Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Here it comes

Emmerson once wrote "When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart."

And here's proof. The smears, disinformation, and attacks ad hominem have begun in earnest. Now that the nominees appear to be decided, the slime machine from the Republican Party has started to attack Senator Obama. According to the Associated Pres this morning, the flag lapel pin has reared its head again, as has the lie about him not swearing the pledge of allegiance and the bigger and more disgusting lie that he is some sort of Manchurian candidate. Conservative radio jock Mark Williams has even referred to the senator from Illinois as a "domestic insurgent," implying that he is some how the same as the insurgents who are killing American troops in Iraq. It is sick and it is disgusting and it will only go on from here. Pat Buchanan said yesterday that once Obama is the nominee the ads will come in that "will make the swift boat ads look like public service announcements."

By reporting on this stuff the AP has to be careful. Of course they will be seen as a liberally biased media outlet, because conservatives see every story that doesn't agree with their narrow minded dogma as biased. If they report on the truth of the matter, or even Obama's response to the charges, they risk being called biased in favor of Obama. If they just report the accusations they contribute to the lie and favor the republicans. In a way, the rabid republican pit bulls make it impossible to be objective in covering their lies and smears.

And it's worth noting that the New York Times has run a story that Republicans are labeling as smear, and that has brought a lot of donations into Senator McCain's coffers the last few days. Forget the fact that it brought up a valid point--that he wrote letters favoring a lobbyist's clients right after taking a private plane trip to Florida with said lobbyist, paid for by said client; and that the report that he might have had an affair with the lobbyist came from some of McCain's former staffers. Ignore as well that the story was produced and fact-checked by six different reporters. The White House has weighed in saying that it is typical of the paper of record to attack the republican candidate, which candidate, by the way, they endorsed in the primary just three weeks ago. But I don't and never have considered the Times to be "liberal." (the Voice is liberal. Mother Jones is liberal. The Times is moderate--and in fact fairly conservative for this city). But it has been fairly partisan in the last few elections (for a good alternative to my view from a very conservative but non-American source, take a look at todays Sydney Morning Herald in which the Times story is analyzed line by line in an editorial called "Anatomy of a Smear").

The Republican slime merchants have gone after Michelle Obama too. She is being pilloried for a comment she made saying that for the first time in her adult life she feels proud of America. It was an ill advised comment, but the screaming morons in the Rush Limbaugh crowd jumped on her as being unpatriotic, and Cindy McCain came out with her own response saying that she had always beena nd always will be proud of her country. Really, Ms. McCain. You are old enough to remember the My Lai masacre. Were you proud of your country then? How about when we illegally bomed Cambodia and lied about it? How about when we illegally mined the harbors of Nicuragua? Or when we backed a revolution to overthrow a democratically elected government in Chile? Were you proud of America when we illegally sold guns to terrorists so we could illegally give the money to a revolution against a deomocratically elected government in Nicuragua? How about when we backed kill squads who murdered priests and nuns in El Salvador? Were you proud of us then? And when we were torturing prisoners in Abu Grahib prison did that swell your bosom with pride?

I'd have liked to have heard Michelle Obama say she had been proud of our country more than once in her life, but I can understand the sentiments of a black woman in America not being proud of a country that had slavery for two hundred years, that had lynched people just because they were her skin color, that had official segregation within her own lifetime, and where blacks still have not recovered from generations of institutional racism. A country that once conducted syphilis experiments on black men may not engender pride in a black woman.

I am a firm believer in American exceptionalism. I love my country and I'm very proud of it. But it has certainly done things in the past that have made me ashamed to be an American. Those people who love their country unconditionally all the time without actually thinking about the horrible things that have been done in their name are parrots not patriots. They simply repeat over and over again the same gingo slogans that, because there is no thought behind them, can have no meaning and no heart. They are willing to commit murder and meyhem simply because they believe that the accident of their birth in one place makes them superior to everyone else on the planet. They prove that Mark Twain was right when he said "The soul and substance of what customarily ranks as patriotism is moral cowardice and always has been."

That's for you, Sean Hannity.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This is the end

Well, it's all over for Hilary. The The teamsters have endorsed Obama. She desperately needs the blue collar vote to win Ohio, and she desperately needs to win Ohio, but if the Teamsters are backing Obama that means most of the rest of labor will do so to. It's too bad. Part of me really wanted her to win (part of me wanted Obama to win), and I do think she would make a better president. But only slightly. We do have a wealth of riches.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Where's the Beef?

Hallmark/Westland of Chino California has issued the largest beef recall in U.S. history because of inspection violations. This is not a case where some meat was found to be contaminated so they recalled all the meat from a specific plant. That would be bad enough. This is a case where a meat packer slaughtered cattle that could not stand, and cruely forced them to stand so they'd pass an inspection by, in a sense. waterborading them (I kind of love that part). Downer cattle, those that can't stand, are supposed to be removed from the food supply because they might carry Mad Cow disease. Hallmark/Westland is recalling 143 million pounds of beef, going back two years (in other wrds, most of it has already been eaten).

It doesn't matter that the health risk from this beef is very low. What matters is that these guys violated slaughter regulations and got away with it for two years. I'm from California originally, and agriculture (not movies or computers like some people think) is the business that drives the economy of my home state. After the letuce recall awhile back this is another big blow. But that is not what pisses me off.

I expect things like this to happen in the industrial food chain--more so since I read The Omnivore's Delima. And I still eat meat (well not at the moment--it's Lent). So that is not what pisses me off either.

What pisses me off is that this happened on Bush's watch. No, I'm serious. I blame George Bush. I blame Bush and Carl Rove and Dick Cheney and I blame everyone who put them in charge of our country, because I don't beleive it's coincidentalt hat this has happened now. The Repubicans have for years fostered an anti-regulatory, pro-business agenda that reaches into all corners of the executive branch, including those corners that are supposed to keep us safe from contaminated beef or oil spills or air polution or nuclear disaster. All of this is linked. At the core of these problems is a philosophy that the governement should never tell business what to do because it would interfere with business's ability to make a profit. Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman (far more, I think, than Adam Smith) combine to create a philosophy of no government wherein the fix for problems like the one at Hallmark Westfiled will come when somebody gets sick and people stop buying meat, or at least stop buying meat from Hallmark Westfield. Under this core principal of Republican politics, there should be no regulation of the beef industry, nor of pork, chicken, fish, produce, medicines, alcohol, or anytyhing else. If a couple hundred people die from eating beef from Hallmark/Westfield the company will go out of business because people will stop buying their products. Of course, a couple hundred people will have to die for that to happen, or maybe more, since Mad Cow takes a long time to develop (most of this food was going to school cafeteria's by the way). Regulation not only impinges on profits, it also holds back the good business by not allowing them to build public trust by *not* making people sick--or so the suply side theorists would say.

But for the woman whose child died from eating contaminated food at school, that's little comfort. From the people whose brains slowly rot away because they are turning into sponges, it doesn't matter that Hallmark/Westfield might go out of business. But tha't ok from a pro-business point of view. The answer to these problems is corrective, not preventative.

Business. A lot was made by the fact that this would be the first MBA presidency, that Bush was not a lawyer nor a professor but an MBA. This is the Business Presidential Administration, and look what it's gotten us. Business has a free reign to do just about whatever it wants--at least until the press catches them at it and then there's an outcry which will result in absolutely nothing. Profits are up but earnings are stagnant. The mega-millionaires are leaving plain old millionaires behind. Magazines are publishing articles about how good it is for America that we've entered a second "gilded age." And the ninth-ward in New Orleans is still in ruins, and Hallmark/Westfield gets to kill downer cows for two years before somebody calls them on it. And this won't hurt beef too much. Oh, PETA and the Humane society will cry, and vegitarians will be saying "we told you so," but MacDonalds will still be the most popular restrauint in the world. Somebody once said that the purpose of a retraction in a newspaper was to make people belive that everything else printed in that newspaper was true. The same can be said of recalls. They give the impression that all the rest of the products (meat, cars, letuce, whatever), which weren't recalled, are safe. So even the recall is, in a way, good for business. The industry will be able to say "we are correcting the problems" and pro-business pundits will say "this is an isolated incident" and people will say to themselves "see, the government *is* doing something to protect us," and it will all be a lie. BEef certainly won't be outlawed, and people will certianly stil get sick, and Bill Maher will continue to rave like a lunatic (he'll be insuferable on his show this week, just watch).

And all in the name of business.

