Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Optimism... as we approach the rise of the McVeighs...

I am travelling, so here is a thrown-together posting. I may have one last chance to put anything pre-election, over the coming weekend. But, then, you all don’t need any more “ostrich ammo.” Just a reminder, in case your favorite ostriches haven't seen this... show it to them! Then ask them what the heck they would have to complain about?

The only possible complaint would be “I don’t believe Obama means that.”

Right, like they didn’t believe Bush would turn out this way. An honest person eventually admits “I might be wrong.” Especially when there is no evidence at all that they were ever right.

Here’s my top observation, after this long campaign. I have been offering statistics, comparisons to Clinton, more statistics, and more. It OUGHT to be devastating stuff... if people were rational. Because all of statistics show with almost perfect clarity that democrats are better at steering the country than republicans, at all levels, at nearly all times, and in nearly all ways. Even (especially) by the standards of prudence and sober, managerial skill that Republicans are supposed to admire.

But, of course, the statistics don’t convince. They do not coax ostriches from their holes-of denial. Because psychological studies show that people cling desperately to their loyalties and rationalize reasons to do so.

Listen to your ostrich friends, and then point out to them that nearly all of their rationalizations are unprovable stories. Anecdotes, vague allegations and vivid, colorful rumors -- like Acorn flooding states with illegal voters or Obama not being native born, or Obama being a muslim or still guided by Rev Wright, or whatever... Sure, if any of them could be proved, they’d be chinks in his noble image. But, just as not a single crime of office was ever proved against a single Clinton official, ever, there comes a time when we have a right to demand ”prove something! Anything! Even ONE thing! Ever!”

One friend of mine -- a former Navy Admiral and a very bright medical doctor -- listened to all the statistics about how the dems are always better for the stock market, for fiscal responsibility, for fighting deficits, for managing national infrastructure or maintaining military readiness and a hundred other measures of national health. His answer?

“You parse things your way and I parse things mine.”

That is what is so pathetic about residual GOP loyalty. Not only pathetic, but deeply dangerous (see below). Sure “statistics can lie.” But statistics were invented, in the first place, in order to give people a chance to prove things -- to rise above subjective “parsing” --precisely when emotions are running high and sides are starkly drawn!

Moreover, when one side has ALL of the statistics on their side -- and the other side has none, whatsoever to show... only just-so stories and never proved anecdotes -- then something is very, very wrong.

No wonder the Democrats -- despite being the purported “party of the poor” -- now has a marked advantage in average education level over the GOP. The transition of the highly rational Party of Goldwater into an anti-intellectual club of Know-Nothings is now complete.

== Barry G isn’t the only fine Republican spinning, right now. ==

See: “Teddy Roosevelt, Pundit.” John McCain likes to claim that TR -- the only President who managed to be “great” despite living in good,times, rather than a crisis -- is his role model. But Edmund Morris imagines what he would say if he were alive today (with real quotations).

Some of the real words... "This is merely the plan, already tested and found wanting, of giving prosperity to the big men on top, and trusting to their mercy to let something leak through to the mass of their countrymen below — which, in effect, means that there shall be no attempt to regulate the ferocious scramble in which greed and cunning reap the largest rewards."

..."Great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions."

..." These new conditions make it necessary to shackle cunning, as in the past we have shackled force. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of the state and the nation toward the rules regulating the acquisition and untrammeled business use of property."

== What will replace “neo-capitalism? ==

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, after the election. But first....

---- The Globalist is discussing how severe the global economic meltdown appears, from a world perspective.

The age of Neocapitalism has come to an end. The perverse intellectual spawn of Milton Friedman and his acolytes at the University of Chicago, “Neocapitalism” was built on several pillars of common sense that have been twisted into a unique form of pretzel logic by unscrupulous politicians and naive political consumers around the world.

No, lowering taxes will not raise tax revenues — unless the tax rate is punitive. No, government deregulation does not breed market self-regulation. No, markets do not always make the right decisions and behave in a rational manner.

In the current crisis, “neocaps” have been stabbed in the back by their political soul-mates, the Neocons. As the “neocap” philosophy has come unhinged, a global backlash against it has been exacerbated by the unilateralism of America’s neocons. America has had few friends around the world through this crisis because of its recent neocon foreign policy. Accordingly, multilateral consensus on how to deal with the economic crisis has given way to an every-man-for-himself philosophy.

Now there is talk of a new world economic order -- a “New Bretton Woods” -- that could include strong international banking regulatory powers given to a new supra-national agency. ”Through this financial crisis, it has been convenient to simply blame Wall Street. But the bigger culprit has been the City of London. It is the city that has led in the proliferation of exotic instruments — and even more exotic derivatives... the freedoms allowed by the London regulators have put enormous pressure on regulators in other financial centers to remain competitive and keep pace. ...Sarbanes Oxley is a clear case-in-point here. The United States enacted strict regulatory guidelines for public companies. As a result, U.S. companies started to list on the London Stock Exchange, whose Alternative Investment Market segment provides only perfunctory oversight. Wall Street firms in turn went back to the U.S. Congress and demanded that Sarbanes Oxley be revised, lest New York lose ground in its financial center competition with London. This dynamic has been played out over and over again since the early 1980s — and it cannot continue.

“A World Financial Regulatory Authority would govern only global financial institutions. And its statement to the markets would be simple: If you want to play in the global markets, you play by these global rules.”

What rules? Well... you’ll hear a lot discussed. But I will have my own suggestions shortly.

== Miscellany ==

--- Alas for optimism... I don’t consider the recent news about a couple of dopey skinheads any reason to go into a tizzy. Still, I stand by my expectation that a Volcano of McVeighs will very soon make us wistful for when all we had to worry about was putzy “get lucky once” Al Qaeda. Indeed, I forecast that we’ll discover just how skin-deep is the “patriotism” of frenetic flag wavers who (history shows) will swap Old Glory for a Confederate battle banner at the drop of a snit -- or Alaskan independence logo, or what-have-you -- when they see hated “others” taking a turn at the nation’s helm. Even others who were legitimately elected with overwhelming proof of popular will. It is the dark side of the childishness that is worshipped so amusingly and endearingly on Engvald’s Country Fried Home Video show.

Despite President Bush’s fall below 25% in job performance -- and Barack Obama’s current 22 point approval/disapproval disparity -- we mustn’t under-rate the stewing rancor of that residual 25%. Sure, Obama is winning over fair numbers of conservatives, and independents... but a 10/13 CBS poll shows that 70% or so of republicans refuse to credit Barack Obama with any positive qualities, at all. (Democrats, in contrast, seem much more willing to posit at least some positive or admirable qualities in John McCain.)

This tendency toward monocolor oversimplification should be well-familiar to us, by now. It indicates that, even if a vital battle is won in November, the road to healing the country will be a long one. As I said, this will merely be the equivalent of the Battle of Gettysburg, in phase III of the American Civil War. Culture War isn’t about to end, until the repudiation of this version of conservatism is complete, so overwhelming that decent republicans finally admit that their movement was hijacked by monsters. Then they might truly clean house and start recruiting honorable men and women from their ranks, worthy to carry the banner of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, Wendell Wilkie and Dwight Eisenhower.

== And even more random... ==

--- Nimble Books (publisher of my recent essay collection THROUGH STRANGER EYES) will be releasing a fleet of “Nimble” books beginning January 20, 2009 on the theme: {TOPIC} IN THE AGE OF OBAMA (or McCain). Hypothetical examples: IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, THREATS IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, CHRISTIAN CHALLENGES IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, THE U.S. NAVY IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, and so on … limited only by your ingenuity.

== Links: ===

--- Somebody wrote recently to say that they tried to follow my advice, and make a small donation every year, to apply against the National Debt. He said the IRS official said it was illegal! Ah well, never take any one bureaucrat’s word for anything! Here is where I've sent donations every march since 1992:

Bureau of Public Debt Department of the Treasury Box 2188 Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

Nevertheless, that’s early, yet. For now, if you want to help guarantee change, this vehicle is more important even than donating to Obama (who has plenty.) Give where it may help pummel the GOP enough that our decent conservative neighbors are force to wake up and re evaluate what’s happened to their movement. http://www.democrats.org/page/contribute/cda?source=FNETCDA

... and now...

== Things that Palin comparison ==

Hockey Mama for Obama

== Coming soon... What would you suggest to the new president?...


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Final Arguments Before the Election?

An open (and final) call for whistleblowers

So far, nobody has offered to bet against my assertion that we will witness a Pardon Tsunami during the weeks after an Obama victory. Almost certainly, President George W. Bush has promised scads of get-out-of-jail-free cards to those who busily ripped off this great nation during the last eight years. A gang of kleptos and political hatchetmen who rightfully fear the resurrection of the U.S. Civil Service -- including all the auditors, FBI and Justice agents, inspectors general and so on -- suddenly unleashed from their neocon leash-holders.

Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama won’t have to start a witch hunt, something that isn’t in his character anyway. He need only allow our public servants to return to doing their jobs, and indictments will flow, like a river that’s been locked far too long behind a glacier.

That is... unless Bush issues the promised pardons.

(Open to question: will he arrange things so that someone will pardon him?)

Now there’s an interesting dynamic, here -- an example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. How can any of the people expecting executive clemency be sure that W will keep his word? After all, the larger the stack of pardons, the bigger the penalty, in political terms, to be paid by both the GOP and Bush’s remaining public stature (such as it is). If the stack gets high enough, the Republican Party might never recover... and Bush might have to move to Dubai. Hence, some of the promises may just be no more than empty words, meant to keep mid-level people silent till the election. Anyone who is counting on such a promise ought to consider how reliable it may be, after November 4.

There is an alternative, to squeal before the election. It should offer some appealing aspects for your run-of-the-mill neocon klepto or enabler to ponder.

Notably, George Bush isn’t the only one who can offer get-out-of-jail-free cards! Rep. Henry Waxman can grant immunity for testimony given under oath, for example. And President Obama will be able to pardon, too. Above all, there is often forgiveness, public acclaim and hero status for the first fellow who abandons a gang of criminals, because of an attack of conscience.

Also, do not count on a presidential pardon - even if you get one - to be perfect protection. First, Congress might try a gambit I’ve recommended - using sort of an “inverse signing statement” to corner the definition of a pardon so that it only covers acts that are openly avowed and admitted in cooperative sworn testimony. Then there is the matter of civil damages. You might have to flee the country, anyway.

Key point: the truth is going to come out. This is the diametric opposite of the Clinton Era witch hunts, when relentlessly-fixated partisan searches wound up not turning up anything palpable, at all. (Not a single Clintonian was ever even indicted for malfeasance in the performance of official duties.) Instead, this time, Democrats will barely have to lift a finger, while civil servants do it all. And the rats who are slow to leave the sinking ship will be treated as rats, by a disgusted America, forever.

HenchmanConclusion: pay heed you henchmen out there. The next week may be your last chance to join (and help) the winning side of history. Don’t blow it.

Oh. Long ago I offered bets on whether Al Qaeda would try another election-influencing gambit There have been some clumsy web postings and trial balloons. But unless Osama issues a tape (and even then, perhaps), the net response this time may be a wary shrug and a yawn.

Thoughts on the Palin Soap Opera

It’s not so much the amounts ($150,000 spent on the candidate’s clothes, plus permanent stylists following her around). Those who already like her will rationalize that it’s much harder for a female candidate to keep up a fresh appearance and helping her is a legitimate expense (even if it’s 2-3 X what the average American makes in a year.) No, the real killer is where she bought the clothes. Nieman Marcus and Saks.

Oh, I get it. New York elite stuff is fine -- in its place. Insist that the country be ruled by a kakocracy... but it’s another thong when it comes to unimportant things, like a doctor when you’re sick, a lawyer when you’re in trouble, a scientist and engineer to re-invent your cars... or some gay designers to help you look better than Joe Plumber. City slicker expertise is okay, in its place. So long as the smartypants don’t presume to suggest ways to actually guide a great and complicated republic.

Cheryl had an insight about all this, one that lets Sarah Palin off the hook, just a bit. She calls Palin “Eliza Dolittle” and sees her as the small-town country girl who is grabbed up and re-made by a bunch of cynical men, as in “My Fair Lady,” told what to say and to whom and dressed and coached for a part that is way over her head. Hm. Cool perspective!

Though I figure there is also, within Palin, a very canny natural politician. Then there’s the scary bits. Heck, she’s large, I’ll admit that. She can contain multitudes. I just hope we’re never forced to worry and learn a whole lot more about em all.

The most effective (though least mature) argument to use with an “ostrich.”

I’ve tried hard to offer ways you might try to get that decent (or somewhat decent) but obstinate conservative uncle or aunt to wake up and see how thoroughly conservatism has been betrayed by the hijackers of their movement.

But time is short now (thanks bee to merciful God) and most of them already know all that stuff. Right now, the problem is that many somewhat-wakened ostriches are still having trouble wrestling their hand toward actually voting for the Democrat.

Oh sure, you can tell yours that Obama is going to win, anyway. Voting for him would help spank the GOP and make them go back to the drawing board. A landslide could ensure they won’t be obstinate about revising their message for next time, or seeking new blood.


At the opposite end there’s a cluster of reasons that may strike closer to home. So, I am going to dial down the maturity level here and offer a few arguments that go to the gut level, where many people make their political decisions (alas).

Tell em this: if they can manage to vote Obama this time, they will always in the future be able to say “Well, I voted for Obama in 2008. And hence --

“-- nobody can ever again call me racist.”

“-- I get to brag if he succeeds.”

“-- and if he fails, I get to say that I gave you *#*! democrats a chance, and you blew it!”

Especially number one. It could be a potent emotion-level argument. Even if (especially if) they really are _____, down deep. (Funny thing though: once the precedent is set... it tends to alter people’s thinking, from then on. See my short story “The Giving Plague.”)

For a far more mature view of the same general category of take on things... see an important essay on how Obama will transform the world’s perceptions of America. I just read a french language newspaper while in Montreal. (Yes I can read and speak another language, whoopee.) And there was a survey of opinions around the world on the U.S. election. The figures are staggering!

They want us back. They want U.S. back. And they see him as embodying our better nature.

There is no single act that America will ever do, that will more swiftly restore our popularity and leadership in the world.

== Funniest videos yet... and then the best ==

Look, it’s time to declare this what it is. A be-in!

It’s been a long time since the sixties and we’ve been so mired in culture war BS...and we’ll be nervous about this whole deal until weeks after Bho and Bide are safely in DC - ensconced forever far from each other (I hope) with separate Secret Service details.

Still... it would be a damned shame not to take note that this is also the funnest and funniest and most creativity-drenched election ever! Dang, these kids in Generation We are sharp!

I mean, it’s a raucous laugh-in, with Tina Fey on SNL and with Jon Stewart’s unbelievably above-average riff, with Jason Jones in Wasilla... (See it! Especially if you can find a version with Stewart’s deeply angry/hilarious framing remarks.)...

...but it is the burst of private and amateur videos and such that has proved almost overwhelming. (More below). We can thank Bush for this much. People really are feeling alive. More intensely patriotic and hopeful than I have seen in years.

Though, of course, again it does all come down to this.

== Links: ===

--- Obama, getting amusing at tha annual Smith Dinner -- comedy Obama, Part 1 and Part 2.

Fascinating insights from David Brooks, of all people:

Esquire is backing Democrat Barack Obama for president _ its first endorsement in the magazine's 75-year history. The LA Times has not endorsed a president since 1977.. but check it out.

A cute item by Ron Howard, with Andy Griffith & Henry Winkler.

Ever notice that Sarah Palin anagrams to "Sharia plan." So, clearly, she's the one who plans to institute Muslim law in the United States. Other anagrams include: a sharp nail a plain rash. Any chance of a numeralogical match with 666? Pleeeeeze?

Plus sundry links...





McCain’s Turtle Island story

And finally, I am not proud to spread this. But I am desperate. And anyone who sees it KNOWS that there is something wrong. I know there may be mitigating factors and reasons. Still, something is wrong and it oughta creep anybody out:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

“Yes, Virginia” the South is a-changing...

...but there’s a special reason why Northern Virginia is hopping mad!

(Warning, the following starts out sounding radical and (metaphorically) militant. Heck, even fulminating-wrathful! But I eventually get around to shining some light on an important - little noted - factor in this election.)

Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory...

It seems that America’s devastating “culture war” -- actually phase three of America’s intermittent, 150 year Civil War -- is starting to follow the course of the first two rounds.

Certainly, at long last, there is a rsising flood tide of anger in Blue America. The nation’s urban and educated people -- along with ethnicities and simply folks who prefer the future to the past -- have had it with hearing their Red countrymen deride their morals and patriotism for more than twenty years. ...

...or to hear endless denunciations of cityfolk decadence from regions that often fall far behind urban-dwellers in most measures of successful marriage or child-rearing. Or panicky, hypocritical war-shrieks about “terror” from people who live far from the crosshairs. But those irksome insults were mere motes and pustules compared to the very worst thing -- the imposition, after a pair of squeaker-elections, of a “mandate” government-by kakocracy, or national rule by the very worst.

Or the glaring, unrepentant shamelessness of repeating all of the above with increasing frenzy -- as Sarah Palin does every day, before frothing throngs -- after their Chosen Ones have already, by every metric, misgoverened America to the verge of destruction.

With Palin’s own words rcocheting across the continent, proclaiming that Red America is the only True America, is it forgivable -- or at least understandable -- that a our patience, here in the Union, is coming to an end? You could see it in John Stewart’s eyes, amid the jokes. And his audience laughed with a tone of barely restrained fury.

Hatred sows hatred and we have had it. We have been patient long enough.

In that light, can it be that some view this 2008 election as our generation’s nation-saving equivalent to the Battle of Gettysburg? A last-chance turning point, when we can draw a line - finally - against sanctimonious, hypocritical, know-nothing hickery and start guiding this great and blessed land back toward being an advanced, egalitarian, educated and scientific nation, less devoted to dogma than to progress.

And, if that means dusting off great grandpa’s uniform from the FIRST phase of this struggle, and singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic? Then so be it.

What is happening in Virginia?

Now, with Obama firming up big leads across the Old Union (except in weird Indiana), along the coasts, and Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico -- the GOP standard bearer now finds himself struggling to defend such formerly reliable Republican strongholds as Virginia and North Carolina... plus possibly North Dakota, Arkansas and Georgia. How did it come to this?

Pundits credit the economy, of course, plus a vigorous democratic “ground game” that featured unprecedented registration of minorities and young voters. Elsewhere, I’ve also spoken of the University Effect in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, which have invested in higher education far more than other southern states. The upside effects on their economies and general vibrancy had to eventually start manifesting in politics, as well, especially after eight years in which the Republican Party has relentlessly and deliberately driven off America’s educated.

It was long assumed that Red “goodoldboy” Culture would always swamp out the tepid liberalism of northern migrants, but we may be seeing that start to change

Still, I believe there’s more to this phenomenon.

Specifically, in the case of Virginia, you can see America’s First Colony start to fracture in two -- much as it did in 1861, when Appalachian settlers angrily refused to betray their country at the behest of aristocratic tidewater slave owners, choosing to secede instead and form West Virginia. Similarly today, you hear tales of local politicians declaring that Northern Virginia is something totally apart from the “real” parts of the state. One angry neocon called it “Communist country.”

I suspect there are interesting factors involved in the rebellion of Northern Virginia, that go beyond simply the economy, or a demographic shift toward more education, or even a lot of northern migrants. I surely doubt socialism of any inkling has a thing to do with the surge of Obama support in the counties surrounding the District of Columbia. Rather, I think this local phenomenon is due to something largely overlooked.

The swing against the GOP in Northern Virginia is all about the U.S. Civil Service. It is a mini-referendum by members of the professional class who we hired to run the business of America’s government -- by far the top employer of that region. These people are turning to the Democrats, in droves.

Note that it did not start out this way. Polls showed repeatedly that (contrary to some expectations) federal employees are not notable more liberal or democratic-registered than Americans, at large. Indeed, many are deeply conservative by temperament. And remember, Northern Virginia includes a lot of military folk, as well, including the Pentagon and several huge Naval installations. Then why this dramatic swing of political passion, in a region that showed strong GOP streaks in the past?

I’ve tried to make this point repeatedly. The civil servants and members of the U.S. Officer Corps have endured eight years as the very worst victims of this administration. They’ve been stewing under the grip of thousands of political appointees, partisan hacks charged by President George W. Bush with a single, paramount mission -- to bully, harass, divert and demoralize the men and women who actually keep the nation running. From the Justice Department to the intelligence services, to science agencies, to the military, those hatchet men seem to have had no other purpose than to prevent our public servants from doing the lawful jobs that we pay them to do.

Note the cleverness of this neocon stratagem. In most of American life, if workers suffer abuse, the right to complain and seek redress is pretty strong. Civil servants, too, are supposedly protected from direct political interference. But so long as the hacks refrained from anything too overt -- (with the exception of stupidly firing those assistant U.S. Attorneys) -- they could erect barricades of distraction and mal-assignment that would thwart agency workers from accomplishing anything, or solving any problems, causing many to resign in frustration. Moreover, civil servants and military officers are constrained -- by both law and tradition -- against speaking out against their political superiors.

Is there a comeuppance? Apparently, the military did stand up, courageously, a couple of years ago, in what is now quietly known as the Generals and Admirals Revolt -- resulting in the ousting of Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary and the arrival of the Gates-Mullen team, effectively peeling the hands of Bush and Cheney away from the tiller at Defense. An episode when our officer corps bravely kept their oaths once again, to protect us from enemies, both foreign and domestic. And they did it so discretely that most Americans haven’t a clue how much we owe them.

Alas, I’ve been disappointed that few other groups of civil servants have done likewise. Apparently, the FBI and CIA agents and others, who might have blown the whistle on Bush era crimes, proved too timid to stand up and help their country in its hour of desperate need. Instead, they appear to be leaving it up to the People. The ignorant, febrile, much-maligned People will have to fix this mess. Much as they did on 9/11, common citizen voters will work a miracle that the professionals could not. Or would not.

Still, here’s the point: I believe that it is the simmering resentment of the civil service caste that we are seeing erupt in Northern Virginia... and in patches around the country. When our first state joins in the blue rebellion, nobody in the GOP or in Red America should yelp in wounded surprise. They brought it on themselves.

== Fixing the blame and fixing the mess ==

What could better prove the charge of “erratic”?

In the second debate, John McCain was asked who he might choose as Treasury Secretary, and the first name he brought up was Warren Buffet, the chief economics advisor of his opponent, Barack Obama! As “the world’s greatest investor” - who also forecast with eerie prescience that our financial meltdown would happen, and how - Buffett would be a great choice. But... in that case, what about McCain’s own top economics advisor?

Well there is this: Economists unanimous: McCain advisor Phil Gramm most to blame for the current Wall Street crisis.

Well, then, why hasn’t McCain dumped Gramm, or any of the hundred or more lobbyists and Bushadmin factotums that this anti-Washington “maverick” surrounds himself with? Really, it isn’t all lies and hypocrisy. For all his many faults, few have ever accused John McCain of fickleness or disloyalty to his friends. His messy divorce notwithstanding, he does seem to be a very loyal guy. Which, alas, makes it hard for him to convincingly claim to be “anti Washington” or a “maverick” against corrupt members of his own party, who passed the rule changes that brought us to this sorry state.

If he were sincere, would he not call for many of those Republican Senators and Congressmen to be turned out of office? Would that not seal his maverick-cred? Shouldn’t Obama challenge McCain to do just that?

Which brings us to the news that: “In 2001, the last year the Internal Revenue Service estimated the tax gap – the difference between what taxpayers owe and what they actually pay – the figure stood at $345 billion, or $290 billion after subtracting enforcement efforts and late payments.” Yes, this is half of the recent bailout passage. But what I find stunning is that very little has been said about the fact that 2001 was the last year of figures on missing taxes owed! Think about it in light of my earlier contention that the greatest crime of the Bush Gang has been to divert, quell, bully and repress the ability of the entire US Civil Service to perform any function that might help the republic to operate in a healthy way.

Now you have the smoking gun.

==See my more recent essay: Past Keeping Faith with Future…and Day with Night

Oh, before I go.... What a great Buffett comment. Here, from the October 11th Kansas City Star, is the whole quotation: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

Edmund Burke once said, “Rage and phrensy will pull down more in half an hour, than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years” (Reflections on the French Revolution).


I may add some misc items under Comments. But for now...

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cheer up! There's still science! (non-political)

In the latest issue of Discover Magazine, you’ll find an article - "Advice for the Next President" - that includes my own humble suggestions, alongside to those of Edward O. Wilson, Steven Weinberg, Jack Horner, C. Everett Koop, Danny Hillis, Peter Singer and other luminaries. Our combined proposals - to whoever wins the White House - are important, if we're to reclaim America's role as a dynamic leader in world science, education and technology.

Meanwhile, the ever-perspicacious Oliver Morton wrote in praise of my bro Kim Stanley Robinson, calling him one of Earth’s “Environmental Heroes,” in a special edition of Time Magazine.

And, of course, felicitations to Paul Krugman, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics and not only a smart fellow, but also a longtime science fiction fan. If he wants signed copies of the Killer Bees’ SECOND FOUNDATION TRILOGY, that tied together Isaac Asimov’s famed universe (purportedly the inspiration for his career in economics), he has only to ask.

Regarding current events -- and bringing them close to home.

--- Let’s remember that some of our typical American attitude of total autonomy from our communities arose out of wealth and good times. Generally, humans have been far more tribal, because our ancestors’ lives depended on the goodwill and help and teamwork that we shared with others. In other words, this may be a good time to think about building up your neighborhood’s... well neighborliness... your community organization, your ad hoc street party group, your local potluck group, your nearby friends. There are many potential benefits:

* lots of ways to save money by exchanging barter services and possibly goods! Or exchange leads to good handymen etc.

* discussing how to share info on emergency readiness or neighborhood safety/resilience.

* gathering connections for mutual support.

I’ve lately helped the mighty philanthropy-thinker, Heather Wood-Ion, to come up with a list of possible things folks can do, to help enliven their neighborhoods and maybe make neighborliness a source of strength. Highly recommended! For those of you who live in neighborhoods that aren’t completely disfunctional... that is.

---> and now... science stuff!

== Potporri ==

--- Next week, industry experts will gather in London for the first Landfill Mining Conference. The idea is simple. Instead of disappearing under mountains of our own waste, while paying through the nose for diminishing commodities, why not dig up and recycle what we have already thrown away? Of course, this is a direct and explicit prediction from my novel Earth! (Somebody send them that scene?) Indeed, want irony? Who has the premium landfills? Americans, who were ridiculed as “wasteful” all those years. THAT’LL show em!

--- The Institute for the Future announces its revolutionary, new Massively Multiplayer Forcasting Game platform--a research platform that is open to the public, engages thousands of people around the globe in thinking about the future, and most importantly, helps us collectively shape a better world. the first game designed using this platform is SUPERSTRUCT, which is scheduled to launch on October 6 and runs until November 6, 2008. For a preview of the game, visit the Superstruct site today and watch videos for each of the five Superthreats or read the Global Extinction Awareness System (GEAS) report that sets the 2019 context. My friends and leading futurists Bob Johansen and Howard Rheingold are involved. Give it a try and report back! Such tools are needed.

--- Huh... fun. “Galaxiki is a wiki based online galaxy - each star, each planet and each moon is represented by one wiki page that can be edited by its site members.”

--- While I support the shift of the center-consensus toward a cautious resumption of nuclear power, I do hope the skeptics will play an important and useful role, by criticizing and applying “citokate” to the developing endeavor. Here is a great source of some educational and enlightening (if skeptical) insights, courtesy of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

--- Stefan Jones suggests you see this proof that not all aristocrats are uncool!

--- See about a very moving documentary about homeless vets, created by a neighbor of mine.

== Miscellany from Science! ==

(Some of these with thanks to Ray Kurzweil.)

Bucking the growing notion that human evolution has been accelerating, lately, a professor argues that there were three components to evolution – natural selection, mutation and random change. “Quite unexpectedly, we have dropped the human mutation rate because of a change in reproductive patterns.... Human social change often changes our genetic future,” he said, citing marriage patterns and contraception as examples. Although chemicals and radioactive pollution could alter genetics, one of the most important mutation triggers is advanced age in men....A drop in the number of older fathers will thus have a major effect on the rate of mutation.” (Okay, professor, so this is your line to use with a younger woman? “Hey, want to mate with an older guy in order to maximize mutations?”)

