Saturday, September 20, 2008

Palin as Quayle (or, why Palin is nothing like Obama)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In an article posted at TNR yesterday, Jon Chait draws stark and disturbing parallels between Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle. With Palin's record, her alleged "experience," revealed as the facade of lies and deceptions it really is -- as governor of Alaska, "[s]he appointed unqualified cronies, abused her power to punish personal enemies, and has displayed a Cheney-esque passion for government secrecy -- what remains is, in essense, a right-wing tabula rasa open to further right-wing indoctrination.

Quayle, lest we forget, had significantly more experience than Palin, however, notably on the national stage, both in the House and Senate, at the time he was tapped by Bush I as his 1988 running mate. Still, as Chait points out, what Palin's defenders are saying about her now sounds a lot like what Quayle's defenders were saying about him back then. What's more, Quayle, like Palin now, played the all-American populist card against so-called elites on the other side:

Questions about Quayle's readiness remained, but he did his best to turn them into elite condescension toward small town America. Quayle, in his acceptance speech, spoke movingly about the small towns in Indiana where he had grown up, and later disparaged Dukakis for "sneer[ing] at common sense advice, Midwestern advice."

And, also like Palin now, the Quayle pick was celebrated by the right:

Conservatives received Quayle's selection rapturously. L. Brent Bozell pronounced himself "ecstatic," and Jerry Falwell called the surprise pick "a stroke of genius." After a media frenzy, Quayle's speech was well-received. The convention hall burst into cheers of "We want Dan!" NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said that Quayle executed "flawlessly," and CBS's Bruce Morton called it "a good speech."

Sound familiar? It's like 1988 all over again. To a point.

While Biden is very much like Lloyd Bentsen -- both elder statesmen of the Democratic Party -- Biden is by far the better and more accomplished pick. Furthermore, while McCain, like Bush I before him, has a good deal of experience, particularly in terms of foreign policy and national security, the Republican brand is not what it was in 1988, when two Reagan terms and Reagan's own personal popularity created a fertile climate for Bush I's run for the presidency. He was Reagan's vice president, after all. For his part, McCain, also a decorated veteran, enjoys a long history of delusionally positive coverage by the national media, along with the unearned reputation for being some sort of moderate maverick, but, with two wars going on, and with the economy already melting down, and with McCain-Palin running on an extremist social conservative (domestic policy) and neoconservative (foreign policy) platform, and with two Bush II terms creating not a fertile climate but a huge obstacle for McCain's run, the differences between 1988 and 2008 are stark.

And there is another enormous difference: Obama is no Dukakis. Enough said.


But back to Chait's article:

Palin is like Quayle but unlike Obama. Actually, she is worse than Quayle, who had been in the Senate for almost eight years by the time he was elected vice president in 1988. Obama has been in the Senate, too, of course, for less time, but Chait makes the excellent point that it is engagement, not experience, that matters:

The main complaint against Palin has been her lack of experience. That's fortunate for her, since "experience" -- especially measured in a linear way -- fails to capture exactly what Palin lacks. Yes, two years as governor is less than you'd like, as is four years as senator. The real problem, though, is that Palin has no record of thinking about national or international policy. Bobby Jindal, another Republican veep contender, has barely more experience than Palin, but he is a respected policy intellectual. Pat Buchanan ran for president without ever having served in elective office, but he had engaged more deeply than most presidential candidates in policy questions.

Engagement, not experience, is the difference between Palin's qualifications and Obama's. Obama has a longstanding interest in national and (to a lesser extent) international issues, and has answered questions on all those issues in extensive detail. Palin has dealt almost exclusively with parochial issues in a wildly atypical state. (Her fiscal experience, which consists of divvying up oil lucre, offers better preparation to serve as president of Saudi Arabia than the United States.) It's possible Palin has harbored a long-standing, secret passion for policy wonkery, but the few signs available thus far -- her convention speech that spelled out "new-clear weapons," her evident lack of familiarity with the term "Bush Doctrine" -- suggest otherwise. The Republican intelligentsia is frantically tutoring her while they run out the clock until November 4.

What Obama has shown throughout this long campaign is that he has not just multifaceted experience -- lawyer, community activist, state legislator, senator -- but a long history of engagement with the major issues of the day, with the challenges facing America and the world. He has proven that he has the temperament and judgement to be president, and, on the issues, he is the right candidate at the right time, the man both America and the world need in the White House.

Palin is a lot like Quayle, and 2008 is a lot like 1988, but it is Obama who makes all the difference.

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Quote of the Day

By Creature

"Any member of Congress who looks at the plan to give Hank unchecked power to transfer $700 billion from the Treasury to his friends' companies and has any reaction other than "You've got to be fucking kidding me" does not deserve to hold office." -- Atrios on the blank, gazillion-dollar check we (the people) are about to give Wall Street. Unfuckinbelievable.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Ethnic cleansing and the Surge: What really explains the improved conditions in Iraq?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

In a typically
excellent piece at Slate yesterday, Fred Kaplan argued that an Iraq-style "surge" just wouldn't work in Afghanistan.

What he also argued -- and he has argued it before -- is that the "surge" in Iraq hasn't been nearly as successful as its main boosters, such as McCain, would have us believe. At most, it's been successful "to a limited degree" with security improving in Baghdad and, on the whole, "[c]asualties, insurgent attacks, and roadside bombings" down.

But, even there, the "surge" has only been partly responsible for the improved conditions: "The biggest cause was the 'Sunni Awakening,' in which Sunni tribes reached out to form alliances with U.S. forces -- at the tribal leaders' initiative, before the surge began -- in order to beat back the Islamist jihadists of al-Qaida in Iraq, whom they had come to hate more than they hated the American occupiers." The U.S. essentially made a deal with the Sunnis. It is a relationship of convenience that has served both sides fairly well.

But in larger political terms -- and I do understand that improved security and fewer casualties is hugely significant -- the "surge" hasn't proven to be much of a success: "As anyone who's read
Clausewitz knows, war is fought for political aims -- it is not won until those aims are achieved -- and this war's aims are not yet within sight: a stable, self-sustaining, democratic Iraq whose government is an ally in the war on terror."


And yet, there may be another cause, one perhaps just as significant as, if not even more significant than, the so-called "Sunni Awakening." Reuters

Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence, according to a report published on Friday.

The images support the view of international refugee organizations and Iraq experts that a major population shift was a key factor in the decline in sectarian violence, particularly in the Iraqi capital, the epicenter of the bloodletting in which hundreds of thousands were killed.

Minority Sunni Arabs were driven out of many neighborhoods by Shi'ite militants enraged by the bombing of the Samarra mosque in February 2006. The bombing, blamed on the Sunni militant group al Qaeda, sparked a wave of sectarian violence.

"By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left," geography professor John Agnew of the University of California Los Angeles, who led the study, said in a statement.

"Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning," said Agnew, who studies ethnic conflict.

In other words, violence dropped simply because there were no longer as many people to be violent towards as there were before. This would explain the improvement in conditions generally, or at least the perception of such improvement. The "surge" didn't quell the sectarian violence because the sectarianism had already taken care of itself. Simply put, if you kill a lot of people, and a lot of people leave, there won't be as many people left to kill.

So what now? I think there is good reason to suspect that the sectarianism is merely on hold, with both sides -- all sides -- waiting for the right time to strike.

McCain and his warmongering ilk can spin the situation all they want. The truth is that their "surge" was only of limited and likely temporary success, with Iraq still as divided as ever.

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John McCain's de-regulation paper trail

By Creature

Despite John McCain's hail-Mary of a campaign strategy casting himself and his co-maverick, Sarah Palin, as champions of regulation he has always been very much against anything of the sort. Obviously McCain is hoping all of America suddenly comes down with a case of amnesia. The only problem with this wing-and-a-prayer approach to campaigning is that John McCain has left a paper trail. A paper trial as fresh as, well, an article written this month. Here's John McCain in his own, de-regulation loving, words [via Krugman]:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.

John McCain can hide, he can run, he can campaign like he hasn't been part of the Washington establishment for almost 30 years, but he can't change the fact that the "we" in the above quote very much included him and that "we" has now cost the American tax payer billions and billions of dollars.

John McCain's bad judgment on Iraq has cost us billions and now his bad judgment on the economy has done the same. It's time to hold John McCain accountable for his bad judgment.

For more see Meme and Libby's post below.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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McCain's health care scam

By Libby Spencer

Paul Krugman finds his inner snark. From the current issue of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries, McCain on "the wonders of market-based health reform."

"Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."

So McCain, who now poses as the scourge of Wall Street, was praising financial deregulation like 10 seconds ago — and promising that if we marketize health care, it will perform as well as the financial industry!

That's the first true statement to escape McCain's lips in months now.

[graphic - Huffington Post]

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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One week in the flipping and flopping and general cluelessness of John McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The USA Today has a useful editorial recapping McCain's "many gyrations" in response to the financial crisis this week.

You know, first the economy is fundamentally strong, then there's a crisis, then he's a Reaganite deregulator, then he's some would-be Teddy Roosevelt reformer.

What's the truth? Well, who knows? But he's certainly not TR.

Throughout his political career, in fact, behind the faux maverick facade, McCain has been whatever he's needed to be at any given time. He's an opportunist, but, he also doesn't have much of a clue. If anything, his history, with respect to the economy, has been to cozy up to big-time lobbyists and play quid pro quo with Big Telecom, Big Alcohol, Big Gaming, and any other Big Industry that will support his political aspirations. (For more on this, see Free Ride: John McCain and the Media, by David Brock and Paul Waldman.)

And now, with the financial crisis deepening and Wall Street melting, he doesn't quite know what to do or what to say or what to be. Hence the "gyrations."

"The Republican candidate's erratic performance this week was far from reassuring," concludes the editors of the USA Today.

Yup, it's our understatement of the day.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

The Reaction in Review (Sept. 19, 2008)

A Week's Reactions that deserve a second look:


By lindabeth: "It appears that women may actually have a right to bodily privacy in NY." -- A woman who was up-skirt photographed successfully filed criminal misdemeanor charges of unlawful surveillance, attempted sexual abuse and harassment against her assailant.

By Capt. Fogg: "Let the irony begin" -- Republican bragging about economic expertise rings hollow as the taxpayers look at shouldering unbelievable new bailout debt, as Congress and the Bush administration decide what to do.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Zapatero! (or, where the hell is Spain?)" -- Let us count the ways McCain seems to have an embarrassing growing set of deficits regarding Spain vs. Latin America, mid-east borders and religious sects, Chechoslovakia (?) etc., etc., etc.

By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Taxes and patriotism" -- What Dems advocate is a more progressive tax system, based on ability to pay, while McCain lies and distorts the issue into one of lack of patriotism and more big bad government.

By Dan Tobin: "October surprises" -- Don't miss Dan's rib-tickling e-mail from his friend Prez Bush; that's all about babies, the upcoming October surprise, and complaints about McCain.


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "The case for Biden" -- the genuinely admirable and qualified person who was tapped as Obama's running mate will get more of the media spotlight he deserves as "Palin fatigue" sets in.

By J. Thomas Duffy: "Well... in her defense, she can't see Hewlett-Packard from Alaska" -- Duffy takes off on Carli's gaffe with some very funny stuff (includes Bonus Carli Fiorina Foot-in-mouth Riffs & 4 comments).

By Libby Spencer: "Notable quotes on Palin" -- a few telling quotes "all about family," along with news that Palin's AK fan club may be diminishing, plus comments.

By Capt. Fogg: "Waking up in a crazy house" -- All about Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, with great post quote,"Either words mean nothing any more of the disease of disbelief has destroyed any remnants of cognitive function in America."


By creature: "McCain on his heels" -- The reality of the race today for McCain is much explaining of himself, getting twisted into knots over regulation and Blackberries, and facing the Palin bubble bursting (includes comments and several great links).

By Carl: "Keeping a scorecard" -- Excellent inventive post (using on the one hand/on the other hand) contrasts and distortions regarding the conventional wisdom about Obama and Palin, (plus several comments).

By Dan Tobin: "Palin fatigue" -- This quote reveals the wordsmith skills of our newest Reaction team member: "rope-a-dope. . . I've been a great fan of those postulating that this has been Obama's strategy against McCains truthiness -- let the geezer punch himself out while Obama sits there Biden his time."


By Michael J.W. Stickings: "Richard Wright (1943-2008)" -- ". . . a founding member of Pink Floyd and the band's longtime keyboardist died today at the age of 65," begins Michaels outstanding and very moving tribute to Wright (commenters say it is the best on the web).

By Carl: "How the mighty have fallen" -- Carl knows New York ever so well, and writes an excellent piece about "three huge names in the brokerage field -- Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch -- tumble into oblivion."

By Carol Gee: "Where were the regulators?" -- Discussion of what is behind the current economic crisis on Wall Street, from laissez faire policy for a corporatocracy bent on deregulation, to criminal misbehavior and ethics violations in the Interior Dept.; they all did whatever they wanted.

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It appears that women may actually have a right to bodily privacy in NY

By LindaBeth

According to Thursday’s New York Times, a woman who was upskirt-photographed in a NY subway station (and was able to capture her assailant’s identity on her camera!) has successfully filed criminal charges against him:

Mr. Olivieri was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on Wednesday on misdemeanor charges of unlawful surveillance, attempted sexual abuse and harassment, a criminal complaint said.

That he was arraigned is surely excellent news, since in many other jurisdictions, women bodies are public property, with no expectation of personal privacy in public. Even more, it was the taking of photos that brought the criminal charges, not their distributing. In some conversations on my main blog around this pet peeve issue of mine, some have suggested that posting the images should be wrong, but that the taking of them in public is and ought to be completely legal.

This NY case indicates that the “wrong” done is in the violation of the photographing; “unauthorized surveillance” seems to indicate that a woman’s body, regardless of its location, is always a zone of privacy. And to that I say an emphatic “yes”!

More past posts on bodily privacy

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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Obama on McCain and the economy

By Creature

It really is telling when McCain gives a speech meant to expound on his ideas for saving our economy and all he can do is blame Obama. Well, Obama took notice, and here's his response:

Panic much, John?

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Top Ten Cloves: Names considered to rename Wall Street

By J. Thomas Duffy

As part of the government's pending, unprecedented, massive, enormous bailout of Wall Street, a component of the proposed plans is the renaming of Wall Street to commemorate the crisis:

10. You Say Bailout, We Say Loan Place

9. Trillion Dollar Turnover Turnpike

8. The McCain-Hoover Highway

7. The Economy is Fundamentally Sound Street

6. Subprime Causeway

5. Sucker Street

4. Hey Buddy, Can You Spare a Billion Dollar Bailout Boulevard

3. Bush McCain Policy Promenade

2. Dewey Cheatem and Howe Highway

1. And You Thought the Keating Five Scandal Was Bad Boulevard


Bonus Road Maps

Worst Crisis Since '30s, With No End Yet in Sight

Chris in Paris: Paulson's bad debt purchase to cost a HALF A TRILLION, and then some

Paul Krugman: Crisis Endgame

Fred Wilson: Trying To Make Sense of The Brokerage Bust

John Cole: You Have To Be Shitting Me

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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It truly is about the economy, stupid!

By Carol Gee


We all know the U.S. economy is in big trouble, requiring a massive bailout, according to Politico and many others. In years past the economy as an election issue has been owned by Democrats. But some people are asking whether Barack Obama can actually pull off winning the presidential election in November. Somehow I think so, more and more as time passes.

Many of us sensed yesterday that Senator McCain is also in big trouble, at times almost seeming to lose it. In recent days, Senator McCain was taken to task by MSNBC

for his failure to be "Mr. Straight Talk," Karl Rove himself has said the McCain went too far away from the truth in his campaign advertising. The truth is that, as Jared Bernstein says:

They're telling lies, and liars make fatal leaders. I don't just mean fatal in terms of fiscal recklessness and more economic failure. I mean fatal in terms of decisions that could cost people their lives.

Telling lies often goes hand in hand with covering up wrong-doing. It appears that, a la Karl Rove-style methods, the "Troopergate" investigation in Alaska will not go forward at this time, according to ProPublica. Democrats have not yet seized on the wrong-doing years ago of Governor Palin's running mate, Senator John McCain. The story is that John McCain Still Living The Keating Five Lush Highlife by bmaz (9/15/08) at Emptywheel. To quote:

. . . As a native Arizonan I have been witnessing what you are now realizing since John McCain plopped his carpet bag down and set up shop here in our state.

John Sidney McCain III would have you believe his Charlie Keating Five Scandal days of corruption and influence peddling are all a thing of his distant past and that he is some sort of legendary reformer now. Nothing could be further from the truth, he is still hard deeply entrenched in the lavish, exotic trappings of swag and influence peddled by the modern day equivalents of Charlie Keating.

In fact, new reporting by Ari Berman and Mark Ames of The Nation, in their article The McCain-Follieri Love Boat, which just hit the presses at the end of last week details how McCain has spent yet another birthday, his 70th, vacationing with a criminal con artist, Hollywood celebrities and big money lobbyists on a yacht in Montenegro. It shows what Arizonans have known all along: McCain is still the same old glad handing, do anything to serve his own raw ambition, politician who celebrated his birthdays with Charlie Keating and other power brokers at Keating's private Bahamas resort two decades ago.

Are Republicans at it again? Other elections in recent years have been marked by Republican wrong-doing. Now it seems that Republicans in Macomb County, Michigan are planning to block people from voting who use the addresses of their foreclosed homes. In the neighboring state of Wisconsin, a politically timed lawsuit by the state's Republican attorney general may be aimed at voter suppression. It may create chaos at polling places on Nov. 4.

People are asking whether Governor Sarah Palin is qualified to be the president. One of those most outspoken was Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska). We must remember with some concern that she is one heartbeat away from the presidency. McCain's surrogate Carly Fiorina said that Palin does not have enough experience to run a major corporation. Sarah Palin's links to the Christian Right cause people to worry that Christian fundamentalism permeates the Republican Party.

But I digress from my intended McCain focus. John Cusack, writing for The Huffington Post summarized the Democrats' quandary best in a great post warning Democrats against getting too distracted by Sarah Palin. To quote:

John McCain is the Republican Party as much as Bush -- we need to be constantly reminded of the policies (and, yes, the crimes) that are threatening this country from within.

Obama must hit Republicans ten times harder. Let's hear about war profiteering, taxpayer-funded mercenary armies and privatizing core functions of state, habeas corpus and warrantless wiretapping and presidential signing statements, and Katrina and justice department politicization, and phony intel and Abu Ghraib, rendition and torture.

Take heart Democrats. Listen to Cusack. It does not have to be more complicated than that.


  • Neilsen findings on party convention viewers --Nielsen has taken a closer look at the viewership to the two national political conventions to see if we could tease out any additional insights. The full analysis is available on the political section of the Nielsen blog.

  • Campaign financing -- Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gave big support to both senators Obama and McCain, according to ProPublica.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributors of lead links are "betmo*" and Jon #.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Let the Irony begin

By Capt. Fogg

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

-- Ronald Reagan

(Above statement for display purposes only - contains no working parts.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says we need to take "troubled assets" off the books of financial organizations and that will cost the US taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, but doing nothing would cost far more. That's the price we pay for having voted for Republicans.

Service on the debt these people
have run up is a dominant factor in our overall budget. It's going to get much bigger. The expense of administration is about to get much bigger. The burden will be shifted more firmly on the shoulders of those who do not make $250,000 or more a year -- and their children and grandchildren.

Had the Captain of the Titanic survived, he would not have been well served to put that last voyage on his résumé, yet the Republicans persist in bragging about their economic expertise and John McCain who has steadfastly been part of the problem, is trying to tell us Obama gets his economic advice from former Fannie Mae chief executive Franklin Raines. Yes, that's the hypocrisy alarm bell you hear, and that chorus of laughter in the background is from the former Enron pirates and their accounting firm. That event cost us -- big time. This one will be a supernova in comparison.

McCain, like the rest of these dogma-eating pit bulls are no different from the millions with maxed out credit cards who take out new cards to pay the interest and penalties. Of course the debt laden working poor don't have the option of a public buyout of their debt, but We The People are being forced to assume the liabilities of the biggest swashbucklers and pirates in American history.

Maybe it really is a scary thing when the government offers help.

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Troopergate: No testifying for Alaska's First Dud

By Michael J.W. Stickings

CNN: "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's husband won't comply with a subpoena issued by state lawmakers investigating her firing of Alaska's public safety commissioner, the McCain-Palin campaign said Thursday." (The "argument" being made by the campaign is that "Alaska state law bars ethics investigations of people running for elected office." But, of course -- small problem -- Todd Palin isn't actually running for elected office.)

Note what's going on here:

The McCain-Palin campaign is actively trying to block an investigation initiated by the Alaska state legislature, claiming that the investigation is partisan (when it is in fact bipartisan). It is actively trying to thwart justice.

Clearly, though, Todd Palin had something, and perhaps a lot, to do with the whole sordid affair: "Todd Palin was a 'principal critic' of Wooten and had 'many contacts' with Department of Public Safety officials about his status, Stephen Branchflower, the former prosecutor hired by the state Legislature to investigate the firing [of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan], told lawmakers last week."

But he won't testify, and nor will his wife, and nor will state employees, who have basically been told to keep quiet, "to choose where their loyalties lie."

And so it goes... with Palin and McCain wanting nothing to do with the truth.

Which is pretty much the story of their entire campaign.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Zapatero! (or, where the hell is Spain?)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So it seems McCain thinks Spain is in Latin America, or maybe not, and that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero is akin to Chavez and Castro, or maybe not.

Either way, his confusion, or whatever it was, hardly inspires confidence.

McCain said earlier this year that he wanted to "leave behind discrepancies with Spain," and that he wanted to invite Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero "to visit the United States," but in an interview conducted with Radio Caracol WSUA (AM 1260 in Miami) on Tuesday, he refused to count Spain, or Zapatero himself, as a friend. Perhaps because he doesn't know who Zapatero is or where Spain is.

As Josh Marshall puts it, this insane gaffe, or whatever you want to call it (and his people are spinning wildly), is "embarrassing": "John McCain either doesn't know who the Prime Minister of Spain is, thinks Spain is a country in Latin America, or possibly both. (For more from Josh M., see here: "McCain actually has Spain on probation as a potential member of the Axis of Evil 2.0." Or so his advisors seem to be suggesting.)

Perhaps McCain longs for the good old days, when the Falange was in control. Or perhaps it was yet another Sunni-Shiite moment for the ever-clueless, ever-forgetful, ever-senile senator from Arizona.


For more, see Steve Benen at Political Animal and Kyle E. Moore at Comments From Left Field.

Here's Steve B. on McCain's misrememberin' ways:

Forgetting Zapetero's name is almost forgivable, though hard to explain for a candidate who claims to be an expert in foreign policy. But the interviewer kept using the word "Spain." She even gave him a big hint with the word "Europe."

Let's also not lose sight of the broader pattern. McCain thinks the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia was "the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War." He thinks Iraq and Pakistan share a border. He believes Czechoslovakia is still a country. He's been confused about the difference between Sudan and Somalia. He's been confused about whether he wants more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, more NATO troops in Afghanistan, or both. He's been confused about how many U.S. troops are in Iraq. He's been confused about whether the U.S. can maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. He's been confused about Iran's relationship with al Qaeda. He's been confused about the difference between Sunni and Shi'ia. McCain, following a recent trip to Germany, even referred to "President Putin of Germany." All of this incoherence on his signature issue.

All of which, along with his economic incompetence and extremist positions on domestic issues like health care, adds up to this: McCain is a dangerous, dangerous man with anything even resembling the presidency.

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On warring

By Carol Gee

Increasing the U.S. military operations in Pakistan is a fact of life in recent months. There is increasing evidence that in recent years white supremacists have infiltrated the military in order to get combat training. There is increased suspicion among those of us who were against the war in Iraq, that the U.S. will initiate military operations in Iran before our current president leaves office. And even though increased militarism is a known fact of life since 9/11/01, it is now widely known that there are fewer veterans in Congress.

