Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Don't Forget About The Auto Bailout

A few weeks ago the Big 3 automakers sent lobbyists to the GOP convention to beg for money, and in all this excitement I didn't want you to forget about the little, $25,000,000,000 bailouts. Yes, Detroit learned a lesso from the airline industry - which for years has gotten deals like the ones being proposed to the banks now (privatize profits and socialize losses, as a Reason Magazine article put it; check here for some links to Ron Paul and the Libertarian Party's take on things).

It looks like the automakers' prostration has paid off, but at least their bailout package is just loans. Still, like many of us, a fixed-income widow Gloria Basile asks "Where's my bailout?"

The National Review Article About Palin

You're probably familiar with the National Review - a well-known and regarded (even grudgingly by its opponents) conservative magazine founded by none other than William F. Buckley. And you may be familiar with Kathleen Parker, the noted conservative columnist. And you may have read the article in the Review where Parker said Palin should withdraw.

There are many quotables, but my favorite is "If BS were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself."

Palin is a master of public appearances - not facts, not policies, but of maneuvering in front of the press - but then again, she is a journalist (that's the college degree she finally got, then she became a sports broadcaster previous to her stint as a politician starting a few years ago). I understand from a friend's wife who worked with her that Sarah is a pleasant enough colleague in the newsroom. That's fine - but we already have enough media influence over American politics, last time I checked.

During the debate, listen to Palin for facts and figures and hard-boiled policy suggestions in the answers and rebuttals, not generalities and implications and "you can't blink" bluster. When it comes to public speaking, Joe Biden may not be Martin Luther King, but he knows his stuff, and I think we'll see that on Thursday.

"Profits are Private, But Losses Are Socialized"

While I was avoiding looking at my 401k balance this morning, I ran across a great quote about the bailout from a great article at Reason Magazine online. Has anybody started counting up the number of times Dubya uses a euphemism other than "bailout"?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Early Endorsements

Maybe it's not surprising that the Boston Globe endorsed Obama, but what is surprising is the volume of the negative language about Palin-McCain. And as the GOP lead is further battered by an economy suffering from too much prayer and not enough good old checkbook balancing, McCain is supposed to let "Palin be Palin in the VP debates"?
This is gonna be good.

Evangelicals: "We Shouldn't Have to Follow the Same Rules Everyone Else Does"

If you have any remaining doubts about the political agenda of evangelicals and their belief that the rules shouldn't apply to them in their quest for power (including IRS tax rules!) then read this article.

If you're an evangelical of course, you think this is great, and you can't wait for Palin-McCain to get into office and damage America's business competitiveness in the name of religious extremism. If you're not an evangelical and you're planning to vote GOP - as I was - you have to ask yourself: what are you still doing in this party?

One notable exception to the evangelical takeover of the GOP is real conservative Chuck Grassley.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Elitists Are Trying to Steal Your Tax Dollars - What Are You Doing About It?

In recent years there's been a lot of belly-aching about elitists who drive BMWs and sipping espresso. And guess what? Those very same elitists are demanding your tax dollars right now to bail them out for their bad judgment that caused this meltdown. Where's the outcry against the elitists now?

And yes, it does in fact appear to be the Democrats protecting our tax dollars against the spend-spend-spend-some-more evangelicals who can't balance a checkbook. No wonder the U.S. dollar is in the shape it's in!

Palin's Early Interviews

I didn't realize that they've been grooming Palin for a while on the kinds of tough foreign policy questions she should expect from the upcoming debate.

Censorship in China

The first presidential debates are behind us, the VP debates are coming up, and China is still there, and whoever is elected will have to deal with the biggest, fastest growing country in the world - a country with thousands of years of civilization, nuclear weapons, and an autocratic government.

Human Rights in China is based in New York and Hong Kong and a quick glance at their website shows the excellent work that they do to promote democracy in the world's newest superpower. One of their publications is written by a real-life Winston Smith, He Qinglian, an economist and journalist who worked at a major press outlet in China before she fled to the U.S. in 2001 to escape government pressure brought to bear for her writings. Fortunately while she was still working at the Chinese equivalent of the Ministry of Truth she was gathering material for her book The Fog of Censorship (free to download) which I'm still reading.

For those who admire the genius of that (not even American) flag-hugger Rupert Murdoch's media empire, page xv in the introduction should be a wake-up call:

"Nobody is more confident of gaining a slice of this market than Rupert Murdoch who has invested a great deal of money and energy over the years to establish good relations with top Chinese officials, and whose efforts have met with considerable success.His secret is to always steer clear of politics and to show no interest in democracy, freedom, or human rights in China. Even the issue of people's living standards, which the Chinese media do cover, is outside his purview. Consequently, Murdoch has shown studied indifference to liberating the Chinese media."

Qinglian stresses the point (as Ted Koppel's excellent piece did) that it's naive to think that liberty automatically follows market liberalization; that is to say, capitalism does not necessarily equal democracy. She stresses that in fact, freedom of the press and speech have actually decreased markedly in China in this decade of accelerating capitalism, compared to the 1990s. Visit HRIC's website to learn more - unless you're in China, of course, in which case you won't be able to see the website (see China's Golden Shield online by Greg Walton).

Thursday, September 25, 2008

American Bullet Trains - On The Ballot in November

If you've been reading for a while you know that I support a train system. Why can Japan and France do it but we can't? We could wait until oil is even more scarce and it's *really* expensive to move the materials and build the line, or we could start now.

In November, Californians will vote on Prop 1A, which will fund a bullet train that will get you from San Francisco to L.A. in two and a half hours. Compare that to three and a half to fly when you count getting to and through the airport on both ends.

Of course, you might ask: why do I care if I don't live in California? Good question. 1 in 8 Americans is Californian, and we drive and fly a lot. A high speed rail line will decrease gas consumption for the US overall, further reducing U.S. dependence on oil-producing theocracies (and lowering all Americans' price at the pump). Second, a successful high-speed rail initiative here will show the rest of the country that rail works in the 21st century. As it is, we need better rail infrastructure to move American goods from the heartland to ports where they can be shipped out to international customers (agriculture is first on the list here - let's take advantage of rising food prices since we're still a net exporter of food).

Yes on 1A!

Our Fundamentally Strong and Also In Crisis Economy

Well now. I go on a little vacation back home to Pennsylvania, and Obama's lead comes back. Could it be that the people of our great republic have finally had time to be convinced by my posts that Obama is the man for the job? Or conversely, I'm so bad that my posts actually increase support for McCain so when I stop, Obama jumps ahead 52-43? (In which case, stop reading now.)

Of course, it's because of the continuing blow-up on Wall Street that this has happened, and Americans associate it strongly with the GOP (and we're starting to see more articles reminding us of the 1980s savings and loan scandal, in which Mr. McCain was heavily involved). And - this is for you, my fellow Libertarians and free marketers, and Paul supporters, and Reagan/Nixon real-GOP-values voters - what's most disturbing is the no-strings-attached socialist-style bailout the evangelical wing of the GOP is demanding. Yes, socialist-style - as the Economist says, we're "nationalising the economy faster than you can say Hugo Chavez.)

What does Dubya say? "No time to think! Pass my package as-is or the world will end! Throw me the whip I throw you the idol, no time to argue!" (note: relevant line at 2:00.) Sorry George, you already used your no-time-to-argue card to give sweeping powers to big government when you gutted our civil rights protections. Maybe George has cried wolf a few too many times. And as of the latest news, it's the GOP that's balking at the accountability the Dems want to attach and running off after reaching a tentative agreement to draft their own plan different from what's been agreed on. That's college student government tactics.

I can understand if you're sick of the Federal government handing out your paycheck as entitlement program dollars to poor people. So how about $700,000,000,000 to rich people - and with even less accountability! (People getting unemployment usually have to fill out a form to prove that they're looking for work). The Libertarian Party is not surprisingly disgusted by the GOP's plan for the biggest welfare check ever written. And for Republicans that believe in economics instead of socialism and miracles, Ron Paul, straight-ahead and crystal-clear as usual, can tell you exactly what's going on and why. (Ron Paul, remember him? John McCain and the mainstream media would prefer you didn't.)

But there have to be some evangelical-Bush-McCain-GOP loyalists not hiding in the closet at the moment, right? For a balanced opinion I turn to David Henderson, Associate Professor of Economics at the Naval Postgraduate School, as well as a fellow of the conservative Hoover Institution. Okay, a military professor - this guy is going to understand what Dubya is doing, right? In an interview on KCBS radio today, Henderson said the bailout plan is a "really bad idea". He went on to say that President Bush should "go on TV today and decide, tell the audience, tell the public that he's made a mistake and he's immediately firing Henry Paulson." (If you listen to the recording, notice the anchor's stunned silence after he delivers this - they were expecting a pro-GOP answer.) Wait a second, could a professional economist who teaches at a military institution really be saying this? It's getting increasingly hard to ignore the current administration's neverending-campaign tactics that look only at tomorrow but neglect next week, and ideals be damned - first and foremost, any pretense of capitalism. And while this is going on, hedge fund managers are calling this Connecticut's Katrina, right in the Wall Street Journal - hey pro-business Republicans, there's yet another batch of business leaders getting off the sinking ship. What are you waiting for?

Conclusion: if you're an evangelical who thinks the End Times are upon us, you're right to vote for the GOP. Your girl Sarah has, after all, been exorcised of witchcraft (watch the video!) - I mean, what other qualifications do you need to be VP? And I think we should all stop worrying about her foreign policy experience since I'll wager her experience with Wall Street is even more questionable. Then again, so is McCain's, by his own admission.

On the other hand, if you're in the GOP because you're a small business owner, or because you're military, or because you're concerned about our foreign policy and global security, you're running out of reasons to vote Palin-McCain. This may be why out of desperation their campaign is trying the leave-the-race-for-a-while stunt. And we saw how well that move worked for Perot in '92. Skipping the debate will look bad to a lot of people, and McCain is already 13 points behind in Michigan. And that's a "battleground" state? Wow. Notice the McCain camp's reaction to the 9-point-lead poll I cited is to say that the battleground states are still close. Is that denial or delusion? I should add that I was surprised by the fact that in rural PA, the Obama lawn-signs clearly outnumber McCain's. Pennsylvania used to be a battleground state; not this time. My formerly arch-conservative and self-described redneck cousin will be voting in November for the first time - for Obama.

