Thursday, October 30, 2008

Joe the Plumber: A Prime Symbol of Republican Hypocrisy


Joe the Plumber: A Prime Symbol of Republican Hypocrisy

John McCain accused Barack Obama of being an elitist. He then trotted out "Joe the Plumber" to symbolize that he, unlike Obama, stood in solidarity with the American middle class. That made for great theater, but like John McCain himself, it soon became clear that Joe the Plumber maintained a strained relationship with truth.

In an October 11 encounter with Barack Obama, Joe the Plumber, or Joseph Wurzelbacher, told Obama that he was a plumber who was about to buy the business from his employer. He said the business generated between 250 and $280,000 a year. It turned out, however, that none of that was true. Wurzelbacher's scenario was contrived in an attempt to show that Obama's tax plan would hurt those in the middle class who were struggling to improve their plight.

The fact is "Joe the Plumber" has neither a plumber's license, nor has he ever served an apprenticeship as a plumber. The United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics Union indicated that he applied for an apprenticeship in 2003, but never completed the program. It was also revealed that he only made $40,000 a year, and thus, probably not in any position to buy a business. In fact, he's currently in debt to the government for $1182.92 in unpaid taxes.

In another case, Ashley Todd, a 20 year old college student and one of McCain's paid organizers, reported that she was robbed and assaulted by 6'4" Black man. She claimed that she was at an ATM when a Black man came up behind her and put a knife to her throat. She said she gave him $60 and started to walk away, but then the man saw a McCain sticker on her car and hit her in the back of the head, knocking her down. According to Tood, the assailant said, "You're going to be a Barack supporter," as he kicked and beat her. Then he said, I'm going to "teach you a lesson for being a McCain supporter." He then held her down and scratched a "B" on her right cheek.

It was a graphically compelling story. There was only one problem–it wasn't true. The "B" that was scratched on Todd's face was what probably gave her away–it was backwards, as though done while looking into a mirror. Todd later admitted that she made the whole thing up.

Both Joe the Plumber, and Ashley Todd, are perfect metaphors for the lying, hypocrisy, and lack of integrity that's been a pervasive part of the McCain campaign–and the campaign seems to recognize that. The "straight talk express" notwithstanding, the McCain campaign seems to be made up of two separate camps–one supporting McCain, and the other supporting Palin–but in their wisdom, both camps seem to have enough sense not to trust the other.

It has become clear that truth, character, and integrity, to both McCain, Palin, and many of their supporters, represents whatever they can get away with. They're like a den of thieves, whose only loyalty to one another is in pursuit of their unconscionable ambition and greed. They've become so desperately engrossed in their rampant thirst for power that they've lost all perspective on political, or any other kind of reality.

Even as the McCain camp was criticizing Obama for what some surrogates characterized as the arrogant extravagance of using his campaign jet to fly to the bedside of his gravely ill grandmother, McCain's vice-presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, was strutting the catwalk in her new $150,000 wardrobe that had been purchased by the campaign. They had completely lost touch with the fact that such extravagance wouldn't play well while they were trying to align themselves with Joe the Plumber's middle class. How could they possibly claim that they were in touch with the plight of the middle class, when they spent $23,500 more on Sarah's clothes than Joe the Plumber had on his home? And beyond that, they paid Sarah's stylist $23,800 for just two week's work. Now, who's the elitist?

And now that they've been caught with their skivvies around their ankles, the only thing they can think of is to cry sexism. They're contending that if Sarah was a man clothes wouldn't be an issue.

How elitist and out of touch can one group be? They must think the American people are so stupid that we don't realize that clothes are not the issue here. The issue is their recklessly vulgar spending while Americans are losing their homes. And besides, how can they reconcile their claim of sexism in light of all of the fuss Republicans made over Sen. John Edwards' "designer haircut"? Was that sexist as well?

Elitism is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as follows: "The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources." I'd say buying Sarah a wardrobe that cost over $23,000 more than many of your supporters' homes easily meets that standard. I'd also say, spending $23,800 to have Sarah's hair done for two weeks meets that standard as well.

And beyond that, how can a man whose father, and grandfather, were both admirals in the navy, thereby, giving him a free pass through the naval academy–in spite of severely "challenged" academic qualifications–call a man who had to struggle through life, and get through college on scholarships, an elitist? Superior intellect alone doesn't make one an elitist–the lack of humility is an indispensable component. On the other hand, having to refer to your staff to find out how many homes you own, and calling $250,000 "pocket change" puts you right there in the ballpark.

So just the thought of McCain calling Obama elitist is ridiculous, and it clearly demonstrates two things–first, we've allowed Republicans to redefine the word; and secondly, McCain is so elitist himself that he thinks the American people are stupid. And you know what? To a very real extent we are.

We've allowed the Republican Party to convince us that intellectual curiosity, and the active pursuit of excellence through knowledge is elitism. We've also allowed them to teach us that in order to be good Americans, we have a moral obligation to remain stupid, and anyone who isn't should be suspect. They would have us believe that anyone with an ounce of sense, couldn't possibly be "one of us."

Eric L. Wattree

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Community in Decline

A Community in Decline:

Don't Preach Me a Sermon, Live Me One

I just received the following letter from the Kierrah Foundation. Read it and weep--but don't just weep for them, weep for the entire Black community:

Hi Eric,

You said it was unbelievable that the Black community won't step up to the plate to help its own, but you're new to this, I just brought it to your attention. It's far from unbelievable to me, since I've been living with the impact of it for years now. I've spent 3 years crying (I mean literally crying) over the community's lack of response to my pleas to help these former foster girls and their children. As I send you this email tonight, I'm not only having to deal with the disappointment of a community that's turning its back on its own, but I'm actually being ridiculed for my efforts. Here's the situation:

The Kierrah Foundation does not receive any funding from the City, County, State of Federal Government, why we don't is another story and we will talk about that at another time–and believe me, it's deep. In any event, as a result, my husband and I raised funds for our day to day operations through Celebrity Fundraising Events. It's a lot of work, but I am grateful for the journey. Not only do we help young women between the ages of 17 and 26 when they age out of the foster care system without family or friends. We also help them with their children.

To plan and host Holiday Events for them and their children takes up a lot of my time alone. Over the years, I have begged people in the community, including churches, newspaper people, radio stations, etc., to help me simply by donating their venue for events. Most of the time, they just flat out tell me NO. Other times, it's like OK but we charge $1200 to use our facility or we'll donate the facility but you have to give us XX amount of dollars from your proceeds. "Excuse me people, this is a FUND RAISING EVENT" for young women in OUR COMMUNITY that society has discarded and the county, state and the federal government have turned their backs on because there's no more money in it for them." And trust me Eric, I have been everywhere.

So with that said, I decided that I needed to reach outside the community because I need help. I ran into a friend that asked me had I heard of the Celebrity Centre in Hollywood. Of course, I hadn't, but she took me over there. This place sprawls over 3 blocks and the White Folks over there were so impressed with what I was trying to do for the young women and children. YES, this property is owned by the Church Of Scientology, but it is not the church. They asked me what dates I needed, what time, how many people, etc. And I gave them that information and went on to explain what I was trying to accomplish. You will not believe this but they told me that I could use their venue for FREE whenever I needed to have a Fundraising Event. I was floored.

So the deal is now, Black Folks are calling me all kinds of names, saying I am exposing my women and children to a cult and that I ought to be shamed of myself. Well Eric, the only thing the Celebrity Centre has required of us is that we let them do a 7 minute presentation about Scientology. They do not take anyone's name or information or impose themselves on the attendees to become Scientologist, they have their brochures sitting in the foyer for anyone that is interested. They do not come into the event other than that 7 minute presentation and it's only one person, not the entire church or even a group of people. This is no more than anyone else does. If you go to a church and have an event, they want to preach to you. When Anthonly Samad has his Urban Issues Breakfast at the African American Museum, the Director comes out and tells you about the musuem and asks for your support. So what's the difference?

Eric, I am just a Chicago girl that was raised that "you are no more than the lives you touch". And I was taught that really early in my life. I believe in my heart of hearts that these young women and their children are my appointment not my assignment and I have to help them whatever it takes to do it. Bottom line: The Kierrah Foundation is not a "faith-based" non profit. The young women we serve are adults and we encourage them to make their own choices in life and that includes their religious beliefs. As far as our exposing children to something, Uh! Wait a minute!! What about all that horrible stuff they are exposed to on Skid Row on a daily basis!! Every child that we serve has a mother present. These children are the former foster girls' children not ours. And every parent has the right to decide for their own child.

But despite what anyone says, I am having my next three events at the Celebrity Centre. They don't charge me a dime, I can bring my own food, my own sponsors, my own art people,etc. All those things are essential to raising the needed funds that I have earmarked for the holiday and also my girls and their children will have a wonderful Holiday Season because of it.

So NO, I am not surprised by the response or lack of. Some of the people on your email list have been contacted by me and my husband time and time again. And you know what, I have yet to get a respond from some of them. But when Patti LaBelle was here last year and her LaBelle Community Football League sponsored on of the Holiday Events for The Kierrah Foundation, some of those same people were calling and emailing me all over the place. And when I reminded them that I had sent them an email early in the year, they acted like they didn't know what I was talking about. And then the cold thing about it, some of them came out to my event to hang out with Patti LaBelle not to support me and Stan and The Kierrah Foundation. It's sad. Perhaps you can write something about it.

Let's be honest here. If this 12 year old Jordan Coleman, who is the voice of "Tyrone" on The Backyardigans, had jacked somebody or killed somebody, he would be front page news. But NO, Jordan took his earnings and wrote, directed and produced his own movie about the importance of education for African American boys. We all should be rallying around this child, not ignoring emails and give lame excuses why we can't do it. If it were not for the fact that Jordan wants to do this on November 6 & 7, I would do for him myself out of my own pocket.

Eric, please keep this in mind. No one, and I mean NO ONE in the Black Community who has money or power has helped me, although I have reached out to the majority of them (not all of them). It's the Black Folks like me and Stan that don't have nothing that all get together and pitch in to make things happen. Every single Black person that has every donated their money, time or energy to The Kierrah Foundation, were not in the position to do it, BUT THEY DID.

Eric, I thank you so very much for all of your help. YOU WANNA HEAR SOME UNBELIEVABLE?!!! You are the only one that answered my email!!! And I sent out 93 emails. But YOU were the ONLY one who responded and you are the only one that has shared my desire to get this wonderful kid out here to do his film. And you know although I love you for it, that's SO SAD. But like my husband said, "All you can do is DO YOUR PART" and I know in my heart that YOU and I have.

Email me back and tell me what's the best time to talk to you. I wanted to call you but I don't want to disturb you when you are working. Email me back Eric and tell me what you think of my situation with the Celebrity Centre. I would be interesting in knowing what you think I should be responding to this people who are criticizing me. Do you think I should be defending myself against these folks that will not support me? Tell me.

Riches Blessings,


"People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " - Audrey Hepburn

Pamela "Brandy" Sanders

Spotlight On Sisters, Producer/Organizer

The Kierrah Foundation, Founder/Executive Director

311 N. Robertson Blvd. Suite 528

Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Phone: 323-692-1026



Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

John McCain: Portrait of a Demagogue

Portrait of a Demagogue

John McCain

Demagogue: "A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace."

American Heritage Dictionary

Demagogues are vampires who prey on the viability of society. They depend on hatred, hostility, and dissension for their very political survival. Wherever there is underlying tension and hostility, they exploit it, and in the absence of hostility, they create it. They have a vested interest in creating discontent, and they are most creatively prolific, when society is in turmoil.

And there's a very good reason for that. A demagogue's agenda is virtually always fundamentally at odds with what's in the best interest of the people. So the only way that they can get the people's support is to appeal to their hatred, fear, or anger–that's when individuals are most prone to act without taking the time to think about their actions. Demagogues specialize, therefore, in appealing to the emotions. That allows them to circumvent the mind, and thus, not have to deal with the nuisance of one's common sense.

An example of that strategy at work is clearly demonstrated at a recent John McCain rally. While addressing his angry supporters--who were already frustrated over the economy, the financial bailout, pending foreclosures, and the loss of jobs–instead of reassuring them by sharing policy initiatives that he'd developed to address their concerns, he further inflamed the crowd by giving the floor to, and agreeing with, a supporter who stood up to called Barack and Nancy Pelosi hooligan socialists.

The event was more of a hatefest than it was a rally, and during a video recording of the event, in spite of the fact that the nation is going through the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression, neither McCain nor Palin wasted one word on how they intended to address the issue. Their entire message seemed to be that Obama is not one of us. While McCain didn't give the crowd any answers to their concerns, he did give them someone to hate, and the crowd loved it. He had successfully used their emotions to circumvent their ability to think, and in the absence of thought, nothing is as cathartic as unadulterated hatred.

It was an absolute must, therefore, for McCain and Palin to pull this off, because if the crowd had managed to remain in possession of their faculties, they might have started asking a series of embarrassing questions. They might have asked, for example, why did McCain come all this way and not have a thing to say about how we're going to address this national emergency? And why is it that Barack Obama didn't become a threat until McCain started sliding in the polls? They might have also wanted to discuss McCain's change in strategy. He started out the campaign talking about his experience, and how he was going to bring about change. So a clear thinking supporter would probably ask, "Ok, so how is the vast experience you've been talking about, going to get us out of this mess--and about that change you've been talking about, when is it suppose to begin?

So the fact is, by allowing themselves to be hoodwinked, McCain's supporters relieved him of the need to address the very issues they were most concerned about, just as they relieved Bush of the need to be responsible eight years earlier. The moment they showed McCain that he could get their support by simply keeping them scared and angry, they lost all leverage in getting their most passionate concerns addressed.

But fear and anger are not the only weapons that McCain has in his arsenal. McCain has been playing on America's patriotism for his entire career. In fact, that's one of his most formidable talents. Due to his status as a "war hero", most Americans feel honor bound to never, ever, question his patriotism. But fortunately, there are a few true mavericks left among us, and we tend to be rather reckless in our homage.

In that regard, if you take a close look at Sen. McCain's record when it comes to supporting the troops, you'll discover a few very surprising facts. While he's always delivering sermons on the necessity of supporting our troops, gives him a failing grade when it comes to actually living his sermons

" In its most recent legislative ratings, the non-partisan Disabled American Veterans gave Sen. McCain a 20 percent rating for his voting record on veterans' issues. Similarly, the non-partisan Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America gave McCain a "D" grade for his poor voting record on veterans' issues, including McCain's votes against additional body armor for troops in combat and additional funding for PTSD and TBI screening and treatment."

You see, while McCain has a sterling record when it comes to voting our troops into battle, that's not supporting our troops at all, that's supporting Halliburton, Blackwater, and the military/industrial complex. When it comes to actually supporting our troops–by spending to provided them with the best equipment to help protect their lives while in battle, or paying to take care of the disabled, and many other vets, after they've completed their service, his record is atrocious–in fact, given his rhetoric, scandalously so.

The most cursory review of McCain's voting record reflects that in September of 2007, McCain voted against the Webb amendment calling for adequate rest for the troops between deployments. In May of 2006 he voted against an amendment (H.R. 4939, S. Amdt. 3704) that would provide 20 million dollars for veteran healthcare facilities. In April of 2006 McCain was one of only 13 Senators to vote against a $430,000,000 amendment (H.R. 4939, S.Amdt. 3642) for the Department of Veteran Affairs to improve Medical Services for outpatient care and treatment for vets. And in March of 2006 he voted against an amendment (S.Con.Res.83, S.Amdt.3007) to increase veteran's medical funding by 1.5 billion dollars. And of course, he didn't even show up to vote for the latest veteran's bill that increased veteran's education benefits.

According to USA Today, "The Arizona senator opposes the scholarship measure, as does the Pentagon, because it applies to people who serve just three years. He fears that would encourage people to leave the military after only one enlistment even as the U.S. fights two wars and is trying to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps."

It is astonishing that McCain would even make such an admission, since the stated rationale suggests that his philosophy is that we can't afford to improve the standard of living of the poor and middle class, because we need them to fight our wars.

I'm sure that many Americans are quite disheartened to learn these facts–and you should be. But actually, we're fortunate, because after allowing demagogues to control this country for the past eight years, we're lucky that we're not in worse shape than we're in. After all, we could be in the military, waiting for McCain to vote us a fair shake.

Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Footnote to Posterity


A Footnote to Posterity

As I watched the second presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, my mind drifted off to when I once watched the landing of the Space Shuttle. All the drama of the mission was over, and the space walk had been completed successfully. Now all that was left to complete a perfect mission was to bring the bird in for a landing.
As the shuttle grew larger over the horizon, I remember being overwhelmed with pride over this marvel of engineering, and for the thousands of ordinary people who had come together to accomplish its mission. Then as the dot over the horizon grew larger, the sound of unabridged competence suddenly crackled forth as the commander of this magnificent vessel spoke to ground control: "Landing gear down, and all systems online. Glide path and descent, five by five." Then after several seconds of awestruck silence as we watched the majestic bird descend, the commander's voice chimed in once again, with that matter-of-fact tone as though he was pulling his car into the driveway. "Thirty seconds to touchdown." Then as I watched in slack-jawed awe, the commander brought the bird in, for a picture perfect landing.
As impressed as I was over the feat of engineering that went into the space shuttle and its mission, I found myself even more fascinated by what must have gone into building the kind of man with the competence, intelligence, and cool professionalism that could command such a vessel--and I had that very same feeling as I watched the cool professionalism of Barack Obama's performance last night. I felt privileged to bear witness to the very best this nation has to offer.
During this election cycle, some of the world's most experienced politicians have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at Sen. Obama, and he handled it with a cool professionalism that has rarely, if ever, been seen in the political arena before. While his opponents sling mud in desperation, he remains firm and steady, and stays right on point.
That, is the key to his success. While his opponents have promised and preached sermons about what they will be as president, for all intent and purposes, Barack Obama has very quietly, become the president–and it is for precisely that reason, that John McCain had already lost the debate the moment he stepped on stage.
Due to his many gaffs, awkward moments, and demonstrations of bad judgment contrasted with Sen. Obama's invariably steady and solid control, many Americans no longer see Sen. McCain as Barack Obama's opponent. They see him as a boorish and disrespectful pest, harassing the next president of the United States–and they resent it.
That explains why at this point the McCain campaign is scratching its head at their slide in the polls. They've all but given up on trying to win by addressing the issues. They've even decided, for some unfathomable reason, to publicly announced that from this point forward their game plan is to play in the mud. It's a desperate move, because they just can't figure out why after slinging some of their most tried-and-true mud, none of it seems to stick--and why, in spite of their most unconscionable efforts, their poll numbers continue to head towards Dixie.
What they fail to understand is, a lie needs help. In order for them to call Obama a Muslim terrorist who likes to "pal around" with a Bill Ayres--who they describe as a domestic terrorist--and make it stick, the lie needs to be assisted by an American public who wants to believe it–but in their effort to smear Barack Obama, they simply don't have that support.
McCain's primary problem is, the American people have gotten to know Barack Obama. With all of the publicity he's gotten over the past two years, they've learned more about Obama in just two years than they have about McCain in his twenty-six years in the public eye. And beyond that, they like Obama, which is not always the case with John McCain.
McCain also has another serious problem–he's a walking contradiction. While he's telling the American people that he tried to protect them from the current financial crisis before it happened, the only person he's documented as ever trying to protect is convicted felon Charles Keating. He desperately tried to protect him from public accountability after Keating was responsible for the collapse of Lincoln Savings and Loan, under conditions identical to our current crisis. In that case, more than 21,000 investors, mostly elderly, lost their life's savings, totaling $285 million. And even after getting a pass on that as a result of his status as a "war hero," McCain continues to be one of the senate's most prolific deregulators.
And beyond that, many consider legislation authored by Phil Gramm, McCain's chief economic advisor, the one component that was indispensable to the current financial crisis. It was also recently revealed that Rick Davis, chairman of McCain's campaign committee, was being paid $15,000 a month by Freddie Mac, right up until their financial bailout. So his words don't past the sniff test. He's either lying, or has extremely bad judgment in choosing his staff.
So while McCain is talking out of both sides of his mouth, George Bush is hiding out in the White House, Cheney is secluded in his "secret location," and Sarah Palin is avoiding reporters while slinging mud from a script, Barack Obama has quietly taken on a role of national leadership. While it is not his intent to usurp anyone's authority, at this point, all official authority has been abdicated, so he's using the campaign as a vehicle to step into the vacuum in order to reassure the American people who are desperate for some kind of leadership.
Even at his young age, Obama has stepped in as a sort of elder statesman to assure the people that while we are indeed undergoing a crisis, it is a manageable crisis, and together, we will see it through.
So absolutely, John McCain was fighting a losing battle when he first stepped up on that stage–and to make things even worse, yet again, he showed atrociously bad judgment by referring to Sen. Obama as "that one." The man has an invariable penchant for digging holes and jumping in. Even sitting in my den, I could feel the entire nation wince as he said it, because what America knew, and was obviously lost on John McCain, was that we were witnessing a footnote in history, casually dismissing, the next President of the United States.
Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Is a Black President Too Much Change for America to Bear?


Is a Black President Too Much Change for America to Bear?

Ok, let’s drop the nonsense and be real, here. If Barack Obama was White, he’d be at least twenty points ahead of John McCain in every major poll in the country. His election would have been so certain by now that Michelle would have already been sent the keys to the White House–and we all know it.

By any indicator–intellect, character, prudence, demeanor, or competence–Barack Obama is clearly not only head and shoulders above John McCain, but he’s one of the most impressive presidential candidates in the history of this nation. So what American voters have to decide at this pivotal point in our history, is how much do they truly love America. It’s time that we really embrace this question, instead of simply paying lip service to it.

Too many of us love America by rote rather than passion. With some, it’s not so much about loving America, as it is hating everyone else, and others love the American plot of land, but hate the ideals that America stands for. So this November is where the rubber meets the road. It may very well be our last chance to decide whether or not we truly love America, and the American ideal, or decide that the mere thought of having a Black president, is just too much change for Americans to bear? That, is the one and only question before us this election season, and we all know it.

Now, we can continue trying to delude ourselves into believing that the primary issue in this election is experience and not race, but at this point, even the most naive among us can see through that sham. Experience in office notwithstanding, there is virtually no one in this country who’s so dense that they can’t see that Barack Obama, even as a candidate, is the most presidential figure in the country today, and that’s exactly what we so desperately need at this point in our history. So don’t start talking to me about experience–Wall Street was full of experience, and so was the Bush administration. What we need is good judgment, and Obama’s judgment has been sternly tested as he presides over the most flawless campaign that this nation has ever witnessed.

The experience issue is nothing more than a talking point. Some of the very same people who say that Obama lacks the experience to be trusted in the Oval Office, also says that if it became necessary, Sarah Palin is more than qualified to take over the helm. That position is ridiculous on its face. Is there anyone in the country, Democrat or Republican, that’s so delusional that they actually believe that Sarah Palin is more capable than Barack Obama? I don’t think so. While there are still those who claim to believe it, I think I’m safe in saying that every person in America knows better.

On judgment alone, Sen. Obama not only managed to defeat Hillary Clinton, but former President Bill Clinton as well--two of the most powerful political forces in the world today, while Gov. Palin can’t even be trusted by her own running mate to give a news interview. The fact is, and I don’t want to sound sexist, but it is indeed a fact, that any television weather girl could replace Sarah Palin seamlessly, and in a heartbeat. John McCain could be easily replaced as well–they’re both what my late wife use to call “typicals.” But consider the amount of effort it would take to replace Barack Obama–if, in fact, he could be replaced at all.

Nevertheless, Sarah Palin supporters contend that her executive experience in Alaska makes her more qualified to be president than Barack Obama. But while they’re saying that out of one side of their mouth, they’re having to defend the complete disaster that Ms. Palin left behind out of the other.

They want to ignore the fact that as mayor of Wasilla, a town of only 6300 residents, Palin, this fiscal conservative, left behind a debt of $22 million ($3492 per resident) as a direct result of her administrative incompetence. During her tenure as mayor, Palin built a $14.7 million sports complex for the city of wasilla, but there was only one problem–she failed to gain title to the property that it was built on. As a result of this minor oversight, the city’s long term debt went from $1 million, to over $25 million. And during her short tenure as governor, she’s left behind a full-blown scandal (“trooper gate”) after only 22 months in office. Both issues suggest poor judgment.

And with regard to McCain, notice that once again, we find ourselves discussing Sarah Palin rather than John McCain, who’s at the top of the ticket. The fact that a man with 26 years in office is being overshadowed by a novice running mate with a dubious record, speaks volumes about McCain’s own suitability to be president. Considering his 72 years and the condition of his health, the fact that McCain would choose someone of Sarah Palin’s pedestrian proclivities and modest grasp of world affairs at this precarious juncture in our history, raises concerns regarding McCain’s judgment on behalf as well. How could one watch Sarah Palin’s performance in the Katie Couric interview and not recognize that McCain put the nation’s interest on the back burner when he made his vice-presidential selection?

Then there was McCain’s performance during the financial crisis. Watching McCain flail back and forth during this financial emergency, contradicting himself by trying to play both sides of the issue, and at the same time desperately attempting to maneuver himself into position to take credit for any bailout was a pathetic thing to watch. The nation was facing the worst financial crisis in its history–in world history–but instead of trying to figure out how to best serve the American people, McCain made an absolute fool of himself by trying to gain political milage out of a national tragedy. In addition, he was clearly in over his head and operating in panic mode. But it gave us a clear, though horrific snapshot of what we could expect from him as president during a national emergency. The thought is horrifying.

Thus, the irony in this situation is just short of Biblical in nature. First, as the nation is crumbling around us, the only chance we have of saving ourselves is by overcoming the racism that has been a pervasive part of the nation’s fabric since its inception. Secondly, and just as ironic, is the only person that seems to be qualified to save the nation, is part of a group that has been derided over the years as ignorant, lazy, and without class. Yet, the very qualities that will allow him to save us, is the fact that he is better educated, more intelligent, a harder worker, and has more class, wisdom, and common sense than anyone else available. And finally, Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president exactly 45 years to the day, after Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

The irony of all this is much too pointed to have simply come about by chance.

Eric L. Wattree

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Friday, October 03, 2008

The Vice Presidential Debate: Joe Biden Vs. Betty Boop


The Vice Presidential Debate:

Joe Biden Vs. Betty Boop

The writers can take the day off at Saturday Night Live this weekend, because comic relief won't be necessary. Mark Twain himself couldn't have provided better satire than the reality of last night's vice presidential debate. The face-off between Sen. Joe Biden and Gov. Sarah Palin had the surrealistic air of a movie that stars a human with a cartoon character. It should have been billed Joe Biden versus Betty Boop--or Biden v Boop, if you will. But I have to begrudgingly tip my hat to Ms. Palin, however, even if I have to mix my metaphors, because she was forced to face Zorro with a wooden sword, and due to her fancy footwork, she almost pulled it off.

I also have to give credit to the McCain campaign. They set the stage well to mitigate a pending disaster by complaining that the moderator, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill, may have had a conflict of interest because she wrote a book on a new generation of Black politicians that included a chapter on Sen. Barack Obama. Of course, they didn't make a big issue of it–after all, that would have precluded any journalist from writing a book that included any national politician during an election year–but they did make enough of it to possibly give Ms. Ifill pause before pursuing any of Ms. Palin's cutesy, non-answers with aggressive followup questions to probe her grasp of the issues beyond superficial talking points. Who said desperation can't inspire a stroke of competence?

The ploy allowed Palin the luxury of simply acknowledging that a question had been asked, then completely ignoring the content of the question, and then replacing it with a prepared talking point instead. At first Palin was perceptively nervous, not sure the ploy was going to work, but as the debate went on and she saw that she was getting away with, she became increasing confident, even bold, until she eventually announced, "And I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also." After getting no objection from either Ifill or Biden, from that point on, it was off to the races–it was almost like having her trusty teleprompter again.

Thereafter, it was as though she and Biden were in different realms of reality. While Biden responded to the questions with a seriousness and a depth of understanding, Palin stood there being cute, winking at the camera, giving "shout-outs" to third graders, and responding to whatever talking point she chose to pull from the ether.

A lesser gentleman than Sen Biden would have advised her, the next time you avoid substance with one of your cutesy responses, I'm going to throw up all over this stage. But she probably would have simply looked at him and said, "I'm the mother of a special needs child. I bet you didn't know that, did ya?"

Another example of how Palin avoided having to deal with the substance of a question, was by giving a one sentence answer, then instead of substantiating her response with facts as one would expect, she'd go off on a flight of conservative philosophy instead:

Question: Has this administration's policy been an abject failure, as the senator says, Governor?

Palin: "No, I do not believe that it has been. But I'm so encouraged to know that we both love Israel, and I think that is a good thing to get to agree on, Senator Biden. I respect your position on that.

"No, in fact, when we talk about the Bush administration, there's a time, too, when Americans are going to say, "Enough is enough with your ticket," on constantly looking backwards, and pointing fingers, and doing the blame game.

"There have been huge blunders in the war. There have been huge blunders throughout this administration, as there are with every administration. But for a ticket that wants to talk about change and looking into the future, there's just too much finger-pointing backwards to ever make us believe that that's where you're going.

"Positive change is coming, though. Reform of government is coming. We'll learn from the past mistakes in this administration and other administrations. And we're going to forge ahead with putting government back on the side of the people and making sure that our country comes first, putting obsessive partisanship aside.

"That's what John McCain has been known for in all these years. He has been the maverick. He has ruffled feathers. But I know, Senator Biden, you have respected him for that, and I respect you for acknowledging that. But change is coming."

Ah, what?!! Could somebody repeat the question, please?

We're bogged down in Iraq, thousands of Americans have been killed or sustained life-changing wounds, our military readiness has been all but destroyed as we're facing a second war in Afghanistan, our treasury has been ravished, we're facing the largest financial crisis in the history of mankind, and the country is deeply in debt to two of our most dangerous potential enemies, and how does she answer the question of whether or not the Bush administration has been an abject failure? She says, "Americans are going to say, 'Enough is enough with your ticket,' on constantly looking backwards, and pointing fingers, and doing the blame game." Through her eyes, Americans are not going to be disgusted with the McCain ticket for continuing to support Bush's failed policies, they're going to be disgusted with Obama, for pointing out that Bush was wrong.

Her response reminds me of a woman who's been caught committing adultery, then when her husband confronts her with it the next day, she tells him that he's going to destroy their marriage if he doesn't learn to stop dwelling on the past. The problem with that philosophy is if you never look back, you never learn anything; but the beauty of it is, you're never held accountable for your actions–and Republicans need that accommodation desperately, because if the American people ever start looking back, their through.

If the American people ever start looking back, they'll notice that the same policies, the same names, and the same corruption is recycled by the Republican Party every generation. On October 29, 1929 the Republican Party ushered in the Great Depression under President Herbert Hoover, and it took Democratic president, Franklin Roosevelt, to bail the nation out; then on October 19, 1987, under Republican, Ronald Reagan, the stock market fell 508 points due to the excesses of Reaganomics. Then, again, due to the continued freewheeling fiscal policies of conservative Republicans, between 1986 and 1989, spanning the presidencies of Reagan and Bush Sr., the FSLIC had to pay off all the depositors of 296 institutions with assets of over $125 billion.

Then in 1988 Silverado Savings and Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion. It was headed by Neil Bush, brother of George W. The investigation alleged that he was guilty of "breaches of his fiduciary duties involving multiple conflicts of interest." The issue was eventually settled out of court with Bush paying a mere $50,000 settlement.

Then there was the Lincoln Savings and loan scandal in 1987, involving John McCain. The scandal was very similar to the one that is currently playing out on Wall Street. He was one of a group of senators dubbed "The Keating Five" involved in a scandal by the same name.

In 1976 Charles Keating moved to Arizona to run the American Continental Corporation. In 1984, shortly after the Reagan era push to deregulate the savings and loan community, Keating bought Lincoln Savings and Loan and began to engage in highly risky investments with the depositors' savings. In 1989 the parent company, which Keating headed, went bankrupt, and it resulted in over 21,000 investors losing their life savings. Most of the investors were elderly, and the loss amounted to about 285 million dollars.

After having received over a million dollars from Keating in illegal campaign contributions, gifts, free trips, and other gratuities, the Keating Five--Senators John Glenn, Don Riegle, Dennis DeConini, Alan Cranston, and Sen. John McCain--attempted to intervene in the investigation into Keating's activities by the regulators. Later, they were admonished to varying degrees by the senate for attempting to influence regulators on Keating's behalf. Charles Keating ended up being convicted for fraud, racketeering and conspiracy, for which he received 10 years by the state court, and a 12 year sentence in federal court. After spending four and a half years in prison, his convictions were overturned. But prior to being retried, he pled guilty to a number of felonies in return for a sentence of time served.

So you see, Gov. Palin, looking backwards is a very important part of moving forward. That's also why we're so interested in "Troopergate", and we're looking so hard at you. So don't get too comfortable, because we'll be getting back with ya.

Eric L. Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Stately Old Ship

A Stately Old Ship

The stately old vessel
Limps weakly towards port
As the rolling storm begins.
Veracious vermin gnaw
At its rotting hull,
Destroying from within.
Colors that once flew proud and strong
In distant and exotic lands,
Now flutter shamefully,
Tattered and torn,
Reflecting the flaws of man.

With cheers of fading greatness,
True patriots were scorned;
Demagogues were lifted aloft,
While the ship of state we mourned.
But the old vessel was
Made of sterner stuff
By a different kind of man;
Storms and vermin and rotting hulls
It can easily withstand.

Waiting in port, a fresh new crew
Eager to take command;
A new coat of paint, and fresh colors await,
A proud ship of state's next stand.

Eric LaMont Wattree
Copyright ©2008 Eric LaMont Wattree

I take great pride in being the product of adversity, because having simply survived provides me with unassailable credentials.

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