Category Archives: John McCain

The Answers Are Blowing in the Wind

There are a lot of substantive issues that should be on the minds of the voting age public in the U.S., but if you check out the varied media headlines, you wouldn’t know it. A short list of substantive issues includes the recent rise in unemployment, the projected $500 billion federal budget deficit, the war in Iraq, (costly in human lives and dollars), the 47 million Americans without health insurance, the oil price bingo game that we are all forced to play, and the ever growing national debt ($9.5 trillion and increasing by the minute). However, to my dismay, I find myself choosing to ignore all of those substantive topics to address some of the decoy topics that clutter up the media.

First up is Sarah Palin and the Heart song, Barracuda. It seems that one of Gov. Palin’s nicknames as a high school basketball player as “Barracuda,” and in honor of Palin’s nickname, the Heart song was played on Wednesday and Thursday evening at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, the front-women for the band Heart, didn’t appreciate the appropriation of their song for use as Palin’s theme song and have sent a “cease and desist letter” to the McCain and Palin camp.

I admit that I am a fan of the Wilson sister’s band, Heart, and I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. However, while the Wilson sister’s are within their rights to ask that the Palin campaign cease and desist from use of the song as her theme song, the Palin camp hasn’t violated any copyright laws. Copyright is a tricky thing and it’s not my area of legal expertise, but the one thing that law school stresses is that when you don’t know the answer, do some legal research until you find it. Of course, you may wonder why I would care about this matter at all. I became intrigued because of another article that criticized the Obama camp for appropriating a Brooks and Dunn song, Only in America, to use as Sen. Obama’s exit music at the close of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). As I am a country music fan and a fan of Brooks and Dunn, I thought that it was a brilliant choice based on the song’s chorus:

Only in America
Dreaming in red, white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance
Everybody gets to dance
Only in America

There was one little glitch, Brooks and Dunn played the song at G. W. Bush’s inauguration in 2000; Dick Cheney used it as his exit song at the 2004 RNC; and G. W. Bush used it frequently during his last campaign for office. I didn’t have a problem with Obama re-purposing the song for his campaign; however, not everyone felt that magnanimous. Both of the performers, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn declare themselves to be Republicans, although one of the song’s co-writers, Don Cook, identifies himself as a Democrat.

Given that I find hypocrisy abhorrent, I had to ask myself, how could I side with Heart in their opposition to Palin’s use of their song unless I was going to also condemn Obama for siphoning off Brooks and Dunn’s song for his campaign purposes? As I was reading other blogs dealing with these song appropriation issues, I kept encountering a basic misunderstanding regarding copyright law and use provisions. I realized that if I did a pure legal analysis, that I had a basis for why both Palin and Obama had a legal right to use the songs as they wished.

The intent of singers and songwriters is to have their works heard. To support that intent, and preserve their rights a artists, their works are licensed to be heard in a variety of markets. We are all familiar with radio, but venues like concert and sporting arenas may also obtain a license to play a song. That music that you hear in the elevator is licensed. The way that this typically works is that the songwriters and performing artists contract with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) to distribute their music. Any entity that is licensed with ASCAP can play a song distributed by ASCAP without getting the artist’s explicit permission. So neither the Palin folks, nor the Obama camp had to ask the Wilson sisters or Brooks and Dunn for permission to use the music as long as they had secured the appropriate licensing from ASCAP.

However, nothing in the law is ever simple; if it were, lawyers would be out of work! The ASCAP license only allows a song to be performed; if you want to use the song in a political ad or a promotional video, you have to obtain a license from a publisher known as a “synchronization license.” Singer Jackson Browne’s lawsuit against the McCain campaign for using his song Running on Empty in an ad is based on a violation of the sync license law. There is a backdoor to a possible lawsuit even if the user has a license from ASCAP. If for instance, Palin used Heart’s song to the extent that it becomes identified with Palin, then the Wilson sister’s could sue under a claim of a violation of their “right to publicity,” which allows you to protect your identity or image from being used for marketing purposes. However, the “right to publicity” laws vary from state to state and generally apply to commercial uses of an image, not political ads.

