The Eclectic Quill

September 30, 2008

Palin Dimming or Just Plain Dim?

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 3:52 pm

Just a month ago the future of Sarah Palin was as bright as she could have hoped for. Picked out of nowhere by John McCain to be second on the ticket for the Republican Party, the little known Governor of Alaska seemed to rocket her way into fame. In her acceptance speech, and then again at the Republican convention she electrified the Republican Party and brought an enthusiasm to the conservative base. Now just four weeks later even conservatives are questioning whether she’s fit for the job she’s running for. Some are wondering how her star could dim so much so fast. To see how that happened we first have to see how her star artificially rose.

The moment she was named most people had the same thought, be they conservative or liberal, "Who the heck is Sarah Palin? " The conservative spinners hit the airwaves hard explaining away a host of questions that many had concerning her lack of experience and a host of other questions that many had. Gradually they sold an image of Palin to the American public which was somewhat different from the real Palin. At one point Googling "compelling story" under news searches brought up over 1000 hits for Sarah Palin. It seemed every new anchor couldn’t describe her without using those two words and mentioning "Barracuda." Meanwhile the liberals were laughing to hard to say much about her at all. They couldn’t believe that people would buy the former beauty queen, presently gun toting, moose hunting, first term governor could be taken seriously enough by anyone to actually need anyone to point out her shortcomings. While the liberals laughed the conservatives talked, and slowly a mythical version of Palin begin to emerge. She was a female version of John McCain, young, pretty and fresh and full of energy. The early battle to paint the first impression of Palin was won by the Republicans and the public liked her.

For a couple of weeks she even seemed like she might be able to save the ticket. McCain, who had been lagging behind Obama in the polls suddenly started to pull even and then even slightly ahead. But there was trouble brewing. Some of what she said turned out not to be true. She had not only been for the "Bridge to Nowhere" before she was against it, even when it turned out she was against it, she only turned against because she wasn’t getting all the money for it. When she said, "Thanks but no thanks" she kept the money, but not the project. She even still built the road to where the bridge would be had the bridge been built. In fact little miss, "no earmarks" turned out to be the worst Governor in the country for earmarks.

More problems emerged.  She brought to mind, as intended, comparisons to Clinton, by talking about the 18 million cracks. Yet, while Hillary embodied the working woman, and throughout her political history had fought for her and been her and had been scarred by Washington and politics and hate media like no other woman in history, Palin, without merit, tried to wrench the Hillary’s whitened fist. While Hillary was all about the working woman, Palin was against everything the working woman was for. She became an insult, demeaning the very notion of gender based politics by assuming that all women would vote for because of her gender. In doing so she demonstrated just how much contrast there was between the two women. The result was that Hillary voters begin to run to Obama.

Then there was the steady stream of little lies. She lied about the teleprompter being out. She lied about how much "energy" she was in control, supposedly making her an expert on the subject. She lied about selling the jet on E-Bay. She lied about the pipeline. And then she kept telling the lie about Obama and his tax plan, even after she was corrected. The lies were accompanied by weirdness. It turned out she’d risked her and her unborn son’s life by flying back from Texas to Alaska with a layover in Washington after her water had broken, only to deliver her baby almost immediately upon arriving at home. The reason for taking the risk? She didn’t want a "fish picker from Texas." When rumors circulated that she had actually been covering up for her daughter and the child was really hers, to protect her daughter, she threw her under the bus declaring that the baby couldn’t be her daughter’s because her daughter was pregnant now. While all of this somehow went to bolster the religious right, it left some nagging questions in the minds of many a voter.

Next there was the "Troopergate" scandal. Initially it seemed this wasn’t the sort of thing that voters would be much concerned about because she was going after her brother-in-law, the one who’d tasered his own son. The so called "tasering" was completely harmless and had nothing to do with the divorce. He had been suspended already and served his suspension, but Palin was vindictive and wanted him fired. There was even a tape that was certainly incriminating. That was all bad enough but then it started to get worse. Alaska started to have an eerie similarity to DC as subpoenas were refused and ignored. The despising of the rule of law started to strike an unpleasant familiar chord in the mind of the American voter.

Finally came the interviews. First with Charlie Gibson she explained how living in Russia had given her the knowledge and experience of seeing Russia, and this counted as foreign policy experience. Yes, her "experience" was that she knew first hand that Russia was not an invisible country. There was also the odd exchange the two had over the "Bush Doctrine." When it became apparent that Palin didn’t know what it was it was hard to tell who was more uncomfortable, Gibson or Palin. Gibson had tried to make the interview as soft and easy as he could. He was chosen to give the interview for that very reason. It just never occurred to poor Charlie that a person on the ticket for a major party might not know the reasoning behind we are presently at war. This wasn’t what McCain would call a game of "media gotcha" it was a "holy crap!" kind of moment. It sent a ripple through the American public. It was a moment that scared people into thinking, "Is this really the person I want in charge of the military?" The mythical façade was beginning to crack and the reality was starting to emerge. Then it got worse. There were the Katie Couric interviews, where Palin, in a bizarre demonstration of "logic" explained about how Russia and "maritime borders" and "Putin rearing his head" gave her foreign policy experience. It honestly seemed that she was suggesting that she had signed treaties and commanded the military in defense of the nation, responsibilities exclusively reserved to the President, not any governor. She not only seemed to be confused about what her future job responsibilities might entail, she didn’t even seem to know what her PRESENT job responsibilities entailed.

