Friday, October 29, 2010

On Behalf of Mark Ritchie

In the summer of 2006, I was invited to a fund-raiser at the Kaplan's (Sam and...), both big-time power-players in the Democratic Party in Minnesota. This was at the Kaplan's condominium in downtown Minneapolis near the river in a gentrified section of the old warehouse district. I had been invited as a guest to accompany a friend of mine who happens to know several prominent politicians in Minnesota. The fund-raiser was for Keith Ellison, the Democratic nominee for MN's 5th Congressional District. Given that the district nearly completely covers Minneapolis, Ellison was a virtual shoe-in, but it was still really cool to go to a swank party.

When I arrived, I got introduced to lots of folks intimately involved in party activities. Larry Pogemiller was there, as was R.T. Rybak (MN Senate Majority Leader and Mayor of Minneapolis, respectively). As well, and very much to my great pleasure, Walter Mondale was there. I even got five minutes of Vice President Mondale's undivided time. I was awestruck and humbled by his decency. When I criticized Norm Coleman personally, he drew me up short and said, "I think we can focus on Norm Coleman's public stance without needing to discuss his personal conduct." It was a very clear that Mondale prefers civil discourse and keeping things about policy. I had just seen this man read the Gettysburg address the preceding Sunday at Minnesota's Orchestra Hall. His reading was terrific, and here I was telling him how much I enjoyed it, and when I tried to engage in a discussion of my frustration with Coleman, a man who had personally disparaged him, he defended Coleman's right to privacy.

Another person I met, and spent much of the evening talking to, was a man named Mark Ritchie.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Father's Little Dividend, Part VI: Fear and Assumptions

"Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery,
author, "The Little Prince", 1943 
(1900 - 1944),

"A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five."
"My mother loved children -- she would have given anything if I had been one."
Groucho Marx
(1890 - 1977)

My godmother who is also my aunt, has told me over the years that I was a fearless child, and that I was even fearless as an infant.  By fearless, she said that I was not afraid of things that adults expected to frighten me.  I did not flinch or cry at sudden loud noises, for example at a few months old; instead I would look for the source, out of curiosity; sometimes I would even laugh. 

So perhaps there is some genetic component, rather than purely a choice of character, that underlies my difference of opinion, and my approach to fear.  I DO recall on more than one occasion expressing a certain exasperation to my parents when something I had done upset them, asserting, "Daaaaaaaaad, I'm brave. I'm NOT stupid."  I did many things, especially with animals (my parents had no rapport whatsoever with animals) that gave them rip roaring fits of fear, sometimes full-blown panic for my safety.  The other areas besides my interactions with animals which gave my parents pause (read near heart attack) were my curiosity about other people, especially people different than those I was accustomed to being around, and challenges to my physical skills and endurance.  Wherever we were, but especially when traveling, my parents never knew when they would turn around to find me having wandered off to speak with someone who intrigued me.  Sometimes the people who intrigued me upset my parents.  By 'sometimes' I mean often.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cincinnati Sr. High School Accused of Bribing Students Voting with Ice Cream? Left or Right, Wrong is Wrong.

UPDATE: I always like to check out the most local sources I can find when fact checking a news story.  While any news outlet can get details wrong, they tend overall to be more reliable than partisan sources (you know - like the version of these events that is being promoted by Fox-Not-the-News).

So here are answers to at least a few of my earlier questions.  There were only 'several' students involved, riding on one bus of the three buses/ church vans transporting other members of the community to a polling location, per television station WCPO channel 9's news coverage of the event.  Students who are old enough at this Cincinnati High School are encouraged every year to register to vote at local polling places - no one was actually voting that I can confirm - as part of their Government Course.  The official school statement by their lawyer is:
"The lawsuit was filed less than seven hours ago and we are still investigating the allegations. CPS has long encouraged its students as part of its Government Course curricula to register to vote and to vote. CPS does not endorse candidates or political parties. Some years when the funds can be found CPS has arranged the transportation of students to the Board of Elections for early voting by finding sponsors for bus tokens for student transportation. This year, our bus token sponsor could not find any money in the budget. A group volunteered church vans to drive some students and we accepted the offer. No CPS personnel engaged in the promotion of candidates or any political party.
This version of events is distinctly different - and I would add more plausible - than the Fox News, Hugh Hewitt broadcasts, or the blog post where I first learned of this alleged incident.  While the government course encourages students to register to vote.  It is not clear if this activity was actually PART of the class (which seems doubtful for only several students) or if it was something those students chose to do on their own time such as lunch or study hall.  Given that there were three buses full of other community members being transported, it would also seem more plausible by way of explanation that the several students (so far, appears to be three of them) simply were included as a courtesy in being provided ice cream as part of some sort of outing for the other participants of the church van trip.  It does not appear to be some sort of bribe to vote Democratic after all.

Juan Williams and Rick Sanchez, Adios, and Good Riddance

On September 30th, Rick Sanchez, formerly a news commenter on CNN, made an offensive outburst in which he called comedian / pundit Jon Stewart, who is Jewish, a bigot, and made anti-Semitic statements about Jews generally in the media industry.

This week Juan Williams was fired from NPR, for having made offensive statements about Muslims and fear.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Right Claims the Democrats Are Trying to Steal Elections, Again

UPDATE:  As of today, 10/22, six felons have been charged in Hennepin county with voter fraud.  That goes with the 9 or 10 in St. Paul, MN for a total of 16 -- which IS an unusually high number, for this kind of crime, but not enough in anyone's wildest imaginations to sway the outcome of an election. 

I can't wait for further details to unfold, particularly any details which suggest they were persuaded to vote illegally by Democrats, or if they were offered any sort of inducements to vote illegally (by Democrats) or even any statement which might, in the course of the trials, indicate what party they voted for illegally in 2008.  You know - those details which are essential to the so-far unsupported accusations of voter fraud to steal elections by Democrats that are so casually being tossed around by the right.

The right has made the utterly false, misleading and demeaning claim about Democrats stealing elections for years now.  Repetition of the lie by moral panic profiteers has not made it any more true.  These accusations undermine the validity and legitimacy of our election system.  They smear our form of government for political gain by one side of the political spectrum - that is shameful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Christine O'Donnell, Stephen Colbert, and Homer Simpson - what do they have in common?

The first is a very funny cartoon, the second is a very funny comedian, and the third is Senatorial candidate who is a laughingstock - the subject, the source, of many very funny jokes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dear Tom Emmer, It Simply Hasn't Worked

Tom Emmer, Republican candidate for Governor in Minnesota, is now running advertisements about how he'll "attract jobs to Minnesota by lowering taxes" and that "he's the only one with a plan to balance the budget and the only one who won't raise taxes, but he'll be sure priorities like our schools are fully funded."

Sounds great, sounds painless, after all, more jobs, lower tax bills, better funded schools that aren't cutting teachers (either pay or numbers). Yep, sounds terrific - no pain except...

Tom Emmer seems to have not lived in Minnesota in the past 8 years.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sanity, Not Hannity: The Jon Stewart Rally and the Press

My friend Sara, who frequently gives me some of the best ideas for posts here on Penigma, brought an Upshot story to my attention from the Yahoo News blog Upshot, "News outlets caution staffers about Stewart-Colbert events", by Michael Calderone.

Serious news organizations, like National Public Radio, NBC News, the Washington Post, and the New York Times have policies about neutrality by their staff.  An example is the WaPo memo to their newsroom managers, quoted in the Calderone piece:
"Events, like those organized by Glenn Beck or involving Jon Stewart and Steven [sic] Colbert, are political, and therefore Post newsroom employees may not participate. By participate, we mean that Post newsroom employees cannot in any way put themselves in a position that could be construed as supporting (or opposing) that cause. That means no T-shirts, buttons, marching, chanting, etc. This guideline does not prohibit Post newsroom employees from observing — that is, watching and listening from the sidelines. The important thing is that it should be evident to anyone that you are observing, as journalists do, not participating, whether you are covering the event or not."
The article mentions this obviously applying to recent rallies - Beck's evangelical political rally on the date and site of the Martin Luther King event in August, and the progressive "One Nation" rally featuring MSNBC host Ed Shultz among the roster of other speakers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

TPaw, Obamacare Litigation, Crickets? Where are you now, Governor Pawlenty?

Update: On Thursday, October 14th, federal Judge Roger Vinson greenlighted the challenge to the Health Care Reform legislation which was signed into law last spring to go forward to trial. Florida had been selected for the filing by the group of filing parties as being more likely to give a favorable ruling. A similar challenge was thrown out by a federal judge in Michigan last week, Judge Caram Steeh ruling in Detroit.

