Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin

For a couple of months now, I've been telling everybody willing to listen that McCain should recruit a woman as his running mate. The hard part, for a Republican like McCain, though, was finding one. Sarah Palin is, literally, the best he could get. No, she's not great, but the pickings were slim.

Since the Republicans are a party of old white men, by and large, just finding a woman at all is a problem. There are four Republican women in the Senate. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, both of Maine, are both firmly pro-choice. So is Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas. That leaves Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, whose views on abortion, stem-cell research, and related issues are mixed, at best. Add to that the fact that her father, former Alaska governor Frank Murkowski, is not-very-successfully fighting corruption charges, and her unsuitability is incontrovertable. (Sarah Palin, by the way, had a role in bringing Frank Murkowski down.)

Apart from Palin, there are two female Republican governors. M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut is not only pro-choice, but she supports gay marriage. Lisa Lingle of Hawaii is, according to current Republican rhetoric, unsuitable by virtue of being from that weird, foreign land, Hawaii. She's also a Jeeeeewwwww, by the way.

There are 20 female Republicans in the House, most of whom are completely unknown outside their districts. Kay Granger of Texas gets national press once in a while, but she's pro-choice. I thought a strong contender might be Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado, a Pentacostal ranked "most conservative member of the House" by The American Conservative Union -- but she's so far to the right even McCain might find her scary.

I was really hoping McCain would take Bill Kristol's stupid advice and go with Joe Lieberman, thinking of the cognitive dissonance it would cause all those who won't vote for Obama because he's black. Would they have voted for a ticket with a Jew -- even a right-leaning, warmongering Jew?

Stay tuned.

Nailed it!

Obama's acceptance speech, in my opinion, was as perfect as it could have been -- hell, even the introductory video was extraordinary. If any significant portion of the American public was watching, it should re-open some space between Obama and McCain.

Obama succinctly countered the Republican line about how he would raise taxes on the middle class, and he delivered a solidly populist economic message. McCain, in Obama's construction, is a well-intentioned patriot, admirable in many ways, who just happens to be wrong about virtually everything.

Obama went on to deftly skirt the social issues so important to the religious right, pussyfooting around same-sex marriage and abortion. Gays, for example, should never be restrained from visiting their loved ones in the hospital. Hooray. Women should have access to family planning services, so they don't need so many abortions. (Yes, polling shows that American Catholics are okay with birth control these days.) For me, this was the weakest section of the speech, but it was over in under a minute.

I'm sure the Republican convention will be brilliantly choreographed, but clearly, McCain will never rise to Obama's standard of oratory. Prepare yourself for what may be hours of videos.

(Tangential reference #1: So, today was the anniversary of MLK's "I have a dream" speech. I was there, at the march on Washington, but not close enough to the podium to actually hear the speech -- it was very hot, I'd had a few beers, and I was probably wading in the reflecting pool at the time. The people around me were splashing, conversing, and playing their ubiquitous guitars, and the scheduled speakers were just a crackling electronic noise in the background with an occasional chorus of "We Shall Overcome." There were a lot of us on the periphery of history that day -- I wonder how many now believe they actually heard King's speech.)

(Tangential reference #2: Why did they decide not to mention Lyndon Johnson's 100th birthday yesterday? He contributed at least as much to Obama's current ascendence as MLK. Oh, yeah -- Hillary got in trouble for mentioning that a little while back.)

(Very tangential reference: Vladimir Putin, who we understand is not to be trusted, says the Georgians who killed his "peacekeepers" included somebody in possession of an American passport. He suggests that the Georgian incursion into South Ossetia was an attempt to bait Russia in order to gain advantage for "one of the parties" in the current American election. If Putin's claim, by some odd chance, is true, it's not hard to guess which of the parties that would have been -- and they can't be trusted any more than Putin. I guess we'll never actually know the truth.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democratic convention: days 1&2

While I'm waiting for something to happen, now that it's the third night, I figured I might as well say a few words about the past couple of days. I made the mistake of watching on PBS rather than CSPAN, so I had to do quite a bit of internet searching to find the speeches I wanted to hear, but I think I'm pretty much caught up now.

Michele Obama did just fine, of course. She's poised, intelligent, attractive, and extremely likable. She delivered a predictably predictable speech, but with consummate style and professionalism. She left me wondering, as I wondered back in 1992, whether we'd nominated the wrong spouse -- and if Michele wasn't good enough on her own, Sasha and Malia put the icing on the cake. Put Michele and the girls up against Cindy McCain in the "family photo" competition, and it's no contest.

My favorite speech for day 2 was by Dennis Kucinich. You didn't hear it, of course, because it wasn't covered by the networks, PBS, or cable news -- and even I wouldn't expect you to be watching CSPAN. Thanks to the internet, however, you still can watch it here.

Of course the speech everybody was waiting for was was the speech by Hillary Clinton. I thought it was a hell of a good speech, but no sooner was it over than the Obamists in the media started complaining that Hillary had not kissed enough ass. "She said mean, hurtful things about him during the primaries," they complained, "and she didn't even apologize." Well, guess what, assholes? The speech wasn't intended to assuage your hurt feelings. The goal was to unify the party by bringing the "we wuz robbed" Hillary supporters in line behind Obama -- and you know what? It looks like it worked.

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Some people think Dennis Kucinich looks like a marionette, but compared to Mark Warner, well... If there ever was a keynote speaker more wooden than Warner, he was burned for firewood back in the Eisenhower years.

Whoops! Bill Clinton is on now! Later!

Monday, August 25, 2008


Lately there's been a lot of pressure on Obama to stop dealing in airy-fairy generalities and visions of sugarplums and start laying out some specifics. Previously, I've observed tht every time he got specific about something (FISA, faith based initiatives, offshore drilling) I just got more and more pissed off.

Then, in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, I read David Leonhardt's article on Obama's approach to economics. If Leonhardt's take is accurate (and he's usually quite dependable), Obama might be more in line with my thinking than I previously suspected.

He certainly agrees that Reaganomics went entirely overboard in the area of deregulation, and that government needs to assert more control over the private sector (especially if government is expected to come to the rescue when it screws up.) His tax plan is designed to redistribute the wealth -- maybe not as fast or as far as an old pinko like me might like, but way beyond anything either Clinton proposed.

His proposed health care plan puts government into direct competition with private insurers, and counts on market forces to bring the private companies into line. Personally, I don't see why he thinks it's necessary to create a whole new agency when it would be so much easier to let employers and individuals buy into Medicare, but if he manages to get his plan past the hoards of lobbyists lined up against it, it will be an enormous step forward.

In short, I'm feeling encouraged -- but I'm wondering how much of the above will be clarified at the convention, starting later today. As little as I care to watch infomercials, I suppose I feel obligated to catch as much of it as I can stand -- although I wish the published schedule were more precise regarding time slots for various speakers and superfluous bullshit. I'm sure they have it planned out to the minute, if not the second -- but I guess admitting that would make the proceedings seem less [insert gagging sounds] "spontaneous."

Naturally, I'm pleased by the choice of Biden for the number two spot -- especially since I would have happily supported him in a run for the number one spot. I sincerely hope his role in an Obama administration will be equal to Cheney's role in the Bush administration -- just minus the evil.

On a totally different subject, and completely off-topic for this blog:

I'm with those college presidents -- by all means, lower the legal drinking age to 18. Young people old enough to die for their country in the military should be old enough to legally get liquored up before they head down to the recruiting office to enlist! If the MADD ladies are truly serious about reducing traffic fatalities, they should agitate to raise the driving age to twenty-one -- or maybe twenty-eight or thirty for males. Then again, a young person old enough to drive a tank through Baghdad probably should be allowed to drive a Chevy through Jersey City.

Seriously, though -- I'm old enough so that I was allowed to drink (and be drafted) at 18, but couldn't vote until I was 21. From what I recall of the time the laws were changed, the traffic fatalities were greater in the states that limited boozing to 21-year-olds than in the states with lower age restrictions. The reason was that the youth from the former states were driving long distances to the latter states to get drunk, and then crashing their cars on the way home. It wasn't raising the drinking age that made the difference, it was making it uniform across state lines.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Leverage over Russia?

Well, it was a pretty dumb move on the part of Mikheil Saakashvili. I don't know what he expected to happen when he picked a fight with Putin, but he can't be all that surprised by how Russia responded. He should be even less surprised by how the West responded to the Russian invasion. Maybe Saakashvili figured the conflict was inevitable -- and probably it was -- but why he thought now would be a good time to get it going is beyond me.

Western Europe is totally dependent on Russian oil; the U.S. is preoccupied with Iraq and Afghanistan and economic meltdown, and Bush is a lame duck who's already blown whatever moral authority this country may once have had. So far, Georgia's had no support from the West save a few vague threats about taking the G8 down to G7 again. But wait -- the U.S. does have style="font-style: italic;">some leverage over Russia, come to think of it.

There's that little matter of the $100 billion we owe them. What if we threatened them with default?

Yes, yes, I know -- defaulting on a debt can wreak havoc on a country's credit rating. On the other hand, one could argue that repaying money owed to belligerent, aggressor nations who invade and occupy other countries only serves to encourage them. (Yes, yes, I know -- the description fits us as well as it does them -- but hell, they don't owe us money!)

Am I joking? Maybe -- but considering how much money we owe sovereign wealth funds and powerful corporate players in potentially troublesome countries around the world, why not take this opportunity to use our colossal fiscal irresponsibility to achieve world peace? Think about it -- crazy as it sounds, it might even work.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Calling it what it is

When John McCain reminded us of his many meetings with Georgia's "President Shaashgavili," he misspoke. Saakashvili is a hard name for an American to get his mouth around, so misspeaking it is understandable. McCain might credibly explain, "I misspoke because I'm unfamiliar with the Georgian language," even though he did it while claiming great familiarity with the Georgian President.

When McCain talked about the importance of the Iraq-Afghanistan border, he erred. Errors arise out of of inattention, ignorance, or inability. McCain might have explained his error by saying, "I know there's no border between Iraq and Afghanistan, but I wasn't paying attention to what was coming out of my mouth," or, "I guess I'm just ignorant of geography."

Maybe McCain has erred every time he's said offshore drilling would reduce gasoline prices in short order, but that would mean he's been completely inattentive when speaking to his scientific, technical, and economic advisers, and hence remains immensely ignorant. More likely is that he's been following the advice of his Rovian political advisers. He knows that what he's saying is untrue, but he keeps repeating it anyway.

When somebody intentionally tells a falsehood, we say he lied. Somebody who lies repeatedly and shamelessly is called a liar. So why won't Barack Obama just point to the report of the Energy Information Administration and the analysis of every competent economist in the country and call McCain a liar to his face? Why is he, instead, lending credence to McCain's lie by offering a "compromise" on offshore drilling?

Washington politicians, and Democrats in particular, seem to have a hard time using the word liar. I seem to recall some Republicans resolutely (and correctly) asserting that Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with Monica Lewinski, but Democrats seem too "sensitive" to the feelings of others ever to use such "hurtful" language. Even George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the two foremost liars of recent history, have been spared that epithet. Why?

Maybe the Republicans are right: Democrats are wimps. Lately it's been looking like Obama is the biggest wimp of them all. Maybe he's trying not to seem like "a scary black man," but if that's the case, he's overdoing it. How is he supposed to deal with Vladimir Putin or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he can't even take a firm stand during the campaign? Why must he immediately give ground and offer some half-assed "compromise?"

(By the way, I'm still not convinced that the Republicans didn't somehow help Obama get the Democratic nomination. Back before the primaries, it looked like the GOP didn't stand a chance -- but now?)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Obama reconsidered

One month ago, I was very angry with the Presumptuous Democratic Candidate, who presumed he had my vote no matter how far he pushed me. Well, maybe his presumption was not entirely off the mark -- but as a responsible adult, I think it's time to set limits. My limit is his support for the Employee Free Choice Act. If he flips on that, however, I'll surely be barfing too hard to get to the polls.

Then again, for anybody who likes a good conspriricy theory, check out my post of February 14.