About Me

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Armchair theorist, poet, and occasional IT manager, Sascha B. is equipped with a Master's Degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Texas, and is not afraid to use it. His work has been published by the University Press of America, Edwin Mellen Press, University of Texas Press, and a variety of small journals nationwide. He is also the proprietor and baker for 3141 Pie, of which you should eat many.

The Deal

I stopped blogging in 2013, when life overtook me. My father became ill and died shortly thereafter, and my mother was left with increasing dementia. I became the primary caregiver, and now orchestrate my mother's care and our family estate.

Now, I am coming up for air again.

Looking for the next book to read. All suggestions welcome.

My reading list is over here.







Friday, October 24, 2008

Interlude

Creamsicle Margarita:

1 cup frozen mango chunks
2 tablespoons vanilla ice cream
2 oz. reposado tequila
3/4 oz. triple sec
1 tsp. pomegranate seeds, or 1/2 tsp pomegranate juice

Put all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

She Speaks


"Now is not the time to experiment with Socialism!"
-Sarah Palin, on Barack Obama's tax plan.

Ahem. Not to be utterly vulgar, but....are you shittin' me? We just have effectively nationalized the banking industry in this country---and John McCain voted for it, along with Obama and all the rest---in what is effectively the most Socialist of experiments in our history since the New Deal. And yet, on the radio right now, on NPR, they are nitpicking the details of Obama's tax plan---which is essentially nothing more than a re-jiggering of the pre-existent progressive tax which has been around since 1913. And really only rolling it back to where we were before Bush took office. This isn't rocket science, nor is it radical.

I wish we could cut the crap about this sort of thing. This is barely redistribution. Our country has delved far deeper into socialist-country in the last few weeks than any issues of tax modification by either Obama or McCain.

Mixed Metaphor Department

Ripped from the headlines of the BBC:

LATEST: US car firm Chrysler announces it is axing 25% of its white collar workers as the downturn bites.
Yes, Beeb. The downturn bites.

Being in the office today bites, too.

Interlude


The Onion provides some relief with Ron Paul, The Masked Hero Vanishing Into The Sunset...Until Next Time:
"When the river swirls and the wind blows, and when uncontrollable inflation forces us to revert to the gold standard, and the Federal Reserve bank is exposed as the unconstitutional, neofascist cabal it really is, you'll see me coming over that hill."

The Right Response

Apple kicks the Prop 8 mafiosi in the nards. As an example of the right way to act, Apple and Google are, in this case, standard bearers for business:
Apple said it views Proposition 8 as a civil rights issue, not a political one and as such, is donating $100,000 to defeat the measure, it announced today.

Publish that!

From an inane yet perennial issue discussed today in WaPo:

The thesis: Republicans and Conservatives are happier than Democrats and Liberals.
The hypothesis: Those who think they can control their destinies are happier.

Also: Extremists are happier than moderates, Brooks has concluded. Hard-core liberals are the happiest liberals and hard-core conservatives are the happiest people on Earth. Self-certainty is like a happy pill. The bumper sticker may declare, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" -- but the guy behind the wheel is overjoyed.
So essentially, if you are a self-satisfied prick, you're probably a lot happier than if you care about the world. Great.

The one amusing bit though: I'd add this to George Packer's commentary.

Republicans and American conservatives have been happier since they started doing this happiness survey.

They've been doing this happiness survey for about.....40 years.

The Polls


Minnesota in the blue ranks.
Ohio in the blue ranks.
Indiana leaning blue.
Virginia in the blue.
North Carolina leaning over.
Georgia leaning over.
Missouri going blue, too.
North Dakota and Montana in the tossup ring.

When red states like these start leaning to Obama, you have to suspect the house of cards we've had to live in is finally collapsing.

More Layoffs

Chrysler cutting 25% (about 5,000 people) of its salaried workforce.

Ouch


With the markets taking a lead from the Nikkei's 9.6% dive overnight, and London's nearly 9% tailspin, I expect we'll see a mess on Wall Street today before close. The market opened 5% down, and we'll see where that gets us by this afternoon....

In the meanwhile, yesterday's polls were all looking great for Obama, and early voting lines are raising eyebrows across the country.

