Archive for December 2008
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 12/30/2008 – 11:11am
Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange Tripp it’s been.
— Truckin, The Grateful Dead, 1970
Of course, when the Grateful Dead wrote the song, they said “trip,” but to me, Tripp seems a poetic interpretation to the song.
According to the fountain of truth known as People magazine, Bristol Palin gave birth to a son over the weekend and named him Tripp. “Hi, I’m Tripp, and these are my uncles, Track and Trig.” Then again, Uncle Trig would only be 8 months older than Tripp.
Tripp Johnston is coming along at a time of unsettledness. He is the child of poor, unwed, undereducated young people. His grandmother is being charged with 6 felony drug counts linked to Oxycontin. His other grandmother is the governor of the state, a former vice presidential candidate, and the butt of a few jokes.
He is also born into a worldwide recession/depression, where education and job prospects are at their bleakest even in a stable parental environment. Besides being made fun of for his name, Tripp will also be the mark for how we found out he was arriving, when his grandmother threw his mother underneath the bus to the national press.
Pretending for the moment that all of this is on the level, you do have to feel bad for poor Tripp. Sometimes children get the best of everything and turn out to be poor citizens. And those on the “other side of the tracks” sometimes turn out quite normal. But the conditions where a child is born into do make a difference.
We’ve seen his grandmother cart his uncle around like a political prop. We’ve seen the lack of concern over schooling from this side of the family. And this is the side of the family not charged with felony drug counts (though Grandpa Todd does have a DUI).
Think about how bad your life is right now, and then imagine that People magazine had the official announcement that you were born. While your Uncle Trig was born in secrecy under very questionable circumstances, your birth announcement was a giant deal tracked by journalists and bloggers you will likely never meet.
You are born into a family where you will be more of a political prop or a doll than an actual child. You arrived being the answer to a trivia question, and not a fun one. And some will even question your actual birth date.
And if you can overcome these incredible odds and somehow swim through the murk, what a long, strange trip that would be.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Mon, 12/29/2008 – 10:22am
The Pat Travers Band once sang “Boom, Boom, Out Go the Lights.” But when the lights really do go out, it’s not fun.
President-elect Barack Obama found out first-hand over the weekend what happens when the lights do go out. While in his situation, he felt protected and knew everything was being done to remedy the situation, millions of Americans have felt trapped in a frustrating situation where they didn’t know when power was coming back.
Nearly 200,000 are currently without power in the Detroit area. There was the water main break in Bethesda, MD along the ironically named River Road. The Northeast has certainly felt its share of frustration after numerous ice storms.
All of this comes down to a word that Rachel Maddow finds sexy: infrastructure.
Roads, bridges, electrical systems — those are the major building blocks of our society falling faster than London Bridge or Humpty Dumpty’s wall.
In calling for a modern-day equivalent of the Marshall Plan, we are not comparing America in 2008 to Berlin in 1945. But we do need a lot of help in a time where we don’t have a lot of money.
If karma ruled supreme, Germany and Japan might cut a few checks to give assistance, but even without outside help, the United States needs to step up and take care of its own. Even in an area where the infrastructure is not crumbling, we are getting our tails handed to us in broadband Internet access.
We used to build bold strokes in making this country what it had become, visionary leadership that thought beyond the next Congressional election. Then we desperately lost our way in an era where growth cycles are much quicker and the requirements much more complex. Competing in the 21st century with a 1950s electrical infrastructure just doesn’t work.
So the left is in agreement that we need to rebuild and upgrade these United States. But how to convince the GOP and the MSM?
The MSM, guided by the GOP, has an attitude that spending trillions in Iraq is good, but spending millions in the U.S. is bad and a waste of money. And the GOP has no trouble using government money to be overspent on “defense” but objects to spending it on people who might not vote for them (Katrina).
Especially with only 98 or 99 senators, there will be an objection from the GOP aisle in the Senate, and 60 will be a more difficult number to reach. And despite the obvious needs for our society, Democrats and President Obama need concrete examples to present in order to sell the idea.
