Monday, December 31, 2007

Party Like It's 2008

Reuters gets my vote for the best news story starting off 2008:

On New Year's Eve Ridaa al-Azzawi squeezed into his pointy snakeskin boots, his tight black sweater and his snazzy corduroy flared jeans, hustled down to a Baghdad hotel ballroom and partied for peace.

2008 arrived in a less-violent Baghdad, and residents said it was the first real party they had seen in years.

At the stroke of midnight, exuberant locals fired into the air with automatic rifles, sending red tracer fire streaking over the city, as fireworks lit up the sky.

"The security has changed and it took us by surprise. We're very happy. Especially us young people," said al-Azzawi, a 22-year-old student taking a break from dancing to a traditional Iraqi band in the ballroom of the Palestine Hotel.

"I haven't seen a happy place like this in so long. I wanted to see if I could maybe meet a few girls!" he said. "I only hope the Iraqi people can enjoy more happy times like this."

Salah al-Lami, 27, the singer who performed at the Palestine ballroom and then for another New Year's Eve crowd at the Sheraton Hotel across the street, said it was the first time he had sung before a live audience in four years.

"This will be the year that we take our freedom!" he told Reuters after singing through a boisterous set in front of a packed dancefloor.

"When I went up on the stage and started singing I felt like I was performing for my family."

Belly dancers also took the stage, and revelers showered a female singer with dinar notes, the Iraqi audience's ultimate sign of approval.

My warmest wishes to everyone throughout the world for peace, security, freedom and happiness in 2008. May it be our best year ever!

Rant: Intolerance, Prejudice, Hatred and Stupidity

I live in a small southern rural town in Mississippi. Our town has about 10 restaurants (not counting fast food), but about 40 Baptist Churches. We are the buckle of the Bible Belt.

So no one will be surprised when I tell you about the backlash against the movie The Golden Compass. In our town there is a reactionary prejudice against the movie falling just inches short of an organized boycott.

It will come as no surprise for you to hear that reactionary conservative Christians tell me they won't allow their children to see the movie, let alone read the books. Of course they haven't ever read the books themselves, or seen the movie. They just know that theaters shouldn't "show that trash."

I'm betting that not one of my regular liberal leaning or progressive readers is the slightest bit surprised at the ignorant, intolerant, closed minded, prejudiced, and stupid attitude of the right wing fundamentalist conservatives.

Meanwhile back in the civilized, multi-cultural, blue state metropolitan world, progressives and so-called liberals are inflamed with a level of outrage, hatred, intolerance, prejudice and closed minded stupidity over the hiring of neo-conservative Bill Kristol as a weekly op-ed columnist writer for The New York Times.

Boycotts of the Times are actually in the works. Letters to the editor are flying. Threats abound.

Kathleen Reardon, blogging over at Huffington has
published a letter she recommends all Times readers use as a template for similar letters to the editor of the Times:

"....if you hire William Kristol, it will be the final cut. You will have betrayed everything I have ever admired in the Times. I am serious about this.

I will terminate my email and any premium subscription. I will no longer purchase the Times or the Herald Tribune at newsstands. My interest in the success of your publication will cease, and I will get all my news from elsewhere. Any regrets I may have will be assuaged by my knowledge that your hiring of that arrogant, blockheaded, smirking, war-mongering scumbag proves you have finally lost your way."

I am sickened and disgusted that people I want to respect are behaving exactly like right wing zealots. They refuse to allow "the liberal newspaper of record" as one blogger put it, to be sullied by a real and genuine exchange of ideas.

Kathleen, what I've always admired about the Times is their willingness to present diverse opinions, even highly unpopular ones. The Times could be counted on to discuss in their op-ed section homosexuality, racism, genocide and the environment when those ideas were unpopular or radical.

Why would anyone think the well water of liberalism would be poisoned by ideas? Don't they realize that the well water, indeed our very soul, is replenished by the spring water of fresh ideas, divergent opinions and civilized debate and discussion.

These so called progressive anti-Kristol zealots are identical in every prejudiced, closed mined, intolerant, hate filled, fearful way to the fundamentalists who fear the ideas of an atheist writer who wrote a fantasy book now turned into a movie.

The Golden Compass will not ruin small town southern life, and Bill Kristol will not ruin the New York Times.


On a related note, New York Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal both
confirmed and defended the decision:

Times' editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal defended the move. Rosenthal told shortly after the official announcement Saturday that he fails to understand “this weird fear of opposing views....We have views on
our op-ed page that are as hawkish or more so than Bill....

“The idea that The New York Times is giving voice to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual — and somehow that’s a bad thing,”

Rosenthal added. “How intolerant is that?”


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Could Andrew McCarthy and Juan Cole BOTH Be Right?

The very tragic loss of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan this week has exposed the horrible inflammation hiding just below the superficial skin of the "civilized" Middle East.

I think most Americans had a fairy tale view of Pakistan.

I believe most Americans felt that Pakistan was, for the most part, a civil society hampered by an over zealous military that all too often took control by ousting democratically elected leaders.

In our mind former General, now President, Musharraf was holding back Democracy (with a big "D") is a vain attempt to hold on to power.

And, in our mind, Benazir Bhutto was the beacon of "Democracy," about to bring back light to a darkened society.

As it turns out we Americans have watched too many movies like Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Pakistan is no middle earth and Bhutto was no hobbit.

Our view, as Americans, is shaped all too often by the pathetic portraits painted in water colors by the national news networks. Sixty second sound bites on FOX, CNN and the nightly news actually do have a fairy tale quality to them.. No in depth reporting. No one actually scratching the surface looking at the infection.

And how did MSNBC, FOX and others react to Bhutto's death? They paraded endless sixty second interviews with political hacks about which candidate for US President benefited the most from Bhutto's assassination.


And so I point you all to two diverse corners of the blogosphere for some real in depth discussion of the real implications of Benazir Bhutto's life and death on Pakistan and the middle east. The two views I propose you read and take to heart appear at first to be diametrically opposed. But are they really?

First I strongly recommend you read Andrew C. McCarthy's article Benazir Bhutto: Killed by the real Pakistan in National Review Online.
A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.

Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.

President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman — indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.

Although he certainly doesn't mention McCarthy by name, I believe Juan Cole's blog entry of Friday, December 28, 2007 written one day after McCarthy's article, was a direct response and a full frontal assault on McCarthy's analysis.

I am appalled by the rightwing US pundits who are taking advantage of Bhutto's assassination to blame "the people of Pakistan" for "extremism." Benazir's party would have won at least a plurality in parliament. The PPP is a moderate, middle class party, and it has done well in unrigged elections during the past 20 years. She was killed by an extremist of some sort. The Muslim fundamentalist parties usually only get 3 percent of the vote in national elections, and they got 11.3 percent of the popular vote in 2002 only because Musharraf interfered with the PPP and Muslim League campaigns.

Cole is a widely respected expert on the middle east. And, initially in his article, Cole comes off as a wise and reasonable statesman compared to McCarthy's wild eyed fanaticism.

