Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The GOP: The Party of Shriveled Hearts

In today’s Washington Post, staff writer Peter Baker reviews Michael Gerson’s book, “Heroic Conservatism.”

The insider glimpses of the Bush Administration offered by the president's former senior advisor no longer have the power to shock. They’ve become as “discouragingly familiar” to the rest of us as they have to Gerson:

A proposal to help the poor or sick would be presented at a White House meeting, but Vice President Cheney's office or the budget team or some other skeptical officials would shoot it down. Too expensive. Wrong priority.

It’s no wonder victims of Katrina waited in vain; Cheney was calling the shots:

Gerson writes that he urged Bush to fire Rumsfeld after the 2004 election, but that Cheney opposed the move. He recounts meetings in which Cheney's office tried to kill proposals to increase training of death-row defense lawyers, transition assistance for prisoners and aid for Hurricane Katrina victims.

And finally we’re allowed to see something that might even make the nation's self-righteous values voters wince:
"The storm had also revealed a political and moral chasm in the Republican Party," he writes. "The president and I saw Katrina as an opportunity to open a debate on race and poverty. Anti-government Republicans saw Katrina as an opportunity to cut off medicine to old people. It confirmed the worst image of Republicans as the party of shriveled hearts."

The party of shriveled hearts: how’s that for a campaign slogan in 2008?

“Hillary Takes Gold; McCain - a Wooden Nickel”

In today’s Huffington Post, Amitai Etzioni, Professor of International Relations at George Washington University, previews the foreign policy agendas of Hillary Clinton and John McCain as presented in essays published in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs.

Etzioni finds McCain in the neocon mold:

Senator McCain's new essay could have been written by a Neo Con in 1995, 2000, or maybe even late as 2003. But even in those days, it would have taken an extremely untutored politician to hold that nations can be democratized in short
order, especially where the sociological conditions are not well prepared. The title of McCain's essay says it all: "An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom." As he sees it, "the protection and promotion of the democratic ideal, at home and abroad, will be the surest source of security and peace for the century that lies before us." Well, if wishes would be horses, beggars could ride.

Regarding Clinton’s essay, Etzioni states:

I have spent too many hours with Hillary, in White House dinners, at the Renaissance Weekend, and elsewhere to be a starry-eyed fan. Still, this essay nails it. She writes: "as we know at home and as we see today in Iraq and Afghanistan, opportunity cannot flourish without basic security." Her use of the term "basic" is essential. We previously defined it as "... the conditions under which most people, most of the time, are able to go about their lives, venture onto the street, work, study and participate in public life (politics included), without acute fear of being killed or injured-without being terrorized. To seek full-fledged security, to obviate all threats, to end fear, puts us on the slippery slope at the bottom of which is a police state." (

Clinton recognizes that forming a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan is a "daunting task". In Iraq, her policy would call for "helping Iraqis, not propping up the Iraqi government." Regarding Russia, although she criticizes Putin's repressive policies, Clinton would focus first of all on issues that concern security; ours, theirs and that of others. She would put high priority "on issues of high national importance, such as thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions, securing loose nuclear weapons in Russia and the former Soviet republics..."

In general, although Clinton views the promotion of democracy and freedom as a central component of US global leadership, she argues that "we must return to a pragmatic willingness to look at the facts on the ground and make decisions based on evidence rather than ideology." The contrast with McCain could not be clearer. At least in this round, Hillary takes gold; McCain - a wooden nickel.

Ganging up on Clinton in Philadelphia

I missed the Democratic candidates’ debate in Philadelphia last night, but most media accounts seemed to agree on the following points:

Questions from NBC’s Tim Russert and Brian Williams were intentionally designed to put the focus on Clinton.

The male candidates all rose to the occasion and attacked Clinton.

Clinton stood her ground.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Clinton Ranks First on Issues

Let's put aside for the moment the personal attacks and assorted 'isms regarding the top tier Democratic candidates and focus solely on their policy positions. This graphic in today's Boston Globe shows poll results ranking Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on three critical issues facing the country: Iraq War, economy, and healthcare.

