Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Throwing Cold Water on Melissa Ferrick

Sometimes you walk into a room and know you’re not supposed to be there. I’ve been to Club Passim many times before, but that’s how it felt when I walked in to see the Melissa Ferrick show last night. I arrived just before the opening act goes on as is my usual custom. I was halfway down the center aisle to be seated at a table with three women when I realized that the audience was almost all women. Looking around after I was seated, there were only a dozen other men in the audience, and well over a hundred women.

Now I knew that Melissa Ferrick is what some would call a lesbian-themed folk singer. But those artists fall into two types, those that play to mixed crowds and those that play to lesbian crowds. I had walked into the latter.

The opening act was Coyote Grace. Ingrid Elizabeth is a pretty woman in a sunny dress who hails from small town Ohio. Joe Stevens is a short, bearded man with hairy arms. Ingrid hasn’t learned all the stagecraft of bending over to pick things up on stage, so the crowd of women was getting quite a show. But as their set progresses an unexpected back story emerges between and through their songs: “Girl meets Girl. Girl becomes Boy. Girl and Boy become a band.” Yes, Joe is a transman. And I’m realizing that there are really only a half-dozen men in the club.

So it’s all a bit confusing, and I’m pretty sure I’m being put on in several ways (Ingrid, I find out later on the web, has in her day done a bit of burlesque), but their old-time jazzy bluegrassy folk rock sound is great and I’m cool with that. Just how cool was put to the test after the end of their set. One of the three women at my table stood up in the crowded club and managed to spill one of those large plastic tumblers of water directly into my lap. Three-quarters full, direct hit, full absorption. I will say this it was an accident, but I don’t entirely believe it.

Now I’ve got a real problem on my hands. Because I’m sitting there with what would look like a large pee stain were I to stand. Fortunately, the lights had already come down for Melissa Ferrick to go on stage. So I’m sitting there in my damp seat, wondering how I’m going to get out of there with what remains of my cold, soggy dignity. It hits me about halfway through that at the end of this set the crowd is going to give her a standing ovation. I don’t want to stand up. And I don’t want to be the lone man refusing to stand in this crowd filled with some very butch women.

So what did I think of Melissa Ferrick? Under these circumstances, it was kind of hard to concentrate on the music. I would say she was good too. Not memorable, but perhaps that is unfair for me to say under the circumstances. It was certainly an evening I will never forget.

So how did I get out? Fortunately, it was a cold night and I had worn my parka, which I pulled off the back of the chair, put on, and zipped up near the end of Melissa Ferrick’s set. It was long enough that I could stand and clap loudly for her encore. And just barely warm enough for the twenty minute walk home.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cambridge Sells out of Milk

No, times are not quite so bad that you can't buy a carton of milk. The new movie Milk starring Sean Penn opened this weekend on one screen in Cambridge at the Kendall Square Cinema. Milk stars Sean Penn as the 1970s era San Francisco gay politician Harvey Milk.

And how was the movie? I don't know. It was sold out for all shows.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Re: Seven Days Later

From one of our Montana Correspondents:

I keep wondering why the election vote was so close since McCain had to run against Bush, the war, the collapse of the economy, etc. "The Economist" issue of 8 Nov 2008 has some interesting stats that might help explain.

Obama won the popular vote 52% to 46% and vote the electoral vote by 190 (364 to 174). He owes his victory to blacks, Hispanics, the young, women of all races, the poor and the very rich. They provided the huge margins for his win.

He won 95% of blacks, 66% of people aged 18-29 and 68% of first-time voters, 66% of the Latino vote (the GOP natives rejection of immigration reform has cost it dearly) and 17% of white voters who made over $200,000 per year. He won independents by 8% and 54% of the catholic votes, a vital swing group in the industrial states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

He lost to McCain by 18% of all white voters without a college education. That's the largest group of those voting and I think that was the main reason the popular vote was as close as it was.

"John McCain got 5 million fewer votes than George Bush got in 2004. Around 53% of the over-65 group voted for John McCain, but around 10 million elderly have died in the U.S. since 2004. For voters under age 30, 66% voted for Barack Obama. If this trend continues, the Republican Party may simply die out." (LBOTC)

In my opinion, the GOP has to address issues of the younger voters or they will continue to lose future elections. The times "they are a'changing." For better or for worse. But they are a'changing.

Reply: I think it felt closer than it actually was. This is only the 3rd time since World War II that the Democrats got more than 50% of the vote (1964 and 1976 were the other two). That compares to 7 times for the Republican Party, and 6 times neither party broke 50%.

By running as “mavericks” McCain and Palin were appealing to the 5% to 10% to 20% of the American electorate that is ready to vote for third party candidates. I don’t think the Republican Party can count on those voters in 2012, particularly if Obama does well.

Obama had things to run against too: disappointment with the Pelosi Congress, skepticism that Democrats will end the war, concerns about his experience in the face of the war and the collapsing economy, etc.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Seven Days Later

It was quiet in Cambridge on Election Day last week. There were no Obama volunteers in Harvard Square or holding signs at the polling places. All were dispatched to New Hampshire and other battleground states. Free coffee was dispensed to voters at Starbucks and free ice cream was dispensed at Ben and Jerry’s. Around 6:45pm, a lone woman was manning a Green Party table in front of Out of Town News, and not doing much business.

The votes are pretty much counted from last week’s election (take your time Oregon and Washington State). Just a week ago Obama supporters around the country were sitting on their seats convinced that they would get tricked or cheated out of what now looks like a historically inevitable victory. And McCain supporters were convinced their world was coming to an end.

Any which way you can. Barack Obama could win by winning Florida. He could win by winning Ohio. He could win by winning Virginia and North Carolina. He could win by winning Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada. He could win by winning Indiana and Iowa so long as his party also won a majority of Congressional delegations for the tiebreaker. He won all five of those ways.

Broken records, flat turnout. Barack Obama racked up 66 million votes, 4 million more than George Bush in 2004, and 7 million more than John Kerry. The total number of votes cast jumped 17 million (16%) from 2000 to 2004 but only 3 million (2.5%) from 2004 to 2008. Overall turnout didn’t keep up with population growth as high turnout in some states was offset by lower turnout in others.

The Republican Party is dying out. From the conservative perspective, it’s really been 24 years since we’ve had a successful Republican presidential candidate who could be considered both competent and inspiring. That would be Ronald Reagan running for reelection in 1984, before he was tarnished by the Iran-Contra scandal. Children who were 6 years old in 1984 and old enough to remember Reagan are 30 years old now. Anyone who was voting age in 1984 is over 40 years old now. If you don’t count Reagan, you would have to go back to Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Children who were 6 in 1956 are 58 years old now, and adults who were voting age in 1956 are 73 years old now.

John McCain got 5 million fewer votes than George Bush got in 2004. Around 53% of the over-65 group voted for John McCain, but around 10 million elderly have died in the U.S. since 2004. For voters under age 30, 66% voted for Barack Obama. If this trend continues, the Republican Party may simply die out.

40 years in the wilderness. One of the most moving moments on election night was seeing Jesse Jackson crying in the crowd at the Obama victory celebration in Chicago. Jackson finished third for the Democratic nomination in 1984 and second in 1988, but his candidacy was never taken seriously except as a potential spoiler. In April 1968, 40 years ago, he was in the parking lot below the balcony of the Memphis motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This is from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech the night before he was killed:

“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight.”

The race riots that followed King’s assassination left deep scars on the urban landscape and the suburban psyche in the United States. That, together with the late 1960s student unrest in opposition to the Vietnam War, pretty much destroyed the Democratic Party as a Presidential Party. So the Democrats have held the Presidency for only 12 of the last 40 years. For the hundred years from the Civil War to the 1960s, it had been a coalition of Northern urban and Southern rural voters. After the 1960s the Democrats became at core the party of urban America, but has had to settle for non-urban outsiders like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. There have been few real blue states, just blue cities.

Are we seeing a Midwestern realignment? The Republican Party reelected to Congress its rhetorical bomb throwers like Jean Schmidt (“cowards cut and run”) from Ohio, Michele Bachmann (“are they pro-America or anti-America?”) from Minnesota, and Steve King (“they will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name.”) from Iowa. But the Congressional delegations in the upper Midwest states all went Democratic.

Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton won back rural Southern voters, but the party was not able to hold onto them, even when it ran Southerner Al Gore in 2000. In 2000 and 2004, Democrats won in the big cities but lost in the large rural areas across the Midwest as well as the South and West. Now it looks like the rural vote may again be in play.

Looking at the county by county map for 2008, Barack Obama won a lot of rural counties in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Barack Obama also carried the city of Omaha, Nebraska (birthplace of Malcolm X), which has long voted Republican and considers itself the gateway to the West. If Western Plains states like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana follow the Midwest out of the Republican Party, there will not be much left for the party but the South. Since the Republican Party was formed to oppose the South on slavery, that would be the ultimate irony.

Call me a socialist. I think that Barack Obama’s poll numbers might have actually gone up a notch in the final days of the campaign when the McCain campaign questioned whether he was a socialist. Have the rural Iowans and other rural Midwesterners figured out that their federal farm price supports, their local banks and cooperative lending institutions, their municipally-owned hospitals run by elected boards of directors, their volunteer fire departments, their community-organized music festivals and band days, their 4-H clubs and state university extension programs, their county homes and care facilities for residents who can’t support themselves, their town-supported semi-pro baseball teams, their communal practice of helping sick neighbors harvest their crops, their deep mistrust of corporations and Wall Street, that all of these are socialist institutions and proclivities?

I’ve come to understand that all the blue state socialists really want is the same kind of community that small town America works hard at and, when it comes to others, sometimes takes for granted. It makes me kind of sad to live in the cold, hard, capitalist city of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Al Franken Still Waiting for His Affirmation

In a race that is still too close to call, former SNL writer and comedian Al Franken is trailing by 206 votes in his bid to become the next Senator from Minnesota. I can’t help but remember Al Franken on Saturday Night Live at the end of 1979, proclaiming that the 1980s would be the “Al Franken Decade.” I also remember him in the role as Stuart Smalley doing his daily affirmation, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." Minnesota may not make Al Franken’s decade despite voting for Barack Obama by a margin of 300,000 votes and that's ... okay.

Alaska Senator to Nowhere

Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens became famous for getting an earmark into the federal budget for an expensive bridge between two small islands (the “bridge to nowhere”) and then became infamous for getting convicted this fall on 7 corruption charges. Yet he’s on track to win reelection to his Senate seat, beating Mark Begich, the Democratic Mayor of Anchorage. The reelected Ted Stevens will probably have to resign from the Senate or be expelled, which in either case will require a special election to fill the seat. So by voting for Ted, the Alaska electorate may have been voting for “none of the above.” Still, if you are Mark Begich, losing to a convicted felon has got to hurt.

I'm with Stupid

Q: How stupid is Sarah Palin?

A: Yes, her campaign clothes buying spree may have been a full 25% of total retail sales activity for the United States in October. Now insiders are saying she thinks Africa is a country not a continent and South Africa is just a region not its own country. She says she never said that, but would she be wrong? You may want to read up on the African Union, which was formed in 2002 as a confederation of 53 African states. The African Union has a flag, an anthem ("Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together"), a parliament of sorts, a nascent judiciary, a proposal for a single currency (yes, the Afro), and peacekeeping troops deployed and under fire in Sudan. By the time Sarah Palin runs again for President in 2012 or 2016, Africa may very well be a true country. And with a Senate seat potentially opening up in Alaska, could we soon be seeing Senator Sarah Palin on the world stage?

Q: How stupid is Barack Obama?

A: Word is that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry wants to be Secretary of State. Remember that Kerry voted for the war before he voted against it. I think a good job for him would be U.S. Ambassador to Iraq. Word also is that Larry Summers is on the list to become Secretary of Treasury. For some politically incorrect remarks a few years back, Larry was drummed out of the presidency of Harvard University (some thought unfairly other thought very deservedly). I’m pretty sure Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett gets to pick the new Secretary of Treasury appointment in return for his giving of Barack Obama the capitalist seal of approval during the financial meltdown a few weeks ago. Do the right thing, Warren.

Q: How stupid are we?

A: I’m looking back at the list of goals George W. Bush failed to accomplish and seeing that he wanted to invest our Social Security funds in the stock market. The nominal amount held in the Social Security trust fund these days is $2 trillion. The total tab for funds designated to bail out various companies is now around $1 trillion. Is George W. Bush investing half our Social Security money in the shakiest part of the financial markets as he leaves office?

Buy a Gun for Christmas

There are reports of a run on gun shops due to fears that Democrats in Congress will clamp down on gun rights come January. A number of stores across the country reported record gun sales on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Could some gun enthusiasts have gone straight from the voting booth to the gun store, or did they just skip the trip to the voting booth? Are these the bitter Klingons, clinging to their guns and religion, Sarah Palin spoke of in the final days of the campaign? No reports yet of a run on bibles.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

Here's a story I got from one of my correspondents. It shows you why concern over potential vote fraud may have been overblown:

This morning I drove by 2 polling places in the South End between 7:10 and 7:15. There were orderly lines of 150-200 people out the door and around the block, and no visible sign of campaign workers. When I had no choice, in 2000, I voted absentee for the first time, and have continued to do so (possibly illegally, since I certify that I'll be away) ever since for 2 reasons; first, it's wicked convenient and I never miss voting in smaller elections. Second, I have found the campaign workers in Jamaica Plain particularly obnoxious. It's unpleasant to be accosted on the way to vote by people shoving small pieces of paper at me. It's also illegal to even hold a sign within 150 feet of a polling place. Massachusetts General law chapter 56, section 29 says you can be fined $500, but apparently no one enforces this law in JP.

There's a regular panhandler outside of the Dunkin Donuts where I get my coffee each morning. Today I asked him if he was registered to vote. He said that he had registered as homeless at the Pine Street Inn, that they gave him a yellow piece of paper to take to the polls with him, and that he had lost it along with his T pass, wallet, and ID. He asked me if I thought he could still vote. I said that I didn't know, and that his best bet would be to ask someone at Pine Street. "Yes," he said. "I'm going to go there as soon as I finish work."

Republicans Pack for Canada and France

I was driving around Waltham, Weston, Wayland, and Wellesley this Sunday watching the leaves fall. I can’t afford the gas money for the drive to Vermont, although gas does seem to have dropped to $2.55 per gallon here. I was seeing a lot of For Sale signs mixed with the McCain-Palin yard signs. Here in Massachusetts you have to drive out to the W. towns to see any McCain-Palin signs. In Cambridge it’s all Obama signs. You don’t even see so many Obama-Biden signs, as these are folks who got their Obama yards signs up in April when the snow melted. There are some Obama-Biden signs out in the W. towns.

Anyway, all the For Sale signs out in horse farm country got me wondering how much of the stock market plunge that started 6 weeks ago might be due to big money Bush Republicans seeing the handwriting on the wall and cashing out before the election. If they can take their money and run, where would they go?

For years we’ve heard rich liberals threatening to move to Canada or France if the election comes out wrong. But Canada since February 2006 has been governed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, whose Conservative Party just won reelection in October. Meanwhile, France has been governed since May 2007 by the conservative UMP party under President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister François Fillon. So it would seem that Canada and France have become the last bastions of conservatives in North America and Europe.

Canada, by the way, is still a monarchy under head of state Queen Elizabeth II and her Governor General Michaëlle Jean, a black woman born in Haiti. On news of her appointment in 2005, there were stories that she and her husband had been friendly with separatist terrorists from French-speaking Quebec, but she has served as Governor General of Canada since 2005 with no untoward effect.

So why would the big Bushies be packing their money bags while the rest of us are sitting on the edge of our seats for the election results? It’s all about Electoral College vote math. The projections LBOTC watches both show Barack Obama winning 353 to 185 for John McCain. That would be a victory margin of 85 electoral votes for Obama. On the other hand, in 2004 Bush ended up beating Kerry 286 to 252, so McCain could sneak in an Electoral College victory if he upset the polling trends and pulled off victories in most all the states George Bush over John Kerry won in 2004.

What to watch for on Tuesday night:

Florida (27), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), and Ohio (20) – These were Bush states in 2004 and 2000, and they’ll be among the first states to report results, so if Obama is winning most or all of these, you can go to bed early (not that you will). But Obama can lose all of these and still win the election.

Pennsylvania (21) – Of the states Kerry won in 2004, Pennsylvania seems to be McCain’s best chance for an upset. McCain needs a victory in Pennsylvania to offset the Bush states he may lose in the East as well as the Bush states he will lose in the West. Republican strategists had hoped to win over Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan in the Great Lakes region, and this is all that is left of that dream. For the geographically impaired, Pennsylvania is on Lake Erie.

Missouri (11) and Iowa (7) – For Obama, this is the firewall. If Obama wins both of these, I see no way for McCain to pull off an upset.

New Mexico (5), Colorado (9), Nevada (5) – These states went for Bush in 2004 but are expected to go for Obama in 2008. Kerry needed only 18 more electoral votes to beat Bush in 2004, so even if McCain pulls out victories in all the other states Bush won in 2004, the 19 electoral votes in these 3 states could still put Barack Obama over the top. This has been the Democratic Western States strategy, figuring out how to win without Ohio or Florida, the losing battlegrounds of 2004 and 2000 respectively. So even if Obama gets off to a slow start in the East, he can still win in the West.

Massachusetts (12) – Barack Obama will win big here, the only question is by how much. John Kerry got 1,803,800 votes here in 2004, which is the current record, second to 1,786,422 votes for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Al Gore got 1,616,487 votes here in 2000. With a record turnout expected, Barack Obama could shatter the records with 2,000,000 votes. The other thing to watch in Massachusetts is whether Barack Obama for President scores more votes statewide than John Kerry in his reelection bid for Senate. You don’t have to vote for Kerry’s opponent to help this along, just don’t vote for Kerry. Remember, Kerry voted for the war before he voted against it.

National Popular Vote – As we all learned in 2000, the popular vote total doesn’t count, except for bragging rights. Look for Barack Obama to break the 70,000,000 vote mark. George W. Bush holds the current record with 62,040,610 votes in 2004. John Kerry has second place with 59,028,444 votes in 2000.

U.S. House of Representatives – The three races I’m following are Steve King v. Rob Hubler in Iowa’s 5th congressional district, Michelle Bachmann v. Elwyn Tinklenberg in Minnesota’s 6th congressional district, and Jean Schmidt v. Victoria Wulsin in Ohio’s 2nd congressional district. Also look to see if any incumbents get punished by their constituents for voting for or against the October financial bailout.

