Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mom's Recipes

My mother was a great person -- but not a great cook. Given the choice, she would always rather be outside than in the kitchen; visiting than cooking. Her recipes were imprecise; "use a pat of butter the size of an egg;" a pinch of salt; season to taste. If she didn't have the right ingredients, she would substitute freely; sometimes with good results, sometimes not.

So, it was with some surprise that I read the email from my sister, Seester, suggesting that for our family get-together this Christmas, we make recipes from my mother. There were groans all around. As it turns out, almost nothing anyone is making for our family feasting is one of Mom's recipes, except that Seester made Mom's oatmeal cookies, and they are really good (of course, Seester has the advantage of not having burned them because she got distracted by the cow getting into the garden.) So, in case anyone is interested in really good, old fashioned Amish oatmeal cookies, here's the recipe:

4 cups oatmeal
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup melted lard (really. Seester tried other shortenings and came back to lard.)
2 eggs
1 cup coconut
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt

(No instructions on degrees of heat or time. In all likelihood, when this recipe was put together, the cooks were using wood stoves without precise oven temperature control.)

Seester has Mom's recipe book, complete with stains, mis-spellings and odd recipes for things like "salting beef steak," making cheese, "to fix pickles," "swell cure for lung fever," and these pediatric concoctions.

Children's Medicine

2 oz. glycerine
20 drops aconite
2 oz. rain water

Receipt for Making Drops for Children

1 quart old rye whiskey
1 oz. ground cinnamon
1 oz. cloves
1 oz. opeum
12 cents wroth safron

Put together in bottle and shake once a day for 6 days and then it is ready for use. Give a child at night when going to bed. 1 drop for every week of age. Give more than once a day if necessary. To older persons 50 to 60 drops may be given.

Christmas Pictures

An Absolutely Delightful Holiday

I am writing this from the mountains of western Maryland where 32 family members and friends are staying at an 8-bedroom house called Absolute Delight (some of us are sleeping at a Comfort Inn down the street.) The scenery is beautiful and the fellowship is fun. The house is ample. Everyone is here except for one brother in Vienna; Son Number One and Daughter-in-Law Number One, who have to work and are saving vacation time for a trip to Korea, and Son Number Two and his Significant Other, who will be arriving tomorrow afternoon. I just went back upstairs to hear my brother the Humble Carpenter/Farmer/Philosopher explaining the basic ground rules on arguments to some of the hangers-on, i.e. that it's unfair to actually know something about what you are arguing.

The Wife and I started out at 6:30 a.m. yesterday and drove all day through sleet and rain, but we all made it safely. I made my famous French toast, my brother, The Trucker made eggs over hamburger, and my sister, The Sensible One, made a mixed fruit Gellate, for 30 people for brunch. Pictures to come.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Accolades for Jack Quartet

Here's another music critic, this one in Philadelphia, who saw 200 musical performances in 2008 and is rating a Jack Quartet performance in Philadelphia (a different program than the one that wowed the New York Times) as among the top shows he heard during the year.

And people are bragging now that they "knew Jack before they were famous."

I have to tell this story on myself. I was up, as usual, very early Saturday morning, around 6:00 a.m., checking the internet for mail and news when I found the New York Times article I mentioned below. Naturally, I was excited, but The Wife was sleeping late as usual, so there was no one with whom to share my excitement. Finally, about 8:00, I could stand it no longer, went into the bedroom and said to The Wife, "If you will wake up, I will show you something exciting."

"What is it?" she mumbled sleepily from under the blankets. "Are you standing there without your clothes on?" It has been a long time since I have laughed as long and as hard.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wow: Heady Company for Jack Quartet

Yesterday's New York Times does a typical end of the year roundup of the "most memorable classical music performances of 2008." Four of the five performances are not surprising -- a lot has been written about them not only in the Times, but in other national publications. They are the performance at the Park Avenue Armory of Die Soldaten, a German opera, where the audience is seated on tracks and moves around during different parts of the performance; the New York Philharmonic's concert in North Korea; the Mass project at Carnegie Hall in honor of Leonard Bernstein; the performance at Carnegie in honor of Elliott Carter's 100th birthday, with the old man in attendance, and the Jack Quartet performance in October at (le) poisson rouge. Holy cow. Those kids are on to something.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

John Stewart's Take on Illinois's Governor Problem

As usual, John Stewart has the best analysis out there about Illinois's embarrassing governor. It's funny, but oh, so true.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama Report: Should Hillary Be Secretary of State?

Not all of my advice to Barack Obama has been bad. Back in 2004, I thought he should run for president this year, and thought that if he could get the nomination (a big "if" with a formidable opponent like Hillary Clinton with all the seeming name, money and organizational advantages) he would win the general election. I didn't think it would be a good idea to have Hillary Clinton as the vice presidential nominee. On the other hand, I didn't think it a good idea to have Joe Biden as the vice presidential nominee and that has worked out okay -- I guess. (Kind of. Well,at least Biden didn't cost him the election with his foot-in-mouth disease.)

Now, all the pundits are saying the idea of having Clinton as Secretary of State is a wonderful idea, inspired by the ancient saying attributed to the Chinese military sage,Sun Tzu, "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer." The Sunday morning bloviators are citing Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln's first cabinet, which included his competitors for the Republican nomination for presidency as precedent for Obama selecting Clinton. Even Henry Kissinger thinks it would be a wonderful idea.

I'm not so sure it's a good idea to select Hillary as Secretary of State. As I see it, there are two main requirements for the job. You want someone who is an innovative thinker, who has the ability to think outside the box in coming up with solutions to almost insoluble problems between nations, and you want someone who can manage a large bureaucracy of around 40,000 employees

Hillary Clinton has a certain kind of intelligence, she is not a dummy, along the lines of George W. Bush or Sarah Palin by any means. But neither is she a Henry Kissinger, although an evil genius in many ways, nevertheless a genius. Is there anyone besides Nixon and Kissinger who would have had the nerve to make the opening to China 35 years ago, and does anyone doubt that the world is a much better, safer place because they did take that step? Hillary is the good student, the one who studies hard and gets A's because she can regurgitate what the teacher told her. But she has never demonstrated the ability to innovate -- not as First Lady, not as Senator and certainly not as a presidential candidate. I will forgive her the vote to invade Iraq, other smart people besides her were misled by the Bush Administration's hyperbole about weapons of mass destruction. But she could never find it in herself to admit her mistake and to tell us what she learned from it.

Hillary's attempt to paint Obama's call for negotiations with our enemies as being dangerously naive is an example of her conventional thinking that shows her limited imagination. In fact, the idea that we dare not talk to our enemies is dangerous in my opinion. It shows weakness, not strength, to think that somehow we will become contaminated if we talk with those with whom we have disagreements and conflicts.

Nor has she shown any ability to manage a bureaucracy. After starting out 20 points ahead in the polls, with all the resources of Clinton loyalists from her husband's time as president, with a substantial war chest of money, how could she lose the nomination to a little-known first termer? She was out worked and out organized. Clinton's presidential campaign was a constant stream of turn-overs, with leaks and back biting. She was unable or unwilling to put an end to the fighting and get everybody working together to run her campaign. Things won't get any easier in the Department of State, with its byzantine rivalries.

So, should Hillary have no role in the Obama Administration? I have an excellent job for her, one for which she is well suited -- Supreme Court justice. There will certainly be several Supreme Court vacancies, probably early in the Obama administration. Hillary can do much more to influence the public policy direction of the country with a life time appointment to the Supreme Court than she could with four, or even eight years as Secretary of State. Writing Supreme Court opinions is the kind of wonkish detail at which she would excel. As a Senator, she would have an easy time getting confirmed by the Senate.

So, please, Barack. Listen to me this time. Don't appoint Hillary as the next Secretary of State. Get her to wait for the Supreme Court appointment.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama Report: More Questionable Connections

Forget about Bill Ayers, the ex-Weatherman-turned-education-professor, the Republicans would have really had a field day with Barack Obama's questionable connections if they had known about his association with Arcola's infamous Lawn Rangers.

The Lawn Rangers were the inspiration of Pat Monahan (whom Dave Barry once called the second-funniest man in America) way back in the early 1980s. Clayton Moore, the actor who played the Lone Ranger, was making an appearance at Arcola's Broomcorn Festival, a festival nominally dedicated to honoring Arcola's heritage as the "Broomcorn capital of the world." (I say "nominally" because like most small town festivals, it is more of an excuse for vendors to hawk greasy foods and drunks to hang out in a beer tent.) The whole idea of having Clayton Moore appear in Arcola wearing wrap-around sun glasses because of trade mark and copyright issues with the famous mask is pretty funny in itself. Monahan invented the Lawn Rangers to march in the parade that year as a precision lawn mower drill team, spoofing Clayton Moore and the Shriners who typically drive little cars and motorcycles in parades.

Dave Barry, the syndicated columnist and humorist, got interested in Arcola and the silliness of the Lawn Rangers and started coming to the Broom Corn Festival and carousing with the Lawn Rangers many years ago. He wrote about his first appearance in 1991 here. He has another column about the appearance of the moon at Ranger rookie camps here.

The picture above comes from Barry's blog, where he states that Obama appeared as a Lawn Ranger in 2003 when he was a little known state senator and the Rangers were in Chicago to march in the St. Patrick's Day parade.

You can watch a six-minute documentary about the Lawn Rangers featuring the infamous Pat Monahan by clicking below.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Bush Report: Go Home Now

When I saw the television images last night of people gathered outside the White House, I wished I could have joined them. I would have liked to chant, "Go home now!" Why do we have to put up with Bush/Cheney and what is left of their cohorts until January 20th? Who knows what mischief they will cook up between now and then. (I know I should be more gracious, but this has been a long eight years. The repudiation, with even Virginia, the capital of the confederacy flipping to blue couldn't be sweeter.)

Yes We Can!

It is hard to believe that Barack Obama actually did it, and he won big. The first president in a long time to get a majority of the votes cast, and the largest electoral vote margin in many years. I found myself getting angry listening to Obama's victory speech in Grant Park. Angry that we have had to put with eight years of a president who was a stumblebum; unable to form a logical thought or to articulate a rationale for what he was trying to do.

I thought Obama seemed a little subdued at his Grant Park victory party, maybe realizing that this is no longer a game; he is now responsible for leading a country that is in as dire shape. If we are to get out of the hole that neocon policies have put us, Obama is the person to do it, but it isn't going to be easy. I think he can do it. With our help. Yes, we can!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Election Watch: My Prediction for Tuesday

Here it is, November 2nd, the view of the front and back of our house, respectively, is beautiful, the temperature is in the low 70s, and I went to church today. Why? Well, November 4th is only two days away, and I don't want to risk making God decide to punish me by giving me four more years of McSame/Barracuda.

Would God really make the whole country suffer with four more years of Republican rule just because I skipped church? I don't really think so, but why take a chance? So, I went, even though the more worshipful experience would probably have been to sit in the sunshine in the back yard.

So, what is my prediction? I hope Obama will win big. I am satisfied if he wins narrowly. I fear he will lose. The only thing I am confident about is that McCain will not win big. My biggest worry is that all the pundits are predicting an Obama win, and the pundits have nearly always been wrong this election cycle.

In my gut, I think Obama will win. Even if the polls are even, and most of them show a significant Obama lead, particularly in the battleground states, I think Obama's community-organizing background has served him well in organizing a ground game that has never been equaled, certainly not by the McSame/Barracuda campaign. Plus, the polls don't measure cell phone users. One of Obama's strengths is young people, and many young people have only a cell phone, so I think the polls are undermeasuring Obama support.

But, on the other hand, I thought all of this also before the New Hampshire primary, and although the polls showed a 10 percent Obama lead the weekend before the election, he lost to Hilary. As Obama said in a speech last week, to those who are overly-confident that he will win, he has two words: New Hampshire. No one knows what effect the last minute attack ads by McCain will have. Campaigns use attack ads for one reason: they work.

Still, I think this is a different year, and Obama will win. I hope.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

JACK Report: They Made The New York Times

The JACK concert Wednesday night at (le) Poisson Rouge (the old Village Gate) in Greenwich Village in New York City was apparently a success, judging from the New York Times's classical music reviewer, Anthony Tomamsini, in today's paper. (I better credit them, as well, for the picture to the right, featuring Son Number Two with the light from heaven streaming down upon him.)

Son Number Two, not yet quite at the quarter century mark, age-wise, was about as excited and happy as he ever gets when he called us tonight. The concert was packed, with people standing along the walls. He just came off a nine-day gig with The Knights, a classical music orchestra that did a live video recording of pieces ranging from Shostakovich to Jimi Hendrix at(le) Poisson Rouge for Sony Classical records. He doesn't know when the video will come out.

Saturday, JACK leaves for Germany for a week and a half to make a sound recording of the Xenakis quartets and a Lachenmann piece. There are no live concerts planned this time over there, but they go back to England, Germany and Italy for a month starting next March.

I'm sorry I'm bragging. Son Number Two does not like me to do that. But I can't help myself; I'm so happy to see all those years of lessons and practicing paying off at such a young age.

Jack Report: A Review of Last Night

Here's one review of Jack Quartet's performance last night at (le) Poisson Rouge. The reviewer thought they performed "quite brilliantly and authoritatively" but he didn't like the informality of the venue. I guess you're supposed to suffer a little if you're going to listen to new music.

Obamania: He's In Therapy!

Oh, what the Republicans won't do with this one. Barack Obama admitted to John Stewart last night on The Daily Show that he's in therapy -- to make sure his white half won't keep him for voting for himself on November 4th. (If you're humor-impaired, don't worry, it's a joke. But no more outlandish than the other ridiculous things the McCain camp has been trying to use against him.) Here's the clip. Notice the gray in his hair. It seems to me to be graying by the day. Has the campaign been that tough? Has he stopped using Grecian formula? Is he going to be completely white-haired by the end of his first term? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, October 27, 2008

JACK Report: They're In The New Yorker (But Only A Listing)

One of the benchmarks by which I, a proud parent, have been judging how Son Number Two's musical career with the JACK Quartet is doing is 1) Play at Carnegie (they did that a year and a half ago) and 2) Get mentioned in The New York Times and The New Yorker magazine. They have a concert coming up October 29th at (le) Poisson Rouge, the old Village Gate in Greenwich Village and I've been hoping that would at least warrant mention in the Times and the New Yorker. It did. This is in the November 3rd issue of The New Yorker:

The eclecticism of the new-music club will be stretched to the limit in one impressive evening. Oct. 29 at 7: The Jack Quartet, an up-and-coming group of adept composer-performers who are already veterans of the Venice Biennale, offers the complete string quartets of the modernist legend Iannis Xenakis, in all their dazzling and rugged glory.

The Times also had a listing in its October 23rd (and probably since then) issue. It said:
★ JACK QUARTET (Wednesday) This New York quartet specializing in new music plays the four intensely virtuosic string quartets by Iannis Xenakis, the idiosyncratic Greek-born French composer and architect. At 7:30 p.m., Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village, (212) 505-3474,; $15. (Kozinn)

Now, I am keeping my fingers crossed that one of them will do a full fledged review of the concert.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obamania: What Are We For?

I've spent a lot of blog space over the last several weeks deriding McCain and Palin. Lest I be accused of excessive negativism, here's a good summary of what we Obama fans are for:

McCain Report: At What Point Do You Start Feeling Sorry For The Guy?

This has to hurt. Charles Freed, one of the most distinguished conservative legal scholars in the country, solicitor general under Ronald Reagan and a prominent member of several McCain campaign committees announced that he is resigning from the McCain committees and voting for Barack Obama. The reason? McCain's pick of Sarah Palin.

With all the announcements of conservatives switching parties and announcing for Obama, does anyone know of any prominent people who have switched the other way? I suppose you could count Lieberman, although I don't really count him as he is officially in the U.S. Senate as an Independent. Still, he was Al Gore's running mate just eight years ago, so I would give McCain that one. Anyone else?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Election Watch: A Cautionary Children'sTale

Here is an amusing video about John McCain and Sarah Palin called "The Vet Who Did Not Vet" told as a children's tale.

Obamania: Scott McClelland Announces for Obama

In July, I had a series of posts about former Bush press secretary, Scott McClellan's expose, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. McClelland who had been with Bush for many years finally got fed up with all the lying he was required to do as Bush's spokesman, quit and wrote the book. Now, the other shoe has dropped. McClellan has announced who he is supporting as the next president: Barack Obama! See the video.

The Wife wanted to know if this wasn't obvious after McClellan's book. I don't think so. Although the book was devastating in revealing what went on behind the scenes in the Bush White House, McClellan's roots in the Republican establishment run deep. This is certainly a different kind of election. Even the grandchildren of Barry Goldwater, Mr. Conservative himself, announced today they are endorsing Obama. This is only the latest in a line of conservatives coming over to our side, including Christopher Buckley, son of the famous William Buckley, founder of the National Review; Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight Eisenhower.

So who is next? Maybe Condolezza Rice? She keeps hinting at it; maybe she won't announce before the election but will reveal her choice afterwards. Laura Bush? She has a lot more sense than her husband. I think we can rest assured that we won't hear that Dick Cheney voted for Obama.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Local Girl Hits The Big Time

My friend, Lori Stewart, also known as Good Night Girl is quoted and has her picture in today's New York Times. Lori wrote a very moving post on October 14 titled Tough Decisions about trying to decide whether to spend one-fifth of her mother's monthly income on Rayzadyne for her mother's Alzheimer's Disease, when even the doctor can't tell her if it will do any good or use the money for other quality of life expenses. Somehow the blog entry got to a New York Times reporter doing a story about how the economy and the high cost of drugs is causing consumers to try to get by on fewer prescription drugs. Lori isn't quoted until near the end of the story, but there is a nice picture of Lori and her mother taking her mother's dog for a walk.

The New York Times headline writer, though, doesn't get it. The headline is "In Sour Economy, Some Scale Back on Medications." The "sour economy" has nothing to do with it. Lori's mother is on a fixed income, which isn't affected by the economy. The problem is that the supposedly richest country on earth has a health care system that doesn't work for ordinary citizens. When you have to decide between medication for Alzheimer's or Meals on Wheels, the system is out of whack.

I don't know whether either of the presidential candidates' health care proposals will make it easier for Lori's mother to get the care she needs. As I understand it, Obama's plan is to give everyone access to health insurance. But Lori's mother has health insurance, it just doesn't pay for what she needs. McCain's plan is to tax you on one hand for the value of the health insurance your employer buys for you (thus causing fewer employers to offer health insurance) and then giving you a credit on your tax return for the health insurance you buy. So, how exactly is someone trying to get back on less than $1,000 a month going to afford to pay for insurance now when they don't get the credit until next April?

I do know one thing. Given a choice between a candidate worth $100 million and owning seven houses and one whose mother died of cancer and had a hard time paying for the medication she needs, I'm going to go with the one whose experience more closely matches the experience of ordinary people. I think he is more likely to "get it" than the rich guy. But that's just my opinion.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Movie Report: W

I seem to be a little obsessed with politics lately (I can't think why) and when the new Oliver Stone movie, W, opened in town today, I had to go see it.

I'm not a big Oliver Stone fan, at least not of the paranoid conspiracy fantasies he has been making the last 20 years. I enjoyed Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July and Talk Radio, the last of which came out in 1989, but not much since then. W is not a paranoid delusional fantasy, it might be more interesting if it were.

"Is this movie supposed to be a comedy or what?" The Wife asked half way through. I usually don't like to be interrupted during movies, but a little conversation was a welcome diversion as I kept looking at my watch and wondering how much longer this was going to last. One of the problems of the movie is that it couldn't decide if it was a comedy or what. I think Stone intended it to be tragic, as W lands in a job for which he is not qualified and thousands of people wind up getting killed as a result, but there are also comedic aspects. Michael Moore would have done a much better job of using comedy to leaven the tragedy of W's career.

Another problem (besides a director whose best work was 20 years ago) is that the story it is trying to tell happened too recently. Most of us have seen the story on television as it unfolded and there are no new insights that Stone brings to us. Give it another few years; let our memories get fuzzy about what actually happened and then do a creative retelling of it.

Josh Brolin does a credible job of playing W, but it is Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney who steals the show. In fact, I would not be at all surprised to see Dreyfuss get an Academy nomination as Best Supporting Actor. On the other hand, Thandie Newton is made up to look like a twin of Condolezza Rice, but as The Wife said, "She can't act." She sounded like she was reading a script.

Other reviewers have commented that Stone avoids the temptation of demonizing W, and even makes him into a somewhat sympathetic character. I didn't find the W of the movie anymore sympathetic than the real W, whose job in office has three-fourths of the country disapproving.

It is odd that the movie has come out three weeks before the election, and although John McCain (or an actor playing him) is shown briefly in several crowd shots, I do not think there is anything in the movie that would sway anyone's vote, one way or the other. Senator McCain rightly pointed out at the debate the other night that he is not George W. Bush, and he is not, but he did support Bush's policies 95 percent of the time, and it is the policies that have hurt this country so badly.

I wound up giving the movie my average rating of three out of five stars because although it is not as good as I had hoped, it is not as bad as I had feared.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blogging the Third Obama - McCain Debate

Blogging the last presidential debate was a lot of fun. There's a lot of buildup to this one, with McCain threatening to "whip his you-know-what." Is McCain going to try to change the Obama momentum by a bold statement or will it be more of the same? We'll see. It starts in 7 seconds.

I like Bob Schieffer. He looks like someone's grandfather, (well, if your grandfather isn't Amish.)

They walk out. McCain doesn't take a punch.

First Question: Both proposed new economic plans. Ask both of you, "Why is your plan better than his?"

McCain: Americans are hurting and angry. Innocent victims of Wall Street and Washington, D.C. Won't repeat elements of plan. Need short term and long term fixes. The catalyst for housing crisis was Fannie and Freddie Mae (actually it was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.) But home mortgages so people can stay in their homes.

Obama: Everybody understands we are facing the worst financial crisis since Great Depression. McCain and I supported the rescue plan. Haven't yet seen a rescue package for the middle class. Have proposed four things: 1. Focus on jobs; 2. Help families right away by providing them with a tax cut and let them access IRA's without penalties. Have to help home owners. Disagree with Sen. McCain about how to do it. Could be a give away to banks. (McCain is smirking.)

McCain: Obama in Ohio had an encounter with a guy who is a plumber, Joe. He wanted to buy the business, but your tax plan would put him in a higher tax plan. Joe wants to reach the American dream. Joe, I want to help you buy your business. I will not have a tax increase on small business income. What you want to do to Joe the Plumber is having a tax increase.

Obama: Joe has been watching some ads of Senator McCain. I don't want to raise his taxes. McCain wants to give tax breaks to big business; Mobil Oil and Exxon. I have said if you make less than $250,000 a year, your taxes will not go up one dime. What I said to Joe the Plumber is that five years ago when you wanted to buy your business, you needed a tax cut then. I want to give a tax cut now. Ninety percent of small businesses make less than $250,000 a year.

McCain: Sen. Obama said to Joe the Plumber that "I want to spread the wealth around." In other words to take the money from Joe the Plumber, give it to Senator Obama and let him spread the wealth around. Why do you want to increase taxes on anyone?

Obama: I want to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. It is true that my friend, Warren Buffet, could afford to pay a little more so that we can give more of a tax break to Joe the Plumber. Look, nobody likes taxes. I would prefer if no one had to pay taxe.

McCain: Let's not raise anyone's taxes. Businesses in American are paying the second highest tax rate of any place in the world. In Ireland, businesses are paying 11 percent; here it's 35 percent.

First Question winner: Obama

Second Question: Nonpartisan committee says each of your proposals will add $200 billion to the deficit. Won't some of your programs have to be trimmed, postponed or eliminated.

Obama: First, the $700 billion rescue package, if it is structured properly will mean that taxpayers will get their money back (McCain smirking again.) Every dollar of spending I propose, I have proposed an additional cut. I want to go through the federal budget line by line and cut programs that don't work. We need to invest in America. If invest in health care now, will save money in the future. If invest in energy program, will save money in the future. Can't go back to our profligate ways. All of us have to embrace a culture of responsibility.

McCain: During depression, had a corporation that bought up home mortgages and eventually made money. This was originally Senator Clinton's proposal. Need to become energy independent. Would have an across the board spending freeze. We have presided over largest increase in spending since the Great Society. I know how to eliminate programs. One would be Marketing Assistance program, subsidies for ethanol. I know how to save billions. Would fight for a line item veto. Obama has asked for $3 billion in earmarks.

Obama: Disagree about across the board spending freeze. Sounds good; been proposed before and hasn't happened. It is a hatchet. We need a scalpel. Earmarks account for one half of one percent of federal budget. No doubt there are a lot of screwy things we need to eliminate, but that's not going to solve the whole program. Bush has doubled the deficit. Pursuing the same kinds of policies is not going to bring down the budget. McCain voted for four out of five of Bush's policies.

McCain: Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against Pres. Bush, you should have run four years ago. Mayor Bloomberg in NYC proposed spending freeze. We can do that. I have fought against spending, special interests.

Obama: The first major bill I voted for was tort reform, voted for charter schools, performance pay for, clean coal technology. On core economic issues, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush. You have shown independence on things like torture and I give you credit for that. But on fundamental economic issues, you have supported Bush administration.

Second Question: McCain

Third Question: Both pledged to take the high road. Yet, it has turned nasty. Are each of you willing to sit at this table and willing to say to each other's face what your campaigns have said about each other.

McCain: If Obama had responded to my request to have 10 town hall meetings, we could have gotten this done. Regret many of the negative tones of this campaign. One of them was when John Lewis said that Sarah Palin and I were associated with George Wallace, church bombings. Obama didn't repudiate those remarks. Very unfair and hurtful. Obama has spent more money on negative ads than we have. Obama didn't keep his word to take public financing.

Obama: Expect presidential campaigns to be tough. Looks at the record and the impressions of the American people. One hundred percent of McCain campaigns have been negative. Two thirds of the American people think McCain has been running a negative campaign versus one third that think we have. American people don't care about hurt feelings. I don't mind being attacked for another four weeks. But American people don't deserve to not have economic problems addressed. McCain campaign said last week that if keep talking about economics, we lose.

McCain: You're running ads right now that say I oppose federal funding for stem cell research. I don't. Didn't hear repudiation of Congressman Lewis.

Obama: Cong. Lewis is an American hero. He said, without any prompting from my campaign that he was troubled at rallies by your running mate in which people were yelling "terrorist" and "kill him," when my name was mentioned. American people have gotten cynical about politics because all they see is tit for tat. (McCain tries to interrupt.)

McCain: I'm proud of people who come to our rallies. I'm not going to stand for anybody saying that people who come to my rallies aren't patriotic. I have repudiated anyone whose been out of line whether they have been in my campaign or not.

Obama: We can debate about the merits of each other's campaign, we won't agree. To solve the key problems we're facing: Solve two wars, economic crisis. Democrats and Republicans are going to have to work together. Have to disagree without being disagreeable. Can't characterize each other as bad people.

McCain: Don't care about some old terrorist. Need to know your full relationship with Ayers; your full relationship with Acorn.

Obama: Ayers has been the centerpiece of McCain campaign. Forty years ago, he engaged in despicable acts, which I condemned. Ten years ago, he served on a board funded by Annenberg, one of Ronald Reagan's friends. Others on the board were various university presidents. He won't advise me in the White House and has no connection with my campaign. Let me tell you who I associate with: Warren Buffet and Paul Volker. On foreign policy, Dick Lugar, a Republican, and Joe Biden.

McCain: While on board of Woods Foundation, you sent money to Acorn. Your political career was launched in Ayers living room.

Third Question winner: Obama

Fourth Question: Why would country be better off if your running mate became president rather than his running mate?

Obama: Biden one of the best public servants in the country. Never forgotten where he came from. His consistent pattern has been to fight for the little guy. (Not true. He helped pass a bankruptcy bill that is devastating to the little guy.) After eight years of failed policies he (Biden) and I both agree we have to reprioritize. Give help to small individuals; get energy independence. On key issues, Biden has always been on the right side.

McCain: Americans have gotten to know Sarah Palin. She's a role model. She's a reformer. Has given money back to the taxpayers. Reduced the size of government. Time we have that breath of fresh air coming in to the nation's capitol. She understands special needs families. Understands that autism is on the rise. Has united our party and people all over America. Can't tell you how proud I am of her.

Obama: Up to the American people whether she's qualified. Commendable the work she has done in special needs. Autism and other special needs will need some additional funding. If have an across the board spending freeze, won't be able to do it.

McCain: Biden is qualified in a lot of respects, but has been wrong in many respects. Wrong on first Iraq war. Had this wacky idea to divide Iraq in three ways. Notice every time Obama says we need to spend more. Why do we need to spend more? He has proposed $860 billion in new spending.

Fourth Question Answer: Obama

Fifth Question: Energy and Climate Change. Every president since Nixon has said we import too much foreign oil. Would each of you give me a number on how much we can reduce foreign oil during your first term?

McCain: Can eliminate dependence on Middle East and Venezuela oil in four years. With nuclear power, etc. within 7 or 8 years, can eliminate our dependence on oil from dangerous places.

Obama: Within 10 years, can eliminate dependence on oil from middle East and Venezuela. Need to expand domestic production. Tell oil companies to use or lose the 68 million acres they currently have leased that they're not using. Can't drill our way out of the problem. Need to put our resources in solar, wind, geothermal. Need to have an efficient car built in the U.S. rather than Japan. Believe in free trade. For far too long, in the Bush Administration, there was the attitude that any free trade agreement is a good agreement. I have said that we should make sure the rules are enforceable. South Korea is sending hundreds of thousands of cars into the U.S. and we can only get four thousand or five thousand cars into South Korea.

McCain: Admire Obama's eloquence, but have to listen to his words. He said, "look at offshore drilling." Look at. We can do offshore drilling right now. Obama opposes the Columbia free trade agreement. Hasn't traveled south of our border. Free trade with Columbia is a no brainer. Maybe you should travel down there.

Obama: Understand it pretty well. Labor leaders in Columbia have been targeted for assassinations. Have to make sure human rights are protected. Have to have a president who understands the benefits of free trade but will stand up for American workers. Auto industry is being hammered right now. Need to get them loan guaranties, but need to hold their feet to the fire to produce energy efficiency cars.

