Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why does anyone buy Disani water bottles?

This article summarizes a new report on the worst mass products in terms of misleading advertising (Disani water bottles, among them). Worth a read.

Here is the press release dated October 29, 2007 from Consumers International, which held a press conference regarding its awards for worst products.

And here is an article about continuing problems with lead in toys made in China.

But, there's no need for more regulation of these businesses, say libertarians. They would claim this publicity is enough. I simply can't agree with that position because the sad truth is this: Most Americans are probably not even aware of the report from Consumers International or its findings. Even when Americans know about things like lead in toys manufactured in China, too many Americans think, "No worries--the government has probably already taken care of it" when of course our government really doesn't like doing things like that under this administration.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Krugman nails it (almost)

Krugman hits the point that "Islamofascism" is an overbroad concept designed to justify America's continued presence is Iraq, though his phrasing will leave him open to criticism that he is saying bin Laden and Al Queda are not even a threat.

Krugman also points out that too many of our current crop of male presidential candidates, with the exception of Kucinich, Gravel and Paul, are sowing and selling fear in orer to justify the continued undermining of our nation's best heritage from our Constitution.

This is where Krugman does not hit the nail squarely on the head. For Krugman fails to recognize that, despite Huckabee's sexist comment against Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Clinton is as eager to invade or bomb Iran as the other corporate media supported candidates. The fact is the candidates who are declared "not serious" by the corporate media are the only ones who possess the guts and seriousness to recognize that the threat of Iran will much more likely grow if we continue to elect those who tell us that Iran represents a threat.

However, if we pursue a smart diplomacy, that includes recogition that the hard line mullahs continue to be in trouble with the Iranian people, and give the Iranian people hope that we will be peaceful while they have their elections in March 2008, we can diffuse the fear emanating from the combination of the hard-line mullahs in Iran and the Cheney (Bush) administration.

Krugman and I are on the same page, but Krugman, in his zeal to protect Hillary Clinton, and to head off the latest corporate media love-fest regarding Republican presidential candidate Huckabee, has given the impression Clinton herself is not eager to invade or bomb Iran. Not so.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A war that keeps on "giving"...

Now the Turks are bombing Iraq, particularly northern Iraq where the Kurds are located. The chaos spreads and very little in the way of democracy or even stability has appeared.

In December 2006, I had thought Cheney (Bush) might finally begin to remove troops when Saddam was killed. However, I fairly quickly realized my hopeful thought was dead wrong. One additional concern I raised in that post concerned the Turks and northern Iraq. I wrote in the same post:

"As for the Kurds in northern Iraq (the Iraqi Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslim, but define themselves more by ethnic heritage), if Kurdish leaders want our troops to temporarily stay in northern Iraq, perhaps that may be advisable. The US, however, could possibly end up betraying Kurdish sovereignty or autonomy once again, and might refuse to provide even a temporary US military presence in northern Iraq. Why? Because next-door-neighbor Turkey has its own Kurdish population along the Turkish-Iraq border. And Turkey has become increasingly concerned over the possibility of Kurdish sovereignty in northern Iraq spilling into a movement of Kurds in Turkey to revolt against Turkey--and combine with the Iraqi Kurds to establish something that may be called 'Kurdistan.'"

See also this article by Stephen Kinzer reviewing various written works on modern Turkey and the Kurds. The article is from the January 12, 2006 edition of The New York Review of Books.

I remain very angry that the US has not withdrawn its troops from Sunni and Shia controlled Iraq. I am also frustrated at the incompetent US leadership, which continues to prove it is incapable of engaging in any sensible diplomacy in that region.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Fire update

Monday morning, my family and I packed up our important papers and some clothes and left our home in Poway, wondering whether our home would not be there when we returned. We came back on Wednesday to find it intact and our neighborhood unharmed, except for some minor smoke damage. Our home was a bit smoky, but the air conditioning cleared it up. I know the media cover where the fires are, but really, we're probably talking 10% of the county going up in flames, which is a lot. But it also means a lot did not burn. South of Rancho Bernardo Road on Pomerado and most of south Poway did not have any homes burned down, for example, and there were areas on the south side of Espola Road in Rancho Bernardo completely unharmed by the fire, other than it being terribly smoky for a few days.

