Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Partially because I deigned to watch football the last three weekends and partially because I have the annoying habit of taking on more stuff than I’m comfortable with, I’m behind in watching stuff on TV, reading the paper, etc.

That two-hour Haiti special, the album for which is the first #1 album that exists without an actual physical product? Haven’t watched it.

The State of the Union – read the reviews, but not heard the actual address. The chat Obama had with Republicans that went so well for the President that FOX News stopped showing it 20 minutes in – plenty of places to read it or watch it, including here but hasn’t happened yet. Still, I think Evanier’s right when he notes: Once you tell your constituents that everything Obama does is evil, you can’t meet him halfway on anything without appearing to be compromising with evil. You can’t even support him when he does things you like. I think that’s a lot of our problem right there.

Of course, being behind has its benefits. After Martha Coakley lost to Scott Brown in the Massachusetts race for US Senate, there’s been this revisionist message that the Democrats only dumped on her because she lost. Watching the Sunday morning talk shows two and nine days before that election, it was clear that the Democrats, though muted in their criticism – she was still their candidate – suggested that she did not run the robust campaign she ought to have. Yes, in answer to her rhetorical question, you DO pass out fliers in front of Fenway Park.

Some stories I missed altogether, such as the death of Pernell Roberts, the eldest son on Bonanza who later became, in some bizarro world spinoff, Trapper John in the CBS drama Trapper John, MD. It was not a great show, though it was the jumping off point for now-Broadway legend Brian Stokes Mitchell.

I plowed through a couple weeks of the Wall Street Journal and came across this story of Scarlett Johansson’s debut on Broadway as well as a very positive review of “Gregory Mosher’s revival of ‘A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller’s
1955 play about love and death on the Brooklyn waterfront.” “Of course you’ll be wondering about Ms. Johansson, whose Broadway debut this is, and I can tell you all you need to know in a sentence: She is so completely submerged in her role that you could easily fail to spot her when she makes her first entrance. You’d never guess that she hasn’t acted on a stage since she was a little girl.”

Other stories I just didn’t know what to say. I noticed that Kate McGarrigle of the singing/songwriting McGarrigle Sisters, and also mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, died of cancer at the age of 62 back on January 18. The best I could come with is a link to an obituary for Kate written by her sister Anna. I was listening to Trio, an album by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this week. There’s a Kate song called I’ve Had Enough, about lost love, but feels right here.

Love it’s not I who didn’t try
Hard enough, hard enough
And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough
Love you don’t see
The pain in me
That’s plain enough, plain enough
You’re never here to catch the tears
I cried for us, I cried for us

I’ll take my share but I’ll be fair
There’s not much stuff
Easy enough
And if you choose I’ll break the news
This part is tough, so very tough

I’ve tried and tried to put aside
The time to talk, but without luck
So I’ll just pin this note within your coat
And leave the garden gate unlocked

And this is why I’m saying goodbye
I’ve had enough, I’ve had enough

Her funeral is today in Montreal.

Little Boxes theme from Weeds by the McGarrigle Sisters.

ROG


Since it’s the anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, the obvious question for you folks: how’s he doing? When he gave an interview with Oprah Winfrey in December, he gave himself a B+; he must have been grading on a curve, because I’m thinking more like C+.

The good:
Pretty much his very first act was to sign an order extending the time women who had been systematically discriminated against in pay to seek redress.
He set a tone of more international cooperation rather than “America’s way or the highway.”
He promised to close Gitmo, though I think he could have waited on ANNOUNCING it until he had actually lined up the places the prisoners would be transferred to.
He ended torture. I know that there are those who think banning “enhanced interrogation methods” makes the US less safe; I so totally disagree.
He took responsibility for the failing in his administration, notably Christmas airline near-disaster (cf, his Homeland Security chief’s tone-deaf pronouncement that everything had gone right).
And I shouldn’t understate the impressive nature of his comportment.

The bad:
Yes, he was dealt a touch economic hand. But he always seems to side with the big bankers on deregulation when he should have been putting the screws to them. The dissatisfaction from people on the left and the right on this one topic may be the failed legacy of this Presidency.
The Afghanistan war; I’m willing to be proven wrong on this.

The ugly:
Health care. I support the ideas that Obama put forth in the campaign. And I agreed with the notion that hit had to be done early. Yet, apparently afraid of Clinton Health Care Disaster, Part 2, he instead left it to Congress to flounder around the topic, undercutting what I believed was the most important idea – single payer – making the bill weaker and mushier. And now, with the US Senate race in Massachusetts, Teddy Kennedy’s seat, the health care guru’s seat, falling to an obstructionist Republican, health care seems to be dead for the foreseeable future. It was bungled – badly. I’m talking Jay Leno at 10 p.m. badly.
Race. The one “teachable moment” became a “beer summit,” a bit of a joke.

Now to be fair, there was a lot of poisonous lies (born in Kenya, a Muslim, a socialist/fascist/communist) that too many people were eager to believe. That doesn’t help governing, though there was a point when I thought that since so many people were accusing him of being a socialist, he ought to act more like one, rather than the centralist he tends to be.

I’m sure there are other issues I’m forgetting. What say you re: BHO?

ROG

There’s a lot of noise that’s been made this week about comments made about Barack Obama, by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid over a year ago, and by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. To my mind, they are just two sides of the same coin.

Reid, it is reported in a book, referred to Obama as a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” It’s in the same category as Joe Biden’s 2008 description of Obama as “clean and articulate.” Whereas Blagojevich suggests that he is blacker than Obama in a recent interview.

What Reid (and Biden) were saying is is that they were comfortable with Obama because he is more like them than other black people they have known. They are more comfortable with someone like that. I think they were speaking the truth, but the truth is not politically comfortable. And I dare say that much of the United States felt the same way; Obama was not a “scary black man” who sounds like – heaven help us! – Jesse Jackson, so we can vote for him and pat ourselves on the back about just how enlightened and “colorblind” we are.

Blago was questioning the AUTHENTICITY of Obama’s blackness, that there is a checklist of things that makes a “real” black man, from the way he talks to the beliefs he has. Hey, Obama plays basketball and likes jazz; shouldn’t that count for something?

It was the Blago remarks that affected me more personally. There seemed to be this notion, at least when I was growing up, that certain features signified a real blackness. My father used to make a point of my sisters and me speaking “traditional” American English, not some sort of Ebonics. This worked well in surviving growing up in my predominantly white, Slavic neighborhood. It wasn’t as successful in dealing with some of the black kids who would mock my bookish ways and my “white” way of talking. Heck, some of the white kids that hung out with the black kids would suggest that they were “blacker” than I was, because they talked “ghetto”; some of them would put their tanned arms next to mine to check THAT aspect as well.

I mean, I listened to Motown and Atlantic, but I was fans of the Beatles and folk music and classic music. There seemed to be these rules that “authentic” black people could only like certain kinds of of music. That lineage of blues, r&b, soul to hip hop and rap were OK. Classical was not. Neither was rock, which made NO sense to me, since rock and roll evolved from blues and R&B. The artists that performed the outre music like Dionne Warwick (pop), Charley Pride (country) and Jimi Hendrix (rock) weren’t considered “black enough” by some folks, and this really ticked me off.

There was this Red Cross training event at Manlius, NY near Syracuse. I went as my high school’s representative. On the penultimate evening, there was a talent show. I got on stage with a pick-up band, and everyone thought I was going to sing. Instead, I got out a comb and a piece of paper and played a couple minutes of blues riffs. I got a standing ovation; it was one of my favorite moments in my life. The next day, everyone was signing photos and booklets. This one young woman signed my booklet,m on the back, “You’re a nice guy, but you’re no soul brother.” You could have taken a baseball bat and hit me in the solar plexus, then hit me again, and again, and I doubt it would have hurt as much as that one sentence did. I probably looked at that piece of paper periodically for the next couple years, and if it has left my possession, it’s because I lost it, not thrown it away. The ultimate lesson, I suppose, was that I couldn’t worry myself with being “black enough”.

My (condescending, black) godmother died about a decade ago. A year or two before that, I saw her for the first time in many years at the (black) church in which I grew up. She asked me what church I was going to in Albany, and I told her. “That’s a WHITE church, isn’t it? ” I said, “predominately.” There was a point when her disapproval could, and did, really wound me, but not by thast point, fortunately.

There seems to be these periodic calls for “racial dialogue in America”. Yet the Reid comment, which seems to me like a pretty good opportunity, was was largely quashed with an apology and “let’s move on.” I found it particularly interesting to hear conservatives like Lynn Cheney trying to make the most hay about this, and me ending up largely agreeing with George Will. Premise: almost certainly, the color of his skin and the way he speaks made some people more comfortable with Obama. Discuss.

