Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tag, you're it

Barack Obama said he won't ask the Commission on Presidential Debates to postpone Friday's planned debate. This seems to check John McCain's request for a postponement, and pull it from the table.

Will the voting public follow this as closely as pundits, bloggers, and the political elites, or is this but one curve on the road each man is taking towards the White House?

You're suspended

In case you haven't been following the 2008 Presidential race, this would be a good time to start.

Now it's getting interesting. Just more than 48 hours before the first debate, scheduled for Friday evening in Oxford, Mississippi, on foreign affairs, John McCain has said he is suspending his campaign, returning to Washington, rolling up his sleeves, and jumping in to help work out a solution to the financial crisis and the bailout legislation being addressed by Congress.

Oh, one more thing, McCain has asked that the debate be postponed, and he has asked both the debate Commission and Barack Obama to join along with him on the call for postponing the debate.

Smart, gutsy move by a leader, or cynical, political ploy by someone losing ground to his opponent?

You can make the call.

At this point, Obama has not publicly responded, though his campaign has said it intends to go ahead with the debate at this time.

Is that the smart move, or should each candidate join together as one to help remedy this challenging financial situation? Can they? What if they start out as one, but diverge at some point?

Remember, the campaigns reached agreement on the debates just this past weekend, AFTER the financial crisis broke, and we learned of plans for the massive government capital infusion. So is this new, is it a ploy, is it meant to bring urgency to the situation, or solely to respond to poll numbers showing McCain losing ground among likely voters, particularly on economic issues.

Lots to discuss. Will be back soon on this one!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

It's noon in Iowa, do you know where your children are?

Most of us are probably too young to remember the PSA from the '70's, or was it the '60's, that asked, 'it's 10pm, do you know where your children are?'

It was pretty effective, though it did seem to distinguish those who knew where their kids were, or at least thought they did, and let's refer to these people as the good parents, and those who handn't a clue as to what junior or juniorette was doing at that hour, the people we'll refer to as the bad parents.

Cue to the noon rally in Iowa for the McCain-Palin ticket. We have begun to recognize the gild is coming off Sarah Palin's lilly. Her interview with Charlie Gibson last week over at ABC News showed her to be stretching in a number of areas, her use of the McCain's high powered lawyers to seek dismissal of on ongoing investigation into Palin's firing of Alaska's top cop show her to be as political as any other elected official, and her placement at the butt of jokes across the media landscape show her to be truly a deer in the headlights.

So I'm going to take on both yesterday's news, and the politically correct position of not questioning someone else's parenting skills. And here's why.

At every event I've seen Sarah Palin attend these past 3 weeks, her husband Todd has been by her side. Good move, shows family values, shows a family together, shows a team to the public.

Here's the politically incorrect part. When Sarah Palin says it's inappropriate to ask a female candidate for office, one with five children, two of whom are under 10, and three of whom ostensibly should be in school, who's taking care of the children, I tend to agree. Raising a family is a family matter. It's a responsibility often shared by parents, in those families fortunate enough to have two parents. And in this case two working parents, reportedly home each night with the children, helping them with schoolwork, assignments, taking them to hockey practice, etc.

But wait. If Todd Palin is alongside wife Sarah in Iowa, who's watching the kids. Don't they have school in Alaska in September? We can give Trig a pass this time, as he's probably too busy breastfeeding to worry about elementary education these days. But what about the other Palins, the girls with the hippie names, the ones who should be in school, home in Alaska. Who's taking care of them while mom and dad are away.

How does this work with family values.

Or does it take a village, after all.

First dude, or first dud. Dunno, but something's not adding up right here.

And I'm waiting for someone in the travelling press to ask about it. That is, presuming anyone with a press card can get anywhere near the VP team.

Let's stay tuned, and keep those impertinent questions coming. Free press is a basic right. Doesn't the first amendment actually precede the others in order?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Larry David is the true god (first of a series)

Curb your Enthusiasm is among the most original shows that has ever been developed and brought to television. If you've seen it, you know it. If you're not a viewer, or find David's humor, or sense of humor, lacking, then this post will not be worth your time.

For quite some time I have been experiencing moments that could be tweaked slightly enough to become the spine for a Curb episode. At some point I may go back and post these moments, but at this time I am going to post an incident that occured this morning, and I hope to let it be the first what I suspect will be a series that documents Larry David like moments that I have.

The story.

I work out regularly at a gym near my suburban DC home. It's a relatively upscale gym, with a demanding, middle-aged clientele. Lots of folks there work with personal trainers, seem to have the leisure time and lifestyle to utilize this facility, and seem to make it a part of their lives.

Mostly I ride a stationary bike, sometimes I use one of the ellipticals, and on rare occasion I'll dig into a rowing machine, and numb myself with that form of repetitive exercise.

This gym has a small but decent looking pool, with 4 lap lanes of 25 yards each. Not too bad for an indoor facility on the east coast. I'm not one to swim for a workout, but I thought I would give it a shot this morning, providing some variety from the standards of this machine or that machine.

So I bring the right equipment, which is basically a swimsuit, and head on in to the pool. When I get there, there are swimmers in each of the lanes, one per, with one woman standing on the deck at the other end of the pool, hovering over one of the middle lanes. Within a minute the lane in front of the hovering woman opens up, and she jumps in.

The person who left this lane seemed to have a conversation with the person in the end lane, the one next to her, and it's not clear if they're both leaving the pool, or just chatting for a moment. So I decide to jump in to this lane, the end lane, on the opposite end from the chatting women. I've got my goggles on, and I'm in the first lap, heading towards the other end at a pace that would make Michael Phelps' mother double over in laughter.

Halfway through this lap I sense a body coming down the other half of the lane, on the other side, and I realize that the other chatting woman had not left the water with her friend, but had just taken a break. No big deal. These lanes are wide enough to accomodate two, particularly if we keep the the pace that has us passing roughly in mid-lap. Again, there are five of us using four lanes, which I suspect is nothing unusual. Frankly, I suspect there's often 8 or 10 or even more people in the pool at the same time.

I get to the wall at the end of the first lap (or half lap, if it's counted that way, as I don't know the way swimmer's count), and move over to the other half of this lane, and proceed to swim my second lap (or complete my first lap, depending on how you're scoring at home). About halfway through this lap I sense something ahead of me in my lane. Since we're not out in open water, and since I counted five of us in the water before I started this lap, and since I didn't hear any noise from the lifeguard, or hear anything that would suggest something big fell in the pool, I suspected it was the woman with whom I was sharing the lane.

Turns out she had stopped her stroke, and launched into a series of questions regarding lanes and sides and swimming etiquette and the like.

On the street, in the subway, when driving, when biking on trails, in crowded corridors, we're taught and often follow the rule 'to the right.'

When swimming, why would this be any different?

Well, apparently the speedo clad suburban mom I encountered had a different approach to swimming, one that has her swim her little half of the lane the whole way up and back. Not my idea of a smart way to go about this, but apparently her way, and apparently to her, her way is the right way.

Her questions literally stopped me in my tracks. It's kind of hard to swim past an animated object standing directly ahead of you, attempting to berate you for something they're doing incorrectly, so I was compelled to address them.

And in response I told her to take the entire lane, and that I would leave the pool. Which I did. Gladly.

It's enough to have to see some people in swimsuits. Those of images you often don't want to maintain. It's quite another to have to wallow in water with them.

I'll be back on the bike tomorrow morning, and hope the person next to me doesn't decide to move their stationary bike into a non-existent lane.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Abraham Lincoln delivered the following speech for his second inaugural address. The nation had been through several years of nasty fighting, Lincoln had seen some of it, and already been shot at by secessionists. In the address he invoked religion, recognizing that each side sought solace through prayer, even though only one side would emerge victorious. This is a solemn speech, from a somber time. It does not seek or even justify war as ordained, or supported by faith.

