Letters to a young Republican

Or - "Why the Arizona Republic is the world's most asinine newspaper".

They endorsed John S. McCain III yesterday, with the most duplicitous commentary I have ever read published by a major paper. Oh sure, blogs can be silly to a degree of ridiculousness that would astound the average bear, but newspapers generally like to put their best face before the public. I would recommend against reading the drivel they published and to protect your from their mendacious meanderings, I have presented below - for your reading pleasure - a brief but deadly assault on their methodology.

Your "revived form of welfare" comment is as misleading as your professed confusion over those votes of "Present" Obama made as a state legislator. Since I have no hope of teaching you Robert's Rules of Order in the width and breath of this post, I will leave that to your further study.

To claim that Obama wants to give a tax credit to people who pay no federal income tax is accurate - albeit inauthentic. Since you are making this endorsement at the end of an almost two-year long campaign season, you have had ever opportunity to learn to be authentic, but I will endeavor once more in the hopes that you might still be encouraged to sip from the stream of knowledge.

This tax credit is going to go to 95% of working families; your attempt to tie it to welfare implies a subsidy to people who are home, sitting on couches, watching televisions and adding to the population more dependents as opposed to being productive citizens.

That is inauthentic on your part.

While it has been many years since my last trip to Arizona, I am sure you still have people who fall into the category commonly known as "the working poor". Furthermore, with the rise in food and energy prices, consumers of all economic categories are feeling the pinch at the pump - where they pay a federal gasoline tax - and at the store - where they pay state and local sales taxes. Additionally, with the economy slowing down, salaries are stagnate to in decline, so even the working middle class - and all of the money they pay in payroll taxes - are seeing their incomes squeezed.

So, you are wise enough to know that not every working family pays income tax, but that also means you are wise enough to know that every working family pays a multitude of other taxes - federal, state and local - all of which prevents them from having money at the end (or even the middle) of the month to use towards the other necessities of life. Presumably, you are also wise enough to know that 75% of our economic growth is based on the activities of consumers. Stop me if I am giving you too much credit for being wise.

Obama - unlike John McCain and George Bush before him - sees these hardworking families for whom they are. He knows they are in just as much - if not more - need for tax relief than the fat cat CEOs of the banks and the oil companies - who have availed themselves of billions of dollars of tax relief over the past eight years (and billions more taxpayer dollars for bailouts), while hardworking Americans "too poor to pay income tax" have received no relief at all.

Tell me, how well did those tax cuts for the people earning the most money go for the economy? Did the tax breaks they received trickle down to those of us below and raise us all up on a tide of prosperity?


No - instead it led to an increase in income inequality in our nation, such that more and more wealth was concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Tell me, how did that work for the investment banks, who grew fat serving their wealthy clientele? What's that? You say there are no more investment banks? You say they either plunged into bankruptcy or into the waiting arms of commercial banks or begged the Feds to come under the warm bosom of regulation that is a commercial bank directly?

The tax policies of George Bush - which John McCain proposes extending ad infinitium - have failed miserably, for themselves, their supporters and our nation. For you to endorse their continuation - and in such a snide manner - only reveals the piracy that lurks within your own heart.

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Smiles, everyone! Big Smiles!

I grind my teeth and clamp shut my jaws as Republicans and fawning members of the press exhort the mythical memory of Prince Valiant - in his modern-day guise as John McCain.

I squelch the urge to rail against the stories of McCain as the triumphant war hero and I douse the flames of rage which rise every time I hear the tale of how our hero was so callously attacked by racists in South Carolina (why is it white people can only see white victims of racism?).

I do all of that in the hope that the larger goal - electing Senator Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America - will be more likely realized if I conceal the depths of my disregard for John McCain and his ilk: Republicans.

No, I try to hold fast to the spirit of positive energy that Obama has released upon the land and I know my bitter feelings are not the end to which he has called me. But they are there. They are real. I am looking for a 12-step program to help me move past them, as I know the challenges before us are so great that I will not make it over on my own or merely in the company of those with a higher degree of correlation of agreement with me. I know that they times they call for all shoulders to be pressed against the wheel; for all arms to be rowing in unison: I am thankful that there are election officials watching the process with the unblinking eyes of a hawk to ensure that no laws are broken and no voters are left with recourse in the safe and secure execution of their right to vote.  

If I can but just focus on all for which I am grateful, perhaps my bitter feelings will but fade away into nothingness.

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Mad as H-E-L-L

We need to be informed of the dirty-tricks the Republicans have in motion already to steal this election from us and we need to be prepared to act to prevent their tactics from stealing yet another election from the people. Read this article. Forward it onto your friends and neighbors. Contact your local election officials to ensure that they have not and will not countenance similar tactics in your district.

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What's In A Name, indeed?

Hmmmm . . . You mean to tell me that 72-year old John McCain, was totally flummoxed by the racism behind the question from an apparently equally old woman? It is almost as though McCain came of age in an era before black people were afforded many (much less all) of the same civil rights as white citizens of this country.  