Hillary Clinton’s Management Experience has been tracking the sexism in media coverage of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. A piece posted by Ann challenges this statement found in a New York Times article:
For much of her career, Mrs. Clinton served in largely advisory or collaborative management roles -- as a law firm partner, as chairwoman of the board at the nonprofit Children’s Defense Fund and as a director of three public corporations
Feministing's Ann responds:

Since when are law firm partner, chairman of the board, and director of a corporation "largely advisory or collaborative roles"? Oh, that's right, when they're held by women.

Ann continues:

When I read about Hillary's management style, and when I see in the debates that she knows her stuff backwards and forwards, I see echoes of female bosses and editors -- especially those who came up through the ranks a few decades ago -- who know every single talking point, who leave no detail unaccounted for, who had to be twice as good to be treated as equals. In my mind, that type of president would be a welcome departure from the bumbling, sloppy, nicknaming, joke-cracking demeanor of George W. Bush.

Please leave a comment.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fear-mongering as a Political Strategy

In his NY Times column this morning Paul Krugman invites readers to think about this:
Today, many of the men who hope to be the next president — including all of the candidates with a significant chance of receiving the Republican nomination — have made unreasoning, unjustified terror the centerpiece of their

Krugman reminds us that post 9/11, the Bush Administration adopted fear-mongering as a political strategy, and he goes on to say:

Most Americans have now regained their balance. But the Republican base, which lapped up the administration’s rhetoric about the axis of evil and the war on terror, remains infected by the fear the Bushies stirred up — perhaps because fear of terrorists maps so easily into the base’s older fears, including fear of dark-skinned people in general.

And the base is looking for a candidate who shares this fear.

I'm thinking this morning that what all Americans need to watch out for in the coming presidential election is replacing George W. Bush with another empty suit incapable of thoughtful, reasoned leadership who relies on fear-mongering to get his way.

Please leave a comment.

It's About Oil, Stupid!

Marty Kaplan in the Huffington Post shows how once again the mainstream media has been left behind in important news coverage. This time it's the recent record-high crude oil prices, and Kaplan effectively connects the dots to Greenspan's acknowledgement that we went to war in Iraq for no other reason than that nation's oil reserves:
A useful news story would have included Alan Greenspan acknowledging "what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil." A helpful account would have cited Gen. John Abizaid, the former CENTCOM Commander, explaining that "of course" the Iraq war is "about oil." Journalism that cares as much about sobering context as it does about B-roll bs would have reminded us that Halliburton's Dick "Secret Energy Task Force" Cheney dissed conservation as a panty-waist "personal virtue" a few months after he was sworn in as Regent. Instead of exhuming archival footage of gas station lines from the '70s, producers might have re-aired the more recent tape of former Harken Energy director George W. Bush strolling hand-in-hand through the Crawford bluebonnets with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, just in case anyone was wondering about the durability of the generations-long House of Bush-House of Saud alliance. And speaking of His Highness, perhaps it also would have been useful to see the There He Goes! Here
He Comes! Andrews Air Force Base shots of Cheney's 14-hours-each-way flight to see King Abdullah for eight hours in Riyadh, a no-press-corps/no-press-conference trip just after Thanksgiving last year which surely had nothing to do with oil, ya think? And as long as we're connecting the dots, it wouldn'thave hurt if some reporter with a decent megaphone had reviewed the number of times that Republicans in Congress and the White House have fought against windfall profits taxes and for juicy new tax breaks for ExxonMobil.

But I still don't get why the press hasn't been all over this whole oil-soaked scene or why more Americans aren't up in arms over it.

If you have any ideas, please leave a comment.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Coming Soon: a Data-Flooded Internet

Chris Gaylord writes in today's Christian Science Monitor:

More and more, Americans are treating their PC as a second TV. Few are ready to place a couch in front of their monitors, but millions are plopping down in front of Internet services such as YouTube, Joost, and television network websites to watch online shows and movies.

Streaming video will surge from 7.3 percent of all US consumer Internet traffic in 2006 to almost 33 percent by 2012, according to the market research firm IDC of Framingham, Mass.

But remember, that's just a percentage. Along with video's increasing share, total Internet traffic is expected to double every two years, industry analysts say.

Some warn that this rush will overwhelm service providers if they don't prepare for it. And the forecast for an ever-rising flood of data has some asking, is the Internet outdated? READ MORE.

"the most bullying and gay-baiting power brokers of the religious right"

In his NY Times column this morning, Frank Rich speculates about the diminishing influence of "the most bullying and gay-baiting power brokers of the religious right" as evidenced by the success of Rudy Giuliani's campaign.

In reference to Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Gary Bauer, et al, Rich says:

These self-promoting values hacks don’t speak for the American mainstream. They don’t speak for the Republican Party. They no longer speak for many evangelical ministers and their flocks. The emperors of morality have in fact had no clothes for some time. Should Rudy Giuliani end up doing a victory dance at the Republican convention, it will be on their graves

Rich concludes:

Whichever candidate or party lands in the White House, this much is certain: Inauguration Day 2009 is at the very least Armageddon for the reigning ayatollahs of the American right.

Please leave a comment.

The RNC's Skills in the Art of Distortion

An editorial in the Boston Globe this morning titled What Hillary Said spotlights the skills of the Republican National Committee and their minions at distorting the words of their opponents. The editorial begins:

IN AN interview with The Boston Globe editorial board on Oct. 10, Senator Hillary Clinton made a remark that has been so badly twisted by her opponents that we feel it necessary to reprint the interview transcript that contains the remark. MORE
The editorial includes the transcript and the ways in which Republicans have demonically distorted Clinton's words.

Please leave a comment.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

What Does This Say About Gender Equality?

It's hard to read Bob Herbert’s column in today's NY Times on the contemporary slave trade allowed to flourish in America, but it will quickly erase any illusions you may have about the attainment of gender equality in our culture. Here's an excerpt:

In prior eras, the slave trade was conducted openly, with ads prominently posted and the slaves paraded and inspected like animals, often at public auctions. Today’s sex traffickers, the heirs to that tradition, try to keep their activities hidden, although the rest of the sex trade, the sale of the women’s services, is advertised on a scale that can only be characterized as colossal.

Please leave a comment.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Revisiting the Digital Life

Two weeks ago in this space I lamented my brand new TV’s stubborn “no signal” response,
even though I had carefully hooked it up to a rabbit-ear antenna designed for the digital age. My next door neighbor offered his technical expertise, but the best he could coax from my flat screen Memorex was reception worse than that of my 27-year-old analog model.

Poor TV reception was only one of my problems. As a blogger and free-lancer writer, I was using my dial-up connection to the Internet several hours a day, thus blocking incoming phone calls. It got so bad that my niece from Ohio contacted my son who lives here in St. Paul to express her concern; she had been unable to get through to me by phone.

Suddenly vulnerable to the cable company’s sales pitch, this long-term holdout bought the package including high-speed Internet, starter cable TV, and digital phone service with unlimited long distance. A week later, and my household is digital.

My TV viewing habits haven’t changed: better reception and more channels haven’t improved the quality of the programming, so I continue to turn my set off after the evening news. But I do enjoy whipping around the Internet at top speed, and unlimited long distance is an asset for a free-lance writer occasionally required to do out of state interviews.

In the meantime, I managed to keep my old phone number, but I’m still working on notifying contacts of my new email address. And I’ve only had to move a few pieces of furniture around to accommodate the location of the previously installed cable jacks in my apartment.

Now if I can just find the receipt so I can get back the $30.00 I paid for that rabbit-ear antenna that was supposed to work with a digital TV.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wrapping the Earth in an Explosive Vest

In his column in Monday’s Boston Globe, James Carroll develops an ominous metaphor tied to Bush’s recent statement to world leaders that if they were interested in avoiding World War III, they ought to be interested in preventing the Iranians from obtaining the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon.

Carroll calls attention to the deaths of two young suicide bombers whose plans went awry. The first changed his mind on the way to his target, but died when he accidentally detonated himself while reporting at a police station.

The second young man revealed his plans to family members. When his mother tried to remove the explosive vest from his body, the bomb went off and killed him, his mother, and three siblings.

The suicide bomber has been America’s nemesis in both Afghanistan and Iraq; Carroll says, “A seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers is what makes the American war the horror that it is.”

Carroll focuses on the extreme difficulty of removing the suicide bomber’s explosive vest without detonating it. And he compares the situation America has created in Iraq to wrapping that nation’s body in wires and plastic explosives, suggesting grim implications for a precipitous withdrawal.

Carroll concludes that Bush’s reference to World War III globalizes the explosive vest:

Iraqi civil war, conflict with Iran, Turkish-Kurdish violence, chaos throughout the Middle East - and now President Bush tells us that, if we don't defuse the regional body vest carefully, World War III will start. There it is. Bush himself acknowledging at last what, under his leadership, the United States has done. We have put an explosive vest on Earth itself.

And now our job is to get it off. The revelation here is that, in the new age, every bomber is a suicide bomber.

In my opinion, Carroll’s column is profoundly disturbing: a wake up call to the world.

What do you think? Please leave a comment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Women Voters in 2008

I've been fighting a cold for a couple of days, so I'm a little behind in my blogging. But I did want to comment on Eugene Robinson's column in today's Washington Post.

I agree with Robinson that Clinton is garnering some support from women simply because she has a good chance of becoming our first female president. But I don't think anyone would consider voting for her unless they recognized that she's qualified for the job.

I notice also that Robinson doesn't mention the flipside - the likelihood that a certain percentage of voters will not vote for Clinton because she's a woman.

It's too bad that our nation is so backward in matters of gender equality that it has to be such a big issue in this campaign.

Personally, I can't help marveling at Clinton's strength and courage every time I see a photo of her standing on stage alongside the opposition - seven stalwart males uniformly outfitted in their suits and ties.

Whoa! Judith Warner's Domestic Disturbances, talks about The Clinton Surprise, in today's New York Times. Warner also makes some good points in her reading of Hillary Clinton's frontrunner status in the presidential campaign. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fallout From the Language of Hate

The above photo is from the 2002 Juneteeth Celebration, Minneapolis, Minn.

My concern for the harmful effects of negative stereotypes is rooted in my own life experience. I’m from a large displaced Appalachian family that moved to rural northwestern Ohio shortly before I was born, the 10th of 11 children.

We were sharecroppers in my early childhood, and the family income never rose above the subsistence level.

Bearing the double burden of poverty and our Appalachian heritage, my brothers and sisters and I were often ridiculed at school for our shabby clothes and hill country speech.

Decades later, after graduating in 1990 from United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities, I enrolled in the Appalachian Ministries Educational Program at Berea College in Kentucky, not too far from Magoffin County, the place my parents had once called home. That two-month summer program was my first visit to Appalachia.

In one of my classes, Dr. Helen Lewis, known as the mother of Appalachian studies, explained how the media has perpetuated negative stereotypes of mountain people. The comic strip, Lil Abner, and the TV programs, The Beverly Hillbillies and Hee Haw, were offered as contemporary examples.

By then the people of Appalachia had begun the process of rejecting the images imposed on them by others and were creating their own images. Listen to mountain poet, Jim Wayne Miller:

You’ve heard the prayer that goes:
Help us to see ourselves as others see us.
Buddy, that’s not the prayer we want to pray.
I believe we want to pray:
Lord, help us to see ourselves – and no more.
Or maybe: Help us to see ourselves,
Help us to be ourselves,
Help us to free ourselves
From seeing ourselves
As others see us.

It’s been awhile since I’ve experienced regional or class discrimination, but launching my blog this past August reminded me with a jolt that our nation still excludes groups of people from full participation in society on the basis of such factors as age, gender, race, national origin, religion, and sexual preference.

I’ve heard the Internet described more than once over the years as an open sewer; and for what it's worth, I’ve had Google’s safe search on since the first time I dialed up.

With little experience in the outer limits of cyberspace, I was already nervous about staking a claim on the Web even before reading Ellen Goodman’s timely column on the risks involved.

Goodman marveled that a convention of progressive political bloggers the previous week had attracted seven out of the eight Democratic candidates. But what she really wanted to talk about were reported incidents of harassment of female bloggers, who remain a minority in the blogosphere.

Citing an ABC interview, Goodman quoted progressive blogger Markos Moulitsas: "I learned to talk the way I do in the US Army. And we don't mince words. In politics, I don't see it any different. I see it as a battlefield."

Goodman reported that another panelist, the American Prospect's Garance Franke-Ruta, had this to say: "If you're an angry man you're righteous. If you're an angry woman, you're crazy or a bitch."

Goodman continued, “Women have been talking about this since blogger Kathy Sierra was threatened with a picture of her next to a noose. Convention organizer Gina Cooper has two e-mail addresses, just one carrying her female name. Only ‘Gina’ gets the hate e-mail with sexual threats and such comments as: "I'm going to hunt you down."

“Who knows,” Goodman wondered, “how many women are scared silent.”

The noose symbolism has caught on with the hate-mongering crowd. Just ask Dr. Madonna G. Constantine, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Dr. Constantine specializes in the study of how race and racial prejudice can affect clinical and educational interactions.

Quoted in a New York Times article, Dr. Constantine said she remained mystified over who could be responsible for leaving a noose dangling on her office door at Teachers College this week.

The same article mentioned a separate case in which an “anti-Semitic smear” had been found the day before in a bathroom in a campus building.

And this past Sunday, a suspected copycat incident was reported in which a noose was found outside a post office near ground zero.

As far as I know, none of the above has yet been described as a legitimate expression of free speech. You’ll recall that famed First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus defended Don Imus after CBS fired the talk show host for describing the Rutgers women's basketball team on the air as "nappy-headed hos.”

Just before his dismissal, Imus had reportedly signed a five-year $40 million contract to continue his nationally syndicated radio program.

Now here’s the shocker: The New York Times recently announced that Citadel Broadcasting Corporation, owner of ABC Radio Networks, has been negotiating with Imus about a possible return to radio.

Blogging for the Huffington Post, Carol Jenkins reported reaction to Imus’s possible resurrection: “Women we worked with earlier this spring to address this situation were appalled that, just weeks after the U.S. House of Representatives hosted a hearing titled ‘From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images,’ Citadel and ABC would be considering providing a new platform to Imus.”

From the first, Imus deflected criticism of his offensive comments about the Rutgers team by pointing his critics toward the rap industry. Jim Abrams of the Associated Press reported two rappers present at the House hearing took opposite sides on the need for hip-hop artists to clean up the sexist and violent language from their works:

“Former gangsta rapper Master P apologized to all the women out there and said he is now committed to producing clean lyrics. He said the angry music of his past came from seeing relatives and friends shot and killed.”

Master P added that he didn’t want his own children to listen to his music, "so if I can do anything to change this, I'm going to take a stand and do that."

Rapper and record producer Levell Crump protested: "I'm like Stephen King: horror music is what I do. Change the situation in my neighborhood and maybe I'll get better.”

Abrams noted the two rappers were joined by music industry executives and scholars, who disagreed over who was to blame for sexist and degrading language in hip-hop music but were united in opposing government censorship as a solution.

Focusing on the problems in the black culture might not be all bad, according to Thomas Chatterton Williams, a graduate student in the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at New York University.

Williams argues in the Washington Post that hip-hop culture is not black culture; it’s black street culture. He says, “Like neurotics obsessed with amputating their own healthy limbs, middle-class blacks concerned with ‘keeping it real’ are engaging in gratuitously self-destructive and violently masochistic behavior.”

“Sociologists have a term for this pathological facet of black life.” Williams continues. ‘It's called "cool-pose culture.’ Whatever the nomenclature, ‘cool pose’ or keeping it real or something else entirely, this peculiar aspect of the contemporary black experience -- the inverted-pyramid hierarchy of values stemming from the glorification of lower-class reality in the hip-hop era -- has quietly taken the place of white racism as the most formidable obstacle to success and equality in the black middle classes.”

Williams concludes: “Until black culture as a whole is effectively disentangled from the python-grip of hip-hop, and by extension the street, we are not going to see any real progress.”

Williams raises some good questions, but let’s be clear: his critique in no way justifies white male Don Imus mimicking phrases from hip hop to slur a women’s college basketball team.

Responding to controversies stirred up by talk radio in New Jersey, Assemblyman Wilfredo Caraballo shakes his head at the whole phenomenon.

“What puzzles me,” Caraballo said, “is the number of people who defend the racism, misogyny, and other indecencies spouted in hip hop lyrics, gangsta rap, and radio trash talk. I’ve given up trying to fathom people who actually find entertainment value in listening to a Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh.”

A key insight we’ve forgotten from the 1960s and the 1970s is that language shapes our thoughts, and thoughts inform our behavior. Remember when we promoted inclusive language, even in God talk?

In recent years, inclusive language has been pushed aside in favor of increasingly sexist, degrading, and violent verbal assaults.

Not surprisingly, the FBI recently reported the number of violent crimes in the United States rose for a second straight year in 2006, marking the first sustained increase in homicides, robberies and other serious offenses since the early 1990s.

I won’t argue the coarsening of our language is the only factor in the nation’s recent rise in violent crimes, but I’m betting it’s had an impact. In her column mentioned earlier, Ellen Goodman wondered how many women in the blogosphere had been silenced by hate-mongers.

We could ask the same question about all those in our country who are routinely subjected to slurs or threats in the blogosphere, the rap industry, trash talk radio, or even more frightening — in their own neighborhoods or workplaces.

I’m not among those scared silent, but in launching my blog last August, I initially avoided providing any more information about myself than required, and I didn’t post my picture until weeks later.

I’ve gradually gotten braver, though, and I’ve become increasingly confident in expressing my thoughts and ideas. I’m especially grateful to those who have submitted thoughtful and encouraging comments.

Let’s hope the day will come when no American will have to overcome fear before starting a blog or otherwise claiming the right to participate on an equal basis in a democratic society.

Note: Today's post is an edited version of a presentation I gave this past Sunday at Groveland Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. Groveland meets in the St. Paul Area Council of Churches Building across the street from Macalaster College. For more information, go to

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Pox on the Rabbit-Eared/Digital Life

It was a mistake this morning to read The Rabbit-Eared Life, Judith Warner’s latest post at Domestic Disturbances (NY Times). Her family’s experience of flat screen TV without cable may have been humorous another time. Not today.

Only yesterday I decided to replace my old TV given to me by my family in 1987. I could still get pretty good reception with it from FOX, NBC, and PBS. However, CBS provided a weirdly distorted, Picasso-like version of Katie Couric on the Evening News, and ABC offered only an occasional flicker of light.

I hadn’t minded until lately when I walked through places like Best Buy and Target and noticed all those high def TV screens boldly winking at me from the shelves at the end of the aisle.

So I asked the kid in the khaki pants and red shirt at the store if he knew anything about the newer LCD models. (I’m good with LCD terminology because my computer monitor is like that.) His “Not much” ought to have slowed me down, but once I’ve made up my mind to do something, I usually go through with it.

Anyway, I selected the 15-inch Memorex, and he helped me find an antenna that he thought would work. It was mid-afternoon by then, and I’m thinking I’ll get home in time to watch the news.

I’m even a little excited as I envision taking my svelte little TV out of its box; setting it on the breakfast bar so I can view it from either the kitchen or living room; and plugging it in and turning it on: high def viewing; simple as that.

No one had explained to me the difference between analog and digital TV.

I’d bought a digital camera about a year ago, though, and I shuddered when I looked at the instruction manual for my new TV. It’s printed in the same, single-spaced 8-pt. type, interspersed with indecipherable, miniscule diagrams.

And just like my camera, every button on the TV and remote is too small and close to the next one for a normal-sized finger to press individually. Each button is also programmed for at least five or six functions as in: “Use the up volume button or the down volume button to select whatever from the onscreen menu.

I tried that routine several times before reading the next sentence, which warns that the menu will disappear if you don’t do what you’re supposed to within a few seconds.

When despite my best efforts, the screen kept flashing “no signal,” I figured maybe I should have hooked up the rabbit ears first. (Heck, my old TV would at least show a little life and make noise without an antenna.)

Before I began, I carefully reviewed the directions from the antenna box as well as those from the TV manual. Turns out, my new antenna has separate lead wires for UHF and VHF. I finally decide I’m missing a part – something called a combiner. Or maybe I just have the wrong antenna.

I gave up and watched Picasso Katie on my old TV.

It’s already past noon today, and the antenna is still standing idle next to my inoperative digital TV on my breakfast bar. And I’m not up for going back to the store.

Judith Warner’s description of her family’s rabbit-eared, digital TV experience was just too discouraging: ‘“We have a set of rabbit ears. If you adjust them to eye-gouging level, you can get a pretty good grainy picture from Fox. (“24”!) If you stand and hold one antenna, you can get a great picture from one of the Big Three – though watching “The Unit” in segments, one person on the couch and one standing behind the TV, really isn’t all that much fun.”’

Guess I can put up with my old analog’s distorted reception of CBS for a while longer.


I went back to the store later on and discovered I did have the wrong antenna. Another kid in khaki pants and red shirt sold me the right one, but I still can’t get the darned thing to work, so a pox on the rabbit-eared/digital life.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Sanctity of Whose Life?

Halloween is fast approaching and in a macabre kind of way, James Dobson’s recent sermon in the New York Times on the sanctity of enwombed life was timely, following as it did on the heels of Bush’s veto of the child health care bill.

Dobson announced that more than 50 pro-family leaders had resolved as follows: “If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous.”

Dobson went on to say, “I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.”

For some of us, the sanctity of human life extends beyond the nine months in the womb. But in 2004, Dobson helped an army of so-called values voters re-elect George W. Bush, the Christian Right’s chosen standard-bearer. Since then, quite a few values that support life after birth have gone missing in the conduct of our government.

For starters, consider the values that inform plain and simple honesty (the Bush Administration has no credibility); humane treatment of detainees; the oversight of U.S. hired guns in Iraq; adequate aid for communities stricken by natural disaster; care for the environment; follow-up funding for mandated educational programs; and a commitment to our children’s health care.

Yesterday’s Los Angeles Times nailed Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program as both heartless and mindless: “In purporting to defend against a government takeover of the insurance industry, he {Bush} blocked one of the best options for lifting families from wholly government-paid entitlements like Medicaid and into private insurance paid for in part by parents.”

The editorial continued: “SCHIP isn't welfare. In California, it is Healthy Families, the highly successful program that matches every state dollar with two from the federal government and entices parents to obtain and contribute to health coverage for their kids. Families that earn too much to qualify for Medi-Cal (the California incarnation of Medicaid) but not enough to buy insurance on their own use Healthy Families to get their kids off to a good start in life and correct any problems that, left untreated, would turn into a larger taxpayer burden down the road. Those parents also get into the habit of making health insurance part of their budget, which is exactly what opponents of government-provided healthcare want.”

The editoral concludes: “Congress will try to override the veto later this month. If a few more members get clued in to the wisdom of using government help to introduce families to private health insurance, they will do a world of good for thousands of children.”

Let’s pray that a few more members get clued in. As Jesus, Bush’s favorite philosopher, would say, “Suffer the little children, come unto me.”

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Hillary Leads in Iowa

THOMAS BEAUMONT AND JONATHAN ROOS -- Des Moines Register October 7, 2007

Hillary Clinton has climbed into first place in a new Des Moines Register poll of Iowans expected to participate in the state's Democratic presidential caucuses, with John Edwards and Barack Obama both in striking distance. Read More

Friday, October 5, 2007

The Electorate Grows Up

Disgruntled media, including bloggers, have expressed contempt lately for the significance of election-year polls as the latest Washington Post-ABC readout shows Hillary Clinton steadily gaining momentum. Adding insult to injury, her campaign just announced fundraising success last quarter outpacing Obama.

The polls, however, are saying as much about the maturity of the American people as they are about Hillary Clinton. Apparently, we’ve grown up sufficiently to avoid the mistakes of 2000 and 2004 when we twice chose charm (so-called likeability) over substance (leadership ability) and wound up with a period that will go down in history as the Era of Bush Incompetence.

We’ve learned the hard way that someone you’d enjoy hanging out with in a bar isn’t necessarily even trustworthy, much less presidential material.

Our lessons, however, have been hard won, and as Ellen Goodman points out in Truthdig, political writers, in particular, are of little help.
She notes: '“All summer the story line was Hillary Clinton’s steady-as-you-go campaign. After one debate or another, she was described as ‘commanding,’ ‘knowledgeable,’ ‘experienced.’ Now even Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson are pleading their case for the Republican nomination on the claim that they alone can beat Hillary.”’

But Goodman continues: '“Thus we now enter the season when the journalistic pack, including those who rail against pack journalism, howls in anxiety at the prospect of a front-runner loping to the finish line. The colors are changing and the headlines are, too. They now read: ‘Can Clinton Be Stopped?’ ‘Can Clinton’s ‘Inevitability’ Be Erased?’ “How to Stop Hillary.’ And ‘Clinton Leads Now, But Race Isn’t Over.’"

One would think stopping Clinton is more critical to the journalistic pack’s survival than rousing their readers to earnest discussion of issues that matter.

But to our credit, an attitude of sobriety hovers over prospective voters as we weigh the qualifications of the various candidates. We want change, but we are first of all concerned to elect a president with the experience necessary to repair the damage to our nation this administration will leave behind. We understand the scope of the damage will go far beyond Bush’s catastrophic misadventure in Iraq; America will be picking up the pieces for years to come.

Considering all that’s at stake in this presidential election, it doesn’t seem too much to ask of the media to attend to the public mood and focus on important policy matters instead of placing full-length articles in our major newspapers on John Edwards’s hairstyle or Hillary Clinton’s laughter.

I’m reminded of an old saying: “There go my people. I must hurry and catch up with them for I am their leader.”

Maybe it’s time for the media to catch up with the American people’s increasing level of maturity.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Support for Myanmar

Bill Varner reported Oct. 2 for Bloomberg -- '"China and Russia were among the 47 members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to unanimously adopt a resolution that ``strongly deplores'' the Myanmar government's crackdown on the country's biggest pro- democracy protests in almost 20 years."'

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Myanmar: “Loving Kindness Will Win Every Time”

In Rudyard Kipling's day, Myanmar, formerly Burma, was a colony of the British Empire. Mention of Burmese cities in recent news broadcasts of the pro-democracy uprising there reminded me of Kipling’s poem, Mandalay, once required reading in high school English classes; re-reading those lines today, the vulgar chauvinism is jarring, shocking:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"

Then in the next stanza:

An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
Bloomin' idol made o'mud –
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd –

Kipling (1865-1936) didn’t live to see it happen, but Burma gained its independence from the British Empire in 1948. The Burmese people have since struggled to establish a democratic government and in fact, the National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in 1990. However, the junta refused to hand over power, and they placed the NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest where she is said to remain.

In the current pro-democracy uprising in Myanmar tens of thousands of Buddhist monks, later joined by nuns, were involved prior to the brutal military crackdown. Protestors reportedly carried signs reading, “loving kindness will win every time.”

Anyone who has been even briefly exposed to mindfulness meditation is likely familiar with the ancient Buddhist prayer of loving-kindness. As beginners, we are first invited to repeat the prayer many times to build up loving-kindness within ourselves. Later on, we substitute the names of loved ones, practicing until we gain the strength to include our enemies. Eventually, we extend our goodwill to people throughout the world.

But for now let’s focus our attention on Myanmar where the AP reports the junta’s brutal crackdown continues; many monks have been imprisoned, and the people are losing hope:

According to the AP, “As governments heap criticism on the junta, Myanmar and foreign activists continue to call for concrete, urgent action.

"The world cannot fail the people of Burma again," said the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, an exile group based in Washington. "Selfless sacrifices deserve more than words and lip-service. They want effective intervention before it is too late."

Here’s the good news: on this day, October 2, 2007, at the request of 53 nations, the UN Human Rights Council is holding an urgent, all-day meeting on the situation in Burma.

From around the world, may the rest of us pause for a few minutes and in solidarity with the suffering people of Myanmar and their brave Buddhist clergy, repeat the loving-kindness prayer on their behalf:

May the people of Myanmar be filled with loving kindness;
May the people of Myanmar be safe and protected from all internal and external harm;
May the people of Myanmar be as healthy and whole as possible;
May the people of Myanmar experience ease and well-being.