Thursday, January 31, 2008

So you want to start from scratch each time, eh?

In this morning's New York Times (Jan. 31, 2007), columnist Nicholas D. Kristof presented an interesting problem.

On one hand, he said that Hillary Rodham Clinton has all the qualities and experience to make a formidable president.

On the other hand, he said that if she were elected and served two terms, 40 percent of the people alive in the United States at the end of her second term would have lived during presidencies held by members of only two families - the Bushes and the Clintons. For 28 years, the White House would have been occupied by a member of those families.

Let's see -- daddy Bush took office in 1989 and Hillary will serve, if elected twice, until 2017. That's 28 years.

"Naturally, views on this are influenced by politics. Clintonians who dismissed George W. Bush as a dynastic puppet see nothing wrong with another Clinton in the Oval Office," Kristof writes. "On the other hand, Obama fans who shiver at the prospect of a Clinton dynasty bask in endorsements from an even greater dynasty, that of the Kennedys."

O guess great minds move in the same direction -- see my previous post for the same sentiment, although written less elegantly.

Kristof then leads us through history, with the Adamses, John and Quincy, the four terms of Roosevelt, the resulting 22nd Amendment and quoting Thomas Jefferson as saying "in no office can rotation be more expedient" than the presidency.

Kristof ends with the obvious tradeoff -- those who believe Hillary Clinton is a most formidable lady with great credentials to clean house (no sexist pun intended) after the Bushes have packed up the pickup truck and moved back to Texas. At the same time, he says, we fear the kind of dynasty where sons take over from fathers (Papa and Baby Doc in Haiti, the Ghandis in India, the husband-wife deal going down in Argentina.

But at the same time, do we want to eschew a superior individual just because her husband was a superior individual in the White House? As Kristof puts it, "Mrs. Clinton has proven herself and excellent senator, and presumably would make a superior president. Yet...28 years....two families! That needn't be decisive, but it's too important to be ignored."

I disagree. It is, at most, a side issue.

If there were demonstrably superior alternative, I would agree with Kristof. I'm not sure there is. Barack Obama is a very bright man who has the talent to inspire, which is great for getting elected. My problem with him can be summarized by the following: Do you remember a wonderful movie called "The Candidate?" Robert Redford as McKay, and Peter Boyle as his campaign manager. McKay has the better way was the campaign slogan. McKay was good looking and gave a great speech and got himself elected. The final scene takes places in a closet, where McKay drags the manager to escape the hoopla for a moment to ask this question: "What do we do now?"

I'm a little afraid of that with Barack Obama. I'm afraid he's a guy who can get himself elected and then have to look around to his advisers to find out what to do now. That's Ronnie Reagan and that's George W. Bush. If you have great advisers who have the good of the nation at heart, you are fine. If your adviser is Karl Rove, we're all in trouble again.

John McCain is a pleasant enough guy who has to carry water for the right-wingers and born-agains to get himself elected, and that scares me. Although I really believe he wants what's best for the nation, what he wants to do will be drowned out by what he must do to keep his coalition going. Just ask Ehud Olmert in Israel what that's like.

You notice I don't mention Mitt Romney. Let's not mention him and perhaps he'll go away.

Hey I have an idea. Hillary should use her maiden name, Hillary Rodham, and then we can forget this dynasty nonsense and get on with doing what's best for the nation.

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The Democratic debate is on tonight on CNN and I hope race isn't injected into it. Look, there is nothing wrong with someone voting for a guy who looks like him or her as long as that person doesn't then upbraid his neighbor for doing the same thing.

But there are better reasons to vote for someone, especially for a president who have so much healing and patching to do both at home and on the world stage.

People who look like me (blue eyes, light brown hair before it started going ash blond) are scratching their heads about why African-Americans made such a fuss about Hillary's comment about how Martin Luther King couldn't have done what he did without Lyndon Johnson doing what he did.

I think I know and I think there is a lesson for all of us in it.

African-Americans haven't been allowed to have many heroes. That isn't to say there haven't been a whole lot of African-Americans who have done heroic things, but because of racism, those heroes have not been acknowledged by the general population, haven't been taught in schools and the like.

People who haven't been allowed to have many heroes will not take kindly to one of their heroes, especially one who has been acknowledged by everyone, being diminished. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a true hero, or should be a true hero, to all Americans and people of good will around the globe.

Everyone knows who Paul Revere and Samuel Adams were, but how many know who Crispin Attucks was? See? Revere and Adams and John Hancock were heroes of the American Revolution, but so was Crispin Attucks, who died in 1775 in Boston. How many kids learn that.

So, we need to be careful how we diminish other people's heroes. I think Hillary learned that, just as she learned that one should learn what a foreign individual says before embracing them (as in Suha Arafat). That was bad staff work. It's one of the lessons she has learned.

Gotta go. It's the last day for some colleagues at The Journal News, which is winding up its next buyout phase. I wish them the best and want to be there to wish them well.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Down to the final four madness and it's not even March

You have to give props where they are deserved, and Jon Stewart gets one and a gold star to boot.

He was commenting on the State of the Union in general and the robot-like response delivered by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. He showed a clip of Sebelius ending her soliloquy by inviting everyone to get some sleep, to which Stewart cracked that we were far ahead of her in sleeping. Somebody should have changed her batteries before she went on. Even her mouth motions looked like those of an animated character. The Democrats have to do better than that.

She followed the last (thank heaven) message by Bush, who basically showed he was still in never-never land. He and Rudy Giuliani are the best national examples of self-deceivers alive today.

So, now there are four. Rudy and John Edwards dropped out Wednesday (Jan. 30, 2007), leaving the GOP with two real candidates and the Democrats with two. Forget Mike Huckabee - there aren't enough born-agains who vote only on the basis of their religious beliefs to make any real difference for him.

So it's John McCain and Mitt Romney for the GOP and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barak Obama for the Democrats.

Speaking of Obama, I can't help but chuckle that he has been basing his campaign on change from the Washington insiders and then happily collects an endorsement from Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the chief of the entrenched Washington insiders. Throw in a "me, too" from Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the ultimate Washington icon, JFK, and you have a typical political double-take.

I covered Hillary Monday in Hartford for the New Haven Independent and was treated to a close-up view of this fine mind clicking over. I had met her a couple of years ago at some Westchester County function and I still think she's the genuine article as far as intellect is concerned. She and her husband are about the brightest minds among those who offer themselves upon the altar of politics.

I've talked to folks to survived Mitt Romney's governorship in Massachusetts, and not many have anything good to say about him. As some NPR commentator said yesterday, one doubts that many Republicans and any Democrats want to have a high-powered businessman watching over the morals of the nation.

Still, I'm not going to stick my neck out and endorse anyone (who would care anyway) until after tomorrow's debates.

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In the comments to my story on Hillary, a person called TRUEBLUECT early this morning (another member of the royal order of the night people - remember that one from the 60s?) posted the following comment:

One should kindly ask Mr. Honeyman if he still backs Joe Lieberman. Sadly Senator (Joseph I.) Lieberman is going against his word, and very actively campaigning to get not Hillary, but a Republican, elected as our 44th President.

Mr. Honeyman is one of the good guys, but I feel, given the circumstances, this is an extremely fair question. Will he answer?

Yes, he will answer TBCT. Yes, it is an extremely fair question and I thank you for caring what I think. It's nice to know that one's writing is not an exercise howling into the wind. (I could have used another expression, but this blog is still rated PG.)

My problem is I'm not sure. Let's work this out together.

I supported Lieberman because I knew him to be a fair and honest man, one of the few in Washington. I also know that Ned Lamont, his opponent, was a political babe in the woods, a product of DNC head Howard Dean and his brother, Jimmy, who found Lieberman not to their left-wing liking, squiring Lamont around the Jefferson-Jackson-Bailey dinner in Hartford as Barak Obama was telling the crowd that Lieberman was the better choice. Lamont would have been eaten alive in the Senate.

But what does Joe do? He says he's a Democrat, but comes out for McCain, even though he had said he wouldn't endorse anyone until later in the campaign.

So, we have Joe Lieberman who is good for getting Connecticut great stuff through those earmarks that Bush keeps ranting about, but Lieberman who is all but a traitor to his party. It's tough.

I think, TBCT, that I would have to come down harder on the side of the Lieberman who is still fighting for Connecticut's best interests and Israel's best interests (that's a biggie for me) than against the Lieberman who has gone against his word and his party. But it's a near thing, certainly not more than few points. Joe, I'm watching you, boy.

I hope that answers your question, TBCT. And thanks for posing it.

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Last night, we (wife and friends) traveled to Stamford to see a really nice film about Pete Seeger, the legendary singer, songwriter and fighter for all kinds of causes from cleaning up the Hudson River to stopping the war (he's added a couple of verses to an anti-Vietnam war song to fit the Iraq war.) His grandson and the director of the movie were there as well, taking questions from the audience.

A few things I didn't know that I learned from the movie. Seeger served in the Army in World War II and spent the war fixing airplane engines and leading sing-alongs. He was blacklisted for 17 years in the 1940s and 50s Red Scare and only brought back onto television through the intervention of the Smothers Brothers. He left the Weavers over a television ad for cigarettes that the singing group was doing. Seeger lived in New York's Greenwich Village before moving to Beacon, N.Y., to a cabin he built himself that had neither running water nor heat.

Anyway, the film is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS in February. It's well worth watching, even among the ubiquitous PBS begging.

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I'm glad that the New York Mets have snagged pitcher Johan Santana. The Boston Red Sox and the hated New York Yankees had pursued the excellent pitcher, but I think it would have cost the Sox too much in talent. Jacoby Ellsbury is just to talented a guy to give up for a one-season pitcher. Jon Lester is also staying put.

It's only a couple of weeks until pitchers and catchers. I'm glad my wife doesn't read this blog, because she is sports-adverse (she grew up in a household where her father and brother were really sports nuts and this adversity is a natural reaction) and thinks the Super Bowl will end the sports watching for a while. She forgets about UConn basketball (men and women). I usually don't like pro basketball, but when you have a team with fewer than 10 losses near the midpoint of the season, it's unusual enough to be interesting.

Please don't tell her about pitchers and catchers.

Until next time...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Saving is bad - you heard it here first

Good day, friends. Thanks for checking back after all this time.

So, we are all going to be from $300 to $1,200 richer come June. The government, to stimulate the economy, is sending everyone a check for $600 for most single taxpayers (and even some who pay no taxes) and $1,200 for those who file jointly. There is also $300 for each kid (l assume the kid has to live with you). I know people who have a dozen kids or more, but I don't think they will be able to collect for those who are over 21 and have left home.

Since this is going to be done by Congress and the administration, however, anything is possible.

The idea is, as the worst president who ever lived said this week, to put more money back in the hands of the people. The deal is that they will spend the money and stimulate the economy, since consumer spending comprises more than 60 percent of the economy.

That's the rub.

We have been upbraided since Moses was in the third grade by all and sundry experts for not saving enough. Americans don't save enough...we have the lowest savings rate in the civilized world. We save less than the Japanese, we don't save for our retirement, yada yada yada. We also have too much debt. We use our credit cards and home-equity loans and consumer loans and auto loans and vacation loans entirely too much, piling up so much debt that we are bad, bad, bad.

That's what I have heard for decades upon decades. Shame on us for being spendthrifts.

Just wait, friends, until this economic stimulus plan is passed and the spin machinery starts. Things will change in an Orwellian way. Good is bad. Bad is good. Let me explain.

Shakespeare said the past is prologue. History repeats itself. Our economic geniuses never heard of this concept. Their idea is that we will get this $1,200 and go out and buy that flat screen television or home theater or take the family to Disney World or a wonderful romantic trip to Quebec City for black fly season.

What happened the last time this give-them-a-check strategy was tried less than a decade ago? More people used it to pay down debt and to increase savings than to spend. What makes the powers that be think this time will be any different? It's easy to see that the plan won't increase spending and stimulate the economy this time either.

So, friends, according to the government spin machine I foresee warming up this spring, you will be told the following: You want to use your government money to pay off debt? You are a traitor to your nation. You want to save it for that rainy day? Shame on you. You want to save some of it to pay the taxes you are going to owe on it (nobody told you about that part of it, did they)? You are not a good American!

You heard it here first.

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The California Supreme Court really blew it his week.

The justices in the fire and mudslide state upheld a ruling that allowed a company to fire a guy whose drug test showed marijuana.

It wasn't a surprise. The follow had suffered a back injury that left him with debilitating back spasms that are only relieved by medical marijuana use. The use of marijuana for medical purposes was approved by the voters in a proposition. The guy had a prescription for the pot and a doctors' declaration that he was only relieved by using grass.

He was fired anyway. So he sued, saying his use of pot was legal. The courts backed his employer.

So, what the court was saying was that if he had elected to use other prescription drugs that could leave him woozy or half asleep while not helping him, he could keep his job, but because he used pot, not to get high but to keep his back from causing him awful pain, he should lose his job.

It makes no sense, but then again, it's California.

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The more I think about the sub prime mortgage mess, the angrier I get. It was like the Iraq war -- there was no need for it to happen and its outcome was so predictable.

What kind of sense does the following make: A person comes to a mortgage broker asking for a loan. The house seems to be in good shape, the buyer is anxious to become part of the American dream -- home ownership.

So, the mortgage broker asks the buyer how much money he or she makes. The buyer answers that it's none of the broker's business. The broker says fine. How much does the buyer have in the bank. Again, none of your business. Fine, says the broker, we can approve the loan, but it'll cost you, the buyer, a little more money you may or may not have to borrow the money you may or may not be able to afford to repay.

The brokers, by the way, laid off most of their bet on investors, many from other countries, and walked away. So, they still have their commissions while buyers are losing their houses and investors are losing their money. That's what makes me really angry.

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It seems the Water Pollution Control Authority is joining the foreclosure posse, suing to sell dozens of properties to get their fees that are owed.

I have two comments. First, is this the same WPCA that allowed Hamden to skate on its share of the operating cost for years and years?

Second, I really don't blame the WPCA for seeking to get the money that is owed to it, but I do blame them for their apparent lack of common sense. Why go after church, for crying out loud, a church that itself is struggling to survive? And why foreclose on homes in the midst of a foreclosure crisis that has thousands of people in danger of losing their homes? Why be the bad guys when you don't have to.

And where is the mayor is all this. The New Haven Independent asked Mayor John DeStefano Jr. about this. The WPCA is a quasi-public agency. The mayor is silent.

So what else is new?

Have a great weekend and for those in the Tribe, a great Shabbos.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The surprise is that there is no surprise

Happy new year. I hope you, my loyal readers, didn't think I'd abandoned you.

We've been away, both celebrating New Year's and baby-sitting for some of the cutest grandchildren you ever saw. But now, we're back (it's my wife, Sue, and I, not the Royal We), at least for a while.

It's been a heck of a time in politics. First, came the Iowa caucuses, where Barack Obama surprised everyone including, I think, himself, in winning the Democratic vote and Mike Huckabee rounded up his troops to win in Iowa, which is in the Bible belt.

Then came New Hampshire, where everyone, including the candidates' own polls, showed Obama with a lock to repeat his victory and near-favorite son Mitt Romney would probably scoring big.

Well, it didn't work out that way and the way it worked out had precious little to do with the "meltdown" of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Such a meltdown! In my arena, that's just a pensive moment. You want crying? Try a six-year-old who was just told "no". Let's see. Iowa is next to what state? Illinois, right. Give that person an Obama campaign button. What state elected Obama to the Senate? Illinois. Right again. Give that person an Obama campaign skimmer. Can you say "Favorite Son?"

Now let's switch to New Hampshire. It has lots of women who vote and union folks as well.. This isn't Vermont, it's the state of the Union Leader and "live free or die" so Democrats who live there (Dartmouth excepted) are not knee-jerk anything. So, what have you? A surprise: Hillary wins. Her margin is consistent all day long, which tells you it's solid and broad-based (no pun intended).

I say thank heaven. With Chris Dodd back in East Haddam, where he should have stayed and Bill Richardson struggling, it's a three-way race. If John Edwards doesn't win big in South Carolina, you can say farewell to him as well. He says he won't drop out. Maybe, but he won't campaign either. So, we have Barack and Hillary. Don't bet on Barack winning Nevada, no matter what the Culinary Workers Union local has done. I heard the national union encouraged that local to stay out of the endorsing business, but it was probably too late to stop the previously announced endorsement. If Obama doesn't do well in South Carolina, he may be in a big hurt come Super Tuesday, when the real thing as far as union states like New York go to the polls. After that, you might hear that fat lady warming up to sing for Barack.

Let me tell you a story. About 35 years ago, in 1972, this guy named George McGovern ran a race much like Obama is running now - change, youth, anti-war, anti-Washington (even though he had been a senator since Moses was in the third grade). I met McGovern a few times...nice guy. He had some development project across the street from Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Conn., and was around glad-handing for it. But McGovern got beaten up pretty good at the polls by this guy Nixon. Yes, I know, Nixon used tricks, but the irony was he would have killed McGovern at the polls without the tricks.

Folks remember that. It led to Watergate which led to Gerald Ford, which led to Jimmy Carter, which led to Ronald Reagan, which led to Bush One, which led to the mess Bill Clinton faced. As Hillary (or one of her people) said, maybe a Clinton is needed to clean up the mess left by a Bush. They don't want history to repeat itself.

It'll take a hard, seasoned, gloves-off campaigner to beat John McCain, the presumed GOP nominee. Rudy Giuliani can't say "911" enough times to get the nomination, and Romney will eventually run out of money. Forget Thompson, who has already set the stage for a pullout, and Huckabee, a guy with a narrow constituency from a small state -- it'll be McCain.

Don't underestimate McCain: He's one tough cookie. You don't survive years in the Hanoi Hilton by being a wuss. It'll take a hard charger like Hillary with experience to beat McCain. I don't want to watch chipmunk cheeks and his secretary of state, Joe Lieberman, for the next four or eight years telling us how important it is to win the war in (country name here). You heard it first here, folks.

That is, of course, unless there's another surprise or two.

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Let's start a new feature. Questions. These are things I want to know. If you have answers, please share them.

Question 1. Why do the liners of cereal boxes have to be so darn hard to open?

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Did you see my piece in the New Haven Independent? www.newhavenindependent.orgThe meeting was fun to cover, but it was too bad the search for ideas became a complaint session. Anyway, I am priced to sell, so if you need some writing, editing or public relations help, please see

Until next time...