Saturday, February 23, 2008

Questions 67 & 68

A question occurred to me this morning in the shower.

Yes, I shower every Saturday, whether I need it or not.

Why is it Obombers assume all Hillaryites will vote Democratic, yet expect to unify Republicans behind Obama?

Are they suggesting Republicans are somehow more enlightened than Clintonistas?

I say this after all the smug snark and ridicule I've taken at various blogs for being so full-throated in my support of Clinton, and I say this despite my pledge to support the Democratic candidate no matter who she is.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Music Blogging

Queen - Show Must Go On

Nobody Asked Me, But....

1) Hillary won Texas and Ohio last night.Did someone say she couldn't orate like Obama? I think this shows otherwise. It may be too little, but it's not too late.

2) Altho I am of the opinion that the plagiarism thing is a non-issue, Hillary's "xeroxed ideas" comeback was spectacular concise verbiage and brought a whole new dimension to the issue. She's finally hired some funny writers!

3) The ethnic violence in Serbia and Kosovo continues unabated after the declaration of independence by Kosovans this week.

4) Why Bush never highlighted, in the aftermath of 9/11, our commitment to protecting Muslims in the Balkans has always been a mystery to me. Petty politics could have and should have been set aside for the security of this country, but then that was never high on his list of priorities.

5) No surprise here. I wonder how the first autopsy missed this. Oh. Right. He was a cop!

6) Did she name them "J-Lower" and J-Lowest"? Just curious.

7) I wanted to see this movie, but it's gotten mixed reviews from people I respect.

8) Musharraf is formally out. The better news there was the repudiation of Al Qaeda-linked politicians in regional elections.

9) Ohnoes! Real world trubble for reel world people! Karma's a bitch, Demi!

10) It's all just a waiting game for al-Sadr, isn't it? What's six months to a man who can rule for forty or fifty years?

11) This kind of stuff never happens here. Why?

12) Once more, George W Bush has decided that protecting phone companies trumps protecting your children from terrible terrorist attacks that will maim and kill them.

Hey, two can play the fearmongering game!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Music Blogging

Queen - Who Wants To Live Forever?

I never understood why the video cuts off the last line, which is the best part of the song: "Who waits forever, anyway?"

A Measure Of Progress

An Open Letter To Hillary Clinton

Dear Senator Clinton,

You are beset by woes, to be sure, and your campaign, while not on its last legs, has lost a lot of steam over the past two weeks.

I endorsed you over Senator Obama because, frankly, you had the experience, ideas and policies that are best for this nation. It troubles me to see that your campaign is so ineptly run right now.

Me, I'm just a shlub blogger...with an IQ that's measured on scales that ordinary people can't even approach. I learn. I learn by doing, by making errors, but also by observing. You have some smart people around you, but you are too loyal to them by half, and they clearly don't return the favor. I've been involved in Democratic politics for forty years, ever since I handed out flyers in the fifth grade for Hubert Humphrey.

I can't, despite the thousands I've raised and given your campaigns, e-mail you directly, so I thought I'd drop you a note. I don't know that you'll ever read this, but I hope you will.

I have a strategy that I believe would work to getting you back in the game. You may not be able to win outright, altho I think this strategy could overwhelm Senator Obama's message of hope. This strategy will guarantee you stay in the hunt into the convention and possibly force a second vote, when all bets are off and committed delegates can be wrested away.

As all good strategies are, it's at once simple...we're talking sound bite simple...and hard. Hard to implement, hard to fully flesh out, and hard to present unless you have a grasp of everything in your campaign. And I think you could. You don't now, but you could.

Here's the deal: you spend a lot of time and energy pointing out, correctly, Senator Obama's inexperience. Having him as President is a little like, I don't know, asking George W Bush to run an oil company: having never done it properly, he'd probably do a lousy job, and there's nothing in his CV that indicates he can do the necessary work or stand by the courage of his convictions.

And that's fine. For starters. I think you've set the groundwork for my proposal.

This becomes a two-pronged attack, which I would call "show 'em, don't tell 'em".

See? As I said, simple.

First, the time has come to issue a comprehensive plan for your first term. You say you'll be ready on day one to lead. You say you have (and I have seen) programs thought out, put down on paper, proposals for legislation, and proposals on how to pay for them.

That's great. Now let's give the people the HOW bit: How is this all going to help them? Words are fine, but as you and I know, words are nothing unless you can back them up with your strength.

Take any topic, let's say, energy independence. You do see how this ties into other issues that are tragically frightening the working and middle classes of America, don't you?

More money for gas and heating oil means less money to buy food or worse, to pay for the increased mortgage payments on their readjusting loans. You NEED to start making this case. You need to show how plowing billions of dollars into energy research will create jobs that pay far better than the lagging personally unproductive work that we Americans are struggling with.

How a new direction doesn't promise hope, it promises jobs and wealth. And you need to be detailed about this. You need to show exactly how a billion dollars poured into renewable energy programs will create over $20 billion dollars in high paying tech oriented jobs that aren't about to go away in the next ten or even fifty years: jobs that, like the auto industry before them, could practically be handed down, parent to child.

Security, in other words, and how economic security will help promote physical security by making people who right now are lost and hopeless (why else would they respond to a flim-flam artist?) care once more about the world around them. We've had eight years of negligence.

It is time to disabuse our citizens of negligence and grant them to the rights and privileges of a free society, one where our greatest enemy is not our own government. You cannot have true national security until all the people in the country, and I include undocumented workers here, have a clear path to opportunity and betterment. Only you have made this path clear, but only because I can read and understand your programs.

You need to show the fractal nature of society, how a rancher in Wyoming who takes the manure from his cattle and processes it can provide energy for the worker in Arkansas who turns on a light, and how your administration will work tirelessly to find the solutions that guarantee the promises that Senator Obama has made.

See? As I said, difficult. But you have in your camp a gifted orator, one who can write the speech that you need to have written, one who can explain all this in terms of the fears and anger of the average American at forces beyond his or her ken, and how you can turn the reins of control back over to him/her.

We live in a maelstrom. We need more than the life saver that Senator Obama tosses to us like Groucho Marx to Thelma Todd in Horsefeathers. We need a longboat, pulling us ahead through the turbulent times to calmer waters. And we all need to pull it together.

And so do you, Senator.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I've Suckered Another One In

First, it was Targa. Then it was Mr Doggity.

Now, it gives me great pleasure and a sense of deep pride to announce the launch of new blog by SLB regular commenter, Droudy

Please say hello to Southern Atlantis

Two more and I can claim the toaster!

Thoughts On Castro

As you must certainly know by now, Fidel Castro has formally renounced the presidency of Cuba. his brother, Raul, will assume permanently the role he's held for two years now, and hints at democratic reforms.

Naturally, and desperate for any win in a time of political cholera, elements of the right wing in this country are hooting how America's embargo forced this change.

Is it not ironic that those who most loudly espouse democracy & freedom for Cuba are in favor of the embargo that imprisoned and tyrranized her people?

To a point, the embargo had a point. That point was lost at least thirty years ago. Rather than collapse the Castro regime along with the Soviet Union and other communist and socialist states, we allowed it to fester by imposing our will on it. Why? It certainly on its own was no military threat to us, and it espoused no dangerous, violent theosophy to kill us in our beds. Indeed, one would be very hard pressed to find where any terror cell would have stood a chance in operating out of Cuba, no matter how much money they were to throw at Castro.

One gets the impression that Castro actually liked America, he just couldn't stand its leadership. Guantanamo Bay exists not in a vacuum, and indeed, America had to ask Castro's permission to use it as a prison for Al Qaeda suspects.

And perhaps he had a good reason for disliking American presidents and congresses.

