The Eclectic Quill

July 31, 2008

Ten Original “Why Did John McCain Cross the Road?” Jokes

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 3:45 pm
1. Q. Why did John McCain cross the Road?
A. To get to the other side.
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2. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. To get back to the first side.
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3. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. He really likes both sides.
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4. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. So he could get on the same side as Barack Obama.
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5. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. To get to a different side from Barack Obama.
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6. Q. Why did John McCain Cross the road again?
A. He got asked a question on TV.
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7. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road yet again?
A. He was asked the same question at a  town hall meeting.
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8. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. To get to the side that George W. Bush was on.
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9. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. He wasn’t crossing on behalf of the Campaign.
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10. Q. Why did John McCain cross the road again?
A. What do you mean? He never crossed the road at all.

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Hey–At least he was wearing comfy shoes!

Barack Star—Shining Bright

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 1:31 pm

The McCain camp wants to characterize Obama as a celebrity, whatever that means. One thing is clear though, his brilliance as a person and campaigner has his star shining bright. Just consider for a moment the basic elements of this story. An African-American, 46 year old first term Senator is generously stated, of humble background. When he announced his campaign for Presidency many thought it was premature, and few thought he’d be where he is today. He is now the Democratic nominee for President, and by most everyone’s consideration, the clear front runner to be the next President of the United States. He overcame one of the most polished and astute campaigners in recent history. He is, according to some, the "most popular person in the world". How he got here has a lot to do with who he is, and a lot has to do with a brilliant campaign.

Watching him with interviewed by Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press this week I couldn’t help but be impressed with many things but there were primarily two things that rose to the surface. First was his willingness to engage in direct conversation about the topics for which he was being interviewed. Too often when I see a candidate interviewed he retreats from the tough questions and hides behind preprogrammed automated responses that are designed that do more to avoid than answer the questions. The second thing was his ability to engage in direct conversation. As the questions were asked he was able to consistently, expertly and intelligently answer questions ranging in all areas in an interesting way. In fact his commentary was so articulate and engaging that at times Brokaw would almost slip back into his chair as though he were enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee before remembering that he was actually conducting an interview. It’s this refreshing willingness to actually talk to the nation about things that matter that has made Obama so popular among voters. In fact by a margin of two to one voters find Obama to be a more likable person.

There are some who question whether being a good talker, especially a good orator, qualifies Obama to be President. The question is disingenuous—no one argues that Obama should be President because he is a great orator. Still, let’s pause here a moment and consider a couple of things. Many consider that very thing to be the biggest strength of the late Ronald Reagan, "the Great Communicator." In fact when consider the great moments of Presidential history we often consider the great speeches that were given, ranging from "Four score and seven years ago…" to "Ask not what your country can do for you…" to "Tear down this wall!" While being a great speaker does not mean guaranteeing a great President it certainly does not follow that the two are mutually exclusive, particularly when you consider one great difference between Obama and the "Great Communicator"—Obama is communicating his own thoughts. When Obama is engaging us with his well polished rhetoric it is real, it is genuine and it is out of his own heart. That’s the difference between him and John McCain, who apparently sometimes does not even speak for his own campaign . It is refreshing to consider the notion of a President who is able to be trusted with the words that come out of his own mouth.

Beyond that though when we hear Obama speak the words which he wrote, let’s not forget these words also embody the notions which he conceived and which he also believes in. He is more than a brilliant speaker he is a brilliant person with a grasp and intuition for the world of politics which helps explain his mercurial rise. From his ability to raise funds at a record rate to his ability to gain people with passion to volunteer he’s led a charge out of the gate that has overcome a litany of negative ads from both the primary and general elections, a wrongly perceived bias pro-bias from the media, and actual anti-bias from the media. He’s done it all staying above the fray, not stooping to the level of his opponents and bringing us not just a message of change, but a real hope for change.

His brilliance is seen in his "50 state" strategy, has made states like Virginia, Colorado and Nevada "swing states" and is bringing states like the Carolinas and Georgia into play. Lately it was seen in his trip to Europe which quelled the fears of his biggest weakness. He in essence, whatever the McCain campaign suggests, proved he could stand with foreign leaders. He also reminded America of what it was like when we were world leaders, and not world hated. Whatever rhetoric conservatives would like to spin from it, 200,000 people cheering for our President is certainly preferable to thousands of people protesting him. Now Obama can come and sell his strengths, his plan for alternative energy and his superior grasp of the economic problems of the nation when the campaign season really heats up. His skillful response to the McCain attacks yesterday and today has put McCain on the defensive, rather than on the offense. In fact now even they’re reaching so deep into the dirty tricks bag that they are accusing Obama of "playing the race card." Huh, and all they did was merge the faces of two young white women with a virile black man. Why would anyone speculate that had racial overtones? As the Republican pundits desperately cry foul I find it appalling that they would be dismissive of this. Not in this country, not with our history. Don’t forget this is following the patronizing offer McCain made to "educate" Obama on foreign policy and then the accusations of him being "presumptuous" (read uppity). In what could have justifiably been a far more outraged response Obama responded with good humor and wit, saying, "Oops, he did it again." Even in his response ad he mostly just countered the attacks. All things considered Obama has been amazingly above board in not even calling off the dogs who could fight a very effective negative campaign without even having to lie to do it.

If popularity means celebrity than yes, Barack is a star. But he’s more than a rock star. He’s a glimmer of hope in an increasing dark world. His brilliance is not something to mock, but something to admire. So each time I see the outlandish McCain ad the rhetoric gets muted and I just see the crowds chanting "Obama!" "Obama!" and I’m reminded he’s a person the nation and even the world can believe in. That’s a good thing.

July 30, 2008

McCain's 22 Lies Is not "Going Negative," It's Lying!

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 12:20 pm

The news toady seems to be concentrating on the question of whether McCain’s "going negative" could have the effect of working against him. The pundits hem and haw, discuss the pros and cons and in the end determine it might hurt him some, but not near as much as it hurts Obama. They may be right, but only because the question is framed wrong. The question they should be asking is whether "lying" is helping McCain, because, whether out of his own mouth, through messages he’s approved, or through people speaking on behalf of his campaign, the "Straight Talk Express" is lying through his teeth. Here are 22 lies about Obama I found myself. I’m not even looking at the times McCain lies about himself, such as saying he did say things he didn’t say or not saying he did not say things he did say. I’m only listing the lies he’s specifically told about Obama. If you have more, leave a comment and I’ll happily add it to the list.

  1. He said Obama would rather play basketball than spend time with the troops. A bold-face lie since the basket he’s shooting in the ad was while was with the troops.
  2. He said that Obama canceled his trip because he couldn’t bring the press. He never intended to (Ibid) .
  3. He said that Obama has said that the timetable for withdraw of the troops is "unconditional," a flat out lie. Obama has never said that. In fat he’s stated the opposite, that it would be "refined" by conditions on the ground.
  4. He said Obama has said he would have "unconditional" summits with Mahmoud Ahmidinjad. He’s never used the word "unconditional" here (ibid) .
  5. He said Obama claims that others have adopted his Afghanistan strategy. He hasn’t (ibid) .
  6. He said Obama would rather lose the war than the election, a baseless, malicious and insidious lie.
  7. McCain’s representative said Obama has not offered one single tax cut–a lie. Most Americans would pay less taxes under Obama.
  8. He said Obama wants the government to "take over" the health care system. Obama’s never suggested anything remotely close to that. He’s advocated modest reforms, but not a "take over".
  9. He said Obama "never thought the Surge would reduce violence, when Obama actually said the opposite
  10. He said, "Sen. Obama has no record of being involved in this issue (climate change) that I know of," in spite of the fact that the two of them, along with Lieberman, co-sponsored a bill on climate change.
  11. He said Obama opposes energy innovation, a lie. In fact he wants to fund energy innovation to the tune of 150 billion dollars.
  12. He said Obama says "no to nuclear power," which is another lie (Ibid). Obama includes  nuclear power as one of many options and has specifically said so.
  13. McCain says that Obama voted to raise taxes on families that make 32,000 a year, which is a flat out lie. In fact under his proposal if you made 35,000 a year your taxes would be cut by 500 dollars.
  14. He claimed Obama voted to raise taxes 94 times, a lie. Generally speaking, whoever it is, look at "voting records’ with a grain of salt. In reality is voting record is generally to lower  taxes for the middle class and poor and raise taxes for the extremely wealthy.
  15. He said that Obama would "unilaterally abrogate NAFTA " when what Obama said is that he would "renegotiate" NAFTA.
  16. He said that Obama would "invade" Pakistan. He never did. He said he would cross the Pakistani border to get Bin Laden.
  17. He said Obama voted "against funding the troops" a disingenuous lie which requires a test which McCain himself would not pass. Other aspects of the same bill were included in different variations of the bill, some of which McCain voted against as well.
  18. McCain has had run adds in Florida suggesting a link between Obama and Fidel Castro. As appalling as this is the most shocking is that the clip the add shows of Castro is actually him being critical, not complimentary of Obama. Even so, suggesting in anyway that Castro is "connected" with Obama is a horrendous lie.
  19. McCain said "Obama’s the guy to blame" for the high gas prices. This is a lie so utterly outlandish and ridiculous it shouldn’t have much impact, but some people will buy into the "little bit of truth" sort of argument, even though there’s not even a little bit of truth to it. That’s because it’s a lie.
  20. McCain has said that Obama says "no to independence from foreign oil (ibid). Lie.
  21. He said Obama "never held a single hearing on Afghanistan" which is technically true, but is a lie by telling the truth. Technically, neither did McCain. Obama’s committee wasn’t overseeing Afghanistan.
  22. McCain said that Obama would raise taxes on 23 million small business owners. This is another one that is so outlandish that it’s likely to believed. Think about it though 23 million small business owners? That’s like saying 1 in 10 Americans, kids included, are "small business owners." The reason is that McCain’s definition of "small business owners" includes the 16 cents I’ve earned from this blog so far this year. Only thing is that only about 2 percent of those "small business owners would" would see a tax rasie. So that means he lie.