The trouble is that once you get past these opening salvos the articles almost say exactly the same things. Pakistan is a deeply troubled country being run amok by radical Islam. It turns out that Cole and McCarthy disagree mostly about the percentages, not the outcome.

In effect Cole is saying that a majority of moderate Pakistanis are being run roughshod by a minority bent on civil war. And Cole believes civil war is only a heartbeat away.

The seriousness of the situation in the streets of some of Pakistan's important towns and cities doesn't seem to me to be being reported in the US press and media. In contrast, Pakistani newspapers are giving chilling details of large urban centers turned into ghost towns on Friday morning, with no transport available, hundreds of thousands of persons stranded far from home, shops closed, and banks, gas stations, police stations and automobiles torched.

Folks, I've seen civil wars and riots first hand, and revolutions from not too far away, and this situation looks pretty bad to me.

Meanwhile McCarthy writes an essay that I swear I've read nearly word for word in dozens of Juan Cole's own columns (I'm not implying plagiarism at all, just a strange convergence of ideas):

For the United States, the question is whether we learn nothing from repeated, inescapable lessons that placing democratization at the top of our foreign policy priorities is high-order folly.

The transformation from Islamic society to true democracy is a long-term project. It would take decades if it can happen at all. Meanwhile, our obsessive insistence on popular referenda is naturally strengthening — and legitimizing — the people who are popular: the jihadists. Popular elections have not reformed Hamas in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon. Neither will they reform a place where Osama bin Laden wins popular opinion polls and where the would-be reformers are bombed and shot at until they die.

I'm used to McCarthy proposing Bush-lite Democracy and Cole saying it' can't be done. But in this case I really believe they are both saying the same thing, even while taking veiled potshots at each other.

Pakistan is not ready or willing or able to embrace Democracy today. This Islamic minority (or majority) are not ready for changes that give power to the people. Changes that would trade sharia law for Amnesty International,

This is a clash of cultures, a clash between the past and the future. Pakistan is simply another Afghanistan or another Iraq. It is one more battlefield in the was between Islamic radicals like al-qaeda and the Taliban and moderates who merely yearn for peace and stability.

Yes, it does sound a lot like The Lord of the Rings and the war for middle earth. But don't expect good to triumph over evil. And don't expect an ending in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Or even three installments.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Separation of Church and State

As I wrote about Mike Huckabee (immediately below) I was reminded of an essay I had written here in this blog two years ago about the real nature of the separation of church and state in the United States.

Huckabee and others who think the United States is (or was) a "Christian Nation" that has now somehow lost its way because of the ACLU and "secular humanists" like me, need to read up a little on their history.

Therefore, in the spirit of Christmas, I've edited and expanded this bit of history of Christmas in the United States from my original essay.
You can read the complete essay here: The Truth About Christmas Trees

Separation of Church and State was much stronger when our country was founded than it is today. Christmas itself WAS NOT a government holiday. In fact, stores and businesses did not close on Christmas until just a little over 100 years ago. Congress held sessions on Christmas Day.

Scrooge was not unusual in expecting his employees to work on Christmas. It was not a "holiday." In fact it was Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" than began a movement toward making Christmas a Holiday. Dickens was considered a radical and a socialist and a general trouble maker.

Calvin and protestant leaders rejected both the celebration of Christmas and Easter as pagan trivializations of sacred events.

The White House NEVER had a Christmas tree until President Franklin Pierce, our 14th President set up a tree in 1856. And he was nearly impeached for adopting the German pagan tradition. It was a huge controversy.

Christmas DID NOT become a National Holiday until 1870!!!

Alabama was the first state to make Christmas an official holiday in 1836.

Believe it or not, the southern states celebration of Christmas was one of reasons for the Civil War!!!

It wasn't just slavery that set the southerners apart from the righteous Northerners. Southern States celebrated Christmas (Arkansas and Louisiana joined in passing Christmas Holiday laws), but Northern states strictly forbid any such celebration!! At one time you would be fined in Boston for openly celebrating Christmas!!

In the early 20th century Teddy Roosevelt again banned the Christmas Tree from the White House, but this time on the grounds of conservation. As an ardent conservationist, he led a battle against cutting down trees for decoration. The White House must set an example.

But I'm certainly not going to ban Christmas from these pages. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

the Wizard.....

Mike Huckabee

I've got a certain grudging respect for Mike Huckabee. The man has a a level of intellectual honesty, integrity and honor all too often missing in today's pandering politicians, especially those running for President.

As I watch the "makeover of the week" by candidates like Mitt Romney and John Edwards, it is refreshing to see a candidate who actually knows what he believes, a candidate who doesn't need to wait for the latest opinion poll before taking a stand.

Because Huckabee and I disagree on virtually every major issue, I cannot possibly support him for President, but he is one candidate I can actually respect.

Huckabee is at the center of a firestorm over this television ad:

Secularists, many liberals and those who desire a true separation of church and state object to the overt Christian nature of this ad. But in spite of a withering attack on this ad, his public persona and Christianity itself, Huckabee remains firm, confident and relaxed.

Elizabeth White, reporting for the Associated Press, writes:

SAN ANTONIO - Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made no apologies Sunday for the religious tone of a recent holiday campaign commercial and said it is important to look for Jesus at this time of year.

"You can find Santa at every mall. You can find discounts in every store," Huckabee said from the pulpit of Cornerstone Church.
"But if you mention the name of Jesus, as I found out recently, it upsets the whole world. Forgive me, but I thought that was the point of the whole day."

Speaking at a later church service, Huckabee said: "I got in a little trouble this last week because I actually had the audacity to say 'Merry Christmas.' Isn't that an odd thing to say at this time of year?"

Huckabee also discussed the ad during an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" before delivering the sermons.

Asked whether he was running for president of Christian America, Huckabee said he was campaigning to be the "president of all America, to be the people's president. And that's how I served as governor."

Separately, The Dallas Morning News on Sunday endorsed Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination. The newspaper said that while he is not an "ideal candidate," he "is the change agent the nation most needs."

The Morning News also endorsed Democrat Barack Obama "because of his consistently solid judgment, poise under pressure and ability to campaign effectively without resorting to the divisive politics of the past."

I can understand the logic of a paper that would endorse Huckabee on one hand, and Obama on the other.

I don't believe Huckabee can win, nor do I think he should, but I appreciate a candidate who is genuine and honest and has a certain quiet courage of conviction.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Food for Thought

Democrat (now Independent) Senator Joe Lieberman Endorses Republican Senator John McCain in his bid for President in 2008. I greatly admire both Lieberman and McCain.

This move deserves thought and certainly McCain's bid for the Republican Presidential Nomination deserves consideration. I wonder if McCain might chose Lieberman as his running mate?

Also worth consideration: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and, just maybe, Rudy Giuliani.

Not worth even a second thought: Mike Huckabee or John Edwards.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Democrats are lost in time...."

From today's USA TODAY:

Our view on war in Iraq:

Surge's success holds chance to seize the moment in Iraq

Instead, Democrats are lost in time

Iraq remains a violent place, but the trends are encouraging.

U.S. and Iraqi casualties are down sharply. Fewer of the most lethal Iranian-made explosive devices are being used as roadside bombs. In community after community, Sunni groups who were once in league with al-Qaeda have switched sides and are working with the U.S. forces.

On the Shiite side of Iraq's sectarian chasm, something similar is happening. About 70,000 local, pro-government groups, a bit like neighborhood watch groups, have formed to expose extremist militias, according to Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations.

But as much as facts have changed on the ground, little seems to have changed in Washington. There are plans to withdraw some troops next year, but there is no clear picture of the endgame in Iraq. How long will troops be needed? Exactly what do we expect success to look like? Will we leave behind a permanent presence?

None of the answers are any clearer than they were when the news began improving. In fact, they seem fuzzier.

On the Republican side, the White House has been busy making excuses for the Iraqi government's failure to move toward national reconciliation ...

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, seem lost in a time warp. They could try to impose new benchmarks that acknowledge the military progress. Instead, too many seem unable or unwilling to admit that President Bush's surge of 30,000 more troops has succeeded beyond their initial predictions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who in the spring declared the war lost, said last week that "the surge hasn't accomplished its goals." Anti-war Democrats remain fixated on tying war funding to a rapid troop withdrawal. Yet pulling the troops out precipitously threatens to squander the progress of recent months toward salvaging a decent outcome to the Iraq debacle.


The Iraq war, which has cost so much in U.S. lives and treasure, deserves far more than muddling through with fingers crossed. It demands a credible, long-term plan that will allow the United States to get out in a way that preserves U.S. interests in the region, not a political stalemate that forces it to stay in.

I couldn't possibly agree more.

Read the complete editorial here:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Intelligent Design

This Christmas Season I've been thinking about "Intelligent Design."

And I want you to look at the pictures below and consider the wonders of life. God's amazing capacity for creation. These Turkish Angora kittens are simply beautiful.

Except for the fact that they glow in the dark. And that these remarkable glowing kittens were designed by man.

Well, man did have a little help. The original design of the cat has existed for thousands of years. But scientists in South Korea did tinker with the genes and cloned these new cats that glow in the dark under ultraviolet light! Genetic engineering is advancing at light speed (if you'll pardon the pun).

The South Korean Ministry of Science and Technology reported Wednesday that "South Korean scientists have cloned cats by manipulating a fluorescent protein gene, a procedure which could help develop treatments for human genetic diseases."

It is a side-effect that the cloned cats glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet beams.

The Ministry's Press Release continued "The ability to produce cloned cats with the manipulated genes is significant as it could be used for developing treatments for genetic diseases and for reproducing model (cloned) animals suffering from the same diseases as humans."

And yet all this is happening while we have candidates running for President who absolutely refuse to acknowledge the possibility of evolution or other basic scientific facts.

And it's happening at a time where religious fundamentalists deny women in almost 1/3rd of the world even the most basic of human rights. The right of women to vote, the right to own property, the right for women to even walk alone in public is forbidden in all too many countries and regions of the world.

Scientists is South Korea are advancing rapidly on techniques which hold the promise of curing diseases, preventing birth defects, extending life and, eventually, designing new species of life.

Today we have adorable kittens that glow in the dark. How soon will it be until every child wants one?

How soon will it be until scientists endow kittens or puppies or horses or cows with the intelligence of man? It will happen. Will we give them the right to vote? Don't laugh. The question will arise.

And we will "improve" humans, too. For better or worse.

If are scientists are truly gifted maybe they can create human leaders who won't continue to deny basic scientific facts.

And maybe, if our scientists are truly gifted, they can design humans who will actually treat other humans with the respect, honor, and dignity that each one of us deserves.

Or maybe we will just glow in the dark.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Remembering Rosa Parks

File this tragic story under "look how far we've come."

I just couldn't helping thinking about the legacy of the"Mother of the American Civil Rights Movement," Rosa Parks (pictured in the right) as I read the news about the beating of Sarah Kreager on a Baltimore, Maryland bus this past week.

Sarah Kreager seems to be guilty of two crimes, maybe three. Sarah is homeless. And Sarah wanted to take a seat on the bus. And, a third possible crime, Sarah is white.

Sarah Kreager was beaten and nearly killed by nine black teenagers on the bus when she attempted to take a seat near the youths.

I had hoped and prayed we were past all of this. I had hoped society had progressed beyond the racial prejudice, social prejudice and economic prejudice that ruled America back on December 1st in 1955. That's the date that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus for a "white passenger."

Rosa Parks was guilty of being poor and tired and black.

I've adapted and edited the Rosa Parks story below from various
Wikipedia articles about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott:

On December 1, 1955, Parks became famous for refusing to obey bus driver James Blake's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. This action of civil disobedience started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which is one of the largest movements against racial segregation. In addition, this launched Martin Luther King, Jr., who was involved with the boycott, to prominence in the civil rights movement. She has had a lasting legacy worldwide.

In Montgomery, the first four rows of bus seats were reserved for white people. Buses had "colored" sections for black people—who made up more than 75% of the bus system's riders—generally in the rear of the bus. These sections were not fixed in size but were determined by the placement of a movable sign. Black people also could sit in the middle rows, until the white section was full. Then they had to move to seats in the rear, stand, or, if there was no room, leave the bus.

After a day at work at Montgomery Fair department store, Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus at around 6 p.m., Thursday, December 1, 1955, in downtown Montgomery. She paid her fare and sat in an empty seat in the first row of back seats reserved for blacks in the "colored" section, which was near the middle of the bus and directly behind the ten seats reserved for white passengers.

As the bus traveled along its regular route, all of the white-only seats in the bus filled up. The bus reached the third stop in front of the Empire Theater, and several white passengers boarded.

So, following standard practice, bus driver Blake noted that the front of the bus was filled with white passengers and there were two or three men standing, and thus moved the "colored" section sign behind Parks and demanded that four black people give up their seats in the middle section so that the white passengers could sit.

Years later, in recalling the events of the day, Parks said, "When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night."

By Parks' account, Blake said, "Y'all better make it light on yourselves and let me have those seats."

Three of them complied. Parks said, "The driver wanted us to stand up, the four of us. We didn't move at the beginning, but he says, 'Let me have these seats.' And the other three people moved, but I didn't."

The black man sitting next to her gave up his seat. Parks moved, but toward the window seat; she did not get up to move to the newly repositioned colored section.

Blake then said, "Why don't you stand up?" Parks responded, "I don't think I should have to stand up." Blake called the police to arrest Parks.

Now, nearly 52 years later to the day, Sarah Kreager has had a similar experience. And, while I'm certain Rosa Parks was terrified, Sarah was actually beaten and nearly killed. Only the intervention of the bus driver, who was also African-American, and a neighbor living near a bus stop saved Kreager's life. The nine middle schoolers would possibly have killed her had others not intervened.

When Sarah tried to take a seat on the bus, one middle school student told her that the seat was "reserved." when she chose another, the youth jumped over and told her "that one is reserved, too." The incident was repeated again and again until Sarah finally held her seat. Then she was attacked and beaten.

From the
Baltimore Sun:

In a written report, MTA police said the beating took place after one of the boys kept jumping in front of Kreager, claiming that the open seats on the bus were reserved. When Kreager finally found a seat, the teens began throwing punches at her and her boyfriend, according to the report. Police said her male companion, Troy Ennis, was also beaten.

…Jawauna Greene, an MTA spokeswoman, confirmed that investigators were considering racial hostility as a potential motivation for the assault, which left the female victim, Sarah Kreager, 26, with broken facial bones and other injuries after she was punched, kicked and dragged off the bus.

Although I'm not at all certain this is really a hate crime, but just wanna-be gang type violence by a group of young teenagers who got out of control.

Nine teens against one tired, sick, homeless woman.

I wonder if these teens realize the sacrifice Rosa Parks made for all Americans, black and white, back in 1955?

I wonder if they even know who Rosa Parks was?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The CRB Drives Another Nail Into the Coffin

The details of the Copyright Royalty Board's decision on royalties to be paid by the Satellite Radio came pouring out today, setting up a three level royalty system that insures the death of Internet Radio.

You can read Reuter's full report here:
Sirius, XM Royalties Set

But here is the bottom line. The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) of the U.S. Library of Congress set royalties for Satellite Radio's music playing channels at 6 percent of gross revenues for 2007 and 2008, 6.5 percent for 2009, 7 percent for 2010, 7.5 percent for 2011 and 8 percent for 2012.

While that may sound high it's a tiny fraction of the rates the very same Copyright Royalty Board imposed in Internet Radio.

In fact, in the ultimate insult, the CRB specifically rejected the virtually identical proposal from the Internet Radio Broadcasters, then they turned around and presented these reasonable and livable rates to a virtual radio monopoly, the soon to merge XM and Sirius companies.


No one, least of all the CRB, can explain this outrageous action.

As an end result we have a three tier cost system for radio broadcasting. On the low end of the scale you have AM and FM radio who pay NOTHING!!! All music is gifted to AM and FM's corporate giants at no charge what-so-ever.

Then you have Satellite Radio who will pay a high, but manageable, 6 to 8 percent of revenues for the identical sound recording being gifted to AM and FM radio.

Finally you have Internet Radio who must pay rates often in excess of 100% of revenues for the same recordings.

Advertisers and subscribers support all three formats of radio at virtually identical revenue rates, which is, of course, logical. Major advertisers like Phillip Morris or General Motors aren't going to pay more per listener for the privilege of having their ads on Internet radio than they will pay for Satellite or conventional AM and FM radio.

Internet Radio, straddled by the competition of AM and FM and Satellite Radio, cannot arbitrarily raise its ad rates. They'll get what the market will get. And AM and FM radio, with no sound recording royalties to pay at all, can artificially keep ad rates low.

Meanwhile Internet Radio cannot pay the royalties awarded by the CRB in one of the most discriminatory rulings in history. There simply is no excuse for an agency of the U.S. Government to willfully and purposely drive an entire industry out of business in favor of it's competitors.

Will Congress finally act, as it has long threatened? We do urge you to continue to write your Congress member and keep him or her informed.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Sounds of Silence

Bloomberg News reported stunning news this week about Internet Radio that shook up the business community and political circles, not to mention the rapidly growing legions of Internet Radio listeners: both AOL and Yahoo are on the verge of shuttering their Internet Radio operations!

This isn't news at all to radio industry insiders who had predicted that the Recording Industry Association of America's (RIAA) bizarre royalty demands made it totally impossible for any Internet Radio operation to ever break even, let alone make a profit. The RIAA has demanded huge per listener/per song royalties that literally mean the more listeners Internet Radio attracts, the greater the financial losses.

Imagine if some group owned a copyright on hamburger buns and they demanded that McDonalds lose 5 cents on every hamburger sold, regardless of price or sales volume. Obviously McDonalds would react by closing their restaurants!

This is exactly what the RIAA has done. And yet they are "shocked" that AOL and Yahoo would consider closing their radio stations. Bloomberg reports:

Nov. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Yahoo! Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL unit may shut down their Web radio services after being hit with a 38 percent increase in royalties to air music.

"We're not going to stay in the business if cost is more than we make long term," Ian Rogers, general manager at Yahoo's music unit, said in an interview.

Yahoo and AOL stopped directing users to their radio sites after SoundExchange, the Washington-based group representing artists and record labels, began collecting the higher fees in July. Those royalties may stifle the growth of Internet radio, which increased listeners 39 percent in the past year, according to researcher ComScore Inc. in Reston, Virginia.

Radio sites have been "dealt a severe blow," said Jeffrey Lindsay, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York, "It seems very unlikely that at this stage a solution will be reached."

Yahoo, based in Sunnyvale, California, is promoting a music service offering videos and songs for sale rather than its Launchcast, the largest Web radio site, Rogers said.

As a result, the number of people using Launchcast fell 11 percent to 5.1 million in October, according to ComScore. AOL Radio users declined 10 percent to 2.7 million from 3 million.

"The current math doesn't add up,'' said Lisa Namerow, managing director of AOL Radio in Dulles, Virginia. "If the rates remain as they are, it would be very challenging to sustain a business that is profitable.''

"We're really re-examining the radio model," AOL's Namerow said. "Shutting down the business is a possibility if Webcasters and the music industry don't come to an agreement."

It remains terribly unclear why the RIAA wants to kill Internet Radio. One thought is that the major labels want total control over the industry, forcing independents and unsigned artists off the air. Others believe that the big labels simply don't understand the medium and equate Internet Radio with file sharing. Still others see Internet radio as the stalking horse for future battles with AM and FM radio who pay no artist royalties what-so-ever and never have.

Regardless of the reason, the very existence of Internet Radio is threatened.

Here are some simple math facts. Yahoo's Internet Radio operation, the largest in the world, expects advertising revenue to rise 4.7 percent to $45 million in 2008. That sounds good doesn't it?

Except, the RIAA demanded royalties would increase 19 percent this year. An impossible financial burden. Moore importantly, if Yahoo actually increased listeners, the usual solution to increased costs, the royalties would rise even higher..... much higher.

Increased listeners are actually the enemy. Hence all Internet Radio operations, including Yahoo and AOL, have stopped advertising or promoting their services and have created bizarre listener caps and automatic shut downs to reduce active listeners.

only hope is that Congress will step in and demand reasonable royalty rates. At this point Internet Radio operators would like to settle for the exact same rates already granted by the RIAA to Sirius Satellite Radio earlier this month.

The question remains as to why the RIAA wants Internet Radio to pay so much more than satellite radio. It is interesting to note that satellite radio plays virtually no independent and unsigned artists. The bland blend of music available via satellite is virtually all big record label controlled.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Thanksgiving Outrage!!

Why is it the government always wants to control and interfere with our live? Our families? Our schools? Our personal lifestyles?

And big business, too! The big corporations certainly think they know what's best for all us "little people." I'm old enough to remember the old adage "What's good for General Motors is good for the USA."
This is paraphrase of an actual quote by Charles E. Wilson, the President of General Motors who went on to become the Secretary of Defense under President Eisenhower. The exact quote is often attributed to satirist and newspaper cartoonist Al Capp who created a character in his comic strip "Lil' Abner" modeled after Charles Wilson and named "General Bullmoose."

And, if you'll allow me one further digression, there was another Charles E. Wilson who also was the head of a major US Corporation, General Electric, who also became Secretary of Defense just a few years earlier under President Truman. The two are often confused.

But back to our story of outrageous Governmental and big business interference and meddling in our lives. I know you think the country is divided today... but this dictatorial act of over reaching Presidential power really did divide the country, often pitting father against son, brother against brother and created a real battle of wills between the states!

I'm not joking. And I'm not taking about the civil war. But, rest assured this story is exactly and absolutely true.

Thanksgiving is a truly American Holiday and a wonderful American tradition. According to generally accepted history the first Thanksgiving happened in the fall of 1621 when Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered together to celebrate a successful harvest. The exact date is actually unknown but is generally believed to be sometime between September 21 and November 11. It was a three-day feast. I wish we hadn't lost that tradition!

But, in reality,Thanksgiving was never an official "National" holiday. In 1863, when President Lincoln was looking for ways to unite the country, he issued the first "Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation" and set the last Thursday in November to be a day of "thanksgiving and praise."

The Thanksgiving Holiday was embraced by the public and for the next 75 years each President issued his own Thanksgiving Proclamation, declaring the last Thursday in November as the day of Thanksgiving.

Ahhh, but here's where big business and politics intervened. By 1939 President Roosevelt was fighting the Great Depression with every weapon he could muster. And, in 1939, the last Thursday of November was going to be November 30, the final day of the month.

As you know, even today, retailers, especially the big corporations, do everything possible to increase and enlarge the length of the Holiday Shopping Season. And, as you also know, most people really object to the move by business to further commercialize and extend the Christmas season.

When the various big retailers and business associations complained to President Roosevelt that, with Thanksgiving on the 30th of November, there would be only left 24 shopping days to Christmas, Roosevelt was receptive to their pleas. If only the President would move Thanksgiving one week earlier, it would add a full seven days to the Holiday Shopping Season!! It was, the retailers claimed, a win-win situation because if the public spent more money it would help their profits and help end the depression!

Roosevelt agreed! In 1939, he declared the date of Thanksgiving to be Thursday, November 23, the second-to-last Thursday of the month!

What seemed like a good idea quickly turned into a political and commercial nightmare. Roosevelt made several mistakes, the most important of which was messing with an established tradition. But there were other problems. First he issued the Proclamation way too late. Calendars were now incorrect. Schools who had planned vacations and tests now had to reschedule.

And even in 1939 Thanksgiving was a big day for football games, much as it is today. It wasn't such a great idea to interfere with college football. And Roosevelt's decision caused many games to be scheduled on a working weekend.

Of course, political opponents questioned the president's right to change the holiday and stressed the breaking of precedent and disregard for tradition. Sounds a lot like controversies today doesn't it? Many believed that changing a cherished holiday just to appease big businesses was selling out to the corporations.

The not particularly loyal opposition called the new early date "Franksgiving" in dishonor of Roosevelt himself.

If you think this is some silly little argument and the Wizard is making all this up, I'm not. This was a serious issue of the day. And it quickly got a lot more serious.

Since Thanksgiving was not a legally legislated Holiday, each states Governor normally issued a Proclamation for their own state. So in 1939, many governors, who did not agree with Roosevelt's decision, refused to follow his lead. The country became split on which Thanksgiving day they should observe.

Twenty-three states followed Roosevelt's decision and declared Thanksgiving to be November 23.

But exactly twenty-three other states disagreed and kept the traditional date for Thanksgiving, one week later.

The two states that the Wizard calls home, Colorado and Texas, actually decided to honor both dates. Was that the 1939 version of "politically correct?"

At any rate the idea of two Thanksgivings split some families, because not everyone had the same day off work. School Holidays were messed up and so were vacations.

And everybody ended up hating the retailers who caused this mess in the first place. Holiday shopping did not improve in either group of states!

The controversy continued in 1940 and in 1941 when Roosevelt again chose the third Thursday for Thanksgiving.

But finally, after much negotiation and public pressure, a bipartisan group in Congress came up with a compromise. Congress finally made Thanksgiving a real legal National Holiday, taking away the President's right to set the date!

The new law declared that Thanksgiving would occur every year on the fourth Thursday of November, a split between the old and new dates.

The Congressional compromise insured Thanksgiving would never fall on either the 29th or the 30th. But it generally would fall on the last Thursday of November in traditional fashion.

I hope you all have a wonderful, peaceful and stress free Thanksgiving.

A big thanks and a tip of the Wizard's pointly cap goes to Jennifer Rosenberg's, whose article, A History of Thanksgiving, is located in

Saturday, November 17, 2007

We Should Leave Iraq........ Never!

The invasion and occupation of Iraq was just plain stupid. It was unnecessary, poorly planned and badly executed. If George Bush wasn't a fool, he certainly made foolish decisions. As for Rumsfeld, he was criminally incompetent.

Hindsight is a wonderful tool. But ninety percent of Americans supported the invasion of Iraq. And nearly every Democrat either strongly and passionately supported the war or were too cowardly to actively oppose it. We should and must deeply respect those who opposed the invasion before it began, but we should also forgive those who mistakenly supported the invasion.

But what about today? The world and the Middle East are vastly different today that they were six years ago. And our ill begotten invasion and occupation of Iraq are part of the reason for the different dynamics at play.

But we cannot undo the last six years. This isn't golf and we don't get a mulligan. Instead we must play the ball where it lays. And it lays in the slowly healing Iraq.

New leadership in the military and in the Department of Defense have reprogrammed our approach to Iraq. Finally a solution to the failed state is building, as it must, from the ground up. A very, very gradual pull down of troops has begun. But the foundation is fragile.

And the enemies of America are genuinely terrifying. If the political forces fighting so very, very hard to engineer a forced pull out of American troops from Iraq would look dispassionately at the enemy they would see an organization so vile, so evil, so ruthless that their daily operating tactics violate not just the Geneva Convention, but every value and moral ever cherished by every single human society throughout history.

George Bush has never even imagined the types of sadistic and evil torture practiced every minute of day by these ...... people ........ [What can we call them??? There simply isn't a word in any language for this level of evil.] Targeting children. Killing teachers. Brainwashing followers into suicide murder. Thousands (yes, you read that number right) of torture chambers where generally innocent people are slowly starved, cut, bled and beaten to death, often for no purpose what-so-ever.

Televised beheadings? At least they have a purpose, They are designed to incite fear.

But the real issue is Iran. While Bush screwed up with invading Iraq and providing textbook lessons in how not to occupy a country, Iran has emerged as the leader in the Middle East. And now even conservative estimates give Iran nuclear weapons in just one year.

And there are, in fact, no solutions to Iran, no options, even in Bush's far reaching playbook. Posturing and bluffing are the best the west can do and, frankly, Iran knows the drill.

So we face a nuclear Iran. Period. There are no options. Bush will not bomb. Bush cannot invade. Israel will not be our proxy. Period.

Given these facts, and they are facts, the only logical, intelligent course is to stay and rebuild Iraq from the ground up. A strong, democratic, Iraq is the only solution, even if it take years. The United States must maintain significant forces in Iraq until that job is done.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Iranian Minister: Gays Should Be Hanged

I can literally hardly wait until January 9, 2009 when the new President, whoever he or she might be, is inaugurated. Not because Bush will be leaving, but because maybe.... just maybe.... all my long time liberal friends and allies will return to their sanity.

I hate the "Bush Derangement Syndrome" that has infected so many of my friends because it has so thoroughly blinded them to the real issues and the real problems, the real prejudices, the real crimes and the real tragedies around the world. And the plight of homosexuals in Iran is one of those real tragedies.

Further down this page will be a story that is resonating
with liberals and progressives around the world. But you won't find a single sentence about it on The Huffington Post (go ahead and do a
search) or on The Daily Kos. Nope, to find this story here in the USA you need to go to the liberal bastion of truth and justice: Little Green Footballs.

For those who simply cannot bear to click on a link to lgf, here is a link directly to the story from the Times of London:
Gays should be hanged, says Iranian minister

Key quotes from the Times Story:

Homosexuals deserve to be executed or tortured and possibly both, an Iranian leader told British MPs during a private meeting at a peace conference, The Times has learnt.

Mohsen Yahyavi is the highest-ranked politician to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality
after a spate of reports that gay youths were being hanged.

Britain regularly challenges Iran about its gay hangings, stonings and executions of adulterers and perceived moral criminals, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) papers show.

The latest row involves a woman hanged this June in the town of Gorgan after becoming pregnant by her brother. He was absolved after expressing his remorse.

A series of reported executions of gays, including two underage boys whose public hanging was posted on the internet, has alarmed human rights campaigners.

Minutes taken by an official describe a meeting between British and Iranian MPs at the Inter-Parliamentary Union, a peace body, in May. When the Britons raised the hangings of Asqari and Marhouni, the leader of the Iranian delegation, Mr Yahyavi, a member of his parliament’s energy committee, was unflinching.
He “explained that according to Islam gays and lesbianism were not permitted”, the record states.... those in overt activity should be executed [he initially said tortured but changed it to executed].

He argued that homosexuality is against human nature and that humans are here to reproduce. Homosexuals do not reproduce.”

Nicole Pichet, a researcher who also took notes of the gathering, told The Times that the discussion began with British MPs discussing the underage gay hangings.
Mr Yahyavi responded by saying homosexuality was to blame for a lot of diseases such as Aids.

Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Nigeria apply the death penalty for homosexuality, according to the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

The Bush Derangement Syndrome casuses some of my friends to say that we cannot possibly criticize Iran because Bush criticizes Iran. We can't be on Bush's side of the debate.

Does that mean we must turn a blind eye to injustice? Our help is needed. We wouldn't tolerate this activity in Texas or Montana or Israel or France. Why do we tolerate it in Iran?

I'm hopeful that once Clinton or Obama or even Guilani is elected, liberals and progressives can once again focus on issues without considering the spectre of George Bush.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Waterboarding Free Speech to Death

I'm sick and tired of the damned intolerance of the LEFT toward any conflicting opinion, idea or thought. Why must opposition (from the left or the right) seek to absolutely SILENCE any dissenting opinion?

The LEFT WING THOUGHT POLICE, aided by the DAILY KOS and dozens of left wing blogs, claimed another victim this past week with the firing of conservative columnist Rachel Marsden from the Toronto Sun.

The ONLY GOAL of these coordinated left wing bloggers was her firing! As a blogger named "pale" wrote over at A Creative Revolution, "Why would anyone give this woman a platform to spew her venom?"

Why pale, how brilliant! Only you should have a platform to spew your venom.

One reader, aptly named "TheManWithNoPoint" replied to the blog, "I want Rachel Marsden off the columnist role for that rag, or I'm kicking it into high gear. Hint: And that might involve placards and thermoses full of hot cocoa, at a certain newspaper's head office."

This was notihing short of a full blown effort to get a columnist fired that spread like wildfire across the blogosphere.

All my regular readers know I get equally outraged when a liberal voice is silenced by the right. Thankfully that rarely happens.

But exactly what was Marsden's unforgivable sin that led to her firing? Well, she expressed an opinion. It was kind of her job at Sun Media.

She said that, under certain circumstances, in time of war, certain actions, including waterboarding, might be necessary. I've made the exact same case here in my blog, but no one can fire me. Of course, I'm not as funny or sarcastic as Marsden either.

Marsden did go on to defend the practice of waterboarding and make a case that it wasn't even torture.

Now you can disagree with her every premise, you can argue point by point that she is wrong, she is ignorant, she is cruel, she is petty, she is stupid or that she is ugly (although that is a stretch). That is a debate, a discussion, a dialog. But getting her fired? That stifles debate.

No discussion is necessary. The silence of the lambs.

Here are some key points from Marsden in her blog reply to her firing:
Some Have Forgotten How War Works

If the West loses the current war against Islamofascism, it will be because some have lost all sense of what war really means.

Last week, in my weekly Sun Media column, I argued that it’s really not that big of a deal to make terror suspects like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed essentially do what any kid does at Halloween when he bobs for apples--except in the presence of the CIA, and with the prize in the terrorist’s case being lifesaving information.

That column triggered an email campaign spearheaded by the Daily Kos--the largest far-left blog in America--which appealed to the Sun’s new editor-in-chief from the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest leftist newspaper. As a result, after 2 years with the Sun and a hundred columns, my writing is now in search of a new home.

Really, has society lost its collective mind to the point where we’ve forgotten how to properly wage a war?

General Paul Tibbets, who dropped the A-bomb on Japan that ended World War II, recently passed away. According to the New York Times, Tibbets told a PBS documentary: “It would have been morally wrong if we’d have had that weapon and not used it and let a million more people die.”

And now here we are, 60 years later, wringing our hands over how we should treat people who have made it abundantly clear that they would have killed us, if we hadn’t nabbed them first. What’s the alternative that the terrorist sympathizers are looking for? To tickle them until they cry uncle and promise to be good boys?

War isn’t like divvying up the contents of a condo upon divorce so everyone walks away feeling good. It means people have to die. And sometimes even be forced to bob for apples with the CIA. Sorry, but that’s the way it has always worked. In the words of the A-bomb pilot: “I have been convinced that we saved more lives than we took.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Misreading the Mandate

For at least the last four years I hoped that President Bush would remove Karl Rove from his position in the White House. I believed Rove was not part of any solution and was the focus of the problem with the Bush Presidency and the acrimonious relationship between Congress and the Executive Branch.

I was thrilled to see Rove finally go.

But today I must strongly recommend that all my fellow Democrats and especially the Member and Leaders of Congress carefully study and read Karl Rove's Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal,
"A Failure to Lead."

Never in my long life have I seen Congress so thoroughly misread their election victory and the mandate they received from a public anxious for change in Washington. And I believe the real problem in Congress today rests with Nancy Pelosi and especially the politically deaf Harry Reid, the most embarrassing Senate Majority Leader in history.

Just reading Rove's essay is bitter medicine for any Democrat. "A tough pill to swallow" is an understatement!

But Democrats had better do more than just read. They must understand that Rove is spot on correct, not necessarily in his specific programs (which, of course, lean way too far right), but in his evaluation of the performance of the Congress, its ethics, its discipline and its results.

Key (and edited) Rove comments follow:

This week is the one-year anniversary of Democrats winning Congress. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid probably aren't in a celebrating mood. The goodwill they enjoyed after their victory is gone. And Congress's approval rating has fallen to its lowest point in history.

The problems the Democrats are now experiencing begin with the federal budget. Or rather, the lack of one. In 2006, Democrats criticized Congress for dragging its feet on the budget and pledged that they would do better. Instead, they did worse. The new fiscal year started Oct. 1--five weeks ago--but Democrats have yet to send the president a single annual appropriations bill. It's been at least 20 years since Congress has gone this late in passing any appropriation bills, an indication of the mess the Pelosi-Reid Congress is now in.

Even worse, the Democrats have made clear all their talk about "fiscal discipline" is just that--talk. They're proposing to spend $205 billion more than the president has proposed over the next five years. And the opening wedge of this binge is $22 billion more in spending proposed for the coming year. Only in Washington could someone in public life be so clueless to say, as Sen. Reid and Rep. Pelosi have, that $22 billion is a "relatively small" difference.

Beholden to and other left-wing groups, Democratic leaders have ignored the progress made in Iraq by the surge, diminished the efforts of our military, and wasted precious time with failed attempts to force an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. They continue to try to implement this course, which would lead to chaos in the region, the creation of a possible terror state with the third largest oil reserves in the world, and a major propaganda victory for Osama bin Laden as well as for Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah.

After promising on the campaign trail to "support our troops," Democrats tried to cut off funding for our military while our soldiers and Marines are under fire from the enemy.
For 19 Senate Democrats, this was simply a bridge too far, so they voted against their own leadership's proposal. Democrats also tried to stuff an emergency war-spending bill with billions of dollars of pork for individual members. Now the party's leaders are stalling an emergency supplemental bill with funding for body armor, bullets and mine-resistant vehicles.

Democrats promised "civility and bipartisanship." Instead, they stiff-armed their Republican colleagues, refused to include them in budget negotiations between the two houses.....

They refused a bipartisan compromise on an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program, instead wasting precious time sending the president a bill they knew he would veto. And they did this knowing that they wouldn't be able to override that veto.
Why? Because their pollsters told them putting the children's health-care program at risk would score political points. Instead, it left them looking cynical.

The list of Congress's failures grows each month. No energy bill. No action on health care. No action on the mortgage crisis. No immigration reform..... Congress has not done its work. And these failures will have consequences.

Democrats had a moment after the 2006 election, but now that moment has passed. They've squandered it. They have demonstrated both the inability and unwillingness to govern.

Now that Democrats have the reins of congressional power... ...the public doesn't like what it sees.

The Democratic victory in 2006 was narrow. They won the House by 85,961 votes out of over 80 million cast and the Senate by a mere 3,562 out of over 62 million cast. A party that wins control by that narrow margin can quickly see its fortunes reversed when it fails to act responsibly, fails to fulfill its promises, and fails to lead.

There is a valuable lesson to be learned right here in my home state of Mississippi and our neighboring state of Louisiana. Republican Haley Barbour easily won re-election last week during a year when virtually every incumbent has been tossed out. Why? Because he got results!

Barbour managed both the relief and reconstruction after Katrina with efficiency, candor, honesty and speed. He compromised with our Democrat controlled House and our Democrat Attorney General to get the right relief and right support in the right places. He got results, not gridlock.

Compare Mississippi's amazing recovery with the disaster that still blocks virtually all the millions of federal dollars from reaching anyone in Louisiana and you see why you have a new REPUBLICAN replace the incumbent Democrat in the governor's seat without even a runoff.

You know what America really wants? A partnership between the parties for results and not more political grandstanding.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Tale of the Tip

The story of Hillary Clinton's visit to a Maid-Rite eatery in Iowa shouldn't be a story, but it's quickly evolving into an epic tragedy. I continue to personally be a strong Clinton supporter, although I believe it's still way to early to endorse anyone. Hillary Clinton is only a minor player in this story anyway.

This is a story of lies (although very tiny lies) and betrayal (really minor betrayal) and, mostly, campaign staffers covering their sorry and pathetic asses.

As is often the case in politics, it isn't the original crime that causes the problem, it's the cover-up. And the Clinton campaign organization is digging a hole so deep they can only pray for an earthquake to move the blogosphere off this story.

Without calling the Clinton campaign staffers outright liars, the editor's at NPR (National Public Radio) have re-investigated the story and bring the facts up-to-date. The conflicting and changing stories coming out of the Clinton headquarters strain credibility to the limits.

Why on earth doesn't the campaign just say "Opps!! We made a mistake and forgot the tip. We apologize."

Here are a few of the key points from the
NPR Editor's Update:

It started as an aside in a longer interview, but it became an Internet sensation within hours.

Anita Esterday, a waitress at the Maid-Rite in Toledo, Iowa, told NPR's David Greene in a report that aired on Morning Edition Thursday that "nobody got left a tip" on Oct. 8, when Clinton sat at the lunch counter and ordered up the restaurant's famous loose-meat sandwich.

Esterday served Clinton, chatted with her and later ended up as an
example of a hard-working single mom in Clinton's stump speech. She told NPR she's considering voting for Clinton, but was disappointed the senator and her staff didn't make sure she got a tip for her labor.

The tip issue was a small part of an eight-minute piece about how everyday people get caught up in political campaigns. Half the story was about an incident in which another presidential candidate, Barack Obama, failed to follow up on a letter he said he might send to a supporter he met at a rally. The Obama campaign Thursday said they fired off a letter to the supporter after the story aired. But that part of the story received little mention in the blogosphere after airing Thursday.

Not so the reference to Hillary Clinton and the tip. As soon as that
story aired in the 5 o'clock hour Eastern Time, it was picked up by a number of political blogs. And the Clinton campaign immediately contacted news organizations to tell its side of the story. Clinton spokesman Phil Singer wrote to NPR in an e-mail: "The campaign spent $157 and left a $100 tip at the Maid-Rite Restaurant. Wish you had checked in with us beforehand."

Esterday said "nobody got tipped that day," and NPR should have checked with the Clinton campaign before the story aired to see if any tip was left and how it was done. We regret that this was not done. On Thursday, Esterday was sticking by her story.

"Why would I lie about not getting a tip?" she told NPR. She also maintained that her co-workers at the restaurant had not received tips.

A Clinton campaign staffer called on Esterday at the restaurant Thursday after the story aired. The staff member apologized to her and gave her a $20 bill, according to Esterday. The Clinton campaign confirmed that visit.

The campaign also produced photocopies of receipts showing $157.46 was paid to Maid-Rite on a VISA card on Oct. 8 for meals consumed by the candidate's entourage. The tip was supposed to have been paid in cash, and the campaign insisted such a payment was made but has declined to make available a staff member who was present at Maid-Rite and left tip money.

"Where Hillary was sitting, there was no tip left," Crawford [the restaurant manager] said.

Esterday, speaking to NPR from home later Thursday, said the
Clinton campaign staffer who visited the diner apologized to her and said a $100 tip was left on a credit card the day of Clinton's visit. Esterday said the staff member said the money was meant to be shared.

"I explained to her that our credit card machine, you know, doesn't add on the tip," Esterday said. "And she said, 'Well, then, they left a $100 bill there.' And I said, 'Well, it didn't get divided up amongst us, because I had gotten nothing.'

"She just said, 'Well, there was one left,'" Esterday said. "She just kept repeating, 'There was one left.'

After the campaign staffer stopped at the diner Thursday, Esterday said, the $100 tip was a hot topic.

"Two others that had worked with me that day turned around and said, 'We didn't know about any $100 tip,' because they both turned around and said 'We didn't get a part of it.' And they didn't. So, it's like 'OK, where did it go?' That's the mystery question: Where did it go?"

Esterday said it would surprise her if money that was intended to be split among the staff was never shared.

"The ladies that were working that day have been working there for years — some of them for 30 years, some of them for 25 years," Esterday said. "And I've known a lot of these ladies most of my life living here, too. And I can't imagine them pocketing it."

The campaign has made the the tip question the top feature on a new Web site it has created called "Fact Hub." Campaign spokesman Phil Singer said in a statement: "In the minute-to-minute media cycle we live in, we believe it is critical to correct the record in real time."

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that no tip was left. It was a simple screw-up. Opps!

But now campaign staffers are in trouble and they are trying to cover up an embarrassing mistake. And one lie is simply being added on top of another.

And a simple and gracious "I'm sorry" combined with a small gratuity would have solved it all.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Faced With Victory, Dems Rally for Defeat

Senator Joe Lieberman today delivered a brilliant analysis of the last 50 years of American Foreign Policy. Looking back to the legacy of President Truman and President Kennedy he tracked the shifting positions of both the Republican and Democrat Parties based, not on what was genuinely best for the United States, but instead based on political advantage and petty partisan politics.

It was a stunning indictment of both politial parties.

He discussed at length the brave few Senators and Congresspersons who consistently put National Security and moral principles above the limited horizon of the next electoral cycle. Lieberman's very short list includes both Democrats and Republicans. These real patriots provide real profiles in courage.

Lieberman's speech was given at the Center for Politics and Foreign Relations/Financial Times breakfast at The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Titled “The Politics of National Security,” the complete text can be found here.

As you no doubt have already guessed Lieberman saved his most savage indictments for the current Democrat Party Leadership who will spend the entire rest of 2007 working to pull our troops out of Iraq in the face of overwhelming military and social and political success.

As Iraq moves toward stability and safety, the Democrats move will hand victory to Islamic Terrorists and will take away freedom, safety, hope and democracy from the Iraqi citizens.
"Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush."

"Iraq has become the singular litmus test for Democratic candidates. No Democratic presidential primary candidate today speaks of America’s moral or strategic responsibility to stand with the Iraqi people against the totalitarian forces of radical Islam, or of the consequences of handing a victory in Iraq to al Qaeda and Iran."

"Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that that progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there."

Politicians ARE Out of Touch

There was an absolutely sensational "little" story this morning on NPR's Morning Edition today that is suddenly gaining national attention and huge media play thanks to the enormous power of The Drudge Report. I'm guessing Matt Drudge wakes up to NPR (National Public Radio) just like I do.

Did you know that Drudge's website gets more visitors that CNN or FOX NEWS? And an "anti-Hillary" headline gets a lot of attention with Drudge's readers. But I digress.

David Greene's
When Real Lives Get Swept Into Campaign Rhetoric is exactly the type of reporting NPR does so very well. Personal, involved, in depth, really great journalism that is the norm on NPR and absent from virtually all other electronic media.

Click on the link above and then "Listen" to the story.

As I listened at about 5:30 am I was struck by a comment made by one of the subjects of the story, Iowa resident and waitress Anita Esterday. Esterday was asked by reporter Greene if she thought Hillary Clinton understood her economic plight (Esterday has to work two and three minimum wage jobs to make ends meet).

"I don't think she understood at all what I was saying," Esterday said. "I mean, nobody got left a tip that day."
Now the set up to this story is sort of important. Anita Esterday had waited on Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and her staff during one of those whirlwind lunch stop/photo ops at a famous local eatery. Hillary had taken time to talk with Anita and Hillary was obviously touched by Esterday's story of hard work.

In fact Hillary was so impressed by Esterday she used her story in a speech later that afternoon. A speech that reporter Greene played back for Esterday and the radio audience.

Clinton actually used Esterday as a campaign prop.... and anecdote to show just how "in touch" with the local folks Clinton actually is. Such is the way of politics and politicians.

The lunch stop had been set up by Clinton's staff and the Maid-Rite Restaurant owner had already agreed to provide the lunch for free (no doubt in hope of obtaining the massive free publicity he has indeed received).

Even as I listened at 5:30 am I thought it was astonishingly stupid that no one on the Clinton staff planned to tip the waiters and waitresses at every single campaign stop. These stories always come out during a campaign.

Remember George Bush (the first) and his amazement at grocery store scanners? Some people still think that one silly gaff cost Bush the election against Bill Clinton. You can't afford to be seen as "out of touch."

Bill Clinton said to workers "I feel your pain" while it was obvious George Bush hadn't personally visited a grocery story in years.

No doubt later today some staffer will hustle over to the Maid Rite and give Esterday and her co-workers their much deserved tip.

And they should.

And, if you actually listen to the report (and you should), I believe Barack Obama will also find time to write the overdue note to Geri Punteney's cancer stricken brother. But, trust me, if Greene hadn't done the story Esterday would have never received a tip nor Punteney's brother a note.

They were both just campaign props used by future President's as they whirlwind through Iowa.

CORRECTION/ADENDUM: NPR reports on their website: Since this story aired, Hillary Clinton's campaign contacted NPR to say that the campaign paid Maid-Rite a bill for $157 the day of Clinton's visit and left $100 in tip money. NPR contacted Maid-Rite manager Brad Crawford, who confirmed that a bill was paid and tip money was left. Crawford, who was not in the restaurant at the time, said that he believes a campaign staffer left the money with one of his employees, but "where Hillary was sitting, there was no tip left." Neither Anita Esterday nor the manager on duty that day were available for comment as of noon Thursday.

WIZARD'S NOTE: It would be really tragic if the "fellow employee" didn't ever share the money.