Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blog #58: The end is in sight!

Wednesday, Oct. 15, brought us the last presidential debate. I think many of us are getting sick and tired of the damned presidential race, and are glad to see the debate segment come to an end. Although John McCain was a little more lucid than he has been in previous debates, most everyone agrees there was no knockout punch. Obama sat at the table exuding coolness whilst McCain gave his usual “grumpy old man” impression. And as what has become usual with us, we begin our debate coverage with comments from two Houston Chronicle readers' comments which followed their story covering the debate:

JimC wrote: In each of the debates: McCain--angry, surly, mean, disrespectful, desperate. Obama--patient, calm, articulate, presidential. It's obvious which candidate is leading.

tx_riley wrote: All the Republicans have to say was Obama was defensive. In other words, they lost this debate and McCain is done. As a matter of fact, the GOP is done. He lost this debate big time and if that doesn't hurt, the polls are clearly in Obama's favor. I'm extremely frustrated that I don't have a Republican candidate who can give a clear, straight-shot plan for the economy and not ripping off ideas from the other candidate. Obama has my vote.
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And here are two further reviews of the debate. First from Ariana Huffington in the Huffington Post: "McCain's reliance on angry, negative, personal attacks on Obama – including the pathetic Ayers smear and ACORN "destroying the fabric of democracy" – has been an unequivocal failure, with the poll numbers to prove it. But instead of course-correcting, McCain doubled down tonight – coming across as angrier and meaner than ever before.

"This debate wasn't decided on the arguments being made. It was won on the reaction shots. Every time Obama spoke, McCain grimaced, sneered, rapidly blinked, or rolled his eyes. "He looked like Captain Ahab, again and again going after Moby Dick," John Cusack told me. "Or an animal caught in a bear trap. He even seemed pissed at Joe the Plumber."

"McCain's campaign was all about experience – until he picked Palin. It was all about putting country first – until he picked Palin. It was all about the success of the surge – until everyone from General Petraeus and the authors of the latest NIE made it clear that victory in Iraq exists only in McCain's and Palin's stump speeches. It was all about William Ayers – until voters rejected that line of attack. It was all about national security – until the economy collapsed."
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And finally from Tina Brown's the Daily Beast comes the following: Blues in Slow Motion by Stanley Crouch (Stanley Crouch's culture pieces have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times, Vogue, Downbeat, The New Yorker and more. In June 2006 his first major collection of jazz criticism, Considering Genius: Jazz Writings was published. He is presently completing a book about the Barack Obama presidential campaign.)

"Had Barack Obama had MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow as trainers, he would have put up a more entertaining fight last night. Neither pretends to be objective; their criticism and satire of John McCain are so effective because they are backed the cold steel of hard facts, so many of which perforate McCain's claims and his campaign's advertisements. Devastation born of actuality.

"Initially, I thought Obama needed more snap in his jabs but he, perhaps in a slow and naturally easy way, left McCain the bloodier. Unlike his opponent, he didn't go for a knockout or a knock down. There seemed confidence in letting the points build up.

"So however dull Obama initially seemed, he slowly slowly wove an invisible web of authority and pulled into it some of McCain's accusations as though they were equal in irritation to flies but no more important. By the end something truly unexpected happened: of the two men, Obama came to seem older."
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One night after their third and final debate, the two presidential candidates met for the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City, the white-tie charity roast that has long served as a light-hearted rest stop on the road to the White House.

John McCain came on first, to announce to the world that he had dismissed his entire team of senior advisers. “All of their positions will now be held by a man named Joe the Plumber,’’ he cracked. Mr. McCain answered critics who said that the plumber he made famous as a hardworking everyman in Wednesday night’s debate would not earn enough money to face any tax increase under Mr. Obama’s fiscal plan by saying, “What they don’t know — what they don’t know — is that Joe the Plumber recently signed a very lucrative contract with a wealthy couple to handle all the work on all seven of their houses,’’ Mr. McCain said this in an allusion to a flap he caused last summer when he was unable to remember how many homes he and his wife own. Another gem included his prediction that at the "first sign of recovery [Obama] will suspend his campaign and fly immediately to Washington to address this crisis." He also recalled that Oprah had called Obama "The One" -- something his own campaign also picked up. "Being a friend and colleague of Barack, I just called him 'that one,'" McCain said. "He doesn't mind at all. In fact, he even has a pet name for me -- 'George Bush.'"

And Mr. McCain scanned the crowd and said: “Even in this room full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can’t shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me,’’ quickly adding, “I’m delighted to see you here tonight, Hillary,’’ as he nodded to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who lost to Mr. Obama in the primary.

Obama, for his part, also won some laughs if not as many as McCain. From the Waldorf-Astoria's doorstep, he pointed out, one can "see all the way to the Russian Tea Room." Thanking the night's emcee, Al Smith IV, Obama pointed out that, of course, he never knew the dinner's namesake. "But from everything Sen. McCain has told me, the two of them had a great time together before Prohibition – wonderful stories." Mr. Obama observed, “It is often said that I share the politics of Alfred E Smith and the ears of Alfred E. Neuman.’’ Turning his fire on the media, Obama invoked News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch by name. "Rupert, the other day Fox News actually accused me of fathering two children in wedlock."

Noting Michael Bloomberg's decision to make an end run around the term limits laws, Obama said it prompted Bill Clinton to say, "You can do that?" Mr. Obama told the audience that his first name was actually Swahili for “that one.’’ His middle name, Obama said, came from "somebody who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president."

Senator Obama, then made a confession about his past associations. “John McCain is onto something,’’ he said. “There was a point in my life when I started palling around with a pretty ugly crowd, I’ve got to be honest. These guys were serious deadbeats, they were lowlifes, they were unrepentant no-good punks. That’s right: I’ve been a member of the United States Senate.’’ “There is no other crowd in America that I’d rather be palling around with right now,’’ he said right off the bat, alluding to Gov. Sarah Palin’s attack that he had been “palling around with terrorists.”

All in all it was a fun packed evening, in direct contrast to the debate from the night before. If John McCain could have projected his image from the dinner onto the presidential debates he might have come out somewhat better. But he is no poker player, wearing the gamut of his emotions on his sleeve as he does. And on a split screen television screen as McCain listens to his rivals plans and observations he looks mean and acts grumpy, and in no way appears presidential. Besides, after eight years of Republican incompetence, arrogance, and misdeeds, and with the nation's economy crashing down all around us, McCain doesn't appear to stand a chance short of hell freezing over.
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A fellow named Thomas Frank wrote an interesting piece published in the Wall Street Journal online entitled, My Friend Bill Ayers. Mr. Ayers you might remember was a founder of the Weather Underground, a group which went about expressing its displeasure of the Vietnam War by, among other things, setting off bombs. Their enthusiasm was curtailed somewhat after a bomb accidentally killed their chief bomb maker and several other elite Weather persons. The McCain campaign, which is obviously out of its league as far as plans for a McCain presidency are concerned, has gone out of its way to link Mr. Obama to the long ago terrorist, now an education professor. Mr. Frank writes as follows:

This year the Democrats chose Barack Obama as their leader, a man who was born in 1961 and who largely missed our cultural civil war. In response, Republican campaign masterminds have sought to plunge him back into it in the most desperate and grotesque manner yet.

For days on end, the Republican presidential campaign has put nearly all of its remaining political capital on emphasizing Mr. Obama's time on various foundation boards with Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weathermen, which planted bombs and issued preposterous statements in the Vietnam era. Some on the right seem to believe Mr. Ayers is Mr. Obama's puppet-master, while others are content merely to insist that the association proves Mr. Obama to be soft on terrorism. Maybe he's soft on anarchy and repudiation, too.

I can personally attest to the idiocy of it all because I am a friend of Mr. Ayers. In fact, I met him in the same way Mr. Obama says he did: 10 years ago, Mr. Ayers was a guy in my neighborhood in Chicago who knew something about fundraising. I knew nothing about it, I needed to learn, and a friend referred me to Bill.

Bill's got lots of friends, and that's because he is today a dedicated servant of those less fortunate than himself; because he is unfailingly generous to people who ask for his help; and because he is kind and affable and even humble. Moral qualities which, by the way, were celebrated boisterously on day one of the GOP convention in September.

Mr. Ayers is a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where his work is esteemed by colleagues of different political viewpoints. Herbert Walberg, an advocate of school vouchers who is a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, told me he remembers Mr. Ayers as "a responsible colleague, in the professional sense of the word." Bill Schubert, who served as the chairman of UIC's Department of Curriculum and Instruction for many years, thinks so highly of Mr. Ayers that, in response to the current allegations, he compiled a lengthy résumé of the man's books, journal articles, guest lectures and keynote speeches. Mr. Ayers has been involved with countless foundation efforts and has received various awards. He volunteers for everything. He may once have been wanted by the FBI, but in the intervening years the man has become such a good citizen he ought to be an honorary Eagle Scout.
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Further perusing the Daily Beast we ran across this item: Christopher Buckley, son of noted conservative and founder of The National Review, in an exclusive for The Daily Beast, explains why he left The National Review, the magazine his father published. Wrote Mr. Buckley:

I seem to have picked an apt title for my Daily Beast column, or blog, or whatever it’s called: “What Fresh Hell.” My last posting (if that’s what it’s called) in which I endorsed Obama, has brought about a very heaping helping of fresh hell. In fact, I think it could accurately be called a tsunami.

The mail (as we used to call it in pre-cyber times) at the Beast has been running I’d say at about 7-to-1 in favor. This would seem to indicate that you (the Beast reader) are largely pro-Obama.

As for the mail flooding into National Review Online — that’s been running about, oh, 700-to-1 against. In fact, the only thing the Right can’t quite decide is whether I should be boiled in oil or just put up against the wall and shot. Lethal injection would be too painless.

I had gone out of my way in my Beast endorsement to say that I was not doing it in the pages of National Review, where I write the back-page column, because of the experience of my colleague, the lovely Kathleen Parker. Kathleen had written in NRO that she felt Sarah Palin was an embarrassment. (Hardly an alarmist view.) This brought 12,000 livid emails, among them a real charmer suggesting that Kathleen’s mother ought to have aborted her and tossed the fetus into a dumpster. I didn’t want to put NR in an awkward position.

Since my Obama endorsement, Kathleen and I have become BFFs and now trade incoming hate-mails. No one has yet suggested my dear old Mum should have aborted me, but it’s pretty darned angry out there in Right Wing Land. One editor at National Review — a friend of 30 years — emailed me that he thought my opinions “cretinous.” One thoughtful correspondent, who feels that I have “betrayed” — the b-word has been much used in all this — my father and the conservative movement generally, said he plans to devote the rest of his life to getting people to cancel their subscriptions to National Review. But there was one bright spot: To those who wrote me to demand, “Cancel my subscription,” I was able to quote the title of my father’s last book, a delicious compendium of his NR “Notes and Asides”: Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription.
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And finally from the Daily Beast, Jessi Klein is in love with David Gergen. I know this for a fact, for I read all about it in Thursday's Beast. To quote her: “The romance began late at night, with a glass of red wine and an episode of The Situation Room. I can’t hold in the truth any longer. My feelings are too large to live just within the confines of my heart. I need everyone to know: I am passionately in love with David Gergen . . . .

“The moment I realized my feelings were more serious was in late September, right after the first presidential debate. Gergen was on for hours, and I found myself on the couch, riveted, a glass of Cabernet by my feet, hands wrapped around my knees as I leaned forward to capture every word, every thought, every — oh, be still my fluttering heart, was that a little chuckle? . .

“How do I love David Gergen? Let me count the ways. I love his low, quiet voice. That unmodulated buttery whisper that sounds like it’s elbowing its way past a cough drop that’s permanently lodged at the back of his throat. You know how Bed Bath & Beyond sells those white noise machines that help you sleep? And they usually make ocean noises? I want one that’s just David Gergen gently muttering about the economy.

"I love the way Gergen makes me feel calm, even when he’s making dire predictions about the future of our country. I love the way he knows everything and then formulates an opinion about everything that’s always right. I love that his eyebrows only move when he gets mad, and I love that he almost never gets mad. I love that he looks like a handsome baked potato. I want him to analyze my life with the same subtle intelligence he uses to analyze politics. How can I make my kitchen brighter? Should I email that dum-dum of a guy I know or just leave it in my draft folder? Should I get a bob or is my hair better long?

“I love that his name is Gergen. Gerrrrr-gen. I don’t know the real origin of the name, but it’s a quirky, comforting sound with an onomatopoeic quality to it. Like the little pleasure noise you make under your breath when you’re home in your pajamas and you hear someone on the TV making consistent, rational sense.”

{|Thursday night on CNN Anderson Cooper had a split screen of Jessi Klein reciting her little love tome to David Gergen, with Gergen reacting on the left. The poor man must not have known about it before hand, for he blushed, squirmed, and all but hid his face at times. But the uncanny thing about her accolade is that her observations caught Gergen just as he is, or at the very least as he appears on our television.|}
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Mona Charen, who once upon a time used to spout the myths of the conservative viewpoint on CNN, wrote a piece for the aforementioned National Review lamenting the impending death of conservatism. She writes:

“All of a sudden, this election is shaping up as a verdict on capitalism. The Obama campaign wanted it to be about George W. Bush. The McCain campaign wanted it to be about character. But instead, because the markets are shooting off in all directions like bullets from a dropped pistol, the stakes have suddenly been raised dramatically.

“We are in the midst of the worst panic in history, it’s true (because it is global). But as historian John Steele Gordon helpfully pointed on in the Wall Street Journal, panics are not unusual in American history. We’ve experienced them almost every 20 years since 1819. Gordon blames Thomas Jefferson, which is intriguing, but the point is that we’ve always emerged from these periodic paroxysms intact and our economy has continued to grow. Gordon believes more sensible banking policy would prevent future panics. But if we elect a crypto-socialist like Barack Obama and give him a bigger Democrat majority in the House and a filibuster-proof Senate, banking regulation may be the least of our troubles.

“Well, you may say, “Win some, lose some. McCain isn’t all that great anyway. Conservatives and Republicans will simply have to examine their consciences and come up with a winning strategy for next time.” Perhaps. But there are a few problems with that sanguine approach.

“In the first place, the Democrats can, with a super-majority, change the rules of the game. They can make the District of Columbia the 51st state with two new senators (guaranteed to be Democrats in perpetuity). They can reinstitute the so-called Fairness Doctrine that required radio stations to provide equal time to all political viewpoints. While the doctrine was enforced by the Federal Communications Commission, radio stations shied away from politics altogether. With the demise of the doctrine, conservative talk radio flourished. Liberal talk radio has never found much of an audience. Reviving the doctrine would kill one of the principal irritants to liberals and Democrats — to say nothing of disemboweling the First Amendment.”

To which Little Eddy surmises: What a capital idea that would be, reviving the so called “fairness doctrine?” Think of a world without those right wing nuts of the Rush Limbaugh persuasion continually lying their testicles off, and when they get criticized for it, whine the excuse that “we're not journalists. We're entertainers. The fairness doctrine doesn't apply to us. And if not a total ban, at the very least each hour of a Rush clone to be followed by an equal hour of one invoking some liberal home cooking.

