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:

Here are the producer's comments:

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

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:

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:

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.


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.

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:

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:

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:

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:

National Debt:

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:

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.


Tax Rates:

Multiple stats:


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

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

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:

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:

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

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.
ss_blog_claim=e6732b5b3a7e9fb6c37425eb3bbbc640 ss_blog_claim=e6732b5b3a7e9fb6c37425eb3bbbc640