Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blame the Victim, Rely on Doublespeak

Earlier this week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the drug war raging through Mexico, claiming lives and threatening communities on both sides of the border, that the U.S. was to blame for this problem.

She said: "Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the death of police officers, soldiers and civilians.

"I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility."

And I suppose a provocatively dressed woman is co-responsible for being raped?

Now, at least Ms. Clinton voted in favor of erecting a border fence between our two countries when she was in the senate, as did the president. Unfortunately, our new Secretary of Homeland Security, former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, was not in favor of such a measure.

As she simplistically told the Associated Press when she was still governor, "You show me a 50-foot wall and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder at the border. That's the way the border works."

And she’s now in charge of keeping America safe.

Her first step in this direction is to play with words. Because, of course, if you do not use the word “terrorist,” terrorism itself will disappear. Or so must be her thought process.

In an interview with Der Spiegel last week, the reporter noted that in “your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

Napolitano replied, “Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.”

Well, I feel safer.

But Ms. Clinton's blame the U.S. and Ms. Napolitano's let's play with words pale in comparison to the blame the victims doublespeak that occurred in Oakland yesterday.

The victims there are four dead police officers, shot by Lovelle Mixon. Approximately 60 protesters held a rally in Oakland to condemn the police and pay their respects to Mixon, who was killed after he shot the officers.

The protest was organized by the Oakland branch of the Uhuru Movement for Economic Development who, not having received notice of the semantic change of Secretary Napolitano, hoisted signs reading “Stop Police Terror.”

"OPD you can't hide - we charge you with genocide," chanted the demonstrators. They were honoring Mixon, a fugitive on parolee who killed two motorcycle officers who had pulled him over in a traffic stop, then killed two more officers who tried to capture him when he was hiding out at his sister's apartment nearby.

Mixon had bought the gun he used to shoot the officers after being released from prison, in violation of his parole. He knew he had committed a felony that could send him back to prison. And this is who the protesters decided to honor?

One woman at the rally chanted, “Lovelle is a hero! Lovelle is a hero!" Others told reporters that Mixon was fighting back against an oppressive police force. A man summed it up thusly, “I don't condone what he did, but karma comes around. What goes around comes around."

Another protester, who claimed to be a cousin of Mixon said, "He needs sympathy too. If he's a criminal, everybody's a criminal."

If he’s a criminal, everybody’s a criminal? That is not just doublespeak, it's an outright lie. If we continue to blur the lines between good and evil, criminal and victim, we'll have no moral center. Where are our values?

There was justifiable outrage around the country at the AIG executives who took contracted bonuses -- I don't think you could find anybody who sided with them. But a multiple murderer can get 60 people to march and chant on his behalf? What is wrong with us?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Kentucky Continues Hypocrisy Against Online Gambling

The commonwealth of Kentucky is known for three things – bourbon, tobacco, and horse racing. So it may come as a surprise that Kentucky is taking on the role of the temperance police in the Court of Appeals as they attempt to confiscate the Internet domain names of over one hundred online poker sites. But in a fifty-six page brief, the sanctimony – along with the hypocrisy – comes dripping off the page as the Commonwealth warns of the “particularly harmful” nature of Internet gambling.

The background of this dispute is as follows. After the Kentucky governor Steve Beshear was unable to follow up on a campaign promise to bring casino-type gambling to Kentucky, he decided to marshal his forces behind closing 141 Internet gambling sites that were available in – though not located in – Kentucky. His secretary of justice and public safety brought a criminal seizure action against 141 Internet domain names pursuant to Kentucky statue 528, which provided for seizure of “unlawful gambling devices” operating within the Commonwealth.

In a closed-door hearing, the Commonwealth was able to convince a judge to order the seizure despite the fact that the domain names had not been notified, had not had an opportunity to object, and were not located in the state. At a subsequent forfeiture hearing, lawyers representing the domain names, the online gambling industry, and other free speech organizations objected to the seizure on a number of grounds, including that domain names are not “gambling devices” (defined under the statute as being a device such as a slot machine or roulette wheel. They also argued that the Commonwealth improperly used a criminal forfeiture statute in a civil proceeding, and improperly ordered seizure without first finding a criminal violation.

