Thursday, April 02, 2009

Who is an embarassment?

Apparently, Cardinal Francis George thinks it is an "extreme embarrassment" that Notre Dame University invited President Barack Obama to speak at its commencement ceremony. Extreme embarrassment, eh? Wow, strong words. I mean, this is the President of the United States he's talking about. It wasn't so long ago that that kind of talk would cause a person to be branded unpatriotic.

I know Notre Dame is a Catholic university. George, and others, think Obama shouldn't have been asked to speak because his views on abortion and stem cell research are not in line with the views of Catholics. But from looking at Notre Dame's site, there is no requirement that a student be Catholic, or religious at all. I would gather that means there are students of many different religions, and maybe some who don't practice at all. I would also gather that not all students have the same views on abortion or stem cell research, regardless of the fact that they attend a Catholic university. Isn't that pretty much what college is about -- coming into contact with people unlike yourself? And let's face it, not even Notre Dame students are perfect.

It's not as if Obama is going to give a speech about abortion or stem cell research, or try to convince students who have different views than he does to change their views. Obama is about more than just his political views. If anything, the fact that Obama is the first black president should be encouraging to students. And that leads me to something I found on George's Web site.

George wrote a pastoral letter on racism where he talks about people of different races dwelling together. Here is the first black president, and George calls his invitation to speak at Notre Dame an "extreme embarrassment." Now, George wasn't referring to race when he made that comment, but he should have thought a bit more about the obvious consequence of that remark. George says it's an embarrassment and encourages people to write, call and e-mail to convey their displeasure. But by doing so, the end result of that campaign, could be the rescission of the invitation for the first black president to speak. If George is so passionate about ending racism that he would write this long involved pastoral letter, then why not express his concern over the invitation in a different way? Because despite Obama's views on abortion and stem cell research, he is still a success story for minorities, if not for everyone. See what you can do when you work hard. Heck, I'd even go so far as to say Obama is somewhat of a success story when it comes to racism in this country. No, his election didn't eradicate racism, but it meant something. It showed us that if a person is right for the job, he (or she) deserves our vote.

When former President George W. Bush gave the commencement speech at Notre Dame, he too faced protest. He also faced protest when he gave the commencement speech at Yale, his alma mater. So I guess this is just par for the course for presidents. But this notion that Notre Dame's invitation to Obama is an extreme embarrassment to Catholics, well, I think George should be embarrassed for making such a statement, especially when his pastoral letter on racism contains such nuggets as this:

The Gospel compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to abandon patterns of seeing those who are racially or culturally different from ourselves as strangers and to recognize them as our brothers and sisters. Even those who have suffered at the hands of others, individually or collectively, must pray to overcome hostility, forgiving those who have offended them and asking forgiveness from those whom they have offended. We must embrace one another as formerly estranged neighbors now seeking reconciliation.

Seems to me the Cardinal doesn't practice what he preaches. Embarrassment, indeed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The recession hits home

I've never worked at a company that laid off several people at once. I've never sat at my desk worrying that I might get that call telling me to come down for a chat, i.e. the figurative pink slip. I never experienced those things until last week. My company had let a few people go toward the end of last year, but it wasn't anything major and it was mostly eliminating positions that weren't needed. I was worried, but not too worried. I thought I was safe for at least a few more months, that my company wouldn't let anyone else go until the middle of this year, if at all. I was wrong.

I heard rumblings last week that 70 people were going to be let go at the end of the week. I didn't know how much to believe. Was it really 70? Would there be layoffs at all? Would it be that week? But I was scared. Who wouldn't be? I may be young and good at my job, but in this economy that doesn't mean much. Even people my age with my skills are having trouble finding jobs. I barely slept that night, thinking about how I'd pay off the $2,000 in furniture I bought just the weekend before, thinking my job was safe. Here I went out and tried to help the economy by buying something big, and it was going to bite me in the ass, possibly. I should have kept my money under lock and key like I had been, because of my fear of losing my job.

It turned out my company let just over 30 people go, and I wasn't one of them. Not that it makes me feel that much better. People I knew and talked to, who I had worked with for five years, were let go. I was on the verge of tears the whole day, and every time my phone rang, my heart beat faster, until I looked at the display and realized it wasn't my supervisor calling me for that chat. I don't think anyone did anything that day because we were all too consumed with who was being let go. Staff members were calling other staff members to let them know who they had just heard was escorted out. By the end of the day, it was over, but I was no more relieved. Because I realized no one is safe. I always thought if I worked hard, was knowledgeable and received good reviews, I was safe. But I don't believe that anymore. Because in this economic climate, sometimes companies have to let even the good people go. I don't know if there will be more layoffs down the line, and I don't know if it will be me next time. But a day doesn't go by now that I'm not anxious over the possibility, that I'm not looking at my bank accounts to see how much I have available and how I can save more. I'm afraid to buy lunch even one day out of the week because I don't want to waste the money. Not like $7 is going to do much for me. I don't buy anything with my credit card because I don't want the balance, and that furniture that I bought on a 12-month no interest no payment plan will be paid off shortly, just so I don't have that balance hanging over my head. And I won't be buying any other big ticket items this year. I'll be saving my money -- just in case.

I never thought I'd be this scared. I never thought I'd be afraid of getting laid off. I never did, but now I am. And it's not a good feeling.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Schoolyard politics

So is this how politics works?. Like the schoolyard? There is a bully. The bully says you will do this or else. Everyone else complies.

This weekend, a group of black pastors from Chicago rallied on behalf of Sen. Roland Burris and said that those politicians calling for his resignation need to leave him alone. And if the calls for Burris's resignation don't cease, these pastors will not support those politicians in future elections. Wow, so that's how things get done? I thought people would just laugh it off. You can't expect people to take you seriously when making threats like that. Then I heard on the news today that Gov. Pat Quinn is backing off on calls for Burris's resignation. Wimp.

I'm glad to see Rep. Bobby Rush came out of the woodwork for this little gathering. I was starting to wonder where the support he gave to Burris a month ago had gone. But I guess when the subject is race and how Burris is only being treated this way because he's black, Rush will be present. Of course, his claims are asinine. The Sun-Times column quoted Rush as saying that Sen. Larry Craig, for example, was treated better than Burris has been, even though he pled guilty to a crime. Sadly, Rush needs to read his history, because fellow politicians called for Craig's resignation. Mitt Romney said Craig had disappointed the American people. Craig didn't get a free pass because he's white. Nor did Randy Cunningham. Nor did James Traficant. Or even Gary Condit, who wasn't guilty of anything except bad judgment. These are random names, but just ones I could remember or found while reading other items. There are three congressman who are white and who weren't allowed to just skate by. Four, if you count Craig.

But, you say, these guys were convicted of or under suspicion for more serious crimes than Burris. True. But no one really knows what Burris is guilty of, because the story has changed many times over. If Burris was appointed by a governor who was squeaky clean (to the extent that any politician can be that clean), I don't think his waffling would matter to anyone. But Burris had to know when he accepted the appointment that he would be subject to closer scrutiny because of his connection to Rod Blagojevich. The uproar over Burris's revised testimony should come as no surprise to Burris or the black pastors who support him. The problem never was Burris's race. The problem was that he was appointed by a crooked governor. And then his changing testimony about which one of Blago's aides and friends he spoke to, or whether he did or didn't raise money for Blago, made the situation even worse. Burris wants our trust, but how can we trust someone who says one thing at one time and then says another later? And this is not the media attacking Burris. The media reported the facts that were out there. It's not their fault those facts paint Burris in a bad light. Burris himself is responsible. And I love this quote in the Sun-Times column from Rev. Janette Wilson: "You're all at his home every morning; when he goes to bed. You didn't do this for priests . . . wanted for pedophilia." Ha, that's rich. The Church did a pretty good job of covering up the pedophilia scandals, but when the news came out, there were stories. Many of them. Like the Church, Burris was able to cover up the true story about any connections with Blago. But once the news came out, the media reported it. Wilson also said, in the Tribune article, that they would not allow "you to force our senator to resign." He's not our senator. We didn't vote him into office. If anything, he's Blago's senator and we're just forced to go along. What about the people who don't want Burris to represent them? We have no choice. So why should people like Wilson be able to force their senator down our throats? I want a special election. If Burris wants to run, and Wilson and others want to vote for him, then so be it. But at least the people of Illinois would have a say in who represents them in the Senate.

I know racism is alive and well in this country, but where it doesn't exist, why must others make it an issue? Don't we have enough true racism to deal with? Burris's race is not an issue. This isn't a black vs. white issue. But the black pastors for Burris have now made it one by threatening not to support politicians, many of whom are white, who called for Burris's resignation. This is about what is best for Illinois, and it is not in our state's best interests to be represented by someone who can't keep his story straight. If the black pastors for Burris want him as their senator, they can vote in a special election.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

No trust

So the government lends taxpayers' money to the banks with the idea that they would then lend that money to people to get the economy moving again. I know there were other objectives to lending money to banks , but that was one of them. So what does Northern Trust (a/k/a No Trust, to me) do with some of their money? It spends the money on schmoozing clients for the Northern Trust Open, a golf tournament.

Now, No Trust argued that it didn't spend the bailout money, of which it received $1.5 billion, on the event, which included concerts by Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire and Sheryl Crow as well as hotel rooms at the Ritz Carlton. But my response to that is, how badly could the bank have been hurting if it had other money to spend on the event?

If No Trust is doing so well now that it can throw money away on party time, then maybe it should repay that $1.5 billion tout de suite. No Trust also argued that the schmoozing was part of its marketing program, and a No Trust spokesman said, "It's about client relationships and showing appreciation for clients." Really? I wonder how many of the people No Trust put up in the Ritz and who were in attendance at all those concerts were just regular "clients." I wonder if Joe Average, who has a checking account with No Trust that contains maybe a few thousand and a savings account to match, was a part of these events. Because he's a client too, and many more like him. He might not be a whale, but he put his trust in No Trust just like anyone else. So what No Trust is really saying is these events were for lucrative clients and building those relatoinships. And to that I say, it wasn't just the lucrative clients' money that made up that $1.5 billion No Trust received. It was Joe Average's too. I think it's time for No Trust to pay Joe Average back. All $1.5 billion.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I just wanted to rant for a moment here. This morning I decided it was time to sign up for the half marathon I usually run in the summer. I had waited because the registration cost for the Chicago Marathon was quite high ($125), and I also signed up for the Shamrock Shuffle ($40), which I had to do in January because the race fills up fast. I usually do all my registrations online. It's faster and instantaneous. And usually I'm charged a dollar or two as a registration fee. I don't really understand the fee, since everything is being done online so I imagine there is little manpower required on the race organizer's part, but a dollar or two is not a big deal. Today, however, I'm signing up for what is now the Rock N' Roll Chicago Half Marathon (used to be the Bank of America Chicago Distance Classic Half Marathon) and find out they charge $6.95 as a registration fee. The race itself cost $70, so that's kind of a hefty fee to tack on. Not only that, but if you fill out the registration form by hand and either fax or send it in, you just pay $70. So for the convenience of online registration, you're paying almost 10% more in fees, even though registering online should take less work for all involved.

So of course, what did I do? I canceled my online registration before paying, filled out a hard copy form and faxed it in. In this economy, I'm trying to save all the money I can, and my race fees per year probably cost me about $300. Add in shoes and running clothes, and you have another $200 to $300. I would think Elite Racing, which runs the Rock N'Roll series of marathons and half-marathons, would understand this. Bank of America never charged $6.95 for registration. In fact, last year, I paid $55 with a $4.95 fee. Now, before you say, well that fee's about 10% too, sure it is. But in total, I was only paying $59.95. That's $17 less than this year's registration cost. And the year before (2007), the half marathon again charged $55 with no registration fee.

Now, in all fairness, it is the Active Network, which Elite uses as its registration service, that charges the fee. But Active isn't a small company. They handle a lot of the registrations for various races, including the Chicago Marathon. They don't need a 10% fee. And every year, these races charge more money. I remember my first Chicago Marathon I think I paid $80 or something, maybe less. This year, it's $125. I used to do both triathlons and marathons, but had to stop because the race fees were getting so high I couldn't afford to do both. The Accenture Chicago Triathlon is $165 this year.

I'm not saying the cost isn't warranted to some degree. The race organizers have to pay for supplies and food, medical personnel, police presence and any paid employees (many are volunteers). But why just a couple years ago could the Chicago Marathon get by with $110 registration fee, and this year it's $125? Sadly, I believe the answer is -- because they can. We'll pay it because we want to run. And even if I decide to bow out once the fee gets to say, $150, there will be many other people willing to pay in my place. It's a shame that those of us who love running or doing triathlons have to almost work a second job to afford the races. I'm starting to wonder if I'm better off as a "recreational runner." It would definitely be cheaper. If the Chicago Marathon goes up another $15 next year, I probably will seek out a less expensive marathon, even if I have to travel. Sure, I'd have to spend the money on travel costs, but at least I'd get a little vacation out of it. If I can find a marathon that costs about $60, and they are out there, I'm already $80 ahead.

Well, that's my rant for today. I faxed in my form to Elite Racing, to save the $6.95. I can put it toward the new running shoes I need.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where's B. Rush?

Maybe Rep. Bobby Rush is gearing up to make a statement on behalf of his pal, Roland Burris. But I'm surprised it's taking so long. Back when the U.S. Senate was blocking Burris from being seated, Rush was quick to throw out the race card. Burris would have been the only black senator, just as President Obama had been. The U.S. Senate, according to Rush, didn't want a black man around. Never mind that under normal circumstances, it doesn't matter what the other senators want. Senators are elected. If there are no black men or women in the Senate, the voters are to blame, not other senators. Never mind that a black man, a former senator, was elected president, supported by some of the same senators that Rush now claimed didn't want Burris around because of his race.

No, the issue back then, if Rush had bothered to step back for a bit, was about Rod Blagojevich's taint on the whole process. Blago had been arrested. Politicians and voters were skeptical about the appointment, whether Burris gave anything to Blago in return. That was the issue. Not Burris's race.

And now, when information has come out that Burris not only had contact with more Blago associates than he testified to but also tried to organize a fundraiser for Blago, Rush is nowhere to be found. Like I said, maybe Rush's support is forthcoming. Maybe it is meant to be implied. But I don't see Rush giving any press conferences or TV interviews now. No statements that Burris is being attacked because he's black and the U.S. Senate wants him out. I don't see any press releases from the Congressional Black Caucus once again supporting Burris. Has Rush realized his mistake? Has he, with the benefit of hindsight, realized maybe he shouldn't have been so quick to blame the ruckus over Burris on race?

I don't see the support that was there a little over a month ago. But I'm waiting.

Kass, off his rocker again

John Kass is better at finding people to blame than Roland Burris. In his column today, Kass blames President Obama for the Burris mess. Wow, now there's some well-thought out journalism. The Chicago Tribune shouldn't have even wasted the ink. Because Kass spends about half the article talking about Mayor Daley, Burris playing the race card, Blagojevich and the FBI wiretaps, etc. The only blame he puts on Obama is that Obama should have pushed for a special election for his Senate seat and that Obama wanted Burris seated so that Burris could vote in favor of the stimulus bill. Well, damn, there's a smoking gun if I ever saw one!

First, Obama did push for a special election, but I guess Kass didn't bother to research that. Or maybe Kass's use of the word "demanded" means he thought Obama should have pushed harder on the issue. But let's face it, other Illinois politicians also were asking for a special election, among other things. It was out there already. Obama also called for Blago's resignation. But I guess that wasn't "demanding" enough either. And frankly, on the heels of becoming our new president, Obama had a little more to worry about than just Illinois's troubles. He didn't create this mess, other than getting himself elected as president thereby leaving an empty Senate seat for the selling. Not his fault.

As for passage of the stimulus bill, I doubt Burris's one vote mattered all that much. Yes, the bill passed 60-38, so just barely. But with all the back and forth on the bill, I'm sure without that one vote, the Senate would have come to a resolution on the bill eventually. They couldn't do nothing. Even Republicans could understand that. Looking back, I believed Burris should be seated and the whole mess put behind us. The Senate had more pressing matters to deal with than the business of whether Burris should or should not be seated. They didn't need Illinois's mess in their house. Even though I was skeptical that Burris was appointed without giving Blago something in return, I hadn't seen or read anything saying he had, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

This mess is no one's fault but Blago's and Burris's. It's not on Rep. Jim Durkin for asking the wrong questions. It's not on Obama. It's not on other Illinois politicians. Blago appointed Burris, even though Blago should have left the task up to someone else (whether the people of Illinois by special election, or by resigning). Blago was given that authority by the Illinois Constitution. After Blago's arrest, there wasn't enough time to do anything to prevent what happened, to force Blago to do something other than what he did. Burris accepted the seat, because of his blind ambition. Burris wasn't completely truthful in his affidavits or his testimony. A mess has ensued. But it is a mess of their making, not anyone else's. Although I know how Kass likes to stick it to a Democrat.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Burris in the hot seat again

Sen. Roland Burris should have known what would happen if he let himself get mixed up with the likes of Rod Blagojevich. Just a little over a month after being sworn in as President Barack Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate, Burris is under suspicion once again.

When first appointed, many people doubted that Burris didn't conduct any behind-the-scenes deals with Blago for the seat. But we gave Burris the benefit of the doubt. And Burris might still be clean. However, the information that recently came out doesn't look good.

Burris sent an affidavit to Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie, head of the impeachment committee, to supplement testimony he gave in January before that same committee. During his original testimony, Burris forgot to mention that he had been in contact with other Blago friends, staff and relatives besides Lon Monk. Burris stated in the affidavit and during his press conference that he was asked another question by Rep. Jim Durkin, which is why he never went back to supplement his answer with these other names. It's all Durkin's fault, in other words. If Durkin hadn't confused Burris, Burris would have mentioned John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, John Wyma, et al. during his testimony. Below is that line of questioning. You decide for yourself if Burris had an opportunity to answer the question fully at that time.

REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Did you talk to any members of the Governor's staff or anyone closely related to the Governor, including family members or any lobbyists connected with him, including let me throw out some names, John Harris, Rob Blagojevich, Doug Scofield, Bob Greenleaf, Lon Monk, John Wyma, did you talk to anybody who was associated with the Governor about your desire to seek the appointment prior to the Governor's arrest?
MR. WRIGHT: Give us a moment.
MR. BURRIS: I talked to some friends about my desire to be appointed, yes.
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: I guess the point is I was trying to ask, did you speak to anybody who was on the Governor's staff prior to the Governor's arrest or anybody, any of those individuals or anybody who is closely related to the Governor?
MR. BURRIS: I recall having a meeting with Lon Monk about my partner and I trying to get continued business, and I did bring it up, it must have been in September or maybe it was in July of '08 that, you know, you're close to the Governor, let him know that I am certainly interested in the seat.
REPRESENTATIVE DURKIN: Okay. Did you speak to any individuals who -- any individuals who were also seeking the appointment of the United States Senate seat, otherwise people we've referred to as Senate candidates one through five?
MR. BURRIS: No, I did not.

I watched Burris's press conference. When asked why he didn't tell the impeachment committee about these other contacts during his testimony, Burris asked his lawyer, Tim Wright, to answer. But then reporters badgered Burris about why he couldn't answer the question, why did he need his lawyer? Burris went on to answer, or try to answer, the question, but again, he just blamed Durkin's line of questioning. But the transcript of his testimony doesn't show that. Durkin didn't ask Burris about Monk, to the exclusion of all others. Burris talked about Monk and no one else. And then Burris waited over a month, until after he had received the transcript of his testimony, to suddenly realize he left something out. A few somethings, or somebodies as the case may be.

Regardless of Durkin's line of questioning, Burris knew why he was at that hearing. He should have made sure, at that hearing, that the committee members knew everything there was to know about his contacts with Blago's friends, staff and family. But I think Burris also knew that admitting to those contacts would only make him look worse. And he was already looking pretty bad.

Some have questioned whether Burris only prepared this affidavit because he found out his conversations, or any one of them, were taped by the FBI. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but I am wondering the very same thing. Burris said in his press conference that federal prosecutors had reached out to his lawyers because they wanted to talk to Burris. But Burris claimed no meeting had been arranged and no discussions had been had. And later in the press conference, Wright said that the FBI hadn't contacted them, then said there "may have been some contact," but when asked by reporters for more information, Wright refused to give any more. Did Burris know what was forthcoming?

In the press conference, Burris also makes a distinction between "the appointment" and "the Senate seat," as if the two are different. Burris said he filed an affidavit about "the appointment" before he gave testimony, stating that he didn't talk to anyone about the appointment. Burris accused the Republicans on the impeachment committee of starting this line of questioning about who he talked to period. But Burris's Feb. 5 affidavit stated that he did talk to people about the U.S. Senate seat. How Burris sees a distinction between talking to people about his appointment and talking to people about the seat is beyond me. They are one in the same. His appointment was to the Senate seat, so therefore, any conversations he had with Blago's associates about the open seat was the same as talking to them about an appointment, because how else did Burris intend to get the seat? By osmosis?

And this lapse in judgment brings me to something else I gave Burris the benefit of the doubt on when he was appointed by Blago. I read about his lapse in judgment on the Rolando Cruz case, but I figured it was mistake. No doubt it was a BIG mistake (an innocent man put in jail and Burris fought his appeal even though an employee in his office told him there were inconsistencies in the case). But it was the only mark on his record that I read about. Now, here is another lapse in judgment. Whether the lapse was taking the Senate seat to begin with after being appointed by a crooked governor, or whether it was not providing complete testimony before the impeachment committee, it was a lapse. And I'm not sure Illinois can accept any more lapses.

P.S. At the end of his press conference, Burris then blamed this whole mess on the media. First, Durkin, then the MSM. Who isn't at fault, Senator?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What's really important

I read this column by John Kass this morning and had a laugh about it. I don't like Kass's columns very much. They are so full of puffery at times, it's difficult to continue reading. But now I see this topic is front and center on the Chicago Tribune's Web site, so I thought I'd write about it.

Why is this important? If E-Verify was such a spectacular program, why was it just put into play now? If the Republicans wanted to make using E-Verify mandatory for all employers, they could have done it anytime since 1997, when the program was first introduced (under a different name). But now the House Democrats put it in a stimulus bill, the Senate takes it out, and it must be all the Democrats' fault. The headline to Kass's column is even "Democrats undercut aid for U.S. workers." Seriously? Again, if this program was so important, why didn't Republicans make it law when they had a majority in Congress? I guess "Republicans undercut aid to U.S. workers" too. And really does Kass even know why the E-Verify provision was taken out? No, he doesn't say. He talked to one Republican senator (Jeff Sessions from Alabama) who said the Democrats stripped it out of the stimulus bill, and that's all the proof he needs. Kass doesn't know if the provision was taken out in hopes of getting more Republican support. I guess, like Kass, we can all speculate. Or could it be because E-Verify still has its problems?

And from my reading, E-Verify does have its problems (or see here or here or here). Maybe Kass should question whether the program's glitches and shortcomings aren't to blame for its disappearance from the bill. Or maybe Kass should just focus on more important issues altogether, like our failing economy and rising unemployment rates. E-Verify makes little difference to people when there aren't jobs to apply for, or when companies can't afford to hire more employees.

I could care less about the reason E-Verify disappeared from the Senate version of the bill. I could care less about some program that is supposed to verify someone's eligibility to work in this country, because by the time an illegal immigrant gets to the point that he or she tries to apply for a job, he or she is already in this country. If Kass is serious about illegal immigration, he should be writing columns about immigration reform. E-Verify is a too-late solution to a much bigger problem. And we have plenty of problems to tackle right now.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Race or reality?

I read this column by Phil Rosenthal in the Chicago Tribune yesterday, and the events it described bothered me. Quick synopsis -- Warner Saunders, an NBC 5 news anchor, accused Robert Feder, a former Chicago Sun-Times columnist, of bias in his columns against black journalists in Chicago. Saunders didn't accuse Feder in private. He accused him in front of everyone at the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists meeting. Saunders even brought a speech prepared just for the occasion.

Now, I will admit that I never read Feder's columns. I may have read them at some point in the past, but not enough to remember that it was his column I was reading. But I read many of the comments to Rosenthal's column, and commentors who were regular Feder readers stated that Feder wasn't biased. He gave the business to everyone, white or black. I also read the same thing expressed in other blogs (you can find them by typing in "Warner Saunders" and "Robert Feder" in Google, too many to link here).

I started to wonder -- what this really a case of race or was it reality? If a white person criticizes a black person, is it automatically a case of race? What if the criticism is true?

I've watched Saunders on NBC 5, and he is not good. He may have been once, but he at times can't even read the teleprompter accurately. He makes mistakes. He mispronounces words. That is not a race-based criticism. It is the truth. And those criticisms were also expressed in comments and blogs I read. If Feder expressed the same in his columns, does that make him biased? Even if Feder was biased and picked on journalists of color, if he pointed out Saunders' shortcomings, he was on point. I think many NBC 5 news watchers would agree. And if Feder was so biased, why in the past had he praised Saunders (mentioned in Rosenthal's column)?

This being the case, it bothered me that Saunders not only blamed the criticisms on Feder's bias, instead of recognizing his own poor performance, but that he confronted Feder is such a public way. Saunders said,
"I simply wanted to confront him, face to face. I just spoke my truth in front of a person who I felt has been unfair to me and to black journalists in this city. … Very few people who are not in our skin can understand this."
If Saunders wanted to confront him, there were other venues to do it. Call Feder on the phone perhaps. And no, I don't understand it. I don't understand the need to humiliate a fellow journalist in front of other journalists in order to cover up my own mistakes. But not understanding that has nothing to do with race. It's just reality. I won't be watching NBC 5 news in the future. The station can thank Saunders for that.

Oh those downstaters

Looks like State Sen. Larry Bomke from Springfield has been spending too much time with his head in the cornfields. It was just last week that Rod Blagojevich was voted out of office. Gov. Pat Quinn and the rest of the legislature is now faced with the task of fixing what Blago broke. And what does Bomke's to-do list contain? A proposal to fire Bill Ayers. He wants Ayers fired from his position at the University of Illinois in Chicago. Yes, that is certainly top on Illinoisans' minds right now. I've been wondering when they were going to get to that. Forget our $5 billion budget deficit. Forget that our former governor was arrested and later voted out of office, and Illinois is now a laughingstock. Ayers is definitely the problem, and firing him will put Illinois back on track.

Ayers has taught at UIC for over 20 years, and until the presidential election campaign, when Republicans trotted the Ayers' story out in order to paint President Barack Obama (then, Sen. Obama) as a terrorist sympathizer, someone who pals around with terrorists, no one cared. Parents whose children were being taught by Ayers weren't up in arms over his past bad acts. No one called for his firing because of who he was. I don't think anyone condones what Ayers did so many years ago, but it was so many years ago. Although only Ayers can speak to this, what he has done since then has seemed to be his way of making up for it. I found this letter, written by one of Ayers' colleagues at UIC, and posted on a former Ayers' student's blog. UIC Professor Willian H. Schubert talks about the Bill Ayers he knows.

So given all this, Bomke's proposal is just another waste of time for Illinois. It's not important. It won't make a substantial difference to anyone in Illinois. It won't provide jobs for Illinoisans (except for the person who would take Ayers' place). It won't fix the budget. It won't clean up government. In fact, all it does is make our government look more wasteful. If the legislature wants to oust people from their jobs because of bad acts, whether those acts are considered terrorism or not, maybe they should put in a proposal to remove Cook County Board President Todd Stroger from his post? Or Mayor Richard M. Daley? They have wasted taxpayers' money. They have been involved in scandals (Hired Truck or hiring family). They certainly haven't helped people in Illinois.

I do wonder, why now? Ayers has taught at UIC for years. Bomke has served in the Senate since 1995. Fourteen years, and not a word said until now, after Ayers' story was splashed across the television and newspaper pages during the presidential election campagin. Now, Bomke wants to do something about it. Maybe Bomke should resign. I mean, he has sat back for fourteen years while big bad Bill Ayers (*sarcasm*) was teaching at UIC. Let's put it to a vote. Because we have nothing else to worry about here in Illinois.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


The Senate voted unanimously to impeach Rod Blagojevich this afternoon. They also voted unanimously to prevent him from holding public office in Illinois in the future. Justice has been done. Blago gave a impromtu press conference outside his house tonight (no security now that he is a private citizen so the press was able to get close). He repeated many of the same things he's been saying over the past couple days, including in his closing arguments. He teared up, but it looked fake. He repeated his claim that "the fix is in" when asked about the unanimous vote. Blago just can't accept that he was wrong. We know it. The senators knew it. And he will have to live with it. I'm just glad he's gone.

Blago's last stand

I listened to Rod Blagojevich's closing argument today in his impeachment trial. Again, I heard the same spiel about how he wasn't allowed to call witnesses. I expected as much. He tried to explain away his activities as just politics as usual. Just a governor trying to get things done for the people of Illinois. I think he hoped the senators would shake their heads in agreement and say, "Sure, this is politics as usual." But whether it is or not, it shouldn't be. This is not how government in any city or state, or in our nation, should be. Many of us are cynical already about politics. Politicians are liars and crooks. Government doesn't work for the people. Why vote? Why care? Rod Blagojevich is an example of why people feel that way. And it is a shame. It is not a defense.

Blago said he did nothing wrong. He said he wasn't guilty of the criminal charges and would prove it in his criminal trial. Then he went charge by charge over the rest of the Articles of Impeachment (those charges that were not in the criminal complaint) to explain why he wasn't wrong in those instances either. But in each case, all he seemed to do was explain why he was wrong. Blago argued he did nothing wrong by going around the legislature to expand healthcare, to buy flu vaccines with taxpayer money, and to buy prescription drugs from outside the U.S., which was against federal law. But he did, and his explanation proved he did. He said he didn't need to go through the legislature for these things, or through the Joint Committee on Adminstrative Rules, even though state law required he do so. Blago argued that these actions had been done before he was elected for a second term, and he should have been impeached before then. He's right. I know impeachment was talked about even before Blago's arrest. Blago himself mentioned it in his national interviews. I can only guess that some Democratic representatives and senators were not on board with impeachment, even if it was deserved. Maybe even some Republicans were reluctant to get on board, because it would have been an embarrassment to Illinois. Maybe they didn't think it would get this bad. But after Blago's arrest, impeachment could no longer be just a whisper in the halls in Springfield. Blago was already embarrassing Illinois. What more could an impeachment do?

For the most part, Blago said nothing new in his closing argument. Nothing that I can see would change any senators' mind on impeachment, if they were for it. So far, it seems I'm right. I've been listening to the deliberations the past half hour and each senator who has spoken has said he or she is for impeachment. They are embarrassed. They are appalled. They want a new chapter to start for Illinois, one that doesn't include Rod R. Blagojevich. I can only hope tomorrow begins that chapter.

SIDE NOTE: Blago left right after his closing argument in his state plane to fly back to Chicago because he was afraid to stick around to listen to deliberations and the final decision. He was afraid because if he stuck around and was indeed impeached, he would no longer have access to the plane and would have to find another way home. Yep, the Governor, always thinking about himself.

Flying in

I was quite disturbed to read that Rod Blagojevich was flying in to Springfield to make closing statements today at his impeachment trial. Flying in? Yes, he boarded a small plane at O'Hare this morning to fly to Springfield, and plans to fly back after he gives his statement. And who paid for that small plane? Something tells me it was the taxpayers of Illinois. So it's nice to see that after his whirlwind media tour where he proclaimed he was just trying to do what was best for the citizens of Illinois, he continues to screw us. Is Blago above getting in a car the night before and driving to Springfield? After all, it's only a few hours. No, I suspect the governor thinks he's still too special for that sort of transportation. Hello, he's been on NATIONAL TELEVISION! National TV darlings don't DRIVE to their destinations. They are flown, like celebrities. I suppose that's the problem with Blago, one of them anyway. He seems to think he's better than anyone else, and can get away with almost anything. Almost. His closing statement is at 11 a.m., for anyone interested in watching. The Chicago Tribune has a link to the proceedings online.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

We voted for him

I shook my head in agreement while reading the Chicago Tribune's editorial today titled "Illinois, policing itself." The editorial discussed why Illinois residents are responsible for the mess with Rod Blagojevich, for the most part. We voted for him. Well, not everyone did. I didn't. Actually, 1,750,452 didn't. Blago won re-election in 2006 with less than 50% of the vote (okay, it was 49.8%, but that's still less). But be that as it may, he was still re-elected. So we, the voters, are responsible. Now, I'll admit between Blago and Judy Baar Topinka, there wasn't much of a choice. Topinka wasn't a saint, being tied to former Gov. George Ryan. But in reading one of the comments to the editorial, I was reminded of an issue I have with elections, whether state or federal. The comment by "tired of it" said, in part: "Seriously, what were our options in the last gubernatorial election? An off-putting woman less appealing than a t-rex or Blago--is that a real choice??? I voted green, thank you (BTW, a little more press on the green party might help us stupid citizens understand our options)."

I voted the Green Party as well, but it's true that there wasn't much press on any other party, as is the norm in elections. I had to find my own information about the Green Party candidate, Rich Whitney. We have very few choices in politics. I'm not saying having more parties and candidates in elections would mean less corruption, but at least we'd have options. At least the Democratic and Republican candidates would know they had more than just one other candidate to beat out, and we would have more of a choice if the Democratic or Republican candidates were corrupt losers. And voters wouldn't get a sense that they were "wasting" their votes if they voted for someone other than a Republican or a Democrat.

And this goes for city elections too. How long has Mayor Daley been in office? I think I might have been in diapers when he was first elected. No, that's an exaggeration. I believe I was 14, so a good 20 years. I have two words -- term limits. Daley is re-elected because no viable candidate runs against him. Again, we don't have enough choices, and many voters just choose the usual, even if they know the usual isn't working anymore. But term limits would be nice. I don't have a huge beef with Daley, but I'm starting to get annoyed. The increase in the Cook County portion of the sales tax pissed me off, but I'm close enough to the suburbs that I can avoid the city taxes, at least. Then he decided not to plow the side streets right away when we started getting some serious snowfalls last month. That was his way of saving money. Of course, when my side streets are one huge sheet of ice and people are falling and breaking hips and legs, lawsuits are bound to follow. Don't think the city is going to save money that way. Daley must have realized it too, because a few weeks after he made that announcement, he changed his mind. Perhaps a few of those lawsuits started rolling in. Or perhaps he remembered that Jane Byrne was elected mayor when when the current mayor, Michael Bilandic, couldn't handle the snow. Then today, it's reported that Ron Huberman will be selected as head of the Chicago Public Schools.

For those of you not from Chicago and unfamiliar with Ron Huberman, he has been the head of the Chicago Transit Authority. And what a wonderful job he's done of managing that agency. Train cars that are so dirty the blue fabric on the seats look black and the floor is covered in dirt and garbage. Oh and the smell of piss! Fantastic. Then there are the people who beg for change on the train, or try to sell things. Or the muggings or assaults that happen on or around the train platforms, even though security guards man the stations at night (I once saw a guard sleeping in the booth at the Red Line Sheridan stop -- so glad she was getting paid to nap). The buses are just as bad, and if they show up, you usually get four buses at a time after waiting 30 minutes. And for all this, the CTA just raised fares. It now costs $86 a month to ride the train, up from $75. Yes, for $11 more a month you can ride in filth, elbow to elbow with your fellow Chicagoans, smelling the body odor and bad breath. For all Huberman's great work with the CTA, he now gets the job at CPS. Problem is, not only has he not shown himself to be a good manager but he has no educational background. So a guy who has been a Chicago police officer and been head of two Chicago agencies -- neither of which were education-related -- will now be running one of the most important agencies any city can have. I wonder how long it will be before Chicago students' test scores start going down again? Is this the best Daley could do? I know Huberman is his main man, but that doesn't mean he's qualified.

But when Daley is up for election again, who will run against him? Will that person be "serious" enough for voters? I do hope so. We need more choices. We need more than Daley and Blagojevich. Oh and Todd Stroger, don't even get me started on him. He's the reason our sales tax is the highest in the nation. And he ended up in office because his father, John, was too sick to run, even though his father's name appeared on the primary election ballot. People voted for John Stroger because they always had, not taking into account that John was in a hospital bed at that very moment and might not be able to serve. They didn't realize Todd would take over, but they should have. It's Chicago. It's obvious. I voted for Forrest Claypool, but John Stroger won. And sure enough, Todd Stroger replaced him in the general election. The Republican candidate, sadly, was Tony Peraica, who was too severe for me. So I didn't vote for anyone in that race, which I guess wasn't any better than voting for Todd Stroger. He won the election, and the rest is sad history. Hello, 10.25% sales tax so Toddy can hire his friends and relatives and have a private elevator in the City Hall building.

People can say this is just Chicago politics, but that is not an excuse. That doesn't make it right. And the Tribune's editorial is right on -- we, the voters, are at fault for this. We didn't police ourselves.

Monday, January 26, 2009

My favorite Blagoisms

In watching the videos of Rod Blagojevich's various media appearances this morning, I realized there were some phrases or statements he made over and over that have really started to annoy me. I thought I would list my favorites here for all to enjoy.

"Give us a chance to challenge the charges. Give me a chance to call in witnesses, like Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, who said there was nothing inappropriate in his conversations with me. Give me a chance to bring in Valerie Jarrett, a high-ranking member of the Obama administration. Give me a chance to bring in Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., all of whom have talked to the FBI and have said there was nothing inappropriate in their relationships with me."

Blago made this statement in every appearance, in some way, shape or form. What I find so utterly ridiculous about it is that just because Emanuel, Jarrett and Jackson, Jr. might testify that they had no inappropriate conversations with Blago doesn't mean he didn't have such conversations with others, which, according to the portions of the tapes released and contained in the criminal complaint, is exactly the case.

"You can conceivably bring in 15 angels and 20 saints, led by Mother Teresa, to come in and testify to my good character, my integrity and all the rest. It wouldn't matter."

Again, Blago trotted out this statement a couple times in his appearances. What he seems to forget is that the reason why angels, saints, Mother Teresa, God, the Pope, etc., etc. wouldn't matter is because THEY CAUGHT HIM ON TAPE. You can't refute evidence like that. Unless Blago is going to somehow prove it wasn't his voice on those tapes, well, there's not much Mother Teresa could do for him.