If you are looking for insight into today's panic on Wall Street, Floyd Norris is live blogging it.

Warning: reading his commentary won't make you feel any better. There's more on root causes here as well.

I am struggling to find some good news --- or at least entertaining news --- to balance out the bad stuff today. Here's what I've got: both the NYT and Former MA Governor William Weld (R-MA) are endorsing Barack Obama; the weather in San Francisco is delightful; and to all of you who notice, Happy UN Day! It was 63 years ago today that the UN was founded, right across the street from where I sit.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anti-Gay Mafia Demands Protection Money


An example of the confluence of bigotry, religious extremism, capitalism run amok, and playground bully tactics:
ProtectMarriage.com, the umbrella group behind a ballot initiative that would overturn the California Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage, sent a certified letter this week asking companies to withdraw their support of Equality California, a nonprofit organization that is helping lead the campaign against Proposition 8.

"Make a donation of a like amount to ProtectMarriage.com which will help us correct this error," reads the letter. "Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published."
You can even hear the fake New Jersey tough accent in the words, can't you?

To all California business owners: even if you don't want to vote your conscience on this, vote your pocketbook: there is more money and concentrated purchasing power in the No On 8 crowd than there is in all the anti-gay marriage crowd. Let them publish. And vote No on 8.

Greenspan And The GOP

George Packer has hit on something: the notion that Alan Greenspan's worldview just exploded in his face, as he said in testimony to Congress today:
“You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”
[emphasis mine]
While at the same time, Packer has noted that the conservative experiment in this country is in the same situation as the global economy was two weeks ago---basically turning into a spewing, spinning, frothing mess, or as Packer puts it, "the complete collapse of the four-decade project that brought conservatism to power in America." [same point]

The economic collapse is a symptom of aggravated failure of vision, just as the McCain-Palin trainwreck is a symptom. And they fed off one another. The end didn't begin last summer, as Greenspan proposed; it began when the GOP made a sharp turn, relinquished their conservative conscience, made a deal with the ultra-christian evangelicals, and made the worst rhetoric of the Southern Strategy into the core platform of their philosophy.

News Flash: The cycle is over. It's time to stop listening to your own spin. We are living in new times, in times, as Mahmoud Darwish once said, of "the atom and the wind." If you have a reluctance to change, you will be left on the ash heap of history.

Not sure about it? Let's talk again in another 40 years. And we'll see how it all turned out.

Interlude

You know, I restarted this blog in February primarily as an outlet for my sense that Barack Obama was on the road to potentially be the most significant Democratic nominee for president in my lifetime. My entry on the 15th of that month was in line with that sensibility, and with what I had been thinking for about a year. I continued to feel this way, and to write as a vital and necessary outlet for the stress brought on by an increasingly meaningless position in my daily work, and at the height of the democratic primary, began to vent my pent-up frustrations, emotions, and blogifications. My post of 9/10, as the anniversary of tragedy loomed in my mind, I posted this rant. I think it is still the call that we need to be listening to.

As we race toward election day, and it looks like I and those like me are on a winning streak, it needs to be reiterated that the election this year is only the beginning. If we truly desire change, then we need to be prepared to work harder, make more difficult choices, and to face challenges unlike those we have seen in more than a generation. We are in the midst of an economic crisis of global ferocity, and at the same time the fissures in our society are becoming painfully tangible. We have seemingly insoluble structural problems in health care, in education, in social security and in wage equity. All these things make it only more urgent for each of us to actively engage in the process, and make certain that our voices are heard, not only as complainants, but as part of the solution.

Vote.
Volunteer.
Engage in your neighborhood.
Get involved.

Timeless




A thoughtful editorial on education in the NYT:

Politicians’ obsessions with making schools and colleges more vocational in character are unlikely to lift the economy. According to new research by James Heckman at the University of Chicago, today’s workers don’t need vocational skills, they need better “non-cognitive” skills — like the capacity to communicate effectively or to cooperatively solve problems.

Schools should be focusing on these human skills, as well as ethical reasoning. Wall Street’s meltdown, linked to shady lending practices, reveals the moral bankruptcy of huge segments of the market. Yet political leaders now urge our children to quietly fill-in bubble tests, seeking only to become productive cogs in a broken wheel.
Bruce Fuller is making an important, valid, and somehwat blindingly obvious argument here; yet it is an argument that has been made over and over again for at least as long as I have been listening (call it 25 years), and has yet to be heard.

The problem is that we have effectively removed all value from generic literacy; in our "purpose-driven lives" abstract knowledge serves no purpose. Despite the fact that nearly every management or entrepreneurial guide identify critical thinking, decision making, values and strategy as the absolute keys to success, these are not what we teach when we school our children. Even in MBA programs, there is a heavy focus not on values and non-cognitive thinking, but on statistical analysis and evaluation of potential cost and profit.

That's fine. But as we degrade the very nature of literacy (and numeracy, for that matter), we run the grave risk of becoming in truth a nation of anti-intellectuals, who look to herd assumptions and equate them with truth, who rebel against the pursuit of knowledge, and who revel in our own sheltered ignorance.

Not the greatest legacy for the folks who wrote this.

Asshattery

Greenspan again:
Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan called today for imposing some of the same sorts of regulations on mortgage securities he resisted when he was in office, acknowledging that the current financial crisis had exposed "a flaw" in his view of how the world and markets function.
Yup. And, like he says, "The whole intellectual edifice . . . collapsed in the summer of last year." But for 18 years he refused to see, like some unrepentent Marxist of the old school, that intellectual edifices are all too often toppled by that ornery intruder, Human Nature.

A shame he couldn't have had a heapin' helpin' of common sense back when it would have mattered.

Foretelling The Present II

The NYT today notes that the Army of the Unemployed (as opposed to the Army of Palin), now is creeping toward 3.75 million.

That's a lot of people looking for work, if we're only beginning to slip down the slope.

Foretelling The Present




Greenspan, 10/23/08: "Unemployment will grow worse."

Goldman Sachs, 10/23/08: "We're cutting more than 3,000 jobs."

Dang, even I can do that sort of forecasting.

God Is An Iron

And his work is evident in stories like this:
The successor of the Austrian far-right leader Jörg Haider was dismissed yesterday after he revealed a “special” relationship “far beyond” friendship with his former mentor.

In emotional interviews with the national broadcaster and a tabloid newspaper Stefan Petzner spoke openly about his affair with Haider, who died at the age of 58 in a high-speed car crash after heavy drinking session at a gay club this month. Haider’s party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria, captured 11 per cent of the vote in national elections last month .

“I only had him. Now I am all alone. I would spend nights with him and his family and that was important for me because I often was afraid to be alone in the dark,” he added.
Hmm. Yeah. Foreign Policy provides a little snark on the irony, which I can't help but agree with:
Haider's homosexuality had been widely rumored, though the mainstream Austrian press had refrained from reporting on it before Petzner's tell-all interview. Haider became infamous for his seemingly sympathetic views toward the Nazi regime. If only this conflicted man was still alive, and one could confront him with evidence about what the Nazis did to people like him.

"I'm Shocked, Shocked, I Tell You!"



So Alan Greenspan is trying out for the part of Louis Renault, expressing his "shock" at the breakdown of his house of unregulated cards:
"Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity (myself especially) are in a state of shocked disbelief," he said.
What an asshat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bad News Again

Dow down 5½%.
Nasdaq down 4½%.
S&P down 6¾%.

The Euro down. The Pound down. Oil at $67/bbl.

Ouch.

Bravo to Nike.


Arien O'Connell will get a trophy for her performance in the Nike marathon after all. And they will be modifying the format in the future to avoid a repeat of the embarrassment noted earlier.

A reasonable outcome for all involved, I think. And the right thing to do. Here's to at least one corporation that's not only listening, but trying to act on what they hear.

I guess they just "did" it.

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The number of layoff announcements involving at least 50 workers rose in September to the highest level since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks seven years ago, the government said Wednesday.
That's a 20% increase this month. Nearly 2,500 mass layoffs; that's a minimim of 12,500 jobs jobs. Minimum. And like the article says,
"...the overall situation is grim, and the worst may not be over."

So all you folks in Marin, don't forget that it wasn't too long ago that instead of your comfortable homes in the rolling hills, we had images like the one above....

Another Bubble Bursting


The Interwebs going "pop!"??? And you thought we were over it seven years ago:

New data released this weekend from the National Venture Capital Association gave a glimpse into a trend that will probably continue as the economy worsens. The companies at the earliest stages in funding saw a slight drop in investing amid an overall 7% drop in venture funding, which will be exacerbated by the credit crisis. The Internet sector was a big loser of investment, with funding of Internet startups falling 36% from the second quarter.

Over the last year, venture capitalists have been faced with a very big problem: the lack of a public market for their companies. As the VCs noted on a conference call to discuss the data, there has not been a single initial public offering since March.

The Polls



I was going to let the new national numbers slip by until there was more to talk about, but I think it is significant that in the last 48 hours we've had the WSJ report a 10 point lead for Obama (52% - 42%) over McCain, and now Fox News showing a 9 point lead for Obama as well (49% - 40%).

When the two most significant Right wing mouthpieces in the media are both announcing a lead of that size, it makes you sit up and take notice.

Maybe $150,000 wasn't enough: maybe she needs even better couture to combat the freefall. Especially now that al-Qaeda has come out with an endorsement for McCain, while Bernanke has come out for Obama (and honestly, I give equal credence to both. Meaning none at all).

The Other Wingnuts

The GOP has no monopoly on hate, arrogance, and stupidity:

(10-22) 07:40 PDT MINNEAPOLIS (AP) --

Federal officials in Minneapolis say a man suspected of planning to attack the Republican National Convention has pleaded guilty to possessing Molotov cocktails.

The U.S. attorney's office in Minneapolis says 23-year-old Matthew Bradley DePalma of Flint, Mich., entered his plea Tuesday to a charge of possession of destructive devices.

Authorities say DePalma had made at least five Molotov cocktails by the time he was arrested on Aug. 28.

He had allegedly told an FBI informant he planned to attack the convention site in St. Paul and had described a plan to use the fire bombs on police.

DePalma has not yet been sentenced. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
As bad or worse than anything at a Palin rally.

The Palin Phenom


In a quick amusement for myself, I ran a search on Amazon for "Sarah Palin." It turned up 85 results; a number of them are duplicates, but all of them are very recent. I find nothing published before this summer. It's a remarkable cottage industry that has cropped up around the Governor. But what I liked the most: her collection of speeches and interviews, along with a bio, is available exclusively as a kindle e-book, weighing in at 44KB. That's less than most of my individual essays.

Not exactly a heavyweight, this one.

Of course, while that interested me the most, this one scared me the most of all.

Split Personality


In a single paragraph, we have the split mind between what I will call the 'Thinking Right', and the 'Wingnut Right':

The Thinking Right:   
"The metrics of this election argue strongly that this campaign is over, the National Journal's Charlie Cook declares. "[I]t's only the memory of many an election that seemed over but wasn't that is keeping us from closing the book mentally on this one."

"The cavalry apparently isn't coming" to rescue McCain, who has been outspent by as much as 4-1 in some states, says Politico's Jonathan Martin.

The Wingnuts:   
But Michael Barone questions just how accurate polls are these days, asking, "Can we trust the poll when one of the presidential candidates is black?"


I really don't think that a black candidate puts us quite in Pope Joan territory, in terms of the madness of crowds and suspension of all previously stable norms.

Do You Want The Good News First, Or The Bad News?

On the upside this morning, India had its first lunar launch last night, and the Chandrayaan 1 shot toward the moon flawlessly. Kudos to India, and the teams of scientists, planners, and workers who brought this mission off. And Krugman notes that the LIBOR rates are starting to cool off, which means that the credit freeze may be easing up soon.

On the downside: Wachovia announced earnings yesterday (along with others), with a shocking $23.9 billion loss, helping to drag the market down (so far) more than 300 points; Merck is cutting more than 7,000 jobs; the blogosphere is crowing over the RNC's $150,000 expenditure on Sarah Palin's couture; and I've thrown out my back.

All in all, it looks to be another day lived in interesting times.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All Your Default Credit Swaps Are Belong To Us

Reuters recapping the next influx of government cash into the beleaguered market:
"Governments around the world have promised $3.3 trillion to guarantee bank deposits and bank-to-bank lending, and in many cases have taken stakes in struggling banks.

