A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

My Photo
Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hope Abandoned

I cannot continue writing. My brains are scrambled, I miss too many critical things when reading and make a fool of myself, and my moods are too unstable. So farewell, once again, perhaps one day I can return, but I have little hope for it. Move on to other blogs. I will try to round out the politics the day after the election, but then no more, at least for now.

Full Text

Sunday, September 14, 2008

So Why Does Sarah Palin Make My Skin Crawl?

She really is starting to. Some configuration of hints and glimpses in the still pictures and video footage are beginning to have a creepy echo for me of a show about androids on the SciFi Channel. It is, I am certain, wholly irrational, another one of my biochemical blips projected on quite a normal woman who happens to be in politcs. Were she still the Mayor of Wasilla, or even merely the Governor of Alaska I probably wouldn't feel any such thing from speech or interview footage. But that doesn't mean that there is no objective trigger for my feelings, silly as they are. She is no longer just a small town mayor or popular woman Governor. She is a celebrity. Such things change you.

Does she ever stop smiling? Biden and Obama both have the classic politician's smile, a radiant flashbulb on a hair trigger slipping out from under a grave, sober, and thoughtful mask when something suddenly strikes them as funny. Hillary Clinton smiles slightly or broadly with somewhat pursed lips and with eyes too wary to ever quite fully participate. Those eyes seem to relax only when she is with her daughter Chelsea. And Bill's smile has never lost it's hint of aw shucks! and the joy of a man who genuinely likes being around people, and being The Big Dawg among them.

McCain has that little Cheshire Cat grin that does nothing to hide the constant memories of torment, and perhaps his chronic physical pain, in his eyes. His handlers are starting to figure out that the lumpiness of his face is actually quite attractive because it is genuine, the outward manifestation of the admirable strength of character and will that kept him alive. They no longer try to photograph him exclusively from his right side at eye level in the ads. It is very difficult not to like him now that they have started to acknowledge that he has a left side to his face quite unlike the grave, and boring, senatorial stuffed shirt that those right side only eye level camera angles showed us.

But Palin's smile never seems to change, nor do her eyes. It is disconcerting thinking of her still smiling like that, all through some deadly, snore-inducing, afternoon presiding over the Senate when she must be there as the tie breaking vote. Would her private chats with Vladimir Putin or Hamid Karzai look and sound like she always seems to on her "in depth" interview footage--possessed of a rational chirpishess, a clear belief that her political adversaries are mere mutton-headed baby killers who wouldn't know a hole in the ground when they stumbled into it?

Does she smile like that when the reticule in the eyepiece is dead on just behind the Moose's ribcage, where the high-speed bullet will shred the lungs like a veg-o-matic for a quick kill? What is behind her eyes as the trigger pulls back with that just-so ease and smoothness which makes the reticule vibrate not a jot?

What's it like. Sarah, to touch a warm body you've just shot? Are you as chirpy as usual when you and hubby load it into the bed of the pickup truck?

Now, no, no, no, this is not some cheap shot about her belief in "right to life" being "hypocritical". The reason in her public chirpiness is a perfectly sound display of logic and completely consistent with her conservative and Christian premises. I think someone once said that God cares not for oxen, and, presumably, not for moose.

Unfortunately, I care for them. I care for Sarah Palin without sharing her premises. And I am not a baby-killer. Among other things, the reason for it is this. A death you cause, or order to be caused, leaves a slight but definite stain in your mindstream, and pushes you in a direction where you are the one with the invisible reticule targeted on your loins in some future life. Many such deaths leave you stained much deeper, like my own tough teeth which have seen the passage of thousands of gallons of strong coffee over the last forty years.

When Sarah Palin is characterized as a pit bull with lipstick and when others call her Sarahcuda, do you think the metaphors mean that she will carefully refute Obama’s incorrect political views? or bite into and tear apart his privates? Does anyone think their school age son or daughter will really know the difference? Does anyone care that they do? Does everyone want their daughters to start acting this way on the playground, in the classroom, or on the sports field? Is that what “having a strong woman role model” means?

All I can say is thank heavens Obama doesn’t describe himself in those terms, and doesn’t aspire to earn such a name as Obamacuda. It means that I can vote for him with a clear conscience, whether he wins or loses.

The horror of the Presidency for a Buddhist such as myself, is that you are routinely forced to make decisions that might cost many human lives. I think Barack Obama is a personally good man, and, as such, my feelings about electing him President, and its effects on his future lives, are quite mixed. The power of a tremendous number of good actions from past lives may place him in the White House. If it does, the effects of all those good actions will be totally used up. Does he have any more in his karmic bank balance? His happiness in future lives will largely depend on this. It will also depend on the amount of death his power and actions will cause. And it is virtually certain that some such count of deaths will ensue from it.

Yet I still think him the best man, with the correct and sensible views, for the job. I will vote for him, wear his buttons, and give my widow's mite to his campaign. I can only hope that if he wins, he will emerge stained only as much as Bill Clinton or less. Bill has a relatively few number of human lives to his debit, but I fancy I can see the stain in his eyes from it still. That stain is not there in the eyes of Hillary, of Al Gore, of John Kerry--and I think them the luckier men and women for it.

We have both credit and debit balances from our past lives, and it is possible to carry both into a future life. I'm not sure just what I see in Sarah Palin's eyes, but I hope it is not a deep and indelible stain from causing much past death, which she is bringing to this life along with her good past actions. If so, I hope, for her sake, that she never gets closer to the Presidency than she is at the moment.

Yes, you may call it partisan prejudice and bipolar paranoia if you wish. It might well be, and I frankly hope it is, and that I am merely deceived by it. For if it isn't the potential consequences are enough to freeze the heart.

I am no fan of George W. Bush. I think he has been the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But I pray for his future happiness and freedom from suffering, as I do for all sentient beings--even the ones who end up in the Palin Family freezer. For GWB really needs it. His Presidential score so far is 4000+ American soldiers, as well as unknown tens, or perhaps hundreds, of thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis. And whether I can see it or not [I think I can.] the stain on his mindstream from this is indellible, deep, and dark.

Om Mani Padme Hung. Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Soha.

Full Text

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Unwed Mother

As the Palinmania is slowly settling down and the race is pulling back to a statistical dead heat, I have a brief remark or two in mind about Palin's daughter Bristol and Palin's unborn grandchild. After a lot of foolishness trying to blame the mother for the choices of the daughter, the reasonable consensus has emerged that the Palins were handling whole affair about as well as could be expected.

I’m sure Bristol will have a nice wedding, and I hope that the relationship which produced the baby is more than a mere incident of adolescent hot blood between two people who are essentially incompatible. But I’m sure you realize as well as I that the odds on this are ambiguous, at best.

Since it’s on my mind again, it is an opportunity to tell you about the life of a certain young unwed mother I know named Latisha. She lives down the street from me in a two bedroom apartment with baby Sean and Granmama, and, when I can work, we ride on the same bus line. Because she’s young and healthy and works full time, Latisha pays $1.50 a trip. I pay $.75. Baby Sean rides free, and only Granmama has a 15 year old Toyota. They’ll run for darn near forever if you treat them right.

Latisha is very Christian but is far more likely to be found in a church eqivalent to Barack Obama’s than Sarah Palin’s, as you might guess from her lovely name.

Now I’m disabled for being mad as a hatter, with a fire in the brain that burns down to cold and horrid ashes before blazing up again, over and over. My professional title is Mental Health Consumer. I kid you not. I’m paid $60.00 a meeting to attend intermittent bureaucratic meetings and give “consumer input”.

So I might also meet Latisha & Co. in the grimy Job and Family Services foyer while we wait to argue with bored and passive aggressive caseworkers. All of us have to go in twice a year to reapply for Medicaid and for Food Stamps. There really are no more “stamps”. You get a little swipey card with a PIIN just like a debit card, so you no longer have to advertise your status to the entire grocery store. The maximum stipend for Food Stamps is $162 a month. We each get 2/3s of this,

So I might meet them again in our Zip Code’s food pantry. We’re lucky as sin. Not only do we deal with a wonderful social worker named Ruth, but also Our Lady of Mercy has a bread gathering operation that actually gets in some Panera day-old’s! This puts some variety and quality into the endless cans of sweet peas, jars of peanut butter, and smashed boxes of Wheat Thins.

Granmama is an “associate” at Garage and Garden wearing Blaze Orange and occasionally driving the funny forklift with the yellow backup light. Latisha flips mattresses and pulls sheets, for a dollar or so above minimum wage, at a Motel 6. When these fine employers have to cut staff in the recession, they’ll get half wages for six months in unemployment compensation. But their food stamps will probably go up. I’m luckier. Committee meetings are forever.

If this were Moose Hoof, Alaska, the Palins might be staying in the Motel 6 by default, but when they come to campaign in Columbus with Sarah speaking on the Statehouse steps, they’ll probably stay at the Hyatt Regency, since it’s so conveniently across the street. Unfortunately, Bristol and Latisha will never meet, not even the casual way that you pass by and say “good morning” to the maid and her cleaning cart in your accomodations.

You see Latisha and Granmama are poor. So am I.

Now there I go, just wash my mouth out with soap for saying the p-word. Even the professionals who deal with us [except for salty and forthright Ruth] don’t say the p-word. They say “low income” as in “low income housing”.

Actually the three of us were also at the Metropolitan Housing Authority on the day, a couple of years back, when the waiting list for Section 8 vouchers was opened for the first time in five years. The crowd was three city blocks in all directions and the police had to send five emergency black-and-white units just to control it. It’s good that we’re still on the waiting list. The Somali and Bosnian Muslim refugees are first, disableds are next, and single mothers after that.

Nobody says the p-word any more, and certainly not candidates for high public office. When those weighty discussions about the trials and tribulations of the Middle Class pick up steam, and they argue about whether their upper limit is $250,000 or $5 million net worth, all the candidates agree that these fine people are not “asking for a handout”–presumably like those lazy layabouts who used to clog up the grocery lines with their greasy Food Stamps.

You see we longer exist. Nobody speaks for us. Nobody speaks to us. Nobody speaks of us. Nobody even knows our names.

Full Text

Friday, September 12, 2008

Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac

In the banking business there is one iron-clad law: no bank, on its own, can pay off all its depositors at the same time. Banking works only when depositors have confidence in the bank’s solvency. There are quite a number of banks out there whose solvency is now burdened by huge amounts of foreclosed loans and deflating house values.

Fannie and Freddie held the bulk of these loans. If they fell do you think any of those other banks with solvency problems could stand? If those other banks fell could you tell if your bank might not be next? If you were in doubt, what would you do?

The only people living in America who know first hand what a bank panic is are now in their eighties and nineties. Almost everybody else, except economic professionals, are clueless about how much our entire system of private equities is based on investor trust and confidence, and how fragile that confidence truly is. All that has to happen to bring down all the dominoes is for a sufficient number of depositors and investors to decide to get liquid at the same time.

The ultimate guarantor of the solvency of the entire equities market is the United States Government. Every facet of government involvement in all private equities ultimately has one major end: to prevent investor panic and a stampede to get liquid. All other ends are subordinate to this one.

No matter how badly any financial institution has been run the government must always act swiftly and boldly to intervene, no matter how much it may cost the taxpayers. Afterward it can investigate for fraud, or do anything else it needs to, but a timid government is a government that is undermining confidence across the board through all equities exchange.

It is far more important now than it ever has been. In the 1930’s, when the bulk of government intervention started, the government was itself relatively debt free. It is so no longer. And it’s debt has expanded exponentially based on the current Administration’s philosophy that “deficits don’t matter”.

There is no logical reason why there could not be a run to get liquid among holders of US Treasury bills, too, though this is highly unlikely.

Unlikely, but not impossible, and that is one of the reasons [there are others] why deficits do matter despite Dick Cheney’s cavalier assertion to the contrary.

Full Text

Mesmerized by Global Warming

My friend the Anchoress now also writes columns under her own name, Elizabeth Scalia, over at Pajamas Media. Her latest is titled: Psychologists Want to Purge Your Brain of Un-Green Thoughts. In it she says this:

These experts have made the staggering observation that negative feedback breeds a bit of spite; if you tell people they are pigs who are killing the earth, people will raise an eyebrow and defiantly throw their candy wrappers on the ground, but if they are “invested in the environment” and lauded for that, they will keep the candy wrappers in their pockets....

That’s just what Americans need — more scolding. We don’t get enough from the press, the political parties, and the establishment moralists; now we need to scold each other. Presumably, the next step after finger-wagging at our neighbors for their environmental failings will be informing on them — especially if we’re suspected of not being “green enough” ourselves.

All of this manipulation and social engineering is necessary, you understand, because we’re facing a “crisis.” The environmental “crisis” is the mother lode of guilt-tripping; if it is successful — if people can be made to accept the unprovable theory that humankind, not nature, is responsible for “climate change” — then the tentacles of the nanny state will be able to reach into every aspect of every life.

I don’t have to be mesmerized by psychologists to believe the climate is changing. I’m watching it happen before my eyes year by year every time I step out my door. It’s real. And it’s manmade. It’s too much and too fast to be anything else.

There’s no ideal temperature for the Earth, but below about 27F deciduous ornamental plants die back to the ground, above 86F those same deciduous plants will go dormant and stop growing, and the coldest temperatures of Winter will determine which plants will live to regrow the next year, as "perenials", and which won't and will have to be replanted, as"annuals".

Plants not hardy enough will die completely. Fiddle around with those numbers in your neighborhood and you eventually end up with different plant life and different animal behavior.

Global Warming does not have the same effect in different places. Anyone who lives within fifty miles of so of an ocean, is far less likely to see the changes than someone living in the interior of the United States. People who live in mountainous regions are less likely to see major changes than people on the plains, as are people who live along the bottom land of major rivers such as the Ohio or the Mississippi.

All of these microclimates have distinct moderating effects due to the presence of water acting as a heat sink or of differences in land altitude. What happens in Central Ohio will not be the same as what happens on Long Island, in Phoenix, or in Silverton, Colorado.

Global Warming's greatest effects are on the average low temperatures, occurring very early in the morning when most people are in bed. The average high temperatures are what we actually experience and judge as a “hot summer”, or a “colder winter”, and these are what almanacs and TV weather persons use to judge this, too. So mere casual encounters with the heat of Summer and the cold of Winter tell us little of the underlying changes that are occurring.

So far, we have not seen enough change to affect the highs. But that may be coming.

The effects of average low temperatures have a direct impact on plant hardiness and animal behavior, so if you want to see the real changes, as opposed to mere temperature measurements, that is where you have to look. This is an unequivocal difference. The plant is either dead or not.

Why does this change animal behavior? This changes the number of days that rivers and streams freeze solid and the amount of both drinking water and forage that is available. Waterfowl and songbirds need these to winter over and survive. This is also an unequivocal difference. The birds are either there or not.

The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map shows 10F interval temperature zone boundaries of the coldest temperature of Winter based on averaged weather station data from 1960-1990. The Arbor Day Foundation published a new such map a couple of years back based on the temperatures recorded from 1990-2005.

A larger version of this can be found here. The specific effect measured is the coldest temperature on the coldest day of Winter. Nothing else. This is objective information that nobody is cooking up; people use it to plant trees and ornamentals, and if its wrong, plants die.

I live in one of the places, Central Ohio, where the impact of Global Warming has been the greatest. In fifteen years, the average annual lowest temperature has risen a full 10F where I live. That is one full hardiness Zone, from Zone 5 to Zone 6. I can personally assure you that no such abrupt changes occurred here between 1960 and 1990.

Not only that, as you can see on the maps, the old boundary between Zone 5 and 6 was about 25 miles to the south of me around Circleville, OH. The new boundary is up in Saginaw, MI. The boundary in question is between the dark green and the light green band. Before, my location was on one side of it, now it is on the other. This is a shift of 300 miles in 15 years!

Words cannot express how large and how fast a change has taken place. Short of something like a volcano eruption, nature simply does not change that much, that fast. There are no volcanos in Ohio. Nature works in centuries and incrementally. Man made changes happen suddenly and in decades or less. Throughout most of human history, real climate changes like this, and their effects on plants and animals, could be directly observed only by the oldest man in the town or village, a man of 80-90 years.

Consider the European Little Ice Age:

A very cold climate between 1560 and 1850 brought dire consequences to its peoples. The colder weather impacted agriculture, health, economics, social strife, emigration, and even art and literature. Increased glaciation and storms also had a devastating affect on those that lived near glaciers and the sea.

Lamb (1966) points out that in the warmest times of the last 1000 years, southern England had the climate that northern France has now. For example, the difference between the northen-most vineyard in England in the past and present-day vineyard locations in France is about 350 miles. In other terms that means the growing season changed by 15 to 20 percent between the warmest and coldest times of the millenium. That is enough to affect almost any type of food production, especially crops highly adapted to use the full-season warm climatic periods.

Those countries that continued to try to rely on wheat and rye for bread as their main carbohydrate staple crop experienced routine and widespread famines in the coldest years. France was particularly hard hit throughout this period. The Irish shifted to potatoes, which form below the ground and are cold tolerant. They had regular and reliable carbohydrates for their people throughout most of this period. It ended for them only with a blight that wiped out the only potato variety that they grew. I believe it is still available today as “Irish Cobbler”.

As you can see, changes of the size that were spread over centuries in Europe, have taken a mere 15 years in my own back yard. It is this speed and strength that is the most compelling argument for the current changes being man-made. The difference is perfectly plain on this chart:

Ducks, Geese, and Robins now routinely winter in Central Ohio when they did not before. The spring flowering tree cycle from forsythia to Dogwoods and Lilacs has now compressed into three weeks where it used to be three months. At the end of this period, they are all blooming at once, which never occurred in my youth here. Not once. And if we get a hot enough week in mid-April, all the trees can be in bloom in a week. None of this was the case before 1990.

There used to be two hard killing freezes in Spring, and maybe a couple of milder frosts. In about 4 years out of 5, one freeze would get the Magnolias, the other the early tulips. My family grew both, so I know. Common folklore stated that three frosts occur after the forsythias bloom. All of this is gone.

And in the Fall roses now bloom and tomatoes now ripen routinely into November-December instead of being killed in a hard freeze in October-November. Fruit set in tomatoes is controlled by length of daylight, not temperature. So you can no longer eat the traditional batter-fried green tomatoes the day after the first freeze of Fall here. But you can pick a big bouquet of roses where it used to be.

Roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of the continental United States has experienced these changes. If anyone reading this knows a long-time nurseryman, hunter, birder, or avid gardener over the age of 50, ask them to tell you what it was like to practice their hobby or business in 1975 and then in 2005, and whether they think Global Warming is real. Odds are 1 in 3 that they’ll confirm what I have said.

I have sometimes been rather tart in my comments about the relation of conservatives to verifiable facts, but with evidence like this for massive climate change, can you blame me?

You do not see the effects of Global Warming in a heated and air conditioned office, nor in a parking garage, nor at home staring at your computer screen, nor under your electric blanket at night. Most conservatives that I read on the net seem to reside only in those places.

You only see such changes by getting outside, staying outside, looking at what is happening, and noting the changes over time–and not just where you live, because the effects might not show up where you are. If you live in Boston, for example, you will have to go to Northhampton or Pittsfield to see it.

Most of our major cities are near water. If the sea level continues to rise, at what point do we surround Manhattan with levies like New Orleans? At what point do we abandon Miami Beach? Do we delay simply because of Libertarian scruples?

If the corn and soybean belt moves to around Saskatoon and the winter wheat belt to the upper reaches of the Western Canadian provinces, what will we grow to replace the lost silage for our beef and pork? Or who will we buy it from at what price? A two month increase in the American growing season might just cause such a shift.

The time to begin adapting is before things get out of hand. It can only be done through collective consensus and popular will, and only governments, state and federal, can organize it and make it happen. And, of course, all this is anethema to almost all over at Pajamas Media.

We are already incredibly insulated in a organized cocoon of safety from our government. So much so that we really don’t know its even there or understand how much we depend on it. Consider the Federal Aviation Administration: a couple of weeks back some of their radar computers went down and the traffic controllers had to halt most takeoffs, put everybody up in the air on a holding pattern, and bring those planes down a little at a time. There were hundreds of them up there, slowly losing fuel, circling around or backing down their airspeed to slow their arrival–a map of the United States on the television news that displayed this looked like the inside of a beehive at swarm. Thousands of people were at risk. Who got them down without a casualty?

The government.

I was in New Mexico about 20 years ago when young healthy Navajo men and women on the Big Rez started catching what looked like a bad case of the flu and then simply dying. Who finally identified the problem as the Hanta virus, the carrier as mice droppings, and developed a protocol to keep it from spreading throughout the Southwest?

The government.

Specifically, the Center For Disease Control. It was particularly chilling to me because my shabby student rental had plenty of mice. There are currently two highly drug resistant strains of tuberculosis spreading wildly through the old Soviet Union. Sooner or later they will be here, so I don’t think we’d better defund the CDC just yet.

Who pays you back dollar on the dollar when your accounts and CD’s vanish as your bank collapses under its bad mortgage debt?

The government–the FDIC and the FSLIC.

Who issues the tornado, hurricane, and severe thunderstorm alerts? The National Weather Service, i.e, the government. Who organizes rescue and relief efforts when people can’t get out of the way? The government.

Who do small craft sailors turn to when the get in trouble? The United States Coast Guard.

Who maintains regular watch for forest fires and coordinates their containment? The US Forest Service, a part of the government.

Two hurricanes have hit New Orleans in the past five years. One killed a huge number of people, the other merely a handful. The reason for this was cooperative preparation and government planning before the second hurricane hit. So who arranged an orderly evacuation of New Orleans instead of a stampede and melee?

The government.

I could go on and on, but the real question is simple. Do we really want all of this to go away? Do we really want our family and friends to “adapt” to all of these problems on their own and without help? Are wethat confident in the spirit of freedom and rugged individualism to take on these things all by ourselves?

If we live as government service free as the people of Bangladesh, Somalia, or Myanmar, we and our families will have no greater level of personal safety and comfort than the people do there.

Those who despise “the government” should take a little time away from like minded blogs, like minded talk radio, like minded print media, and really learn what the government actually is and how much it really does for us [rather than just to us] every moment of every day of our entire lives. And then they should ask themselves how much of it they really want to do on their own.

Global Warming is not occult. It is perfectly visible, and shockingly so, if you know where and how to look. But to see it you have to actively and honestly look for it. Honesty is the hardest.

For as Sherlock Holmes remarked, “You see, Watson, but you do not observe.”

Full Text

The Historic Candidacy, The Histrionic Shmucks

Let's cut to the chase:

The Republican and “Independent” worthies who spoke at their convention–Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson, Rudi Guliani, Sarah Palin and John McCain–are supposed to be leaders. The same is true of Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama.

Leaders are supposed to set standards and examples. They are supposed to be the best of what our politics has to offer, not the worst. Until somebody is finally elected President, those nationally televised conventions, viewed by forty million plus people, are the major place for leaders to set examples for everybody, no matter what their party.

When you read the actual speeches of those Republican leaders, and even more so when you look at the recorded broadcasts, it is perfectly clear that they regard Barack Obama the man with personal comtempt and disdain–not mere disagreement with his words or his views.

We can put the evidence on the table. This is the sum total of the remarks of Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson, Rudi Guliani, Sarah Palin, and John McCain about Barack Obama:

Sen. Obama is a gifted and eloquent young man who can do great things for our country in the years ahead. But eloquence is no substitute for a record — not in these tough times. In the Senate he has not reached across party lines to get anything significant done, nor has he been willing to take on powerful interest groups in the Democratic Party.

To deal with these challenges the Democrats present a history making nominee for president. History making in that he is the most liberal, most inexperienced nominee to ever run for President. And we need a President who doesn’t think that the protection of the unborn or a newly born baby is above his pay grade

They’re both good and patriotic men with very different life experiences that have led them to this moment of shared history. On the other hand, you have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a community organizer. What? He worked — I said — I said, OK, OK, maybe this is the first problem on the resume. He worked as a community organizer. He immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.

Then he ran for — then he ran for the state legislature and he got elected. And nearly 130 times, he couldn’t make a decision. He couldn’t figure out whether to vote “yes” or “no.” It was too tough. He voted — he voted “present.”

A few years later — a few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He spent most of his time as a celebrity senator: no leadership, no legislation to really speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right. It’s the kind of thing that can happen only in America. He is the least experienced candidate for president of the United States in at least the last 100 years….

They would have acted in their self-interest, and they would have changed their position in order to win an election. How many times have we seen Barack Obama do this? Obama — Obama promised to take public financing for his campaign, until he broke his promise. Obama — Obama was against wiretapping before he voted for it.

When speaking to a pro-Israeli group, Obama favored an undivided Jerusalem, like I favor and like John McCain favored. Well, he favored an undivided Jerusalem — don’t get too excited — for one day, until he changed his mind. Well, I will tell you, if I were Joe Biden, I would want to get that V. P. thing in writing.

Let’s look at what Obama did. Obama’s first instinct was to create a moral equivalency, suggesting that both sides were equally responsible, the same moral equivalency that he’s displayed in discussing the Palestinian Authority and the state of Israel. Later — later, after discussing this with his 300 foreign policy advisers, he changed his position, and he suggested the United Nations Security Council could find a solution.

Apparently, none of his 300 foreign policy security advisers told him that Russia has a veto power in the United Nations Security Council. So — so he changed his position again, and he put out a statement exactly like the statement of John McCain’s three days earlier. I have some advice for Senator Obama: Next time, call John McCain.

No, we tend to prefer candidates who don’t talk about us one way in Scranton and another way in San Francisco. I’ve noticed a pattern with our opponent, and maybe you have, too. We’ve all heard his dramatic speeches before devoted followers, and there is much to like and admire about our opponent.

But listening to him speak, it’s easy to forget that this is a man who has authored twomemoirs but not a single major law or even a reform, not even in the State Senate. This is a man who can give an entire speech about the wars America is fighting and never use the word “victory,” except when he’s talking about his own campaign.

But when the cloud of rhetoric has passed, when the roar of the crowd fades away, when the stadium lights go out, and those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot; when that happens, what exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?

The answer — the answer is to make government bigger, and take more of your money, and give you more orders from Washington, and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. America needs more energy; our opponent is against producing it. Victory in Iraq is finally in sight, and he wants to forfeit. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaida terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America, and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.

Here’s how I look at the choice Americans face in this election: In politics, there are some candidates who use change to promote their careers, and then there are those, like John McCain, who use their careers to promote change. They are the ones whose names appear on laws and landmark reforms, not just on buttons and banners or on self-designed presidential seals. Among politicians, there is the idealism of high-flown speech- making, in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things, and then there is the idealism of those leaders, like John McCain, who actually do great things.

My fellow citizens, the American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of personal discovery. This world of threats and dangers, it’s not just a community and it doesn’t just need an organizer.

Finally, a word to Sen. Obama and his supporters. We’ll go at it over the next two months. That’s the nature of these contests, and there are big differences between us. But you have my respect and admiration. Despite our differences, much more unites us than divides us. We are fellow Americans, an association that means more to me than any other. We’re dedicated to the proposition that all people are created equal and endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. No country ever had a greater cause than that. And I wouldn’t be an American worthy of the name if I didn’t honor Sen. Obama and his supporters for their achievement.”

Now do you see anything in this but personal disrespect for Obama the man, decorated with a little pro forma “We’re all Americans together” like you would put Happy Birthday on a layer cake?

The head of the McCain/Palin campaign was quoted as saying that this campaign was about “character” not “issues”. What else can such a statement mean other than this: we will denigrate our opponent’s character in any way we can, and refuse to address in any way at all what he actually has to say?

How else can you describe this attitude toward Obama other than personal contempt?

For some reason his adversaries always imply, and seem to act as if, he has no right to even be running at all, or to do anything in his campaign such as travel abroad and meet the people whom he might have to deal with as President.

He speaks intelligently, directly, clearly, and without equivocation, even if he says things you do not agree with. But, for some reason, his adversaries seem to go out of their way to suggest that he shouldn’t even be speaking at all, that it is somehow “entertainment” when Obama does it.

As far as I can see, this is not a matter of John McCain being a better choice, it is not even a matter of John McCain being an overwhelmingly better choice. It’s not a matter of John McCain whatever.

It is that Barack Obama shouldn’t be there at all.

Why shouldn’t he be there? Why shouldn’t he do these things? He’s a family man with family values, a member in good standing of the Illinois bar, a man who has given his time to help those who need it, a United States Senator who is even on the Foreign Relations Committee, and he’s even a Christian man of faith.

There is only one possible reason that I can see why anyone would imply that Obama doesn’t have the right to run for President. And that is because of his race.

When Republican politicians talk about Obama’s “inexperience”–in the way that is overtly insulting and contemptuous, like the direct quotations from their convention speeches, they mean he is Black.

When they talk about his “elitism” and his “celebrity”–in the way that those speeches are overtly insulting and contemptuous–they mean he is an uppity Black.

When they denigrate his personal “community service”–in the way that those speeches are overtly insulting and contemptuous–they mean that it was done among people who are poor and Black.

Even if they believe the things they say about him, there is no excuse for the way they choose to say it, or the tone in which they say it. None.

This calumny was not kited out on the spur of the moment by overwrought and crazed political bloggers or their commentors, nor by disaffected and savage political commentators, nor by news media that have an agenda to defeat either slate of candidates. And such insult, such contempt, was not a matter of an offhand remark made in a moment of ill timed levity, of which anyone is capable. It was deliberate, cold-blooded, without moral scruples, and was systematically put into major political speeches meant to be heard by millions of people.

Supposedly these are the best and most responsible people in the Republican party speaking to the American public, and the best policies and political philosophy the Republican Party has to offer.

Now my adversaries may deny it to me. Or they may even deny it to themselves. But every African-American in this country knows this to be the case. They have watched code words like this being thrown at their most prominent men and women for the last thirty years–or just about the time we all agreed, for politeness sake, to refrain from the words that these euphemisms encode.

Personally, I was no more enthused in the primaries when the Clintons began to use encoded attacks on Obama’s character than I am about the current ones. In fact, Obama’s victory itself gave me far less joy than Clinton’s ignominious defeat precisely because she chose to make those attacks.

So pleased me greatly that the McCain people recycled Hillary’s attacks on the air during the Democratic convention and made it abundantly clear to all Democrats just how much it is bad politics when Democrats campaign that way.

I am under no illusion that, today at least, that John McCain and Sarah Palin aren’t in the lead from their convention bounce. They are.

But I am also under no illusion that the reason for this is the cold-blooded, systematic character assassination that occurred at their convention. For if John McCain had such overwhelming merits to be President as a “maverick” and a tortured prisoner of war, why would they need to attack Obama’s character at all?

So if John McCain happens to be defeated, it will please me far more than if Barack Obama is elected.

I don’t want anyone who tries win through such character assassination to lead either my party, or my country. Barack Obama has deliberately avoided doing such things to John McCain. And it is perfectly clear that he thinks such personal respect for an adversary is a more important thing than winning elections. So do I.

Here's the evidence once again:

Now let there be no doubt. The Republican nominee, John McCain, has worn the uniform of our country with bravery and distinction, and for that we owe him our gratitude and respect. And next week, we’ll also hear about those occasions when he’s broken with his party as evidence that he can deliver the change that we need.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change. The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives — on health care and education and the economy — Sen. McCain has been anything but independent. Now, I don’t believe that Sen. McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle class as someone making under 5 million dollars a year?

I don’t know what kind of lives John McCain thinks that celebrities lead, but this has been mine. These are my heroes. Theirs are the stories that shaped me. And it is on their behalf that I intend to win this election and keep our promise alive as president of the United States.

Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them. In that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Sen. McCain took office.

When John McCain said we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish the fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11 and made clear that we must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights. John McCain likes to say that he’ll follow bin Laden to the gates of hell — but he won’t even go to the cave where he lives.

These are the policies I will pursue. And in the weeks ahead, I look forward to debating them with John McCain. But what I will not do is suggest that the senator takes his positions for political purposes. Because one of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism.

So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a red America or a blue America – they have served the United States of America.

So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

Do you see anywhere that Barack Obama has treated John McCain with anything less than respect for his seniority, his service, and his sacrifice. Do you see anything in these words that is not simple, if strong, disagreement with what his opponent thinks and says?

This means that I can vote for Obama with a clear conscience, whether he wins or loses. After the way she campaigned, I could not have voted for Hillary Clinton with a clear conscience, nor could I vote for John McCain with a clear conscience.

Obama is a man worthy of respect because refuses to let go of respect for others when he is called to give a public accounting of himself. He is also worthy of respect because he is man enough to admit error, even when it is to his disadvantage, as in the case of the success of the Iraq “surge”. And he is worthy of even more respect for his courage to admit it on the air, on Fox News, to a man, Bill O’Riley, who is probably the most hostile interviewer you could find for him.

If anybody ever runs across an instance where either John McCain, Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson, or Rudi Guliani have done anything even remotely resembling this, drop me a line or a link.

Try as I might, based on reading what they said at their convention, I could not tell you if there was anything Joe Lieberman, Fred Thompson, Rudi Guliani, Sarah Palin, and John McCain thought more important than winning elections.

If I’m wrong, well, I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before. And, luckily, I’m not running for President so it doesn’t matter that much whether I’m right or wrong.

But if I’m right, none of us should have a clear conscience.

Full Text

Kill The Fatted Calf

Okay, I'm back. It's been a long dark road, but my life is stabilized; I have the cutest little laptop you have ever seen; I am on Social Security Disability, Medicare, and Medicaid; I supplement this with paid appearances at committee meetings to provide "mental health consumer input". So I like to think of myself as a "professional manic depressive"--I get to use the politically incorrect term rather than "bipolar", since I'm on the inside and you are not. I now have a second blog, The Empty Sky, for non-political posts, and the Obama candidacy has given me new hope and much new to write about.

To get my chops back, I've been doing finger exercises by raising merry hell over on the Pajamas Media comment pages. They really need some help. Nominally they may be "fair", but they sure aren't "balanced". Their one milk-and-water house liberal leaves the boat listing so far to the right [starboard for you nautical types] that they are in constant danger of capsizing.

My new blog picture and my personal description still portray me as looking like Santa Claus' younger brother. At the moment this is not quite accurate. Because of the summer heat, I had to drop almost $20 at the barber's, and right now I look more like Wolf Blitzer on a bad day. But I'll get back to midseason form soon enough. The nice thing about a full beard is that if you let it alone, it'll let you alone and go about it's growing business.

I've laid down enough prickly political prose over there to start off by reprinting it here. I'll pick up speed here with fresh red meat in a week or so.

It's good to be back.

Full Text

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Smell Blood

This is to announce that I have moved operations to a new blog: The Empty Sky. I will not be posting on politics there. Until a major change comes, there is really no more to say about politics.

But I will add one footnote. As of today, there is a very good chance that my greatest wish will come true. The 30% of this country for whom George W. Bush can do no wrong, and, particularly, the so-called "values voters", the people who believe that nobody but themselves have any values whatever, are finally on they run.

They have so damaged this country over the past seven years that it is my devout wish that they be totally driven from effective participation in American politics for the next generation. Then those of us with sanity, sense, and moderation will have enough time and can do what is possible to heal what they have greivously wounded and rebuild what they have destroyed.

It just might happen. We just might see a Democratic victory in 2008 as great, or even greater than the one in 1964.

I smell blood.

Full Text

Monday, May 29, 2006

Seeking The Death Practice

Sometime back I wrote that the state of our country and the world so discouraged me that, when and if it ever was offered, I would seek to learn the Buddhist practice of learning how to die carefully, deliberately, and consciously.

The opportunity has arisen and I am preparing to go when June commences. I am over 50 and I have never cared much for material goods beyond immediate need or temporary amusement. I have always been, in fact, like some ronin, or masterless Samauri, wandering aimlessly, living sparely, for temporary hire, and only occupied with keeping a couple of swords clean and sharp.

In addition, the three or four genuine ambitions of my youth and maturity, have either been fulfilled, or proved fruitless, and were, in any case, no more permanent or important than material goods to me. I can legitimately write three letters after my name, if I so choose, and could parade around like "Doctor Phil" on Oprah Winfrey. But I was educated in a field where modesty about scholarly accomplishment is highly prized, and the greatest and most famous of us relished the plain title of "student" more than any other. Besides, what would be the point?

Finally, all of my near blood kin are dead. I keep a picture or two, for remembrance sake, as well as the flag the Government provided for my father's coffin, but little else is left. Only Mrs. Claus, really. She is far sicker than I am and thus likely to leave sooner.

So why should I not seek the death practice? What gift is greater than being able to say, "Let death come when and where it will. I now know how to do it properly."?

Of course, once you are taught the death practice, you need to actually practice it regularly to do it properly, rehearsing the inner steps over and over every day. And, at the end of every rehersal, as with all Buddhist practice, you should dedicate the merit accumulated for the final enlightenment of all. It is these things which create the conditions where you actually will be able to use it when the time comes.

As anyone who has been reading regularly will know, I have been slowly becoming more and more convinced that the political character of this blog is futile. Few, if any, minds will be changed; the bad things happening already have enough momentum to continue unless stopped very soon; and the good things that could happen will be readily blocked by my adversaries, since there are enough of them to do at least this no matter what else happens.

My intuition, my Buddhist study, and my plain common sense tells me that most of the men and women I encounter, in either the virtual or the literal world, are headed toward a very bad place in the short term. For they are squandering the immense accumulation of karmic merit that is required for a human birth. They are leading a life largely indifferent to fundamental things, moral merely from habit and not conscious choice when moral at all, and evading always the reality of the approach of their own death. Moreover, the rich and the powerful among us not only largely squander even more meritorious accumulation--the cause of the riches and the power--from past lives of conscious and moral living. They fairly frequently commit great immoral actions and crimes that will mature into unendurable suffering in a large number of their future lives.

They need all the merit dedicated to their ulitmate enlightenment that they can get.

So, at least for me, doing the death practice will be the best of both worlds. I will no longer have to delay my death in a world gone intransigent and insane, and I will, as well, be doing just about the only real good I can do for it, under the circumstances.

When I come back in mid-June I will sincerely wish and hope to live long and practice what I have been taught until it becomes second nature. Then it will largely happen automatically at death, if I can die with full consciousness.

That will be a death worth having, leading to a future that is simply beyond words.

Full Text

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Politics That Cut One's Heart Out

I'm quite peacefully partisan. This does not mean that I am not partisanly pugnatious. I am. But I am at peace with myself about my partisanship. If I were not, I could not be so forthright here and elsewhere.

Besides my particular political goals and beliefs, I have the overarching viewpoint that the point of politics is policy--the things that can be done by government. In general, a partisan is someone who wants things done. Calls for "centrism" or "non-partisan" government are ultimately futile. The hallmark of a "moderate" political viewpoint is a vision of endless political possibilities with no intellectual principle, other than "being moderate", which can be used to choose between them. This simply paralyses action, and, ultimately, results in a politics for sale to the highest bidder.

When examining politics, it is such principles that are the true touchstones of most partisan views. Issues come and issues go, events make each week a new policy week, but principles endure. As a liberal, I draw my principles directly from the most marvelous government document ever written, the United States Constitution. Our Constitution is one of the clearest and most concise statements of the philosophy of government ever made. Is is also one of the world's most durable pieces of practical governance. As such, it is little short of a miracle.

If there are committee meetings in heaven [I sincerely hope there are not.] the one that forged our Constitution is probably the closest mere mortals will ever emulate them.

"To promote the general welfare." These words tell us that the reason for government intervention by law into private affairs is to promote "the public interest". I sometimes think my adversaries recognize no such principle as the public interest which we all hold in common. When they think about it at all, they take the stance that the private welfare of all individuals is completely identical to the general welfare.

This seems to me to be obviously incorrect on the face of it when any adequate evidence is examined. The interests of the stockholder, say, are not identical to the interests of the corportate employee, though both overlap. The interests of the CEO [particularly the acquiring of the Golden Parachute] are certainly not identical to either the stockholder or the employee, and, in fact, are likely to be detrimental to both.

My adversaries simply cannot face such commonplace evidence which props up the vast bulk of governmental action to establish the "commonwealth"--which is but the public interest under another name. In fact, one of the key emotional components of their worldview is the very selective examination of common facts, to the point of abandoning common sense. This is a capacity they have developed in all areas to the edge of dangerous lunacy.

Securing "the equal protection of the law". This is the most important principle to actively promoting the general welfare because it is the only assurance that we have a level public playing field, where the differentials of money and power do not override opportunity for all. My adversaries seem to think that a level playing field occurs, magically, on its own. Any fair examination of the actual evidence contradicts this. Moreover, the moneyed and empowered interests which stand behind my adversaries, squeezing their adrenal glands on command with smooth and well-financed propaganda to use them "like straw dogs" [the phrase is Lao Tse's] before tossing them aside, have systematicly, deliberately, and quite consciously suborned the principle of equal protection of the law since they began to dominate our politics twenty-five years ago.

If they finally succeed, they will simply burn out the opportunity for a better life, or even to sustain the quality of our current life, for the vast majority of ordinary Americans. You can see the process transpiring right now at your local gas station, and I have written about it in detail here.

Preventing the "establishment of religion". My adversaries generally take the position that any attempt whatever to assert or enforce the "anti-establishment" clause of the first amendment, is a deliberate attempt, from hostile anti-religious motives, to restrict the "free exercise" of Christianity which is also guaranteed by that amendment. Their own genuine religious freedom has warped what very little sense of Christian history they may have ever had.

My Christian Conservative adversaries, in fact, have little or no clue what the word "establishment" actually means. In every country with an "official" Church all of that country's clergy are quasi-civil servants and the Church itself is an arm of government policy. There can be no "free exercise" of religion under such conditions, there can only be mere tolerance of "heterodoxy" and "dissent". Under such conditions, all people who are not members of the "established" church are, inherently, second class citizens, and, throughout much of Christian history, the "heterodox" have not been citizens at all and their religious opinions constituted disloyalty to the Monarch or the State.

Religious tolerance is legally revocable without notice and for any reason. Religious freedom is the legal and permanent commitment by the Commonwealth to step beyond mere tolerance. Moreover, under "establishment" even the clergy of the official religion are not truly free to speak their political minds, any more than secular civil servants are truly free to speak their political minds. In both cases their livelihoods largely depend upon keeping silent. And in the case of "established" clergy, it requires keeping silent even about religious matters if the breach of such silence would offend the current goverment in power.

In short, it is the anti-establishment clause which makes the free exercise clause possible. My adversaries are like those who think water has no taste because they were born with it in their mouths and it has been there ever since. They do not understand how free they truly are nor do they understand that it is the rule of law, both enforced and respected by proactive Government, that keeps them free.

The statements my adversaries make in the political arena simply cut my heart out, because, however honest and good a people they may be, they are offering arsenic to all in the mistaken belief that it is cane sugar. And all this from the lack of fundamental contact with principles that prohibit the selective mental editing of plain fact.

They are largely honest and good. This is why they are even willing to spread the arsenic on their own strawberries in matters such as our prison camp in Cuba and the domestic spying by agencies of our government. They are honest and good even though they are inching ever closer, with the inexorability of fundamentally bad premises, to advocating suspension of the "free exercise" clause for the Muslims within our country in the name of preventing their "inherently treasonous" beliefs.

But all their honesty and goodness will be of no avail after we all eat the strawberries.

Full Text