"And then, you know, the day unfolded and I had a whole bunch of thoughts; of course, my children and my wife. And then I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi, and tried to put some perspective in all of this."

When I first heard this, I thought Blago was trying to compare himself to Nelson Mandela and the rest, which I thought was a big stretch. On The View today, he said that was taken out of context and he wasn't trying to compare himself to those individuals, but think about people who had similar experiences. I don't know if that really changes the original meaning of the quote. It still seems like Blago thinks his experience is similar to individuals who suffered much more than he has, and not for being crooked politicians. His plight is borne solely out of his own desire to make an extra buck as governor of Illinois. It wasn't because of his race or his religion. His "persecution" is of his own making. We don't feel sorry for him for that.

"Well, I trust in the truth. And my only request would be I would hope that they get to hear the whole story. Taking snippets of conversations out of context isn't the whole story."

Another constant theme in Blago's appearances today was that the taped telephone conversations, or at least the portions released to the public and contained in the criminal complaint, were taken out of context. I said it in my previous post, what context would make what we heard seem legal? Because frankly, I can't think of anything else the governor could have said that we didn't hear that would make me think he is innocent.

Blago's comparisons of himself to movie characters, reciting lines of poetry, trotting out gospel song titles to describe his situation.

I think this speaks to Blago's possible mental instability. He thinks his life is some kind of fantasy. He's a movie character, a line of poetry, a gospel song. I want to puke. Governor, you're a crook. End of story.

Blago will be on Larry King Live tonight. I'm interested to see how many times he brings up these same Blagoisms on that show. By now, even the national audience has to be as tired of him as we in Illinois are.

"Come to Illinois. Chock full o' crazy."

That's a line from a column written by Rex W. Huppke in the Chicago Tribune today. And right now, I have to say Huppke isn't far from the truth. Huppke's column discussed Rod Blagojevich's hiring of Drew Peterson's public relations firm. People may remember that Peterson is the former suburban police sergeant accused of murdering his third wife, whose death was ruled accidental in 2004, and his fourth wife, who has been missing since October 2007.

And I suppose the PR firm's first order of business was to send Blago on a media tour to proclaim his innocence, similar to what Peterson did after he had been accused. Except it didn't work in Peterson's case, and it sure isn't working in Blago's. However, Peterson wasn't on trial at that time and refusing to show up for his defense, claiming that the whole proceeding was unfair. Blago has chosen to appear on The Today Show, The View, Good Morning America and Larry King Live rather than at his own impeachment trial before the Illinois Senate, which began today. Blago went on about how the rules for the trial were unfair because he can't call witnesses, which is false. He said the politicians were trying to punish him for keeping taxes down, creating jobs, extending healthcare benefits and providing free rides to seniors. All completely ridiculous. Blago seems to have forgotten he was CAUGHT ON TAPE. Although, he did address that issue in his interviews, so I guess he hasn't completely forgotten. Blago's defense was that the statements were taken out of context. Somehow I find it very hard to believe that putting those statements in context would make one bit of difference. What else exactly did you say in those phone conversations, Governor, that would make us believe you weren't trying to sell the vacant U.S Senate seat? Was the phrase "just kidding" in there somewhere?

Blago doesn't realize that it is not the rest of the nation whose sympathy he must win. People in California or New York or Florida don't have any interest in what is happening Illinois. The only thing Blago is providing the nation with is a good laugh. No one feels sorry for him. No one feels the impeachment trial is unfair, except for Blago himself. Most comments I've read on articles or blog posts are calling for Blago's swift removal from office. What Blago needed to do was show up at that "unfair" trial in the Illinois Senate and attempt to defend himself. Use whatever witnesses and previous testimony and/or statements he was allowed. Do whatever he had to do to make the voters of Illinois, those he is so proud of stating twice elected him as governor, believe they didn't make the wrong choice. I still think it would be a lose-lose situation for Blago, no matter what he did, because again, he was caught on tape. But at least I'd have a bit more respect for the man, as much respect as you can have for a corrupt politician. This media tour of his was the last straw. If you'd like to see his appearance on Good Morning America, it follows (in two parts). Quite funny, if it wasn't so sad from an Illinois resident's perspective.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Needs mental help

I am now convinced Rod Blagojevich needs mental help. Even before a former Blagojevich aide said Blago needed a psychiatric evaluation, I thought he was off. First, who proclaims he doesn't care if his phones are tapped, and then goes on to talk about illegal activities? Second, who proclaims his innocence after his illegal activities have been caught on tape? Third, who goes jogging around the neighborhood when he's in the kind of trouble Blago is, like it's just any other day? Does the phrase "keep a low profile" mean anything? How about running on the treadmill indoors? And last, well, last was today's article in the Chicago Tribune.

Blago said his impeachment is a way for the Illinois government to raise taxes. Huh? Yep, he said the government wants to get him out of the way because Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn has made a deal with Democratic leaders to raise taxes once Blago is gone. I suppose Blago hasn't realized that we have the highest sales tax of any city in the nation (Chicago does), and that was under HIS watch. Sure, the county was responsible for that hike, but Blago didn't do anything to stop it. Frankly, Blago's "extracurricular" activities have done far more damage to Illinois and its residents than any tax hike ever could. He has embarrassed our state. He thumbed his nose at the public after his arrest and appointed Roland Burris as senator instead of resigning and letting someone who wasn't under investigation handle the task. Then Blago sat back while Burris fought for his seat, which I guess kept Blago off the front page for a little while. That may very well have been his plan. But the mess it caused for Illinois, for Burris and even for the U.S. Senate could have been prevented had Blago just stepped aside.

And still, even now, even after the House voted 114-1 (the new House voted 117-1, with the lone "no" vote cast by Blago's sister-in-law, Deb Mell, surprise) for impeachment and a trial starting in the Senate, Blago still thinks he's a viable governor. He thinks the impeachment trial is a sham, that the government is thwarting the will of the people by trying to oust him, since he was elected. Sir, you might be governor in name, but many of us can't stand you. If we were allowed to vote on Blago's impeachment, I surely would vote a resounding "yes." I can only hope that the trial goes as quickly as possible and the Senate comes to the same conclusion as the House. Rod Blagojevich is bad for Illinois. Maybe a good candidate for a mental health study, but wrong for our state.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States of America

Barack Hussein Obama, the unlikeliest candidate, the unlikeliest nominee, in the history of American politics, is the 44th President of the United States of America.