...U.S. stocks, which had been hit by continuing investor concerns about slipping corporate earnings, resumed their slide in late afternoon trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had earlier been off some 200 points, was down about 120 points, or 1.3 percent, and the broader S&P was off about 16points, or 1.6 percent."
Another lousy day on Wall Street. Buffett can tell me to "buy buy buy American" all he wants to; I'm not biting yet.

All Your Search Are Belong To Us


Yahoo cutting 10% of its workforce.

Why I Worry About Austria

The new Security Council member is still shaken by the sudden death of Jörg Haider, the figurehead of rabid right-wing nationalism in Austrian politics. Why am I concerned about it?
"Strache, a more vulgar version of Haider, now plans to position himself as the only leading figure in the Austrian nationalist camp. Last week Strache announced that BZÖ members of parliament would be more than welcome to join the FPÖ. The two parties captured a combined 29 percent of the vote in the recent election."
That's the second largest voting bloc, right on the heels of the Social Democrats. And I suspect there is still a deep vein of emotional resonance with much of Haider's hateful antics that could easily be propped up in the aftermath of his memorialization.

This isn't a major deal; just an interesting movement to note, in one of the most central (emotionally, geographically, historically) nations of Europe. As we are seeing now even in the US, a small bloc of the very vocal can do all sorts of damage. Over here, it's maybe 15% of the 39% of GOP faithful who go all nutjob on us at Palin rallies. Over there, it could be a highly organized one-third of all the votes in government.

There Ya Go Again, Sarah.

She does it again. ThinkProgress reports that Palin for the 2nd time in a public interview mistates entirely what the VP of the US does for a living:

Q: Brandon Garcia wants to know, “What does the Vice President do?”

PALIN: That’s something that Piper would ask me! … [T]hey’re in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.

But as we all know, the VP isn't in charge of the Senate; only presides there during ceremonial issues, and only casts a vote in the instance of a tie. The majority and minority leaders are "in charge" of the Senate.

And Harry Reid responds:
This comment is all the more puzzling because this is at least the 2nd time she has said this. Gov Palin needs to re-read or perhaps read for the first time the Constitution. While the Vice President presides over the Senate, he or she is not in charge of it. Article 1 says The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate is part of a co-equal branch of the federal government.

Sigh. Can someone send her a copy (large print, perhaps) of the US Constitution?

A Cultural Leap Backward?


Slashdot brings attention to this article of Wikipedia and the modern conception of "truth." If this point of view holds, then Wikipedia can be seen as a symptom (certainly not a cause) of a curltural return to Aristotelian thought, and a repudiation in common discourse of both Socratic and scientific method.
"The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth," states Wikipedia's official policy on the subject.
Just think: In one fell swoop, we have brushed aside experiment and independent thought as the motivators for comprehending truth, and replaced it with derived knowledge and received truth.

No wonder the biblical literalists are having a heyday.

Local News





Now this is empowerment.

In a field of 20,000 runners, she comes up with the fastest time (2:55:11), and yet:
It doesn't get much simpler than a footrace. All it takes is a starting line, a finish line and a clock. You fire the gun and the first person to the end of the course is the winner.

However, as the marathon officials said to O'Connell - not so fast.

While O'Connell had the greatest run of her life and covered the course faster than any woman, she was told she couldn't be declared the winner because she didn't run with the "elite" group who were given a 20-minute head start.
Pathetic. There are rules, and there are rules. This woman had an amazing performance. Even if there isn't a trophy involved, some sort of recognition should be made.

Bravo to you, Arien O'Connell. And to you, Nike:

Just do it.

A Rose Of Sharon, A Lily Of The Valley


This is disturbing news. Islam Samhan, a 27 year old Jordanian poet, has been arrested and charged with apostasy for the publication of his book of verse. It is love poetry. It quotes the Qur'an.

This is in one of the "good" states in the Middle East, one of the progressive places.

The poetry isn't new: it's his collection of works from the last decade. But the collection was published without official government religious sanction.

This is akin to arresting and excommunicating Milton, and Shakespeare. And Rumi, and Tennyson. And Blake. And me, for that matter.

The writers of Jordan have spoken out. So too should the US.

