Thursday, July 30, 2009

Glenn Beck's Deep-Seated Hatred for America

It is no surprise that the Right wing in this country has a problem with President Barack Obama just as it was no surprise that the Left wing was passionately against President George W. Bush. That is as it should be. However, crazy wing nut talk show host Glenn Beck's comments on the FOX and Friends morning show go beyond any kind of reasonable commentary or dissent. He said: "This president, I think, has exposed himself as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture....I'm not saying that he doesn't like white people. I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.'' (Of course, not to be outdone, right wing nut job Michelle Malkin then called the President a racial opportunist on the Today show).

I am a big supporter of free speech and defend Beck's right to say what he wishes; however, I also would lose no sleep if people boycotted FOX, advertisers pulled their spots, and Beck lost his job. It's 2009, not 1959. America, for the most part, is way past this kind of mentality. Disagree with the president's policies, fine. Play to the fringe racists and White separatists in the country, not fine. Unfortunately, it looks like nut jobs like Beck, Malkin, Limbaugh, Savage, Hannity etc., are going to try and take down this presidency by playing the race card. These fanatics are what's wrong with our political system--they (as well as those on the extreme Left) make it very difficult for the two parties to have a reasonable dialogue through which policy is made and our country is made stronger (just witness the treatment of South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from the Right because he dared support President Obama's choice for the Supreme Court).

I recommend Ron Reagan's response to Beck's comments. It is dead solid perfect.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tracking Supreme Court Nomination Votes in the U.S. Senate, 1789-Present

The U.S. Senate has a site which tracks all votes on Supreme Court nominations from 1789 to the present day. The site contains a bevy of information and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the topic.

Neither of George W. Bush's nominees coasted to the bench and faced similar criticisms from the Democrats:

Alito's vote total: 58-42
Roberts' vote total: 78-22

Bill Clinton's nominees faced little opposition:

Breyer's vote total: 87-9
Ginsberg's vote total: 96-3

George H.W. Bush had a mixed record. Souter was a slam dunk; Thomas squeaked by:

Thomas' vote totals: 52-48
Souter's vote totals: 90-9

Reagan was 4-1 as Bork went down to defeat, the last time a nominee failed in a U.S. Senate vote:

Kennedy's vote totals: 97-0
Bork's vote totals: 42-58
Scalia's vote totals: 98-0
O'Connor's vote totals: 99-0
Rehnquist's vote totals for elevation to chief justice: 65-33

I really do think the political environment has changed. Scalia and Ginsberg combine for a 194-3 vote? Can you imagine either justice sailing though in the 21st century? Ideology is now used as a litmus test. It shouldn't be.

Lindsey Graham and the Blind Ideologues

Politico has a great interview with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who, after getting scorched on the Right for his support of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination, hits back at the ideological purists of his party:

If only more members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, would take the same attitude, much more could be accomplished to actually address the serious problems of the country. As the article points out, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were overwhelmingly approved by the Senate: 98-0 and 96-3 respectively. At that time, Senators who opposed these nominees on the basis of ideology nevertheless realized that they were highly qualified for the bench and that it was the president's prerogative to nominate qualified people to the highest court in the land.

Does the fact that Graham is looking beyond politics and ideology a worm? Hardly. I'd call him a statesman.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Peacetime Abe

I happened across another interesting Abraham Lincoln blog, this time created by a Lincoln historian from Anderson University. In an interesting post, the blog author asks what a Lincoln presidency would have looked like absent the Civil War:

I can't disagree with that. Lincoln would have been seriously challenged in terms of party unity had he not had the Civil War as a unifying principle. Absent that, the abolitionist wing and conservative wing may well have torn the party in two.

"Peacetime Abe would have confronted two stark and difficult realities that were not so readily apparent during the war. First, the fact of the Republican Party's geographic isolation: not just its total lack of presence in the South, but also the fact that the Republicans got shut out of the Border States, as well. This would have seemed a dire political reality to both Lincoln and other party leaders during his first term; they surely would have thought that they could not count on a four-way split of the American electorate again in 1864, as in 1860....Second, the party's fissure between radicals and conservatives would have been quite pronounced, and required a good deal of smoothing over by Lincoln and other party leaders. The war did this for Lincoln, in many ways. In the real world, from 1861 to 1865 the two wings of the Republican Party could at least agree on one thing: the need to defeat the Confederacy. But after the war the divisions in the party became very apparent. Something like this Reconstruction process would have confronted Peacetime Abe. Take all this together, and I think Peacetime Abe as party leader would likely have steered his presidency in a fairly conservative direction....All presidents steer towards the political center once they enter office. Peacetime Abe would have done so, but the need would have possibly been even more pronounced. And this would have had a decided impact on his policymaking."

