2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Obama leads in Des Moines Register Iowa poll

The Des Moines Register has announced the results of its latest Iowa poll, which show that "Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has widened his lead in Iowa over Hillary Clinton and John Edwards heading into Thursday's nominating caucuses.

"Obama was the choice of 32 percent of likely Democratic caucus goers, up from 28 percent in the Register's last poll in late November, while Clinton, a New York senator, held steady at 25 percent and Edwards, a former North Carolina senator, was virtually unchanged at 24 percent."

The Register's numbers and its analysis can be found here. And a summary of the most recent poll results in Iowa can be found at RealClearPolitics here and here

According to RealClearPolitics, an average of all polling data for 12/26-12/30 still gives Clinton a 1.6 lead.

Des Moines Register Poll at 10 pm

Breaking News: The Des Moine Register will post the results of its latest Iowa poll online at 10:00 pm tonight.

The Unlikely Marriage of Neocon Bill Kristol and the Liberal “NY Times”

Media Matters for America is self-described as a “Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

The respected media watchdog offers its take on the supposedly liberal New York Times’ recent addition of neocon Bill Kristol to its roster of columnists.

The front-page article in Media Matters posted on Dec. 29 begins:

'"According to the Politico, responding to criticism over the The New York Times' decision to hire Bill Kristol as a columnist, Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal said he doesn't understand "this weird fear of opposing views.' But it's not Kristol's "opposing views" that many critics are citing in denouncing the decision. As Media Matters for America documented, Kristol was chief among a handful of conservative commentators who offered highly optimistic predictions regarding the Iraq war's duration, difficulty, and human and financial costs -- even in the face of evidence to the contrary. And Kristol has not limited himself to misinformation on Iraq; Media Matters has documented numerous examples on a variety of topics."'

The article cites a long list of examples of Kristol’s misinformation.

Read More:

Clinton Leads in Aggregate of Latest Iowa Polls

clinton-webcast-hillary

Breaking News: The Des Moine Register will post the results of its latest Iowa poll online at 10:00 pm tonight.

The Los Angeles Times reports an aggregate of the results of the Reuters/Zogby, American Research Group, and McClatchy/MSNBC polls show Clinton with 30% support, Edwards 27% and Obama 26%, a statistical dead heat.

Individual poll results showed:


In the Reuters/Zogby poll, Hillary leads Obama by four points and Edwards by seven points.

The American Research Group's latest poll shows Clinton leading both Obama and Edwards by seven points.

McClatchy/MSNBC differs from the other two polls by showing Edwards, Clinton, and Obama with only a one- or two-point spread.

(The aggregate did not include A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll released last week that showed Sen. Hillary Clinton leading in Iowa at 31 percent, followed by former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at 25 percent and Sen. Barack Obama at 22 percent. The poll was conducted from Dec. 20-23 and Dec. 26-27.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Clinton Leads in Two Out of Three Recent Iowa Polls

Photo Credits: clinton-webcast-hillary.jpg


In the latest Reuters/Zogby poll, Hillary leads Obama by four points and Edwards by seven points. .

Reuters/Zogby:

Hillary 31%
Obama 27%
Edwards 24%

The American Research Group's latest poll shows Clinton leading both Obama and Edwards by seven points:

American Research Group

Clinton 31%
Edwards 24%
Obama 24%
Biden 5%
Richardson 5%

McClatchy/MSNBC differs from the other two polls by showing Edwards, Clinton, and Obama with only a one- or two-point spread:

McClatchy/MSNBC:

Edwards 24%
Hillary 23%
Obama 22%

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Listen up: Obama Didn’t Have a Clue About Health Care

With her usual flair, Taylor Marsh takes on the Obama campaign’s robocalls today:

If you haven't seen "So Goes the Nation...", a film about Ohio and the 2004 elections, including how Republicans target Democrats, I encourage you to do so. It's been on IFC, and it's a reminder of what we'll face in the general election.

So whenever I hear about Obama slamming Clinton on her health care plan it makes me return to March 2007 and the event which had Obama showing up and revealing he didn't have a clue what he was talking about on health care, which is likely why he also did a flyover on the Carson City forum the month before. I'd seen Clinton before, but now running for president, Clinton blew everyone else off the stage, with Obama registering barely as a shadow to everyone else. Now we've got robocalls from Obama attacking Clinton on something not too long ago he couldn't even debate. Via Ben Smith:

Marsh concludes:

The robocalls aren't a surprise to me. It's politics as usual, cynical and deceptive. But all it does for me is remind me of what a prime target Mr. Obama will be for Republicans using the same sorts of tactics. Remember what they did to Kerry, a war hero? Now think of what they can do to Mr. Obama via robocalls and all their other negative attacks.

To read Marsh’s entire post, go here.

Clinton’s Electability Onstage in Iowa

Photo Credits: Reuters

Jeff Zeleny in today’s NY Times reports Hillary Clinton’s answer to questions from reporters in Iowa about electability. Clinton began by responding to Obama’s claims that he can unite the party and win back the White House for the Democratic party:

“He {Obama} can make his argument, that’s clearly his prerogative. I’ve been around awhile. I’ve seen a lot of elections come and go and whoever our Democratic nominee is will be subjected to the full force and effect of the Republican attack machine.”

“What you know with me is that I already overcome it,” she said. “I have withstood it and not only survived it, but thrived over the last 16 years. So there is very little guesswork.”

Clinton was accompanied by Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio, who has endorsed her candidacy. Zeleny noted that Governor Strickland reminded voters here how critical his battleground state would be in the fall election.

With Gov. Ted Strickland at her side – and a giant American flag behind her – she {Clinton} offered a few examples of the Democratic elected officials who support her candidacy, including the governor of Arkansas and nine senators.

“They are not on a political suicide mission. They are professionals,” Mrs. Clinton said. “They are assessing each and every one of us and they are concluding No. 1, I would be the best president and No. 2 that I am the Democrat that is most likely to be elected.”

Washington Post Calls Foul on Obama


After mentioning that Obama began his response to Benazir Bhutto’s death by asserting that he’d been saying for sometime that we had a big problem in Pakistan, an editorial in today’s Washington Post blasts Obama for his reprehensible attack on Hillary Clinton:

Then Mr. Obama committed his foul -- a far-fetched attempt to connect the killing of Ms. Bhutto with Ms. Clinton's vote on the war in Iraq. After the candidate made the debatable assertion that the Iraq invasion strengthened al-Qaeda in Pakistan, his spokesman, David Axelrod, said Ms. Clinton "was a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, which we would submit was one of the reasons why we were diverted from Afghanistan, Pakistan and al-Qaeda, who may have been players in the event today."

When questioned later about his spokesman's remarks, Mr. Obama stiffly defended them -- while still failing to offer any substantive response to the ongoing crisis. Is this Mr. Obama's way of rejecting "the same Washington game" he lambasted earlier in the day? If so, his game doesn't look very new, or attractive.

As my recent posts indicate, Katalusis would agree.

Clinton Calls for International Investigation of Bhutto’s Death

Photo Credits: Associated Press

In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, Hillary Clinton has responded both personally and presidentially.


On Thursday, Clinton reflected with warmth on her long-time acquaintance with Bhutto:


Today the world once again is reminded of the dangers facing those who pursue democracy and free elections, in Pakistan and elsewhere in areas that are rife with conflict and violence and extremism and anti-democratic forces at work," Clinton said at the start of a campaign event here in western Iowa. "I have known Benazir Bhutto for a dozen years and I knew her as a leader. I knew her as someone willing to take risks.


On the campaign trail a day later, Clinton called for a “full, independent, international, investigation” of Bhutto’s sudden and violent death. Noting that the Pakistani government under President Musharraf has no credibility, Clinton added, "They have disbanded an independent judiciary. They have oppressed a free press."


In today’s NY Times, Patrick Healey compares the responses of the several candidates to Bhutto’s death. Healey begins by noting:

For the presidential candidates, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto has emerged as a ghoulish sort of test: a chance to project leadership and competence — or not — on a fast-moving and nuanced foreign policy issue.


Several paragraphs down, Healey highlights Obama’s initial response that soon morphed into an opportunistic attack on Hillary Clinton:

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois tried to sound like both a leader and a candidate on Pakistan on Friday. At one point, he said he would suspend some military aid to Pakistan if the government did not hold free elections and clamp down on terrorist groups. At another point, though, he suggested that the war in Iraq — which his rivals Mrs. Clinton, John Edwards and others had voted for — had “resulted in us taking our eye off the ball” in pursuing Al Qaeda and bringing stability to the region.

Obama’s obvious inexperience in foreign affairs does not excuse his reprehensible attack on Hillary Clinton as she grieves the loss of someone she’d known as a peer.


Even as she grieved, however, it bears repeating that Clinton responded presidentially in calling for an international investigation of Bhutto’s death.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Obama Camp’s Latest Attack on Hillary Clinton Reaches New Low

Photo credits: AP Photo/ Reuters


Any semi-conscious member of America’s electorate has to agree with Taylor Marsh’s conclusions in yesterday’s Huffington Post about the Obama campaign’s latest attempt to overcome their simultaneously naïve and arrogant candidate’s lack of credible experience. Marsh calls the Obama people to account for reaching a new low in their attacks on Hillary Clinton in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's death.

Marsh gets to the point in this excerpt from her article:

International tragedy has made Barack Obama and his campaign desperate for fear their paper thin experience in foreign policy will be weighed as voters ready for the Iowa primaries. It's in moments of crisis you find out what a candidate has and the strength of his character to respond to real dangers in the world. Another example of Mr. Obama's campaign of "hope," no doubt.

But Mr. Axelrod has stepped into it now. Blaming Clinton? This statement is not only beyond the pale, but it is made even more reprehensible, not to mention ridiculous, by Obama's campaign turning from the very serious subjects of Afghanistan-Pakistan-al Qaeda to the pop culture filmmaker Woody Allen, equating the two in a statement that is so ignorant you have to wonder if the Obama camp actually understands the possible ramifications of what happened today. I assure you, it does not come close to resembling or reflecting Woody Allen's wisdom on life. Seriously, the celebrity candidacy of Barack Obama, now threatened by a foreign policy emergency, has slipped into the nonsensical.
Read More

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Articles:


Photo Credits: REUTERS/Petr Josek/Files

Below are links to three articles in Katalusis posted today in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto's death by assassination.

Some Tips for Hillary Clinton from Benazir Bhutto

Photo Credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times/Redux

In the October 1, 2007 issue of New York Magazine, Jennifer Senior asked Benazir Bhutto several questions about gender-related issues she’d faced as a national leader. Here’s a sampling of the Q&A:

When you were prime minister, were you scrutinized, as Hillary so often is, for trivial things, like the fashion choices you made?

Yes. I once had a male opposition leader get up in the assembly and say, “Oh, these white veils she wears, and how she brings them all the way from France!” Which was simply not true. I used to buy them in Pakistan. And then I looked at his shoes. He had bought Bally shoes! I couldn’t believe the hypocrisy of it. He took it for granted that no one would scrutinize him!

Did you also have a hard time earning the trust of other women, at least at first?

I had a lot of support among ordinary women. But women in leadership positions could sometimes be competitive. Those who’d achieved a lot could be my sharpest critics.

Any advice for Bill on the campaign trail?

All I can tell him is that either way, you won’t win. Not if you disappear and not if you’re there campaigning. He’ll have to go by his instincts.

For the full interview, go here.

Hillary Clinton Remembers Benazir Bhutto


Benazir Bhutto with Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton after a dinner reception in Pakistan in 1995. (Photo credits: Win McNamee/Getty Images)



Hillary Clinton and Benazir Bhutto met in Islamabad in March of 1995.(Photo credits: Reuters)



The Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut reports from the campaign trail on Hillary Clinton’s response to Benazir Bhutto’s death:

LAWTON, Iowa, Dec. 27 -- As the news of Benazir Bhutto's death reverberated through the presidential campaign, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton paused to remember a woman whom she knew personally on the world stage and who had recently offered her advice on running as a female candidate.


Today the world once again is reminded of the dangers facing those who pursue democracy and free elections, in Pakistan and elsewhere in areas that are rife with conflict and violence and extremism and anti-democratic forces at work," Clinton said at the start of a campaign event here in western Iowa. "I have known Benazir Bhutto for a dozen years and I knew her as a leader. I knew her as someone willing to take risks.
Read More

Bhutto Dies a Martyr’s Death



Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto prays as she arrives in Karachi after eight years of self-exile in this October 18, 2007 file photo. Photo Credits: REUTERS/Petr Josek/Files

Word of the assassination of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto this morning brought an overwhelming sense of loss. As I’ve followed news of political developments in Pakistan in recent months, I’ve marveled at Bhutto’s courage as she continued to put her life at risk for her beliefs and the people she loved.

As the Reuters account points out, her death puts the upcoming Jan. 8 polls in doubt. And certainly no one can argue with the party official who said she had been martyred.

More Anti-Clinton Media Bias Exposed


In a recent post I linked to an article by Jonathan Tilove, a National Correspondent for the Newhouse News Service documenting the vicious misogynistic attacks against Hillary Clinton in her campaign for the presidency.

On a related topic, The Center for Media and Public affairs has just released a study documenting that TV election news hits Hillary Clinton hardest among all the candidates:

TV election news has been hardest on Hillary Clinton this fall, while Barack Obama and MikeHuckabee have been the biggest media favorites, according to a new study by the Center for Mediaand Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University. The study also found that Fox News Channel’s evening news show provided more balanced coverage than its counterparts on the broadcast networks.

Major findings of the study were summarized as follows:

Hillary Pilloried? On-air evaluations of Hillary Clinton were nearly 3 to 2 negative (42% positive vs. 58% negative comments), while evaluations of her closest competitor Barack Obama was better than 3 to 2 positive (61% positive vs. 39% negative). John Edwards attracted much less coverage, but his evaluations were 2 to 1 positive (67% positive vs. 33% negative). Sen. Clinton was evaluated more often than all her Democratic opponents combined.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hillary Clinton Most Admired Woman


For the sixth consecutive year, Hillary Clinton was named the most admired woman in the world in a Gallup poll released today. She was picked by 18 percent of respondents, her highest standing since 2000.

