Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Yesterday the House GOP scapegoated Speaker Nancy Pelosi's partisan speech as the reason for their not being able to deliver more votes to pass the Wall Street bail out. I'm not enamored of this bailout plan but I would have voted for it because the credit crisis is real. I'm not certain it would work but don't consider inaction an option.
However, I'm also not dissappointd it failed because the Democrats have an opportunity here to seize the manltle leadership and help the country. At this point, if the House GOP can't pull their caucus together then we should move on without them. Democrats can use their leverage to wrest more concessions from the hapless White House for bankruptcy protection for beleagured homeowners as well as expansion of FDIC. More House Democrats would support a bailout measure if funding for Wall Street bankers were scaled back and instead more funds were appropriated to address infrastructure. How about congress appropriate $500 billion for Wall Street and $200 billion as a stimulus for wage earners that includes the expansion of food stamps, unemployment insurance and job creating infrastructure development?
The House Democrats would pass such a measure overwhelmingly and enough Republican Senators would likely support any lifeline to the financial markets at this point. There is no reason for America to be held hostage by the loony far right House Republicans.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Neither Obama nor McCain spoke credibly last night. Those who have capital are hording it and not about to extend credit so small businesses can make payroll or allow the people of Main Street to pay their mortgages. Credit will not be extended without a bailout and nobody can be sure that giving in to these 21st century robber barrons will solve the problem. Hence, when Obama promises that ninety five percent of the public will receive a tax cut under his administration he's blowing smoke up America's ass. And so is McCain with his "spending freeze" or asking Americans to believe that reforming earmarks will act as a growth stimulus for the economy.
So that means we have to evaluate style instead. Obama was doing just fine until about 10PM Eastern Standard Time. Then McCain the brawler asserted himself, interrupting Obama and getting under the younger man's skin. Ironic because Obama is supposed to be the one without emotion. I cringed when McCain effectively interrupted Obama and mocked his plans for talking with the psychotic president of Iran. McCain scored and one could read irritation on Obama's face because he knew it.
Obama fights fire with water. That is an admirable quality in a president and leader. It's one of the reasons I support his candidacy. Overall, I believe Obama held his own against McCain the brawler and appeared sure footed on the issue of foreign policy which conventional wisdom suggests is McCain's strength. Personally, I believe the record shows that McCain's record on foreign policy is disastrous but that's substance. We're assessing style here.
In future debates Obama must cease saying that "John is right." That phrase should be replaced with "John doesn't get it." If Obama wants to be more civil he can put it this way, "I regret to say that John doesn't get it." For variety he might say, "Once again John doesn't get it" and then make his points.
I suspect McCain came off as overly condescending for some with his constant refrain, "You don't understand." Perhaps Obama's reflexive "John is right" reassured some people that he's a leader looking for consensus and common ground. In my opinion however Obama needed to be more combative. This is easily fixed by dumping "John is right" into the rhetorical landfill.
The debate was a tie. Neither had a major gaffe or delivered a knockout punch. That's probably good for Obama. The next two debates will address subjects that Obama can speak to more comfortably. Next week Joe Biden will likely demonstrate more gravitas than the hapless Sarah Palin in the Vice Presidential debate. Hence this remains Obama's election to lose.
John McCain is a twentieth century man ill equipped to address our current challenges. Using the phrase "John doesn't get it" to preface his points would better help Obama drive that point home.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the Administration's proposal. I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.''Hence, McCain is urging President Bush to,
"to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem."This is nothing more than faux statesmanship. Recent polls obviously have the McCain campaign at Defcon One and they needed a stunt. As political tactics are concerned it's very clever. It distracts from the the New York Times reporting about the firm of McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis still being paid by Freddie Mac.
Meanwhile, McCain is hoping Obama will be in a box. If Obama plays along he's following the leader. If Obama doesn't play along McCain will claim he's putting the welfare of the country ahead of politics.
As long as there will be spin going against him either way, I think Obama should tell it like it is. The right position is to say that now more than ever we need to debate economic policy in front of the voters. Hence I would propose postponing the foreign policy debate and instead making this Friday's debate about the economy. If McCain refuses than Obama should appear anyway and address the country himself and present the direction he wants to go.
Republicans as well as financial industry insiders are like bank robbers with nitro-glycerine. They're hoping to coerce Congress into passing legislation that provides them billions in corporate welfare with minimal oversight to review the details. The Federal Reserve Board and Treasury Department are complicit in our economic debacle and don't want any sunlight on their accountability for this mess. So they're also pushing for this legislation with minimal oversight before too many people hold them accountable for their incestuous relationship with Wall Street.
I readily acknowledge we have a calamity on our hands. Liberals like me have seen this coming for years and we were ridiculed as being alarmists. Yet even as the Dow drops we're not going to fix this by nationalizing the banking industry in haste.
This should be a deliberate process that is transparent and openly debated. That is what campaigns are for. FDR and Herbert Hoover didn't suspend their presidential campaigns in 1932 when this country's economy was tottering on the abys. FDR and Thomas Dewey didn't suspend their presidential campaigns during World War Two in 1944.
More recently New York City still held a mayoral election in November 2001 nearly two months after 9/11. Back then Democratic Party candidates took a brief pause because 9/11 coincided with their primary. But the pause was shortlived and vigorous campaigning resumed.
And Spain held an election following a terrorist attack a couple years ago with no suspension of campaigning.
That's what democracies do. Even in emergencies and this economic crisis is no different. Senator Obama please don't allow your opponent to get away with faux statesmanship. This a nothing more than a stunt to help facilitate corporate welfare for the financial services industry while maintaining the fiction that John McCain is a maverick instead of a corporatist champion. Many of these people are hoping that you will give cover to a plan designed to hinder your administration if you're elected from spending on health care and other domestic initiatives.
McCain's political stunt, backed by these very same people is also designed to prevent your election so these money lending corporatists can continue to steal from wage earners and small business entrepreneurs.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Nevertheless, when contemplating the socio-economic and geopolitical place we find ourselves in it's hard to feel anything but despair. We're engaged in two failed military occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is imploding and al quaeda is rebuilding. As for Iraq, with all due respect to the "surge," a military occupation that requires billions of America's treasure as well our blood, not to mention the blood of Iraqis that have been shed to maintain a semblance of stability is not a success.
And now we're forced to spend trillions to bail out Wall Street thanks to the medacity of the Bush Administration and their cabal of chuckle heads, cronies and plutocrats. Much of this is of course being financed by creditors overseas.
I mean, what the hell will a new president be able to do upon taking office? How can can any president deliver on campaign promises of tax cuts or spending programs for infrastructure, education and health care when you combine the cost of two military occupations with the bail out of Wall Street? I know Obama wants to get out of Iraq but ending that occupation in a prudent manner can't be done quickly. We're going to spend billions more money in Iraq even if Obama wins. Also, there is the moral requirements to help finance Iraq's reconstruction considering we invaded their country without legitimate provocation, tortured their citizens at Abu Ghraib and killed a whole lot of their people to make money for Halliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater USA.
And we can't just pull out of Afghanistan. After financing our proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 80s we turned our back on those people. And we know the tragic legacy of that mistake. Yet our presence isn't helping and a "surge" in Afghanistan will not bring any more political reconciliation to that country than it has in Iraq. If anything the internal dynamics of Afghanistan and their culture of war lords is even more cumbersome. Yet many Democrats, including Obama have talked about increasing our troop levels in Afghanistan. And that will cost billions too.
At least when FDR became president it was merely a matter of political will to implement the New Deal and establish institutions that helped build an enduring middle class for the twentieth century. Also, when FDR became president America wasn't consumed by two military occupations as the next president will be . Hence, when the gathering storm clouds of the Axis Powers engulfed the world in war, FDR was able to mobilize America's industrial prowess for the effort. Suppose the liquidity crisis on Wall Street today empowers another Hitler overseas who exploits global economic depression and seizes power? What then if America is overextended with our occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Political will by itself won't be enough for the next president. Global liquidity is in rapidly short supply and the world is running out of oil. Global warming is a ticking time bomb and many regions in the world, including the American southwest our contending with a water shortage crisis. Addressing these challenges requires capital and lots of it. Capital that we don't have. Hence, somehow the next president is going to have to pull a rabbit out of their hat and create a new twenty-first century socio-economic paradigm on the cheap. And he'll have to do it fast.
I believe Obama at least grasps the challenges ahead. Sadly, John McCain appears to be out of his depth with a limited grasp of the modern world.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Monday, September 15, 2008
One has to wonder if standard depository banks are also endangered. The Federal Deposit Corporation (FDIC) created during the New Deal era is ultimately just an IOU. If this financial calamity however extends to depository banks all of us are in serious trouble. Thankfully, depository banks are subject to more regulation and have avoided calamity so far. But for how long can they remain immune?
