Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Quad Cities linked to Christmas Eve tragedy

We now find out that Bruce Pardo, the Southern California man who killed 9 members of his ex-wife's family and then shot himself on Christmas Eve, had an airline ticket and plans to come to the Quad Cities on Christmas Day. Well, if somehow he had come to see his options as having narrowed to either going to a place where the temperature was 0 degrees F with lots of snow and ice or killing a bunch of people and himself, I guess the tragic outcome was inevitable.

Do not allow Bush to slink quietly out of town

In his column in today's New York Times, Bob Herbert sums up the last 8 years.

When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.

This is the man who gave us the war in Iraq and Guantánamo and torture and rendition; who turned the Clinton economy and the budget surplus into fool’s gold; who dithered while New Orleans drowned; who trampled our civil liberties at home and ruined our reputation abroad; who let Dick Cheney run hog wild and thought Brownie was doing a heckuva job.

Read the entire article.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Where was all this media suspicion in 2003?

What in heavens name are all these "unanswered questions" and suspicions about possible Barack Obama involvement with the Blagojevich scandal that so many media types have been talking about? From the very beginning of public awareness of the alleged crime, when Patrick Fitzgerald announced the arrest of Govenor Blagojevich, he made it clear that there was nothing on the wiretaps suggesting that the President-elect was in any way complicit in the crime.

All the media suggestions that there might be some Obama involvement have been based on no facts whatever. Where was all this media suspicion when Bush and Cheney were making the case for invading Iraq in 2003?

Should Caroline Kennedy be appointed U.S. Senator

I have been so busy preparing for the holidays I have committed blogging malpractice -- I've had opinions and not blogged about them.

Concerning the possiblity of Caroline Kennedy being appointed U.S. Senator from New York: That would make it look like you needed to be the wife or child of a former president in order to be a U.S. Senator from New York. Would that mean that in this country a child from humble origins, born to ordinary parents, has a better chance of growing up to be President of the United States than Senator from New York?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What kind of change was Obama promising?

When you heard Barack Obama promise to bring change to Washington what kind of change did you imagine? Did you take your cues from his criticism of our decision to invade Iraq and his promises to bring the troops home in 18 months to understand Obama to be promising change away from the Bush Doctrine of preventive wars of choice? Did Obama’s willingness to talk to any foreign leaders, including ones the Bush Administration refused to meet, indicate to you that he meant change toward a less belligerent and militaristic foreign policy? Did Obama's emphasis on the environment and sustainable energy suggest to you a change in the way those issues are handled? Did you also hear indications that Obama would be appointing and hiring people based on competence and ability rather than the loyalty standard used by the Bush Administration?

If so, then you are probably as surprised as I was by the following lead paragraphs of an AP story in today’s newspapers:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The inauguration committee of President-elect Barack Obama, who ran on a platform to change the way business is done in Washington, is selling four-day packages of four tickets to his historic swearing-in ceremony and parade plus some extras in exchange for $50,000.

The deal does represent a change. President Bush charged $250,000, selling his supporters a much bigger menu of inaugural goodies that featured candlelight dinners.

Does the writer of this article really believe that the change Barack Obama was promising was to not do fund-raising? That seems unlikely since Barack Obama did the most successful fund-raising in history during his campaign. No, it seems more likely to me that the writer of that article knows exactly what kind of change Obama was promising but is trying to persuade her/his readers to forget.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Madonna causing lustful, impure thoughts

According to Yahoo News, Madonna is turning heads down in Chile.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Jorge Medina criticized the flamboyant singer during his homily at a Mass in honor of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, who oversaw the deaths of some 3,200 dissidents during his 1973-1990 rule.

"This woman comes here and in an incredibly shameless manner, she provokes a crazy enthusiasm, an enthusiasm of lust, lustful thoughts, impure thoughts," said Medina, the cardinal who was chosen to announce the election of Pope Benedict XV.

It almost sounds as though the Cardinal was hired by Madonna to hype the show, doesn't it? I've always wondered about the source of her appeal. Apparently her act goes over particularly well with the sexually repressed.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Voting for Auto Bail-Out will require Political Courage

The Democrats in Congress who are going to vote next week to bail out the Big 3 American automakers are probably going to pay a political price for doing so. The polls and word on the street make it clear that most of the public hates the idea of bailing out well-paid union workers and fat-cat corporate executives.

But economists warn that in the current financial climate bankruptcy for any one of the Big 3 automakers would most likely not lead to reorganization, restructuring or new ownership, but in liquidation, which would cause a cascade of closures among part supplies and associated industries which would in turn force the other 2 automakers out of business. Economists are talking about a difference in 10% unemployment if the American automakers are kept in business or a Great Depression level 25% unemployment if they disappear.

Once Congress decides to do something, such as bailing out Detroit, there is no way to know for sure what would have happened if they had not acted. People opposed to the bail-out, probably a majority of the voters, will look at the 10% unemployment and say that after giving away all this money we still have lost a lot of jobs. They will feel that their tax dollars were given away for nothing. There will be no way to prove that it would have been much worse if the auto makers had gone into bankruptcy.

It will be interesting to see which politicians in Congress put the good of the country ahead of their own reelection chances and vote for the bail-out next week. Does anyone have any guesses about the relative percentages of Democrats and Republicans who will show political courage? My guess is that despite their rhetoric, there are very few Republican left in Congress who actually put country first. I predict that those voting for the bail-out will be over-whelming Democrats.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Odetta 1930 - 2008

Odetta sings Careless Love

A young Odetta sings Water Boy

Read a good article about Odetta's life in today's New York Times.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

David Brooks now says neo-con ideas passe

Conservative David Brooks’ column in today’s New York Times claims that the Barack Obama’s foreign policy is not change but really is continuity of ideas developed by people in the Bush Administration.

[Defense Secretary Robert] Gates does not talk about spreading democracy, at least in the short run. He talks about using integrated federal agencies to help locals improve the quality and responsiveness of governments in trouble spots around the world.

He has developed a way of talking about security and foreign policy that is now the lingua franca in government and think-tank circles. It owes a lot to the lessons of counterinsurgency and uses phrases like “full spectrum operations” to describe multidisciplinary security and development campaigns.

Gates has told West Point cadets that more regime change is unlikely but that they may spend parts of their careers training soldiers in allied nations. He has called for more spending on the State Department, foreign aid and a revitalized U.S. Information Agency. He’s spawned a flow of think-tank reports on how to marry hard and soft pre-emption.

The Bush administration began to implement these ideas, but in small and symbolic ways. ...

Read entire column.

The clear, at least to me, implication of what David Brooks is saying in this column is that electing neo-cons John McCain and Sarah Palin would have meant a return to a the foreign policy of the first few years of the Bush Administration, to ideas and attitudes that the foreign policy wing of the Bush Administration led by Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates had realized years ago were failures and mistakes. Why didn’t David Brooks mention this before the election?

Monday, December 01, 2008

William Kristol's answer to terrorism - patriotism

It is no surprise that William ”The Bloody” Kristol‘s column in today’s New York Times is wrong. Everything he said has turned out to be wrong. But this column’s wrong-headedness is immediately obvious. No need to wait for events to unfold to prove it false.

In India’s long and bloody battle with Muslim terrorism the one thing the non-Muslim majority of Indians has not lacked is patriotic and emotional fervor and intensity. The recent attacks by Muslim terrorists on hotels in Mumbai may have revealed possible deficiencies in police and military preparedness, communications, coordination, planning and leadership but they revealed no lack of patriotism among the common citizens.

So what is Kristol’s analysis of this situation?

In nations like India (and the United States), governments will have to call on the patriotism of citizens to fight the terrorists.