Increased militarism and yet there are fewer veterans in Congress? How can that be? This little piece titled, "The New Old American Militarism," by Robert Bateman, explains it at Intel Dump in The Washington Post.

. . . preferred defense intellectuals . . . one of my favorites is Andrew Bacevich. In my case what really awoke me to Bacevich was his earlier work, in particular one which I read while stationed in Baghdad. His 2005 book, "The New American Militarism" starkly lays out an apparent truth: The United States has become increasingly addicted to the trappings of militarism and the use of military force over time. Particularly over the past 30 years or so, this thesis has applied to both parties. But underpinning that basic assertion are some other disquieting observations, such as the idea that it has been one party in particular which has deliberately attempted to market itself as the party which supports "traditional" American trumpeting their nominal support of the military, and the fact that at some point a large number of evangelical Christians abandoned their historical role as supporters for the poor and the weak around the world, and instead also adopted a mantra which advocated support of the military and the use of force overseas.

. . . there may be a little irony in place here. "Militarism" is a behavior or set of beliefs which seems to be associated with people who have not actually been in the military. But the actual use of military force is inhibited when there are more former members of the military in Congress. Go figure.

While the U.S. military forces are drawing down in Iraq, after repeated demands from Congress, in recent months U.S. military operations into Pakistan have increased. The Guardian (9/12/08) carried an article explaining the "why?" and "how?" It was headlined, "Bush secret order to send special forces into Pakistan.*" To quote:

A secret order issued by George Bush giving US special forces carte blanche to mount counter-terrorist operations inside Pakistani territory raised fears last night that escalating conflict was spreading from Afghanistan to Pakistan and could ignite a region-wide war.

The unprecedented executive order, signed by Bush in July after an intense internal administration debate, comes amid western concern that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and its al-Qaida backers based in "safe havens" in western Pakistan's tribal belt is being lost.

Warring in Iraq and Pakistan for the past 7 and 1/2 years has increasingly stretched the military to the breaking point. Our soldiers have fought bravely, sacrificed much, and done everything we have asked of them. And so have their families. Despite badly stretched armed forces, there are increasing suspicions that the U.S. will initiate military operations in Iran before our current president leaves office. This is why. The story was carried in Iran news Jerusalem Post on 9/1/08. Titled, "Dutch intel: US to strike Iran in coming weeks,"# I quote:

The Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, has called off an operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging Iran's weapons industry due to an assessment that a US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program is imminent, according to a report in the country's De Telegraaf newspaper on Friday.

. . . The impending air-strike on Iran was to be carried out by unmanned aircraft "within weeks," the report claimed, quoting "well placed" sources.

Warring is not indicated for just everybody. There is increasing evidence that white supremacists are infiltrating the military in order to get combat training and access to weapons and explosives."The Dangerous Consequences of Recruiting Nazis to Serve in Iraq"* was a post published on 8/29/08. It comes from To quote a few ugly facts and suspicions regarding this matter:

Two years ago, the Intelligence Report revealed that alarming numbers of neo-Nazi skinheads and other white supremacist extremists were taking advantage of lowered armed services recruiting standards and lax enforcement of anti-extremist military regulations by infiltrating the U.S. armed forces in order to receive combat training and gain access to weapons and explosives.

. . . But neither Rumsfeld nor his successor, Robert Gates, enacted any sort of systemic investigation or crackdown. Military and Defense Department officials seem to have made no sustained effort to prevent active white supremacists from joining the armed forces, or to weed out those already in uniform.

Furthermore, new evidence is emerging that not only supports the Intelligence Report's findings, but also indicates the problem may have worsened since the summer of 2006, as enlistment rates continued to plummet, and the military accepted an ever-lower quality of soldier in a time of unpopular war.

. . . According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, . . "Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins,' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement." . . . The FBI report details more than a dozen investigative findings and criminal cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as active-duty personnel engaging in extremist activity in recent years.

In the future I hope to write less on warring and more on peace. That seems like a long time in the future, however.

Hat tips to regular contributors (#Jon) and ("betmo"*) for the excellent story leads.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Hagel on Palin: "She doesn't have any foreign policy credentials."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

It's our inaugural Understatement of the Day. Hoo-wah!


More Hagel: "You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don't know what you can say. You can't say anything."

Well, you can say that Palin's completely unqualified for the job, that her candidacy is a joke, an embarrassment.

Even more Hagel: "I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia.' That kind of thing is insulting to the American people.

Yes, you can say that, too, even that her very presence on a national ticket is insulting to the American people.

Still more Hagel: "I think it's a stretch to, in any way, to say that she's got the experience to be president of the United States."

Now there's your understatement of the day.

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Taxes and patriotism

By Michael J.W. Stickings

On ABC's Good Morning America today, Joe Biden said this: "It's time to be patriotic... time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut." What he was referring to was taxes. "We want to take money and put it back in the pocket of middle-class people." In other words, wealthier people should pay more than they do now, particularly after Bush's plutocratic tax cuts.

In response to the Obama-Biden proposal to lower taxes on the middle class, and to restore fiscal sanity post-Bush, McCain and others on the right are once more trotting out the old "Democrats want to tax you to death" smear. "McCain released a television ad [today] charging that Obama would increase the size of the federal government amid an economic crisis. Contending that 'a big government casts a big shadow on us all,' the ad features the image of a shadow slowly covering a sleeping baby as a narrator misstates the reach of the Obama tax proposal." [emphasis added -- full credit to the AP for getting it right and reporting the truth]

Ah, fearmongering -- trying to scare the shit out of low-information voters. The Republicans do it so well, don't they? And, in this case, it's all just a blatant lie.

And it's even coming from my friend Ed Morrissey, one of the right's brighter lights, who titles his post, "Biden: Low taxes are unpatriotic."

Really? But that's not what Biden said -- and Ed knows that (he quotes him). What Biden said was that paying less than your fair share is unpatriotic, and that the wealthy are currently doing just that. It's called a progressive tax code: the wealthy pay a little more so that those below them, particularly in the ever-more-squeezed middle, can have their tax burden lessened -- and so that there can be fiscal sanity again.