U.S. Senate – There has been talk that the Democrats might reach the magic 60 seat mark in the Senate, which under Senate rules would enable them to prevent Republican filibusters and make it much easier to pass legislation. However, that talk ignores the fact that seat 60 would be Joe Lieberman, who Democrats tried to purge from their party in 2006 and who is now campaigning for John McCain. So, if you’re staying up super late to get the final Senate results, you may need an intervention.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rob Hubler, The Submariner

“We sat there for 45 minutes knowing everyone we knew was dead.”

Rob Hubler is running for Congress in Western Iowa’s 5th Congressional District and this is one of the stories he sometimes tells about his Navy submarine experience in the 1960s. His nuclear submarine was in the middle of the ocean when the word came that the United States was at war with the Soviet Union. So the crew executed its orders, launched its missiles, and then had nothing left to do but ponder what they had just done, and what a nuclear war likely meant for their family and friends back home. Fortunately, it was just a drill, designed to test the crew’s readiness and response, and unknown to the crew the warheads were not armed or targeted.

Rob spent seven years in the Navy as a nuclear propulsion room supervisor and nuclear power plant operator and campaigns wearing his “Silent Service” cap. Rob spent some years in the 1970s as a political operative helping candidates get elected to the House and Senate. Once a heavy drinker (but then so were John McCain and George Bush), Rob had a turbulent period with alcoholism. Then Rob made a career as a Presbyterian Minister. His Christian beliefs define his world view. Rob often says his life revolves around the Four F’s: faith, family, friends, and fellowship. He also says, “We are our brother’s keeper.” Rob Hubler is a Democrat.

Rob has a hard job. He is running for Congress in a heavily Republican district where there are 3 registered Republicans for every 2 Democrats. There are more than enough independent voters for a candidate like Rob Hubler to have a good chance, but it’s not going to be a fair fight. His opponent won’t debate him. Word is that Rob has raised $220,000 and his opponent has raised $880,000.

Yes, there is a lot of dissatisfaction across the nation with President Bush, weariness with the Iraq War, and anger at the financial mess. But at the same time, the Red State, Blue State story flogged for the last 8 years by national media and the occasional Democratic candidate tells people in the places that vote Republican that they are stupid rednecks or worse - not exactly the best way to win friends and influence people. (And it’s actually the suburban Republican vote not the rural vote that has been costing Democrats elections.) The stories about Acorn tactics in registering voters dredge up long repressed fears of big city Democrats stuffing ballot boxes to disenfranchise voters in the countryside. And after all, your local Republican Congressman is a good guy who you like, who stands up for your values, so why not vote to reelect him.

The incumbent Republican Congressman that Ron is running against is Steve King. How Steve became a politician is an interesting story. Steve ran his own constructions company, and came before the state legislature in Des Moines to speak on some new proposal. Steve had spent some time and care writing and practicing his speech, but when he got before the legislative committee, he was peppered with questions and speeches posing as questions and could hardly get a word of his speech in. Steve was outraged that the legislators would rather talk at him then listen to what he had to say, so he went home and ran for election, and came back to Des Moines as a state senator. In 2002, he got elected to the U.S. Congress. Steve won by 62% to 38% in 2002, 63% to 37% in 2004, and 59% to 37% in 2006.

However, Steve King has become one of those politicians he used to hate, not really listening to others and taking a certain relish in making inflammatory comments. For example:

On conditions in Iraq: "My wife lives here with me, and I can tell you, she’s at far greater risk being a civilian in Washington, D.C., than an average civilian in Iraq."

On the U.S. military talking out al-Zarqawi: “There probably are not 72 virgins in the hell he's at, and if there are, they probably all look like Helen Thomas." (Helen Thomas is an 88-year-old American journalist and White House correspondent.)

On foreign spouse’s of U.S. soldiers: “A soldier, man or woman, could get drunk in Bangkok, wake up in the morning and be married, as will happen sometimes in places like Las Vegas or Bangkok, be killed the next day, and the spouse who was a product of the evening's celebration would have then a right to claim access to come to the United States on a green card.”

On the Supreme Court: “I pray that Justice Stevens and Justice Ginsberg fall madly in love with each other and elope to Cuba. That way President Bush can appoint two more Justices like Alito and Roberts.”

On Barack Obama: “I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the radical Islamists, the al-Qaida, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. … His middle name (Hussein) does matter. It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was."

On former Bush White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan: "Couldn't you have taken this to the grave with you and done this country a favor?"

On the Republican Party platform not supporting ethanol: “It wouldn’t be the first time someone included a phrase that was dumb in the GOP platform.”

I find Steve King entertaining, I must admit, but I don’t see him getting anything done, particularly in the new Democratic Congress where his influence will be zero if not negative. Rob Hubler has some entertaining stories too. Rob went off to Southern California, fell in with a band, played with them for 10 to 15 gigs, then quit because he just couldn’t get into the band’s style of music. The band’s frontman was Brian Wilson, which, if only he had felt the good vibrations, would have made Rob Hubler the eighth Beach Boy.

Bragging on a Night with The Watson Twins

Billy Bragg played the Somerville Theater last week. He channels folk great Woody Guthrie with a punk rock sensibility, and riffs on Johnny Clash (Johnny Cash meets the Clash). He dedicated his concert to the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. Billy Bragg is European and we don’t usually like foreigners lecturing us on their ideas of illegal wars, but his country Britain sent troops to Iraq so he’s allowed.

Bragg offered three principal criticisms of the United States:

(1) We got the red state, blue state thing wrong. Red is the color of Labour, blue is the color of the Conservatives.
(2) Football is a game that the rest of the world plays with a soccer ball.
(3) We are foolish not to have universal health care.

As you may guess the evening quickly devolved into a musical Obama rally with speeches from the artist as well as music. But if anything Billy Bragg tried to dampen enthusiasm. Think how amazing it is for a black to even get the nomination. Don’t give up hope if Barack doesn’t win. Don’t get cynical if he does win and it takes longer than eight years to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Boston, don’t take the World Series for granted.

The opening act was The Watson Twins. They have a quiet Louisville sound by way of the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Chandra did gush a little too long for her sister Leigh’s comfort about how great it was to tour with Billy Bragg. Or maybe it was Leigh that did the gushing and Chandra that did the hushing. Who can tell, they are identical twins.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Biden Doctrine

Speaking at a fundraiser in Seattle last weekend, Joe Biden told the audience to “gird your loins” and announced what I am calling the Biden Doctrine:

"Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.…

"And he's going to need help. And the kind of help he's going to need is, he's going to need you - not financially to help him - we're going to need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not going to be apparent initially, it's not going to be apparent that we're right."

Great, another Vice President who wants a blank check. Joe Biden also said, "I've forgotten more about foreign policy than most of my colleagues know, so I'm not being falsely humble with you.” I think the more important question is how much foreign policy he remembers, and most important is whether he has any foreign policy judgment. I’m not seeing it here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Plumb the Wealth

Here is the short version of the now famous exchange in Ohio between Barack Obama and Joe Wurzelbacher.

Joe: "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more. Isn't it?"

Barack: "It's not that I want to punish your success, I just want to make sure that everybody that is behind you, that they have a chance for success too. I think that when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Actually this is an edited version of a much longer exchange. If you read or watch it all the way through, Barack does show off an impressive knowledge of the details of his tax plan and how his plan would affect small business. But Barack made three mistakes.

First, Barack assumed that Joe was saying he would be making more than $250,000 in his new business, but Joe was probably talking about “gross” and income taxes are imposed on “net.” And Joe, because he does not yet own the business and have to file its taxes, probably doesn't understand this distinction either. My quick calculation is that a plumber netting $125,000 would save aorund $1300 under the Obama tax cut plan versus $100 under the McCain plan.

Second, Barack talks about plumbers like Joe making $60,000 to $70,000 10 or 15 years ago when Joe was starting out, but the average plumber today makes around $45,000. It's quite possible that Joe doesn't even make $70,000 now. This is where Obama gets the reputation for being an elitist who doesn't know how to talk to middle America.

But the big mistake was Barack not just giving a simple answer to Joe, “Small businesses like yours will be getting bigger tax cuts under my plan that John McCain’s plan.” That's the message of the Obama tax plan, and it somehow got lost. As a result, Barack spent about ten minutes lecturing a highly skeptical guy why it's not unfair to raise his taxes when the guy is probably in line to get a tax cut.

Here’s how it went down:

Barack: “Yes sir, what’s your name?”

Joe: “My name’s Joe Wurzelbacher.”

Barack: “Good to see you, Joe.”

Joe: "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes about 250, 270, 280 thousand dollars a year.”

Barack: “Alright.”

Joe: “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Barack: "Well here’s what’s going to happen. If you’re a small business which you would qualify, first off, you would get a 50% tax credit so you'd get a tax cut for your healthcare costs. So you would get a tax cut on that front.”

Joe. “Uh hm.”

Barack: “If your revenue is above 250 – then from 250 down, your taxes are going to stay the same. It is true that for say 250 up – from 250 – 300 or so -“

Joe: “But here’s my question - “

Barack: “I just want to answer your question. “

Joe: “Ok.”

Barack: “So for that additional amount, you’d go from 36 to 39%, which is what it was under Bill Clinton.“

Joe: “Yeah.”