60s Redux?


An interesting review by David Lightman in McClatchy of just what is making this campaign different, and why so many are expressing such depressingly hateful and resentful sentiments:
"A great many people think they're about to lose power. The world is changing around them, and they can't stop that change. So their anger is boiling over," said Mark Potok, the director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.

The nonstop bile flowing toward Obama has been expressed in many ways:

  • Racism. People for the American Way has found that since the McCain campaign very publicly has accused ACORN, a grass-roots community group with strong ties to liberal politicians, of widespread voter-registration fraud, "ACORN offices across the nation have been subjected to an onslaught of racist and threatening voice mails and e-mails."

  • Values. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told MSNBC on Friday that Obama "may have anti-American views," and that if one looks at "the collection of friends that Barack Obama has had over his life . . . it seems that it calls into question what Barack Obama's true beliefs and values and thoughts are."

  • Patriotism and religion. At Becky's Cafe in Springfield, Ohio, Nicole Ratliff, a cable-television sales representatives, echoed last week what many voters have said: "Obama won't salute the flag and he has said he was a Muslim."

The effective tone is of someone (Dems) saying "I think you are wrong. Here's why. And I believe you are lying about it." And the rejoinder coming back (from Repubs) "Well f**k you! And the horse you rode in on, you goddam nazi terrorist Ay-rab freak!" One may be frustrating to address, but the other is simply derogatory, destructive, and infantile. I guess that's what happens when people get scared.

Iraq Progress


The Saudis are still unready to commit an ambassador to Baghdad:
Saudi Arabia is hoping for further security improvements before it posts an ambassador to Baghdad, Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal said Tuesday, adding that the country did not want its top diplomat to Iraq forced to stay in a "fortress" without being able to communicate with anyone.
Without a Saudi presence, the other activities of Arab presence from Kuwait, Jordan, and the Emirates, cannot carry much weight. Especially knowing that they are there due to heavy pressure from the US.

We'll know there has been a change for the better when not only the Saudis, but the Egyptians, and the Syrians, and the Lebanese, all not only set up ambassadorial residency, but are eager to expand those presences.

Another Endorsement


Barack Obama has been endorsed by...the Mayor of London?

For what it's worth, here's what that Tory, Boris Johnson, has to say:
it is not clear how America under McCain would recover her standing in the eyes of the world.

His chief selling-point is his grasp of foreign affairs, and his staunch belligerence in the pursuit of American interests.

He is certainly owed the respect due to a man who fought for his country, was captured and tortured.

But is this bellicosity really what the world is crying out for today?

When asked what his policy was towards Iran, Mr McCain sang - to the tune of the Beach Boys - "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran".

No doubt he was joking, but if I were an Iranian politician, those words would make me want a nuclear deterrent all the more.

McCain seems to stand for perpetual sabre-rattling against the terrors of abroad, and Obama wins because he seems to stand for hope, not fear.

The Partisan Word

Some choice quotes pulled from Politico:

Rudy Giuliani:
"What I see [in Obama] is a very traditional liberal Democrat, really a throwback — even a throwback before the Clintons"
Hmm. all the way back to...Kennedy?

Newt Gingrich, on the Powell endorsement:
"[It] eliminated the experience argument. How are you going to say the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former secretary of state, former national security adviser, was taken in?"
Roy Blunt, the minority whip:
"I think Joe the plumber does matter here, not because he's Joe or not because he's a plumber but because of all that particular discussion represents."
It represents....what, exactly? That a random guy with a mixed background who has compared Obama to a tap-dancing Sammy Davis Jr. is more significant in the current discourse than Colin Powell, or the economy, or health care policy, or education, or temperament, or judgment....because he represents the Palin caricature of "Joe Sixpack?"

Complacency Is Not An Option


As the numbers tighten in this election, please remember: the future of our country, and our lives, will be colored and constrained by the choices we make on November 4th. As Obama leaves his campaign to visit his last living parent -- his ailing grandmother -- and the rhetoric from McCain continues in its unabated and unabashed nastiness -- creating a moral equivalence between attacking a candidate's record, and the insinuation of moral turpitude and evil in a candidate's character -- it is more important than ever to remember to vote, and vote with the future, and with hope, foremost in your thoughts.