It was the 12th time Clinton has been named the most admired woman in the world. She has finished first or second in each of the last 15 years.

More Misogyny Than Racism in 2008 Campaign

It’s sad to be discussing the frequency of misogynist attacks against Hillary Clinton compared to the racist slurs against Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. This tells us what a long way Americans have yet to go to overcome the twin evils of misogyny and racism in a nation some have described as “a shining city on a hill,” begging the question, for whom?

In today’s Huffington Post, Marie Wilson reports:

Monday should have been a great day for Senator Hillary Clinton, as she worked to regain her footing and momentum in the Iowa Caucuses. She appeared on NBC's Today Show to showcase a hard fought endorsement by the Des Moines Register and Tribune. While being interviewed, she flashed on the screen with a wide grin that was hard to maintain after a grilling that was out of proportion to the occasion (and I have not complained about the press treatment of Senator Clinton heretofore). But my afternoon was shaken by an article by Jonathan Tilove, a National Correspondent for the Newhouse News Service, citing a Web search, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, had conducted to look for "racist invective" aimed at Senator Obama

What she found was a mess of misogyny directed towards Senator Clinton that was far more distressing. Read More.

The above-noted misogyny might possibly explain why there has been so little coverage in the MSM and blogosphere about the American Research Group’s findings in its latest poll in Iowa (released Dec. 24, 2007) showing Clinton in a commanding lead over Edwards and Obama.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Clinton Leads in Iowa, 12/23/07


The latest American Research Group's Iowa poll shows Clinton leading Obama 34 to 19.

December 24, 2007 - Iowa Presidential Preferences

Democrats Dec 16-19; Dec 20-23

Biden 8%; 8%

Clinton 29%; 34%

Dodd 3% ;2%

Edwards 18% ;20%

Obama 25% ;19%

Richardson 7% ;5%

Undecided 8% ;10%


Savoring Holiday Warmth, the True Gift of the Season

On Christmas Eve morning sunlight has scoured blue skies of lingering traces of gray from a weekend snowstorm with high winds that sculpted four inches of fresh snow into wavy patterns of white in my St. Paul neighborhood.

I’m enjoying downtime between yesterday’s early Christmas celebration with my son Steve and his wife Nancy (they have to schedule equal time with various family members) and dinner at the home of friends tomorrow afternoon.

This welcome day-long pause allows me to savor the warmth and joy I’ve already experienced over the past several days from interactions with family, friends, neighbors, and an occasional stranger by email, card, telephone call, or in person while intermittently anticipating the blessings tomorrow will bring.

In case you missed it, I'm re-posting below, “Yes, Virginia…”, the presentation I offered last Sunday morning at Groveland Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. As you can imagine, having the given name of Virginia has meant repeated assurances throughout my life of the reality of Santa Claus as in:
"Yes, Virginia..."


Maybe it’s because my name is Virginia that I’m so easily hooked by the Disney channel’s Christmas shows featuring Santa as the main character. I watched such a show just the other night titled “The Ultimate Christmas Gift.”

Santa’s idea of the ultimate Christmas gift was a timely gentle snowfall. He’d invented a machine that could control the weather and produce the white stuff on demand. The machine wound up in the hands of a naughty little girl in L.A., and you can guess the rest.

By the time the movie ended, we’d all been reminded that Santa rewards only well-behaved children and as the song suggests:

He sees when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!


Something peculiar happened to me, though, as I sat there glued to my TV set. I was noticing for perhaps the first time the traditional God-like attributes that folklore assigns to the jolly old elf in the red suit. For one thing he’s supposedly all knowing or omniscient; and we’re told that on Christmas Eve he’s also omnipresent, capable of visiting every household in the world. That’s with a little help from a hard-working team of reindeer; a species rightly honored last Sunday by our good friend, Jaime Meyer.

But what really struck me in the movie was the notion of reward and punishment. If you’re good, Santa will bring you presents and if you’re naughty, you’ll likely receive a lump of coal in your stocking.

It’s the same old reward and punishment approach we all experienced in early childhood, throughout our school years, and most definitely in the workplace.

In his theories of behavior modification, psychologist B. F. Skinner even taught that human beings are entirely motivated by the feedback we get from others; so much for high-minded concepts such as spirituality, conscience, internalized values, autonomy, self-direction, and all that.

I once took a class in undergraduate school on behavior modification taught according to the principles of that psychological theory. I was so offended by what I perceived as the professor’s obvious attempts to manipulate me that as quickly as I could, I did the work required to earn a grade of C and left.

As UUs, you’ve probably noticed that traditional Christianity has long incorporated the carrots and sticks approach in much of its theology. Be good, and you’ll go to heaven. Keep up that sinning, and you’ll be damned eternally to hellfire.

Just like Santa Claus, it might also be said of the patriarchal God of traditional Christianity:

He sees when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!


There is, however, a deeper meaning in the life story of the one who was born in Bethlehem and his teachings about our relationship to God. Forrest Church, pastor of All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in NYC, offers this version of the Christmas story:

“The third year of the Common Era was marked in Judea by a great tax (a war tax if you will) imposed by Rome and shouldered unequally, as taxes were then and certainly are today. At pain of death, the nation's poor had to travel for days sometimes to be enrolled in their hometowns and then pay a staggering assessment of 80%— 2 shekels for you, eight for Caesar.

“Among the itinerant poor, a man by the name of Joseph—who surely had enough troubles of his own already—was touched by the liberal spirit (the spirit of generosity, tolerance, and brotherly love) to take under his wing an unwed pregnant teenager by the name of Mary. When they arrived in Bethlehem to pay the freight for a Roman war that had nothing to do with their safety or well being, this alternative family sought shelter in an inn, but all the inns were full. When the inns of the world are full, the poor find shelter where they can, in a stable yard, say, on a bed of straw among the pigs and cattle. Forget every crèche you've ever seen; this was not a pretty picture, nothing Hallmark or even Fox News would want to see on the cover of a card.

“But then, behold, a child is born—in society's eyes a bastard child, whom generous hearted Joseph and poor bewildered Mary wrap in swaddling clothes and lay in a manger.

Like every great story,” the Rev. Dr. Church tells us, “the Christmas story has a twist. This unwed, socially ostracized family, their widow's mite purloined by an uncaring government to underwrite the empire's military adventures and its leaders' lavish lifestyles, in short, the poorest of the poor do what? That's right. They give birth to the Son of God!”

Stripped of all the special effects of an immaculate conception, visitations from angels, and tributes from three kings of the east led to the stable by an unnaturally bright star, the story of Jesus’ birth, whether myth or fact, becomes even more powerful and moving: an all-powerful God decides to take on human form and chooses to arrive, not as an heir to an earthly throne, but as an illegitimate child born in a stable.

To my mind, it’s a miracle that human beings were even capable of envisioning such an event.

