Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I think we need a new word, McCainspeak, to describe the growing absurdity of the spin of his campaign . . . if the bill passes, it is my success at crossing party lines, if it fails then it's Obama's fault for being too partisan. I'm suspending my campaign, then not suspending my campaign, then taking credit for the bill when it looks like it's passing, then blaming others when it fails. 133 Republicans voted against the bill, but I got over 60 to support it. The absurdity would be laughable if it wasn't so desperate and didn't have such negative ramifications for the country.

The real truth is that too many Americans were against this bill and House representatives fearful it would cost them reelection on both sides of the aisle. I am fundamentally against the bailout, which essentially rewards those who have both benefitted from their risky and irresponsible behavior and now want to be saved without ramifications for that very behavior. Who is to bear the brunt of this irresponsiblity? The American people of course. The clear message is that those who benefit the most from our free market system should not have to suffer the consequences of their failure. But something more important is at stake -- the future economic status of the United States and our collective fate in a global economic world. And something has to be done before this economy falls further into disrepair.

Who is to blame for the economic collapse. A number of factors are at play. There is the deregulation that started under Reagan and accelerated under first Clinton (disassembliing the last vestiges of Glass-Steagel at a time when the economy was soaring) and then Bush, the growing economic inequality that saw too much money and profit accumulating at the top of the income ladder to the disadvantage of everyone else, the investment banks going public over the past 30 years tying their futures too closely to the whims of the market and self-fullfilling prophesies on their confidence and expectations, increasingly risky investments that separated liquidity and risk from their consequences and a general decline in Americas economic strength here and abroad. But the real culprit appears to be founded on conservative ideology regarding government and markets. Too much faith was put in unfettered markets and their ability to self-regulate and make the right choices. Instead greed and irrationality have reigned supreme for too long, with tax cuts and lax regulation and oversight allowing increasingly risky decisions to be made outside the specter of their potentially catastrophic results. The rich have been richer and hungrier and willing to engage in behavior that rivals that of the robber barrons who led us toward the great depression.

Now we are forced to rescue the titans of this failed system, even as the people awaken to the course the government and country have taken, and how it has negatively affected them for so long. Ken Phillips warned us in a book a couple of years ago that our growing debt, addiction to foreign oil and religious fundamentalism (although I would say market fundamentalism) could lead to serious economic decline. He appears to be right and now we either swallow a bailout that saves those who have brought us here, or suffer the consequences of a major economic downcycle that could last for years. McCain doesn't care about any of that -- he simply wants to find a way to make himself the hero or Obama the goat for whatever happens. This is the kind of leadership we need now? Cynicism as policy? I hope the people continue to turn away from this politics of dispair to really contemplate whether we can afford to continue ignoring the elephants in the room. A populist uprising is brewing below the surface here, and I only hope Obama can find a way to capture its spirit and ride to the presidency and then actually do something to change the country. Otherwise despair could foreshadow doom . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An October Surprise?

When I watched the Palin interview, one issue that I thought she had resolved was the firing of Monegan. It appears even this might have been a lie (at least according to him):

Monegan rebutted Palin's comments, saying, "She's not telling the truth when she told ABC neither she nor her husband pressured me to fire Trooper Wooten," according to an interview posted on the ABC News Web site. "And she's not telling the truth to the media about her reasons for firing me." (http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/09/16/palin.investigation/index.html?eref=rss_topstories).

The investigation is just the latest example of two candidates running on their record as renegades with character that seems to be fading under the light of the truth. At the same time, they have been unable to find anything substantive to attack Obama about except being a celebrity and wanting to gasp, tax the wealthy more than the middle class and poor. Can this lame political gambit stand up for much longer?

A new Obama ad takes on the absurdity that is McCain/Palin, after a comment Monday by McCain that the fundaments of the economy are fine as Lehman collapses, unemployment rises, economists predict millions could lose their homes, inflation is up and no clear end to the crisis is in site. I am admittedly surprised at how out-of-touch McCain has become and how people suffering through this downturn could continue to pretend he has any idea how to change anything for the better. (http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Palin/Lying Fatigue

So even Karl Rove has come around to say that the negative attack ads and the lies are too much. Hard to believe really. McCain is showing a desperation that should lead people to ask -- where is that integrity and character you expect us to vote for you on.

On a related note, I happened to see a part of the Obama/O'Reilly interview yesterday. The old "class warfare" tag came out simply because Obama explained that he wanted to reverse the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and give tax cuts to 95% of tax payers. Since when is "penalizing" the top 5% of wage earners "class warfare." The charge would be funny if it didn't resonate so deeply with the conservative discourse that will have many of the 95% voting against their own tax cuts.

On a final note, is this another lie from the Palin interview (I never called for banning books?):


Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Lies Just Keep on Coming . . .

McCain keeps the lying going strong:

WALTERS: What is she going to reform specifically, senator?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, earmark spending, which she vetoed a half a billion dollars worth in the state of Alaska.
WALTERS: She also took some earmarks there.
BEHAR: A lot.
MCCAIN: No, not as governor she didn't . . .

This is, of course, untrue. I was watching the end of Bill Moyer last night and he made the point that the media is just not fact-checking or asking the right questions. I feel like Charles Gibson should actually be applauded for asking tough questions of Palin and even though many who already like her will pretend he was too tough or unfair with her, the truth is the pair is attempting to win this election based largely on lies and half-truths. They just hope that they can allude very real and important questions long enough to convince enough Americans that they really will change anything in Washington.

The debates may be the one place where the two can't hide. And neither has looked very impressive without a formal script. It could provide the final push to an Obama victory.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin Shuffle

A few years ago, President Clinton was on the daily show. He said that all one needed to be a democrat was to think. Little has changed in that truism. I am watching the Charles Gibson interview with Palin and the words that come to mind are subterfuge, misdirection and embarrasing. Much like the McCain interviews the past few days, it consisted of not answering questions, blurring the past and present, ignoring the inconsistencies in record and message and pretending to offer change when it is clear it is more of the same.

She seems to have little knowledge of foreign affairs (including the comment that she is sending her son to redeem America for 9/11 after all the evidence linking Iraq to 9/11 has been refuted over and over again), talked about reforming Washington while it is clear she has strong relationships with lobbyists, a long record of getting money for her town and then the state of Alaska and dancing around the truth of the Bridge to Nowhere. She also appears to know little of how Washington works or where these cuts she offers will come from. She talks about tax cuts and shrinking government, while she raised sales taxes in her own town and created a huge budget deficit. She claims tax cuts for the rich are what all Americans want and continues to lie about what Obama is offering (middle class tax cuts and higher taxes for those earning over $250,000). And she is socially conservative to a radical extent.

McCain is doing equally absurd dancing around his record and turn toward lobbyists in recent years (including the top advisors to his campaign). He appears to have huge lunanas in his own foreign policy experience and real understanding of economics (supporting supply side economics and trickle down theories long disavowed even by their original advocates). I think the two are embarassing, their campaign is embarassing and a victory by them would be an embarassement to the country.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


John Mitchell of Talking Point Memo today argues that the press is starting to grow weary of the sleazy, lying campaign that McCain is running. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/215224.php. He argues that there has been a palpable change over the past few weeks in how respected journalists are receiving the increasingly negative, overreaching McCain tactics and wonders whether this will change the tone of coverage (which, with the exception of Palin, except around her speech, has been largely positive). I think the importance of the media in recent campaigns cannot be overstated and how the major networks and cable stations cover the last two months of the campaign my have a significant influence on the outcome. The short-lived love affair with Obama is over and the question that remains is whether they will refocus on the issues and whether their longer term enamorata finally garners their contempt.

On a side note, the 7th anniversary of 9/11 leads to a one day hiatus in the campaign, but also leads papers to call for increased details on how the two candidates plan to handle terrorism and homeland security in the future. Hopefully they will push the moderators to ask these important questions during the upcoming debates. The good news for Obama among all the recent setbacks is that he is tied or leads in most of the eighteen states the campaign have selected as battleground states. Some worry that he is not focusing heavily enough on the old battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania -- but as of the most recent polls, he already has 260 electoral votes all but locked up, compared to 183 for McCain. The last few weeks of this spectacle-ridden circus should certainly be interesting -- I just hope the people recognize what's at stake.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Obama the Muslim Terrorist?

A student of mine came into class today and handed me one of the infamous email charging Obama with numerous crimes and misdemeanors -- essentially arguing that much of his record was false and that he was, in fact, a muslim that would apparently turn the U.S. into a terrorist state. While the student said his father told him some of the information seemed sketchy; he did believe much of it was cause for "concern." I had received a similar email from a conservative friend early in the primary and had gone about replying to all with refutation of many of the points. The problem is most of these mailing lists don't have any voices to refute the main claims. The Republicans are hitting new lows with every election. In this version, there is the lying on both sides of the campaign -- using innuendo and outright lies to undermine Obama's record while lying about their own past.

The problem is this approach seems to be winning over more and more voters. Fear, as always, seems to be an effective mechanism for pushing voters toward their side of the aisle -- creating a cloud around the real issues of the campaign. And the bubble in which many Republicans live their political lives allows this absurd propaganda to go largely unchallenged. They watch Fox News, go to internet sites that simply reinforce their often false ideas, listen to talk radio that plays on fear, racism and questionable ideas about freedom and democracy and tend to isolate themselves from outside opinions that challenge their own. This is an exaggeration of the truth that overgeneralizes the right, but I feel it is a trend that defines more and more of the population on both sides of the political spectrum. Rather than sustantive debate on real issues and a diversity of opinions; many simply find sources that regurgitate the party line without real thought or critique. In my mind, the left is as guilty of this as the right; though the right certainly seems more astute at controlling major media sources and at breeding strong emotional responses to their propaganda.

Can events like the debates work to combat this myopic ideological redundancy and sectarianism? It is hard to say, as many would rather get their information spoon-fed to them than actually do the hard work of finding out the truth. And if enough independents fall for the soft racism and fear mongering of the McCain-Palin ticket, we may see a huge upset: led by the very people that hold such a low opinion of the president and policies t appears McCain will largely follow in the future. This odd logical disconnect can only be explained by the affective response to these political gambits and a general unwillingness to consider the relationship between action and its consequences. McCain has shown the kind of leadership the world just doesn't need right now -- doing anything and everything to gain power; and we can assume keep it. Does this remind you of anyone else from our past?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

McCain Surges Ahead

I watched much of the Democratic and Republican conventions and thought the former was wonderful and the later uninspired (particularly McCain's speech). And yet somehow the American people see differently. McCain has forged ahead in national polls: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/election2008/2008-09-07-poll_N.htm. While this doesn't matter much, as the battle is in particular states, I'm confused at how this happened. McCain gave a speech absent substantial policy initiatives, failing to really separate himself from one of the least popular presidents in history and picked a women that is far right of the average citizen. And yet it was women that have turned to McCain in a huge way (he has a 12 point lead among white women in the latest poll).

Has this cynical, desperate ploy to win the presidency worked? Women have come his way and it seems largely based on Palin. His personal narrative is certainly compelling, but people knew it before. So what has changed. Only two things -- Palin and the usual suspect (tax cuts). Cynicism might just work again for Republicans, but how does it foreshadow the future of the country? I believe a McCain presidency prefaces a permanent fall in American stature at home and abroad. Without some attempt to change current policy and politics, I believe America will follow Rome into decline and ruin. It will be a slower process, but Obama seems to me to be the last chance for the people to recapture the political process from the cynical elites that will win at any cost to keep their interests unchallenged. Here's hoping the next two months change their plans and our collective future.

Friday, September 05, 2008

McCain Inspires?

McCain's speech was rather uninspiring last night, even to the crowd from what I could tell. There were moments of great energy, but overall it appeared rather subdued compared to Palin, Obama and most of the other major speakers for both parties. McCain furthered his call to make this election about integrity and personality. That may be as big a mistake as making them about the issues, if this is all the energy and excitement he can muster.

Two points before getting to the speech itself. 1) The whole convention seemed whiter than usual, with no clear token minorities to spice up the conference. I wonder if this is purposeful; since they are going to win very few black votes, why not play on the cloaked racism at the heart of Lincoln's party for so long. 2) Tom Brokaw continued to make it clear that he is a Republican, saying that Democrats now know what they are up against and showing his usual preference for the party of the elephants.

The speech did touch on a number of issues, and have others have mentioned -- there is a lot of Bush in here. Here are the main points he outlined . . .

I will keep taxes low and cut them where I can. . . .I will open new markets to our goods and services. . . .I will cut government spending. . . .My tax cuts will create jobs. . . .My health-care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health-care insurance. . . .We all know that keeping taxes low helps small businesses grow and create new jobs. Cutting the second-highest business tax rate in the world will help American companies compete and keep jobs from going overseas.Doubling the child tax exemption from $3,500 to $7,000 will improve the lives of millions of American families.Reducing government spending and getting rid of failed programs will let you keep more of your own money to save, spend and invest as you see fit.Opening new markets and preparing workers to compete in the world economy is essential to our future prosperity. . . .Education is the civil rights issue of this century.Equal access to public education has been gained, but what is the value of access to a failing school? We need to shake up failed school bureaucracies with competition, empower parents with choice.Let's remove barriers to qualified instructors, attract and reward good teachers and help bad teachers find another line of work.When a public school fails to meet its obligations to students, parents deserve a choice in the education of their children. And I intend to give it to them.Some may choose a better public school. Some may choose a private one. Many will choose a charter school. But they will have the choice, and their children will have that opportunity. . . .My fellow Americans, when I'm president, we're going to embark on the most ambitious national project in decades.We're going to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much, and some of that money . . .We'll attack the problem on every front. We'll produce more energy at home. We will drill new wells offshore, and we'll drill them now. We'll drill them now.My friends, we'll build more nuclear power plants. We'll develop clean-coal technology. We'll increase the use of wind, tide, solar and natural gas. We'll encourage the development and use of flex-fuel, hybrid and electric automobiles. . . .

Many of these ideas are continuation of Bush's failed economic and foreign policy. 1) Let's make more enemies globally 2) Tax cuts for the rich and corporations (while we do have the highest corporate taxes, the reality is that most of our most successful companies and corporations pay $0 in taxes) 3) Let's privatize schools further 4) Cut gov't spending but have better health care and the "most ambitious national project in decades" 5) Off shore drilling and 6) Get rid of "failing programs" to "keep more money in your pockets" (right out of Bush playbook) -- at a time when these programs are more important than ever.

Can we really afford four more years of Bush? I think this question should define the election, if only the media would pose it.

Palin’s Speech

Palin gave a very clever speech last night and the media loved it. As reported by the AP (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080904/ap_on_el_pr/cvn_tv_palin_s_night), here are some of the comments:
It wasn't just a home run, said CNN's Wolf Blitzer; it may have been a grand slam. "A very auspicious debut," said NBC's Tom Brokaw. It was a "perfect populist pitch," said CBS' Jeff Greenfield. "Terrific," said Mort Kondracke on Fox News Channel.
"A star is born," said Chris Wallace on Fox.
"A star is born," Blitzer said.
"A star is born," said Anderson Cooper on CNN
Like most successful Republicans, she used the new form of populism – I’m like you (or at least seem like you) and that’s the reason you should elect me. This follows McCain’s campaign announcement that this election isn’t about “issues.” Why not? Because they lose on the issues. The only way they can win is on personality and a deep myopia that ignores the fact that Palin and McCain are not really like that many Americans and, when it comes to policy, don’t seem to like that many Americans.
“But here's a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I'm going to Washington to serve the people of this country. Americans expect us to go to Washington for the right reasons, and not just to mingle with the right people. Politics isn't just a game of clashing parties and competing interests.”

Here she attacks the media that is increasingly conservative, following the path of Republicans for two decades at least. Then she aligns herself as a renegade with McCain:

“I pledge to all Americans that I will carry myself in this spirit as vice president of the United States. This was the spirit that brought me to the governor's office, when I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau ... when I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol' boys network. Sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers. That's why true reform is so hard to achieve.”

Unfortunately, the truth appears to be much as it is with McCain – really an advocate for the elites and special interests and rarely for the people at large. She plays to the old American distrust of “big government” and “taxes,” failing to acknowledge the Great Depression and New Deal that followed; or the fact that Reagan could easily be considered a Keynesian, if you include military spending.

Between her pitch-perfect pitch to the American people and witty critiques of Obama (e.g., “I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities. I might add that in small towns, we don't quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren't listening. We tend to prefer candidates who don't talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco.), she laid out a plan that ignores all of the issues facing America: dramatic economic inequality, global warming, our reputation abroad and civil liberties in lieu of tired old discussion about high taxes, energy independence through Alaskan oil (against expert estimates), more tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, shrinking of government at a time that crime, poverty and inequality are rising,

It was a strong speech, but is based on the premise that John McCain is the same man that many respected in the past. That does not seem to be the case. To reaffirm the charges: he now supports making permanent the Bush tax cuts he once voted against, he voted with the president 90% of the time and stood beside him for most of the past 7 years, he has broken his own campaign finance reform bill and is surrounded by lobbyists and, after calling for a civil campaign, has run the most negative campaign in history (surpassing even the Bush clan with his relentless attack and lack of vision for the future). But the media doesn’t pay attention to the issues, and we can assume their love for McCain is now expanding outward to a comfortable threesome.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

RNC Convention

I am listening to Joe Lieberman's speech right now stupefied by how this guy once ran as VP with Al Gore. How can someone so dramatically change their opinion in 8 short years. 911 and the Iraq War have certainly contributed, but something is seriously wrong here. As to his message, I think the Republicans strongest argument against Obama is that he is not ready to lead. That message resonates with older voters and the average conservative (and some liberals). But is it undermined by the reality of McCain no longer being a maverick? Is it undermined by the oldest presidential candidate in history choosing someone with 1 1/2 years experience as governor of Alaska (which Fred Thompson labeled our "biggest state," as if land mass had anything to do with leadership).

The whole convention has been rather weak so far. Thompson and Lieberman's speeches have been somewhat subdued, the crowd is as lilly white as always and their just seems to be a lack of energy. Bush didn't even show up, giving his speech from the White House, with many not sure they even wanted Bush in the same metaphoric universe as McCain -- even as the maverick has voted with him 90% of the time, and reversed course on much of that 10% since. ABC amd NBC seem to be embracing the false pageantry, with a little critique. Very uninspiring from my perspective; we'll have to see what the rest of America thinks.

Cynicism Express

As usual, the election is getting caught up in the spectacle and what is being lost is the central issue. It is unfortunate that Palin's daughter is pregnant, but I don't think this disqualifies her from being Vice President. The truth is that Republicans tend to have troubled kids. Reagan had a daughter who he didn't speak to for years (who posed in Playboy). Bush's daughters were huge partiers, though one has admittedly changed her ways. Bush himself is the son of a president and though he "won" the presidency, was a huge partier who floated through life with little success until he became president -- and maybe did more to destroy undermine America domestically and globally than any president in history. And now we have Palin.

But the real question in the country is whether we can afford more of the same. That is what McCain is offering. Obama is offering change: a new tone in Washington, a more reasonable tax system, diplomatic relations with the rest of the world, a sensible energy policy and a plan to get us out of Iraq. McCain appears ready to do the opposite: continue giving tax breaks to corporations and the rich, pretend Iraq was a good idea and that we won, do little to end our addiction to oil and show a general disregard for the average American. This is most clear to me in the decision to pick someone clearly not ready to become President, a woman he didn't seem to even vet with any seriousness. Instead he chose someone who offered the only path to his victory -- a surrogate for disaffected Clinton supporters who don't care that this woman is no advocate for women. Can't we define leadership at least partially by who someone picks as their surrogates? McCain has entrusted the very people that helped sink his campaign 8 years ago, the same people that he once excoriated for the campaign strategy he now embraces. He works with a number of lobbyists that he once sought to attack (and may have had an affair with one of them). And he picked a woman who has less experience than the opponent he attacks for his lack of the same.

An op ed in the Washington Post today makes the point that Palin is not the maverick we have been led to believe: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/01/ar2008090101716_pf.html. It turns out she had a lobbyist as mayor and actually tacitly supported the "bridge to nowhere" she was purported to reject. Maybe that is why McCain like her so much -- she is a hypocrit just like him; hopeful to move in no direction except backwards (to a mythical past where people only had sex to make babies, we forget about science and evolution and God becomes the mediator of all social relations).

Bush is to speak tonight and it will be interesting to see how McCain tries to dance around his verisimilitude to the man he must simultaneously embrace and reject. We will have to wait until Thursday for the dance, but we are already seeing the radical left attempt to remind Americans that they should not trust liberals. A number of anarchists have shown up and been arrested for throwing benches, breaking windows and attacking squad cars. I am for radical social change -- but why these people want to relive the 60s, throwing their angst around at the wrong enemies (the police and a city that has been a source of a number of iconoclastic politicians in the past 40 years) is beyond me. In my mind, the left should be embracing the message of change and ensuring that Obama does not move too far to the middle.