Thursday, October 30, 2008

Democratic Party Unity at Last

Bill and Barack will serve as the bookends for the worst eight-year disaster in American History.

I am confident that next Tuesday, the American people will re-take and pass the history exam they have flunked twice before in this short century. Good on them . . .
But why did it have to take what it took?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kim Jong-Il and Robert Mugabe

What is the solution for tyranny?
Either Time or Tyrannicide.

Is Kim Jong Il ill? I think so. The speculation is that the dictator has suffered a severe stroke.

TOKYO (AFP) Japan's Fuji Television on Monday showed footage of a French brain surgeon who it said was personally recruited by Kim's eldest son, Kim Jong-Nam, to treat him in Pyongyang. In Seoul, South Korea's intelligence chief confirmed that Kim Jong-Nam travelled to Paris but said his father seemed to be recovering.

Let's hope for his timely death.

North Korea, a country of 23 million people, has been plagued by years of famine caused by floods, drought and economic mismanagement. This week, according to Bloomberg, the government cut food rations for farmers in order to stock up on supplies for its military. The Democratic Republic of Korea has been starving its own population in order to retain political control.

Kim's death or terminal incapacitation would be followed by a succession of the DRK's military command, since the dictator's sons have not been prepared for political leadership. Without Kim's volatile ego in play, IMO, the new leadership would be pragmatically non-aggressive toward South Korea.

Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe is at war with his own people, and has been for years. In order to maintain control, this African strongman uses whatever weapons he can get his hands on. But he, too, favors the slow-moving weapons of hunger and disease.

Zimbabwe is on the brink of a famine that could kill millions. Children are already dying, their bodies swollen from starvation. The inadequacy of water supplies and sanitation has produced cholera outbreaks.

As in the case of North Korea, the danger is that potential international donors will send generous economic aid to Zimbabwe for humanitarian reasons. But there can be no economic solution for the mess that Mr. Mugabe has created out of Zimbabwe. The recent attempts to attain a brokered political solution, such as power-sharing was laughable and doomed at the outset. The only solution for Zimbabwe is Mugabe's timely death.

International Intervention?

The basic building block of international relations is state sovereignty. International invasion for humanitarian reasons is a violation of state sovereignty. This principle is not to be sacrificed lightly. Without going into a lengthy argument, I'll just mention the current case of Bush's invasion of Iraq in 2003 for the purpose of regime change: it has led to an endless and prohibitively costly occupation.

Zimbabwe's case is a little different than North Korea's.
Mugabe's tyranny has forced more than three million to flee into South Africa. Close to 500,000 are deported every year but the majority find their way back through illegal entry points. This scale of immigration has de-stabilized South Africa's fragile economy.

Thus Mugabe's policies have had a deleterious affect on South Africa's national interests. Unfortunately, even at the age of 84, Mugabe is apparently in good health. How much longer can South Africa wait to repatriate these refugees?

A well-placed sniper's bullet would solve this problem. No invasion. No occupation. Maybe Zimbabwe will have to wait upon time some more.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Name Calling from the Right Wing

I've long been curious about the term Limousine Liberal.

According to WikiPedia, limousine liberal, A.K.A.,
  • latte liberal
  • limousine leftist
  • learjet liberal
  • lakefront liberal
  • Lexus liberal
  • MasterCard Marxist
  • parlor pink, and
  • white wine socialist
are all pejorative North American political terms used to illustrate perceived hypocrisy by a political liberal of upper class or upper middle class status.

Wikipedia traces limosene liberal back to a pejorative conservative term used to describe Republican Mayor John Lindsay and his wealthy Manhattan backers during a 1969 campaign.
It was a populist epithet, carrying an implicit accusation that the people it described were insulated from all negative consequences of their programs intended to benefit the poor, and that the costs and consequences of such programs would be borne in the main by working class or lower middle class people who were not so poor as to be beneficiaries themselves.... criticized Lindsay for favoring unemployed blacks over working-class whites.
I may be wrong, but it's always seemed to me to imply:
  • a tacit admission of a state of de facto class warfare, and
  • limousine liberals were class traitors.
It's my impression that the limousine liberal epithet has most often been thrown at the most wealthy of liberals, starting with George Soros, Warren Buffette and Edward Kennedy.

In this 2008 election year, class traitors have been uncovered in the ranks of the Republican Party. Some prominent Republicans, concerned with salvaging their personal credibility and integrity have offered criticisms of the McCain-Palin Palin-McCain ticket. They have encountered a blowback for their efforts. As a result we have a few more - more colorful epithets coined by Palinistas such as:
  • Charles Krauthammer's "wet-fingered conservatives leaping to Barack Obama"
  • Jim Nuzzo's (a White House aide to the first President Bush) "cocktail party conservatives [giving] aid and comfort to the enemy" and "dead people in the Republican Party".
  • Anonymous White House source's "Benedicts"
The Palinistas conjure themselves up to being the leaders of the Republican dynasty of the future - The 21st Century Reagans.

Well, all I can say on this point is more is to come. I felt the need for a G.O.P. program so I can track all of the present and future players. I found one from the New York Times, vintage 2005. I have placed it in MMA, for future reference.

Friday, October 24, 2008

If The World Could Vote . . .

A Gallup/Foreign Policy Poll

Questions Asked:
  • Who would you personally rather see elected President of the United States?
  • Do you think who's elected President of the United States makes a difference to your country or not?

Click images to expand (of course). Better yet, click here for interactive map.

The world does not understand why this election should even be close.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

ACORN stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

What's Behind The Republican Fantasies about ACORN?
Well, they have told us what they are worried about...

Republican voter suppression in America has been the GOP strategy for three decades. Listen closely to the words of activist Paul Weyrich in 1980:
Here is ACORN's side of the story on their Voter Registration Drives:
Progressives and Liberals should stand up for ACORN because ACORN stands up for democracy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain vs. Obama: Dueling Guitars

You probably can’t get a better musical juxtaposition of their differing presidential aspirations than via these two You-Tubes: “Roll With It Johny” and “Be The Change”! Although both feature really good, original song creations written and performed by well known Twin Cities musicians, the two music videos could not be more different.

Roll With It Johnny

The lyrics are so edgy that you really got to listen more than once to this one.

Acoustic guitarist Peter Lang, had this to say about his song:
I was feeling just a bit politically pissed off over the last couple of weeks, what with my retirement put off for a year or more (like maybe 25).

Here is a little ditty I wrote. It is as close as I can get to a Woody Guthrie state of mind.

I have never seen anything like this in my 60 years. I never thought we would see anything as bad again as the Nixon years, however this administration has proved me very wrong. I feel like we have been drop-kicked back to 1950, especially when I see the ghost of Joseph Raymond McCarthy alive and well in our own Congressperson Michelle Bachmann. I believe that a McCain Administration would be the continuation of this train wreck, and should Palin ascend to the Oval Office, then God help us all.

I wrote this piece for several reasons, primarily because I have two children, one son 25, and one daughter 19. I am good for another 20 years if I am lucky, but they will be here for another 60 or more, and I want them to at least know that I and others in my generation tried to do something and maybe collectively we will succeed in leaving a better place.

I had great trepidation in doing this song, because I don't want trouble, but everything in the song is public knowledge, McCain is a public figure. As Lenny Bruce said, “The truth is what is, not what should be. What should be is a dirty lie." I am tired of hearing "dirty lies" about Obama . I am tired of the deceit ,treachery, immorality, and inhumanity of this administration. I am tired of seeing Americans who have the courage to stand up to this Administration being denigrated as anti-American dissidents, rather than as the patriots they are.

My father who was a fighter pilot in WWII and Korea used to like to say " You either stand up for something, or you stand for nothing at all." I discounted that and a lot of the other things he said as a young man. In the ensuing years lots of things have become clearer to me. If ever there was a time to stand for something it is most certainly now.
Be The Change - Minneapolis For Obama

This song was written by Larry Long and sung by Larry Long and Tonia Hughes.

By the way, I’m kind’a hard to spot but if you stop the action exactly at 3:23, I’m the one holding the grandbaby in pink and the Obama sign right between the two PEACE signs.

Anyway, so glad I’m in the “Be the Change” positive one rather than the “Roll With It Johny” one which is wonderfully witty but not that positive.

I’d been worrying that McCain’s embarrassing visit to Lakeville (just 12 miles south of my home in Minnesota) and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s embarrassing McCarthyite accusations to Chris Matthews a couple days ago have really given Minnesota a black eye. (Not to mention the NOT Minnesota Nice treatment during the RNC that led to over 800 mostly unjustified arrests of protesters, journalists, medics and legal observers—which I’ll be writing more about later.) I’d started thinking I’d have to start posting under a new screen name like “EmbarrassedinMinnesota”.

But the power of song is always a great antidote and, since it comes from these great Minnesota musicians, politically redeeming as well!


Friday, October 17, 2008

Open Letter to Colin Powell


I can't decide whether it's more appropriate to address you as 'Secretary Powell' or as 'General Powell'. I am respectful of both ranks which you have achieved and appreciative of your service rendered to our once-great country. But I think I may prefer to address you as 'General' for reasons which may become clear below. Whatever...

Please, General, don't endorse Senator Barack Obama's candidacy for president.

