Thursday, November 27, 2008

When did this happen?

Today is Thanksgiving. In it's essence, Thanksgiving is a good holiday, one that allows us take time and reflect on all the good stuff that has gone down in the past year. In principal there is very little to fault with this concept. Surely, even in the toughest of times there must be something we can all find to feel grateful about. This year, however, might pose more challenges for many than in years past.

We're all aware of the problems in the world, which have have trickled down into our own personal situations. Money is tight, there are horrible atrocities taking place around the world evolving toward who knows what end, and our planet is in ecological crisis. But there's something else going on that isn't quite as overstated as what I've just mentioned.

I'm watching the Macy's parade right now. An age old holiday tradition as much a part of our American culture as the typical Thanksgiving meal of turkey and stuffing. What I'm struck by is the blatant commercialism of it all. Nothing new here, this has been prevalent for years now. But I've never had an outlet to blog about it before so here I go.

Every float it seems has some sort of corporate plug, every other line coming from Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera sounds more like a commercial endorsement than a commentary. The whole idea of Macy's even is a hollow shell of what was once a great department store. Macy's are now found in shopping malls across the country. The portrayal of Macy's in classic movies such as the original Miracle on 34th Street is as real in our modern age as Santa Claus. What this parade has turned into is a showcase for the cultural crap that's being shoved down our throats. Hannah Montana, Push Pull, David Archuleta, Clique Girls, Shontelle, Rick Astley. When did our society's taste in music conform to the mediocrity of a Big Mac? And (read this next part using the voice of Seinfeld) what's the deal with a corporate logo on every single float? I mean does Hess Oil really convey the meaning of the season?

Okay, so right about now you're saying something like "Geez, Dave, you old codger, lighten up. If you don't like it then change the channel."

Yeah, that's probably a valid comment. But then what would I have to complain about.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Monday, November 24, 2008

For David


If the star I gaze upon

Cold and unblinking

Should implode into the night sky

It would take a thousand lifetimes

for me

Or rather someone yet unborn

To notice the loss

Such is the transitory nature

The hopeless ephemera

Of perception

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What now?

What's interesting about this site is the variance in its participants backgrounds, points of view, and world experiences. I'm pretty sure I'm the senior of group, at 52 years of age, although I claim my mental age to be about 10-15 years younger than that and if forced to, I could produce statistics to back that claim up (e.g. my insistence at putting prepositions at the end of sentences). Thus the fact that I'm well into middle age makes the life changing event that transpired in my life last week all the more confusing. For the past 25 years a huge part of my identity was that of someone with a partner in a committed relationship. I had another half, someone who completed me, someone who shared the bulk of my adult life experiences. Now, for the first time since I was a young, doped out rock and roll musician, I am single again.

Divorce is a funny word, that brings all sorts of connotations along with it. My parents were never divorced, nor were my grandparents, and, although I don't know for certain, I'm pretty sure that none of my great-grandparents were either. I have one sister. She's divorced as well. Does that mean that my parents, may they rest in peace, fucked up somewhere when it came to teaching us about how to have a proper relationship? Who the hell knows. I'm not going to blame anyone for what I'm going through, certainly not my dead parents. But I'm not going to blame myself either. Not that I've been the perfect husband. Not by a long shot. But from my perspective, I never did any of those things that typically one can point at and say, "Oh, so that's where you fucked up." I never cheated, I pretty much quit drinking and doing drugs a long time ago, I'm a good father, although I have a penchant for switching occupations a bit more frequently than most, I am and have been gainfully employed at least as much as is possible in this fucked up world these days. So, no, one can't really point the finger and narrow this down to one glaring error on my part.

Maybe I should change the way I think about divorce. My preconception of the term has always begun with the word "failure". Divorced couples "failed" to make their marriages work. Divorced couples screwed up. Divorced couples didn't work hard enough to keep their marriages together. Divorced couples should burn in hell. Maybe we're guilty of all those things. For me, I got to the point where I just couldn't figure it out anymore and, in fact, stopped trying to figure it out. Our relationship was going downhill, and I stopped trying to figure out why. I had a therapist once who said that I had to do "my work" first and worry about the relationship second. That if I do "my work" the rest will take care of itself. It sure did.

What started with a ceremony of celebration before friends and relatives with all the joy and pomp of a major step forward on wondrous path life lays out before us, ended pretty much with a barely audible last gasp standing in an empty courtroom before a judge who, when all was said and done, wished us luck.

Luck? How the fuck can anyone by any stretch of the imagination put this in the same category as luck? Luck is when my ipod decides to play two Chili Peppers songs in a row. Luck is when I go to get a cup of coffee and all that's left is the charred remains on the bottom of a pot that some asshole in the office should have turned off when they took the last cup. Luck is when I cross through an intersection that 2 seconds earlier or later would have been blown through by a drunk driver.

Getting divorced has nothing to do with luck. And neither do relationships, which leaves me in really weird situation, one that I'm not altogether equipped to deal with. At 52 years of age, I have no idea how to go about this dating thing.

I love reading our friend Brennan's observations on the dance between men and women when placed in the position of looking for love. By the way man, congratulations on passing the bar. That's fucking awesome. You're young, successful, and you have all the opportunity in the world before you. Well, maybe not all, but a lot. Maybe as the days, months, and years progress, I'll have some observations of my own on the dealings between opposite sexes. Right now I have none. I could probably share some of my private rants of rage I'm holding inside regarding my now ex-wife, but that really serves no viable purpose and on the surface at least I wish her well (crazy bitch). But for now, I'm sure anyone who's managed to at least skim through this post is on the verge of suicide so I'll stop with no words of wisdom or caution. Everyone's got their own life and no two are the same. This is just a little peek into mine at the moment.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Flash fiction Friday - All Alone

Besides reading, watching T.V., and the occasional stroll about town, this is what I do to entertain myself and keep my "chops" up so to speak. Flash fiction is exactly what it says it is. Short, sweet, without a whole lot of thought behind it.

Enjoy, or whatever...

All Alone

This used to be a place where people gathered to learn things. Now it’s where I live, moving from building to building as if it were my own personal playground.

One of my favorite places to just sit is in what they used to call “The Chapel.” I know this because that’s what’s carved in the stonework above the entrance. A small building once used to make contact with higher powers and perform ritualistic ceremonies. I like it because it’s peaceful in there with its smooth wooden seating and filtered light. In there it’s easy to forget; easy to ignore all the disturbances of the world outside.

At night is when the voices are loudest. Just voices, I know, that can’t harm you physically but play with your mind all the same, make you all the more aware of how alone you are. In that regard they’re just as dangerous. If you let them, they can easily rip your soul in two.

I found something the other day that served to make several days after more tolerable. In one of the buildings there were great paintings depicting what I suspect were typical scenes from the time when others populated this place. Curiously enough, in order to view these paintings I had to push several buttons in the right order and the device that held them captive would hum and light up, releasing them as projections from its tiny screen. I now carry this device with me wherever I go, sometimes pretending that I can make the pictures real if I wanted to. Wouldn’t that be something? Maybe one day I’ll actually figure out if that’s possible or not.

But back to the voices. I’m not sure exactly where they come from. I suspect, though, that they’re trapped because the few words I can make out sound like whoever “they” are would like to be freed. One time I thought I could actually understand one of them saying, “It’s cold in here.” I don't know where “here” is, But I’m glad at least that I don’t have to worry about being cold. Still, I would like the company, and I feel as though I’d like to help whoever they are somehow, not solely because I’m lonely, but also because it seems as though someone ought to, and I’m the only someone around.

Today I decide to cut loose in the building I call the castle. I’m sure that’s what it must have been at one time because it looks a lot like the pictures of castles I’ve found in books.

That's one thing I have plenty of - books.

Only the castles in the books I’ve looked at aren’t usually surrounded by other buildings. Usually they’re up on top of a hill and surrounded by a circle of water. This castle is surrounded by other buildings, all different, yet all fitting together as though the different styles were meant to partner with one another.
Inside the castle is several beds—65 to be exact, not counting the five that I don’t go near because of their smell. I’ve probably slept in each one at least a dozen times but lately I’ve taken to one in particular on the second floor in the room with the best view of the courtyard. In the daytime I can look out and imagine what it used to be like filled with people. In the nighttime I see something totally different, which is why I mostly sleep during the day.

At night I have to keep watch on the shadows.

Sometimes I’m tempted, driven by my aloneness, to see what would happen if I go out at night and let the shadows take me. I’m still working up my nerve for that, the fear of the unknown still one of my primary weaknesses. But I can only play by myself for so long. The games in the big room of the castle would be so much more fun if there were someone to play them with; at least I think that would be the case.

But then again, what if they don’t play games?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Brennan Blogs: Did the Media Get Obama Elected?

Below these comments you will find a video which was sent as a link to me by my father. His point was that the underprivileged masses can be easily persuaded by the "pro-Obama media." My post is not about debating whether the media was pro-Obama. From my perspective, I'd say the media was, in fact, somewhat pro-Obama (but really only to a negligible degree). What my post is really about is discussing the truth behind what groups of people make up those among the population we might call "easily influenced."

My father is right about one thing - the underprivileged, uninformed, and/or uneducated (all completely different things) are, in fact, impressionable and easily influenced. My father's argument is that the underprivileged are so highly susceptible to influence by those that would promise them the world, i.e. Barack Obama as my conservative father perceives him, because they are all witness to what they don't have and want a piece of the pie. Aside from echoing Marx's fatalism, whether my father knows it or not, his argument also derives from social conflict theory, a theory which explains the constant struggles between the "haves" and the "have-nots" fighting it out for limited resources. Under conflict theory, since the "have-nots" want what the "haves" have, the "have-nots" tend to grasp on to the most easy and convenient solutions (often introduced in the form of platitudes) to get them their fair share. Moving on, those who are generally uneducated or uninformed (you can be educated, but still be uninformed about politics) are so easily influenced because without the necessary information to reference, they'll take what small information is presented to them (as their only source) and use it to overgeneralize in forming a perspective. This is why the power of the media is so dangerous and why the internet, an extremely user-friendly medium to find readily accessible information, might be our only salvation.

The point here, one that many on the conservative side miss, is that such a phenomenon of easily influenced voters isn't just a partisan problem, it is a bipartisan problem. Even though there is a larger percentage of certain demographics often included in each party, those distinctions are usually too small to hang your hat on. There are still people of all demographics (such as race, sex, religion, class, etc.) which largely belong to both parties. Accordingly, stupidity and ignorance, as much as Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity would have you believe, are not just liberal traits. Additionally, avenues of influence are readily available to both sides as well - one can click on either of MSNBC or Fox News depending on their natural disposition.

The basic argument is always this: "Those who disagree with my side must be naive, ill-informed, unintelligent, and/or uneducated. If they were not some or all of those things, they would agree with me because my perspective is the only rational one." I do find it ironic that more often than not it's those fox news viewers out there, you know the viewers of the "unbiased" network, who make this argument. MSNBC may be pompous in its liberal bias, but I rarely see that network spewing the kind of pure hate that I have to tolerate from the likes of Hannity, Limbaugh, Savage, Coulter, and O'Reilly. Again, sorry to break it to you "true Americans" and fox news die-hards, but there are just as many idiots on both sides of the political fence. It is sad, however, that the divisive elements of our society seem to more commonly originate on just one side of the aisle though (hint - it's the Karl Rove side).

In compliance with this trend, it is those same condescending conservatives that purport the video below. That said, enjoy... or don't.

My Favorite Republican

This is for PBryant ;-)

Chuck Hagel is my favorite Republican. While I disagree with him on many points, he's a good example of a rational conservative, something we need more of in this country. Didn't buy into the war, despite huge party pressure, and is willing to speak out when things are wrong. Loved his recent take on Rush Limbaugh!

I hope he's one of the Republicans Obama's talking to for cabinet positions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Foursomes, Triangles, Insulation, and the Paint-Brush Unrequited

As most of you know, I dabble in poetry a bit. I'm happy to report that I have apparently ended a several month hiatus, and am back to writing the occasional verse. I will post them here on occasion, and I'll probably throw up some older ones when I'm too lazy to post something new, but also in need of seeing my name up on the board!

I have to admit that I am a totally different poet than I expected I might be, and the differences between my verse and prose are almost in the territory of a multiple personality disorder.

While I start poems in a variety of ways, it seems four elements hold true:

1. The title is almost always something about the poem, but not of the poem, as in, I don't use lines from the poem itself. 

2. The poem itself is usually pretty sparse. While I have always wanted to write Homer-esque epics, it seems I am a slave to a form that leaves much unsaid. This is odd, given my prosian  (my word, deal with it) verbosity. I like to think of my poems as three legs of a triangle, with the poem and the title leading you to the unsaid portion, which may or may  not be what I intended. Think of the poem as the frame, the title as the siding, and the balance as the insulation.

3. I seem caught in groups of four. Perhaps its my musical leanings, but I need to feel a certain rhythm in a poem, and that rhythm generally comes in quadrilles.

4. I am principally visually oriented, and I hope that comes through in the work. I am very much a frustrated painter-- frustrated in that it is what I would prefer to do, but I am completely inept at it. So I try to paint with my words, carefully choosing them to evoke a nuanced picture, and hopefully with it, a distinct mood, the better to fluff up that unseen insulation.

