Christmas 1973 a poem by my dad
Christmas this year
Should cost at least
A thousand dollars.
It should be
In the Ideal Bar & Grill
On 163rd and St. Nicholas
Waiting for the first
Tattered little boy
To come in selling
Tomorrow's morning papers
Roughing up his hair,
Giving all his papers away
And giving him
A hundred dollar bill.
It should be
Walking through the
Finding the drunk
Shivering in the dark doorway
And giving him,
Instead of a religious tract
A hundred dollar bill.
It should be walking,
Down Beale Street,
Stopping the first
Poor black child,
Giving him a smile
And a hundred dollar bill.
It should be
Not a donation to a fund,
But taking the time to find
The sad-eyed Chicano child,
Taking him to a toy store
And letting him run riot.
Picking up the tab, the
toys and him and
To take them to
Wherever or to whatever
His home may be,
And leaving him the change
Of a hundred dollar bill.
It should be in San Diego
Out on the wharf,
With the old fisherman
Who mends nets
Because the tuna
Don't run for him anymore.
A "Vaya con Dios"
And a hundred dollar bill.
It should be
In a Santa Monica Bar,
Smiling at the tired barmaid
Who came to the coast
To be a star
And only found reality,
Giving her conversation,
And a hundred dollar bill.
It should be in
A Nob Hill restaurant.
Giving the maitre d'
A smile. And the busboy,
Who no one has noticed
A hundred dollar bill.
It should be
With a little old lady
In San Francisco's Mission
Selling flowers, Late at night
In the Tenderloin
Taking all her
Giving her a kiss
And a hundred dollar bill.
It should be
In Seattle's skid row
Down near the Totem Pole
In Pioneer Square,
Giving the startled
A measure of returned pride
And a handshake
And a hundred dollar bill.
It should be the last saved
For the thief
Who needs it worse
Not just the money
But the need to
Be superior to someone.
Let him steal from me
A hundred dollar bill.
But most of all...
To have any value at all,
Let Christmas Day find me
With empty pockets
Hanging inside out,
By Robert H. Harbridge, 1973
Note: This poem was written in 1973 (in case you worried about it not using the right PC language). The writer,
my dad, had lost his son the year before writing this poem and had just been diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease.
And still he could see what matters most.
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
"Prop 8 - The Musical" starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, my former improv group member Margaret Cho, and others...
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.
Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tic, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.
But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.
According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it "alienating" to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.
"Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement," says Mr. Logsdon. "If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist."
The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, "Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate - we get it, stop showing off."
The President-elect's stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
"Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can't really do there, I think needing to do that isn't tapping into what Americans are needing also," she said.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
The Insider’s Crusade
By DAVID BROOKS, MY Times
Published: November 21, 2008
Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).
The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).
This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.
Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C., that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.
And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.
The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.
Most of all, they are picking Washington insiders. Or to be more precise, they are picking the best of the Washington insiders.
Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.
As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory. One may not agree with them on everything or even most things, but a few things are indisputably true.
First, these are open-minded individuals who are persuadable by evidence. Orszag, who will probably be budget director, is trusted by Republicans and Democrats for his honest presentation of the facts.
Second, they are admired professionals. Conservative legal experts have a high regard for the probable attorney general, Eric Holder, despite the business over the Marc Rich pardon.
Third, they are not excessively partisan. Obama signaled that he means to live up to his postpartisan rhetoric by letting Joe Lieberman keep his committee chairmanship.
Fourth, they are not ideological. The economic advisers, Furman and Goolsbee, are moderate and thoughtful Democrats. Hillary Clinton at State is problematic, mostly because nobody has a role for her husband. But, as she has demonstrated in the Senate, her foreign-policy views are hardheaded and pragmatic. (It would be great to see her set of interests complemented by Samantha Power’s set of interests at the U.N.)
Finally, there are many people on this team with practical creativity. Any think tanker can come up with broad doctrines, but it is rare to find people who can give the president a list of concrete steps he can do day by day to advance American interests. Dennis Ross, who advised Obama during the campaign, is the best I’ve ever seen at this, but Rahm Emanuel also has this capacity, as does Craig and legislative liaison Phil Schiliro.
Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving O-phoria now sweeping the coastal haute bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
By Eugene Robinson. Washington Post
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I almost lost it Tuesday night when television cameras found the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the crowd at Chicago's Grant Park and I saw the tears streaming down his face. His brio and bluster were gone, replaced by what looked like awestruck humility and unrestrained joy. I remembered how young he was in 1968 when he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., moments before King was assassinated and hours before America's cities were set on fire.
I almost lost it again when I spoke with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), one of the bravest leaders of the civil rights crusade, and asked whether he had ever dreamed he would live to see this day. As Lewis looked for words beyond "unimaginable," I thought of the beating he received on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the scars his body still bears.
I did lose it, minutes before the television networks projected that Barack Obama would be the 44th president of the United States, when I called my parents in Orangeburg, S.C. I thought of the sacrifices they made and the struggles they endured so that my generation could climb higher. I felt so happy that they were here to savor this incredible moment.
I scraped myself back together, but then almost lost it again when I saw Obama standing there on the stage with his family -- wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, their outfits all color-coordinated in red and black. I thought of the mind-blowing imagery we will see when this young, beautiful black family becomes the nation's First Family.
Then, when Michelle's mother, brother and extended family came out, I thought about "the black family" as an institution -- how troubled it is, but also how resilient and how vital. And I found myself getting misty-eyed again when Barack and Michelle walked off the stage together, clinging to one another, partners about to embark on an adventure, full of possibility and peril, that will change this nation forever.
It's safe to say that I've never had such a deeply emotional reaction to a presidential election. I've found it hard to describe, though, just what it is that I'm feeling so strongly.
It's obvious that the power of this moment isn't something that only African Americans feel. When President Bush spoke about the election yesterday, he mentioned the important message that Americans will send to the world, and to themselves, when the Obama family moves into the White House.
For African Americans, though, this is personal.
I can't help but experience Obama's election as a gesture of recognition and acceptance -- which is patently absurd, if you think about it. The labor of black people made this great nation possible. Black people planted and tended the tobacco, indigo and cotton on which America's first great fortunes were built. Black people fought and died in every one of the nation's wars. Black people fought and died to secure our fundamental rights under the Constitution. We don't have to ask for anything from anybody.
Yet something changed on Tuesday when Americans -- white, black, Latino, Asian -- entrusted a black man with the power and responsibility of the presidency. I always meant it when I said the Pledge of Allegiance in school. I always meant it when I sang the national anthem at ball games and shot off fireworks on the Fourth of July. But now there's more meaning in my expressions of patriotism, because there's more meaning in the stirring ideals that the pledge and the anthem and the fireworks represent.
It's not that I would have felt less love of country if voters had chosen John McCain. And this reaction I'm trying to describe isn't really about Obama's policies. I'll disagree with some of his decisions, I'll consider some of his public statements mere double talk and I'll criticize his questionable appointments. My job will be to hold him accountable, just like any president, and I intend to do my job.
For me, the emotion of this moment has less to do with Obama than with the nation. Now I know how some people must have felt when they heard Ronald Reagan say "it's morning again in America." The new sunshine feels warm on my face.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Yes, it is time to hope again.
Time to hope that the era of racial backlash and wedge politics is over. Time to imagine that the patriotism of dissenters will no longer be questioned and that the world will no longer be divided between "values voters" and those with no moral compass. Time to expect that an ideological label will no longer be enough to disqualify a politician.
Above all, it is time to celebrate the country's wholehearted embrace of democracy, reflected in the intense engagement of Americans in this campaign and the outpouring to the polls all over the nation. For years, we have spoken of bringing free elections to the rest of the world even as we cynically mocked our own ways of conducting politics. Yesterday, we chose to practice what we have been preaching.
Barack Obama's sweeping electoral victory cannot be dismissed merely as a popular reaction to an economic crisis or as a verdict on an unpopular president, though the judgment rendered on President Bush is important.
In choosing Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress, the country put a definitive end to a conservative era rooted in three myths: that a party could govern successfully while constantly denigrating government's role; that Americans were divided in an irrepressible moral conflict pitting a "real America" against some pale imitation; and that market capitalism could succeed without an active government regulating it in the public interest and modestly redistributing income to temper inequalities.
John McCain believed he could win by attacking Obama as a "socialist" who had said he would "spread the wealth around." But a substantial majority rather likes spreading the wealth if doing so means health coverage, pensions and college opportunities for all, or asking the wealthy to bear a slightly larger share of the tax burden.
"John McCain calls this socialism," Obama said at a Pittsburgh rally last week. "I call it opportunity." So did the voters.
Right to the end, McCain and Sarah Palin thought ideological name-calling would work yet again. On the eve of the election, McCain attacked Obama for being in "the far left lane of American politics" while Palin warned of a victory for "the far left wing of the Democrat Party." This year, those epithets didn't hunt.
After 1980, Democrats often chose to accommodate themselves to conservative assumptions. Obama exploded the old framework. He explicitly rejected the idea that Americans were choosing between "more" or "less" government, "big" or "small" government.
He cast the choice differently. "Our government should work for us, not against us," he would say. "It should help us, not hurt us." Obama ran as a progressive, not a conservative, but also as a pragmatist, not an ideologue. That combination will define his presidency.
Since the Nixon era, conservatives have claimed to speak for the "silent majority." Obama represents the future majority. It is the majority of a dynamic country increasingly at ease with its diversity. It reflects the forward-looking optimism of the young. It draws in new suburban and exurban voters whose priorities are resolutely practical -- jobs, schools and transportation -- and who dislike angry quarrels about gay marriage, abortion and religious orthodoxy.
It is the majority of a culturally moderate nation that warmed to Obama's talk of the importance of active fathers, strong families and personal responsibility. He emphasized reducing abortion, not banning it. He honored faith's role in public life but rejected the marginalization of religious minorities and nonbelievers. For large parts of the world, his middle name will be an icon, proof of America's commitment to religious pluralism.
And Obama not only broke the ultimate racial barrier, he also spoke about race as no other politician ever has. He was uniquely able to see the question from both sides of the color line even as he embraced his black identity. He is not post-racial. He is multiracial. The word defines him as a person. It also describes the broad coalition that he built and the country he will lead.
And the majority Obama built wants the country to be strong but also respected, and prudent in its use of power. Iraq was on the ballot after all: Pew's final survey found that those who thought the decision to go to war in Iraq was wrong backed Obama by better than 5 to 1; those who thought it right supported McCain by a nearly identical margin.
Obama inherits challenges that could overwhelm any leader and faces constraints that will tax even his exceptional political skills. But the crisis affords him an opportunity granted few presidents to reshape the country's assumptions, change the terms of debate and transform our politics. The way he campaigned and the way he won suggest that he intends to do just that.
Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama
(as prepared for delivery)
Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.
It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled – Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.
I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.
I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.
I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics – you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.
It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.
I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime – two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.
The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers – in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.
Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.
For that is the true genius of America – that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing – Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons – because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.
And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America – the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.
At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.
When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.
America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves – if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:
Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
For this act of conscience they lost their wages for the day. Let’s stand with them, and against slimy campaigning.
$9 will cover an hours wages — an hour they won’t be making slimy attack calls against Obama. $2,880 will cover the full day’s wages for all the workers who walked out. Nobody’s credit card will be charged till we reach our total goal.
Please give $9 (or more) to Support the Walk Out against Slime Calls. If we receive more than $2,880, we will make the funds available as a kind of “virtual strike fund” for any other walk outs that occur before Nov 4. You can donate here or by clicking on the "badge" in the upper right of my blog.
See full story here.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Sunday, October 26, 2008
ANCHORAGE (AP) — The Anchorage Daily News, Alaska's largest newspaper, has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.
The newspaper said Sunday the Democrat "brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand."
The Daily News said since the economic crisis has emerged, Republican presidential candidate John McCain has "stumbled and fumbled badly" in dealing with it.