Originally published on MediaPutz.com on December 25, 2008
There was a hope, small as it might be, that when Ann Coutler had her jaw wired shut, somehow when the jaw was released to its normal level once again, her voice would become distorted or possibly disappear.
But unfortunately, the serenity that existed was shattered when Coulter once again spoke.
When recently asked her thoughts about newspapers and magazines having their problems, Coulter replied enthusiastically: “I greet every newspaper going bankrupt with joy.”
Her “philosophy” is that free-market capitalism is working and if people want fewer newspapers and magazines, there shall be fewer newspapers and magazines.
At this point, we should note that Coulter’s work has appeared in newspapers and magazines, so that would seem to be cutting off her own supply of money.
But when you think about it, perhaps Coulter has a point, at least, in her own selfish mind. She probably hates the idea of writing for newspapers and magazines since they get caught up in this concept of wanting the material in her essays to be, well, accurate.
See, Coulter has this disturbing pattern of writing “facts” that simply aren’t true. Newspapers and magazines tend to get annoyed when their columnists lie, even the right-wing ones.
The good news for Coulter is that television doesn’t seem to have a problem with her mendacity. There is no correction box for lies given on television. Rarely do you even find a host who will actually correct a guest on-air, much less someone such as Coulter. Which is why the most prominent time Coutler actually got admonished came from the CBC’s Fifth Estate in Canada, when Coulter was adamant that Canada sent troops to Vietnam, much to the dismay of the host and anyone watching who had finished the fifth grade.
And while people do get upset with material in books being, well, incorrect, getting facts corrected is a much more tedious process with book publishers. While James Frey got severe treatment from Oprah Winfrey over his lies, there is likely more truth in his book than in any of Coutler’s many “masterpieces.”
We were hoping for a life-changing episode to impact Coulter’s approach after having her jaw wired shut. But clearly she was saving up for more craziness. And to honor that, we gladly give her the Media Putz of the week.
Ann Coulter previously won the Media Putz on November 15, 2007.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Tue, 12/23/2008 – 10:08am
In the meadow we can build a snowman,
Then pretend that he is Parson Brown
He’ll say: Are you married?
We’ll say: No man,
But you can do the job
When you’re in town.
— Winter Wonderland, 1934, by Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith
The holidays bring on songs we only hear this time of year. Most are Christmas songs, though there seem to be more Hanukkah songs each year. But Winter Wonderland is one of those holiday songs that everyone, regardless of religion, can appreciate.
The above lyric is one that sticks out even in normal times. Sleigh bells ringing and snow glistening set a tone, but marriage suggestions and the idea of being married by a snowman divert the theme into a side road.
If the snowman really was Parson Brown, or a person named Parson Brown, would the parson ask a young couple where the genders were the same, “Are you married?”
In 1934, this probably wasn’t a question of major concern. After all, in quite a bit of the country, people of different races couldn’t get married, even if the genders were different.
Now 74 years later, we try to define what marriage is. The image of a young couple, sitting in a horse carriage, being swept up in the holiday spirit, perhaps hanging on extra tight to their special loved one, thinking about marriage is supposed to be one that society encourages.
There were plenty of people who thought those of different races shouldn’t be married. And there were armed with religious reasons for their beliefs. In 1934, we might have taken that seriously. In 2008, we laugh at the thought that marriage between people of different races would be banned.
Mariah Carey, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, and Barack Obama are all famous people who were the blessings of an inter-racial marriage.
Then there is the current story of an 8-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia who was married off to a 58-year-old man. The girl wanted a divorce, but the ruling came down that she cannot divorce her husband until she reaches puberty.
Could you imagine Parson Brown asking an 8-year-old girl and a 58-year-old man, “Are you married?”
When Rick Warren hears this holiday song lyric, what image does he have? A young heterosexual couple, probably white, virgins, of course, not thinking about having sex until just the right time (i.e., procreation).