So, the fires were ultimately and thankfully uneventful for us. And our thoughts and prayers are with those who did suffer property damage, and in a few instances, a loss of life of a loved one.

Our synagogue was a block or so from Pomerado Hospital, which was evacuated early Monday morning. So, my son and I, as we were leaving Monday morning, drove to the synagogue and took out the Torahs for safekeeping. As it turned out, the synagogue and hospital were also unharmed, again except for some minor smoke damage. And the Torahs were returned yesterday morning to the synagogue as it is now pretty clear skies in Poway.

I should also say that on Monday afternoon, my son and I went to Qualcomm Stadium with two sleeping bags we did not need to use (a friend in southeast San Diego kindly took us in) and we brought several gallons of water and some clothes for a group from a church where we know the Pastor. We gave it all, including the two sleeping bags, to the Pastor and his wife, who had the ability to stay with their family, but instead stayed with about 50 of their parishoners who had nowhere else to go. We stayed in contact and learned the facilities at the stadium were fairly good for them. Most have now left as of yesterday and went back to their homes or family's or friends' homes.

Things are not quite back to "normal" in Poway, and still out of whack in Rancho Bernardo. Two people we personally know have lost their homes in Rancho Bernardo, but they are both resourceful families and have been receiving help from their respective insurance companies and network of family and friends.

If you are thinking about making a donation to a charity, there is still time and need for it. There are many who lost their homes who do not have a sufficient network or insurance to assist them. Still, this is not as dire as the situation facing many impoverished people in Louisiana and MIssissippi two years ago.

I returned to work briefly on Wednesday, found I needed to get out a response to a court filing that day, prepared it and caused it to be filed, and then left. I went back to full-time work yesterday and have to get there this morning. The Boy Scouts contacted us late last night and asked for volunteers from my son's troop to help break down equipment and such at Qualcomm Stadium this morning. My son, who is 14, is sleeping as I write this (at 7:30 a.m.) and I'm going to wake him to take him to downtown San Diego with me so I can then take him to the stadium later this morning. He is aching to help others and has been feeling terrible about the situation (UPDATE: "Dad," my son says,"I'm already doing something else this morning-and it's closer to our house! Now, can I sleep in till eight?" And his Dad said okay and dove back into the blog for an update!).

My 9 year old is less traumatized and has a friend who stayed over here last night. This morning, the two of them are up and laughing and singing, which is really fine by my wife and me right now.

See you in the blogosphere...


Sunday, October 21, 2007

"I told you so" is a compelling campaign slogan

Howard Dean finally made a statement I consider a gaffe. From this interview in the NY Times:

“I often find myself ahead of the curve...Unfortunately, ‘I told you so,’ is an incredibly unsuccessful campaign slogan.”

Tell that to the newest governor of Louisiana, Republican Bobby Jindal.

I know, I know: It only works if you're a Republican.

However, with Bush in the polling toilet, Republican congresspeople and senators retiring at dizzying rates, and their primary presidential candidates pathetically bumping into each other (to the point where a guy from Arkansas named "Huckabee" is their best candidate), if Al Gore stood up and said, "You know, I won the last time, I warned y'all against Bush, the Iraq War, and climate change, and I've learned a few more things about leadership since 2000," that would be a wonderful campaign theme.

Run, Al, run. Now.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Book Review Saturday Special Edition

A history professor from Stanford University, David M. Kennedy, has pulled out a few chestnuts from the shelf marked "sly debating tactics" in order to damn Paul Krugman's new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal", in this week's NY Times Book Review.

The reivew should be read and absorbed because it presents a classic example of a type of elitist and sophisticated attack that the NY Times has perfected over the past 100 years. Here are three chestnuts of sophistry Kennedy employs in his sly attack on Krugman:

1. Condescension: The first few paragraphs of Professor Kennedy's review, with his tongue only partly in cheek, discuss a definition of an "economist" as meaning someone who is named Milton Friedman. Perhaps Professor Kennedy has spent too much time hanging out with the late Milton Friedman at Stanford's Hoover Institution. Friedman was a naive idiot who thought that since corporations are "legal fictions," they don't pose any harm and should not be regulated. Professor Kennedy's purpose here is to de-legitimize Krguman, who has taught economics at Princeton for many years, setting Krugman up as being less than a complete or reliable "economist."

2. The sweeping criticism based upon a minor error
: After condescendingly de-legitimizing Krugman as not being a "real" economist, Kennedy then delivers what he thinks is a knock-out punch regarding Krugman's skills at being a historian:

"The bulk of this book consists of a historical explanation for how this sorry state of affairs (MJF note: economic inequality) came to be. It’s a story that is as factually shaky as it is narratively simplified. (Kansas, whatever its other crimes and misdemeanors, is not customarily regarded as the birthplace of Prohibition; the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965, not 1964.) History according to Krugman goes something like this: the nation suffered through a “Long Gilded Age” of let-’er-rip, dog-eat-dog capitalism until the New Deal created a new social order characterized by income-leveling taxes, job security, strong labor unions, a prosperous middle class, bipartisan solidarity and general social bliss. Krugman invokes that post-World War II “paradise lost” in his first paragraph, and his yearning to restore that Edenic moment informs all the pages that follow."

It is here that Professor Kennedy reveals himself as a sophist. First, Professor Kennedy ought to know that lots of commentators during the late 19th Century and early 20th Century identified Kansas as the leading representative state for the Prohibition movement. Here is an article from the then-respected North American Review from August 1916, whose first paragraph states:

"The State of Kansas has experimented with constitutional prohibition for a period of thirty-five years. The amendment was submitted by the Legislature at the session of 1879, adopted at the general election of 1880, and the enabling statute became effective May 1st, 1881. At this time Maine was already under State-wide prohibition, but prohibition was never taken very seriously there except as political issue, and is at present scarcely more than nominal,—in fact, Governor Curtis, in his inaugural address, recommended that the whole pretense be given up. But in Kansas, prohibition has always been taken seriously and its enforcement has commanded the utmost efforts of the State; so while Kansas is not precisely a pioneer in the policy, she doubtless represents the very best that State-wide prohibition can do."

Even Wikipedia seems to understand this better than the professor of American history at Stanford.

And the fact that Krguman may have mistakenly stated the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed in 1964, which happens to be the year the Congress and President Johnson passed the main Civil Rights laws, does not remotely suggest that Krugman's entire history is "shaky." If those are the best examples Professor Kennedy can provide of errors of historical fact, then Krugman is looking very good as a historian.

As for the rest of the paragraph I quoted from Professor Kennedy's review, I would ask the Professor to provide us an alternative short narrative that captures the economic and sociological history of the last 120 years of this nation as well as the one he summarized as Krugman's narrative. Is the history of the past 120 years just one big march of progress? Was this period one big and great triumph of capitalism? To attack Krguman as being too simplistic for a general sweep of history is a dishonest argument because any general statement can be criticized for the same reason.

3. The professor as "concern troll"
: Professor Kennedy's review makes it sound as if "everyone" knows there has been a significant increase in economic inequality in the past 30 years. Of course, if "everyone" knew that, then Dennis Kucinich, not Hillary Clinton, would be leading in polls among Democrats and there'd be a revitalization of the Robert LaFollette Progressive tradition in the Republican Party.

However, like a true "concern troll," the old professor dons the hat of a concerned liberal minded person who is disppointed that Krugman seems so shrill and is--gasp!--a believer in conspiracies--as if there was not a coordinated personally-oriented political attack by Republicans, and their pundit-mouthpieces, against the Clintons during the 1990s and against people like Howard Dean and John Kerry in this decade.

Concluding thoughts:

What all this comes down to is that Professor Kennedy has attacked Krugman for writing a polemical book that was meant to be...a polemic. I guess the professor didn't know that Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative" was also written to preach to the converted, and to tell the unconverted, "Watch out, we conservatives are standing tall."

Overall, we should not have been too surprised at the antics of Professor Kennedy. This is a guy who wrote a 900 page book about the Great Depression and World War II that managed to miss the big picture as to FDR's importance and repeats canards from FDR's enemies that date back to the 1930s and 1940s, i.e. (1) FDR's domestic policies failed to solve the Great Depression (wrong) and (2) criticizing FDR for not appeasing Japanese military agression, which led the Japanese to attack the U.S. at Pearl Harbor. Oh wait a minute, I forgot: Kennedy is at Stanford, home of the Hoover Institution, which was founded by the rich friends of FDR's hapless predecessor, Herbert Hoover.

As a final point, let us understand that Professor Kennedy will not be barred from receiving future book review assignments for penning such a shallow-minded and sly attack on the NY Times' own columnist. Instead, the Hoover professor can expect to be handsomely rewarded with further book review assignments by not merely the NY Times, but most likely the Washington Post or even The New Yorker. What we should also take away from the Hoover professor's review is that the NY Times' tradition of punishing "liberals" rather than defending them is alive and well--contrary to what right-wing corporate pundits and their credulous supporters continue to believe.


Saving Social Security one letter to the editor at a time...

The San Diego Union-Tribune, which is a typical right-wing newspaper in terms of its editorial content, recently published an editorial, written by one of its editors on the left side of its page (meaning it was anonymous), decrying the crisis in Social Security--and how politicians need to grow up and recognize the crisis.

Here is the editorial, which is written in the classic "tut-tut, we're serious..." tone that is used to castigate pandering politicians.

And here (scroll down) is my letter to the editor which the U-T published on Friday, October 19, 2007:

Social Security functioning well

"Regarding “No more evading/Candidates must address Social Security's ills” (Editorial, Oct. 17):

"There is no danger to the functioning of the Social Security system other than from those who want to kill it under the pretense of 'saving' or 'reforming' it. The Social Security trustees' reports conclude the system will only be able to pay 80 percent of its benefits sometime during the 2040s only because it wrongly underestimated the goss domestic product growth over the next 40 years. If it had simply used the real-world GDP growth of the past decade, or even the last five years, the Social Security system – with no changes whatsoever – survives the retirement and demise of the baby boom generation without any problem.

"What is amusing is how the editorial claims to worry about the sum of the shortfall under the Social Security trustees' analysis. Yet, according to the then-Republican-controlled Congressional Budget Office, the Bush income tax cuts from a few years ago are expected to create a shortfall of three times the shortfall envisioned by the Social Security trustees. The Union-Tribune, however, has never called for a repeal of the Bush tax cuts and continues to irresponsibly push for income tax cuts geared to helping Warren Buffett pay less in percentage of taxes than his own secretary.


There was some editing by the U-T, which I don't mind. Plus, I was responding to the U-T's October 16, 2007 editorial, not the October 17, 2007 editorial (the latter editorial is here).

In any event, at least the U-T readers now know they should at least be skeptical about the warnings about "baby boomers" and Social Security bankrupting our nation.

The saddest fact is how the elite in the corporate-owned media have to be corrected by someone who does not work for corporate-owned media. They receive their learned ignorance at their swank cocktail parties, where they hear Social Security is bankrupt, despite it running surpluses year after year. They also hear that because the Social Security surplus has been invested in Treasury Bonds, as with many other wealthy investors and even foreign governments from China to Germany, that we, as a nation, will never pay back those bonds (despite our paying these bonds back every year for the past 220 years). If we defaulted on our bonds, it would be because the U.S. turned into Argentina.

Perhaps that is what the elite have planned for us, or are they just ignorant or greedy jerks who want to kill Social Security altogether?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Too bad Cheney (Bush) doesn't read the Israeli press

See here from the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Achronot.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"No Shame" Hall of Fame

GW Bush, who has presided over record debt and near record deficits, and who continues to waste money and cause the unneeded deaths and maiming of thousands of our soldiers, tells Democrats to not spend money...on things like subsidized health insurance coverage for the middle class.

And Senator Larry Craig (R-Airport Bathroom) must get a special Most Pathetic No Shame Hall of Fame award: He has the audacity to criticize Mitt Romney for distancing himself from Craig.

And most damning No Shame Hall of Fame award must go to the corporate media for treating the money raised by various politicians in a quarter as more important than informing citizens of that politician's policy positions--and then lamenting the fact that people are not very interested in political campaigns. How can people be interested when they are given very little information about matters of public policy--and shown no connection between public policy and the challenges in their lives, or the reasons for their anxiety about their future?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Good grief! Another Book Review Sunday...

I didn't think I'd get around to this today, but here it is: Book Review Sunday.

First up, a well-written and fascinating review of the Charles Schultz biography. I loved drawing Snoopy and his pals as a kid, and harbored ideas of being a cartoonist. I always had a sense, however, Schultz was a depressed guy, and am sad to have that feeling confirmed with this new biography. I am shocked, however, to learn Schultz held grudges that were frankly pathetic. Oh well. I really wonder about biographies of the lives of artists, however. Is not their art the thing to recall, as opposed to their marital troubles or infedlities, their alcohol or drug habits (Schultz was not a drinker or abuser of drugs, however), or the all-too-typical artists' depression? Still, a fine review of what sounds like a definitive first wave biography.

Personally, Doonesbury remains the standard for me in terms of comic strips. After a couple of years of dullness at different points in the 1980s and mid-1990s, Doonesbury remains an often funny, almost always fascinating, and unique comic strip. His characters have aged to the point where we are looking at the grandchildren of the first characters or at least adult age children of those first characters. We've seen characters get ill, or worse, die. And the insight is extraordinary. Just get hold of "Got War?" and revel in its brilliance.

is a fine, but too short review by John Leonard of Susan Faludi's latest sociological non-fiction work, "Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9/11 America." Faludi is one of our nation's most important sociologist-journalists. She has posited an amazing insight about how we reacted as a culture to 9/11. One can easily overstate her thesis, but until you read at least part of her book, or read through the information she provides, the fact is most of us never considered the immediate grabbing off the shelf of the "Big Daddy will protect you" narrative, and how the narrative itself is often misleading and sometimes even a lie. Faludi illuminates what the light doesn't catch in our collective room. Leonard should have given this book more than the short praise he did as I feel his praise is forced. He uses many short-hand phrases that suggest so much more, and most readers not as well versed in the intellectual phraselogy Leonard uses are more likely to be lost in reading the review. Example: in the review's last sentence, Leonard writes:

"Feminism, like a trampoline, has made possible this splendid provocation of a book, levitating to keep company with Hunter Thompson’s fear and loathing, Leslie Fielder’s love and death and Edmund Wilson’s patriotic gore."

If you are not familiar with these books (most may recognize Hunter Thompson, though), you can miss the flavor Leonard may be attempting to impart. Sad, really. I love Leonard, though, and he would be a leading person you'd want in any intellectual dinner party or salon.

The third review, all in the NY Times today, is Michael Kinsley's review of Alan Greenspan's biography. Still too kind, it is cutting enough of that overrated windbag and banker's pet to be enjoyable. One quibble, though: Kinsley writes near the end of the review, criticizing Greenspan's utter ignorance of Reagan's intentional policies of running deficits to undermine faith in government and government programs (see David Stockman for confirmation of this bad faith by Reagan's administration advisers and even Reagan himself):

"Early in Reagan’s administration, as a member of the president’s economic advisory board, he supported Reagan’s tax cuts 'if spending was restrained” and if the Fed kept money tight. Volcker’s Fed continued to do its bit but Reagan, famously, did not, leading to enormous deficits. Greenspan says, 'Congress shied away from the necessary restraints on spending.' But the data — those good old data — show that the budgets Reagan proposed were only slightly smaller than the budgets Congress eventually passed."

Kinsley is far more correct than the ignorant Greenspan, but still not enough correct. Turns out, in six out of the eight years of Reagan's reign, he proposed deficits larger than the Democratic Party "controlled" Congress. See: The tables at the end of Daniel Calleo's "The Bankrupting of America" (Avon Books, 1993). Calleo was a technocratic, deficit-hawk economist, not a radical leftist by any means. And Reagan had no more than a rhetorical interest in cutting spending to protect against deficits caused as much by his tax cuts of 1981 than anything else.

Finally, reviewer Stacy Schiff delivers a witty, informed take-down of a new book attacking Thomas Jefferson as anti-female. This is a wonderful review, providing us information and insight--and showing how to give Jefferson the benefit of the doubt against the book writer who appears to abhor Jefferson and gives our Founding Father no quarter. Jefferson's been through hell in recent decades by more than one biographer and historian. As someone always partial to John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, and an early admirer of Gore Vidal's less than favorable analysis of Jefferson, even I have had enough of this bashing of Jefferson, where he is not given any benefits of the doubt. I therefore thank Ms. Schiff for giving a respectful airing on behalf of a dear Founding Father.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Triviality rules our discourse

Lots of Internet space has been generated over the Frost family, who chose to go public with their problems securing health insurance following a catastrophic accident involving their children (Trust me, you could spend all day linking to articles at just the more prominent web blog sites).

Michelle Malkin
, a right-wing pundit, has become a lightning rod against the Frosts, attacking them for not hocking their commercial property and their supposedly nice cars to pay through the nose to an insurance company willing to cover their children for the catastrophic injuries they suffered. Malkin had originally and mistakenly assumed that the children's private school education was being paid by the family, instead of bothering to check whether the children had received scholarships to the private school (which they had). Other right-wingers on the Internet have joined in--see one of Powerline's posts here, for example. And, as this has gone on, Malkin herself has been dissed by Ezra Klein (a true expert on the issue of health insurance reform) for her own personal complaints about the unfairness of our nation's current "system" of health insurance. She then returned that volley, saying that somehow her receipt of a government tax break for a Health Savings Account (HSA), which involves a high deductible plan to "save" on premiums and co-pays, is morally superior to a direct subsidy like the S-CHIP program.

An underlying assumption within most of the arguments about the Frost family is the question over how "poor" you should be to qualify for government assistance in the form of subsidized health insurance, either through tax cuts or a direct cash subsidy. But rather than get into that philosophical morass, which ends up in the trivial arguments over a particular family (just what certain right-wingers who love to see other people suffer for their choices want to see), let's demand our corporate media ask this question:

"Why shouldn't every citizen in the U.S. have full access to health care through government subsidized insurance?"

General Motors knows the right answer to this question--see this article from In These Times magazine.

Most people in Canada, England, Western Europe, the Scandanavian nations, and Japan know the right answer to this question. And anyone who knows how much these nations spend on health insurance costs knows the right answer to that question.

And Ross Douthat at The Atlantic magazine understands the right answer to this question--focusing in his blog piece about how the right-wing moves seamlessly between pro-family rhetoric and then to rhetoric that is abusive against families; and how that right-wing fails to sense the tension, if not contradictions, inherent in that movement.

Robert Kuttner, one of our nation's perceptive economic analysts, wrote a book in the 1980s called "The Economic Illusion" (Houghton-Mifflin (hardcover) 1984). One of the most salient points he raised in that book is that publicly-funded universalist programs for health care or other basic amenities tend to work more efficiently, cost less per person, and have more public support than so-called "means-tested" programs, where one has to get to a certain level of relative poverty or lower level of income to qualify for a government benefit. I've not seen a credible conservative or right-wing analysis challenging this point and I do not believe, at this point, that we ever will.

So let's get out of the morass of arguing about one family's plight and focus on the real and much larger picture. In other words, the debate should be about why America must move to a single pay system for health insurance because it is the right thing to do, even if it is not the right-wing thing to do.

The faster the Hillaries, Edwardses, Obamas and others recognize this is the real debate, the faster we'll engage and win that debate. Yes, it's just one more reason I support Kucinich right now...

But of course, I'm neither "serious" according to corporate media pundits, nor am I a "grown-up" according to Ms. Malkin.


Remember the ridiculous attacks against MoveOn.org for its advertisement playing with General Petraeus' name and calling him "General Betray-Us"? (See my earlier and single post on this issue here) Well, now that the retired General Sanchez has ripped into the administration, no reasonable person should doubt that General Sanchez's comments are also an attack on Petraeus for going up to Congress to support the Cheney (Bush) administration's execution of the Iraq War II.

Those Democrats in Congress who went along with the trivial and ridiculous attack against MoveOn.org, and those Republicans who spearheaded that attack, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Triviality rules our public discourse in so many areas...


Friday, October 12, 2007

Run, Al, Run!

Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, it was announced today. I love what he said, too:

"We face a true planetary emergency. ... It is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity," he said. "It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

The only way we may be able to stop the Hillary coronation for the Democratic Party nomination, which has been almost completely fueled by corporate media treating her from the start as the inevitable nominee--even when she couldn't poll better than 25% of Democratic Party member support--is if Al Gore announces he is running for president.

Al's announcement will suck the air out of the corporate media room and make it at least a race of Al v. Hillary. He will raise $25 million in less than a month, and be immediately competitive. And he will smoke her in debates for the same reason Al had problems himself in the past: She is calculated and constantly listening to media consultants and political strategists. Al, on the other hand, is free of that pernicious influence. This is why so many Democrats and even some Republicans have been impressed with Al. The finally sense his genuineness and earnestness to do what he sees as the right thing--and that's what people want in those who ask to lead us.

One bit of advice for Al, and only one: Al has a potential disadvantage that he can quickly turn into an advantage. The corporate media reporters and pundits hate him. He can run against the corporate media, and the bastards still have to cover him. It will be like what Republican candidates have done for decades--getting free media time to let them bash the corporate media for being elitist jerks. Gore's latest book, "The Assault on Reason" was as much an attack on the corporate media as anything else.

When you run, Al, remember how these rich reporter/pundits are going to spin nearly everything against you. Be firm. Be strong with them--and remember the big bloggers and their readers, including this reader, have your back. Whatever you do, don't try to please Wolfie, Tucker, Candy Crowley, et al. Just keep speaking from your heart and show America you are ready to lead after all of the disastrous and mendacious leadership we've endured over the past almost seven years.

That's all. Now, please announce and let's all take on the Hillary machine.

It is time.

Oh, and to my own relatively few readers: sign the petition.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Free speech and lying in an election campaign

The Washington State Supreme Court overturned a state law that set up a system whereby an administrative electoral agency could decide whether a candidate had recklessly or intentionally spoke a mistruth about the candidate's electoral opponent or opponents.

The Supreme Court in that state held there was a Federal Constitutional First Amendment right against any law that abridged free speech, which led that court to void or overturn the law.

The ruling is flawed in its overbreadth, but there was something wrong with the law that was not noted in the LA Times article to which I linked. Think about it. Do you want some government administrative agency telling you when you fibbed about an opponent in a campaign--or would you rather have a jury of your peers tell you that after a trial?

Personally, I'd rather have a jury than an agency tell me whether I libeled someone in an election campaign. As we know too well, an administrative agency would most likely be stacked with political cronies of one political party or the other. What should not be lost in the commentary on this decision is that a candidate who believes he or she has been libeled can sue for libel in the court system. Libel is an implied exception to the First Amendment and has been so since the Constitution became effective in 1791.

Eugene Volokh, one of the foremost First Amendment law professors in the US, reaches a similar conclusion here (though the post is long and may be difficult for non-lawyers to follow at first).

So, bottom line: There is still a way to combat lies in an election campaign through the courts. It's just that the system in Washington, which allowed an administrative agency to make that decision without a right to appeal the decision to the courts, went beyond the bounds of the First Amendment and really, the Fifth Amendment for procedural due process.