Friday, October 31, 2008

What's Wrong With Using Your Head?

Barack Obama's been doing the last-minute media blitz, and it's been a great opportunity to get into his head a little. All the speeches in the world won't tell you what one good interview will.

Here's what I see: He's clearly an ambitious guy - no one who wasn't would run the godawful gauntlet our election process has become. And he's organized - you can tell that from the descriptions reporters have of his staff...they can, at a moment's prodding, spill over with every fact, figure and possible remedy for every rumor of election suppression that comes up while maintaining a calm facade of optimism. As Dana Bash said on CNN, "They KNOW what's going on."

He's not a great off-the-cuff raconteur: his scripted jokes in NYC were hilarious - but his attempts to tell a joke during an interview sometimes fall a little flat. But he likes to laugh and does so easily.

He's thoughtful, he's measured in his answers and Handsome Significant Other noticed one important thing as we watched Obama speak with Rachel Maddow last night (by the way - I want HER if I ever have to put together a softball team!): Obama loves this stuff. He clearly relishes the problem-solving aspects of being president. His answers on issues are not emotional - they reflect a mind that circles a problem, checks out every angle, considers the possible results of each solution and finally settles on the one that seems to best suit the situation.

I'd bet money I'm right. All the evidence is there - his unflappable demeanor which spreads to his campaign staff ( dubbed "No Drama Obama" by the press), his choice of a campaign director who has created a noiseless engine for victory using computers and cellphones as well as good old enthusiasm, the campaign's clear attempts to stay on message and not descend into the negative campaigning hole that swallows candidates alive, Obama's constant use of reason instead of emotion to try to get his message across.

Here's a perfect example: John McCain and Sarah Palin in particular whip up the Republican crowds to a frenzy by bashing the Democratic ticket. The crowds respond with boos, shouts of 'terrorist' and 'kill him'. Palin doesn't miss a beat. McCain finally had to stop a woman as she clutched the microphone and told him that Obama was a Muslim. Flip that view...look at Obama this week as he spoke before a cheering crowd. He said McCain's name and the crowd started to boo. His response was lightning quick. He told them he didn't need them to boo...he needed them to vote. Emotions defused, rerouted, and turned into positive energy.

So the guy's smart. He's got a logical bent. Why, oh why, America, is that so threatening to some of you? The people who love Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin cheer when they call Obama 'elite'. What is elite about him? He doesn't have more money that John McCain. He doesn't have as many houses or cars as John McCain. He went to an Ivy League school, but McCain went to private boarding schools and Annapolis. That's pretty elite. McCain was a Navy brat, traveling from school to school. Obama was a kid without a father raised by his mother and grandparents.

So if Obama's background doesn't make him elite, what is it? I submit that it's his intelligence.

McCain is no dummy - I hear he's a bright guy and an avid reader. But his appeal to voters is always emotional - "my friends," he calls us as his campaign tries to either make us fearful or mistrustful of his opponent. It's a classic appeal to the emotions and when he ventures into substance, it's usually to criticize particulars of Obama's plans for health care or economic relief or foreign policy.

Obama's appeal, at first, was also purely emotional. He spoke to the hope for unity, the hope for a better country and our hopes for the future. When his campaign fell flat was when it went negative, but they seemed to figure that out and used it sparingly. (You must remember my vantage is from a state that is considered a lock for the Democrats...what people are experiencing in swing states may be very, very different).

But every emotional appeal seems delivered from a higher place - a vantage just a bit above the usual which is looking farther into the distance and taking the wider view. Obama, for instance, won't bash Republicans. Why? Because, he told Rachel Maddow, we're going to need them to help rebuild this country. He says there are many moderate Republicans who might be willing to work with Democrats so long as they're not actively pushed away. He wants to invite their participation. He's not expecting their vote - he's looking past the election to the need to work cooperatively after the election. He's the kind of guy I can see accepting a position in a McCain administration because it would be best for the country. That's putting your head before your emotions...and that's a quality I think may be the best medicine this country could get.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Obama Variety Show

I can't help it - I just keep wondering what the Obama campaign has scheduled for that half hour of programming they bought.
We're told it won't be a speech. Saturday Night Live (huzzah! Relevant again after all these years!) did some great song and dance routines culminating in "Solid Like Barack." Cute.
So let's give this some thought. What could Obama, Biden and the people who love them do?
Well, I just saw a terrific pro-Obama piece of video from director Ron Howard.

That could certainly be included. And then there's that oldie but goodie, Will I Am's pro-Obama music video:

But I'd love to see somebody do a number from "Hair"...there are so many to choose from.
But too many people wouldn't understand it. Cause if there's one thing this country lacks, it's a sense of humor about itself.

I got this email this morning and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Dear Red States:

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own
country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us.
In case you aren't aware, that includes California, Hawaii,
New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan,
Illinois and all the Northeast (and it looks like Colorado, too). We
believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to
the people of our country of "Nuevo California."

To sum it up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the
slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get
the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft.
You get WorldCom. We get Harvard and Princeton. You get Ole' Miss. We
get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get
Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to pay the red
states fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than
the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a
bunch of single moms. Please be aware that Nuevo California will be
pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens
back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your
evangelicals. They're apparently more patriotic, as well as more
willing to send their children to kill and be killed on Bush's and his
corporate crony's behalves. We do wish you success in Iraq , and hope
that the WMD's turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources
on Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of
80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the
pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95
percent of America's quality wines, 90 percent of all cheese, 90
percent of the high tech industry, most of U.S. low-sulfur coal, all
living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy League and Seven
Sister schools, plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT. Not to mention a
whole bunch of brilliant artists and cultural "mavericks." With the
Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent
of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92
percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes,
90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists,
virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones
University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood
and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe
Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is
sacred (until a child is born, of course, then it doesn't much
matter) unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or gun
laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that
Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards
believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties.

Finally, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that
dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Good luck,
Blue States

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Acting Our Age?

This sure is a young country. It must be - because the people in it act like we're choosing the most popular kid in class - not the president.

If I like my guy better, the philosophy appears to be, all is fair in attempts to make sure everyone agrees with me.

There's the pathetic story of the McCain volunteer who made up an attack against her. There are stories coming in indicating that the vote won't be counted fairly or accurately. And there are those pesky campaign signs.

Ours was stolen from our front yard this week. I live in a town that is overwhelmingly supporting Obama and it seemed a bit like preaching to the choir to put a sign in the yard, but it also seemed important to put our yard where our hearts are. All the signs around town disappeared this week. Apparently some McCain supporter believed that if you took our signs, we wouldn't be sure who to vote for. I must admit I'm reconsidering now, Mr. or Ms. Thief. Thanks for your help.

This is bipartisan idiocy. I have a relative who lives on the other side of the country in an equally Democratic community. He is retired. He supports McCain. He has a bumper sticker on his car saying so. His car has been keyed and finally the sticker was ripped off. He wears a McCain hat. He was accosted in a parking lot recently by a man who swore at him and told him where he could put his vote (while pointing to the appropriate part of his own anatomy).

The increasing hysteria from the GOP as McCain appears to be behind in the polls isn't just ear-splitting - it's disturbing. And the message the Obama began the campaign with, hope, has been distorted by many of his supporters into salvation.

McCain's not my choice for president, but I truly do not believe he is evil or even a bad person. I disagree with his political philosophy and I think it's the wrong choice to lead this country into the future. Obama's views are more aligned with mine but I don't kid myself that he's some kind of messiah. He is, I hope, a decent guy with an open mind who will bring intelligence and a spirit of cooperation to the White House. But he's been nominated by what I believe is essentially a corrupt political system, so he has to have played the game to a degree to get where he is. The compromises McCain has made to win the nomination are obvious - candidate McCain doesn't agree with Senator McCain on many fundamental views. Obama has no doubt made similar bargains with the devil. They don't let you run unless you do.

So it's frightened people looking for a guru to show them how to pull the country together who invest these two men with some sort of magical power. And anything they can do to tear down the opponent, even symbolically, makes them feel they're helping bring their guy a step closer to that all-important victory.

Stealing and lying are no big deal when they're for a good cause, right?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Must the World Think of Us?

