Friday, March 28, 2008

Yes She Can!

Yes she can! Oh yea, yes she can! O yee of little faith should never underestimate the Clintons. They do not fade quickly into the sunset. It’s not in their genes.

Drop out to save the party? Bow to Barack to avoid a divisive fight. No Way! The Clintons have always been in it for themselves – never for party loyalty.

Even if Super Tuesday III on March 4 did not significantly narrow the delegate margin of Barack, making a Hillary victory even more mathematically difficult, she will trudge on. She has wanted the Presidency all her life, as has apparently Barack.

Her hope for victory lies not in running the string with a Pennsylvania victory, nor even swaying a large majority of superdelegates under current conditions. Her hope is not the reality that of the ten largest states, she won 8 and will win the ninth (Pennsylvania) in a month whereas most of the states Barack won will vote Republican in November. No, her hope for victory is premised on the Obama tsunami receding, leaving just another glib politico. One major misstep by Barack could deflate his balloon.

America is waiting for a candidate, no, strike that, a President who will bridge the petty, partisan chasms of Washington, and rise above the politics of personal destruction. Barack’s message of unity offers that opportunity.

His is a campaign of uplifting rhetoric. He is offering poetry to the souls of American voters. Of course, a close scrutiny of the message shows blank verse. As Gertrude Stein is famously quoted of saying about Oakland, albeit out of context, “there is no there, there.”

No matter, America is still in the infatuation stage of our relationship with Barack. Our love is so strong that we do not want to hear any negatives about him. But Hillary realizes something we don’t want to hear. Scratch the rhetoric and you simply have a Chicago politico. Negative campaigning is no novelty to the Clintons. Turn Barack into an ordinary politician, and victory is within Hilary’s grasp. It’s a long way to the nomination, much less the election. Any major miscue along the way can sink his campaign. But we know that Hillary is no more the viable alternative to Barack than Senator Ted Kennedy was to President Carter in 1980.

If ethics are the issue, then the Queen of Cattle Futures is tarred with a $100,000 profit on a $1,000 investment in 1978-79. If misstatements are a problem for Barack and his supporters, then Hillary has the Bosnia gaffe and a history of the Clintons playing fast and loose with the facts.

If disillusionment with Obama arises prior to the Convention, then Hillary believes she can win the nomination. If before November, then the Democratic Party can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Barack’s support may be a mile wide, but is only an inch deep for we know not the man. Hillary knows; Barack is a phenon rising out of the raw, sordid muck of Chicago politics. His connection to the indicted Tony Rezko is probably the tip of the iceberg: $250,000 in campaign contributions and a sweetheart deal on a house. We expect the Norman Hsu’s, Johnny Chung’s, Charlie Trie’s, Abdul Jinnah’s, John Huang’s, Mark Rich’s and Oscar Wyatt’s with the Clintons, but Barack should be above that. So too should he be above requesting $740 million in earmarks, including $1 million to the University of Chicago Medical Center, which employs his wife. Hypocrisy is not a moral dilemma for the Clintons, but we expect better from Barack.

We will learn the man. Hillary’s hope is that it comes before the Convention. The Republican pray we learn before Election Day. America’s need is sooner rather than later for Barack can clearly talk the talk. He has never shown though he can walk the walk. A man who has never assumed a major leadership role in society, who skipped scores of critical votes in the Senate and Illinois Legislature, is about to become the leader of the Free World. The last President, as inexperienced as Barack, was Jimmy Carter. His incompetence converted me into a Republican.

Baracks’ conundrum is that he is using race to rise above race. He has eschewed the in your face, threatening activism of the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Yet he has been ministered to for two decades by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr., a racist, anti-semite whose statements on 9/11 are as offensive as those of Professor Ward Churchill.

Barack could only have worshiped in Wright’s ministry for almost two decades for one of two reasons: either agreement with much of the minister’s professions, or a need to establish a political base in Chicago. Barack had roots throughout the world, but not in Chicago. He joined the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which has the largest number of practitioners of any African-American church in Chicago.

What we know about Barack is that he may be the greatest orator in America since JFK. We also know that he can be as Janus faced as any politico. He demagogued NAFTA in Ohio, but then let the Canadian government know the talk was simply campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously.

Barack knows that America has rejected the traditional liberal democrats, such as Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, of Massachusetts. Hence, he refuses to call himself a liberal (No “L” word for Barack), eventhough he has the highest liberal voting record of any Senator over the past three years.

Words have power. Michelle’s Obama’s statement, during the Wisconsin primary a month ago, that she was proud for the first time in her adult life to be an American has meaning, and echo the remarks of Reverend Wright.

Symbolic acts also have power. Senator Barack Hussein Obama stopped wearing his American flag pin on his lapel.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spitzer's Spritzer

Eliot Spitzer has fallen to earth from the clouds of Mt. Olympus – a mere mortal. Nothing novel about that! Politicians have been getting into trouble since the days of the ancient Greek Alciabides, who switched alliances and consorts with regularity.

People are human - whether politicians or police, executives or exterminators, judges or journalists, ministers or miners, sports stars or scrubs, celebrities or cellists. conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, rich or poor, male or female. Scandals are non-partisan and cross all racial, ethnic, gender, geographic and religious boundaries.

Politicians and political partisans who exult in the fall of an opponent should restraint themselves because the fickle finger of fate may turn on them next.

Indeed, a wonderful story of how quickly Congress can act in a truly bipartisan basis occurred in 1988 during the confirmation hearings on Judge Robert Bork’s failed appointment to the Supreme Court. Opponents of the Bork nomination sought the video rental records of Judge Bork and his wife (an ex-nun), undoubtedly looking for salacious rentals. A compliant store clerk gave them the records.

What they found were rentals such as Ruthless People and The Sound of Music.

What they unleashed was the wrath of Congress, many of whose members presumably did not want voters to discover their renting and viewing habits. Hence, Congress quickly enacted the Video Privacy Protection Act of 1988, which prohibits the disclosure of such records without a warrant.

Robert Caro in his LBJ Trilogy relates the misogynist attitude of many Senators for women in the 1950’s and 1960’s, including hidden compartments in the Senate Office Building.

Mores have change in recent decades. “Big Daddy” Jesse Unruh was the powerful speaker of the California Assembly from 1961 to 1969. His response to complaints about the power of lobbyists was this famous or infamous quote, adhered to by generations of legislators: “If you can’t take their money, drink their liquor, fuck their women, and then come in here the next day and vote against them, you don’t belong here.”

The four times elected Governor of Louisiana, and oft indicted, Governor Edwin Edwards once joked with reporters that ”The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or live boy.” Edwards was sentenced to ten years in prison.

Nanny problems have tripped up the actors Jude Law and Ethan Hawke, but Charlie Sheen, Hugh Grant, and Eddie Murphy preferred prostitutes, as did Dick Morris, Clinton’s political guru.

Sexual harassment claims have destroyed politicians (Senators Brock Adams and Robert Packwood) and law school deans (at Boalt and William Mitchell).

Power is an aphrodisiac, as are fame and wealth. Those who possess them also possess easier accessibility to random sex. Power also corrupts. Politicians like Spitzer suffered from hubris pride, overweening pride to a fault. Or, as was often the case in Greek tragedies: “First the Gods rise you up, and then they slam you down.”

Power and fame are also seductive and can lead to hubris.

Spitzer is far from the first powerful individual to believe a different standard applies to him than the rest of us. Chairman Mao is a prime example. He believed the key to maintaining his health was young girls. Lavrenty Beria, the ruthless Russian KGB leader, was a pedophile.

Rudy Giuliani’s cavalier humiliation of his prior wives, and humiliating treatment of accused white collar criminals, greatly parallels those of Spitzer. Little understanding of the “human touch” exists with these personas.

Spitzer is also of the mindset that only one right answer exists – his, and anyone in the way, including those who lack the same sense of urgency, shall be trampled. This mindset has brought trouble to many an organization in which, as with Spitzer as Attorney General, the leader bulldozes his way through all opposition.

Governor Spitzer is not the first New York Governor to be fallen by sex. Former Governor and Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller died on January 26, 1979. The 70 year-old geezer had a fatal heart attack while engaging in sexual intercourse (check the death certificate) with his 27 year-old mistress. Rockefeller’s widow, Happy, had him cremated within 18 hours and was happy with the billion dollar estate.

And then we have the case of the brilliant jurist, Chief Judge Sol Wachter of the New York Court of Appeals, who blamed a bipolar condition, for mailing harassing letters to his former girlfriend (both were married) and a condom to her daughter after the relationship broke up. The adulteress was a prominent Republican fund raiser.

Male athletes, college and pro, are increasingly being arrested for sexual assault, often with alcohol involved. Kobe Bryant is, of course, in a class of his own, but some college teams are showing great potential off the field.

Michael Douglas, the actor, once explained his conduct by stating he was addicted to sex.

Political hypocrisy was rampant during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, who had committed perjury and obstruction of justice. The underlying issue was one of adultery though. Several of the House leaders of the impeachment drive had similarly strayed from their marital vows, including Speaker Newt Gingrich, designated speaker Bob Livingston, Judicial Committee Chair Henry Hyde (a “youthful indiscretion” at age 41), and Congresswoman Helen Chenoweth.

Voters can be forgiving, such as with Mayors Marion Barry of Washington, D.C., and Buddy Cianci of providence, R.I., whose convictions posed no obstacle to reelection. Senator Ted Kennedy survived a fatality (Chappaquiddick), but Michael Kennedy’s adventures with an under-aged baby sitter scuttled the further ambitions of his brother, Congressman Joe Kennedy. Congressman Mel Reynolds was reelected in Chicago after allegations of sex with a teenage campaign worker. However, he resigned after conviction and was sentenced to five years in jail. Reynolds’ predecessor left office because of similar problems.

Governor Schwarzenegger survived allegations of prior misbehavior in his Hollywood days in his campaign for the Governorship of California. He is currently engaged in a double standard. While loudly proclaiming the need to lower our carbon footprint in the battle against global warming, he is commuting daily to Sacramento from Los Angeles in a private jet, although he claims to be offsetting the carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is currently battling for his political life, after winning reelection after numerous errors in judgment. The current problem involves committing perjury about having an affair with his former chief of staff, who also lied under oath. A related accusation is they the city settled a lawsuit for $8.4 million in an attempt to cover up the affair. Among those demanding his resignation is the state Attorney General Mike Cox, who admitted in 2005 to an extramarital affair.

Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco won reelection on November 7, 2007 with 72% of the vote. Earlier that year he admitted having an affair with the wife of his campaign manager, and then sought treatment for alcohol abuse. He plans to run for Governor in 2010.

Problems come with rampant hypocrisy and double lives. For example, Congressman Bob Bauman, a family values, law and order conservative Republican, lost reelection because of sex with a teenage boy. His excuse was alcohol.

Congressman Michael Huffington and Governor Jim McGreevey of New Jersey did not let their preference for men get in the way of running for office as family men.

Republicans voted Congressman Dan Crane out of office in 1984 for sleeping with a female page. Conversely, Massachusetts Democrats retained Congressman Garry Studds in office at the same time for sleeping with a 17 year old male page.

Senator Larry Craig probably violated no law in the Minneapolis Airport, but his behavior and pleading guilty was stupid. He will probably not be returning to the Senate when his term is up. The “jury” is still out on Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. Unfortunately for Vitter, the law does not recognize a “prostitute-john privilege.” Both Craig and Vitter are conservative Republicans.

Pastor Ted Haggard, “Pastor Ted”, was the popular founder and pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His familiarity with gay acts and drug abuse was revealed on November 26, 2007. The result was the end of his ministry, as it was the televangelist Jimmy Swaggart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1988 for sharing a motel room with a prostitute. Swaggart had revealed in the preceding two years the sexual indiscretions of two fellow ministers, Marvin Gorman and Jim Bakker.

When celebrities mess up, we enjoy the spectacle. Rob Lowe in 1968 in Atlanta, Georgia videotaped a three way with an underage girl during the Democratic National Convention. We’ve come to expect Hollywood pop-tarts to misbehave, but the political scandals involving sex, rather than corruption, alcoholism, or drunk driving are much more titillating. Graft is pedestrian compared to sex.

The current mayor of Los Angeles had a great future in politics, but he has a long, not always private, history of philandering. Both Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, publicly embarrassed their wives with adultery and messy divorces.

What are the possible explanations?

Genetics and Biology

Character flaws and mental problems

Alcohol and drugs

Raw Power

Stupidity/Gross Stupidity


You might say that Bill Clinton got away with it, but not really. He surrendered his Arkansas license to practice law for five years and reached a $850,000 settlement with Paula Jones. He also lost his license before the Supreme Court. His conduct was an albatross around Vice President Al Gore’s neck in the 2000 Presidential Election and is hurting Hillary Clinton in her current campaign.

A final note is that the public has essentially been spared allegations of spousal abuse by politicians – at least physical abuse. The “Stand by Your Man” by spouses in press conference confessions by Clinton, McGreevey, Spitzer, Hart et al, certainly approach spousal abuse in the sense of emotional abuse.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Et Tu, Toledo; No Semper Fi

We expect San Francisco and Berkeley to be anti-military and anti-Marines, but Toledo? Yes, Toledo best known for its Toledo Scales and John Denver’s great parody, Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio, has joined the Bay Area cities in a anti-military troika.

San Francisco in recent years has reaffirmed its peacenik reputation, and forgotten its rich military legacy: naval bases at Hunters Point and Treasure Island, the Presidio (home of the 6th Army and Lettermen Hospital), Forts Funston, Mason, Point, and Scott, and Fort Miley VA Hospital. Its maritime history is down to Fishermen’s Wharf and Pier 39, both tourist traps.

The Board of Education voted 4-2 in 2006 to end Junior ROTC in the city’s high schools.

More recently, the City barred the Marine Corps Silent Drill Team from filming a commercial on the Streets of San Francisco in September 2007. The Marines were allowed though to film an empty street – truly a symbolic act.

Earlier the Board of Supervisors refused to let the U.S.S. Iowa become a floating museum in the City, representing the maritime and naval history of Baghdad by the Bay. Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and Treasure Island were large navy bases. The City was a large shipping out port in World war II.

San Francisco’s bigger problem is not the Marines, but middle class flight, especially by families with children, from the City. It has the smallest percentage of children under 18 (14.7%), of any major U.S. city. The enrollment in the City’s public schools dropped from 62,000 in 2000 to 59,000 in 2005. It’s not investing in education since it has cut the budget for the schools in recent years.

Berkeley is, of course, in a league of its own. The City celebrates Indigenous People’s Day in lieu of Columbus Day. Yet the University refuses to release 12,000 Native American remains to their tribes for burial.

Both the City Council and voters voted in 2006 to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Council also voted, shortly after the tragic events of 9/11, to end the bombing of Afghanistan.

The Marines opened a recruiting Office a year ago on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley.

The City’s Peace and Justice Commission presented a resolution to the City Council. It stated that if the Marine stay, “then they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.”

The council approved it on a 6:3 vote on January 29, 2008. It also voted to give a protest group, Code Pink, a parking space once a week for six months in front on the Marines recruiting office, as well as a permit to make noise. The Council voted to have the City Attorney investigate whether the City’s anti-discrimination law applies to the Marines because of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”

After Republican Senators and Congressmen introduced bills to cut off funding earmarks to Berkeley, the Mayor and Council quasi-apologized on February 13. The Proclamation would no longer be sent to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and they say the Marines are now welcome in Berkeley.

Berkeley believes in free speech. Those of us from the 60’s remember the Free Speech Movement. Yes, Berkeley believes in free speech, but not for the military.

We are not surprised by such actions by Berzerkley, but Holy Toledo! Toledo, Ohio, the Heartland of America! Ohio, the home of eight Presidents, Buckeye football, and the crossroads of America. Toledo, next to the site of the famous 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, opening up the Northwest Territory to settlement.

John Denver sang about Toledo decades ago in his classic “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio.” He crooned “Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio is like being nowhere at all.” He sat in the park and watched the grass die. When asked how he knew, John Denver replied that he "spent a whole week there one day."

Company A, 1st Battalion, 24th Marines had conducted urban warfare exercises in Toledo in 2004 and 2006. The exercises include mock firefights, ambushes, and blank ammo. They had received Police permission in advance of the planned exercises on the mostly empty downtown streets and mostly vacant Madison Building over the weekend of February 9, but then Mayor Carty Finkbeiner abruptly denied them permission. The Mayor’s representative stated “The Mayor asked them to leave because they frighten people.”

Frighten people on Saturday Night in Toledo, Ohio! Saturday Night in downtown Toledo, the same quiet Saturday Night of John Denver.

When they arrived in Toledo after a four hour drive from Grand Rapids, Michigan they received not a police escort but a police blockade.

Toledo needed something to get back on the nation’s map. Michigan and Ohio in 1835 called up their militias to settle their claims to the Toledo Strip. Some pundits claim Michigan won and received the Upper Peninsula.

Toledo has hemorrhaged industrial jobs in recent years, but has managed to hang onto the Jeep factory. Jeep, the same vehicle that was designed by Bantam Automobile Company, in response to an army contract to develop a utility vehicle as World War II was breaking out. Jeep, the ubiquitous Jeep, which played a critical role in the battles against Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, not to mention Korea and Vietnam. Without Jeep, Toledo would have no industrial base today.

The City Council unanimously apologized on February 12 for the Mayor’s action. A related problem for the City Council is that they are seeking an extension of a ¾% income tax.

Both Berkeley and Toledo sometimes forget that they exist in a capitalist society, in which consumers can vote with their feet. Merchants, hospitality industries and the Chambers of Commerce in both cities reported a substantial loss in business. Never underestimate the power of the purse in a capitalist economy.