30 November 2011

Obamacare Elderly Rationing--It's Not Brain Surgery

Recently, while at a social gathering with people from various walks of life, the topic of Obamacare came up.  One of the interlocutors was a liberally oriented health care worker at Walter Reed Army hospital.  She seemed anxious to quell concerns about government run health care by pretending to listen to objections to Obamacare and then ambushing her policy foes with the shining case of the Hawaiian State Health Care Mandate.

The Hawaiian paradigm is an interesting example, except that private insurers can still compete and the state government offers generous but not necessarily strictly mandated policy coverage.  Arguments against Obamacare often get stuck on the question of the constitutionality of the federal government mandating citizens engaging in commerce.  Obamacare is said to be modeled on Romneycare in Massachusetts but the health mandate can properly be a state power.

Another objection to Obamacare is a decline in quality care because of rationing.  Former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) called the perilous cost benefit analysis for the elderly as “Death Panels” which earned her a great deal of derision from the liberal intelligentsia.  The Walter Reed therapist attacked the characterization of “Death Panels” but noted that spiraling costs had to be contained for the last 18 months of life.

It was a pleasure to chat with a well informed ideological opponent about health care, so I enquired if medical research had dictated the change in mammography guidelines for women under 50.  She stammered and said that she had not read anything in medical journals but that was not her area of practice.  I recalled that an HHS preventative care government panel recommended against mammographies for women between 40 and 49 because it lead to false alarms and unnecessary biopsies. I noted that  HHS also downplayed the importance of self exams for women and recommended women get breast exams every other year. These changes seemed suspect since breast cancer is the 2nd highest cancer killer among women, thus I asked someone in the health field how the science changed. I suggested that the government panel of doctors and scientists might be anticipating rationing regime. Of course, the change in government guidelines gives the go ahead for private insurers to stop coverage for unnecessary treatment. She scoffed that I dared think that health policies might be driven by politics and quickly ended the healthy dialogue.

Now a brain surgeon who called into the Mark Levin Show revealed that Obamacare has language that if someone are over 70 years old and on government supported health care and required neurosurgery, they would only qualify for “comfort care” and not neurosurgery. Hospitals would not have difficult cases decided by ethics panels but actually administrators with their eye on the bottom line. Basically, this translates to rationing by death panels.

This issue of dictating comfort care for bleeding on the brain for those over 70 strikes close to home. A loved one had two episodes in a week of bleeding on the brain where he had to be rushed to a hospital. But between access to outstanding teaching hospitals and presumably Medicare supplement, he is living a vibrant and engaged life. It would be tragic to have a government bean counter arbitrarily overrule good medical practice in saving lives to just sling out comfort care.

Granted, costs for the last years of life can be costly and a government which is spending our grandchildren’s inheritance needs to find better ways of containing costs.  Nearly two decades ago, P.J. O’Rourke quipped “If you think that health care is too expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”   I would hate for the cost to be arbitrary rationing which dictates comfort care for those deemed superannuated. The next thing you know, government guidelines will prescribe a Life Carousel for renewal ala Logan’s Run.

The Long Strange Trip of Candidate Jon Huntsman

L. Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) R. SNL's Seth Meyers

Former Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R-UT) has blazed an idiosyncratic path to the Republican nomination for President.  Although Huntsman had been re-elected Governor of the Beehive State in 2004 with a 78% margin, he is better known for his diplomatic credentials.  Huntsman had been the Ambassador to Singapore in the President George HW Bush Administration (Bush 41) and as U.S. Trade Representative in the President George W. Bush Adminsitration (Bush 43).  But Huntsman infamously ditched the Utah Governor’s Mansion soon after his second term began to become President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to China. Generally, career diplomats are unlikely U.S. Presidential candidates, especially when their last posting was with an incumbent of the opposite party but “Jon” does not fancy himself as a typical politician

Huntsman entered the GOP Presidential race relatively late in mid-June. He might have thought that he could afford to be late since he is the son of billionaire Jon Huntsman, Sr. and that he is personally worth between $16 to $71 million.  But  Huntsman also made his announcement late by insisted on highlighting his quirky credentials by showing a Meet Jon Huntsman promo video which hogged his time in the spotlight.  By the time Huntsman got around to launching his candidacy, major news organizations had stopped covering the event live and rushed back to hear indistinct drivel.

Perhaps it may seem picayune but Huntsman’s campaign launch was marred by two infamous flaws.  Firstly, the press pass for the event misspelt the candidate’s name as “John Huntman”.  The staffers ought to know better as their website is “Jon2012.com”.  The other flub was positioning of the podium.  Huntsman deliberately went to Liberty State Park as he studiously sought to capture the same optics that Ronald Reagan used to launch his 1980 race for the White House.   The positioning of the dais and the press podium wasted the opportunity, especially with cable news crews which inform most of the electorate today.  Maybe the press did not want to show the turnout of “dozens” of supporters at the rally.

Still the Lamestream Media kvelled over Huntsman’s candidacy, as there was a moderate Republican in the race, especially one who served under President Obama.  Huntsman committed himself to a campaign of civility, where he would neither run down his Republican opponents nor his former boss and eventual opponent President Obama. That mimiced the media meme about civility in the period after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ 8th).  It seems implausible to run a campaign without distinguishing yourselves against opponents, much less speak their name like Voldemort.  Of course, Huntman's non critical promise lasted as long as Democrats practice of civility against their political opponents.

Huntsman also made an unorthodox choice to base his national Headquarters in Orlando, Florida since his wife was from the area and Florida is a must win state.  Looking at the latest polls, Huntsman position in the Sunshine State is less than the margin of error.  Oops.

Huntsman also revealed a sui generis strategy to win the Republican nomination as he wanted to appeal to non-Republicans.   That’s novel but unlikely to win over dyed in the wool Republican primary voters, except perhaps in New Hampshire which has many independent and cross over primary voters.  Hence this might explain Huntsman playing the fool on Saturday Night Live.


Of course appearances in NBC Studio 8A worked out so well for Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) quest for the White House.  But Huntsman’s stabs at humor probably work better on SNL than sniping at Gov. Mitt Romney’s book as a Kurt Cobain reference during a debate–that was not Nirvana.

Huntsman has revealed that he is a Deadhead.  So is former Vice President Al Gore.  Huntsman must think that by identifying with Jerry and the band reminds voters of his dropping out of high school to join a rock band.  Dude, what are you thinking?  This is a GOP nomination process.

Huntsman has not been shy in using his three daughters as surrogates for the campaign.  The parody of the Smokin’ Cain campaign ad was quite funny. It raised some campaign funds but no real raise in the polls.

But politics is a full contact sport and once Huntsman can prove that he is no longer a “margin of error” candidate, the press has declared families fair game, particularly when they have entered the arena.

Unless Huntsman can pull off a miracle and wrangle the top spot in the New Hampshire primary from Gov, Romney and former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Huntsman seems to be positioning himself as a third party candidate.  Considering his appeal to moderates, it is more likely that a quixotic independent candidacy would appeal to donkeys more than pachyderms or agitated independent voters.

It’s been a long strange trip  for the Jon Huntsman campaign.  Whether it ends in the snows of the Granite State or in a costly independent vanity race, it is likely that he will be singing the U.S. Blues.

District of Cocktails?

The HDNet‘s Series “Drinking Made Easy”  had an episode based in D.C.which they dubbed “The District of Cocktails.”

The hosts highlighted a couple of celebrity cocktails.  First there was a libation dedicated to President B.J. Clinton which uses Vodka, Coffee Liqueur, Cream and Blue Caraçao.  How apt.  To make it, Mix vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream in a shaker. Pour into glass and then add blue caraçao.

Another DC drink dedicated to a decadent DC city father is the Marion Berry (D-DC) which uses Blueberry Vodka, Ice and Coke.  I guess that the flavored vodka embodied his (dis)Honor and the ice and soda was a nod to the bust by the FBI of the DC mayor for smoking crack at the Vista Hotel on January 18, 1990.

While the concoction might be less symbolic, a tastier but déclassé drink was the “Yack and Coke”  (cognac and coke) which the supposed mayor for life was quaffing when the undercover bust went down.  Reportedly, Berry blurted out “The damn bitch set me up. Now how’s about another drink before you cuff me.”

I fondly remember the tap room of the defunct funky brewpub Bardo Rodeo in Arlington, Virginia.  On the wall, there was a special mural depicting Marion Berry.

Taproom of Bardo Rodeo Brewpub circa mid 1990s

The show also depicted a Beertail which sounded delightful.  The Neopolitan uses framboise (a Belgian  raspberry Lambic ale), a witbier (a Belgian white wheat beer) and a Chocolate Stout.  If you elect to make this beertail, mix the Framboise and the Belgian White into 2/3 of glass then float the Chocolate Stout on top.

And I thought that it was just the District of Calamity.

29 November 2011

McDonalds Outsmarts SFO Happy Meal Ban--Are You Happy Now?

Last year, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors acted passed an ordinance requiring meals that included toys to meet specific nutritional guidelines.   The law that effectively bans McDonalds from selling Happy Meals takes effect on December 1st.

This “multigrain amendment” is another example of food fascism by an all knowing Nanny State.  But as Milton Friedman once observed: “Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is protecting the consumer from the government.”

McDonalds figured out a way to live with government micro-managing their business.  Consumers will no longer automatically receive a toy along with their Happy Meal. But kids and adult toy collectors alike can still obtain their toys for a 10 cent donation to the Ronald McDonald House along with the purchase of a Happy Meal.  Nanny State Nabobs may still nod approvingly by forcing customers to give to charity to get their cheap thrill until they realize that their nutritional dictates have been circumvented.

Since the Happy Meal is not served with a toy, it is not required to meet the strict multi-grain amendment dictates.  Thus the fast food purveyor can drop the healthy options and concentrate on selling the greasy burgers and fries that makes them a tasty treat.  Some parents might have been tempted to placate their children and their consciences by bribing their scions to eat healthy with the prospect of getting a cheap toy.  Now that m.o. is moot.  Moreover, some adult collectors would just ask for the cheap toy, but now they have to buy their fair share of burgers and fries and then donate to charity.

In all truth, the battle over Happy Meals in the city by the bay is somewhat theoretical since San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any major city in America.  This is a good thing, since San Francisco also bans male circumcision.


  • Lynching:  To punish (a person) without legal process or authority, especially by hanging, for a perceived offense or as an act of bigotry.
  • Caining: To punish (a Black Conservative Republican) without legal process or authority, especially by sexual accusation, for a perceived offense (of threatening the “minority” base of Progressive Liberal Democrats) or as an act of bigotry (for engaging in “critical thought”).         
                                            ~Frantz Emmanuel Kebreau

Once again the Republican race for the Presidential nomination has been embroiled by a sex scandal attributed to Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

The prior barrage involved fifteen year old allegations of sexual harassment while Cain was the head of the National Restaurant Association.  After the anonymous allegations proffered by an attorney against a client’s wishes did not succeed in sinking Cain, the ante was upped.

Publicity hungry celebrity attorney Gloria Allred trotted out Sharon Bialek to a press conference to offer an uncorroborated story from the late 1990s which sounded more like sexual assault. But Bialek supposedly only vaguely told two people, including her pediatrician “boyfriend” (who had recommended soliciting Cain’s help).

This cock and bull show did not result in Cain dropping out of the Presidential race.  In fact, it prompted record fundraising.  So a week later, Attorney Allred brought out the “boyfriend”, who could not have knowing anything contemporaneously if we believed alleged victim Bialek.  At that point, the feeding frenzy ended but the mud still sullied Cain.

Even though Cain had an uptick in fundraising, he has precipitously plummeted in the polls. Granted, Cain’s stumbling on an answer about Libya to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel along with two debates centering on Cain’s bête noire of foreign policy did not help.

Now, after the Thanksgiving news lull, there is yet another Cain accuser. Instead of alleging sexual harassment, Ginger White claims that she has carried on a fifteen year affair with the former pizza magnet. White claims that the relationship was curtailed eight months ago, just as Cain was announcing his run for the Presidency.

Democrats gleefully charge marital infidelity and hypocrisy, forgetting the mantra in defending B.J. Clinton in 1998 that consensual sex is a personal matter.  Of course, Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (1971) commands: “Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. ‘You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.’”

There is a drumbeat from the Lamestream Media for Cain to withdraw from the race.  But in 2007, former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) carried on an affair (and impregnated) his Presidential campaign’s videographer Rielle Hunter who travelled on the press plane as his wife died of cancer, yet it was only the National Enquirer which reported the dalliance.

While it would be more profitable to consider the real issues of the GOP race, rather than wading through the snippets of information surrounding White’s allegation, we must consider the credibility of the accuser and the plausibility of the claims.

Ginger White is a down on her luck single mother who unsuccessfully sued a former employer for sexual harassment.  It’s a similar pattern of women making multiple sexual harassment claims–not for Cain but for the accusers like Bialek and Karen Karshaar.

Another question that should be considered is what sort of relationship White claims to have with Cain as he was a stage 4 Prostate Cancer patient.  Frankly, it is not titillating to know the details. But not that the facts matter when mud slinging.

It would be surprising if Herman Cain, a Baptist Minister who has been married to his wife for 41 years, was a cad and did not expect the details to come out as he as scrutinized by the press.  If one were to believe all of the allegations against Cain, he is a political “Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde”.

Political partisans rejoiced at jabbing the black conservative candidate as “Sugar Cain”.  Perhaps it goes along with the crude monicker of “Tea Baggers”, but this should not be surprising for what Ann Coulter labeled the “Demonic”.  But this mudslinging seems to have worked among casual political observers who can remember every salacious detail of the accusation and tut tut, yet they do not want to listen to facts which actually expose slanders. It reminds me of former Reagan Administration Labor Secretary Raymond Donivan, after being totally acquitted of larceny and fraud charges who quipped “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”

During the three years of President Obama’s term, the economy is in the doldrums and little hope of significant improvement by election time.  The Democrats had complete control of the House and the Senate and Obama should have been able to pass anything he wanted.  Instead, the legislative achievement of Obamacare is still manifestly unpopular and may be unconstitutional.  Despite voicing support for the Occupy Movement, even left wingers are upset with Obama.  So Obama will be unable to run for re-election with the warm fuzzy “Hope and Change” mantra.  Obama 2012 is trying to raise $1 Billion for the campaign and has the bully pulpit, a compliant Lamestream Media which mostly seems to sympathize with Obama.  Expect the re-election campaign will be focused on negatively portraying the Republicans, exploiting every fissure and foible.  Expect to see more of this special scrutiny on the GOP for the next year.

There is a palpable perception in right wing media circles that Cain may be effectively diminished by this charge (true or not), but that it is a media hatchet job.  The 2000 Presidential Election was nearly thrown to Vice President Al Gore after a last minute Opposition Research leak that then Gov. George W. Bush (R-TX) had a DUI charge in 1976.

While Herman Cain’s star had already started to fade in the GOP Primary constellation, as Tea Party types gravitated towards Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) as the “non-Romney” candidate, the persistence of the media’s Caining is taking Borking to a new level in the political process. And I weep for the future.

H/T A.F Branco ConservativeDailynews

28 November 2011

Barney Frank to Shuffle Out of Congress

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA 4th), the 16 term Congressman from Newton, Mass., has announced that he will not seek re-election.  Eschewing the typical rationale of retiring in order to spend more time with his family, Frank was frank about admitting that his decision was driven by redistricting.  

In February, it was clear that Frank may have his seat adjusted due to redistricting, as the Bay State needed to eliminate a Congressional district due to the 2010 Census.  But what is surprising is that Commonwealth legislators did not protect their elder stateman in this process.  Frank is the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, who Rush Limbaugh dubbed  the “Banking Queen”. Frank had the Chair when Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac needed Congressional Stewardship as well as the Federal foreclosure fiasco.

Massachusetts state Democrat legislators and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) controlled the entire redistricting process. The Massachusetts Joint Committee on Redistricting pitted incumbents Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA 9th) and Rep. William Keating (D-MA 10th) in a newly configured 8th Congressional District. In redrawing the electoral map, Frank’s district was significantly changed by losing the southern portion of the district which had white blue collar citizens and added more suburban voters.

Frank admitted that he was ambivalent about standing for office again, but when the new Congressional District’s lines were finalized, Frank came out and declared that he was retiring so that other candidates could position themselves for the upcoming race.  What was fishy about Frank’s announcement was attributing his decision to not run for losing coastal constituents.  Frank would have needed to re-introduce himself to about half of the new district which might not have been an easy sail. Frank had a competitive race in 2009 to Republican challenger Scott Bialat which he eventually topped by 11 points but the incumbent had to run hard in the solid Blue Bay State.  Frank probably determined that it would be a real race in 2012 with little prospect of regaining power in the House, despite the wolfing of DCCC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 20th).

The new Congressional District that Frank is fleeing voted to re-elect Gov. Patrick, yet it supported Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) in the 2010 special election, so it could be up for grabs.  There is some speculation that former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Shilling might run.

Another ramification of Frank’s retirement is that the likely successor to the Ranking Member position in the House Financial Services Committee would be Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA 35th), a proud member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus which would be quite comfortable with the supposed income redistribution aspirations of the Occupy Movement. 

24 November 2011

Thanksgiving Thoughts

First Thanksgiving , 1621  J.L.G. Ferris (1915)

For some Americans Thanksgiving has been reduced to plotting to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, or as an occasion for tryptophan inspired postprandial somnolence or even simply as a preamble for the consumer craziness of Black Friday. Others have tried to recast the holiday as an opportunity to extol veganism or to mark Thanksgiving as a day of mourning for the start of the so called Native American holocaust.

That being said, many still consider Thanksgiving as a celebration of the harvest and remembering the gifts that God has given us.   Thanksgiving took shape across America due to persistence of  Sarah Josepha Hale.    “The Lady Editor”  campaigned for 17 years to five Presidents to make Thanksgiving a unifying national festival that would be a therapeutic holiday.  President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation of 1863 started a national tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving and the holiday was fixed to the fourth Thursday in November by Congress and President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941.

But the First Thanksgiving was not a celebration an autumn cornucopia but to thank God for his Providence in persevering in the New World.

The Scrooby separartists were Christian idealists who to evacuated England to avoid their  perceived popery of the Church of England . These pilgrims moved to Holland in 1607 where religious tolerance was permitted.  But the Dutch moral permissiveness and foreign culture threatened the long term survival of their sect.  So the Pilgrims decided to sojourn to the New World to follow their faith and fortune.

These 120 Pilgrims contracted themselves to work in community for the London Virginia Company in the for seven years in the New World.  Initially, they departed Southhampton England in August 1620 with the Speedwell and the Mayflower ships for “Northern Virginia”.   They planned to anchor at the mouth of the Hudson River (a.k.a. Manhattan).  But the Speedwell was not seaworthy and caused the Pilgrims to turn back twice before abandoning the Speedwell. The delayed voyage caused 17 settlers to drop out and the rest to cram onto the already crowded Mayflower for a brutal two month transatlantic voyage.

With winter approaching and treacherous waters between Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, the Pilgrims abandoned their original landing plans.  The Mayflower anchored at what is now Providencetown and sent out a scouting party.  After a month of exploration, the Pilgrim decided to settle at Plymouth Rock at an area that was providentially cleared  (which had been mysteriously abandoned six months before Patuxet tribe six months before).

The first winter in the Plymouth Colony was brutal as 45 of the 102 settlers perished which included 13 of the 18 women. In fact, by November 1621 only 53 settlers remained.

When the Plymouth Colonists had their first contact with Native Americans in , an Indian brave named Samoset (a.k.a. Squanto) boldly walked in the midst of the settlement and proclaimed in English “Welcome Englishmen...Got any beer?”.  Alas, the colonists did had run out of their casks but they did offer Squanto some whiskey.  As it turned out, Squanto had been captured and enslaved by both the English and Spanish explorers but he became a Christian and twice returned to his native land. Alas he learned that his tribe had been felled by a case of smallpox so he been temporarily staying with Chief Massasoit and the Wampanoag tribe.

After Squanto’s encounter with the devout Christian colonists, he arranged for a meeting with Massasoit which resulted in a peace treaty and mutual defense pact.  Squanto spent the rest of his life with these pious Pilgrims and he taught the European settlers how to fish and cultivate the fields in the New World.

