Monday, December 31, 2007

Obama Ahead Beyond the Margin of Error in New Des Moine Register Poll

Obama 32%; Hillary 25%; Edwards 24%. I'm not breathing easy, but that result is a nice gift at this hour. See details here.

CNN will have all the candidates on tomorrow.

Star Wars for New Years

On Friday December 21st, I got to see the One-Man Star Wars Trilogy at the Woolly Mammoth Theater. Written and performed by Charles Ross, the one hour show amazes. I became amazed at how integrally and intimately I knew those movies.

I'd not seen them for years, maybe more than a decade, yet a gesture, a noise, a line, a few notes of melody, a series of robotic beeps - would evoke a wealth of memories. The stories are so well-worn and so well-known, so overworked and overwrought. And the performance was fresh and funny. I took a 14 year friend and we giggled and belly laughed until we ached. I'd forgotten parts - diving into the garbage bin in Star Wars, that smelly belly Han puts Luke in at the beginning of Empire, Jabba's dancing girl - but it was all right there, conjured fully with a few evocative moments. He makes Luke out to be a whiney sap. And I remember how, like most young girls, as I grew and the movies came out Luke heroics became less interesting than Han Solo's "depth."

I wasn't feeling well that night; I was glad it wasn't longer than an hour - so the night was perfect fun. To check out the official web site (he's going to be in London), click here.

I was a huge fan - 10, 13 and 17 when the films came out. And I vividly remember each theater, and the wonder. For years I kept a one page Time article that outline at Lucas' 9 movie plan. I couldn't wait for more. In high school, I choreographed a ballet to Princess Leia's theme, and the movies were the genesis of my soundtrack collection, much mocked by friends. My ballet teacher then choreographed a dance for me to the Ewok song (that'll teach me). And my first computer game was destroying the Death Star - on an Apple II computer. A black screen, with green lines, in a Tie Fighter trying to hit the transponder bulls-eye, just like Luke did in the climax of the movie.

And the imagination of the films - Skywalker, Storm Trooper, Darth Vader. The two suns on Tatoonie. I remember my mother comparing Obi-Wan Kenobi to Jesus Christ. Yes, she did. How he was more powerful in death. And how R2-D2 and C3PO were like Abbot and Costello.

For my New Year's Eve, I am unwell and unable to socialize and partake in the several parties I've been invited to. Nor can I venture out to see a movie as two different girlfriends suggested. But, with that brilliant Star Wars performance on my mind, I'm going to hunker down and enjoy Star Wars - the original before it was renamed A New Hope.

I resolve to make resolutions tomorrow. My day went off, literally - with an explosion up the street and the loss of power until early afternoon. I took a bath to warm up and hunkered down under the covers again at 10 am to reread Ian McEwan's Atonement and continue to rest in hopes of securing some strength.

Good riddance to 2007! Did you see the New York Times Editorial, lamenting the unrecognizable state of our country? Their litany captures only about 1/3 of the horrors I perceive. 386 days left of Bush. I might have a party on January 20th, 2008 to begin the final year countdown. Go Obama! I'm on pins and needles about Thursday. Another Clinton campaign would destroy us. If she wins, I'll be voting for Bloomberg.

Special Forces in Pakistan

The Diane Rehm show on Friday did an hour on Pakistan which I listened to on Friday night. It's worth a listen. And interestingly to me the subject of US Special Forces in Pakistan came up because of questions about a. turning up the heat on Musharaff and b. the US going in if Pakistan becomes more unstable.

Some highlights

  • Dr. Marvin Weinbaum, Afghanistan and Pakistan analyst and scholar at Middle East Institute – on turning up the heat on Musaraff – (at about 35:00) I want to stress that the US has to be very careful at this point. A very visible set of conditions on Pakistan might very well backfire. Any suggestion that the US may be violating the territorial sovereignty would be surely an explosive issue in Pakistan. At this stage, because of the low stock of the US, everything we do is misconstrued.
  • Shuja Nawaz, Pakistani journalist and author of the forthcoming book, "Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within" – Assertion: Efforts to work with, prop up Musharaff, has not led to progress to any of the avenues the US is pursuing. He agreed. The emphasis was on military aid and giving money to the Pakistan army, without sitting down and determining benchmarks and objectives. To transform and increase the capacity of the frontier corp, who have trouble fighting their own people. In that area the key issue is not military – it’s political and economic. That’s where the solution is.
  • Anthony Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in response to a question should “swat teams” be poised to go in, if the situation deteriorates and becomes more unstable? Cordesman answered it wouldn’t be a swat team, that is a specialized police force. Sending in Special Forces would be an absolute nightmare (40:45) First, there’s no way you can do this covertly…If the United States would do that, there’s no way to know how the military would react to an incursion that deep into Pakistan’s sovereignty. How would Pakistan react over the months and years to come, there's very little chance of last success. Re, Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal – he said people keep raising the issue because nuclear weapons are so dangerous, not because Pakistan has shown any negligence or failed to organize it’s forces to provide effective protection.
Okay - I just have to say the name A.Q. Kahn. See The Wrath of Kahn by William Langewiesche or this New York Times review of his book, The Atomic Bazaar.

And I guess they'd not seen the blog I'd seen last week. I wrote about it here. And on the Chris Matthews Show on Sunday, Joe Klein reported the same thing - in the segment at the end - out of the reporters notebook, "tell me something I don't know" - Klein said that Special Forces were primed to go in. The transcript is not yet available. When it is, I'll link it.

I was 16, going on 17

My big brother got a scanner for Christmas from his wife. And he's been entertaining me with photos of my past - from about 1982 and 1983, when I was 16 or 17. Here are just two.

The top one - is of my Grandfather with his dog, Lucky and my Dad, with our dog Montgomery. We had a lot of fun with those dogs.

And the bottom is a high school dance. My best friend (still is, and my oldest, I've known her since I was 9!), Chantal and I were invited to attend the prom at Christian Brothers Academy. I still remember the gold strappy shoes, my first "grown-up" shoes. My friends in college always were amazed that I'd arrived with out having ever kissed a boy. As you can see, my young virtue was pretty safe with these guys!

Thanks Matt!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

What the Incarnation Means

I heard just a rotten sermon on Christmas Eve at the National Cathedral. The rest of the liturgy was stunning - the setting, the choir, the ribbon twirling. But the sermon was an atrocity - even more so to me when you've got folks there who rarely show up in Church - listening, a captive audience. It's a time to share the good news! And I had with me someone who needed to hear the joy of the Christmas miracle. I needed to hear of the joy of the Christmas miracle.

So what a relief to listen and absorb the Christmas message I got this morning. Before I describe it, I want to share a very personal exchange I had with my mother sometime in the weeks before she died.

She said to me, "If it wasn't blasphemy, I'd say I knew what it was like for Christ on the cross. " The week before, when I had arrived from Washington, I had given her an antique nail, evocative of the nails of the crucifixion I'd picked up on some pilgrimage somewhere. I don't remember where I got it and I don't know what happened to it - but I brought it to my mother at the hospital and gave it to her, a token of Christ's Passion.

So I was taken aback when she said that to me. I gently reminded her - and I consider it a reminder because she was the one who taught me this, as she taught me so much about my faith - that she had it backwards. That it wasn't about us putting ourselves in the place of Jesus on the cross, but rather that God put Himself in our place. God became Man, in Jesus - so that He would understand our suffering and so that we would know that He knew - not intellectually, but experientially - what we were going through. God knew what human suffering was, what it entailed, and cried with us. Jesus asked for the cup to pass from Him, asked not to be forsaken, and prayed for strength in the garden of Gethsemane. She nodded.

That conversation was disorienting for me. It told me that her suffering was so great that she lost sight of that perspective. My mother had suffered for so long with her body; for more than 20 years she struggled. So that she would not see that basic tenet of our faith informed me that this time, for her, was worse. I wish I knew what had happened to that nail in the confusion after her death.

So there I was today in Mass. I confess I still have a very hard time in church. I've yet to make it through without some tears. I so associate my religion with my mother, the love of God with the love of my mother, even the mystery of God with the mystery of my mother - that I can't be there without thinking of her and feeling a great sense of loss. And then the tears.

Today, the beautiful opening of John's Gospel was chanted -
In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. in him was lief, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.
My sermon notes read as follows - Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God and if so, what does it matter? Jesus gives us God - God wants to be known and wants to know us. Jesus shows us God. Jesus shows us what God is like. God is a God of desire, desires us, has eros for us. Do we see ourselves as desirable? In Jesus, divinity partakes of humanity so that humanity could partake of divinity. Ending poem - know this single truth - God was made man in Palestine, and lives today in bread and wine.

Divinity partakes of humanity so that I could remind my mother she wasn't alone in her suffering. And yeah, that mattered. That mattered a lot.

And neither am I. I am not alone either. I hung up every single one of my 56 Christmas and holiday cards to remind me of that. At Mass, I got loving nods and acknowledgment from friends there, who'd not seen me in a long while. I've taken to going to the Cathedral, where no one knows me and asks me how I'm doing. Because even if I'm not in tears that that moment, I'm so tender during and after Communion that the query alone can cause emotion to dwell in my throat.

And I've had the gift of revelation dreams - where she's told me she's right here next to me, that the line between where she is and where I am is porous. And at a particularly trying time this summer, in my dream, she called me up on the phone - three times to let me know she was crying too.

I was awash in tears after that sermon. Couldn't even sing my favorite Christmas Carol - Greensleeves. But I was glad I went. It was good to be reminded. Amid my sense of loss and abandonment, I remember the good news of the Incarnation. I remember that Christmas was her favorite holiday. And I remember why.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Cinderella Story for the New Year

I bought last minute tickets to see My Fair Lady - nothing like a makeover, Cinderella story to usher in a new year. That aspect didn't hit me until the story started. I'd been wanting to go ever since I heard it was being staged at the Kennedy Center. I just love the songs. I did when I was a teenager, and I still will play the soundtrack when I'm cleaning my house (other favorite musicals to clean and sign along to include Pippin and Camelot). My health is too unreliable for such an expenditure, but I called last minute and got tickets to today's matinée. The tickets were awful (very front row) and Eliza Dolittle was played by the understudy - but I enjoyed every minute of the three hours. And I realized the theme of overhaul was perfectly timed.

In the first act, because of recent experiences with the men in my life - I really relished this:

Colonel Hugh Pickering: Are you a man of good character where women are concerned?
Professor Henry Higgins: Have you ever met a man of good character where women are concerned?

And then in the second act, the song Show Me really resonated. Did I find comfort in knowing that my frustration with the empty words uttered by men is not new? Not really - but check out the lyrics. I mean, I'm a writer - I put value in words. They signify. A lot. So though I'm middle aged, I can still be shocked like a teenager when again and again, I believe in the words only to find them empty. I wanted to stomp my foot just as hard as Eliza. I've wanted to slug those 'blighters,' who talk, talk, talk and never show and never do. (Shall I name names? no...there are two - I've got my Freddy and Prof. Higgins too - and they know who they are). And then check out the clip from the movie.

Words! Words! Words! I'm so sick of words! I get words all day through; First from him, now from you! Is that all you blighters can do?

Don't talk of stars burning above; If you're in love, Show me! Tell me no dreams filled with desire. If you're on fire, Show me!

Here we are together in the middle of the night! Don't talk of spring! Just hold me tight! Anyone who's ever been in love'll tell you that This is no time for a chat!

Haven't your lips longed for my touch? Don't say how much, Show me! Show me!
Don't talk of love lasting through time. Make me no undying vow. Show me now!

Sing me no song! Read me no rhyme! Don't waste my time, Show me!
Don't talk of June, Don't talk of fall! Don't talk at all! Show me!

Never do I ever want to hear another word. There isn't one I haven't heard.
Here we are together in what ought to be a dream; Say one more word and I'll scream!

Haven't your arms hungered for mine? Please don't "expl'ine," Show me! Show me!
Don't wait until wrinkles and lines Pop out all over my brow, Show me now!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Snow-Flakes by Longfellow

In the mail today I got a postcard from The Academy of American Poets, of which I am a member. (No qualification required, other than an appreciation of poetry and a fee). The card wished me Season's Greetings and included this poem from Henry Wadworth Longfellow, whose poems are resonating with me lately.

This one is called Snow-Flakes

Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.

The Feast of Holy Innocents

My heart is also heavy because today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day Christians remember the babies King Herod killed in order to get rid of the new "King of the Jews" that had been prophesied. This very day would have been my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. My mother's absence is still breathtaking and acute.

I had also, once long ago, last summer, anticipated my own nuptials on this very day so there's that added sense of loss. I had wanted a Christmas wedding like hers. And I wanted to build a life with a man I felt so lucky to find despite my illness, whom I loved and who very nearly proposed one Saturday at lunch last July at Cafe Milano. But he did not love me enough and was not steady. I'm not yet at the point where I find that a relief. I feel want and defeated.

Surely, the rash I have on my arm, chest and face is not helping my sadness. It stings and throbs and has flattened me. The dermatologist this morning gave me something that seems finally to have helped the flare and red flaming pain. No known cause. She suggested a patch test once my skin calms down. Could be cause or exacerbated by stress. Funny@!

Sometimes I wished I lived in Wonderland.
"There is no use trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Lewis Carroll
Okay, I'm going to go off and try and believe in impossible things for at least 30 minutes.

More Myopic Plans from Bush re Pakistan

My heart is heavy today.

Yes, the news is beyond depressing.

Michael Sheehan, Former US Ambassador for Counterterrorism, on NBC cautioned that the idea of postponing the moves toward democracy in order to fight Al-Queda was "wrongheaded. The army and the military need the support of Pakistanis people in order to be effective over the long term."

Meanwhile - I kid you not - CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reporting on the "War on Terror" noted that the Bush administration was cozying up to General Tariq Majid, Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Chairman just in case Musharraf should fall.

Sounds like a really brilliant Plan C.

Meanwhile I came across a report by William Arkin, who writes a blog called Early Warning for The Washington Post, and who wrote on Wednesday at 6 am - 24 hours before the assassination - of plans to send US troops back into Pakistan. US Special Forces will vastly expand their presence as "part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units, according to defense officials involved with the planning." He provides the details of how this planning occurred and concludes, "If Pakistan actually follows through, perhaps 2008 will be a better year."

Her death will make it harder to follow through.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

3 Essays to Read in Aftermath of Bhutto's Assassination

A very sad day.

And a scary day for any one with a familiarity with the complexity of Pakistan's politics. Note that Musharraf's approval is in the single digits (that would be under 10%). Bhutto was over 60%.

I recommend three brief articles
  1. Benazir Bhutto's own statement - a blog entry - on September 1, 2007, entitled Why I'm Returning to Pakistan.
  2. Steve Coll writing in The New Yorker a short piece entitled Miscalculations. (those would be Musharraf's miscalculations abetted by the Bush Administration). This piece gives a good overview of the crises facing Pakistan as of November 19th, 2007.
  3. Finally Michael Hirsch, a Newsweek reporter wrote in November Dancing with the Dictator - How Bush's tight relationship with Pakistan's Musharraf has compromised the war on terror.
UPDATE: Here's Michael Hirsch today on the assassination.

UPDATED UPDATE: Here's a New York Times Op-Ed piece written by Aitzaz Ahsan and published 4 days ago, this past Sunday. Apparently he is mostly likely to replace Bhutto as head of the PPP (Pakistan's Peoples Party). He is less conciliatory to Musharraf than Bhutto was; he's been jailed by Musharaff.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Biden is my Second Choice

I do like Biden and there's this short piece from the New York Time's political blog on Biden in Iowa and getting good crowds. I'd love to see him come in third (Obama 1st, Edwards 2nd, Biden and Hillary at 4th or below!).

He's even polling at 8%.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Longfellow's Christmas Bells

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote this poem after his son Charles was wounded in the Civil War. This Christmas, amid war, the poem still resonates - as we wonder where peace on earth is possibly hiding. The poem encourages hope: "The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail."

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Monday, December 24, 2007

What is the Wigilia - A Polish Christmas Eve

As my mother taught me, and her mother before her and my great-grandmother Monica Tillwack Bura taught her (we called our great-grandmother, Busha), I will host a Wigilia this evening.

Traditionally, the meal begins with the sighting of the first star. The Trifle dessert was in honor of the Syrian Christian whose Christmas was more English growing up. Besides George, my other guests included Ali, an Iranian whose mother was Christian and father Muslim; Maggie, a former Roman Catholic; and Juliana, a secular Australian, aggressively so. Made for quite a mix.

We had a lovely evening. Maggie made the mushroom soup and after some concern, the final mix enjoyed a multitude of flavors. The perogis from Sophie's Place in Baltimore was worth every minute of the hour on line. And my Christmas ham came out great - with pears and cranberries. I was a bit worried about that, as it was a new recipe and I had to make adjustments to the directions to accommodate time away from home to go to church. But my mom taught me her cooking instincts well. I also prepared the traditional cauliflower recipe and the cucumber salad.

And the evening favor's were in the mode of the city in which I live - a candy cane and an Obama bumper sticker!

Here's some more background on the Polish Wigilia that I shared with my guests.

The Wigilia (or Wilia)

- from the Latin word vigilare meaning "to watch" -

is the Polish meal on Christmas Eve.

Poles greet the evening with

such anticipation, such careful planning and such mystical symbolism,

that it is considered by many to be a greater holiday than Chrismas itself.

The meal is traditional and includes from the forest - mushrooms, wild berries and honey.

All await the the most significant moment of the entire Wigilia supper

- the breaking and sharing of the Oplatek.

Oplatek is taken from the Latin word Oblatum - meaning sacred bread.

In every house in Poland, family and friends break

the traditional wafer and exhange good wishes.

The Oplatek is a thin unleavened wafer, stamped with the figures of the

Holy Child, the Blessed Mary, the Holy Family or the Angels.

The Oplatek is known as the Bread of Love and wafers are sent to absent family members.

A small layer of hay is place under the tablecloth in memory of the Godchild

in the manager & to remind one and all of our humble beginnings.

Sweet Christmas hay, my Polish childhood knew,

You cradle in your tangled wisps the white

Unleaven bread and spread your fragrance through

the mystic silence of the sacred night...

While we remember how the Virgin smiled

Beside a hay filled manager on her child.

by Victoria Janda, Walls of Space 1945

"A Guest in the Home is God in the Home." - ancient Polish adage

Cheney's Funny Papers

Today Newsweek's Investigative Reporter Michael Isikoff writes Challenging Cheney: A National Archives official reveals what the veep wanted to keep classified--and how he tried to challenge the rules

It's pretty horrifying, especially if you care about history. David Addington, of course, had a hand in this. This archivist is the one whose work revealed that Cheney is neither part of the Executive branch or the Legislative Branch but in some uber-branch in between.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hillary to Promote Bush-isn Fear

On Tuesday, I wrote of how the Clinton campaign has co-opted Obama's message of change. The Washington Post notes this co-option as well and writes of the changes in the messages of Hillary. These alterations seem perpetual, which to me reinforces the negative narrative that their world is nimble and various. Last week it was "The Hillary I Know." Next week it'll be "Time to pick a president."

And they're going to exploit fear just like Bush. (In September, I wrote of Hillary's personality traits that resemble Bush here). Boy, they are not pretty when they are desperate.

Also from the Post -
But the Clintons regard any discussion of the Nineties to be good for them, evoking memories of a booming economy and a time when the United States enjoyed greater popularity around the world.
They must have confidence in the ability of the American people to forget.
  • Remember what they did to the employees of the Travel Office,
  • remember the funny fund raising from China, (this one has not completely disappeared - see blog entry from October 19th.
  • remember the selling of the Lincoln Bedroom,
  • remember the disappearing/reappearing billing records,
  • remember Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, Kathleen Wiley,
  • remember how Bill was held to be in contempt of court and disbarred.
And they still believe they are just victims.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Giuliani the Crook

Okay - so perhaps didn't shift money around to hide his extra-marital trysts (see New Yorks Times report today; Chris Matthews made much hay of this.)

Just in case you're tempted to think that Guiliani is simply a persecuted victim of an unfair press (sounds like the Clintons) - but you've got to read this lengthy Vanity Fair article, A Tale of Two Giulianis from the January Issue.
Last year, when a binder full of confidential Giuliani campaign documents was either stolen or lost in Florida, and the contents found their way to reporters, a handwritten list of potential trouble spots in the candidate’s résumé seemed especially revealing. There, with the obvious sticky subjects—the messy divorce from Hanover, and subsequent wife Nathan—was a single word: business.
And this piece outlines all of that and it's very shady, very corrupt, very evil.

A revelation hit me in reading this piece. Since Reagan's election in 1980, the Republicans have run on a platform to shrink the government. In fact, given Clinton's presidency, they seem to have won the argument that small government is good governing. Clinton shrunk many governmental functions as well.

We already witness that antipathy toward government translates into incompetence. If you don't respect what government can do and don't believe government should do, then you get ineptitude and criminal neglect (Katrina).

But now the eggs have hatched, and we know another result of their small government platform.

Small government under the Republicans doesn't mean fewer government functions - it means outsourcing the jobs to private entities - a.k.a. private contractors. "Republican small government" results in higher costs, enriching private companies, outside law, no public accountability. We've privatized half of the armies' functions, including the security of visiting diplomats in Iraq. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about roads in America.

Why would an Australian colossus like Macquarie buy a money-losing U.S. investment bank? Perhaps because Macquarie is making inroads—literally—in the U.S., acquiring the leases on state highways and operating them as toll roads, in Indiana and Illinois, with more states to follow. The toll-road business is highly controversial and involves politics right up to the top. It can’t hurt to have helped out a man who might be the next president. (A Macquarie spokesperson says the only reason for the purchase of Giuliani Capital Advisors was “new sectors and new locations for us,” and that Giuliani “was not involved in discussions for acquisition of G.C.A. by Macquarie.”)

Even before the deal, there had been only one degree of separation between Macquarie and Giuliani. Macquarie’s partner in a $3.8 billion Indiana toll road is a Spanish company called Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A. Cintra, in turn, is represented by a Texas law firm once known as Bracewell & Patterson, now called Bracewell & Giuliani.

Read it and weep. And he shows no shame.

Two Items to Read in Aftermath of Bhutto's Assassination

A very sad day and a scary day for any one with a familiarity with the complexity of Pakistan's politics. Note that Musharraf's approval is in the single digits (that would be under 9%). Bhutto was over 60%.

I recommend three brief articles

Benazir Bhutto's own statement - a blog entry - on September 1, 2007, entitled Why I'm Returning to Pakistan.

Steve Coll writing in The New Yorker a short piece entitled Miscalculations. (those would be Musharraf's miscalculations abetted by the Bush Administration). This piece gives a good overview of the crises facing Pakistan as of November 19th, 2007.

Finally Michael Hirsch, a Newsweek reporter writes Dancing with the Dictator - How Bush's tight relationship with Pakistan's Musharraf has compromised the war on terror.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What's Behind the Clinton-Bush Ambassadors To The World!

It did sound fishy - like Billy boy going off message again. But there's been a lot of ruminating about why he would suggest such a thing.

In case you've not heard - this was Bill yesterday:
Well, the first thing she intends to do, because you can do this without passing a bill, the first thing she intends to do is to send me and former President Bush and a number of other people around the world to tell them that America is open for business and cooperation again.
So everyone was sort of amazed by this assertion - both by the fact of it and the reason behind it.

This is what I think: just like the Clinton campaign has co-opted the change message, this is their attempt to embrace Obama's unity message. That's they'll be better able to deliver UNITY. Bill thinks, hmmm, I know Bush 41 pretty well, we've done this before. We Clintons can show unity with the other side; I have already! And so he puts it out there. His mouth ahead of his brain. (Yeah - no rolls of the dice with that team!)

Problem no. 1 - nobody wants unity with anyone named Bush - not even the Republicans running for the top job. The point is to get beyond Bush and Rove's scorched earth, running-to- the-base politics.

Problem no. 2 - he'd not run it by his good buddy Bush 41 who was none too pleased by the implication that he didn't approve of his son's job performance (never mind Brent Scowcroft)
Former President Bush wholeheartedly supports the President of the United States, including his foreign policy. He has never discussed an "around-the-world mission" with either former President Bill Clinton or Senator Clinton, nor does he think such a mission is warranted since he is proud of the role America continues to play around the world as the beacon of hope for freedom and democracy.
Yeah, and 41 won't be endorsing Hillary either:
President Bush is excited about several of the excellent Republican candidates running for President, and looks forward to supporting their candidacy once the Republican nominee is determined.
Both Clintons were in Iowa today, campaigning with Magic Johnson. Well, that was no slam dunk. It's inept - and surprising for its ineptness. But I think they see that the unity message is appealing and they want in on it.

Huffington on Huckabee

When she's good, she's very very good. Huffington writes about and compiles all the Republicans' angst and upset about Huckabee's surge. They are appalled that he is in the lead and she points out that they are reaping what they sowed. Republicans seems to be fine with exploiting and using the religious right, but are beside themselves now that one, who is a true populist and not a posing populist, a true compassionate conservative not a fake one, has a real shot at the Republican nomination.

Huffington summaries all the permutations of their knickers in a twist. And she points out that they are crippled in doing anything about it because they could be accused of being elitist -a charge usually slung at East Coast liberals.

There are a lot of terrific links (see Andrew Sullivan's). Start with Huffington here.

David Brook's The Obama-Clinton Issue

David Brooks writes on Obama today:
  • There are reasons to think that, among Democrats, Obama is better prepared for this madness.
  • Obama is an inner-directed man in a profession filled with insecure outer-directed ones.
  • Like most of the rival campaigns, I’ve been poring over press clippings from Obama’s past, looking for inconsistencies and flip-flops. There are virtually none.
  • Obama also has powers of observation that may mitigate his own inexperience and the isolating pressures of the White House.
He also refers to the "outstanding New Yorker profile" on Obama by Larissa MacFarquhar. In case you missed it (it's long, like most New Yorker profiles, but worth a read and really reassuring), click here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hillary's New Tone

There's been much ado about the new tone of the Hillary campaign - the softer touch, human, feminine. Even her web site has been relaunched. I've notice even the tone of her voice is different - she's speaking softer.

She no longer asserting, as she did to Katie Couric a month ago, that she WILL be the nominee and she's hasn't at all considered the possibility that she wouldn't be. She was not campaigning as much in Iowa,and now she's doing a helicopter tour.

This change in tone was the course chosen rather than a shake up, that was rumored to be considered late last week. A shake up of her campaign staff (a.k.a. firing Mark Penn) was seen as feeding the image of her being too tough and mean. So instead they've carted her out this way. She was on all six morning shows (that's better than a full Ginsberg) today.

I don't think this is going to work because it reinforces another negative narrative about her - which that she's slippery and capable of changing her personality (if not her positions) to fit the circumstances.

It was fun to read of Bill Clinton's agitation on Charlie Rose, so much so that his staff was trying to abort the interview before he did something regrettable (reported in the New York Times, see last paragraphs). Chris Matthews properly pointed out the big whopping lie of Bill's in that interview - that he didn't run in 1988 because he knew he wasn't yet ready (and that this is what Obama should do). Matthews correctly points out that the reason Bill didn't run in '88 was because he was told of all the "bimbo eruptions" that could derail his ambition. If only he'd listened and never ran.

I also think that when you try to co-opt the message of your opponent, that's a sign you're not the strategic, politically acute candidate you've been posing as. Hillary given up on the "experience" reason for electing her because Obama (with help from Oprah) has convinced voters that experience of her ilk (a.k.a. the old ways of partisan Washington politics) is NOT what we need. He won that argument, and hence his rise in the polls.

So now Hillary is admitting "change" is the important issue. There was a front page article in the New York Times about this new strategy. So now she is arguing - in her soft tone - that she is the one to deliver it - not by demanding it (Edwards) or hoping for it (Obama) but working for it (her!). I don't even trust her tone!

Here's another question. Who would want to be Hillary's VP, with Bill in the picture?

UPDATE: December 18th - E.J. Dionne "Clinton's Difficulties Deeper Than Strategy" assembles many of the points of difficulty - including that she wasn't running in Iowa until very recently because she was so focused on a general election. He also highlights Obama's November 10th speech (at the Jefferson Jackson dinner) and how good it was - good in itself and good for his campaign. And he notes that she argues that with her - there are no surprises, while Obama (according to Bill) is a "roll of the dice."

But that simply isn't true. As long as Hillary is married to Bill, one thing we know for sure - there will be surprises. He's volatile. And he is even now traveling with a press secretary to keep him on message.

Atonement and the Image of Water

I saw Atonement yesterday, the first film I've seen since Michael Clayton. And I liked it very much. The adaptation was the best of an Ian McEwan novel (which isn't saying much - Enduring Love with Daniel Craig was a huge disappointment).

I've been thinking a lot about the use of images ever since I attended a talk on revelation dreams by a writer. He spoke of how metaphors work or don't work. They don't work when they are superimposed on the words. Rather, for them to be effective and powerful, the words should attach to the image.

And this is easier to do with film.

In Atonement the image of water repeated over and over. A pot chip in a fountain, a girl in a fountain, a man in a tub, a hand on the surface of water as if to still it (or still the emotions within), a child recklessly jumping into a waterfall. And then there's the sea - as a means of escape from Dunkirk, the sea as a dream or a smell, the sea as a place of retreat. Then there's the powerful image of a mother washing her son's feet. Powerful to me because of its religious evocation and the message of redemption and humility and love. And the horrifying image of water rushing into a London tube station.

And then there's the tears - tears of longing, tears of horror, tears of fright, tears of guilt. So many emotions qualifying human tears.

For me the image well mirrored the story. The child grows up to be a writer, and she rewrites her life; in her writing she atones for her sins and rewrites reality. She asks what good is honesty? What use is reality? We want kindness and happiness. Honesty and reality seem to be neither kind nor happy.

Water is there but unable to be grasped. Likewise, in the story, reality is there but unable to be grasped.

Some reviewers thought the movie too heavy handed with the images, referring to the images of horror and war. They argued that one picture conveys enough horror - that the viewer doesn't need as many as are offered. Perhaps that's a fair critique of the film. But the darkness, for me, matched theme of the story and of storytelling. And that storytelling improves that darkness.

I'm going to go back and read the book, which I admired but didn't engross me. If you've seen the film, let me know what you think.

Krugman Sets It Up Wrong.

Krugman set up the paradigm of options wrong in his op-ed today. Entitled Big Table Fantasies, Krugman sets forth the opposition and difference between Edwards and Obama and suggests that Obama is naive and implies this:
On Saturday Mr. Obama responded, this time criticizing Mr. Edwards by name. He declared that “We want to reduce the power of drug companies and insurance companies and so forth, but the notion that they will have no say-so at all in anything is just not realistic...Anyone who thinks that the next president can achieve real change without bitter confrontation is living in a fantasy world.
And then he called Obama unrealistic.

Krugman is being unrealistic. I watched Obama on Saturday (on CSPAN). And that's not all of what he said or stressed. His message was that people, the population, had to be informed and invested from the beginning to end in order to be able to dispel the myths of the insurance and drug companies when they take their profits and start running ads. Not just ads against any change. But Obama spoke of challenging their assertions that their profits went into development and research and showing instead that they are running ads to boost drug sales to increase their profits. He even made an ED joke.

I admire Krugman, but he just wasn't fairly portraying the choice. It's not between a naive compromiser (Obama) or a white fighting knight (Edwards). It's between a man who understands community organizing to get change or a lawyer who sues to get change. They are both effective in their ways. But whatever you may think on that, Krugman should at least have portrayed Obama's message accurately and he did not.

Here's what he said back in May as reported in the New Yorker:
"Take health care, for example. 'If you’re starting from scratch,” he says, “then a single-payer system'—a government-managed system like Canada’s, which disconnects health insurance from employment—'would probably make sense. But we’ve got all these legacy systems in place, and managing the transition, as well as adjusting the culture to a different system, would be difficult to pull off. So we may need a system that’s not so disruptive that people feel like suddenly what they’ve known for most of their lives is thrown by the wayside.'”
That makes sense to me. And he's not talking about coddling the drug and insurance companies; he's talking about the investment and buy in of the people.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Des Moines Register Endorses Wrong Candidate

Yep - they went for Clinton.

First they frame the criteria this way:
The choice, then, comes down to preparedness: Who is best prepared to confront the enormous challenges the nation faces — from ending the Iraq war to shoring up America’s middle class to confronting global climate change?

The job requires a president who not only understands the changes needed to move the country forward but also possesses the discipline and skill to navigate the reality of the resistant Washington power structure to get things done.
Well, if that's the criteria, then Biden is your man. Not Hillary who by comparison has half the experience and what judgments she has made have been deeply flawed. Even her answer in this week's Des Moines Register debate about what she learned from her health plan debacle was that she didn't have a communications strategy. That she didn't explain her plan properly not that she was WRONG to exclude the Congress. She alienated Bill Bradley and Daniel Moynihan.
Read here. Biden always the gentleman said that the Register was fair on Late Edition this morning. Last week Biden was on This Week - his best line was re the Bush Administration "They're like Nixon, but without the competence."

And actually, because Clinton is so divisive - she won't be able to get anything done to "confront the enormous challenges." And with her money raising she's a part and parcel of the "resistant Washington power structure."

Bad call. There must be a story behind this.

William Polk on Iraq

Okay, I am a C-SPAN geek. Even here in Florida, when the sun is shining - I'm too tired to be out of bed and I doze off listening to C-SPAN (or try to).

I've seen the testimony of William Polk before this weekend, but again I was struck by how intelligent his remarks were. He concluded by quoting Thomas Jefferson: "Let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."

To read the text of Polk's testimony to the US Democratic Caucus on September 17, 2007 (about a week after Petreus' report), click here.

William Polk is an honors grad of Harvard and Oxford; taught at Harvard and the Univ. of Chicago, and worked for the Kennedy White House (and was a participant in the “crisis management committee” during the Cuban Missile Crisis - that historical event that Dana Perino had never heard of, and believe me, she wasn't joking as she belatedly claims).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Adaptation Leads Golden Globe Nominations Plus Mad Men!

