Barack Obama

Girlyman at Joe’s Pub

Send to Kindle

Last night was our eighth Girlyman concert. It was the third time we’ve seen them at Joe’s Pub (where it all began). The other five shows were spread out over five venues, in two states, in five cities, with vast differences between the venues and at times, the audience makeup as well. These statistics may become relevant later in the post. πŸ˜‰

There were many things that were typical of every Girlyman show:

  1. Amazing music
  2. Lots of laughs
  3. Adoring audience
  4. Great venue
  5. Long line after the show to say Hi to Girlyman and buy Merchandise

Some things were notably different. There are probably many reasons for that, including some that I probably couln’t guess, but here are the three categories of things I believe contributed (perhaps all incorrect):

  1. Obama becoming the President-Elect the night before
  2. Girlyman playing in NYC
  3. 9:30pm show, rather than the typically earlier shows we attend

Before I tackle each of those, in the order I listed them, I’ll say something that is also delightful (but both different and not different at the same time) about most Girlyman shows. Even though we’ve just seen Girlyman shows four times in a three week period (meaning, the same tour), their repertoire is large enough to mix it up, even on consecutive nights, to keep it fresh for the fans who attend more than one show.

Last night was no different (in that it was different!). πŸ˜‰ They played Saints Come Marching In. This is only the second time we’ve heard it live, the first being on November 4th, 2007 at the Highline Ballroom, so it was like an Anniversary Gift. πŸ™‚

It was one of the five great songs they introduced last year, but also one of the two (Trees Still Bend being the other) that didn’t make it to the Somewhere Different Now Live CD. On the other hand, they’ve been regularly playing Trees Still Bend on this tour, but not last night.

Another one that I listen to all the time on the CD, but haven’t heard live in a long while was Good Enough. There were a few other differences from recent shows in the playlist, but my observations to those changes might be more appropriate in one of the three above-mentioned categories.

Here are photos of the three of them. We were flush up against the stage, so the angles aren’t great, and the lighting was aimed toward the cameras, etc., so apologies all around:

Doris

Doris

Ty

Ty

Nate

Nate

1. Obama

Aside from the obvious fact that Obama won a clear majority across the country, including winning some previously hard-core Red States, there are few places where his support is more obvious than NYC. Any mention of his name last night (or allusion to the victory) brought incredible cheers from the crowd, and joy from Girlyman. They told amusing stories of a party the night before, and bantered with the audience, very happily.

Aside from the natural focus on this historic event, and the relief that most of the people in the audience (and most definitely on the stage!) felt at the end of the current Administration, it also affected the playlist of the show!

In the previous seven times that we’ve seen them perform, the last six in a row all had the same opening number for every show: On The Air. It’s a fantastic song in every respect, but it also sets such an up-tempo that we think they are smart for opening with it, and getting everyone’s juices flowing.

Last night, they opened (after a nod to Obama) with Through To Sunrise. While also an upbeat song (and for a very long time Lois’ favorite Girlyman song, though on occasion she’s not as sure, because others are rising fast to catch up), I believe they chose it because it is their protest song against the current Administration. They didn’t introduce it as such last night, but I’d be surprised if I was wrong. They play that song in most shows anyway (thankfully!), but opening with it was a statement (IMHO).

I already mentioned above that Saints Come Marching In was added to the playlist. Ty introduced it as fitting last night, so I assume that this one too moved them in relation to Obama’s victory to get back on the list.

Finally, while they play Amaze Me at many shows, right before they played it last night, Ty said that she’s been waiting a long time for America to Amaze Her (since she wrote the song over seven years ago), and it was clear that she was no longer singing it as a hopeless plea, but rather as a done deal!

2. Girlyman playing in NYC

Girlyman is consistently excellent wherever they play. Their audiences love them wherever they play. Those are just the facts (ma’am). But, this crazy thing started right here, in little ‘ol NYC, so their tenured fan base is here. That too is just a fact. Moreover, since they lived here for six+ years (as Girlyman), many of the people who come to their NYC shows are close friends, independent of the music.

Like it or not, that changes the character of the shows in NYC a bit (or sometimes more than a bit!) from some other venues. Girlyman definitely feeds off of the energy in the NYC crowd, as do the vast majority of the audience (perhaps all), but I do think about what it must be like for a first-time attendee, who may even know and love the music, to find themselves in the midst of this kind of a love-fest.

That would be on even a normal night in NYC. Add to that the euphoria of the Obama victory, and it was more than a little raucous there. For one (bad) example, Girlyman rarely curses on stage (I said rarely just to cover myself, because I was tempted to say never). Last night, more than a few times, the expletives flew. For those who might prefer not to hear that, I can only hope that they could appreciate the unique circumstances of last night’s show, and not think about it too much…

3. 9:30pm start time

Joe’s Pub has an early show (start time anywhere from 6:30pm to 7:30pm) and a 9:30pm show, nearly every night. The two prior times that we’ve seen Girlyman there, they had the earlier show (one of those times, they also did the 9:30 show). For most folks, there are pros and cons associated with that. For us, it’s mostly cons, other than the overwhelming pro of getting to see Girlyman in the first place!

Pros (for some people, not us!):

  • Don’t worry about having to leave work early
  • Potential for a show to go longer. Early show has a hard-stop deadline
  • Some artists don’t wake up before 9pm πŸ˜‰

Cons (for us, and some other people, clearly not all):

  • Doors rarely open by 9pm when they are supposed to
  • Not enough time to finish dinner before the band comes on stage
  • A very late night (way past our bedtime)
  • The show might be shorter (e.g., if the band needs to hit the road)

All of that was in play last night. The doors didn’t open until nearly 9:20pm, for a 9:30 show, where you are expected to order dinner! I am not blaming Joe’s Pub, that’s just the nature of the beast, and I understand it. But, we hate to eat in the band’s face (we sat flush up against the stage!). Nothing we could do, so we did it, as discretely as possible.

Girlyman is performing in Philadelphia tonight, and I think it caused them to play a few less songs than they have at every other show we’ve been to on this tour (three others). They were also likely exhausted from partying the night before, and I am not blaming them for that either. πŸ˜‰

The other change (not likely caused by any of the above) is how the show ended. On this tour, they’ve been closing each show with Joyful Sign. They did that last night as well. Then, after the inevitable thunderous applause, they came out for their typical encore. Also typical of this tour, the first song they played for the encore was a brand new one, My Eyes Get Misty (I really like it a ton!).

In the three previous shows on this tour (and in most of the ones in the Fall/Winter tour), they conclude with Son Of A Preacher Man (and on occasion, though not often enough, they throw in the Girlyman Benediction). Last night, after singing My Eyes Get Misty, they left the stage. What? Really?

The applause didn’t die down, so they came back out (reasonably quickly). That was unusal as well (score another one for NYC). At that point, I was sure they would do Son Of A Preacher Man. Wrong! They asked for another request (The Shape I Found You In was the requested number during the regular show). This time they performed Speechless, another great song. Then they left the stage for good. Definitely different, though no complaints!

Since I’ve gone on for a long while already, I’ll keep the backstory short this time. We invited two very dear friends who we get to see all-too-rarely. We asked them to meet us at Joe’s at 8:45pm. Lois always insists on leaving too early, and I usually resist just enough to irritate her a lot, but not get to the venue ridiculously early.

Last night, I irritated her, but not enough to avoid getting there ridiculously early. πŸ˜‰ We were first on line (shocking) when we arrived at 8:19pm. The guy working the door came out and said “You realize that the show that’s currently going on won’t end until past 8:40, right?”. Sadly, I told him we realized that all too well… πŸ™‚

But, in an amazing stroke of serendipity, roughly six minutes later, our friends (who drove in from Long Island) found a legal spot across the street from Joe’s, and we got to catch up and chit-chat for nearly an hour before the doors finally opened. That was an unexpected treat.

Three of us had the burger and all raved about it. The fries are heavenly too. Last night was the first time that I have seen Joe’s have a Price Fixed offering, and we took advantage of that as well, so we had starters and chocolate cake, all for a very reasonable price. OK, to be honest, it was more than reasonable for Lois and me, since our guests insisted on paying for dinner. Thank you very much! πŸ™‚

It was raining throughout the evening, and since we live very close to the midtown tunnel (which our friends had to go through anyway), they gave us a lift back to the apartment. That was a very nice ending to an exceptionally enjoyable evening.

We already have our tickets for the next time we’ll be seeing Girlyman, which is April 4th, 2009, at The Barns at Wolftrap (where we saw them this past March). We can’t wait, but somehow, we’ll make do…

I Fully Support President Obama

Send to Kindle

I voted for John McCain, so did Lois (or so she told me).

Each of us admitted to the other, that even though we knew in advance that we were voting for McCain, we hesitated in the voting booth, and wanted to vote for Obama. Not because we believed the rhetoric, and certainly not because we wanted to vote for the obvious winner.

We each wanted to vote for Obama because we long(ed) for an America where it would not be unusual for a Black person (yes, including a Black woman), a Hispanic, a woman, an Asian, etc., to be our nation’s leader.

I don’t know why Lois still pulled the lever for McCain, but I know why I did. If I had voted for Obama, it would have been a vote for Affirmative Action (a form of reverse discrimination) and I am really against all forms of discrimination, even reverse ones.

Update: a friend of mine emailed me to ask if I really thought that many people were voting for Affirmative Action by voting for Obama. My resounding reply was No. I meant that remark to apply personally, to me only. I wasn’t on the same wavelength with Obama ideologically, so I wouldn’t naturally have voted for him (just like I wouldn’t have voted for Hillary Clinton). But, I was still tempted to vote for him, purely for Affirmative Action reasons, and in the end, I couldn’t justify that.

Even though I voted my conscience, I am at peace with Obama’s victory, and even happy that it was a crushing one (another nail-biter like 2000 would have been devastating to the national psyche in my opinion). As I’ve written before, McCain deserved to lose, almost regardless of who his opponent was. At least his opponent qualified for marking this as a truly historic moment in the US, and one that we don’t need to wait 100 years to realize was such a moment!

