Friday, December 16, 2011

In Memorium

It always amazes me how difficult it can be for me to write when I am sad about something.  This week, two people who've influence my life passed away. 

The first person, Dr. Valerie French, was a professor of ancient Mediterranean history, and simply one of the nicest and most caring individuals I've ever met.  She convinced me to take a chance at teaching an introductory history course with her, even though she knew that I was hesitant to teach in the classroom (I wanted to focus on public history).  I am glad she convinced me to teach, because the experience helped me to discover the natural teacher within.  Dr. French was a fierce advocate for students, undergraduate or graduate.  I am so glad that I had an opportunity to know her, work with her, and learn from her (the art of teaching).

The second person, Christopher Hitchens, was a writer who wrote for Vanity Fair and Slate, to name a few places.  And because Washington can sometimes seem very small, I occasionally would see Hitchens out and about in the city.  I always read his column first, when my Vanity Fair arrived.  I loved that he simply would not suffer fools, and used his pen like a weapon when roused.  I often wondered what he would have been like as a Rhetoric professor, though I am sure he would have been brutal (and likely be considered the professor who really taught people both how to think and write).  I will miss reading his commentary, and in a way, I wish that he could give us just one final essay, now that he really knows what's awaits us upon death.

UPDATE:  12.18.11
I wanted to add an important update to my comment regarding Christopher Hitchens.  As I read Glenn Greenwald's comment on Hitchens' death, I am glad that he reminded me of the things, the many things, that Hitchens wrote that I disagreed with fundamentally, particularly regarding the lead-up to, and execution of the Iraq War by the Bush administration.  I will admit that I agree fully with Greenwald's point about Hitchens' increasingly disturbing (to me) views throughout that conflict.  I was also reminded of something that I promised myself I wouldn't do:  put too much faith in an individual in the world of politics.  I'm still learning my lesson.  Please check out Greenwald's post.  It is well worth the read.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sometimes One Has to Laugh, in Order to Keep Calm

Regarding the current GOP front runner (as I predicted pending the fall of Cain), I think that Larry Wilmore from "The Daily Show" nicely translates one of Newt's "big ideas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Coates Just Broke It Down

All I want folks to do is read this post from Ta-Nehisi Coates, regarding Rick Perry's painfully bigoted, and factually suspect political ad.  It's spot on, in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Been a While...

...since my last post.  I have to admit that I've really been focusing more on things at home, than the things going on in the world (not that I haven't been paying some attention).  But with a grandmother in the final stages of Alzheimer's, I simply needed to focus my energy away from here.  Also, I am still dealing with my own little diabetes issue (I really need to exercise more, since I think I have the modified diet down), as well as the continual hunt for consulting/speaking opportunities (I did speak to a group of architecture students at an HBCU back in October, and I will be doing a small project for Black History Month for a very small DC group, so it's not too, too bad).  My point is that I will be posting again soon.  I actually miss it.  And in the spirit of the season, I've a couple of tunes I highly recommend.  Enjoy!

The Vince Gauraldi Trio, "Skating"

The Vince Gauraldi Trio, "Christmas Time is Here"

Monday, November 14, 2011

There's So Much That Could be Said...(II)

...about Herman Cain, and I had no idea that when I wrote that Nov. 3 post that Cain would self-destruct in such a devastating fashion.  I still stand by my original point that I was glad to see a Cain candidacy in the GOP.  But, there is no question that Cain is simply not ready, and if any of the sexual harassment/assault allegations are true, then that should be a real deal breaker for his current supporters (the allegations seem to have led some to abandon Cain already).  Actually, I think Cain has been presenting a nice stream of deal breakers under normal circumstances, but I have to remind myself that he is running for the GOP nomination, so those rules don't really apply (if they did, then Jon Huntsman would be a serious threat to Mitt Romney).

But this little bit of video is actually tough to watch.   

Though, I suppose one could apply the "wisdom" he put forth regarding the OWS movement:  If are running for President, having little knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, and you haven't boned up on the subject before going to a debate or an interview, then you should "blame yourself."

"Tortue or Not Torture?": That Is (and Has Been) the Question

As I watched Saturday's debate, I was completely unsurprised that the majority of those on the stage are totally for torture (in their speak, "enhanced interrogation").  I knew already that Ron Paul was against the torture committed in our name, but I admit to being quite surprised that Jon Huntsman agreed with Paul. Meanwhile, Romney will likely change his position, when his current position proves inconvenient.

Of course, President Obama made it clear that he considered waterboarding torture (though I think this post from Glenn Greenwald on other troubling aspects of the Bush Administration's foreign policy ideas continued under the current administration is well worth a read).  And though I am glad to hear John McCain reiterate his position that waterboarding is torture, I wish he'd been more forceful in stating his position during the Bush administration.

Considering these differences of opinion, I think there needs to be a real investigation into the ways that the Bush administration conducted the "war on terror," particularly with regard to detainees, and there should be a specific request to determine if the actions of the Bush administration, even with its legal memoranda on the subject, violated the Geneva Conventions.  Clearly, there needs to be some sort of clarification, because there is no consensus on the subject.  Sadly, I know that nothing like that will ever happen.  It's probable that this will be resolved only by future historians, long after the deaths of the principals in question.  That's a real shame.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

My Thoughts on the Protests Heard 'Round the World II

One of my online buddies, Brent Stafford (based in Vancouver, BC), has devised an interesting effort that he feels will help the Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS).  "5thingsWeWant" suggest five issues that the OWS should present as demands that will provide clarity and greater focus for the movement as a whole.

I like the idea of OWS coalescing around a specific set of demands that can be agreed to across the board.  As you saw in the clip Stafford's group offers five suggestions:  abandon the filibuster in the Senate; reform the corporate tax code; a mortgage bailout; free college for the first two years; a Constitutional amendment defining that corporations are not "people." 

After I heard Stafford's ideas, three thoughts came to my mind.  First, I know that I would want to see a demand for criminal investigations (with real teeth) on what led to the crash of 2008, because that just didn't happen.  Second, I would want to see a full reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act (updated for the 21st century, of course), which would break up "too big to fail" banks, as well as a tax on the transaction fees that investment banks charge.  Finally, I thought that two of the suggested demands would likely go nowhere from the start:  the mortgage bailout and the free college. 

I think it is fair to say that essentially half of the American populace already believes that too many "undeserving" people get too much of a "free ride" for their "poor choices."  So the idea that an already reviled, by many media folk, a third of the public, and a solid half of the political leadership in this country, OWS movement would demand a bailout for actual non-rich people, and another "handout" for the undeserving, is likely a bridge too far.  With that said, I do agree that homeowners certainly need more help than they've received.  I also agree that we need an educated populace, and that perhaps the free college for two years idea could be modified somehow to tie in our existing community college system (and reduce some rates instead). 

Overall, I really like what Stafford and his folks have done.  It is important for any movement to develop, over time, specific demands and spokesmen and women to speak on a movement's behalf.  In that respect, the OWS can learn from the rise of the Tea Party Republicans (though I hope OWS continues to remain politically independent).  Stafford's suggestions, I think, really should be examined by OWS, and even if it doesn't endorse all of the suggestions, it does provide good advice and a real potential road map that could benefit OWS as winter approaches.