Was it so long ago that George W. Bush and his plutocratic soul mates such as John McCain advocated for putting Social Security into this morass? If Republicans had their way, millions of elderly Americans would be confronting poverty right now.
Our current mess is the direct result of conservative ideology that pushed for the deregulation of the financial services sector. Consequently we're on the same path of economic catastrophe that we found ourselves in 1932 when FDR first ran for president.
With Barack Obama we have some hope. John McCain only offers more lipstick for pigs.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
However, Sarah Palin’s selection as McCain’s running mate has convinced the public change is coming no matter who wins. Even worse, the very same corporate media that complained Obama only offered “words” compared to Hillary Clinton’s policy specifics during the primary season now argue that McCain’s lack of specifics does not diminish his stature as a maverick. Is that fair? Of course not! But there is no sense whining about it. These are the cards we’ve been dealt.
So how do we change the narrative? The solution is to present the voting public with a stark choice: progress or calamity. Change vs. more of the same is stale and no longer resonates.
The public does not equate John McCain and Sarah Palin with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. That’s the sense I have from phone banking since both conventions. The GOP pulled off a Houdini escape from their record and the media is letting them get away with it. Sarah Pallin is an inexperienced right wing ideologue. But she has made the McCain brand fresh again whereas the public has been watching the Obama campaign for almost two years.
It’s time to replace change vs. more of the same. Instead, every day until November 4th the Obama campaign needs to hammer two messages:
- Obama-Biden equals progress.
- McCain-Palin equals calamity.
If McCain-Palin is elected more bridges will collapse, as local governments are fiscally incapable today of modernizing our infrastructure. Our roads will remain in disrepair resulting in fatalities. Modernized infrastructure prevents disasters. However, the McCain-Palin ideology favors crony capitalism and bridges to nowhere instead of upgrading our electrical grid, replenishing our shrinking reservoirs and building a mass transit system for the 21st century. McCain-Pallin's inattention to infrastructure will put America on a collision course with multiple catastrophes. America is confronting a water shortage crisis in its southwest as well as more Hurricane Katrina disasters and the deliberate wrecking of FEMA that was professionalized a decade ago under President Clinton.
An Obama-Biden administration will propose creating a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to help finance revitalizing our transportation. Overall an Obama-Biden administration will prioritize strengthening America’s infrastructure to provide a more stable foundation for a 21st century economy.
Every day millions of Americans are living on the abyss of catastrophe as their HMOs drive them into fiscal insolvency. Under McCain-Palin the plight of the uninsured and under-insured will metastasize as illnesses are not properly treated and families are battered into financial submission paying for treatment. More of the elderly will be forced to choose between paying for food or prescription drugs as the medical industrial complex is strengthened at the expense of wage earners and small business entrepreneurs.
An Obama-Biden administration will propose a national health plan that makes available for all Americans affordable health coverage similar to the benefits enjoyed by members of Congress. Obama’s plan includes the self-employed and small businesses. Click here to read more details.
As the purchasing power of regular folks continues to erode, crime will rise with more people out of work. More children will grow up in households where one or both parents are working multiple jobs and not home to provide supervision and nurturing resulting in an increase in juvenile crime. Local governments under McCain-Palin will be too under-funded to address these challenges because of tax cuts to the rich instead of providing federal aid. Meanwhile, state correctional facilities that sustain itself through incarceration of non-violent criminals for recreational drug use will parole violent criminals due to overcrowding. This is a ticking time bomb in American society that will be exacerbated under McCain-Pallin.
If elected, an Obama-Biden administration will invest over $1 billion to empower low-income wage earners in transitional jobs and career pathway programs that are proven to help low tech laborers succeed in the workforce. An Obama-Biden administration will also work to better help integrate ex-convicts into society with job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling, and ensuring access to employment opportunities. Click here to read more details.
McCain-Palin’s “drill baby drill” energy policy means America will be at Saudi Arabia’s mercy as they continue to buy American real-estate. The very same Saudi Arabia that eighteen of the 9/11 hijackers came from. We will also have no leverage against the evil KGB spy-master Vladimir Putin as he tries to become a 21st century Peter the Great through the power of Russian oil.
Click here to listen to Obama’s August 4th speech in Lansing, Michigan about energy policy.
A McCain-Palin administration would be stocked with delusional zealots who hope to prosecute war with Iran while our overextended military is burdened with two military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If these zealots have their way, Iran will respond by attacking Israel and Israel will respond with nuclear weapons. Meanwhile if McCain-Palin is elected the Taliban is more likely to prevail in Afghanistan and al Quaeda will once again have bases there and Pakistan to launch terrorist attacks on American soil. Even worse a McCain-Palin administration will further radicalize the Islamic world and make it impossible for moderate voices to emerge.
Click here to either read or watch a video of an October 2007 speech in which Obama outlines a forward looking foreign policy based on rationality and diplomacy.
If McCain-Palin is elected the damage to the federal bench will be irreversible for decades. Not only the Supreme Court is at stake but the entire federal judiciary. McCain-Palin will appoint judges presiding over legal controversies with respect to new technologies and civil liberties. Their Supreme Court will be stocked with more John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas extremists that will protect the rights of government agencies and private industry to retaliate against whistle blowers. And if that isn’t enough, a McCain-Palin administration will ensure America returns to the days of back alley abortions.
Consider what The Nation had to say on June 12th:
“When the U.S Senate voted in September 2007, on whether to restore habeas corpus protections for those detained by the United States, the senators who would emerge as the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees for president parted company.
Illinois Democrat Barack Obama embraced the basic Constitutional principle that individuals who are detained by the U.S. government have a right to challenge their detention -- no matter where they are held.
Arizona Republican John McCain rejected the wisdom of the founders of the American experiment and voted against restoring habeas corpus protections for foreign suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and others who are detained by U.S. authorities.
Today, the Supreme Court said Obama was right and McCain was wrong.”
It is infinitely preferable to have a president who believes in habeas corpus nominating justices for the Supreme Court.
And let’s not forget global warming. If McCain-Palin is elected the civilized world will lose the shrinking window of opportunity to reverse global warming. That means the polar ice caps will melt and Manhattan Island will be underneath the sea.
Click here to watch Obama’s video about energy plan to combat global warming.
McCain-Palin is not simply more of the same. McCain-Palin means irreversible calamity for America and the world. Electing Obama-Biden means progress and hope that America will address the challenges ahead and establish cooperative relationships with the civilized world. The future of civilization may well come down to how effectively we persuade undecided voters in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania on November 4th. That is the sort of urgency we need to convey. Indeed that is the sort of urgency Obama himself must convey.
This isn’t reality television. This isn’t kids stuff. This is a choice between progress or calamity. Starting tomorrow we have fifty-four days to ensure the American people understand that choice.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
How easy to get caught up in Sarah Palin's polarizing celebrity and lose sight of the real issues at stake. That's exactly what the GOP wants. I too have been consumed by the Palin phenomenon in recent days and the GOP's toxic convention. Well it's time to get back to basics. Obama did a good job of that yesterday with respect to the new unemployment figures. I'd like to take a moment and focus attention on another vitally important issue that's easily overtaken by cultural politics: infrastructure.
Infrastructure is the lynchpin for any nation's ability to compete in a modern global economy. Fifty-two years ago we had a forward looking Republican President named Dwight Eisenhower who signed The National Interstate and Defense Highways Act. The law appropriated $25 billion for the construction of 41,000 miles of interstate highways. It was the largest publics works project in American history at the time. Gasp! It required the power of our federal government.
Ninety-percent of the project was paid through a highway trust fund while the states contributed ten percent of the funding. Eisenhower believed this law vital to America's national security interests to help the military to mobilize troops more effectively in case of invasion by a foreign power. Ultimately, the investment more than paid for itself through jobs, economic growth and the development of the suburbs.
However, the Interstate Highway System also resulted in vehicle pollution and increased our dependence on foreign oil. Hence, with global warming and collapsing bridges our infrastructure requires a twenty-first century upgrade. Senator Obama addresses this issue of infrastructure at his website:
"As our society becomes more mobile and interconnected, the need for 21st century transportation networks has never been greater. However, too many of our nation’s railways, highways,bridges, airports, and neighborhood streets are slowly decaying due to lack of investment and strategic longterm planning. Barack Obama believes that America’s long-term competitiveness depends on the stability of our critical infrastructure. As president, Obama will make strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads and bridges, a top priority."You can read the rest of Obama's infrastructure program by clicking here. Among the details referenced on his website is his proposal to create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank. According to the Obama campaign, the purpose of this bank is to,
"expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments. This independent entity will be directed to invest in our nation’s most challenging transportation infrastructure needs. The Bank will receive an infusion of federal money, $60 billion over 10 years, to provide financing to transportation infrastructure projects across the nation. These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect jobs per year and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year in new economic activity."Now presidential candidates make many promises and one may have valid criticisms and questions about Obama's program. You might therefore be interested in comparing Obama's infrastructure program with John McCain's. However, when reviewing John McCain's website, his use of the word "infrastructure" is rather non-sequitor. For example:
"America cannot afford to lag in providing its citizens access to 21st Century infrastructure. Our children cannot count on a good education without high-speed Internet access. Without access, our citizens risk being left out of the societal and cultural changes that are sweeping the planet on a wave of innovation. Solving the problems of health care, immigration, climate change, and energy dependence all require connecting our citizens to a world-class network."Hard to argue with the need for providing high speed Internet access. But what about modernizing our transportation system? Has he thought about that? McCain uses the word infrastructure again with this paragraph:
"As President, John McCain would continue to encourage private investment to facilitate the build-out of infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet connectivity all over America. However, where private industry does not answer the call because of market failures or other obstacles, John McCain believes that people acting through their local governments should be able to invest in their own future by building out infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet services."Well that's nice. Once again McCain references the word infrastructure with respect to high speed Internet access. Wonderful that the man is finally taking an interest in the Internet and that he has such faith in the ability of local governments to address our infrastructure needs. Never mind that state governments are in dire economic straits and struggling to pay for any infrastructure improvements. As the New York Times recently reported, budgets gaps are forcing states to grapple with the risks of private financing for infrastructure projects to repair crumbling bridges, roads and airports. Among the potential risks is having foreign powers subsidizing repairs to our infrastructure.
Did I neglect to mention that John McCain is not offering a program with respect to modernizing our transportation and infrastructure? However, McCain's website (I wonder if he's read it) uses the word infrastructure three times with respect to America's space program.
For what it's worth, according to dictonary.com, there are three definitions to the word infrastructure:
- the basic, underlying framework or features of a system or organization.
- the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and schools.
- the military installations of a country.
“I think, perhaps, you could make an argument that part of the responsibility lies with the Congress of the United States,’’ Mr. McCain said at a town hall meeting here just outside of Des Moines. “Do you know what we do with your tax dollars every time you go and fill up your gas tank, and that money that flows to Washington as a result of that? We spend approximately 20 billion –b — billion dollars of that money on pork barrel earmark projects.’’No doubt he had the "bridge to nowhere in mind" that his running mate was for before she was against. I'll give McCain credit for at least using the word infrastructure in its proper context at the time.
The upshot my fellow citizens is that John McCain and his Republican Party haven't applied any serious thinking to infrastructure since President Eisenhower. They don't care. The basics of good government such as infrastructure does not interest John McCain or his party. And if he becomes President America will continue to decline.
Barack Obama as he himself has acknowledged is not a perfect candidate. Personally I wish Obama was bolder and less risk averse. But at least the vitally important issue of infrastructure is on the front lobes of his brain.
Those of you who are activists like myself, please consider talking to people about infrastructure. For much of the summer I've struggled while phone banking against the undercurrent of racism and ignorance (he's a Muslim, he's all talk, he dissed the troops and so forth). However, most recently I have found myself getting traction when interjecting infrastructure into the conversation - even with people who seemed cynical or culturally opposed to Obama. Bricks and mortar is something everyone understands.
Friday, September 05, 2008
"Gov. Sarah Palin is taking the wrong approach to Troopergate. She should be practicing the open and transparent, ethical and accountable government she promised when running for governor and boasts about now that she's on the national stage.Click here to read their entire editorial.
Instead, Gov. Palin has begun stonewalling the Legislature's attempt to get the bottom of allegations that she, her family or staff violated ethical or state personnel rules.
As a result, the Troopergate allegations hang over Palin's future and cloud her candidacy for vice president.
The allegations are that she, her family or administration improperly pressured then-Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire Gov. Palin's ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten, who had been in the middle of a custody dispute with Palin's sister.
In July, when legislators started talking about conducting an investigation, Palin denied any wrongdoing and said she welcomed an investigation.
'Hold me accountable,' she said.
The Legislature took her up on that offer. But this week, she basically told the Legislature, 'Never mind.'"
Regardless, October promises to be the most anticipated Vice Presidential debate since Dan Qualye and Lloyd Bentsen in 1988. I only hope Gwen Ifill of PBS won't allow Palin to weasel out of tough questions.