"Of the two candidates, Sen. Obama better understands the mortgage meltdown's root causes and has the judgment and intelligence to shape a solution, as well as the leadership to rally the country behind it," the paper said.
The Daily News said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has shown the country why she is a success as governor. But the paper said few would argue that Palin is truly ready to step into the job of being president despite her passion, charisma and strong work ethic.
"Gov. Palin's nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency — but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation," the paper said.
"Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time," the paper concluded.
The Rise of the Obamacons
A striking number of conservatives are planning to vote for Obama
Oct 23rd 2008
From The Economist print edition
IN “W.”, his biopic about his Yale classmate, Oliver Stone details Colin Powell’s agonies during George Bush’s first term. Throughout the film Mr Powell repeatedly raises doubts about the invasion of Iraq—and is repeatedly overruled by the ghoulish trio of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove. In one of the final scenes, with his direst warnings proving correct, Mr Powell turns to Mr Cheney and delivers a heartfelt “Fuck you”.
The real Colin Powell used more diplomatic language in endorsing Barack Obama on October 19th, but the impact was much the same. Mr Obama is a “transformational figure”, he mildly said, and his old friend John McCain had erred in choosing a neophyte as a running-mate. But you would have to be naive not to see the endorsement as a verdict on the Bush years.
Mr Powell is now a four-star general in America’s most surprising new army: the Obamacons. The army includes other big names such as Susan Eisenhower, Dwight’s granddaughter, who introduced Mr Obama at the Democratic National Convention and Christopher Buckley, the son of the conservative icon William Buckley, who complains that he has not left the Republican Party: the Republican Party has left him. Chuck Hagel, a Republican senator from Nebraska and one-time bosom buddy of Mr McCain has also flirted heavily with the movement, though he has refrained from issuing an official endorsement.
The biggest brigade in the Obamacon army consists of libertarians, furious with Mr Bush’s big-government conservatism, worried about his commitment to an open-ended “war on terror”, and disgusted by his cavalier way with civil rights. There are two competing “libertarians for Obama” web sites. CaféPress is even offering a “libertarian for Obama” lawn sign for $19.95. Larry Hunter, who helped to devise Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America in 1994, thinks that Mr Obama can free America from the grip of the “zombies” who now run the Republican Party.
But the army has many other brigades, too: repentant neocons such as Francis Fukuyama, legal scholars such as Douglas Kmiec, and conservative talk-show hosts such as Michael Smerconish. And it is picking up unexpected new recruits as the campaign approaches its denouement. Many disillusioned Republicans hoped that Mr McCain would provide a compass for a party that has lost its way, but now feel that the compass has gone haywire. Kenneth Adelman, who once described the invasion of Iraq as a “cakewalk”, decided this week to vote for Mr Obama mainly because he regards Sarah Palin as “not close to being acceptable in high office”.
The rise of the Obamacons is more than a reaction against Mr Bush’s remodelling of the Republican Party and Mr McCain’s desperation: there were plenty of disillusioned Republicans in 2004 who did not warm to John Kerry. It is also a positive verdict on Mr Obama. For many conservatives, Mr Obama embodies qualities that their party has abandoned: pragmatism, competence and respect for the head rather than the heart. Mr Obama’s calm and collected response to the turmoil on Wall Street contrasted sharply with Mr McCain’s grandstanding.
Much of Mr Obama’s rhetoric is strikingly conservative, even Reaganesque. He preaches the virtues of personal responsibility and family values, and practises them too. He talks in uplifting terms about the promise of American life. His story also appeals to conservatives: it holds the possibility of freeing America from its racial demons, proving that the country is a race-blind meritocracy and, in the process, bankrupting a race-grievance industry that has produced the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
How much do these Obamacons matter? More than Mr McCain would like to think. The Obamacons are manifestations of a deeper turmoil in the Republican rank-and-file, as the old coalition of small-government activists, social conservatives and business Republicans falls apart. They also influence opinion. This is obvious in the case of Mr Powell: Mr Obama is making liberal use of his endorsement to refute the latest Republican criticism that he is a “socialist”. But it is also true of lesser-known scribblers. At least 27 newspapers that backed Mr Bush in 2004 have endorsed Mr Obama.
Moreover, the revolt of the intellectuals is coinciding with a migration of culturally conservative voters—particularly white working-class voters—into Obamaland. Mr Obama is now level-pegging or leading among swing-groups such as Catholics and working-class whites. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll shows him winning 22% of self-described conservatives, a higher proportion than any Democratic nominee since 1980.
Don’t blame the rats
The more tantalising question is whether the rise of the Obamacons signals a lasting political realignment. In 1980 the rise of the neocons—liberal intellectuals who abandoned a spineless Democratic Party—was reinforced by the birth of working class “Reagan Democrats”. Is the Reagan revolution now going into reverse? There are reasons for scepticism. Will libertarians really stick with “Senator Government”, as Mr McCain labelled Mr Obama in the best slip of the tongue of the campaign? Will economic conservatives cleave to a president who believes in “spreading the wealth around”?
Much depends on how Mr Obama governs if he wins, and how the Republicans behave if they lose. Mr Obama talks about creating an administration of all the talents. He promises to take the cultural anxieties of Reagan Democrats seriously. For their part, hard-core Republicans are handling their party’s travails abysmally, retreating into elite-bashing populism and denouncing the Obamacons as “rats” who are deserting a sinking ship. If the Republican Party continues to think that the problem lies with the rats, rather than the seaworthiness of the ship, then the Obamacons are here to stay.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
It tells the compelling story of both candidates in the presidential campaign.
The video is 1 hour and 56 minutes long.
- Charging taxpayer's for her family's travel expenses
- Buying $150K of clothing from fancy East Coast clothing stores.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I loved this piece in the L.A. times which reports that while Sarah Palin bills herself as a simple small-town "Hockey Mom" she is wearing thousands of dollars of designer labels from Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, etc. I guess she really is an East Coast Elitist after all.
Sarah Palin's $150,000 Wardrobe Malfunction?
So it seems you can take the girl out of the beauty pageant, but you can’t take the beauty pageant out of the girl.
Palin's clothes came from retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Barneys New York, and expenses included nearly $5,000 for hair and makeup. Maybe this is actually her one-woman economic stimulus plan. Lord knows the retail sector needs it.
Still, voters must find it unfathomable for Palin, who has been presented as a woman “like us,” to spend that kind of money on clothes in these difficult financial times, to see her speaking so passionately about Joe the Plumber while plumbing campaign coffers for Valentino jackets and pencil skirts. And yet, they’ve eaten it up, tittering on chat sites about Palin’s Kawasaki eyeglass frames and her Naughty Monkey red peep-toe pumps.
Friday, October 17, 2008
1) This presidential election affects the entire world, not just the U.S. - and
2) Obama is preferred 4 to 1 over McCain outside the U.S.
The World's Election
Timothy Garton Ash, SF Chronicle
Thursday, October 16, 2008
From my observation perch in Stanford, and as an English European turned 24/7-cable news-Webcast junkie, I notice that many Americans still suffer from a touching delusion that this is their election. How curious. Don't they understand? This is our election. The world's election. Our future depends on it, and we live it as intensely as Americans do. All we lack is the vote.Timothy Garton Ash is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and professor of European Studies at Oxford University. His most recent book is "Free World." This piece will appear in the forthcoming election issue of the New York Review of Books.
The world may not have a vote, but it has a candidate. A BBC World Service poll, conducted across 22 countries this summer, found Barack Obama was preferred to John McCain by a ratio of 4 to 1. Nearly half those asked said an Obama victory would "fundamentally change" their perception of the United States. And it certainly needs changing. Over the two terms of President Bush, the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a series of worldwide public opinion surveys, has documented what anyone who travels around the world knows: a substantial fall in the standing, credibility, attractiveness, and therefore power of the United States.
