Archive for January 2011
The State of the Union speech is theoretically about the current state of the union. But as we have seen in the past, Republican or Democratic, the speeches are about the past and the future.
How great we were and how great we hope to be. But rarely is the current state of the union found in the State of the Union.
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union was a lot about 2015.. 2035.. If you are out of work in 2011 (and 2010 and 2009), well, you’ll have to wait.
This isn’t necessarily Obama’s fault, but falling into the “centrist” motif won’t get the job done.
Still deep in the worst recession of our lifetimes, those currently out of work aren’t on the radar.
Oh, there were a few anecdotal examples, as every speech contains. But the State of the Union hides a rather ugly picture.
You have a Democratic side that wants to invest in infrastructure, which means roads, bridges, and high-speed rail, but also means high-speed Internet. But infrastructure applies to education and green technology and innovation to increase exports.
You have a Republican side that doesn’t want to do any of this. And that Republican side controls the path of legislation.
Oh, and Obama gave in to a 5-year spending freeze because “the worst of the recession is over.” Millions of Americans felt disheartened to hear that the worst is over, because, they are still on their roofs waiting for the helicopters that we “can’t afford” to send out.
Obama wants to make even more domestic cuts, including Medicare and Medicaid. And when Obama talked about “medical malpractice reform” – severely limiting options for people who have been legitimately wronged – Republicans (and Joe Lieberman) stood up and applauded.
In chastising Congress about the deficit, Obama said “we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.” The same extension of the tax cuts that will exist under the watch of President Obama, and will only be lifted if the Democratic Party takes back the House in 2013 AND if legislation goes through to rescind those tax cuts AND Obama gets re-elected.
Like presidents in the past, Republican and Democratic, President Obama pushed for simplification of the tax code. Good luck with that happening.
The president did something courageous, daring to challenge us that perhaps, maybe, possibly the American way wasn’t the best way. South Korea and China, European countries and Russia – they got mentioned for their innovation.
But Obama did respond in an applause-grabbing line: “I know there isn’t a person here who would trade places with any other nation on Earth.” Even Boehner applauded that line.
In the House chamber, there probably isn’t someone who would make that trade. And everybody on the floor (not necessarily the balcony) has better health care than you do.
If the people outside that room had the lives that those in the room do, Obama’s statement would be correct.
At the end, Obama wound up telling us that the “state of the union is strong.” That was true in the past, and might be, might be in the future. But outside of the Beltway and Wall Street, this isn’t true in 2011.
No matter which side of the aisle you are on, there should be someone of the other party sitting behind the president. When Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi sat above Obama, they applauded at every point (and then some) when Obama needed applause.
Now Speaker John Boehner applauded more than he would have if he were sitting in the regular audience, but watching Boehner spoke more about the GOP response than any post-speech pundit’s analysis.
Scattering Democratic and Republican politicians did one visually amazing element. No. not showcase the Congressional version of people on top of a wedding cake: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
When people stood to cheer a point, spreading Democratic politicians made their numbers seem larger and more impressive. And the moments where the GOP stood up, even they seemed more impressive.
The Republicans/teabaggers got 2-for the price of-1 in issuing two responses: one for the adults in the room where Paul Ryan tried to make forget what little we know about him and the GOP, and one for the children where Michele Bachmann literally couldn’t look us in the eye.
There was a common theme in the split versions of the same GOP game: we’re in trouble, both parties are to blame, no one party is worse than the other. Ahem.
Too bad Ryan didn’t share his vision of the elimination of corporate taxes and the taxes on dividends, but there is only so much time when you trying to hide those things.
Ryan’s funniest moment from his speech came at the end of listing the few things Republicans think government should do: “to help provide a safety net for those who can not provide for themselves.”
This from the same person who wants to get rid of Medicare and Medicaid. Rebuttals never get a laugh track, though, maybe we need to reconsider that.
Bachmann’s horribly misleading unemployment figures chart were based on October of a year, except for 2010, which referred to December. The chart is designed to not portray the depressive recession as being the fault of George W. Bush. And Bachmann doesn’t realize that unemployment figures don’t always correlate to job growth.
The Republicans spent very little time in the 2010 campaign telling us about themselves. Ryan – and to some extent, Bachmann – told us a little (sanitized) bit about what they want to do. Their state of the union — trying to scare us into doing what they want — that is doing just fine.
UPDATE 1/27/11: Boy, that was quick. Rahm Emanuel got the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a quick stay. And before you could warm up from the Chicago cold, the high court ruled unanimously that Emanuel should be on the ballot.
Do you watch TV news and sometimes feel they are covering a different reality than the one you live in?
In national news, this happens all the time. But on a local level, there — theoretically — is supposed to be a closer level to reality.
In Chicago, watching the TV coverage of the mayoral race — the first real race in over 20 years — promised to be exciting. You actually have several major candidates, a chance to show off your coverage. Unfortunately, the TV coverage in Chicago has been tripping over themselves to crown King Emanuel, as in former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Though there are (and were) several major candidates in the race, Emanuel got the lion’s share, actually several lions’ share, worth of coverage. The modern mentality is that Emanuel has the most money (he does, by a long shot) and the most well-known name (true again) so he deserves the majority of the coverage.
That in itself is lazy, but not horrible; the problem is that the coverage itself has been fawning. Really fawning. Chicago has had a mayor who has bulldozed over anything he didn’t want, and Emanuel’s crowning looked like more of the same. If you think that last sentence is hyperbole, Richard M. Daley literally had bulldozers destroy Meigs Field, the lakefront airport.
Which made all the sweeter — the ruling that Rahm Emanuel doesn’t meet the requirements to run for mayor of Chicago.
The rule has been an issue all along, but has been pished and poshed by the TV coverage, treating it like a lone fly at a picnic. Never mind that the rules clearly state you have to live in the municipality for a year before running.
There were two major issues in Emanuel’s “residency” eligibility: living and voting. Emanuel rented out his house, and when he decided to run for mayor of Chicago, tried to break the agreement with the renters. The renters stood up and said no, and in fact, the renter briefly ran for the office.
This element has received a lot of coverage; the voting — well, not so much. Emanuel was removed from the voting rolls twice since he had been in DC, and twice he magically reappeared on the voting rolls once again. Ask yourself if the average Chicago resident would have been so lucky.
Rahm Emanuel has trotted out visions of boxes in his house, serving the United States by being President Obama’s Chief of Staff, and his intent to return to Chicago. And he is very powerful and has a lot of money.
But none of those things apply to the law. Serving your country in the military is an exception, but the only reason that is true is, as a solider, you don’t have a place of residence by default. And if Emanuel wants to equate Chief of Staff to risking your life in war, then he will lose that argument.
Critics have tried to compare this to the requirements for president or Congress. And some astute people have pointed to the story of Alan Keyes.
You probably don’t remember that Alan Keyes is the answer to the trivia question, “Who lost to Barack Obama for the Senate in 2004?” Keyes, who owned a home in Maryland, tried to claim that renting an apartment in Calumet City, IL qualified him as an Illinois resident. Only because Keyes wasn’t considered a viable candidate did the issue get swept underneath the rug. (For the record, Keyes would have trouble claiming IL residence, especially with paying taxes in Maryland.
But at least, Keyes had an apartment. Emanuel owned a house but had no way of living there. And Emanuel stayed in hotels when he came back to visit Chicago.
And some have tried to compare the scenario to Hillary Clinton. But again, Clinton had a home in New York. The fact that the state allows a short period of time in living in the Empire State to run for office is New York’s issue. And if the state hasn’t changed the law after Robert F. Kennedy and Hillary Clinton took advantage of the rules, well, then New Yorkers probably want to keep things the way they are.
But none of this has to do with Rahm Emanuel and his residency eligibility. He has to live in the city that he wants to run; a year is not too much to ask for in running the city of Chicago. And again, if those in Illinois (full disclosure: I am one of them) want to change the law, they can. But for Emanuel in 2011, it’s too late.
Emanuel can run in 2015, provided he has lived in Chicago for at least a year.
Richard M. Daley lost a 3-way mayoral primary in 1983 to Harold Washington, the only elected African-American Chicago mayor. Daley had to wait longer after Washington died in 1987, as the City Council hoisted Eugene Sawyer to replace Washington. But Daley finally got his chance to run in 1989, and has been the mayor ever since.
The TV people generally react as if it’s audacious that Emanuel has to play by the rules, that the electorate wants our politicians to play by the rules. But they aren’t living in the same world as we are. The rules are normally stacked in favor of people such as Emanuel and Daley. Chicago has a tradition of using arcane rules to knock candidates off the ballot, using hurting the little known candidate who likely won’t win. The powers that be love to knock them off, because, it shows off their power.
So seeing a scenario where the powerful have to live by the same rules as the rest of us, well, this is what the Founding Fathers envisioned. The power base in Chicago, well, they have lost those memos. And the TV people, who ran scared of confronting Mayor Daley, looked forward to kowtowing to Mayor Emanuel.
Unless the Illinois Supreme Court steps in, Emanuel won’t get that chance in 2011. And we can thank the laws and their broad application. All the arrogance in the world won’t change that, but Rahm Emanuel and the TV news people certainly will give it a try.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is making an incredible recovery from the horrible assassination attempt in Tucson. You keep hearing these stories about the slow process, and how well the representative is doing so far in that process.
And all of that is really, really great news.
But the untold story is that the shooting is going to do real damage not only to Rep. Giffords’ career but also to possible Democratic advances in a state that is becoming even more hostile to the Democratic Party.
The focus is on Giffords’ life, not her career — understandably. But at some point, the focus will have to be on what could have been, and what the shooter took beyond the loss of life and the injuries suffered in the attack.
This was posted in a chat on The Washington Post by political reporter Chris Cillizza one day before the shooting. Janet Napolitano had a shot at being a Democratic senator from Arizona had she remained governor. Napolitano would have been prohibited from running for governor again in 2010 and would likely have run for the Senate against John McCain.
And even if she had lost, President Obama would have put her in the administration.
The last Democratic senator from Arizona has one interesting footnote with Sen. McCain. Dennis DeConcini, like McCain, was one of the Keating Five: DeConcini wasn’t able to adjust his profile as well as McCain did, and he retired from the Senate in 1995.
Even in Arizona, there is no guarantee that Giffords could have broken that streak. But there is little chance that Giffords will have an opportunity.
As for the people of the 8th Congressional District in Arizona, they aren’t likely to get a vote in Congress in the near future. Like those in South Dakota when Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) spent most of 2007 incapacitated due to brain health issues, people just don’t get a vote if their representative is severely injured.
Senators have a bit of an error margin in that they only have to run every six years; representatives always have to look over their shoulder.
And let’s be honest: Republicans are looking at taking advantage of this tragedy to likely take the 8th district in 2012. They aren’t doing so publicly, and we aren’t accusing anyone of doing it. But silently, people are thinking about it, even at this point.
Giffords is the only Democratic politician to hold this Congressional seat.
Giffords will likely have a role in our society in making a difference. No one thinks that Rep. Giffords will stop trying to be a force. But the political reality — no matter how much sympathy Giffords might receive for her injuries — is that the conventional political path has come to an end.
If Giffords had been shot anywhere else other than her face and brain, the prognosis would be completely different. You can’t necessarily compare Giffords to former Reagan press secretary James Baker, but there may be more parallels than people are willing to discuss at this point.
Admittedly, this is a difficult topic to consider, especially at this point. But the reality is what it is; if you aren’t thinking about this, other people are. We wish her the best of luck in her recovery. And for the record, we hope Giffords will prove us wrong on multiple levels.
Late on a Friday is when politicians bury the news they don’t want you to know, or remember. But when you get home late on a Friday, and check the Web, and find out that not only has Keith Olbermann done his last “Countdown” show, but also MSNBC isn’t airing a repeat of it because its sense of news is “Lockup.” Seriously.
MSNBC hasn’t been the strongest, most consistent news channel on the block, but the channel had developed a niche that set a distinctive voice missing from the news channel landscape. And the channel had one person to thank for this: Keith Olbermann.