Now that the constitutional challenge is definitely going forward, it is even more appropriate than ever to ask Governor Pawlenty if he is going to follow through on his media-slut appearances last spring, much of it contributing to fund raising.  This becomes a more interesting question in view of Pawlenty's interest in being a presidential candidate in 2012, in the midst of that position declining in popularfity by all but the more ultra-conservative base.  

A cynical person, like myself, wonders if this is because it is no longer expedient for Palwenty to try to profit from this particular 'Moral Panic'.  If that is the case, then it is all the more entertaining to press the question, what is TPaw going to do about his much promoted health care legal challenge?  Tick tock tick tock tick tock.....
Last spring, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was all over the media, especially Fox News, making boastful claims that he was going to sue on behalf of Minnesota, that he was joining the legal challenge by 20 other states to the Health Care Reform Legislation.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, said "Whoa!" and "NO!"  She is the only constitutionally designated,  elected, legal member of Minnesota State government who could make that decision ---- and she supported the health care reform.

He's A NERD, Not a Nazi, Damn It! In Defense of Rich Iott's Historic Reenactment Hobby

UPDATE:  Criticism of candidate Iott has continued, most recently with Glenn Beck being designated as Keith Olbermann's 'worst person' for supporting Richard Iott's choice of hobby.

There has been far too fast and loose Nazi name calling; in this campaign, and regarding previous politicl figures.  Sadly, far too few of the name callers seem to be conversant with WW II history; they don't actually know very much other than Hitler equates to generic 'bad', and is vaguely despotic. 

I give credit to Iott for taking a hard look at who the Nazis really were, actual individual people, not simply relying on vague and largely erroneous notions about Nazis and Hitler that appears to be the case with those most recently carrying Tea Party signs portraying Obama as Hitler.  It was equally wrong to portray other American political figures as Hitler.

Why believe that the choices of individuals who were grouped under the heading of being Nazis is more nuanced, more complex, more appropriately a subject for closer scrutiny and study?

The best example I can offer is the current Pope.  John Ratzinger was conscripted into the Hitler Youth movement when he was 14.  He was technically a Nazi; when he was older, he was in the anti-aircraft Luftwaffenhelfer corps.  He was a real Nazi, not a pretend Nazi.  I doubt that anyone reasonably believes that he embraced the Nazi cause, at any time.  Particularly in view of his cousin with Down's Syndrome having been taken by the Nazis, and killed, as part of the Nazi eugenics program.

Many of those who did at one time embrace and support Hitler changed their allegiance.  I would remind readers that there was a conspiracy of Hitler's generals to assassinate him, at great personal risk.  They were Nazis too.  To fail to understand and acknowledge the strengths of the opposition, the instances of courage, or even gallantry, simply because those others are the opposition is stupid, small minded, and ignorant of the reality of history.  Likewise, anyone who refuses to acknowledge what we did on the allies side  that was less than wonderful is failing to understand history.  I applaud Iott's interest in complexities, and the realities of WW II history, instead of stupid oversimplification.

For people to continue to try to extrapolate an interest, a curiosity, about this era of world history is wrong.  Just plain wrong, the worst kind of well-meaning ignorant wrong that has, unfortunately, so characterized the entire 2010 election cycle.
Candidate for Congress in Ohio Richard Iott is being badly treated by the left for having participated in the very legitimate history reenactment hobby.  To play the role of one of the participants in this era of history does not automatically equate to supporting what those participants did.  There is not necessarily any identification with their politics, there is not necessarily any support or approval of their actions by the participating reenacters, aka re-creators.

Possibly the very worst example of the ignorant statements that have been made - so far (they could get worse) - has been Chris Matthews on his MSNBC cable show Hardball. Matthews asked if dressing up in WWII Nazi Germany clothing was some kind of homoerotic behavior,wondering if it involved 'dancing  around'. Ed Shultz,on the same network, claimed this was a 'big deal' to some Americans.

It shouldn't be.

Because Sometimes Fact IS Stranger Than Fiction, and Sadly Sometimes Fact is Missing from the Resulting Discussions

The September 2, 2010 edition of Stars and Stripes, the official newspaper of the United States Armed Forces, carried one of the strangest true stories I have ever read, written by Travis J. Tritten, from the Sasebo Naval Base in Japan.

I'm an avid fan of history, all periods and places.  So, I have at least a passing familiarity with World War II history in the Pacific.  In World War II, the Japanese captured and occupied the island of Guam, along with many other islands in that part of the Pacific.  Prior to the fighting on Guam to end the Japanese occupation,  the island was subjected to a tremendous naval bombardment.   For nearly two weeks before the land battle, the navy shelled the island; nearly every building was destroyed.  To give you an idea of how intense the jungle warfare was in World War II, before this story, I thought the account - which I remember from the time - of WWII Japanese Sergeant Shoichi Yokoi finally surrendering in 1972, all those years after the war was over for everyone else, was the strangest military story that could come out of Guam.

Fast forward from July, 1944 to September 2010.  Guam has not only rebuilt, it is an unincorporated organized territory of the United States, with a representative to Congress (who cannot vote - currently, a Democrat); they cannot vote in Presidential elections, and they have no electoral votes either.  The biggest single segment of their economy is the tourist industry, ironically mostly Japanese. The second largest component of the economy is the U.S. military, which takes up almost a third of the island of Guam.
The military population will grow even more between 2010 and 2015, when U.S. forces leave Japan, moving to Guam.

With that background, imagine my surprise at finding there was another more recent military bombardment of Guam, by our navy, reported widely..........a bombardment of dead rodents instead of shells, rodents 'weaponized' with acetaminophen as deadly ammo.  The invaders this time have been nocturnal arboreal venomous snakes, instead of soldiers. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Left or Right, Wrong is Still Wrong - Fact Checking Foreign Money

UPDATED 10/12/2010

A lot of fuss on the left is being made over the Chamber of Commerce and foreign money. Wrong is wrong.  There is the kind of misleading representation of facts here that I objected to when right-winger politicos like Bachmann and Pawlenty (and of course, Fox Not-News) tried to represent Democrats as felons committing voter fraud stealing elections.

Let me be clear here.  I don't like the big money being dumped into elections.  Individuals have limits on donations, and most ordinary people who make up the majority of the voting-eligible in this country do not have the nearly unlimited funds that the wealthy few possess.   After the Citizens United decision, Corporations don't have those limitations that apply to individuals, and they have much more money to make any donations to influence the outcome of elections than individuals. The result is that the wealthy, and corporations, unions, and special interest groups have a louder voice than individuals.  That louder voice is a voice heard far more often than the ordinary individual,in the form of repeated advert messaging.

So, while I am standing up here for the Chamber of Commerce getting an unfair deal from the Democrat's campaign attention, I still don't like their spending, or any spending like it, from either side.  There is enough influence peddled by big money -- ALL big money -- through lobbying and other means.  Worse, far too often that influence is used to spread misinformation and disinformation to voters to achieve that influence.  We need transparency, we need full disclosure, we need limits to big money - ALL big money.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Coming Out, Out, Out, Wherever They Are

UPDATE: GOP Candidate for Governor of New York, Carl Paladino, who's homophobic statements are linked below, and who did multiple television appearances after making them, took an intransigent position to criticism.  Now, he has flip-flopped, appearing to change his previous adamant position against the LGBT community.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Instant Karma!, Happy Birthday, John Lennon

Prompted by my colleague Pen, from a chat about John Lennon, the forces which shape us as children and young adults into who we become when we are grown up, and........memory for song lyrics, I'm posting the lyrics here to Instant Karma. As background context, was a discussion about the rights and wrongs of the Cranick's fire.

So, rather than bloviate here, John Lennon himself said  and sang it better, about who we are, about karma 'knocking us on the head, knocking us off our feet", about "recognizing our brothers" and "why are we here", and what we do about pain and fear.  Happy birthday, John Lennon.  Your words and music live on.

UNAmerican Tea Party Candidates for Office Who Don't Support or Approve of Our Constitution

I came across this article on AOL news this morning, over my first cup of coffee for the day:
"8 Candidates Who Want to Amend the Constitution", by writer David Knowles, AOL News Surge Desk.

The provocative first sentence particularly caught my attention, along with photos of Tea Party candidates I recognized, Sharron Angle, Joe Miller, and Rand Paul.

"Does the U.S. Constitution grant Americans citizens too many rights?"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Om Mane Padme HohhhhhmMMMy-Gosh

A friend spends some of her lunch break each day perusing the internet for diversion from life in 'Corporate America'.  She kindly shares some of the more amusing cyber-nuggets with me.

Today's bit-o-gold and glitter shared from the internet was about yoga images on parking tickets as a soothing exercise in public art. 

BLEEP My Dad Says

There is a new television show starring William Shatner titled "$#@! My Dad Says." As you might expect, it is a show about the tensions and situations between a Dad (Shatner) and his sons. I watched one episode.  It was not nearly as clever as the last Shatner vehicle, "Boston Legal".

It brings back memories of my upbringing. My father is an impeccably honest and decent man. I've had my rocky times with him; he is like Shatner, he says things which are harsh and critical, but meant to teach,  said always in love. He is very bright, and has made a number of observations which I carry to this day that I've heard no where else. One he made a long time ago, I still use as an ethical yardstick.:

The difference between a true conservative and others is that when asked for food (or money for food) by a starving man, if the conservative feels the man could otherwise work, they will say "no."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gene Cranick's Home Burned: Why Margaret Thatcher and the Political Right Are Wrong

"There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families."  - Margaret Thatcher

"Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we've put it in an impossible situation." - Margaret Mead

"We make our own criminals, and their crimes are congruent with the national culture we all share. It has been said that a people get the kind of political leadership they deserve. I think they also get the kinds of crime and criminals they themselves bring into being." - Margaret Mead

In Tennessee recently, Gene Cranick's home burned to the ground, while fully equipped firefighters stood by their fire trucks and hoses watching, doing nothing to stop the fire.  The 'left wing media', like MSNBC's contributor Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation, questioned on the 10/5/'10 edition of Keith Olbermann's Countdown  if those firefighters would have stood by and done nothing if there were potential loss of life involved, not just property.  That poses a very good question about the philosophy of government, and its proper relationship to individuals.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Zealous Ignorance, Part II: Nut Leroy Gingrich, Update - 10/5/2010

The family values hypocrite Newt Gingrich is coming to Minnesota, along with some of the other 2012 presidential wannabees, to encourage and rouse the base for the 2010 elections, including family values claiming candidate for the GOP, Tom Emmer. I would think that Emmer would be embarrassed to have Gingrich next to him, given his past -- and present.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

We Need Scott Paul, NOT Rand Paul

Many of our readers are probably wondering.....who the heck is Scott Paul?  Is he running for something in the 2010 elections?  No, although he ran for the Indiana General Assembly, way back in1992.

Scott Paul is a former intern with Republican Senator Richard Lugar, an adviser to former House Democratic Whip, Congressman Bonier; he was a staffer for two other Democratic congressmen.  He is a former labor lobbyist, and is more recently (2007) the founder and executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.  He is a widely published author, and has provided his expertise on the manufacturing sector of our economy in numerous media interviews, and has testified regarding it before Congressional committees.  I believe it would be accurate for me to characterize Scott Paul as an advocate for American Manufacturing and for American jobs.

Tea Party Hot, Tea Party Cold? How much does it really matter?

Has the Tea Party peaked, and begun to decline into oblivion, or at least, history?

Polls and pundits have stressed the enthusiasm factor in who will win in the 2010 elections on November 2nd.  Some indicators suggest to the media the conservative political movement may be losing steam.  For example, the Tea Party Nation's Las Vegas convention, previously rescheduled for lack of attendance was recently cancelled due to lack of interest, just a short time before the event.  The New York Times quotes an email from Barbara Kinnison, one of the event activists in Las Vegas, asserting that other large Tea Party events were declining in both attendance and donations.  You can read more here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

PACman Karl Roves Everywhere But Near the Truth in Political Ads, per

Max Baucus, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, requested this week that the IRS do a full investigation into Karl Rove's "Crossroads" PAC for improperly using their tax-exempt status to manipulate elections, along with other corporate 'front' not for profits.

So, it  is no surprise that in my daily email there was another update from one of my favorite genuinely non-partisan organizations, 
Crossroads Jam-Up
Conservative 'super PAC' makes false and misleading claims in a blizzard of ads.

October 1, 2010

The latest ads from the American Crossroads “super PAC” attack Democrats running for Senate seats in Colorado, Illinois, Ohio, Nevada, Missouri and New Hampshire.

The ads contain a number of misleading and false claims.