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 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'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!