Mom and I often talked of Ian McEwan's books. She liked Atonement, admired it. I don't remember any specifics, but he was one author whose books we regularly read and discussed with each other.

This morning the Golden Globes were announced and Atonement leads. It's gotten mixed reviews - lukewarm from The New Yorker and the New York Times, favorable from the Wall Street Journal (only available to subscribers) and the Washington Post. The seven films nominated films in the best drama category. Aside from "Atonement," the other nominees are "American Gangster," "Eastern Promises," "The Great Debaters," "Michael Clayton," "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood."

I've not been able to go to the cinema lately, so the only ones of those I've seen is Michael Clayton, which I liked very very much. Last night, my aunt and uncle told me they very much liked American Gangster.

Jon Hamm was nominated for best actor and Mad Men nominated for best Drama!!! Yeah!

For more details, click here.

Dems Debate - Last Time Before Iowa Caucuses

So Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel are not participating in this afternoon's debate. Seems weird when Keyes was up there yesterday amid the Republicans. But the criteria are 1% in a specific Des Moines Register poll and an office in the state. Dennis Kucinich works out of his home, has no office and therefore can't participate. He does add spice but having Russert waste time asking him about UFOs was infuriating. Isn't there too much at stake in this election to be fooling around with that ridiculously with an improbable nominee.

Let's note that the Dems have debated 15 times while the Republicans have only 9. Weasels.

The debate will be broadcast on CNN at 2 pm today.

Dissent Within Clinton Campaign Amid Falling Polls

I heard an hour long interview with Mark Penn about his book Microtrends a few months ago, and thought his ideas were intellectually interesting but questioned the applicability. Subsequent to that I heard of his close involvement with the Hillary campaign.

And according to this New York Newsday piece, Mark Penn is getting grief the those on the "Bill" side of the campaign. They have different ideas about how to run her. Penn thinks she should run as an "incumbent" (which to me just reinforces the sense that she's arrogant) and that she should not go negative on Obama because doing so would raise her already high "negatives."

I agree with that. It's ugly to hear Hillary say (or anyone say), now the fun part starts, emphasis on fun - as she did last week. See for yourself:

Okay, so strategy may dictate the need for going negative. People understand that. It's like a necessary evil. But it is unsettling to hear someone say so convincingly that the necessary evil is "fun." Steve G. Brant, a blogger for the Huffington Post, captures well the problem with this attitude. Check out the home page of the Huffington Post

Saturday, December 08, 2007

White House Spokesperson's Lack of Historical Knowledge

If you need evidence of the lack of knowledge in the White House, get a load of Dana Perino, White House Spokesperson, admitting she didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis. God preserve us!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Take an Online Poll to See Who You Should Support

On The Chris Matthews show tonight, Matthews accused Craig Crawford (of Congressional Quarterly) having a preference for Hillary. I've noticed that too. He seemed oblivious to the Oprah effect and, as if he were on another planet, kept insisting he couldn't see that her involvement would help Obama.

In defending that accusation he mentioned he took an online poll and it told him his views were mostly aligned with Ron Paul.

It took me a bit of doing to find the site, but it's pretty cool. It asks your views about a bunch of issues and then spits out which candidate's views match up the closest to my own. Obama 89% My second choice candidate is Biden and I matched him by 82%. Okay and Hillary I got 83% but I don't trust her so that doesn't matter.

Try it yourself here - Select Smart

UPDATE: A better site that does the same thing - More sophisticated; better graphics, more nuanced. Very cool. Thanks Ari!

Obama at the DNC, next President of the United States of America

Obama today at the Democratic National Committee (about 13 minutes). I watched Edwards and Richardson too. No comparison.

Obama addresses the DNC
Obama addresses the DNC

Goosebumps! Echoes his Democratic Convention speech of 2004. Go Obama!

Obama's Judgment

I found this video and it's worth sharing.

Obama's credentials on the war in Iraq are impeccable. I simply do not understand how any one can believe that Hillary's judgment is reliable given both her vote on this, the vote on Iran, her failed health plan, etc., etc., etc.

Here's an excerpt of Barack's words:
That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics. Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States...
If you're interested in reading the text of his speech October 2, 2002, click here.

Obama addressed the war again last month on October 2, 2007 (Ted Sorenson introduced him) -
As Ted Sorensen's old boss President Kennedy once said - "the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war - and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears." In the fall of 2002, those deaf ears were in Washington. They belonged to a President who didn't tell the whole truth to the American people; who disdained diplomacy and bullied allies; and who squandered our unity and the support of the world after 9/11.
But it doesn't end there. Because the American people weren't just failed by a President - they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress - a coequal branch of government - that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let's be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.
For the full text, click here.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Remembrance of my mother

My mother died a year ago today. I share the remembrance I delivered at her memorial service. Five others gave tributes to her as well, each highlighting different qualities. They all captured a different aspect of my mother; my favorite was my uncle's.

I feel I just transcribed this, and I'm not sure who the author is. After I typed it up but before I actually delivered it, different members of my family came to me and asked that I include this or that. It was strange as not once did they suggest something that wasn't already in there. So I think my mother's spirit had something to do with what is conveyed here:

I speak on behalf of my father, brother Matthew and sisters Beatrice, Eleanor and Olivia, their spouses and for my mother’s grandchildren, Isabelle, Lucas, Austin, Jack, Curtis, Drew, Margot, Sabrina and Ava Angelina, in order to remember our mama as a grandmother and mother.

We and our father are astonished by the outpouring of love and support these last days, especially from this extraordinary place and its people, Oak Knoll. And we are moved by the presence of all of you here. Some came for all of us, some for one of us, some from nearby and some from far away, even against the adversity of some nasty weather. We deeply appreciate you. And hope that first and foremost you TAKE JOY in this celebration of our mother.

She endowed all of us with so many gifts, but I wish to highlight four –
as well as few mandates.

My mother appreciated the sacred and the mystery imbedded in the sacred. She had an awesome mind and such wisdom. She understood much, including that the peace of God passes all understanding, as the liturgy of communion reminds us. Despite the power of her brain or more likely because of, she allowed for that mystery and taught us that not knowing everything was not always a source of frustration but could be an astonishing, valuable gift.

When we were small, in the season of Lent, our parents would stir and wake each of us with a “shhhh” and we’d slip out of our beds and out of our dreams to gather on the steps of the landing for family prayer. We were not allowed to talk until we finished our prayers. We gathered in silence. No words. And so she showed us the power of sacred peace in a small, authentic way.

As we gathered around her death bed, she told Matthew she loved him best, and Beatrice that she loved her best, and Eleanor that she loved her best and Olivia that she loved her best, and of course, me the same. Didn’t make any sense, but we knew it to be true. We enjoyed some initial fake argument over who she said it to first or last and the significance of the order. But she kept saying to us all the time, in mixed up order – no logic or sense. We knew her, and we knew it to be true. Mysteriously, gloriously true.

