Sunday, November 30, 2008

Phil Hare proposes increased help for soldier's families

Here in the Quad Cities, those of us who have Mediacom cable tv see 5 minute interviews with local newsmakers which are shown every hour or so on the CNN channels. I just saw an interview with our congressman Phil Hare. I was very pleased to hear him talking about a bill he is sponsoring to greatly increase the amount of psychological counseling and other support for our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

In my opinion one of biggest under-reported scandals of the Bush Administration is how little support they have provided to our returning military people who have suffered physical and psychological damage in war. Those of us who were around in the 1970s and 1980s remember the thousands of homeless Vietnam War veterans who were unable to productively return to peacetime society because they had been psychologically damaged by their wartime experiences.

There are reasons to believe that there are greater levels of damage being inflicted on our soldiers in Iraq than occured in Vietnam. Very few soldiers served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam and those who did return for a second tour volunteered to do so. Most of the soldiers being sent to Iraq are serving multiple tours, creating unprecedented levels of psychological pressure on the soldiers and their families. The Bush Administration has allocated far too few resources to healing the damage they have caused, exacerbating the problems we will face in the future.

As a society we will be paying for years to come for this misguided "war of choice." I am glad to hear that Phil Hare is on the case, trying to get the help they need to our soldiers and their families.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Did Jdimytai Damour die for your sins?

Temporary Wal-Mart employee Jdimytai Damour of Queens, New York was trampled to death Friday morning when an estimated 2,000 shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors of the Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream on Long Island at a 5 a.m. sale. How culpable are you for his death?

If you had been there, hoping to find bargains before they were all snatched up, would you have been part of the group that pushed the store doors off their hinges? If you had seen people laying on the floor beneath the feet of the crowd you were a part of as you entered the store would you have stopped to help them or would you have kept running toward the bargains as did most of the mob?

Do you value life more than bargains? Will you join me and many others who have been refusing to shop on Black Friday as part of the loosely organized Buy Nothing Day Protest? Will you choose life and boycott shopping the day after Thanksgiving next year?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

War on Christmas, 2008 edition

In his Wall Street Journal column on Nov. 20 Daniel Henninger opined:

And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

If your tolerance of ignorance and stupidity is strong enough go ahead and read the entire column. Henninger claims that his concern is that people are turning their backs on religion and all its virtues when they choose to say ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than ‘Merry Christmas.’ That is an incredibly stupid and ignorant argument, but I am calling Henninger dishonest rather than ignorant and stupid because I don’t think he really cares very much about religion.

First, no Christian is refraining from (or being asked by others to refrain from) saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at home, in church or when addressing non-strangers they know will not be offended. Second, it would be hard at this point for any Christian to ‘desacralizing’ Christmas any more than it already is. Read this for more about that.

I think Henninger’s real concern is that being forced to modify his speech and actions to accommodate other people’s feelings will drain him of his vital forces and undermine his will. He thinks that for America to remain strong militarily and economically he and people like him must not turn into wusses and pansies, which he thinks would be the result of having to censor his speech out of concern for anyone else.

How can Henninger claim that acting out of a concern for the feelings and sensibilities of your neighbors is turning away from Christianity and the virtues of responsibility and restraint? Well, as I said earlier, I don’t think he is really very much concerned with Christianity or with honesty, either.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trend setting Professor Krugman

Just now, as I write this, on the Rachel Maddows show guest host Alison Stewart started her interview with Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman by thanking him for coming on the show. Professor Krugman responded, ‘Sure.’

That caught my attention because a few weeks ago someone wrote into either Dear Abby or Ann Landers complaining that some young people today have no manners because they do not respond to ‘Thank you’ with the polite and proper response of ‘Your welcome.’ That got me thinking about why that is the only correct response. There is no objective reason why the words ‘your’ and ‘welcome’ are any more appropriate a response to a statement of thanks than any other word or phrase. It is just something we have all agreed to. There is no reason we couldn’t or shouldn’t undo that agreement and agree on something else.

For reasons that I cannot explain I would love for ‘You betcha’ to become the new polite and correct response to ‘Thank you.’ But if Nobel Prize winners are going around responding ‘Sure,’ then I suppose that response has the best chance of being adopted as the new standard . Oh well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clinton was a tougher opponent for Obama than McCain

I just finished listening to the podcast of the November 10 edition of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She was talking to Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker Magazine, who has been covering the Obama campaign for the last 2 years. Terry asked Ryan what the Obama campaign insiders now say about the effect on their campaign of the long and tough primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Lizza said that everyone in the campaign was unanimous about the overwhelmingly beneficial effect of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy on their eventual victory. Having potentially damaging issues, such as Rev. Wright, brought up during the primary season made them easier to deal with than if they had been brought up for the first time just before the general election. Also the Obama Campaign’s internal polling showed that, thanks to the lengthy primary campaign, by the time of the nominating conventions the public had a much clearer picture of who Obama was than they did of McCain, who had an easier and shorter path to the nomination.

Back in February many blogs, including this one, were worried that Hillary Clinton, by continuing her doomed campaign, ran the risk of lessening Barack Obama’s chances of winning in November. It now appears that we were wrong about that. Mea culpa.

Of course we were not the only ones that had worries at that time that turned out to be unfounded. Remember that Hillary Clinton and her supporters were claiming the McCain and the Republicans would be tougher and have more damaging and more difficult-to-deal-with attacks against Obama than he was currently facing from her in the primaries. That turned out not to be true. McCain refused to allow his campaign to even mention Rev. Wright, because he did not want to play the race card.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba 1932 - 2008

The New York Times reports

Miriam Makeba, a South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom among millions in her own country though her music was formally banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died early Monday after performing at a concert in Italy. She was 76.

Read complete article

Here is a video of Miriam Makeba singing Pata Pata

As we remember her, listen to her music and watch recordings of performances such as the one above she will live forever and be with us always.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New taxes and restrictions on auto sales?

Because of economic woes many American industries, including automobile manufacturing and sales, are hurting but the firearms business is booming. According to the Guardian:

Starting in the days before the election, gun shops have been mobbed by buyers who fear that Obama and a larger Democratic majority in Congress will restrict firearm sales.

Many were stocking up on things such as assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and handguns that they think would be the most likely targets of new laws, though practically everything related to shooting has been selling more quickly.

"It's been an absolute madhouse," said Trey Pugh, a manager at Jim's Pawn Shop in Fayetteville, which is selling 15 to 20 AR-15 assault rifles a day. "I'm getting guys come in and say I always wanted that gun, and give me that one too and that one and, oh, I need a gun safe, too."

New restrictions on gun sales have not been something Barack Obama has proposed and there is little reason to think that this issue will be on the agenda of the Barack Obama presidency or the Democratic majority in Congress. So gun buyers’ concerns appear to be irrational fears fueled by unfounded rumors, being spread (and perhaps originated) by the gun retailers themselves.

As an employee of a company that sells to automobile dealers and is being negatively impacted by the drop in automobile sales I would like to warn the public about the possibility of new restrictions and taxes that may be imposed on the sales of automobiles, perhaps in an attempt to combat global warming. [There is little objective evidence that this could happen but who knows what the future holds?] In order to avoid new taxes and price increases that could happen in a future that no one can predict I think the public would be well advised to make their automobile purchases sooner rather than later. Be sure to pass this advice on to your friends and neighbors.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Republicans praise Rahm Emanuel

Barack Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff has drawn some criticism from people claiming Emanuel has been partisan and divisive. Some Republicans who have worked with Emanuel in the Congress disagree with that assessment.

According to the Washington Times Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel 'wise' and added that:

Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together.

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted retiring Representative Tom Davis, R-Va:

I can't think of a better choice. What's the old saying? You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose? (Rahm) understands the poetry, but he can translate it into prose. He is a practical guy who understands politics as well as policy. quoted retiring Illinois Republican, Ray LaHood:

This idea that Rahm is a guy who can't get along with Republicans is just not true. The truth is in politics, you can count your friends on one or two hands, but he's been a true friend… The idea that he's just a trash-talking, hard-core Chicago pol does not reflect who the man really is.