Can we all not see the innate disdain - if not outright contempt - that McCain has for Obama, written all over his face whenever the two share the stage? It goes without saying - or at least, it should - that McCain has no respect for Obama at all. We could pretend it has to do with Obama's relative youth, but to do that we would have to overlook the fact that McCain is more than smitten with his even younger VP-selection.  

So, we all know that racism exists in America. But that does not change the question: will it have an effect on this election? Thankfully - if one can be ironically thankful to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan - over the past 40-years, most of the racists have found a home in the Republican Party. Furthermore, while the country has been minting new voters daily - as they reach the age of 18 - the Republican Party finds itself stagnate to in decline, as more and more people tire of the outright and sub-rosa shout-outs to the racist hard-liners in the party. That is why both the Democratic Party and those registered as Independents are growing, along with increasing numbers of members for third-party groups. Ignoring for a moment the even more virulent racism of some third-party movements (Alaska Independence Party, are your ears burning?), we are without question in a period of American history over which racism has less sway than at any point in our short existence as a republic.

This election - if we work hard to turn out the vote of all those with any sympathies for liberals or progressives or merely simple thought - can produce the sort of political landslide not seen since the realignment Reagan created in 1980. Remember: that race was down to the wire and it was the final debate - days before the election - that sealed a shift across so many states from Carter to Reagan, so much so that Reagan eventually carried 44-states and received 489 EV. Those targets are within reach for Obama in this election, irrespective of the racists in our midst. There is a possibility that McCain will merely end up with UT, OK, ID and WY in his camp come Wednesday morn. It will take more work on our part to bring about a realignment this historic, but never before in our nation's history has the need for such a realignment been so great.

Ever - including the Civil War period and "the greatest generation" of WWII.

For we stand not just at the precipice of the end of the American Century, as we grow ever older and more indebted, but we stand on the edge of the end of the Carbon-Era and the end of all the energy we have extracted from the Earth as coal, oil and natural gas. Now we have legions of coal and we have natural gas reserves which are yet to be tapped, so perhaps only oil is becoming harder and more expensive to find. But what good is a resource if the very act of using it leads to our destruction? The miracle of economic growth - which is but a few minutes on the clock of human existence - stands mute before the progress of history and with but a few more years of burning carbon and expelling it into our atmosphere, our world could change irrevocably into one more hostile for our needs as a species.  

Could a small-mined racist like John McCain lead us out of the darkness and into the light?

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Decoy Effect

Twain perhaps captured the "art" of statistics better than any critic before or since, but how many psychologists did he know? Okay, that was harsh - but hear me out.

CBS primetime last week introduced me to a psych concept known as "decoy effect", whereby introducing a third option to a decision matrix can favor one of the other two choices. A quick internet search and I was reading this article - http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/01/AR2007040100973.html -
from last year in the Washington Post, that discussed ways for Obama and Clinton to parry the presence of Edwards to their benefit - individually - and it also included this throwaway line on Nader:

"Many people lavished hate on Ralph Nader for presumably taking votes away from the Democratic front-runner in the 2000 presidential election," said Scott Highhouse, who has studied the decoy effect at Bowling Green State University. "Research on the decoy effect suggests that Nader's presence, rather than taking votes away, probably increased the share of votes for the candidate he most resembled."

Intriguing concept. Ralph Nader actually increased voter support for Al Gore in the 2000 election. I certainly never looked at the world like that before, so I am going to spend some time mulling this one over.

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The Sisyphus Journals, 2008, Part I

Parlez-vous francais? Non!

First, I have to place fair - albeit garbled - warning upfront, to our most kind hostess: Mme de lis.

Second, I too share - in fact I think it is clear the world shares - in the anxiety about what will happen next in our credit and financial markets. The incompetence of the Bush Administration is legendary after eight years and the idea that any act they could take would "restore confidence" would be laughable - were the stakes not so high. We all hope for an emergency act of Congress that moves Inauguration Day a pres Thanksgiving Day, so that we might shuffle this insane and incompetent administration off its remaining bearings.

Baring that, I turn almost daily to the Center for American Progress, as these are the representatives of the "administration in waiting". Think tanks have proliferated in recent years as home away from home for politicians and policy apparatchiks, who are in disfavor with one administration or the other. Here is part of what CAP has to say on the bailout: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/10/rescue_package.html

Assuredly, it is not enough and more detailed pronouncements are presumably under development, but I was reassured by their commitment to Green Recovery and what I hope they will rename the Zero-Carbon Economy.

Mon amis.

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El Matador

So, I watched yet one more presidential debate last night. Not because I expected anything to happen that would change my mind on whom our next president should be, but because I do prefer to have my own base of knowledge - my own foundation - before the pundits and the press proceed to tell me what should be my takeaways from the event.

I can do my own takeaways, thank you very much.

So I will not pretend to proscribe for you - dear reader - what your takeaways should be either. What I will say is this: was it just me, or did McCain resemble a bull on stage last night? He paced restlessly around the arena - I keep seeing him appear and then disappear in the background of Obama's commentaries in response to questions - and even when he was answering questions, he paced relentlessly backwards and forwards, apparently in attempts to engage as many members of the hall as possible. And of course, he was constantly on the attack, always searching for an opening that could be used to gore Obama - like with that snarky and childish, "that One!" remark, which seemed to please him to no end.

But what I also saw, was a man so light of foot - so graceful - that these awkward advances were easily paried. I saw a man playfully - and without a hint of the anger that could clearly be seen in McCain - and professionally dance away from the charging bull, but always leaving the bull with a cut here, a stab there to remind him of the dangers of the charge.

Of course, the bull cannot help but to charge again, for that is what a bull does.

The matador, his job is to allow the bull to weaken himself, to expend his energy on foolish and costly charges back and forth across the arena, always being sure to bloody the bull for his efforts. Until - at last - the matador strikes the last blow, right to the heart of the bull.

Can't wait to see the third debate.

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Where they stand?

McCain proposes to tax benefits for the first time in our nation's history!  

This is a great series, but it becomes misleading when it leaves out the fact that small businesses will be taxed on the benefit plans they offer their employees. As small businesses already struggle to pay for benefits, how many of them will just decide to cancel their benefit programs altogether?  

Furthermore, that tax credit McCain provides - $2500 for individuals, $5000 for families - is laughable. Not only is it less than the average cost for health care on the open market - which is $12,500 for a family of four - but it is not even indexed for inflation and we all know that health care costs have been increasing annually at more than the rate of inflation.  

McCain proposes to dump millions of Americans on the open market to purchase their own insurance, with a tax credit for less than it would cost to buy insurance and with no protections for those who have a pre-existing condition. So the effect of his plan is to encourage many small businesses to cancel their benefit plans, while leaving their employees who have an existing illness without insurance for the first time in their lives.  

All the while he maintains his taxpayer-funded health care.  

Just whom is serving whom in this relationship?

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Bedtime Stories

That there used to be these things called, "investment banks" and that they lasted for hundreds of years in America, across all sorts of financial ups and downs - until the age of George Bush the Lesser.

Then, it was found that these banks lost their way, amidst a sea of unregulated acronyms like CDO and fierce beasts known as swaps - which were supposed to be financial instruments to manage risk. And these tools made the banks wealthy until they grew too unwieldy to maneuver with grace and dexterity and they were hoisted on their own petards.

And then, make sure you let your children know, that although the favorite American boogeyman - black people - were trotted out to be slaughtered upon the ritual alter of the scapegoat, a wise young politician led the people to stay their hand with these words:

"You chumps! The CRA is for commercial banks, not investment banks. Commercial banks road through the CDO storm just fine - barring a savings and loan or two (and you know they always catch hell). Nay, it was not the presence of CRA or any other regulation - but the lack of regulation that allowed the insurance companies and the investment banks to fly too close to the sun. Begone!"

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Die Darkman, Die

(First of all; what the h was up with that movie and was that the only title they could use?)

My friend, you know that ol' Dutch was just making that crap up about "supply-side" economics and trickle-down and all of that hooey, right? It was the world's biggest con job, a means to transfer tax dollars to the folks at the top of the ladder, justified by fast talking peddlers like Steve Forbes. Eight years of Reaganomics ended in the S&L bailout; eight years of Bushonomics ended in the investment bank bailout (or bail under, since they were allowed to either collapse or merge with commercial banks) The only question now is: will we once and for all drive a stake through this supply-side monster, or will we once again fall prey to its siren song of money for nothing?

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Bailout / Smailout

Nice analysis. It does lump commercial banks (e. g. - Citigroup, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase) with investment banks (e. g. - Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch). Commercial banks are highly regulated; investment banks were not. I say "were not" as they no longer exist.  

It was the investment banks who created the collateralized derivative obligations - i. e., those investment vehicles that stripped the longstanding relationship between bank and mortgage holder. It was the severance of that relationship that encouraged banks to allow "liar's loans" to come into existence, loans where mortgage brokers created fictional stories to obtain the loans. Banks did not care about the fiction, as they were repackaging the loan and reselling them in those CDOs. So the investment banks who created these new securities - CDO - and were making billions of dollars with them are central to the rationale for this bailout. Bear Stearns was pushed into the loving arms of JPMorganChase; Merrill Lynch into the warm bosom of Bank of America and Lehman Brothers was allowed to fail. Goldman Sachs (and Morgan Stanley) managed to ride above much of the fray and was allowed to convert from an investment bank to a commercial bank - and I think they plan to purchase another bank or perhaps an S&L.  

Regardless, the world of investment banking has come to an end. Banks that bestrode the corridors of power for decades or even centuries, have been tossed onto the ash bin of history. I am not saying that it is all George W. Bush's fault, but many bad things have happened on his watch.  

So the bailout? It needs to also revamp capitalism itself. We need stronger shareholder controls over the board of directors, so that people can raise questions - really ugly and perhaps insulting questions - at board meetings and in proxy statements. As Warren Buffett might say, we cannot wait for the tide to go out to discern just whom is swimming naked.

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