Those representing the defendant domain names lost at the trial court, but were successful in bringing a writ prohibiting the trial court from following through with the forfeitures. The Commonwealth appealed this decision and last month filed its mammoth brief. Despite the fact that the governor of Kentucky had run for reelection on the promise of bringing casino gambling to the state, and despite the fact that the Kentucky-based online gambling site was excluded from the seizure and forfeiture order, the Kentucky brief wraps the Commonwealth in all that is good and pure in its fight against the evils of demon-gambling.

The brief calls the world of online gambling an “illegal racket” which is particularly dangerous because it is easy, available and anonymous, operating in an “unregulated underworld” where gamblers can gamble in relative isolation and “instantly wager and lose retirement savings or college funds in secrecy.”

Putting aside the over-wrought, hysteria in this loaded language, what the brief fails to do is explain how that differs from the Kentucky-based, the online gambling site of Churchill Downs, where the first button on the home page is “wager now.” If their complaint is that these gambling sites are located off shore, then welcome them to set up in Kentucky. I’m sure they‘ll be happy to.

But this case is not about protecting the citizens of Kentucky from the sin of online gambling at offshore sites, but about protecting the business of Churchill Downs from losing money to competing online gambling sites. The Commonwealth’s attack on online gambling is about two things – protectionism and money. They want to protect their own gambling interests and hold these off shore sites hostage in exchange for monetary payoffs.

Hopefully, the Court of Appeals will see through the hysteria and evaluate the legal issues at the heart of this case and affirm the order prohibiting the seizure of the domain names and letting them operate free from protectionist interference.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buyer's Remorse

After selling himself to the American people more relentlessly than the Geico gecko, ETrade baby and FreeCreditReport troubadour, could some of the luster be off the Barack Obama brand? Is it possible that the country could be starting to question exactly what it was they bought when they elected him four months ago?

First, Obama has had a great deal of trouble in just assembling his cabinet due to poor vetting and lack of focus. Though, considering the nominees were about to work for the least vetted president ever, it should have come as no surprise. Then you had the fact that he and his administration set the wrong tone from the outset, scaring the American people when they needed to be assured.

But things are unraveling for the president at a fast pace -- and what he's losing is his mystique, his allure, his messiah-like glow. It is not surprising that his Vice President is already mocking his Christ-like image, explaining at the 124th annual Gridiron Dinner in Washington, D.C. that Obama was missing the dinner because he was preparing for Easter, “because he thinks it’s about him [Obama].”

There was, of course, his unfortunate attempt at humor on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno when he inserted his foot in his mouth more deftly than any Bush had in the past, saying he bowled so poorly, "it was like the Special Olympics or something."

Then last night, 60 Minutes broadcast a twenty minute interview with the president, conducted by Steve Kroft. Now, 60 Minutes is not known for a conservative bent, nor have they ever been associated with any vast right wing conspiracy. Yet, their reporter observed something very odd in the demeanor of our 44th president during the interview. Obama had the giggles.

During an interchange on bailouts,Obama said, "I just want to say that-- the only thing less popular than putting money into banks is putting money (LAUGHS) into the auto industry."

He continued laughing and Kroft commented on the awkwardness of the president "laughing about some of these problems." Kroft imagined the viewers might be taken aback seeing the president "sitting there just making jokes about money." Kroft then said, after being interrupted again by Obama's laughter, what many of us were thinking, "Are you punch drunk?

I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. He's suffering from extreme flop sweat and is experiencing the nervous laughter that comes with it. After all, he has no clue what he's doing, and everyone is looking to him for answers. You could laugh or you could cry. Obama has chosen to laugh.

But the missteps from Obama don't stop here. There is the letter he wrote to former French president Jacques Chirac which used the type of diplomatic formality more appropriate if Chirac were still president, and not Nicolas Sarkozy. This unfortunate breach of etiquette is more troublesome because Sarkozy already has felt snubbed by Obama and his extending his offer of friendship and work to Sarkozy's predecessor could only exacerbate his feelings.

Obama has already upset another of our most significant allies, snubbing Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier this month. When Brown traveled to D.C. to meet with the president, Obama rejected the idea of a joint press conference, instead letting the media in for a quick meet and greet. It was expected that the U.S. President would have wanted to stand side-by-side as Presidents and Prime Ministers have time and again. But, he relegated Brown to the back room, while making time to meet later with Boy Scouts.

It's amateur hour in Washington, even the most rabid of his supporters must see that now.

We know, intellecutally, that we shouldn't treat a campaign for president like an extended QVC episode -- but we did, and now we're stuck with the product that had the best pitch, but didn't deliver what it promised.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama's Special Olympics Gaffe

During the Bush administration, every act of bumbling, tumbling, and stumbling was reenacted ad nauseam on the various talk shows. David Letterman and Keith Olbermann in particular seemed to take perverse pleasure at any opportunity -- and, I admit, there were many -- to make fun of our former president.

One wonders if President Obama's late night gaffe -- where he said on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that his inability to bowl "was like the Special Olympics" -- will be played on an endless loop on any of the talk shows tonight.

How many times were we shown the video of George Bush trying to go in a locked door on his way to a dinner in China? How hard did they laugh at and relish in his awkwardness and embarrassment? Mocking Bush was a sport and everyone tried to out-score the other.

Now that it's Obama starting up the presidential gaffe-o-meter, will we be subjected to endless showings of his less-than-noble moments?

I doubt it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You May Be a Republican If...

According to a recent Rasmussen survey, the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Republicans is currently hovering around 33.6%, compared with 40% who identify as Democrats. There are a number of reasons the Republican party is currently the minority party, not the least of which is the public's perception of what a Republican is -- a white, middle-aged, right-wing, Evangelical, gun-toting, uneducated fascist.

But if you disregard the negative stereotype of the average Republican that is perpetuated in the media, and focus instead on the core values that most Republicans share, you might find that you are closer ideologically to Republican than Democrat.

Borrowing from the Jeff Foxworthy routine, I've come up with a few ideas that might help you determine where you belong in the political spectrum and reevaluate your image of the Republican party.

You might be a Republican if:

You love and are proud of America.

We all remember Michelle Obama's famous declaration during her husband's run for President that, for the first time in her adult life, she was proud to be an American. The reason that statement drew such ire was that the vast majority of us always feel proud to live in this country.

Pride doesn't mean we don't acknowledge faults and mistakes, but pride means believing that the freedoms and opportunities available in this country make it the greatest country in the world. And it is those freedoms that shine a light on our country's mistakes and help us grow even stronger.

You don't hate the wealthy.

Republicans view those who have attained wealth through hard work, talent and perseverance as the beacons for the rest of us. Those who make money -- create something of value, earn their wealth -- are esteemed and emulated. We go to school or send our children to school in hopes that they too can become wildly successful. We don't view them as thieves or greedy or evil. We know that since the beginning of our country, there have been entrepreneurs and visionaries who have taken risks and become wealthy as a result. And that their wealth helped build this country and create opportunities for others.

Republicans realize that the vast majority of the wealthy in America deserve what they have. Back in 1996, Professors Thomas Stanley and William Danko wrote a book on America's wealthy entitled The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy . This book debunked many myths about the rich being mere inheritors of wealth, who were merely lucky, lazy, and irresponsible. In fact, they found that very few of the wealthy had inherited their wealth. Instead, they found that there were common traits shared by this group and they were the old stalwarts --taking risks, becoming an entrepreneur, getting a good education, going into a profession, saving your money, spending wisely.

Republicans don't hate the wealthy, they aspire to join them, whereas -- judging by their economic policies -- Democrats mostly want to tear the wealthy down.

You believe charity begins at home.

Many mocked George Bush's call for "compassionate conservatism" and claimed that Republicans, basically, do not care about the poor and misfortunate. In Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (Basic Books), Sociology Professor Arthur C. Brooks provided data that supports what Republicans have said all along. The Republicans want people to help people, the Democrats want the government to do it.

Brooks, found that religious conservatives were far more charitable than secular liberals, and that "those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others." And the charity imbalance was not just to "religious" charities, but for all types.

Brooks also found, according to, "that households headed by a conservative give roughly 30 percent more to charity each year than households headed by a liberal, despite the fact that the liberal families on average earn slightly more."

It boils down to who do you think will do a better job with the money, the charity or the government. Republicans have faith in the local charities, Democrats have faith in the federal government. The Democrats have so little interest in privately-supported charities, in fact, that Obama's new budget includes drastic reductions in the deductions for charitable giving.

You believe there is good and evil, right and wrong.

One of the surprising semantic differences between Democrats and Republicans is the lack of "judgmental" language from the left when it comes to admitted enemies of the U.S. The Democrats want to talk with Iran, talk with North Korea, talk with Hamas. The Democratic Party Platform, for example, talks about diplomacy -- "going the extra diplomatic mile" -- with a country run by a man who wants nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel.

Republicans do not believe in moral relativism and have no trouble saying that some countries and some leaders are evil. Democrats want you to see things from the other person's perspective and extend understanding and a friendly hand, even to Hugo Chavez, even to Kim Jong-Il, even to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

You can find many more Democrats who are willing to call Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter "evil" than are willing to extend that epithet to any of our true enemies.

You don't expect government to have all the answers.

You only have to look at the recent stimulus package and the new budget proposals to see that the Democrats' motto is "in government we trust." If you look at the most recent pieces of legislation to come from the Democrats, ask yourself if this is your vision of America. Do you support the redistribution of wealth through higher taxes on America's top earners? Do you support raising the tax on capital gains and dividend income? Do you support reducing tax deductions for mortgage interest and charitable donations? Do you support increased government spending, auto company bailouts, financial institution bailouts? Do you want the government to have that much power?

The country, as its founders envisioned it, was to be of the people, by the people and for the people. The government was to serve the people, not the other way around. The Democrats want the government to be your father and mother, they know best what's good for you, after all. You can't be trusted to do the right thing, to spend your own money, to run your own business. If you fall, the government will be there to catch you. There are no consequences for anything you do -- if you succeed, the government will take more of your money. If you fail, the government will pay you to make you whole.

What does that sound like? And, more importantly, does it sound like something you believe in?

Understandably, you may be loath to associate yourself with Limbaugh and Coulter and the other extremist talking heads who proclaim they speak for the Republican party. But they are not our leaders and they do not represent us.

The Republican party is a party of ideals and if you share those ideals, you just may be one of us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Etiquette on the Felt

The World Series of Poker* has released its updated rules for this year's schedule of events and, apparently, 2009 will be the year of decorum. One may rightly ask, since when does civility mix with poker? Certainly not in years past when we've had browbeating, verbal abuse and endless harangues at the table. But, if they are true to their rules, that will now be just a memory.

The "no swearing" rule of last year -- which prohibited cursing at another player -- has now been expanded to every public place at the casino. According to Rule 36, "Harrah’s prohibits the use of obscene or foul language in any public area of the casino at any time."

So now, when your pocket aces are cracked by someone who called your preflop all-in with 3-5 offsuit, you have to get up from the table and say, "Oh, my, that was unfortunate." When your opponent catches the one-outer that saves him on the river, you say, "Heavens, how disappointing."

While the blanket "no swearing" seems a bit excessive, I'm thrilled to pieces with another change. Immediately named the Scotty Nguyen/Phil Hellmuth rule, Rule 30B provides, "All participants are entitled to expect civility and courtesy from one another at every Tournament table and throughout the Tournament area. Any individual who encounters behavior that is not civil or courteous -- or is abusive in any way -- is encouraged to immediately contact a Tournament official."

A corollary to this rule is Rule 38, which provides, "Player or staff abuse will not be tolerated. A player will incur a penalty up to and including disqualification for any abuse towards another player or staff member."

On its face, this would seem to gut the game of poker of its character and image. Heck, this was the game Wild Bill Hickok was playing when he was shot dead. But in recent years, as TV cameras have covered tournaments and made celebrities of the most memorable players, it seems that rudeness and disrespect have been an easy way to gain notoriety.

The new rule is very clearly an attempt to rein in Scotty and Hellmuth who in last year's 2008 embarrassed themselves and poker with their childish tirades. Scotty was a drunken mess at the H.O.R.S.E. final table and you can Google Hellmuth and "idiot" and find any number of videos of his tirades against players who had the audacity to beat him in a hand.

Hellmuth's most outrageous World Series outbursts came at the end of Day 5 last year, against Christian Dragomir. After getting outplayed on a hand Hellmuth thought the guy shouldn't even have been playing, Hellmuth went ballistic on the guy, calling him an idiot five separate times and saying he was the worst player ever.

Hellmuth was given a penalty which was supposed to kick in at the beginning of the next day, but it was rescinded to the disappointment of many and the surprise of no one. Of course, the famous Phil Hellmuth can't not be playing near the end of what could have been his third Main Event title, his twelfth bracelet over all. So the penalty was set aside.

I understand that poker is a mental game and you try to use any tactic to get the better of your opponent. And I've seen browbeating and denigrating your opponent as a winning approach. But that doesn't make it right and at some point you have to wonder, is devaluing your opponent as a human being really worth it? Isn't winning with class -- think Peter Eastgate, Jerry Yang, or Greg Raymer -- even sweeter?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Not All the News is Bad

First, the stock market had a nice up day on some rare good news out of the financial sector and Fed Chairman Bernanke making statements supportive of the banking industry. Not to dump on the auto industry, but if they have to file bankruptcy, so be it. But it's fairly crucial to rally around the financial industry right now, so, "Hurray, banks!" Yeah, that's why I was never a cheerleader.

In really good news, President Barack Obama today took some radical positions on education, which we Republicans call obvious. He called for tying teachers' pay to students' performance, expanding charter schools and having longer -- and more -- school days. As expected, the teachers unions are not pleased with the notion of tying teacher's salaries to academic results.

Today's AP report quoted Education Secretary Arne Duncan as saying, "What you want to do is really identify the best and brightest by a range of metrics, including student achievement." That is something that the unions have not wanted to see as part of education reform. But, since our children are evaluated "by a range of metrics" throughout their schooling, why should the teachers be exempt? Teachers should have to perform well to be rewarded, and held accountable when they fail, just like any other employee.

Charter schools are a great idea -- they give parents and educators much more autonomy, flexibility, and control over the school in exchange for heightened accountability. They are, in effect, a contract between the parents, students, teachers, and administrators where they agree to a shared set of goals. It makes everyone more invested in the process.

I also love the idea of longer days and more of them throughout the school year. Since we don't use our children any more for seasonal employment out on the farm, the notion of a three month summer seem a tad obsolete.

Now, if all these education reforms end up with Obama proposing a 45% top tax bracket on the highest wage earners, I'm going to eat these words with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. I'd like to think we can make education reform without putting an even greater undue financial burden on a few.

When Politics and Passions Collide

There is a website called and it lists, among other things, the top 25 liberal musicians. Sadly for me, my favorite band, REM, is there along with other bands I enjoy. I've been thinking about this conundrum for some time -- what if your political beliefs are radically different from your favorite artist? Do you reject them or just agree to disagree? Do you support them with your dollars -- buying their CDs, going to their concerts, seeing their movies, watching their TV shows?

This is an issue I struggle with quite a bit, being a Republican who leans towards liberal artists. I had originally considered naming this blog after one of REM's song lyrics, instead it's named after a play by Lanford Wilson, who, based on his writings, I can only assume would disagree with almost everything I write. It's confounding for me that the artists who I connect on one level, I am diametrically opposed to on another.

So what to do? In the past twenty-five years I've gone to too many REM concerts to count and have had to put up with anti-Bush Sr., pro-Clinton, pro-Gore, pro-Kerry, and rampant anti-Bush Jr. orations in the middle of most of them. I've sang along to Ignoreland, realizing it was an attack on the Reagan and Bush administrations. I've listened to him denounce the Republican nominees for president for over a quarter of a century, even just last year threatening to leave the country if McCain won.

I'm sure over the decades, some percentage of all the money I've spent on REM has gone to support some candidate I oppose, some cause I don't believe in. I've indirectly furthered the Democratic agenda by supporting one of their most staunch allies, one of their most fervent banner carriers. Yet boycotting them because of differences of political opinion seems un-American to me. They have a right to their wrong opinion and they have a right to express it.

I also have a right to express my opinion by not giving them my money. It is a two way street -- they have a right to speak, and we have a right to respond. I wondered, would they be horrified to discover that some of their fans may be -- gasp -- Republicans? Conservatives, even?

I was actually heartened to see Stipe say that there was no inconsistency in his mind behind a "right-winger" liking the music of a liberal group, addressing the rumor that Tory leader David Cameron and former Bush ally Tony Blair were fans of REM. He dismissed as silly the idea that a liberal artist should be displeased to discover they had conservative fans.

But others realize that with taking a political stand comes a risk. Death Cab for Cutie's frontman Benjamin Gibbard told back in 2004, "I think art and politics are directly related to each other, and people that deny the cross-influence are kidding themselves. So I can understand why people tend to be annoyed by people like ourselves getting up and taking a political stand."

Similarly, REM's Mike Mills said during the pro-Kerry 2004 Vote for Change tour, "We may alienate some fans over this. I don't like that - I prefer to have music stand apart from political feelings. But this is so important, it's worth it. If I piss a few people off, good."

Now, I was surprised to see liberal artists worry about taking liberal positions. To my knowledge, the only recent artists who risked anything by their liberal stance were the Dixie Chicks and that was because country music is thought to be more of a Red State thing. Usually, being a liberal artist is redundant and not likely to inflame any negative passions.

So where does that leave the conflicted fan? In my case, REM's music means more to me than anything this side of the original liberal-musician, John Lennon. So do I sacrifice my love of their songs, or Lennon's, because of jarring political disagreements? How far would they have to go for their politicizing to outweigh their music? I'm not sure, but I know they haven't gone too far. Yet.

"Take away their money and you take away their power" is the motto of the website, and I know that there is some truth to that. I do worry about financially supporting those who want to take the country in a direction I'm opposed to. And I worry about giving too much power and voice to those who argue against what I believe to be best for the country.

Philosophically, they're the enemy and, to them, I'm the enemy as well. I don't want to sound like a Christian, especially since I'm not in the least bit religious and if I were I wouldn't be slanting in that direction, but maybe there is something to loving your enemy. So, for now, I continue to agree to disagree.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spotlight on "Domestic" Violence

I'm going to say something that might be considered sexist and unenlightened. But so be it. It is unforgivable for a man to hit a woman. Period. I absolutely hate the phrase "domestic violence" because it is not only oxymoronic but it diminishes the nature of violence by men against their partners by putting in a separate arena. "It's not assault and battery, it's not a matter of public concern, it's a private matter" this phrase seems to suggest. But physical violence is a serious crime and only amplified when it comes at the hand of the person who is supposed to care about you.

Of course, this discussion is brought on by the arraignment today of Chris Brown for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend Rihanna. According to a police affidavit filed in this case, Brown and Rihanna got into a fight after Rhianna read a text message from another woman on Brown's cell phone as the two were driving in his car.

Brown is alleged to have "pushed Rihanna's head against the window, punched her with his right hand, and then continued driving while hitting her," according to the affidavit. He is further alleged to have bit her on her ear and on two fingers, tried to choke her, and threatened to kill her. The seriousness of the attack is evident in the photograph released by TMZ.

If these allegations are true, then Chris Brown, at the ripe old age of 19, should be through. No record deals, no movies, no sponsors, no commercials, nothing. There must be ramifications for his actions. There must be a message that we as a society will not accept violence against women.

Earlier in the week singer Usher seemed to take the right tone, criticizing Brown for tooling around on jet skis and not demonstrating remorse. He then backtracked, apologizing for his comments, saying, " I apologize on behalf of myself and my friends if anyone was offended. The intentions were not to pass judgment and we meant no harm. I respect and wish the best for all parties involved."

Are we really at the point where we cannot pass judgment on a crime of violence? I would like to think one of the few things we can all agree on is that you shouldn't hit a woman. But if that's not PC enough, then let's all agree that it is wrong to hit our partners. We can pass judgment in a domestic violence case and say the hitter is in the wrong, the victim, not.

And Usher went on to "wish the best for all the parties involved?" I don't wish the best for an abuser. I wish that Chris Brown, if he did hit Rihanna, will serve time in jail to punish him for his actions as well as to deter him and others from such violence in the future. I also wish that he would get therapy so that he never resorts to violence again. But "the best?" No, I don't wish him the best.

If Chris Brown did hit Rihanna, I sincerely hope that she does not take him back. That would be a terrible message not only to her young, female fans who may find themselves in similar situations in the future, but also to men that it's okay to hit a woman. And that's scary.

For more information on Domestic Violence and what you can do help prevent it, go to

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Today is a Good Day

Dow was up today, almost 150 points, after five consecutive days of sell-offs. Febrary 24th the DJIA closed at about 7350, today it closed at 6875. It's sad when that qualifies as good news, but I'm doing my part to be positive about the economy.

But for the really good news today -- at least for Dodger fans -- Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers have finally ended their nasty, ugly, drawn-out beyond all notions of reasonableness and good taste contract negotiation ordeal. Hallelujah.

Apparently, Ramirez will get the two year, $45 million deal the Dodgers offered back in December which Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, then-dismissed as insulting. Having received no better offers from the SF Giants or any other team, it seems that Boras finally got over his repugnance at the meager offer and decided not to add his client to the ever-growing ranks of the unemployed.

I know the new tax increases under the Obama budget will chip away at Manny's salary, but I appreciate him taking the deal and putting this drama behind him. I know the Dodgers wanted to save some money -- we can all relate to that. But I'm pretty sure they'll likely make enough in sales of Manny wigs, t-shirts and other souvenirs and keeping the fans in those expensive seats to offset the price tag.

And a final good note for the day -- Happy Birthday to my most loyal reader.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before

President Barack Obama's nominee as the next U.S. Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, apparently has some tax problems. This is like Mad Libs, Cabinet Appointment Edition. Just plug in the name of the nominee, the position, and the specific tax "oversight."

In this latest incarnation, we have the former Dallas Mayor failing to pay taxes on an honoraria he received for speaking engagements as well as over estimating the amount of business expenses he claimed for Dallas Mavericks basketball tickets and for tax and accounting fees.

In dollar amounts, the taxes he failed to pay were rather small. The Senate Finance Committee, which discovered the tax irregularities during their review of his nomination, estimated that Kirk has paid less than $10,000 total in back taxes.

Still, it does once again call into question the administrations vetting process, the knowledge of the people they are putting into the Cabinet, and the Senate's willingness to give Obama a free pass for pretty much whatever he wants.

At issue was Kirk's failure to pay taxes on $37,750 in speaking fees he then donated to his college alma mater. The problem was, he should first have reported the honoraria as taxable income, paid the taxes on the income, then donated the money and then deducted that as a charitable contribution.

In addition, Kirk, a lawyer, failed to provide adequate details to substantiate that his season tickets to the Mavericks was a business expense. I agree with Norm Lofgren, a partner at Looper Reed & McGraw law firm in Dallas and a former IRS trial attorney, who told The Dallas Morning News that Kirk's oversight "suggests carelessness in his business record-keeping. The question is why. Mayor Kirk is an experienced lawyer who undoubtedly knows the specific substantiation rules for entertainment."

Kirk also owes back taxes for business deductions he over estimated for tax and accounting fees.

Now, Republicans supposedly like Kirk and are looking forward to his swift approval, despite these lapses. But, the last time we overlooked tax errors because a nominee was just too vital, too integral to our country's future we made Timothy Geithner our new Treasury Secretary. And we know how well that has worked out.

Monday, March 2, 2009

How to Fix the Republican Party

This might take more than one post.

We Republicans are fast becoming a memory, to be thrown in the trash heap of passe political parties along with the Federalists, the Whigs and the Know-Nothings. We see it in the November election results and hear it on the airwaves: we are out of touch with the American populace, our core values have been rejected, we have no unifying theme, no strong leader. Stick a fork in us, we're done.

A recent Gallup Poll survey showed an average of 36% of Americans identified themselves as Democrats and 28% as Republicans in 2008. Add independents to the mix and you have a clear majority -- 52% of American voters -- identifying themselves as Democrats or leaning to the Democratic Party, compared with just 40% who identified with or leaned to the Republican Party.

Not since Ronald Reagan's reelection have the Democrats enjoyed such a favored position with the American people. Four years of the Bush Administration, coupled with the star power of Barack Obama, has elevated the Democratic Party to new dizzying heights and made Nancy Pelosi popping-out-of-her-chair ecstatic.

But the Republican Party does not have as far as some may think to regain its popularity. First, it needs to reclaim its position as the party that will fight earmarks, pork, every form of excessive and wasteful spending. Over the last eight years, Republicans have failed in this regard and have forgotten that they are supposed to be the gatekeepers of the money we send them and not profligate spenders rivaling their Democratic counterparts.

Second, stop scaring potential voters away with a platform long on social/religious statements and short on what really matter to the future of our country. Yes, I know that for some abortion is murder -- but that does not have to be a core belief of the entire Republican party. The party should stay out of the abortion debate all together -- those morally opposed to abortion in any form, at any time, are not going to flock to the Democratic party should we Republicans remove the issue from our platform. And those who support a woman's right to choose should not be told in unsparing words, you are not welcome in this party.

Similarly, the party should not focus on prayer in school, opposition to gay marriage, teaching of intelligent design, or any other religious right position that serves only as a lightning rod to alienate ourselves from the majority of American and runs counter to what should be our focus -- freedom and less government intervention in our lives.

Third, we need to better articulate why capitalism is the best economic system for all Americans and why moves in the direction of socialism (though appealing to some on the surface), would spell disaster to the future of our country. Right now we're the Scrooge party and can't compete with Santa. We need to explain how Obama's plan to limit itemized deductions discourages charitable donations, for example. We need to explain when the stock market plunges, as it continues to do, those who would spend, thereby keeping businesses afloat and workers employed, will simply keep their money to themselves. We need to explain how government handouts do not spur economic growth, build anything, create anything, or have any lasting impact.

We need to remind people of some basic rules their mothers should have taught them -- you can't live beyond your means, you can't take what isn't yours, you should save up for what you want, there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Listen, I'll give it to the Democratic party. The managed to nominate a rock star for president, someone without a record of his own, who could mount a brilliant grass roots/youth driven/internet campaign based almost entirely on bashing the very bashable Bush administration. Obama's election was based on two things -- George Bush and Obama's ease in front of a teleprompter.

The Republicans are going to have to work a lot harder in 2010 and 2012 if we want to turn the tide back. Unless there is some novice state representative out there who gives great speeches and has a catchy slogan, we are actually going to have to sell the American people on our beliefs. But I think after watching the economy collapse after the administration makes business and high wage earners the enemy, Americans may be receptive to bringing back solid economic values. If it isn't too late.