Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin: McCain's Brilliant Failure

UPDATE: Daily Kos has up a diary that alleges Sarah Palin may have links to the Dominionist theocratic movement. Something I'll investigate more thoroughly in the coming weeks.

I'll repeat what I've said elsewhere. If John McCain thinks that picking Sarah Palin as his running mate will seal the deal with disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters, it's patronizing and insulting. The reason is that Palin is anti-abortion, even in the case of rape and incest, a view that most women don't support. And supporters of Hillary tend to be the most pro-choice. We also still don't know what Sarah Palin thinks of universal health care but if she agrees with John McCain and the rest of the GOP, then it's the antithesis of what Hillary Clinton spent a lifetime fighting for. Where does Ms. Palin stand on the Fair Pay Act, also known as the Lilly Ledbetter Act, after the Gadsen, Alabama woman who sued Goodyear for paying her less than her male colleagues over a lifetime on the job and lost her case in the Roberts Supreme Court? I'm pretty sure that Hillary Clinton is for the principle of equal pay for equal work.

Just as troubling as McCain's and possibly Palin's lack of support for the issues that really matter to women and directly affect the quality of their lives is the fact that McCain had a bench of experienced, qualified women in the Republican Party that he could have picked. They would have been equally historic, would have shaken up the election, and stolen Obama's thunder going out of a hugely successful convention just as well as Palin did. The mere fact of choosing a woman would have accomplished that. Here's a list of some of the choices he bypassed. They include Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Texas), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine), Governors Linda Lingle (Hawaii), and Jodi Rell (Connecticut). There's also Christy Todd Whitman, former governor of New Jersey, and Condi Rice.

GOP pundits and bloggers will argue that most of those women, though worthy Republicans, are pro choice. And they are right.

I suspect that McCain's camp actually knows they are not going to get that many women who supported Clinton. Ok, maybe a few of the most deranged of the PUMAs. But not enough to turn even a close election. Just as they know they are not really going to get a whole lot of union members and rank and file working people just because McCain shows up at an auto factory and says that he's concerned about their jobs. More and more working people know that Republican policies don't really help them much and that the factory appearances and pitches to them are really pro forma.

Part of the reason McCain picked Palin was precisely to prevent the Democrats from getting too big a post-election bump coming out of their convention by dominating the next day's news cycle. That was a brilliant tactic. Gotta give his advisors credit for that. But the other reason was to shore up the Evangelical base. After all, there had been talk that a few younger, hipper evangelicals from the Emerging Church movement were flirting with the Obama camp. For McCain to lose some of them would be disastrous, as would having social conservatives simply sit out the election. Picking Palin was a pitch to them not to progressive and moderate women.

It was also a brilliant move.

Now, though, McCain and Palin will still have to run in the rest of the country on their issues, the same failed policies that have brought this nation to the brink of economic disaster and harmed ordinary working people for the past eight years. In addition, McCain, who yesterday officially became the oldest American to run for president, will have to explain why he picked somebody with so little experience in foreign policy and national security to be just a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Unlike Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro, whom Palin paid gracious tribute to, Palin doesn't have the accomplishment, knowledge and experience to be in the position McCain has put her in. That's not an unfair attack on her. She may well be an intelligent, competent woman. But she's not ready to be a prime time player just yet. Any of the GOP women I mentioned above would have been.

People will argue that the choice of a vice presidential running mate doesn't matter that much. And usually they'd be right. But this time, with a 72 year old cancer survivor it does. And as the first test of McCain's judgment it's a brilliant failure.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Pinup Girl for the Right Wing

Oh what fun. The liberal blogosphere gets to vet John McCain's vice presidential choice, Governor Sarah Palin, because his campaign failed to do so. According to RK, she's a creationist. She has two years experience as govenor of a remote state, no foreign policy experience whatsoever and McCain thinks she's qualified to be a heartbeat away from his presidency but Barack Obama is too inexperienced to govern.

And here for your listening pleasure:

You know, it's entertaining to make fun of such a light weight. But the truth is I'm damned mad about this pick. No matter how much I disagree with the Republican philosophy I'll admit there are some strong, smart and capable GOP women out there who would be more than qualified to serve as vice president. Instead, McCain picked the pin up girl for his party's right wing.

A Trophy Vice President

Update: Lowell has up an excellent summation of everything wrong and dumb about choosing Palin.

And even funnier is
this from Mason Conservative yesterday:
The most important part of it is that John McCain has resisted using Democrat-style identity politics in his choice. In Tim Pawlenty, it appears he has put ability and comfort ahead of pandering to a carved out group of people.
Poor Chris. Of course, he'll get on board and be the most enthusiastic cheerleader possible for Palin. But the truth is McCain played identity politics writ large and pandered to the Christian Right. Some maverick he is

Sarah Palin is such a poor choice for vice president that I'm sitting here stunned. If this election is a referendum on experience and judgment, McCain's campaign now fails at both. He's handed the election to the Democrats and it's theirs to lose.

First, if John McCain wanted to make Barack Obama's supposed inexperience the centerpiece of his campaign, picking Palin undercuts his message.

There are many reasons why a candidate picks a particular individual to be his ticket mate. Balancing the ticket and attracting votes are obviously the most important reasons. But at least in theory, a candidate picks somebody to be vice president because he believes that particular person can step into the office at a moment's notice should the unthinkable happen. Indeed, the very reason we have a vice presidency is to have somebody ready at the helm should the president become incapacitated.

So, McCain thinks Sarah Palin would be ready to step into the office and fill the shoes of the president should a terrible tragedy occur? What does that actually say about his judgment?

It says that his campaign advisors are still deluding themselves that they can get Hillary's PUMAs. The truth is those few holdouts could be had without this bad choice.

Many of Hillary Clinton's supporters are middle aged and older women who have spent a lifetime being passed over for the younger and less qualified for jobs and promotions and they've witnessed their friends dumped for trophy wives. Indeed, this pick will reinforce their suspicions that McCain has a propensity for trophy cuties - Cindy, Vicky Iseman, etc. Further, they will feel patronized that the McCain campaign thinks that an ultra conservative who is staunchly anti-abortion will appeal to them when they are mostly pro choice. What the choice of Sarah Palin shows is that they think a woman candidate - any woman candidate - is supposed to appeal to the Woman Vote because we really are dumb and don't understand substance and policy. That makes this a patronizing decision vis a vis the Woman Vote.

Sarah Palin is the female Dan Quayle. George H.W. Bush chose him to appeal to a younger generation and because Quayle was handsome. Bush still managed to win the election, of course, but not because of Quayle - probably in spite of him and because Bush was still riding the coattails of the enormously popular Ronald Reagan. And Michael Dukakis in an army tank and helmet was no match for Lee Atwater and Willie Horton.

McCain and Palin probably won't have such good luck. I think they both can put their heads between their knees and kiss their candidacies good bye.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Michael Gerson's Advice To Obama - Don't Squander the Moment!

I mostly distrust the mainstream media when they offer Barack Obama advice on how he should conduct himself at the convention. Their idea of a winning formula for Obama’s speech tomorrow night is heavily influenced by John McCain’s attack ads and Republican talking points, all of which have assailed Obama for his very strengths, his eloquence and charisma. Foolishly, the pundits’ advice has been to tone down the charisma, damp down the eloquence, and whatever else he does, Obama should duck so he doesn’t get hit again.


In the absence of eloquence and charisma of their own and even lacking in good ideas, it’s exactly what the GOP would love to see Obama do. In fact, it’s the whole point of their attacks, to scare Obama into running from his strengths rather than playing to them. It’s a clever strategy that has served them well in the past.

But there’s one pundit – and a conservative at that – who gets it right and tells it honestly. It’s Michael Gerson. His advice to Obama is to exceed all expectations and not squander the moment. Here’s his suggestion:
Obama seems to have embraced the conventional wisdom: "I'm not aiming for a lot of high rhetoric," he said Monday. "I'm much more concerned with communicating how I intend to help middle-class families live their lives. . . . This is going to be a more workmanlike speech."

That would be a blunder of historic proportions, precisely because Obama has been given a unique historical moment. He will fill it with significance or eventually be filled with regret.
And more:
Obama is advised to emphasize middle-class economic themes, as all recent Democrats have done. But to make a speech that will outlive the moment, he should also address America's deeper divisions based on wealth and opportunity, rooted in slavery and segregation, hidden behind highway sound barriers, revealed in crises such as Katrina, forgotten in a politics where only the middle class seems to count. Inequality is inseparable from liberty in a society that rewards striving -- but inequality becomes morally unjustifiable in the absence of economic mobility. America cannot accept the existence of a permanent underclass without altering its defining ideals. If Obama doesn't confront this reality -- given his background and aspirations of unity and justice -- it is hard to imagine that it will ever be confronted.

Obama can make all these points with added power because he is part of a great moral story involving aspiration, faith and the struggle for racial equality. It is the story of lives and wages stolen by fraud and violence, of families broken at the auction block, of millions who died with their hopes unfulfilled, of millions who never abandoned hope. The story of self-evident truths greater than the flawed men who put them to paper and of courageous men and women who claimed those promises in fact and in law.
So, why should Obama listen to Gerson and not those others? Mostly because Michael Gerson is one of the most talented speech writers of his generation. He had the unenviable job of making George W. Bush look articulate and he did it splendidly. Also, now that he’s a columnist, he’s giving honest advice. I don’t always agree with Mr. Gerson on issues but I respect his integrity. And he’s telling the truth now.

Hillary: No Way, No How, No McCain!

Josh has a report on the reaction to Hillary Clinton's speech up on RK. She was truly amazing last night. As others have already pointed out, she totally destroyed the mainstream media's narrative that she could only lose - either endorse Obama and end the "Clinton era" of politics or withold her enthusiasm and end up the hated party spoiler. She chose a third way: Blow one out of the ballpark, unite the party, ignite energy and enthusiasm, and deliver her supporters to Obama. And end up much beloved by the entire party.

She asked her supporters the pointed question, did you do this for me or for what we believe? And she reminded them of all the things we all who supported her truly stand for, equal pay for equal work, better and safer working conditions, equal opportunity for all and the abiding faith that each child can develop his or her God given talents and achieve his/her dream. The American Dream!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

That John McCain Can Sure Play A Mean Game of Pinball

The classic, comedic definition of chutzpah is the guy who murders both his parents, goes to trial, and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan. A new, political definition would be John McCain going after the Hillary Clinton vote.

There are actually two different Clinton votes. One is the blue collar vote that Hillary got in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio. To reach them McCain is stumping at factories and trying to convince working stiffs who are fighting foreclosure that he’s just like them and can understand their pain in this economy. Right – when he finishes figuring out how many houses his heiress wife owns maybe somebody will believe him.

But the more ridiculous height he’s soaring to is attempting to convince the middle-aged, white feminists that he is their logical alternative to Hillary Clinton. He’s even got a commercial out with supposed Hillary supporters who’ve never voted Republican before but who will proudly vote for him. That must be because he and Hillary are so close in what they stand for.

Except for the part where he has a lifelong anti-abortion voting record, is on record that he would appoint more judges like Alito and Roberts, who would overturn Roe v Wade, and doesn’t support universal health care reform. And it must also be for his strong opposition to legislation that would give women equal pay for equal work (see here for his real legislative record on women's issues). Yeah, he’s everything a supporter of Hillary Clinton would want in a presidential candidate.

In fact, when I look at the so-called Hillary supporters in his commercial all I can think is, honey if you’re proud of this, you don’t know what the hell Hillary Clinton really devoted her life to fighting for. Oh, and John McCain is playing you and the other PUMAs harder than a pinball machine in a juke joint.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Congrats to Joe Biden

I think he's an excellent pick for VP. I'll have more later.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bush Administration Enacts Rule That Could Endanger Women's Access to Birth Control

Well the Bush administration is doing it - condemning millions of women to unwanted pregnancies, allowing health care workers to deny a variety of services to them, just as was promised back on July 31. The Washington Post is now reporting
The Bush administration today announced plans to implement a controversial regulation designed to protect doctors, nurses and other health-care workers who object to abortion from being forced to deliver services that violate their personal beliefs.

The rule empowers federal health officials to pull funding from more than 584,000 hospitals, clinics, health plans, doctors' offices and other entities if they do not accommodate employees who refuse to participate in care they find objectionable on personal, moral or religious grounds.


The proposed regulation, which could go into effect after a 30-day comment period, was welcomed by conservative groups, abortion opponents and others as necessary to safeguard workers from being fired, disciplined or penalized in other ways. Women's health advocates, family planning advocates, abortion rights activists and others, however, condemned the regulation, saying it could create sweeping obstacles to a variety of health services, including abortion, family planning, end-of-life care and possibly a wide range of scientific research.

"It's breathtaking," said Robyn S. Shapiro, a bioethicist and lawyer at the Medical College of Wisconsin. "The impact could be enormous."

The regulation drops the most controversial language in a draft version that would have explicitly defined an abortion for the first time in a federal law or regulation as anything that interfered with a fertilized egg after conception. But both supporters and critics said the regulation remained broad enough to protect pharmacists, doctors, nurses and others from providing birth control pills, Plan B emergency contraception and other forms of contraception, and explicitly allows workers to withhold information about such services and refuse to refer patients elsewhere.
Here's the thing that makes this so despicable. It doesn't just protect a health care worker from personally having to deliver services he opposes on so-called moral grounds, it says that he can refuse to even discuss it or offer an alternative doctor or pharmacist who will perform those services. So, in a small town with only a couple of drugstores, a clerk behind the counter can refuse to sell a woman - or even a man - a contraceptive and refuse to tell that person where else he or she can go to buy it.

We're not talking about a late term abortion here. We're talking about anybody being able to deprive a woman of birth control pills or Plan B after being raped. What about her right to prevent a pregnancy? We're talking about de facto outlawing of, not abortion, but BIRTH CONTROL! And that would include birth control for married people.

The truth is 51 to 53 percent of Americans favor a woman's right to have an abortion, especially if her health or life is threatened or if she's raped. Larger percentages favor a woman's right to prevent a pregnancy with the most effective contraceptives available, birth control pills. But every doctor in every small town across America, every pharmacist, can now become his own legislator, taking away from a couple a fundamental right that is guaranteed them by law.

The truth is the conservative Republicans have been unable to outlaw abortion and birth control for years. Every attempt they've made has backfired because the public just doesn't support it. This is their last shot at imposing their fanatical theocratic will on those who don't agree with them theologically. This is nothing more than an attempt to impose their very sectarian religious views on others. Don't be fooled by it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do You KNow How Many Homes You Own? John McCain Doesn't

It must be nice to be so rich you lose count of the number of homes you own, while accusing others of being elitist. But look who's in the ivory tower. No, make that a Gilded tower.

Netroots Rising Discusion Last Night at Busboys and Poets

When Lowell Feld asked me, I said I wasn’t going to blog his gig at Busboys and Poets. “Nah, I’m off duty and I’m not taking notes,” I told him and Nate Wilcox. But I changed my mind.

First of all, it’s worth noting that Adams Morgan is a great neighborhood. Jaybird’s Jottings called it “a hipster haven” and has a good write up of the entire event. Busboys and Poets also live blogged it on their site.

As for Adams Morgan, the narrow streets are always crowded with young, and not so young, people gliding in and out of shops and bistros. It has the type of energy you find in New York neighborhoods like Williamsburg and lower Manhattan.

Most NoVa bloggers would probably feel comfortable in Busboys and Poets simply because it’s computer friendly. When you walk in, there are several rows of long tables, set up almost like countertops, with people busy at their laptops, totally oblivious to the crowded nightlife around them. You know, our kind of people :).

Lowell and Nate were in a separate room with a small stage, two stools, and two mikes. It was an intimate “clubby” setting with lots of tables, some booths, etc. Think open mike night at Folk City. Only instead of breaking out the guitars and singing, they and the audience were there to discuss Lowell and Nate's new book, Netroots Rising. After the discussion, they held a book signing.

As others have pointed out, Nate Wilcox was excellent on the techie trends in sophisticated, modern political campaigns. Lowell connected with the audience and spoke about the human factor. He discussed the now well-known Webb-Allan campaign and the Maccacca affair. As he pointed out, that incident didn’t cause the meltdown so widely reported. It was really the slow accretion of stories and details about Allen that followed in the wake of the YouTube video that did in the campaign and candidate. That video merely opened the floodgate.

As Lowell explained, the actual video was serendipity. Nobody could have foreseen Allen’s gaffe in Breaks, VA. But many people had long suspected that Allen’s folksy, cowboy, Southern gentleman image was a façade. It was an open secret that under the genial veneer there was a dark side. Both those in the media and Richmond insiders knew about the Confederate flags, the potted tree with the noose hanging from it in his office, and his tendency to use the “N” word. Nobody would report it. But after Allen was caught on tape, “people came out of the woodwork,” as Lowell put it, with stories dating back to Allen’s college days. Old roommates and pals came forward with incidents they had witnessed. Then, there was Allen’s response to TV newscaster Peggy Fox’s question about his Jewish background, which generated sympathy at the live debate but played out badly in the press and on the blogs. However, as Lowell also mentioned, bloggers laid the groundwork for these revelations early in the campaign. So did the Webb campaign. And even the felicitous videotape would not have been possible had the campaign not had S.R. Siddarth out there tracking Allen.

After speaking briefly, Nate and Lowell opened it up as a general discussion, taking questions from the audience and introducing colleagues such as Annabel Park, who spoke about some of her experiences with the Webb campaign, especially her work with the Asian community.

The discussion part of the evening ended on a tentative note as the two authors discussed the future of the blogosphere. Absent a crystal ball, it’s difficult to predict where we go from here. But as they pointed out, newspapers and mainstream media are increasingly putting up their own blogs. Sites such as Huffington Post, while politically progressive, are basically corporate in structure and mainly have many very well known writers and journalists clamoring to write for them.

The place where the citizen activists and amateurs are still most strong is at the state and local level. Software like Soapblox has allowed people to start true community forums where anybody can post a diary. They’ve become the new public square where political activists can congregate.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Jesus Litmus Test in Politcs

Writer Kathleen Parker certainly raised the right issue when she wrote in the Washington Post, "Enough With the Jesus Test." In writing about the respected pastor Rick Warren's recently televised interviews with both candidates at his Saddleback Church, she says:
This is about higher principles that are compromised every time we pretend we're not applying a religious test when we're really applying a religious test.

It is true that no one was forced to participate in the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency and that both McCain and Obama are free agents. Warren has a right to invite whomever he wishes to his church and to ask them whatever they're willing to answer.

His format and questions were interesting and the answers more revealing than what the usual debate menu provides. But does it not seem just a little bit odd to have McCain and Obama chatting individually with a preacher in a public forum about their positions on evil and their relationship with Jesus Christ?
None of this is meant to disparage Rev. Warren, whom Parker acknowledges is as decent a human being and minister as you'll find. He's more than walked the walk and lived the talk he gives in his books and sermons. And Parker also isn't trying to disparage religion.

I happen to agree with her points and I consider myself a person of faith. But I am growing more and more uncomfortable with a political conversation that is mostly directed at Christians while leaving out Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and just about everybody else. Christianity is the major religion in this country. But the United States is a more and more pluralistic nation with many faiths, and some people who have no faith. They too are citizens who serve in our military, work in our industries and offices, pay taxes, and contribute to society. Yet they are being shut out of an increasingly sectarian and denominational discussion.

We are choosing a president, not a saint and not a pastor. In fact, Parker ends with the interesting point that among our founding fathers, if Thomas Jefferson, a Deist heavily influenced by the Enlightenment, had to run for office in today's religio-political climate, he couldn't win.

Makes you think doesn't it?

Toby Keith Support Barack Obama

I always assume that country music stars are Republicans. So many of them have been and I guess still are. And I think because of Toby Keith's post 9/11 song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, I assumed he'd be for John McCain. I suspect a lot of his fans did too. But according to this piece on Huffington Post, he praised Obama and said he was a Democrat.
Asked while promoting his new movie "Beer For My Horses" about the role of patriotism in the current presidential election, Keith replied: "There's a big part of America that really believes that there is a war on terrorism, and that we need to finish up.

"So I thought it was beautiful the other day when Obama went to Afghanistan and got educated about Afghanistan and Iraq. He came back and said some really nice things.

"So as far as leadership and patriotism goes, I think it's really important that those things have to take place. And I think he's the best Democratic candidate we've had since Bill Clinton. And that's coming from a Democrat."
I wonder what, if any, effect that will have on country music fans, especially those in the South. I don't honestly expect that Obama will carry a solid South. In fact, I suspect we won't take Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, West Virginia, or Arkansas. Probably not North or South Carolina either. Georgia would be in play if Sam Nunn were the Vice Presidential pick, but I don't think that's going to happen (famous last words).

But Virginia is definitely in play. I think Tennessee might be and something like that could tip it. If Keith can organize some other country musicians to do a benefit at the Grand Ole Opry, the image and sound bytes on national television would be good for picking up a few votes in the rural Midwest, which could tip Ohio, as well as some border Southern states. And beside Tennessee, I still believe Florida is in play because it's such an atypical Southern state. And who knows which other state in Dixie may surprise us. After all, an upset, by definition, is the state you never in a million years thought would flip. It's the one that surprises us all. Just as Toby Keith's startling statement today surprised a lot of pundits.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vice Presidential Fever In Virginia

We've all got it. RK now has two different posts devoted to the subject, here and here. Ben is in despair with this. I've done my fair share of speculation. And Bearing Drift weighs in with this and this.

One way or another, lots of Virginia bloggers on both sides of the aisle think Obama is going to pick Kaine because of the convergence of two facts. First, the Obama campaign has stated that the announcement will be no later than Friday but could come as early as tomorrow. Then, Obama is scheduled to be in Virginia tomorrow and Thursday. Also, Joe Biden today said that he's not the man. Hopefully, we'll know by tomorrow. But I think Lowell summed it up best (emphasis is mine):
UPDATE: According to Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic, Tim Kaine will speak on Thursday night of the convention. Given that the running mate speaks Wednesday night, is this a sign that it's NOT Tim Kaine? My god, I'm so confused! (:
Yes, so are we all.

Dave Barry's Advice for Riding Out a Florida Hurricane

This is the season when I bite my nails and worry about hurricanes, especially The Big One. Everybody who lives in Florida lives under this cloud of doom that they are due for The Big One each year. And some years, they've gotten them. But even back in the 1980s, a decade when Florida never saw a major hurricane, every year we geared up for the Perfect Storm. In fact, as each uneventful year passed, we grew more fearful. Surely, next season we'd pay for all those balmy summers when we dodged the bullet. I left Florida because of hurricane season. Not the hurricanes mind you. The neurotic anxiety.

But my 93 year old dad is still down in Fort Lauderdale. So as Tropical Storm Fay comes ashore on the West Coast, but lashes the whole southern tip of Florida, I hold my breath and pray he's ok. He weathered Wilma a few years ago. But he's older now. If the power goes out, it will be much more difficult for him to climb the one flight of stairs to get to his condo. Especially if it's humid out.

Meanwhile, for a little levity about South Florida and the craziness known as hurricane season, here's an old column from Dave Barry. This excerpt about sums it up:
We're entering the heart of hurricane season. Any day now, you're going to turn on the TV and see a weatherperson pointing to some radar blob out in the Atlantic and making two basic meteorological points:

* There is no need to panic.

* We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in South Florida. If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one." The best way to get information on this topic is to ask people who were here during Hurricane Andrew (we're easy to recognize, because we still smell faintly of b.o. mixed with gasoline). Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan: STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days. STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car. STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Halloween.
And here's one snippet more:

We'll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:

HOMEOWNERS' INSURANCE: If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements: (1) It is reasonably well-built, and (2) It is located in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if your home is located in South Florida, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place. So you'll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss. Since Hurricane Andrew, I have had an estimated 27 different home-insurance companies. This week, I'm covered by the Bob and Big Stan Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.

For Dave's expert advice for riding out a typical South Florida hurricane, you'll have to read the rest of his column. It made me laugh on a day when I needed it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Obama Could Pick VP As Early As Weds. He's In Virginia Weds.

According to the New York Times, we all could know who Obama's vice presidential pick will be as early as Wednesday. Here's what they reported:
WASHINGTON — Senator Barack Obama has all but settled on his choice for a running mate and set an elaborate rollout plan for his decision, beginning with an early morning alert to supporters, perhaps as soon as Wednesday morning, aides said.

Mr. Obama’s deliberations remain remarkably closely held. Aides said perhaps a half-dozen advisers were involved in the final discussions in an effort to enforce a command that Mr. Obama issued to staff members: that his decision not leak out until supporters are notified.

Mr. Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Mr. Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware.
So, it appears that Tim Kaine is still in the running. And if the timing is any indication of things to come, here's what Obama's schedule will be for the next few days, again, according to the NYT.
Mr. Obama’s schedule calls for him to awaken on Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., and by the end of the day be in Raleigh, N.C. By Wednesday, he is scheduled to be in Virginia. The Obama campaign has cautioned against reading anything into his schedule, saying it could be changed in an instant to accommodate the plan to introduce the running mate.

Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.
So, the earliest the announcement could come is Wednesday. Obama has been opening headquarters all over Virginia and has a great field operation. Virginia is definitely in play. And Obama will be here on Wednesday. Hmmm...

What do you think?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Give Fimian a Map of His District, Please!

Maybe one of 41 percent of Keith Fimian contributors who actually lives in his district could give him a map. The novice GOP candidate held a press conference today to announce his energy plan. Frankly, it’s a decent one. I’ll give credit where credit is due. He doesn’t just go for the cheap shot about drilling more. He acknowledges that we need to invest in renewable energy as well.

The problem is that he chose a gas station in the 8th CD. This frankly confuses me. As a resident of Burke, part of the 11th CD, I’d be happy to take him to a gas station charging exorbitant prices right in my neighborhood. Better still, have the New Providence Republican Women, who sponsored the press conference, provide him with a map of his own district.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Who's Funding Fimian and Why?

According to this week’s Burke Connection, Keith Fimian has outraised Gerry Connolly in the 11th CD race. Fimian raised nearly $1.3 million to Connolly’s $936,484 as of June 30. Because Fimian had no primary, that gave him a greater advantage with cash on hand too – he had nearly $1 million. Connolly, who had an expensive four-way primary, only had $275,990 at the same point.

But the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story when it comes to political advantage. In fact, Connolly, an experienced elected official with greater name recognition, enjoys a 52 to 21 percent lead over Fimian, as of July, according to the Connolly campaign’s internal polling. In addition, Fimian’s cash advantage doesn’t reflect support in the district. As the Connection reports, citing the Center for Responsive Politics, Fimian raised only 41 percent of money from inside Virginia and only one of Fimian’s top donors lives in the district, compared to Connolly, who has raised almost 77 percent of his money from Virginia, with 10 top donors in the district. Add to this the fact that Fimian contributed $325,000 of his own money to his campaign, while Connolly has not given any of his personal funds to his race.

Nevertheless, Fimian’s campaign will try to spin his fundraising prowess as a sign of support within the 11th CD. In fact, his campaign manager, Zack Condry, said:
He is getting support both in the district and throughout the country. He has lots of friends and those friends support him running for Congress."
It may, however, be worth looking at some of those friends – 59 percent of whom don’t live in Virginia, let alone his Congressional District.

According to an article in the Examiner:
An analysis of Fimian’s recent donors shows he’s collected more than $100,000 from dozens of members — or relatives of those members — of Legatus, a national organization of Catholic business executives created by Domino’s Pizza founder and pro-life activist Tom Monaghan. Fimian reports taking in more than $1.3 million by the end of June. Legatus is based in Ave Maria, Fla., a planned religious community also co-founded by Monaghan, who drew protests from civil libertarians when he reportedly outlined plans to ban pornography and contraception from the town’s stores.

While Fimian, also a member of the Legatus board of governors, makes no attempt to hide his association with the group, it could prove problematic in a district that has voted less and less faithfully Republican in recent years. He is running against Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerry Connolly, a powerful Democrat.

Fimian said he’s pro-life and universally opposes the death penalty, but declined to elaborate on views on other social issues, arguing they are irrelevant to the 11th District.
First of all, Fimian may be wrong that it is irrelevant. He is trying to make it irrelevant because he knows being anti-abortion, anti stem cell research and anti gay are losing issues in a moderate district which has been trending blue. Even at its most Republican, when Tom Davis was unbeatable, it was never a socially conservative district. Davis ran as a moderate and was at least nominally pro choice.

But voters in the 11th might be even more concerned about those out of staters throwing their money at Fimian. A lot of that $1.3 million he’s raised has come from members of Legatus, of which he’s an officer, and family and friends of Ave Maria University, Ave Maria Law School, and Ave Maria township in Naples, Florida. All of those organizations were founded by Thomas Monaghan, who also maxed out to Fimian. Monaghan gave $2,300 and his wife kicked in another $2,300 to the Fimian campaign. For all that Fimian may want to pretend his election isn’t about social issues, somehow I doubt those donors are really concerned about Fairfax’s traffic problems.

In fact, Tom Monaghan, one of the major donors, has a reputation of being a single minded anti-abortion proponent with a history of backing ultra rightwing candidates like Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum and George Bush. He also has supported, and received favors from, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

More troubling, however, than Monaghan’s political donations is that he is an autocrat who runs his schools and town almost like a cult. He’s a man on a mission and that mission is to impose his particular religious and social beliefs on the rest of society. Here’s a quote from a Washington Post article from 2007.
Tom Monaghan "is putting his money and influence" into making Brownback "the next president of the United States," McClatchy Newspapers' Matt Stearns recently reported. The extremely wealthy, and controversial conservative Catholic, "is advising the 2008 presidential exploratory committee for Brownback, a longtime social conservative who converted to Catholicism a few years ago," Stearns pointed out.

"In the Catholic community, he's looked upon as kind of on the fringes," the Rev. Robert Drinan, a liberal Roman Catholic priest and former Democratic congressman who teaches at Georgetown University, told Stearns. "The worldview is, 'We have to get back to a Catholic civilization'. They want to go back to a Christian society imposed from above...It's just another world they want to build."
Monaghan started building his alternative universe with Ave Maria Law School, which has been the eye of a storm of controversy almost since its inception.

To start with, Ave Maria Law School has had trouble getting and keeping its accreditation. When Monaghan decided to pick it up and move it from Michigan to Naples, Florida to become the centerpiece of his town, the faculty of the school protested and passed a vote of no confidence in Monaghan and his law school dean, Bernard Dombraski. Faculty members resigned in protest over Dombraski and Monaghan’s autocratic style, which puts Monaghan’s whims before the good of the school. (For the whole story, go to Ave Watch.)

Perhaps the most egregious firing, though, was Monaghan’s attempt to sack his provost, Father Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit priest beloved by traditionalist Catholics. Even for a school which places high value on absolute obedience from its staff and student body, this was too much and led to open protest. Father Fessio is a close personal friend to and former student of Pope Benedict, who is one of the most orthodox pontiffs to hold the office in modern times. But that didn’t daunt Monaghan.

Tom Monaghan rules Ave Maria like an autocrat. Indeed, his nickname is “King.” And he decides the dress code for females, including faculty. Here’s a story of his autocracy from Ave Watch:
The following is, by far, the most commonly heard "insider" story concerning Tom Monaghan. Ask a past or present employee from any of the Ave Maria entities about this story, and he or she will probably be familiar with it. Multiple current and former employees have offered AveWatch corroborating accounts. Yet, to date, it remains unpublished.

But, requiring a dress or skirt was not enough for Mr. Monaghan. It had to be of a 'proper' length at/below the knees.

Shirley Daum was a married mother who worked at Domino Farms. According to co-workers and friends, she was a solid employee who "always acted professionally" and was "a cheerful and delightful person to be around". As the account goes, in Mr. Monaghan's outer office area, he noticed one day that Daum was wearing a skirt whose length might not have met the knee dress code. In the presence of other employees, Monaghan then proceeded to tell Daum to kneel in front of him so that he could determine whether the skirt touched the floor and was subsequently in compliance with the dress code.

Can you imagine the humiliation of a married woman being told by her boss to kneel in his presence, in front of co-workers? To be clear, AveWatch is not implying that the instruction to kneel was done with sexual intent. But, it doesn't need to be overtly sexual to be humiliating. It should also be remembered that a perpetrator's private "intent" is not necessarily transferable to a participant or observer who may have very different perceptions about the intent.
And here’s a report from Bill Donahue writing in Mother Jones, describing the student body of Ave Maria.
"The first time i ever kissed a guy," a gentle, soft-spoken Ave Maria freshman named Mersadis said over her mozzarella sticks, "I thought it was disgusting. And now I don't want another guy to kiss me before marriage." She took a sip of her iced tea, then continued. "In high school, I found myself looking at every girl and asking, 'Has she given up her virginity? Is she still pure?' Here, I've stopped asking. I know everyone is."

Beside me sat a stern and erudite priest-in-training, a freshman named Aaron. "Here at Ave Maria, we follow the teachings of the magisterium," he intoned, meaning that students regard the pope's guidance as infallible. "We have not prostituted ourselves.... Other Catholic schools—and the rest of America—have embraced modernism and the culture of death. They have given wholehearted support to the death penalty, abortion, and euthanasia. The value of the human person is now entirely relative."


Aaron argued that the United States can only be saved from moral perdition if it, like Ave Maria, embraces the magisterium as supreme. "We don't believe in the separation of church and state," he said, "and this country should orient itself toward Christ. The foundation of Western civilization rests on Christendom, which means that America owes its existence to the Catholic Church."
Parents and former students have expressed concern over the cult-like environment at Ave Maria, as this report from USA Today shows.
Some parents, too, have raised concerns. Guilbert Brown, budget director at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., says he was impressed when he visited the campus in 2004 with daughter Sacha.

But after she started her freshman year, he grew disturbed by changes in her behavior. A confident leader in her parish in Virginia, she became secretive and withdrawn. She worried her mother would be criticized for wearing sleeveless blouses or low necklines during campus visits. She called home only if no one was within earshot.

Eventually, Sacha transferred to the University of Dallas, where she has met at least four other former Ave Maria students.

It's not uncommon for students to transfer to other schools, but this was more than just a bad fit, Brown says. "We saw an environment where the free expression of the human spirit is thwarted."
And, as mentioned above, faculty who try to buck Monaghan’s iron will face the prospect of firings
In 2003, college staffers raised concerns about questionable financial aid practices to the Department of Education, which found, among other things, that students at the Florida university were not eligible to receive federal aid but were getting it through the Michigan college. Ave Maria College returned $259,620 to the department in 2004. Two lawsuits against the college have been dismissed, but Ave Maria College lawyers have appealed a third to the Michigan Supreme Court. That suit was filed by a whistle-blower who sparked the federal investigation.

Meanwhile, watchdog Internet sites mercilessly scrutinize each new development, be it the shake-up this spring in the admissions department or reports that yet another professor has been banned from his office.

Most complaints can be boiled down to one thing: Monaghan, who is the university's primary donor and chancellor, has too much control over an institution of higher education, of which shared governance is a hallmark.

"That whole organization is basically run like a sole proprietorship," says Christopher Beiting, a visiting history professor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green who spent six years at Ave Maria College before quitting last year. Ave Maria College "was a very nice thing for a while," he says. "Most of the very competent people (who knew) how to run universities either left after a while or (were) pushed out."

Says Lee: Once colleagues "spoke of high academic aspirations and their personal devotion to Mary and to the Catholic Church." Now, the atmosphere is "dominated by the personal preferences of Tom Monaghan."
It’s important to note that none of this criticism is coming from secularists with their own hidden agenda. These are fellow devout, traditional Catholics, many of whom taught at Ave Maria or attended it as students and who grew disillusioned with Monaghan’s ham handed tactics.

More troubling, however, than the school, is Monaghan’s town, by the same name. It was built outside of Naples, Florida. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and convert to Catholicism, declared it a special tax district like Disney World. The difference, though, is that Disney World does not have any religious agenda or ties. According to Donahue in Mother Jones:
To conservatives, Monaghan is a deep-pocketed savior. Florida governor Jeb Bush, a converted Catholic, made Ave Maria Town a special tax district like Disney World, giving the self-appointed Board of Supervisors (run by Monaghan's development partner) wideonging powers and exempting the town from state and local laws.
That’s not the extent of the favor the town has received from local politicians as this article from the Naples News shows.
Think the Ave Maria project is financed entirely by private loans? Think again.

In the past four years, Ave Maria has received nearly $128 million in tax-free municipal bonds. The money has built a water and sewer plant, university student and faculty housing, and provided general town infrastructure.

Three separate governmental bodies — the Collier County Industrial Development Authority, the Collier County Educational Facilities Authority and the state-approved Ave Maria Stewardship Community District — have authorized five bond issues that benefit town developers and future residents.

Bonds issued by these entities are tax-free, making them equivalent to those from any government in the state.


As Ave Maria town and university develop, expect them to continue using municipal bond financing.

Similar to community development districts operating all over Southwest Florida, the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District, which at this point is run entirely by the town’s developer, has jurisdiction over nearly 11,000 acres in and around the town.
In 2006, the district approved and Collier circuit court validated more than $820 million in tax-free bonds for town infrastructure. So far, the district has issued just $52 million of that amount.
Tom Monaghan has won a lot of favors and financial rewards through cultivating wealthy and influential businessmen. And he’s attempting to extend his own influence further by carefully developing friendships with like minded theocratic politicians like Jeb Bush, Sam Brownback and now Keith Fimian. Don't let anybody kid you, the issues Fimian is trying to skirt around are very relevant to the district he hopes to represent. And so is the source of so much of his financial support.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Finally, New Obama Ad Hits Back and Also Shows What He's For

All of John McCain's ads, so far, have shown what he is against. And he's just against Obama because - well because he wants to be president. Fair enough. But what's he for? He keeps approving the same old lies and attacks.

Well, finally Obama hits back. But better than that, he also tells you what he's for instead. Even in an attack ad, he's more positive than faux maverick McCain is.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Some Straight Talk From the Obama Campaign

Here's some real straight talk about McCain's mendacious commercials:

The problem is Obama needs to do better than this. He needs a real television commercial, which plays in the same markets as McCain's ad, calling his opponent out for his lies.

I understand Obama's reluctance to "go negative" because it doesn't fit with the message of a post-partisan campaign that seeks to unify rather than divide the country. Obama also is trying to stick to the high road. I respect that.

But we've seen this play before and it never ends happily for Democrats when they cede the game to the Republican Rovian spin machine. Obama was right to not throw the first punch and even to show restrain in responding. But it's time to take the gloves off and call a lie a lie. And it's time to start throwing some sharp questions McCain's way.

I'm not talking about mudslinging and character assassination, although McCain's campaign seems to lack no shame in engaging in just that. But it is fair to question the commitment to the truth and the character of a man who approves a message full of lies and half truths. It's past time to call it like it is in a well crafted and visually engaging ad.

And this rebuttal, as earnest and well meaning as it is, just isn't it. Get serious!

Nebraska Meats Sickens Virginia Boy Scouts; Tainted Meat Kills Minnesota Churchgoer

Nebraska Meats, the processor whose E coli tainted beef sickened Boy Scouts in Goshen, VA a few weeks ago, apparently has a history of health and safety violations, according to this article in today's Washington Post. Sadly, their ground beef was sold through a supplier, Coleman Foods, which processed their product at Nebraska Meats, without informing Whole Foods. That supermarket chain is now investigating why Coleman Foods never told them where they processed the meat. Meanwhile, Whole Foods, a grocery chain that enjoys customer trust and maintains high standards, has had to issue a recall and will now have the difficult job of rebuilding their customers’ faith in their quality.

Nebraska Foods, by contrast, has a long history of health and safety violations, which should earn them customer enmity. And those same consumers, also voters, need to ask why the USDA has fallen on the job of protecting them?

It turns out, it didn’t happen without a fight from the USDA.
Nebraska Beef has a contentious history with the USDA. Over the past six years, federal meat inspectors have repeatedly written it up for sanitation violations, and the company has fought back in court.

From September 2002 to February 2003, USDA shut down the plant three times for problems such as feces on carcasses, water dripping off pipes onto meat, paint peeling onto equipment and plugged-up meat wash sinks, according to agency records.
After the third suspension, Nebraska Beef took USDA to court, arguing that another shutdown would put the company out of business. A judge agreed and temporarily blocked the department. The USDA and the company then settled out of court and inspections resumed. However, when federal meat inspectors found more violations, Nebraska Beef sued the department and the inspectors individually, accusing them of bias. The suit was later dismissed.

In 2004 and early 2005, Nebraska Beef ran afoul of new regulations aimed at keeping animal parts that may be infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, out of the meat supply. Meat processors are required to remove certain high-risk parts, such as brains and spinal cords. Between July 2004 and February 2005, federal meat inspectors wrote up Nebraska Beef at least five times for not removing spinal cords and heads, according to USDA records obtained by Food and Water Watch, a Washington advocacy group.

The company corrected the problems.

In August 2006, federal meat inspectors threatened to suspend operations at the packing house for not following requirements for controlling E. coli. The company corrected the problem a week later, USDA records show.

But that same year, Minnesota health officials blamed the same company for sickening 17 people, who ate meatballs at a church potluck. One woman died of food poisoning and several of the victims sued Nebraska Beef, including the dead woman’s family. What was Nebraska Beef’s response? Incredibly, they counter sued the victims, alleging the volunteer chefs cooked the meatballs improperly. The suit was later dropped as consumer advocates questioned the company and why the USDA has been so ineffective at shutting it down.
Given the history of violations, some consumer advocates question why the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service has not come down harder on the company.

"It seems that FSIS is walking on eggshells when dealing with Nebraska Beef," said Food and Water Watch lobbyist Tony Corbo. "Instead, the agency keeps on coming up with Band-Aid approaches . . . while consumers keep on getting sick from eating products put into commerce by this company."

"Companies are provided the opportunity to take corrective action," USDA's Reiser said.
It took an accumulation of embarrassments, though, to get this delinquent company to sing a different tune. In addition to blatant disregard for their customers’ health, they also could care less about employee safety and are high on the list of union busters.
Labor unions have also criticized Nebraska Beef over its labor practices. Since 1998, the company has had 47 workplace safety violations and paid more than $100,000 in fines, Occupational Safety and Health Administration records show. Lamson said most were not serious.

In 2002, a National Labor Relations Board official voided a 2001 vote against unionizing Nebraska Beef employees. The NLRB official found that management interrogated workers about their union sympathies and threatened to fire, terminate benefits for or reassign employees who voted to unionize.
Maybe in addition to cleaning up safety violations to protect consumers, we also need the Employee Free Choice Act. It turns out, despite the claims to the contrary by conservatives, that workers need more protection from employer intimidation than they do from imaginary union thugs, who exist mostly in the minds of right wingers for whom private industry can do no wrong.

Nebraska Meats is a terrible example of a company that threatens its employees and plays fast and loose with everybody’s safety and health. And the state government in Nebraska has given them tax breaks to do so.
By then, Hughes was already part of a group of Nebraska Beef investors. The state gave the company additional financial support in the form of $7.5 million in tax credits under its Quality Jobs Act. Then-Gov. Ben Nelson (D), now a U.S. senator, sat on the three-member jobs board that approved the tax credits. Nelson's former law firm, Lamson, Dugan and Murray, represents Nebraska Beef.

While state leaders welcomed Nebraska Beef and the jobs that came with it, residents who lived near the plant did not, and for more than a decade, they battled the company over manure strewn in the street and workers walking off the kill floor and into the local grocery store covered in cow splatter, said South Omaha resident Janet Bonet.
So, in addition to all their other sins, they’re bad neighbors too. But bad neighbors with friends, like Blue Dog Democrat Ben Nelson, in high places. And they are serial polluters and health and safety violators too.
The force behind Nebraska Beef is Nebraska businessman William Hughes. Hughes was a top executive at the now-defunct Beef America. In 1997, the USDA yanked its inspectors from BeefAmerica's Norfolk, Neb., plant because of repeated sanitation violations, including contamination of meat with fecal matter. The company had to recall more than 600,000 pounds of beef after the USDA traced E. coli O157:H7-tainted meat from a Virginia retailer to the Omaha packer. It filed for bankruptcy the following year.
So, William Hughes, buddy of Ben Nelson, has poisoned Virginians before. I guess all politics isn’t just local. Not in a global economy.

As I’ve written before, most companies genuinely try to provide quality products. They need help in regaining the public’s trust. But there are a few out there that are genuinely criminal. Those are the ones that should be eliminated. I can’t think of a better outcome for the health and safety of the public than for Nebraska Meats to either shape up or, indeed, fold up.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Come Say Hello

Tomorrow, Sunday, August 11, from 3 to 6 pm, I'll be working at the Fairfax City Obama Headquarters as a greeter at the front desk. If you want to come meet me, say hello, or even yell at me, please stop by. But the deal is, I'd like you to also sign up and volunteer for the campaign and stay a while.

Or come any other time you'd like, if you already know me and don't want to see me :). Here's the address and directions. It's in the Jermantown Shopping Center.

Friday, August 08, 2008

PUMAS: Listen to Hillary - Support Obama!

H/t to Lowell

About John Edwards

UPDATE: Vivian Paige has an excellent diary up, with statements by both John and Elizabeth Edwards. Elizabeth's is the most poignant. Here's only a snippet of it:
John made a terrible mistake in 2006. The fact that it is a mistake that many others have made before him did not make it any easier for me to hear when he told me what he had done. But he did tell me. And we began a long and painful process in 2006, a process oddly made somewhat easier with my diagnosis in March of 2007. This was our private matter, and I frankly wanted it to be private because as painful as it was I did not want to have to play it out on a public stage as well. Because of a recent string of hurtful and absurd lies in a tabloid publication, because of a picture falsely suggesting that John was spending time with a child it wrongly alleged he had fathered outside our marriage, our private matter could no longer be wholly private.

John has spoken in a long on-camera interview I hope you watch. Admitting one’s mistakes is a hard thing for anyone to do, and I am proud of the courage John showed by his honesty in the face of shame. The toll on our family of news helicopters over our house and reporters in our driveway is yet unknown. But now the truth is out, and the repair work that began in 2006 will continue. I ask that the public, who expressed concern about the harm John’s conduct has done to us, think also about the real harm that the present voyeurism does and give me and my family the privacy we need at this time.
I would love to just ignore this breaking story. Pull the covers over my head and wait for it to go away. But because I was an ardent supporter of John Edwards for president, I can’t. It would be hypocritical to criticize some but not others. To ignore the beam in my candidate’s eye.

Make no mistake about it. What John Edwards did was wrong, immoral, and sinful.

He cheated on his wife, broke his marriage vow and engaged in adultery. That’s the most important part. But he also betrayed the many supporters who believed in him and were willing to walk through fire for his candidacy. How many are now breathing a sigh of relief and whispering, “Thank God he’s not our candidate”?

And what if he was? How could we have recovered from that shock and gone on to win in November? We couldn’t. How could he even consider running for office with that skeleton in his closet. How could he even consider having an affair if he had presidential ambitions?

Edwards has explained that somewhere along the way while running for office he began to feel that he was special, above the ordinary morality of mere mortals. It’s no excuse for betraying your wife and family. But he’s not the first. He won’t be the last. And none of that excuses it. Period.

But I must add, for those in the other party, who’ve always licked their lips at any sign of hypocrisy from him – the $400 haircut, the big house – you live in a glass house on this one.

Former presidential candidate, Rudolph Giuliani, famously cheated on his second wife, Donna Hanover, (he was already divorced from wife #1). And he announced his divorce from Ms. Hanover on television before even informing her. Then, she booted him out of Gracie Mansion and he went to live with an openly gay couple, while conducting his very public affair with Judith Nathan, who now likes to refer to herself as “Mrs. G.”

Newt Gingrich was a serial cheat and deserter of sick women. He asked his first wife for a divorce while she was recovering from surgery for breast cancer. Then, he asked his second wife, Marianne, for a divorce, to marry his current wife, with whom he had been having an affair. Marianne was diagnosed with MS just eight months before Gingrich informed her of the divorce filing.

John McCain began an affair with his current wife, Cindy, while still married to his first wife, Carol, who had been in an accident that left her deformed. He had extenuating circumstances. He had returned from years of torture and prison in Vietnam. It changes a man. He probably felt, after all his own very real suffering and all those years of dreaming of all the normal things that young men dream of, that he was entitled to a pretty wife and a happy life. Then, too, we all know about the parallel patrons of call girls, David Vitter and Elliot Spitzer. (For more insight into the peccadillos of candidates, here's a fairly good wrap up that puts it in perspective)

I’m not pointing this out to deflect from John Edwards’ transgression. But merely to remind everybody to be less arrogant. Gloat less. Walk more humbly with your God. Because when it comes to sin, it’s bi-partisan. And non partisan. In fact, St. Paul, in Romans 3:23, sums it up best, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.”

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Prosperity Is Just Around the Corner

During the Great Depression this ironic song became popular, mocking the Hoover administration's slogan, "Prosperity is just around the corner."

    Album : Songs Of The Depression
    (Irving Berlin)

    Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians - 1932

    Just around the corner,
    There's a rainbow in the sky,
    So let's have another cup of coffee,
    And let's have another piece of pie.

    Trouble's like a bubble,
    And the clouds will soon roll by,
    So let's have another cup of coffee,
    And let's have another piece of pie.

    Let a smile be your umbrella,
    For it's just an April shower,
    Even John D. Rockefeller
    Is looking for the silver lining!

    Mr. Herbert Hoover
    Says that now's the time to buy,
    So let's have another cup of coffee,
    And let's have another piece of pie!

  • Hoover also promised "a chicken in every pot." Now, I'm fully aware that our economy is not as dire as it was back then. There were long bread lines, starving people, many of whom lived under bridges and in tents and corrugated cardboard shacks, with no social safety net at all. Life was far more harsh then and economic conditions far more desperate. Comparing then to now is almost like comparing apples to oranges.

    However, what remains the same is that people don't trust the reassurances coming out of corporate America and the administration that the fundamentals are still strong and the "rough patch" is improving. Most people haven't had a real pay raise in years. They've lost pension and health care benefits and long before the corporate world began to suffer, they were tightening their belts. Indeed, while the profits were still rolling in, they were falling behind. But now, unfortunately, the belt tightening recesssion has caught up with everybody.

    Unfortunately, there's more bad news today. I received this in an email from a friend, who was trying to warn others to use their gift cards and discounts before the following stores closed.

    Note, many of these stores are not closing completely. Most are actually closing low performing branches and making cutbacks, so it's important to check locations before rushing in a panic to unload gift cards.

    If you have gift cards, hurry up and use them!!

    Just passing this along - FYI

    Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide: A company spokeswoman said the Company hasn't revealed which stores will be shuttered. It will let the stores that will close this fiscal year know over the next month

    Eddie Bauer to close more stores
    Eddie Bauer has already closed 27 shops in the first quarter and plans to close up to two more outlet stores by the end of the year.

    Cache closing stores
    Women's retailer Cache announced that it is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

    Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide The owner of retailers Lane Bryant , Fashion Bug , Catherines Plus Sizes will close about 150 underperforming stores this year.
    The company hasn't provided a list of specific store closures and can't say when it will offer that info, spokeswoman Brooke Perry said today.

    Talbots, J. Jill closing stores
    About a month ago, Talbots announced that it will be shuttering all 78 of its kids and men's stores. Now the company says it will close another 22 underperforming stores.. The 22 stores will be a mix of Talbots women's and J. Jill , another chain it owns. The closures will occur this fiscal year, according to a company press release.

    Gap Inc. closing 85 stores
    In addition to its namesake chain, Gap also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic . The company said the closures - all planned for fiscal 2008 - will be weighted toward the Gap brand.

    Foot Locker to close 140 stores
    In the company press release and during its conference call with analysts today, it did not specify where the future store closures - all plan ned in fiscal 2008 - will be. The company could not be immediately reached for comment

    Wickes is going out of business
    Wickes Furniture is going out of business and closing all of its stores, Wickes, a 37-year-old retailer that targets middle-income customers, filed for bankruptcy protection last month.

    Goodbye Levitz / BOMBAY - closed already
    The furniture retailer, which is going out of business. Levitz first announced it was going out of business and closing all 76 of its stores in December. The retailer dates back to 1910 when Richard Levitz opened his first furniture store in Lebanon , PA. In the 1960s, the warehouse/showroom concept brought Levitz to the forefront of the furniture industry. The local Levitz closures will follow the shutdown of Bombay .

    Zales, Piercing Pagoda closing stores
    The owner of Zales and Piercing Pagoda previously said it plans to close 82 stores by July 31. Today, it announced that it is closing another 23 underperforming stores. The company said it's n ot pro viding a list of specific store closures. Of the 105 locations planned for closure, 50 are kiosks and 55 are stores.

    Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores The Walt Disney Company announced it acquired about 220 Disney Stores from subsidiaries of The Children's Place Retail Stores. The exact number of stores acquired will depend on negotiations with landlords. Those subsidiaries of Children's Place filed for bankruptcy protection in late March. Walt Disney in the news release said it has also obtained the
    right to close about 98 Disney Stores in the U.S. The press release didn't list those stores.

    Home Depot store closings (E. Brunswick, Rt 18 just put up their closing sign)
    ATLANTA - Nearly 7+ months after its chief executive said there were no plans to cut the number of its c ore retail stores, The Home Depot Inc. announced Thursday that it is shuttering 15 of them amid a slumping U.S. economy and housing market. The move will affect 1,300 employees. It is the first time the world's largest home improvement store chain has ever closed a flagship store for performance reasons. Its shares rose almost 5 percent. The Atlanta-based company said the underperforming U.S.stores being closed represent les! s than 1 percent of its existing sto res. They will be shuttered within the next two months.

    CompUSA (CLOSED) clarifies details on store closings Any extended warranties purchased for products through CompUSA will be honored by a third-party provider, Assurant Solutions. Gift cards, rain checks, and rebates purchased prior to December 12 can be redeemed at any time during the final sale. For those who have a gadget currently in for service with CompUSA, the repair < face="Arial" size="3">will be completed and the gadget will be returned to owners.

    Macy's - 9 stores

    Movie Gallery - 160 stores as part of reorganization plan to exit
    bankruptcyThe video rental company plans to close 400 of 3,500 Movie Gallery
    and Hollywood Video stores in addition to the 520 locations the video rental
    chain closed last fall.

    Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores

    Pep Boys - 33 stores

    Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations New Sprint Nextel CEO Dan Hesse appears to have inherited a company bleeding subsc ribers by the thousands, and will now officially be dropping the ax on
    4,000 employees and 125 retail locations. Amid the loss of 639,000 postpaid customers in the fourth quarter, Sprint will be cutting a total of 6.7% of its work force (following the 5,000 layoffs last year) and 8% of company-owned brick-and-mortar stores, while remaining mute on other rumors that it will consolidate its headquarters in Kansas . Sprint Nextel shares are down $2.89, or nearly 25%, at the time of this writing.

    J. C. Penney, Lowe's and Office Depot are scaling back

    Ethan Allen Interiors: The company announced plans to close 12 of 300+
    stores in an effort to cut costs.

    Wilsons the Leather Experts - 158 stores

    Pacific Sunwear will close its 154 Demo stores after a review of strategic alternatives for the urban-apparel brand. Seventy-four underperforming Demo stores closed last May.

    Sharper Image: The company recently filed for bankruptcy protection and an nounced that 90 of its 184 stores are closing. The retailer will still operate 94 stores to pay off debts, but 90 of these stores have performed poorly and also may close.

    Bombay Company: (Freehold Mall store closed) The company unveiled plans to close all 384 U.S.-based Bombay Company stores. The company's online storefront has discontinued operations.

    KB Toys posted a list of 356 stores that it is closing around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. To see the list of store closings, go to the KB Toys Information web site, and click on Press Information

    Dillard's to Close More Stores
    Dillard's Inc. said it will continue to focus on closing underperforming stores, reducing expenses and improving its merchandise in 2008. At the company's annual shareholder meeting, CEO William Dillard II said the company will close another six underperforming stores this year.

  • What is frightening is that none of these are fly by nights or recent start ups. These were all solid, brand name stores that most of us routinely shopped in. Another point is that although the manufacturing sector has been very weak for a long time, and anything connected with the mortgage and housing industry has contracted, retail was the one bright spot that did the heavy lifting. Strong retail sales got us through the recession of 2001 and kept it mild.

    But with job losses from other sectors finally affecting purchasing habits, people cutting back because of high gas and food prices, this once bright spot in the economy is also dimming. And look for even higher unemployment because of it. We actually are fighting on two fronts now.

    There is a recession, with business contracting and unemployment rising, and also inflation fueled by a weaker dollar overseas and higher gas and food costs. Stagflation is just around the corner, not prosperity.

    Wednesday, August 06, 2008

    Keith Fimian's Silence

    VA Blogger, writing for Too Conservative, last week tried to deflect the growing concern of voters in the 11th CD over conservative GOP candidate Keith Fimian’s refusal to completely reveal his views on abortion and birth control. Here’s a stunning piece of misdirection to make it seem like Gerry Connolly’s campaign is focusing on socially divisive wedge issues rather than other substantive concerns in the district.
    I wrote earlier this week a response to the Examiner’s story that “outs” Keith Fimian as a Catholic business owner and wondered if Gerry Connolly really wants to run a cultural campaign. It’s clear Keith Fimian does not, and would rather focus on the issues that matter to VA-11 voters: transportation, the economy, and national security.
    And here’s the earlier blog post to which that refers.
    Contrary to the implication of the headline of the story, Keith’s views aren’t at all “out of touch” in the district. The only ones out of touch are the ones like the DCCC that believe social issues like abortion and contraception are more important than issues like the economy, energy, and our national security, where Keith excels. If Connolly chooses to follow the DCCC’s lead, he wind up in the same sinking ship that Janet Oleszek found herself in running against Cuccinelli last fall.
    In that piece, VA Blogger questioned whether Connolly would focus his entire campaign on Fimian’s extreme social and religious views and compared Connolly's campaign to Oleszek’s unsuccessful campaign against Ken Cuccinelli, where many of her mailers attempted to paint Cuccinelli as out of touch with his district because of his views on abortion.

    I happen to agree with VA Blogger to some extent, as I wrote here. If the race becomes a debate about abortion, most voters will yawn. That’s because, while the district is decidedly pro choice, it’s just not a top concern. Voters don’t see that right as threatened. Never mind that the balance of the Supreme Court is just one appointment away from tipping so far to the right that overturning Roe v Wade is in striking distance for anti-abortion groups. Safe and legal abortions are such an ingrained part of the American way of life and dire warnings about its imminent demise have been issued for so long, that most people just don’t believe it’s possible they’ll actually lose that right.

    I’m not so sure.

    At the same time, although I’m personally pro-choice, I have a history of not wishing to demonize those who are pro-life. I don’t agree with them, but I think most of them are sincerely concerned with protecting what they see as live human beings.

    But the definition of what constitutes an abortion and when life begins is getting slipperier and slipperier all the time. That definition was always more a philosophical and religious one rather than one grounded in true science. But for some on the right, it’s no longer that life begins at the moment of conception. Many now believe life begins at the moment of sexual activity and any attempt to prevent conception is also abortion. That's a position that makes almost all methods of contraception the equivalent to abortion.

    That is a position that is neither scientific nor even logical. Yet, the Bush administration has proposed a regulation that would protect medical workers who refuse to provide women with birth control information, as reported here. (Bolding is mine)
    The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing a draft regulation that would deny federal funding to any hospital, clinic, health plan or other entity that does not accommodate employees who want to opt out of participating in care that runs counter to their personal convictions, including providing birth-control pills, IUDs and the Plan B emergency contraceptive.
    Although the administration wishes to portray it as simply an attempt to protect the right of employees to follow the dictates of their conscience, the truth is it is an egregious infringement on the rights of patients to receive adequate health care.

    Let’s play a little mind game here. What if you lived in a small town and went to the only hospital accessible to you for treatment for cancer. And what if some healthcare practitioners only believed in holistic care and were morally opposed to chemotherapy because they honestly believed it harmed patients. Yet you, based on all your reading of scientific literature, knew that it was the most effective way to treat your cancer and save your life. Whose decision should this be? The patient or the healthcare workers? I think we all know the answer to that question. In fact, it’s only when it comes to women’s reproductive health is it ever even an issue.

    But the main point is that, in the case of this proposed regulation, the definition of what is an abortion is not based on science but on a purely religious definition of when life begins. Here’s what some experts had to say.
    "They are manipulating the system by manipulating the definition of the word 'abortion,' " said Susan F. Wood, a professor at George Washington University who resigned from the Food and Drug Administration over the delays in approving the nonprescription sale of Plan B. "It's another example of this administration's disregard for science and medicine in how agencies make decisions."

    The proposal is outlined in a 39-page draft regulation that has been circulated among several HHS agencies. The FDA has not objected, but several officials at the National Institutes of Health said that the agency had expressed serious concerns.

    "This is causing a lot of distress," said one NIH researcher who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. "It's a redefinition of abortion that does not match any of the current medical definitions. It's ideologically based and not based on science and could interfere with the development of many new therapies to treat diseases."
    And there’s the rub. Religious people, however, well meaning, are redefining science in ways that have no scientific, medical, or evidential basis. They are attempting to ram their particular and sectarian religious and moral views down the throats of those of other religions who don’t agree with them and also have rights, including the right to adequate treatment that meets their needs.

    Because of concerns over the loss of the right to receive adequate reproductive health care, some Democratic women in Fairfax wrote to Keith Fimian with the not unreasonable question, would he support the administration’s contention that health care workers have the right to deny a legal service to their patients because of their personal morality?

    Fimian has refused to answer clearly, honestly, and thoroughly. Yet this is an issue he might have to vote on. And whether it’s the most important issue or merely one of several minor issues, voters whom he hopes to represent have the right to know his answer. That’s not playing the social wedge issue card. That’s demanding to know where the candidate stands.

    As a matter of fact, I’m in that district. I would be a constituent of Keith Fimian’s should he win. I think I have a right to know where he stands on an issue that could affect my health. And that’s not coming from Gerry’s campaign. It’s coming from me, a voter and citizen. And a constituent.

    Tuesday, August 05, 2008

    The Failure of the Conservative Movement

    Every once in a while The Washington Post comes up with an incredibly well thought out and well written article and, this past Sunday was one of those times. This sensitively written piece by Michael A. Fletcher and Jon Cohen explores the plight of ordinary, low wage working people, who are struggling in this economy to make ends meet while still retaining their optimism and faith in the American Dream. Here's the opening of the article:

    Low-wage workers in the United States are gripped by increasing financial insecurity as they inch along an economic tightrope made riskier by pervasive job losses and rising prices. Many struggle to pay for life's basics -- housing, food and health care -- and most report having virtually no financial cushion should they stumble.

    Still, they remain inspired by the American dream, with most saying they are more apt to move up economically than slip backward even if they are frustrated now. Most also expect better for their children.
    This is the first part of what will be a series examining the lives, struggles, hopes, and dreams of a segment of America that is often invisible. These are the people who stock our supermarket shelves, take care of the sick in hospitals, work in day care centers, do our nails, staff reception desks in offices, work on our factory assembly lines, and do clerical and administration work in offices. The survey, which interviews many of these people, was a joint effort, conducted by the Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University. Most of the people who participated in the study work less than 30 hours a week and make $27,000 or less.

    Here's more from The Washington Post:
    These low-wage workers account for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. adults. They care for the elderly in nursing homes or for the very young in day-care centers. They stock store shelves, do administrative work in offices, staff reception desks in hospitals and man assembly lines in factories. Not only do they receive low pay, but their jobs frequently come with no health-care coverage, vacations or even sick days. Yet, the vast majority said they like or even love their jobs and they believe in the power of hard work to transform lives.

    The two major presidential candidates and members of Congress have largely turned their attention to middle-class Americans, whose anxiety is rising as the national economy falters on falling housing prices, tightening credit and rising inflation.

    "A lot of issues that have long confronted low-wage workers are now increasingly facing middle-income workers," who more than ever face the prospect of jarring income declines, and the lack of health care and pensions to support them, said Beth Shulman, a scholar with the Russell Sage Foundation's Future of Work Project.

    If those growing concerns translate into political action to bolster the social safety net, she said, it would disproportionately help low-wage workers. "I don't think we want to live in a country where people are working and doing what they are supposed to do but yet they can't get the basics," Shulman said.

    For many low-wage workers, financial struggles persist and anxiety is high even when the economy is humming. Most of them occupy an uneasy and often overlooked place on the nation's economic spectrum, hovering above poverty but still grasping for the relative comfort of the middle class.
    Ms. Shulman is right. For too long in our country work has not been rewarded as well as investment income has. And our system has become a zero sum game where winner takes all rather than an acknowledgement that we are all in this life together.

    Certainly, there will always be some economic inequity. Nobody can promise a society where all are exactly alike or equal in earning power. And nobody would want that because it would rob people of incentive as well as a sense of accomplishment when they succeed.

    I think, however, that we can do better than widening gap of inequality that we now have. The new Gilded Age. People who work hard and play by the rules should indeed have a basic social safety net below which they cannot fall. Their children should enjoy adequate health care and access to a decent education. And they deserve a truly level playing field. We cannot guarantee an equal outcome for all but we certainly should see that there is equal opportunity and that basic human needs for health care, food, shelter, and education are met.

    More and more people are starting to realize this as the Conservative movement cracks along a fault line caused by its own failures. In another essay in Sunday's Post, Greg Anrig writes:
    At long last, the conservative juggernaut is cracking up. From the Reagan era until late 2005 or so, conservatives crushed progressives like me in debates as reliably as the Harlem Globetrotters owned the Washington Generals. The right would eloquently praise the virtues of free markets and the magic of the invisible hand. We would respond by stammering about the importance of regulation and a mixed economy, knowing even as the words came out that our audience was becoming bored.
    The single theme that most animated the modern conservative movement was the conviction that government was the problem and market forces the solution. It was a simple, elegant, politically attractive idea, and the right applied it to virtually every major domestic challenge -- retirement security, health care, education, jobs, the environment and so on. Whatever the issue, conservatives proposed substituting market forces for government -- pushing the bureaucrats aside and letting private-sector competition work to everyone's benefit.

    So they advocated creating health savings accounts, handing out school vouchers, privatizing Social Security, shifting government functions to private contractors, and curtailing regulations on public health, safety, the environment and more. And, of course, they pushed to cut taxes to further weaken the public sector by "starving the beast." President Bush has followed this playbook more closely than any previous president, including Reagan, notwithstanding today's desperate efforts by the right to distance itself from the deeply unpopular chief executive.

    But in practice, those ideas have all failed to deliver on the promises the conservatives made, and in many instances, the dogma has actually created new problems. Particularly after Hurricane Katrina, when Americans saw how hapless the Federal Emergency Management Agency was, the public has begun to realize that the right's hostility toward government has produced only ineffective government.

    One can see the results in recent headlines: a Justice Department where non-conservatives need not apply; tainted spinach, jalapeño peppers and pet food; dangerous imported toys; poorly enforced environmental laws and a warming planet; the regulatory failures that led to the subprime mortgage fiasco. Meanwhile, large tax cuts (as under Reagan) have weakened the country's fiscal health without significantly improving the lot of the vast majority of citizens. And the right's enthusiasm for Bush's brand of "benevolent hegemony" in foreign policy, which insists on the U.S. right to wage preventive war and dismisses the United Nations as a band of meddlesome bureaucrats, has weakened our security -- most notably through the unnecessary calamity in Iraq -- by diluting our military capabilities and diverting their focus from genuine threats from al-Qaeda.
    The article goes on to discuss some younger conservatives who recognize the problem in their movement. Ross Douthat and Raihan Salam have written a book, The Grand New Party, where they reject the extremes of the Grover Norquist, Ronald Reagan ideology that government is the problem. Instead, they insist that while government should be small, there is a role for a well run government.

    Unfortunately, Douthat and Salam have two problems. One is the resistance from fellow conservatives who still can't recognize that the market simply can't solve every social problem. It's pretty good at doing what it's intended to do, but it's reductionist silliness to think its a panacea for every ill.

    The other problem is that progressives have them beat in making a credible argument for good government that helps people. After all, we've been making that argument for years.