Monday, September 29, 2008

Interesting developments...

Atrios prophesized it last week. He said the Republicans in the House, like Lucy playing football with Charlie Brown, would pull away the football at the last moments. Now, it does indeed look as if Pelosi and Hank Paulson each played Charlie Brown to the Republican Congressmen's Lucy.

So the Dow tanks and investors rush to...government backed Treasury bonds. Wall Street has spoken: "We value the government more than our private financial institutions." Think about this the next time someone tells you our T-bills are worthless and how wrong it was for the Social Security Administration to invest in T-bills.

One interesting question is how far the Bush administration will go to appease progressive critics of the bailout proposals. Will the Busheviks allow Democrats to add more pro-homeowner provisions, including the bankruptcy law changes that would let judges rewrite mortgage payments and percentages, for example? I also admit to wondering, two weeks after the crisis began, whether we might not be better off without any plan at this point--and just have the government buy assets of these various companies if they filed for bankruptcy. I italicize wondering because people I find credible, including Warren Buffett and Paul Krugman, continue to say some bailout of these companies, before any further bankruptcy filings, is necessary.

Politically, Obama needs to maintain support for more progressive bailout conditions (and he has been admirable in this regard), combined with prudence about what is happening among the congressional leadership of the Democratic and Republican Parties. I beleive we should also let McCain/Palin continue to warn Americans to "swallow hard and go forward" with a bailout. McCain can obviously change on a dime, however, and the corporate media is not likely to hammer him for yet another flip-flop.

What makes this time politically charged, and therefore very interesting to me is that we now see that the Republicans in Congress have thrown the Bush administration, and now McCain, under the bus. They would rather do nothing and burnish a particularly demogogic popluist sort of rhetoric which they hope to use to hold onto their seats. These Republicans are primarly performing political calculations, not primarily acting from principle.

(Edited)

ADDENDUM: Dean Baker went past mere wondering and opposes any bailout that is not geared directly to help homeowners. Sounds reasonable, and really, if Republicans are not on board, then the Dems need to go economically populist all the way, meaning revive a New Deal spirit. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) asks the correct public policy questions, and let's note, too, that Kucinich opposed the bailout proposal today.

On the other side of the political aisle, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) impressed me with his idea for a special bond issuing that would be paid for with initial private investors, with US government backing. I am not happy about this idea as the risk is still too great without reward for taxpayers, but it's an improvement in Republican thinking since their last proposal that called for cutting capital gains taxes--as if the problem is that the homes are appreciating in value and there would be capital gains taxes owed. Oy. For those not public policy minded, the reason the proposal to cut capital gains taxes makes little or no sense is most properties are worth less than the loans, so there is no capital gains, and hence no tax. Cutting that tax just helps people with other interest income from other sources.

Final comment: It looks like the "blame Pelosi" balloon is fizzling, especially if one actually reads the rather tame speech she made. That is also what impressed me about Issa. I saw him on Chris Matthews' show on MSNBC this afternoon, and Issa said nothing about Pelosi's speech nor did he blame Pelsoi. Instead, he talked about his proposal and that he had not even spoken with McCain. At one point, though, Issa ripped into Paulson, saying Paulson was no banker, but only a "day trader" from Goldman Sachs. Ouch. But, sadly, Matthews proved his own shallowness by ignoring Issa's more reasoned points, and focused instead on personal politics.

Speaking of politics, as opposed to public policy, one thing is certain today: The Paulson plan is dead and the Democrats have no business reviving it. Also, the Republicans are going in various directions at once, are not following McCain's lead, and are willing to rip into the Bush administration. I agree with Digby that the time is almost overripe for Democrats to find their inner FDR and prepare a truly pro-homeowner proposal. Readers of mine know that has long been my mantra, so it is nice to see Digby reciting that mantra today...

Still a long way to go...but Obama's chances getting better all the time

As Alice Cooper sang, "We've Still Got a Long Way to Go", but, as the Beatles sang, Obama's "Getting Better All the Time."

There are four things the Republicans have going for them that could still result in a McCain victory or at least a cliffhanger of an election day:

1. White racism that does not show up directly in polling. This could add four points in the McCain column in any number of states, though the linked article regarding the poll says the pollsters believe it could be up to six points shaved off Obama's support.

2. The White House may yet give Israel the green light to bomb Iran, though so far, it appears the White House has rejected Israel's proposed bombing of Iran. This action may well cause too many Americans, wavering on Obama, to go for McCain because of fear and the continued meta-narrative that somehow McCain is "strong" on national defense. However, an attack by Israel or directly by the US on Iran may backfire on Republicans and produce outrage among Americans more than scare them because of the clear implications Iran was attacked for domestic political purposes, not national security reasons.

3. Republican operatives continuing to find ways to undermine the ability of Americans to cast votes on election day. The Republican Party has already become adept at "voter caging." They have now devised other, more legal methods of suppressing votes for this election day. See this ingenious method devised by Republicans in Michigan and note these political manuevuers among Democrats and Republicans in Ohio.

4. More lies and more ads tying Obama to Rev. Wright or other "undesirables." I expect McCain's camp to ramp up more misleading ads that will rival the type of unethical attacks the Republicans and corporate Democrats used against Upton Sinclair's gubernatorial candidacy in California in 1934. It will likely be that bad.

So if you know someone whose home has been foreclosed, a student who doesn't want to be drafted in McCain's plans for more wars, younger or single women who are more likely to vote for Democrats, who may or may not be up to date with their voter registrations, then help them get registered at the places they currently live and get them to use the absentee ballot before they move again, or have some emergency that may keep them from voting on election day.

Again, this will be a close election no matter what. And McCain and his operatives know that if they are within five points or less of any number of states, they can win this thing. However, let's stay positive and strong. Obama's support is rising among low information voters, i.e. independents. Also, more and more people are seeing the erratic, arrogant and lying behavior of McCain, and people have seen how ignorant Palin is about foreign affairs and national domestic political issues.

(Edited)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Vote for the Illinois lawyer with better judgment

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

Sometimes it's best to elect an Illinois lawyer with good political judgment, even if he has little or no military experience.

And the snap polls seem to show more and more Americans agreeing (see CNN and CBS polls, for starters).

And Biden was outstanding afterwards, while Palin was nowhere on television--hidden away in a bar in Philly. Really.

Maybe this column from a right wing female commentator telling Palin to resign from her candidacy for VP explains why even Republican operatives running the McCain campaign are probably thinking, the less people see and hear Palin, the better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Corporate socialism: Or why I will never trust Bushies...

So the corporate bailout of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, et al. is based upon buying the bad mortgages? That is corporate socialism, especially if the government does not demand more than stock warrants in return. Dean Baker shows us what a progressive "bailout" looks like here (and worth reading past a mere scroll).

And Josh Marshall provides more links and analysis here that shows not merely alternatives to a bailout with no strings, but also shows how Republicans are already following orders from lobbyists to ensure the bailout has little if any strings whatsoever. Corporate socialists are already uniting, which is why I have, over the years, no real respect for "free market" ideologues. They are merely stalking horses for capitalists, not capitalism...

I hope the Dems hold tough on this bailout proposal from the Bushies. And I hope Obama continues his populist stance, and not fall for the bi-partisan line the Bushies have been pushing. McCain will continue to bounce all over the place ("fundamentally strong," yet in "crisis", against AIG bailout before he was for it in a 24 hour span, and then recklessly deciding that someone he supported, Chris Cox of the SEC, was suddenly to blame, and then blaming Obama for having a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac guy as an adviser, forgetting his own 20 lobbyists on McCain's own staff or bundling money for him who were exclusively for the banking industry or Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae...). There has long been a sideshow of Republicans, including McCain, trying to blame Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae for the troubles for years, not understanding that those two more-private-entities-than-public agencies were following trends in the larger private sector than leading events. But, I must go and that may have to wait until another time to discuss...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Surge, surge, surge--oh, never mind...

See here.

I wonder if reporters will hound McCain with this report and say, "Will you now admit the surge was not a significant factor in lessening violence in Baghdad and its immediate surroundings?"

And now that it is well known that the Anbar Awakening began six months before the surge, and further, Sadr had, before the surge, told his militias to stand down (despite refusing to say when he will reactivate his militias), perhaps we will stop this nonsense that 20,000-30,000 additional troops made all that difference in violence levels. Plus, the biggest irony is we still have more troops in Iraq than we did before the surge--and those who most push the story line about the "success" of the surge don't want to leave despite repeating with zombie-like mantras, "The surge worked. The surge worked..."

And this article from Rolling Stone from March 2008 looks more and more prescient as to why Iraq will continue to have sectarian violence, whether we stay or go, and despite the ethnic cleansing of various neighborhoods. Iraq is still the Middle East version of Yugoslavia and we have no further business staying in Iraq. I wish Obama agreed, but he doesn't. But he's still better than McCain, who I continue to believe will exploit any opening to extend our occupation of Iraq.

(Edited--sorry, somehow the last line was not originally saved!)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Biz writer admits folly of biz writers, while Reason.org is strangely restrained over big government interventions

Hat tip to Tristero at Digby's place. Read the article by Dean Shankman in the Columbia Journalism Review here.

And I was disappointed, but not surprised that the folks at Reason magazine, a magazine for business libertarians, have not jumped in with trenchant analysis, at least as of September 17, 2008, on the bailouts this week. They'd rather keep writing about immigration, getting rid of regulations and laws prohibiting growing or smoking pot, etc. as if there was nothing else going on.

So far, all I've found was this blog piece from Monday, September 15, but really, such commentary is so...passive and ultimately weak. And there is this link to an outside article by the idiot Amity Shlaes, who can't figure out how come so many people were working during the New Deal. But really, where's the passion they would have brought had the US government finally became the nation's single health insurer? Really, they should be lined up and down the wallpaper with commentary, but they're not.

I guess they don't want to acknowledge, let alone know John Galt any longer..

(Edited)

Ronald Radosh: Give it a rest, buddy

Ronald Radosh, a former far left historian now struggling with his conscience among neo-cons and other rightwingers, is crowing about Morton Sobell's confession that he and his friend, Julius Rosenberg, were in fact Soviet spies. Radosh calls it "startling" and I call it...yawn.

I have long concluded, since at least the time Radosh and his co-author Joyce Milton, wrote their excellent book on the Rosenberg case--back in 1983 (this link is the second edition of the book)--that Julius and his friend Sobell were Soviet spies, and that Ethel was at most an accessory due to her marital loyalty to her husband.

