Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yuki napping


Yuki napping
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
She decided to cuddle up on one of my presents right before I was planning on snuggling under it to watch a movie.

Tree


Tree
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
This year's tree is a noble fir. We ended up decorating it mostly with star figures.

Pets


Pets
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Baraka getting kitty noogies...his favorite.

Chaiyo


Chaiyo
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Rare Chaiyo sighting...munching down on a treat.

Rosemary in ice


Rosemary in ice
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Along with tin mantis in background.

Christmas Cactus in bloom

Just in time for the holly daze!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Democrats and teh gays

On my birthday in November of 1992, President-elect Bill Clinton reaffirmed his stance that homosexual folks should be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military. A political storm ensued and by January, after only 2 weeks in office, Clinton was backpedaling. By the fall of 2003 we had in place the deplorable "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" bigotry policy.

Since leaving office Clinton has said he regrets that decision. Indeed, when his wife was running for president, they both denounced the policy. Hillary Clinton pledged to change the policy if elected to the presidency. Barack Obama also pledged to repeal the rule, but has since said that such a repeal might be delayed until 2010, after consulting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Obama might want to rush that policy a little after this week. As with his Democratic predecessor Obama campaigned heavily with the gay community. He sought their votes and more importantly he sought their donations. He promised during the campaign to be supportive of their rights and to be inclusive in policy determinations. And, just like his Democratic predecessor, once the campaign was over, Obama delivered the political equivalent to a kick in the crotch of this community by proposing not only a delay in dealing with DADT, but also by inviting Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inaugeral ceremony.

By now you've probably read some of the statements that Warren and/or his church have made regarding homosexuals. The statements are ignorant and openly support bigotry. In addition, Warren supported Proposition 8 which repealed marriage rights for homosexuals in California (this in spite of the fact that Warren claims that one of his problems with homosexuals is their lack of commitment to one mate). In other words, Obama could hardly have made a worse choice.

What is it with Democrats and teh gays? Are gay folks only good enough to deliver money and votes for office, but not good enough to take a moral stance for their rights once in office? Is it moral for the Democrats to take that money and not deliver a legal expansion of rights that, just like everyone, homosexuals deserve? Why is it that Democrats are so willing to throw gays under the bus? How long are gay folks expected to put up with this crap? How long are teh gays expected to open their wallets only to be slapped in the face with astounding alacrity and hypocrisy?

I was mightily pissed at Bill Clinton's decision. It was the end of my love affair with his presidency. His spineless actions were explained as necessary for greater battles. What did he deliver? Health care? Nope. Instead we got "Welfare reform" and a Republican Congress. Gee, thanks for that. So, what's in Obama's future and what will his excuse be? We may never know as Rachael Maddow noted, the mainstream media isn't following up:



Frankly, I'm not optimistic about this. Next election, gays should keep their wallets closed and screw the Democratic party. Queers should be tired of being fucked over by the Democrats.

Retale

Across the parking lot from my store sits a large empty building. It used to house a Big Kmart. When that company went bankrupt in 2002, the Bellevue store was one of the ones that they shuttered. It's a very large building and it's been empty for so long that people, including myself, seem to remember it being closed for longer than it has. It's an eyesore that has served no purpose other than as a parking lot for a local car dealership and an icon for directions. "We're in the shopping center where the old Kmart used to be."

Costco has flirted with that location. In 2003 they announced plans to put a gourmet food shop there. It was supposed to be a trial store where they'd give food items a go as a tester for the regular stores. Plans for that fell through the same year as a local neighborhood association disapproved of the traffic and noise that the store might generate. A great deal of consternation followed as many people in that area could use the jobs and many others were happy with the idea of a Costco food shop in their back yard. The neighborhood association is chaired by some powerful residents, however, who are generally opposed to change.

Costco again flirted with the idea of a store there in 2007. They contacted Bellevue city officials. There was a new sticking point - there's a creek the runs under the parking lot that the city said needed to be restored. Costco balked at paying for the restoration and did it's own study. The Costco study found that the creek did badly need some restoration and, after several months of negotiation they announced that they had come to an agreement with the city. In November 2007 a news release stated that Costco planned on beginning a new building the following year and that they would pay for the restoration. City officials were delighted.

In September 2008 the whole deal fell through. Officially, it was the economy that did it in and there's some truth to that. Other rumors fly, though. I've heard from people associated with Costco that the city of Bellevue wasn't forthcoming with permits. Then there was word from city workers that Costco balked at the city's plan for restoration and parking. Finally came the rumor from several who said that they were "in the know" that the neighborhood association was behind the city's stalling and that they were pulling the strings. I've met one of those folks from the neighborhood association and he was gleeful that the deal was sunk.

Whatever the reason, the building sits empty. It's still an icon and a 120,000 square foot eyesore. It's also the cause of much speculation and conversation such as the one I had this week with a gentleman who shopped my store. He was an older fellow in his early 70s. He wasn't a regular customer of mine. In fact, he normally shopped the Kirkland store, but he found himself in my neighborhood and decided to stop by and get his holiday shopping done early. He was a pleasant man, unpretentious, but with the casual air of wealth. We exchanged good conversation before he asked the inevitable question:

"What are they ever going to do with that old Kmart building over there? Heard anything about it?"

"Well, there was some discussion of putting a brothel in there." I was, of course, teasing him. I was in a good mood and having a good time and decided to try some mischief.

Much to my surprise, he didn't bat an eye at my comment. In fact, he looked like he was seriously considering my words when he replied, "It's too big for that."

Further amused, I quickly followed up with "The Olympics are coming in 2010."

Not to be outdone, he said, "The state could use the revenue these days."

And I ended it with, "That's just one of the many ways to fill that $5 billion hole."

By this point my assistant manager who had been listening to the exchange was laughing very hard. The customer and I stared at each other with smirks on our faces and twinkles in our eyes. "Good talking with you, Richard. I'll be back" he said and he patted me on the shoulder on his way out.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yet more snow storm pix




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More snow storm pics




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Winter snow storm

Pictures from the snow storm. It began to snow on the afternoon of December 17, 2008. It snowed all night and the next day. I made it to and from work. By the time I got home on the 18th, we had over a foot of snow in the driveway.


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Monday, December 08, 2008

Quickies

Sorry for the lack of posts. It's the busy season at work and I've been attempting to stay away from the computer while off. For instance, yesterday I had breakfast, went grocery shopping, and then came home and made a crab souffle using the fresh crab that I bought and cleaned. Oh, and we listened to Xmas music while the co-signer made Xmas cookies for work.

A couple of things, however, sent nasty outrage shivers up my spine this morning. First, the RIAA is suing an ill, disabled girl. Secondly, a 10 year old with mental disabilities has been labeled a sex offender.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Really odd transition

I've mentioned this to a couple of friends, but I found myself just amazed at it again this morning. I was watching the Obama press conference on the television. Once again he gave a nod to the current administration for their cooperation during the transfer of office. I rarely applaud the Bush administration, but give credit where it's due and thusfar it appears to be due.

However, I am struck by how quickly this transition is taking place. Bush is hardly mentioned anywhere. Sure, he gets his coverage when he goes on a trip or has a few words to say about Mumbai (another absolutely amazing thing - the press is calling it "Mumbai" instead of "Bombay"...something they've refused to do for years), but it's so obvious that when it comes to anything substantial, the press has moved on.

Clearly, this just isn't because he's an unliked president. I recall when Carter left office. He wasn't well liked at the time and yet he wasn't completely ignored in the way Bush has been. Reagan was not a very well liked person either, contrary to what some would have you believe. Not as bad off as Carter by a long shot, but Reagan wasn't particularly popular and the country was ready to move on and yet, he wasn't ignored. Al Gore ran away from the support of Bill Clinton. Clinton was loved in his own party, but the country was tired of the controversies he caused. Still, he wasn't ignored as a lame duck president.

Never in my observations have I seen a president so quickly reduced to a footnote on the day's news. Going back to Mumbai, Bush said a few words and sent Kindasleazy Rice over to diffuse any problems with Pakistan. Still, who got the main coverage? Obama and his words did. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was announcing his national security staff nominations. Even so, the press went to him for leadership and he's not in office yet. A lot could go wrong between now and Inauguration Day, but the press looked to him.

The week prior, Wall Street looked to Obama for financial leadership. Indeed, they gave the thumb's up initially for the appointments. I'm not certain, but I think what we're seeing is unprecedented.

Even people that I speak with daily talk about Obama and his thoughts. Some die hard conservatives that I know are talking about him and not the president. The media, it seems to me, is reflecting the mood of the country. We're ready to move on. We've been ready. Even the conservatives have dumped Bush, though they don't particularly care for Obama. No one is stepping forward in the Republican Party as it's voice and it's leader. McCain has been relugated to the sidelines. Palin is a joke amongst serious conservatives. Romney is seen with suspicion.

Into this void comes a person with an intellectual nature and a calm presentation. He's speaking and we're listening. We're tired of the idiot who we can share that beer with during the college bull session and we're ready to be presented with seriousness and vision. It gives me a shade of hope.

We'll see. As time goes on I expect to find much to disagree with the incoming administration about. But for now I seem to be like the rest of the country - just grateful for the moment.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Overheard in Retail

The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year in our business. It's followed closely by the day before Christmas, Mother's Day, and Father's Day. What do all of these days have in common? They are tied closely to family. Seriously, I cannot convey how many times I hear people come in who say that they are buying alcohol to "deal with" their family. It far outnumbers those who come in and tell me that they are sharing a joyful drink with the skelatives.

So, we were busy yesterday - extremely busy. On top of the crowds I had to take in a new truckload of merchandise and place an order for next week's truckload without the benefit of the report I use to do this accounting for the merchandise I was about to receive. It's a ton of sweat labor and poor programming adding to more stress on the day.

During these types of days I look for a moment that will bring joy to the day. It lessens the stress, adds the proper amount of cheer, allows me a respite from the chaos, and generally keeps me from looking down upon the nastier figures who come in. Such a moment was visited upon me around 4:30 yesterday. My junior clerk is a Native American. A customer she was waiting on was all a twitter about the holiday. The customer paused and said, "Oh, do you people celebrate Thanksgiving?" (Note the use of the phrase "you people", meaning "other", meaning, "not quite our people or my people"...in another person's world it could be considerably offensive, but my clerk is smart and kind enough to know this and yet forgive). Her reply, which lit my day:
We tried that once and look what happened to us. So, we don't do that anymore.
The customer smiled. I laughed, literally, aloud. My customer laughed, literally, aloud. As soon as her customer left, I turned to her and said, "That's fabulous." She made my day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Greenwald

Glen Greenwald has a very good column in Salon regarding some early indications from the Obama presidency. Basically, he's criticizing Obama, the Democrats, and the Congress for continuing down the path to a stronger presidency. I expressed concerns about this during the campaign before we knew who the Democratic nominee would be. It's a bad model to follow. When Congress did this under Clinton they were voted out during the following election en masse. One of the frustrations of voters during the past election was that the Democratic Congress didn't take control properly and force more issues of change upon the administration. They had best not play toady with Obama and Obama should encourage them to take back their authority. Snippet:
Here's what Obama's transition chief, John Podesta, said about that:

There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that. I think that he feels like he has a real mandate for change. We need to get off the course that the Bush administration has set.

Podesta's infatuation with the power of executive orders recalls the infamous comment made by Clinton aide Paul Begala regarding the robust use of executive orders by the Clinton administration to make policy: "Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kinda cool."

That isn't actually how things are supposed to work. The Constitution doesn't vest the President with the power to make laws with the "stroke of the pen," and it's not "kinda cool" that we've allowed it to happen. It's actually quite dangerous and anti-democratic, as James Madison warned in Federalist No. 47:

The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

As Madison explained in that paper, it was only because the Constitution separated those powers among the branches -- with the legislative power (the power to make laws) assigned exclusively to Congress and the executive power (the power to execute those laws) assigned to the President -- was Madison convinced that the presidency created by the Constitution, deprived of lawmaking power, would pose no threat to republican liberty.

Go read the whole post. It's worth the time and it's nice to see someone on the left attempting to frame this.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

birthday accomplished

We began our evening with a pilgrimage to Jerry Traunfeld's new restaurant, Poppy. I didn't have reservations, but we were early enough to grab one of the 3 tables in the bar. The bar area actually has quite a bit of seating and they serve full menus there. The rest of the restaurant was booked until 10PM, so I'd say that Jerry is doing well in his post-Herb Farm incarnation. On our way in, we walked past the herb garden Jerry has set up for the restaurant. Four large beds filled with all sorts of herbs, gated to keep people out in off hours and secluded near the back entrance of the restaurant.

The interior is rather roomy. Brick walls remain on the outer shell. Nice wood beams throughout. Jerry took his inspiration for the place from an Indian manner of dining. To match it he has orange and yellow (poppy colored) color scheme. The bar and chairs have a natural wood color to them. The kitchen is rather large and it has a viewing window positioned so that staff can keep an eye on their customers.

We ordered drinks. The co-signer got a Bourbon Sour (and it lived up to the Sour part!). I got "The Elite" which was a cocktail made with Finlandia vodka, St Germain liqueur, Clear Creek Distillery's Framboise (a dry raspberry liqueur unlike the sweet stuff so often found), and a dash of lemon. My drink was perfectly balanced and refreshing, so I had another. ;-)

To start, we ordered some eggplant fries. These really are julienned eggplant strips that are deep fried in oil, then topped with blackberry honey and a touch of salt. And, man oh man are they good. It's a small plate that we split. The honey lightens the flavor of the eggplant and the salt adds another savory layer. The food blogger for the Seattle Times said that these were not to be missed and she was right.

We then moved on to the main meal. Poppy is designed around the Indian concept of Thalis. Basically, you get little samples or small portions of a lot of items. With Jerry managing the menu it's a bit like getting a small version of an Herbfarm meal that doesn't take 4.5 hours to consume (typical time for The Herbfarm), doesn't come with wines, and comes at a fraction of the cost. It's a prix fix experience, however there are options. So, the main set of Thalis costs $32 per plate. There is an option to by one Thali which comes with a few side dishes and that runs $22 per plate. There's also the bar menu to munch from which has things like the eggplant fries, but also offers up tandori chicken with slaw and naan for $12 or spiced berkshire pork ribs with smashed chickpeas for $16. Nothing is cheap, but compared to the Herbfarm, which is charging $150 per person for the 4.5 hour 8 course meal with wines, it's a big savings. Plus, the last time we were at the Herbfarm, with Jerry in charge, I think things were slipping. Jerry's meal was fabulous, but the wine pairings were not nearly as sophisticated. So, we were here for the full Thali experience.

We order the Thali flight of wines to have with the meal. Each glass came with 2 ounces of wine. There were 3 wines: a white Bordeaux, A to Z Pinot Noir from Oregon, and a Malbec from Chile. All were excellent choices that paired well with a variety of foods from the Thalis. We began the meal with the carrot coriander soup. God, is this good, warming stuff for a fall evening. The nice thing about the THali concept is you get just enough to feel you've had a real taste and enjoyed some of it, but there's still room for more. Next up was a salad of persimmon, fresh huckleberries, and shaved fennel. It was divine and I mean amazingly so. The sweet huckleberries were tempered by the fennel which also added some crunch and allowed the persimmon to shine through. This was followed by a spiced beet-yogurt salad (delish and so homey).

The co-signer next had the spice rubbed duck with red cabbage and Pomegranate. Baked in the Tandori oven, the duck had a slightly charred skin, but was moist on the inside. The cabbage was done, but crisp and the co-signer said that the whole thing worked really well (and paired nicely with the Malbec). There were 2 areas on the Thali menu where you could substitute what was being served. I chose to opt out of the duck, but I kept the scallops. In other words, you could make it a vegetarian outing if you wanted to do so. Instead of duck I had chanterelle and borlotti bean gratin. This was covered with fresh toasted and seasoned bread crumbs. The mushrooms were a very nice pairing with the beans and the earthy flavors melded well with the Pinot Noir.

Our next course was butternut squash puree made with ginger and rosemary and topped with a surprisingly spicy toasted coconut. The rosemary is a subtle addition, but once you find it in the dish you really appreciate it in the background. It's one of those sublime dishes that demonstrate how Jerry has mastered the art of cooking with herbs. Next was a dry chutney of roasted cauliflower, apple, dill and celery. Nicely done and tasty, but it didn't jump out at me. Then we got to the B.C. scallops with celery root cider sauce and shallots. The celery root cider sauce added a nice fall feel to this preparation. The shallots were fried crisp. Take a bite of scallop, swirl it in the celery root cider puree, get a shallot on there and munch down for a very satisfying moment, then wash it down with that white Bordeaux. That's good eating! Now, I could have opted out of the scallop and ordered the chestnut, leek, and porcini blintz, but I wanted that small sample of seafood.

Also served with the meal was a small piece of fresh naan, saffron rice, and a chutney made with fennel, lemon, and black mustard seed (sweet and delish).

The wait staff gave us a moment to come up for air (terrific staff, by the way...very relaxed and friendly...everyone wearing jeans and black shirts with aprons). We each took a turn in the bathroom. When I came back (I went first) I said to
the co-signer, "And they've got the coolest hand dryers in the entire world. In fact, paper was not an option. Wave your hands in this thing and it warms them, dries them, and collects the water blown off of them. It's motion controlled, too.

After a few moments of consideration, I settled on a dessert. It's my birthday weekend and I get to choose. One of the options was a pear clafouti made with maple syrup and rosemary. Jerry has that in The Herbfarm Cookbook and I've made it several times. It's a favorite, but sticking to my rule that it needs to be something I can't or won't make at home, I decided against it. So, I got the dark chocolate terrine with roasted pistachios, creme anglaise, toasted sesame seeds, and candied ginger strips. It sounds like a lot (and after all of the Thalis, it is), but the portion is quite small - perfect for 2 after the large meal. I got a 10 year old tawny port to pair with it and they went very well together.

The bill? With drinks and tax the whole thing came to $134 plus change and tip. We ate there for less than half what it would have cost us to eat at The Herbfarm. It's not some place that we would stop into every day, but it was perfect for a special occasion. If I lived in Seattle proper, I wouldn't hesitate going to the bar once in a while and munching on appetizers and exploring their drink list.

After the meal we picked up
the co-signer's car in Bellevue, then drove to Woodinville for the new Bond film. We were there an hour before show time, so it allowed us the opportunity to get a coffee nearby and hang out. The theater was packed before the movie. It was a good film. Not in the top 5 of Bond movies, but I like the new style a lot. The film is a character study. The plot is very vague. Daniel Craig makes a very good Bond. The director and/or the writers do the audience a favor and treat them intelligently. For instance, we learn that a main character saw her house burned down with her inside when she was a child. We later see her having a traumatic reaction to a building that is burning with her in it. No dialogue was necessary to convey that reaction and observant viewers picked up on it. Nor did we need to have explained to us the scars on her back which came from that original house fire. That's good film making and I like to see it rather than having everything pointed out for me. But not to get bogged down in that stuff. It is a Bond film, after all, and it's filled with car, boat, and plane action scenes as well as torture and rape. There's also Judy Dench as M and she's wonderful. Her scenes with Craig are amongst the meatiest in the movie. Definitely worthwhile to see this film on the big screen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

And the floodgates of fear open

Yesterday I was having a conversation with my mother. It was the first time that we have spoken since the election. As I suspected she wasn't thrilled with the outcome. FWIW, she also didn't care for McCain, though I'm pretty sure she voted for him. She's nervous about what President Obama will do and, at the same time, she expects more of the same ("They're all just politicians.")

However, it was the following line that was most telling of her mindset:
I don't think we'll have another white president.
The line was casually dropped. There was a sense of foreboding in her voice. I asked her, "I don't believe that will be the case. Whites will still be the majority in this country for a number of decades and they are bound to vote another candidate in at some time. Also, minorities don't vote strictly on racial lines. Even so, the Senate is almost all white and the House mostly so. What I have to ask is, so what if we don't?"

Silence. Change of topic. Say goodbyes quickly.

I suspect that a large number of people share my mother's obsession/concern. These next 4 years shall be interesting. Despite her concerns expressed above, she also asked in an equally anxious tone if I thought Obama might face an assassination attempt. Let's be clear, she wasn't for such a thing. In fact, she's appalled and scared at the idea. However, she brought up the subject and it's one that I've heard discussed in a number of circles. As if it were comforting, I pointed out that Reagan and Clinton both faced assassination attempts. Oddly enough, it did seem to calm her. Like I said - interesting.

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Now playing on Windows Media Player: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - Humble Me
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Good read

From the Wall Street Journal, no less.

I always respected the William F. Buckley wing of the Republican party. Like the Barry Goldwater wing it had it's base in reason. To be sure I disagreed with them on numerous issues, but I appreciated their intellectual prowess and their adherence to principles. Why do I use the past tense to describe these things? Well, read the article which, I think, makes clear that by the 1980s these things were being tossed aside for the shallow mess that we have today. Snippet:
Over the next 25 years there grew up a new generation of conservative writers who cultivated none of their elders' intellectual virtues -- indeed, who saw themselves as counter-intellectuals. Most are well-educated and many have attended Ivy League universities; in fact, one of the masterminds of the Palin nomination was once a Harvard professor. But their function within the conservative movement is no longer to educate and ennoble a populist political tendency, it is to defend that tendency against the supposedly monolithic and uniformly hostile educated classes. They mock the advice of Nobel Prize-winning economists and praise the financial acumen of plumbers and builders. They ridicule ambassadors and diplomats while promoting jingoistic journalists who have never lived abroad and speak no foreign languages. And with the rise of shock radio and television, they have found a large, popular audience that eagerly absorbs their contempt for intellectual elites. They hoped to shape that audience, but the truth is that their audience has now shaped them.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Adding to the Prop 8 discourse

A good article in The Nation. It's short, but I'll give the shorter version: Anti-Prop 8 folks were outmaneuvered on their organizing efforts.

This is a problem endemic in the gay movement (well, to society in general which is reflected in the gay movement). Leaders in the gay community like to talk about diversity, but they've all too often portrayed their community as overwhelmingly upper middle class and white in order to project a vision of "normality" to the straight community. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Drag Queens, Leather folks, transvestites, transexuals, bisexuals, working class, lower class, and so on are a crucial part of the community and are indeed some of it's most ardent supporters. Yet, when it comes to pushing the image of homosexuality in a positive light, it's predominantly "We're just like you - white and upper middle class."

Now, part of this is just folks working in our particular media environment which is dominated by white and middle to upper middle class imagery. But this critique is hardly new and it's been ignored and dismissed for years. If there is validity in the position put forth in the article above, then it appears as if such bias penetrated deeply into the No on 8 organizers. Hopefully in defeat they will have learned a much needed lesson. Too bad it had to come about this way.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Progress

Damn, am I so happy about this. In 1975 I was one of the among the first students to participate in court ordered desegregation in Louisville, KY. I recall the morning that my bus left my middle school for the school in downtown Louisville. Our bus driver was a black woman named Rosie and she was one of the bravest people I had met to that moment in my life. As we pulled away, parents - all white - lined the side of the road. Police pushed people from being in front of the bus. The parents and protesters screamed, shouted things like "Save our children", "Don't do this to our future!", and "Keep the niggers away!". They pounded the side of the bus with signs, hands, fists. They were angry and there wasn't a person on the bus who wasn't scared - of the anger, let alone what images their parents put in their minds about what was happening.

My parents weren't happy about the busing, but not for stated reasons of racism. It would be a few years before my mother's racism would yield it's ugly head and almost 20 years before I heard my father tell me, quite casually, "Martin Luther King was nothing but an uppity nigger until he got shot and they martyred him." But at this point in my life they chose not to indulge those thoughts. Their argument was that they moved to an area with good schools and that the inner city schools were inferior. Of course, that was part of the point of desegregation.

The inner city school was inferior in many ways. It was downwind from the slaughter house across the street. The stench would reach such portions on hot, sticky days, that the officials would not allow the kids to play outside and would order the windows closed, which only mitigated matters slightly. The text books were not in proper supply - we often shared - and were out of date. The band program and teacher was 3 years behind my suburban middle school. The food was marginal and most of the white kids brought their lunch. In every academic way the school was playing catch up.

Yet, there was one important lesson that relied on none of that, for me. It was the interaction in that environment. I became comfortable around black folks. Until that time, I hadn't met any...only seen them on television. I learned to empathize with poverty and to loathe it. I learned about the disparities of our society and how far from fair we really were. I also learned that a powerful bus driver like Rosie was someone to not only respect, but hold in high esteem. These lessons would later inspire my mother to say, "You always take the side of the underdog."

I cried yesterday when the results were final. My friend hugged me and asked why. Never in my life could I have imagined seeing a black American elected to President. Oh, sure, my liberal roots would always talk about the possibility, but it was always theoretical. My past experiences just wouldn't let me believe that it would happen. I'd seen too much racism. From those early days of school busing programs to my parent's revelations to other revelations from family and associates to the suffering felt in almost every inch of the Detroit area - suffering caused by heightened racial tensions - it was just too big a dream. Now that dream has come to pass.

I've seen history in my life. I can recall the news of King's assassination. I recall the news of Bobby Kennedy's assassination. Man on the moon, the Nixon impeachment, the Berlin Wall falling, Russians standing peacefully for their freedom. Yesterday, I saw the most moving and perhaps greatest event so far. The fact that it also comes as an end to the worst 8 years of politics that I have seen in this country - the devolution of human rights, the attempts to shred the Constitution, the hatred and fear and anti-spiritual meanness makes it all the more poignant. But even without the worst period in America that I have seen, this is still one great fucking moment. I am happy that I was around to participate and see something so immensely beautiful.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Politics and music

Three political topics today. First, a judge has ordered Bush's Justice department to produce the memos that underlined the basis of Bush's wiretapping. That's some possible good news for the public. The judge didn't buy the Justice Department's claim of attorney-client privilege, calling it "too vague".

Secondly, CBS reports that the National debt soared another $500 billion in under one month. Thanks, fiscal conservatives! For the record, that's a dig at both parties.

Finally, a music video from Amanda Fucking Palmer. Note the pink coat hanger if you're questioning the political nature.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Vote over

We voted yesterday. As is our habit, we sat down together after breakfast with our ballots and voter guide nearby and discussed the candidates and issues before us. Unlike the primary we mostly agreed on the choices. Now we can excuse ourselves from the advertising and other political nonsense until November 4th.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Nina Kinert and Ladyhawke

There are times when a pop song really catches my ear. Here's a couple of examples. First up is Nina Kinert. I came across her today on these Internets. After doing a little research, I was reminded of the vocal track she laid down for Steve Jansen's fine release last year, Slope. Ms. Kinert is from Sweden. This track is from her third and latest album. She is a mere 24 years old. More from Wikipedia here. What I like about this song is the way it builds. From the simple piano and (excellent) vocal to the double drum set towards the end. It's a lovely pop song and well above the usual standard.



Next up is Ladyhawke. This band hails from New Zealand. The lead singer was described in the Guardian as what Stevie Nicks would have looked like had she had a punk make over. They've been heralded by Peaches. What's great about this pop tune? Well, like the Nina Kinert track, the lyric isn't so good, but the vocals are excellent. Plus, it's definitely got the retro-80s/dance pop feel going on. There's a slight update of that sound in the production of the song. Bottom line, though, it's catchy as all hell as is the rest of the album. I love how the video is very retro-80s as well. Perfect matching of the two.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Near Highway 20


Near Highway 20
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Pictures from our holiday. This one taken off of Highway 20 at a rather random pull off stop for us. We got off at a spot where the road through was closed. We parked the car, admired the scenery, and stretched our legs before heading off to Winthrop and Twisp to find a B&B. More photos here.

Like much of our vacation, this trip was mostly unplanned. We decided to wander a bit with no agenda. The first day was a late start on a drive on Highway 20 through the mountains. The photo is from the one stop we made along the way. Our arrival in Winthrop was in the early evening. Upon a recommendation from our host at the Chewuch Bed and Breakfast (we rented a cabin with a kitchenette), we went into Twisp to dine at the Twisp River Pub. The dinner was really good, but sadly, as with many places, there was too much food, so we packed it before heading home. We strolled through downtown Winthrop before heading back to the B&B.

The next day, after a good breakfast, we drove back through Twisp along Highway 20. It was a pleasant, if grey, morning. We passed through Okanogan and went into Omak. It was there that the co-signer's library fetish kicked in. She wanted a picture. I wanted a bathroom. As it turned out a restaurant that I had read the menu from at the B&B that morning was across the street from the library. The Breadline Cafe is a kitschy sort of place from the decor. The building it is rather large and it needs to be in order to house the kitchen, the bar, the dining room, and the bakery (not to mention all of the nostalgic items placed everywhere). We stopped in to look, but rather than eat (still full from breakfast) we headed up Highway 20/97 to Tonasket (another library stop) and Oroville.

We stopped in Oroville to snap another library picture. Across the street from the library is a wine tasting room for Okanogan Estates winery. Our pourer knew the basics about the wines, but not a whole lot more. Luckily, the wines spoke for themselves. There were a couple that were quite good. We grabbed a bottle each of their Gewurztraminer and Bench Rock (Bordeaux blend). Not much further down the road was Lake Crest Winery's tasting room. We weren't as thrilled with most of their wines, but they had an outstanding Syrah Ice Wine. I don't normally go for the dessert wines, but this one was very good. The flavors of the syrah grapes really tamed the sugars of the ice wine style. Very nice.

Our visit to Oroville's lake side park was cut brief by some rain falling. We did stop and would have gotten a picture, but there was too much rain and fog for it. Before we left for the holiday I had gone looking for my birth certificate in order to cross into Canada (damn, stupid, idiotic Fatherland Security regulations). Unfortunately, I couldn't locate it anywhere. It wasn't in the place I normally keep it. This was particularly distressful since I was planning on applying for a passport soon. Since I didn't have my documentation, the co-signer didn't bring hers either. We discussed going across the border with the owner of Lake Crest Winery (she cursed the regulations as well noting that she's known some of the border guards her entire life and they still are required to ask her "Where do you live?"), but ultimately decided not to chance it. That turned out to be rather fortuitous.

Instead we drove north and west through the country side on the Loomis-Oroville road. After passing through Nighthawk we drove south along the same road. The country is gorgeous here. Golden Rolling hills and jagged peaks, green patches where farming takes place along a riverside. Eventually, we pulled off to the side of the road at the north end of Palmer Lake. Here we enjoyed a picnic lunch of cheese and crackers and snapped a few pictures. We then drove to the south end where there's a park and snapped a few more pictures. We drove through Loomis south along the Sinlahekin Road into National forest land. Along the way we saw lots of pheasants and some wild turkeys (sadly, no mountain goats, which were hoping to come across). Of course, we saw deer as well, but that was a common site around Twisp and Winthrop, so we were less awed by that. We eventually came upon Forde Lake which is a gorgeous little spot along a dirt road. There was little to no traffic on the road at this time, so we had the place to ourselves. It was lovely and quiet.

Eventually we passed through the resort area of Conconully. A few cabins, but not much else to see here. The lake looks nice, but compared to where we came from, it also looked crowded. By this point we needed gas so we took the Conconully Road back to Highway 20 and Omak. We stopped off at the Breadline Cafe for our dinner that evening. The co-signer enjoyed a rather tasty pear cider with her meal. The breads were delish. My shrimp jambalaya could have been spicier, but it was still tasty. We shared a brandied bread pudding for dessert and it was very good. After dinner we headed back to our base in Winthrop. We stopped at Hank's along the way to pick up some coffee (for me) and tea with the idea that we'd stay up and watch the VP debate. However, we missed the circus.

The next day was also quite nice. We stopped for coffee at The Local 98856 (a really nice spot...the decor isn't what makes it, but rather that you can buy local, organic products here from chevre, to milk and eggs, to sanwiches, flour, honey, and more). I'ld link, but they don't appear to have a site. Saveur rated them highly recently. We then walked around Twisp, stopping at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery (where we bought some yummy fresh baked bread and brownies) and the Glover Street Market (natural food store where I bought some flour - no linkage available). We shot some photos and headed on home along Highway 20 again. I took a bit of a detour on the way home and drove south through Darington along the Mountain Loop "Highway". That led to some more lovely scenery as we eventually made our way along some 1 lane roads through the Mount Baker forest and ended up connecting to the Mountain Loop "Highway" again heading into Granite Falls.

All in all, a lovely and leisurely holiday.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Driving through the state and being heartened

The holiday drive was lovely. Pictures will be forthcoming. But one thing that we didn't capture in pictures was a bit of a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

Washington is often described as a divided state. The Puget Sound area is the most populous section. It is also more liberal leaning that most of the rest of the state (exceptions being Bellingham, north of Seattle; a tiny corner of the southeast section near Washington State University; and the area around Vancouver, Washington - south, near Portland, Oregon). When a populist politician on the right wants to bash the liberals she usually chooses to bash Seattle as the figurehead of liberal politics here. Indeed, the Seattle area is much more progressive than even other liberal areas of the state, so it's a good target. But things are always more complicated than that. For instance, Bellevue, until recently, was historically conservative. In fact, it still is considered conservative, but looks like it might flip to Democrats in the near future (if not this election, then perhaps the next). Microsoft's hiring has changed the demographics in the area greatly, yet one should note that even so Microsoft employs a fair number of conservatives. Again, it's not so easy.

Outside of the Puget Sound region the state is mostly conservative. I recall that during the last gubernatorial election that side of the state was covered with signs urging the election of Dino Rossi, the Republican. In fact, Rossi almost won that election. In the first counts he did win the election, but the Democrats sued and in the recount by hand Chris Gregoire won the race by under 500 votes. To this day there's a good number of people who grouse that she stole the election. I've heard a lot of people tell me that they can't wait to vote her ass out of office.

The trouble is for those people that Gregoire has been a pretty good governor. Sure, she passed through some major Democratic priorities, but the most costly of those benefited schools. She's also been very good at bringing opposing sides of an issue to the table and hammering out a compromise. When flooding hit Central Washington this past year Gregoire's government received high praise from conservatives over it's response. Still, these accomplishments and more will not quell the naysayers who feel that their vote was unjustly nullified.

The polls said that Gregoire held a 15% lead over the summer. That was cut recently to 7%. Given the amount of bitching I heard at the store over the past couple of years and the fact that the state is looking at a $3.2 billion deficit next biennium (our budgets are 2 years in length), I expected to see a ton of Rossi signs again. What I found actually surprised me. Yes, there were a number of Rossi signs, usually coupled with McCain/Palin signs. However, I also saw a large number of Gregoire signs and they were always coupled with Obama/Biden signs. I saw more signs supporting the Democratic candidates for office than I have ever seen on that side of the state. And it wasn't just in medium sized communities or those known for their liberal leanings. Rather, I saw them all over and everywhere.

My take on it is this - it won't just be the Puget Sound area that goes heavy for Obama. He's going to receive a lot of support from elsewhere in this state. McCain might still take those eastern regions, but it's going to be close. Rossi? He should throw in the towel, now. There was too much support for Gregoire out there. She's going to carry the traditional liberal areas and she's going to eat into his traditional base in a big way. The whole trip made me feel much better about the upcoming election day. If Obama/Biden can carry that much influence and make people that excited in areas of this state that are very conservative, then they are probably doing the same throughout the country and that bodes well for those of us who want to see them elected.

It also helps explain why McCain pulled out of Michigan this week. He's losing independents and he's bleeding from his base as well.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Financial Mess

Some 192 economists signed a letter asking the president and Congress to take a calm and measured approach to the financial crisis. What was reportedly the reply from Bush?
I don't care what somebody on some college campus says.

Idiot or evasive

Or both. Here's the Palindrone discussing her sources for international and national issues with Katie Couric:



I'm betting that she does read something, but that she doesn't want to reveal what it is because people will jump on it and note that she's a wacko. In fact, I'm not sure which is worse - that she reads nothing or that she reads wingnut propaganda.

Getting Saucy


Saucy
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Tomato sauce before it was frozen for enjoyment throughout the winter.

Tomatoes and Wine


Tomatoes and Wine
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
After getting home we picked some tomatoes.

Wining


Wining
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
Vacation wining.

Beginning Vacation


Beginning Vacation
Originally uploaded by B.D.'s world
We're on vacation this week. On Sunday, we wandered through Woodinville. We went to the Cider Mill, then a farm, and then wine tasting. It wasn't planned and it was more enjoyable that way.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The drone continues

Apparently CBS is sitting on at least one and possibly 2 more clips of her interview with Katie Couric. The reason that they are sitting on these things is because they want to use it in their Wednesday and Thursday lead up to the VP debates. The Palindrone's campaign has leaked the substance of one of the clips:

Of concern to McCain's campaign, however, is a remaining and still-undisclosed clip from Palin's interview with Couric last week that has the political world buzzing.

The Palin aide, after first noting how "infuriating" it was for CBS to purportedly leak word about the gaffe, revealed that it came in response to a question about Supreme Court decisions.

After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases. There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence.


OK, got that? She lacks curiosity to the extent that her entire focus on Supreme Court cases is Roe. One would think that to be president or vice president there should be some knowledge beyond one case. Hell, since she doesn't "believe" in evolution, you'd think the idiot would've named Scopes! Scopes, for the record, never made it to the Supreme Court of the US (only the Tennessee Supreme Court), but a Scopes related trial - Epperson vs. Arkansas - that challenged the state's right to pass and enforce a bill the prohibited the teaching of evolution did make it to the Supreme Court in 1968 (within Palin's lifetime) and was struck down. How about Brown vs Board of Education? The challenge for the Nixon tapes? Loving vs Virginia? Any ruling during the past year? Amazingly stupid. I can't wait to see it. Only Dan Quayle and G.W. Bush have been, perhaps, as ignorant.

I read this about Palin today. It's an old joke, but an appropriate one:

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, a doctor struck up a conversation. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin.

The old rancher said, "Well, you know, Palin is a post turtle.'"

Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him, "What's a post turtle?"

The old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a post turtle."

The doctor looked puzzled, so the old rancher explained, "You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong up there, she doesn't know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with."

Then, there's this piece in Salon:

I don't want to be played by the girl-strings anymore. Shaking our heads and wringing our hands in sympathy with Sarah Palin is a disservice to every woman who has ever been unfairly dismissed based on her gender, because this is an utterly fair dismissal, based on an utter lack of ability and readiness. It's a disservice to minority populations of every stripe whose place in the political spectrum has been unfairly spotlighted as mere tokenism; it is a disservice to women throughout this country who have gone from watching a woman who -- love her or hate her -- was able to show us what female leadership could look like to squirming in front of their televisions as they watch the woman sent to replace her struggle to string a complete sentence together.

In fact, the only people I feel sorry for are Americans who invested in a hopeful, progressive vision of female leadership, but who are now stuck watching, verbatim, a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

Palin is tough as nails. She will bite the head off a moose and move on. So, no, I don't feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for women who have to live with what she and her running mate have wrought.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Excellent commentary

McCain's response to government coffers depleted by the bailout isn't to rescind his tax cut but to freeze spending on everything but defence, veterans and entitlements - a military financial complex. Obama has conceded that his plans to expand access to healthcare, education and to make America energy-independent will have to be trimmed. Finally, the American political class has embraced a redistributive agenda. The trouble is they are about to divert public money from the poor to the bankers and financiers.

"Capitalists can buy themselves out of any crisis, so long as they make the workers pay," said Lenin. It is rarely regarded as common sense to quote him in polite company. Yet as a description of what is taking place right now, it is the most sense I've heard in a long time.

Whole thing here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Coffee talk

I've spent the past couple of mornings in coffee shops. I've gotten my training done at work and had an hour or 2 to kill. On Thursday I spent that time at the Starbuck's near work. On Friday I sipped coffee at Victor's in Redmond (a lovely spot, by the way with much better coffee and food). The common denominator in both instances was discussion of politics. Thursday's topic at a couple of tables was McQueeg's campaign ploy of "suspending the campaign". I put that in quotes because he lied (again) and didn't really suspend his campaign. Rather, he just went to Washington while his surrogates marched on. The people I heard at nearby tables weren't buying it. They sided with Letterman and thought that the whole thing was a sham. It was heartening to listen in.


Friday's topic was the Palindrone's interview with Katie Couric. A couple of people nearby were speaking about how vapid the woman is and how she doesn't seem to have a brain in her head. "It was awful and it made me sick to think that anyone would consider her Vice Presidential, let alone Presidential material. People like that have a low opinion of women." This statement from a woman who noticed that I was nodding along with her.

Now, granted, I live in a more liberal area of the country with a strong progressive movement, but it was really heartening to me to hear people talking politics as if it mattered and not buying into the Republican bullshit from this campaign.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Oh my

Two good reads. First:

“I didn’t know I was going to be the referee for an internal G.O.P. ideological civil war,” Mr. Frank said, according to The A.P.Thursday, in the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

It was the very outcome the White House had said it intended to avoid, with partisan presidential politics appearing to trample what had been exceedingly delicate Congressional negotiations.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Senate banking committee, denounced the session as “a rescue plan for John McCain,” and proclaimed it a waste of precious hours that could have been spent negotiating.

The second read confirms that about McQueeg, Putting Country Last:
I never doubted, however, that McCain's motives in pushing America into war were honorable. Nor do I question his motives in championing Georgia against Russia or in rattling the sabers against Iran. I question his judgment and wouldn't want him as president. But I do question his motives in inserting himself into the attempt by the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, and the Congressional leadership (excluding the usual suspects from the Republican House delegation) to fashion a plan for preventing a Wall Street crash. He has shown a willingness to put the success of his campaign ahead of the country's welfare. And it's not over a relatively minor matter--like offshore drilling or creationism in schools.

...
That's a long way of saying that it is simply unpatriotic--it's an insult to flag, country, and all the things that McCain claims to hold dear--for McCain to hold this financial crisis hostage to his political ambitions. McCain doesn't know a thing about finance and is no position to help work out an agreement. If we do suffer a serious bank run, or a run on the dollar, it can be laid directly at his feet. As I said to friends last night, if McCain had been president at this point, I would have wanted to impeach him.

That brings me back to David Brooks' column. David thinks that beneath the surface of McCain the craven campaigner, that the man who nominated an ill-prepared Sarah Palin as his possible successor and has lent his energies to blocking a financial bailout, there still sits a "real McCain" who could govern fairly and effectively as president. I doubt it. I really doubt it. Whether because of age or overreaching ambition, McCain has become the kind of man he earlier railed against. He has become the Bush of 2000 against whom he campaigned or the Senate and House Republicans whom he despised. His defeat is now imperative.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Game, match, set

McQueeg likes to play it loose and take gambles. In fact, he's known to gamble high stakes in Vegas. Of course, it's mostly his wife's money he's gambling. With a chance to win the White House, McQueeg could have had an opportunity to actually earn a good enough salary after he left, and add to that, the prestige, that he might earn a little more respect from his wife. Still, yesterday, I think he played a long shot and lost.

His cynical ploy to change the subject that was hitting the news - he's down by 9 points in the polls and his campaign manager has long ties to Freddie and Fannie - by suggesting that he suspend the campaign and postpone debates is going to bury him. It was a big gamble. Sarah Palin was a big gamble, but she paid off well. This, however, ain't gonna fly.

First of all, we found out afterwards that it was Obama who called the McQueeg campaign and asked for a joint statement before this nonsense. McQueeg attempted to trump him by making himself look like the originator of this idea - a maverick, indeed if not, in deed. Then McQueeg comes out and provides a statement to the press and leaves (much like a Palindrone visit to the UN). Obama comes out next and gives a full press conference and notes that the issue is too important for the American public not to hear from the 2 candidates who want to lead the nation through the crisis in debate. Then Obama notes that they both own airplanes and can do the people's business while they debate the people's future. Game, match, set - Obama.

Lincoln fought a war and ran a campaign. Roosevelt had the Great Depression and ran a campaign. Roosevelt fought a war and ran a campaign. George W. Bush fought a war and ran a campaign for orbsakes and McQueeg can't do even that?!!? He must be more feeble than we expected. Either that or it's just a cynical ploy to get votes and change the topic. My guess? This is the moment his campaign blew up. A big gamble and a huge loss. Don't believe me? Watch this:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trouble for McQueeg

On Sunday, McQueeg told the NY Times that his campaign manager, Rick Davis, hadn't lobbied for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac since 2005. He then went on the campaign trail to condemn lobbyists for the 2 failed thrifts. From Roll Call:
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac emerged as issues in the presidential race last week because of turmoil in the financial markets. In a radio address from Green Bay, Wis., on Saturday, McCain blamed the companies and their political clout for creating the housing mess now roiling Wall Street. “At the center of the problem were the lobbyists, politicians and bureaucrats who succeeded in persuading Congress and the administration to ignore the festering problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,’’ he said. “Using money and influence, they prevented reforms that would have curbed their power and limited their ability to damage our economy. And now, as ever, the American taxpayers are left to pay the price for Washington’s failure.’’
Got that? Lobbyists are the cause of the Wall Street "melt down" according to McQueeg. He might want to check his campaign manager's credentials out a little more earnestly than he picks a Vice Presidential candidate. Also from Roll Call:
The lobbying firm of Rick Davis, Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) campaign manager, remains on the payroll of mortgage giant Freddie Mac, according to two sources with knowledge of the arrangement.

The firm, Davis Manafort, has collected $15,000 a month from the organization since late 2005, when Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae dissolved a five-year-old advocacy group that Davis earned nearly $2 million leading, the sources said.

The relationship is coming to an end, however, as Fannie and Freddie’s new federal caretaker zeroes out its contracts with political consultants.

Politico has a good story on the Palindrone. Apparently she supported the "Bridge to Nowhere" for far longer than she cares to admit to today. Well, we knew that, but it went on for even longer - after McQueeg had denounced it and it had become a laughing stock for the lower 48. The nice thing about the story linked to is that A) it reveals how long she supported it, B) how she wanted to get the money while Alaska's strong men were still in Congress, C) makes clear how she kept the money rather than let it go to Katrina rebuilding and D) it explains the bridge in it's entirety to the people who have never visited Ketchikan (which, I have).

YAFPF

Yet another foreign policy failure for the Bush administration. When they came to office in 2001, the Bush administration wasted no time in trashing all things Clinton. One of the first victims was the Clinton administration's approach to North Korea. Bush went saber rattling and before you could wink, North Korea's nuclear program was back on the table.

Then, the World Trade Center bombing occurred. By 2002, North Korea was being labeled part of the "Axis of Evil". More bluster followed, but by 2007 tempers had cooled and the Bush administration hailed a deal that they had made with North Korea. It was a deal that looked remarkably like...the one they had thrown out in 2001. In other words, it was basically the same deal that the Clinton administration had made. For 6 years the world endured the saber rattling of both nations. The Bush administration blinked, we ended up back where we started, and the administration crowed that it had scored a victory. Typical Republican pablum: tell the lie and scream it from the rafters and it must become the Truth. McQueeg is a master of this right now.

However, 2008 is a year of change. North Korea didn't want to be left out and who can blame them? Somehow, what was once hailed as a great foreign policy success is now unraveling. Sure, the Bushies will blame it on North Korea. While North Korea will blame it on the same problem that they had with the Clinton administration - that the U.S. wasn't fulfilling it's promises. There's probably a bit of blame to go around, but considering how incompetent this administration has been about numerous other agenda items, it's hard not to give the North Koreans the edge on this one.

Not that they are right in what they are doing. North Korea should not be using such a potentially dangerous option to extort aid from the west. These actions are immoral and unethical. Such actions only subvert the very soul of a nation and it's people and further distrust throughout the rest of the world. But they may also have a legitimate gripe with the way that the agreement is being administered.

How will this play out in the elections? That's hard to say. McQueeg is likely to consider this a boost to his campaign. He'll mock Obama's willingness to use diplomacy in order to achieve international goals. It will be Obama's response to this that will be crucial. Still, America's currently focused on itself and the economy. Problems abroad are not high on the agenda, though they are also more apparent than in the 2000 election where foreign policy did not rate a debate, sadly. This development will be important to the Obama campaign not so much because it is crucial in American minds, but because his response to it will help shape the opinion of him that Americans will form as a leader. Let's hope that he doesn't fail in the similar ways that Democrats have found to fail in the past.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Taking hits from conservatives

A good question from a WaPo article:

Yet others, including some sympathetic Republicans, have begun to quietly question whether McCain and Palin are well served by strategists so firmly anchored in the Bush establishment when the candidates are presenting themselves as a "team of mavericks" and agents of change. One Republican with long-standing ties to the Bush administration described the situation as a paradox in which Palin is especially vulnerable.

"If the McCain campaign is trying to prop up Palin as its change agent, and its inoculation against the 'third Bush term' rap, then why on earth is she surrounded by a cast of Bush advisers?" said the Republican loyalist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Since she's been selected, every single one of the senior aides that she's brought on board had prominent roles in Bush's White House or on his campaigns, or both."

It's an easy set of answers. First, they were declared winners in the last 2 elections so they are experienced. Secondly, she ideologically worships Bush and is willing to lie, just like he is, at all costs to win elections. Third, she IS Bush III. Consider a certain lack of curiosity or experience in the world, a value of loyalty and secrecy over all else, a vindictive streak, a lack of honesty, and all founded on the fact that she can make a decision and stick to it because her/his vision of the world is embedded with a moralist view. Right or wrong, damn the torpedos. She's a Republican wet dream.

Speaking of experience, George Will, conservative columnist and not to be confused with a Republican one, has some words on that topic today.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

Monday, September 22, 2008

McQueeg was for deregulation before he was against it

The candidate is on the campaign trail decrying the deregulators, but of course he's one of the main advocates of that policy. In fact, as the NY Times reports, a member of his staff was a lobbyist for Fannie and Freddie. You know, the same thing he's trying to smear Obama with. Snippet:

Incensed by the advertisements, several current and former executives of the companies came forward to discuss the role that Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager and longtime adviser, played in helping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac beat back regulatory challenges when he served as president of their advocacy group, the Homeownership Alliance, formed in the summer of 2000. Some who came forward were Democrats, but Republicans, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed their descriptions.

“The value that he brought to the relationship was the closeness to Senator McCain and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again,” said Robert McCarson, a former spokesman for Fannie Mae, who said that while he worked there from 2000 to 2002, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together paid Mr. Davis’s firm $35,000 a month. Mr. Davis “didn’t really do anything,” Mr. McCarson, a Democrat, said.

In other economic news, Treasury secretary cum Banking Czar Henry Paulson is trying to convince the rest of the world that they need to follow the U.S. model for restructuring and regulating the global economies. Snippet:
"I'm going to be pressing our colleagues around the world to design similar programmes for their banks and institutions," said Paulson during a round of interviews on Sunday. "Our system is a global one."
Britain, the article goes on to note, is not having any of it. Why should they?

Meanwhile, the LA Times reports that things aren't so sunny for the Palindrone in Alaska:
The standoff has ended any vestiges of bipartisan goodwill for Palin in Juneau, after just 21 months in office. "The level of money [the McCain campaign] sent up here to attack people is unprecedented in a small state like this. If [McCain] were truly a reformer, he'd end this nonsense and apologize to all the people he's attacked up here," said Rep. Gara, a Democrat.

"I don't know why they're trying to paint this [legislative investigation] as a Democratic partisan attack," said state Sen. Wielechowski. "The thing I constantly remind people of is: Democrats didn't push this. You know who pushed it? It was the Republicans. This is the thing people conveniently forget now. There were no Democrats out there screaming for an investigation."

The House Judiciary Committee vote to endorse the issuance of the subpoenas included five Republicans and two Democrats.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

McQueeg: Health care should be like banking

McQueeg is running around the country telling people that he is the scourge of Wall Street. That he'll be the maverick that will bring reforms and regulations to reign in their excesses. Funny, because he wrote an article (pdf) for the September/October issue of Contingencies magazine (an actuarial journal) that says the following:
I would also allow individuals to choose to purchase health
insurance across state lines, when they can find more affordable
and attractive products elsewhere that they prefer. Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition,
as we have done over the last decade in banking, would
provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by
the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
Got that? He thinks that the deregulation of the banking industry was a good thing. He also wants to expand that model to health care. I suppose that there's a nice tie in here with the financial sector being on life support, but it sounds like McQueeg wants to pull the plug on both.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

AIG

Now that we own an insurance company can we please provide health care to everyone? Just a quick thought.

Oh, and it was very stupid to bail out AIG, but that is a much longer and larger discussion. Same with Bear Sterns.

McQueeg watch

The Washington Independent points to 3 pork barrel projects that McQueeg supported. To be sure, it was 17 years ago, but he's out on the stump saying he's never done that. Snippet:
On the campaign trail, Sen. John McCain frequently decries earmarks and pork-barrel legislation, proudly bragging that he has never requested a single earmark for his home state of Arizona. However, a news article and a scathing editorial from The Arizona Republic during his first-term as the state’s junior senator reveal that McCain did, in fact, go outside the normal legislative process to secure funding for at least one pet project for Arizona. He also supported appropriations for at least two more — three projects that, much to his embarrassment, he later railed against as “pork.”
McQueeg is also trying to tell people, now, that he's for regulation for the financial industry. This is a lie in an attempt to convince voters that he's got a plan and will be in charge if he is elected (Question for McQueeg's folks - why not get their man, W, to implement such a plan now?). It's a lie because, as WaPo points out, he's favored deregulation practically his entire career. Snippet:

A decade ago, Sen. John McCain embraced legislation to broadly deregulate the banking and insurance industries, helping to sweep aside a thicket of rules established over decades in favor of a less restricted financial marketplace that proponents said would result in greater economic growth.

Now, as the Bush administration scrambles to prevent the collapse of the American International Group (AIG), the nation's largest insurance company, and stabilize a tumultuous Wall Street, the Republican presidential nominee is scrambling to recast himself as a champion of regulation to end "reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed" on Wall Street.

Ezra points out that McQueeg now says that Wall Street has betrayed America, but just 3 years ago he signed on to putting our social security funds into Wall Street via privatization of that program. He should be asked if he still supports that plan.

Why none of this matters. Snippet:
Yes, the McCain campaign is replete with exaggerations, evasions, and outright fabrications. It’s your responsibility to defeat them, not complain about them. If this means listening to advice you don’t want to hear, and getting out of the "comfort zone," so be it. Three months ago, when you were riding high, the McCain campaign was flat on its back. But give McCain credit: when he was told that to win he had to change, he did. He focused, and he accepted a kind of discipline that he had previously resisted. Now it’s your turn.
As I stated earlier in the week, campaigns are not about talking points or political details. Obama's advertising to date has been the same tired sort of advertising that Gore and Kerry used. He needs hit harder, try humor, be concise. He also needs to understand that what wins campaigns are emotions. Americans will decide over the next month who they are voting for and it will be based on gut reactions formed from a variety of sources. They will also consider the fact that they are likely to be voting in a Democratic Congress and Americans like divided government as a check to each branch (plus, they have in recent memory an example of how horrible a undivided government can truly be). Expect McQueeg to hammer that point home without any sense of irony that his party was that undivided government.

At this point, given Obama's charisma, he should be pounding this one home. The fact that he isn't is example one of how his advisors are failing him. Like Bush in 2000, this should be a slam dunk for Obama. Instead, he's listening to the same old Democratic stylists who have a penchant for losing elections and it is to his, and our, great disservice.