Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

You Never Miss It Until It's Gone

With the holiday and all, I haven't been reading as widely as I usually do. Thus, I missed a recent post from Don Byrd. I don't know which newspapers publish columns by Chuck Norris, but apparently he had one earlier this week worrying about the future state of Thanksgiving. Issues with my Blackberry, unfortunately, are preventing me from going into more detail myself (I've already lost most of this post once), so I'll just let Don explain:

This past week, a Newsweek/Washington Post editorial labeled presidential Thanksgiving Day proclamations as "cracks in the wall of separation." The author explained, "The problem with these proclamations, it seems to me, is that they pave the way for public acceptance of gross violations of the constitutional separation of church and state." What?!

Pow! A right cross to the kisser! Exploding indignation like that is the rhetorical jujitsu we most associate with Norris - followed closely by his constant reminders that Thomas Jefferson worshipped in the Capitol building, thereby negating the pesky "wall of separation" as something the Founder didn't really mean. They're both effective punches, delivered here with a righteous fury. ("What?!") I mean, he's right. How could the editorial board of the Post print such a thing? ...!

Of course, one small problem, the piece he is quoting was not a "Washington Post editorial" at all, but an online response by author Susan Jacoby to a panel question about whether presidential proclamations of prayer and Thanksgiving are appropriate. But facts are for pansies! Not for roundhouse-wielding protectors of the Judeo-Christian tradition like Chuck Norris! Not when evildoers like the Washington Post must be knocked down!

Go read Don's whole post. And if you're up for it, check out Norris in his entirety and have fun knocking down his arguments yourself.

UPDATE--Wow. All this Blackberry blogging knocked me off balance more than I realized. I didn't even put a headline on this post. No one contacted me to comment, though, so maybe had I not added it now, no one would've ever known.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hey Hey, My My

In previous years, I've written about Buy Nothing Day, which is more commonly known as Black Friday. Because the economy is doing so badly these days (yes, I know you're already aware of that), I was of two minds about writing about it this year, but since Stevie T brought up the matter in a comment, I decided to say something.

Spending of various sorts is important these days to keep the economy moving, but I'm not sure that going into further personal debt is quite the best way to inject cash into the economy right at the moment. Still, for those who were so inclined, I didn't necessarily think I should try to force myself between them and their wallet.

A couple of things happened today, though, that should serve as cautionary tales against our being too eager to get up in the middle of the night to save a few bucks on appliances. A Wal-Mart employee was killed in a stampede (and more people were injured) in New York. Customers were simply too eager to get into the store. And then on the opposite coast, two men shot each other at a Toys 'R' Us. People are getting desperate. Surely those are both good arguments to have stayed in your bed Friday morning, if not to have kept our wallets in our poclets all day. Maybe next year's Black Friday will work out better.

UPDATED--to correct various misspellings and poor construction. I've been posting (and will likely continue to) over the weekend from my Blackberry, but it's never felt quite so much like posting without a net before. I'll try to pay more attention to mechanics as I continue.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christmas Time Is Here Again

All right, all right. We've made it to the day after Thanksgiving. It's OK to start preparing for Christmas. Any complaints I've had about premature carols and Christmas decorations in stores (and houses!) end now.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Have a Great Thanksgiving!

Clearly, Donald has nothing on Sarah Palin.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Credit Where Credit's Due

As I was watching Barbara Walters's interview with the Obamas, I couldn't help but notice how presidential Barack Obama looks. I then started thinking back on how he got to this point, and I realized that he'd never have made it without the contribution of Illinois Republicans. At this time of thanksgiving, I'm thankful for them.

One of my concerns when Obama announced his candidacy was that it was too early, that he wasn't experienced enough. I could probably find posts to this effect in my archives, but I'm not going to take the time to look tonight, but I was worried that Obama hadn't been tested on the campaign trail. Clearly, he ultimately proved my worries unfounded, but we had to wait to see him in full campaign mode to realize that. My doubts arose because Obama's campaign for Senate four years ago was quite an odd one. During the primaries, he ran against a number of other Democrats and was mostly unknown at the time. The leading candidates encountered various problems, and their campaigns either imploded or never got off the ground. When the dust cleared, Obama was the strongest candidate standing and thus won the nomination. Surely he'd face a tougher campaign in the general. After all, the race was to replace a sitting Republican who chose not to run again. But, sure enough, the Republican candidate ran into problems and had to withdraw from the race. State Republicans had already had problems with former Governor George Ryan (who's currently serving time and reportedly angling for a presidential pardon when W heads out of office), and they were very much at a loss about what to do next. They finally brought in Alan Keyes to run against Obama. That basically allowed Obama to take the Senate seat in a walk, but more importantly, it freed him up to campaign for other Democrats around the country. He'd made a splash at the convention that summer and was a hot attraction on the campaign trail. The result of all of this is that he'd already built up a huge amount of good will. People around the country got to see him, and Democrats were appreciative and, to an extent, owed him. Had Obama needed to remain in Illinois to actually campaign for the office he was seeking, it might have taken him longer to build up the political capital and credibility needed to mount a successful run for president.

So remember Illinois Republicans tomorrow as you're chowing down on turkey, and be very appreciative.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Exciting World of High Finance

While I'm uncomfortably content to obliviously ignore the economic travails coming our way, I'm afraid that I'm not going to be able to get away with that forever. While I'm not fascinated with economics, I can hold my own in math in general, so I assume that it's just the fact that I don't want to know that makes my eyes glaze over when I start writing. That's not good for me, though, so I'm going to have to work my way through it.

And there's no better way to start than making a visit to Dr. Krugman. Earlier today, he responded to John Taylor's piece in the Wall Street Journal:

Taylor's argument against the obvious answer — government spending as stimulus — is pure gobbledygook:

The theory that a short-run government spending stimulus will jump-start the economy is based on old-fashioned, largely static Keynesian theories. These approaches do not adequately account for the complex dynamics of a modern international economy, or for expectations of the future that are now built into decisions in virtually every market.

Translation: la la la I can't hear you.

It's good to see he's putting that Nobel Prize to good use. He's also questioning a recent move by the Fed:

OK, so the Fed is planning to buy obligations of the GSEs — as well as securities guaranteed by the GSEs. This is in an effort to lower spreads. The Fed will in effect pay for these purchases by having the Treasury issue U.S. government debt.

But the GSEs have been nationalized. Their obligations are already U.S. government debt. What's going on here?

Funny, that's how I feel most of the time around these subjects. Meanwhile, over at Calculated Risk, we learn that the FDIC's "problem list" of banks has grown by 50 percent--up to 171 from 117. Good times.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twenty-One Aphorisms

After yesterday's post about Manny's I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits from people looking for Valerie Jarrett and 21 aphorisms. It turns out that in the New York Times profile I linked to earlier today, it mentioned that Jarrett had what she called "Life Lessons," which were made up of . . . well, you've figured it out by now. I apparently wasn't the only one getting such hits, however. The Times itself was inundated with requests and so, by public demand, it got the list from Jarrett and made it public.

Now we can figure out which ones can help us.

1. To thine own self be true.
2. All leaders are passionate about their beliefs, even the ones you don’t like.
3. Trust your gut after you have listened, studied and learned from those with a diverse range of opinions.
4. You never know who is watching, so work as hard as you can regardless of the assignment.
5. Don’t stay in your comfort zone too long.
6. As my grandmother would say: put yourself in the path of lightning.
7. Be flexible because opportunities rarely knock at the most opportune moments.
8. Take time to be kind to everyone.
9. Focus on your priorities.
10. In order to lead, someone must follow.
11. Effective leadership depends on your ability to connect and motivate people, not on your title, position or power.
12. Set high standards for yourself and your team (lead by example).
13. Take the time to develop personal relationships all along the way, and really cultivate those upon whom you depend. In order for them to help you, they must know you. And you must know what will motivate them. Nurture them so they can help you lead. They must believe in not just your ideas, but you.
14. Good will matters.
15. Women are particularly good at listening and studying their audience.
16. Have the courage to make tough decisions.
17. When you lead, not everyone will follow, and that’s okay.
18. You will fail. Don’t take your failures or your success too seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. Trust me. It helps.
19. Affiliate yourself with worthy institutions, lead by good people who share your core values.
20. You can have it all, just not at the same time, and in the proportions you may want.
21. To those who much is given, much is expected.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Go Get a Sandwich at Manny's

It appears that it's time for another paean to Manny's. The deli has long been a Chicago favorite, and it certainly has anything but a low profile, but it got a shot of national attention on Friday when the president-elect stopped by to pick up a few corned beef sandwiches (and the latkes that are often served with them). He was there with adviser Valerie Jarrett, and they each got a take-out sandwich and then took one more for Rahm Emanuel. In fact, this may have been more than a simple photo op at a Chicago landmark--we may have received an insight into how the Obama administration will work on a day-to-day level. In The Price of Loyalty, Ron Suskind's account of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's experience in the Bush White House, Chief of Staff Andy Card is presented as the guy who gets the cheeseburgers. Whatever else we may understand about the incoming administration, we now know that Rahm Emanuel won't be the sandwich guy.

But anyway, I started this post to talk about Manny's. They're known for their corned beef, and it is indeed delicious, but I've got to admit that I'm partial to their pastrami. I've got a standing appointment with a group of friends to meet there one Saturday a month. I was traveling in September and missed going for that month, and boy, by the time October came around, I sure was jonesing for my Manny's fix. If I ever have to miss a month again, I'm going to have to head down to the deli on my own, just to keep a decent amount in my system. We're halfway between months--if I can't hold out until December, I may just make a trip down there after Thanksgiving.