McCain: Obama doesn't want free trade agreement with our best ally in the region, but wants to sit down without preconditions with Hugo Chavez. No doubt that Sen. Obama wants to restrict trade and he wants to raise taxes. The last president who did that was Herbert Hoover.

Fifth Question winner: Draw.

Sixth Question: How to control health care costs.

Obama: This is the issue that will break your heart over and over again. My plan lets you not do anything if you have health insurance. Will try to lower costs so those savings are passed on to you. If you don't have health insurance, will provide you the option of buying into the same kind of federal pool that McCain and I are a part of. Will make sure the insurance companies don't discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions; put more money into preventive care. This will cost some money on the front end, but in the long run the only way that can control the costs of health care.

McCain: Need to do a lot of things: Put health care records on line; have physical fitness and nutrition programs; give every American family a $5,000 tax credit. For Joe the Plumber, if you don't adopt the health care plan that Sen. Obama mandates, he's going to fine you. I still want to know how much that fine is going to be.

Obama: I will be happy to talk with you too, Joe, if you're out there. Here's your fine: zero. Exempt small businesses from having to pay into a kitty. For large businesses, they have to provide health care for their employees or someone has to. The average family pays $900 a year because of the uninsured. Joe, if you want to provide health insurance for your employees, we'll give you 50 percent credit. Sen. McCain says he will give you a $5,000 tax credit, that sounds pretty good. Older, less healthy folks won't be able to get health insurance. Sen. McCain will tax health benefits for the first time in history. Sen. McCain will strip away tax regulation of health insurance.

McCain: Joe, you're rich, congratulations. Joe wanted to buy the business he's been working with. You'll have to pay a fine if you don't buy the health plan that Sen. Obama mandates. That's big government at its best. Calls Obama, "Senator Government." Have too much government and too much spending. Grown by 40 percent by last eight years.

Obama: You heard my plan. If you have an employer based health care plan, you'll keep it. Don't take my word for it. U.S. Chamber of Commerce says McCain's plan could lead to loss of employer based health plan.

Winner: Obama

Question: Roe v. Wade. Would you nominate anyone who disagrees with your position on Roe v. Wade?

McCain: Disagree with Roe v. Wade, but would never impose a litmus test. Obama voted against Justices Breyers and Roberts because they disagreed. Would consider anyone in their qualifications. Don't believe anyone who supported Roe v. Wade is qualified.

Obama: Shouldn't apply a strict litmus test. Most important test in any judge, is their capacity to provide fairness and justice. One of us will be appointing one and maybe more judges. Roe v. Wade is a good decision and a moral decision. Women need to be able to make this decision. Constitution has right of privacy in it that should not be subject to state referendum. Will look for judges who have outstanding judicial record, intellect. McCain and I disagreed recently when Lilly Ledbetter pressed her job for pay discrimination. The Supreme Court said she couldn't bring her claim even though she didn't know about it.

McCain: Obama as a member of the Illinois Senate voted against a bill that would provide immediate medical attention to a child born alive after an abortion. Voted against a ban against partial birth abortion. Voted present 147 times instead of voting.

Obama: Sounds incredible that I would vote to withhold life saving treatment of an infant. That's because it isn't true. There was already a law on the books that required life saving treatment. The Illinois Medical Society opposed it too. Completely support a ban on late term abortion as long as there's an exception for health or life of the mother. Abortion divides us. There surely is some common ground where both those who believe in choice and those who oppose abortion can come together. (McCain smirking again.)

McCain: "Health of mother" been stretched to include almost everything. Cindy and I are adoptive parents. We know what joy that can be.

Question winner: Obama

Last Question: U.S. spends most per capita on education, but by every measure, trail the rest of the world.

Obama: This has more to do with the economic future than anything. Also has to do with security. Typically been a debate between more money and reform. Need to do both. Blah, blah,blah. Parents need to show more responsibility.

McCain: The civil rights issue of the 21st century. Have achieved equal access to schools after long, difficult struggle. Need to have choice. Need to reward good teachers and put bad teachers in another line of work. blah, blah, blah.

Last Question winner: Draw

Final Statements:

McCain: These are difficult times and challenges. America needs a new direction. Can't be satisfied with what we've been doing the last eight years. I have a record of reform. Been a careful steward of your tax dollars. Have to stop the spending. All of our committments will be based on whether you can trust us. Spent my entire life putting this country first.

Obama: All know America is going through tough times. In worst economic times since the Great Depression. Biggest mistake would be to adopt same failed policies we've had for the last eight years. Brighter days are still ahead. Will have to invest in policies that will lift wages and grow our middle class. Not going to be easy or quick. Will require all of us to come together.

Conclusion: I thought McCain did well. The split screen showed his facial reactions, and his smirking didn't go over well. He sure didn't whip Obama's you know what. This was not the debate to be a game changer. I think the debate was a draw and McCain couldn't afford a draw. So, Obama wins.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cranky Old Man Report: McCain's Transition Chief Lobbied for Hussein

The ineptness of the McCain campaign is unbelievable. Now it comes out that the head of his transition team, William Timmons, headed up a lobbying team for Saddam Hussein right after the first Iraq war. The same guy who vetted Governor Barracuda must have been in charge of vetting Timmons for his job.
Speaking of Governor Barracuda, she's still at it. She's telling people that she was vindicated by the Republican legislature's investigation of her role in firing the head of the Alaska State Police because he wouldn't further punish her ex-brother-in-law. The Anchorage Daily News says that she is either astoundingly ignorant or downright Orwellian. The Anchorage Daily News is too kind. I don't think Palin could possibly be that ignorant nor smart enough to know what Orwellian even is.

I love Rachel Maddow. There is no smarter pundit on television right now. As usual, she nailed Governor Barracuda for her lies about the ethics investigation better than anyone.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Barracuda Report: Palin Abused Her Power and Lied

The Republican legislature in Alaska has released its investigator's report on Sarah Palin's actions in trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired and can be read in its entirety here. In short, the investigation concludes that Governor Barracuda acted unethically in abusing her power, and that she lied about being afraid of the ex-brother-in-law. Specifically with the claims of fear, the report states:
"I conclude that such claims of fear were not bona fide and were offered to provide cover for the Palins' real motivation: to get Trooper Wooten fired for personal family related reasons."

Obviously, the wingnuts who have been showing up at McCain/Palin rallies and yelling "shoot him" at the mention of Obama's name are not going to be deterred from continuing to support Palin over some little technicality like abuse of power, unethical behavior and lying. I doubt, however, that the release of this report is going to convince many undecided or Obama-leaning voters that they should now support McCain/Palin.

It is amazing how the wheels have come off of the McCain campaign over the last two weeks; caused not only by the economic news but by McCain's own impulsive mis-judgment. It has gotten so bad that reliable conservatives like Chris Buckley, son of Mr. Conservative, William F. Buckley, and still a columnist for the Buckley magazine, The National Review has announced that for the first time in his life, he's voting for a Democrat. This by a former McCain supporter, by the way.

On September 9, I wrote in a blog post "Slowly, slowly, the Palin balloon will deflate as the vetting McCain did not do before his impulsive selection gets done by the press. Don't panic Obama supporters." I'm not always right, but this time I was.

It's not over until all the votes are counted. But it is certainly looking good if you are an Obama supporter.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Does McCain Have The Temperment to be President?

A lot of people, not just Democrats, are concerned about John McCain's judgment when he gets mad, and he apparently gets mad a lot. Here is a video, in which the former head of the Republican party in Arizona and former Republican senator Dennis DeConcini say they wouldn't want McCain's finger near the nuclear button.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Blogging the Obama-McCain Debate

Here are my real time observations about the Obama-McCain Town Hall debate tonight. Remember, I am usually wrong about who has won these debates.

First question: Global economic conditions. Kojack reads his question. What is the fastest way to help people in these economic conditions. Obama says it's a final verdict on the failed economic policy of the last eight years supported by Bush and McCain. The middle class needs a rescue package: tax cuts, help for homeowners, fix our health care system. McCain says Americans are angry and upset. Way to fix this problem is with energy independence; keep taxes low -- all Americans keep their taxes low. Don't raise taxes on anyone. Have to do something about home values. McCain gets right up close to Kojack. McCain says he wouldn't appoint Tom Brokaw as his treasury secretary. What's that all about? Generously notes that Warren Buffet supports Obama. Obama says the next treasury secretary has to realize that help can't start at the top. First question winner: A draw.

Second question: Oliver Clark, a young black man. Asks what will actually help people out in the bailout package. McCain: Problem is greed on Wall Street. I suspended my campaign. (Does he really want to mention that fiasco?) Problem is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac supported by Obama and his cronies were making loans to people who couldn't afford them. (This is just ridiculous. This didn't all start with Fannie and Freddie.) Obama: What's in the rescue package for you, Oliver, is that right now credit markets are frozen up. If companies can't get loan, can't meet payroll. Have to correct a little bit of Senator McCain's history. McCain as recently as March said we need more deregulation. I wrote to Paulson and said we need to tighten up these regulations. Hits back at McCain about his campaign manager being a paid lobbyist for Fannie Mae. Second question winner: Obama

Third Question: Blond woman has trouble reading her lines. "How can we trust either of you when both parties got us into this crisis?" Obama: Understand your cynicism. Remember a little history. When Bush came into office, we had a surplus. Now we have a huge deficit. Over last eight years, McCain has voted for four out of five of those George Bush budgets. Proposing a net spending cut. McCain: "I have been a consistent reformer." (What a joke. Don't forget to tell us you're a maverick.) Obama has never taken on the leaders of his party on a single issue. Obama is the most liberal big spending liberal in the U.S. Senate. He proposed $860 billion in new spending. McCain refuses to prioritize between health care, entitlement programs such as social security and energy. Can do all of them at once. Obama: We have to prioritize. Energy have to deal with today. Have called for $15 billion a year over 10 years so we can be free of middle eastern oil in 10 years. Invokes JFK going to the moon. Second priority is health care. Third is education.Have to prioritize tax side as well as spending side. Third question winner: Obama

Fourth Question: What sacrifices will you ask every American to make? McCain: Have to eliminate some programs that aren't working. Defense spending is one. Have to eliminate earmarks. Some are really good projects. Recommend a spending freeze except for defense and veterans programs. "We're not rifle shots here; we're Americans." (What????) Obama: Remember 9/11. Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that were missed is when he said "Go out and shop." American people are hungry for leadership that will tackle these problems not just in government but outside of government. Energy for example. Need to learn to conserve. Need to get young people involved, such as renewing the Peace Corps. Fourth Question winner: Obama

Fifth Question: Would you give Congress a date certain to reform social security and medicare? (Brokaw's question makes a wrong assumption. There is nothing wrong with social security.) Obama: The Straight Talk Express lost a wheel. I want to make a tax cut for everyone making under $250,000. McCain: Not that hard to fix social security. Medicare is a little tougher. Need a commission to give recommendations, and then Congress vote up or down. Fifth Question: Draw

Sixth Question: Young black girl, Ingrid Jackson. What would you do in first two years to make sure Congress moves fast on issues like climate change, green jobs, etc. McCain: Disagreed strongly with Bush Administration on climate change. Obama: One of the biggest challenges of our times. Also an opportunity. Can create 5 million new jobs with an energy economy. Sixth Question winner: McCain

Seventh Question: Middle aged white woman: Should health care be treated as a commodity? Obama: Health care is the single biggest question I get. (McCain strolls into the picture. He's trying to play psychological games.) Obama goes on to explain his health care plan; doesn't really address the question. McCain: Agrees with Obama about putting health records on line. Fundamental difference between myself and Obama. He will impose mandates. Obama will fine you if you're a small business and don't give health insurance to your employees or a parent and don't insure your child. (That's stupid. Obama has never proposed that.) McCain: Health care is a responsibility; not a right or a privilege. Obama: Should be a right for every American. Seventh Question Winner: Obama by a big margin.

Eighth Question: Phil Elliott, middle aged white man: How will recent economic stress affect our ability to act as a peace maker in the world? McCain: America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world. Have gone to all four corners of the world and shed our blood. We are peace makers. Have to have knowledge and experience and judgment to know when to go in. Obama doesn't understand national security challenges. Obama: McCain says I don't understand. There's some things I don't understand. Don't understand why we invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. McCain has had the wrong judgment and it has been costly to us. We're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq. We need that $10 billion a month here to put our people back to work. Eighth Question Winner: Draw

Ninth Question: Should U.S. pursue Al Queda in Pakistan? Obama: Have a difficult situation caused by being distracted with Iraq instead going after bin Laden. That's the central front on terrorism. The defense secretary Gates said that's where the war on terror started and where it has to end. Have to change our policies in Pakistan. Can't coddle the dictator and give him billions of dollars while he's making peace treaties with the Taliban. If we have bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to act, then we have to do so. McCain: Hero is Teddy Roosevelt. He used to say, "Talk softly and carry a big stick." Obama wants to talk loudly. Can't announce that you're going to launch an attack on another country. Relations with Pakistan are critical. Have to work with them, not threaten to attack them. Ninth Question Winner; McCain

Tenth Question: How apply pressure on Russia to prevent another Cold War. McCain: Not going to have another cold war with Russia. Long ago warned about Putin. Has shown aggressiveness in Georgia. Watch Ukraine. Have to offer them moral support. Work to get them in NATO. Obama: Resurgence of Russia is one of central issues will have to deal with in next presidency. Can't just offer moral support. Also have to offer economic and concrete assistance. In April, I put out a statement saying the situation in Georgia was unstable,because had Russian peacekeepers. Part of job as commander in chief is to anticipate problems before they happen. Tenth Question: Draw

Eleventh Question: Is Russia under Putin an evil empire? Obama: They've engaged in evil behavior. McCain: Maybe. Eleventh Question: Draw.

Twelfth Question: Retired navy chief: If Iran attacks Israel, would you commit U.S. troops to defend Israel? McCain: Buddies up the questioner. Shakes his hand. "Everything I ever learned was from a chief petty officer." If Iran acquires nuclear weapons, will ratchet up tensions all over Middle East. Obama wants to sit down and negotiate with them without preconditions. I want to modify their behavior with sanctions. Obama: Can't allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. Would be a game changer in the region. Would create possibility of nuclear weapons falling in hands of terrorists. Would never take military action off the table. Important to use all the tools at our disposal to prevent having to make those choices. True that I believe we should have direct talks not only with our friends but also our enemies. It may not work. When we take that approach, we have a better chance at better outcomes. Twelfth Question Winner: Obama

Thirteenth Question: What don't you know and how will you learn it? Obama. My wife Michelle is there, and she would have a long list. Most of the time I would ask her. Talks about his roots, everything he has is due to this great country. McCain: Don't know what all of us don't know. What's going to happen here at home and abroad. Don't know what the unexpected will be. Spent my whole life serving this country. Believe in this country and its future.Great honor of my life was to put my country first. Thirteenth Question Winner: McCain.

Overall impression: I don't think this was a game changer. Mostly it was the same talking points. McCain needed a game changer and didn't get it. Obama wins overall.

Later Update: McCain wouldn't shake Obama's hand. This is going to be the big story tomorrow. People don't like poor sports. See the video.

Latest Update: McCain did shake Obama's hand right after the debate. The video below is a little later when they were getting ready to leave. So, maybe McCain figured he had shaken Obama's hand once and didn't need to do it again. It still looks churlish and small.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

If You Didn't Stay Up for Saturday Night Live

SNL's parody of the Biden/Palin debate is, as usual much better than the real thing.

When you're done laughing, read this scary article in Rolling Stone about The Make Believe Maverick.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Why I Feel Good Today

So Who Won the Debate?

Dadgummit, I'm confused. Watching the debate between Governor Barracuda and Senator Blowhard last night, I thought her down home perkiness was blowing him away. I did think she was going too far in announcing up front that she wasn't going to answer the questions, and then proceeding to regurgitating talking points that often didn't have the slightest relationship to the questions she was supposed to be answering. But, I thought, on television, substance doesn't matter. People are going to be charmed by her smiles and winks and ability to say something, even if it was nonsense.

Senator Blowhard was all facts and statistics and I thought people's eyes would glaze over as he pronounced how far-sighted and smart he had been. I wasn't happy that he didn't respond to her jibes that he had said that Obama isn't ready to be president and that he would be happy to run with John McCain. He did have one strong moment, that would play well with the viewing public, I thought, when he got choked up about the death of his first wife with their son being in the hospital, not knowing whether he would live or die.

The moderator, Gwen Isfill, I thought, was the worst of all time. They might as well have had a robot ask the questions. She didn't follow up; she didn't make Governor Barracuda answer the questions, she just sat there, like someone with a broken leg who wished they were home.

But it turns out, like so often, I was wrong. The instant poll by CNN said Blowhard won over Barracuda by 51 to 36 percent. Similarly, an instant poll by CBS showed Blowhard winning over Barracuda by 46 to 21 percent.

Predictably, the conservative pundits thought Barracuda did great while the liberals though Blowhard won. Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has the funniest take on the debate, mocking the Barracuda's excessive use of colloquialisms.

Mark Blumenthal at has valuable historical perspective. Winning the vice presidential debate has little to do with who wins the election. For example, everyone agreed that Lloyd Bentsen mopped up Dan Quayle with his quip that "I knew Jack Kennedy and you're no Jack Kennedy," but Dukakis/Bentsen still lost the election to Bush/Quayle.

So, who won? Who cares. All the indicators are that this election is going in Obama's favor. McCain is pulling out of Michigan and everything would have to fall just right for him to win the election. We'll see.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Funnier Than A Saturday Night Parody

Here's Governor Barracuda valiantly struggling to explain to Katie Couric how Alaska being sandwiched between Russia and Canada gives her foreign policy experience. This is unreal! Now that Congress has agreed on a bail-out plan (and did so before McCain got there to "help,") what excuse is he going to use to try to keep Governor Barracuda from debating next week. I guarantee you that he will come up with something. She makes Bush sound glib.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is the McCain Campaign Imploding?

Has John McCain completely lost it? After a day in which it is revealed that at the same time the McCain campaign was running false advertisements claiming that one of Obama's advisors was Howell Raines, the former head of the Fannie Mae loan agency, the director of McCain's campaign, Rick Davis, was getting $15,000 a month from Fannie Mae through his lobbying company; that Obama was taking a 9-point lead in the latest Washington Post-ABC poll and a 6-point lead in a Fox News (yes, Fox!) poll; McCain announces that the banking crisis is so bad, he is suspending campaigning, and he won't be at the debate scheduled for Friday. What kind of presidential leadership is that? So, a president can only do one thing? If a hurricane hits at the same time terrorists strike, he will tell the country, "I'm busy working on the hurricane right now, I can't deal with the terrorists?" David Letterman on whose program McCain was supposed to have been on tonight is just brutal. (It's long, but worth it.)

Later Update: Ah, there's a method to McCain's madness. According to CNN, the McCain camp is proposing moving this Friday's debate to next week when the vice presidential candidates were supposed to debate and postponing that debate to some other time -- like after the election? Palin has been avoiding the press like the plague, and everytime she does open her mouth, it is clear she is not ready for prime time. The McCain camp is doing everything it can to keep her under wraps. My theory is that this whole deal about suspending the campaign and the debates is an elaborate ruse to get her of our debate with Biden.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

George Will Nails It

I'm not a big fan of George Will. In fact, a few years ago when I found myself seated next to his table at a local restaurant, it was all I could do to restrain myself from leaning over and spitting in his soup. But his exasperation with John McCain's temperamental approach to governing has finally reached the boiling point, and he said this:
"It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday Night Live's Parody of Palin and Clinton

I didn't stay up last night to watch Saturday Night Live. But the opening with Tina Fey playing Governor Barracuda and Amy Poehler doing Hilary Clinton is available. It's pretty funny. Watch below.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Movie Report: Don't Burn This Movie

If you like Coen Brothers movies, you will love their latest film, Burn After Reading.

It has an understated dry humor reminiscent of Fargo. Frances McDormand, who played the odd sheriff, Madge, in Fargo is back as Linda Litzke, a slightly crazed gym employee who is intent on raising the money for a body remake. I love McDormand, and in this case she steals the movie from the bigger names, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and John Malkovich.

Malkovich plays a fired CIA agent trying to write his memoirs whose CIA secrets fall into the hands of the desperate McDormand and Pitt, a vapid co-worker at the gym. Pitt's performance as the empty-headed gum-chewing trainer is one of the best performances of his career. Clooney plays a U.S. treasury agent who carries a big gun and seduces all the women.

Like the other Coen movies, Burn After Reading is not slapstick humor, and few of the scenes had me laughing out loud (although a few did.) Rather, it is a sly humor based on odd characters and unexpected turns of events. It is a thinking person's humor. Like the other Coen movies, there are some scenes involving some blood, although none as bad as the end of Fargo, where a character gets put through a wood chipper.

I gave this movie my highest rating, five stars. From the reports I'm reading, it has opened strong at the box office its first weekend, edging out the new Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino movie, Righteous Kill which I saw tonight and also really liked. But that report will have to come later.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ask John McCain: Is Governor Barracuda Qualified?

When John McCain was in the Republican primary, he said Rudy Giuliani's eight years as mayor of New York City was not enough experience to be president. And, the four years that Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts was not enough experience. Sarah Barracuda has less experience than Giuliani and Romney had at their jobs. She was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska (it's laughable to even compare that with being mayor of NYC) for six years, two less than Giuliani, and has been governor of Alaska for less than two years, two less than Romney. But don't believe me, watch what McCain said from his own mouth.

The main point though isn't so much whether Palin is qualified or not qualified as it is the willingness of John McCain to say whatever it takes to get votes, even if what he says directly contradicts what he has said before, and his impulsiveness in selecting a running mate without adequate vetting. Truth doesn't matter to the McCain campaign. They have adopted Karl Rove tactics, whole hog (and you can't put lipstick on that pig.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

For Anyone For Whom Facts Matter; Watch the Vido

Truth Report: The Facts Don't Matter Anymore

It has been surprising to me that the McCain campaign keeps repeating lies it knows are untrue, like Governor Barracuda's opposition to the Bridge to Nowhere; selling the state plane on e-Bay for a profit, and on and on. Today's Washington Post has an article that clears up the mystery.
"John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters' opinions of the candidates.

"The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter."

So it has really come to this. Just lie through your teeth. All that matters is that Governor Barracuda is new, is popular and is an insurgent. Unbelievable!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Barracuda Report: Palin Charges State To Stay In Her Own Home

Slowly, slowly, the truth is coming out. Governor Barracuda, who contrary to the McCain campaign's claims did not sell the Alaska state airplane on e-bay for a profit and did not oppose the Bridge to No-Where, has been charging Alaska taxpayers a per diem to stay in her own home. The Washington Post is reporting today that she has been paid almost $17,000 for staying in her own home 312 nights during her first 19 months in office. Per diems, as anyone knows who has to travel on business, are intended to reimburse employees who travel on business for meals and incidental expenses like taxi fares, without making them turn in receipts for every little thing. Do you get away with charging your employer a per diem when you stay at home? I doubt it. How does Sarah Barracuda get away with it? Well, the official governor's mansion is in Juneau. Governor Barracuda, like our own Governor Blowhardovich, prefers to live in her own home in Wasilla and work out of a state office building 45 miles away in Anchorage. As bad as Blowhardovich is, even he would not dare bill taxpayers for staying in his own house in Chicago.

Slowly, slowly, the Palin balloon will deflate as the vetting McCain did not do before his impulsive selection gets done by the press. Don't panic Obama supporters.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Theater Report: Another Roberts Hit

Our local community theater, The Station Theater, might well be aptly renamed the Mark Roberts Theater. Once again it is selling out as it is presenting the fifth Roberts play of the last two years, and the second one of this season.

Like Roberts' previous plays at the Station, Couples Counseling Killed Katie, is raw, made bearable only by non-stop humor, as exemplified in the Director's Note: "To open yourself up to someone completely is really scary. Not as scary as having your balls cut off and taken on a high speed chase."

"Opening yourself up" is the theme of all of the Roberts genre and what you see is not always a pretty sight. But Roberts never goes for maudlin, and just when you think you can't take any more emotion, he hits you with a joke.

The couples in the play, eight of them, are all seeing the same psychoanalyst, an unseen and unheard presence, to whom they spill their guts. While the last Roberts play, Where the Great Ones Run, was set in a diner with unbelievably realistic detail, this one consists of nothing but a couch, on stage, facing the audience. There is very little physical movement, mainly the actors sit on the couch talking with the audience playing the part of the therapist. (Is it too obvious to observe that is probably literally what is going on; the audience is Roberts's therapist in his plays?)

The play is done in one act, only about an hour long, with only two actors depicting eight couples, going off stage only briefly between scenes to change costumes and characters. Mike Trippiedi has acted in more than 50 productions at the Station over the last 30 years. Lindsay Markel is a relative newcomer. Both of them perform brilliantly, convincingly portraying not only different types of people, but different species.

This play is not for the faint hearted. The language goes beyond blue. Unlike three of the Roberts plays that have been done here recently, this one does not have a local connection. It was written by Roberts in 2000, presumably in Los Angeles, where it played for eight months, became a cult hit and was optioned as a television show. In a report in May, 2007 on an earlier Roberts play, Parasite Drag, I compared Roberts to Tennessee Williams. This play does nothing to make me have second thoughts about that comparison. It gets at least five stars.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Mongering Some Gossip

The real reason I bought the National Enquirer at the supermarket yesterday was to read the article "40 Way to Be Richer Next Year." I don't think I had ever bought a supermarket tabloid before, although I might have bought the issue in which I appeared 10 years or so ago. I am against gossip mongering since the Bible says gossip mongerers will spend eternity in hell, along with people who call their brothers fools. I don't want to stretch the count to two strikes, so I stay away from gossip mongering.

But when I discovered that the first tip on "40 Ways You Can Be Richer Next Year" is "Make sure the coils on your refrigerator are clean and dust-free" and the second tip is to "Skip Blockbuster or Netflix for your home movie entertainment," I was about to throw the magazine away, when it sort of happened to fall open on the article, "Sarah Palin's Dark Secrets: Affair That Nearly Ruined Her Career; How She Tried to Cover up Teen Daughter's Pregnancy; Family War That Exposed Her Lies." I am pretty sure that if I had bothered to read the other 38 ways you can be richer next year, one of them would have been, "Don't Throw Away, Without Reading, Trashy Tabloid That You Have Already Paid For," so I went ahead and skimmed the article.

So, here's what it said about the affair. In toto. "Another incredible allegation emerging from the family war is that Palin, a mother of five, had an affair with a former business associate of her fisherman husband, Todd. Todd discovered the affair and quickly dissolved his friendship and his business associations with the guy," charges an enemy. "Many people in Alaska are talking about the rumor and say "Todd swept it under the rug."

What?? That's it? I can find out more by reading The Smoking Gun, which has copies of a motion by a former Palin business associate, Scott Richter, to seal his divorce files. (Not that his divorce files contain any salacious details, he just wants the files closed so reporters won't have access to his telephone number and keep calling him.)

You probably already know about another Palin lie; that she sold the Alaska government jet on e-Bay, further embellished by John McCain that she made a profit on the sale. She didn't. As the Chicago Tribune and many other news outlets have reported, she listed it; got one bid and finally sold it through a broker (who happens to be a donor to her campaign) at a loss.

Oh well. If anyone has even one idea on how to be richer next year, let me know, I need all the help I can get. I've been investing in the Bush stock market the last eight years. But please don't tell me that if we get four more years of Republican economics, I would be better off burying my money in a coffee can in the back yard. I already know that.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sarah Barracuda Strikes Back

One of the few things Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has said about herself that is actually true is that she was known as Sarah Barracuda in high school. After last night's speech at the Republican national convention we know why. She sure wasn't Miss Congeniality (whether she was Miss Congeniality in the Wasilla, Alaska queen contest is open to some question. Her Wikkipedia entry used to say she was. Then the St. Louis Post-Dispatch carried an article that a St. Louis woman, Amy Gwin, is saying that was false; Ms. Gwin was Miss Congeniality. Now, the Post-Dispatch article has been scrubbed of the paragraph about the Miss Congeniality dispute. So who knows. Maybe the Post-Dispatch got threatened with a lawsuit. More about Palin lawsuits below.)

What the speech last night told us is that Sarah Barracuda can read really well. The speech was actually written by the McCain campaign when the speech writers still thought the vice presidential candidate was going to be a man and was tweaked of course with some personal references. I thought her joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pitbull being lipstick was probably something she inserted herself, maybe even ad libbed; it had that feeling of authenticity.

As regular readers know I have been underwhelmed by the choice of Joe Biden as Obama's running mate, and another thing last night's speech shows us is that she will eat Biden alive in the vice presidential debate coming up in October unless he has a major personality transplant. He is, as Karl Rove said, "a big blowhard doofus." When Biden tries to overwhelm the Barracuda with all of his "foreign policy experience," she will just wrinkle her pretty little nose, grin and say that she has lived "right next to Russia" all her life, and he won't know what to say. That is, if she lasts on the ticket long enough to debate Biden.

Gov. Barracuda has more skeletons in her closet than a Halloween costume shop. She is still making false statements, like the one again last night about opposing the Bridge to Nowhere, which is astonishing since it is well documented that she was all for it until Congress cut off the funds. Although McCain decided to go with his gut rather than bother to thoroughly vet her, the truth will out. We already know she lied about not pressuring the state police to fire her ex-brother-in-law (maybe the ex-brother-in-law, should have been fired, but that's not the point; the point is that Gov. Barracuda said she did not put pressure on the State Police and she did.) The Washington Post has now gotten hold of some of her emails. Now that the heat is on, she is refusing to be deposed under oath about what happened, after having once promised to cooperate with the investigation (which is by a Republican legislature, by the way.) The McCain campaign got the governor lawyered up, remembering what happened to Bill Clinton when he gave a deposition under oath.

Even more intriguingly, word is out that the McCain campaign is threatening the
National Enquirer with a lawsuit for printing that Gov. Barracuda had an affair with her husband's business partner. We all know you cannot believe a word the National Enquirer writes, just ask John Edwards.

Given the incredulity of the folks in Alaska to the Barracuda's sudden elevation to the national spotlight, I doubt we have heard the last of the revelations about her. I can hardly wait.