I have also concluded, and I used to think Radosh did, too, that the sentence of execution was excessive (Judge Kaufman, a person of the Jewish faith, refused the FBI's recommendation that Ethel Rosenberg only get a life sentence, not the death penalty. One doesn't have to be a pop psychologist to believe that Kaufman was obviously trying to prove that he, a Jew, was going to be "tougher" as a loyal American Jew on these treasonous Jews). It is also a fact that the Rosenbergs remain the only civilians ever given the death penalty in a spy case. Plus, as Radosh admits, only near the very end of the article, there had been significant prosecutorial misconduct during the trial, in both the liability and sentencing phases.

But Radosh is now trying to convince himself that the sentences were just, but he cannot say it directly because he obviously knows all about the 1980s spy case involving the Walker family, where one of the Walkers has already served his time for far more significant spying for the Soviet Union when it was an official enemy of the US (Julius Rosenberg and Morton Sobell spied for the Soviets when the Soviets were still nominally allies, which is not terribly significant, but at least noteworthy when comparing the Rosenbergs' death sentence to the relatively milder sentences the Walkers received.).

If anything, the Rosenberg case reminds me--and others--more and more of the case of the convicted spy, Jonathan Pollard, another American Jew who has served an excessive amount of years for spying, again compared to the Walkers. There is again no doubt Pollard is guilty of spying for Israel, again for ideological reasons like Julius Rosenberg. But there is again, the fact that Caspar Weinberger, a person with a Jewish heritage, felt compelled to exaggerate evidence in private to a judge during the sentencing phase, and managed to create an institutional inertia that has left Pollard in prison for more than he should have served compared to other convicted spies. If Bush wants to do right by anyone for posterity, he could easily commute Pollard's sentence (It was my final rage against Clinton that he did not do that for Pollard when he left office.).

Finaly, let's get to what really irked me in reading Radosh's article. The article is not really about any "startling" confession from Sobell. The article is about Ronald Radosh's obsession with "the left, the left, the left..." as if most leftists have really continued to argue with Radosh over the Rosenberg case in the past 20 years. Yes, there are textbooks which say the Rosenberg case is "controversial" and perhaps there are some today that may assume the Rosenbergs were innocent due to the prosecutorial misconduct. But, really, Ron, that sort of error would be one of the few pro-"left" errors in a texbook when compared to those which feed into right-wing mythology (See: "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James Loewen, for example).

Radosh then implies that Columbia University historian Eric Foner is one of those "leftists" who still thinks the Rosenbergs were innocent, even though his quote from Foner merely concerns Foner's sociological view that the manner in which the Rosenberg trial was portrayed by the powers that be in the US was part of a broader attack on leftists and liberals--and helped create an oppressive atmosphere during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and early to mid 1950s. That is very different than saying the Rosenbergs were innocent. And there is evidence for Foner's observation, particularly when one reads William F. Buckley's co-authored book defending the odious Sen. Joseph McCarthy, where Buckley, near the end, says the real goal is to defeat "Liberals". Shades of Sean Hannity, who also conflates "Liberals" with "evil" and "terrorists" in our time...

Ironically, if one wants to read about "startling" recent evidence in the Rosenberg case, such evidence is contained in a book from 2001, "The Brother," which reveals that Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, admitted he was not fully truthful on the witness stand, and that it is not true that he saw his sister, Ethel, typing the information Julius stole from the US government for the Soviets. That confession was surprising to me and most people. Further surprising is the very recent release of Grand Jury reports in the case, which further show that Ethel Rosenberg was a weak accessory at best--something which puts Radosh in a more scholarly mind in an article he wrote just last week for the NY Sun.

I wish Radosh would just give his Red-baiting a rest. I still believe him to be a decent to fine mind and historian. However, his broad attacks against what he calls "the left" just leave me shaking my head with pity--and sometimes, yes, anger.

(Edited)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What do American taxpayers get in return for the bailout?

At least Americans will get an 80% equity stake in AIG if it survives...I would have loved to see Paulson squeeze for just a little more, like requiring the executives to give up their golden parachutes. Let them know the pain most employees know when losing their jobs with no severance or termination bonus.

Otherwise, it is a socialism of losses, but a capitalism of gains for executives at these companies that essentially failed as a result of the executives'reckless drives for profits.

ADDENDUM: And as others are starting to note, it is indeed ironic that the Bushies are the ones to essentially nationalize the financial industry and are now getting the government into the private insurance business. My view is this: We shouldn't be surprised. When we start to think about it, the Bushies are the ones who did more to destroy the CIA as an institution than any communist spy had ever done, and did more to exhaust and undermine morale inside our military than most outside enemies have ever done. Imagine that...

ADDENDUM #2: Robert Kuttner hollers a big "I told you so..." and correctly notes this really began in the 1980s, when Reagan started to refuse to treat investment companies like Lehman and banks like Citibank as different from each other. He lets Clinton off the hook for signing the Gramm bill, but the point is still there that this is the moment to recognize why FDR and the New Deal continues to have strong merit as a guide post for public policy. And speaking of Reagan, remember his classic Freudian slip when signing the de-regluation bill in 1982 that eventually led to the demise of most savings and loans institutions by the end of the 1980s: "...I think we've hit the jackpot..." Republicans and conservatives often mean, when they talk about "small government," small government for themselves when they don't need it, and big government to bail them out with money when they do need a handout. And of course, they mean big government with regard to expanding prisons, banning books they don't like, and torturing or killing people who do not look like them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vote for the smart banker, Obama, not the dumb banker, McCain

Let's see now. Lehman Bros. is imploding, Merrill Lynch just dropped itself on Bank of America's doorstep and AIG is teetering toward collapse.

Back in 1999, my anger at Clinton further deepened when he gleefully signed the Republican-sponsored bill (led by then Republican Senator Phil Gramm, who remains a prominent adviser to McCain) that repealed most of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 and de-regulated the banking and financial industries. I thought at the time, no way, this is crazy. Have we learned nothing from the 1920s? (See my earlier post regarding the Vanity Fair article concerning the collapse of Bear Stearns). When the tech bubble busted a year or so later, in late 2000, I worried the nation might go into a deep recession, but the land bubble was inflated with the help of the odious Alan Greenspan, which simply put off the run on financial institutions that had lent money to so many failed dot coms.

I then thought the land bubble would bust by 2003. I was obviously off by three years, but bust it has. And now, these major financial institutions are drowning at a time when our current president has no understanding regarding nation building or nation sustaining--unlike FDR or even TR, and certainly not Alexander Hamilton, who each instinctively understood how to build or rebuild institutions and nations.

My only hope is that Obama finds his inner FDR if he can become president--even with his Chicago School of capitalist advisers, Clinton's top financial mind, Robert Rubin* and Reagan's monetarist, Paul Volcker. It is also well known that Warren Buffett, who I deeply admire, is supporting Obama, too.

David Brooks, the conservative NY Times columnist recently admitted, "the Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now..." And, as I have said before, anyone who thinks Obama is a left wing radical is simply deluded. Still, I pray Obama defeats McCain and finds his inner FDR...

* Rubin is a prominent member of the Brookings Institution's The Hamilton Project, which means he at least understands there is a need for our government to help restructure our economy to compete with a unified western Europe, China, India and a still functioning Japan.

Petty Palin

Josh Marshall links to two articles about Palin's tenure as governor and as mayor in Alaska. My town of Poway, in San Diego County, has about 100,000 people, more than 10 times the size of the town in which Palin became mayor. With her pettiness, obvious grandstanding and opportunism, and what may well be poor governing skills, I doubt she'd have won a city council slot here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunday Review of Book Reviews

The Washington Post Book World has capsule reviews of four political books, which are all intriguing--especially Peter Galbraith's book of macroeconomic solutions that most appeal to my New Dealer sensibility. The reviews are succinct and tantalizing.

The London Times Literary Supplement contains a deeply fascinating and informative review of a new biography of Florence Nightingale. The review deftly describes the author's understanding of how Nightingale may not have saved many in a time of war, but used what she learned from nursing wounded and dying soldiers to improve life for people after the Crimean War and for the rest of the 19th Century. Gender issues also are explored in a way that is not caricatured, which was a relief to me.

I must also admit I am not a fan of most poetry, but this review in the TLS of the latest edition of the famed poet Auden's prose about poetry was an interesting read. It was a bit long for my limited taste in poetry. However, it has that empirical air of detail that does make American readers wince at British writing (not this American, on most days, I will further say...), so again I found it intellectually fruitful reading.

I must admit I missed the September 4, 2008 LA Times review of a book that gives us a glimpse into the life of a most underrrated publisher, Generoso Pope, Jr., who breathed life into The National Enquirer and started the Weekly World News, a wacky weekly that constantly told us we were being invaded by aliens. The film, "Men in Black" (the first one) did warn us, however, that maybe The Enquirer and the WWN were really reporting correct information after all...

Overall, I am favoring the eclectic this week as I believe most readers will have found a review of Woodward's new book on the Bush administration's failures (former aides blaming others, especially Bush, as Woodward now surveys the wreckage) and the book on the Hamdan case, along with books on what to do about terrorism. I am more and more seeing Al Queda as a Mafia sort of group, and it demands more than police interdiction, but definitely not a war. It is a twilight war at best and perhaps I can return to that theme another time.

In the meantime, having recently finished William Dean Howells' "The Landlord at Lion's Head" (published in book form in 1897) and immensely enjoyed it, I have been searching out other later Howells (having already read and enjoyed "The Rise of Silas Lapham" and "Hazard of New Fortunes"). What I love about Howells is his still relevant understanding of America as a commercial culture (much like my all time favorite novelist, Sinclair Lewis), but also his beautifully written, but chaste prose. The way "The Landlord at Lion's Head" opens reveals Howells' influence on Steinbeck, for example:

If you looked at the mountain from the west, the line of the summit was wandering and uncertain, like that of most mountain-tops; but, seen from the east, the mass of granite showing above the dense forests of the lower slopes had the form of a sleeping lion. The flanks and haunches were vaguely distinguished from the mass; but the mighty head, resting with its tossed mane upon the vast paws stretched before it, was boldly sculptured against the sky. The likeness could not have been more perfect, when you had it in profile, if it had been a definite intention of art; and you could travel far north and far south before the illusion vanished. In winter the head was blotted by the snows; and sometimes the vagrant clouds caught upon it and deformed it, or hid it, at other seasons; but commonly, after the last snow went in the spring until the first snow came in the fall, the Lion's Head was a part of the landscape, as imperative and importunate as the Great Stone Face itself.

When reading Howells, a reader may also notice a sense of literary decorum that he maintains even when describing horrible people, drunkards and mawkish aristocrats--a sensibility our current popular culture has almost completely lost. Too often, we'd rather be crass ourselves when describing crass people. Perhaps that is why Howells seems out of place in our modern time, which is a shame because his insights are, again, spot on about America and Americans in this first decade of the 21st Century.

(Edited)

Letter to a friend regarding the presidential election

This is a reprint of a letter I wrote this morning to a friend of mine, a woman voter who mostly votes for Democrats. I thought I'd reprint it here as I keep hearing from friends around the nation who are very upset by polls showing McCain retaking the lead from Obama:

Dear _______,

Please ask all your email mates (who are fretting about the current state of polling) this short series of questions:

1. Do you know anyone who was voting for Obama who is now voting for McCain because he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate?

2. Do you know anyone who voted for Hillary in the primaries who is now voting for McCain because he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate?

I ask these questions because I keep asking these questions to friends who email and phone me from around the nation. And amazingly enough, the answer I keep getting is the same to both questions: No, not at all. In fact, I am personally finding Republican women who are pro-choice who have changed their choice from McCain or undecided to Obama.

However, if I am reading the poll changes correctly, it is that we now must sadly realize that many undecided women who were just not being counted due to that uncertainty were women who tend to historically vote Republican along with their Republican husbands. They were part of that relatively large contingent of Republicans who were not enthusiastically sure McCain was enough of a whack job due to the corporate media pundits so often calling McCain a "maverick" who bucks his party and because last year, McCain seemed to champion an immigration compromise that did not include deporting all the Mexicans who had desperately come here to work. Of course, those of us voters who follow public policy more closely always knew McCain is a whack job who has supported Bush an average of 90% of the time in the past 8 years. And we know the only policy area where McCain did not flip flop was in his determination to undermine and take away any woman's right to an abortion, something Ms. Palin also is adamant about. In other words, both McCain and Palin worship at the Cult of Fetus.

If one checks polls since McCain secured enough delegates to win the nomination back in late February or whatever, the polling showed Obama essentially tied with McCain and sometimes slightly behind McCain. Obama did pull ahead in July because the polls showed Democrats far more enthusiastic about their party's chances in November, than Republicans were with McCain and their party. What I saw even that Friday morning McCain introduced Palin, even when sitting in a hospital bed with tubes in me, and my Mom would corroborate my insight, was that the corporate media was not initially recognizing the Palin choice was about energizing the Republican base so that the number of undecideds can be whittled down to something the Republicans can now run their usual campaign of lies about opponents, as well as promoting their usual recipe of fear and hatred. What Republican strategists know, and I know because I live in a Republican stronghold, is there are suburban (and very economically comfortable) white women who live with Republican men, who tend to vote with their husbands, and many generally agree with their husbands about "Republican" issues such as immigration, abortion, foreign policy, and are against something called "liberals" who supposedly tax working people instead of those only in the top 2% ($250,000 and up).

This is going to be a close election with the additional factor that Obama will face that residue of white racism that pollsters have a hard time pinpointing.

Please consider staying in touch with a website called electoral-vote.com. It reports the polls in each state each day, and for days there may be no polls, and electoral college votes tallies following that. I admit to being saddened that Obama lost 30 electoral college votes in the last ten days, particularly in states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia, which states, in my own subjective view, appear to have had significant undecided Republican women who were unsure of McCain's "conservative" credibility before the Palin selection. However, as of today, if Obama can win Ohio, and just hold the States Kerry won in 2004, the irony of all this is that Obama wins the electoral college vote. He might even win the popular vote across the nation because, in our populous states of CA, Mass, NY, NJ and Michigan and Illinois, Obama is ahead enough to overcome white racism that lingers among our nation and people who...believe the Flintstones represent historical reality (in other words, they are extremist creationists like Sarah Palin).

It is now September 13. We have time to change this narrative and in some ways this strong concern is itself positively galvanizing for Democrats. We cannot, however, allow let corporate media, with its continued shallow reporting, make us panic. We do live in a nation where Republicans cultivate fear and hate in carefully scripted codewords, dogwhistle style rhetoric and are expert at issuing misleading ads that make us have to respond to those ads instead of explaining our positions--which then means we live in the Republicans' narrative they create. Notice how we don't even talk about experience anymore. They kept Obama from building a lead with that narrative, and now are using different narratives including "reform" and "Palin's the outsider".

Another word about corporate owned media. Too often, corporate owned media uses Republican talking points as the starting point of narratives because there has long been a dearth of truly liberal and left voices in punditry in corporate broadcast media (i.e. tv and radio). Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann are welcome additions for Democrats, but they not anywhere as far left as Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan or even Glenn Beck are far right. When Michael Moore and Bernie Sanders show up as often as Coulter, Beck, Savage, Limbaugh and Buchanan, then we can say the political voices are more equal on corporate owned tv and radio. This diversity of voices will only change when the television set morphs into the computer and we can decide to watch Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo (an investigative reporting website and one where there is also commentary) instead of the slop the major networks, including CNN (and of course the ridiculous FoxNews) broadcast to us each day. This current state of affairs remains my greatest disappointment in American political discourse.

In conclusion, let's stay strong, keep "polling" our own friends and family, and maybe do some voter registration the rest of this month and the first week of October, and let's see where we stand on October 13. And for goodness sakes, let's also start praying each night before we go to bed that McCain-Palin won't win this election!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Silly Season of Campaigning

Sarah Palin described herself last week as "a pitbull with lipstick." Apparently, people liked that and I didn't hear anything sustained that this was offensive.

Today, we read about Obama turning the lipstick line around to describe McCain's and Palin's economics policies:

On a campaign stop Tuesday, Obama criticized McCain economic policies as more of the same from the Bush administration. He said: "You can put lipstick on a pig ... it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still going to stink after eight years."

And of course, the McCain camp said how outraged they are at Obama's offensive attack against Palin; interestingly, not McCain. I guess McCain doesn't wear lipstick, though I continue to wonder about the masculinity of a guy who always wants war, but listens to Abba and says how much he likes the song "Dancing Queen."

Yes, we are in the Silly Season, and we might as well pass the popcorn. God forbid we talk about the economy (I'm sure, for example, Obama had important things to say, but it just won't be covered in any meaningful way by our corporate media). Oh well, off to work today...

ADDENDUM: And here is McCain describing Hillary Clinton's health care plan with the same "lipstick on a pig..." analogy. Once again, it's only okay if you are Republican (IOOKIYAR). That is the only "principle" applicable...

Bonus argument: This was an old post of mine where I was responding to assertion of a right winger who wrote a book positing that Hillary was a lesbian. I pointed out that, using the writer's "criteria," one could make a better case that George "Dubya" Bush was gay. Interesting, no? What is it about Republican men who push for war, anyway? What are they hiding? I did have a right wing cousin who came out of the closet years later, and have noticed in my life how that occurs more often than we might otherwise think...Think, for example, Mark Foley or Larry Craig, two prominent Congressional Republicans, or Republican operatives like Terry Dolan or Brian Bennett...

Perhaps a psychologist can help us understand this phenonmenon...?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Michelle Obama's cousin the Rabbi

Via Haaretz, by way of the Jewish-American weekly newspaper, The Forward, a cute article about Michelle Robinson Obama's cousin, the Rabbi. He's also African-American, and not quite part of what most Jews would call a mainstream group, but he has been ordained by Orthodox and Conservative Jewish movement rabbis. He sounds like a wonderful fellow as well.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why climate changes matters politically as well as socially--and for the future for our planet

In the latest issue of the New York Review of Books online, there is a follow up on the flawed article by climate change skeptic and physics scientist, Freeman Dyson (see my post on the original article as you scroll down at the link). The NY Review, in its latest online issue, features an exchange of letters among the physicist Dyson, a climate change "gradualist", economist William Nordhaus, and others regarding Dyson's article.

All of the letter writers, including Dyson, seem not to find space to focus on climate change "tipping points," which "tipping points" are critical for our planet. Should any of those tipping points occur, there would be an immediate need to support and enact drastic new public policies both nationally and worldwide. The letter writers remind me of classical Darwinists who have been wrong to think evolution is a geologically gradual and slow process (I wish the Internet wallpaper for Gould's article was more reader-friendly as he explains why the gradualists are wrong). We are, in my view, assuming the climate changing is gradual and therefore we do not need to enact any significant public policies, or, if we enact anything, it should be in a slow and gradual manner. We need to act more quickly and decisively so we don't have to act in a panic after a big tipping point.

Anyone who has read Malcolm Gladwell's often-pop style book, "Tipping Point" or at least detailed essays about its thesis, or more seriously, read the great science writers and paleontologists Gould and Eldridge on "punctuated equilibrium" will understand that news like the huge loss of ice from the Artic this past week is something that ought to cause us not to be so complacent and waiting for the perfect "proof" of significant human contribution to climate change. From the article on the melting of Arctic sea ice:

Arctic ice always melts in summer and refreezes in winter. But over the years, more of the ice is lost to the sea with less of it recovered in winter. While ice reflects the sun's heat, the open ocean absorbs more heat and the melting accelerates warming in other parts of the world.

Sea ice also serves as primary habitat for threatened polar bears.

"We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point," said senior scientist Mark Serreze at the data center in Boulder, Colo. "It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now."

Within "five to less than 10 years," the Arctic could be free of sea ice in the summer, said NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally.

"It also means that climate warming is also coming larger and faster than the models are predicting and nobody's really taken into account that change yet," he said.


We need to elect someone who has the world's attention in a way that promotes confidence that the person speaks with a genuine concern for the planet. That is not John McCain. It is Obama. For what happens in Beijing is affecting not only Beijing, but also the United States. And what is also happening in the US may be devastating to our natural wonder and beauty, starting with the mighty Redwoods in Northern California and the Northwest region of the US.

This is not a call for panic. Instead, it is a call for us to think seriously about making significant policy decisions to spend hundreds of billions world wide to improve non-fossil fuel technology, retool advanced nations to subsidize and promote mass transit, and enact legislation that will promote tree planting and other low-level carbon-eating strategies.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

What is most frustrating about American "conservative" skeptics regarding human contribution to climate change is that on issues other than climate change, such as going to war, such "conservatives" were and are often willing to rush to judgment and action, but somehow demand we do essentially nothing while we wait for a level of proof that has already become so obviously clear. I was an original skeptic of significant human contribution to climate change back in the late 1990s. My lawyerly sense of caution regarding experts, including scientific experts, and my own sense of history where people predict the Apocalypse in any number of ways and forms was the basis of that skepticism. However, the more I have read on the subject, and that includes the skeptics' writings, my conclusion is that we must take some serious action for what one could call a traditional conservatives' natural caution--better safe than sorry--as opposed to the modern "conservatism" of recklessly exploiting natural resources on the planet and recklessly supporting more wars on the often-stated, but overplayed 'clashes of civilization--which clash would likely further undermine the ability of the planet to heal itself.

Oftentimes, I think the main "clash" is within civilizations, that is between those who wish to live peacably with, and tolerantly of, each other and those who would rather fight each other to the death. Too often, the people currently pushing for McCain remind me of the man depicted in a brilliant political cartoon by the 1960s and 1970s political cartoonist Ron Cobb. These particular McCain supporters act all tough and skeptical, but really, they are reckless and not thinking very clearly or strategically with regard to an important matter of domestic and global public policy. The year 2008 presents a watershed election, and we should be working to ensure our friends and neighbors get beyond the gossip and horserace discussions that permeate corporate-owned television and radio media and realize important public policy issues are at stake.

McCain can say all he wants that he is now understanding human contribution to climate change, but his policies, including the "drill, drill, drill" represent what astrophysicist and science fiction author David Brin would call the policy of "Ostrich Republicans." Brin is no labor-left liberal, nor is he an ACLU civil libertarian. He is a self-described libertarian, who has supported more Republicans than Democrats in the past. He also has close friends and contacts in the military (In the link, he rips what he calls the "shrill left"). Brin is strongly supporting Obama and most Democrats, though, again, he is not anywhere near the economic populist I am. That we are on the same political side is itself a measure of where we need to be and to go in terms of public policy.

(Edited and expanded as matters of science are so often difficult to write and explain to lay audiences, especially for a Humanities major like me)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Shameless Republican hacks and Shorter McCain Speech

Of course, it takes a comedian, Jon Stewart, to expose again how our "serious" corporate media are a bunch of propagandists who are themselves afraid to challenge Republican operatives.

Yes, the only intelligent, honest reporting comes from comedians and cartoons.

If anyone missed John McCain's speech tonight, it's easy to memorize without even seeing it. It goes like this:

I was a POW. I have scars. If you didn't fight in a war, you don't have scars.

9/11.

I will cut taxes. I hope to further undermine faith in public schools. I have called my election opponent a traitor who wants to lose a war to win an election, compared him to Hollywood starlets who make porn films or do dope, all in ads where I say I personally approve them, and now call for bi-partisanship and fairness. I am not of any party, but happen to vote with President Bush on an average of 90% of the time.

9/11. And did I mention I used to be a POW almost forty years ago?

Vote for me. And that gal with the um...Oh, hi Cindy. I was just sayin....how "experenced" Governor Palin is.


(Edited)

Sarah Palin's fact challenged speech

The Associated Press, which has a Republican-cheerleading DC Bureau Chief Ron Fournier, has reported how broadcast corporate media were crowing with delight about Palin's speech last night. No wonder my folks are so concerned people may be buying into the nonsense, though I suspected this media crowing would occur in yesterday's post (see here at Addendum #2).

Yet, the AP has ironically allowed one of its reporters to fact check Sarah Palin's speech last night, and found it factually inaccurate and misleading. Imagine that, a Republican attack dog sort of speech that contains lies, distortions and exaggerations. See it all here, which is a strange link that the AP website led me to...

Bonus AP wire service point #1: Sarah Palin was for the "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it.

Bonus AP wire service point #2: She loved earmarks before she denounced them.

Bonus AP wire service point #3: Palin did not know last month what our nation's VP actually does day to day, so uninterested in national politics and all...Which may explain her husband's membership in an organization that called for Alaska to secede from the US. And did I mention that she herself attended their conventions and spoke to them just this year? In the U.S., many secession groups tend to attract white racists, 9/11 conspiracy theorists and people who criminally evade federal taxes based upon their racism and conspiracy theories. I don't like guilt by association, but corporate media sure enjoyed that with Obama belonging to a particular popular church and preacher in Chicago, didn't they?

And Republican Talking Point in reverse: When a Democrat is nominated or wins an election, and the stock market dives, Republican operatives will say "Look how the stock market has responded to THAT!" Well, today, the stock market is down over 200 points (It ultimately dropped 340 points) following the Palin and other speeches last night that promised nothing but continued stupid governance (The link correctly notes bad economic news supposedly caused the drop, but again, did we really hear much about the economy from the main speakers other than the dull women CEOs they dragged out early in the evening?). Way to go, Governor Palin!

Republican Talking Point in Reverse #2: Republicans are whining about media coverage about Palin. But, of course, when Hillary complained about media coverage of her, Sarah Palin told Hillary to stop "whining", regardless of whether the attacks were "fair or unfair."

Dear readers, most voting Americans who are not already drinking the religious right wing purple kool-aid are not falling for this rabidly-right wing vice presidential nominee, and are recognizing McCain's failure in judgment in choosing her. It may not be in the next few days, but most will see through it well before election day.

(Edited)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Biden nails it on the inordinate influence of AIPAC

Hooray for Biden. It's about time a Senator who is considered a "serious" foreign policy expert said the obvious: That the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) does not speak for all Jews. It certainly doesn't speak for me.

And, separately, my Mom is finally noticing how low the bar was set for Palin and thinks, Oh boy, Palin's gonna be popular and hard to beat in a debate with Biden. Relax, I told Mom. Someone on the web already quoted the late Molly Ivins' famous comment regarding Pat Buchanan's 1992 speech at the Republican National Convention: "It sounded better in the original German." When there is no substance to a politician, as with Palin, people make up their own minds on what they like or don't like in that politician.

So far, in our family's circle, we have one close female relative who was an ardent Hillary supporter who was not going to vote for Obama, but now says she detests Palin and is supporting Obama. Nobody has switched to McCain from Obama that I've heard yet. And, as I've mentioned before, a Republican female friend who was voting for McCain is now voting for Obama (and thinks Palin is a dangerous right wing religious loon). Plus, the latest polls show Obama holding a lead larger than before the Democratic Party convention began, and we are now past the halfway point of the Republican convention. We should be looking week to week, not minute to minute, at this point, especially with a still too-timid corporate media that wants to bend over backwards for Republicans. Maybe in October we can go day to day, but not in September.

Plus, let's just enjoy the drip-drip-drip of the trooper/civil service administrator scandal (see here for tomorrow morning's news).

(Edited)

What Republican operatives think when they think the microphone is left off

Here.

Maybe someone in the corporate media might ask Mike Murphy and Peggy Noonan about this next time they appear ready to spin official Republican Party talking points...

ADDENDUM #1: And here is Noonan's piece in the Wall St. Journal, written before the above incident, where she reflexively attacks the "left" from any weird angle she can, and as the column meanders, attacks jealous McCain staffers and even herself (how Freudian in its slippage...) as she tries to convince herself and readers how Palin could prove a great choice. What is most illuminating about the microphone remaining on while at NBC is it shows how commentators like Noonan are thoroughly dishonest with the public about their true view of things. Such people as Noonan know they play a role on television, and they play that role to the hilt--until the microphone is turned off, or in this case, she, Murphy and NBC's Chuck Todd thought it was turned off, and then true feelings are revealed.

Remind me again how anyone can deny that corporate media news shows and commentaries are cesspools of propaganda?

ADDENDUM #2: One thing to watch out for mediawise, however. The bar is now set so low that Palin, if she gives even the same speech she initially gave last Friday, will be met with cheers from most television pundits, including the ones who play "liberals" on television. "She certainly showed grit tonight, Keith," Chris Matthews will say and Keith Olbermann will respond, "She satisfied those who doubted her that she is ready for prime time." And so on. And the Republican thugs--commentators--will spew orgasmic praises ad nauseum while much of America continues to shake its collective head.

(Edited)

Does anyone still think Joe Lieberman has any integrity?

Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has a juxtaposition of Lieberman's speech last night with Lieberman's statements when he was running for president as a Democrat in 2003-2004.

Lieberman is so deep a war monger that he has thrown all other principles out the window.

I never trusted Lieberman even years ago, when he was chosen by the Gore campaign to be the VP candidate. At the time, I was telling people that Lieberman was a chameleon who had no guding principle other than...Joe Lieberman. If you look at his trajectory, the way he ran to the right of his Republican incumbent Senator challenger, Lowell Weicker, in 1988, when he first became US Senator from Connecticut, you could see he was always courting power and cavorting with militarists and religious fanatics. And you gotta be wary of a guy who dumps his first wife for not showing enough "moral" ritualistic "skin" in public, and then marries a supposedly religious woman who works for a notorious public relations firm that promotes lies about war atrocities to stir up war, and built its reputation by helping cigarette companies mislead the public about the health dangers associated with cigarette smoking.

Fellow Jews at the synagogue I belonged to in Thousand Oaks thought I was too harsh on old Joe at the time, but I think most folks now see Lieberman is a self-righteous, hypocritical jerk. I doubt Joe swayed anyone last night, and his career should be over in Connecticut after his term is through. And let's hope enough Dems win Senate seats in November to no longer have to rely on him for any votes whatsoever.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Eric Alterman gives us a scorecard to judge corporate media coverage of the Republicans' convention

See it here at The Nation website.

And let's recall this week this photo taken when McCain and Bush were dithering while Hurricane Katrina was destroying much of the American Southeast and its people. McCain couldn't even see danger at 3 p.m. in the afternoon when Katrina hit. And after learning that McCain takes Ambien to help him sleep, one has to seriously doubt his ability to effectively respond to a crisis at 3 a.m. I know. I took Ambien Friday night to help me sleep following my heart procedure, and man, it knocked me out into Saturday. I hope never to take it again--and McCain is taking Ambien regularly? Yikes.