Perhaps the single biggest frustration that Lois and I have had with uber-Liberals for the past eight years is that we believe that a majority of them deeply wanted the country to go downhill, for two reasons:

  1. So that they could be right (OK, I should have said: correct) πŸ˜‰
  2. So that they could guarantee a Democrat in this election (anyone but Kerry would have crushed Bush in 2004!)

We don’t want or expect people to be polyanna about our situation, but we also don’t expect a constant chicken little attitude either. Bush bashing was not constructive. Obama bashing will not be constructive.

I implore everyone (Republicans, Independents and Democrats who didn’t vote for Obama and LazyFolkβ„’ who should have but didn’t vote!) to rally behind our new President as if they were his most fervent supporter.

It’s time for us to prove that the slogan Country First is not just another Madison Avenue creation, but something that we truly believe. Let’s lift each other up in every way that we can. We have enormous challenges ahead, and we should not use the fact that we are in the midst of a slide to blame either side.

To the Bush bashers I say this: It’s Over, now Get Over It!

Obama will not fix all of our ills overnight, or even quickly, even if he is perfect. So, don’t get defensive and start looking backwards to blame Bush for how bad a mess he left, as an excuse for why it isn’t better yet. We face difficult times. Let’s look forward and try to make a better life for everyone, rather than be stuck in the rear view mirror, and guarantee another round of flame throwing.

If you need to take a moment to gloat, go for it, I won’t hold it against you. But then, let’s get to work!

I sincerely hope that Obama is the President for the next eight years, not four. I hope he’s the greatest President we ever had (but hopefully not will ever have, for obvious reasons), and that I can proudly vote for him in 2012. He didn’t earn my vote during his campaign, but he has four years to earn it the next time around, and I’m pulling for him to do it!

Selling the Presidency

Send to Kindle

Yesterday, The NY Times had an article discussing the size of the ad budgets of both campaigns. Regardless of the statistics provided in that article, it crystalized for me something I had been feeling for a long while, but couldn’t articulate, even to myself.

The purpose of ads is to sell something to us. It is not meant to educate us, even though marketers would love to spin it that way.

Unfortunately, the Presidency shouldn’t be sold, it should be earned. While I can rationalize the need for smaller elections to use ads, when many of us haven’t even heard a candidate’s name before, let alone their position on an issue, that simply isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) the case for the Presidential candidates.

These days, they get nearly unlimited air time, ink in major newspapers, too many blog posts, etc. Then, even if you missed any of that, it’s all available to watch again, 24/7, on YouTube, etc. Therefore, it’s not fair to say that they need a targeted way to get their message out.

Like it or not, the spin-meisters are getting paid to influence us, in tried and true ways, affecting even those of us who believe we are immune to advertising. Obama is Miller-Lite and McCain is Bud-Light (yes, they spell lite differently, because someone studied the effect on our psychies!). This is just very sad to me.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a positive or negative ad, it’s just wrong. Madison Avenue puts out negative ads as well:

This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

Translation:

This is your wallet. This is your wallet after my opponent becomes President. Any questions?

Here’s what I would like to see, as completely ridiculous as the idea is.

For the Presidency only (if it works, we can consider extending it to other high-profile races), permit zero ads, from anyone! That means no 527 ads, no party ads, no campaign ads, none, period. No issue ads either.

Second, no candidate should be permitted to point out the negatives of the other. We have plenty of places to read that kind of reporting, even if we don’t want it. Candidates should be forced to talk only about what they will do as President. Don’t draw the contrast, leave that one task to my personal brain.

If a candidate says anything about his opponent (positive or negative) at a rally, it should simply never be run on TV (network or cable). Tell me what you will do for me, not what the other guy won’t do for me!

Obviously, this will never happen. At least now you know how I would like it to be…

We Get What We Deserve

Send to Kindle

This is a collection of random (but thematically related) thoughts, so it’s likely to ramble on for a while.

We get what we deserve! This sounds harsh, especially given that sometimes bad things happen to good people, but it’s still true, even if we can’t understand why those things happen. It’s even more true collectively, to groups of people (including entire societies) than it is to individuals (even though it’s still true there as well).

This is a distant cousin to the old adage: Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! They’re not identical, because we always get what we deserve, even when we didn’t wish for anything, or got the opposite of our wish…

The point of this post is to explain why Barack Obama will definitely be our next President, and why we all deserve that to be the case, like it or not.

So, without further ado, here are some things that some prominent politicians have gotten (or are about to get), that they fully deserve(d), and that we as citizens, have gotten and deserved.

Nixon deserved to be thrown out (perhaps my least controversial comment).

The country was appalled, and over-reacted, selecting a complete Washington outsider, in electing Jimmy Carter. We got exactly what we deserved, namely the worst President in modern history (for me, that even includes George W. Bush, though at least grant me that aside from Bush, there’s no close second!). Could no one see it coming? Did we need a candidate who lusted in his heart? Really? How quaint and revelatory…

In my opinion, he’s also by far the worst ex-President that we’ve had in recent memory. I would forgive his behavior, if I thought he had Alzheimer’s, but unfortunately, he’s just continuing to show his true colors. And no, it doesn’t matter that he personally does “good works” by building houses (though I applaud that mightily). You simply can’t trade a good deed against an evil one and hope to be even. It just doesn’t work that way.