I've been wondering as I look at reports on Google Analytics that tell me people all over the world have read this blog - what must they think?
Not about me personally - chances are a reader in Micronesia wouldn't feel much different than my next door neighbor. But what about America?
Until just a few years ago I'd never really left the country. Not for lack of desire - it was lack of opportunity and lack of funds. But finally, as a gift to my newly 18 year old son, I hopped a plane and we explored Paris, Rome and some of the small hill towns between Rome and Florence.
It was life changing.
I never considered myself parochial. I've been to most of the states in the US. I've been to Canada (and loved it). I always knew there was a much larger world beyond this country and I longed to get to know it. But I didn't know. I really didn't.
The sense of history, the thrill of hearing everyone around you speak a language you barely understand, the mind shift that occurs when you are truly in a strange land (no matter how Westernized), the chance to sit and watch human beings living a life much like your own, yet somehow very different; it thrilled me and left me often gaping stupidly or grinning like an idiot.
I like my country. It's been good to me and my family. But I'm horrified by the latest GOP campaign tactic - pointing out the 'real' America as opposed to the rest of America.
Jon Stewart handled it beautifully this week - he was clearly offended and he had every right to be. New York City, that hotbed of liberal elitists, is where America suffered its worst terrorist attack ever. And to say that New Yorkers aren't 'real' Americans, to imply that only small town conservatives qualify as 'real' Americans, is to spit on Ground Zero and every family that lost someone in that attack.
So we're fighting among ourselves...not the Blue and Gray anymore, but the Blue and the Red. And our friends around the world, as well as our enemies or those who just don't trust us, are watching us squabble like kids at a toybox. We look immature. We look petty. And we are.
I'm tired of hearing cheerleaders for divisiveness. I don't want to hear any more booing, jeering, no more pep rallies for hate and fear.
I am an American and I want to be able to be proud when I say that. It's time to start acting our age.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around - Or, Welcome to the New Depression

I'm immersed in economy stories right now. Local communities are trying to draw up proposed budgets and no matter how careful they've been in the past, they're going to be hurting. And if they haven't been careful, it's a bloodbath.

One city did a long-overdue revaluation this past year. The timing is proving to be awful, as many property owners face as much as a 14 percent hike in their taxes because of it.

It's worse in another city - they discovered that they've been overcharging commercial landowners for more than a decade. If those taxpayers sue, the city will go bankrupt. And whether they sue or not, the residential property taxes have to go up to where they should have been all along. Initially, that meant a 25 percent tax increase. The mayor knew that was unconscionable, so he slashed the budget to the bone and got it down to 8.5.

Then there's the housing crunch. Values are dropping, salaries aren't rising and people who bought homes they could barely (or just plain couldn't) afford once the economy crashed and some sources of income dried up are hanging on by their fingernails. Foreclosure counseling programs will tell you to start talking to your bank about restructuring your loan before you miss a payment. But good luck. Banks, even banks that are comfortably nestled in the loving arms of the feds, won't talk to you if you haven't missed a payment.

Catch 22.

HSO and I went to the UN last week to attend a black tie event honoring philanthropists. And even the Beautiful People are worried.

"What," a doctor who's travelled the globe to do good, "happens to giving when the money dries up?"

What indeed. It's called a depression for a very good reason, not the least of which is its emotional impact on everyone involved.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Perception is Everything

We don't just watch presidential debates anymore. We watch, we watch other people watch, we watch a graph show us how independent voters react, we watch news people tell us how they did and how we think it went.

I watched the last debate. It was a tough choice, as our inattentiveness apparently torpedoed Joe Torre's chances to go to the World Series with his Dodgers. I feel bad about that.

But it felt important to know how John McCain and Barack Obama would handle this last face to face meeting. And I know what I thought, but I was amazed how much more information I got thanks to the voracious appetite of the 24 hour news cycle.

CNN's roundtable of experts, many of whom I enjoy thoroughly, were unanimous - this was McCain's best debate yet. Obama, they said, was 'flat' and 'professorial.'

But as the polls of viewers came in, the tone changed. Yes, McCain had some good moments and started off strong, but polls (in their infinitely important way) clearly showed that voters walked away perceiving Obama as the stronger candidate. His numbers improved, while McCain's fell yet again. And then the talk began about why that might be.

"Those reaction shots killed him," I heard.

That's my opinion, too. McCain has the unfortunate habit of looking angry even when he's trying to smile. His 'fighter' persona comes across as hostile. He widened his eyes in mock shock on a few occasions, and it triggered memories of every angry, closed-minded discussion I ever had with my father. I loved my dad, but I didn't enjoy those discussions and I instinctively cringe from that body language.

Obama's 'professorial' demeanor was fine with me. He appears steady and deliberate and very, very difficult to rattle. His temper flared briefly just for a moment or two, but I've said before that I like that - I want to know he CAN get angry, I just want him to have it under control. He did.

And what about those stupid graphs we watched as the debate went on? Women clearly were happier with what they were hearing from the Democrat. And men? What were they doing? Those lines were all over the place on several they were grabbing for a snack and hit the button by accident, or maybe playing with the knob to watch the lines move. It seemed to have no relation to what was being said. What those lines did was distract me from what the candidates were saying. I don't need another source to tell me what people are thinking. This isn't politics by committee - when we go in that voting booth we'll each be totally alone.

Today we'll see what the pundits say. Their initial enthusiasm for McCain will be tempered by the fact that voters apparently didn't agree with them. I think McCain did a fine job, as good as he's capable of doing. He made some points that I agreed with, or at least understood his point of view. But his barely repressed anger, his dogged refusal to give up a point when it's been answered time and time again and his insistence that he knows what to do...when I'm convinced this situation is so complex that right now NO ONE knows exactly what will work, made the difference between the candidates clear.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And If Things Aren't Bad Enough...

how about a crowd control device that can fry you? Here are lyrics from an old Kate Bush song, Experiment IV.

We were working secretly
For the military.
Our experiment in sound,
Was nearly ready to begin.
We only know in theory
What we are doing:
Music made for pleasure,
Music made to thrill.
It was music we were making here until

They told us
All they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone
From a distance.
So we go ahead,
And the meters are over in the red.
It's a mistake in the making.

Army Orders Pain Ray Trucks; New Report Shows 'Potential for Death'
For $25 Million, Army Buys System That Drives Off Rioters With Microwave-Like Beam
Oct. 11, 2008

After years of testing, the Active Denial System -- the pain ray which drives off rioters with a microwave-like beam -- could finally have its day. The Army is buying five of the truck-mounted systems for $25 million. But the energy weapon may face new hurdles, before it's shipped off to the battlefield; a new report details how the supposedly non-lethal blaster could be turned into a flesh-frying killer.

The contract for the pain ray trucks is "expected to be awarded by year's end," Aviation Week notes. "A year after the contract is signed, the combination vehicle/weapons will start be fielded at the rate of one per month."

It's been a very long time coming. As we've previously reported, there have been calls to deploy the Active Denial System in Iraq going back to 2004. But it's always been delayed for legal, political, and public relations reasons. Anything that might be condemned as torture is political dynamite. Interestingly, the version being bought is not the full-size "Version 2," but a containerized system known as Silent Guardian, which Raytheon have been trying to sell for some time. They describe Silent Guardian as "roughly 1/3 the size and power of the other Active Denial Systems," and quote it's range as "greater than 250 meters." The larger system has a range somewhere in excess of 700 meters.

Silent Guardian weighs a shade over 10,000 pounds all up, and will be mounted on an "armored ruggedized HEMTT [Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck]."

The announcement arrives on the same day as a new report from less-lethal weapons expert Dr. Jürgen Altmann that analyzes the physics of several directed energy weapons, including Active Denial, the Advanced Tactical Laser (used as a non-lethal weapon), the Pulsed Energy Projectile (a.k.a. "Maximum Pain" laser) and the Long Range Acoustic Device (a.k.a. "Acoustic Blaster").

Dr. Altmann describes the Active Denial beam in some detail, noting that it will not be completely uniform; anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the center will experience more heating than someone at the edge. And perhaps more significant is his thorough analysis of the heating it produces -- and the cumulative effect if the target does not have the chance to cool down between exposures. In U.S. military tests, a fifteen-second delay between exposures was strictly observed; this may not happen when the ADS is used for real.

"As a consequence, the ADS provides the technical possibility to produce burns of second and third degree. Because the beam of diameter 2 m and above is wider than human size, such burns would occur over considerable parts of the body, up to 50% of its surface. Second- and third-degree burns covering more than 20% of the body surface are potentially life-threatening  due to toxic tissue-decay products and increased sensitivity to infection  and require intensive care in a specialized unit. Without a technical device that reliably prevents re-triggering on the same target subject, the ADS has a potential to produce permanent injury or death. "

This potential hazard need not be a show-stopper -- existing less-lethals, such as plastic bullets and tear gas, can also be fatal under some circumstances (and I'm not even going to get into the argument about Tasers).

Dr. Altmann notes that "the present analysis has not found convincing arguments that the ADS would be immoral or illegal in each foreseeable circumstance," and that acceptance will depend very much on how it is used. If the ADS prevents small boats from approaching a U.S. vessel without harming anyone, then it will be seen as a humane option. If it is used to clear protesters out of the way it may be seen differently.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Justice is still has a reported interest in a "hand-held, probably rifle-sized, short range weapon that could be effective at tens of feet for law enforcement officials." That's just one of the likely domestic applications of Active Denial technology which are likely to follow if the Army's experiment with ADS is successful. A lot of people will be watching this one very closely.

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

There now - doesn't that make you feel a whole lot better?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Talk About Your Unfortunate Typos

"Osama" for president? That's what voters in a county neighboring New York's capital city saw on their ballots when they got them this week. Rensselaer County elections officials say it was just an error...certainly not an attempt to sway those voters.

I'd love to take them at their word, but 'b' and 's' aren't exactly neighbors on the keyboard, and it's just such a conveniently devastating change to replace the Democratic nominee with America's most hated terrorist.

It's bad timing, coming on the heels of a Republican campaign that nearing slipped over the edge into hate-mongering. Lou Dobbs, he of the blindingly white teeth and the conviction that illegal immigrants are to blame for every problem in this country, tore into the Obama campaign for not more forcefully rebuking Congressman John Lewis who compared the McCain tactics of the past week to the hate spread by racist legend George Wallace.

Obama downplayed the incident, but anyone watching the screaming rallies led by ultra right cheerleader Sarah Palin could see the danger. Crowds yelled "string him up" and "terrorist!" and Palin nodded and continued. It was left to John McCain to grab the mike from one fear-crazed woman and tell her that no, Senator Obama isn't an Arab, isn't a terrorist, is a decent Christian man who loves his country.

It clearly scared McCain's camp when his supporters booed him in response. And if "Mr. Independent" couldn't recognize the danger, at least McCain did.

Now he's back to the "We can do it!" school of campaigning, a place where he's more effective and more comfortable, and a lot less inflammatory.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My Fellow Prisoners?

I have a growing concern about the GOP campaign. A couple of concerns, actually - ones I hadn't even considered until recently.

The more I watch John McCain, the more I see a very, very angry man. There's a thinly covered hostility when he debates Barack Obama. Sometimes it's not even veiled..."that one," for instance. I didn't take it as a racial thing - I took it as a condescending, aggressive remark I'd expect toward someone for whom you have no respect whatsoever. Not good politics.

But even more, I read about McCain's reputation for having a nasty temper and wonder just what his experiences as a prisoner of war have done to his psyche. I realize there's a lot of garbage out there that passes for information and I don't want to overreact, but there's one story after another about McCain's loss of control - either physically or verbally. And then there's his latest gaffe..."my friends" and "my fellow Americans" gave way to "my fellow prisoners." If you haven't heard about it, you can read it here....

John McCain has been through hell. There's no disputing that. And that kind of trauma leaves a mark. Has anyone really looked into that? Is this man wounded emotionally as well as physically?

Then there's the increasingly strident and ugly rhetoric at the campaign rallies. Sarah Palin whips the crowd up to an angry frenzy and some people shout to actually physically harm the Democratic candidate. Does Palin or McCain say, "Whoa, now...wait a minute. This is about philosophy and politics and democracy - not about eliminating your opposition!"? No. Not that I've seen, anyway.

And if they don't, they are encouraging something that has no place in the America they say they believe in. We don't kill. We don't torture. We don't do violence to those who disagree with us. At least that's what we say.

John McCain and Sarah Palin have a moral obligation to keep this campaign under control. If they incite violence, I hope they never sleep well again. And I hope they understand that they, more than anything they believe Barack Obama could do, will have helped destroy America.

LATER NOTE: Since I wrote this, John McCain did try to defuse the growing hysteria among some of his supporters. He assured people at a rally that they didn't have to fear a Barack Obama presidency. He told them Obama is a decent, Christian man who loves his family and his country. And McCain's supporters booed him. The fear some of the Republican faithful have of the Democratic candidate is beyond reason - and the mob mentality is growing so strong that they will even turn on their own man if he tells them it has no basis in reality.
Tonight, I'm betting John McCain is wondering what kind of monster his campaign has unleashed. And I'll be truthful. I'm afraid.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Thank God for Comedy Central

The Depression had Will Rogers. We've got Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

I've loved Jon Stewart since September 11, 2001. He's a real mensch. And he loves this country, despite the fact that he skewers its hypocrisies on a nightly basis. He strikes me as a man with a conscience.

Colbert took me a lot longer. He's a loud, bratty kid. He's cute as hell and he knows it. That can get old.

But the economic crisis has brought out the best in both of them. They're poking fun at the candidates, at the media, and pointing out just how stupid most of the 'solutions' we're being offered are.

I watch CNN a lot. But I'm glued to the television for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. After a day of reporting on the news, talking to people counseling homeowners in foreclosure, hearing our local congressman rail against the corruption and ineptitude of our government and seeing people lining up at the convenience store buying lottery tickets by the fistful, I need a laugh.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Palin accuses Obama of being buddy buddy with "terrorists." She digs up the Reverend Wright controversy again. Obama fires back with a Keating Five "documentary" on his website.
It sure is riveting. And makes me kinda sick.

First of all, people in glass houses and all that. The left-leaning media folks quickly pointed out that the feisty little governor is married to a guy who belonged to a group of secessionists. Apparently they weren't too crazy about the US either, huh, Governor? And then there's that video clip of Sarah Palin at her church, where the minister who is an important part of her spiritual life began his career banishing witches. Really.

Let me be fair - the Obama campaign's sludge tossing doesn't please me any better. They are, according to reports, only putting the Keating docu-drama on their website, not buying ad time. So the assumption is it's more of a warning shot across the McCain campaign's bow. "Don't mess with us - we know how to play that game, too."

But really. Who has time for this? I have a cousin who has watched a lifetime of savings evaporate in less than a week. The woman behind the local grocery counter was wondering what the hell she's supposed to do - her daughter is 16 and the money they were saving for her college tuition was in the stock market. Gone.

C'mon Barack. Get a clue, John. This country is in very, very bad shape and we're desperately hoping you can pull us together long enough to lead us out of the mess we're in. A mess we're ALL in, no matter what your political philosophy.

I admit I don't hold out much hope for Senator McCain. He seems angry. He's checked his convictions at the campaign door and is flip flopping around hoping to find a position that might help us forget that he's part of the party that led us here.

Senator Obama, you had it right when you began. Take the high road. Fire back if you must, since weakness is not something you can show to a highly tuned political eating machine. But don't wallow in it. Hold your head up, look toward the future and get the rest of us to look with you. We are a country that needs to believe in ourselves again. You've proved you have the ability to sell us on hope - that's what got you here. And now, more than at any time in this campaign, that message is the one that matters.

Because if we lose hope, this is going to be a very dark time indeed.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Earlier in the week my son had back surgery. I was terrified.

It went alright, but he had a bad reaction to anesthesia and had to be kept overnight.

Big sigh of relief - he's doing very well.

And I came home to find HSO flat out on the couch, having spent the past five days getting progressively sicker.

Off we raced to the local hospital after the doctor at the walk-in clinic in town said, "Go."

"I do not want to." HSO was adamant.

But thankfully he went. They helped. And I was amazed at how many nurses and doctors manage to maintain their compassion and humanity despite seeing one horror story after another.

The nurses who took care of my son took his care personally. They treated him the way they'd want their own child treated. The nurses and the doctor who took care of My Guy were equally kind.

They didn't blow us off when we said his pain was unbearable...they brainstormed ways to help. They gave him all the time he needed to be sure he was comfortable enough to go home. They cared.

Going to the hospital is a combination of fear and trust. We put our faith in their expertise, hoping they'll figure out what's wrong and be able to help us mend. But we are afraid because we are helpless once we're there. We've admitted we can't do this on our own and we have to put our faith in strangers, believing they're competent, they're interested and they won't cause us unnecessary discomfort.

But letting go of control is very, very hard. And watching strangers treat the people dearest to me gnaws a whole into the center of my gut which churns for days afterwards.

It's fear. And I'm grateful that the overworked, stressed, underpaid people who I've dealt with in this past hellish week have done their very best. It was very good.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin's Pastor Problem

I am still fuming about the bailout. But let us not forget the candidate who could be a 'heartbeat away from the presidency.'
Why isn't this story being picked up by the rest of the news services? Obama's pastor problems certainly got big play.

Witch hunt and Keith Olbermann

Friday, October 3, 2008

You Must Be Joking

They did it. They passed the bailout plan. But not before tacking on 150 BILLION dollars more in garbage to get the House Republicans to approve it.
I am outraged.
THIS is democracy?
Shame on them. Shame on them all.

Disaster Averted

I tried to watch the vice presidential debate. I started to, saw that Biden was taking the approving uncle tactic in dealing with Palin and concentrating on her running mate and breathed. It was going to be alright. He was tiptoeing through a minefield there and not many people appreciate how hard it must have been.

If he attacked her, he'd be 'mean'. If he pointed out instances where she's lied or bent the truth about her own record, he'd be attacking her because she was a woman. Biden played it smart. He didn't let her get away with charges that weren't true, but he watched her with what appeared to be genuine approval as she fielded questions we all know she was totally unprepared for just a week or two ago.

As for Palin, she didn't humiliate herself. She dodged questions she didn't want to answer and sometimes she got away with it. She painted herself as an expert on energy. But she was coherent and if there wasn't much substance there, at least she didn't sound stupid.
I saw that much before I crashed. Two days at a hospital with your son make these debates a lot less compelling.

So the pundits today say it's back in the laps of the presidential candidates. As it should be.
And as I'm writing this perhaps the House has voted on the latest version of the bailout.
But I wonder if anyone's paying attention to Ralph Nader. He may not be a viable presidential candidate, but there's no arguing he does his homework. He's got an idea that would help the current Wall Street mess without charging us, the people who can't afford to bail them out.

You can read it here.

Dandelion Salad

or more analysis here:

Now Public

Just because an idea comes from someone outside the system doesn't make it a bad one. In fact, it might make it a very good one indeed. I wonder if anyone will listen.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tyranny and Tears

A rough few son went into surgery yesterday for a back problem. He's 21 and years of basketball apparently created havoc somewhere in there, leading to constant pain and the sad sight of a handsome, tall fellow hobbling like an arthritic senior.
The surgery went well. But the anesthesia didn't. He's squeaky clean, this guy, and he's never been hit with anything like the load of drugs they pumped into him. They expected him to go home the same day. No way. He was sick for hours and was finally admitted overnight.
He's home now and recuperating, but I spent an entire day worried that we were headed for disaster. I am a worrier. I admit it. But come on...your child is having a bad reaction to drugs and they pump a new one into his IV after saying, "Is he allergic to this?"
I wanted to scream.
So they took their chances, it was all right, and I spent 15 minutes waiting to see if he'd go into shock. Overreacting, you think? I've watched his sister start to go into shock after being given an antibiotic no one knew she would prove to be allergic to. It's terrifying.
I'm tired and I'm dying to get back to my own bed and I'm very relieved he seems to be alright.
And this, despite all the bad news these days, gave me some hope...

Watch and see if it doesn't inspire you.

The Threat of Tyranny