Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday Night Fall Back to Cardiac Health

My family will tell you that I’ve have harbored a not so secret grudge against Benjamin Franklin because he invented Daylight Savings Time, first conceiving of it while an American delegate in Paris in 1784 in an essay titled, “An Economical Project.” His purpose was admiral enough: make better use of the daylight. Remember, this is the man who created or made famous that old saying: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

I have been grateful for Franklin’s role in the founding of this country, his humor, and especially his idea of
religious tolerance. But that appreciation has never made me look kindly on Daylight Savings Time. My objection is simple: it takes me days if not weeks to get over “springing forward” (a euphemism for losing an hour of sleep on the night the time changes in the spring). By the time we get to the fall and are told to “fall back” I no longer need the hour I lost months earlier. That is, I didn’t think I needed it until now.

According to an analysis in this week’s prestigious
New England Journal of Medicine and explained in plain language by the Scientific American,
Heart attacks decrease by 5 percent the first Monday after the time change, and by 1.5 percent over that week…The springtime transition to daylight saving time poses more of a health hazard: Heart attacks increase by 5 percent over the first week after clocks are pushed back an hour, spiking by 10 percent on that Tuesday
I’ll bet Ben Franklin didn’t anticipate either of these results, results that sociologists call “the unanticipated consequences of purposeful social action.”

The reasons for these phenomena weren’t clear to the researchers, but co-author of the study, Imre Janszky, suspects that changes in sleep may play a role.
Although there is little data on the cardiovascular effects of the kind of short-term sleep deprivation that occurs over the average five days it takes to adjust to moving clocks ahead in spring, chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increases in blood pressure, heart rate, blood clotting, and C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation associated with deadly heart attacks.
In the last hours of this stress-inducing election campaign, it’s good to know that the extra hour of sleep on Saturday night will promote cardiac health, or as the Los Angeles Times headline put it, “End of Daylight Saving Time is good for the Heart.”

Aren’t we glad we don’t have national elections on the Tuesday after beginning Daylight Savings Time in the spring?

Take time to recharge your battery (literally perhaps) Saturday night so you will be fit and ready for the sprint to the end of the race on Tuesday.
- Milo

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Registering US Voters in Hong Kong

[Milo’s Note: Bud Carroll is a good friend of more years than either of us is wont to recall. I asked him to do a guest column about his activities in Hong Kong related to the U.S. election. His is a message from thousands of miles away that all of us should hear and heed. Thanks for your words and your labors, Bud!]

I've spent most of the past month helping Americans living in Hong Kong register to vote. These have included Democrats, Republicans, Independents and “Undecided." It is crucial, no matter what one's political affiliation to vote in this election. I doubt most Americans realize that for several decades, a minority of voting age people have elected our Presidents. How shameful of us. To talk on the one hand about democracy [our constitution says we're a Republic!] while on the other, doing little more than complaining about Washington. That's simply not enough!

The U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong says there are close to 50,000 American citizens living here. Our small band of Democrats has helped register several hundred people. We've also helped raise considerable funds to support the Obama/Biden campaign. We've also spent time and energy calling friends on the U.S. Mainland, urging them, 'be sure to vote." I wonder how many people remember it was Absentee Ballots that enabled Jim Webb to win his 2006 Virginia senatorial seat. It was absentee ballots that enabled the Democrats to regain control in the Congress.

Each presidential campaign usually begins with these words, "This is an exceptionally crucial time..." Right on! But 2008 is even more so. This is the 18th Presidential campaign year since the year of my birth. The first I actually worked on was in 1956. As a then 19-year old college sophomore, I was thrilled to work for Adalai E. Stevenson [his middle name is my first name - Ewing!]. Then in 1972 a small group of we Hong Kong-based Americans worked on the George McGovern campaign. We were a small group with big hopes, ideas and ideals. We were also then a nation at war - bringing irrevocable harm and destruction to participating nations and to our wonderfully brave women and men in the military.

The issues facing today's America - and the world, are more severe, challenging and frightening than anything in my entire life. But we are a people of hope and change. An Obama White House will enable much of that change and hope to become reality. Not easily. Not quickly. Not inexpensively. Not without tremendous patience, persistence and compromise.

I predicted early on that this year's campaign would be among the muddiest ever. How sad to have been so right! But now we need to move beyond mud to concrete. Resolving to put aside our stark differences and create new foundations of trust and cooperation, sealed with healing balms of acceptance amidst disagreement, ignoring who is Red or White, "them" or "us," "Real America" or "That America," and like every other nation in the world, "Under God."

When someone recently asked "Why would you ever support Obama instead of McCain," my first instinct was to respond in some politically philosophical way. But my Christian faith genes won out. My answer comes from these words penned by Lloyd Stone in 1934 amidst The Great Depression*:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.

* “This is My Song” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989), page 437

- Bud Carroll

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

California's Proposition 8

Thanks to Reuven (Comment 5) for this graphic. Follow his/her link to find the story of the sign.

Just to be clear about the language we are using, apocalypse is a word from the Greek that means “revelation” or “unveiling.” Apocalyptic literature is the term for certain Jewish and Christian texts that claim to reveal things that are normally hidden and to unveil the future, including prophecies of the final conflict between God and the powers of evil, involving the imminent destruction of the world and the salvation of the righteous. Armageddon is used only once in the Bible (Revelation 16:16) and refers to a hill at Megeddo in Israel where many historic battles were fought. In the Book of Revelation it refers to the final battle between God and Satan.

I thought that in Sunday’s report I had at least touched on the major apocalyptic themes of these “Last Days,” I was wrong. I neglected a battle that is raging—like the wildfires we’ve grown accustomed to watching on TV—across California in the form of Proposition 8, which would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage and reverse a California Supreme Court ruling in May that gave same-sex couples permission to marry.

Similar measures are on the ballots of Arizona and Florida, but religious conservatives have, as Laurie Goodstein said in a NYT piece Monday,
cast the campaign in California as the decisive last stand, warning in stunningly apocalyptic terms (my bold) of dire consequences to the entire nation if Proposition 8 does not pass.

California, they say, sets cultural trends for the rest of the country and even the world. If same-sex marriage is allowed to become entrenched there, they warn, there will be no going back.
And she’s right about the tone of the campaign. Listen to the words of Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries and a strong evangelical voice:
“This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon.”(my bold)

Or Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington:
“We lose this, we are going to lose in a lot of other ways, including freedom of religion… It’s more important than the presidential election…We’ve picked bad presidents before, and we’ve survived as a nation, but we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage.”
TV ads, billboards, radio, crusades, sermons, and phone banks warn that if Proposition 8 doesn’t pass churches that refuse to marry same-sex couples will be sued and lose their tax exempt status; ministers will be jailed if they preach against homosexuality; and parents will have no right to prevent their children from being taught in school about same sex marriage.

That’s pretty apocalyptic-sounding, isn’t it?

Opponents of Proposition 8, of course, are right to debunk these as scare tactics without legal precedent. There are no records of any Jewish rabbis that have been prosecuted for refusing to marry mixed religion couples, nor any records of Catholic priests prosecuted for refusing to marry persons who have been divorced.

There is a lot at stake in this California fight for the Religious Right. Perkins and the other proponents of Proposition 8 know that it was in California in 1948 where that state’s Supreme Court was the first in the U.S. to declare the ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional. Although it took until 1967 for the U.S. Supreme Court to make the ruling national, California served notice that the day was coming, just as they fear that the ruling earlier this year by the California Supreme Court has served notice that the day is coming when discrimination against same-sex marriage will be outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court. (I hope it doesn’t take another 18 years for that to happen, but it will happen.) Proposition 8 is an effort to delay that day by amending the state constitution.

The “freedom of religion” Perkins and other supporters of the proposition are worried about losing is apparently the freedom of the Christian Right to impose its conception of marriage on the nation. Proponents have seldom been challenged on their claim that “marriage” is an immutable concept that has always and everywhere meant the union of one man and one woman. It hasn’t. (See my blog
“Marriage: Who Owns the Trademark?”) “Marriage” has meant different things at different times with different conditions, even within the Christian tradition, one of which includes the “higher calling” (higher than a union between a man and woman) of marriage to Christ, a spiritual relationship having nothing to do with gender. To claim that the word “marriage” means one thing and one thing only, as the leaders of the Christian Right have done, is disingenuous if not intentionally dishonest.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times
reported that the most recent independent poll in California shows that opposition to Proposition 8 leads but that the gap may be closing:
While California voters remain closely divided on the question of gay marriage, a majority oppose a measure to ban it, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.But the poll also found that support for Proposition 8, which would amend the state Constitution to disallow same-sex marriage, has gained somewhat since a similar survey was taken in late August. The latest results show 44% in favor and 52% opposed, with a margin of sampling error of 3 percentage points.
There is little doubt that the marriage-as-one-man-and-one-woman propositions Arizona and Florida will pass. If Proposition 8 doesn’t pass in California, it will be a major defeat for the Christian Right.

In their apocalyptic language, these folks assume that they are the Righteous who will be vindicated by God on November 4th. Maybe, just maybe, the apocalypse on that day will unveil the beginning of a new day when all of God’s children—straight and gay—begin to enjoy the same status before the law.

- Milo

Monday, October 27, 2008

Voice for Public Transit in Bend

[Milo’s Note: Even though most of the readers of this blog are not from Bend, or even Oregon, I’ve asked an old friend to write about a local issue in our community. The election on Tuesday is not just on presidential, national, and state issues; it is also about local issues that make differences in people’s lives. Annis Henson has been working hard in support of a local measure in Bend, Oregon that will provide a stable base of support for public transit by collecting an annual property tax equal to $0.393 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Proposals that entail a property tax increase are difficult sells anytime, but especially so in the midst of the national and global financial crisis. Ironically, given that crisis, our community probably needs this service now more than ever. The question is whether or not the citizens of Bend will have the vision to see past the tax increase to what the transit district will mean for the community. Thanks for your labors, Annis!]

Eight of 9 Bend City Council candidates spoke at the League of Women Voters Forum October 3. Those eight gave their support to Bend Area Transit District formation through Measure 6–90. Considering our economic hard times, it appears that these Council candidates understand the importance of putting our bus service on firm financial ground, for our Common Good.

Let me share what I’ve learned while riding BAT. Choice riders like me choose to park our cars. I save gas, avoid parking hassles and walk a bit more, help keep or improve our essential clean air, and reduce traffic. I have met people who sold their vehicles since riding BAT! “What about trips?” I ask. One man backpacks nearly every weekend. He and friends carpool. A COCC student with grown children responded that she and her husband rent a car for trips and find it quite affordable – less than the total cost of operating the sold car. As CBAT [
Citizens for Bend Area Transit] say: “Vote Yes for 9–60, for our Environment.”

A second CBAT phrase: “Vote Yes for 9–60, for our Economy.” I met a man riding BAT who’d come from Sisters on COIC’s Cascades East bus. He came to shop in Bend. A mother takes her toddler to day care on BAT, but can’t pick her up on BAT since it doesn’t run after 6 PM. She catches a ride to get her daughter, every day after work. BAT will operate until 8 PM when the measure passes. A waitress at IHOP lives in Deschutes River Woods and can’t wait to ride BAT to work. After the transit measure passes, Deschutes River Woods will receive BAT service. She is willing to increase her property tax by about the cost of one tank of gas per year. Another woman puts her bike on a bus bike rack and takes the North Hwy 97 route, telling me she cleans houses in that direction. After she gets off BAT, she bikes 2 miles to the house she will clean.

These are working women. What about expanding your notion of the Common Good to include them? Or, for a Juniper Aquatic and Fitness Center instructor who commutes with BAT? These folks represent some of the many using our buses to keep their household economy going as well as for the city’s economy, which obviously benefits their employers.

Elderly BAT users are most appreciative of our transit system. Dial a Ride, part of BAT, just doesn’t work for many independent seniors who don’t drive. This is also very true for handicapped riders. One of my BAT 80 year old friends will seriously consider taking her retirement income and returning to her former CA city if Measure 9–60 fails. Buses run for that city’s common good. I witness our high school students riding to and from Summit, Bend, and Mountain View. “For each other, Vote Yes on Measure 9–60.”

Others who initially oppose a Bend transit district have reasons. “I don’t use it, why would I vote for that?” One day every one of us could become BAT riders. Regarding the small increase in property tax that formation of a BAT district would mean, I’ve heard: “Bus riding renters don’t pay property tax, now do they?” Really? Almost everyone pays property tax one way or another. Renters are assured that landlords or companies that own apartment buildings or senior residences include a portion of their property taxes in tenants’ rent. Some oppose 9–60 because they theoretically promote payroll taxes to pay for a transit district. I don’t believe such a tax, even if allowable by law, would be equitable. The city’s largest employers, like St. Charles Medical Center and the school district, serve the public and already have economic worries. A majority of local payrolls are provided by companies with very few employees. Another opposition comment: “BAT buses are subsidized and I won’t support that!” Oh, you don’t mind using our roads, airports, interstate highways, or goods delivered by rail? All transportation modes are ‘subsidized’ in addition to what we individually may pay for use. Do remember that BAT riders without cars get little personal use from interstates or airports and publicly supported air travel services. And yet their local, state, and federal taxes contribute to transportation infrastructure.

Measure 9–60 will provide BAT with stable funding through a separate district like our Library District. Not everyone uses the library. I haven’t personally needed emergency services. For the Common Good, we support these and other basic services. Transit is a basic service. I vote for ‘911’ for the whole community, and for the time when I might need it. I will do the same for Measure 9–60. It IS time we secure stable funding for our BAT.
- Annis Henson

Sunday, October 26, 2008

In These Last Days...

…of the 2008 election I have twinges of an apocalyptic feeling, in which a Biblical or science fiction other-worldly conflict between cosmic forces is looming over the land. Then I remind myself that the forces locked in electoral combat are all too this worldly. I don’t know whether that makes me feel better or not. Here are a few examples of what’s been causing those tremors in me:

First, there was the McCain campaign volunteer, Ashley Todd, who made up a story of being robbed, pinned to the ground and having the letter "B" scratched on her face in a politically inspired attack. On Friday the 20-year-old college student from College Station, Texas, admitted that the story was false,
police said.

Before her story unraveled and after Fox News had given it big play, John Moody, executive vice president at Fox News, wrote this on
his blog:
If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.
That is probably a reference to the McCain campaign passing out unconfirmed information on the story as though it was they best news they had in weeks. Moody’s blog article titled “Moment of Truth” may also contain some “truth” about the Fox coverage.

Second, there was the attack on because it appears to pro-Obama and can’t be tursted as a reliable source of accurate information. At the heart of the attack is that Snopes has discredited too many of the lies about Obama. The charges have been circulating around the world of email forwards for some weeks. I received a copy from a friend who wanted to know if there was any truth to the charges.

I think the attack has everything to do with the effectiveness of Snopes in providing reliable information about the legion of false stories circulated about Obama. The Snopes refutations are hurting the bigots who are circulating them. The author of the forward might at least have considered the possibility that the reason for so many articles on Snopes about Obama might be related the the number of false stories about him that have been circulated. But, no, that apparently was never a question of the author who assumed it must be the bias of “a flaming liberal”.

Want to know more about the charges and their being baseless? Check the analysis of titled, “
Snopes Under Fire.” For a response to the particular version my friend received about a State Farm agent in Louisanna check Snopes account, titled “Chicken Hawked” and documentation; be sure to read the “Update” at the end of the article.

See what I mean about the apocalyptic sulfur smell of these days? But that’s not all.

Third, there is what Nicholas Kristof today called
“The Endorsement from Hell.” Earlier in the week, John McCain received an endorsement he didn’t want. A commentary on a password-protected Islamist website that is closely linked to Al Qaeda said that “Al Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election.”

The McCain camp was shocked. Their first lame response was to point out that that Hamas said it prefers Obama. Then, some campaign staffers began to argue that the story was a plant to suggest just the opposite of what they actually said—if Al Qaeda says it is for McCain the American people will recognize that they mean just the opposite. Kristof is not so sure.
…the endorsement of Mr. McCain by a Qaeda-affiliated Web site isn’t a surprise to security specialists.
Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism director, and Joseph Nye
, the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, have both suggested that Al Qaeda prefers Mr. McCain and might even try to use terror attacks in the coming days to tip the election to him.

“From their perspective, a continuation of Bush policies is best for recruiting,” said Professor Nye, adding that Mr. McCain is far more likely to continue those policies.

An American president who keeps troops in Iraq indefinitely, fulminates about Islamic terrorism, inclines toward military solutions and antagonizes other nations is an excellent recruiting tool. In contrast, an African-American president with a Muslim grandfather and a penchant for building bridges rather than blowing them up would give Al Qaeda recruiters fits.
Finally, and more hopefully, I think Paul Krugman may have it right. Like looking down the barrel of a gun from the wrong end, the prospect of a second Great Depression has concentrated the public’s mind. Krugman is the recently named Nobel Prize winner in economics who has been right on our economy for a long time.
As someone who’s spent a lot of time arguing against conservative economic dogma, I’d like to believe that the bad news convinced many Americans, once and for all, that the right’s economic ideas are wrong and progressive ideas are right. And there’s certainly something to that. These days, with even Alan Greenspan admitting that he was wrong to believe that the financial industry could regulate itself, Reaganesque rhetoric about the magic of the marketplace and the evils of government intervention sounds ridiculous…

But I suspect that the main reason for the dramatic swing in the polls is something less concrete and more meta than the fact that events have discredited free-market fundamentalism. As the economic scene has darkened, I’d argue, Americans have rediscovered the virtue of seriousness. And this has worked to Mr. Obama’s advantage, because his opponent has run a deeply unserious campaign…

The McCain campaign’s response to its falling chances of victory has been telling: rather than trying to make the case that Mr. McCain really is better qualified to deal with the economic crisis, the campaign has been doing all it can to trivialize things again. Mr. Obama consorts with ’60s radicals! He’s a socialist! He doesn’t love America! Judging from the polls, it doesn’t seem to be working.
Will the public’s new demand for seriousness last? Krugman is skeptical; he remembers how 9/11 was supposed to end the focus on trivialities. For now, anyway, voters seem to be focused on real issues.

And that makes me a little less anxious about this apocalyptic feeling I have in my gut. However you are feeling, I hope you will be active in the campaigns this last week and not neglect that other little civic responsibility called voting.

- Milo

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Merkley Is the Man for Oregon

[Milo's Note: Anastasia Perone is a friend who has been volunteering countless hours at the local Obama/Biden office. I invited her to write a guest column. As she says, she has also been working on the campaign of Jeff Merkley against the incumbent Republican Senator from Oregon, Gordon Smith. I know that most of you who read this are in other states with your own state races; but I thought you should hear her perspective on this race. According to current polls
, while Obama has a 13 point lead in the state, Merkley and Smith are in a dead heat. If you are an Oregonian, your vote in this race could make the difference. Thanks, Anastasia for this article, and more, for your citizen labors in the campaign!]

I have been campaigning for Jeff Merkley since the middle of August, and I would like to shed some light on the, gut-wrenchingly, close senate race between Gordon Smith and Jeff Merkley. Unfortunately, I have been hearing from a lot of progressive Democrats that they are seriously considering voting for Smith or not voting at all because they think that too much mud is being slung between the candidates. The ads that Gordon Smith's campaign has been running, since June, are horribly negative. The Democratic Party of Oregon have run ads, in Jeff's defense, but progressive Oregonians are not used to this type of campaigning from their candidates and have expressed their disdain for these ads. My question is this: what is Jeff Merkley supposed to do about this? He has put out issue based ads, with the limited financing he has, but Smith's campaign is still inundating the television with one negative ad after another.

Republicans have used negative tactics in the past, and it has worked for them; fighting dirty does not to seem to turn conservative voters away. This seems to be one fundamental difference between progressives and conservatives. I want to urge the progressive voter to realize that not voting for Merkley is like voting for Gordon Smith because conservatives will show up in support of their candidate.

We need strong representation in Oregon, and having two Democrats in the Senate will help bring about the change this country desperately needs. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden have cancelled each others votes more than 1700 times. This basically leaves Oregon with no representation at all.

Barack Obama has endorsed Jeff Merkley and has merged his Oregon campaign with Merkley's. Obama realizes how important it is to have a Democratic House and Senate, in order to implement the change that needs to happen. I urge all Obama voters to strongly consider Jeff Merkley. He stands for all the same things Obama does. He wants to bring affordable health care to all Oregonians, end the war in Iraq, invest more in the education of our youth, make college more affordable, bring renewable energy jobs to Oregon, and bring outsourced jobs back to the state.

The only way to ensure that change will take place in this country is to get more Democrats elected this November 4th.

- Anastasia Perone

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reader Asks Why I Support Obama and Biden

On Wednesday, a reader code-named “Alaskan” wrote this comment and posted it on my Tuesday piece, “Update on ‘The Spirit of Joe McCarthy”:
Ok so we know that you don't like McCain and Palin. But what exactly do you like about Obama and Biden? What do you think of his plan to require all insurance companies to insure all people? Doesn't this seem likely to do to insurance what this type of policy did to banks? Do you agree with his philosophy to "spread the wealth"? What about his requirement of putting a time limit on withdrawal from Iraq? Does this really seem like something we should be telling terrorists? Just hold out until this date and then you can come in and do whatever you want? Would you rather fight terrorists over here?
Thanks Alaskan for your comment. You and I may not agree on these issues but I am grateful for your taking time to read and respond. I think I owe you answers to your questions, so here they are.

First of all, you are right to suggest that I have been more forthright about my not liking McCain and Palin than I have been about what I like about Obama and Biden. Although it is always difficult to be clear about one’s motivations, I think I know why that has been the case with me. But before I talk about that, let me respond to your specific questions.

Question 1: What do you think of his plan to require all insurance companies to insure all people? Doesn't this seem likely to do to insurance what this type of policy did to banks?

I am ready to try Obama’s plan.
On health care reform, the American people are too often offered two extremes - government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe both of these extremes are wrong, and that’s why they’ve proposed a plan that strengthens employer coverage, makes insurance companies accountable and ensures patient choice of doctor and care without government interference.
Our health care system is a disaster. We spend more on health care than any other nation in the world but we are far behind in quality and services provided by most all other industrialized nations. I grew up in a home where the AMA’s comic book attacks on “socialized medicine” were on the coffee table. If you can remember those comic books you will probably get some idea of how old I am. My pharmacist father thought that “socialized medicine” was as bad as communism and the worst thing he could imagine. Over the years, as our health care system has run amuck with insurance companies exerting larger and larger control, the “socialized medicine” bugaboo has lost its power with me. I hear in propaganda what a disaster socialized medicine is in other countries, but I never hear it from people I know from those countries who actually use it.

It was the failure to regulate the banking industry that has led to our economic crisis. I believe that the failure to regulate the health care and insurance industries will exacerbate our already existing health care crisis. John McCain, on the other hand, recently wrote that the model of deregulating the financial industry was his model for his health care system.

“Regulation” does not equal “socialization.” What was it James Madison said in the Federalist Papers, No. 51?
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
As far as one of the framers of our Constitution was concerned, the necessary regulatory function of government is as American as apple pie.
Question 2: Do you agree with his philosophy to "spread the wealth"?

Yes, I do. Careful now about what Obama means by “spread the wealth;” “his philosophy” is to get those who make over $250,000 a year paying at the same rate they paid under the Clinton Administration. I also think that the many loopholes the wealthy have—which the poor and middle class do not have—to avoid paying their fair share is unfair. Whether the wealthy admit it or not, there is a reason for the term “commonwealth” without which their wealth would not be possible. And, yes, I support the graduated income tax as a way for citizens to pay their fair share for the government we require because we are not angels.

Question 3: What about his requirement of putting a time limit on withdrawal from Iraq? Does this really seem like something we should be telling terrorists? Just hold out until this date and then you can come in and do whatever you want? Would you rather fight terrorists over here?

In my view, no successful surge nor anything else, can justify our continued presence in Iraq. Nothing can justify our illegal and immoral invasion of the country. I don’t know what will happen in Iraq when we leave, but our continued presence there cannot wash the blood of guilt from our hands. That our presence there continues to be the best recruiting poster Al-Qaeda could wish for, that our presence there may have already fatally compromised our effort to bring to justice the chief perpetrator of 9/11, that our continued presence there continues to alienate Muslims across the world, that our presence there continues to destroy and maim our brave soldiers, that our presence there is running up a financial bill that we cannot pay, that the war on terror generally and the war in Iraq specifically provided justification for a war on American ideals by our own government, are all realities. They are consequences of the morally and legally flawed rationale for the war in the first place. Staying there under whatever pretext cannot redeem those realities. Why do you think our government is having such a difficult time getting a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that includes provision for our continued presence in the country?

Please understand, I do not pretend to speak for Obama/Biden on this. What I said above is my view. I support Obama/Biden because they have an orderly plan to get us out. If we could extricate ourselves from Iraq earlier and protect our troops doing it I would support it.

At the outset, I agreed that I have spent more time in my blog saying why I didn’t like McCain/Palin. It is not because I am not enthusiastic about Obama/Biden or doubt they offer the best hope for our nation. I am and do not doubt.

When the election season began what seems like a hundred years ago, I looked at the Democratic contenders and, as alternatives to the Republicans, believed I could support any of them. I did not believe they were equal in capability, but compared to having another Republican president, they all looked like better choices.

In this election, I believe political party matters. I believe that somewhere in the last fifty years an honorable Republican Party was hijacked and can no longer be trusted with rule in government. Thomas Frank’s careful history of how and by whom this has happened (The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule) makes sense; at least it does to me. This is how he puts it:
But put conservatism in charge of the state, and it behaves very differently. Now the "values" that rightist politicians eulogize on the stump disappear, and in their place we can discern an entirely different set of priorities—priorities that reveal more about the unchanging historical essence of American conservatism than do its fleeting campaigns against gay marriage or secular humanism. The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing topnotch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action.
Although I support Democratic objectives more than Republican ones, I know there is nothing inherently moral about Democrats and they are quite capable of self-deception and corruption. It’s for that very reason that our nation is especially threatened now by the absence of a credible opposition party. Maybe the Republican Party will reform itself and become that in the future, but right now it is still under the control of those who have brought ruination on the party and the nation. That’s why I have not spent as much time saying what I like about Obama and Biden.

I support Obama and Biden because I believe they are the best hope for getting us through the myriad of problems we face and that they will do it in a way that will begin the long process of restoring our shredded national integrity, which is essential for our true national security.
Alaskan, I welcome your response. And, if we are lucky, we may be able to get other voices in the conversation.
- Milo

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Update on "The Spirit of Joe McCarthy"

Rep. Bachmann news conference - photo by John Shinkle

On Sunday I wrote about the
“Spirit of Joe McCarthy” in this election. Today, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza writes about the implosion of Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s campaign to keep her seat in a traditionally Republican suburban Twin Cities district. On her way to an easy victory over her Democratic opponent she did an interview Friday with Chris Mathews on "Hardball", alleging that Barack Obama held "anti-American" and followed that with this:
"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”
The comment, said Cillizza,
immediately lit up the blogosphere, energized the campaign of former Blaine Mayor Elwyn Tinklenberg (great name!) and turned Bachmann's race from an afterthought into one of the most high profile House races in the country.

Tinklenberg has raised more than $800,000 in the aftermath of Bachmann's comments and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee communications director Jen Crider has called this a "$1 million mistake" on the part of the Republican incumbent.

And, the Cook Political Report -- one of the most highly respected handicappers of Congressional races and The Fix alma mater -- moved the race (subscription required) from likely Republican to toss up yesterday.

Of the race, Cook House editor David Wasserman wrote: "Bachmann's comments likely changed the complexion of her reelection race overnight and helped to turn the race into even more of a referendum on her."
For her part, Bachmann may not have helped herself by writing an
article for Politico on Monday in which she claimed that
I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.
Hmm… You listen to the interview with Mathews and see what you think. She didn’t call for a House Un-American Activities Committee but she did call for the media to do a “penetrating expose” on who in congress is “pro-America or anti-America.”

Despite Bachmann’s attempt to blame the Democrats for the angry reaction to her words, I can only tell you that when I watched the interview, I didn’t need anyone’s help for those comments to take me back to the chillingly sick days of Joe McCarthy in the 1950s. I have, however, been heartened by so many others who felt the same nausea I did when I watched the interview.

Cillizza concludes his report with somber words for the congresswoman from Minnesota:
Not only did she commit a major blunder but she also did it at the worst possible time and in one of the worst election cycles in recent memory. In past years, national Republicans might have been able to bail Bachmann out. But, the money just isn't there this time around. Bachmann is on her own -- a very lonely place to be.
I don’t know if she will win re-election in her district, but I have been reminded again that the spirit of Joe McCarthy is still out there. McCarthy succeeded for as long as he did because he was able to intimidate people who knew better but who feared speaking out against him.

I thought about that this morning when I heard Obama speaking in Florida. At one point, he mentioned McCain and a few people began to boo. He stopped and said sharply, “No! No! No! We don’t need that!” He hesitated a moment and then said, “We need you to vote.” The response was great applause and there were no more boos. I wish McCain and Palin didn’t seem to need to be energized by crowds booing Obama. The rhetoric questioning Obama’s patriotism and calling him a socialist appears designed to elicit that very response. For me, it is testimony to the smallness of the speakers’ characters, their paucity of ideas, and their dimishing chances to win.

It’s time to say “No! No! No! We don’t need that.” We can say that when we hear it from friends and acquaintances. We can also say it when we vote.
- Milo

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Spirit of Joe McCarthy

Senator Joseph McCarthy (1954) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (2008)

A lot of folks in the state of Minnesota may be looking for a way to mitigate the damage done to their state’s reputation by one of their representatives in Congress. On Chris Mathews Friday night edition of “Hardball,” Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, after saying that Obama and his wife held anti-American views and couldn’t be trusted in the White House,
went on to say:
"What I would say is that the news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would. I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America.”
Sam Stein accurately, I think, characterized her statement as “channeling” Joe McCarthy, a U.S. Senator from neighboring Wisconsin who in the 1950s—for those readers who may be too young to remember or, like me, so old that they may have forgotten—exploited anti-communist fears in this country by using his position in the Senate to trumpet unfounded charges that the government, the army, Hollywood, and other groups were infiltrated by communists. His practices resulted in the creation of a new word, “McCarthyism,” which according to The American Heritage Dictionary means "the practice of publicizing accusations of political disloyalty or subversion with insufficient regard to evidence" and "the use of unfair investigatory or accusatory methods in order to suppress opposition."
After his endorsement of Senator Obama this morning, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, chatted with reporters outside and repeated his concerns
about McCain’s judgment in selecting Sarah Palin and his personal attacks on Obama.
"Those kinds of images going out on al Jazeera are killing us around the world," he said. "And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are, if you're an American you're an American. And this business of, for example a congresswoman from Minnesota going around saying let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro America or not pro America, we have got to stop this kind of non-sense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and diversity. That really was driving me."
Which brings us back to Congresswoman Bachmann and her charges. What she has forgotten, or has never known, is the truth of what Edward R. Murrow said in his historic report (March 9, 1954) on Joe McCarthy:
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.
Not only Congresswoman Bachmann but also John McCain and Sarah Palin have forgotten this fundamental American value. That it is also a widely held “religious” value for many in this country has been forgotten, if indeed it was ever known, by Palin.

In an
article titled, “The Wobbly Political Theology of Sarah Palin,” Scott Horton writes about the Republican strategy to mobilize the Religious Right, a voting block that played key roles in George Bush’s election in 2000 and again in 2004. Horton says that the strategy is failing to meet expectations of religious conservatives. He cites an article by Steve Waldman, editor of Beliefnet and a respected writer on religion and politics:
With all the attention showered on evangelical Christians and Catholics, we've neglected the religious group partly driving Barack Obama's recent surge in the polls: mainline Protestants.This bucket includes the historic American churches that once dominated the spiritual landscape but have been losing members in recent years: United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church in the USA, American Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ. Their members represent 18% of the population.This used to be a solidly Republican group. In 2004, they went for President George W. Bush 54%-46%. This summer, John McCain was leading Sen. Obama among these voters 43% to 40%, according to a study by John Green of the University of Akron.But an ABCNews/Washington Post poll released Monday showed Sen. Obama now leading among Mainliners 53%-44%, indicating that the undecided voters are breaking heavily for the Democratic candidate.
Why? Is it that pocketbook issues trump theological issues? Or is it more than that? I think Horton is right that the theology exhibited in the campaign by Palin, and not resisted by McCain, is a significant factor. Horton quotes a prayer recently offered by a pastor at a McCain/Palin rally:
“I would also add, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god — whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah — that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their god is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.”
As a regular part of her stump speeches, Palin questions Obama’s patriotism with a particular religious twist; he does not see America as a “shining city on a hill,” an image she attributes to President Regan.

What Palin doesn’t understand is that the image has a history behind Regan’s use of it. It begins with the New Testament (Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”). Horton remembers that the words were used as a warning to the Puritans before they disembarked in New England in 1630:
For we must consider that we shall be as a City upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.

If we carefully parse Winthrop’s words, we see that they have very nearly the opposite of the meaning that Palin assumes. Winthrop believed that his community was making a compact with their God, a solemn undertaking to build a new society on the virgin soil of America true to the models provided in scripture. The “city upon a hill” was aspirational, and it was backed by a stern warning about the costs of failure in the undertaking. For Palin, any expression of criticism was a rejection of the essentially sacred nature of America. But for the Calvinist colonists like Winthrop, introspection and self-criticism were the essential tools for achieving a holy project. Moreover, the idea of calling any inherently flawed human project, any state, a sacred object would violate the basic injunction against idolatry.
Mainline Protestants, Horton argues, are recognizing and are uncomfortable with Palin’s “wobbly political theology,” a theology one of the great theologians of the twentieth century, Reinhold Niebuhr, called “the idolatry of America.”
The perspective of Religious Right figures like Palin that elevates America—as their political blinders conceive her—to some sort of sacred object is therefore little short of an act of idolatry…

This helps to explain why the Palin approach, even putting aside its striking ignorance, is a tough sell for mainstream Protestants. Sarah Palin may appeal to religious fundamentalists, but her appeal is framed in a much more narrow way than that of prior Rovian candidates.
I don’t expect Palin’s political theology to prevail in Minnesota or anywhere else. What I do expect is that the attacks on Obama as “unpatriotic” or as “
socialist” to continue through and beyond the election. I hope he can take some comfort that FDR was called a socialist as he took the necessary measures to bring the nation back from the Great Depression. The truth is that FDR probably saved capitalism. Thirty-three years ago a graduate student in the Harvard Business School named George W. Bush also condemned FDR as socialist for establishing Social Security.

I think Colin Powell had it right this morning when he said he believed the American people are looking for more than personal attacks. What was it he said?
We have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and diversity.
I believe in the great strength of unity and diversity, a belief quite alien to Joe McCarthy. As the spirit of McCarthyism rears its ugly head now, what do you believe?
- Milo

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On Mavericks and Gobbledygook

Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870)

After the imperial presidency of George W. Bush, Texas has had something of a public relations problem. Let’s face it, except among died in the wool Texans, the state has always had a public relations problem with the rest of the nation and probably the world.

Can anything good come out of Texas? Yes, is the might-be-accused-of-bias answer of this expatriate Texan, especially in response to the hyperbole coming out of the mouths of both the Republican presidential and vice-presidential nominee, about the latter of whom Garrison Keillor of “Prairie Home Companion” fame has said of the decision to add her to the ticket,
It was dishonest, cynical men who put forward a clueless young woman for national office, hoping to juice up the ticket, hoping she could skate through two months of chaperoned campaigning, but the truth emerges: The lady is talking freely about matters she has never thought about. The American people have an ear for B.S. They can tell when someone's mouth is moving and the clutch is not engaged.
The McCain/Palin litany about McCain being a “maverick” was finally too much for some proud Texans, and boy-o-boy do we need some Texans of whom we can be proud.

The word “maverick” didn’t just one day appear in the dictionary. John Schwartz usually writes about technology and society, but the other day he wrote about the history of a word--“maverick”. The word goes back to a family named Maverick in, you guessed it, Texas.
“I’m just enraged that McCain calls himself a maverick,” said Terrellita Maverick, 82, a San Antonio native who proudly carries the name of a family that has been known for its progressive politics since the 1600s, when an early ancestor in Boston got into trouble with the law over his agitation for the rights of indentured servants.

In the 1800s, Samuel Augustus Maverick went to Texas and became known for not branding his cattle. He was more interested in keeping track of the land he owned than the livestock on it, Ms. Maverick said; unbranded cattle, then, were called “Maverick’s.” The name came to mean anyone who didn’t bear another’s brand.
The name and politics didn’t end with Sam in the distant past.
Sam Maverick’s grandson, Fontaine Maury Maverick, was a two-term congressman and a mayor of San Antonio who lost his mayoral re-election bid when conservatives labeled him a Communist. He served in the Roosevelt administration on the Smaller War Plants Corporation and is best known for another coinage. He came up with the term “gobbledygook” in frustration at the convoluted language of bureaucrats.
And, after him, there was Maury Jr.
This Maverick’s son, Maury Jr., was a firebrand civil libertarian and lawyer who defended draft resisters, atheists and others scorned by society. He served in the Texas Legislature during the McCarthy era and wrote fiery columns for The San Antonio Express-News. His final column, published on Feb. 2, 2003, just after he died at 82, was an attack on the coming war in Iraq. [bold mine]
No wonder with such a history of the family’s association with liberalism and progressive ideals that 82 year old Terrellita Maverick takes such exception to John and Sarah’s misuse of the family name. McCain has voted so often with his party that in no way does he deserve the title, “in uppercase or lowercase.”
“He’s a Republican,” she said. “He’s branded.”
Let’s not hear any more of the "McCain is a maverick" gobbledygook today. How about McCain as the "Great Pretender"?

- Milo

Friday, October 10, 2008

Good News on a Bad News Day

On a day when the global financial system teeters on the brink of collapse, stock markets around the world sliding downward, and we see a President of the United States who has lost every ounce of credibility, pleading for patience and attempting to collaborate with former allies whose cooperation he has long spurned, I didn’t expect to hear any good news. But good news there is!

In an
85 page ruling today Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled today that gays and lesbians should be afforded the same basic right to marry as any other citizen of the state. The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that the state's civil unions discriminate against gay couples, paving the way for gay marriages to take place in the state.

The court's opinion says that Connecticut's current "scheme [civil unions] discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation." Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) lawyer Ben Klein
argued on behalf of eight same-sex couples before the court in May 2007. He argued
"What has been denied to these families is something that goes to the heart of equal protection," Klein told the court. He said that gays and lesbians "had the right to be part of the fabric of society when they are just the same as other couples and other families."

The state argued that civil unions gave gays and lesbians the same benefits.

The court sided with GLAD and stated in its ruling, "In light of the history of pernicious discrimination faced by gay men and lesbians, and because the institution of marriage carries with it a status and significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody, the segregation of heterosexual and homosexual couples into separate institutions constitutes a cognizable harm."

Klein said today's court opinion means that Connecticut's gays and lesbians "are full and equal parts of our society," and will now be afforded that basic right of marriage.
We can only hope that as this is recognized in other states, our nation as a whole will come to the place where we will see the end of legal discrimination against gays and lesbians as we saw the end of legal discrimination against interracial marriage in an earlier day.

I don’t know what to expect from the financial crisis, but some of my faith in our nation’s judicial system has been restored by the ruling in Connecticut.

- Milo

Monday, October 6, 2008

McCain "Turns a Page" From What?

Senator McCain at a March 1990 hearing of the Senate Ethics Committee investigating the relationship between a group of senators and banker Charles Keating Jr.

Greg Strimple, one of McCain’s top advisers, said

"We are looking forward to turning a page on this financial crisis..."
In the vice-presidential candidates debate Sarah Palin chided Joe Biden for talking about how we got to where we are now.

Of course, neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin wants to talk about how we got into the mess we are in now. In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to change the subject from the central question of this election. Perhaps because the policies McCain supported these past eight years and wants to continue are pretty hard to defend.

But it's not just McCain's role in the current crisis that they're avoiding. The backward economic philosophy and culture of corruption that helped create the current crisis are looking more and more like the other major financial crisis of our time. During the savings and loan crisis of the late '80s and early '90s, McCain's political favors and aggressive support for deregulation put him at the center of the fall of Lincoln Savings and Loan, one of the largest in the country. More than 23,000 investors lost their savings. Overall, the savings and loan crisis required the federal government to bail out the savings of hundreds of thousands of families and ultimately cost American taxpayers $124 billion.

Does this sound familiar?

In that crisis, John McCain and his political patron, Charles Keating, played central roles that ultimately landed Keating in jail for fraud and McCain in front of the Senate Ethics Committee. The McCain campaign has tried to avoid talking about the scandal, but with so many parallels to the current crisis, McCain's Keating history is relevant and voters deserve to
know the facts -- and see for themselves the pattern of poor judgment by John McCain.

I’ve just spent thirteen and a half minutes watching the new documentary
“Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis”. It details McCain’s role in the Keating scandal. Please take the time to view it.

When you watch it—be sure to check it against the
independently ascertained facts in the Chicago Sun-Time “Fact vs. Fiction” breakdown on McCain’s role in the scandal—I think you will understand why his campaign wants to turn attention away from the current financial crisis and why Palin doesn’t want to talk about the past.

Although he denies it now, McCain was a
supporter of privatizing Social Security back in 2004.
Without privatization, I don't see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits."
With the crisis on Wall Street now, can you imagine where we would be if Bush had gotten his way, with support from those like McCain, and had privatized Social Security?

Swift boat-like personal attacks on Obama are the McCain campaign’s strategy for keeping voters from thinking about his failure of integrity and judgment in the two greatest economic crises since the Depression. He has failed both in his “experience” and his “judgment,” his own two standards of qualification to be president.

What was that old saying I heard from my mother?
"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
Don’t be distracted!

- Milo