So if these Republicans who have worked with Emanuel in the Congress say that he is perfectly capable of working amicably and productively with Republicans why are others saying something different?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fear of an Obama Presidency

My brother, who is a sixth grade teacher in the public schools in the Rockford area, just emailed me about what happened in his classroom the day after the election:

The majority of students in my class, those whose parents voted for Obama, could not enjoy a moment of glory because two students who were strong Republicans were terribly distressed, telling fellow students that they were going to have to leave our school and flee with their parents to Canada when President Obama started destroying our country. Other students were concerned and sympathetic to the fear felt by their fellow students.

I saw that this fear, pressed upon these children by ****** parents, was real, lasting, and not a ploy or act on the student's part.

In his Concession Speech Tuesday evening John McCain seemed to be trying to put back into Cassandra’s Box all the unwarranted fear and hatred of an Obama presidency that his campaign had unleashed, but obviously it is not going to be that easy. Of all the damage that has been inflicted onto this country the past 8 years, this unreasonable and unwarranted suspicion and fear of Obama held by those who drank the McCain/Palin Campaign Kool-aid may turn out to be among the most destructive of all. If this distrust of Obama cannot be overcome it will undermine the unity needed to get the country back on track and solve our dire and urgent economic, environmental and international security, prestige and moral authority problems.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Candidate defends himself against baseless smears

Thank God the election is over. We all heard candidates being accused of being unpatriotic, friends with terrorists, Muslims and socialists. I have just become aware of an even more astounding accusation. Out in Montana Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown had to defend himself against accusations that he was a vegetarian:

"I am disgusted by the baseless allegation that I am a vegetarian and that my personal eating habits should somehow be construed as opposed to the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry."

Brown did say that he and his family temporarily cut back on their consumption of meat and dairy products 25 years ago when they were caring for a dying loved one who couldn't eat those products.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

2008 Mexican Day of the Dead, Figge Art Museum

[click on photo to see it full sized.]

An altar honoring victims of domestic violence. The altar was created by the group "Healing Waters," director Shelley Guy, for the 2008 Mexican Day of the Dead Altar Display at the Figge Art Museaum, Davenport, Iowa.

[Please click on photo to see it full sized.]

An altar honoring womean murdered during a wave of murders in Mexican border towns in recent years. The altar was created by artist and college professor Jesus Pastor of Cortazar, Guanajuato, Mexico who has been a visiting artist in the Quad Cities for the past month.

Members of the Quad Cities Ballet Folklorico perform as part of the 2008 Mexican Day of the Dead Festival on November 2 at the Figge Art Museaum

'Palling around' with terrorists

Check out this memoir from a progressive public health professional about how he ended up "palling around" with Weather Underground terrorists in the late 1960s.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bad news for Obama?

As of October 31 the polls show that all the states where Barack Obama has more than a 9% lead add up to 264 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. That list includes New Mexico (+10%), Iowa (+12%), Pennsylvania (+11%) and New Hampshire (+13%). Assuming that Obama will win those states (a fairly safe assumption, it is hard to imagine a shift of 10% in 4 days) then John McCain would have to win almost all the states where Obama has less than a 10% lead in order to win the election. To get to 270 John McCain would have to win all the states where he leads in the polls plus Ohio (6% Obama) and Virginia (7% Obama) and North Carolina (2% Obama) and Florida (3% Obama) and Missouri (1% Obama). Any one of those 5 states would put Obama over the top – McCain has to take them all. Source:

With that reality in mind take a look at the spin McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis is putting on recent developments in a memo to McCain’s supporters yesterday:

Expanding the Field: Obama is running out of states if you follow out a traditional model. Today, he expanded his buy into North Dakota, Georgia and Arizona in an attempt to widen the playing field and find his 270 Electoral Votes. This is a very tall order and trying to expand into new states in the final hours shows he doesn't have the votes to win.

Yes, according to the McCain Campaign the fact that the formerly solid Republican states of North Dakota, Georgia and Arizona are suddenly in play and being contested by the Democrats is bad news for Obama.