So the bottom line of this non-issue is that unless the Obama and Palin camps have totally lost their minds up in here and neglected to secure the appropriate ASCAP licensing, they can play whatever song that they like and the rest of us need to adopt as our theme song, Blowing in the Wind, a song about issues of substance. Written by Bob Dylan and first released in 1963, the song has been recorded by numerous artists, including Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, Sam Cooke, and my personal favorite, a cover by Stevie Wonder in 1966. The video is the Stevie Wonder cover.

Blowin’ In The Wind
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, n how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, n how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, n how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, n how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before its washed to the sea?
Yes, n how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, n how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

(My next nonsense issue to be addressed in an upcoming entry: the woman who called in to the Michael Baisden Radio Show to announce that she couldn’t vote for Barack Obama because he supported killing babies. Please Lord, deliver me from fools.)

Advertisements

An American Family

I just read today’s headline about Palin’s 17-year-old daughter being 5 months pregnant. I feel for the daughter; it must be awful to be in this kind of spotlight. However, I do wonder how concerned Palin is with protecting her family. She had to have know that in accepting the nomination, a big spotlight was going to be shone on her family. There was no way that her daughter’s pregnancy was going to remain private. Already, the conservative right is blaming the media, the Obama campaign, and anyone who dares express an opinion for exposing this young woman to such public scrutiny. Funny, but no one is blaming Big Mama Palin who put her political ambitions before the needs of her daughter.

I can’t help but see a certain irony in today’s headlines about Palin’s pregnant daughter. Her party has appropriated the term “family values” as being exclusively theirs. Her party affirms that it is pro-life, but rarely supports any increases in public benefits, even though most of the recipients of those benefits are single mothers and the benefits help them feed, clothe, house, and provide access to medical care for their children. I have problems with policy that is more concerned with the unborn than it is with the children already among us.

I read that Palin’s daughter will be marrying the father of her child. I can only hope that this is what she really desires. After all, her mother is going after her heart’s desire. She accepted the vice presidential nomination, thrusting not only herself but her entire family into the national and international spotlight. From my vague recollections of what it was like to be 17, I wonder if her daughter really wanted to have her moment in the spotlight. I wonder if Palin’s devotion to family values made her pause for a moment and think about her daughter’s feelings about having her life become open to inspection and criticism. I wonder if it ever crossed her mind, when John McCain asked, to say no.

Sen. McCain and the Politics of Misdirection

Sen. John McCain has run his entire campaign against Sen. Barack Obama based on the oft stated belief that Obama lacks the experience to lead this country. The McCain campaign has repeatedly discounted Obama’s demonstrated knowledge of domestic and foreign policy and characterized the Harvard Law School graduate as a political neophyte.

Just three weeks ago on Face The Nation, Republican strategist Karl Rove opined that he expected the then presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama to choose a running mate based on political expediency, not the person’s readiness for the job.

“I think he’s going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice,” Rove said. “He’s going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he’s going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He’s not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.”

Rove then proceeded to single out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who was also a guest on Face The Nation as an example of such a disastrous and ill-thought out selection for a vice presidential running mate, saying of and to Gov. Kaine (the man was sitting right there), “With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years, he’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America.”

Funny, but I do believe that I could substitute Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin for Kaine and not have to change another word in Rove’s statement. Oops! I’m wrong, Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, population in 2007, according to the U.S. census–9,780. (The 105th largest city of which Kaine was once mayor is Richmond,VA., population of 200,123 in 2007, according to the U.S. census.) I’m not certain as to where Wasilla ranks in population among U.S. cities but somehow I think that it is substantially less than 105th.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having experience as mayor of a tiny town and only 20 months as governor of a state not known for being densely populated means that one is not qualified for the office of vice president. Nor am I flat out stating that Palin’s anti-choice, pro-NRA, positions don’t exactly make her the poster woman for the women’s movement. Nor am I questioning the wisdom of selecting a running mate with whom McCain’s own camp confirms he had only met once before selecting her to be on his ticket; a running mate who could feasibly find herself in the position of having to actually step into the oval office, given the age and prior health issues that have beset Sen. McCain. I’m just fascinated with the difference in attitude that the Republican party has towards its own choices and the choices of the Democratic party.

That’s what led me to ponder why McCain selected Gov. Palin as his running mate. While I was busy pondering, headlines in newspapers and talking heads on my television explained it to me in terms that even a four year old could understand. The basic message appears to be that in selecting Gov. Palin, the McCain campaign has strengthened its position with women voters. All of the Hillary Clinton supporters, who were only voting for Hillary because she was a woman, will tumble for John McCain, and give up the vote.

With apologies to village idiots everywhere, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, is a class-A idiot if he really thinks that people supported Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. They supported Senator Clinton because she is intelligent, capable, and has leadership qualities; the same reasons that Obama’s supporters support him. What an insult to every person who supported Hillary to assume that they will fall over themselves to jump on the McCain bandwagon just because he has a female running mate.

I have no more patience with those who continue to assert that Obama supporters do so because he has a black father or that Hillary’s followers supported her because she was a woman. Get over yourselves and stop clinging to the belief that the only possible explanation for Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s successes in this presidential campaign is because all black people support Obama and white women (feminists to boot!) support Hillary Clinton. Guess what, old white men are not the only, nor the best choice for leading everything. It’s a new world in the United States of America, and it’s about damn time.

Other countries have been able to broaden their horizons to encompass leadership that isn’t dependent on having a penis–India, Pakistan, Great Britain, and Israel are just a few modern governments that come to mind. As for race, it should be the shame of this country, founded on the proposition that, “all men are created equal,” that it has only seen fit to allow white males to ascend to the leadership of the allegedly most powerful nation in the free world.

Palin is a woman, and I certainly don’t disparage her for her gender, but neither am I going to do cartwheels over her selection. (Btw, I proudly identify myself as a feminist.) I’m choosing to have faith in the ability of the majority of women to think rationally and I am refusing to succumb to any concern that the rest of my gender is going to fall down and worship at the altar of McCain simply because he has Palin at his side.

If you must vote for McCain, let it be because you don’t believe that addressing the needs of the 47 million uninsured Americans is a priority, let it be because you believe that the wealthiest one percent of the population are entitled to even more tax breaks, let it be because you support an energy strategy that involves off shore drilling as a solution to the energy crisis, or because you agree with his position of staying in Iraq indefinitely, but for heaven’s sake, don’t fall for his Houdini-style misdirection act of selecting a woman as a running mate.

One of my favorite actresses is Bette Davis. I love Kim Carnes 1980s hit, Bette Davis Eyes. I know that Bette would never fall for some obvious manipulative ploy.

Oops, She Did It Again!

So I called my BFF Hillary Clinton the other day to see how she was doing after all the negative commentary about her little verbal slip. “Girlfriend, what on earth were you thinking! Have you lost your mind up in here?”

Oh, wait a minute, I don’t really know Hillary well enough to address her as girlfriend. We’re not really BFFs either (that’s shorthand for best friend forever). Actually, Hillary and I have never met, but I’ve seen her on television. Oops, I think that I misspoke.

There has been a lot of misspeaking in the Clinton campaign. A few weeks ago, Senator Clinton released a television commercial asserting that based on her 35 years of experience, she was more qualified than Senator Obama to answer the phone at 3:00 a.m. and deal with some hypothetical foreign policy crisis. Unfortunately, at least for Sen. Clinton, subsequent research revealed that her foreign policy experience was questionable at best, and possibly nonexistent. After a little personal research, I wrote a little blog entry about what appeared to be a general consensus–Sen. Clinton didn’t play a significant role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland; nor did she broker the deal that resulted in Macedonia opening its borders to refugees from Kosovo (official records confirm that the Macedonia accord regarding the Kosovo refugees was signed the day before Hillary arrived in the country).

The media enjoyed the circus constructed around Sen. Clinton’s exaggerated foreign policy experience claims and next became entranced with sermons from Sen. Obama’s ex-minister. Just when I thought that perhaps the campaign was finally getting back on track, dealing with the issues–the recession, unemployment, access to health care, 47 million people without health insurance, the war in Iraq, global warming, etc., etc., Sen. Clinton dropped another example of her qualifications to be commander-in-chief, citing her March 1996 landing at Tuzla Air Base in Bosnia in the midst of sniper fire. Her words, spoken at George Washington University on March 17, 2008, have been published in newspapers around the world, and played repeatedly on radio and television news stations.

“I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.”–Senator Hillary Clinton

Based on the photo above, before ducking and running for cover, Sen. Clinton and daughter Chelsea took time to accept greetings from the eight-year-old girl who was a part of the official greeting committee in March 1996, a group that also included Bosnia’s acting president. Not wanting to frighten the child, Hillary also decided that she and Chelsea should abandon the flak jackets that she asserts that they wore to protect them from sniper fire while they were running with their heads down. Suffering from some memory loss, no doubt due to post traumatic stress disorder after being subjected to sniper fire, comedian Sinbad, who was a part of the group visiting US troops in Bosnia with the then First Lady back in 1996, has responded that he does not recall there being any sniper fire when the travel group landed.

Normally, I would agree with Sen. Clinton’s protestations that she made many speeches and many journeys while First Lady, and that it is only human to confuse the details from a trip that she made 12 years ago. However, generally, most of us confuse the details as to when something happened, but remain clear as to whether or not something happened. For example, I’m not certain when I first became obsessed with Denzel Washington, however, I’m certain that he has never promised to leave his wife and marry me.

Sen. Clinton, girlfriend, you have not been under sniper fire during any of your travels as First Lady. You made it up! You didn’t misspeak; you lied.

You lied because you are desperately trying to distinguish yourself in the minds of the voters as having 35 years of critical experience, including foreign policy experience that makes you a superior choice for the Democratic Party nomination. You have invented your own pet campaign issue that makes about as much sense as the pet rock phenomenon of the 1970s. What really frightens me is that some of the public, just like the folks that spent good money for a pet rock, are succumbing to the nonsense of this non-issue. Let’s have a simplified civics lesson.

Under the U.S. Constitution, both the Congress of the United States and the president have the responsibility for setting U.S. foreign policy. In general, the president shapes foreign policy with advice from the state department, the secretary of state, and a bunch of other national security officials in the executive branch . Congress approves the funding needed to carry out the foreign policy. The United States Senate has to approve by a two-thirds vote, any treaties with foreign governments that are negotiated by the president. Congress and the president don’t always see eye to eye on foreign policy, but the president has the principal authority to create foreign policy. Both the Congress and the Courts defer to the president on matters of foreign policy, a practice further solidified since the end of WWII in 1945.

If you stayed with me through Civics 101, then you are probably recognizing that unless Clinton, McCain, or Obama have previously served as president of the United States, none of them have any substantive foreign policy experience. Neither congressmen/women, nor the First Lady gets to make foreign policy decisions in our governmental structure. Condoleeza Rice has experience in the ins and outs of foreign policy, as do members of the Cabinet and the executive branch of government, but hey, Hillary, you don’t. Drop the empty rhetoric about foreign policy experience and focus on the significant domestic and international issues that should be the focus of this campaign, not your imagined turn as Rambo.

The beauty of the structure of our government is that no one enters the office of president as a solo act. All those cabinet members, all those secretaries of this and that, are there for a purpose–to advise the president, to present him/her with the information to make reasoned, well-thought out foreign policy decisions, if he or she chooses. Or he can declare himself to be the Decider and make the dumbest decisions ever, but that’s another post.

Footnote: What exactly is foreign policy? The generally accepted definition identifies foreign policy as a course of action or set of principles adopted by a nation’s government to define its relationships with other countries or groups of countries.

Hillary, I Hardly Know You

I was a real fan of Hillary Clinton when she was First Lady. I thought it was wonderful that her interests expanded beyond selecting a new china pattern for the White House. That’s why it really pains me to have to ask, Hillary, have you lost your mind up in here?

Throughout her campaign, Hillary has been dropping little comments about Obama’s lack of experience and therefore qualifications as commander-in-chief, and touting her own experience as preparing her for the job. The pointed focus of her 3:00 A.M. phone call commercial is her vast experience versus Obama’s lack of experience. However, she has outdone herself with her assertions at a recent press conference on March 6, aligning her own experience with Republican nominee John McCain and dismissing Obama as not being in their league.

“I think that since we now know Sen. (John) McCain will be the nominee for the Republican Party, national security will be front and center in this election. We all know that. And I think it’s imperative that each of us be able to demonstrate we can cross the commander-in-chief threshold,” the New York senator told reporters crowded into an infant’s bedroom-sized hotel conference room in Washington.

“I believe that I’ve done that. Certainly, Sen. McCain has done that and you’ll have to ask Sen. Obama with respect to his candidacy,” she said.

Calling McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee a good friend and a “distinguished man with a great history of service to our country,” Clinton said, “Both of us will be on that stage having crossed that threshold. That is a critical criterion for the next Democratic nominee to deal with.”

I first read the text of this press conference in my friend Bruce’s blog, Self-Sufficient Steward, and was in total accord with his astute assessment that Hillary is trying to scare the American public into voting for her with a message of “nominate me or suffer the dire consequences!”

Hillary’s ongoing litany about her vast experience has puzzled me from the start. Thinking that perhaps I had missed some significant part of her career, I did a little research. (I love the Internet!)

Yep, Hillary has an impressive pedigree as a lawyer; she was the first woman to make partner at the Rose Law Firm where she worked from 1977-1993, with a few breaks to birth Chelsea and aid Bill with his political campaigns. I’ve never made partner anywhere but I am a lawyer; maybe I have the experience to answer that call at three AM. Dang, but I’ve never been First Lady. Hillary has been First Lady twice, but I don’t think that First Lady is an elected position, it’s just a title bestowed on you because you’re a woman married to the president. Maybe Nancy Reagan should be president, after all someone had to be running the country towards the end of her husband’s presidency, given his unfortunate affliction with Alzheimers.

So what exactly has Hillary Clinton done to demonstrate that she is qualified to cross the commander-in-chief threshold?

She alleges that she was active in foreign policy decisions during her tenure as First Lady, but there seems to be a lack of evidence to back up her claims. She visited Northern Ireland and says that she was essential in helping peace to that region; unfortunately, no one else recalls it that way. She also claims credit for brokering the deal that resulted in Macedonia opening its borders to refugees from Kosovo. However, official records confirm that the Macedonia accord regarding the Kosovo refugees was signed the day before Hillary arrived in the country. Hillary also cites her one day visit to Bosnia, accompanied by comedian Sinbad, musician Sheryl Crow, and daughter Chelsea (her foreign policy advisors?) as evidence of her foreign policy experience.

Granted, Hillary presumably had the president’s ear during her time in the White House, and no doubt provided him with her insight on issues of domestic and foreign policy, but the one issue that she and Bill have avowed that she advised him to act on was to take US military action to stop the genocide in Rwanda. Evidently, Bill didn’t listen. The official buzz is that there was never any consideration of US military intervention in Rwanda during the Clinton administration, and in memoirs by each of the Clinton’s and Madeline ALbright, no mention is made of Hillary’s advice regarding Rwanda. Her advice has only been announced during her presidential campaign.

Hillary’s own political experience consists of her terms from 2001 to the present as the junior senator from New York. That is the sum total of her experience. Not that such experience should be dismissed lightly, but I’m hard pressed to understand how it makes her any more qualified to cross the three AM phone call threshold than Barack Obama, who served as an Illinois state senator from 1997-2004, and is currently the junior senator from Illinois in the US Senate (elected in November 2004).

I’m angry with and embarrassed for Hillary Clinton. This fabrication of a non-issue is beneath her. It is rare that any first time presidential candidate has any noteworthy foreign policy experience. Our constitution places limits on who gets to negotiate foreign policy (I know that you might not believe this if you’ve seen Tom Hanks’ movie, Charlie Wilson’s War.) Even John McCain has not had substantive foreign policy experience (being a POW doesn’t count).

Hillary has not only opened her own record up to attack, but she has also dealt a negative blow to her own party. If the measure for choosing a president were strictly based on foreign policy experience, John McCain appears to have a slight edge over either Clinton or Obama, but no election should be based on a single issue or factor. Presidential Campaigns have to be about the multiple issues that affect the citizens who live in this country.

Shame on you, Hillary, shame.

PS In the interest of full disclosure, I support Barack Obama for president; however, until now, I still had respect for Hillary Clinton.