'Pushing my FEMA button'

When something being said gets my dander up, I retort, “You’re pushing my FEMA button.” Most folks who know the backstory get the message.

When Hurricane Hugo did devastating damage in South Carolina, then Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings was very angry over the government’s slow response to the needs of his state. A red-faced Hollings told a group of reporters asking about the problem, “You’re pushing my FEMA button!”

This item from the Progress Report, Center for American Progress (1/29/08), is just one more example among thousands of the dismal failure and deceit of this administration:

KATRINA - FEMA SILENCED CONCERNS OVER SAFETY RISKS OF TOXIC TRAILERS: Democratic leaders of the House Subcommittee on Science and Technology released a study Monday that found FEMA "ignored, hid and manipulated government research on the potential impact of long-term exposure to formaldehyde" on Katrina and Rita victims now living in FEMA trailers. "The lawmakers said the Center for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry ignored one of its experts ... after he informed FEMA there was no 'safe level' of long-term exposure. They said FEMA bypassed that opinion and 'shopped' the agency for its desired recommendation to study only short-term exposure."

Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC), co-chairman of the subcommittee, said, "Honest scientific studies don't start with the conclusion, and then work backwards from there." Last year, a report found that 94 percent of the emergency housing trailers contained "hazardous levels of formaldehyde."

In November, it was reported that FEMA was prohibiting its staff from entering the trailers, even as 500,000 families were still living in them. –END-

And, from the same report:

“Some 9/11 responders (who were exposed to toxins after the EPA rulled the area ‘safe’) were on-hand … to listen to Bush's State of the Union. ‘I'm fed up with how we're treated,’ said Queens paramedic Marvin Bethea. Ground Zero volunteer John Feal added, ‘You got $3 billion a month to kill people; you got $3 billion a year for health care.’ "

This from agencies whose job it is to protect Americans. Where is the accountability? Where the heck is my FEMA button?


How green is your candidate? Al Gore’s “Live Earth” recommends this excellent chart on where the top presidential candidates stand on renewable energy sources, environmental issues and global warming: LINK


A billion here, a billion there

A couple of days ago I wrote that the $700 billion allocated to date for the war in Iraq amounts to $400 million per day since the war began.

Pretty hard for me to grasp all those zeroes - $700 billion is a lot of money compared to, say, the $24.4 billion allocated to “No Child Left Behind” for the whole of FY2007.

I was STUNNED to hear yesterday morning that George W. Bush on Monday signed into law yet another $700 billion expenditure – a 3.5 percent pay raise for members of the U.S. military.

The bill, which cleared the U.S. Senate by a vote of 91-3 after the House passed it 369-46, makes the pay raise retroactive to January 1.

Talk about your economic stimulus package.

Lord knows, I’m all for U.S. troops with boots on the ground getting a pay raise, but with Bush threatening to rein in spending in his SOTU address Monday night and the U.S. economy in the tank, how can this nation continue such military spending?

Now, the White House is poised to ask Congress next week for another $70 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The very conservatives who are always yammering about Democratic proposals to help lower- and middle-class Americans and are demanding permanent tax cuts are the ones who continue to believe the war in Iraq was a great idea.

Something’s got to give. Hopefully, it will - come November.


Up close & personal

Some observations from a South Carolina friend. Thank you, sir!


Here's my quick take on the SC primary. Obama won, as I expected. His margin was a little surprising, though not much.

What has amazed me is how little the political commentators understand what happened or what the Clintons intended.

Why do they think Bill Clinton, Chelsea, et al, and Hillary herself spent so much time in South Carolina the past month? Bill Clinton knew that Hillary wasn't going to win South Carolina. Blacks, after a moment's hesitation, were going to vote for Obama regardless. Why, then, would they waste all that time and energy here?

It was a well-calculated strategic decision. After what happened in New Hampshire, Clinton (or the Clintons) guessed (rightly) that the Obama camp would fear the same sort of "comeback" here. They were right. Obama spent, what, 16 straight days "shoring up" his base in SC and spending capital needlessly on statewide ads, Bill and Chelsea "engaged the enemy" and took potshots at his campaign here, there, and everywhere across the state, while Hillary was off tending fences and bridges in the delegate-rich states, where the black vote won't count so much, preparing for the showdown on Feb. 5. She made it back to South Carolina just enough times to keep Obama's eyes off her real target -- the delegate counts around the corner. It was "Bill Clinton thinking" at its best, riskiest, and most ingenious. The Obama camp took the bait.

Sadly, it also involved having to "toss out there," plant the seed among the Democratic faithful, that while Obama is an extraordinarily articulate orator and a sharp thinker to boot, his very lack of experience and ideas battle-tested in the real world is just not going to allow him to be elected president this time around. When it gets down to it, America is not going to elect an untested, personable black man over what the Republicans will bring to the table. He'll be president some day, if he lives and keeps out of trouble, but I just don't think the stars are his this year.

Two personal observations:

I heard Obama at Clemson (University) Friday and was surprised at how devoid of details he seems to be on the stump. It may have been that he was just tired, but he sounded as if he were doing little more than sloganeering. He also seemed to be promising, primarily, to throw money at most problems facing the American people. On camera, close-up, giving a victory speech, nobody is better since JFK and RFK, but working a big crowd, he is, or was, something of a dud to my way of thinking.

I had the pleasure of a chance meeting with Hillary the day before, at the Anderson Civic Center, just after her hour-long presentation. She was animated, fresh, looked great, gave detail after detail without boring even for a second, is somewhat taller and thinner than I expected, is obviously a consummate pro on the stump. I was standing in line as she was walking by, shook her hand, and while doing so mentioned that Herb Jackson is a fraternity brother of mine (Herb married Laura Grosch, one of her college suitemates) and that Vince Foster and I roomed almost door-to-door at Davidson a couple of years. It probably gave her a minute of respite. She asked for my name, said that she had just gotten a card from Laura and that "Can you believe it, Herb's now a grandfather," and mentioned that "You know, Vince was one of my very dearest friends" before passing on by. I hadn't met her before, but she was charismatic and down-to-earth, "reachable," all at the same time. I was frankly surprised at my reaction to her because two months ago I was saying that I just don't think she's electable -- Americans are tired of dynastic voting and dynastic presidencies.

The Democratic nomination process is a Preakness, not a Kentucky Derby. I just don't see Obama having the legs this time. I think it will be a close race, with Edwards causing some oddities early on, but eventually either endorsing Obama or else holding onto his delegates in an attempt to get something from the eventual nominee -- attorney general, Supreme Court, something.

I think Hillary wins it. Just has too many chits to cash in. I don't think the Kennedy endorsements do much. They're still just sore Bill Clinton stole their throne. Hillary is going to lose some of the black vote, maybe a lot of it in that they may decide to stay home, but I think she'll make up for that with Latinos. She'll probably name (Gov. Bill) Richardson her VP if his dirty laundry stays in the basket. If you don't think the Republicans are scared silly about Hillary, tune in to Limbaugh and Hannity and listen to how they're pumping up Obama.

I think McCain will win, but not by much over Romney, and will then name (Sen. Lindsey O.) Graham his VP. Fred Thompson may be a better choice, but he may have blown it by his take it or leave it attitude. Barring something totally unforeseen happening, I think Clinton/Richardson beats McCain/Graham in a closer race than would be expected -- but, then, what do I know?

Didn't mean to go on so. Politics doesn't ordinarily interest me so, but this is an unusual year.

Take care.

Winnie S.


'The medium is the message'

Fact: Former President Bill Clinton is being marginalized, not by himself, not by the right wing, but by the media. Obama supporters are cheering, and the GOP is having the last laugh.

Fact: In a thousand subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the media have interjected race into the presidential campaign, very conventiently in the run-up to the South Carolina primary.

Fact: The media are skillful at “creating reality” and making big bucks from conflict.

Fact: As primary day dawned here in South Carolina, a special edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” broadcast live from Columbia and asserted 1) Bill Clinton introduced the “issue of race” into the Democratic campaign, 2) Bill Clinton is racist, and 3) any white South Carolinian voting for Hillary Clinton is racist.

You didn’t hear the broadcast? There is documentation across the Web of what went down.

This post is not about the South Carolina primary. This post is about media integrity or, more accuately, the lack thereof.

Finally, in Joe Scarborough’s unrelenting attack on the Clintons (which to his credit MSNBC’s David Shuster tried to tamp down), in the worst display of media bias I believe I’ve ever witnessed, the Congressional Quarterly’s Craig Crawford gained the microphone:

“You know, I have sat down here in Florida for the last month, and I have watched the coverage, and I really think the evidence-free bias against the Clintons in the media borders on mental illness.

“I mean, I think when Dr. Phil gets done with Britney, he ought to go to Washington and stage an intervention at the National Press Club. I mean, we've gotten into a situation where if you try to be fair to the Clintons, if you try to be objective, if you try to say, ‘Well, where's the evidence of racism in the Clinton campaign?’ you're accused of being a naïve shill for the Clintons.

“I mean, I think if somebody came out today and said that Bill Clinton -- if the town drunk in Columbia came out and said, ‘Bill Clinton last night was poisoning the drinking water in Obama precincts,’ the media would say, ‘Ah, there goes Clinton again. You can't trust him.’

“I really think it's a problem. You know what? You guys make him stronger with this bashing. This actually is what makes the Clintons stronger.”

That and their record on civil rights and human rights. That cannot be denied.

What is being made weaker is the democratic process. When cable news spins, distorts and lies to promote one candidate over another – because conflict sells and fattens its own coffers – it is the people who lose, not the candidates.


Here’s what Mr. Crawford concluded on his blog, “Trail Mix” (LINK) Sunday:

How the Media Destroys Obama
By Craig Crawford January 27, 2008 1:00 PM

Talk about killing with kindness. Supporters of Barack Obama should be wary of the news media’s feverish gushing for the Democratic White House hopeful.

For starters, it was media romanticism – not Hillary Rodham Clinton’s hardball campaigning – that made Obama the “black candidate.” This happens, albeit unwittingly, every time a journalist waxes poetic about the historic step forward of seeing an African-American in a viable run for the presidency. (And yet, when Bill Clinton talks about Obama’s appeal to black voters, it is decried as "injecting race.")

Obama also runs the risk of a backlash against the media being seen as force feeding him to Democratic primary voters.

In South Carolina, the anti-Clinton media frenzy might have suppressed Obama’s white vote as much as any other possible cause – although many appeared to move toward John Edwards instead of Clinton. A similar backlash against media overkill probably contributed to Obama’s last-minute loss to Clinton in New Hampshire.

The Washington press club’s love affair with Obama allows many of a certain generation to indulge the fantasy of returning to their youth as starry-eyed believers in John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. Hence, the voluble response to Caroline Kennedy’s endorsement in today’s New York Times (1/27/08) and the trembling expectations of a similar move by Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Still, Obama could be excused for welcoming media groupthink that has gone stark raving mad for his candidacy. But in the long run, he might be well advised to dismiss the hype and build a relationship with voters that remains independent of what fickle journalists say. –End-


'Paper of record' picks Hillary

The New York Times examines the strengths and weaknesses of the three top Democratic candidates and endorses Hillary Clinton in its “Primary Choices:”

The New York Times, 1/25/08


Primary Choices: Hillary Clinton

This generally is the stage of a campaign when Democrats have to work hard to get excited about whichever candidate seems most likely to outlast an uninspiring pack. That is not remotely the case this year.

The early primaries produced two powerful main contenders: Hillary Clinton, the brilliant if at times harsh-sounding senator from New York; and Barack Obama, the incandescent if still undefined senator from Illinois. The remaining long shot, John Edwards, has enlivened the race with his own brand of raw populism.

As Democrats look ahead to the primaries in the biggest states on Feb. 5, The Times’ editorial board strongly recommends that they select Hillary Clinton as their nominee for the 2008 presidential election.

We have enjoyed hearing Mr. Edwards’ fiery oratory, but we cannot support his candidacy. The former senator from North Carolina has repudiated so many of his earlier positions, so many of his Senate votes, that we’re not sure where he stands. We certainly don’t buy the notion that he can hold back the tide of globalization.

By choosing Mrs. Clinton, we are not denying Mr. Obama’s appeal or his gifts. The idea of the first African-American nominee of a major party also is exhilarating, and so is the prospect of the first woman nominee. “Firstness” is not a reason to choose. The times that false choice has been raised, more often by Mrs. Clinton, have tarnished the campaign.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton would both help restore America’s global image, to which President Bush has done so much grievous harm. They are committed to changing America’s role in the world, not just its image. On the major issues, there is no real gulf separating the two. They promise an end to the war in Iraq, more equitable taxation, more effective government spending, more concern for social issues, a restoration of civil liberties and an end to the politics of division of George W. Bush and Karl Rove.

Mr. Obama has built an exciting campaign around the notion of change, but holds no monopoly on ideas that would repair the governing of America. Mrs. Clinton sometimes overstates the importance of résumé. Hearing her talk about the presidency, her policies and answers for America’s big problems, we are hugely impressed by the depth of her knowledge, by the force of her intellect and by the breadth of, yes, her experience.

It is unfair, especially after seven years of Mr. Bush’s inept leadership, but any Democrat will face tougher questioning about his or her fitness to be commander in chief. Mrs. Clinton has more than cleared that bar, using her years in the Senate well to immerse herself in national security issues, and has won the respect of world leaders and many in the American military. She would be a strong commander in chief.

Domestically, Mrs. Clinton has tackled complex policy issues, sometimes failing. She has shown a willingness to learn and change. Her current proposals on health insurance reflect a clear shift from her first, famously disastrous foray into the issue. She has learned that powerful interests cannot simply be left out of the meetings. She understands that all Americans must be covered — but must be allowed to choose their coverage, including keeping their current plans. Mr. Obama may also be capable of tackling such issues, but we have not yet seen it. Voters have to judge candidates not just on the promise they hold, but also on the here and now.