That said, I’ve become increasingly convinced that what’s made Obama “not scary” has also made him possibly less effective as President. I’ve heard those on the left say he should be cracking heads to get the Democrats in line on health care, and those on the right say he should be taking names over the Christmas near-airline disaster. I think it’s not affectation but self-training that has made Obama preturnaturally calm. He HAS the office; maybe it’s time, if he can, to get just a little bit scarier.

ROG

Happened to be a shop while, by chance, Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech was on the radio. Understandably criticized, it was generally compared to George Orwell’s 1984. It made me think about a song that borrows from Orwell, Tracy Chapman’s Why?, which you can (I hope) hear here.
Love is hate
War is peace
No is yes
And we’re all free

But somebody’s gonna have to answer
The time is coming soon
When the blind remove their blinders
And the speechless speak the truth

***
So what should upon my wandering eyes should appear but ABC-TV’s schedule for Tuesday night, Dec 15: A Charlie Brown Christmas. From 8 to 9 pm – 1 hour. When they last broadcast it, LAST Tuesday, as noted here, squeezed into a half hour slot:

Gone was Sally’s materialistic letter to Santa, which finally sends Charlie screaming from the room when she says she will settle for 10s and 20s.

Gone was Schroeder’s miraculous multiple renditions of “Jingle Bells” from a toy piano, including the one that sounds distinctly like a church organ.

Gone was Linus using his blanket as an improvised slingshot to knock a can off the fence no one else can hit, complete with ricochet sound effect.

Gone were the kids catching snowflakes on their tongues and commenting on their flavor.

Gone even was poor Shermy’s only line. He thought he had it bad because he was always tasked to play a shepherd. He had no idea.

And why were all these classic scenes cut? To plug more ads into the show, of course. To sell burgers and greeting cards — and to relentlessly plug the insipid-looking new Disney “soon to be a classic” show immediately following.

So did ABC relent to some sort of pressure? Inquiring minds want to know. But THIS seems to be the viewing of A Charlie Brown Christmas to watch – or record, even if it’s filled with even MORE ads. And – it is hoped – an apology.
***
Still catching up, after two sick days this week. One of the truths I’ve long known is that when you’re sick or injured, but don’t act particularly sick or injured, people forget. I experienced that Wednesday, and I admit it: it made me rather cranky.
My wife and daughter both had a snow day, but they seemed to think it was MY snow day too; no, I’m home because …ever look at a computer screen and see it as doubled, only slightly out of sync? That’s what was happening to me. Yet the daughter wanted to play a game while the wife took a nap – a nap; *I* needed a nap. And when the wife announced that since we had this found opportunity, we could (oh, boy!) work on the household budget. No, no, no, it’s YOUR found time; it’s my SICK time. I almost escaped to the local library except I didn’t want to infect strangers.

It’s odd, but I hate taking off sick time. And I have LOTS of it. At the beginning of December, I had 145 days. If I use three in December, I still get 1.5, so I’ll still have 143.5 days left. And it’s not as though I get paid it out when I retire, or can apply the time to my health benefits; when I leave, I lose them. The only way I’ll use them is if I have a catastrophic illness or injury. But it takes so little to fall behind at work – 180 e-mails and 14 phone messages to look at on Thursday.
***
Two children’s birthday parties this weekend – goody.
***
I was looking at my face in the mirror recently and noticed that my cheeks are slightly darker than the rest of my face, as though the pigmentation after its loss in the vitiligo had returned. More recently, a small circle near my left temple and a larger circle around my right has also gotten darker. I find it odd that I really don’t know what I look like from month to month of late.
***
When I was growing up, there were two songs, with similar titles, which appealed to me. One was The Yardbirds’ Shapes of Things, which got up to #11 in the US pop charts in the spring of 1966. The other is Shape of Things to Come by Max Frost & The Troopers, which reached #22 in the fall of 1968. Seems to be my message du jour.


ROG

Here are some issues I’ve been musing about,. some happened a couple weeks ago but are still in my head.

New York State passed a no texting while driving law that became effective November 1. While I’m very much in favor of people not multitasking in that fashion, I’m not all that excited by the passage of more legislation that can be routinely ignored. Perhaps those who always follow the law will abide, and maybe those who’ve decided even before the law that texting while driving is unsafe. But, based on the (non-)enforcement of the no cellphone law, the only benefit will be something to charge a driver with ifwhen an accident occurs, the authorities will be able to charge the driver with additional violations.

