"The liberal candidate may not win, but the conservative candidate has got to become more liberal. The drift of humane society is in that direction."
-Bob Eckhardt, 1962
Chris Shays loses his seat in
Medical Marijuana is legalized in Massachusetts.
Still no word on the
"Tonight we elected a President who has inspired a majority of Americans with his vision and policies, a man who is principally a leader for these times who happens to also be African American; and because of America’s stunning ability to move on and transform, to write a new chapter of our history, Barack Obama will be President during the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
"Tonight there are tears of joy and disbelief in small rural communities and inner cities, where for too long, some weren’t sure anything was really possible for them.
"Tonight new dreams are born and old truths are affirmed. Tonight we enter a new America, the best America, the America of our highest hopes."
>Electoral College Prediction Map - Predict the winner of the general election. Use the map to experiment with winning combinations of states. Save your prediction and send it to friends.
David Brooks wrote a column in the October 28th NY Times entitled The Behavioral Revolution that got under my skin. I never do this, but I couldn’t help myself. I wrote him an e-mail. Here it is:
You had me hot as a pistol at the beginning of your October 28th column (Human Frailty). Your assessment of public policy analysis was particularly ill-informed. Have you ever read Eugene Bardach? It may not have been part of your History curriculum at Chicago, but I have read you long enough to know that you are fairly well read. I suggest his "A Practical Guide for Policy Analysis" (first class, first semester of any good Master of Public Policy program). In it he outlines the "the Eightfold Path." The first step on that path is to "define the problem." The failure you point out with the current fiscal breakdown was not a failure of policy analysis. I'd be surprised if there were very many public policy analysts involved in the effort to deregulate the financial sector. I think that tar baby belongs to our friends from the business school.
Despite your conservative leanings, I find myself agreeing with you more than my liberal conscience is fully comfortable with. I agree that the failure was in large part due to, as Nassim Taleb asserts, "the existence of inherent limitations and flaws in the way we think and act." But this problem was not totally unforeseen. Many economists, financial and policy analysts have spoken for some time of the overly complex nature of our financial system.
Do you concede that it is possible that the system was designed by many people "engaged in calculating their self-interest" and that the lack of regulation and oversight started a snowball rolling downhill that eventually morphed beyond the control and/or understanding of financial services "industry".
I am a pretty liberal guy, but even I don't think oppressive regulation is the answer (Jamie Galbraith, eat your heart out). But how about the government create some guidelines for financial analysts to operate within that seek to simplify the process and create transparency and then get out of the way and let them run wild like the pack of savages that they are. The trade off, of course there is always a trade off, would be that violating these parameters would be a criminal act punishable by some form of disbarment (similar to the legal world) for malpractice.
As a post-script I will add that the role of behavioral psychology is indeed lacking in public policy analysis. But that is a failure of implementation not the system for analysis of public policy. Unfortunately policy is usually analyzed in the context of partisanship. That assumes that a bias is guiding the analysis as opposed to the analysis guiding the ideology. I agree that the fallout from the financial collapse will be an emphasis on behavioral economics and that is a good thing.
The Los Angeles Times has weighed in. They have endorsed Barack Obama for President, saying:
“The excitement of Obama's early campaign was amplified by that newness. But as the presidential race draws to its conclusion, it is Obama's character and temperament that come to the fore. It is his steadiness. His maturity.”
“…the presidential campaign has rendered McCain nearly unrecognizable. His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate was, as a short-term political tactic, brilliant. It was also irresponsible, as Palin is the most unqualified vice presidential nominee of a major party in living memory.”
“Obama's selection also was telling. He might have scored a steeper bump in the polls by making a more dramatic choice than the capable and experienced Joe Biden. But for all the excitement of his own candidacy, Obama has offered more competence than drama.”
“We may one day look back on this presidential campaign in wonder. We may marvel that Obama's critics called him an elitist, as if an Ivy League education were a source of embarrassment, and belittled his eloquence, as if a gift with words were suddenly a defect. In fact, Obama is educated and eloquent, sober and exciting, steady and mature. He represents the nation as it is, and as it aspires to be.”
Nicely said from a newspaper that has gone from “world class” to “world class joke” in a decade. Maybe the LA Times is turning things around. One can always hope. It could not get much worse.
The political and economic worlds are fascinating of late. I must admit, though, that I am watching this all unfold rather dispassionately, knowing that my investments are mostly in S&P and International Stock funds and that they are not going anywhere for 35 years.
I enjoyed being able to take a week off focusing on the election to focus on the economy, which is far and away more interesting. I was quietly supportive of the approach being pursued, until I read the plan. Hank Paulson is a bright guy, but he is still a robber baron of the banking industry and I must admit the plan reads like using Republican ideas (bailout blind behind closed doors) to fix a Republican economic strategy failure (de-regulation and evisceration of what regulatory agencies are left standing). Paul Krugman in today's NY Times gets it quite right. They are proposing to attack the wrong component of the problem and they are doing it in an un-transparent (is that a word? How about opaque) manner that runs contrary to what investors need right now. The market thrives on security. It is why we got into this mess in the first place. Bankers were trying to artificially minimize risk. It turns out that this mitigation was really only superficial and not tactile. The big problem is that no one knew how the whole house of cards system worked. Certain people knew how certain facets worked, but no one had command of the entire problem. We don’t necessarily need more regulation but we do need laws that prohibit the market from tying itself in such an idiotic and inept snare again. The last thing we should do is empower the Treasury Secretary to go off and spend upwards of $700 billion without any agency or Congress being able to ask any questions en route. Bad news!
We'll see if Congress can fix the bill or if they will just gum it up even worse. I have heard some good proposals (executive compensation concessions) and some really idiotic ones (tax increases to offset this expenditure). I am totally opposed to passing the proposed legislation as drafted by the Bush administration. They talk about urgency, like they talked about the urgency of passing the PATRIOT Act and the Authorization for the use of force in
That I am an unabashed fan of the Kennedy family is no secret. They are the definition of public service. Born with all the privileges in the world, they fought not for more wealth or the interests of the rich but rather for the silent majority. That Ted Kennedy has endorsed Senator Obama and says he sees the spirit of his brothers in him is a huge endorsement in my opinion. I am a huge fan of Robert Kennedy, Jr. and his work with the River Keepers, the Natural Resources Defense Council and his writings. That he found his passion for environmental policy while doing Court mandated community service to make amends for youthful failings and has turned it into his life's crusade is noble and honorable! Here are his thoughts of the Rube quoting Westbrook Pegler in her convention and stump speech:
Governor Palin’s Reading List
By Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“Fascist writer Westbrook Pegler, an avowed racist who Sarah Palin approvingly quoted in her acceptance speech for the moral superiority of small town values, expressed his fervent hope about my father, Robert F. Kennedy, as he contemplated his own run for the presidency in 1965, that ‘some white patriot of the Southern tier will spatter his spoonful of brains in public premises before the snow flies.’
“It might be worth asking Governor Palin for a tally of the other favorites from her reading list.”
What an admirable person to want to quote in her speech. In the Rube’s defense; she has no idea who Westbrook Pegler is, she has never read any of his writings, she probably doesn’t read anything at all. For those that missed it, I recommend reading the cover article on the Rube in last Sunday’s New York Times. A particularly important snippet dealing with the Rube’s efforts to ban books from the Wasilla is particularly poignant here:
“The new mayor also tended carefully to her evangelical base. She appointed a pastor to the town planning board. And she began to eye the library. For years, social conservatives had pressed the library director to remove books they considered immoral.
“’People would bring books back censored,’ recalled former Mayor John Stein, Ms. Palin’s predecessor. ‘Pages would get marked up or torn out.’
“Witnesses and contemporary news accounts say Ms. Palin asked the librarian about removing books from the shelves. The McCain-Palin presidential campaign says Ms. Palin never advocated censorship.
“But in 1995, Ms. Palin, then a city councilwoman, told colleagues that she had noticed the book ‘Daddy’s Roommate’ on the shelves and that it did not belong there, according to Ms. Chase and Mr. Stein. Ms. Chase read the book, which helps children understand homosexuality, and said it was inoffensive; she suggested that Ms. Palin read it.
“’Sarah said she didn’t need to read that stuff,’ Ms. Chase said. ‘It was disturbing that someone would be willing to remove a book from the library and she didn’t even read it.’
“’I’m still proud of Sarah,’ she added, ‘but she scares the bejeebers out of me.’”
I think the thing that I take away from this new information is two fold. First, I could never, ever, ever support a candidate who wants to ban books for being immoral. Second, if you want to ban a book you should probably have read it, know what it is about AND (not or) be able to explain your moral objections.
Don’t be a wuss, Rube! You hate gay people. But honestly, if those are your beliefs, stand by them! Do you truly lack the intestinal fortitude to stand by your beliefs? Can you really be trusted to stand firm in the face of Putin if you shrink away from your homophobia? Stand up, Rube! Stand firm! Anything less would be to fail to live up to the standard of Westbrook Pegler, your inspirational standard bearer and moral compass!
You’ve heard it all before.
Let’s let the man speak for himself:
"I can eliminate $100 billion of wasteful and earmark spending immediately--35 billion in big spending bills in the last two years, and another 65 billion that has already been made a permanent part of the budget."
--John McCain, NPR All Things Considered, April 23, 2008
McCain’s rhetoric about earmarks is all well and good, but if they want to have a beauty contest on wasteful spending, let’s look at the facts…
McCain’s magic solution for balancing the budget, while cutting taxes massively, is really mostly nonsense. First of all, the $100 billion figure he openly cites (nice and rounded, isn’t it?) is largely a figment of the McCain campaign's imagination. Naw, let’s not be delicate. It is an outright fabrication, a LIE. A 2006 study by the Congressional Research Service reviewed earmarks by different government departments, without giving a global figure. Scott Lilly, a former Democratic appropriations staffer who is now with the Center for American Progress Action Fund says that the CRS study identifies a total of $52 billion in earmarks for a single year. However, much of this money is tied to items such as foreign aid to countries like
The Office for Management and the Budget came up with a figure for $16.9 billion in the 2008 appropriation bills. Taxpayers for Commonsense, an independent watchdog group that focuses on wasteful spending, identified $18.3 billion worth of earmarks in the 2008 bills. Let’s us the Taxpayers for Commonsense number as our working number. Let us also be clear about that $18.3 billion figure. It is a 23 per cent cut from a record $23.6 billion set in 2005 when Republicans were in control of Congress.
OK, so McCain proposes eliminating earmarks with a swift stroke of the veto pen (aI am pretty sure it is a stamp and then a signature, but let’s not quibble). Taxpayers for Commonsense is quite candid that it is "difficult question that we have not yet figured out," when looking at how much can actually be eliminated.
The figure they cite includes such items as $4 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which could not be eliminated without halting work on hundreds of construction projects around the country. Does anyone think that the Army Corps of Engineers should stop working on the levees in
$18.3 billion minus $4 billion = $14.3 billion
The next big chunk goes to military construction projects. This includes housing for servicemen and their families. Let’s be clear that here, again, McCain has promised not to touch funding for our men and women in uniform.
In order to shoot holes in the McCain “corrupt, free spending
Reidl was sure to cite $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant funds as worthy of cutting. This money generally goes to local governments to assess housing and urban development issues (i.e. investment in lower income neighborhoods). I suppose that I could get behind the concept of eliminating the earmark process altogether, but many of those expenditures would end up being shifted to other parts of the budget.
Let’s assume that McCain can, as promised, preserve the elimination of frivolous earmarks. That will save only around $10 billion a year. That is no where near the $100 billion in savings that McCain says that he can identify "immediately." I am going to go out on a ledge and say that John McCain is lying to the voters.
The McCain campaign has since backed away from their bravado. They now say that McCain never meant to suggest that his proposed $100 billion in savings would all come from earmarks. If that is the case and in the absence of any other proposed areas for cutting, I think we must assume that he, like President Bush, can’t cut spending to offset his tax plan and will thus further exacerbate the deficit and continue to export our debt to
That isn’t change, that is more of the same!
I don't agree with the "losing this thing" bit, but I do agree with Adam's assessment of the press. We have no journalists asking hard questions and demanding answers. They are all glorified Access Hollywood hosts. Good luck Charlie Gibson, you worthless hack! I hope you ask the Rube some real questions and make her answer them, but I doubt you will. You're too afraid of being painted as liberals. There is a solution though; do the same thing to Obama and Biden! I am sure they would love it!
We're Gonna Lose This Thing
By Adam McKay - The Huffington Post
"Stop saying that!" my wife says to me. But this is not a high school football game and I'm not a cheerleader with a bad attitude. This is an election and as things stand now, we're gonna frickin' lose this thing. Obama and McCain at best are even in the polls nationally and in a recent Gallup poll McCain is ahead by four points.
Something is not right. We have a terrific candidate and a terrific VP candidate. We're coming off the worst eight years in our country's history. Six of those eight years the Congress, White House and even the Supreme Court were controlled by the Republicans and the last two years the R's have filibustered like tantrum throwing 4-year-olds, yet we're going to elect a Republican who voted with that leadership 90% of the time and a former sportscaster who wants to teach Adam and Eve as science? That's not odd as a difference of opinion, that's logically and mathematically queer.
It reminds me of playing blackjack (a losers game). You make all the right moves, play the right hands but basically the House always wins. I know what you're going to say " But I won twelve hundred dollars last year in Atlantic City!" Of course there are victories. The odds aren't tilted crazy, but there is a 51%-49% advantage. And in the long run, the house has to win. The house will win.
So what is this house advantage the Republicans have? It's the press. There is no more fourth estate. Wait, hold on...I'm not going down some esoteric path with theories on the deregulation of the media and corporate bias and CNN versus Fox...I mean it: there is no more functioning press in this country. And without a real press the corporate and religious Republicans can lie all they want and get away with it. And that's the 51% advantage.
Think this is some opinion being wryly posited to titillate other bloggers and inspire dialogue with Tucker Carlson or Gore Vidal? Fuck that. Four corporations own all the TV channels. All of them. If they don't get ratings they get canceled or fired. All news is about sex, blame and anger, and fear. Exposing lies about amounts of money taken from lobbyists and votes cast for the agenda of the last eight years does not rate. The end.
So one side can lie and get away with it. Now let's throw in one more advantage. Voter caging and other corruption on the local level with voting. Check out the article here on HuffPost about Ohio messing with 600K voters. If only five thousand of those voters don't or can't vote that's a huge advantage in a contest that could be decided by literally dozens of votes. That takes us to about a 52 to 48% advantage.
I'm not even getting into the fact that the religious right teaches closed mindedness so it's almost impossible to gain new voters from their pool because people who disagree with them are agents of the devil. I just want to look at two inarguable realities: A) we have no more press and B) the Repubs are screwing with the voters on the local level.
I'm telling you, we're going to lose this thing. And afterwords we'll blame ourselves the same way we did with Gore and Kerry (two candidates a thousand times more qualified to lead than W Bush.) Just watch.. McCain wins by a point or two and we all walk around saying things like "Obama was too well spoken." "Biden wasn't lovable enough." "I shouldn't have split those eights." "Why did I hit on 16? Why?!"
So what do we do?
1) We give definitive clear speeches like Biden and Obama gave the other day about how no one talked about any issues at the Republican Convention and how they outright lied. But we do them over and over again. 2) We use the one place where it's still a 50-50 game -- the internet -- as much as we can. 3) But most importantly we should bring up re-regulating the media and who owns it and what that conflict of interest is a lot more. By pretending there's no conflict of interest we're failing to alert the public that they're being lied to or given a looking at a coin at the bottom of a pool slanted truth. Every time a pundit or elected official is on any TV news program it should be a polite formality to mention that GE has made such and such billions off the war in Iraq by selling arms or that Murdoch is a right-wing activist with a clear stake in who wins and who taxes his profits the least. Disney, GE, Viacom, and Murdoch -- all want profits and the candidate and agenda that will get in their way the least.
Obama and Biden should also create a "master sound bite sentence" and repeat it hundreds of times. It should be so true that even the corporations can't screw with it when it makes the airwaves. Here's my attempt: "Katrina, four dollar gas, a trillion dollar war, rising unemployment, deregulated housing market, global warming...no more."
This race should be about whether the Republican Party is going to be dismantled or not after the borderline treason of the past eight years. But instead it is about making the word "community organizer" a dirty word and a beauty queen who shoots foxes from a plane. Someone is not in any way doing their job and it's the press. Or more specifically, that job no longer exists.
Probably the worst offenders are the pundits who take the position that it's all just a game and say phrases like "getting a post-convention bump" or "playing to the soccer Moms." This isn't a game of Monopoly or Survivor. There are real truths that exist outside of the spin they are given and have an effect on lives. 250,000 Iraqi civilians are dead because we let our reality be distorted by the most effective propaganda machine in fifty years, the corporate American press. Money and jobs are flying out of this country as our currency becomes worthless and we're talking about the fact that McCain is a veteran. If someone busted into your house and robbed you would you then forgive them if you found out they were a veteran? Of course not. So why are we forgiving McCain for selling out his country by supporting the Bush agenda?
This is it folks. If McCain takes power we fade and become Australia in the seventies: a backwoods country with occasional flashes of relevance. Except we've got a way bigger military and we're angrier. People will get hurt and we'll pay the bill for the bullets. I'm telling you, unless we wake up, we're gonna lose this frickin' thing.
I really like this piece by Oliver Willis in the Huffington Post. It is something I have been thinking a lot lately. I regard the contrast between Republican and Democratic positions as night and day. Not good and evil, but I reject the assertion of the hysterical Nader crowd that the two parties are one and the same. I agree that a lot of what comes out of
Buddhist teaching often refers to the Middle Way. This refers to the Buddhist practice of non-extremism. There is far too much extremism in American society. We are “all or nothing” people. It is difficult to be a moderate in this country. There is a lot of lip service paid to the supposed moderate tendencies of John McCain. That is utter ballyhoo! McCain may not be a religious extremist, but he is still extreme in his view that government should get out of the way and let business take the lead.
I am currently reading Robert Reich’s new book; Supercapitalism, which was released in 2007. The general premise is that capitalism is a system of the economic market. Capitalism is the great empowerer individual interests (wealth), but it is not a good mechanism for the common good. When a democracy is strong it acts as solid counterweight to the singular focus of capitalism. The problem, Reich posits, is that our democratic system has failed and as a result capitalism has run amok in our society growing into supercapitalism.
I think that this is largely the case because business interests have selfishly embarked on a public relations campaign to vilify government and blame it for the economic woes of the working and middle class. It is the nature of capitalism to seek supremacy over any obstacles. The more voters buy into the distorted view of government painted by corporate profiteers the more compelling this case has become. Ultimately business interests have become so powerful that they have kowtowed government. In their selfish pursuit of money they have turned government into their cash cow. Republicans (the party of big business) decry welfare programs but love corporate welfare and no bid contracts for their corporate allies. I think to call Republicans the pro-business party is not that great a stretch. They are pro-business to the exclusion of all other interests. This, in my estimation, is nothing to be proud of. Democrats are invariably cast as anti-business, anti-growth and anti-wealth. This is as false as the former is true. Liberals position themselves as pro-government largely to offset the conservative business only position. I would argue that the liberal heart truly lies in the middle way; a system of checks and balances for our economy with capitalism and democracy as equal and cooperative interests offsetting one another. We need capitalism (business) to create wealth in financial terms just as we need democracy (government) to create wealth in societal terms. We need economic development and economic enrichment.
An economy can not grow in size forever without draining resources in one form or another. An economy can enrich itself in perpetuity. This will require the strengths of both business and government. Neither can succeed without the other.
This is the choice offered on November 4th. It is nothing less than a last gasp chance to save our fragile experiment started so many years ago by founding brothers in
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life,
Capitalism and democracy have bled together until our government has become cuckolded by the power of the free market. We are seeing the first signs that this could (and should) begin to reverse itself and come into balance. The government’s financial agencies are moving to regulate the market. This is a good sign. A vote for John McCain could well stymie the progress we are beginning to see. The supercapitalists will never allow him to appoint as independent thinking a Treasury Secretary as Hank Paulson. His actions, I argue, have been a surprise to them. And not a pleasant one I would venture to guess.
And not a moment too soon!