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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

When the going gets tough, McCain chickens out

Republican presidential candidate John McCain spent Saturday in Washington, ostensibly to help forge an agreement on the federal bailout of troubled financial institutions, but he was conspicuously absent when his Senate colleagues voted to approve a $634 billion spending bill that included substantial funding for the U.S. military.

The reason? The bill was loaded with some $6 billion to pay for senators' home-state pet projects, the kind of "pork barrel" spending that Sen. McCain has railed against during his campaign for the White House.

Put simply, he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. If he voted for the bill, he would have been able to repeat his oft-stated campaign pledge that he'll never turn his back on the needs of the U.S. military, but he also would have been branded a hypocrite for authorizing some 2,000 pet projects. Voting "nay" on the bill, meanwhile, would have been in line with his "no more pork" pledge, but he would have been branded a hypocrite for voting against military funding (something he has accused Democratic presidential opponent Barack Obama of doing).

So McCain took the easy — and chicken's — way out. He simply didn't vote.

That's an interesting, and rather hypocritical, inaction from a man who often has criticized Obama for abstaining from votes while serving in the Illinois State Senate.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain's bad gamble

My read of the political landscape is that Republican presidential candidate John McCain made a major blunder today in calling for Friday’s scheduled debate with Democrat Barack Obama to be postponed so the two senators can help deal with the nation’s growing financial crisis.

The spin from the McCain camp is that the GOP candidate is putting the well-being of the country above politics, but the reality is that this move is entirely political – the desperate act of a desperate man trying to gain favor with the electorate at a time when his poll numbers are sinking like a stone (ABC News and the Washington Post now have Obama ahead 52-43) and when the perception that Democrats are better equipped than Republicans to handle an economic crisis is being solidified.

Obama, wisely, has rejected McCain’s stall tactic, saying almost exactly what I said to a newsroom colleague earlier today: that a would-be president must be able to “deal with more than one thing at once.”

What the McCain camp should have done, but apparently failed to consider, was suggest that the subject of Friday’s debate be changed – from foreign policy to the economy (with foreign policy being shifted to the third debate, at which the economy currently is to be the topic).

This would have worked for McCain on so many levels: He would have been able to discuss the economy at a time when the nation’s fiscal ills are on everyone’s minds, he would have avoided looking like a fool by trying to avoid a debate at a key juncture in our nation's history, and, perhaps most importantly, he would have been able to have the final debate – the one that always makes the most significant impression – focus on foreign policy, the area in which he is strongest.

Instead, McCain looks weaker today that he has at any time during the campaign.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chargers 48, Jets 29

Could this get any funnier?


Monday, September 22, 2008

Own up!

When terrorists slaughtered nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001, it didn’t take long for the right-wing talking heads to spin the attacks as the fault of the Clinton administration. After all, the argument went, the attacks were in the planning stages long before George W. Bush became president, so the carnage couldn’t possibly be his fault. (What the Bush backers failed to mention, of course, was that Bush was warned in the summer of 2001 that something of this magnitude was coming, and instead of doing anything about it, he went on vacation for a month.)

Then came the post-9/11 recession. That was Bill Clinton’s fault, too, the right argued, because the seeds for economic weakness were planted before the end of Clinton’s presidency.

When the stock market soared to record heights in late 2007, that, of course, was Bush’s doing. His tax cuts were just what the doctor ordered, the Republicans boasted.

Now the American banking industry is on the verge of collapse, and who’s to blame? Why President Clinton, of course! After all, the Republicans insist, it was Clinton, acting at Congress' behest, who allowed numerous banking regulations to be loosened in 1999, so the current crisis must be his fault. (Note to the blame-Clinton-first crowd: You might want to check which party controlled both houses of Congress in 1999.)

And, perhaps less importantly, when Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin came across like an idiot during questioning by ABC News’ Charles Gibson a couple of weeks ago, who did the right blame? Gibson, of course.

And today, in the wake of a New York Times report linking GOP presidential candidate John McCain with ailing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the McCain camp blamed – you guessed it – The New York Times.