Well, now you know more than you either did or needed to...

Mid-day Thoughts

Hey all,

I just wanted to take a break from other work to say what a wonderful time I'm having with this blog! I admit to coming here often, not just to post something (which I'm sure I do to much of), but to eagerly peruse your posts and comments.

As I posted earlier, I have invited a few friends to read our musings, rants, and miscellaneous ramblings. So far, to my knowledge, my GF periodically checks in, and a couple of friends from Idaho (Hey Henry and Alex!) have recently checked us out. I am happy to report that they think I am a god, one whose sacred utterances are clouded by the occasional dreck that the rest of you put up. They've asked me to ask you to please cut down on the meaningless filler so that it's easier to find my pearls of wisdom. OK, that's a lie, at least the last sentence...

BTW, if you read here, please post an occasional comment, so we know you're here. Rest assured that our egos are petty enough to puff up at the very idea that you may read us, and we would like to experience whatever divinity complex would attend an actual comment!

I also noted a complete lack of obscenity and profanity, so goddamn it, I'll do my best to fucking fix that. I feel better now...

Church and Hate

Several days ago, I posted a little blurb about black voters and prop 8. In fairness, there are four other groups that deserve mention:

In what can only be described as high irony, the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) organized a $20 million donation drive to support prop 8. While marriage between men and women is an issue one might suspect the church of having views on, the "one man, one woman" aspect seems more than a bit hypocritical. Remember, this is the same church that was able to produce a historic, timely reversal by their god (allegedly) to outlaw polygamy in 1890. In reality, Utah was not going to become a state with polygamy, and rather than lose their tremendous control of the region (not to mention finding themselves essentially at war with the US), church leaders preferred to strip one of the core tenets of their religion, and god, surprisingly, was willing to acquiesce! One does not have to have much bias to see that the timing and content of god's do-over were if nothing else, spectacularly convenient. It is analogous to Catholics abandoning confession, so intrinsic was plural marriage to the fundamentals of Mormonism. To me, this is yet another example proving the theory that god is created in man's image, not the other way around. But I digress...

There is currently a movement underway to strip the LDS church of its tax-exempt status, because of its blatant disregard for the rules governing such organizations. It would seem that from a reading of the legal statute, there are ample grounds for this. That is not to say anything will come of it. The LDS church is very wealthy and influential, and few politicians want to be on the right side of things when there is very little political upside. The fact is that a majority of Americans are still at least slightly biased against homosexual rights, mostly on religious grounds. To take on the Mormons would require one to stand up against their legion of supporters, on this issue, among other denominations. I hope it happens, but I'm not holding my breath. It's a shame that a group of people with a history of being persecuted on the grounds of strange beliefs and customs will now persecute others on the same grounds.

Also on the list, for contributing more than a million dollars to the campaign against gay rights, are the Knights of Columbus. This is a group that might actually have more power than the Mormons, having nearly the same membership as well as at least tacit (and financial) support from millions more Catholics at large. While I laud the millions of dollars (and man-hours) in charity work provided each year by this organization, I cannot condone this act of bigotry, especially since this same organization fought against segregation (and interracial marriage bans). I also must point out that while much of the charity provided is at least partially beneficial, it is also tied specifically to endeavors that strengthen the respect for, adherence to, or legislation favorable to conservative Catholic dogma. The Knights in recent years have been heavily involved in supporting the ban of abortion, gay rights of any sort, as well as working to further the idea and implementation of teaching religion (at least that which is consistent with their own beliefs) in all (including public) schools. They, along with their strange bedfellows the Mormons, have been principally responsible for changing the boy scouts from a secular organization concerned primarily with nature and outdoorsmanship into a pro-god, anti-homosexual bastion of youth indoctrination. 

Likely to the consternation of at least one of our contributors, I must include the Republican Party. Since the formation of their alliance with the Christian Right, the Republicans have used an opposition to gay marriage (along with abortion, xenophobia, nationalism, and racism) as a centerpiece of their social-wedge-issue campaigns designed to ensnare what are otherwise likely to be Democratic voters (those whose economic status puts them at odds with unregulated, corporate-biased capitalism, which is the central pillar of Republican ideology). It is a well-documented fact that the Republican party worked to get gay marriage amendments (for and against), on the ballots of battle-ground states (including decisive Ohio) in 2004. The reason was simple: In light of George Bush's dismal approval ratings, they needed something that would get out the base to vote. The anti-gay voter was expected to then vote for president while there, and it was assumed that that vote would be Republican. Now why do you suppose they thought that?

Even after a remarkable electoral defeat, the party continues to stand behind this type of divisive, bigoted "social conservatism".  None other than Karl Rove, the recognized guru of the divide-and-conquer, scorched-earth campaign strategies of his party over the last decade, this week lamented his party's loss of power and cohesion, but along with suggestions on how to bring the party's economic message back to the acceptance of the voter base, he vehemently urged against any moderation of socially conservative issues. In fact, he pointed to Prop. 8 specifically as an example that the majority of voters share the party's views on this matter. In fairness, there are plenty of Democrats who have either dragged their feet or outright opposed gay rights, but it is not a central plank of their party's platform, as it is with the Republicans, so while they are individually liable to be called out, the party, at least for now, escapes my crosshairs. I await what happens under Obama's administration, given his willingness to speak openly of his support of homosexual equality, before casting judgement. But with the presidency and sizable majorities in both congressional bodies, that judgement will not be long withheld.

Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not address the general populace, without whom these groups would be powerless to effect their repression. At some point, all of us have to look ourselves in the eye and decide that as long as one segment of us lacks the fundamental liberty guaranteed by our constitution, we all do. The equal protection clause of the constitution is designed to protect the minority from the majority, and it's high time we started acting like it. I won't ask each of you to understand, endorse, or even respect homosexuality, but merely to recognize that the freedom which allows you that opinion, also protects the object of your loathing. If we don't believe that, on what grounds do we support civil rights for blacks, or Jews, or whatever it is that you believe? It is your responsibility to protect the freedoms of others, if for no other reason than to protect your own. I leave you with a poem by Martin Niemoller, in which he describes, with chilling simplicity, the cost of silence:

When the Nazis came for the communists ,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats ,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists ,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews ,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Murder for Profit: The World According to Monsanto

Some of you may have already guessed that it was only a matter of time once this site was erected that I would go down this path. (Heh, heh, he said erected.) Honestly, I've given this populist crusade against what I consider to be one of the greatest threats to society a bit of a rest, but with the election behind us and my writing moving back to yet more revisions on the novel in part loosely based on a Monsanto-like corporation, I've discovered a video that got my sparks to flying.