Jesus is said to have lived only thirty years or so but during his brief life and ministry, scripture reveals that he presented a stunningly radical model of God:

The God of Jesus was inclusive. Defying social norms of his day, Jesus treated women as equals, speaking to them in public and teaching them scripture.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a member of a hated group of people, Jesus expanded on the definition of neighbor.

He practiced non-violence, advising his followers to turn the other cheek. We know that he led by invitation, not by coercion.

Embodying Mary’s words in the Magnificat that we heard earlier this morning, the man from Galilee cared especially for the poor, the outcast, and the oppressed.

A social activist of the first order, Jesus essentially taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves – presumably that would include the undocumented immigrants among us.

If you recall the principles of process theology, you’ll recognize that Alfred North Whitehead’s seemingly sophisticated notions about God are derived primarily from the example of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels.

How does all this theological stuff blend with the influence of Santa Claus in today’s culture? It’s hard to say. As you might have guessed I had to deal with the issue when my own two children were young.

It was shortly after Christmas when Jean and Steve approached me in the kitchen and told me they had a question. The serious tone in their voices caused me to leave the dishes in the sink, dry my hands, and sit down.

Jean said, “Ok, Mom, we want the truth. Is there or isn’t there a Santa Claus?”

Here’s the deal: Throughout my life, people had been assuring me, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” But on this occasion, I felt I had no choice but to tell my children the truth.

Each year, I explained, Dad and I had shopped for their gifts, wrapped them and hid them away. “Do you remember all of those packages Dad would bring into the house? You’d want to know what was in them. He’d tell you they were parts for his car and then put them up on the highest shelf in the closet.

“On Christmas Eve, after you were both fast asleep, we would put up the tree, trim it, and place your presents beneath it to surprise you on Christmas morning.”

I had no idea how my children would respond that day as I explained the well-kept secret of Christmas to them and anxiously watched their eyes widen in disbelief. As usual, it was Jean, the older of the two, who spoke first. She blurted out, “You mean you and Dad did all of that for us?”

They looked at each other and then at me, not in disillusionment, but in glad surprise. The mystery solved, they ran off to play, as children will. Theirs was the glad surprise of knowing how deeply and unconditionally they were loved.

Whatever you learned or didn’t learn in Sunday School, according to the teachings of Jesus - later adopted by process theology - that’s how God loves each and everyone of us.

May it be so.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Right-wing Support for Barack Obama Increasingly Conspicuous and Voluble"

I was beginning to think I was the only writer in the blogosphere who had noticed how the likes of NY Times columnist David Brooks and other leading conservative pundits were promoting Barrack Obama with gushing endorsements in their respective venues. To read my post on this topic on Dec. 18, go here.

Thanks to an article last Friday by Salon’s Joe Conason titled Why Conservatives Love Barrack Obama, I’ve discovered that Obama has even more support than I realized from Republicans on the right.

Conason writes:

Dec. 21, 2007 In the weeks since Karl Rove offered his unsolicited advice on how to defeat Hillary Clinton in the pages of the Financial Times, right-wing expressions of support for Barack Obama have become increasingly conspicuous and voluble. Although often couched in high-flown moral terms that accept the Illinois senator's definition of himself as a fresh and unsullied figure, his Republican endorsers cannot quite conceal their underlying animus.

They hate Hillary Clinton and they think he just might be able to beat her.

To read Conason’s entire article, go here.

Hey, Minnesotans, the Laugh’s On Us!

My friend Ava, formerly from Minn. and now living in Calif., emailed me these comments from Jeff Foxworthy’s web site: Jeff explains, “You might only understand these if you ARE Minnesotan... but still, I thought they were hilarious: “

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through l8 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Minnesota.

If you’re proud that your state makes the national news 96 nights each year because International Falls is the coldest spot in the nation, you might live in Minnesota.

If you have ever refused to buy something because it’s "too spendy", you might live in Minnesota.

If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March, you might live in Minnesota.

If you instinctively walk like a penguin for five months out of the year, you might live in Minnesota.

If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don’t work there, you might live in Minnesota.

If your dad’s suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead, you might live in Minnesota.

If you may not have actually eaten it, but you have heard of Lutefisk, you might live in Minnesota.

If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time, you might live in Minnesota.

If you have either a pet or a child named "Kirby", you might live in
Minnesota.

If your town has an equal number of bars and churches, you might live in Minnesota.

If you have had a lengthy telephone conversation with someone who dialed a wrong number, you might live in Minnesota.

If you know how to say Wayzata, Mahtomedi, Edina and Shakopee, you might live in Minnesota.

If you grew up thinking rice was only for dessert, you might live in Minnesota.

If you think that ketchup is a little too spicy, you might live in Minnesota.

Joe Wilson Compares the Hillary He Knows to Obama

In yesterday’s Huffington Post, Joe Wilson compares Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record to that of Barrack Obama. Quoting the Boston Globe’s endorsement of Obama, Wilson essentially argues that Obama’s “intuition” does not trump Clinton’s track record of hard work, depth of experience, and wisdom.

Wilson concludes:

We know that she {Hillary Clinton} has won and lost but always fought for her beliefs, which are widely shared within the Democratic Party. The battles she had been in have been fierce--and the battles in the future will be no less intense--and she has proven her steadfastness and is still standing. She does not have a cowardly record of voting "present" when confronted with difficult issues. She does not claim "intuition" as the basis of the most dangerous and serious decision-making. What she has is deep and vital experience, more important than ever in restoring our country's place in the world.

For Wilson’s complete article, go here.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Latest Poll Results for Democratic Candidates

The Caucus (NY Times) reports on several polls out today. Here are a few results for the Democrats:

South Carolina:

CBS News shows that 35 percent of Democratic voters are backing Barack Obama, 34 percent Hillary Clinton and 13 percent John Edwards

Iowa

The ABC/Post poll found that Mrs. Clinton does better with voters who have already made up their mind as to who they will support and Mr. Obama is stronger with undecided voters.

New Hampshire:

The CNN/WMUR poll shows Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Romney are currently the favorites in New Hampshire

National

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead over Barack Obama and John Edwards among Democratic primary voters.

Wading Through the Sleaze in the Media’s Coverage of the 2008 Campaign

Eric Boehlert’s column today in MediaMatters.org again calls the press to account for unethical practices that put leading news outlets in the MSM and the blogosphere in the same league as supermarket tabloids, especially in their coverage of the 2008 campaign.

Boehlert writes:

He might be the former president of the United States, but when Bill Clinton dared critique the press for the vacuous way it covers campaigns, he got smacked down by the media elites who unleashed their contempt and, fittingly, misstated what Clinton had said.

Such is the state of affairs where, as Clinton noted, campaign issues have faded so far in the rearview mirror for the press that they've dipped below the horizon. What's worse is not only has the press shifted into hyper-horserace mode where tactics reign, but lots of media players can't even do the horserace stuff right. Bloomberg's Al Hunt displayed that nicely with a recent tactics-only campaign column where he mangled a key fact in order to prop up his favorite narrative.
Read more:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Conservative Media Gurus Continue to Back Obama

The prominent conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks gave Barrack Obama his talking points for a presidential run on Oct. 16, 2006 in his column titled Run Barrack Run. And Obama has followed Brooks’ suggestions to the letter.

