Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Indecision 2008

I need to think of a name for these regular/semi-regular election updates, but for now, I’ll borrow The Daily Show’s very apt title. We’re less than a year away from the first primaries, candidates are campaigning, money is being raised, and pundits are punditing, so it’s time for me to jump in.


Tier One – Hillary Clinton
Tier Two – Barack Obama, John Edwards
Tier Three – everyone else except...
An Inconvenient Tier – Al Gore

Tier One – Hillary is way out in front in national polling. Much if this is name recognition, but it’s notable that in head-to-head matchups with the others, she is over 50%, which means the others will have to take votes away from her, along with picking up all the undecideds. This will require some negative campaigning which Obama and Edwards will be loath to do. Hillary is also going to win the first primary – money – maybe by a large amount. This could prove determinative when it comes to what looks like early primaries in CA, NJ, and FL, where money will be a huge influence. Many are still uncomfortable with her, her current Iraq position is somewhere between silly and way over-calculated, and many Dems are fearful about her electability, but she is the 800-lb gorilla in this field.

Tier Two – On the good side, Obama has no negatives. On the bad side, he has little experience and could get seriously outspent by Hillary. He’s never run a real campaign and this is a tough place to start.
Edwards is only in this tier because he is polling very well in the early primary/caucus states. Mostly this is due to his having spent a ton of time in IA, NH, and NV, but his message resonates well among liberals and labor. If history is against a woman or a black man being nominated, it does him no favors, since no losing VP candidate has come back to win the Presidency the next election. In fact, Walter Mondale is the only losing VP candidate to get the nomination the next time and he was the sitting VP when he lost, which is a whole different thing. He still owes money from four years ago and it's hard to believe he can raise enough to really fight the Super-duper Tuesday war.

Tier Three – Biden is running because he thinks he’s the most qualified, Vilsack and Richardson are running for VP, Kucinich is running for president of the Lollipop Guild, and God only knows why Dodd is running. Until any of them is more than a blip in the polls, I will ignore them.

Al Gore doesn’t appear to be running. Until he’s spotted signing up for Nutri-system or Slimfast, I’ll assume he’s not interested. Some have said he will only run if Hillary’s campaign flounders – by the time that would happen, it would be too late. If he isn’t running by the end of March, he isn’t running at all.


Tier One – Rudy Giuliani, John McCain (in that order)
Tier Two – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich
Jesus Tier – Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee
Anti-Immigrant Tier – Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo
Unfaithful Servant Tier -- Chuck Hagel
And I am telling you, I am not running Tier – Condi Rice

Tier One – In the modern history of the Republican Party, the obvious candidate always gets the nomination, often with a fight, but he survives. This time around, that candidate was John McCain. Yet here we are, a year out, and McCain’s campaign looks worse by the day. I cannot find one good sign anywhere. He is trailing Giuliani nationally and in most states; he has lost his lead to him in NH, where he actually beat Bush in 2000. McCain is saddled with the unpopular troop increase and if you think his “it should have been bigger” stance will inoculate him, think again. The religious right doesn’t trust him at all and all his sucking up to Jerry Falwell hasn’t changed that. This has enabled Giulani to become the clear front-runner, yet it’s hard to believe a man with a history of three marriages, a mistress while married, support for gay rights (including marching in Gay Pride parades), and a pro-choice stance can get the GOP nomination.

Tier Two – Romney has the advantage of being a Governor, historically where the GOP finds its winners (not to be confused with the Senate, where it finds its losers). His polling numbers are unexciting, but it’s early. He’s raising money well and the opening is there, but he’s already flip-flopped on social issues and that could be a problem.
Newt is in this tier because he shows up well in polls, but his negatives are immense. Still, if he can emerge as the religious right’s candidate head-to-head against one of the top two, he can imagine winning.
“The only one of these guys who hasn’t had multiple wives is the Mormon” – Dick Morris

Jesus Tier – Brownback and Huckabee are darlings of the religious right. Brownback is their poster boy, now that Rick Santorum is gone. They haven’t gotten any traction in the polls, but that could change once debates start. Can they raise the money? Will Brownback’s anti-war Christian conservative position play well in the GOP? Stay tuned for this fight.

Anti Immigrant Tier – Hunter and Tancredo have no chance but will cause all sorts of trouble for the tier one guys by bringing up stuff they’d rather not talk about. Hunter is also seriously pro-war and pro-military -- I mean seriously pro-military.

Unfaithful Servant – If Brownback has a chance, you’d have to think Hagel, a war hero with similar positions and a more reasonable demeanor would. But the GOP hates turncoats and Hagel has not just been anti-war, but has given aid and comfort to the enemy (that would be the Democrats) – this doesn’t fly with the rank-and-file. The antipathy to rebellion is what differentiates the rank-and-file among the parties as much as anything and it is one of McCain’s problems, since he’s perceived as less-than-loyal to the party’s leaders.

And I am telling you – Condi’s here because she gets decent polling numbers, but I believe her when she says she isn’t interested. Might be in the VP derby, although Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Huckabee could have something to say about that.

The media may spend more time talking about the Democrats, because they’re obsessed with Hillary and Obamamania, but the Republicans are where the real action will be.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The California Primary

Last Saturday’s LA Times headline proclaimed, with unrestrained glee, State Aims For Feb.5 Primary To Boost Clout. Since both parties seem to want this and since the Governator wants it, it seems very likely to happen. You see, Californians have been unhappy about just being a cash machine for candidates while the other states get to actually vote. By the time the primaries roll out here, the race is over. So this will enable California, with all its diversity and issues far different from those in Iowa (ethanol and farm subsidies) and New Hampshire (God only knows), to matter. Well, this is a nice theory. Unfortunately, early voting out here could have one of two results, both bad.
One is that the candidates haven’t been winnowed out yet. If you remember 2004, the Dens were down to two candidates (Kerry and Edwards), by the first week in March. This meant that all the people who had voted for other candidates no longer had any horse in the race. In NH, 49% of the voters voted for candidates other than Kerry and Edwards. The first week of February had 6 primaries which could reasonably be described as “western”. In Arizona, 50% of the voters voted for someone other than the big two, in New Mexico, 47%, in North Dakota, 40%, in Oklahoma, 43% (Wesley Clark won that one – talk about meaningless votes), and in Washington, 44% did. So absent a radical change in candidacies, we can expect about 45% of Californians to have no meaningful say, by means of voting for a candidate who will be gone soon anyway.
That doesn’t mean that will be the actual result. No, something worse is more likely. The first primary, as all politicos will tell you, is the money primary. It has already started (Hillary Clinton is leading) and with the creation of a key early state with absolutely no retail politics, where big TV ad buys in major media markets are everything, that money primary becomes the most important one. It has been pointed out (by Joe Trippi and others) that in the age of the internet, a candidate can raise a lot of money very quickly, allowing a second-tier candidate to emerge early and compete. But if the biggest and most expensive primary is just a couple of weeks after the first ones, how can that happen? Even if you could raise the money quickly, creating ads and buying time in California would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Therefore the most likely result of the early California primary would be to eliminate a lot of serious candidates in December, before a single vote has been cast, because they realize they can’t raise enough money to compete out here. Instead of candidates being able to build momentum and engage in a series of debates, we will face a shorter field whose messages will be carefully crafted to translate into 30 second commercials, which is all campaigns are about out here.
I understand the frustration over early, smaller, states having a disproportionate say in candidate selection. The problem is not necessarily with the placement of primaries, but with the selection process itself. In order to make the Fall campaign run smoother, the parties have front-loaded the system, trying to get the candidate chosen as early as possible. The key to this is a delegate selection system which assigns delegates proportionally, based primarily on total votes in a state, with some allowance for selection by district. The second candidate in the race can win the last four or five states and gain relatively little ground, just due to the math. Even if the front-runner doesn’t get an actual majority, the pressure to get this decided before the convention leads to delegates (those pledged to the ex-candidates and super-delegates) joining up with the guy closest to a majority. There is a solution to this. Let the smaller states do the vetting and winnowing out process, then with a gap of about a month preceding them, have NY, CA, and maybe one or two other major states, have winner-take-all primaries on the first Tuesday in June. That would enable the remaining candidates to have a national debate, raise money for media buys, craft a message for the showdown, and actually give the non-frontrunner (or two) a real chance to come from behind. Choose the actual delegates (for platform and other purposes) by whatever method you want, but the nominating votes selected by the primary would be pledged to the winner for the first two ballots. Make California the biggest prize at the biggest time and then we’ll really matter.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The State of the Union

Mostly, it sucks.

Okay, now let’s get to the specifics. Bush had a good start with his salute to Nancy Pelosi – boy, that must have been tough to get out of his mouth (I know, he has trouble getting most words out of his mouth, but still...). I watched this just to see her sitting there and it was a fascinating experience, as her reaction to each of his proposals was a great indicator of how much real cooperation there was going to be -- not much.
His first proposal was about balancing the Federal budget. I guess he just noticed this, understandable since he was busy fighting a senseless war and keeping Terry Schiavo alive, both of which were very difficult, if not impossible. He also wants to do it without raising taxes, which got a huge cheer from the Republicans, who never bothered about balancing anything when they were in power. It will, of course, be impossible to do, but here’s my contribution – end the war in Iraq, end farm subsides, end oil and gas subsidies, end subsidies to health insurers, negotiate drug prices for Medicare as we do with the VA, and let’s see where we are after that.
He’s also found earmarks in spending bills to be a horrible thing. He somehow didn’t mind when the GOP spent a couple of hundred million to build a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, and never vetoed a spending bill in his first six years in office, in spite of the earmarks and deficits, but I guess, like when he ended his drinking days, he’s had some sort of epiphany – it occurred back in November, I suspect.
Once again he talked about fixing Social Security – which to W means something akin to “fixing” Barney.
His health insurance proposal was typical Republican nonsense. Tax deductions are fine for those making $60K – but those people probably have health insurance now. The people without it are mostly in two classes – those families in lower income groups ($40K and below) who can’t afford it, and who most likely pay little or no income tax now, and those who are turned down by insurers because they had a lingering cold in 2003. This proposal would do nothing for them at all. And if you think the insurers aren’t going to take this infusion of government money into the system as an opportunity to raise their rates, you haven’t been paying attention for the last couple of decades. This expenditure would be a significant drain on the treasury, making his “goal” of balancing the budget even more unattainable than it already is.
Immigration reform is an area Bush and the Dems may be able to agree – I guess that could be good.
I’m for energy independence – but until I hear the words “higher CAFE standards” coming out of Bush’s mouth, it’s all another giveaway to energy producers. By the way, I thought Charles Grassley (R-IA) was about to have an orgasm right there in the chamber – wow, say we’re going to increase the use of ethanol to Charlie and it’s party time in Iowa City.
Then he went into his Iraq portion of the speech. My favorite line “whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure” -- true, but that is what we got...funny how that works sometimes.

Then Senator Jim Webb of Virginia gave the Democratic response. That was simply the best speech I’ve heard by a Democrat in years. Strong, with a firm understanding about what truly matters to the party and what should matter to the country. Why can’t this guy run for President? He’s far more experienced than Obama, with a biography that clearly would reach out across America. Let’s see: a soldier, a lawyer, a novelist, a journalist, five years as a committee counsel in Congress, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Navy – a job he resigned from because he didn’t agree with mandated cuts in the force structure. Yes, he resigned on a point of principle – I guess that disqualifies him from running for President. Never mind.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Enemies of Freedom

Two Canadian citizens, Stephen Lawrence and John Lefebvre, were arrested by the FBI on January 15th, , Lawrence in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Lefebvre in Malibu (both of which are barely in the USA). Their crime was money laundering, specifically, transferring money from offshore gambling web sites to users bank accounts, through their company, Neteller. This is a necessary move by our government to crush online gambling without actually attacking it directly. You see, they aren’t going to stop you directly from doing anything, just make it impossible by other means. In the interest of full disclosure, I used to use Neteller to transfer money in and out of poker sites, which was necessary because our government stopped credit card companies from allowing direct deposits. The really scary part here is that our government is arresting people for doing things which are perfectly legal in their country. In fact, they have long since stopped being active participants in the company, they are just 5% shareholders. It is very clear that our government will use whatever power they have to destroy individual freedom, including the secret police arresting foreigners who have broken no law in their own country. This is a precedent which should scare any American who travels abroad. If you publish something on the Internet that can be construed as attacking Islam, you’d better not travel in an Muslim country. If you attack the government of China, stay out of their territory. This is an immensely dangerous precedent.
I had hope that others around the world would rise up in opposition. I had some hope the EU, where most of the Internet poker and gambling sites are located, would protest this attack on their local businesses by a right-wing extremist government. I was wrong. They are actually moving in the opposite direction. They are about to pass a law stating that all Internet businesses must follow the laws of the country of the customer. The UK has protested this, saying that for a small internet business it is an onerous burden to have to research the laws of 27 countries in order to do business. Worse, it risks the dream of expanding freedom through the unfettered dissemination of information. In essence, if a book is banned by a country, no one in that country can purchase it on the Internet. That is a horrible precedent for a world full of repressive regimes, some even worse than ours.
Many of us had hoped that the Internet would break down barriers, would increase the availability of products and information around the world. That dream is dying and, in a desperate attempt to hold on to their power over their own people, the governments of the world seem to be happy with it. Bombs will not take away our freedom – but the government will.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

And I'm No Kid Myself

Along with Muhammad Ali, here are things that make me feel old:

Barack Obama – a new generation of politician running generation, the old one

Sally Field – Gidget has osteoporosis and does commercials to her fellow elderly women so they can deal with their deteriorating bones. We really really like her, but don’t hug her too hard or something might break.

Medicine Commercials – I pay attention to all of them now, just in case some new miracle cure has been invented to fix something I have or surely will any minute.

Old People Commercials – the use of sixties music (“Time of the Season”) and sixties jargon (groovy) to sell retirement accounts.

Obituaries – my father used to read the obituaries daily and was mocked by my brother and me -- ”checking to see if you’re there, Dad?” Now I check them regularly and just like my father, I’m amazed at how young (their sixties) some of these people were.

Mailings From Mortuaries – which basically say, “at your age, you could die at any minute, so better buy a hole in the ground”

Woodstock – My having been at Woodstock used to make me sort of cool, now it’s like saying I was in the Civil War. The 1960‘s were my formative decade. Let’s do this as an SAT answer – me: the sixties = my parents: Roaring Twenties

And of course...mirrors.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Muhammad Ali is Old

Muhammad Ali is 65 today – happy birthday...rumble, old man, rumble. Has there ever been a public figure like Ali, so controversial in his youth, so popular in his middle and old age? People have forgotten (or are too young to know) just how hated and reviled he was in the 60’s. His stance against the Vietnam war, his refusal to take the oath and join the Army, his adopting Islam and changing his name from Cassius Clay, brought forth a level of condemnation rarely seen. When he was stripped of his heavyweight title, his defenders were few and far between. Yet by the time of the Atlanta Olympics, less than 20 years later, he was a heroic figure, nearly universally beloved. Now, he is close to sainthood. Part of it is the passing of time, much of it is the ravages of his illness, which has left that most expressive of faces blank and mask-like, and that incredible athletic body a near prison.
Of course, one large part is that the generation which hated him most has died. Old (and most middle aged) people in the 60’s could not comprehend his refusal to accept being drafted, let alone his changing his name and religion. My father was among them, he thought he was a coward for refusing to accept induction. When the courts vindicated him legally and he was allowed to fight, finally getting the showdown with Joe Frazier, sides were drawn. I admit to being on the Frazier side, in spite of my youth. As a boxing fan, I preferred Frazier’s attacking style. On a personal level, Ali’s attack on Joe Frazier’s authenticity as an African-American offended me – while Ali grew up a middle-class kid in Louisville, Joe Frazier was actually picking cotton; you don’t get blacker than that. It was a great fight, living up to its Fight of the Century billing. After the fight, my father changed his opinion of Ali. My father was a long-time fight fan, and when Ali got up after being knocked down by a spectacular, jaw-breaking, left hook, my father said he knew then that Ali was not a coward, that a coward doesn’t get up and fight after that. No, he was no coward, he risked his career, one limited by age, for what he believed. He risked condemnation by a nation over a principle. Cowards don’t do that, heroes do.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Comes now a young man from Illinois, with little experience in office, untested, yet with a message of change and hope, addressing the major issues of the day in an articulate and inspiring manner. Not wishing to be wed to the existing political stances, he claims his own ground. Put on a beard and a frock coat and he could be Lincoln – well, a darker version, of course.
Make no mistake, Obama represents something new, yet something very old – the search for someone fresh, getting away from a generation which seems locked in intransigent ideological battles and to a generation which just wants to fix the problems. This echoes back to JFK in 1960, yet also applied to Bill Clinton in 1992. It is ironic that Hillary Clinton would represent the old generation. As a member of that generation, it leaves me feeling older than dirt.
And how exactly do Hillary and John Edwards take him on? Hillary’s non-white-male appeal is certainly no help, and Obama goes to the heart of the Clinton base. Edwards can’t attack Obama’s lack of experience, nor emphasize his caring about the poor as a difference-maker. And of course, in any campaign against Obama, the other Dems have to be very careful not to offend his base. The tougher they are, the more dangerous it becomes. There is just no air for the rest of the candidates, not for publicity, and not for money. Speaking of money, liberals will race to give Obama money, Hollywood types will give early and often. And he was against the war from the very beginning – the magic position.
Sounds like a tough nut to crack, doesn’t it?
And yet...

Look, let’s dispense with the elephant in the room. Can a black man with an odd name be elected President? I have no idea. Can a white woman who is a polarizing figure be elected? Can a former war hero with two decades of political experience be elected? I threw the last one in there just so we can dispense with the electability concept here – John Kerry was the perfect candidate for that reason, and it ended up being worthless.
To me, the real question is should this man be elected, whatever his color? I find Obama frightening. There, I said it. He has said nothing I haven’t heard before and the people I heard it from don’t encourage me. Listen to his speech on his website and you will hear Jimmy Carter’s “a government as good as its people”, read his book or just listen to his railing against the partisanship stopping Washington from getting things done and you hear Bill Clinton’s “third way, neither liberal nor conservative”. Why is it that Democrats feel the need for these empty phrases which deny the birthright of their party? Bill Clinton’s attempt to avoid being a Democrat caused untold damage to the party, damage we’re still digging out from. Carter may be the better example here – a decent man with nowhere near the depth to handle the office. In Obama’s book, he rails against the old generation, still fighting the battles of 1960’s – big government vs. small government, and war vs. peace. Yes, he referred to those specifically. One of which, big vs. small, no one is fighting, and the other of which has never been more relevant.
When Obama was on Meet The Press, Tim Russert, in discussing his book, asked him about balancing the budget, which Obama declared was important. Russert asked him how he would do it. Obama said we have to look at every program with fresh eyes, not be wedded to the past and get rid of those that don’t work. Russert asked him which program he would get rid of. Obama ducked the question and said we should modernize the submission of forms and use e-filing, rather than paper and that could save millions. Russert pointed out that was trivial and asked again about what he would cut. He didn’t want to get into the specifics. This bold new concept is direct from the Ronald Reagan “waste, fraud, and abuse” hymnal.
This man is an empty suit. He is an empty suit full of empty words. What frightens me is that this crap works. It’s nothing new. Here’s a story for you: there is a terrific political movie from 1972, The Candidate, written by Jeremy Larner, directed by Michael Ritchie, starring Robert Redford. It’s the story of a political neophyte, a good-looking young community activist who is picked by a bunch of political activists to run for the Senate. They water down any real message to catch-phrases and slogans and give him empty, yet inspirational, speeches to deliver. In the filming of the movie, the director was a little nervous that when Redford gave a speech to an audience which was basically empty words, they wouldn’t react as he needed. He didn’t have to worry, when Redford gave the empty speech there was euphoria in the room – Ritchie described it as frightening. I am tired of empty words and calming phrases from political lightweights without real accomplishments. I want to see Obama lead on something, take some issue to have a real stand on with a real program. Vague talk about health care and jobs and a general opposition to the war in Iraq doesn’t cut it for me and it shouldn’t for you.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bush Speaks

One of George Bush’s many problems when speaking to the American people on Iraq (along with general inarticulateness and a complete lack of credibility) is his lack of an appropriate speaking style for a serious speech. Bush has several speaking styles – Belligerent, Patronizing, and Aw Shucks (the latter used for self-deprecating humor and being a good ol’ boy). None of those was actually useful for this speech, which called for Reaganesque grandeur or Clintonian sincerity. So W was left with a style which seemed a cross between deer in the headlights and catatonia – not the most persuasive mode of delivery.
Of course, the biggest problem was not stylistic but substantive. The speech could be broken down into three themes: Hope and Glory, Gloom and Doom, and Don’t Mess With Texas.
The Hope and Glory portion featured the plan to add troops, embed them with Iraqi units, divide the city of Baghdad into zones, and bring security to the Iraqi people. Toss in a few billion for a jobs program and reconstruction and you have a plan. And the Maliki government will do it right this time, not just because this was their idea, but because there will be benchmarks, along with a series of steps they have to take – rewriting the constitution, sharing oil revenues, disarming militias – that will bring stability and a shared sense of purpose to Iraq and its people.
One might ask what the threat is if they don’t meet the benchmarks. Bush said that if they fail, they will lose the support of the American people. Now, the American people don’t support this whole mess, so this doesn’t seem like a real threat. John Burns of the NY Times has made the point that the real threat is to replace Maliki and that we have someone waiting in the wings to do what we want done if he doesn’t. If this is the case, and I trust Burns reporting here, the “American people” Bush is referring to are located in the west wing of the White House. Bush must know that Maliki can’t take on the Mehdi Army, since Al-Sadr’s support is necessary for him to stay in power. So this is just a first step in changing more than just the rules of engagement, but the government of Iraq itself.
The Doom and Gloom portion started with a dandy mention of 9/11 – required in all Bush foreign policy addresses – and led to the collapse of the Middle East, combined with a terrorist haven in Iraq which would use oil money to finance another attack on us. In other words, we’re fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them here. And if we pull out, no one will respect us – they won’t be able to trust our word or our resolve in the future. And the moderate regimes in that area who are sort of friendly with us will come under attack. Nothing new here except the depth of the gloom. Which begs the question – what if this doesn’t work? If we agree to the premise of the extreme destabilization of the region if we fail, what happens if the Iraqi government and army don’t do what we need/want them to? Given the overwhelming opposition among our citizenry to any expansion of the war and a sizable increase in our forces, the notion that we can’t fail there is logically unsustainable.
The Don’t Mess With Texas portion is the really scary part. Threatening not just Maliki, but Syria, and scariest of all, Iran. That Ahmadenijad would love to have the U.S. actually attack him seems to not have entered Bush’s mind at all. That is consistent with his total inability to understand how anyone thinks in that part of the world. Our moving a carrier group and a cruise missiles into the region is really scary – they have no functionality in Iraq, so why are they there? Bush is very good at making threats to be backed up by the lives of young American soldiers. That he is a fool is hard to dispute, that he is a dangerous fool is unnerving, to say the least. Joe Biden has threatened a “constitutional confrontation” if Bush expands the war into Iran, but what exactly will he do? Will he cut off all funding for the war? With over 100,000 Americans in Iraq, that will be hard to do. Will he just try for a selective denial of money? How will that work, exactly? Bush has shown a consistent inclination to do what he pleases in the face of opposition, claiming commander-in-chief powers far beyond anything intended by the founding fathers. Starting a legal battle will not stop any action against Iran, just muddy the waters during the fighting. The attack on an Iranian diplomatic consulate in Kurdistan yesterday is just one more instance of a country on the brink, ready to launch yet another front in the “war on terror”. The real war is Bush’s war on sanity, a war which he lost long ago and which we are all paying for.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Who Do You Hate Today? (Part 2)

The first Who Do You Hate can be found here

These events date back to December, but I haven’t been able to get them out of my head, so out they come, separated from the holiday season where they assuredly didn’t belong.

Judith Regan is not my favorite person in the world. She was a publisher for HarperCollins, a division of News Corp., with her own imprint, ReganBooks. She published junk by Jenna Jameson, and political junk by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Most recently, she published If I Did It, by O.J. Simpson, which got her into immense trouble with her bosses. Her most recent effort was a salacious novel about Mickey Mantle, which was described by those above her as “unpublishable”. She was upset at the lack of support and complained to a friend at the company, corporate attorney Mark Jackson. Here is where the trouble happened. She complained about those who she felt were not being supportive of her book as a “Jewish cabal” – this is troubling. She did elaborate that Jews “should know about ganging up, finding common enemies and telling the big lie.” To me, this takes a bit of the curse off it, since it demonstrates a bit of sensitivity. Mr. Jackson then wrote down what she said and reported it to higher-ups, who summarily fired her for anti-semitism. I find the last part extremely troubling. That someone would write down such things and report them is scary, that a person who does not appear to have any history of anti-semitic acts or statements should be summarily fired for something she said to a third party is really scary. Have none of us ever said anything intemperate about someone else to a third person? What kind of corporate culture are we building, what kind of society are we building, where a remark can result in your immediate dismissal? Now we know why she was really fired – the Simpson book/TV show debacle had made her radioactive and they were looking for an excuse. But I find this being used as an excuse very troubling. Anti-semitic or racist comments are too big to be used as an excuse to fire someone. If there is a history of action or at least of direct confrontation then there is some basis, but on the basis of one remark to a third party...I don’t think so.
Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) sent a letter to a constituent which has reached the rest of the world, in which he decries the election of Keith Ellison, a Muslim from Minnesota, to Congress. He is opposed to Muslims being elected to office and is in favor of changing immigration policy to stop more Muslims from coming in, or else even more Muslims will be elected. He conflates our “values and beliefs” and “our resources” being overwhelmed by such immigration. Of course, Ellison is native-born and a convert to Islam and is probably not a threat to blow up the Capitol – although I’m sure there are many on the right who wouldn’t find it a bad idea, especially if he chose to stand next to Nancy Pelosi when he did it. One of the reasons I took my time writing about this was I wanted to see what became of it and how people would react. Bigotry and xenophobia are hardly new ideas in the halls of Congress, but this seemed to be a tad loony, even for Congress. There are some on the right who have pointed out, not altogether inaccurately, that Islam is different, that it doesn’t promote tolerance, and therefore its values are antagonistic to ours. They point out the Danish cartoon incident, where Muslims took to the streets against free speech, as well as the over-the-top reaction to Pope Benedict’s remarks about Islam. I would be more inclined to say they had a point against the dangers of a sizable Muslim vote if it wasn’t for President Bush’s reaction to the cartoon incident. Rather than standing up for free speech, Bush talked about how people shouldn’t publish anything that offends anyone’s religion – exactly what the Islamists were demanding. So we needn’t worry about enemies of freedom overrunning us, they already are in power. All in all, Rep. Goode needs to understand a bit more about what America stands for. Of course, he’s not alone in this, as I’ll continue this tomorrow by discussing Dennis Prager’s reaction to Ellison’s intention to the oath of office on the Koran.