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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


OK, I admit, I'm a political junkie - or used to be. After retirement you have more time to really follow campaigns, read the news, and listen to more comment. The campaigns started off really interesting, the debates were lively, and the issues were becoming more defined. Now things have bogged down into who can sling the most mud, let's discover who might have known whom years ago. The commentators now are simply regurgitating and repeating each other with little light on anything. Congress, in the meantime, seems to wallow in trivialities while we have no strategy for Iraq other than to hang around and hope for the best; oil production seems to have peaked and is probably sliding backwards (link) ; the country has no plan to deal with health care, loss of jobs overseas, or a crumbling infrastructure, and corruption in the Pentagon seems the norm rather than the exception (their budget is too complicated to audit so no one even knows how the money is being spent), the Democrats can't even figure out how to count votes, the government has socialized the financial world by bailing out only the big guys, and on and on.

I'm at the point where maybe it's time to just say F**K it all and forget about even voting; just mind my own business.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Charlie and George: Some Help with Questions

I guess Charlie and George had trouble thinking of questions for Barack and Obama at the debate last Tuesday. I put my brain to work for about 5 minutes and came up with the following. Feel free to borrow any you wish.

Questions I’d like to see asked of the candidates (instead of ones about lapel pins, etc.)

- There has been a lot of criticism of President Carter’s visit to the Mideast. What is you position on ex-presidents embarking on their own peace missions?
- We all know that infrastructure degradation is a problem in the United States. We also know that the debt is ballooning, how can we afford to build infrastructure, pay for health care, and pay down the debt without raising taxes?
-- Eminent domain has been used by some cities to increase land availability for development. Do you approve of the decision in the New London case, and what is your position on eminent domain to increase land availability for developers?
-What should be the role of the federal government, if any, in addressing the problems of cult religious groups such as the fundamentalist polygamy groups in Texas and Utah?
-All the candidates have made a lot of promises; just how realistic are those promises and do you have a “plan B.”
-You’ve been on the campaign trail for months now. What would you change to make the process more fair or at least less physically demanding, if anything?
The media makes a lot of money from campaign ads. Shouldn’t they be required to offer free time to candidates on an equal level to level the playing field?
-Senator Clinton: Your husband has earned a rightful place as an ex-president to travel the world and comment on issues. What steps would you take to insure that when he speaks to foreign governments, his comments are known to NOT reflect the position of your government. For example: on free trade where you have said you disagree with your husband.
-What explains the huge inmate population in this country? What can be done to reduce the recidivism rates? And what strategies would you adopt to integrate former inmates into society as productive citizens.
-Under what circumstances might you use nuclear weapons?
-How would you structure your state department and defense department, i.e. with those supporting diplomacy as a solution or a military option?
-What should be the role of the U.S. military is protecting oil supplies, e.g. in Nigeria.
-Can the US reduce the debt without raising taxes?
-Can the Internet be used by government to become more efficient and to increase communications between government and the people?
-It appears that auditing the Pentagon is beyond anyone's capabilities, yet every business is expected to have an audit. What can you do as president to assure us that money is being spent honestly and wisely?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What a Mess: Clinton v Obama

I saw this coming two months ago. Totally predictable. The math is against both of them because of the way the Democrats apportion delegates: proportionally. It's very, very difficult for either of two strong candidates to get a majority. My prediction is that they will both continue to batter each other until the convention which will deadlock, neither side wishing to concede. The convention will be forced to go to a third person: Al Gore. In fact, I've seen several reports that the DNC has already talked to Gore at a meeting on April 15th to develop a so-called "Denver Plan" that will have Gore as the presidential nominee, the person with the highest delegate count as VP and the other given a high post in the Gore administration. I have to admit such a strategy would completely flummox the Republicans. I have no idea what would happen to all the money collected or how the campaign would be financed, but the Democrats are in a pickle as Clinton and Obama continue to wear each other down. Just read some of the posts to sites to realize how divided the Clinton and Obama camps have become. It's truly appalling and I am terribly afraid if something radical is not done, we'll have 4 years of a Bush clone.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Clinical death of mainstream media

Excellent letter posted on (Link)

"Last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama might not have offered new insights into the political plans of the two contenders, but it enabled the audience to make a first-hand diagnosis of the shocking state of public discourse in the United States.

The two moderators, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous, spent the first 46 minutes of the debate discussing topics such as flag pins, the candidates’ choice of churches, and their attitudes about gun control. These issues are, at best, only peripheral to the staggering mountain of problems facing this nation. At worst, they reflect how much this country, and the mainstream media, have adjusted to the rightwing and proto-fascist fearmongering that dominated the last eight years.

It is hard to imagine any other democratic nation where a contender for the highest office is being asked, not by some thirdrate journalists but by prominent anchors, whether or not he is a patriot. And all of this because he is not wearing a flag pin! Instead of accepting as evidence for his patriotism the fact that Obama, who had to answer this question, subjects himself to the grinding two-year process of campaigning, the moderators resorted to an embarrassing line of questioning that invoked the atmosphere of twentieth-century totalitarian politics: “You are not flying the swastika outside your window!” or “Where’s your picture of Stalin?” A similar gusto for manufactured scandals was visible in the questions about Obama’s pastor, Mr. Wright. Obama has answered these questions before, he did so again in a way that seemed integer. Yet, the overarching point is: Why does it matter so much? George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condi Rice never listened to Wright, I assume, but they still lied, started a war, and approved the torturing of detainees.

The moderators’ and ABC’s performance made no secret about their contempt for democracy. Several times, Gibson announced that they would cut away to a commercial break. Why do they need a commercial break during a debate that features two persons who might run this nation as president? Are they afraid that people don’t have the attention span? To see how the moderators and the candidates struggled to finish questions and answers before commercial breaks was symbolic of how a capitalist media system has hijacked American politics: The timing of questions and answers, the presentation of arguments is not important per se but, rather, has to fit into a representational grid established by the corporate structure of the medium.

This contempt for democracy shapes how Stephanopolous and Gibson understand their roles as journalists. While they donned the mantle of relentless investigative journalists by pursuing the above mentioned trivia questions they also revealed a painful level of disregard for civil democratic structures. When Charlie Gibson asked whether the candidates would ignore the generals’ advice when it came to leaving Iraq, it was Clinton who had to remind Gibson that the US is not run by a military junta but by a civilian leadership that has the last word about when and how to use military force! No surprise, then, that there was not a single question about what the candidates would do about the Patriot Act or whether they would investigate possible war crimes by the current president, who admitted that he approved of “harsh interrogation methods,” a.k.a. torture. But, wait, how could Obama and Clinton know about this--Charlie, George, and their colleagues have yet to make a story about that. It will have to wait, though, because first we need to know about these missing flag pins!"

How to enjoy flying, seriously.

I like flying and even airports aren't too bad if you follow these suggestions:

-Get to the airport at least 3 hours early. Rushing is stressful and can ruin everything.
-Be courteous with everyone, you'd be amazed at how being pleasant bring a pleasant return. TSA folks can be very nice if you are nice to them.
-Know the rules of what is and is not allowed.
-Bring an Ipod loaded with audiobooks ( is great) and music. Bring a battery extender and extra batteries. If you prefer reading (I like both) tear out magazine articles and throw them away as you read them. Your bags then get lighter.
-Bring noise-canceling headphones (they make a huge difference.)
--Wear loafers to make shoes on and off easy (both at security and on the plane).
-Wear loose fitting and stain resistant clothes.
-Visit the bathroom and excrete everything possible just before boarding.
-Keep a flexible schedule.
Always get a window seat - the views can be quite pretty and no one will climb over you.
-Have patience and think about all the money you are saving.
-If you can't follow these simple suggestions, take the train.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Failure of the Main Stream Media

Glenn Greenwald -

Our "black Monday" for oil | Salon News

Our "black Monday" for oil | Salon News

The fact remains that the United States government has ignored these obvious facts for decades. John Anderson, who ran for president many years ago, was laughed at and ridiculed for proposing a very modest 50 cent per gallon tax on oil that would be used to build public transportation infrastructure and to help drive down demand. Our current leaders -- including all the candidates this year -- fail to even talk about energy policy.

What we really need is a $4.00 to $5.00 per gallon tax that would be used to fund a Manhattan Project-sized research initiative into alternatives and to build public transportation. Building enormous homes for single people in the suburbs should be taxed into oblivion, and truly essential services like food production and delivery subsidized. We will never do it however, because we remain greedy and myopic, and because we erroneously believe that we can overcome everything by shooting. Well, if Iraq is an example, we're in for a very long and dark cold spell.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

James Dobson Admits to Being an Islamic Terrorist

(AP) James Dobson today admitted he was a covert operative for the government of Iran and dedicated to the overthrow of the United States. He made the admission after being water boarded. He had agreed to subject himself to this interrogation technique to show how harmless it was, but ended up surprising everyone by admitting his real nefarious objective. He was immediately arrested and sent to Guantanamo where he awaits trial in the year 2031.

The Great Clinton Years

As Hillary tries to return us to the yesteryears of the 90's:

Let's see, the great Clinton years: failed health insurance try, impeachment, embarrassment, disbarment, lying, travelgate, NAFTA, a tax cut to the super-rich that dwarfs anything Bush has done, a second term that virtually guaranteed a Republican takeover of Congress.

Actually, I'd be a lot more favorably inclined toward Hillary if she had divorced Bill and been running by herself. The idea of him hanging around in the White House with nothing to do - or worse - making things for himself to do frightens me. He's a loose cannon and albatross around her neck. And frankly Chelsea, if she is really representing the campaign, will have to answer the question about how Bill's actions in the White House affected her family's relationship. She cannot just say it's none of our business because we have to know how those two will interact.

I heard one pundit -- not that we should pay any attention to them -- suggest that Hillary knows she cannot win this year, wants the race to go to the convention, wants Obama to lose to McCain so she can run in 2012. Personally, I think the only hope for a Democratic win this fall is if the convention deadlocks (which it probably will) and then turns to a compromise candidate in the wings: Gore. A Gore/Obama ticket would be unbeatable. (BTW, I am a huge Obama supporter and hope I am wrong and he wins both the convention and the election, but I just don't see that happening, unless the mess is sorted out early.)

Spray bottles

We have sent people to the moon, created marvelous little electronic devices and all sorts of other goodies, but we can't seem to create a spray bottle that doesn't leave at least an inch of product in the bottom of the container. Now if I were a conspiratorialist....

Real Lessons of Bear Stearns

1. If you are big enough, you will not be allowed to fail, no matter what you do. The stockholders may have taken a hit (more about that later), but the bond holders were bailed out.

2. Just imagine if you were savvy enough to purchase Bear Stearns at $2, and just maybe guessed!? that JP Morgan might come back with a higher offer, and you bought a million shares at $2 and then 5 days later saw it rise to $10. You would have made a hell of a lot of money. Now we all know those folks know and talk to each other..... The fact is some people made a killing.

3. The Fed is not bailing out the economy; it's bailing out its friends in the guise of bailing out the economy. There's a big difference.

4. Capitalism requires that risk takers get hurt on occasion to keep things honest, i.e., the so-called moral hazard. The Fed is removing that risk from the system. In the meantime, the dollar has tanked and the only real benefit is that the interest on our debt is lower - that makes the administration numbers look better. And again, these folks are all friends and bailing out each other.