Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Bush Legacy -- a Reality Check

The "legacy" of the Bush presidency is one of failure -- failed policies, failed worldview, failure to uphold the Constitution, failure to respect the will of the people -- utter failure.

This legacy includes:

On the plus side, perhaps we'll see, as a result of Bush's disastrous presidency, an attenuation of

This is just scratching the surface. We're only up to May of 2005. More to follow as the Bush presidency dwindles.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoe Karma

Righties -- like Howie -- still maintain, beyond all reason, that our disastrous foray into "nation building" in Iraq was the right thing to do.

Not surprisingly, Iraqis don't necessarily agree with Howie and his ilk.

On the heels (sorry) of yesterday's shoe-throwing incident, Iraqis -- and Arabs throughout the middle east -- have come out in support of Muntader al-Zaidi, the 29-year-old journalist with a major-league throwing arm who came this close to beaning soon-to-be-former President George W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad.

In Saudi Arabia, a newspaper reported that a man had offered $10 million to buy just one of what has almost certainly become the world’s most famous pair of black dress shoes.

A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, reportedly awarded the shoe thrower, Muntader al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, a medal of courage.

In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, people calling for an immediate American withdrawal removed their footwear and placed the shoes and sandals at the end of long poles, waving them high in the air. And in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, people threw their shoes at a passing American convoy.

In street-corner conversations, on television and in Internet chat rooms, the subject of shoes was inescapable throughout much of the Middle East on Monday, as was the defiant act that inspired the interest: a huge and spontaneous eruption of anger at
President Bush on Sunday in his final visit here.

Shoe Karma. Not exactly greeting the liberators with showers of candy and flowers, is it? Did anybody really believe that would happen?
As the Buddha said, "What goes around, comes around."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Iraq to Bush: Thanks for Everything!

Sometimes when I'm discouraged I get the creepy sort of feeling that nothing I believe in is real; that "goodness" is an illusion, that evil goes unanswered in the world, that there's no real distinction between the two in the first place and that everything is, after all, relative.

Then, just for laughs, Karma shows its face.

I'm not supporting or encouraging or abetting shoe-throwers in any way. Hey, he could have given the president a black eye! Um, another black eye.

No, shoe throwing is violent and I don't support violence. But on this "valedictory" trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, that George W. Bush should be reminded that a lot of people hate him, rather than love him, for what he has done in the last eight years is bitterly ironic, and redolent of cosmic justice.

Sometimes I think that the only justice the Bush administration will be subjected to is cosmic justice. Perhaps that's enough.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Gov. Rod Blagojevich arrested

The Chicago Sun-Times article about the allegations is pretty detailed. After reading it, I'm a little sick to my stomach thinking this guy was running my state. Bits of information have been swirling around for a long time about Blagojevich and corruption, but the FBI has him on tape. I was willing to presume him innocent until proven guilty, but you don't get much guiltier than this.

The two allegations that are getting the most play are that Blagojevich was "selling" President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat and that Blagojevich tried to force the Tribune Co. to fire certain editorial board members in exchange for state assistance. Of course, now Obama knew all about the sale of the Senate seat and was in on it. But if you read the article, it's clear that Blagojevich was in his own fantasy land. He actually thought Obama might appoint him to a cabinet position. Laughable. It wasn't Obama putting his Senate seat on the market. It was Blagojevich. That needs to be made clear. While Obama has been putting together his cabinet and deciding how he's going to move forward once he takes office in January, Blagojevich was scheming on how to make the most of this vacant seat. Just like he seems to have been scheming for some time as governor.

With regard to the Tribune Co. situation, Blagojevich was upset that the Tribune editorial board was calling for his impeachment. It hurt his feelings, don't you know. So he was going to withhold state assistance in connection with the Wrigley Field sale unless certain editorial board members were fired. The article never says what came of that. The representative from the Tribune Co. supposedly told Blagojevich's chief of staff that the matter would be handled, but I don't think any editorial board members were fired, so who knows.

The man is clearly off his rocker. I didn't vote for him in the last election, because I didn't feel he had done anything for Illinois, and I was skeptical about the rumors regarding corruption (rumors at that time because no one knew what was true yet). He pissed me off when he held hostage state funding to the Chicago Transit Authority unless the CTA allowed free rides for seniors. I didn't mind free rides for seniors as a concept, but Blagojevich threw it in there at the last minute and refused to sign off on funding, which the CTA desperately needed in order to avoid severe fare hikes and reduced service, until an agreement was reached. It was a threat -- do as I say or else. He didn't care that many Chicagoans would be literally left out in the cold if the funding wasn't provided. The CTA was planning on cutting half its bus routes. Blagojevich didn't care. He wanted free rides for seniors. Now, the CTA is raising fares in January, partly as a result of the free rides for seniors. And I will now be taking Metra to save $23 a month. Yippee. Thanks, Blago.

I can't really point to anything Blagojevich has done for Illinois. We had some expressway construction that made traffic on the Dan Ryan and I-294 better, but I-88 has been torn up for years now with seemingly no end in sight. He instituted open road tolling, which I suppose makes commuting faster, but only if you have an I-PASS. I don't drive to work, but I bought an I-PASS just to make my life easier. Not everyone does. And now Blagojevich's been arrested and has embarrassed our whole state. I thought former Gov. George Ryan's conviction was bad. This is worse.

I'm disappointed. Disappointed because people everywhere seem to think Illinois is all about corrupt politics. That Chicago is about corrupt politics. This is the city and state I live in, and I take offense. But people like Blagojevich prove those people right, and it angers me. Because it does a disservice to those politicians who aren't corrupt and just trying to do right by the citizens of Chicago and Illinois. Because it's hard to climb out of the hole that's been dug by people like Blagojevich, hard to escape the notion that politics here is all about "the machine" and corruption and "pay to play."

If people who live here think Chicago is so corrupt, stop voting for the people who continue to corrupt politics. Blagojevich didn't elect himself. Mayor Richard J. Daley didn't either. Blagojevich got what was coming to him -- at least in the form of an arrest, it remains to be seen what will happen going forward. But he shouldn't have been in office to begin with.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The full-page ad

I'm sure most people thought that once the election was over, we wouldn't hear any more about President-elect Barack Obama's citizenship. Oh, but you'd be wrong. Yesterday on the train, I was standing in the aisle, because on the el that's pretty much what everyone ends up doing after 5 p.m. -- standing in the aisle. A woman was reading the newspaper, but I didn't know what paper and wasn't even close enough to her to actually read the page she was on, but I noticed that it was a full-page ad with a title that asked Obama if he was a natural born citizen of the U.S. The man standing next to me snorted when he saw it and shook his head. My sentiments exactly. But I was curious about this ad and looked it up this morning.