The Republican strategists are once again dismissing the "youth vote," claiming (and presuming) that the lead in the polls provided by those under 25 will vanish on election day, as students and young people prove themselves too disinterested, too distracted, too lazy or too complacent to go and vote their choice and conscience.

The insult is grating. It's a challenge.

Young voters: you've been dissed, and challenged. Prove the naysayers wrong. Get out and vote.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The News From Planet Condi


I don't know where she's been, or what's she's smoking, but it's definitely not what the rest of us have at hand....
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told the BBC she believes the Middle East is a better place for the policies of President George W Bush.

Asked to assess the outgoing US administration's legacy, she said she was especially proud of the situation in the Palestinian territories.

She insisted that what she called a US-inspired "freedom agenda" had taken hold in the Middle East.

Ms Rice also said Iraq had become a "good Arab friend" of America.

"The Middle East is a different place and a better place," Ms Rice told BBC Arabic TV.

...Asked about what she was particularly proud of, Ms Rice responded:

"I don't think that you have had an administration that has more actively been seeking a Palestinian state...

"This president... has launched the most active and robust negotiations towards a two-state solution that perhaps the region has ever seen," she said.

"The Palestinians now have a peace process that is the most serious one in many many years."

I understand the need to console herself on legacy, but the fact that it was on her watch that Hamas came to power, that Israel and Lebanon went back to war, that the Palestinians were split into two factions of a de facto Civil War, and that movement on resolution was essentially forfeited for nearly six years doesn't really jive with her comments. And don't get me started on Iraq. It is many things, but a "good Arab friend" isn't one. An occupied zone? A client state? Maybe.

A Hawk Turns

Ken Adelman, the Republican hawkster who introduced Dick Cheney to Paul Wolfowitz (at a Ronald Reagan brunch), is voting for Obama. He has some choice commentary, like this in one of his letters to George Packer:
The most important decision John McCain made in his long campaign was deciding on a running mate.

That decision showed appalling lack of judgment. Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office—I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency.
It seems that there are at last some small beams of sanity shining into the dark abyss of the Other Side...

Islam B'Wilayaat al-Mutahhidah


And here is an intriguing documentary on Islam in the US, put together by al-Jazeera. I have yet to have the hour to watch it, but it looks good. In four parts. Part One is here:



The full documentary here.

Those Evil Muslims

While I am glad that Colin Powell had the grace to say something yesterday about this---the first major figure to address it in any real way---I continue to be dismayed at the multiple levels at which the "Obama is a Muslim" rumor plays. I won't call it slander, since there is no derogation in being a Muslim, but it is a lie, and carries the more important innuendo of "Obama is a terrorist." The sad fact that a large chunk of America factors the equation of Muslim = Evil Terrorist is a problem, but one that is larger than I can address on a Monday morning without caffeine in my system. But as for the Obama rumor....

Between 10% and 15% of Americans believe Obama to be a Muslim. And they see this as a sinister thing, a fearful issue, and a disqualifier for higher office. Perhaps Muslim in 2008 is the Catholic of 1960; I believe it is more nuanced, many layered, and uglier than that. Nevertheless, even though the MSM have come round to routinely noting that Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim, Colin Powell stands alone in having stated that even if he were a Muslim, why should that matter? American Muslims are as American as American Christians, Jews, Hindus, Atheists, Buddhists, Shinto, Taoists, and any other belief or creed you can think of. By demonizing an entire religion, we effectively disenfranchise the somewhere between 2 and 5 million Muslims in this country.

The GOP, and McCain and Palin, are actively encouraging this disenfranchisement and demonization through their hate-speech and fear-mongering. It is disgraceful, and it should be incumbent on all of us to speak out on this, and to call on our media and our political representatives to do so as well.

If being Muslim, or Jewish, or anything other than "Christian" disqualifies a citizen from the highest office in the nation -- or from any office in the nation -- at this late date in our history, then we have lost our way as a nation, and do not deserve any better than the pathetic excuses for leadership that we will engender through fear, and hate, and isolation.

Monday Morning Madness




I don't know if you heard the rantings of Michele Bachmann, the rep. from Minnesota, over the weekend. I won't bother saying much, since Michael Tomasky over at The Guardian (among many others) has said everything that needs to be said:
The call for an investigation into the beliefs of every federal lawmaker, and an exposé of those found wanting in their patriotism, certainly takes us into deeply creepy territory. I would not call Bachmann herself a fascist. Odd as it sounds, to do so would be to grant her far too much credit. For one to embrace an -ism, even a repugnant one, one needs to have read a certain amount of history and political philosophy. Bachmann is just an idiot. She wouldn't know Edmund Burke from Billie Burke (she played the good witch in the Wizard of Oz), and she obviously has no idea that, in her rejection of the two bedrock American principles of separation of church and state and freedom of thought, she is the one who is as anti-American as they come.
This is what the GOP has brought forth for the 21st Century.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wow.

I've just heard Pat Allen, chair of the Montgomery GOP, on the BBC, basically accuse Colin Powell of lying about his endorsement of Obama. Powell has said he only made his final decision in the last few weeks; Allen draws attention to the fact that Bill Kristol claimed that "sources" told him a Powell endorsement was coming back at convention time.

This, to Pat Allen, must cause us to question just what Powell is hiding. Or not telling us. Or whatever.

Also, her comment that McCain is a bigger, better hero than Powell to the military because McCain "was tortured for years" is just weird and frightening to me. Powell rose to prominence as a warrior, and as General and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff won a war, with minimal casualties and universal acclaim. McCain was a flyboy who fought, and was captured, and tortured. And has never won a war. And never led a command.

I won't comment on her impugning Powell for not being grateful enough to the Party for his position, since that's just plain ol' commie talk.

What We Have Wrought

As long as we have Americans who cannot rise beyond this level, we have not healed the dysfunction of our political system:
Before his rally in Fayetteville, Obama dropped by Cape Fear BBQ and Chicken to shake hands with patrons, many of them older white voters. In a sign that perhaps pre-election tempers are getting a little hot, according to the pool report when Obama entered the restaurant a woman screamed “Socialist, socialist, socialist – get out of here!” The woman, 54 year-old Diane Fanning was admonished by other diners and one woman yelled back “at least he’s not a war-monger.”

It is unclear whether Obama heard this exchange as there were many in the restaurant trying to greet him. Later when Obama approached Fanning’s table she refused to shake his hand.
Here's a grateful thank-you to those other diners, who understand the meaning of respect. Let's hope this woman and all those like her grow to learn some for themselves.

Goodbye To All That

A brilliantly scathing, insightful, and somewhat sardonic farewell note from Andrew Lahde, a hedge fund manager who is now closing up shop:
So this is it. With all due respect, I am dropping out. Please do not expect any type of reply to emails or voicemails within normal time frames or at all. Andy Springer and his company will be handling the dissolution of the fund. And don't worry about my employees, they were always employed by Mr. Springer's company and only one (who has been well-rewarded) will lose his job.

I have no interest in any deals in which anyone would like me to participate. I truly do not have a strong opinion about any market right now, other than to say that things will continue to get worse for some time, probably years. I am content sitting on the sidelines and waiting. After all, sitting and waiting is how we made money from the subprime debacle. I now have time to repair my health, which was destroyed by the stress I layered onto myself over the past two years, as well as my entire life -- where I had to compete for spaces in universities and graduate schools, jobs and assets under management -- with those who had all the advantages (rich parents) that I did not. May meritocracy be part of a new form of government, which needs to be established.

Read the whole thing, including his closing plea to "legalize it." Not a bad screed from someone who is able to retire on the not-quite obscene wealth accumulated by screwing others, regardless of how 'stupid' or 'unworthy' they may have been.

Sunday Supplement



A bad news day all around for Senator McCain.

First, Colin Powell has come out with his ringing endorsement of Obama, along with some scathing criticism of the McCain campaign. In addition, Obama raised an almost inconceivable $150 million in September. But on top of that, it looks like things in Iraq are suddenly taking a political dive, and even worse, AP is reporting evidence of collusion between Freddie Mac and the GOP to avoid regulation prior to our current mess.

And to top it all off, Sarah Palin's appearance on SNL last night was remarkably, distrubingly unfunny. Not sure how they manage to bollix that one up, but they did.