Without Olbermann, there would be no Rachel Maddow, who keeps her 9 p.m. Eastern time slot, and Lawrence O’Donnell, whose show moves into the 8 p.m. slot. Olbermann created a vision, a voice for a news channel that didn’t get buried in the right-wing babble (Fox) and blindness to anything that wasn’t corporate and/or centrist (CNN).
What we have heard is that MSNBC was trying to write Olbermann’s exit for some time. There were also the reports of Olbermann being suspended for making campaign contributions, something that MSNBC allowed Joe Scarborough to do.
Now, a few notes to make before we go further: I am a fan of Olbermann – huge fan. And for the record, I thought Olbermann should have been suspended for the campaign contributions, and thought MSNBC has a double standard on the issue. In fact, MSNBC shouldn’t allow any of its on-air people to make campaign contributions.
The last few weeks for Olbermann have been a little odd, even for Keith. The World’s Worst Person went from its usual format to Not Really the World’s Worst Person to disappearing completely. When Olbermann talked about suspending the feature, he did so in the wake of the Giffords assassination attempt, but humor – something that liberals have more of than conservatives – was present in the segment, and no one with a sense of humor though the segment was malicious. In fact, Olbermann shined a light on people and stories that the MSM missed by a country mile.
There was an attempt in the CNN-type mentality to directly compare Olbermann with Bill O’Reilly, not just because they were in the same time slot, but because the two were exactly the same, but on different sides of the fence. The word for that would be one we referred to in a recent column, an 8-letter word starting with “b.”
When Olbermann drew attention to the increasing use of free clinics, thanks to donations, there were people who got medical attention who otherwise would not have been able to get help. Olbermann’s stories about his mother and later father passing brought a human face to those who make such health care type decisions across the country, humanity desperately needed as the other channels gave legitimate credence to made-up “death panels.”
Olbermann wasn’t perfect, and by all accounts, he would be the first person to admit so. He took back any sort of violent talk, even if it wasn’t clear what he was apologizing for doing. The irony was that Olbermann was apologizing for how something might be perceived, when sharper rhetoric by others was met with a ho-hum.
The news reports went out of their way to note that the move wasn’t connected to the Comcast takeover. But if this was negotiated for some time, and suddenly happens now, there would seem to be some connection.
Keith Olbermann had the highest ratings of anyone on MSNBC; he was the voice of the network. And MSNBC, not the best run or guided news channel on the market, decides to void the last two years of Olbermann’s contract and send him packing.
If this came down to money, MSNBC made a big mistake. If there is a reason more important than money, no one has shared this so far. In the meantime, Keith Olbermann is off the air and we are less informed and entertained as a result.
Congratulations to the Sudan on what is expected to be a splitting of the country. The votes are in on the referendum, but a considerable amount of time is needed to count the votes. But the prediction is pretty clear that soon, the South and the North will be two different countries.
The Sudan was one of many colonies/countries that the British formed into what it needed to be, regardless of the concerns of the population at hand. So there have been a number of problems between the North and the South.
So even though the countries will be smaller than the original Sudan, there will likely be much more peace in this area of the world. Yes, there will be a number of elements to negotiate, but once the vote is count, that process can begin.
The United States has been held up as an example of many different areas coming together as one, being an example to places around the world that have been thrown together or having a poor time mixing people of another country to that country.
Western Europe countries are having trouble with immigrants that don’t have the same color and background. Former colonies having different cultures thrust together.
But the perception of the United States by the rest of the world is just that — a perception. Within the United States, this feels a lot like how the Sudan is.
Each country has a Christian South that feels oppressed by the North. Both sides feel like different countries within the same borders.
And the United States might have the same kind of high turnout that the Sudan had for its referendum if Americans were asked the same question: “Do you want to split into two countries?”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry joked about secession, and many Southerners didn’t disagree with the idea. Northerners might think they are too PC to say it out loud, but if they could be free of the South, they might be up for doing so.
The conventional truth is that the differences were settled in the Civil War, which ended in 1865. The reality is that the South was able to keep black people separate for the next 100 years, and have worked hard to set a different way of life than their neighbors to the North.
The main reason why this won’t happen is that the perception of an united country is “more important” than having two separate countries that would be better off “doing their own thing.”
