Archive for October, 2008

Huzzah!

October 31, 2008

The best thing I’ve read, seen, or heard about this election as a moment in American history is Esquire magazine’s ambivalent endorsement of a political candidate for the first time in its 75-year history.

A stupid thing to say, or the stupidest thing anybody’s ever said in the long and colorful history of human language?

October 28, 2008

From the Wall Street Journal:

If Mr. Obama wins we could possibly see any or all of the following: a federal constitutional right to welfare; a federal constitutional mandate of affirmative action wherever there are racial disparities, without regard to proof of discriminatory intent; a right for government-financed abortions through the third trimester of pregnancy; the abolition of capital punishment and the mass freeing of criminal defendants; ruinous shareholder suits against corporate officers and directors; and approval of huge punitive damage awards, like those imposed against tobacco companies, against many legitimate businesses such as those selling fattening food.

Let’s set aside the fact that Sen. Obama has never advanced public policies to do any of this.  Let’s set aside the lack of evidence that he’s even remotely as politically suicidal as one would have to be to do any of this.  Let’s set aside the mountain of evidence that he’s politically astute enough to know how politically suicidal any of this would be.

Instead, let’s just focus on a couple of glaring issues with this fever-dream of a comment.  First, does this guy have any idea how hard it is to amend the constitution?  Even once?  Let alone 4 times?  In one presidency?  Does he have any awareness that the success of any or all of these amendments — if offered, which they won’t be, for the reasons stated above — would be a direct reflection of the will of a supermajority of the American people?  Is he aware that his prediction, therefore, is the direct equivalent of stating that he believes only a small minority (inframinority?) of Americans share his political views and philosophy, and that he is therefore, by his own admission, at the far right fringe of American society, and probably, therefore, someone whose opinions the WSJ shouldn’t bother to print?

Second, does this guy have any knowledge of how the American judicial system works?  Is he aware that presidents do not determine the size of awards from lawsuits?  That they don’t even have any influence on it?  That the courts are, like, this whole other branch of government?  That the handing out of awards and the size of those awards is determined by juries?  You know, the Hockey Moms and Joe Sixpacks and Joe the Plumbers that his party supposedly loves so much?

In short, is there anything about American politics and the constitution that this guy does know?

Or is his knowledge limited to the fact that he wants to scare everybody sh**less because it’s politically useful to him and his party?

h/t Sullivan

Proud to be an Americaaaan…

October 27, 2008

Amanda Jones just cast a write-in ballot in Texas for Barack Obama.  She’s 108 years old.  Her father was a slave.

h/t EotAW

Opie’s Coming Out Party

October 25, 2008

You may have seen THIS already.

I do not think that means what you think it means.

October 24, 2008

So you’ve all probably heard by now that a crazed, strapping black buck mugged, raped, and disfigured  a defenseless young white woman who volunteers for the McCain campaign in Pittsburgh.  The strapping black buck was driven wild by seeing the defenseless young white woman get out of a car with a McCain/Palin bumper sticker on it, and walk to an ATM.  (We all know how crazed they get at the site of white women and cash money.  It’s in their blood.  Like tapdancing and field songs.)

Or, you know, not.  As it turns out, the whole thing was made up.  The woman wasn’t robbed — hadn’t even been to the ATM, as a security camera revealed — and the injuries and disfigurement were self-inflicted.

I don’t have any desire to bash this poor woman, who, it appears, suffers from mental health issues.  Bless her heart, I hope she gets the help she needs.  No, my interest is in the reaction to her story.  In particular, one reaction to her story; that of the president of Fox News, John Moody, who said:

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

Actually, Mr. Moody, that’s practically the definition of racism.  A random black man brutalizes a white woman somewhere.  On that basis, people decide they can’t trust the black presidential candidate.  In what sense is that not racism?

Do I need to buy somebody a dictionary?

A Center-Right Country?

October 21, 2008

I hear all the time, including on this blog, occasionally, that America is a center-right country; that liberals and Democrats have to be careful not to go too far with their wild-eyed plans, because a basically conservative electorate will punish them for it; that their fundamental disconnect with “real Americans” leaves them on a short policy leash.

I keep hearing this asserted (the latest courtesy of Jon Meacham at Newsweek — famed for its flaming left-wing bias), but I never see any data for it adduced.  I’m not saying there isn’t any.  I’m just saying I’ve never seen it.  If it exists, I’d be interested in seeing it.  Meacham’s evidence isn’t data on Americans’ actual positions on the issues; it’s highly compressed historical anecdotes.  David Brooks makes a somewhat oblique version of the same argument, through the device of his very own “Joe the Plumber,” “Patio Man.”

Meanwhile, this guy does a pretty good job of making the counter-argument, assuming the polling data he cites is valid.  (At least he cites some.)  The key point(s), for me:

On foreign policy, on economic policy, on social policy, on just about everything, it’s the progressive position that is more popular. The median voter in 2008 is pro-choice, supports civil unions for gay Americans (a position that seemed insanely radical only a decade ago), rejects the Bush foreign policy, supported the recent increase in the minimum wage, wants strong environmental protections, favors reasonable restrictions on gun sales, thinks the wealthy and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes, and wants the government to guarantee universal health coverage.

What’s the countervailing data?  If anybody can provide links to it, I’d appreciate it.

Lessons from Lee

October 20, 2008

Last month, a man named Lee started attending our Bible class. Lee is overweight, speaks with a terrible rasp, is missing teeth, and simply looks like nobody has ever taken care of him. Turns out, he’s been homeless for the past 20 years. He recently got sober, got a job, and is living in assisted housing. He was baptized last week and is about to celebrate a birthday next month.

Yesterday, we learned that Lee is going to have surgery to get his leg amputated. Why? Because several years ago, when he was still homeless, a couple of teenage boys set fire to him while he was passed out. I have a vague memory of hearing about the incident on the news, and I never dreamed I would end up knowing the victim. Lee was taken to the hospital, where the doctors removed the top layer of skin. He never received any other treatment. Now gangreen has set in, and the only option is amputation.

The boys who set fire to Lee never served time. One of them is now a Memphis police officer. If they knew Lee today, they would marvel at this articulate intelligent quick-witted man.

A couple of things I’ve learned from Lee (these are his words):

– Homeless people are the most important people in the word on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Any other day, they’re trash.

– It costs nothing to smile and say “hello.” You don’t have to give money to anyone. Just acknowledge their existence.

We’re studying Financial Peace in class right now (which I slightly hate, but that’s another story), but knowing Lee has a added a bit of perspective to the whole thing. We worked on budgets Sunday, and it was funny what “neccessities” suddenly became indulgences.

Stay tuned for “Lessons from Lee, Part 2.” 🙂

Finally

October 18, 2008

Let me first say that I am not at all happy about the current financial crisis and recession. Indeed, it has affected me personally — for the past few months I’ve been doing contract attorney work, which is basically temp work for lawyers, and I’ve now been out of work for three weeks with no prospects in sight because contract work dries up overnight when the economy heads south. I am living a few months away from personal economic disaster, and only my confidence that I will get another job before that day comes allows me to sleep at night.

But there is a ray of sunshine here, and it’s one I’ve been on record as hoping for for only the last, like, ten years or so. I’ve always said that what we need is a good depression to reverse the devastating effects of the Reagan Revolution and usher in a new era of semi-progressive politics (hey, I’m realistic — we’re not going to get anything more than semi- in this country no matter how high the unemployment rate goes). It appears that such a thing may be on the verge of coming to fruition. It is unfortunate that it takes the personal tragedy of many hundreds of thousands of people in order to get there, but I for one am willing to endure some anxiety in order to get us back on track to being a better nation than we’ve been for the past almost-thirty years.

So when I read this article, I wanted to stand up and clap. Hurray for sending crotchety old Ayn Rand and her ilk into the dustbin of history!

Much Ado About Nothing (Again)

October 17, 2008

So, this whole ACORN “scandal” is a complete load of crap and I’m tired of hearing about it. Here are three articles explaining why.

Capiche?

This just in:  the inevitable response to the McCain-Palin attacks on ACORN is . . . death threats and vandalism.

Too Big

October 13, 2008

There’s a phrase we’ve been hearing a lot in the news lately, and not for the first time: “too big to fail.”  We heard it a few years ago when we — the taxpayers — had to bail out a huge hedge fund.  We heard it again recently about AIG and some others, whom the taxpayers are yet again having to bail out.  These companies screwed up hugely, but they don’t have to pay the price for it because they’re so large, their failure would bring down the total economy.

People argue about whose fault this was and what regulatory or anti-regulatory scheme might prevent these huge financial houses from getting themselves into another such mess in the future.  To me, that misses the point.  The fundamental problem here isn’t that these institutions failed; it’s that they were too big.

It strikes me as fundamentally undemocratic for any private entity to have so much influence on the economy that said entity’s survival must be guaranteed by the citizens.  It also strikes me as economically unsound and a threat to national security.

Therefore, I’d like to propose the following rule:  too big to fail = too big.

The purpose of anti-trust regulations is to prevent any business from gaining so much control over its market that it can engage in practices harmful to consumers and to the economy at large.  Why not apply the same logic to the present situation?  Let’s come up with some anti-bust regulations, the purpose of which is to prevent any one business entity from becoming so large that the economy could not continue to function within reasonable parameters if that entity went bust.

As far as I know, there currently is nothing in this country to prevent us getting into the same situation that Iceland and several European nations got into, where there are private financial institutions whose obligations are greater than the host nation’s entire GDP.  That strikes me as fundamentally and deeply unhealthy.  It looks like the European nations will survive it by virtue of being members of the EU, but Iceland is in serious deep doo-doo.

I’d like to hear opinions on whether there’s something fundamentally wrong with the notion of “too big to fail,” and whether or not regulation to prevent business entities from getting that big would be a good idea.  I know free-market conservatives hate this bailout, but they also hate regulation.  Where would they come down on something like this?