The first “Thanksgiving” in 1621 celebrated their survival by the hand of God, but it was probably called a “harvest festival” as the Scrooby separatists were quite particular in celebrating their solemnities (for instance they neither celebrated Christmas nor Easter).  Despite a meager harvest, Plymouth Colony Governor William Bradford, invited 90 Wampanoag braves to join in a feast.   The colonists menu of wild fowl, vegetables and corn was supplemented by five dressed deer, cod, sea bass.  The true heroines of the first Thanksgiving were: Elizabeth Hopkins; Eleanor Billington; Mary Brewster and Susanna Winslow.  These ladies were the only women survivors from the Plymouth colony and were responsible for feeding 140 for the three day Thanksgiving feast.

While it is wonderful to celebrate a  feast of plenty, it is worth considering the origins of Thanksgiving.  It is a holiday that unites Americans in thanking God for our bounty.  But Michael Medved suggests a deeper religious context:

Thanksgiving in that sense doesn't celebrate religious freedom, but rather coexistence. We remain a nation of impassioned, fiercely committed, openly competing believers who have nonetheless established a long tradition of letting other faith communities go their own way. We can be pious and uncompromising at our own Thanksgiving tables, without menacing, or even questioning the very different proceedings in the home next door. The limitless boundaries and vast empty land of the fresh continent, plus the challenges of a long Revolutionary struggle, gave the faith-filled fanatics of the founding the chance for a freedom more profound than mere religious tolerance: the right, in their own communities, to be left alone. 

This Thanksgiving Thought acknowledges the religious nature of our nation’s origin but does not impose a particular faith but a national religious tolerance that allows for faith groups to co-exist and to be left alone.

h/t: Michael Medved

18 November 2011

Occupy Movement-Can You Hear Me Now?

Projection on Verizon Building, NYC  Photo: Amy McLinn
Last night as the Occupy Wall Street Movement marked its two months of street theater in lower Manhattan (and other locales). Along with the  provocative unpermitted marches on the New York Stock Exchange, there was also an outdoor movie on the Verizon Building.

Showing the triumphant Occupy agitprop on the Verizon Building was no random act.  The 45,000  Communication Workers of America workers walked off their jobs at Verizon for 18 days in August but settled for essentially the same terms as before the strike.  So the CWA could show their solidarity with the Occupy Movement by projecting their support on their employer “oppressor”’s building.

Aside from the irrational exuberant exclamations of “We Are Winning”, the point of this propaganda is that it is a widespread “movement”.  While it is tempting to treat the Occupy Wall Street Movement as being a political parallel of Charlie Sheen’s moonstruck megalomania, the coordination seems more sinister.

While the useful idiots can not articulate coherent messages, it seems organized in accords to Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.  Incorporating the muscle of radicalized unions along with the funky street theater of the i-Pad carrying hippie wanna-bes could indicate agents of change that circumvent the rule of law and our constitutional Republic government.

Ironically, government officials in liberal localities have aided and abetted both the expansion of the Occupy Movement as well as coordinated with other mayors in cracking down on the protestors. Oakland, California  Mayor Jean Quan (D-Oakland) had voiced support for her city’s Occupy protestors and countenanced a blue flu by teachers to show solidarity by striking for the Occupiers.  Yet as Oakland was forced to crack down after a rape in the Occupy Oakland encampment,  Quan noted that she consulted with 18 mayors who were simultaneously dealing with Occupy protests.  Strangely, the cities all began to clean up the Occupy Movement at the same time.  Perhaps polling numbers looked bad and Second City campaign winds of change began to blow.  Or maybe sparking conflict in multiple places at once was part of a larger overall plan.

Suddenly the Tin Foil hats of Glenn Beck seem more appealing and practical than a fashionably controversial Benetton sweater.

17 November 2011

Pre-Occupied with Stern's Private Parts

During a live-shot in Manhattan following the flushing of the Occupy Moment from Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan, a local Fox reporter’s broadcast was repeatedly obstructed by a priapically occupied Howard Stern fan.

While it is concerning to have rabble-rousers obstructing the media covering the news, there is a certain poetic justice in this instance.  Throughout  the nearly two months of the Occupy Wall Street, their counter culture street theater protests have not offered a coherent message save an unstated intent for publicity when being “evicted” from their pied-de-terre.

Instead of going out in a blaze of glory, the chronically of the self-Occupied Wall Street protestors’ plight is punctuated by the adolescent obnoxious ejaculations of a Howard Stern prankster.

Unhating the Fashionably Controversial-Not!

Benetton, a Milan based global luxury fashion brand, continued its penchant to publicize its products through provocative high concept shock ads with its recent “Unhate” campaign.  The United Colors of Benetton supposedly sought to “fight the culture of hate in every form” by showing photo montages of world leaders kissing each other on the mouth. These images were unfurled in New York, Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Milan and Rome.

A banner hung on a bridge near the Vatican depicted Pope Benedict XVI lip locked with Imam Sheik Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, who is the head of the al-Azhar institute in Cairo.   The Vatican objected to the unauthorized and manipulative use of the Pope’s image which shows a grave lack of respect for the pope and the faithful. This papal objection got the in your face Tiber banner pulled down but the montage remained at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

As for el Tayeb, the head of the largest Sunni Muslim theological institution,   a spokesman for the Imam dismissed the Benetton ad as ridiculous. It will not be surprising if a fatwa is forthcoming for the offensive ad.

Despite the unity against Benetton, it is dubious that el Tayeb will rectify relations with the Vatican. El Tayeb broke off talks with the Vatican earlier in the year when the Pope objected to the treatment of Coptic Christians after the Arab Spring in Egypt.

Although the ad campaign is entirely objectionable, some of the “Unhate” couplings were not that far fetched.  For example, President Barack Obama is shown necking with Chinese President HuJintuo.  Last year, Saturday Night Live anticipated this Sino-American pseudo item.

                                  SNL China Debt Skit

Barbra Streisand was quoted as saying “I don’t care what you say about me. Just spell my name right”.  Granted, Benetton was seeking a viral campaign to “épater la bourgeoisie”.  Benetton’s one day campaign sure got the attention. The pity is that the associated Unhate foundation seemed like a noble corporate social justice effort, but the Unhate campaign is thoroughly sullied by controversy, hyper-sexualization and provocative homophilia.  It will be interesting to see if Benetton’s corporate and ad execs live to regret their “Unhate” campaign.

16 November 2011

Fed Up with the Cocktail Party in DC

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) recently predicted the rise of a third party which reflects discontent with the Federal government from beyond the beltways.  Such independent ideas are not unusual for the maverick senator when he is not running for office posing as a conservative but voting  as big government representative who abhors earmarks.  When asked whether this third party would be right, left or center oriented, McCain quipped that it would be a “Fed Up” party.

McCain believes that Washington is not responding to the plight of the people, especially concerning the sluggish economy where most people are struggling to make ends meet yet corporate executives take home massive salaries. McCain thinks massive tax reform which redresses the inequity of large corporations not paying taxes would be the foundation of this third way.

Even though the Tea Party has been a phenomenon in the American body politic since 2009, McCain dismissed them as a movement not an organization that is receding.    Of course, this opinion is coming from a Senator who referred to the Tea Party as hobbits during a floor speech on the debt ceiling in July.  That being said, the 75 year old maverick senator would not bolt the Republican Party.  So the Senate GOP caucus can still count on the organizing votes from McCain and his understudy Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

While McCain does recognize the discontent from beyond the beltways but he prescriptions for change are mired due to his maverick myopia of the body politic. Actually, the rallying against corporatism and centrist orientation sounds more like the ersatz Coffee Party efforts that were  ginned up on Facebook in early 2010 than the real reformist movement in the Tea Party. The Coffee Party tried to sell a “Wake Up and Stand Up” message that only drew 350 participants to a National Convention in Louisville.  This so called Coffee Party message went over about as well as Starbucks Via instant coffee.

McCain has a remarkable record of opposing Pork Barrel earmark spending in Congress, but McCain’s leadership with the Gang of 14 shows a go along to get along deference to Senatorial courtesy.  The landmark McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law restricted the First Amendment to effectively help re-elect incumbents and Lamestream Media favored candidates.  And the Lieberman-McCain Environmental Stewardship bill supported Caps on CO2 emissions by American businesses to combat the falsified “facts” about anthropogenic Climate Change.  McCain may sanctimoniously spout jeremiads of third party change, but his record belies the fact that his policy position concentrates more power to Washington insiders.

It is true that the Tea Party has intentionally eschewed organization into a third party as it would be a loser that re-elects the statists who are already in power. But McCain is mistaken about what voters are “Fed Up” about.  The Tea Party stands for “Taxed Enough Already”.  Tea Partiers stand for adherence to the Constitution, lower taxes and is skeptical of the Cocktail Party tendency of incumbents. That message is a far cry from the politics veiled class warfare which McCaincites as being the basis of a “Fed Up” party.

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) tried to launch his campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination on a theme of being a Washington outsider who can get things done and is “Fed Up”.  But during the Michigan Presidential debate, Perry had a painful 53 second brain freeze in trying to think of a third agency that he would abolish.

 Now Perry is floating a theme to “Uproot and Overhaul” Washington. Perry proposes ending lifetime appointment of federal judges, establishing 18 year term limits for Supreme Court members, cutting Congressional salaries in half and slashing their staffs. Perhaps this populism might resurrect Perry’s  almost moribund standing in the polls. But since most of these ideas must be implemented by the Constitutional Amendment process, it is dubious if Tea Party types will drink this rhetorical Kool-Aid.

Perry’s prescriptions may be flawed, but he does touch on many of the sick symptoms of Potomac Fever.  The Cocktail Party is establishment politicians who value both incumbency and favorable standing in high flying social circles.  Republican politicians campaign with a fervor of conservatism and good governance while out on the hustings. However, once Cocktail Party members are elected, they resort to back room deals which grow the government and contradict their campaign promises.

It is less likely that neither McCain’s vision of a “Fed Up” Party nor Gov. Perry’s raging against the machine will change Washington.  What may precipitate this monumental change may come from a “compromise” from Republicans on the Super-Committee to raise  “revenue” by $300 Billion (to start) or face draconian automatic cuts of $1.2 Trillion split military and domestic spending. If the GOP caves on their 2010 Pledge to America to stop job killing tax hikes, they will be in hot water with the Tea Party.

If the GOP establishment endorses higher taxes to placate perceptions about a Do-Nothing Congress, expect participating incumbents to be targeted in primary challenges. As the Tea Party has avoided organization, it is unlikely that they would gravitate towards a third party.  That might curtail many cocktail parties amongst conservatives in the near future.

h/t: William Warren

13 November 2011

Change We Can Believe In--Fall Between the Beltways

Despite the partisan polarization which has seeped into Washington in recent years, a change that everyone between the beltways can believe in is the autumnal changing of the leaves.

Capitol Hill looks spectacular as the change of colors occurs.

Capitol, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Supreme Court of the U.S., Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

Union Station, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC

The scarlet hues of the tree next to the National Press Club Building brightened up the downtown streets.

Georgetown looks especially pretty as the seasons changed.
Healy Hall, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Dalhgren Chapel, Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Dalhgren Chapel, Georgetown University, Washington DC

The Georgetown, C&O Canal (Georgetown), Washington, DC

Avon Street, Georgetown, Washington, DC

Christchurch Episcopal Church (Georgetown), Washington, DC

St. John's Episcopal Church (Georgetown), Washington, DC

12 November 2011

CBS Is Now the Cubic Zirconia Network

The Commander in Chief debate was held on Saturday night in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This marked the 11th debate between the major candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination.  Non political junkies might complain that there have been too many debates already.  Even the most avid of politicos can suffer some fatigue from the frenetic scheduling of these debates, especially with the last one being held on Wednesday in Michigan.  Maybe there will be a debate on the Food Network that will deal exclusively with Federal nutrition policy. Unfortunately, it might have to be moderated by Rachel Ray. Yucko (sic).  But even that unappetizing of a prospect for political red meat would be better than the way the CBS, the so called Tiffany network, handled the debate.

L-Scott Pelley (CBS) R- Major Garrett 
While CBS News anchor Scott Pelley and National Journal reporter Major Garrett were not as overcaffeinated as Jim Kramer was during the recent CNBC debate, Pelley did jump the gun on the clock.  Pelley asked Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) a question and only gave him half of his time to respond.  Romney stood firm and squabbled for all of his allotted time and Pelle admitted his error and relented.

The audience at Wofford College had been somewhat boisterous, applauding enthusiastically to Speaker Newt Gingrich’s pithy replies and Paulistians supporting anything that Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX 14th).  But when the subject wandered into the familiar territory of enhanced interrogation techniques which gave Rep. Paul to spout his well worn philippic for isolationism and against torture, there were audible boos from the conservative crowd.  That prompted Pelle to chastize the crowd for any signs of disapproval.  Then why not just conduct the debate in a television studio?

Mainly because CBS News cared so much about there product that they held a debate but they only broadcast 2/3rds of it   There was no pressing news story to cover nor a night-time collegiate football game. Aside from stations in South Carolina and the West Coast, CBS showed a rerun of NCIS but we were invited to continue watching on the internet.

Despite being technologically inclined, I was not sitting in front of my computer on a Saturday night. My personal debate watching included monitoring Twitter feeds on a tablet, but for me the conversion to watching the web was choppy and unwatchable.

The final part of the debate interacted with the Palmetto State’s two registered Republican senators, conservative Senator Jim De Mint (R-SC) and McCain’s understudy Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).  That could have been quite interested, but it is unlikely that the segment will be widely disseminated.

Any foreign policy debate with Rep. Ron Paul will have the principled isolationism.  This gave Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) yet another opportunity to burnish his multiple ambassadorial credentials, though he utter any words in Mandarin.  But Speaker Gingrich was in top form slapping down Pelley regarding the assassination of Anwar Al-Awlaki (an American citizen) as being extra-judicial as an forsworn enemy of the United States is not entitled to protections by the American criminal law system.  Foreign policy was not a strong suit of a businessman like Herman Cain, so hearing how he answered would be instructive.  What was televised from the debate continued to show Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) on his comedic charm offensive.

Pity that “Viacom” did not put this on one of their cable outlets for the full duration of the debate.  Perhaps it was not worthy of Showtime or M-TV.  But it is a mystery as to why CBS News could not stick with their own debate.  Did they think that it was just 60 minutes?  Granted CBS’s luster has been on decline for years, from Rathergate to perky Katie.  But now the crown jewel in the Tiffany Network can be appraised as cubic zirconium that is risable by its lack of journalistic commitment.

11 November 2011

Freedom Is Not Free: Commemorating Veterans Day

They tell me
'Freedom is never free.'
I know that-
More than most realize.
Freedom cost us more
Than we should have to give.
Freedom cost us blood.
It cost us the lives
Of our fathers,
Our sons,
Our brothers.
But while freedom is never free,
It has been bought at great price,
And so is a thing of great value.
We must defend it,
From those who would take it away.
The defense of our freedoms
Will cost us-
More than we wish to pay.
But we must pay, to defend,
For if we try to make freedom free,
We forget-
True freedom is never free.

                              ~James Grengs

Numerologists may revel that  the calendar shows 11-11-11.   There is a similar significance in Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day), as it is traditionally celebrated  on eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, which marked the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front that ended the First World War in 1918.   Many Allied nations mark November 11th as a day to commemorate the fallen veterans who were amongst the estimated 60 million people who died  in the Great War.

The horror that Continental Europeans hold for the first major modern war is embodied in  "Le Monument aux  Morts" in Trévières, France by sculptor (and Mayor) Edmond de Laheudrie  (1921).  The sculpture is Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory, which is also wearing the utility belt and helmet of the French version of Doughboys.   The original placement of "Le Monument aux Morts" is significant for two reasons, as  its position near the Church of St. Aignan links it to the bishop who defended Orleans from Attila the Hun in 451.  During the D-Day attacks from Allied Forces against Occupied France in World War II, a round of shrapnel struck the head of the sculpture which removed  its face below the upper lip along with most of its throat.  So all at once this statue represents both the the fleeting valor of  victory, the fragility of peace as well as the destructiveness of war.    This statue was cast in situ for placement at the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia.

President Franklin Roosevelt's Prayer on the eve of the D-Day Normandy Invasion  implores the Almighty for divine aid for our troops defending our freedom: "Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith".

It is saddening to learn that the Obama Administration objects to the inclusion of this FDR radio prayer to being included in the World War II Memorial on the National Mall in Washington. Obama Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey claims that inclusion of this prayer would "dilute" the central message of Memorial as well as violating the Commemorative Works Act. The real reason may be a politically correct attempt to erase any vestige of public religiosity which expressly alludes to Christianity.

The evolution of Armistice Day into Veterans Day was spearheaded by Alvin King, a cobbler from Emporia, Kansas in 1953 who campaigned to include all who served the nation as part of the November 11th commemoration. Within a year, Congress changed the holiday to Veterans Day. Alas, today people could claim this change was contrary to the spirit of the Commemorative Works Act.

Among the many memorials between the beltways, one of the standouts is the Korean War Memorial, which was dedicated by President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992. The "central theme" of this Memorial is the polished marble reminder "Freedom is Not Free". The memorial recognizes the contributions and loss of troops by the 22 nations which comprised the United Nations forces during the hot war between 1950 and 1953 (N.B. there was an Armistice but never a Peace Treaty so technically there is still a state of war with North Korea). The Memorial includes a wall created by Louis Nelson that has photographs of 38 soldiers sandblasted into the granite (representing the disputed 38th parallel). The polished granite wall draws visitors into the memorial as they can not see the memorial to the troops without also seeing themselves and remembering that freedom is not free.

The hallmark of the Korean War Memorial is the squadron of 19 stainless steel soldiers (technically 14 US Army, 3 Marines, 1 Navy Corpsman and 1 Air Force Forward Air Observer) on patrol.   The sculptures by Frank Gaylord has also sparked some civil conflict.  The artist was so intent on protecting the intellectual property rights on his work that he sued the USPS for $775,000 for using the image on a first class stamp. Gaylord won all of his claims in Federal Court in 2010 save a fair use claim which is appealable to the US Supreme Court or US Court of Federal Claims.  So a tribute to the Veterans who epitomize the phrase "Freedom is Not Free"  must be a sketch of a snowy memory.

The rest of the Korean Memorial is a Pool of Remembrance, which bears the inscription
"Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met."

As Veterans return from the hot spots of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Central Africa, we must  recall the wise words of President John F. Kennedy "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." We should honor those in the armed forces who by their very service were on the front lines of defending liberty. But we must also remember that we are all called to defend the freedoms that we cherish.  

10 November 2011

Tolling the Bell to Honor the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

On November 10, 1975 the freight ship S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald sank during a storm on  Lake Superior. The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald was the worst loss on the Great Lakes, as the crew of all 29 sailors perished along with the $24 million freighter and a cache of 26 tons of taconite. The Edmund Fitzgerald carried its cargo of iron ore from mines in Duluth, Minnesota heading toward mills in the lower Great Lakes.  During the vessel’s final voyage, the “Mighty Fitz” confronted a mighty winter storm in Canadian waters with near hurricane force winds and waves of up to 35 feet high. The crew gallantly braved the gale force winds for a day and a half before succumbing to the stormy waters.  It is speculated that most of the crew were swept off the deck  by the massive waves before the full broke and the ship sank.

This maritime tragedy was immortalized in the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”, which was written and composed by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in 1976.  In the midst of album oriented rock acts and brief advent of disco, this Dorian mode epic ballad nearly topped the American Billboard charts as well as conquering the Canadian charts.  The chart prominence may have been aided by Canadian Content requirements for music played on “the Big 8" CKLW-AM (Windsor, Ont.), which was a top rated station at the time in Detroit, Toledo as well as Cleveland.

Lightfoot was inspired to write the ballad after reading an article about the sinking of the Big Fitz in Newsweek. The song was a straightforward recounting of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but there was some artistic license.  Obviously, there was no way to know the crew’s final moments. There also some were slight inaccuracies, as the ship was actually bound for Zug Island (near Detroit) but eventually it was supposed to have docked in Cleveland for the winter. And Mariners’ Church (a.k.a. “The Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral”) was not a musty old hall in Detroit where they prayed. Lightfoot has strived to correct some of these details during recent live performances.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald still resonates after 36 years as the laconic chronicle of the heroism of the lost sailors.  Few epic poems permeate the American consciousness like Lightfoot’s magnus opus. There are numerous cultural references to the tune.  A character in the film High Fidelity (2000) declared in the Top Five on songs on death.

The song has been covered many times.  A version that captures the haunting, surreal nature of sense of the surprise storm is by the Dandy Warhols from their Black album (2004). This may be inspired by the fact that the Daddy Warhol’s lead singer was related to one of the Big Fitz lost crew.

On the eve of Veterans Day, as we also celebrate the anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps, it is worthy to toll the bell of honor 29 times for the valor of the lost crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald.