The Barbershop has re-located

The proprietor has moved the shop to ChicagoNow, a Chicago Tribune site that showcases some of the best bloggers in the Chicago area. You can logo on to the Barbershop home page here. The ChicagoNow home page is here.

You'll still be able to post comments with the same ease as in this location. The proprietor also will keep this web site alive if you wish to review old posts.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ebert, again

Roger Ebert is honked, personally insulted it appears, because McCain didn't look at Obama during the debate. Gee, Roger, if I thought that where McCain looked was important enough to devote an entire column to, I would have counted number of times that Obama said, "Uh."

And the public wins!

Not so fast on that bailout package

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

The American public on Monday stuck it to the "knowledgeable and sophisticated" elites who warned that without the $700 billion federal financial bailout plan all hell would break loose.

The House vote, 228-205, was a rejection, for better or worse, by "regular Americans" of the Hobson's choice presented to them by the upper echelons of government, politics, Wall Street, media and others.

Either:

Write a blank check for $700 billion, $350 billion or whatever, in the most drastic U.S. government intrusion into the private sector perhaps ever, or at least since the Great Depression, with unknown consequences; or, live through another Great Depression, with unemployment of "20 percent," loss of homes and other horrors.

We who hesitate are lost. On top of that, the public was asked to pick its poison immediately, without congressional hearings, extensive public debate or any other accouterments of a democratic republic. The public was required to accept the edict. No look before you leap.

That an upstart public would flood Congress and the administration with unscripted, immediate and overwhelmingly negative reaction was, itself, considered a disaster of unprecedented proportions. You could read in the faces of the Wall Street types on CNBC and elsewhere their astonishment that anyone would dare defy their wisdom. Jim Cramer, the popular stock guru, expressed it best when he stated that the folks who opposed the deal are "not knowledgeable or sophisticated." As if everyone who disagreed with him is stupid.

Rant and rave all they want about how the 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans who voted against the package were cowardly hacks genuflecting to the populist rabble, the truth is their vote was courageous. They are the ones taking the risk in a belief that a more sensible, middle-ground position can be worked out; they are putting their chips on the belief that the nation won't go belly up by stopping for a moment to have more debate.

They aren't the ones who dumped a 110-page bill on top of everyone the night before the vote. After the vote, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the rest of her gang accused the Republicans of being ideologues who couldn't depart from harebrained, free-market notions, while seeming to forget that 95 members of her own caucus would be guilty of the same sin. This is the same Nancy Pelosi who after the vote bizarrely blamed Republicans for a failure of bipartisanship, when, during the debate leading up to the vote, she let loose with a nasty partisan attack totally inappropriate for the quality of the debate. You had to see it to believe it: There was rational debate on the House floor, indeed in a spirit of bipartisanship, and then she comes along blaming President George W. Bush for everything.

It sure put a damper on the debate. But if turned off Republicans were mad enough to switch votes from aye to a nay just for that reason, Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who managed the legislation, was right: Putting personal affront ahead of the national good is ridiculous.

Easy for me to take shots from the sidelines; as much as I dislike the legislation, I might have voted for it, because I'd be scared stiff about the consequences of no bailout. But in the few short days of debate, I also know that other possible routes are available for addressing the "seizing up" of the credit markets. Among them are accounting-rules changes that would allow banks to keep good mortgages on their books at their face value, instead of deeply writing off their value, thereby strangling the ability of banks to make loans.

How about the involvement of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which in the past week managed to salvage the assets of two major financial institutions without endangering a dollar of taxpayers' money?

So, rack up another congressional failure in what seems to me to be the most unproductive legislative session in my memory. Here's a Congress whose public approval ratings are lower even than Bush's. The markets, of course, will spin wildly out of sight, offended by this public uprising. But things will settle down, Congress will work it out. Take the word of someone who don't know nothing.

Read more comments on this column at RealClearPolitics

Monday, September 29, 2008

Blame the Democrats

Here is a video of Democrats condemning Republican efforts to impose more stringent regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Friday, September 26, 2008

3 to 4.3 Billion Barrels of Technically Recoverable Oil Assessed in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken Formation

That's 25 times more than what the U.S. Geological Service previously estimated. (The details are here)

Yeah, but what will threatened rattlesnakes say?

Court blocks guv’s health care expansion

(AP) — An Illinois appellate court on Friday blocked Gov. Rod Blagojevich's attempt to expand a state-funded health care program, noting that administration officials don't know who they've signed up or even where the money is that they've collected in insurance premiums. [Emphasis added]

Read the latest full story about the governor's screwball plan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mary Mitchell’s Ophidian World

In her latest exercise in tedium, she cited an AP-Yahoo News poll that concludes that Barack Obama’s race could cost him “six percentage points—enough for him to lose in a closely contested race.”

I’m not sure what poll Mitchell is reading, since when I look at the one* she seems to be citing, I see different results.

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Tollway chief follows the game plan

The executive director of the Illinois Tollway has resigned to take a job with--oh no, not again--a big tollway contractor.

No one here, of course, should be surprised, because that's how things are done in Chicago: Hand out some huge government contracts and find yourself in demand later for a high-paying job.

The executive director, Brian McPartlin, who came to head the tollway under the auspices of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is joining Chicago-based McDonough Associates, an engineering and architectural firm, as vice president. There he will work for James McDonough who rose to the head of the firm after serving--no surprise here either--as chairman of the CTA. Then, the firm was known as Murphy Engineering, which was--guess what?--a big, politically connected contractor.

That was more than 30 years ago. Some things never change.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Campbell Brown: Free Sarah Palin: The Swamp

CNN anchor Campbell Brown got it right: The McCain campaign should unleash Sarah Palin. See her comments here. Even Rush Limbaugh says the campaign should let Palin be Palin. Fie on those political consultants that are making her look like a coward.

Hold on: Maybe the economy can wait

Never has the United States had to make such a momentous decision so quickly, except on more memorable dates such as December 7, 1941 or September 11, 2001. Is this really that urgent?

Our betters tell us that the “financial meltdown” leaves us only two choices: Either put this nation in hock in unspeakable amounts to who-knows-whom for how long. Or bring on another Depression. And we must pick our poison right now -- no looking for reasonable alternatives. All the key players agree that we’ve got no time to spare; all us bit players can’t fully understand why.

Read more in Human Events

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Who's right on home prices?

What if Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is wrong about home prices, and the market is right?

Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools - WSJ.com

This is worth reading if you still think that Obama wasn't being deceptive when he said that Bill Ayers was just some guy he knew in the neighborhood.

Sen. Dick Durbin: No agent of change

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

When the public's loathing of Congress is soaring, why is the re-election of Sen. Dick Durbin, an architect of that body's many disorders, thought to be a cinch?

How low is Congress' job approval rating? While President George W. Bush's is a dismal 32 percent, according to RealClearPoli- tics.com, Congress' is an even more wretched 21 percent. As the Senate majority whip and second in command, Durbin can't escape blame.

One can find many reasons why Durbin shouldn't be re-elected and his Republican rival Steve Sauerberg deserves a closer look: Durbin's grinding partisanship, among the worst in the Senate, according to washingtonpost.com; the millions he has raised from clout-heavy, legal, securities, investment and real estate interests, according to OpenSecrets.org; his craven about-face on abortion; his unabashed love of earmarks. True, some voters might support Durbin for those reasons. But when measured by the Democratic mantra—the willingness or ability to change things—Durbin flunks.

Consider the fate of Durbin's own legislation, the awkwardly named Increasing Transparency and Accountability in Oil Prices Act. He introduced it in June as a response to the "excessive speculation" by oil traders supposedly responsible for driving spot crude oil prices more than $140 a barrel. The bill would strengthen the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to help nail those nasty traders by, for example, closing the "London loophole" that allows traders to "avoid speculation limits and reporting requirements by routing transactions through off-shore markets." Naturally, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama assigned the bill to a high place on his agenda for change.

Well, at least it made for a good news release; the bill is still sitting in a Senate committee because Durbin and the rest of the party's leadership couldn't get the votes to bring the legislation to the floor for debate. Yes, blame Republicans for opposing full debate. But there's also this: Republicans and Democrats agreed to the two-thirds majority requirement, and those are the rules of the game that the leadership of either party must work with if they want to change anything. Also, Republicans would have agreed to a full debate if the legislation also contained provisions for increased access to domestic oil, but the Democrats wouldn't allow it. So much for bipartisanship to get change.

Wait, it gets better: The premier trader of oil futures (where presumably most of the "excessive speculation" occurs) is the New York Mercantile Exchange. That exchange recently was acquired by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which also recently took over the Chicago Board of Trade. The combined CME Group now controls a mind-bending 98 percent of the U.S. futures market.

That makes the CME one of the most important cogs in the city's and state's economy, and no Illinois politician in his right mind from either party, including Durbin, would want to take it on.

But Durbin would, some might argue, because he courageously puts the public good ahead of parochial, special interests. OK, but perhaps not.

Here's why: The Justice and the Treasury Departments said they might look into whether the CME/NYMEX merger would impose "unnecessary restraints on competition [that] threaten the ability of the U.S. financial markets to adapt to changing dynamics, including the increasingly global nature of those markets." Sounds familiar doesn't it, as the recent market crisis has strengthened the argument, especially among Democrats, that the markets need more regulation.

But on Feb. 7, Durbin and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, another denizen of the Chicago political machine, wrote to the departments, expressing "our strong objections" to the look-see. Just the suggestion of a probe, they complained, cost CME shareholders big, causing their stock to fall 17 percent in a single day. Besides, they said, Congress has done everything necessary to make sure that the CFTC does its job. The CFTC, they said, already was engaged in "vigorous oversight."

In other words, Durbin was for the CFTC before he was against it. And it took him only four months to reverse himself. So, which Durbin to believe, the change agent or the status quo agent? The simple-minded, populist basher of complex financial markets? Or the voice of CME shareholders? In truth, Durbin and Emanuel are the quintessential agents of the status quo that Obama condemns. One can wonder if they're even committed to change.

If the fairy godmother showed up tomorrow and granted Obama a wish, and Obama were true to his promise of change, Durbin and Emanuel would immediately disappear like Cinderella's carriage and turn into a pumpkin.

Or maybe that's not Obama's wish at all.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Greeley predicts a wave of book burnings

Andrew Greeley goes off the deep end, imagining that the election of Sarah Palin will usher in Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's science fiction novel about rampant book burning. What set him off, we must assume, is the nomination of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican candidate for vice president. Greeley's dark vision of what is to become of America appears to be based on the report that Palin, as mayor of a small Alaskan town, once asked the librarian what she would do if someone asked her to remove a book from the library.

I suppose the request can be interpreted in different ways: Was Palin fishing around to have a book removed? Or was she asking for the library's policy, much as she might ask the town's police chief what his policy was on residents giving gifts to police officers. Or the public works director if he thinks the town's water rates should be raised.

I don't know. But I do know that the Chicago-based American Library Association (the librarian whom Palin approached was head of the state's branch of the ALA) gets hyper every time anyone questions the wisdom of a particular book being available to impressionable, young minds. For years, the ALA counted each instance as an example of a "banned book," until it was pointed out that an inquiry is not a request which is not an actual banned book. Only afterwards did the ALA change the name of "Banned Book Week," to "Challenged Book Week."

Such inquiries are not unreasonable when you consider that the ALA's official policy holds that children should have access to anything they want or need. That continues to be the official policy, although it is not stated so directly after I wrote about the policy's absurdity years ago.

My own local library used to have on its shelf a children's sex education book called "Show Me." Indeed it did. The book was page after page of naked, curious children, a pedophile's delight. It eventually was taken off the public shelves and went into a collection that a patron could access only upon request. Now it's no longer in the card catalog. Was its removal censorship, or simply a display of good judgment by the librarian?

Librarians constantly are making judgments about what books to include in a libary's collection. Some of those decisions are based on "guidelines" or recommendations some made by the ALA. I suppose you can call those judgments objective, but some obviously are as subjective as what a reporter decides to include or exclude from a news story. You cannot properly label such decisions "censorship." It is merely the exercise of wisdom.

Greeley had an opportunity to bring some cool-headed reason to this discussion, but he demurred. Too bad.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Chicago needs more airport capacity: FAA chief

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration says Chicago will either need to build a new airport or vastly expand one of its existing airports to keep pace with demand in the future, the Associated Press reported.

That is is addition to the $15-billion expansion of O'Hare Airport, and contradicts Mayor Richard M. Daley's repeated assertions that O'Hare expansion is all that is needed. If not for Daley's opposition, the new airport--the Abraham Lincoln Airport in the south suburbs--already would be up and running.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Obama sidesteps reform in Illinois

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

For those of you who still cling to the fantasy that Barack Obama is "about change," you should note how he, or his minions, want nothing to do with reforming politics in Illinois, perhaps the most corrupt state in the Union.

"Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has fought for open and honest government," proclaims his campaign Web site. Apparently, no longer. When the Democratic presidential candidate—now his party's industrial-strength voice for our deliverance from political corruption everywhere—was asked by a reformer if he would help get his political mentor back home to get off the dime and move the most minimal of state ethics legislation toward passage, the Obama campaign sent word back that amounted to a "no."

State Sen. Emil Jones (D-Chicago) is the Chicago machine politician who might have been most instrumental in jump-starting Obama's political career. Now, as Illinois Senate president, Jones is the one sitting on the reform legislation, refusing to call it for an expected favorable vote before it officially dies of neglect.

Jones is the pal of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, no friend of reform, who used his amendatory veto power to change the legislation after it passed both houses so that Jones would get another chance to kill it.

If all that's confusing, welcome to Illinois politics, where intricacy is the best camouflage for chicanery. Suffice to say, neither Blagojevich nor Jones is working for reform.

So, along comes Cindi Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, thinking that now might be a good time for Obama to parlay his friendship with Jones to do a good deed: Won't you intervene with Jones and try to get him to call the Senate back into session to get this law passed? "[T]his is a place [Obama] could come in and quickly clean up some of the damage and serve his state," she told the Chicago Sun-Times. After all, her group and Obama worked together during those halcyon days when he actually supported reform in Illinois, so maybe he'll be receptive to a plea to intervene on behalf of Illinois folks who have been getting gouged for years by the likes of Jones. "A 30-second phone call to the Illinois Senate president could yield huge dividends to this state," she said.

In response, Obama's campaign issued an oozy statement reaffirming Obama's alleged commitment to reform, while getting no more specific than urging everyone to get together and love one another right now. What Canary was asking Obama for wasn't all that much. Maybe a 30-second phone call to back up his usual pap of, "Look, ah, I've, ah, always been for, ah, reform." For most people, the reform that we're talking about is so basic that they might ask, "You mean it's not illegal already?"

The legislation would make illegal the widespread abuse called pay-to-play politics, by which companies doing business with the state contribute to the state official in charge of ladling out contracts. The new law wouldn't let you do it if you have more than $50,000 in state contracts, which, even at that, leaves open a nice loophole. In Illinois, this is a huge leap forward from how things are done. Blagojevich, who has reaped bundles of cash from state contractors, could be one of the pols most jolted by the prohibition. That explains why he rewrote the legislation in a way that would make it ineffective and why the House overwhelmingly rejected his changes.

Jones now is the only one standing in the way of the reform, with Obama abetting.

Here's another example of how Obama has revealed himself to be a creature of the Chicago machine. Who can forget his silence when he could have affirmed his reformer credentials by endorsing Democrat Forrest Claypool over machine creature Todd Stroger as Cook County Board president? When things got too hot, Obama severed his ties from his racially inflammatory pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. That's not too hard; you can always find another pastor.

But betraying your political godfather(s) in Chicago and Illinois is an entirely different matter. Especially if you lose the presidential election and return to being just another senator from Illinois. Cutting his ties with the corrupt Chicago machine is one bridge you will not see Obama burn. Not now, not ever.

Agent of change, my foot.

For reader response, check out the Chicago Tribune discussion

Also posted on RealClearPolitics.com, where there are more reader comments.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sarah Palin is not a woman

This astonishing assertion comes from Wendy Doniger the (let me see if I have this right): Mircea Eliade Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Chicago’s Divinity School

Here is what she said on newsweek.washingtonpost.com:
Her [greatest hypocrisy is in her pretense that she is a woman. The Republican party's cynical calculation that because she has a womb and makes lots and lots of babies (and drives them to school! wow!) she speaks for the women of America, and will capture their hearts and their votes, has driven thousands of real women to take to their computers in outrage. She does not speak for women; she has no sympathy for the problems of other women, particularly working class women. [Emphasis added.)
This, and the rest of Doniger's teeth-exposed essay, is why Palin's candidacy is so much fun; it sends the haut intelligentsia off the cliff, without their having the slightest clue that they're in midair.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is Charlie Gibson able to define the "Bush Doctrine"

Can you?

In a perpetual search of a "gotcha" question to lob at Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, ABC anchor Charlie Gibson revealed he didn't know what the expression meant, or if he did, he wasn't willing to say.

Truth is, according to Charles Krauthammer who coined the "Bush Doctrine" expression, there are a number of different meanings. Gibson should have told Palin when she asked him to clarify the question which of the meanings he was referencing. There was the old doctrine in which Bush warned that Iran and North Korea were part of an "axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world." And that he would not permit it. It also meant that nations that harbor terrorists would be treated as terrorists themselves. There's the definition in the Sept. 20, 2002 National Security document that shifted the nation's policy of containment and deterence of an enemy to preemption. And so forth.

Instead, of acknowledging these differences, Gibson looked down his glasses at Palin as if he had nailed her. And then stumbled around trying to formulate a definition.

All he did was reveal his own ignorance or unfairness.

Here is the excerpt from the interview:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be? PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war. PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.
GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So when do you think that Biden will withdraw as the vice presidential candidate in favor of Hillary Clinton?

Joe Biden said it himself that "Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America."

Considering his never-ending flow of such gaffs (e.g. asking a paraplegic state official to stand up to be recognized at a campaign rally), who knows when David Axelrod and other trolls in the Obama campaign hierachy will ask Biden to step down for the "good of the party...oops, I mean, the nation."

(This maneuver would be called an "Eagleton," after Thomas Eagleton, who was dumped as Democratic president candidate George McGovern's running mate when it was disclosed that he had received treatment, including electric shock therapy, for mental illness. This was something that you might have expected "insensitive" Republicans to do, but those were different times.)

