Thursday, December 18, 2008

What DId You Think "Reaching Across The Aisle" Meant?

So I wake up today to the sounds of internet teeth gnashing and icons of the left standing up to tear at their shirts and adorn their head with ashes...

Because Obama chose Rick Warren to give an invocation at the inauguration.

Oh, please. Tell me gang, what prominent U.S. pastor could he have chosen that would have been a recognizable proponent of gay rights? Basically, the Christian community is united in the stance that Warren has taken about homosexuality, the one that is causing all these wails of dismay.

Barack Obama ran for office on the platform that he would work to find common ground with both his opponents and his allies. I think that this choice is consistent with that stance.

Obama said in the election what his official stance on the issue of gay marriage was. The man is a mainstream politician. He is not on the far left, but a moderate. Prior to all this dismay over Warren the only ones that had ever characterized him as being that far liberal were people like Rush Limbaugh.

No President or presidential candidate is going to take a stance that will satisfy the people doing all the shouting this morning. Nor should we realistically expect one to do so.

Calm down. All this end-of-the-world rhetoric over a ceremonial post that will have zero impact on anything the man does to actually govern this nation?

Jeez. You all sound like Republicans.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Do We Need To Say "Thank You" For Prop. 8?

In the wake of Jon Stewart's forceful conversation with Mike Huckabee and with continuing discussion ongoing in the month since California voters barely approved the changing of the constitution of that state to ban gay marriage, I am reminded of a thought I have had consistently since Nov. 5th.

Nothing has ever had the effect on the national conversation about sexual orientation equality that this rejection of basic rights has.

Do we need to scream our thanks to the voters that approved this horrendous piece of legislation? Putting aside for the moment the absolute silliness of a 2% margin being enough to change a constitution and disenfranchise 10% of the population. Putting aside the unprecedented ventures into politics by multiple churches who should forfeit their non-profit status due to their political activism...

There has never been a greater rallying cry for this cause. And let's face it, California is an easy mark. 48% of Arkansas, or Mississippi or Tennessee or Kentucky... you won't get 48% of the vote in Alabama. So winning California is not the long term goal.

Gay marriage needs to be addressed nationally. And the passing of Prop. 8 is making that possible in a way it would not have been otherwise.

This discrimination needs to be addressed legally, not legislatively. It needs to go to the Supreme Court. We aren't looking for the election of Harvey Milk here, people. We are looking for Brown vs. The Board of Education.

It doesn't need to be a state law. It needs to be a national directive.

We are a nation formed with the statement that all men are created equal. We need to live up to that statement. And if certain members of our society don't want to change their prejudices, that doesn't mean they should be able to impose their thinking on others. Regardless of location. This is a discussion about rights, not real estate.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


It feels like years since I wasn't having to adapt to a "new" set of circumstances. Nor am I finished with that just yet... yes, I am finally in a place where I have more than a couple drawers or half a closet, with a woman who isn't constantly checking my collars for lipstick and I spend my days seeking contact with my "spouse" instead of avoiding it.

But even that takes adjusting to... I have lived for so long under the microscope. Had to have an explanation for what I was doing, who I was talking to, why I cared. To be trusted takes adaptation as well. I start to explain my actions and I get that quizzical look, the one that says I am just sooooo silly.

One easy adjustment has been not having the bluetooth in my ear all the time. I've avoided it so much I don't even know where my bluetooth is. I mean, it isn't lost. It's here somewhere. I just don't have to pull it off the charger in the morning and then recharge it again in the early afternoon. I'm glad to know it isn't really a part of me.

I have not managed to adapt in a work sense yet. I will. I'm gonna have to do so in a hurry. But I have an office space set up now and I will soon begin to develop new work habits. I'm so used to waiting until the family goes to bed... and now that I actually want to be there when she goes to bed, that throws me off. Our time together is so precious to me that to squander it by voluntarily withdrawing seems the height of wastefulness. But I also know I work best in solitude.

The hardest thing is the distance from my kids. I never thought I would be without them. I fought so hard to save my marriage not because I truly wanted to be with my ex, but because I didn't want to be away from my kids. Now that they are so many miles away, I recall every moment I could have spent with them and didn't and beat myself up about it.

In seventeen days, I will be picking them up to fly back across the country with me for a week. That week is going too be a seven-bite slice of heaven.

So, my only constant is change. It is still gonna be that way for quite some time. But at least I feel the forward momentum. I don't feel like I am spinning my wheels anymore. I am out of the ditch and back on the road.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

At First

At First

Before Mandy Long and Bruce Winfield began their globetrotting stewardship of the most unique retail establishment in Philadelphia, there was a woman who built the foundation for Erotique. Built it with her will and her sense of adventure. A woman who was ahead of her time in many ways.

Vivian Long's life was full of triumphs and tragedies. As we celebrate the beginning of a new era in America, come back with us and experience the beginning of the Erotique era for the Long family.

On a historic day in Washington D.C., Vivian Long and Eduardo Rojas Aguliar make some history of their own. And like this country, their lives will never be the same.

Walking along 17th Street with his mind firmly in the past and oblivious to the historic present, Eduardo Rojas collided with his future. Not metaphorically, but quite literally.

Both his stack of books and the woman in the yellow dress tumbled to the ground.

“¡Madre de Dios! My apologies, señorita. I did not see…”

His breath caught, his words drifted into a stammer as the woman turned and he saw her eyes for the first time. Though he considered himself a romantic, Eduardo had never believed in the concept of love at first sight until that moment.

She settled on her elbows, smiling at the slightly open-mouthed stare of her unwitting attacker. Though he had seemed quite determined to keep moving before their impact, he was currently motionless. Torn between wanting to see how long he would stay that way and a desire to get back on her feet, she decided to flip the switch on his internal circuit breaker.

“Usually, it would be considered polite to help a lady up—especially when you’re the one who just sent her sprawling.” The harsh content of the words was belied by their light-hearted delivery. Vivian Long was far less upset about being knocked down than she was interested in the man who had done so. He wore a brown suit that was the height of fashion…decades ago. The collection of books he had been carrying was now split between the pavement and a precarious perch in his crooked elbow, save the one in her lap. She lifted it and glanced at the spine while her handsome assailant stammered another apology, letting the rest of his armload fall in his haste to offer her a hand.

“I am very sorry, señorita. I was trying to make my way through this crowd as quickly and as gently as possible, and I somehow did not notice you, though how that was possible, I truly do not know.” Eduardo blushed as he realized what he had just said. It was, however, exactly what he was thinking. Her creamy skin stood out in a sea of predominantly darker tones. Brown hair in braids, deep eyes of hazel that had trapped him momentarily, and a figure that filled out her summery dress in ways that he had best not consider if he wanted to avoid further embarrassment.

“Perhaps your mind was in the Andes of the 1500s instead of Washington in August of 1963.” Vivian took the proffered hand, pulled herself up, then placed the book, Marriage and Courting Rituals among Classes in Incan Society and Their Effect on Warfare and Politics, in the hand she released after gaining her feet. She retrieved her sign and helped him gather the other scattered volumes, which carried similarly scholarly titles in both English and Spanish. “Do you work at the Smithsonian?”

“No, I am merely a student. I did several years in the field after obtaining my master’s degree in Chile and am now working on my doctorate through an exchange program at Georgetown College. I apologize again for my carelessness and would…”

His words were drowned out as the surrounding crowd cheered the comments from the current speaker. The noise quickly died down as the people once again began to concentrate on the speech.

Vivian smiled again as she pieced together what she thought he had said. “I’m sorry, are you asking me on a date? I don’t even know your name!” She struggled to keep a straight face as the man’s handsome features contorted in shame, and he immediately began a new apology.

“No, no. I simply meant that I felt I should make amends and would like to….”

“Hush.” Vivian placed a finger on his lips. A visible shiver passed through him at her touch, but he did not withdraw. “Have you a specific meeting that you were hurrying to reach?” She lifted her finger slightly to allow his reply, and his tongue darted, subconsciously sampling the site of her touch. Vivian felt the imaginary rasp of it against a distant part of her body.

“Well, no. I simply had not anticipated the immensity of this event and…”

With the heat of his breath brushing her fingertip, she realized he was not the only one stunned by an inexplicably powerful connection. In that moment, it became more necessity than amusement to maintain contact.

Once again, Vivian placed the finger on his lips. “Then you can make amends by standing with me and listening to the next speaker. Witness some history as it happens instead of reading about it hundreds of years later. Then you can take me for that cup of coffee, señor…” Her voice trailed off in an interrogatory tone.

“Rojas. Eduardo Rojas Aguilar.”

“What a mouthful! Eddie, it is. Please, call me Vivian. Now, stand here and listen with me. Then you can buy me that drink, and I’ll consider your debt repaid. Deal?”

Eduardo started to correct her undignified shortening of his name, but thought better of it. There would be time for that later, he realized, still shocked both at his own forwardness and that he had put himself in a situation where it could come into play. He decided that it would be a more interesting evening than he had expected, although he still had reading to do. Hearing the name of the next speaker and realizing it was familiar from the newspaper, he decided that he would indeed listen. Afterward, the companionship promised to be, at the very least, intellectually stimulating.

Vivian watched the conflict play across Eddie’s face before he quieted. She thought she recognized it, both from her own experiences and those of acquaintances. She also noticed the quiet intensity that took over as he glanced down at her sign, then turned his attention toward the stage erected on the monument steps. He might not be up to speed on current events, but he knew something of the struggle, she realized. While his clothes were out of date, there was a fierce intelligence in those eyes. She was very interested to hear his reaction to the speech, which, by all accounts, would be similar to one she’d heard the speaker deliver months ago.

“Very well, miss…Vivian,” he finished, looking at her and stammering over her given name as if it was an inappropriately glimpsed undergarment. Since she’d not supplied her surname, he had no choice but to use the more personal form of address. There was something titillating about the man’s discomfiture, she realized. He made her feel like a forbidden fruit, ripe and juicy and begging to be…

“I take it this is a cause about which you are passionate?”

Vivian cocked an eyebrow, causing him to blush at his use of a word with such sexual overtones.

“I mean,” Eduardo continued, “with which you are intimate?”

She smiled.

For those of you who have been craving more Bruce and Mandy...

Well, you'll have to keep re-reading Artifactual. We will return to those two beloved characters, but their next adventure is still in the plotting phaze. *wink*

Thursday, November 20, 2008

So, The Reason I've Been Quiet...

I took the proverbial leap into space. Jumping without a net, all those wonderful sayings.

I left a place I swore I would never leave again. I love San Diego. I love it's warm winters and non-humid summers, love the proximity to Mexico and the resulting taco shop on every corner, love the ethnic mix and hearing multiple languages spoken around me every day. I grew up there, learned to keep my balance there and fell in love for the first time there. Had my heart broken for the first time there.

I love being in a town with professional sports and art museums and Shakespeare in Balboa Park. I love being close enough to L.A. to visit it easily, just as I love how Camp Pendleton keeps it at bay. I love $69 Southwest flights to Vegas and San Francisco.

So why did I leave?

Because there is something, or rather someone, here in the mountains that I love enough to make missing all of that worth bearing. She couldn't move, so I did.

Yes, I miss my friends and family. Most of all, I miss my children. If you know me, you know that it is not a cliche, or rather the cliche is true, to say that they are the light of my life, that I live for them.

But tensions with their mother were high. My being out of San Diego may help that. I hope it does. I hope without the constant reminder of my presence she will find it easier to be happy with the new state of our lives...and I hope and am gambling on that happiness making things easier for my kids.

And when I bring them here to visit with me in a few short weeks, I can be completely free and happy for the first time in a very long time. In the meantime, I'll talk to them a lot and make sure they know I love them... and hope they understand why I had to come here.

No sooner had I arrived then my new home was covered in the white blanket of the first snows of the year. I couldn't help but see it as an omen. As the gentle white rain filled in the imperfections of the meadow below, I compared it to smoothing out my life.

Snow is a blank slate. A fresh carpet on the world. Waiting for footprints, waiting for change. Waiting for children to play, for sunshine to reflect.

Everything old is new again.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Wins!

Thank you, America. I am so proud of you.

In one dramatic night, you have restored much of the prestige and power of the Presidency. You have showed that any child in the United States can look at the White House and dream about being President.

You have shown the world that we are not all Cowboys. You have shown that we value intelligence. You have done more to restore our standing in the world with this one choice than a thousand victories achieved through force of arms could have done.

You have moved beyond the prejudice of our past. You have demonstrated that the American Dream is still something more than a cliche.

You have elected Barack Obama.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Time Has Come to Be Heard

I write this with approximately 33 hours to go before the polls open here in California. By this point in the process, if you are reading me you know where I stand. You know I support Barack Obama. You know that while I may differ on some issues, I am primarily supporting the democratic ticket.

I am confident if not complacent regarding the national agenda. But I am still extremely worried on the matter of Proposition 8.

We know that if one man's rights are denied, the rights of all are endangered.
~Robert F. Kennedy, 5-6-1961

I live in one of the more conservative areas of California. I use this as a salve to my fears, because I see far too many bumper stickers and lawn signs supporting Prop. 8 to make me comfortable. The polls show that the sentiment against this institutionalized discrimination is eroding. While still showing that Prop 8 should be defeated, things are approaching the margin of error. It's a toss up.

I know good people who are deluded enough that they are voting yes on this proposition, despite the fact that I hear the trepidation in their voice. They know this is a Jim Crow law that is being pushed. They know it's wrong. So they seek reinforcement. They seek justification for their vote. Because they need to reconcile the fact that they are voting against the civil rights of their fellow Californians.

Their hearts tell them one thing. Their fears tell them another.

Those fears are being reinforced by money from outside the state. Those fears are being reinforced by the people they trust most. Their parents... their teachers... their pastors. And because they have spent a lifetime following the advice of these people, they will ignore the nagging doubt at the edge of consciousness. The voice that tells you not to steal from Mom's purse... not to pour water into the vodka bottle to replace what you drank as a teenager... not to keep the extra twenty dollars the bank teller gave you by mistake.

You know it is wrong to deny others the rights our forefathers fought so hard to keep. You know that the U.S. Constitution guarantees all of us equal protection under the law. You know that the voice whispering at the edge of your mind telling you this is wrong... is right.

You know that making others happy while causing no harm to anyone is by definition a good thing.

Don't vote based on prejudice or fear. Follow the voice. Vote no on Proposition 8.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why Jesus Would Vote No On 8

Throughout this election season we have seen wild accusations, strong feelings and deceitful advertising on many issues. Nationally, this is focused on the Presidential race, but here in California we are seeing the same kind of bitter focus on a piece of legislation that, for a large portion of our population, is equally important.

I am among those with strong feelings about the proposal to amend the state constitution to define legal marriage as being between a man and a woman. Simply put, I must tell you that I am categorically against any law which denies any citizen their civil rights.

The primary opposition to that view is being based in the churches. It’s predictable. It is also, from my point of view, incredibly sad.

Approximately two thousand years ago, a transformational figure emerged from a small town called Nazareth. This man’s teachings and morality were so revolutionary that they have literally transformed the globe. He was an incredible pioneer… not in the area of religion, although that certainly applies. But in civil rights.

Let’s look at the man, his actions and his teaching. I am restraining this discussion to the actual words and deeds of the man Jesus. I am not, for the purposes of this piece, interested in the epistles of his followers. Also, I am taking the Gospels at face value, ignoring the questions about the literal truth of the document and focusing on the man they describe.

Jesus of Nazareth was the one of the first major western figures to propose such revolutionary concepts as the separation of church and state, pacifism in the face of persecution and a commitment to care for the poor, sick and disabled. But the leadership position I wish to emphasize here is his belief in equality.

If you examine the teachings and words of Jesus, you find a dramatic difference between him and his contemporaries. One that is less obvious to us because of the very changes his teachings helped bring about.

In that time, it was an accepted truth that a king was in all ways superior to his subjects, that only a priest could speak to God and that people who were different were inferior. Women were chattel. Children were an expendable commodity. Slavery was common. Those who worked in certain professions were not only misguided, but evil and sub-human.

Jesus rejected all of the above. He recruited his disciples from the ranks of fishermen. Laborers, whose lack of formal education was appalling to the men who sat in the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. He dared to suggest that a common man was as valuable as a king or priest. He not only suffered the attentions of children, he adored them. He sought out the companionship of women, not as sexual vessels, but as his intellectual equal. He healed lepers, who were considered to have been afflicted by God for their sins. He comforted the insane, who were considered to be possessed by demons.

And perhaps most shocking of all, he preached that Samaritans and Gentiles of all sorts, even Romans, were worthy of respect. Just as were such “scum” as tax collectors and prostitutes.

When he would not desist from these teachings, he was considered so incredibly dangerous that he was put to death. Not by the civil authorities. According to most accounts, they did everything they could to avoid condemning him. He was condemned by the religious establishment of his own country. By those viewed by the masses he preached to as closest to God. By the men who should most have embraced his message, were they truly concerned with souls instead of shekels.

Now, those who occupy the same place in the consciousness of California are arguing that a group of God’s children are somehow less deserving of civil rights. That granting these civil rights, despite not changing a single thing about their own lives, will somehow reduce the value of marriage. They are arguing that a “true believer” has no choice but to vote yes on Proposition Eight.

In doing so, they take a direct stand against the ideals of Jesus of Nazareth. They betray the very concepts this man died a horrible death to defend. They deny his example. Note that I am not talking about sin. I am talking about the legal principles that Jesus pioneered.

Peter denied his Lord three times. These people prepare to follow the example of Peter on November fourth. Peter’s guilt, by all accounts, followed him for the rest of his days and even influenced the manner of his death.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Jesus of Nazareth were to cast a ballot this November, he would vote against this measure to disenfranchise a portion of the masses. Every position of his ministry expresses this. He died rather than reject his convictions.

If you truly honor this man, how can you betray the principles of his life?

Ignore your personal Sanhedrin. Vote no on Proposition Eight.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Final Debate

It was the best of the three in many ways. Sitting across from each other, Barack Obama and John McCain were forced to face each other. We saw McCain finally acknowledge his opponent. We saw Obama "called forth" to answer the accusations about Ayers and ACORN.

It was the best moderated of the events, as someone finally took the initiative to keep the two candidates on track. That, the nature of the setting and the finality of this being the last chance to speak to the entire nation in one moment created some much more impassioned speech.

I watched this one on CNN, after watching the first on PBS and the second on NBC. CNN is the network which has been supplying focus groups with a dial to rate their reaction. The individuals turn the dial to indicate their positive or negative feelings, which are then shown on a graph at the base of the television screen. I liked the graph. It was interesting.

It absolutely PLUNGED when McCain went negative.

Obama seemed to score best with the graph on Education and on Health Care.

On the economy and taxes, it was more even.

Obama flatlined a few times, right in the middle... but he only rarely went below the midline. And most of the time when he did, it seemed to be when he was basically forced to "counter-punch" negative.

I saw nothing that I thought was a game changer. McCain started much better than in the past two debates. But he lost that momentum in the middle, which I thought was more even and then he crashed. I felt Obama won the last third.

There was also a dramatic difference on the questions about the VP choice. Sarah Palin has certainly been a divisive choice. While she has fired up the Republican base, It would seem evident that the country as a whole do not approve of her and do not feel she is qualified. Joe Biden does not seem to evoke much emotion, yet people do trust him and feel that he could lead the nation.

Finally, I noticed that McCain did much better with men than women. While this was most clear on the Roe v. Wade question, it was visible throughout the night. If we use the CNN focus group as a model, I would have to conclude that women simply do not trust John McCain.

Every media outlet while give you the soundbites, so I feel no need to rehash them. (We will all be sick of hearing about Joe the Plumber soon.) I will say that I feel that Obama did perform better than McCain, although I know my own bias plays into that. But Barack appeared calm and measured. John McCain, on the other hand, sometimes appeared as though he were barely able to contain his anger. I think that will make an impact. Most people don't want that reaction in a crisis.

In the end, McCain did not get the dramatic faux pas or mistake from Obama that he needed, nor did he find a way to differentiate himself from the messages he has given out on the campaign trail.

Obama could have lost the election tonight. He could not win. Basically, Obama held serve. With a ten point advantage in the polls, that may very well be enough.

Judging this debate as an isolated event, I still feel Obama won the evening. However, there is little doubt that this was McCain's best performance. But Obama was far more clear and impressive on Health Care and Education and although he did not hammer McCain on the economy as he has in the past, he still seemed better equipped to handle the issue than his opponent.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: Poverty

Today, I take a break from berating presidential politics. It's Blog Action Day and the subject is Poverty.

Odds are, a good percentage of those who might read this have only dealt with the issue at arm's length. That's not a bad thing, by the way. I'm not going to sit here and yell at you for being above the poverty line. The old saw about catching more flies with honey definitely applies to charity. Getting angry doesn't increase donations. Every activist working in an inner city or on country back roads knows this very well.

My own experience is a little closer, although I have never felt poor. But there were weeks growing up when we ate the same thing three or four days in a row. Corned beef, cheese sandwiches and hot dogs & beans are intricately woven into my childhood. There were years when Christmas was more about refilling the sock drawer than a new bicycle. By some definitions, my family came close to that scary "poverty line." Close enough to be on government assistance a time or two. Close enough to shop at a thrift store or Pic n' Save instead of Macy's, let alone Nordstroms.

But let's face it, that's nothing. We had a roof over our head and we live in a country that helps. It could help more, but we'll save that topic for later.

I live in San Diego. It is my home and it always will be, even if my travels lead me other places for extended times. I grew up here, in a city that draws tourists and rightfully seems to have fewer problems than many urban areas. We do have many people living on that edge, although we don't have projects like Chicago or abandoned buildings like New York. We have families that are just scraping by.

However, living in San Diego also means living next to Tijuana.

I have seen poverty. Real poverty. The whole family living in a room whose walls melt in the rain, under an aluminum sheet roof where everyone has to be outside in the afternoon because inside becomes an oven. In high school, I helped feed orphans whose lives made me vow never to be unthankful about the conditions as I grew up. I have seen a child kneeling on a sidewalk leading to the United States, unwashed and awake at three a.m. because he has no school to go to in the morning, singing "La Bamba" and hammering a cheap guitar with three broken strings. Hoping that some drunk American teenager, who has crossed the border to party, will toss him a quarter. Mothers sitting under an overhang with an infant suckling while the baby's brother and sister try to get someone to buy Chiclets.

Scenes that we like to think exist only in India or Africa happen on hillsides that, on a clear day, I can see from my house. Unlike Sarah Palin, I don't think that just because I can see the hills of Tijuana makes me an expert on how to erase the scourge of poverty from our planet.

I don't wonder at the causes of illegal immigration. If I could get my family out of those conditions, I too would cross a desert to find a minimum wage job.

And yet, I can become desensitized. I've grown up with this, seen it a thousand times. It's only when someone points it out to me that I feel the things I felt the first time I saw it.

We are the lucky ones. If you own a computer to read this on, you are living in greater luxury than the majority of the people who have lived on this planet. And you are living in greater comfort than a great many living on it today.

Do something.

On days when I remember, I donate clothes to thrift stores. Toys my children have outgrown. I have fed the poor, but not recently. I have done volunteer work. I am proud of the efforts I have made, both with my time and my money. I am proud to be part of organizations like Coming Together.

But there are times when I need to be reminded that I can do more.

If you are out there and you aren't doing something, do it now. You are already on the computer. Make a donation. Ten bucks. The cost of a couple hours entertainment at the movie house will feed a houseful of children in Tijuana. I don't need to point out where… you know how to use Google and I don't really care which charity you pick. The next time they ask you in the checkout line to donate a dollar, say yes. If a dirty five year old sings "La Bamba" at you, have the compassion to empty your pockets of their change. It means a lot more to him than to you.

I don't care what you do. There are a thousand choices.

But do it. We are the lucky ones. Share some luck today. Believe me, the feeling you get back is worth it.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

John McCain Stars In "The Gambler"

One can almost imagine the frustration of Michael Jordan.

Gambling rumors once came close to destroying his lucrative endorsements. Yet this fall, the Chicago Bulls great has watched as a front page story in the New York Times about a presidential contender's habit has immediately disappeared from the public's attention.

John McCain doesn't hide his habit. Is it because of this, because he can sit there and respond, "I am a betting man" on national television, that no one is interested in what this could mean as part of the philosophy of the Commander In Chief?

The easy excuse is that we assume that a man who has spent twenty-five years in a position of great authority is beyond the temptation to follow his reckless urges on matters of national importance. After all, no President would take such wild chances. Just because someone enjoys putting their money on the table in Vegas doesn't mean they would gamble with the responsibilities of their office.

The problem with this assumption is that Mr. McCain's own behavior is contrary to it. The McCain campaign has been rolling the dice for months, and they continue to do so without the slightest hesitation. Sarah Palin is only the most obvious of these questionable decisions, and the book is still out on the wisdom of that choice.

In the immediate aftermath of the campaign's controversial decision to name the Alaska governor as running mate, it seemed to be a good bet. The polls in the days that followed allowed the campaign to rake in a few chips, and it energized the Republican base in a gratifying way. In short, the decision was a short term winner.

However, as any race track aficionado knows, hitting a long shot early does not necessarily mean that you will leave with more money in your pocket than you had on arrival. In many cases, quite the opposite is true. Your success at the beginning often fuels wild and unwise choices late in the afternoon, so that by the time you head for the parking lot, you end up down far more than you ever intended to spend.

John McCain has been laying crazy bets for the last month. Mortgage plans and "Who is Barack Obama?" are just two of them. The most damaging was the false suspension of his campaign, a mistake he is now trying to minimize by returning to David Letterman. Upsetting the only man more popular in Indiana than Larry Bird was hardly a wise choice.

So, John McCain is willing to gamble with the choices he makes in his campaign. A campaign that is the culmination of years of preparation and in itself is a fulfillment of a lifetime struggle to emerge from the shadows of his famous father and grandfather.

The Presidential nomination is the most important thing that has ever happened to Senator McCain. It is obvious, in his demeanor and in his desperate abandonment of many of the moral positions he has held throughout public life, how much the presidency means to him. Yet his impulses remain. In the pursuit of the one goal that has dominated his destiny for decades, John McCain is immediately willing to shake those dice, ask Sarah Palin to blow on them and let fly. He'll take his chances.

The problem is that if he wins his biggest bet, the stakes will change forever. It won't be his livelihood and reputation on the line. It will be the well-being, safety, and security of every single one of us. If John McCain somehow manages to go on a three week winning streak and ends up in the White House, his long shot win will fuel years of belief in his own luck.

Every pit boss in Vegas will tell you that, eventually, the house always comes out ahead.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Moment Which Defined This Election? "That One."

It's a catchy headline that a columnist salivates over. Yet I found myself so reluctant to use it that I decided not to follow my normal pattern of writing immediately after a debate due to the way it dominated my thoughts.

With an evening to think on it and a good night's sleep behind, I realize it dominated my thoughts for a reason.

The appalling and disrespectful moment when John McCain referred to Barack Obama by pointing a finger sideways and saying "that one" with utter disdain captures everything about the man that gives me pause when I imagine him as President.

Moments can define people. As a writer and a film buff I should know this. When Lawrence of Arabia stands on the roof of the train, when Sidney Poitier says, "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" or when Indiana Jones casually pulls his gun and shoots the swordsman in the marketplace, those characters are defined forever.

John McCain defined himself in that moment. He thinks he is better than everyone around him. He thinks that this presidency is his because he deserves it and no one else does. He showed not only disdain for Barack Obama, but for all of us. Our votes are his by right. He doesn't need to earn them.

See, John McCain thinks he is entitled to that post. He thinks that the fact that he has to go out and cater to all of us in order to be elected is ridiculous. Because why should he have to parade around in front of these people who are beneath him in order to get the job he so obviously deserves?

I struggle with this characterization. It is an awful thing to say about a man who suffered as a P.O.W. and who has spent the great majority of his life in service to his country.

But it fits.

If I was writing John McCain, as a character in a novel, and I needed the reader to "get this" about the character, I could not have chosen a better way to make the point. And it changes the rest of his actions in ways that make sense within the character. It explains his choice of Sarah Palin, since her obvious flaws become inconsequential to a man who thinks he knows so much more than those around him. The pat on the back of the audience member, the constant use of the condescending "my friends" and the repeating of talking points that have already been shown to be untrue all make sense from this point of view into John McCain.

It explains why he thinks he can fly into Washington with a non-suspended suspension of his campaign and think that he will emerge victorious. It explains why he feels it's no big deal to blow off David Letterman. It explains his role in the Keating Five. It explains his first marriage and how it ended. It explains the awful jokes.

And it fits with a man who was involved in three flying accidents in the Navy before he was shot down and yet never lost his wings because of who his father was. With a man who knew they wouldn't kick him out of the Naval Academy. With a man who pledged this spring to run a clean campaign on the issues and instead is running what the New York Times called this morning "one of the most appalling campaigns we can remember."

It explains why he can't look at Obama. It explains why he is okay running the horrible ads. It explains why he can make outrageous claims like Obama not agreeing to ten Town Halls "forced" him to go negative and why he can tell his lies with a wink and a smile.

It's a moment I am not going to be able to shake easily. Because, as a writer, I feel it reveals character. Perfectly. I couldn't have written a better scene and thus I am hard-pressed to explain away what I saw and heard.

The only question to be answered is who John McCain respects less. Barack Obama? Or all of us?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Supporting The Troops

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America have today released their annual "Report Cards" on the House and Senate. Some of you may be familiar with this idea of giving members of Congress a letter grade based on their voting records and sponsorship of legislation that supports various organizations.

In today's political climate, I consider this organization's grade to be one of those that makes a difference. To me, it has to do with the old value of actions speaking louder than words. Or as John McCain has recently called the concept, not only "talking the talk, but walking the walk."

The results are not surprising to me. But I think that they should be. It saddens me that I am not surprised.

For review, let me point out that the McCain campaign has repeatedly attacked Barack Obama as not supporting the troops. Their attacks have ranged from negative ads released after Obama's trip to Germany to questioning his voting record in both debates to comparing the number of trips he took to Iowa with those he took to Iraq.
John McCain also goes to great lengths to remind everyone of his experience as a POW.

It's something that is one of the great disconnects with John McCain. In my experience, and based on what I read in the experience of most others, the great majority of our veteran's are reluctant to speak about their own service. My father is very proud of his service, as evidenced by his Vietnam Vet bumper sticker and photos of his friends on the wall above his computer. Yet he rarely mentions it, and to actually get him to speak about that time in more than a passing fashion requires emotional trauma.

The IAVA proudly gave out 150 perfect scores this year. That shows the nation's commitment to our troops, even in a very unpopular war. We should all be proud. Unfortunately, they also gave out 9 D's or F's.

Anyway, to the grades of the presidential candidates. Largely due to his absences while on the campaign trail, Barack Obama receives a B. I would greatly prefer that to be otherwise, knowing that it is a subject we both consider of great import, but there it is. Not the top grade, but respectable.

John McCain gets a D.

Let me repeat that. John McCain received a D. Yes, his large number of absences affect his grade. But they also affected Barack Obama, yet he got a B.

Also, if you go to the website of the IAVA and download the full document of their 2008 Report Card, you will notice that while they do not take a politician's military service into the grading, they do notate that service by placing a star next to their name.

Of all the Senators listed, only one man has that honorable star next to the dishonor of a D or an F. John McCain.

Way to "walk the walk" there, John.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Morning After Reactions To Sarah Vs. Joe

So all the pundits, including me, are out in force. We all have opinions and many of them are based primarily on what we thought going into the debate rather than on what we thought about it.

Last night, I praised Sarah Palin for doing better than expected. I stand by that. She did do better than expected. However, I find some of the reactions to that performance dismaying.

Fox News said she stopped the bleeding and may have once again saved John McCain's campaign. Newspapers and websites all over are spending the first couple column inches of their stories praising her for, basically, not being a train wreck. But then they are all unanimous in saying that she got her tail kicked in the actual debating department. So why is the first part of the story, well known by every editor to be the most likely part to be read, spent praising the loser?

THIS is equality? This is the performance of a woman who is supposed to shatter the glass ceiling, a claim she made in her RNC acceptance speech? She got her butt kicked! Everybody says so, even the Republican wags. How then are we full of praise for her today? Do you think Elizabeth Dole would have done so poorly? What about Kay Hutchinson?

Or better yet... rewind a few months and watch Hilary Clinton debating Joe Biden. Not only does she not get embarrassed, she stands toe to toe and wins points. THAT'S damaging the glass ceiling. Not pathetic fallback on rehearsed talking points because you can't actually answer the question. Not thinking that we have recalled a Union General from 1862 to take over in Afghanistan. Not long pauses to search her memory of the prep work in Arizona. Not blindly repeating falsehoods that had been blown out of the water by Barack Obama when John McCain tried to use them a week earlier.

I wake up and look at the news organizations and the blogosphere and I am annoyed that we would lower our political standards in this way. When Dan Quayle did this we barbecued him. And rightfully so.

To say that Sarah Palin did so well last night just because she was not a total failure repairs the glass ceiling, it does not damage it. There are many women in national politics who would have done far better debating Joe Biden than Sarah Palin did.

You can wink at me and drop consonants off your words all you want, Sarah. It won't convert me to supporting you because you are "folksy." Yes, you're attractive. But the naughty librarian look loses it's appeal when the person wearing it favors censorship. Yes, you are the first female Republican to be nominated for a national executive office. But I can't say that you are a standard-bearer for women's rights when you favor removing many of the victories already achieved and when your campaign won't even commit to supporting legislation for equal pay.

Sarah Palin showed she's one of us. That's what I keep hearing. Well, guess what? The top two executive jobs in the country are not supposed to be held by people that are "one of us." The people in those jobs are supposed to be exceptional. Not "just plain folks."

The more I write, the angrier I get. Quit cutting her so much slack. Hold her to the same standards you held Hilary to, the ones you held Geraldine Ferraro to and, yes, the ones you hold Barack Obama, Joe Biden and John McCain to as well.

To do anything less does not shatter the glass ceiling, it repairs it.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin Exceeds Expectations

About a week ago, I wrote that Barack Obama basically won the first Presidential debate by exceeding expectations. Even the most partisan Democrat would have to say that the same was true of Sarah Palin tonight, that she exceeded expectations dramatically. But does that mean she won?

Even Fox News won't say that, although they do reveal their leanings and hardly-surprising-by-now by bias by quoting her NINE times before they do Joe Biden.

But, all Sarah needed to do tonight was not be a complete and total lackwit. And yes, she succeeded in that. If this were a high school debate competition, the scores would go overwhelmingly to Joe Biden. Indeed, a CNN poll conducted in the wake of the debate showed that 97% of America thought Joe Biden was knowledgeable about the issues. That's pretty intense. But another poll said that 84% felt Palin did "better than expected."

So what does it all mean? The jury is still out on that, but in the all-important realm of the undecided voter, it seems to mean a slight victory for Obama. In yet another CNN poll, 18% of undecided voters said tonight had made them decide for Obama, while 10% said they were now committed to McCain.

In my not-so-humble opinion, Sarah scored a victory tonight because she did show that she has dimensions to her that are not evident when Tina Fey plays her on Saturday Night Live. But that does not mean she changed my mind about how incredibly scary she is.

That's gonna take actions, not just words. You betcha.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

McCain To Suspend Again?

This morning, John McCain hit the morning shows in the wake of new polls which showed definite gains for Senator Obama. Among them was the uber-friendly waters of Fox News, where he did an interview that included a lot of tail-kissing and very questionable interpretations of his actions last week.

McCain answered with a scripted response (I know it was scripted because every time they asked him another question he started over with "I'll do whatever is necessary..." and repeated his talking points. It happened no less than three times.) that basically said that he would do it if it would help.

Help what? Barack Obama? Because that is all the last time accomplished. And how is he gonna suspend his campaign this time? Hey, Jay Leno! Do you have McCain on your schedule this week? Better call Keith Olberman and see if he can sub.

Because the only thing that John McCain suspended last week was appearing on David Letterman's show. His offices were all open. His advisers and subordinates were all out hitting the news shows. He gave an interview to Katie Couric at the time he was supposed to be talking to Dave, then gave a speech the next day, then finally showed up in Washington just barely in time for his photo op at the White House. Then all he did was shut up and look interested for the photographers until the very end, at which point he opened his mouth to present an alternative plan that had already been explored and condemned by Secretary Paulson, Warren Buffet and pretty much every person of financial knowledge willing to state an opinion.

Oh, except for Sen. Phil Gramm, his top financial adviser. The one who called America a nation of whiners. The one whose name is on the legislation that helped get us to this point. Yeah, that's credible. Next on McCain's agenda is apparently a conference with Britney Spears on how to keep his life calm and on track under media scrutiny.

Unless, of course, The campaign suspension really was what some have floated. A feint aimed at getting Barack to flinch and allow the first debate to be re-scheduled for this Thursday. Thereby bumping the Vice-Presidential debate off the schedule. Thereby keeping Sarah Palin from being exposed.

Obviously, that can not be accomplished now. We know the McCain camp is scared about Thursday. We know it because they have been out hitting the media in all shapes and forms over the last three days, attempting to lower expectations for Palin. It's actually a very wise strategy. The more everyone expects her to get her bell rung, the better she looks if she doesn't wilt under pressure. At this point, with how badly she is expected to fail, simply not fainting on stage is going to win her plaudits from the media and cause Fox News to proclaim her the victor.

Are they really so worried that they would suspend the campaign to cancel the debate outright? If so, they are going to disappoint an awful lot of people.

Especially the writers at Saturday Night Live.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Debate First Reaction: A Draw, Which Is A Win For Obama

I'm sure I'll talk much more about this later.

But my first reaction to tonight's presidential debate was about missed opportunities. I wanted Obama to hammer him. McCain said several things where I saw lies and and misrepresentations and all the same old John McCain things.

And then Barack would just kind of smile and say, "Well, John...That's not quite accurate."

It frustrated me. But then I remembered something. This is the one that McCain was supposed to win hands down. This was his strength. And if McCain was going to change the state of the race, he needed to score big tonight. He didn't.

In most polls, in this immediate and therefore incomplete aftermath, Obama is being said to have won a small victory. The one I have seen remarked upon the most actually has him with a very small margin over a tie, but a larger one over a McCain win. 40% Obama, 38% tie, 22% McCain.

But the things is, this was the foreign policy debate. This is the area where McCain's experience helps the most, this was the debate where the Obama camp worried about getting blown out. This was the one were McCain was expected to swing for the fences and maybe hit a grand slam.

And 78% of those polled thought it was pretty close or an Obama win.

That's significant. And the next debate? Palin vs. Biden. If she can't respond to Katie Couric, how is she gonna handle Joe Biden? Show him her swimsuit video?

A tie is a win, in this case.

Friday, September 26, 2008

John McCain Will Debate After All

The McCain campaign, after swooping into Washington a full day later then they said they would, after never suspending any aspect of a campaign they said they would and after making once-friendly David Letterman feel like an "ugly date," now says that they will, after all, attend the debate in Mississippi tonight.

Why? Wasn't the original purpose of John McCain "suspending" his campaign to be able to stay in Washington until this financial crisis was resolved? Does this mean it is resolved then?

Let's review. The "agreement in principle" that a bi-partisan committee had come up with before McCain arrived in Washington is floundering at best. House Republicans are still acting as blocking agents. McCain came into town, said very little and then backed a plan completely different from the one that had gendered support across the aisles, a plan that Secretary Paulson said "would not work." The largest bank failure in the history of the country happened overnight.

Nope. Problem definitely not resolved.

So then why is McCain back aboard the Debate train? Simply, really. Because the polls and the voice of the people yelled at him that he needs to be.

This whole thing was a grandstand ploy to try and make John McCain look heroic and responsible while also allowing him to avoid the extra attention of a debate during a time of plummeting polls and giving him additional prep time. This despite the fact that he has known when the debate was for just as long as Obama and that he once again, during that interview with Katie Couric when he was supposed to be on Letterman, has accused Obama of basically being mean to him by not giving him he "ten Town Hall's."

It's transparent. It's ridiculous. It got him ridiculed extensively for two nights by a man reputed to be one of the sharpest wits in America, who used to be enough of a friend that McCain announced his candidacy for President on his show. It made the people of the U.S. actively engage in conversation along the lines of "What the hell is he thinking?"

And it got him caught in one of the silliest accusations yet, when his team called the White House meeting a "shouting match" and tried to blame it on Obama (without ever saying they were trying to blame it on Obama, of course.) Really now, John. We're supposed to believe the guy that kept his cool through everything he has been faced with this year was the one that got into a shouting match, and the guy with the nasty temper who calls his wife things you can't repeat on television was the calm one. Um, your buddy George would say "That dog won't hunt."

Oh, but hey. At least it distracted everyone from noticing what a fool Sarah Plain looked like when Katie Couric asked about Alaska being next door to Russia again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Can You Smell The Desperation?

So, the latest news is that John McCain wants to suspend the presidential campaigns and the debate scheduled for Friday. He expects us to believe this is because of the severity of the economic crisis. He says that his presence is needed in Washington.

What are you going to do now, John? After all, you've shown such a firm grasp of the situation so far. The fundamentals of the economy are strong, right John? All that your presence in Washington is going to do is pull some bright young mind that could be actually working on the problem away from his desk so that he can try to educate you on what's really going on.

You couldn't be bothered to be in Washington for months. Ted Kennedy got back to the senate after a brain operation, defying doctors orders, to vote on a Medicare bill that failed by a single vote. Not Obama's. He was there on July 9th, voting. The missing man was John McCain.

Truth is, John McCain has not been in the senate in five months.

The real truth is this. John McCain's campaign is teetering on the brink of disaster. And that disaster is primarily because of the economy. Of course John wants to suspend the debate and the campaign. For him to go into that atmosphere with Barack Obama on Friday would be like Roman Polansky showing up at the Oscars. Just plain stupid.

Seen last nights ABC News poll? John McCain obviously has. Barack Obama, 52%. John McCain, 43%. Do you think we're stupid, John? Start telling the truth, the birds are sizing up that growing nose for a nest.

The people of the United States deserve to see how you respond in a crisis if you want to be President. Right now, it looks like John McCain is still reading My Pet Goat.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's Old Is New Again. Remember The Keating Five.

Investors are losing millions. A lending crisis brought on by deregulation, poor decision making and lobbyists has scared and angered the American people. And a man with hopes to be President is right in the middle of it, with a friend and adviser who is the head of one of the worst offenders.

John McCain, judging by his new ad, wants you to think we are talking about 2008 and his opponent. We're not. We are talking about the Savings and Loan crisis of the late eighties and early nineties. The man who hopes to be President is John McCain and the friend and adviser is Charles Keating.

John McCain wants us to forget. He wants us to give him the reigns so that he can steer us out of trouble. But John McCain is the last person we should trust when it comes to financial scandal. Because John has been there before, and we should be using that phrase his buddy George Bush so memorably screwed up. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

America, don't get fooled again.

John McCain would like you to believe he was exonerated. He was not. What happened was that they couldn't find evidence showing that he had done anything more than intimidate with his presence and with things that were barely true but were, after all, a little bit true and thus hard to claim as being prosecutable falsehoods. That sounds familiar, doesn't it?

At the end, John McCain was found to be officially guilty of poor judgment. He was not prosecuted further because he paid for the free flights and vacations given to him by Charles Keating and because he was able to claim that it was his wife's money that was invested with Keating, not his. You know, like how his wife owns all those houses and thus he doesn't know about them.

And he paid the U.S. Treasury $112,000.00 in order to offset the campaign contributions he had received from Keating.

John McCain was at the center of what many called the worst example of Senate corruption since Teapot Dome. John McCain helped Charles Keating attempt, unsuccessfully, to brazen through an investigation and drag out a situation which resulted in Charles Keating's investors, who were primarily older people who had invested for retirement, losing over one hundred eighty million dollars with no hope of recovery.

And although John McCain survived, he was far from blameless. Not in my opinion, not in the opinion of the investigators and not in the opinion of his homestate media. I present to you the words of Tom Fitzpatrick from The Phoenix New Times November 29, 1989.

Link to the original article.

"You're John McCain, a fallen hero who wanted to become president so desperately that you sold yourself to Charlie Keating, the wealthy con man who bears such an incredible resemblance to The Joker. (skip ahead)

Since Keating's collapse, you find yourself doing obscene things to save yourself from the Senate Ethics Committee's investigation. As a matter of course, you engage in backbiting behavior that will turn you into an outcast in the Senate if you do survive.(skip)

Those who survive will be the sociopaths who can tell a lie with the most sincere, straight face. You are especially adept at this.(skip)

It was a sobering scene. There you sat with Glenn, both sweating before the cameras, waiting to answer questions: two badly tarnished American icons.

No one forgets that Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth. You won't let anyone forget that you were a prisoner of war. But you have played that tune too long. By now your constant reminders about your war record make you seem like a modern version of Arthur Miller's tragic failure Willy Loman.

Clearly, both you and Glenn sold your fame for Charles Keating's money.

It was a Faustian bargain. It was also a bad joke on the rest of us and a disaster for many old people who lost their life's savings to Keating.(skip)

Perhaps you might silence your own conscience about all this someday.

Just keep telling everyone that it was your wife's money invested in that shopping center with Keating and that you knew nothing about it.(skip)

Keep telling them that it wasn't that you were bought off but that Charlie Keating got special help only because he was one of the biggest employers in the state.

Just keep sitting there and staring into the camera and denying that Keating bought you for money and jet plane trips and vacations.

So what if he gave you $112,000? Just keep smiling at the cameras and saying you did nothing wrong.

Maybe the voters will understand you took those tiring trips to Charlie's place in the Bahamas in their behalf. Certainly, they can understand you wanted to take your family along. A senator deserves to travel on private jets, removed from the awful crush of public transportation.

You sought out a master criminal like Keating and became his friend. Now you've discarded him. It shouldn't be surprising that you are now in the process of selling out your senatorial accomplices.

You're John McCain, clearly the guiltiest, most culpable and reprehensible of the Keating Five.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More Evidence of McCain's Ever-Shifting POV

I've said before that I don't care about a politician changing their position on an issue but that it disturbs me greatly when they change positions on ethics or character.

I would define something like beliefs about what experience is and what qualifies a person to be trusted to make wise decisions on national matters to be more of the latter.

The best, and funniest, political commentary is when a politician's own words are used against them. This is one of the reasons that I found the Jon Stewart piece on The Daily Show so funny. The one where he caught Karl Rove dissing Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and compared it to Rove's endorsement of Sarah Palin.

I find it less funny when it's the actual Presidential candidate. Especially when he is selling himself as being honest, a maverick and an agent of change.

This is video from a Republican debate in October 2007. John McCain is talking about Rudy Guiliani and Mitt Romney in this clip. Please remember while watching this that New York City has a population of 8 million. A million people for every 900 that lived in Wasilla while Sarah Palin was mayor. Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts and served a full four year term. The Boston metropolitan area, just part of the state, has a population of 4.5 million compared to Alaska's 670,000 and Palin has served for less than half a term.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Day To Remember

Seven years since the world stopped moving and stared at their televisions in shock and tears. Seven years since those horrible images and unimaginable bravery. Seven years since the United States got a better understanding of how people in Europe and Israel have felt for so very long.

To this day, I remain in awe of the way that the Police and Fire Departments of New York performed in the face of terror. Of how those brave individuals went up those stairs while everyone else was running down. Of the men and women who rushed to help at the Pentagon. Of the passengers and flight attendants of Flight 93 who realized what was happening and chose to go down fighting, ordinary people without training or a duty to perform, who chose death rather than allow anyone else to be hurt.

To this day, simply murmuring "Let's Roll" brings a flush of emotion to my face and forces me to choke down both tears and overwhelming pride in my fellow Americans.

I will not politicize this day, although the part of me that feels we have strayed from a path that would prevent another attack wants me to do so. But there are no men and women in service to this nation who do not want to prevent that horror from reoccurring. That we may differ on how to achieve that goal is very normal, and let's face it, very American.

But we should also realize that September 11 is not a day when only America grieves. It was called the World Trading Center for a good reason. Nationals of over 90 countries died that day. The attack may have been on America, but it impacted the entire world.

Over 200,000 Germans marched in support of both the United States and all who lost citizens and friends; wives, husbands and children. Le Monde's headline read "We Are All Americans."

Today is not a day about the red stripes in our flag, but about the red blood shed from all over the world. Yes, it is also right and proper that we honor our own and also that we celebrate the spirit of our nation.

Let us never forget any of the victims, regardless of their citizenship. September 11, 2001 was a horrible day for all of the human race.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of us who were hurt that day and most especially with the families and friends of all those whose lives ended that day, whether doing their duty or just their job.

Never Forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

McCain's New Ad Bypasses Gutter and Jumps In The Septic Tank

John McCain has released an ad that just goes too far.

Referencing a bill from the Illinois Legislature that set up funding to teach kids what kinds of touching were inappropriate and to get a teacher or parent when someone tried to touch them there, McCain is saying that Barack Obama wants to teach sex ed to kindergartners.

John, the reason you didn't want to talk about your honor to Time magazine is obvious now. Many people don't like to talk about the girl they broke up with while the wound is still fresh.

John McCain said he was going to run a different kind of campaign. He pledged truth. Heralded the arrival of the "Straight Talk Express" and spent a lot of time trying to act like a defender of truth, justice and the American Way.

Superman isn't real, John. He is as mythical as your sense of fairplay, your sense of honor and your morality.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Even When Disputing Facts, McCain/Palin Are Deceptive

Recognizing the dangerous effect of the revelations that Sarah Palin once inquired as to a method of how to ban books, the campaign for John McCain/Sarah Palin today is disputing a list of books that has appeared on the internet as being the ones that she tried to ban.

The truth is, no list was ever submitted and no books were ever banned. That is a fact.

But the tack that the campaign is taking is that because no books were ever banned and because the list is false, that means that Palin never had any thoughts about banning books. They say this even while admitting that Palin requested information on HOW to ban books. But they say the request was "rhetorical" and try to pass it off as an isolated and casual conversation.

The truth is that the reason Sarah Palin never banned books is because a woman took a stand. Mary Ellen Emmons told Palin in no uncertain terms that she would not allow books to be banned. And not just on one occasion, as the campaign would have you believe. Emmons says that Palin asked for information on the subject at least three times, including once before she was ever sworn in as mayor. The "single rhetorical question" defense stems from the fact that Palin only asked this question once as a matter of public record.

That should be scary enough... that a mayor of any American city would, on public record, ask a librarian how she would go about banning books. It scares me.

For the record, Sarah Palin DID fire Mary Ellen Emmons. As part of what Plain described as a "loyalty" purge. In fact, she first requested Emmons resignation in October 1996, then actually fired her on Jan. 30, 1997.

She rehired both Emmons and the Chief of Police (fired the same date) on the following day. Emmons then remained in her position for two and a half years.

It amazes me that the Republicans believe this is a defense. Does anyone really believe that the firing of public officials on Jan. 30, 1997 was not all about sending a message? Should people who have done nothing wrong in their work be fired because they are not "loyal" to an official?

I believe that Sarah Plain was prevented from banning books by the stand of a courageous librarian who put her job on the line. I further believe that no one in the United States who has faithfully and properly performed their duties should have to worry about retaining their job and livelihood simply because their new boss doesn't think they are "loyal" to her.

If you do your job the way it is supposed to be done, you should keep it.

If someone asks about the mechanism for banning books three separate times, they are probing, not being rhetorical.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Are Fannie & Freddie "Fundamentally Strong", John?

As dismaying as it may be to see the pattern of Federal bailouts continue, the reason that both Barack Obama and John McCain agree on the actions of the Shrub Administration in the housing market is because we have little choice in the matter unless we are willing to endure a repeat of 1930 to 1935. Even the hint of that kind of an economic downturn is disastrous, and being willing to risk it will not win votes.

The same is true of the Bear-Stearns bailout from earlier this year, and the same will be true if it happens with Detroit, as some feel that it will.

Indeed, Obama is already using the idea of providing Federal assistance to help automakers retool as a part of his campaign. An idea that I support not because I believe in the government helping save a foolish private entity from a financial disaster of it's own making but because it will help bring greater fuel efficiency to the American automobile market quicker than almost any other approach. The result of that will be directly beneficial to all of us, and since I will be in the market for a hybrid vehicle in the next few years (my beloved Pathfinder is starting to enter that "constant investment" part of it's lifecycle) it will be good for me personally.

Remember basic Econ 101... if the supply of a commodity remains constant and the demand for it lessens, price will drop. Of course, that's assuming supply remains constant. Knowing how wonderfully socially conscious and mindful of the public good our beloved oil companies are, I worry about whether it will actually happen. But it is worth trying.

But back to where I was originally headed. The housing crisis is now reaching proportions of magnitude where comparisons to the Great Depression are no longer ridiculous. That is not a good thing, obviously. Some estimates I've seen this weekend were that by years end, nine percent of homes could be in foreclosure.

Let me repeat that. In capital letters. NINE PERCENT. Go down your street and start counting. Every time you reach ten, imagine the next home has a "For Sale, Bank Owned" sign in front of it.

This is an immense danger to the economic well-being of the United States. And since money affects everything, it is also a threat to national security and employment, etc. The government stepped in to save the mortgage underwriting apparatus of our nation because if those feet of clay crumble, the statue that falls will not only shatter but the resulting debris will crush apparently unrelated industries. (Witness the results of the bailout in the Stock Market for evidence that I am not the only one believing this.)

And yet, two of the people running for the nations highest offices show zero understanding of the dangers. G.I. John and Caribou Barbie don't get it, even now.

John McCain has not recanted his statement that the fundamentals of the economy are strong and even Jay Leno couldn't get an actual answer from him related to housing. And the fact that John owns multiple homes that could only be called "investment properties" makes that even more glaring. I realize the McCain wants to avoid any and all discussion of the issue because every mention of it reminds voters of his most serious malaprop comment yet.

But a time of crisis is not a time to avoid questions because you're afraid of speaking up again. This is not grade school, John. You are running for President. You can't afford to sit there in class, refusing to raise your hand and trying to hide behind the pigtails of the little girl sitting in front of you. I don't care if the kids laughed at you last time. Show me some of that courage you supposedly have in such great supply. This is not a time for you to enter your second childhood, or your second shot at second grade.

As for the girl he is hiding behind? Her response was that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had gotten "too big and too expensive to the taxpayers" (from a speech in Colorado Springs.) Governor Palin needs someone to tell her that these are private companies and that the implicit backing of the federal government has never before been realized. How can Caribou Barbie be expected to govern if she doesn't even know whether or not a company is part of the government? It's like she was saying that Hummer had become a liability to the Army, not knowing that Hummer was a part of General Motors.

It's scary to me how little actual knowledge either of these candidates show. Yet, there they are in the polls, actually in striking distance of Obama/Biden. Why is that America?

I wish that the average voter would do a little bit of research... something besides watching TV commercials. Here's a hint, sheeple. If the message includes someone saying their name and that they approved it, it's biased!

(a tip of the hat to a comment on Americablog by Asphyxia8, from which I "stole" the phrase Caribou Barbie. It made me smile so much I had to use it.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Real McCain of Genius

I find myself wanting to embed things more and more often lately... I see clips from Jon Stewart and videos of songs I like that the artists are mad about certain people using...

But I usually resist... because, you know, this blog is supposed to be about original thinking. Not about parroting the stuff other people make up. I leave that to my Republican friends.

But this is just too classic. I love it. From, here is Real McCain of Genius, a fun political parody of the beer ads.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Library-Gate: What Does It Mean?

So now it's all over the internet. Yep, back when she first took office as the mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin used her position to try and get the city librarian to remove certain books from the shelves.

It will be talked about. We will hear pundits spouting off about what happened and why it does or does not matter. And lots of their opinions will be valid and important.

But you know what? None of it matters to me.

Why? Because one thing is clear. Whether or not she was successful, or just curious, or just interested in pursuing an agenda on behalf of her constituents... Saah Palin inquired about what it would take to ban books.

And we are not talking about Mein Kampf or the latest issue of Hustler.

One of the most intense changes brought about by the American experiment was that every publication did not have to pretend to support the government or it's moral positions.

We tend to forget this. That men like Thomas Paine were risking a rope around their neck and a short drop with a sudden stop when they talked about freedom. Sure, there is a difference because no one is talking about hanging Maya Angelou. But the basic principle is the same. No one should fear to speak their mind.

But the librarian in Wasilla took on Sarah Palin. And she is not the librarian there any more. She weathered the first storm. And maybe the second or third. But eventually, she quit fighting. Now, she isn't returning phone calls to the New York Times or the Boston Herald or Time Magazine. Official word is that she is on vacation. What is that? People don't often give up their fifteen minutes of fame. At least, not without a damn good reason.

Sorry, folks. An apology to those of you who want to see this woman Palin as a change, as a chance to move forward. I'm sorry because the more I hear about her past, the more I think that she is a step back rather than a step forward.

I don't want some token in the VP slot. I don't care if she has breasts.

I want someone who is truly progressive. And Sarah Palin is looking like a throwback right now, not a step forward.

I reserve the right to say I was wrong. But I don't think I am.

Sarah Palin's Acceptance Speech

I'm trying... I really am. I want to be non-partisan, I want to be open to all points of view. And I am reading all these people talking about Sarah Palin and how she did so well speaking tonight. And I'm listening and reading... and I want her to do well in many ways.

She is a good speaker, well, pretty good. I expected that. She beat an incumbent Governor in the Republican primary in Alaska. I figured that would take some doing, you know?

But I read it first. Then I watched it. And I'm watching it again. And what I find is... well, not much.

There were lots of token references... and a lot of veiled criticisms, hiding behind statements that had built in, as Independence Day quotes would have it, "plausible deniability." You know, kinda like George Bush talking about appeasement.

And then there were the outright lies and the outright insults.

She talks a good game maybe... in front of a partisan crowd, with everyone on her side. In front of all those people that look and think like her. (oh, look... veiled insult with plausible deniability *wink*) Hey, isn't that kinda like "dramatic speeches before devoted followers?"

She called herself an advocate for special needs children... and offered nothing about how or why she could claim the title. Well, let me tell you something... I know a real advocate, I'm in love with a real advocate and you Mrs. Palin are no Alessia Brio.

She dares to mention that there are "some candidates who use change to promote their careers" after trying to lay claim to that title just days ago when she was introduced in Ohio. And says it as she accepts a spot on the ticket of a man who has changed almost every single position he ever held that was contrary to the platitudes of the people whose approval he now seeks so desperately.

She dares to claim that she will fight the oil companies in a speech where she trumpets that her husbands works for them and that she has every intention of letting them do whatever they want in Northern Alaska.

And then she finishes by hitting all the little talking points that she was told to hit... and offers not a single specific. She paints a powerful picture. With lies. With generalities. With exactly what we should expect. Fear and distraction, insult and divisiveness.

You want to impress me? Quit stealing parts of your speeches from your opponent and the rest from big-budget blockbusters. Get real, get specific.

And finally, Mrs. Palin, let me clear you up on one more point. Until this year, it wasn't "congress" who "fought the prospect of a McCain presidency - from the primary election of 2000 to this very day."

It was your fellow Republicans. Especially the current President... Who John McCain seems to think is right more than 90% of the time.

Well, maybe this time W was right. For once.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Violence In Minnesota At The RNC

As we were preparing for the Democratic Convention, I kept hearing things about the possibility of violent protests, and the preparations the Denver police had made, etc. The climate of the country, the war, the anniversary of 1968 in Chicago were all mentioned. I heard very little to nothing about such preparations or issues for the Republican Convention.

And after the Democrats had an almost idyllic convention experience, I heard even less.

Why? In hindsight, it would seem obvious that the party the crowd most likely to protest is angry with is the Republicans. They are the ones in control during this war, like the Democrats were in 1968. They are the ones who have been in charge while the country went to hell in a handbasket.

And unfortunately, their mindset is the one with the history of forgiving overzealous action on the part of authority figures and demonizing zealousy from those who oppose their point of view.

So I suppose I should have seen this coming. But I didn't. Worse, in another example of the seeming inability of much of the mainstream press to give equal coverage to Republican miscues as they do to Democratic ones (Repeat after me: Czechoslovakia is no longer in existence. Please remember this now, John.) I have seen very little in the mainstream media about the violence at the RNC. Yet there have been multiple atrocious incidents. Pepper Spray used indiscriminately. A reporter and her cameraman violently arrested. C'mon might have missed the press credential or even, in a stretch, the microphone. But the cameraman? Since when do we arrest the press for covering a story in the United States of America?

But the one that has me most shocked is the brutal mistreatment of a seventeen year old boy from Milwaukee.

Inside the Convention, Pharisee-like cries of anguish over the "mistreatment" of a pregnant seventeen-year old girl. Mistreatment that I have yet to see come from the Democrats, by the way, despite the tearing of sackccloth and wearing of ashes on the podium.

Outside, a vicious beating of this young man, completely ignored.

The link follows. Please be warned, there are photographs and they are not pretty.

Please, do not allow this to go unnoticed. Five police officers can carry a limp seventeen year old to the side of the road quite easily. And I personally am reminded that leadership and culture flows down from the top. I can not see Barack Obama ignoring this were it brought to his attention. I fear I can not say the same about John McCain, and I believe that this mindset flowed all the way to the authority figures on the streets.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Leave Palin's Daughter Alone! (Her Family Is Not The Problem.)

As a writer who has left no doubt in previous posts who I am supporting for President, You might imagine I have something to say about John McCain's running mate and the fact that her seventeen year old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant.

I do. Leave Bristol Palin alone! As the candidate I support said, peoples families should be off limits and people's children should be especially off limits.

It proves nothing about anything that Bristol is pregnant. Her parents didn't want this anymore than any parents want that kind of stress.

I have plenty of issues with McCain's choice for VP, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. I find it hard to believe that a party who relentlessly pointed out Barack Obama's inexperience throughout August then somehow found the one VP Candidate LESS experienced.

Oh, but she has executive experience, they say. Sure, of a town of 9000. Oh, and a few months in charge of a state with a smaller population than the city that John McCain forgot to pay his property taxes in for four and a half years.

And that is just the top of the barrel. I could go on, and will later, but I fear blunting my other message.

The private internal issues of her family are not our business, at least not in this case or in general. Yes, I agree that if we were talking to Sarah Palin specifically about her position of teaching abstinence or about pre-marital sex or single mothers, then I can see it being relevant in a limited fashion.

But whether or not her teenage daughter acted like, well, a teenager... that has nothing to do with Sarah Palin's ability to lead or her qualifications (or lack of them) for the position that she has been asked to fill.