Racialicious had an interesting article I’m for gay rights, but…; the topic was also discussed on the podcast Addicted to Race, episode 125, which describes the “oppression Olympics”: essentially who is more oppressed, blacks or gays, and why that whole mindset is so wrong. In the episode, the panel discussed Martin Luther King Jr’s daughter’s recent declaration that her father “didn’t take a bullet for same-sex unions.” Meanwhile the late Coretta Scott King had shown support for the rights of all, including gays. As the show notes ask: “Why is it that marginalized people fight each other over scraps, instead of uniting to work toward justice for all?” Sounds like a reasonable strategy to me.
***
Only recently did I get to watch the Sunday morning talk shows from two days before Election Day. It is very instructive to listen to most of the predictions in the House race in NY-23, which “everybody knows” was going to the Conservative. Except, of course, it didn’t. One Republican operative in particular was complaining how 11 Republican county chairpersons could pick a candidate, suggesting that it’s undemocratic. Well, it is, but it’s also the way the Democratic candidate was picked. When Kirsten Gillibrand replaced Hillary Clinton in the US Senate, the county chairs in her district picked the candidates, but the winner stands only until the next election, in 2010. (For that matter, Gillibrand also has to run in 2010, and if she wins, in 2012, when the seat would normally be up.)

That race was a perfect example of why Instant Runoff Voting would have been helpful, as I noted here. For that matter, IRV would have clarified the New Jersey governor’s race. One pundit noted that the third party candidate faded, “as they always do.” But the reason isn’t their qualifications, it’s their perceived win-ability.

Speaking of Election Day, Jason at 2political, among others, noted this peculiar trend in Virginia gubernatorial races. In the last three decades, when there is one party elected President, the very next year, the Virginia governor is elected from the other party:
CARTER 1976 (D); John N. Dalton 1977 Republican
REAGAN 1980 (R); Chuck Robb 1981 Democratic
REAGAN 1984 (R); Gerald L. Baliles 1985 Democratic
BUSH 41 1988 (R); Douglas Wilder 1989 Democratic
CLINTON 1992 (D); George Allen 1993 Republican
CLINTON 1996 (D); Jim Gilmore 1997 Republican
BUSH 43 2000 (R); Mark Warner 2001 Democratic
BUSH 43 2004 (R); Tim Kaine 2005 Democratic
OBAMA 2008 (D); Bob McDonnell 2009 Republican
So it’s difficult to see any repudiation of Obama in the Virginia race. Not to mention that the Democrats picked a lousy candidate.

Speaking of repudiating Obama, I was baffled that Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News were baffled by two recent polls. One showed about a 57% support for the public option; the other showed that the majority of Americans oppose Obama’s handling of the health care issue. They seemed to assume that opposition to Obama on the issue would only come from the right. In fact, if I had been asked, I would have said the same thing: that I oppose Obama’s handling of health care, not because it contains a public option but because single payer got taken off the table much too easily. And, absent single payer, I support the public option.

As for the bill that DID get passed by the House, what SamuraiFrog said, particularly with regards to abortion, applies to me too. And there’s no guarantee that the wuss of a House bill will even make it through the Senate in any meaningful way.

I got an important e-mail this week:

Become a Charter Member of the Bush Presidential Center
Dear ROGER,
I don’t have to remind you how America was tested time and again-at home and abroad-during the eight defining years of the George W. Bush presidency.
The difficult decisions President Bush made in the face of each challenge were rooted in the core principles he held throughout his years of public service—the fundamental values that have guided America since her founding: Freedom . . . Opportunity . . . Responsibility . . . Compassion.
Now President and Mrs. Bush—with the support of many patriotic Americans like you—are taking on a new challenge. They are continuing their personal commitment to advancing these enduring principles through the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
The Center will uniquely integrate the records of a national archive, the thematic exhibits of a presidential museum, and the intellectual capital of a research-based policy institute to transform ideas into action.
The George W. Bush Presidential Center will continue to advance the ideals and core principles that shaped his presidency during a defining period in America’s history.
Please accept this invitation to stand with President and Mrs. Bush by becoming a Charter Member of this vibrant, multi-disciplinary Center.
Thank you for your support.
Sincerely,
Hon. Mark Langdale
President
George W. Bush Foundation

“Principles”? Er, thanks, but no thanks.
***
A lot more pictures like the ones above can be found here.

ROG

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