Saturday, January 3, 2009

What the World Needs Now: 2009

"What the world needs now is another folk singer
Like I need a hole in my head" David Lowery, Cracker

As those lines suggest, the time for passivity and "words, words words"(as Hamlet would say) is over. In two weeks the U.S. will finally have the regime change at home that we have so desperately needed as our war criminals(Bush, Cheney...) have squandered our financial stability, sense of hope and optimism, and perception around the world in the name of enriching their war machine allies by overthrowing sovereign states. Indeed, the masters of war have once again brought this country to its knees, tearing apart the delicate social fabric that has allowed America to be a beacon of hope for generations of immigrants who have built this nation and made it better, stronger, more just. My love for this country is deep, despite the horrific legacy of racial intolerance that has dominated our short history. Unlike the "advanced" European societies and pretty much every other country in the world, we have made incredible progress addressing the disease we call racism, despite our poor record of recognizing the class disparities that threaten to ruin this nation if we do not confront the disgusting level of greed personified by Wall Street and CEOs that laughably continue to think they are worth hundreds of times the wages they pay their workers.

Just how does one develop the misconception that it is acceptable to ask for a $10 million bonus when your company is being bailed out by taxpayers? This shocking level of arrogance can only be addressed by putting these criminals in jail. How does a country justify putting a kid in jail for stealing a bicycle while Madoff steals $50 billion and is given house arrest(at a $7 million penthouse)? This is no Golden Age; it's the new Gilded Age, with the toxic and dangerous combination of privatization of profits and socialization of losses(e.g. Wall Street does well and they keep their billions; they fail and WE bail them out) This is the groundwork for social upheaval on a scale this country has never witnessed, and there's a legitimate chance(at least 25%) that we sink into Depression(10% drop in GDP) in 2009. If you think this is overstated consider the legacy of 2008(NY Times 1-1-09): Stock Market down 34-40%($6.7 TRILLION of wealth, pensions, savings etc. lost), 2.6 million jobs lost, median home prices drop from $230,000 to $180,000, government takeover of 206 banks, treasury bills dropping below 0%( people are so scared of losing their money, they will pay to keep it safe instead of earning interest) Good luck trying to find numbers that match those in the history of this country. Of course your search will lead you one place: The Great Depression.

Rarely has a country entered a new year with this profound juxtaposition of hope and fear--hope that Obama's rhetoric and vision can enable the country--and indeed the world--to confront the most dire economic circumstances a president has faced since FDR's election in 1932, as the Great Depression was just kicking into high gear in the aftermath of a market meltdown that was both significantly different and disconcertingly similar to the challenges that this nation must overcome if we are to avoid a downward spiral of economic devastation that would be a tremendous shock to pretty much all Americans, except those very few, such as my 90 year-old Italian grandmother who literally walked through the snow in Buffalo, New York searching for work to help feed her family during the early 1930s. Most 12 year-olds in this society are not really up to that task in my humble opinion. We like to tell ourselves that we are the most creative, hard working people on earth, when in reality we have become soft, very soft, content to live beyond our means by charging our lifestyles on credit cards, fed by the pimp bankers who gave $750,000 mortgage loans to lettuce pickers who make $14,000 a year.(NY Times). Go back and look for all the safety net programs this country had in 1930. There was no safety net--you either worked, starved, or stood in soup lines. Indeed, one of the more bitterly ironic indicators during the stock market crash was that on several days one of the only stocks to see gains was...Campbell's Soup!

So, will Obama be the next FDR or Jimmy Carter? Time will tell, of course, and I, as a big supporter, both in this blog and financially, wish him well. We need him to be a great president, but I am not going to back him on every issue simply because I voted for him. That is not the way I think nor is it the objective of this blog. It's pathetic to see the talking heads on TV either supporting or attacking Obama on every issue. Here's my take: He has shown himself to be prudent and a centrist as far as his cabinet. It's not the "change" he promised, and I think the country needs, but neither is it irresponsible. Hillary and the crew should do a good job if they are willing to buy into Obama's plan. What concerns me most about Obama is his tendency to try to appease everyone. That's not what this election was about: He won on a message of change, so it is a mistake to reach out to homophobic asses like Rick Warren who ambushed him in the staged discussion with McCain and feels that homosexuality between two consenting adults is somehow the same as bestiality and pedophilia. I can understand someone being opposed to gay marriage, even though it's idiotic to suggest that it threatens my marriage. My wife and I are quite happy and are not threatened at all by gay couples. Live and let live--more people should follow that, especially when the issues do not affect the public at large. Warren is about as enlightened on these matters as Bull Connor was on race issues in 1960s Alabama, so if Obama wants to engage the man in a dialog to help him overcome his hatred of a significant group of Americans that supported Obama's campaign, fine. But invite him to be a part of the Inauguration? So, what's next, a KKK grand wizard, an anti-Semite, a Minuteman? I don't think so. Obama is condoning the one generally accepted form of illogical hatred in our society--the persecution of gays, usually by Bible(or some other religious text)-toting folks that use the good book to attack gays even though the Bible is full of polygamy, execution for children who disobey their parents etc. etc. If anyone actually read the Old Testament they would be ashamed of quoting their passages and pasting them to their foreheads. I was surprised that Obama would be so tone-deaf on this issue, especially when there is significant tension in California because 70% of blacks voted for Prop 8, the measure that passed in November and not only bars gay marriage but seeks to revoke the gay marriages that have already taken place. Indeed, 8 is hate in my view. I also understand that for many blacks it is offensive to claim that prejudice against gays is the same as racism because gay people can keep their sexual orientation private while blacks cannot hide their skin color; furthermore, I also acknowledge the profound influence of the church in black communities, and while I am puzzled why any black person would embrace a religion that was used to subjugate them in slavery for centuries I understand that the church has also had an important positive influence in many black communities, but facts are stubborn things, and Obama of all people should be more enlightened than the average American, myself included, and avoid the little wink and nod he gave to Americans who stubbornly retain their bigoted views. That's not change we can believe in.

Other than these real and potential missteps Obama has done an excellent job of both preparing to take office and not appearing to nudge the war criminals out before Jan. 20. So, what should he do in 2009 to save this nation from a potentially cataclysmic financial meltdown?

1. Send a message to the world that he will be a strong commander-in-chief. Obama cannot allow countries to test his mettle, as is the current case in the Israel-Hamas situation. Put an end to this affair by sending in UN peacekeepers; this will anger both sides, a major reason why it is a good idea. Hamas needs to be overthrown and Israel needs to have restraint: some primitive rockets capable of doing very little tangible damage do not call for massive retaliation and civilian deaths. Both sides have plenty of blood on their hands, and while I sympathize much more with Israel simply because I think they, unlike the Arab states, are sincerely interested in living in peace, the fact remains that Israel is not going to bomb their way to peace. I do not buy into the "Islam is a violent religion" rhetoric because there are obviously Muslims who want to live in peace and keep their religion to themselves rather than searching out infidels to murder, but I also refuse to blindly claim that the Koran is only full of peace, love, and understanding. As with the Bible, it's full of hatred, intolerance and some love, but ignorant extremists find more than enough "evidence" in the book to justify in their simple little minds the complete destruction of Israel. If America were under the type of assault Israel has endured for decades, we would act in the same manner(How many bombs from Tijuana would hit San Diego before we wiped out the entire city? Think about it...), but their current offensive and the murder of innocent civilians is simply sowing the seeds of hatred for many generations to come. They have the best military intelligence in the world, so they know exactly where the terrorists are(as they have bombed precise houses) so get in there with ground troops and get after the real problems. Yes, it will be bloody but that's what war is. There has never been a war won with bombing raids only; they should know that from Lebanon. Get your hands dirty or get out.
Obama needs to show leadership to the rest of the world and there is no better place to start than this confrontation.

2. Obama needs to institute an immediate and significant payroll tax cut for people making $150K or less to quickly stimulate the economy. Rebate checks take too long and have shown to be ineffective because people put them in the bank. The massive jobs program he has proposed is of limited usefulness because while it will help in the long-term it is also a relic of the past. This crisis is not the same as 1932; the dynamics are very different and require different strategies. He's rightly concerned about unemployment, which will get much worse in early 2009, but this economy cannot wait for action. The only way to act quickly is through payroll tax deductions, as they can change those percentages in a matter of weeks, while job programs will take months and years to have a significant impact. Obama--and the nation--does not have months or years. We are on the precipice of a financial meltdown; if he doesn't act quickly there will be many more bank failures and the type of run on the banks that led to the Great Depression. The TARP program has been a horrible failure because they gave money to banks, who in turn have sat on the money, afraid that the bad mortgage securities were going to wipe out their entire operations--that's the essence of the problem: Banks are hoarding money they were given to get credit rolling, and their greed and incompetence may bring down the entire world financial market system. There is very little consumer confidence in this society; people are scared and they rightly feel much poorer than they were a year ago. This type of fear leads people to stop spending and that's exactly what is going on. Americans' insatiable appetite for consumer goods has weaned and it's bringing our economy--as well as China's--to a dramatic reversal that will continue to have dire consequences in 2009.

3. Finally, the most important action Obama must take to save the country is to deal with the housing crisis, which is only going to intensify in 2009. Housing got us into this crisis and there is no way out except to deal with the mortgage meltdown that has led to a catastrophic decline and home values, which in turn has destroyed consumer confidence. One of the best recent books is Financial Shock by Moody's Mark Zandi, which details the crisis through mid-2008 and offers a very sobering picture of what the country faces in 2009, as the mortgage crisis is nowhere near its peak. There are literally $500 billion in bad mortgages that haven't reset yet and when they do the decline in prices will continue to the point that millions and millions more Americans will either lose their homes or simply walk away from a house that is underwater, as it makes no sense to pay a $400,000 mortgage on a house that is worth $200,000 or less. If the government does not act to stabilize housing prices no one is going to buy or sell and more and more jobs will be lost. California and several other states are in worse shape than at any time in history because housing has brought down the entire economy. When house are not bought and sold, taxes are not collected and jobs are lost--finance jobs, construction, furniture, repairs--you name it. In California an astonishing 60% of mortgages are underwater! When some one's house has dropped in value from $600,000 to $400,000 that person who has lost $200,000 in equity in a matter of months is not likely to feel good about rushing out to purchase the new plasma TV or new automobile. Sadly, many Americans have been financing their phony lifestyles with home equity loans, which have increased from $220 billion t0 $820 billion since 2000! Now those people are stuck in houses that are worth less than their first mortgage AND they have an equity loan to deal with. I opposed the pathetic $700 billion Wall St. bailout because I knew it would be used precisely for what it has been used for--to enrich Paulson's corrupt banker friends at Goldman Sachs and other banks. They have kept that money and paid their huge bonuses anyway, calling them "retention fees" so they can pay the geniuses who made all the bad loans 10 million or more each to stick around in 2009 to help further destroy the American economy. That money could have literally bought every underwater mortgage in the country, allowing banks to wipe them off their balance sheets so that they could begin making loans again--prudent loans to qualified borrowers. If Paulson and Bush would have acted on this we would not be where we are, so Obama needs to clean up the mess quickly by establishing a system to buy these bad assets(which was what the money was originally allocated for) and essentially reset the housing market by helping it find a "bottom." Currently, the bottom is nowhere in sight and prices continue to plunge, even with no buyers, for who would buy a house now when it may lose another 50% in value in the next 12 months? The only sales in California are short sales and foreclosures, so much so that even houses that are not in foreclosure are having to be sold at foreclosure prices. If this situation is not addressed the country will not get out of this predicament. It's really that simple.

These are the times of the New Austerity, as Christmas retail sales were dismal and major manufacturing in this country--GM AND Toyota etc.--are on the brink of disaster, with declines of 30-50% from last year. People are not buying cars, Big 3 or other. The Big 3 is in deep trouble, in part, because more advanced societies have socialized health care rather than burdening the companies so their bottom line is much different than those of German and Japanese car makers. These redneck Southern senators who attack GM workers as overpaid($60K a year for working on an assembly line is overpaid but $35 million for a Wall St banker is OK?) are desperate to hold on to their $14 an hour jobs by attacking the "fat cats" who make $30 for GM. $14 an hour is $30K a year. How many Americans can survive on that paycheck, and if they can, how do they do it? Well, we know the answer to that: They charge their consumer purchases on credit cards, putting the country deeper in debt, and now those individuals do not have the money to be consumers because there is no more easy credit. The party's over friends, but these ignorant Senators are too blind to see that cutting workers' wages is not going to stimulate the economy. It's the decline in well-paying middle class jobs that has created the new Gilded Age. The rich, led by greedy Republican tax and employment policies, have succeeded in destroying the middle class through depressing wages and paying executives and shareholders more, as well as sending jobs overseas to increase dividends. Trouble is, the loss of middle class jobs has gutted the U.S. economy. How do you think the Dow surpassed 14,000 last year before sinking as low as 7300 when reality hit? Unchecked and unregulated greed. Capitalism does not work without checks and balances because people are greedy by nature; that's why we have laws--and $50 billion Ponzi schemes. Indeed, the American economy is currently one big Ponzi scheme that is about ready to come crashing down if Obama is unable or unwilling to take bold, decisive action. There's a great new book called Unequal Democracy by Larry Bartels, Princeton professor, on this topic. Check it out.

It's been 76 years since a president took office facing the types of challenges that confront the historic presidency of Barack Obama. He has the goodwill of the vast majority of Americans who not only want him to do well but literally need him to be a transformational president, someone with the strength of character and vision to make significant changes, not a middle-of-the-road status quo leader. His future--and that of the nation--depends on this man's character. Let's all hope he is up to the task.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"A New Day in America..."

As Congressman John Lewis observed, tonight America decided to "lay down the burden of race and move ahead" in a profoundly nonviolent revolution, and once again America reclaimed its place as the true leader of the world, for in no other country on earth would Obama's story be possible, such is the reality of racial hatred, religious intolerance, and class divisions that define even the best of European nations. Make no mistake about it, tonight we all witnessed the most important day in U.S. history in at least a generation, and in one seminal event America did more to realize Martin Luther King's dream than in the forty years of struggle since his death, as now every child born in this country can honestly aspire to the highest office in the land. It is no longer a line teachers try to sell kids in rundown classrooms but a real, tangible reality: Yes, you can achieve, and no, despite our heartbreaking legacy of injustice, we are not a country that is unwilling to transcend our past. Indeed, we are a country that will judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and despite the many challenges that we still must confront, we are, in essence, a nation that believes in our ideals of social justice and equality for all. I have never been more proud to be an American than I am tonight, as I looked my 2 month old daughter in the eyes and told her that she will never live in a country that is dominated by racist or sexist values: That is the message this nation sent tonight with the election of Barack Obama.

So how did Obama overcome enormous, unprecedented challenges to win this election. Here are the six most important aspects of Obama's victory:

1. He should call Bush to thank him for being the worst president in U.S. history. Bush's complete and utter incompetence opened the door to radical change in much the same way that an Indian-American--Bobby Jindal--was elected in the Deep South after Hurricane Katrina when Louisiana's residents were so fed up with the corrupt state leaders that they essentially said, "this 36-year-old kid seems young and smart, so let's give him a shot at running this state." That's basically what many conservative Americans said as they voted for Obama: Yes, he's a black man, but he's Harvard-educated, level-headed, and seems to know his stuff, so let's give him a shot, for it can't be any worse than this idiot Bush.

2. Obama had the most impressive campaign organization in U.S. history. Starting in the primaries, they left Clinton behind, utilizing the Internet not just to solicit funds but to put together a 50 state machine that mobilized voters and got people to the polls, especially in the caucus states that gave Obama the delegate lead that enabled him to hold off Clinton. Obama wisely rejected public financing and buried the GOP in advertising dollars, even as they cried about how unfair it was that the Dems finally had their chance to have more money. He knew the public didn't care much about the public financing issue, so he absorbed the flip-flop blow back and overwhelmed McCain in the battleground states and put him on the defensive in red states, which made the difference in the end in states such as Florida and especially Virginia. It is a model that will be studied for generations, and Obama did his part by running a literally flawless campaign. Except for a few stumbles in the primaries he made no mistakes.

3. On August 29th, McCain made blunder number one: The selection of Palin was a disaster, as it solidified his base in an election where needed to appeal to the center. Palin scared the hell out of reasonable independents and Democrats whom McCain had to have. Palin reinforced the perception that the GOP was a party of disgruntled white people, and all she brought to the ticket were a bunch of racists who were either going to sit it out or vote for McCain anyway. Look at the composition of those rallies in the final weeks: Angry rural white people calling for Obama's death, that's the crowd she cultivated, and it became painfully clear to open-minded Americans that she was more of a grand wizard of the KKK than a viable president of the United States. After her pathetic debate performance she was relegated to SNL skits and not taken seriously by most of America. As the results made painfully clear, she did much more harm than good simply because people had no confidence that she could take over if the 72-year-old man with a 1000 page medical history were to die in office. That's the bottom line; she failed the only test a VP has to pass--can this person be trusted as president?

4. On September 15, as the stock market was literally crashing, McCain made blunder number two when he repeated the idiotic observation that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." Even the most simplistic investors who simply have a 401K knew that their nest egg was disappearing everyday, so to hear the cognitive dissonance of a man who wants to be president make such a ridiculous statement was alarming and caused a dramatic shift in the polls. It was clear at that point that McCain was indeed as out of touch as his seven houses and dozen cars suggested. He was reduced to a typical rich, old, white Republican who has no sense of the challenges average Americans struggle with on a monthly basis. It was a devastating mistake.

5. McCain inexplicably dug himself in deeper on the economic issue when he played his little "suspend the campaign" game--and then failed to get anything done because the GOP rejected him. It was a humiliating defeat that led him to arrive at the debate with his tail between his legs and reduced to having to support the bailout package that Bush demanded and that the GOP helped pass. Obama survived the bad decision to vote for the bailout only because he waited to be certain that McCain would vote yes before he did.

6. In all three debates Obama reassured the nation that he was cool, calm, and competent, as he destroyed "Forrest Grump" McCain on the issues and left him looking flustered and angry. The debates were the first time most Americans saw Obama, and they liked what they saw: He was forceful and astute, as well as refined and respectful, certainly not some Angry Black Man. The debates had a huge impact in terms of convincing Americans that it was OK to vote for this guy, that he cared about the country, knew the issues, had a vision, and seemed much more skilled than Bush. The debates sealed the deal, as McCain never was able to catch up in the polls.

Now, thankfully, Joe the plumber can get back to the very real and very important work of unplugging toilets, and Palin can fade into Alaska oblivion: Their 15 minutes are up. John McCain has served this country well and Obama should seek his counsel, as he is an honorable man at heart. He is not the first person whose ambition cost him his soul, but McCain could have run a much more dishonorable campaign than he did, and he deserves respect for that choice. He made a deal with the devil, those "agents of intolerance" he rejected in 2000, and the GOP needs to have a good, old-fashioned war for the soul of the party. The right wing, bigoted evangelicals need to be cut loose to form their own party so that moderates can regain control in case Obama does not live up to the promise of his potential. Obama has a monumental task ahead of him, but he also has no excuses, with large majorities in both houses. As he seemed to indicate in his acceptance speech, he knows it's time to get to work, to try to save this great but fading nation.
He will indeed be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his skin, in these next four years, and all Americans should wish him the best of luck. He will need it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

October Surprise: Powell Eviscerates GOP. McCain Meltsdown in Final Debate

In a resounding rejection of Republican policies and campaign tactics, universally respected General Colin Powell delivered the most devastating attack on McCain since Obama silenced him with his three unanswered "you were wrong!" statements in the first debate. On "Meet the Press" Powell not only offered a sincere endorsement for a man he called a "transformational figure," but more importantly provided an unexpectedly ferocious attack on the people McCain himself once called the "agents of intolerance" but are now the ones McCain sold his soul to in this misguided attempt at a presidential campaign, namely the right wing racists who, sadly, have taken over the party and in doing so have reduced it to a party of the very rich and the very ignorant(the choice of the laughable Palin--which Powell cited as disturbing--was to appease this intolerant crowd), with a few lost and misguided good souls thrown in, although they are flocking to Obama everyday, as their goodness prevents them from turning the other cheek to people calling Obama a "terrorist" and shouting "kill him!" Intelligent Republicans cannot--and indeed are not going to--support a potential president who is too insecure to sit down on "Meet the Press" or even conduct a basic press conference. She has brought shame to true GOP intellectuals because of her complete lack or intellectual curiosity or even a cursory interest in the issues that will affect the lives of all Americans, and she is going to negotiate with Putin? Someone who is scared to death of Tom Brokaw...Nor can they endure idiots such as the Congresswoman Bachmann from Minnesota who called Obama "un-American" and called for a new round of McCarthyistic investigations of which members of Congress are un-American. Is this what the GOP has really been reduced to?(Powell singled her out as symbolic of this new, horrible GOP that he is repudiating.) I certainly do not think McCain is un-American in any way. Indeed, I respect him much more than cowards such as Bush who ran from military service during Vietnam and fools such as Romney, who claimed his five sons were serving their country by trying to help him get elected: That's about as un-American a statement I have heard from a politician. Perhaps that is what she was talking about--who the draft dodgers are, who refuses to send their kids to Iraq while they talk tough themselves. However, I doubt that's what she has in mind...Now Obama is a "socialist" according to another delusional old woman in a nursing home who was screaming that one word at him over and over, thanks to one of her heroes McCain or Palin, who evidently taught her that word; Obama should have asked her if she cashed her "SOCIAL" Security check this month, that most beloved of our "socialist" programs, but if Obama is a socialist what does that make the man who supported a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street AND introduced a $300 billion socialist bailout for banks who made bad loans?

Indeed, McCain is as socialist as they come(in his own words he supports "regulation " of "greed and corruption on Wall Street"), and they have the nerve to say shame on Obama for trying to "redistribute wealth" by asking the rich to pay what they were paying during the Clinton years--remember that was when we PAID for our tax breaks with cuts in welfare benefits, closing military bases etc., balanced the budget, AND had a booming economy! It's absurd to suggest that restoring the tax bracket from the 1990s for people who make over $250K is going to somehow destroy the economy, when the economy is pretty much destroyed already. The GOP, starting with the fraud Reagan, is the party of cutting taxes AND increasing spending, thus leaving future generations with the bills to pay. Take a minute to research budget deficits, including those when the GOP controlled both houses of Congress. Try cutting your family's income while increasing your spending. Where will that lead your family? Sleeping on the streets or in your car? That's where our country is headed thanks to the irresponsible combination of tax breaks for the very wealthy and unrestrained spending, especially on the bloated military budget and obscene tax breaks for Bush's oil buddies.

Is this race for president over? Of course not! I know people who are highly educated and think it's over and that Obama will win 40 states etc., yet they are oblivious to the reality that a black man named Barack Hussein Obama is not going to be a landslide victor in this country in these times, not even against John "Sidney" McCain III, champion of the common man, despite never holding a private sector job in his life, except when given one by his wife's daddy, and not even in the worst economic times since the 1930s, a direct result of the complete and utter disaster that is George W Bush, a president who offered no leadership in a time when the country desperately needed it and now is so despised that McCain takes it as an insult to be compared to the man whose GOP jersey he wears. The GOP is setting up a brilliant plan to try to suppress the vote and steal this election as they did in 2000 and 2004 if they can get it close enough to put it in the hands of states with Republican governors and secretaries of state. These are the people who delivered in the last two elections, so if anyone thinks Obama will coast to an easy victory he or she has a very short memory. This will be a brutal fight up to and including election day and perhaps weeks and days afterward, when the GOP lawyers will go after the irrelevant Acorn, who are supposedly trying to steal the election because a few crooks are filling out phony registration forms to get paid more. Anyone who has ever been part of a voter registration drive knows that stuff like that happens and that's why we have someone called a REGISTRAR, who confirms eligibility. This is all much ado about nothing except for GOP plans to intimidate people so that they will not vote. If they can bring out the dogs and cops to the polling places they certainly will.

Anyway, Obama, ironically, has W. to thank for his good fortunes, for the Republicans are humiliated to a degree that many are running for office with ads that do not even state their party, such is the shame they feel to be associated with a man who bears the type of universal ill will that no president has endured since Hoover. No, Nixon, was not despised nearly to the degree that Bush is. As the song goes, "Watergate does not bother me..." but down in sweet home Alabama these days it's hard to find too many people whose conscience does not bother them as we are bogged down in the Iraq fiasco and our moral standing in the world has been destroyed because of Bush's arrogance and ignorance, a truly frightening combination that is older than Greek tragedy and likely to end just as badly, as Bush wallows in hubris in the waning days of his presidency, isolated and alone, no one calling to ask him to campaign. A figure of pure pathos.
It was truly gratifying to hear Powell basically reiterate everything I wrote in my last blog entry, simply in more politically correct terms: While I termed these "people" "toothless inbreds," Powell, being the gentleman he is, called them "narrow" several times. So what do you think he meant? They are certainly not physically "narrow," as our country is the only country on earth where even the poor people are obese, so he certainly meant what we all call "narrow-minded," which is a precise and devastating analysis of the state of the GOP, as seen through the eyes of one of its own most respected statesmen!

McCain's final debate performance was indicative of his entire campaign: moments of clarity obscured by petulance and anger. On a night when Obama was flat and content to play defense and avoid any gaffes, McCain had an opportunity to make his last best case that he isn't Bush's third term. Instead, McCain walked into a brilliant trap Obama laid by claiming "I am not George Bush." While McCain's staff claimed it was some great moment, Obama's staff already had the ad ready to go, the one that featured that line, along with an array of McCain's awkward, antagonistic angry old man faces, finishing up with McCain's own boastful claim that he supported the greatest failure in U.S. history "over 90% of the time." He should not have even mentioned Bush's name, as it backfired by making people think, "actually, this guy IS a lot like Bush," which explains the overwhelming response of viewers who felt Obama won the debate, even with his B game.

McCain did a good job in the first 30 minutes of the debate but he simply couldn't restrain himself from himself, as he continually displayed his odious personality, limited insights on the economic crisis, and pathetic lack of credibility on such important issues as health care, women's health(which he mocked with his arrogant "air quotations") and abortion. Obama basically destroyed McCain when the discussion turned to these topics, as Americans generally feel that health care should be a right and that abortion should be legal but with sensible regulations such as exceptions for the "health" of the mother, incest, rape etc. Many Republicans have this misguided notion that human life begins at conception, when all advanced societies understand that POTENTIAL human life begins at conception but that a tiny clump of cells is nowhere near the same as a fully developed 30 week fetus that is viable outside the womb. To claim that these are the same is to disregard actual human life and display an astounding level of ignorance. This is common sense and that's why we have laws that treat the two as completely different. For instance, if a woman causes a miscarriage because she drank, exercised etc. early in her pregnancy, perhaps before she even knew she was pregnant, she will not be prosecuted and perhaps even jailed, but if she were to cause the unintended death of a 30 week fetus she may very well be subjected to prosecution, just as if someone murdered a woman who is 8 months pregnant the charge would be double murder, but if the woman is 8 days pregnant that would never be the charge. Why you ask? Because at 8 days it is a POTENTIAL human life...Anyway, this argument was the end of McCain's opportunity to impress independent women, who were horrified by his lack of concern for women's health and women's issues in general. This became painfully clear after the debate when independents favored Obama by over 25% in the the CNN and CBS polls. Now, it's all over but the shouting, as the campaign moves into the final stages and McCain clings to the hope that Bush and his criminal friends can deliver him an October surprise or help coordinate the "narrow victory" they now claim they will win. I would never claim that Barack Obama is absolutely the most qualified person in America to be president, as there are many Democrats and even a few Republicans that share his intellectual capacity and ability to inspire and listen to what others have to offer, but Obama is clearly more qualified than McCain, and as Powell made painfully clear, is what America needs here and now, in a time when a continuation of the Bush tragedy is a risk this nation simply cannot afford.
Vote Obama on November 4th

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The face of the GOP: A pathetic old lady who calls Obama an "Arab"

"How did it come to this?" someone asked me yesterday in reference to the Republican party's rallies this week that have featured crowd members shouting out and even telling news crews the following comments about Obama: "He's a terrorist!" "Bomb him!" "Kill him!" "Off with his head!" I think you get the point: These "people" are filled with the type of ignorant hatred that is a threat to American values, even as they wear their flag pins while cheering and calling for the DEATH of the first potential African-American president. Indeed, that is what this country has come to precisely because of the calculated "culture war" the Republicans began in the Reagan years and perfected in the 2000 campaign. The Republican party has sadly been reduced to, ironically, the very rich and the very ignorant. My friends who grew up Republican because they favored limited government and low taxes have nothing in common with this new party that uses billions of taxpayer dollars to bail out Wall St. criminals, nor do they relate to people who are so controlled by evangelical religious superstitions that they endorse the government telling us whom we can sleep with, what women do with their bodies, whom we can marry, what drugs people take, what scientists can do, what basic truths are taught in schools etc.

This new GOP is nothing like the Goldwater party of the 60s and 70s, and the current Republicans have literally destroyed this country because of their overt embrace of ignorance as something to celebrate(Bush is their poster boy). Case in point: I was talking with someone the other day about the overwhelming support Obama has in places like Berkeley and Boston, locations of some of the top universities in the world. My friend said, "What do you expect, it's Berkeley?" My response was, "Exactly." Think about what it says about our country when the most educated scholars and future leaders are overwhelmingly Democratic, while Billy Bob's Bible College is where you find the McCain supporters, and not coincidentally, where many of the Bush crowd came from. Monica Goodling and her mail order law degree from Pat Robertson's college is just one example. What does it say when the educated class is Democratic and Joe Sixpack and his racist buddies are the ones who knock down a few brews and show up to the McCain rally to shout "Kill him!"? Is this the America you want for your kids? Is the uneducated class the role model for your children? One glance at the electoral map will confirm everything I have noted here, as the McCain "safe" states speak for themselves(Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah...), while the West Coast and East Coast and sites of every celebrated university in the country are solidly Obama. What does this say about the ideas these parties represent? Even Karl Rove couldn't spin the reality that the GOP has become the party of rich greedy individuals and poor, uneducated whites who claim Obama is an "Arab" or "scares them" simply because they don't want to come right out and say that they hate black people. That's the bottom line that the media is afraid to confront because they want the money that comes from these ignorant, toothless inbreds who sit around and watch TV all day, ranting about how their plight is somehow the fault of blacks and immigrants.

Let's be brutally honest about what is going on: McCain found himself so down and out last week after getting whipped in another debate that he had his campaign brazenly tell the media that the campaign was going to "go negative," and it was very clear what that meant: Their last, best hope was to turn the country against Obama because of his race, so they began their guilt by association nonsense, calling a Chicago professor a "domestic terrorist, " even though the man has never been convicted any kind of domestic terrorism, with the intention of creating a white lynch mob that would put McCain and Palin on their shoulders and carry them across the finish line and into the White House. However, someone forgot to remind McCain just how successful these tactics would be when it comes to motivating all the racists to crawl out from under their rocks to "get the black man"("Kill him" "Bomb him"). The hapless Palin began firing up the lynch mob last week, claiming that Obama "pals around with domestic terrorists" and she and McCain continued attacking all week, even as the stock market dropped over 20% in seven days. Instead of pushing a plan to save the country's financial system, they wallowed in race baiting until it reached its logical conclusion on Friday with the overt comments about being "scared" of the "Arab." Of course, the GOP talking heads tried to defend their voters, even while McCain himself attempted to save a shred of his dignity by telling the truth for a few minutes. I have nothing but disdain for McCain, Palin, and this new Republican party, but let me be very clear: I certainly don't want any of them to be killed, bombed, or have their heads cut off, nor do I think McCain or Palin are terrorists. No, I simply recognize that they are bad people who deserve to be rejected by the American people on November 4th so that they can fade from our memory and Obama can begin the ominous--and perhaps impossible--task of rebuilding this country's economic system before all of us suffer the consequences of the worst financial collapse in the nation's history. Make no mistake about it, that is what is at stake here; this is no time for ignorant observations about "terrorists" and "Arabs." This country needs a COMPETENT leader to step up with a viable plan or all of us will endure a catastrophic future that will result in the complete and utter disintegration of our society. That's what is at stake when you vote, not whom you would rather have a beer with. We saw how well that guy did...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Debate Analysis: Sept 26 and Oct 2

Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief--and perhaps send Gwen Ifill a stipend for allowing Palin to dodge questions all night--as Palin certainly avoided the type of meltdown that seemed increasingly plausible as the campaign has unfolded over the past two weeks. She has shown herself to be so monumentally ignorant that the bar was set so low that her literal survival in the debate was a moral victory for the "ignorance is bliss" crowd, otherwise known as the Republican base. Her insouciance and "aw shucks" demeanor consisted of the mindless regurgitation of a phrase--"corruption and greed on Wall Street"--and a relentless determination to avoid any substantive "debate" but rather engage in a faithful repetition of the McCain talking points, which Obama basically destroyed in the first presidential debate, namely the inability to acknowledge the colossal failure that is the Iraq War and the lucid reality of the failure of the Bush economic policies that have led the country to the precipice of another Great Depression.
Palin, while having no grasp of any relevant facts or statistics, nonetheless did a good job of endorsing a candidate(McCain) whose career has been one of supporting the economic policies that have destroyed the middle class and decimated the nation's financial system. So while she floundered talking about "Joe Six-Pack" and tried to make the case that the $100 million dollar man McCain somehow cares about the concerns of the Main Street workers he has trampled for years in his rush to worship his CEO buddies and lavish them with obscene tax breaks, Palin essentially did what they prayed she would do in the sense that there were no "I'll get back to ya" moments. Moderator Gwen Ifill, whom racist Republicans attacked as being essentially in Obama's camp because of a book that has been advertised since the summer, actually was much too deferential to Palin, as she let her off the hook again and again, even when she evidently didn't understand the term "Achilles Heel," as she made no attempt to even acknowledge the question, let alone respond. Ifill was obviously intimidated into discarding follow-up questions and allowed Palin to retreat to her favorite McCain talking point: "Greed and corruption on Wall Street..." Perhaps she could have been asked to provide a single salient example of Wall Street issues and how to address them...
Biden, on the other hand, was professional, polite and serious, presenting a thorough and analytical perspective of both the current state of the economy and the challenges that face the country in the aftermath of the president McCain bragged about "supporting over 90% of the time." That's not a good record when the president is the least popular in U.S. history. While Palin showed a hapless inability to address the mortgage crisis, let alone speak intelligently about solutions, Biden discussed practical ideas and implications of the Bankruptcy Bill while acknowledging the depth of the crisis. On health care, Palin fled to the same old "tax credit" argument that seems to be the Republican answer for everything, despite the reality that the current economic crash that has led banks to the brink of collapse and a panic that would bring down the entire system has taken place in the context of Bush's unprecedented tax breaks for the wealthy. A layman can see how well this failed policy of trickle down economics works in a system--capitalism-- whose life blood is human greed, pure and simple. That is why we have to regulate the economy, just as we regulate human behavior with those pesky things called LAWS.
Unchecked capitalism leads to rampant greed, and the Bush legacy, in addition to unilaterally attacking countries, will be the complete and utter disregard for even a basic level of oversight of our financial system. Bush and McCain are figures of genuine pathos, and their names will be mentioned with disdain for decades to come, as all Americans literally pay the cost of their criminal activities and those of their trusted friends and advisers.

The final analysis of the VP debate was that Palin exceeded expectations that were so low that one would think she were a 5th grader, but in terms of specific issues she was in way over her head and basically didn't get the better of a single question. She did a good job of memorizing a dozen or so policy positions she was fed but offered no solutions other than the trite tax breaks for the wealthy. That accounts for the perception of viewers who overwhelmingly declared Biden the winner and will certainly be more inclined to support Obama and Biden after witnessing the debate, but it was indeed a moral victory that someone with her limited intellectual capacity could endure 90 minute debate, so hats off to her, heckuva job, Palie!

In last Friday's debate, Obama accomplished his main objective--to convince undecided voters that he is a viable president rather than a neophyte. His clear articulation of his vision and profound insights on all substantive issues reassured undecided voters and resulted in a rush of support that has increased his lead in every battleground state and left a staggered McCain looking like the grumpy old man he is. It's not highly effective to say Obama "doesn't understand" when he is standing next to you essentially kicking your ass on foreign policy issues that are supposed to be your area of expertise, yet that is exactly what happened, as the climactic moment of the debate was the three punch left-right-left combination where Obama looked at the terrified McCain and told him three times: "You were wrong!" about all the major Iraq lies Bush sold the American public. McCain offered no response, as he knows he was indeed wrong about Iraq, as well as every other major policy issue("Fundamentals of the economy are strong...?") McCain should be playing a violin on the Titanic, not running for president, such is his stunning lack of vision and insight in a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty. His campaign is laughably incompetent, and he personifies the GOP dilemma of being an old and out of touch party that is of, by and for an increasingly small minority of rich old men and ladies, with the obligatory white racists thrown in. The times are indeed changing, "my friends..."

Friday, August 29, 2008

"We are a better country than this..."

"We meet at one of those defining moments--a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more." 8-28-08

Watching Barack Obama is becoming more and more like watching the great athletes I have admired over the years, as once again he stepped up to the plate, with the burden of unrealistic expectations on his back, and proceeded to hit a grand slam. Like the Negro League great Josh Gibson, when Obama has two strikes he's not in the hole--the pitcher's in the hole, because he still has another swing. Speaking in front of 85,000 people on the anniversary of perhaps the most sacred political speech in U.S. history, Obama was able to transcend the hypocrisy of the GOP, who ridiculed his celebrity while scrambling to beg people to fill a high school gym for a McCain "rally" and deliver a speech that was not really about poetry but hard-nosed prose that rang with disdain for the Bush tragedy and their half-dead little lapdog who has sold his soul to whore himself to the same big oil interests and right wing evangelicals whose world is slipping away as this society changes in ways that were unimaginable even a generation ago.

We all remember three years ago today, as Katrina ravaged New Orleans, killing far too many brothers and sisters, it was McCain who literally ate birthday cake with his buddy George, oblivious to the suffering of poor men, women and children left to drown while the pathetic "heckuva job Brownie" did absolutely nothing to help rescue thousands of trapped Americans whose government failed them because of incompetent leaders who sent their "National Guard" to assist in an immoral, illegal, and hopelessly misguided occupation of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 and indeed never attacked America. These idiots are asking the American people to let them finish destroying the country, with McCain pledging to continue the Bush "policies." And now, before the GOP can begin to recover from Hurricane Barack that submerged their ill will, the karma-infused Gustav approaches the Gulf Coast just in time for the GOP convention, a stark reminder of Bush-Brownie-McCain incompetence and evidence that maybe there really is a God, since it appears to be payback from an angry God for the right wing nut jobs who prayed for rain to ruin Obama's speech. God evidently doesn't like evangelical blowhards and GOP conventions anymore than She supposedly doesn't like those sinners in the Big Easy. In the final analysis, Obama's speech was a harbinger of change. It will come, even if Obama cannot overcome the worst instincts of this country in 2008. As Hamlet said, "If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come; it will be now; if it be not now; yet it will come. The readiness is all." (5.2.217-220)

Obama clearly conveyed his readiness to lead the country and, perhaps more importantly, articulated a cogent and detailed vision of what we need to do to begin to reclaim the American Dream that has been battered and bruised by eight years of an administration that is hopelessly ignorant and lacking in any type of vision. Quite frankly, I would take Kanye West's assertion after Katrina much farther: George Bush doesn't care about the average American, regardless of skin color. He has abused his office to enrich his Texas oil industry buddies and in doing so has literally murdered sons and daughters whose bodies litter the desert so that these criminals can continue doing business as usual, just on a much larger scale, with their no-bid contracts to "rebuild" a country we destroyed. In a just world--or even in many countries--Bush and Cheney would be deposed from power and executed for their war crimes, so they should slither back to the Texas and Wyoming rocks they crawled out from under and be ready to take their lumps from historians who will excoriate them for centuries to come for what they have done to this country. That is what led to Obama's frustrated "Enough!" that was a metaphor for the anger and rage of a generation of Americans who have helplessly endured the destruction of the ideals of this nation that we all love so much. As Obama said, "America, we are a better country than these last eight years. We are a better country than this." Obama's speech was the most profound wake-up call in this nation's history; however, it remains to be seen if America is up to answering the call, or will they simply pull the pillow over their heads and hit the symbolic snooze button embodied by a vote for McSame. That question is by no means certain, as Obama's brave, thoughtful, and tenacious speech cannot obscure the fact that he is the underdog in this race simply because of who he is.

In Shakespeare's Henry V the young King Henry was mocked by his opponents because he was young and inexperienced and spent his early days hanging out in the pubs with his drunkard buddy Falstaff, inviting apprehension among the people as his time to take the throne approached. Once the young king assumed the throne, the French mocked him by sending a gift of tennis balls, only be told that "we understand the [Dauphin] well / How he comes over us with our wilder days / Not measuring what use we made of them." Just as the French underestimated and mocked the young king, the hapless old GOP has done the same with Obama, unable to comprehend what the young Obama learned in his younger days as a student of the world and Chicago activist. They thought they were dealing with some weak, celebrity version of Jimmy Carter when all of the sudden Joe Louis showed up on that stage Thursday night and knocked down the entire GOP, leaving them so dazed and confused they were uncharacteristically silent after Obama's speech, symbolically throwing in the towel. It was an overwhelmingly audacious frontal assault that left the McCain camp mired in shock and awe, so out of it that they made an hurried and irresponsible decision to name an unqualified, unknown governor to the ticket, hoping to peel away some of the Hillary supporters who seemed to be coming home in droves on Thursday night. The problem with the Palin VP selection is that it is a stunning insult to almost all Democratic women, as she represents everything the feminists have fought against since the 1970s, besides having absolutely none of the experience that was Hillary's main argument, remember "ready from Day One..."? More on the VP later...

It was Henry V who led his outnumbered "band of brothers" to a stunning victory over the French, noting in his own powerful speech on the eve of the decisive battle and English victory:
" I am not covetous for gold / Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost; / It yearns me not if men my garments wear; such outward things dwell not in my desires. / But if it be a sin to covet honor, / I am the most offending soul alive...For he today that sheds his blood with me / shall be my brother." (Henry V 4.3.20-60)
Make no mistake about it, Obama's speech was as much about honor as it was policy. It was essentially a populist declaration of war on a GOP that has destroyed America's financial and economic structures and left the country reeling in the aftermath of an Olympics that featured the daunting reality of an ascendant China and an America so stretched by the human and financial costs of the Iraq fiasco that perhaps we have been reduced to a "country of whiners" because that's all we were able to do when Russia smacked down Georgia, after a McCain lobbyist most likely encouraged Georgia to attack South Ossetia so that he could create another Bhutto moment to highlight McCain's "experience." The opposite, of course, developed when the Georgian president appealed for "actions not words" while the helpless McCain blustered his usual tough guy talk and then let the story disappear. Of course, the mainstream media won't touch this angle, even while highlighting the connections between McCain's campaign and Georgia: "You don't defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries by occupying Iraq. You don't protect Israel and deter Iran just by talking tough in Washington. You can't truly stand up for Georgia when you've strained our oldest alliances."

Obama laid out his case to address the significant challenges that face this country in the 21st century with realistic and ambitious plans to end our addiction to oil in 10 years, provide more than lip service and prayers for public education, and begin to provide health care for poor and middle class people that transcends the GOP's preferred emergency room>financial ruin>bankruptcy medley the right wingers crow about, most recently proposing that no one is considered "uninsured" in America because all of us have access to emergency rooms. In terms of foreign policy, Obama finally took McCain head-on: "If John McCain wants to have a debate about who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander in chief, that's a debate I'm ready to have. For while Se. McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats that we face...John McCain likes to say that he'll follow Bin Laden to the gates of hell--but he won't even follow him to the cave where he lives." Indeed, they are probably afraid to find that cave because it was decorated by Bush's oil buddies at Enron, who, if you recall, hosted the Taliban in Texas and showed them a good 'ol time, even as the Taliban freaks said publicly that they felt sorry for American men who could not "control" their women. This is all public knowledge, yet some people still wonder why Bush has dragged his feet in Afghanistan and provided those chartered jets for the wonderful Bin Laden family to flee America on 9-12, while relatives of dead WTC Americans were told to catch a bus to NY to identify their dead mothers, father, sons, daughters...These are the "leaders" who stole the election in 2000 and are now counting on there being enough ignorant and racist Americans to let them pass the baton to McCain, anchor leg in a GOP relay that makes the woeful, baton-dropping Olympic American 400 meter relay teams look prepared and focused: "If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice--but it is not the change that America needs."

Much has been written already about McCain's selection of Palin to be his VP, but I have a different take than many Democrats who are focusing too much on her "inexperience." In my mind, that is an issue but not the most disturbing one. Obviously, being the governor of a state with a population that is less than many cities in California and an economy that in no way resembles most of America, does not prepare one to be president of the United States. I am also fine with the fact that she was selected because she is a woman: her gender has nothing to do with the larger issues, and although there were many much more qualified Republican women who deserved the selection more than this anonymous person from Alaska, McCain chose to make a political decision to reclaim his "maverick" image, and to be honest, he did a great job of stepping on the afterglow of Obama's speech simply because the national media was so dumbfounded by his selection that it dominated the news cycle the day after Obama's speech.
The problem I have with Palin is that she is so out of her league that even McCain did not make the case that she is qualified to be president. In his introduction today, he never mentioned anything about her readiness to be the leader of the free world--and that is disturbing. If you recall, Bill Clinton chose Al Gore despite being warned that he brings nothing to the ticket as a fellow Southerner, the same age etc. Clinton famously told his advisors that he was picking Gore "because I might die" and he knew Gore would be a great president. Likewise, Obama made the same type of choice with Biden, someone who has run for president several times and has decades of experience.

John McCain for the first time showed himself to be someone who really does not love his country but only cares about his politcial calculations, as he is willing to roll the dice on an unknown governor from podunk Alaska to stare down the Russians if McCain dies. McCain is 72 and has a 1000 page medical report and this is the type of choice he makes? This is the first example of his judgment? THAT is the problem with this choice, not the fact that Palin is two pounds lighter than a straw hat, a truly laughable choice who doesn't believe in science and wants to outlaw all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest(surely that will win over the Hillary supporters...). McCain once again showed himself to have the judgment and intellectual capacity of a petulant child, not a potential president. The problem with Palin is that she is unknown and hasn't gone through the vetting process by the national press, nor has she endured 20+ debates against fellow presidential contenders. Obama has experienced the pressure of battling Biden, Dodd, Clinton, Edwards etc. in head-to-head, high pressure televised debates. That's how I got to know him. That is tangible experience, having your positions scrutinized and attacked and having to respond. That is precisely what is lacking in Palin. Who is she? What is her temperament? How does she think? What are her policy positions? This is what I expect to know about ANY person--from either party--who may be president. Is this asking too much, to expect my VP to be a national figure? What is happening to this country?

And isn't it amusing to watch the same blowhards who attacked Obama relentlessly for his lack of experience now extolling Palin's virtues and her profound experience leading a town of less than 10,000 and dealing with the pressure of the PTA and Miss Alaska competition. Cindy McCain's best argument for Palin was that "you know, Alaska is the closest state to Russia..." OK... I was afraid McCain was going to cave in and select someone as idiotic as Huckabee, but 'ol Huck now looks downright appealing. Perhaps McCain really is a genius however, because I know that I am seriously going to wish him well if he wins this election because I actually do care about this country's future and the safety of my family, so much so that I would never discard posterity simply because I'm an ambitious old man with one foot in the grave.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Tragedy of McCain III

"Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time
Unless to to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover...
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days." (R3 I.i.24-30)

Like Richard III, McCain is an odious individual, both in appearance and temperament, who, in the potential absence of war in a post-Iraq America, has no reason to live, nowhere to unleash his villainy. He is truly frightened of a world without war, one that he and his family have never known. McCain is the family failure, admitted to Annapolis solely because of his pedigree, only to sink to the bottom of his class and a well-known career as POW, directly related to his incompetence as a pilot. I respect the fact that he actually fought in Vietnam(even though he didn't seem to have many options as the son and grandson of admirals), unlike his chicken-hawk supporters and the current war criminal president, who ran for their lives when it was time to actually support America in a war instead of calling Drug Limbaugh, god of the draft dodgers. I mean, really, who can take any draft dodging baby boomer seriously? They are quite simply cowards, but they are all very willing to send other kids to Iraq.
These are the "people" who support the tragedy of McCain the third, a man who, according to a kid at Dairy Queen, would have no chance for a job serving ice cream cones (I asked a kid behind the counter if they would hire a 72 year-old man who cannot operate a computer and has never had a real job. He said McCain's application would be tossed in the garbage). Indeed, how many of McCain's supporters would hire someone with his background for any job?

"But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass,
I, that am rudely stamped..
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature...
So lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them." (R3 I.i.14-23)

Indeed, McCain--and not really anyone else-- seems obsessed with the fact that Obama is better looking, more popular, and much more interesting than McCain is. Personally, I don't think any of that will make Obama a better president, but McCain is now locked in the tiny prison that is his mind, pathetically fighting the war we lost in Vietnam, while whining and crying to his media "refs" about how Obama gets all the calls. Shame on Obama for speaking to 200,000 Germans while McCain rode around in a golf cart with another fossil, Bush I, and held court in front of the cheese rack at a supermarket. Does the guy have advisors to protect him from himself? A man or woman who has the self-confidence to be the leader of the free world is not content to simply mock his or her opponent but should be able to offer real ideas, a plan, yet there is McCain sadly content to call Obama a "celebrity," as if that's going to turn America against him. Most voters really do want to have a sense of the candidate's values and are not interested in a grumpy old man yelling at the young kid to get off his lawn, yet that is the picture McCain has produced--the angry old man, who, as Obama said, is "proud of his ignorance."

It is clear to anyone paying attention that this election will turn on America's comfort level with Obama. McCain is basically irrelevant, just as he was in the primaries. He is the default candidate, no more and no less. He was there to fill the void for voters who could not stomach the JV lineup the GOP trotted out there in January and now he is the rebound boy for voters who simply cannot vote for a black man. The debates will be critical, as the juxtaposition of the candidates will make it painfully clear that McCain is more suited to running for his retirement home's activities director than leader of the free world. One look at McCain standing next to Obama will be an epiphany for many Americans, the moment when they will ask themselves, "How can I vote for this guy?" Obama, like Kennedy, needs to convey a sense of maturity and make Americans comfortable with the notion of a 47 year-old man with limited national experience leading the country in a time of war and economic devastation. Americans are rightfully concerned about Obama's lack of experience, but he needs to accentuate the reality that McCain is older but much less wiser than he was even a decade ago, as it is clear the current McCain really has nothing in common with the moderate from a decade ago. McCain sold his soul to the the extremist GOP base and is simply another oil industry whore. It was well reported that shortly after he took $285K from big oil interests he suddenly reversed his opposition to offshore drilling, which he now touts as the cure for America's energy woes. The same oil men who pimped Bush for eight years now want to elect McCain so they can roll over and put their pants on. They don't like McCain, but as the old saying goes, you don't pay a whore to stay, you pay her to leave...

I, too, pity McCain, as he is a man with no salient life experiences that are not related to the military. I had my first private sector job at age 12(delivering the Mail Tribune), yet McCain has never gone out and actually earned a job, relying on his rich wife's daddy to hire him for a few weeks but even that was too much so he ran back to the "do nothing" Congress(as the Republicans say), and for three decades he was a master at doing nothing except extorting funds illegally--google "Keating Five"--and having his rich wife's family buy his way out of jail. As Frank Rich observed, "Given that McCain's sole private-sector job was a fleeting stint in public relations at his father-in-law's beer distributorship, he comes by his economic ignorance honestly. But there's no A team aboard the Straight Talk Express to fill him in." Indeed, he has surrounded himself with fellow bitter old men like Gramm and back benchers like Carly Fiorina, famous for running Hewlett-Packard into the ground before she was fired--and given $21 million in cash to stay gone. These are the people who are going to turn around the economy that Bush has destroyed? The only change and hope they represent is the answer to Democrats' prayers that '08 will be the most devastating Republican defeat in history. The Republicans are so hopelessly incompetent and out of touch that their only viable "message" is that they are not Obama and he is not one of "us." You know, the fat(Obama's too thin), ugly(look at McCain), uneducated(Obama went to Harvard) and bitter(GOP is losing in every state where people can read) "us" that the Republicans cling to.

This type of background--along with dumping one's disfigured wife for a young heiress and banishing her with hush money--is enough to damage one's self esteem and provides some insight into McCain's relentless attack on Obama's "celebrity," as fly boy McCain has been exposed for what he is: an empty flight suit with no moral foundation and certainly no intellectual standing, a "wrinkled old white dude" who doesn't know when he's being mocked by Paris Hilton, so clueless he offers his wife up for a pornographic biker "beauty contest." One can only imagine the response if Obama showed any signs of being the type of idiot McCain has shown himself to be. The New York Times rejected an Op-Ed essay he wrote not because the editor didn't agree with his views (they've published many of his essays) but because he couldn't even define victory in Iraq, let alone explain how to achieve it. This is a man who raves about the "surge" being a success but not enough of one to bring the troops home. It seems like a logical question to ask for a plan to bring American soldiers home and stop sending American tax money to a country Americans do not care about. America is in dire economic straits, yet here we are continually borrowing money to fight a war that was proven to be a fraud from the beginning. I guess that's the Vietnam syndrome, having no sense of when a war is over. Countries--at least ones with the catastrophe that defines America's economy--should not babysit countries for 100 years, especially when they are not wanted and even despised. And the war criminal Bush is so ignorant that he is paying to rebuild Iraq with Americans' tax dollars while allowing Iraq to have an $80 billion surplus while we are trillions in debt.

Moreover, McCain's idiotic comment that Obama somehow wanted to "lose" the Iraq war is laughable. How do we lose the war when Hussein is dead? The war criminal's stated purpose for invading Iraq was to overthrow Hussein and seize his huge supplies of WMDs; therefore, we should have declared victory and left on the day he was hanged, rather than installing an Iranian puppet government. McCain is simply a profound, bumbling embarrassment in a GOP year that has featured one after another, yet he remains viable as a potential president because it will probably never be easy for a black man named Obama to be elected in this country. McCain's in it because this is still a racist country in many ways, a fact that all but the most ignorant acknowledge. America has progressed in ways that most countries never will (where are the Obamas in "progressive" Europe?), but there are millions of uneducated bigots in this country, more than enough to swing this election.

There are obviously no easy solutions to extract our country from the Iraq fiasco, but it is quite clear that a man as shockingly ignorant as McCain is probably not the answer. He thinks Iraq shares a border with Pakistan and has to be tutored by Lieberman--a Democrat--in the difference between Shia and Sunni, something most 8th graders probably know after a war that has dragged on longer than our effort to help defeat Hitler. This man is going to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of American troops, young men and women who have repeatedly answered the war criminal's call, even while he told most draft age adults to go shopping and not to worry about the war? In his great article, "It's the Economic Stupidity, Stupid," (7-20-08)Frank Rich excoriated McCain's commander in chief qualities, noting that "you have to wonder if even General Custer's learning curve was faster than his" in response to McCain's hapless understanding of Afghanistan and the Taliban and the reality that we simply don't have the troops to engage an enemy that may indeed pose an actual threat to our country, unlike Iraq.

I doubt any candidate would do the right thing and reinstate the draft, with no exceptions for any reasons. How many wars would we fight if rich kids were going to die? My guess would be zero, unless we were attacked. What a notion, defending your own country...In the nuclear age, ground wars are a relic of the past, yet the war criminal and McCain are content to send more and more men and women to die for the most dishonest war in this nation's history, and Americans worry more about the cost of gas, too ignorant to connect the dots and make the connections. If Americans elect McCain, we will certainly all get what we deserve. This is a democracy, and democracy isn't pretty when one looks at it too closely. The man whose "brain"(Gramm) called the worst mortgage meltdown in the nation's history a "mental recession" and who has repeatedly stated that he really doesn't understand the economy, or "those issues" as he said, McRambo will be free of that pesky economy situation so that he can get back to his war games:

"But if the cause be not good, the King himself
hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads,
chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all,
'We died at such a place'--some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it..." (HenryV.4.1.133-143)

Amen, brother Shakespeare.