Friday, November 28, 2008

Third World Scenes

A 34 year-old temporary worker is trampled to death by shoppers as he opened the doors at Wal-Mart--at 5 a.m., in NY.

Seriously. What is wrong with people?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

A growing number of people are going hungry. Much needed help is on the way, on January 20th.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bailing Out Killers

Now that I got your attention with that headline, may I draw your attention to this video?

Then, after you have watched it, ask yourself whether you cannot think of several billion ways to waste the money that our government is thinking of giving the three automakers.

This is one case in which, before you meet the enemy, you should prepare a really long list of preconditions so they don't just take the money and run, again. After they kill your hopes, of course.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Free Market Religion

Stephen Colbert's wit is the best antidote for the platitudes that regularly find their way in the mainstream media. It's about time someone took on the myth of the "free market" as the best possible system, requiring no changes, no intervention, and incapable of doing any harm if left to its own devices. Colbert analogizes the free market with religion, calling it "moneytheism." Colbert's satire, as usual, is unassailable. He is a true national treasure.

The juicy part of the segment starts at 2:14 (the rest ain't too bad, either.) Watch.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


The recent electoral drubbing suffered by the Republican party at the hands of the party that was a master at snatching defeat out of victory's jaws is starting to open some eyes.

Kathleen Parker, conservative writer, has already been highly critical of McCain's choice of a running (play)mate. Now she's going full bore against the religious extremists in the Republican Party, and against "the base" that turned the party of Lincoln into the anachronistic joke before our eyes.

In The Valley Of Elah

Roger Ebert nails it when he says that "[t]hose who call In the Valley of Elah anti-Iraq war will not have been paying attention." The film does a masterful job to portray the effects, as predictable as they are unintended, that the war has on soldiers and their families, without shoving an anti-war message down your throat. It is a movie about real people, with real human feelings, behaving as you would expect them to behave under the circumstances. It does not overdramatize reality, there is no need to. It makes its points not by shouting about life, but by simply observing it. That is what makes it so compelling.

Perhaps In The Valley Of Elah would not have won a Best Picture award even if it had been nominated, given the strong competition of the ultimate winner, No Country For Old Men, and of the other two excellent movies in the category (the magnificent There Will Be Blood and Michael Clayton). But the fact that it was bypassed in favor of Juno is to the everlasting infamy of the Academy.

With Tommy Lee Jones, once again incomprehensibly snubbed by the Academy for Best Actor, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon and Josh Brolin, among others.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Can't Say I'm Sorry

Focus On The Family, our evil neighbor 60 miles or so down the road, is laying people off. The fewer the better. I am sure god will help the laid off employees find gainful employment somewhere not quite as evil.

On The Future Of Same-Sex Marriage

As I already said many times, same-sex marriage will become law in this country sooner rather than later. Certainly in my lifetime, and hopefully fairly soon. The longer this injustice is allowed to rankle, the more damage it does to civil society. The longer we tolerate abuses against human rights--in the name of Christianity, no less--the longer we will be guilty of complicity in the unnecessary and unwarranted unhappiness of many of our brothers and sisters.

It is always heartening to see someone else's optimistic perspective on the subject, so I was happy to find this article on the Seattle PI.

What About Mass Transit?

One of the hardest things to comprehend for Europeans who live in the United States is the sorry state of public transportation, particularly at a time when energy consumption and costs rank as one of the highest concern on the minds of Americans.

Few American cities, NY above all, have mass transit systems worthy of the public's time and money, whereas urban sprawl, with its myopic view that what is good for the individual is good for America, has only made matters worse. 

Not only that. Now that American car manufacturers are suffering financially for their own stupid choices, and for the decades of opportunistic alliance with the oil industry, we are supposed to bail them out? Not so fast, says Harvey Wasserman. Particularly in GM's case, given the instrumental role they played in killing America's mass transit.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bailing America Out (Of Money)

Reading Naomi Klein's books or articles is almost never uplifting, but then accounts in the "reality-based community" rarely are.

Her latest two articles do not subvert the trend of depressing news, they just give a very stark and faithful account of reality. Do your brain a favor, and read either article, or both: The New Trough, and In Praise Of A Rocky Transition.

Pickens On The Daily Show

The oddly charismatic and amazingly youthful 80 year old T. Boone Pickens made quite an appearance on last night's Daily Show. As Jon Stewart remarked, "I feel as right now I and the rest of my audience would follow you out the building.


Pithy Remarks On The Pity Party

When it comes to skewering hypocrites, Colbert has no peers.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Loonies' Fear (Of The Leftist Media)

Here are a couple of closely related links: the first describes the relationship between people and the media under an Obama administration, and the second takes a look at the howls from the right about the perils of the Obama presidency.

Interestingly Jon Stewart spent the better part of tonight's The Daily Show debating his guest, Bill O'Reilly, on the absurdity of the fear of the great Obama unknown that O'Reilly's Fox News is peddling daily to its viewers. In the rest of the interview, Stewart questioned the myth, endorsed by O'Reilly, that we are a center-right nation, a meme that many MSM outlets have been echoing uncritically since the day of Obama's election.

The Republicans' most successful tactic against Democrats in power can be summarized as follows: when you have nothing going for yourself, the only way to look better than your opponents is to paint them as worse than you are. It could not have worked without the media's willing complicity. Absent significant changes in the media landscape, it will work again, no matter who's president. That is President-elect Obama's biggest challenge to overcome in the next four years.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Gay Marriage, California Supremes Already Weighed In

Granting homosexuals the legal right to marry is not a matter of religious belief, it is a matter of fairness. And the California Supreme Court already weighed in on this issue last May, when it issued its opinion that the right to marry should be extended to homosexuals, because a ban on homosexual marriage is irrational, unfair, and unconstitutional.

It won't be long before this illegal ban is reversed. And, just as it was not judicial activism the first time around, it won'be the next time. Those who think fairness and equality are unconstitutional should go form their own Republic of Discrimination.

Discrimination, For God's Sake

By now you probably heard that a majority of California voters has passed a ban on gay marriages in that state. Ironically, the ban (labeled "Proposition 8") was passed on the same day that Barack Obama was voted the first black President of the United States. Even more ironically, the ban could not have passed without the overwhelming support of the black community.

I have already written about the trampling of the human and civil rights of gay people, here and here. My prediction is that gay marriage will be legalized by a majority of the states within my lifetime.

Now Keith Olbermann weighed in, with a special comment that hits the nail on the head, on many counts. Watch it below.

Monday, November 10, 2008

We Dodged A Bullet

I am not flogging a dead horse when I say to you: we dodged a bullet, just barely, and just with regard to the presidential election.

But that doesn't mean that the recent election was not ridden with problems, as this Alternet article says.

There is a lot of work to do between now and 2010.

Obama's New Deal

Paul Krugman makes the case that the financial times we live in require another New Deal, with added focus on the present.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Election Isn't Over Yet

It would be too easy, now that Barack Obama has been elected the next president of the United States, and that Democrats have seen gains in both chambers of Congress, to pretend that there is nothing wrong with the United States electoral system. What has transpired as a triumph of American democracy. Far from it.

I personally witnessed a ridiculous incident in Denver, where one polling place was missing the voting rolls for all voters with last names beginning with letters from G to S when the polls opened, which meant that the identity of any of the good people that stood in line at 7 a.m. could not be verified. They were told they could vote using a provisional ballot, or return to the polls later. I say it is a ridiculous incident because this election was highly anticipated and there is no excuse for unpreparedness on this scale, regardless of which party might have been hurt the most by it.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out on her MSNBC show, being forced to stand in line for hours in order to cast one's vote is equivalent to an implicit poll tax. What poor American, making the minimum wage, can afford to take a whole day off to carry out his or her civil right? (What poor American could afford not too, given the choice of candidates?)

Brad Blog, the website devoted to election integrity monitoring, reported several instances of vote flipping, almost all of which favored Republican over Democratic candidates.

Voters in several states were purged off the voter rolls due to a practice called "caging", first revealed by investigative reporter Greg Palast on his website, which consists of deleting off the voter rolls anyone whose address is not verified after he or she has been sent a do-not-forward notice to a no longer valid address.

And, in case you did not know, the election isn't over yet in Alaska, and it isn't over in Minnesota, where at least two U.S. Senate races are too close to call. (Begich v. Stevens in Alaska, and Franken v. Coleman in Minnesota.)

Brad Friedman has a piece called Alaska Stinks, And Minnesota's On Edge. You should read it. Then you will understand why, as I said a long time ago, the real work of election reform in the United States needs to go on, because we cannot afford to vote the same way we did this time four years from now, no matter the result. Because democracy is not about winning: it is about making sure that the will of the people is recorded accurately, no matter what the outcome is. Without that guarantee, democracy loses its meaning.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Return To Fairness

I like driving to Las Vegas from Denver, more than flying. True, flying is quicker and--the price of gas being what it's been like for a couple of years--cheaper, too. But when I fly, I miss the chance to stop at Canyonlands and Arches, two of my favorite places in the world. (Incidentally, President Bush is trying to open the land surrounding them up for drilling, in the last gasp of the OIL* Administration.) The drive through Utah's desert and red rock landscape never gets old for me, no matter how many times I've done it.

The only problem is, I cannot listen to the radio. You see, I like listening to talk radio and political commentary, and when I am looking for the news I turn to NPR. But during most of the Denver-Las Vegas drive all I can hear is a cacophony of voices like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Mike Savage, Dr. Laura's, and so on. No Air America. No NPR. No Thom Hartmann, let alone Randi Rhodes. None of the progressive voices one might be able to hear in a big, blue town when you are driving through a land populated by ranchers, farmers, and Mormons.

This dearth of progressive voices on AM radio is due in large part to the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, brought about by former appointees of Ronald Reagan during his administration. The Fairness Doctrine's main requirement was that contrasting viewpoints had to be allowed by each broadcaster, though it did not set any requirements in terms of the time allotted to each opposing viewpoint. That, of course, made it possible for hate-spewing, falsehood-peddling personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to push their viewpoints without fear of rebuttal, without any moderating influences, and without any need for restraint. The negative consequences of the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine have now been under everyone's eyes for close to thirty years.

But now that Barack Obama has risen to the presidency, and that the House and the Senate have seen big Democratic gains, there have been rumors that the Fairness Doctrine may be brought back in some form.

The airwaves have been dominated by right wing hate-mongers for too long, under the pretense that this was what a center-right country wanted to listen to. But with the majority in the House and Senate firmly in Democratic hands, and now that the country has even found the ability to look away from racism and elect a Democratic black president, the right's explanation for its domination of the airwaves is getting harder to believe. The right is going to fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo and, in so doing, it will be fighting against fairness. What else is new?

Resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine seems only fair. It will give the country a more balanced outlook on political matters, and it will make my drives through Utah all the more enjoyable.

*OIL also stands for Operation Iraqi Liberation, as the Bush administration had originally termed Operation Iraqi Freedom, in an belated effort to hide its true motives.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The "Center-Right Nation" Myth

Long before the election was called, pundits all over the airwaves and printed matter were cushioning the coming Republican fall with appeals to political moderation because--they say--the United States is basically a center-right nation.

A Media Matters analysis disagrees--in some detail.

Has The Christian Tide Turned?

In a comment to my recent post called A Different Perspective the name of the Rev. Jim Wallis came up.

As it happens, the Rev. Wallis has an interesting analysis about the shift that has occurred in the faithful in the 2008 election.

Krugman's Voice Stands Out

In the crowd of voices that are calling President-elect Obama to use moderation, one stands out. Paul Krugman makes a case for an Obama New Deal and quotes an important passage from FDR's second inaugural address: "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics". It still rings true, some 70 years later.

Krugman's full opinion is here.

A Different Perspective

Here is an opinion (thanks Tom for passing it on) that comes from a very different angle than those usually represented on The Daily Fuel. I post it because I often decry the insane rage of the posts of one particular Christian fundamentalist on these pages (you all know whom I am talking about,) but that does not mean that I think all Christians are created equal.

America Has Chosen A President is a good example of the fact that--while we can disagree vehemently--civility and rationality do not have to be sacrificed.

By no means you should read this post as an endorsement of the views expressed by Mohler elsewhere. He wrote, for example "we must pray that Americans will vote by conscience, not merely on the basis of celebrity or emotion," which may be subtle code for "a vote for Obama is a vote for "*the* celebrity candidate," not one based on conscience.

Rather, you should consider this post my olive branch to any Christians I might have offended "by association" with The Constructive Curmudgeon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Paul Krugman's Excellent Year

Paul Krugman's year keeps getting better. Not only he won the Noble Prize in Economic Sciences this year. In his New York Times blog he announces with joy that The Monster Years have ended.

I could easily add to his list of monsters a few of my own. Perhaps another time.

Memorable Times

I learned a lot over the last four days.

Though I consider myself very engaged politically, no candidate has ever inspired me enough to get my butt of the couch (where I spend most of my time blogging) and to physically help his or her campaign. That is the power of the Obama campaign, which is truly unlike anything I have ever seen.

On Saturday, I volunteered to make phone calls from a Denver office. By the time I left, I had dialed 260 phone numbers, spoken with over 60 people, and helped a few of them follow through on their committment to vote for Obama. I was surrounded by other phone volunteers, canvassers, organizers, in an atmosphere of enthusiasm mixed with anxiety for a result no one could predict. One of the organizers convinced me to take the day off on Tuesday to give more help. I couldn't say no.

On election day the office was flooded with volunteers: some were people I had already met on Saturday, most were new people who had come straight from the polls to do what they could to help Obama conquer Colorado.

As I wrote to a friend, it was inspiring to see so many people donate their time, money and energy to prevent the downward spiral of the Bush years from continuing under a McCain presidency. It was humbling to see how many people had flown in from non-contested states (even foreign countries) to help Obama carry Colorado, and to see even really young kids work with their parents to make banners, sort lists, and make phone calls.

A good friend called me from Western Pennsylvania, and told me she went to a polling place with her 18 month old daughter, and both distributed stickers and buttons to voters.

That, I believe, is the spirit that put Barack Obama over the top in this contest: his ability to mobilize so many first-timers, who had never actively participated in a political campaign before. This spirit of participation, this belief that we are truly all in this together, that change comes from the bottom, is the true promise of the Obama presidency, and I hope that he won't let us down, if we don't abandon him.

For the greater part of the last eight years I had only seen the worst of America's democracy. Over the last four days, I was humbled by the passion and the dedication of the many volunteers who helped the cause we all believe in, giving everything they could afford to give.

I am deeply grateful to Jamie, Holly, Deneen, Madeleine, Greg, Chris, Steph, Maggie, Lisa, Julie, Will, and all the other great, selfless people I met over the last few days.

These are truly memorable times.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Now It's Up To All Of Us

The people who elected George W. Bush got what they asked for, and what they deserved. We were innocent bystanders, for eight, long, nightmarish years.

President Obama comes with a lot of promise, but our job does not end with helping to elect him. Never forget: a President is only as good as the people that elect him and keep him in power. It's up to us, now, to rise to the occasion.

Before And After

November 3

November 4, Obama 44

Tears Of Joy

The night is still young, but rumors have it that McCain is getting ready to concede.

MSNBC has just announced that our eight year long nightmare is over!

It's done!

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Time Is Now

One would hope for Sen. Obama, and for our nation, that the sadness for the death of his beloved grandmother will make room for the honor of being put in charge of leading this country back on the tracks of progress, social justice and international cooperation.

Today is our day.

Know your rights, go out and vote, and call 1-866-OUR-VOTE in case you experience any kind of trouble at the polls!

Vote, If Only To Defeat This Prick

Surprise, surprise!

Paul Weyrich, one of the true enemies of progressive politics, is against high voter turnout. Watch this "patriot," then go vote and kick his ass!

By the way, this all but proves what I have known instinctively for a long time: this nation is not as conservative as conservatives would have you believe--it is moderately liberal, and if 80 or 90% of eligible voters turned out to vote on election day, conservatives would be a quasi-permanent minority. Unless they cheated and suppressed the vote, of course.

Our Discriminatory Election System

Smart and pointed as always, Rachel Maddow decries the indirect poll tax which disadvantaged electors have to suffer if they want to cast a vote.

Guys, as I keep telling you: the light you that shines in American democracy is not that of a beacon: it's the light of a flare! It's the sign of a democracy in trouble. Nowhere else in the civilized world do people have to stand in line for hours to cast a vote, even though voter turnout in the U.S.A. is lower. Nowhere else in the world do people have to vote on a mish-mash of voting equipment, under partisan secretaries of state that set the rules to the advantage of their party.

Stop flexing your muscles in the mirror, and get to work to fix this tragic, goddamn it!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Spreading The Burden

In answering Joe The Plumber's concern that his taxes might increase under an Obama presidency (if he can come up with a plumbing license, and if he can put together the money he would need to buy the plumbing business he wishes to acquire), Sen. Obama tried several different approaches to hammer the concept of fairness in taxation into Joe's thick skull. After a few minutes of patiently trying to explain to Joe The Dullard why his tax plan would be good for 95% of Americans, including most likely Joe himself, Sen. Obama uttered the famous sentence that may haunt him on November 5th, if he loses the election: he told Joe that the idea behind his tax plan was to "spread the wealth around."

What Obama meant to say, but what no savvy politician can say and reasonably expect to win an election, was this: "Joe, I am trying to spread the burden to those who are better equipped to carry it." Immediately, Sen. McCain and his minions jumped at the opportunity to paint Obama as a socialist, a noun that in America is only surpassed by pedophile in order of unpopularity. This strategy of attack has already cost Obama dearly among the undecided (or, as Bill Maher correctly calls those who have not been able to find enough differences to make a decision, "the retarded.")

But the truth remains: a burden is how most Americans regard taxes.

In the United States, the purpose and the history of taxation have always been misinterpreted and misunderstood by most, since the early days of the nation. Take for example the Boston Tea Party.

Most American think that the Boston Tea Party, a seminal moment in the history of the nation, was a revolt against unjust taxation. In fact, it was a revolt against the tax breaks given by the Crown to the most powerful British trading company, the British East India Company, allowing it to sell its tea at lower prices than those offered by colonial merchants and smugglers. Get it? A revolt against tax breaks, for corporations no less!

Another example of the complete misalignment of perception and reality concerning taxes is the estate tax. It was Jack Faris of the National Federation of Independent Business who renamed the estate tax as "death tax", a neologism then picked up and popularized by evil genius Frank Luntz. The intended message was clear: You die, your wealth is taxed.

In fact, the purpose of the estate tax, which affects less than 1% of all estates in the United States (not the United Estates) is to safeguard democracy against the perils of the accumulation of riches into the few hands of plutocrats, which always, historically, leads to the creation of a feudal society, where the rich and noble lord over the serfs.

What separates the New World, the United States, from the Old World, Europe, is in large part a system of taxes which rewards individual merit over inherited wealth and status. That is why the United States has not had to endure the rule of nobility which, for centuries, hampered progress of the working masses on the European continent. It has not had to, yet, but it is heading in the wrong direction.

Typical of this dangerous shift in the wrong direction is the resentment that many feel against a system of progressive taxation, which establishes different tax rates for different income levels, with the goal of achieving a more equitable distribution of the tax burden by having those with a higher discretionary income carry a larger percentage of the nation's tax load.

Republicans have been masters at influencing public opinion against government and taxes, first by creating the most incompetent and crony governments in history and, in a complete twist of logic, by using the very incompetence and cronyism they injected in government to create a backlash against taxes that fund incompetent government.

Once established, this backlash has been used by Republicans to justify tax cuts that have disproportionally benefited the wealthiest individuals and the largest corporations, leaving an increasing number of people with the impossible task to do more with less.

Another symptom of this dangerous shift away from equitable, progressive taxation is the push toward the so-called Fair Tax (read "Flat Tax", a regressive tax system), which is just as Luntzian a concept as the "Death Tax" and all the other Orwellian phrases popularized under the autarchy of George W Bush. No one has yet come up with a Fair Tax proposal that does not reward the highest income earners to the detriment of the vast majority of the population.

Most people regard taxes as a burden for a couple of primary reasons:

1) The systematic corruption, cronyism and abuse of public funds that all levels of government are guilty of, to varying degrees;

2) The failure of government to establish a clear, irrefutably positive nexus between the taxes we pay and the quality and quantity of the services we enjoy, the infrastructure we use, and the benefits we reap as the results of the taxes we paid.

History teaches us that we cannot expect the current bastardized breed of Republicans to reduce the hijacking of public resources for the benefit of the largest contributors of the party. Unfortunately, many Democrats are too much like their Republican opponents when it comes to responsible allocation and use of public funds.

So it is up to progressives to be leaders in reforming politics, and to reverse the trend of growing disillusionment regarding government that has clutched the majority of the population.

It is up to us to restore the people's confidence by establishing a philosophy and a system of government capable of managing revenues responsibly, transparently, and fairly.

It is our duty to educate the public against the negative connotation of socialism, and to explain the role that an equitable distribution of the tax burden has for the health of our society and, just as importantly, on our democracy.

It is our job to transform the perception of taxes, from an unjust burden to a necessary element of prosperity for the nation.

The mantra that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy" can only be true if the people allow the power to tax to be used as a means of creating division rather than unity, if politicians and the intellectuals that abet them continue to represent taxes as a system of confiscation of wealth and class warfare.

Instead, we should focus the frame on the principle that an equitable tax system is the price that individuals and businesses should be willing to pay, in proportion to their ability to do so, in order to create and maintain the conditions that allow our nation to progress beyond past achievements in pursuit of a possible, better future for all, with better education, better health care, better infrastructure, and the promise that we can all share, once again, a part in the American dream.

Though he won't be caught saying it, Sen. Obama has given us ample evidence during this campaign season that he understands that taxes are perceived almost universally as a burden, and that the idea is not to spread the wealth but to spread the burden, so that the middle-class can be lifted back from the depths that it has been cast into by eight years of callous Bush rule. He understand that the role of the next president will be to make government "cool" again, and his "Google For Government" bill is a clear attempt to restore public trust in the government's management of public resources. His toughest challenge will be to reverse the disastrous course that the falsely grandfatherly Ronald Reagan set the nation on when he declared government to be the problem.

If President Obama should succeed, with our help, we will then have an opportunity to move from spreading the burden to spreading, once again, the wealth.

NOTE: I recommend a short, enlightening, and cheap book called 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Hate Taxes. It presents a series or articles aimed at educating readers on the positive effects of taxes on our lives in areas that range from education, to health care, science and business, etc.

Friday, October 31, 2008

More On The Disgusting Khalidi Smear, From Glenn Greenwald

Excellent take by Glenn Greenwald on the McCain/Palin Sleaze Manufacturing Company. His article is called Defeating McCain: Ending Not Only Neocon Policies, But Also Tactics. Amen.

Bush + Cheney, With Lipstick

Sarah Palin is a true menace to this country, considering the likelihood that she would inherit the presidency if John McCain is elected. Her ignorance, disregard, and interpretation of the Constitution are even more frightening than George Bush and Dick Cheney's. And that is saying a lot.

It is quite fitting that she gave these remarks on Halloween (with big thanks to Glenn Greenwald for his deconstruction of Palinsanity.)

Head Of State

A while back the hilarious and intelligent Chris Rock starred in a movie called Head of State (also graced by the presence of the late, great, and missed Bernie Mac), in which he plays the part of an alderman, Mays Gilliam, who is picked to run for President of the United States, counting on the fact that he will lose. However, he runs an honest, BS-free campaign and the people take a liking to him. The final debate scene makes a mockery of presidential debates, which--in general--deserve all the mockery they get.

It's uncanny how Gilliam's opponent, vice-president Lewis, resorts to the same ineffective inexperience argument that the McCain campaign has levelled at Obama, and how Gilliam (Rock) turns the tables on him. Anyway, that's just fiction, right?

Towards the end of the movie, with only West Coast polls remaining open, the news spreads that Gilliam may become the first black president of the United States. Watch:

The question is: how many will be so stupid, ignorant, and racist on Tuesday to try and deny the country a much needed change of course simply because of the color of Sen. Obama's skin?

I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago, in an article called The KKK Factor.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Groothuis Watch Continues

Just in from The Constructive Curmudgeon: O's Anti-semitism Connection.

This is the latest clumsy, ill-conceived, and partisan attack that The Curmudgeon has resorted to in his increasingly ridiculous anti-Obama frenzy. How do I mean? Allow me, please.

The connection that Groothuis tries to smear Obama with is this, straight from Palin's ass(mouth), as reported by ABC News:
It seems that there is yet another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama going back several years. This is important because his associate, Rashid Khalidi, he in addition to being a political ally of Barack Obama, he's a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Groothuis then reprises the news through a completely one-sided article by F*cks News and characterizes Obama's relationship with Khalidi a "love-fest for a PLO, anti-Jewish sympathizer."

Enough crap. Now that I have taken you through the Palin BS, F*cks News, red-eyed and drooling Curmudgeon's side of the story, let's go to the facts.

Khalidi is actually a well-respected Palestinian scholar with an impressive pedigree:
an American scholar of Palestinian heritage, born in New York and educated at Yale and Oxford, who now teaches at Columbia University. He directed the Middle East Center at the University of Chicago for some time, and he and his family came to know the Obamas at that time.

Read Juan Cole's complete assessment of McCain's hypocrisy on Informed Comment, Cole's enlightening website on issues from the Middle-East.

Not only is Khalidi a respected scholar. It gets better (for us, worse for McCain and his Curmudgeonly shill):
The attacks from McCain and Palin came as a relationship between Khalidi and the Republican presidential nominee was revealed. The International Republican Institute, an organization McCain has chaired since 1993, provided funds to the Center for Palestine Research and Studies, an organziation co-founded by Khalidi, during the 1990s -- including $448,873 in 1998 for the organization to conduct surveys of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The above quote is from today's Jewish Telegraph, but ABC News reported the connection yesterday.

Perhaps, at this point, you would like to ask Groothuis how can he be so pedestrian in his attacks, as to accuse Obama of a relationship with an "anti-Jewish" sympathizer whom his own candidate's group has funded--24 hours after IRI's contributions were exposed. Sorry, you can't: The Curmudgeon disabled replies to his post. Why? Because a deceitful and partisan disinformation machine does not allow facts to be used for rebuttals. Not any more. He used to, a while ago, before he went off the deep end on his anti-Obama crusade.

In conclusion: Groothuis is the type of person that feeds himself and others on the worst memes and voices the conservative movement has to offer. My advice? He should stick to teaching philosophy, and leave the political smear to those who have the time and the ability to do background research, lest he should end up looking like this idiot on CNN:

But, alas, perhaps it's too late.

The Truth On McCain's Judgment, In McCain's Own Words

Much has been made of campaign negativity, as if both campaigns were guilty of the same type of negativity. The difference between Obama's and McCain's attacks on each other? One bases attacks on facts, the other on fear, lies and innuendos. See a couple examples for yourself.

And now, on Obama's "attack" ads:

See the difference?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hertzberg On Socialism

The New Yorker has an interesting analysis of the unreasonable, typically American furor over the socialism in this campaign.

I will quote some notable passages from Hertzberg's article.

First, he points out the absurd formulation of McCain's argument against his "socialist opponent":
"At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives," McCain said the other day—thereby suggesting that the dystopia he abhors is not some North Korean-style totalitarian ant heap but, rather, the gentle social democracies across the Atlantic, where, in return for higher taxes and without any diminution of civil liberty, people buy themselves excellent public education, anxiety-free health care, and decent public transportation.

Indeed, as Hertzeberg points out, McCain's suicidal argument is that socialism leads to horror such as efficient public transportation and health care for all.

Then, with characteristic wit, Hertzberg sums up the hypocrisy of the Republican argument against Obama's alleges socialism in one sentence:
The Republican argument of the moment seems to be that the difference between capitalism and socialism corresponds to the difference between a top marginal income-tax rate of 35 per cent and a top marginal income-tax rate of 39.6 per cent.

That, in fact, is the moronic depth to which Republican arguments are reduced in the final days of the McCain/Palin campaign: a difference in the top marginal rate of 4.6%. The frightening thing is, it may sway some dullards who would otherwise be inclined to vote for Obama (no, I am not talking about "Joe Of All Trades", he's beyond dullard.)

The real absurdity of the whole non-controversy is that the self-inflicted wound machine, Gov. Palin, said this--in her characteristic "I don't know what I am talking about" folksy style--about her own state of Alaska:
we're set up, unlike other states in the union, where it's collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.

Hertzberg's pithy response suffices:
Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it ("collectively," no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.

Case closed.

Business Like Religion

Daniel Gross of Newsweek asks this interesting question: Why can't corporate America end its perverse love affair with Republican politicians?

One interesting conclusion he draws:
I suspect the real reason is theology. Just as religion frequently involves simplistic good/evil comparisons, members of the church of free enterprise frequently hew to the first (Thou shalt not unionize) and second (Thou shalt not bow down before Democrats) commandments.

They do so, Gross adds, without regard for facts and contrary evidence (which he documents in his article). (See full article.)

I propose a theory of my own. Corporations cannot be separated from the individuals that run them and these individuals, with some notable exceptions, are mainly driven by their own greed.

While business can prosper under Democratic administrations and Congresses, the individuals that run corporations fare much better under Republican administrations (because Republicans always slash taxes for the wealthiest individuals). And since compensation for CEOs is really not tied to the performance of the companies they lead (as proven by the obscene bonuses that CEOs reap no matter what their companies' results) there is no incentive for CEOs to contribute to the party that creates the best conditions for business, instead of the party that allows them personally to make away with most of the loot.

In the end, it's all about greed.

When Country Could Have Come First, And Didn’t

An Open Letter To Sen. John McCain

Dear Sen. McCain:

You like to say that negative commentary of your campaign his driven by liberal bias. On the contrary, it is moved by genuine, and justified disgust for the personal smear tactics your campaign has chosen to employ against Obama. Such tactics are particularly troubling because they are reminiscent of the tactics that Gov. Bush's campaign employed against you in your 2000 bid for the Republican nomination. More and more your campaign has resorted to dishonorable tactics: smears, guilt by association, and robo-calls, the very tactics that brought you defeat in 2000. I am not alone in thinking as I do.

In truth, I am not surprised. I have come to expect the worst from you for some time. The date was August 30, 2004, when you agreed to speak at the Republican convention to endorse the president in his re-election bid, in spite of how he had viciously smeared you in 2000.

I should have known even earlier, on May 9, 2000, when you endorsed Gov. Bush’s bid for the presidency after he and Karl Rove had just dragged you, your character, and your family into the gutter with false accusation. But you earned the benefit of the doubt when you said: "[t]he only way you approach politics and seek elective office is to move forward. For me to look back in anger or with any rancor would be a mistake." I mistook that pronouncement as a commendable piece of political realism and charity toward your opponent.

But by 2004 you had already seen the damage President Bush had done and was capable of. For a man like yourself, who prides on seeking bipartisan agreement, seeing George W. Bush act with total disregard for the minority must have been hard to take. Or was it?

Importantly, by the time you addressed the delegates at the Republican Convention you had already seen three of the four Swift Boat ads aimed at John Kerry. In fact, you condemned the very first one to come out: "I condemn the ad, it is dishonest and dishonorable, I think it is very, very wrong." You even issued the president a challenge, asking him to condemn the ad himself. And he did eventually condemn the ads, but only after 2 of the 4 had already run.

You must have recognized that the Bush campaign was employing against Kerry the very same smear tactics they had employed against you four years earlier. And yet, on Aug 30 you took the stage at the Republican Convention to throw your support behind George W. Bush. Some maverick.

The maverick thing to do at the time would have been to endorse John Kerry, You could have put country first then. You could have been 2004's Joe Lieberman. You chose not to.

Perhaps you were just playing politics. Or perhaps you were thinking of 2008 already. It does not matter now.

Sadly, your presidential campaign has only confirmed what I instinctively knew back in 2004. You have changed many of the positions and opinions you used to hold (leaving Roe v Wade in place, your opposition to the Bush tax cuts, Falwell and Robertson are no longer "agents of intolerance" now that you need their supporters' votes, just to give a few examples), leaving observers with the impression that you'd say just about anything to get elected. And you did.

And when you were called to explain some of your about-faces, as when you were asked why you had decided to go negative with your campaign against Obama in spite of earlier stating that you wanted to run a clean campaign, you gave childish reasons, like "if Sen. Obama had met me in town halls as he said he would do, I wouldn't have gone negative." That's the justification you gave others, and no doubt your former self, for attacking Obama for his "close relationship" with William Ayers, for calling him a socialist, for spreading lies about his tax plans, and so on.

For all your posturing as a maverick, you have behaved just like so many of our elected representatives in Washington: a man who stands up for his deeply held convictions, IF it is politically convenient to do so.

The correct label, then, is "opportunist."

Divisiveness First

Forgive me for drawing attention once again to the thoughts of Dr. Groothuis, of The Constructive Curmudgeon. I am giving him and his blog a lot of undeserved publicity on these pages, but--all things considered--his hypocrisy is a good reminder of what all progressive-minded Americans are facing. Besides, he regularly censors my replies (and others') on his blog, perhaps because of the well-deserved condemnation he suffers here.

One of Dr. Groothuis's false idols is Thomas Sowell, the economist and conservative ideologue who shills for Republican plutocrats from Sowell's latest column, "Taxing Times" is a perfect example of his hypocrisy, and of the hypocrisy that Dr. Groothuis echoes and endorses from his own blog.

I will let you read the rest of Sowell's article if you have time to waste and anger to vent, but I would like to draw your attention to a couple of passages that exemplify the dishonest hypocrisy of the Country First moniker and of the unpatriotic crowd that exploits that patriotic motto.

Sowell begins:
It is not the money that is taxed away that is destroyed. What is destroyed is the wealth that does not get produced in the first place, because high taxes make its production not worthwhile.

This is fear-mongering at its vilest. First, it assumes that income that is taxed is destroyed. He does not allow the evidence that, while some of it may be wasted (and God knows it sometimes is), taxes go to fund the services we all enjoy (defense, Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, ect). Also, he neglects to mention that Bill Clinton, the man that Republicans spent eight years trying to destroy (with his own clumsy complicity) increased marginal tax rates and yet oversaw one of the largest expansion (or the largest, based on different calculations) in the history of the U.S. economy. The much touted stifling effect of higher taxes on economic growth is a myth perpetuated by Republican shills, whose only goal is to reduce taxes for its richest contributors.

The next passage is truly chilling and dishonest, and drips with hypocrisy:
Those who are receptive to Senator Barack Obama's plan to increase taxes on "the rich" seem not to understand that the issue is the nation's loss of wealth. Today, wealth can leave the country when heavy taxes threaten it-- instantly, in an age of electronic financial transfers-- and create jobs and economic growth overseas, instead of at home.

The two months between the time of a presidential election and the time when the new president takes office is an eternity in terms of how much money can be transferred out of the country electronically before any new high-tax laws can be enacted.

In other words, says Sowell, vote for Obama and the Country First crowd will move cash out of the United States, to tax havens. Guess what: they already do it. U.S. corporations and wealthy individuals have always transferred their wealth to countries with low or non-existent taxes on capital. How patriotic is that?

Sen. Biden was ridiculed for saying that paying taxes is patriotic, but he is right. Paying taxes is the cost we pay for what makes the greatness of this nation possible. So is expressing one's opinion, and one's dissent, things that the Republican crowd would gladly punish as often as possible, as we have learned in this election cycle and in the past eight years in particular.

Dr. Groothuis does no better than Sowell, adding some of his own insulting reasoning to that which Sowell peddles : "[H]igher taxes on corporations hurts those with pensions dependent on corporate profits."

Beside the obvious point I made earlier that there is no proven nexus between higher taxes and economic decline (in fact, some believe that just the opposite is true), what Dr. Groothuis's seemingly fails to realize is that--if what he says is true--that is precisely why we need Social Security, the very fund that his Republican allies sought to gut and destroy under George W. Bush's presidency.

The incorrigibly misleading Groothuis leaves his readers with this parting, gratuitous, despicable shot:
[M]any Americans are emotionally manipulated ignoramuses when it comes to taxation and the philosophy of the state. They are sentimentally moved by inflated rhetoric about "taxing the rich to help the poor." Then those who do not support this confiscation are attacked as insensitive or even unChristian [sic].

This is classic Groothuis, at his very worst. Those who disagree with his indoctrination are "emotionally manipulated ignoramuses." Groothuis does not allow the possibility that they might be better informed than he is, or capable of independent and better reasoning than his own.

For Groothuis, anyone who supports a different scale of taxation than the one advocated by Republicans is "sentimentally moved by inflated rhetoric about taxing the rich to help the poor." He does not allow the possibility that they might be rationally motivated by the repulsion for a government that sanctions the use of public money to be used by religious charities that can discriminate on the basis of belief, or by the idea that public money could and should be used to benefit those who are struggling, to facilitate the transition of the many poor who float on rafts in an ocean of greed to the steady boat of a dignified middle-class.

Groothuis's dishonesty and prejudice is evident in his use of the word confiscation to describe a fiscal system in which the wealthiest are called to carry a greater share of the burden than those who have no bootstraps, or holes in their boots.

Describing taxes as confiscation of wealth shows a self-centered view of society that is anything but patriotic. It says "I, the supreme individual, know better than my elected representatives what is good for the nation. I should be in control of every dollar I make, and how it is distributed (through charity). I, not our elected representatives in concert, should decide what or whom deserves a share of my money."

Ironically, people like Groothuis are not against paying taxes for national security, and the policing of our community, as defined exclusively by them. But, even allowing that only expenditures for national security are justified (a hardly defensible view, I might add), from a logical perspective is health care not a component of national security? Should we allow disease to spread freely because people decide their money should not help others to be cured from sickness, and that it is legitimate to spend money on protecting the borders of our nation, but not the borders of our bodies? What about education? What about help for the unemployed? What about roads, airports, ports? What about federal agencies (USDA, EPA, FCC, SEC, etc.)?

So why should taxes be allowed for national security and policing, and for nothing else? Because, I venture this theory, the true goal of people like Groothuis is to deny the use of their tax dollars for anything they disagree with. Never mind that your or I pay taxes for the illegal invasion of Iraq, though we disagree with it.

The society people like Groothuis envision and are seeking to build is not a community of diverse people. Its a moral dictatorship, in which everyone must adhere to the accepted principles of the Christian ruling hegemony, or else. Those who stray from their shared beliefs are excluded from the community, unless they reform their beliefs.

Groothuis's crowd wants the freedom to make its own, discriminatory social policies while denying or limiting help for those who lead lives they disapprove of. Is that the best Christianity has to offer for the rest of us?

You might think that my reading and interpretation of Groothuis's belief and of his positions are uncharitable, extreme, or unjustified. I don't think so. Take his attacks on Sen. Obama, for example, or on the people who support him. Never have I seen a word of compassion on Groothuis' blog. Never a Christian call to unity. Never a prayer that they might be led to see the light that Groothuis himself sees so clearly. Never the sense that Sen. Obama and his supporters might be motivated by genuinely-held different opinions. Never a reminder that, though perhaps misguided, Obama and his supporters deserve the benefit of Christian charity. Only slander, division, all the way up to transparent hatred.

I cannot presume to know what drives Douglas Groothuis. What I can do is reason about his motives and call him on the fallacies and lies he spreads, which I will continue to do as long as I breathe.

Eventually, why a self-proclaimed Christian should be so callously and defiantly opposed to a fairer distribution of taxation is a question that Groothuis might be called to answer by his God, when he shuffles his mortal coil and is waiting to learn whether his efforts on earth have gained him admission to God's company or perpetual exile from it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Stuck Between Alaska And The White House

Poor Gov. Palin! True, she did not have to accept Sen. McCain job offer. But put yourself in her Manolo Blahniks: the presumptive maverick-in-chief gives you the opportunity to leave Wasilla behind, and let the RNC redo your wardrobe, how could you say no? Basically Sen. McCain made this poor folksy lass an offer she could not refuse.

After the maverick-y pick, McCain had a surge of his own (nothing to do with Viagra). Post-RNC polls seemed to validate the ingenuity of his (or somebody else's) pick. The surge was working (in a few male voters' pants, apparently, all over patriotic America. Rich Lowry of the National Review Online is among the lucky ones.)

Unfortunately for her, Gov. Palin barely knows what she knows (though "she knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America"--as Sen. McCain stated among general laughter,) and she doesn't know what she doesn't know. That became sorely apparent when--after weeks of being shielded even from the meekest interviewers--she managed to make the rather innocuous questions posed to her by "Charlie" Gibson and Katie Couric look like "gotcha journalism."

By now it is clear to anyone with ears that she knows "nothing about national and international issues", which leaves very little in the category of what she might know (her overstated knowledge of energy, how to make babies--which she must have successfully taught her 17 year-old daughter, and how to field dress a moose.)

For weeks now, McCain's strategists have been trying to contain the damage Palin wreaks every time she opens her mouth from destroying their client's presidential bid. But, with one week to go in a campaign that Palin single-handedly managed to reduce to shreds, the verdict is in: "It's a grim binary choice, but apparently it came down to whether to make Palin look like a scripted robot or an unscripted ignoramus."

I'll take Runner-up Beauty Queens for $200, Alex.

The Curmudgeonly Smear Machine Strikes Again

In its continuous effort to sway his less than politically savvy readers, The Constructive Curmudgeon anti-Obama smear machine published a post entitled More Evidence On Obama's Extreme Leftism.

True to form, the Curmudgeon disabled comments for the post, because no rebuttals are allowed that might diminish the value of the sundry and baseless accusations that the Curmudgeon clumsily slaps together in an effort to paint Obama as the devil only he knows.

I do not want to waste your time, or mine, rebutting every baseless idological accusation the Curmudgeon makes, but one deserves to be exposed for its ham-handedness.
Obama [...] still laments that the (Warren) Supreme Court was not more radical concerning the redistribution of wealth during that era. That is the essential point. He says people "on the ground" can bring redistributive change better than the courts--unless, of course, you are President. Then you can appoint revisionist, redistributionist judges to the highest court in the land. [Emphasis added.]

Joe Klein of Time magazine rebutts the baseless and misleading accusation saying that it gives
a wildly inaccurate reading of remarks that Barack Obama made in a 2001 radio interview. It turns out that he wasn't criticizing the Supreme Court for its failure to "redistribute" wealth. He was saying the exact opposite: that the Supreme Court wasn't the way to go. He was saying that political power was the only real way to make decisions about the distribution of taxation.

Once again: Obama was saying that the Supreme Court is not the place to look if you want to achieve income redistribution, which is the opposite of what the Curmudgeon explicitly says Obama wants to do.

Back to Klein, who makes this obvious but important observation on the Republican campaign bogeyman, income redistribution (boooooo!):
To state the obvious, once again: We have had a redistribution of wealth, upward, during the Reagan era. Taxes on work, a.k.a. payroll taxes, have increased. Taxes on wealth, the upper margins of the income tax plus capital gains plus estate taxes, have decreased. To call Obama a socialist because he wants to redress this imbalance is as accurate as calling McCain an oligarch because he doesn't.

Notably, Klein limits his example to the "Reagan era", without mention of the Bush tax cuts which disproportionately redistributed tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent. Moreover, Obama is being labeled a socialist, and even a communist, by his opponents because he wants to bring the marginal tax rates to the level of the Clinton years (39.6%), a time of unprecedented prosperity for all, and one where the marginal tax rate was still lower than under most of Ronald Reagan's presidency (50%). (See these Tax Foundation data.)

Also, beware of the argument that the richest among us pay the bulk of taxes: true, indeed, but it does not take into account the fact that the richest use a much higher percentage of the commonwealth than the poor do, that the richest have more to lose from a government that--for example--is so underfunded that it cannot maintain infrastructure and security, and that the proportion of taxes that the rich pay is a far lower share of their discretionary income than the poor's.

Pray To Improve?

The Constructive Curmudgeon, the blog of a Christian philosopher who has joyfully doubled as an Obama smear-machine for the last few months, has just published the latest of the many posts for which he disables comments, wondering why on earth the lowlife that hung Sarah Palin's effigy from a tree in West Hollywood has not been arrested. He goes on to say that had the same thing been done to an effigy of Obama the perpetrator would have been "rightly arrested", and concludes his post with this gem of misplaced victimhood: "I guess it is open season if you are a Republican female. God help us."

As usual, The Constructive Curmudgeon is misinformed, which would not be so bad were it for the fact that its misinformation leads to the misinformation of its readers.

Anyway, since I know that fact-checking is not the Curmudgeon's forte, a disability he shares with other conservative shills like Michelle Malkin, we at The Daily Fuel do the fact-checking for him.

First of all, not only was the news reported by Reuters, and picked up by many outlets. Keith Olbermann of MSNBC made the perpetrator today's Worst Person In The World.

Also, if the Curmudgeon had uncharacteristically bothered to look, he'd know that last month--at a Christian college no less--some idiot hung a cardboard reproduction of Barack Obama from a tree.

And a few days ago in Fairfield, OH, another patriotic American "displayed a ghost with Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama's name on it — hanging from a tree by a noose", as reported by many media outlets. I don't remember where I first saw the report, but it did not take me long to find one of the reports from a Cincinnati CBS affiliate.

I am not aware of any arrests being made in any of the above cases, but I would not be surprised if there weren't any after all, since even the most despicable forms of free speech are protected by the First Amendment.

Needless to say, anyone who stretches his freedom of expression to such lengths probably has plenty of room to rent upstairs, no matter end of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, the news of Sarah Palin's effigy being hung from a tree, as disgusting as an example of the misuse of the gift of free speech is, pales in comparison to the news that the ATF discovered a (pedestrian) plot by neo-Nazis to assassinate 88 African-Americans, including Sen. Obama (a similar plot was unveiled in Denver, during the Democratic Convention.)

Predictably, not only did The Constructive Curmudgeon not know of, report on, or condemn any of the stories concerning Sen. Obama (not even the one involving the Christian college in Oregon,) but he jumped at the first available opportunity to portray Gov. Palin as a victim of the hatred for Republican females, and to decry the non-existent double-standard (at least in this case) that the media is supposedly guilty of.

For a blog that quotes as its goal "the willingness to sniff out the truth and expose lies and spin as best one can in humility", The Constructive Curmudgeon can and must do better. One should hope that the power of prayer will be summoned by that blog's mostly Christian readership, to rid The Constructive Curmudgeon of its harmful inaccuracies.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Un-civil War

Gov. Palin pick has already made clear where un-American people live. Now we are told, via the Sunday Telegraph, that the list includes some bona-fide conservatives such as Peggy Noonan, David Brooks, David Frum, and the list goes on, all of whom are now dead to the Republican party. Why? They have taken a stand against the Palin pick for the number two spot on the Republican ticket.

Cleaning Up Alaska

When Gov. Palin was cleaning up Alaska, she apparently forgot to clean up some parts of it.

In breaking news, Sen. Ted Stevens has been found guilty on all seven counts he was indicted on back in July. Bid one of the most corrupt and insufferable senators in this nation "Good riddance!" Whether Alaskans vote him out of office, or the Senate kicks him out if he miraculously earns re-election, the conviction marks the end of this petty, corrupt, and mean-spirited partisan hack.

I wonder if the Republican shills that keep accusing Obama of being a Chicago-style politician will now start referring to Palin as an Alaska-style politician. I am not holding my breath.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greenspan Grilled

Just yesterday, in congressional testimony given in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Alan Greenspan admitted that there were flaws in his decision-making that may have contributed to the current financial crisis. No kidding!

The NY Times described Mr. Greenspan's experience as "one of the harshest grillings of his life."

In fact, Greenspan is not new to such grillings. He endured another memorable one in 2003, at the hands of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Watch.

Most notably in that clip, Sen. Sanders gave voice to the frustration that most of us feel when the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Greenspan or any other, tells us that economic indicators are on the uptick and yet we see no measurable positive impact in our daily lives. That is not, as we know now, because we are too unsophisticated to understand the nuances of the world of high finance. It's because the economic indicators people like Greenspan use to determine the health of the economy have little or nothing to do with the lives of ordinary people, in ordinary circumstances.

Where Are The "Strict Constructionists" At Election Time?

Larry Beinhart, on Article IV, Section 3 of the Constitution. You know, the one that says: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." In your dreams.

Losing It

Ashley Todd, McCain supporter, faked being attacked by a robber in Pittsburgh. She said the robber used a knife to carve a B (for Barack) on her right cheek after he spotted a McCain sticker on her car.

It did not take long for Pittsburgh Police to get to the bottom of the story, and Todd confessed that she had made the story up. Even amateur sleuths would probably have suspected Todd of making here story, after seeing this photo:

Note to self: If you are going to make up a false story about being cut by an assailant, remember that images in mirrors are reversed.

Special award for partisan hackery to the Drudge Report, who broke the story as true yesterday. Anything to smear Barack Obama with is welcome at the Drudge Report. Needless to say, Sean Hannity made the story the centerpiece of his show last night.

The System Is The Fraud

Let's face it: The United States is a mess when it comes to elections.

Things started to visibly unravel in the 2000 election, which was decided by the Supreme Court and by the Florida Secretary of State, who had served as Florida's Bush campaign co-chair. If the same thing had happened in, say, the Ukraine or Liberia, international observers would have flocked to the site and monitored the inevitable remake. But the United States has a superiority complex, so no one will admit that the system itself is the fraud.
  • The use of malfunctioning (or rigged) machines
  • Vote suppression efforts
  • Unequal distribution of voting equipment to favor one party over another
  • Long lines at polling stations
  • Voting on a workday rather than on the weekend, and for a very limited number of hours (not all states allow early voting)
  • The remaking of electoral districts along partisan lines
  • The diversity and the varying efficacy of voting methods
  • The exclusion of small party candidates from the presidential debates
  • The tolerance for gigantic conflicts of interest (such as CEOs of voting equipment proclaiming their preference for a party or a candidate, secretaries of state that act as chairs of a candidate's campaign.)
  • Courts are routinely called to solve disputes that should not even exist in the first place
These things are not a distortion of the system--they are the system.

Additionally, for a country that prides itself on being a beacon of democracy, participation in elections is ridiculously low. Voter participation in excess of 60% is considered an example of healthy democracy. The system is besieged by potential and real fraud and is run along partisan lines.

I grew up in Italy, where elections have been afflicted by a variety of problems (mainly accusations of ballot box stuffing and fraud).

Yet, Italy has an enviable election system compared to the one in the United States. The number of voters consistently exceeds 80% and approaches 90% on most general elections.

In Italy, I never had to stand in line to vote for more than 15-20 minutes. Elections are held on Sunday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on Monday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. This gives all people, including those who have religious hang-ups about voting on Sunday, a chance to cast their vote.

Paper ballots, easily countable and verifiable, are still used.

The Italian electoral system is not perfect, but "going Italian" would be a step forward for American elections.

There are many things to like about America, most people would agree. But the way elections are run is an example to be avoided.

I will never get tired of repeating this: Nov 5 is the day when we need to roll up our sleeves and fix this broken system, once and for all, so we never have to live through another election period dominated by suspicion and fear of disenfranchisement.

Another GOP Vote Suppression Tactic

Under the pretense of saving taxpayers money, Florida GOP lawmakers shortened early voting hours from 12 to 8 hours, leading to huge lines at early voting stations, reports McLatchy Newspapers.

UPDATE: Oct 28, 2008.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist has declared a poll emergency, and re-extended early voting hours from 8 to 12 a day, due to the larger than expected turnout. Thumbs up to Gov. Crist for doing the right thing, regardless of partisan considerations.

With Early Voting Under Way, Numerous Reports Of Votes Being Flipped

Brad Friedman is publishing reports of documented machine malfunctions (the kind moniker for voter fraud) on his site, Brad Blog.

During these election days, Brad Blog should be on your list of "must reads".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mark Crispin Miller On Election Fraud

Mark Crispin Miller talks about election fraud with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!

[Video requires Real Player.)

Miller paints a picture of ongoing fraud that is a wake-up call for anybody who believes that democracy in the U.S. is tamper-proof.

A couple of statements Miller made that are not featured in the clip above sounds particularly chilling, because they echo what we have already seen in 2004 and 2000:
we have to take the necessary psychological step of being prepared just to say NO if this race too is stolen. This will mean shrugging off the various bullshit rationales--"Bradley effect," huge (and imaginary) Christian turnout, etc.--that will be trotted out to help "explain" a startling victory by McCain.

Also, we should tune out all the shit that they'll be talking to discredit the exit polls, if the latter should complicate the narrative of Big John's upset "win."

Whatever the results of the upcoming elections (and I really have a weird feeling about this), we must start working on reforming our electoral system on Nov 5.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We're All Gonna Die!

Well, 100% of us will die at some point or another. Some of us, perhaps not surprisingly, may be killed by cell phones.

Neither Dr. David Carpenter nor Dr. Ronald Herberman are likely to become household names any time soon, but the testimony they gave to the House Subcommittee on Domestic Policy on Cell Phone Use and Tumors on September 25, 2008, should be cause for enhanced concern about cell phone usage and will at some point become common knowledge among users of cell phones (85% of people in the United States, close to 100% in many other countries).

"Precaution is warranted," Carpenter said. "Even in the absence of absolutely final evidence concerning the magnitude of the risk." In the meantime, you should at a minimum keep your young ones away from cell phones.

And now, if you will excuse me, I have to go grovel before my wife, who has been warning me about the adverse health effects of cell phones for about ten years.

Advice For Republican Hatemongers

This should be obvious, but apparently it has escaped the notice of many hatemongering Republicans on the campaign trail (including Republican VP pick Sarah Palin): you cannot retract that which has been recorded for posterity.

Another Republican was struck with "foot in mouth" disease, then said "I did not say that", only to be proven a liar.

Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) accused Obama of "inciting class warfare" and said that "liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God."

Ed Brayton of Dispatches From The Culture Wars is convulsing with righteous disgust.

Eternal Shame

"True, the fact that McCain and Palin have managed to inflame anger and hatred in small pockets of this country means that the embers were there to begin with.

But we're not looking at the second coming of the Third Reich. These McCain-Palin supporters don't represent the real America that most Americans believe in. We're much better than that. It's to their eternal shame that McCain and Palin aren't."

The rest of Joyce Marcel's article is on Common Dreams' website.

A Handy Table To Explain Pro- v. Anti-America

Jon Swift did all the hard work and put together this "handy chart" with examples of what is pro-America, and what is liberal.

A Robo-call You Might Like

The Obama campaign is hitting back at McCain's sleazy robo-calls. You might like this one.

Al-Qaeda Pulls For President McCain

Osama Bin Laden stated in 2004, with no small dose of braggadocio, that his goal was to contribute to the bankruptcy of the U.S. of A.

Now, it appears that Al-Qaeda is pulling for Sen. McCain to be elected.

Wait a second! Al Qaeda wants Sen. McCain in the White House? That does not make sense! Don't Republican scaremongers always tell us that a Democrat in the White House would make another attack more likely? (Curiously, they omit to mention that the deadliest attack on U.S. soil was carried out under the watch of President Bush, whom they praise for keeping us safe.)

I don't think this is reverse psychology, although I am sure that Conservatives will spin it that way. Actually, it makes perfect sense: enemies need committed enemies to stay in business.

I only bring attention to this article because there are innumerable wackaloons on the right who maintain that we need to elect Republicans to keep our land secure, and that Obama does not know how to, while McCain does. It is the same trite tactic they used against Kerry in 2004, down to the pack of wolves ad, and the reason why we have allowed Republicans (with the complicity of too many Democrats, it should be noted) to run roughshod over civil liberties and over the Constitution.

The pursuit of perfect security comes at a costly price, as Gen. Eisenhower's prophetically said: "The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without."

How To Make Your Wife Wince (Along With A Few Hundred Supporters)

Sen. McCain may not be George Bush, but he surely talks like him. Remember this?

Now, fast forward.

Rep. Murtha (D-PA) said something ill-advised about people in Western Pennsylvania (saying that the entire region was "redneck" as late as ten years ago). He issued a an apology and a clarification, but not so soon that John McCain himself was not able to make a meal of... his own foot. Watch.

It's little things like these that can be ominous for a campaign.

Coming soon, a video of Sen. McCain spitting out the chewy part of his right sock (or was it the left one?).

Dress To Impress

When you are on the stump giving speeches about how your terrorist-loving, un-American opponent wants to spread the wealth and to impose socialism on the country that you and other real Americans, like Joe the Plumber, Cindy the Beer Heiress, Michele the McCarthyist, and Todd the Secessionist love so much, it is essential that you convey the best impression of yourself to your God-fearing, country-loving, real American audience, and that you show up well-dressed at your rallies.

That explains your tab of $150,000 on clothing in just a little over a month, charged to the account of the Republican National Committee.

Retractions Are An Art

In the final days of the campaign, retractions abound. Some are more credible and effective than others.

To show you what I mean, here is what Sarah Palin said last week in North Carolina:
We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard-working, very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation.

And here is her retraction:
I don't want that misunderstood. If that's the way it came across, I apologize.

Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show, also had a retraction to make, after he had jocularly said "f@#! you" to those in the McCain campaign--like Gov. Palin--who were playing the "real America" card to divide the American people. He realized his comment was inappropriately worded, and so he issued this heartfelt retraction:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

On Real America, Peddlers Of Racism, And Shamelessness

Colbert puts Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Sen. Obama in perspective, and puts the racist commentators of the right in their place (beginning with Pat Buchanan and Rush Limbaugh).

Then, Jon Stewart, and Jason Jones of the Best F@#!ing News Team on Television, team up in successive clips to put to shame the McCain's campaign argument real America can be found only where people vote Republican (you know, places like "real" Virginia, Wasilla, Alaska, etc.)

What To Do If Red America Wins

No, I am not talking about the risk of Comrade Obama being elected (really, have these people no sense of shame)? I am talking about what we poor people can do if Red America wins the election. You know Red America: Real America!

Read "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off - Why The Blue States Should Secede."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Olbermann Nukes McCain Campaign's Divisive Rhetoric

Olbermann, for the ages.

Jon Swift On Joe The Plumber

Jon Swift is back, and his with is pretty sharp still. He suggests all Americans should sacrifice a little for Joe the Plumber, as Joe is apparently not registered to vote.

Two Perfect Examples Of Media Spin

First, a little fun exercise, then I will give you a couple of examples of spin:

(Left to Right, Top to Bottom: David Brooks, NY Times; John Meacham, Newsweek; Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC; Joe Scarborough, former Republican congressman, MSNBC; Chuck Todd, MSNBC)

That is the discussion panel on yesterday's Meet The Press. Can you spot the liberal in the picture above? No? Exactly. Let's move on.

MSNBC and CNN are often accused of being in the tank for Barack Obama by McCain supporters. Progressive writer David Sirota's theory is that "objectivity in the media today is defined as worshiping the status quo, denigrating popular uprisings, and serving as stenographers to power, celebrity and money." There is much to agree with that assessment.

My theory is simply this: the media bloviates, a lot (it is hard to fill a 24 hour news cycle with intelligent, thoughtful analysis, but not impossible). Media "contributors," as they have come to be known these days, are generally lazy when it comes to doing intelligent, fact-based analysis. Much easier to pull "facts" straight out of one's ass than to do actual research. Add to that sad truth the fact that the media has to find balance where there is none, lest it should be accused of bias, and all bets are off.

Here are a couple of examples of spin and fabricated balance (whether it's intentional or reflexive, it does not matter.)

On yesterday's Meet The Press, Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC contributor and wife of Alan Greenspan, had this to say about negative ads.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I said it at the last debate. I'm not George Bush. It's--if, if Senator Obama wants to run against George Bush, he should have run for president four years ago.

MR. BROKAW: Can [the Obama campaign] continue to tag John McCain with George Bush?

MS. MITCHELL: They can, and, in fact, they're doing it with a remarkably negative ad. I mean, we talk a lot about the negativity on the Republican side. But the fact is that Barack Obama has so much more money, and some of these targeted ads, one that they unveiled on Thursday and Friday of this week and it's on national television, has John McCain in his own words saying, in another interview, in another context, "I voted, I supported George Bush 90 percent of the time." So they've got him on videotape. And the fact is, that this ad is running and running and running.

OK. Let's cut straight through the crap. What Mitchell is essentially saying is that both campaigns are running negative campaigns. To some extent, that is true. But while McCain is running robo-calls in battleground states that falsely paint Obama as a friend of terrorists (Bill Ayers), the Obama campaign is running an ad that ties McCain with Bush. Mitchell defines it as "remarkably negative." What is remarkably negative about it? Simply the fact that the ad ties McCain with Bush. Does it do so using the same unsubstantiated allegations and innuendos that McCain is using in the "Ayers is a terrorist is Obama's friend" robo-calls? No, it simply shows McCain boasting that he voted with President Bush over 90% of time, more than many of his Republican colleagues. Mitchell's conclusion? A remarkably negative ad. Watch.

I don't know about you, but I see a world of difference between telling lies (negative tactic) and underscoring the fact that your opponent boasted that he supported the president more than 90% of the time (thus "stepping in it".) But a supposedly pro-Obama journalist is oblivious to the difference.

Then, just this morning, I heard Bill Schneider, CNN political analyst, explain the tightening in the polls that seems to be happening with this rationale (and I paraphrase using my best recollection of Schneider's statement): Sen. McCain has made a powerful argument in the debate that he is not President Bush.

How? By claiming that he is not President Bush in last week's debate. Really.

Bill, Bill, Bill. I looked up your profile on Wikipedia. You just turned 64 (happy belated birthday!). Don't you know the difference between an argument and a claim? (And an unsubstantiated claim, at that.) Or did you think that McCain was simply saying: "my birth certificate and the president's are totally different?"
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