Enjoying Getting "Up w/ Chris Hayes" on the Weekends

I've become a huge fan of the new MSNBC show "Up w/ Chris Hayes."  It is one of the best political programs I've seen in a very long time, and the format is excellent.  Hayes has a standing group of 4 guests for the entire program, with occasional additions (where one of the four leaves for a segment).  This format offers the guest a great deal of time for actual conversation and analysis, and so far, Hayes has been able to have ideological diversity among his groups of guests, though there is certainly a strong liberal leaning to the show overall.  I highly recommend the show. 

I also wanted specifically to highlight this editorial that Hayes put together on "generational warfare."  I liked it so much that I've included the clip.  I found the editorial well reasoned, and I nodded my head in agreement often, as Hayes made his various points. 

When I think about the arguments surrounding the efforts to privatize Social Security (I can't recall how many of my actual peers parrot the line that "we won't see any of that money anyway," usually ending their point with a nod to the magic of Wall Street and/or individual responsibility), or the standing House budget bill eliminating Medicare and Medicaid as we know them, it seems very clear that there is a real effort to make sure that Generation X, and the others that follow, will not have the benefits that our parents or grandparents are currently or soon-to-be receiving. And that effort is not really being waged for the benefit of the younger generations; it seems to me to be yet another scheme to funnel more money to Wall Street and insurance companies, while simultaneously leaving all of us at the mercy of the marketplace (I should add that Mitt Romney appears to be floating the idea of privatizing veterans' benefits as well).

I thank Hayes for getting me to think about that issue (and many others) on my weekend mornings (it's hard out here for a political junkie), and strongly recommend readers of this blog, regardless of political perspective, to tune in.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thanks for the Good Times, Heavy D

I was really sorry to hear about the passing of Dwight Myers, better known to hip hop fans as Heavy D.  I always feel a bit uncomfortable when someone near my age passes away, and Heavy D was only 44.  Rod 2.0 has a very nice write up of Heavy D, that folks should check out.  Heavy D is the second musician I really liked during my younger days who has passed away in recent weeks (Vesta Williams is the other musician who passed away).  I want to thank Heavy D for bringing his brand to the rap game, and he represented for the big boys in the world (and he could dance with the best of them).  Whether he was getting folks on the floor to join the party, or rapping about the desire for love, Heavy D (and his Boyz) definitely made his mark as hip hop rose to prominence.  I want to thank him for the music he made, and may he rest in peace.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

There's So Much That Could be Said...

...about Herman Cain, but I think he is doing fine allllll by himself.  I guess the next runner-up is ready for his close up (Newt), so you might want to close out that latest Tiffany's account.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

If This Ain't a Waste of Time

Why in Jesus' name is the U.S. House voting on ensuring that the motto "In God We Trust" remains?  Really?  Really?  I'm even more embarrassed that a Virginian is spearheading this madness.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Always Good to See the "Sanctity of Marriage" on Display...

...after the last camera crew wrapped up from the wedding spectacle and 72 days have passed.  Meanwhile, there remain tons of gay and lesbian couples who have been together for years, decades even, who constitute the real "threat" to marriage.

My Thoughts on the Protests Heard 'Round the World

I will admit that I've waited on purpose to write anything about the "Occupy Wall Street" (OWS) movement.  I was sure that comparisons of OWS and the Tea Party would be inevitable, and I knew that my own personal political perspective would align more readily with OWS.  I was not surprised to see the reaction from folks on the Tea Party side, particularly its leaders, but have been hearing that some self proclaimed Tea Party supporters also support some aspects of OWS.  I happen to like that OWS is taking its time to settle on anything specific, with regard to demands, because it affords the movement with an opportunity to embrace many different types of folks.  I like that there is a diversity of issues that have brought people together to public squares throughout the country, and even around the world (I love that The Guardian has an entire section of its site dedicated to OWS.  I pray that OWS does not become to the Democratic Party what the Tea Party has become to the Republican Party, because I believe that the issues that motivate folks to support OWS transcend tired party line constructs.

I certainly can explain why I support the concept of OWS.  It boils down to the fact that virtually no one who was responsible for the collapse of the American economy has been held to account.  I still think about the film "Inside Job," and I get angry.  I still think about the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission's report, and how it remains a far cry from the old Pecora Commission efforts following the Crash of 1929.  I still think that the Dodd-Frank law didn't go far enough, and was weakened by financial industry lobbyists.  I still think about Joseph Stiglitz's brilliant essay, "Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%," in Vanity Fair

In essence, I find that the lack of a real effort on the part of our government to make sure that something like what happened in 2008 never happens again to be appalling, and I also find it outrageous that so many in the upper echelons of Wall Street have been let off of the hook.  Sadly, I have little expectation that anything substantive really will be done to right that massive multi-trillion dollar wrong.  And I cannot help but laugh at the notion that calling for actual justice for destroying the American economy and the net worth of millions of Americans is derisively dismissed as "class warfare."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Libya VI

I just read through all of my previous posts regarding Libya.  I was reminded of my genuine sense of uncertainty and rising anger with getting our country involved, and I'm cool with that.  I wondered what our actual interests were.  I wondered how we would pay for it.  And I wondered if President Obama was really doing the right thing.  Well, in light of the report that Qaddafi was killed today, it's clear that Obama did, in fact, do the right thing (and I am so glad that Lady Luck was also on our, and the rebels,' side on this).

Of course, there will continue to be legitimate procedural questions (with Congress) regarding the manner in which we became involved with Libya, questions that deserve answers.  Yet, I think there is an argument that Obama's tactic of "leading from behind" was a very conservative, in the traditional sense, approach.  First, he made sure that all of the necessary actors are on board with U.S. intervention, particularly the Libyan rebels, the UN, and the Arab League, making sure all of those bases were covered.  Second, he shifted oversight, following the initial air strikes, to NATO, with the UK and France providing solid support to the rebels who called for help.  Third, he made sure that no American boots hit the ground on this.  Finally, he made it clear that the entire operation was simply support for the rebel forces, thus letting the rebel forces continue with their challenge of Qaddafi.  The result, as we now know, was the fall of Qaddafi primarily at the hands of Libyan rebels.  This seems to me to be an inherently conservative approach.  This approach actually helped the Libyan rebels to help themselves, and though we share in the victory of Qaddafi's fall, this, essentially was a Libyan victory.  We led from behind, and helped to empower agents of change.

That all of this could have gone wrong is obvious.  The same can be said of Obama's call to go after Osama bin Laden.  That action could have gone horribly wrong, but it didn't.  I am much more confident about President Obama's judgment on some of his foreign policy, than I was as this action began.  And I will continue to criticize, as I have done.  But, I just wanted to offer my congratulations to all who made this work, and I hope that the people of Libya will benefit truly from this change.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Elizabeth Warren II

I make no bones about my appreciation for the work and tenacity of Elizabeth Warren.  I was glad to hear that she decided to run for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Scott Brown, and what a stark contrast there is between the two of them.  I think that should she prevail, she will be a great ally for the middle class.  I truly wish her well in her effort to become a Senator.

I decided to write this post, because I just finished reading an excellent article about Warren over at Vanity Fair.  What really struck me about the article was that it provided a rich context as to why Warren is absolutely reviled by many tied to Wall Street, including those in Washington and the Obama administration:  she actually understands what Wall Street has been doing.  Warren can call folks out by citing the very schemes and formulae that Wall Street "wizards" have created to bilk the American middle class, and enrich themselves.  She also has American history on her side when it comes to potential remedies, remedies that helped to create the greatest middle class the world has ever known.

In many ways, I wish that Warren would run for the U.S. Senate as an independent.  I think that her perspective on the American economy, and her forthright defense of the middle class is a great compliment to some of the reasons that have led to the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.  And by running as an independent, I think that she would become one of the few politicians who could really speak for aspects of this burgeoning movement.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Conservative Leader's Argument for Marriage Equality

Of course, I am not talking about an American "conservative."  This post is about the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his strengthened support for marriage equality (h/t:  Towleroad) in the UK.  I don't expect a similar announcement from the leader of the United States.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pretty Clear Why This Interview Didn't Air...

...on a certain "news" network's prime time program, as the reporter promised.

Monday, October 3, 2011

You Keep Waiting for That Apology, Dick

I was going to put forth a missive after hearing that Dick Cheney was seeking an apology from the Obama administration following the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki (find that I am somewhere between Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan on that topic), because that death somehow justified the tactics used by the Bush administration during the "war on terror."  However, after reading Sullivan's smack down, I thought that it would be best if I just provided a link to what he had to say.  And well done, Sen. McCain.

Is It Really "Just a Name?"

I definitely am not surprised to see that the media was all a-twitter about Herman Cain's "insensitivity" charge against Gov. Rick Perry over the name of the parcel of land where Perry's family has hosted hunting parties for years.  But I have to admit that I don't see this issue as necessarily problematic for Perry politically.  I think it's simply a reminder of our country's long lived racial history.  It will be interesting to see how Perry handles this. 

I know that there will be a fair few who will accuse Perry of racism.  I think it's a worthless accusation, and I just don't see Perry as a racist.  However, I do find it interesting that no one in that county really seemed to make an effort to stop calling the hunting grounds "Niggerhead," and it seems that few had any real problem with the name to begin with (a local judge said that it was "...just a name....It's just what it was called).  It reminds me of the portion of the Washington Post story on this issue where two Haskell County, TX residents offered very different perspectives on their experiences in the county.  Mae Lou Yeldell recalled that "it was not uncommon in the 1950s and '60s for whites to greet blacks with 'Morning, Nigger."  Meanwhile, Don Ballard recalled that there "[c]ertainly were no picketing signs.  Blacks were perfectly satisfied with what was happening."  And therein rests the problem.  The perceptions and realities are simply different.

I am sure that there are many who will be disappointed in Cain for "playing the race card," as though Cain should understand that "Niggerhead" is "just a name."  As I did research on African American historic places across the country, I was surprised by the number of places that bore the name "Nigger," like "Niggerhead."  And though it may sound strange to some, I think that there is a value to the broader populace being made aware that places like "Niggerhead" existed and continue to exist (though certainly not with a great deal of public prominence).  It would be interesting to see if Perry tackles this issue from the perspective of just the big rock announcing one's arrival in "Niggerhead," or if he will tackle the issue of how a name that charged could be brushed off as simply "just a name."  Will Perry end up having to do a race speech like Obama (or religion speech like Romney)?  It might be helpful for him to do something like that, and it potentially could help other Baby Boomer white Southern conservative politicians running for high office (remember Haley Barbour's Jim Crow era remembrance?).

I wanted to add that I really liked Ta-Nehisi Coates' perspective on this, and it prompted me to write this post.  I also found Matt Yglesias' comment quite funny, and eerily accurate.  Please check them out.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Time to Move My Money

Yep, my jaw dropped when I saw that Bank of America (BoA) was going to start charging a monthly debit card fee.  I've not really had a problem with BoA, like so many others I've heard, but I don't have any spare cash to be giving to my bank (on top of basic monthly fees) because I want to use my debit card.  Having had accounts at two large banks (BoA and Wachovia), I have to admit that I missed the convenience and the service I received when I was with my old hometown bank.  Sometimes, it is good to return home, and I will be moving my money next week. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

About That "Big Tent" in the GOP

I doubt that many would be surprised to hear that a Republican Muslim seeking a leadership position within his local party was treated like this.  I guess that for some folks identifying oneself as a Muslim is a matter of being judged guilty just because. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

I Agree with David Sirota

I have a small introduction/anecdote that I want to share before I get to the Sirota comment, and it is actually relevant to the overall post.

One of my best friends, who is from my hometown, and her husband were in town for their annual U.S. summer respite from their current home outside of Mexico City.  Since we usually gather for drinks and conversation when they are in the country, I wanted to suggest this great little spot in Phoebus (in Hampton, VA) called Six (I highly recommend the Bombay gimlet up).  My friend spent more than a decade in New York City, and I'd spent more than a decade in Washington, DC, and Six is the first place I've come across locally that had a vibe we both recognized and sorely missed.  And it was at Six where the discussion that has led to this post took place.

My friend's husband asked if I'd read an op-ed by The Nation Magazine's Melissa Harris-Perry (I am a fan) positing reasons for white liberal disenchantment with President Obama.  I hadn't, so he gave me an assignment, and provided me with a one word summary:  racism.  I looked at him skeptically, because my gut instinct was that that can't be right.

It was only today that I remembered my assignment, because I saw David Sirota's rebuttal to Harris-Perry at Salon.  Having now read both, I have to say that I really do agree with Sirota.  I highly recommend reading both pieces, starting with Harris-Perry's.  I will just say that Sirota brings in a great deal of empirical evidence, including the drop in popularity for President Obama within the black community, to bolster his points.  Finally, I will add that my disenchantment with President Obama, and I've expressed that disenchantment in various posts on this blog, has nothing to do with racism.  Sirota broke it down nicely.

I Wanted to Wait a Few Days Before Commenting...

...about the heckling and boos the gay soldier received from some members of the GOP debate audience.  I think that if one wanted to know how reviled the gay community is in some circles of the GOP, then this was a perfect example.  After a decade of hearing folks on the right nearly fetish-ize "supporting the troops," not a single person on that stage offered to support that soldier currently serving in Iraq, nor did a single person on that stage (or among the moderators) chide the audience for their reaction.  As a matter of fact, Santorum had the gall to call this man's service "tragic" and a "social experiment."  The only saving grace I can take from this situation is that at least the younger Republicans understand the humanity of their gay peers, and support issues like gay marriage and the repeal of DADT.  Meanwhile, I can only imagine what went through that soldier's mind once he heard those many boos coming from the audience. Finally, I hope this helps gay Republicans to see why it is difficult for the vast majority of the GLBT community to support GOP candidates, even when the occasional candidate has interesting ideas. And it should serve as a reminder of precisely how precarious their standing within the GOP tent really is (and don't take this as some ringing endorsement of the Democratic party; it isn't, but credit is given when credit is due).