Think about that for a second. How would increased patriotic feelings among the ordinary citizens of Mumbai have prevented the recent attacks or decreased the number of Indians killed or brought the situation to a close sooner? What could ordinary citizens do in the face of AK-47s and grenades, no matter how patriotic they felt? The idea is absurd. It is so mind-numbingly false it boggles the mind how someone paid to provide expert commentary in a national forum could write such a thing.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Phil Hare proposes increased help for soldier's families

Here in the Quad Cities, those of us who have Mediacom cable tv see 5 minute interviews with local newsmakers which are shown every hour or so on the CNN channels. I just saw an interview with our congressman Phil Hare. I was very pleased to hear him talking about a bill he is sponsoring to greatly increase the amount of psychological counseling and other support for our soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.

In my opinion one of biggest under-reported scandals of the Bush Administration is how little support they have provided to our returning military people who have suffered physical and psychological damage in war. Those of us who were around in the 1970s and 1980s remember the thousands of homeless Vietnam War veterans who were unable to productively return to peacetime society because they had been psychologically damaged by their wartime experiences.

There are reasons to believe that there are greater levels of damage being inflicted on our soldiers in Iraq than occured in Vietnam. Very few soldiers served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam and those who did return for a second tour volunteered to do so. Most of the soldiers being sent to Iraq are serving multiple tours, creating unprecedented levels of psychological pressure on the soldiers and their families. The Bush Administration has allocated far too few resources to healing the damage they have caused, exacerbating the problems we will face in the future.

As a society we will be paying for years to come for this misguided "war of choice." I am glad to hear that Phil Hare is on the case, trying to get the help they need to our soldiers and their families.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Did Jdimytai Damour die for your sins?

Temporary Wal-Mart employee Jdimytai Damour of Queens, New York was trampled to death Friday morning when an estimated 2,000 shoppers desperate for bargains broke down the doors of the Wal-Mart store in Valley Stream on Long Island at a 5 a.m. sale. How culpable are you for his death?

If you had been there, hoping to find bargains before they were all snatched up, would you have been part of the group that pushed the store doors off their hinges? If you had seen people laying on the floor beneath the feet of the crowd you were a part of as you entered the store would you have stopped to help them or would you have kept running toward the bargains as did most of the mob?

Do you value life more than bargains? Will you join me and many others who have been refusing to shop on Black Friday as part of the loosely organized Buy Nothing Day Protest? Will you choose life and boycott shopping the day after Thanksgiving next year?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

War on Christmas, 2008 edition

In his Wall Street Journal column on Nov. 20 Daniel Henninger opined:

And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say "Merry Christmas" and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.

This year we celebrate the desacralized "holidays" amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin -- fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man's theory: A nation whose people can't say "Merry Christmas" is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.

If your tolerance of ignorance and stupidity is strong enough go ahead and read the entire column. Henninger claims that his concern is that people are turning their backs on religion and all its virtues when they choose to say ‘Happy Holidays’ rather than ‘Merry Christmas.’ That is an incredibly stupid and ignorant argument, but I am calling Henninger dishonest rather than ignorant and stupid because I don’t think he really cares very much about religion.

First, no Christian is refraining from (or being asked by others to refrain from) saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at home, in church or when addressing non-strangers they know will not be offended. Second, it would be hard at this point for any Christian to ‘desacralizing’ Christmas any more than it already is. Read this for more about that.

I think Henninger’s real concern is that being forced to modify his speech and actions to accommodate other people’s feelings will drain him of his vital forces and undermine his will. He thinks that for America to remain strong militarily and economically he and people like him must not turn into wusses and pansies, which he thinks would be the result of having to censor his speech out of concern for anyone else.

How can Henninger claim that acting out of a concern for the feelings and sensibilities of your neighbors is turning away from Christianity and the virtues of responsibility and restraint? Well, as I said earlier, I don’t think he is really very much concerned with Christianity or with honesty, either.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trend setting Professor Krugman

Just now, as I write this, on the Rachel Maddows show guest host Alison Stewart started her interview with Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman by thanking him for coming on the show. Professor Krugman responded, ‘Sure.’

That caught my attention because a few weeks ago someone wrote into either Dear Abby or Ann Landers complaining that some young people today have no manners because they do not respond to ‘Thank you’ with the polite and proper response of ‘Your welcome.’ That got me thinking about why that is the only correct response. There is no objective reason why the words ‘your’ and ‘welcome’ are any more appropriate a response to a statement of thanks than any other word or phrase. It is just something we have all agreed to. There is no reason we couldn’t or shouldn’t undo that agreement and agree on something else.

For reasons that I cannot explain I would love for ‘You betcha’ to become the new polite and correct response to ‘Thank you.’ But if Nobel Prize winners are going around responding ‘Sure,’ then I suppose that response has the best chance of being adopted as the new standard . Oh well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clinton was a tougher opponent for Obama than McCain

I just finished listening to the podcast of the November 10 edition of NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She was talking to Ryan Lizza of the New Yorker Magazine, who has been covering the Obama campaign for the last 2 years. Terry asked Ryan what the Obama campaign insiders now say about the effect on their campaign of the long and tough primary battle with Hillary Clinton. Lizza said that everyone in the campaign was unanimous about the overwhelmingly beneficial effect of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy on their eventual victory. Having potentially damaging issues, such as Rev. Wright, brought up during the primary season made them easier to deal with than if they had been brought up for the first time just before the general election. Also the Obama Campaign’s internal polling showed that, thanks to the lengthy primary campaign, by the time of the nominating conventions the public had a much clearer picture of who Obama was than they did of McCain, who had an easier and shorter path to the nomination.

Back in February many blogs, including this one, were worried that Hillary Clinton, by continuing her doomed campaign, ran the risk of lessening Barack Obama’s chances of winning in November. It now appears that we were wrong about that. Mea culpa.

Of course we were not the only ones that had worries at that time that turned out to be unfounded. Remember that Hillary Clinton and her supporters were claiming the McCain and the Republicans would be tougher and have more damaging and more difficult-to-deal-with attacks against Obama than he was currently facing from her in the primaries. That turned out not to be true. McCain refused to allow his campaign to even mention Rev. Wright, because he did not want to play the race card.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Miriam Makeba 1932 - 2008

The New York Times reports

Miriam Makeba, a South African singer whose voice stirred hopes of freedom among millions in her own country though her music was formally banned by the apartheid authorities she struggled against, died early Monday after performing at a concert in Italy. She was 76.

Read complete article

Here is a video of Miriam Makeba singing Pata Pata

As we remember her, listen to her music and watch recordings of performances such as the one above she will live forever and be with us always.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

New taxes and restrictions on auto sales?

Because of economic woes many American industries, including automobile manufacturing and sales, are hurting but the firearms business is booming. According to the Guardian:

Starting in the days before the election, gun shops have been mobbed by buyers who fear that Obama and a larger Democratic majority in Congress will restrict firearm sales.

Many were stocking up on things such as assault rifles, high-capacity magazines and handguns that they think would be the most likely targets of new laws, though practically everything related to shooting has been selling more quickly.

"It's been an absolute madhouse," said Trey Pugh, a manager at Jim's Pawn Shop in Fayetteville, which is selling 15 to 20 AR-15 assault rifles a day. "I'm getting guys come in and say I always wanted that gun, and give me that one too and that one and, oh, I need a gun safe, too."

New restrictions on gun sales have not been something Barack Obama has proposed and there is little reason to think that this issue will be on the agenda of the Barack Obama presidency or the Democratic majority in Congress. So gun buyers’ concerns appear to be irrational fears fueled by unfounded rumors, being spread (and perhaps originated) by the gun retailers themselves.

As an employee of a company that sells to automobile dealers and is being negatively impacted by the drop in automobile sales I would like to warn the public about the possibility of new restrictions and taxes that may be imposed on the sales of automobiles, perhaps in an attempt to combat global warming. [There is little objective evidence that this could happen but who knows what the future holds?] In order to avoid new taxes and price increases that could happen in a future that no one can predict I think the public would be well advised to make their automobile purchases sooner rather than later. Be sure to pass this advice on to your friends and neighbors.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Republicans praise Rahm Emanuel

Barack Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel as his White House Chief of Staff has drawn some criticism from people claiming Emanuel has been partisan and divisive. Some Republicans who have worked with Emanuel in the Congress disagree with that assessment.

According to the Washington Times Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel 'wise' and added that:

Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together.

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted retiring Representative Tom Davis, R-Va:

I can't think of a better choice. What's the old saying? You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose? (Rahm) understands the poetry, but he can translate it into prose. He is a practical guy who understands politics as well as policy.

Bloomberg.com quoted retiring Illinois Republican, Ray LaHood:

This idea that Rahm is a guy who can't get along with Republicans is just not true. The truth is in politics, you can count your friends on one or two hands, but he's been a true friend… The idea that he's just a trash-talking, hard-core Chicago pol does not reflect who the man really is.

So if these Republicans who have worked with Emanuel in the Congress say that he is perfectly capable of working amicably and productively with Republicans why are others saying something different?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fear of an Obama Presidency

My brother, who is a sixth grade teacher in the public schools in the Rockford area, just emailed me about what happened in his classroom the day after the election:

The majority of students in my class, those whose parents voted for Obama, could not enjoy a moment of glory because two students who were strong Republicans were terribly distressed, telling fellow students that they were going to have to leave our school and flee with their parents to Canada when President Obama started destroying our country. Other students were concerned and sympathetic to the fear felt by their fellow students.

I saw that this fear, pressed upon these children by ****** parents, was real, lasting, and not a ploy or act on the student's part.

In his Concession Speech Tuesday evening John McCain seemed to be trying to put back into Cassandra’s Box all the unwarranted fear and hatred of an Obama presidency that his campaign had unleashed, but obviously it is not going to be that easy. Of all the damage that has been inflicted onto this country the past 8 years, this unreasonable and unwarranted suspicion and fear of Obama held by those who drank the McCain/Palin Campaign Kool-aid may turn out to be among the most destructive of all. If this distrust of Obama cannot be overcome it will undermine the unity needed to get the country back on track and solve our dire and urgent economic, environmental and international security, prestige and moral authority problems.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Candidate defends himself against baseless smears

Thank God the election is over. We all heard candidates being accused of being unpatriotic, friends with terrorists, Muslims and socialists. I have just become aware of an even more astounding accusation. Out in Montana Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown had to defend himself against accusations that he was a vegetarian:

"I am disgusted by the baseless allegation that I am a vegetarian and that my personal eating habits should somehow be construed as opposed to the economic interests of Montana's livestock industry."

Brown did say that he and his family temporarily cut back on their consumption of meat and dairy products 25 years ago when they were caring for a dying loved one who couldn't eat those products.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

2008 Mexican Day of the Dead, Figge Art Museum

[click on photo to see it full sized.]

An altar honoring victims of domestic violence. The altar was created by the group "Healing Waters," director Shelley Guy, for the 2008 Mexican Day of the Dead Altar Display at the Figge Art Museaum, Davenport, Iowa.

[Please click on photo to see it full sized.]

An altar honoring womean murdered during a wave of murders in Mexican border towns in recent years. The altar was created by artist and college professor Jesus Pastor of Cortazar, Guanajuato, Mexico who has been a visiting artist in the Quad Cities for the past month.

Members of the Quad Cities Ballet Folklorico perform as part of the 2008 Mexican Day of the Dead Festival on November 2 at the Figge Art Museaum

'Palling around' with terrorists

Check out this memoir from a progressive public health professional about how he ended up "palling around" with Weather Underground terrorists in the late 1960s.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bad news for Obama?

As of October 31 the polls show that all the states where Barack Obama has more than a 9% lead add up to 264 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win. That list includes New Mexico (+10%), Iowa (+12%), Pennsylvania (+11%) and New Hampshire (+13%). Assuming that Obama will win those states (a fairly safe assumption, it is hard to imagine a shift of 10% in 4 days) then John McCain would have to win almost all the states where Obama has less than a 10% lead in order to win the election. To get to 270 John McCain would have to win all the states where he leads in the polls plus Ohio (6% Obama) and Virginia (7% Obama) and North Carolina (2% Obama) and Florida (3% Obama) and Missouri (1% Obama). Any one of those 5 states would put Obama over the top – McCain has to take them all. Source: electoral-vote.com

With that reality in mind take a look at the spin McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis is putting on recent developments in a memo to McCain’s supporters yesterday:

Expanding the Field: Obama is running out of states if you follow out a traditional model. Today, he expanded his buy into North Dakota, Georgia and Arizona in an attempt to widen the playing field and find his 270 Electoral Votes. This is a very tall order and trying to expand into new states in the final hours shows he doesn't have the votes to win.

Yes, according to the McCain Campaign the fact that the formerly solid Republican states of North Dakota, Georgia and Arizona are suddenly in play and being contested by the Democrats is bad news for Obama.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Charlie Gibson thinks early voters subvert the process

I was watching the ABC evening news and was amazed to hear Charlie Gibson tell George Stephanopoulos that a troubling thing about early voting was that people were voting before the campaign was over. Voters who waited until election day to make their selection had more information than the early voters, Charlie fretted.

My immediate reaction was that Gibson must think that political campaigns are like movies and voting is a way of rating or judging the campaign in the same way that reviewers rate films. Charlie Gibson must think that early voting is like writing a review of a movie even though you had not seen the whole thing.

What a ridiculous way to view the process by which we select our leaders, as if the whole purpose was to select the candidate with the best campaign rather than the best candidate or as if we assumed the best campaigner necessarily would be the best office holder, or something.

But after mulling it over for a while I realized that Charlie Gibson was just reflecting the world view of the Advertising Industry which pays his salary. Modern political campaign, with their highly paid professional consultants, are just an extension of that industry. Charlie Gibson is serving the interests of those who pay his salary by trying to convince the public to vote for the candidate who has spent the most money hiring campaign professionals.

"Tell me how you keep this straight?"

Oh dear. Once again we in the Quad Cities are presenting ourselves to the whole world, which is closely following this presidential race, as ignorant bumpkins. Here is an actual letter to the editor published in today's Quad City Times:

I am confused how anyone could consider voting for president of the United States a man who has lived in Jakarta, Indonesia, had a Muslim stepfather and attended a Muslim school half a world away.

What we are taught as children during our formative years continues to influence us the rest of our lives. This effect troubles me. In fact, even his name confuses me at times. I have a difficult time remembering if his name is Obama or Osama?

Perhaps you could tell me how you keep this straight?

Michael Elmore


Since you asked, Michael, my guess is that you have been listening to right-wing talk radio and that is the source of your confusion. It is quite simple, really. Barack Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, United States Senator, running for president who drew crowds of more than 100,000 people in recent rallies in St. Louis and Denver. He will be on your presidential ballot, listed as a Democrat. Osama bin Laden is a Saudi national, who at last report was living in a cave in or near Afghanistan. He will not be on the ballot. If someone tries to confuse you again on this matter, my advice is to stop listening to them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Write to Marry Day

In honor of my California in-laws I want to urge every California voter to go all the way down the ballot and vote No on Proposition 8!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Right wing hacks repeat discredited lies

A local conservative blog is again making reference to claims that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that the Hawaiian birth certificate his campaign has released is a forgery. This is only a “continuing controversy” because right wing hacks continue to repeat these baseless claims in spite of the fact that they have been thoroughly and repeatedly debunked.

As repeatedly documented by Media Matters:

...the Obama campaign has posted a copy of Obama's birth certificate on its "Fight the Smears" website and reportedly provided the original to FactCheck.org, whose staff concluded in an August 21 post that it "meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship." A Hawaii Health Department official also reportedly confirmed to PolitiFact.com that Obama's birth certificate is valid.

Even right-wing sites like WorldNetDaily have looked into this and concluded that the claim that the birth certificate is a forgery has been discredited.

Why do people continue to read and listen to blowhards who knowingly repeat lies? Does the concept of credibility even exist anymore? By any reasonable standard these false rumor-mongers should by now be so thoroughly discredited that they would have sunk into richly deserved obscurity never to be heard from again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why pro-life Conservatives should vote for Obama

I had been wondering if there were any true Conservatives anymore. You know, ones that think traditional Conservative principles like small government, fiscal responsibility, distrust of government power, etc. are more important than being partisan Republicans. I think I may have spotted a few in this video.

I was especially struck by the fellow that said he was pro-life but was putting that on hold for this election and voting to save the country in hopes that the pro-life/pro-choice thing can perhaps be worked out some time in the future.

Maybe the best thing the pro-life movement could do would be to make a public show of voting for Obama on that basis. What good does it do them to go down to defeat with McCain/Palin? If enough of them publicly state that they are voting for Obama in order to be able to continue the pro-life fight in the future then an Obama victory is no longer a defeat for the pro-life cause. Think about it.

A video from the Creativity Campaign

Have you seen this yet?

Vote Barack!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin is McCain's chief liability

Nothing shows how disconnected John McCain’s supporters have become from the majority of Americans than their enthusiasm for Sarah Palin. According to one recent poll 47 percent of Americans view her negatively and only 38 percent positively. As pointed out by AmericaBlog.com, in the just released NBC poll when likely voters were asked their biggest concern about John McCain 34% responded that their chief worry is that Sarah Palin is not qualified. A distant second in the list of concerns, 24% worried that John McCain will continue George W. Bush’s policies. The choice of Sarah Palin is a greater liability for John McCain than George W. Bush!

And yet McCain’s supporters think Sarah Palin is just the greatest! How weird is that?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Seeing racism in Powell's endorsement

The above cartoon is by syndicated conservative cartoonist Gordon Campbell who said that Colin Powell only endorsed Barack Obama because he “wishes to see someone who looks like himself in the White House.” Others who dismissed Powell's stated reasons and confidently told us that race was the only factor were Rush Limbaugh, George Will and Pat Buchanan.

It is hard to imagine what more Colin Powell could have done during his lifetime of service to this country and to the Republican Party to prove that he does not see the world through a prism of racism. It is hard to imagine what more Colin Powell could have done to have deserved to be taken at his word now, especially by the Republicans he has so self-sacrificingly served. If Powell is more offended by racist attacks on Barack Obama and on Muslims than are most white Americans because of his lifetime of experience as a black man, as I have doubt that he is, that is not racism. Colin Powell stated his reasons for breaking with the Republican Party in this election. He deserves to be taken at his word.

The racism that Gordon Campbell, Rush Limbaugh, George Will, Pat Buchanan and others have detected in this situation is their own.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Artifical Intelligence and the Turing Test

While reading a blog entry about Artificial Intelligence this morning it suddenly struck me how the Turing Test, a commonly advocated test for determining whether a computer program has achieved intelligence, is like supreme court judge Potter Stewart’s test for pornography, “I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it.”

In the Turing Test a computer program converses by teletype with a human being who does not know whether it is a human or computer on the other end of the line. The computer program passes the test if the humans with which it interacts thinks they are talking to another human being.

It is strange and telling that no better test for intelligence has been proposed, since this is a test for imitating human beings rather than intelligence itself. On the original Star Trek television show an alien named Dr. Spock was portrayed as much more intelligent than humans in many ways but his lack of human type emotions and experiences was a constant barrier between him and the rest of the crew. It is obvious that as intelligent as he was he would never pass the Turing Test. As much as he desired to have a good relationship with the other crew members his inability to simulate human emotions enough to pass was a constant irritant.

As a computer programmer I know that completely understanding the task to be programmed is necessary to successfully create the program. The less completely you understand the problem and its possible solutions the less successful your program will be. It is true that in some situations you can start off without complete knowledge and learn more about the problem as a result of trying things that fail. Eventually you may gain enough knowledge through repeated failures to finally succeed but at that point you understand the problem and solution thoroughly.

When we fully understand intelligence and consciousness we will be able to create computer programs that are intelligent and conscious and not one minute before. When we reach that point I am sure that we will have much better tests for intelligence than the Turing Test. There is much more to intelligence than acting like a human being.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who won last night's debate?

I would have thought that the only conceivable basis for judging who “won” last night’s presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain was which candidate converted the most undecided voters into supporters. On that basis it was no contest. Barack Obama overwhelmingly won. See here for a good analysis of how undecided voters' reacted to the debate.

But the tv network talking heads who provided instant analysis immediately following the debate must have had some other criteria. If you figure out what that was could you let me know?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who won the first 3 debates?

Who won the Palin/Biden debate and the first two McCain/Obama debates? The vast majority of the experts who discussed it in the media immediately following the debates seemed to think they were basically draws – no clear winner. But those were all opinions. What are the facts?

As reported in this morning’s New York Times the latest Times/CBS News poll show a 14 point lead for Barack Obama.

After several weeks in which the McCain campaign unleashed a series of strong political attacks on Mr. Obama, trying to tie him to a former 1960s radical, among other things, the poll found that more voters see Mr. McCain as waging a negative campaign than Mr. Obama. Six in 10 voters surveyed said that Mr. McCain had spent more time attacking Mr. Obama than explaining what he would do as president; by about the same number, voters said Mr. Obama was spending more of his time explaining than attacking.

Over all, the poll found that if the election were held today, 53 percent of those determined to be probable voters said they would vote for Mr. Obama and 39 percent said they would vote for Mr. McCain.
Read the entire article.

Remember that up until the debates the polls showed the race to be pretty much a dead heat. Also remember that the elections of 2000 and 2004 were extremely close, both in the popular vote and in the Electoral College. For the Democrats to have opened up a double digit lead in 3 weeks shows that the debates were a total disaster for McCain/Palin and a stunning victory for Obama/Biden.

As all the experts discuss tonight’s debate will they acknowledge how incorrect their analysis of the previous 3 debates has turned out to be? Not likely. Being accountable for performance is apparently just for school teachers and administrators.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More about Rev. Arnold Conrad

A little sleuthing on the internet, see here and here, reveals that the Dr. Arnold Conrad who delivered the invocation at the McCain rally in Davenport on Saturday is the current interim minister at Bethany Baptist church in Moline and holds a Doctor of Ministry Degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. This supposedly highly educated man said "there are millions of people around this world praying to their god - whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah …" and was worried that if their prayers were answered they would think their god was "bigger" than the "God of the Bible."

Well, I don't hold any advanced degrees in religion and even I know that there is no god named "Hindu" or "Buddha" and "Allah" is another name for the "God of the Bible." There are many Hindu gods but none of them are named "Hindu". Buddhists do not have a god – Buddha was just an enlightened man. Muslims believe that Jews, Christians and Muslims are people of the book, worshiping the same god. (Jews and Christians may not agree with that, but no Muslim would ever think that "their god" was different than the god of the Christian Bible.)

So, what exactly are they teaching at Trinity Evangelical and on what basis do they award doctorates?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Davenport minister causes controversy

Updated below

The Quad Cities is getting some dubious national exposure thanks to John McCain and Rev. Arnold Conrad. At John McCain's rally today in Davenport, Iowa, Rev Conrad, former pastor of Grace Evangelical Free Church, delivered the invocation. According to the Iowa Independent this was what was said:

I would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god - whether it's Hindu, Buddha, Allah - that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons," Conrad said.

And Lord, I pray that you would guard your own reputation, because they're going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and Election Day."

Can you believe that?! This joker is claiming that because non-Christians around the world are hoping for an Obama victory in November, the Christian God's reputation and honor is at stake in this election!

As Obama's election becomes more likely these people are getting more desperate and deranged.

Update: According to the QuadCities Times Rev. Arnold when questioned after the rally offered this clarification:

Arnold told the Times later that he wasn’t referring to any particular candidate and that he probably misspoke. “My prayer had nothing to do with either candidate,” he said. “My point was these people are praying that the person of their choice wins. If that happens, then they’re going to ascribe to their God that power, that their God made it happen as opposed to the God of the Bible.”

We were not told the question he was asked but I don't see how that can be the right answer to any question. He really seems to believe that non-Christians around the world would interpret an Obama victory as a victory of their god over the "God of the Bible." But doesn't he realize that the Muslim god is the "God of the Bible?" Doesn't he realize that Buddhists don't have a god?

If non-Christian's wishes coming true would be intrepreted as a victory for "their God" as "opposed to the God of the Bible" why are only their wishes about this election a problem? Wouldn't any of their wishes about anything coming true be just as much ascribed to "their God.. as opposed to the God of the Bible?" According to his argument wouldn't we have to try to keep any non-Christian's wishes from coming true to prevent a perceived defeat for "the God of the Bible?"

A lesson I learned from my Indian Guru

McCain and Palin have been saying that Barak Obama sees this country differently from you and me and pals around with terrorists. At least some of their supporters have made the inference from those statements that Obama himself is a terrorist. See here and here. The threats of violence against Barack Obama from riled-up crowds at McCain/Palin rallies have unnerved a lot of people including some Republicans. Here is an example from this morning's Quad City Times.

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood has a message for his party's presidential ticket: Tone it down.

LaHood, a Republican from Peoria, Ill., who is retiring in January after seven terms, told a Chicago radio station Friday that some McCain-Palin rallies are unbecoming to Republicans.

In particular, he pointed to shouts of "terrorist" that have come from the audience when vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin has talked about Democrat Barack Obama, the U.S. senator from Illinois.

"This doesn't befit the office that she's running for. And, frankly, people don't like it," LaHood told WBBM-AM.

Read the entire article.

In response to sentiments such as these from other Republicans and perhaps from his own sense of growing unease with what he has unleashed, yesterday John McCain started contradicting his own supporters who think Obama is a terrorist. See here. In response to a woman in the audience at his rally yesterday who said she feared an Obama presidency because Obama is an Arab, McCain said that Obama is a decent American and a family man and that no one should fear an Obama presidency.

This reminds me of the Indian guru I followed for a while in the 1970s. When he was hyping an upcoming meditation course, for which attendants would pay a sizeable fee, he would describe the importance of the course in cosmic terms – world peace and the very future of the universe depended on the number of people attending. Inevitable some followers dropped everything to attend, neglecting important family and business responsibilities. When reports of these unfortunate situations reached the guru he was perplexed. "Don't these people have any common sense?" he asked.

Republicans should learn from McCain the same lesson I learned from my Indian guru. Some people say things they don't believe themselves and if you believe them they will think you are a fool.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

And peace to you, too

Check out this photo!

Taco Dinner Fundraiser Tonight

The Moline Township Democrats are holding a Taco Dinner Fundraiser at the Moline American Legion Hall, 1623 15th St., from 5:00 to 7:30 pm. today, Wednesday, Oct. 8. Dinner tickets, which can be purchased at the door, are $7.00/$6.00 for seniors.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Day of the Dead at the Figge, Nov. 2

The thing you need to understand about the Mexican Day of the Dead (otherwise known as November 2, All Souls Day) is that the skulls and skeletons are not meant to be scary or spooky as they are when used in American Halloween decorations. The skeletons symbolize those who have died, our loved ones who have passed on. Leading up to the Day of the Dead, Mexicans set up altars in their homes honoring those who have died. On the Day of the Dead they gather at the cemetery to decorate the graves of their loved ones and to have a picnic.

These designs have been created by Moline graphic artist Rafael Gonzales and donated to Moline’s Casa Guanajuato. There will be T-Shirts with these designs printed on them for sale (as a fundraiser for Casa Guanajuato) at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport Nov. 2, 2008 as part of this year’s Day of the Dead festival. There will be a display of altars similar to the ones Mexicans create in their homes as well as Mexican music and food and dancing by the Quad Cities Ballet Folklorico.

Artist Jesus Pastor from Cortazar, Guanajuato, Mexico, who has been sponsored by the Cultural Institute of the state of Guanajuato and the city government of Cortazar to spend a month in the Quad Cities, will give a lecture on the meaning and symbolism of the Day of Dead. Between now and then Senor Pastor will be designing and building an altar to be displayed at the Figge honoring the more than 70 women who have been murdered during the last few years around Juarez as well as those who have died in the desert coming from Mexico to the United States. From what he has said about his plans for the altar it promises to be stunning and magnificent.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Iraq still the winning issue for Obama/Biden

The conventional wisdom endlessly repeated in the media is that Iraq has faded as an issue in this election and that the voters are much more concerned about the economy. Well, they may be concerned about the economy but according to the undecided voter's instant reactions to the vice-presidential debate last night they still have very strong feelings about Iraq.

As reported by Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com:

After the presidential debate last week, GOP pollster Frank Luntz said on Fox that, among undecided voters, Obama's strongest moments and McCain's weakest came when they clashed on Iraq, and later said that it is simply impossible for the GOP to win any debate on Iraq. Last night, GOP strategist Alex Castellanos on CNN said after the debate: "You know, Republicans aren't going to win debates on Iraq. I don't care who you put on that stage tonight, we're not going to win debates on Iraq, and we didn't tonight." And most notably, the best reaction Biden produced from the CBS focus group was when he demanded withdrawal from Iraq, and the worst reaction Sarah Palin produced was when she then spat out her tired right-wing slogan that Obama's withdrawal "plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq."

Undecided voters in CBS's focus group who were turning dials to record their second-by-second reactions to the debate twisted the Sarah Palin dial sharply toward maximum disapproval when she labeled a call for the US to withdraw from Iraq "a white flag of surrender."

John McCain had no trouble throwing out a lifetime of being against government regulation of business and markets to become a born-again regulator. But he apparently cannot abandon his support for our occupation of Iraq in spite of its unpopularity with the public and his sinking poll numbers.

What sort of people are these Republicans? It sometimes seems as though they would do anything to win an election, but obviously there is one thing they will not do—advocate withdrawing our troops from Iraq. What sort of values are these?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Family Man Barack

In general I think that people should decide for whom to vote based on the issues and political philosophy rather than on personality and "feeling your pain." But in this video you can see that Barack Obama is a true family man who really likes babies in a way that only a proud and devoted father does. Contrast his demeanor with the smoldering "Yosemite Sam" anger that John McCain has been showing lately.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Banned Book Week

The American Library Association has declared this week, September 27–October 4 2008, as National Banned Book Week. In honor of that and my aunt and sister-in-law who are librarians, here is a list compiled by the American Library Association of the "10 Most Challenged Books of 2007" along with the reasons given for why some people thought they should not be read.

1) "And Tango Makes Three," by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War," by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) "Olive's Ocean," by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) "The Golden Compass," by Philip Pullman
Reasons:  Religious Viewpoint

5) "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain
Reasons:  Racism

6) "The Color Purple," by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL," by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou
Reasons:  Sexually Explicit

9) "It's Perfectly Normal," by Robie Harris
Reasons:  Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons:  Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

My personal choice for the greatest book ever written is number 5 on the list, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." My brothers and I still fondly remember my father reading it to us when we were little. We did not realize at the time what a subversive act that would later appear to be, in today's political climate. (My father also read to us from "Gulliver's Travels," which must only have escaped the book banner's attention by some oversight. It also is an extremely subversive book, full of ideas that some people would think were especially unsuitable for children.)

Defy the book banners by reading one of these books this week. If there is a child in your life who has not yet begun to read on her/his own then emulate my father and read it to her/him.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama: McCain had nothing to say about the middle class.

You have probably already read and heard a lot of opinions on last night's debate. Here is Barack Obama's take on it, in a speech today at Greensboro, North Carolina:

The truth is, through ninety minutes of debating, John McCain had a lot to say about me, but he had nothing to say about you. He didn't even say the words "middle class." Not once.

You see, I think Senator McCain just doesn't get it – he doesn't get that this crisis on Wall Street hit Main Street a long time ago. That's why his first response to the greatest fiscal meltdown in generations was to say that the "fundamentals of the economy are strong." That's why he's been shifting positions these last two weeks, looking for a photo-op, and trying to figure out what to say and what to do.

See a transcription of the entire speech here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Breaking news – McCain’s proposing a tax increase on the middle class

Almost all of John McCain's supporters and defenders in the Main-Stream Media have now deserted him. The latest defector is the Associated Press, which until recently had been consistently putting a pro-McCain slant on all its coverage of the campaign. The incredible events of the last few days must have been the straw that broke the camel's back over at the A.P. Check out this A.P. story that just appeared in the latest news headline stories on the 'My Yahoo' website.

Voters whose bottom line is taxes can use a new online tool to calculate what their own bottom line would be with the IRS under a Barack Obama or John McCain administration. ….

For example, the model indicates that a couple with two children earning $100,000 with $20,000 in itemized deductions would have a net tax bill for 2009 of $9,555 under McCain and $9,002 under Obama. That compares with a $9,505 tax bill for this couple under current law, the electiontaxes.com site says. In another example, a single taxpayer making $50,000 and using the standard deduction would pay $6,867 under McCain and $6,325 under Obama, compared with $6,827 under current law.
Read entire article.

It is hard to imagine anything more damaging to McCain's chances of winning the votes of still undecided voters with yearly incomes less than $200,000 than to point out that their taxes would be lower under Barack Obama's tax plan than they would under John McCain's. In fact, for most taxpayers McCain's plan would be a tax increase over what they are currently paying while Obama's would be a tax cut. These facts contradict everything McCain has been saying in his television ads about his and Obama's tax plans so this story efficiently and effectively demonstrates that not only does McCain favor the rich at the expense of the middle class but his entire campaign is built on lies.

Since neither McCain nor Obama have changed their tax plans recently one can wonder what about this story is "breaking news." My guess is that A.P.'s sudden realization of what their former hero John McCain has become is the breaking news being announced in this story.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A rash and impulsive conservative?

The idea that the economic situation facing the country was so grave that presidential candidates should not campaign probably did not even occur to either Herbert Hoover or Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 at the beginning of the Great Depression. Yet John McCain, a man who calls himself a conservative, is taking the radical, non-cautious, non-prudent, unprecedented step of suspending his campaign and calling for candidate's debates to be delayed or canceled. When are true conservatives going to emerge to denounce this imposter?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Quaker Lobby

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad is currently in New York to address the United Nations. On Thursday, the Iranian president will be the honored guest at an Iftar dinner--the ceremonial breaking of the Ramadan fast--at the New York Grand Hyatt Hotel. That meal is sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee, the Mennonite Central Committee, Quaker United Nations Office, Religions for Peace, and the World Council of Churches-United Nations Liaison Office According to the invitation, the assembled guests--including Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Rev. Kjell Bondevik, former Prime Minister of Norway and President of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights--will hold a "conversation about the role of religions in tackling global challenges and building peaceful societies."

As you would expect, given the current United States political climate, something so civilized and decent as religious groups reaching out to a Muslim leader to discuss peace has drawn some criticism. One of the funniest things I have read lately was an article at The New Republic website by James Kirchick which actually uses the phrase "the Quaker lobby" to describe a force in our society the writer feels needs to be opposed. Be sure to read the comments to the article. Here is one of the best comments:

The worst part is the Quaker Lobby is so influential. It's so bad these days that a politician can't even call for a war for fear of the Quaker Lobby. Even a hint of war-mongering and they start yelling about "anti-Quakerism." It's too bad they so skew the debate that we can't even talk about war rationally any more. I mean, what if there is a genuine threat to our national security, shouldn't we at least be able to consider the use of force? But no. Our Congressmen and women are reduced to banal pro-Quaker sentiments on the floor of the House and Senate. It's kind of sad. I'm glad you are calling them out on it though Jamie. Keep up the good fight!

And this one:

It's well known that the Quaker lobby has many members of the United States government in their back pockets. The U.S. gives more monetary and military aid to Quakerstan than to any other nation. Their super-secret Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations--the Oatmen--routinely carries out assassinations all over the world, and has frequently been found to be spying on the United States government and military.

Don't misunderstand me. Many of my best friends are Friends. Quakers are often skilled, learned professionals. The fact that many of those currently playing hacky-sack with the U.S. financial system are Quakers is sheer coincidence, and more a testament to their hard work, intelligence, and respect for education. Quaker families and traditions are a model for us all.

However, American foreign policy suffers when any one group possesses undue influence. Thus it behooves us to follow Mr. Kirchick's lead and keep a close watch on the nefarious Quaker lobby.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Who is to blame?

According to what the U.S. Treasury Secretary has been telling everyone the world banking system will collapse unless immediate and unprecedented action is taken. This crisis has as its basis securities being held by the banks that turn out to be worth much less than was expected because a much higher percentage of the home mortgages upon which the securities were based are turning out to be bad than was anticipated. Apparently this situation is going to cost the taxpayers billions of dollars. Who should be blamed?

Judging by the comments my last few blog entries have received many people think the primary responsibility rests with the home buyer.

Assume we are talking about the majority of mortgages which were taken out by home buyers who were not real estate or finance professionals. When every one of those bad mortgages were created there were a number of people in the room, everyone of whom other than the borrower was a professional with a responsibility, either to the bank that would end up holding the mortgage or to the home buyer, to help write a mortgage that would be successfully repaid. Everyone in that room, except the borrower, got paid in full at that time for their contribution to that process. How in God's name can the primary blame for their failure to write a good mortgage rest with the home buyer?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Banks, but not homeowners, to be rescued

U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson was just interviewed by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." One of the most amazing, at least to me, things he said was in answer to Stephanopoulos' queries about foreclosure relief. He was asked what the American public would get in return for the billions of taxpayer dollars being given to the banks? Could individual Americans facing home foreclosure receive any relief as part of this package?

In reply the Treasury secretary said that the vast majority of Americans facing foreclosure were in that position because they had bought more house than they could afford. Although they paid more for the house than it is now worth that, according to the secretary, is not why they are facing foreclosure. Although they got a higher interest loan, a variable rate loan, a balloon loan that was not the best loan then available that, according to the secretary, has nothing to do with it. Nothing could possibly be done to keep them in their homes because, even if as part of this package they were refinanced at the current market value of their house with a 30 year mortgage at a fixed rate that is the best now available for them, they could not make those payments because they simply bought more house than they could afford. The housing bubble had nothing to do with it. The fact that loan agents were incentivized to steer borrowers to higher rate, variable rate, riskier loans had nothing to do with it.

Do you find that believable?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Obama described as the ideal conservative candidate

John McCain and his supporters constantly describe Barack Obama as the "most liberal member of the U.S. Senate." This claim has not received as much attention from the fact-checkers and debunkers as McCain's charge that Obama wants to teach kids about sex before they can read or that Obama called Palin a pig, but that is not because it is any less untrue.

Like Diogenes looking in vain for an honest man I have been waiting for an honest conservative to admit what is obvious to me -- that in many very important ways Barack Obama is much more conservative than either George W. Bush or John McCain. He is much less reckless and impulsive and much more thoughtful, careful, realistic and family, community and church-oriented than any Republican currently on the national stage.

I have found such a conservative - Wick Allison, a former publisher of the National Review. This is what Allison had to say in a recent editorial:

But I now see that Obama is almost the ideal candidate for this moment in American history. I disagree with him on many issues. But those don’t matter as much as what Obama offers, which is a deeply conservative view of the world. Nobody can read Obama’s books (which, it is worth noting, he wrote himself) or listen to him speak without realizing that this is a thoughtful, pragmatic, and prudent man. It gives me comfort just to think that after eight years of George W. Bush we will have a president who has actually read the Federalist Papers.

Most important, Obama will be a realist. I doubt he will taunt Russia, as McCain has, at the very moment when our national interest requires it as an ally. The crucial distinction in my mind is that, unlike John McCain, I am convinced he will not impulsively take us into another war unless American national interests are directly threatened.
Read entire article.

If the government is going to buy up those bad mortgages…

Yesterday the Dow jumped 410 points on news that the federal government was talking about a plan to use taxpayer money to buy hundreds of billions of dollars of bad mortgages. According to the New York Times:

While details remain to be worked out, the plan is likely to authorize the government to buy distressed mortgages at deep discounts from banks and other institutions. The proposal could result in the most direct commitment of taxpayer funds so far in the financial crisis that Fed and Treasury officials say is the worst they have ever seen.

I would like to pass on some suggestions from someone I know who has been trying to help people in danger of losing their homes through foreclosure. Many of these mortgages are bad (the borrower cannot make the payments) not because the borrower bought a more expensive house than they could afford but because the terms of the loan were so unfavorable. If these mortgages were converted to fixed rate, 30 year loans at a reasonable interest rate that alone would transform them from problem mortgages into loans that could and would be repaid.

In situations in which the mortgage is for more than the house is now worth and the borrower cannot afford the current payments but could afford a mortgage for what the house is now worth why not have the government forgive the portion of the mortgage above the current market value? If the government bought the mortgage at a "deep discount" then it would likely still be worth more than the government paid for it. It would not be to anyone's advantage for the government to foreclose on a mortgage, leaving a family homeless and the government owning an empty house.

Perhaps there would be reasons why these things could not be done, but they sure seem reasonable to me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The rain in Spain falls mainly on McCain

In a story that does not yet seem to getting much play in the United States but is a very big story in Spain, in an interview with a Spanish television network John McCain amazed the interviewer by appearing to not know whether the Spanish prime minister Zapatero was an anti-American leader like Hugo Chavez that he would refuse to meet with or a pro-American leader with whom he would consult.

As reported in the Talking Points Memo blog:

…In the interview, McCain is asked about Hugo Chavez, the situation in Bolivia and then about Raul Castro. He responds to each of these with expected answers about standing up to America's enemies, etc. Then the interviewer switches gears and asks about Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister. And McCain replies -- very loose translation -- that he'll establish close relations with our friends and stand up to those who want to do us harm. The interviewer has a double take and seems to think McCain might be confused. So she asks it again. But McCain sticks to the same evasive answer.

The people of Spain are saying that if McCain thinks it is possible that the Spanish prime minister might be an anti-American leader similar to Hugo Chavez that he must not know that Spain is a country in Europe. Spain and all the other European NATO countries rightly consider themselves to be staunch American allies and apparently assume that Americans feel the same way. They must not fully comprehend how stupid Republicans have been lately about Europe. This is somewhat good news because it means that President Obama might have an easier job of repairing relations between the United States and our European allies than would otherwise be the case.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is the future of political commentary at stake?

Several commentators (see here and here) have pointed out that the McCain/Palin campaign is a trailblazer in prevarication. It is quite common for the media to fact-check claims made by political candidates and find that some of them fall short of the truth. Always before when this happened the campaign dropped the statement once it had been widely reported in the media to be untrue. Not this time. The McCain/Palin campaign continues to say that Sarah Palin opposed the bridge-to-nowhere and said "No thanks" to the Congressional earmark for that project even after that was widely reported to be a lie. McCain continues to describe Palin as someone who fought against earmarks as mayor and governor and continues to claim that Obama called Palin a pig – claims that have been widely debunked.

This has caused a number of commentators (see here and here) to wonder what the effect would be if after continuing to repeat things exposed as lies in the media the Republicans went on to win the presidency in November. In addition to all the other negative effects this would have it would conclusively demonstrate that political commentary in the media is totally irrelevant and can safely be ignored.

Have the media political commentators, as well as other political professionals, contemplated the implications of that scenario? Is the future of their profession now at stake in this election?

The conservatives have been claiming for a long time that the media was "liberal" and against them, but up until now that claim was untrue and was just a tactic for intimidating the media. It would be interesting to see the how the conservatives react if the media now really turned against them - (for eample see here and here).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Former McCain lapdogs in media turn on him

Check out Richard Cohen's column scheduled to be published tomorrow in the Washington Post but available now online.

I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain. Guilty. Those doing the accusing usually attributed my feelings to McCain being accessible. This is the journalist-as-puppy school of thought: Give us a treat, and we will leap into a politician's lap.

Not so. What impressed me most about McCain was the effect he had on his audiences, particularly young people. When he talked about service to a cause greater than oneself, he struck a chord. He expressed his message in words, but he packaged it in the McCain story -- that man, beaten to a pulp, who chose honor over freedom. This had nothing to do with access. It had to do with integrity.

McCain has soiled all that. His opportunistic and irresponsible choice of Sarah Palin as his political heir -- the person in whose hands he would leave the country -- is a form of personal treason, a betrayal of all he once stood for. Palin, no matter what her other attributes, is shockingly unprepared to become president. McCain knows that. He means to win, which is all right; he means to win at all costs, which is not.

Read entire column.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

If elected what would be McCain’s mandate?

Thomas Friedman has an interesting column in today's New York Times. I usually try to ignore Friedman because I so dislike his amorality. (He supported invading Iraq even though he knew they had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no threat to us. He thought a U.S military invasion of some random Muslim country as a demonstration of our might would make an impression on the Arab psyche that would be beneficial to us.) Thomas Friedman is appalled by what the McCain campaign has been saying, not because of what the blatant lies that continue to be repeated even after they have been thoroughly debunked by the media reveal about McCain's and Palin's honesty and character – being amoral , Friedman cares not a whit about that – but because the Republican emphasis on fossil fuels and wedge issues is making the American public stupid and unprepared to deal effectively with the problems we face.

….an America that is focused first and foremost on drilling for oil is an America more focused on feeding its oil habit than kicking it.

Why would Republicans, the party of business, want to focus our country on breathing life into a 19th-century technology — fossil fuels — rather than giving birth to a 21st-century technology — renewable energy? As I have argued before, it reminds me of someone who, on the eve of the I.T. revolution — on the eve of PCs and the Internet — is pounding the table for America to make more I.B.M. typewriters and carbon paper. "Typewriters, baby, typewriters."
Read the entire article.

I don't think the McCain campaign willingly chose such a low-road approach to winning the election – I think they were forced into it --they had nothing else. But insofar as their campaign is effective it poses a serious challenge to America. If McCain and Palin are elected after a campaign in which they mocked not only renewable fuels, fighting global warming and community organizing, but honesty and integrity themselves what will we have mandated them to accomplish in office?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

McCain says it’s Obama’s fault

At the ServiceNation Presidential Forum at Columbia University on Thursday, John McCain had the following exchange with CNN's Judy Woodruff:

WOODRUFF: Senator, at the Republican convention, a couple of speakers, most notably your running mate, vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, made somewhat derisive comments about Senator Obama's experience as a community organizer. I've heard you say you haven't taken that tone. So I guess my question is, are you saying to others in your campaign and your supporters that that's not the kind of language you want to hear?

MCCAIN: Well …

WOODRUFF: How do you — how are you approaching that?

MCCAIN: First of all, this is a tough business. Second of all, I think the tone of this whole campaign would have been very different if Senator Obama had accepted my request for us to appear in town hall meetings all over America, the same way Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had agreed to do so. I know that, because I've been in enough campaigns.

See the entire transcript here.

So John McCain is trying to claim that the negative tone of his own campaign is Barack Obama's fault?! If McCain's has so little control over his own campaign what sort of leader is he? How much control would he have over the federal government as president?

President Truman had a sign on his desk "The buck stops here." I wonder if John McCain as president would have a sign on his desk reading, "Don't blame me. You brought it on yourself."

Friday, September 12, 2008

It’s not a generational thing.

When I heard Sarah Palin tell ABC's Charles Gibson that the United States should go to war with Russia if they invade Georgia again I could not believe it. How could anyone suggest that the United States go to war with Russia?

Sarah Palin is of a younger generation. Maybe young people today are not as aware as we baby boomers are of the consequences of a thermo-nuclear war. So I asked my 18 year old daughter, "How do you think going to war with Russia would compare to our current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?" "Russia," she exclaimed, eyes wide with astonishment and concern. "They have nuclear bombs! We would all die!"

So no, I guess it's not a generational thing.


A local conservative blog is suggesting that the only reason anyone might think that Sarah Palin had breezily said that we might have to go to war with Russia if they have another border skirmish with any of their neighbors is because of unfair framing of the issue by that bastion of liberalism - ABC News. I watching the interview and got my impression of what Ms. Palin said directly from her. The fact that John McCain said something similar does nothing to detract from the provocative and disturbing nature of their position on this.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Morally Unfit to be President

"I am John McCain and I approved this message."

Almost everything coming out of John McCain's mouth these days is an absolute, black-is-white lie – not just the normal half-truth, favorable spin that politicians usually engage in – but flat-out lies.

A bill that Barack Obama voted for (not authored or sponsored) in the Illinois Senate intended to protect kindergarteners by having them taught about inappropriate touching in a McCain television ad becomes Obama promoting kindergarten sex.

Obama's tax plan that all the experts agree would provide more tax relief for the middle class than McCain's proposals is described by John McCain as tax hikes.

In McCain's telling Sarah Palin opposed the "Bridge to Nowhere" and Congressional earmarks when she actually did the exact opposite.

John McCain, who abandoned all his maverick positions over the last few years in order to get the nomination and voted with President Bush 95% of the time is running television ads portraying himself as a maverick who often opposes his own party.

Has America, whose first president was George "I cannot tell a lie" Washington, fallen so far from our founding principles that we will elect a president who apparently cannot tell the truth?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Another example of conservative dishonesty

From CNN Politics.com:

The Florida Federation of Republican Women made the decision to boycott the Oprah Winfrey Show Saturday, after the media mogul refused to have Gov. Sarah Palin as a guest on her show until after the election wraps up.

"Women in Florida helped build Oprah into the icon she is today," Linda Ivell, President of the FFRW said in a statement. "We are deeply disappointed in Ms. Winfrey's decision to sit out the greatest political moment in the history of women since suffrage."

That statement is thoroughly dishonest on many levels. Since Oprah has had a stated policy of having no candidate who is currently campaigning on her show no one could have had reasonable expectations that she would invite Sarah Palin. For Oprah to invite Palin on her show would be unfair to all the other candidates. How could the Republican women then be "deeply disappointed" that Oprah is sticking to her policy? Also how can they claim that a woman being nominated for vice president is "the greatest political moment" since suffrage when the Democrats had a woman vice presidential candidate over 20 years ago? The women of the Florida Federation of Republican Women are putting on a show of faux outrage in an attempt to bully Oprah.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dishonest conservatives

I know there used to be honorable, honest conservatives. Barry Goldwater was one. But being in power seems to have corrupted conservatism itself. Take the conservatives' choice for vice president as an example:

As Josh Marshall writes at the Talking Points Memo blog

The McCain camp has made her signature issue shutting down the Bridge to Nowhere. But as The New Republic
put it today that's just "a naked lie." And pretty much the same thing has been written today in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the AP, the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday even Fox's Chris Wallace called out Rick Davis on it.

On earmarks she's an even bigger crock. On the trail with McCain they're telling everyone that she's some kind of earmark slayer when actually, when she was mayor and governor, in both offices, she requested and got more earmarks than virtually any city or state in the country.

When you remove the lies there is nothing left. The entire presentation of Sarah Palin as someone who represents change from the corruption of Washington is dishonest.

My previous two blog posts were about a Quad Cities conservative blogger whose entire blogging persona is a lie. She pretends she is non-ideological and non-partisan but somehow ends up only criticizing Democrats and liberals. She writes blog posts in which the main point is a lie – such as a recent post about American flags that Democrats supposedly threw in the garbage and were then rescued from the landfill. (Actually the bags of flags were just left behind at the convention center and a vendor thought they would probably end up being thrown away.)

It makes you wonder whether they are lying because they have nothing truthful to offer, i.e. if they didn't have lies they would have nothing, or if modern conservatives have convinced themselves that lying is a virtue.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Avoid blogs that deal in trivialities

A local conservative blogger wrote a blog post that proclaimed that after the Democratic Convention "12,000 American flags had been tossed in the garbage" and "were rescued from the landfill." When the blogger was informed that in actuality the flags were not so much discarded as possibly left behind she wrote in a comment this was turning out to be a typically overblown campaign issue that turned out to be much more ambiguous than originally portrayed and then said:

Honestly, if I wasn't blogging, I don't think I could stand all the trivial bullsh*t.
As it is, the trivial bullsh*t provides many blogging opportunities.

She has just admitted that writing overblown, over-generalized accusations based on exaggerated trivialities is her concept of political blogging.

I agree that seems to be the essence of conservative political blogging. It is certainly not what I am attempting to do in this blog.

I am blogging in hopes of nudging the thinking of the body politic in a positive direction. I think that we need to vote this November as if our lives depended on it, because they may. John McCain is an impulsive, shoot-from-the-hip, gamble on hunches, trust the gut, war-mongering militarist who appears to want the presidency in order to avenge the Vietnam War loss by winning a war – any war. Since the opponents he seems to be setting his sights on are Iran and Russia this is serious business indeed.

Barak Obama is a very intelligent thoughtful man whose decision-making style is the exact opposite of John McCain's. John McCain seems to like the idea of "bombing Iran." Barack Obama appears to be a man who would react to a suggestion that we should bomb Iran by thinking of the innocent Iranians who would be killed --Iranians he probably sees as people like himself, with families, hopes and dreams.

Electing a president of the United States is very serious business. The whole world is watching us to see what we will do. Don't allow yourself to be distracted by trivialities.