Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Audacity of Hope

Hard to see any reason to hope that 2008 will be any different than previous Presidential elections. The press' piling on the "Wright Affair" is just a sample of the nonsense that will be peddled throughout the election (no matter who the Democratic nominee is).

It's easy to blame the press, which no doubt bears a large share of the responsibility for ending the madness. But where are the Democratic 527's running Hagee ads? Where are the elected Dems who are calling on McCain to denounce, repudiate, etc.?

We cannot expect to be successful if we don't show vigor in our campaigns. Kerry came to be seen as ineffective in his responses to Swift Boat, just as Obama risks the same thing here. (And if HRC were the leader, or the candidate Republicans feared more, then she too would be portrayed as unable to stop the media firestorm over "Pardon-gate" or whatever phone-baloney controversy was ginned up to smear her.)

Unless a majority of individual voters is somehow able to form and elect leaders who are both committed to change and have the skills to bring change about, there's no hope. And so far, I'm not seeing anything like the necessary majority of voters. I want to believe in my fellow Americans and their essential goodness, but when I overhear them talking about Obama and Hillary, I wonder if there are enough open minds left...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Pennsylvania Thought or Two

We’ve now managed to piss away some large amount of money – let’s call it $25 million, shall we? – on an mostly pointless contest in Pennsylvania. The silver lining, of course, is the energy created amongst Pa. Dems and new voters, which of course is not nothing. But I doubt many donors to either BHO or HRC would be happy to see their money going for a general energy-raising exercise.

Listening to Pa. voters, I’m struck by how disconnected they are from the reality of the Democratic race. I wouldn’t want to say how prevalent this attitude was, but many of the voices I heard in the media seemed to be choosing between the two as if either one might win.

I find it odd that so many voters were persuaded that HRC had a legitimate shot. It is surely a testament to her campaign effort that she was able to attract 55% of Pa. voters to what is surely a losing cause. It’d be like Huckabee winning Pa. (He did get 11%, and Ron Paul 14%!)

In fact, HRC’s best argument is one she dare not utter publicly: even as a dead certain loser, some 55% of Pennsylvanians were willing to throw their vote away on her.

I hope BHO now ceases firing HRC’s way and only focuses on McCain. I think that was their strategy before they got suckered into mounting a full-scale (but not, despite HRCs claims, a maximum-scale) effort in Pa. I think super-delegates will be impressed not only with his lead in the delegate count, but also at how effective his attacks against McCain are.

It’s time for BHO to declare victory in the battle for the nomination and move onto the general election. (He could also use a few days off, from the look of things in Pa.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Accountability Free Media

Bill Clinton famously said that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. There you have it. The Republican party is behind their nominee, just as they always are. The problem is whether they can get the independents and swing voters who have come to loathe Bush.

Does anybody remember like two months ago when the Entertainment Media was dead certain that McCain was going to struggle with getting his right-wing on-board? I'm certain that Timmeh all the way to Howie and back again were 100% that McCain had a big problem on his hands with getting all those who hated him jazzed about his campaign.

No? No one remembers? Strange, I have this definite recollection...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Do I Think?

I think we’re on the verge of a very long economic contraction. I think we have pretty much eaten our seed corn and are going to have many long cold winters ahead.

For many years, American businesses have relied as much on cost-cutting as they have on actual innovation and market expansion. There has been a steady drip-drip-drip of wealth being transferred from workers to shareholders. Whether via the on-going down-grading of working conditions (glamorous Manhattan offices to low-cost suburban-sprawl office parks, offices and desks to cubicles, lunches at nearby eateries to sandwiches at the desk, etc.), the slashing of financial compensation to workers (loss of pensions, loss of healthcare coverage, loss of wage increases), or just the introduction of numerous productivity enhancers (PCs/e-mail, cel phones, Nextel radios, etc.), the overall trend has been to squeeze value from workers – value that gets reflected in the company’s “performance.”

The problem with cost-cutting-as-growth is that it cannot go on forever. I heard a phrase a while ago that really stuck in my mind: “things that cannot go on forever don’t.” And I think we’re finding out the hard truth of that right now. American businesses can’t find much more to cut. There’s no place cheaper than rural China to out-source to. Low-cost reporters, paralegals and engineers in India are getting scarce. We already have our workers in cheap metal buildings with shaky heat/A/C. Businesses have gone to this well for likely the last time for quite some time.

So businesses must rely on innovation and market expansion for growth. But the problem is that it cannot come up with new products successfully. Besides making somewhat faster and cheaper laptops, what is Dell going to do? Sell TV’s? Refrigerators (see Blockbuster to Buy Circuit City)? The dread “service contracts”?

In considering what will our businesses do, we’re all inclined to think that through sheer power of will, good old American pluck, and a little bit of luck, we’ll pull through. After all, we’ve been slogging along for some time OK, and we’ve been OK. Plus, we’re optimistic people and tend to think things will work out OK just because it’s how we view the world. That doesn’t mean, however, that the world is going to conform to our perceptions of it.

We have spent that last 25 or more years squandering our future – a future that I believe is arriving now. We have decided to starve our government half-to-death, so that the majority of our social problems have as their root cause lack of adequate resources. I take this drive to “cut taxes” as another part of the general trend of transferring wealth from those with less (i.e., consumers of governmental services) to those with more (those who would otherwise be paying for those services).

We’ve gotten the idea into our heads that those with great wealth deserve every last penny of it, and have no real obligation to the rest of society. Reagan-Bush economic theory is that the more we give the best-off, the better off everyone else is. This is just plain wrong, but it’s easy to see why millionaires promote it as a serious political-economic philosophy.

We’ve failed to invest adequately in our education system, and now are falling behind because of it. We’ve failed to invest in our health, and are reaping the rewards in an epidemic of obesity and other treatable and preventable diseases and conditions. We have failed to invest in technology that would allow us to throw off oil dependency when it becomes no longer affordable.

We have weakened our governmental and public infrastructure so much that it will simply not be available to help its citizens when most needed. It will be years before our governments can be wrestled out of the hands of the super-rich and returned to the control of the majority of voters.

We have borrowed massively to pay for things we have merely consumed. It’s one thing to borrow $1,000,000 to build a factory. But to borrow $1,000,000 to pay for a huge picnic is quite another. And far too much of our borrowing has been for picnics, not enough for factories.

Perhaps worst of all, we have abandoned our sense of community. Ronald Reagan began the job of killing it when he announced that the relevant question is “are you better off today than you were 4 years ago.” He appealed to the divisions in our society, using fear of others as the basis for his politics. Wealthy people had always used some version of this “divide and conquer” approach, and Reagan breathed new life into it. He also ushered in an era when substance no longer mattered on any level, and hastened the “juvenilization” of our public discourse.

These same people have worked hard to ensure that America is isolated in the world. Americans have little interest in helping other nations. Americans have little interest in other nations, period. We’ve once again retreated to the castle keep and pulled up the drawbridges, hoping the world will leave us alone.

Our ability to be part of a meaningful community has been obliterated – taking away the one thing that Americans might otherwise use to weather the coming storm and make a better future.

For years, wags have warned that we were mortgaging our future. As a society, we mostly ignored these warnings. I think that the future is now, the bill is due, and we just don’t have the money to pay it.

I have hope that Sen. Obama will ascend to our leadership and be our generation’s FDR. But remember FDR didn’t make the crisis go away, he just helped us cope with it. And the crisis didn't end for 15 years -- and even then only following a catastrophic war.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things No One Says, Pt. 543

“My attitude is that Senator Clinton can run as long as she wants,” Mr. Obama said. "

I more or less agree, though I wonder whether HRC isn't getting more than the benefit of the doubt? Time for "Shoe On the Other Foot."

A. Hillary leads -- I think the pressure on Obama would be immeasurably greater. There'd be a kind of "Oh, let him run, for Gawd's sake, he's inspirational and healing -- it shows we care about the Black vote."

B. McCain leads over a rival -- say Huckabee. Pretty much see A above. We all agreed that the Huckabee thing was basically harmless and cute, and since he was such a hoot on Colbert and SNL and stuff, let him go."

To me, HRC is getting a break. Whether it's because of her gender, her "insider" bona fides, her actual smarts and charm and humor (which are considerable), I couldn't say. But I do think mouthing the platitude about "let her run" reflects a bit of a break.

Rumsfeld Book Title Contest

Former Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld is reportedly releasing a memoir.  Here are my suggestions for a title:

"Shit, I'm Sorry. I am So, So, So Very, Very Sorry."

"Buy This Book Or Don't -- I Already Got Paid"

"Bushed! How I Discovered that the 43d President of the United States Is Really Quite Dumb"

"It Was Cheney"

"Don: A Personal Journey to War Crimes And Back"

"Smokin! My Torrid Affair with Condi Rice"

"Ha! I've Got a God Damned Fortune. You?"

Post your own in the comments.   It's fun!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sporting Event

"I don't view the Olympics as a political event," Bush said this past week. "I view it as a sporting event." The White House has not yet said whether he will attend the opening ceremony on August 8.
Mr. Bush thinks the Olympics are not political but only a sports event. I therefore propose that he not attend as his role as a former part-owner of a baseball team is an inadequate credential to represent American sports. I nominate Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong to attend in his stead.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Power of Groupthink

For many years after the Viet Nam war, TV and movies had a field day with a stereotype of the Viet Nam vet as a unstable, flash-back-prone and quite violent.  Part of the appeal of this character as a plot device was that he was undeniably evil and violent, but it wasn't really his fault.  It was because of the weird Asian war he had had to fight.  In any case, we were told over and over again that Viet Nam vets were unstable mentally and emotionally.  (There was certainly some truth to the idea behind that stereotype in the sense that many Vets were plagued with post-battle disorders of various kinds, plus when they came home it seemed nobody was really interested in them, whereas their fathers had returned to a grateful society prepared to help vets get back into civilian life.)

If you want to try a thought experiment, how about a little "shoe on the other foot."  In today's edition, we're going to pretend that John Kerry was a Republican, and that John McCain was a Democrat.  What would the press make of that?

Obviously, McCain would be deemed by the press as simply too unstable for the American people to trust.  "Questions" about his fitness for office, especially in a moment of crisis, would "linger."  Even if Democrats were foolhardy enough to actually nominate him, the press would persist in showing every old clip they could find of Viet Nam vets in the shadowy jungles, and feature every MD and PhD they could find to talk about the high levels of PTSD and other disorders faced by practically all Viet Nam vets.

Kerry, on the other hand, would be complimented for his height and overall "military bearing."  We'd be shown clips of how he looked in uniform (and of course with his short hair), and we'd be told that his heroism and bravery in action were such that the Democrats would never look "strong" on "national defense."

"Shoe on the other foot" is one of my favorite games.  It almost always helps to highlight the mental handcuffs that limit most mainstream press people from thinking independently and critically.  On the next installment, maybe we'll do "If Hillary were a man," or "If Barack were white."  

Dumber than Dirt

Patrick McHenry, a Republican kook representing a district in Virginia, is dumber than dirt.

If you can watch this whole thing, the only possible reaction is that this clown is an embarrassment to his district and his party.  All I can think is that he never expected that anyone would see this drivel outside of the audience of supporters.