Obama or O’Bama? O’Bill… oh please will you call the Irish?

October 27, 2008

As it happens, I am the fortunate recipient of partisan campaign emails coming from all four fine folks on the Big Presidential Tickets!

So it was with great interest that Saturday’s electronic influx included an item from “Obama for America”, with the subject line saying, “Call Irish American voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio”.


So I read the text, followed the links, and, lo and behold, I was given a fistful of addresses and phone numbers of poor souls I am supposed to call, naturally with a suggested script in hand that never mentions how it was I got their name to begin with!

Now some of you reading this will immediately move into the mode of rationalizing why this is OK. 

Don’t worry.  A local Obama campaign worker did the same thing, (they had been asked to contact Asian-Americans) yet they couldn’t really say why this particular approach had relevance.

Well, what can we say we know?  First, and for certain, the Obama partisans have looked at my name (at least) and made an ethnic assessment.  Most likely they have done this with you as well.  This is why the people I am supposed to phone up out of the blue have names like: Duffee and Mahoney and Farley…  You know.  We Irish have names like that.

Second, it would seem that the Obama folks feel that the Irish need some special convincing, and that we Irish Americans have a particular gift for knowing how to approach one another. 

Why exactly is it that Irish Americans might require special handling?  Is it perhaps because we are considered bigots?  Do we cling to our guns and religion with particular and unique tenacity?  Has Rep. Murtha become a special advisor to Sen. Obama?

Why is it not suggested that I should just call potential voters, regardless of their ethnic background?  Even assuming I have similar national lineage, apart from love of country and kids and apple pie, why does being Irish mean I have something significantly in common with someone in Pennsylvania whose personal sitz-im-leben is likely, and literally, miles apart from mine?

The truth is, I am half Irish/half Italian.  My dad, whose grandfather came to America from Eire to be a writer, openly detested racism and ethnicity based selective bigotry.  It was, without a doubt, the most consistently expressed and lived value he espoused.

In my father’s mind, delineating according to ethnic lines, and politically approaching folks on that basis, would have been rightly seen as an insulting disgrace.

Imagine, just for a millisecond, the McCain campaign being caught asking Irish or Greeks to solicit within their “groups” to support the Republicans!  My, my, what do you honestly think the reaction would be?

My reaction is, as an American, Irish or otherwise, I am offended and insulted.

The question put to me at the close of the Obama email is: “Can we count on you to contact Irish American voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio this weekend?”

My answer is, not exactly, and certainly not under cover.

I may, however, choose another option.


Media Bias… Papers on the lawn

October 27, 2008

Why is my front lawn increasingly littered with papers I didn’t ask for and don’t want?

Is it because the papers in question can then count me as a willing recipient, thus puffing up drastically sinking circulation stats?  Repeatedly, I have turned down subscription offers, both over the phone and in the mail.  Still, like my neighbors, I am forced on a daily basis to pick up red plastic wrapped litter that immediately finds a home in the blue recycle bin.

Even with all the lunatic fringe lurking on the perimeter, perhaps the best thing that has happened in service to the truth, is the explosion of potential media outlets, both on TV and PC.  Presently, in most areas there are dozens of news and public affairs options on the telly, and thousands of possibilities via the net.

No longer is “information” on our world sifted and funneled through a small broadcast/printing press network bottle-neck.  It is now easy for almost anyone to gain insight and perspective from a plethora of sources, from all around the globe.

Technology has thus afforded us a kind of liberation from the media elites, with reporters and staff members who are at least as biased as you and me, except that they don’t admit it.

Case in point…  The widespread shrinking of newspaper circulation is well known and most easily quantifiable.  So, how often has this enormous signpost on the path of a radically changing culture ever made headlines in, say, The New York Times?  After all, isn’t the NYT “the paper of record”?  Isn’t this news causing the loss of 1,000’s and 1,000’s of jobs “fit” enough to print?

How is it that the upper echelons of the fourth estate commonly hone in on a host of perceived ills in our society, yet they cannot seem to investigate and report on themselves?

Personally, it appears to be disingenuous at best to go about heaving products around a neighborhood, turning unwitting occupants into “customers”.  I am sure this isn’t what’s being done.  Forget any implication thus far set forth.

Papers are not primarily in business to serve themselves.  And surely journalists with any decent amount of professional integrity would never sink to such a low level practice.

No doubt, as consumers continue to choose other options, apart from print media, the “press” will make some honest assessment and adaptation.  Of course, even if they don’t, the truth will out, and hard economic reality will eventually win the day. 

Thus my lawn will be clean.

Conservative to Liberal, The Grand Continuum

October 21, 2008

I was raised in a socially conscious, Catholic household, where the speeches and perspectives of both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were lauded,  school-busing was strongly supported (though us kids went to parochial school), and the programs of the Great Society were unquestioningly accepted almost as salvation in themselves.

Much time has passed.  With the benefit of general and honest hindsight, one can make their own assessment as to which approaches to societal injustice and inequality were enlightened, and which (however well intentioned) were not.

The thing that most stands out for me, among all the values expressly stated around the dinner table, was the unspoken, yet strongly implied sensibility that there was a kind of continuum running from Conservative to Liberal, and that the further one moved from standing Right to leaning Left, the closer one was moving to God (or true enlightenment).

However, moving on to Graduate School, my incubated presumptions began to crack when I noticed in University Chapel, and my own church, that prayers were not said for President Reagan, as they had regularly been for his predecessor, and on the day Reagan was shot, an intelligent seminary friend, training for ministry, shouted with glee, “Good!  Is he dead?!”


Now, of course, moving onward and upward, I have since met many conservatives who also hold a continuum in their hearts, only it is their end that is nearer to the Divine Majesty.

What I have come to believe is this…  While we may see a line of gradation between differing perspectives, Left and Right, I now view this line as the base of a triangle, with Our Lord alive at the apex, equidistant, and still, intimately close to us all, smiling down upon His children, and calling us to seek common ground in unity, upholding a robust, reverential respect as equals in our diversity.

Let us remember, in our Democracy, we have opponents, but they are not our enemies.  From walking in many camps, meeting a decent number of fine people along the way, I don’t think any of us has cornered the market on creating a fair and just world — and some folks we may initially disregard as misguided, may indeed find the passage of years adding lustre to their once embattled points of view.

Frankly, in this world, there is enough sin to go around.

What we could use is a little more grace, extended to others, and then celebrated in ourselves.

Drive-by miracles

October 20, 2008

You wake up, go through your morning routine, have your coffee, catch-up on a few emails, plan what’s ahead, hop in the car, and proceed to work, driving right past some of the most beautiful pieces of art in the known universe…

Polls Poles Apart?

October 15, 2008

One of the best courses, that ought to be standard fare in High School, is statistics.  An education in what they mean, how sometimes they do in fact lie, and how they can be used and misused, is fairly critical in our quantification obsessed community.

Just yesterday, the NYT/CBS Presidential poll had Sen. Obama holding a 14 point lead.  Yet CSpan/Zogby results this morning, similar to their tracking over the past week, show a difference of only 4 1/2 points, with Rasmussen consistently showing a 5 point difference.

Something is clearly amiss.  Reminds me of the early, and unbelievably flawed, exit-polls in the 2004 election. 

All of the three aforementioned tallies can’t be right, and at least one is totally wrong, by an enormous margin.  Naturally, it’s also possible that all are seriously amiss.

Sometimes I think bona-fide news agencies ought to leave polling to outside entities, who, unlike mainstream media, don’t have a stake in the outcome, apart from establishing a track record of reliability. 

Papers and broadcasters do best when they report the story, apart from making the story.

Either the folks at CBS/NYT have suddenly acquired an unusually unique talent and population sampling for data collection, or they have adopted a more ACORN-style approach to their “craft”.

Their data may in reality say more about them than the race.

Psychic Psickness

October 9, 2008

Is it a coincidence that in the recent profound uncertainty befalling our planet, one hears a resurgence of “psychic hotline” commercials?  Only this morning, a major radio station had a guest on, purportedly able to portend caller’s future circumstances.

Let’s be blunt.  You’d have to be dumb as a bag of hammers (or truly desperate) to see a psychic approach to life as anything other than comedy or chicanery.

The fact that these charlatan creeps are allowed air-time, and therefore access and opportunity to prey upon gullible victims, is deplorably unconscionable.

Perhaps the future is frightening for some, if not most.  Even so, in it’s worst form, facing our fear, reasonable or otherwise, head-on is far preferable to wishful and wasteful fantasy.

Psychics are criminal.  Instead of admitting their “art” is no more than deceptive and delusional entertainment, they pass themselves off as worthy of serious consulation, and fees. 

They lie.  They steal.  They stink like vultures masticating on the dead tissue of broken dreams.

How responsible media can allow themselves to be willing platforms for these conniving con-artists is completely beyond me.  I can’t “see” it.

Indeed, times must be hard.

Hyperbolic Vocabulary

October 7, 2008

Watching a political spokesperson, who’s party could well benefit from an economy in the ash-can, I noticed she kept using the word Depression.  Indeed, the new cover of TIME shows a Depression-era bread line.


At last count our unemployment rate was holding steady at 6.1% (well below what Europeans commonly regard as normal).  During the Great Depression, unemployment hit 25%Twenty-five percent. 

Not 6%, not 8, not 10, not even 15%…  Twenty-five percent.

Could we be on our way to a Depression?  Sure.  Anything’s possible.  We could also be hit by an asteroid along the way.  We could be visited by aliens.  We could be headed for a lot of things.

But possibility is not probability, not to mention, reality.

Even in good times, if you can’t find work, that feels like a Depression.  It’s painful and frightening.

Still, the classic words we use to describe various phases and stages of our economy are well known and carefully documented.

News magazines ought to stick with what has actually happened, not sell paper with nightmarish images of what could happen.  In the ’70’s NEWSWEEK ran a cover story asking, “The Depression, what will it be like?” 

We never found out, because it never transpired.

Commentators ought to consider what’s good for America, not for their party, and stop the bald attempt at profiting from a world-wide crisis. 

Greed and selfish advancement at the expense of others take many forms, not all related to money.  It’s what got us here to begin with, and it’s high time it stopped.

A Post-Feminist Woman

October 3, 2008

Like her or not, Sarah Palin is a Post-Feminist woman.  She can handle high-power rifles, clean fresh killed venison, raise kids, take on powerful petro-corporations, handle executive power, and not look like she’s trying to resemble a man.

She is strong, articulate, funny, sharp… and feminine.

It doesn’t matter if she’s on the winning team.  Just watch.  She will usher in a whole new generation of women, conservative and liberal, who won’t have to dress up their personalities in a jacket and pants-suit to gain credibility.

Sarah Palin is who she wants to be and is capable of being.  If McCain doesn’t win this time around, Palin will be back.  Only next time it will be as a nominee for President.

Sarah Palin is a game-changer way beyond this election.  She is free, comfortable with being a woman, and therefore, in my view, truly liberated.

A few more thoughts on this financial crisis…

October 2, 2008

Is it possible that many voters don’t think we’re in a precipitous crisis at all?  Or that they have underestimated it’s effects?  Apparently, even after passage of the Senate bill, members of that body and the Congress are still getting negative emails saying they should do nothing.  I wonder why.

For months, we’ve been told by some rhetoricians that we’re in a “recession”.  But they’re in-arguably incorrect.  A recession is 2 consecutive quarters of negative growth.  At this point, we haven’t had even one.  Not one.  We may get such data tomorrow for the last quarter just past, but as of yet, in point of fact, we have had one quarter after another of growth.

Does this matter?  YES.  Why?  because if we have a real and lasting, correctly defined recession we could easily see unemployment jump to 7, 8, 9, 10%…  Like they commonly have in Europe.

We’ve been told, and believed, our gasoline prices are “intolerable” (at $4.00/gal).  Perhaps, but in Europe, their prices are usually double ours, sometimes triple, and presently are running at $9. and $10. a gallon.  So yeah, we in the US are really hurting…

Living in the land “down under”, when the temperatures dipped into the 50’s, people in woolen overcoats would ask, “How do you like our winters?”  Personally, having endured snow-filled Januarys in the US, with the thermometer never getting past 25, in Australia I initially found myself unaware when “winter” had even commenced.

So when the President, and many others, issued rather grave warnings concerning our economy, and what would occur without passage of the bail-out, I wonder if people truly realize what they mean in choosing to use words like “disaster”.  I don’t think they do.

Thus there are more than a few Americans who remain unconvinced and seem to believe that we should just let the chips fall.  Is it because they instinctively believe in a natural process that in the long-run will be better, or because they have no clue what the critical terms in economic vocabulary actually mean?

What descriptive word or phrase will we use if we get to 9% unemployment?  Will we then call that a depression?  Then what word will we use if the number goes to 20%, as in the 1930’s?  Will we refer to it as a Ginormous Depression?

With all of the money lost in the last few days, it pales in comparison to our apparent lack of perspective.  I believe the return of our assets is important, but no more so than a dramatic recapturing of a healthy sense of proportion as it pertains to wealth and poverty, abundance and want.

We are a blessed nation.  Have been all along.  Forgetting that is where we first dropped the ball.

Delayed gratification…

October 1, 2008

So the $700 billion bail-out bill sank.  Then people’s investments in the Dow lost 1.2 TRILLION in a day!  BTW, forget headlines about “point drops”, because they’re irrelevant.  PERCENTAGE is what tells the real story.  From that angle, we’ve lost way more than 7% before, and survived… 

Still, the amounts being kicked around are staggering aren’t they?  But we’re a big country, and like nowhere else, we’ve enabled just about anyone to take a full seat in the table of commerce.

Don’t let anyone kid you — Wall Street IS Main Street.

Even so, if taking the reigns in government is more to your liking than investing in mutual funds, just move here, and in a generation your kid can make a great run for the Presidency. 

Opportunity.  We invented it.

Perhaps it is good that the bill in question didn’t fly on the first go round.  I mean, quick and easy disposition and acquisition of finance is what got us here to begin with, right?  Maybe with a bit more wrangling, what passes, if it passes, will be sharper, wiser, cleaner.

Personally, my own amendment to this legislation is that at the end of this crisis, politicians will take seriously the need to speak with eachother, not just at or about eachother.