31 October 2008

While you were voting....

It seems obvious that the Bush administration is determined to be evil to the end: not only have they saddled their successor with a quagmire of a war and a wreck of an economic system, this article in the Washington Post notes that they also wish to gut a number of rules and regulations before Dick and Dubya leave office, further tying the next president's hands.

The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January..... would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis....


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently visited us, and my partner decided not to attend, in part because he didn't want to 'slip' and tell her how upset he was over her decision not to impeach George W Bush. It took me a while to get around to agreeing that impeachment proceedings should have been seriously considered by the House. It now seems obvious that, for the sake of the nation, our Constitution, and our future, throwing the bums out truly was the way to go.

We all need to closely watch the current administration from now until the moment the next president takes the oath of office in January 2009. I wonder, for example, who will get a traditional end of year/end of administration pardon?

30 October 2008

Sunrise in America

Watching Barack Obama's half-hour campaign 'infomercial' last night, my first thought was "Ronald Reagan." Obama and his team have obviously learned quite a bit from "The Great Communicator" about production, stagecraft, and putting a message across. From the opening shot of the 'amber waves of grain,' followed by some purple mountains in the distance above fruited plain to the end, as an animated sun rose over a multicolored arc to turn into the Obama "O".....amazing. What can I say? It's "Morning in America" again!

I'm not saying this to be negative. I'm saying this because I'm very impressed -- and enjoy the irony of how tactics and techniques of the GOP's favorite president have been turned against them. And there was not a dry eye in our house during the segment concerning the elderly black couple where the cost of medication for the wife's severe arthritis forces her 70+ year old husband to work at WalMart (having cared for older relatives that one almost makes me teary just thinking about it).

If Senator Obama wins next Tuesday (and I hope and pray that he does), I'm expecting to see four - to - eight years of speeches, podcasts, e-mail blasts, and YouTube video from a President poised to join Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and yes Ronald Reagan (although somehow his messages were always lost on me), as one of the truly finest 'communicators' ever to use the Bully Pulpit of the White House. And considering the amazing network of supporters that have joined together for the campaign (all ready and waiting to continue to work after the election) it's going to be a very interesting administration, not only in Washington, but also (especially?) out here in the 'grass roots.'

23 October 2008

Poem: Palinode, Once Removed by Kyle Dargan

In honor of a missed connection between myself and Kyle Dargan last week (and today, too, since I was supposed to be off but.....), here's one of Mr. Post No Ills' poems from Bouquet of Hungers, winner of the 2008 Hurston Wright Legacy Award in Poetry.

Palinode, Once Removed
Bloomington, Indiana

The Negro is America's metaphor
Richard Wright

The girl from Martinsville sets her eyes on me
like they are elbows -- intently boring
at my cheeks. This sentiment bleeds
throughout my class. Slouched, heads
tilted, they wait for the day I come in,
pull out a handkerchief, a vial of alcohol,
and wipe this vexing complexion from my skin.

Before I left home, Uncle called -- said,
"You're going to teach them people, huh?
Well, teach 'em.:

The day we pursue metaphor, I will
teach them about the brain -- how there is a center
to catch discrepancy between the expected
and the perceived. Stimulate the mechanism,
you are working in metaphor.

Though surprising
I am not a metaphor. This is: I am a period,
small and dark. If you read me correctly,
you are to stop. Pause. Breathe.

20 October 2008

Colin Powell, All-American

"Now, I understand what politics is all about. I know how you can go after one another, and that's good. But I think this goes too far. And I think it has made the McCain campaign look a little narrow. It's not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that's what we'd be looking at in a McCain administration. I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

"I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions."

Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.),
'Meet the Press,' October 19, 2008

Spc. Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, 1987-2007

15 October 2008

Blog Action Day 2008

The Bean Eaters

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.

And remembering . . .
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that
is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths,
tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Gwendolyn Brooks

What does it mean to be poor? For the most part, people focus on the homeless, those we see sleeping on the street or begging for change on corners and outside (and sometimes inside) stores. This is as it should be perhaps, those we see in dire straits are the most in need, and deserve our focus and attention.

But there are others, possible millions of others, hidden from sight, who are struggling. And sadly, while our Presidential candidates are doing a lot of talking about the Middle Class and what the definition of "Rich" is, there has been next to no discussion about the Poor, working or otherwise. Very troubling. There's little we can do about the problem if we don't see that there is a problem. One of the first steps we can take is to open our eyes.

Faces of World Poverty

What we can do to help end poverty in the Third World

Help eliminate poverty – invest in women

On The Working Poor

Poor & Elderly

Health care for the Poor and Elderly

More Poverty Fighting ideas . (I am a big fan of the idea of Microlending, as well as the venerable Oxfam America, and regularly contribute to the local Maryland Food Bank)

Blog Action Day 2008

13 October 2008

Crisis? What Crisis?

Heartiest Congratulations to economist and NYTimes columist Paul Krugman, Winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics! (Now all you need to do is become Governor of Maine and it's on to The West Wing!)

Although Krugman's selection is based on his economic theories (explained here and here), considering his high profile as a liberal public intellectual , the choice, combined with the selection of Martti Ahtisaari, Former President of Finland, as the Peace Prize winner for his work as “'an outstanding international mediator' whose efforts “have contributed to a more peaceful world and to ‘fraternity between nations’," strikes me as also being yet another needle jabbed at the Bush Administration from Sweden.

So, since the Stock Market soared today, thanks to the global embrace of...well, Socialism, actually..., is it time to pop the champagne and move on to the next crisis? I don't think so. It took a while to get into this mess, and it will take some time to get us out. Now is the time for all of us to take some deep breaths and get ed-u-ma-cated.

There have been a number of places to find good, solid information about what's going on in banking, housing, and on Wall Street lately. Here are a few I've found particularly enlightening. Some can be relatively long and complicated, but since we're going to be in for one hell of a time for at least the first two years of the next president's administration, we have some time to savor them. Also considering the artificial 'sweeteners' needed to pass the Bailout Bill, when we were threatened with nothing less than The Apocalypse, perhaps its best that we try to slow down a bit and actually consider what we should do next.

Paul Krugman's Blog at the New York Times (Wonder what he's going to do with Mr Nobel's $4million in prize money?)

McClatchy Newspaper's "Economy in Turmoil" series

The Brookings Institute on the US Economy (Full Dislosure: As a fresh-out-of-college Poly Sci major, I lusted after a job at Brookings, but lacked the self-confidence to go for it!)

Salon's "How The World Works"

Although we are on opposite sides of the politial spectrum (he thought Congress should eliminate the Capital Gains Tax, for example), I have a lot of respect for the personal finance tips of Dave Ramsey.

JD Roth's "Get Rich Slowly" blog and his List of Financial Literacy Resources

(Cartoon from The New Yorker)

09 October 2008

Nobel Thoughts

Congratulations to the newest Nobel Laureate in Literature, novelist Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. I don't know his work, but am very happy for him (...although, to be honest, my first reactions upon hearing he'd won were; 1)"Jean-Marie Who?" and; 2)isn't Michel Tournier still alive?)

Much was made of recent comments by Horace Engdahl, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, attacking US writers for being "too isolated, too insular...Europe is still the center of the literary world..."

Uh, yeah, right....This is so wrong on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. Help me out here John....

Also, seems to me as a reader, that, depending on what you mean, there is either NO "Center of the Literary World" (shades of The Death of the Author!), or that The Center 'floats', and the location where the most vital and interesting work comes from changes. During "El Boom" (and after) it was Central and South America; writers from the Indian subcontinent have been 'must reads' in recent years (a few here -- although I don't count politically proto-European grandee Nobelist VS Naipaul -- and here).

Personally I wasn't entirely sure that any of the US writers who are on my shortlist (Philip Roth, for example, or Joyce "Stop Me Before I Write Another Novel Before Breakfast" Carol Oates -- Just kidding, JCO, us Mike Tyson Fans have to stick together...) had a ghost of a chance this year. What has been obvious to many of us for quite some time is that American writers should put the Nobel completly out of their minds as long as George W Bush occupies the White House. The anti-Bush/anti-US occupation of Iraq feeling is so strong in European literary circles now that we scribblers are being punished so that there could be zero chance of The Academy being seen as 'rewarding' the United States in any way.

Yet another reason to Vote Obama!

Finally on this year's award: No offense to fiction, but -- What's up with Poetry? In 1995 and '96 when the Swedish Academy went wild and voted in two poets back to back ( "Famous Seamus" Heaney and the luminous Wislawa Szymborska). Since then, novelists and playwrites. I was thinking that this might be the year for Tomas Tranströmer, although the Swedes are sensitive of giving The Big One to one of their own, Bei Dao -- or, say, Adonis (or Mahmoud Darwish if he'd lived) both for the quality of their work and as yet another way to needle the Bush Administration. Again this year, Stockholm sent regrets to John Ashbery, Claribel Alegria, Jay Wright (whose Polynomials and Pollen: Parables, Proverbs, Paradigms, and Praise for Lois is making me cry right now), and on and on and on ......

Come on Academy: What did us versifyers ever do to Sweden?

03 October 2008

Debate Postscript Extra Credit Question

("It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where—where do they go?")

Listening to the debate, and then perusing the transcript, I wonder: Is it really too much to ask that a person running for elected office in 2008 be able to speak comprehensible English (right there, also)?

Slate diagrams the sentences of Sarah Palin (hat tip and eternal love to the amazing Tayari Jones)

02 October 2008

Here's to the new Veep, same as the old Veep....

....strike that: make it WORSE than the current VP

(portions of the transcript of the vice-presidential debate between Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Gov. Sarah Palin in St. Louis, 2 October 2008, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions)

IFILL: ....We're going to move on to the next question. Governor, you said in July that someone would have to explain to you exactly what it is the vice president does every day.... But tell us now, looking forward, what it is you think the vice presidency is worth now.


PALIN: No, no. Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are. John McCain and I have had good conversations about where I would lead with his agenda. That is energy independence in America and reform of government over all, and then working with families of children with special needs. That's near and dear to my heart also. In those arenas, John McCain has already tapped me and said, that's where I want you, I want you to lead. I said, I can't wait to get and there go to work with you.


IFILL: Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

PALIN: Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation. And it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed to my pick as V.P. with McCain, not only as a governor, but earlier on as a mayor, as an oil and gas regulator, as a business owner. It is those years of experience on an executive level that will be put to good use in the White House also.

Governor, meet the Constitution; US Constitution, Governor Palin:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided. (US Constitution, Article I, Section III)

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President (US Constitution, Article II, Section I)