Monthly Archives: December 2008

Race card comes back to haunt Democrats (again)

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) has a certain amount of pluck – or is it audacity? No matter, he has learned well a principal lesson of the Democrat Party – he has skillfully played the race card.

At a press conference yesterday, Blago announced his appointment of veteran state pol Roland Burristo the Senate seat formerly held by Barack Obama. Burris would be the only black member of the Senate if confirmed, a fact emphasized by his backers. Democrats from Springfield to Washington D.C. reacted with outrage and indignation, signaling they would use all means available to stop the appointment from going through. Their reaction is in one sense yet another act in this comedy of errors.

Why should Democrats be surprised at Blago’s desperate use of the race card? On what grounds do they object? Doing so is one of the Party’s foremost tactics, their stock-in-trade; it is among their most time-honored traditions.

Democrats have not only long used the race card, but long sought to categorize by and reduce individuals to their skin color, and divy out society’s loot (like U.S. Senate seats) accordingly through the use of quotas and the like. Why are Democrats and the punditry class now, all of a sudden, despairing the use of the race card? Because this controversy threatens to damage Obama? It’s a question worth asking.

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Dems paint themselves into a corner on Blago

Democrats, it seems, have painted themselves into a corner in regards to the controversy surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The corruption case against Blago threatened to touch the incoming administration, or at a minimum serve as an unpleasant reminder of Obama’s connections to an unsavory Chicago political scene.  Thus, Democrats rushed to condemn Blago and remove him from the scene.

In disgrace and under pressure, the Governor’s latest act of defiance is to proceed to appoint Roland Burris to Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat – the seat he was accused of attempting to parlay into a lucrative job following his term as governor. Before the appointment, however, Senate Democrats said they would not accept any appointment made by Blagojevich. While the Senate has the power to refuse to seat or to admit a member, it’s unclear exactly how – and how long – they can wield that power (I can’t recall any recent example of the body taking this action).

Two big things here: Legally, Blago does have the power to make the appointment. I have yet to hear a good explanation of exactly what power the Senate has to block him from taking the seat. Is Roland Burris a U.S. Senator right now? Presumably not, because I don’t believe he has taken an oath of office yet, but I don’t know with certainty. Will the Senate be content to leave one state without representation until the Blago mess is sorted? Will Democrats be content to be lacking a reliable partisan vote from Illinois? The second big thing is race. Burris is black, and would be the only black member of the Senate should he assume the role. He would be filling Obama’s seat, that of the first black president. It is considered a “black” seat and many black politicians and their constituencies might become upset if a black does not continue to hold it.

All this to say, what do Senate Democrats do now? They made a lot of noise early, and again when it appeared as though Blago would go ahead and make the appointment, and now it’s unclear whether they’ll be able – legally and or politically – to act. The entire situation is unfortunate, sure, but not entirely humorless, either.

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Red Rocks a site to see in Denver

Note: As implied in the title, this blog will occasionally venture into subjects beyond politics. This is one of those venturesome moments. 

The drive into Red Rocks

The drive into Red Rocks

This week I am in the mile high city, beautiful Denver, Colorado. My family has descended from our respective outposts across the country (with five adult siblings and two parents, we are something of a diaspora spreading from East to West Coast and everywhere in between) to stay with my brother and his wife for the Christmas Holiday. We’re only missing my younger sister, who is stuck in southern California (if one may use “stuck” and “southern California” in the same sentence), where her job as a pilot keeps her on call.

My girlfriend has also joined us for the holiday, and today she and I made the short drive from Denver to Morrison to enjoy the natural beauty of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Carved into gorgeous red sandstone is a stage and seating enough for nearly 10,000, creating a concert venue like no other. Long distance views and dramatic sight-lines captivate the aesthetic senses. 

While visitors are asked not to climb around the rocks, there are plenty of trails to take yourself right into the middle of all this nature. The visitor’s center is also nice, and the town of Morrison is charming and original. If you find yourself in Denver anytime soon, I highly recommend visiting the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.

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Press now cramping Obama’s style

President-elect Barack Obama is frustrated with the increasing level of media scrutiny of his daily words and deeds, according to an article in the Politico this morning. In recent weeks, he has on a couple of occasions given the slip to the group of reporters who travel with him wherever he goes.

Obama seems to have been pursuing private moments with his family during these instances (getting a treat with his girls, for example) and that’s something I completely understand. I think it would be quite difficult to have not only your political staff and now a 24-7 security-detail, but a pool of inquiring reporters traveling with you everywhere, watching just about everything you do.

However, what the Politico does not touch on (at least in this piece) is Obama’s apparent frustration with the media in regards to lines of questioning on legitimate policy or political issues. Given his meteoric rise from state legislator to freshman US Senator to President-elect, Obama faced a major adjustment in the amount of media he had to deal with. More significantly, Obama enjoyed fawning media coverage from a press corps that all but abdicated a responsibility of objectivity in its treatment of his candidacy. So when he gets the tough questions – on those occasions his team actually allows the press to ask him questions – he either doesn’t answer them,  or answers only a few of them before shutting down a press conference.

While Obama does seem to be chafing “as the bubble closes in,” the important thing is not whether he allows journalists to watch him eat ice cream with his daughters (this he clearly deserves), but whether he will field questions in those moments they choose to act as journalists and seek to report the news to the people who elected him to serve.

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Will new rules threaten the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative?

A Missouri state lawmaker is introducing legislation that would make it harder for citizens to put constitutional amendments to a vote of the people. Like many states, Missourians can place an amendment on the ballot if they collect enough signatures. As he did during last year’s session, Rep. Mike Parson (R-Bolivar) will propose a bill in the 2009 session that would impose the following new regulations on that process:

  • Prevent signature-gatherers from being paid for every signature they collect.
  • Exclude non-Missouri residents from gathering signatures.
  • Prohibit petitioners from collecting signature for more than one petition at a time. 
  • Require gatherers to register with the Secretary of State’s office

Speaking to the Springfield News-Leader, Parson claimed the process needs changing to prevent out-of-state interests from paying non-resident signature gatherers to change Missouri’s constitution. The lawmaker said he would rather the General Assemblydecide whether to place an item on the ballot.

Those agreeing with Parson might also point out that we live in a Republic, not a Democracy. We elect public servants to represent us in legisative bodies, and do so in order that they may make decisions on our behalf. In doing so, we expect a certain prudence in the development of the code of laws by which we all must live.

That being said, there is a danger in limiting the means by which the people can democratically express their will. Especially when dealing with what can sometimes be a politically controversial issue like the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative. I suspect that the majority of Missourians support the notion that the state government should not discriminate on the basis of race in areas of public contracting, public employment and public education. However, the mainstream media and certain special-interest pressure groups have made the issue a volatile one to touch for many a politician. In cases like this, there is certainly something to be said for allowing the people to take matters into their own hands.

What would be interesting to know is whether Parson had (or has) any particular petition in mind when he first filed, and is now re-filing this bill. That is a matter I hope to look into in the coming days and weeks.

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Valkyrie thrills on opening day

Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, thrilled on Christmas Day

Valkyrie, starring Tom Cruise, thrilled on Christmas Day

Seeing Valkyrie on opening night was one of those enjoyable experiences that makes you want to do something again. Movie-going, that is.

 

For starters, there was the thrill of opening night. While you could wait to rent the DVD, see the cable TV debut or find it on the internet, opening night is a chance for viewers to form their own impression of the film, rather than hear what the critics are saying. The there is the pleasure of knowing you are getting the first glimpse at something that many others want to see, and will see. Perhaps mostly, opening night is made special by the large crowd that packs the house. The crowd that came to see Valkyrie last night at a suburban Denver theater complex was genuinely pleasant, and genuinely interested in the film, judging by their reactions during the event.  

All of that is second to the film itself of course, and Valkyrie lived up to its billing as a thriller. The plot line develops quickly and never strays off course. While not overbearing, the film was certainly intense. Decisions are life-and-death for the central characters, and they generally function at high levels under great pressure.

While ultimately ill-fated, the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler involved a hundred acts of a good handful of German officers and politicians making noble and incredibly brave decisions. One wishes so strongly for them to succeed, and I probably wasn’t alone in actually hoping against hope that somehow they will, that the filmmakers could have actually changed history simply by changing their movie’s ending.  Alas, Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators are executed in one of the final scenes, tragically killed by the regime that would fall only nine months later.

My only criticism is that viewers might have benefited from a bit more character development of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the leader of the plot. We never witness his transition from a presumably loyal Nazi officer to one who believes that Hitler must be stopped. Additionally, there is only one or two mention of concentration camps, and I think that a more substantive reminder of the evil being perpetrated (including his oppression of occupied-country populations) by Hitler and his henchman might have heightened the perception of the consequential nature of the story of this daring plot.

For those who enjoy action and intrigue, history and conflict and thrilling acts of heroism, I recommend Valkyrie.

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Principally Political adds books section

No traditional posting today – but I have added a new page called Reading and Reviews.

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Filed under Principally Political, Reading and Reviews, Reviews