Look folks, 22 lies about your opponent in the space of a month isn’t "going negative" its being a liar. L-I-A-R, liar. It’s lying. Going negative is telling accurate things which your opponent has done or accurately portraying their positions. For instance if your opponent were a former head of the KKK and a chronic racist, you ran an ad on that, that’s going negative, but not lying.

The first definition of "lying" at dictionary.com is, "a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood. " This is precisely what McCain is doing. He’s trying to deceive. He’s trying to impart into the hearer an concept of Obama’s position or person which is not true. This isn’t interpretive. It’s not about bias. It’s not about preference. It’s about fact. It’s about what really is or is not Obama’s actions or views. When McCain actually spends literally  millions of dollars to get people to get people to believe untrue things that’s just being a flat out liar. There’s no nice way to say that because what he’s doing is just not nice.

I’d love to see a talk show where instead of talking about "going" negative they sit around and talk about what the pros and cons of lying through your teeth are. I’d love to see them ask the question, "how desparate do you have to be to just turn into a national liar? What are the benefits of lying in your campaign adds? Is it the best use of campaign money to try and mislead and deceive? I’d love to see them ask the question to McCain directly, "why do you keep lying about your opponent?" I can guarantee that if this sort of language was used there’d be a lot less lying, and not only that, a lot more people would know these accusations for what they are, lies.

July 29, 2008

Media Bias My McCass!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 12:08 pm

John McCain has been complaining about media bias. It’s hardly a new thing; the Republicans play this card every election season. Like everything else they do though, reality and rhetoric need have little to do with one another. Additionally they have a way of skewing facts and spinning them into something unrecognizable. So when the complaints started coming in about Obama getting more media coverage my first thought was, “Yeah, but what kind of coverage.” Now it comes out that the kind of coverage is very indicative of a bias, a pro-McCain bias. In fact nearly two thirds of network coverage is beneficial to McCain. Seems the Republicans aren’t complaining about that though. Perhaps that’s because they’ve orchestrated it all along.

Prior to analyzing that particular strategy though, let’s take a look at what some of the facts are. Last week the McCain campaign was quoting the Andrew Tyndall conclusion that since the end of the primaries there had been 167 minutes of reporting on Obama versus only 66 minutes of reporting on McCain. The McCain camp trumpeted this as proof of the pro-Obama bias. Of course, as I stated earlier, being about Obama and being pro-Obama are two different things entirely. Now a new study shows that of that coverage it was 72 percent negative for Obama and only 57 percent negative for McCain. The numbers aren’t really sufficiently jarring though unless you put them together. When you put the percentages together with the numbers it starts to shape a clearer picture. Rounding off, there were 47 minutes of positive Obama stories and 28 positive McCain stories. However McCain media conspiracy theorists shouldn’t get too excited yet. There were also 120 minutes of negative reporting about Obama versus only 38 minutes of negative reporting about McCain. When put together this means that 84 minutes of coverage benefited Obama while 149 minutes of coverage benefited McCain. This means about 63 percent, nearly 2/3 of the coverage, has been beneficial to McCain! Yet, he’s the one who’s complaining!

Still let’s peel this onion a little deeper and see if it makes us cry even more. Let us consider what the media coverage has been about. The most publicized story of the campaign season has been Reverend Wright in spite of the fact that Obama had not sought out any endorsement from Wright nor had Wright participated in his campaign in anyway, and most importantly has a very different ideology than Wright. By contrast McCain’s courting of and then breaking off ties with the anti-Semitic John Hagee was dismissed after a single night of news coverage. Furthermore many of the negative things about Obama weren’t even true, or were purely ad hominem nastiness with little to no basis in reality ranging from nonexistent flip-flops to patriotism to whether or not he is a Muslim, and that’s not even counting Fox News! Meanwhile things that are true about McCain, such as a list of flip flops that would make John Kerry blush, including such things as the double-turn-around on torture, and now even more impossibly, on the same timetable that he condemned Obama for “wanting to lose the war” on are either barely reported or, when reported, done so in such a way as to qualify them. They’ve also ignored stories about the horrible “humor” exhibited by John McCain. Finally the outright nastiness, hypocrisy and blatant dishonesty and vitriol of the McCain itself has perhaps been the most newsworthy thing of, yet has been ignored as the media considers whether each slimy attack is considered rather than condemned as it should be.

So why is there so much negative discussion about Obama? Is it, as some indicate, McCain’s long time good relationship with the Media? While I think that in some small part this may be true, I think it has more to do with the Swift Boat strategy being employed by the McCain camp. In essence by ceaselessly attacking Obama, McCain has made the news every day about Obama, be it good or bad. The net result, as shown is a plus to McCain. Then because he’s manipulated the media into discussing his attacks on Obama night and day, he can complain about them spending too much time talking about him. The media needs to learn that being equal in time is not the same thing as being equal in bias. When attacks are so blatantly beyond the pale they shouldn’t have pundits on discussing the effect of a negative attack on the person who is being attacked, they should spend time discussing what it says about the character and nature of the attacker, especially when the attacker has promised to run a “civil campaign.”

July 27, 2008

Politicizing the Pentagon—How Bush-McCain Threaten Democracy

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 10:24 am

One of the principle reasons that the United States has been the most stable government in the world, and has the longest standing constitution is the role of the military has always been a non-political one. There are times when Generals became Presidents and there are times when Presidents have usurped the will of Congress in its utilization of the military, such as Iran Contra. There are even times when the President has usurped the will of the Supreme Court in regards to the military, such as Andrew Jackson’s famous quote "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." At least to this point whatever abuse there has been of the natural link between the military and the commander in chief it has been one sided and the military has remained apolitical. In the last eight years that has greatly changed. In fact while the Beltway crowd focuses on the ridiculous question of whether Obama dodged his meeting with the troops because he "couldn’t bring a camera with him" they miss the much greater, much more dramatic question of, Why did the Pentagon wait until the last minute to say anything to Obama?" This is a crucial question because it is related to the larger, systemic issue of the politicizing of the Pentagon.

From making it clear to the Pentagon in its treatment Generals like William Fallon and Eric Shinseki , to General Mullen essentially campaigning in uniform for McCain on Fox News , the Bush Administration is making it more and more clear that they desire a partisan Pentagon and that your career depends not on how effective you are in your job, but in how loyal you are to the Bush Administration and its policies. This is beyond frightening, this is Kremlin! To have policy interwoven with a selective military endorsement is actually a threat to true democracy. When the Pentagon starts participating in disingenuous manipulation of the election process by manipulating events and by appearing in uniform on talk shows, it is one step closer to military rule.

Is it there? No, of course not, but it is getting closer to there. From having free speech relegated to "zones" where no one is heard, to debating, vindicating and even legalizing things like torture , eavesdropping, and suspending habeas corpus —things which were unthinkable eight years ago—are now accepted. Right now it might be unthinkable that the military would be used to prop up an unelected head of state but recent history shows us that the unthinkable can become thinkable fairly quickly. (While Obama has made compromises in some of these votes it should be remembered that there is considerable nuance involved.) The Pentagon’s recent antics are one step further down that road. We have been asked to sacrifice the freedoms for which are troops are supposedly fighting. The American people now need to be careful that in trying to "advance democracy" in the Middle East we don’t lose that at home as well. If anyone needs a reason to vote for Obama the Pentagon’s attempts to manipulate the election process should stand alone as sufficient reason. Democracy simply can’t survive another four years of Bush-McCain.

July 25, 2008

Grumpy Old Man

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 5:18 pm

At the beginning of the political season I was hoping that John McCain and Barack Obama would win their respective nominations. I was hoping for this because I feel that the American political landscape seems to be more and more dominated every year by antagonism, hate and hostility. With every election it appears  that the candidates are running against the other, not for the office. It has driven a large rift down the middle of the nation. I thought that both Obama and McCain would be willing to run positive campaigns and that this might bring a healing to political discourse in this nation. Sadly I was wrong.

This week John McCain continues his vitriolic attacks on Barack Obama. He has elevated his attacks to a level that perhaps none have before, stopping just a nickel short of flat out accusing Obama of treason, of throwing the war to win the election. In many ways the media has glossed over this accusation as though it is hardly worth mentioning. According to John McCain Obama is willing to "lose a war in order to win an election." This goes beyond a critique of policy, it even goes beyond an attack on character. It extends into the basic patriotism of Obama. It is probably about the most egregious accusation that you can level against a political opponent. Consider for a moment—he’s accusing Obama of wanting to lose a war. Does this rhetoric sound familiar? Bush, prior to the war, was use similar binary logic in saying, "You are with us or you are with the terrorists." So what has turned McCain into such a grumpy old man?

It seems the more McCain blunders through his campaign the more spiteful he gets towards Obama as though his mistakes are somehow the fault of the presumed Democratic nominee. Incredibly, the more he attacks and then defends his blunders, the more he resembles the straw man he erects. The irony surrounding his recent gaffes seem to have escaped the media. First, he opens up the week complaining about media bias, then it turns out that the infamous CBS actually protected him by splicing in a different answer to the question he was asked. As it turns out the first answer demonstrated that he didn’t have a grasp on when the surge started. Then in the explanation days later he demonstrated that he didn’t know what the surge was. What makes this all the more ironic is that all of this was a result of his explaining how Obama didn’t have adequate understanding of the situation in Iraq. Now it turns out that the irony gets even better. In the same interview, apparently McCain thought that Obama did not appreciate the significance of the "first major conflict since 9/11." The beauty of this is that Obama’s actually not saying that the surge "didn’t work" in the sense that some of the neocons are painting. His argument is that the surge detracted from what should have been the priority, which is Afghanistan.

So let’s wrap this up.

  1. In saying that Obama didn’t understand the history of the surge, McCain got the history wrong.
  2. In patronizing fashion, McCain later went on to explain what, "the surge" was, and showed he didn’t know what it was.
  3. In saying Obama didn’t appreciate the importance of the "first major conflict since 9/11" McCain forgot about the first major conflict since 9/11 vindicating Obama’s claim that "the surge" distracted from Afghanistan.

No wonder McCain’s so angry, some rambling old coot is ruining his chance at getting elected!

July 23, 2008

So Wall Street Walks into a Bar…

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 10:45 pm

Did you hear the one about how Wall Street walked into a bar and got drunk? Yeah, the punch line is that about a million people lost their house! Isn’t that funny? Sounds like Bush has been taking lessons from John McCain about inappropriate jokes. Roughly two weeks ago, in case you’ve forgotten, John McCain shared with us the good humor of how it would be good for us to export cigarettes to Iran and kill them with cancer.

This of course brought to mind his wonderful rendition of the Beach Boys song. (more…)

July 21, 2008

A Timetable by Any Other Name is Still a #$@* Timetable!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 4:22 pm

You know, I try to stay reasonable and not get overly emotive. I try to count to ten and take deep breaths. I try to keep my arguments to logic and sound reasoning. Yet there are still certain moments, certain times every election year that I have my serious WTF moments. Moments where I just can’t believe my frigging ears and want to go on a tirade that makes the earth shake. This is one of those moments. How in the wide wide world of sports are you supposed to tell me that a "time horizon" is something different than a "timetable?" It’s like saying "that’s not a car, it’s an automobile.

Obama has said they need to set a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, and McCain has repeatedly criticized him for it. Now, after all of the hoopla about not being constrained to some sort of "arbitrary timetable" they want to talk about a "time horizon." This has got to be a joke right? Somehow the Ashton Kutcher has gotten the entire media in on this and I’m being Punk’d right? I mean no one is seriously trying to suggest that a "horizon" is different from a "time table?"

I mean seriously, who ever heard of a "time horizon" anyway? What did they do, sit around in a room spit-balling terms trying to invent a new synonym so they could claim it wasn’t? How many new words were junked before they came up with "horizon." Time target? Time goal? Time plateau? No, that’s all too close, gotta come up with something even more weird, more outlandish, more utterly frigging identical yet completely meaningless. "I know," yelps a newly promoted term inventor, "TIME HORIZON!"

"Yes!" all the neocon term inventers scream jumping up and down, minds scurrying to try and parse the difference between "horizon" and "timetable." The only thing is that the more they define it the more it sounds exactly the @#$% what Obama is talking about! You see, the part that really gets my undies bunched about all of this is the flack they’ve been trying to give Obama over this and how he recently used the word "refined." He wants to set a timetable for withdraw, a timetable which might be refined based on what the Generals on the ground have to say. On the other hand what the Republicans are talking about is setting a time horizon for withdraw, which might be refined based on what the Generals on the ground have to say. Furthermore the part of the story that the mainstream media is ignoring here is that al-Maliki’s statement wasn’t so much saying that he endorsed Obama, ` but that his timetable was `the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.” Is it just me or does "slight changes" sound like exactly the same @#$% thing as "refine?

It’s enough to make you want to scream and bang your head against a wall. No matter how obvious something is the media has to try and make it sound "objective." So while McCain’s camp is sitting there, on the one hand tyring to convince us  that what walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck is really just a "water-fowl horizon" (and actually has legitimate news sources repeating this crap) on the other hand  they’re telling the media that it’s not being fair in its coverage. (Excuse me for a moment while I go punch my Bozo Bag for a while…. ….whew, that helped. Well it helped me not throw my laptop across the room anyway.) Not FAIR in its coverage. You’re sitting there trying to feed me a bucket of excrement through the media and now you want to convince me they need to add cinnamon?!!?!?!? Seriously, where is Ashton? Come out! I know you’re there!

