Friday, November 21, 2008

Interview With Weekend America's John Moe, p.1 of 3

[Contributor's Note: It was a harried day and circumstances kept me from being at my best...On top of work demanding that I, you know, worked, the digital recording device I acquired for this purpose was not working as promised. The appointed time for the phone call East was nigh approaching, and I decided to proceed while taking harried notes on the computer; a process that had previously served me well in my daily job. I mention this only because what follows is not a complete representation of the conversation that ensued. Mr. Moe is an extremely amusing man, there were several moments where I was too busy laughing in order to transcribe everything properly (for example, one word: Tinklenberg). All of this simply as a preamble to a disclaimer: If it seems like Mr. Moe is a little stiff, nor as uniquely humorous as you'd expect him to be, the fault lies with the interviewer, and not the interviewee. -- TBO]

For those who wonder about such things, John Moe answers the phone as amiably as you’d expect. It was one full week after the election, and the week leading into November 8th's edition of Weekend America ended up being hectic: Moe had self-produced a segment that focused on stories meant to engender an understanding of Barack Obama the man and his charisma; he also worked on a separate piece asking Alaskan Public Radio's Lori Townsend “what the hell’s going on up there?” [At the time it seemed the Alaskans had voted to send convicted Senator Ted Stevens back to Washington DC, only to have them send him back.]

SEI: So, what the hell is going on up there?

John Moe: Well [according to Townsend], what's happening there is simply that Stevens has been good to his constituents, as well as directing business toward the Native Corporations [Alaska does not have Native American Reservations, instead they use corporations - TBO], and they’re saying “he’s taken care of us, so we’re going to take care of him. And we don’t care what a bunch of guys in suits in DC have to say about him.”

So now, if Stevens goes--they’re still counting votes, the absentees, the undervotes, and the other random uncounted votes that are still trickling in. If Stevens goes, he’s going to get kicked out of the Republican caucus, but that’s depending on the result of his appeal; if that’s denied, he’s going to jail...which is strange to think about, but there it is.

SEI: What’s going on with the Al Franken race?

JM: Right now, after the miscalculated count is accounted for, Franken’s down about 206 votes, with a few ballots from Minneapolis/St. Paul yet to be counted. Those are likely to lean toward Franken, so, we’ll see.

SEI: So, there’s going to be a recount.

JM: Yeah, the recount is going to happen. Judges are making the decisions on how it’s going to happen, and there will be a recount starting in about a week.

SEI: Speaking of “what’s going on up there?” Michelle Bachmann, how’d she win her race?

JM: What you’re seeing there is the power of incumbency, beyond that I’m not sure, I’m not familiar with that constituency. From what I hear, she lives in a very conservative district.

She ran a radio ad in the St. Paul area, where she said that she doesn’t always use the right words, that she was misquoted and taken out of context by the liberal media, which is very hard for her to do with a straight face. She was on MSNBC, with Chris Matthews, plainly and repeatedly stating that Obama was anti-American.

But I think the people there were thinking that their world wasn’t on fire, it was looking like Obama was going to win the White House, and they were okay with that, as long as they send her to DC to keep the Democrats in check.

She did run some negative ads on Tinklenberg (he wasn’t exactly a saint, he did have some strikes against him). He wasn’t like the Lone Ranger or anything.

However, he does have what I think to be the best name ever in the realm of politics: Elwyn Tinklenberg.

It's like his parents were thinking, “well, he already has a funny surname...He’s not gonna run for office with a name like that, so, what the hell? Let’s call him Elwyn.”


His nickname...He goes by El. Which is sort of Spanish sounding, El Tinklenberg. [Radio serial announcer’s voice:] “Don’t worry, miss, here comes El Tinklenberg.”

[More laughter.]

Still, nickname-wise, El is the best he could do; otherwise, he’d have to go with Winnie...or “E”. No, El was the best he could hope for.

Next: Small Town Conservatives & What Barack Obama's About

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Big Three Bailout Update: Strike One

In a move so obvious one wonders why it wasn't done during the first bailout wave, Congress decided against giving the Detroit auto manufacturers the bailout they've been seeking. The reason why is simple: The Big Three didn't show up with a plan as to what they would've done with the money.