"The World According to Monsanto", a French documentary made by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin paints a grim picture of a company with a long track record of deceit and lies while perpetrating environmental crimes against our planet and its peoples. After several attempts to keep the American public from ever seeing this film, it is finally available to buy on DVD or watch for free on a number of websites. (At one point apparently it was pulled off Google video and Youtube but we all know that in this day and age it's impossible to keep information like this hidden for long.)

The history of Monsanto is well chronicled. From the start as a chemical company in 1901 it has been linked to such highly toxic chemical such as Agent Orange and PCBs. We now know that Monsanto was well aware of the systematic deadly effects of these products but in order not to lose "a single dollar" kept these facts well hidden for years. During the late eighties and early nineties under the "look the other way in the name of deregulation" Reagan and Bush Sr. eras, Monsanto successfully switched their persona from chemical company to bio-agriculture gaining unhindered FDA approval for its new focus on genetically modified seed technology and bovine growth hormones (rBGH). Touting their new mission as humanitarian work in the pursuit of sustainability of our planets resources, Monsanto unleashed a new scheme allowing them to take control of the world's farming by patenting their roundup ready GM seed technology.

Roundup, for those of you who have never had to deal with weeds, is an herbicide once hailed by Monsanto as biodegradable until closer scrutiny revealed that their rather flimsy definition of the term was about as factual as a Brothers Grimm Fairy Tale. Thus the biodegradable label was reluctantly removed giving us one more example of Monsanto's callous disregard for truth when it comes to public health vs. profit and power. The new line of genetically modified seeds Monsanto has unleashed known as "roundup ready" are resistant to the effects of this herbicide thus allowing farmers to liberally apply it to crops killing all else but the precious corn, soy, or canola beans. Monsanto claims the GM crops are no different than non GM produced crops, although in the deregulation age, little research has been done to support that claim. They also assert that the use of Roundup has no long lasting ill effects on the farmlands where this product is used. Tell that to the people of Anniston Alabama, who were victimized by Monsanto's profit at any cost philosophy.

In the 1960s, Anniston, Alabama became Monsanto's dumping ground for PCB's. According to a CBS news 60 Minutes investigation, Anniston is now considered one of the most toxic cities in the world with the PCB levels of many of its residents four times greater than other people throughout the United States and had two to four times greater the risk of developing diabetes. In 2003, lawyers for more than 20,000 plaintiffs reached a settlement for $700 million to be paid jointly by Monsanto and its spinoff company Solutia. While seemingly a good deal for the people of Anniston, after all those years of abuse for a company with annual profits in the billions the sum amounts to a mere slap on the wrist.

The bigger question this raises is: If Monsanto hid what it knew about its toxic pollution for decades, what is it hiding from us now?

What I'm preaching here is nothing new and certainly none of the information I've put forth is ground breaking. Aside from the damage to our environment, farming culture, and the wanton abuse of our political system, the biggest fear for me remains in the damage this corporation is inflicting on generations upon generations of local farming traditions found around the world. In many cultures seed saving has been a way of life longer than the existence of the Christian-Judeo ethic. The insidious nature of greed and corruption this company propagates with its army of enforcers clamping down on anyone who tries to work outside of their monopolistic system has grown entirely out of hand and if someone doesn't step in and say "enough" they will continue to intimidate farmers right out of a culture that has taken generations to establish and deprive us all of the health benefits obtainable from the vast varieties of wholesome produce once available in plenty, now fast becoming a memory.

For more info on Monsanto check this website Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Monsanto's M.O. or just Google Monsanto and you'll get more information than I could ever put into our little blogging operation. Also, I especially urge you to check out the documentary I mentioned in the beginning of my rant.

My Qs, Obama’s As and My 2 Cents

Bolded excerpts are questions from my Post on 11-07-08. Obama's answers are from his interview last night.

My Question: We are at war, and I have no idea whether Obama is worthy of the position of “Commander in Chief”. I have no idea if he will have the fortitude to make the correct decisions during the time that we are most vulnerable – during the transition period from old regime to new.

Obama’s Answer - "I think it's important to get a national security team in place because transition periods are potentially times of vulnerability to a terrorist attack," Obama told CBS' "60 Minutes." "We want to make sure that there is as seamless a transition on national security as possible." The president-elect also said that as soon as he takes office he will work with his security team and the military to draw down U.S. troops in Iraq, shore up Afghanistan and "stamp out al-Qaida once and for all." Obama also said he plans to put al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in the crosshairs. "I think capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out al-Qaida," Obama said. "He is not just a symbol, he's also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against U.S. targets." The president-elect confirmed reports that he intends to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and "make sure we don't torture" as "part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world."

My reaction: Have fewer troops in Iraq, more in Afghanistan, kill Bin Laden and close down a known torture facility. Bravo!

My Question: I am concerned about the economy, and have no idea what Obama’s qualifications are in leading us through this recession.

Obama’s Answer: He said the economy would have deteriorated even more without the $700 billion bank bailout. Re-regulation is a legislative priority, he said, not to crush "the entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking of American capitalism" but to "restore a sense of balance."
"There's no doubt that we have not been able yet to reset the confidence in the financial markets and in the consumer markets and among businesses that allow the economy to move forward in a strong way," Obama said. "And my job as president is going to be to make sure that we restore that confidence."
He also said: "We shouldn't worry about the deficit next year or even the year after. ... The most important thing is that we avoid a deepening recession."
While "we have the tools," the president-elect said not enough has been done to address bank foreclosures and distressed homeowners. "We've gotta set up a negotiation between banks and borrowers so that people can stay in their homes," Obama said. "That is going to have an impact on the economy as a whole. And, you know, one thing I'm determined is that if we don't have a clear, focused program for homeowners by the time I take office, we will after I take office."
Obama credited Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson for trying to remedy "an unprecedented crisis" the country hasn't seen since the Great Depression. "Hank Paulson has worked tirelessly under some very difficult circumstances," Obama said. "And I think Hank would be the first one to acknowledge that probably not everything that's been done has worked the way he had hoped it would work."

My reaction – Continue the use deficit spending and the Bank Bailout Plan to stem the recession, shore up the financial markets and keep homeowners in their homes while tightening the regulations that allowed for this mess in the first place. Bravo!

My Question: I care nothing of Obama’s race or Bush’s religion, as long as nothing influences his duties as our leader other than the facts before him.

Obama’s Answer:

My reaction: Bravo!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"All the Ken the Germans, Please Stand Up"

So You think Ken the German is a pathetic oddity? Apparently he's just the tip of the iceberg. This is starting to sound like the racist version of the "I'm Joe the Plumber/ Tiger Woods" memes.

Here's a sampling from Greg Mitchell at Huffington Post (including Ken):

"So let me just briefly list the full range of episodes, which doesn't even include several cross burnings on front lawns. These aren't necessarily the worst but they do capture the national flavor/fever:

* In a Maine convenience store, an Associated Press reporter saw a sign inviting customers to join a betting pool on when Obama might fall victim to an assassin. The sign solicited $1 entries into "The Osama Obama Shotgun Pool," saying the money would go to the person picking the date closest to when Obama was attacked. "Let's hope we have a winner."

* In Idaho, the Secret Service is investigating a "public hanging" sign erected by a man upset with the election outcome, the Bonner County Daily Bee reported Thursday. A handmade sign posted on a tree reads "FREE PUBLIC HANGING" written in large letters beneath a noose fashioned from nylon rope. The most prominent name on the sign is "OBAMA," according to the Bee. "That's a political statement. They can call it whatever they want, a threat or whatever," the creator of the sign, Ken Germana, told the Bee.

* A popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day. The site,, was temporarily off-line on Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received. One poster, identified as Dalderian Germanicus, of North Las Vegas, said, "I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest."

* From the Orange County (Ca.) Register: "Two gang members pleaded not guilty Thursday to hate crime and attempted robbery charges in connection with the beating of a black man who was trying to buy cigarettes at a Fullerton liquor store." The two men shouted racial and anti-Obama epithets in the attack.

* In Mississippi alone, the American Civil Liberties Union has received more than 10 calls since the staff first reported anti-Obama incidents last Friday, according to the Jackson (Miss.) Free Press.

* In Midland, Mich., a man dressed in full Ku Klux Klan regalia walked around toting a handgun and waving an American flag. Initially denying it, the man eventually admitted to police that the display was a reaction to the Obama victory. "[The man] had a concealed weapon permit and was walking up and down the sidewalk in front of a vehicle dealership while some motorists shouted obscenities at him and others shouted accolades," police told The Saginaw News.

* Parents in Rexburg, Idaho, contacted school officials this week after they learned that 2nd and 3rd graders on a school bus were chanting, "Assasssinate Obama!"

* At the University of Texas in Austin, a racist post on Facebook has cost one student his place on the university football team, according to the Houston Chronicle. Buck Burnette, a sophomore offensive lineman for the fourth-ranked Texas Longhorns, was dismissed from the team on Nov. 5 after posting a racist remark about President-elect Obama as his "status" on the social networking Web site. Burnette posted: "All the hunters gather up, we have a [slur] in the White House," theChronicle reported.

* AP reports: "While the world watched a Grant Park celebration heralding the election of the first black U.S. president, some white Chicago police officers committed hate crimes against black residents cheering Barack Obama's victory elsewhere in the city, attorneys alleged Thursday." Lawsuits have been filed.

* At Appalachian State University, the administration has expressed disappointment at the numerous times black students have expressed being harassed in residence halls since the election.The Appalachian, a student newspaper serving the university, also reported conversations suggesting Obama may not be alive in 2009 and a t-shirt seen around campus that reads "Obama '08, Biden '09."

* Mentioned in the same article, racist comments were discovered at North Carolina State University last week. Spray-painted in university's free expression tunnel after the election were the phrases, "Kill that n..." and "Shoot Obama," the Appalachian reported. The NAACP has called for the expulsion of the four students accused of the graffitti, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

* The Associated Press revealed on Wednesday, "Police on eastern Long Island are investigating reports that more than a dozen cars were spray painted with racist graffiti, reportedly including a message targeting President-elect Barack Obama. The graffiti included racist slurs and sexually graphic references. At least one resident in the quiet Mastic neighborhood told Newsday her son's car was scribbled with a message threatening to kill Obama."

* Employees at Hampel's Key and Lockshop in Traverse City, Michigan, flew an American flag upside down last Wednesday protesting of the new president-elect, the Traverse City Record-Eaglereported. One worker used a racial slur during an interview with the Record-Eagle: "(The inverted flag is) an international signal for distress and we feel our country is in distress because the n----- got in," said Hampel's employee Rod Nyland, who later apologized for the comment, according to the Record-Eagle.

* Authorities in Temecula, Calif., found spray-painted graffiti on a city sidewalk containing a swastika and anti-Obama slogan. And from the Los Angeles Times: "Vandals spray-painted swastikas and racial slurs on a house and several cars in Torrance that displayed campaign signs or bumper stickers for President-elect Barack Obama, authorities said Tuesday. The incidents occurred Saturday night in the Hollywood Riviera section of the city, said Sgt. Bernard Anderson. Four separate incidents were reported the next day, he said. No arrests have been made."

* And from Maine: "More than 75 people rallied Sunday against an incident last week in which black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island the day after Barack Obama won the presidential election," according to the Bangor Daily News. "

Doesn't it make you proud to vote Republican?

Short and not sweet at all....

I’d known her since we were both little, the fun kid who always had big ideas on how to pass a summer afternoon. “Let’s make a swimming pool,” she’d say and then we’d spend the next four hours digging a hole. Now here she was, practically incoherent sitting on my bathroom floor trying to hide from the demons that surfaced when the right combination of chemicals were ingested into the blood stream. I wanted to cry, but at the moment she was doing enough crying for the both of us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Straight Talk

Thank goodness for men like Ken Germana, or "Ken the German", as I like to call him. No, I don't agree with pretty much anything he stands for, and I find him repugnant, but it's nice to see the unvarnished face of the conservative base once in a while.

In case you live in a cave, Ken Germana is a guy in Vay, Idaho who decided to protest the election, and some effigies of his hero, Sarah Palin, by putting up a sign that offered a free hanging for Barack Obama, along with Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and Al Sharpton, complete with a home-made noose.

Funny thing is, unlike Joe the Plumber, Ken the German is the real deal. As we all know, Joe was a guy worried about paying higher taxes on income he didn't have when he bought a business he couldn't afford, which didn't actually fall into the tax bracket in question anyway. Ken just doesn't cotton to liberals, and apparently minorities either, and isn't shy about saying so (although he did deny racism was a factor, wink, wink).

This should not shock you. This is exactly the sentiment Palin was deliberately playing to at her rallies (where she incited the verbal equivalent of Ken's sign). These people exist, and there's more of them than you would like to think there are. This is the heart and soul of the Republican base. If you read a few conservative blogs, such as the one at, Ken is being feted as a good honest hero, and a victim of a left-wing dictatorship-in-waiting. Both Ken and his supporters justify his actions by pointing to their opponents engaging in similar behavior. Strong principles there! I thought the conservatives were supposed to be about right and wrong. I guess two wrongs do make a right, or at least a right-wing hypocrite.

We need people like Ken, if for nothing more than to remind us that we have a long way still to go. Ken's straight talk let's us know that even though we won the battle (the election), the war still rages on. Let's face it, there are a bunch of guys wandering around the south who don't believe the civil war is over, so it's not so hard to believe that Ken hasn't assimilated the more recent defeat. Luckily for him, the internet will allow him to link up with his confederate brethren. In the process, he serves as a great warning against complacency.

So Ken, thanks for the straight talk. You make me proud... to be a Democrat. Besides, if the recent elections are any indicator, if you give these people enough rope...

Gym Shoes

I went to a gymnasium last Sunday. I love gyms, grew up in them. I remember them vividly. A small little musky brick gym in a park in rural Illinois is the first one I remember. The floor was gray vinyl squares streaked with colored lines marking the territory of each sport. I only remember the white rectangle measuring 94x50 and the plain white shoes from K-Mart that I wore – they made me run real fast. People reclined on the brown wooden bleachers that folded out from the wall. Families stacked and sorted into rows and columns.

I remember another brick gym in Phoenix – this one large and new with carpet – yes a carpeted gym that silenced my blue Nike Cortez sneakers and deadened the bounce of the ball.

I recall my first school team and the Junior High School cafeteria in Los Angeles that we played in. Tables and chairs rolled into a side room and baskets lowered to magically transform lunchtime utility into extra-curricular exercise. French-fries and chocolate donuts hastily swept into a pile in the corner of the building in which I experienced my first fight, my first kiss and my first dunk (if running up the cement wall in my Converse High Tops counts).

My most vivid disappointment - cut during tryouts – occurred in a gym. I hated that gym and I even hated the game for a week of two. Redemption came by making another team at another school. Nikes were my reward - Green and Gold to match my new uniform. That gym was . . . magnificent. I miss it to this day. That is the gym in which my sleeping mind has allowed me to play with and against the greatest players the world has ever known, and earn their respect.

High School was replaced by College, and Basketball was replaced by work. The gym was replaced by -

Well nothing. It was merely lost. And missed. Neglected but not forgotten. Sure there were a few here and there – parks and rec games in Jordans, adult leagues wearing whatever Nike Mids were on sale and not too flashy, pick-up games, teams with the guys from work, but not an outstanding memory in the bunch, and nothing that I recall as fondly as the gyms of my youth.

Which brings me back to Sunday. Last Sunday, a large gym full of people filling the bleachers, and even more in chairs covering the floor. There was no cheering, no uniforms and no basketball. Just a man telling stories based on a book that he believes in. A man talking about the goodness he says lives in all of us. Goodness so strong that it can make us do something nice for a stranger we will never meet, but can touch and help, nonetheless. We were asked to walk a mile in a poor man’s shoes by letting him walk in ours. Literally. We were asked to donate the shoes on our feet to the homeless who will need them this winter. It was hoped that the gift would help a person in need, and that the simple experience of being without shoes on our journey home might give us perspective on someone who has neither shoes, nor a home to return to. . .

And once again, a gymnasium and a pair of shoes made an indelible impression on me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Type A personality

I am a slacker.

My parents were slackers too.

And chances are, my children, if I ever have them, will be slackers as well.

I come from a long line of slackers.

Slackerism runs through my veins.

I applaud my slacker heritage.

Why, I am such a slacker, I probably won't even finish..............

Flash fiction Friday

Nothing like a good futuristic tale of Zombies...

By the end of the conflict few lives had been left unchanged. Of those most affected none would claim freedom as they trembled at the toxic aftermath. Those least affected, however, were the ones you had to watch out for; the ones unable to grasp the scope of what had transpired, but somewhere in their tiny underdeveloped brains they knew. Cut off from the battles by dementia, madness, or a combination of both the crazed unhumans were poised to inherit the scraps, the leftovers of a bitter world rendered incapable of sustaining civilization as defined by modern standards. To them, none of this mattered. Their time was now, and they were damn hungry.

"Daddy, why do they do this?" The innocent brown eyes of the girl child made her father want to cry.

"Because," he replied, "that's all they know."

At first the unhumans scavenged in groups for food. A small rodent here or a mangy house cat there, anything with a pulse seemed fair game for feeding and cause for a violent tussle between them should there not be enough. Before long any semblance of natural order within their ranks deteriorated and it was every mutant for itself. No surprise. There was nothing natural about them or their actions and this, it seemed, was their main weakness. Impervious to pain, fear, or gunshot the remains of the human race pinned their hopes on their ability to organize--and hide really well.

"I tried to shoot one in the head," said one of the oldtimers as he attempted in vain to stem the steady flow of blood from the stump where an arm should have been. "Seems all that nonsense from the movies is just a bunch of made up crap."

There were a few successful attempts to deliver them to the grave. But for every mutant death there was a sequel, and for every sequel there was more gruesome death. Soon the number of non-mutant humans dwindled into a small band living underground like primates, their hopes of rebuilding the world they once knew a mere fool's errand.

Until she came along.

Some say Faridah had superpowers, although if asked, she would shrug the notion off with nothing more than a half-grin and a swift change of subject. But to watch her either in or out of action was like listening to a masterful performance of a Bach Cantata; even the slightest of her movements were perfectly controlled with unparalleled precision. With her leadership and guidance there was hope, which was the one thing the people needed more than any weapon or strategy.

"This is not your fate," she cried, as she rallied anyone left capable of putting up a fight. "You destiny lies above ground where the air is growing fresher by the day and the sunlight makes an appearance at the most unexpected of times. Would you rather stay down here and live in fear and squalor, or die fighting for what you deserve?"

Mumbling went through the small crowd.

"We'd rather you go up there and kill 'em all for us," said one man. "But if that is not an option, I'll stand beside you in victory."

"That is all I needed to hear," she said, and with that they developed a plan.

One by one they ascended from the sewers, filling the air with their scent and sending the unhumans into a frenzy. Last to appear was Faridah and the man who had initially stood beside her. Sensing her powers the mutants stood their ground, but not willingly. When she stepped forward the sunlight she had spoken of appeared and the mutant's flesh began to burn. With arms outstretched the clouds parted and on that day hope was reborn.

Many years in the future the remains of the unhumans can still be seen on the streets where they burned, and in the middle of the dark stains stands a statue of Faridah with her palms to the sky, never to be forgotten as the one who save them all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brennan Blogs: An Original Poem - Boredom


I am writing this because I am bored
Limited by my options
The one that fits eludes me… constantly

It’s afternoon insomnia on a Sunday
300 cable channels only serve to ironically remind me of all the inadequacy
I can’t stand television shows that are commercial free
I’m not fooled, they are trying to trick me
To believe that I don’t have to worry about being tricked
To buy some product I never wanted,
To make me believe I finally have that option picked

I am bored… reading… that’s an option… no, not for me, not for my generation
See, picking up a book has become the perfect metaphor for procrastination
Reading has become that thing some people do in between surfing the web
Choosing to stare at a computer screen like some zombie instead

I wish I had friends that could provide some relief
Escape from this boredom they too seek
Thinking they might spend some time with me,
Looking for those captivating options themselves, but can’t find any

My boredom has me watching a movie, I find myself among large company
Our search for life experience increasingly replaced by technology
An endless quest for constant media feeds, like that somehow replaces our needs

Maybe I own enough options, just the options I own are... well... boring
This world provides so many things to do
But, for some reason, if only today, I don’t want to consume
Makes me wonder what entertainment has no cost or price
Some friends think to go gamble, thinking to test their luck and roll the dice
Indian casinos provide an equal opportunity to lose our money outside sin city
At least there I can lose all my money in one night instead of being stuck in Vegas for two more days feeling self-pity

Then I would be bored for a whole weekend, instead of just today,
Wanting to waste my savings and forget my boredom some way
But then again, saving for what? A rainy day?
A day that might wash my boredom away?

I can go to some bar later on or look forward to drinking next weekend night
Where I will act interested in pretense and people who want to prove themselves right

Again, I am bored, because all these options limit me
They limit me into evolving into some person I don’t want to be,
But a person I have to become because I have no other choice
See, these options I have don’t give me the option to express my true voice

Instead, the choice is between different ways to consume and amass greed
Settling for technology and diversion, means to suppress our collective need to lead
Maybe it is the many, the bored, the true, that suppressed leader in you
Those who fail to lead, thus limiting these options I seek
Suppressing the novel ideas that we choose not to name such, but are truly unique

I am writing this because I am bored
I am a blank slate, an open soul seeking to do, experience, and create
I do not limit myself,
it is the world that attempts to limit my options and chooses creation to negate
But here I am bored staring at my screen, using my last bit of creativity
Which means I will remain bored, waiting for someone else to lead me...


And Now, For Something More Poetic

November Rain

Drops leap

Like confident skydivers

Through naked branches


Ever downward

Tugging madly

On moist ripcords


Hoping vainly

For one last leaf

To cushion the inevitable


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Since I'm On The Subject Of Things That Smell

Just so no one gets the idea that this blog has forgotten either it’s snarky soul or its occasionally lowbrow leanings, or that I've gone all serious intellectual highbrow, I’d like to pose the following question:

Which of the following is most satisfying after a pleasant meal-- Coffee and dessert, a cigarette, or a good, comfortable, post-meal dump?

Each of these activities present their own pleasures, be they found in ritual, taste, aroma, or just good old fashioned “aaaahhhh, now that hit the spot”. OK, hopefully not all of them involve taste, or probably aroma either, come to think of it, but you get the idea. Some things just go together, and apparently, dinner is polygamous.

While I admit to loving a good cup of coffee, with dessert or even better, with a cigarette, I’m going to have to go with poop, mostly because it just seems so karmically productive. Sort of a circle-of-life thing, if you will, something in, something out. Besides, I’m a man, meaning I once was (still am?) a boy, and everyone knows boys are obsessed with bodily functions. Poop is basically the king shit of bodily functions, so it all makes sense, at least to me.

But poop has an even bigger leg up on its competitors. Face it, you’re not going to have a very wonderful post meal experience of any kind if that experience includes constipation. I like to think that Mick Jagger wrote “Satisfaction” in the throes of a nasty case of after-dinner no-go. This gives a slightly different hue to the lyrics... “'cause i try and i try and i try and i try I can't get no, i can't get no”... now doesn’t it? I can’t really imagine this song being about skipping dessert or a smoke. So you see, to borrow from the Christians, “No poop, no peace. Know poop, know peace”. 

So tomorrow night, if you want to, you can try all three and let me know what you think. In fact, if you’re really adventurous, do them all at the same time, and see what makes the largest positive impression on your psyche. Personally, I find it disturbing to reach for the toilet paper with eclair frosting on my fingers, which tends to completely ruin the objectivity of the exercise, but that’s just me. Just don’t say you haven’t been warned, choose your dessert wisely (this means no Baby Ruths either).

Conclusions? Shit happens, but that’s not such a bad thing, especially after dinner, but probably not during dessert. Now get out of here, I need to lick my fingers so I can wipe...

The Odor of Rats and Fish, Part II

Now on to Alaska, where the stench of a state steeped in corruption just keeps getting riper. Something stinks, and it ain’t just the fish guts rotting outside the canneries and freezers. Here’s a few puzzling numbers:

Despite a 12.4% increase in primary voting, and a record turnout in early voting, as well as a galvanizing national campaign, not to mention their own Governor on the GOP ticket, 3% less Alaskans “appear” to have voted than in the ’04 elections. After initially looking like turnout was even lower (-11%), tens of thousands of ballots have now “appeared”. Still, for a state most analysts predicted would have a significantly higher turnout, a lower turnout is quite anomalous.

Despite Rassmussen, and other,  polls being remarkably accurate in predicting both the Presidential (dead on nationally) and congressional races (so far within very tight margins of accuracy in all the lower 48 and Hawaii, correctly predicting virtually all other senate races), Alaska is the anomaly. 

Ted Stevens, down by 8-14 points, is in a dead heat for his Senate seat.

Don Young, down by 6 points, is up 8 points for his congressional seat.

The McCain/Palin ticket over performed the polls in the Presidential election, despite garnering less votes than George W. Bush did in 2004. Their 26 point (62-36) win overshoots the polls by about 12-16%.

So what do these numbers mean? Applying some basic math here, you’ll quickly note that the unexpectedly low turnout and the poll discrepancies match almost exactly, provided those “lost” votes are all Democratic. If, for example, you simply add 14% to the vote, and have them all vote Democratic, the numbers fall remarkably in line:

From 3% lower turnout to 11% increase (analysts predict 12-14% increase, primaries votes up by 12.4%).

Stevens from 1 point up to 12 points down (polls predicted 8-14 point loss).

Young from 8 point lead to 6 points down (polls predicted 6 point loss).

McCain Palin from 26 point win to 11 point win (polls predict 12-16 point win).

This is a good example of Ockham’s Razor, in my opinion. If you want to cheat in an election, the simplest thing to do would be either to not count some of the opponent ballots coming in, or to switch some of the votes. I chose the former simply because switching votes wouldn’t have affected turnout numbers. In a small, remote state, known for corruption, and with a Republican party steeped both in the levers of power and corruption, would it be that difficult to pull off?

Looking at the numbers as they stand, if you believe nothing is wrong, you have to believe that while Obama mobilized new voters nationwide, and in the state of Alaska as well (evidenced by registration numbers), that only in Alaska did they (and virtually only they) fail to show up and vote, despite the surge in early voting (as with the other states).

You also have to believe that Stevens (convicted of 7 felonies), and Young (under a corruption cloud himself) managed to get all of their predicted supporters out while their very vocal, organized, and publicized opponents somehow failed to do so on a grand scale. That they alone defied the polls, because their opponents simply, inexplicably, failed to show up.

You can’t realistically argue that the race was over by the time Alaskans went to the polls, and hence many didn’t vote, since such a large portion of them either voted early or absentee. The nature of the House and Senate races, as well as the Sarah Palin factor (for or against), argue against people staying away from the polls as well.

I suspect by the time all the votes now accounted for are officially counted, Palin/ McCain (reversed intentionally) will have pulled nearly identical number of voters to the GOP side as Bush did in ’04. It would seem with the scandals and mismanagement of the campaign, this would be a somewhat remarkable feat, but at least well within the realm of possibility, given the long-standing support base for the GOP within the state among previous voters, as well as Palin’s continuing, if diminished, popularity within the state herself. 

But it doesn’t explain why the Obama camp’s documented new recruits didn’t show up, especially when they did everywhere else, and especially given that early voting indications were that they did in Alaska as well. Or that the anti Stevens and Young voters would likewise disappear into the wilderness. There is no justifiable reason they would have lost their enthusiasm. It would seem quite possible that, like inedible fish parts, they came in the front door, but were subsequently trimmed from the finished product and dumped out the back, which explains why a week later, there’s a lingering bad smell in the air...

The Odor of Rats and Fish, Part I

I’ll say it: Joe Lieberman is a rat. Not a surprising view, I suppose, given my lefty leanings, but the reasons behind it are not the same as a lot of others wafting around on the airwaves these days. 

For starters, I have no problem with Lieberman being for the Iraq war, at least on the grounds of principle. There are plenty of people I respect, on both sides of the aisle, who once supported or continue to support that fiasco. I can respect those who disagree with me, even while savaging their position.

It’s also not about supporting John McCain. Again, it is possible to have a difference of opinion with your own party (or caucus, as it now stands with Joe), even about supposedly partisan things like the presidential election. It would be mighty hypocritical to accept, and laud, Republicans such as Colin Powell giving Barack Obama their endorsement while not allowing that some Dems might feel the same way about John McCain.

No, my problem with Joe isn’t about these issues, but rather that Joe has decided to take reaching across the aisle to a new level, not on principal, but rather for calculated personal opportunism.

Few are talking about the fact that in 2006, with the Iraq war, and rampant opposition to it, moving the electorate to punish Republicans, Joe Lieberman was in trouble in the CT primaries. Large portions of the party hierarchy, as well as primary voters, were inclined to punish Joe along with the Republicans. Joe was losing. Enter a young freshman senator named Barack Obama. Yes that Barack Obama. He campaigned for Joe, when a lot of other Democrats were all too happy to see him go down. Turns out that, despite the help, Joe lost anyway.

So, despite losing the primary, and despite his promise to respect the will of the people, Joe decided to run as an independent, stating that it was important for him to win, the better to “help elect a Democrat to the White House”. Of course, Joe took support from Republicans, including Karl Rove, and beat a (deliberately?) weak GOP candidate to keep his job.

It all seemed like a good DC compromise: Joe would caucus with the Dems, and support them on most domestic issues, but would continue to support the GOP on national security matters. Given that the Democrat majority was only 51-49 with Joe (with Cheney ready to be the 101st vote should Joe vote GOP), he was now quite powerful, and despite his snub at the primary process, he was given the chair of an important Homeland Security committee.

Flash ahead to the 2008 election. Joe decided to endorse his friend, and fellow hawk, John McCain, and even accepted an invitation to speak at the GOP convention. While this obviously caused some consternation, Joe promised that while he was following his principals (apparently forgetting the one about electing a Democrat as easily as the one about abiding by the primary votes), he would not “go negative” against his previous benefactor, Barack Obama.

Yet there he was, at the convention, savaging Obama’s record and integrity, and worse, out campaigning with McCain, Palin, and even down-ticket Republicans, where he continued to blast Obama (and his party, which he had claimed to never “really” have left) repeatedly at campaign stops all over America. For a while, it looked like an astute political move, even if reprehensible on a personal level.

But then came the election. McCain lost, in a big way. The senate shifted further to the Democrats (at least 56 votes, counting Vermont independant Sanders but not Joe), and Lieberman’s vote was no longer a tie breaker. Surely it seemed that Joe was due for some comeuppance. But Joe saw it as a chance to push for opportunistic leverage, especially in light of the fact that he now might be the magic 60th vote (if Democrats pull off a runoff and a couple close races still in the counting process). After meeting with Majority Leader Reid, and after saying that even losing just his powerful committee chairmanship was a no-go, and announcing that he had discussed joining the GOP caucus, it was clear that Joe was still trying to have it all ways. Most Democrats renewed their call for his head, citing that if he called their bluff and joined the other side, he would almost certainly kill his chances of re-election in 2012, dim as they already look.

But who was there to reach out and perhaps save him? Barack Obama. In a move certainly designed to signal his commitment to reaching across the aisle (even in his own party), Obama let it be known that he wanted Joe to stay in the caucus. The same Joe who had repaid his support in a time of great need by smearing his character during Barack’s time of need. Was it just political maneuvering? Was it more about securing 60 votes to defeat filibusters than about being truly magnanimous? 

Perhaps, but consider this: The Democrats, even at 60 votes, would likely need some moderate Republicans, since there are a number of Conservative Dems whose votes can’t be counted on on all issues. Also, Democrats know that they will get Joe’s vote on most domestic issues (unless of course those too become for-sale), even if he’s on the other side, and that there are other, moderate Republicans that can be counted on to help on the filibuster issue, including perhaps John McCain. They know that forcing him to the other side, even in name only, doesn’t hurt them on most votes but hurts him back at home.

So why does Obama insist upon “re-habilitating” Joe? I think it’s because he’s exactly what he appears to be. Obama is truly about reconciliation, and is big enough to shrug off the cowardly actions of Joe for the betterment of the country, at a time when huge problems dwarf even obvious and deserved political repercussions. Joe should thank his lucky star that the winner’s not Hillary Clinton, who probably would have his testicles in a jar on her desk as well as his committee chairs and memberships. Or even that Obama didn’t leave it to his fellow senators.

On the other hand, Joe immediately running to talk to the Republicans, and making it public, indicates he’s exactly what he appears to be: Joe the Rat. Here’s hoping that the Democrats run a big name against him in 2012 (how hard would it be for Bill Clinton to move a few miles north of his Harlem offices?). Because even if the President-elect is willing to forgive for now, at some point, he has to realize that vermin is vermin...