Saturday, May 31, 2008
From the Washington Post:
Previewing the world for the next U.S. president, a top U.S. intelligence official this week predicted that the Bush administration would make little progress before leaving office on top national security priorities including an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, political reconciliation in Iraq and keeping Iran from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
A regenerated al-Qaeda will remain the leading terrorism threat, Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald M. Kerr said. Pakistan's "inward" political focus and failure to control the tribal territories where al-Qaeda maintains a haven, he said, is "the number one thing we worry about."
Kerr's analysis, in a speech Thursday evening that he posited as a presidential intelligence briefing delivered on Jan. 21, 2009, contrasted with more optimistic administration forecasts of rapprochement among Iraq's political forces and a possible Middle East peace agreement in the next eight months. It also seemed at odds with CIA Director Michael V. Hayden's judgment that al-Qaeda is now on the defensive throughout the world, including along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
St. Anthony's Monastery in Egypt has always been the model of desert asceticism for me. It's famous for many things, including its incredible library of more than 1,700 manuscripts, some of which are the only extant copies of ancient writers. It is far away from everything.
Now comes this, from Reuters:
A speck of green in a sea of sand, St. Anthony's Monastery in Egypt welcomes those seeking God in silence broken only by the whisper of the wind.
Monks at what is considered by many to be the world's oldest active Christian monastery still rise before dawn to chant and pray just as their predecessors did for more than 1,500 years.
Now, they also carry mobile phones, send e-mails and maintain a website (http://www.stanthonymonastery.org), embracing modernity that has helped sustain the ancient monastery, nestled beside a spring where Egypt's eastern desert meets the craggy Red Sea mountains.
Let me take a swipe at explaining my apology comment. The foundational premise is that Hillary was insulted from the pulpit of Obama's church. It was a racist and sexist insult. When something like that happens, it is not only the speaker who needs to apologize. It is the person in charge. When an American soldier rapes a 15-year-old girl on Okinawa, the President or somebody apologizes to Japan, even though the President did not do the raping. Obama is not the person "in charge" at his church, but he is the most prominent member and the insult was made in support of his candidacy. He is the appropriate person to apologize. That's my thinking on it.
On a practical political level, there were already a lot of people shaken up by Rev. Wright's foolishness. Now this new clown. The Democratic delegates would not be wrong to wonder, "Jeez, what is it with this Trinity Church place? Is everybody there totally wacko? Even if they believe they are correct, do they not realize that they would best serve Obama if they just shut up? How many more Trinity Church eruptions are we going to have between now and November?"
Obama needs to put some distance between himself and the wackos. ASAP.
Also on a political level, I'm not sure how divisive this campaign has been, but the talking heads keeping saying it has been. Obama needs to reach out to Hillary. He needs to say, "I'm sorry that my own home church allowed this sort of ugly attack. I found it as offensive as you did." And he needs to do it publicly, for the sake of the Hillary supporters.
If he fails to do it, it will be the second opportunity Obama has squandered to reach out to Hillary and her people. (The first was his failure to come to her defense on the RFK assassination comment.) He can't keep doing this. He has got to give her a place of honor in the Democratic Party.
Friday, May 30, 2008
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The ABC affiliate in Chicago just ran a news story about a sermon given this Sunday at Trinity UCC (Obama's church, formerly Rev. Wright's church) by a friend of Wright's, Father Michael Pfleger. There's video of the most disgusting part of the sermon at their web site. You might have to page through the videos to #1 of 12.
You'll see it on Faux News in the morning, but you heard it here first.
The sermon mocks Hillary's weepy episode in New Hampshire, alleging it was based on her white sense of entitlement. Are those people out of their minds?
Update: Here's the video.
I've held a low opinion of what's called the mainstream media for years, but am actually depressed to see I've been putting them on a pedestal at that. We now have a former press secretary for Bush saying the press was a pushover for the war in Iraq. Where is the soul-searching? Don't hold your breath.
Glen Greenwald's column at Salon tells just part of the sad, sad story.
Now let's look at what's going on in 2008. Yesterday we learned that McCain's top economic advisor, who had input on McCain's policy on foreclosures (which can be described as "Protect the banks at all costs!") was at the time a registered lobbyist for UBS (one of the banks most dangerously exposed to subprime loans) and is still vice chairman of the bank. In addition, we learned that 50 top executives of UBS have been warned not to visit the US, to avoid being arrested!
Also yesterday, we learned that Barack Obama told an untruth: He said his uncle was involved in the liberation of prisoners at Auschwitz; but the Torture Party "truth" squad revealed that actually it was his great-uncle who was involved in the liberation of prisoners at Buchenwald. It's easy to see why he would want to deceive us on that!
Guess which story made the mainstream news.
Hint: Go to ABC News and type "Buchenwald" into the little search box on top. Then type "Gramm". Or "Gramm UBS".
Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.
Update:Want more evidence? Take a look at this, at Politico, via TPM.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I've wanted for some time to write about the foreign policy wingnuts who've been sending our country swirling down the toilet overseas, but that will have to wait for another time.
Meanwhile, I saved this from an article in the NY Times back in January:
“There is a desperate sense of need that there must be something better than Bush out there,” said Dean Godson, head of a conservative research group in London called Policy Exchange. Or, as Thomas Valasek, a spokesman for the Center for European Reform in London, put it: “The world at large has a massive stake in the outcome of the elections. Never before has the U.S. had such a terrible reputation, a terrible image.”
The whole article is worth reading.
I agree with Mark Kleiman's sentiment at The Reality-Based Community. This is a great ad:
Mark's site is so interesting, I've linked to the general site, rather than just the particular story, to encourage you to scroll down and read around a little.
In today's NY Times:
I was visiting my local Toyota dealer in Bethesda, Md., last week to trade in one hybrid car for another. There is now a two-month wait to buy a Prius, which gets close to 50 miles per gallon. The dealer told me I was lucky. My hybrid was going up in value every day, so I didn’t have to worry about waiting a while for my new car. But if it were not a hybrid, he said, he would deduct each day $200 from the trade-in price for every $1-a-barrel increase in the OPEC price of crude oil. When I saw the rows and rows of unsold S.U.V.’s parked in his lot, I understood why.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
When our friend, Ted, called yesterday with a couple of tickets for tonight's Cubs game, we snatched them right up! Of course, yesterday it was 80 degrees.
But last night Minneapolis sent us their weather.
We got there early to make sure we were among the first 10,000 paid customers, to get our Kosuke Fukudome bobbleheads. (I can't vouch for the pronunciation in Japan, but here in Chicago that's Foo-koe-DOE-may.) That blanket cost us $50, by the way. And there was a line outside the Right Field Gift Shop waiting to buy them. We got the last one. No kidding.
But by the fourth inning we were chilled to the bone, anyway. Caught the end of the game in our nice warm house. (Cubs beat the Dodgers, 3-1.)
From David Brooks' column today:
My first thought on the running mate question is that to balance his ticket, Barack Obama should pick a really old white general. Therefore, he should pick Dwight Eisenhower. John McCain, on the other hand, needs to pick someone younger than himself. Therefore, he also should pick Dwight Eisenhower.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The Washington Monthly gives an interesting rundown on potential VP candidates. It is not all-inclusive (Wesley Clark is not included, for example), but highlights each candidate's pluses and minuses, from the writer's perspective.
For the first time, I'm starting to pay more attention to Kathleen Sibelius, who is governor of ... are you ready for this? ... KANSAS!
Can you imagine the conspiracy theories if it's Brian Schweitzer, governor of Montana? He speaks Arabic! How unAmerican is THAT? Pair him with Obama the Muslim, and you have a wingnut's dream ticket.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Apparently there are people all excited about Hillary's reference to Robert Kennedy's assassination here. Listen to her, then read below.
Okay, to me it's clear she was only making reference to the fact that the 1968 nomination race was still going on in June. She is not suggesting that Obama might be assassinated. A poor choice of words, perhaps, but this is gotcha politics carried a bit too far.
What do you think?
I'm linking to the Washington Post. Michael Gerson is the writer, and Michael Gerson is a conservative evangelical, and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. Also a former "senior policy analyst" (i.e., hack) at the Heritage Foundation. Michael writes:
... I cannot get two figures out of my mind -- 75,000 and one. There were 75,000 attendees at Obama's Portland, Ore., rally on Sunday -- a monumental political achievement, found at the confluence of organization and enthusiasm. Obama does not merely talk of a new kind of politics; his charisma, story and tone symbolize a shift in political eras. Obama voters believe they are changing politics forever -- a claim that Al Gore or John Kerry could never credibly make. At its best, this desire to break the dominance of politics-as-usual motivated support for John Kennedy and the New Frontier. At its worst, it motivated support for professional wrestler Jesse Ventura to be governor of Minnesota -- he won nearly half of young voters in a three-way election. In either case, it is hard to bet against excitement and idealism.
The "one" is Mark McKinnon -- a media adviser to McCain, a friend and former colleague of mine, a Texas Democrat who strongly supported George W. Bush, and a man of great decency and integrity. Early last year, he gave me a copy of Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" and said he had informed the McCain team that he could not help lead a general election campaign against Obama. This week, McKinnon kept his word by resigning (though remaining a strong "friend and fan" of the McCain campaign).
It is a reminder of something that Republicans -- even in the busy strife of a campaign -- should not forget or underestimate. Obama is a serious, thoughtful, decent adult who will attract the sympathy of other serious, thoughtful, decent adults. He has evident flaws, but the inspiration he evokes is genuine. His policy views are conventionally liberal, but his story is not a scam. And, in some ways, his election would finally make sense of an American story that includes Antietam and Selma.
The enthusiasm of many Republicans and conservatives to defeat Hillary Clinton would have come unbidden. Against Obama, it will come harder.
Well, prices are growing in leaps and bounds! Remains to see if they're just gouging for the holiday, or if it stays after Memorial Day weekend.
Anybody remember the 70s? When gas prices went up, then the price of everything else went up. And up. And up. Hold on to your hats, folks.
On the bright side, all these roads will make really good bicycle trails.
Update: I finally remembered this, from February:
Okay, so I'm beating up on McCain today.
There seems to be an attitude among Washington lobbyists that being a lobbyist is morally neutral. Each side deserves to have its side of the story told, so it's okay to make lots of money helping either side, and it doesn't matter which. This is very convenient. But I don't buy it. McCain's campaign is absolutely crawling with people like this:
Well, isn't this a surprise! It turns out that a couple of right-wing ministers whose support McCain had sought, and whose endorsements he publicly and gratefully received in joint appearances, were actually nut cases! Who'd a-thunk it?
Among the charming tenets of their faith: the Roman Catholic Church is the Great Whore of Babylon, and Hitler was sent by God to encourage European Jews to create a state in Israel.
Torture Party, this is your base!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
We live in a pretty good location in Chicago. We're about 2 blocks from the Kennedy Expressway, about half way between the Loop and O'Hare. An L station is a short walk, a commuter train station is a slightly longer walk. It's a quiet little neighborhood.
Until there's an accident on the Kennedy. Then the traffic helicopters from four different stations converge like sharks that smell blood in the water.
Like they did this morning at 5:30. For about an hour and a half we had a helicopter parked above us. I was up at 4:30, but it was still irritating. It finally woke Suellen up. My advice to you: Don't wake Suellen up at 6:40 a.m.
By the way: did you notice I said "despise" Faux News, not "hate" Faux News? I'm getting better.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
There's a lot about John McCain to admire, and that's a refreshingly thing to say about a Republican. On top of the list, along with his survival in the Hanoi Hilton, I would put his opposition to torture (although he has, sadly, backed off that in the past couple of months, presumably to be "loyal" to Bush).
Nevertheless, there's things about him that make it important that he not win. On top of that list I would put his stated determination to continue appointing people like Roberts and Alito, two very nice guys who are legal troglodytes, to the Supreme Court. There's also that famous temper. Did he really call his wife that? I have learned not to trust people who can't control their temper.
But this is a battle for the future of America, folks, and if we've learned anything in the past 28 years, it's that the Torture Party has no line they won't cross to win an election.
So if you're interested in videos trashing McCain, here's your link.
Well, my post below blaming Ted Kennedy for Carter's loss was, as it turned out, pretty badly timed.
Like everyone likely to read this, I wish him well. Am I the only one a little amazed at the eulogistic tone of the news stories about him? Big news organizations have obituaries prepared in advance, I know from personal experience (since I wrote some of them at The Bergen Record). But it seems like they're dipping into them a little early. I hope, to borrow from Mark Twain, that reports of his death are highly exaggerated.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Who should Obama choose as his VP candidate? Would Hillary take the job?
The most common objection I hear to that is that with Hillary comes Bill, and between them they would be constantly trying to take the spotlight off Obama.
But the VP is powerful only to the extent that the President yields power. Hillary in the Senate would have her own power base, and she can expect to have a leadership position there.
I can envision a situation like the late 1970s and 1980, when Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neill joined forces to destroy the Carter Presidency (at least, that's how I saw it at the time, and still do). In this scenario, Hillary has too much "integrity" to compromise on health care, or whatever, and noisily protests this and that until, finally, in 2012, she MUST run against Obama for the sake of the country.
Maybe keeping Hillary close at hand is the best course. What's the old saying? Something like "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." But would Hillary want the VP job? I doubt it.
How about Sam Nunn? White Southerner -- would reassure Southern moderates. Born in 1938. An Obama supporter early on.
I've got a feeling Obama will be giving us a surprise name. Have you got a favorite?
The May 26 New Yorker has a great article called "The Fall of Conservatism". It's by George Packer, author of a pretty good book called "The Assassins' Gate - America in Iraq".
As I read the article, I was impressed once again with what a pathetic waste the "Conservative Movement" has been. The most encouraging quote is from David Brooks:
“You go to Capitol Hill—Republican senators know they’re **cked. They have that sense. But they don’t know what to do.”
Friday, May 16, 2008
No comment. This speaks for itself.
From Huffington Post.
Update: From CNN:
Huckabee released the following statement regarding his comments Friday, according to the New York Times website:
"During my speech at the N.R.A., a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive. That was never my intention."
I guess he thinks that apology is equal to the level of offense.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I'm not a big fan of Chris Matthews, but maybe I need to reconsider the guy. This is priceless. Bush and McCain are obviously trying to pry American Jews away from the Democratic Party by acting crazy and saying stupid things. I don't think it will work.
This video is a good reason to make TalkingPointsMemo.com part of your daily read.
Update: The Poor Man has a particularly pessimistic comment on this, that belongs in my "We are Doomed" file:
"It’s all like this. Everything is just like this. Some blank young person who has memorized a 5″x7″ index card of focus group-approved phrases, yelling, yelling, yelling over everyone. And you can say what you want, and be as right as you want, but he’s going to keep yelling, and yelling, and yelling until you get sick of it, and at the end of the day everybody knows that Barack Obama goes to secret Muslim church. Everything is like this. An election won’t fix it. This rules the world."
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Is this the year the Republican Party returns to the tiny minority status it achieved in 1932, and so richly deserves again?
In the past couple of months we've had three special elections for Congressional seats that came open when the incumbents resigned. Here in Illinois, Dennis Hastert's seat, which had been Republican for a generation, was won by a Democrat. A couple of weeks ago in Louisiana, a seat in a strong Republican district was won by a Democrat.
And tonight, a third Republican district in Mississippi was won by a Democrat -- with an 8 percent margin of victory.
That noise you hear is the knocking knees of Republicans who have to defend their seats this fall.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
We had a roof leak that I'd put off repairing for longer than I care to admit, but the guys showed up yesterday and took care of things, I hope.
If you've ever had a new roof put on, you know that for the next 15 years you find roofing nails on your sidewalk, in your garden, on your lawn. And your lawn mower throws undiscovered roofing nail missiles at your neighbors (or you).
So I got a laugh out of the roofer's wheelbarrow (click on picture for a clearer view).
Friday, May 09, 2008
Thursday, May 08, 2008
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
These bozos don't know what they're doing. Somebody stop them.
Folks, take it from me: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been doing us all a big favor for as long as I have been doing genealogy. They have traveled all over the world and microfilmed church and civil records in little towns from Albania to Zambia. MANY of the original records they have copied have been subsequently destroyed, whether by fire, flood, storm, ignorance, or war. If the Mormons hadn't copied them, they would no longer be available to anyone.
Vatican letter directs bishops to keep parish records from Mormons
By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In an effort to block posthumous rebaptisms by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic dioceses throughout the world have been directed by the Vatican not to give information in parish registers to the Mormons' Genealogical Society of Utah.
An April 5 letter from the Vatican Congregation for Clergy, obtained by Catholic News Service in late April, asks episcopal conferences to direct all bishops to keep the Latter-day Saints from microfilming and digitizing information contained in those registers.
The order came in light of "grave reservations" expressed in a Jan. 29 letter from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the clergy congregation's letter said.
Why do the Mormons copy them? Because they believe they have a religious obligation to posthumously baptize their ancestors into their church.
So what? That's their belief, not mine. The world benefits from it, and nobody suffers because of it. If some American Indians wanted to posthumously induct my ancestors into their tribe, and held a religious ceremony to do so, I would consider it an honor. Why is this different? Who are they hurting?
Monday, May 05, 2008
I don't really know what to say about this, from Bloomberg, via Talking Points Memo:
May 5 (Bloomberg) -- The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government's top psychiatric researcher said.
Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven't provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Now that the weather's good again in Chicago (and will be for 2 or 3 weeks!), I'll be getting out with the camera more often. I've set a little project for myself that I'm calling Chicago Ghosts, and it's to take pictures of things that are still around, but are obsolete.
I expect a self-portrait will show up somewhere in this series.
I really like Tom Hanks. First, he just seems to have a good grasp of reality. Second, he brings a sense of humor to his endorsement, and acknowledges that we have not exactly been waiting with bated breath to learn who he is endorsing (see "First"). Third, the fact that he did it on myspace is rather democratic (small d).
The thing that really creeped me out about Rev. Wright was the fact that he showed up at the National Press Club with bodyguards supplied by Louis Farrakhan. Which is a good segue into Frank Rich's column this morning, which I recommend. Discuss.
And while you're at it, read Friedman.
Friday, May 02, 2008
It's raining in Chicago. On rainy days I sometimes pull out my camera bags and just handle things. I pull out the cameras, the lenses, the flashes, the tripod, etc., and imagine actually using them.
I stepped out on the front porch and took this picture of what we're looking at across the street:
There used to be a factory across the street that manufactured golfing equipment, like golf ball washers. It wasn't so bad, because the only thing that faced us was a brick wall. It made for a quiet street.
Then, to make a long story short, a developer bought the property, knocked down the factory, and set up a sales office. (You can almost see the sales office in the picture, if you click on it to get the enlarged version. It's a mobile home, hidden behind the tree.) Then they dug some holes in the ground, which promptly filled up with water. That was about 8 months ago.
Then the bottom fell out of the housing market. As far as I know, they haven't sold a single house. They certainly haven't started building one, and yesterday they came and hauled away the bulldozer that had been sitting there all winter.
This article in today's NY Times is encouraging:
DETROIT — Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.Well, I don't think that amounts to a stampede, actually.
In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.
The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.Now THAT is significant.
In another first, fuel-sipping four-cylinder engines surpassed six-cylinder models in popularity in April.
Thursday, May 01, 2008
Right on cue, Obama's got an ad out about McCain's and Clinton's gas pandering. The music is cheesy, but that's par. There's not much you can say in a 30-second ad, but changing how business is done is Washington says it all.
He's still fighting but, boy, is this quixotic.