--- New research indicates that in situations in which a person is not in control, they're more likely to spot patterns where none exist, see illusions, and believe in conspiracy theories. This is actually kind of important!

--- UCSD researchers have designed a system to exploit that to test for any surface contamination on the surface of, well, anything. Their idea uses a thin layer of metal drilled with nanoscale holes, laid onto the surface being tested. When the perforated plate is zapped with laser light, the surface plasmons that form emit light with a frequency related to the materials touching the plate. A sensitive light detector is needed to measure the frequency of light given off. The team says devices using this approach can be small and portable, will work on very low power, and could detect everything from explosives to bacteria. Coming soon to your cell phone! And then my EARTH predictions registry wiki.

--- Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter. Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe's expansion, for which “dark energy” currently is the leading explanation. (“Agh! this, from the same folks who blithely insisted there was NO external expanse of spacetime that we were “exploding into”! Has NOBODY else noticed how the physicists are sidestepping a central tenet, like republicans trying to claim they always believed the climate was changing!)

--- Could the 700,000 liters of superfluid helium bathed in the powerful magnetic fields of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) result in a major explosion by behaving as a supercold Bose Einstein Condensate (BEC), which have been found to explode when subjected to magnetic fields, resulting in a "Bose supernova"? (Calm down. They are just talking about blowing up a piece of CERN - not the planet.)

== Did I manage to stay non-political? ==


Only I am going to use the “comments section” (below) to dump a bunch of political riffs -- some of them variants on things I already already said -- different versions and drafts -- that have been clogging the pores, just to get them out there and off my desktop.

God love us.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What-ifs to Watch For: A Bouquet of October Surprises

Off the top: in the latest issue of Discover Magazine, a featured article "Advice for the Next President" includes my own humble thoughts, alongside to those of Edward O. Wilson, Steven Weinberg, Jack Horner, C. Everett Koop, Danny Hillis, Peter Singer and other luminaries. Our combined suggestions - to whoever wins the White House - are important, if we're to reclaim America's role as a dynamic leader in world science, education and technology.

= What-ifs to Watch For: A Bouquet of October Surprises =

With four weeks to go, and the GOP writhing in desperation, I find myself doing what I am paid to do, as a thriller-writer... coming up with “what-if” scenarios for the next four weeks till the election... and the next four months till inauguration. Caveat: I do not necessarily believe any of these. But I have ranked them in order of likelihood.

And you are welcome to place bets on InTrade. Each may be lower than 50%, but the odds of something jarring happening before February? Almost certain.

1) John McCain will vacillate till the end over whether or not to go for the respect and reverence that were the rewards given to Wendell Wilkie, Barry Goldwater, Robert Dole, and Jimmy Carter, after they lost elections but -- having behaved well and honorably -- came away with respect as elder statesmen, consulted by the mighty. I expect that, if he had taken the High Road, McCain would arise out of defeat as a beloved figure, invited by President Obama to serve as a right-side conscience. (Perhaps in a manner that I recommended to the Obama Campaign: See my article: Honoring the Losing Majority.)

Instead, alas, we have wild oscillations that exemplify the word “erratic.” At one moment, a churlish, snarling, bitter side of John McCain, both in his own words and through proxies, who egg crowds until some spontaneously erupt with Obama-hating shouts like “Kill-him!” Yes, McCain has lately tried to quell this a bit. But not enough to have any real effect upon the wave of Timothy McVeighs who are sure to swell over our nation, as the inevitable fruit of Culture War. Indeed, the more he swings toward being a reasonable adult, the more surely he will be blamed for the Republicans' coming electoral debacle.

Let’s make this plain: in times of national crisis, to pre-wound the next freely-elected president, deliberately striving to reduce his effectiveness, is nothing less than an act of selfish egotism. By some interpretations, it is outright treason.

Obama would be well-served to make as big a contrast with this churlish immaturity, as possible. He should speak of how he will support McCain, if he becomes president, and invite McC to say the same. Obama should even state that after taking office, he will seek McCain’s input! (See below.) Nothing will make the contrast more stark or better put the lie to charges of “radical.”

2) OBL's Ghost still haunts. Catch a guest editorial by Rany Jazayerli, concerning how Osama Bin Laden -- remember him? -- who influenced our US elections on October 29, 2004, by railing against Bush (thus helping him), will almost certainly release a tape during the next few weeks, attempting to do the same thing.

Barack Obama should pre-message, or pre-massage, this possibility -- along with all other October Surprises -- with a few choice words. Just a few generalities, dropped in passing, might ring out as prescient and wise, in the event that OBL speaks out, or a terror strike hits, or... anything a thriller writer can come up with.

3) Vote stealing. Duh. We are already seeing mass disenfranchisement in battleground states. The New York Times finally has a piece on purging voter rolls. The officials behind it should be told that they will be sued - personally - for civil damages, by voters they de-registered unfairly. In times like these, a direct prospect of being cleaned out may mean more than prosecution. Ditto Diebold.

So far, we are talking about “surprises that will not surprise me at all. Now to the less likely.

4) The Clemency Crush. I have spoke elsewhere of how it’s time to talk about (and prepare for) George Bush’s post election "pardon tsunami" -- relied-upon by several thousand kleptocrats. This cannot be prevented -- indeed, the promise of pardons may be what’s saving us from an even more desperate October Surprise.

(Hint to one disgruntled White House employee/staffer. If preparations for this post-election amnesty-festival -- or some other stunt -- are already underway, do you have any idea what a celebrity you’ll become, if you blow the secret before the election? Why, you might even keep your job.)

Still, there are ways for the Democratic Congress to possibly “corner” those pardons. For example, by passing a law that defines a presidential pardon as only applying to actual crimes that the recipient openly confesses in sworn testimony. The best way to start a genuine Truth And Reconciliation process that can begin the healing. (Note some interesting aspects, since this would be the inverse of an executive “signing statement” - and it would be inherently popular. And, of course, it would allow direct civil redress for economic damages. Pardonees would have to choose between escaping jail and losing the yacht, or fleeing to Dubai.)

Sure, this Supreme Court will probably quash any such law. But even that will raise an outcry, since the principle seems so reasonable. Note that just the right response to the "pardon tsunami" might seal the fate of the GOP and perhaps even disgust middle America enough to end Culture War.

5) Resigned to being unforgetable - unfortunately. Only now let’s gild the “pardon lily” by adding an even more paranoid scenario. Though one that’s not at all inconsistent with what we’ve seen. Let’s try to picture the ultimate "up yours" from Bush to the nation. What could that be?

Imagine if W were to resign a week ahead of the inauguration and force us to admit, into the registry of chief executives, "President Richard Cheney."

Yep. Portraits. Coins. History books. All the paraphernalia... and we’d be stuck with this “asterisk” forever! Sure, it's unlikely -- ten-to-one against -- if only because Bush will want to squeeze out every last "hail to the chief." And his GOP friends will beg him not to. Still, this move does have some advantages from his point of view. It would:

a- let him pay off all debts to Cheney (and do you doubt that RC has "leverage"?)
b- let him stick it to the historians and to the 75% of the public who consider him "worst president ever."
c- let him get HIS OWN PARDON from Prex Cheney, after he has pardoned Cheney and several thousand others.

Yeah, if one of you wants to go on InTrade with this, hold out for long odds. Heck, twenty to one. At that level, it’d be worth a few bucks.

6) Maximize the loot - maximize the damage. Will my darkest “manchurian” fantasies about this administration prove to have been right? I've long held that the Standard Model -- simple venality combined with moronic imbecility -- breaks down trying to their perfect record at harming America and - more significantly - destroying Pax Americana. Mere moron-crooks would have done ONE thing beneficial to the Republic, if only by accident! If the darker explanation is true, then you can bet they won’t miss any opportunities to wreak maximum harm, from November to January. These would be the truly awful surprise scenarios. If the Manchurian Nightmare is true (and right now I give it 30%) then be ready to head for the hills.

Finishing up, let me reiterate.
-Spread the word that our eyes are open. That may have some deterrence effects.
-Buy canned goods (that you’ll reasonably use, later, when things blow over!)
-Sign up to take CERT training.
-Join the National Guard.
-Above all, be ready to be like the passengers of Flight 93. We’re all of us potential American heroes.

=== BONUS SECTION (And possibly even better!) ===

--- Two Important Jiu Jitsu Riffs that Barack Obama Might Use --

I'll post later about this idea, but in raw form -- if BHO seems headed for a surefire win, he needs to turn his attention to the Congressional and Statehouse races! While listening to the 2nd debate on our way to see Neil Diamond (yeow!), I came up with these two suggested riffs. One of them you've heard before. (I’ve given up channeling these through my cousin. Might as well let em percolate.)

Imagine Barack saying this:

1 - "Now there are a couple of areas where I think John has been a little farther ahead of the curve than I was. His attacks on earmark spending have been a bit theatrical, and the amount saved would be small. Still, I believe that if John were president, he would attack that one problem with vigor.

“And you know what? When I am president, John McCain will attack Earmarks with vigor! Because - if he'd accept - I will appoint him to head a team to do just that!

“This isn't grandstanding. After all, John made a promise like this first! When he was asked who his top candidate for Treasury Secretary would be, the first name he thought of was MY economic advisor, Warren Buffett! The “World’s Greatest Investor,” who warned us all about this looming economic crisis, since 2002. Of course, it would be even better if John fired his own economic advisor - Phil Gramm -- who rammed through the total deregulation of the derivatives market and sent us down this road, proclaiming that it would all be just fine.

"But if John would praise and hire Warren Buffett, then I'll return the favor and praise and hire John McCain for the jobs that he's best qualified-for. Along with dozens of other smart, capable Republicans, I'll find tasks for him, don't you worry. Ways for John McCain to keep serving America."

Now THAT would be jiu jitsu! And here's another one

#2 -
"Look, I honor John McCain, not only for his military service and inspiring spirit of utter determination, but also for the fact that, yes, he has been a maverick at times... maybe ten percent as often as he says he's been!

"True, he supported George Bush 90% of the time and surrounded himself with the same crowd of Usual Suspects. But let's give him credit for having at least verbally distanced himself from his own Party. He now joins me and millions of Americans in blaming the 12 year Republican Congress for removing most regulation and supervision of Wall Street, for plunging our children into debt, for refusing to act on climate change, for neglecting our science and infrastructure and for sabotaging energy research for an entire wasted decade. Since his nominating convention, he's reversed official GOP policy on most of these of issues, and dozens of others. (Though of course, these switches were following public awareness, not leading it.)

“Look, whether you believe McCain and Palin are true "rebel-maverick-reformers"... or you see their long list of Bush-era advisors as proof that they aren't... either way... I am glad John McCain has joined me in urging that Americans out there fire the Republican members of Congress who did all that!

“Let the GOP clean its own house, before we let them back near positions of power. Let fresh blood and fresh ideas rise up within the Republican Party, so it can come back to us in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater. I'm glad John and I agree on the need for that era of change and renewal, in a Party that promised so much and delivered us only pain. Especially Republican Congressfolk who really should be sent home to think about how they could have served us better.”

Note that if it looks to be a landslide, this isn't simply a gambit, it is a moral necessity for Barack! He is behooved.


A comparison of economic performance under the two parties leaves the standard republican rationalizations shattered. The comparison on dems vs gops in economic stats reveals dems as decisively better managers of the economy.

Notes: bear in mind that the one major democratic outlier the - 1944-48 “Roosevelt-Truman” term - had to manage the end of WWII and the biggest conversion of the economy in history, finding employment for five million soldiers re-entering the civilian economy. In fact, that term ended very well and was arguably the best -managed in all of US history. Likewise Roosevelt III - both waging WWII and yanking us out of a depression might offer an excuse for that outlier in government deficit. Otherwise, democrats (and Eisenhower) always do better at balancing budgets. Always.

Likewise, without question, stocks do better - on average - under democrats, especially if you (properly) pull Eisenhower out of the Republican column, since his version of republicanism bears no genetic relationship with today’s. Note also that Truman again took a difficult transition and turned it into a boom.

Of course, the most recent year of Bush 43 is missing from these stats, where stock losses and skyrocketing deficits would extrapolate the “red” republican blood-draining to truly vampiric levels.

There is, of course, one exception to the dems’ almost perfect record of better economic performance... the inflation figures for (especially) Jimmy Carter’s term. Though one could easily blame that on backlash effects from trying to do both guns and butter earlier, during Vietnam.

Missing from this tally... and I suspect potentially just as devastating... would be Small Business Startups. I’d also be interested in rates of GDP growth and rates of monopoly aggrandizement. These last three would put the final nails in the coffin.

---- Miscellany ---

There are roughly 4000 political appointees in the federal government of which about 1100 require Senate confirmation. When you elect a president, you are electing a political party, including those 4000 political appointees and the people they hire.

Those of you interested in pinning the blame for the present economic mess, have a look at Russ Daggatt’s latest blog where he lays out the case against former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan... and ends with a truly macabre quote from John McCain.

See a funny -- and prescient -- explanation of the subprime crisis, from John Bird and John Fortune, two British comedians, who anticipated what we're watching today, way back in 2007.

“whenever the topic turns to earmarks, I always suggest that folks go play around with the Sunlight Foundation's Interactive earmarks map.http://sunlightlabs.com/earmarks/ Earmarks are rarely obviously wasteful. Rather, they're small appropriations that exist beneath the urgency level that would merit federal consideration.”

“In the early ‘90’s, before Republicans took control of Congress, the number of earmarks was under 1000 and totaled less than $3 billion. The use of earmarks peaked with the last budget Republicans passed before losing control of Congress in 2006 – at over 14,000 earmarks worth more than $27 billion. Since then, Democrats have cut them by a third – this year they total $18 billion. But let’s put that in context. $18 billion is a whole lot less than a trillion.

As it turns out, the Queen of Earmarks is Sarah Palin. According to the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, Palin hired a Washington lobbyist to secure earmarks for tiny Wasilla , Alaska when she was mayor. The town of 6,700 received nearly $27 million in federal dollars from 2000 to 2003. Alaska has the highest earmark use of any state in the country. As governor of Alaska , Palin requested $198 million worth in next year's federal budget.

She learned from the master himself, the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when Republicans controlled the Senate, Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). She ran his 527 group “The Ted Stevens Fund” (this is the “independent” political entity that Stevens used to raise unlimited funds from corporate donors). Stevens is currently standing trial in federal court for bribery.