Southerners can keep education spending and have their “states rights” concepts. Northerners can take their money and spend it on infrastructure and public transportation.
And everyone would be happier about government and politics than they are right now.
Of course, the question of where the borders would lie, along with currency, defense spending, trade, immigration, and more would have to be decided. But with both sides eager for a separation, something will get done.
So which states would form the Blue America vs. the Red America?
Blue America — The New England and Midwestern states would definitely fall into Blue America (ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI, NY, NJ, PA, OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, MN, IA). Logically, Blue America should include the West Coast (WA, OR, CA).
Even though they were border states, MD and DE should logically go in the Blue Column.
Red America — The Red America would get all of the original Confederate states (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, AL, MS, TN, AR, LA, and TX). Since Virginia will be in, its textbooks can say there were 12 Confederate states, even though there were only 11.
KY, a border state in the Civil War, and OK are obvious choices to go red.
So 34 of the 50 states have obvious homes. And Blue America will have more states since some of the small ones will stay blue.
Continuity is an issue in the South as well as the North. You could easily put AZ in the South, but NM belongs in the Blue column. ID would seem to go Red, but that would cut off the West Coast Blue from the other Blue states.
Perhaps there would be a trade where Idaho gives up enough land so that WA can join MT, ND, SD.
CO is a logical Blue, yet is surrounded by Red (WY, KS, UT, AZ).
Despite what Gov. Palin thinks, AK makes more sense in Blue as does HI.
WV is another borderline situation, seemingly Blue but given its border scenario, could go Red.
NM might have to go Red for continuity, but giving CO for Blue might be a good trade. But for CO to fit in with the Blue map, NE might have to go Blue.
MO is another state that could go either way, but that might depend on which part of the state you reside.
So a preliminary Blue America could include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Washington. (29)
And a preliminary Red America would include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. (21)
There are a number of imperfections. Idaho would have to give up a strip of land, though it might be relieved to no longer get Canadian cooties. New Mexico might prefer to go back to Mexico than go Red.
Nebraska would want to be Red, and West Virginia might not want to be Red. And you could argue the merits of Missouri and Alaska being Blue and Nevada being Red.
The GOP House leader would be in the Blue and the Democratic Senate leader would be in the Red.
None of the Red would touch Canada, and the only Blue state to touch Mexico is California.
Better to have two happy societies than one miserable country where nobody is happy.
As much as we like to think it’s 2011, politically we are in 2012.
Days after the 112th Congress kicks off, we already have two announced departures from the Senate for the 2012 campaign.
Traditionally, senators in the minority party leave in droves. But as we’ve learned from this cycle — which just started — and the last cycle, the majority party is the ones where senators are leaping off the ship.
A little known cognizant in the 2010 campaign: Republicans had more seats to defend and open seats to defend, yet the GOP made significant gains in the Senate — 40 to 48. Now, the shoe is on the other foot: Dems have more seats to defend in 2012. And usually, open seats are harder to defend.
But the seats of Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) might offset each other, and that still isn’t good news for the Dems.
Of course, many on the left are thrilled that Lieberman is throwing in the towel. The blasting of President Clinton over the impeachment to the stunning news of being named as Al Gore’s running mate to his 2004 presidential campaign to supporting the GOP presidential nominee in 2008: Democratic people are sick of Joe Lieberman.
Yes, on some votes (read: don’t ask, don’t tell), Lieberman has been in the Dem corner, but many on the left feel that they can do a lot better from that seat from Connecticut. Of course, the best candidate to run for that seat would have been current Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who won Chris Dodd’s seat in 2008. Ned Lamont would be more of an ironic winner, for those who remember the 2006 Senate campaign, but there will be established Dem politicians who will run for that open seat.
So, despite the concerns, the Dems feel like they can get that seat to be much more Democratic in 2012.
Most people might not be able to tell much of a difference between Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, and figure that the two long-time North Dakota senators are fairly similar. The one element that will likely be similar if an established Dem Senate seat turning into a no-contest win for the Republicans.
John Hoeven will able to easily win Dorgan’s Senate seat in 2010 and the GOP is odds on favorite to win Conrad’s seat in 2012. And don’t look for the DNC to give much help in North Dakota, short of a miracle.
On paper, a 1-1 deadlock would be good for the Dems. But, given the number of seats they will need to defend, North Dakota was one that they wish they didn’t have to worry about in 2012.
All this would be better for the Democratic Party if they felt that a President Obama will help them on the ballot in 2012. After all, there were a few coattails – mostly in the House – in 2008 for Obama.
But the left was very excited about the 2008 campaign, and even as President Obama will be on the ballot once again, the Dem voters may not be as excited about 2012. One reason is the perception that the White House, similar to 1994, didn’t work hard enough to help Dems win Congressional seats.
Republicans never seem to have a problem getting excited about elections; still confusing why Democrats have to be “excited” in order to get to the polls.
Hearing the news so early in the 2012 campaign mean we’re in for a long road, and unless there are surprise GOP departures in the right states, this will be a long strange trip for the party that still holds the Senate – for now.
“Money get back, I’m all right Jack, Keep your hands off my stack. Money, it’s a hit, Don’t give me that Do goody good bullshit.”
— “Money,” Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd, 1973
Depending on which company owns your terrestrial radio station, you might not hear the lyrics as they were intended. If your favorite radio station is owned by a large company (e.g., CBS, Clear Channel), one of the words above will be edited out of the song. We think we can guess which word that would be.
Never mind that the song has been a hit off the record that has spent more time on the charts than any rock and roll record, or that critics consider Dark Side of the Moon to be one of the best rock albums ever, or that the song played uncensored for three decades.
The word in the song was one of many other hit songs in the 1970s that contain profanities: Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner,” Eagles “Life in the Fast Lane.” Those songs get less airplay than “Money” but are subject to similar censorship.
But even in the 30 years that radio played these songs uncensored, censorship was selective. Songs from African-American artists would get censored while songs from white, classic rock artists went uncensored.
This isn’t just in the United States: this most recent story shows how a certain f-word has been deleted from the Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing” for Canadian radio.
Censorship of a different kind is prevalent in the literary world. Adults who read “Huckleberry Finn” can usually deal with the “n-word,” but schools have been reluctant to teach the classic book because of that word. There was a historical context to the word at the time of the story, but obviously, there are different perspectives today than 1885.
NewSouth Books is planning to release a new version of the book that substitutes the “n-word” with “slave.”
When radio stations do censor the word “bullshit,” they usually have a moment of silence to substitute the word. But the word “slave” doesn’t really constitute the meaning. After all, Jim wasn’t a slave in Huckleberry Finn.
In the press, there is some attempt to soothe people who are easily frazzled by “bad language” by substituting dashes or symbols for vowels in a word. So why can’t the “new and improved” Huckleberry Finn be along the lines of “n—-r”?
Large companies started to censor songs from white, classic rock artists not because of some moral issue, but their corporate decisions came down to money. Oh and one black nipple.
The Janet Jackson Super Bowl incident increased the skittishness of large companies, so art suffered indirectly as a result. The FCC raised fines to ungodly amounts, scaring TV and radio into censorship that would have been allowed in years past. Never mind that the FCC hasn’t punished a single station for playing Pink Floyd’s “Money” as the artists intended it; censorship still reigns.
Book companies aren’t being threatened with financial penalties for publishing Huckleberry Finn. In fact, the word — far more offensive than “bullsh*t” — can be found in books across the country. But using books in the classroom — financial incentives — is why NewSouth is using the adjusted version.
Companies that decide in favor of censorship should be inspired by the doctor’s motto: “First, do no harm.”
Only censor when absolutely necessary, and if doing so, do so in a way that keeps the original intent of the art.
In the case of “Money,” leave the song as is. The word is not sufficiently harmful to the society, especially when no one has really objected to the word in the song. Suddenly censoring it 37 years later because you are afraid of possible being fined, when there is no danger of that actually happening — this does not qualify for censorship.
In the case of “Huckleberry Finn,” leave the word but do so in a way that does not offend — such as n—-r or n*gg*r — to give the reader the impact of the language Twain used at the time, but reflect modern sensibilities.
In a perfect world, we could all but mature enough to handle “delicate” material. But since that won’t happen, less is as good as it will get.