Debates over whether the government should give them this money aside (see comments field), let's look at this objectively.

We are taught that corporations should be treated as individuals, as an entity with its own set of rights and privileges. Using that criteria, these goobers went to the bank asking for a $10k loan to pay off its gambling debts without collateral or a feasible plan that they would somehow pay it back.

I suppose we should be grateful that Congress learned some kind of lesson after the banking industry did just that the first time through.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apres L'Honeymoon, Le Deluge, Oui.

Only two weeks to the day Barack Obama was elected, and it's already happened: Left wing bloggers have gone to Defcon 2.

Getting here was remarkably and understandably easy. First, as Team Obama started getting assembled with familiar names, stories came wafting out of Chicago that raised more than a few eyebrows. Next, the leaking that Obama was considering making Hillary Clinton Secretary of State created an atmosphere equivalent to the blogger version of a PUMA mentality. Then, today, the much anticipated private ballot vote on what to do with Joe Lieberman; which led to results that at best could be called pragmatic, but feel grossly disappointing.

(If the world of politics were the nuclear holocaust, surely Lieberman is the cockroach in that environment.)

Howard Dean capping that adventure by saying he wasn't bothered by the outcome, as it was what Obama had wanted...Well, it was entirely the wrong thing to say.

I am reminded of the episode of Frontline, that aired about a month ago, called The Choice. In the segment dedicated to Obama's stint as the president of the Harvard Law Review, they interview other Review members, liberals and conservatives, first about their surprise, then about the jubilation the liberals felt at finally having a chance to have their views be the prevalent bias of the Review. Only to have those expectations dashed when Obama wouldn't bend to their every whim.

This is the only thing that tempers my reaction to the events described above.

Obama said he wanted to see a government that engaged the populace. Well, he's succeeded with me; I am now paying attention to every damn thing that's coming out of that camp.

All while keeping a close eye on the lame duck as well. It seems he and his minions are going around trying to leave their mark in subtle and insidious ways.

If that's not enough to cause some alarm, here's an example of the kind of thing his administration is capable of when they think no one is watching.

Or there's always Katrina, Gitmo, Plame, etc. etc. ad nauseum.
Bailing Out Detroit

Since the public eye has swung back toward the financial crisis the only thing I hear on the radio are interviews with executives from domestic automakers or the unions. On top of attempting to get government assistance, in both Canada and the U.S., they appear to be trying to make their case to the buying public. We are supposed to soften up and encourage our governments to hand over enormous amounts of "short term" cash to car manufacturers because they are the backbone of our collective economies. 

For now, this is a generally true statement. But who, other than a strict conservative, wants that to continue being the case? The US has already carved out 700 billion to distribute amongst the most guilty parties responsible for this crisis. Now, other than the direct link to the oil industry, the second-most culpable group wants money to stay alive? They don't appear to be even cracking a smile when they ask. The 25 billion dollar figure that keeps floating around, by most estimates, won't even cover GM's troubles over the next two years. Forget about Chrysler and Ford. And what would they do with this infusion of cash that would help them become viable in this new world order? I don't think they have it in them to change this much. They're dinosaurs and have already been out of touch for more than twenty years. May I remind anybody  "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

I've been thinking about it quite a bit, because it's unavoidable, and I am personally turning a cold shoulder to all big 3 automakers. We are trying so hard in North America to keep using the broken system because so many are plugged into it and don't know anything else. But, it's time for everyone to reclaim that pioneering spirit that we all grew up learning about in our history books and decide what the new backbone of our economies is going to be. New clean and renewable energy research and infrastructure construction alone would likely replace the jobs lost by the automakers going under. And that's only one new wave of industry (that is being blocked at every turn by the desperate bureaucrats still grasping onto their old world power).

If the governments support this buyout, who is next in line? I'm sure whoever they are, they will make a strong case about their past glories and importance to the overall economy. It's all just too absurd. Whatever happened to competition - fair and square?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Revenge is a dish best served?

