Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sibling Rivalry

Some sets of siblings, like my brother and I, play out our sibling rivalry by putting on football helmets and playing tackle football. Others, like Ed and David Miliband play their rivalry out by running against each other for the leadership of a major political party.

The former Energy Minister Ed Miliband won a narrow victory to be elected Leader of the Labour Party and become Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. Coming in second was former Foreign Secretary, and Ed's brother, David Miliband.

It is unclear which brother Mama Miliband loves the most but the love that trade unions have for Ed provided the 1% margin of victory. The big questions are whether David will serve in the shadow cabinet and does Ed's election represent a shift to the left for the party?

The Distingushed Bigot From Georgia

Can anyone be surprised that on the day the Senate voted on Don't Ask Don't Tell a computer in Sen. Saxby Cambliss'(R-GA) office was used to send a homophobic message? It's not like Sen. Chambliss has a history of bigoted statements.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


The Backbencher considers Jacksonville, Florida to be his hometown. So, we have to note the passing of the man who lent his name to the greatest band ever named for a gym teacher.

Put on Your Rally Caps

Democrats in southwest Iowa met recently for an election rally. Since the event involved 5 countries, and attracted people from a total of 7 Iowa counties, we were able to arrange for several candidates and politicians to attend.

Lt. Gov. Patty Judge attended, and on behalf of Governor Chet Culver, outlined the incumbent party's strategy for the November election. The Lieutenant Governor said that events out of the Governor's control, like record flooding and a national recession, are making times difficult in Iowa but the state in government is in good shape because of the work of the incumbent Democrats. However accurate, this line of argument will be a hard sale, but I am glad to see that Culver and Judge are ready to fight to defend their record.

Matt Campbell, the Democratic party's nominee for the 5th Congressional district, made another appearance in Southwest Iowa. I had mixed feelings about Campbell. I want so badly to see Rep. Steve King(R-IA-5) defeated that I will support anyone running against him. However, I was worried about Campbell's self description as a "fiscal conservative" and describing his philosophy as being in line with the Blue Dog faction. However, Matt Campbell gave a stirring defense of social security and I left much reassured by Campbell's willingness to fight for the pillar of the Democrat's domestic achievements.

The headliner of the night was Sen. Tom Harkin(D-IA). Harkin took great pride in the fact that he won Mills and Montgomery counties for the first time in his 5 elections to the Senate. Harkin spoke about his service as the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions(HELP) Committee. Taking each of the letters in HELP, Sen. Harkin described how Democrats were making life better for Americans. Harkin even grew tearful when talking about succeeding Ted Kennedy as chair of the HELP committee.

I know it is going to be a rough year for Democrats in Iowa and across the nation. However, the rally was a reminder of why I am a Democrat and I find so much enjoyment in being involved in politics.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What Exactly is Going on in this Passage

Another Baptist preacher has claimed that Mohammed was a pedophile. Last time it was Jerry Vines at First Baptist Jacksonville and now Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas is making the same claim.

I have often wondered how these preachers explain away what happened between the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary; who most scholars believe would have been a teenage girl.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Book Review

Good fiction will often open up a previously unknown world and make you care about characters that you might not even like. That is exactly what Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants does. The world that Gruen opens up is the traveling circus of the 1930s and it is the circus itself that becomes the star of the novel.

Gruen's circus is world of brutality, vice, sex, and humanity and she renders this world is such great detail that you can almost smell the popcorn. Told through flashbacks by the show's vet, Gruen's novel is the story of a man trying to get come to terms with his life.

About halfway to 2/3 of the way through the novel, the direction of the narrative is clear but the precise the daily life of a traveling circus will keep you hooked until the last page.

An End in Iraq

The war in Iraq is just about over. At least that is what we are often told as the last "combat" troops leave the country; conveniently forgetting that there are still 50,00 U.S. soldiers still in Iraq.

Nevertheless this is something of a milestone and there have been no shortage of people talking about what this milestone means. President Obama gave a speech from the Oval Office while others have offered various explanations and justifications for what has gone on in Iraq since 2003.

Looking at all these justifications for Iraq I think all for should take heed of Frederick Ebright's admonition to advertisers making money of World War 2 and realize "There is dignity in silence."

I Don't Want to Work Late

As someone who likes what they do for a living, and often finds meaning in my profession, but who is ambivalent about the aspects that make what I do a job then I recommend Ezra Klein's column opposing rising the retirement age of Social Security.