UPDATE--On their main site, Manny's has added a slide show of Obama's visit. In what we can only assume is an unintentional oversight, everybody's favorite counter man, Gino, is nowhere to be seen (he's just out of camera-range in the first photo in the set). Fortunately, though, you can get a glimpse of him, just over Obama's shoulder, in the photo accompanying this profile of Valerie Jarrett in Sunday's New York Times.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22

We're now 45 years away from the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and we don't particularly seem to have any more answers than we did shortly following the event itself. The National Archives has some of the documentation, so of you're interested in pursuing your own theories, go right ahead. This being 2008, various permutations of the Zapruder film are available on YouTube. Here's one that seems like it's been stretched a bit but appears to be relatively complete.

As we get further and further away from the event itself, the details become hazier and hazier and it becomes more and more difficult to work out whatever actually happened. But theories and research will continue to go forward, and who knows--maybe one of them will point us in the right direction.

It All Adds Up

The thought first occurred to me during the election, but I quickly dismissed because the stakes were too high. But what if McCain knew he had no chance to pull out a win? What if he never intended to put Sarah Palin forward as a legitimate vice presidential nominee but had some other motive? Since the election's over, it seems like it's becoming more and more apparent that there was more at work in the pick than strictly political considerations.

I think Sarah Palin is an elaborate art project. If Marcel DuChamp had been into performance art , this is something that he might've done nearly a century ago. I can think of a few reasons--perhaps it's a test to see how much the electorate will take. As an example, if I were trying to create something along these lines, I would've been hard pressed to have come up with something more appropriate than the vice-presidential debate.

And now, just in time for Thanksgiving, here comes a new video that reinforces all those thoughts. Back in Alaska, Palin staged a photo op in which she "pardons" a turkey from the slaughterhouse. Sure, that's a cliche, but how many politicians have then followed that up by giving an impromptu press conference with turkeys being slaughtered in the background? I'm only providing a link because, although it doesn't focus on the details, this video can be somewhat disturbing. But look at it? Is there any other way you'd line up the scene if this was exactly what you were trying to present?

Although I point this out, I think we should continue pretending as though we don't notice. My theory is that Sarah Palin and whoever is actually behind her will continue to become more and more outlandish until someone calls them on the ruse. Instead of revealing what we know, let's see how far they're willing to go.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Senators Are Not Like You and Me

So now we know why Joe Lieberman didn't get his standing ovation this time. The Senate was saving that for seven-time convicted felon Ted Stevens, who was just denied another term by his constituents in Alaska. Matt Yglesias points out that senators don't usually put on such a display just because their colleagues lose an election. Certainly his longevity counts for something, but you have to wonder whether they'd have done the same thing if he'd simply been defeated. I wonder what makes him different from all those other losing Republicans? Surely it couldn't be his brush with the law. Surely not. I do wonder, though, if, after the Senate is finished feting him, will Stevens pick up his duffle bag and wander out of town, just like Bill Bixby used to do?

On an unrelated note--at least unrelated beyond the fact that everything seems to be falling apart around us--the Dow continued to crash, dropping another 444 points. I think I'm just going to go to be before I get even more depressed. (On the bright side, Asian markets are looking up for the time being. Will this be reflected on Wall Street on Friday?)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quick Hits

Just a little more about Lieberman, and then I hope we'll be through. Sam Stein has an enlightening report about the session that allowed Lieberman to hold on to his position in the caucus, and he relates how little choice senators were given by the Democratic leadership. Lieberman seems to be able to play the inside political game like a master, even if his electoral vote counts seem to be shrinking.

Earlier today, Mike Chary suggested that the Lieberman problem be solved by having Obama place him in his Cabinet. On first blush, this sounded ridiculous, but the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that this might just be what Obama had up his sleeve. Although Obama didn't publicly say that he wanted to see Lieberman keep his gavel on the Homeland Security committee, he was very clear that he wanted to see him stay in the Democratic caucus. If he has anything like this up his sleeve, he would've been seen as thwarting the Senate leadership if they'd drummed Lieberman out of their club. But now, that wouldn't be a barrier to moving him up (and out). What might be a good fit? Homeland Security? He's remaining the chairman of Homeland Security in the Senate, so he's got as much training as anyone else would. Oh, sure, he didn't do much in that role, but the Department of Homeland Security is such a mess that it may not be viable to do anything with it anyway. There are reports that Homeland Security will go to Arizona governor Janet Napolitano (thus neutralizing John McCain's biggest threat for his next senatorial contest--what's that about?), but if that's true, surely there's another unobtrusive position in the administration where Obama could allow Lieberman to fade into obscurity (Office of Faith-Based Initiatives?).

Missouri has finally counted its vote, and it unofficially went to McCain (the actual result hasn't been certified yet). I'm just as glad to see this, because I've been annoyed at all the fuss made over Missouri and the fact that it's voted for the winner in every presidential election since 1956. Their streak's broken, so get over it.

But after seeing the reports, it started to sink in to me that the last time Missouri threw its electoral votes to the candidate who did not then take them to the White House, it was when Dwight Eisenhower faced Adlai Stevenson for the second time! In 1952, Missouri voted for the World War general, but in 1956, the state voted against him? And we considered the Show-Me State a good indication of how the nation as a whole was likely to go? Life can get weird some time.

Tom Daschle appears to be Obama's pick for Health and Human Services. I don't have much to say on that, but people who should know seem to think that this is a strong indication that the Obama administration is being primed to make significant strides in health care. Now that's something to be hopeful about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Senatorial Updates

It appears that the Democratic numbers for the Senate have reached 58--Mark Begich has pulled out a victory in Alaska over Ted Stevens. Not all votes have been counted, but the number of uncounted votes is smaller than the lead Begich has put together. I'm not quite sure what the symbolism is, but today is also Stevens's 85th birthday. According to the Anchorage Daily News, there may still be a recount, but recent history suggests that Alaskan recount totals don't vary widely from the original counts. The upside to this is that God has chosen not to open this particular door for Sarah Palin, so there's no possibility of a Washington job in her immediate future. The downside is that there will be fewer Incredible Hulk ties in the Senate well.

Of course, there was a less exciting development today, as well. As expected, Senate Democrats caved completely and declared to Joe Lieberman that all is forgiven. Well, on their side, anyway. At least as far as I've heard, Lieberman hasn't made any statement about whether or not he remains in fear of a 60-seat Democratic majority that may be getting closer (and of which he may now become a part.) It's not clear how much this might've reflected Obama's preference. Howard Dean suggests that Obama is pleased with the resolution, although he doesn't spell out that this followed Obama's direct wishes. Another piece of evidence toward this conclusion, though, is that it appears as if Dick Durbin, the senior senator from Illinois took a major part in working for this resolution. Although I wouldn't suggest that Durbin is Obama's proxy in the Senate at this point, I would expect that Durbin is likely privy to the president-elect's thoughts on the issue.

So we're stuck with Lieberman. Now what? Adam B at Daily Kos has some ideas--Lieberman should make himself available to help Jim Martin in Georgia campaign for his run off and help Al Franken with his Minnesota recount in any way he can. The Democratic caucus has to stay together, after all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What Age of Piracy Are We in Now?

If the Golden Age of Piracy took place in during the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth, what does that say about us 300 years later? Were the Barbary Coast pirates in Tripoli at the beginning of the 1800s considered the Silver Age? Are there other pirate ages that I'm not aware of (certainly possible)? So can we call ourselves the Bronze Age of Piracy?

Those Somali pirates have been busy. There was the hijacking of the oil tanker a little while ago, and more recently they took a grain ship from Hong Kong. I can understand the desire to take what's not yours, and I certainly see how the open sea could make people feel like there's no law or authority. But what still confuses me is the question of where the heck the pirates expect to bury treasure such as two million barrels of oil or 36,000 metric tons of wheat. That can't be easy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pure Political Muscle

I guess you've got to give him credit. Tomorrow is the big vote among the Democratic caucus about what to do with Lieberman, and according to a number of sources, he's essentially going to be let off the hook. The Democrats will provide some sort of vague slap on the wrist, and Lieberman will act vaguely contrite, and that's that. Not exactly a standing ovation, but not a bad little demonstration for basically betraying his party.

I'm not sure how it happened, but if this is how it goes down, Lieberman won this by framing the debate as one of retribution versus forgiveness. Since when is punishment for wrongdoing strictly a matter of retribution. Do we punish criminals because of revenge or because actions have consequences. When a child is bad, do parents punish them just to get back at them for whatever it is that they did? Or is there something about learning responsibility mixed in there, too?

Among the various other things that Lieberman has done during the campaign, just two weeks ago, Lieberman discussed his "fear" of the Democrats gaining a 60-seat "veto-proof" majority in the Senate. That was on election day! After he was already trying to make amends with Democrats. What better response could the other Democrats have but to make Lieberman part of that majority? How else could he sabotage it from the inside?

Sorry to milk what's quickly becoming a tired punch line, but that's not change we can believe in.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Running on the Spot

I'm not sure whether I'll have a chance to write anything more substantial today or not, so here's a little offering for a Sunday afternoon.

This is the Jam from around their peak, after they'd released what turned out to be their last album. It looked like they were still headed higher and higher, but we didn't realize that the end was moving in. I don't know whether anyone caught it at the time, but maybe if we'd listened between the lines of lyrics like this a bit more closely, we'd have realized that time was running out.

Pastimes in Hard Times

The board game Monopoly came to prominence during the Great Depression when, it's always seemed to me, people enjoyed the fantasy of being real estate moguls. Now that we see to be entering into hard times again, the franchise seems to be getting a new lease on life. Monopoly is on track to come to the movies, and it's set to be directed by Ridley Scott. According to The Hollywood Reporter, that decision has been made "with an eye toward giving it a futuristic sheen along the lines of his iconic 'Blade Runner.'" Certainly that's what Monopoly's been missing all these decades. We're going to find out that Boardwalk is overrun by replicants, and only the top-hatted Mr. Pennybags can go after them to send them to jail. But does one replicant have a "Get Out of Jail Free" card?

It looks to be riveting. We can only pray that Rutger Hauer's schedule is free to play the landlord of Marvin Gardens.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


If you were paying attention during the recent presidential campaign at all, however much else was up in the air, there was one thing of which you were certain: Joe the Plumber was going to release a book (note that I didn't say he was going to write a book). But if that was a worry to you, calm your mind. Everything's going to be fine.

There's no question that Joe brought substance to the campaign trail. If you were lucky enough to see Joe, you were guaranteed to hear detailed policy wonkery. That's why he challenged Obama on tax policy in the first place--he wanted to wallow in the fine print of IRS legalese. It was just a bonus that John McCain made a mascot of him through the rest of the campaign. Without Joe the Plumber, would we have known that the progressive tax system is Marxist? Would we have realized just how dangerous an Obama presidency could be to the state of Israel? Would we know any of the other esoterica he imparted to us throughout his short, 15-minute reign?

When you're working with a mind of such stature, it's only natural to worry that when the time comes to cash in, the person in question will try to water down his or her gifts in order to become more accessible to the lowest common denominator. A book by Joe the Plumber: Could it be any more than a collection of aphorisms, a mass of feel-good emptiness? Fortunately, the answer is yes. A man of Joe the Plumber's integrity would never buy into such nothingness:

"Everyone came at me to write a book. They had dollar signs in their eyes. '101 Things Joe the Plumber Knows' or some stupid s--- like that. Excuse me, I am sorry," he said. "You know I will get behind something solid, but I won't get behind fluff. I won't cash in, and when people do read the book they will figure out that I didn't cash in. At least I hope they figure that out."

For Joe the Plumber, it's all about something "solid." Content is king. There will be no fluff here.

Thanks for standing up for all of us, Joe.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Quick One

I've been having both computer problems and issues with Blogger tonight, so I'm pretty much out of patience by now. Fortunately, I can pass on a link that someone sent to me earlier today that takes the whole Lieberman issue from a different angle. It's an interesting angle, tying Obama's support of Lieberman to Chicago government's experience with Harold Washington back in the '80s and a little object lesson from Sam Spade. What do you think?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I So Have Nothing Tonight

Even my idea for making fun of how I have nothing to write about tonight wouldn't work out I was going to talk about what I didn't want to talk about, and then I was going to wonder if I was just tired or if I was losing my edge. I was then going to use the cover of the LCD Soundsystem single of that name as a nice little graphic at the end. But when I went to the LCD Soundsystem page to get the image, I realized that it doesn't actually say the name of the song, so to use it as an image would either be exactly the kind of insider condescension the song sends up or it would be useless reference that only a handful of readers would pick up (or is that redundant).

Oh, well. Maybe something will strike my fancy tomorrow. There ought to be plenty to choose from--actually, there is plenty, I just want to ignore it all for the time being. I'm not even going to go with my original intention of at least providing some links to a couple of intriguing stories. You're all experienced Internet surfers. I'm sure you can come up with something on your own. See you tomorrow (I guess).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just a Tech Illusion

It seemed to smell wrong to me last week, but I don't have the tech chops to have actually called CNN out on it. If you didn't catch it last week during their election coverage, CNN presented what it called holograms. Jessica Yellin beamed into Wolf Blitzer's set to report directly from the election scene in Chicago. Yellin gave a shout-out to Princess Leia, and Wolf complemented her on her excellent hologramness. A hologram is a 3-D image projected and observed in real space. I had nothing to back it up, but I felt certain that Wolf was talking to nothing at all and an image was being layed in before it got to our TV screens.

And sure enough, that's exactly what happened. Yellin explained that she was being filmed (or videoed, I'm not really sure) by 35 high-def cameras, which is how they got the 3-D effect. What she didn't say was that she was in the middle of a green-screen tent that allowed her to be superimposed on the TV screen. Despite what he implied, Wolf saw nothing, although he did have a nice big red dot on the floor to let him know where the "hologram" would appear to be on the television.

Interestingly, CNN let on to all of this a couple of days later. So what was the point, then? During one of the most important news broadcasts of the year, CNN wanted us to think that it was doing something that it doesn't have anything close to the proper technology to do. Why, exactly? It may have looked cool, but what precisely was it supposed to accomplish? It's been borne out that CNN's election numbers were accurate, but would it have been unfair for us to question those numbers at the time? Will we be able to trust CNN in the future?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Commemorate Veterans Day

Monday, November 10, 2008

Crime and Punishment

Yeah, OK, what Lieberman did on the campaign trail wasn't exactly a crime. In fact, it was nowhere near a crime, I'm just grabbing at a snappy title for this post. But that doesn't mean he shouldn't receive some sort of punishment.

There have been plenty of people who have been chomping at the bit to make Lieberman pay for turning against the Democratic party, for campaigning for Republican John McCain, for suggesting that it's a good idea to wonder if Barack Obama might be a Marxist, for addressing the Republican convention and insisting that Obama wanted to deny funding for the troops. If I'm not necessarily looking forward to Lieberman's comeuppance, I certainly think that he should pay a price for the decisions he's made. Lieberman's one of the main proponents of taking personal responsibility, so it's hard to take him at face value when he argues that we should let bygones be bygones. He's the one with everything to lose if they don't.

Unsurprisingly, given their reaction when Lieberman defeated the Democratic candidate for senator from Connecticut, the Democrats seem to be coming to their pal's aid. Evan Bayh insists that Lieberman should come forward and apologize: "If I said some things that came as offensive, I'm sorry, but they were, you know heartfelt in my support of John McCain." That's right, Lieberman should be forgiven for arguments he made in the heat of the campaign because he really meant them. That's some logic he's got there. Christopher Dodd (Christopher Dodd! About whom Lieberman told Imus after the 2006 election, "He says he's gonna bring a food taster to our first lunch meeting. I'm gonna bring Michael Corleone.") has come out to defend Lieberman and pull Obama into the whole conflict:

"What does Barack Obama want?" Dodd rhetorically asked reporters Friday in Hartford. "He's talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don't think he'd necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense."

Sure enough, word is now coming out that Obama wants Lieberman to continue to caucus with the Democrats. Exactly what Obama's terms would be is still up in the air.

Personally, I don't care if Lieberman wants to stay in the Democratic caucus. Why kick him out? Of course, it goes without saying that he should be given no enticement to stay. He should be stripped of seniority and of his committee chairs, but why would he ever expect otherwise? Unfortunately, he seems to. When Harry Reid talked to him about one condition of staying in the caucus being that he'd have to give up his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Lieberman branded the idea "unacceptable." Normally, I'd make some sort of snarky about his not being in a position to decide what's acceptable and what's not. Unfortunately, I'm beginning to think that maybe Lieberman realizes that he is in a position to make such statements. Does he know that the Democratic caucus (the very same one that he's just finished betraying) will back him regardless? Don't bet that they won't.

Some Housekeeping

Are you being thwarted from commenting? I've heard from a couple of people that they've tried to comment on some posts but haven't been successful. I haven't run into any problems myself (although I don't tend to comment on my own work that often), so I can't really suggest what might be going on. One person thought that it was a problem with her ISP, which is possible, but I'm hearing it from enough people that I suspect it may somehow be a problem with Blogger. I'm afraid, though, that I don't have any much advice beyond, keep trying. I love them comments.

Soup for You?

Apparently these has been around for a while, but I just saw The Original SoupMan frozen soups in the grocery store freezer. Something about the stern face of the chef on the box made these seem familiar. I thought to myself, that can't be the Soup Nazi, but sure enough, it is--a full thirteen years after the Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld first aired.

The package itself was reasonably informative. The SoupMan is Al Yeganeh. It mentions Seinfeld but claims that the New York Times was praising Yeganeh's soup long before TV came calling. For whatever reason (and this may actually be explained on the package--in all truth, I only glanced at it), he decided to expand a couple if years ago. There are franchises at various places around the country, and ostensibly they can be found in Chicago at selected Cold Stone Creameries--but I've also never been inside a Cold Stone Creamery, so I've never seen it for myself. The hype is that Yeganeh oversees soup production himself, so if you buy the frozen soup or buy from one of the franchises, you can have the same taste experience as those who lined up outside his original outlet in New York.

If you go to the Webpage of Al's Soup Kitchen International, however, there's a note saying that Yeganeh has sold out to The Original SoupMan and left the country (he's still offering international franchising rights, though). Don't worry, though, you can still get a celebrity fix by indulging in the Original SoupMan products. Reggie Jackson is a senior vice president.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A Little More Reflection on Our Accomplishment Tuesday

There's no doubt, of course, that Tuesday's election was historic. Not to state the obvious, but one of the characteristics of history is that it keeps moving forward. Some of us with a certain amount of experience can look at the election of Barack Obama and be delighted that what seemed impossible forty-five years ago when Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington has actually come to pass. But to those who are younger, this may seem a momentous event, but they may not have realized that it was once assumed to be unattainable.

I talked to my nephew shortly after results from the West Coast came in and the networks called the election for Obama. Just to see what he'd say, I asked him if he ever thought that there'd be an African American president. He replied, "Yeah, . . . maybe." We were talking on the phone, so I couldn't see him, but the tone in his voice conveyed, "Why would you ask me that? What a silly question. Obviously, we have an African American president now."

And he's right--that's exactly where we stand right now. And this is the point from where we'll go forward. It's interesting to know that electing an African American seemed beyond reach not too long ago, but anyone who stayed in that moment was wrong (although I'll admit that the thought crossed my mind during the campaign and even on election day before all the counting was done). Instead, we've got to start from a point of recognizing what is possible and noting what becomes more possible as time goes on. We'll all be better off if the thought of impossibility never occurs to us--or at least doesn't bog us down. Who knows what we can accomplish.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Deadlines Still Beckoning

My current project is one that just seems to keep spreading. As soon as I feel I've got some hold on it, it squirts out and away and becomes more unwieldy. I was working on another post, but I'm falling asleep, and if I did finish it, it would only because I was able to dumb it down to my current state of mind and present something fairly straightforward and by the numbers. There's plenty of that out there already, and you've certainly got no reason to make a point of coming by this blog to read prosaic explanations of issues you already understand. I hope to get a better handle on my project over the weekend (a better handle?--I need to finish it), and I'm intending to come back to more regular blogging at that time.

It's too bad that this isn't a comic strip instead of a blog. Then I could just pull a Garry Trudeau and say, "Doug is taking a break for the time being. Please enjoy this classic strip from 2005." I guess you could go randomly trolling through the archives at the right. There are some decent posts back there, but I'm not sure how well they read out of the context of their times or in the light of the new day we seem to have now. If anybody does go archive diving and wants to share their treasures, please identify any favorites you find.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wrappin' It Up

Besides anything that might've been going on in the world this week, I've been on deadline at work (and still am), and I'm spent. So Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk offers up this for the cause:

Election fever is finally on ice.
The Republicans paid a big price.
Spending millions for nothin'
On Palin's huffin' and puffin'
Off to Alaska they'll pack Bible Spice.

Feel free to contribute your own verse in the comments.


I haven't been paying attention. The post before this one was the 1,776th on this blog. Somehow it seems oddly appropriate to be in this range.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How Many in the Senate?

I'm still taking in the victory, and it seems like I'm not alone. People all over the country seem to be taking a look to see where this new administration might take us.

I said last night that there were some other races I'd been watching, and surprisingly, even 24 hours later, not all of them have been resolved. Democrat Jeff Merkely has defeated sitting Republican Senator Gordon Smith in Oregon. I'd expected Smith to fall, and I was a bit surprised that he lasted a long enough to keep the suspense up. I'd thought he'd have gone fairly quickly.

Going in, I hadn't been sure whether Democrat Al Franken would defeat Republican Norm Coleman for Minnesota senator or not, and now, twenty-four hours later, we still don't. Coleman is up less than 500 (out of nearly three million),so it's headed toward a recount. It goes without saying, but a Franken win would up the entertainment factor on C-SPAN by 700 percent (when you've got as little entertainment value as there is on C-SPAN, very small shifts can cause exponential changes).

Georgia's Senator Saxby Chambliss looks to stay on the hot seat a little while longer, since he hasn't quite pulled together a majority of votes. Without an actual majority, the race turns to a run-off, although I'd be fairly surprised of Chambliss doesn't end up having the organization necessary to win there.

If there's one state that seems to have a more tarnished reputation after the election than it did before, I'd have to say that it's Alaska. First, we got to see Alaska Governor Sarah Palin more up close and personal than we might've preferred (although not so close that we actually got to see her answer questions from reporters in an anything-goes press conference), and now voters there seem to be insisting on returning convicted felon Ted Stevens to office. This appears to be a classic case of, "You can't tell us who we can vote for." No, I guess we can't. But if they vote for someone currently awaiting sentencing, Harry Reid can prevent him from taking his seat. Voting hasn't been completely counted up there yet, so we're not sure, but this race could continue to give us plenty of drama.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Just Thinking . . .

Imagine how big Obama's electoral victory would've been without the Bradley effect!

Not a Dream, a Hoax, or an Imaginary Story

I've heard other people relate such things, but this is the first time I ever really experienced it myself. I woke up this morning and wondered if, in some sort of Scrooge-like phenomenon, I'd actually dreamt the election returns and it was really Tuesday morning before the voting started.

But nope. It was Wednesday, and Barack Obama was still president elect.

A Change Has Come


It has been a long time coming, but Sam Cooke promised us that it would one day arrive. I understood the numbers this morning, and I recognized what seemed likely, but I still needed to see it before I was comfortable believing it would come to pass. The Bush regime is coming to an end, and it will be replaced by that of the mixed-race senator from Illinois. At one point during his victory speech it hit me that he wasn't just offering his own opinions or that of his campaign. Barack Obama was speaking for the nation as a whole. And it's hit me again every little while since then. I don't know about anybody else, but it's going to take me a bit of time to get used to this.

There are some other races I've been paying attention to, but I'll catch up to them tomorrow. For now, I'm just going to appreciate the victory we've seen, maybe even to bask in it a little bit. I'd suggest everybody else do the same.

Postscript: I just ran this post through a spellcheck to make sure I'd made no stupid mistakes, and the only words it highlighted were Barack and Obama. I'm curious to see how long it takes before they're normal parts of the online dictionary.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

We finally made it. So go vote, already! Even if it's for the wrong guy. Democracy doesn't work unless you hear everybody's voice.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tonight. My schedule might not be as free as I was expecting, but it's not like I was going to offer a play-by-play, anyway. One place I won't be going is here. I'm sure those who do go will have a good time, and certainly they'll be participating in something historic, but it'll be far too close to a madhouse for my liking. See you on the other side.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Sad Note

Just a day before voting begins, Madelyn Dunham, Barack Obama's grandmother, has died. She saw her grandson experience and achieve an enormous amount, but she won't be there to watch the results of tomorrow's voting, which (we all hope) takes him to even loftier heights. It's good that Obama took the few days off a couple of weeks ago to make a last visit to her side, and I'm sure now he's tremendously relieved that he did.

Earlier tonight, Obama was at a rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he talked a bit about his grandmother. This video is quite moving as he describes her life and her accomplishments, but pay attention about 1:18 in, when he tells the crowd that he wants to tell them about her. Up until that point, his audience had been very supportive and demonstrative, answering back during his speech, but as soon as he says he wants to pay tribute to her, the crowd seems to be paying rapt attention. The silence he's offered is almost spooky.

We wish the best for Barack Obama and his campaign tomorrow, but we'll also remember his grandmother and the contributions she made to bring the nation to this moment.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Odds and Ends

For those of you following along on IE, this is the night when the blog's front page goes back to normal.

I can't speak for anybody else's experience, but this weekend has felt very much like the presidential election is in a holding pattern. We're just waiting for November 4. It sort of feels like a badly paced movie, in which all the elements of the climax are lined up but for various reasons--running time, studio meddling--the end of the movie is delayed for five or ten minutes while other business is taken care of onscreen. I have to say, I'm still nervous for the time being. The polls are looking good (TPM Election Central has polls for state and local races among the presidential numbers), and there's no rational reason for keeping my guard up, but I'll just be much more comfortable once we get through Tuesday night.

In the meantime, I'm afraid we're very much left with distractions. To pretty much no one's surprise, I suppose, Joe the Plumber has joined up with the McCain campaign. He's going the full Sarah Palin route, questioning Obama's loyalty to his country. Speaking of country, you may have heard the rumor that Joe's looking to pursue a country music career. Joe insists that any such claims are untrue, and he used his new Nashville publicist to get the word out.

There's been another rumor out there that Obama is actually the secret child of Malcolm X. While I guess that would be intriguing, it seems extremely unlikely. But Ezra Klein took the opportunity to speculate on what other X-people Obama may or may not be related to.

I've never been a fan of Andrew Sullivan, so it annoys me that his blog has become a must read during election season. Annoyed as I may be, however, it's certainly worth reading, and I highly recommend it. But I mention Sullivan here because last week he introduced a new blog, Margaret and Helen. Margaret's something of a silent partner, but Helen, an 82-year-old woman living in Texas with very strong opinions, is a delight to read. I have no idea what she might have been like when she was younger, but I imagine that by the time you get to 82, there's not really any reason to tell anything less than the truth. Her posts are good for a look.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

An Extraordinary Regular Guy

The bard of Chicago, or as Dennis Kucinich wrote, "our Boswell, our Whitman, our Sandburg," died at his home on Friday. He was 96, and he was progressive through and through to the last. He became an institution in Chicago, mostly by interviewing others on the radio, but he was primarily known nationally for his writing, which when you come down to it, was mostly about interviewing others. I don't know if he was necessarily America's foremost oral historian, but he was certainly the most high profile. He apparently had a way of making people feel comfortable, because he got them to open up and tell him unexpected things in books such as Hard Times, Working, and The Good War, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. But no matter how high he rose in literary circles, he never lost his common touch. We met Studs just once, and perhaps keeping with his "regular guy" persona, he was much more interested in meeting Mrs. Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk than he was me. Ah, well.

Rick Kogan has a thorough obituary in the Chicago Tribune, but in keeping with Studs's progressive bona fides, there's a fair amount of information to be found at The Nation's site. Calvin Trillin had a nice tribute on the occasion of Studs's 95th birthday last year, and Bruce Shapiro and John Nichols offer new remembrances. If you're looking to experience Studs in his natural environment, the Chicago Historical Society has a veritable treasure trove of all thinks Studs, including a number of his radio interviews.

Thanks for everything you've left behind, Studs.