So back off and leave the girl alone!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama Accepts Nomination At Mile High

Barack Obama faced a challenge. With more than eighty thousand people surrounding him in Invesco Field at Mile High and millions more on television and the internet, Obama had expectations riding on his back in a way more familiar to John Elway than to a politician.

But even putting aside the question of priorities in an America that often gives more reverence to a quarterback than a President, we are still left with a question we can relate to football. Did he lead the Democrats to a touchdown?

In this age of demagoguery, there will be pundits in the morning who want you to believe that his campaign hinged on this night… at least until their next deadline. But they are wrong. This was not the fourth quarter.

This was an opening drive.

And on an opening drive, quarterback and candidate Obama did what he needed to do. He did what a good team (because Obama has always known he is only one part of America's team) does… He drove down the field and scored. He didn't throw up a bomb on the first play. He went to the ground game…he hammered out first downs. He pushed downfield, mixed it up and put the defense on their heels.

He took up the mantle of Roosevelt and Kennedy and he resisted what must have been an almost overwhelming temptation to turn this into a night all about him and his connection with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That would have been the vertical game, the long bomb.

Barack got into the huddle and he called a run on history around end for eleven yards, tossed a screen pass on national security for sixteen yards, hammered George W. Bush with a run off tackle for eight. And on that play, eight was enough.

Health care for twenty, gay rights for fifteen, specifics on taxes for thirty. This was not what some expected. This was not lightning. This was the trenches. This was where the lineman do the real work that lets the skill players get all the glory.

Offense sells tickets. But you win championships in the trenches.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

McCain's Experience Is In Being Wrong

I have been watching the DNC with interest, staying up late because I have had other things to do in the early evenings and patiently waiting for someone to say what we all should be able to recognize.

Last night, the Democrats finally made the point I think should be made more firmly and consistently. John McCain's experience is as much of a liability as it is an asset.

Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden hammered the point. And they need to. Because the one thing that is consistent about a candidate who is willing to change everything else about his ethics and his values in pandering to the GOP hierarchy is his consistent ability to make mistakes.

He has been wrong about foreign policy, constantly advocating positions that are incredibly evident of his faulty judgment. He said Bosnia was another Vietnam and Iraq was not. He said we would be welcomed as liberators. He said no one talked about Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden anymore because they were "yesterday's news."

BTW, does no one else find it horribly sad that the most famous casualty of Afghanistan is Pat Tillman? A man who gave up a professional football career in Arizona and then gave up his life. You would think that the Senator from a state that counts Pat Tillman as one if it's great heroes and examples would avoid downplaying the theater of operations in which he lost his life. But that would require McCain to be in touch with the people below his own income bracket, something that clearly is a challenge for him.

He says the economy is fundamentally strong at a time when it is clearly not and he dares to state this opinion after earlier stating that he doesn't know as much about the economy as he should. Yes, John... we figured that out again when you made that ridiculous statement.

This man's mental myopia should be legendary. John McCain's foreign policy approach is reminiscent of nothing so much as Charlie Brown trying to kick that football, repeatedly attempting the same thing and never learning from his past when he ends up on his back saying "This time I thought I was right."

Experience at being wrong should not be a qualification for the White House. It should be a warning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dave Stewart's American Prayer


This is my American Prayer
This is my American Prayer

This is the time to finish what you started
And this is no time to dream
This is the room
We can turn off the dark tonight
Maybe then we might see

American Prayer
American Prayer

And this is the ground
That keeps our feet from getting wet
And this is the sky over our head
And what you see depends on where you stand
And how you jump will tell you where you're gonna land

American Prayer
American Prayer

My oh my
Couldn't get much higher
Lets not kick out the darkness
Make the light brighter

And these are the hands
What are we gonna build with them?
This is the church you can't see
Give me your tired, your poor and huddled masses
You know they're yearning to breathe free
This is my American Prayer
American Prayer
American Prayer

When you get to the top of the mountain
Will you tell me what you see
If you get to the top of the mountain
Remember me

Dave Stewart
Forest Whitaker
Amy Keys
Macy Gray
Jason Alexander
Colbie Caillat
Whoopi Goldberg
Joss Stone
Buju Banton
Ann Marie Calhoun
Barry Manilow
Linda Perry
Cyndi Lauper
Sergio Mendes
Herbie Hancock
Mike Bradford
Margaret Cho
Cindy Gomez
Joan Baez
Pamela Anderson
Peter & Gordon
Sierra Swan
Nadirah X
Perez Hilton

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Cost Of John McCain's Soul? $285,000.00?

On June 16th, John McCain was the first of the two major candidates to adjust his position on offshore oil drilling, reversing his previous support of a federal ban (Barack Obama has since also called for a relaxation of that ban in a more limited sense.)

The following day, according to the non-partisan group Campaign Money Watch, ten Hess Corporation Executives and family members donated the maximum legal contribution of $28,500.00 each to the joint RNC/John McCain fund. The big (but not only) question I have?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The change in position or the money? It is perfectly reasonable for oil company executives to jump on the bandwagon of a candidate who is supporting their positions. However, if the money was conditional on the opinion, that would be something very different...and we also have to watch and see what happens when the numbers are reported for the time following Obama's announcement. If the donations were in response to the policy position change, as opposed to being a condition of it, than we should see some similar effect in Obama's numbers.

If we don't, it doesn't meant that McCain is crooked. At least, not as far as I know...

Ohhhh.... I'd best be careful. For a second, I started to sound like a Republican TV ad.

It gets better. A Hess Office Manager and her husband, an Amtrak employee, also gave $28,000.00 each. $57,000.00 from Alice and Pasquale Rocchio of Flushing, Queens. Apparently (according to FEC records), neither of the two have ever donated to a political campaign before each gave the maximum $2300.00 directly to McCain earlier this year. Alice Rocchio, when contacted by a member of TPM Election Central, said the contributions were from their own personal incomes.

The median income in the zip code where the Rocchio's rent their home is $58,069.00.

Is this a Sesame Street bit? One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Latest McCain Ad Includes MisQuote Refuted The Previous Day

John McCain's ads continue to say absolutely nothing about John McCain except how little there is to say and how low his standards are.

Today, the McCain campaign released an ad claiming that Obama is painting himself as a messianic figure, calling him "The One." In the middle of the ad they included a Dana Millibank misquote that had been refuted by multiple sources and last night was a source of great embarrassment for Pat Buchanan when he was shouted down by four of his colleagues when he, apparently focusing on the remarks he intended to give, completely missed discussion concerning that the quote was a fabrication and opened his critical remarks with it.

This is not what we need in the White House, this is what we HAVE in the White House. Believing statements without verification because they seem to support the position that they are searching to support? That is where we got fooled before going into Iraq! That is one of the key and most dramatic blunders of the Bush Administration and it is one we have seen repeatedly by that administration.

Enough already. John McCain's campaign has the people at, the Washington Post and the New York Times running ragged simply trying to keep up with the number of lies in his advertisements.

The best they can do is compare Barack Obama to Paris Hilton? You know, they are both kinda skinny, but last I checked they looked nothing alike, Paris had never taught Constitutional Law and despite Ms. Hilton's musical ambitions Obama was the one with two Grammy's and Hilton was the one stupid enough to have two ex-boyfriends selling sex tapes.

John McCain swore he would run a clean campaign. Of course, he also claimed to support the troops, then voted against the GI Bill, then allowed people to spin it like Bush and he were responsible for passing it. Being a veteran and supporting veterans are different things, John.

You want flip-flop? Quick, name the Senator who voted against his own legislation when the RNC told him that it wasn't in line with their platform? Name the Senator who hired a man to head his "Truth Squad" four years after he condemned that man for telling lies about John Kerry.

I had hopes that this campaign was going to be different. I guess I was thinking of the John McCain of 2000 instead of the 2008 version.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Exxon Really Feeling The Pinch, Eh?

So, in these hard economic times, with unemployment rising, the housing market in a freefall and the average American watching both their future prospects and their 401K balances decline, isn't it nice to see that the big oil companies are hurting too? I mean, Exxon Mobil Corp. reported their second quarter profits today and they missed Wall Street expectations and saw their stock drop three percent. Guess they made some sacrifices on behalf of their customers. Oh, wait... what is that on the AP wire?

HOUSTON — Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, the biggest profit from operations ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares slumped 3 percent.

Okay, I don't know what is worse. That Exxon is posting the biggest quarterly profit for any corporation ever by amorally ransacking the pockets of their customers despite the trying times... or that The Street thought they were going to do so on a grander scale.

When we are actively engaged in prosecuting a war in the middle of the largest oil producing region in the world, with a President whose family made their money in that business, at a time when the world stands at a crossroads of environmental change and when the average U.S. citizen is feeling a shortage of the pocket book due to prices at the pump and the increased costs of good due to the increased cost of the gasoline required to transport those goods... this is not profit-taking that needs to be addressed?

Calling this war profiteering would not be a dramatic exageration. In the midst of the Second World War, or even Korea or Vietnam, would this have resulted in outrage and government action? Almost certainly.

The predicted response from the Bush Administration and John McCain? Outrage indeed. Outrage that their stock dropped three percent.