Palin was revealing herself to be profoundly ignorant, and remarkably uncurious as to the world around her. Even that though wasn’t the full extent of what scared voters, and even conservative pundits, away from Palin. Ignorance can be solved with learning. There’s only so much you can do with stupid though. It wasn’t just what the communications grad was (or wasn’t) communicating, it was how she was communicating it, and I use the word "communicating" loosely. Basic sentence construction beyond subject, verb and direct object seemed beyond her grasp. Syntax was utterly absent from most of what she said. She was like one of those random emails that you used to get that was random phrases thrown together to get past the filters. It was becoming apparent that while there may be women out there that break the stereo type of the empty headed beauty pageant contestant Sarah Palin wasn’t one of them. What even amplified this more were her suggestions that Obama was "naïve." Drawing that particular comparison only served to demonstrate the enormous difference between the two of them. No matter what sort of sophistry had gone into mitigating the fact that Obama clearly had more experience on the national stage and was vastly more qualified it still couldn’t hide the difference between the two in terms of basic knowledge, eloquence, lucidity and comprehension. Simply put Plain calling Obama "naïve" is like Verne Troyer calling Shaq short.

The McCain campaign started to realize this some time ago, and that’s probably why they were trying to keep her away from the media as much as possible. It’s why they prevented the "freewheeling exchanges" in the VP debate. It’s possibly even why McCain wanted to bump last Friday’s debate to Thursday, and then reschedule the Thursday debate. Now the McCain campaign is in a panic and they’ve shipped Palin off to debate camp, where they can hopefully teach her to speak in coherent sentences and a few basic facts, like what the Bush Doctrine is, but I’m not putting a lot of stock in it. The magnitude of Palin’s dearth of knowledge, curiosity and apprehension is about to be put on full display to a television audience of 50 million people.

Expectations for Palin have been brought so low that if she’s able to speak in coherent sentences an get some facts right then the Republicans will be howling victory. Let’s not lower the bar hough. Remember that what we want here is not the evidence that our Vice President could take home the money on "Who’s Smarter than a 5th Grader," what we need is the assurance that the Vice President can step in at a time of crisis and safely lead the nation through the turmoil. Lower expectations should not mean a lower bar. There’s no "curve" in a time of a national crisis. And while we’re looking at the performance of Palin and Biden we ask ourselves two essential questions. 1) Which VP candidate is better prepared to lead the nation in a time of crisis? and 2) Which Presidential candidate showed better judgment in their selection? These answers are inseparable. For purely political and partisan reasons John McCain chose a running mate who, should she ever have to step into the job of the President, would be a disaster. The only business this woman has going near the White House is as a tourist. The same should be said for anyone who believes that she should be a 72 year old 4 time cancer surviving heartbeat away from the highest office in the land.

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September 29, 2008

John McCain and the Party of Whiners

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 3:05 pm

Whatever your take on the bailout plan is, one has to take exception with the Republican response as to why they failed to deliver the votes necessary for its passage—that Nancy Pelosi gave a partisan speech. I thought I learned in Kindergarten that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Yet the preschool mindset of the GOP seems to be that if your political opponent offends you, you should put the economic future of the nation and the world at stake, and then whine on national TV about how your feelings got hurt. Of course Barney Frank put it best.

It’s hard to imagine which is more damaging to them—if the reasoning is true or if it’s not. On the one hand if it is true then probably a more petty decision, with more at stake has never before been made by the lower house of Congress. It’s mind boggling that a couple of admittedly pointed and partisan sentences uttered by the Speaker should put in jeopardy the economic future of the nation. Can you imagine the history books if the economy does contract as a result of this crisis? Can you imagine that your name is listed as one of "the 12" who were so offended by a couple of sentences that you let the world’s economy collapse? What a way to be remembered! It’s so appalling, so atrocious to me that anyone would even consider this an acceptable excuse.

The alternative explanation, that they simply didn’t have the votes and were trying to cover up that fact with a little subterfuge, is possibly equally or more damaging than the excuse. Senator McCain, in an effort to bolster his poll numbers had flown back to Washington to lead the charge and show that he was a leader capable of uniting the parties in a bipartisan effort. In the end he proved he can’t even deliver half the votes of his own party. That he was boasting and taking credit for getting the bill through just hours before it didn’t go through—and for the very reason that he didn’t do what he’d been saying he did—is best summed up by the idiom, "egg on your face." It’s humiliating to McCain that this didn’t happen, especially when his slogan is "Putting Country First."

Now you’re going to be told about how the Democrats didn’t need any Republican votes to pass this and how this is a failure of both parties. I absolutely disagree with that. The parties had reached an agreement that both parties would have half their members vote for it. Pelosi delivered, McCain and the Republicans did not. The thing about things being bipartisan is that it requires "bi" meaning two, "partisanship" meaning parties. If one party does it without the other it’s not bipartisan it’s unilateral, and then the Republicans would be whining about that! There may be some that suggest that as long as the Republican leadership went along with it then the Republicans couldn’t use it against the Democrats. I disagree. The leadership of the Republicans has a lot less to risk because the fact is that there is a lot less of a chance they are going to lose their seat in the upcoming election. This argument is trying to change the rules after the game ends. The Republicans agreed to get half their members to vote for it, and either because they didn’t do a good enough job of selling it, or because they were just too busy pouting and crying they failed.

I’d also like to point out another thing that is getting too much credence in the press, that this is a problem made by both parties. That’s just a plain ridiculous statement. The main rationalization of this is that when the Financial Modernization Act, authored by Phil Gramm was passed, Clinton was the President and the Dems in congress voted for it. While both of these things are true it ignores a couple of essential mitigating factors. First, the Act would have been even worse had Clinton not gotten certain restrictions on how much deregulation was done by threatening to veto it. Second, there was a Republican Congress and a Republican Senate. In order to get congress to work with him it was essential for Clinton to work with them. While the bill that was passed was a compromise, it was the brainchild of Phil Gramm, not Bill Clinton. Additionally, it was not the only piece of legislation that caused the present crisis. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, also written by Phil Gramm, and the legislation which allowed for the abuses at Enron as well as the bundling of the mortgages which goes to the heart of the present Credit Crisis, was snuck through at the last possible minute without fanfare into the budget. To veto would have meant to shut down the federal government. If you want to argue that the Dems still deserve a share of the blame, then fine they deserve a share of the blame, but hardly an equal share. The blame the Dems have is for not doing more to stop the Republicans from causing this disaster. The Republicans though bear the brunt of the blame for 28 years of deregulation that brought this down on our heads.

Let’s skim past all the "blame both parties equally nonsense and put things squarely where they belong. The Republicans caused the crisis in the first place, in part with the aid of John McCain, and even more, with the impetus of his chief author of his economic policy, Phil Gramm. The Democratic leadership in Congress was working with Bush (BUSH!!) to come up with a bipartisan solution when McCain injected himself into the process. McCain blew up the process and brought everything to a halt. Then, he flew down to Mississippi and tried to take credit for getting everyone together. Once he stepped out leaders from BOTH parties resumed working together, and helped to chisel out a plan that was truly bipartisan. When they finished, McCain took credit for what he had nothing to do with. While the deal was being hammered out, the McCains were double dating with the Liebermans. Then he failed to deliver the votes he took credit for. When the Republicans refused to do what they said they would do they blamed the Democrats. What happened to all that talk about responsibility? Whatever they want to claim the bottom line here is that Republicans caused the problem and they prevented its solution. Whether that’s because they can’t put "country first" or because they want to sob about having their feelings hurt I don’t know, but I think they are disgraceful. The world is looking to see what the US is going to do, instead what they are seeing is a party of whiners.

September 27, 2008

How Obama Won the Debate and Why the MSM Doesn’t Get It

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:45 am

It’s clear from the post debate polling that Obama won. There’s really only one way to measure something like this and that’s who convinced the most voters, and in at least four different polls undecideds broke for Obama, and in three of the four cases by large margins. The mainstream media lives in a political bubble, be it liberal, conservative or that mythical netherworld of "non-partisan." In this world ad-hominem attacks, anger, lies and the like become so common place that the pundits lose sight of what normal people tolerate and accept as appropriate behavior, and more importantly want from their leaders. Essentially there are two kinds of undecided voters watching this. One is the kind that is not all that into politics and is looking at what kind of person the two candidates are. The other is informed and just hasn’t made up their minds yet. On either count, Obama won. Here’s how.

First, Nixon sweated, Bush Sr. checked his watch, and McCain refused to look at Obama. This was more than just a failure to make eye contact with Obama; it was a willful, stiff-necked, jaw clenching, hand gesturing, agitated refusal to even turn his head in Obama’s direction. In fact there were several times when, though he was already looking away McCain looked even further away. While the sweating Nixon may have just been the lights, and the watch check might have been overblown, in this cas the body language was to consistent, too pronounced, too obvious to be ignored. The audience didn’t read it wrong, McCain was just an angry, bitter man. Contrast this with Obama who first looked at McCain throughout the debate, and more importantly, after some urging from Lim Lehrer addressed him directly. While McCain would address Lehrer and talk about Obama in the third person, as though he were with a marriage counselor and Lehrer was supposed to be the judge, Obama would look at McCain and address him as John. McCain came across as bitter and angry, and Obama came across as congenial and friendly, and perhaps, considering McCain’s demeanor, even forbearing. McCain looked like a grump and Obama looked like a leader.

Second, in his constant assertions that Obama didn’t "understand" McCain failed to make the intended point that Obama lacked the experience and knowledge McCain had because Obama’s own words demonstrated the opposite. Obama discoursed in a way that came across as cogent, reasonable and informed. As a result the patronizing platitudes of McCain  served to make McCain look closed-minded more than they made Obama look naïve. Again, contrast this with Obama’s "I agree" comments that were littered throughout. Particularly on this point the MSM, and the McCain camp as well, thought that Obama was doing damage to himself, but that’s not the case. What this served to do was do was show a potential President that really sought to be a "uniter," willing to reach across party lines, and willing to express agreement where there was some. Some McCain spinners and perhaps even some pundits might see this as just the way that the Obama camp is spinning it, but I believe that this was indicative of the way Obama negotiates. It’s the way he is, trying to find a common ground before a point of difference. This again, is something that I believe the undecided voter would find attractive.

Then to compound it all McCain’s constant story-telling, meant to demonstrate his lengthy experience, made him sound more like a soporific, rambling old coot. By the end of the story the average person was lost as to what the point of the story was and had forgotten what question had been asked. On the other hand Obama came across uncharacteristically crisp and clear in most of his responses. Understanding has never been a weakness for him, but often he’s over-explained issues and it has come across as trying to avoiding a direct answer. Last night he was Clintonesque in his answers, giving deliberate and explained answers which the viewer that wasn’t a wonk could understand. This again was in stark contrast to McCain’s rambling. In short to the viewer who was looking to see what kind of person the two were, they saw one man who was an angry, bitter, closed minded, rambling old man, unwilling to even visually engage his opponent; on the other side the saw an articulate, engaging, intelligent, calm, friendly and cogent man trying to engage his opponent in a civil way in spite of being mistreated. Come to think of it I’m not sure why the pundits were confused about why the independents broke so heavily for Obama.

Perhaps it’s that other kind of voters that leave them confused. After all they stipulate that McCain "won on points". Now these kinds of voters either already know most of the facts, or are going to go online and check them. They aren’t going to be easily satiated by a couple of fact checks by the network news, they’re going to probably go and check a few objective websites like factcheck.org and see who was telling the truth. I myself looked at about a half dozen websites and while I found around 25 factual "errors" by McCain, ranging from the ticky tack, (Ike never resigned) to the flat out lie, (he wasn’t even elected when Reagan sent the Marines to Lebanon and he repeated the oft told lie about Obama’s tax plan) to the just boneheaded comment (Pakistan is a failed state). Obama had maybe two or three errors all of them in the  ticky tack category. Even these were more in the realm of the sorts of back and forths between he and McCain such as the Kissinger exchange. (Kissinger said he the Secretary of State could meet without preconditions, and now clarifies that this is different from a Presidential meeting. However on the ohter hand Obama was right, as Kissinger said just two weeks ago that he would meet.) The bottom line here is that McCain was more wrong on more points than Obama. More importantly Obama was essentially honest. The net result was that Obama came across as better informed and/or more honest. So adding to the list of the other things they saw the informed voter also saw a dishonest, confused man or a clear and honest man.

If we step back and take a look at the big picture here, the MSM is very wrong about there being a big winner, knockout punch. This is horrible for McCain, because the two things he was trying to run on blew up in his face. He had been trying to present himself as being the one who was "ready to lead". Instead he showed himself as not being able. Obama showed not only that he was able, but also that he was ready. Additionally, the polls indicate that among the undecided voters Obama won the day on who would handle Iraq better. This was the foreign policy debate. This was supposed to be McCain’s home field advantage and he got blown out at home-and when he was already down a couple of games in the standings no less! This was a big win for Obama, and perhaps the beginning of the end for John McCain. The question now isn’t whether Obama will win, but whether he can help get those last two Senate filibuster blocking seats.

September 26, 2008

McCain’s Gambling Problem Poses Leadership Questions

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 11:13 am

John McCain is often described as a "maverick" which is defined in Webster’s at dictionary.com as, "A lone dissenter, as an intellectual, an artist, or a politician, who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates." There are times such traits might be desirable, depending on what the stand is and who the associates are. There are other times when a "maverick" may be more aptly named a "loose cannon " which is defined as "a person whose reckless behavior endangers the efforts or welfare of others." Some of the actions and behaviors of John McCain during the course of his campaign, particularly this week, demonstrate that he may be more of the latter than the former.

If he had come to Washington with an area of expertise, a clear reason for being there, and set forth those reasons prior to coming he’d be due the credit he wants to now claim. However he had none of those. These would have been the actions of a maverick. These are the things implicit in "takes an in depended stand." McCain took no stand however, he just acted independently and independence alone is not the same as being a maverick. For what is developing into a consensus among all except the most partisan of supporters, in a purely political move, McCain "suspended" his campaign and immediately, after 18 hours of campaigning flew into Washington and immediately wrecked the progress of a bailout that had been in the works. This plan had a remarkable cooperation of both Democrats and Republicans, both the Hose and the Senate, and both the Congress and the White House. Were there some balking? Of course there were. With a piece of legislation like this there had to be. However there was by most accounts there was a deal in place and it didn’t fall apart until John McCain arrived. It looks as though little more than first, make himself appear to be needed and then make himself appear to do what he was needed to do. In general though there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that if McCain had never arrived there’d be little to no difference in whatever comes out as a result of McCain’s visit. This risk he took was an incredibly risky gamble. On the one hand he sought to gain a small amount of political capital, and the risk here was only, potentially, the economic fate of the entire world. Consider the ramifications if Wall Street had been thrown into panic by McCain’s latest craps game. McCain’s actions were those of a loose cannon with a gambling problem.

Lost amid the chaos of the financial gamble are the interviews with Sarah Palin. Most of the comments she’s made and answers she’s given seem more to be like the kinds of things said following the intro, "Hi Rush, long time listener first time caller here…" Her responses show not only of dearth of understanding, but also that of a lack of even the most basic curiosity. Her answers are long on rhetoric and void of substance. When asked about the Bush Doctrine, she seemed unaware of what it is. She defends her argument that Russia neighboring Alaska gives her foreign policy experience by noting that "you can see it" from Alaska. Russia is visible. This is what she brings to the table, the working knowledge that Russia is not an invisible country. When asked to extrapolate she suggests, wrongly that somehow the governor of Alaska negotiates trades with Russia and is responsible for defending American airspace from Russia. Both of these are blatantly wrong arguments and readily apparent from even a cursory reading of the constitution. No governor has those kinds of responsibilities. Why there hasn’t been more made of Palin essentially just making up stuff to answer questions. I suppose she didn’t want to have to say, "I’ll have to get back to you on that" again. What’s even worse than not knowing what McCain has done is not even knowing what her own job is. Palin is another demonstration of how big of a gamble McCain is willing to take to score a political point. Can you imagine if something were to happen to McCain while in office? Could you imagine someone inheriting the nation’s present crisis unaware of what their own job responsibilities are and responding to questions with "I’ll have to get back to you on that." There were other women he could have chosen and there were others who would have secured the Republican base, so why Palin? Why the need for such a reach? Could it be that he wanted to reach for the sake of reaching? Is it possible that Palin was nothing more than an adrenaline rush?

McCain’s gambling problems are well reported. In his Time article Michael Scherer says , "Over time he gave up the drinking bouts, but he never quite kicked the periodic yen for dice. In the past decade, he has played on Mississippi riverboats, on Indian land, in Caribbean craps pits and along the length of the Las Vegas Strip. Back in 2005 he joined a group of journalists at a magazine-industry conference in Puerto Rico, offering betting strategy on request. "Enjoying craps opens up a window on a central thread constant in John’s life," says John Weaver, McCain’s former chief strategist, who followed him to many a casino. "Taking a chance, playing against the odds." Aides say McCain tends to play for a few thousand dollars at a time and avoids taking markers, or loans, from the casinos, which he has helped regulate in Congress. "He never, ever plays on the house," says Mark Salter, a McCain adviser. The goal, say several people familiar with his habit, is never financial. He loves the thrill of winning and the camaraderie at the table."

Gambling is an addiction, and it seems that McCain is an addict. He’s willing to play with the world’s economy and America’s future. He "loves the thrill" and it seems he’s found a higher stakes craps table. He’s unconcerned with what he wins, he’s more obsessed with the adrenaline rush that comes from laying everything on the line. Any gambler knows that the best way to lose is to keep playing. The problem with the addict is that even if he knows that, he can’t quit, he can’t put down the dice. He will keep rolling until he’s lost it all. We don’t need an addict that’s willing to gamble with the nation and the world as a President. Ironically, Obama has shown himself to actually be a maverick in this crisis in telling Reid and Pelosi to set aside the bankruptcy issues as well as his own spending initiatives. He "took a stand apart from his associates" and in the course, actually did exercise leadership in these negotiations. What the nation needs is a true maverick, not a loose cannon.

September 24, 2008

McCain’s Bailout!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 1:43 pm

Does anyone really buy this? John McCain is actually calling this “suspending the campaign.” If anyone does then I have stock in Lehman Brothers I’d like to sell them! This is campaigning, and its typical transparent Republican drivel trying to distract from the issues.

First, this is a façade. It is John McCain trying to present himself as being “bigger” than the campaign. He’s been trying to make this point all along in little snippets about Obama saying things “to get elected” as though he were running his own campaign to not get elected. Let there be no mistake about this. McCain is not “suspending” his campaign, he is campaigning by suspending his campaign.

Second, the notion of John McCain solving this problem is akin to that of a monkey solving a Rubik’s Cube; it’s highly improbable that it would ever happen, and if it did, it’s doubtful that either McCain or the monkey would even know. McCain has already demonstrated time and again that he understands neither the nature of the problem nor the nature of the solution. He’s offered all grandstanding and no insight. I would urge all of Congress, please, please, PLEASE, keep John McCain as far away from this process as possible. When it’s all done you can let him back in to vote for it, but what we don’t need in the discussion is grandstanding disguised as debate.

Third, McCain has been trying to dodge the debate all along. Make no mistake about it, that’s precisely what that whole “Town Hall” thing was all about. The only fact he seems to be aware of is that the facts are on Obama’s side. As is typical of Republicans he’s seizing on disaster and using it as opportunity. The bottom line is that he’s going to have a hard time telling the lies about Obama with Obama in the room, standing next to hear, and fully able to defend himself in front of a neutral audience. Heck McCain might even have to learn what countries are still countries and what nations they border if he is going to stand a remote chance in the debate.

Fourth, McCain had a disaster last week and the polls are showing it. People saw what would happen if there was a McCain presidency and even George Will got scared. All of this is nothing more than a desperate attempt to salvage a shipwreck of a campaign. He’s trying to appear Presidential now, since he showed he wasn’t last week. Sorry Mr. McCain, we need you to act Presidential the day of a crisis, not a week and a half later following a series of misguided and confused panicked moves.

Lastly McCain is trying to present himself as the one who is going to unite the Parties and bridge the gap. McCain apparently doesn’t read the news. The Democratic congress is already working with the Bush Administration, and seemingly not only without McCain’s help but over his protests. McCain, the so called “Straight Talk Express” is getting a lot less straight in his talk. It seems he might be “demagoguing” the bill for political advantage in the campaign. Essentially he’s trying to tap into the voter anger over the need for a bailout, and this is nothing more than blowhard posturing.

Let’s just hope the MSM sees this for what it is and don’t let the inevitable Republican talking points about how McCain is “putting country first” actually become the story here. No, the real story here is that this is McCain’s bailout.

September 23, 2008

The Color of Earmarks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 6:54 am

September 18, 2008

It’s Regulation Stupid!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 6:14 pm

The Republicans are flailing about like a blindfolded man trying to find the piñata when it comes to the current financial woes, yet no matter how hard they swing they can’t get that satisfying thud that comes from connecting, probably because they aren’t even swinging in the right direction. Heck, they aren’t even standing under the right tree! The reason that conservatives can’t seem to connect on the financial crisis is that they are trying to address a paradigm problem procedurally. This is not about what they do; it’s about what they think. Here’s some of the “misses” and why they are under the wrong tree.

Greedy CEOs

One thing that’s been bandied about is that this is all because of greed. Greed and corruption played a part, a large part in the financial crisis, but these things are not new to the world—they’ve existed since Adam bit the apple. The subprime mortgage crisis however is not purely a result of greed and corruption; it’s the product of greed and corruption running amok because it is unregulated. Greed is precisely why we need regulation. Sometimes it seems that the conservatives and libertarians approach the idea of government as though it started out as a pile of regulations and progress is marked as getting rid of them. In truth government started off as one person literally calling himself God and getting whatever he wanted. Gradually this system evolved into one where the King had to answer to the rule of law, and eventually it became a government by the people and for the people. Once that happened it took about a hundred years, but eventually it started to happen that the actual people started to get representation in government, and most of this representation is through regulation by the government. Generally speaking the reason most regulations were added is because at one time or another they were needed, and they were needed because greedy people were taking advantage of other people. Regulation is the result of progress, not the frustration to it. It’s regulation stupid!

Regulatory Reform Act of 2005

John McCain has been trying to demonstrate himself as prescient in voting for the Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, which would have transferred regulatory control of Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae over to the executive branch from Congress.. Polifact has a nice write up on this claim which can be summed up in four in points.

  • First, this Act, which failed, has nothing to do with the actual crisis. It was about administrative control of the oversight in regards to their accounting practices. The present crisis has nothing to do with that, it’s about predatory lending, banks making bad loans and bundled bad mortgages being sold in swap markets. This legislation would have zero effect on any of that. It was strictly addressing Freddy and Fannie, not the larger banking industry.
  • Second, McCain’s claim came after an extensive report came out which demonstrated the accounting practice problems. McCain had been opposing similar control since the early 90s. His stance was not a result of prescience but one of a belated realization.
  • Third, I’m not sure that transferring control of oversight of anything over to the Bush administration is the greatest of ideas. It’s certainly not the sort of thing I’d be bragging about!
  • Fourth, Freddie and Fannie have been praised by many, even though they are in trouble, for actually helping to soften the blow of the crisis. If anything if McCain had had his way the situation might be worse.

The bottom line here is that McCain is pointing to a piece of legislation that had nothing to do with the present crisis, and which if it had passed might have exacerbated it. Whether this is a clumsy attempt at trying to disguise his lengthy history of opposing regulation or simply the result of his failure to grasp the cause of the present crisis, or a combination of the two, I don’t know, but whatever it is it instills no confidence in me that he gets it. He’s trying to show he tried to do something about it before it became a problem, but instead he demonstrates that even after it has become a problem that has literally put the world at risk, he still doesn’t have the vaguest idea why. Changing who had regulatory control over Freddie and Fannie is not even in the same book as exercising more regulatory control over the banking industry, much less on the same page. It’s regulation stupid!

The Market Correcting Itself

Senator McCain has taken a new stance every day on this issue, many of them demonstrating the profound depth of his ignorance on this matter. His hollering about the bail out of AIG is startlingly bereft of even the most basic understanding of the potential fallout. His claims that the fundamentals of the economy are strong are probably the most genuine of his many and often contradictory statements about what to do and about the state of the economy. Bush’s statements about how this is the market correcting itself is the true feeling of those who hold the laissez-faire paradigm, and probably an accurate reflection of John McCain’s. It’s the driving paradigm behind all of the Republican thoughts on the economy ever since Ronald Reagan, and it’s wrong. Never has it more evident than right now. The market tanked because the Republicans prevented the government from being able to regulate the market, and it’s only because the government stepped in and bailed out AIG that it rebounded! Can we please once and for all dismiss this myth that the government has no positive effect on the economy? Can we dismiss the foolhardy notion that every good thing about the economy over the last 28 years has been because of Reagan and the Bush’s leadership, and every bad thing is because of Clinton and Carter? It’s ludicrous and ignorant to ignore the reality, the middle class is healthier with an involved government, and a healthy middle class is the best measure of a healthy economy. It’s regulation stupid!

A couple of days ago McCain wanted to bust up and sell Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, another ignorant idea that betrays once again his ignorance in failing to understand the purpose of the institutions. McCain wanted to privatize your social security dollars. Imagine the impact if he’d had his way? McCain wanted to let AIG fail until he was told that it was horrendous, now he’s doing an about face on that. McCain would have Gramm, the author the deregulatory legislation that caused the crisis in the first place, be the next Treasure Secretary. He also had him write his economic plan. Now he wants to start a new government agency, the MFI, that would let private enterprise tell it how to regulate it. Yep, he really is that oblivious. McCain says he wants to reform Washington, but he’s been doing that for the last 26 years, and from the S&L crisis, to Enron to the subprime mortgage crisis he’s been on the wrong side all the way. McCain can’t solve the problem and he can’t understand why he can’t solve the problem because he is the problem. Unless he experiences a sudden paradigm shift a McCain presidency would be nothing less than extension of the last 28 years.

 

September 5, 2008

Jesus Never Rode an Elephant

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 10:33 pm

I am one of those rare folk who are a combination of Liberal and Christian. When I say I’m a Christian I want you to understand, I’m a Bible believing Christian. I believe that a fetus is a baby, I believe that homosexuality is immoral behavior, and I believe that Jesus Christ is the one true way to God. I read the Bible every day and I am, after a fashion, a "minister" though my particular group does not believe in a "clergy-laity" system. I would say that my political views are the minority in my church. I’m not typical or representative of them, although we aren’t a politically driven church so I don’t know where everyone actually stands. Still, from time to time the topic turns to politics and I express my thoughts, often my friends are surprised and ask me, "How can you be a Christian and a Democrat?" Normally I reply with a smile and the retort, "Jesus rode a donkey, but He never rode an elephant."

From the top paragraph alone I’ve probably managed to incense just about 90 percent of Americans so let me explain my positions in a little detail. When it comes to moral issues I have no problem with defining my morality by the Bible. I believe that we can roughly block morals into two categories, personal issues and social issues. I think the Republicans tend to focus more on personal morality and Democrats tend to focus more on social morality. Of course there’s a great deal of nuance here, so don’t think this meant as an absolute statement, which is why use the word "rough." First let’s take a look at the common issues which are a matter of personal morality. These next couple of paragraphs might be hard for some of my liberal counterparts to stomach, but I ask you to bear with me, as all will be made clear in the end.

It is clear from the Bible that a fetus is a baby.

Matt 1:18-20—Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privately while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

In these verses first it says that Mary was found to be with "child" of the Holy Spirit and then it is says that which is "conceived" is of the Holy Spirit. Putting the two together it seems apparent that there is no difference between being "conceived" and being a "child". Therefore it seems to be the Biblical premise that life begins at conception. So how can I be pro-choice? I’ll get to that in a moment. For now I would like to point out that women who get abortions for the most part are not a bunch of villainous heathens out to destroy babies. They are for the most part very confused women. More than 80 percent of women who have abortions are single. Most are under the age of 25. The number one reason that women have abortions is finances. Needless to say things like national health care, better employment opportunities, better job training, better child care arrangements, and better adoption options etcetera could go a long way towards lowering the abortion rate. In fact the abortion rate fell sharply as the economy improved under Clinton . In essence the Republicans have spent far more energy and money trying to end the legality of abortion than they have the rate of abortions. When abortions were illegal it did not stop women from getting them. It’s foolish to think that it would now. Giving them a way to have the baby and still live their lives saves both the baby and the mother. This should be the focus of the Christian.

Romans 1: 26-27—For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

Again, the Bible is clear on the moral issue of homosexuality. I know there are some groups that try to parse things here, but I find the Bible is unequivocal on this matter. I’d also like to point out that on this point, the notion that homosexuality is strictly a genetic issue is largely debunked by most of the scientific community and that it is unfair to the gay community as well. If you want to argue that it is moral behavior, I have no problem with that, but to argue that they are mindless slaves to their sexual urges is insulting to the entire gay community. There are "genetic links" to pedophilia as well and no one argues that as moral, or says that it isn’t their fault. My point here is that homosexuality is a behavior, and is either moral or immoral, and the discussion of it should be held as such. Biblically speaking, there’s not a lot to discuss though. So some might ask, "if the Bible is so clear on these issues and you believe in the Bible, then how can you a liberal?"

Well for precisely for the reason that it is the Bible that governs my belief. Being able to support one’s moral belief with the Bible and making that moral belief into law is a great and giant leap, one which both constitutionally and Biblically speaking, should be cautioned against. We are a free nation, and that means everyone is free, including the people who disagree with me! I believe in gay rights because to believe in gay rights is to believe in my rights to be a Christian. If both are distilled down to fundamentally moral beliefs then how can I count my moral beliefs as so much more important than another’s, that mine should become law at the expense of another’s? To protect another’s right, vote for another’s right and fight for another’s right is to fight for my own. This is the core of any truly free nation—that people will disagree on such things. The proof of freedom is offense. If I can offend you with my Christian beliefs then that is because we are free. If you can offend me with your non-Christian beliefs then that is because we are free. I celebrate the fact that I can be offended because whenever I am, I am reminded, I still live in the "land of the free."

Christ Himself seems to have held to this view. I know this may come as a shock to some of the more conservative brothers and sisters in the Lord, but it is true. Consider a couple of things for a moment. First, consider the story of the adulterous woman. When the mob came to execute her, he knelt in the ground and wrote, and then after they’d settled down, he told them, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone." They all had to drop their stones and leave. Then he told the adulterous woman, "go and sin no more." There was something in his attitude that was loving and forgiving towards the woman. He was still righteous in telling her to sin no more, but he was quite forgiving of her all the same. It seems his greater rebuke was to the ones who would have stoned her, the religious ones. In fact, some may find this shocking, Christ never rebuked a single person for "sin" though he spent the majority of his time with the sinners. He did however spend a lot of time rebuking the self-righteous and the religious.

This is because there is a core message to the Christian faith, one which is not visible in the doctrines, politics or practices of the Christian right. This message is that Christ came to do what the law could not do, in that the law was weak through the flesh. Essentially the underlying Christian message is that we need Him to be lived out in us if we are going to live a righteous life. To try and legalize our morality is impossible. God Himself did that to show man that it could not work, so what makes Republicans think they can do it? I could expand on this but would run the risk of turning this blog into a sermon, which I’m sure no one wants to read. The essence of my point here is that much of the politics of the "Christian Right" is no more "Christian" than it is right. The fundamental message they deliver is not a Christian message, it’s a Pharisaical one, and the Pharisees opposed Christ.

The bottom line when it comes to the issues of personal morality can be summed up in the phrase "strict towards self, merciful towards others." Incredibly it seems that the Republican message appears to be the opposite as they run an adulterer and the mother of a fornicator (both of which are sins listed in the Bible right alongside homosexuality ironically) and at the same time try to pipe in their message of "family values." I’m not deriding them, I’m pointing out a fact that they themselves have been incapable of living the lifestyle they’d like to legislate. Personal morality simply cannot be legislated because it’s not democratic and it cannot be imposed because it is legislation that cannot work. It cannot work because we are all fallen sinners. Paul’s eloquent question in Romans 7, slightly paraphrased illustrates the point, "Why do I do things I don’t want to do and not do the things that I want to do?" This is at the very heart of the Christian message. To legislate personal morality of this sort is to legislate the impossible. To deny it is impossible is to deny the Word of God.

There does however remain the other question of social morality. Again, if we are going to address this from a Christian perspective let’s view what Christ did in his ministry. Primarily you could sum it up in three words, He taught, healed and fed. There can be no question, Jesus Christ, while he was very much concerned with the forgiveness of sin was not that concerned with the condemnation of sinners. Rather his heart for them was to care for them. He loved them, and that love was exhibited in part by teaching them concerning their need of salvation, but it also extended to His physical care for them. The New Testament has over 20 references which state that believers should give to the poor. The Old Testament has the same concept, such as the "Sabbath Year" where the fields were left untended for one year and the fruit from the land in those years was to be left for the poor. God makes it clear in His word that He has a heart to care for the needs of the needy. This is what I consider "social morality". The Republicans, so bent on enforcing their personal morality on others, seem to not only ignore these social issues, they fight against them. The abhor them. The heart of the Republican Party is all together contrary to heart of God.

I don’t for a moment suggest that the Democratic Party is really the party of God, donkey jokes aside. I do however feel that the platform of the Democratic Party is more representative of God’s heart towards man. The platform is more built around the premise that we are, as Senator Obama says, "our brothers’ keeper." It represents a fundamental care and love for the fellow man that is absent and opposed in the Republican Party. The Christian needs to look beyond the self-righteous, hypocritical platform of the Republican Party and consider God’s heart. Psalms 103:7 says "He made His ways known to Moses; His acts, to the children of Israel." Christians need to focus on God’s ways, not the outward activities. That’s why I’m a liberal Christian.

September 3, 2008

Liberals Don’t Have Babies Anymore

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kelly @ 2:36 pm

A lifelong liberal I’m not sure how this truth had escaped me for this long, but the recent news has made the once hidden become obvious, liberals don’t have babies. That’s because we’re a bunch of abortion touting, fetus hating commies. After all the fact that the Palins “walk the walk” by not aborting their children as some sort of campaign slogan certainly would imply that liberals do not. Perhaps it snuck past me because when I was born my mother was a conservative. It was only later that my father converted her to be a true blue liberal. Come to think of it, she never had a baby as a liberal!

This is an abrupt departure from how things used to be. Back in the day it was the liberals’ teens who got pregnant, what with all their prophylactics and birth control that didn’t work. They didn’t understand that a good education at home on the virtues of abstinence could prevent teen pregnancy. If a teen got pregnant then there’s no question, the parents were at fault for not providing a good set of values for her. It was all that liberal voting that led her astray I’m sure. Of course how those parents got to be parents remains a mystery, since liberals don’t have babies and all. Or, perhaps they were that other type of liberals who like to have babies “for the welfare money.” You know the ones, the crack whore moms who squeeze out the pups and then use the money to buy the drugs? Ah yes. Some liberals do have babies.

Now we see that when a conservative has a baby, she’s the model of promise and virtue and all things holy. Somehow all that virtuous “family value” education paid off, and the 17 year old girl who was rolling around in the pick up on one of those sunlit midnights in Alaska with her soon to be hubby got herself conceived, impregnated like, but decided to have the child anyway. I’ve got nothing against her, and I’m not attacking her. Teen girls get pregnant all the time. What I have a problem with is the blatant hypocrisy of the Christian right who are exploiting her pregnancy in what must be a very problematic time for her. It’s like a celebration of immorality as they parade this unwed woman, the very type they’ve been blasting for the last quarter century, as some sort of model of virtue and goodness. Have they no shame? On the one hand they want to look at her having her baby, which is fine, but what right do they have to suggest that getting married and raising the child is the only virtuous alternative to abortion? It’s probably not the best thing for the daughter, her boyfriend or her baby. Why not consider adoption? Why not at least acknowledge that there are other alternatives?

Consider the words of Christ, “Hypocrites! Well has Isaiah prophesied concerning you, saying, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart stays far away from Me” (Matt 15:7-8) It seems they apply in this situation. Again and again it seems that the Republican Christian Right will lie, cheat and steal an election, all the while talking out of the other side of their about “family values.” Now they are running a campaign with an adulterer for President and the mother of pregnant teen for the Vice President (perhaps they misunderstood the word “vice” here), and once again they are extolling them as “virtuous.” They are going to parade her out as a hero tonight, and her boyfriend, (soon to be shotgun wed husband) who would be a registered sex offender in most any state but Alaska, and they are going to pay homage to her for having a baby.

I’ve often wondered what value there is to the Republican Party. I consider that Lincoln was a pretty good President (though he was completely unqualified when he took office, what being a first term Senator from Illinois with no executive experience taking over in a time of crisis). Teddy Roosevelt was a great president, perhaps one of the most progressive in our history. In fact he was the first President to advocate for national health care! Of course there’s little doubt where he’d line up now on policy. Honest Abe! So what’s the good of Republicans? Why do we keep them around? Apparently we need them. After all without them who would keep up the human race, and by “human” I mean the ones that aren’t on welfare.

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