Yes, the GOP Civil War has finally arrived, although it may be too late to save the party. The Meltdown is the worst financial news since 1929, and thanks to George Dubya and the crony pseudo-capitalist, evangelical circus with its hooks in the party, the GOP will get credit for it for decades to come - and all the wheat of the GOP's core values will get trashed along with the chaff that the evangelicals have introduced for the last 15 years. And in the process we lose John McCain, who sacrificed his integrity for a losing campaign, who without the Bible-thumpers and flag-huggers infiltrating his platform like the cancer that they are, may actually have repaired the damage done to the country and GOP.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain's Economic (and Consistency) Problem

"The advantage I think that voters have when it comes to my [economic] plans they've been out there for over a year. This is not something I said in response to today's crisis."

This is what Barack Obama said to Reuters regarding his economic plan (full interview here).

In the meantime, John McCain goes from referring to the economy as "strong" to an economy in "crisis" within 36 hours, and now all of a sudden he wants more regulation of those greedy Wall Street people (getting nervous yet, financial sector GOP up there in the Northeast?)

McCain's populism is too abrupt to avoid suspicion. Which is it John, principles, or convenience? Solutions, or trying to distance yourself from the policies that helped bring on the crisis and that until days ago you supported?

McCain is even willing to sell out the rest of the GOP with his economic flip-flopping; he's turned earmarks into a curse word, disregarding the positions of his own party - yes, throwing GOP lawmakers under the bus for half a polling point. "I don't think it's the right approach," said Rep. Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican who has spent three decades on the House Appropriations Committee. "I haven't done an earmark I wouldn't be happy to have spread all over the front pages of the paper."

The five minute half-life of McCain's answers on money issues shouldn't surprise us given that he's already told us he's not an expert on Wall Street, which is scary when things are this bad.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Old McCain, New McCain / Right Hand vs Left Hand

"I want no part of this," McCain said in a July 2005 statement. "This legislation is not — I emphasize not — my way of legislating."

The governor initially championed the first so-called Bridge to Nowhere, which would have connected the southeastern Alaska town of Ketchikan to its airport on nearby Gravina Island. She later pulled the plug on the project after it became a national symbol of extravagant federal spending.

Palin's record on the Bridge to Nowhere has emerged as a central point of controversy in the campaign over her recent public claims that she had opposed it, aligning herself with McCain's anti-earmarks philosophy.

Palin still supports the second bridge, officially named Don Young's Way in honor of the congressman. She called for a review of the bridge's financing plans and raised concerns about its financial risks for the state. Still, the planning process is marching forward.

Full article is here. Seems that more old vs new McCain positions are coming out - old McCain on the Straight Talk Express, and new McCain who hijacked it at some point. And he picks a big-government high-spending running mate to run a third GOP term to finish wrecking Wall Street ("the biggest financial story of the past 50 years") and the US economy. No wonder they're doing their best to make us forget about Ron Paul!

At least McCain can keep his suddenly discovered evangelical base. Because about the only thing that can save us if he gets elected is prayer.

McCain's Economy, Part II

So you still think McCain is the better choice, even with all the economic disaster stories piling up? Do you really want to give a third term to the same party that did this:

Wholesale inflation has soared 9.8% in the past 12 months, the highest clip since 1981. The more widely cited consumer price index jumped to 5.6%. In other words, while your saved buck was adding 2 cents or so on one end (and even less after taxes), three times as much was getting singed off the other end of that dollar bill. "Inflation is just deadly to savings," says David Gitlitz, chief economist at TrendMacrolytics, an investment adviser. Gitlitz observes that, taking into account the hit from inflation, rates haven't been this negative since the dreary 1970s. Full article here.

Folks, this is bad. We're back in Carter-Land.

Are you getting up extra early to make sure your AIG insurance is still valid? I know it crossed my mind about four times today.

Most interesting to me is the preponderance of Ron Paul supporters in the comments section of that article.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Concerned About Hillary's Influence During Bill's Presidency?

We already have a window into how much influence the spouse of one VP candidate will have - and that VP is likely to take pretty active role.

McCain Is An Evangelical, Period.

McCain supports groups like the one in this Christian Science Monitor article, judging by the fact that he speaks at their conventions. Notice how good McCain had gotten at keeping quiet his conveniently timed outreach to the evangelical wing, and notice how he uses his wife to deliver the message (here she is discussing creationism with Katie Couric).

I had supported McCain (strongly!) because I wanted a moderate, Nixon-Reagan Republican candidate interested in market and country. Until this month I thought we had a chance of getting that. If you want an evangelical who puts Scripture first, he's your man.

Important Political Message

If you're like me, you'll be riveted to the screen - and yes that's Gina Gershon.

It's the Economy, It's the Economy, It's the Economy!

This is a real bad time to be a market Republican. Seems the GOP has set its priorities: God first, country second, market fifteenth. Businesspeople (like me) are getting very nervous as it becomes more and more difficult to pretend that the GOP cares about them at all.

It's no wonder - after 8 years of Bush's pretend conservatism, and turning the GOP into "the party that wrecked America", as some are calling it, we have Wall Street banks going bankrupt. It may not be obvious to everybody what a disaster this is for the American economy, in the same way that it's not immediately obvious that your alternator failing is bad for your car. Eventually your lights dim and the thing stops. Dead.

Meanwhile, I just finished The Coming Collapse of China. Its author argued that said collapse would be triggered by a liquidity crisis in the country's banks. It was published in 2001; oddly enough, since then, the Chinese banking system, while still not in great shape, has improved considerably, to the point of tolerating the scrutiny of foreign investors. Interesting! Meanwhile I saw people lining up to withdraw from ATMs at my local Washington Mutual on Saturday morning. When are we going to wake up? The GOP is no longer the party of fiscal responsibility.

So - our major banks going under, our country's in massive debt due to an ongoing war - do you pick the candidate from the same party that's put us in this situation, who expects the war to go on another hundred years, and who will put us in even more debt? How about the candidate who says he's "not an expert on Wall Street" and supports the do-nothing decision not to do anything to avert another meltdown? Meanwhile, how's your job, how's your company doing, how are your 401k and home value holding up? Of course, that's John McCain and his bevy of Bush plants.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ron Paul Not Backing McCain

...and is his refusal to endorse the newly spineless McCain any surprise after his treatment by the GOP at the convention? One post at the Lew Rockwell blog reminds Paul supporters that they do have free will, and if you see any campaign messages coming down from GOP HQ that seem completely inconsistent with the GOP's and conservatism's core values, you don't have to push them on the public. Die-hard Republicans, that doesn't even mean "Vote for Obama". It just means you don't have to repeat every reality-TV campaign talking point you're expected to. Easy - and all Americans benefit! Andrew Sullivan puts it a little more bluntly.

Of course, nobody is talking about McCain's plan to be in Iraq for a hundred years - remember that? Multiply casualties and costs for five years (so far) times twenty and see how that looks for our kids and grandkids.

Enjoying Your Privacy?

The Federal government is getting the big telcos to do its spying for it, and in turn it's immunizing them from any sort of legal accountability. Anyone out there think this is really a good idea?

A lot of Clinton supporters weren't too bothered when the idea of barcoding private vehicles (to be read by highway scanners) first came up in the 90s, but would be horrified at similar ideas now. By the same token, you might be thinking "This wiretapping by big telecoms is okay because it's for the right reason and the authorizations are coming from the right people." Now: imagine it's January 21st, and it's President Obama's appointees authorizing the wiretaps. Do you still feel the same way? A wiser man than I once said in a democracy, you always have to be ready to turn the controls of the machine you've built over to your worst enemy. If this bothers you, a good place to help do something is here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Evo Morales: Failing in Bolivia

Looks like nationalization is really popular with the People of Bolivia. Way to go Evo Morales! No surprise that this administration would be the strongest ally of Chavez, who of course is busy expelling our ambassador.

One of Chavez's more boneheaded moves to score points with the less informed elements of his population has been to nationalize industries, or at least heavily tax them. I call the new Latin Psuedo-Left's brand of economics Grandstand Socialism, but you can find it outside Latin America - in fact you can find it right here in the US. How can a US administration make a case against the injustices that dictators like Chavez impose on his own people and industries if we're doing it right here? Especially if they can't stand up to hostility like McCain-Palin?

Look Who Doesn't Have Their Stories Straight

While McCain is going around telling people Palin didn't ask Congress for any money, she tells ABC that by "nothing" McCain meant "just $200,000,000".

This is exactly why I defected - political consultants and elitists that apparently don't believe the truth exists, apart from what you need to say to get elected. If you think the only way the GOP can get into office is by lying to the American people, then maybe there's something wrong.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Do We Trust McCain on Abortion?

If you're pro-life, doesn't this last-minute conversion concern you? (See Fox News.)

McCain Flip-flops on Tax Cuts

All Aboard the Double-Talk Express! Tired of pig-lipstick reality-TV politics? Think you'd be getting a better tax deal from a McCain presidency? So did I. But think again.

Apparently taxes aren't the only thing he's changed his mind about recently. Here's the master list, and here are some highlights.

This is not the John McCain we learned to respect in the last decade. His campaign has been hijacked by the evangelical movement. We're not getting John McCain, we're getting Bush's most extreme supporters with McCain as their front. Unfortunately it really will be McSame. Otherwise why would even a Republican Senator say that Palin is a "wacko"?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sarah Palin: Bad Mom Part 2

I will post only a Google News search link of the rumor in question since at this point it's still that - but still interesting.

Palin's Abuse of Alaska State Police Force For Personal Vendetta

This Newsweek article shows how she repeatedly had to be told by a judge to stop using the police to get back at her sister's ex, even after she was elected governor. She apparently had repeated run-ins with the Alaska State Troopers Union and judges, even after she was elected. You were worried about Hillary being shrill and cold-blooded?

McCain in Michigan

In a state that's had more than its share of job creation problems, this guy dares talk about making it easier for illegal immigrants to stay? Maybe the scariest thing here is he can't even handle a crowd booing him. How's he going to handle the Russians in Georgia?