George H.W. Bush was pretty popular after the first Gulf War. As the economy started to deteriorate in the last year of his Presidency, he thought he could ignore it and coast on his past laurels. He got exactly what he deserved, and lost.

We got Bill Clinton (with the added bonus of Hillary), and fully deserved that too! No signs (neon or otherwise!) of his indiscretions. It was all lies and swift boating (even though that term hadn’t been coined yet). If you read this column regularly, then you know that I actually think Clinton was a very effective President (which makes him a good one), but that was through no fault of his own.

Largely because of the mess of a co-President in Hillary (Health Care-Gate), Republicans swept Congress in 1994 for the first time in 40 years! The Clintons deserved that. Only because Bill Clinton is at heart a pragmatist (which I give him enormous credit for) and he had other distractions to amuse himself with (which I give him no credit for), did he end up being an effective President, by accomplishing a fair amount in conjunction with Congressional Republicans.

Given that, you’d think that Al Gore would have been a shoe-in to win the Presidency in 2000. Unfortunately, because of Clinton’s dalliances, enough people in the country wanted a change, any change (sound eerily familiar to the current situation?). Worse, Gore decided to distance himself from Clinton, trying to win over some of those change-wanters, but in the process, probably lost just enough staunch Clinton supporters to lose the election (there are an absolutely astonishing number of people who still pine for the good old Clinton days, but that’s a topic for another post).

Gore deserved to lose and the country deserved to get George W. Bush.

Bush inherited a post-Internet-bubble recession, then got socked with 9/11. Did we deserve to get attacked on 9/11? Many people say so, even here in the US. Did Bush reverse his entire No Nation Building rhetoric from that moment on? Absolutely. Does he deserve his current popularity ratings as a result? Absolutely.

So, why did he win re-election in 2004? Because so many Democrats were so sick of Bush, that they just had to pick the most opposite candidate that they possibly could. I’m not sure there was a worse candidate available at the time than John Kerry. Even he barely lost, and should have won. Still, when you over-react, and don’t behave rationally, you get what you deserve. All of the Bush-bashing liberals, got exactly what they deserved, another Bush term.

I believe that any of the other top primary candidates in 2004 (other than perhaps Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich) would have easily beaten Bush had they been the nominee of their party. Personally, I was surprised that the Democrats didn’t go more heartily for Gephardt. He would have crushed Bush in my opinion.

Did Bush understand the serendipity of his re-election? Did he understand the magnitude of the hatred many had for him (even people who voted for him!)? No. He made some cosmetic changes (anyone still remember Rumsfeld?) but basically stayed the same course. The result? A sweeping reversal in Congress in 2006. Did Bush deserve that? Sure! Did the Republican Congress deserve to be kicked in the butt? Sure!

Did we deserve to get a do-nothing Congress, with a lower approval rating than the President (can you even believe that?!?)? Yes! We allowed Bush to stay the course, by putting in a bunch of Bush-haters, who wasted more time arguing about impeachment, than putting together hard-nosed bills that the President would have had a hard time vetoing. Even if he did, if they were well-thought-out bills, enough Republicans would have been forced to vote with the Democrats to over-ride any veto.

For all of their anti-Bush rhetoric, whenever it counted most, Congress voted with him, including on this current Bailout bill. We deserve them, and they deserved to have Bush as their leader!

Many Republicans were sick of Bush as well. Not in the same way that Democrats are, but sick is sick, and they over-reacted in their way, and overwhelmingly nominated the most unlikely of the group of candidates, John McCain. They deserve what they got, as the Democrats deserved what they got in Kerry in 2004.

What happened to the front-runners? Let’s pick on one only, Rudy Guiliani. He ran possibly the most arrogant campaign in the history of Presidential politics, sitting on the sidelines until he was anointed in Florida. Oops, it didn’t work out that way, and he deserved exactly what he got.

On the other side, Hillary had analogous (but differently manifested) hubris to Rudy. She too thought that she was the chosen one, and didn’t have to worry about caucus states and grass roots efforts. Yet, without those efforts, she blew through one of the largest war chests in history. What was she spending all that money on? She was blind-sided by the coming Obama storm, and deserved to be.

Rather than rehashing all of the ins and outs of the Democratic primary battles, and the various accusations of racial politics, I’ll simply say that both Obama and Clinton deserved what they got in their bitter battle. He couldn’t put her away, time and time again. She couldn’t sustain her comeback enough to overcome his early lead, but couldn’t put the good of their party ahead of her personal ambitions (like Mitt Romney did, even though he was crushing Huckabee for second at the time he bowed out).

Largely because of Clinton fighting to the bitter end, McCain resurged in the polls. He didn’t need to attack Obama, Clinton and her supporters were doing a fine job. McCain got to spend very little money, and continued to gather momentum.

Obama could have chosen Clinton as his running mate, and this race would likely have been over a long time ago. No, he couldn’t bring himself to do it, for many reasons. He got exactly what he deserved as a result, a much tougher, uglier battle than he expected. Still, by the Democratic Convention, it appeared that all would be forgiven (mostly) within the party itself, and Obama would be fully supported.

