Let’s Talk About Rush

October 25, 2008

Extremists have been boldly and prominently preaching hate in America  since Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine in 1986. Rush Limbaugh is not the worst of this group but probably the most prominent.  His prominence is due in large part to the fact that he has had the ear of legitimate conservatives and he has had a appreciable role in turning the country to the right while he has been on the air.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the country turning to the right, as it does from time to time.  My concern has always been the use of demagoguery in achieving this, fueling racial fears and fears of their sorts.  There is also concern about the use of misinformation, such as the fact that more than half of the population believed that weapons of mass destruction were actually found in Iraq after the invasion.  For democracy to work in a society there must be a threshold of trust among the people and dissemination of truth by the media.  The debate ought to be about what the facts mean, not whether a portion of the society is evil or should not be trusted.

For years extremists have been brandishing what I call hate propaganda on the media.  The theory behind the first amendment was that this ought to be allowed so that it can be exposed and brought to light.  The idea is that through open discussion the truth will come to light.  The problem the last several years is that there was no meaningful discussion.  Demagoguery was broadcast but not rejoined.

In this light it is very refreshing to see discussion of extremist statements.  This is really what the founding fathers wanted us to do.


Checks and Balances

October 23, 2008

Here is an interesting campaign strategy. Senator Elizabeth Dole presents a picture of Obama in the White House and a Democratic Congress. She argues that this threatens the constitutional system of checks and balances and that she, as a Republican, ought to be elected to avoid the excesses of a single party controlling the executive and legislative branches of government.

Throughout Bush’s presidency this of course was not a concern ever expressed to my knowledge by Senator Dole or any other Republican. Republican campaigns were asserting the opposite argument, claiming that this (a Republican majority in Congress) gave Republicans better access to the president and a far better opportunity to work together with the president to get things done.

Dole argument, however disingenuous, is probably closer to the truth. With a Republican Congress Bush has been able to implement a disastrous foreign policy and substantial remove domestic regulations of the financial industry and many others as well. While you would not know it from the 2007-08 Congress, a Democratic majority might have made a difference.

On the other hand the Democrats do not seem to band together as tightly as Republicans. Carter was unable to get his tax reforms through a Democratic Congress. In Washington State the Democrats seem to control everything and get remarkably little done. Part of my problem is that I cannot figure out what in fact it is the defines the Democratic Party. Is pragmatism a defining quality of a political party? If so, it leaves a person with little ability to predict what Democrats will do because we can’t tell with much certainty what will be expedient at the time a decision is required.

So, while I agree with Senator Dole in theory, it’s hard to imagine these Democrats doing very much in a coordinated manner.


We’ve seen Crashes

October 23, 2008

Please forgive the sports fans in Washington State if they are less shaken by recent Wall Street events than people elsewhere.  This is the epi-center of disaster as announced by Mount St. Helens twenty some years ago.  The only good news a sports fan has had in the men’s sport arena is that Clay Bennett left town with the Sonics.  (The Seattle Storm stands alone as local fun and exciting team.)

Sports fans here are familiar with the feeling of the bottom dropping out of things.  The way we look at it the stock market still has 60% of its former value, what’s to complain about? That’s not a crash, more like fender bender. Heck, the Huskies football team has not won a single game since mid season last year. If you combine all of the wins of the football teams of Washington, Washington State and the Seahawks you get two, both of which occurred it seems like months ago.  That and one of those wins was against an intramural team.

In some ways the Mariner season was a foreshadowing of the Market crash.  The ownership spent extravagantly on players with no intrinsic value.  Our general manager speculated that our single power hitter, Richie Sexon, was going to come back after a miserable season to the form he showed the first year of his contract. The general manager believed that Richie’s performance continue to improve, failing to recognize that all cycles must end and Richie was closer to receiving social security than a home run crown.

Some teams have a retro game where the players wear uniforms from a by-gone age.  The Mariners had a retro season where we got to relive the pleasures of watching the team during its expansion phase.

The Mariners announced there new general manager in the newspaper today.  The announcement began with the most dreaded words in the team’s forlorn history:  “Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong decided.”  I couldn’t read on.

There is a rule that a team may not make announcements during the world series.  This is viewed as a distraction from the game apparently.  There are two exceptions to the ban on announcements: (1) the league gives its approval; or (2) the announcement is not significant. It is not clear which of the two exceptions applied to the Mariner announcement. Maybe both.

This proclamation did not rate coverage by the New York Times, and you have to hunt for it on the sports web sites.  In terms of substance and understanding the reasons for the selection, these announcements are a lot like reading the transcript of a presidential debate.

Being as how this guy is from Milwaukee it’s a little like the Pilots or a small piece of them is returning to Seattle.  But who wanted the Pilots back?


About the Bailout

October 22, 2008

Bernie Sanders, an independent Senator, recently wrote a piece well worth reading if you are following the bailout. I have read a lot about the “Swedish model” which involves getting stock for the bailout money. This is said to give the tax payers an upside. Senator Sanders takes a slightly different view, which is detailed in the linked article. It is interesting to see that on this point populists can agree with conservatives (although their logical paths are quite divergent getting to the same general position), who buck at the prospect of “nationalizing” banks by having the government have a ownership interest.


