Thursday, November 20, 2008

Borowitz: Obama’s Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy

Here's the latest addition to the Random Blogroll. Andy Borowitz is a comedian and writer whose work appears in The New Yorker and The New York Times, and at his award-winning humor site,

In his latest post, he writes:
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama's appearance on CBS' "Sixty Minutes" on Sunday witnessed the president-elect's unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

But Mr. Obama's decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.

Waxman takes over Energy Committee; change is coming!

Henry Waxman has ousted John Dingell as chair or the House Energy Committee in a secret vote of the Democratic caucus.

Dingell, who represents Michigan and is married to a GM exec, has battled the more liberal Waxman on fuel efficiency standards. The move is seen as good news for environmentalists, and is a sign that the House understands the mandate for change that the 2008 elections represent. Waxman defeated Dingell by 15 votes (137-122) in the caucus vote. According to a report at, Representative-elect Gerry Connolly of Virginia said 18 of the 26 freshman legislators had committed to Waxman before the vote. However, unless at least 21 of the 26 actually voted for him, it means Waxman also got a majority of the returning members of the caucus - and thus would have won the chair even with an even split among the newcomers.

Progressives have been stewing over the number of familiar faces from the Clinton era among President-elect Obama's high-profile appointees, but author David Corn, speaking on today's Democracy Now! program, said that there are "a bunch of people who have been progressive public policy advocates, academics and other experts, who have spent their whole adult careers devoted to policy making, not necessarily to going between government and private sector and making a bunch of money."

It makes sense that as a relative newcomer to Washington, Obama would want some people with experience around him. I think it's encouraging that he has also brought some people who are passionate about the change we need. Yes, some of Obama's appointees have checkered pasts when it comes to AIPAC and PNAC and Gitmo; but he strikes me as a strong leader and a passionate advocate for change, and these people are going to know there's a new boss. They're going to have a chance to make a case to him for what they believe in, but ultimately he is the man who will make the decisions; and they, if they are faithful employees, will implement what he decides regardless of their personal views. I think we on the left should continue to pressure Obama for liberal and progressive changes, but I don't think we need to panic over his appointments. He said from the start that he planned to forge a team of rivals, and I think he deserves to be judged more by what he does than by whom he chooses to do it through.

Tim Robbins: an open letter to the NYC Board of Elections

This is priceless. I assume Mr. Robbins won't mind my reproducing it in toto, since the implicit intent of writing an open letter is to have it read as widely as possible.
Mr. Gregory C. Soumas
Board of Elections in the City of New York
Executive Office
32 Broadway
New York, NY 10004-1609

November 17, 2008

Dear Mr. Soumas:

I would like to publicly apologize for being such a dim-witted dilettante on Election Day. I was under the naïve assumption that I could vote where I voted in the last two elections. Your thoughtful letter pointed out that if I had voted in the recent primary election in September I would have discovered that I was no longer registered in the polling place I have voted in since 2004. Considering your position at the Board of Elections and your deep respect for the democratic process I must assume that my local 14th St. poll worker, Betty J. Williamson's assertion that my name was on the active voter rolls for the primary in September of this year was erroneous and that she must be as confused and wrongheaded as I am. If Ms. Williamson saw my name in the book in September that would mean that you are lying. Certainly you wouldn't lie about a thing like that. That is unbecoming of a man of your bureaucratic stature. And why would anyone in the Board of Elections be eliminating legitimate voters from the rolls in late September and October of 2008? That's just crazy and un-democratic.

I should also apologize for the misguided actions of Justice Paul G. Feinman in issuing a court order on Election Day allowing me to vote on 14th St. He apparently thought that a printed out record from your own Board of Elections computer verifying my polling place as 14th St was justification for issuing the court order. If he had only thought to contact you, you could have helped him understand the logic and wisdom of eliminating my name from the book on 14th St. where I have always voted and leaving my name registered at a place I have never voted.

I must also thank you for sending your letter not to me but to all the major newspapers in the New York area and across the internet. I understand it was your way of clearing up this matter and for that I am grateful. I am particularly appreciative of your sending a copy of my voter registration card with my home address and driver's license number to all the newspapers and, by extension, to millions across the internet. What celebrity dilettante wouldn't want his private information made public? What kind of snob gets angry that his family's safety might be compromised? It comes with the territory, right? I was thinking of returning that favor by publishing your home address in this letter but then I thought that maybe one of the thousands of New Yorkers that were taken off the voter rolls in the last two months might not understand what a patriotic upstanding man you are and might show up at your doorstep with the misguided assumption that you are a petty vindictive corrupt scumbag.

Tim Robbins
New Yorker since 1961
Voter since 1976

P.S. If anyone reading this letter had a similar experience on Election Day it can and should be reported at

Commissioners of Elections
Marcus Cederqvist, Executive Director
George Gonzalez, Deputy Executive Director
Pamela Perkins, Administrative Manager
Beth Fossella, Coordinator, Voter Registration
Steven H. Richman, General Counsel
Troy Johnson, Chief Clerk
Timothy Gay, Deputy Chief Clerk

[updated to correct the spelling of Mr. Robbins' name in the headline]