Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bailouts And Bombs

The markets continue to fall, and the Fed exercises its right to spend our tax dollars on bailing-out zillionaires. I've been having a hard time keeping track of who is and isn't getting a bail-out with each new announcement. What I do know is this: it's going to be more than $700billion now, it's allegedly directly targeted at stabilizing the home real estate market (finally someone noticed the instigating market of the whole crisis), and is somehow going to do this without the government procuring subprime mortgages. I'm not at all clear on how that last trick is supposed to work (if you are, please post in the comments and enlighten me). The Big Three automakers are also poised to get a bail-out, so they can continue to manufacture cars nobody wants. Apparently it's a point of national pride that those companies continue to exist, because Japanese and German companies are rumored to be quite willing to buy the manufacturing capacity and keep the jobs here in order to expand their own operations (and presumably get their hands on the one thing Detroit still does best: light and medium trucks for the commercial market).

Meanwhile, across the globe, attrocious terrorist attacks hit Mumbai, India's financial and cultural capital. Claims range from 80-100 are dead and upwards of 300 wounded, and hostages are and were being held at two major hotels, and a residential complex with Jewish residents and a Jewish prayer hall. Accounts vary as to whether the attackers are from the previously unknown Deccan Mujahedeen from India, or are Pakistani nationals. If the latter (or if the "Deccan Mujahedeen" is really the allegedly ISI-funded "Indian Mujahedeen"), Pakistan's politically unreliable ISI and the ultra-extremists they underwrite may once again have nudged India and Pakistan closer to war, and thus the world closer to hosting a nuclear war, and for what? And since Indian Police officials, government officials, and foreign businesspeople were specifically targeted, it remains to be seen what kind of a response India's security and military apparatus will put in place once the immediate threat has been neutralized. As for the lunatics who perpetrated these crimes, whatever legitimate grievances they may think they have, once they resort to terrorism, they taint their own cause. Terrorists (unless they are killing Israelis, in which case widespread antisemitism disguised as some kind of faux-outrage at Israel behaving like pretty much every other nation-state in the world gives their cause a popularity boost) turn world opinion against whatever issue their footsolidiers were supposedly recruited for. But that's just the recruitment lies, just like we have our own recruitment lies for our military. The ultimate analysis is always the same: whatever the supporters believe, the leaders are always after the same goal -- power for themselves. The leaders want exactly what they're getting, which is fear, chaos, the driving of a wedge between people, and fueling of the fires of hatred, so that Democratic societies might fall apart and leave behind feudalistic feifdoms for these extremist leaders to control. Afghanistan under the Taliban is the prototype here, and it's obviously all about power and control, because Afghanistan under the Taliban had absolutely nothing except for some desperate people for self-indulgent, power-mad warlords to rule over.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another Exciting First

General Ann Dunwoody became the Army's first woman four-star General. As women can not yet serve in ground combat roles, Gen. Dunwoody was promoted through her service as a logistics officer. Here's hoping that this first, along with other changes in military culture, lead to increased exposure for female servicepeople, and a general review of how women are treated in our armed forces -- with an eye towards redressing and preventing recurrence of the kinds of abuses that have been perpetuated against women in uniform.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Today's Absurd News

Sarah Palin says she'd be honored to help Obama. Thank you, Governor. You already did.
Palin, McCain (still loyal to his party), and others are already talking about her as the headliner on the Republican ticket in four years. According to CNN, 77% of Republicans polled support this idea. Apparently, given all the polls showing her as a negative during this campaign, she is also anxious to help Obama get re-elected. Again, thank you.

Now, enough with the Palin stories. Who cares? Obama is President now, and his personal story, as well as his upcoming challenges, is much, much bigger news.

As for Obama, given all the problems he has to tackle as President, the media has apparently decided that choosing and naming his kids' dog is what constitutes headline news. It's less than two weeks since election mania, and one of the most momentous occasions in U.S. history, and already the media is back to reporting on nonsense.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans' Day

One Week Later

Now that I've had a weekend away, and the euphoria of the Obama victory is starting to wear off, I've come back to my senses and realized just how screwed up the country really is right now. As one friend of mine put it: "Now that the idiot is finally gone, we can get on with hating this guy now." Obama and his administration will have a lot to deal with, and all eyes will be on his administration to get it right, and do it quickly, in a bi-partisan manner, and without making life difficult for Joe Citizen. Good luck. Any of the usual shortcomings found at the beginning of any administration will be magnified by hopes that have reached stratospheric heights.

Market indices continue to plummet as the financial news reports daily fears of a recession. (Exactly how long can so-called professional traders "fear" something that is already here?) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to drain the national coffers, and no concrete goal is in sight. (Exactly how long can so-called professional leaders fight a "war" with no definitive objectives?) Meanwhile, problems like social security, health care, infrastructure, energy independence, and so on continue to languish. (Apparently so-called professional legislators can achieve deadlock on those issues for exactly forever.)

I continue to drink the hope Kool-Aid because, after all, an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama (of all names) was elected the freakin' President of the United States, which is still unbelievably amazing. But, Team Obama definitely has their work cut out for them. While their Kennedyesque plan of trying to enlist all Americans to ask what they can do for their country is laudable, I am not sure that Americans of 2008 are as ready to heed that call as Americans of 1961 were. The Me-Generation decades have given us the reputation of being selfish, lazy, entitled, and hypocritical. I hope that reputation will prove to be undeserved, but we won't really know until after January 20th, when the Obamanation is truly in-effect, and sixty-six million Americans need to help President Obama put their money where their votes were.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Republicans In The Cabinet?

Obama and/or his staffers have mentioned Colin Powell as Secretary of State, and keeping Paulson in Treasury. I'm not sure of the wisdom of either of those choices, given that while they may be skilled in their areas of expertise, and moderate aisle-crossers by personality, they both participated in some disastrous Bush miscalculations. Robert Gates, Dick Lugar and Chuck Hagel have also been mentioned, by the Obama team, with Gates possibly intended to stay on in a National Security capacity (hopefully not as Secretary of Defense, though).

Several commentators have also mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'm not sure what our Governator would bring to the table beyond star power. He hasn't been an especially effective California executive (he hasn't been incompetent, either, but he has been arrogant and Machiavellian at times). The pundits feel Arnie has unique talents related to the environment, but I'm not entirely sure what the basis of this claim is, and I'm one of more politically engaged constituents (he's a moderate who changed his platform to conform to the prevailing attitudes in California -- politically shrewd, and I approve, but he's not exactly an environmental visionary).

The (former) Republican who Obama really could make use of is New York's Michael Bloomberg. A talented executive in his own right, Bloomberg is a moderating force who has handled the unruly New York polity generally with aplomb, and who did a pretty good job cleaning up after the mess and smoothed over the acrimony left by eight years of Giuliani. In addition to his level head and clearly proven ability to work across party lines, Bloomberg's financial expertise will also be much needed in the coming administration. Mike Bloomberg would make an excellent Treasury Secretary.

Other moderate Republicans (and ex-Republican Independents) kicking around the political landscape include former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee (now an Independent), former NY Governor George Pataki, Maine Senators Snowe and Collins, and former Connecticut Governor Lowell Weicker (also now an Independent).

However, all this media discussion about Republicans in the Cabinet raises the question: what about Democrats in the Cabinet? The big question there is: will anything be offered to Hillary Clinton or is her reputation too poisonous in terms of building a moderate coalition that includes Republicans, and if something is offered, will she accept it? So far, the only Democratic name I've heard mentioned by the broadcast media is Rahm Emanuel as a candidate for Chief of Staff. I'd like to see Bill Richardson and Wesley Clark (as Secretary of Defense) in the Cabinet, though I doubt Richardson would accept because former Cabinet members rarely go on to be President and I suspect Governor Richardson still has that possibility in mind. Ed Rendell is another popular, capable Democratic Governor who is probably not interested owing to his own career as a political executive.

Former Democratic Primary candidates are also interesting possibilities. Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel are both highly experienced politicians whose time for Presidential bids may be past, and who would make very competent Cabinet Secretaries. John Edwards, already shortlisted for VP, is likely to be considered for some position (maybe A.G.). Kucinich would be interesting, but his personality is considered sufficiently unruly, and his stands sufficiently far Left, that I doubt anyone would consider him seriously.

Our highly experienced and competent 7th District Representative, George Miller, could be interesting as a Secretary of Labor, Education or the Interior (all issues he's worked on in Congress). While I had once hoped Eliot Spitzer would be U.S.A.G. some day, he committed career suicide, leaving behind Mark Green and Andrew Cuomo to fight for the job. Cuomo won, but Mark Green has had a following in NY for a long time, and many of us were disappointed by his failure to advance farther in NY politics. I personally feel it was because Green was not enough of a machine politician, and it would be fantastic to see Mark Green involved in a Change and Hope Cabinet, even if only as an Undersecretary or an Assistant A.G.

Mainly, I'd like to see some Californians and New Yorkers involved in an Obama Cabinet. These two great states deserve to have some representation in the Cabinet, as they are first and third in the nation by population and GDP, have produced some highly competent and popular politicians, and consistently vote Democratic.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Anti-Gay-Marriage Amendment Debases All Californians

Many of my gay friends are posting this banner (or ones like it):

My own marriage is not threatened by Proposition 8, though as it is an interracial marriage, it only exists because Civil Rights activists of the past few generations fought a long, hard battle against one kind of prejudice. It's a shame that many of their constituents, having emerged from being victims of extreme prejudice, decided to use their vote to take away Civil Rights from and enforce prejudice upon another minority group. Homophobia (along with Islamophobia and Athiestophobia) is one of the last great "acceptable" prejudices in America.

The passage of Proposition 8 has done nothing whatsoever to protect traditional marriage, it has only served to enshrine prejudice in the California Constitution and bitterly divide the people of the state (after all, it is a very close vote). Proposition 8 not only fails to "protect" traditional marriage, as it was never under attack to begin with, but it makes marriage continue to be a privilege denied certain minorities, rather than a right shared by all. I feel that it therefore lessens marriage by retaining it as a discriminatory institution of majority privilege, serving to differentiate one segment of the population as a disenfranchised minority rather than being a universally available contract of commitment and responsibility between two adult individuals and the state.

I hope that in my lifetime the vestiges of this archaic pseudo-morality about homosexuality will crumble away, and people will focus on the parts of faith traditions that have positive, practical merit, such as: human fellowship, compassion, charity, and justice.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Proud To Be An American

Yes We Did!

Today I am again proud to be an American. Our collective rejection of four more years of Bushlike Republican control of the Presidency makes me think that perhaps there is something to these Reagan comparisons people keep making: it really is a new day for America. Obama's message of change and hope resonated with a public tired of more of the same failed Neocon policies. I don't think he's perfect, but the Democrats ran a better race, had a better platform, and fielded better candidates -- and the best ticket won.

And while some claim that race was not an important issue, or should not be, I only partially agree. It wasn't why I voted for Obama. And race alone has no bearing on someone's qualifications for office. But I think that the historic choice of a "black" President is a real turning point in race relations in this country. This repudiation of racism is proof positive that the American experiment really does apply to people of all ethnicities, races and creeds. What this should say to anti-black racists is that African Americans are capable of great achievement, and what it should say to anti-white racists is that European Americans are not trying to hold-back or be "out to get" non-whites. Obama could not have won without white voters. Final demographics are not yet in, but the math is obvious, and to quote from an analysis of earlier polls: "Barack Obama is drawing more support from white voters than any Democratic presidential nominee since Jimmy Carter in 1976." These facts hopefully will lead to a real new day for relations between the races in our country.

Here's hoping that the next four (eight!) years of an Obama Presidency are as good for this country as this election has been.

Disappointed To Be (Almost) A Californian

Despite having lived in California for nearly ten years, I've always vacillated between trying to embrace being a Californian and accepting that I'll always be a New Yorker living in California. I was raised in New York, and having spent all my formative years there I suppose I forever will be a New Yorker by personality. Yet, there are so many things I love about my adopted state: natural beauty, agriculture that produces some of the world's best food, cultural diversity, the high-tech and media industries, and many other great things. My embrace of my adopted state is strong enough that not only do I have no plans to leave any time soon, but that I've floated the idea of a 3rd party, Internet-based run for state office.

However, today I am disappointed in my adopted state. Proposition 8, the Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage leads in the polls. The fact that is still too close to call, and may come down to the provisional ballot count, is no consolation: it ought to have gone down in flames. True bi-partisan support existed to oppose Prop 8. Not only did Gov. Schwarzenegger come out against it, according to radio news, one of the major "No On 8" campaign organizations was even headed by a Republican. How can citizens of this great state, this pioneering civil rights state, vote to prevent consenting adults from solidifying loving relationships, and providing social and economic stability for their families? The fact that Californians could come together to help elect America's first African American President (by a 20 point landslide), while at the same time denying civil rights to Homosexuals, is very disappointing. We, of all states, ought to do better than that.

I Love Voting

I really enjoy voting. For me, going into a voting booth is a great experience, even if I know I'm going to see some propositions or candidates I support lose (I am cautiously optimistic about Obama, but very unsure about CA Proposition 8 going down in flames like it deserves to). Voting in NY was a little more exciting than in Contra Costa County, not because NY is a big city and CCC is a suburb, but rather because in NY I voted using a big mechanical voting machine where I got to pull on levers and at the end throw a big one to commit my vote. That final "clunk" of the machine was very satisfying. Sticking a paper ballot into a scanner isn't quite as exhilarating, but it is still a great feeling to paste-on that "I Voted" sticker.

I also enjoy campaigning, which I've been doing since I was a kid. I campaigned for Mondale, as I've mentioned before, and even wrote a Reagan parody rap song in opposition to my candidate's opponent (but this was 20 years before YouTube, so nobody ever heard it except some folks in my home town). My contributions to the Obama campaign have been much more reserved -- blogging, talking to people in-person, and financial support. I couldn't top "Obama Girl" (Miss Ettinger) and other early YouTube supporters (who got into the campaigning back when I was still a Hillary Clinton supporter), so I sat this one out in terms of homebrew media. But I still love the electoral process, and encourage everyone to participate in every way they can. Anu, for example, is a Democratic Party Poll Watcher this year (which, of course, means no campaigning at the polling place -- but poll watchers do call party registrants on election day to help get out the vote). Whatever you can do, do it. Get out and participate. Many people fought and died for you to have these rights, so honor them and participate in the political process as vigorously as possible.

Right Wing Hack Warns Of Left Wing Takeover

Sarah Palin is certainly an expert on being outside the mainstream, so when she warns of a Far Left Wing Takeover in the form of the Obama-Biden ticket, you might be tempted to believe it. After all, her only area of expertise is being all Mavericky so maybe she knows a fellow extremist when she sees one. However, a solidly center-left ticket like Obama-Biden only looks Far Left Wing from the vantage point of being too far to the Right. Today is the day to show everyone that America gave the Right Wing its eight years, and our economy, security, and diplomacy are not the better for it. Obama's mantra of change may just be a campaign slogan to some, but the country really does need it.

Just Do It

Monday, November 3, 2008

Which is the bigger prank?

Palin falling for a prank caller pretending to be French PM Sarkozy, or John McCain's juvenile stunt in selecting her as a running mate in the first place? I'm wondering how exactly aides to Sarah Palin came to the conclusion that a telephone call from Canada was genuinely from the French politician, and put her on the line? Their official campaign phones don't have Caller ID? Apparently, the boss is not the only one over at Team Palin that's not quite ready for the big game. I continue to be surprised that McCain hasn't taken the out that some pundits (including conservatives) suggested should she turn into a liability: have the party leadership have Bush nominate her for a Federal judgeship and touted as a future Supreme Court candidate and find a better running mate. The point the Republicans I heard suggest this made was that it wouldn't be about her being a judge (she almost certainly wouldn't be confirmed by this Congress, and would return to her job as Alaska Governor), but about saving face and preserving her for later use (which I'm not at all enthusiastic about, to say the least) while ditching a liability. Maybe nobody in the right position over at McCain HQ (such as, say, McCain) sees her as a liability, but for me her continued presence on it is one big reason to support the Obama-Biden ticket.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

One Party Rule

Of the arguments against McCain's "one-party rule" election run-up gambit, I must say that the "Republicans had one from 2003-2006 so McCain is a hypocrite" argument is quite a strong one. This is especially true since I haven't heard a single DNC operative make similar claims to the ones that I heard more than one RNC operative (not just Tom DeLay, to whom it seems most often attributed) make in 2004 about creating a "permanent majority" for the Republicans (and I'm not the only one who heard that, you can find references to it on other blogs, and in Rolling Stone). If McCain was so opposed to single party control of the executive and legislative branches, why didn't he oppose his own party's flacks when they were publicly stating that their goal was to permanently entrench their control over all three branches? It seems all McCain is opposed to is losing, and all he's in favor of is building himself a bigger legacy. That is not the kind of leader America needs at this crucial time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How Many Mommies Does Heather Have?

Let me beat the Vote No On California Proposition 8 drum a bit more. Recently, on two different radio programs, I heard someone declare that children deserve a mother and a father. I understand the implication here: children raised without one or the other, and especially without a father, are deficient.

I understand that implication because it is the same argument that was used against my family when I was a kid. My lack of a father came from my dad's death by heart attack when I was eight. We moved to East Hampton to live with my Aunt, because three kids was a bit much for my poor mom, especially when one of them was an incorrigible pain in the ass like me. For the couple years we all lived together, in a sense I had two mommies, though they were sisters, not lovers. Even after my aunt remarried, she only moved a couple miles away, and we saw her all the time.

Various people, particularly certain school administrators, used my mom's status as a single mother against her constantly. She was told to remarry, that her kids needed a father. Without a father, they'd say, her children would grow up "wrong" in one way or another. All my teenage rebellion blew back on my mom in this way. Every time I did something obnoxious or stupid, and that was often, it was supposedly because she didn't have a man in the house. One particular school administrator mentally cudgeled my mom into backing down on issues we had with the poor quality of the school system by threatening to use his social status within the community to compel Child Protective Services to take her children away -- and he did this more than once.

It wasn't easy for my mom to raise three kids on a working class salary and schedule, and it was made much more difficult by the social attitudes of some of our neighbors -- unfortunately including some well-placed people in the school administration, and police.

Mandatory conformity is the attitude we faced, and it is the attitude that is threatening the families of thousands of gay couples (even though as two parent households those couples are better situated to shield their children from the financial and social burdens that we faced). When the Yes On 8 leaders say it's about the children, what they mean is it's about ensuring that the maximum number of children are raised in families which do not challenge social assumptions, or in any way threaten or make uncomfortable those whose power in the community is underwritten by their unwavering support of traditionalism.

And here is yet another take on why you should Vote No on Prop 8 from screenwriter John August, whose own marriage is threatened by this proposition. There really is no rational, compassionate reason for being in favor of Proposition 8, only an irrational unwillingness to deny power to the fearmongers who stand to benefit from its passage.