Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ways You Can Tell If Your Vice-Presidential Candidate Is Not Ready for the Presidency

If she needs to attend a "boot camp" just to enter a debate...or an interview with Katie Couric.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Destroying Angel

This video, from Al-Jazeera in English, illustrates everything I hate about fundamentalist religion. We see that religious concerns and prejudices have created a situation in which innocent children are put at risk due to their parents' ignorance. Rather than acting as a spiritual guide to enlightenment, religion here acts as a destroying angel.

At the same time, it must be noted that the United States's actions on the foreign policy front have contributed to this horror. If our troops were not in Iraq, this paranoia about an American desire to commit genocide on Muslims would not be as prevalent. Let's hope that our next president changes course so that we can restore international trust in our country.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Power of Money: A Response to Chris Schwartz

Today, my friend Chris Schwartz posted a response to my post, "We Are All Socialists," on his blog Schwartztronica. In it, he questions my thesis that the current bail out program represents a form of socialism, calling it a "capitalistic solution to a capitalistic problem."

I must politely disagree. One thing I feel Schwartz is not considering is the sheer amount of power that this bail out will give to the federal government. If you give a financial firm or insurance company large amounts of money to prevent them from going under, you will automatically gain a hold over them. This may be expressed in favors such as campaign donations. It may also, however, assert itself in terms of government regulation.

As I stated in my first post on this topic, I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing. In the right hands, this could be a force for moving our economy to work more for the commonweal, essentially the vision expressed by John Kenneth Galbraith in The Affluent Society. If nothing else, it could be used to obtain easier financing for public works.

What concerns me, though, as I mentioned earlier, is the total lack of forethought and discussion that is being put into this. The bail out plan has apparently been agreed to by Congress, less than a week after it was published. A few concessions by the White House-limits on executive pay and a bit of Congressional oversight-and it gets through. Am I the only one reminded of the Patriot Act?

This is part of a pattern of taking advantage of emergencies, whether military or economic, that Naomi Klein has dubbed "The Shock Doctrine" in her book of the same title. Indeed, Klein has drawn this conclusion herself.

What troubles most is the overall pattern of expanding government power. The government is now training troops for deployment within the United States, as I've discussed in a previous post. The Patriot Act has made massive inroads into our civil liberties and freedoms. Although we generally divide civil liberties and economic issues, I fear they may be part of one and the same pattern.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The War at Home

Reason Magazine's Hit and Run blog documents the recent training of an Army division for deployment here in the United States, as reported by the Army Times.

This is not a good sign.

We are moving from deploying the National Guard in emergencies to deploying all-out military forces. Although this may be legal under the Insurrection Act, it represents part of a wider trend toward using the military as a police force against civilians. This is not what the military is for, and will create the risk of brutal overreactions by battle-hardened troops.

Anyone remember Kent State, or the Boston Massacre?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

We Are All Socialists Now

Our fearless leaders in the Bush Administration just took a sudden turn leftward with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's new bail out plan. Amid all the talk about how much it will cost, few people seem to be discussing what this will mean in terms of government power.

In effect, we will be adopting a semi-socialist system, with the government entering, at the very least, the banking industry. I do not think this is necessarily a bad thing, but I think our government and our polity should begin discussing what this will mean. How can we turn this to the greatest benefit of the American people? How can we best protect individual and entrepreneurial freedom under this system? We need a real debate about the course of our country over the next decade or so.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Unpleasant Truth

Commentary by Nicholas Von Hoffman of The Nation in regard to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's proposed bailout.

"As for costs, he said no more than that it will involve a significant investment of taxpayer dollars. A better adjective than "significant" might be "staggering." The economic tar pit is so deep and so sticky it may be necessary to sacrifice wildlife programs, preschool education and scientific research. Even without knowing the numbers, we can kiss health insurance goodbye. If and when Obama gets in, he will discover the cupboard is bare."

I suppose the one piece of good news is that we won't have money to bomb Iran.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Deja Vu?

As New York Times columnist Paul Krugman reports on his blog, Sen. John McCain has been repeatedly quoting President Herbert Hoover on the strength of the economy.

Gee, I wonder if quoting the guy who let us fall into the Great Depression will cause people to question Sen. McCain's capacity to guide us through economic chaos?

Monday, September 15, 2008

If Obama Doesn't Pick Up on This, He Needs His Head Examined

The McCain campaign recently handed Sen. Barack Obama two gifts on the economic front. First, just as Lehman Bros. was beginning to collapse, Sen. McCain's financial adviser Andrew Luskin claimed that "Things today just aren't that bad" economically in a Sunday Washington Post op-ed. (Thanks to Wonkette.)

To add to the McCain economic incompetence parade, Sen. McCain himself held a press conference this morning in which he claimed the "fundamentals" of our economy are strong, as reported by NPR's All Things Considered. Later, the Senator backtracked and claimed they are "at risk." If Sen. Obama doesn't use this for a campaign ad, he should fire his campaign manager.

There's a fundamental message that I think Sen. Obama and the Democrats haven't been hitting hard enough: are we better off than we were eight years ago? If not, it's time to vote for a Democrat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Drug War Run Amok, Again

Yesterday, the New York Times carried a story about a movement to criminalize yet another substance in order to protect those idiots who might want to injest it. The target this time, an herb called salvia divinorum, is the focus of legal attention by various states because it is a powerful hallucinogen. Some idiots have apparently been posting videos to YouTube showing themselves getting high on it. One Texas representative, Charles Anderson, commented: "When you see it, well, it sure makes a believer [in prohibition] out of you." (Hmm, Representative, I wonder if a video of some guys getting drunk on beer would be any more edifying.)

The fact is, the state should not be involved in determining what people put in their own bodies. If someone is stupid enough to poison themselves with some drug, that is their problem, and my tax dollars shouldn't be spent on it. We shouldn't be criminalizing people for just being stupid.

What makes this really disturbing is that salvia divinorum looks as though it could be a useful component for psychiatric medications and possibly AIDS treatments. Idiots like Rep. Anderson, in trying to protect people from themselves, will only slow the progress of medicine.

Thanks, But No Thanks: What It Really Means!

Recently, MSNBC journalist Chris Matthews busted Gov. Sarah Palin for apparently lying about her opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere" project. She has repeated the lie at least seven times.

Perhaps Mr. Matthews is being too cynical. After all, she always uses the phrase "Thanks, but No Thanks." What she's really trying to tell us is that she supported the project (saying thanks), before opposing the project (saying no thanks.)

Thanks to Talking Points Memo for this video.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Eagles Fans vs. Steelers Fans

An article in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contemplates the potential effect new NFL regulations will have on Pittsburgh Steelers fans, including concerns that the regulations could affect fans' ability to celebrate. Frankly, I doubt the city's sports fans have anything to worry about.

Coming from Philadelphia, I know that Pittsburgh's fans are relative gentlemen. Unlike the fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, they have never pelted Santa Claus with snowballs on national television. They have not cheered as a critically injured opposing player was taken off the field in a stretcher. Although I am certain Steelers fans include their share of rowdies, they do not compare to their east coast rivals in Philly.

Friday, September 05, 2008

RNC Bloopers

The Talking Points Memo blog highlights a highly amusing blooper during Sen. John McCain's speech at the Republican National Convention last night. while Sen. McCain was speaking, a photo of what appeared to be a mansion appeared behind him. Although there was speculation that the Arizona senator was showing off his copious real estate wealth, it turns out that the photo was probably of Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, CA. Just compare the photos above.

Apparently, the McCain Campaign had been planning to put up a photo of the Senator at Walter Reed Medical Center for injured soldiers.

Photo taken from Talking Points Memo.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A Wise Decision

Recently, the Allegheny County Board of Elections barred two referendum questions regarding the drink tax in the Pittsburgh area because they did not meet the proper legal criteria. One question asked whether voters wanted to repeal a 10% tax on alcohol that was opposed by the restaurant and bar industry, while the other wanted to examine alternative means of raising revenue such as the property tax, as reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

At least the politicians in this city have some priorities straight. A rise in property taxes would make it more difficult for low income and elderly people to afford their homes. You can choose whether or not to drink, whereas you have to live somewhere.

Naturally, some people were in favor of the drink tax. An article in the Pittsburgh City Paper several weeks ago by Frances Sansig Monahan argues that old people should move out of their houses, even if they've lived in them their entire lives, just so people can pay a bit less for a drink.

Sorry, Frannie, unacceptable. These are low income, elderly people who may not have a place to go. They could easily be my parents, or my grandmother. If the drink tax is cutting too deeply into the pockets of you and your boozer friends, start ordering water.

So Much Experience

Great video from CNN featuring an interview with a McCain campaign representative, Tucker Bounds, regarding Gov. Sarah Palin. Wait for about three minutes in and watch Bounds flounder as he tries to justify Gov. Palin's experience. Not surprisingly, McCain's campaign has said the candidate will not be appearing on their network anytime soon.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for posting this on his blog.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Juno in Juneau?

Recently, the Internet has been buzzing with the rumor that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's recent infant is actually her daughter's. Observing the political scene over the past few days, another, rather more interesting conspiracy theory has occurred to me:

Palin's daughter isn't pregnant at all...

You may think this is preposterous. After all, why would Gov. Palin and the Republicans create such grief for themselves? However, the grief is exactly the point.

With the media focused on her daughter's pregnancy, all the real issues with Gov. Palin's political views and background-her extremist connections and allegations of corruption-are given short shrift. (Let's face it folks, even without having registered for the Alaskan Independence Party, it becomes clear she was neck-deep in these weirdoes.) Everyone will be talking about her daughter, while the legitimate issues fade away.

Don't believe me? Just don't be surprised when her daughter has a sudden, tragic miscarriage...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Perils of Palin

Over the past 48 hours, Gov. Sarah Palin has demonstrated herself to be one of the most under qualified and downright bizarre Vice-Presidential selections of recent years. Putting aside the imbroglio about her pregnant daughter, we have more reason to be concerned about her seeming past membership in the fringe Alaska Independence Party, a party which apparently advocates that the state hold a referendum about seceding from the Union. (Neo-Confederacy, anyone?) She was apparently attracted to the party by her religious beliefs, as the AIP is an affiliate of the theocratic Constitution Party.

Other rumors have been flying around the web, including the possibility that she endorsed Pat Buchanan's far-right candidacy in 2000. (McCain's campaign denies this, and her affiliation with the AIP.) McCain seems to have chosen a first rate wingnut as his co-candidate.

Corruption seems to be an issue as well. Her apparent firing of Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner over refusing to fire her ex-brother-in-law is well documented, including via e-mails and tape recordings, but an investigation by the Washington Independent website confirms that she engaged in similar behavior during her term as mayor in Wasilla.

The bottom line: in his urgency to scoop up Hillary supporters, Sen. McCain did not bother to investigate Gov. Palin.