McCain decided that he had to gamble on his VP pick (did he really need to? probably not given Obama’s pick in Biden, but he decided he should!). If he wins the election (still an extremely remote possibility), his pick will have been brilliant, whether you like Sarah Palin or not. However, since it seems extremely likely that McCain will lose, and possibly by a very large margin, he will have gotten exactly what he deserved for choosing Palin.

For two candidates who both claimed to be different, reformers, wanting to shake up Washington, set a bi-partisan tone, this is every bit the nasty, disgusting, hate-filled campaign on both sides that every other Presidential election devolves into. It’s not working for either side, and both candidates deserve to be unmasked for the hypocrites that they are. For one of them, it won’t matter (unless you consider losing a Presidential election as mattering), πŸ˜‰ but for the other one, he will be damaged (in terms of credibility) as the new President, already having been seen for what he really is, rather than for his lofty rhetoric…

So, why is the gap widening between Obama and McCain? Not because of the ads. McCain is shooting himself in the heart (rather than just the foot), in showing zero leadership nor consistency on the critical issues of our time. He’s in full-blown panic, throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Obama is being what he always is. Cagey, shifty, uncommitted, not responsible for any of his past actions or our current problems. Still promising change, for the sake of change. When your opponent is disintegrating all on his own, you need not do any more than be patient.

Our next President will be Barack Obama, and we will deserve him, exactly as we have deserved every President we got at the time we elected him (in this case, to me, another Jimmy Carter). I pray that his Presidency will be less disastrous, but I’m not hopeful of that. He too will have both houses of Congress to splash around in the pool with. As I discussed in an ancient post, he will be the puppet of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

I will be voting for John McCain, even though I have little respect for his current campaign. For me, it will at least be a tiny check-and-balance against a growing Democratic Congressional majority. He will be like Bill Clinton, as he has proven time and time again that he can compromise with the Democrats (more so than practically any other Republican in recent history!). So, if Congress sends him reasonable bills, he will be sure to sign them into law (as Clinton did in the second half of the 90’s). But, if they send him ridiculous bills, I am equally sure that he will veto them.

The Democrats (led by Reid, Pelosi, and soon Obama), badly want to finish off the class warfare that they can’t seem to get away from. If they implement their plans (which perhaps they will be slowed down in doing because of the current financial meltdown), they will destroy this economy beyond repair. They claim to not want job growth (like Bush delivered for six years until Democrats took hold of Congress!). They want high paying, high quality job growth only. Good for them, we all want that. But, taxing corporations and rich people (who create these types of jobs) is not the way to go. Unfortunately, we’re all about learn that lesson together…

Welcome our new President. We will (unfortunately) most richly deserve him.

No Shame Left In Politics

Send to Kindle

To be honest, there’s really little shame left in the country (world?) in general, but in politics, it’s effectively non-existent.

I could write all day about this topic, or have a post-a-day for a very long time. Instead, I’ll cram it in to this one post.

First, John McCain. Two recent giant disappointments. I was appalled when people called it a stunt that he suspended his campaign to return to Washington to work on the bailout bill. In the end, they were correct, even if that wasn’t his intention all along. While he returned to Washington for the weekend after the debate, he did not stick around (or work hard enough) to get it passed the following week. Clearly, it wasn’t his most important priority.

The second McCain disappointment is even more appalling though. One of his most often repeated stump speeches is how he will veto any bill that includes pork in it. Further, he claims he will name names, and make the sponsors of the pork famous. Well, as urgent as the bailout supposedly was/is, it is loaded with pork, and McCain voted yes. Of course he couldn’t have vetoed it, but he could have shown the courage to say that regardless of how important the bill was, he could not in good conscience vote for it as long as it represented politics-as-usual.

Next, Congress in general (both sides of the aisle), but Democrats in particular. The sub-prime mess is a direct outgrowth of the desire of Democrats to give away housing to those who can’t afford it. It gets really complicated after that generalization. I may write a long post on that some day as well (I was on the inside on Wall Street in the 80’s, supporting the mortgage business, and I invested in a sub-prime lending technology company as a VC), but this isn’t that post.

Clip after clip shows clearly that both the Bush Administration, and specifically John McCain (in addition to other House and Senate Republicans), were calling for more regulation and better oversight for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Democrats (specifically Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd and Charles Schumer) consistently defended Fannie and Freddie, and continued to praise the people we now know were clearly defrauding the public (through accounting shenanigans and other wrong-doing).

Those Democratic leaders simply won’t apologize for being wrong (I’m not suggesting they knew the extent of the wrong-doing, just say you made a mistake!). Worse, they continue to blame Bush and the Republicans for their desire to deregulate. That’s a heinous lie (blatantly obvious from watching any of the testimony from 2003 onwards!), and is beyond shameless.

The Republicans may not be worse, but they have no reason to consider themselves above the fray. Saying stupid things, whether for political gain or not (and whether they work or not) is simply shameless. When the bailout bill was defeated in the House the first time around, Congressman Eric Cantor held up the text of Nancy Pelosi’s speech, and chided her for giving a partisan speech and turning just enough Republicans off to cause the vote to fail.

There’s simply no good way to spin that. First, if true, shame on the Republicans for allowing a speech to change their vote. You should be voting your conscience, not your ego. Second, if it’s not true, then he shouldn’t have said it, just to give Republicans cover, and attempt to embarrass Pelosi. Third, Pelosi was stupid to inject partisanship into something that clearly required Republican support.

Most important in that first failed bailout vote was the lack of Democratic support, and the complete lack of honesty associated with the reasoning behind it. Aside from the fact that the Democrats control both houses, and could have passed the bill without a single Republican vote, all the Democrats needed was for the 12 Democrats who sit on Barney Frank’s committee (who voted no) to have voted yes, for it to have passed!

Folks, here’s the head of the House Financial Services committee, and one of the top supporters of Fannie and Freddie, cheerleading the bill, and his own committee members (I’m speaking specifically of the Democrats!) vote against it. These are the people who should be most familiar with the issues and the reasons why the bill needed to be passed. Yet, in the face of this, Barney Frank has no trouble playing to the cameras and offering to speak to any Republican whose feelings were hurt by Pelosi’s speech. Incredible!

Lastly (on the Congressional side), we have reports that Pelosi specifically absolved Democrats (in advance!) from voting against the bill, because they were in tight re-election campaigns, and needed to say they voted against the bill. Either the bill is that important, and couldn’t afford to fail (for the good of the entire country!), or, re-electing Democrats is much more important, and it’s OK if the country goes into a depression in order for that to happen. Again, shameless!

Finally, Barack Obama. I don’t ascribe any ill-will to Obama in regards to his love of this country and his desire to lead it honorably. That said, he’s exactly like every other politician (McCain included) who not only will do anything to get elected (there’s zero change there folks!), but he’s also every bit as calculated, for many years, to get to be the President.

I don’t believe that because he associated with William Ayers and his wife that he condones domestic terrorism. I do believe that he knowingly associated with them in order to further his own political agenda.

I don’t believe that because he was a member of Reverend Wright’s church that he beleives the heinous things that Reverend Wright regularly spewed. I do believe that Obama wanted the street cred that came with being a member of that particular church in order to further his political ambitions. I do believe that he well knew exactly what Reverend Wright was preaching (regardless of his claims to the contrary).

His ties to Tony Rezko are blatantly obvious. It’s not that Rezko is a convicted criminal that should matter. It’s that Obama directly engaged in dealings with him that personally benefited Obama!

To all of the above (and a million more examples), I say that they are all shameless. They care not a lick about any of us. They care about power, control, wealth, and most important, their own egos. There isn’t one of them that is different, regardless of whether they call themselves a Democrat or Republican.

Shame on all of them!

Catching Up

Send to Kindle

It’s been exactly a week since I last posted. Usually, if I take that long a break, it’s a combination of not much to say and not much time to say it in. This time, I had a number of things to say (one in particular) and plenty of time to say it. I purposely didn’t post, because I wanted The Wedding post to stay on top on the main page (without explicitly pinning it), to savor the wonderful memory, just a little longer. Alas, life goes on, and so will this blog. πŸ™‚

So, I’ll cover a number of things in this post, trying to keep each much shorter than they might have been had they been given their own space. Hopefully, the entire thing will be reasonable in length as well. Seperately, perhaps tomorrow, I’ll write a general music catchup post, so I’ll leave music out of this one.

The one post that was hard to avoid writing last week would have appeared on Thursday morning (congratulate me on my restraint). We have really good friends that over the past few years we’ve probably seen more often in NYC than any other couple. We used to grab a meal together roughly every other trip back to NYC.

For a variety of reasons, the last time we saw them was December 2007, mostly because their lives got really complicated. He got pneumonia that lasted a month, and immediately started a new job right after that (we had no idea about either event) and she was busier than ever in a wonderful job she landed six months earlier.

Cutting to the chase, we reconnected via email a few weeks back, and the best night for them to get together was last Wednesday. We were delighted to oblige. What they had no idea about (yes, we’re sure) is that it was our Anniversary. Even without that knowledge, they insisted on picking the place and treating.

They took us to Butai, a very nice Japanese restaurant. We had a fantastic meal with wonderful company. I ordered a fancy drink (I haven’t had a fancy drink in a while) that included Prosecco (a champagne-like sparkling wine) and Pear puree (among a few other ingredients). It seemed fitting on our Anniversary. Lois ordered straight Prosecco (she didn’t realize my drink had any, and she hasn’t ordered a drink in a restaurant in nearly a year!).

Anyway, Butai is highly recommended, and we’re glad to have reconnected with great friends. Thanks guys! πŸ™‚

I know how late I am to the party, but I simply can’t let the Jesse Jackson – Barack Obama comments go by without mention. Here’s the only thing I want to say on that subject (would have been much more if it were its own post, in a timely manner): Jesse Jackson’s apology was beyond laughable.

I’m not surprised he apologized. I’m not surprised he’s still backing Obama (could you imagine him supporting McCain?). So, I’m not calling him a hypocrite for still wanting Obama elected, badly. But, could he not have injected an iota of reality into the apology? After all, he was quoted as threatening to castrate Obama (literally!). Here’s the apology I would have liked to have heard:

I sincerely apologize to Barack Obama for my comments yesterday. While I have some fundamental differences with him on a number of issues, which caused me to privately lash out, they pale in comparison to the numerous issues where I agree with him completely. Further, even in those issues where I disagree with him, I am closer to his position on those than I am to John McCain’s, so my support for Obama continues to be as strong today as it was previously.