Didn't See That Coming at All

Following the second Republican debate, I'd concluded that this race was Gov. Rick Perry's to lose.  Well, with Herman Cain, Herman Cain, winning the Florida straw poll vote, coupled with the panning across the conservative punditry of Perry's performance in that third debate in Florida, Perry seems to be on a quick path to obscurity, if he doesn't sort out a way to right his ship.  Meanwhile, I do find it hilarious that Perry's Achilles' heels appear to be his effort to battle cervical cancer, and his effort to help out the children of illegal immigrants through the Texas version of the Dream Act, two programs that I think have been useful in Texas.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"You Know It's Hard Out Here for a Member of Congress?" II

Sometimes you just cannot make these things up (Rep. John Fleming).  I don't think that a person who says that it takes $200,000 to "feed his family" is going to get much sympathy from the vast majority of Americans who will never see anything close to the $600,000 (and that does not include his salary as a Member of Congress) net personal income he enjoys.  Actually, now that I think of it, perhaps he could get his family to eat on his congressional salary, and then he can use the full $600,000 for the re-investments, and all of the other things he's said that he is pressed to pay for with those paltry earnings.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Sad Chapter Finally Finished

Right now, I wish I was in Washington, DC out and about in Logan, and preparing to raise gin gimlet filled glass to the formal ending of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with gay, lesbian and bisexual friends (and one cousin) who served, and serve, in the military.  I am also extremely happy for all of those currently serving in silence (or semi-silence), because they finally can breathe a sigh of relief and simply live their lives without the threat of losing their careers.  I doubt that the transition will be problem free, but I am sure that with time, as has been shown in foreign military organizations, "gays in the military" will not induce shock or derision.  I'm sure Leonard Matlovich is smiling, wherever he is.

UPDATE 9.20.11:  I just saw that one of the co-founders (h/t Towleroad) of the group OutServe has decided to come out publicly.  OutServe is an organization of active serving military personnel.

Hip Hop Remembrances: Groove Theory

When it comes to music, there are times when you hear the opening beats of a song, and you just know that you will love a song.  That was precisely how I felt in 1995 the first time I heard "Tell Me" by Groove Theory, head bobbing to those Bryce Wilson beats almost instinctively.  And then there is Amel Larrieux's voice; enough said.  I knew that I had to have the CD, and the eponymous titled album continues to be one of my all-time favorites.  Listening to Groove Theory tracks just reminded me of how cool and smooth the group's sound was, and continues to be.

I was sad when I learned that there would only be the one Groove Theory album, but I definitely have enjoyed the solo work of Larrieux over the years.  And I can hope that one day, Wilson and Larrieux might come together on stage again.

All About Their Benjamins II

During one of the recent Republican candidate debates, one of the candidates intimated that the legislation passed during the New Deal might not have been as beneficial for the country as we've come to believe.  Of course I disagree with that sentiment, and one particular bit of legislation that came about in the New Deal era is in dire need of being reinstated (with 21st century updates):  the Glass-Steagall Act (the Banking Act of 1933).  Glass-Steagall was repealed with two new bits of legislation.  The first was the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980, and the second was the Federal Services Modernization Act of 1999, better known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. 

I give Matt Taibbi credit for reminding me about the Glass-Steagall Act, as I read his blog post regarding the little situation with the UBS trader's $2 billion dollar bad deal.  In the post Taibbi mentions the UK's consideration of "ring fencing," which is akin to what Glass-Steagall did in separating commercial and investment banks in the U.S, something that provided a great deal of stability for the U.S. economy for decades.  It will be interesting to see if the UK does decide to implement "ring fencing," even in the face of calls of the possibility of an economic slowdown. 

Taibbi's post also reminded me of why I was skeptical of potential effectiveness of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.  The one thing I liked about the law was the creation of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, but I remained disappointed in the lack of actual teeth in the law, as I mentioned in a previous post.  And all of this is an extension of my continued disappointment in the Obama administration's economic team, and the sense that it was more concerned about Wall Street (which now hates the President), than it was about Main Street.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Best Word I Can Muster for Tonight is "Interesting"

I just finished watching the latest GOP debate.  Um, I am not really sure what to say.  Wait, interestingly, I felt that some of what Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman said actually made some sense.  And Rick Perry was getting all sorts of love, until those friggin' Latinos came up in the discussion.  And who could not help but get a warm fuzzy for the audience member all for the uninsured dude of Blitzer's question dying for lack of sufficient health insurance. 

Bachmann, for all of her "chootzpah," was giving Lipton, when most of the people in that room had a taste for that Luzianne flavor, drawl and all.  This is now Perry's to lose.

Oh, I found this and this to be interesting reading over at "The Dish."  Enjoy.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Actual "Fraud, Waste and Abuse," and Likely Nothing Will be Done II

Isn't it amazing what some actual accounting and auditing can reveal?  As I noted in my post on the utter waste of expenditures in the Defense Department, waste that the GOP virtually ignores (it helps when people like former VPOTUS Cheney and his "job creator" cronies own those very same wasteful defense contracting businesses), and centrist and conservative Democrats are often too afraid to call out, I am often shocked at how badly things were done following the attacks on September 11, 2001.  Over at the Huffington Post, Dan Froomkin has reported on the outrageously wasteful, abusive and fraudulent spending out of the Department of Homeland Security.  From what I can tell, the outrage from the right has been rather muted.  Shocking, I know.

Honestly, no one should be surprised that the largest bureaucracy ever created by the federal government, created under a Republican controlled government, turned out to be both terribly wasteful for the taxpayers, and incredibly lucrative for contractors.  Therein rests the only actual benefit of government for far too many on the right:  a means to transfer taxpayer dollars to the so called "job creators."  Let's not forget that it was the current House Banking Committee Chair who declared publicly that "Washington and regulators are there to serve the banks."  With that mentality, coupled with an open disdain for government generally, it becomes clear that "waste, fraud and abuse" will be endemic; it will also provide the ancillary benefit of a great GOP talking point regarding the "evils" of government.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And About Tonight

If President Obama proposed a resolution declaring water to be wet, the GOP members on the Hill would not pass it.  With that in mind, it doesn't matter what the President will propose tonight.  I doubt seriously that it will pass.  How difficult is it to understand that the GOP has absofuckinglutely no intention of passing anything that will help this country, if there is an ancillary benefit politically to the President.

Oh, and while I am on the subject, check out this bit of commentary from a former GOP Hill staffer, Mike Lofgren.  I am sure there will be some conspiracy theories about how Lofgren isn't "really" a Republican (because no Republican can ever actually disagree with Republican policy ideas, and still claim to be a Republican, right?), but I think he establishes his credentials just fine.  What Lofgren says fits perfectly with what we are seeing play out in Washington (here's some Matt Taibbi to add further analysis to Lofgren's points).

So, I will watch the speech tonight.  I wonder who will scream out at the President this time around.  Maybe it will be more than one person, and more money will be raised for them for "standing up to the President," again.

About Last Night

From what I could tell as last night's GOP debate came to a conclusion, it seemed clear to me that this has now become a race between the two similar looking Republicans, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.  Mind you, I think either would be an absolute disaster for everyone except the wealthiest Americans, and maybe those in the military (though our perpetual war machine needs to end; just can't afford it).  Meanwhile, I have to admit that I was surprised by some of what Jon Huntsman was saying.  Again, he is a bridge too far for me to consider casting a vote, but I could at least see the damn bridge from which he was speaking.

I really do not understand how Mitt Romney is even doing well within this whole primary circuit.  There is no question that he is a weathercock in the midst of a strong gale wind with regard to his positions on almost everything.  And is there really anything worth saying about Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul or Santorum?  Finally, I am sure that there was swooning and caught vapors all across GOP homes (though first for having to actually watch anything on MSNBC, but I digress) as Gov. Rick Perry spoke loud and said essentially nothing. 