Maddow’s Doing Great

October 21, 2008

As a long time fan of her radio show, I am gladdened to se Rachel Maddow do well on television.  Her ratings are staggering considering theat she has been on the air only 6 weeks.  I have to confess that sometimes the fenetic pace of the television show puts me off a bit.  I love her leisurely thinking out loud approach on the radio.


Negativity Pushed Powell to Obama

October 20, 2008

All the neo-McCarthyism and demogaguery caused Powell to pick the candidate that reresented an wscape from that  He concluded that  Obama was the one to lead us away from such nonsense.


Google CEO Jumps on Obama Train

October 20, 2008

With the CEO of Google campainging for him, Colin Powell endorsing him and Warren Buffet advising him, Barack Obama does not look like your typical terrorist-socialist.  It is hard to imagine that this continual drum beat character assisination will serve McCain well.  It seems to me that he is trading credibility for whatever is to be gained by demagoguery.  That seems like a poor bargain as with McCain’s experience and the current crisis of confidence in the president. the loss of credibility would be a critical loss for McCain.


Palin Condemns Threats but Will Continue Accusations

October 20, 2008

Palin, saying that she has not heard anything inappropriate, stated that threats against Obama were out of line and she would not continue speaking if she heard such things.  This seems a little disingenuous since McCain has had to take a microphone away from a woman who was calling Obama an Arab.  McCain no doubt correctly intuited that this woman was about to launch into an anti-Arab discourse or discussion of Obama as a terrorist.

She still though insists that it is appropriate to claim that Obama “palls around” with a terrorist.  She maintains this position in spite of the fact that this claim has been thoroughly researched and no support for it has been presented.  What is strange is that she supports this with allusions to undocumented claims and asays that there has not been a full explaination or disclosure.  This sounds a lot like McCain’s claim that Acorn is a threat to democracy.  Again no support and all research in circulation supports the opposite conclusion.

These viscious unsupported accusations seem to me to be utterly irresponsible and to bring the McCain ticket’s judgment into sharper question.  To me this demonstrates a willingness to engage in the sort of conduct that got us into a war in the Mid-East and has led to the erosion of the credibility of the presidency.  More than anything this sort of behavior links the McCain ticket with the current administration.

This sort of thing was tried by Goldwater when he was failing as the election approached.  It seems to be wroking aginst McCain and Palin.  When it is launched late in the campaign, voters seem to see it for what it is: a desparate attempt to win at any cost.  It is hard to imagine a campaign that is farther from the standard of “putting America first.”  It fosters hate and suspicion for the goal of getting elected, thereby fracturing a society that very much needs to unify to address its ills.


The Columbian Endorses Obama Based on McCain’s Preferred Issues

October 20, 2008

The Columbian newspaper endorsed Obama recently. This is interesting because it is a fairly conservative newspaper having endorsed Bush last time.

The basis for this endorsement was pretty much the factors that McCain ran on early in his campaign. First, leadership. The newspaper compares the divisiveness that seems to characterize McCain and his supporters with the way in which Obama has been able to unify his party and open it to others, attracting not just independents but according to the newspaper conservatives as well.

McCain has been hammering on the question of Obama’s judgment and it is that issue that The Columbian finds persuasive in supporting Obama. It compares the choices the two candidates have made during the campaign and finds these facts to favor Obama.

The personal attacks on Obama the newspaper finds to be true of McCain as well and it has little trouble discounting the terrorist and Acorn “issues” and it sounds like McCain’s pushing these issues diminishes him in the estimation of the newspaper.

What is interesting about this is that the McCain campaign has been intentionally trying to distract from the issues relating to the economy. (It was barely mentioned during the Republican convention.) McCain strongly prefers to direct attention to “character-related issues.” The Columbian’s endorsement is based entirely on the issues that McCain is pressing. It does not even mention the policy issues on which McCain is most vulnerable.


Terrorists in our Midst

October 20, 2008

I’ve been listening to campaign speeches recently and learned that Obama is friendly with terrorists, that we don’t really know who he is and that he is affiliated with a group that is trying to undermine our democracy though voter fraud. You can’t help but admire McCain’s high mindedness when he said that Obama is a decent family man despite these shortcomings.

With Colin Powell endorsing Obama, you have to wonder whether he is in on this too. Come to think of it, this is an area in which the State Department is supposed to be active and Condoleeza Rice has been strangely quiet about this terrorist issue.

The last time that I recall that we had terrorism creeping into the system was 1988, the year Jesse Jackson jumped into the primaries and caused a lot of confusion. As I recall he was taken very seriously until he lost the California primary, although I guess Bill Clinton does not remember it that way. (Jackson’s associations helped us sort that one out too.) Anyway George H.W. Bush was able to defeat Dukakis at least in part by creating an association between Dukakis with the domestic terrorist Willie Horton.

There of course have been other campaigns before McCain in which we have been alerted to domestic terrorist threats. Goldwater, when he seemed to be losing, circulated literature in the South that called attention to the terror some were feeling in connection with the civil rights movement. Mostly though until Obama’s nefarious past came to light, the allusions have been mostly the oblique use of code words.

This age-worn tactic does not seem to be keeping people away from Obama speeches. Here are some amazing pictures of recent Obama rallies.