The sense of possibility, of a generational shift, rouses Mr. Obama’s audiences and not just through rhetorical flourishes. He shows voters that he understands how much they hunger for a break with the Bush years, for leadership and vision and true bipartisanship. We hunger for that, too. But we need more specifics to go with his amorphous promise of a new governing majority, a clearer sense of how he would govern.

The potential upside of a great Obama presidency is enticing, but this country faces huge problems, and will no doubt be facing more that we can’t foresee. The next president needs to start immediately on challenges that will require concrete solutions, resolve and the ability to make government work. Mrs. Clinton is more qualified, right now, to be president.

We opposed President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and we disagree with Mrs. Clinton’s vote for the resolution on the use of force. That’s not the issue now; it is how the war will be ended. Mrs. Clinton seems not only more aware than Mr. Obama of the consequences of withdrawal, but is already thinking through the diplomatic and military steps that will be required to contain Iraq’s chaos after American troops leave.

On domestic policy, both candidates would turn the government onto roughly the same course — shifting resources to help low-income and middle-class Americans, and broadening health coverage dramatically. Mrs. Clinton also has good ideas about fixing the dysfunction in Mr. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education program.

Mr. Obama talks more about the damage Mr. Bush has done to civil liberties, the rule of law and the balance of powers. Mrs. Clinton is equally dedicated to those issues, and more prepared for the Herculean task of figuring out exactly where, how and how often the government’s powers have been misused — and what must now be done to set things right.

As strongly as we back her candidacy, we urge Mrs. Clinton to take the lead in changing the tone of the campaign. It is not good for the country, the Democratic Party or for Mrs. Clinton, who is often tagged as divisive, in part because of bitter feeling about her husband’s administration and the so-called permanent campaign. (Indeed, Bill Clinton’s overheated comments are feeding those resentments, and could do long-term damage to her candidacy if he continues this way.)

We know that she is capable of both uniting and leading. We saw her going town by town through New York in 2000, including places where Clinton-bashing was a popular sport. She won over skeptical voters and then delivered on her promises and handily won re-election in 2006.

Mrs. Clinton must now do the same job with a broad range of America’s voters. She will have to let Americans see her power to listen and lead, but she won’t be able to do it town by town.

When we endorsed Mrs. Clinton in 2006, we were certain she would continue to be a great senator, but since her higher ambitions were evident, we wondered if she could present herself as a leader to the nation.

Her ideas, her comeback in New Hampshire and strong showing in Nevada, her new openness to explaining herself and not just her programs, and her abiding, powerful intellect show she is fully capable of doing just that. She is the best choice for the Democratic Party as it tries to regain the White House.

(See ‘Fair Use Notice’ in left-hand column of blog.)


'Suffer the little children ...'

I cannot make it work in my head that the same people who bought George W. Bush’s (what?) 17th or so reason for invading Iraq – to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people – are buying into the Internet-generated LIE that Barack Obama is a “Muslim who will destroy America.”

Are these people so ignorant that they believe ALL Muslims are determined to destroy America, while supporting the sacrifices we’ve made on their behalf in Iraq? Seems so.

(For the record, Barack Obama is Christian, having accepted Christ and joined the United Church of Christ in Chicago in 1985.)

Here’s another “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma:” the same people who support the drainhole of Bush’s misbegotten war in Iraq – sucking up nearly a trillion from our treasury and barrels of American blood – cannot bring themselves to support an expansion of S-CHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Yesterday, in a vote of 260 to 152, the House failed to override Bush’s veto of that bill, which blocked 4 million children from the coverage. Supporters were 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed.

The New York Times reported: “The bill would add $35 billion to the child health program, providing a total of $60 billion over the next five years. The money would allow states to cover nearly 4 million children, in addition to the 6 million already on the rolls. The program helps families that earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance.”

To date, 3,931 U.S. troops have died in Iraq, and $700 billion has been allocated to the war. If that’s too big a figure to wrap your mind around, that amounts to, according to my computer calculator, $396,787,907 per day since the war began.

Bush balked at the high cost of the S-CHIP expansion? It’s time to rethink our priorities.

Republicans, according to the Times, said the vote to override Bush’s S-CHIP veto was “a political stunt, intended to embarrass Mr. Bush before his State of the Union address next week.”

God forbid that Mr. Bush could be any more embarrassed than he would be IF he tells us the true state of the union.

Next post: ‘A hobbit speaks’

A hobbit speaks

In the Fellowship of the Ring, my friend, the hobbit Frodo, stands above the pack.

A masterful wordsmith, who writes from his heart, Mr. Frodo has penned some thoughts about former President Bill Clinton. Worth reading!

“Frodo, Keeper of the Ring”


Dum, de dum dum, driftwood!

Just how damn crazy can the far right get?

According to newshounds.org, a guest on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto” yesterday (1/22/2008) believes John Edwards, who commented in the S.C. debate that McCain would likely be the GOP nominee, and the liberal mainstream media are in cahoots to promote the “libertal John McCain.”


“John McCain's candidacy isn't sitting well with the economic fascists who are sweating bullets over the November election,” newhounds’ Melanie reports. “They want big(ger) tax cuts for the rich and corporations, and apparently McCain isn't ruthless enough for them on that score. They're freaked that McCain is picking up momentum (and Rudy Giuliani, their fave, isn't). So, with Neil Cavuto's help, they're trying to bring McCain down.”

“So, you think something sinister is afoot?” Cavuto asked his guest Ben Shapiro, characterized by newshounds as a “23-year-old fledgling neocon.”

“Ah, well, yeah,” Shapiro said, “I think it's rather suspicious when John Edwards, the left-most candidate of the Democratic Party, and the mainstream media team up to ANOINT any Republican. You see the same thing with Mike Huckabee to a certain extent. They like economic populists ... and they're willing to ALLOW these people to win.”

Shapiro went on to claim McCain’s stance on issues is Obama- and Clinton-lite. He suggested McCain’s age and poor performance in a one-on-one campaign with either senator would keep Republicans away from the polls – and further stated Giuliani is the only candidate who can beat either.

The newshounds.org report concludes:

“Once again, Fox airs a segment based on its own propaganda and on its viewers knowing nothing more than what it feeds them. You can't take this seriously unless you believe, (l) That the mainstream media is so liberal it stands at the ready to 'rip apart' Republicans; (2) That John Edwards is the 'left-most' Democratic candidate; (3) That the 'liberal' MSM is so anti-Republican that it would actually

'team up' with John Edwards, a candidate it has, in reality, shunned; (4) That McCain is so liberal that only the likes of Edwards and the MSM would 'anoint' (as in endorse) him, whereas Willard 'Mitt' Romney did essentially the same thing. and (5), that Giuliani is so popular he's the 'only one' who can stop McCain.”


