for five or ten minutes while the hapless owners tried to get him under control. I learned later that the dog’s name was “Cyclone.” How appropriate.

I went to the emergency room for treatment, where I was joined in the waiting room by the dog’s owners. I learned that their dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. In that awkward moment, I experienced one clear thought: I did not want to be mean to the irresponsible dog owners, but I also did not want to be nice to them. I just wanted them to leave me alone.

I feel that way about Republicans. They have made a hash out of things, including some things I hold dear. I don’t want to sit next to them in a diner (or a bar or a church) and make nice with them. But I also don’t want to be mean to them. Life’s too short. I would, however, like to be left alone.

I’d like to be able to listen to the radio without hearing a decent man being linked to so-called ‘terrorists’. I’d like to be able to watch the evening news without being slapped in the face by racist and xenophobic rhetoric. I’d like to hear the ideas of Republicans without seeing their candidate cringe at the product of his own party’s fear-mongering. In this election, Republicans have built up a scary and unpleasant world for themselves, and I want no part of it.

Leave me alone.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Troopergate: Who's the victim?

Sarah and Todd Palin worked relentlessly to get their ex-brother-in-law, Mark Wooten, fired from his job because of a personal dispute with him. That turns out to be a violation of Alaska ethics law. You don't get to use your position as governor to settle personal vendettas.

But some say, Mark Wooten is a bad person...why protect him?

Well, if you take a step back, you'll notice that Mark Wooten is not the primary victim here: He still has his job.

The victims in this mess are all the state government employees, including Walt Monegan, who were pressured and harassed by the governor and her husband over something they had no business meddling in. Those folks were repeatedly asked, by someone with power over them, to do illegal and unethical things. Or else.

That's the ethical violation, if only the Palins could see it.

Reform this!

The ‘Troopergate’ report reveals that Sarah Palin and her husband vindictively used the position and resources of the Alaska governor’s office to try to hound her ex-brother-in-law out of a job.

The job of governor is not to get your ex-brother-in-law fired. It is to serve the people of your state by suggesting legislation and formulating policy to address the larger structural issues facing the state. Palin showed that she is capable of such reform with the natural gas pipeline project.

But when it comes to issues facing an abused and scared woman in a messy divorce, Palin failed as a ‘reformist’ governor. She did not review divorce laws and propose new legislation that would better protect those in this position. She did not examine the court system and how family court judges are appointed, trained and evaluated. She did not review the public employee disciplinary system and union agreements to identify possible flaws in policies and procedures. She treated her sister’s case as an isolated one, rather than one symptomatic of larger problems within the legal and employment systems of Alaska.

It is not reform if all you do is replace someone else's judgment with your own.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Color me confused

You'll have to forgive Barack Obama if an "I told you so" slipped out. Why?

Last summer, Barack Obama warned Americans that: "What they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. Aw, he's not patriotic enough...He's got a funny name...He doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills."

At that time, he was slammed by Republicans and the conservative press for -- what is it they call it? -- 'playing the race card'.

Well, now who's playing the race card? John McCain, Sarah Palin, McCain campaign staff and GOP boosters are engaged in a coordinated, premediated effort to instill fear of Obama ('pallin' around with terrorists', 'risky guy') and make him out to be the 'other' ('Barack Hussein Obama!?').

Looks like Obama's pretty good at reading the future.

But why is it OK for desperate Republicans to highlight the salience of race when Barack Obama is villified for merely mentioning that such things happen?

Finally, in addition to her other attacks, Sarah Palin called Obama 'out of the mainstream' and claimed that he would 'diminish the prestige of the US presidency."


Each time I hear her speak on Obama's character, I am reminded yet again of her close ties to the secessionist Alaska Independence Party. Yes, that's right: secessionist. As in, aimin' to depart the good ol' US of A. Kinda treasonous, don'tcha think? Her husband was a member for years and in recent years, including as governor of Alaska, she has spoken at their convention and expressed her support of their group.

All of this leads me to conclude that Sarah Palin isn't really running for Vice President of the United States. She's running for leader of the American White Supremacy movement. That, she could win.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McCain's Brain on Sarah Palin

Here’s John McCain talking on NPR about Sarah Palin’s insights into foreign policy, based on Alaska's proximity to Russia:

MCCAIN: Well, I think the fact that they have had certain relationships, but that’s not the major reason she has stated, and you know that. The major reason she has stated is because she has the knowledge and background on a broad variety of issues, including probably the major challenge of America, and that’s energy independence. And she has been responsible, taken on the oil companies, and we now are going to have a $40 billion natural gas pipeline. She has oversighted the natural gas and oil and natural resources of the state of Alaska and, by the way, quit when she saw corruption there. She has the world view that I have. She is very highly qualified and knowledgeable.

Good God! Merely talking about Sarah Palin makes you stupid: the natural gas pipeline has nothing to do with Alaska's proximity to Russia and almost nothing to do with foreign policy.

Besides, as Gary Tuchman of CNN has authoratively established, Alaskans may be able to see Russia from their shore but Sarah Palin's never been there. Why does that not surprise me? It's not like she's been anywhere else.

What's wrong with America

This morning I awoke to the sound of country music on my radio. No! That's not what's wrong with America. That's just what is wrong with me.

And then the morning show hosts, Pete and Coleen, began what appeared to be an entirely serious conversation about the cost of the financial sector bailout package. Their gripe: That the bailout package is going to cost $625,000 per taxpayer (they figured about 112,000,000 of us). Yup, that was the number they kept repeating: $625,ooo.

The bailout is estimated to cost $700,000,000,000 dollars. For 112 million taxpayers, that works out to $6250 per taxpayer. Or, as the mainstream media has regularly pointed out, about $2300 per American. Taxpayer or not, there are about 300 million of us.

Now, Pete did say that his math might be off. A little.

A little?

Try by a factor of one hundred. Like he didn't know how many zeroes are in billion and how many zeroes are in million.

And this is what is wrong with America:

  1. people who cannot do a simple arithmetic computation
  2. people who don't see a number like $625,000 per taxpayer and immediately wonder if they might have something wrong here
  3. people who have radio shows as a platform for their ignorance
  4. people who so studiously avoid the mainstream media -- the evil New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal (for God's sake) -- that they haven't yet encountered an actual accurate estimate of the cost per taxpayer or American

These are the same kinds of people, by the way, who take out adjustable rate mortgages and then express surprise -- no, shock! -- that their monthly payments recently went up.

Studied and prideful ignorance is what is wrong with America today.