Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Psst... McCain is the pig in lipstick!

You’ve heard it all before.  Washington wastes your money.  Those damn politicians and bureaucrats can’t be trusted with your hard earned money…

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 Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, that McCain says he will not touch.

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 New Orleans or the flood control systems along the upper Mississippi River?  Who thinks we should stop checking, repairing and maintaining our flood control dams on the Lower Colorado River in Texas or on the levees in northern California?  OK, let’s see:

$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 Washington insider” ballyhoo I tried to find data from conservative sources.  Bruce Riedl, a budget analyst with the Heritage Foundation (they don’t get much more conservative than that), says it “might” be possible to eliminate roughly half the expenditure on earmarks each year.  If we stick to using the Taxpayers for Commonsense figures that would be around $9 billion.

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 China.  With their experiences with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae back mortgage securities, will they want to buy our debt?  The answer, I would venture is yes.  A debtor is under the control of the lender and that is advantageous for China regardless of our ability to repay in the near term (or ever).  We can’t press China on North Korea, Iran, Russia, Darfur, climate change or a number of other urgent issues.

That isn’t change, that is more of the same!

The dude abides!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The sentence...

I want y'all to plaster this sentence from Adam McKay's piece everywhere...

"Katrina, four dollar gas, a trillion dollar war, rising unemployment, deregulated housing market, global more."

That says it all!

The press sucks! They are the only ones who don't get it!

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 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.

Well said!

Do You Think I'm Stupid?
The Huffington Post

By Jamie Lee Curtis

Mr. Obama said it.... "They must think you are stupid." Stupid to believe that McCain/Palin are "change agents." Change is becoming this campaigns' ping pong ball and we are missing the point. Gandhi said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." Be it. Don't talk about it, don't pontificate about it. Be It. Action word. Demonstrative. Maybe Nike just drafted off that great statesman and made us all "Just do it."

Whatever, the call to action is now. Be it.

Jung said "Only that which changes, remains true." Truth -- unvarnished, well-vetted and precise.

My favorite quote is from The Princess Bride by William Goldman. In it, a street savvy young man hardened by the realities of the world, tells the princess..." Life is pain and anyone who tells you different is selling something.
Life is pain, hard, unfair and yet also achingly beautiful and transformative when we are walking toward truth.

When the Republicans had their convention and there were signs held high with the monikers...."G.I. John and Superwoman" I knew we were in trouble. They were selling a fantasy!

See, we are not stupid, we are humans, we can think and listen and learn. But if what we are taught is corrupt lies and if we are fed the "family truth" then we are not stupid, we are brainwashed. G.I. John and Superwoman take them away from being mortal humans and put them in to the comic book hero status, Teflon coated, impenetrable and as we are seeing today, in the case of Mrs. Palin, not even held accountable in an interview.

We are not stupid, but we are gullible, to fear, lies, misinformation and calculated deceit and that is what we are now up against and where we need to demonstrate the real change.

More of the same!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Middle Way

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 Washington has been ruined by corporate lobbyists who are the scum of the Earth. But the effort and sentiment going in is different. The problem isn’t Congress or even the President. It is our inability to remove the influence of money and power from our legislative process. We have legalized bribery.

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 Philadelphia. They said: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“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, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” There in the very founding document of our great republic is as clear an argument for the role of government as you could ask for. Yes, they were resisting the tyranny of a foreign government, but these were men of law and reason. They understood that a government must be answerable to its people.

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.

The Social-Darwinist side of my brain say screw the capitalists, let them choke on their debt, but we can not so unsettle our financial system. Secretary Paulson and Chairman Bernanke have taken small, but necessary, first steps. The Middle Way would dictate introducing some measured and reasoned regulatory mechanisms into the system to ensure that pea-brain MBA don’t screw the taxpayers again. I would urge you to read the article called Obamanomics that was in the New York Times Magazine several weeks ago. A great glimpse of the power of the moderate approach which, it appears is moving into favor in this country among reasonable thinking people.

And not a moment too soon!

A good quote from the NY Times

Sarah Vowell has an op-ed in the NY Times today that hits the nail on the head.

"Despite his consistent party-line voting record, some independents and Democrats still think of Senator McCain as the most palatable, independent-minded Republican. But this is the sort of empty compliment a friend of mine once compared to being called 'the coolest Osmond.'"

Ouch! Sometimes the truth hurts!