It's long been rumored that you have been considering making an endorsement for some time, especially after the final presidential debate. Lawrence O'Donnell says you're ready to endorse. But going back, even before the Democratic National Convention, Bill Kristol predicted your endorsement. So, I've been sitting here on my sofa, waiting for your shoe sword of Damocles to drop on Barack Obama's candidacy.

This is the exact same sofa on which I was sitting when, on February 5th, 2003 I saw and heard you as Secretary of State tell the U.N. Security Council,
What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior .....

Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction .....

My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence .....

The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world .....
Since then, I have re-upholstered the sofa. But the confidence I placed in your word has not being repaired. As a matter of fact, I recall being on the phone that very moment you were testifying to the world and I asked the person on the other end of the line,

What is the Secretary of State going to say,
after his invasion,
if no weapons of mass destruction turn up?

It turns out that you didn't have much to say. You did say that you were sorry you had been given the wrong intelligence. You did say that, against your better judgment and advice, we didn't go in with a stronger force. You did regret a lack of planning for an extended occupation.

But you said nothing about the political, moral and legal decrepitude about invading a country that never attacked or threatened to attack us. Nothing close to what Illinois Senator Barack Obama had said four months earlier in his 2 October 2002 Chicago’s Federal Plaza speech:
I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

..... What I am opposed to is the attempt by potential hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty state, a drop in the medium income—to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone thorough the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I am opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war, a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics.

..... I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undermined cost, with undetermined consequence of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequence. I know that an invasion of Iraq without clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than the best, impulses of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda.
Because of your loyalty to Team Busheney, your legacy has been squandered. Today, you are no longer a game changer. You were, once or twice or more. But your opportunity has passed.

You could have changed the game. Four timely words would have saved the day for you:
I'm sorry. I resign.
A nation should/could/would have celebrated you with heartfelt gratitude. Not to mention your fans in friendly nations throughout the world.

Your service as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War had been distinguished and spectacular. You were so beloved by all Americans that you could have easily been elected President from either party if you could somehow be air-dropped onto a general election ballot without having to go through the grinding march of the primaries. (Bet your wife would had permitted that.) But instead you fell in line with the worst group of worthless liars ever to have captured the White House, and your loyalty to them has irreparably tarnished your reputation. That is why I cannot bear to address you as Secretary of State.

But then again, just last Friday, your wheels went off on another loyalty side-track, crossing on a bridge to nowhere. You went to court to praise Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' sense of honor at his trial on corruption charges, calling his reputation for honesty and integrity "sterling". That must been because of his supporting role as a chairman of the Senate committee on military appropriations in the quarter-century you've known each other:
…. He fights for his state. He fights for his people ….. But at the same time, he has the best interest of the country at heart - always ….. There was never any suggestion that he would do anything that was improper … He was someone whose word you could rely on ….. as a guy who would tell me when I was off base ….. he would tell me when I had no clothes on-figuratively, that is-and would tell me when I was right and go for it. ….. As we say in the infantry, He's a guy who, as we said in the infantry, we would take on a long patrol.
Very colorful.Well, General, my conclusion is that loyalty is your stronger suit, clearly trumping your judgment of character. I don't think Senator Obama is in as much of a need for your endorsement as you are in need of being seen and found among his supporters.

Why are you not content to fade away like old generals should? You could continue indefinitely what you do now, commanding speaking fees of $100,000 per appearance plus first-class expenses, as you and your wife fly back and forth, cross country in that Lear 60 jet.

Why should you drag back your corruption from your Busheney years and place it around Barack Obama's neck as he concludes his campaign for change and integrity?

Integrity has not been part of your game for some time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thinking Conservatives Are No Longer MIAs, AWOL, or POWs of the GOP

Rosa Brooks writes in the
Los Angeles Times
that Liberals are having fun,
but not too much fun.

My excerpts follow

. . . . . Maybe most fun of all, we're getting to watch a steady procession of rats leaving the sinking GOP ship.

One by one, the nation's more reputable conservatives have been edging away from the Republican presidential ticket. It started with John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. Thinking conservatives -- as of a couple of months ago, there were still a few left -- were distinctly underwhelmed. In the New York Times, David Brooks chastised McCain for "throw[ing] away standards of experience and prudence" by picking Palin. In the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer said Palin was "not ready" for prime time. David Frum, a former Bush speechwriter and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, complained that Palin had "thoroughly -- and probably irretrievably -- proven that she is not up to the job." In the National Review, conservative columnist Kathleen Parker said Palin was "clearly out of her league" and urged her to "bow out."

For liberals initially alarmed by McCain's brief post-convention poll bounce, this was fun. And as conservative disdain spread to the whole GOP ticket, the fun got even funner.

In the Washington Post, George Will slammed McCain for his "fact-free slander," "substitution of vehemence for coherence" and "boiling moralism." On MSNBC, former Reagan speechwriter and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan admitted that she's not sure who she'll be voting for this November: "Ahh. Umm. I'm thinking it through."

Then -- more fun -- some conservatives began to actually endorse Barack Obama. Wick Allison, a former publisher of the National Review, wrote that today's brand of conservatism
has produced financial mismanagement, the waste of human lives, the loss of moral authority, and the wreckage of our economy that McCain now threatens to make worse. ... Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history.
Christopher Hitchens, who has spent the last five years deriding the Democratic position on Iraq as that of "the surrender faction," endorsed Obama too, concluding
the Republican Party has invited not just defeat but discredit this year, and ... both its nominees for the highest offices in the land should be decisively repudiated.
Whee! Incredibly, the fun continued. Christopher Buckley, National Review columnist and son of conservative icon William F. Buckley, also endorsed Obama:
Obama has in him ... the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. ... And so, for the first time ... I'll be pulling the Democratic lever in November.
For his pains, Buckley received hundreds of vituperative e-mails from former admirers on the right. Effectively, he said Tuesday, he's been "fatwaed by the conservative movement." He resigned from the National Review.

But enjoyable as it's been to watch conservatives flee from the GOP, something about all this leaves me feeling a little down. Because as the more respectable, literate conservatives distance themselves from the GOP, increasingly, the only ones left on the right are paranoid, rage-driven, xenophobic nuts. Bitter? You betcha! Twisted too!

Even for a liberal, it's painful to watch. Once, the GOP proudly claimed to be the "party of ideas." They weren't generally good ideas, it's true -- but they were ideas eloquently defended by men and women who believed it was their duty to study history, philosophy, science, economics and international relations and to do the intellectual heavy lifting needed to try to persuade smart people with different views to come around to their way of thinking. That was the GOP nurtured by conservative intellectuals such as William Buckley. Buckley was many things liberals didn't admire, but he wasn't ignorant, savage or stupid by choice.

But today, as the last few sober grown-ups leave the party, the visible face of the GOP increasingly looks like that of the people who shout "kill him!" when Obama's name comes up, who speak of black men they don't like as "uppity" or as "boys," who think you can't trust a Muslim or an Arab, who think talking about "Barack Hussein Osama" is witty and (I'm talking to you, Sarah Palin and John McCain) who claim Obama "pals around with terrorists."

This isn't really that funny anymore

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tonight's Contests ...

feature a couple of elites.

Which one will I be watchin'? Neither one 'looks like me'....?

I think I'll be watching the one who doesn't wear a tie.

The other dude will be around a lot longer. He's The One about whom I can say,
Wait 'til next year!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Congratulations to Paul Krugman

STOCKHOLM (AP) - American Paul Krugman won the Nobel economics prize today for his analysis of trade patterns and location of economic activity. Krugman has formulated a new theory to answer questions about free trade, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

The citation reads, in part:
What are the effects of free trade and globalization? What are the driving forces behind worldwide urbanization?

Paul Krugman has formulated a new theory to answer these questions. He has thereby integrated the previously disparate research fields of international trade and economic geography.
All readers are well aware that Krugman, born in 1953, is a professor at Princeton University in New Jersey and a columnist for The New York Times. In his last column (yesterday's) written as a non-laureate, Krugman asks if the Brits have saved the world financial system. My excerpts:
. . . . .What we do know, however, is that Mr. Brown and Alistair Darling, the chancellor of the Exchequer (equivalent to our Treasury secretary), have defined the character of the worldwide rescue effort, with other wealthy nations playing catch-up.

This is an unexpected turn of events. The British government is, after all, very much a junior partner when it comes to world economic affairs. It’s true that London is one of the world’s great financial centers, but the British economy is far smaller than the U.S. economy, and the Bank of England doesn’t have anything like the influence either of the Federal Reserve or of the European Central Bank. So you don’t expect to see Britain playing a leadership role.

. . . The Brown government has shown itself willing to think clearly about the financial crisis, and act quickly on its conclusions. And this combination of clarity and decisiveness hasn’t been matched by any other Western government, least of all our own.

. . . . . The natural thing to do, then — and the solution adopted in many previous financial crises — is to deal with the problem of inadequate financial capital by having governments provide financial institutions with more capital in return for a share of ownership.

This sort of temporary part-nationalization, which is often referred to as an “equity injection,” is the crisis solution advocated by many economists — and sources told The Times that it was also the solution privately favored by Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman.

But when Henry Paulson, the U.S. Treasury secretary, announced his plan for a $700 billion financial bailout, he rejected this obvious path, saying, “That’s what you do when you have failure.” Instead, he called for government purchases of toxic mortgage-backed securities, based on the theory that ... actually, it never was clear what his theory was.

Meanwhile, the British government went straight to the heart of the problem — and moved to address it with stunning speed. On Wednesday, Mr. Brown’s officials announced a plan for major equity injections into British banks, backed up by guarantees on bank debt that should get lending among banks, a crucial part of the financial mechanism, running again. And the first major commitment of funds will come on Monday — five days after the plan’s announcement.

At a special European summit meeting on Sunday, the major economies of continental Europe in effect declared themselves ready to follow Britain’s lead, injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into banks while guaranteeing their debts. And whaddya know, Mr. Paulson — after arguably wasting several precious weeks — has also reversed course, and now plans to buy equity stakes rather than bad mortgage securities (although he still seems to be moving with painful slowness).

. . . . policy is, finally, being driven by a clear view of what needs to be done. Which raises the question, why did that clear view have to come from London rather than Washington?

It’s hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Paulson’s initial response was distorted by ideology. Remember, he works for an administration whose philosophy of government can be summed up as “private good, public bad,” which must have made it hard to face up to the need for partial government ownership of the financial sector.

I also wonder how much the Femafication of government under President Bush contributed to Mr. Paulson’s fumble. All across the executive branch, knowledgeable professionals have been driven out; there may not have been anyone left at Treasury with the stature and background to tell Mr. Paulson that he wasn’t making sense. . . . .
Femafication? I wasn't awake, minutes ago, when I reached for my bookmarked on-line dictionary. Krugman, also an accomplished wordsmith, has coined a new word, the meaning of which is clear to any one starting his second cup of coffee.

Busheney, obedient servants of their Grover Norquistian masters, have succeeded not only in drowning our American government in their bathtubs, but also done their best to leave our USA prey to the stormy seas of international politics and finance.

The hour is late. Hopefully, not too late.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bill Ayers Is Not an Issue in This Campaign

But let's correct the record.

What's Ayers' position on Terrorism?

I think history will assign Bill Ayers to have been among the
post-9/11 coffee drinkers as opposed to those swilling Kool-Aid.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Be the Change You Believe In!

MINNEAPOLIS (AP)- Republican presidential candidate John McCain will campaign in Minnesota again on Friday. McCain's Minnesota campaign manager says the senator from Arizona will hold a town hall meeting Friday afternoon in the Minneapolis suburb of Lakeville.

We’ve been getting lots of phone calls about our plans tomorrow to engage in a little real democracy on the Lakeville town sidewalk as opposed to inside the McCain Campaign’s staged “Town Hall” at Lakeville High School South (where in order to get a ticket to get in—if you can actually get through to a “McCain Victory Office”—a person is supposed to give up his/her critical thinking at the door and volunteer for McCain’s campaign before entering). Some controversy has even surfaced about whether constitutional democracy itself might be in jeopardy in Lakeville given the fear and panic that tends to descend when Bush Administration thinking is in the air.

However, Lakeville, the last time we checked, is still supposed to be part of the land of the free and brave. And one would think, wouldn’t ya, that the Lakeville High School’s emphasis on education would fit with the need for students to develop an appreciation of people exercising their rights and duties as good citizens. So we hope everyone will consider coming down to participate in this effort with us tomorrow (21135 Jacquard Avenue) in order to guarantee that our First Amendment Rights to free speech will survive, even in this challenging environment.

In addition to all of our previous anti-war, anti-torture banners and peace signs, we’ve spent the day making lots of good new signs and messages. Several are strongly worded like: “How’s your 401K?” “Town Hell!” “Surge hurt$” “Main Street Hurt$” “Taxing Health Care Benefits is SICK!” “5% Maverick---95% Enabler” “Empty Suits for Coleman”, etc. (you get the idea).

If you look carefully, you’ll see Meg holding my newest activist granddaughter baby in the first row of this video.

KEATING ECONOMICS: The Making of a Financial Crisis

This message is brought to you brought on by John McCain and Sarah Palin.

So we can't exactly say they approve of this message. Let's just say they deserve it and leave it at that. Because these two politicians on the Republican ticket aren't elite (oops! there's that word again!) thinkers. Palin-McCain is a C-grade pair who can't figure out how to run on either the record or on their promises. If they think they can convince the rest of us that William Ayers, Tony Reznek, and Pastor Jeremiah Wright can be made a central issue of this campaign with less than one month to go, then they are even further disqualified for holding the highest office in the land. Because ....

Because we've seen it all before. This isn't the October surprise. This - or something like it - was totally expected. This is nothing but our young century's version of the previous century's Willie Horton attack smear.

So, in the spirit of digging up ancient recent history, The Vigil presents Keating Economics:Almost on the eve of Wall Street's September/October implosion, McCain and pals were still defiantly calling themselves the De-Regulators.

If they should grab the White House through the dint of any fraudulent chicanery, they will revert to form.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

John McCain Is Not 'My Friend'

Maybe because his sense of timing is off.

Nothing is more tiresome than hearing this superannuated candidate address all of us - individually - in his audience as 'my friend'. It's presumptuous. It comes across as grasping. He may be wanting to be my friend, but it's not a reciprocated feeling. I don't want to be friends with him. I don't want to have a beer with him. Not even a frosty-cold Corona on a hot & dusty afternoon.

McCain's running for president eight years after it was his year to run. In 2000, he was fit for higher office. He was still then a maverick. I actually voted for him in the California primary. (It was the first opportunity I had to vote against George Bush.) But the aging process has weakened his grasp on everything. It shows in his incredible gaffs. It shows in his pandering make-overs into Bush III.

I understand why he's running.
  • He's always been ambitious to be a president or a presidential nominee.
  • He's the best - or the least objectionable - of the depleted and discredited stock from which the GOP has to draw upon.
There's nothing wrong with ambition nor bidding or bluffing with the cards you're holding. But I don't see that Republican stock improving much in the coming years. The only real authentic change(ling) figure on the horizon for 2012 is Sara Barracuda.
Before the laughter drowns me out, let me say that timing is everything in politics. Just as 2008 was too late for McCain and passably okay for both Barrack and Hillary, it's much too early for Palin. She has much to learn. But she's a quick study. I'm just saying that, assuming she doesn't thoroughly disgrace and discredit herself this year, the girl has a future.

I'm not saying I'm betting on her. I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Negative Republican Tactics Are Not Surprising

John McCain and his bitch attack dog want to talk about a man who made bombs when Obama was eight years old.

On Saturday, one of McCain's top advisers, Greg Strimple explained the move this way:
We are looking for a very aggressive last 30 days, We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis and getting back to discussing Mr. Obama's aggressively liberal record and how he will be too risky for Americans.
That is why the sleazy old warmonger wants Willie Horton
Bill Ayers
T.V. for the next month instead of the economy. And instead of Karthik Rajaram.

As everyone knows by now, Bill Ayers was a member of the Weathermen in the 1960's.

We are discovering Karthik Rajaram to have been a man of our 21st century:
LOS ANGELES (AFP) — An unemployed California man shot and killed his wife, three children and mother-in-law before taking his own life over his family's financial difficulties, police said Monday.
Los Angeles Police Department deputy chief Michael Moore says the gunman Karthik Rajaram, 45, shot his wife, 39, her mother, 70, and three sons aged 19, 12 and seven at their home in an up-market suburb of Los Angeles.

Rajaram was a business school graduate who had held jobs with accountancy firm Price Waterhouse and Sony Pictures before becoming unemployed. 19-year-old son Krishna Rajaram was a Fulbright Scholar and honor student at UCLA. Three letters apparently left by Rajaram attested to the family's closeness as well as financial difficulties.

LAPD Dep. Chief Moore said of the letters,
This was something that was not a spur-of-the-moment type of event ..... We believe this individual had become despondent recently over his financial dealings and the financial situation of his household, and this murder-suicide event is a direct result of that ..... His narrative is one of talking about this tragedy befalling him and his contemplation of an available exit or solution ..... One is taking his own life and the other is taking the lives of his family and himself ..... He talked himself into the second strategy, believing that was in effect the honorable thing to do ..... this is a perfect American family behind me that has absolutely been destroyed, apparently because of a man who just got stuck in a rabbit hole, if you will, of absolute despair, somehow working his way into believing this to be an acceptable exit.
If Americans elect a president who believes our greatest danger is the 21st Century's version of Willie Horton instead of economic implosion, then we are all entering a rabbit hole without an exit. Karthik Rajaram and his family are victims of the Busheney-McCain unregulated war economy. They will not be its last casualties. We are not stupid. It's the economy. Once again.

The No-Holds-Barred Debate Format

This is a new and reader-improved re-posting.

The original column and discussion can be found here. Reader comments have changed my thinking somewhat. I have had to qualify my earlier idealization of the original Lincoln-Douglas Debates. But I'm not the least bit swayed from talking up my No-Holds-Barred Debate Format (NHBDF) as an ideal basis for real debate. My ideas as presented below remain tentative. I welcome helpful suggestions and contributions from my readers.

Here's how I think the Lincoln Douglas events would look like if they were to provide a model for debates to serve our contemporary American electorate:
  • Candidate A with microphone

  • Candidate B with microphone

  • Time-Keeper equipped with suitable technologies such as a microphone, stopwatch, calculator or laptop.

  • Audience (impartial, balanced, representative of current registered voters).

  • Program would be broadcast on multiple networks, including C-Span, In tuning in to their preferred channels, viewing audience would most probably be selecting their favorite post-debate 'shows' (for lack of a better word).
There would be three parts to the debate. It would go something like this:
  1. Opening Statement: Candidates would take turns delivering a short opening statement, say 5-10 minutes.

  2. Cross Examination: Candidates would take turns posing questions to the other. All answers would be subject to follow-up questions. The questions themselves could be questioned or challenged. Notice, I didn't provide for moderator(s), interrogator(s), and questioner. The timekeeper's roll is restricted to only tracking the time each candidate consumes so as to assure equity and to prevent interruptions. Whenever one candidate engages in a filibuster or monologue, his opponent merely raises his hand to the timekeeper who can then direct traffic.

  3. Concluding Statement: Time would be appropriated to allow a five minute concluding statement from each candidate.
It's pretty straight forward and not exactly nuclear science, is it? Let me make a few comments.

The provision of a timekeeper implies only a passive role of a referee. He or she is not a moderator, questioner, nor interlocutor. No question is asked of a candidate, except by the other candidate.

In our modern media world, all potential moderators and questioners have public personas themselves, sometimes approaching or exceeding the weight of the candidates. Any moderator - any moderator - is a self-conscious performer on the debate stage. If his or her role is to pose questions to the candidates, the audience will be judging the moderator by scrutinizing the balance, fairness, and equity of the questions.

Additionally, if one candidate is perceived to significantly outshine or outperform the other, a moderator may feel that he/she should step in, separate the candidates, introduce another soothing question or take some other compensatory measures to re-balance the playing field. This peace-keeping interference would only distract the public from discovering significant differences between the candidates.

All moderators are themselves also running for public approval and amount to distractions from the candidates themselves. In short, proactive moderators inevitably become part of the story. Moderators are arbitrary, third-party intrusions in an otherwise un-buffered process by which the public tries to measure the comparative strengths of each candidate.

My model also does not include the so-called "town meeting" debates, in which candidates are expected to respond to written or verbal questions from members of the live or TV audience. The problem of these types of events is that gotcha' questions come from anonymous sources with little degrees of public responsibility. Programming networks have an affinity for these freak shows because they generate hot-button topics designed to embarrass one candidate or another.

In the NHBDF, there's no referee in the ring, just a time keeper and maybe he has a button with which he turns off one mic when it turns on the other. In my view there's some attraction to relying on the contestants to policing their own conduct, what with every nuance down to facial expressions being recorded for the benefit of posterity's sound bites. Under NHBF, candidates would have to address each other whenever they asked a question: there would be no one else on stage for them to speak to. There would have been no middleman like Jim Lehrer or Gwen Ifill. There would be no controversy about 'softball' and 'hardball' questions. Candidates would be held directly responsible for the quality of questions directed at their opponents. Questions as well as answers would be graded by the public.

The beauty of restricting the source of questions to the candidates is they have to take responsibility themselves. They will be adversely judged by the audience if they ask unduly personal or insulting questions of their opponents. In the template proposed above, any 'dumb' question will reflect poorly on the candidate asking it. The candidates themselves should frame the debate with their own Q & A.

Originally, I wanted to restrict the debate broadcasts to C-SPAN facilities, assuring a 'default' neutral post-debate programming. At the very least, TV viewers would have to take their own initiative, and make their own choices as to tuning in to post-debate coverage on other network channels. But a reader pointer out that C-SPAN requires cable, which would exclude more than 40% of American households.
Network pundits will inevitably score the debate, and designate 'winners' and 'losers'. And viewers will have inevitably selected their favorite scorekeepers by switching to their own preferred channel. Most viewers will sit passively in front of their teevee after the debate and absorb sound-bites the network program has selected for them. Too often, panels of post-debate pundits say the things that TV viewers then take away from the debate. You can't shut up the talking heads, of course. I would have preferred requiring audiences to choose their own post-debate pundits by switching channels after the debate to help communicate the idea that commentary is different and separate from the debate and debaters themselves. But it's clear that my C-SPAN only idea is a non-starter as it would exclude many interested viewers.

Debate heightens theatricality, which is one of the cores of all political systems. A candidate's charisma; ability to think on his feet; capability to discriminate between which issues are vital and which trivial; willingness to disclose and defend his own values; and candidness in demonstrating his way of thinking about the complex mix of public policy that confronts a modern president - all these are a part of what the American public wants to know about their prospective leaders. Debates will help provide that, as long as they are not pampered up to look like joint news conferences or game shows.

I'm feeling there are two schools of thought among political professionals with respect to debates.

One side says debates are not as important as massive crowds at campaign stops and intense media advertising; that most of the people who watch them are committed supporters on either side; for the others, debates just put them to sleep.

The other side - my side - wants see candidates reach out and grab each other by the throat and squeeze to see which one calls 'uncle' first. I think that's the way you win crossover and undecided votes. Maureen Dowd advised us few days ago in the NYT, to
accept what debates are about. It’s not a lecture hall; it’s a joust. It’s not how cerebral you are. It’s how visceral you are. You need memorable, sharp, forceful and witty lines.
The NHBDF allows for a visceral debate.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Al Franken: Taking Back Paul Wellstone's Seat

Norm Coleman is a Big Fat Idiot

I’m glad to get this chance to write a bit on the Al Franken-Norm Coleman senatorial race going on here in Minnesota, primarily because I feel bad I haven’t done more personally to help Franken’s campaign after he helped mine (and a bunch of other DFL candidates’ campaigns) so much back in 2006. And because I’d like to see Franken win for so many obvious reasons, including the bit of accountability it would signal for Norm Coleman’s disingenuous, sycophantic backing of Bush and the radical Republican Right Wing’s destructive agenda over the last 6 years.

Nothing’s changed my mind since this early (Feb 2007) endorsement I wrote about Al Franken and his being “The Real Deal” shortly after he announced. The only thing that hasn’t held up in the months since is my end of the bargain—my failure to volunteer as much as I promised although this last week I have been helping put up campaign signs.)

Anyway the polls show the race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken has become a close one with commentators observing that
not only is it a brutal fight already, with each candidate wounded by tough criticism and a torrent of attack ads from each side on the air, but also noting that if Franken cannot pull off a victory then Democrats have very little chance of getting to the magical, filibuster-proof 60 seats they hope for.
The negative ad war is probably a natural consequence of so much at stake. Coleman’s nauseating ads lack substance and are essentially nothing more than attacks on Franken’s style when he was a comedy/satire writer. Franken’s ads, on the other hand, are “negative” only in the sense that they attempt to hold Coleman to account for his terrible public record as an elected official. Naturally, Coleman is running as far away from his record as he possibly can, as fast as he possibly can. Franken’s most recent ad, for example, is about Coleman’s utter failure as the uniquely powerful chair of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to hold even one single hearing on fraud, corruption and profiteering in the course of the Iraq War. Even Pollyanna herself would be hard pressed to make lemonade from that lemon. Not for nothing has Norm Coleman not once in any of his TV ads used the word “Republican” to describe himself.

Franken’s talking fish ad uses Minnesota lake humor to highlight Coleman’s publicly documented close ties to Ted Stevens and the special interests of Alaskan oil executives. It might seem humorous but no truer words were ever spoken than the fish’s final ones: “Something smells fishy and it ain’t just me.” Another of the many areas that smells of undue influence buying can be seen in Norm Coleman’s current ranking as the second highest Senate recipient this year of self-described “pro-Israel” type PAC funds: Mitch McConnell (R-KY) $98,0002; Norm Coleman (R-MN) $90,000.

To get an idea of the kind of TV swill Coleman spends his money on, check this out.

Unsurprisingly, given where his money comes from, Coleman quickly announced he’d be voting for Bush’s Bail Out of Wall Street. Holding our collective noses at such special interest corruption is especially hard for Minnesotans given the fact that Coleman sits in what was once Paul Wellstone’s seat, the senator noted for his big conscience whose only goal was to represent the “little fellas” instead of the Rockefellers.

Maybe the ad people need right now is a reenactment of the telephone calls that Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney made into Minnesota back in 2001 orchestrating Norm Coleman’s selection as their boy to run against Paul Wellstone. Just to remind folks that what Wellstone’s spokesperson proclaimed back then, remains true: “the people of Minnesota deserve a senator who takes orders from them and not 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tonight's Contests

After work, I have a 5:30 meeting which could be exciting and challenging for me to attend, long enough to pound on the table with my shoes anyway. Then, I'll have to leave early enough to catch an event on my teevee.

Only, I'll have to think for a minute as to which of the two simultaneously televised contests I should watch.

Ok, That didn't really take all of sixty seconds...

Only one of these games is played on a level playing field. In only one of these games, the strike zone hasn't been shrunk through negotiation by one team as a condition of showing up. Only one of these games will be officiated by an umpire who is not being vilified for having written a book. In only one of these games will no tie suffice. In only one of these games will the two teams have identical standards of success, 'diminished levels of expectancy' having been relegated to the bookies in Las Vegas.

I want to be there to see and feel history in the making. That other (fake) game? I'll just watch the highlights later.