Brooks was followed up by libertarian Andrew Sullivan’s column in the Dec. 2007 issue of the Atlantic, the anti-feminist online magazine. Sullivan came close to plagiarizing the earlier Brooks column in his worshipful support of Obama.

Not to be outdone, in his first column for Newsweek, Karl Rove offered tips to Obama in his opinion piece titled How to Beat Hillary (Next) November.

The beat goes on. In today’s NY Times, Brooks throws his support to Obama again by suggesting that although Clinton has been the better senator, Obama would be the better president.

December 18, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

The Obama-Clinton Issue

By David Brooks

Hillary Clinton has been a much better senator than Barack Obama. She has been a serious, substantive lawmaker who has worked effectively across party lines. Obama has some accomplishments under his belt, but many of his colleagues believe that he has not bothered to master the intricacies of legislation or the maze of Senate rules. He talks about independence, but he has never quite bucked liberal orthodoxy or party discipline.

If Clinton were running against Obama for Senate, it would be easy to choose between them.

But they are running for president, and the presidency requires a different set of qualities. Presidents are buffeted by sycophancy, criticism and betrayal. They must improvise amid a thousand fluid crises. They’re isolated and also exposed, puffed up on the outside and hollowed out within. With the presidency, character and self-knowledge matter more than even experience. There are reasons to think that, among Democrats, Obama is better prepared for this madness. Read More:

What are thoughtful Democrats to make of this heady conservative support for Barrack Obama?

Please leave a comment.

An Australian Blogger’s Act of Kindness Toward the Earth


Yesterday, many members of BlogCatalog, a directory of bloggers, responded to an invitation to post about some act of kindness we had performed. I responded with Acts of Kindness Build Community – Online and Elsewhere.

BlogCatalog is providing a listing of participating bloggers and links to their posts. A week before Christmas, it’s a rare treat to read so many accounts of inspiring acts of kindness.

Perhaps because my church group, Groveland Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in St. Paul, Minn., recently voted to participate in a “green” program titled “Seeds of Mindfulness,” that a post describing an act of kindness toward the planet earth stood out for me.

Suzie Cheel is an Australian whose blog is titled Abundance Highway. In yesterday’s post, she explained: “I have over the past week decided to focus on acts of kindness for the earth. I thought the earth could do with some acts of kindness, so the beauty I enjoy is here for generations to come.”

Suzie’s post reminds us that all of life benefits from any act of kindness toward the earth, and there’s no denying that we human beings exist within nature’s life-sustaining ecological web of relationships.

About Abundance Highway, Suzie writes:

“The mission of the Abundance Highway is to help people achieve financial freedom, making a difference to their lives, which in turn will impact positively on the lives of others and the world. I will achieve this by sharing the successes, setbacks and learnings from my own journey to freedom and abundance, and do this in a way that makes people’s hearts sing and empowers them to live a life without limits.”

To check out Suzie’s blog and read about her act of kindness toward the earth go here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Acts of Kindness Build Community – Online and Elsewhere

Note: BlogCatalog members have been invited to post today about some act of kindness we’ve performed. The following post is my response to that invitation.

Acts of kindness are easily integrated in the course of our daily lives while doing weekly errands or shopping for special occasions. Regardless of the season, no group of people are more appreciative of a kind word than store employees, and it’s become my practice over the years to thank sales clerks and cashiers at the checkout counter for good service. Sometimes, I even take the time to fill out a commendation card or ask to speak to a supervisor.

One morning as the cashier at my local supermarket checked out my groceries, she paused to examine a package of meat more closely. She’d seen signs of spoilage that I’d missed in my haste to finish my shopping. The fellow at the end of the counter who was bagging up my purchases immediately dashed to the back of the store and replaced the meat for me. These two young people were smiling happily nearby as I commended them to their supervisor.

Customers assisting customers is another opportunity for spreading goodwill. Last August, I was looking for a decorative candle for a birthday gift for my daughter-in-law when another customer approached me. She explained she was visiting here from India, and she wanted to buy her hostess a nice gift. She asked for my advice and together we found a candle that matched the décor of the home where she was staying.

Many of us dread shopping during this time of year when stores are crowded, and people are impatiently standing in long lines. But I’ve found that even under those circumstances goodwill is contagious. Recently, I was back in the supermarket picking up a few last minute items for a cookie baking session. As I walked up and down the aisles, I was soon receiving and giving help to others: “Oh, the baking soda is on your right - right below the baking powder.”

“Have you seen cookie cutters anywhere?”

“Next aisle – over there by the pans and cookie sheets.”

Instead of a bunch of cranky people that day, we were good-naturedly teasing one another, smiling, and laughing as we came to one another’s aid; I left the store feeling as if a group of strangers for half an hour or so had become an ad hoc community.

And community, after all, is what it’s all about – as members of the BlogCatalog virtual community, in our neighborhoods, at church, at our local shopping center, and yes, even as we participate in the political process already heating up in the 2008 campaign.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Yes, Virginia…



Maybe it’s because my name is Virginia that I’m so easily hooked by the Disney channel’s Christmas shows featuring Santa as the main character. I watched such a show just the other night titled “The Ultimate Christmas Gift.”

Santa’s idea of the ultimate Christmas gift was a timely gentle snowfall. He’d invented a machine that could control the weather and produce the white stuff on demand. The machine wound up in the hands of a naughty little girl in L.A., and you can guess the rest.

By the time the movie ended, we’d all been reminded that Santa rewards only well-behaved children and as the song suggests:

He sees when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!


Something peculiar happened to me, though, as I sat there glued to my TV set. I was noticing for perhaps the first time the traditional God-like attributes that folklore assigns to the jolly old elf in the red suit. For one thing he’s supposedly all knowing or omniscient; and we’re told that on Christmas Eve he’s also omnipresent, capable of visiting every household in the world. That’s with a little help from a hard-working team of reindeer; a species rightly honored last Sunday by our good friend, Jaime Meyer.

But what really struck me in the movie was the notion of reward and punishment. If you’re good, Santa will bring you presents and if you’re naughty, you’ll likely receive a lump of coal in your stocking.

It’s the same old reward and punishment approach we all experienced in early childhood, throughout our school years, and most definitely in the workplace.

In his theories of behavior modification, psychologist B. F. Skinner even taught that human beings are entirely motivated by the feedback we get from others; so much for high-minded concepts such as spirituality, conscience, internalized values, autonomy, self-direction, and all that.

I once took a class in undergraduate school on behavior modification taught according to the principles of that psychological theory. I was so offended by what I perceived as the professor’s obvious attempts to manipulate me that as quickly as I could, I did the work required to earn a grade of C and left.

As UUs, you’ve probably noticed that traditional Christianity has long incorporated the carrots and sticks approach in much of its theology. Be good, and you’ll go to heaven. Keep up that sinning, and you’ll be damned eternally to hellfire.

