Saturday, November 8, 2008

Blog #61: How Sweet It Is!

President Barack Obama. Hot Damn! Has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Thank you America for this time voting your heart rather than your fears. For rejecting that never ending Republican litany of lies, half-truths, the incessant name calling, and the downright silly attempts at guilt by association, all of the usual garbage the McCain campaign threw into the campaign fan hoping against hope to see something stick to the wall. The McCain/Palin campaign sputtered and stumbled as it wended its way along its desperate “bridge to nowhere." Isolated Republicans are already attempting to spin the election results in such a way as to show themselves as being relevant still. “America is still a Center/Right nation” is their mantra of the moment. But don't you believe a word of it. The country has suffered through eight years of arrogant, incompetent, dictatorial Center/Right rule. Believe me, voters did NOT vote for Barack Obama to ensure four more years of political high jinks à la Bush/Cheney.
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The country has truly turned the page, a blessed page in my opinion, by electing not only our first president of Afro-American ancestry, but accompanying that selection with populating the House and the Senate with substantial majorities of a Democratic persuasion. It was the cleanest sweep in recent memory, probably comparable in rank only to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's victory in 1932 in the depths of the Great Depression. That was a time I have a vague memory of, thanks to president Roosevelt's authoritative voice booming from my family's living room radio as he reminded us, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It was a jungle back then, and Roosevelt had his hands full as he closed the nation's banks while he tried stabilizing them enough to allow their reopening. But Roosevelt prevailed in spite of the odds against him, and especially the ultra conservative Supreme Court which attempted to curtail his solutions one by one. His answer to that: expand the court to nine justices appointing the new ones himself.

Of course Republicans, even as they pass through the jaws of their well earned and much deserved defeat, are going to continue to whine of their relevance, but don't for one minute believe them. They speak with forked tongue. The nation traveled through the 1920's with it's laissez-faire party in full swing. Trickle down didn't work in Coolidge and Hoover's day, any more than it will work in our day. If there is one thing that the rich know how to do and do well, it is holding onto their every last penny, letting nary a cent trickle down to the hungry masses below. Yet, our public has a short memory. Every few years our bastion of naïveté once again falls for that Newt Gingrich “pie in the sky” nonsense, and Congress begins quietly stripping away the various safeguards which had been put into the system to protect us financially all the while keeping the Great God Greed at bay. Then along comes another financial meltdown and here we go again.

Hopefully we Americans have learned this time around, and we'll give President Obama the wherewithal for doing whatever may be needed to stabilize our financial situation as he returns the distribution of the nation's wealth once again to a level of fairness, which in the short run means adjusting the tax code so that the people who are getting the most in benefits from our system once again pay their fair share of such taxes as are needed to keep the government running smoothly. Listen not to those who will scream “socialism” at every attempt to bring our tax code back to a level of fairness. Our progressive income tax is the fairest system of tax evaluation on the planet. Relieving the extremely wealthy of their tax burdens, and then invading a country which was doing nothing to us, is no way to run a government, and even though the Bush administration was able to get itself reelected through hook and crook, and run its scam for its full two terms, the result is that in the process it has probably destroyed the Republican Party under whose banner it had ruled, very possibly to a point of no return. At least it my lifetime.
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One of the more beautiful consequences of this year's election was in seeing that all the usual techniques of the Republican Right, the lies, innuendos, half truths, in short their flailing attempts to scare people away from their true choice fail miserably this time around. Obama proved himself to be Swift-Boat proof. Voters were no longer listening to the noise they were attempting to spread. Of course, candidate Obama probably has Hilary Clinton to thank for some of that, for the Republican shills had spent the preceding three years preparing to bring down a Clinton juggernaut that in the end wasn't to be. By the time they realized who their true opponent was it was too late to do much of anything about it.

John McCain is a good man, but this time around he was a terrible candidate. He was never able to find a positive voice detailing the direction in which he was planning to take the country. All he seemed to feel really comfortable doing was in criticizing Obama, throwing up doubts about his qualifications, his ability, his character, etc. Perhaps there were national security wonks out there who were genuinely concerned about Obama's lack of experience under fire, but most of those doubts were assuaged after former joint chiefs of staff and ex Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, gave his historic and reasoned endorsement of candidate Obama on Meet the Press. After Powell's endorsement virtually all of the cheesy doubts which were being solicitously propagated by the Republican Swift-Boater Team and their Rush Limbaugh type cheer leaders in talk radio, fell mostly onto deaf ears. And Obama's participation in the three debates was more than adequate in convincing most of us that the man is well able to think on his feet, he is reasoned rather than impulsive, and he has the smarts to do the job, and then some. At first glance McCain might be presumed to have had the better résumé going into the race but it didn't take very long into the first debate to realize that McCain had neither the ability nor the presence to utilize his superior qualifications, as he proved again and again when he seemed to be mired down in one outdated talking point after another.
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For me one of the best things to come out of the election was my newfound addiction to Tina Brown's recently opened aggregator, The Daily Beast. Although it enters a field already dominated by The Huffington Post, I find Brown's Beast to be a better distillation of what's out there that may be of interest to me. By comparison, Huffington seems to me to be overkill, perusing it's pages is like suddenly finding yourself in a veritable swamp of information. Everything you might want to read may be found on its pages, but when there I find myself soon wearying of the search, whereas I find myself coming back to the Beast several times a day, reading incessantly. As an introduction to the Beast I present a page from Friday's Beast, called the Big Fat Story. The Big Fat Story is a regular feature which changes every day. Friday's BFS was titled The Trashing of Sarah Palin. It's URL is As you click on parts of the page various paragraphs appear which flesh out the story:
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The rout of the Republicans on Tuesday has left them as an impotent rump in Congress and put the future of the party up for grabs. While traditional conservatives have rallied around Palin and praised her for her "authenticity", moderate Republicans, who believe moving to the center in the face of electoral defeat is essential if they are ever to recapture the White House, have turned on her. "The Republicans are fighting in the war room. They are fighting in the television studios. They are fighting in the blogs and on the opinion pages," Gerard Baker of the London Times reports. It is a battle that will not be concluded until the GOP pick their next presidential candidate in the summer of 2012.

There is no shortage of backers for Palin and her brand of no nonsense, common sense, grass roots, bottom up conservatism. Some see her as the true heir to Barry Goldwater's brand of frontier libertarian individualism, some that she descends from the Reagan Democrat tradition of blue collar conservatism. It soon became clear McCain and Palin were not so much fellow mavericks as book ends at opposite ends of the conservative spectrum.

"Her take-no-prisoners populism is inherently radical; it's at odds not only with McCain's 'I'm safe, he's an unknown' strategy but with the very things that conservatism claims to be about: stability, order and tradition, wrote Gregory Rodriguez in the LA Times. Among those who put their money on Palin when McCain put her on the ticket were conservative wit Mark Steyn and Greta van Susteren: "There is no doubt in my mind that she is very smart, an astute politician, a very nice person and that she will be back .... maybe or probably 2012." Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes is indignant at how fellow conservatives dismissed her. The conservative blogosphere has almost universally fallen in behind her, as has Camille Paglia, who is claiming her for the neo-feminists.

Moderate Republicans were not only appalled that McCain picked her, they were soon complaining her ignorance and her caustic views would sink the campaign. Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan thought her "no good, not for conservatism and not for the country." David Brooks, the Old Grey Lady's tame moderate conservative, described her as "a fatal cancer to the Republican party." Matthew Dowd, a strategist for Bush's 2004 reelection campaign thought the choice had "put the country at risk." Thatcherite conservative Andrew Sullivan thought her "completely out of her mind and dumb as a rock." While Christopher Hitchens, a contrarian maverick himself, decried Palin thus: "It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies."

The head of steam behind Palin is now so strong it is unlikely she can resist the clamor to make her the conservative champion for the 2012 presidential race. "Despite all the criticism, she has many supporters among Republicans who see her as bright, tough, and a star in a party with relatively few on the horizon," Kate Zernike and Monica Davey wrote in the New York Times. But what should she do until then? Should she continue as a grass roots outsider, maintaining her distance from Washington by staying in Anchorage? Or should she head to DC and start forging alliances?

The Washington Post's Mary Ann Akers suggests an option that will combine the two. If convicted felon Senator Ted Stevens is obliged to give up his seat, "Who might be in line to replace him? Hint: lipstick; $150,000 wardrobe. Yep, you betcha! Sarah Palin." Taking a leaf out of Dick Cheney's veep search, she could appoint herself, thus providing six free years in the Senate. The law is a little complicated on the issue, and there may have to be an election, but it is an eminently feasible option. Then, on to fame and fortune! Wink, wink.

A different BFS appears daily, and you click around the page to discover its hidden treasure and the discovery is kind of exciting. But there are many other features on the Beast pages, and even some of the more relevant videos of the moment. We salute the TDB and take our collective hats off to Tina Brown and whatever other editorial spirit guides its pages. And what a nice gift the 2008 election has given us.
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Also appearing daily in the Beast since election night is singer, songwriter Melissa Etheridge's eloquent letter to the tax collector of the State of California, explaining why she won't be paying her state taxes from now on:

Okay. So Prop 8 passed. Alright, I get it. 51% of you think that I am a second class citizen. Alright then. So my wife, uh I mean, roommate? Girlfriend? Special lady friend? You are gonna have to help me here because I am not sure what to call her now. Anyways, she and I are not allowed the same right under the state constitution as any other citizen. Okay, so I am taking that to mean I do not have to pay my state taxes because I am not a full citizen. I mean that would just be wrong, to make someone pay taxes and not give them the same rights, sounds sort of like that taxation without representation thing from the history books.

Okay, cool I don't mean to get too personal here but there is a lot I can do with the extra half a million dollars that I will be keeping instead of handing it over to the state of California. Oh, and I am sure Ellen will be a little excited to keep her bazillion bucks that she pays in taxes too. Wow, come to think of it, there are quite a few of us fortunate gay folks that will be having some extra cash this year. What recession? We're gay! I am sure there will be a little box on the tax forms now single, married, divorced, gay, check here if you are gay, yeah, that's not so bad. Of course all of the waiters and hairdressers and UPS workers and gym teachers and such, they won't have to pay their taxes either.

Oh and too bad California, I know you were looking forward to the revenue from all of those extra marriages. I guess you will have to find some other way to get out of the budget trouble you are in.

… Really?

When did it become okay to legislate morality? I try to envision someone reading that legislation "eliminates the right" and then clicking yes. What goes through their mind? Was it the frightening commercial where the little girl comes home and says, "Hi mom, we learned about gays in class today" and then the mother gets that awful worried look and the scary music plays? Do they not know anyone who is gay? If they do, can they look them in the face and say, "I believe you do not deserve the same rights as me?” Do they think that their children will never encounter a gay person? Do they think they will never have to explain the 20% of us who are gay and living and working side by side with all the citizens of California?

I got news for them, someday your child is going to come home and ask you what a gay person is. Gay people are born everyday. You will never legislate that away.

I know when I grew up gay was a bad word. Homo, lezzie, faggot, dyke. Ignorance and fear ruled the day. There were so many "thems" back then. The blacks, the poor ... you know, "them". Then there was the immigrants. "Them.” Now the them is me.

I tell myself to take a breath, okay take another one, one of the thems made it to the top. Obama has been elected president. This crazy fearful insanity will end soon. This great state and this great country of ours will finally come to the understanding that there is no "them". We are one. We are united. What you do to someone else you do to yourself. That "judge not, lest ye yourself be judged" are truthful words and not Christian rhetoric.

Today the gay citizenry of this state will pick themselves up and dust themselves off and do what we have been doing for years. We will get back into it. We love this state, we love this country and we are not going to leave it. Even though we could be married in Mass. or Conn, Canada, Holland, Spain and a handful of other countries, this is our home. This is where we work and play and raise our families. We will not rest until we have the full rights of any other citizen. It is that simple, no fearful vote will ever stop us, that is not the American way.

Come to think of it, I should get a federal tax break too ...

Melissa Etheridge is an Academy Award-winning and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter.
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And now for something completely different! How about the former presidential press secretary under Bush 43, Scott McClellan, reviewing Oliver Stone's film W? The full review is at: but if you want a quick peak, read on:

Many months ago, I came to grips with the fact that the Bush presidency did not turn out the way many of us who went to work for him had hoped. Maybe that’s why the initial strangeness of Oliver Stone’s W. quickly dissipated. Just like any other movie I might go see, I soon was leaning back in my chair with an open mind ready to be entertained. It was not long before Stone’s perspective on what happened piqued my curiosity.

If there is anything the 41st and 43rd presidents have in common, it is their shared contempt for psychoanalysis, or being put on the couch. Yet there are few things more important when choosing a president than looking beyond the candidates’ elaborately crafted political façades to understand what really drives them and makes them tick.

The father-son dynamic Oliver Stone explores throughout W. is what I found most intriguing about his biopic. As the movie intermittingly flashes from past to present, the audience sees how the formative, early adult years of W (ably played by Josh Brolin) and the strained relationship with his father (James Cromwell) eventually come to shape his decision-making and governing style inside the White House, mostly as it relates to Iraq. The carefree young Bush inspires little confidence and much disappointment in the father, who disdains his son’s wild socializing, lack of intellectual vigor, and aimless drifting from job-to-job.

With competitive zeal, Bush sets out to outperform Poppy by learning from his political shortcomings. But his obsessive desire to achieve greatness pushes W to overreach, pursuing an idealistic and ambitious vision of defining his legacy by the spread of freedom in the Middle East that proves to be nothing but an elusive dream. In the end, the once cocksure president is left struggling to come to grips with reality.

That’s the story told by the film. But is it true? Here’s the judgment of one person who saw many — not all — of the real events as they unfolded.

At best, Stone’s interpretation is educated conjecture. He takes plenty of liberties with the facts, a story-telling strategy he considers justified in order to get at larger truths in a 2-hour movie. As a result, the real-life complexities of the characters and events are left unexplored.

The movie also depicts W as politically astute and calculating, thanks largely to the help of his ever-present political mentor Karl Rove (Toby Jones). In the movie, Bush’s every move has underlying political motives.

For example, during a war council meeting in the Situation Room, Richard Dreyfuss’ Cheney fervently works to persuade the president about the need to invade Iraq for the sake of its oil reserves. W shifts the focus to selling the conflict to the public. For the “average Joe,” Bush asserts, “It’s not about oil. It’s about 9/11 and terrorists.” Brolin’s Bush is always thinking about how best to sell his policies to the public, intellectual honesty aside.

This rings true. President Bush was always concerned about how we would sell the “big items.” The White House Iraq Group (WHIG) was specifically formed to market war to the American people. Too often, candor took a back seat to making the most compelling case.

Overall, as should be expected from the high-caliber cast, the acting was fabulous. Brolin rightly deserves kudos for his portrayal of Bush. He has the swagger down, and does a decent job on Bush’s voice and gestures. The president’s eating habits were overdone, but not completely off the mark (you will know what I mean when you see the movie). The attractive and engaging Elizabeth Banks plays a charming Laura Bush. Dreyfuss nails his inner Cheney, a conniving vice president who believes the president’s wartime powers are virtually unlimited and that the ends justify the means. Jeffrey Wright does an excellent job capturing Colin Powell’s strong dissenting voice, if not his physical presence. The most unflattering portrayal was that of Condi Rice, caricatured by Thandie Newton as a mere yes – woman, which is excessively denigrating but not entirely without basis.

At times, Brolin’s Bush comes across borderline village idiot. “Iran is not Iraq, and Iraq is not Iran. I know that much,” W declares at one point to his assembled war council. In a press conference, he refers to a journalist of Asian ethnicity as “Miss China.” The George W. Bush I know is no rocket scientist (as he’d be the first to admit), but he’s no simpleton either . . . .

I also felt it was grossly unfair to portray Bush as merrily oblivious and somewhat smug when visiting wounded soldiers at a military hospital. Having been at President Bush’s side during such visits, I know they were somber, emotionally-draining moments for him. They were also probably the only time I ever noticed self-doubt creep into his eyes, however fleetingly, as he confronted the terrible human costs of his misguided, instinctive decision to rush into an unnecessary war.

But W. is a drama, not an historical documentary. Stone tries to play it fairly straight. Even if he misses the mark at times, he deserves credit for the glimpses of inner truth he provides, which can only be instructive, especially as we prepare to elect a new president.

My guess is the most vocal Bush critics will view Stone’s account as too soft on Bush and his top advisers, while Bush’s chief advocates will ignore and dismiss it. But I think the average Joe just might find it entertaining and thought-provoking. I won’t go as far as to borrow a line from Bush 43 and say, “Heck of a job, Stonie.” But I will borrow one from Bush 41 and say, “It’s good, not bad.”
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Scott McClellan is a former White House Press Secretary and author of the No. 1 New York Times best-seller What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.
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And William J. Kole of the Associated Press reports on Barackisms sweeping Obamatopia:

First there was "Obamamania," punctured in places by naysayers crying "Nobama!"

Now, as President-elect Barack Obama prepares for the White House, his message of change, resounding both at home and abroad, seems to have unleashed a barrage of Barackisms. Or maybe they should be called Obamanyms.

Here's a glossary, culled from Web sites, news reports and the blogosphere:

• Obamaphoria: The post election rapture that swept over Obama's supporters worldwide.
• Obamanation: A twist on "abomination," expressed by evangelicals and other conservatives who oppose Obama's stance on abortion, gay marriage and other issues.
• Obamarama: The celebrations around the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration.
• Obamanos: A play on "Vamonos," or "Let's go," among Obama fans in Mexico.
• Obamatopia: The political paradise that Obama's staunchest supporters hope he'll usher in.
• Obamalujah: Exultation shouted by his fans.
• Obamatrons: The policy wonks who will occupy the West Wing of his White House.
• Obamascope: Media scrutiny of the new leader. (Example: "One hundred days after Barack Obama took office, newspaper editors put the president's economic plan under the Obamascope.")
• Obamanator: Hollywood-inspired nickname for the new president — even if he's got what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger contends are "skinny legs" and "scrawny little arms."
• Bamelot: Description of his presidency, from a New York Post headline that played on the youth and freshness of John F. Kennedy's administration that came to be known as "Camelot."
• Barackstar: Description from those who believe Obama is "the Mick Jagger of politics" (from
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And finally, in Loveland, Colorado, Tuesday's election brought home the bacon, but never mind the fries. That is. Democrat incumbent Bob Bacon defeated Republican challenger Matt Fries on Tuesday 63 percent to 37 percent to represent the district that encompasses most of Larimer County in northern Colorado. "I am so pleased that the voters appreciate the work that I have done," Bacon said. Bacon originally was elected to the seat in 2004 after serving three terms in the state House of Representatives. Fries is a long-time education advocate.

And we Obamites welcome all Americans, no matter who you voted for, to Bamelot, which is on track to return the United States of America to being a land of fairness and opportunity once again, after a drought of eight long years. Bless Us All.

The Real Little Eddy

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