Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Posts tagged ‘General’

Cheering at a concert

I was just listing to some live concert recordings (this one from a Joan Baez concert) and there was the usual cheering, applauding, hooping and hollering.

It occurred to me that I have never cheered at a concert or rally. I always just politely applaud.

What about you?

[poll id=”2″]



To the lost woman on a bicycle to whom, with supreme confidence in my voice, I accidentally sent off in the wrong direction… wherever you are… Sorry. 😦


What song was #1 when you were born?

You can look it up here

Mine was “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley. 🙂


We Can’t Handle the Truth

This article is so true!

We Can’t Handle the Truth 
The surest way to create a campaign controversy. 
by Andrew Ferguson 
The Weekly Standard 07/28/2008, Volume 013, Issue 43  


Former Texas senator Phil Gramm ran for president in 1996. He raised $20 million, spent nearly all of it, and won zero delegates. Political observers had long thought such a feat was impossible, and it remains astonishing even in hindsight. Recently we were reminded how he managed to pull it off.

Earlier this month, Gramm gave an interview to the Washington Times in which he asserted that the U.S. economy wasn’t in a recession. We are, however, in a “mental recession,” he said–a loss of consumer confidence, stoked by hysterical media reports, that threatens to tip the economy into a real recession.

This is all true. You could look it up: A recession is two consecutive quarters of economic contraction, and the economy didn’t contract last quarter. But Gramm was pilloried for his factual statement. Before his interview with the Times, it was assumed (by professional assumers) that Gramm would be offered a high-ranking economic-policymaking job in a McCain administration, maybe even secretary of the Treasury; now assumers are assuming he’ll never get such a cool job–especially after he made matters worse by insisting a day later that the fact he had asserted was, in fact, a fact: “Every word I said was true.”

To which the general reaction was: So what? Gramm’s candidate John McCain said that he “didn’t agree” with the fact that Gramm had cited. Clambering down from the high ground of the factual and the objective, McCain slipped himself into the slough of the subjective and the romantic, where politicians and voters now prefer to luxuriate. “I believe that the person here in [the absolutely crucial swing state of] Michigan who just lost his job isn’t suffering from a mental recession,” McCain said empathically. Most of the media reports offered an even bolder response to Gramm. Okay, said David Wright, the reporter who covered the story for ABC, maybe the “economic fundamentals are sound,” as Gramm asserted. “But that’s no consolation to folks who worry about their mortgages and are paying these high prices at the pump.”

In other words: What Gramm said was true, but it didn’t matter. He wins on the merits–he said the economy wasn’t in a recession, and it wasn’t–but he deserves a reprimand anyway. He had stumbled into a zone of politics where you’re not supposed to say something true, and where you get punished if you do.

Have you noticed how big this zone is getting? The political landscape is littered with people who have been castigated, fired, or forced to apologize for the gross infraction of saying something true. Last December the co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s New Hampshire campaign, Bill Shaheen, suggested that Barack Obama’s admitted use of drugs as a young man might somehow–just maybe–be cited to Obama’s detriment by Republicans in the presidential campaign. He was asked to resign for committing the truth offense, and not a peep, true or false, has been heard from him since.

Charlie Black, an adviser to John McCain, was luckier. He’s still emitting peeps, even though he made an abstract point about the campaign as unforgivably true as Shaheen’s.

Black’s transgression came in an interview with Fortune magazine, when he was asked about the political consequences of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. The question itself was kind of tasteless, but Black answered anyway.

“Certainly it would be a big advantage to him,” Black said. Most news outlets reported the comment as news, even though it’s hard to imagine that any newsroom in the country employs a single reporter who doesn’t know that Black’s point was true. Yet when reporters informed McCain of Black’s assertion, McCain disavowed it: “I strenuously disagree,” he said.

McCain almost certainly knows that Black’s statement was correct, of course. But McCain also knows how the life cycle of political controversy works: The surest way to quiet a controversy created by saying something true is to say something untrue. Then the general air of insincerity is restored, and we can all calm down.

This was the effect of Obama’s repudiation of his supporter Wesley Clark, the former general and a onetime presidential candidate of Gramm-like ineptitude. In a television interview a few weeks ago, Clark called McCain “a hero to me” and then said this: “I don’t think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.” It’s hard to disagree with that–which is why no one does, not really. Is there anyone who thinks that every Vietnam-era POW fighter pilot is qualified to be president? How about the ones who didn’t get shot down? How about the ones who got shot down but didn’t become POWs? Where does the presidential qualification lie–in getting shot down, in getting captured, or in just being a fighter pilot?

People were too mad at Clark to take the time to ask such questions. The reaction was so hostile and immediate that Obama repudiated his supporter the next day. In a speech, Obama chose to rephrase Clark’s statement into a statement Clark hadn’t made, and then to disavow it boldly, courageously, forthrightly. “No one,” said Obama, eyes flashing, “should ever devalue [McCain’s] service, especially for the sake of a political campaign.”

Clark hadn’t devalued McCain’s service, of course. He’d just spoken a truth–a truism, almost. For Obama, however, the repudiation of Clark was a two-fer: Not only did he misrepresent what Clark had said–thus pushing the political conversation back toward its usual falseness and misdirection–but he also got to look bipartisan. In this era of raging, vicious partisanship, Americans crave bipartisan misrepresentation.

Nobody, I’ll bet, understands this better than Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 vice presidential candidate who committed the year’s most spectacular example of the truth offense. Ferraro beats out several competitors. These include Austan Goolsbee, an economic adviser to Obama who was criticized for uttering the truth that his candidate will moderate his opposition to free trade once he’s in the White House, just as, historically, all anti-free trade presidential candidates have done. Ferraro tops even Samantha Power, the Obama adviser who made the unmentionably true assertion that Obama, if elected, would “revisit” his campaign pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq in 16 months.

True, true, all offensively true: but not as unmentionable as the truths that Geraldine Ferraro let slip. “In 1984,” Ferraro said a few months ago, “if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would not have been chosen as a vice presidential candidate.” True! In the same way, Ferraro said, referring to Obama’s amazing rise in presidential politics, “If Obama were a white man, he would not be in this position.” Double true! Obama called her statement “absurd” and an example of “slice and dice politics”–a charge that would have stung if anyone had known what “slice and dice politics” meant.

Ferraro flailed away in protest at the resulting controversy, growing so desperate that she even agreed to appear with Bill O’Reilly. But she was doomed, and she probably knew it. One voice was raised in defense of her truth telling, though: that of Bob Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television. He’s black too.

“Geraldine Ferraro said it right,” said Johnson: Obama wouldn’t be leading the presidential race if he were a white politician from Illinois with four years’ experience in the U.S. Senate.

Then Johnson lamented the quality of talk in the presidential campaign. “It’s almost impossible for anybody to say anything.”

Listen to this man! He speaks the truth. So you may not hear from him again till the campaign is over.

The campaign is getting tense

To be honest, I’m not quite sure what Bill Clinton and Hillary have in mind the last few days.

Of course it is important to set the record straight, and to make sure that Obama’s record undergoes as much scrutiny as Hillary’s. But I’m a bit afraid that things are digressing from the real issues of the day – and that both campaigns are doing a lot of damage to each other. Remember – the fall election is coming up too!

On the other hand, the Clintons are experienced and savvy campaigners. One thought I have is that maybe they are stirring things up in South Carolina as a “feint” so that Obama’s campaign spends a lot of time and energy there while Hillary is all over the February 5th states lining up massive amounts of delegates. If that is the case, it is just clever politics.

And we do want the cleverest person to win, right? 🙂


Interesting column on the Nevada debate

Clinton Shines In Vegas
By John Fout Political Correspondent
1/16/2008 7:06 AM EST

After a slow start bogged down by a show of unity that bordered on blather, the Democratic debate in Las Vegas managed to reveal important character traits. We learned that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., NY) wants to be the hands-on CEO, Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) prefers being an inspirational leader, and John Edwards likes the role of the fierce fighter.

When the debate turned to policy, the three Democrats agreed on most issues. But deciding who won the debate came down to critical differences to answers on three big issues: the economy, energy policy and foreign policy. On these issues Clinton asserted her knowledge on policy issues and dominated Edwards and Obama.
Economy: The Devilish Details

Edwards constantly argues he wants to fight special interests on behalf of the middle class and the poor. He certainly came through on this as a litigator when he could earn big money for himself and his client.
But his Senate record shows he voted twice for a precursor of the 2005 bankruptcy bill. He voted for it in 2001, when a version died because of a pocket veto of President Bill Clinton, and again voted in favor of it in 2002 with Bush in office.
Edwards admits: “I made a mistake in voting for the [original] bill.” That’s nice. But the bankruptcy bill favored credit card companies over the interests of Edwards’ constituents — the lower- and middle-class. If Edwards couldn’t stand up in Congress, what would he do as President?
Unlike Edwards, Obama opposed the bankruptcy bill. Obama understands the difficulty it places on middle class Americans he hears from on the campaign trail — real people losing jobs and homes — and knows something must be done. However, Obama faces difficulty trying to relate his remedies.
Indeed, Obama said Wednesday night that he needs to surround himself with excellent staffers and that he tells his staff: “Only hand me paper when I need it or I will lose it.”
Clinton has no problem delving into her policies. Not only does she understand the problems behind the economy, she also feels comfortable explaining her entire solution and providing detail on her plan to stimulate the economy. For example, she argued that her plan to freeze interest rates on subprime loans actually works in concert with the Federal Reserves policy to lower rates. This level of detail stood out.
Inconsistent Nuclear Stances

The Democrats all offer innovative energy plans that favor alternative energies over fossil fuels. Tuesday’s energy discussion stood out because it focused on an issue near and dear to many in Nevada — the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
Clearly, Nevadans need to know where a candidate stands on nuclear power and nuclear waste. The words they heard from both Edwards and Obama can’t have soothed them, which could have an effect on the outcome of Thursday’s caucus, as Clinton’s record seems far more consistent than either of the men.
Edwards voted twice to authorize Yucca Mountain as a nuclear repository while in the Senate. He has changed his tune since, and in his campaign incarnation, he now opposes both nuclear power and any unsafe nuclear storage.
Obama also faces some questions on consistency. He has disavowed lobbyist money in this campaign, but as I chronicled his vote for the 2005 Energy Bill, it showed his role in a legislative effort that capped years of work by lobbyists and Vice President Dick Cheney.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Obama has received significant funds from Exelon (EXC) . Exelon is based in Obama’s home state and has pushed hard for new subsidies for nuclear power plants. They got their wish in the 2005 Energy Bill with 29 new plants planned. Companies like Exelon would require the Yucca Mountain repository to dispose of waste.
Clinton said she has consistently opposed Yucca Mountain in Congress, though she remains open to the possibility of nuclear power in the future. Furthermore, her Senate sub-committee held hearings on Yucca Mountain and presented information on its many dangers.
Foreign Policy Matters

Obama clearly enjoys the high ground on foreign policy. He deserves credit for being the only one of the three candidates who clearly opposed the war in 2002 before it began. It was a great judgment call on Iraq. My concern about him stems from his failure to follow up with leadership and continue his opposition.
Obama’s capable judgment may lead to other good calls, including his interesting views on such topics as meeting with petty dictators in this campaign. The fresh idea has inspired some.
But he and Edwards both lose sight, to a similar degree, at times of something important to the American people. One must be ready to handle crisis and be willing to protect our country from threats. Clinton grasps this importance best amongst Democrats. Lofty ideas on diplomacy have to be seconded by strong measures of preparedness.
A few other moments shined in the debate.
Edwards offered an impassioned speech on veterans, describing their difficult conditions and possible solutions to their problem, such as guaranteed funding for the Veterans Administration. Obama shone when he shared his history of being raised by a single mother and opined on what African American fathers must do to better their families.
But Clinton scored the most memorable quote: “President Bush is over in the Gulf now, begging the Saudis and others to drop the price of oil. How pathetic! We should have an energy policy right now.”
This combination of forcefulness coupled with her knowledge on issues made for a convincing performance in Vegas.

Hatsumoude at the Kanda Myoujin

What we do in Japan at the new year!


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