Mom also valued magic. She loved the magic of the arts, especially the stage, literature, dance, music, most of all jazz. She was always dragging us to New York City to see a film or a concert at Lincoln Center, and we came to appreciate the transcendence of the arts in some of the same ways she did. She gave us magical birthday parties, each with a theme such as dolly sweet sixteen, a circus party, a Laura Ingalls Wilder party, a backwards party and a newspaper party, among numerous others.

And, of course, she loved planning parties for my dad - she gathered friends to “bury his youth” when he turned 30; had him woken at 11 at night for an Old Goat party to mark his 40th; a 50 hour open house designed also to deprive him of sleep for the 50th and a beautiful family weekend gathering in Vermont for his 60th.

She created magic with her family rituals: gathering for breakfast and supper, placing the red plate at our place setting to mark special occasions or accomplishments, cooking specific recipes for holidays, and requiring participation in the annual New Year’s Eve talent show and, of course, always dressing up for holiday dinners. No jeans!

The Christmas season approaches with Advent beginning tomorrow and this time of year was her favorite for she loved nothing more that the magic of Christmas, as several of her grandchildren noted on Wednesday. She and my Dad decided to marry in the Christmas season on the Feast of the Holy Innocents. My dad always said he was the innocent and we never believed him. But writing of hers found and read since Wednesday have led us to consider maybe Dad was right! These things were well hidden while she was alive. By the way, in that same scrap book we also found - a matchbox from the place they went on their first date, a list of things my father liked and disliked; and a newspaper article featuring her when she was a high school senior, 17, in which she declared women should not marry before age 26. She married my father at 19. He magically changed her mind!

When they got engaged, my father wrote his parents, Floyd and Opal, and told them about Angela and how she was a different sort of girl. She didn’t want a diamond engagement ring; she wanted them both to wear simple gold bands. For 25 years, Opal kept that letter, and on a visit east from Ohio she gave it back to her son and said – can you not now afford to buy that girl a diamond? My father listened to his mother, and my mom treasured that letter my father wrote his own mother so many decades earlier.

In this Christmas season, my mom loved the magic of Santa Claus, the magic of lights on a tree and presents under the tree, the magic of so many Christmas carols and the magic and hopeful promise of the candles on the Advent wreath which we lit every night as we awaited the Christ child every year. This time of year was her favorite, and God called her home to Him during this magical time. Though she could not speak, she nodded in agreement when one suggested to her Tuesday night that she’d be our Christmas angel. What a marvelous, magical image!

Mom loved myths. She treasured stories. She was an avid reader and enjoyed stories for themselves, but she also appreciated their power to move, to educate and to connect. She told us and made sure we knew the parable stories of Jesus. We got to know the stories of the Old Testament as we created and assembled a Jesse tree for Advent to show Jesse being the root of Christ, and how those old stories linked with the new ones of Jesus.

On our long summer drives to the Midwest to visit Dad’s family in Ohio and hers in Chicago, she’d entertain us with her own made up stories and mesmerized us - as each of us appeared as a character. We begged for more from our very own, personal storyteller.

And recently, she loved nothing more than to cuddle up with a grandchild to regal them with a story. They often asked, is it a true story, Nini? Their eyes widening with the wonder of her tales pleased her beyond measure. She called them her sugarpusses because their faces were so sweet to her.

And finally, she loved the stories of history, and so our last family gathering was in late June this past year to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday in Williamsburg , Virginia. She chose that location because she wanted to introduce history, our nation’s history, to her grandchildren in that dynamic place where the stories of our nations are so alive and so accessible.

And finally she left us with some mandates. One of her favorite movies was “I Remember Mama.” She really liked the movie and the book it was based on; it wasn’t just the title. And she wanted us to remember her and for us to make sure that her grandchildren remembered her.

She wanted us to value learning and education, particularly the principles of a Holy Child education as set forth by Cornelia Connelly.

She definitely wanted us to vote Democratic, but even she believed that most important of all was to be an engaged civic citizen. She could not abide those who did not inform themselves about current events and who did not avail themselves of the privilege to vote. And then had the gall to complain.

She allowed bickering but forbade serious arguments. I vividly remember once being annoyed with Beatrice and fiercely arguing with her in ferocious murmurs in the back of the car – angry whispers so Mom wouldn’t hear. And she grew a circle of love and respect among us.

She kept her sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye right to the end, and she’d want us to continue to laugh in our lives. She was self-deprecating and taught us not to take ourselves too seriously.

And last but not least, she passed on to each of us, both in her words and her example, the importance of love that is nurtured in families. A window in our church, Zion, in Vermont is dedicated to that love and depicts the Holy family, and she based the nurturing and safe nest she created for us on that family.

My mom was who she was because of her parents Olga and Tony – particularly her passion, her intelligence and her respect for education. She is with them now.

T.S. Elliot wrote, “In my end, is my beginning.” And also, “All shall be well, and All manner of thing shall be well.”

Her favorite poet was Gerard Manley Hopkins:

Moonless darkness stands between.
Past, the Past, no more be seen!
But the Bethlehem star may lead me
To the sight of Him who Freed me.
Now beginning, and always:
Now begin, on Christmas day.

Rest in peace, dear mother. Do some more magic and be our Christmas angel all year long.

You are with God, and he is with us so we are all still together.

You are with us and will be with us. And we promise you, Mom, that your grandchildren will remember you and the family values you instilled in us. Democratic family values.

We will gather and assemble and connect and stay close with each other and remember you.

We will remember your mystery, your magic, your mythmaking and your mandates. We’ll remember our nini and we’ll remember mama.

Now we worship and thank God for her.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hillary is Not Electable, Loses to EVERY Republican in New Poll

Think Hillary is the most electable? Think again.

She LOSES to every single Republican contender - even Huckabee! "The questions about her electability have always been there, but as we get close this suggests that is a problem," Zogby said.

Meanwhile - both Edwards and Obama hold narrow leads LEADS against every single Republican contender.

It's a Zogby poll in Reuters.

Defense Sec. Gates Yearns for 'Soft Power'

In speech at a university in Kansas, Gates doesn't sound like the Republicans who've made the messes we live in. He even answered real questions! Finally, some one in the Pentagon talking sense. Not talking about building more anti-ballistic missiles to fight terrorists hiding in caves. It's so refreshing and a relief!

Gates bemoans the lack of "soft power." “It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaida is better at communicating its message on the Internet than America,” he said. “Speed, agility and cultural relevance are not terms that come readily to mind when discussing U.S. strategic communications.” Hmmm - wasn't Karen Hughes in charge of this effort?? Until she recently quit.

He's got a few facts wrong. "Gates called for the creation of new government organizations,"
Um - Voice of American and the United States Information Agency still exist. Hello!?! They were gutted along with much of the federal government in the Reagan years (FAA, FCC, HUD, etc, etc, etc). Gates claimed the gutting of happened in the 1990s. Yes, President Clinton continued the downsizing and deregulating and called it triangulation.

Gates also called for more a larger budget for the state department which is 1/10th of the Pentagon (not including the Iraq and Iran war). Note that several reports (one in Vanity Fair last summer) delineate how the Pentagon farms out a bulk of that overblown budget for a mark up to cover former regular Defense Dept. activities to the now infamous private contractors, costing the taxpayer more, enriching scum, outside the normal accountability of law.

Budget is one thing. Just as with the Justice Department under Gonzalez, foreign service agents are fleeing the State Department under Rice. These are career civil servants who have served under both Democrats and Republicans. They are the bureaucrats, technocrats, that make our government work. Oh right, Republicans don't want the federal government to work.

One new thing - anti-war protesters wore t-shirts making "Iraq" a verb - "Don't Iraq Iran." That's good. Even better than Jon Stewart's Messopotamia.

For how an Obama presidency, in one fell swoop, would increase our soft power (and make us safer) - I very strongly recommend again Andrew Sullivan's cover piece in this month's Atlantic Monthly. Sullivan was on This Week yesterday talking about the ideas he outlines in this must read piece.

AP reports on Gates: Defense chief: Fight terrorism with 'soft power.'

Republicans Fleeing the Politics They Created

Today, Trent Lott, MS, announced he is retiring at the end of the year. He wasn't even up for re-election. He's retiring before January so he won't be limited by more restrictive lobbying rules. Those Grand Old Lobbyists!

That makes 6 senate seats that will up, not held by senior incumbents. Who else is leaving?
1. Domenci, NM (implicated in the firing of the Assistant Attorney Generals
2. Craig, ID(bathroom)
3. Hagel , NE(good guy)
4. Warner, VA (another principled guy)
5. Allard CO

Republicans have to defend 23 seats in next year's election, while Democrats have only 12 seats at stake. 4 who are vulnerable in purple states are: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon Smith of Oregon.

That 23 does not include Lott. By law there'll be a special election in 90 days. Problem is the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has no money for a special election. Are there any Mississippi millionaires???

You see, today the New York Times reported that the Republicans are so low on cash that they are recruiting millionaires who can afford to finance their own campaigns. You know, because with Republicans money = political power. Entitled, Short of Funds, Republicans Recruit the Rich to Run.

Perhaps Dems will secure a filibuster-proof 60 majority. Imagine - both Houses, the White House. What could be altered - not least of which the tone of politics and the city I love.

Apparently the Republicans have pretty much given up hope for the Senate and feel their only chance to retain power is in the Presidency (that would be if Democrats self destruct and nominate Hillary - see new Zogby poll above). Well, they forget the Federal judiciary which has been stuffed at all levels - District, Apellate and Supreme withe members of the Federalist Society. It'll be a generation (or a FDR inspired court-packing scheme before we recover from 20 years of Republican executive power.

Obama Whams Her

In the last week, I've discussed Barack Obama with a. a taxi driver, b. a CVS cashier and c. a stranger on the stairs. This is why I love DC.

My favorite Obama quote for the day:
"I think the fact of the matter is that Sen. Clinton is claiming basically the entire eight years of the Clinton presidency as her own, except for the stuff that didn't work out, in which case she says she has nothing to do with it," Obama said, and added, referring to his relationship with his wife, Michelle, "There is no doubt that Bill Clinton had faith in her and consulted with her on issues, in the same way that I would consult with Michelle, if there were issues," Obama said. "On the other hand, I don't think Michelle would claim that she is the best qualified person to be a United States Senator by virtue of me talking to her on occasion about the work I've done."
He is going to be on Nightline tonight, so tune in. For more, click here.

And if you missed the terrific New Yorker piece on Barack Obama last week, you can read it here. Here's the last sentences, to give you a taste. But read the whole thing; like Obama its inspiring about a new type of politics. Starts with quote and description of Jefferson Jackson Dinner on November 10th.
“If we are really serious about winning this election, Democrats, we can’t live in fear of losing it.” Even many of Clinton’s troops could be seen beating yellow thunder sticks together in appreciation. Obama seemed to be making an argument about the connection between boldness and electability. With Hillary Clinton, he suggested, there is an inverse relationship between the two: she is so polarizing that she is forced to be a milquetoast candidate in order to become an electable one. Obama is not the most liberal candidate in the race, so he’s not defining his boldness strictly in ideological terms but, rather, as a sort of anti-politics that prizes truthtelling above calculation. When I asked him about this new tack, he seemed supremely confident. “I’ve been an observer of politics for two and a half decades, and what I’ve seen is that Democrats have not been able to move their agenda through Washington,” he said. “They have not been able to get the American people to embrace their domestic agenda, and they have been constantly on the defensive when it comes to their foreign-policy agenda. And it seems to me that, you know, if you’re not getting the outcomes you want, you might want to try something different.”


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Why I Canceled My Newsweek Subscription

Rove has is now a columnist for Newsweek, and I wrote the editor and canceled my subscription. (And the person answering the phone knew why I was calling and indicated they'd been getting lots of calls doing the same thing for the same reason).

Dear Mr. Meacham –

With all due respect, Karl Rove is no George Will or George Stephanopoulos or Mary Matalin. I canceled my subscription immediately upon receipt of my issue on Tuesday, and I’ve been a reader of Newsweek for over 20 years.

On Charlie Rose, Tuesday night, Mr. Rove protested he had no idea why he was such a lightening rod. It stretches credulity that he is unaware that his particular brand of partisan policy, ruling from the base, produced the most divided country since the Vietnam War and yes, made him much maligned. He lied repeatedly in that interview on other matters as well.

Rove is responsible, more than anyone, for the incivility that poisons so much of our civil discourse. The act of hiring him goes against the very purpose you state – to conduct debate and disagreement civilly. Impossible with this man You give a liar and a criminal a forum to spread his mendacity and venom.

Even Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor at the “Washington Post,” noted how Rove is still a spokesperson for Bush. In an interview Tuesday night on MSNBC on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Olbermann asked: What does this tell us about the relationship of the truth to now, not to the administration of George W. Bush, but the legacy of George W. Bush?

Robinson: I think it will be a tenuous relationship, at best. I think clearly, if you look at everything Rove has said and written since leaving his office in the White House, it‘s been designed to do two things, I think, kind of burnish and preserve the image and reputation of George Bush and burnish and preserve the image and reputation of Karl Rove. That‘s what he‘s doing. I think they‘re intrinsically linked, those two.

I will miss the weekly, and I will particularly miss Evan Thomas, Michael Isikoff (who did terrific work on the Lewinsky scandal), Howard Fineman, Fareed Zakaria, Sharon Begley, Christopher Dickey, Anna Quindlen and Jonathan Alter – great minds and terrific writers and reporters whose names are now sullied by association.

Shame on you and shame on Newsweek. It was a very, very bad judgment call, and Newsweek should reconsider. I find what you did an outrage and an assault, and I am much sadden further about the state of journalism that seems to think any points of view are valid, including those not based on facts, objective facts.

With deep regret -

Cassandra Metzger

Typically, Rove was too busy (self-important) to comment for Politico. And I couldn't agree more with what Paul McLeary of the Columbia Journalism Review had to say about the subject.