In the American context, Obama is black or African American. His candidacy exposes yet again how that thing anachronistically called race - meaning the legacy of slavery and segregation - is the hidden warp and woof of American politics. In the international context, Obama is three other things. First, he's one of us - the child of an increasingly mixed-up world, now aspiring to be the most powerful man in it. A true cosmopolitan: not just African American but also a little bit each of Hawaiian, Kenyan, Kansan, Indonesian. Second, he's not Bush. McCain is not Bush either, but a lot less not-Bush. Finally, he personifies everything that foreigners still love about America.
Back in Oxford, and traveling around Europe, I constantly meet young people who have grown up furious at the United States. "You know, I'm very pro-European," one British student informed me. Stirred by this rarity - a pro-European Brit - I asked why she was pro-European. "Oh, I guess mainly because I'm anti-American." But she wasn't really anti-American. I would bet my bottom euro that she's an Obamaniac now.
Culturally, socially and aesthetically, he represents the America that is deep in young Europeans' everyday imaginations, transported there by the soft power of American films, music, literature, and television series such as "Friends," "ER," "The West Wing," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," and even "Star Trek," together with serial abuse of the word "like": You can hear it at any coffee shop in Oxford, and the speaker may be Slovak, German or Chinese. That someone from Obama's modest migrant background can make it this far also revives a potent, positive image of the United States as a land of opportunity - an American self-image that much of the world has internalized, however little it corresponds with the statistically recorded facts of limited social mobility.
Were he elected, we would discover within a few months how much of the worldwide hostility loosely tagged anti-Americanism really was anti-Americanism, and how much was just a violent allergy, shared by many Americans, to a particular president, a specific set of policies, and a certain version of Americanism. Yet this very popularity of one candidate raises the stakes in this election to an alarming degree.
Just because international hopes have been raised so high, the disappointment if Obama fails will be devastating. The shock will be even greater because of McCain's choice of Sarah Palin - who, like Bush, reinforces every European cliche about the otherness (cowboyness, hickiness, wackiness) of Americans. This disappointment might be unfair to the likely content of a McCain foreign policy, but in international politics, as in financial markets, the perceptions are a large part of the reality. If Americans were to choose McCain-Palin, after re-electing Bush in 2004, I don't think it's too much to say that a lot of Europeans would feel like giving up on them. Of course European governments wouldn't, and couldn't afford to, give up on Washington; but they would have to operate within the constraining reality of popular disillusionment.
This would matter to the United States at the best of times. It will matter a lot more in these times. Even before the financial crisis, the list of problems piling up for the new president's in-boxes (both the one marked Urgent and the one marked Important, to recall John F. Kennedy's distinction) was already formidable. Even before this crisis added perhaps a trillion dollars to an already staggering national debt, the relative power of the United States to achieve its goals on its own - unilaterally - had significantly diminished over the last eight years, also because of the renaissance of great powers such as China and Russia. Somewhere around 2000 may be marked by future historians as the zenith of American power. In such a world, the need for allies and international credibility is greater than ever.
The Class War Before Palin
By DAVID BROOKS, NY Times
Published: October 9, 2008
Modern conservatism began as a movement of dissident intellectuals. Richard Weaver wrote a book called, “Ideas Have Consequences.” Russell Kirk placed Edmund Burke in an American context. William F. Buckley famously said he’d rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard. But he didn’t believe those were the only two options. His entire life was a celebration of urbane values, sophistication and the rigorous and constant application of intellect.Sarah Six-Pack is getting a bit stale
Driven by a need to engage elite opinion, conservatives tried to build an intellectual counter-establishment with think tanks and magazines. They disdained the ideas of the liberal professoriate, but they did not disdain the idea of a cultivated mind.
Ronald Reagan was no intellectual, but he had an earnest faith in ideas and he spent decades working through them. He was rooted in the Midwest, but he also loved Hollywood. And for a time, it seemed the Republican Party would be a broad coalition — small-town values with coastal reach.
In 1976, in a close election, Gerald Ford won the entire West Coast along with northeastern states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. In 1984, Reagan won every state but Minnesota.
But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.
Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.
What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.
Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut.
George W. Bush restrained some of the populist excesses of his party — the anti-immigration fervor, the isolationism — but stylistically he fit right in. As Fred Barnes wrote in his book, “Rebel-in-Chief,” Bush “reflects the political views and cultural tastes of the vast majority of Americans who don’t live along the East or West Coast. He’s not a sophisticate and doesn’t spend his discretionary time with sophisticates. As First Lady Laura Bush once said, she and the president didn’t come to Washington to make new friends. And they haven’t.”
The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.
The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.
Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.
This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.
Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.
She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.
And so, politically, the G.O.P. is squeezed at both ends. The party is losing the working class by sins of omission — because it has not developed policies to address economic anxiety. It has lost the educated class by sins of commission — by telling members of that class to go away.
By LEONARD PITTS JR.
Maybe you remember Dave. It was a 1993 movie starring Kevin Kline as Dave Kovic, an everyday guy who happens to be a dead ringer for the president. When the chief executive is stricken, his aides secretly recruit Dave to fill in for him. Problem is, Dave quickly begins to lose himself in the role. There's a wonderful scene where, trying to find money in the federal budget to fund a homeless shelter, Dave turns to his friend Murray, an accountant, for help.
''Who does these books?'' asks Murray after taking an adding machine to the budget. ``If I ran my business this way, I'd be out of business.''
Like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in 1939, Dave's central conceit is that what Washington needs is a jolt of reality from everyday people. As a movie, that's a charming idea. As real life, it has proven frightening and bizarre.
But we will talk more about Sarah Palin in a moment.
First, let's concede the obvious: Every politician wants to be seen as Everyman or woman. That's why every primary season brings the curious sight of millionaires in plaid shirts wandering through county fairs eating fried things on sticks. It's why Hillary Clinton hit that bar and Barack Obama went bowling, badly.
In that sense, Sarah Six-Pack is nothing new. The ''g'' droppin', moose shootin', eye-winkin' hockey mom has plenty of antecedents. But there's a difference. Those antecedents were smart, wonkish people pretending to be one of us. Sarah Palin is one of us.
And by ''us,'' I don't mean you, necessarily, or me. I mean the lowest common denominator us, the us of myth and narrative, the us of simple mind, the reactionary, ill-informed, impatient with complexity, utterly shallow us.
You think that's mean? Go back and look at the Katie Couric interviews again. Or the Charlie Gibson interview. I don't know about you, but I want a vice president who can identify Supreme Court rulings she disagrees with. Or define the Bush Doctrine. Or name a newspaper. Or -- heck, I'm not picky -- construct an intelligible English language sentence.
Even many of her most ardent admirers no longer dispute that Sarah Six-Pack is, shall we say, incurious. What's striking is how little that seems to matter. A McCain spokeswoman suggested before the vice presidential debate that it would be unfair to question Palin, a woman who could be president, too closely on foreign policy. And when thinking conservatives (remember when the adjective was not necessary?) like Kathleen Parker and David Brooks declared Palin unfit for office, they were shouted down by their ideological brethren. Parker got e-mail she called ''vicious and threatening.'' Brooks was dismissed by another pundit as a ``conservative intellectual.''
You're left to wonder when intellectuals -- thinking people, for goodness sake! -- became the enemy. Are we to regard unthinking conservatives (will that adjective soon be superfluous?) as the only true conservatives? Indeed, the only true Americans?
One gets that sense from Palin's recent campaign appearances. Her attacks have grown increasingly strident and divorced from reality as John McCain's poll numbers have gone south.
She blames Katie Couric, and not herself, for her inability to answer fair questions. She frames Obama as some exotic unknown with terrorist associations.
And the rabble duly rouses. They boo Couric, which is not unlike booing Mickey Mouse. They scream death threats. Someone addresses an African-American sound man for one of the networks with a racial epithet and screams, ``Sit down, boy!''
There is an ugliness here. It is disguised as decency, disguised as politics, but it is only ugliness, mean and raw and given license by the desperation of a man who used to be honorable and a woman who said she was just like us.
And for the record: It's not a movie.
I only wish it were.