Just like Santa Claus, it might also be said of the patriarchal God of traditional Christianity:

He sees when you are sleeping.
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good.
So be good for goodness sake!


There is, however, a deeper meaning in the life story of the one who was born in Bethlehem and his teachings about our relationship to God. Forrest Church, pastor of All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in NYC, offers this version of the Christmas story:

“The third year of the Common Era was marked in Judea by a great tax (a war tax if you will) imposed by Rome and shouldered unequally, as taxes were then and certainly are today. At pain of death, the nation's poor had to travel for days sometimes to be enrolled in their hometowns and then pay a staggering assessment of 80%— 2 shekels for you, eight for Caesar.

“Among the itinerant poor, a man by the name of Joseph—who surely had enough troubles of his own already—was touched by the liberal spirit (the spirit of generosity, tolerance, and brotherly love) to take under his wing an unwed pregnant teenager by the name of Mary. When they arrived in Bethlehem to pay the freight for a Roman war that had nothing to do with their safety or well being, this alternative family sought shelter in an inn, but all the inns were full. When the inns of the world are full, the poor find shelter where they can, in a stable yard, say, on a bed of straw among the pigs and cattle. Forget every crèche you've ever seen; this was not a pretty picture, nothing Hallmark or even Fox News would want to see on the cover of a card.

“But then, behold, a child is born—in society's eyes a bastard child, whom generous hearted Joseph and poor bewildered Mary wrap in swaddling clothes and lay in a manger.

“Like every great story,” the Rev. Dr. Church tells us, “the Christmas story has a twist. This unwed, socially ostracized family, their widow's mite purloined by an uncaring government to underwrite the empire's military adventures and its leaders' lavish lifestyles, in short, the poorest of the poor do what? That's right. They give birth to the Son of God!”

Stripped of all the special effects of an immaculate conception, visitations from angels, and tributes from three kings of the east led to the stable by an unnaturally bright star, the story of Jesus’ birth, whether myth or fact, becomes even more powerful and moving: an all-powerful God decides to take on human form and chooses to arrive, not as an heir to an earthly throne, but as an illegitimate child born in a stable.

To my mind, it’s a miracle that human beings were even capable of envisioning such an event.

Jesus is said to have lived only thirty years or so but during his brief life and ministry, scripture reveals that he presented a stunningly radical model of God:

The God of Jesus was inclusive. Defying social norms of his day, Jesus treated women as equals, speaking to them in public and teaching them scripture.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, a member of a hated group of people, Jesus expanded on the definition of neighbor.

He practiced non-violence, advising his followers to turn the other cheek. We know that he led by invitation, not by coercion.

Embodying Mary’s words in the Magnificat that we heard earlier this morning, the man from Galilee cared especially for the poor, the outcast, and the oppressed.

A social activist of the first order, Jesus essentially taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves – presumably that would include the undocumented immigrants among us.

If you recall the principles of process theology, you’ll recognize that Alfred North Whitehead’s seemingly sophisticated notions about God are derived primarily from the example of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels.

How does all this theological stuff blend with the influence of Santa Claus in today’s culture? It’s hard to say. As you might have guessed I had to deal with the issue when my own two children were young.

It was shortly after Christmas when Jean and Steve approached me in the kitchen and told me they had a question. The serious tone in their voices caused me to leave the dishes in the sink, dry my hands, and sit down.

Jean said, “Ok, Mom, we want the truth. Is there or isn’t there a Santa Claus?”

Here’s the deal: Throughout my life, people had been assuring me, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” But on this occasion, I felt I had no choice but to tell my children the truth.

Each year, I explained, Dad and I had shopped for their gifts, wrapped them and hid them away. “Do you remember all of those packages Dad would bring into the house? You’d want to know what was in them. He’d tell you they were parts for his car and then put them up on the highest shelf in the closet.

“On Christmas Eve, after you were both fast asleep, we would put up the tree, trim it, and place your presents beneath it to surprise you on Christmas morning.”

I had no idea how my children would respond that day as I explained the well-kept secret of Christmas to them and anxiously watched their eyes widen in disbelief. As usual, it was Jean, the older of the two, who spoke first. She blurted out, “You mean you and Dad did all of that for us?”

They looked at each other and then at me, not in disillusionment, but in glad surprise. The mystery solved, they ran off to play, as children will. Theirs was the glad surprise of knowing how deeply and unconditionally they were loved.

Whatever you learned or didn’t learn in Sunday School, according to the teachings of Jesus - later adopted by process theology - that’s how God loves each and everyone of us.

May it be so.
Note: This post is the presentation I gave at Groveland Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship this morning. Groveland meets in the St. Paul Council of Churches Building on Summit Avenue, across the street from Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Echoes of Ralph Nader’s Attacks on Al Gore in the 2008 Campaign

Seeing Al Gore collect his Nobel Prize the other day reminded thoughtful people around the globe of the debacle in Florida and subsequent Supreme Court decision that gave the American presidency to George W. Bush in 2000. Most are in agreement that Al Gore would have been the wiser choice.

In an article first published yesterday in the Huffington Post, historian and Princeton professor Sean Wilentz compares attacks by Obama supporter R. J. Eskow on Hillary Clinton to Ralph Nader’s criticism of Al Gore in the 2000 campaign. Wilentz argues:

“The politics of perfectionism on the left also succeeded in creating a splinter movement that wound up electing an even more right-wing Republican president -- the Ralph Nader campaign in 2000. Eskow's attacks on Hillary Clinton read almost word-for-word like those Nader delivered against Al Gore.”

Wilentz offers an excellent discussion of the difference between the messianic perfectionist idealism of Obama and his disciples (Oprah’s “He is the one!”) to the pragmatic idealism of Hillary Clinton that has been tried and tested in her many years of experience.
Read more.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Latest WashingtonPost/ABC Poll Confirms Clinton’s Strong National Support

You aren't likely to find Clinton’s strong lead in national polls headlined in either the mainstream media or the left of center blogosphere but both the old and supposedly new media’s chauvinistic hostility toward a potential woman president hasn’t seemed to change the minds of a clear majority of Democrats. The latest WashingtonPost/ABC poll backs up the results favoring Clinton reported here yesterday from the recent NY Times/CBS poll:

“The Democratic race has changed little nationally, according to the new {WashingtonPost/ABC} poll, with Clinton now enjoying the support of 53 percent of likely Democratic voters to 23 percent for Obama. Edwards remains in third with 10 percent. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio) and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) registered in the low single digits.”

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NY Times/CBS Poll of Voters Shows Startling Results

A nationwide NY Times/CBS telephone poll of 1,028 voters taken from last Wednesday through Sunday provides some startling results, highlighted in an article in today’s NY Times by Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee.

War in Iraq remains the leading issue for voters

“Americans, the poll found, think the economy is bad and getting worse. A vast majority think the country is heading in the wrong direction. More people cite the Iraq war as the most important issue facing the country than cite any other matter, and though 38 percent say the dispatch of extra troops to Iraq this year is working, a majority continue to say that undertaking the war was a mistake.”

