Thursday, February 28, 2008

Borrowing Ideas

A great deal has been made as of late of the phrasing of certain speeches by Barack Obama. HRC has gone on the record accusing Obama of plagiarism, most particularly with her infamous "xerox" analogy. A basic requirement for being the next President of these United States, it is intimated, must apparently be that only original thoughts and words are permitted. I beg to disagree. Inventors and writers aside, who in this universe does not routinely borrow thoughts and ideas from others? On second thought, it is wrong to separate out these classes of individuals. Last week I had an illuminating conversation with one of my (too bright) grandsons who claimed that all the good music has now been written and asked what people would do in the future when they get tired of listening to what passes now for the end point of music , i.e. rap music. I can understand where he is coming from, but as the Taco Bell advertisement suggests, we should all think outside the box on occasion. What this entreaty presupposes is the existence of the box itself. I heard a speaker claim once that 95% of what we do on a daily basis is done by habit and not by choice. It is submitted that this pattern is applicable to thinking as well as acts. In order that choices, good choices, can be made it is necessary to take what is in the "box" and expand on it (whatever the source). The borrowing of ideas from others (with proper attribution of course) is the stuff of advances. Who has not said "I wish that I had thought of that" when they hear about the creation of Google, a funny joke, the light bulb, etc., etc.? The list is as long as life itself.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Little Quiz

Let's talk about substance in politics. Chris Matthews embarassed a senior level adviser of Obama a couple of days ago by asking him to list Obama's accomplishments. He couldn't do so. For all the decrying with regard to the concept of "experience" in this presidential campaign, let me offer a few tidbits. Let me ask the following questions about the various presidential candidates past experience. Who was responsible for the following;

1. In 1996, who voted against the Telecommunications Act because of the belief that the act gave away too much to the telecommunications companies, and protected them from true competition? (Hint: AT&T alone gave $780,000 to Republicans and $456,000 to Democrats in the year leading up to the vote.)

2. In 1998, who championed anti-smoking legislation that faced furious opposition from the tobacco lobby? (Hint: The tobacco companies responded by hiringd 200 lobbyists and spending $40 million in advertising (three times as much as the health care reform ads).)

3. Who has a longstanding opposition to ethanol subsidies and argues that ethanol is a wasteful giveaway? (A recent study in the journal Science has shown that when you take all impacts into consideration, ethanol consumption increases greenhouse gas emissions compared with regular gasoline.)

4. Which candidate has pushed hardest for campaign finance reform?

5. Whose investigation exposed billions of dollars of waste and layers of contracting irregularity with regard to the leasing contract the Pentagon had signed with Boeing for aerial refueling tankers?

6. Who led the Congressional investigation into the behavior of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff exposing shocking misbehavior by important conservative activists?

7. Who ridicules annually the latest batch of Congressional earmarks and has proposed legislative remedies including greater transparency?

8. Who is almost singlehandedly responsible for seat belts and air bags and cars that hold the road better, that don’t flip or crumple up or catch fire as easily as earlier models?

9. Who was the driving force behind the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission?

10. Same question as to the Freedom of Information Act?

11. Who fought for and won compensation for airline passengers bumped from overbooked flights?

We can use a little heat in this coming election. There are issues which should be championed that none of the front running candidate dare touch. At this juncture of the campaign, it is important not to lockstep into a mindset which precludes a good evaluation of each candidate's prior "experience" and how their respective acts have served to demonstrate their character and integrity under fire. (Note: answers 1-7 McCain, 8-11 Nader)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Blaming the Media

A classic demonstration of the rights and responsibilities of the media is now before us. Let me set the stage. A popular presidential candidate whose major character attribute or flaw, depending upon whose viewpoint one wishes to take, is a quasi-renegade in-your-face style of politics is reputed by two confidential sources to have conducted a worrisome relationship with a woman who is not his wife eight years ago while campaigning in a different election cycle. The woman is young, attractive and a lobbyist for a rich guy who has incidentally generously backed the candidate. The candidate writes a letter for his financial backer to the FCC urging action which causes the FCC chairman to respond in a manner that suggests the candidate has pushed the envelope with regard to the appropriateness of his action. The two confidential sources are worried about the nature of the relationship because the candidate's strong suit, then and now, is his character and integrity.

Is this a newsworthy story? I guess it depends on whose ox is being gored and who is doing the goring. The right, now that they seem to have accepted the inevitability of a less than perfect conservative candidate, are screaming bloody murder about the New York Times for printing such rubbish. The oddest laments are that it is old news and that the Times, bringing it up now, is hell-bent on character assassination. I followed the presidential campaigns carefully in 2000 and I honestly don't remember any of this stuff. Considering the way the president who would be king vilified McCain for allegedly raising an illegitimate black daughter in the south Carolina primary, I doubt that he would have been any less charitable about bringing this information to the attention of his holier-than-thou political base. As such I don't consider it old news. To accept the old news argument, one would likewise have to reject everything and anything that the Clintons did in the White House in the 90s. With respect to the character assassination contention, let me ask the following question; when is it ever a good time to bring up a subject that allows the public to assess the character and integrity, or lack of same, is a presidential candidate? If the Times was truly bent on hurting McCain's presidential aspirations, it would have waited until the eve of the presidential elections and sprung this information on McCain giving him little or no time to respond.

Finally, the question must be asked, "why blame the media?" The nature of the published information is stuff that could only have come from a core of insiders of McMcain. Is a newspaper reporter, obliged to uphold the request of one who desires to impart information in a confidential manner, to be faulted for reporting on information obtained from two separate sources (the usual standard before a story is published? This is the stuff of the first amendment. I find it really strange that those who adamantly defend the constitutional rights of some whacko to walk into a gun store and purchase a semi-automatic weapon are so adamantly opposed to the transparency of political shenanigans that can only be exposed by a vigorous and free media. That a story may be wrong from time to time is the price we have to pay for living in a free society. It is hardly on the same level as that whacko who then murders thirty plus college students.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Raw Data on the Influence of Big Pharmaceuticals

Money talks. Lest anyone think that the pharmaceutical industry does not buy its way into the hearts and minds of our elected representatives I invite you to examine the following table which depicts the amounts of monies given to influence elections at the national level over the past few years. It is to be specifically noted that these amounts do not include funds given for state aand local government elections.

Long-Term Contribution Trends

Election Cycle
Total Contributions
Contributions from Individuals
Contributions from PACs
Soft Money Contributions
Donations to Democrats
Donations to Republicans
% to Dems
% to Repubs












†These numbers show how the industry ranks in total campaign giving as compared to more than 80 other industries. Rankings are shown only for industries (such as the Automotive industry) -- not for widely encompassing "sectors" (such as Transportation) or more detailed "categories" (like car dealers).

*These figures do not include donations of "Levin" funds to state and local party committees. Levin funds were created by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

METHODOLOGY: The numbers on this page are based on contributions of $200 or more from PACs and individuals to federal candidates and from PAC, soft money and individual donors to political parties, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. While election cycles are shown in charts as 1996, 1998, 2000 etc. they actually represent two-year periods. For example, the 2002 election cycle runs from January 1, 2001 to December 31, 2002. Data for the current election cycle were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, January 07, 2008.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics.

NOTE: Soft money contributions to the national parties were not publicly disclosed until the 1991-92 election cycle, and were banned by the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act following the 2002 elections.

Tonight's Debate

The New York Times solicited questions for the Democratic candidates for tonight's debate. What follows is the question I have submitted, but was apparently rejected:

79.February 16th,2008
6:31 am. I have read that the cost of the war in Iraq has created a debt in excess of twenty thousand dollars for every child in the United States at the moment of birth. My question to the candidates is: How do you propose to deal with the estimated one trillion dollar debt incurred by the United States as a result of the war in Iraq? From that central question flows a multitude of ancillary ones, such as ‘Is it fair to saddle future generations of Americans with the crippling debt of this war?’

— Posted by Tom Bleakley

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rant on a Sunday Morning

I am smarter than you, so does that mean I owe you nothing? I have had more success in my life than you but does that I mean I owe you nothing? You do some really stupid things that hurt yourself or your family members, but does this mean I should do nothing for you to help you out of your situation? Is a church the best place to go for a handout or should the government give something to those who have not done well? I started out by constructing these questions after receiving an e-mail which can best be described as angry. I feel entirely comfortable giving it that label because the e-mail describes a supposedly disenfranchised portion of the American electorate, the angry white male. It is rather ironic that the e mail was forwarded to me by a person who would entirely fit David Letterman's description of the average member of the Republican party being an old white guy waiting to tee off at a restricted country club golf course.

The following is an excerpt from that e mail which will set forth its flavor: "He might be a Republican and he might be a Democrat; he might be a Libertarian or a Green. He knows that his wife is more emotional than rational, and he guides the family in a rational manner.

"He's not a racist, but he is annoyed and disappointed when people of certain backgrounds exhibit behavior that typifies the worst stereotypes of their race. He's willing to give everybody a fair chance if they work hard, play by the rules and learn English.

"Most important, the Angry White Man is pissed off. When his job site becomes flooded with illegal workers who don't pay taxes and his wages drop like a stone, he gets righteously angry. When his job gets shipped overseas, and he has to speak to some incomprehensible idiot in India for tech support, he simmers. When Al Sharpton comes on TV, leading some rally for reparations for slavery or some such nonsense, he bites his tongue and he remembers. When a child gets charged with carrying a concealed weapon for mistakenly bringing a penknife to school, he takes note of who the local idiots are in education and law enforcement.

"He also votes, and the Angry White Man loathes Hillary Clinton. Her voice reminds him of a shovel scraping a rock. He recoils at the mere sight of her on television. Her very image disgusts him, and he cannot fathom why anyone would want her as their leader. It's not that she is a woman. It's that she is who she is. It's the liberal victim groups she panders to, the 'poor me' attitude that she represents, her inability to give a straight answer to an honest question, his tax dollars that she wants to give to people who refuse to do anything for themselves.

"There are many millions of Angry White Men. Four million Angry White Men are members of the National Rifle Association, and all of them will vote against Hillary Clinton, just as the great majority of them voted for George Bush."

The vitriol in these statements literally takes my breath away. Let's start with two of the comments so we can try to understand these so called angry white guys who would still probably vote for the President who would be King. Contrast "It's not that she is a woman" with "He knows that his wife is more emotional than rational, and he guides the family in a rational manner." Whew! My wife is sleeping as I write this early in the morning and I am tempted to wake her to elicit her reaction. I don't need to because I know what it would be and it wouldn't be pretty. I'd like to take a look at the divorce statistics of the four million angry white men who belong to the NRA if this statement accurately describes a shared attitude toward women. I expect that it does. Women who stay in a marriage with that kind of man are probably cowed by the threat of the loaded semi-automatic weapon stored under the marital bed so the actual statistic could be skewed.

Now let's look at another which is no surprise whatsoever; The phrase "people of certain backgrounds [who] exhibit behavior that typifies the worst stereotypes of their race" is double speak for blacks. The writer is graciously willing to give them a "chance" if they "play by the rules". Playing by the rules is our government giving massive welfare to large multinational corporations who reward their devotion to this largesse by building plants in foreign countries and hiring foreign workers at near slave wages rather than "his tax dollars that she [Clinton] wants to give to people who refuse to do anything for themselves," but requiring blacks in America to "work hard." Query: How does one work hard at a job that is non-existent?

Some of what this diatribe discusses is true. For example, Al Sharpton does irritate me. I disagree with what he says about 80% of the time. However, I adamantly support his right to make a fool out of himself on occasion, just as I support the writer of the e-mail under discussion. The willingness to discuss and share ideas based on rational thought, rather than emotion or how someone looks or sounds ("Her voice reminds him of a shovel scraping a rock. He recoils at the mere sight of her on television. Her very image disgusts him") is the very essence of our way of life. If I had voted against the President who would be King in 2000 and 2004 because of the ever-present sneer on his face it would have been wrong, too emotional. Instead, I voted against him both times because I thought he was too dumb and that his stupidity was likely to have negative consequences. If the truth were known, I take no great pleasure in the knowledge that I was right.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Illusion Or Delusion?

Less than a year ago, Barack Obama was faced with the daunting task of conducting a presidential primary campaign against an opponent who was flush with cash, Hillary Clinton. Everybody in the country outside the close ring of candidates, those already in office, insiders, big time donors, and special interest groups recognizes that the spending on election politics is totally out of hand. Thus, it was refreshing to hear that Obama made a pledge to accept only public financing if he became the Democrats' candidate. Fast forward to the present and he now suggests that this pledge to limit his campaign expenses was only a potential option. The reason for the double take is obvious. He has demonstrated a unique ability to develop huge amounts of cash and that massive influx of money has played no small role in his anticipated win over Clinton who has been recently forced to put $5 million of her own money up to shore up her campaign. John McCain, as did Obama, has likewise pledged to limit himself to the receipt of public funding if he became the Republican candidate so if Obama were to hold true to his pledge, a historic moment could occur in American politics. Both sides would be playing by the same set of rules.

The Obama pledge, among other positions he has carved out, helped create the illusion of him that strikes such a responsive chord in the hearts of Americans. The crux of his campaign message is change. The people of America want someone who says what he/she means at the helm of their country. They want someone who can stand on principle, even if on occasion there might be disagreement about the nature of the principle. That very concept is the reason for the broad appeal of both McCain and Obama. To underscore this observation with regard to Obama, consider his reaction to the attempt of Clinton to have the Florida and Michigan primaries counted (in her favor of course) even though the Democrat candidates "pledged" (That word again. What does it mean to these people?) not to participate in these primaries due to party violations by these states. Obama stated that he gave his word that he would be bound by the party action and that he would stick by it. He thereby added to the illusion that he was more than a typical candidate, that he was a man of his word. Now this latest positioning and posturing suggests to me that the illusion I have had about the man, shared by most if not all of his enthusiastic supporters is, in fact, a delusion.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Help Wanted: Courage

It will take real courage by a relative handful of people to address a real problem in America that has grown beyond the pale in terms of insane behavior. I refer to the absolutely senseless murdering of innocent high school and college students as exemplified most recently by yesterday's tragedy at Northern Illinois University where five young kids were slaughtered by a madman. The real courage that is necessary is to recognize that the Slavic devotion to the Second Amendment, fostered by the NRA's financial muscle, has led to a gun culture in America that stupefies the senses. Thirty thousand, 30,000, people die each year in the United States from gun shots. A society that can organize itself to make slight impositions on its citizens such as requiring use of seat belts or the wearing motorcycle crash helmets needs leaders to take the argument forcefully to the public that the gun carnage has to stop. Presidential candidates and member of Congress should demonstrate resolve and courage and stand up to this powerful financial force. Gun control advocacy has replaced social security as the third rail of politics. Even when Reagan was shot, the NRA relentlessly campaigned against the Brady Bill, the provisions of which the President who would be King allowed to lapse during his regime. In hindsight, the bill should have been called the Reagan Bill. This week, California passed a law requiring all semi-automatic weapons made in 2010 and thereafter to be manufactured in such a way that law enforcement agencies would be able to identify the source of a bullet that killed someone. The NRA staunchly opposed this law. The law will not require weapons made before 2010 to be retrofitted. The Democrats are as bad as the Republicans on this issue. Someone has to stand up and take on this insane progrom. The fear of the loss of a political career is a lot less painful than the real pain experienced by the families and loved ones left behind from a shooting death. We need leaders with real guts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The President Who Would Be King

The plan to try six alleged terrorists under the rules set forth by the Bush administration at Guantanomo is a fitting encore for the departing act of the president who would be king. For the rational thinking person, it underscores just how sick this regime, er, administration, was and is. The history lesson we need to learn from this is to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Let's go to a few basic principles. The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal" and that "they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights". Please note that it doesn't say only Americans, nor does it limit the concept of providing and applying these principled concepts. It is said that some of the men to be tried in the kangaroo court were tortured. What a hell of a demonstration to the rest of the world in serving as an example of how friable the president who would be king considers the essence of our very system of government.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Am I Naive or What?

Several commentators have pointed out in the last week as the Democratic presidential campaign appears to be taking a final shape that a major crisis looms if a Democratic President takes office in January, 2009. Party divisiveness aside (Those on the left want immediate withdrawal, centrists favor a more orderly and structured withdrawal) attention will be paid by the rest of the world as to how this country leaves Iraq. Will an abrupt withdrawal leave that country in chaos and lead to a civil war that will greatly increase the number of civilians (already estimated at between 80 to 90 thousand) killed? Is it wishful thinking that left alone, Iraqi political officials will work it out and, if they can't, it's their problem and no longer ours? The wishful thinking aspect of this comes with the knowledge that we shouldn't have been there in the first place. In 2005 the Rand Corporation, under contract to the U.S. Army, prepared a detailed analysis of everything that had gone wrong in Iraq to that point in time. The ultimate conclusion was that there was a general lack of coordination. “There was never an attempt to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security,” the study said.

This is the situation, if the Democrats win, that will be tossed in their laps. The same problem will present to McCain if he is elected and he has already committed to a long term U.S. presence in that country. His apparent theme is 'war without end'. Presidential hopefuls of both parties need to sit down together now and gather a group of people around them and develop a unified humanitarian plan which excludes the consideration of the internal politics of America. We are faced with a legitimate and ongoing war in Afghanistan which we are losing because of our presence in Iraq. In short, it is a mess over there. The Bushian-Rovian style of politics in the U.S. will be gearing up to blame the Democrats for failure. As citizens of the U.S. we should insist that our government officials, for once, set aside their differences and hammer out a thoughtful and organized plan to put an end to this world crisis. Unity is critical. The message from the United States before this coming election should be that no matter who the winner is, the plan will be the same. The candidate who leads the way on this gets my vote in November. Am I naive or what? This would happen if pigs started to fly.

Friday, February 8, 2008


In a recent submission to the New York Times I wrote, in part, a statement about Rush Limbaugh. I referred to him as a former drug addict giving him the benefit of the doubt that his 28 days in a rehab center 'cured' him, although those of us familiar with substance abuse and the character traits of abusers speak and acknowledge the concept of recovering rather than recovery. The mention of Limbaugh was not the central point of my submission, but mentioned in passing. The thrust of my submission, instead focused on Obama's calm and reasoned opinion expressed during the recent debate in Hollywood that movie makers have the obligation to carefully consider and monitor the quality of their work in reaching intended, read young children, audiences. My submission was rejected. The policy of the NYT on submission of comments is as follows:

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence and SHOUTING.

The Times has formally endorsed Clinton and, both prior to and subsequent to that endorsement, directly and indirectly, has taken a pro-Clinton tilt to its various presentations. This apparently includes the Opinionator which, by my understanding, is supposed to be a forum for the presentation of ideas, opinions, etc. in an objective fashion. The notion that the rejection of someone expressing a rational statement about the performance of a Clinton competitor on a subject matter that is near and dear to the hearts and minds of millions of Americans is troubling and reveals the bias of the purportedly neutral and open forum In short, the only reason I can fathom for the rejection of my submission was the statement about Limbaugh. Today, however, another commentator states "Talk radio’s leading gasbag, Rush Limbaugh, said as much, telling listeners that a vote for Huckabee was a vote for McCain." The term 'gasbag' constitutes in my judgment a 'personal attack' on the man. On the other hand, to call him a drug addict is a statement of fact. I am writing this to register my disappointment in the NYT in its rather obvious attempts to influence people who want nothing more than the best for our nation.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Missed Opportunity?

Has an epic opportunity in history ebbed away? Several days ago in "Do It Now, John" (January 30, 2008) I suggested that a seminal moment had arrived in the Democratic Presidential campaign. The near moment had arrived for a white southern male to make history with the endorsement of a young black man. That morning Edwards dropped out of the race, but chose not to take sides. It was a missed historical opportunity. Now, the morning after Super Tuesday with Hillary and Obama in a neck and neck race to the finish, I sense the diminution of the man and the moment as the political machinations that have been the hallmark of the last twenty years of American are about to take over. What is so special about Obama is that he appears to understand that the political machines on both right and left have subordinated principles to politics. Clinton is up to her neck in that same political machinery and her potential nomination promises the nation another four to year years of the polarization, anger, distrust and hate that was the hallmark of the presidencies of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. For the remainder of this campaign I suspect that the Clinton campaign will do what it has done in the past. History does repeat itself. It will attempt to destroy the enlightenment that Obama has sought to bring to the table. Then, of necessity, it will move on and take the same divisive politicking to the White House.

Obama's vision has brought hundreds of thousands of young people into the political process. The depth of their commitment is at issue. If they cut and run now, the scenario described above is inevitable. How do I know all this? In my mind, the issue is and always has been, the initial vote for on the war in Iraq. Bush's duplicity and outright lies were evident at the time and any principled politician (who wasn't counting future votes in a faraway presidential election) should have had the guts to speak the truth about the issue. The fact that so many politicians did, in fact, stay silent and vote for Bush's war was the subordination of principles to politics. Just one example, of course, but a really good one. To obviate this potential, two things need to happen; the young people need to stay involved and Obama must elevate his remaining campaign to statesman-like status by taking the high road the rest of the way. He must not allow Clinton to draw him into a dirty campaign.

Monday, February 4, 2008


William Kristol is an example of what I call a pseudo-con. I use the label because the attempt to claim a neo-con status by suggesting there is something new or principled or moral behind the movement is false. Mr. Kristol just recently began writing a weekly op-ed column for the New York Times and he wote about the conservative movement in his column this morning (February 4, 2008).

"The American conservative movement has been remarkably successful. We shouldn’t take that success for granted. It’s not easy being a conservative movement in a modern liberal democracy. It’s not easy to rally a comfortable and commercial people to assume the responsibilities of a great power. It’s not easy to defend excellence in an egalitarian age. It’s not easy to encourage self-reliance in the era of the welfare state. It’s not easy to make the case for the traditional virtues in the face of the seductions of liberation, or to speak of duties in a world of rights and of honor in a nation pursuing pleasure."

Let me address briefly the 'traditional virtue' aspect of this comment. It is a traditional virtue for one to be held accountable to others for his/her own actions. The pseudo-con movement, however, thinks that the virtue applies only to human beings and does not extend to large corporations who should be free to trod over the landscape and kill and maim and wiretap Americans without being held responsible for their actions. To encourage 'self-reliance' this Bush administration passed one of the biggest government handouts in history by establishing the prescription drug program which is nothing more than a fop to the drug industry in that our government is prevented from negotiating the price of drugs. Also, the notion that Bush and his minions have carried out their duties is 'a world of rights and of honor' makes me want to puke. The eight year experiment with this false movement is gratefully coming to an end. It is, indeed, ironic that those presidential candidates who have appealed most to Americans of all political persuasions recognize the duplicity that lies beneath the pseudo-con movement.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Buying The Presidency

Buying one's way into the White House is a bad, unAmerican idea. Serious thought needs to be given to political financing of campaigns. Joe Citizen is limited as to the amount of money he can give to an individual's campaign, a couple of thousand dollars at most. Today I read that Mitt Romney has put 35 millions dollars, not a misprint, of his own money in his campaign to buy (oops, win) the presidency. Let's apply a little common sense to this process. Without spending his fortune, Romney would only be a footnote in the history books as the son of a former governor of Michigan.


The bloggers are running rampant over the past couple of days regarding the wisdom of the Democratic candidates appearing in Hollywood before the bigwigs in a televised setting more akin to the Academy Awards than a serious political discussion. The gist of the controversy is that the liberal elite which controls the movie industry is morally separated from real Americans and, that to emphasize the contended lockstep arrangement between Hollywood and the Democratic party is to do real damage to the party in mainstream America. I disagree. In fact I have several reasons for doing so. The first is my observation is that it is the Republicans who fan this fire with the likes of the former drug addict Rush Limbaugh who long ago conveniently disregarded the adage that people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks. If celebrity alignment wasn't an important consideration let me ask the question as to whether it is a Democrat or a Republican who travels with Chuck (who?) Norris or Jon Voight (loved him in Midnight Cowboy) or the Terminator? In fact, the Republicans like their Hollywood stars so much they have put one in the White House and the California gubernatorial office (twice).

The second and more important of my reasons for disagreement is that there was a seminal moment during the debate that occurred when Barack Obama was asked about the impact of the movie industry on young children. He gave a thoughtful and intelligent answer that both acknowledged the freedom of expression and emphasized the responsibility that the industry has to keep in mind as to the potential impact of its films on youngsters with regard to both sex and violence. At that moment, the TV camera panned to Rob (Meathead) Reiner whose slight grimace suggested to me that he might not agree with Obama's statement. Obama, a father of two young children, delivered a major message to an audience of powerful people on something that needed to be said. Score big points for Obama, the principle of freedom of expression and the rigor of healthy debate in our democracy. A president can set the moral tone for our country, not by pandering to a group of anti-scientific anti-evolutionaries, but by carrying a simple and direct message right to the people who make and sell the nation's movies. The setting for delivering this point couldn't have been any better.