And then I get to the point that really set me off and made me just have to write this entry. "Back in the U.S., Republican rival John McCain said he hoped Obama’s visit would open his eyes to the danger of withdrawal timetables. Said the Arizona senator, who was meeting with President Bush’s father, the former president, in Maine: "When you win wars, troops come home." He said of Obama: "He’s been completely wrong on the issue." Exactly what does that mean? Should Obama realize from his trip that he was right on the @#$% money they entire time? And what the hell do you mean when the war is won the troops come home. Why has the media given him such a whole scale pass on this thing? McCain on the one hand keeps saying that we won the war, that the surge worked, and so on and so forth. By his logic, if that’s true, from this quote it’s time to set a fricking timetable to bring the troops home. But NOOOOOOOOO if you dare to suggest that then you’re "admitting defeat." How can we admit defeat if we already won? ARRRGGGHHHH!!! Where’s the clown?!?!?!

And then the icing on the cake is that Obama, who has been perfectly consistent the entire time, they label as a flip=flopping on this subject. Meanwhile McCain who thinks we won but haven’t won, and who thinks that we should pull out when Iraq wants us to until they want us to, and who thinks that we need to establish democracy over there, but dismisses the desire to pull out as a maneuver to appeal to the electorate (read democracy) is never called on flip flopping. How can you be wrong about anything when you’re allowed to take every side of the issue without being called on it. The media needs to realize that a ref isn’t being fair by making sure they call equal numbers of fouls on both teams, but by calling a foul when one is committed, and there’s a lot of fouls not getting called on McCain here.

The bottom line is that the only consistent position here has been Obama’s. He was against the surge because he said it would detract from Afghanistan and he was right about that. He was for a timetable and he was right on its general scale. He was right on negotiating with Iran. He has been right on every issue that McCain has been criticizing him on and it’s high time for the media to start holding McCain accountable to the truth. Now excuse, me I have some more aggression I need to go work out on Bozo.

July 19, 2008

The High Cost of Free Enterprise

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 3:01 pm

Friday Phil Gramm announced his resignation from the McCain campaign. It seems that the mainstream media has determined that gives McCain a pass on his relationship with Gramm and, by extension, his advice. However this looks past a 30 year relationship between the two that is built on a common philosophy. This is the overriding economic philosophy of the Republican Party since the Reagan years and it has cost the tax payers literally hundreds of billions of tax dollars in bailouts and even more in lost money in the three most tragic economic crises of our times. In each case the philosophy that free enterprise does everything better resulted in the removal of protective regulations which precipitated an economic disaster. However, the hidden costs of this philosophy is even greater.

In 1982 the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act deregulated the Savings and Loan industry. The net effect was this allowed the S&Ls to effectively gamble with other people’s money. They were allowed to make reckless investments, only partly vested (backed by capital) with little risk to them (as the money they were gambling with was insured by the FDIC). Things looked to be going well initially but when a recession hit Texas (home of the majority of the S&Ls) everything started to go belly up. When things started to south the S&Ls started going bankrupt. The end result was a cost of over 500 billion dollars borne by tax payers. McCain was circumstantially involved with one of the key players, Charles Keating, but not guilty of any wrong doing. Recently he has called the bailout excessive, failing to realize that the problem here was not the bailout, but the removal of regulations that necessitated the bailout.

While there is a whole of host of things that could be discussed about with Phil Gramm and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act which he snuck through at the last moment as an amendment to the budget the motive here is not to expose corruption, but rather a fundamental flaw in the Republican paradigm. The deregulation which Gramm sought and got was at the behest of Enron and was a big part of the reason that the ensuing Enron scandal was allowed to emerge. Attempts by the Democrats to repeal this since it went through have either been voted down by a Republican majority in Congress, or more recently by Bush veto. This same legislation is also very much tied in with the current mortgage crisis in allowing "swap markets" to provide incentives to perpetuate irresponsible lending practices, which brings us to the present.