Unless there is some gay scandal that we don't know about, I am already guessing that the contest in '12 will be Obama v. Perry.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

All I Can Say Is... Frank Rich's latest article over at New York magazine on this upcoming 10th anniversary of September 11.  It's well worth the click, and it was another reminder of how much I miss his column in the Sunday New York Times (the first thing I would read of the paper on Sundays).

Actual "Fraud, Waste and Abuse," and Likely Nothing Will be Done

The Commission on Wartime Contracting has presented its final report, and (shockingly) the Commission found lots of "fraud, waste and abuse," three of the most popular (and empty) words thrown around Capitol Hill these days.  I've only read some of the articles written about the report's finding, but color me far from surprised.  There was no question in my mind that our dealings with defense contractors was outrageously expensive.  And in the midst of the screaming about cutting discretionary spending, there seems to be a rather muted response to the Commission's report.

Where is the outrage from the right on this issue, this empirical evidence of "fraud, waste and abuse."  It's possible that up to $60 billion dollars has been lost during the course of this war, and it's been cited in the report that more extensive oversight and regulation is needed in order to keep a reasonable accounting of how and where government money is spent with contractors.  If I recall correctly, these are the very types of suggestions that have Republicans screaming about "job killing" pick any term.  Yet, for all of this faux concern about combating "waste, fraud and abuse," I've zero confidence that they will muster even genuine interest in the findings in this report.  Well, the example used in the press release cites an agricultural program that started in 2009, so naturally the right will dismiss everything between 2001 and 2008, and focus solely and singularly on anything that happened beginning January 2009.  Remember that for this lot, the past doesn't matter, and private industry must never be regulated, only paid by government in some way, shape or form. 

And lest folks think that I have only enmity for the GOP on this issue, think again.  Democrats are supposed to be the party that believes in well run government, and this report shows that that was not happening with regard to taxpayer dollars while we were at war.  Their lack of united outcry continues to leave open the perennial GOP charge of "government bad, unless it helps the private sector."

Hell, some of that lost money would be real handy right now, considering the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, and while Rep. Eric Cantor continues to show off his emperor's clothing, I am sure the last thing on his mind is considering looking for those "savings" in one area that has been shown to be hemorrhaging cash:  defense contracting.  After all, we don't want to upset those "job creators" with efforts at actual good governance and oversight.  Heaven forbid.

Challenging a Perspective

It has been interesting watching some of the comments and criticism about former VPOTUS Dick Cheney's memoir In My Time.  Anyone who's read this blog knows without a doubt that I think that the former administration, at the very least, needs to be investigated thoroughly for the decisions that came from the White House.  Though some friends, on various points of the political spectrum, disagree with me, I still believe that we lost the moral high ground as the Bush administration waged the "War on Terror," and that we compromised some of our basic American principles.  I firmly support the position presented by Salon's Glenn Greenwald on the specific issue related to Cheney's media blitz (and I doubt highly that he will be leaving our shores to hawk his book anytime soon).

I've been watching different interviews from folks like Gen. Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson and former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, and unless Cheney and his supporters are willing to call all of them straight up liars to their faces, then I think that their perspectives on the issues Cheney raises about them, in his book, should be heard and investigated.  After seeing many of these interviews, I think that there is even more of a reason to do a full investigation on the issues of authorizing torture, and how we went into and conducted the Iraq War.

UPDATE: I just finished reading an article from Dahlia Lithwick over at Slate. That's some powerful writing.  Lithwick also makes reference to an article written by Zev Chafets over at The Daily Beast, as well as one written by Conor Friedersdorf critiquing the Chafets' piece.  And here is a related post from Greenwald regarding former government officials trying to tell their stories regarding torture, and being thwarted by the government from doing so directly. 

Man, You Really Didn't Have to Go There

Sometimes, I just have to shake my head.  Rep. Carson, there is no need to add that kind of fuel to an already unnecessary burning fire, especially when you know your political opponents will have a field day with it.  One day, and likely a day too late, folks will realize that all of this shit has more to do with class warfare from the top down than anything other "ism" out there.

Adolescent Music Flashback: Robert Palmer

I think it was through MTV, way back at its beginning, that I'd first heard of Robert Palmer, and it was the song "Looking for Clues."  It was his looks and attractively awkward dance movements that caught my attention, but I really liked what I heard in that song.  The next time I noticed Palmer was in his cover of "You Are In My System," an incredible song.  His collaboration with members from Duran Duran and Chic, in the form of Power Station, just blew me away, and that group will get its own blog post in the future.

After all of that goodness, Palmer had nerve enough to push it even further.  I sat in front of my television, with my mouth on the floor, as I watched the video for "Addicted to Love."  The immediate follow-up to that was a cover of Cherrelle's R&B hit "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," which had the same general video concept as "Addicted to Love," but improved.

Though Palmer had continued success well after these songs left the charts, I am sticking to the aspect of his career that was during my adolescence. Though, I will add that it was a pleasant surprise to Beyonce pay homage to Palmer's video style with portions of her video for the song "Green Light."

It really was a shock to hear about Palmer's sudden death in 2003. He was a great talent indeed.

Adolescent Music Flashback: Alexander O'Neal

Not too long ago, I watched the TV One show "Unsung" on Alexander O'Neal and Cherelle, and it brought back so many memories.  Now I was never a big fan of the crooners when it came to R&B, but Alexander O'Neal was just plain cool.  And what adolescent doesn't want to be cool at some point. 

I, like many people, became familiar with O'Neal through his collaboration with Cherelle, "Saturday Love" (if you know the song, you can't help but go through those days of the week).  I didn't know that O'Neal had an eponymously titled album in 1985, but I certainly became well aware of his second album "Hearsay."  It is an incredible album, with little vignettes in between some of the songs, and just a strong host of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis R&B tunes.  Check out some of the clips from below, and I bet it will be hard not tap a foot or bob your head to the beats.

I think I perfected "the Prep" and "the Cabbage Patch" while listening to "Fake." For those who are interested, there is an Alexander O'Neal fan blog. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Regarding One Aspect of American Diversity

I've certainly made it clear that I am no fan of the vast majority of policies advocated by today's conservatives, and I have my share of issues with some liberal policies as well.  I've belonged to both political parties, and have voted for people in both over the years.  I've also made it clear that I am not a fan of extremists in any faith, but am more than comfortable with people of faith.  The same is true with non-believers as well.  I have actual friends across the sexual orientation, racial and ethnic and political spectrum, and I know that my life has been enriched by them, even when we disagree.  Our country is pluralistic, and out of many, one.  Though some may argue otherwise, I think our diversity is a strength, and there is a reason why there is likely someone from every country on Earth who lives in the United States.

I was asked by a representative of My Fellow American to write a post highlighting that organization's effort to remind Americans that there are Muslims among us, and that they too love this country like any other American.  In a recent post, I gave credit to Republican governor Chris Christie for his full-throated support of his judicial nominee, who is a practicing Muslim.  Christie's comments could be repeated for hundreds of thousands of Americans who are Muslim.  And that is what helped me to decide to write this post. 

I know people who will view this post with eyebrows raised, and that's alright (and I would be shocked if one reader in particular didn't comment). Check out My Fellow American for yourself.  There's an interesting little video there too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Batteries Not Included

Thankfully, my family fared well during Hurricane Irene.  We lost power here in Hampton Roads (it's only just come back on after about 36 hours), my family in Richmond lost their power early Saturday, and it was hit or miss with my family in the DC region.  A large tree missed my aunt's home by about one foot.  And I found myself thinking about how our fore bearers existed in the time before electricity was commonplace (I got a lot of reading done).  But one thing that really struck me during our lack of power was how the most reliable appliances in our house were the battery operated radios and battery operated lanterns.

Now, we have various other gadgets that should come in handy, but we noticed that many of them, though battery operated, required charging by electricity.  Naturally, when the power goes out, that means that whatever gadget you have is only good for the length of the battery.  So, I was limited to two hours on my computer, and about three hours for the television that provided important information and coverage of the storm.  But once the batteries in those devices were expended, they were finished; they were no longer of any real use.  Meanwhile, we pulled out the old school battery operated radios (one that we've had since the 1970s), and they worked beautifully.

That reality got me thinking.  Perhaps those who design these great new gadgets that are meant to help us in our time of need could think about finding an alternative method for recharging batteries, especially in the case of power outages.  Now, I have no idea about the intricacies of computer or portable television design, but I cannot imagine that it would be too difficult to come up with a way that those devices will not have to be solely dependent on electricity based rechargable batteries.  Everyone likes innovation, but sometimes looking back at those so-called outdated devices can be a real help. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Decision Time Regarding Irene

So here we are on the eve of Hurricane Irene's arrival, and my family is trying to sort out whether we stay in the area, or evacuate.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Get Me a Bromide, and Put Some Gin in It

I can't be the only one who reads something and finds that I have an immediate headache.  Right now, I am finding this whole situation with this attempt at a settlement with the banks regarding the claims of widespread mortgage and foreclosure fraud to be headache inducing.  But it is also not surprising to me, because I think that all of this stems from President Obama's selection (and endorsement) of Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and their various cronies to handle Treasury policy.  As a result of those selections, the administration's approach has been full throttle in favor of Wall Street, and an ignoring of the principal needs of Main Street (something that the GOP, regardless of the nominee, would only intensify).

Check out these posts from Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi.  President Obama's handling of the folks on Wall Street has been as disappointing for me as his handling of the folks tied to our torture program (see this latest post from Greenwald about the pending media blitz from former VPOTUS Cheney).  I cannot believe that we are even considering talking about settling with the big banks.  That there hasn't been something akin to the Pecora Commission of the 1930s is a downright shame to me.  The Dodd-Frank law pales in comparison to what was done during the Roosevelt administration, vis-a-vis Wall Street.  Meanwhile people continue to lose their homes (and to my friends on the right, no, they all aren't these undeserving dreamers that fit neatly into a rightist diatribe), and the folks who sold them a bill of goods continue to chill on their ill gotten profits. 

What's even more disappointing is that the general public seems completely uninterested.

There's So Much I Could Say...

...but I will just say that at least Eric Cantor is consistent

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Keep Giving Rustin His Due

In spite of the looming threat of Hurricane Irene bearing down on the mid-Atlantic, there are plenty of people still planning to descend upon Washington this weekend for the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.  Of course the weekend also marks the 48th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and I was glad to see that the Washington Post decided to write an article about the actual organizer of the March, Bayard Rustin.  And when I finished the article, I couldn't help but marvel at the fact that Rustin was an openly gay black man following his convictions both on racial equality and the right simply to be himself over 50 years ago.  I agree with the assessment made in the article that we don't really know the name of Rustin, because he had the nerve to be a gay man not crippled by shame.  I wish I had half of the amount of courage that Rustin displayed throughout his life.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Earthquake is the Last Thing We Need

Of course I just assumed that a rather large truck had passed by the house, but it's clear now that I've just experienced my first earthquake.

Monday, August 22, 2011

One of the Few I Would Ever Consider Supporting

It was interesting to see that former Connecticut GOP Representative Chris Shays is considering a Senate run for retiring Sen. Joe Lieberman's old seat.  Shays was always one of the few Republican that I thought I might consider voting for in the past.  Though I still retain a vast skepticism regarding most GOP policies, I sensed a reasonableness in Shays that is missing from about 99% of the current GOP lot on the Hill.  I wonder who his opponent will be.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Give the Man a Chance to be Heard

Though I am sure that I will become straight before I vote for anyone currently in the GOP field, I think that GOP hopeful Fred Karger deserves to be treated as the legitimate candidate that he is.  I also think that it is looking clearer that the treatment he has been experiencing is due to Karger being openly gay in a party that has many, many, many closets, but is uncomfortable (and often hostile) with its openly gay members.  With that said, I am glad to see Karger push back on being shunted, and I will be interested in seeing how the FEC handles his complaint against Fox "News" for not allowing his participation in their last presidential debate. (h/t Towleroad)

I should add that there is one area where Karger and I agree:  historic preservation.  I had an opportunity to communicate with him a few years ago during his effort to save the Boom Boom Room, an historic gay night spot, at the old Coast Inn in Laguna Beach, CA.  And though that battle ultimately was lost, I respected the effort that Karger and his allies put into the project.  As I think about it, I believe Karger might be the only person in the hunt for the presidency with a demonstrated preservation background (someone let me know if I am wrong there).

The Coddling Must Stop?

There are times when I just need a good solid laugh, and I have to say that Jon Stewart definitely got me laughing the other night.  There's nothing better than a good crazy discussion on "class warfare," and being reminded by certain quarters that the poor in this country just have it a little too good.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Vacation Opportunity

I really don't begrudge the fact that a President takes a vacation.  Everyone needs at least a couple of days for themselves, and I would imagine with a job like "President of the United States," I definitely would want at least some time simply to process all that is happening around me.  Of course, I am raising this as the criticisms roll in regarding President Obama's sojourn to Martha's Vineyard this week.  But, I want to offer a suggestion.  I think that it would be great, if any U.S. President decided to visit one of our national parks for a vacation.  The Obamas have done it before, though without addressing the actual challenges the parks face.  Not only would it put a national park in the spotlight, but it could be a great opportunity to talk about the deferred maintenance issues that the national parks suffer.  Imagine the potential press as Obama talked about the threats faced by our parks, touted the need for repairs, and the jobs that could be created that would ensure the long term sustainability of the park itself.

Shocking News, Just Shocking

Sometimes, I just have to shake my head at the things that appear to be "revelations" to folks in the political media.  Helen Keller could have told folks all she heard and saw about the "Tea Party," when they first emerged.  The rhetoric didn't fit the realities.  And if we were to believe what got the tea party folks really riled up, then we should have heard about them between 2004 and 2009.  We didn't.

So following the publication of an op-ed in the New York Times by two political scientists, we now have empirical evidence showing that the "Tea Party" is essentially a new brand for conservative Republican.  I think I might have clutched my pearls as I read the op-ed.  The vapors were beginning to take over.

Joan Walsh, over at Salon, has an enjoyable comment on this issue.  Check it out and enjoy, while I collect myself after learning this news.

How About We Leave Harriet Out of This

The last time I checked, the Republican Party is not some representation of "the Promised Land," so Rep. Allen West might want to check himself with his Harriet Tubman overreach.  There is no question that the Democratic (it really isn't difficult to add the "i" and the "c") Party has its problems, but trust and believe, the Republican Party, in its current iteration, is not the answer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dreams of the Investor, and I Do Mean Dreams

I am sure that there will be buzz around Warren Buffet's op-ed in the New York Times calling for our political leaders in Washington to increase taxes (both income and capital gains) on those at the very top of the income ladder, in an effort to ensure that there is a sense of shared sacrifice during this time of economic woe.  I am also sure that the buzz will produce nothing remotely close to actual legislation.  When you have a political party so completely determined in it's essentially religious belief that taxes never should be raised, under any circumstance, there is nothing anyone could say from Buffet's economic class that will ever get that lot to consider what he has said.  And there are times when the cynic in me wonders if Buffet is comfortable saying these things now, because he knows that there is no way it will ever happen.

However, assuming that Buffet is being sincere, I find it fascinating that Republicans on the Hill, not exactly job creators themselves, will ignore out of hat Buffet's suggestions.  I also find it fascinating that many supporters of the GOP who won't ever make even 1% of what Buffet earns in a year (those poor, working and middle class GOP supporters) will also dismiss Buffet's suggestions, and will cheer the GOP for doing so.  I've never believed the line about "job creators" having "uncertainty" in the economy and on taxation.  I long accepted that these "job creators" have every intention of assisting the GOP in re-taking the White House in '12, by ensuring that they not begin expanding or growing or hiring. 

As far as I know, I do not have any family or close friends who net more than a million a year annually.  I do have family and friends who are close to or just over that magical $250K line that everyone talks about as the income line for increased taxes.  I wonder how many of them, regardless of political persuasion, agree with Buffet's suggestions, and if not, why not?  How does it help our economy when Buffet's employees are taxed at a higher rate than he is?  How does it help our economy when we ensure that those who don't even make a wage pay significantly less in overall taxes, because their earnings are all investment earnings? 

Why am I even asking these questions?  Nothing close to what Buffet has suggested will come to pass in the near future.  Perhaps future generations will be able to look at these issues reasonably. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Not Remotely Shocked

I'd always thought it was a foregone conclusion that Michele Bachmann would win the Iowa Straw Poll.  She'd been polling well consistently for weeks, and she seems to exist in that odd bubble that only a select group on the right seem to understand, and believe to be true about the state of the nation.  I am surprised that Tim Pawlenty is leaving the race so soon.  But I suppose that after all of the work he put into Iowa, and then to come in a distant third was enough for him to say enough is enough.  And I am as excited about Gov. Rick Perry entering the race for the presidency, as I am for the coming of summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

News About as Welcome as an Extra Hot Summer Day

Yay!  We have news related to the "super" committee that is supposed to "work together" and create "workable solutions."  Here are the picks for Sen. Harry Reid.  And here are the picks for both Speaker Boehner and Sen. McConnell.  Now we just need Rep. Pelosi's picks, and we'll be off.  I wonder where will end up?

UPDATE 08.14.11: We now have a complete set for the "super" committee, with Rep. Pelosi's picks. Essentially, she added a little diversity to a small group of people who will get little done. I'm so excited.

Go On and Speak the Truth Sista

I've been watching the coverage of the riots in the UK, and it's a shame to witness.  I feel horrible for those who've lost their businesses, homes, and property, because it's senseless.  Actually, take a look at the following clip (h/t The Dish).  Sista broke it down, and she is definitely on point.  Couldn't agree with her more.

This is a message to all who mistakenly think that rioting is a legitimate response to socio-economic or political frustrations.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sometimes, the Truth Hurts

I just finished reading Drew Westen's op-ed in today's New York Times, and I cannot recall feeling more uncomfortable as I reached a closing paragraph.  Westen articulated beautifully the sentiment I felt on January 20, 2009, as I watched the Inauguration:  I was left wanting at the end of President Obama's Inaugural Address.  I fully recognized that we were in one of those rare historical moments at that point, and I am not talking about Obama being bi-racial.  No, I recognized that Obama had an opportunity to re-shape a nation that was in dire need of significant and substantive change.  And though I know that his term is not over, I feel that President Obama wasted that rare opportunity. 

The historical examples that Westen elected to highlight, specifically the presidential legacies of the two Roosevelts, echo almost entirely my thoughts on what President Obama might have been capable of achieving.  There was a fearlessness in both Roosevelts (imperfect men though they were), and their fearlessness, their confidence, and their passion was felt by millions of Americans.  Our country benefited mightily from their time in office.  They were unafraid to call out those who harmed broad American interests.  Yet, as Westen points out in one example after another, Obama fails to provide that narrative to help all of us understand plainly his policy aims.  There are too many times when he has "led from behind," when he needed to be wielding the proverbial "big stick" from his bully pulpit.  And I am not saying that I wanted Obama to go out there with "scare all the white people" anger.  Not even close.  As Westen notes, no one seems to know where President Obama's passions lie (derisively some might say in capitulation).

Following the debt ceiling madness, and now the lowering of our credit rating by S&P, I wasn't sure how I wanted to approach my next blog post.  Westen's op-ed has helped a great deal, because he provided a useful analysis of many of the thoughts coursing through my mind.  Westen's will be one of those op-eds that will be read by many, many Obama supporters, and I bet many of them, if they are honest, will be as uncomfortable at the conclusion as I was.

UPDATE:  I knew, without a doubt, that Andrew Sullivan would pounce on Westen's op-ed; it was just a matter of when (though the dismissive tone seems a bit much).  I disagree with Sullivan's claim that Westen was seeking a "Democratic version of George W. Bush," because I don't see the former POTUS as a Republican version of FDR or LBJ.  Nor do I think that the hopes of Obama supporters like Westen, or myself, were not reflective of the 21st century realities that we now face.  I certainly called for a 21st century version of a CCC or WPA, with an emphasis on "a 21st century version.   Just take a look. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Sad Day In Afghanistan

I think too many people in this country forget that we are in the midst of war, and that we have U.S. service men and women who are in harms way daily.  Sadly, that fact was brought home with the news of the downing of a U.S. helicopter, where 38 people were killed, including 31 Americans.  My thoughts are with their families and friends.

When I read these stories, I cannot help but think of the uncle I never had the chance to meet (he was killed in Vietnam, almost a year to the day before I was born), or my father and his Marine Corps friends, or my other relatives and friends who are (or were) veterans.  I think of my friends currently serving, and I always hope that they remain far from harm's way.

But more than anything, news like today's tragic news reminds me of how much I want our troops home, with their missions behind them, and back with family and friends.

Friday, August 5, 2011

When Credit is Due

I will begin by making it clear that there is little I share in common with New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, politically speaking.  However, I have to give the man credit for making it clear that in his decision to appoint a practicing Muslim to a judgeship in New Jersey, he was appointing someone with excellent credentials for the job.  Yet Christie deserves even more credit for calling out the madness of factions within his party who've decided that simply practicing Islam is tantamount to being a terrorist in waiting. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When the Usual Tactics Just Don"t Work

There are times when it is important to show that one is the better person, that one will play the role of the adult and be the responsible one.  Siblings go through this all of the time (think of your own relationships with your siblings, particularly if you are the oldest).  Even in having to do these things on occasion, it's clear that it happens only on occasion.  Generally, we all expect people to act like they have sense and just do what is necessary to achieve the goal.

Then there are those times when that shit simply doesn't work. 

In yet another reminder as to why I am not a Democrat, I just finished reading an article from Greg Sargent, where the Hill Democrats are bemoaning the fact that Hill Republicans simply won't cooperate or be flexible.  All I could do was shake my head and chuckle.  The article was a big fat advertisement on why Democrats often get played, and end up looking like Boo Boo the Fool, when the day is done.

Republicans have been forthright in stating their goals and objectives, and they haven't relented.  Hell, they used that clip from "The Town" to rally the troops.  They keep telling us who they are, and Democrats refuse to listen.  No one wants to support people who seem mired in cowardice.  Why not try standing up to the bullies in your midst, instead of pleading for them to cooperate?  Maybe, just maybe, if Democrats try that, then they might find that they have more support than it seems.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"How Ya Like Them Apples?"

Matt Damon has been on a bit of a roll of late.  I saw a post on Towleroad regarding his standing up for American teachers (and their ability actually to teach, as opposed to teach for a test).  And, I've just finished reading his commentary (in a Huffington Post article) regarding the debt ceiling madness, and our economic policies.  I fully appreciate, and often agree with, his political positions, and it's just nice to see someone deal effectively with reporters who ask stupid questions. 

While watching this video clip again, I was reminded of how silly I think this notion that "government should be run like a business" is. governments aren't businesses. Though it is true that government should look into methods that improve efficiency and cost effectiveness, I don't recall there being a profit motivator for government (on the whole). Nor is there really an effort to insist on fairness, regulation and justice within businesses. Damon, I think, does a good job of explaining, in that short answer, the heart of that problematic thinking.

Friday, July 29, 2011

It's Amazing How Much Context a Sound Bite Misses II

Back in May, I wrote a post about a new favorite thing that those on the right tout about "half of Americans" not paying federal income taxes.  In that post, I mentioned that there are other taxes that we all pay in some way shape or form, and as I said then, it was of no avail.  As this claim gained legs, it also started losing a couple of words, specifically "federal" and "income."  Now, there are people claiming, with complete righteous indignation, that half of the country "doesn't pay taxes."

Over at The Dish, there is a post that simply asks "Who Pays Taxes?"  I think it is well worth the read.  More importantly, the post and the various embedded links within the post provide the necessary context to disprove some things (like the notion that half of us pay no taxes) and flesh out other things (like how people end up not paying those federal income taxes, and how it's not just the poor who don't pay).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Christianism Defined and Personified

Following the terror acts in Norway, I wanted to see what Andrew Sullivan would have to say about the perpetrator.  I was not disappointed.  Please take a look at Sullivan's post.  It also provides a definition of "Christianism," a term he coined, and one that I use frequently.  And Sullivan argues that this Norwegian terrorist is a personification of a "Christianist," albeit one who decided that violence was the only way he could achieve his goals.  The post is a must-read

For Charisse

I am writing this post through tears.  I just learned that the world has lost an incredible young woman whom I had the privilege of working with during my tenure at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  Charisse Cecil was the intern I hired all those years ago, and it was her passion for African American culture that really spoke to me.  It was her work ethic that impressed me even more.  She had the ability to synthesize the multiplicity of ideas running through my mind, and create a cohesive product that hit all the right points. 

I was happy to see her join the staff of the National Trust, as a full time employee, and to see her interest in historic preservation, particularly the preservation of African American historic places, grow.  We often talked about the links among, history, literature, music and preservation, and how more black folks needed that exposure to see the rich tapestry of our past.  In Charisse, I found a kindred spirit, and a good friend.  I wanted to see her reach the height of her potential.  And I just knew that future generations would one day sit in the classroom of the future Dr. Cecil to learn about African American literature and culture.

It hurts to know that that will not happen now.  It hurts to know that I will not be able to catch up with her, when I visit Washington again.  It hurts to know that I will never get to know her better.  And for all of the hurt that I feel, I cannot imagine what this loss is doing to her family and her closest friends, people that she spoke of so warmly, and with whom she had so much pride.

If only we had more people in this world as open, honest, giving and forthright as Charisse.  All of us who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing her will miss that remarkable smile, a smile that could brighten one's spirit the moment she flashed it. 

Charisse, you will be missed, but never forgotten.  May you rest in peace.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Now Celebrating the Repeal of DADT

I couldn't quite bring myself to celebrate the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" after the legislation was passed last year.  It was a good step forward, but it wasn't complete.  People were still caught in the cross hairs of that policy.  Only now do I feel really comfortable celebrating the closing of an unfortunate chapter (even though we still have until September 20 before it's wiped from the books) in American history.  The certifications necessary have been signed by the Defense Secretary, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the President. 

I am particularly happy for my friends (and my cousin) who served our country with pride, in spite of their fears.  And I am truly happy for all of those currently serving in our military who can relax, finally.  I am sure Leonard Matlovich is smiling down on this one.

Marriage Equality in Action

I just wanted to add my congratulations to the millions of others from around the country to all of those folks in New York taking advantage of the state's marriage equality.  And here is hoping that marriage equality will come to Maryland soon.

A Beautiful Voice Silenced

When I first got word that Amy Winehouse was dead, I assumed it was a joke, and a weak joke at that.  Yet, it was true.  I am one of those Winehouse fans who was rooting for her to beat back her demons, and return to the studio.  This is an incredible loss.

That voice. 

Anyone who had an opportunity to hear Winehouse sing could not deny that the woman had a voice.  "Rehab" was my introduction to Winehouse, and it took me a while actually to hear the song.  The praise for her voice reached me before I heard the first note, and when I finally heard Winehouse sing, I was hooked.  She deserved the accolades.

Even though she is gone, I hope that Amy Winehouse is now, finally, resting in peace.

Prayers for Norway

I can only imagine the horror the people of Norway are feeling right now.  It never would have occurred to me that a place as seemingly safe and tranquil as Norway would ever experience tragedies of such magnitude.  I hope that they will come to see this as a true aberration, and not as a symptom of times to come.

The Weekend Retreat is Over, So Back to Posting

After an essentially news free weekend with old and very good friends, I am just finding out the things that I've missed since Friday morning.  Get ready, because I've got a few posts coming.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Will Miss Cenk on MSNBC

Folks who read this blog know that I am a big fan of some of the hosts on MSNBC, and I am a HUGE fan of Rachel Maddow.  With that said, I was surprised, and glad to see Cenk Uygur from "The Young Turks" grow from being an occasional guest, to getting the 6p spot.  As time went on, I found myself making a point to tune in at 6p to see Uygur do his thing.  Hell, I even use his line "of cooourse," when I hear news of something typical coming out of Washington.  So count me as surprised when a week passed, and Al Sharpton was still filling in for a "vacationing" Uygur.  Immediately, I knew something was up.  And though I appreciate the occasional Sharpton combativeness (sometimes those black church phrases are just money), he doesn't bring it like Uygur.  Sadly, Uygur is gone.  But, he did take the time to explain why, and once I heard his reasons, I was glad that he left.

On a final note, it is beyond shady that MSNBC was willing to double Uygur's pay, while keeping him in a reduced role. That sounds like an expensive muzzle.