Friday, November 14, 2008

Update on Colorado "Person" amendment

In all the crush of election news I just about forgot about Colorado's noxious cell clump personhood amendment. Well, Coloradans weren't fooled by this poorly disguised anti-abortion amendment and, as Americans have almost universally done in the past few elections, expressed their absolute rejection at the polls.

Despite the fact that this amendment gathered little more than a third of the votes in any individual county, you can be certain the sponsors will be back again to waste taxpayer money, insult our intelligence and test our patience with another ballot measure. As long as they can muster the signatures required they will attempt to wear us down until a women's right to choose is history.

Hear this, American's want abortion to be safe, legal and, as was famously said, rare! We don't want them performed in back alleys. Put your efforts into better health care and education for both men and women so we can avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Make sure that there are other options available and take care of all the babies already on this earth who don't have adequate food, shelter and health care.

Ah well, wasted words I'm certain.

HIlary to run Obama State Department?

First off, apologies for not posting recently. I've been playing catch up as I've slowly emerged from my election hangover. News that President Elect Obama is considering Hilary Clinton as his Secretary of State brought me out of my lethargy.

One has to consider the rumor serious. Obama is too astute a politician to allow Hilary's name to come into play without there being serious consideration. I expected the new President to offer Hilary a position in his cabinet but I thought it would be in Health and Human Services, where should could help drive, and improve - in my opinion, his health care plans. I have to say I'm a bit shocked that she's being considered for State.

It's not that Senator Clinton is in any way unqualified for the position. In fact, on the face of it, I believe she would make a fine Secretary of State. My concern is that foreign affairs was the main point of friction and debate between Clinton and Obama during the long primary and the place where each hammered the other most powerfully and effectively. Remember Clinton's 3am calls?

I don't doubt that President Obama can put aside the campaign for the all important business of running the country. Both Clinton and Obama are consumate pros and can do the required dance of elections and actual governance. The question is, was this all about the campaign or are there serious differences on the issues between the two. That's hard to tell at this point. Viewpoints on the war in Iraq appear to be converging across the spectrum at this point. The Iraqis seem more and more united in their desire to get their country back and see our backs. While the timetable may differ, most parties stateside are moving towards a serious reduction of forces in Iraq and an eventual withdrawal, at least of major combat forces.

The only serious debate left seems to be whither Afghanistan. As this wasn't the issue that separated the two primary combatants, it shouldn't be difficult to find common ground and support a unified policy.

Perhaps this can be seen as Obama's first step in putting together the echo of Lincoln's cabinet. A cabinet of, if not his opponents, then at least of strong personalities and independent minds. I think it's something he can pull off. At a minimum it will make for interesting political theatre over the coming months as the cabinet posts become known. John McCain for Secretary of Defense, anyone?

Friday, November 07, 2008

CHANGE.GOV Yes We Can?

Well, I wrote the day after the election how a President Obama could use the resources he built during his campaign to build a new resource to help him govern. Here is the first step, change.gov

This is where you can follow the transition process; learn about the administration, it's transition team and appointees; share your story about the election or your ideas for what the administration should do (ok, I have little faith that this section will be given serious consideration but. . .); learn more about how the government works; learn about the challenges the administration thinks are primary and their ideas for dealing with them; and even apply for jobs in the administration.

Now, I may be mistaken but I don't recall anything like this in 2004. Granted, the Bush administration was already firmly ensconced in power but the Whitehouse site has never been very welcoming in this way. It's always appeared much more a propaganda tool than an educational one or a truly open involving site.

Overall I consider the rapid appearance of this well made, if simple, site to be another sign that this administration will be very effective in office. I've signed up for regular updates and look forward to seeing how they use this site and the rest of the campaign edifice they've built to harness the power of the people to help them truly effect change. Think me naive? I'll be happy to wear that label until the new administration proves it one way or another.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

California's Massive Election Stinkbomb

Well, my joy at last night's election was not undiluted. Unfortunately, we in California saw our constitution polluted by an amendment targeting a specific group and removing some of their rights under law.

Yes folks, I'm talking about that enormous blight on California, proposition 8. This "turdblossom", to steal a Bush moniker, was passed by 52% of my fellow golden state voters. Most people that I spoke with who voted for this amendment believed the outright lies and distortions they'd been fed by proposition's proponents. They were in fear of their children being "taught" gay marriage in public schools. Of course none of them could recall their children being taught straight marriage in public schools, it isn't, but that didn't deter them from voting to deny others a fundamental right on the basis of this fear.

They believed that their churches would be forced to marry homosexuals or face fines and lawsuits despite the clear statements by authorities that this is not the case.

Remember folks, there is no specific gay marriage law that permits gay marriage and requires any attendant changes in other areas of society. There is only a simple reading of the equal protection clause of the California constitution that says no one can be denied their rights or provided with ersatz separate but equal rights under the law. Not sure what's so difficult to understand about that.

Any other battles in the culture wars being fought at the extreme fringe of our society are a separate issue. This one is a simple one about equal rights.

Instead of equal rights, we have now written discrimination into our constitution. Way to go California, two steps forward, one step back. Well, progress is never easy. At least this time around, the bigotry received only a simple majority, which amazingly is all it takes to poison our constitution, 60% to passa damn budget but 50% plus 1 to pass a constitutional amendment. The last time the anti-gay forces, (yes, that's what you are), were at this game, they garnered over 60% of the vote. Just a few years later, we've come a long way. Perhaps soon we can amend the constitution to remove this awful stain.

In the meantime, there are lawsuits to come. How is it that one constitutional amendment can stand in opposition to the basic document itself without modifying that section??? In other words, if the equal protection clause is unmodified and is the basis for the rights of gays and lesbians to marry, then proposition 8 is still unconstitutional unless it directly modifies that clause, which it doesn't. If proposition 8 does, in fact, modify the equal protection clause then it is a revision, not an amendment and must be passed by a different set of rules.

This ain't over yet, my friends. This may go all the way to the supreme court. Personally, I'd rather not see that right now. Hopefully we can resolve this at the state level with the lawsuits that have been filed. If not, I would guess that a few years down the road, the majority of Californians will be ready to repudiate this odious piece of law that reminds me of nothing so much as a remnant of the discredited philosophy of apartheid.

Congratulations President-Elect Obama! Now What?

What a ride. This election has been interminable and I think we're all thankful that it's over. well, maybe most of us, anyway. There will always be a hard core group on the losing side that can't let go and carries the vehemence and vitriol of the election over into the interregnum period. They are caught in a parallel universe of the never ending election. I hope they enjoy it there. I'd find it a horribly noxious place.

For the rest of us, we can now move forward into a new day and with a new American face to show the world.

Congratulations have been pouring in from my friends and relatives around the world. They are, without exception, ecstatic with our choice. Obama's election has reinvigorated many of us who always believed in our country and felt it had the potential to jump over it's own shadow and make such a departure from the past. More importantly, many who had despaired of America have been found their faith in this country reborn. I also believe that the mere fact of a President Obama will make life difficult for many of the hate mongers and anti-American forces abroad that decry our democracy and civil rights a sham. Obama spoke most forcefully on this subject himself, last night.

Now comes the inevitable question, "what now?" Truly that lies in all of our collective hands. The presidency is more than a symbol but it is also not the all powerful position many seem to think. The newly minted President Obama will inherit a horrific economic situation, two ongoing wars and the accumulated debt and deficits of the Bush era. On top of that he will have to deal with the limits of the office, something that Bush simply ignored with the complicity of the Republican - and later Democratic - majority in congress.

I have always argued that the President gets way too much credit for a good economy and too much blame for a bad one. They can, through use of the levers of power of the executive - regulation, enforcement etc. - push things strongly in one direction or another but they do not occupy the brand that makes legislation or sets the budget, that is congresses job. It’s time congress took their role more seriously. If they do, the new President may find one his challenges to be working constructively with congress while resisting it’s worst impulses. I expect President Obama to issue more vetoes, or veto threats, than President Bush. Still, the real power lies in congress and Obama will need a good strategy to deal with congress, even a congress of the same party. His mandate sized victory will help with this task. Many incoming congressmen and senators will have arrived there on the President’s coattails. In general, a large electoral victory provides a new President with significant cover in his dealings with the other branches of government and with the opposition.

President Obama will have another potential ace up his sleeve, though, you and me. Many people, especially on the right, denigrate Obama’s election slogans, “yes we can” and the, admittedly odd and awkward, “we are the change we’ve been looking for” as empty rhetorical devices. I think it’s clear that this President believes these phrases intensely. His entire campaign was built around not only the slogans but the fact of “we” making the change happen. Obama has presented himself as a leader, yes, but also the conduit through which we can personally effect change. During the election we effected change by making those $86 donations, $5, $10 and $25 at a time. We made calls to other voters, cajoling, arguing, encouraging and reminding them to vote for our candidate. We wrote email, we blogged, we spoke out about the issues and how we felt our candidate would be the best to address them. Every campaign depends on volunteers but the Obama campaign took this idea to new heights, making unprecedented use of the new communications technologies to link supporters with the campaign and each other.

I fully expect President Obama to call on us to continue to help him govern the way he asked us to help him achieve this office. Call me na├»ve but I think President Obama would be foolish to abandon such a resource. Aside from the obvious advantage of keeping this tool sharp for his re-election campaign, it is a tool without parallel for demonstrating grass roots voter support for the President’s positions. While there’s certain to be significant fall off in participation on the part of Obama supporters and we shouldn’t be expected to, nor will we, offer our support blindly regardless of the policy, keeping citizens directly involved will invest us in the outcomes and give us ownership of the policies in a way we’ve never experienced before on such a scale.

Obviously, this is not a blunt instrument to be used to bludgeon the President’s opponents and it must be used wisely and infrequently or “we” will quickly tire and grow disillusioned with our newfound involvement. We have lives to lead, jobs and families to attend to and our own local communities to manage. We have representative government for a number of good reasons and this is not meant to supplant that in any way. Rather, much as the many groups we may support ask us to contact our representative about a specific policy, the President may do the same.Such calls are not new. Presidents have requested such support in the past but the new administration possesses tools that previous administrations could not imagine and, as a result, the potency of such a call may be magnified many times over.

I had originally intended to write a simple post expressing my joy at the outcome of the election. And while that joy is undiminished, I felt it important to gird for the work to come. I’m confident that our new President will rise to the challenges that face us. I also hope and believe that he will engage us directly in the process.

Monday, November 03, 2008

More on Hillary Clinton's Support for Obama

Carrie Budoff Brown & Glenn Thrush, over at Politico, have an in depth article on the oft discussed relationship between Obama and the Clintons. The gist of the of the article is that the Clinton's relationship with Obama has deepened and improved over the past months and that they've supported him intensely.

Here's what I think is a salient quote from the article regarding Hillary Clinton's position on Obama vs. McCain. Must read for undecided Hillary Clinton supporters:

"Hillary Clinton’s relationship with her former rival is still constantly evolving.

After it became clear her in the spring that her comeback against Obama would come up short, Hillary Clinton plopped down into the front seat of her campaign plane and shared her thoughts on the general election with a handful of wrung-out staffers.

Clinton, whose relationship with Obama was still tense and tentative at that moment, professed no great affection or admiration for Obama, whom she regarded as less qualified than herself. But she would support him, body and soul, she said, because she was so terrified by the prospect of McCain sitting in the Oval Office. And that was before the credit markets crashed, setting off a domino effect on the U.S. economy.

“John McCain’s my friend; I really like him,” she said, according to a person who was within earshot. “But there’s just no way we can let him be president.”

Clinton’s relationship with Obama has improved markedly since then (although associates say she occasionally betrays her belief that she’s be a better candidate), but friends and associates say her manic work on behalf of her longtime Democratic rival is motivated not so much by Obamaphilia but, rather, by a bone-deep fear of McCain.

“She’s convinced he would destroy the country,” said a source close to the former first lady.

Her impression of McCain has gone even farther south since the troubles on Wall Street surfaced a few weeks ago. When supporters call to complain about Obama, as some still do, she invariably regales them with a polite but steely description of how McCain will drive the country off an economic cliff, people close to her say."
I guarantee you that Hillary knows John McCain better than you do! Think hard before you take that step off the cliff and vote for McCain.

The Bush Administration's Last Minute Gut of Environmental Regs

While we're all distracted by the ongoing election, the Bush administration is using its typical methods for gutting environmental regulation. They simply decree it, change the rule book. . . say it's so and it is. They're leaving the incoming President with a mess to clean up when they should be dealing with more serious issues. Want a power plant right next to your national park? Bush'll give it to you!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081103/pl_nm/us_bush;_ylt=AuQBZsGOtrxj_5Lqfzk_bBcb.3QA

Someone else's view of what this election is about

This links to a very nice article by Jonathan Curley about his experience canvassing for Obama. he's a conservative southerner. It's not highly political but it's an interesting personal perspective.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1103/p09s02-coop.html

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My Predictions for Election 2008

OK, as if anyone cares, I've made my predictions for the outcome of this election. It should come as no surprise that I predict that Obama will win. Assuming I'm correct this will significantly improve my "vote for a winner" percentage since my first presidential election in 1980. I have voted for exactly two winners out of seven. Ouch. I'm really hoping I make some progress towards batting .500!

But that's not much of a prediction, now is it? So, I've gone ahead and made my two - yes, I'm a weasel - election night scenarios over at Yahoo's political dashboard. Man, I do love that flash application. Another tool to feed my addiction this election cycle. If my man does lose I can only imagine how much tinkering I'll do with that map trying to figure out how we could have salvaged this.

Anyway, here are the links to my worst case and best case scenarios.

So, there's only a "slight" three state difference between the two. OK, those three states just happen to be Ohio, Florida and Virginia but what's 60 electoral votes amongst friends?

In my worst case scenario, Obama wins a total of 278 votes by holding on to the Kerry states and cutting a swath through the west with Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico. I think he's got those wrapped up pretty well. I also think he's likely to take either Florida or Ohio with him and might very well take both. 278 will do the job and I won't complain if that's how it goes. I do, however, hope that there is a larger, more solidly mandate oriented, majority to take home. I think it will help the country unite behind our new president and that's something we need badly.

In the best case scenario I see Obama picking up Ohio, Florida and Virginia, as I said, for a total of 338, a comfortable margin that meets the "mandate" criteria above, even if it's not a blowout.

I've read other projections that range up to 370 plus for Obama but I'm not all that comfortable with those. I doubt the election can fall to McCain, barring a catastrophe - or "miracle" as those on the right would call it - but I do believe that a large majority of the "undecideds will fall towards McCain. If they haven't been able to get "comfortable" with Obama by now I can't imagine what will push them his way at this stage. A majority is a majority though, it's not ALL the undecideds, which is what would have to happen for McCain to pull it off.

So, I expect a "tightening." That's normal. Unless the leading candidate moves out into landslide election it's natural for the polls and the race itself to narrow somewhat. Narrowing isn't a worry to me, especially in national polling.

So, that's it for Gersh. Nothing earth shattering. . . well, other than the election of our first minority president. While I'm not voting for Obama on that basis, it's something of which I am very very pleased. More on that later.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Founder Owner of Gun Manufacturer Quits over Obama Endorsement

I've read many stories in right wing blogs decrying pressure from the left that supposedly forces people out of their jobs for conservative views. If true, it is wrong, period.

Just to show that this ill wind blows well from the right:

http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2008/10/31/Gun_firm_head_resigns_over_Obama_support/UPI-19331225496140/

And if it's only believable if it comes from the land of the "Fair and Balanced", this:

http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/10/31/montana-gun-manufacturer-urges-obama-endorsing-company-president-resign/

Sorry, no comment. What country is this?

Wow! Obama knows an illegal alien . . .

Amazing, the news has just hit that Senator Obama's Aunt Zeituni is an illegal alien. Damn, Senator Obama knows an illegal alien. How weird is that? I bet none of you know an illegal alien, right? I mean, how could you possibly know an illegal alien, you wouldn't choose to associate with one, now would you?

Let's do the math. According to the GAO and the Pew Research Center there are about 12 million illegal aliens in the US or approximately one in every 25 people. And, of course, you don't know 25 or more people, right? Plus, you don't know THOSE people anyway.

Obama says he didn't know about his Aunt's immigration status but we know that's bunk, right? I mean, I ask all my new friends and any family members about their immigration status. Oh, you think that's racist, do you? Well. . . I ask the white ones too and, and. . . those without accents. No, it's true, I demand proper paperwork before granting friendship or acknowledging family ties. No supporting illegal immigration for me.

I urge everyone to reject this blatant disregard for our laws. Show the Senator from Illinois how it's done. Go out and confront your circle of acquaintances and people you do business with and root out the illegals amongst them! I'm sure you won't find any illegals of course, we already established that you wouldn't even think of having anything to do with anyone like that. So, what's the problem? Get started with your own personal "crusade" today. I'm sure your friends and relatives will all thank you for your interest.

Friday, October 31, 2008

My state is crazy. . . but not like conservatives think.

Generally I consider myself pretty well versed in matters of law and, especially constitutional law. To be honest though, I really didn't know that much about California constitutional law. . . until now.

I was floored to find out that, while California requires a supermajority to pass the damn budget every single year, we only require 50% plus 1 to pass a constitutional amendment!

Do I need to repeat that? And we wonder why our budget is off in an unstable orbit?

We wouldn't even see this odious Proposition 8 on the ballot if they had to clear a serious majority.

Well, fellow Californians, I think the next proposition we have to pass would reverse the majorities required for passing the budget and a constitutional amendment.

Politico takes us inside the worst rumors of the 2008 election

LA Times Video Tape Flap - Rashid Kahlidi

OK, I've been reading about this stink bomb of an "issue" for the past week or so. Interestingly, the original article that spawned this latest Republican smear fest first appeared back in April of this year. The story is that Obama attended a farewell party for a fellow professor, and friend, at the University of Chicago. This professor, Rashid Kahlidi is also a prominent Palestinian. At the event, Obama "paid tribute" to Kahlidi and spoke of his wife's cooking and the dinners they shared where Kahlidi challenged Obama's thinking on issues.

Now, the story by the times is very in depth and raises Obama's ties to the Palestinian American and the Jewish American communities in Chicago and the possible effect on his policies towards Israel. I heartily suggest you read the entire thing if these issues are of importance to you.

I've always felt that a legitimate discussion of ANY candidate's associations can be had and that it is legitimate to base one's decision at least partially on these associations. That is NOT what is happening here. Here we have a classic case of throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks.

Oh, and before I even proceed to deconstruct this, I just wanted to point out John McCain's "ties" to Rashid Kahlidi. Think this is irrelevant? I don't disagree. really, I think it's as irrelevant as this entire non-issue

There are two issues here:

1) The real question about Obama's Palestinian ties and the potential importance of these in the minds of supporters of Israel. Personally, I think there's no issue here. Kahlidi is well known as a Palestinian who has condemned terrorism and suicide bombings in particular. He does claim the right of self-defense/resistance for Palestinians in the occupied territories against Israeli troops. Now, that may be disturbing to many supporters of Israel but it doesn't particularly bother me. I would love to see everyone in the are lay down their arms and figure out a workable permanent peace. This is obviously a problematic situation well outside of the scope of this post. Suffice it to say that there is a right recognized in international law to resist occupation and there are many in Israel who agree that the Palestinians have such a right within the territories. Decide this for yourself and what it means to you. For me, Barack Obama's clear and consistent statements on Israel are of primary importance. I don't believe that talking with Palestinians is a negative. One again, diplomacy requires a certain flexibility and the willingness to talk to your enemies. If you don't then there's no one to talk to but the mirror. Seemed good enough for Menachem Begin.

2) Is the Times refusal to release the original tape a cover up? This is a none issue. Here's my argument and my belief as to why the Republicans are harping on this.
  • The Times is claiming, as is usual with all legitimate reporting outfits, that they may not release the original tape because the source made that a condition of his provision of the tape.
  • This does not mean that the Times is hiding something. Here you must read the entire article to determine for yourself whether or not it's a fair depiction of both the event and Obama's overall ties to Palestinians and the influence that may have on his polcies. My personal take is that the articles is an in depth, if not exhaustive, look at these issues. It is also not wholly flattering and presents the content of alledged private conversations between Obama and Palestinians in addition to the tape content. These supposed private conversations, directly contradicted by Obama, are potentially more troubling than anything related in the tape, where Obama praises his friend for challenging his thinking and assumptions. WOW! That's damning. This from an academic? God forbid. If there were some bombshell in the tape it seems unlikely that the Times wouldn't have presented it in the article or that it wouldn't have found its way in the wilds of the internet by some other means.
  • And this is where my opinion of the real reasons for the demand that the Times release this tape come into play. They have NO INTEREST IN THE TRUTH! For that, the article would seem to suffice. They simply want the tape so they can cut it up into another misleading ad to smear Obama.
Now, you may say that it is a bit arrogant of me to claim to know the minds of these people. I would counter that any fair reading of the Times article and an examination of the timing of the firestorm around it lead directly to this conclusion. The only way for this tape to have any impact on the upcoming election is:
  1. As it is now, a conspiracy theory talking point.
  2. As an attack ad distorting Obama's words and tying him to radical Palestinians.
  3. As a 24 hour fake "news" cycle piece on Fox news.
If truth were the true goal of this demand, the people making it should be satisfied with the article in the Times or, at most, a transcript of the tape (or relevant portions). It's the high impact video of Obama talking about Kahlidi that is the target. In the hands of skilled editors - and the Republican attack machine editors are very skilled indeed, this could/would be turned into an ad showing Obama praising suicide bombers and Hamas! Don't believe me? Did you forget the attack ad claiming that Obama supported sex ed for Kindergartners? I haven't.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fiends! As I recall gays were persecuted by the nazis!

I am no longer surprised or shocked at the lengths the supporters of proposition 8 will go to to write discrimination into the California constitution.

Watch this video to see a proposition 8 spokesman draw a parallel between gay marriage and the rise of Adolf Hitler. Even if you're not Jewish, even if you support proposition 8, I would think you would be appalled at this trivialization of Nazi Germany.