Mary Mitchell from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a column about it today. The ad was paid for by the We The People Foundation for Constitutional Education, Inc., and as I thought, the ad questioned Obama's citizenship, once again bringing up the tired subject of the Hawaiian birth certificate. If you want to waste a few minutes of your day, here is the actual ad. It appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

I'm not sure what the point is to this, except to waste tens of thousands of dollars, which the chairman of We The People Foundation, Robert Schultz, said his organization spent. What I find interesting is that people and organizations who have questioned Obama's citizenship don't seem to be upstanding citizens themselves. We The People Foundation has been in trouble for tax fraud. Phillip Berg, who filed a lawsuit against Obama alleging that Obama wasn't eligible to run for president of the United States, is also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist (he thinks the U.S. was in on it). He's also been sanctioned for unethical actions as an attorney.

The economy is a mess. Unemployment is at an all-time high. People are losing their homes. And with all those issues to deal with, the Robert Schultzes and Phillip Bergs of the country think what we care about most is a months-old conspiracy theory that has already been debunked several times over. I almost can't even fathom the stupidity. Almost.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Can't hold back

I yell at the television. I know I'm not the only one. People yell at the television during sporting events, when the quarterback throws an interception or when the the pitcher walks in a run. But when I yell at the television, I'm usually watching cable news. MSNBC is my guilty pleasure at night. I know, I know. MSNBC is to Democrats what Fox News is to Republicans, but at least I'm not watching the station thinking I'm getting unbiased news. And it's funny to watch sometimes. Funny in an "I can't believe they are such idiots" sort of way. I love watching the "strategists" talk about what President-elect Barack Obama is thinking. I didn't realize they all had ESP.

Hardball with Chris Matthews was especially shout-worthy last night. Questions came up like, "Who will be making foreign policy if Hillary Clinton takes the secretary of State position?" Hmm, let's ponder that one. She hasn't even accepted the position. Even if she does, she won't take over the position until January, 2009. No one knows what will happen. Maybe she'll take over and refuse to take orders from Obama. Maybe she'll realize she's on Obama's team and work together. Flip a coin. Matthews posed a scenario where if Clinton gets the nomination, she'll be ticked later on because Obama will draw the line on which appointments she can make. Matthews actually said "here's what will happen" as if he looked into his crystal ball and saw it. It's all conjecture. And I suppose that's what being a strategist or a political pundit is about -- conjecture. But it gets ridiculous at times.

Matthews talked about the "noise" or "chatter" surrounding the Clinton appointment. He asked Howard Fineman from Newsweek why we're hearing so much about it? Um, here's a thought, because people like you, Chris, don't shut up about it. Fineman said, in the end, that we're hearing more about the Clintons than we are about what Obama is going to do as president. And whose fault is that? It's as if Matthews and Fineman think they have no control over what words come out of their mouths.

I also loved Matthews' discussion with Joan Walsh from Salon.com and Michelle Bernard from MSBNC. First, Walsh said that it's Obama's decision on who will be his secretary of State, and if he picks Clinton, she'll do a great job, but that it's funny that people who, up until now, respected Obama are now second-guessing him before a decision has been made. Right on, sister. Walsh then went on to say that she doesn't think it's fair that the Clintons are getting blamed for the press on this because it was Andrea Mitchell who first broke the story after speaking to two Obama advisors. Matthews said, "That's a good question. Who's leaking all this information?" He picked up the New York Times and "read" that Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Clinton, said that Clinton has outstanding campaign debt and repaying it is a pre-condition for taking the secretary of State job. Never mind that if you read the NY Times article, Reines said nothing of the sort. Walsh even brought that up on the show, and Matthews pretended to re-read the article, obviously not getting any more out of it than he did before, because he moved on. Never mind that the article's focus was not the secretary of State job, but rather Clinton's unpaid campaign debt. Matthews said, "That's being done in public." But I don't know what he's talking about, since he didn't understand the article to begin with. Then the talking heads just move on. Matthews is flat out wrong. He doesn't correct himself. But let's move on.

Bernard then has a discussion with Matthews, again, about how the Clintons are all over the news, and who is the President-elect, is it Obama or Clinton? And again, I'll say that if people like Bernard weren't so eager to get on Hardball and talk about the Clintons, they wouldn't be in the news. Who is driving this bus? Obama is doing what he needs to do as president -- appointing cabinet members, getting a staff together. Suddenly, he's no longer No Drama Obama because the press is capitalizing on these picks and running story after story. Is he supposed to hide out in a mountain cave while conducting business so the press doesn't get wind of what is going on? Give me a break.

The other thing that had me yelling at my television last night during Hardball was when Matthews discussed the Norm Coleman-Al Franken recount in Minnesota with strategists Steve McMahon and Todd Harris.

At one point, Harris told Matthews that Franken's campaign wants a list of absentee voters whose ballots were rejected so they can contact these people to "get them" to say they voted for Franken. I had just read an article about this earlier in the day. Franken was trying to do no such thing. What Franken wants is for absentee ballots to be looked at to make sure that they were legally rejected. From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Franken spokesman Andy Barr said Monday that the campaign knew of "hundreds" of absentee ballots that had been rejected by election judges, and that at least a dozen counties had so far complied with the campaign's formal request to each Minnesota county for lists of rejected ballots. He said a hearing is scheduled Wednesday in the campaign's lawsuit seeking Ramsey County's list.

The 18-page legal brief that the campaign filed Monday with the state Canvassing Board included four examples of absentee voters said to be disenfranchised when their ballots were rejected. Jessup Schiks, of Kandiyohi County, had his absentee ballot rejected because officials ruled the signature didn't match the registration card; campaign officials said Schiks later signed an affidavit confirming the ballot was his.

In another case, Bruce Behrens, a Goodhue County resident, said his absentee ballot was rejected because officials believed his girlfriend, who vouched for him, wasn't a registered voter even though she is.

"The [canvassing] board must consider and take into account all ballots cast -- including validly cast absentee ballots that have been wrongfully rejected," a legal memorandum signed by Franken's lawyers stated.

From The Public Record:

Franken’s campaign wants to review the lists to ensure that individuals whose ballots were rejected were truly ineligible to vote.

I haven't read anything that said Franken intends to contact these voters or knock on their doors, except from Coleman's campaign:

But Coleman's campaign attorney Fritz Knaak said Wednesday he thinks Franken's campaign will "pound on people's doors" and ask them whom they voted for.

So when Harris brought this up on Hardball, I expected Matthews to rebut his statement with the facts. Instead, Matthews response was "Are they really going to do that?" Harris responded, "Absolutely." Absolutely? Are you absolutely friggin' kidding me? Harris doesn't know absolutely anything, but he's going to make the statement anyway. And Matthews said nothing. It was worse than Matthews pretending to read that NY Times article about Clinton's campaign debt.

I may just be a pajama-clad teenage blogger in my parents' basement, but even I know that facts are facts. It's not like I haven't been shocked by commentators' and strategists' disregard of facts before on cable news shows. But for some reason, last night, I'd had enough. I am astounded at what passes for "journalism" nowadays.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Interesting turn of events

I read online today that James Dobson's Focus on the Family will be cutting 202 jobs. This is the same group that threw $539,000 in monetary support and $83,000 in non-monetary support toward the passage of California's Proposition 8. Now, it's sad to see people lose their jobs, especially in this economy where finding another job isn't easy. I question whether Focus on the Family had its priorities straight. Sure, $622,000 collectively isn't a big chunk of change. But when your organization reports shortfalls or layoffs year after year, maybe it's time to re-think the budget. Wonkette had a good post on the matter, which included the following:

"Sure, you have no income now because James Dobson burnt all of your company’s money on a state ballot proposition. But imagine the alternative! Would you want to be employed knowing that several hundred miles away, in another state, pairs of consenting adults that already have been living together, people whom you’ve never met and will never meet, were applying for state licenses (pieces of paper, really) that offered them some new tax and medical options??"

I'm sure the former employees of Focus on the Family are much happier knowing gay marriage in California has been prevented, even if they won't be able to put food on the table. I'm starting to think Focus on the Family is quite an ironic name for this group.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Love, not H8

Watch CBS Videos Online

If you hadn't heard by now, California voters voted in favor of Proposition 8 last Tuesday. Prop 8 eliminated the rights of same-sex couples to marry. The passage of this ballot proposition has angered many gays and lesbians. Protests have taken place across the country, and lawsuits have been filed in California on the grounds that the proposition is a revision, not an amendment. A revision requires a 2/3 vote in the legislature or a constitutional convention. The California Supreme Court will make the decision. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has spoken out against Prop 8:

"It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end," he said about the same-sex marriage ban. "I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area."

And Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on the matter on Monday's Countdown asked the question: "This is what your religion tells you to do?"

WWJD, people. Love and acceptance. Are these not things Jesus would want us to give to others? "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Yep, that's in the Bible. But I guess we only love our neighbors if they are hetero.

What it comes down to for me is that this isn't an issue for Christians to decide. What difference does it make to them whether gays and lesbians marry? It has no effect on anyone else in this country. If a person doesn't approve of gay marriage, then he or she shouldn't marry someone of the same sex. Problem solved. If we're going to start talking about "protecting marriage," then maybe these Christians should start looking at the hetero marriages in which one spouse is cheating on the other. That's not very Christian. Brother, can we get a proposition on the ballot to say that both spouses in a marriage need to be monogamous? Amen. Keep it in your pants.

Of course, some Republicans are guilty of not keeping it in their pants (Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuiliani, John McCain, Tom DeLay). Yet, Christians still love them some Republicans. Do as we say, not as we do. Looks like the Christians only want to protect marriage from homosexuals. They don't seem to care what the heterosexuals are doing to marriage. First marriage divorce rates in the U.S. are at 41%. Wow, way to protect marriage there!

If Christians are so interested in making sure marriage's name isn't dragged through the mud, why ban gays and lesbians from getting married? They are only making marriage look better. How can same-sex couples coming out of city hall with big smiles on their faces after getting married hurt marriage's image? Marriage shouldn't be about the who but the why. It shouldn't be about two men getting married or a man and a woman tying the knot. It should be about the love those two people have for each other to make that commitment.

No one is asking the Christian Church to start marrying same-sex couples. Just leave well enough alone. You go your way, they will go theirs. Let's not forget that before 1967, whites and blacks couldn't marry. The Lovings of Virginia were sentenced to one year in jail for marrying, with the sentence suspended as long as they left the state of Virginia. It was their case (Loving v. Virginia) that ended the ban on interracial marriages in the U.S. The Court in Loving stated that "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival . . ." In 2007, Mildred Loving said:

"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don't think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the 'wrong kind of person' for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights."

Nowadays, I don't think people could imagine a time when blacks and whites couldn't marry. I hope someday we'll look back on the uproar over gay marriage and say the same thing. I really think this is the civil rights movement of our time. Back in the 1950s and 60s, it was about equality for blacks. Now, it's about equality for gays and lesbians. Prop 8 was a setback, but it shouldn't be the end. It won't be easy, but all men were created equal and have certain unalienable rights, the pursuit of happiness is one. Keep pursuing happiness. It can be achieved.

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's A New Day

will.i.am's video -- gives new meaning to the peace sign.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

US Secret Service Blames Sarah Palin for Obama Death Threats

From the "What Was McCain Thinking" department, another reason to be grateful that Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States.
The Secret Service warned the Obama family in mid October that they had seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats against the Democratic candidate, coinciding with Mrs Palin's attacks.
No kidding. Ya think?

Howie won't buy this, of course. He's sold on the idea that the Secret Service has already made a finding that no one called out "Kill him!" at Palin's rallies, when, in fact, news stories of that time say they were still investigating.
The attacks provoked a near lynch mob atmosphere at her rallies, with supporters yelling "terrorist" and "kill him" until the McCain campaign ordered her to tone down the rhetoric.
Too little, too late, Senator McCain. That's closing the kennel door after the pitbull is alaready out. So are you glad that you picked Palin?

Irate John McCain aides, who blame Mrs Palin for losing the election, claim Mrs. Palin took it upon herself to question Mr Obama's patriotism, before the line of attack had been cleared by Mr McCain.

That claim is part of a campaign of targeted leaks designed to torpedo her ambitions, with claims that she did not know that Africawas a continent rather than a country.

The advisers have branded her a "diva" and a "whack job" and claimed that she did not know which other countries are in the North American Free Trade Area, (Canada and Mexico). They say she spent more than $150,000 on designer clothes, including $40,000 on her husband Todd and that she refused to prepare for the disastrous series of interviews with CBS's Katie Couric.

Yeah. Country First. And all that....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Barack Obama is IRISH!!!

I knew it.

Another episode of Why The Right Doesn't Get It

On yesterday's Focus on the Family radio broadast, James Dobson said the following about President-elect Barack Obama's victory:

"But, to be honest, I have to say that his win causes me enormous concern because he will be the most committed pro-abortion president in our history," Dr. Dobson said. "He’s in favor of much of the homosexual agenda and he’s going to appoint the most liberal justices to the Supreme Court, perhaps that we’ve ever had. So, there are many reasons why I’m struggling today over the likely path that the nation has taken."

The economy is in tatters. People are losing their jobs, can't pay their bills and might have their homes foreclosed upon. Money is tight. Some people are having trouble buying groceries or paying for gas. And don't even get us started on the holidays and presents. Yet Dobson still thinks Americans care most about abortion and gay marriage. You keep your thumb on the pulse of America there, Jimmy.

Note to Boehner: Quit while you're ahead

I'm really starting to dislike Rep. John Boehner. I thought him ridiculous when he stood up in front of reporters and said that Rep. Nancy Pelosi's speech to the Congress was the reason why some House GOP members didn't vote for the bailout the first time around. Boehner said her "partisan speech" "poisoned the conference." I read Pelosi's speech and watched the video. It wasn't partisan or poison. If House GOP members are that sensitive, they shouldn't have their jobs. Let's call a spade a spade here. The House GOP members were wimps and needed a fall guy (or girl, in this case).

Then Boehner wrote that letter to House GOP members the day after the election, in an effort to keep his minority leadership. A partisan letter, might I add. I talked about it in a previous post.

And then, today I heard on the news Boehner's comments about President-elect Barack Obama's pick for chief of staff -- Rep Rahm Emanuel:

"This is an ironic choice for a President-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center."

This from a man who wrote a letter that was all about how the Republicans were going to win Americans over to their side and how they were going to have their own agenda. Boehner wouldn't know change if it crawled up and bit him on the posterior. I realize Emanuel has been said to have a "take-no-prisoners" style, but that is not Obama's style. Give Obama some credit -- does Boehner think he hired Emanuel to run roughshod over him? The people Obama picks to be on his staff or in his cabinet essentially work for him, and while I don't see him as a control freak, he is still in control as the President. This isn't George W. Bush's White House where the President sits back and lets those around him pull the strings.

As far as change goes, like Boehner, Rachel Maddow also asked last night on her show whether some of Obama's latest hires represented change, because they were either in the Clinton White House or worked for Obama on the campaign. I say a change from the last eight years is a change we are comfortable with. The Clinton years were good years. But I'd also argue that these aren't the Clinton years, no matter how many Clintonites Obama might hire. HE is the President. Not Bill Clinton. However, Steve Benen from The Washington Monthly talked Maddow down by telling her that if Obama wants to hire experienced people, those people will undoubtedly have been involved in politics at some point in the last several years. Sen. Dick Lugar, a Republican (gasp), has been mentioned as a possible pick for Obama's secretary of state. Of course, Lugar's spokeperson said Lugar is fine where he is, so that might be the end of that. But give credit to Obama for wanting to have Republicans in his cabinet. Not his fault if they aren't interested. Colin Powell, a Republican (double gasp), has been mentioned as a possible pick for secretary of defense or education. But no, Boehner is right, Obama is all about doing things the same tired way.

Boehner is obviously already starting his plan to win Americans back to the GOP's side and put forth the GOP agenda. Thing is, he doesn't realize you don't win by doing the SAME things you've been doing. What kind of leader is that? He blamed Pelosi's speech like a coward. He wrote that letter to the House GOP members that detailed no changes whatsoever from the way Republicans have been doing things, which obviously hasn't been working because they lost even more seats in Congress this time around. And now, Boehner's putting Obama down for not being serious about change? Puh-lease.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The World Reacts to Obama's Election

What a difference four years makes.




I read a letter that House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner sent to House Republicans the day after the election. It made me shake my head. Does Boehner not get it? Republicans lost more seats in the House and Senate because of the very attitude in this letter. Us against them. Even after the election, they can't talk about working together. Some excerpts:

Some of our opponents aren't likely to settle for that. They want us to surrender. They want to see us raise the white flag and concede that our principles of freedom, responsibility, and smaller government no longer speak to the hopes and dreams of American families. They want us to stand aside for the next two years, abandon our principles, and give the new administration and the Democratic leaders of Congress a free pass.

Who are "they"? Because I don't remember hearing anyone ask the Republicans to give the Democrats a free pass, not even the voters who elected Democrats for Republican seats. This election wasn't about getting the Republicans to surrender or concede defeat, it was about doing what was right for the country. A party whose motto is "Country First" should realize that.

America remains a center-right country. Democrats should not make the mistake of viewing Tuesday's results as a repudiation of conservatism or a validation of big government.

Hang on, I have to stop laughing. "America remains a center-right country"? If that were the case, Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin would be getting ready to move into the White House, and Boehner and his colleagues wouldn't be the minority. The results of the election were totally a repudiation of conservatism and big government, because that's what the last eight years have been about.

We can rebuild our majority by winning the issues one by one and moving the American people to our side one issue at a time.

Why does it have to be about moving Americans anywhere? Nothing gets done when two groups do nothing but fight against each other. We are the United States of America. Not a conservative America. Not a liberal America. Boehner and the GOP should be more concerned right now with how to move the country forward, by working together with Democrats, than with how to move Americans back to the Republicans' side.

We supported the Petraeus surge, it worked, and now our troops are coming home after victory rather than defeat.

Even Petraeus said he will never use the word "victory" for Iraq. And wasn't this the party that was against a timeline for bringing troops home from Iraq, at least in the coming months? Wasn't the GOP line during the campaign that they don't want their troops to come home in defeat under Obama? Well, Obama was just elected, and now, they are coming home in victory? Boehner needs to get his story straight.

We showed Americans we stand with them.

And Americans politely said, "No thanks," and voted for the Democrats.

Therein lies our opportunity. Rise or fall, Congressional Republicans in the next two years will be judged on our own record, our own vision, and our own agenda – and our willingness to hold Washington Democrats accountable.

Our, our, our. Nothing about "we." Nothing about how we should work with the Democrats to get good legislation passed, bills that sit well with everyone, not just one. No, instead Boehner wants the GOP to focus on their own agenda, and just hold Democrats accountable for mistakes. Don't bother reaching out to make sure there aren't any mistakes.

In Obama's victory speech on Tuesday, he said:

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.

It would have been nice if the letter Boehner wrote the day after the election would have contained a little humility as well and less of a determination to continue the divides in our government.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Obama rally

I'm working on four hours of sleep today, so it's taken me awhile to get my brain to the point where I could write a post. I was at the rally in Grant Park last night. I had a ticket, but ended up in the non-ticketed area because I had two friends with me and could only get in one with my ticket. I think we saw about as much in the non-ticketed area as we would have seen anywhere else, so it wasn't a big deal. The crowd wasn't too big when we entered at 8:30pm, and we made our way to an empty spot near two big Jumbotrons. I don't know how many Jumbotrons they had in that section, but there were a few. Enough so that wherever you stood, you could see and hear what was going on. Each Jumbotron was tuned to CNN, and my favorite parts of the night were when projections would come in. People barely listened to the chatter between commentators, but as soon as we heard the music that signaled a projection, everyone shut up and paid attention to the screens.

Projections for Obama were met with claps and whoops. Projections for McCain were, um, not. The biggest outburst of excitement came when Virginia was projected for Obama, even before we had heard from the West Coast, and people started to realize Obama had done it. Then shortly after Virginia, the race was given to Obama. People cried. People hugged others they didn't even know. People cheered. Chants of "Yes we can" rung through the crowd at times.

Sen. John McCain gave his concession speech, which I didn't completely hear because people were talking. I knew at the time that what I did hear sounded gracious, and I listened to it today online and feel the same way. I feel bad for him in some ways because I think he could have run a different campaign. But he chose the George Bush way, not the John McCain way. I'm sure he will be rethinking that today, among many other things (Sarah Palin, anyone?).

When Obama stepped out on the stage for his speech, the roar from the crowd was deafening, and people continued to cheer throughout. Again, chants of "Yes we can" rang out while Obama spoke. People started crying again. Some guy, I think he was homeless, wandered through the crowd with tears running down his face. We stood there together -- black, white, brown, gay, straight, you name it. We stood there, shoulder to shoulder, and listened to our new president. The man who we had elected. It was an awesome moment. I am glad that I didn't go home early. I am glad I stood there for hours, with feet and back aching. I was glad I was there to witness history.

It really was a moment where you just had to be there to feel what went through the crowd. It only proves even more what I had said in other posts. Obama is different. I truly believe he is someone who will work as hard as he can to unite, not divide. And it was evident in the diverse crowd last night -- because there we were, united.

A Proud, Proud Day for the United States of America

I started this blog four years ago today.

I started it out of frustration with the sordid relationship between our political system and our mass media. As the title of this blog ought to suggest, I thought that our systems of mass communication were leaving most Americans IN THE DARK.

While that situation has clearly not entirely been rectified, and I remain terribly concerned about the ignorance that emperils us (just yesterday before voting, I spoke with a woman who told me she voted for the guy "with the Vice President from Canada" -- I wish I were making this up), I am heartened by what I've seen this past few years. And last night, as I watched the election returns, and cheered with my wife as the polls on the west coast closed and Senator Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama, and we listened, teary-eyed, to his victory speech, I felt prouder to be an American than I have in many, many years.

When I started this blog, I believed that the United States of America was living in the darkest hour of my lifetime. US Intelligence agencies were being politicized. Hundreds of thousands were dying in Iraq (and still are). The Iraqi insurgency was just finding its legs. Domestic surveillance of private individuals was just beginning. And -- even before Abu Ghraib -- observers were criticizing US interrogation techniques as "torture."

And the mass media largely ignored or downplayed everything, or aided and abetted the Bush administration's conceptual construction of a "post-9/11 world." It was the perfect prescription for fascism.

I won't dwell long on what the election of Barack Obama means to me personally. As the son of Irish immigrants to the United States in the first half of the twentieth century, let me just say that I am happy for him. As a university professor in an urban setting in a large American city, I feel my students' joy and I celebrate with them, knowing that many of their parents can hardly believe this day has actually come. But as an American, I am extremely proud today, not just because we have turned our backs on centuries of hatred and elected an African-American President, but also because we have managed to see beyond the fear, resentment, greed and hatred that have characterized the last eight years, and rejected the policies they spawned. This is what I am truly proud of.

The dawn is breaking. I think I see the light. It's morning in America.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The view from Chicago

On Election Day, in Sen Barack Obama's hometown, the excitement is building. I just got back from lunch and saw a C-SPAN bus down the street. A man selling Obama shirts on the street. A couple with matching Obama shirts walking in the direction of Grant Park. Obama is said to be at the Hyatt down the street from my office. The city is starting to empty out, at least as far as businesses are concerned. Many companies are letting their employees out at 3pm (but not mine, yay!). City officials are recommending that those who can leave the city by 3pm should do so. I have a ticket for the Obama rally and will be attending with some friends, but I don't know how long we'll have to wait in line. The Chicago Tribune reported that people were lining up at 8:30am for the rally. I don't expect to get a close spot, but I don't care. I just want to be there. Win or lose, this is a historic day for Obama and his supporters. I will post on the rally tomorrow, if I'm not too tired. Obama isn't scheduled to speak until 11pm, but it may be later. The rally is set to go until 1 a.m., but possibly later if need be. I haven't stayed up that late in . . . well, a long time. So we'll see how it goes. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for an Obama win. Obama! Obama! Obama!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"This is not a liberal America. This is not a conservative America. This is the United States of America."

If you didn't see Sen. Barack Obama's 30-minute message last night, you missed out. I think it cut through the negative attacks of the past few weeks and allowed Obama to talk to American voters about his plans for the future of the U.S. But the message wasn't just about Obama. Real families with real problems were highlighted in the video. I already voted for Obama, but even so, watching that resonated with me because I identified with those families' issues. Both my grandfathers had to work after retirement because their Social Security checks weren't enough. They both worked right up until they died, never getting a moment for themselves. My grandmother, after my grandfather died, had to go back to work, first at a convenience store and then at a JCPenney. Then she developed Alzheimer's and started forgetting to pay her bills. Pretty soon she was in debt. The last years of her life were spent living with my aunt in Colorado and then in a nursing home. My parents are both "working people." My dad is in a union and has two bad knees and a bad back. But he gets up every day at the crack of dawn to go to work as a pipefitter, which isn't a cushy job. My mom works at a gas station as a cashier. My dad just turned 59, and my mom will be 59 in a couple months. It's not easy for either of them, and at times, when my dad didn't have work, they've struggled.

So I watched that video and understood where those families were coming from. And I think a lot of middle class, working people around the country could too. Just a few months ago, my dad was saying Obama is a Muslim and sounding like he couldn't stand the thought of Obama for president. Last night, he watched that 30-minute message and said, "That's right" a few times. He agreed with Obama. I think that, out of everything, touched me. My dad is stubborn in his thinking, and he rarely ever admits he's wrong, but here he was now agreeing with the very person he was against a few short months ago.

I said in another post that I believe that Obama will be the president who can bring us together. Of course, I know that doesn't mean everyone. There will be stubborn Republicans who refuse to accept an Obama presidency, or people who, regardless of party, are too racist to look past skin color. That can't be helped. There will always be doubters and cynics and hypocrites. But I have more faith in Obama than I have had in any other candidate. Because he's already brought people together. People from all walks of life are behind Obama. People who I never would have thought would put aside race to vote for a black man are behind Obama. That shows me what Obama has the power to accomplish. I'm an American, and I'm glad to be one. But I'm not glad to see our standing in the world diminished because of poor leadership. I'm not glad to see a polarized country -- lines drawn between liberal and conservative, Republican and Democrat, Christian and well, everyone else. No one, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or even political party, has the right to look down on anyone else. And we don't need a president who thinks that way either. The most powerful statement in the 30-minute message for me was when, during Obama's 2004 convention speech, he said, "This is not a liberal America. This is not a conservative America. This is the United States of America." Unfortunately, Republicans see America as their way or the highway. You're for tax cuts for the rich, or you're a socialist. You're for war and against diplomacy, or you're naive on foreign policy. You're against abortion, or you're a baby killer. You're with us, or you're against us. That's not the leadership we need. Republicans love America. I know they do. I just don't think they have the right vision for America. Maybe after this election, if the poll predictions are true and Obama wins, they'll see where they went wrong.

If you haven't seen Obama's 30-minute message, here it is (in four parts):

Monday, October 27, 2008

Another "Oh, that's gotta hurt"

The Anchorage Daily News endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. As a result, Alaska's top newspaper forgoes endorsing one of their own, Sen. John McCain's running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. In addition to explaining why the paper is supporting Obama, the editorial said this about Palin: "Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth." I'd say the Anchorage Daily News would know better than any other whether that is true, having covered Palin during her time as governor.

In other positive news, for Obama anyway, the Chicago Tribune endorsed him for president. It is the first time in 161 years that the Tribune has endorsed a Democrat. One might argue that of course the Tribune would endorse Obama. He is from Illinois. But given the Obama endorsement by the Anchorage Daily News, it's clear that being the "hometown" politician does not guarantee an endorsement.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Why I voted for Obama

I first registered to vote four years ago, 11 years after I was eligible. Until that point, I hadn't cared much about politics. I thought politics was booooring. But then I had this wild idea to go to law school and went back to college to get my bachelor's degree in political science. I wasn't sure how I'd like majoring in political science, but I needed a bachelor's degree for law school and was told political science was the way to go. A funny thing happened, though. I started to like politics. I realized it was interesting. And more than that, it was important. I couldn't believe I had gone all this time just not caring. That was when I registered to vote.

I never went to law school, because I realized that wasn't my passion. Instead, after I graduated with my bachelor's in political science, I went back to get my master's in journalism. And that is how I got here, to this blog. I gathered my political science background wouldn't be wasted in journalism, and I was right. It has served me well over the years, at least in understanding certain things.

So why all this background? Because this is the first year that I was actually excited to vote. That I saw other people excited to vote. Willing to wait in line hours to do so. Before, it was a duty, a duty that I was proud to have once I realized how important it was, but it was never exciting. While I always supported the candidates I voted for, I was never terribly attached to them. However, Sen. Barack Obama is someone I am thrilled to support.

I'm not going to tell you how I like his tax or healthcare plans. Or how I think he has the right idea with regard to our foreign policy. Because if you support Obama, you probably feel the same way. And if you don't (Howie!), you won't care. What I like about Obama -- no, what gives me great hope -- is what I've seen over the past few months. Not the negative ads. Not the cries of terrorist or false stories that Obama was born in Kenya. Certainly not the direct or indirect racism. What has given me hope is that, despite those things, people support Obama. I see people with Obama buttons and bumper stickers, signs on the lawns. I see college-age kids with Obama shirts, volunteering for the campaign. We've come to accept that racism is a part of the U.S. I know that it may always be, sadly. But here are examples of people who are supporting a candidate, regardless of race, religion, etc. The equality we have always hoped for is happening right here. I grew up with racist relatives, and it has always disgusted me that people could talk that way, as if they are better than someone else because of race. I know of relatives that will not be voting for Obama because of his color. They don't care what he stands for, probably don't even know anything about his plans. They just won't vote for a black guy. What gives me hope is that people like THAT haven't stopped people like Obama, or his supporters.

Republicans will say it's media bias that has led to this phenomenon. That the media has made Obama into some celebrity or God, or that his supporters have done so. But you can't MAKE someone into something he isn't. People can be naive, can even be tricked sometimes, but most of us know when a turd is a turd (see Bush, George W.). Some people missed the boat on President Bush the second time around, but I think after these past eight years, we can spot the turd. If Obama was just some second-rate political hack who had tricked the country into supporting him, Americans would have realized it by now. We've had 18 months to watch him, waiting for some indication that he wasn't fit for the presidency. Instead, we've seen Sen. John McCain flounder and look like the candidate who isn't ready for the presidency. Seen him look like the turd.

What gives me hope is not only what I believe Obama can do for our country in areas where we usually expect a president to lead, like the economy, foreign policy, etc., but also what Obama can do for us as Americans. Prove to us that race really doesn't matter. Prove to us that it doesn't matter if you have a funny name, or that your father was Kenyan. Prove to us that we were all created equal, and if we all try hard enough, there is no telling where we can end up. Prove to us that we can come together and say, "We're not a white America. We're not a black America. We're the United States of America."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Who cares about your sick grandmother

Republican strategist Bruce Blakeman's defense against the $150,000 spent by the GOP on Gov. Sarah Palin's and her family's clothes is that Sen. Barack Obama had the nerve to take his campaign plane to visit his sick grandmother. Watch it:

Seriously? This is the defense? Obama's a spendthrift because he went to visit his ailing grandmother?? Listen, I don't think Palin's clothes are all that big of a deal. If GOP supporters don't mind that their money went to clothe Palin and her kids, then I don't either. I think the only reason for bringing this up at all is how it relates to the McCain/Palin argument that Obama is elitist. I mean, spending $70,000 at Neiman Marcus doesn't exactly make you Jane Everyday. But I don't think we should still be talking about this days later. They spent a ton of money on her clothes. Great. It's been talked about, move on. However, to use as a defense that Obama somehow wasted money by using his campaign plane to visit his grandmother, who is gravely ill by all accounts, is beyond low. Blakeman argues that Obama should have taken a regular airline flight to visit her instead of his campaign plane. Sure, when a loved one might pass away at any moment, that's what a person should do -- wait hours in the airport for a flight that will then take hours to get to Hawaii. You know, my grandmother was living in Colorado when she died. She had been sick for weeks, but I couldn't make it out to Colorado to be with her because I couldn't afford a flight on last minute's notice. So I wasn't there when she passed away, although thankfully, my mother, aunt and cousins were. If I had a plane at my disposal and could have flown to see her before she passed away, I would have jumped on board in a heartbeat. I wonder what Blakeman would do in the same position? I suppose when you're heartless, you'd probably ignore your grandmother's illness altogether and go on with life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oh that's gotta hurt

This is a follow up to my post from Sunday about Rep. Michele Bachmann from Minnesota. Looks like her comments on Hardball with Chris Matthews did more than just energize Democrats from all over the country to donate to her challenger, Elwyn Tinklenberg's, campaign. Now the National Republican Congressional Committee is taking away Bachmann's ad money and giving it to a Republican candidate in a different district. Whoops!

Meanwhile, Tinklenberg has raised $1.3 million since Bachmann's comments and received another $1 million from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Do you think Bachmann is regretting her comments? Apparently, since she's attempted to take them back (i.e., lie about what she said). She claimed Matthews laid a trap for her, that she had never seen his show and didn't know what to expect. In other words, it was all someone else's fault.

But here's the lesson to be learned here: People don't appreciate being called anti-American just because they don't fit a particular Republican congresswoman's idea of what makes someone "American." We are all pro-America. If we weren't, we wouldn't care so much about the state of our country. We wouldn't fight for our beliefs. We wouldn't vote. We wouldn't donate to the campaigns of politicians and causes we believe in. We wouldn't show up at rallies and marches. Being pro-America has nothing to do with where we live or what political party we belong to. Being pro-America has nothing to do with a flag pin or supporting a war. I don't appreciate being called anti-American because of my political views. And it looks like neither did the thousands of other people who donated to Tinklenberg's campaign over the past week.

Iraq to the U.S.: Quit pushing

Iraq has taken a backseat to the economy lately. According to the polls, the economy and jobs are the top issues concerning voters, with Iraq trailing far behind. However, we are still in the midst of two wars, and it's important that we don't forget that, because the next president won't be able to. Today, I read an AFP article about the Status of Forces Agreement that has not yet been signed by the Iraqi government. What was interesting about this situation is that the Iraqi government feels bullied by the U.S. The Iraqis want to make up their own minds in their own time about what provisions should be contained in the agreement.

Senior Shiite lawmaker Abbas al-Bayati said: "[U.S. military chief Michael] Mullen's remark is an attempt to pressure the Iraqi side, but we will not be subjected to such tactics because our reservations are linked to the sovereignty and national interest of Iraq. The American side should be more flexible because if they really want to pass this agreement, they should first stop launching such warnings which provoke Iraqis."

The U.S. is worried because if the agreement isn't signed by December 31, 2008, U.S. military forces will no longer have the authority to stay in Iraq. Yet, Iraqi government officials don't seem too worried.

"Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier General Qassim Atta also insisted that domestic forces were ready to handle security nationwide, saying their numbers have increased and their ability has improved."

