Monday, September 29, 2008

The Audacity of Confidence

I tend to trust my perceptions of human nature.

I believe that I can read the character of folks better than the average person. That's audacious, even arrogant, I suppose, but reading people has been a hobby and a self-perceived skill of mine for many years. I have irritated the stew out of some of my readers in the past by discussing "comfort in one's own skin" as a factor I look for in candidates.

In watching the debate on Friday, I saw one comfortable candidate and one visibly uncomfortable candidate.

The reason Barack Obama was the victor in that debate (despite the notion of a draw that several of the "pundits" saw) was that he looked, and spoke, and listened, with calm and confidence. He listened with respect to his opponent. He confidently acknowledged areas of agreement with his opponent and went on to explain where and how and why he disagreed. That is a basic skill of a diplomat. McCain, on the other hand refused to look at Obama. He seemed not to listen to him. His body language was disdainful and angry.

To put it succinctly: Of the two, Barack Obama looked and sounded more like a President.

Yesterday the Gallup poll showed an uptick for Obama. I believe Obama's poll numbers will rise a bit more today. It will likely tighten again before Novemeber fourth. There are several weeks to go. There will be more desperate and vicious ads from the McCain campaign and even worse ones from the NRA and other extremists on the right. McCain can still pull it out, having sold his soul already. But today, things look better for the good guys.

On Friday a very big audience that included folks who have given little attention to the race till now saw someone who does not fit the silly image that the McCain campaign has tried to paint of Obama. Even though his former pastor might get carried away with inflamatory rhetoric, even though he happens to have had an acquaintance with a man who was -- 40 years ago -- a certified hothead, Barack Obama is no hotheaded extremist.

If someone seemed hotheaded on Friday, it was not Obama.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Are You Afraid Enough Yet?


When Democracy Fails, What Comes Next?

Are you afraid enough yet? I’ve heard several reports on TV, from people who were there when Treasury Secretary Paulson initially outlined the urgency of the situation: “It was like all of the oxygen was sucked out of the room. No one spoke for at least 20 seconds.”

You’ve got to wonder what it was Secretary Paulson said, exactly. It was something like: “We just got word that a world destroying meteor will strike in 5 days. I have a daring and very expensive remedy. You must give me wide ranging dictatorial powers to implement this remedy and you must do so immediately.” Substitute the word “depression,” for the word, “meteor,” and this is close to his exact communication. Pretty terrifying. George Bush confirmed and reasserted this attack of terror when he was quoted yesterday as warning, "This sucker could go down."

We believe scientists can accurately predict the impact of an meteor, but since when do we put unwavering trust in what a Secretary of the Treasury predicts? Paulson, in this matter, is absolutely convincing and that is what is scary. His evidence must be very compelling.


Everyone wants to know the cause of our troubles. There is a lot about the nuts and bolts of our economy, and about the history of market regulations, that needs to be understood. But, the root cause of our troubles is not found by trying to understand the failure of markets, it is found by trying to understand the failure of our democracy. Put simply, if our democracy was working as it should, we would never have gotten into this mess.

What do you call a government in which 90% of the members of its House of Representatives are embedded in “safe” seats, who never are questioned by their constituency, who never are required to give an accounting of their activity? I don’t think you call such a government a democracy, because it is not.

I wrote in, For Our Future’s Sake, We Must Transform Our System of Elitism To a System of Democracy, "If big money and big corporations thought that the vitalization of democracy was in their interest, we can be sure that our democracy would be transformed. Our system of public education advances our system of elitism. Gerrymandering and the influence of big money advance the power of a system of elitism”

I wrote in, As We Accelerate Towards the Cliff: Can’t Help Thinking We Should Be Frightened About Tomorrow, “As it stands now, our democracy is corrupt and weak. We do not have a government that is of the people and we certainly do not have a government that is for the people. Our democracy is not working as it should. Antidemocratic forces are running our government .... The election and administration of George W. Bush is a warning of the even more despicable leadership that will come unless we change the path we are on.”

