Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Obama and the Chicago School

Posted by Gerald on September 5, 2008

My good friend Steve showed me this article from the NY Times.

This is an insightful look at Obama’s economic policies and at the ideas behind them.  It certainly refutes the simplistic “attack” (if it is such a thing) that the Fred Thompsons of the nation make about Obama being an old-style big government liberal.  It also shows the, perhaps surprising to many, connections between Obama’s ideas and those of the “Chicago School” of economics, whose insights were turned into cartoonish nightmares of policy by Conservative politicians who didn’t fully understand them.

This article also shows Obama as a man who thinks deeply, takes advice from experts, and believes in empirical research over dogma.  He seems to be a man with a widely nuanced view of most subjects and the antithesis of the from-the-gut “common sense” that has brought us to the credit crisis and the war in Iraq and which has made of us the intellectual laughing-stock of the world.

I fear he doesn’t have a prayer of getting elected in this country.

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Posted in politics | 2 Comments »

I’m Ready!

Posted by Gerald on May 5, 2008

Tomorrow is the NC primary and since I do not have an exam in the morning I’m going to go vote on the way to work.

For people from states that do not regularly schedule their primaries in May, you might not realize how exciting this is.  Someone is actually sort of paying attention to the vote here!  Sure, you almost forget our primary given the press coverage: “Tomorrow is the all important primary in Indiana!  They’re also voting in North Carolina…”  But still.

I actually got a robocall from Hillary yesterday and one from Bill, for Hillary, today.  The blinking light on my answering machine suggests I’ve got another one – maybe Barack?  People who live in cities and are inundated with these won’t get the novelty.  I live in a rural county that, I believe, last voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate when LBJ ran in 1964.  I’m used to robocalls for the local races, but I’ve NEVER gotten one here for a national race.

I spent much of the evening at the website for the NC Center for Voter Education.  I made my picks for President, Governor, and the person who Elizabeth Dole is going to defeat in November (my least favorite Senator – I preferred Helms, he at least had an honest commitment to this state) already.  My task was to figure out who I wanted for the Council of State posts (Labor Commissioner, State Auditor, etc…).

I started out with the NARAL and NCEA (the teacher’s non-union in our “right to work” paradise – affiliated with the much hated NEA) voter guides.  Then the Center for Voter Education website, which has a collection of podcast interviews with most of the candidates for state offices, including the non-partisan judicial posts.  I decided that to just reject those who didn’t interview out of hand.  If you can’t find time for this, you don’t have time for the job.  That got me through everything but our district court race and that sorted out through some judicious searching through on-line articles from our local papers.

So tomorrow morning I’ll head out for the polls armed with my list (written on the back of an Oxfam envelope) and go hit my polling place.  As usual, I’m sure the workers there will be surprised to see an actual breathing registered Democrat come in to vote.

I remember my father taking me in with him to vote sometime back in the 1972 election (he was a Nixon man to the bitter end).  Standing next to him in the old voting machine, he picked me up to let me press the lever for Nixon.  That moment had a sacred quality to my young mind that going to church never had.  I have had a certain sense of religion, but I once had faith in the United States of America.  As I grew up, I was more excited as a teenager about the prospect of voting than I was about driving.  I volunteered for my first political campaign when I was 16.  One of my teachers was running for county commissioner.  I got my first experience with cold calling, knocking on doors, and with angry people who didn’t want Wheel of Fortune interrupted and didn’t want to see me in any case – good experience for when I later worked as a bill collector in college.  He didn’t win, which some might take as proof of the divine.  I kept that excitement through college.  I loved election night.  I was a politics junkie.  That survived my switching ends of the political spectrum, a growing maturity in my understanding of my country, and even Bill Clinton’s decision that the sexualized needs of his ego were more important than his party, his presidency, or even the dignity of his office.

That all ended in 2000.  Bush the Younger was the first candidate I had opposed not just because I disagreed with him (as I had his father) but because I thought he would be bad for the country.  His smarmy self-satisfaction and total lack of engagement just seemed so clear to me.  Still, after Florida and the courts, I told myself that his victory wasn’t so bad.  The republic had weathered Civil War and the Great Depression, how bad could he be?

Eight years later I’ve lost most of my remaining faith in democracy and in this country.  Still, for the first time in years I’m feeling an echo of that old excitement.

Maybe there is a chance.

Maybe.

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A Master of Understatement

Posted by Gerald on August 2, 2007

Robert Gates is “optimistic” about the security situation in Iraq.  This leads me to wonder what reality-altering agents are being administered to the Cabinet on a regular basis and whether they might be used for good rather than evil.

The FUNNY part, though, is that he described the lack of political progress there as “discouraging.”  This is sort of like describing the Second World War as “violent.” 

Posted in international relations, Iraq War, news, opinion, politics | 1 Comment »

Damned if They Do…

Posted by Gerald on August 2, 2007

The Democrats seem to actually be sticking by their promises to make sure that all proposed new spending is off-set by new taxes or with spending cuts elsewhere.  In other words, they seem to be – on this issue – trying to be responsible in their role as guardians of the public trust.

So, of course, the Republicans are making sure they pay for it.

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Ignoreland

Posted by Gerald on July 28, 2007

(I’m writing this bit after having finished the rest of the post.  This is a little warning before you continue reading.  What started as a bit of sarcastic fun about a news item quickly blossomed into my venting over the weeks activities in Washington – and things beyond.  I actually get something out of these moments of unedited stream-of-consciousness externalization, but I’m not sure any of my small band of readers do.  Hence, be warned!  This is one of those posts, and I had no idea how depressed I was when I started writing this thing.)

It turns out that our shadow overlord, His Serene Darkness Dick Cheney has a heart.  At least that is the cover story for his surgery.  The official story is that he had to have the batteries in his pacemaker replaced.

Sure.

My guess is that either the cloned body that was created for him by Kang and Kodos has started to deteriorate and had to be replaced or that it was time for him to complete his centennial sacrifice of one thousand babies to Nyarlathotep so he can maintain his immortality and his membership in the Illuminati. 

Just as seriously though, last weekend Dubya had to cede power to Darth Cheney for the period of his two-hour rectal probe.  Now under the OLD Constitution, the VP didn’t have to do that if he was going into surgery.  However, today we live under the Bush Constitution – the one where he, his advisers, and the spin master he chose as Attorney General (I never would have believed I could miss john Ashcroft) are all above the law and the VP is also a power unto himself.  Do you suppose Cheney had to cede his authority as Chancellor of the Undisclosed Fourth Branch of Government during his unholy rites, er, I mean “surgery”?  If so, who do you suppose took over for him?  I’m sure it wasn’t Nancy Pelosi…

It would be easier for all of us if Bush and Gonzalez would go ahead and release the text of the new Constitution instead of just letting us know what it is bit-by-bit.  I guess we don’t need to know the details, and they are probably covered by executive privilege in any case.

Here comes a rant – hold on! 

I am so fucking tired of that whole gang of mealy-mouthed, smiley, logic-chopping, back-stabbing, spin-doctoring traitors that I could simply weep.  I’d jump on board the “let’s impeach Bush” bandwagon if I thought anybody in Congress had any nerve at all, but it is clear they do not.  George Bush could order the Secret Service to arrest every one of his political opponents and so long as he claimed they were linked to the Big Islamic Bogeyman the only response would be some complaints (and applause from Fox News.)

I am confident, however.

I’m confident in the ability of the Democratic Party to so rip itself apart in the fight over Clinton vs. Obama that they will hand the election to the Republicans.

I’m confident that whoever the Republicans put into the White House will curse Bush publicly while continuing to extend the powers of the executive as much as possible.

I’m confident that the future in Washington is going to include a legislative branch that has forgotten how to do anything but posture when not rubber-stamping and a judiciary that is so opposed to “activism” that it might as well be an arm of the executive.

I’m confident that Americans will complain and will disapprove in opinion polls, but as long as they can convince themselves that one day they’ll win the lottery they are going to just tune out the problems and tune in to the next season of American Idol.

I’m confident that those who do care are going to be so consumed in regarding the mote in their neighbor’s eye that they will regardest not the beam in their own.

And every minute, one more kid decides it is too hard to care, so she stops; one more person stops thinking; one more kid gets killed in a pointless war; one more family slips out of the middle class; one more American shoots another American and no one takes the guns away; and one more person is made to feel worthless by a culture that values nothing except wealth.

Meanwhile, the ice caps are melting, and we are having rock concerts.

Whew!!!

To quote lyrics – as best I can remember – from an R.E.M. song (“Ignoreland”):

I know that this is vitriol
No solutions, spleen-venting
But I feel better, having screamed
Don’t
 you?

Please forgive me… or… never mind.

Posted in news, politics, rant | 3 Comments »

Partisan Political Diplomats

Posted by Gerald on July 24, 2007

The Washington Post is reporting on political briefings by Rove’s people held for senior diplomats at the State Department.  As with so many other actions by the Bush White House – such as the US Attorney firings – we have here something that isn’t actually illegal, but is very much out of the traditional understanding of previous administrations about what is appropriate.  While launching constant attacks on the “partisanship” of their opponents, this White House has made every aspect of government partisan.

The constant in all of this is Karl Rove.  He seems to have looked at almost every procedure in the life of the administration and asked “How can we wring some political advantage out of this without technically violating the law?”  Repeatedly we have actions that, at least one could argue, are not illegal – just prejudicial to the functioning of government and the remaining shreds of prestige and dignity of the executive.

Of course, a similar game was played by Bill Clinton in his word-parsing defense of his sexual indiscretions and the perjury he committed to cover them up.  The problem is that comparing the effects of these is like comparing a cut on the finger of the executive with having a broadsword slammed into its guts.

Clinton dishonored the White House – no two ways about it.  Bush has compromised the trust between the branches of government and between the executive and the American people.  No one is ever going to view the actions of a US Attorney in a political corruption case without wondering what other motives might be at work.  No one is going to quite trust the intelligence assessments used by the White House and the State Department to explain our foreign policy ever again.  No American administration is ever going to be able to say, “At least we don’t hold people without trial, we don’t hide them in secret prisons, we don’t torture people – that is what our enemies do” and be believed.

The worst part is, that these guys don’t even seem to realize that what they have done has hurt our country – and that most of our country doesn’t seem to care, either.

Posted in Bush administration, Bush Legacy, Karl Rove, news, opinion, politics | Leave a Comment »

He’s the Decider

Posted by Gerald on July 21, 2007

According to the Washington Post, CIA interrogation of terrorism suspects – unhampered by the restraint imposed on those softies in the US military – will resume under new guidelines.  Read it here.

The “guidelines,” as one could expect from this administration, are remarkably vague and basically tell the American people and the world to simply “trust that what is being done to these folks is legal and necessary – so just go back to watching So You Think You Can Change Houses, or whatever, and leave it all to us.”  Certainly they do not seem in a hurry to provide even Congress with details.

It is all of a piece with the invoking of executive privilege.  George and his advisers believe he was elected as a sort of constitutional dictator for his terms in office and Congress and the Judiciary have no business poking into the details of what he is doing.

Constitutional checks-and-balances?  How quaint!

Posted in Bush administration, Constitution, news, opinion, politics, terrorism | Leave a Comment »

Washington Post Columnist Rips Me Off

Posted by Gerald on July 20, 2007

Eugene Robinson has written an interesting article questioning the sanity of our dear President entitled Bush’s Cognitive Dissonance.

It is an insightful and interesting read.  However I would like to point out that I diagnosed Bush’s cognitive dissonance in this very blog on July 4.

Still, I’m willing to be magnanimous about this whole thing and chalk it up to a simple mistake.  😉

Posted in Bush administration, George W. Bush, my blog, news, opinion, politics, United States | 1 Comment »

George Bush Augustus

Posted by Gerald on July 20, 2007

This has got to be the most astonishing thing I’ve heard from this White House, and damn that is saying something.  The administration will not allow the US Attorney to pursue contempt charges in any case where the President has invoked executive privilege – because that is the end of the argument as far as the executive is concerned.  In essence, the President gets to define his own powers.

Read about it here.

I particularly like the rationale of a “unitary executive” in which the US Attorneys are “emanations of the President’s Will.”  Why is it that these so called “strict-constructionist” Neo-Cons are so enamored with autocracy.  Even if the American Presidency is supposed to have been modeled on the British Monarchy (or so they claim), the 18th C. British kings were LIMITED monarchs.

I always knew these guys think George Bush is LIKE a Roman Emperor – I didn’t realize they think he IS a Roman Emperor.

Posted in America, Bush administration, Congress, Constitution, Federal Courts, law, news, opinion, politics, thoughts, United States | Leave a Comment »

I Saw Sicko

Posted by Gerald on July 18, 2007

Rather than my usual Wednesday evening at home, I joined some good friends for dinner and a movie.  The film was Sicko.  I liked the movie.  Being one of the godless, America-hating, treasonous liberal hordes I’ve enjoyed Michael Moore’s films, although I do feel that at times he lets himself get in the way of the message.  I didn’t see so much of that here.  The themes have been well-explored elsewhere – this is an examination of the problems with the American health care system.  Like Moore’s other efforts, though, there is also an examination of what America is.

Two themes really emerged.  The first, and the one that is really still echoing inside me, is disillusionment.  The people he looked at in this film were folks that worked hard, played by the rules, payed for insurance because they were told that was how you protect yourself and your family, and were well and truly screwed by HMOs and the medical industry.  It is easy to criticize these people for being naive when they talk about how they thought “insurance companies were there to help people.”  Then again, that is exactly what the companies say, and that is the only option any of us are given to deal with health crises.  The disillusionment grows as Moore compares our system with those in Canada, Britain, France, and – ultimately – Cuba.  It is true that Moore tend to gloss over some of the difficulties associated with those systems, but still one cannot but feel disappointed in our country by comparison.

The other theme is the glory and the poison of this society – individualism.  Moore keeps asking how we can have a system where people are denied life-saving treatments, where inadequate effort is given to preventing people from getting sick to begin with, and where hospitals send indigent patients in cabs to “skid row” medical clinics because they cannot pay.  The answers point at corporations and government, but ultimately they point at us.  We have swallowed the American Delusion of individual success.  We have rejected the idea that we have any duties to other people just because they are in our community.  We ask “why should I have to pay for her problems.”  The Conservatives have sold most of this country on the idea that no one should have to do anything for anyone else as a matter of duty – only of choice.  They did so by playing on the core values of Americans – individual rights, freedom, and success (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.)

Moore’s final conclusion isn’t original but it is no less true for that – we won’t solve the health care problem, or any other of our problems, until we start thinking of “us” rather than “me.”

Posted in American culture, film, Movies, opinion, politics, thoughts | 2 Comments »