Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Little Jingle

I think that Obama certainly has a slight advantage over McCain in his widespread support from locals and grassroot politics. I found this video on youtube of a large group of children from a city in California got together and recorded an original song in support of Obama. Though these children probably only vaguely understand what they're singing about, the image of a group of small children singing for "change" is pretty heartwarming. And though it probably does not change the views of those who have already made up their minds, the involvement of communities and families sends across an image of hope and unity.

Voting for President can be Hazardous to your Health

I read this article (linked in the title above) and said wow. Who knew that you had an 18% increase on election day to get in a car crash and die or that an additional 800 people suffer disabling injuries from car crashes on election day? I was skeptical at frist, but it appears that this data has been consisted for the last 8 elections. Even Roy Lucke, senior scientist at Northwestern University's Center for Public Safety, said the "science is good". So, on November 4th when you plan on getting in a car to drive to school, or to vote, or to go where ever drive safely because apparently many drivers experience a lot of "road rage" that lead to an increase in accidents. Drive Safely on November 4th...

Update on the Bailout Plan

On Wednesday the Senate plans to vote on the bailout plan that the House of Representatives failed to pass. If passed the bill includes new provisions like the raising of the FDIC insurance cap to $250,000. This raised cap will hopefully provide assurance to people and businesses and keep them from extracting their money from banks like during the Great Depression. The bill also has added tax breaks. Despite the failure of the first bailout plan to pass in the House of Representatives, most people seem confident that the bill will pass in the senate. In response to the confidence that the new version of the bailout plan will pass, the Dow Jones industrial average is up 485 points, or 4.7 percent.

Although the US' current economic situation resembles many of the events that happened before the Great Depression, i think the US is a long way off from the Great Depression II. The Great Depression II is always possible, but when I think of all the changes in the global economy it doesn't seem likely. In 1929, Europe was the only major economic player besides the US and they were in economic troubles in the 1920s. So when the United States economy crashed there was no backup. However, now the US is not the world's main economic player...theres China, India, and Europe. If the US economy does slump drastically there are other countries that could pick up our slack. And before people start freaking out that the US economy is doomed, they need to put in perspective that compared to Europe and China the US is not looking so good...but there are countries in Africa and other places across the world with unemployment rates as high as 75%.

I haven't taken economics yet so this could be totally wrong, but yeah...

a short little rant...

So as I was checking my email today, I stumbled upon this article on yahoo (linked in the title). Elisabeth Hassleback, one of the stars of the morning show "The View," is getting frustrated with the political debates that occur on the talkshow. As the lone Republican, thrown in with a group of strong-minded Democrats, she often finds herself overshadowed and disregarded by her fellow co-hosts. To me, this article was especially off-putting, and frighteningly similar to the actions of the American public today.
Perhaps my view is unique to me since I can honestly say that I am not yet very opinionated when it comes to politics. I have my views, but I am not dead-set on anything. With a little bit of knowledge or negotiation, my views could very possible be changed: not by a lot, but I could definitely concede a few points. However, I feel as though many people have gotten to the point where they have an absolutely hatred for people that have different views than themselves. In fact, I found an article that expresses very similar views. Here's a quote from the article:

"Here's why: Hate has the annoying tendency to turn into hypocrisy. I laugh with glee when my side catches the other's lies and follies. To a point, that's healthy and cathartic.

But you don't hear me laughing when the other side returns the favor. Then I discount the point and quietly fume at the attack itself. Don't they understand our side is the good one?"

During the Bush/Gore campaign 8 years ago (I was about 9 or 10 at the time), my neighbors across the street were one of the few Republicans in my neighborhood. Despite the majority of people that disagreed with them, they stood up for what they believed in a proudly put a Bush/Cheney sign on their front lawn. After a couple of days, my parents had heard that someone had broken the windows at the side of their house. A couple days later, there was dog poop smashed all across the sign and the lawn. After my neighbors cleaned this all up, people still managed to write obscenities all over the sign with sharpie markers. One day, I happened to arrive home from school right at the time that someone was vandalizing my neighbor's property. To my amazement, these kids were young (they looked like they were from Borel, so they were probably in their 12s or 13s), and they were viciously marking up the sign and didn't even bother to move or run away when they saw me. First of all, vandalizing someone's property is absolutely ridiculous. When an opinion is so strong that one feels the need to take it out on someone elses things, the beliefs of that individual must be considered unhealthy. But what really threw me off was the age of these people. When I was a 6th grader, I practically knew nothing about politics. That's not to say that these kids truly did know nothing, but they didn't look like the people that were seriously educated and informed about current events and politics. Chances are, they probably had very strong-minded and opinionated peers or parents that swayed them into acting in that way. That's what is beginning to annoy me...is when people, especially teenagers, mindlessly believe in everything that their parents believe in, or everything that their peers pressure them into believing. I myself, come from a family that is pretty politically diverse. I have family members that are on polar opposites of the political spectrum, and I don't plan on letting any of them sway me into believing everything that they are saying. I definitely respect their opinions and the "facts" that they give me, but when it comes time for me to vote, I would like to say that I made my own decision based on what I believe...not on what someone told me to believe...

well I could continue but I have a game to attend and I'm sure you guys get where I'm going with all of this. anyways, GO DONS!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Is Sarah Palin Hiding From the Media?

Compared to Joe Biden, Sarah Palin has done less interviews with the media. Interviews that she has done with the media have turned out disastrous, most notably here interview with Katie Couric (it looked like she was even reading notes when she was answering the questions...heres a clip of the interview if you missed it). Sarah Palin has failed to hold a major press conference which makes me question if she has something to hide or if she isn't prepared. As a potential Vice President of the US it makes me uneasy that she is so recluse from the media. The media has been extremely harsh on Sarah Palin, making fun of her for her claims on foreign policy and other comments she has made, so i understand if she is reluctant to talk to the media. However, I think that it is in her best interest to get more involved in the media after she has been given some time to learn about some issues in the US like the Bush Doctrine to try and prove to everyone that she is a good candidate for the VP. Maybe the VP debates coming up will giver her a chance to prover herself, but it could also be a chance for her to further prove to everyone that she is not prepared to be VP of the US. Either way I think that Biden has a difficult task in the VP debate. I think that he will have to be extremely careful not to come off as sexist or pompous.

UK Reaction to the Rejection of the Bailout Plan

Britain is currently facing many of the same problems as America like rising mortgage payments and soaring food and fuel costs along with the fear of a recession. The bank issues that the US is facing now closely mimics the bank issues that Britain is facing. For instance Washington Mutual, the giant mortgage lender which had assets valued at $307bn, was sold to its rival Citigroup around September 25. In Britain the mortgage lender Bradford & Bingley was nationalised on the 29th of September. The British government took control of the bank's £50bn mortgages and loans, while its savings operations and branches were sold to Spain's Santander.

The UK's reaction to the US House of Representatives rejection of the bailout plan seems to be very disappointed. Gordon Brown seems especially disappointed in the decision and claims that Britain has taken decisive action to ensure the stability of their system and will take whatever action necessary to ensure the stability of their system. With the failure of the bailout plan the uncertainties surrounding how banks will deal with their exposure to toxic loans and how credit markets can begin to operate more normally are left unsolved, I think the US and Britain are headed for even worse economic troubles. With Gordon Brown's claims of decisive action maybe Britain will come up with a solution to the current financial crisis. However, it appears that the Bush administration and congressional leaders are scrambling to reintroduce the bill again on Thursday. I don't think the bailout plan is the best idea but something needs to happen before the situations in the US and Britain gets even worse.

NO bailout

As most of you probably already know, the bailout plan has been declined by a vote of 228-205. As a result, the stock market has begun a record plunge of almost 800 points in one day. With the government scrambling to figure out the next move to make to heal this crisis and prevent a potentially devastating depression, many people have attempted to decipher this 228-205 vote. Prior to this vote, both parties experienced mixed feelings toward the bill. After the revision of Bush's original bailout plan, most people believed the plan would be voted through in the House due to the potential danger of the current economic crisis. However, after this vote-down, many people are pointing fingers across party lines. Republican House members are associating the failure of this bill passing with Pelosi's speech given right before the vote. They blame the vote-down on Pelosi's seemingly partisan attack on the Bush administration and Republican Party. Here's a clip of part of Pelosi's speech given earlier today:

This week is likely to become more hectic and this ongoing economic crisis will be an interesting factor in this year's presidential election.

Obama Maintains a Healthy Lead?

A recent poll by Gallup has shown that Obama has gained and maintained an 8% lead over McCain since Friday’s presidential debate. And while I have always perceived this lead to be a little more than 8% (since we’re in such a liberal area…), I believe that this lead has been maintained due to several factors

1. McCain’s VP pick of Sarah Palin: At first, I found this pick to be completely random. Then, people were buzzing about how Palin was actually a wise choice for the ticket. And after various speeches and interviews done by the pair, I’m starting to think that this may turn into a disaster. Considering John McCain’s slightly older age, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with the governor of a small state with very little foreign policy experience ruling over our entire country. And watching the interview that Palin had with Katie Couric made me feel even more uneasy. Though I do think that SNL and other parodies have been slanted against McCain/Palin, the statements that Palin has made have only been asking for it…especially her comment that she has experience from foreign policy due to Alaska’s “maritime border to Russia.” And while this parody of McCain/Palin has been going on for quite some time now, it seems as if Obama, and especially Joe Biden, have been able to float slightly under the radar.

2. McCain’s stunts: A lot of the actions that McCain has made in the past week are rather questionable. He blows off Dave Letterman and even attempts to postpone the entire presidential debate. And though he argues that he is putting the country over the debate, I think it may have backfired. As a potential president of the United States, he isn’t going to be able to postpone events whenever he wants to. To me, and I’m sure to many others as well, the president should be able to balance multiple issues at once. I think this was more of a publicity stunt that was SUPPOSED to show McCain as heroic, but instead flopped and ended up making him look rash and undecisive.

3. McCain’s responses in the debate: Although McCain did give some good answers during the debate, I think that his body language and demeanor may have hurt him big time. First of all, when the candidates were forced to confront each other, the debate became slightly awkward. McCain seemed flustered and angry at times when confronted about unanswered questions, while Obama maintained a fairly calm demeanor. Obama also appeared in a more friendly light, referring to McCain as “John” while McCain referred to Obama as “Senator Obama.” And when Obama confronted McCain about his 90% voting record in agreement with Bush’s budgets, I felt as though McCain kept brushing it off with the same line “I was never Ms. Congeniality in the Senate.” So although Obama was no where near perfect (as pointed out in previous posts), I think that he appealed to more of the Independents and people that still remain on the fence.

It should be interesting to see how these polling results change after the VP debates later this week.

PS: I would love to hear arguments from a different point of view. I think someone pointed out earlier that this blog has kind of become a one-sided rant…

SNL's Take on the Presidential Debate

I thought this was halarious...hope you guys enjoy it. :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tying Up Loose Ends

Wow, what a week we have had, and boy, did I pick a crazy week to take over this blog. This week has seen major political drama and could likely be seen as the biggest week in the campaign thus far, and the economic news that has come out this week has been the biggest bunch of bad news since the Great Depression.

Let's see if I can remember everything. This week started out with the massive bailout of AIG and the calling of Congress to hash out a $700 billion bailout plan called for by the head of the Federal Reserve Bank and the Secretary of the Treasury. This caused John McCain to abruptly suspend his campaign, bypass David Letterman for Katie Couric, and go to Washington, D.C. for a photo op while threatening to skip the debate. Then he changed his mind and attended the debate with Obama, which turned out to reveal very little about their opinions on the financial crisis. And in the meantime, Washington Mutual (or WaMu, the in-my-opinion very stupid name they prefer to be called) filed bankruptcy on Friday in the biggest bank failure in American history. "Whoo hoo!"
In the meantime, Sarah Palin appears in a humiliating interview with Katie Couric and goes on her first big foreign policy tour in that strange foreign city known as New York, President Bush goes on TV on Wednesday night in with another one of his classic "we're all going to die" speeches, and our do-nothing Congress fights over each other once again about the amount of the bailout and whether or not they should succumb to the Bush Administration's demand that there be no oversight or accountability on that bailout plan.

Yep, just another typical week in the United States of America. All I can say is that it's been fun trying to keep on top of this week and blogging about it, and it's reminded me why I don't do political blogging full time.

So, for my last post of this crazy week, before the torch is passed along, I couldn't resist embedding this latest Saturday Night Live parody of the Palin-Couric interview as a way to close out this week and kick us painfully into this next one. (And to Tina Fey, I too hope that you won't have to play Sarah Palin again after the election is over!)

For those of you who for some strange reason can't get enough of my blogging, feel free to check out my personal blog, which does contain the occasional political post among others.
--Douglas Bell

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Candidates Take Da Bait, Round 1

McCain and Obama Debate

Despite all of the endless pondering over this past week on whether or not it would happen, John McCain and Barack Obama did have their first presidential debate last night at the University of Mississippi. A number of folks commented on the Open Thread that I posted last night (and I'd recommend that whoever takes the blog over during the next few weeks might consider posting open threads during those debates too), but now that I've had the chance to see the debate, time for my opinions.

Thoughts that have nothing to do with the topics debated whatsoever
The Commission on Public Debates announced that there would be a number of changes in the format this year. Instead of asking questions and having each candidate have a certain amount of time to make comments and going back and forth, the format was a lot looser this year. Each "question" was supposed to have nine minutes to be discussed: first each candidate would address the question for two minutes each, and then they would have like five minutes of a "free-for-all" on the question where they could speak and ask each other questions and all that. Guess what? That didn't happen. Jim Lehrer spent the first two questions trying to get them to talk back and forth to each other, but they wouldn't do it and just ended up making their general speeches back and forth without any real physical time constraints. Often they talked over each other, and every question went much longer than it should have. Lehrer eventually gave up on the idea and just let them talk back and forth on the issues. I don't know if the folks in charge of organizing the framework for these debates were trying to make it more like the 2006 debates on The West Wing or something, but it didn't work out. Sorry, but the writers for John McCain and Barack Obama are not as clever as the writers for The West Wing.
I don't know how many people noticed, but in a funny twist, Barack Obama wore an American flag pin, and John McCain didn't. Take that, Nash McCabe of Latrobe, PA who questioned Obama's belief in the American flag during the ABC Democratic Presidential Debate in Philadelphia on April 16, 2008! Although in McCain's defense, his tie was out of this world.
Didn't it also seem kind of strange that McCain didn't turn and look at Barack Obama at all? He always seemed to face in the same direction, and he always referred to Obama as "Senator Obama." Obama, on the other hand, routinely looked at McCain during the debate, and often referred to him informally as "John." It just feels slightly hostile below the surface.

And Now a Look at What Really Matters (or so we'd hope)
Lehrer started out the debate with some questions on the current financial crisis. The responses here were kind of disappointing. After all, the financial crisis is still in its infancy, and so it's very hard for these two to know how the country's economy will look on January 20th or what will be needed to respond to it then. As for asking how the crisis will affect their goals and programs, I think that they made it clear to Jim Lehrer that they can't tell at this point how the financial crisis will affect their budgets in 2009, but Lehrer just wouldn't admit that his question was unanswerable. Quite frankly, I felt that the portion of the debate on the financial crisis was quite disappointing and did not give us any new answers about the issues at hand.

Having declared that the answers to his questions were taking much longer than was planned, he moved on to asking the candidates on different regions of the world, since the debate was supposed to be about national security, after all. First he asked about what "the lessons of Iraq" are, then about Afghanistan and if it needed more troops, then the threat from Iran, then about our relationship with Russia, and finally--and I really found this question odd--on the question of the likeliness of another 9/11 attack, and the candidates pretty much fell into their usual camps.

The debate didn't seem to have very much drama or reveal very much about the candidates that we didn't already know. They didn't get into really major disagreements, only talked over each other a few times, and I don't think that it was very clear that one candidate or the other took the lead (although the polls now show that a slight majority saw Obama as the "winner" of the debate). Quite frankly, at the current time, I think that what most of the country is concerned about is issues that are affecting us here at home, like the economy, education, health care, etc. As important as issues of national security and foreign policy are, I just don't think that they're on the top of everyone's radar screen right now, and that's probably why this debate felt as underwhelming as it did.

I think that the really interesting debate will be the Vice Presidential debate on Thursday. If you thought that McCain and Obama were contrasting figures, that's nothing compared to the number of differences between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. Not only do those two have very different backgrounds and levels of experience, but we also haven't been hearing as much about them for the last, say, 18 months as we have about Obama and McCain.

And of course, be sure to check out the Open Thread for some debate coverage that is probably more insightful than mine is.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Open Thread: First Presidential Debate

The first of the presidential debates is about to begin coming from the University of Mississippi. While the main focus of the debate was intended to be national security, I'd say that there's a slightly better than 99.9% chance that the economy will be a big issue tonight.

Unfortunately, while I'd rather be watching the debate live, I'm stuck volunteering at the school dance, so I'll likely watch it tomorrow and blog about it tomorrow as well. For those of you who will be watching it, please share your thoughts, opinions, and comments on the debate in the comments of this post.

Is Palin Losing It?

With the notable exception of FOX News, it seems like the media and the country has seen a very different side of Sarah Palin this past week, and not a good one. In St. Paul, we saw a fiery, energetic, gung-ho Alaskan governor who seemed ready for the job at hand (even if you ignore the lie about the bridge to nowhere, the craziness about her being right next to Russia as though that proximity allows her to "absorb" foreign policy experience through the pores in her skin, and if you let her get away with those heartless attacks on community organizers).

But now, with the few media appearances she's made without a teleprompter, we're starting to see a very different side to Sarah Palin: one that shows us that she doesn't seem to know what she's talking about and probably is way too inexperienced to be one heartbeat away from the presidency.

Here's two clips from her Katie Couric interview, for example: her on John McCain's "pro-regulation" record, and her trying to explain the whole Russia talking point. (Anytime I hear anyone mention that Russia thing in seriousness, I imitate Jon Stewart's act of coughing and saying "You're a moron!" at the same time.)

Could this be the beginning of a bunch of bad news for Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign? Or will she be able to turn things around at next Thursday's vice presidential debate?

Jon Stewart's Birdseye View of our Economy's "Dive of Death"

While I have a feeling that a good number of the readers of this blog already follow The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I just could not resist posting Jon Stewart's takes on our economy that he did last night. From President Bush's scary speech Wednesday evening (that's ominously similar to the one he gave before the Iraq War in 2003) to the craziness over McCain's "suspension" of his campaign that did virtually nothing, after the personal confusion that I went through yesterday, I just had to say, "Let Jon Stewart figure it out."

With our economy going in the pits and all of this indecisiveness coming from the Bush administration and the McCain campaign, I wonder if these few weeks that we're in now will become the deciding factor of the election.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Was McCain's "suspension" Just an Attention-Getting Joke?

So now John McCain is taking credit for this credit "deal" and now says that he's back in the debate. At this point, I'm not even sure what to think of this. First he makes a big deal yesterday about suspending his campaign so that he can go beyond partisan politics to deal with this economy crisis. He "races to the airport" heading to Washington, D.C., though oddly finding the time to be interviewed by Katie Couric on the way. Today, he gets into Washington, sits at a table to talk about the bailout deal along with a big photo op, claims credit for the deal and now says he's back in the debate.

I'm at a loss to figure out what the big idea is behind this whole act. Why would McCain, who hasn't voted on anything in the Senate since April, suddenly suspend his campaign two days before the first debate of this historic election and threaten not to show up at the debate, when this country is in the middle of a crisis that should be the most important thing for the candidates to be debating about right now. Was he trying to respond to low poll numbers by doing something to make himself look "presidential"? Was he trying to get the debate postponed, but then changed his mind when Obama didn't take the bait? Or is he just doing a big stunt with all of this just to get some free publicity (which is just what the multi-headed hydra that we call the 24-hour cable news networks feed on constantly)?

Help me out on this one. I just can't follow the McCain campaign's logic anymore. Needless to say, tomorrow night's debate is certainly going to be more interesting than I would have thought it'd be at the beginning of this week.

Letterman Responds to John McCain's Campaign Suspension

I'm sorry if it seems like I'm beating this thing to death, but the whole idea of John McCain suspending his campaign is completely mind-boggling. I found this clip of David Letterman responding to McCain's decision this morning that is pretty funny but also makes a number of good points about what a ridiculous decision it is to suspend the campaign right now.

All I can add is that it's good to know that when given the choice between bailouts and democracy, John chooses bailouts. I've got a feeling that there will likely be more developing on this story today; we'll have to see what happens...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Look at the Candidates You WON'T See During the Debates

I don't know about you, but it seems very sad to me that in our country, we really only have a two-party system, and don't give any credence whatsoever to the other third party and independent candidates running for president in our country. As a result, our elections are not as much about choosing the best person to be president, and become more of "I'd rather have you be president than that other guy." I mean, in Canada, they have five major political parties, four of which have a significant number of seats in their legislature. Yet we seem to be stuck in this rut of only having two parties to viably choose from to determine who should run our country.

Unless something weird happens in the next day or two, the first presidential debate will be held this Friday, followed by two more on October 7 and 15, and a vice presidential debate on October 2. But in those debates, you'll only see two people speaking into the camera, when there are a number of other strong third party candidates. And so, I'm going to go ahead and give you a brief introduction to the top four third-party candidates (listed in no particular order) that you won't see speaking during the debates.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate from Connecticut best remembered as the Green Party candidate in 2000. This is the fifth presidential election in a row he is running in, and the third run on a national level. He is running as an independent, although he is listed on the ballot in some states as the nominee of the Peace and Freedom Party. He is 74 years old, two years older than John McCain. According to his website, his campaign issues include supporting single payer national health insurance, reversing U.S. policy in the Middle East, cutting the "huge, bloated, wasteful" military budget, saying no to nuclear power and supporting solar energy first, adopting a carbon pollution tax, and many others. His vice presidential running mate is Matt Gonzalez of Calfornia, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and a 2003 candidate for mayor of San Francisco.

Bob Barr, a former federal prosecutor and former Congressman from Georgia, is the Libertarian Party's nominee for president. He is 59 years old, and attained national prominence as one of the leaders of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. According to his website, his campaign issues include drastically reducing federal spending, eliminating regulatory barriers that inhibit private philanthropy (charity), eliminating restrictions on energy production and supporting the free-market system, limiting the powers of the federal government concerning privacy and surveillance, ending the Iraq War and other foreign intervention by closing foreign bases, eliminating the Department of Education and other unnecessary federal departments, and others. His vice presidential running mate is Wayne Allyn Root, a TV producer and best-selling author from Nevada.

Charles "Chuck" Baldwin, a pastor and radio host from Florida, is the Constitution Party's nominee for president. He is 56 years old, and has been a longstanding critic of George W. Bush. According to his website, his campaign issues include disbanding the Department of Education, protecting the Second Amendment, opposing abortion, opposing foreign ownership of U.S. public property, ending funding for the United Nations, ensuring a strong national defense, and others. His vice presidential running mate is Darrell Castle, an activist and attorney from Tennessee.

Cynthia McKinney, a former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia, is the Green Party's nominee for president. She is 53 years old. According to her website, her campaign issues include ensuring a system of free and fair elections; rights to education, health care, housing, living wages and freedom from racism, sexism, etc.; implementation of an economic policy providing an opportunity for every family to have gainful employment at a guaranteed income; a decent minimum wage; reparations for African Americans; ending the war; supporting an environmental protection policy; and many others. Her vice presidential running mate is Rosa Clemente, a community organizer and independent journalist from New York.

If you want to learn a bit more about those candidates whom the mainstream media is ignoring, you can check out their websites, or check out this interesting (though somewhat incomplete) Wikipedia article comparing the presidential candidates.

Anonymous Comments & Trolls

Anonymous comments have been disabled.

Most of the anonymous comments were substantive, although I question whether some of them were posted by bots. I deleted one that was clearly not on topic. To avoid more annoying restrictions on the blog, help us police this space by politely confronting anyone who shows up and pollutes the blog with their self-indulgent junk and/or alerting me so it can be deleted.

About trolls -- trolls are commenters who throw out ridiculous arguments and inflammatory statements just to cause a distraction. They may or may not know better, but in general it is best to ignore them as they are a waste of time. Don't feed the trolls. So far, nothing overtly trollish has popped up.

The elementary school freedom of speech case mentioned in one class today as an example of "the right to be heard does not automatically come with the right to be taken seriously" is also a good example of trollish behavior, in this case a dad living vicariously through his 11 year old kid. (The school asked for kids to dress patriotic; a kid came in with an "Obama: the terrorist's best friend" shirt, and was disciplined when he refused to turn it inside out.) In any case, while I am always in favor of confronting stupidity, sometimes the best approach is to ignore. Attention-seekers who don't get the attention they are looking for tend to move along.

McCain Hides Back in Washington, Wants to Cancel Friday's Debate

Not only is McCain trying to get the VP Debate postponed, apparently he's now calling for this Friday's presidential debate to be canceled. Why? The economy. McCain is suspending his campaign and flying back to Washington in order to work on legislation to deal with the major financial crisis that we've been dealing with for the last two weeks. His claim is that we need to go "beyond partisan politics" on this issue and work on fixing it rather than debating it.

I can't believe what I'm hearing with this guy. Who does he think he is, after all of these hateful ads that he's been running, suddenly saying that we need to go beyond partisan politics on our economy crisis? If there's any time when we need a debate with the front-runners of both parties on our country's policies, it's right now. John McCain and Barack Obama are running for president because they want to lead the country, and at a time like this, a leader should not be going back to his private offices in Washington to hide and meditate over the fact that saying that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" was a mistake. I doubt his claims that he's there to work on legislation to deal with the economy crisis; after almost six months of campaigning as the presumptive (and now the official) Republican nominee, why would he suddenly stop his campaign now, in the final six weeks, to deal with legislation, which has barely done at all during this whole time?

I really don't know what is going through John McCain's head right now, but I think that if he wants to have any chance of being successful in this election, he had better be at that debate on Friday. To be honest, I really feel as if people (and certainly, the media) know that something in the chemical balance of the political universe is off here, and if John McCain doesn't even give the media and the voters the light of day to debate on the issues that matter to us, he is doomed.

GOP Campaign Tries to Get VP Debate Postponed

Apparently the McCain campaign knows that Sarah Palin is not ready to be VP, or at the very least, is not ready to debate against Joe Biden. Perhaps the fact that she just met with foreign officials for the first time this week, versus the fact that Joe Biden has decades of foreign policy experience, could say something about the "deer in the headlights" feel that we seem to be sensing about Palin.

So now the McCain campaign is asking the debate commission to turn next week's Vice Presidential debate into a Presidential debate, and to delay the VP debate to another time, and if they don't do that, then McCain will refuse to attend the debate that has been scheduled for this Friday.

It seems to me like there could be a bit of a showdown coming because of this...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

McCain-Palin Maybe Not Suited for the White House... Says the Media?

Have you felt a strange feeling recently? A good feeling, like an angel is getting his wings? Or, more accurately, like the so-called "liberal" media is getting their brains (or at the very least, some eyes and ears)? It's starting to appear that the media is starting to notice that something isn't quite right about the candidacy of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Flip onto This Week with George Stephanopoulos (and I thought our governor's last time was hard to spell) on ABC on a Sunday morning, and probably the most neoconservative guy you'll see in there will be one George F. Will. So imagine my surprise today to see George Will claim that McCain is losing his head:

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

George Will's article came to this conclusion after pointing out McCain's remark that he would fire the head of the Securities Exchange Commission, and goes to show that when it comes to the economy, McCain really doesn't know any more about the economy than Obama knows, if even that much. At least Obama is willing to say that he won't comment until he's had time to study the issues, unlike John "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" McCain.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin is in New York meeting with world leaders for her first time. And how fitting, since she has all of that "executive experience" that the Republicans said (back in St. Paul) that Senators Obama and Biden had none of. (Incidentally, neither does John McCain, but forgive me for using your own argument against you.) But for all of that executive experience, the GOP campaign sure doesn't seem to want the media to see her in action, as they banned reporters from the start of the meeting so that they wouldn't have chance to ask Palin a single question. Amazingly enough, CNN completely pulled its camera crew from the meeting in response. If she is as qualified to be viee president as the Republicans keep saying she is, why is it that they have been hiding her from the media this way?

At the rate this is going, I'd say that the GOP campaign is going to keep rolling downhill unless they've got one heck of an October Surprise planned...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Seven Modest Proposals for President Obama

This was a video that I could not pass up blogging about. Filmmaker Michael Moore delivered a speech this week in which he summarized a section from his new book where he makes seven proposals for President Obama. You can watch the video, and I share my take on his seven proposals below.

Proposal One: Institute a military draft, but only for the children of the top five percent of wage earners in the country. Okay, this is not one that I would support; I don't think that a military draft is justified in any but the absolute most dire of circumstances. However, the underlying point behind this is clear: In practically every war that our country has ever fought, it has been the poor and underprivileged who bore the brunt of the fighting, whether or not it was as the result of a draft. Perhaps if the people who send our troops into war actually had a personal family stake in the fight, rather than just a financial stake, we might actually not go to war unless it was absolutely necessary.

Proposal Two: Sign into law congressman John Conyers' universal health-care legislation (HR676). I cannot agree more wholeheartedly on this one. Even Barack Obama's health care plan, though better than McCain's, still leaves the health insurance companies at the table. We should not have to go another year being the only western industrialized country in the world without quality single-payer universal health care, and HR676 is the health care solution that our country so desperately needs for the twenty-first century.

Proposal Three: Ban high fructose corn syrup. While I would say that this should be the lowest priority of these seven proposals, high fructose corn syrup really is less healthy than sugar, plus its dominance as a sweetener in our country demonstrates our government's collusion with agribusinesses. And please don't tell me that anything with "high fructose" in its name is "natural." That's worse than baloney, because baloney actually is natural.

Proposal Four: Build wells in the developing nations to provide clean drinking water for all. Michael Moore says that the cost to do this is only $10 per person--assuming a billion people in these nations, then the cost of doing this is only $10 billion! We'll be spending over $12 billion in Iraq this month alone. I mean, this is kind of stuff we could be doing if we didn't spend our time getting ourselves into unnecessary wars! Dare I bring up that eight years ago, we had the biggest budget surplus in our history? Eight years later, we've changed that to the biggest budget deficit in our history! Don't tell me that there's not enough money to provide clean drinking water for all, or to fund single-payer universal health care, or to pay for education, or any of that. We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars a day on an unnecessary war. There should be no reason why we're spending billions killing people but we can't find enough money to help people. It's just not a valid excuse anymore.

Proposal Five: Remove the $102,000 income cap on the social security tax. Is your family lucky enough to be earning more than $102,000 annually? Did you know that you only pay social security tax on that first $102,000? Any income you have beyond that is not taxed at all for Social Security. According to Moore, Chris Dodd's staff researched this, and said that if that $102,000 cap was lifted and everybody paid the exact same Social Security tax rate on ALL of their income, Social Security would be fully funded for at least the next 75 years. Why is this not being reported more widely? Everyone's saying that Social Security is just about to go bankrupt, but if we made this one simple change requiring the rich to pay the exact same rate that the rest of us paid, Social Security would be fully funded long enough to ensure that even our generation would be fully covered when it came to be our turn to start receiving the monthly check. The next time someone comes up with this great plan to "save" Social Security, everyone should be crying "foul!"

Proposal Six: Change the way we do elections. Moore brings up the example of how Canadians do their whole election system quickly and efficiently with nothing more than a piece of paper and a No. 2 pencil, and mentions how many democratic countries holds their elections over a weekend to give people more of an opportunity to go vote. I'm somewhat value-neutral about this, but I will say that we should be much more worried about our voting system when it's filled with electronic voting machines that are proprietary and closed-source. If there's anything that should be completely transparent to the public, it should be the mechanisms through which we exercise our democratic rights. Maybe voting machines will someday find a proper place in our elections, but right now voting machines feel too dangerous and too suspicious to be fully trusted.

Proposal Seven: Change the Pledge of Allegiance to reflect "the America we all believe in." This is a proposal that I can wholeheartedly agree with. I don't say the Pledge of Allegiance. I chose to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance in seventh grade because I did not believe in pledging allegiance to a flag, and I did not feel allegiance to the country that was going into an unjust war and was using the American flag for such purposes. I choose not to pledge allegiance to a flag that is used in the hurtful, angry ways that it is used for. I do not have a problem with swearing an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States because I feel that that is something that should be protected from all enemies foreign and domestic. (And, in my opinion, the people currently in the executive branch are domestic enemies of the Constitution. Dennis Kucinich has 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush that identify how he has betrayed his oath of office, but I digress.) Moore's proposed new Pledge of Allegiance is one that reflects the values of the America I believe in and the values of America that we should all believe in: "I pledge allegiance to the people of the United States of America and to the republic for which we stand; one nation, part of one world, with liberty and justice for all."

Overall, these seven proposals for President Obama are worthy proposals that reflect the dream of a better America. One where we stop chanting "USA! USA!" out of hate and anger, and start reaching out to the world around us. One where we stop thinking only of ourselves, and start reaching out more to our fellow Americans. Now that's change that I could believe in.

What is our Problem with Taxes?

You probably know the old saying that has been quoted many times: "The only things that are certain in life are death and taxes." And who would want to have taxes? I mean, if I work my bottom off every day earning enough money to help support a family, then why do I have to send some of my hard-earned cash over to the government? Why is it that when I want to buy an iPod nano marked at $149, I have to pay $161.29 to buy it? How dare the government take my money away from me!

Taxation is probably one of the most (if not THE most) hotly debated issues in our country. While the conversations behind it may be more complex, the really boil down to the reactions that I just paraphrased: we don't want the government taking our hard-earned cash. Some of the biggest political debates in our country during recent years have circulated around the question of taxes--in fact, we just got through the issue of the state budget which boiled down to a struggle between raising taxes to fix our budget problems (which the Democrats mainly supported) and not touching taxes at all (which the Republicans wholeheartedly supported). And it's not an issue that's going to go away, since this year's resulting budget mainly pushes the problem over to next year.

The California electorate passed Proposition 13 a little over thirty years ago, capping the rate of property taxes in the state to no more than 1% of the assessed value of property, and saying that regardless of inflation or changes in the assessed value of the property, the taxes on a property could not increase year-to-year by more than 2% unless it was resold or significantly expanded/remodeled. Prop 13 effectively took one of the most reliable, most stable taxes in our economic system and kicked it down to the point where it barely makes enough revenue to fund what it supports (hint: public education), and continues to lose real value as it is unable to keep up with inflation if inflation exceeds 2%, which it usually does.

Time and time again over the last thirty years, we have seen the results of Prop 13 across our state. We have seen them in the form of a failing education system, which has seen California fall from having the one of the highest per-pupil spending amounts in the nation to having one of the lowest. We have seen them in the disappearance of the arts and other non-academic programs from many schools, deficiencies in supplies of textbooks, and old, falling apart buildings (though this has started to turn around thanks to the fact that the threshold for passing bond measures was recently reduced to 55%). For those of us at Aragon, we're fortunate that we're not being negatively affected by many of these problems, because we live in a community that is relatively well-off (and thus, able to contribute to fundraising groups that help fill in vital services that the school system can't afford) and values its public education system enough to vote favorably on most bond measures (and to a lesser extent, parcel taxes). But that doesn't help much in many parts of the state where parents are poor, and are not able to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to parent organizations to help patch up the holes in our public education system.

Proposition 13 has also affected us in other ways. Unable to make enough revenue off of property taxes, many localities have had to raise sales taxes, a much less stable form of revenue, to make up for lost property taxes. Prop 13 has contributed to an inefficient housing market in California that provides dis-incentives for selling property. And of course, Prop 13 is likely a major factor for the budget crises that we have dealt with in the state over the past few years, and could very well have been a cause for the 2003 recall of Gray Davis. But yet, enough Californians are still overly protective of their newly-low property tax rates that the prospect of fixing (or simply repealing) Proposition 13 continues to be a politically suicidal maneuver.

What strikes me as odd during debates about taxation is that we seem to forget what the purpose of taxation is. We are all members of an organization known as the United States of America, and in our case, we are members of the California chapter of that big organization. Taxes are our membership dues, and we have to pay our dues to receive the benefits of being part of the organization. But we get a lot back from those benefits: we get a fire department, a police department, public libraries, public education, a court system, public colleges, social security, and so much more. These are all things that we as citizens take for granted, and we have them because we pay taxes. European countries pay far more taxes than we do, but they get a whole lot more back for it, such as a single-payer universal health care system that they can take advantage of for free, completely free public colleges, and even public childcare. (Don't believe me? Watch Sicko.) Oh, and of course, they're not in the middle of a war that has costed hundreds of billions of dollars. They pay higher taxes because they actually get something tangible back for the taxes that they pay, whether it be the fact that they don't have to pay health care premiums, don't have to take out huge loans to send their kids to college, etc.

We cannot continue to move forward into this twenty-first century with this ancient idea that taxes are bad and the government is bad. We are the government, and we aren't bad (although we sometimes have a tendency to elect bad people into the government, and that's what we need to change). We cannot continue to expect the government to educate our children, put out our fires, police our streets, and do all of the other social services that we take for granted, but still insist on keeping taxes lower than humanly possible. We need to change our way of thinking in California and in our country, or we're going to find ourselves dangerously trapped between a rock and a hard place very soon.

Thoughts Inspired by Insomnia

Insomnia may be overstating it a little bit, but regardless, I can't sleep and I feel like I have to express my thoughts on the upcoming election in a mini-essay. You've been warned.

The United States was designed on the participation of the governed in the politcal process. The fear of monarchy and tyranny was very strong in the framers' minds, and they gave power to the common men. In the Constitution's beauty of ambiguity, we, as a nation, have managed to prosper in the volatile political environment known as Earth.

Our strengths have always been clear to ourselves and the rest of the world. We have the best political process in history not because of its dual nature of being both democratic and republican, but because of the strength and security we draw from our Constitution.

Every major decision made in this country, such as the ratification of our most sacred document, have come to be executed based on voting. Instead of having a haphazard meritocracy of a few happy people and a much bigger group of unhappy people, we have a system where every vote is equal. Every say is equally represented.

There is only one flaw to the way that our country functions, and that is apathy.

Voter apathy is anything but new. People that have refused to take a stance on an issue at hand have existed ever since the beginnings of our nation. Even if these people don't vote on an issue, or for a candidate, they still make a choice. This aspect of America is extremely important.

Choosing not to vote is one thing, but not caring enough to vote is a different issue.

I will be turning 18 on November 1, 2008, a mere 3 days before the Presidential Election. I'm extremely fortunate to be able to participate in such an important event, and I have full intention of voting.

I know of too many people that won't vote because they don't care. They reason that one vote isn't going to matter in deciding the nomination for the next President.

I refuse to take such a pessimistic stance on the issue. If everyone had this apathetic attitude towards the political process, then the machine of democracy would fail as its fuel source refuses to engage.

There are so many benefits to voting. One has the pleasure of saying "I elected that person into office" if their candidate of choice gains office. The voter has even more indulgence in showing off correct choice if the person holding office does a good job.

This isn't a call to just my peers. If I could, I would get everyone to read this post and understand what I'm asking, which is this:

If you are eligible to vote in the upcoming Presidential election, do so. Register to vote and speak out on Election Day.

Our country is too precious to collapse due to lack of voter participation. I want to see this country thrive for as long as I live.

I don't mean for anyone to take this as a self-righteous post about how I'm voting in this next election. I don't mean for anyone to take this as criticism if you choose not to vote because you don't agree with any candidate.

But I do mean for you to take this as a reminder to finish one easy task on November 4, 2008. I know you will make the right decision.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Oh, those crazy liberals puttin' Mac down again!

So, it seems that McCain has more than enough cars to transport himself and his family around, according to an article recently published in Newsweek. (Click on the title of this blog for a link.)

Obama supporters and McCain haters are definitely going to capitalize on this situation by portraying McCain as one of the elite of America, despite the all-encompassing appeal his campaign has tried to put on him. (No one can beat Nixon's.)

I'm going to shed my typical liberal views for this blog and give a neutral take on this development.

Cars are definitely nice to have, and I don't believe anyone can argue otherwise. When you have the money, you can buy all sorts of nice cars. Personally, if I had enough, I would search to no end for a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro in mint condition, despite its fuel economy. (Back in a time when leaded gasoline was still used.)

However, if this report is true, thirteen cars is a little bit much to have. There may be some other circumstances to this event, such as having multiple cars in different locations or having bought cars for family and friends. But it still shows that McCain has a lot of money, and that doesn't really help him in terms of connecting to the middle and lower classes.

I'm a bit skeptical on the report. I'm also very skeptical about Obama only owning a Ford Escape Hybrid. A typical middle class family has two or three cars at least, and I wouldn't start calling Obama middle class, despite his appeal.

I don't trust any news sources anymore.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Because It's Wednesday

US Embassy Attacked in Yemen

The US Embassy in San'a', the capitol of Yemen was attacked today leading to 16 dead at 9:15 this morning. A group of men wearing Yemeni army uniforms armed with automatic weapons and RPG's attacked the compound. The attack created an opening for suicide bombers in a car to break through the security checkpoints and detonate inside the compound killing 16 and injuring many more.

The group blamed by Yemen, Islamic Jihad (not affiliated with the Palestinian terrorist organization of the same name)supposedly claimed blame for the attack, but in the past Yemeni officials have blamed Islamic Jihad when the attack was in fact linked to al-Qiada. American officials highly suspect that the attack was perpetrated by al-Qiada.

American officials are increasing angered over Yemen's lack of cooperation with US terrorist searches. Yemen is officially one of the America's "war on terror" allies, but has not been very helpful. The mastermind behind the 2000 U.S.S. Cole attack was sentenced to death by US prosecutors, but Yemeni authorities shortened the sentence to 15 years in prison, and he escaped in a 2004 prison break.

I'm glad that we still have allies in the Middle East helping us in our "war on terror" but an embassy attack is always bad news. I believe that US should push Yemen to step up its pursuit and conviction of terrorist groups operating inside Yemen, and am dissapointed at Yemen's lax nature toward terrorists

Palin's E-mail Hacked

Something about this just makes me want to laugh at Sarah Palin's misfortune

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Play of The Year goes to: The Federal Reserve Board

Frankly, it's about time the goverment stepped in to an economy that cleary operates best when left alone. (I hope all readers detect my sarcasm.)

The private sector's blatant lack of care for Lehman Brothers tranlates over to the certain refusal to help AIG, the nation's largest insurer. So, rather than help out a vital company, private funds remain in the hands of the elite - once again.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York was authorized to lend the borderline-bankruptcy company a staggering $85 Billion loan to keep it alive, and all the protections that taxpayers and the government at large desperately need.

NOW do you really think that a laissez-faire attitude towards big business is really going to get anything done?

Yes, Sarah Palin looks like Tina Fey

Technology in the Upcoming Election

John McCain is widely criticized for his tech smarts, or should I saw lack of tech smarts. John McCain openly admits that he is not 100% comfortable with the internet,e-mail, or computers. His age probably contributes to this, but not being proficient with a computer is simply inexcusable in this day and age. How is he supposed to deal with the politics involved in today's scientific world if he isn't familiar with the technology.

What else doesn't John McCain actually know? Is he up to date on all the latest scientific issues such as stem cell research and renewable energy? Something makes me want to say no, but I fully realize I have no evidence to support my skepticism of John McCain's lack of scientific savvy.

Barack Obama seems to know his way around a computer well enough and embrace technology but also is pretty lax about his alternative energy stance. The similarity of both candidates proposed energy plans leads me to believe that the plans are just something they are pushing to get elected, not actually to enact. In the upcoming weeks to the election I really would like to see some more discussion on scientific topics, but the truth into what either candidate's true stance on alternate energy and technology with only be revealed in the opening months of his presidency.

Palin really doesn't have anything good going for her.

Except that maybe she's got connections at home.

A few friends of Sarah Palin have taken the liberty to stop an ongoing investigation about the firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who allegedly was pressured by Palin and friends to fire a state trooper going through a custody battle with Palin's sister.

Whatever may be the case, it doesn't look good for Palin. After McCain pulled her out of irrelevance and in to the spotlight of the political scene, everyone will be judging her about this scandal. For a governor that approves going to war with Russia and uses the law to benefit family, she doesn't seem to be a great vice president pick.

What was McCain really thinking when he picked Palin?
(See my first post.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

For Those Who Don't Watch the Daily Show/Colbert Report

It's time to start

The World has Made Up It's Mind

In a recent poll by the Australian news network ABC, the world would rather Barack Obama win the upcoming presidential election than John McCain. 22 countries from all over the world and over 22,00 people were surveyed for this poll. 17 out of the 22 countries preferred Obama to McCain.

It's nice to know that the world can see right through John McCain and the Republican Party's hollow message of change unlike 45% of Americans. My opinions about this presidential race are clear, that Obama should win, but living in the liberal state of California severely influences my views of other's political ideals. I may not be able to see the appeal of a pitbull with lipstick and a POW(we get it McCain, enough is enough!) but evidently a large amount of Americans do. It is nice to see that with the deadlock over who will win the White House it is clear who the rest of the world supports.

As stated in the article, more people believe that if Obama were to be elected he would improve our foreign relations, which is a prime concern of mine for the upcoming election. If Obama were to be elected I believe our relationship, torn asunder by George Bush, would be repaired somewhat. Don't misunderstand me, I don't think that if Obama is elected all our problems will magically be fixed, but i think that Obama and not McCain is a major fix for those problems, foreign policy being a major problem for America. John McCain claims to be a "maverick" and advocate change in Washington, but how much change can you squeeze out of a candidate that voted with Bush 95% of the time. I believe that Obama and not McCain will help restore our ailing foreign image under the Bush administration, and evidently so does the world.

Candidates' Fixes for Economic Woes ='[

Honestly, who doesn't like money? If the United States didn't, I would even be writing this right now. Money is essential to the existence of a nation, especially when it's a capitalistic republic like the United States. And after we've gone through attempting to recreate other nations *cough*Iraq*cough, we must step aside and look into what makes this country function at the monetary level.

The big topic on everyone's "To Do" list seems to be the sputtering economy. The recession has had many people in a scare, while a few have adopted the "So-What-I-Don't-Care-It's-Not-A-Recession" policy and have left it up to the next president to fix it. So, who stands where?

Both candidates have taken a traditional approach to the economy in terms of their party associations.

Obama's plan involves ending the Bush tax cuts for the elite, increased spending in alternative energy development, as well as an increase in funding education. (No, this does not include the sex ed for kindergarteners the McCain campaign has so diligently shown Obama as having.)

McCain's plan follows a traditional conservative approach. Tax cuts for the wealthy (Bush tax cuts), and an overall Reaganomics approach to the United States. This is quite capitalistic in nature, and somehow the extra money that the wealthy will have from the tax cuts will magically work its way down to the lower classes. Somehow.

Neither candidate has really offered anything new in terms of economic process, which is mildly unsettling. Our economy is indeed bleeding to death and shows no signs of improvement under the current administration.

Neither plan really looks perfect, but McCain's plan is significantly less perfect than Obama's. I can't wait to vote, because I can.

All controversy ends here: McCain's true reason for choosing Palin

Yes, this video is real. You can see his cheeks quivering with excitement.
Also, note how he fiddles with his wedding ring for the entire video.

...And I'm moving to Canada if Obama loses

If the prospect of Sarah Palin as president should something happen to John McCain doesn't scare you this might fuel the fire.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A New Leader in Israel?

The Israeli-Palestinian crisis is notorious for half-peaces and broken ceasefires. It seems that if one side gets it together, the other side breaks down. Right now, as The Economist notes, both sides are in a funk. The Palestinians are split between the Islamist Hamas and the secularist and moderate Fatah. The Israelis' prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is resigning over a corruption scandal. Thus, new leadership is needed in Israel. I agree that Tzipi Livni, the curent Israeli foreign minister, is probably the best person for the job. Shrewd and tough, she is not a hawk. I have always thought that moderation is necessary, especially with such a contentious conflict as the one in Holy Land, and she probably has the chutzpah to do what is right.

Now, to tie this back to American politics, I think this is one more reason to elect Barack Obama. As a Jew, it is constantly assumed that because of this fact, I am an unconditional supporter of the Israeli government. I am not. While I do support Israel, I am not Israeli and have no Israeli heritage. I support Israel no more than I do Britain or France or Japan; countries I have respect and sympathy for, but not ones I am actually from. I say this because I believe the unconditonal support American leaders give to Israel begets many of the problems there. While Islamist extremism and terrorism is never justifiable (and I do not respect the legitimacy of Hizbollah, Hamas, or their ilk), that does not mean that Israeli excess is justifiable. And, similarly, while I prefer American politicians that support Isarel to those that oppose it, supporting Israel unconditonally is dangerous. In the heat of battle and public opinion (as well as a fair number of hawks in the ruling coalition), Israel often makes mistakes. Instead of pressuring Israel to rectify these, American leaders, fearful of losing the Jewish vote (think Florida), simply remain silent, giving tacit support to even some of Israel's dumbest mistakes. This only antagonizes Palestinian extremists even more. I fear this is what John McCain would do. John McCain knows no nuance in diplomacy. He hastily atagonizes Russia, Iran, and others even when it does not help the situation. And while Obama too is a supporter of Israel, he understands nuanced diplomacy and the neccesity to be able to broker peace talks between all sides in the conflict.

Simply put, McCain would not be neutral enough to be able to negotiate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He supports Israel too much. If you want peace in Israel and Palestine to move forward, John McCain is not your man.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Some Fun Friday Stories

Well, it's Friday and I thought it might be fun to share some really odd news stories with everyone.

Weird News from NBC is one of my favorite places to see just what kind of shenanigans are going on around the world. Here are some of the highlights from the site:

- A gigantic robotic spider was built in Liverpool, England for an art festival. It was the size of a small building and, with the help of a crane and it's 12 on-board operators, scaled a skyscraper.
-In El Salvador there is a festival that celebrates the survival of a large volcano eruption. One town celebrates by lighting gasoline-soaked rags and playing dodge-ball with them. Nothing says "Hooray for Survival" like a flaming rag to the face.
-A somewhat safer version of dodge-ball is played in Spain when hundred of people line the streets and throw tomatoes at each other. There is no reason for this food fight, its just fun.
-Two cockroaches predicted that McCain would win the race for the president in New Brunswick, New Jersey. One wore an Obama hat, one a McCain hat, and they raced each other down a plastic track. Apparently cockroaches have predicted past elections with 84% accuracy.

It's always good to remember that there are as many fun and interesting news stories out there as there are political news stories. I hope that you guys have as much fun over the weekend as those people in El Salvador do throwing fireballs at each other!

Helping Iraq - We Could Be Doing Worse

For a while now, the United States has been admitting refugees from Iraq. However, until now the numbers of those admitted have been horrendously low. But this year the US stepped up and is now close to having admitted 12,000 refugees this year. The government plans to admit a minimum of 17,000 people in 2009, along with many others through the use of a special visa they can acquire if they have worked for the United States. While the US is beginning to improve it's admittance policies, it still lags far behind other countries like Sweden, which has brought in 40,000 Iraqis so far. Full article here.

I think that, while the US is improving, it still needs to grow a lot in the charity department. However, there are worse thing we could be doing. Britain, for example, is diverting over 100 million Euros worth of aid that it promised to more than 20 South American countries to Iraq instead, leaving South America far short of what it expected to receive. That's not a very cool move.

It's one thing to be a little short on helping out, its entirely different to promise money to someone, then yank it away and give it to someone else. While the US isn't giving as much as other countries, at least we are being reliable with our charity. So far, we have handed out exactly what we promised to hand out.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why McCain/Palin Supporters Should Be Ashamed

The article basically says it all but in short--the McCain/Palin campaign is doing a disservice to the country by not only blatantly lying to the country (about taxes, Obama, and the Bridge to Nowhere), but is distracting from the real issues. We need to pick leaders who know the issues, and just because this is a weak-point for the GOP ticket does not mean that they should shirk from them (case in point: Palin did not know what the Bush Doctrine was on the ABC interview tonight--this is a basic tenet of the Bush foreign policy that led to the Iraq War; if you do not know what it is, you should not be on the National Security Council!).

Europe Restricts Biofuels-Yay!

This is very good news because someone is finally seeing the light. Despite what biofuel manufacturers would have you believe, there are significant negatives to many of them and I am glad that the Europeans are addressing them. This is a shortfall in the Obama campaign and US politics in general--the Midwestern corn vote is too valuable to risk alienating. But, I encourage you to read the article--and see why ethanol (or at least certain kinds of it) may not be the best route for 21st century energy.

Remembering the Past, Uniting for the Future

As we all know, today is the 7 year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. John McCain and Barack Obama put aside their differences for a day and came together to remember 9/11. They met at the site of the Twin Towers, shook hands, and walked around the site together talking calmly. There were no large conventions or fans screaming, it was just a peaceful memorial service.

I'm glad that there are still things that everyone agrees on. It sucks that it took such a terrible event to bring everyone together, but at least something good came out of it. There aren't very many things that can unite a country like that.

I would say that I wish that the parties could unite like this all of the time, but honestly I don't think it would be such a good idea. If the parties behaved this kindly towards each other all the time it would be great, but I wouldn't like to see them agreeing on everything. Democracy is based on the concept that many different opinions and ideas coming together will be able to create a better outcome in the long run. A little more cooperation here and there would be nice, but it's good that the opinions of the country differ so greatly most of the time.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Particle Physicists, Commence Drooling Now

First of all, a great apology to Mr. Silton for this post not focusing on a political event. I think that this is an important enough world event to earn recognition regardless of that fact. And I was able to tie it back in to politics, so I think it is acceptable.