An interesting thesis from the A. Lincoln blog and one I'd tend to agree with. However, I wouldn't agree that all presidents steer toward the political center once they enter office. There are plenty of examples to discredit that thesis (Bush 43, LBJ, FDR just to name a few).

I have listed the blog in the blogroll. Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Birthers" Gone Wild

The above and below videos show the level of derangement among the so-called "birther" movement--people who are convinced that President Barack Obama is not a U.S. citizen and that his birth in Hawaii is a lie. I have a word of advice to the birthers: seek professional help. You are playing with a few cards short of a full deck.

John Avlon, a former Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, describes the Birther movement in a must see Daily Beast article:

The birthers may be Right wingers but crazies exist at both ends of the political spectrum. Who can forget the "truthers" from the Lunatic Left and the anti-government Libertarians who are convinced that 9/11 was a Bush/CIA/Israeli-sponsored plot to grab dictatorial powers? Both these fringe group of crazies are in the same league as the Holocaust deniers and those that claim the moonwalk never happened 40 years ago. (However, the moonwalk denier mindset did produce one of my favorite 1970s "B" movies: Capricorn One, a 1978 film starring James Brolin, Elliott Gould, and O.J. Simpson, Sam Waterson, Telly Savalas, and Brenda Vaccaro, about a faked Mars mission).

A number of organizations (including,, have looked at the evidence and found that this is all nonsense. So I repeat what I said earlier: seek professional help (of course, if you are a birther or truther or denier of any kind you probably won't because you will believe that the mental health professionals are also part of the conspiracy).

Unfortunately, birthers are starting to gain an audience and support from conservative members of Congress and congressional candidates. Of course conservative talk radio loons like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have been beating this drum since the campaign.

It is sad that our politics have descended to this level. Reasonable people should be able to differ on policy without one side calling the other "socialist" or "communist" or questioning the president's citizenship. Of course, whoever said these crazies were reasonable?

Hat Tip: Political Wire.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Awaiting the Reopening of Ford's Theater Museum

The Abraham Lincoln Blog (which I happened across and highly recommend) has a nice write-up of the reopening of museum at Ford's Theater, the place where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. I visited the theater and museum almost four years ago and it was spectacular then. Since being renovated, my expectations are even higher.

From the WaPo: "They dressed Mr. Lincoln again yesterday for his upcoming public appearances. They buttoned his vest, straightened his tie and smoothed his frock coat. Four people helped pull on his pants. Wearing white cotton gloves, they picked lint from his left shoulder, slid on his boots and reattached his left arm with a tiny wrench. The dried blood near the knees of his pants, they could do nothing about. This was, of course, not the real Abraham Lincoln being re-dressed in the new museum at Ford's Theatre. It was only a cloth-and-metal mannequin clad in the clothes the president wore the night of his assassination. But curators, volunteers and technicians fussed as if they were dressing the real man, clucking over the unmatched buttons on his fly and marveling at the oil still oozing from his boots 144 years after he took the carriage to Ford's on April 14, 1865. The dressing of the mannequin, and its installation in its new glass case, were among the last tasks before the museum reopens to the public July 15. The museum has been closed for almost two years while it and the famous theater were renovated as part of a $50 million project. The theater reopened in February."

Friday, July 10, 2009

"She Might As Well Have Been A Bonbon"

An absolutely sizzling piece by Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, about soon-to-be former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Among other quotes from Noonan's surgical strike:

"In television interviews she was out of her depth in a shallow pool. She was limited in her ability to explain and defend her positions, and sometimes in knowing them. She couldn't say what she read because she didn't read anything. She was utterly unconcerned by all this and seemed in fact rather proud of it: It was evidence of her authenticity. She experienced criticism as both partisan and cruel because she could see no truth in any of it. She wasn't thoughtful enough to know she wasn't thoughtful enough."

"Mrs. Palin's supporters have been ordering her to spend the next two years reflecting and pondering. But she is a ponder-free zone. She can memorize the names of the presidents of Pakistan, but she is not going to be able to know how to think about Pakistan. Why do her supporters not see this?"

"Her lack of any appropriate modesty did her in. Actually, it's arguable that membership in the self-esteem generation harmed her. For 30 years the self-esteem movement told the young they're perfect in every way. It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy."

"The elites made her. It was the elites of the party, the McCain campaign and the conservative media that picked her and pushed her. The base barely knew who she was. It was the elites, from party operatives to public intellectuals, who advanced her and attacked those who said she lacked heft. She is a complete elite confection. She might as well have been a bonbon."

Perhaps the best quote from the article is one I highlighted above: "She was out of her depth in a shallow pool." I find this to be a dead-solid-perfect statement which is why her VP nomination was so frightening, especially in a post-9/11 world. Vice President Joe Biden may have to have some of his comments walked back from time-to-time, but no one, no serious person, questions his "depth" or understanding of the issues. In the future, I hope all presidential candidates, regardless of party, pick the very best person to serve instead of looking to the electoral map or attempting to shore up the base.

Hat Tip: Political Wire.

JibJab's Obama the Superhero Video

I'm a big fan of JibJab. The lyrics to their video of the 2004 presidential campaign (below) still bounce around in my skull. Their latest presidential spoof video is a good one. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No One is Bulletproof Anymore

Two questions.

1. Who was the happiest guy in the world when the news of Governor Mark Sanford's affair with a woman in Argentina became public?

2. Who was the happiest guy in the world when news of Michael Jackson's death broke?

Answer to 1: Senator John Ensign (R-NV)

Answer to 2: Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC)

Let me explain. The juicy details and the bizarre missing persons act surrounding the Sanford affair revelations eclipsed most all news of the Ensign affair, a rather standard affair which occurred with one of his own Hill staffers. I'm sure the Senator was mighty relieved to be off the front page. I'm also certain that the Governor felt the same type of relief, not that he wished death upon anybody. However, only a sudden death to an icon such as Jackson could have pried Sanford off the front page.

These are not the first two public figures to get caught stepping out on their spouses, just the two latest. The list is endless and includes people from all walks of life, all parties, all ideologies. I am still baffled at this kind of reckless behavior from the most public of figures.

Somebody told me the other day that the problem is that public figures think they're bulletproof, that no one can touch them, and that they'll never get caught. This is a foolish notion, particularly in the 21st Century when most every person is equipped with a cell phone with video and picture taking capability. Every person on the street is a potential citizen journalist just one click away from posting a video on You Tube and exposing the lies of any public figure. Big Brother is everywhere and he's every one of us. No one is bulletproof anymore.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Extinction of National Journal's Capital Source

I used to subscribe to National Journal--one of the best publications to cover Beltway politics. A benefit to a subscription was the compendium that NJ put out semi-annually (though in recent years, that became annually) that went to subscribers: The Capital Source. In fact, as someone who used that handbook religiously, it was the main reason I was considering once again subscribing to the National Journal, an excellent, but extremely pricey publication.

I won't be re-subscribing after all. I spoke with a National Journal representative earlier today who informed me that the Capital Source was retired and won't be coming back. Apparently there wasn't much demand for the publication. The timing is silly if you ask me. It would seem that demand for such a resource is highest at the outset of a new presidential administration--particularly one in which there has been a party changeover. I'm sure production costs are significant for the handbook; perhaps a web-based only version would significantly cut down on production costs and entice people like me to subscribe. I am hoping that National Journal rethinks this shortsighted decision but am not expecting anything to change. In the meantime, does anyone out there know of a similar publication or database available to the public?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Daily Beast's Cheaters Club Pictorial

The Daily Beast has a pictorial about some of the most infamous political sex scandals in recent times. I was going to (and probably still will) post about these all-too-common episodes of infidelity, especially the recent ones concerning Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Senator John Ensign (R-NV).

It never ceases to amaze me how so many elected officials, drunk with their own self-importance and surrounded by sycophants and cheerleaders, destroy their marriages and families, usually with young children suffering collateral damage.

Perfecting Presidential Pronunciation

A very interesting article in Politico about President Barack Obama's penchant for perfecting the pronunciation of names and places. In fact, Obama's correct pronunciation of Pakistan caused controversy during the 2008 presidential election because some of his critics felt his pronunciation was not American enough.

