Sunday, December 28, 2008

Obama's Moderately Fantastic New Year

The Obama presidency is shaping up even better than hoped for at Rip and Read. Hillary Clinton at State, and many other DLC Democrats in the Cabinet, maybe the Daily Kos crowd will finally go off and form their own party. This is going to be an administration which will be inclined to remember BOTH parts of Theodore Roosevelt's dictum: It will remember that speaking softly is as important as caring the big stick...still, the stick will be used when necessary and that is comforting.
In addition, while we will see a recognition that it is the working and middle class which maintains America's success- and witness genuine attempts to help them, we will not see a government blind to the needs of business and commerce. And, it is my profound hope that we will see, before we attempt to continue with the much needed progressive work of the Democratic party, a serious attempt to restore the financial health of the nation...for if that fails, then no progressive measure we can take has a hope of success.

There is a good article at Politico on this subject

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fountain, Minnesota- Yes...I'm Going to Go There.

A nail biting recount in the Minnesota Senate election, a slur on President-Elect Obama by Al Qaida's Number Two, and the pending nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State (which is where Rip and Read always thought she should be)...and yet the most exciting story here is STILL Fountain, Minnesota.

As loyal readers (all four of you) will recall...Today Show Travel Host Peter Greenberg insulted the tiny town of Fountain by including it in his book "Don't Go There."

Rip-and-Read made some hay by imagining an "It's A Wonderful Life" style debate between Greenberg as mean old Mister Potter and George Baily sticking up for the small town. We also posited that, if Mr. Greenberg didn't mend his Elitist Big City Media Ways, that champion of "Real" America, Sarah Palin, would come and get him in 2012.

This didn't go over well with one reader. And, upon reflection, Rip-and-Read can't really blame them...after all, Fillmore County voted against Bush in 2004 as well as for Obama in 2008...so there was no need to bring the Dragon Lady into it other than the fact that I was, quite honestly, stuck for a closing.

But there was a bright ray of Sunshine in all of this. Yesterday, I got a really nice comment from Debra Richardson of the Fillmore County History Center. Debra was quoted in the original article which first caught my attention, and I reprint her comment here on the front page:


This is Fountain's "Fillmore County History Center" Assistant Director, Debra, checking in with a comment. Viewing statistics for our website, I noted the incoming link from your blog.

Firstly, welcome to Minnesota. Secondly, I'd like to extend a welcome to Fillmore County and the village of Fountain, in particular.

We'd love for you to visit our museum. Over the past year, we’ve had 1500 people sign our guest book. Many are from the tri state area- but we’ve had visitors from all over the country- even from...Wasilla Alaska! And no, it was not Gov. Palin, though she would be most welcome. As would be any politician, travel writer, or radio advertising producer. Mr. Greenberg's brouhaha is not colored red or blue. History, sinkhole topography, and tourism are strictly non-partisan...and beyond borders. We’ve welcomed visitors from London, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Germany, and Liberia West Africa. It is frequently commented that our facility ranks up amongst the best museums in the country. Recently, an elder hostel group stopped in on a tour. One of the gentlemen took me aside to say that he’s been to all the renowned American museums and yet it was his opinion that the scope and condition of artifacts in our little museum in a tiny town on the Midwestern prairie shine amongst the best.

As to Mr. Greenberg, he obviously doesn't know a sinkhole from a hole in the ground. We'd love the opportunity to change his view, and viewpoint. Sinkholes are just one of those things you must experience firsthand to be able to comment intelligently upon.
As a natural formation, their very presence provides scientific data and research opportunities. As a unique part of southeast Minnesota's landscape, they're rich in history and lore.

Your “It's a Wonderful Life” clip voice over was clever. We have sinkholes; we also have a sense of humor. No offense taken. However, we do take offense to mistruths broadcast to the nation about our town and published by an author out to sell books, utilizing belittlement and controversy as a means to do so.

That said, we're expecting this sudden national exposure might be to our benefit. As a nonprofit, our limited operating budget doesn't allow the luxury of out-of-area advertising. We couldn't put ourselves on the map; therefore, in that respect we appreciate the backhanded shout-out from Mr. Greenberg.

On behalf of Fountain, Minnesota, I invite you to come visit us, Alex. There's a welcome mat, your choice of sinkholes, and small town hospitality awaiting your arrival.

Despite my cheap humor, Fountain had already managed to make my list of "Must Visit" places...I actually DO want to see the sink holes...and I also want to know more about the political history of this corner of Minnesota's First District.

But, now, after Debra's gracious comments- it's moved up near the top of the list...AND I'm bringing friends AND I hope that everybody who reads Mr. Greenberg's book decides to do the same.

So, once I come back with pictures- there will be (at least) one MORE report about Fountain and the history center.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Fountain of Controversy- Fountain, Minnesota- that is

A few days ago, Rip-and-Read posted about Fountain Minnesota and it's run-in with Today Show Travel Commentator Peter Greenberg.

Fountain, a tiny town of 343 people in South Eastern Minnesota, bills itself as "The Sink Hole Capitol of the World". Greenberg has included it in his book Don't Go There and joked on the Today Show about spelling mistakes in the town's brochure and quipped that children might fall into a sink hole while bike riding.

After a reading of the story, the first thing that popped into my head was an image of George Baily (of It's A Wonderful Life) delivering a Capra-esque diatribe on behalf of Fountain to Peter Greenburg, whom I mentally cast in the role of mean old Mr. Potter.

It amused me, and so I ran with it. In the end, my sympathies are with Fountain, after all, this is a tiny little town that has one claim to fame, is by all reports a pretty nice little locale, and there is no reason for a big city commentator to go trashing the place.

It also put me in mind of the Red State/Blue State theory of America, in which "The Heartland" of small towns is in conflict with the Big Cities and Sophisticates of the Coasts. So, adopting (with what I hoped was obvious sarcasm) the tone of a Right-Wingnut commentator, I pictured small towns across America rallying behind a resurgent Sarah Palin for revenge.

I have to admit that I found the whole story kind of funny and didn't feel that there were any serious issues at stake. After all, in one corner, you have a town which bills itself as the Sink Hole Capitol of the World, and, in the other corner, you have Peter Greenberg shamelessly plugging his book; which, as Greg Sellnow in the Rochester Post Bulletin points out relies on 40 year old Cleveland jokes for humor- so how good can this tome be?

Not to mention that fact, that, after a nail bitter of an election, I needed something light to write about, and this seemed like appropriately light fare- a travel writer vs. a sink hole...

This story seemed harmless.


This story is still making waves here in South Eastern Minnesota, and the Post Bulletin ran another opinion piece about Fountain/Greenburg Feud today.. In his piece, Greg Sellnow, takes great pains to describe Fountain as:

... a pretty, quaint community. The Root River Trail bike path runs through town. Its main street includes one of the area's last surviving small-town groceries, "Willie's Meat and Groceries."

Greenberg is taken to task for giving the place an "undeserved poke in the ribs".

Here at Rip-and-Read, one anonymous commentator has left no doubt that they were not amused by our take, and they share their opinion that we at Rip-and-Read were guilty of "bigotry" and a "cheap shot"...

The comments attached to Sellnow's Post-Bulletin piece are in the same vein:

"Shame on you Mr. Greenberg...
I thought how uninformed he must be and how stupid he must think everyone must be."

The story, at least around here, has struck a nerve. People have been leaping to the defense not just of Fountain, but also Cleveland, Galveston and, yes, Tracy B and Friend Russell: The CORN PALACE...all places skewered by Peter Greenberg in his book.

...so my question is: what nerve has been struck. And what does it mean, if anything, in a Blue State/Red State Dynamic..? Are we looking at the symptom of something serious here after all?

Comments are always welcome.

Greenberg's book is called "Don't Go There." The original article in the Post-Bulletin was by Laura Gossman and is here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reagan's Farewell

Everyday that goes by brings us closer to the end of eight LONG years of the George W. Bush Presidency. Rip-and-Read couldn't be happier as we look forward to Mr. Bush's farewell address.

Today, I happened to stumble across another Presidential farewell on You-Tube. Ronald Reagan is definitely NOT one of Rip-and-Read's favorite Presidents. In my opinion, Mr. Reagan is the DIRECT political ancestor of George W. Bush, and their family tree stretches back to include the lassiez-faire capitalism which contributed to the great depression.

Following both the Reagan and G.W.Bush administrations, the nation has been left more deeply in debt, and struggling under a financial crisis and a massive burden on back of the middle class taxpayer to bailout those at the top of the economic heap. {For Reagan, it was the $105 billion dollar cost to fix the Savings & Loan Industry- while, for the source of America's current economic woes, visit any paper of your choice.)

Also, both men encouraged a spirit of jingoism in this country- often playing to the darker devils of our spirits than to the better angels of our nature.

Still, no one can deny that Reagan had style and a real mastery of communication. The fact that the spirit of his deeds did not always match the spirit of his words does not obscure the fact that the words were often pretty good.

And so, I found myself listening to Reagan's farewell speech. My vision of what capitalism is, and how it should be managed by the American people is different that his - but with his most basic, bedrock vision of what America should be, I couldn't agree more...and in his exhortation to teach our children not only what is wrong with America, but, more importantly, what is RIGHT in America- I wholeheartedly concur.

Because, in the end, if you don't firmly believe that your nation is, at it's best, a shining city on a hill, then you have no reason to keep fighting to make her all she should be.

Here's Mr. Reagan's address:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Today Show vs. Fountain, Minnesota: Land of 10,000 Sink Holes and 343 people

Fountain, Minnesota, which is about 30 miles south of Rip-and-Read's new home, bills itself as "The Sink Hole Capital of America". With only 343 residents, the sink holes are just about all they have. Sadly Rip-and-Read has just learned of a dastardly move by the venal Eastern Elite Establishment to take even this title away from poor Fountain...leaving them with nothing but holes.

According to the Rochester Post Bulletin, Today Show Travel Host Peter Greenburg totally dumped on the little town and it's 343 residents by including their attraction in his book, "Don't Go There", and then waxing funny about it on the morning news.

Mostly notably, Greenburg seized on the fact that the word "Capital" was misspelled in the town's tourist brochure. Of course, there are very few things guaranteed to tick Rip-and-Read off faster than a spelling purist. There is a misconception that Good Spelling equals High Intelligence, when, in fact, it is no more than a signal of Petty Pedantry. If bad spelling was good enough for our Founding Fathers, then it is Good Enough for us...and should be more than Adequate for an elitist like this Greenburg fellow.

According to the article, no one is sure if Greenburg actually managed to visit the "Sink Hole Capital of the World." The Post Bulletin's Laura Gossman interviewed Debra Richardson of the Fillmore County History Center:

Richardson said she'd like to invite Greenburg to stop and visit the town.

"We could take him out to a sinkhole and let him know they aren't a danger to children in the area," Richardson said. "Many kids are fascinated by sinkholes and are eager to learn more about the formations."

Rip-and-Read is sure that this is true...who wouldn't want to spend a day, perhaps even a week, looking at, thinking about, and maybe falling into, a sink hole: nature's playground? Any Red Blooded American Tourist would be Proud to include this stop on their itinerary; Afterward, they would display photos prominently in the digital picture frame bought from Walmart to commemorate the experiance.

After thinking about Peter Greenburg's snide comments (which I admit I've neither heard nor read) I couldn't help but see this as a big city swipe at small town life. I wondered just what that great defender of Small Town American Values, George Bailey of It's A Wonderful Life would have said. I imagine something like this:

In the end, this just tells us that the results of the recent election have gone to the heads of the Big City Elite Media...and they think they can return to their old ways of disparaging the citizens of tiny little God-Fearing, Sink Hole Havin' burgs like Fountain.

Well, I would like to remind Greenburg and his cohorts that Sarah Palin, that great champion of the Real American, will be back- with a plumber AND a six-pack, and that this time: IT'S PERSONAL...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Which Slingbacks and Syrup Gets Noticed, Russell Dreher Keeps Moving, and Rip-and-Read uses the Royal We a Lot

It was never part of our plan at Rip and Read to be interviewed for a documentary film...and it was certainly never part of our wildest dreams that we would get our first IMDB Movie credit for playing ourselves in a documentary about Vermont Drag Queens...but sometimes, that is the way fame finds us- unprepared and in the tub.

Actually, the really sad part is that We've not even had a chance to see the movie yet.

We have, however, watched friend Russell Dreher sweat bullets over it's creation and marketing these past few years, we've dropped a nugget or two of useless publicity advice when asked, and we've been amazed at the Herculean efforts of friend Russell to get his film shot, produced, and now marketed. It's been great.

Slingbacks and Syrup tells the story of Vermont's own Drag Troupe "The House of LeMay" and illustrates the impact these unlikely heroes (or, is that heroines?) have had on their community. As a member of said community who would do just as well as any other, it was our privilege to be interviewed for the film.

Just this fall, Slingbacks and Syrup had a very successful premier at the Burlington Film Festival, where it was one of the best attended entries.

Now, Seven Days, Vermont's arts and news weekly newspaper, has run a feature on one of the stars, Bob Bolyard...but Russell gets a great plug in the article as well:

The “LeMay half” of Bolyard’s alliance with Hayes, McLaughlin and the others recently got a new shot of publicity. Slingbacks and Syrup, a documentary on the history of the LeMay phenomenon, premiered at October’s Vermont International Film Festival. For director Russell Dreher, who commuted from New York to film LeMay events and conduct interviews, it was a hefty labor of love. Dreher financed the film himself, and during the editing process, he lost his job and was diagnosed with cancer.

Dreher eventually emerged with a clean bill of health and a finished film, which is currently for sale on the LeMays’ website. He says other festivals have shown interest, including one in Canada that he prefers not to name yet.

Way to go, Russell (and hats off to Bob, Mike and the House of LeMay too). We at Rip and Read are proud of you.

Oh, yeah, I can hear you asking now- where can I buy a copy of this? Well, right here: of course! https://www.createspace.com/254167

Monday, November 10, 2008

Franken vs Coleman: Down to 204

The gap continues to shrink in the nation's hottest Senate Race, and, Norm Coleman continues to drop in my estimation. Over the weekend, the Coleman campaign filed a "sneak attack" motion on a Saturday-- giving the Press and The Democrats almost no time to respond. Again, I came prepared to disagree but respect Norm Coleman-- it's not taking long, however, to get the full measure of the man.

More local media from KAALtv.com on the race.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tough, Tough Times Ahead, It Seems

The New York Time's headline today says it all: "Jobless Rate Highest in 14 Years". America has lost 1.2 million jobs this year, and 6.5 percent of people are looking for work.

Likely to prolong this period of pain is the fact that the banks who survived the free for all of lending, are now cutting way, way back on the credit they are giving. On a larger scale, this is part of what happened during the 1930s, and one of the reasons why it took us so long (over a decade) to recover completely from the effects of the Crash.

Still, it is worth noting, in an age when the media has become more alarmist than the nut on the street with the "The World Will End Tomorrow" sign that the unemployment rate during the Depression was almost 25% - despite media claims, this is NOT the greatest crisis since the depression, and that is worth remembering.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

For Minnesota It is Not Over: We head into a Recount.

Here in Minnesota, voter turn out was the highest in the nation. Almost 3 million voters went to the polls yesterday. Norm Coleman, the incumbent Republican currently looks like he has held on to his seat by a mere 475 votes. The race automatically heads into a recount.

The Rochester Post Bulletin reports that the recount will cost the tax-payers of Minnesota some $90,000. Coleman,who recently became a target in a civil suit which alleges that some of his supporters pressured fellow business people to funnel cash to the Senator's wife's company, with the express purpose of enriching the GOP incumbent, claims that if it were him, he would "step back" from a recount and let the results stand.

......really? I mean, seriously, Norm...REALLY?

Norm, are you really telling me that you would take all the people who supported you, who gave money (legally) and who knocked on doors for you and throw them right under the bus by "stepping back" in the face of what looks like less that 500 votes...out of 3 million?

I don't know you but is that really the kind of guy you are? If I were a Republican, and you spat in the face of MY hard work and financial contribution that way, I would never forgive you.

If you "stepped back" - it would not be noble. It would be an act of cowardice and a betrayal of those thousands - no, hundreds of thousands- of people who believed in you and went to the polls to make their voice heard on your behalf.

Yes- $90,000 dollars is a lot of money, it is more than many Minnesotans make in a year (most definitely including yours truly), but the idea that $90,000 is "wasted" on a recount is absolute bunk.

When it comes to ensuring that the voice of the people is truly heard, $90,000 is a minuscule amount...a bargain really.

You should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting otherwise. I hate to throw the "U" word around, as Michele Bachmann does, but it's almost....UNAmerican of you.

Update: "The Senator is has Reported Every Gift He's Ever Received"

I'm still playing catch up with Minnesota Politics. After hearing Franken speak, it was easy to decide that I was FOR him-- but now that I'm getting to know Norm Coleman and his outfit a little better I...well, wow- can we say: AGAINST?

In my efforts to keep learning, I'm seeking out more Minnesota Blogs. Here's what I found over at MNBlue in a diary by "The Big E"...

In a related scandal to the one above, Norm Coleman has been accused of taking gifts of expensive clothing from wealthy supporters.

So, his campaign manager was asked by the Minnesota Press Corps: Did He? Or Didn't He.

Watch this You-Tube video from the press conference as Coleman's campaign manager Cullen Sheehan does the best stonewalling act since the Nixon Whitehouse.

Holy Cow? Are these people for real? This is such a simple question, guys. If you're honest: Answer.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

In Which We Reach the End & A New Beginning: Election Day, 2008.

Election Day 2008 is history, and WOW! What History it is! An awe-inspiring milestone for our country. Throughout this election, I haven't given too much thought about the role of race except when it became a campaign issue. Personally, I would have voted for Barack Obama if he had been purple with bright yellow spots....he was the right person at the right time.

But as I sit here this morning, still trying to take it all in- I am amazed to think that the day has come when part of Martin Luther King's Dream has come true. Yesterday, the nation as a whole overwhelmingly judged a man based on the content of his character, rather than the color of his skin.


It was back to DFL Volunteer Headquarters yesterday for one last day of door knocking. Minnesota has same-day registration so there is a potential set of would be voters who may not have made up their minds even yet to vote. The Olmsted County Democratic-Farmer-Labor party was out in force yesterday to persuade them.

In the mid-afternoon, I found myself in Stewartville...about nine miles outside of Rochester. This little town is evocative of hundreds of small towns across the nation...in some ways, it seemed there was no more appropriate place to be yesterday than right in the heartland of the country.

My partner for the day, Diane and I kept working on into the evening. The polls didn't close until 8pm- so if there was a chance we could get one more person out to vote for Obama, Franken, and Walz- it was worth knocking.

And there were a few great moments. In Stewartville, I met a woman coming toward me talking on her cell phone: "Sir?" She said to me, "who are you campaigning for?"

"I'm out for Obama, Al Franken, and Tim Walz- DFL!" I said.

She spoke back into her phone: "Yeah, that's what he said. Walz and Franken. Yeah...I thought I was seeing double. No. No. He's out here right now."

She put the phone to her palm and spoke to me again: "My girl-friend is a Republican. They quit yesterday." She seemed hurt. Almost as if I were cheating or something. I have to admit, I hadn't had a chance to speak with any undecided voters, but it felt good just to be out- keeping the pressure on.

"Well, it ain't over till it's over. So, we're still out today. Good Luck!"

I also met a woman who had voted already. She took great pleasure in telling me about her brother-in-law. A life long Republican, he finally soured on George W. Bush and told his sister-in-law that he had become a "Gopher" (spelled: GOPer)- meaning, a FORMER Republican. I met quite a few voters who had changed party's (at least this once) because of George W. Bush.

In the end, every single person I talked to HAD voted...and Minnesota seems to have kept it's title as the state with the highest voter turnout in the nation. Reports are that 3 million of 3.7 million eligible voters went to the polls yesterday.

When we returned to volunteer headquarters...the place had been cleaned up top to bottom-- it was amazing to think that, a few hours ago, this room had been full of food, coffee, fellowship, energy and a drive to work for this country. Now, the remaining staff and volunteers were sitting in a tired circle...allowing their batteries to recharge a bit before heading over to the Marriott and what we all hoped would be a victory party.


And in the end...well...you know how it ended. What an amazing day for the United States of America and for our friends and allies around the world. I met so many people in England who had great regard and affection for America, but who had wondered for the last eight years what had happened to their old friends and who passionately pinned their hopes on this race. One young British lady said she literally wept for joy this morning.

This may not be a popular sentiment among all Democrats, but John McCain's speech last night was, as one person wrote on a friend's facebook page: a class act. He reached out and found what was best in America and her people. His speech reminds us that this man has been an amazing public servant and who has given so much to his country. One of the benefits of our Democratic Victory will be a chance re-express our admiration for this great American.

The hard work will begin today. We, as American's have just completed a tough and often bitter contest. I am reminded of Winston Churchill's guidelines for waging war and peace. He said: "In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity; in peace, good will."

In the past, when an election has ended we have not always found ways to achieve both Magnanimity and Good Will- for the sake of our country, I profoundly hope we can do it now.

Here in Minnesota, we've had some mixed results. Al Franken was trailing Norm Coleman by a mere 800 Votes as of this morning out of 3,000,000 votes cast, that is a razor thin margin. And there will be a recount.

In the sixth district, Michele Bachmann, who first drew fire by pawing George W. Bush during his State of the Union Address in 2007, and who again insulted all of America by declaring that people who didn't agree with her radical right views were somehow UnAmerican, managed to hang on to her seat despite heroic efforts on the part of the DFL to do the nation a great service and send her into political exile.

But here in Minnesota's first district, Tim Walz won handily and will return to Congress. I spoke with fellow blogger Jennifer who remembers that, when she first volunteered for the Olmsted County DFL, their offices were in an empty garage...and a grant from the state headquarters of $75 for a phone line was a huge deal. Tonight, as we gathered in the big beautiful ballroom of the Marriott, I could only take my hat off in respect to these people who have fought so hard and who have made a huge difference to their community.

As for President-Elect Obama- words all but fail me. Comments from friends have been pouring in and popping like celebratory fireworks...I'm tired, amazed, relieved, and happy. And I am so proud of the United States today.

May God Bless the United State and All Her People


WOW! It's still slowly sinking in....wow.

Wow. I can't believe it. Wow!

I'm proud to be an American. I'm proud of us all. Hat's off to John McCain. His speech tonight was a class act, all the way.

Yes, we can.

God Bless America!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Obama Has Nailed It (We Sincerely Hope):
Further Adventures on the Campaign Trail

Well, it was back to Olmsted County Democratic Farmer Labor party headquarters for another day of Get Out the Vote.

Part One: A Tough Race

It's an exciting race.

Al Franken is neck and neck with Republican Norm Coleman. This has been an incredibly negative race in Minnesota. In the past, Al Franken has been both a comedian and an unabashed partisan writer and talk show host...there are those here who seem to be having a hard time seeing past that.

And yet, Minnesota is facing a looming unemployment crisis. A quick search of the Rochester Post Bulletin's website reveals more than one story on this topic. Not only are laid-off workers facing a tough job market here in the state, but the problem is hitting many different types of jobs and tiers of employment. This is a time for action and change. Barack Obama does not need to face more opposition in the U.S. Senate as he tries to bring that change.

Now, Norm Coleman has been dragged into a dirty Texas Lawsuit in which one Republican businessman in the Lone Star State accuses a Norm Coleman Supporter of pressuring him to make payments to companies with ties to Coleman and his family.

The truth will not be known for a while, but rather than confirm or deny the substance of the allegations, Coleman immediately blamed FRANKEN for the mess he was in....although the Franken campaign denies even knowing about the suit until it hit the papers, and Coleman couldn't come up with any evidence to prove that Franken or his campaign was involved.

I'm fairly new here in Minnesota, but frankly, that's about all I needed to know about Norm Coleman...this sounds like it's right from the Karl Rove "Bait and Switch" playbook....when your hands are dirty, wipe them on someone else.

The big question now is: While Minnesota have time to see through Norm Coleman?

Part Two: DFL HEADQUARTERS Just like Family

So, full of righteous indignation about the perfidy of Republicans when cornered, I made my way back to DFL headquarters to knock on more doors for Obama, Franken, and Tim Waltz.

Let me tell you, these folks here in Minnesota know how to do things right! When I entered, I was checked in by Jennifer- who has the best Obama campaign regalia anywhere. She's even painted her fingernails for change! It's awesome!

I learned that Jennifer is a fellow blogger. Her's is entitled: "Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion." Let's hope that tomorrow the rest of the country agrees with her on that!

Next, Tim Walz- former National Guardsman, High School Teacher, Football Coach and now Congressman from the 1st District- arrived with his wife, Gwen, (not pictured) and gave another great speech from the hip. Gwen is a terrific speaker in her own right, and took the opportunity to inspire the crowd with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr: "The Moral Arc of the Universe is long but it bends toward Justice." Good words to inspire us as we hit the streets.

After, as Walz passed through the crowd, I got the chance to tell him how impressed I'd become with his campaign in such a short time. When I mentioned I'd recently moved from Vermont, he immediately responded with: "Peter Welch! Great, great guy. Good congressman." Felt good to hear.

My experience going door to door was much the same as it was the first day...although I am getting more comfortable doing it. Many people are concerned by the direction the country has been heading in, and are looking for a chance to vote for something better.

And again, the fall weather is warm and beautiful...color still clinging to the trees and the geese flocking overhead.

And finally, back to campaign headquarters, where Mary, Carolyn and the rest of the kitchen volunteers have spent the day whipping up chili, grilled cheese sandwiches as thick as your thumb, and a host of other goodies to reward a worker for a good day's work.... I'm doing a lot of walking, but at this rate, I don't think I'm going to loose any weight.

As I arrived home, tired, but ready for one last push tomorrow my wife greeted me at the door, took one look at the campaign stickers all over my shirt and said: "Hello Honey! You look like the Back Bumper of a Car!"

Well, she has a point.

Good luck to us all Tuesday.

Hey! I Know That Guy! Burlington Free Press Profiles Neil Jensen

The Burlington Free Press ran a profile of Neil Jensen on November 1st. Neil was one of the first Vermonters to organize for Barack Obama. I have been privileged to work with Neil Jensen on Philip Baruth's Jim Douglas Trilogy for Audio Dream Theater. In fact, it was Neil, along with Philip who encouraged this blogger to first look seriously at Barack Obama... I didn't take me long to like what I saw.

In addition to being a first class voice for change in Vermont, the Free Press article neglected to mention that Neil also does first class Voices. His imitation of Obama is damn good. His Henry Kissinger is spot on. And he does Al Gore's voice better than Al Gore does.

Read Sam Hemingway's article, Monkton Man Called It Early, over at the Free Press: Here.

And speaking of Vermont Daily Briefing and Philip Baruth....thanks for the hat tip, Philip! VDB posted some additional pics from the Al Franken for Senate Rally I attended the other morning...AND Philip rightly points out that, when it comes to photographic ability....I have a good eye for radio!

Thanks----- My Friends....


Gotta go now...out to knock on more doors for Franken and Obama today.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dinner Near Norm, Pancakes With Al:
Pass the Syrup Please!

Well, I've been sitting on the English sidelines for the last year- watching American politics from afar, but Minnesota sure has been doing her best to make up for it these last few days.

About two weeks ago, Bobbi and I went out to dinner with my sister-in-law and my "brother-in-law" (he isn't yet, but this is a subtle campaign) to the St. Paul Hotel for a very good, and very expensive, dinner.

Well, we look over at the next table, and who should be enjoying a post-senate debate meal, but Norm Coleman- the GOP incumbent - fresh from fighting for his political life against Al Franken. If you click on the photo below, Norm is just visible in the background.

A few days later, as I've already described, I get to have breakfast at a campaign rally with Al Franken....

I have to admit, the steak is good at the St. Paul Hotel, but in this case, I MUCH preferred the pancakes.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Violating Sarah Palin's Rights: "So Dumb It Hurts"

Not much time to blog today, out to knock on doors again. But I just had to throw up a link to this: Sarah Palin is claiming that, by criticizing her campaign rhetoric, the media is violating her first amendment rights.

Read Glenn Greenwald on Salon to get the full story...he also takes a slap at liberal columnist Maureen Dowd who equally deserves it.

The stand out quote is as follows:
The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn't have anything to do with whether you're free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don't like what you've said.
People have the right to say whatever they want. But when they tell lies, or stick their Uggs in their Mugs...other people have the right to point it out. If they tell lies, they suffer the consiquences. Sarah must have been out at a pageant rehearsal during that social studies class. Read the piece...please!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Minnesota Nice:
Rip and Read's Introduction to Minnesota Politics .

Following trails laid down by other pioneers, my wife and I arrived in Minnesota in early September. For the last year, we've been in London, England, while my wife completed training for her new job...it was a great experience with only one draw back: I've largely had to sit out the most exciting election of my life...watching, like our British friends, helplessly from the sidelines.

Back in the U.S. we've had to attend to the myriad of details associated with moving, house-hunting, and, for me, setting up a new branch of my business. So, I've had a few excuses NOT to rush right out and volunteer.

But I suppose, the truth was, I was a bit shy, too. I mean, all but a fraction of my adult life has been spent in the State of Vermont...I know who's who, or at least, I know who to ask about who's who.

But I just fell onto Minnesota's doorstep like the morning paper, and while I wanted to volunteer- I had a pretty sharp learning curve to face about the people, the positions, and the political history of this state.

Yesterday morning, however, I finally dived in head first. Al Franken (yes, that Al Franken)is the candidate for U.S. Senate here this year. He, and Tim Walz, who is now, and will be again, I hope, my Congressman from Minnesota's 1st District, were touring the county as part of their last minute efforts to get out the Vote.

So, yesterday, it was up early for a pancake breakfast with fellow Democrats and my first chance to meet and hear some of the people I was considering voting for.

And that was it, that was all I planned to do: Listen to some speeches and eat a couple of free pancakes.


But after all those years of listening to Garrison Keillor on Vermont Public Radio, I should have remembered that nobody in Minnesota gets stuff for free-- the good folks from Lake Wobegon's sister towns are happy to help- but you've got to be willing to show you can WORK!

Work, as it turned out, was pretty much the keynote of all the speeches and the day.

I arrived at the breakfast and was greeted with a warm smile and a sign-up sheet. Fair enough, I thought, I'll sign up to stuff a few envelopes, maybe make a few phone calls...no door knocking, however, I'm just a little to shy to go pounding on the doors of strangers and asking them to vote. I'll start in two days, that'll give me time to get used to the idea.

I was welcomed to a table by Jonathan and Dave. These two were great and very willing to answer my questions about Minnesota politics and help me start filling in the gaps of my local knowledge.

The first thing they were careful to remind me of was that, in Minnesota, I was not a member of the Democratic Party, but of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Back in the 1940s, the two progressive political parties, Democrat and Farmer-Labor, merged to better take on Republicans. "And some of the old timers can still get pretty touchy if you leave off the 'Farmer-Labor' part", warned Jonathan. Good advice.

Because Franken is a national figure, I already felt comfortable offering him my vote ...but what about Tim Walz? I've not heard of him, yet...who is he?

So Jonathan told me his story. Walz spent 24 years in the National Guard and was a High School Social Studies teacher and Football coach in Mankato when he decided to run for Congress. The district has historically trended Republican, and was represented by the GOP for 12 years.

After watching Tim Walz speak, it was easy to see how he'd defeated a twelve year Republican Incumbant. A big guy, with a passing resemblance to General Norman Schwarzkopf, he knows how to hold a room...and his message was about work and it's value. After talking about valuing and helping Americans who work, and who are in trouble following the Bush years, Walz reminded us that it was time for Democrats to work now as well.

And, he reminded us of the rewards of work: "When you wake up on November 5th, you are going to realize that, over the next 5 days, the work that you do has transformed the world. That's an absolutely incredible feeling."

Next, it was Al Franken's turn. Franken arrived in the room to great applause and immediately went to work manning the griddle to cook pancakes for volunteers still in line. When he got up to speak, he also focused on the subject of work.

"Washington has not been working for Minnesota's working families. There are 400,040 Minnesotans who do not have health insurance. We have had 20,000 homes in this state foreclosed upon in the last year. And every Minnesota Homeowner has seen their home equity dissipate or disappear. There are 170,000 Minnesotans who are looking for jobs that they can't find. The highest unemployment rate in over 20 years. And now, with this financial meltdown in Wall Street, our savings, our jobs, our kids's future is at risk.

"But...Paul Wellstone said: The Future belongs to those who are Passionate and Work Hard. And I am so passionate about going to Washington and to work for the working families of this state and the middle class families of this state... Now, if we are to take back Paul's seat...if we are going to give Barak Obama the 60 Democratic Senators who share his values that he needs to bring the change to Washington that WE need...then we are going to have to work for the next 5 days...because this is the year we take our country back!"

It was a great speech and a rousing morning. I was firmly ready to volunteer...starting Saturday.

There was only one problem...I'd filled out my volunteer form, but forgot to make a note for myself of the dates and times for which I'd signed up. "No problem" said the staff. "They've got 'em across the way at DFL headquarters...you can look it up there."

And THAT is how they got me to pay for my pancakes!

The next thing I know, I'm sitting in a car with Anne, a nurse here in town, who was also fairly new to political volunteering. ( "But this was the year to do it!" she said.) We'd been loaded up to the gills with an armload of campaign literature and a list of about 140 registered voters and a push out the door!

And you know what...it wasn't that bad at all! It was a gorgeous day here in Southern Minnesota, and although there were a few folks who just flat out wouldn't talk, many more were at least open to a visit (although they can't wait for this election to be over), and a others were downright enthusiastic about the opportunity to vote for real change.

I got a chance to get to know about 14 square blocks of Rochester Minnesota neighborhoods in one afternoon. I got to talk to a 90 year old retired mechanic and WW2 vet who couldn't wait for Tuesday and his chance to vote for Barack Obama. I also met a young guy who, despite my having awoken him (he worked the night shift), was also ready to vote down the DFL ticket because we needed a change. And I got a chance to hear what my new neighbors were thinking.

I also got enjoy the fall weather and to get to know Anne, who, in addition to being a nurse, is working hard to get her musical act off the ground as well. They call themselves Brother Music, Sister Rhythm- and I'm looking forward to a chance to hear them play soon.

But probably the best moment of the day came after I'd finished my volunteer duties. After 5 hours on my feet, I realized that those two pancakes had LOOOOOONG since worn off. So, before walking the last 15 blocks to my apartment, I stopped at McDonald's. Behind the counter, a young girl looked shyly at my pin. "Are you voting for Obama?" She asked. "I sure am," I replied, "are you a voter?" "Yes I am," she answered, "this will be my first time. Do you know where I can get a pin like that?"

I thought for a moment. My pin was a gift from my good friends Steve and Kate, who had gone out of their way to get it for me after I'd lost my Obama lapel pin in London. But only for a moment.

"I sure do." I said, taking the button from my jacket. Her eyes lit up. Perhaps it doesn't matter much, but she was African American...and I couldn't help wondering if, as much as this election meant to me, if it mean even more to her. She smiled. "Oooh. Thank you!" she said. "Just make sure you remember to vote on Tuesday!" "Oh, I'm voting." She said.

I hope Steve and Kate don't mind, but I think that was where that pin was meant to be.

They have a term here in Minnesota- people are: "Minnesota Nice". And although they may occasionally employ it with a touch of self-deprecating humor (there is, after all, the concept of too much of a good thing!) they never use it with irony. Minnesota Nice. After a day on the streets, talking with total strangers about a subject many find stressful, I couldn't agree more...it's true. They are nice here.

Be careful, I may be knocking on your door next!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sarah Palin and her Boosters
The Geeks and the Beauty Queen

So where the hell did Sarah Palin come from, anyway? Like most casual observers of politics, I'd never heard of her until this summer...or if I had, I quickly forgot all about it.

Today's Washington Post has a great piece by Richard Cohen entitled: Palin's Love Boats. In the column, Cohen spins the tail of a gaggle of conservative journalists who trekked up to Alaska in 2006 and were stunned to find a beauty queen fairy princess.

Upon their return, they began a drumbeat designed to bring Palin to center stage in the lower 48.

Cohen writes:
After an apparently bravura saying of grace, she wowed her guests with some excellent halibut cheeks and the Category 4 force of her personality. Some of them sank into a kind of delirium known to high schoolers and praised her as "my heartthrob" (Kristol), "a mix between Annie Oakley and Joan of Arc" (Gerson) and, so far not evident, "smart" (Barnes).

It's a great story. And, as we keep our fingers crossed for an Obama Presidency, it's tempting to laugh at the Saga of Sarah.

But my fear is that Palin is not going away. When I first saw and heard her, I was afraid. She did come across as a hockey mom, someone from the "common ranks" who would break the "elitist" mold. I looked at Sarah Palin and saw a political actress I could easily cast as my local bank branch manager, real estate agent, or local sales rep. Someone perfectly likable, hardworking, knowledgeable in their field, and yet at the same time, perfectly willing to believe that aliens walked among us, or that Harry Potter books led to Devil worship.

While I'm not hungering for this type of leader, I suspected that many Americans were.

Palin would have been very hard to stop, I think. Because to criticize her would be to criticize ordinary Americans...

And, in the end, I think that we were only saved because we were VERY fortunate to have a rare combination of looks and talent in comedian Tina Fey. Fey almost single handedly was able to defuse Palin and help us see her as ridiculous because the actress looked SO much like her target that it almost seemed as if Palin herself were making the jokes.

If elected, President Barak Obama will have a rough first term...there is little doubt about that. The problems heaped on his shoulders will be all but overwhelming. If he is unable to convince a divided America that he is making progress, I have no doubt that we will see Palin back again.

And that still scares me.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Obama ahead in Cookie Poll

These days, everyone, it seems is taking polls: API, CBS, BBC, NBC, CSPAN, Reuters, NPR…the list is all but endless. All about the same, both in results and methodology.

But in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, there is a new kind of polling taking place, one I thought “Rip and Read”ers would enjoy: the cookie poll.

In it’s own quest for results, Daube’s Down Under, a lunch spot located in the subterranean shopping subway under the Mayo clinic, has instituted the cookie poll.

Each day, a tray of cookies is placed out for lunch customers looking for desert…one side of the tray offers blue frosted “Obama” cookies, the other, “McCain” cookies with red frosting.

According to staff members, they’ve been keeping track of sales. Obama is out-polling McCain by 150 to 80 as of today.

As a responsible voter, I felt it my duty to try both of the baked goods. On the surface, both cookies were much the same size and weight, there was a lot to like about each, but I must confess that, somehow, in the end, I found the Obama cookie much easier to swallow.

Perhaps it was the spice they used to make the red frosting on McCain’s cookie. What did the lady behind the counter say it was? Cumin? No…wait—PALIN! That’s what it was…the McCain Cookie had too much Palin.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Time to Get Off My Ass I Think

Well, according to the maps, it's looking pretty good here in Minnesota. But there is an even more relable poll that these: one of the deli's here in town is selling Obama Cookies and McCain Cookies. The Obama cookies are outselling McCain- Hands Down.

At any rate, if recent history has taught us anything, and it hasn't, nothing, NOTHING should be taken for granted.

So, my friends, if you ask me, and I haven't signed up to volunteer by the end of the week...please feel free to make my life miserable.

By the way, the above map is from: http://www.electoral-vote.com/ a neat site friend Russell sent my way.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sarah Palin:
Livin' Large at Taxpayer Expense.

When Sarah Palin burst on to the national scene last summer, we all heard about what a pit bull she was when it came to saving the taxpayers money. She stopped the "bridge to nowhere" and, in a dramatic move, put the state's plane up for sale on E-Bay.

Problem is, she still needs to travel, and she's got a large family. Fortunately, Alaska's taxpayers were able to foot the bill, it seems.

Bobbi just sat down to her email and saw this article from the AP:

Alaska funded Palin kids' travel

Even at this late date, I have a lot of respect for Senator McCain....but I can't really say the same for his running mate....

We've heard a lot from the GOP about science center slide projectors and projects to study bear DNA foisted on the public by Liberal Democrats..

...but it seems that the apostles of "thrift" in the GOP may have dirty hands on this one. I know that some Democrats have been guilty of abusing the system, but there is an old saying: Those Who live in Glass Houses should not throw stones.

In other words, it's bad enough to do wrong, but to do wrong while loudly pointing the finger at OTHER people and trying to punish THEM for doing wrong is even more despicable.

Governor Palin has been throwing a lot of rocks lately- and it looks like one of them might have come back to brake her house.

The AP has just released an article which suggests that Sarah Palin may well have taken her children on junkets and had the taxpayers of Alaska pay for it.

Here's a quote:

"In October 2007, Palin brought daughter Bristol along on a trip to New York for a women's leadership conference. Plane tickets from Anchorage to La Guardia Airport for $1,385.11 were billed to the state, records show, and mother and daughter shared a room for four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House hotel, which overlooks Central Park."

And later we learn that the Governor had her family sent to an event just so they could watch their dad finish a snowmobile race:

"The organizer of an American Heart Association luncheon on Feb. 15 in Fairbanks said Palin asked to bring daughter Piper to the event, and the organizer said she was surprised when Palin showed up with daughter Willow and Bristol as well.

The three Palin daughters shared a room separate from their mother at the Princess Lodge in Fairbanks for two nights, at a cost to the state of $129 per night.

The luncheon took place before Palin's husband, Todd, finished fourth in the 2,000-mile Iron Dog snowmobile race, also in Fairbanks. The family greeted him at the finish line."

Well...the family that plays together stays together...and the citizens who elect her will PAY together, too.

Sarah knows where the money is: She looks at the taxpayer and says: Drill, Baby. Drill.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Good Clean Fun.

It's no secret that American politics have been getting really poisonous in recent decades.

Recently, however, both John McCain and Barack Obama got in great digs at themselves and at the "show business" part of politics.

Watch both guys... (and Hillary)... if we can keep laughing WITH each other there's not a lot we can't do.

Here's Barack:

Here's McCain:

Have Fun!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Final Debate:
A Step Up in Political Discourse

I've just spent the morning listening to the last Presidential Debate, and I think that, while we may not have had the debate we deserved, we got much closer to a complete and honest discussion between opposing viewpoints than we have been in need of for so long.

It is clear that Obama and McCain do not like each other...but, while not perfect, they showed a willingness last night to debate ISSUES and not personalities.

For McCain, in particular, I was glad. While I agree with almost none of the Senator's economic policies, nor with his stance on the War in Iraq, I've admired him as person over the years. He has typified, in many ways, what is best in the American tradition of service. During the frightening days when the Bush Administration advocated torture, he stood for the conscience of America.

So it has been a great disappointment to see the Senator descend to the Rush Limbaugh school of "smear and run." Last night, with a few exceptions, I found him willing to debate on issues...and it was refreshing...Senator McCain regained some stature- which he owes himself and his place in history.

I've noticed a new willingness to talk issues among my email correspondents, and now I saw a tentative step in that direction in last night's debate. This is a trend which I hope continues. Because, no matter who wins, Republican or Democrat, America deserves a Leader of Honor in the White House...I feel more hopeful about that prospect after watching that debate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Crisis and The Narrative:
Who is to Blame for the Financial Collapse?

Recently, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I sat outside a tobacconist's in Saint Paul, smoking a really great cigar with my brother-in-law. (Okay, he's not my brother-in-law yet, but we all like him, so we're keeping our fingers crossed.)

We began discussing the state of the world, as one will do over a cigar, and, of course, the current financial crisis quickly became the focus of conversation. As I listened, I realized that my friend was making an argument that sounded familiar.

The current financial crisis, the argument goes, stems from pressure by the Government to extend loans to the disadvantaged through Freddie Mac and Franny Mae- even though these poor people were bad credit risks.

The argument was politely made and plausible. But it sounded familiar, and so I asked my friend to email the the article he was referencing. He sent me a well written piece from a columnist for the Boston Globe.

The more I read, the more I realized that I WAS listening to a line of thought I'd heard before- not so nicely expressed...from some of my right-wingnut email buddies. By the time the right-wing email machine gets done with it, however, it sounds a lot less pretty.

The way THEY put it, the argument goes like this: (My Friends,)Those Damn Democrats FORCED the financial industry to abandon their usual caution, prudence and good sense by TWISTING THEIR ARMS and making them loan money to MINORITIES who didn't have a pot to piss in and couldn't pay back a loan if their lives depended on it. (My Friends)- this started under BILL CLINTON (gasp!) And, (My Friends), although the Bush White House protested that it was time to reign this in, those DAMN DEMOCRATS kept ARM twisting and forcing the money into the hands of these bad risks. And the leader, of course, of all of this was...(gasp) BARNEY FRANK! (My Friends, did you know that Frank is....GAY?!...and that he's from (gasp) MASSACHUSETTS?)

Fortunately, if we just elect John McCain and his "Mavericky" side-kick Sarah Palin (just a couple of Mavericky ole Mavricks Mavrickin' along, doncha know?)- they will get this Government Interference off our backs so we can go back to some semblance of honesty and integrity.

Okay, without even marshaling further evidence- this argument just DOESN'T wash with me. Here's why:

Congress (bad Ole Congress) was controlled by man-eating Republicans from 1995 until 2007. During most of his Presidency, George W. Bush (a Republican) worked alongside a Congress of Republicans with a Federal Reserve Board chaired by Allan Greenspan- a life-long Republican who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan...a, you guessed it, Republican. I'm sorry, but you twist it as hard as you want...you just can't blame the Liberal Democrats and our coddled Minorities for this one...WE WERE NOT THERE- we'd been voted out of office and were sitting on the sidelines- we are cleared by circumstantial evidence.

The other thing that causes me to doubt this line of argument is that we've seen this before. Following 8 years of Reagan, the American people watched in horror as the Savings and Loan industry collapsed...taking the stock market and some $160 billion tax dollars in bailouts with it. It took the economy about five years to recover. The Savings and Loan Collapse happened under a Chief Executive (Ronald Reagan) who believed that "government was the problem"- and that to regulate the market was to strangle the market...left without police, the system collapsed into a free-for-all of greed that wreaked financial harm on many innocent Americans. The difference between then and now, is that this time the price tag is going to be several BILLIONS of Dollars higher.

And so, while Democrats are cleared by circumstantial evidence (we were either outnumbered or we weren't in power at all during the time in question)- we can call the Republicans to account based on past history...the current crisis fits their previously known M.O.

So, in replying to my Right-Wingnut friends, I found a great article written by a columnist in Business Week. It's titled, pretty plainly: Frannie Mae and Freddie Mac were Victims, Not Culprits. And I recommend it to my "brother in law" and anyone else who has questions about the Republican Spin.

Here's a quote:
Start with the most basic fact of all: virtually none of the $1.5 trillion of cratering subprime mortgages were backed by Fannie or Freddie. That’s right — most subprime mortgages did not meet Fannie or Freddie’s strict lending standards. All those no money down, no interest for a year, low teaser rate loans? All the loans made without checking a borrower’s income or employment history? All made in the private sector, without any support from Fannie and Freddie.

The author goes on to summerize the findings of a study (released back in March, before the hoopla started)by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He writes:

The study identifies five causes of the subprime meltdown:
-Convoluted loan products that consumers didn’t understand.
-Credit ratings that didn’t do a good job highlighting the risks contained in subprime-backed securities.
-Lack of incentives for institutional investors to do their own research (they just relied on the credit ratings).
-Predatory lending and borrowing (which I think means fraud perpetrated by borrowers).
-Significant errors in the models used by credit rating agencies to assess subprime-backed securities.

You’ll note in the Fed’s five causes that there’s some culpability for lenders, borrowers, investors and credit raters. There’s no blame for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae which had little or nothing to do with the entire situation.

In the end, my feeling is this: Whenever you hear a Republican start complaining about Barney Frank, Bill Clinon, or Massachusetts- you'd better pull out your boots and put 'em on...because whatever line they start spewing next isn't going to be the truth, is going to be deep, and won't smell very pretty at all.

A few notes on Email Exchange

As some readers know, I am part of an ad hoc email discussion group that coalesced about 5 years ago. With the exception of the man who cc'd me on the first few exchanges, I know none of my correspondents in real life.

The email group consists of a majority on the far right wing, and a minority of those of us who are either left, or center-left.

Our exchanges at first were rude to the point of verbal violence. Things were spat at strangers over email that I would be hard pressed to say to my worst enemy face to face.

In time, we began to moderate ourselves (not much, just enough so that people would not withdraw from the conversation). I've noticed in recent days that an increasing tone of civility has crept into our exchanges...not much, but enough to make me wonder what is going on...it almost seems as if we are straining to get beyond the "he is a pig"/"she's a pig with lipstick" and start trying to discuss real issues...

dare I hope?

At anyrate, in on of our exchanges, one on the right hoped I realized just how "Liberal" my party was...I decided to respond here:


You make the mistake of thinking that I carry some great shame for being a "Liberal". The United States has had some great "Liberal" leaders...among whom we might count Jefferson, Jackson, (One might even consider adding Lincoln to this list, as well as Teddy Roosevelt- although they are on "your team" - and you're damn lucky to have 'em), Wilson, and of course the greatest President of the 20th Century (Sorry Ronnie, but it ain't you) FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy.

(To be fair, the United States has had great conservative heroes as well, including Washington, Adams, Hamilton, Dwight David Eisenhower- and while he cannot be added to honor roll, I must nod my head to Richard Nixon- not a hero, but a genius in his twisted way who left us much of value. I cannot bring myself to add Reagan to the list, given that fact that it was in the wake of his leadership that we found ourselves awash in debt- but I suppose he deserves a nod as well.)

While I agree (as do almost all Democrats) that the Free Market is the best way to run a society, I believe that that market is there to serve the people and not that the people are there to serve the market. Therefore, I have no hesitation or qualms at the thought that society (through our representatives in Government) will bring that market to heel, tame it, and discipline it when necessary.

I'm thoroughly willing to argue the merits of this...especially as I believe that this is a never ending balancing act...what worked for us yesterday may not work today...we must constantly keep thinking and correcting. Thus, "Liberals" of the 60s spend money to raise living standards...while Liberals of the 90s (like Bill Clinton) worked with Republicans (not nicely, to be sure) to reign in spending to end the deficit and begin the huge task of addressing the national debt to China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others.

But I would argue that "Liberal" philosophy has done great good to this country. Jefferson's writings on the nature of Freedom have far outshone his personal conduct, Wilson, FDR and Truman guided this country through the greatest of wars against the fiercest of enemies...and while the Liberals of the 60s may have overplayed their hand, who can argue that Civil Rights for all Americans was an idea who's time had come?

No, we haven't done everything right, for sure...but I'm not a bit ashamed to be called a Liberal...and while you might teach me something that makes me change the way I approach a problem, I seriously doubt you could ever say anything to make me feel ashamed.....


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Rednecks for Obama

First came the news that North Carolina, once a solid "McCain" state, is in play. This will force the Republicans to send Sarah Baracuda South, taking time away from the battle in other states.

But today, I saw an even neater website: Rednecks for Obama. Their Tag Line is:
"We Hunt, Fish, Drink Beer and Support Barack Obama"---Right on!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

While Worth Watching, Obama Film missed a chance to Teach and Resorts to Gotcha Tactics.

"Those who do not learn from History are doomed to repeat it."

All week we've been subjected to sound bites of Tina Fey (oops, I mean, Sarah Palin) yammering about how "The Noow Yoork Tiiimes sayz dat Barak Obama Palled around with Terrorists a heck of a lot don't ya know" And the "Liberal Media" continues to play the sound bite despite the fact that the NYTimes article concludes that the connection between the two is not close...and that the terrorist in question has since become an activist for education AND that Barack Obama was all of 8 years old when Bill Ayers was active.

So, I can understand WHY the Obama Campaign felt obliged to make and release it's short documentary: "Keating Economics". Still, after watching it, I found myself wishing that the campaign could have aimed a little higher.

Don't get me wrong. As the financial industry collapses around our ears, and We the People are tapped to pay the bill, the ghosts of the SAVINGS AND LOAN crisis are hovering right above our shoulders. So it's great to have a reminder.

(Wikipedia has a nice refresher course in the S&L Crisis, just in case you forgot the 160 BILLION Dollars you paid back in the late 1980s. It basically boils down to a bunch of Greedy Financial Types, doing fraudulent back flips under a "Free Market" President who sent all the Federal Regulators Home for the Long Weekend. This was back in the 1980s- and here we are again- hence my resort above the overused Santayna quote.)

But "Keating Economics" does a little more than "remind" us. The movie, which feels a lot like a cross between a Frontline piece and something from Fox News, opens with John McCain being hauled before the Senate Ethics committee. In flashbacks, we learn that McCain had close personal ties to Charles Keating, one of the most infamous of the S&L bandits. We learn that McCain and several other Senators used undue influence behind closed doors to offer improper advantage to Keating.

We watch as Keating is trapped and cornered....and the documentary leads you to the emotional conclusion that we will be watching John McCain doing the Perp Walk, too.

But McCain never did the perp walk. The truth is that he was found largely innocent of wrong doing...and he went on to continue a fairly distinguished career in the U.S. Senate.

At this point the movie swerves away from it's "criminal" narrative and makes some really valid points about what happens when Government agrees to protect investors without regulating their activities...in the end, THIS is the most valid part of the film, the part the makes it worth sitting through.

I wish that the Obama campaign had used the same tricks of the trade (tight editing, good story structure, etc.) to make an easy to understand movie about why a Free Market works best with a bit of government oversight to protect the Taxpayers and the Public, rather than indulging the in the temptation to race Sarah Palin and her ilk to the bottom.

My fear is that the American people, realizing that the case against McCain is overstated for dramatic effect, will ignore the parts of the S&L story which are truly important. Our present crisis proves that we've ignored these historical lessons once to our cost (Savings and Loan, 1980s: $160b...government bailout, 2008: $700 -so far!)- let's start electing some public officers who won't continue to compound the mistake.

As it is, this campaign could feature a real debate (Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Milton Friedman vs. FDR and John Maynard Keynes)- instead it's turning into a bickering match:

"You sat too close to Bill Ayers at the board meeting!"
"Oh, yeah? Well, YOU sat too close to Charles Keating!"

Of course, that having been said- it IS true that THEY started it.