Today was the grand-opening of the CERN Large Hadron Collider, or LHC. The LHC is the world's largest supercollider, located in Geneva, Switzerland. The LHC is shown from above in the first photo, it is the giant circle on the ground. The second photo is the inside of "ATLAS", one of the particle detectors of the LHC. Look at that guy standing in the middle. This thing is HUGE!

Supercolliders are essentially gigantic race tracks, except instead of cars there are beams of particles that crash into each other. These particles can tell us almost anything about the universe, and supercolliders are the keystone of particle physics. Here is the official CERN press release regarding today's trial run of the LHC. They haven't actually collided any particles yet, today they just shot a beam of protons around in the circle a few times.

The actual collisions have caused a lot of debate and will continue to terrify the uninformed until they are actually tested on October 21st. Some physicists have theorized that the LHC will create a black hole that will engulf the Earth, killing us all.


In case the video isn't working on the blog, here is a LINK to the movie on YouTube.

Don't worry, its not going to happen. Here is a CERN article explaining exactly how safe the test really is. The black holes that could possibly be created, as theorized, would either disappear immediately or cause no macroscopic damage while remaining on Earth.

The following video is a TED Talk about the LHC from March, which explains exactly what is so special about this linear accelerator in particular.


The LHC will be able to detect the Higgs Field, or Higgs Particles, explained very well at time 7:38 in the video. If these particles are discovered, we will be able to use the Standard Model to answer any possible question in the universe. This is a HUGE step for physics, and the world in general.

The blue picture shows particles colliding in a linear accelerator. Each of those little lines is the path that a particle flew on upon collision.

Here comes the politics. The LHC was a product of more than two decades of work from over 85 countries all over the world. Our tax dollars have paid for it for years, and it isn't even taking place in our country. I believe that the LHC is perfectly safe, but many people on the web (see the comments of the YouTube video) think that it should not be used. However, we have not actually studied black holes up close. We don't know what's going to happen when the first collision takes place. There is a chance, unbelievably small as it may be, that something horrible could happen. Even if the world doesn't end, it will be changed forever. The possibilities of what can be done once the Higgs Particle is confirmed are endless. The world as we know it will be different by late October. There was no global conference on whether this experiment should proceed or not, we didn't really have a say in the matter at all.

Do you guys think it's fair that such a world-changing event is going to take place without some sort of global discussion? I am glad that the experiment is taking place, but also wonder whether there should have been more democracy involved in this. There is a point where democracy is unreasonable because of the scale of things, and I guess "whole world" is a little bit too large a group to get votes from. What do you guys think?

And for all of you green tree-huggers out there, the LHC uses 1000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually, about 1/3 of the energy PRODUCED in the entire United States. This is a single scientific experiment that is eating up the equivalent of 1/3 of the nation's electricity. What do you say to that?

Arctic Adventures? (And no, it isn't a Sarah Palin helicopter moose-hunting party)

I never thought that the Arctic, the vastly uninhabited chunk of mostly ice north of Alaska, could provide a source of conflict in the 21st century. But, then came along global warming and aggressive neighbors. As the ice is receding at a quicker than normal rate, open Arctic waters provide bordering nations with trade, tourist, and natural resources new possibilities (as well as strategic defense) that were not open before. Case in point, there is actually a Northwest Passage right now.

Now what problem could possibly occur when you have the bordering nations being the US, Canada, Denmark (they own Greenland), and Norway, all US allies? None, except that I am forgetting one, America's newest best friend- the Russian Federation! Russia, under former President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, has been assertive in nationalistic pursuits now that they are flush with oil and gas revenues. Aside from invading Georgia, Russia recently planted a flag in the Arctic and claimed a large chunk of it for itself. Why do they want a chunk of ice? Because there is potentially more oil and natural gas underneath that was previously inaccessible.

Sadly, the US has been slow to counter this threat to our own strategic interests (remember that Russia borders us up there) by not expanding our Arctic fleet nor ratifying the Law of the Sea, which would allow the US to stake claims in the Arctic, the US is losing the opening salvos of a scramble for the Arctic. And while I don't think having Canada, Denmark, or Norway control the Arctic would be a bad thing, I do not want to see Russia suddenly get an Arctic empire. And if the US and its allies don't act soon, this could happen.

Mr. Silton, Radio Star

This morning, after hearing a semi-sensational news report on the normally reliable KFOG, I dropped my bag on my way out the door and jammed out an email to the radio station criticizing their coverage. As I arrived at Aragon at 7:15, the main DJ read a good chunk of it and they proceeded with a few minutes of discussion, basically agreeing with my premise. Apparently they got (and shared on the air) a number of calls in support of my point over the next 45 minutes. Obviously, this was the highlight of my day. Some tens of thousands of people heard my analysis -- cool.

I hope this doesn't come across as showing off, because the point of sharing this with you is that being politically active is about more than voting, and often, being willing to speak up has far more impact than you might think. This is actually the third time I've been on the KFOG morning show; on other occasions I called in and they put my comment on the air. I used to think, "there's no point in calling. I'll never get through, or, why write a letter to the editor? They'll get tons just like it." Actually, no, they don't.

Years ago, my older brother got annoyed with one of my many political rants and threw down, "all you do is whine and moan, but you never *do* anything. Shut up already!" He had a point. And this is why I love political blogs... I don't have to shut up, and I'm actually doing something to advance the causes I believe in at least some of the time.

I believe voting is basic civic duty, but let's face it, in a one-sided election, one vote counts but doesn't have an impact. Over the past few years, I've become convinced that the time I take to write to journalists, politicians, and blogs has had far more impact than my vote. For your consideration.

For the record, here is the letter, in full. They basically read the last paragraph. I'm not sure how I wrote this in 10-15 minutes, but I guess sometimes it flows.
Good morning!

I've spent about 10% of my waking hours over the past 10 years listening to KFOG, and I respect Peter Finch's work in general, especially his Fog Files on the weekends and his fun trips to schools to review music. However, the news blurbs the past 2 days about the campaign have been atrocious. I expect Peter and your team to be better than repeating the sensational media hawking talking points from the campaigns.

Yesterday, Peter mentioned how factcheck.org had debunked a number of bogus claims about Sarah Palin, including the idea that she tried to ban books when Mayor of Wasilla and the idea that she belonged to a radical fringe political party that promoted the secesssion of Alaska.

I like factcheck.org, in fact, I assigned a book written by two of its principal authors (_UnSpun_) to my students over the summer. The problem is that Peter didn't read the whole article and tell Fogheads that the actual truth was that Palin had inquired with the librarian about possibly banning books (she was rebuffed) and that her husband had belonged to the Alaska Independence Party for many years and that she had sent the party a videotaped message earlier this year. I'd rather not have a VP that thinks banning books or seceeding from the Union is even remotely OK.

I'm a bit disappointed in factcheck in this instance, actually, because the claims they are debunking are the sloppily reported versions of reasonable concerns. The way they -- and Peter -- presented the situation makes it seem like Democrats in general are repeating the exaggerated claims. Debunking the bogus version is all fine and good, but without reporting the whole truth it comes across as unduly helpful to the GOP and their meme about media bias.

Today, we hear Obama's quote about putting lipstick on a pig. I'm sure Peter knows that the Republicans are being disingenuous and hypocritical when accusing Obama of making a sexist remark; after all, Palin described herself as a Pit Bull with lipstick, Obama has made the comment about "lipstick on a pig" on several other occasions in regards to male politicians, and McCain isn't exactly innocent when it comes to making flagrantly sexist statements. Yet he repeats this as "big news." What makes it newsworthy? Because idiots on cable news have nothing better to talk about? Because one party is going to hype it up and try to score points with voters? Why would Peter repeat the Republican talking point of the day? Whichever camp gets their outrage cranked up to 11 doesn't deserve to have top billing on the news. Peter ought not to fall for their manipulations and subject Fogheads to a campaign about sound bites instead of a campaign that is at least partially about issues and government policy, not just personality and media spin.