Eloquent Ostrich Ammo: Share and spread around -- and read aloud to your ostrich -- this “Letter to My Republican Father.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Things to watch for in the debate... plus many paranoias!

Let’s get right to the point. Is there anything that Barack Obama might do to nail it tonight? Or anything you or I can do, to help our neighbors notice what’s significant?

One thing I’ve noted is that both McCain and Palin eagerly and strenuously grabbed the chance to be the louder -- and first -- supporters of Israel, forcing both Obama and Biden to play catch up. If he's totally smart, Obama will mention Israel FIRST THING, even in mild terms, so that MCC will seem to be playing catch up when he does his thump.

While I am at it, I’ll mention a few core things that I’ve also told my cousin on the Obama campaign, about missed opportunities. Obama should at least mention in passing:

* - that McCain backed the Bush plan to invest social security in the stock market.
* - that Iran is the chief beneficiary of our self-ruining adventure in Iraq.
* - that Phil Gramm and several hundred other Bush-crony sidekicks prove McPalin and Busheney are siblings, they are not reformers.
* - Mexico (!) - helping it not to fail. (A great reach to hispanics while showing that Republicans have foreign affairs tunnel vision.)
* - Science and Technology(!)
* - The readiness issue.
* - The abused civil service and officer corps

We’ll see. Meanwhile, what about you and I?

Well, it may not be the most dignified thing to suggest, but just spreading the viral message to watch McCain’s tongue-flick might be useful. Tawdry, but, well, they started it.

But there’s more... and some of it is worrisome.

-- One possible silver lining to the financial crisis...

I wrote a while back that the economic news should derail lesser culture-war distractions, e.g. 527 Swift Boat stuff. And this (so-far) has proved true, with the attempts to smear Obama with pathetic “connections” to Bill Ayers, who long ago planted bombs before recanting. Most people have little patience for such minutiae, at the moment. Not even “he’s a muslim.” (Have any of you in battleground states witnessed much of this?)

An aside: see an important article in Salon that starts with this quotation: “My government is my worst enemy. I'm going to fight them with any means at hand." Only this is from the leader of the Alaska secessionist party that Palin’s husband joined for seven years and of which she has spoken highly and repeatedly.

Will these theatrically stupid attempts at swiftboating fail? Likely. Only then will the other side, growing desperate, benefit from a different type of distraction, something much larger, may be in the works. You know what I mean. Yes, many of those who are forecasting an “October Surprise” come from the loony fringes. Still, the aromas swirl all about us. Can it hurt to take precautions?

I believe there are a few small things that Barack Obama can say - even in passing - that would "bruise" the possibility of an October Surprise, without openly referring to one. Things that people would simply nod-to, in agreement.. but that would make him seem prescient and ready, if something happened.

Right now, I have to tell you -- the prospect of Bush issuing 1,000 blanket pardons in December fills me with wrath. And yet, another part of me has to be glad that he has that power to get his cronies and fellow gang-members off scot-free! Because, otherwise, the prospect of prison would probably make his core cabal so desperate they'd be sure to do something really stupid. His promise of a Get Out Of Jail Card may be the one thing that lets us get all the way through till January, somewhat okay.

Still, I wish the topic of the coming “Pardon Tsunami” would start getting discussed. For one thing, it distills how badly we’ve been reamed. For another, Nancy Pelosi et al should do something to constrain those pardons -- putting fences and conditions around them, in advance. Don’t assume it's impossible! Elsewhere, I described how it might be done, in a way that has a chance of getting by the Courts.

Anyway, one thing is obvious - the best way to prevent an “October Surprise” is simply to make the election such an utter blowout-landslide that the SOBs can’t imagine winning, even by wreaking massive harm upon America.

-- Nevertheless prepare -- on the off chance -- for bad events!

One final thought about those paranoid fantasies. These days it is prudent -- not paranoid -- to take basic precautions. There are too many variables. Too many of the super-mighty see their interests teetering. Too many are desperate to avoid accountability. And of course we do still have those Jihadists to worry about, as well.

What else can we do? Well, I’ve long urged folks to take CERT training and join their local Community Emergency Response Team -- the tiny (but still significant) remnant of civil defense that the Bushites have left still standing. You’ll get 20 hours of class in useful skills, a meaningful ID card -- and accompanying duties to care for your neighborhood and family, if anything major happens, plus some nifty tools and a shopping list of things to store in your shed as any responsible citizen should do. This isn’t militia/survivalist stuff but the government-sanctioned and totally mainstream thing that a large fraction of us ought to volunteer to do. The sort of thing prior generations did, as a matter of simple habit.

At least do the minimal things - buy those Costco bins of things you’ll eventually wind up using/eating anyway (and do live up to that.) Batteries, solar radio, safely stored cans of gas. And get your neighbors doing the same, without sounding kooky.
Just in case.

-- And more paranoia! ;-)

One more reason for us to pray for an utter blowout-landslide. If they see that coming, corrupt red-officials (in league with Diebold) won't dare try much cheating at the polls, to swing the election for president. Anything too glaring will invite scrutiny... and prison time. (A recent effort to do just that, in Michigan, blew up in their faces, thanks to wary citizens, and now the GOP campaign has fled the state.)

Alas, though, the prospect of an Obama blowout may only change the nature of their efforts, diverting them down more subtle avenues. If Obama seems destined for a landslide, there won't be giant plays for electoral votes, but instead tweaks that are concentrated on local races, where Diebold and company might get away with it. For example, amid all the excitement, nobody will be looking very closely at state assembly and state senate contests. But those are exactly where you can bet there will be wholesale vote rigging.

Especially in states where it seems possible that the legislature may slide into Democratic hands. Remember, these legislatures redraw every district, in a collusive crime that both parties engage-in, called gerrymandering. If the dems squeak into complete power in a formerly "red" state, they will be able to transform that squeaker into a new lock. The GOP can't allow that to happen. And you can be sure they won’t.

(In fact, there are some surpising and rather bizarre aspects to this gerrymandering scam, that I explain in detail, elsewhere.)

In the short term, voters should check their paper receipts on election day, and not just for president! We need poll watchers! And media must recognize the importance of these lower level offices.

--- From the 2004 Republican Platform -- ah such a marvelous/historical document:

"The most significant barrier to homeownership is the down payment. We support efforts to reduce that barrier, like the American Dream Downpayment Act and Zero Downpayment Mortgages."

Ah, but now they blame the poor folks... gurggle...

--- And Now Some Political Miscellany ---

Top Ten viral political videos.

“If elected he will be the first to enter the office without financial backing from the major business, industrial or professional groups with their PACs, their contribution bundlers and lobbyists. That first day, which Hillary Clinton has made famous, will find Obama not owing a thing to the big money pressure groups. You would have to go back a century and a half to name an incoming president with so few debts to repay.” http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080324/vonhoffman

Also...some fun satire of Obama as an elitist.

Stefan offered this hilarious gem.

A theme I go into... along with other aspects of this vital election.

And more from the War Against Science.

And finally, continuing a fascinating topic... whether there is underlying psychology or biology, behind whether a person chooses to be Republican or Democrat. Individuals who are more easily startled by threats are more likely than others to support protective policies, such as military spending, the Iraq War and the death penalty and other classically conservative views, finds a new study.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Debates (what was missing) - plus vital demographic changes

--- Debate Commentary ---

The essential thing to come out of the first presidential debate was "comfort" -- many marginal voters got to know Obama better and were thus incrementally, icreasingly able to accept him, allowing the normal dynamic of a "throw the bums out" year to move ahead. He did not have to attack and was better off being seen as the calm one. Keeping cool was smart and it has been reflected in the polls.

No accident that McCain’s most common phrase was: “Senator Obama doesn’t understand...” while Obama’s most common was “Senator McCain is absolutely right that___, but ____.” Very effective!

Though -- of course -- I yelled at him throughout the debate, shouting "Why didn't you say ____!" (My wife finally kicked me out of the room, and rightly so! ;-)

A few core things that Obama (and later Biden) should have mentioned:
- that McCain backed the Bush plan to invest social security in the stock market.
- that Iran is the chief beneficiary of our self-ruining adventure in Iraq.
- that Phil Gramm and 500 other Bush-crony sidekicks prove McPalin and Busheney are siblings, they are not reformers.
- Mexico (!) - helping it not to fail. (A great reach to hispanics while showing that Republicans have foreign affairs tunnel vision.)
- Science and Technology(!)
- The readiness issue.
- The abused civil service and officer corps

There doesn’t have to be any wonkish detail on any of these. Just a mention, even in passing, would perk the ears of those who care deeply about them. Add up those groups and you get a heap o’ voters.

As for Biden-Palin -- well, both exceeded expectations, Palin by a large margin. But I believe that the lasting impression will be of Biden’s good-natured solidity. His general demeanor as a smart and sensible and reasonable adult will resonate with people. The fact that Obama chose him increased my respect for them both.

Though -- still -- I yelled at Biden, of course. (And got banished again.;-) Not only for failing to mention the items above, but also failing to:

- graciously congratulate Palin for proving she’s a formidable pro, fully capable of mixing it up in the open... and therefore we look forward to news conferences... (expressed in tones of genuine respect and sure-’nuff expectation).

- nail her on her refrain of “the past doesn’t matter.” How CAN we fix climate change without acknowledging how it’s caused? And how can we “fix the Washington mess” without caring how it happened... and maybe chucking the 500 Bushite operatives who now surround McPalin?

- laying on her the burden of proof that she and McC really are different than a Republican establishment that sure seems to be running their campaign.

And no, Palin did NOT try to invoke Hillary Clinton. I was a little surprised, since they had signalled an eagerness to reach for Clinton supporters. Maybe word reached them that I had been urging (through my cousin) that Biden prepare a modified, ironic-wink version of that famous Bentsen “I knew JFK” gotcha. (Well, I can fantacize, right?)

I did think that the stark difference between them was never more clear than when they answered Gwen’s somewhat obscure question about the Constitutional role of the Vice Presidency. Palin sent a chill down my spine. She understood the question, and clearly wants to be Cheney II. (Even if Obama wins, we have not seen the last of her. You sci fi fans, remember that 2012 is the "year of Nehemiah Scudder.")

Biden made it clear he sides with the Constitution, America, and us.

As for future debates, sometimes it's little things. Like that viral image of McCain and Stephen Colbert ... and a lizard... all sticking out their tongues, a hilarious riff that has gone viral (look for it!) If it goes superviral enough, then will many people be watching for that nervous tick? Will McCain concentrate hard, in order not to exhibit it? This is not something he deserves (unless, as some cops believe, the tick actually means "I'm lying.") I am not proud of rooting for him to display his tongue. But I'll take whatever gifts that he can subconsciously give to his country.

-- Election Tracking Sites --

Watch out. These two are addictive. One of them is fivethirtyeight.com/ (though I’m puzzled as to why it isn't fivethirtyseven, which makes more sense.) It gives lively realtime analysis and has an excellent track record spotting trends... though there slips through some eident pro-Obama editorial commentary. Another site with an emphasis on informative poll lists and maps is realclearpolitics.com/

Have a look at the poll numbers there "w/ Barr, Nader." Yes, the GOP brand sucks vacuum. So one would have thought that some republicans would be seeking a compatible alternative in the LP. If the Libertarian Party cannot get it together this year, how can they ever? But polls show that the Libertarians are being of no help, either to themselves or the nation. Their truly awfulperson candidate, Barr (a monumental piece of work), is probably the reason. Meanwhile Nader is his usual drag-bummer. (Talk about a man his younger self would have disowned.) Made worse by the fact that I have yet to see any vote-swap sites emerge, to allow Naderites in battleground states to vote for Obama while a Californian compensates.

These sites are needed and should have been in motion, by now. Somebody go forth and make the queries, hm?

-- Demographic Tectonics? --

Recall how Nixon’s decision to go for a “southern strategy” leveraged upon regional resentment over Johnson’s civil rights push, resulting in a rapid “flip” of all the southern states (with brief pauses for Carter and Clinton) into the Republican column, transforming American politics? By pursuing this strategy to its most manipulative and take-no-prisoners extreme of Culture War, Nixon’s successors have brought us to the point where we seem to be engaged in the American Civil War Part III: Red vs Blue. The resulting ironic hypocrisies are too innumerable to count: e.g. the parts of the country that are net recipients of government largesse (net tax-receivers) and who are NOT likely targets of terrorism, and who have the worst marriage/sex/morality statistics, obsessively sneer at the net-taxpayers who raise healthier kids and who live in the terror crosshairs. A bizarre situation that has been fostered and foisted upon us by those who saw a divided America as one ripe for plundering. This strategy also benefited from the 220 year-old Constitutional bias in favor of rural states, giving those who live in high-population states much less bang for each vote.

But are we going to catch a break, at last? What suddenly struck me as fascinating about all this right now is to observe recent shifts in voting patterns in Virginia, Colorado, Missouri and North Carolina, all of whom seem to be tipping toward the democratic side of the ledger. Even allowing for a “throw out the bums” year, this is interesting.

One hypothesis: all of these states have seen major influxes of population from Blue America, heading for Virginia’s dyanamism, North Carolina’s incredible universities and tech corridors, or Colodado’s lifestyle. It’s been going on for some time, but, till now, it was always assumed that there’d be no political or social change. Rather, the influx would be absorbed, digested, with the newcomers either outvoted by locals or converted to local tastes and attitudes. Texas is a prime example.

What we are seeing now, however, appears to contradict that common-wisdom. Instead, we may be witnessing a tipping point, where youthful, increasingly urban and tech-savvy populations (both newcomers and evermore educated locals) may be propelling some basic shifts in three (or more) "red" states.

If so, it would be justice, since the old Union of Abraham Lincoln long ago lost Indiana and seemed sure to lose Ohio, as well. (Their blue-uniformed ancestors are grave-spinning, of course. Fetch coils and tap that energy!)

Again, one feels a taste of bile, having to look at recent history as the American Civil War, Part III. But just as Blue America had to win Civil War Part I in order for the nation to survive at all... and had to win Part II in order for us to abandon racism and become a decent society... it appears that it will have to (briefly, I hope!) get militant and pissed-off before this latest phase ends, before the Republican Party rediscovers some sanity, and before we can re-unite as a forward-looking and advanced civilization, once again.