The subprime mortgage crisis has its roots in deregulation in a host of ways. Regulations were removed that protected debtors from predatory lending tactics. Brokers sought out people and promised them mortgages with variable rate loans which would often have enormous jumps after a two or three year period. They’d explain these jumps by saying they could refinance after they established a payment history or lying in other ways. Additionally they marketed middle class areas and people who qualified for prime mortgages were still extended subprime mortgages, a practice  which is completely unethical. So eventually this allowed for a whole lot of loans being issued which were almost inevitably going to default. Then a bunch of these bad loans would get bundled together and sold as bonds in what are called "swap markets". Now part of the problem here is the degree to which these bundles were leveraged, which at times would be as much as 30 to 1. The easiest way to understand what this means is that I only need to invest 1 dollar to get 30 dollars worth of mortgage, which is great so long as the value of the bond goes up, because that means that I make a whole lot of money on my investment. In essence a 3 percent rise in the housing market basically means I double my money. However, it works the other way around too, where a 3 percent dip in the housing market means I lose all my money. Now instead of thinking of 1 dollar or 30 dollars start thinking of that as 10 million dollars to get 300 million dollars of mortgage. You can see where there’s a lot of risk going on here.

To offer up a metaphor it is like betting on bets. Imagine I bet a hundred long shots and then sell you that bundle of tickets. Essentially you would be buying that bond with the hope that enough of those bets are going to pay off to make it worth your while. In a very rough way that is what the swap markets were doing by buying and selling these bonds. Now of course if you were going to buy the bets you’d want to know what they were. However, if there are too many bets it wouldn’t be worth your time to go through and analyze every single bet. So let’s say there’s a third party that analyzes these bets and gives them grades like AAA, implying that this particular bundle of bets has a high chance of winning. You’d probably be willing to pay more money for something like that. However you’d have to have an implicit trust in that third party who is estimating the quality of those bets. Another problem involved with the subprime mortgage crisis is that the folks who were grading the bonds were often working for the people who were selling the mortgages, which is a little bit like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. Coupled with the subprime mortgages that were destined to fail these grades often were, shall we say, generous?

It is apparent from the bottom to top there’s a host of opportunities for abuse in this system and abuse occurred. This is why when Phil Gramm’s legislation that removed the "obsolete depression era regulations" the inevitable abuse followed. We shouldn’t be surprised by what happened—it is the natural extensions of absolute borderline religious belief in the "free market" as the answer to everything. I certainly wouldn’t argue that the free market is bad, it is essential to a sound economy. However its basic motive, profit (or greed) needs to be bridled by regulation. It seems the media is making an earnest effort to suggest that neither party bears unique responsibility. This is not entirely true. The fact is that the notion of "free enterprise" as a sort of economic panacea is peculiar to the Republicans. It is also specious. It is not that we as a civilization started with a set of regulations and the progress of society has been to steadily remove them as we move towards freedom. Rather it’s quite the opposite. Origins were more feudalistic and the earmark of a progressive society is to move towards an enlarging middle class. However money has a tendency to flow up, as idioms like, "It takes money to make money" and "the rich get richer" 

In fact over the last 28 years since the Reagan years and the assault on regulation begin there’s been a consistent increase in the amount of money that goes to the rich compared to  everyone who is not rich. It isn’t just the poor who are getting less, it’s the bottom 90 percent of the country!  The first chart portrays the change in distribution of income by percent and the second shows an imaginary distribution of $100.00 among 100 people. The table on the left has one line much higher than the others. This shows the top 1 percent of the population. Effectively the incomes of the top 1 percent of the population have tripled their incomes (adjusted for inflation). The top 10 percent have pretty much held serve. Everyone else, the bottom 90 percent of the country, have actually seen a dip in their "share" of the "pie." While the conservative would look at this language and cry "communism" such a reaction deflects the very real point—a progressive society is earmarked by the growth of the middle class and our society has been moving in the opposite direction for the last 25 years. Since our society has taken this road of deregulation progress has been undone and the effect is not just seen in the huge scandals that garner the media attention. It’s more apparent in the slow steady war on the middle class, a war which we are losing.

It’s a good thing that Gramm is removed, at least openly, from the McCain campaign, but I haven’t heard anything from McCain to suggest that his fundamental philosophy of the economy has changed at all. Until that happens we shouldn’t give him too much reprieve for doing the politically obvious.

July 16, 2008

Introducing the Fudge Index

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 7:04 pm

Fact checking has become a common thing in the election process, and it’s a good thing.  I see or read these fact checks where they compare candidate A to candidate B. Candidate A says that candidate B is child porn watching pedophile, in truth he’s been a member of the Big Brother program.  Then everyone says, yeah that’s a big lie he shouldn’t have done that. Then they feel the need to balance that lie with one by candidate B to even things out and show they aren’t bias. So then they illustrate this by saying "Candidate B says that he grew up in a blue house, in truth it was more of a Periwinkle." Then it sort of comes out like, well they both failed the fact check it’s all even up. But the thing is, it’s not even because all lies are not equal.

