Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Hendrix Day

Happy Birthday, Jimi. He would've been 66 years old today.

"Little Wing" - Winterland, San Francisco, 12.10.68 2nd Show

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

May your turkeys (or non-turkeys) be moist and tender, your family dynamics beautiful, and your gatherings grand.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top Ten Excuses for Sarah Palin's Turkey Slaughter Photo Op

Letterman last night...

When McCain Lost the Election

From Political Wire:

Suspending Campaign Doomed McCain

A post-election assessment by Wilson Research Strategies concludes that though Barack Obama "leveraged a Democratic advantage on the economy throughout the campaign," it wasn't until John McCain's "ill-fated efforts to 'lead' on the bailout that he truly lost control of the issue."
My own political analysis at the time wasn't quite that well-developed or intelligently expressed, but it was one of the few occasions during the campaign that my instincts were good.

I sent a brief email to Liam the day McCain suspended his campaign:
Subject: McCain Is Nuts

And I think he just lost the election.
Two days earlier
, as the stock market collapsed, McCain had delivered his infamous remark that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."

By then suspending his campaign, he not only seemed lost in dealing with the economic crisis, he also called into question his own leadership skills. Rather than appearing presidential, he seemed erratic and confused.

The impression was even more pronounced when compared with Obama's cool-headedness.

I haven't seen any post-election analysis that mentions The Letterman Factor, but one wonders how much impact David Letterman had when he tore McCain to shreds on national television that night. He immediately understood the lack-of-leadership implications of McCain's stunt, and he slammed the candidate brutally before millions of viewers.
"You don't quit.

You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves. I think someone's putting something in his metamucil.

What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
The one factor ignored in the
Wilson Research Strategies report is how well Obama turned McCain's stunt against him. He brilliantly suggested that McCain couldn't do two things at once - a crippling charge against a man who wants to lead the country in a time of crisis. And by refusing to cancel the first debate that was scheduled two days later, as McCain foolishly suggested, Obama looked confident and strong while his opponent seemed desperate.

Obviously, there were many reasons why McCain lost the election - the pick of Sarah Palin being another major element. But I do think the week of September 22-26, 2008 was the pivotal point in the election, when the nation turned away from McCain as a possible leader. Amazingly, it had nothing to do with his opponent; it was a purely self-inflicted wound.

There are several other interesting chunks of information in the WRS report, which is presented as an easy-to-follow slideshow.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Sacred Song for Christmas

There is a tradition of country singers performing sacred songs and Christmas carols. Even outlaws like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson have their gospel albums and holiday records.

Willie Nelson's 1979 classic, Pretty Paper, which the All Music Guide calls "one of the finest country holiday records ever released" is one of my Christmas favorites.

Now, Willie adds a new tune to his fine collection of sacred yuletide songs: "Let Not Mankind Bogart Love." This premiered last night on Stephen Colbert's A Colbert Christmas. Stephen is experiencing a Christmas crisis (trapped in his cabin by a ferocious bear), and Willie appears in his nativity set as the "fourth Wise Man."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Transition - Obama and the Progressives

For progressives who weren't sure yet, The New York Times spells it out:

President-elect Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination with the enthusiastic support of the left wing of his party, fueled by his vehement opposition to the decision to invade Iraq and by one of the most liberal voting records in the Senate.

Now, his reported selections for two of the major positions in his cabinet — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Timothy F. Geithner as secretary of the Treasury — suggest that Mr. Obama is planning to govern from the center-right of his party, surrounding himself with pragmatists rather than ideologues.
After eight years of the catastrophic combination of arrogance and incompetence that marked the Bush administration, I think most people are hoping Obama will be a pragmatic president.

It's disingenuous, however, for the New York Times to suggest that center-right Democrats are somehow free of ideology, as opposed to Democrats on the left. Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) always had a clearly defined set of beliefs, ideas and goals that they adhered to strictly as they moved the party to the right: privatization, corporatization, globalization, reducing the size of government, ending welfare, hawkish defense policies, etc. One can agree or disagree with the ideology of the Democratic center-right, but it's naive- or, as I suspect in the case of the Times, intellectually dishonest - to pretend it doesn't exist.

(Conversely, one can be on the left or right and still be pragmatic. I would argue that Russ Feingold and the late Paul Wellstone have been examples of this on the left.)

So, what does it mean for Obama to govern from the center-right? Only time will tell.

Before I'm accused of being disillusioned, I would argue that disillusionment arises from a large gap between expectation and reality. The real cure, then, for disillusionment is to see things as clearly as possible. So what is Obama's starting point? Is he a progressive who's moving to the right? Or has he always been in the center-right of the party? Progressives who believe Obama is "one of them" are the ones who are going to become disillusioned when they feel like he's "shifted" to the right.

Personally, I think Obama has always been closer to the center-right of the party. As I wrote in May 2007, after reading The Audacity of Hope, "His style of politics may be fresh, but I don't think you're going to find much difference, in the end, between Barack and Hillary."

Reviewing the same book, Publishers Weekly called Obama's policy positions "tepid Clintonism." With the exception of the invasion of Iraq, there was very little to distinguish the two candidates. Yet many Democrats fought each other furiously during the primaries over who was more progressive, Obama or Hillary. The battle reached an absurd peak during the run-up to the Ohio primary, when both sides tried to claim the other was a nefarious supporter of NAFTA.

The problem for Obama is that he was elected in large part by a new mobilized army of progressives. In the primaries, he defeated Hillary Clinton - who initially had all the advantages of money, party establishment support and name recognition - because he captured the technological innovations, the new-found fundraising power, the organizing skills, and the youthful energy of progressive groups such as MoveOn, DailyKos, and ActBlue. These same groups, along with the old-left machine of labor unions, helped him in the general election out-organize and out-spend McCain across the board.

The last center-right Democrat, Bill Clinton, betrayed the labor unions, who also helped get him elected, by shoving NAFTA through Congress against their wishes and despite his promises. What happens this time if a center-right Obama winds up opposing them on important legislation? Already, the bailout of the automobile industry may put this relationship to a test. Will they remember what Clinton did? How will they react?

When Clinton was initially elected after 12 years of Reagan and Bush, there was a great sense of relief among Democrats. But as his administration began to implement more and more of their center-right agenda, people opposed to those policies - environmentalists, labor unions, anti-globalization critics, etc. - began pushing back. Tensions culminated (in the United States) in the Battle of Seattle, and, electorally, in the Nader campaign of 2000. Several important environmentalists supported Nader, including David Brower, founder of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, who would say that the Clinton-Gore record on the environment "is worse than the Reagan-Bush record." This internal war within the Democratic party subsided for the most part after the tragedy of 9/11, and after an effort to join forces against the Bush administration. But it's a civil war that's been dormant not dead.

The public has placed incredibly high expectations upon Barack Obama. Many of these people are young, energetic and well-organized progressives. If Obama is ineffective, or if he moves too far to the right and doesn't deliver a sense of change, if he disappoints in general, their disillusionment could be equally historic.

Obama may, by nature and temperament, be in the center-right of the party. But he needs to pay attention to everyone who worked hard to get him elected. There are no political advantages in ignoring progressives or taking them for granted. They need to be included in the public conversation about the future of the country.

For their part, progressives need to see Obama clearly and know that he will govern from the center-right. If the administration is pragmatic, however, and not driven by ideology, then progressives can have confidence that their voices will be heard if they make effective arguments. They paid money to attend this ball; they have every right to be allowed on the dance floor.

What they cannot do is be naive about Obama's starting point and get disillusioned because he's "moving to the right." They cannot be passive-aggressive, letting resentment build up because the Democrats in charge are, once again, ignoring the progressives.

What happens, for example, to the relationship between Obama and progressive groups if he appoints John Brennan to head the CIA? Would that be a decision based on pragmatism? Or center-right ideology?

Yesterday, Glenn Greenwald at Salon opined on Obama's recent appointees and the prospect of Brennan:
I'm both entirely unsurprised and basically undisturbed by the fact that Obama's most significant appointments thus far are composed largely of standard Washington establishment figures and pro-Iraq-War hawks, and are devoid of people "on the Left". That is who Obama is -- he's an establishment politician who, with a few exceptions, is situated smack in the mainstream middle of the national Democratic Party. . . . As I've said many times, I intend to wait and judge Obama on the policies he pursues, not the administrators he appoints to carry out those policies.

But John Brennan is a different matter. To appoint someone as CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence who was one of George Tenet's closest aides when The Dark Side of the last eight years was conceived and implemented, and who, to this day, continues to defend and support policies such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition (to say nothing of telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping), is to cross multiple lines that no Obama supporter should sanction. Truly turning a page on the grotesque abuses of the last eight years requires both symbolism (closing Guantanamo) and substantive policy changes (compelling adherence to the Army Field Manual, ensuring due process rights for all detainees, ending rendition, restoring safeguards on surveillance powers). Appointing John Brennan to a position of high authority would be to affirm and embrace, not repudiate, the darkest aspects of the last eight years.

Greenwald may be okay with Hillary while Brennan bothers him; progressives with other agendas will be disturbed by other choices. What's happening, however, is a slow, steady realization on the part of many progressives that Obama's appointing a lot of center-right people and few if any progressives. How will they react?

The last major left upheaval in this country grew out of major disillusionment with the Democratic Party on the part of young people who were energized, organized, and represented a new generation with new technology. And they were first excited by a charismatic young president.

It will be interesting to see how this new generation of progressives - who are very different from the young radicals of the 1960s - responds to a center-right Obama presidency. Will they see him as pragmatic? Or will they see ideology in the guise of pragmatism? For the sake of the country, I hope it's the former and not the latter.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Challenged Ballots: You Be the Judge!

You've been dying to be an election judge ever since Florida 2000.

Now you can be!

Minnesota Public Radio has examples of challenged ballots from the recount of the U.S. Senate election between Al Franken (D) and Norm Coleman (R).

You get to play judge and say how you would rule in each case. See how your choices compare with the decisions of others!

Sigh . . .

I used to party, chase girls, and rock and roll. Now, this is how I get my fun.

h/t Political Wire.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Change We Can Believe In #27

Obama gives the word and Joe Lieberman gets to keep his chairmanship of Homeland Security.

Obama wants Hillary Clinton to be Secretary of State.

Obama wants Larry Summers, Bill Clinton's Treasury Secretary, to be his Treasury Secretary.

Obama wants Eric Holder, Bill Clinton's Deputy Attorney General, to be his Attorney General.

Obama hires about 40 other former Clinton staffers to be in his administration.

Obama meets with John McCain, reportedly offering him Secretary of Defense.

Wait, no, George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense is going to be Obama's Secretary of Defense.

Next up, Obama asks George W. to stay on as Secretary of Education. Karl Rove will run Health, Education and Welfare.

The United States will be one big happy family.

So, get used to it.

Or else.

America's First Black President

Barack Obama's election victory on November 4, 2008 was cool and all, but he's actually not the first black President of the United States. Here's the original:

The Prez, Lester Young, discusses his economic platform in "Pennies from Heaven," from a September 1950 Jazz at the Philharmonic film session.

He's joined by his cabinet:

Hank Jones - piano
Ray Brown - bass
Buddy Rich - drums
Bill Harris - trombone

Then, the "First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald scats with the group on "Blues for Greasy," along with Harry "Sweets" Edison on trumpet and Flip Phillips on tenor sax.

The film was directed by Gjon Mili, who also did the greatest jazz film of all time, Jammin' the Blues (1944).

Lester will always be my favorite president.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Barack Obama and Bi-Racial Politics

The November 17 issue of the New Yorker has several good articles on Obama and the 2008 Presidential Election. You can read most of them online. Here's the Table of Contents.

I particularly recommend David Grann's "The Fall: John McCain’s choices" and Ryan Lizza's "Battle Plans: How Obama won."

Best of all, however, is a long article by the Editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, entitled, "The Joshua Generation: Race and the campaign of Barack Obama."

Much has been made of Obama being African-American, but we sometimes forget that his life experience has been that of a person with a white mother and a black father. Obama himself spends most of his first book, Dreams from My Father, talking about this fact and how he struggled in his attempts to navigate the contours and difficulties of being bi-racial. Perhaps coming from a bi-racial family myself, and hearing stories from my father and aunt, I was particularly struck by this aspect of Obama's book.

Remnick covers a lot of ground in his article, but his look at Obama's bi-racial background and how it's played out in his career and in the 2008 election was, for me, the most interesting part.

The historian David Levering Lewis, who has written biographies of King and Du Bois, told me that after reading Obama’s books he had the sense of a young man almost alone in the world, trying to find a place. “The orphanage of his life compels him to scope out possibilities and escape hatches,” he said. “This very smart mother was somewhat absent, and certainly the father was, and the grandfather marched with Patton, but he was not a rock. Obama is in the world almost solo and he learns to negotiate.”

- - - -

As [Harvard professor Randall] Kennedy followed Obama’s career, he was struck by the uniqueness of his background and how it may have affected both his temperament and his public appeal. “He’s operating outside the precincts of black America,” Kennedy said. “He is growing up in Hawaii, for God’s sake. And then, when he comes to the mainland and tries to find his way, he has to work at it. He does have to go find it. He is not socialized like other people. I can’t help thinking that he might have thought it a burden at the time, but maybe some of the things he missed out on were a benefit to miss out on. For one thing, he didn’t absorb the learned responses, the learned mantras and slogans, the learned resentments of that time that one got in college.”

- - - -

“I don’t think Barack’s candidacy was like any other candidacy,” Axelrod said. “He was the first African-American to come along as a legitimate contender whose candidacy was viewed in the broadest terms.” In his Senate race, Obama had campaigned hard and successfully in southern-Illinois towns nearer to Little Rock than to Chicago, and in white areas of northwest Chicago where Harold Washington had been booed in 1983, when he first ran for mayor. “Barack would come back from these white towns and say, ‘They’re just like my grandparents from Kansas,’ ” Axelrod said. “That’s one of his gifts: there is no room he walks into where he doesn’t feel comfortable and make the people feel that way. It’s both his personality and his background—one contributes to the other. There’s no doubt that being biracial contributes to a sense that he doesn’t compartmentalize people by race or ethnicity or background.”

Even black leaders who were initially wary of him came to recognize his advantages. “His background helped,” Al Sharpton said. “He had a primary understanding of peoples that we may not have had. He could meet with me and then with a representative from Kansas and understand the nuances as well as the content of both conversations.”

It's an excellent article - give it a read.

Monday Morning Madness

Will someone explain this to me?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bond Becomes a Leftist

Juan Cole doesn't normally do movie reviews, but he has an interesting analysis of the new James Bond film in "A Quantum of Anti-Imperialism."

Some excerpts:

The reviews of director Mark Forster's "Quantum of Solace" have complained about the film's hectic pace (reminiscent of Doug Liman's and Paul Greengrass's Bourne thrillers), about the humorlessness of Daniel Craig's Bond, and even about the squalid surroundings, so unlike Monaco and Prague, in which the film is set (with many scenes in Haiti and Bolivia). They have missed the most remarkable departure of all. Forster presents us with a new phenomenon in the James Bond films, a Bond at odds with the United States, who risks his career to save Evo Morales's leftist regime in Bolivia from being overthrown by a General Medrano, who is helped by the CIA and a private mercenary organization called Quantum.

. . . .

The present film takes, to say the least, a different view of popular movements of the left. [Evo] Morales is not mentioned in the film, but his movement was in the headlines while "Casino Royale" was being shot, as he challenged the old "white" elite and was denounced by the US ambassador as an "Andean Bin Laden" and his peasant followers (many of them of largely native stock) as "Taliban." Morales's nationalization of Bolivia's petroleum and natural gas and his redistribution of wealth from the wealthy elite to villagers were among the policies drawing the ire of George W. Bush and his cronies.

If Morales is not mentioned, Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti is. The villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) remarks that while Aristide was president 2001-2004, he raised the minimum wage from 25 cents an hour to a dollar an hour. It was, he said, little enough, but caused the corporations that benefited from cheap Haitian labor to mobilize to have Aristide removed. (Aristide himself maintained that US and Canadian intelligence connived with officers at the coup against him and kidnapped him, taking him to southern Africa.) The Left analysis of American imperialism in the Western hemisphere is put in the mouth, not of a worker or ideologue, but rather of the collaborator in capitalist exploitation of America's poor neighbors. Aristide's story is a clear parallelism for the fate the CIA and Quantum are depicted as plotting for Morales.

Note that director Mark Forster's father was from conservative Bavaria, and that the family was forced to relocate to Davos in Switzerland because they were targeted by the radical Baader-Meinhoff gang after the father became wealthy on selling his pharmaceutical company. Forster's previous film, "The Kite-Runner," sympathized with the Afghans oppressed by the Soviet invasion and even shows one character refusing to be treated by a Russian-American physician. That is, Forster is no glib Third-Worldist. He and his screenwriters are simply performing the work of the intellectual, interrogating the way the wealthy and powerful in the Bush era casually overthrew (or tried to overthrow) foreign governments in the global south to get at the resources they coveted.

. . . .

Craig's Bond is an intimation of the sort of Britain that could have been, if Tony Blair had stood up to Bush and refused to be dragged into an illegal war of choice, and into other actions and policies that profoundly contradicted the principles on which the Labour Party had been founded (and you could imagine Craig's Bond voting for Old Labour, while Flemings's was obviously a Tory). In a way, this Bond stands in for Clare Short, who resigned as a cabinet minister from Blair's government in 2003 over the illegitimacy of the Iraq War.

It is a sad state of affairs that Bush's America now appears in a Bond film in rather the same light as Brezhnev's Soviet Union used to. One can only hope that President Barack Obama can adopt the sort of policies that can get Bond back on our side.
Hey, if A.O. Scott (New York Times) panned the film, it must have something going for it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There Sat Down, Once, a Thing on Henry's Heart

Strolling these days through The Dream Songs by John Berryman. Here he is in Dublin, 1967, reciting Dream Song 29.

Only the Irish-American poet, Liam Moore, who used to performed several Dream Songs amidst a Velvet-Undergroundesque swirl of feedback, comes close to Berryman reading the original.

Dream Song 29
by John Berryman

There sat down, once, a thing on Henry's heart
só heavy, if he had a hundred years
& more, & weeping, sleepless, in all them time
Henry could not make good.
Starts again always in Henry's ears
the little cough somewhere, an odour, a chime.

And there is another thing he has in mind
like a grave Sienese face a thousand years
would fail to blur the still profiled reproach of. Ghastly,
with open eyes, he attends, blind.
All the bells say: too late. This is not for tears;

But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody's missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.

Change We Can Believe In

New York Jets 34 - New England Patriots 31.

The Jets go up to Foxboro, Mass, and defeat the AFC Champion Patriots on their own home turf, in a dramatic overtime game, for sole possession of first-place in the AFC East. A very rare and gutsy win for the Jets in an important game.

Why we love Washington. (In 39 seconds.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is There an Echo in Here?

The New Yorker: George Packer has a new article entitled "The New Liberalism," comparing Barack Obama and F.D.R.

Packer was one of the centrist liberal cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq.

He's a graduate of Yale (1982).

Time: Peter Beinart has a new article entitled "The New Liberal Order," comparing Barack Obama and F.D.R.

Beinart was one of the centrist liberal cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq.

He's a graduate of Yale (1993).

Are these guys sleeping together or something?

Evidently under a portrait of FDR.

The Lieberman Dilemma

Get an early start on your Obama disillusionment.

From Political Wire:

Lieberman Likely Saved By Obama

"With President-elect Obama's fingerprints seemingly everywhere, momentum appears to be building among Senate Democrats to let Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee," according to Roll Call.

"However, Democrats still say they are exploring options for penalizing Lieberman in other ways for his disloyalty to the party during the 2008 election cycle. Those options might include stripping him of two plum subcommittee chairmanships, or taking away his membership on either the Armed Services or Environment and Public Works panels."
Though, personally, I think Obama, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin should take Joe Lieberman out back of the Capitol and kick his ass, I can understand (barely) letting the traitor stay in the Democratic caucus.

I can understand (barely) letting him keep his membership in Environment and Public Works.

But why would Barack Obama and the Democrats want this ass-clown to remain chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee? He's been on the wrong end of every major policy decision concerning Iraq, the war on terror, FISA, Kyl-Lieberman, etc. His politics on these matters are indistinguishable from those of George W. Bush.

Is it because of this?

Christ, I haven't even finished reading Ryan Lizza's article in The New Yorker that everyone's talking about - on how Obama won.

Here's the case against Lieberman.

And here are the 19 Senators on the
Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee who determine committee chairs. Members include Clinton, Kerry, Kennedy, Boxer, Biden and Reid. Contact them, especially the senators from your state, if you want real change in how we conduct Homeland Security and the war on terror.

UPDATE: Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who's on the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, has come out publicly and said Lieberman should be stripped of his Homeland Security chairmanship.

"I am one who does not feel that somebody should be rewarded with a major chairmanship after doing what he did."

Fellow Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders, also spoke out against Lieberman: "To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country," Sanders said in a statement. "Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not 'change we can believe in.'"

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Red State Obama Couldn't Win

One of the most impressive aspects of Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 Presidential Election is that he won NINE "red states" that had gone for Bush in 2004: Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.

Obama won Virginia. Amazing.

Obama won North Carolina! Incredible.

Obama won INDIANA!!! Only two other Democrats have won Indiana in the last 96 years: FDR in 1932 and 1936, and LBJ in 1964.

But there was one "red state" Obama couldn't win. . . . One of the five boroughs of New York City: Staten Island.

Staten Island has always been the dirty little secret of "Liberal" New York City. For the last eight years, I have listened to liberal New Yorkers raging furiously against the dumb idiots in the Red States. They have joked about letting the Red States secede from the "real" U.S. They have sent around a map of this "real" U.S. made up only of "blue states." Never once have I heard a New Yorker even whisper that part of their own city was a "red state." (Unless an asshole like me brought it up.)

[Is Staten Island why "Liberal" New York City has had a Republican mayor for the last 15 years? Even Salt Lake City, Utah, can elect a Democrat for Mayor.]

Obama managed to win Nassau and Suffolk counties out on Long Island - not exactly hotbeds of radicalism. But he couldn't win part of New York City.

Obama won rural counties out in WEST TEXAS, for God's sake. But he couldn't win part of New York City.

Obama won rural counties in UTAH, a state that went 63% -34% for John McCain. But he couldn't win part of New York City.

Obama even won a rural county in bloody WYOMING, a state that went 65% -33% for John McCain. But he couldn't win part of New York City.

(By the way, that's Teton County, whose seat is Jackson. Better known as the home of Dick Cheney.)

In the end, Staten Island voted in this election by exactly the same percentages as the state of Georgia: 52% for McCain to 47% for Obama.

I've always thought the whole Red State-Blue State dichotomy was false and unhelpful. Grade-school-level political analysis that was actually disrespectful to people in more conservative states who worked their asses off to get progressives elected.

Kudos to all those people in the nine former "red states" who worked hard to show that the very concept of "red" and "blue" states is just not viable.

And instead of raging against the dumb idiots in the Red States, New Yorkers might want to consider getting in touch with the good folks out in Culberson County, West Texas, where Obama won 65%-34%, about helping them win back their own city.

The President (Elect) and the Pope

According to a press release from the new administration, President-elect Barack Obama called His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI yesterday.

Benedict congratulated Obama on his victory and said he welcomed the opportunity to continue improving his relations with Muslims.

Bada-boom! :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Song Stuck in My Head When I Woke Up This Morning

Bloody television commercials. I'm still struggling spiritually with those Cadillac ads using "Start" by The Jam. Though why it would surprise me at this point is a good question.

I've finally accepted that all of the "we're rock and roll rebels!" of the Sixties have sold out, starting with Eric Clapton's Michelob ad back in 1986. But to hear The Clash and The Jam used to sell things on TV . . . My frail punk-era heart can hardly stand it.

And so, one effect of being subjected to Kapitalism's insidious psychological warfare is to start the day with "Start" stuck in my head.

The song comes from The Jam's great 1980 album, Sound Affects, which - as you can tell - showed the influence of the Beatles (the bassline is straight out of George Harrison's "Taxman") and, according to All Music Guide, reflected singer-songwriter Paul Weller's "recent readings of Blake and Shelley (who was quoted on the sleeve), but more specifically Geoffrey Ash, whose Camelot and the Vision of Albion made a strong impression."

Did I miss the Blake and Shelley connection when I was 16? I don't remember that part.

Here's The Jam. . . .

It's not important for you to know my name -
Nor I to know yours
If we communicate for two minutes only
It will be enough

For knowing that someone in this world
Feels as desperate as me -
And what you give is what you get.

It doesn't matter if we never meet again,
What we have said will always remain.
If we get through for two minutes only,
It will be a start!

For knowing that someone in this life,
Loves with a passion called hate
And what you give is what you get.

If I never ever see you -
If I never ever see you -
If I never ever see you - again.

And what you give is what you get!

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's a New Day

I can't help it - I like the new video from

My God, what's happening to me? I've never felt so emotional about the American political system. I get choked up watching videos or seeing people on TV.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after eight bloody years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

I know the cynical stuff will return in time, but for now, I guess I'm happy to drink the kool-aid.

Backstage Photos from Election Night

If you haven't seen these images yet, Flickr has some nice photos of the Obamas and Bidens watching the election results together, as well as pictures from the speech in Grant Park.

Not sure what to make of the simple, almost shabby-looking hotel room. Looks like a single with a double bed at Holiday Inn.

But I like the feeling of the photos. They seem genuinely intimate.

Michelle and her girls, a cousin, and the Obama Brain Trust in the background: David Axelrod (seated in the back on the right), Chief Strategist; David Plouffe (standing), Campaign Manager; and Robert Gibbs (seated on the left), Communications Director.

Not everyone looks excited by Dad becoming President.

Nice to know the President gets along with his mother-in-law.

Uncle Joe. "But you can call me Joey Five Cents!"

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Noble Campaign

This morning on Meet the Press, Jon Meacham, Editor of Newsweek, said that John McCain had run "a noble campaign."

I was - how shall I say? - a little surprised by the comment.

"And we should mark that," he continued. "It could've been a lot worse."

Meacham's got a point. The McCain campaign tried to portray Obama as Un-American, Un-Patriotic, an Appeaser, a Marxist, a Socialist, a Muslim, a Terrorist, etc.

They didn't quite get to Pedophile, Serial Killer, or Drug Lord. (Though several surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, did hint at Obama as a possible drug dealer.)

And it wasn't outside groups making the accusations this time, as with the Swift Boaters in 2004. It was the McCain campaign itself.

But Meacham's not the only normally reasonable person pushing the "McCain ran a noble campaign" meme. I've seen two other Liberal or centrist pundits jump on the bandwagon this week. And, sadly, in all three cases, neither the host nor any of the other guests ever bothered to question this assertion or ask for more explanantion.

Just before the election, Mark Shields, the "Liberal" commentator on the The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, said, "The most admirable thing John McCain did was not to play the race card in this campaign. And for that, he should be -- he deserves some credit."

So, Mr. Shields, was it just some good-natured joshing of Barack Obama and his policies that led to the toxic atmosphere at those Sarah Palin rallies?

This week, the U.S. Secret Service revealed that Palin's rallies "provoked a spike in death threats against the future president."

The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin's attacks.

Michelle Obama, the future First Lady, was so upset that she turned to her friend and campaign adviser Valerie Jarrett and said: "Why would they try to make people hate us?"

Congressman John Lewis, who was almost beaten to death by racists when he was a Freedom Rider in 1961, said that McCain and Palin were "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" and "hostility in our political discourse," and mentioned the hateful tone of George Wallace back in the 1960s.

And Stratfor, private intelligence analysts, issued a report this week on security threats against Obama by white supremacists: "Two plots to assassinate Obama were broken up during the campaign season, and several more remain under investigation. . . . We would expect federal authorities to uncover many more plots to attack the president that have been hatched by white supremacist ideologues."

"Muslim," for one, was always the race card. I still don't believe that 23% of the people in Texas really thought Obama was a Muslim. That's just the terminology they used in public instead of calling him a Dirty N-$#$%&%$.

And there were numerous openly racist remarks and brochures sent out by McCain campaigners at the local level.

My guess is that Meacham and Shields and other commentators are praising McCain for not bringing up Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the campaign. Somehow, this made McCain "noble" and proved he didn't play the race card. What else could it be?

Ironically, I think Rev. Wright would've been more of a legitimate issue to bring up than William Ayers, or Obama being a Marxist. The latter two issues simply didn't have any substance behind them. There were still a few pockets of doubt about Wright, however, despite Obama's powerful and moving speech on racism in Philadelphia when the issue came up during the primaries. Did Barack ever fully explain why he stayed in the church as long as he did, or which part of Wright's belief system he shared? I don't think Wright would have been a very effective or worthwhile topic for the McCain campaign to raise, but I don't think it would've been racist to ask some questions.

So, did McCain run a "noble campaign" in the end?

I offer a story. . .

My aunt, an Obama supporter, lives in Odessa, Texas, heart of George W. Bush country, and a place where I'm sure that more than 23% of the people said they thought Obama was a "Muslim." A nurse comes to my aunt's house every few days to check on her. During the campaign, she showed up wearing a McCain button. Nothing surprising about that in Odessa, Texas.

When the nurse came to visit a couple of days after the election, my aunt asked her if she had voted. "Yes," she said, "Mother and I went down and waited for a long time and we finally got in. We voted for all the local races, but we didn't vote for president."

Surprised, my aunt asked her why.

"Well, we were getting all those emails about Obama, saying he was a Muslim and a Marxist and everything. . . . But I just didn't think he was.

Mother and I would see those people on TV . . . and we just didn't think we were like them. We don't want to be like them."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mystery in Alaska

Strange things brewing up in Alaska. . .

Though the popular Governor of the state is on the Republican ticket, and though turnout during the primary in August was up by 12% over 2004, and though turnout nationwide on Tuesday was the highest in 100 years, Alaskans appear not to have voted very much.

In fact, as things stand now, the turnout percentage would be the lowest in Alaska's history.

And it gets more interesting.

Convicted felon and Republican senator Ted Stevens was trailing Democrat Mark Begich by 12.9 points in the final poll before the election on Tuesday. And that was a poll done by Nate Silver at, who wound up with the most accurate pre-election polling results this year. With 98% of the results in, Stevens is currently leading Begich by 1.5%, a positive switch for the Republican of 14.4%.

Well, perhaps the polls were simply wrong. To give you some context, however, think back to Hillary Clinton's upset in New Hampshire. In that case, Hillary was behind 9 points and won by 2, a turnaround of 11%, which was considered one of the greatest comebacks of all time. So convicted felon Ted Stevens surpassed that incredible accomplishment.

But that's not the end of it! Criminal Ted Stevens wasn't the only one to show a 14% turnaround. Republican Rep. Don Young, currently under Federal investigation for taking bribes, illegal gratuities and unreported gifts, was trailing Democrat Ethan Berkowitz by 6.4% in Nate Silver's final poll and is currently winning by 7.7%, a 14.2% turnaround! So Nate Silver, Mr. Accurate, totally screw up two polls in Alaska?

But that's not the end of it! The McCain-Palin ticket also wound up getting 12.4% more than expected in the final poll. So Silver and all of the other pollsters, though they did very well in the rest of the country, missed three races by historic margins. Make sense to you?

Silver posits three "possible explanations" for the results:
1) Democrats became complacent because the election was basically over by 4 pm local time.
2) The 49,000 outstanding absentee and early voting ballots yet to be counted will be heavily Democratic.
3) There are an undisclosed number of "questionable" ballots yet to be counted, and those may be heavily Democratic.

Convicted Felon and Republican Senator Ted Stevens

But looking at Alaskan presidential results since 1960 seems to disprove explanation #1. In Ronald Reagan's 1984 landslide, when he won every state but one (Mondale's home state), and everyone knew the election was over the moment the first results came out that evening, Alaskans still turned out in record numbers. 200,384 voters cast their ballots that year, compared to only 127,954 in 1980. Turnout in Alaska also increased to an historic number in 1964, despite Lyndon Johnson's Democratic landslide. Obama's success this year, though impressive, was nowhere near those overwhelming victories, so why would the good people of Alaska show up for two landslides but not this time?

Also, the Senate and House races were highly publicized affairs, thanks to Stevens' seven felony convictions and Young's own legal troubles. Energized Democrats in the state had a great chance to capture a vitally important Senate seat and another seat in the House. Why would they stay home for those races?

As far as explanations #2 and #3: Though the outstanding ballots may be heavily Democratic and swing at least the Senate race back to Begich, the total numbers still don't add up. It would mean that in this historic election, with their own governor on the ticket, turnout in Alaska would still be 14% less this year than in 2004.

According to Shannyn Moore, that means "54,304 Alaskans got off their sofas and voted for Bush [in 2004], but decided to sit home and not vote for Palin in 2008. In turn, I have to ignore the 30,520 Alaskans who felt progressive enough in 2004 to vote for John Kerry, but weren't inspired to vote for Barack Obama."

And that despite 20,991 newly registered voters.

While it is possible that turnout simply fell off for various reasons this year, I certainly hope that Democratic officials in Alaska are looking into this.

The Washington Post is: "Alaska Turnout, Results Raise Questions."

UPDATE: I did a little digging in Lexis-Nexis and found an article on Reagan's 1984 landslide: "TV NETWORKS CALL THE RACE EARLY, RENEWING DEBATE ON USE OF PROJECTIONS." Sally Bedell Smith. New York Times. November 7, 1984. Section A; Page 21, Column 1.

As I suspected, the TV Networks called the election very early that year. CBS News at 8:01 PM EST, which would've been 4:01 PM in Alaska. ABC and NBC called it a few minutes later. And that doesn't take into consideration the fact that an hour earlier, at 7 PM EST, when the first results came in, Reagan won every single state and was obviously on his way to a landslide victory.

So people in Alaska knew three or four hours earlier in 1984 than they did this year that the election was already decided. Yet they shattered the turnout record for the state in 1984. Why, then, would turnout fall so dramatically this time?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Obama Administration

President-elect Barack Obama (my, that has a nice ring to it) has already started putting together his new team for the White House.

Rahm Emmanuel has agreed to serve as his Chief of Staff. Ambinder has several interesting posts on the choice.

What does Rahm's selection say about Obama? Obama won't be afraid to step on toes. He's going to be very aggressive in pursuing his agenda. He won't shrink from confronting Congress. And he will expect extreme competence from his staff, from the chief on down.

Obama is clearly picking a team based on who he'd like to have in the foxhole with him; he must be expecting to spend some time there.
Meanwhile, it looks like the White House Press Secretary is going to be Robert Gibbs, who I believe used to be in the Bee Gees. That's kind of weird. He also served as Obama's campaign communications director.

According to ABC News, Obama's Chief Strategist and long-time friend, David Axelrod, has accepted the position of Senior Adviser in the White House. That's no surprise - the two men are very close. Last month, Jeff Zeleny wrote an article in the New York Times about their relationship: "Long by Obama’s Side, an Adviser Fills a Role That Exceeds His Title."

What qualities is Obama looking for as he chooses his cabinet? Last night, Howard Fineman, from Newsweek, discussed the issue with Keith Olbermann.
Olbermann: Is there going to be an over-arching theme in the appointments? . . . Competency, bi-partisanship, diversity, newness . . . Where are they going?

Fineman: Well, it's going to be all of those, but I think if you had to pick one, it would be excellence. Barack Obama is a guy who appreciates excellence. And focus. He's a guy who appreciates results. . . . [He] doesn't like drama queens, doesn't like ego maniacs, doesn't like leakers, which eliminates about three-quarters of the people in Washington for sure. . . .

It'll be naturally diverse, and naturally bi-partisan. He's not going to pick people to fill slots because they're Republican, because they're an African-American, because they're Hispanic. He believes that the country has changed enough and developed enough and is diverse enough, as his own election has now shown, that he can pick the best people all across the spectrum . . . but it's going to be excellence first and experience.
Sounds good. After eight years of devastating incompetence, brought on in large part by choosing people for their ideology, I like hearing that Obama wants excellence and results.

U.S. News & World Report has a good rundown of all the various rumors flying around about who's in line for each of the cabinet positions. Of course, at this point, it's hard to know how things will play out. I'm sure there will be several surprises.

The big enchilada, of course, is Secretary of State, and Bill Richardson, who knows enchiladas, has frequently been mentioned as one of the top candidates. I'm pulling for Bill. He was my initial choice for President, and I still think he would be an excellent man to have involved at a high level of government. He was Ambassador to the United Nations under Clinton and has ample experience dealing with foreign leaders, often in the toughest of circumstances. His endorsement of Obama came late in the primaries, but it was still important, and, given the history of the Clintons, showed some guts. He was an effective surrogate for Obama for the remainder of the campaign, never straying off-course in terms of message. And he definitely helped deliver New Mexico on Tuesday. While John Kerry lost the state to Bush in 2004, Obama won by a staggering 15 points.

Other names being tossed around for the position are John Kerry (please God, no!!!), Richard Holbrooke, also a former U.N. Ambassador, and Republicans Richard Lugar, who has already said he wouldn't serve in an Obama White House, and Chuck Hagel, who recently retired from the Senate.

I can see Hagel winding up doing something in Obama's administration. He traveled with Barack to Baghdad during the summer and is close friends with Joe Biden. Secretary of Defense would be another possibility, though many people think Obama will keep Robert Gates in the position.

One of the most important positions right now is that of Secretary of Treasury. The Wall Street Journal lists the leading contenders as "Lawrence Summers, a Harvard University economist who served in the same position in the Clinton administration; New York Federal Reserve Bank President Timothy Geithner; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; and Robert Rubin, another former Clinton Treasury secretary and director and senior counselor of Citigroup Inc."

Rubin removed himself from consideration this afternoon, however.

And Larry Summers is getting flack from many Democrats. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo is one of them:
Am I missing something or are there like four or five completely independent reasons not to appoint Larry Summers Treasury Secretary? I'm really having a hard time understanding this one.

Just at the level of optics, since the economy is issue number one right now (and not just the real economy of jobs and living standards but the financial architecture itself) and you're trying to look forward not back, why would you pick someone for Treasury who was not only in the Clinton administration but was actually Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration. Not understanding that.

Next, management shortcomings and controversial statements about women's brains that got him canned as President of Harvard.

And on top of that, the new Treasury Secretary will be charged with instituting a beefed up framework of financial sector regulation. But Summers was a key player in the 1990s deregulatory consensus that laid the groundwork for a lot of these problems.
I agree with Marshall - I don't like the Summers choice. How are Hillary Clinton supporters who voted for Obama going to feel if he appoints a man who had to resign from his last job for making controversial statements about women? And if you've been campaigning on the iniquities of a deregulated Wall Street, what are people going to think when you appoint one the free-market gurus who helped get us into this mess to begin with? Surely there are other well-qualified people for the position.

Other interesting names being bandied about include two Kennedy kids: Robert Jr. to head the Environmental Protection Agency and his cousin Caroline to be Ambassador to the U.N.

Our Next Commissioner of Internal Revenue?

Willie Nelson has actually been mentioned for Secretary of Agriculture or Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and Tom Waits for Health and Human Services or Surgeon General. (Some people don't realize that Tom Waits is also a doctor and a surgeon.)

True, I'm the only one who has mentioned them, but it's still early in the process.

("The humanity, the regard.")

John Edwards looks like a strong contender for Attorney General. . . . Oh, wait, sorry, that was an article from six months ago. More recent possibilities include Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who was State Attorney General before becoming Governor, and Eric Holder, who was Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton administration.

Colin Powell has been mentioned as a possibility for Secretary of Education. Evidently, it has been an area of interest for him in the past, which I didn't know and thought was interesting. Yesterday, however, he said he thought a new generation of leaders needed to step up. "I am not interested in a position in government, nor have I been approached." He said he would be available for advice.

Has anyone heard of other possibilities? Maybe Oprah? Angelina Jolie? Bob Dylan? Can't we get these people involved? Will Smith for Homeland Security? The guy's good.

("What are you sayin' man, you're sayin' like I'm a Taco Bell kind of guy?")

The New Boston Tea Party

Lost in all the hullabaloo of that big historic vote thing on Tuesday was news that Irish-Catholic hippies in Massachusetts overwhelmingly passed (65%-35%) a ballot initiative decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

"The change in the law means someone found carrying dozens of joints will no longer be reported to the state's criminal history board."

Dozens of joints!

Possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state is now punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine.

Once the new law takes effect, those caught with an ounce or less of pot will face a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. They will also have to forfeit the marijuana. Anyone under 18 will also have to give up the drug, but will face a stiffer, $1,000 fine unless they complete a drug awareness program.
My God . . . same-sex marriage, legal dope, and black men from Harvard becoming President! It's like bloody Sodom and Gomorrah up there!!!

I hope the Anarchists in power in Massachusetts are ready for the huge influx of homosexual hippies from California (Prop 8, anyone?) and spliff-smoking, jazz-playing Negro politicians from everywhere. Haight-Asbury on the Back Bay, here we come!

No doubt, this is the legacy of John F. Kennedy, busing, and Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. What would our Pilgrim forefathers and foremothers say!?!? (Don't bogart that joint?)

Final Note: The Boston City Council submitted a resolution late Wednesday night proposing that Fenway Park be re-named "Marley Field." The vote had to be suspended, however, as council members started breaking into uncontrollable laughter and suddenly left en masse for the Dunkin' Donuts across the street.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Public Safety and Security Secretary Kevin Burke at a press conference on Wednesday morning.

UPDATE: The Miami Herald reports this afternoon that Dolphins running back Ricky Williams has asked to be traded to the New England Patriots.
"I've always dreamed of playing for coach Belichick," Williams said. "Even when I was up in Canada. At this point in my career, it would mean a lot to play on a championship-caliber football team."

The Dolphins went 1-15 last season.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Good Morning, Mr. President

The most pressing issue facing the new President: What are they going to name the dog?

Election night prediction: I told Liam earlier in the evening that I would probably start getting choked up at 11:05 PM EST. I was wrong. I started fighting back the tears at 11:06, as I listened to Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights leader, discussing on NBC the historic nature of Obama's victory.

Cheesy victory song

And the man whose spirit filled the evening. . .

I am still amazed at what we've done.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sweet Homie El Obama

Mi amigo, y el gran poeta, Urayoán Noel, from Puerto Rico, and now up in Albany. Re-mixing Lynyrd Skynyrd, as only Ura can do, in benefit of Barack Obama.

Seems a good video for Election eve.

Yma Sumac Ascends

Yma Sumac, 'Peruvian songbird' with multi-octave range, dies at 86 (Los Angeles Times)

"It takes only a fraction of a second to succumb to her unique voice." - Bruce Springsteen.

"At night in my bedroom I hear the whoo-whoo of the little birds and I hear the dogs barking very sad. That's what I put in my records. I don't bark bow-wow, but I bark whoo, and I sing like the birdies." - Yma Sumac

Yma Sumac, 86; Postwar Sensation Had Unique Voice. (Washington Post)

h/t Liam.

Gabba Gabba Hey