The Iraqi government is worried, however, that this agreement will somehow lead to a long-term U.S. military presence. Funny how McCain and Palin talk about victory in Iraq, how they will WIN the war, and yet, it seems as if Iraqis could care less if we're there. If they don't want us and feel they are ready to take over their own security, more power to them. Wouldn't having the Iraqis take over their own country and allowing U.S. troops to come home be a "win"? Oh right, I forgot that as soon as we leave, Iraq will become a haven for terrorists. Hmm, well that Status of Forces Agreement, if signed, only gives the U.S. military permission to stay in Iraq until 2011. Golly gee, what if we haven't eradicated all terrorists by then? I suppose we could stay there indefinitely, spending billions and losing even more American lives. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Except al Qaeda seems quite pleased with the way things are going. In fact, they are so pleased, they hope Sen. John McCain gets elected because he will continue President Bush's policies in Iraq, further crippling the U.S. economy. So in essence, we may be playing right into their hands. As long as we want to stay in Iraq, they will be happy to "accommodate" us.

Mullen said we need to stay in Iraq because they will not be ready to provide for their own security when the agreement expires at the end of this year. Who decides that? Iraq's military spokesman said Iraqi forces are ready to take over. When do we trust the Iraqis to take over their own country? Again, it leads to a scenario where we will be there indefinitely.

At some point, the U.S. will have to trust the Iraqi government and military to take care of itself. And no doubt there will still be terrorists in existence either in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, just like there have been for decades before this. If the Iraqis aren't ready after five years, they never will be. And that is not good news for the U.S. -- not for our troops and their families, not for our economy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Note to Republicans

When you venture out in public, perhaps to appear on Hardball with Chris Matthews, it might be wise to tone down the craziness just a smidge. Rep. Michele Bachmann from Minnesota learned that the hard way. Bachmann appeared on Hardball this past Friday, where she said Sen. Barack Obama may have anti-American views and called on the media to do a "penetrating expose" on what members of Congress are pro-America or anti-America. Whoa. Anyone think she sounds like a female Joe McCarthy? I knew nothing about Bachmann until her appearance on Hardball, but after hearing her comments and reading about her other views, I went online and donated to her challenger, Elwyn Tinklenberg's, campaign. Looks like I wasn't the only one. Within 24 hours of Bachmann's Hardball appearance, Tinklenberg received $450,000 in donations. So the lesson to be learned here? If you want to talk crazy, that's just fine in your own home, maybe even in your own district, where voters like you and don't care if you're crazy. But if you're going to go on national television and start talking like you're ready to bring back the House Committee on Un-American Activities, it won't go unnoticed. Hey, Michele, even Gov. Sarah Palin said she "doesn't question Obama's love for this great country."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Alfred E. Smith Dinner in New York City

Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, among others attended the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York City tonight. Both gave humorous speeches. I actually thought Sen. John McCain was quite funny. I liked this McCain. I realize a presidential campaign can't be about humor, but I think McCain was very personable. Definitely check these out.

No longer "my friends"

Last night, Sen. John McCain replaced "my friends" with "Joe the plumber," talking about Joe some 21 times. Joe is now so famous, he's appeared on his local news, a segment which was played on MSNBC's Morning Joe today. I gather talking about Joe the plumber was supposed to endear McCain to the middle class, like when Gov. Sarah Palin talked about Joe Sixpack. But sorry to say, John, you lost again. A CBS poll had Sen. Barack Obama winning the debate 55% to 22%. Aww, say it ain't so, Joe!

Now, to hear some of the political commentators (i.e. David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, et al.) talk, McCain won the debate. They usually qualify it by saying "on points." I don't know what debate they were watching, but it wasn't this one. They said McCain was passionate, aggressive (in a positive way), that he brought it to Obama. But about Obama, they said he was too calm, seemed to be resting on his lead. Huh? So if a candidate is controlled and talks about the issues calmly and intelligently, he's resting on his lead? They must have expected Obama to jump around in his chair and get all fired up. Frankly, I don't think that would serve any candidate well. The American voting public doesn't want or need a hothead for president. On Morning Joe today, someone mentioned that Obama was smiling often as if he were laughing at McCain. Again, what debate were they watching? Yes, Obama smiled, but it's called being friendly. What a concept. Much better than scowling at McCain, or doing as McCain did during some of Obama's responses, which was to just write on his notepad or stare at moderator Bob Schieffer instead of focusing on Obama as he spoke. Or maybe they would have preferred the eye roll, which McCain employed several times last night. Much more mature.

Maybe Obama should have been condescending like McCain. "I admire so much Sen. Obama's eloquence," McCain said. He pointed to Obama's eloquence more than once during the debate, which seemed to be his way of saying Obama is uninformed and has to cover up for it with words (too bad McCain's own running mate doesn't have eloquence). But Obama was much more than just eloquent. He had a good grasp on the issues and detailed what his solutions would be, just as he had in the other debates. In the first debate, I thought McCain conveyed his stance on issues well, but in the last two debates, he's fallen apart. He no longer looks like someone who knows what needs to be done and will do it. The eye rolls, the sighing, the condescension. It was almost as if McCain didn't realize he's down in the polls.

A few issues that came up during the debate stuck with me, and those are the ones I want to address in this post. I think by far, this debate was the best one of the three in that both candidates engaged more with each other and were more detailed in their responses, mainly because Schieffer asked follow-up questions or let the candidates do so.

Corporate taxes. McCain said that American businesses pay the second highest tax rate in the world at 35%. Ireland pays only 11%. Why Ireland? Your guess is as good as mine. But McCain failed to mention that those same American businesses get quite a few tax breaks due to loopholes, to the point that some corporations pay no tax at all. McCain also failed to mention that there are many other differences between the U.S. and Ireland when it comes to corporate taxes. Still, taking all that into account, U.S. corporations aren't creating jobs at home. Obama has said he will give corporations tax breaks if they keep jobs in the U.S., but penalize them if they ship jobs overseas. Obama will close the tax loopholes. So McCain's notion that paying the second highest corporate tax rate in the world is the problem is not on point. Maybe he should move to Ireland.

Oil. When McCain repeated his oft-used statement, "We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much," I was able to repeat the line right along with him. Why? Because he's said it in each of the three debates. I am starting to think he repeats it in his sleep. Unfortunately, it's not true. Do we need to work on energy independence? Yes. But the notion that we need to do it because we're buying all our oil from overseas is misleading. This from an Associated Press article: "The United States spent $246 billion in 2007 for all imported crude oil, a majority of it coming from friendly nations including neighboring Canada and Mexico. An additional $82 billion was spent on imported refined petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and fuel oil. A majority of the refined products come from refineries in such friendly countries as the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Trinidad-Tobago and the Virgin Islands." McCain scolded Obama for saying he will go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan if the Pakistani government won't, or wanting to renegotiate free trade agreements, because McCain said that you just don't say those things out loud. Yet, McCain has no problem referring to allies like the U.K. as "countries who don't like us very much." Now, I know that's not the country he's talking about, but the fact remains that a third of our oil comes from Canada, Mexico and the U.K. They like us. We like them. Why is McCain dissing that by repeating a false claim?

The Spending Freeze. We've heard McCain talk about an across-the-board spending freeze more than once. Of course, the plan changes depending on the day. Sometimes there are exceptions to the freeze. Sometimes the exceptions get expanded to include more programs. Sometimes, like last night, it's just a freeze with no exceptions (although I'll give McCain the benefit of the doubt that he just forgot to mention the exceptions last night). But then during last night's debate, McCain kept talking about things we need to spend money on, and a few times Obama even called him out on those statements. How can we have a freeze but spend money? McCain talked about helping parents who have special needs children. He talked about taking care of the children of mothers who might look to abortion. Family service departments across the U.S. are strapped. Where will the money come from to take care of the children McCain wants born? He talked about education programs, like Head Start and vouchers. Money, money, money. Yet, McCain also told Schieffer, in all seriousness, that he will balance the federal budget in four years. Not will try. Will. McCain said he knows how to "save billions of dollars in defense spending. I know how to eliminate programs." Really? Then why haven't you shared this knowledge with others so our debt didn't continue to rise? It reminded me of his claim that he KNOWS how to get Osama bin Laden. Well, by all means, John, share.

Negative Attacks. I wasn't sure if Schieffer would bring up Bill Ayers. Some commentators said he would. I didn't think it was important to the debate. The issues were much more important. But to Schieffer's credit, he didn't ask specifically about Bill Ayers or ACORN, which I felt would be unfair. Why ask about that, but then not ask a pointed question about McCain's connection to ACORN, or the Keating Five scandal? Schieffer instead questioned the candidates on the negative tone of the campaign. McCain didn't talk about Ayers or ACORN -- at first. He blamed Obama for the negative tone of the campaign, saying this wouldn't have happened if Obama had agreed to those town hall meetings. This argument is weak. So the only reason McCain went negative is because Obama wouldn't do town halls? Town halls or not, Obama had already explained his relationship with Ayers and ACORN. It just wasn't good enough for McCain and his supporters. They wanted the smoking gun. They wanted Obama to come out and say, "Oh you're right, Ayers is my best friend. We hang out frequently. I think he's a great guy." Short of that, nothing would ever be good enough. When McCain finally did bring up Ayers and ACORN, he looked like someone who had been pushed into it. I think McCain came out with the accusations when he did because Obama's original response to Schieffer's question had been so even-tempered. I think McCain was angry that Obama still looked presidential and above the fray. "Mr. Ayers, I don't care about a washed-up old terrorist. But as Sen. Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of the relationship," McCain said. So he doesn't care about Ayers, but he cares? And again, the full extent of the relationship HAD been explained. It just wasn't good enough for McCain. I think Obama did a great job of once again going over his connections to Ayers and ACORN (and I noticed that still no one talked about McCain's connection to ACORN, hmm). And what was McCain's response? He STILL wanted to know all the details about Obama's relationship with Ayers and ACORN. Hey, numbskull, weren't you listening? Do we need to write it out for you? McCain also went on about Rep. John Lewis's comments and wanted Obama to repudiate them. In fact, he brought it up twice. But Lewis had already said he didn't mean to make a direct comparison between McCain and George Wallace, just to say that the tone of McCain's campaign could provoke violence. Lewis had amended his own remarks, so why did Obama have to kneel down before McCain and beg forgiveness? McCain also spoke about how he's proud of the people who come to his rallies, and he's "not going to stand for people saying that the people that come to my rallies are anything but the most dedicated, patriotic men and women." He mentioned a group of young women who were Military Wives for McCain, and the veterans who wear the World War II hats, that it is wrong to say that these people are saying something derogatory about Obama. Um, when did anyone say they were? I could care less about those people. It's the people shouting "kill him" or "off with his head" who are the problem. As long as it's not one of the Military Wives, then what's the issue here? That whole statement just made no sense. I think McCain was trying to say Obama was putting down ALL his supporters, not just the fringe, which he was not.

Education. A few things were said about education, but the one issue that made me laugh was McCain's insistence that vouchers are a good idea. He brought up vouchers in Washington, D.C., was condescending toward Obama on the subject ("And I'm frankly surprised you didn't pay more attention to that example."). Right, the D.C. example. Sure, it was good for the families who were able to get vouchers, but even McCain himself said there were 1,000 vouchers (actually closer to 2,000) for 9,000 parents who wanted them. So 8,000 kids got screwed. Perfect. The voucher program is good in theory, but not in practice. What about those 8,000 kids who don't get a voucher? Where do they go? Right back to the public schools, which weren't doing them any good in the first place. So yes, this is great for the children who get to partake in it, but unless you expand voucher program funding so that more kids have access (and where will you get the money with a spending freeze), it's not a solution. Still, even with expansion of the program, kids will be left out, and unless their schools are improved, we are still in the same boat as we are today.

Abortion. "But what ultimately I believe is that women in consultation with their families, their doctors, their religious advisers, are in the best position to make this decision," Obama said. These are the only people who should have any say in a decision that involves what happens in a woman's life and with her body. Now, McCain touted adoption, citing his and Cindy's decision to adopt as proof of the joy it brings. I commend McCain and his wife for adopting their daughter, but they didn't adopt from within the U.S. What about the children who are already stuck in the system, who might never be adopted? The children placed in foster homes and beaten. The children in orphanages who have very little. Since 1970, adoptions have declined. But McCain said "We'll help take care of it." Meaning he'll, or the government (spending freeze, anyone?), will take care of those children born to mothers who would have had abortions? With what money? Where? Will McCain and Cindy adopt them all? No. Because anti-choice activists only seem to care about what happens to the baby up until birth. After that, the mother and baby are on their own. No money to take care of the baby, Ms. New Mom? Sorry, too bad so sad. Obama made a good point on this issue, saying that pro- and anti-choice activists can find common ground -- pregnancy prevention. He mentioned appropriate sex education, teaching kids that "sexuality is sacred." McCain, however, wants abstinence-only sex education. Great. Again, I ask, where are you going to put all these kids? Where will the money come from? McCain also made a snide remark about the health of the mother with respect to partial-birth abortion stating "that's been stretched by the pro-abortion movement in America to mean almost anything." I think the mothers who have been in situations where they had to choose between their health and their baby probably won't take kindly to that. They may not have wanted to go through an abortion, but had to in order to save themselves. A tough choice no doubt, and now John McCain thinks it's all just been "stretched by the pro-abortion movement."

The commentators have their opinions, but on every issue last night, Obama was on point. McCain made points, but he certainly didn't win on them. He often sounded angry and stilted. I didn't see passion. I saw a man who knows he's down in the polls and has no idea what to do about it. Maybe the commentators felt sorry for him. I know I did, for about a minute, until I realized he brought this on himself. And the statement of the night, according to some commentators, was when McCain said "Sen. Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Oh, it was a zinger, for sure. Wasn't about issues, but hey, why should the most important statement of the debate be about issues? However, Obama had a witty response: "So the fact of the matter is that if I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people, on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush." Take that, John McCain. You've been pwned.