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.