If I were to right a fictional epic, I'd write one about a familly that was old school New England money, that had been intervntionist and supported the Nazis during WWII, that had been in the oil business and sold oil to Germany right up until the war (or maybe even during the war, like Frod managed to do with car parts). The scion of this family would enter politics so that he could influence business decisions as a senator and later influence foreign policy as head of the CIA, primarily to help his idunstry, the oil industry, and other businesses get out from under the regulatory blanket cast upon them by the New Deal. He'd use his position to prop up dictators who would sell us oil, and to undermine nations that wouldn't, all the while building bridges with the Saudi Royal family. His son would become an oil executive and then enter politics himself becomeing president with the help of his oil-industry cronies and his father's contacts. If I was really sinister I'd imply that he would foment a national emergency, some big terrorist act that would prompt America to suspend its liberties and enter into a never ending war which would have the net effect of driving up oil prices and profits and keeping them high indefinitely, as simultaneously they starved the regulatory branches of government until they were completely innefectual. And lurking beneath the surface would be the fact that it was all revenge against Roosevelt for the new deal and for WWII. I'd even arange to have some of his highly placed staffers to have family ties to fascism, and maybe some of his republican allies as well, like the governor of a big state. Then, in the greatest and most sinister example of corruption of all (because all great corruption thrillers eventually lead to the church--see Godfather III), I'd make it so that his conservative pro-business cabal arranged to have a Nazi become the next Pope, giving them the spiritual authority to continue their pro-business crusade. Then this new-world order could continue to make deveopment loans to small countries that strangled social services, to trade currencies back and forth on a global scale so nobody's money was worth anything for very long, to eliminate trade restrictions that protected peoples health or people's jobs, to move manufacturing to countries with low labor costs thereby getting rid of all those high paying union jobs that ate into share-holders' profits for so long, and fight the little wars that kept oil flowing but at an exhorbitantly higher price.

If I wrote that novel nobody would buy it. It would be too unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bow wow wow

All right! did you catch that the beagle won the Westeminster Kennal Club Dog show last night? Cool! I always root for the winner of the hound group, and they almost never win. Apparently, a beagle has never won Best in Show in the 100 years they've had the competition. Look for this little guy to become the Payton Manning of the dog world, appearing in every conceivable type of commercial. This is a beagle after all, America's favorite breed. To have the impremiature of the Westminster on his beagle pedigre, ocmbined with his inate beagle cutness and lovability, makes him suddenly the most valuable Dog superstar in America. I see endorsement deals! Co-marketting plans! Car commercials! Dog food commercials! Pepsi commercials! this little guy is every Madison Avenue executives slobering wet dream. Just so long as he doesn't get all britany on us.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

What now

The conventional wisdom now that Romney has dropped out of the race is that John McCain has the nomination sewed up. But don't tell that to Mike Huckabee. Huckabee believes he's going to win. And when you look at it he might. It will be hard--McCain is more than half way there--but it's doable.

Look at it. In every contest so far, Romney and Huckabee have been splitting the conservative vote. Now where are they going to go? Not to McCain. They hate him. McCain will win the independents and some of the deficit hawks, but not the bread and butter conservatives. They'll go to Huckabee.

This weekend is Louisiana, Kansas, and Washington. I haven't seen the polls, but I have an idea about them. Huckabee will be strong in Kansas, and a long shot in Washington. But Washington is a caucus state, where Huckabee, like Obama, is very strong. Don't be too surprised if Huckabee wins all three. Louisiana is weird. They already had a caucus, but now they've got a primary. McCain won the caucuses, but those only select some of the delegates. Twenty delegates are up for grabs this weekend. They are committed only if someone wins a majority. McCain should win Louisiana, but Huckabee has great momentum. More than anybody realizes, (except Huckabee). On Tuesday are the Potomac contests of Virginia, Maryland and DC, all places where McCain should be strong. But if McCain is coming off three weekend losses, and Huckabee off a weekend sweep, look for Huckabee to pick up Virginia.

This is what the White House is hoping for--some wierd scenario wherein Huckabee wins the nomination, or at least the convention is brokered and the Bush and Rove can twist Romney's arm and get him to pledge his delegates to Huckabee. The last thing they want is to have to have GW cozy up to his arch rival. They hate McCain more than they hate Hilary.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Welcome to Wal Mart, May I Take Your Pulse?

I suppose I shouldn't be upset that Wal Mart is actually trying to do something about the healthcare crisis in America. At least they are trying. They are certainly doing better than the bozos in Washington on the issue. So why do I find it onerous?

First of all it's the fact that it's Wal Mart. The idea going to the temple of cheap to get healthcare is revolting. Now, I know that they are only doing the same sort of thing Sears did back in the day--providing all sorts of services to go along with their retail business. Once upon a time Sears would come into a town and open a store that had an eye doctor, an insurance agent, a photo studio, sometimes even a dentist. It was a public service providing low cost services to areas that were underserved, and it was good business, getting more people into the stores for a longer period of time. It was even a minor profit center. Along the way it founded Allstate insurance (still the company I use) and Discoverdard, as well as Craftsman tools and DieHard Batteries. Eventualy they bought Coldwell Banker realty and and Dean Witter, and all of these business operated inside Sears stores. Walmart is just trying to be the same one-stop shopping sort of place. But it's Wal Mart--specter of evil, the destroyer of small towns, the Godzilla that comes in and stomps mom and pop businesses underfoot. How can they be credited with actually doing something good? For Wal Mart this is good business too. They get more people in their stores and they mute criticism from unions that they skimp on worker healthcare. I mean, if a worker can get healthcare right at work, how skimpy can it be?

Of course it is just a bandaid. There are lots of free and low-costs clinics in America (Wal Mart is mostly co-branding with existing hospitals). The big problem with this is that it does little for preventative care and nothing for major care, which is where people loose their houses because they can't pay for an operation.

And sears is talking about once again breaking up into smaller companies in order to shed is loss leaders and become less bloated. Eventually Wal Mart will become too big as well.

Perhaps my problem is that it's not the solution *I* believe in. I support universal single-payer helathcare. But then that doesn't fly in the US because somebody immediately starts yelling "socialism." Forget the fact that people live longer in industrialized countries with universal care (according to the CIA World Factbook, the United States ranks 45th in the world in life expectancy. Number 1 is Andora). Wal Mart getting into the healthcare business is not a solution it is a symptom of the problem.

Monday, February 04, 2008


Between the Super Bowl hype and the Super Tuesday hype, I haven't seen any networks cover this, but Super Tuesday is also Fat Tuesday, a popular holiday throughout America. Although Louisiana's primary isn't part of the 22, there are still plenty of people who will be voting drunk. It's probably a good omen for the Fat Cats.

Fox did indeed link their Super Tuesday coverage with their Super Bowl coverage on Sunday morning. It didn't make much sense to me, but it probably gave a bit more exposure to the usual parade of policy wonks and talking heads who were now suddenly supposed to look cool delivering football metaphors about Hilary Clinton.

And, of course, the day after Super Tuesday is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, which millions of Catholics celebrate by freaking out their co-workers.

(I stole that joke from Tina Fey: it's still one of my favorites).

There are parades and then there are PARADES

Yes, the Red Socks got a parade through Boston. Good for them.

Tomorrow the Giants will have a ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes. Now that's a PARADE. They get the same parade that Eisenhower got when he returned from WWII, that Lindbergh got when he crossed the Atlantic, that John Glen got after the Mercury 6 mission, and that the crew of Apollo 11 got after walking on the moon.

Sometimes it doesn't seem fair that I get to live in New York City and so many other people don't.

What a fantastic game! I got my dream match up and my dream win! Manning was great and that defensive line was incredible! Boy, the party I went to was rocking. I'll miss the parade, but I'll be celebrating for weeks!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Nobody Expects the Microsoft Acquisition!

Well, this is it. Microsoft has offered an unsolicited bid of 444.6 billion with a b dollars for Yahoo. In doing so they are pick the last plum on the tree, so to speak. Google has become a rival, some russian company bought livejournal. Time Warner snatched up AOL years ago and wishes they hadn't. Murdoch has got myspace. Facebook is out there, and Microsoft bought about 1.6% of it awhile back, but Facebook wants to remain independent and, let's face it, Facebook is not Yahoo. Buying Yahoo puts Microsoft in direct competition with Google, which is after all the point. It may be the last of the mega acquisitions to some along in tech for awhile. Until facebook goes on the market that is.

But admire the sheer balls of it. Let's drop $44 billion for a company that has lost market share to our biggest competitor for the last five years. What's $44 billion anyway? They are Microsoft. They can swoop in and buy whatever they want--and right now they want Yahoo. Like I said: nobody expects the Microsoft acquisition.

Don't eat me

CNN reports that on this groundhog day two Amtrak trains, traveling in opposite directions, were stranded at the top of Donner Pass overnight. The westbound train has been towed back to Reno but the Eastbound train is still stuck in the snow. At Donner pass. CNN was quick to point out that the passengers have plenty of food.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ron Paul's Big Day

Today is the Maine Republican primary. For a few days now, Ron Paul has been saying that Maine is his best shot at a primary victory is in Maine, and he's right. I'm voting for the democrat, whoever it is, but I wish him well.

I hope he does win Maine today. He deserves it. As St. Rudy himself pointed out, Ron Paul won all the debates. And he's actually read the constitution. Don't forget: Maine was the first state my guy Jerry Brown won in the 1992 democratic primaries (he eventually also took Vermont, Colorado, Nevada and Connecticut). The day after his stunning victory in Maine Jerry called Percy Pinkney, his former chief of staff who had gotten me and JP into the VIP seats at a Brown rally in Sacramento, and told him that if he wanted that ambassadorship he'd better jump on board.

So Maine has a habit of being maverick and cutting through all the media hype, and seeing who actually is right and would who make the best president (I still say we'd be a better nation if Jerry had had been elected president that year and not Clinton). So Maine is definitely Paul's best shot because of all the republican candidates he's the only one that has consistently spoken the truth. Good luck today.