Simple, but believable. Don’t pretend that it was all just taken out of context, and that it’s a non-stop love-fest between the two of you. It’s obvious to any thinking person that Jesse Jackson can’t stand Obama whatsoever. That’s fine, they don’t have to love each other in order to be supportive of each other. Bottom line, with friends like Jackson, Wright and Phleger, Obama certainly doesn’t need any enemies…

I’ve been good about keeping up with my exercise routine. I walked my 8+ mile jaunt in NYC three times this week, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t typically walk two days in a row (especially after taking off only one day in-between the first two walks), but the weather was perfect here this weekend, we were atypically in the city over the weekend, and they were predicting rain all day today.

In any event, I had great walks all three times. It’s helped with my weight as well, as I hit at a new low this morning since I reported on my dramatic weight gain back in this April post. I’m sure it will fluctuate up and down a bit more, but the fact that I’m at a new (interim) low, a week after a wedding where I didn’t hold back on desserts, is a good thing. πŸ™‚

To be clear, I’m still way above my low since beginning to lose weight in 2001, but headed back in the right direction, finally!

Lastly, there aren’t any particularly insightful words I can add to the numerous praises that have been heaped on Tony Snow after his passing this weekend. Lois and I watched Tony for years and were always impressed with him. He was as geniunely a good person as one could aspire to be. He was also only one year older than me, so I know (personally) how unbelievably short his life was. Rest In Peace Tony, you well deserve it!

MoveOn.org Ads

Send to Kindle

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. πŸ™‚

Bob Herbert Nails Reverend Wright

Send to Kindle

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!

Obama Speech Earns Nomination

Send to Kindle

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. πŸ˜‰

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! πŸ™‚

Presidential Candidates Three

Send to Kindle

Disclaimer: There are no facts in this post. Everything below is my opinion only. I have made no attempt to find any supporting facts either, life is too short!

Whew, now that that’s out of the way, let me also say that everything I’m about say is also correct. πŸ˜‰

I’m rushing this post out today, because as of next Tuesday, it’s possible that the title will no longer be accurate (unless at that point, you will be silly enough to count Ralph Nader). πŸ˜‰

Apologies to Mike Huckabee for not crediting him with the courage to hang in there until he’s mathematically eliminated.

So, we’re down to three, Obama, Clinton and McCain.

I’m not writing this to promote any candidate, nor any party. I am writing this to make some claims on what a vote for each of these specific candidates means, whether you are considering that angle in making your decision or not!

For the record, I am not looking forward to the presidency of any of the remaining candidates. I am also not fearful of any of their presidencies, largely due to the broken (and nearly unfixable) political system that they will have to operate in.

So, without further ado, let’s analyze what we’re all getting if each of the candidates were to be elected this November.

Hillary Clinton: Given where she is at the moment, there are two ways that she gains office:

  1. Superdelegates over-ride the will of the people
  2. She wins Texas and Ohio, and momentum swings to her and she actually wins the nomination the old fashioned way

Along the way, she has proven to be far from cool and collected. She’s an emotional roller coaster who is flailing in an attempt to find a chink in Obama’s armor. She prefers to surround herself with a cabal of super strategists. Unfortunately, aside from their obvious errors in strategy, she simply can’t pull off their strategies, assuming some might have been workable.

As a President, she will be very strong willed, needing to prove to the world (and to Bill!) that she deserves the job. She will be unlikely to take compromising positions, because she will have been vindicated by the mere fact that she won!

She will undoubtedly have a Democratic congress (both houses), and she will ride them as hard as possible to create a legacy that matches, and even exceeds Bill’s.

For those who are worried that this will become a co-Presidency, don’t worry. Hillary has about as much respect for Bill as Paula Jones does. As long as she believes that she can use him as an asset, she will. Once she’s President, she won’t need him unless the world is falling down around her, in which case he will become one of the cabal that will craft the new strategy to save her presidency.

Since she can’t create a lasting personal legacy if people believe that Bill was really pulling the strings, she will do everything in her power to distance herself from him, once she actually has the real power!

Summary of Hillary Clinton as President? A very personal agenda, pushed hard, likely successfully, through a Democratic congress who is unlikely to stand up to her, no matter how she overcame Obama. If you agree with her agenda (and many do!), then she will make a very good President (in terms of getting her agenda implemented!).

Barack Obama: The good news is that if he is elected President, it won’t be because Hillary garnered more delegates legitimately, but Barack got the nomination due to a superdelegate reversal!

Obama is running on a platform of Hope and Change. Laudable goals indeed. My cynicism above about not being fearful of any of these candidates shows my agreement with Obama that we need change, desperately. I want change too, which means that I am (or should be!) hopeful.

In practically everything in life, I am a glass is half full kind of guy, no matter how awful the situation is. I can be downright cynical (no, really?), but I am also an eternal optimist (as anyone who knows me, in particular in bad times, will attest!). So, I should be very hopeful that Obama can and will make a meaningful difference in the political system if he gets elected.