What ever happened to people taking responsibility for their own mistakes?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rush Limbaugh: Stupid and unqualified

Right-wing radio windbag Rush Limbaugh, who wouldn't know fairness if it sat on his lap, is complaining that a new Spanish-language TV ad being run by Barack Obama's campaign takes a Limbaugh quote out of context.

In the ad, being aired in Hispanic-heavy Florida and New Mexico, Limbaugh is quoted, in printed words on the screen, as saying "Mexicans are stupid and unqualified."

Limbaugh, seeking to prove that his meaning had been manipulated, responded on Wednesday by releasing what he said was the full transcript of the comment from which the quote was taken.

He said the entire comment - which he made on his call-in show in 1993, during a discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement - was this:

"If we are going to start rewarding no-skills and stupid people - I'm serious, let the unskilled jobs, let the kinds of jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do, let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."

Thanks for clearing that up, Rush.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Those who ignore history ...

The federal government announced late Tuesday that it's floating troubled insurance giant American International Group Inc. an $85 billion loan to help AIG stay afloat.

Lending money to someone who probably won't be able to repay it. Brilliant.

Isn't that how all the mortgage lenders got in trouble?


Sunday, September 14, 2008

A surge of exaggeration

The death toll from Hurricane Ike stands at 21 right now.

Not to be flippant, but shouldn’t the body count be 140,000?

I mean, after all, as the storm closed in on Texas’ Gulf Coast on Thursday and Friday, forecasters announced that people who ignored the order to evacuate would face “certain death.”

Not “the chance of death.” Not “the risk of death.” “CERTAIN death.”

“Certain.” Dictionary definitions: inevitable, sure to happen, definite.

That means the forecasters were saying: “If you stay behind, you WILL die.”

Yet, somehow, only 21 people have been confirmed dead out of the estimated 140,000 in the storm’s strike zone who defied the order to leave. (Yes, I know the toll is likely to rise in the coming days, but some 2,000 people already have been rescued. That suggests the final tally of people who lost their lives in the storm won’t be alarmingly high.)

The bottom line here is that forecasters now have overestimated the destructive power of two consecutive Gulf of Mexico hurricanes: First Gustav, now Ike.

Gustav was supposed to be the second coming of Katrina for New Orleans, but it barely bruised the Crescent City.

Ike was supposed to submerge Galveston, bring a 50-foot storm surge, pummel Houston and wipe out vital oil refineries. It was a bad storm, yes, but it didn’t do any of those things.

Often in my blog, I poke fun at forecasters for their inability to predict the weather correctly, but their inaccuracy regarding these hurricanes is no laughing matter. It could have deadly results in the long run. In the wake of Gustav and Ike, forecasters are being criticized by many in the media for “crying wolf,” and that suggests people in hurricane-prone coastal areas are likely to take storm warnings less seriously in the future.

And then The Big One is gonna hit. And thousands will die because they ignored the warnings that so many times before were exaggerated.


Patriots 19, Jets 10

I told you so.


Making the case for 'K-Rod'

Conventional wisdom says Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Cliff Lee, with an incredible record of 22 wins and just two losses, will win the American League Cy Young Award this year.

In reality, the honor should go to Francisco Rodriguez (left), the closer for the Los Angeles Angels.

Yes, I’m biased. I’ve been an Angels fan for 30 years. I celebrate their wins. I stew over the losses. I was a basket case when they lost the 1986 ALCS after holding a 3-games-to-1 lead over the Red Sox and being one strike away from victory in Game 5. I was in seventh heaven for days after they won the 2002 World Series.

But my argument for Frankie “K-Rod” Rodriguez is that of an objective observer, not a longtime fan.

What Cliff Lee has accomplished this year is amazing, to be sure, but it’s nothing new. There have been plenty of 20-game winners in baseball, a handful of 25-game winners and even one 30-game winner (Detroit’s Denny McClain, who went 31-6 in 1968).

What K-Rod has done this year is unprecedented: 58 saves (in 64 chances), topping the previous record, 57, held by Bobby Thigpen of the 1990 Chicago White Sox. And with 13 games still left to play, K-Rod almost certainly will reach the 60-save mark and conceivably could get to 65 (unless Angels Manager Mike Scioscia starts resting him for the playoffs).

K-Rod has my vote. Unfortunately, the voters who choose the American League’s Cy Young winner are not likely to agree.

After all, in Thigpen’s record-setting year, the A.L. pitching honor went to Oakland A’s starter Bob Welch, who won 27 games and lost only six.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Poll position

The Freeman’s online reader poll, which I write five of the seven days each week, asked the following beginning around 7 p.m. Wednesday:

“Did you perceive Barack Obama’s ‘lipstick on a pig’ comment as being an insult to GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin?”

I knew the question would elicit numerous responses, and I guessed they’d break about 50-50.

Shortly after the question went up, 20 people had responded, and the yes-no split was, indeed, dead even.

This morning, with about 200 people having responded, the tally still was in the neighborhood of 50-50.

When I checked the results around 2 p.m., we were closing in on 350 responses, and the result was little changed from earlier in the day.

Then, about 5:15 p.m., when I went to deactivate the question and post the next one, there suddenly were nearly 900 responses, with 80 percent of them saying yes, the “lipstick” comment was an insult to Palin.

In other words, some Obama opponent found a way to beat the system. Our Web site is designed in such a way that the poll question can be answered only once per computer. (If you try to answer more than once, the subsequent votes simply are not recorded.) But a computer whiz can find a way around low-tech security systems, and someone obviously figured out how to vote multiple times in our poll and have all of the votes recorded.

Good for you, whoever you are. You got your way. You’ll get to see a poll result in Friday morning’s Freeman that says 80 percent of the 896 respondents found the “lipstick” remark offensive.

But what you, and our honest respondents, won't get to see is the truthful result to our poll – which, given the day’s trend, appears to have been about 50-50.



All of the New York City-based TV stations this morning covered the annual 9/11 commemoration at the Ground Zero - a ceremony during which the names of those who died at the World Trade Center were read in alphabetical order.

CNN and Fox showed the ceremonies at all three attack sites - Ground Zero, the Pentagon (where a new memorial was unveiled) and the field in Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.

MSNBC, however, spent the morning, inexplicably, rebroadcasting NBC's as-it-happened-coverage from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 - so, just in case you'd forgotten how awful the events of that day were, you could watch, again and again, the planes crashing into the twin towers, the towers collapsing, part of the Pentagon burning, people running for their lives from government buildings in Washington, D.C., interviews with shell-shocked people in lower Manhattan and so on. And you could relive the terrified reactions of such NBC personalities as Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw.

What, exactly, was MSNBC trying to accomplish? There certainly was no fresh news element to its broadcast. And did the network execs really expect people to plant themselves in front of their TV sets this morning and spend hours rewatching something that was too painful to watch the first time around?

The network's attempt to broadcast a "You Were There" kind of retrospective came off, instead, like a cheap and tasteless self-promotion - a morning-long reminder of how NBC covered the events of that day rather than a commemoration of the tragedy and a tribute to the people who died.

There's plenty of time for broadcasters to massage their egos the other 364 days of the year. This is the one day that the focus should be entirely on the news, and not at all on the people who report it.


Pumped up (but not down)

Kudos to CNBC for airing this nugget of information a few minutes ago:

On Feb. 19, 2008, when the price of oil first surpassed $100 a barrel, the average price of gasoline in the United States was $3.04 per gallon.

Today, Sept. 11, 2008, with oil about to pass through the $100 level on the way down, gas is averaging $3.67 a gallon.

I eagerly await an explanation ... from someone ... anyone ... please!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Only in Woodstock

A story that ran in the Freeman’s Ulster County edition this morning tells of how the Woodstock Town Board has discovered that two members of the town Ethics Board may have an ethics conflict because they also serve on local political committees, apparently in violation of town policy.

So who is the Town Board seeking counsel from on how to resolve the problem?

The town Ethics Board.

You can’t make this stuff up.


If it squeals like a pig ...

My self-imposed hiatus from blogging about the upcoming election is, itself, going on hiatus for the next few moments – because this is just too good to ignore.

Before anyone brands Barack Obama a sexist for his “lipstick on a pig” comment, please take 33 seconds and view the clip below, from late 2007, of John McCain answering a question about Hillary Clinton.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Don't bet on the Jets

A reality check for New York Jets fans:

On opening day, your mediocre band of misfits and its aging quarterback barely beat a Dolphins team that went 1-15 last year.

And if not for Brett Favre’s throw-up-a-prayer touchdown pass in the second quarter or Chad Pennington’s failure to find an open Miami receiver in the end zone from just 18 yards out with 5 seconds left to play in the game, Gang Green would have opened the season 0-1 rather than 1-0.

In other words, stop acting like you’re gonna win the Super Bowl. You probably won’t even make the playoffs.


Pot, meet kettle

Fox News this morning, absolutely giddy in reporting that MSNBC would not use liberal commentators Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as Election Night anchors, put the following headline at the bottom of the screen:

"MSNBC biased?"

I laughed so hard I almost wet myself.


Ike's a real turner

Since last Thursday, the long-range forecasts for Hurricane Ike, in chronological order, have included the following:

* It’s gonna curve north from Cuba and ram directly into south Florida.
* It’s gonna miss Florida, though perhaps deliver a glancing blow to the Keys, and ultimately smack the New Orleans portion of Louisiana.
* Louisiana is out of the woods. It probably will hit Texas.
* It’s gonna hit New Orleans directly.
* It’s gonna miss New Orleans by hundreds of miles and hit Texas.

Tell me again why long-range forecasts even exist?


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Eye on the sky

It's about 7:05 p.m. Saturday as I write this.

Tropical Storm Hanna — which The Weather Channel has been warning us about for several days and which came ashore this morning in the Carolinas — has reached the Hudson Valley.

With great care, and perhaps a little fear, I just stepped outside the Freeman office to see how bad things have gotten.

Please sit down and brace yourself. I have an important news bulletin:

It's raining.

God help us all.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Political pause

With the Democratic and Republican conventions now over, I'll be taking a much-needed break from blogging about the candidates and the upcoming election.

It's been a fun two weeks, but now I need to get away from writing about this stuff - Did I really post seven items yesterday? Yikes! - and even from thinking about it during my time at home in the morning (which is generally when I post).

The election is still two months away. The campaigns will march merrily on regardless of whether I comment about them, or even pay attention to them. And I'm sure my loyal readers - I honestly don't know whether there are six, 60 or 6,000 of you - will find a way to get by without my political commentary.

Of course, the run-up to the election will continue to be part of my daily routine as the Freeman's city editor - it's kind of hard to ignore when you put out a daily newspaper for a living - but, at least for a while, my blog will feature lighter (and more local) fare.

Unless another one of the Palin girls becomes pregnant.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

What a letdown ... or was it?

If Sarah Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday was as magnificent as all the breathless bloviators on the right have been telling us, then John McCain’s address at the convention’s close on Thursday was dreadful. Monotonic, flat, unexciting, a bit clumsy.

But if McCain’s speech was good — which it was, because he spoke from his heart, laid out his vision for America and came across as sincere — then Palin’s much-ballyhooed moment in the spotlight 24 hours earlier was just theater. All style, no substance; a performance that was long on oratorical skills, but woefully short on message. Made for TV. In other words, phony.

That said, it’s also worth noting the most glaring element of McCain’s speech: He never mentioned George W. Bush by name. He cited the unpopular chief executive just once, and when he did, he referred to him only as “the president of the United States.” That speaks volumes.


Best picture (of the campaign)

Click on the image to see a larger version of it.


Sold by a speech?

A very conservative friend of mine – who shall remain nameless because he didn’t give me permission to cite his opinions here – just sent me a lengthy e-mail, absolutely gushing about Sarah Palin’s speech Wednesday night as “the best convention speech I’ve ever heard,” “a grand slam … (that) went 562 feet” and “hit all the right buttons,” “a jolt in the arm” for the Republican Party and “articulate, witty (and) funny.”

This friend – who long has had doubts about John McCain’s conservative credentials and just last Friday called Palin too inexperienced to be vice president (let alone president) – said he now is sold on Palin, and the GOP ticket, essentially because of last night’s speech.

This from the same guy who’s been telling me all year that Barack Obama’s ability to speak well in public is not enough to qualify him for the presidency.

Can you say “hypocrisy”?


Fuzzy math

Kudos to The Associated Press' Jim Kuhnhenn for this one:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told the Republican National Convention on Wednesday that Sarah Palin "got more votes running for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, than Joe Biden got running for president of the United States."

The truth: Palin received 616 votes for mayor in 1996 and 909 in 1999, when she won re-election, for a total of 1,525. Biden's vote total in this year's presidential primaries: 76,165.

Lying on national television is never a good idea, especially in the Internet Age, when it's so easy to verify or disprove claims.


Same photo, same opinion

An astute observation from Associated Press writer Ted Anthony, along the same lines as my "Foolish Photo Op" post (three items down):

On Wednesday morning, a teenage boy from Alaska stood in a receiving line on an airport tarmac, being glad-handed by the potential next president of the United States — because he got his girlfriend pregnant. TV cameras were lined up in advance. The mind boggles.

Yes, it most certainly does.


From smear to eternity

Republican strategist Terry Holt was on TV this morning, talking about - what else? - Sarah Palin, and he asserted that initial doubts about the Republican vice presidential nominee turned into a groundswell of support for her after Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama last Friday made fun of small towns, like the one in Alaska where Palin has lived most of her life.

First of all, the comment about Wasilla, Alaska, was made by an Obama campaign spokesman, not Obama himself. More importantly, though, the spokesman didn't make fun of small towns, or even of Wasilla; what he made fun of was the fact that, until about 20 months ago, a small town was the only thing Palin had ever led. He was commenting on her government experience, not her place of residence.

Using the words of an opposing candidate and his/her campaign staffers to prove them wrong is fine in an election season. But at least use the right words.


The Speech

Here, in chronological order, is what Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin told us during her speech Wednesday night at the party’s national convention in St. Paul, Minn.:

* She’s proud to be John McCain’s running mate.
* She loves her kids.
* Her eldest son and her nephew are in the military, and she’s proud of them.
* She'll be an advocate for special-needs children. (Not mentioned: She cut funding for special-needs children in Alaska by more than 60 percent.)
* Her husband is a hard-working guy, and she loves him.
* She loves her parents.
* Women today have more opportunities than they did at any time in the past.
* Harry Truman was a good president.
* She’s from a small town, is a “hockey mom” and used to be a member of the PTA.
* She served as a councilwoman in Wasilla, Alaska, then became the city’s mayor, then became governor of Alaska.
* Barack Obama would be a bad president.
* Reporters are bad people because they pick on her.
* People must have certain principles to be in politics and government.
* She has helped eliminate wasteful spending in Alasaka. (Money for special-needs children is wasteful spending?)
* John McCain is a great guy.
* She opposed federal earmarks for Alaska’s infamous “bridge to nowhere" project. (An outright lie.)
* Alaska has an oil pipeline.
* The United States can start reducing its dependence on foreign energy sources by drilling for oil on Alaska’s Northern Slope (something McCain opposes).
* Barack Obama would be a bad president.
* Terrorists are plotting to kill us.
* Barack Obama’s tax plan would hurt hard-working Americans.
* Her sister and brother-in-law own a gas station – making them hard-working Americans who would be hurt by Barcak Obama’s tax plan.
* Congress sucks.
* John McCain is a great guy.
* John McCain is qualified to be president because he fought in the Vietnam War, was tortured as a war prisoner and lived to tell about it.
* “Evil” is lurking in the world.
* Some POW from Ohio is a great guy.
* We all should vote for John McCain.

She left out only one thing: an explanation of what qualifies her to be vice president (and perhaps president) of the United States of America.

Nice speech. But completely unpersuasive.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Foolish photo op

The photo above, supplied by The Associated Press, shows Republican presidential candidate John McCain, right, warmly greeting 18-year-old Levi Johnston on Wednesday on the tarmac at the airport in Minneapolis, Minn., near the site of this week's Republican National Convention.
For those of you living under a rock since Monday, Johnston is the young man who impregnated Bristol Palin, the 17-year-old unwed daughter of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. That's Bristol standing between McCain and Johnston.
So now, despite the GOP's insistence to the contrary, this pregnancy is inarguably the public's business. Flying Johnston from Alaska to Minnesota, parading him in front of the media's cameras and having the man who could be president welcome the irresponsible young couple with open arms makes this story fair game.
And, perhaps more importantly, it calls into question the judgment of McCain and the people managing his campaign.


Timing is everything

Embattled GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is to scheduled address to Republican National Convention - and TV viewers across the nation - beginning at 10:37 p.m. tonight.

10:37 p.m.? Not 8, or 9, or 10?

10:37 p.m.?!

Do you get the feeling the Republican bosses and convention organizers want as few people as possible to see her speech?


Palin's people pile on

Two more points, just too good to ignore, about the various Sarah Palin controversies:

* Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to GOP presidential candidate John McCain, said today that all the TV talk about whether Palin was properly vetted her before being tapped as McCain's running mate "is a faux media scandal designed to destroy the first female Republican nominee for vice president of the United States." First of all, Mr. Schmidt, there's nothing "faux" about Palin's alarming lack of experience, her strong-arm tactics against the Alaska state police commissioner, her outright lie that she opposed Alaska's infamous "bridge to nowhere" project and the fact that, despite her anti-sex education/pro-abstinence position, she has a pregnant and unwed 17-year-old daughter. More importantly, though, what the hell does any of this have to do with Palin being "the first female Republican nominee for vice president"? Is Mr. Schmidt suggesting that Democrats and news commentators are going after Palin solely because she's a woman? That no such criticisms would exist if she were a man? Baloney. Men throughout U.S. political history have been punching bags amid many similar scandals, and nothing being said about Palin has been tied to her gender. It's been tied only to her fitness - or lack of fitness - to hold the No.2 job in the U.S. government.

* Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, in one of five morning TV appearances today, said Palin is qualified to be vice president (and, ultimately, president) because she has managed a city. That would be Wasilla, Alaska, population 6,500. Well, say this much for Rudy: At least he managed to get through the comment with a straight face.


I can't help but wonder ...

... how the right-wing radio loudmouths - the ones who keep telling us that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is a "private family matter" - would have responded if the Democrats had a vice presidential candidate with a pregnant and unwed 17-year-old daughter.

You know the answer as well as I do: They would have had a field day, alleging - among other things - that liberals promote teen promiscuity by supporting sex education in the schools and never focusing on abstinence as the only guaranteed way to prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

And one more thing: If Sarah Palin, in her acceptance speech tonight, makes even a passing reference to her daughter's pregnancy, then I don't want to hear another word from her supporters about how this is a "private family matter." If she talks about it, then she, herself, has made it public and fair game for debate.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hanna hysteria

Kudos to The Weather Channel for its top-notch forecasting involving Tropical Storm Hanna.

Several days ago, when Hurricane Gustav was making its move toward the Gulf Coast, The Weather Channel’s forecasters predicted Hanna, then in the central Atlantic Ocean, would move west, start to bend southward toward Cuba and then die out, probably staying below hurricane strength and posing no threat to the United States.

Then, perhaps looking to make the story more interesting, the forecasters suggested – without offering any scientific proof – that the storm, after reaching the east end of Cuba, might beat a westerly path along the southern shore of the island, then head northwest – between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula – enter the Gulf of Mexico, strengthen and, you guessed it, take aim at the Louisiana coast. An interesting prognostication, to be sure, but that kind of movement would have been more impressive than that of the alleged “Magic Bullet” that struck both President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally in the back of a limousine in Dallas one sunny November day 45 years ago.

Then the forecasters said Hanna likely would stay on a westerly track and perhaps smack the east coast of Florida, but without reaching hurricane strength.

Then – OOPS! – Hanna strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane, and The Weather Channel changed its forecast again, this time suggesting the storm could strengthen to a more powerful Category 2 storm and curve up into the Georgia or South Carolina shore.

But then – OOPS! – Hanna weakened back into a tropical storm and changed course slightly, leaving The Weather Channel to change its forecast yet again and suggest landfall could occur anywhere from northern Florida to Virginia.

And finally, tonight, The Weather Channel has Hanna on a projected path that could – they swear – cause the storm to ride up along the East Coast and ultimately bring heavy rain and strong winds to us, in the Northeast, by this weekend.

OK, that last one must be right. Because these are, after all, the same forecasters who swore up and down that Hurricane Gustav had a good chance of hitting New Orleans directly, flooding the city as seriously as Katrina did in 2005 and wiping out numerous off-shore oil facilities on the way in. Wrong. Wrong. And wrong.


Yes, it matters

A few more thoughts on the Palin family circus:

* The Republicans’ key talking point since it was revealed that their vice presidential candidate has a pregnant and unwed 17-year-old daughter has been that the situation is a private family matter and none of the public’s business – kind of like the cop telling onlookers at a crime scene to “move along” because “there’s nothing to see here.” Sorry, but with all due respect to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Karl Rove and the rest of the right-wing blabbermouths, the public will decide what is and what isn’t the public’s business. If people are interested in Bristol Palin’s pregnancy to the point where they’re talking about it and it could affect their votes, then it most certainly is a valid news story deserving of attention. (And, besides, any elected official or candidate for office will tell you that privacy is the first casualty of entering public life.)

* Sarah Palin is a card-carrying member of the pro-abstinence/anti-sex education crowd, a group that believes sex should not be taught in the schools – because it will result in promiscuity among teens – and that the only thing parents should tell their children about sex is to not have any until getting married. Just two problems with that line of thinking: The lack of sex education in schools means teens also don’t learn about birth control, and telling young people to abstain from sex is like putting a cookie in a child's hand and telling him not to eat it. Don’t believe me? Just ask Sarah Palin.

* Since my last post on this subject, the thing that’s bothered me the most about the Palin mess is that it’s starting to look like an attempted cover-up. GOP presidential candidate John McCain has said he learned about the teenager’s pregnancy before he introduced the Alaska governor as his running mate. Yet at no point between midday Friday, when the V.P. announcement was made, and Monday afternoon, when news of the pregnancy broke, did McCain or Palin volunteer the information to the public. That means there must have been an agreement between them to stay mum about the pregnancy and hope no one found about it before Election Day. That, by definition, is an attempted cover-up, and it suggests – to me, at least – that a McCain-Palin White House would be as secretive and untrustworthy as the current Bush-Cheney administration.

Palin is to be formally nominated and deliver her acceptance speech on Wednesday. Common sense, as I suggested on Monday, dictates McCain should show her the door before then and go with a vice presidential candidate who won't embarrass the GOP ticket.


Lies, lies, lies

Shortly after the Republican National Convention began on Monday, FakeNews anchor Bill Hemmer was interviewing vanquished GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and Hemmer asked the former Massachusetts governor what he found most interesting about last week’s Democratic National Convention.

Romney, looking every bit the snake oil salesman that he is, replied that it was very telling that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama received “no bounce in the polls” after the convention ended. “None whatsoever,” Romney added for emphasis.

That would be interesting – if only it were true.

The reality is that virtually every major poll conducted after the Democrats wrapped up their convention found Obama had picked up between six and eight points. One such poll even found its way to the front page of the notoriously right-wing New York Post – which is owned by FoxNews’ parent company – and carried the headline “Barack’s Bounce.”

Hemmer – who was a good newsman at CNN before Fox lured him away and brainwashed him – knew full well that Romney was lying, yet he did nothing to set the record straight. And that makes him, and the bad joke of a network for which he works, complicit in the deception.

Just another example of why Fox can never, ever be trusted.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Pregnant pause

If I were an adviser to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, I’d give him the following advice:

Cut Sarah Palin loose, and do it now.

As the old political adage goes, if a situation can’t end well, the best thing to do is end it fast.

Palin already has spent the first four days of her GOP vice presidential candidacy dogged by allegations that she pressured the Alaska state police commissioner to fire her ex-brother-in-law (who had been married to Palin’s sister and was involved in a bitter custody dispute with the woman), and now we learn Palin’s 17-year-old daughter is pregnant.

The high school-age daughter of the pro-abstinence, anti-sex education Republican vice presidential candidate is pregnant. Lovely.

This can’t end well for John McCain. But it can end fast.

The best thing that Mr. Straight Talk can do at this point is admit he made an error in judgment in adding Palin to his ticket – he apparently knew about the pregnancy ahead of time – beg the forgiveness of his party and the voters, and move on.

Palin had one strike against her – an almost laughable lack of experience – from the git-go. The trooper scandal was strike two. The pregnancy is strike three.

She’s out.