Anyway, as it becomes increasingly apparent that Barack Obama made e a strategic mistake in not picking Hillary Clinton as a running mate, it could be only a matter of time before the ax falls on Biden. If the Democrats are foolish enough to think that they can way with it, which they can't.

What we've all been waiting for: Roger Ebert's review of Sarah Palin

Roger Ebert, blessed with the wisdom that comes from sitting in a dark theatre looking at a movie screen for, what?, tens of thousands of hours over his lifetime, piles on Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. Read it here if you can stand it.

After wandering around, in apparent confusion about what to describe as the worst of Palin's faults (one of them being she's just unbearably common) he appears to have settled on this: She's been out of the country only once. And that, gasp, wasn't at the Festival de Cannes. Lord, lord, how can a person like her know anything at all about the real world?

Well, maybe Ebert can explain why wisdom automatically comes from being a world traveler. Which would make jet setters--the company that Ebert prefers--the wisest, smartest people in the world. There's a logical falacy, a missing middle term as it might be called, in Ebert's reasoning:

A. Some world travelers are wise.
B. Palin is not a world traveler
C. Therefore Palin is not wise.

Even freshmen logic students would recognize this fallacy. That Ebert doesn't suggests that his world travels haven't done him much good in the smarts department.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This is astonishing

Climate change now is a "lawful excuse" for radicals to cause property damage, according to a British court. This is a press release from Greenpeace hailing the decision:

British Court Acquits Greenpeace Activists; Says Property Damage from Global Warming Justifies Attempt to Shut Down Coal Plant

Verdict marks a 'tipping point' for climate change movement

In a victory for Greenpeace and efforts to stop global warming, a British court today acquitted six Greenpeace volunteers of attempting to shut down a coal-fired power plant in Kent, England on the grounds that they had a “lawful excuse.” The court said that the coal plant was causing so much property damage around the world from global warming that it exceeded the property damage done through shutting operations of the plant.

The acquittal is the first case where preventing property damage from climate change has been used as part of a 'lawful excuse' defense in court. The defense has previously been successfully deployed by defendants accused of damaging a military jet bound for Indonesia to be used in the war against East Timor before independence.

The Maidstone Crown Court heard testimony from NASA climate expert James Hansen, an Inuit leader from Greenland and the British Conservative Party’s environment adviser. The jury was told that the Kingsnorth Power Plant emits 20,000 tons of CO2 every day - the same amount as the 30 least polluting countries in the world combined – and that the British government had advanced plans to build a new coal-fired power station next to the existing site on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent .

The 'not guilty' verdict means the jury believed that shutting down the coal plant was justified in the context of the damage to property caused by CO2 emissions from Kingsnorth.


Lipstick on a donkey

The first "change" I would love to see in this election is everyone retiring their demands for apologies. Much to my disappointment, John McCain's campaign has now launched its own demands for an apology, something usually eminating from thin-skinned Democrats. We've got to apologize for this and for that, and it's getting so that the person who can coral the most is declared the winner. But, so what if Barack Obama referred to the McCain campaign as "lipstick on a pig?" Who cares? It was a banal comment, anyway.

Speaking of banal, Obama now is really, really mad at Republicans for allegedly trying to "swift boat" his campaign, a reference to the truth squad of Navy veterans who surfaced in the last election to challenge John Kerry's self-proclaimed heroism in the Vietnam War. If that's what Republicans are doing to Obama, I'm for it, because Kerry needed to have his fake claims smacked down. And it wouldn't hurt to have some of Obama's challenged too.

See: Obama accuses Republicans of 'swift boat politics' - CNN.com

On aborting "defective" children

You're protected by law against discrimination by employers and insurance companies for illnesses and defects that genetic testing might turn up.

But how about protecting people whose genetic diseases are turned up by testing before they are born?

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sliming Palin

Here is FactCheck.org's response to the bloggers who are slimming Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

The straight talk about the economy McCain should have delivered

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

John McCain's speech accepting the Republican presidential nomination was awful. Yes, it yanked the "change" flag out of Barack Obama's hands and planted it on the GOP's ramparts, and yes, McCain admirably ripped his own party, and yes, there were touching moments of personal revelation.

But the speech was disorganized, overly vetted, sometimes banal, sometimes self-centered and devoid of forthright and realistic discussion of what bothers most voters: a sagging economy. What was needed was some straight talk, which I have provided here: "We've been hearing for years now that we're in or approaching a recession. Gentlepeople, by any measure, we are not in a recession, but if we keep talking like down-in-the-mouth Democrats do, we'll certainly sink into one.

"Yes, we're in an economic 'slowdown,' or whatever you call it. I needn't go over the particulars; Democrats will gladly list them. They've assigned themselves to remind you how miserable you are, even if you're not. Yes, some Americans are hurting, others are uncertain and worried. But I'll tell you a truth: We've talked ourselves into this slowdown, and we can talk ourselves out of it.

"Trace the source of many of today's economic problems, and you'll find yourself at the same starting point: housing. The problems with banks, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the collapse of the mortgage market, all stem from the crumbling of the housing market. And why did the housing market crumble? During the preceding exuberant housing market, we were constantly told that it would collapse, and so, like any self-fulfilling prophecy, it did. Sure, higher energy costs also have taken their toll, but when it comes right down to it, the constant battering of our economic condition by Democrats and the media for partisan purposes has pulled us down.

"We know how much we can trust their analysis, don't we. They are the sages who from the beginning of the Iraq War predicted that we were plunging Iraq into a civil war. Week after week, month after month, we were told that a civil war was raging or about to rage. Well, we know how much baloney that turned out to be.

"So, too, with their drumbeat announcing approaching economic disaster. Say it often enough, and you'll make it so. Predict it long enough, and it will happen. Never mind that the economy is cyclical and that sooner or later, the economy will go down, just as surely as it will go up, if we let it. They are bound to be right, like a stopped clock, twice. We are inundated with cries of 'We must do something. We must do more!'

"Truth is, friends, not even an American president, with all his powers, can significantly change the course of a $14 trillion economy. I know these are hard words to hear, but any candidate who says he can is lying. Yes, we can work around the edges of the economy, softening its impact when things are bad, and do what we can to help those—as we certainly should—who are struggling. We can fiddle around with monetary policy, reduce our national debt and lower taxes. I'm not suggesting that we're powerless. But to blame or credit a single man, whether it be George W. Bush or Bill Clinton for a bad—or good—economy is simple-minded demagoguery. Or to expect one man to 'fix' it is preposterous.

"The Democratic Party is the Dismal Party. We never know how bad we have it until Democrats inform us. Their words of 'hope' ring hollow in the face of their perpetual warnings and their ever-present belittlement of the present. Democrats see calamity, we sense opportunity.

"Someone once said, 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' You see, prosperity is not just an economic condition; it also is a state of mind. Without a positive, prosperous state of mind, we're done.

"My friends, from this moment, when we speak of 'hope,' we need to understand that hope arises from inside ourselves, not from some government program or intervention that arrives on our doorstep. Hope is a reflection of ourselves, our mind's health, our confidence, vigor and inventiveness. Americans never have been in short supply of such qualities, and we need to rekindle them. We will not buy the Democratic woe-is-us line. We are Americans, owners of the world's greatest economy. Woe is not us."

Now that would be real straight talk.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Obama has made up his mind

When asked about whether he favored choice for public school students, Barack Obama said he'd think about it with an open mind.

Apparently, he has decided--at least for himself: He favors choice. Today, he took his kids to school in Chicago, a fancy, expensive private school. Tuition at the school, the University of Chicago Lab School in Hyde Park, is more than $20,000, twice what Chicago public schools spend per student. That's even more than the $17,000 that the New Trier High school district, on the wealthy North Shore spends on each of his kids. Maybe the Rev. James Meeks should lead a protest against the Lab School, as he did at New Trier, to protest funding disparities.

Of course, Obama said he had an open mind after he said he didn't, when he told the American Federation of Teachers he is opposed to school vouchers, referring to the “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.”

Democrats discover homemaking

Anna Quindlen is aghast in a Newsweek magazine opinion piece that the "right wing that trashed the women's movement suddenly finds its inner feminist."

And this, she says, is hypocrisy. Her rant starts:
Hypocrisy is only bad when it is improperly used.—George Bernard Shaw

I never thought I would live long enough to see the day when the Republican presidential candidate would cite membership in the PTA as evidence of executive experience, when the far right would laud the full-time working mothers of newborns, when social conservatives would stare down teenage pregnancy and replace their pursed-lip accusations of promiscuity with hosannas about choosing life.

Charming. Anna apparently doesn't get that her observations open her up to a similar charge. Let me demonstrate by changing just a few of her words:

I never thought that I would live long enough to see the day when the Democratic presidential candidate would cite membership in the Illinois legislature or in the Chicago Democratic machine as evidence of executive experience, when the far left would laud stay-at-home moms and suggest that they shouldn't work (i.e. be the Vice President) because who will take care of the kids? Nor did I think that I would ever hear anyone hint that having a Down Syndrome child was a bad thing, and it should have been aborted.

Here I'll continue to mimic her column, which you can follow along by going to the Newsweek link at the top of this post:

But expediency is an astonishing thing, and liberal Democrats have suddenly embraced the assertion that women can't do it all, even those so-called progressives who have made careers out of trashing that notion. They now are appalled at a woman who was back at work three days after her son, who has Down syndrome, was born. What happened to the song: "I am woman?"

This would all have been entertaining if it were not such rank hypocrisy. These are people who have inveighed against merit-based hiring and promotions, a version of which undoubtedly played a part in Sarah Palin's nomination. These are people who inveighed against personal attacks on Barack Obama when the wingnuts of their own party elevated such attacks to a fine art by accusing Palin of prentending to have given birth to the Down child because it was really her daughter's.

Well, you get the idea. Suffice to end with a quote of my choosing (if a Biblical citation is allowed). From Matthew 7:5: "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama's excellent experience as a community organizer

David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, is bristling that Sarah Palin dared to think that being a small town mayor gave her more executive experience than Obama's two years as a "community organizer," which is undoubtedly true.

Plouffe tries to deflect her accurate observation by suggesting that she was putting down community organizers, rather than challenging the specific charge that she is totally inexperienced. Here's what he said (from the e-mails he tediously sends to Obama supporters asking for yet more money):

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Okay, David, here's a question for you: How did Obama change history as a community organizer? What did he accomplish during those two years that you can specify that had any impact on Chicago? Did it get the shuttered steel mill re-opened? Did he lift anyone out of poverty? How many people did he employ?

As a Chicago journalist, I can't say that I've notice that he has done any of this. But he did get a couple of years of promotable material for his resume.

Here is
Plouffe's e-mail in its entirety:

I wasn't planning on sending you something tonight. But if you saw what I saw from the Republican convention, you know that it demands a response.

I saw John McCain's attack squad of negative, cynical politicians. They lied about Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and they attacked you for being a part of this campaign.

But worst of all -- and this deserves to be noted -- they insulted the very idea that ordinary people have a role to play in our political process.

You know that despite what John McCain and his attack squad say, everyday people have the power to build something extraordinary when we come together. Make a donation of $5 or more right now to remind them.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies.

And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

Meanwhile, we still haven't gotten a single idea during the entire Republican convention about the economy and how to lift a middle class so harmed by the Bush-McCain policies.

It's now clear that John McCain's campaign has decided that desperate lies and personal attacks -- on Barack Obama and on you -- are the only way they can earn a third term for the Bush policies that McCain has supported more than 90 percent of the time.

But you can send a crystal clear message.

Enough is enough. Make your voice heard loud and clear by making a $5 donation right now:

[Link deleted. If you want to contribute, find it yourself.--editor]


Thank you for joining more than 2 million ordinary Americans who refuse to be silenced.

David

David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

The bitter, bitter, bitter Gloria Steinem

After Sarah Palin's rousing, first-class convention speech, Gloria Steinem unleashed all ten fingernails with this nastiness in the Los Angeles Times. In it, she asserts that Palin's unworthiness partially flows from the fact that, "She was elected governor largely because the incumbent was unpopular..." In other words, a fluke.

If that's the case, Steinem needs to reminded of how Bararck Obama got to be elected a U.S. senator from Illinois: By the implosion of his opposition. In the Democratic primary, his major opponent, Blair Hull, was done in by revelations about ugliness in his marriage. His Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, in the general election was done in by...revelations about ugliness in his marriage. Left without a candidate and no credible volunteers, the desperate Republicans imported a natural disaster, Alan Keyes. In other words, Obama's election was arguably a fluke.

Hat tip to Newsalert

Interesting and latest tracking poll...

done before Sarah Palin gave her convention speech Wednesday night.

Here is some of what the Rasmussen report found:

Last night’s polling shows that, by a ten-to-one margin, voters believe reporters are trying to hurt Palin’s campaign rather than help. Republicans and unaffiliated voters strongly believe that a double standard is being applied to Palin because she is a woman. Democrats disagree. Perhaps most stunning is that, among unaffiliated voters, just 42% believe Obama has better experience than Palin to be President. Thirty-seven percent (37%) say Palin has the edge on experience. Again, most of the interviews for this survey were completed before Palin’s well-received speech last night.

Polling released yesterday showed that 12% of Americans now believe Palin is Very Likely to be the first woman elected President of the United States. Fourteen percent (14%) say the same about Hillary Clinton.

Today is the second straight day that the results have inched very slightly in McCain’s direction as the GOP convention gets underway and seeks to overcome Obama’s convention bounce.


For full story, go here and here.

How Obama lost the election

This could be the best commentary I've seen yet on the presidential election. I highly recommend it.

Hat tip: Kati Spaniak

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A cookie-jar fixation

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

Let's see, is there any group of voters that Gov. Rod Blagojevich hasn't tried to bribe in pursuit of his impossible dream of re-election?