The last thing Warren is likely thinking about two men, or two women, deeply in love, because he thinks gay marriage is wrong. Warren thinks homosexuality is wrong.
There are a lot of conservative preachers who think the same way about these issues as Warren does. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would likely concur.
This isn’t where the shock comes in. People of a similar ilk told us that it was a sin for people of different races to get married, and a few years before this, told us slavery was OK because the Bible said so. So we get that the conservative preachers are behind the curve.
But Warren is more dangerous: he comes across as not-so-bad. He’s not like that weird Falwell or Robertson. He seems normal.
And Warren kicks it up another notch: not only does he say gay marriage is wrong, but he compares it to incest and pedophilia. So in the mind of Warren, he equates the case in Saudi Arabia to Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi.
Is there a religious reason behind this? Even the most conservative religious figures can’t pull up Biblical interpretations to justify this stand. Perhaps Warren is going mavericky on us, God, and the Bible.
It’s bad enough to use religion as a method to promulgate hate. But when you exaggerate the impact of gay marriage, and can’t even back it up with religion, this is behavior to be condemned by society, not praised.
In 1934, when Parson Brown became known worldwide, girls under the age of 18 found it easier to get married. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians couldn’t marry those of other races. All that has changed in the last 74 years. Despite what conservatives think, the definition of marriage is ever-changing. And someday, even in the United States, we will figure it out. Of course, this means Parson Brown will be busier than ever. But we’re sure he won’t mind.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Fri, 12/19/2008 – 3:00pm
Congratulations to Hilda Solis, the expected incoming Secretary of Labor. As little work as a Labor Secretary does under a Republican watch, a Labor Secretary under a Democratic watch can work non-stop and still not get enough done.
But I confess it would have been nice if Mary Beth Maxwell had been named. There were a number of people who were excited about having an openly gay Cabinet post member.
We talk about adding a [Category A] or [Category B] to the presidential cabinet. Even if Republicans pick some strange examples, even George W. Bush selected African-Americans, Asians, and Arab-Americans.
And it’s not like we haven’t had cabinet members who are gay, just not “out.”
Women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians — all factors to make sure there is some cross section in the president’s top advisers. There was even a movement to make sure someone from the South ended up in Obama’s cabinet (Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for U.S. Trade Representative).
But why not have someone openly gay or lesbian in the Cabinet, or work hard to find someone?
I was thinking about that last night after I finally saw “Milk.” Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to high public office, says throughout the movie that if they just get to know us, they are more likely to support us.
When Thurgood Marshall was selected for the Supreme Court in 1967, there were a number of Americans who wondered about having a black man on the nation’s highest court. Marshall proved himself well beyond the expectations.
Hillary Clinton has been nominated as the Secretary of State, and in weighing the good and bad points in the selection, none of them has centered on gender, because she would be the third in the last four who is a woman. It has become so usual that the gender issue is no longer an after-thought.
But there is a segment of the population that needs to be exposed to someone such as Maxwell, or Harvey Milk. Yes, there is Rosie O’Donnell and Melissa Etheridge and the cast from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” But that is Hollywood: there is an expectation in this field.
Rachel Maddow is another quiet example of someone who does her job well and happens to be a lesbian. What our American society really needs is a Cabinet person to come in, do their job well, and who happens to be gay or lesbian.
And some of those people who need exposure to more gays and lesbians outside Hollywood are followers of Rick Warren and the Saddleback Church. They get a lot of their information from religious sources, including Warren, that tells them that gays and lesbians are different from the rest of us, that they doesn’t deserve the same rights as everyone else. They are told “love the sinner, not the sin” without really knowing what that means.
Those on the left are told that we have to be understanding of those on the right, what they think and how they feel. We have to know why they feel about gays and lesbians the ways that they do. We have to know their thought process when 30 years, those in California who tried to pass Proposition 6, which would fire teachers who were gay and also fire those who supported gay people, ultimately defeated thanks in large part to Harvey Milk.
The left thinks it’s ironic when evangelical Christians react in a “victim mentality.” They refer to far away instances of discrimination against Christians and behave as if they were happening next door. Yet, those U.S. evangelicals, who think they are victims, don’t see how they are treating their fellow citizens, all created by God, as victims. True victims of discrimination who are next door, down the block, and even in aisle 5 of the grocery store looking at salad dressings.
As Harvey Milk put it, if only they got to know us, they would support us. A Mary Beth Maxwell or someone such as her in the world of politics would have gone a long way toward helping those who don’t understand to better see that gays and lesbians are like the rest of us.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 12/18/2008 – 12:29pm
As for the pick of Ray LaHood for Transportation Secretary, “Will it play in Peoria?”
Well, LaHood is from Peoria, a Republican, and is expected to be named Secretary of Transportation. Like Norman Mineta, LaHood would be a crossover Transportation Secretary.
The pick might play in Peoria, but the problems are mostly in big cities, those neglected by transportation secretaries for decades.
LaHood does like Amtrak, as does our vice-president elect. And he seems warm to public transit. But does he have a grasp on the transportation issues affecting our large cities?
As much as Obama is pulling from Chicago to fill his cabinet (Arne Duncan? Really?), it would be nice to have an individual who understands the needs of big-city transit. I should be glad, at least, that Obama didn’t pick a Chicago transportation person since our CTA is so poorly run.
Transportation secretaries have focused on two things: airports and highways. One likely non-coincidence is that Mineta now has the San Jose airport named after him, the honor given to him in November 2001 while serving as Secretary of Transportation.
We need a transportation secretary who understands trains, buses, mass transit, and high-speed rail trains.
Amtrak doesn’t really play in Peoria, and hasn’t for about 25 years. But being from Peoria, there is hope that LaHood would be in favor of high-speed rail, a win-win solution that improves train travel and reduces air travel. While Peoria has a curbside bus stop near the airport, there is no Amtrak train stop. But there is the nearby Chicago-St. Louis route (a 45-minute drive from Peoria to Bloomington/Normal, a stop on the route), one that would benefit from high-speed rail.
Amtrak has had its troubles getting funding from Congress. Its popularity in certain corridors, such as the Northeast (where Vice President elect Joe Biden rides), the Midwest out of Chicago, and the West Coast, still thrives. But it has had trouble outside those corridors, mostly due to a lack of federal funding.
One growth area that needs to be watched is major city to major city bus travel, companies such as Megabus. The next Transportation Secretary needs to balance these companies and Greyhound as well as Amtrak to make sure they all can thrive and reduce airport travel. (Yes, I’ve ridden Megabus as well as Greyhound and Amtrak.)
Barack Obama will be our first president from an urban center since John F. Kennedy in 1961, and our mass transit options are more important than ever. So Obama will have to show LaHood the importance of providing help to the major cities where productivity increases with a strong running mass transit system (though again, not using Chicago as a solid example).
LaHood is in there to play politics by working with Republicans to get them to support anything besides airports and highways. Good luck. Though LaHood disagrees with his Republican cohorts on these issues, he has been in office since 1995 and watched as then House Speaker Newt Gingrich go through and threaten to cut off funding to Amtrak on a regular basis.
Like agriculture, labor, and probably just about every other Cabinet post, the next secretary has a lot of work to do to clean up the mess left behind. But like agriculture, transportation has suffered from decades of neglect. There is a lot of work to do. Barack Obama does seem to understand this. If Ray LaHood doesn’t, then hopefully Obama will point him in the right direction.
Originally published on BuzzFlash.com on Thu, 12/18/2008 – 11:19am
So when do we get a new U.S. Senator from Illinois?
The good news is that Rod Blagojevich’s lawyer says the controversial governor will not make the Senate pick. The rational is that the Senate won’t seat any replacement Blagojevich picks, so it won’t do any good.
The rest of the news is bad. As Democrats realize what they’ve done in calling for a special election and are now backpedaling, now Blagojevich, the man who shouldn’t have a say on this issue, thinks we should have a special election.
He is a little biased since if a special election occurs, the pressure to remove him as governor sharply declines, and if the issue goes away, it increases the chances of prolonging his stint as governor.
Blagojevich has said he will sign a bill, but only if that power is taken away from all Senate vacancies, not just this one. This from someone who allegedly wanted to have that power to gain something for himself.
When Dick Durbin jumped in and said the morning of Blagojevich’s arrest that we should have a special election, I seriously cringed. Then state Attorney General Lisa Madigan and even Lt. Governor Pat Quinn also piled on. Now just as quickly, Democrats are jumping off the bandwagon.
Those who were hoping for Lisa Madigan’s power play to the Illinois Supreme Court or a quick impeachment are totally out of luck and pretty much out of luck, respectively. Illinois politics move slowly to begin with under normal circumstances. And even if “everyone” wants Blagojevich out, they have a bunch of allegations, difficult to run with even in an impeachment hearing.
Blagojevich was the first Democrat since 1977 to be elected governor. That sounds sad. Having lived in a blue state under red governors (one of which went to jail) is very depressing. But Democrats finally had control of the governor’s chair, and Quinn, who is free of scandal, would actually make a great governor.
Now that the Democrats have some power, they want to give that up to have a special election. Not for democracy, not for a sense of the people, but to cover their own tails. They want to look “good” or “sincere” and they are willing to throw away the power lost to them for more than a generation.
In New York state, when Governor Eliot Spitzer fell from grace, he had the good sense to resign. And Lt. Gov. David Paterson got to do what the state Constitution requires him to do, become the next governor. While Paterson is getting grief for making his own Senate replacement, he is at least entitled to do so.
If this happened under a Republican governor in Illinois, the GOP would be firm, not calling for a special election. Yes, the Democrats would have called out for a special election, not being the party in power. But the Republicans are smart in hanging on to power, and the Democrats aren’t.
Republicans are also better at responding to “blood in the water.” All they need is a sniff, a push and who knows what can happen.
A special election for the Senate pick is a bad move for Democrats, short-term and long-term. In a normal election cycle, a Republican likely wouldn’t have much of a shot. In this shortened cycle, with the Blago taint in the air, and given the demographics of the Democratic candidates (Chicago-area), the Republicans have a much better than expected chance.
And a long-time issue with completely changing the Constitution just for that instance means that Democrats in future lost Senate seats will have more difficulty hanging on to those seats. The vast majority of states give the governor this power without issue or trouble.
The most recent state to change this around was, of all places, Alaska. After Frank Murkowski appointed his daughter, Lisa, to the Senate to replace him, Alaskans changed the way interim senators are selected. Well, they actually changed it twice, and aren’t sure which solution would be utilized.
The best thing for all parties involved would be that Blagojevich would resign or step aside. But anyone who have suffered under Blagojevich’s rule knows that more than being stupid or allegedly corrupt, Blagojevich is best known for being stubborn. The fact that he is fighting for a special election is reason enough not to have one.
Despite my best interests and wishes, it’s likely we will have a special election. A senator needs to be seated, and there’s a good shot it will be a Republican. If you think I’m being a little too cynical, think about Michael Flanagan.
Flanagan (R-IL) won the 5th Congressional District seat in 1994, beating the long-time House Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, in an extremely solid Democratic district. Flanagan won 54-46, and Rostenkowski was well liked.
If voters use the special election to punish Democrats, and elect a Republican to the seat, the presidency of Barack Obama will suffer. First, it’s one less Senator in the battle for 60. Second, it’s embarrassing to have the president-elect lose his seat to the GOP. And third, when Democrats want to spend money in 2010 to win more Senate seats, money will have to be diverted to beat a GOP incumbent in a midnight blue state.