Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Using Taxpayers Money For Indoctrination

If you don't have a problem with the constitutionality of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, you should. (This is one of my many disagreements with Sen. Obama, by the way.)

And if you don't find this wrong, leave a comment. I'd really like to know how you are able to justify the distortion of our constitutional principles documented in the linked article.

Corporate Socialism: As American As Apple Pie And Obesity

So says George Monbiot. I agree. Must read.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Congressman Kucinich Will Never Be President

In a country which chooses its presidential candidates based on trifling factors, like electability, looks, and their likability factor (would you like to have a beer with your former alcoholic president?), Congressman Kucinich will never be president. Too bad, because he is hardly ever off base on the issues.

I know sometimes he acts "goofy", and that he looks like Dr. McCoy's close relative (but then again, Bush looks sometimes like a Gremlin and he got elected anyway--but then again Kucinich does not have a Daddy whose friends can buy him the White House.) Nonetheless, he has been consistently right on many almost all issues, including during the Democratic debates. (Continued below the fold.)

He was right about a single-payer solution for health care. So right, in fact, that he was disqualified from participating in a debate on health care, sponsored by the AARP (which "derives significant income from the sale of health and life insurance policies"), so you can see why he was not welcome to debate his opponents.

He was right on the war in Iraq (and has consistently voted against funding it, since it was apparent it was the only way to stop the Bush Administration's madness.)

He is against NAFTA and thinks the U.S. should withdraw from it because the treaty does not adequately safeguard American workers or the environment.

He voted against the Patriot Act, and the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

He wants to end the war on drugs, and to legalize homosexual marriage.

Most importantly, he introduced to the House floor articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney, because intentionally leading a country into war under false pretenses is a more serious offense that getting serviced in the Oval room.

He holds many other positions on which I completely agree with him.

And now, surprise surprise, he is also right on the financial crisis.

John Nichols of The Nation says about Congressman Kucinich:

That Kucinich is spot-on [on the financial crisis and the bailout] comes as no great surprise.

When he bid for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, he spoke more consistently and more bluntly about the economic crisis than any of the other contenders.

Kucinich was not treated particularly seriously the media or his fellow Democratic candidates.

Now that Kucinich has been proven right, however, Barack Obama might want to pay attention to what the former mayor, state legislator and veteran congressman is saying.

He actually gets it.

Read the rest of the very brief article here.

We Are Going To Get What We Deserve

Compare these excerpts (below the fold).

Spoiler alert! Sarah Palin makes George W Bush look like a master of oratory and coherence.

From the second presidential debate in 2004, moderated by Bob Schieffer (emphasis mine).

Keep in mind that, after four years in the White House, the Bush administration had not yet created a single job, being the first administration since Herbert Hoover's that had a net job loss. The only thing Bush could claim as a success (and even that was debatable) was the bipartisan passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (which later on has come under lots of criticism). In that perspective, read the following exchanges.
SCHIEFFER: Let's go to a new question, Mr. President. Two minutes. And let's continue on jobs.


Mr. President, what do you say to someone in this country who has lost his job to someone overseas who's being paid a fraction of what that job paid here in the United States?

BUSH: I'd say, Bob, I've got policies to continue to grow our economy and create the jobs of the 21st century. And here's some help for you to go get an education. Here's some help for you to go to a community college.


You know, there's a lot of talk about how to keep the economy growing. We talk about fiscal matters. But perhaps the best way to keep jobs here in America and to keep this economy growing is to make sure our education system works.


No, education is how to help the person who's lost a job. Education is how to make sure we've got a workforce that's productive and competitive.

Note that Bush did not really answer Schieffer's question. Also note that the solution he proposed did little or nothing to solve the immediate problem that people how had lost their job (many, under his first term), and that it would be a medium to long term solution, if it was a solution at all.

And again, later on:
SCHIEFFER: [...] The gap between rich and poor is growing wider. More people are dropping into poverty. Yet the minimum wage has been stuck at, what, $5. 15 an hour now for about seven years. Is it time to raise it?

BUSH: [...] let me talk about what's really important for the worker you're referring to. And that's to make sure the education system works. It's to make sure we raise standards.

Listen, the No Child Left Behind Act is really a jobs act when you think about it. The No Child Left Behind Act says, "We'll raise standards. We'll increase federal spending. But in return for extra spending, we now want people to measure -- states and local jurisdictions to measure to show us whether or not a child can read or write or add and subtract. "

You cannot solve a problem unless you diagnose the problem. And we weren't diagnosing problems. And therefore just kids were being shuffled through the school.

And guess who would get shuffled through? Children whose parents wouldn't speak English as a first language just move through.

Many inner-city kids just move through. We've stopped that practice now by measuring early. And when we find a problem, we spend extra money to correct it.

I remember a lady in Houston, Texas, told me, "Reading is the new civil right," and she's right. In order to make sure people have jobs for the 21st century, we've got to get it right in the education system, and we're beginning to close a minority achievement gap now.

I remember my disbelief at the rambling, diversionary answer the President gave, which contained ridiculous statements like "Reading is the new civil right" and "we now want people to measure -- states and local jurisdictions to measure to show us whether or not a child can read or write or add and subtract," in answer to a question about the gap between rich and poor and the minimum wage. Not in 1894, mind you. In 2004.

I have an especially vivid memory of how stunned I was when the President said "the No Child Left Behind Act is really a jobs act when you think about it." I was as stunned then as when I heard President Bush give this answer to a divorced mother of three, in Omaha, Nebraska, on Feb. 4, 2005: "You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that." (Listen to the clip at http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/multimedia/bushism_uniquely_american.mp3)

The truly appalling thing was the sound of people clapping in the audience. There should have been an insurrection at the townhall meeting, but people were clapping instead.

I thought, at that moment, America cannot be so stupid to reelect this moronic charlatan, who thinks that we are so easy to dupe that we cannot see through his bullshit.

Well, as it turns out--thanks to the help of vote suppression tactics that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Democratic voters in key states, and god knows what other electronic shenanigans--I was wrong.

That is why, four years later, I am more than a bit uneasy about the Republican choice for vicepresident, a woman of little knowledge and low intellect, who rose to the top of Alaska's politics through god knows what tricks, and whose only qualification for the job was her ability to mobilize the Evangelical troglodytes who are soooooo excited about McCain's choice of a running mate, a woman who believes in Young Earth Creationism and who thinks a rapist should be able to choose the mother of his child (while making the woman pay for her own rape kit).

Sarah Palin may very well become the next President of the United States. As Fareed Zakaria said on CNN this afternoon, the actuarial data is not encouraging, there is actually a 1 in 5 chance that she may succeed President McCain before the end of his term.

The answers she gave in recent interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric are more moronic than those George W Bush gave in 2004 to Bob Schieffer, and to a transfixed American public.

Palin on McCain as a regulator, with Couric:
COURIC: You've said, quote, "John McCain will reform the way Wall Street does business." Other than supporting stricter regulations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac two years ago, can you give us any more example of his leading the charge for more oversight?

PALIN: I think that the example that you just cited, with his warnings two years ago about Fannie and Freddie - that, that's paramount. That's more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us.

COURIC: But he's been in Congress for 26 years. He's been chairman of the powerful Commerce Committee. And he has almost always sided with less regulation, not more.

PALIN: He's also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he's been talking about - the need to reform government.

COURIC: But can you give me any other concrete examples? Because I know you've said Barack Obama is a lot of talk and no action. Can you give me any other examples in his 26 years of John McCain truly taking a stand on this?

PALIN: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

Palin on her foreign policy credentials, with Couric:
PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundary that we have with Canada. It's funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don't know, you know … reporters.

COURIC: Mocked?

PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

COURIC: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

And finally, Palin with Couric on the Wall Street rescue package:
COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy? Instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say, I like ever American I’m speaking with were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the tax payers looking to bailout.

But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy– Helping the — Oh, it’s got to be about job creation too. Shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americas.

And trade we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive scary thing. But 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation.

This bailout is a part of that.

Notice the last sentence in bold text? Isn't it a frightening echo of the answer George W Bush gave to Bob Schieffer four years ago?

The point of this really long post, I guess, is this: How you vote reflects on your education and your intelligence. It shows not only what your values are, but how informed you are, and to what extent you are capable (or incapable) to see through the spin and the bullshit that candidates dish out to you. How you make your pick shows how (and if) you think about the candidates and the issues. What kind of country you want to build for yourselves? What future do you want to leave your children? What do you wish to reward: lies, spin, personal appeal, and gut decisions? Or thoughtfulness, competence, and the ability to think complex issues through and make informed decisions?

What I am really asking is: America, how lucky will you feel, on November 4th? Lucky enough to reward ignorance and stupidity, again?

Country First? Give Me A Bill!

Predictably, Nancy Pelosy, Democratic House Speaker, is being blamed by Republicans for the failure of the House to pass the bailout resolution. Arguably, her speech was neither a masterpiece of political wisdom, nor a show of political diplomacy. But for the party that coined the slogan "Country First" in time for its Convention to kill a bill which will cost the country's economy billions of dollars is the height of hypocrisy.

Congressman Barney Frank, D-MA, nailed the hypocrisy with characteristic wit when he accused Republicans of "hurting the country" because someone "hurt their feelings," and proceeded to say this:
We have come together on a bill to alleviate the crisis, and because [Nancy Pelosi] hurt their feelings, they decide to punish the country? I mean, I would not have imputed that degree of pettiness and hypersensitivity. ... There were 12 Republican members who were ready to stand up for the economic interests of America, but not if anybody insulted them. I'll make an offer. Give me those 12 people's names and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them and tell them what wonderful people they are and maybe they'll now think about the country.

McCain's Failure Of Leadership

He suspended his campaign.
He spent the weekend calling Republican colleagues.
His surrogate, Steve Schmidt, said on Meet The Press on Sunday: "What Senator McCain was able to do was to help bring all of the parties to the table, including the House Republicans, whose votes were needed to pass this."
Should he be commended for his show of leadership?

What Harm Can Religion Do?

Well, for example, the financial rescue package failed to pass, but some Senate and House members have to leave to observe Rosh Hashanah. No, I am not kidding you.

This is what happens when you mix church and state.

And no disrespect meant to those of the Jewish belief. I'd say the same to members of Congress who wanted to celebrate Christmas or Ramadan: Get your f***ing asses back on the floor of the House and get back to work!

P.S. As of this moment, the Dow has lost 707 points.

Palin Is "Stupendously Ill Equipped For National Office"

It is not because Palin answers questions as if she were a runner-up in a beauty contest. It's because of her 20th century approach to energy and environmental issues.

So says Michael T. Klare in his stupendous Palin's Petropolitics.

Bill Cunningham: A Clinic In Chicanery

Bill Cunningham, host of Live on Sunday Night, it's Bill Cunningham, rose to national fame on February 26th of this year for calling "Barack Hussein Obama... a hack, Chicago-style" politician. Even John McCain, one who is generally loath to disavowing and repudiating [ad hominem or false attacks on his opponents], was quick to distance himself from Cunningham's use of Sen. Obama's middle name as inappropriate, given the obvious negative connotation, and from Cunningham's characterization of Obama as a "hack, Chicago-style" politician.

(Interestingly, on that occasion, Sen. McCain also said the following: "My entire campaign I have treated Senator Obama and Senator (Hillary Rodham) Clinton with respect. I will continue to do that throughout this campaign..." and "I want to dissociate myself with any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them." How soon we forget, right?)

Anyway, back to Cunningham...

Last night Cunningham played a You Tube montage, made by interspersing comments by Democrats who were all against oversight for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae and comments by Republicans who all asked for more oversight and reform of the two mortgage giants.

Cunningham glibly underscored the disingenuous presentation, assembled by cherry-picking quotes (all Democrats opposed, all Republican in favor? Come on!) by voicing the adjectives "Democrat" and "Republican" on each sound bite.

Cunningham's artful conclusion? Democrats carry the entire blame for the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

I'll say this: No doubt, some Democrats must have contributed to block reform and greater oversight of the two troubled companies, but guess who else did? McCain's campaign manager Rick Davies, a lobbyist who actively worked to prevent reform of the two housing giants; Phil Gramm, McCain's financial advisor who was instrumental in deregulating the banking industry; and many staffers of McCain's campaign, also lobbyists.

To suggest--as Cunningham was only too happy to do--that blame lies all on one side of the aisle is exactly the problem with the way politics are reported in this country.

Even allowing the point that Cunningham makes, that many Democrats opposed necessary oversight and reform, there is a huge gap in his reasoning (if we may call Cunningham's patent chicanery reasoning):

The clips in the You Tube video are from 2004. The last time prior to Jan 3, 2007, that Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate was in 1994. Since 1996, Republicans have controlled the House uninterruptedly and the Senate for 8 of 10 years.

Additionally, available data shows that Republicans have held the majority in the Goverment Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee from 1997 to 2007.

So I ask, Mr. Cunningham: who is to blame for the inaction that cost taxpayers $700 billion?

Let's See, What Else Is New.... Oh Yeah!

McCain's campaign has been running another false ad about Obama's Tax Plan. Again.

You can almost sense the desperation at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. I think, if they could, they would disqualify McCain from the presidential election. Because, let's face it, relying on the people punishing this type of campaign is a utopian dream.

As often, Ed Brayton hits the nail on the (he)ad on his blog:
But of course, these commercials are not aimed at voters who might go online and check the facts. They're aimed at voters who will accept them at face value. And there are lots of those voters out there, which is why they do it. They really should just end their campaign commercials with "I'm John McCain and I approved this lie.

Sen. McCraps?

Sen. McCain has many problems. The most apparent ones lately are that he knows nothing about the economy, and that he has no qualms about lying about his record or his opponent's, rather embellishing the former and slandering the latter. He also has--what do you know--a gambling problem.

I like going to Las Vegas myself, once in a while, so far be it from me to chastise Sen. McCain for his penchant for gambling (although the gambling problem that the NY Times reports in its article is a little more complex.)

But I rather wonder how the Sen. McCraps' Evangelical base will react, and what they will do on November 4th?

My guess is that they will hold their noses, vote for Gov. Palin, and pray that the Lord's will be done--soon into the first term.

A Sketch For The Ages

If you have not seen Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric last week, watch the video below. Such are the times we live in, when comedy cannot outdo reality.

Rich's Weekly Reality Check

McCain's Suspension Bridge To Nowhere. Who could have condensed the week better than Rich?

Running On Spin

If spin were a fuel, The McCain campaign would have single-handedly solved America's energy needs. (McCain and his surrogates are indeed using it as a fuel for their campaign.)

Here's an example:

Steve Schmidt, McCain campaign strategist, was on Meet The Press today. Again, and again, and again, he repeated that Sen. Obama voted to raise taxes on people making more than $42,000. This assertion, which has nothing to do with Sen. Obama's current tax plan, has been analyzed by FactCheck.com on August 8th. Seven weeks later, the McCain campaign keeps repeating this non-fact as if it were true.

Oh, and one more thing on the liberal media bias thing.

Tom Brokaw, liberal media representative ;-), concluded his interview with Steve Schmidt and David Axelrod (Obama's campaign manager) with this comment, following a discussion of the war in Iraq:
In fairness to everybody here, I'm just going to end on one note, and that is that we continue to poll on who's best equipped to be commander in chief, and John McCain continues to lead in that category despite the criticism from Barack Obama by a factor of 53 to 42 percent in our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

He could, of course, have quoted any of the many polls that have Sen. Obama leading, but the one category in which Sen. McCain leads was too good to pass, wasn't it, liberal media Tom?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Sentence To Nowhere

Need I really tell you who gave this answer to bolster her foreign policy credentials?

We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there, they are right next to our state.

Or this one, about the Wall Street bailout package?

That's why I say, I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bailout. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are [glances down] concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed [glances down] to help shore up our economy. [glances down] Helping the—oh, it's got to be about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform [glances down] and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief [glances down] for Americans, and trade we've—we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout [is a part of that].

The first analogy that comes to mind is that my high school classmates and myself used to give the same type of answers when our professors gave us an impromptu interrogation about things we were supposed to have studied, and hadn't. At least we had not been drafted for the vicepresidency of the United States, and the worst consequences our nation faced for our ignorance were... well, there weren't really any.

Reaching Across The Aisle

It involves making eye contact with people across the aisle, preferably without sneering, doesn't it?

Highlights From The First Presidential Debate

No matter how Republicans choose to spin the matter of McCain's alleged superiority in matters of foreign policy, this video puts the nail in the coffin.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Palin Problem

Those are not my words, but conservative writer Kathleen Parker's. She wrote The Palin Problem after the latest, laughable interview that the Republican VP candidate gave, with CBS's Katie Couric. Parker ends the article asking Palin to bow out, for the good of the country (in keeping with the Republican Convention's ridiculous slogan: "Country First".)

My favorite passages from the article:

Palin's recent interviews with Charles Gibson, Sean Hannity and now Katie Couric have all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out Of Her League...

Palin filibusters. She repeats words, filling space with deadwood. Cut the verbiage and there's not much content there...

If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself...

UPDATE: A friend of The Daily Fuel passed on the following article, written by Carl Bernstein, who needs no introduction. It ties in nicely with the Kathleen Parker article references in this post.

Bernstein cuts right through the "Country First" hogwash with this question: "whether in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, John McCain has committed -- by his own professed standards of duty and honor -- a singularly unpatriotic act." In his article, the answer is unmistakably affirmative.

Not All Crises Are Created Equal

Some crises warrant canceling an appearance on a late night show, some do not.

The McCain campaign has released an official excuse to explain why Sen. McCain canceled his appearance on Letterman on Wednesday night, only to be caught taping an appearance with Katie Couric.

An NBC News transcript shows that Ms. Nicole Wallace, a McCain campaign spokeswoman, said the following in an interview with the Today show with Matt Lauer: "I think we felt that this wasn't a night for comedy. David Letterman is, at all hours, very funny and humorous. And so I don't think people felt that having a few laughs last night was a priority, so." To which Lauer commented: "So it just was about comedy, not rushing--not actually rushing back to Washington." Exactly, Matt Lauer.

And in fact, the next morning McCain spoke at the Clinton Initiative--in NEW YORK.

So why am I still ranting about this? Because, as it happens, Ms. Wallace's explanation is a bit fishy. Why? Because on the night of Aug 29, 2005, Sen. McCain appeared on Conan O'Brien. In case you don't remember, on Aug 29, 2005, the levees broke in New Orleans.

In other words, not all crises are created equal in McCain's world. Of course, crises acquire a more solemn look when one is in the middle of a presidential campaign, right?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

McCain's Play

On Monday, I blogged the following about the as yet undebated bailout plan:
[I]t looks more and more like a plan to somehow thwart Obama's run for the White House. I am not smart to have figured it out, yet, but I am sure somebody smarter than me will find an explanation before long.

I smelled a rat, but I could not see things clearly. But at about 8 p.m. tonight, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) announced that House Republicans had walked out of the evening session that had been called to reconcile the differences that had emerged in the afternoon, after the "agreement in principle" that the parties seemed to have found in the morning had started to crumble.

Immediately afterward, CNN reported that soon after this afternoon's White House meeting with President Bush, congressional leaders, and his presidential rival, Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain went to talk to House Republicans who had expressed doubts on the agreement. A few hours later came Rep. Frank's announcement that talks had ended unproductively and that they will resume tomorrow morning.

It did not take long to put two and two together: McCain did not come to Washington to help an agreement; he came to kill it. After all, he is the same person who said, back in January: "The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should" (as reported by Think Progress). And who, on Tuesday, said that he had not yet read the two and a half pages Paulson report. (Once again, via Think Progress.) So what could he possibly contribute to the solution of the greatest financial crisis this country has seen since The Great Depression?

And now that Sen. McCain's ploy is evident, Sen. Obama finds himself in a no-win situation.

He can choose to go to Mississippi alone for Friday night's debate. If he does, I can almost guarantee you that House Republicans will announce, right before or right after the non-debate, that Sen. McCain was instrumental in convincing them to agree to a/the bailout plan that they had already agreed to, in principle, 24 hours earlier. And by the way, they will add, where is Obama in a time of crisis?

If Democrats should reject the newly drafted "McCain resolution" proposed by House Republican, they would be accused of playing politics at a time when the country needs true leadership. And we would never hear the end of how Sen. McCain put "Country First" while his opponent was debating himself in Mississippi.

The alternative is only slightly less undesirable. Sen. Obama could go along with Sen. McCain and postpone or cancel the debate to stay in Washington, which would kill the momentum his campaign has gained this week in virtually all polls.

Canceling, or postponing the debate, would be a win for Sen. McCain and a definite loss for Sen. Obama, as the debate could not have come at a worse time for Sen. McCain. The dip his poll numbers have taken is paralleled only by the worsening of the financial crisis. McCain needs a game changer to resurrect a wilting campaign. The added benefit, as some have already suggested, is that the make-up date for the missed presidential debate might very well be next Wednesday, the date originally reserved for the vice-presidential debate. It would spare the McCain/Palin ticket the certain embarrassment that Palin would bring upon herself with answers like "I can see Russia from Alaska, which makes me a foreign policy expert" or "I don't have that info with me, but I will get back to you, Gwen."

Either way, McCain has nothing to lose.

Trust me, this is exactly what his campaign advisers had in mind when they made McCain announce that he would suspend his campaign to take care of the financial crisis in Washington. Some observers called the decision a Hail Mary pass. In fact, it was a gadget play all along.

UPDATE: McCain's impulsiveness being what it is, he chose a third option, which I did not contemplate in my original post. He is, after all, going to debate Obama, even though the financial crisis has not been solved. Call it a flip-flop, if you like, or just another chapter in the myth of the maverick. Erratic, he is indeed.

Let the debate begin.

Wall Street Crisis An Attempt To Shock Us Into Submission

First things first.

The most important book you have not read is Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In it, Klein gives example after example of how the Milton Friedman's Chicago School of Economics has wreaked havoc on democracies and economies around the world under the (false) pretense of spreading free market ideas through democracy, whereas as a matter of fact democracy has often been the first casualty of free market expansion.

Now, Klein wrote an article that you need to read in order to understand the perils and the true intent that hide behind the financial crisis that this administration, with the complicity of an impotent Congress, has allowed to happen, much as many say that 9/11 or Katrina were allowed to happen (through ineptitude, willful neglect, or--as some maintain--by design).

Just today, the Wall Street bailout plan was halted in its tracks when it seemed that Congress had reached agreement. All of a sudden, Republicans pulled out of their hat, full of no end of tricks, a plan that would involve suspending the capital gains tax for two years. Now Republicans are showing their true colors: subsidizing the wealthy is their credo.

Ignore Klein's voice at your peril.

Show of Leadership?

Some (non-partisan operatives, no doubt) are commending Sen. McCain for suspending his campaign and going to Washington instead, to help Congress reach an agreement on the financial bailout bill. Some are even calling it a show of leadership on McCain's part. I do agree with them: it was a show indeed. One might even say all show, no substance.

Perhaps before they got so excited about McCain's leadership they could have read McCain's Financial Crisis Timeline, and McCain has not sponsored a banking bill this Congress.

Particularly distressing is the fact that, as of Tuesday, Sen. McCain admitted the following about the bailout package proposal: "I have not had a chance to see it in writing. I have to examine it." (see "Undecided on Wall Street Bailout Package.") By comparison, I blogged about it on Sunday, and I am not running for the highest political office in the country. That is the type of leadership that Bush displayed when he ignored the August PDB that preceded the September 11 attacks, entitled: "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S."

Let me sign off with this video from last night's Colbert Report, where--as customary--Colbert flattens the spin dead.

It bears repeating these two charts from Colbert's video: might this be the real reason why McCain decided to suspend his campaign?

(DISCLAIMER: Obviously the charts are not real, but they do make the larger point that McCain might be fleeing Friday's debate because it comes at a very inauspicious point in time for him, since most voters have begun to make a link between the current state of affairs and the responsibility that Republicans--McCain included--bear for it.)

Letterman Rips Into McCain

John McCain is a liar, a hypocrite and, by calling to postpone Friday's debate, he a acted childishly, not presidentially.

So it is only fitting that Letterman chose to tear him a new one when McCain cancelled his appearance on Letterman (his prerogative, mind you) saying that he had to catch a plane to Washington, D.C. to solve the financial crisis, only to be caught minutes later being interviewed by the obnoxious Katie Couric.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why I Am For Obama

Lately I have spent a lot of time calling out Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin for the blatant lies they keep repeating about their records, and Sen. Obama's. So the time has come for me to dispel the impression that my support for the Illinois senator is driven exclusively by anti-McCain sentiments, instead of pro-Obama enthusiasm.

The type of presidency that Obama envisions is one where his supporters should get involved, both socially and politically, to help him bring about the change he promises. This view of personal involvement in the life of one's local community, and of the nation at large, has been shaped by the years he spent in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods as a community organizer. He understands the power of the people, as well as he understand that a community organizer cannot bring about the change he envisions without the help of the people he is seeking to help. This is a very important, often misunderstood and wrongly maligned component of Barack Obama's experience as a community organizer: the realization that epochal change can only take place when people demand it and get personally involved.

Behind the Republicans’ distasteful and self-defeating sarcasm aimed at community organizers, best (worst) represented by Rudy Giuliani's odious snickering "what?!?" at the Republican Convention, lies the realization that the worst thing that can happen to Republicans, the protectors of the status quo, is for common people to get directly engaged in their own social and political future. Obama's plea for popular involvement in support of his presidency, were he to get elected, scares the bejesus out of the party that is literally hell-bent on not only maintaining, but in expanding the status quo to their advantage.

Obama's ability to mobilize supporters (shown by the grassroots support and direct involvement by legions of supports in his campaign) offers the perfect antidote to the unholy conservative alliance with, and exploitation of, the evangelical right. Obama’s message is so appealing, and so powerful, because he seems to have a genuine urgency about the change he talks about in his campaign speeches, having lived it himself. Sen. McCain's call for change, on the other hand, seems merely a slogan, accompanied as it is by his inability to genuinely relate to the problems that ail America's middle-class and the poor and by his 26 years in the Senate, during which things have hardly changed at all, if anything for the worse.

In other words, Obama's call for change seems credible, whereas McCain's campaign cries for change seem a last-ditch effort to defeat Obama on his strongest turf, behind which lies the Arizona senator's true desire: to maintain the status quo for the Republican's biggest contributors. Why else would he back the same fiscal policies, health care policies, and energy policies that have already failed under the eight years of Bush's rule? And why else would he surround himself with so many advisers currently or previously registered as lobbyists?

No one with an ounce of understanding, a beating heart, and a regular bank balance can doubt that change, quite radical in nature, is the only hope for a country left in shambles by eight years of neo-con mismanagement and hijacking of public resources. Republicans know it, and the best shot they had at preserving power was to field a candidate portrayed by the media (even the much despised liberal media) as a maverick, an anti-establishment candidate, which is more the stuff of legend than a reality-based assessment of a politician who has spent the last 26 years in Washington and has voted with President Bush 90% of the time. Also handy is McCain’s experience as a POW, the trump card that McCain pulls out whenever his credibility as a maverick is called into question. Stephen Colbert, ever the wry and perceptive commentator of political hypocrisy, summed it up best: "McCain himself is famously reticent about his Vietnam experience. He only mentions it when people ask unrelated questions."

My worst fears about McCain were confirmed when he picked his running mate: Gov. Palin, a churchy, ultra-conservative, former beauty queen who believes that victims of rape and incest should, by law, carry their pregnancies to term, and whose resemblance to George W. Bush in terms of secretiveness and cronyism is too close for comfort. The only plausible justification for McCain picking Palin over his favorite VP candidate, Joe Lieberman, was the Republican's party attempt to energize the base.

To counter Obama's message for change, Republicans have desperately thrown their full financial and media weight behind the most despicable smear and spin campaign yet seen, which rests on the willingness of disreputable characters to bald-facedly lie in front of mics and cameras around the country in exchange for substantial compensation, and which is funded by the moneyed interests that have more to lose from an Obama presidency than from a McCain's term as a butler for special interests.

These tactics hardly represent change, instead they are Washington usual at its very worst. I believe that is why Obama has so far tried not to respond in kind, to reinforce the change he advocates by avoiding the lies and smear on McCain's campaign that Republicans resort to with respect to Obama.

Republicans have also been trying to shift the country's focus from the need for change to Obama's inexperience. Needless to say, inexperience can be seen as an asset, not as a liability, by those who are tired of business as usual.

When Republicans attack for Obama's lack of experience, because he has only been a U.S. senator for only the past four years, their argument seems likely to backfire in a country that is really hungering for change. Who can better deliver change? McCain, with his 26 years of Senate experience which have culminated in his party dragging the hopes and finances of the middle class down for the past eight years; or Obama, with his desire "to make the government 'cool' again"?

If, on the other hand, Republicans imply that lack of experience is synonym for lack of judgment, as Sen. McCain himself has done on several occasions, that argument can also quite easily backfire. All people need to remember is that Sen. Obama was right in his opposition to the war in Iraq. The Republicans' hail Mary play is that Sen. Obama opposed the surge, which Sen. McCain instead supported, and that the surge has in fact worked. Of course, whether the surge has worked or not depends on the standards that one adopts to measure its success, which once again will be the subject of spin by both campaigns. But the inevitable truth remains: there would have been no need for a surge had the country followed Obama's lead in opposing the war in Iraq, instead of supporting it as Sen. McCain did. I trust that Obama's judgment on foreign policy more than Sen. McCain's famous distemper and volatility, and I believe that there is more than one way to secure the country against its enemies. Under President Obama, diplomacy and international cooperation would regain their pre-eminent role in dealing with the security threats that one country, even one with the mightiest military in the world, cannot defeat alone.

This country needs change on too many levels to mention, and it is unlikely that any one president can bring about all the change we need. The need for health care reform is critical, not only for individuals but to make American business more competitive around the world. Energy reform is needed to rebalance the mix of fuels we use to power our industry, transportation, and residential needs. Fiscal reform is needed to rebalance the tax burden from the middle-class and the poor to the wealthiest. To conservatives who like to say that the rich are already paying their fair share, I respond: not in terms of discretionary income, they are not. (Discretionary income is defined as gross income, minus taxes, minus necessities.) Corporate reform is needed, both in terms of the effective tax rate which corporations pay (corporate tax revenues are at their lowest point as a share of GDP since 1937. Source Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), and also in terms of CEO and Director compensation, particularly when compensation does not match the company's performance for investors. Other changes we desperately need are campaign financing reform, media and FCC reform, consumer credit reform, and-–as has become painfully apparent over the last few weeks—-banking reform.

On all of the above points, Obama has convincing and pragmatic plans. And while some of his plans do not go far enough (for example, Obama's health care reform plan stops short of single-payer, which would be my preference) they reflect Obama's carefully developed idea of what seems achievable under the current circumstances. After eight years of ideology-driven mismanagement of the republic, pragmatism seems particularly palatable. Politics, in a democracy, is the art of achieving what is possible. Under President Bush, too often, politics have been interpreted as the means of achieving ideological perfection, by running over one's opponents and by twisting the interpretation of the Constitution in a pretzel, to give the administration quasi-monarchic, if not dictatorial, power.

Which brings me to the last, but not least, reason why President Obama would be a breath of fresh air. It would be oh-so-nice to have someone in the White House who has a real appreciation for the importance of the Constitution as the glue that has held together the country for 230 years after its ratification. After eight years of quasi-dictatorial rule by a clan seemingly hell-bent on redefining the Constitution to its exclusive advantage, having a professor of Constitutional Law at the helm would be a dramatic change of course.

In the end, will Obama be able to deliver on his promise of change, or is change going to prove an empty campaign slogan? That depends largely on the support he gets from the American people. As I said, no one president can bring about all the change the country needs, but we can try with Obama and give him what he asked for: our enthusiasm, our commitment and our involvement. Count me in, and I hope we can count on you, too.

Lies Come Home To Roost

That would be McCain's home (well, one of them ten homes, anyway).

Remember when McCain said that Rick Davies, his campaign manager and lobbyist-in-chief, "has had nothing to do with [Freddie Mac] since [2005], and I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it"? Well, as it turns out, he should not have challenged anybody to examine Davies's record, because the NY Times and Newsweek did, and here is a summary of what they found.

This is particularly important because the McCain campaign has been running a smear ad campaign against Obama for his very tenuous ties with former (and discredited) Fannie Mae chairman, Frank Raines. The Obama campaign has denied Raines's role as an Obama economic adviser, and Time's magazine Karen Tumulty has already called the ad in question an attempt by the McCain campaign to play the race card on Obama.

Turns out that McCain's campaign ties to Freddie Mac are at least as egregious as Obama's ties to Fannie Mae, arguably more.

Which reminds me: those who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Particularly when they have so many lobbyists on their campaign and so many houses to fill with them that they have trouble keeping score.

Monday, September 22, 2008

This Would Have To Be A Joke, Right?

Wrong. And wrong.

So who is to say that the $700 billion package, which our Treasury is dying for Congress to approve and which would be out of bounds as far as Congressional review goes, will not contain several billion dollars for bonuses and golden parachutes for the companies it wishes to rescue? Once again, Section 8 of the bailout package seems a little fishy, don't you think? ("Section 8: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.")

Not only that: it looks more and more like a plan to somehow thwart Obama's run for the White House. I am not smart to have figured it out, yet, but I am sure somebody smarter than me will find an explanation before long. And when they do, I will post it here.


We must be living in really interesting times for me to quote, with a measure of approval, an op-ed by William Kristol. In today's NY Times he says he has doubts about the wisdom of the Wall Street bailout plan, and wonders:
[I]s the administration’s proposal the right way to do this? It would enable the Treasury, without Congressionally approved guidelines as to pricing or procedure, to purchase hundreds of billions of dollars of financial assets, and hire private firms to manage and sell them, presumably at their discretion There are no provisions for — or even promises of — disclosure, accountability or transparency. Surely Congress can at least ask some hard questions about such an open-ended commitment.

Coming from a guy who supported giving the administration blank check after blank check for the disastrously managed war in Iraq, this is really some call to caution.

As the saying goes, which is much used in Texas Hold'em when a bad player wins an incredibly badly played hand: "Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn from time to time." Well done, William Kristol!

A Conservative Endorsing Obama?

It happened. See Former National Review Publisher Endorses Obama. If you are an old-style conservative, you might find much to agree with.

UPDATE: Other endorsements of sorts can be found in this Bloomberg article, including those of three former SEC Chairmen (one Democrat and two Republicans). This quote is particularly striking: "Detached observers who watched [Obama] last week, especially in a Bloomberg Television interview, were taken by how conversant and comfortable he was on the subject, despite his thin record. Few detached observers came away with that impression watching the Arizona senator." Although, in fairness, it would be interesting to know the names and qualifications of the "detached observers" Hunt talks about in his article.

UPDATE TWO: Brace yourselves, for these must be the end times. George Will has voiced a quasi-endorsement of Obama (in the form of a rejection of McCain as, Will's words, the Queen Of Hearts.).

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Frank Rich's Weekly McCain Fact Check

As usual, Frank Rich hits the head of not just one, but all the many rusty, rotten, infection-laden nails left lying around by McCain and his campaign. Read his Sunday op-ed and pass it on to friends, family, and foes alike.

Outrage, Where Art Thou?

If you are not outraged yet, you really have been paying no attention to the events of the last few weeks in the financial world. (If that is any consolation, you are in the company of John McCain, who said on Monday that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong"). Or perhaps your really busy life prevented you from following the news.

That is why I have put together this handy digest of quotes and articles that summarize some of the most hair-raising, bloodcurdling, stroke-inducing aspects of the mess we just found out we're in.

From Moguls Steal Home While Companies Strike Out, by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship:
During the last five years of his tenure as CEO of now-bankrupt Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld's total take was $354 million. John Thain, the current chairman of Merrill Lynch, taken over this week by Bank of America, has been on the job for just nine months. He pocketed a $15 million signing bonus. His predecessor, Stan O'Neal, retired with a package valued at $161 million, after the company reported an eight billion dollar loss in a single quarter. And remember Bear Stearns Chairman James Cayne? After the company collapsed earlier this year and was up for sale at bargain basement prices, he sold his for more than $60 million.

From Free Market Ideology is Far from Finished, by Naomi Klein:
[I]f the state can intervene to save corporations that took reckless risks in the housing markets, why can't it intervene to prevent millions of Americans from imminent foreclosure? By the same token, if $85bn can be made instantly available to buy the insurance giant AIG, why is single-payer health care - which would protect Americans from the predatory practices of health-care insurance companies - seemingly such an unattainable dream? And if ever more corporations need taxpayer funds to stay afloat, why can't taxpayers make demands in return - like caps on executive pay, and a guarantee against more job losses?

From US Empire: An Orgy of Debt, by Eric Margolis:
The "free market" Republican administration has ended up nationalizing nearly $1 trillion worth of businesses, including the federal mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, and global insurer AIG. Welcome to Wall Street socialism.

From The Complete--Though Ever-Changing--Elite Consensus Over the Financial Collapse, by Glenn Greenwald:
What is more intrinsically corrupt than allowing people to engage in high-reward/no-risk capitalism -- where they reap tens of millions of dollars and more every year while their reckless gambles are paying off only to then have the Government shift their losses to the citizenry at large once their schemes collapse? We've retroactively created a win-only system where the wealthiest corporations and their shareholders are free to gamble for as long as they win and then force others who have no upside to pay for their losses. Watching Wall St. erupt with an orgy of celebration on Friday after it became clear the Government (i.e., you) would pay for their disaster was literally nauseating, as the very people who wreaked this havoc are now being rewarded...

The three key provisions [of the bailout plan are]: (1) The Treasury Secretary is authorized to buy up to $700 billion of any mortgage-related assets (so he can just transfer that amount to any corporations in exchange for their worthless or severely crippled "assets") [Sec. 6]; (2) The ceiling on the national debt is raised to $11.3 trillion to accommodate this scheme [Sec. 10]; and (3) best of all: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency" [Sec. 8].

Put another way, this authorizes Hank Paulson to transfer $700 billion of taxpayer money to private industry in his sole discretion, and nobody has the right or ability to review or challenge any decision he makes. (Emphasis added.]

And, finally, you can find a roundup of what several economists think about the bailout plan in 'Taxpayer Ripoff': Many Economists Skeptical of Bailout, by Avi Zenilman. It contains, among many, the following chilling quote:
President Bush is “asking for a huge amount of power,” said Nouriel Roubini, an economist at New York University who was among the first to predict the crisis. “He's saying, ‘Trust me, I'm going to do it right if you give me absolute control.' This is not a monarchy.”

Knowing everything we know about how President Bush's has mishandled the power he has been given or that which he has seized during his almost eight years in power, how do you feel about him "doing it right"?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What's Sinking Faster Than Our Economy?

The answer, alas, is our nation's democratic process.

In the wake of the wave of collapses and bailouts that has hit the U.S. economy in the last few weeks, the ties of both presidential candidates to lobbyists and to the companies that have so suddenly and brutally risen to the forefront of American politics have come under increasingly intense scrutiny.

The truth is that while the degree of each candidate's involvement with each collapsed company varies, and each campaign accuses the other of being more and more egregiously enmeshed in the corrupt dealings of Washington, very little attention is being given to the fact that as long as the election system is built to confer an advantage on he (or she) who raises and spends the most money, it is naive to expect politicians to live ethically squeaky-clean lives and to refuse all money thrown at them by special interests (of all kinds, not just of the corporate kind).

In the United States, elections in general, and presidential elections in particular, have become an extremely demoralizing process for people who have any use for intellect. The media focus their reporting on all things controversial, rather than on substance. This practice has become so pervasive that campaign appearances have been transformed into a hit-parade of sound-byte material, because candidates know that they need to make statements 5 to 15 seconds long that will be repeated by media outlets over and over and over again. Sarcastic comments are rewarded way beyond substantive remarks for their ability to instantaneously focus the attention of viewers, readers, and listeners. Discussion of one's proposals are often left intentionally fuzzy, so as not to provide an opponent's campaign with the ability to twist one's message.

More troubling than anything else, the ability to outspend one's opponent has become an essential element for any campaign, because it increases the number of ads that a campaign can run. A candidate's message is reinforced not because of its inherent value, but by mere repetition. Political ads are more often than not designed to spread misinformation, doubt, and--in the most egregious cases--lies about a candidate's opponent(s), not to mention fear. (A famous example is the "pack of wolves" ad that the Bush campaign ran in 2004 against John Kerry.) Ads are particularly detrimental to the democratic process because they allow no immediate rebuttal by the candidate targeted by the ads. They are the very antithesis of democratic discourse because they disproportionately reward a type of politics based on negative attacks.

Opponents of this type of money-driven politics often refer to the need to replace the current election financing system, which relies above all on a candidate's ability to raise inordinate sums of money, with public campaign financing, as if by merely substituting one source of funding for another would give us back a democracy where good ideas are rewarded rather than the basest, most reptilian instincts of the voting public.

Don't get me wrong: I support public campaign financing, if for no other reason that it would allow people with good ideas but low fund-raising ability to enter into the electoral arena, and we are in dire need of fresh ideas and perspectives. Nonetheless, we should consider taking some other measures, even quite drastic ones, if we really want to elevate our political discourse above the level of a mere race between people.

Banning Political Ads
I am firmly convinced that the first step in bringing the campaign process back to some sort of balance would be a total ban on political ads, for a number of reasons.

First of all, they debase the electoral process, which should be regarded as the most sacred institution of a democracy, to the level of a commercial product. Arguably, that is what elections have become. The stakes are so high that supporters of one candidate or another have a vested interest in "selling" their candidate to the public. However, the deleterious effect on the democratic process of effectively reducing a candidate to a marketable product can hardly be underestimated.

Also, it is harder to convey positive messages in the time usually allocated for an ad (30 seconds), and it is even harder to make them memorable, which is why so many ads take the opposite approach and are used to attack an opponent (with only the possibility of a deferred rebuttal). As we are told time and time again to justify the disgusting negative campaign almost all politicians run, negative ads work.

Lastly, a particularly disquieting aspect of TV ads is the fact that images can convey quasi-subliminal messages that can appeal to voters' worst prejudices and instincts, not to their reason or to higher ideals. Just to take the latest example, without seeking to criminalize Sen. McCain, one of his latest campaign ads juxtaposes images of Sen. Obama with a former Fannie Mae executive, Frank Raines, to establish a connection between the presidential candidate and the collapse of Fannie Mae. Nothing wrong with that, right? In fact, it seems that the ad is designed not only to establish a connection between Sen. Obama and the Fannie Mae collapse, but also (some say mainly) to play on some voters' racial bias and fears.

Banning Opinion Polls
Next, I believe polls should be banned as well. Not all uses of polls, or all types of polls, mind you. For example, campaigns should be allowed to run their own polls to gather data about how their candidate and his or her opponents are doing. Exit polls should be allowed, particularly for their value in identifying problems with the way elections have been conducted (they are often used by international organizations in new or particularly frail democracies to monitor election results.) These concessions having been granted, polls should neither be treated as news items nor, with rare exceptions, they should be afforded the status of a science. They are neither news nor science. Too often their power of manipulation exceeds all other positive considerations.

From a news-worthiness standpoint, they only manifest purpose they serve is to excite the public into viewing the election as a race, a quasi-sporting event, or an entertainment phenomenon.

From a scientific point of view, polls are anything but scientific. Suffice it to say that on any given day different polls can put a different candidate in the lead, often with widely varying margins. Different news organizations are affiliated with different polling outfits. Why? In a best case scenario, to provide an exclusive service to its readers/viewers/listeners. In an Orwellian word, to serve their special interest and to manipulate public opinion in expecting a certain result on election day.

Polls are rather an art than science. Their accuracy depends on a number of factors, including the size and the demographic of the polling sample, the polling methodology, what questions the polls is seeking to answer, and how such questions are phrased. All these elements are components of pollster bias. In this sense, polls have a high potential for subtle (or not so subtle) manipulation.

Again, I am not saying that polls have no place in society. But using them as news items does not serve the public's interest, and--in the worst-case scenario--has the potential to intentionally mislead the public. Therefore, any organization that wants to run a poll should be free to do so, as long as poll results are kept under lock and key until after the election.

TV And Radio Rules
Networks and cable channels are licensed organizations. These public licensees are authorized to broadcast by we, the people (through the FCC), in consideration for "public interest, convenience, or necessity." In exchange, they should be obligated to provide a certain number of free airtime hours to candidates and political parties during the electoral season. That is the price they have to pay for the privilege of being awarded a license by the American public. The price of politics would plummet and the balance of politics would shift back to a system that rewards ideas, instead of financial might.

Limiting The Influence Of Special Interest And 527 Committees
Special interests (like 527 committees such as the Swiftboat Veterans, the AARP, etc, the AFL-CIO) who desire to purchase airtime to promote a certain point of view can only do so in the context of a program where the campaign or other special interest group that is being attacked has access to equal time for rebutting the accusations (and/or proposals) of the 527 committee that has initiated the request for airtime.

Naturally, special interests will throw all of their financial and organizational weight against such a change. They will defend the idea, which I hold to be baseless as it relates to the political process, that money equals free speech (the implication being that since the right to free speech is practically limitless, so is the amount of money that an entity should be able to invest in spreading its message). Though money does buy free speech, it is not the same as free speech. If it were we'd have a plutocracy, not a democracy. (That in fact we might already be a plutocracy is a topic for another post.)

Taking The Best From The Rest
Other countries, even ones where the political scene is no less polarized than in the United States, have established different rules for how elections must be conducted, aimed at safeguarding civil discourse and at protecting the integrity of the electoral process.

Here are a few examples of how different countries handle the electoral process.

In Italy, a tenet of the electoral law is "par-condicio". Among the most interesting aspects of par-condicio" are the following:

  • Poll results cannot be divulged to the public in the 15 days preceding election day.
  • Equal treatment, in terms of time and spaces, must be guaranteed to all political parties.
  • Time for political information and messaging must be provided by public licensees (tv and radio stations) free of charge.
  • Political ads on radio and TV are only allowed during some dedicated broadcasts.

In Denmark, "the guidelines of the "Danish Radio and Television" (a national public service station) ensure all registered political parties equal access to pre-election programmes on radio and television. The parties in question (no matter how small) are given equal time free of charge to present their manifestos, etc. to the public. Advertisements by political parties on national and regional Danish radio and television channels are not permitted." (See http://www.folketinget.dk/BAGGRUND/00000048/00232623.htm)

You can check out some interesting facts about how a number of other countries handle access to political information and messaging via this link.

There are several things that a civilized country can do to protect the electoral process.

Because ads and polls have been used so widely and, arguably, so successfully, even when their use is antithetical to the public interest, we have come to accept them as an integral part of the electoral process, a necessary evil. They are not. Their detrimental influence is recognized in other countries, and for that reason they have been banned or subjected to strict rules limiting their availability to the public.

Equal treatment of all political subject is an essential safeguard for the integrity of the democractic process. This principle should be valid not only during general elections, but also during primaries (to prevent, for example, the situation that occurred during the Democratic and Republican debates where certain candidates had the lion share of airtime, while others were largely ignored or had to answer different, even trivial, questions.) To prevent the number of candidates from ballooning in the early stages of the primaries, parties could set up certain entry mechanisms (for example, candidates would have to collect a certain number of signatures in support of their candidacy to be allowed to enter the primary process.)

Access to airtime, both on radio and tv, should be free for political parties. It would be the civic dute of broadcasters to reserve a certain amount of air time for political broadcasts in exchange for the privilege of being allowed to broadcast with public licenses.

Within newscasts, candidates and their surrogates should receive the same amount of coverage. This should be a condition for a station to be able to maintain its publicly awarded license. Outside newscasts, all candidates would receive a certain amount of time for their messaging, to be used in blocks of a set duration. So, for example, each candidate would be allowed a daily slot of five minutes during prime time for every day leading up to the election. The five minute slot may be increased as election day approaches, and may increase, for example, to half an hour on the Sunday before the election, with Monday being a day of national "meditation" (no airtime for any candidate). No other political messages would be allowed until the last polling stations in the nation have closed.

A combination of these or other safeguards may succeed in giving our democratic process a new beginning, one that would move us away from the corrupt and demoralizing status quo and that might restore our hopes for the future of our democracy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Krugman: McCain On Banking And Health

You can cry or you can laugh, but here is another example of what a McCain presidency would do to our lives. Paul Krugman dug up this gem (and, for the benefit of readers afflicted with ADHD, it is short.)

Where Does Tom Toles Get The Inspiration For His Cartoons?

Just kidding! But...

On Monday, September 11, I published a post called Lies: The Bridge To The White House.

Then, on September 15, I saw this cartoon by Tom Toles on the Washington Post website.

Land Of The Free?

Sure, as in Free Speech Zone. But what if you step out of the free speech zone?

As Democracy Now's Amy Goodman knows, you get arrested, even with your press credentials in plain sight.

NOTE: While both incidents discussed here happened at the RNC in the Twin Cities, the same type of treatment was reserved for demonstrators (I prefer that word to the loaded "protesters") at the DNC in Denver.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Redistributing Wealth? Give Me A (Tax) Break!

I just heard another shameless talking head (Eric Cantor, R-Virginia) say that Obama wants to raise taxes on Americans and redistribute wealth, and I cannot take it any more.

For the umpteenth time: Obama's plan will cut taxes for everyone but the wealthiest 5% of Americans. 95% of Americans would see larger cuts under President Obama than under President McSame (or McShameless, if you prefer, given the type of campaign he and his surrogates have been running--false attack, after false ad, after false attack, endlessly).

And by the way, if you really want to talk about wealth redistribution, the biggest talking point of Republican scaremongers this year, ask yourself this:

Do you think that the Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers and AIG execs, who ran their companies into the ground and sailed away with their golden parachutes, are returning any of the money they stole? Guess who just bailed their bankrupt companies, or paid for lost tax revenues for their mismanagement? WE DID! Gullible, senseless, ignorant American taxpayers!

We believe everything talking heads tell us, so I guess most of us deserve it. But what is it you don't fricking understand?

When Republicans tell you that Democrats want *socialized* medicine for you, trying to scare your pants off with visions of brown shirts marching from the Washington Monument to Lincoln's Memorial, while *bureaucrats* decide what doctor you are allowed to see, they are working to deny you of one of the most basic human rights, recognized by all civil societies: access to healthcare. Their prescription? More free-market, the same free-market that brought you skyrocketing insurance costs, 100 million un- or under-insured folks, high deductibles, non-payment of benefits you thought you had and never knew you didn't, until you needed them, and I could go on, and on.

And yet, when Fannie Mae goes under, we rescue it with tax money that we can hardly spare because we have squandered more than half a trillion dollars on a war we did not need to fight in Iraq, and because the cost of everything we buy every day has gone up, and the value of our one home (not ten houses, like McCain's) has dropped 15-20%, and our pay stagnates (if we are lucky enough to have kept our job), and we cannot afford to see a doctor because our Republican representatives (and too many Democrats) are swimming in pools of gold inside the pockets of their health insurance contributors. We had to do it, though, we are told, because the consequences for Americans would be much more catastrophic if we hadn't. And we are so stupid, or duped, or both, that we don't even pay attention any more to the fact that the McCain campaign is full of surrogates who have enabled this economy to get to this crashing point, who have already taken the money and run. They have not run away, their heads lowered in shame. They have run to the open arms of the White House and the Republican party, who day after day enlists and/or creates crooks from and for the private sector.

No one dares speak the truth: we live in a fallen nation, where crooks pocket the profits and socialize the risk, while we elect the people that make it all possible!

This corrupt system relies on the enablers and the complicity of the conservative media establishment. People like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, Mike Savage, Glenn Beck, Dennis Miller on a national level, and "Gunny" Bob, Mike Rosen, Jon Caldara, Caplis, Oliver, here in Colorado, feed us a daily dose of demonstrably false crap, and we are to too lazy or too dumb not to believe them. These hacks, these word mercenaries, spoon-feed us the ridiculously false reasons why we must not vote for Obama in November: Obama's a Muslim, he will raise your taxes, he is all smoke-and-mirrors (this one is particularly insulting, from the party that brought you the war in Iraq), he wants to teach sex to kindergartners, and--did I mention--he wants to raise your taxes. These are people whose credibility should be in the shitter, after eight years of covering up for the natural and artificial disasters that Bush and Republican allowed to happen or contributed to, with their distaste for efficient government and a job well done. They should be hanging their heads in shame. Instead, they are on TV every day with their big lying smiles, or on the radio, spewing their hateful lies, with total impunity. Not just impunity: every for years, we reward them?!?

If we elect another Republican president to the White House in November, we will have truly deserved the crumbs that will trickle down from the top 5% of earners, and the downpour of shit, and disasters, and sickness, and spin that we will choke under.

But I should say you, not we, because the world is my oyster, and if McCain is elected, I will move to a place where people do not bend forward, with their pants down, every four years, ready to be willingly f***ed when a political party tells them "vote for us, or gays will be allowed to marry!"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Changing The Subject...

...though not entirely. ;-)

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fox's Idea Of Fair And Balanced

Check out this graph, draw your conclusions.

The graph is taken from an informative study by Media Matters, which you can read in its entirety here. It also sheds not a little light on the liberal media myth and has a number of other interesting graphs.


Pardon my French (Spanish, rather), but the Obama campaign finally found the cojones to address McCain's sleazy tactics.

Say Again?

On today's Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw showed the following clip:

(Videotape, April 14, 2008)

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: This will be a respectful campaign. Americans want a respectful campaign.

They're tired of the attacks. They're tired of the impugning people's character and integrity. They want a respectful campaign, and, and I, and I'm am of the firm belief that they'll get it, and they can get it if the American people demand it and reject a lot of this negative stuff that goes on.

(End videotape)

Oh, really? I wish Sen. McCain would explain this ad, then:

(Videotape of political ad)

Narrator: Obama's one accomplishment? Legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners. Learning about sex before learning to read? Barack Obama, wrong on education, wrong for your family.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I'm John McCain, and I approved this message.

(End videotape)

Of course, the ad is only one of many smearing ads that the McCain/Palin campaigh has aired this week, and ads are only one of the tactics that the campaign has employed to spread lies about Sen. Obama and about McCain and Palin's accomplishments, which are often exaggerated and/or have been debunked, completely or in part.

NOTE: I chose to use the transcript instead of the clip from Meet The Press (which is available) because tne video tape was played in the context of an interview with the odious, snide, and lying Mayor Giuliani, who went on to spread more of the same lies that the most media outlets chastised this week.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


It's not often that I entitle one of my posts with an interjection expression wonderment and surprise, but then again I do not find an analysis of American politics that leaves me mouth agape for its accuracy and perceptiveness. Of course, it had to come from a Brit. Read here.

Not So Fast, Krauthammer!

Charles Krauthammer, of the Washington Post and Fox News came (predictably, some conservative had to) to Sarah Palin's rescue on her inability to answer Charles Gibson's question on the Bush Doctrine. In Palin's defense, he says:
There is no single meaning of the Bush doctrine. In fact, there have been four distinct meanings, each one succeeding another over the eight years of this administration -- and the one Charlie Gibson cited is not the one in common usage today. It is utterly different.

So, is Sarah Palin's indecision and apparent cluelessness to be condoned, and is Charles Gibson to be condemned for posing the question? Not so fast!

First of all, the meaning of Bush doctrine today may be different, but to say it is "utterly different" is at least a stretch. It still includes the concept of unilateral, pre-emptive war, which remains a salient aspect of the overall doctrine.

As for Gibson's question, I will not go into whether he meant it as a "gotcha" moment: only Gibson knows it and I cannot assume to know the answer for him.

But I offer you this rebuttal from a blog I found. It says that Palin's request for clarification was technically correct because the Bush doctrine has shifted over time (what a surprise!), but here's the problem:

in common parlance the Bush doctrine clearly refers to the doctrine of preventive war that was used to justify the Iraq War. That much is obvious to anyone who has followed the issue. None of the elements of President's Bush' foreign policy philosophy ever got the same level of attention as that doctrine, which was really seen as a massive shift when it was announced in 2002.


To think of this in another way, if I were to ask someone, "Do you think that Barry Bonds' record should have an asterisk on it?", I would expect them to know which record I was talking about. If they were to answer, "Which record?", my assumption would be that they didn't know all that much about baseball. I obviously would not be referring to Barry Bonds the all time leader in base on balls or record holder for most league MVPs. No. I'd be talking about his 762 Home runs. Because that is the record that is so controversial. The one that has elicited so much debate and the one that is the main source of controversy. To assume anything else would be technically correct, but also incredibly stupid.

People can make all the excuses they want. But the reality is that if Sarah Palin had been paying attention to the huge foreign policy debate going on in this country over the past few years she would have known exactly what Charlie Gibson was talking about." (The whole post is here.)

I believe that Krauthammer is himself putting a good deal of spin on this issue. First of all, Gov. Palin seemed to have a genuine "deer in the headlight" moment when confronted with Gibson's question. Gibson caught on and gave her enough rope to hang herself, which she certainly did with her indecision and fumbling attempts at an answr. Secondly, if her doubt had been about genuine confusion on which one of the aspects of the Bush doctrine Gibson had intended, she could have said "Charlie, as you know there are many elements to the Bush doctrine. Which one are you specifically referring to?" Instead this is the full exchange between Palin and Gibson:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.
GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?

As you see from the transcript, Palin equated the Bush doctrine with "his world view." Gibson did subsequently clarify that he meant the doctrine as expressed by the White House in 2002. Even then, the best Palin could muster was a fudgy answer about international terrorism, blunders and the beauty of American elections. Still no word on Bush's policy of unilateral, preventive intervention (some may call it aggression.)

Perhaps Charles Gibson really intended to put Gov. Palin on the spot. Perhaps he did so knowing that the Bush doctrine has evolved. But even then, he gave Palin the chance to recover from her initial impasse and she failed to articulate a pertinent answer.

In spite of Krauthammer's intellectual somersaults, Palin's inability to answer seems indefensible for a VP candidate.

Focus On McCain

Frank Rich of the NY Times hits the nail on the head when he writes:

if Obama wants to win, “he needs to remember he’s running against John McCain for president,” not Palin for vice president. Obama should keep stepping up the blitz on McCain’s flip-flops, confusion, ignorance and blurriness on major issues (from education to an exit date from Iraq), rather than her gaffes and résumé. If he focuses voters on the 2008 McCain, the Palin question will take care of itself.

I agree, with one caveat: McCain's choice of Palin for the VP spot on the ticket speaks volumes about McCain's judgment, the emptiness of the Republican's "Country First" slogan, and the fact that his contention that he would rather lose an election that lose a war is *bs*, since in order to win the election he chose the least qualified of all the people that were in the running. He did so for purely utilitarian and political reasons, and he should have hell to pay for it. And by the way, McCain himself of Obama that it is not the experience that he lacks, but the judgement. Obama chose Joe Biden as a running mate, McCain choose Palin. Is he really sure he wants to make this an election about judgment?

Read the rest of Rich's op-ed here.

Ladies And Gentlemen...

...the next vice-president of the United States!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Obama Camp: Is There Anything The McCain Campaign Isn't Lying About?

Earlier on, I published a post called Border Crossing Lies. This article expands on the subject, pointing out that not only Gov. Palin has never been in Iraq, but the other nation that she mentions as having been to is Ireland. Well, has she been in Ireland? Yes, for a refueling stop.

Ap-Palin-gly Petty Politician

Shrewd, she might be. Principled, not at all. The NY Times has done good research on Palin's spotty past.

Border Crossing Lies

I don't know about you, but when I cross a border to enter a foreign country I know it. Sarah Palin and McCain will say anything they think will get them elected, and they do it every minute of every day. Like here.

Small Town Values, In All Their Glory!

Much has been made of the fact that the Republican party favors small town values (remember Rudy Giuliani, the mayor of NEW YORK, making fun of Obama about cosmopolitanism?), particularly after the pandering, indefensible choice of former Wasilla mayor, and current Gov. Alaska, Sarah Palin. Well, Pharyngula drew my attention to this gem, once again from The Daily Show, about small town values.

By the way, before you accuse Pharyngula of being a snob, read the article PZ Myers posted on Small Town Values.
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