Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bad debt buyouts and conspiracy theories

By now I expect most people even vaguely aware of what's going on in America's financial markets has heard that the Bush plan to respond is to have the American treasury (it is the treasury, yes?) essentially write a blank check for $700 billion dollars (that's American billions, so $700 000 000 000) to buy off the bad debts that are causing the problem in the first place, and demand that Congress pass it NOW, dammit.

Is it too much of a conspiracy theory to think that this massive cash injection, for which there is no apparent oversight or accountability planned, isn't designed to fix the problem at all, but simply to delay the ultimate collapse for a few more months so that, when it finally does happen, the blame can be pinned on Obama the next President rather than Bush?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Headline of the day

Dick Smith to look at phone porn images

Will he now?

Running the numbers: Obama/McCain polling and changes in their support

At the time of writing, The American Research Group has provided some statistics on the American Presidential election. What grabbed my attention was the detailed breakdown of some of the numbers. Now, it's possible to tie yourself into all sorts of ridiculous knots with this kind of demographic detail with questions about how Candidate A is faring against Candidate B amongst female immigrant blue-collar dog owners. Nevertheless, this is eye-catching:
Likely votersAug 30-
Sep 1

This is the breakdown of support for each candidate among Democrats, Republicans and Independents, respectively. Note the striking swing among Democrats away from Obama and towards McCain. There has been a slight swing away by Republicans as well, but not a huge amount, and Obama's gained some Independent support (although McCain hasn't lost any). But it's that 2-digit swing towards McCain from people who identify as members of Obama's own party where Obama's hurting most, to my amateur eye.

The cause? Difficult to say, but it's tempting to view it at as a gender issue. After all, the same period shows Obama losing 5% of women and McCain gaining 7%. But that's ALL women, not just Democrats. Nor is it right to assume that the Democratic support Obama's lost is mostly female, although it very well could be.

Both surveys were taken after Obama had officially accepted the nomination instead of Hillary Clinton, so that alone doesn't explain it. The first survey was taken after Sarah Palin was announced as VP for McCain, but before she gave her convention speech. That's a possible area for analysis. But given the two week gap - a very eventful two weeks - between surveys, it's difficult to pinpoint the exact issue. More data is required. Unfortunately, I suspect that the required data is more detailed than most survey companies are willing to put up for free on their websites.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Bush Doctr...the what now?

Sarah Palin flubbed a foreign policy question about the Bush Doctrine in her one and only interview to date, and conservative commentators, including Australian ones on the Sunday morning TV I was watching yesterday, have scrambled to defend her, saying how incredibly complex and arcane the whole definition of the "Bush Doctrine" is, and she can't possibly be expected to effectively answer such an obvious "gotcha" question like that.

I'm not going to waste even a second with the irrelevant charade of the Bush Doctrine's "complex definition". The fact is that Palin would have to demonstrate that she'd even heard of the Bush Doctrine before it's possible to get into the question of whether she understands it. She failed to do so:
GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?

PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?

GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?

PALIN: His world view.

Um, no. Besides the obvious initial stall for time and attempt to pump for more information to obscure the fact that she has no idea what was just asked of her ("In what respect, Charlie?"), the fact that she guesses that it has something to do with Bush's "worldview" tells me that she had no concept that the "Bush Doctrine" even existed, let alone what it was. In fact, the confusion demonstrates that she is unaware of the concept of foreign policy "doctrine" at all.

Bottom line: when Charlie Gibson asked Sarah Palin what she thought of the Bush Doctrine, she didn't even know it was a question about foreign policy until Charlie Gibson told her it was.

Edit: oh, and to pre-empt (heh) what I expect to be the most likely line of defense, please don't waste your time and mine if all you're going to do is "use enhanced interrogation tactics" on the definition of "worldview".

Friday, September 12, 2008

Why I'm saying sorry to Sarah Palin, and why I still support Barack Obama

"Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us"

When I first got past my reaction of "Sarah who?" to Sarah Palin's selection as McCain's running mate, I deeply regret that my next thought was how to discredit her. She was, after all, a Republican: something that after the past 8 years seemed to me to mean the same thing as "enemy". That reaction - condemning someone before I even knew who they really were - was wrong, and I am sorry for it.

Despite that, my opinion of the pick of Palin as running mate is still that it was a deeply divisive move. But I think that this is no fault of Palin.

Whose fault is it in reality? No small part of the blame needs to lie with those of us who jumped to the attack before we knew the first thing about her. Are we so upset about the last 8 years, the destructiveness and blazing hatred put out by the national Republican Party, that we will adopt the same hateful and destructive attitude towards all Republicans? I do not seek to end Republican hatred and destruction only to see it replaced with Democratic hatred and destruction.

I know that many believe that attacking as hard and as viciously as possible is the only way to effectively counter the Republicans' smears and attacks. To that I say two things. First, Sarah Palin is not like other, established Republican figures. I'm sorry if you think otherwise, but she's just not. As Governor of Alaska, she's been a long way from the follies and failures of the Bush Administration, and bringing such an outsider in to the campaign was probably the best thing that the McCain campaign could have done to burnish the national Republican party's severly tarnished image. Treating her as part of the established Republican brand is factually wrong and won't work.

Second, and most important, attacking Sarah Palin is EXACTLY what the McCain campaign wants Obama and his supporters to do. They want it so much, in fact, that they've actually been forced to distort the truth - repeatedly -in order to make it look like Obama's attacking her in the wake of his refusal to do so.

The glee which I've seen in some "movement" conservative opinion leaders when they talk about the supposed "disgusting attacks" on Palin by Obama is actually a little sickening: they like it when they think she's getting trashed, because it gives them an excuse to trash Obama. They're celebrating the idea of Palin getting thrown to the wolves, and even convincing themselves it's happening where it isn't so they can celebrate some more. The only conclusion I can come to is that they want it to happen.

While we who mindlessly attacked Palin before we truly knew who she was deserve some blame for festering the divides that have once again opened in the wake of Palin's introduction to the world stage, it is the Republican party and the so-called "movement conservatives", not Obama or his supporters, and not Sarah Palin, who have deliberately sought to create that division, and who are cynically, even gleefully, trying to exploit it to victory, no matter what the cost to America, to the world, or even to Sarah Palin herself. I include the quote from Obama's inaugural 2004 speech above to remind people that he knows the score. That is why I still support him. And I believe I can support him quite effectively without any need to get a hate-on for Sarah Palin, however much the McCain campaign might want me to.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wanted: artistry of lipstick on a Republican pig

Obama, from what I've seen of him, wants the American Presidential election to be about the issues that are important to America. Republicans, from what I can see, currently want it to be about lipstick. I should be outraged at the phoniness of the Republican outrage about this so-called "personal attack on Sarah Palin", but if Republicans want this campaign to be about lipstick, then I think it's possible to oblige them, without sacrificing the any emphasis on the issues that are of importance to America and to the world.

If I was any good at this kind of creativity I'd do it myself, but since I'm not: I ask anyone who cares about the issues facing America to create this imagery by any method they can: a pig, identifiably associated with the Republican party, which has at least one of the Republican failures of the last 8 years clearly written or identifiable on it: failing economy, sub-prime mortgage crisis, ruined international reputation, record levels of debt, The Iraq war and so forth (I was originally going to say put all the failures on one pig, but I realised that they may not actually fit on just one, given the sheer number of them). Then put very obvious lipstick on the pig. The tube of lipstick used should be readily identifiable with the McCain campaign.

I would trust that any attempt to portray any actual Republican person as a pig would be denounced as a personal attack, in keeping with Obama's desire to focus on real issues rather than the phony distractions of personality politics. I realise of course that Republicans see a "personal attack" in everything these days, and may see one in something as stupid as the remote possibility that the lipstick on the pig may be roughly the same colour as some lipstick that Sarah Palin may or may not have once worn, so use your best judgement as to what genuinely is unpalatably personal and what is just the frothings of "movement" conservatives engaging in their Two Minutes of Hate.

I'm sick of American elections being won or lost by bullshit. If Republicans want America to obsess about lipstick on a pig, I say give Americans the McCain lipstick on the Republican pig of failure good and hard. And let's bring the focus back on actual issues in the process.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Touching on Bristol Palin's family life, considering the relevance of gay marriage to it

Not sure if I should write this, but...

Several bloggers I read, that happen to be openly gay, have been the most vocal proponents of the idea that it's okay to make the family situation of Sarah Palin an issue, in spite of Obama's harsh words on the subject. It's sort of understandable that gay people would be the ones who feel most annoyed at the obvious double standard of so-called "pro-family" people like the Palins in a situation like the one they're in: denouncing gay people as causing the breakdown of the family, while there's an as yet unmarried, pregnant teenage daughter in their family.

Do this bisexual man want to ask a few questions myself? Weeelll...

I do have one question that relates to the general political issue of gay marriage rather than to any so-called "character" issues that may or may not be highlighted in the Palin family's private life. Anti-gay marriage writer Stanley Kurtz has claimed that gay marriage in the Netherlands (more accurately, registered partnerships in the Netherlands, but many conservatives like to skip over the difference) is at least partially to blame for rising amounts of out-of-wedlock births there. The actual mechanism by which this actually happens isn't made altogether clear. Apparently the existence of alternatives to "traditional marriage" makes people abandon the institution in favour of cohabitation, which is bad. And totally different from, say, two teenagers entering into a shotgun marriage because the girl got knocked up, which I suppose is good: it is, after all, a traditional marriage form (including the "father who didn't want kids having to marry the girl he got pregnant" bit, that's a very old and common marriage tradition in our society that has not yet been destroyed, sad to say).

So anyway, a question for people who opposes gay marriage:
How did gay marriage help cause this Bristol Palin's out-of-wedlock pregnancy? Since you so readily claim that it's acceptance of relationships like mine that contributes to the existence of family-unfriendly situations like the one in which Sarah Palin's daughter has found herself, please illustrate the mechanism by which that occurred in this situation. I don't see it, and I'd like you to point it out. I hope you agree that if you claim that gay marriage has nothing to do with this situation at all then I think you're entirely correct: gay marriage has NOTHING to do with the family situations of other people, and gay marriage opponents should stop falsely claiming that it does.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Obama and Sarah someone

On Friday, I watched online as Barack Obama laid out his ideals and addressed the issues that he believed were most important to America. I had hoped that the ensuing political discussion would be about the issues and ideals he'd laid out rather than the petty sniping and personality politics that so turns me off the whole political process.

By Saturday, and pretty much every day since then, the talk from political observers, both Republican and Democratic, has been about the personality, gender and life experiences of someone named Sarah Palin. Issues? Ideals? What are they?

I am not a Democrat (well, obviously, since I'm not an American, but even if I was American, I'd still value my political independence). I do not care to support any political party blindly. I'm interested in this US political campaign because I want to see some repairs done to the political system of the world's oldest existing liberal democracy; I think it's fundamentally broken. I want to see America once again have a political system that promotes the ideals that make a liberal democracy work - accountability, involvement by the people in the task of government, ability of multiple different polities to work together, if not always well, then without any actual bloodletting - above phony considerations of a candidate's "character" that is, in reality a media-constructed fantasy about the person, so carefully crafted by their campaigns. I don't care if the effort to restore the overarching importance of core liberal democratic ideals, and end all the bullshit about fictional "character" issues, comes from a Republican, Democrat or other candidate, so long as it comes from somewhere.

I have been deeply impressed by the commitment that the Obama candidacy has had to those liberal democratic principles. I am anxious to see both Republicans and Democrats stop obsessing about the minutiae of Sarah wotsername's life story, and return to working towards promoting those overarching liberal democratic ideals over the phony politics of personality.

You know, some part of me can't help wondering if part of the point to this pick was to get people on both sides focused away from the big issues and back onto the petty, election-winning but ultimately country-destroying, stuff again.