Saturday, August 30, 2008
CONVENTION OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTS
Sometimes one is ready for political pundit commentary, and sometimes one is not. Pundits often give a good speech a bad aftertaste. Americans have developed an unhealthy reliance on the media to tell them what to think.
Obama picked well in naming Joe Biden as his vice-presidential running mate. He brings experience and sound knowledge to the ticket.
The speeches given by the party leaders and dignitaries were informative and inspirational. Ted Kennedy was an inspiration himself just by summoning the strength to address the convention with such vigor.
The Clintons contributed eloquently toward a healing of factions and party unity, as well as by enunciating key party tenets. John Kerry and Al Gore came through strong. It was easy to see why each had at one time been the party standard-bearer. The Montana governor gave us a taste of good old fashioned politics and humor.
Michelle Obama’s speech, and the films presented, should dispel any impression on reasonable people made by the dirty e-mails labeling him a foreigner, a Muslim, un-American, and not patriotic. He was dramatically portrayed as a family man of principle and with social conscience.
Despite efforts by McCain, his party, and his “swift-boat” corps to define Obama otherwise, he came through clearly as one of us – only brighter and more articulate. Like Bill Clinton, and unlike the opposing candidate, he impressed us as one who “feels our pain.”
It has been difficult for the Militant Moderate to grasp why there would be such a large number of folk who supposedly say they don’t know Obama, according to commentators. Where have these people been? Don’t they read anything except comic books, political trash, or Rupert Murdock’s Wall Street Journal? Don’t they watch any news channels except Murdock’s Fox?
After long and tantalizing suspense, McCain’s careful and agonizing selection process has yielded a bizarre result. That such a gestation period and painful process should bring forth an unknown without credentials is appalling. Pundits are now falling all over themselves trying to conjure up and attribute some kind of logic to his choice.
Some say he is trying to lure Hillary’s voters. Well, we have news for him. We knew Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton was an ideological friend of ours.
And, she is no Hillary Clinton.
Anyone interested in national security and the welfare of the country would expect an old man with recurring cancer to know better. Of all people since Ronald Reagan, he should most of all have a qualified back-up. Some are saying he has shown disrespect for the nation.
I imagine we will soon find out something about this unknown governor of a poorly populated state. It may not be a lot since she has so little experience of consequence.
We do know that she was elected by the same republican party voters there that just elected Ted Stevens again, a republican incumbent indicted for corruption and bribery, as its party nominee for another senate term. Surely that is no recommendation for her.
We hear that she is under investigation for firing a state administrator who refused to discharge her former brother-in-law divorced from her sister. More is sure to come on that. If so, then she should fit right in with the Bush/Cheney bunch now stonewalling against charges of political corruption of the country’s district attorney system, as well having been taken to court for vindictive actions against Valerie Plame because of her husband.
We do not look forward to the week to come, since it brings with it another convention. Nevertheless, we shall dutifully watch the significant parts of that convention as well. If they present good arguments, then we should hear those. If they repeat the time-worn lines of right wing ideology, then we shall turn them off.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Sunday, August 24, 2008
OBAMA CAMPAIGN ENERGIZED
Obama’s campaign has seemed to lack energy lately. Perhaps it didn’t, but the media made it appear so. With McCain hitting in short, concise bursts of criticism suitable for sound bites, and Obama replying more at length, there was a disparity in point coverage.
The event sponsored by church of the fundamentalist religious leader, Rick Warren, was something of a fiasco. Warren either lied or was misinformed about McCain not being in the building and in a “cone of silence” as stated. McCain appeared coached. A cloud of suspicion hangs over the event, similar to that about the ages of those Chinese girl gymnasts.
McCain’s answers appeared to be rehearsed, while Obama tended to give a more thoughtful discourse. Evaluations depended upon the kind of voters answering the polls. There are those voters who prefer quick, simple answers to all problems, even if wrong. Others prefer more thoughtful answers that recognize the complexity of issues.
As witness to the above, look at the favorable public response to McCain’s “drill here, drill now” exclamations, even though such action will make no difference in oil supplies or prices for ten years and then only a negligible effect.
This writer was advised several times when he was young, “You can’t reason with a drunk or a fool.” The staccato of McCain’s diversionary, false, and misleading criticisms have been honored by next day responses involving reasoning and logic. As a result, Obama has been losing momentum with some of the voters on the street.
Joe Biden has shown himself capable of handling such distortions, and exposing the weaknesses in the opposition. Immediately he called out candidate McCain on his use of “swift-boat style” dirty campaign tactics he had once deplored.
From this corner, Senator Biden is an excellent choice for vice-president. He will call a shovel a spade in language the working class person understands, while Obama may tend to describe the design and purpose of the shovel.
“How many homes do you and your wife own?” Candidate McCain’s response to the question will haunt him throughout this election. It lends credence to Edwards’ campaign theme of “two different worlds,” and McCain does not live in the same world as most of us.
Candidate McCain lives in the world of those persons with wealth whom he seeks to protect with his tax policies. All the time he is pointing to crowds of ordinary republicans, and TV audiences of all kinds of people, telling them, “Obama wants to raise your taxes!” He knows that is not true.
Perhaps those voters who claim to care about family values will pay some attention to the personal conduct and values shown in the lives of Obama and Biden versus the ticket on the other side. The contrast should be bothersome to them.
Candidate McCain tries hard to keep from assuming the mantle of the republican administration he hopes to take over. His opponents should never let him escape his responsibility as a republican and supporter of the policies of the last eight years. Neither should voters let republicans in Congress escape that responsibility.
What do these responsibilities include other than the misbegotten war based upon lies and the fiscal and moral wreck of the country? Let us not forget the attempt to destroy Social Security through privatizing. Let us not forget the shaping of Medicare to benefit pharmaceutical company supporters of their party. Let us not forget siding with insurance companies against health care for children from families with limited income.
Let us not forget the energy policies written by Vice President Cheney and his oil cronies, including subsidies and favors, high prices, and windfall profits. Let us not forget republicans killing efforts to tax the hedge funds and private equity funds operated by billionaires.
Let us not forget the shipping of jobs overseas, and the failure of corporations to pay their taxes. How about those profitable “no bid” contracts for crony companies in Iraq? Should we mention wounded vets in squalor, prisoner torture, politicizing the U.S. attorney system, or some other things?
These and other “do not forgets,” which will no doubt be prominently featured during the democrat convention. Candidates running as republicans should not be allowed to disavow now the actions and proposals of their own party leaders, or their votes of support.
McCain, who says he supported President Bush more than 95% of the time, should not be allowed to distance himself from that to run in the guise of a maverick.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Sunday, August 17, 2008
GLOBALIZATION HAS LIMITS
But we citizens have been encouraged to think internationally. This is clear in our country’s diplomacy, our policies of military interventionism, our trade agreements and the like.
Unfortunately, this world view has led us into various military alliances, the principal one being a highly expanded NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). More and more we have assumed the role of international policeman.
We have made more and more international political obligations which put us into a position of promising military aid and intervention in remote areas and in new nations which are not culturally or historically akin to us, or even to our traditional European allies.
During certain periods of our history, we have been warned by conservative leaders who remind us of President George Washington’s admonition in his farewell address: “Beware of entangling foreign alliances.” We wonder if this is not a good time to recall such advice.
World War I was begun after the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in the Serbian capital of Sarajevo. The aligned dominoes of treaty entanglements led every major nation in Europe into a disastrous conflagration.
Having been critical of President Bush for his costly Iraq adventure into interventionism, we must now offer laurels for his relying on diplomacy in the current situation between Russia and its former province of Georgia. As some of our friends would say, “We don’t have a dog in that fight!”
It must be difficult for our president to talk out of two sides of his mouth, criticizing Russia’s military incursion into a bordering former province while defending his own invasion of another clearly sovereign nation in a strange part of the world. Nevertheless, we applaud him for his current restraint. We do suggest he not trap himself by talking too much.
It should be clear to everybody now that Americans do not take positively to foreign wars protecting other people’s rights or other people’s governments. Our criterion for war involves our own national interest being clearly at stake with an obvious and present danger. No more esoteric smoke and mirror explanations like stopping communism, fighting terrorists, or people threatening us in some obscure way.
American ground forces are no longer feared by those who are tempted toward international criminality. Our forces are bogged down and exhausted in Iraq. We have naval and air power, however, that should be recognized as a threat anywhere on the globe.
While one of our candidates for president is focused on Iraq and only secondarily on Afghanistan, the other is focused primarily on a military build-up in the latter country. A few free-thinking Americans are now beginning to question whether either is correct.
This may soon become an open dispute. We hope so.
Afghanistan has a government formed from a coalition of tribes who fought to run the Taliban leaders out of the country. They are still deep in tribalism. If the people there will not support a representational government, and if they want their religious autocracy back, then they are likely to get what they want regardless of our efforts to the contrary.
We do not see the wisdom of taking on another nation-building project costly in American lives and substance. We did not accomplish our basic goal in going there as far as bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. But secondarily, we did punish the Taliban for harboring the guy.
Now, we are trying to shore up a weak government and kill the poppy fields which the rural peasants depend upon as their money crop. This was not our mission.
Meanwhile, Osama is off in the hill country of Pakistan, among friendly folk, carrying on a primitive but communicative lifestyle. We are harassing him with helicopters and drones.
This reminds us of Bill Clinton’s earlier response with a missile attack on Osama’s base camp after Al Qaeda’s embassy and Cole attacks. We missed getting him by a matter of hours. But this was clearly a type of response preferable to organizing a huge army, invading the country, and then forgetting why we are there.
People should begin to convey to our presidential candidates that the people of America are tired of foreign wars, especially if these are presidential adventures and not declared in the manner prescribed by our Constitution. We are tired of international conflicts in which our national interests require complex explanation and justification.
Some entangling alliance of questionable wisdom with a government in some far part of the planet is not a sufficient reason for our becoming involved in a world conflagration.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Monday, August 11, 2008
T. BOONE MAY BE RIGHT
From polls of American citizens, it would appear that most of us favor careful exploration of off-shore oil deposits. Candidate Obama has come around to that view – if such an enactment is combined with other more effective programs to develop long range alternative energy sources.
Nevertheless, it is clear that off-shore drilling will NOT solve our oil import problem, and that it will take ten years for that to make even an insignificant contribution to oil supplies. Why, then, is this being made a big political issue by candidate McCain? Obviously, it is a part of an effort to frighten the voters about it, and an attempt to discredit his opponent.
But we probably ought to go ahead and allow a cautious start with off-shore drilling, and consider some other locations as well. Oil companies must first show they are actually drilling in presently available locations. And, no tax breaks and no subsidies please. Get rid of those now in the law.
T. Boone Pickens declares, “We cannot drill our way out of this crisis!” That sounds truthful and honest to this writer.
If T. Boone is right, and we think he is, then we ought to give immediate, serious consideration to his positive proposals. His acceleration in investing personally in wind energy production is part of an encouraged nationwide movement. It is already working in generating electricity. It will continue to work in the future.
Moving electricity generated in the wind belt to high consumption areas is another problem, however. Pickens calls for all governmental bodies to step out now to acquire the right-of-way for transmission corridors and build the infrastructure. Failing actually building transmission lines and facilities, he asks government to clear the legal path and provide incentives for private companies to do so.
This writer has not necessarily been a fan of T. Boone Pickens, but when he is right -- he is right!
Pickens ideas for making compressed natural gas available at service stations, and conversion kits ready for automobiles to use it, seems sound as well. Enough progress could be made on this approach to bring some relief to the gasoline market within 3 to 5 years.
If presently plentiful natural gas could fill a gap in oil for a couple of decades, then other technologies could take over for a more permanent solution.
But if it is not government mandated, then neither the oil companies nor the car companies will get it done. They seem to like things the way they are.
There are, of course, other methods and other technologies for bringing renewable energy to the market. Most of these take a while. Some, like ethanol, have backlashes on food prices or on the economy.
An obvious method for conserving millions of gallons of gasoline immediately is lowering of the speed limits for fuel economy. Some experts say this would save more fuel per year now than all the proposed off-shore and Alaska drilling could produce annually ten years hence.
This immediate action seems to be entirely off the political planning tables. Do you suppose that is because it is not popular with voters? How badly do we really want to solve this problem?
We should do right now what we can do. Boone Pickens has some good ideas. There are other good ideas. Let’s get on with it.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate
Friday, August 01, 2008
PROLETARIAN VS. ELITIST
A proletarian is a member of the lower economic class. Typically the proletarian has only his labor to offer to economic productivity. He does not own producing assets, such as factories or equipment, nor does he own much in the way of capital shares.
Although there has been a trend toward more share ownership in America, typically this is through retirement and mutual funds over which the shareholder normally has no voting control over his own assets. More of us are proletarians because wealth and income is consistently being shifted to a smaller percentage of us.
Taxes no longer serve the function of “redistribution of wealth,” as earlier economists once envisioned the role of government in a capitalistic system, because the wealthier class has gained the political power to change that to protect not only higher income but investment gains on wealth and then inherited wealth. Further, they have convinced most of us now that this is fully their right.
This trend has typically led to a kind of economic serfdom throughout the world’s history of capitalistic societies. Witness the turmoil of the last century in Latin America, where the assets (land) became concentrated among the wealthy and ordinary citizens lived in poverty.
As we have seen, such economic trends lead to revolutions, violence, and often the political outcome is not democracy, but the rule of a dictatorship of a proletarian based strong-man. We have seen this recently in places like Venezuela.
Our “more perfect union” is not exempt from historical penalties.
We know well, as far back as the French Revolution in 1789, that proletarians will rebel against an unjust economic and political system. The French philosophers wrote compelling works dispelling the divine rights of kings and the ruling nobility. These works logically and ethically justified such a revolution in a civilized society.
Following the works of the French writers and an English philosopher-writer, John Locke, who had similar views, Thomas Jefferson penned the draft of the Declaration of Independence. Even though Jefferson was a land-owner and a slave-owner, he wrote in the interest of proletarians with great logic and skill.
While Jefferson likely did not have in mind the proletarian “Citizen” or “Comrade” concept popularized by the Bolsheviks, he did write beautifully of the rights of citizens to have a government which protected their divinely granted human rights.
America has already gone too far in allowing the growing gulf of separation of a social and economic elite from the middle class, and the demotion of many in the middle class into a lower echelon. This has been done by maintaining political, as well as economic, control of the country.
This problem has not been addressed at all by the Republican Party. They refuse to see the problem. Their financial supporters benefit by what is occurring.
Democrats have addressed the problem, but not forcefully enough. They have been unable to communicate the seriousness of this economic trend at the level of understanding of the average citizen.
We are not advocating “class warfare,” although we may be so accused. Under ordinary conditions, there is a natural tension between the interests of different economic and social strata. Under conditions which favor exacerbated inequities, conflict is almost inevitable.
The concentration of media ownership, the abandonment of any kind of fairness doctrine, failure to pass laws for public financing of campaigns while restricting other money, failure to enforce any standard of truthfulness – all these have allowed the stench of corruption from money to spoil most of our politics.
Let us repeat: Money has corrupted politics.
Through money and the current media system, the wealthy are able to manipulate public opinion and voter views. This has allowed the economic establishment to maintain its level of control, write the rules of law in their interest, and give themselves tax breaks and subsidies at public expense.
Political money is the basic reason that it so hard to change the rules of the system, no matter which party is in charge. But more equity tends to occur under democrat administrations while business still flourishes.
Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate