Jim Bunning Death Watch, Part 2

Politics, US Politics

Jim Bunning’s current status is: Self-destructive.

The suicide watch has been posted at Sen. Jim Bunning’s office.

Or, at least, it should be.  In the latest chapter of this increasingly bizarre saga, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports that Bunning (R-KY) told a closed fundraising meeting of his supporters that he would resign from office if he encountered opposition from the Republican Party to his reelection effort.

“I would get the last laugh. Don’t forget Kentucky has a Democrat governor,” one of the sources quoted Bunning as saying.

“The only logical extension of that comment is, ‘(Make me mad) … enough and I’ll resign, and then you’ve got 60 Democrats,’ ” said another source who was present at the event.

Theres precedent for this sort of threat

There's precedent for this sort of threat

Bunning’s official response was, predictably, a denial: “It’s not true. I intend to fulfill my obligation to the people of Kentucky. If you are going to write something like this, you better make your sources known, because they are lying.”  Of course, Bunning has a tendency to deny many of his kookier remarks until it is revealed that somebody had recorded them on tape, at which point Bunning’s memory becomes somewhat less fuzzy.

In terms of strategy, this amounts to saying: “don’t piss me off or I’ll kill myself.”  It seems pretty evident, therefore, that Bunning hasn’t thought his cunning plan all the way through.  As one source revealed to the Courier-Journal:

“It’s not because he’s old and senile — he’s always been like that. He’ll tell you what he thinks,” the source said.

But Bunning’s resistance to retirement is “sad to see,” the source said.

“The problem I see with all this media attention is, it just makes him more stubborn rather than make him ready to make a rational decision,” the source said.

Very astute source.

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Jim Bunning Death Watch, Part 1

Politics, US Politics

In his career, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) has worn a variety of hats.  He started out as a major league baseball player, where he pitched for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies and was good enough to end up in the Hall of Fame.  He then went into politics in his home state of Kentucky, serving in the state legislature before being elected to congress and then, in 1998, winning a senate seat that he successfully defended in 2004.  And now, it appears, he’s a cancer specialist.

During a wide-ranging 30-minute speech on Saturday [Feb. 21] at the Hardin County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Bunning said he supports conservative judges “and that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind that you don’t get better from,” he told a crowd of about 100 at the old State Theater.

“Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer,” he said.

Bunning: "How many fingers am I holding up? Two? Two is correct."

Evidently, Bunning’s service in the senate alongside Bill Frist has given the Kentucky senator the same ability to make long-distance medical evaluations as Frist displayed during the Terri Schiavo affair.  Frist, it should be recalled, admitted that he had diagnosed Schiavo “based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office.”  He concluded that Schiavo, despite her persistent vegetative state and extensive brain damage, “certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.”

It’s not clear that the same can be said for Bunning.  Kentucky’s junior senator has been known to exhibit inexplicably bizarre behavior during his time in office.  In his 2004 reelection campaign, he said that his Democratic opponent, Dan Mongiardo, the son of Italian immigrants, “looked like one of Saddam Hussein’s sons.”  Bunning also confessed that he wasn’t much of a news junkie: “Let me explain something: I don’t watch the national news, and I don’t read the paper. I haven’t done that for the last six weeks. I watch Fox News to get my information.” That led to charges that Bunning was “out of touch,” which prompted a Nixonian denial: “That’s unfair. You know it is.  Of course I’m not out of touch.”  Note to aspiring politicians: when you have to assure voters that, really, you’re not all that out of touch, you’re doing something wrong.

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Cartoonist Makes a Monkey out of New York Post

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As Sigmund Freud might say: sometimes, a chimp is just a chimp.

Sean Delonas, editorial cartoonist for the New York Post, stirred up a hornet’s nest of criticism when, on February 18, the Post published this cartoon:

Now, to those who may be viewing this cartoon years from today, this cartoon is, no doubt, absolutely inexplicable, so some explanation is necessary.  See, there was a lady in Connecticut whose pet chimp Travis went on a rampage and seriously injured a neighbor who had been called over to subdue it.  Police were called to the scene and they shot Travis dead.  Two days later, Delonas draws a cartoon that links the chimp shooting (still in the news — remember, this is the New York Post we’re dealing with here) and the financial stimulus package proposed by President Obama and passed by congress on February 17.

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Santelli: The Hope of Audacity

Economy, Politics, US Economy, US Politics

The term chutzpah – a Hebrew term for shameless audacity — is often defined by analogy: it’s like a man who murders his parents and then pleads for leniency because he’s an orphan.  Or it might be like a man who complains about the financial irresponsibility of average citizens while being cheered on by a bunch of derivatives traders.

Im the problem?  No, YOURE the problem!

Rick Santelli: "I'm the problem? No, YOU'RE the problem!"

That man was Rick Santelli, a financial affairs commentator for CNBC, member of the Chicago Board of Trade, and a former executive at Drexel Burnham Lambert, a firm driven into bankruptcy in the 1990s due to financially irresponsible trading in junk bonds.  Santelli, in what has become an anguished cri de cour for the conservative “what, me worry?” crowd, complained on a recent broadcast that the government stimulus package was “promoting bad behavior” by rewarding home buyers who can’t afford their mortgage payments (or, in Santelli’s words, the “losers”).  As Santelli put it:

You know, the new administration’s big on computers and technology– How about this, President and new administration? Why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages; or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water?

Again, let me point out: Santelli was saying this on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.  Certainly, it was possible for him to find a more ironic location from which to deliver this diatribe (one of the trading rooms at Bear Stearns comes to mind), but probably not one more convenient for his daily commute into the Loop.

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Roberts: Supreme Court Works Best When Everyone Is Like Me

Politics, US Politics

“For the first time in its history, every member of the United States Supreme Court is a former federal appeals court judge. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., in a lively and surprising talk a couple of weeks ago, said that development might be a good thing.”  So writes Adam Liptak, the supreme court correspondent of the New York Times.

They dress alike, they act alike ...

"They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike ..."

It’s not clear why this is such a good thing, although I suppose homogeneity becomes much more attractive when everyone looks a lot like you.  It is unlikely that the composition of the high court has ever been so uniform as it is today.  Not only are all nine justices former federal appellate court judges, four of them served on the same circuit bench.  Indeed, only Anthony Kennedy and John Paul Stevens served in federal courts outside of the Washington-Philadelphia-New York triangle.  Granted, with the addition of a woman and a black man, the court’s group photo no longer looks exactly like the fortieth reunion of a Princeton eating club, but it could be a class reunion photo for Harvard Law School — after all, five of the justices graduated from there.

This is a far cry from the days when there was, unofficially, a “New York seat” or a “southern seat” or a “New England seat” or even a “Jewish seat” on the supreme court (there’s still a “Catholic seat,” to be sure, but it’s currently being occupied by five of the nine justices).  More disturbing, none of the justices has ever served as a trial court judge, despite the fact that the supreme court routinely reviews the performance of those judges and determines whether they made the right decisions — decisions that the justices themselves have never had to make.  It’s rather like having a sport where none of the referees has actually played the game.

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Rod Blagojevich: Still Crazy After All These Years

Politics, US Politics

With news of the scandal surrounding Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich grabbing the nation’s attention, it’s worth remembering that out of the last seven men who previously held that office, three ended up in jail. Illinois, in fact, is the only state where the governor has two official portraits: one full face and one profile. Blagojevich, in other words, is simply following in the footsteps of some of his less illustrious predecessors. Why then has this sordid affair attracted so much extra attention?

He is Blago! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!

"He is Blago! You are like the buzzing of flies to him!"

Well, for one thing, the scandal has touched upon president-elect Barack Obama. In announcing the filing of the criminal complaint and Blagojevich’s arrest, federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald emphasized that Obama was not involved. “I should make clear, the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever,” said Fitzgerald. Despite the perfervid efforts of the right-wing dittorati to link Obama with Blagojevich, the two have never been close political allies or social friends, and Obama surely must have been aware of Blagojevich’s longstanding legal problems and his rapidly slipping popularity. It was hardly an accident, for instance, that the governor was not invited to speak at the Democratic Convention in Denver and did not make an appearance at Obama’s Nov. 4 victory rally at Chicago’s Grant Park.

Apart from the potential taint to the nascent Obama administration, this scandal is most noteworthy for the truly epic imbecility of the chief culprit. After the indictment and conviction of the governor’s friend, fundraiser, and all-around political fixer Antoin “Tony” Rezko earlier this year, Blagojevich must have known that he was the next target of federal prosecutors. Yet he apparently spoke freely in his office and on his private phone about blackmailing the Chicago Tribune, shaking down a prominent Chicago pediatric hospital, and auctioning Obama’s senate seat like a prize heifer at the Illinois state fair. Even after the Tribune, on Dec. 5, published a front-page story stating that the feds had obtained secret recordings capturing Blago’s conversations, he was still making those incriminating statements, some of which ended up in the affidavit appended to the criminal complaint.

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Everything Vibrates: Eagles Drop a Bomb in the Laps of the Supreme Court

US culture, US Politics

The Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE), an organization founded in 1898, has been in the ten commandments racket since the early 1950s, when it handed out copies of the Mosaic law as part of its efforts to curtail juvenile delinquency. Thousands of the suitable-for-framing copies of the ten commandments, however, were evidently not making a significant dent in the ranks of juvenile delinquents, so the FOE decided that large granite monuments, plunked down in various governmental locations, would be far more efficacious. It seems, however, that no thought had been given to the possibility of dropping one of these massive monuments onto some of the most serious juvenile offenders, thus killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Nevertheless, from about 1954 to 1985, as many as 4,000 of these monuments were deposited across the US, sometimes with help from the stars of the 1956 Paramount Pictures film epic The Ten Commandments, such as Charlton Heston (Moses), an early proponent, and Yul Brynner (Pharoah), who was apparently a late adopter.

nope, no religious expression here

The monument in question: nope, no religious expression here

Each of these monuments was like a constitutional time bomb waiting to explode in the nation’s courts. The problem is obvious: the establishment clause of the first amendment prohibits the government from setting up a state religion. Erecting a monument on government property that says something like “I AM the LORD thy God: Thou shalt have no other gods before me” tends to convey the message that the state is endorsing one particular religious viewpoint over all others, which is constitutionally suspect. But what if the government just passively allows a non-governmental organization, like the FOE, to erect such a monument? And what if that government doesn’t allow any other organization plop down a monument that displays a contrary religious message?

That’s the question that the supreme court encountered in the case of Pleasant Grove City v. Summum.

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Americans: Willing to Make a Sacrifice, as Long as it’s Not Too Much Trouble

Politics, US Politics
Damned Hitler, doesnt pay his share for the gas, plays around with the radio, always wants to take the long way through the Sudetenland...

"That damned Hitler, doesn't pay his share for the gas, plays around with the radio, always wants to take the long way through the Sudetenland..."

My 93-year-old father, along with all of the other veterans at his assisted living facility, were honored yesterday for their service to the country. He is, I suppose, a member of what Tom Brokaw called the “greatest generation.” He volunteered for military duty the day after Pearl Harbor, but was rejected for bad eyesight. About a year later, the army, having become far less picky in the interim, drafted my dad and put him in a clerical position with a unit that would later be attached to 1st Army headquarters. He helped liberate Europe mostly by tabulating AWOL reports on primitive card punch machines and playing softball, but he did his duty along with millions of other servicemen and women. My mother and her sisters, meanwhile, did their part by participating in scrap metal drives, saving grease, and buying war bonds. Necessities were rationed, ordinary items became luxuries, and if anyone complained they’d be met with the same sarcastic reply: “don’t you know that there’s a war on?”

Fast forward to the present, where the Bush administration is up to its elbows in the Global War on Terror™. That war, the president has assured us, is the equivalent to the war waged against Nazi Germany and imperialist Japan. If that’s the case, however, we must ask: where’s the sacrifice? During the Second World War, it wasn’t just the troops in the field and their families who gave up something for the war effort. It was also the civilians on the home front who gave up silk stockings, new cars, pleated skirts, quality baseball, and, above all, their money in the form of taxes. By 1945, the top marginal income tax rate was 94 percent on incomes over $200,000.

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A Post-Mortem on Conservative Election Post-Mortems

Presidential Elections, US Elections

The election results from this past Tuesday provided some sobering news for Republicans: in addition to losing the White House, the GOP saw at least six senate seats and nineteen or more congressional seats switch to the Democratic Party.  Coupled with the five senate seats and 32 House seats lost in 2006, the Republican Party has seen a decisive public repudiation of its candidates and its philosophy over the past two years.  In short, that’s two thumpin’s in a row, something the Republicans haven’t suffered since the last Great Depression.

Out-of-work Republicans light out for the territories

Out-of-work Republicans light out for the territories

Not only have the office-holders lost their jobs, but their many aides, staffers, and personal hangers-on  will now have to try to find honest employment in a political environment that is no longer dominated by the GOP.  The massive exodus of unemployed Republicans after January 20 promises to be the most dolorous migration this country has witnessed since the Trail of Tears.  Despair not, I understand Walmart might be hiring.

Conservative media pundits, on the other hand, will still defy all logic by retaining their jobs.  That leaves them to explain how Barack Obama and the Democrats could have managed what would have been unthinkable, or at least unutterable, on November 3: an electoral victory that finds the opposition in charge of the presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time since 1994.  For most of these pundits, the natural reaction is one of complete disbelief.

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Wanted: Experienced Editor. Send Resume to B. H. Obama, Chicago.

Politics, US Politics
lived through three world wars

Ann Nixon Cooper: lived through three world wars

Barack Obama has, with justification, earned a reputation as a talented and inspirational speaker.  Furthermore, by all reports, he actually writes most of his own speeches, which makes him almost unique among recent presidential candidates (Adlai Stevenson, another Illinoisan, also wrote a lot of his own stuff — look where that got him).  Talented and inspirational speakers, however, can sometimes get carried away with their rhetorical brilliance and the sheer enormity of their own wonderfulness, so much so that they eschew more mundane matters such as fact-checking and editing.

That has been an irritating problem with Obama during the campaign, no more so than in the final week.  At his victory fest at Grant Park last night, Obama said:

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

We’ve been remaking the nation for 221 years?  It’s true that 1787 was an important year in the history of the United States — that’s when the constitutional convention met in Philadelphia.  But the nation was already eleven years old at the time (remember all of that bicentennial business back in 1976?).  What were we doing for those eleven years?  Kicking back and relaxing?  Was there a moratorium on remaking the nation “block by block, brick by brick” until James Madison and his pals staged their genteel coup d’etat?  One wonders.

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An Observer’s Guide to Election Night

Congressional Elections, Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

Finally, the election campaign is nearing its demise, and its death throes will be televised! But what to watch? And more importantly, how to watch? The presidential election will, of course, attract the most attention, but there are also 435 congressional races, 35 senate races, and 11 gubernatorial contests across the nation. These races merit attention in their own right, but they also may be early indicators of the way the presidential race will turn out, especially in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, and Nevada. Most networks won’t focus on races below the senate level, so the internet (which, as you may have suspected, is a series of tubes) is the best place to follow the local contests. I’ll be checking in with NPR. Here then, is a convenient list of the races that you should be paying attention to as you watch the presidential results come in:

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Small Children Give Big Landslide to Obama

Politics, Presidential Elections, US Elections, US Politics

It’s now official: the children of America have spoken.  In its fourteenth quadrennial presidential poll, the Weekly Reader tabulated the votes of over 125,000 school children, ranging from kindergarteners through the tween set and all the way to high school.  The result: Democrat Barack Obama, with a solid 54.7 percent of the vote, defeated his Republican rival John McCain, who garnered a paltry 42.9 percent.  Despite the fact that most of the participants are ineligible to vote in the real election, the outcome is nevertheless significant.  In twelve of the thirteen previous elections, the Weekly Reader poll has accurately predicted the winner of the general election.  The only exception came in 1992, when the little jerks voted for Bush the Elder rather than Clinton.  It should also be noted that, in 2000, Florida school kids, presumably confused by the ballot, voted overwhelmingly in favor of Pat Buchanan.

Is our children voting?

George W. Bush: "Is our children voting?"

With its its success rate at over 90 percent, the Weekly Reader has been more accurate in its predictions than many major polling organizations, such as Zogby or … well, mostly Zogby.  In fact, Zogby helped to run this year’s Weekly Reader poll, which should naturally make one a bit skeptical of the results.  After all, the poll’s methodology is suspect, it doesn’t reach kids who only have cell phones, and it undercounts home schoolers and dropouts (core constituencies of the Republican Party), .

Nevertheless, there are several reasons to take the poll seriously.  Pundits surmise that the children, who gain most of their political knowledge from their parents, will vote for candidates that reflect their parents’ preferences.  The children, in effect, are stand-ins for their parents, who can’t be bothered to pick up the phone and respond to pollsters who call right in the middle of Deal or No Deal.  So, in other words, if little Johnny votes for Obama, it’s probably because his parents plan to vote for Obama, and if little Suzy votes for McCain, its probably because her parents are abusing her.  Quick, call the cops!

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