Depends on why you are Famous

Conventional wisdom has often said that it doesn’t matter why one is famous, only that one is famous. Sad to say, I believe that Rep Anthony Weiner(D, NY) would hasten to disagree. Until his lewd and salacious actions were made public, the majority of Americans would have been unable to identify him by name or picture. Now, he probably holds the title of our most well-known congressman.

But my interest is not so much with what he did but rather the reactions, both pro and con, that have ensued. Part of my reasoning is that I am not  very surprised with what he did. The internet has greatly facilitated these types  of behavior in and secondly, he is  not the first politician to be caught.in some type of compromising position.

On to  the reactions. Some are almost funny, some surprising (considering the sources) and some  are inconsistent. However, I have tried to avoid comments that are lewd or suggestive in. This mess has even  divided prominent Democrats with Reps Rangel and Clyburn offering support; Rangel even saying that after all he did not go out with little boys. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz has urged him to resign, probably the first commonsense statement she has made since taking the job. And former speaker Pelosi  gravely concurred.

New York’s top elected Democrat Chuck Schumer is appalled and disappointed. Besides Weiner is taking over his spotlight. The Clintons are furious and probably for the best reasons of anyone other Weiner’s wife, the former Huma Abedin. You will remember that Bill officiated at their July 11, 2010 wedding. Besides Huma has worked for Hilary for  quite sometime and that the entire fiasco conjures up memories of Bill’s escapade(s). So far there has been no  public comment by the Clintons but one can only imagine what they are thinking.

And then we have the celebrity comments which for me fall under the class of what were they thinking and don’t they have people to forestall these  public comments. Television journalist Rachel Maddow said that Weiner exhibited “bad manners.” Barbara Walters said that the pictures she had seen were “flattering.” Joy Behar opined that the pictures were not the congressman, implying a frame, even after he confessed that they were. And that paragon of virtue Alec Baldwin said that works in a very highly stressful environment and was just letting off steam.

Finally, some comments that alone. They originate with MSNBC host, Chris( Tingles) Matthews. He has made frequent comments about Weiner that express his disgust, wonder at what he was thinking,etc. And then he proceeds to hold Mrs Weiner partly responsible. And finally ne bemoans the political consequences. If Weiner does not go away the Democrats will “never” again control of the House. And see if you recognize yourself in the last  statement.

” Because the people in the rural areas of this country who are Christian, conservative, culturally-you can say” backward” if you want-they don’t like this stuff.”

Thank goodness I didn’t hear  Bill Maher and Jane Lynch give a dramatic? comedic? reading of Weiner’s text messages. Wonder what Paul Harvey would have thought?


June 12, 2011 Posted by | Culture, Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

British Musings

Cover of "Londonistan"

Cover of Londonistan

Several days ago, I wrote about Europe and Great Britain in particular vis-a-vis Islam and terrorism and some of its implications. At the time I was attempting to read Londonistan by Melanie Phillips. I have finally managed to complete that self-assigned task. I might add that the fault is not that of the author but rather my unfamiliarity with her style and the complexity of the subject matter.

Moving forward, my intent is not to review the book but rather make reference to some  things that intrigued me and speculate  about what these things might or might not  mean.  As always dissent/disagreement is welcome. My comments do not follow the book from beginning to end since some areas were more pertinent for me than others. The  author has an excellent notes section if one desires to trace her source material and pursue things further.

There are many references to people in the book with the majority of those names probably being Arabic. I won’t refer much to those individuals. Upfront i will assert that neither the author  nor this writer  are anti- Muslim ‘ She does however, make use of the term  Islamaphobia which also appears in the American media. It refers of course to those who harbor an irrational view of the Islamic faith. An accusation of such is used at times  to stifle  even legitimate criticism of Islam. ( That didn’t work so well for Salmon Rushdie did it? )  She makes the point that adherents of the Muslim faith can often be sensitive to criticism( as are Christians) and  use that to justify or explain away certain actions. Her starting point, the London bombings of 2005 was such  a thing. Muslim leaders condemned the attacks but added that since the bombers were un-Islamic ( native Brits) they  could not have been real Muslims. And  this next that  they added which is a relatively prominent reoccurring theme, is  a concept she calls moral inversion. In general Muslims regard Western values as an assault on their principles  so they present  their own aggression as legitimate self- defense. Or, a country’s support of Israel or the Iraq war is ample cause for some sort of attack. Current example is related to the furor over the New york mosque/cultural center. The chairman of those efforts Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was interviewed by CBS just after 9/11. He opined that the United States did not deserve what happened but that its policies ” were an accessory to the crime.”

So what were the policies to which he referred? If you say support for Israel go the head of the class. That attitude in Britain, she writes, is even more prevalent. In Britain the prevailing wisdom regarding the Middle East is that of a territorial dispute. Before May 14, 1948 all was well between Arab and Jew  and would be again if Israel  acceded to legitimate Palestinian  demands. The problem, that is not factual. This cannot be totally addressed here but  factor in this one truth . Palestinians could have had a separate state in 1936, 1948 or 2000. Also, many Arab writers and leaders have often spoken of  the inherently evil  Jew out to conquer the world  and they are demonized as the source of all evil in the Middle East. Let me hasten to add that Israel is not always right in its actions/methods  but neither are they behind every conflict on earth as Palestinian Authority imam Ibrahim Mudayris said in 2005.

But let me continue. Let me refer to some of her conclusions but  encourage the reader to interpret them on their own. Britain is a hub of Islamic jihad and has been.In Britain there continues the long-standing policy of appeasing terrorism which has now been combined with the prevailing doctrine of multiculturalism and  ” victim culture.” She asserts that Britain is at a crossroads and could ease further down the road of appeasement. So the country that is the global leader of English speaking culture no longer champions those values. ( Sound  a little like American education?)

She wonders if her native country will reverse its  sleepwalk towards  “cultural oblivion ” or  sink further into disarray and drag the West down with it. Serious things to consider.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Politics and Football

I have heard it said many times by announcers and commentators  that in a football game, particularly  professional football, that a holding penalty could be called on virtually every play. But of course it isn’t or  a game would never be completed  or nothing of consequence would happen.

I wonder if it’s a bit like that in  politics. For our purposes, the officials  would be the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, chaired by California Democrat Zoe Lofgren. Said committee is also known as the House Ethics Committee. No doubt there are members of Congress, past and present ( Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay,etc) who call it by other names. The committee is composed of 10 members, equally divided by party. Bet it’s not the committee of choice for many members.

The committee is very visible these days due to the “charges” brought against New York Democrat Charles Rangel and California Democrat Maxine Waters. From what I hear and read, the charges against Rep. Rangel are the more severe. In fact, the President has even implied that it would be a good thing if Mr Rangel just quietly stepped aside. Thus far, that has not happened although he did relinquish his position as Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Perhaps the negotiations are still ongoing between Mr Rangel’s representatives and those of the Committee. Meanwhile, he continues to be on the ballot for the fall elections. In fact, there is  a big event scheduled for August 11, ostensibly to celebrate his 80th birthday, which actually was June 11. But the event’s real purpose is that of fund-raiser.

Generally, his name on the ballot was tantamount to re-election since he won in 2008 with  about 80% of the vote. He actually has some challengers this time, one of whom has an interesting pedigree,  one Adam Clayton Powell, IV.

Anyway, one last interesting piece of information. There are already people saying that the charges against  both Rangel and Waters are racist and that the  Republicans better not try to use this in the fall elections, an accusation of racism before the fact, I guess. One of the leading proponents of this is that paragon of journalistic objectivity, Keith Olbermann. So, Mr Olbermann, a question or two. Remember that the President has indicated resignation for Mr Rangel would probably be the best choice and also that one of the Ethics Committee members is Congressional Black Caucus member and my congressman, G K Butterfield.

I don’t necessarily believe the charges are racist in nature, but are based more in actions that perhaps were not the ideal. But we shall soon see, if the  charges proceed further.

August 8, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Voting and voting and voting some more

Back during those nearly forgotten pre- Obama days of the 2008 presidential campaign, I did  a post entitled Vote Early and Often. At the time I included  a qualifier that I was just  kidding. Perhaps I was just ahead of schedule and I did  not live in Port Chester, NY.

Port Chester is a small village about 30 minutes from New York City.  Over the years no Latino  had ever been elected  as a trustee ( assume that would equivalent to  a city council member)  even though the village is about  half Hispanic.  Pay close attention to this next line. Most voters were white  and white candidates always won.

Enter the feds, as represented by the  U S Dept of Justice ( think Eric Holder)  and federal judge Stephen Robinson. Judge Robinson said that the Voting Rights Act  was being violated and something had to change. He  rejected a  proposal to  break the village into 6 voting districts, one being heavily Hispanic. This next just amazes me. Vill;age officials suggested a method known as cumulative voting. This  system gave each resident 6 votes to apportion as they chose. Even more amazing this system is already used  for the Peoria, Il city council, the Amarillo, Tx school board and the Chilton County , Al county commission.

This whole approach just astounds me. It seems very easy to manipulate  plus the fact that it seems designed to achieve  certain pre-ordained  results. Can’t believe it isn’t being used in Cook County. Their system is probably more sophisticated.

An outfit called FairVote was hired as a consultant. The organization is a nonprofit election research and reform group. I looked up this organization and lo, and behold one of their advisory members is non other than Jesse Jackson,Jr. and one of their staunchest supporters is Harvard law professor and civil rights activist Lani Guinier. But, the organization takes great pains to state that it does not support, endorse or oppose any political party or candidate. Not sure if I buy that or not.

Anyway, back to Port Chester. When their wacky election took place, there were three Hispanic candidates  in the race. One of those folks managed to come in fourth, so I suppose the effort was  a success. What further in=terested me was that with all the efforts to get people to vote and vote the turnout, based on the numbers did not seem so good. Of course, how do measure voter turnout , multiply eligible voters by six?  Almost getting into Land of Oz stuff here.

I learned one more tidbit. FairVote has a chapter in North Carolina , so I may get an  opportunity to vote multiple times myself.

July 24, 2010 Posted by | Local Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Having a busy summer?

I would wager that you are not having nearly as  busy ( or soon to be busy) summer season as our friends the Clinton family. How about officiating at a wedding ( Bill) , planning and organizing etc. the wedding of the year ( Bill, Hilary and Chelsea) buying a new mansion and of course Hilary’s day job of traveling hither and yon on various foreign affairs missions. Almost forgot, somehow in advance of all this Bill squeezed in  a trip to South Africa for some of the World Cup. Whew! Gotta be a tough life, being  a  Clinton and maintaining schedules like that.

Hard to know where to start. How about with the most confusing item listed above? For me, that would be the former President officiating at a wedding. The nuptials will be between New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, yes that is his name and an aide to Hilary, Huma Abedin. That “lavish ceremony” took place yesterday. As WCBS TV put it I guess Clinton was the officiator-in-chief. What qualified him  to perform the ceremony I have no clue.

The next actually scheduled big event is daughter Chelsea’s wedding on July 31 to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in Rhinebeck, NY, some 100 miles from New York City.The Clintons must have gotten the Obama ok for this union because both the president and his wife have not spoken well of the profession of the  future Clinton  son-in-law. Bet the guest list for this soiree will be interesting.

And in an effort to help the depressed real estate market, the Clintons are closing in on the purchase of what can only be called a mansion  with some 7,000 square feet and a purchase price of a cool $11 million. So it’s good bye modest Chappaqua in northern Westchester County and hello Bedford Hills. Less than 10 miles away, it is still  a move up no matter how it is viewed. Besides, with neighbors like Richard Gere, Martha Stewart and Glenn Close, they will be  a perfect fit.

Sure hope  that Mr  Mezvinsky is aware of the truism that when you marry someone you marry their family as well.

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Adams and Jefferson Declare

The Independence Day weekend seems like an ideal time for my  second installment on John Adams. We celebrate profusely on this weekend, some even to excess, believe it or not. And for the document itself, we owe gratitude to  a number of people who labored diligently to produce the document that we call the Declaration of Independence.

Jefferson was of course the author but the work involved many others of whom Adams may have been the most important. He was seemingly everywhere at once and at one point served on 26 separate committees. There were 54 other men who put their names to the document  and  chose to ” mutually pledge to each other our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” All knew they would have to pay a high price and that they did.

Perhaps the famous  part of the document was Jefferson’s lines eloquent lines from paragraph two that affected  the human spirit as neither he nor anyone else could have forseen. They speak to us still, some 234 years later.

                             We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

What did Adams have to say about the final result ? This  he wrote to Abigail.

                     The second day of  July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

So he have his days confused? Not at all . The original vote did occur on Tuesday, July 2 with 12 states in favor and New York  abstaining in order to make the vote unanimous. They voted again 2 days later  with the day of celebration occurring on July 8. The actual signing  did not take place until August 2.

There would however be yet another fateful day in July for Adams and Jefferson. By 1826, July 4 was ensconced as the nation’s day of birth. It also marked a momentous day for the two stalwarts of independence. Both men were gravely ill, Jefferson at Monticello and Adams at Quincy, Ma. Jefferson briefly stirred after a 2 day coma but died at around 1:00 pm. Meanwhile Adams. quiet as well, stirred for a moment and sometime in the afternoon, said “Thomas Jefferson lives.” It was just a little while later at 6:20 pm that he too passed away.

July 3, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Economic Good News from the President

President Obama was in western New York( actually Buffalo to be precise)  today talking about the state of the  economy. His take on how things were going? ” Beyond  a shadow of a doubt, today we are headed in the right direction. All those tough steps we took, they’re working, despite all  the naysayers who were predicting failure a year ago, our economy is growing again.”

Now, if you will, juxtapose that  with this report from Reuters. The April, 2010 budget deficit was a whopping 82 billion dollars about 4x the figure for April, 2009. This marked the 19th consecutive month  with a budget deficit, a new record.

 But, the  President went on to mention the prior month’s job growth and added that April was better than March and May would be better than April and next year would be better  than this year. I sure hope so because I don’t want to live in the United States of Greece.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | economy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bull Moose

Quite a character was the man from New York. He served as Governor of New York, leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, was both an ardent conservationist as well as an avid big game hunter,  ( in this country and abroad) an advocate of the “strenuous life” who preached exercise, activity and more. But he was also a sickly asthmatic child and one  who suffered great physical harm from his frequent reckless behaviors. Incidentally these behaviors  lasted virtually his entire life and undoubtedly contributed to his  early demise at age  61. But, if  anyone’s years were ever packed full, it had to be TR. OR, as he put it, ” good to the last drop.” And you thought Maxwell House made that  up.

By the way, he was also our 26th president and  ran the most successful 3rd part candidacy in our history. But why is he among all the choices enshrined on Mt Rushmore? Author Kathleen Dalton calls him our most fascinating  president and after reading her bio of  him, I would have to agree. He was imperfect, contradictory, often full of himself , judgmental, at times intolerant and never happier than when the full focus was on him.

Dalton posits that he best captures the American spirit self-improvement ( one of his mantras), growth and change. He himself continued to move to the left politically after leaving the White House’ vigorously championing causes such as women’s suffrage, improved working conditions for factory workers( many of whom were children) , and “social justice” in various and sundry forms. He ironically was still all out for our entrance into WWI, even volunteering to go himself. Although that did not happen, his sons fought admirably and one son, Quentin, was killed in Europe. Some speculated that Roosevelt never recovered from that loss. And even prior to that, while he was President he pushed hard for a stronger Navy.

As I write this post and it seems to jump all over the place , I readily see Dalton’s point about TR being such as fascinating Chief Executive. For I have yet to refer to his Nobel Peace Prize of 1905, his mentoring of a young Woodrow Wilson ( with whom he fell out and the two basically accused each other of treason) his nephew  Franklin, whom he greatly encouraged  and so it goes.

And we had the precocious daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from his first wife, Alice, who died when the child ws quite young. His daughter was a firebrand from an early age, maybe one for whom the term precocious is much too mild. And did I mention that he wrote hundreds of magazine articles and numerous books, one of which , African Game Trails, sold a  million copies and this in  the early 20th century.

Although born into wealth and privilege, he never seemed d motivated by money. Perhaps, one of the main driving factors was living up to the standards of Theodore Sr, or Thee as he was known. Better yet, I love the line from his children Kermit and Alice. He always liked to be “the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral.” Well said, indeed.

April 29, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Health Care Perspective

It is appearing increasingly likely that a health care bill will be passed by the Democrat controlled Congress. The wrangling over abortion restrictions that is only the latest issue will alas probably be overcome. ( Kudos on the efforts of Bart Stupak.) I say this with no enthusiasm since I fear that we will rue the day this bill was passed and rue even more when its provisions take effect. As Speaker Pelosi said, it must be passed so everyone will know what is in it. That one statement should cause every American of whatever political persuasion to wonder just what is happening.

Plus, two new terms have entered the political lexicon that I venture to say will also return to haunt us. One is the “deem it passed”  concept and the  other the “Slaughter Rule.” The deem it passed idea is one of the more convoluted things that one can imagine. The more I read about it, the more confusing it gets. In this process, that seems to be the norm. Can you  imagine James Madison, who developed the copncept  of “checks and balances” being faced with such a concept. And, don’t look just yet, but tis approach may be already under consideration for dealing with the thorny problem of immigration reform. If  I were a Democrat, I would tread very lightly here since their majority status is not  a perpetual things(as it is in the North Carolina legislature) and the old goes around comes around – process is always lurking behind the next election.

Then there is the Slaughter Solution. Named for powerful Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, Chair of the House Rules Committee, and one of Congress’ most powerful women. In fact, the deem it passed approach came from her. The irony of this concept is the fact that the Republicans( shame on you) used a similar approach in 2006 when they ruled the roost, albeit on  a bill of far, far less import than one that  will takeover 1/6 of the U S economy. Anyway, there was a suit filed against the Republican action. It was led by Waxman, Slaughter and Pelosi. How ’bout that? The name Slaughter Solution itself carries all sorts of inferences and connotations which are far more  intriguing than had it been the Smith or Jones Solution.

So, as we stand on the brink or precipice, one has to wonder what the verdict of  history will be. One final thought. I daresay that few bills have had more claimed for them than this one. One has to know that like exaggerated claims for anything, it will never accomplish all that its supporters claim for it. Let us hope that the fears of damage are also overstated.

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who should make your eating decisions for you?

The food police are feeling their oats , so to speak, and it is not  a pretty  sight. We have nefarious things afoot in the Empire State and that is not even the worst of it. First, there  is A.10129 that has been introduced in the New York legislature by Brooklyn  Assemblyman  Felix Ortiz. The bill would ban the use of salt in any restaurant in the state and provide for  a fine of $1000 per violation.

Item#2, also from New York. For the second straight year Gov Paterson has included a proposed soda tax in his budget. Now, read very carefully his reason.” Someone has got to contribute to the $7.6 billion the state spends every year to treat obesity.” His proposal dovetails nicely with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s call for  a  1  cent tax per  ounce on soft drinks. Paterson also hinted that other products such as  burgers and candy bars could be tax targets.

And, just down I-95 in Philadelphia, the city budget for fiscal year 2011 includes  a 2 cents per ounce tax on sugar sweetened beverages. Approval is pending.

Finally, researchers writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine   are suggesting taxation as a weapon in the obesity fight. They estimate that an 18% tax on pizza and soft drinks could  cause a decrease of as much as 5  pounds annually in the weight  of  the average American adult. Presumably this would happen by reduced consumption due to the tax.The team, which was led by Kiyah Duffy of  UNC has strong allies in the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control director, Dr Thomas Frieden.

What  does all  this  activity bring to mind? Why, the campaign against smoking, of course. Don’t be at all alarmed if somewhere, either New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco  gets this tax passed. If one city does it, others will be sure to follow. Then,the door is open to tax on multiple  items;candy, cookies, any fast food, even sugar itself. And, it is all in the name of health. So, that wouls make it good and right, right?

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Culture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments