A Cautious Man
November 27, 2008
Something About Going Home
I've written this here before, but it applies again this year, so we're saying it again. This year, my parents had all their kids (with their kids) home for Thanksgiving.

We had a great Thanksgiving, with several generations of the Cautious Family gathered at the ancestral home (well, Mom and Dad's house). It may be trite to say this, but nowadays Thanksgiving is the last perfect American holiday. It really is about just going home, wherever and whatever that home may be. Sometimes we find ourselves home with the extended family, sometimes with a parent or a relative or two, sometimes just with some friends, and sometimes by finding a way to help someone else. No matter how it turns out, Thanksgiving gives us a day when the whole country can finally agree on one thing - that EVERYTHING can be put aside that doesn't involve family, neighbors, and what's REALLY important about life. I hope everyone was able to find a way home, and to give thanks in their own way.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Various people are making lists of things to be thankful for.

I'm thankful that we've all been well this past year, despite changes (people moving, graduating, getting new jobs) and incidents (injuries that turned out okay, etc.).

And I'm thankful that we're only responsible for bringing dessert, to another house, instead of doing everything here this year.

Apple pie means another opportunity to use the "apple peeler and corer", or what I like to call the "implement of destruction". The Cautious Wife demonstrates (with public radio playing in the background):

And you thought that Sarah Palin turkey video was graphic!

November 23, 2008
Sorry for the title of this post. But, it's appropriate since Ahmed Chalabi was allowed to have his essay published in today's NY Times -
The Iraq war is over.

It ends five years too late and at far too terrible a cost in lives, money and idealism. The difficult and tortuous negotiations over the American withdrawal now coming to an end in Baghdad offer a distorted glimpse of what might have been.

Thanks, chief. If only you had been a little more "open" before we sent our brothers and sisters to die for your dreams of glory. Face it, our Iraq "adventure" was caused by Mr. Chalabi's desire to have our country install him in some high office there.

I can think of at least one person who gave his life because of Mr. Chalabi's dreams of glory.

So "scumbag" is the mildest word to use for Mr. Chalabi.

Sunday Night Springsteen
As noted below, there's a new album on the way.

So, to be contrary, here's a song that is really old, and really not on any album, and really not going to be on any album. "If I Was The Priest".

November 18, 2008
Born in the USA
Garrison Keillor wrote a column last week about an unexpected side benefit of the election of Barack Obama as President. America is "cool" again -

The world expects us to elect pompous yahoos and instead we have us a 47-year-old prince from the prairie who cheerfully ran the race, and when his opponents threw sand at him, he just smiled back. He'll be the first president in history to look really good making a jump shot. He loves his classy wife and his sweet little daughters. He looks good in the kitchen. He can cook Indian or Chinese but for his girls he will do mac and cheese. At the same time, he knows pop music, American lit and constitutional law. I just can't imagine anybody cooler. Look at a photo of the latest pooh-bah conference -- the hausfrau Merkel, the big glum Scotsman, that goofball Berlusconi, Putin with his B-movie bad-boy scowl, and Sarkozy, who looks like a district manager for Avis -- you put Barack in that bunch and he will shine.

It feels good to be cool and all of us can share in that, even sour old right-wingers and embittered blottoheads. Next time you fly to Heathrow and hand your passport to the man with the badge, he's going to see "United States of America" and look up and grin. Even if you worship in the church of Fox, everyone you meet overseas is going to ask you about Obama and you may as well say you voted for him because, my friends, he is your line of credit over there. No need anymore to try to look Canadian.

One must never underestimate how far we can go in making the world a better place, if America has its "cool" back.

Talk About A Dream
This news snuck up on me. A new source for post titles is coming out on January 27, 2009 -

Bruce Springsteen's 'Working On A Dream' Set For January 27 Release On Columbia Records

Bruce Springsteen's new album 'Working on a Dream' has been set for January 27 release on Columbia Records. 'Working on a Dream' was recorded with the E Street Band and features twelve new Springsteen compositions plus two bonus tracks. It is the fourth collaboration between Springsteen and Brendan O'Brien, who produced and mixed the album.

'Working on a Dream' Song Titles:

1. Outlaw Pete
2. My Lucky Day
3. Working On a Dream
4. Queen of the Supermarket
5. What Love Can Do
6. This Life
7. Good Eye
8. Tomorrow Never Knows
9. Life Itself
10. Kingdom of Days
11. Surprise, Surprise
12. The Last Carnival

Bonus tracks:
The Wrestler
A Night with the Jersey Devil

Bruce Springsteen said, "Towards the end of recording 'Magic,' excited by the return to pop production sounds, I continued writing. When my friend producer Brendan O'Brien heard the new songs, he said, 'Let's keep going.' Over the course of the next year, that's just what we did, recording with the E Street Band during the breaks on last year's tour. I hope 'Working on a Dream' has caught the energy of the band fresh off the road from some of the most exciting shows we've ever done. All the songs were written quickly, we usually used one of our first few takes, and we all had a blast making this one from beginning to end."

'Working on a Dream' is Bruce Springsteen's twenty-fourth album and was recorded and mixed at Southern Tracks in Atlanta, GA with additional recording in New York City, Los Angeles, and New Jersey.

From the press release, via Backstreets.com. That will be just a few days before the "Super Bowl show", where there will be a football game before and after the Springsteen concert.

"A Night with the Jersey Devil" was the "Halloween treat" we previously noted here.

And, of course, that means ticket frenzy time is probably not too far away. What would you like Santa to bring you this year?

November 16, 2008
Sunday Night Springsteen
Staying with a theme, I guess -

"Two Hearts Are Better Than One" -

November 11, 2008
Veterans Day
Take a moment (or more) to reflect upon these individuals who have served our country in the most recent military actions.

Two Hearts Are Better Than One
Nice "special comment" from Mr. Olbermann last night, about California's Proposition 8 and the "definition" of marriage.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.


With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

November 07, 2008
Well The Dogs On Main Street Howl ...
...'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

- B. Springsteen, Promised Land

How can you not like this guy? President-elect Obama was asked today about what kind of dog his daughters will be getting -

REPORTER: Here's my question. I'm wondering what you're doing to get ready, have you spoke to any living ex-presidents, what books you might be reading, everyone wants to know what kind of dog are you giving to be for your girls, have you decided on a private or public school for your daughters.

OBAMA: Uh, let me list those off. ... With respect to the dog. This is a major issue. I think it's generated more interest on our web site than just about anything. We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic, on the other hand our preference would be to get a shelter dog. But obviously a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So whether we're going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household.

Michelle, My Belle
As you may have noticed, we have a special place in our heart for Ms. Malkin, the right-wing commentator who always keeps the outrage dial turned to eleven. She had a post yesterday that, well, I just had to comment on. "My President is Black" is one of her usual selective readings from wire service reports and bloggers, to make an argument that the election of Barack Obama is a racially-divisive event.

Of course, it's exactly the opposite. Sure, there are African-American kids saying, with a smile on their faces, "My President is Black". There are also really-really white kids, like my daughter who registered voters in Pennsylvania where she attends college, and my son who is now a teacher in a racially-diverse school in central New Jersey, who are smililng and saying, "My President is Black". There are Hispanic people, Asian people, every-possible-location-and-combination people, who are saying, "My President is Black". There are even rich old white guys (Warren Buffett, anyone?) saying that with a smile.

Why is this the opposite of racial divisiveness? Because if "My President is Black", then we finally know that (a) our President can be ANYBODY, and (b) it really is true, ANYBODY can achieve anything in America. While there was always other evidence for (b), and (a) remained untested, we now have the ultimate argument to counter anybody, anywhere who thinks otherwise. Or, as a certain recently-elected President of the United States put it on Tuesday night -

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

There's a diary on DailyKos with some pictures from an election night rally, and this says everything I just said, but better -

So, to sum up, this week there is no better way I can think of, to unify people of diverse backgrounds, than to smile at one another and say, "Hey, our President is Black".

And, just for fun, this is another picture from earlier this week, that I think helps carry the message that there can be no more of the old barriers between people, if everyone reaches out -

November 05, 2008
Listening To Myself
I realized today that I should listen to myself more often. For some reason, I revisited something I'd written here after the last Presidential election.

[T]here are two ways to go. Anybody who wants to wallow in self pity, or carry on with some stereotyping hate-festing, just hurry up and get it over with. Were hatred, and lies, and emphasis on irrelevant issues used to obtain the margin of victory for the President? Of course they were, but that doesn't mean that his opponents should join in a race to the bottom. That's not good for the long-term health of America.

I'm sure it will not be a surprise to anyone that elections are won with votes, votes are cast by voters, and voters are people - the side with the most people wins (okay, so that didn't happen in 2000, but once again Get over it!). People who are unhappy with this year's election should focus on, not joining the tactics which were successful, but beating them. And that, in my humble opinion, means that you don't use hate to fight hate, lies to fight lies, or other irrelevant issues to counter the Karl Roves of the world. Instead, you look out at the upcoming four years and look for ways to point out, to those voters who were swayed by hatred, lies, and irrelevancies, how they can make a better choice.

Seriously, I had forgotten that I wrote that. So, when I wrote a week ago that I was impressed with how Senator Obama "talked about reasons to vote for him, and did not engage in any attacks on (and certainly no distortions of the record of) Senator McCain", and that "he has made the case that he has the right intentions, the right proposals, the right people behind him, and the right message to spread through the United States, and to the rest of the world", that was the same "advice" that four years ago I thought should be followed.

Of course, if I had listened to myself I would have been making that point in a little more timely fashion, such as during the primaries and in the run-up to the election. I could have looked like a punditting genius!

Oh well, at least it did work!

November 04, 2008
Yes We Can

And, what the heck, one more time -

Be honest - gets you a little teary, doesn't it?

Meet Me In A Land Of Hope And Dreams
It’s going to be a long day of voting, from all the signs. I’d like to salute the unsung heroes of today’s election, the poll workers and volunteers who are going to help everybody through the voting process today.

I live in a very “blue” town in a very “blue” state (the Great State of New Jersey). We are a net “exporter” of campaign volunteers this year, mainly to points west in Pennsylvania. But, I still knew that it would be a good idea to get down to my polling place early. The polls opened at 6:00 a.m., so I left my house at about 6:15 and walked down the hill to the Municipal Building.

I “misunderestimated” how early to get there. There was a line out the door for my voting district, to sign in and get my “golden ticket” that would get me into the voting booth. Then, another line out the door to get to vote. The whole process took about an hour, so I really didn’t go through the kind of hardship that some people in the early voting states have gone through. And, it was fun to see all the neighbors happy to be out there, waiting to vote.

But the real heroes were the workers and volunteers, like my friend the Curmudgeon at Mapleberry Blog. He was there first thing this morning, to work as a party volunteer checking names on the voting lists. But, he quickly realized that sitting at a table wasn’t going to help move the voting along, and he jumped up to help his neighbors vote. There are three districts voting at our Municipal Building, and Curmudgeon and others got everybody organized into intricately snaking lines, crossing back-and-forth in the hall where the sign-in tables and voting machines are, and extending out the various doors.

If they had stopped to think about it, it was an impossible task. But, it was made possible by their community spirit, and the cooperation of all of the voters who happily followed their directions, and helped new arrivals to navigate the tangle of lines that developed.

I know that there are other places in the United States where, unfortunately, people will encounter greater difficulties in voting, and get less cooperation and assistance in trying to do so. I am so happy and blessed to live in a place where we have people like Curmudgeon and my other neighbors, who know that the act of voting is a precious gift that we share with all of our fellow citizens today.

November 02, 2008
Sunday Night Springsteen
Two quick videos. The first is Rush Limbaugh, carrying on about endorsements, and trashing Mr. Springsteen for daring to have a different point of view.

Rush is such a pathetic clown in this, imho.

The second uses a live recording, of "Land of Hope and Dreams". It's kind of inspirational, and hopefully makes you go out and do something.

November 01, 2008
Modern Day Know-Nothings
First, a little history:

Know-Nothing Movement, a nativist political movement in the United States in the 1850s. It was organized to oppose the great wave of immigrants who entered the United States after 1846. Know-Nothings claimed that the immigrants—who were principally Irish and Roman Catholic—threatened to destroy the American experiment. The Roman Catholic church, they charged, was subservient to a foreign prince (the pope), it was growing in power, and it potentially could exert political control over a large group of people. Such nativist sentiments had long existed among many Americans, but they had never before been expressed in such powerful form.

The McCain campaign seems to be based on resentment and fear-mongering. There is an unhealthy dose of the same kind of racial/religious hatred that was a staple of the original Know-Nothings. When Sarah Palin launches into her routine about "yet another radical professor from [Obama's] neighborhood", Professor Rashid Khalidi, she does so with an emphasis on, gosh darn it, the foreignness of his name -

She manages to mangle his name, and spread discredited talking points, but what struck me was how this chorus of "boos" starts just as she stumbles through his name. Were these folks really all up-to-date on who she was trying (albeit incorrectly) to name? Or did the mere mention of someone named "Rashid" trigger a Two Minutes Hate type of reaction from a fully-primed Palin/McCain crowd? I think it's the latter.

A piece in today's New York Times notes that the religious hatred being stirred up by Obama's opponents is similar to that used by the twentieth century's heirs to the Know-Nothings - those who attacked Al Smith, the first Catholic to run as a majjor party nominee for President. In an essay entitled "In Untruths About Obama, Echoes of a Distant Time", Samuel Freedman gives reasons why that we cannot dismiss that type of fear-mongering as simply an "artifact of a benighted past":

The first is that the climate of anti-Catholic bigotry, which ran from the refined arena of The Atlantic magazine to the cross burnings of the Ku Klux Klan, not only contributed to Smith’s crushing defeat by Herbert Hoover but also helped keep any other Catholic from mounting a serious run for the presidency until John F. Kennedy in 1960. The hate campaign, in other words, worked.

As for the second point, scholars of Smith’s career and of American Catholicism say nothing in presidential history since 1928 more closely resembles the smearing of Al Smith than the aura of anti-Muslim agitation that has swirled around Barack Obama these past two years.

The insinuations of disloyalty to America, the caricature of the candidate as less than genuinely American — these tactics could have come from the playbook of Smith’s basest opponents, the scholars say.

As Colin Powell wisely condemned in endorsing Senator Obama a few weeks ago, the modern "Know Nothings" start with stoking fear of Muslims, before moving on to then label Senator Obama as one:
The biggest single difference may be the postmodern aspect of the attacks against Mr. Obama. He is vilified not for the religion he follows but for the one he doesn’t, and much of his campaign’s energy has gone into reiterating that he is a Christian. Either way, the underlying premise of the rumors remains that a Muslim is unfit to be president.

“What is similar in Smith’s time is that there was a widespread belief there was something dangerous about electing a Catholic as president,” said Allan J. Lichtman, an American University historian who is the author of “Prejudice and the Old Politics: The Presidential Election of 1928.” “You couldn’t be a good American and serve American interests if you were a Catholic, because you were beholden to a foreign potentate called the pope and Catholicism held autocratic tenets.

“Likewise today, there is a widespread belief that somehow you cannot be a good American and be a Muslim at the same time, that being a Muslim means you have loyalties outside the United States — and, like Catholics in the 1920s, they are dangerous loyalties to militant groups seeking to do harm. There’s no truth to the allegations, then or now, but they are tenaciously held.”
. . .

Smith’s opponents conflated his Catholic faith with his Irish heritage, urban roots and even New York accent to cast him outside the Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, small-town norms of America. Mr. Obama, of course, is of mixed race and has a Muslim middle name, Hussein, which has been flourished by some Republicans as proof of his foreignness.

“The most remarkable parallel to 1928 has to do with the idea that Smith was one of ‘those people,’ that the people he represented weren’t real Americans,” said Mr. Slayton, a professor of American history at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. “And when Sarah Palin talks about the ‘real America’ now, I hear an echo of that.”

At the end, there is advice from Al Smith himself, on how to deal with this. It's advice that I wish more news organizations would follow, because I get the sense that it's impolite to point out the nastiness of the attacks on the "otherness" of people who don't meet the demographic that the Palin/McCain campaign is targeting.
If there is a lesson from Al Smith about all this, then it came during a speech he delivered on Sept. 20, 1928, in Oklahoma City.

“This country, to my way of thinking, cannot be successful if it ever divides on sectarian lines,” he declared. “If there are any considerable number of our people that are going to listen to appeals to their passion and to their prejudice, if bigotry and intolerance and their sister vices are going to succeed, it is dangerous for the future life of the Republic. And the best way to kill anything un-American is to drag it out into the open, because anything un-American cannot live in the sunlight.”


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