Sometimes the fact checks in an effort to appear unbiased feel they need to find problems on both sides. The problem this causes is that all "fact checks" aren’t created equal. But there’s a whole variety of lies out there. There’s everything from interpretive lies to hyperbole to bold faced lies.  So now, I introduce to you the "Fudge Index." I will monitor the various fact checks and determine a Fudge Factor based on the Fudge Meter. The  Fudge Index will be the sum of the Fudge Factors. The Fudge Meter will use the following guidelines. If the "fudge" is an honest difference in interpretation then it  gets a "0".  Exaggeration gets you around a 2 or 3. Outright hyperbole nets you a 5. An outright lie gets you a 7 or 8. An outright lie about the other candidate gets you a 10. Also, the seriousness of the topic of the lie will be taken into account.  Lies about major policy won’t be getting the same score as half truths about childhood memories (like which concentration camp your uncle helped liberate).

I’m going to take the fact checks since the beginning of July and each of the following ones and maintain the total of the fudge factors over the course of that time to find out what kind of disparity there is in presenting the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In the interest of  not plagiarizing I’ve merely linked the stories. You have to read the details of the fudge by clicking the link. Also any recantation of a lie will result in a correction in the Fudge Index depending on the accuracy and exposure of the  fudge correction. Also I will only include ads by the candidates and their partys. I won’t hold them accountable for independent groups.

So without further ado let’s look at some of the fudge.

Obama has a "fast-track" alternative to oil.

Actually here the fact check is wrong. The advertisement transcript says:

As president, he’ll rebuild our alliances to take out terrorist networks… And fast-track alternatives so we stop spending billions on oil from hostile nations.

The add says "he’ll…fast-track alternatives," not that he "has a fast-track alternative." The difference is that of verb or adjective.  He is not saying that he already has a solution but that he will prioritize research. So in this one there’s no fudging. This gets 0 FUDGE POINTS .

Fudge Index: Obama 0, McCain 0

McCain’s Small-Business Bunk

McCain’s exaggeration of 23 million is beyond  exaggeration, it’s sincere hyperbole! He gets a five for that and an extra point for saying it  about Obama. He gets another point for repeating so many times. 7 FUDGE POINTS

Fudge Index: Obma 0, McCain 7

A False Accusation About Energy

This one has a few points.

  • No New Solutions?–Because this one is  so easily knowable , because it is so blatant, because McClain’s own plan is far less extensive than what the ad accuses Obama off, and because it is about Obama, this one maxes out the Fudge Meter with a 10
  • No Nuclear Energy–While this one is demonstrated to be blatantly untrue it does have the redeeming grace that McCain is actually have more of a plan on nuclear power (this isn’t reviewing the policy, just the degree of truthfulness of the presentation of things) than Obam this one only gets an 8 on the Fudge Mete r.
  • No to More Production-This one is actually true. There’s a sort of hidden lie involved in that it suggests that more production is a solution. This one though is more along the lines of exaggeration than lie. It gets 2 Fudge Points .
  • Total Fudge points for this add, 20 .

Fudge Index: Obama 0, McCain 27.

The McCain campaign falsely claims that Obama voted to raise income taxes on individuals earning "as little as $32,000 per year."

This one is again an incredulous statement. It’s provably wrong and actually malicious in its attempt to deceive.  No one can convince me that the $32,000 mistake here was an honest one. This gets another 10 on the Fudge Meter.

Fudge Index: Obama 0, McCain 37

Errors en Español

I’ll count all the Florida export fudges as one fudge. Essentially while things are exaggerated I think if the actual numbers were there it wouldn’t cause the ad to lose a tremendous amount of impact. I’ll give this one an Índice chapuza of 3.

Fudge Index: Obama 0, McCain 40

Tax Tally Trickery

The sheer magnitude and audacity of this one gains it a 10. If you didn’t click on the link you should. It’s  flat out prevarication. Fudge Meter: 10

Fudge Index: Obama 0, McCain 50

Obama’s Work Claim

I found this one to be a little on the nitpicky side. First it’s sort of irrelevant. It’s about his college, and whether he paid for loans afterwards through repaying loans or paid his tuition upfront it doesn’t change  really change anything. On that part I can’t really give him anything on the Fudge Meter. However on the second point, about what he accomplished, there’s some exaggeration there in Obama taking too much credit for it. Still, it’s pretty common campaigning practic. It falls in the realm of exaggeration, not quite reaching to the level of hypberbole or lie. Fudge Factor 3.

Fudge Index: Obama 3, McCain 50

So in the end it looks like one candidate is having a lot more problem with the truth than the other.

Edit: Giving credit where credit is due… I emailed FactCheck.org about their error in reference to the Fast Track being a verb and not an adjective. The responded by at least correcting the error in language. They hold that the implication is still there of an immediate solution. I disagree, after all, why would you fast track a solution you already have? Were that the solution I believe the word would be implement, not fast-track.

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