Sarah Palin has been quoted as calling the war in Iraq divine. In June, before her former church in Wasilla, Alaska, she asked parishioners to do the following: "Pray for our military. Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right for this country - that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God."

In recent days Palin has begun to spin her Wasilla speech, stating that she was 'repeating' Lincoln. While I will leave it to others who follow the nexis of religion and politics to ask why she waited four months to bring out reference to this 'repeat,' I will note the subtlety of Lincoln's plaintiff cry for an end to one divisive war, and Palin's invocation of deity in support for another.

As Delivered by President Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865
Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.

It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

We're starting a new game today

I have both strived and worked quite hard over the years to be fair, as balanced as I can, consistent, and most importantly to me, objective. There's a lot of talk that swirls around these terms and definitions, particularly during heated election campaigns. This year is clearly no exception.

Keeping that foremost in mind, we seem to have before us the first Presidential campaign for which the nomination of a Vice-Presidential candidate may be a factor in the minds of voters.

So let's play a game with this.

Let's keep tabs of what each of the VP candidates is known for doing, and see how many times they each do this from the end of the conventions, which we all know was 8 days ago, officially, through election day.

Joe Biden is known for putting his foot in his mouth. His biggest gaffe was in 1987 when he expropriated the family history of British Labor leader Neil Kinnock's as his own. This past week, Biden twice reverted to form. In Columbia, Missouri on Tuesday, Biden asked a paraplegic state official to stand in order to be recognized. Good 'ol Joe, bringing out the best in himself. He worked to recover, but this is the Joe those in Delaware and Washington know. And on Wednesday, at a town meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire, he was asked a question about Hillary Clinton. In extolling the virtues of New York's junior Senator, Biden closed out his praise for Hillary with this line. "Quite frankly it might have been a better pick than me."

I suspect the Obama folks were happy to see Joe muddle an issue that they had thought resolved three weeks prior, and were happier to see that this didn't become a full blown issue. But it does get to 2 the number of gaffe's Biden has made in this campaign.

As for Palin, she is not very well known outside of Alaska, certainly not known prior to her nomination by John McCain. And as Governor as one of the two most distant and geographically isolated American states, there are different standards for what the base issues are, and for how the base responds. But as a candidate for office, being prepared to be able to take over as President 'in a heartbeat' is something that each Vice-Presidential nominee must be able to do. And in being prepared, and being capable, they must be able to convey trust, as well as candor, with the American people.

Since the convention has ended, we can tabulate the following mis-statements to Sarah Palin, a total that continues to grow each day, particularly now that we have the opportunity to see her in interviews, and no longer exclusively in controlled and well mapped political settings.

For one, Palin continues to state that she opposed the infamous bridge to nowhere. Old-timers might call this a flip-flop, as she campaigned for Governor in 2006 in support of the bridge, came around to oppose the bridge upon election as Governor, but continues to claim credit for killing the project, although the project had lost critical support well before she reversed course. So that's one.

Palin has stated on several occasions over the past week that he son is an Army infantryman fighting in Iraq. On September 11, 2008, her son's Army Stryker unit was deployed to see duty in Iraq, though it won't arrive in country for some time. Perhaps Palin is being pro-active in support of her son, but it was not correct to say he is fighting in Iraq when he had not left Alaska.

In her interview with Charlie Gibson of ABC News, the interview that aired on World News on Thursday evening, Palin claimed to be unfamiliar with the Bush Doctrine, suggested offering support for Israel for whatever it though was correct militarily with regard to Iran, and went beyond the role of NATO in calling for defending the rights of nations against Russia. Some of this might be news for the McCain campaign, which knows, and has disagreements with the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption,; which clearly supports Israel as America's prime ally in the Middle East, but doesn't support a unilateral Israeli military operation against Iran; and with regard to NATO, doesn't put the United States further ahead of the other member states of this multi-national peace keeping organization.

So for those of you keeping score at home, it's two bonehead comments by Biden, five out of her league mistakes by Palin.

These numbers are only sure to rise.

Action, anyone?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sex, Lies and Videotape

That seems to sum things up so far in the Presidential campaign.

Sex, as in gender, and whether Sarah Palin's nomination by John McCain was as brilliant a political move as the support from his Republican base suggests, or a crass political move by a candidate desperate to make inroads against a transformative opponent.

Lies, as in the grossly inaccurate and clearly distorted information that has been presented in several campaign ads, primarily those of the McCain campaign, as well as the distortations and farbrications that have been circumnavigating the web having to do with each candidate. It seems that truth squadding, once the province of a small cadre of newspaper researchers, has become the requirement of all engaged voters.

Videotape, for the time being, ties in directly with the question of lies, and whether one candidate's use of a standard line for bullshit, post Palin, suggests anything more than his desire to emphasize criticism of his opponent's language. We have seen several examples of John McCain saying 'that's like putting lipstick on a pig' in reference to then candidate Hillary Clinton's health care plan, and even seen that Republican activist and former Dod spokesperson, and former McCain Senate press secretary, Torie Clarke, titled her 2006 book 'Lipstick on a Pig.'

It's ironic that a tired catchphrase, and an apparent desire by the McCain camp to seek political gain from Obama's use of the phrase, may become a campaign marker.

And, of course, thank you Steven Soderbergh, for coining the title stolen and recast here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What goes up........

It's been a remarkable week for Sarah Palin. Last Wednesday she was in Arizona, regaling John McCain with stories of independence and character building forged by a lifetime of mini-van shuttling to hockey practice. The other night she was in a hockey arena telling 15,000 Republican faithful that she's one of them, but with carefully crafted wit, along with hair and make-up.

The question is, where will she be next week?

Her meteoric rise to near the top of the Republican party (it's still a glass ceiling if you are not the top dog) has been the talk of the convention, as well as most every household and workplace in America.

But there's some basic physics at play here, which we will see played out over the next few days, and possibly few weeks.

The faster and higher you rise, the faster and deeper you fall.

She certainly seemed to deliver with her prime time speech in St. Paul. Crafted and constructed for maximum impact, she got the job done. But what about the areas she didn't discuss. What about the economy. What about education. What about housing. What about banking. What about the environment. What about transportation. What about health care, social security, literally every other domestic issue you could name, and some you probably couldn't. None of these were discussed by Palin, but they will be issues that will be raised before her quite soon.

Let's start an office pool and see how the rollout goes. For her big national television interview, will she start on Larry King, or on one of the morning shows. Or will the team play safe and keep her in the family over at FOX? Olbermann is out, no doubt, but what about Katie Couric over at CBS? Wouldn't that be smart.

The clock is ticking, and like a new car that loses value the minute those tires hit the street, this candidacy will be coming down from the atmosphere the moment the gavel comes down in St. Paul.

Monday, September 1, 2008

not ready for Prime Time player?

Prediction: come November 4, Sarah Palin will not be on the Republican Presidential ticket.

Has there ever been a major party ticket member with less interest in the job, less planning for the future, and less prepared for our 24/7 media coverage?

Did she think her daughter's pregnancy could be as well hidden as her own last year?

Does the fact that her values are being both challenged and actualized by realities on the ground suggest a stronger rooting, or a significant misunderstanding of how an otherwise internal family matter for a private citizen can be a national issue for a public official.

And, did John McCain and his senior staff know of Bristol Palin's pregnancy before the selection of Sarah Palin as VP, or did they not ask the one essential question to be asked in any interview setting, 'is there anything else I should know?"

This will be one in which to stay tuned.