However, since that's not about to happen (right wing talking heads are much too entrenched and the station owners are not about to give up this lucrative part of their business without a fight to the death) and so with that in mind it is up to our left wing talk brethren to increase their ratings and their popularity, for that is the only true way to gaining true balance. Things are moving in the right direction, no doubt about that, what with the wider acceptance of liberal points of view in these days of a tanking economy and the tenets of the conservative blowhard daily being shredded by the realities of the financial world.
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Little Eddy's Left Wing Conspiracy Theory. As Mona Charen's piece above indicats, the zealots of the right are upset. They see a towering left wing conspiracy the sole purpose of which is the bringing down their candidates, John McCain and Sarah Palin, and their party, the Grand Old Republican Party, having entire the lot of them falling to earth and smashing into smithereens. Republicans are screeching, “these goddamn no good, leftist, pinko, commie, punks have risen up, and they're threatening to run our candidate and our party off into the hills, just as Cuba's Castro ran Battista into the foothills of Cuba in another century. And it doesn't seem to matter what conservatives do. We’ve had some of our best minds on the job, but nobody bothers to listen to us any more . Can you believe they are trying desperately to blame this wh0le damn financial mess on us supply-side politicians? They have the nerve to blame us, the party of Ronald Reagan, for this mess our markets are in and they're trying to brand us as scalawags? Now I ask you, is that fair? Is that justified by the facts? Don't believe a word these left wing pinkos say. Please don't! Pretty please!

In the final debate last evening John McCain accused Barack Obama of being a tax and spend liberal, and further pointed out that the last president that confronted a major recession by raising taxes was Herbert Hoover. Sorry, Johnny my boy, but should he be elected H. Hoover is not the model Mr. Obama wishes to follow. His model will be that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president who had the courage and the wit to attempt to solve the nation's problems by putting its people back to work. Franklin R. took office during the worst depression of modern times. Banks were closing right and left. Jobs were few and far between. Everywhere people were lined up for food.

Roosevelt realized a basic truth unheard of in Republican ranks. It was a novel truth that said: the federal government should be a tool that must assist its citizens in times of need. And so he closed the banks until he could stabilize them, then reopened them with the government insuring their accounts up to a certain figure. He tackled the unemployment problem by putting people to work on public works, building schools, hospitals, roads and bridges, and he even put writers and artists to work gathering a record of the times and its people.

Roosevelt believed that the federal government should serve the people in their time of need. And he and his advisors used creative means to pull the United State through the great depression of the thirties. And many of his contributions remain with us to this day, the most massive of which is Social Security.

Roosevelt was hated at the time by the well-heeled types like those who today flock to the support of John McCain. The thirties in America was raft with fascism. Father Coughlin ranted and raved over the public airways. Adolph Hitler wrestled his way into power in Germany, and Benito Mussolini did the same in Italy. Although the American wealthy class of the time lividly hated Roosevelt, his draconian methods are credited by most historians as to having saved America from following Hitler and Mussolini and turning America fascist. And the American people were grateful enough to Roosevelt to elect him to an unprecedented four terms.

Put that in your hash pipes and smoke it, Republicans. Once against the nation is in dire straights, fueled by eight years of arrogant, incompetent rule by a Bush administration on steroids. Ten billion dollars a month to pay for a war we never should have started. And John McCain wants to continue it until “victory” is reached. And he will balance the budget by the end of his term? Be a true Boy Scout John McCain and pass that pipe around,.

Obama is untried, Republicans cry. So was Roosevelt when he inherited the worst mess the country had ever been in, thanks to successive Republican presidencies in the twenties. So Obama is untested. So was Jimmie Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and so also was George the Shrub. So is every president as he begins his first term. Most of the above list grew into the job, the exception being the Shrub. What's important is that Obama is cool, collected, and creative under fire. What's even more important is that Barrack Obama once again brings back hope in our country.

The Real Little Eddy

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