For seniors, free rides on trains and buses. For parents, health care and day care for their toddlers. For young adults, permission to ride their parents' health-care insurance plans until they're 26 (30 if they are in the military). For wounded veterans, an exemption from local property taxes. Even if none of them need the benefits. If I've forgotten anything, I'm sorry; there are just too many to remember.

Giveaways, freebies, subsidies, tax breaks; nothing's too costly for the sake of Blagojevich's daft idea that he has a political life after 2010. And to make matters worse, for all the attention given to the blood feud between the governor and the legislature, it is the lawmakers that have in too many instances caved into the governor's demagoguery.

Here is a recent example: The legislature swallowed whole a Blagojevich proposal that would force insurance companies in Illinois to cover some 300,000 twentysomethings on their parents' medical policies. They don't even have to live in Illinois and never mind that if they're in the military, they already get full and free health care courtesy of federal taxpayers. No telling how much this largesse will cost everyone who pays a health-insurance premium. All that matters is that for one brief moment, Blagojevich will stand in the spotlight as the compassionate governor. And those who oppose him will appear to be "mean-spirited" tightwads.

Thankfully, even the legislature couldn't stomach (it failed by a mere three votes) Blagojevich's proposal to exempt veterans who are at least 50 percent disabled from paying property taxes. It would cost local units of government $35 million to $40 million in lost revenues; who would make up that shortfall wasn't explained.

Now, these weren't ideas that had been knocking around for months or years, subject to detailed public scrutiny and debate. Both ideas were contained in amendatory vetoes that Blagojevich attached to other legislation. The break on insurance premiums passed the House and Senate in an astonishing two weeks, without public hearings, with hardly any public airing. It was as if most lawmakers were too chicken to say no, even though they keep bellyaching about how the governor is usurping their powers.

Blagojevich's premise is that the voters are stupid or greedy enough to think that he's doing them a great favor, when the state's finances are among the nation's most dismal. These same voters would flock to someone's garage to buy deeply discounted stolen goods believing that, yes, they "fell off the truck."

Blagojevich has raised cynicism and political opportunism to a whole new level in a state that already seems to pride itself on the politics of self-advancement. Incredibly, Blagojevich still crows about how he eliminated budget deficits when, in fact, he hasn't. Even more incredibly, despite his awful and self-destructive performance, lobbyists and special interests continue to pony up huge campaign contributions because Blagojevich still has a couple of years left in office and big state contracts still need to be awarded.

These latest follies were made possible by a vaguely worded Illinois constitutional provision that gives the governor extraordinary veto powers. One provision allows the governor to reduce or veto any appropriation approved by the legislature, the so-called line-item veto. It's a good idea, but the other provision in the constitution gives Blagojevich all the wiggle room he needs: It says: "The governor may return a bill together with specific recommendations for change to the house in which it originated." It doesn't say what kind of changes the governor can make, and thus is open to wide interpretation, endless lawsuits and abuse.

The provision obviously needs improvement so that it can't be exploited by the likes of Blagojevich. (Of course, the legislature can override the governor's change, but as we see, that doesn't always work on the side of common sense and sanity.) And that gets us back to the debate over whether voters in the November election should approve the calling of a constitutional convention, to correct this and a number of other flaws that have led to the current state of mal- and mis-governance. Again, it's up to those who so vigorously oppose a constitutional convention to come up with an alternative way to correct those faults. I'm betting they won't.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter

The tone of this column is along these lines: "Ha-ha, I told you that single motherhood wasn't only a black problem. Sarah Palin's single daughter's pregnancy proves it. So, all you racists stop talking about it being a black problem."

Well, Mr. King, it is a black problem. Indeed, it is a problem for all society, but most particularly for black families. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that unmarried women account for 68 percent of black births, compared with 42 percent for Hispanics and 23 percent of white, non Hispanics.

Sadly, out-of-wedlock births are increasing for all races, and this is a major problem because it means that increasing numbers of children are being raised in what were once called "broken homes." This, research demonstrates, leads to a multitude of serious societal problems, including more crime, more poverty and higher school drop-out rates.

One would think that someone who is concerned about the higher rates of these problems in the black community would focus on this rather than the pregnancy of a child of a vice presidential candidate, as if that proves a general rule.

Imagine for one sweet minute an Illiinois Gov. Palin

By Dennis Byrne

Chicago Daily Oberver

If the McCain/Palin ticket loses in November—perish the thought—maybe we could talk her into moving to Illinois from Alaska to run for governor here.

Sarah Palin is everything Illinois needs in a governor, but never had, at least for as long as I can remember. Besides setting Alaska’s finances in order, she demonstrated her seriousness about ethics reform by siccing investigations on her fellow Republicans. “She doesn’t care for the Republican Party [in Alaska] and the old guard doesn’t care for her,” said her former Washington D.C. representative, Larry Persily.

Read more in the Chicago Daily Observer