The extreme right in this country calls foul when they are tagged with the word fascist. That too is usually a trivialization of the term. Still, If they want to avoid the label, they should avoid acting as such.

Seriously losing it!

Even Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith has to Shake His Head. . .

You know the McCain campaign and it's surrogates have left the reservation when Fox News can't believe what they're saying.

Read and watch here to see Fox anchor, Shepard Smith's disbelief at Joe The Plumber's statements and the campaign's apparent support.

The Economist Endorses Barack Obama. . .

Well folks, better late than never.

The Economist, that well know bastion of liberal orthodoxy (that was a joke. Man I hate having to explain jokes. . . in advance), has officially endorsed Barack Obama for President.

I'm a big fan of The Economist and have had an on again and off again subscription over the past 25 years. The magazine is justly famous for its witty and intelligent writing about international politics and economics.

So, drop your pitchforks over there on the right, Obama is obviously not a socialist or The Economist wouldn't endorse him.

BTW even John McCain doesn't believe his own rhetoric about pinko Obama.

Conservative blogger doesn't think Obama will destroy the US!

Rick Moran, who blogs at Rightwing Nuthouse, is an unusually rational and thoughtful man and, as such, has written a rational and thoughtful post stating that "If Elected, Obama will be My President."

OK, now this shouldn't be such a shock but the rabid masses in the right wing blogosphere can't seem to come down from their anti-Obama frenzy long enough to form a coherent thought. Read here to see the opprobrium (mildly formulated) heaped upon this poor soul for such a basic and expected statement.

Hey, I'm prepared to say that McCain, should he pull of a last minute election victory, would also be "my President." In fact, prior to the hideous campaign he has run for our sole national office I might even have been mildly enthusiastic about a McCain presidency. . . well aside from the potential for packing the supreme court, oh . . . and that little thing about the war and, well, abortion rights, gay rights and, well. . . I guess most issues aside from the environment and campaign financing reform. OK, maybe not enthusiastic. Still, I think we all must rally behind our new President, whoever he may be, in these very trying times. our country and the world face massive systemic challenges and no one individual or party will be able to handle it.

That doesn't mean I will sit idly by while a President McCain pursues policies to which I am opposed. I wouldn't expect that of the opposition either.

Hopefully we can all come back from the overly polarizing politics of the past 15 years and work together for the good of our country. Most signs are not good. Even supposedly "mainstream" right wing publications such as The National Review and The Weekly Standard have spewn forth hysterically anti-Obama diatribes on an ongoing basis. Rick Moran is the counterpoint, an encouraging sign that overcoming this relentless polarization is possible. Unfortunately, I wonder how much influence he and his like have over an increasingly detached and virulently extreme right wing. I fear the answer is, little.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Election hijinks kick into hi gear. What fun!

And remember to vote late and vote often!

"The ugly side of politics is already on display in some states. In Virginia, a phony flyer that used the seal of the state election board informed voters in the Hampton Roads area that "due to the larger than expected voter turnout" the state Assembly had ruled that Republicans would vote on Tuesday and Democrats would vote on Wednesday, a day after the election. State police are investigating the incident."

Go here for the full story

Colorado cell clump personhood ammendment . . .

The latest attempt by the increasingly detached extreme right evangelical fringe to challenge Roe v. Wade is Colorado amendment question #48, which defines the newly fertilized zygote (Zygote now that it's a person?) as a "person."

Proponents of the amendment make no bones about the ultimate target, repealing Roe V. Wade and making abortion illegal. . . at least wherever they can.

Even the Catholic church has concerns about this extreme ballot initiative, fearing it could lead to rejection in the courts and the reaffirmation of current abortion law.

The masterminds behind #49 are undeterred. They thought beyond the current amendment. After conducting extensive research into the issue I have found out the following plans by the brains behind Amendment #48 regardless of its success or failure:

". . . the next election cycle will see us propose potential "person" status legislation protecting sperm and eggs prior to fertilization."

This is according to my confidential source, who we shall refer to as Aunty Onanist.

Aunty further claimed ". . . this new status for sperm and eggs will not only prevent the loss of actual persons through the killing of potential persons via the use of contraceptives, it will also prevent the waste of potential human life through masturbation and gay sex."

When confronted with the problem presented by menstruation, Aunty said, " . . . We have provided for that eventuality in our legislation. Women who do not manage to fertilize every egg they produce over the course of their lifetime, despite valiant attempts to do so, will only be charged with involuntary manslaughter. Men who willfully waste the persons God has given them will be dealt with much more harshly."

Aunty initially seemed flumoxed by the news that a man ejaculates millions of sperm in a single emission, only one or two of which would have the potential to fertilize an egg. Still, the prospect of mass murdering good faith ejaculators didn't stop Aunty for long, "Well, the amendment isn't finalized yet. Maybe we'll have to restrict men to donating their sperm and all procreation will be done in the lab so that we don't waste this precious resource."

That brought us full circle to the current amendment. Aunty had no answer for the concerns of some that left over embryos created by In Vitro fertilization would be persons in limbo under the proposed amendment. She promised that there were billions of good christian women out there willing to bring all these potential people into the world. She had no suggestion as to how these people would then be clothed, fed and educated. "We'll leave that to God", she said as she turned her back on me and walked off into the perpetual fog of the clueless.

Meanwhile I was left to contemplate the prospect of our court system clogged with the claims of billions of unutilized sperm.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama compares US to Nazi Germany???

No, no, no. . . say it ain't so. . . Obama. No, it's not so. The contortionist distortionists are at it again. This time they've taken one tiny portion of Obama's comments from the same call in panel discussion below and taken it out of context to make it sound as if he directly compares modern America to Nazi Germany.

Listen to it, if you haven't yet, and you will clearly hear him talk about the forties and the experience of black servicemen returing from the war and other blacks being confronted with legal discrimination etc. in the country. In context it's not the bombshell it sounds like on its own.

I really can't wait for this election to be over so I can ignore the bile spewing from the right wing guttersphere.

Obama the socialist redux. . .

This never ending topic has been grasped at in what I can only call desperation by the riders of the apocalyptic right. Today you can find a re-edited series of interviews with Barack Obama all over the slathering right wing blogosphere. In the "interview" Barack is seemingly stating his interest in putting forth a supposedly radical point of view as to how the US can and should plan to redistribute wealth.

Well, you know my take on this. I'm not going to repeat it here. I can actually hear the sighs of relief. All I'm going to do is point to the original series of interviews so you can make up your own mind about this non-issue, smear and distortion. Anyone who's done it before knows how easy it is to edit audio so that it sounds as if it's a single sentence or thought.

Here's the original material:

http://apps.wbez.org/blog/?p=639

Here are the producer's comments:

http://www.wbez.org/Content.aspx?audioID=29792

And here's the latest horseshit cobbled together by the foaming at the mouth crowd:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iivL4c_3pck

And be sure to read the comments to see what I mean by foaming!

Monday, October 27, 2008

I've been thinking about spreading the wealth around. . .

That's right, I've been thinking about the big "Obama's a red" line McCain's taking, yeah, I know he says "socialist" . . . is there a difference to the audience? I know I've written about this topic already in who's the socialist but I thought some more about how our system currently funnels wealth through both the tax system and the services it provides.

Republicans tell us that they simply want everyone to keep their own money and decide what to do with it. If we just did that then everything would be just fine. Of course, since we all pretty much agree that we need a few government services like, oh, national defense, we do have to tax a bit. They tell us that this tax should not fall on the shoulders of the rich any more than it does on any other group of citizens because this amounts to redistributing the wealth through the tax system, which they decry as socialism.

So, first off, let's take on that tax system and look at how it channels wealth

First off there are some cherished benefits that primarily accrue to the benefit of the middle class or wealthy. The king among these is the mortgage deduction. Hey, I benefit from this deduction. I own my home - well, I'm buying it from Countrywide/BOA anyway, and I get to deduct the interest payments from my income. This only benefits me if I make enough money to profit from the deduction. Thankfully, that's been the case. But, in a bad year, it's conceivable that I won't benefit from this deduction. That's because the deduction only reduces the amount of income subject to federal income tax. If I make under a certain adjusted gross income I may not be subject to federal income tax and so my interest payments will not bring me any benefit. I will pay them completely with pre-tax dollars.

Well, you might say that's fine because I'm not paying any taxes anyway so why should I get a tax benefit. Oh, but I am paying taxes and so are millions of other people who pay no income taxes. I still have to pay payroll taxes and there are no deductions available to me to reduce the amount of tax I pay on those.

Not only that but the benefit I derive from my mortgage deduction is dependent on how much money I pay in taxes and what rate I am taxed at. That means that my neighbor who bought his identical house at the same time and for the same price as me but is in the next higher tax bracket will actually get a larger tax reduction for the same amount of mortgage interest than I will. And I will get a larger deduction than the person in the bracket below me and we will all get more money than the person who doesn't make enough to pay income taxes.

hmmm. . . starting to look a bit like socialism in reverse. Don't get me wrong, I like my interest deduction and, possibly, couldn't afford to stay in my house without it. I do question, however, why my richer neighbor needs greater assistance in the form of tax reductions when he has greater resources to do without. At a minimum one might think that we should get the same reduction.

Ah, you say that he pays more to begin with because of his higher tax bracket. Sounds true, let's look at this a little closer. My wealthier neighbor, assuming he hasn't lost it all in the recent market collapse, has more money than I do and so he's been able to invest in the stock market and has had amazing returns over the previous 10 - 15 years. I'm sure he pays taxes on that money though, right? Well. . . to some degree. You see, his investments, as long as they aren't of a "speculative" nature, are taxed at the much lower rates assigned to income from, so-called, capital gains. This is money you make off of an investment, any investment, rather than from your own work. The rationale is that we want to encourage investment to stimulate economic growth and so we tax investments at a lower rate than regular income.

That also sounds fine on the surface but when we look closer we find that the definition of investment is so broad as to be meaningless in terms of the intent of the reduced capital gains tax rate. An example, you've all heard of hedge funds, right? The funds open only to the wealthiest of investors. Returns on "investments" in hedge funds are classified as captital gains, as are the incomes of the fund managers themselves, cool huh? So what do hedge funds invest in to drive the economic growth engine?

Here's an example:
http://www.pbs.org/nbr/blog/2007/03/gersh_on_washington_yen_carry.html

Here's an oversimplification of what that link describes. You take some amount of your client's money, say 10 million, and convert it to Yen. You then use that Yen bank account to leverage that into a larger amount, say 100 million dollars worth in a Yen loan at practically 0% interest. Take that and convert it back into dollars where you deposit it in a CD earning 4% interest. You are now earning 4% on 100 million dollars, minus transaction fees. But, since only 10 million of that is your money you're actually earning much much more. Over the course of the year you've made roughly $4 million on your $10 million investment. Cool! By the way, this is a part of how our financial markets melted down.

Now, what did you invest in? The local car dealership? A factory? How did you create any jobs there? Let's cut to the chase, you didn't! You simply multiplied your money because of the access you have to financial leverage. Yes, you can lose a lot if the Yen rises or something else occurs that throws the wrench into your plans. That's the speculative nature of the beast. Get that, speculative. However, if the investment time frame is long enough, I think 3 months, then the government will tax your profits at the lower capital gains rate. And, of course, you'll pay no payroll taxes on it either because you already make more than the maximum subject to payroll taxes.

Seems like the government has paid for more of your house and given you a favorable tax rate on a big chunk of your income. Did you know that this is the same way that most corporate executive income is taxed as well? Most executives earn the lion's share of their income through stock options and other related mechanisms. Done properly, and don't think they don't do it properly, they can take home that "pay" at the capital gains tax rate! Isn't that at least pay for work? Oh well, at least we know they've earned that money, right? I mean, with the exception of all those CEOs who drove their companies in the ground while bailing with platinum parachutes.

We could go on here. With the exception of direct payments for things like medicare and social security etc., the wealthy in this country benefit disproportionately from everything ranging from our judicial system to the transportation infrastructure and our educational system. How can that be? I'll save that all for another rant soon. This one's too long as it is. Suffice it to say, that the great wealth of this nation was not built solely by the sweat equity of the men, mostly, and women who own most of it. The system of laws, the productivity of the workers and infrastructure built by us all made it possible to create the great corporations of our world. The same is true of every industrialized western nation. Where this great physical and intellectual infrastructure is lacking, you have narrow economies based on commodities or cheap labor and even the rich are in jeopardy of losing their wealth to caprice of the state. We're told the rich will leave and invest elsewhere. Maybe. They may choose to invest their speculative capital in any number of risky places but that capital doesn't benefit our nation anyway. When it comes to investing for the long term and building something of substance, investors will choose to live and invest here in the US or other equally friendly, stabile and free market oriented economies.

Or maybe they'd like to try Russia?

Moderate Republicans endorse Obama. . .

As I've argued with many of my more moderate Republican friends, this party no longer represents you and your values.

Seems an increasing number of prominent and formerly prominent Republicans agree and many are making their decision public. Here's an excerpt from the comments of one:

". . .former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler, who like McCain once served as a Senate Commerce Committee chairman, also endorsed Obama.

“The Republican Party I knew in the 1970s is just all gone,” he said, explaining that he preferred Obama’s economic plan."

Thanks to politico for that. You can read the entire post here:

Politico reports that "maverick" Republicans are endorsing Obama.

Just have to brag about my brother here for a moment. . .

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Correction to Horseshit. . . even my daughter may become president!

I must make a correction to the previous entry. I have just brushed up on the law dealing with the requirements for running for president. It seems that being born in the US is NOT a requirement. The person must simply be a "Natural Born" citizen, which means having been born either in the US OR to a US citizen. Since my daughter IS a natural born citizen, she could indeed run for office. . . in another 20 years anyway.

Oh, and, btw, that also means that Barack Obama would be qualified even if he WERE born in Kenya, as his mother was a US citizen.

Not that ANY of this HORSESHIT means a damn thing to the twisted minds that lap it up.

Horseshit of the day for October 26th, 2008

This really feels like a pointless and Sisyphean effort . . . rolling back the tide of absurd lies, horseshit, that daily washes ashore here in our country during this political season.

Here's one that I've read many times before during the course of this election:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=79174

In this rambling mess of "investigative" journalism, well known anti-Obama fabulist, Jerome R. Corsi, dredges up the old "Obama's missing birth certificate" scandal. To make a long story short, the idea is that Obama was not, in fact, born in Hawaii but was born in Kenya and, so, is not a US citizen and is not eligible to even run for, let alone be elected to, the presidency.

HORSESHIT!

Really people, this is a paralell line of thought to the, Obama's a dual national of the US and Kenya and so he cannot be president.

Even better, there are claims that he is an Indonesian citizen. before long there will be the united nations of Obama. Hell, he can be our first world president since he's obviously a citizen of the world, literally.

But back to our original horseshit of the day. In the article Corsi now tells us of the clearly suspicious "sealing" of Barack Obama's birth certificate by the governor of Hawaii. Da da da dum. Oooh, frightening. A government conspiracy to keep the truth from us.

Yes folks, the Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, and the entire Hawaiian department of health, the records department etc. etc. etc. have all joined together to perpetrate this vast fraud on the American people. Help, I can't even write this as satire because this is EXACTLY the horseshit that Corsi and the lunatic fringe in the blogoconspirasphere would have you believe. As incredible as I try and make this sound, people actually believe this garbage.

Should I even bother to respond to this with some facts and basic logic? well, probably not but I will anyway. Very simply, the mere fact that the document was "sealed" leads one to believe, logically, that it exists. You can't "seal" a non-existent document. We've already seen the "certificate of live birth" from Hawaii, which IS a birth certificate. That's what my "birth certificate" says on it. Interestingly, my youngest daughter, born in Germany because, hey, that's where we were living at the time, along with many other presumably patriotic Americans, has such a certificate of US live birth abroad from the US Consulate in Frankfurt. One assumes that such a document would be found if Obama were born abroad. As asinine as I think this law is, clearly my daughter may not be president but Obama may.

Also, Hawaii does not generally permit non-family members to order copies of such records. I know, I tried to do this. It's not permitted under any circumstances. So there's nothing mysterious about this supposed "sealing." All such records are essentially sealed unless the petitioner can show cause why they should be made available.

What does Corsi expect to find??? If the document exists then it is by definition proof of birth in the US. If there were no birth in the US then there would be no record of it at all. Oh why do I bother?

I do fear for my country but I don't fear because Obama may become president and awaken from his manchurian candidate sleeper status to deliver us into the hands of. . . whoever. I fear that the seemingly endless numbers of my fellow citizens with malfunctioning cerebral
cortices will become ever more "organized" and somehow rise up to take over our obviously fragile democracy. Well, obviously it must be fragile if we are so clearly susceptible to the evil machinations of terrorists and other America hating socialist fellow travelers around the world that we would not only elect their sleeper agent but would then blindly follow him over the cliff as he unilaterally disarms us and hands our arsenal over to Osama Bin Laden. Jeezus people!

No, really, these people who, I can only assume, prior to the internet and blogging/commenting spent their lonely evenings with a copy of the Weekly World News seriously considering the sad tale of Bat Boy's life story.

Stop with the insanity, get back to old fashioned reality. You can vote for McCain if you agree with him or simply prefer his sartorial style. You don't need some justification on the basis of a vast conspiracy that you and your buddies all know about but has somehow escaped the attention of John McCain himself and the republican party, not to mention the entire intelligence establishment. Or. . . wait, maybe McCain's in on it too. Yes, that's it. When McCain was being held captive in Vietnam, they brainwashed him to take the fall in this election. Yes, I've got it now. . . while Obama was a little Muslim toddler in Kenya being prepped by Osama Bin . . . oh wait, he was just a child too then. No, Osama was actually a grown man but had himself cryogenically frozen and revived so he could see the realization of his plan. Man this guy's good.

OK, so, we got Osama who has planted an advanced control chip in Obama's brain in Kenya while hoodwinking the Vietnamese communists to brainwash McCain to sabotage his political career in favor of Obama's ascension to the presidency where he will give the command and all the other sleeper agents in the CIA, NSA, FBI and the joint chiefs will simultaneously turn over control of the levers of power to Bin Laden.

Damn, I mean. . . if you believe that, we're doomed!

By the way, here's a look at the certificate. . . oh yeah, of course it must be a forgery. Lord save us.

http://fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A brief addendum. . . marriage and the state and church.

This is just a brief addendum to my previous post on California's noxious proposition 8.

I wanted to propound my personal preference for handling issues of state contracts, specifically marriage.

I personally believe that we should adopt a new process for establishing state marriage contracts. This new process should be solely a civil process and no rights to oversee such contracts should be granted to private groups or churches.

WOW! That was radical, wasn't it? Not really. In fact such a system exists in many other countries. One such country, Germany, has much greater church state interaction than would be accepted in ours and, yet, they accept this duality in the establishment of marriage contracts without difficulty.

What this would mean in practice is that a couple wishing to get married in the state and to enjoy the benefits conferred by the state law on such contracts would be required to speak an oath (vow) before a witness and sign the contract in front of a public official. Such a process would be similar to the current one for receiving a marriage license but would require the witness and spoken oath as well. Such civil services are currently available in most states for a nominal fee.

Would this mean that couples would no longer be permitted or able to marry in churches, temples, mosques or other religious institutions? Of course not. It would simply separate the act of entering into a state marriage contract from that of entering into a religious one. You could do both or one or the other. The church ceremony would be between you, your religious community and God. The state one between you, your spouse and the state.

What's the point? What does this change? Well, in my mind it does a number of things.

  1. It enforces the separation of church and state that is central to our religious freedoms. it takes church out of a state function of sanctioning contracts that are enforced by the state legally.
  2. It removes the arguments by those who oppose gay marriage on the basis that it would somehow corrupt their religious interpretation of marriage or would force their church to perform such marriages under the law. Yes, this argument is specious, I know that. Still, the clear separation makes such an argument more clearly irrelevant.
  3. I believe this enhances the spiritual aspect of religious ceremonies. If the state purpose in a church wedding is removed, one has to ask oneself "why am I marrying in church?"
Anyway, it will probably never happen in our country or state but I wish it were so. I do think it would render much of the discussion on the issue of gay marriage moot. At a minimum it would clarify lines and lay bare the true motivation behind those who would continue to propound a constitutional ammendment.

California Proposition 8, the real issue.

Wow, this election cycle is one of the most heated I've ever experienced. Leaving aside the national election for a moment, we have an increasingly heated election here in California and the issue fast rising to the top of the heap is an old one. . . gay marriage. Yes, this issue has managed to become the barn burner in California during an election cycle that features the total melt down of our financial situation and continuing wars on two fronts with others threatened. I won't even go into some of the cynical motivations for placing this topic on the ballot, you can fill in the reasons for yourself. In this space I just want to address the core of the issue itself.

This isn't about children being taught about gay marriage in schools. There's nothing in current law that requires this or that marriage be taught at all, though the yes on 8 crowd propagates these fictions.

This is also not about freedom of religion or religious speech. Members of churches and temples of all stripes will continue to be permitted to preach whatever they believe about this contentious issue. Remember, not all churches are against homosexuality! There are some that feature gay priests, pastors and even bishops!!! Both proponents and opponents will be able to continue arguing their viewpoint and hurling insults from pulpit to pulpit.

No, and the issue is also not about the sacredness of marriage. We're dealing with the issue of a marriage contract between people and the state. There is nothing in any law that forces churches to marry gays or lesbians. Some do, some don't and that will continue. My marriage of 21 years to my, first and only, wife is not threatened by the marriage of two men or two women just as it isn't threatened by the marriages of so many couples who have since divorced or the teenage marriage of Governor Palin's daughter and her boyfriend.

The real issue here is the attempt to write discrimination into the California state constitution!

I was just listening to my favorite radio station for call in programs on one of our local NPR (yeah, no surprise there, right?) stations, KPCC. They were discussing prop 8 and one of the callers cut right to the chase. I didn't have time to quote this perfectly but I'll paraphrase as accurately as I can. he said: It's not about formal instruction of gay marriage in schools . . . I don't want my 5 year old exposed to this kind of lifestyle and asking their teacher, "can a boy marry a boy?", and the teacher telling them that this is legal.

That sound harmless enough, doesn't it? But the caller was making none too subtle a point. He doesn't want his son or daughter to hear about things in the culture that he doesn't agree with. Is that really something upon which we can base a law, much less a constitutional law?

Where does that sentiment stop? I don't like my kids exposed to religious proselytizing. I don't want the LDS or Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door and trying to convert my kids. Can we write that into the constitution please? What is it that bother's you and can we write that into the constitution? Let's restrict your rights under law because you might do something that someone or some group is personally opposed to.

This is the issue. We should be extremely careful about any modifications to our constitution particularly modifications that codify restrictions of rights or discrimination of any single groups access to those rights. If one has not infringed on the rights of another (i.e. as in committing a crime against them) then they should not have their rights circumscribed.

It is up to each of us to instruct our children on our beliefs and to see that they have the filters we consider essential at each stage of their development. But we and our children do not exist in a homogenous and sanitized society and culture and they will be exposed to people with different lifestyles, religions, races and even sexual orientation than our own. Depriving others of their rights is not an acceptable way to deal with this fact. If you believe that it is then I am prepared to call you a bigot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Republican and Democratic Administrations by the Numbers

Aside from the standard right wing character assassination one finds in the anti-Obama ads and talking points of the McCain campaign and its surrogates, there are the old stand-bys that pass for substantive argument. Foremost among these is the argument that democrats are serial tax raisers who build huge governments that suck the economic lifeblood from both the market and the "main street" economy.

I've always heard a different story told by "the numbers." I'm very partial to numbers when they are clearly not spinnable or fungible. So, let's look at who runs a tighter fiscal ship, Democratic or Republican Administrations.

Now, I'm not going to rebuild the arguments here from scratch. I'm going to provide the topic header and some links to check out for well researched and documented facts on the topics. Some of you will likely choose to ignore these facts and think of them as damn lies and statistics. Regardless, the numbers are there for you to peruse and massage as you see fit.

The damn thing is that reality here does indeed seem to have a bias and it's a Democratic one. These results have been circulating for years and there are few, if any, serious oppositional points of view. Search for yourself. Try "gdp growth during democratic and republican administrations." Or reverse the party appellations if you think they have any effect on the results, they don't.

This is my spin zone so I'll choose the figures we look at:

  1. Growth of national debt.
  2. Stock market performance
  3. Inflation
  4. Consumer interest rates (mortgage and other consumer debt)
  5. Unemployment
  6. Tax rates
  7. GDP growth
  8. Poverty rate
I've chosen these elements because I think they paint the broadest picture of economic health for the widest variety of people. No single economic indicator gives us a full idea of the impact on people's daily lives. Now, I have to admit that I have done little to no original research on these figures.

So, what do the figures say? Well, there are, as always, multiple sources and figures. I've chosen some that I've spot checked and found to be acceptably consistent.

1) GDP growth. GDP growth is the gold standard for economic well being. It takes into account everything produced by an economy and creates a single number to represent that output. The results? Democratic administrations outstrip Republican administrations by significant figures, averaged over the duration of an administration! This is true even after accounting for methodologies that try to account for "lag times" in the implementation of a president's policies. the idea is that an incoming president deserves neither the credit nor the blame for the first year (or so) of his term because that period is subject to the outgoing president's policies and budgets.

GDP Growth:
http://currencythoughts.com/2008/09/26/us-gdp-growth-under-different-presidencies/
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/11996748902.htm
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/12014941662.htm
http://angrybear.blogspot.com/2007/06/comparing-presidents-real-gdp-per.html
http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/001635.html
http://donttrustthisguy.com/2008/09/13/150/

2) Employment and unemployment. I've lumped these two together because it's clear that employment growth alone doesn't mean less unemployment. If employment growth is less robust, however, unemployment is likely to remain high or increase. Bottom line? Dems win on employment and unemployment alike. One might think this would be true according to Democratic priorities but Republicans often claim the reverse. Remember, the entire basis of trickle down economics (or VooDoo economics according to Bush the elder) is that reducing the tax burden on the wealthy drives them to invest their money in ways that cause job growth and result in higher employment rates and greater income for lower and middle class Americans as well. As you can see from these figures, this is patently fales. While there is a relationship between taxation and investment and even between those and job growth, it is not as clear cut as Republicans would have you believe. I'm not going to write an essay on this subject here, just check out the numbers for yourselves.

Employment Growth and Unemployment:
http://currencythoughts.com/2008/09/24/us-employment-growth-during-different-presidencies/
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/12010196672.htm
http://thislifeandtime.blogspot.com/2008/09/democrat-vs-republican-presidents.html

3) Family income growth. Much has been written about this topic and about income disparities in our country in general and, specifically, during this past administration. Check out the figures and you'll see that not only to do more Americans have jobs under Democratic administration but they seem to have better paying jobs as well.

Family income growth:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/31/business/31view.html?_r=1&em&oref=slogin

4) By now it should be clear to all but the most ideological or gullible that Republicans don't give a fig about discal responsibility. It's amazing how this has morphed from a conservative to a moderate/liberal issue. While a look at any recent budget should do, check out these figures for a rundown on the damage that Republican administrations have inflicted on our long term fiscal health. Budget deficits and National debt follow.

Budget deficits:
http://golem.ph.utexas.edu/~distler/blog/archives/001635.html
http://donttrustthisguy.com/2008/09/13/150/

National Debt:
http://www.cedarcomm.com/~stevelm1/usdebt.htm

5) Here's another scare stick with which the Reps consistently beat Dems about the head . . . your 401K will die a nasty gurgling death under a Democratic President. Sorry folks, amazingly, the stock market is more or less unideological. There may be a slight, very slight, benefit to a Democratic administration but certainly none to a Republican one.

Stock market performance:
http://www.frbsf.org/econrsrch/wklyltr/wklyltr98/el98-19.html#references
http://currencythoughts.com/2008/09/22/us-stock-market-performance-in-different-presidencies/
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/12022630962.htm

6) The rest. By now it should be apparent that Democratic administrations are not only NOT the anathema to fiscal and economic well being they may be properly considered the best stewards of these bread and butter issues. Remember, I really don't think a president should get as much credit or blame for these numbers as they do. If you, OTOH, are voting your pocketbook well. . . you really should give these numbers serious consideration rather than listening to the ceaseless drivel spat out but the Republican fear machine. Here are the rest on inflation, tax rates, etc.

Inflation:
http://currencythoughts.com/2008/09/24/us-consumer-price-inflation-under-different-presidencies/
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/12014941672.htm

Tax Rates:
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/12033578242.htm

Multiple stats:
http://sideshow.me.uk/annex/JustForTheRecord.htm
http://www.eriposte.com/economy/other/demovsrep.htm

Spending:
http://www.outsidersdc.com/000/12033578252.htm

So dear reader, one might assume that a rational individual confronted with such overwhelming evidence would have to conclude that Democratic Presidents past have not been the economic bogey man they've been tarred as. What does that say about Barack Obama and his policies or the results of four or eight years under his leadership? Nothing directly. These times are different but it pays to keep history in mind and to avoid jumping to conclusions based on well worn campaign rhetoric. If nothing else one must exercise a great deal of skepticism about Republican claims to economic and fiscal leadership in light of the facts. Since they are repeating claims that have proven false in the past, there is no reason to believe their claims will prove true this time around either.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Follow up on factless facts from snopes.com

Just a quick follow up on my previous post. I went to snopes.com, great source for rapid response rumor busting. As always, snopes has the whole story. Check it out here:

http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/stance.asp

And I was right. . . part of it did start out as a satire. Stooooopid people.

here's the original post. The author helpfully provides the word "satirical" in his column headline:

http://azconservative.org/Semmens118.htm

Factless facts of virus - not viral - emails

Just today I received a forward tid bit from a friend. It was a quote chain email purporting to be the transcript of a "Meet the Press" show from September 7th 2008 wherein Senator Barack Obama supposedly answers a question from a General Bill Ginn (USAF Ret.). In the transcript, Senator Obama supposedly waxes lyrical about his attendance at flag burning events with his lovely wife, Michelle, who - of course - hates the country for many reasons. He also tells of his desire to change the national anthem to "I'd like to teach the world to sing" so we could show our enemies some love.

Man, this sounds more like a satire on Saturday Night Live than a typical right wing email virus. I won't bother to paste the contents of this claptrap. From the above summary, it should be clear to anyone that this is s load of horseshit.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, horseshit seems to be the currency of political authenticity. As a result, I felt compelled to check the sources. I know, I know, what's the point. Anyone boneheaded enough to fall for this stuff obviously WANTS to believe it so they have a reason to vote against Obama besides latent racism. BTW I'm not suggesting that everyone voting for McCain is a racist. They're not. Many many people truly believe in the policies he espouses or simply feel that he is the better man for the job. I'm talking about the small group of people who are uncomfortable with Obama for "reasons they can't quite pinpoint or don't want to share. . ." and would like some "solid" reason to make the choice against him.

So, I checked the source(s). This was made easier by the balls of the people who came up with this story. . . they chose "Meet the Press" as the source. Alright, if I want to come up with some kind of plausible basis for a story about Obama, you'd think I'd go for something more obscure than "Meet the Press" but noooo, these guys go for it. They obviously assume that no one will care or bother to check the facts. And you know what? They're right! No one who could possibly be swayed by this vile cow patty of a lie would think to go to NBC and look at the publicly available archives for the show. To get right to the point, these people aren't going to bother to THINK at all!

Here's the link to the specific show's transcript:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26590488/

And, if you're interested, here's the link to the general archive:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8987534/

So, what does the transcript show? Obama wasn't even on the show that day. Joe Biden was the guest. And General William Ginn, an 80 year old retired Air Force general, has never been on the show. He has a thinner google search result than I do. I'm sure he's a nice guy and, who knows, maybe he's even voting for Obama. One thing he's definitely not doing is interviewing presidential candidates on TV.

So, what does all this mean? Not a damn thing. There is no meaning to any of the sewage that flows uncontrolled through the email landscape. There is no content. There are only vile, unsubstantiated lies, rumors and innuendo.

What this email does is provide a window into the mind of large slice of the right wing electorate as well as the fears and concerns of another swath of the public that feels Obama is the "other." That great unknown outside our neighborhood. The thing that invades our home through the teleivision. Obama, strange name. . . born in Hawaii, African and, hell, he lived in Indonesia. . . maybe Muslim?

The fear and ignorance that is palpable in our culture is frightening to behold. Watching the recent McCain rallies, I wonder that I share this country with such confused and angry people. McCain himself appeared visibly concerned about the reaction of his audience. Maybe he's beginning to see where his current strategy leads.

We're scratching the surface of polite society in this election and the puss that is oozing up is disgusting indeed. One can only hope that the aftermath of this public draining of a cultural abcess results in the healing of this hideous national sore.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who are the socialists?

I've been a bit paralyzed over the past months. Paralyzed in terms of where to start this blog. Paralyzed by the sheer chaos and outrageousness of the past months in our culture, economy and the ongoing election.

So, I've decided to start here, with the latest thought to pop into my increasingly pressurized skull. Who are the socialists? Funny question in America. To be honest I don't see any real socialists in this country. . . at least not among the mainstream. Our most left leaning politicians in the democratic party are far from socialists.

But I was thinking about the question as I listened to an NPR report about the increasingly strident tone from the audience at McCain rallies. As I listened, I heard the apoplectic voice of a man shouting his outrage at the takeover of America by the socialists. By socialists, he made clear that he meant the well known card carrying aparatchiks Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and other assorted democrats.

Now, to be fair, it may well be that this enraged member of the increasingly odd republican "base" considers all democrats and possibly moderate republicans to be socialists. He may not be any more alarmed at the prospect of an Obama presidency than he was when Clinton took the helm or Jimmy Carter before him. This entry is not about that or about defending Obama from the brain farts of a delirious political true believer. No, my musings are about the current turmoil in the financial systems and how this has turned the current, republican, administration into a, possibly reluctant, nationalizer of businesses and massive government interventionist.

Now, leaving aside the Bush administration's eagerness to listen to our phone calls and commit all manner of gross violations of our privacy that harken back to the methods of the late governments that operated behind the iron curtain, this administration has converted, or is in the process of converting, hundreds of billions of dollars in bad debt into one form or another of government "equity" in the US financial sector. Not only that but the federal reserve has begun making loans in the commercial paper market. What's that? Well, to simplify, it means that the fed is now making loans to normal business to cover short term borrowing requirements, i.e. to make payroll or cover inventory prior to sales. In other words, the fed is now operating as a. . . bank!

Hmmmmm. . . well, that leads me to wonder what the definition of socialism is. I have my own but let's go to an objective source. How about Webster's? According to Webster's, socialism is:

"a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole."

OK. I'm not suggesting that the government is planning to take over any productive companies just yet (wait until GM files for bankruptcy for that) but it is clear that a sizable portion of the distribution of capital is now becoming an ownership stake for the community as a whole, the government.

So, does that make Henry Paulson or George Bush socialists? Well no. . . at least not in the classic sense of the term. To me, the only difference between the economic actions being taken by the administration and true socialism is that a socialist government would, at least in theory, be attempting to manipulate this ownership for the benefit of the people as a whole. In the current situation it is clear that this is not the case. The Bush administration is taking pains to avoid direct government ownership or power in the firms in which it is investing. We are told that we will potentially make gains or, at a minimum, lose little when these bad debts finally mature. We are not, however, given any control or guarantees nor are we to benefit directly from the profit of companies as they recover from the current market chaos and economic contraction.

So, what we have is the socialization of the financing mechanisms and a large chunk of the risk while the upside benefit of our investment will be, at least primarily, distributed amongst the shareholders and management who led their companies to make poor investments in the first place.

This has lead to the phrase: "Privatization of the profits and socialization of the losses."

So, socialism for the elites. A redistribution of wealth but from the bottom to the top.

We the people shall become second class shareholders in failed institutions. We will be without a voice in the corporate governance of these institutions and shall have no say in the day to management of the companies, no seat on the board.

The only method remaining to us to "manage" these companies, our companies, is the broad brush of regulation, which, as we all know, is anathema to republicans. Otherwise we are left without recourse to ensure that our money is not similarly mismanaged in the next artificial financial bubble.

Compared to the truly moderate policy plans by Barack Obama and the very limited "redistribution" of wealth from top to bottom that would occur under his tax policies, the republicans are the true socialists. They are simply socialists for the benefit of the elite. And, as I recall, that's pretty much how the former eastern block was managed too.
 
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