Politics

Incontrovertible Logic

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In my last post, I said that tomorrow I would take apart the Sally Quinn article line by line. It turns out that tomorrow has come a little early today. 🙂

Instead of literally line-by-line, I’ll quote her a paragraph at a time, to make my cut-and-paste work slightly less tedious.

Palin’s Pregnancy Problem

That’s the title folks. OK, Quinn has framed the entire discussion of whether she’s fit to be the VP in terms of her teen-age daughter’s pregnancy. No hyperbole here.

My first reaction was shock. Then anger. John McCain chose a running mate simply because she is a woman and one who appealed to the Republican’s conservative evangelical base. Now, with news that Palin’s 17-year-old unmarried daughter is pregnant, McCain’s pick may not even find support among “family values” voters.

OK, Quinn professes to know exactly why McCain picked Palin. After all, to quote her directly, it was simply because she is a woman. I’ll give her one piece of big credit, at least she didn’t say that he picked her simply because she is a woman, and would therefore win him the Clinton Democrats…

But, uh oh, he screwed it up, because evangelicals will punish Palin (and by extension, McCain) for being a real person, with real-life issues to deal with. Just because you believe in “family values”, doesn’t mean you believe you can (or want to!) control every aspect of your children’s lives. Show me an evangelical with children, and we won’t have to argue that point.

As an aside, one would hope (and should assume) that when evangelicals come to know Palin, even if they honestly believe that she personally erred in how she raised her children, they would forgive her her sins, for everything else that she believes in, which they do as well. Forgiveness is a pretty fundamental tenet, no?

It has happened before, of course. Geraldine Ferraro was chosen as the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1984 because she was a woman, but that was 24 years ago. I thought we were past this. Apparently not. McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate is a cynical and calculated move. It is a choice made to try to win an election. It is a political gimmick. And it’s very high risk. I find it insulting to women, to the Republican party, and to the country.

Well, I don’t have anything new to say here. Clearly, she knows exactly why McCain chose Palin. No wiggle room here. It’s a gimmick. That said, why would he take such a risk on a gimmick? Why would he do it knowing the pregnancy issue would come out a few days later? Why would he do it when it might enrage pro-choice women? Why pick someone who would both turn off the base and the supposedly available Clinton women at the same time?

Answer, he wouldn’t. It’s a big risk, Quinn is certainly right about that, but she’s wrong about the reasons for the choice, or the risk. When Obama picked Biden, McCain no longer had to take any risks. He could have done one of two things, easily:

  1. Choose someone with tremendous credentials in the financial world (Mitt Romney comes to mind), mirroring his supposed weakness on the economy with Obama’s on foreign policy
  2. Pick someone who directly (and uncontroversially) plays to the base (perhaps Huckabee, but there are likely less controversial choices)

He couldn’t have been attacked for being weak in making an economic choice, or the argument would boomerang on Obama for needing Biden.

And yet, he chose boldly. Quinn disguises her contempt for Palin as a candidate by claiming that McCain was pandering to evangelicals, rather than to women (or more specifically, Clinton women!). And yet, the disguise is thinly veiled, as she leads the last sentence above with I find it insulting to women.

This is nothing against Palin. From what little we know about her, she seems to be a bright, attractive, impressive person. She certainly has been successful in her 44 years. But is she ready to be president?

Huh? Wait! Thankfully, it’s nothing against Palin. Whew. For a minute there, I thought Quinn had an axe to grind. Nope. Instead, there are only two things at play here:

  1. Quinn knows exactly why McCain picked Palin, and she doesn’t like the reason. It doesn’t matter whether he picked the right person for the wrong reason. If he had the wrong reason (and there’s no doubt in Quinn’s mind that McCain is nefarious in his choice), then it simply doesn’t matter whether she would be a good choice or not.
  2. But is she ready to be president? Whoa. What? Quinn isn’t as cock-sure that Palin isn’t ready to president? No need to slow down the attack until we at least have some evidence that she isn’t. Of course, there’s no doubt that Obama is ready. After all, he’s a man!

And now we learn the 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, is pregnant. She and the father of the child plan to marry. This may be a hard one for the Republican conservative family-values crowd to swallow. Of course, this can happen in any family. But it must certainly raise the question among the evangelical base about whether Sarah Palin has been enough of a hands-on mother.

Thankfully, she softened this horror of a situation, with Of course, this can happen in any family. Whew. For a second, I thought it could only happen in Alaska. It’s pretty cold up there in the winter, so there’s not much else to do ya know. A more vigilant mother would have nipped that in the bud, and evangelicals won’t let her get away with that kind of parenting. No need to check her credentials on how she’s governed, just see whether she’s turned out a bad apple or not.

It’s certainly good for Democrats that Presidents aren’t judged on how their brothers turn out, right? 😉

Sheesh. Is she running for mother-of-the-year or VP? Oh wait, Quinn thinks evangelicals can’t tell the difference. Dogma is dogma. Perhaps, if we whip them up a bit more, we can get them to burn Palin at the stake. What do you think? Are you with me?

McCain claims he knew about the pregnancy, and was not at all concerned. Why not? Not only do we have a woman with five children, including an infant with special needs, but a woman whose 17-year-old child will need her even more in the coming months. Not to mention the grandchild. This would inevitably be an enormous distraction for a new vice president (or president) in a time of global turmoil. Not only in terms of her job, but from a media standpoint as well.

Wow. This would be better broken up into sentences, but let’s just go for the whole chunk. First, obviously, McCain is lying (he’s a well-known liar!). Using loaded words like claims he knew don’t even pretend to allow for the fact that, indeed, he knew.

One of her children is a special needs child. Can you believe that Trig survived the entire evening without his mother holding him? It was appalling that he was left alone in the corner all night, with no one to love him, but hey, McCain needs to win an election, and by golly, Palin will sacrifice Trig to the cause.

But wait, soon her 17-year-old daughter will need her even more. I wonder what her soon-to-be husband’s view of that will be? Everyone loves an in-your-face mother-in-law, no? You single moms out there without a support system, unable to count on your mother for full-time nurturing, better give up now. You simply can’t make it. Quinn has spoken!

Of course, under any circumstances, Sarah Palin needs to take direct day-to-day responsibility for raising the coming grandchild. What grandmother doesn’t have that responsibility?

Still, none of the above really matters. Quinn nails the real problem when she correctly notes that the media runs the country. After all, it will be an enormous distractionfrom a media standpoint as well. Well, we certainly wouldn’t want that!

Quinn is certainly correct in one assumption. If Palin were to indeed become the VP, the elite media in this country would be more interested in asking her work-life balance questions, and how it is that she can live with herself being a derelict mom, rather than discussing all the global turmoil.

McCain’s cynical choice has created a dilemma for many women. For still-angry Hillary Clinton voters, they will have to decide if they want to vote against their concscience and political interests by voting to elect a Republican woman who’s even more conservative than McCain.

This is simply laugh-out-loud funny. First, he chose her to appeal to the evangelicals, but, he’s so cynical that he simultaneously chose her to appeal to still-angy Hillary Clinton voters. The answer is simple. They won’t, and McCain never thought they would. If his target audience was still-angy Clinton voters, he would have been better off choosing Lieberman. Who cares if his base would have stayed home. He’s cynical enough not to care…

Evangelical women also will have to decide if they will vote against their conscience by voting to put the mother of young children in a job outside the home that will demand so much of her time and energy.

This is the first point that isn’t completely nonsensical. It’s possible that some evangelicals (not just women) will prefer not to see a woman as VP. What is unlikely to matter is whether her daughter is pregnant or not, or whether she has a special needs child. Quinn purposely muddies the water with that argument. Still, it’s true that there are those (including a number of evangelicals) who simply believe a woman’s place is in the home, not at work, VP or otherwise. One has to wonder whether Quinn is among those people, given all of her arguments in support of Palin being a poor choice…

Southern Baptist leaders like Richard Land and Al Mohler have praised McCain’s choice. But these are the same men who support this statement from the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message:

“A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

Sorry for the two paragraph quote, they are obviously connected. This is a continuation of the previous point, and is not necessarily off base. That said, it’s wildly disingenuous of her to claim that Palin could have been a great choice to evangelicals, but for the pregnant daughter, and then trot out the above dogma, which would disqualify her whether her daughter was pregnant or not.

I’m agreeing that some evangelicals will have trouble voting for her (even though she’s not the top of the ticket), but Quinn frames it in a particularly egregious and disingenuous way, trying to inflame, not inform. I’d go so far as to say that her target for that quote is Independents, who she wants to scare by sharing the Southern Baptist dogma!

Palin’s lack of experience and her family situation are both valid and vital considerations here, especially when she will be running with a 72-year-old presidential candidate who has suffered four bouts of a deadly cancer.

Her family situation is now a vital consideration. If she were to become President, there’s little doubt that she would ignore the country’s immediate needs to wipe up that spill on the kitchen floor. Seriously, how would she choose between them?

I truly hate to stoop to the moral relativism that is the norm in today’s politics, so I use this as an example, not to equate the two, but wasn’t the country a little more at risk when Bill Clinton was playing hanky panky in the oval office? Perhaps that wasn’t a distraction. It certainly wasn’t vital.

And by the way, how can McCain call Barack Obama unqualified, inexperienced, not ready from Day One, not able to be commander in chief, and then put someone like Palin in a position that is a heartbeat away from the pesidency?

So, Obama is the President on day one, but she’s a hearbeat away, and it’s exactly the same thing. Still, since Quinn also said she doesn’t believe Palin is ready to be president (she doesn’t capitalize it, so I’ll respect her choice), does she therefore agree with McCain that Obama isn’t either?

Where would you rather have the inexperience in the ticket, on top, or bottom? At least Palin would have a heartbeat of time to learn on the job, without the arrogance of being the man (both literally, and figuratively) in the relationship between the Prez and the Veep.

I don’t blame Palin for accepting the position. How could she or anyone turn down such an opportunity? I was once in a similar position. After four years of reporting at the Washington Post, I was chosen by CBS to be the first network anchorwoman in America, to co-anchor their Morning News. I had never been on TV a day in my life. I was 32. There were women at CBS who were much more qualified than I was and certainly other men. They chose me because they wanted a woman. I didn’t even want the job, but I didn’t feel I could turn it down. Of course it was a disaster. I lasted four months. I wasn’t ready for Network TV. Palin isn’t ready to be leader of the free world.

Finally, the Truth. First, the lesser of the two. Up front, Quinn asks whether Palin is ready. Thankfully, by this point, she’s convinced herself that Palin isn’t ready to lead the free world. At least we don’t have to worry about that dilemma any longer.

What does this boil down to? Quinn failed miserably when she was called to higher service, and therefore, Palin (and quite possibly no other woman either) will ever be able to achieve more as a result. Poor little Quinn knew in heart that she wasn’t up to the task, but just couldn’t resist the fruit of the forbidden tree. She paid the penalty, and by golly, so will Palin.

Still, her logic defies reason. They wanted a woman, but there were women at CBS who were much more qualified than I was. So, once again, some cynical man at CBS had a nefarious reason for picking the underqualified Quinn to support his evil mission to achieve higher ratings. Why oh why, would they pass over a more qualified woman to snag Sally Quinn? I’m sincerely hoping that it wasn’t McCain who was running the News division at CBS at the time, or Quinn may indeed be correct about his judgment…

The calculation on the part of the McCain people is clear. Palin’s candidacy could draw some of the 18-million Hillary Clinton voters who are not happy she lost and who want to vote for a woman on a national ticket. Palin is not of Washington and that will be appealing to some. Most importantly for McCain, Palin is decidedly anti-abortion and that will keep the Republican base under control and appeal to some evangelicals who might be considering Obama. She has a son who is headed to Iraq.

Wow, the kitchen sink. Again mixing how she is the perfect person to appeal to everyone. Now Quinn takes it a step further. Palin will keep the Replublican base under control. Cool, Palin must indeed be super woman (small caps). She better start cracking the whip now. Oh yeah, she has a son headed to Iraq, pick her, quick, pick her, before he goes.

The fact that McCain served isn’t enough for him, he needs to lean on the fact that her son enlisted. But wait! You say that McCain himself has a son that served in Iraq, so he definitely doesn’t need Palin’s creds there, right? Apparently not. We need to sympathize that a mommy is worrying about her son in Iraq, to truly understand how committed these war mongers are…

Those are positives for a McCain-Palin ticket, but what about the negatives?

Haha. With positives like that, who needs negatives? I guess Quinn does, just for balance… 😉

She has no national political experience, especially in the area of foreign policy. That fact that she is not of Washington also will be difficult for her. Barbara Bush once told me that her husband had been a congressman, UN ambassador, ambassador to China, and head of the CIA and they thought they were prepared for the vice presidency (under President Reagan). But she said nothing can prepare you for the criticism and scrutiny of being in the White House. Sarah Palin is not prepared for that.

Yes, she seemed completely unprepared last night for all the criticism that’s being leveled against her…

Is she prepared for the all-consuming nature of the job? She is the mother of five children, one of them a four-month-old with Down Syndrome. Her first priority has to be her children. When the phone rings at three in the morning and one of her children is really sick what choice will she make? I’m the mother of only one child, a special needs child who is grown now. I know how much of my time and energy I devoted to his care. He always had to be my first priority. Of course women can be good mothers and have careers at the same time. I’ve done both. Yes, other women in public office have children. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has five children, but she didn’t get heavily involved in politics until they were older. A mother’s role is different from a father’s.

I dealt with this issue squarely in my previous post. I’ll just repeat that it’s so nice that Quinn puts everyone else in her own shoes. She seems incapable of putting herself in others’ shoes. No wonder she didn’t last in her big break on TV… No one else gets credit for anything that Quinn couldn’t accomplish on her own.

Additionally, she closes the above with A mother’s role is different from a father’s. Indeed. However, what happens when there isn’t a mother in the picture? Joe Biden lived through a tragic ordeal when his wife and daughter died in a car accident. As a single parent, was he irresponsible for continuing his political career? Obviously not! I wonder whether Quinn understands that…

These are dangerous and trying times for the entire world. This is no time to to play gender politics. The stakes are too high. And given McCain’s age and history of health issues, the stakes for choosing a qualified vice presidential candidate have never been higher.

Agreed. So, stop playing gender politics. All of Quinn’s reasons (except for the experience one, which is a red herring because of Obama’s lack of experience) have to do with the fact that Palin is a woman. Don’t blame McCain for seeing beyond Palin’s gender, when Quinn, a woman, can’t, due to her own past failings…

Maybe this will work. Maybe McCain will win with Sarah Palin as his running mate. But if he does, it will be for all the wrong reasons.

And, let’s not forget, it won’t mean that his judgment was good. He will have gotten lucky. I predict that Sally Quinn will become the number one poker player in the world, since she can see into the mind and soul of men, and know exactly what they are thinking and why. It’s a very special talent, that could be better put to use at the poker tables, than in a respected newspaper…

Monkey Tail Politics

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I haven’t been posting too actively lately. Not because I haven’t had anything to say, and not because I haven’t had the time to say it. Mostly, it’s been because I’ve had a ton to say, and whenever I waited (for whatever reason) a bit to say it, it felt too trivial to post after the fact.

Next week, we have four concerts on consecutive nights, so there will be steady blogging, for sure. Therefore, I’ll take this opportunity (hopefully, in a timely fashion), to share a few thoughts on Sarah Palin as John McCain’s choice for VP.

I could likely type for the next few hours (literally) and not scratch the surface of all the thoughts I have on everything that’s swirling around this choice. I’ll try really hard to boil it down to a few points. For your sake, I hope I achieve that goal. 😉

If you know me, then you know that I’m still a 6-year-old at heart (seriously). So, I’ll start by summarizing what this pick has done to many (dare I say most?) Democrats:

Oh the monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole, to see his…

The alternative image I have is that of a Whirling Dervish, but I really didn’t want to insult Whirling Dervishes the world over.

Basically, many Democrats/Liberals (and some Republicans/Conservatives) have fallen into a number of obvious traps in their responses to the announcement of Sarah Palin (that’s Governor Palin to you!) as the Republican nominee for VP.

She’s been attacked so many times (in so few days) on so many issues, it would take me the aforementioned hours just to document the various attacks, let alone analyze the meaningful ones. So, I’ll restrict myself to a very few broad categories of attacks.

  1. McCain picked her only because she’s a woman, thinking he can pick up disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters
  2. She should have declined, because she won’t be able to be a good mother and good VP at the same time
  3. She has no foreign policy experience (some knock all of her experience) and McCain is not likely to make it through to the end of his term

To reiterate, many more attacks on many more levels, but for this post, we’ll stick to the above.

Starting with #1 above. Because there was/is a perception out there that some meaningful number of disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters might be in play, McCain pandered (that’s the essence of the charge) to them (all women?) by hurriedly, foolishly, unvettingly (sorry, I know that’s not a word) and irresponsibly picking Sarah Palin.

The irresponsible part comes in under the guise of questioning McCain’s judgment, in the first crucial decision that he’s had to make in this race. How do they weasel out of that charge if/when she acquits herself? Will they be forced to recognize his bold/visionary choice, or is that simply impossible, even though they were obviously caught by surprise and reacted before they knew much about her…

Let’s analyze this a bit. There were 18 million Clinton supporters. They weren’t all women, and they weren’t all located together, in one giant swing state. Most polls show that the majority of them have strongly committed to Obama (is anyone surprised?). Those numbers have (and should have!) swelled after both Clinton’s spoke at last week’s DNC. The catharsis was complete.

For one minor example, Hillary Clinton carried NY State in the primary. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that some reasonable number of the 18 million supporters are in this very large state. Does anyone think McCain has the slightest shot of carrying NY come November? Even if a goodly number of Clinton’s supporters vote for him? I don’t think so either…

Next, for some people (not just women), the right to choose is so critical (no, I’m not suggesting they don’t care about other issues) that they would never consider voting for anyone who is staunchly pro-life. Presumably, a reasonable percentage of Clinton’s supporters fall into this camp (also probably more heavily weighted toward her female backers). So, when McCain chooses a staunch pro-life advocate, do his critics really believe he is stupid enough to believe that a pro-choice woman will vote for him just because he picked a woman, especially one who is so outspoken on the issue?

Believing that is insulting all around. It insults McCain’s intelligence (specifically, my point above). It insults his integrity (implying that he would be willing to endanger the country and sell his principles, for the hope that women would be fooled into voting for him just because he selected a woman). It insults Palin, because it requires the assumption that she is a bad pick, without any facts (at the time that the accusations started rolling).

It also insults the insulters, because it makes otherwise (often) intelligent people make very stupid statements (and assumptions), in a rush to be on the record, and to sway the electorate toward their candidate. The fact that many of these insulters are theoretically journalists, and quite a number of them prominent women (Sally Quinn, Maureen Dowd, Campbell Brown), just demeans them all the more…

#2 will be quicker. I’ll give one example for now. Sally Quinn wrote a lengthy, and nearly 100% nonsensical article. I would enjoy taking it apart, line by line, but I will save that for tomorrow (hopefully), just for my own personal enjoyment. It’s hard to choose one specific line, but for now, I’ll stick with this one:

Her first priority has to be her children.

Wow, really? I saw Sally Quinn interviewed last night on TV. Clearly, she wanted to make sure that this line wasn’t taken out of context (heaven forbid!). So, she wanted to make it clear that she fully supports working mothers (how wonderful). She even said she’s friends with many of them (how quaint, to associate yourself with real working moms…).

However, she draws the line at VP. You can’t effectively raise your family and take care of the nation’s business. Period. One rung below (one additional heartbeat from the Presidency) is fine (since she specifically calls out Nancy Pelosi as having five children as well). Thankfully, Nancy had the good sense to wait before entering politics. If Nancy got a call at 3am from one of her children or grandchildren (who cares how old they are?), she could obviously ignore them for the benefit of country. Hoo rah!

Is this really a position that prominent women want to espouse publicly? I’ll have more to say on this a little later on.

#3, she’s inexperienced, in particular when it comes to foreign policy. Another silly trap. Do they really want to get into an argument on this, when their candidate’s leading personal weakness is lack of experience, in particular on foreign policy? They think that they can Jujitsu the matter, by claiming that McCain ceded his lead on this issue by picking Palin. So, are they admitting that McCain is eminently more qualified to lead us internationally, but that’s he introduced a potential risk shoud he pass on prematurely?

OK, I’ve gone on long enough. Let’s take each of these issue and deal with them from a realistic point of view, not the insulting one.

#1 is easy, and obvious. McCain had much bigger problems with the Republican Base than worrying about picking off a handful of Clinton supporters. It’s well known that many people in the Republican party don’t think he’s conservative enough. Would a meaningful number of them vote for Obama? Not a chance (just like a meaningful number of Clinton supporters won’t vote for McCain!). But, would a meaningful number of them stay home on election day? Perhaps. It’s happened before.

So, he picked Sarah Palin to appeal to the base. She has a proven record on many of the issues dear to conservatives. I find it ironic that the other obvious choices (all men) would not have bolstered the support of the base as completely as Palin has and will. It has little to do with the fact that she’s a woman, and everything to do with her beliefs and accomplishments to date.

#2 is easy as well. It’s not only ironic, but actually moronic (is that more irony?) 😉 that women who feel that choice is the defining issue of our time (at least with regard to women’s rights), are thrilled to be on the record as claiming that Palin doesn’t have the choice to be VP when she has children to attend to.

Where to begin? Does she have the choice to be a bad mother if she wants to? Is it possible that her husband is a great father who can devote himself to the children, so that even if she chooses to be more of a VP than a mom, the kids won’t suffer? Is it possible that they have an additional support structure (paid for, or supplemented with relatives and friends) who could/would pitch in and help with the family?

No, it’s simply not possible. It’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to choose to kill her unborn child, purely for the purpose of pursuing a career (come now, don’t say that’s never the reason for an abortion!), but it’s an outrage for her to want to serve her country, at the highest level, if other women deem that she’s not capable of handling her motherly duties at the same time.

Man (or should that be Woman), this is one of the biggest loser arguments in the history of arguments…

#3 is no slam dunk, on either side of the argument. The fact that it’s murky should have Democrats avoiding it, but dive in they must. So, Obama claims to want to avoid all politics as usual, and wants to bring populism back to Washington. He disclaims the old guard. That is, until he realizes that he’s being effectively pegged as a foreign policy neophyte.

At that point, he actually does a mature thing, and appoints a Washington insider to the ticket. That insider brings with him a wealth of foreign policy experience. Good for Obama. It’s hardly what he was selling up front, but I applaud his ability to recognize a weakness, and correct it.

That said, it’s a direct admission that he indeed does lack the foreign policy credentials to have chosen a fresher face as his running mate. While we can all be glad that he will enjoy Biden’s counsel, in the end, it is Obama who would be the President, and we have no guarantees that once elected, he will accept Biden’s advice. After all, Biden voted for the war that Obama claims he never would have. What if Biden advises him that a future war is in our best interests?

More importantly, Palin is being knocked on foreign policy because she might become President (after all, people might disagree with McCain’s stances on the issues, but they’re not going to successfully argue that he’s ill-prepared from an experience point of view). If that’s a reasonable argument, then shouldn’t we be looking at Biden from the perspective of what if Obama passes away prematurely, and Biden ascends to the Presidency?

In that case, exactly what kind of change will Biden bring to Washington? After all, Obama is being swept in on the basis of one word, change, and whatever it means to each person who hears it! Obama can’t (and won’t, and would be foolish to) define it. Change, for the sake of change, isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Attacking Sarah Palin on the issues would have been the correct strategy on the part of her detractors. She stands in stark contrast to their beliefs, so basing the bashing on the issues should have been trivially easy (and the smart ones, like Biden himself, are doing just that). Picking on the themes that have been the highlight of this post was incredibly stupid. It accomlished exactly one thing, to galvanize the base even further in support of McCain/Palin. If you didn’t notice that at the RNC last night, you didn’t watch…

MoveOn.org Ads

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I haven’t written about politics in quite a while, and I should probably keep it that way, but I can’t, so here goes…

By now, if you haven’t seen the new ads being put out by MoveOn.org, or seen previews of them on a cable news channel, you’re either very lucky, or blissfully disconnected from the political season.

Rather than describe the ad, I’ll point you instead to an Op-Ed in The New York Times, written by one of their two token conservatives, William Kristol. I can’t do any better than Kristol in analysing the content/message of the ad, so I won’t try. Here are a few additional thoughts though.

Who are these ads targeted at? To me, there are three gigantic buckets that you can (extremely crudely) classify people in (with regard to Iraq):

  1. Believe it’s criminal that we’re there and we should get out instantly
  2. Believe it’s necessary, no matter the cost, and therefore we should stay until the job is done
  3. Believe it’s wildly complicated, with no easy answer, and (unfortunately) often shift their viewpoint (even if only slightly) based on how it’s actually going on the ground over there, regardless of ideological views

It would seem that the ads must be targeting group #3, as there is no way that #2 can be swayed by them (in fact, this kind of ad would mobilize group #2), and group #1 already believes in the cause as strongly as they can, so it’s a waste of money and a lost opportunity to show these ads to them.

So, in a group that thinks the answer isn’t simple, can this ad be effective? I find it extremely hard to believe. It literally requires the viewer to suspend all logic, and react purely to the emotional message only. If you disagree, meaning that you think that the message delivered has even a single basis in fact, then you didn’t read the linked Op-Ed piece very carefully.

I also see this type of ad as working against Obama, who is the person they most want to see benefit from it. It is highly doubtful that he will denounce it. After all, he’s one of the few prominent democratic senators who didn’t vote to denounce the General Petraeus ad. It would seem that annoying MoveOn.org is not high on Obama’s agenda. However, by not denouncing it, he risks seeing moderate people who are offended by the ad as seeing him as pandering to MoveOn.org (or worse, actually agreeing with the ads).

In fact, it completely amuses me that Obama’s stated reason for changing his widely disseminated stance on Public/Private money is the 527 money on the Right side (a.k.a. the Swiftboating money). Not once does he mention the vasts sums of money that are meant to benefit him from the likes of MoveOn.org.

For me, I have no problem with either side throwing their money away on these types of ads. They are truly stupid (the ads), and hope and assume that the viewers are stupid as well. Anyone who requires that their audience is stupid in order to be successful will (thankfully!) be negatively surprised more often than they would imagine. That makes them the stupid ones in the equation.

For me, the ads bring comic relief. Since I love to laugh, I welcome the MoveOn.org ads by the bushel. 🙂

Scott McClellan

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When news of Scott McClellan’s new book What Happened came out earlier this week, I was sure I would blog about my reaction the next day. By the time I got ready to start writing, so many things had been said, that I lost the zeal to share my thoughts.

The story continues to get an amazing amount of coverage, with commentary ranging from quite insightful to quite inane. By yesterday morning, I decided to ignore this topic. I am so far behind in writing about a number of things I’d like to, that this seemed to be done to death.

Then this morning, I see two editorials in The New York Times, and I get just enough inspiration to put fingers to keyboard.

The first one that I read was by Gail Collins, using Bernard Kerik as her whipping boy in the anti-loyalty rant that was breathtakingly naive.

The second is Bob Herbert, someone whom I’ve grudgingly come to respect (though not admire), at least for his intellect, and somewhat for his articulate and consistent portrayal of it. Unfortunately, while this editorial is consistent, he uses Scott’s book as an excuse to get some of that consistency off his chest, since he’s been busy lately taking Hillary to task a little more often than he’d like. Thankfully (for him, courtesy of Scott), he’s back on message.

While there are supposedly some things in the book that are downright laughable (I say supposedly because I have no interest in reading it, and never will), for the purpose of my discussion, I’d prefer to assume that 100% of the content is verifiably true!

Most of the White House responses center around the loyalty theme, not just the obvious stuff, but also the claims that Scott never shared his concerns, even once, with any of his colleagues, even ones he remained close with after he left. In that regard, they also claim that he was disloyal in not sharing those thoughts at the time, because they claim that the White House and the President in particular, were open to such candor of opinions (true or not!).

We can dismiss the majority of the golly, see we were right all along comments from people who up to just a week earlier happily painted Scott McClellan as an idiot puppet of the regime.

In between those are a fair number of insightful analyses on both sides of the political aisle. One line that amused me was by Dick Morris, feigning shock at the concept that a President would try and sell a war, pointed out that the Gettysburg Address was a propaganda speech. In other words, all Presidents sell all wars.

In a delicious irony to this whole story, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Scott’s Father, Barr McClellan, published a much ridiculed book in 2003 called Blood, Money & Power, claiming that LBJ had JFK killed. But I digress…

To me, the only interesting point is one of personal integrity. Again, keep in mind that I will suspend disbelief and assume that everything Scott says in the book is the gospel truth!

Exactly why does Scott choose to share this information with all of us? More importantly, why now? The famous saying:

timing is everything

doesn’t get repeated ad nauseum because it has no basis in reality.

If we are to assume (believe!) that he is doing this to save countless future generations the despair of this kind of politics as usual, then the timing becomes even more curious. He’s been out of office for just over two years. Couldn’t the saving have begun sooner?

Had he come out shortly after leaving office with his revelations, he would have been an even hotter topic on all of the shows that are drooling over having him on. Of course, it would have been hard to monetize that instant celebrity, and coming out with a book two years later would have been a complete yawn.

On the other hand, waiting until the new year, when the President would have been out of office, and the election over, one way or the other, might have yielded fewer book sales (perhaps dramatically fewer ones, especially if Obama were to win the Presidency, and the urgent need to paint McCain as four more years of Bush wouldn’t be as enticing as it is for some).

No, this is timed to extract the maximum amount of money for Scott. If for any reasons it also happens to sway the election toward the Democrats, so be it, though that’s giving Mr. McClellan way more credit and respect than is due him.

No, to repeat, this boils down to a personal integrity issue, one which Scott McClellan has none of, as in zero. This is but another in a very long string of kiss and tell books, coming in all shapes and sizes. I have no interest in any of them.

I am not interested in the ones that bash Democrats (e.g., the Clintons), Republicans (e.g., the Bushes), Hollywood (too many examples), corporate titans (also too many examples).

Why? Because most of them are written by nobodies (Scott included), that would continue to be nobodies, if it weren’t for someone else who had given them a chance. When they can’t parlay that chance into an honest career, they resort to kiss and tell, or in other cases, direct lawsuits.

This book, and the timing of its release, is no different than the various nanny tales that come out over the years (or bodyguards, etc.). Hangers on, who would be invisible to the world, except for the fact that they are always around famous people, by virtue of those famous people employing them.

If the book doesn’t sell well (already not realistic, but since I allowed for the possibility that it’s all true, let’s speculate that it might not sell well either) 😉 then I strongly suggest that Scott get a job as a nanny for someone famous, like the Jolie-Pitts, so that he can have a second chance at fame and fortune, when he outs them in a tell-all bonanza…

To me, the saddest thing about the book being in print, is that it gives excuses (good ones, unfortunately) to people who can’t look forward. They get to climb back on their high horse, point their fingers, and tell you that they were right all along. Golly gee, I’m just as proud of you as I am of Scott McClellan.

And, just like Barr McClellan’s book likely influenced Jr.’s decision to cash in too, the success of this idiot book will encourage future idiots to sell their souls as well, for the almighty dollar…

Bob Herbert Nails Reverend Wright

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In this Op Ed piece in The New York Times, Bob Herbert precisely nails Reverend Wright’s motivation for his current tour. It’s not all that typical that I agree with a majority of what Mr. Herbert has to say, but I admit freely that not only do I agree with every single word of this piece, I also agree with the tone and apparent plea/message embedded in it as well.

Ever since the teasers showing snippets of Reverend Wright’s interview with Bill Moyers were coming out last week, I’ve been saying non-stop that Wright’s feelings were hurt (by Obama, not by any other attacks) and that he’s decided to teach Obama a lesson.

Shame on him. He could just as easily have waited until November 5th, 2008, but then his vindictiveness wouldn’t have as much of a personal devastation on Obama himself. The fact that he’s dragging the hopes and dreams of the majority of African Americans down in the process seems to matter little to the oh so spiritual Reverend.

What once seemed impossible, the handing of the nomination to Hillary Clinton, even if she was well behind in pledged delegates and somewhat behind in the popular vote, now seems very realistic, thanks to the continued ravings of one angry Pastor…

I’m guessing that he could use a refresher course in the teachings of Jesus. He knows the words, he needs to recall how to live by them!

Joan Baez at Paramount Theater

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Last night Lois and I drove 30 minutes to Peekskill, NY to see Joan Baez at the Paramount Theater. How we came to see this show is itself a long story, delivered later in this post.

One of the biggest influences in my teen years was Bob Dylan. Not just the music, but more specifically, the lyrics. They were burned in my mind, even at the age of 13. I learned to play the guitar because of him. Of course, if you were a Dylan fan back then, the odds were pretty high that you were a fan of Joan Baez as well. Not only was I a fan, I was a very big fan!

Lois was preoccupied with extremely challenging life events during those years and didn’t pay attention to either Dylan or Baez beyond general awareness.

The last time I saw Joan Baez live before last night was on November 22nd, 1975 at Brandeis University when she appeared with Dylan as part of The Rolling Thunder Review tour. One of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen, including Joan’s amazing performance.

I remembered the year, but had to look up the actual date. 😉

The audience last night was full of people who adore, even revere Joan. You could feel the excitement and anticipation long before she came on stage. When she came out the place erupted with applause. She announced that she would be playing new songs as well as the songs you came to hear. 🙂 She didn’t disappoint in that, playing beautiful new songs that will be on her upcoming album, as well as some of her fantastic hits.

For roughly half the show she was accompanied by her band.

Erik Della Penna played a variety of string instruments, all very well. He also sang harmony with Joan on some of the numbers. It took me a while to warm up to his playing, but in the end, I decided that he was just making sure to defer to Joan and not steal the spotlight. He’s quite accomplished and soulful.

Erik Della Penna

In addition to playing guitar, lap steel guitar and dobro, he also played a square guitar, roughly the size of a mandolin, that I’ve never seen before. Joan called it a Cigar Box Guitar, which I thought was a joke, but there’s a site for them, so it must be true. 😉

Here is a picture of the Cigar Box Guitar, and one of Erik on the Lap Steel Guitar:

Cigar Box GuitarErik Della Penna Lap Steel Guitar

Dean Sharenow played the drums. While he kept perfect rhythm, he was obviously understated (purposely) for this kind of music. I have little doubt that he’s an accomplished drummer, but last night was not the type of show to bring out his talent. He sang vocals on a few numbers as well. Dean and Erik have their own band, separate from their work with Joan, called Kill Henry Sugar.

Dean Sharenow

Michael Duclos played bass. I have recently complained that as much as I have enjoyed numerous bass players over the past year, almost every time, they are simply too loud and overwhelm the rest of the band. Not so last night. Just as with Erik and Dean, both Michael and the sound engineer correctly chose to emphasize Joan, so Michael’s bass was solid the entire night, but significantly in the background, where it belonged.

Michael Duclos

During the first third of the show, when they were all on the stage together, they played most of the new stuff, sprinkled with recent stuff and perhaps two old favorites. She sang Christmas in Washington (from her Bowery Songs CD, released in 2005) written by Steve Earle. Steve is producing her new CD, and has written many of the songs on it. I’ll have more to say about Steve (and Joan) in my other section (now a regular feature in these posts), but for now, here’s a link to a YouTube video of Christmas in Washington with Joan and Steve performing together.

The second (or third) song of the evening was one of the old ones, With God On Our Side (by Bob Dylan). Quite a number of the songs Joan sang last night had God in them (perhaps 50%). Many are cynical about God (the Dylan song for example), but some are deeply spiritual (Swing Low Sweet Chariot and Amazing Grace). It’s an interesting mix, and I’m not clear if she’s attempting to communicate a specific message or not.

After this part of the show was over, the band left the stage leaving Joan on her own. She went into a lot more of her traditional songs here, mostly accompanying herself on the guitar, but with an occasional a cappella song thrown in as well. As good as the parts with the band were, it was more special, magical, to see her perform on her own. She certainly held the crowd in the palm of her hand throughout her solo set.

Among the favorites, she performed her ultra-famous Diamonds In Rust. I already mentioned one of the a cappella numbers above in a different context, Swing Low Sweet Chariot. She encouraged the audience to sing along during various verses of that, and they willingly obliged (I can’t explain it, but I didn’t sing along at all last night, even to The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, one of my favorites…).

She played solo for roughly half of the show. The band then returned for a few more numbers, including Dylan’s Love Is Just A Four Letter Word. After saying goodnight, and taking their bows (in a group hug), they returned for a three song encore. After the first two songs, the band left the stage again, and Joan finished the evening with her signature a cappella Amazing Grace, which the crowd belted out with her.

She received a standing ovation before they left the stage the first time, and again at the end of the encore, including the entire audience standing throughout Amazing Grace. Like I said in the intro, she was adored and revered, and the crowd wanted to make sure she knew it. Here’s a photo of everyone singing Amazing Grace with Joan, all the while standing:

Joan Baez Amazing Grace

She was on the stage for a total of 100 minutes including the encore. While we all could have listened to her for hours longer, the show was an appropriate and appreciated length.

Here are a few photos of Joan, with and without guitar. One of the reasons that I’m including a number of similar shots is that the background lighting at the Paramount Theater is very nicely done to set various moods. If you look at some of the other photos included here, you’ll see a variety of scenes and colors, with many more that I am not posting:

Joan BaezJoan Baez 2Joan Baez GuitarJoan Baez Guitar 2

That’s the end of the general review of the evening. As always, I have lots more to say (I know, I have too much to say, always). Some of this is on the negative side, some on the more nostalgic side, and some mere speculation. So, if you don’t know me, or don’t care about my opinions, this is an excellent time to click away…

I recently wrote about a spate of concert cancellations due to illness. In that post, I forgot to mention another cancellation that I had previously written about. We had tickets to see The Mammals at Tarrytown Music Hall (last October I think) and they too canceled a week before the show, but not due to illness I believe.

In the above post, I mentioned that the only cancellation that we did not have tickets to was Joan Baez. There were a number of reasons why we didn’t end up buying tickets in advance to that show, but the primary one was that we were scheduled to be at Zope that week (March 31st). If you read this space regularly, you know that we ran back that weekend to see Girlyman at Joe’s Pub on the 30th, but we did indeed return to VA the very next morning.

We were supposed to be at Zope from last Wed through this week as well, but for the first time in a very long time ended up canceling our own trip (also not due to illness). Once the trip was canceled, I decided to check out the status of Joan’s rescheduled show (exactly two weeks after the postponed one), and lo and behold, there were a reasonable number of tickets left. The original show was sold out, so clearly, some people simply couldn’t make the new date and returned their tickets for a refund.

Lucky for us, unlucky for the original ticket buyers. We got two seats in the 10th row, left orchestra, aisle and one in. Superb seats. The show was scheduled to begin at 7:30pm. We’ve been to the Paramount Theater once before, to see David Bromberg and the Angel Band so we knew the lay of the land, and how long it would take to get there from the house (roughly 30 minutes).

We left at 6:35pm and got to the theater at 7:05pm. The police had the entire block of the theater cordoned off (from every approach). This was quite surprising. I realize Joan Baez is a big star, but David Bromberg also sold out the place (as I’m sure many others do), and he didn’t get similar treatment. Who knows the reasoning, but it wasn’t a good sign.

It turns out that the town (Peekskill) isn’t all that friendly to visitors (tourists). It’s a quaint river town, which should be in the business of attracting tourists and making them feel welcome, but just try to park in any of the dozens of empty spots on the street. Oops, don’t, unless you want a ticket. Signs all over the place saying that you need a permit to park on the street. You’d think that on a night when someone like Joan Baez is in town, they’d put up signs waiving that, but alas, no.

Even the municipal garage has two tiers of parking, one requiring permits, the other meters. Who knew I needed to show up with tons of change in my pocket to attend a local concert. We weren’t thrilled with the entire ordeal, but still made it in plenty of time to pick up our tickets at Will Call and get seated.

At 7:20pm (when we were in our seats), it was obvious that the show would not start on time. The main reason is that the hall was still half empty, with tons of people still hanging around outside. At 7:31 they made the usual announcements, so they were trying to get the show back on schedule, but the house lights were still on, and perhaps 20% of the hall was still unfilled.

At 7:40pm the house lights went off, the crowd went nuts, and Joan came on the stage. There were still quite a number of seats empty, and people were still trickling in, but at least we weren’t waiting for the last person to show up before beginning. Across the aisle from us, in the 10th row center orchestra, there were five empty seats in a row. This fact will become important (to us) shortly.

After each song, the ushers would quickly guide a few more people to their seats. After the third or fourth song (past 7:50pm) the two people who had the seats immediately to Lois’ left squeezed by us. The man proceeded to whip out his Treo, and sat there for at least 10 full minutes with the light shining brightly, working the phone (email, sms, who knows?).

It was annoying the hell out of us. Lois asked if we could move across the aisle. I hate doing that, because I would hate having to move back (in shame, as if we were trying to get away with anything), but it seemed safe at nearly 8pm. It worked out fine, as we darted across the aisle between songs, and weren’t bothered the rest of the night. Why come to a show 20 minutes late, not pay any attention and annoy everyone seated near you? Stay home and use your full computer. We’ll all be happier for it…

I mentioned earlier that I was a huge Joan Baez fan while Lois was less familiar with her stuff. As such, Lois enjoyed the show last night tremendously, having no previous reference point. I thoroughly enjoyed the show as well, but less for musical reasons. There was a tremendous sense of history for me, not just in experiencing Joan live again, but in hearing her tell some very moving stories (she told a few about Martin Luther King, someone she actively marched with and supported in a number of ways!).

Musically, her voice is still excellent, perhaps even better than most touring artists, but it’s really a shadow of what it once was. It’s likely that this is a temporary anomaly, caused by her recent illness (forcing the previous cancellation), as she specifically said that she had lost her voice, regained part of it, then regained some more. She didn’t put a timeline on that though, so it might have had nothing to do with the illness, and she might not be regaining any more, even if she gets healthier.

The good news is that she’s well aware of the changes in her voice, and even joked about it (in the middle of a song!). She no longer tries to hit certain notes, simplifying the vocal arrangement of some of the more challenging songs. I have no problem with that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little sad and disappointing. She also lost her place a number of times on the lyrics, laughed it off and continued on very professionally in each case. She joked about that too, quite cleverly, so last night clearly wasn’t the first time that’s happened to her.

I’m truly hoping (for her sake, and for her fans’ sake) that her voice will get stronger as she gets better (assuming she hasn’t fully recovered). The most striking thing to me is not that her voice isn’t clear, or gorgeous (it is!), but rather that she seems apprehensive about pushing her voice, even though at times during the night, when she did, she was able to hit the note, or deliver the power that she was looking for.

Joan is 67 years old. To me, she looks much older, and seems a bit on the frail side. If you look at the YouTube video that I linked above, of Christmas in Washington, which was filmed less than four years ago, she looked 20 years younger (to me). While she is as graceful and lovely as you could wish, I couldn’t help feeling badly that age (or health) is catching up with her more quickly than her young years deserve.

Of course, you can listen to her CDs to hear the difference in the strength and range of her voice. Still, it’s possible that even that is due to the wonders of a recording studio rather than the rawness of a live performance. So, through the magic of the Internet, if you’re interested, you can hear Joan do a number of songs (most of which she performed last night!) from the last concert from The Rolling Thunder Review, taped at Madison Square Garden on December 8th, 1975!

You have to register to hear it, but it’s free, and the sound quality is excellent! Her voice back then, in a live performance, is not even comparable to her voice last night, even though it was delightful to listen to her last night as well! Here’s the link to the 1975 concert. Click on PLAY THIS CONCERT under the image of the ticket stub to start the stream.

Here’s a cute story, and one which is relevant to our Girlyman experiences as well. If you listened to the above concert, you may have noticed that Joan complains (in a British accent!) that she needed help tuning her guitar! Last night, she joked that she used to have trouble tuning her guitar, but now they have these devices that help you tune them. So now she has trouble tuning her guitars, with the help of the new devices. 😉

Until recently, I didn’t have a clue as to why all of the guitarists looked down at the stage while they tuned. More interesting was that I didn’t understand how they could hear what they were tuning, as there was often other stuff going on at the time (If you’ve ever seen Nate in action while the Girlyman ladies tune, you’d understand). 😉 Well, the device must show red and green lights for each string in tune or not (my guess, but I’d be surprised if I were way off).

Anyway, here’s a picture of her tuning last night. 🙂

Joan Baez Tuning

I can’t resist sharing this photo. To me, Joan seems to be channeling Hillary Clinton:

Joan Baez Channels Hillary Clinton

Finally, politics. If you read this space, you know how I feel about politics mixing with entertainment. Perhaps that was an unconscious reason why I didn’t rush to buy tickets the first time around. There was no doubt in my mind that Joan (being a life-long activist) would definitely be political during the show. In the end, I decided that I was willing to sit through it for any number of reasons, including that she’s such a spiritually deep and caring woman, that it would unlikely be a hate-filled lecture. I was right, sort-of.

As for speech making, she only made two politically-oriented ones during the evening. The first was to say that George Bush was her personal PR machine. With him in the White House, her kind of music was in demand (not necessarily her exact words, but pretty close). If true, I wonder whether her career will come to a grinding halt if/when Obama takes the White House.

The second was a rousing endorsement of Obama himself. Her exact words were “Wait until we have a statesman back in the White House!” Okey dokey then, I guess we’ll see… Like I said above, it didn’t annoy me (though it could have, had I not anticipated it completely). As opposed to the anger with which most entertainers deliver their anti-Bush rhetoric, Joan is soft-spoken, gentle, and just trying to make a point…

That brings me to the music itself. Certainly, Dylan’s music had it’s fair share of anti-war songs (including the one she played early on). However, since she teamed up with Steve Earle years ago, she has plenty more fodder for that now. Steve is a wonderful songwriter, both lyrics and music, but he’s a very angry liberal at heart. Listen carefully to the words of Christmas in Washington in the video, or read the words here.

It’s a Bush hater’s anthem. That said, it’s delivered in a soft song, with beautiful music, and powerful lyrics (whether misguided or not!). I much prefer to get my political drubbing that way. At least it comes without the crowd whooping it up during the message and is thought provoking. So thought provoking that I am choosing to propagate his message so that you can decide for yourself whether you agree or not.

Here’s another song that’s beautiful, message laden, but a tad too vague or complicated for me (message-wise). It’s called Jerusalem, and is also by Steve Earle. Here’s a YouTube video of Joan singing it (with Erik Dell Penna) in Austria in 2007. You can read the lyrics here. It’s possible (I really hope even likely!) that this is a generic plea for peace on all sides of the Middle East conflict, or even all war in general (after all, lots of us are descendants of Abraham, not just Jews).

Unfortunately, I fear that this isn’t the true intent of the song, and he certainly doesn’t make any attempt to communicate more clearly. To me, it comes across like Jews/Israelis are the only aggressors in this ongoing conflict, and if only they could learn to lay down their swords, we’d all be better off. I realize that this is a defensive reaction, and I realize that many people have no sympathy for any Jew, and tons of sympathy for every Palestinian, but to blame this all on the Israelis/Jews is at best naive, and at worst disingenuous.

I know I’m not alone in my reaction/interpretation, as the current first comment on the video linked above (might not be the first one when you click on it!) is:

Ah Joan, I love this song. Let’s hope that Israel will be able to lay down its swords forever when that country feels safe from attacks on all surrounding Arab countries.

All-in-all, a very enjoyable as well as thought provoking evening. I reiterate my hope that Joan is still recovering and will get stronger soon. We’d see her again, I’m sure, at least to have a better sense of her well being.

Girlyman was already mentioned in a roundabout context above. Here is a very direct one! In 2003, Girlyman won the folk/singer-songwriter category in the 3rd Annual Independent Music Awards. One of the judges in that competition was none other than Joan Baez! 🙂

So, having mentioned Girlyman in a real context now, let’s jump to a different context. You know what’s coming, but this is even more important for those of you who don’t know! We’re half-way through the month-long Girlyman Live CD Contest. Enter now to win a free signed copy of the new Girlyman Live CD!

Professional Apologists

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Unless you live under a rock (and even then) you’ve heard/seen Hillary Clinton’s latest gaffe, regarding being shot at while in Bosnia in 1996. You can read the story from a professional news organization, on the off chance that you do live under a rock.

Nowadays, making a gaffe like that requires some sort of mea culpa, which Hillary most certainly did deliver (it’s in the above article, and you can judge for yourself whether it’s good enough). A single apology just isn’t good enough in today’s society. We need, or rather demand, constant apologies and explanations.

Since it would be unseemly for a candidate to appear to be constantly on the defensive, apologizing over and over for the same mistake, they generally have professional apologists, who run around to various news outlets, and explain (or rather defend) the gaffe and the candidate. While one can understand the reason, their stance often strains credulity.

Before I introduce the object of this specific post, let me share one of the more credible explanations of how Hillary came to mis-remember an incident like being shot at! One of her detractors was actually quite kind (and in my opinion quite sincere!) in saying the following (I’m paraphrasing heavily!):

Since 1996, Hillary has likely told this story hundreds of times, perhaps even thousands of times. Each time, it got just a little bit better, and became that much more ingrained in her psyche. By the end of these many tellings, she was getting shot at, possibly even believing it to the point where she could have easily passed a lie detector test!

Not terribly implausible, even though getting shot at isn’t something you’re all that likely to really forget. Especially, when you are reminded by a reporter that Sinbad repudiated your story, and you can’t back off even a little once your memory is jogged…

OK, back to today’s story. Last night, one of Hillary’s professional apologists was on TV, along with Retired Colonel Hunt. The apologist was Lanny Davis. Lanny is extremely intelligent, and generally extremely professional. By that I mean that he’s firm, but polite, rather than an attack dog (like some are).

Last night, he crossed two lines that he rarely crosses, which shows just how far the apologist part of their roles is supposed to go! First, he simply gave up all of his intelligence (and therefore his credibility) when he said the following:

A journalist traveling with Senator Clinton in 1996 in Bosnia wrote that there were snipers there to protect the group.

His (apparent) claim was that:

  • There were snipers there (a word Hillary might have used at one time!)
  • She was right to remember it as dangerous!

Let me back up. Colonel Hunt was there that trip as well. He was reporting directly to the commander in charge (an Admiral). He reported (before Lanny made the above comments) that there was a brigade of soldiers there. There were fighter jets patrolling the air. There were 40 tanks, and yes, there were sharp-shooters as well.

His conclusion (different than Lanny’s) was that Mrs. Clinton (she wasn’t a Senator at the time) was reasonably safe (as all of the videos clearly show), and that by dramatizing the event, she was insulting the soldiers that were there to ensure her safety (something they obviously did well).

I don’t agree that she was insulting them (in any way!), though I do agree that it could come across that way to someone who was charged with protecting her.

Lanny’s response seems to imply that because we (the American Army!) had snipers on the ground, Hillary was somehow correct in her recollection that she was under fire from snipers. Come on, this doesn’t even pass the remotest of smell tests, and it’s embarrassing to have him try to parse words to recharacterize her previous statements.

The second way that he disappointed last night was that he lost his cool (rare for him) and essentially called Colonel Hunt a liar (not exactly that straightforwardly, but in a cowardly back-handed way), for suggesting that Hillary was never fired upon. Huh? She too admits she wasn’t fired upon. Video proves she wasn’t fired upon, but somehow, Colonel Hunt is lying that she wasn’t fired upon (or that she didn’t honestly believe that she was!).

That would be bad enough, but it never ends badly enough with professional apologists! There is another tactic that is sickening (both sides do it, 100% of the time that they are apologizing for someone else). They try to use moral equivalences to soften the gaffe in question.

In other words, if he did something similar, and he’s still allowed to run, be in office, live, breathe, then why are we spending any time talking about my candidate’s problem?

It simply sickens me 100%, no matter who uses it. It’s one of the reasons that our society has fallen into such disrepair. If someone else does something wrong, that’s justification for us to do it too, no?

No!

But, when the moral equivalences simply don’t line up, it’s significantly worse. Many people correctly cited the lack of equivalence of Barack Obama comparing Reverend Wright’s statements with those of Geraldine Ferraro or his grandmother.

Lanny Davis crossed that line way worse last night. He actually had the nerve to liken McCain’s gaffe regarding Iranian training of Al Qaeda (as opposed to generic terrorists), which got corrected (by Joseph Lieberman, instantly!), with Hillary’s gaffe about getting shot at!

Wow! Mis-speaking in an impromptu interview, and being corrected (and accepting the correction immediately!) is equivalent to telling about something that supposedly happened directly to you, and then defying people when they claim that it didn’t happen (until the video comes out!) is equivalent?

No. What would be equivalent would be if it now came out that John McCain never spent any time as a prisoner of war. If, in fact, he mis-remembered the incident and now had to admit that, because definitive video just surfaced.

Shame on you Lanny Davis, and shame on all professional apologists, on both sides!

Obama Speech Earns Nomination

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It’s been hard to watch TV the past few days without being inundated by the videos of Barack Obama’s former pastor, Dr. Jermiah A. Wright, Jr. In grabbing the link for Dr. Wright, I was quite surprised to see that he’s still listed as the pastor for the Trinity United Church of Christ, and that his bio hasn’t been moved to a page of its own, with the current pastor occupying the above link.

There’s little doubt that those videos are filled with hate speech. While there are a few who have tried to defend Dr. Wright, in particular the current pastor of the Church, most (including Obama) have at a minimum distanced themselves from the specific remarks.

Everyone was waiting to see and hear how Obama would handle himself in today’s speech. Well, if not everyone, at least Lois and I were waiting. 😉

We watched the speech a little while ago, live. It was one of the most extraordinary speeches I’ve ever seen/heard/read. It was not just eloquent and well delivered, it was extremely deep and accurate in taking us all through the history of racial strife in this country, including the progress that has been made and the still sorry state we’re in.

In addition, he painted an honest and interesting view of how some non-black people come by their views (prejudices) in a way we can all understand and relate to. In that, he continues to portray the vision of potential uniter.

He handled the Dr. Wright controversy in a way that should (hopefully) get it off of the news (at least off of the every 15 minutes cycle). If it continues to get the same airplay it did before, then (in my opinion) it’s purely for the purpose of attempting to damage his candidacy, something the news media is certainly not above doing.

So where does that leave us, or more specifically, Democrats? I believe that this was the last best chance (the Dr. Wright controversy) for Hillary Clinton to push her one message, that she’s more electable than Obama. In fact, that may be true even after his amazing speech.

If that’s true, what does it say about Democrats? Is it more important to get a Democrat in the White House, at all costs, than to put forth the clear winner in the primary process, who brings more hopefulness to more people? That’s essentially what it’s going to come down to.

If Democrats really want to see change, and really want to support a more hopeful future, then even if they believe that Obama can’t win the national election, they need to clearly rally behind him, and show the country and the world that they are not afraid to show The Audacity of Hope!

If they can do that, then perhaps the audacity of hope will actually win out. If they can’t, then by definition, it will have lost (at least this time around), even if they end up securing the Presidency via Hillary Clinton.

If Obama wins the nomination, I am sure that the Dr. Wright tapes will rear their ugly head again, and will cause him renewed pain, possibly in ways that will cost him the election. But, I believe he’s earned the right to find out, and the rest of us need to find out, whether he can overcome that obstacle as well.

On a related, but no longer relevant note, I was surprised not to see any media outlet tie the Dr. Wright hate speech to Michelle Obama’s previous comments on America. It would have seemed perfectly appropriate to ask whether she formed those opinions as a result of Dr. Wright’s preaching or not. Who knows why the media let that one go, but they did, and it would be sour grapes to ask that question now, given Barack’s excellent handling of the matter today.

Finally (also unrelated to any of the above!), the Florida delegate fiasco. I continue to be amazed at the blame thrown at Republicans for the mess that Democrats have caused themselves. Grow up people! It may very well be true that the Republicans in Florida forced the unpleasant issue upon the Democrats, but it’s the Democrats who chose to break rather than bend (or go with the flow).

Their arrogance was in believing that there couldn’t possibly be any consequence to their actions, and in the famous words of Dr. Wright, those chickens are coming home to roost now!

OK Democrats, time to make up your minds who you really want to be! 🙂

Avenue Q

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The young folks spent the day running around NYC, riding the Staten Island Ferry, and spending time in Central Park. The old folks spent the day tethered to their laptops.

We met up at the apartment and walked up to our favorite restaurant, the Peking Duck House in mid-town. We had a fantastic meal there (no surprise), including having the one person in our group who was previously not a fan of seafood taking seconds.

We got there extremely early (Lois is always the overly cautious one), and that worked out. It was an unusually leisurely meal for the Duck House (which typically serves more quickly) and it all worked out perfectly. You can see how satisfied we all looked at the end of the meal:

Duck House Meal Before Avenue Q

They called for rain starting early evening, but it held off. That worked out too, since we got to walk from the Duck House to the theater, with no precipitation.

We had tickets to see Avenue Q at the Golden Theater on 45th Street. We got there at about 7:52 and were comfortably seated long before the curtain went up (or rather the lights went down, since there was no curtain) at 8:05 like most Broadway shows.

Setting the record straight, I exaggerated by saying comfortably seated. There’s nothing wrong with the Golden Theater, but we’re pretty spoiled by the Gershwin Theater (where we’ve seen Wicked seven times!), which is so much more comfortable, so much more spacious (leg room), and so many more seats…

Our goddaughter saw Avenue Q a number of years ago. She enjoyed it, but warned us that it was off color. That’s code for Lois should stay away! Both my godson and I were more than a little worried about her reaction, even though neither of knew exactly how off color the show would be.

The very first number is cute, but also sets some expectations in that regard. The words it sucks to be me are repeated too many times to count. It didn’t offend me, but I was already a tad worried about Lois. Completely due to chance, Lois and I ended up at opposite ends of our seven seat block, so we caught each other’s eye a few times, but didn’t talk about the show until it was over.

Without giving away anything material (trust me), Avenue Q is essentially an adult version of Sesame Street. In other words, it is done in the style of Sesame Street, and is meant to educate, while being playful (only this time, in an adult sense). The education is meant to teach some life lessons, but they use other techniques that are more traditional Sesame Street (as in teaching the meaning of some words).

As with Sesame Street, some of the characters are puppets, and some are honest-to-goodness humans. Different than Sesame Street, the puppets are controlled by humans who are on the stage acting alongside the puppet they are controlling, and singing and speaking without trying to pretend to be ventriloquists. It works perfectly well, so even if my description sounds cheesy, fear not!

Every single actor on the stage was excellent. There wasn’t a weak voice or performance among the group. The two leads, Howie Michael Smith and Sarah Stiles are fantastic. Great voices, great acting and great range (they each control multiple characters). That said, to repeat, the entire cast is superb, and you should check each of them out on the cast page.

Here are the two leads, then a photo of some other cast members:

Avenue Q Lead ActorsPhoto of some cast members of Avenue Q

The humor in the show is largely tongue-in-cheek, and goes over well with the audience. Lots of bursts of uncontrollable laughter from people all around us. But, an over-the-top focus on sex and sexual themes. Not innuendo, but rather explicit stuff. Keep in mind that they can do things with puppets on the stage that actors couldn’t get away with. Nuff said.

That kind of stuff doesn’t bug me, in any way, even when it’s completely gratuitous. I love comedy/humor in most forms. I believe I’ve said in the past that I like it even when it isn’t funny, as long as I can project where they were heading, if the unrealized destination would have been funny.

In this case, it also didn’t bug me at all. But, it was more than just over-the-top. It was actually vulgar at times, and I imagine that it offended a number of people (including Lois) though many (not including Lois) wouldn’t be comfortable admitting their discomfort. Even the vulgarity was good for cheap laughs, and the audience as a whole most definitely laughed heartily even at those jokes!

I tried not to look around too much, but I heard some people say something about kids being in the audience. I hope there weren’t too many (or rather any!). If parents brought young children to this show, thinking it’s only a puppet show with singing, they were sadly mistaken, and abrogated their parental responsibility to investigate the show in advance of bringing their kids. Of course, if they did, and still brought their kids, their judgment needs to be checked in other matters as well (in my opinion).

From very early on, it was entirely obvious that this was not going to be a PC (Politically Correct) show. For that, I applaud them completely. In my opinion, the PC in this country is out of control. Not wanting to offend entire groups of people is laudable. But, the same people that feel it’s verboten to say something against this particular group, have no shame in knocking something else (oh, let’s say Republicans or Christians).

Avenue Q takes no prisoners, and shouldn’t!

That said, they also take the obligatory shot at President Bush (only one, which was in itself impressive restraint!). The crowd whooped it up like they had just heard the funniest joke in their life! It’s fine, and wasn’t over-the-top in any sense.

That said, I found it incredibly ironic. Basically, the complaint is that life under W’s rule is horrible, and we simply can’t wait to get out from under it. I realize that at a minimum, at least half of the country feels this way, perhaps even more. So, it’s a legitimate point of view, right or wrong. But, in this case, it’s written by people who have a very successful Broadway hit on their hands (a Tony winner!), it’s being delivered by actors who are starring in a Broadway hit, and being received by people who can afford to take their dates/families/friends to a Broadway show, all in the midst of these horrible economic times.

Yes, the lives of all of those that shared this very clever joke all seem terribly in shambles at this time, entirely due to W’s iron-fisted madness!

Unfortunately, I really worry about the half of the country that thinks their lives will be immeasurably better when either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama become President. The magical thinking that goes on, that a President exerts such power to change things (in either direction) simply discounts what our government and economy have become and how they work. Oh well…

In and around all of the jokes, there are actually some very deep insights about life, and the plight we all experience as we grow up and make our own way. I’m impressed with the way the writers deliver those lessons (to those who are paying attention) in a subtle and lighthearted manner.

Bottom line: A very clever show, wittily written, with good songs, great singing, excellent harmonies, lots of funny dialog, top-notch acting and great puppeteering. If you don’t mind vulgarity (at times), and lots of focus on sex (even when it’s not vulgar), and you aren’t offended by non-PC jokes, you will really enjoy this show. I did, even though I can totally understand why some others might not.

When we got out it was raining. It was coming down reasonably steadily, but it wasn’t too cold, and it wasn’t windy (so the rain was coming straight down rather than blowing in your face), so we walked home (cutting through Grand Central as we did the night before). Given all of the weather predictions, so far, it’s held up remarkably well.

Another excellent day! 🙂

Random Spitzer Fiasco Thoughts

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I really wanted to make one long post on this issue, and then put it behind me. Having Lois as a conscience made me behave otherwise. So, in my last post, I kept it simple, and just translated Eliot Spitzer’s resignation speech.

What follows are completely unrelated, random thoughts on this fiasco. It’s a mixture of comedy and commentary. It’s not news. If you stumbled on this post looking for anything important, please move along swiftly…

On Monday night, David Letterman had a Top 10 Eliot Spitzer Excuses. Some are clever, some are lame, some are deep.

While his #1 excuse:

I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago

was excellent, I propose knocking one of the lame ones off the list (you can pick your own), and replacing it with mine (perhaps even in the #1 position):

I thought I was joining a Prosecution Ring!

Keeping with the same inspiration, but moving to commentary from comedy, let’s repeat the #1 excuse again:

I thought Bill Clinton legalized this years ago

OK, so obviously, Bill didn’t quite do that. But, the joke isn’t far from a different reality. Bill Clinton legitimized this years ago. While many people were horrified at Bill’s behavior, probably more were only too happy to excuse his behavior, at every opportunity. After all, it was a private matter.

Well, Bill’s indiscretion with Monica Lewinsky might not have been criminal (though other allegations against him would definitely be criminal if true!), Eliot Spitzer is only too happy to be lumped in the private matter queue, even though his was clearly a crime.

One of the best words used by many commentators to describe Spitzer’s behavior is reckless. This too applies to Bill’s behavior in the White House. Why? Because at best, you leave yourself open to blackmail. Do you think that the people behind a high-end prostitution ring would be above blackmail?

How far do you think Bill Clinton or Eliot Spitzer would have gone to protect their secrets? I think pretty darn far, if they had the slightest notion that it might be kept under wraps. At best, that’s reckless, at worst, it’s disastrous. Thankfully for all of us, both of them were caught.

What’s the point of that line of reasoning? The point is that is has nothing to do with morals. To be clear, I would support legalizing prostitution, so I am not moralizing against this specific crime. But, until that happens, this is most definitely a crime, and engaging in it is simply reckless (or, in the immortal words of Wicked the Musical, well, not that simple).

Many commentators have pointed out that he has specifically prosecuted prostitution rings in the past. So, he can’t easily claim that he didn’t think it was a crime. What is more interesting (and has also been commented on many times already) is the fact that he was well aware that his banking transactions would likely be flagged!

He called the bank to ask them to break up a large transaction into smaller parts and was told that it had already gone out. He then asked for his name to be removed from the transaction and was told that this couldn’t be done.

Folks, think about it for a minute… Are you done thinking yet? This guy knows exactly what happens next. The IRS (in the past), and now likely the FBI as well, immediately start looking into what might be behind this kind of money movement.

So, even though they might have pieced together his past indiscretions (oops, I fell into the trap, as I should have said crimes), they might have had some trouble making an air-tight case if he hadn’t continued, allowing them to catch all of his conversations on his cell phone once they got a warrant based on the suspected money laundering.

People are calling that arrogant, or showing his hubris. That’s just plain kind. To me, it’s just plain stupid. Do we want a leader in any position of power to behave so stupidly that they can’t think through the consequences of the predicament they are in, and alter their behavior at least a bit?

I would whole-heartedly endorse a new set of laws on the books that would allow prosecution based on over-the-top stupidity. Sure, it would be abused with prosecutorial zeal at times (ironically, by the likes of Spitzer himself!), but in the end, we’d get some really stupid people off the streets. 😉

So, we’ve shifted gears already, so lets use the last theme to shift into a related one. (If you weren’t paying attention, that theme was stupidity.)

None of what I’m saying has anything to do with party affiliation, though I’m sure that a very few staunch Democrats will want to read that bias in this piece. A number of commentators on the cable news shows came out earlier this week and immediately started screaming about the comparisons between this fiasco and the ones surrounding Larry Craig and David Vitter (as if any prior bad act somehow excuses a current one).

Before you think I’m just picking on some obscure commentator, here’s an article in the vaunted Washington Post, making exactly that comparison. Some of the comments show that this is hardly an isolated opinion.

Before I make some observations, using the previous theme, let me state clearly that I think Larry Craig should be in jail! Not for the crime he’s accused of, but because he’s as stupid as they come in having plead guilty to said crime! I don’t care whether he’s gay. I don’t care whether he’s a hypocrite who railed against gays, even though he’s very likely gay. I care that he’s making laws for this country, but didn’t think to consult a lawyer as to the consequences of his guilty plea? Lock him up!

Sorry, it’s not entirely out of my system yet, so here’s one more thing. On February 19th, 2008, the situation comedy show According To Jim did a phenomenal parody of the Larry Craig bathroom encounter. It perfectly portrayed my original reaction when this story broke.

Let’s see if you think Larry Craig is guilty of this crime or not? To be clear, guilty of solicitation, not guilty of being gay! If he isn’t gay, how likely would he be to have a clue as to how to solicit someone in the next stall? I certainly wasn’t clued in to this technique. But, as Jim Belushi deftly showed us, there are possibly some situations whereby you could accidentally engage in this coded behavior.

OK, so now you’ve done the unthinkable, and accidentally solicited an undercover officer. When confronted with those facts, what do you do? Admit it, just to make it go away? Huh? It’s not even a matter of his position as a Senator. It’s a matter of complete incredulity that you might have done such a thing, a thing that you had never even heard of before.

The alternative is more obvious. You were soliciting, you got caught, and you panicked. In the famous words of a great comedian (Bill Engvall):

Here’s Your Sign

OK, are you satisfied that I can skewer a Republican as well? Good. Unfortunately, that’s not the point. There is very little similarity in their plights. Spitzer prosecuted this exact crime, and can’t pretend to not understand that it’s a crime. We’ve already covered the stupid defense of Larry Craig, and no, it’s not plausible, but it’s certainly not the same level of ridiculousness that would apply had Spitzer claimed a similar defense (thankfully, his stupidity has some bounds…).

They are similar in that Larry Craig was an anti-gay moralist, so they are both hypocrites, for sure. Larry Craig and David Vitter can’t enforce laws directly, and they can’t even pass laws without a majority of their colleagues agreeing with them. So, if they are influenced (as in my assertion above regarding blackmail), they can do damage, for sure, but not as much as someone who was Attorney General, and recently Governor.

Shifting gears again…

Did you notice that the only senior Democrat who didn’t immediately denounce (let alone distance themselves from) Spitzer was Hillary Clinton? There’s little doubt that she was wildly uncomfortable when asked to comment, but in the end, she wouldn’t disclaim his behavior, even after he publicly admitted it. You can read an article about it here, but the important quote was:

Let’s wait and see what comes out of the next few days

Why wait? Was there a possible good outcome or spin possible from this admission? No. She was caught between a rock and a hard place. If she denounced his behavior, the follow-up question would inevitably be Why didn’t you denounce Bill’s behavior? It would feel like splitting hairs to answer Well, Bill didn’t commit an actual crime…

While this may not cause her any more grief than losing one committed superdelegate, it shows one small consequence of Bill’s former reckless behavior. It put her in a position of having to be an apologist for someone that no one else felt a need to defend.

Ultimately, whether it hurts Hillary or not, her behavior has hurt all women. The phony stand by your man speech (when they obviously hate each other beyond description) has made it more difficult for other woman to stand up for their basic human rights to be treated with dignity by their partners. It’s interesting (and even a little amazing) to me that so many women look up to her. I only hope those women don’t have to live the private life that Hillary does…

Just to make sure that the last point isn’t misunderstood, I’m not saying that none of the aggrieved woman (no pun intended on McGreevy’s name) 😉 should stand by their man. If there is love between them, or for the sake of the kids, etc., they should try to work it out. But, if it’s expediency, and in particular political expediency that keeps you together, then it harms all women.

I honestly think I can write for a few more hours, but I have probably lost all of my readers by now already. So, I’ll end with one last irony.

Since this scandal broke, the name of this particular prostitution ring (or rather, Escort Service) has been splattered all over the Internet. Even The New York Times printed their name: Emperors Club.

One has to wonder how much more money they are going to make in 2008 now that people know that a super rich person, who knows a ton about the industry, specifically chose them, including having women brought from out of state to pleasure him. I’d say the IRS has it’s work cut out when auditing this enterprise next year! 😉