Like his running mate Sarah Palin, he also wants more big government in your life, regardless of what he says. He's strongly in favor of requiring Federal IDs (this would be like a national driver's license) even though the state of Michigan and most of the states in the country are against it. And he keeps trying to fool working people in the country's industrial areas by talking about "tax hikes". McCain's plan really only gives a tax break to the rich (do you make $100,000 a year or more?) And it further weakens a Federal government that already has the biggest deficit in the last fifty years. Concerned about healthcare? Living on a fixed income? What do you think the chance is that McCain will stick to his promises?

Palin's First Blunder

Making it worse, it has to do with one of the next administration's first problems - the housing market.

Speaking before voters in Colorado Springs, the Republican vice presidential nominee claimed that lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had 'gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers." The companies, as McClatchy reported, "aren't taxpayer funded but operate as private companies. The takeover may result in a taxpayer bailout during reorganization."

Economists and analysts pounced on the misstatement, which came before the government had spent funds bailing the two entities out, saying it demonstrated a lack of understanding about one of the key economic issues likely to face the next administration.

"You would like to think that someone who is going to be vice president and conceivable president would know what Fannie and Freddie do," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. "These are huge institutions and they are absolutely central to our country's mortgage debt. To not have a clue what they do doesn't speak well for her, I'd say."

What's another big priority? Iraq, and Presidential Candidate John McCain isn't even sure where it is. BOY it feels good to be able to be honest about these things. GOP moderates, come on over!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ohio Losing Jobs - and the McCain Connection

"DHL Deal Gone Sour Haunts McCain in Ohio"

Listen to his lame answer, while people are out of work.

Sarah "Regular Gal" Palin

I usually don't charge my client companies per diem expenses when I'm staying at home (more evidence of her big-government philosophy that she's somehow trying to pass off as small government!). Also unlike Trophy Vice Sarah Palin, I never charged $25,000 for expenses for one of my kids. Or paid $345 for Japanese designer glasses - a real regular gal!

Is Kim Jong Ill?

He's not showing up for parades. I don't feel bad making puns on the name of a bastard like him. He's the worst world leader alive, period.

Sarah Palin is a Pentecostal

Here it is.

If you saw the Borat movie - you remember when people were speaking in tongues? That's Sarah Palin's sect. If you're a Christian and you're not quite sure what a Pentecostal is, here they are - from the standpoint of normal, sane Christians. Do you want one of these people to be Vice President?

The GOP right now is doing its best to avoid alienating non-speaking-in-tongues voters by equivocating every time they're asking if Sarah Palin is a Pentecostal. There are two answers to this question: yes or no. Either Sarah Palin doesn't have the courage to tell America about her faith, or she's not Pentecostal even though she's gone to the church and sat there and mouthed the words, or she really is an extremist zealot who believes in the End Times and she's about to get her finger on the Button and that 9/11 was God punishing Jews. Which one is it?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cuba #2: Russia's Second Imperialist Move

Hugo Chavez is again doing his best to piss off the U.S., and Russia in its spasm of nationalism is only too happy to oblige him by sending their warships to do joint exercises in the Caribbean.

Legal, but calculated to annoy us. The formula for Chavez's foreign policy is essentially "What will make me look best to the Venezuelan and Latin American man in the street, thereby ensuring my hold on power? Calling the U.S. names, that's what!" And so he does - but such a foreign policy becomes a little stale after not too long, and his pretend populism has become a little suspicious to some of his neighbors, especially since his adventurism with terrorists in Colombia was revealed (not even by the U.S. - by Interpol).

Over the short term, Russia's behavior (in Ossetia, with Iran, and now with Venezuela) does make it more of a threat to democracy than my favorite target China. China is a long-term concern that should and can become a constructive partner for the rest of the world if its government transitions to a democracy. Like a fever, Russia is self-limiting. It has resources and little else, and it's been losing population every year since the Soviet Union Collapsed. It does not threaten to overtake the US as the world's economic center of gravity. And its military can only do so much. Its recent behavior (and that of its stooges like Venezuela) is self-limited because it is (to put it mildly) not welcomed even by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, many of whose members are (to put it mildly) not democracies. China is obviously not interested in encouraging the independence of subordinated ethnic-minority provinces in other nations (as with South Ossetia leaving Georgia to be annexed by Russia). And even tchough the EU's message is as always tumultuously debated, it's a strong anti-Russia response, even in the case of the Germans. The world has lined up against Russia.

I should add that in the long-term, the Georgian action badly cools Russia and China's tenuous strategic partnership, which is of course is good news in the long-term. Yu Bin's classic, stilted Chinese Communist Party-style column in the Asia Times predictably (and poorly) plays damage control trying to convince us that the relationship is still solid. , in the process reassuring the West that it no longer is. What can we do? Don't buy gas at Citgo, the Venezuelan oil company.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Time for a Civil War in the GOP

Given the recent takeover of the GOP (again) by the wrong values and the silencing of the old John McCain, it's worth reviewing this article from the New York Times in October 2004. An official in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations, Bruce Bartlett said "if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the Republican Party starting on Nov. 3.".

Clearly it didn't happen, and we've seen how well the last four years have gone. The party is in ruins and it's been handed again to the same people responsible for converting the GOP into an intrusive big government free-for-all, in the process trashing our economy and foreign policy. Moderates, businesspeople, free market Republicans, progressives, rationalists - it's time to think about Bartlett's words. You have another chance.

American Auto Makers Request Nationalization

Well, not really. They do want special financial treatment from the government. But they don't want any pesky obligations to their creditors.

Of course, this isn't the first time that large American employers have asked the government for welfare. The big airlines (most notoriously American and United) have gone crying to Uncle Sam for bailouts repeatedly over the last ten years; what always happens is they spend the last package and come back again for more, and somehow they manage this without our elected officials demanding some oversight into how they wasted our taxpayer dollars. If you really support a free market, then (like me) you're rightly horrified by what amounts to prodigal socialism. If you're going to have a national airline, then just have a national airline for crying out loud - they use taxpayer dollars but at least they're subject to oversight by the people writing the checks. The airlines have had it both ways for years, and now the auto makers want in on the action. Who can blame them?

Of course, the problem is that GM, Ford, and Chrysler going out of business would be a bad jolt to an already shaky economy, and in a state critical to John McCain's victory (the Big Three execs should have written the number of Michigan's electoral votes on their name badges). So the question is: would the jolt be bad enough to justify some good old New Deal-style intervention to keep them as going concerns at least for right now? Some cases (like the Bear-Sterns bailout and acquisition) would be opposed only by the most rabid market fundamentalist. But sorry Mr. Wilson, what is good for GM is not always good for the country. The problem is that any enterprise which needs welfare to continue functioning is likely to become black holes that keep needing it - as do United and American Airlines - and in some cases, they even expand, because there's no pressure to streamline. The intractable problem of China's economy is what to do with the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that Mao founded, many of them (interestingly) automakers. This isn't a problem that we need. With the SOEs, the State is guaranteed to continue pouring away money it doesn't have. Without them, China's economy would melt down, despite the growth it's seen in the big coastal cities. By the way, can you name a single Chinese automaker? No? Is it maybe because they can't compete internationally?

This isn't the first time the American Big Three automakers have complained to the US government or the American public about something that in a real capitalist economy would be considered nobody's fault but their own. Another favorite on their s***-list is what they consider the hoarding of hybrid parts by Japanese automakers. Translation: Japanese automakers were way ahead of Detroit on this curve and by the time the Big Three got off their asses, Toyota et al already had strong relationships with vendors, causing those vendors to de-prioritize their deliverables for their newer, smaller customers - the American automakers - thus damaging their competitiveness in the only sector of the auto market that's showing growth in an otherwise dismal year (and not the only example of an important American industry getting caught off-guard when it could, with more foresight, have been profiting from this economy). Not to put a fine point on it, but boo-hoo, Big Three - that's how international business works. I should also point out that there's a strong difference between government-industry partnerships, which have worked so well in Japan, and bailouts, which is what they're looking for now. But it doesn't stop the whining. Sorry, Big Three, and sorry airlines - the party is ending. It's either capitalism, or state-owned-enterprise. You have to pick one, and only one.

So the Big Three went to Minnesota, begging the GOP to completely compromise the principles of Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and give them billions in special deals. Then again, in today's religious-zealot-controlled GOP, you can't let your (supposed principles) get in the way, especially in an election year. State, market, and religion are usually not lined up behind the same objectives - especially not religion. The question is how much can you stomach your party lying to make it seem as if they are?

Sarah Palin is a Bad Mom

Everybody else seems to be scared to say it, so I will. Sarah Palin is a bad mom.

It's not an attack on her kids to comment on the disconnect between her position on sex education and the problems it's caused in her family. Palin seems quite anxious to use big government to force her an extremist agenda on Americans, including abstinence only sex education - which doesn't work. If you want to teach your own kids not to use birth control - and we see how well that worked out for her - that's your choice. But don't force it on the rest of us.

Further Evidence: McCain Has Lost Control of His Own Campaign

McCain has lost control of the message and his own party's platform. The Palin pick really underscores how the well-connected evangelicals have taken over, and despite the depserate ranting of O'Reilly, it's not going well. For one thing, it turns out Palin went back and forth between five colleges - five - and McCain's people never called them. Hey small business-owners out there - I don't know about you, but when I'm hiring someone, I check their references and degrees, but I guess that's too much work for today's GOP (or there was a reason they didn't want to or care to).

And, more fun in the religious zealot department: Palin goes to a church where she prays to convert gays into straight people. This is no regular gal - she's a diva who thinks that questions are beneath her, since she won't talk to the press. Is this the woman you want potentially taking over the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Timber Wolf Alpha-Female or Sarah Palin?

Guess which is which!

1) Intelligence of at least a three-year-old

2) Reproduces in litters of five

3) Kills moose for food

4) Clan survival ensured because young can themselves begin reproduction at early age

5) Ruthlessly casts out own relatives from social power structure in effort to solidify control

6) Attractiveness of healthy fur and skin distracts males from sinister white teeth, evolved for viciously tearing off chunks of flesh

7) Master of camouflage: for a few minutes at a time can lie motionless under snowbank or appear as a progressive feminist

8) Takes over new territory by seeking out weak, elderly alpha-males and biding time

9) In the last decade, has been a member of a political party which seeks to re-write the American Constitution and dissolve the Union (okay, that one's a gimme)

10) Only thing colder than the Arctic wastes she inhabits: HER EYES

If you answered "BOTH" for all, you're a winner! (Except numbers 6 and 9 - Sarah Palin only)

Call For Evidence of Palin's Intrusionism

Any information you see, in any medium, showing Palin's fringe history, her religious extremism, her anti-Constitutional activities in the past, or her intrusionist agenda - please send it to me. I'll be happy to give you credit. People in the center need to see what she's really been up to, because the mainstream media doesn't seem interested in presenting this information.

Ron Paul: Erased by GOP Media Maneuvers

Here's more disturbing news about the party that wants to force big government further into our lives, and the religious extremists it not only tolerates, but nominates for vice president.

Libertarians and Ron Paul fans, if you're still voting GOP, then you're really not paying attention. Paul is clearly not in love with the GOP and with Neil Cavuto he was careful to tiptoe around a Palin nomination he's also angry about. Maybe Paul's greater distaste for the evangelical nutbars who are ruining the party had something to do with the Republication Convention not counting votes for Paul and cutting off pro-Paul delegates' mikes. That might be why Paul had a separate (and much more energetic) rally outside the convention. This treatment is no surprise, considering Paul's unswerving dedication to preserving the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and Palin's dedication to a political party that wants to rewrite it (and/or to secede from the Union - yes, really). And this woman might be our next Vice President? Under the name of "Republican"?

Of course, we didn't hear much about all that because the GOP's media consultants have seen to it that their buddies in the editorial rooms stay focused on the "proper" big players - that is to say, not on Ron Paul.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Electoral Philosophies of the Major Parties

Modern GOP: "If we let people have what they really want, they would wreck the country. So we've now put ourselves in a position where the only way we can get elected is to spin the hell out of every issue, and change our story constantly, and make it as hard as possible for Americans to realize that what we actually plan to do in office is in most cases against their self interest."

Democrats: "People voting for what they really want is how democracy should work. We'll naively believe that since we're representing people's rational self-interests that the population will be able to see through all the evangelical manipulation of the media and public opinion." (Note: every now and then they get a natural-born media-savvy nightmare who rises to the top of the Democratic Party despite their normal inability to cultivate them. Two of them were Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and they give the GOP nightmares.)

Unfortunately for John McCain, it's 2008 and the GOP's bullsh*tting and story-changing to get into office at all costs has finally painted them into a corner. As with Dubya, there's not a lot of positions that aren't purely to get into office, and we've had two terms to see what that does to a presidency. And trying to get Hillary votes and evangelicals for the same person is a foolish ploy, and I'm not the only defector the VP choice has created. And once professional religious interferer Jimmy Dobson weighs in for McCain-Palin, changing his previous position, you know why: the evangelical movement has given its seal of approval to the GOP ticket. Religious extremists have again hijacked the party, and it's time to get out (Palin's acceptance speech was written by Bush's speech writers - there is no longer any chance of salvaging the GOP in this election).

Centrists, Libertarians, moderate Republicans left on the other side, if you can no longer stomach your own party's lies, come on over. I promise it feels a lot better to be able to speak according to your convictions, not those of a team which doesn't share your values.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What I Want in China: Part I

A reader asked in a comment a few weeks ago what it is I want in China. The full answer will fill many posts, but here's the thirty-thousand foot view.

To establish common ground in negotiations with the Soviet Union, Ronald Reagan often used the rhetorical conceit that both nations would surely unite against an alien invasion. Forgive me for indulging in the same device, but if I were kidnapped by aliens, and they said, "Listen. We don't have much time here, and we need you to point to one civilization by which will serve as the example for your species in our catalogs." I would say, "If you really want a meaningful picture, you really need to look at two: Rome and China."

I've said as much before in less science fictional terms. My admiration not only for the achievements of Chinese civilization but the intelligence and work ethic of its people is profound. The lack of transparency, representation, and basic Enlightenment freedoms under its current government is the beginning of the problem. Gordon Chang says in The Coming Collapse of China that the double-digit growth witnessed beginning under Deng really is just the Chinese government getting out of the way and letting the Chinese be Chinese, and there's the real nightmare - that this government has selectively allowed freedom of capital, but not freedom of speech or worship or movement, but in so doing has still become a superpower. China's economic renaissance does not guarantee freedom to its citizens, and it certainly doesn't bode well for the rest of us who have to live on the same planet.

Meanwhile, because China manufactures, and we're the market - and because Chinese banks have capital, and the U.S. government borrows it - and their currency relies on trade with the U.S., while the dollar's value relies partly on Chinese hoarding - the two nations' economies are inextricably tied. To be sure, the current asymmetric arrangement cannot continue indefinitely, although imbalances between China and the West have been written about since Isaac Newton. America and China are dance partners for the foreseeable future and then some, much more than most Americans realize.

I frequently use Cold War metaphors, and it's really to raise American consciousness that China is a superpower, and there will be geopolitical consequences beyond economic ones if the current incarnation of Chinese government continues on its bumbling but brutal path. The last thing anyone anywhere in the world should want is any kind of direct conflict between China and the U.S., or even another real revolution in China. What I do want, and I hope so does everyone, is an increasing awareness of occidentals, and Americans in particular, of the abysmal lack of human rights in China; of the plight of Taiwan, which continues to receive too little credit for its contribution to the East Asian economic sphere; and an increasing sense of entitlement of Chinese political dissidents, and Tibetans, and Uighurs, and Falun Gong, and my fellow bloggers on the other side of the Great Firewall - in short, dramatically increased transparency, the allowance of multiple parties and free elections, and a recognition that an open and democratic China is a stronger, prouder China. This is anything but inevitable. An added bonus is that it will have a ripple effect on the rest of East Asia, which in general could also stand an improvement in this department. How we can help is by electing officials who can join the world in working with Chinese citizens and expats in opening China, once they see more than immediate increased trade dollars in dealings with China - a pressure that, by the way, the Soviet Union could never bring to bear, and which primarily draws wealth out of the U.S.

The peri-Olympics Chinese government already enjoys the strong patriotic support of its own Gen Y, and has nothing to fear from enacting its own glasnost. What is bad for the maintenance of the current version of the Chinese government is good for the Chinese people. What is good for the Chinese people is good for everybody.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The GOP's Own Thomas Eagleton

Sarah Palin is Thomas Eagleton in 2008.

No, I don't think she's received shock therapy. But you know what I'm talking about. A party trying to court evangelicals (the social, moral conservatives) brings in a VP candidate whose seventeen year-old daughter turns out to be pregnant.

To be clear: it's Sarah Palin who decided to enter the public eye by seeking elected office, not her daughter. That said, Sarah Palin "is a strong proponent of teaching abstinence-only sex education to teenagers" (quoting ABC), so this hypocrisy reflects strongly, and negatively, on Sarah Palin. This is an almost poetic example of why religion should not be the basis for policy decisions, whether you're talking about using the government to force the Bible on kids in science class (like Sarah Palin wants to) or teaching
abstinence-only sex-ed (which might be her religion, but it doesn't work).

This is also yet another sign of what I can now openly call John McCain's snafu magnet. First the Straight Talk Express hits a van (humorous link, but real event). Then, he changes his mind about offshore drilling in time to collect money from long-standing special interests, only to be kept away from his photo op on an oil rig by an oil spill. And finally, Hurricane Gustav nearly cancels the GOP convention and reminds everybody of the Katrina fiasco. A now this. Of course as an atheist I don't see any significance in these coincidences, but you believers out there should draw the obvious conclusion that Someone is trying to tell you something.

My favorite part is how the McCain camp says that they knew Palin's daughter was pregnant. Sure they knew. You know, there are no other qualified evangelical-wooing and/or candidates without pregnant teenaged daughters, right? But what is McCain going to say? "I had no idea, and she snowed me." No, he has to look informed, rather than like a man who's having choices made for him by the religious right wing of the GOP that's ruined the party these last 8 years. The question is whether McCain will take advantage of his ignored convention to switch candidates, like McGovern in '72. Of course, even if he picks Pawlenty or Ridge at this point I don't know that I could trust his future cabinet picks.

Encircling the World's Commodities: Not Just Oil and Gas

I've noticed several small to mid-sized city newspapers running articles or op-ed pieces about how our lack of rail infrastructure is damaging US ability to transport food, exactly when rising food prices make one of our strongest exports all the more valuable (one in the Scottsbluff, Nebraska Star-Herald, one in the Reading, Pennsylvania Eagle; they boil down to this AP article.) It may very well be a coordinated campaign to get middle America and the farm lobby to recognize that a strong rail system is necessary to food transport. Campaign or not, it's ludicrous that our transport system is limiting our ability to take advantage of this great global market for our exports, and that foreign oil has such an impact on the price of our exports.

I've also been writing about Russia's use of its resources as a foreign policy bludgeon, as well as the recognition in the West that the early 21st century is about encircling the world's remaining resources, and that there are real bad guys doing it, the kind that you can't just take the DVD out when they get too scary. So it seems almost embarrassingly obvious that as a net exporter of grain, we haven't thought of the same thing (read "An OPEC for Food?", from Agcapita Farmland Investment Partnership based in Alberta, Canada.) And, as it turns out we're not the first to think of this. Russia has had this idea with its own grain but fortunately they don't have much leverage in their biggest foreign markets - yet.

The idea of a Grain-PEC might raise free-market hackles, but limiting supply to Russia in hard times or certain East Asian powers should they behave aggressively toward Taiwan or South Korea would not damage US grain exports severely or over the long term, and it would protect and stabilize the global markets that we all depend on, including our farmers. Free markets don't work without some government guarantee of stability enforceable contracts, and as Friedman pointed out in The Lexus and the Olive Tree, the governments and sometimes militaries of the world's liberal democracies protect those markets. (A historical note to hardcore libertarians: free markets don't just happen on their own. Otherwise, the Silk Road today wouldn't be significantly more perilous to trade along than it was seven centuries ago. Why? No Mongol armies guarding the length of it from bandits, that's why.)

By the way, the irony is not lost on me that a recent Obama convert is supporting the geopolitical conclusions, if not the action plan, of the PNAC's whitepaper. But Obama has a golden opportunity for hardheaded pragmatism to regain the mainstream of American politics, by recognizing the hard realities of resource politics and move strategically to make sure this century ends with liberal democracy still the dominant form of government on our planet. And there are real bad guys out there willing to use their control of resources - not just oil - to manipulate the world's democracies. Still think T. Boone Pickens and others like him aren't making sense? Or that we can wait?