Is this the greatest nation in the history of the world, or what?

Despite all the hoo-hah about Rick Warren giving the invocation (I know there are a lot of atheists out there -- see, for instance, Carol Anne from Seattle in the comments section here), I think he did a beautiful, solemn and very reverent job. But then, I'm a Christian (even if a very different sort of Christian than Rick Warren).

There is no one in the entire world like Aretha Franklin, and I confess that her extraordinary rendition (pun intended) of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" left me in tears, sobbing like a baby (was this as cathartic an experience for you as it was for me?). At my age -- can you imagine?

Obama's (first) inaugural address to the nation was, I must say, in my most humble opinion, not his best speech. But it was an important one nonetheless.

I am very gratified that President Obama (don't you love the sound of that?) echoed themes that IN THE DARK has championed for the last four years. For example, the primacy of the Constitution and of human rights over mere "security":

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.

Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.

Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so, to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.

Against the ignorant claim that America is a "Christian nation":

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth.

And because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

And recognition of our complicity in creating and supporting policies that cause others to suffer poverty and exploitation:

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

The bottom line: this was an historic day; perhaps the most important day, and certainly one of the most important days, in American history. To think that I lived to see a day that I never truly believed I would see, and yet always -- in my heart -- believed I would see, is to me nothing short of miraculous, and is another sign of God's gratuitous love for us, Her undeserving creation.

America is the greatest nation in the history of the world. And I have never been prouder to call myself "American."

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Oh, Let Us Turn Our Thoughts Today to Martin Luther King..."

What a day.

It is the celebration of the 80th birthday of the greatest American of my lifetime. It is the celebration of his life, of his accomplishments, but especially of his dream...

Tomorrow his dream finds a degree of fulfillment. There is much still to be done in America, much change that is needed, far too many people for whom the word "hope" is still only a campaign slogan. But we have begun.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. Congratulations, America.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Glad to see him go

I've been quiet lately, not writing much on this blog. I was tired from writing so much before the election, but then the holidays arrived as well as illnesses. It's -7 degrees right now in Chicago, and we've had snow at least once almost every week. It's hard to escape a cold in that kind of weather. And there has been so much news -- Blagojevich, Burris, City of Chicago snow removal and on. I just haven't had the energy to write. But today I read a few articles about Bush's farewell speech tonight and felt the urge to type something out.

Steve Chapman had a good column in the Chicago Tribune today. He talked about Bush's failures, ones Bush himself seems reluctant to acknowledge. Two items stuck out:

The budget

Bush represented the alleged party of small government, yet under him, federal outlays exploded. During his presidency, spending was up by 70 percent, more than double the increase under Bill Clinton. When Bush arrived, the government was running surpluses. Since then—not counting the horrendously expensive financial bailout—the national debt has nearly doubled. You can't blame Congress for all this: Bush was the first president in 176 years to go an entire term without vetoing a single piece of legislation.

Party of small government. We've heard that about the Republicans. And I've heard complaints from people I know who consider themselves Republicans that Obama and the Democrats will spend, spend, spend. But what has Bush done in these 8 years? Republicans turn a blind eye to that. We went from surpluses under Clinton to an outrageous deficit under Bush. Much of that was defense spending, but spending all the same. I suppose spending is okay when it is for the small government party's pet projects. It's fine to spend, spend, spend as long as it isn't on silly things like health care or creating jobs or keeping people in their homes.

Executive power

Conservatives are supposed to believe in strict limits on government power, but Bush pushed incessantly to expand the prerogatives of the president. He asserted the right to ignore laws banning torture and restricting wiretapping. The Supreme Court found that his imprisonment of captives at Guantanamo Bay violated the Constitution by denying them the right to challenge their detention in court.

Again, this is the party that believes in strict limits on government power, and then went ahead and exerted government power. Republicans are only the party of small government and strict limits when being small and limiting themselves doesn't interfere with their own agenda. Make the argument that he was protecting America with his abuses, but be careful. If it is acceptable for a president to turn a blind eye to prisoners tortured in Guantanamo Bay in order to protect America, then why is should it not be acceptable for any leader of any country to do the same to Americans? Stick them in some prison and torture them for the supposed purpose of protecting their country. How can we as a country denounce abuses of power by leaders in other countries when our own leader has overstepped his bounds?

In another article on The Swamp, a commenter wondered if anyone would even watch Bush's farewell speech, since he is paid so little attention now. I realized that since Obama's election, no one really has paid much attention to Bush. Oh, it was funny when he had shoes thrown at him or when he was snubbed at the G20 summit, but many people's thoughts were, "When is his last day?" His 34 percent approval rating is evidence -- an approval rating that has gone up with his impending departure. Bush can say that at least he isn't as unpopular as Nixon, but that's not really saying much. I would feel sorry for Bush, for these turn of events that have caused him to be the target of flying shoes or left to be the unpopular leader in the cafeteria at lunchtime, if Bush hadn't brought this on himself and even now refuses to admit to his mistakes. Instead calling many of those mistakes "disappointments" in his last press conference.

The Time article stated that, "In the end, though, there's a difference between self-pity and self-reflection, and it's not clear that Bush has made the distinction." Therein lies the problem. It's hard to self-reflect and understand where you went wrong when you refuse to admit you were wrong. The Time article also stated that, "The difference between Bush's mistakes and his disappointments may just be that he hasn't yet taken ownership of the latter." Maybe once Bush takes ownership of the latter, he will finally understand why Americans, and the rest of the world, are so glad to see him go.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Prayer for President Barack Obama

This month marks what would have been the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 80th birthday (January 15).

Five days later, Americans will inaugurate a President who, without the influence of Dr. King's life on American society, it would have been inconceivable to imagine: an African-American. I must say in fairness to the subject that, without the colossal failure of unregulated laissez faire capitalism, I'm not sure Americans would have elected Obama; on the whole, we haven't matured quite enough to see beyond self-interest. In the absence of catastrophe, even the smarter candidate might have lost to a candidate like McCain.

This is a video prayer I put together. It is neither a celebration of the Obama Presidency (because it hasn't happened yet), nor an anthem of triumphalism. It is not meant to be, in and of itself, a political statement -- although I am aware that to some Americans any prayer for hope and change is distinctly political, especially in a world of mass-produced hopelessness and mediated stasis.

I sincerely hope for the best for the United States of America, and am buoyed by Americans' openness to change that I saw during the campaign. This is a prayer that we get the America -- the best America -- that we deserve, the America inherent in MLK's deam and Barack Obama's promise of change.

God knows we need it.