While I would hope that he would, and would be pulling for him (big time!), I simply doubt it (one of the few times I’m falling on the glass is half empty side of the equation). The problem is too enormous, and the entrenched interests (on both sides) are too powerful (and, well, entrenched). They only need to wait him out, they don’t really need to beat him. He can’t be President for more than eight years, and if he doesn’t effect change, perhaps only four!

So, in order to get anything done, Obama will not be able to drive his agenda through congress (even though Democrats will control both houses!), like Hillary would. She would be playing the current game with all of the aplomb of a true insider, and she would get her way (I am 100% convinced). He will decry the game (or not be able to figure out how to play it without appearing to be a flip-flopper), and therefore won’t be able to implement his agenda of change!

So, who will be setting the agenda if Obama becomes President? Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. I have no doubt of that. They will pass bill after bill and present them to him for rubber stamp approval. They will privately explain to him how things are done, and that this is the first time in a very long time that they (collectively) can actually get the things done that they have wanted/needed to get done. He will not be able to resist or overcome them.

Perhaps that doesn’t scare you, and perhaps it shouldn’t. But, at least you should be aware that this is precisely what will happen if he’s elected, and now you are. πŸ™‚

Summary of Barack Obama as President? A vote for Obama is a vote for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. The real question is this? Is Obama naive enough to really believe his message, or is he clever enough to say what people are desperate to hear, just to get elected? Neither scenario is all that attractive to me. Since I think there is a reasonable chance that he will be our next President, I hope that I’m completely wrong. Notice, I used the code-word: hope, and I meant it!

John McCain: I can’t believe that he’s going to be the nominee. Not because I have anything particularly against him, but because he couldn’t have been deader at the end of his 2000 campaign. In fact, he could have been, as he was even deader than that up until the time he decided to embrace Bush at the Republican National Convention in 2004.

In fact, he was pretty dead early on in this race as well. There are a number of theories as to what caused his resurrection, a number of them revolving around Giuliani’s self-engineered demise, but one way or another, he’ll be the Republican nominee.

Should Republicans rejoice? Many aren’t. Should Democrats rejoice? Many should (because the alternatives to McCain should have scared them a lot more, other than his stance on Iraq).

Here’s why McCain scares me the least of the bunch (though remember, I’m really not fearful of any of them!). I believe that if you truly pine for the Clinton Years (1992-2000), whether you admit it publicly (which most Democrats do), or privately (as a fair number of Republicans probably do!), then you should be embracing McCain.

For all of his personal flaws (and heaven knows, he’s got more than his fair share of them), Bill Clinton was actually a reasonably good President (by my definition!). For sure, he screwed up certain things immeasurably, but I think even a perfect President will screw up many things. What made Bill a good President was that he was more concerned with getting something done, than with being an ideologue.

When he became President, he presided over two Democratic houses of congress. After a number of mis-steps (most notably, Hillary’s failed Health Care initiative!), Republicans swept both houses of congress for the first time in memory! In 1994, Bill had to decide whether to pass any legislation that would be good for the country, or battle endlessly with congress and hope that he was re-elected in 1996 and they weren’t.

He chose the pragmatic approach, and some good things happened. Many people credit him for the good economy we had for most of his administration. I laugh when I hear stuff like that, but at least he wasn’t an obstructionist who harmed the economy.

In my opinion, McCain would govern in the same pragmatic manner. It would not bother him one iota that the congress is controlled by Democrats. In fact, on some issues, he is more aligned with them, which, of course, is what scares many Republicans (conservatives) about him. To that, I say that he’s not an evil-doer, so wherever he’s aligned with the Democrats, we’d be better off getting something done, than more of the same bickering and ineptitude.

In that regard, I say that John McCain can easily be the next Bill Clinton. Of course, if you don’t think Bill was a good President, and it’s not for personal reasons, but policy ones, then you won’t like McMain either, because he’ll appropriately compromise (in my opinion), to make some progress rather than none.

Summary of John McCain as President? A get something done kind of guy, who will have zero problems reaching across the aisle, regardless of what he’s telling conservatives today, in order to get the job to begin with. That might sound distasteful, saying one thing, intending to do something else, but then that’s why I’m comparing him so strongly (and favorably) to Bill Clinton.

Feel free to let me know how wrong I am. But, keep in mind that I won’t be confused by facts. Remember, I didn’t use them to pound my opinion down your throat, so don’t feel the need to use them to pound yours down mine. πŸ˜‰

P.S. Today, Michael Bloomberg penned an op-ed in The New York Times. It’s a well written, well-thought-out piece. I agree with his sentiments completely. I don’t consider him naive, because he isn’t claiming to be able to deliver on the hope of change. All he’s doing is committing to help get the person that he can believe in elected. Amen!

Also today, Dave Winer posted an MP3/podcast of an interview with George Lakoff. It’s overly long, and Dave does a yeoman’s job of trying to reel George back on track (not always successfully), but, it’s also fascinating throughout, even in the meanderings. So, if you have 40+ minutes to concentrate on it (it’s not lightweight listening, so don’t be reading a book while you’re listening), it’s filled with worthwhile nuggets of information and analysis.