Ron Paul the other day said that in his judgment, at best, only 15% of Americans really care about the Constitution, about conserving the Bill of Rights, about freedom. Our democracy is already failing. If our economy fails, and when we are afraid enough, what comes next?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Truth of Dahlias -- Blinded By The Light

Dahlias always surprise me. Every year I’m sort of shocked at how beautiful they are, a beauty that transcends my memory of the dahlias of previous years. My brain, evidently, is just not big enough to absorb or retain such purity of truth, over time, intact. Each year I am again surprised at how beautiful dahlias are. When we see truth / beauty, I’m thinking, there is always a sense of astonishment. We are blinded by the light.

Dahlias make me philosophical, in part, I guess, because in Ohio the first frost date is October 10. And dahlias don't even start to bloom until September. A dahlia has a short time to reveal itself, and every day after October 10 seems a special gift. In a more perfect world, say, Georgia, the frost is delayed.

Truth, beauty, mortality, drama -- dahlias have it all. I’ve been thinking about the movie, “My dinner with AndrĂ©.” It's an 80's movie and consists simply of two men talking with each other over dinner, at a fancy restaurant, musing about all sorts of topics. It got lots of awards. I’m thinking, just for the fun of it, of making a short Youtube version parody, “My sandwich with Steve,” shot in my dahlia garden. The idea is to use the dahlia as a focus of a conversation -- a conversation, as I envision it, that as it proceeds becomes ever more extreme in its speculations and "logical" conclusions. (I may have to come to Georgia to cast the part of Steve.)

I think I might include in my "Sandwich With Steve" script ideas from an article I recently found, written by an Oxford professor, that speculates that there is a good chance that we are living in a computer simulation. I wonder if the thoughts of this professor helped inspire the Matrix movies?

In the original Matrix movie, the main character, Nemo, is asked, “How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” Good question.

Can we handle the truth? We all were taken down the rabbit hole this week when, suddenly, our lame duck president demanded $750 Billion -- Immediately. Now. Or else.

Huh? Talk about a teaching moment. Tell me again: How did we get into this mess?

It is no wonder people go crazy. Sometimes, even for those of us deemed sane, everything seems a conspiracy, a lie wrapped within an untruth, enveloped in a spin. Dahlias tell the truth. But, our institutions, leaders, culture, media seem determined to hide the truth.

The $700 Billion demand is astonishing. We've been handed a powerful teaching moment that intersects with a presidential election. What an opportunity. It is almost as if the stars are aligning. Twenty years from now, this $700 Billion demand might be seen as a watershed moment in the vitalization of our democracy, and in the growth of a more prosperous and more just economy.

But maybe my sense of hope or optimism today might just be the dahlia in me that is talking.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

John McCain's Gimmick of the Day

Plummeting in the polls, John McCain is desperately trying to find a way to avoid his own history. After a career of fighting economic regulation, he embraces regulation. Days after declaring the "fundamentals" of the economy fine and dandy he admits thing aren't quite so peachy. After declaring Barack Obama unprepared for the Presidency, he names the least prepared VP candidate anyone remembers. With the economic emergency reminding folks of his self-described lack of knowledge in economic matters, he decides that the candidates should suspend the campaign so he can rush to the nearest phone booth, don the appropriate tights, then fly off to Washington to to save the world.

It is indeed the Zig Zag Express.

McCain would "suspend" the (official) campaign. Is there a candidate who would benefit from the NRA's (and other "third party") lying ads running without competition for a few days?

He would postpone the first debate. Is there a candidate who prefers the "foreign policy" debate not be overshadowed by an economic emergency?

He might be perceived as actually doing something about an economic issue. Is there a candidate who is currently perceived as having little interest, ability, or experience in economic affairs?

He would postpne the first VP debate. Is there a candidate with no national debate experience who might need a little more practice time?

If there is anyone in the nation who believes that John McCain's motives are as he claims, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona I'd like to sell you.