Barack: And the reason why we’re doing that is because 95% of small businesses make less than 250. So what I want to do is give them a tax cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut. And so what we’re doing is, we are saying that folks who make more than 250 that that marginal amount above 250 – they’re going to be taxed at a 39 instead of a 36% rate.”

Joe: "The reason I ask you about the American dream -"

Barack: “Right, right.”

Joe: “I mean I've worked hard. I'm a plumber.”

Barack: “We appreciate it.”

Joe: “I work 10-12 hours a day.”

Barack: “Absolutely.”

Joe: “And I'm, you know, buying this company and I'm going to continue working that way. Now if I buy another truck, “

Barack: “Right.”

Joe: “And add something else to it, and build the company.”

Barack: “Right”

Joe: “You know, I'm getting taxed more and more while fulfilling the American dream."

Barack: "But, well, here's a way of thinking about it. How long have you been a plumber? How long have you been working?”

Joe: “15 years.”

Barack: “Ok, over the last 15 years, when you weren’t making 250, you would have been given a tax cut from me, so you’d actually have more money, which means you would have saved more, which means you would have gotten to the point where you could build your small business quicker than under the current tax code. So there are two ways of looking at it – I mean one way of looking at it is, now that you’ve become more successful – “

Joe: “Through hard work.”

Barack: “Through hard work – you don’t want to be taxed as much.”

Joe: “Exactly."

Barack: “Which I understand. But another way of looking at it is 95% of folks who are making less than 250, they may be working hard too – “

Joe: “Yeah.”

Barack: “But they’re being taxed at a higher rate than they would be under mine. So what I’m doing is, put yourself back 10 years ago when you were only making whatever, 60 or 70. Under my tax plan you would be keeping more of your paycheck, you’d be paying lower taxes, which means you would have saved and gotten to the point where you are faster. Now look, nobody likes high taxes."

Joe: "No, not at all."

Barack: "Of course not, but what’s happened is that we end up – we’ve cut taxes a lot for folks like me who make a lot more than 250. We haven’t given a break to folks who make less, and as a consequence, the average wage and income for ordinary folks, the vast majority of Americans, has actually gone down over the last eight years. So all I want to do is – I’ve got a tax cut. The only thing that changes, is I’m going to cut taxes a little bit more for the folks who are most in need and for the 5% of the folks who are doing very well - even though they’ve been working hard and I understand and I appreciate that – I just want to make sure they’re paying a little bit more in order to pay for those other tax cuts. Now, I respect the disagreement. I just want you to be clear – it’s not that I want to punish your success – I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you – that they’ve got a chance at success too.”

Joe: “It seems like you would be open to a flat tax then.”

Barack: “You know, I would be open to it except here’s the problem with a flat tax is that if you actually put a flat tax together, in order for it to work and replace all the revenue that we’ve got, you’d probably end up having to make it like about a 40% sales tax. I mean that’s the value added, making it up. Now some people say 23 or 25, but in truth when you add up all the revenue that would need to be raised, you’d have to slap on a whole bunch of sales taxes on. And I do believe for folks like me who have worked hard, but frankly also been lucky –“

Joe: “Yeah.”

Barack: “I don’t mind paying just a little bit more than the waitress that I just met over there who’s things are slow and she can barely make the rent."

"My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s going to be good for everybody. If you’ve got a plumbing business, you’re going to be better off. You’re going to be better off if you’ve got a whole bunch of customers who can afford to hire you, and right now everybody’s so pinched that business is bad for everybody. And I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody."

"But listen, I respect what you do and I respect your question, and even if I don’t get your vote-“

Joe: “He he he.”

Barack: “I’m still going to be working hard on your behalf, because small businesses are what create jobs in this country and I want to encourage it.”

Joe: “Well, that’s good.”

Barack: “One other thing I didn’t mention. For small business people, I’m going to eliminate the capital gains taxes. So what it means is if your business succeeds and you take it from a $250,000 business to a $500,000 business -“

Joe: “Yeah.”

Barack: “That capital gains that you get, we’re not going to tax you on it because I want you to grow more. I’d have to look at your particular business, but you might end up paying lower taxes under my plan and my approach than under John McCain’s plan. I can’t guarantee that because I’d have to take a look at it.

Joe: “Oh yeah, I know, I understand that.”

Barack: "Thanks for your question, I appreciate it. Alright guys, I have got to get out of here and go prepare for the debate, but that was pretty good practice right there.”

So are the Democrats out there telling people how much better off Joe will be if he votes for Barack Obama? No, the response of the Democrats and the liberal media has been typical and telling. They have dug up dirt on Joe that he isn't a licensed plumber and has about $1,000 in unpaid back taxes. The not so subtle message is that Democrats don't like guys like Joe and will find a way to tax them or regulate them. Joe has gone into the Fox News camp, has appeared on the Huckabee show, and some Republicans want to draft him to run for Congress. In the latest development, someone checked the computer logs and found that some agencies in Ohio state government have been going through Joe's motor vehicle records on the state computer system.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Squirrelly Season

The Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee sent me this video. According to Chris Matthews, "If you are a little bit squirrelly, this may put you over the edge."

Be warned that this goes on for about 15 minutes. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a Republican from Minnesota who the DCCC would like to defeat in November. But here's what I don't get, why should this video make me more likely to oppose Michele Bachmann or support Barack Obama?

Bachmann accuses Barack Obama of hanging out with an anti-American crowd, which is true but not the whole story. Matthews tries to get Bachmann to say that all liberals are anti-American, which she doesn't do. She also declined to answer Chris Matthews request for the number of anti-Americans currently serving in Congress. He's asking her that so he can compare her with Joe McCarthy, whose concern in the 1950s was with how many communists were in the State Department.

But who should be offended, unless they are anti-American? Of course, the anti-American crowd may round up enough votes to get Obama elected and Bachmann defeated, because that's the American way. Will they then be the pro-Americans and Michele the anti-American?

John McCain Endorses Barack Obama

John McCain speaking on October 17, 2008:

My opponent is an impressive fellow in many ways. Political opponents can have a little trouble seeing the best in each other. But I've had a few glimpses of this man at his best and I admire his great skill, energy and determination. It's not for nothing that he's inspired so many folks in his own party and beyond.

Senator Obama talks about making history. And he's made quite a bit of it already. There was a time when the mere invitation of an African-American citizen to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage and an insult in many quarters. Today, it's a world away from the crude and prideful bigotry of that time. And good riddance. I can't wish my opponent luck, but I do wish him well.

Whatever the outcome next month, Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country and I congratulate him.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

25 Cynical Reasons to Vote for Barack Obama

I have watched all the debates, seen all the ads, read all the emails, and viewed all the YouTube videos and now I have all the reasons I need:

(1) John McCain said in the debate last night that he would end ethanol subsidies. He also said that in the debate last week, so that’s twice and I know he means it. That would be devastating to the farm economy and the new ethanol industry and send the wrong signal to others developing alternative energy sources. I’m selfishly thinking about the corn farmers I know in Southwest Iowa and workers at the new ethanol plants in Corning and Shenandoah.

(2) Barack Obama is offering the best tax cut. I checked the numbers myself. Joe the Plumber, you should talk to Mary the Tax Accountant. If the Democrats want to pander to me by offering tax cuts, that’s behavior I want to encourage.

(3) Today in Massachusetts our Democratic Governor Deval Patrick, who many say Barack Obama used as a model for his candidacy, announced $1 billion in state spending cuts in anticipation of falling state tax revenues due to the slowing economy. They can’t go back to the era of big government even if they want to, we just can’t afford it.

(4) I got an email today from the Republican Party saying that “responsible Republican policies of cutting taxes and reining in out-of-control pork-barrel spending are what our economy needs to spur growth and create jobs.” If the Democrats are going to cut taxes and cut spending, why do we need a Republican Party? The Blue Dogs will protect the true conservative values. Maybe Leonard Boswell will be the next House Speaker.

(5) If Barack Obama is elected, we can blame everything back to 2006 on Nancy Pelosi. And, yes, blame George Bush too. If the Democrats screw things up any worse we can always send the Republicans right back to Congress in 2010. Remember 1994? The Democrats have every incentive to do a good job to keep the Republican Party unnecessary.

(6) If John McCain were elected, he would be the designated fall guy for everything Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid do wrong. If he is not elected, John McCain can spend his golden years with his beautiful wife and family. He has served his country long and well. We should do right by John McCain.

(7) Sarah Palin truly is, as John McCain put it last night, a “bresh of freath air” but vice fall gal would be a career ender. Sarah can go home and get some foreign policy experience as President of the Alaska Independent Republic her husband wants her to declare. I’ll look forward to the Palin-Pretraeus ticket in 2012 and the Palin-Jindal ticket in 2016. After Barack Obama appoints 3 or 4 Supreme Court Justices, it will be safe to vote for Sarah Palin.

(8) The Sarah Palin show isn’t over until we see her in the same room as Tina Fey. Hey, say what you will about Sarah Palin, but she finally got the Not Ready for Prime Time Players from Saturday Night Live a slot in prime time. As the song says, the memory of all that, no they can’t take that away from me. If I want to see a Palin Obama debate, voting for Barack Obama is the only way.

(9) Forget Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Is it believable that Barack Obama sat there and listed to his sermons for 20 years without realizing the anti-American things he was saying? Yes it is, as anyone who has sat through a church sermon or two would know. Anyway, Barack Obama has gotten Wright to shut up, and he got Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan to shut up too.

(10) Forget the Weatherman Bill Ayers. If Richard Nixon couldn’t catch him and Ronald Reagan couldn’t be bothered to prosecute him, why should we care 40 years later? By the way, the “kill him” chants at the Republican rallies are directed at Ayers. That’s not right, but they’re welcome to spend the next 8 years picketing him at his place of work, the University of Illinois at Chicago. They can call in all the protesters from the abortion clinics around the country, settle in for the duration, and call it the “Years of Rage.” Get on it Sean and Rush.

(11) Forget Tony Resko. The average politician wanting to buy a house with an adjoining lot he couldn’t afford would have borrowed the extra money from a half-broke bank on the way to a taxpayer bailout. Barack Obama just got Tony to buy the lot next to his house on the guy’s own nickel. And now Tony Resko will likely be forced to sell to the Secret Service for at or below cost.

(12) If Barack Obama is going to win anyway, running up the score will erase Bill Clinton from the record books. And you can shame John Kerry and Al Gore too.

(13) If Barack Obama turns out to be a secret socialist mole, at least it will be Swedish we’ll be learning and not Russian or German. I am worried that the new housing commissar will commandeer my Cambridge condo for underutilization. My plan is to recruit a couple of Swedish au pairs to take the spare bedroom. All I’m looking for is a hedge against socialism and a little light housework. Worst case: I want to be able to pass the lie detector test so I don’t have to go to the reeducation camp.

(14) If, as Iowa Congressman Steve King suggests, the terrorists come out and celebrate in the streets, we can use the opportunity to pick them off with snipers.

(15) After we withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan (in victory, don’t you dare say in defeat), the terrorists won’t follow us home any more than the Viet Cong followed us home from our victory in Vietnam (you thought we lost, they’re making our underwear). Al Qaeda will go to Europe and recruit among Europe’s disaffected Muslim minorities. Europe, you should have had our back in Iraq. Or you should have talked us into not going. Karma is funny that way. Ha ha ha ha ha.

(16) Electing Barack Obama will completely undercut what the French are trying to do in Africa. Vote for Obama and stick it to the French.

(17) Electing Barack Obama will really stick it to Putin too. The Soviets spent the whole Cold War trying to divide Western Europe and America, so the last thing Russia wants is for America and Europe to kiss and make up. Did you notice how Putin’s move on Georgia helped McCain?

(18) Barack Obama is not about to sell out Israel to Iran. Yes, he plans to sit down for tea with Ahmadinejad. But I have it on good authority that Obama’s secret plan is to poison the tea with iocane powder which Obama has spent the last several years building up an immunity to. We can’t afford another land war in Asia.

(19) When Barack Hussein Obama becomes President, all Islamic religious fatwas against American are retroactively revoked and the dead suicide attackers will all have to give back their 40 virgins. He doesn’t even have to be Muslim, all that matters is that his name contains Hussein. It’s in the Koran, I checked it myself.

(20) Thank you to Sarah Silverman for pointing out the need for a positive mental attitude: If it makes it easier, you don’t have to think about it as voting for a black guy. Just think of it as voting for a rich half-white guy. It’s OK to laugh, she has a show on Comedy Central.

(21) Would a national health plan really be so bad? Life is a preexisting condition.

(22) Sean Hannity will have to rename his Fox show, “Colmes and Hannity.” Remind me to forward this email to Alan Colmes.

(23) Barack’s nickname is Barry, and President Barry is just too funny, almost as good as President Dirk.

(24) Voting for Barack Obama for all the wrong reasons is turning out to be more fun than voting for John McCain for one or two right reasons.

(25) You can tell your grandkids you voted for Barack Obama in lieu of sending them Christmas presents. That works for nieces and nephews too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Can John McCain Still Win?

We are coming up on the last debate with the polls slipping away from John McCain and Barack Obama gaining ground in the battleground states every day.

Question: Can John McCain still win?

Answer: Probably not.

Let’s look back. Over the Columbus Day weekend, Obama lead McCain 50% to 43% in the Gallup daily tracking poll. At this same point in 2004, John Kerry led George Bush 48% to 47%. In 2000, George Bush and Al Gore were tied 45% to 45%.

Let’s look at where the electoral votes are today. One electoral vote projection shows Obama winning 357 electoral votes to 181. Another shows Obama winning 369 to 169.

Of course, “probably not” also means “maybe.”

Question: What kind of last minute surge would McCain need to win?

Answer: McCain has his work cut out for him in the battleground states:

McCain can forget about Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New Mexico. I see no way for him to win in those states.

McCain has to turn things around in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio. Bush won these states in 2000 and 2004 but McCain is now losing. However, winning all of them would only bring his total to 246 electoral votes, still 24 electoral votes short of the 270 he would need to win. If on election night you see Barack Obama winning in Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, or Ohio, you can go to bed without waiting for the midwestern and western states to finish voting.

McCain has to pick up the western states of Colorado, North Dakota, Montana, and Nevada. Obama’s western states strategy is to deny McCain some or all of these electoral votes. Even if McCain wins them all, that would still leave him 7 electoral votes short. McCain can lose the election out west, but he can’t win it there.

So even if McCain does all of the above, he must also win at least one of the following states: Minnesota (10 electoral votes), Iowa (7 electoral votes), or Missouri (11 electoral votes). These 3 states are the first states west of the Mississippi River and north of the old South. Their combined population of 14,000,000 is roughly 4.5% of the U.S. population. This is where the industrial midwest ends and the red state Republican west begins. No candidate for President since 1852 has gotten elected without winning at least one of these three states.

I see no way Barack Obama can lose if he beats beat John McCain in Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. There simply aren’t enough electoral votes for McCain without winning at least one of these 3 states.

Missouri is McCain’s best chance. But high turnout in the Democratic strongholds of Kansas City and St. Louis would seal the deal for Obama. Watch Missouri, it has been the bellwether for over 100 years.

Minnesota is McCain’s next best chance. However, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (what the Democrats call themselves in Minnesota) has 3 conservative promilitary, progun, prolife incumbent Congressmen running for reelection in the 3 big rural districts. They may provide rural voters the comfort level that their values will continue to be represented to deny McCain the big margins he would need in those rural districts to win Minnesota.

Iowa is McCain’s last chance. Obama is leading in the eastern part of Iowa that is closest to his home state of Illinois. The key to the Iowa Republican vote is the 5th Congressional District, which comprises 32 counties in the western third of the state. In 2000, Bush carried those 32 counties by 42,275 votes but lost the state to Gore by 4,130 votes. In 2004, Bush carried those 32 counties by 56,773 votes and won the state from Kerry by 10,059 votes. The extra 14,000 votes in western Iowa made the difference.

Western Iowa has started voting. Voters can get an absentee ballot at their county courthouse and cast their vote before leaving. I hear that lines at the courthouses this past Saturday were long. I guess these voters are not waiting for the last debate.

Question: Who will be watching those ballot boxes over the next 3 weeks between now and Election Day?

Answer: In Iowa that job falls on the County Auditor. These local elected officials are typically middle-aged Republican women with a few kids, a husband who likes to hunt and fish, and a sister who has been through a messy divorce.

Mine is Bigger than Yours

Barack Obama says his tax cut is 3 times bigger than John McCain's:

Friday, October 10, 2008

American Homeownership Resurgence Plan

John McCain has announced an American Homeownership Resurgence Plan that he says will get at the very root of the financial crisis, the failing housing market:

(1) Our current economic crisis largely brought on by corruption and greed at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Wall Street.

(2) America's families are bearing a heavy burden from falling housing prices, mortgage delinquencies, foreclosures, and a weak economy.

(3) The goal is to keep families in their homes, avoid foreclosures, save failing neighborhoods, stabilize the housing market, and attack the roots of our financial crisis so that families who have worked hard enough to finance homeownership should not have that dream crushed under the weight of the wrong mortgage.

(4) For those that cannot make inflated payments or their mortgage exceeds the value of their home, mortgages must be re-structured to put losses on the books, eliminate uncertainty over defaults, support the value of mortgage-backed derivatives and alleviate risks that are freezing financial markets.

(5) To qualify, mortgage holders would have to live in the home (primary residence only) and prove their creditworthiness at the time of the original loan (no falsifications and provided a down payment). The new mortgage would be an FHA-guaranteed fixed-rate mortgage at payment terms manageable for the homeowner.

(6) The direct cost of this plan would be roughly $300 billion because the purchase of mortgages would relieve homeowners of "negative equity" in some homes. This cost may be able to come out of the $700 billion fund recently approved by Congress but it may be necessary for Congress to raise the overall borrowing limit.

Buy Order at Zero

I put in a buy order today with my online broker to buy everything when the stock market hits zero. I'll cash in my 50 states commemorative quarter collection (actually 49 states, still waiting for Hawaii) to pay the $12.25 online brokerage fee.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One Unanswered Question

Barack Obama looked calm and in command. John McCain looked both restless and weary. But only 63 million people tuned in, compared to 70 million for last week’s VP debate. And there was one unanswered question in last night’s debate. It came from Teresa Finch:

"How can we trust either of you with our money when both parties got us into this global economic crisis?"

The networks won’t tell you this, but I suspect Finch is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. And what did our two candidates have to say?

Obama: "Well, look, I understand your frustration and your cynicism, because while you've been carrying out your responsibilities -- most of the people here, you've got a family budget. If less money is coming in, you end up making cuts. Maybe you don't go out to dinner as much. Maybe you put off buying a new car."

How about those going without dinner or losing their homes? Barack, you’re just not feeling the pain.

McCain: "Well, Theresa, thank you. And I can see why you feel that cynicism and mistrust, because the system in Washington is broken. And I have been a consistent reformer."

But you’re just not an effective reformer, John, judging by recent events. Not by how long it is taking to get to "victory" in Iraq. Not by how the economy is going.

And what kind of an answer is it from both of you to lecture us about cynicism. My dictionary says cynicism is an ancient Greek philosophy which holds that virtue is the only good and its essence is self-control and independence. So call me a cynic.

Why Some Women Hate Sarah Palin

Time Magazine has an interesting article on why some women seem to hate Sarah Palin:

She's too pretty - pretty girls tend to be liked only by other pretty girls.

She's too confident - women have self-esteem issues and other-women's-esteem issues.

She could embarrass the sisterhood - women fear people will think she got the job just because she's a woman.

That translates into some recent poll numbers that Sarah is less popular among women than among men:


I have a simpler explanation. Some women hate Sarah Palin because they are Democrats and she is not.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

President Bush Should Resign Immediately!

Have you seen the stock market today? The Dow closed at 9,447.11, down from 14,164.53 less than a year ago on October 9, 2007. That’s down 33%. Other indexes are down more. The last time we had a drop this large was from January 11, 1973 to December 6, 1974, when the Dow was down 45%. Someone needs to step up and take some responsibility. George W. Bush, follow Richard Nixon’s lead.

President Bush should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make Vice President Dick Cheney the new President of the United States. He’s reckless, he shot that guy in the face.

President Bush and Dick Cheney should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the new President of the United States. She’s been pretty much useless in her two years as Speaker.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, and Nancy Pelosi should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make the Senate President pro tempore Robert Byrd the new President of the United States. He was in the Klan.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, and Robert Byrd should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice the new President of the United States. She hasn't been able to make peace with anybody.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Robert Byrd, and Condaleeza Rice should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson the new President of the United States. His job performance just cost us $700 billion in taxpayer money and uncounted trillions in lost private wealth.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Robert Byrd, Condaleeza Rice, and Henry Paulson should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the new President of the United States. His surge strategy in Iraq spent us into the poor house at $10 billion per month.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Robert Byrd, Condaleeza Rice, Henry Paulson, and Robert Gates should resign immediately!

No, wait, that would make Attorney General Michael Mukasey the new President of the United States. He hasn’t prosecuted anybody for creating this financial mess.

President Bush, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Robert Byrd, Condaleeza Rice, Henry Paulson, Robert Gates, and Michael Mukasey should resign immediately!

That would make Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne the new President of the United States. President Dirk, that has a nice ring. He would only have to serve until January.

Capitalists Vote with Their Feet

Well the stock market was down big time again today, with the Dow closing below 10,000 for the first time since 2004. And why shouldn't it be down? The election polls taken over the weekend show the United States electing its first socialist President. Take the $700 billion and run I'm sure all the capitalists are saying as they run for the exits.

Here's the thing. The $700 billion was to bail out the banks, not the stock market per se. So there is no reason for stocks not to continue down until they find a level where investors are comfortable buying again.

And if an Obama win drives down the stock market, well I'm sure they would say that's a small price to pay.

Who Wants to Go to Nebraska?

Sarah Palin spoke to a rally of 5,000 people in Omaha, Nebraska last night:

"The pundits were saying, 'Check out where she's going. She's going to Nebraska.' The pundits were saying, 'The only reason she would be going there is because they're scared. They have to shore up votes.' I so wanted to reach into that TV and say 'no.' I'm going to Nebraska because I want to go to Nebraska."

Here's what a sales guy from Omaha in the audience had to say:

"She talks to us. She's one of us. She doesn't talk down to us like an Ivy League, Harvard person."

LBOTC: We know the real reason Sarah went to Nebraska, and it wasn't to shore up votes in Omaha for a potential tiebreaker in the electoral college like the pundit wonks on TV have been fed. It was to win votes in western Iowa. Omaha is just across the river and the de factor capitol of western Iowa. We noticed that U.S. Congressman Steve King from Iowa's 5th congressional district was in attendance.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Second Thoughts about Sarah Palin

I remember when I was first introduced to Sarah Palin. I had just watched Barack Obama’s convention acceptance speech tuned to Fox on my parent’s TV while visiting in Southwest Iowa. “He’s clearly very well educated, where did he go to school?” my father asked. Looking at the words on all the Obama signs in the Denver stadium crowd, my mother remarked, “That’s a lot of change.” Then John McCain came on, congratulated Barack, and said he had a surprise for us.

The next morning on Fox, the news was all about a plane from Alaska that had landed the previous night in Ohio, where John McCain was to announce his running mate. So we met Sarah. And then we went to visit my 96-year-old grandmother. She had been watching Fox on her new wide-screen TV. “I don’t know,” she said. “It looks like the political parties are going to fool around and get a woman in as President. I don’t think I like that. I can’t explain why.”

70 million people tuned in last Thursday to watch the VP candidate debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, and they didn’t tune in to watch Joe. The debate audience was second only to the 80 million who tuned in back in 1980 to watch Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter debate. That was back when the debates were on all the channels, and you couldn’t switch to watch a movie on AMC. Just 52 million tuned in to watch John McCain and Barack Obama debate the week before last. So, for now at least, Sarah seems to be the star of the show.

Who won the debate? David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register says that Sarah failed to prove her qualifications and shed her image as a lightweight. But he said the same thing about Barack Obama in the first debate. I don’t agree. Here’s how I scored it:

First, I give Sarah and Joe 5 points each for substance. That’s what these debates are supposed to be about, right?

Sarah proved she could handle the pressure. If you tuned in expecting Joe Biden to make her cry, you were disappointed. Well, Joe did choke up at one point, when talking about the car accident that put his two boys in the hospital and took the lives of his daughter and first wife. So does that count as Sarah making Joe cry? Not quite, but I still have to take a point away from Joe.

CNN calculated that Joe was talking at an 8th grade level, while Sarah was talking at a 10th grade level. Note to Obama: you can’t talk much higher than that and expect to get elected in this country, but don’t talk down to us or the country won’t elect you either. In any case, that’s a point for Sarah.

The regional accent, syntax, and vocabulary of Sarah’s sentences would make your high school English teacher dizzy and the Queen of England cringe. Hey, this is America and it’s not the Queen’s English anymore. We Americans are revolutionaries and innovators. That’s another point for Sarah.

For using 10th grade words like “heck” and “doggone” I’ll give Sarah another point.

For telling the African-American moderator Gwen Ifill that she wasn’t going to answer her questions without that sounding the least bit racist or otherwise condescending (see how far we’ve come, I’m guessing that how racist that was never even occurred to you), Sarah gets another point.

Sarah gets a point for best delivery of a pre-planned zinger. At the very beginning of the debate, Sarah turned to Senator Biden and asked, “Hey, can I call you Joe?” And so how many times did she call him Joe? Exactly once, about an hour later, when she turned to Biden and said: “Say it ain't so, Joe, there you go again pointing backwards again.”

Joe loses a point for beating the drum too hard on John McCain’s statement two weeks ago that the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong. Joe, we’re in a banking crisis, you can’t be badmouthing the broader economy. The foreign investors are listening.

Sarah gets a point for most emphatic statement on the financial mess:

“I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again by those who are managing our money and loaning us these dollars. We need to make sure that we demand from the federal government strict oversight of those entities in charge of our investments and our savings and we need also to not get ourselves in debt. Let's do what our parents told us before we probably even got that first credit card. Don't live outside of our means.”

I don’t have the credit cards records, but I’m guessing I may now know why Sarah had to change colleges so many times:

Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, Hawaii – one semester
North Idaho College, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho - two semesters
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho - two semesters
Matanuska-Susitna College, Palmer, Alaska - one semester
University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho - three semesters

Actually, here’s what I suspect: Sarah enrolled in a private school in Hawaii she couldn’t afford and had to drop out, then moved in with her grandparents or some aunt or uncle in Idaho to establish state residency and get cheap credits at the nearby community college (best educational value in America), transferred to the flagship state university in Idaho on the in-state tuition plan (that was the plan when she started the community college), went home to Alaska for a another semester of cheap community college credits and to keep her high school boyfriend Todd on the hook, and then went back to Idaho to finish her BS degree in communications-journalism at the big university.

But I digress. For not even being asked to explain her college career and putting her BS degree to good use, I give Sarah another point.

On the question about same-sex marriages, Joe uttered the word “same-sex” 4 times while Sarah avoided saying it at all. That’s another point for Sarah, and Joe loses a point.

Overuse of the word maverick? According to the official transcript, Sarah said the word maverick 6 times but Joe said it 9 times. OK, maybe he said “not maverick”. Still, we have to take the point away from Joe.

Joe also loses a point for getting confused about the U.S. Constitution. Joe, the executive branch is defined in Article II not Article I and the Vice President gets to preside over the Senate all the time, not just when there is a tie.

Joe Biden smiled a lot, but he didn’t have the best smile, so Sarah gets the point for flirting without getting caught. Ok, maybe she did get caught winking at us, but I’m giving her the point anyway. I know she was really winking at me. Heck, make that a doggone two points.

Final score: 15 points for Sarah and 0 points for Joe. SNL is moving to primetime on Thursdays and I have suspected from the beginning that Tina Fey is rooting for Sarah. Too bad for the Republicans she’s only running for Vice President. I’m coming to the conclusion that win or lose in 2008 we’ll see her again at the top of the ticket in 2012 and 2016.

Meanwhile, the financial crisis has sunken John McCain’s chances. He trails 7 points in nationwide polls and even further in electoral vote counts. One projection shows McCain losing to Obama 164 to 364. Another projection shows him losing 194 to 329 with North Carolina tied.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

An American Carol Alert

The movie An American Carol opened this weekend. And, because we would never admit we saw it ourselves, we will report that we heard from a friend who heard from a guy he knows that this is one of the worst movies ever made.

Substitute the Fourth of July for Christmas and left wing filmmaker Michael Moore for Scrooge and you have the plot. It’s being billed as the first right wing comedy. There may not be a second.

It was written, directed, and produced by David Zucker, who did Airplane!, the Naked Gun series, and the Scary Movie series. There were (we are told) a few funny gags, although you’ve probably seen them all in the previews and ads. And the cast list showed such promise:

Kevin Farley as Michael Malone – Chris Farley’s brother is dead on as documentary filmmaker Michael Moore but do you want to watch that for 90 minutes?
Kelsey Grammer as General George S. Patton –You’ll want to slap him.
Jon Voight as General George Washington – Suspect for this atrocity Angelina Jolie won’t be letting him see his grandkids at Thanksgiving.
Trace Adkins as Himself/The Spirit of Christmas Future aka The Angel of Death – the country folk aren’t going to forgive shelling out their money to see this.
James Woods as Michael's Agent – Wasn’t he in Oliver Stone’s Nixon? We smell a conspiracy.
Paris Hilton as Herself - What is she doing in this movie? Wasn’t McCain just slamming her? We smell a rat.
Simon Rex as Himself – This is what comes from hanging out with Pairs Hilton.
Kevin Sorbo as George Mulrooney - Hercules spoofs George Clooney.
Dennis Hopper as The Judge – He shoots zombie ACLU lawyers with a shotgun. This is a long way from Easy Rider.
Chriss Anglin as John F. Kennedy – Turns out he was a warmonger in this history.
Robert Davi as Aziz - He was great in the series The Profiler but remember he was also in Showgirls.
Leslie Nielsen as Himself / Grampa - Collects his pension check here.
Jillian Murray as Heather – Not pretty enough to be this movie’s only redeeming quality.
Bill O'Reilly as Himself – He’s funnier on his TV show.
Gary Coleman as Slave - He must owe somebody money.
David Alan Grier as Slave – He is better than this, he must owe somebody a lot of money.
Benton Jennings as Hitler – Yet another singing Hitler.

When You Die, You'll Regret the Things You Didn't Do

We screened the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross at the office on Friday afternoon (how cool is that?).

It's odd seeing an office without computers, sales leads typed on index cards, and pay telephones. And what a deal, 6 lots in an Arizona development for $82,000. Do you have any idea what that would be worth today?

The Office Poll

We took a poll at our office in Harvard Square this Friday. Here are the results.

14 Obama
10 McCain
1 Nader

Although the support for McCain seems surprisingly strong for Cambridge, Massachusetts, these are roughly in line with the current poll results for Massachusetts.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Seeing John Malkovich

I got by hair cut Friday at the Custom Barbership, which is located in a little half-width space on Brattle Street. After paying, I stepped out of the tiny door and almost ran into a passerby, a balding man in his 50s wearing a jean jacket. He gave me an angry look that stopped me in my tracks and was so piercing you could see the world through his eyes. He looked familiar, and as he walked away I realized it was John Malkovich.

Who is John Malkovich? Just one of the great American actors of the 20th century. He was in that jewel thief movie, for example. And that one set in France with Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer, that Jenry James novel one with Nicole Kidman and Barara Hershey, that disturbing self-referential one with Cameron Diaz, and that one last year with Angelina Jolie and Robin Wright Penn. But my favorite is Making Mr. Right with Ann Magnuson, Glenne Headley, and Laurie Metcalf.

From Being John Malkovich: There is truth, and there are lies, and art always tells the truth, even when it's lying.

Battle of the Petulant All-Stars

Bill O'Reilly asks Representative Barney Franks (D-Mass) to take a little responsibility for the bailout mess:

For better quality video, you can also watch this on Fox News.

Barney Frank does have an inconvenient history of supporting Fannie and Freddie, the two government sponsored companies whose financial failure is at the center the of the home mortgage lending crisis.

Barney Frank at House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 10, 2003:

“The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see. I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios.”

Barney Frank at House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 25, 2003:

“I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing.”

Barney Frank at House Financial Services Committee hearing, Sept. 25, 2003:

Frank: Let me ask [George] Gould and [Franklin] Raines on behalf of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, do you feel that over the past years you have been substantially under-regulated?

Mr. Raines?

Raines: No, sir.

Frank: Mr. Gould?

Gould: No, sir. . . .

Frank: OK. Then I am not entirely sure why we are here. . . .I believe there has been more alarm raised about potential unsafety and unsoundness than, in fact, exists.

Barney Frank was interviewed on CNBC about Freddie and Fannie on July 14, 2008:

“I think this is a case where Fannie and Freddie are fundamentally sound, that they are not in danger of going under. They're not the best investments these days from the long-term standpoint going back. I think they are in good shape going forward. They're in a housing market. I do think their prospects going forward are very solid. And in fact, we're going to do some things that are going to improve them.”

Fannie and Freddie were seized by the federal government on September 8, 2008.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The “First” Debate

The first debate between John McCain and Barack Obama was last Friday night. Actually it was the third debate, but the first where they appeared together to answer questions. At the first two they took turns answering questions. A few thoughts:

(1) The debate was supposed to be about foreign policy, but the $700 billion elephant in the room was the bailout bill being proposed in Washington, DC. Both men looked weary.

(2) It looks like that same elephant will still be in the room for the Vice President candidate debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin this Thursday. Will the VP debate this Thursday draw a bigger audience? Yes, for entertainment value at least, we think that it will be must see TV.

(3) Jim Lehrer, the PBS reporter who served as moderator, seemed to put down Barack Obama as though he were some teenage miscreant, chiding him twice in quick succession, “Say it directly to him.”

(4) I counted the names of at least 6 countries where we might have to fight, 6 more countries we might have to help defend, and 6 countries where we have already been fighting over the last 40 years. I am fast warming up to the Clinton Doctrine, “more friends, fewer enemies.”

(5) I hear CNN instituted a new system where a panel rated the debaters as they made their points, with a distracting graphic display of who scored and who took a hit. Apparently CNN thinks that voters who have made up their minds need that to stay interested.

(6) Who was the winner? David Yepsen, the influential Des Moines Register editorial writer told his swing state Iowa readers that McCain won it and said Obama failed to “assure voters that he is experienced enough to handle foreign and defense policy.” On the other hand, conservative commentators seemed to think Obama won.

How Much is $1 Trillion Dollars?

Yes, we know the financial markets bailout bill under debate is for $700 billion, but with money already spent on Bear Stearns, Fannie, Freddie, Lehman, AIG, Washington Mutual and counting we think the real cost is likely already over $1 trillion. So how much is $1,000,000?

$1 trillion would pay for 100 months in Iraq, at the rate of $10 billion per month.

The savings and loan crisis in the late 1980s cost $160 billion, so $1 trillion is 6 savings and loan crises.

The richest 400 Americans have a combined net worth of $1.5 trillion. America’s 75 largest colleges and universities have a combined endowment of $290 billion. The wealthiest foundations have a combined endowment of $250 billion. That’s about $2 trillion So Congress would have to take half of everything they have to cover $1 trillion.

The U.S. gross domestic product is $13.8 trillion. So $1 trillion is 4 weeks worth of everyone working, with nothing to pay salaries, costs of production, or personal expenses, which is a long time to go without a fill-up for gas or food.

The federal budget is about $3 trillion per year. So $1 trillion is 4 months without paying for any government services, including defense and social security.

The U.S. public debt is $9.8 billion. So $1 trillion adds 10% to the public debt.

The total value of all stock in all U.S. publicly traded companies is around $15 trillion (give or take a trillion these days), so $1 trillion is just 6.7%. That sounds better. That’s around what the stock market dropped on Monday, September 29 (makes sense).

The total value of all U.S. residential real estate is around $20 billion. So $1 trillion is 5%.

The total value of all assets owned by U.S. households and nonprofits is around $57 trillion, so $1 trillion is just 1.75% (175 basis points as the money managers say.) That’s starting to sound affordable.

Spread over the U.S. population of 305 million, 305,295,394, $1 trillion is around $3,280 per person. Over a year, that’s just $9 per day.

Spread over the total world population of 6.7 billion, $1 trillion is around $150 per person. Now we’re talking. Hello, world, for just 40 cents per day you can save the U.S. and world economy.

Congress Votes 228 to 205 for Great Depression II

The U.S. House of Representatives voted this Monday not to approve the $700 billion bailout bill to help the ailing financial services industry, causing the stock market to drop nearly 8%. The vote was 228 against the bailout and 205 for the bailout. Now we’ll see if this brings on another Great Depression, as many politicians have warned.

Barack Obama also says he supports the bailout. But in his Illinois delegation Democrats Jesse Jackson, Jr. from Chicago, Bobby Rush from Chicago, Dan Lipinski from Western Springs, and Jerry Costello from Belleville voted against the bailout. Here in Massachusetts, Democrat Barney Frank, House Banking Committee Chairman, led the effort to craft and pass the bailout bill. But Democratic Representatives Bill Delahunt from Quincy, Stephen Lynch from South Boston, and John Tierney from Salem voted against the bailout. Those Democrats would have been enough votes to change the outcome, so we think Barack Obama has some hope that the failure of the bailout will not be as dire as some have predicted.

John McCain says he supports the bailout but could only get 65 Republicans in the House to vote for it, which was not enough to cancel the 95 Democrats who voted against it. Four Republican Representatives from McCain’s home state of Arizona and one Republican from his running mate Sarah Palin’s home state of Alaska voted against the bailout. That’s almost enough votes to change the result, so we think he too could have come up with enough votes if he had wanted too.

We’ve been listening to the debate, and find it somewhat wanting for the apparent gravity of the situation.

Painting with Taxpayer Dollars
Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York), dismissing John McCain's coming back to Washington, DC as a political stunt: "It's as if, you know, you're in the middle of drawing an amazing painting and someone else comes in and says, 'hey, come in, let me throw my brush marks on there.' It just doesn't make sense."

LBOTC: Chuck, We don’t think there has ever been a great artist named Chuck. We think we’re going to have to take your paintbrush away.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke (R): “Just as you sell a painting at Sotheby's, until you sell it, nobody knows what it is worth."

LBOTC: A painting, Ben? You do understand you’re talking about our economy? Is this how this went down with your speechwriter?

(A) Sell a painting at Sotheby’s
(B) Sell your pound cows at the cattle auction
(C) Trade in your clunker for a new car
(D) List your plane on eBay
(E) Put your house up for sale

Yes, pick (A), the average person will understand that analogy best. See you at Sotheby’s. Or maybe Christie’s.

Oops, I Did it Again
Ben Bernanke quote from economist Milton Friedman's ninetieth birthday party in 2002: "Let me end my talk by abusing slightly my status as an official representative of the Federal Reserve System. I would like to say to Milton and Anna: Regarding the Great Depression. You're right, we did it. We're very sorry. But thanks to you, we won't do it again."

LBOTC: I guess we’re not that innocent.

Another Fine Mess
House Banking Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts): “The private sector got us into this mess. The government has to get us out of it.”

LBOTC: We suspect this is another fine mess you have gotten us into. We remember a story in Time Magazine a few years back about how your houseguest was running a prostitution service out of your apartment. Talk about your lack of oversight skills.

Worst Sports Analogy
Barney Frank on John McCain stepping into the negotiations:

"It's the longest Hail Mary pass in the history of either football or Marys."

LBOTC: And what do you know about football or Marys?

Worst Cooking Analogy
Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas): The very people who burned the Thanksgiving turkey now want to cook the Christmas dinner.

LBOTC: It’s still September. The turkey would still be wandering around the barnyard.

So Sorry to Embarrass You
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (R): "I share the outrage people have. It's embarrassing to look at this. I think it's embarrassing to the United States of America. There's a lot of blame to go around."

LBOTC: You’re embarrassed? No, you are the embarrassment. You can always go back where you came from to Goldman Sachs, which I noticed Warren Buffet just bailed out with $5 billion. Or maybe now you can’t go back?

Did You Also Miss Your Kids’ School Plays?
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut): "We've got to get this right. There is no second act,"

LBOTC: Mr. Dodd, how do you know there is only one act? Are you the playwright for this tragedy? We’ve been watching this show for a year now and it feels more like the fourth or fifth act. Did you miss the start of this show because you were running for President? We know you moved your family to Iowa before the caucuses and put your kids in school there. Who was minding the store back in Washington, DC?

The Show Must Go On
Bill Clinton (D) to Tom Brokaw on Thursday: “Listen, if we can just get out of this thing now and get the show back on the road, we will have learned quite a lot that's good for us.”

LBOTC: Haven’t we seen this show before? And what is the lesson?

Bill Clinton: “Because people now recognize all over again what they had to learn in the depression and two or three times since, which is markets, if unaccountable at the margins, will self-destruct. They will cannibalize themselves.”

LBOTC: Are you describing the markets or politicians?

Least Appetizing Lunch
Mouse Minority Leader John Boehner (R) speaking to the Republican Caucus before the vote Monday called the bailout a “crap sandwich” but said he’d vote for it anyway when it came to the floor.

LBOTC: Way to rally the caucus, John.

Least Obama-Like Moment

Worst Pet Analogy
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D): “Chairman Bernanke is probably one of the foremost authorities in America on the subject of the Great Depression. I don’t know what was so great about the Depression, but that’s the name they give it. And we heard the secretary and the chairman tell us that this was a once in a hundred year phenomenon, this fiscal crisis was so drastic. Certainly once in 50 years, probably once in a hundred years. And how did it sneak up on us? So silently, almost on little cat feet.”

LBOTC: Have you been paying attention as the housing market tanked and gas prices sky-rocketed over the last 3 years?

Best Pet Analogy
Barry Goldwater, Jr.: Never let your dog watch your food, never let the Congress watch your money.

LBOTC: I know that dog, her name is Brandy.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bill Clinton Praises John McCain's Greatness and Barack Obama's Potental Greatness

Appearing on Meet The Press this Sunday, Bill Clinton praised John McCain calling him a great man:

"What I mean by saying that about McCain is, you know, most people would've been broken by what he went through. Oh, we would've been happy just to give him an "atta boy" and a medal and let him wander through life. I, I think his greatness is that he keeps trying to come back to service without ever asking people to cut him any slack or feel sorry for him or any of that stuff because he was a POW."

And here's what he had to say about Barack Obama arriving at greatness:

"I mean, he was, you know, until he was in the State Senate until 2005 and then he began a campaign for president, which is, in all probability, will be successful, and those are very great accomplishments. But those are personal accomplishments. When he becomes president, he'll be doing things for the American people and for the world and he is--and the greatness will then become apparent because of the good he'll do. And I, I think that's what I very much believe is going to happen."

Cool Hand Newman

Paul Newman, the actor and philanthropist, passed away this weekend. He was 83. We found this fitting tribute: Sometimes nothing can be a pretty cool hand (the line that gives Cool Hand Luke its title).

Partial film list:

Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) - Rocky before Rocky
The Long, Hot Summer (1958) - with Joanne Woodward, who would become his wife, and Orson Welles
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) - with Liz Taylor and Burl Ives
The Young Philadelphians (1959) - why I wanted to be a corporate tax attorney (trust me, the glamour is overrated)
Exodus (1960) - directed by the great Otto Preminger
The Hustler (1961) - with the immortal Jackie Gleason
Hud (1963) - "the man with the barbed wire soul"
Harper (1966) - his classic private eye role
Cool Hand Luke (1967) - his best role
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) - his best film
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972) - he is "the law west of the Pecos"
The Sting (1973) - his best caper movie
The Towering Inferno (1974) - his only sellout movie
Slap Shot (1977) - his classic sports comedy
Absence of Malice (1981) - with Sally Field
The Verdict (1982) - why I didn't want to become a personal injury lawyer
The Color of Money (1986) - Oscar for Best Actor, with Tom Cruise
Fat Man and Little Boy (1989) - all about the bomb, with John Cusack
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990) - I love the tornado scene
Nobody's Fool (1994) - his chick flick
Road to Perdition (2002) - Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, with Tom Hanks
Empire Falls (2003) - Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor

He was nominated six times for the Best Actor Oscar before winning for The Color of Money (not his best performance) and once afterward.

Other notable accomplishments:

In World War II, he was dropped from Navy pilot training due to colorblindness and went on to fly from aircraft carriers as a radioman and tail gunner in the Avenger torpedo bomber.

He appeared on Broadway in Picnic, The Desperate Hours, and Sweet Bird of Youth.

He was 19th (out of 20) on President Richard Nixon's enemies list (compiled by Charles Colson).

He was an avid auto racer. He won several championships at Sports Car Club of America events, finished second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979, and won his class at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1995 at age 70.

His Newman's Own line of food products (which includes salad dressing, pasta sauce, lemonade, popcorn, salsa, and wine) has donated over $250 million to charity.

That's not nothing.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Obama Too Elitist for Lynn Forester de Rothschild

The knives came out when big-time Hillary Clinton supporter Lynn Forester de Rothschild endorsed John McCain. Yes, many call her Lady de Rothschild due to her marriage to Sir Evelyn Robert Adrian de Rothschild, a scion of the banking family. But she says she is just a middle class New Jersey girl at heart:

Saturday, September 27, 2008

McCain Proposes League of Democracies

John McCain proposed a new League of Democracies to replace the United Nations during last night's debate:

"I've had conversation with foreign leaders about forming a league of democracies. Let's be clear and let's have some straight talk. The Russians are preventing significant action in the United Nations Security Council. I have proposed a league of democracies, a group of people - a group of countries that share common interests, common values, common ideals, they also control a lot of the world's economic power. ... So I am convinced that together we can, with the French, with the British, with the Germans and other countries, democracies around the world"

That's an interesting notion. Of course, the French, British, and Germans have already joined such a league. It is called the European Union. And we think we've heard that "together we can" slogan before.

Barack Obama's response that we need "some cooperation with some countries like Russia and China that are not democracies" also merits some consideration.