What the right doesn't understand, although I'm sure Ed does, is that there's more to patriotism than wearing a flag lapel pin and chanting "USA! USA!" at every opportunity. The Republicans this year are all about "Country First," but of course that's all a facade, a riff off the myth of McCain. What they're really all about is flag-waving to score political points and to distract voters' attention away from the issues, on which they lag well behind the Democrats.

Actually, though, as the McCain-Palin campaign is proving, what they're really all about is lying to the American people.

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We don't need another hero

By Carl

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you" -- Paul Simon

I read a fascinating essay this morning written by Paul Simon. It had originally been published upon the death of Joe Dimaggio:

A few years after "Mrs. Robinson" rose to No. 1 on the pop charts, I found myself dining at an Italian restaurant where DiMaggio was seated with a party of friends. I'd heard a rumor that he was upset with the song and had considered a lawsuit, so it was with some trepidation that I walked over and introduced myself as its composer. I needn't have worried: he was perfectly cordial and invited me to sit down, whereupon we immediately fell into conversation about the only subject we had in common.

"What I don't understand," he said, "is why you ask where I've gone. I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial, I'm a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven't gone anywhere."

I said that I didn't mean the lines literally, that I thought of him as an American hero and that genuine heroes were in short supply. He accepted the explanation and thanked me. We shook hands and said good night.

Heroes are myths.

I don't mean that if heroes didn't exist, we'd have to invent them. No, I mean that we've invented them, and in so doing, have mythologized them as human beings. We've created larger than life, fictional characters out of flesh and blood people, people with foibles and flaws just like you and me.

In Dimaggio's day, it didn't matter that he was a focus-driven, cantakerous old coot who disliked most people and tried to live a solitary life in his silence. Indeed, part of his mythos is that he avoided the spotlight, this paragon of ability and dedication. His 56 game hitting streak is likely the purest of records in sport, falling so far outside the statistical norm for the sport, as Stephen Jay Gould observed.

In Dimaggio's day, all that mattered was the public image he had, his accomplishments on the field, and what few public appearances he made, carefully controlled by his handlers. In co-operation with the sporting press, of course. They understood that America needed heroes, that heroes sold papers back then.

We were a younger country back then. We're much older now. We don't need heroes.

Or so you would think. Part of what I believe the divide is between red staters and blue staters (meaning conservatives and Democrats) centers on heroes. Red staters are determined to have heroes, no matter how flawed they may be. The trouble is, they don't seek out their own heroes. Their heroes are manufactured for them.

A hero is someone you seek out, not for their sake, but for the sake of what they've accomplished. My heroes growing up, and please forgive the heavy sports theme of this post, were Joe Namath, Tom Seaver, Muhammad Ali. They were JFK and RFK and MLK Jr.

And yes, there was Jesus and Moses and Ghandhi, too.

Could the American hockey gold medal have meant half as much if we had won in 1976 at Innsbruck or 1984 at Sarajevo? We needed the mythology, the false construct of defeating our sworn enemy on our own soil. People conveniently forget that victory took place under the Carter administration, so mythified that victory has become. People believe Reagan was already in office!

Somewhere along the way, we lost the thread of heroes. Look around you now, all you see are sympathetic eyes, searching for someone, ANYONE, to point the way ahead, to lead by example.

It is not any wonder, in my view, that our heroes today are fictional characters. Having stripped away the veneer of polite society from our news coverage, allowing our politicians and public figures to become not just clay-footed but clay-legged, -armed, and -chested, we have a need to search out those who we can look to in admiration, without reservation.

Silly Americans.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the release of movies like Star Wars, or the Indiana Jones films, or Rocky or Rambo or The Terminator, or any countless action/adventure movies came at a time when the scales of our eyes were being stripped away by partisan politics determined not to speak for the good of the nation, but for the bad of the politician it faced.

We look for purity, and find it wanting. Even now, the right looks to Sarah Palin as a beacon of "old fashioned values," conveniently forgetting that old fashioned values would have had her sitting in her kitchen preparing dinner instead of running a city into a massive debt and a state for less than two years, or would have her daughter exiled from her home town while she dropped a litter.
And conveniently ignoring that she's about as corrupt a politician as they come.

Similarly, the Democrats looked to Barack Obama for the same reasons: fresh-faced, principled stands, filled with ideas and vinegar.

Conveniently ignoring the fact that his hometown of Chicago is responsible for an awful lot of the corrupt ways that have infested our polity, and that it's impossible for a politician to come out of that untainted.

Harry Truman might have pulled it off, coming out of Kansas City
Pendergast machine, but I doubt it. I seriously doubt that this unassuming man, with little personal charisma and charm and certainly nowhere near either of those qualities as Barack Obama has, was suddenly knighted as untouchably pure.

It appears that Americans are so in need of heroes, real-life heroes, that we'll create them for ourselves.

John McCain? Hero. John Kerry? Hero, but later villified for his heroism.

Sarah Palin? Hero. Hillary Clinton? Hero, but later villified for her heroism.

We just haven't gotten around to villifying McCain/Palin, but we're working on it!

And, as
I posted below, Barack Obama, a man who genuinely worked his way up the ladder on his own merits, hero, but villified for his heroism. But McCain/Palin? Hero.

We just haven't gotten around to villifying McCain/Palin, but we're working on it!

And we will. Win, lose, or draw, McCain's accomplishments will be viewed thru the eyes now of the people who hate him the most, as will Palin's, as will Obama's, as will, eventually, Biden, altho I don't hear many people championing Biden as a hero.

Despite the fact that, indeed, he's picked himself up from tragedy and accomplished much in his life. He might actually BE a hero.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Lies, damned lies, and McCain-Palin '08

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(Via C&L.)

One campaign, so many lies:

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100% bullshit: Palin, Alaska, and energy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(From WaPo, performing a valuable service.)

McCain: "Gov. Sarah Palin "knows more about energy than probably anyone in the United States of America."

Palin: "My job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas."

The truth: "While Alaska is a leading producer of crude oil, it produces relatively little natural gas, hardly any coal and no nuclear power. Its share of oil production has been declining sharply, and the state now ranks lower than Texas and Louisiana. Alaska is the ninth-largest energy supplier in the United States, accounting for a modest 3.5 percent share of the nation's total energy production."

The bottom line: "The Republican vice presidential nominee continues to peddle bogus statistics three days after the original error was pointed out by independent fact-checkers."



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Witch hunter

By Capt. Fogg

Sarah "the Impaler" Palin attributes her political success to Pastor Muthee, a man who brags about being a witch hunter. No, I'm not joking. Muthee is a man who feels good about ruining a poor old African woman's life because she was a witch. She was a witch because she wasn't Christian and because some car accidents happened near her house.

It gets worse, but I no longer have the stomach for talking about this psychotic idiot and her familiars who babble like the spawn of the inquisition and the demented denizens of Salem.

If there is such a thing as a demon, a witch; one might expect them to talk as Palin does about destroying America, sending the heretics and gays and Jews and Muslims off to hell while the elect hole up in Alaska, speaking in tongues and convulsing on the floor. In a sane and rational country, no one could sell her as a reformer, but in this degenerate, deluded, raving, bat-shit crazy pretend democracy, millions want her to be the leader.

Watch it and weep:

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Troopergate: All the lies Palin can dream up

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From an op-ed by radio talk-show host Dan Fagan at the Anchorage Daily News:

The governor has given so many different reasons for firing Monegan I've lost count. From the "we need new direction" and "new energy" to "he wasn't hiring enough cops," to "he wasn't doing enough about alcohol in the bush" to "he lobbied for budget increases" to the latest version, which is a doozy; Monegan displayed "egregious rogue behavior."

The governor also originally said that neither she, Todd nor anyone from her administration pressured Monegan regarding Trooper Wooten. Palin then was forced to admit there was serial contact once the Frank Bailey tape surfaced. But she insisted she was just learning of it. But e-mails have surfaced detailing Palin complaining to Monegan about Wooten.

The governor also originally said an investigation was needed and promised to cooperate. Then she instructed her employees not to talk to the investigator and has herself refused to be interviewed.

Palin can't constantly change her story and expect us to believe her each time she does.

And Fagan's a conservative Republican! "As conservatives, we are no better unless we demand full disclosure from our governor when it comes to Troopergate. No politician is so popular and charismatic that they should be above accountability and telling the truth. Not even Sarah Palin."


But will Palin be held accountable? Will the truth come out? Not if McCain, Palin, and the Republican Party can help it. As Newsweek's Michael Isikoff is reporting, "[a] former top Justice Department prosecutor now working for John McCain's presidential campaign has been helping to direct an aggressive legal strategy aimed at shutting down [the Troopergate] investigation."

For more, see Progressive Alaska.

(My previous posts on Troopergate are here and here.)

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Capitalism, regulation, and stupidity

By Michael J.W. Stickings


The Absurdity of CNBC

The entire financial system is practically collapsing and they're lamenting the possibility of more regulation. I don't think the sports/referee metaphor is perfect, but it's probably good enough. People who prattle on about "the free market" are usually too stupid to have a clue how complicated and pervasive the "rules" had to be to get a well-functioning modern market system: sophisticated concepts of contracts and enforcement, property rights, legal entities, proper accounting, bankruptcy, limited liability, etc... etc..., did not descend from the heavens but were, in fact, created.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The case for Biden

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Okay, enough with the Palin-centrism for a moment -- or at least for this post. (Although I will continue to make the case that Americans deserve to know the truth about Sarah Palin, I've certainly been caught up on the whole Palinpalooza phenomenon, if on the highly critical side of it.) There is, after all, a genuinely admirable and qualified person who was tapped as a major-party running mate, and of course that's Joe Biden. I made the case for him a while ago, back before Obama picked him, but, with all the attention on Palin, and with McCain surging (for lack of a better word) out of the convention on Palin's instant celebrity-status among Republicans and with the media, Biden has been a forgotten and seemingly invisible figure these past couple of weeks (seems longer, but a couple of weeks are a long time in politics).

I've been meaning to write another pro-Biden post, but, for now, I want to point you to a
good post on Biden by Jason Zengerle over at The Plank. Like Jason, I still think Biden was the right pick (although, yes, I can make the case for Hillary, too, as I did back then), and he explains the current dynamic well:

[T]he truth is, there's no one Obama could have picked as his running mate--save maybe for George Clooney--who could have won the battle for attention with Palin over these last few weeks. Even Hillary Clinton -- the preferred veep choice among many of Biden's harshest critics, including one HuffPost-er who's urging Obama to dump Biden for her now -- would have been swamped by Palinpalooza. Sure, the press would have paid attention to Hillary initially, but once she demonstrated that she had no interest in engaging in a "cat fight" with Palin, reporters would have turned their full attention back to the newbie from Alaska. Her story is simply too fresh -- and too weird -- for them to ignore.

At least for now. As the campaign goes on and Palin becomes a more familiar figure, the Palin bubble is likely to deflate. Indeed, you can already see Palin fatigue setting in among voters, with her
favorability ratings plunging over the last week. And the moment Palin stops selling magazines or boosting TV ratings or generating page views, you can bet the press will go back to covering her the same way they cover an American Idol winner who isn't making news with a "platonic baby-making partner" -- in other words, not that much. (When was the last time you heard much about Ruben Studdard?)

And that's when the advantages of the Biden pick will come more clearly into focus. Because even the Obama campaign's description of that pick as a "governing decision" is, of course, political posturing. Yes, Biden doesn't have the celebrity wattage of Palin, but in the midst of an economic crisis and two wars, it's likely that voters are ultimately not going to be making their pick on star power.

Let's hope so. Palin's story is still weird, and worse, but the freshness has worn off. Meanwhile, as Jason points out, Biden "gave 54 interviews or press conferences" to Palin's one (with Charlie Gibson) in the two weeks after her nomination.

In short, Biden's out there, campaigning on the issues, proving that he is more than qualified for the job.

In addition to his regular campaigning and appearances on the network and cable news shows, I would like to see him make some high-profile speeches at some high-profile events with some high-profile supporters -- say, with Hillary on women's and economic issues -- but, regardless, as the race goes on, voters will start not just to pay attention to what's going on but to get serious about what is at stake in this election, to take the candidates and what they stand for seriously, to look to the candidates for serious solutions to America's problems, to their own problems, including the mess that is the economy and its impact on their daily lives.

It is Biden, not Palin, who has the stature, experience, and expertise to speak directly to the concerns of voters, to show leadership in a time of crisis, to be taken seriously, and to win the confidence of voters.

It has been Palin's time. It will soon be Biden's. Obama made the right pick, the serious pick. Unless the media refuse to take this election seriously and continue to promote Palinpalooza, we will soon see why.

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Greed is God

By Carl

Much of this week, hell, much of this year, has been about the coming economic disaster, which appears is
now arriving on Track 13.

It got me to thinking a little about the capitalist system and its built-in, inherent flaw. Hell, it's such an obvious flaw that it boggles the mind that a rational people would choose it for their economy. Even Adam Smith saw it coming and warned against it.

Laissez-faire capitalism can loosely be defined as each person acting in his own interest contributes to the benefit of society at large.

For the large part, this system works pretty well: it's simple, easy to implement, and eventually, all people can benefit from truly free markets.

The one flaw in the ointment, the thing that ultimately Smith warned us on, is, well, greed. I mean, it's right there in the first part of that equation: A person's self-interest.

Implicit in that statement, of course, is the question "Which self-interest?" After all, one can be greedy to the point that it no longer is in one's self-interest. Think about Ebenezer Scrooge.

The assumption Smith made in his time was that man would remain ultimately a polite creature, fair and impartial, and more to the point, powerless over his fellow man (except for nobility, royalty and slavers).

In other words, business would remain small and personal. Indeed, his specific warning was against business combinations that would tend to unduly influence a market.

In fact, despite
Republican tendencies otherwise, he insisted on government regulation in markets to assure that companies would remain beholden to the market, to the customer, and to society.

What we have witnessed over the past eight years is one of the least regulated markets in world history. Even the Romans, no socialist society, had the decent sense to keep the overseers at least nominally independent of the overseen!

The systematic deregulation, either de jure or de facto by ignoring regulatory oversight or simply paying lip service to it (SEC chairman: "Say, you boys over there at Bear Stearns aren't doing anything I should know about, are you?" *wink-wink*), of the Bush administration was teasing the tiger with a thick steak on the wrong side of a short fence. It was asking for trouble. It was practically BEGGING for it.

Combined with the recent hard-line business attitude that economic royalists have taken since at least the Reagan administration (another Republican), which has seen huge companies overthrown because any shlub with a sufficient credit line thought he could squeeze more shareholder value out of the company than current ownership, and you have a deadly combination.

Management at corporations have had to genuflect to the shareholders, but those shareholders have tended more and more to focus on the short-term quarterly profit than the more nebulous, less objective, "value of the company".

The "self-interest", if you will. As companies have gotten bigger and bigger and more out of touch with their customers and the community, we've seen less and less accountability, less and less care, on the part of the corporation.

Which I think may have been Adams' point: business combinations, whether in the form of conglomerates, mergers, or even simply a gathering of minds at the watering hole on a Friday night to split up a market, mean less attention is paid to the business at hand: providing society with the benefits it deserves from putting up with the plunder of capitalists.

Smith, in other words, believed that so long as people could remain human, capitalism would always be in balance with the rest of society.

And yet, we've all seen that this was not the case, and in my estimation, could never have been the case: Greed is a powerful intoxicant.

That may be why it is one of the seven deadly sins. Which now brings us to the message at hand for today.

I've often wondered how capitalism can exist in a society that considers itself Christian.

Indeed, for the first two thousand years, give or take a couple of centuries, Christianity banned capitalism, on the grounds that earning money on money or charging more for a good than what it cost, was a form of usury, which is barred in the Old Testament.

In 1635, a Massachussetts man was convicted of "greed"...yes, it was a crime!...because he earned 6% on his sales, which was 2% more than the law allowed.

A law! About greed! Unthinkable today!

Christ himself warned against the accumulation of wealth. You might recall the "camel thru the eye of the needle" parable.

We see that Christianity is antithetical, even hostile, towards Christianity and vice versa. Why?

Because Christianity is about your fellow man, and capitalism is about, well, taking that fellow to the cleaners. Capitalism is soulless, godless and worships nothing so much as efficiency, the more ruthless, the better.

That's not me saying that. That's the damn system, which rewards short term efficiencies, even if it means breaking the law or the covenants of society, in order to squeeze one more dollar out of a transaction.

Greed pervades the system. Greed is inherent in the homeowner who borrows more money that he can realistically afford to pay back, because he's certain the value of his home will increase exponentially, and that value is his nest egg for retirement.

Greed is inherent in the banker who finances that mortgage, who knows that when the house of cards falls down people are going to get hurt, but he can justify the month's loan activity to his regional office with increases, not decreases, only.

Greed is inherent in the broker who bundles that mortgage along with countless others in a resaleable bite-size package to a series of investors looking to make money off other people's pains. The idea was to diversify the risk, to take the mortgages off the banks' books and to hand the risk over to other people who needed to balance their portfolios, but you know what happened: everyone jumped into the game and soon not enough good mortgages were floating around, so people just effectively packaged "junk mortgage bonds" and passed them off as AAA credits.

Greed, in other words: squeeze them for every buck you can get.

Greed is inherent in the municipalities, states and even the Federal Government, who all benefit from higher home values and balance their budgets on the backs of the greedy in the form of property taxes and the income taxes upon sale or disposal of the property, as the greedy homeowner climbs the social ladder to his McMansion built on his veery own McCloud in the McSky.

Do none of these people, for there must be a whole lot of crossover here, listen in church when the minister or priest talks about the evils of greed?

I've always believed that America, being somewhat psychotic in this regard, should make a choice: God or mammon.

If you're going to choose God, then turn communist. Communism and Christianity are perfectly suited to each other: to each according to his needs, from each according to his ability dovetails nicely with love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek.

If you're going to choose mammon, money, then drop the fucking pretense of being godly. It insults my God and it's silly on its face. I mean, seriously, is there a stupider sight than to see John McCain shocked, SHOCKED, to find there's no one minding the store?

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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