What a transparent, ridiculous gimmick.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

George Will on John McCain

When George Will -- George Will!! -- has this to say about the Republican candidate for President, the GOP has a problem:

"I suppose the McCain campaign's hope is that when there's a big crisis, people will go for age and experience. The question is, who in this crisis looked more presidential, calm and un-flustered? It wasn't John McCain who, as usual, substituting vehemence for coherence, said 'let's fire somebody.' And picked one of the most experienced and conservative people in the administration, Chris Cox, and for no apparent reason... It was un-presidential behavior by a presidential candidate."
-George Will, Conservative Commentator



Tuesday Note: George Will writes more on this topic in his column today.


Of course he doesn't seem Presidential when he affirms: "I'm John McCain and I approve this message" just before or after another big lie.

Here's a little fun in regard to McCain's sleazy ads:



The Straight Talk, er, Zig Zag, Express

From Newsweek...
John McCain's whole campaign is based on the idea that Barack Obama is risky, untested and can't be trusted to protect the nation in a crisis. But this week it was McCain who seemed unpresidential, as his Zigzag Express swerved back and forth across the median strip. His approach to the greatest financial crisis since 1933 was erratic and off-key. Would his presidency be any different?

From a Neo-con ally of McCain...
This past week, though, McCain seemed to lose his head in reaction to the admittedly head-spinning financial news. First he said the economic fundamentals were strong; then he emphasized that it was a really bad crisis. First he sounded calm and deliberate; then he called, without really explaining why, for the firing of SEC chairman Christopher Cox. First he said we shouldn't bail out AIG; then he said it was reasonable to bail out AIG. First he emphasized that this was a time for bipartisanship; then he unleashed attacks on Barack Obama and the Democrats.

From one side of McCain's own mouth...
"Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."

Obama fires back

After all the snark from the McCain campaign, it is good to see Barack Obama firing back.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Credit Card Patriots

Part of the reason I have been furious with the Republicans for the last eight years is that they have wanted to put the financial burden of the War in Iraq on our children while decreasing taxes on the wealthy folks. It has been the history of our country that when our sons have been at war, we the people, in a great outpouring of patriotism, have sacrificed, saved, conducted scrap metal drives, put up with rationing, and paid more taxes. George Bush and John McCain have wanted to conduct a Credit Card war. Just put it on the tab. They have tried to hide the sacrifice of our sons and daughters -- even discouraging pictures of their flag-draped coffins -- and postpone the financial burden. It is obscene that the tax bite on the rich has been reduced while our soldiers die and we pay billions and billions for a mistaken war.

And when Joe Biden suggests that those who have been most blessed by our free enterprise system would be showing patriotism to help pay the costs of protecting our country, the McCain camp ridicules the idea.

It is my opinion that, until the war in Iraq ends, all Americans should pay additional taxes. That ain't gonna happen. 95% of Americans will see NO increase in taxes at all under an Obama administration. Only those who make $250,000 or more annually would see their taxes raised in an Obama administration. And those folks would still be paying smaller tax rates than they did during the boom years of the Clinton administration.

Look at this chart again.


The McCain-Bush plan of encouraging the rich to get richer in wartime means that deficits explode. Trickle-down does not work. Sensible, Democratic, moderate, regulated, free enterprise does.

The moderate, Democratic, progressive tax system -- that has been the norm in America since my birth in 1947 -- has never hampered my wonderful blessings. I live comfortably. My children have had a good education. Between the four of us we have a nice house and FOUR vehicles. Our mail is delivered to our door. Police officers patrol our street (and even the levee on bike). I worship in freedom every Sunday. I speak my mind. I enjoy an outdoors that includes cleaner air and water because of tax funded environmental programs. One of my favorite memories is a national month-long tour Sheila and I made on the partially tax-funded Amtrak system. I listen to Garrison Kiellor, non-partisan news, beautiful music, and fascinating, thought-provoking journalism on public radio. I drink safe water from a spigot in my kitchen. I drive on an outstanding highway system (though the last eight years have seen the infrastructure age.) I have hiked in national forests that the Republicans tried to sell off in the 1980s.

I pay more taxes than average. I ought to.

I do not resent the taxes I pay every April 15.

The Credit Card Patriots are just as happy to spend, but they don't want to pay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some Great Graphs

I was looking for a graphic on Google images. I didn't find the one I was looking for but I did run across these. I suspect they are accurate, but cannot verify them. Click on an image or link to see the original website and check them out for yourselves.

Want economic growth? Vote Democratic.

Here's an interesting graph from The Liscio Report I stumbled upon. If this graph is accurate, it looks like, at least in terms of GDP, the country has done better under Democratic presidents. Not only do the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer under Republicans, but we also produce less under the Republicans overall.





Oh what Big Spending Democrats we are!!
As is plain from the chart below, the Republicans are the real big spenders.



Drill, Drill, Drill?




Earmarks? So what!!

I share the enthusiasm to end ridiculous earmarks like the Bridge to Nowhere that McCain's VP pick tried so hard to build. But come on Mr. McCain, if you want to cut the federal budget, you gotta come up with more than that.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Approve This Message - John McCain

John McCain's Poor Choices

First there was the VP.

• One perfunctory meeting with McCain before the Offer.
• Less than two years as Governor of a state significantly smaller than Gwinnett County GA.
• Mayor of a town significantly smaller than Cedartown GA and only slightly larger than Summerville GA. But government leaders in Cedartown and Summerville may have greater duties than the Wasilla AK mayor had. According to a report by the Washington Post:
The universe of the mayor of Wasilla is sharply circumscribed even by the standards of small towns...
The loud aerial wolf-shooter has been a boon to McCain's campaign by revving up the crazies on the right. They love the fact that she would prefer to outlaw abortion even in the case of rape or incest. They are not bothered by the fact that Palin, though a very nice-looking woman, has been a figurative pig at the earmark trough: hiring a lobbyist to bring home the Federal bacon, pressing for the Bridge to Nowhere (until it was killed by others), fundraising for the King of Earmarks (Sen. Stevens).

Here is what Frank Rich thinks of the Republican ticket:
With all due deference to lipstick, let’s advance the story. A week ago the question was: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? The question today: What kind of president would Sarah Palin be?
It’s an urgent matter, because if we’ve learned anything from the G.O.P. convention and its aftermath, it’s that the 2008 edition of John McCain is too weak to serve as America’s chief executive.
I was distressed by the body language I witnessed in her Gibson interview. She had obviously been given talking points for every posible question. She delivered them. But the eyes and body language gave away her discomfort. This Washington Post editorial has it about right:
Ms. Palin's interview with Mr. Gibson was not disqualifying, but it was also far from comforting... Asked about the prospect of an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, Ms. Palin said three times that the United States should not "second-guess" Israeli decisions on self-defense. But of course the United States should, and does, engage in that sort of second-guessing, from the location of settlements to sales of military equipment. If Israel wanted to attack Iran, would a President Palin permit Israeli forces to fly through U.S.-controlled airspace?

Even on the domestic issues about which she could have been expected to have more familiarity, Ms. Palin's responses were disappointingly shallow. Defending her state's -- and her own -- record on earmarks, Ms. Palin suggested that the problem was not shoveling money toward pet projects but the failure to make this shoveling transparent -- seemingly not recognizing that this is far different from the more fundamental complaint of her running mate, John McCain. The "Bridge to Nowhere," after all, was no secret...

Her efforts to explain some previous statements were lacking in candor..... How does Ms. Palin reconcile her understanding of abortion as a "personal issue" with her view that the choice should be taken away from the pregnant woman?

I believe the appointment of someone so clearly unprepared to be President and someone who continues (as late as yesterday) to blatantly lie in her speeches about the Bridge to Nowhere, was a serious mistake by McCain. It was not Presidential. It reinforces his lifelong reputation for impulsivity -- in the Senate, in his extra-marital affairs, in his career as a Navy pilot, and as an irresponsible cadet (fourth from the bottom in GPA) at the Naval Academy. It also reinforces his record as a tool of the lobbyists. From his part in the "Keating Five" scandal to the lobbyists running his campaign this year (including a paid lobbyist for the nation of Georgia), he has shown his true colors. He is no reformer. He gave it a bit of a try in 2000. Now he is just another Bush-Rove disciple.


Now the lying ads.

McCain is avoiding the issues like the plague. His issues are Bush's. McCain knows he loses on the issues. Instead he is running a virtully uninterrupted negative campaign of faux outrage and outright lies. The "sex-ed" ad is one of the sleaziest, most dastardly ads in the history of dirty TV ads.

A pox upon John McCain and all who follow his low-down dirty, special interest-funded, lobbyist-run, swiftboating, Bush-Rove ways.

Later note: Hold on to you seats folks! Even Karl Rove -- Karl Rove!!! -- admits that McCain's campaign ads are dishonest!!!
McCain has gone in some of his ads similarly gone one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know…beyond, beyond, beyond the, the 100% truth test.
-Karl Rove

To paint the McCain campaign as "change" is to put lipstick on a pig.

It is time for real change. Click the link for specifics.
Real change. Click the link for more good reasons.
Real change. Click the link for excellent arguments for change from someone who KNOWS.
Real change. Click the link to understand change from the viewpoint of a real feminist.

McCain's political team was smart to announce their pick the morning after Obama's wonderful speech. But the RNC bounce is flattening out. The lies are starting to backfire on the Bush-McCain team. It's a very close race right now. We can win back our wonderful nation.

Let's get to work.

Lipstick and Other Bush-McCain Smears


To see a brief but brilliant reprise of the Republican National Convention click the pic above.




The true use of lipstick? Click the pic.



She may not know the Bush Doctrine, but she has certainly given us the Palin Doctrine.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Mystery Solved?


Sheila and I watched John McCain's acceptance speech and our mouths dropped open when he appeared, again, against a "green screen" (and later a "blue screen"). Photographers and videograhers and movie makers call this a "chroma key". Green screens and other chroma keys allow the folks at "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" to put ol' Colin in a swamp full of alligators. They allow every weather reporter in America to point at a blank wall while he watches the weather map on a monitor and we folks at home to wonder how he knows he pointing at the eye of Hurricane Heniretta without every glancing toward the screen. What a gift to Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart!! And Jay Leno. And David Letterman.

My first thought: They planned this. They want some free time on Comedy Central and late night talk shows.

But no. It's a hilarious goof up. Here's what I think happened:

Intending to showcase McCain's concern for wounded vets, McCain's coinvention showmen appointed some poor schmuck to find a pic of Walter Reed Army Hospital -- a place where the Republican Administration showcased their incompetence. He googoled Walter Reed and found this nice pic.
Unfortunately it is of Walter Reed MIDDLE SCHOOL in North Hollywood, California - a decidedly Democratic community. It came right off their website. The principal says the RNC did not have permission to use the pic.

I'm sure Colbert will have another Green Screen Challenge. Here is the first of many versions to come on youTube:

What fun!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A Comment Reply

(This is in reply to a comment on the last post asking why I consider Obama ready to be President, but find Sarah Palin unprepared. Haloscan truncated my reply and I lost about half of it. I should know better. I also wanted to include the pic and couldn't use that in a comment. Little of the following will relate to issues. On the issues there is no contest in my book, of course. I agree with Barack Obama, I disagree with John McCain and what little we know of Sarah Palin.)

Yes, I find Sarah Palin's voice irritating. But that has nothing to do with my support or lack of support for her. I worked hard for Walter Mondale and proudly display on my office wall a photo of a very pregnant Sheila and me with Mondale at a meeting in Kennesaw in 1983. But his nasal, upper mid-west accent is grating to me. (I'm sorry Walter!)


(L-R) Mildred Greear, Sheila Shaw, Terrell Shaw, Walter Mondale,
Philip Greear, Jim Williams


Organizing and executing a large-scale, innovative, and very-successful national campaign with thousands of employees and volunteers for 19 months certainly does count, by the way.

In my opinion Barack Obama -- like Lincoln in the late fifties -- has been a major player in the national debate for four years. Prior to four years of national experience he had a strong intellectual, educational, and practical grounding in international affairs, constitutional law, and state affairs. He has been vetted by the press and by being in the public eye all that time. We know his positions. We have seen him work closely with senators of both parties. We have seen him operate under pressure. He has demonstrated himself as a person of depth, vision, and judgment to anyone paying attention.

Sarah Palin has been a rookie in a minor league. (Each of the 435 congressional districts has roughly the same population as Alaska) Palin seems to have some skills but has not yet demonstrated them in the bigs. It is plain that John McCain did not vet her in the way that he did Pawlenty and others. He is now scurrying to catch up with reporters and Democrats in post-vetting her. He does not know her. He has met her only once and briefly before last week. I doubt he knew she was a former member of an Alaskan political party that considers secession a real option for the state. McCain made, it is obvious to me, a quick political decision. Palin puts McCain in the news and dampens the post-convention attention on Obama. She is not a boring choice like a Pawlenty or Romney would have been and she excites the extreme right that has been uninspired by McCain. (She is the most extreme major party candidate and the least experienced in my memory.) Her choice shows poor judgment and, in fact negates McCain's best argument against Obama, who like Lincoln and others has a relatively thin official resume.

Those who use "commander" of the Alaska National Guard and facing the Russians across the Bering Sea as examples of foreign policy experience for Palin are just providing comic relief for the country, IMHO.

I understand the support of the right wing for Palin. She has a compelling story. She is a fresh face not associated directly with the failures of the last eight years. She is young, vital, strong, articulate, but still extremely conservative. Many conservative women have a feminist streak just under the surface. Fact is, they don't want folks pushing them around as women either. They want their female standard-bearers too.

To me the choice of Palin says that McCain has decided that his best chance is to continue the culture wars that allowed Bush to just barely make the White House twice.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Off Limits! and In Bounds.

Barack Obama is exactly right:

Candidates' children should be off limits.

If you are tempted to write about a pregnant seventeen-year-old, stop. Get a life. That little girl and her baby need love and support and reasonable privacy and not public humiliation.

Now, if you want
• talk about the ridiculous aspects of Sarah Palin's choice by a 72 year-old cancer survivor who has made "readiness to serve on a day one" the major issue in his campaign
• talk about the straight-faced emphasis, by McCain spokesfolk, on Palin's experience as "Commander" of Alaska's National Guard.
• talk about how Palin not only opposes most abortions she even opposes abortions in the case of rape or incest.
• talk about how she questions the existence of global warming, and believes that if it exists it has little or nothing to do with human activity. (Even Reagan's EPA director disagrees with her on this!)
• talk about how Sen. McCain chose to accuse Sen. Obama of choosing politics over country -- then named someone plainly unprepared to be president if McCain keels over on Jan. 20. I can think of no motivation except politics for this choice.
• talk about the pain of having to listen to that over-loud, nasal, upper mid-west accent for four years. Leno and Letterman will have a ball with it. (That accent will be worth a bunch of votes for Obama-Biden in these parts -- I loved Humphrey and Mondale, but the accent is like nails on a blackboard!)
• talk about how Palin supported the "Bridge to Nowhere" before she opposed it.
• talk about how Palin directed seven-times-indicted Sen. "Bridge to Nowhere" Stevens' political action committee.
• talk about the ethics investigations against her.

All that being said, I think Palin has some advantages for McCain. She provides the right-wing base with some red-meat. She will inspire such low expectations in her debate with Biden that she is predestined and fore-ordained to win that debate if she be just reasonably poised, that is, doesn't barf on the moderator.

She can overcome the misgivings of her lack of experience with deft dealing with the media, the debate, outstanding speeches. But I think her ticket-mate takes a hit for a poorly vetted choice and loses his best argument against Barack Obama.