I read this article last week in Salon about Obama's plans to investigate torture under Bush with great interest. The torture issue has been a particular sticking point for me, as it flies in the face of what I believe the US can be, dare I say "should" (I have issues with that word) be.

(Another part of this was my frustration and dismay with the rhetoric, which I felt spent too little time on the fact that torture doesn't work. Intelligence gained through torture is always viewed as suspect at best, as it is so reasonable to believe a torturee would say anything to get the torture to stop. That's why we don't torture confessions out of criminals - the Inquisition never became the foundational basis for an effective system of justice for a reason.)

But, it has remained kicking around my head because it begs the question of how much Obama's administration will, and how much we want them to, investigate and potentially prosecute wrongdoing by the outgoing administration. (And, yes, I know the linked article specifically addresses this fact, saying that prosecution isn't the stated goal of the torture commission. But, as an investigation with no possibility of prosecution would be a pointless exercise, would contain the implicit assumption that there is nothing to find heinous enough to warrant prosecution, we can safely consider legal action as a possibility.)

Do we want any measure of revenge for the last eight years of negligent incompetence and possible willful deceit? Would you have pardoned Nixon?

Because, I have to tell you, I want some measure of accountability. In particular, and this is something I wanted more forcefully addressed in the campaign despite the political peril, I want a real accounting of the war in Iraq. I want every supporter or the war and very especially the architects of the war to publicly justify every military death and injury, every taxpayer dollar, every civilian casualty. I want the new administration to force a public dialogue, to put to rest the narratives that the Hawks sling around about our decision to invade.

This isn't a simple question, because it goes beyond any personal ax we might have to grind. To demand accountability for the past eight years puts our focus, the Obama administration's focus, on the past, and we have problems to solve that demand foresight and concentrated effort. Will too much focus on redressing of grievances undermine efforts for change?

Or, will fears that it would undermine those efforts provide a convenient cover for some truly incompetent and downright evil to escape accountability?

Butchering Syntax? Ya Betcha!

"She's Gone Oh I, Oh I'd
better learn how to face it
She's Gone Oh I, Oh I'd
pay the devil to replace her
She's Gone - what went wrong?"

Nothing! Because she's not gone. She keeps popping up like HSV Type 2. She's The Neverending Story. She's excruciating. She's the rock forever rolling down the side of the mountain and I'm Sisyphus. Only I'm pissed. And I ain't finding the peace and inner understanding in the absurdity of it all, Albert baby.


I finally break down and get cable on election night and now, flipping through countless channels full of home shopping networks and Chuck Norris ab contraptions, I feel like I'm part of a sick game of Alaskan roulette. There she is not making sense with Matt. Here she comes running-on her sentences with Larry. Here we have her clad in her (Neiman Marcus?) trademark business suit and rimless glasses, inserting moose hot dogs into cheesy buns, hangin' with Greta. By the way, awful face job Ms. van Susteren. Any more lift and you'd have ended up with a goatee...two, three, four. I'll let that one sink in. I'll be here all week. Tip your servers well.

Exhibit one: "My concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska’s investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars."

Pardon my admittedly middle-of-the-road command of the Queen's English but: WTF? The above-listed paragraph ought to elicit a more emphatic what-what-whaaaaat than Mike Barnicle's double take a few days ago on "Morning Joe."

Exhibit two: "Sitting here in these chairs that I’m going to be proposing but in working with these governors who again on the front lines are forced to and its our privileged obligation to find solutions to the challenges facing our own states every day being held accountable, not being just one of many just casting votes or voting present every once in awhile, we don’t get away with that."

Again, excuse my lack of cooth and tact but is it possible our Wild Wordswoman of Wasilla is some sort of retarded person? Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just don't want someone like that in charge of the most influential and powerful country (for now) in the world. Not now, not in 2012, not ever. The language skeelz (or lack thereof) speak for themselves. If the GOP is to re-tool itself into what it once was (see Lincoln), it needs to somehow ameliorate the ambition of this weird woman, and keep her up in Alaska, hunting elk out of helicopters. By the way, hunting animals with high-powered weapons can only be called sport if both sides are equally armed, no? But I digress.

To Matt Lauer, Larry King, Greta van Susteren and the rest of these self-important talking head bozos I bequeath what Dick Cavett once said to an elusive guest: "Were you able to hear any part of my question?"

In closing, I leave you with this gem of an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Let’s talk about some of the current issues on the agenda right now. And I speak to you as someone who is a emerging as a potential leader, not only in the Republican Party, but maybe if you want to run again for president or vice president down the road.

Right now a big issue, should the U.S. government, the federal government bail out the Detroit — the big three automakers?

PALIN: Oh, that is the discussion of the day. And there is going to come a point here where absolutely the federal government must play an appropriate role in shoring up some of these industries that are hurting and will ultimately hurt our entire economy and the world’s economy if there aren’t some better decisions being made.

But we also have to start shifting some debate here in our country and start talking about personal responsibility and responsibility of management in some of these corporations and companies so that from henceforth it’s not assumed that the federal government is going to be bailing out everybody who is going to soon line up, Wolf, for more taxpayer assistance.

And I’m talking about personal responsibility too in terms of homeowners and in terms of folks who maybe have extended their own credit. Sure, predatory lenders are to blame in all of this also, but we have got to make sure, for instance, we’re not talked into buying a $300,000 house, because really we know we can only afford a $100,000 house.

And we’ve got to start living those lessons that we try to teach our children in terms of not living beyond our means and extending our own personal credit to the point of not being able to pay our monthly bills and then expecting government to grow and be the answer.

BLITZER: So, sorry, I’m still waiting for the answer, should the government bail out the big three automakers?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Et Tu, Purple One?

I am not wholly surprised by it, but it still hurts me a little to read that Prince, the freakiest freak that ever freaked, the man responsible for my losing my virginity and much of my sex life in the late 80s to early 90s, has become the kind of prude his early critics would be proud of. Much worse, he's coming out and spouting the sort of homophobic rhetoric that Jehova's Witnessess, the religion he recently converted to, are known for (via Gawker).

When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion—Prince tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

Simply cutting and pasting that into this entry makes me want to sigh heavily, and there's a part of me that wishes that I could give some leeway to the man responsible for writing such ridiculous-libidinous-over-the-top lyrics as those found in Pussy Control. There's a part of me that understands the only reason he went looking for religion is the pain he went through after losing his son to a rare disease about 11 years ago. There's a part of me that believes that when he talks about "people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever" he is likely referring to himself, and that he sees the death of his son as "God's punishment."

But none of that can wash. Intolerance is intolerance, and Prince has now officially lost me. To think, I even made it past Emancipation.

On a related topic, the next planned major protest against Prop 8 and similar measures is on Wednesday, December 10th (coinciding with International Human Rights Day), in what is being called A Day Without A Gay. Please do what you can to support our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Media Watch: Business as Usual

Lest we all think media outlets are severely biased and at each other's throats, last week Fox and NBC put our concerns to rest with their announced plans to pool video news gathering á la the Associated Press or Reuters.

Executives from NBC and Fox say the move is intended to save money in the economically-strained business of local news in which costs for a microwave truck and crew sent out to cover stories, can run a station into the red quickly and efficiently. And so, rather than each station sending out the required people and materiel to cover a story, the combined operation assigns just one of each, saving a reporter, a crew, and perhaps even a chopper for each gig. The journalistic Montagues and Capulets say this is a pilot project, hoping to roll it out nationwide.

In truth, NBC and Fox have been passionately romancing one another for more than a year in the carnal bed of business called Hulu, to which they give new episodes of their shows, sell advertising, then innocently tell the actors, writers, and directors of those shows that there's virtually no revenue flow from online ventures. This new alliance involves the very news divisions whose commentators are putting on the unrestrained, brutal show of mutual hatred. Hello Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann!

On CNN Sunday, James "The Ragin' Cajun" Carville reminded us that in terms of what's said publicly, "you have to discount the campaign by 80 percent. That happens in politics." Having been privy to off-air, backstage conversations in the past, my guess is that he's going low with that number. The salacious all-out brawls that are platinum for Fox News and MSNBC ratings are equally insubstantial and ethereal when it comes to the business of making money.

That, dear friends, does not cut down partisan lines.