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.

Great Video from You Tube!

Gotta love the Aussie's!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Not In Kansas Any More.

So, imagine my surprise when I go out this afternoon to take the recycling to the dumpster in the alley behind our new apartment building. Across the street I notice a few police cars. Nothing special. I decide to buy a paper. I see the headlines "Police Suspect Homicide". I look at the picture in the paper.

The alley in which the murdered body was found looks oddly familiar. I look again. I look at the map. Yup, sure enough. They found a murdered body last night...right across the street from my apartment. Well now...

So I snap a picture of the police cars from across the street.

Welcome to Rochester everybody!

Leave it at the Door? Fat Chance- I'd Rather Fix Some Blame.

Ever since the financial crises exploded onto the national consciousness last week, we've been hearing calls (mostly from the Republicans) to "tone down" the "partisan" rhetoric.

In Iowa, John McCain declared that: "Our leaders are expected to leave partisanship at the door and come to the table to solve our problems..."

[Let us completely ignore the hypocrisy in this statement. After "Super John McSame" Suspended His Campaign last week and FLEW to Washington to lead his colleagues out of the mire of negotiations- is there any one left in the room who does not think that was a partisan stunt?

And let us pause to consider that- after seizing the high ground for himself in this speech by decrying partisanship- Super McSame immediately launched into a partisan polemic about how OBAMA and other dirty Democrats had sullied the process by injecting partisanship into the process. Somebody had better tell McSame that you can't take the low road and the high road at the same time...that's what you need a running mate for...oh, oops! We don't want her to Meet the Press again, though, do we?]

Immediately after his partisan call to stop the petty partisanship, McSame said:" Now is not the time to fix the blame. It's time to fix the problem."

This has become THE Republican Line of the 21st Century. Every time something is broken by the folks in charge (who, I will partisanly point out, all seem to have little "R"s behind their names)- the folks who did the breaking rush forward and say: NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO FIX THE BLAME...now is...etc. etc.

What a load of Elephant S#*t!

I only wish I could have behaved this way as a child. Imagine: my mom comes into the kitchen at 2:00am. I'm six, standing in my pajamas, with a broken cookie jar at my feet. As my mom's face begins to cloud with fury, I pull myself up to my full two foot hight and declare, more in sorrow than in anger: "Mother. Now is not the time to fix the blame. Now is the time to fix the cookie jar."

If I had done that, I would have wound up with a very warm behind, and THEN my mom would have fixed the cookie jar.

And it's for damn sure I wouldn't have tried to break it again for a while, either.

So, as Democrats, let's feel free to acknowledge that we choose to be Democrats for a REASON! WE THINK WE'VE got BETTER ANSWERS! And while we're at it, let's fix some blame!