Friday, April 04, 2008

Potpourri - kids, candidates and presidents

Today is potpourri day where we discuss whatever strikes my fancy.

Post presidential moolah

Is anyone as disgusted as me with the fact that the Clinton’s made well over a hundred million dollars in the past seven years and kept most of it?

Normally, I am a – what the market will bear - type guy. No problem for me, if a baseball player or a movie star can get many millions for their services. It doesn’t matter that a school teacher can’t make a living in some places (like San Francisco where they had to build low cost homes just for teachers). There are lots of people who can teach and very few who can hit a 90 mile an hour curveball with any consistency (or throw one for that matter). Besides, people pay for what they want and they want movies and sports (education, we know is secondary – just look at the results – we win the overall Olympic title all the time, but can’t compare to other developed nations in 8th grade math and science scores).

It’s not that I believe that an ex-president should be restrained from earning money. It’s not that I believe that the Clintons have done something immoral at all. It’s not because I believe they have less rights than others or shouldn’t make a good, even great, living. But since they are completely making this money off of their so-called public service, wouldn’t it be just great if they gave it to the government? Not required, just great. The Clintons gave somewhere 9 and 10 % of their income the last 7 years to charity. All presidents and candidates have public pressure on them to prove they tithe since Reagan claimed he did in the 80s, so that's what they do. I think I would have been happier with about 50%, which would still have left them unbelievably rich. In fact, if they had 10 million each for everyone in the family, would they ever have a problem? And, of course, they would still be earning money.

Sometimes people ask -- why should someone go through all the hell involved in running for and actually being president? Here’s one good reason, I guess. You will get very, very rich. For most people, it is worth doing almost anything for that – even a tiny fraction of what the Clinton’s made. And please don’t tell me that the Clinton’s would have made this money had Bill not been president because he’s a great speaker. Sorry. It’s not so. The Clintons left office with nothing except the gifts they took with them and debts.

The Clinton’s certainly didn’t start the post presidential post cashing in bonanza. I’m not sure who did, but I think Reagan. I recall being furious when he was bought a 2 ½ million dollar house by some businessmen (what would that be today – perhaps 7.5 million?). Long after he left office his chief of staff claimed that Reagan paid them back when his money came out of the blind trust presidents put them in. But who knows. I have read that Papa Bush makes a fortune sitting on corporate boards and writing letters for companies, but I don't think it is Clinton type money.

And, I have long predicted that George Bush and Dick Cheney will be among the richest men in the world, courtesy of oil companies, when they retire from office. But, I can’t say if presidents before Reagan did the same. It would be good to know.

There’s nothing we should do about it. But it says volumes about what the presidency is really about. Money and power. No wonder Bloomberg doesn’t bother to run. He’s the only one who is rich enough not to care at all about the payola at the end.

Imus II

This time it’s a female commentator who got in trouble for speaking her mind. Personally, I didn’t like Randi Rhodes referring to female politicians who are running against or don’t support the candidate she likes as “whores”. Worse (to me, anyway), she said that Geraldine Ferraro was like David Duke because she had the temerity to suggest that at this time in history Barack Obama gets a benefit from being black in his run for presidency, just as she acknowledges she was only chosen as vice presidential running mate because she was a women in the 80s. The comments didn’t sound like jokes to me, although she was giving a performance at a comedy club.

But, even if she had said it on her show . . . so what? Have you heard her show?

Most people probably don’t know who Randi Rhodes is. She is a talk radio personality on Air America with a tiny audience. She is basically the liberal version of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. She constantly says ridiculous one sided things. Back when I lived on Long Island and Air America was available on local radio there, I would often go back and forth between her and Hannity whenever there was a commercial on one of them. Often they would talk about the same thing from completely opposite perspectives. Fine. I listen because I love politics, and often I am greatly amused at the way they completely twist facts and opinions so that their side is always right.

I admire Rhode’s ability to rant for seemingly forever about the same few topics day after day just as her right wing adversary’s do. But, when I listen to any of them my patience is limited because they are all so partisan. Both sides love to compare each other to Fascists and Nazis. No wonder they are so beloved.

So, why is Air America getting upset now? Is it because she is attacking liberals who they hope will continue to fund their enterprise (they have come close to folding at least once for sure, and I have heard Randi Rhodes herself say that it is a chronic problem). No one seemed to care when she called Bush and company fascists (or was it, Nazis? I forget.)

When you hire a partisan, be it Ann Coulter or Randi Rhodes, you have to expect them to act unreasonably and say unseemly things. That’s why people listen to them. They should leave her alone, even if she was intemperate. Her targets were public figures. They weren’t kids. What she said about Ferraro was stupid, not racist. What she said about Clinton and Ferraro was nasty and says more about her than them. Just like with Imus, nobody has to listen.

Georgia’s kick ass educational system

Say, what about these 7 and 8 year olds in Georgia who made a sophisticated plan to kidnap and punish their teacher who had scolded one of them? Impressive, huh?

Was it their parents or teacher who deserve an award for raising really smart kids. Who knew that an 8 year old could think about things like who cleans up the blood and who draws the blinds?

Seriously, I hope the kids are treated individually and not as a group in an obeisance to some ideal about fairness to them or their parents. If any of them were serious about carrying out this plan (in so far as we can discover), then they need severe punishment. Punishment usually works at that age. Of course, if these possibly crazy kids are so spoiled or twisted already, good luck to them.

I have to admit that I’m a little cynical about what happened here. There is no truth so pure that the news media cannot get it completely wrong. I am reminded of an incident a few years ago when a mother lost it at a shopping center and began (it appeared) to wail on her little girl. Unfortunately for mom and daughter it was caught on video. I remember the first time I saw it, immediately realizing that she was not even touching the kid. If anything, she was just brushing her skin. It was later admitted by authorities that as hard as it looked like mom was smacking the girl’s face, there was not a mark on her. She wanted her daughter to know she was angry. Probably, the kid deserved it and probably the mom overreacted. But, her overreaction was nothing compared to everyone elses.

The media played it over and over on tv. The little girl was ripped from her mother’s arms (at least metaphorically) and taken into supposedly protective custody. Mom had to admit in court that she had a problem and get therapy. Soon, she got her daughter back under supervision.

It is unlikely the fake beating had very much effect on the kid other than probably making her cry. Being taken from her mother was definitely traumatic though. Maybe the forever kind of traumatic. Either she thinks it was her fault and she was never going to see mommy again, or some pinhead savior told her that it was mommy’s fault and she doesn’t have to take it ever again (yeah, that will work in the long run). Add that up with all those stories about little kids getting suspended from school because the hugged or kissed another little student.

I remember a plan my neighbor and I came up with to take over the world through acts of terrorism. It was a pretty stupid plan, but I was probably ten or so. Today, we both probably would have gotten suspended and anger management classes.

I’m not suggesting that child protective services aren’t necessary and doesn’t do good things. There are neglectful and abusive parents out there. But, it often is a necessary evil and sometimes it is the problem, particularly when the media is on their back.

Parenting in front of the whole world

Today, if you want to do anything different with your kid, you might end up doing it in front of the whole world. Take the mother who made the news this week, because, God forbid, she let her nine year old son take the subway home in a safe neighborhood. I could barely stand to hear the moron newscasters on cable wonder out loud whether she was being neglectful. As the mother explained, this is like a story about boy eats melon (actually, that’s not what she said, but it was something like that). And she’s right.

Raising my own daughter I quickly found out that I was more willing than other parents to let her try things before other kids. One of her friend's parents was surprised I let her walk or ride her bike home at night a few blocks in one of the safest neighborhoods in the country at age 14. When I told one of my female friends about it, she thought I was crazy to let a 14 year old go out at night at all. Okay. I have no doubt that most of the families I knew on Long Island felt the same way.

Often in New York City though, I noticed kids walking around more by themselves or groups than on the island, where it is more and more rare. Even taking the subway sometimes. Without having a study to refer to, it at least seemed to me that parents in the city were more confident that nothing would happen to their kids than parents on the Island, where, it was relatively astonishingly safe. Somehow, between the time I grew up and now, predators have materialized out of thin air (an absolutely verifiable untruth which I cannot get anyone to believe) and danger lurks at every corner (despite how much safer it is now).

Somehow, I was able to ride my bicycle miles from home at age 11, and was going from Long Island to the City by myself by 14. It seems like everyone else I knew was allowed to do the same thing. My friends and I took our bikes on a three day unsupervised trip the length of Long Island when I was 15. What happened since that era? My guess, the 24 hour news cycle scares the hell out of parents. Peer pressure does the rest.

Good for this mom. I admire her. Her son wants to do it again and I hope she lets him. He will end up more confident than the kids of parents who think they are protecting their kids by oversheltering them.

Got MLK?

I love the presidential election. Where else can you see all the candidates worship at the altar of Martin Luther King whether they want to or not. My intended vote goes to John McCain, but it is hysterical to see him have to squirm about his past opposition to Martin Luther King Day, for which he has actually had to apologize.

This brings up one of the sillier things you hear on right wing talk radio. The hosts are very fond of pointing out that it was Republicans in congress that were responsible for the passage of the civil rights acts in the early 60s. From this, they extrapolate that they are the party of inclusion and tolerance. Of course, factually, they are right. Democrats, mostly Southern Democrats, were against the civil rights acts. Actually, it was more so a North/South thing if you look at the voting, but there were more Democrats in the South then.

Of course, once the acts passed under the leadership of the Democratic President Johnson, the entire scenario changed with the Solid Democratic South became the Solid Republican South. It became unfashionable in Republican or Conservative circles to support an MLK day, probably all the way up through the 90s.

Times are changing again though, and we have a black man, half black, anyway, running for president with a fair shot at winning if you look at the polls, his fundraising and the crowds. Now, McCain cannot afford to be seen as in any shape or form against King. No politician can. In fact, McCain now has to recognize King as “great” and participated in Martin Luther King Day festivities, where he issued his apology.

Perhaps because I like McCain, and also believe in redemption and politicians who grow over time, I can accept that he has changed his mind. I am not surprised that those supporting others have difficulty accepting this, and his words were not met with cheers, to say the least.

Well, you can’t win them all, Senator McCain. Thank goodness for Reverend Wright and imaginary sniper fire, right?


  1. You are surprised that politicians make money when they leave office? Sheesh, wake up naive little Sheeba. You are incorrect about the Bushes and the Clintons. Papa Bush and the family holdings make the Clintons look like pikers. The Saudis and other oil and corporate interests have made Bush senior a very rich man. Presidential payola, goes back at least as far as Grant, who, comically or tragically, blew it all, and had to write his memoirs on his deathbed to keep his family from abject poverty. Good points on the talk radio brouha-ha, I'm still pissed about the original Imus flap. It's a free country until we disagree. Yuck.

  2. Not surprised. Uncomfortable with his trading on public service for what seems to be excessive personal gain.

    I don't believe Grant did become fabulously wealthy on post presidential money. He had money when he retired because the presidential salary was pretty high compared to what most people earned. He traveled a couple of years, bought a big house and then lost money by a bad investment in a business. His best business move was his memoirs, but, unfortunately, he never lived to enjoy that money.

    I have no problem with ex-presidents making lots of money, but at some point I would prefer it if they gave back lots more than the Clinton have when it is predominantly due to their fame as president. Admittedly, there is no way to make a firm moral rule about it and it is just an opinion.

    However, I don't know of any presidents who became very wealthy after the presidency up to Clintons, and we probably would. I mentioned Reagan's house, but it is possible he ended up paying for it himself. We can't know what the facts were with him or Bush I, because they never ran again. I don't jump to conclusions about how much G.H.W. Bush made trading on the presidency, but I'd expect it was a bit. There has been some reporting indicating that he sits on boards and writes letters, making gobs of money off of it, but more than that I can't say. The only reason we know about Clinton's money is because Hillary is still in politics.

    As I said, I do beleive Bush and Cheney will both capitilize tremendously on their offices once gone, but, again, I don't know. Clinton is a bad precedent. That I do believe.

    Thanks for writing.

    p.s. Little Sheeba? I guess it beats a lot of other things I've been called.

    p.p.s. Relax. Imus is on the air again.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .