Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I'm thinking about my uncle, Carl Laverne Lindquist, who gave his life during WWII as a B17 bomber navigator, on February 24, 1944 during an attempted training landing in Alexandria, Lousiana. Never knowing him has been one of the big deficits of my life. Sometimes I think I am finishing his life (he was going to be a Lutheran pastor after the war).

I'm also thinking of my deceased father Lennart, who suffered the excruciating loss of his only brother Carl, but then, six months later, himself flew 35 harrowing bombing missions over Europe as the copilot of a different B17 bomber.  (I once took Dad to see the movie 'Memphis Belle', a story about the first B-17 bomber crew to survive their missions, and he said its depiction of the last flight was very realistic.  Rent that movie if you want to know what it was like.)

I will never comprehend the bravery that these men demonstrated (and millions of others too). Dad, please know that I honor you and love you for who you were. I will never be the man that you and your brother were. I'm not sure that I agree with the strategic bombing that we did against Germany and Japan, that took so many civilian lives.  But that was out of your control.  Your example of devotion, courage, and selflessness inspires me to live a better life.

Rest In Peace.

When I Consider Thy Heavens, The Work Of Thy Fingers....

Now THIS is an amazing piece of photographic work!!  There's got to be a perfect piece of music to watch this by.  Adam?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ideology and Life

An ideologue is someone who doesn't let the facts get in the way of their beliefs and principles.  I have come to believe that most people are actually ideologues, in that they are quite rigid in their political and social views.  Therefore they find it hard to change their basic set of principles in response to the facts of experience and history.  There are strong ideologues, who think and talk about politics alot, and weak ideologues who don't give politics much time or thought at all.  It can be very difficult for a person to break out of their particular ideological cage.  Indeed, most people find it a particularly comfortable place to live.
Like most people, I have been quite ideological in my past.  That was particularly the case during the 80s, after I had become a neo-conservative.  I was, well, almost arrogantly fanatical at times in my views.
Ideologues generally don't discuss honestly with others of differing views but instead talk past each other, mostly uninterested in the other's views.  Instead of listening openly and receptively to the arguments and facts that others present, they are generally seeking strategies to defeat the other's point of view.  It's the conquest of one's worldview over another's that provides the frisson.
It seems to me that ideology has become more prevalent in America during the last few decades, as most things political have become more polarized.  This has been exacerbated by the advent and growth of cable television, talk radio, and networks that have a strong ideological point of view (e.g. Fox News).  In previous times, the media had a political view, but they kept it more hidden and tried to give the appearance of complete neutrality.  Perhaps CNN is the most like this these days.
The larger American political parties during the 20th Century used to be fairly non-ideological, primarily because they were coalitions of groups who didn't always agree in every principle but still had to get along in order to gain and hold power.  The Democratic Party from the time of FDR was a coalition consisting primarily of Southern conservatives and northern liberals.  The Republicans tended to be a coalition of northern moderates and conservatives and big business, free-market advocates, as well as some minorities who still admired Abraham Lincoln. 

These days, the Democrats remain to some extent a diverse coalition of pro-business and hawkish neo-liberals, traditional liberals, environmentalist and peace activists, labor unions, and minorities, with no consistent ideological position.  However, the Republicans have, since Ronald Reagan, become a much more homogenized, ideologized party.  Moderates, let alone liberals, are not particularly welcome these days, and a strong conservative (or neo-conservative) orthodoxy is enforced.

The longer I live, the less ideological I have become.  I have come to realize that no one ideological worldview has the entire truth, and that we need to constantly be listening to those who differ from us in order to see if they are seeing something we don't.  This is a pragmatic approach to some extent, in the sense that it refuses to see things in absolutist terms but prefers to remain open to what experience brings. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Abandoned Vietnam POWs

In another piece in Counterpunch, Alex Cockburn reports on an explosive story about abandoned Vietnam POWs:
That very disclosure is now bursting over the head of McCain, the former Navy pilot who was held in a North Vietnamese prison for five years, and returned to the US as a war hero. His nemesis is Sydney Schanberg, a former New York Times reporter who won a Pulitzer prize for his reporting from Cambodia that formed the basis for the Oscar-winning movie, The Killing Fields.
In recent years Schanberg has worked relentlessly on one of the great mysteries of the Vietnam War, one that still causes hundreds of American families enduring pain. Did the US government abandon American POWs in Vietnam? By 1990 there were so many stories, sightings, intelligence reports, of American POWs left behind in Vietnam after the war was over, that pressure from Vietnam vets and the families of the MIAs prompted the formation of a special committee of the US Senate to investigate. The chairman was John Kerry, a Navy man who had served in Vietnam. McCain, as a former POW, was its most pivotal member.
Down the years Schanberg has pieced together the evidence, much of it covered up by the Senate committee. In 1993, an American historian unearthed in Soviet archives the record of a briefing of a Vietnamese general to the Soviet politbureau. The briefing took place in 1973, right before the final peace agreement between the US and Hanoi. What the Vietnamese general told the Russians was that his government was intent on getting war reparations, $3.25 billion in reconstruction money, pledged by the US in peace negotiations headed on the US side by Henry Kissinger. The general told the Russians that Hanoi would hold back a large number of POWs until the money arrived. It seems the Vietnamese had successfully used the same tactic with the French, to elicit promised funds, after which POWs were transferred.

Cockburn on Rand Paul

My favorite independent-minded leftist is naturalized Englishman Alexander Cockburn, columnist for The Nation and editor of Counterpunch, a punchy, daily and free blog with columns from all kinds of folks on all kinds of subjects.  In a recent column written by Cockburn himself, he gives one of the best analysis of the recent political phenom Rand Paul and what happened to him on the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC:
American politics continue their plunge into ritual farce....Now we have the uproar over Rand Paul, the libertarian Tea Bagger who just won the Republican primary in Kentucky. His grilling by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC on his lack of commitment to every Title of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is being cast as a political encounter as momentous as that between Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in the Monkey Trial. Turn on the radio and you’ll hear howls about Rand on every liberal and leftist frequency iin execration of the Slouching Beast that is Rand. David Corn herded him into the 9/11 nutball corral, because Paul had gone on the Alex Jones Show (though he’s never endorsed 9/11 conspiracies). By the same token he’s a liberal for having gone on the Maddow Show.

That Maddow-Paul set-to on MSNBC was tragic-comic. As CounterPunch co-editor Jeffrey St Clair remarked, “Maddow and Paul agree on probably 90 per cent of the BIG issues confronting us, from ending the drug and Afghan war, to ending bail outs. But because of their own peculiar prejudices, his doctrinaire libertarian, hers PC progressive, neither of them can talk about anything other than a non-issue such as the Civil Rights Act of 19 -- SIXTY-FOUR. It's like a Dadaist play.”

This Proves Ron Paul Is A Lunatic

Glenn Greenwald, my favorite contrarian civil libertarian, writes about the 'lunatic' Ron Paul:
One of the favorite self-affirming pastimes of establishment Democratic and Republican pundits is to mock anyone and everyone outside of the two-party mainstream as crazy, sick lunatics. That serves to bolster the two political parties as the sole arbiters of what is acceptable: anyone who meaningfully deviates from their orthodoxies are, by definition, fringe, crazy losers. Ron Paul is one of those most frequently smeared in that fashion, and even someone like Howard Dean, during those times when he stepped outside of mainstream orthodoxy, was similarly smeared as literally insane, and still is.
Last night, the crazy, hateful, fringe lunatic Ron Paul voted to repeal the Clinton-era Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (or, more accurately, he voted to allow the Pentagon to repeal it if and when it chooses to) -- while 26 normal, sane, upstanding, mainstream House Democrats voted to retain that bigoted policy. Paul explained today that he changed his mind on DADT because gay constituents of his who were forced out of the military convinced him of the policy's wrongness -- how insane and evil he is!
In 2003, the crank lunatic-monster Ron Paul vehemently opposed the invasion of Iraq, while countless sane, normal, upstanding, good-hearted Democrats -- including the current Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Senate Majority Leader, House Majority Leader, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and many of the progressive pundits who love to scorn Ron Paul as insane -- supported the monstrous attack on that country.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Having urged you to get out of the market this morning, part of me feels like a complete fool after the stock market rose about 3% today.  But the other part of me says that the underlying fundamentals continue to point to drastic problems in the economy and the financial sector of the US and much of the developed world.  In fact, such market volatility as we're seeing these days is a symptom of a serious problem.

I'm not getting back in the market.

Get Out of Equities

The urgency of predictions from financial gurus that I read, that another crash is coming, is increasing. For example, this column by Paul Farrell on the Wall Street Journal's 'Market Watch', with the title 'Warning: Crash dead ahead. Sell. Get liquid. Now.'

I've had the investments that I control out of stocks and in safer bonds now for almost two months, and I'm glad that I did, because I avoided the recent decline.  This is a bad financial environment to have very much money in the stock market.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Can't Do It Right Now

I wish that I had time to read, think about, and blog about all the things happening right now: BP oil spill, the economy, foreign policy, etc.  But it's going to have to wait for a month or two, until we get this move to Greensboro accomplished.  Priorities, you know.

Show Time

Here's a video of two economic reporters on Charlie Rose, giving their reaction to the recent financial reform bill.  Clearly, this is not fundamental reform but just tinkering around the edge.

Beyond Disappointing

Simon Johnson, former chief economist for IMF, current professor at MIT, and honest evaluator of things financial, writes about the recent financial reform bill:
By now you have probably realized -- correctly -- that "financial reform" has turned into a victory lap for Wall Street.

When they saved the big banks, with massive unconditional support (both explicit and implicit) over a year ago, top administration officials promised they would be back later to fix the underlying problems. This they -- and Congress -- manifestly have failed to do.
Our banking structure remains unchanged, the rules will be tweaked at the margins, and the incentive and belief system that lies behind reckless risk-taking has only become more dangerous. (The back story, if you can still stomach it, is in 13 Bankers [Johnson's new book]).
There is only one small chance for any sensible progress remaining -- and you are about to see this crushed in conference by the supporters of unfettered big banks.

Senator Blanche Lincoln's proposal with regard to derivatives has much to commend it. A fiduciary duty for swaps dealers vis-à-vis customers would be entirely appropriate -- in fact long overdue.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bush and Debt

This was a pretty amazing chart from Andrew Sullivan's blog.  It demonstrates how much of our looming debt is due to irresponsible Republican/Conservative policies:

Restless Natives

In an article in Time, writer David Von Drehle puts the mood of the American this way, after the election last week:
The natives are restless. Americans of all persuasions at last agree on something. It is a message to their leaders that starts with F and ends with u.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Contours of a Conflict Become Clear

In recent days we've heard the behind-the-scenes story of how Obama made his decision to escalate troops in Afghanistan. Key to the decision was a promise from the Pentagon that the mission could be accomplished by Summer 2011 and the troops brought home. Johnathan Alter's new book has the story, and the excerpt in Newsweek talks about how angry the Administration was with the Pentagon's attempts to force a longer commitment to Afghanistan before ending with this from VP Biden:

It wasn't a secret that someone in the military would likely have been fired had Biden been president. But the vice president admitted to other advisers that it was better that Obama was in charge and showing more mercy toward the Pentagon. The generals thought they were working him over, Biden said privately, but the president had the upper hand. He was a step ahead of them, and as much as some of them thought they had obliterated the July 2011 deadline for beginning a withdrawal, they were mistaken.

At the conclusion of an interview in his West Wing office, Biden was adamant. "In July of 2011 you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it," Biden said as he wheeled to leave the room, late for lunch with the president. He turned at the door and said once more, "Bet. On. It."

So its interesting to see this today, linked to by Andrew Sullivan:

While, current U.S. policy states that we'll begin withdrawing our forces in 2011 there was a universal recognition that any real effort to apply COIN in Afghanistan would take a very long time. While the subject wasn't addressed (except for one question at the final Q&A roundtable) my impression was that all of the speakers (British, Canadian and U.S.) were operating under the assumption that forces would be in place well beyond 2011.

I heard no discussion about how to conduct any sort of hand off to the Afghans within 18 months, alterations to COIN theory or doctrine or trains of thought about alternate ways militaries could support/conduct COIN without significant numbers of forces on the ground. I would interpret that to mean that the military has been given the word (explicitly or implicitly) that that 2011 deadline is NOT set in stone. I would, in fact, go further and predict that barring some unforeseen change in the operating environment we will almost definitely have a significant presence in Afghanistan for some time.

Somethings got to give here. Either Biden was flapping his gums (not at all impossible) or the military is in for a surprise. We'll know more this summer if Obama sticks to his guns, as we find out if the scheduled Iraqi drawdown takes place as scheduled. Keep your fingers crossed.

If Obama is in the bankers' pockets....

then the bankers were obviously not informed. Some choice selections from the John Heilemann New Yorker article that just came out:

....Today, it’s hard to find anyone on Wall Street who doesn’t speak of Obama as if he were an unholy hybrid of Bernie Sanders and Eldridge Cleaver. One night not long ago, over dinner with ten executives in the finance industry, I heard the president described as “hostile to business,” “anti-wealth,” and “anti-capitalism”; as a “redistributionist,” a “vilifier,” and a “thug.”....

....Like most Wall Street honchos, Blankfein and Dimon are Democrats and once-upon-a-time Obama fans. After getting to know the candidate, whom he’d met years earlier when they both were living in Chicago, Dimon was so smitten that he brought his family to Washington for three full days during the inauguration. And while Blankfein’s connection was less personal, no corporation in America crammed more dough into Obama’s campaign coffers than Goldman.

It didn’t take long, though, before both men were having qualms about Obama and his team....

....At Goldman and elsewhere, the belief is strong that the case against Wall Street’s most storied firm was politically motivated; lately, Blankfein has taken to trashing Obama to his friends in unusually brutal personal terms. Dimon—who is fond of declaring, “I’m a patriot!” in meetings with White House officials—recently described himself publicly as “a wavering Democrat.”....

According to Alter’s book, “Obama … told a friend that the angriest he got as president in [2009] was when he heard Blankfein say that Goldman was never in danger of collapse.”

What’s not in dispute is that the feelings of rupture are mutual. “[Obama] thinks the Wall Street guys are just disconnected from reality,” says a White House official. “He still takes the meetings with them, but his attitude now is like, ‘Whatever.’ ”....

....Yet now Obama stands accused by Wall Street of leading the pitchfork brigade, even as the soldiers in that battalion assail him for being in Wall Street’s pocket. Having labored to strike a delicate balance, he has managed to incur the wrath of both hoi polloi and the lords of finance....

And this is how the empire keeps spinning apart. Those who try to find common ground and a middle path are disparaged by both sides. One extreme finally wins and then you have civil war (militarily, or just culturally). Eh, maybe it was too late anyways. Yes, I am having a gloomy Monday.

How far to the right have the Republicans gone?

A quote for your consideration:

"During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."

The author? Republican and war hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The White House Against Regulating Wall Street Derivatives

I heard on NPR 'Business Report' that Wall Street will be trying hard to eliminate the new regulations on trading derivatives from the final congressional bill (derivatives are a big part of what got us in this economic mess to begin with).  And then, they said that the White House agrees with them.  Figures.  Obama and his crew are in the banker's back pocket, I swear.  It infuriates me.

Libertarians and Birds Soaked in Oil

One of the weakest areas of libertarian thought is the environment.  When I read the articles from Lew, one of the most popular libertarian websites (in the Murray Rothbard 'school'), which I do quite regularly because I learn from them, their failure to deal with environmental issues is sad and, frankly, a bit irrational.  It's like they can't see that our tremendous advance in science and technology, and then our industrial and population growth, makes environmental damage almost inevitable, and therefore must be controlled.  Furthermore, due to the tremendous political power of corporations, the only countervailing power that can adequately begin to address their environmental potential for damage is government.  This is where their ideological rigidity shows up big-time.
I say all of the above while at the same time acknowledging that I've learned a lot from Lew about the economy, war, and political philosophy in general.   The knowledge that allowed me to forecast and prepare for the '08 economic crash largely came from economic libertarians, who most definitely did not have their heads buried in the sand, like virtually every more 'mainstream' economist.  (If you sensed a certain negative emotional upsurge when you read 'mainstream' in the previous sentence, you got it correct!  They were 'out to lunch'.)  But libertarianism has its weaknesses, and this is definitely one of them.
How ironic that Rand Paul has come to public attention and scrutiny right in the middle of the Gulf oil disaster.  The MSM attacked him for his views on Civil Rights, when in fact, the weakest area of his thought is the irresponsibility of the BP oil spill.  I'm now seeing on the media that he made a statement, calling some Democrat (Obama?) 'unAmerican' for criticizing BP. 

Give me a break.  If Rand Paul doesn't start saying things that will endear him to the liberal press (antiwar, anti-bailout, anti-big-bank), they are going to crucify him, and then even if he is elected by the citizens of Kentucky, which is very possible, he will be 'damaged goods' and ineffective on the national scene.  And that would be a tragedy for our country. 

We desperately need a 'conservative' stalwart who is anti-war, anti-Wall Street, and anti-Federal Reserve.  Otherwise, we will be swallowed up and consumed by the military-industrial complex, the health-industrial complex, and Wall Street.

Lackadaisical and Naive

James Carville, loyal Democrat, suddenly turns on Obama:
Democratic strategist James Carville and MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews, two reliable supporters of President Barack Obama, have issued withering critiques of the administration's handling of the Gulf oil spill.
Carville, the famously outspoken Louisianian who was a chief political aide to Bill and Hillary Clinton, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday that the administration's response to the spill has been "lackadaisical" and that Obama was "naive" to trust BP to manage the massive clean-up effort.
"I think they actually believe that BP has some kind of a good motivation here," he said. "They're naive! BP is trying to save money, save everything they can... They won't tell us anything, and oddly enough, the government seems to be going along with it! Somebody has got to, like shake them and say, 'These people don't wish you well! They're going to take you down!'"
Carville also accused the White House of going along with what he called the "let BP handle it" strategy.

"I'm as good a Democrat as most people, and I think this administration has done some good things. They are risking everything by this 'go along with BP' strategy they have that seems like, lackadaisical on this, and Doug is right, they seem like they're inconvenienced by this, this is some giant thing getting in their way and somehow or another, if you let BP handle it, it'll all go away. It's not going away. It's growing out there. It is a disaster of the first magnitude, and they've got to go to Plan B."

Friday, May 21, 2010

No Vacancies

Mary Beth has just gotten a teaching job, thank God, but it looks like many others won't:
The recession seems to have penetrated a profession long seen as recession-proof. Superintendents, education professors and people seeking work say teachers are facing the worst job market since the Great Depression. Amid state and local budget cuts, cash-poor urban districts like New York City and Los Angeles, which once hired thousands of young people every spring, have taken down the help-wanted signs.

Even upscale suburban districts are preparing for huge levels of layoffs. School officials and union leaders estimate that more than 150,000 teachers nationwide could lose their jobs next year, far more than any other time, including the last major financial crisis of the 1970s.

Juliana Pankow, who just graduated from Teachers College at Columbia University, has sent out 40 résumés since January. A few Saturdays ago, she went to a school in Harlem because she heard the principal would be there (she was invited back to teach a demonstration lesson, but it may be for naught since the city has a hiring freeze). Now, Ms. Pankow said she might have to move back in with her parents in Scarsdale, N.Y., and perhaps take up SAT tutoring.

Who Is Rand Paul?

This post on Sullivan's blog does not put Rand Paul in a very good light, especially compared to the integrity of his father.  If it is true, then it could well be that he isn't up to the level of his father Ron Paul's integrity level.  I'm open to both sides of the argument.

Sullivan adds this comment in a later post:  "Rand Paul seems not to have understood that it was regulatory and safety corner cutting that allowed this BP explosion to happen and become such a nightmare. What I like about Paul - his artless honesty - is unlikely to survive the media churn."

Sad.  Apparently not ready for big time yet.  Politics is a kind of battlefield, really.  Maybe he'll get his footing and recover.  We'll definitely see what he's made of.

Banks Take a Hit

This good news from the Daily Beast:
Wall Street firms are readying for a 20 percent drop in profit after the Senate passed a financial reform bill Thursday. Industry critics say that Senate version of the bill is tougher than the House bill passed in December (one analyst called it "miraculous" that this happened.) The bill's biggest impact could be on the derivatives market, which, according to The Wall Street Journal, accounts for half of all trading revenue for major banks. That revenue could be halved under new rules. Wall Street's advocates in Washington say that the requirements will up the cost of borrowing for the banks and push business overseas.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Logic Falls Short

This was a powerful post on Sullivan's blog from a reader.  It reflects my own experience as a pastor who often sits with dying parishioners.  It also reflects the way I feel after watching my mother and my father-in-law die in the last 17 months.
I may have missed the boat on this discussion, but I wanted to email you something since I may have an interesting perspective. I have been a registered nurse caring for hospice patients for the last two years. During these two years I've had pretty much a front row seat to some of the most amazingly touching things that I've ever seen in my life ; and some of the most horrific. I have held hands of people as they drew their last breath and plenty of times have had to look up from my stethoscope on a patients chest into the eyes of a family member and tell them that their loved one has passed.

I came into this experience as an agnostic who often had leanings to atheism, but while working with hospice patients my faith in something has been restored. When you are with someone as they die, you feel something. I can't say what it is. There is the remarkable, palpable feeling of departure. No flashes of light, no bursts of choral music, but it is felt. Even when you are not present at the moment of death, when you see someone alive and moments later see them dead, there is an overwhelming feeling that that person is not there.

Just Keep Rand Paul Talking About Race

I have to say that I get the feeling that the MSM (aka 'the voice of the Establishment') is so intent on keeping the focus on Rand Paul's views on race, because they don't want people finding out about his views on war and the economy. Why? Because too many people would absolutely agree with them.

Now, like Andrew Sullivan and others who are defending Rand Paul (kinda), there are many areas of disagreement between the libertarianism that Paul represents and my views.  That ideology is a bit too absolutist for my taste, in terms of liberty vs. government, individualism vs. the public good, etc. 

But having said that, I am also so fed up with the Establishment in this country and what they are doing to us in foreign and economic policy that I think it's going to take someone like Paul to begin to move us in the other (correct) direction.  I see the whole debate taking place right now as the Establishment seeking desperately to protect its prerogatives against the outrage of the majority of Americans who feel they are being screwed.  Rand Paul may or may not the best 'tribune' to represent the 'people', but he's the one history has presented us at the moment.  And, as for me, I don't intend to go along with this preemptive assault by the MSM and the Establishment with the intention of politically destroying a good man with some good ideas that need to be represented in the political debate of our country.

And finally, if we've got to have a leader of the Tea Party (i.e. if we've got to have a Tea Party!), I would much rather it be Rand Paul than the truly corrupt and monomaniacal Sarah Palin.  Do not equate them, please.  If you don't know the differences between them, then find out or shut up, because you're ignorant!

Liberty, Government, and History

As usual, Andrew Sullivan puts forward a very nuanced, careful, thoughtful analysis of the whole issue of Randy Paul's libertarianism and the American civil rights movement.  It's why I like Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, so very much.
This [Rand's interview with Louiseville Courier Journal] is why so many feel contempt for Rand Paul. But it's one reason I am glad he will be more integrated into the American conversation. I don't agree with Paul on the Civil Rights Act because I believe that the legacy of slavery and segregation made a drastic and historic redress morally vital for this country's coherence, integrity and unity. But was the Act in many respects an infringement of freedom? Of course it was.

To bar private business owners from discriminating in employment would have been an unthinkable power for the federal government for much of American history. Now it's accepted as inevitable for almost everyone who can claim to be treated unjustly for an aspect of their identity irrelevant to a job. What I believe was a necessary act to redress a uniquely American historic evil became a baseline for every minority group with a claim to grievance.

To my mind, this is settled law and should remain that way. But it is not without cost to liberty (as I argued in Virtually Normal). And a real libertarian will feel some qualms about it. Not because they are racists or homophobes (although some may be). But because a truly principled defense of individual freedom will inevitably confront the huge role government now plays in policing fairness in what were once entirely unfair private transactions. You could argue, and I would agree, that the Act expanded freedom immensely overall. But you have to concede, I think, that it also restricted freedom for a few.

Paul's Anti-War Creds

Andrew Sullivan wrote this morning:
Contra Frum, who asks how "is it that the GOP has lost its antibodies against a candidate like Rand Paul", Friedersdorf argues Paul would be a net positive in the Senate:

"I’d say that the GOP has lost its ability to discredit candidates with libertarian foreign policy sympathies by backing an enormously expensive, strategically ill-conceived war in Iraq. They’ve compounded that error by refusing to publicly acknowledge that many of their judgments about the war have proved utterly wrong."

"Were I a Kentucky voter, I’d have cast my ballot for Rand Paul, despite the fact that I disagree with some of his views about the financial system, the gold standard, and various other matters. This reflects my estimation that it is vanishingly unlikely Dr. Paul will cast a decisive vote to abolish the federal reserve, and that a far greater danger is a reflexively hawkish GOP Senator foolishly backing a future military campaign as ill-conceived as Iraq."

Not Really Anti-Spending At All

Daniel Larison writes in The American Conservative:
A large part of the reason why Grayson’s attacks [on Rand Paul] failed was that fiscal and economic issues loomed large in this race, which made Grayson’s obsession with Paul’s other views seem not only irrelevant but another sign that he, as the establishment’s preferred candidate, was wildly out of touch with what mattered to the electorate right now.

The national Republican leadership and quite a few conservative pundits and bloggers have convinced themselves that excessive spending and government expansion were the things that drove the public away from the GOP, and this is not at all true. Nonetheless, when a primary candidate appeared who made an argument for strong fiscal conservatism and opposition to bailouts, much of the party establishment worked to try to defeat him. If the spending argument were correct, Paul would be an ideal candidate for the fall and the party leadership ought to have rallied around him. In refusing to do so and in actively working to defeat Paul, Grayson’s backers have made clear that they don’t actually put much stock in their own anti-spending rhetoric, and they have reminded everyone that their aggressive, ruinous views on national security take precedence over everything else.

Partner in Corporate Crime

I'm glad to see that the independent thinking leftist Robert Scheer is open-minded about libertarian Rand Paul:
Rand Paul is bad on a lot of social issues I care about, and no, I don’t embrace his faith in the social compassion of unfettered free markets. But the alternative we have experienced is not one of a progressive government properly restraining free-market greed but rather, as was amply demonstrated in the pretend regulation of the oil industry, of government as a partner in corporate crime. It is the power of the corporate lobbyists that is at issue, and it is refreshing that candidate Paul has labeled Washington lobbyists a “distinctly criminal class” and favors a ban on lobbying and campaign contributions by those who hold more than a million dollars in federal contracts.
What this shows is the anti-Establishment left and the anti-Establishment right actually have a lot in common.
Count me as one lefty liberal who is not the least bit unhappy with the victory by Rand Paul in Kentucky’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. Not because it might make it easier for some Democratic Party hack to win in the general, but rather because he seems to be a principled libertarian in the mold of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and we need more of that impulse in the Congress. What’s wrong with cutting back big government that mostly exists to serve the interests of big corporations? Surely it would be better if that challenge came from populist progressives of the left, in the Bernie Sanders mold, but this is Kentucky we’re talking about.

Putting Defense Spending on the Table

Andrew Sullivan posted this yesterday about Rand Paul (I'm sure he's said much more on the subject but I haven't read it yet).
Tim Mak has a summary of Paul's position on national defense, which is where things get interesting. I want Paul to win this seat, so we can get a fiscal conservative Republican in the Senate who can put defense spending on the table. Rand's position on this is mostly his father's:

"Rand Paul has indicated that the possibility of an Iranian nuke doesn’t bother him; that he supports the shuttering of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility; and that he’s shaky on support for the surge in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq."

"While Conway has also been hesitant to support the surge in Afghanistan, he has indicated that he favors increasing terrorism prevention funding and pay for active duty personnel. Kentucky’s 344,000 veterans will take note."

On Rand Paul and Libertarians

I know I've been posting a lot of John Cole lately, but he really hits the nail on the head for me on the whole Rand Paul controversy:

I think it is unfair to tar Paul as racist, because I don’t think anything in those videos gives me any ideas into his personal opinion about people of color. If anything, in that regard, they would seem to me to be exculpatory as regards to any charge of racism.

What Paul has nicely done is illustrate that libertarianism, taken to its complete extreme, is a ridiculous and useless ideology. Paul’s argument is, essentially, that in a free society you have to tolerate some mean people, and that some of them will be racist. I don’t think that makes Paul a racist, but I do think it kind of makes him an idiot.

I like freedom as much as the next person and want as little government intervention into every aspect of life as possible, but if I have to make a judgment call, I place the right of people to be free to be racist below the right of minorities to be freed from racism. Call me crazy. We’ve also decided as a society that we draw the line at allowing people the freedom to rape their kids, to murder each other, and all sort of other stuff. This is not a revolutionary concept, and we tolerate that government “interference” quite capably.

Politically, this is evidence of even more of the GOP minority outreach. I’d like to hear Rand Paul ask Michael Steele how long he would have been willing to wait for local officials to decide whether or not Jim Crow or separate water fountains is unacceptable.

Enjoying Beyonce

Two years ago, President Barack Obama vowed to make Mexico a top priority during his administration. He condemned the fact that "the United States has not lived up to its historic role as a leader in the Western Hemisphere". He called George W. Bush's approach to Latin America "clumsy, disinterested and, above all, distracted by the war in Iraq." The future president promised he would break the mold and establish "a renewed strategic partnership with Mexico."
This has not happened. Obama has proven to be as distracted and clumsy as his predecessor. First came his mismanagement of last year's Honduran coup. The United States flip-flopped on the sidelines in the face of this blatant power grab. The region´s strongmen have now learned that they can violently depose democratically elected leaders without running into trouble from Washington.
The Mexican case is similar. Once again, Obama has refused to put democracy first. Wednesday was a case in point. Instead of taking advantage of the occasion to enter into a sincere dialogue with the Mexican people, Obama preferred to dote on Mexico´s highly questioned President Felipe Calderón. Instead of sending a message of solidarity and hope to the battered border cities of Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, Obama offered a lavish dinner full of overworked protocol and exaggerated accolades for Calderón´s cabinet.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama's 9/11

While most of the media is busy dissing Rand Paul, the new Republican Senatorial candidate from Kentucky, Tom Friedman is dissing President Obama:
President Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill has been disappointing....Sadly, President Obama seems intent on squandering his environmental 9/11 with a Bush-level failure of imagination. So far, the Obama policy is: “Think small and carry a big stick.” He is rightly hammering the oil company executives. But he is offering no big strategy to end our oil addiction. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have unveiled their new energy bill, which the president has endorsed but only in a very tepid way. Why tepid? Because Kerry-Lieberman embraces vitally important fees on carbon emissions that the White House is afraid will be exploited by Republicans in the midterm elections. The G.O.P., they fear, will scream carbon “tax” at every Democrat who would support this bill, and Obama, having already asked Democrats to make a hard vote on health care, feels he can’t ask them for another.
I don’t buy it. In the wake of this historic oil spill, the right policy — a bill to help end our addiction to oil — is also the right politics. The people are ahead of their politicians. So is the U.S. military. There are many conservatives who would embrace a carbon tax or gasoline tax if it was offset by a cut in payroll taxes or corporate taxes, so we could foster new jobs and clean air at the same time. If Republicans label Democrats “gas taxers” then Democrats should label them “Conservatives for OPEC” or “Friends of BP.” Shill, baby, shill.

Boo! Hiss!

Rachel Maddow is actually interviewing Rand Paul live.  Wow!  She must be a bigoted racist herself, to give this racist a forum.  Don't you think?

Yeah Keith and Rachel!!!

I take it back.  Rachel has just engaged Rand Paul in a discussion totally focused on a total of one issue--the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  So has anyone talked about that issue recently?  Where has this come from?  Paul made very clear his position, that he's opposed to racism and discrimination, and that he would have supported 9/10ths of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  That is not an issue on anyone's mind right now.  It's off the political radar.

This was just a superficially polite way of trying to undermine Paul and call him a racist by another, seemingly fair, way.  It didn't give him a chance at share any views on other subjects, or show why he won by nearly 2/3rds in Kentucky.  It was actually pretty disgusting display.

Boo Rachel.

Tea Party Ridicule

Keith Olberman is, at the 44 minute mark, criticizing the Tea Party in a very fair if caustic way, holding up their prejudice against Muslims for ridicule.  Yet he doesn't mention Rand Paul yet.  Interesting so far.

Worst person in the world is Sarah Palin.  Worser is Sue Lowden, the 'pay-the-doctor-with-a-chicken-lady'.  Worst is some Superintendent of Schools in Alabama.  So far no Rand Paul.

Still waiting for the interview with Robert Redford....Redford is saying Obama needs to be more of a leader in doing things about oil spills.

No criticism of Rand Paul.  He didn't deal with it at all.  But that's better than lashing out unfairly.

Keith Olberman--Good

Goodness...Keith Olberman has gone an entire 30 minutes of his show and has yet to mention the new meme about Rand Paul the Racist.  Good for him.  I knew I liked him.  He's the funniest of the bunch, with the most integrity.  (If he brings it up in the last 30 minutes, I'll have to eat my words!)

Bigoted, Racist, Country-Club Republican.

Now it's happening on CNN.  John King (7 PM), focusing on the 'country club Republican' Rand Paul.  Everybody's having a good laugh about it.  In other words, Rand Paul is just another bigoted, racist, country club Republican.

It's simply amazing how this happens and how quickly.  It's like someone snaps their fingers somewhere, and a theme about a politician or event spreads like wildfire across the media.  The power of the media to brainwash the public in something like this is simply mindboggling.

All I can figure is that ANYONE who seriously threatens the political, economic, and military Establishment doesn't have a chance of getting a fair hearing in the MSM (mainstream media).  In fact, I'll go so far as to say that if anyone seriously threatens the Establishment, then your life is in danger.  Watch your back.

I'll be interested to see who refuses to go along with the meme about Rand Paul.  Those are the people I'll trust in the future to give me something closer to the truth.

Lesson: question EVERYTHING you hear, see, or read on the MSM.

Dissing Rand Paul

It's happening already.  The pundits on MSNBC like Ed Schultz and Chris Matthews are dissing Rand Paul, spreading the meme that he is an old-time Southern racist and lunatic, opposed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  (At least 'All Things' Considered' on NPR actually interviewed Rand Paul....good old NPR, they're the best.)  And they also are harping on his having had his victory party in a 'private' golf/country club. 

Oh, what an awful person he must be, to have met in a 'private' country club.  (Oh, that's right, I had lunch after church in a 'private' country club a couple of weeks ago.  What a terrible person--elitist and racist--I must be!)  Oh, I forgot, Chris Matthews never goes to a 'private' establishment, right?  Right?  Right?  No, of course not, Matthews is a man of the 'people' who only goes to union halls, bowling allys, places like that.  Riiiiiight.

Wrong.  That is not Rand Paul or his father.  Ron Paul (and I hope his son Rand) is a man of libertarian conviction and principle, who is not a racist.  TV liberals are accepting the worst possible interpretation of Paul's views, without even bothering to ask him his directly, taking the criticism of his political opponents as gospel truth.  Not very nice or fair or honest or openminded.  In fact, it's disgusting, and it's the part of modern liberalism that I HATE!

What I like about Paul is that he is anti-Establishment and for real change that we must have in this country.  I don't think I agree with everything he believes.  But someone like him has got to come along and lead us out of this mess we are in.  Obama isn't doing it, unfortunately.

I hope Rand Paul is thick-skinned, because he's in for attacks from both sides.  The Establishment does not want him to survive, because he threatens every interest there is.

A Fundamentally Different Kind of Politics

I want to repeat my fundamental diagnosis of our national problem which I wrote a couple of posts ago.  My whole analysis of last night's election returns is premised on this diagnosis, and it is so easily misunderstood.

"My diagnosis of what ails America has little to do with Republicans and Democrats. Our basic problem is that we have an Establishment, encompassing both political parties, that is firmly committed to the status quo of imperial interventionism abroad and corporatism and favoratism toward the wealthy at home. The reign of Reagan--Bush Sr.--Clinton--Bush Jr.--Obama has differed very little actually in its foreign and domestic policies. Yes, that's right. The same national trajectory that we were on in 1981 has changed from little in 2010, except for superficialities and cosmetics."

"The only thing that will change our national trajectory--which has been a trajectory toward massive indebtedness everywhere, over-extended military intervention abroad, and economic and social decline and disintegration at home--is a game-changing, fundamentally different kind of politics and ideological direction."

The 'Mad-As-Hell' Party

I'm pleased to see that Robert Reich, former labor secretary under Clinton, sees things today the same way I do.  The results of last-night's election were anti-Establishment.
Kentucky Tea Party hero Rand Paul scores a knockout victory over Republican Trey Grayson. Before that, Utah Senator Robert Bennett loses to a Tea Party-fueled Republican insurgent. Is the lesson here the rise once again of the Republican right?

Not so fast. Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln is also in a tough fight -- threatened from the left by Lt. Governor Bill Halter. In Pennsylvania, newly-minted Democrat Arlen Specter is in a heated battle with an opponent on his left. Meanwhile, thirteen-term Democratic representative Paul Kanjorski is challenged by 36-year-old Corey O'Brien -- who's waged a spirited campaign from his RV, accusing Kanjorski of being too tied to Wall Street.

Okay, so maybe all this signals increasing strength on both political extremes?

Not really. To the extent these races represent anything at all (and it's easy to read too much into early races), it's a swing against the establishment.

Kentucky's Trey Grayson was handpicked by Mitch McConnell, who campaigned vigorously for him, as did Dick Cheney. The President and other Democratic notables came to the aid of Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter.

It's the economy, stupid. American politics is turning anti-establishment because so many Americans feel screwed by the economy and they blame the establishment. If there's a trend here, it's not left-wing Democrats versus right-wing Republicans. It's the "Mad-As-Hell" Party against both.

The Next President of the United States--Rand Paul

Dr. Rand Paul won in Kentucky for the U.S. Senate nomination on the Republican side, running against the Mitch McConnell-endorsed candidate (whose name escapes me, thank God).  I think we are seeing the rise of perhaps the next President of the US, in either '12 or '16.  Remember, you read it here first.
Sarah Palin is quaking in her beautiful boots, because her star is already setting while that of Rand Paul is rising.  Palin scares me to death in every way.  The thought of her as President (or as Vice-President under McCain) fills me with dread.
Rand Paul on the other hand...assuming that he has some resemblance to his father Ron Paul in his integrity and his principles!....may be the only answer America has to rescue this country from its own self-committed financial and imperial suicide.  I offer the caveat about resembling his Father because Franklin Graham and Billy Graham are far apart in ability and character, as are George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush.  So I never assume that the son is equal to the father.  But I have more hope that Rand may actually be like Ron.
My diagnosis of what ails America has little to do with Republicans and Democrats.  Our basic problem is that we have an Establishment, encompassing both political parties, that is firmly committed to the status quo of imperial interventionism abroad and corporatism and favoratism toward the wealthy at home.  The reign of Reagan--Bush Sr.--Clinton--Bush Jr.--Obama has differed very little actually in its foreign and domestic policies.  Yes, that's right.  The same national trajectory that we were on in 1981 has changed from little in 2010, except for superficialities and cosmetics. 

The only thing that will change our national trajectory--toward massive indebtedness everywhere, over-extended military intervention abroad, and economic and social decline and disintegration at  home--is a game-changing, fundamentally different kind of politics and ideological direction.

Sestak Cleans Up

I'm as happy as a clam that Arlen Specter was defeated in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania by Joe Sestak.  I have never liked Specter all that much anyway, and then when he switched parties because he could no longer win reelection in the Republican Party, that put me over the edge.

I think I know why Obama supported Specter--for short term political gain last year.  But I also think that Obama actually thinks and acts more like a moderate Republican, so his support for Specter was probably somewhat genuine and not forced.  Can't prove that, but that's what I think.

So Sestak's victory is a big blow to the Obama political machine in the White House, and all the TV pundits were saying so last night.  So the White House supported the sickly, old-warhorse, switched-parties, frail Specter over the young, fresh, attractive, naval admiral Joe Sestak?  How sick is that?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Something Changed Last Week

The inimitable Jim Kunstler writes in his weekly essay about the mess around us:
Something snapped in the world last week and a lot of people around the world sensed it -- especially in the organs of news and opinion -- but this ominous twang was not very clearly identified. It was, in fact, the sound of the financial becoming political. The macro-swindle of a worldwide Ponzi orgy now stands revealed and the vacuum left in its place is about to suck everything familiar into it -- standards-of-living, hopes, dreams, not to mention lives. The political action will be a desperate scramble to determine who and what is able to escape getting sucked into this black hole of annihilation. It's very suddenly shaping up to become an epic in human history.

Meanwhile, a giant oil blob lies quivering in deep waters off the Gulf coast, like some awful amorphous Moby Dick full of malice waiting to sink Pequod America -- or at least the economies of five states. A few months from now, the BP corporation will wonder why it didn't go into something safe and predictable like the pants business instead of oil exploration. They will surely question the viability of conducting future business anywhere near the USA, and the USA will enter a wilderness of soul-searching about the drill-baby-drill strategy that only a few scant weeks ago seemed to be a settled matter. Tough to have your future hoped-for energy supplies evaporate at the same time that your hopes for future prosperity get sucked into a black hole.

Three Great Things

In our packing to move to Greensboro in June, I ran across an old book that we've had for quite some time entitled "Elbert Hubbard's Scrapbook".  I had seen this book for years in Mom and Dad Grimm's house and always  admired it.   A few years ago, when we were sorting through their stuff (as Dad is gone and Mom is living in assisted living), I ran across it again and kept it.
This morning, I read inside the cover that it was a gift to Mom (Mary Lois) Grimm at Christmas in 1944.  I was curious who Elbert Hubbard was, so I look him up in Wikipedia and saw that he was a writer and thinker in Buffalo, NY, who started the Roycroft Press and the Roycrofter Arts and Crafts movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Later on the article I ran across the following, which is pretty amazing:
In 1912, the famed passenger liner the Titanic was sunk after hitting an iceberg. Hubbard subsequently wrote of the disaster, singling out the story of Ida Straus, who as a woman was supposed to be placed on a lifeboat in precedence to the men, but she refused to board the boat: "Not I—I will not leave my husband. All these years we've traveled together, and shall we part now? No, our fate is one."

Hubbard then added his own stirring commentary:

"Mr. and Mrs. Straus, I envy you that legacy of love and loyalty left to your children and grandchildren. The calm courage that was yours all your long and useful career was your possession in death. You knew how to do three great things—you knew how to live, how to love and how to die. One thing is sure, there are just two respectable ways to die. One is of old age, and the other is by accident. All disease is indecent. Suicide is atrocious. But to pass out as did Mr. and Mrs. Isador Straus is glorious. Few have such a privilege. Happy lovers, both. In life they were never separated and in death they are not divided."

On May 1, 1915, little more than three years after the sinking of the Titanic, the Hubbards boarded Lusitania in New York City. On May 7, 1915, while at sea, it was torpedoed and sunk by the German submarine Unterseeboot 20.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Plain Speaking

Okay, I think I've found the perfect title for my blog.  It reflects more clearly what I'm trying to do with its posts.  Speak the truth, always and everywhere--truth to power, truth to the people, the truth and nothing but the truth.

The truth can be the hardest thing to say and to hear, which is why it's rarely spoken.  But like the little boy who saw the King naked and dared say it, in Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale about the 'Emperor's New Clothes', someone has to step up and just tell the truth, whether it's inconvenient, unpopular, embarrassing, or whatever. 

Just tell the frikin' truth, and then let the chips fall where they may.  Many time, it's simply the most loving thing to do.  Really.  It's why we love Jon Stewart, Stewart Colbert, and most comedians.  They tell the truth more than anyone else.  Frankly, speaking personally now, most preachers don't tell the truth, for fear of what they would hear at the door.  They speak platitudes, comforting words/lies, stories that sooth and placate.  That's why Jesus, who always spoke the truth, was nearly killed when he first spoke in his home town of Nazareth, and it's why they eventually nailed him to a cross.  The truth is definitely dangerous.  But it's also powerful, eternal, and right.

Speak the truth in love, apostle Paul wrote.  He also was beheaded by the Roman Emperor.  Ouch. 

There is one caveat.  With close family, one has to really temper your plain speaking truth with love.  This means different things, but most of the time, it probably means lubricating whatever truth you share with lots and lots of listening, apologizing, hugging, etc.

Balance the Damn Budget

I don't always agree with Robert Samuelson, WaPo economics columnist, but today I do--very much so!
Most Americans, starting with the nation's political leaders, dismiss what's happening in Europe as a continental drama with little relevance to them.

What Americans resolutely avoid is a realistic debate about the desirable role of government. How big should it be? Should it favor the old or the young? Will social spending crowd out defense spending? Will larger government dampen economic growth through higher deficits or taxes? No one engages this debate, because if rigorously conducted, it would disappoint both liberals and conservatives.

Confronted with huge spending increases -- reflecting an aging population and soaring health costs -- liberals would have to concede that benefits and spending ought to be reduced. Seeing that total government spending would rise even after these cuts (more people would receive benefits, even if benefit levels fell), conservatives would have to concede the need for higher taxes. On both left and right, true believers would howl.

The lack of seriousness is defined by three missing words: "balance the budget." These words are taboo. In February, President Obama created a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (call it the Deficit Commission). Its charge is to propose measures that would reduce the deficit to the level of "interest payments on the debt" by 2015 so as "to stabilize the debt-to-GDP ratio at an acceptable level."

Elitist or Populist?

In this post of mine, I wrote the following about Obama's Kagan nomination:
But this much is for sure, Catholics and Jews are certainly very good at going to Harvard/Yale and becoming lawyers. How many people do you know that have gone to Harvard/Yale and become lawyers? That's who's deciding our laws. Comforting.

But this much is true, I wish I'd have gone to Harvard or Yale and become a lawyer (or Wall Street banker). It's the ticket to EVERYTHING.
Of course, I extended the argument beyond the Ivy League to the religious composition of America, but basically it was a similar argument.  I have to say that in writing that post, I felt like a member of the KKK or the No-Nothing or Nativist party of 100 years ago, although I also felt that there is normally a fairly good reason in fact--and not just anti-intellectualism and jealousy--as to why that kind of sentiment arises.

Then in yesterday's WaPo, Christopher Edley, dean of the Law School at Berkeley, wrote something similar:
Judges should be able to understand and empathize with just about anyone, because the law is about everyone. With that in mind, is what's good for Harvard and Yale good for America?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

College Isn't For Everyone

The notion that college isn't for everyone, which I began to speak about years ago now and which at that point seemed like a very radical thing to say, is beginning to grow, as seen here in this article in the New York Times.  It's time as an idea has come....and, as usual, I was ahead of the game (lol):
The idea that four years of higher education will translate into a better job, higher earnings and a happier life — a refrain sure to be repeated this month at graduation ceremonies across the country — has been pounded into the heads of schoolchildren, parents and educators. But there’s an underside to that conventional wisdom. Perhaps no more than half of those who began a four-year bachelor’s degree program in the fall of 2006 will get that degree within six years, according to the latest projections from the Department of Education. (The figures don’t include transfer students, who aren’t tracked.)

For college students who ranked among the bottom quarter of their high school classes, the numbers are even more stark: 80 percent will probably never get a bachelor’s degree or even a two-year associate’s degree.

That can be a lot of tuition to pay, without a degree to show for it.

A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Insurrection Against Incumbents

In general, I agree with this analysis by Gary North, an insightful if somewhat eccentric thinker:
On Saturday, May 8, an extraordinary event took place. United States Senator Bob Bennett, a 3-term Republican, failed to make the cut for his party's primary. Not only was he not nominated to run, he did not make the cut to get nominated. He was a distant third. Two Tea Party candidates beat him.

Bob Bennett is a legacy Senator. His father served as Senator before him.

This was an insurrection.

Bennett had turned squishy years ago. He had an undeserved reputation as a conservative. He backed the TARP bailout in 2008. Then he backed Obama's health insurance bill. That did it. "No mas!" The folks back home sent him a message: "You're out of here!"

Then, three days later, across the country, it happened again. Congressman Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, was smashed in the Democratic Party's primary, 56% to 44%. He had held that seat for 14 terms – almost 28 years. He had supported Obama's health care bill. He was one of the Stupak Seven. When Stupak folded, Mollohan folded. That ended his political career.

This is a bipartisan insurrection. It indicates that the voters have finally had enough. It may represent a turning point in American politics.

The Goldman Sachs/Robert Rubin Insider Game

This article, which I found on the website but which is originally from the blog Firedoglake, details the numerous connections between the uber-investment bank Goldman Sachs and the Obama administration, something I continue to find very distressing:
This essay shows the pervasive influence of Goldman Sachs and its units (like the Goldman-Robert Rubin-funded Hamilton Project embedded in the Brookings Institution) in the Obama government. These names are in addition to those compiled on an older such list and published here at FDL. In the future, I will combine the names here and those on the earlier article but I urge readers to look at the earlier list too (links below). Combined, this is the largest and most comprehensive list of such ties yet published.

For readability and clarity, I have NOT included many of the details and links that are found in the earlier article so as to make this one less repetitive and easier to read. So, if you want more documentation, please look at my earlier diary here at Firedoglake called "A List of Goldman Sachs People in the Obama Government: Names Attached To The Giant Squid’s Tentacles" published on April 27, 2010.

Note too that I have intentionally used the words, "Obama government" rather than "Obama administration" because some of these connections are not technically within his administration. These would include ambassadorial appointments and Supreme Court appointments (like that anticipated for Elena Kagan). This also includes lobbyists like

Don't Go To College Unless It's Really Good For You

This article addresses an issue I first addressed about 18 months ago here--the fact that not every young person really benefits from college:
The notion that a four-year degree is essential for real success is being challenged by a growing number of economists, policy analysts and academics. They say more Americans should consider other options such as technical training or two-year schools, which have been embraced in Europe for decades.

As evidence, experts cite rising student debt, stagnant graduation rates and a struggling job market flooded with overqualified degree-holders. They pose a fundamental question: Do too many students go to college?

"College is what every parent wants for their child," said Martin Scaglione, president and chief operating officer of work force development for ACT, the Iowa-based not-for-profit best known for its college entrance exam. "The reality is, they may not be ready for college."

President Barack Obama wants to restore the country's status as the world leader in the proportion of citizens with college degrees. The U.S. now ranks 10th among industrial nations, behind Canada, Japan, Korea and several European countries.

But federal statistics show that just 36 percent of full-time students starting college in 2001 earned a four-year degree within that allotted time. Even with an extra two years to finish, that group's graduation rate increased only to 57 percent.

Spending more time in school also means greater overall student debt. The average student debt load in 2008 was $23,200 – a nearly $5,000 increase over five years. Two-thirds of students graduating from four-year schools owe money on student loans

Fed Audit and Ron Paul

Here is an editorial from the New York Sun about Ron Paul and his proposal to fully audit the New York Fed.  Here is an example of an issue where the liberal-left and the 'Paulites' can unite to oppose the shenanigans of the financial Establishment:
It is tempting to express disappointment at the watering down the Senate did to Congressman Ron Paul’s vision of how to audit the Federal Reserve. Dr. Paul himself is, in an interview with the Sun this morning, characterizing the Senate’s bill as only “slightly better than nothing.” He is even warning, “It does political harm,” in that it gives the Fed “cover — and people can hide from it.” The bill that cleared the Senate is aimed at finding out merely what the Fed did during the recent bailouts but not what it is doing, say, at the discount window or in the way of loans to other central banks and governments and international financial institutions. It may lead to an auditing merely of procedures and not of numbers. The right move in the House-Senate conference is a pursuit of a wide audit that would open the Fed to daylight.
In the longer scheme of things, however, it’s possible to see the a more encouraging side to this story, at least for those of us who came in to the campaign for monetary reform in the 1970s, after President Nixon closed the gold window in 1971 and brought Bretton Woods to its bang-less, whimpering end. A decade later Congress established the United States Gold Commission. The commission backed the current system. But it produced Dr. Paul’s famous minority report, in which the congressman from Texas was joined by another member of the commission, Lewis Lehrman, a New York businessman and intellectual. Now here we are, albeit 30 years later, and a version of what Dr. Paul has been asking for, even if a watered down version, has passed the Senate 96 to zero, and Dr. Paul ranks nearly even in the polls with the sitting president.

Paul Vs Palin

What is poorly understood by many critics is that the Tea Party cohorts are fundamentally split by certain ideological differences.  You see this quite clearly in the preferences expressed in polls of Tea Partiers between Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. 

Now, anyone who follows these two political figures knows that they fundamentally differ on many issues, to the point where it's really inaccurate to refer to them both as 'conservatives'.   Ron Paul is a principled libertarian: anti-war dove, anti-Fed, anti-big banker, pro-sound currency, pro-free market, pro-choose-your-own-lifestyle.  Sarah Palin--to the extent that she has principles and isn't just a self-centered egotist trying to make her fortune--is a fundamentalist Christian, pro-war and pro-military hawk, pro-life cultural conservative.  She is pro-banker and big business, rarely disagreeing with the priorities of big business, whatever they may be.  I actually respect many of Ron Paul's positions, while I find Palin to be revolting and even disgusting.

There is a certain incoherence in the Tea Party movement in this regard, and it seems like that it will fragment and disintegrate at some point in the near future.

The Weakness of the Euro

What I've been hearing recently, which I didn't know anything about previously, is the dissolving of the European economy due to the distortions caused by the Euro common currency.  What I hadn't understood before is that the establishment of the Euro as a common currency allowed many of the poorer European nations--Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland--to tap into the capital of Europe and to overextend themselves with debt.  This caused an inevitable economic bubble, which when it collapsed, has begun to cause great hardship and the inevitable social disorder.
Many economists forecast this at the time of Maastricht Treaty, establishing the Euro some decade ago.  Without a strong central political authority in Europe--a true United States of Europe--it is not possible to have a strong currency, or so they say.  Economies get distorted, and without the ability to devalue their currency, countries cannot easily make the necessary adjustments.
So Europe isn't as strong as I thought.  And those European countries who were holdouts from the Euro--like Sweden--now seem a bit more prescient.

Cozy Relationship

This horrendous Gulf oil spill--on top of the recent mining disaster and the financial crisis--may be big business's 'Pearl Harbor': a huge wakeup call to the nation that we can't just let these profit-seeking behemoths do whatever they want without serious regulation and oversight.  It is clear that the two dominant political ideologies of our time--conservatism and neo-liberalism--have both been very lax on government regulation and oversight of business interests, all in the name of short-term profit, 'efficiency' and 'freedom'.  The relationship has been far too cozy.

That has got to stop.  That is why 'liberalism' must assert itself, because it's the only one serious about it.

Go Joe!!

I for one am glad that Joe Sestak is leading Arlen Specter in the polls in the Pennsylvania Senate race (my home state).  I've always felt that Specter was sleazy and too much of an insider, while Sestak comes across to me as a Democratic breath of fresh air.  Not to mention that Specter is a turncoat and traitor to his longtime Republican party.  He's a man without a party really, and who's to say that he wouldn't turn again if it was to his personal benefit.

Go Joe!! 

Reflecting Obama

In a recent post, I referred to Elena Kagan as a 'Jewish female Obama'.  Here is what Bill Maher says, in discussion with guests on his TV show:
Pointing to questions about Kagan's judicial philosophy, Maher wondered why President Obama would nominate a person who is a "huge question mark."

"I find it very scary that the liberals win two elections in a row, the Democrats at least, and the best they can put on the Supreme Court is a huge question mark," Maher said. "The Republicans don't do it that way. Bush wins an election, he gets John Roberts a known, dyed in the wool conservative on the court. He gets Alito. Why can't the liberals get somebody who's a liberal on the court to balance it.?"

[Cory]Booker defended Kagan's nomination and said that he expects she will reflect Obama's presidency:

"...We elected Barack Obama, we didn't elect a liberal, we elected somebody to lead our nation. We put our faith in him. And he's chosen somebody that he knows very well. He's known her for years. He chose her for a very significant position. She passed a Senate confirmation. And trust me, they looked into her background to understand who she is. She's a pragmatist, she's somebody that's going to look at the issues. She's somebody who's going to reflect the kind of president we have right now."
Exactly.  It seems to me that President Obama is the Democrat's George H. W. Bush.  In fact, he likes Bush's people, including Robert Gates.  They're both non-ideological pragmatists, which is good, I suppose, in some ways. 

But there is an irreducible ideological component to politics in America, such that if you don't have principles and convictions (which is what I mean by 'ideological' here), then you sway with the wind and go with whoever has the money and the power in society:  Oil in Bush's case, Big Bankers  in Obama's case.  Meanwhile, the average person is mostly screwed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Becoming FDR. I hope.

From what I'm reading today about Obama, I think he is being forced by circumstances to become the FDR I wanted from the beginning.  A neo-Clintonian will no longer be sufficient.

There is a tension building up in the country and in Washington that is quite extraordinary.  Or I am just reflecting my own life at this time onto the country?  We'll see.

Now this is interesting.  Above Obama's head on the Huffington Post home page with the title 'Obama Fuming' was an ad for the Robin Hood movie, with Russell Crowe ready to fire an arrow.  Is that an accident or an archetype surfacing of what is actually going on--Robin Hood?

Killing American Civilians--Don't We Call That Terrorism?

This from the NYT:
The Obama administration’s decision to authorize the killing by the Central Intelligence Agency of a terrorism suspect who is an American citizen has set off a debate over the legal and political limits of drone missile strikes, a mainstay of the campaign against terrorism.

The notion that the government can, in effect, execute one of its own citizens far from a combat zone, with no judicial process and based on secret intelligence, makes some legal authorities deeply uneasy.

Well, DUH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Great Disconnect

Brad Delong, an economist at UC-Berkeley, has some perceptive thoughts about how the Washington Elite has become separated from mainstream America:
The most astonishing and surprising thing I find about Washington DC today is the contrast in mood between DC today and what DC was thinking a generation ago, in 1983, the last time the unemployment rate was kissing 10%. Back then it was a genuine national emergency that unemployment was so high--real policies like massive monetary ease and the eruption of the Reagan deficits were put in place to reduce unemployment quickly, and everybody whose policies wouldn't have much of an effect on jobs was nevertheless claiming that their projects were the magic unemployment-reducing bullet.
Today.... nobody much in DC seems to care. A decade of widening wealth inequality that has created a chattering class of reporters, pundits, and lobbyists who have no connection with mainstream America? The collapse of the union movement and thus of the political voice of America's sellers of labor power? I don't know what the cause is. But it does astonish me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Jewish Female Obama

Here's my take on Kagan: she is a Jewish female Obama.  Why wouldn't he pick her? 
So do I think she's a good pick?  No, not particularly.  She won't be trying to win over an alienated world, she won't be the first Jewish woman ever appointed to the Supreme Court, and she doesn't follow a total incompetent.  She has none of Obama's pluses and many of his negatives.
I wish he would have picked a Protestant (the literal majority of Americans who won't be 'represented' at all on the Court now), or a Buddhist Asian-American (who have never been represented), or or a filthy rich liberal, like FDR, who would feel free to take on the bankers, etc.  How about a Native-American?  How about a Muslim?  (Did you know there are more Muslims in America than Jews--2% vs. 1%?)  Why not a Mormon, for God' sake? There are as many Mormons in America (after all, here is an American-born religion, by Joseph Smith around 1830 in Upstate New York) as Jews (1.3% in 2001). How about three Mormons on the bench?

Why do we have to have another privileged, 'well-educated', non-practicing and secular Jewish pragmatist with few strong convictions but just great at getting along with people? It's so boring.

This will make six Catholics and three Jews on the Supreme Court.  Though those groups make up only, what, about 25% of America, they're 100% of the Supreme Court?  That is not a good idea. The majority of Americans who are Protestants--evangelical or mainline--(52%) will not be represented at all. Our way of life, our culture, our distinctive views on the relationship between politics and religion and culture will not be represented on the Supreme Court at all.