According to Politico: "In Obama’s view, pronouncing someone’s name or hometown correctly is a simple way of showing respect, they say. It’s a sort of baseline diplomacy. That’s particularly so in foreign relations, where aides say the president will privately practice pronouncing a leader’s name a number times before saying it publicly. It’s not just people’s names. Obama also often pronounces places in their local way. Take Pakistan — or PA-kih-ston, as the president says. Obama has pronounced Pakistan the way Pakistanis do for as long as he’s been in public life — a thoughtful consequence of him having Pakistani roommates in college that has its share of critics. The president affords the same effort to other important words in a culture. In the Muslim – or Moo-slim, as Obama says — world, he pronounces Taliban as Tal-e-bon, and Koran as Ku-ron."

Two countries' pronunciations not mentioned in the article that Americans regularly slaughter: Iraq and Iran.

The way most Americans pronounce Iraq and Iran: I-Rack and I-Ran
Proper pronunciation: E-Rock and E-Ron.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Palin Hanging Up Her Spurs

Wow. Not many saw this coming. Not only is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin not running for reelection, she is resigning her post near the end of July. A surprising move to say the least. There is and will continue to be rampant speculation as to why Palin decided not to serve out her full first term. Here are some of the possible reasons:

1. She is gearing up her 2012 presidential run early.
2. She is under investigation for some of her actions as governor and some bad news will be forthcoming.
3. She realizes she is a rock star to many on the Right, fills arenas, and can make a boatload of cash as a private citizen by charging exorbitant speaking fees.
4. She is tired of being in the public spotlight and wants to retire to a quiet life of snowmobiling and hunting in Wasilla.

I think it's a combination of #3 and #1. No way #4 has any credence--as Palin likes to say, she's not wired that way. And #2 has possibilities.

My take: Palin will be able to make a ton of money without the constraints and rules of being an elected official. This will also allow her to run for the White House for the next three years without the handicap of having to govern a state. I'm very confident we haven't seen the last of Palin or her surprises.

Breaking News: Michael Jackson Still Dead

Yep. Still dead. Hasn't risen. Though the way the media has been over-covering this story you would think he's the Second Coming. A peek at Google News this morning yielded almost tens of thousands of articles and blog posts alone. That doesn't even speak to the television and radio coverage. Do I really have to see every nook and cranny of his Neverland Ranch, especially knowing what may have gone on in there with young children? The death of a former president doesn't even yield this kind of attention.

Here's the deal. Michael Jackson was a talented entertainer. He could sing and dance (though one could make a reasonable argument that he hadn't produced a decent album since Thriller in 1982). Jackson's personal struggles are well-known and need not be rehashed here. The details surrounding his death are suspicious and the complete picture will take months to sort out. The custody battle over his children will also take months if not years to sort out. And people will continue to buy his albums in record numbers as they have been since news of his death. Essentially, this story will be with us for a long time.

But does it deserve the kind of attention it has received and will receive? To quote a wise old journalist friend of mine: "With no disrespect for the deceased, one could surely ask at what point would an international pop star's death cease to be a media commodity to be endlessly marketed above all other issues?" I say enough already. There are so many more pressing issues today that should receive attention in the news cycle. I am hoping that most Americans will have the same reaction that I have when I flip through the television stations and come upon yet another story about the life and death of Michael Jackson: an uncontrollable twitch of the thumb upon the remote which immediately changes the channel.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Minnesota Finally Has Two Senators

Article I, Section 3 of the United States Constitution mandates that the "Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state." For nearly six months, the state of Minnesota has had only one U.S. Senator, Democrat Amy Klobuchar, and for nearly eight months, the election for this one seat was waged in the courts.

The 2008 Minnesota Senate race is a lesson to all Americans and to all people who care about Democracy and democratic institutions: every vote counts. Just as in the 2000 presidential election, the 2008 Minnesota Senate race demonstrates that a handful of votes can decide the outcome of an election. If you care about your government, the direction of the country, and your own interests, take the time to register and go to the polls. I often lecture in a classroom that seats about 300 people--the margin of victory in this instance. A room full of people can change history--everyone needs to remember that.
Oh, and one last thing. For those of you who thought it funny to vote for a candidate and then write-in celebrities, sports figures, and other nonsensical people, places, and things as an add-on: congratulations, the joke's on you. You cost tax payers and donors millions of dollars in court costs and legal fees. The only people that benefited from your stupidity were the attorneys.

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