By banning Cuban goods (something we had never done with Soviet-produced merchandise, or Chinese, for that matter), we enforced a poverty-stricken people with surveillance and hunger. Poor, hungry people act out. They must be controlled, a lesson not seemingly lost on this nation's government, as it imposes non-FISA surveillance, torture, and national identity cards upon us.

We defeated communism by butter, not guns. The Beatles brought the west to the Soviet. Wrangler jeans. An United States-style union freed Poland. A playwright, Czechoslovakia. Reaganauts can claim the armament race put the Soviet Union out of business, but it was the will of its people who pulled the gates down and padlocked them.

I am fully in favor of ending the embargo now, and I think it's not soon enough. Indeed, Raul Castro had already made inroads into incorporating a China-style fusion of socialism and capitalism, by allowing free market farmer's markets to be established.

The best evidence we can give the Cuban people that freedom, democracy and free enterprise work is by lowering the embargo and opening trade with this nation, by allowing American tourism and business development interests to come in and demonstrate new ideas and new ways of thinking.

And in return, we could learn alot about the Cuban way of doing things, and learn ideas that could benefit us back here at home. These folks have been stuck in a fifty year time warp. There is much they know that we've forgotten in our full court press towards the 21st century.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Troubling Ruling

Little noticed in the United States, at least in the mainstream media, a ruling was handed down yesterday in California that could conceivably alter the entire make up for the Net:
A controversial website that allows whistle-blowers to anonymously post government and corporate documents has been taken offline in the US., as it is known, was cut off from the internet following a California court ruling, the site says.

The case was brought by a Swiss bank after "several hundred" documents were posted about its offshore activities.
It's understandable that a Swiss bank would want to keep its activities under wraps. After all, the selling point of a Swiss account is its privacy. So what was the hubbub, Bub?
The case was brought by lawyers working for the Swiss banking group Julius Baer. It concerned several documents posted on the site which allegedly reveal that the bank was involved with money laundering and tax evasion.

The documents were allegedly posted by Rudolf Elmer, former vice president of the bank's Cayman Island's operation.
And because of a potential tax evasion claim, the freedom of information that is the hallmark of the Internet, the illusion of full disclosure, has to take a hit?

The taming of the Internet has begun in earnest. Nevermind "net neutrality," altho that is a big part of it, this story makes "NN" look like a fence dispute between two neighbors.

The site is still available, presumably from one of the mirror sites, here. Warning: slow load.

Monday, February 18, 2008

In What Universe Was This, Again?

As you may know, or not, depending on how wrapped up you've been in the election, President Dumbya is in Africa. You may even recall that, back in 2002, Bush made note in his State of The Union address that America would increase its aid to Africa because, as he stated at an international summit later that year, "We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror."

In fairness to Bush, he did increase aid substantially to Africa. The trouble is, as measured against GDP, US aid was still lagging far behind nations around the globe.

Too, much of that aid was tied into two evil underpinnings: first, that sexual abstinence be the main way of preventing AIDS (enforced by the insistence that no money go to organizations that were working with the sex trade workers) and second, that African nations tighten their patent laws, so that big pharma companies would have more protections and could charge higher prices for their drugs.

And yet, he had the nerve to say this to the BBC:

"I've got a firm, heartfelt commitment to the continent of Africa and have ever since I became president," Mr Bush said.

It is to laugh. Given his lack of commitment exhibited to any person of color who hasn't either married into or been adopted by his family, one has to ponder the possibility that Bush is utterly ignorant of what "commitment" truly means.

Africa is in dire straits, Mr. President. It is in dire need of food, medicine, shelter. It is mostly in dire need of water, not just for drinking, but for irrigation.

Most of all, sir, Africa is in dire need of security. Just a quick perusal of the headlines today will demonstrate this:

Kenyan militia strike back

Uganda peace talks to resume

Intervene in Nigeria, Bush urged

UN troops 'trapped' in Eritrea

Chad declares state of emergency

And that's not even counting the continuing tragedy in Darfur and the Sudan. Sure, malaria is an huge problem in Africa, but what moron would try to control nature when men themselves cannot be controlled with the current attitude of world leaders, one of willful ignorance?

"Freedom" is just another word for these people, Mr. Bush, and you had an opportunity in the wake of September 11 to do real good in the world, to make America a truly shining beacon of hope and democracy, of security and independence.

Instead, you bullied the world and your own people onto the edge of a cliff.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The "Cut" Of Personality

This whole mystique that surrounds Barack Obama is no secret to me. I've felt it several times in the past forty years of political awareness, as recently as 2004, when John Edwards ran the first time.

What amuses me is the staunch defense O-Bombers will put up for any criticism of the Senator's policies, legislative achievements (if you can find any), or positions (basically, he's as much a Democratic progressive as Hillary Clinton, who has thirty years of progressive action to show for it).

There is much to be said about the cult of personality that has grown up around this tyro. Let's look at another politician who could inspire:
On March 4, Roosevelt gave his now famous inaugural address, promising that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Within days he had secured legislation guaranteeing the banks, and on March 12, he took to the radio for the first of his fireside chats. “When the people find out that they can get their money — that they can get it when they want it — the phantom of fear will soon be laid,” he soothed an anxious nation. “I can assure you, it is safer to keep your money in a re-opened bank than under your mattress.”

When banks re-opened the next morning, the lines were gone, as Robert A. Caro recounted in the first volume of his biography of Lyndon Johnson, “The Path to Power.” People put money back in, so much that on the first day after the chat, deposits outweighed withdrawals by $10 million.

It was the legislation, but mostly, Mr. Caro writes: “Their confidence was restored by his confidence. When he smiled on the crisis, it seemed to vanish.”
So, you see, it was the legislation that backed up the sunny disposition. In other words, there was steak behind the sizzle.

We face a similar crisis today in this country. The last President to truly inspire us was Bill Clinton. Before that, it was Ronald Reagan. Both were charismatic, true, and both had a plan, dug into the dirt and came up with solutions.

Clinton's, of course, worked for everyone. Reagan's stole from the poor to give to the rich. We can see that policy does not necessarily preclude incompetence.

But what about the cult of personality? What about the charisma?
“Today, attacks on the cult of personality seem really to mean attacks on the ability to make speeches that inspire,” Mr. Caro said in an interview. “But you only have to look at crucial moments in the history of our time to see how crucial it was to have a leader who could inspire, who could rally a nation to a standard, who could infuse a country with confidence, to remind people of the justice of a cause.”

Still, Mr. Caro adds a caveat: “That doesn’t always translate into a great presidency.”
Adolph Hitler springs to mind as a charismatic leader who had nothing in his heart or mind but hatred for his people, yet inspired them at one of Germany's most difficult times.

Why is this trait so troubling to me about Obama?
“What is troubling about the campaign is that it’s gone beyond hope and change to redemption,” said Sean Wilentz, a historian at Princeton (and a longtime friend of the Clintons). “It’s posing as a figure who is the one person who will redeem our politics. And what I fear is, that ends up promising more from politics than politics can deliver.”[...]

Accounts of the campaign’s “Camp Obama” sessions, to train volunteers, have a revivalist flavor. Volunteers are urged to avoid talking about policy to potential voters, and instead tell of how they “came” to Mr. Obama.

“If you don’t talk about issues in great detail, if you do it in a way that is not the centerpiece of your campaign, of your rhetoric, then you become a blank screen,” Mr. Wilentz said. “Everybody thinks you are the vehicle of their hopes.”
That can only end up in disappointment. The coalescence of my fear comes down to this sentence:

If you had the policies ready and in place and were confident they were the right policies, you'd talk about them endlessly.

Anything else, and you're just selling me a used car.