Clinton viewed as far more electable than either Obama or Edwards

“Not one of the Republican candidates is viewed favorably by even half the Republican electorate before in contrast to the Democrats who they say are happier with their field and more settled in their decisions: “For all the problems Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be having holding off her rivals in Iowa and New Hampshire, she remains strong nationally, the poll found. Even after what her aides acknowledge have been two of the roughest months of her candidacy, she is viewed by Democrats as a far more electable presidential nominee than either Senator Barack Obama or John Edwards.”

More Democrats see Clinton rather than Obama as someone who can unite the country

“Not only do substantially more Democratic voters judge her to be ready for the presidency than believe Mr. Obama is prepared for the job, the poll found, but more Democrats also see Mrs. Clinton rather than Mr. Obama as someone who can unite the country.”

Clinton viewed favorably by 68% of Democrats

“More than anything else, the poll underlines sharp differences between the Republican and Democratic electorate in how each views its candidates. Democratic voters, on the whole, see their candidates considerably more favorably than Republicans see theirs.

“Mrs. Clinton is viewed favorably by 68 percent of Democrats, followed by Mr. Obama, viewed favorably by 54 percent. Mr. Edwards is viewed favorably by 36 percent.”

Giuliani viewed favorably by only 41% of Republicans

“On the Republican side, in contrast, Mr. Giuliani is viewed favorably most frequently, and that is by only 41 percent. Senator John McCain is viewed favorably by 37 percent, and Mr. Romney by 36 percent. Mr. Huckabee is viewed favorably by 30 percent, and 60 percent say they do not know enough about him to offer an opinion, suggesting that he may be vulnerable to the kind of attacks that his opponents have already been mounting against him.”

Democrats more committed than Republicans to their choices

“Seventy-six percent of Republican respondents say they could still change their minds about whom to support, compared with 23 percent who say their decision is firm. Among Democrats, 59 percent say they may change their minds, as against 40 percent who say they have made their decision.”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mall Shooting Not the Worst Massacre in Nebraska’s History

My friend Melinda Morgan, a journalism school graduate from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, has zero tolerance for sloppy reporting. When Morgan heard Chris Cuomo of ABC News refer to the mall shooting in Omaha that took the lives of eight people as the worst massacre in the history of Nebraska, she was all over it.

“Cuomo’s wrong,” Morgan said. “In 1958, Charles Starkweather and his underage girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate murdered 10 people on a killing spree in Nebraska and Wyoming.”

Morgan and Starkweather attended the same junior high school in Lincoln, and she even recalls talking to him on one occasion. She described him as a short, bandy-legged fellow with bright red hair who just seemed “kind of underprivileged.”

After Starkweather dropped out of school, he eventually took a job as a garbage collector, and as fate would have it, the Morgan family’s home was on his route. Morgan said she and her boyfriend were double-dating with another couple when she was alarmed to hear on the car radio early news reports about the Starkweather-Fugate mass murders.

According to Wikipedia, it was while working as a garbage collector at the minimum wage that “Starkweather began plotting bank robberies, and finally found his own personal philosophy by which to live out the remainder of his life: ‘Dead people are all on the same level.’"

The killing spree began in earnest in January, 1958, when Starkweather shot Fugate’s mother and stepfather and fatally clubbed her two-year-old sister. The remainder of the killings took place with Starkweather and Fugate on the run from Nebraska to Wyoming.

It was only later determined that in November 1957 Starkweather had killed the atttendant at a gas station in Lincoln for refusing to allow him to buy a toy dog on credit for Fugate.

All told, Starkweather was convicted of 11 murders and executed in the electric chair at the Nebraska State Penitentiary on June 25, 1959. Fugate was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 1976.

Starkweather may have died, but his notoriety lives on: he is said to have inspired the films The Sadist, Badlands, Natural Born Killers, Starkweather, Murder in the Heartland and the Bruce Springsteen song Nebraska.

Which brings us back to the Von Maur Mall in Omaha where the youthful Robert Hawkins, who shot and killed five women and three men last week before taking his own life, has no doubt achieved a similar notoriety. He wrote in his suicide note: “Now I’ll be famous.”

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fearlessly Facing a Hostile Media

Any half-awake, semi-literate follower of the coverage so far of Campaign 2008 offered by either the mainstream media or the blogosphere is aware the media is still controlled by the good old boys network in America.

Nevertheless, I was surprised yesterday to read a casual comment by Kos himself in a post on his leading left of center blog, The Daily Kos, confirming the obvious: one of Hillary Clinton’s challenges in her run for the Democratic nomination is a “hostile media.” (If you need further verification of the media's abusive treatment of Clinton, check out a recent item on Media Matters.)

From screaming negative headlines exaggerating poll results in Iowa favoring Obama by one or two points and either tucking news of a Clinton lead away in an obscure corner or not reporting it at all to skewed coverage of a debate by the Democratic candidates, it’s hard to find clear, objective, and honest coverage of campaign 2008 anywhere in the online media, including the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

The reader comments following a typically biased article from supporters of front-runner Clinton’s rivals is scary. This is especially true at the Huffington Post where within the past several days, Obama supporters have used every obscenity in their apparently limited vocabularies to accuse the Clinton camp of everything from staging the hostage crisis in New Hampshire to get favorable publicity and perpetrating the YouTube video titled Obama Obollywood. (You can see the video from this site by clicking on Obama’s image from the YouTube icon in the sidebar to the right of this post.)

“Good old boys” has always been something of a misnomer for a power structure that blocks advancement of talented, capable women. Sad to say, the boys have always found allies among those women who can’t tolerate sharing the limelight or power with a successful sister who shows signs of breaking through yet another major glass ceiling. Particularly disappointing have been the personal attacks on Hillary Clinton by Maureen Dowd and Arianna Huffington.

Lately, I’ve been reading Huffington’s book, On Becoming Fearless, that suggests at least a modicum of awareness on her part of the obstacles to success American women continue to face: “Our presence in powerful positions, on corporate boards, and as heads of our own businesses continues to grow. Fortune magazine reports that as of 2005, roughly half of all management and professional jobs were filled by women. In the last ten years, the number of Fortune 500 companies with at least one quarter of their boards filled with women directors went from eleven to sixty-four. And women now own 48 percent of small business.

“That’s all going in the right direction, but women are still not even close to parity, especially in pay. The compensation-package half-empty view looks like this: According to catalyst, a non-profit research group, women still account for just under 15 percent of Fortune 500 board members. And for the past ten years, the rate has been increasing only 0.5 percent a year. This means we won’t hit the 50 percent mark until 2076 – a nice tri-centennial present for America, but still, should it take three hundred years?”

Obviously, Huffington talks the talk on behalf of women’s rights, but don’t get me wrong: I don’t expect her, Maureen Dowd, or any other representative of the American media, male or female, to support Hillary Clinton in news coverage or opinion pieces because she’s a woman. I do, however, demand fair and equal coverage of Clinton’s undeniably fearless front-running bid for the presidency.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Snowstorms and Brass Angel Candleholders



The brass angels holding their tall candles aloft are standing vigil in my entryway these days. The angels were a gift from my daughter Jean more than 20 years ago, and I’ve kept them close at hand ever since. As you can see in the above photo, one angel is taller than the other, reminding me of a mother and daughter.

Ever since I received the brass angels, they’ve appeared from time to time in my dreams, sometimes floating in mid-air in the living room and occasionally standing above the foot of my bed watching over me.

The angels were an appropriate gift from Jean who worried about me because I seldom paid attention to weather reports and was frequently oblivious to tornado alerts and warnings of other potentially catastrophic conditions.

In the early 90s, I left Minnesota to sojourn briefly in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in western Pennsylvania. When I picked up the phone that Friday evening, Jean said, “Mom, do you know what’s coming your way?”

“It’s supposed to snow, isn’t it?”

“Put the phone down, Mom, and go out in the kitchen and check your food supply. Then come back and tell me what you have on hand.”

“I have some oranges, carrots, a loaf of bread and some coffee,” I reported.

Back in St. Paul, Jean had been listening to the national weather news: the blizzard of the century was headed toward the hamlet where I lived. Following my daughter’s advice, I rushed out to stock up with groceries and other supplies.

By morning, the snow had drifted as high as the roof of my back porch, and my driveway wasn’t plowed until the following Tuesday. It was probably my imagination, but when I glanced at the brass angels on my way out that afternoon, I could have sworn the little one winked at me.

Regardless, I’d learned my lesson. By the time the snow started falling in St. Paul last Saturday morning, I had a good supply of groceries and a couple of library books to read in case I couldn’t get out for a day or two.

I got to church and back on Sunday without mishap and made a run to the supermarket to restock before the second major snowfall of the season struck yesterday.

Dodging snowstorms this first week in December has lured me away from the ups and downs of Campaign 2008 and other compelling current events to holiday preparations. My son and his wife will be here on Sunday afternoon to bake Christmas cookies and once I get this posted, I plan to do a little cleaning – very little - and decorate my apartment.

Despite our fondest hopes, my daughter Jean may not be here in person this weekend, but we hold her always in our hearts, and the treasured gift of the brass angel candleholders continuously assures us of her presence in our lives.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Clinton Reclaims Lead in Iowa

After all of the media uproar and the premature celebration of the extreme left on behalf of Barack Obama’s short-lived three or four point lead in Iowa, you’d think Clinton would at least get front-page coverage for the recent AP-Pew telephone poll results showing her now five points ahead.

The coverage of her success is much more muted than that of Obama, the darling of the extreme left – no screaming headlines for Clinton on the front page of the Huffington Post. But here’s the score from the new AP-Pew poll for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina:

Iowa:
Clinton 31
Obama…26
Edwards 19

New Hampshire
Clinton 38
Obama 19
Edwards 15

South Carolina
Clinton 45
Obama 18
Edwards 10

I believe that means Clinton leads Obama in 49 of the 50 states. Evidently, he's still ahead in Illinois.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

So how many people do I have to kill to win this game?

Bob Herbert began his op-ed column in the NY Times today by wondering if children should be allowed to watch the Republican presidential debates. Herbert continues:

“There’s so much talk of violence and mayhem as the solution to our ills. The candidates seem so eager to flex their muscles and engage the nation in conflict: Let’s continue the war in Iraq. Let’s show them what we’re made of in Iran. Let’s round up those immigrants and ship ’em back where they came from.

“It’s like watching adolescent boys playing the ultimate video game, with no regard for the consequences. Rudy, the crime-fighter and terror maven, says he’s tougher than Mitt, who actually had illegals working on his property. Mitt begs to differ and says he’d like to double the size of the Guantánamo prison.”

Titled Rambo and the G.O.P., Herbert’s piece reminded me of a column I wrote (see below) on a related topic published in my community newspaper about two years ago:

So how many people do I have to kill to win this game?

A shadow now hovers over a joy I’ve often experienced on weekday mornings. I like to sit at my kitchen table and watch the neighborhood kids tumble down the hillside just beyond my window. The minute the school bus pulls in, they brush themselves off and scramble for its open door.

The shadow first appeared a couple of weeks ago following an online chat with my friend, David. We were just a couple of parents that afternoon sharing our concerns about a perceived up-tick in violence in our culture in recent years. My own two children are mature adults, but David and his wife still have a teenage son at home.

When my kids were young, parents worried about whether or not toy guns were appropriate playthings. We also complained to TV networks about the negative stereotypes and violence in children’s cartoons.

“Lately,” I said, “I’ve been shocked by the video games I’ve glimpsed on television.”

David replied, “It seems the primary goal in some of these games — so popular with today’s teens — is to kill as many people as you can as quickly as possible. It’s as if killing is okay as long as it’s not real people.

“One day someone’s going to think: ‘We’re not killing real people. We're just pushing a button, and some vaguely people-like beings on the other side of the globe disappear.”’

I’m reminded of the frequent recurrence of the word “kill” in the daily news, usually heard in reference to alleged terrorists or insurgents, as in: “We’ll hunt them down and kill them.”

It’s also been unnerving to hear U.S. officials debate on prime time TV what degree of pain we should allow our interrogators to inflict on enemy combatants — short of torture.

Not long after my e-mail exchange with David, something as horrific as the images from Abu Ghraib appeared on my television screen: the surveillance video from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

The teenagers filmed in the act of brutally beating a homeless man have since been taken into custody. The two young males have also been charged with murdering another homeless man and are suspected of beating a third.

The National Coalition for the Homeless reported 105 similar attacks in 2004, including 25 deaths. The majority of attackers were young men between the ages of 16 and 25.

Then from Chaska, Minn. came word of Nancy Everson’s murder. Her son Grant, 20, and three male friends — two 20-year-olds and a 17-year-old — allegedly plotted to kill both of Grant’s parents for his inheritance.

Now in custody, the 20-year-olds are charged with murder and attempted murder. The 17-year-old is charged with aiding an offender.

I’ve no idea whether any of the young men in the above news accounts ever played “Grand Theft Auto” or “Mortal Kombat.” But curiosity prompted me the other day to Google video games and violence.

A Brigham Young University NewsNet article confirmed that games depicting shooting, violence and drug usage have been among the best-selling. The article noted: “One example of a game with high levels of graphic violence and gore is ‘Carmageddon,’ a game released several years ago in which players run down pedestrians and crash into other cars. If all levels are completed, one researcher estimated, the player would have killed nearly 33,000 people.”

A news release from the American Psychological Association (APA) cited research indicating “exposure to violence in video games increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior, and angry feelings among youth.”

The APA’s resolution recommends all violence be reduced in video games and interactive media marketed to children and youth.

I’m one parent who wouldn’t await further word.

As it is, the shadow still lingers over the nearby hillside well after my neighborhood kids have boarded the school bus.

Placing my coffee cup in the dishwasher, I wonder how long it will be before these youngsters are lured from the innocent play of childhood by darker thrills — those that come from the power to deal out death on an animated screen.

Footnote:Since I wrote the preceding column, violence in our culture has increased even more and as Bob Herbert points out, it might be a good idea in today's world to shield the children from Republican debates.