When I was in college, at age 38, the younger students would often comment on a really stupid remark by saying, “Dum de dum dum, driftwood!”

“DemWit” today: Tom Brokaw gets it


Eye on Wall Street

From Papamoka’s Straight Talk (LINK), 21 January 2008:

Moments of Clarity and Clinton

While on a recent road trip Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy, and now is the time to talk about the economy and how we all got into this horrible mess. The near future is not as positive as some people would like to think and a clear path through it is needed. With the latest reports coming in from all of the world stock exchanges, the “Maybe Recession” is a worldwide concern when you are talking about the United States of America. World economics is the key to saving not only our own economy, but the world’s.

One of the key factors to the U.S. economy is the middle class and the sheer numbers of them with disposable income. The facts are simple, and the middle class in America has been downsized and locked out of the “Bush” economy from benefits to salary increases. In that same time period, the cost of living in America has gone through the roof. One large contributor to that lockout was the executive release of responsibility in corporate America. In the world of business it should be called a signing statement, similar to the thoughts of our current president and the Constitution - downsizing and outsourcing of entire manufacturing plants out of the country, not to be competitive but to ensure the yearly top executives bonuses are protected and, of course, adjusted for inflation.

In some circles it could be argued that NAFTA and every other acronym for free trade helped to boost the economy in America, but they never really stipulated if it was South America or north of the border of America? In reality, free trade literally meant a migration of American middle-class jobs out of America, and that is yet just one more source of the downfall of our economy. When our government supports the rights of other nations’ citizens for good jobs at good wages, you better look at your last days of employment because that is the first tax break for corporate America to send your job over the border. Key phrases for shutting a factory or manufacturing plant here in the States is “Stock Holder Value.” Largest benefactors to stock holder value are CEOs and top executives with stock options.

Senator Clinton in her race for the White House spoke about where she thinks we as a nation need to be, and it is hard to argue with her thoughts when you look at the numbers realistically. Over at the New York Times they have this interview with Senator Clinton:

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said that if she became president, the federal government would take a more active role in the economy to address what she called the excesses of the market and of the Bush administration.

In one of her most extensive interviews about how she would approach the economy, Mrs. Clinton laid out a view of economic policy that differed in some ways from that of her husband, Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton campaigned on his centrist views, and as president, he championed deficit reduction and trade agreements.

Reflecting what her aides said were very different conditions today, Mrs. Clinton put her emphasis on issues like inequality and the role of institutions like government, rather than market forces, in addressing them.

She said that economic excesses — including executive-pay packages she characterized as often “offensive” and “wrong” and a tax code that had become “so far out of whack” in favoring the wealthy — were holding down middle-class living standards.

Interviewed between campaign appearances in Los Angeles on Thursday, she said those problems were also keeping the United States economy from growing as quickly as it could.

“If you go back and look at our history, we were most successful when we had that balance between an effective, vigorous government and a dynamic, appropriately regulated market,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And we have systematically diminished the role and the responsibility of our government, and we have watched our market become imbalanced.”

She added: “I want to get back to the appropriate balance of power between government and the market.” - New York Times

Senator Clinton is obviously correct in stating that the markets from housing to Wall Street’s power brokers are out of control and need government oversight more now than ever. If our nation is to survive the current recession then restraints and intervention need to come from our government. If not, then the Robber Barons of days long gone will run the economy and the nation into the ground and ride out the destruction on the billions earned prior. And you can bet your last Rockefeller shiny new dime that they will pull their investments out of the stock market long before it crashes and outsource them to safer shores.

Salaries of record for one year to think about from Too Much (LINK):

$118.9 million for Leslie Blodgett, CEO of Bare Escentuals, who cashed out over 5 million option shares in her cosmetics company for a $117.6 million personal profit.

$415.5 million for Occidental Petroleum CEO Ray Irani. To reach this total, the Times added to Irani's $52.1 million in pay, as calculated by Equilar, the $270.1 million Irani cleared from cashing out stock options and the $93.3 million he withdrew from his deferred stock plan. Irani still holds another $124 million in deferred pay.

$647 million for Apple CEO Steve Jobs

$127 million for UnitedHealth CEO William McGuire

$32.6 million for Todd Nelson, CEO of the Apollo Group, a profit-making collection of higher education institutions

$131 million for Robert Nardelli, the Home Depot CEO forced out in January

$97 million for Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

$1.5 billion for James Simons, Renaissance Technologies

$39.1 million for Ford CEO Alan Mulally, a sum that includes an $18.5-million bonus for leaving Boeing to join Ford. Ford had six executives in the industry's top 15, despite record 2006 losses of $12.6 billion. – Too Much

Some people would say that each one of these people earned their pay and in some cases I might not argue with you. In most cases, though, it is a race to the top of the heap, and they never look back at all the folks they stepped on to get those annual salaries and mega stock options. That is not part of the horizon they are looking at when they cash out, sell out or move on to another corporate position to repeat the process all over again. Once there, they never forget the politics that kept them there, either, with donations that max out. Atilla the Hun would have been very comfortable in corporate America, but he would have owned it all.

Hillary Clinton is talking the talk, and I would not be surprised if she became president that she would look at corporate politics with an evil eye, but she will not hesitate to cash those campaign checks coming in till that day comes. She isn’t alone in the cashing of those checks, and that, my friends, scares me.

If you’re interested in seeing who is giving political donations to whom and how much, then I highly recommend NewsMeat.com. It’s a great search engine for political thoughts and for seeing who is maxing out to their favorite candidates.



365 days to go!

One more year! One more year! (Cheering and applause.)

Care to comment on Dubya's "legacy?"

The Countdown Clock


McCain no shoo-in

John McCain’s Scouth Carolina win can hardly be called a “clincher.” Mike Huckabee, who lost by only three percentage points, was hurt by “a perfect storm:” a very low voter turnout where 58 percent of registered voters identify themselves as “evangelicals,” a prediction of snow in the Upstate where his evangelical support was strongest, and Fred Thompson’s dip into the Religious Right vote.

Thompson’s strong anti-abortion stance coupled with Huckabee being labeled (amazingly) “the liberal Republican” were factos in McCain’s narrow lead.

McCain had the “establishment” vote: endorsements from the state’s leading politicians and newspapers and heavy support from South Carolina’s military installations.

The top three GOP candidates poured money into the state, and the fact they are strapped for funds is an indication of overall party disillusionment not only with its field of hopefuls, but its trend away from "true conservatism."


South Carolina GOP primary

This state is proud of its heritage as one of the 13 original colonies and of its role in every war since. Its people are an intriguing mixture: from Upstate mill workers to military installation personnel, from Low Country aristocracy to Gullah-speaking basketweavers.

Tomorrow Republicans in the state will cast their primary votes, followed by the Democratic Primary on Saturday, 26 January.

In my opinion, these two primaries will be a watershed in the 2008 presidential campaign as they will reflect the mood of the South – the so-called “Bible Belt.”

Today, I’ll offer thoughts on the top three GOP contenders and will comment on Democratic hopefuls next Friday.

John McCain has received endorsements from some of the state’s leading newspapers. After a quarter-century on Capitol Hill, McCain, I believe, is being viewed as “Mr. Grand Old Party.” In a state which has long revered the military, he has deep respect for his sacrifices as a POW in Vietnam. Some South Carolinians might desire to make amends for what happened to McCain here in 2000, when, it is generally accepted, personal attacks by the Bush camp derailed his candidacy. Despite endorsements by some of the state’s leading Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, in the end McCain’s age, his maverick positions on hot-button issues such as immigration reform and his hawkish stance on Iraq might be factors of defeat. Certainly, anyone who viewed his New Hampshire acceptance speech would question his stamina for a possible eight-year presidency. McCain portrays himself as “Mr. Nice Guy.” He wants to be viewed as “Everyman.” So, why don’t I trust him? I believe he will be the S.C. runner-up.

Mitt Romeny will be the primary’s also-ran. I’m convinced any attempted man-on-the-street interview of many South Carolinians would yield the question, “Who?” Of course, primary voters are more dedicated to the process and more savvy, which is precisely why they might reject Romney.

I predict Mike Huckabee will carry this state, where there are more Southern Baptists, evangelicals and fundamentalists than palmetto trees. These are the people who voted for George W. Bush, because “he’s a good Christian man,” and their strength in numbers cannot be discounted. Never underestimate the church-driven mobilization of citizens with a cause – it worked during the civil rights movement, and it worked in 2004. Lest you forget, in 2004, with our troops at war on two fronts, exit polls showed the issue of most concern to voters was “moral values.”

Sure, there’s the “economy, stupid.” There’s war and homeland security. These and all other issues important to Americans might be trumped by people hell-bent to take this country back for God.

Stay tuned …

"DemWit" today: Chris Matthews apologizes for sexist remarks about Hillary Clinton


'A prince and a great man'

On this date in 1905 a man was born who remains very much in my thoughts today.

One of 13 children, he was introduced to hard work at an early age. As a young adult he married and began a family, rearing his children on a farm.

His skills with car repair led him to manage a tire and battery shop.

In mid-life he lost his eyesight and spent the next 28 years until he retired standing in one spot and making brooms at an industries for the blind. When he made a dozen brooms, they were exchanged for a token, and at the end of the day he traded in his pocketful of tokens for his pay. This arduous task of providing for his family showed great strength of character.

This man who was never handicapped devoted his life to his church as a deacon and taught an adult men’s Sunday School class for 25 years.

The center of his life was his family: his children, grandchildren and generations of babies which came along. He entertained them with lengthy poems learned in the schoolrooms of his youth.

I never knew a wiser man.

He gave me life twice, the second time saving me from drowning when I was nine.

When he died in 1986, the pastor quoted the scripture, “A prince and a great man has fallen this day.”

Isaac Lafayette Turner, Sr. To me, he was just “Daddy.”


The Dickens eagle

Last night’s Democratic debate from Las Vegas left me not just with excitement about my party, but with pride in my country which I’ve not felt throughout the Bush administration.

I owe it to my readers, I thought, to put my feelings into words. To convey emotions is the greatest challenge for a writer, so I thought it best to get a good night’s sleep and compose this important post over morning coffee.

To quell the thrill, to bring the calm that induces sleep, I listened to my book on tape. And, there it was, the promise of the debate, put in simplest terms by one of the world’s most gifted wordsmiths:

In Charles Dickens’ “The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit,” the title character and his servant, the ever-jolly Mark Tapley, had suffered grave illness, a bad land deal and a host of unsavory citizens in America and had just boarded ship to return home to England.

“What are you thinking of so steadily,” Martin asked Mark.

“Well, I was a-thinking, Sir,” returned Mark, “that if I was a painter and was called upon to paint the American eagle, how should I do it?”

“Paint it as like an eagle as you could, I suppose.”

“No,” said Mark, “that wouldn’t do it for me, Sir. I should want to draw it like a bat for its shortsightedness, like a bantam for its bragging, like a magpie for its honesty, like a peacock for its vanity, like an ostrich for its putting its head in the mud and thinking nobody sees it.”

“And like a phoenix, for its power of springing from the ashes of its faults and vices and soaring up anew into the sky,” said Martin. “Well, Mark, let us hope so.”


'Stop all the clocks'

When it comes to fighting media madness, I sometimes feel as W.H. Auden and really do want to “stop all the clocks.”

But, there is truth to be told.

The attempts to portray Bill and Hillary Clinton as “racist” with no respect for the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders would be funny, if they weren’t so demonstrably false.

The Clintons’ record on civil rights and human rights speaks for itself.

I will let this segment from yesterday’s edition of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” (LINK) speak for itself (the subtitles are mine):


HOWARD KURTZ, Host: Bill Clinton has had a testy relationship with the media ever since his first run for president, when stories about Gennifer Flowers, the draft, pot smoking and Whitewater nearly derailed his campaign. To this day, he is steamed about the way the press covered the Ken Starr investigation that wound up probing his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

It was against that backdrop that the former president, who is, after all, trying to get his wife elected to his old job, chided the press this week.


WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, enumerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, well, how could you say that when you said in 2004, you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen.



KURTZ: So, does Clinton have a point about the Obama coverage?

Joining us now to talk about the media and the campaign, and pundits behaving badly, in Springfield, Massachusetts, Rachel Maddow, who hosts "The Rachel Maddow Show" on Air America Radio. And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on the Salem Radio Network.

Michael Medved, what about Bill Clinton's point that the press hasn't really scrutinized Obama's record on Iraq or, some would say, on much of anything else?

MICHAEL MEDVED, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think that's probably a valid point, because Obama has been such an "exotic new face," fresh. And I remember when Joe Biden said that he was clean and articulate. People don't really know what to make of him entirely, and then there was that whole rock star factor that you were talking about before.

But frankly, I truly don't know if the Clinton campaign should welcome the idea of going back and looking at people's positions on the war in the past, because however ambiguous Obama's position has been -- and it has been -- it was not in favor of the war as Hillary Clinton's was. So, if you're going to argue about who was against the war first and how much were they against the war, this is something that actually hurts Democrats, both Obama and Clinton.

KURTZ: Just to provide some context, Rachel Maddow, the former president referring to two interviews that Obama gave in 2004. One, he told The New York Times he didn't think the case for war had been made, but he didn't know how he would have voted had he had access to classified information at the time, because he was not in the United States Senate. And one with the Chicago Tribune, in which he said there wasn't much difference between his position and George Bush's position on the war.

Now, the press has covered this a bit, but, you know, about 1,000th of the attention devoted to Hillary Clinton choking up.

RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It's true, they haven't covered this as much. But also consider the context that I think Barack Obama's appeal, certainly his bipartisan appeal, his sort of general election appeal that he's been making, is not necessarily fundamentally about his record.

I mean, he hasn't been in public office that long. He's not necessarily running on his record.

He's running on -- trying to make the case that he represents a clean break from the politics of the past. That's the contrast that he's tried to set up in terms of his campaign, that he's not Hillary Clinton, that he doesn't represent the past, he doesn't represent the battles of the '90s. And so, because he hasn't necessarily been running so much on his record, I think that in part explains why that hasn't been the grounds on which he's been covered.


KURTZ: Now, Hillary Clinton was asked about her husband's comments this morning on "Meet the Press," and Tim Russert played just the last part of the tape that I just played for you, the part where Bill Clinton talks about the whole thing being a fairy tale, but not the previous part in which he made clear that he's talking about Barack Obama's record of statements or history of statements on the war.

Let's take a look at Senator Clinton's reaction.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And let me just stop you right there.


H. CLINTON: You did not. No, wait a minute.

RUSSERT: No, I didn't stop you.

H. CLINTON: No, but you did not give the entire quote, and so ...

RUSSERT: No, but you ...

H. CLINTON: And so the entire quote was clearly about the position on Iraq.

RUSSERT: But I'm ...

H. CLINTON: It was not about the entire (Obama) candidacy. Tim, I can't let you get away with that mischaracterization and those snippets.


KURTZ: Michael Medved, what do you make of that exchange?

MEDVED: Terrific. I mean, she's -- she's found her voice as a candidate. And I think that for her to call Tim Russert on that is appropriate and it's right, and it makes her look good and tough without looking unfeminine.


KURTZ: But I wonder, Rachel Maddow, whether Bill Clinton comes out and complains about the coverage, whether he and his wife's campaign are really asking the press to do its dirty work for them. In other words, until now, I haven't heard Hillary Clinton say -- she's been doing it in recent days, talking about Obama's allegedly -- history of allegedly conflicting statements on Iraq.

So is it the press's job to make that argument?

MADDOW: Well, she has been doing it a little bit. One of the things that I've heard -- one of the arguments I've heard her make against Barack Obama is that he said that he would vote against funding the war, and then he voted for funding the war.

So she's been -- she's been advancing the story a little bit on her own. It's not just Bill Clinton.

(BJ Note: Maddow did not answer Kurtz’ question about the press’ “job.” For Kurtz to suggest that for the press to cover any candidate thoroughly is doing his or her opponent’s “dirty work’ is a slap in the face of good investigative journalism. Of course, whoever claimed cable news is “good investigative journalism?” Conversely, cable news seems to be doing the dirty work!)


But I have to say, even though the context in which you played that clip makes it very clear that Bill Clinton's talking specifically about Obama on Iraq, and the coverage of that being a fairy tale, using that phrase "a fairy tale," I mean, that's a deliberate phrase. He's trying to puncture the sort of Camelot era that's been created in the coverage of Obama.

And I think that Obama has advanced himself. I mean, hearing him speak in New Hampshire before the primary, I very much felt like his speech and his case for himself was about the idea of what it would mean for America for him to be elected. I mean, he's advancing that himself, the rock star idea, the cult of personality idea, something that he's pushing himself because he knows it's resonating.


KURTZ: But some black leaders in South Carolina and elsewhere, Michael Medved, have taken offense at Bill Clinton's comments as if he was talking about Barack Obama's civil rights record or his whole candidacy. And it seems that's very different from what Clinton said and what the press reported that he said.

MEDVED: Well, yes, but there is that element. I mean, when you say "fairy tale," the question is, which fairy tale you have in mind. Rachel mentions Camelot. I think it's more Cinderella, which is the idea that the clock strikes midnight, which who knows which primary that's going to be in, and then all of a sudden the coach turns into a pumpkin and the footmen turn back into mice, and Barack Obama goes back to the -- God forbid -- the kitchen. And in that context, "fairy tale" is probably the kind of loaded language that Republicans in particular would get slammed on given the fact that Obama himself is what he calls a hope monger.

KURTZ (ending the segment): All right.


AT&T ripoff

AT&T is busting my budget, affectionately known as “B. J.’s boojay.”

More than a few folks had related to me sudden problems with Internet connections, phone jacks and other equipment essential to communication.

Shortly after AT&T took over my Bell South account, I discovered people were trying to call, but my phones were not ringing. The AT&T service rep passed up two phone jacks in my apartment and made a beeline for the kitchen jack, which he diagnosed “corroded” – the first such problem I’d had in 22 years of service from said jack. That shiny metal rectangle now gracing my wall cost me $115.

Then, an AT&T rep sold me on the purchase of a plan offering 24/7, unlimited, state-to-state long-distance calls at a monthly fee I couldn’t refuse,

I happily gave up a Sprint toll-free number I’d had for 11 years.

Then, I got my bill. A red flag went up when my new balance was the highest I’d had in years. A closer examination revealed I was being charged more than the rep had indicated.

Then, of course, there were 15 – 15, count ‘em – appended taxes and fees itemized with indecipherable code names, acronyms and abbreviations – totaling more than the basic service charge.

I innocently believed a call to AT&T would take care of the overcharge on the long-distance plan, but the rep wouldn’t budge despite my protests that the plan had been misrepresented to me. So, I dropped the plan.

To my chagrin, the next month’s bill was even higher. That’s when I discovered long-distance calls were 35 cents a minute (compared with Sprint’s 10 cents). We haven’t seen those kind of per-minute charges in years.

Attempting to switch back to Sprint, I was told that company no longer offers long-distance plans for home telephones and is now concentrating on cell phones.

I need a cell phone like I need the shingles.

Throughout all these exchanges I was forced to listen to the “bundling” spiel – although I have long since figured out the least expensive way to go.

Now, thanks to one AT&T lie, I cannot make long-distance calls. Suddenly, I’ve been warped back to the days before the bust-up of the AT&T monopoly.

Naturally, this news item yesterday caught my ear:

“AT&T reported an increase in unpaid phone bills in the fourth quarter, another sign that consumers are stretched.”

Stretched? I’m hanging on for dear life!

Maybe AT&T customers have suddenly found themselves with bill increases they had not anticipated and are unable to pay.

Fortunately, I’ve managed to cover mine.

The Associated Press reports:

“Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the Bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time.” FULL STORY

The Bureau blames an “antiquated” system of keeping up with money dispensed to its 56 field offices – and an embezzling bookkeeper to boot.

My system of accounts receivable and accounts payable is slick.


Similar problems with AT&T? Leave a comment!


Matthews blames 'racists'

An open letter to Steve Capus, president, NBC News (steve_capus@nbc.com):


Dear Sir:

Incredulous that Chris Matthews would appear on "Morning Joe" (8:30 a.m. ET) and blame "racist voters" for both misleading polls and Hillary Clinton's victory last night.

In truth, Matthews and MSNBC have relentlessly leveled personal attacks on Senator Clinton with sexist remarks - right up until she was declared the winner in New Hampshirre.

In reality, this is more about Matthews and other MSNBC personalities than anything - a backlash to constant personal attacks on her, delivered during your extensive campaign coverage.

In a farcical turn, it was almost amusing to see MSNBC and NBC "stars" sit around last night trying to figure out "what happened," when they themselves were part of what happened!

How is it that Don Imus was fired for his remarks, and Matthews and other MSNBC and NBC employees are allowed to continue insulting your female viewers' intelligence?

There are moments, sir, when Mr. Matthews' sanity is suspect. The evidence is on tape. Note his comments to Keith Olbermann about what the Clintons would do last night before they went to bed.

Dan Abrams and Mika Brzezinski have raised legitimate questions about the effects of such coverage of Senator Clinton, so why isn't NBC management listening?

You are in a postion to take a good look at this situation and correct it. Ultimately, MSNBC and NBC are going to be held responsible for such sexist, inaccurate and irresponsible reporting as more light is shed on the N.H. election results.


Ms. B, J. Trotter

NEXT POST: So, what happened in New Hampshire?


From “Talking Points Memo” - commentary on political events from a politically left perspective - the Web site of Joshua Micah Marshall:

“I have always had somewhat lukewarm feelings about Hillary Clinton. It took me years to forgive her for her "baking cookies" comment. At the time I had just given birth to my first child and decided to leave my job as an attorney to stay home and take care of my baby. I have been on the fence throughout this campaign, liking John Edwards more than the others. The media coverage of Sen. Clinton has caused my blood to boil. I cannot bear to witness blatant misogyny. Gloria Steinem's article in the NYT this morning was so on the mark. If I lived in New Hampshire, I would have voted for Sen. Clinton today. I would not allow the talking heads to tell me who to vote for or declare this race over. And I certainly was not going to participate in the sexist BS that has been spewing out the mouths of the likes of Chris Matthews.”
- TPM READER, MS, Josh Marshall, talkingpointsmemo.com, 1/8/2008, 9:19 P.M.


EXPAND YOUR MIND: So, what worries Gloria Steinem?



Primary coverage, 11:30 P.M. – “I will never underestimate Hillary Clinton again.” – Chris Matthews, MSNBC


'Brave New World'

A neighbor’s little girl charmed my former husband and me: at age six, she was smart, had a great personality and, as my son put it, was “cute as a speckled puppy.” I invested time in her potential. She drew the line at my sharing stories from my past or of historical value, stopping me short with “B. J., it’s the Nineties!”


Since I first became cognizant of the world around me, I’ve worked really hard all my life – all 65 years of it – investing in my own potential, achieving dreams along the way and constantly seeking knowledge and truth.

On Monday I found out I’m “so yesterday.”

In other words, experience counts for nothing and summa cum laude don’t mean sh*t!

I will say this, I have lived long enough to see everything achieved by women in 20th Century America reduced to a 21st- Century fascination with bimbos whose only endowments lie below the neck.

On Monday I also heard a report that “most women in this country don’t believe the presidency is a job for a woman.” Sadly, the report was talking about the United States of America.

My sincere thanks to Dan Abrams of MSNBC and Alan Colmes of Fox News for concluding last night that the media have “gone overboard” with personal attacks against Hillary Clinton.

As I’ve stated before, apparently racial slurs are verboten and sexist slurs are de rigueur.

When the Boston Herald headline proclaimed of Senator Clinton, “She’s so yesterday,” it could have, at various points in our history, substituted the masculine pronoun in describing quite a few who went on to become president – not to mention a few of the current crop of hopefuls.

Two books just might be prescient of things to come: Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.

6:05 a.m. Joe Scarborough had been on the air five minutes when he characterized Hillary's emotional moment yesterday as having occurred when a woman asked her "how she was handling the stress of seeing her lead evaporate." That's not what the woman asked at all. She wanted to know how Hillary was handling the stress of campaigning. Just a brief example of distortion.

My feelings this morning?

“Oh, I belive in yesterday …” It’s a sure thing.

"DemWit" today: "Shallow facade of sincerity"


Dueling debates

Some thoughts from my daily journal on last night’s debates from New Hampshire:

Talked with a friend Saturday who asked, “What’s the point of watching another debate? What could they possibly say that’s new?”

One good reason: so you will know the post-debate SPIN when you hear it. Unbelievable!

Well, I managed to watch both the Republican and Democratic debates in their entirety without falling asleep or the phone ringing! I thoroughly enjoyed the format, thought all the candidates got to say so much more than in a rigidly timed debate.

The GOP candidates really went after each other with Gov. Romney bearing the brunt of the blitz. I thought McCain was like a devious little brat going after Romney with his one-line zingers. Silly. But, Romney did DISH IT OUT with attack ads in Iowa, yet moaned about the "personal attacks" during the debate. Paybacks are hell. Even Huckabee zinged him right off the bat.

Giuliani didn’t know which to bring up more often: 9/11 or Ronald Reagan, his “hero.”

I couldn't see any of the candidates in either party, but I've heard discussions this morning about how tired they all looked (with the exception of John Edwards, who reportedly got in a run just before the debate). I cannot imagine how exhausted they all are!

OK, now to the Dems. being as objective as I can be, They got into a round of verbal fisticuffs, too, but they were egged on by Charlie Gibson’s invitation to Obama and Clinton to go one-on-one over “change.”

Obama seemed tired, and his responses were flat at times. Richardson pointed out to Edwards that we need to be trying to pull together not fight everyone in sight. Hillary needs to cut the phrase “you know” from her vocabulary.

IMHO, the cutest line of the night was Hillary’s “That hurts my feelings.” One post-debate pundit said her remark drew a broad smile from her daughter Chelsea in the audience.

The “soundbite” of the entire evening will be “Hillary’s anger.” Well, hell hath no fury like a woman waylaid over her political experience.

I’m still uncertain what to do in the event of incoming nukes, though. Get under my computer desk, I guess, and “duck and cover.” As far as targets go, for my money the most important site in this area is Skin’s Hot Dogs.

Heard Charlie Gibson this morning. He loved the photo op between debates when the hopefuls from both parties came onstage and greeted each other. That I would have loved seeing.

Overall, I thought the debates were good and came away even more convinced that the Republicans in this race are elitist, holier-than-thou, hatemongering, warmongering fools who have no idea that poverty exists.

Maybe the most thought-provoking statement of the night came from Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM):

“But you know, what ever happened to experience? Is experience kind of a leper?” (Audience laughter.)


In my opinion, these two debates were the best so far, allowing candidates time to elaborate on their issues and their differences. If you missed the debates last night …

As the children’s song goes, “Little Rabbit Foo Foo … I’ll give you three chances, then I’m going to turn you into a GOON!”

CNN will air a replay of both debates tonight at 7 ET.

Expand your mind: Republican debate transcript

Expand your mind: Democratic debate transcript


The audacity of hoke

Alternate title: “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”


It was, indeed, “a great night for Democrats:” a record turnout in Iowa!

Perhaps the overriding result of the Iowa caucus is the indication that in Election 2008 Iowa might move from red state to blue state.

My personal conviction is that the potential for quality leadership among the Democratic hopefuls far outweighs that of the GOP slate.


The Iowa caucus is a media event – particularly in years when no incumbent is seeking the presidency. Historian and journalist Bob Woodward, in a post-caucus interview, called the caucus “a snapshot.” A wise hobbit I know correctly calls it “the results of the deliberations by one-sixth of one percent of the American electrorate.”

Only two candidates, excluding incumbents, have won the Iowa caucuses and gone on to win the presidency – Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. In recent years, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton did not win in Iowa.

Ultimately, what we saw last night is not a viable indicator of things to come, so let’s not confuse our “audacity of hope” with the “audacity of hoke.”

Finally, as a result of what happened in Iowa, two good men, longtime public servants with hard-hitting convictions, have dropped out of the race – senators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd.


Whether the wins of Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee represent a groundswell of populism or merely the result of media manipulation remains to be seen.

My faithful readers know I support Hillary Rodham Clinton. I will fully and happily support the Democratic hopeful who ultimately tops the ticket.

Regardless, I hope another result of the Iowa caucus is a clarion call for public discourse on journalism ethics (that’s not an oxymoron).

Since Election 2006, MSNBC, which I have watched regularly for years, has leveled personal attacks against Hillary Clinton with dogged determination. From her “clap” to her “cackle” to Chris Mathews’ “Evita and the little people” rant (VIEW VIDEO), MSNBC’s “swift-boating” has been transparent.

Even as the polls opened last night Matthews and Tim Russert were characterizing her supporters as “90-year-old women.” If constant references that she cannot do the job without Bill’s help aren’t sexist, I don’t know what is.

Media Matter for America has documented 455 instances where MSNBC has distorted facts or outright lied about Hillary Clinton. Don’t take my word for it, take a minute to go HERE and scan down the headlines.

If this is OK with you because it might have helped your candidate win, then you are no better than the folks who found the Supreme Court’s decision in “Bush v. Gore” OK because their guy was declared the winner.

If it’s OK with the candidates, take another look at the candidates.

Now, read this part carefully and don’t misconstrue my words: apparentently its safer today to use gender slurs than to utter racial slurs. In my opinion, one is as bad as the other. As sexist remarks go, Don Imus can't hold a candle to Chris Matthews or other stars of the very network which fired him.

In 21st Century America one would hope neither race nor gender would determine support. The unknown in this election is what voters will do within the secrecy of the voting booth.

In the months ahead, we really don’t know where the road to the White House will wind.

I do know this for certain: if we wake up on the morning of 5 November 2008 with a Republican from this field of hopefuls headed for the White House, the path our nation will take might be uglier than can be imagined.

That’s how important your vote is. Sadly, although touted as the highest turnout since 1968, only 60.7 percent of voting-age Americans cast a ballot in the 2004 general election.


That the remaining 39 percent – more than one-third of voting-age Americans – will step up and be counted in shaping America’s future.


The privilege is ours

I am deeply saddened to hear that Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California) has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and will not seek re-election.

Lantos, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is singularly the greatest orator on Capitol Hill – the combination of a beautiful accent and sound reason is a gift.

In a statement released yesterday, Lantos said:

“It is only in the United States that a penniless survivor of the Holocaust and a fighter in the anti-Nazi underground could have received an education, raised a family, and had the privilege of serving the last three decades of his life as a Member of Congress. I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country.”

The feeling is mutual, Sir.

Here’s what I wrote about Lantos almost a year ago:


'Blood and treasure'

During the last week many words about the war in Iraq – pro and con – have been spoken in the chambers of the U. S. Capitol.

In my opinion, none were as reasonable or as eloquently spoken as the five-minute speech given by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-California).

Lantos is chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and one of three authors of the House non-binding resolution on troop escalation in Iraq.

He rose on the House floor, his crown of white hair catching the light and, in his beautifully lilting accent, spoke truth about the war – the cost in “blood and treasure” – which no one could deny.

You can read Lantos’ speech on his official Web site: LINK


Despite claims the troop escalation, or “surge,” is working, Lantos was right about the blood and the treasure. We have no way of knowing how much more will be sacrificed.


Touch and go

Alternate title: “Déjà vu all over again.”

This holiday season saw a couple of my traditions bite the dust. Couldn’t see the ball drop in Times Square, only to find out later it was the 100th anniversary of the event. Bummer. On New Year’s Day I opted to give up on the Tournament of Roses parade – decidedly not a listening event!

Serendipity! A channel change led me to CNN’s all-day “Ballot Bowl,” a chance to get to know all the candidates – live from Iowa and New Hampshire eateries and living rooms, one-on-one and up close and personal. Kudos to CNN for the outstanding coverage.

I came away with a firm conviction that the more I hear from Gov. Mike Huckabee the scarier he gets. Make certain you know exactly where this guy aims to take our country before you are charmed by his folksy, faith-based manner.

Now, to the subject of this post:

Because the TV was on CNN I caught a couple of hours of “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer (TRANSCRIPT), staying with him because he repeatedly teased a story which holds my interest.

A few months back I posed a question in this blog’s left-hand column: “What issue comes up about a week before elections, then dies away immediately thereafter?”

The issue is one which trumps every other issue brought up by any candidate in this race. It has plagued me since Election 2000.

Electronic voting machines – can you trust your vote to count?

Blitzer reported, “As primaries draw near, some states are finding serious problems already with their electronic voting machines, and they're ready to give e-voting a grade of ‘F.’ "

Correspondent Carol Costello added, “You know, Wolf, you would think after all the problems we had with hanging chads in 2000 and voting machine malfunctions in 2004 and 2006, voting machines across the country would work by now. But, a few days before caucuses and primaries get under way, they're not.”

Colorado’s Secretary of State Mike Coffman, who says the machines can be shut down or corrupted with a simple magnet or even a Blackberry, said,”At the end of the day, what I think is most important is that the voters have confidence that this equipment is secure from being tampered with, and that their votes could be accurately counted.”

Well, duh.

Remember Ohio in 2004? Here’s what that state’s secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, had to say about the machines: “They have done the job in the past with difficulty, and I could probably best analogize it to a vehicle with a bad axle, that at some point the wheels are going to fall off, and we're just going to be hopeful that in using them for one more election that we'll be able to get through.”

Just “one more election?” How about arguably the most important election in this country’s history?

OK, we’ve heard this crap for seven years now. What good does it do to give a lame, milguetoast report just days before votes are cast, then ignore the problem for another year?

Damn it! When is something going to be done about this – so that the next time you go into a voting booth and touch your favorite candidate’s name on the screen, you can know for certain who actually got your vote?

PEOPLE POWER: Contact your state election commission and your state legislator or assembleman and demand machines which yield a paper ballot as proof their innards aren’t rigged.