Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Eventual Nominee

Monday, March 24, 2008

The dark side of faith

"Faith" is a word with almost exclusively positive connotations, at least in the U.S. In some ways it's almost synonymous with morality; polls consistently show that we like our leaders to have strong religious beliefs, and large percentages of people say that religious faith is necessary to be a good person.

The essence of religious faith is believing that things are true in spite of a lack of evidence for them; the Bible even says we shouldn't trust our own understanding. But is this really a virtue? Is it really laudable to switch off the logical parts of our minds?

I was thinking about these questions today after I learned about Ava Worthington. Ava, a 16-month-old infant, contracted bacterial bronchial pneumonia, a condition that can be cured with antibiotics. Ava's parents belong to a Christian sect that believes in faith healing exclusively; they treated her with prayer instead of seeking medical attention. Ava, ultimately, was killed by her parents' faith that only God could heal her.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Holy Joe to the rescue

First Joe Lieberman helps John McCain sort out this Iran/Al-Qaeda link that the prospective president keeps misidentifying. Now he helps John with his Jewish Holidays:

In Israel yesterday, NBC’s Lauren Appelbaum reports, Lieberman once again intervened when McCain made an incorrect reference about the Jewish holiday Purim -- by calling the holiday "their version of Halloween here."

This is giving me hope, considering how incredibly well Joe served the Gore campaign in 2000.

EDIT: I'm actually reading in places that some Jews do consider Purim to be like Halloween. If this is the case, I wonder why Joe had to correct him. After all, he'd seem to be an authority on the matter.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Media framing

A quick look at CNN's political ticker shows something interesting.

"Dems seize on McCain's Iran gaffe" is a headline. "Obama needles McCain on Iran gaffe" is another. Under that, it reads (emphasis mine):

Barack Obama on Wednesday took aim at potential rival John McCain over the Arizona senator's apparent misstep at a recent press conference in Jordan, the latest sign Democrats are looking to capitalize on the moment.

Judging by how the media handled the Wright "scandal," I have a feeling that if Obama had made a similar error, we wouldn't be hearing about "Republicans trying to capitalize on Obama's supposed mistake" or what have you. No, this would be treated as an overall failing on Obama's part, something that should shock the nation. But since McCain made the error, those nasty old donkeys are just being opportunistic about a silly ol' mistake anyone coulda made, goshdurnit.

Thus, it begins.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The next bubble?

Edit: Swapped the housing price graph for another one, after noticing the first one I included was a graph of the percent change in prices, not of prices themselves.

What's the next investment bubble going to be? I'm not an economist, so I don't know. (If I were an economist, I really wouldn't know.) But I have my suspicions. Let's look at a couple previous bubbles. Here's a chart of the NASDAQ, centered on when the tech bubble popped:

And here's one of U.S. median housing prices — over a much longer period, but then, real estate markets move more slowly:

What's the most striking feature of these graphs? That sudden, almost exponential rise at the end of the boom, with the trend line becoming almost vertical. In both cases this happened about the time a lot of people seemed convinced that prices would only go up, forever. Those people got a nasty shock.

Now let's look at the price of gold over the last ten years:

Hmmm. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it? I'm hearing a lot of advertisements lately that bill gold as a safe investment that can only increase in value. Think there might be another nasty shock coming?

Probably not what he wants people to hear

McCain's visit to Iraq prompted this choice quote:
"This visit confirms that the Republicans believe that the Iraqi war is very important in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East," said Wael Abdul Latif, an independent Shiite member of the Iraqi Parliament. "It's a message to Iran that the United States will never leave, even after Bush is gone."
Iraqis have figured this out, but the American public really needs to be made aware of it. In spite of his (mostly undeserved) reputation as a maverick and a moderate, McCain is by far the most hawkish candidate, and electing him means an open-ended commitment to keeping our troops in Iraq.

Friday, March 14, 2008

McCain's latest flip-flop

Sen. McCain voted for the Bush tax cuts after he voted against them:
Republican nominee-to-be John McCain of Arizona voted to extend the full roster of Bush's tax cuts, which he opposed seven years ago as being skewed toward the wealthy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Drew This

A thought on Spitzer

Liberal Eagle's post on Eliot Spitzer vs. George W. Bush makes a good point, but doesn't point out why the treatment of these two politicians is so different. I think it's really quite simple. George W. Bush has always looked after the interests of CEOs and others with power in the corporate world. Eliot Spitzer, on the other hand, took them on. There was cheering on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange when Spitzer's problems hit the news — that's how much the people with real money, the people who pull the strings, hate the guy.

If Spitzer Should Resign...

...then George W. Bush should be prosecuted.

I mean, let's be fair. Eliot Spitzer is undeniably a hypocrite, having busted up prostitution rings while secretly patronizing one such service. But the actual crime Spitzer is being hounded from office, and potentially prosecuted, for is victimless. Who actually gets hurt if two adults have sex and one of them gets paid for it? How does that affect me, or anyone other than Mrs. Spitzer?

But while Eliot Spitzer's crimes are victimless, George W. Bush's crimes have millions of victims. According to the U.K. Independent, 1.2 million Iraqis fled to Syria after our illegal invasion of their country, which posed no threat to us. As many as 50,000 women, and girls as young as 13, have been forced into prostitution there to survive.

What does it say about us as a society that a governor who has consensual sex is hounded from office in disgrace, but a president whose illegal actions kill hundreds of thousands and inflict profound suffering on millions more is allowed to serve out his term in relative peace?

Real morality is a question of preventing human suffering. George W. Bush is a far, far less moral person than Eliot Spitzer.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eagle's Election Expectations

1. The Democrats are going to end up nominating Obama, one way or another. His running mate will be someone other than Hillary Clinton.

2. His press coverage will continue to get more negative, while McCain's will remain glowingly positive.

3. The press narratives will be familiar: the Republican nominee will be presented as a tough, straight-talking "regular guy," while the Democratic nominee will be presented as effeminate, effete and vaguely foreign--"not really one of us."

4. There will be articles that contrast the candidates' houses. As in "Barack Obama lives in a mansion in a rich district of Chicago. By contrast, John McCain likes to have barbecues on his ranch in Arizona."

5. Obama will win anyway.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Steve Drew This

A million apologies to Steve Puckett, who actually sent me this comic about three weeks ago, and I meant to run it right away and then forgot to! So, here it is now.

I dig Steve's comic, Mandy.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Abuse me, please

John McCain's famous temper flashes at a reporter when asked about a conversation with John Kerry.

The text itself is pretty wild, with McCain incredibly incoherent in his rebuttals, to the point where I'm not sure what it is that he's denying. But I think in his mind he wants people to be assured that he'd never cozied up to Kerry at all during the 2004 election.

What's most telling to me, however, is this:

Bumiller: “Okay. Can I ask you about your (pause) Why you’re so angry?”

McCain: “Pardon me?”

Bumiller: “Nevermind, nevermind.”

There are some not-unfounded fears that the media will lionize McCain throughout the campaign as a straight-mavericking talker or a talking maverick-straighter, but frankly, this sort of behavior from the GOP's Great White Hope doesn't lead me to believe that such reverence will continue. McCain, throughout the Republican debates, has come off as a cranky, tired old man who believes he deserves the Presidency and doesn't want anyone to throw him off his goal of getting it. Since right now he's out to woo conservatives, whippersnapper reporters who challenge his School of Reagan cred are probably to be treated like ornery mosquitos to be swatted.

It's early in the campaign, for crying out loud. If he snaps at more reporters, I feel that the media machine will gradually laud McCain with less and less enthusiasm, to the point where outside the Fox News circuit, McCain's "strengths" will be delivered with all the conviction of a suburban junior high school principal. The media may have a certain amount of masochism for their great Tax Relief Overlords, but it can only go so far.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Qwest for fire

Via Daily Kos, an interesting press release from the Republican National Convention:

To help meet its goal of holding the most tech-savvy convention in history, the Committee on Arrangements (COA) for the 2008 Republican National Convention today announced that Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q) will serve as the Official Communications Provider for the Sept. 1-4 event.

Why is that significant? Because Qwest is the only telecommunication company not to be willing to hand over its records to the Bush Administration. In other words, if your communications services are being served by Qwest, it's very likely you're not being spied upon.

After all the bloviation about how patriotic the telecommunications companies are for "cooperating" with Bush on its illegal spying and wiretap program (for a price, of course), why would the Republican party want to associate itself with the one holdout? Hint: it's all bullshit.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Notes on the Lone Star State

I thought I'd post some observations on the Texas primary, this morning. There's no particular moral here, I just thought this stuff was interesting.

Some of you may be aware that Rush Limbaugh was calling for Republicans to vote for Clinton in the Democratic primary. (Texas has an open primary, so this is legal.) The idea was that keeping her in the race longer would hurt Obama, should he become the nominee, by prolonging the negative campaigning against him. Many Republicans also seem to feel that Clinton, with her strong negatives, would be easy to beat in November. As it turns out, there was unusually heavy crossover voting — about 10%. However, exit polls suggest it split, with a slight advantage to Obama. I guess in the end Texas Republicans couldn't bring themselves to check a box marked "Clinton."

Clinton's attempts to portray Obama as inexperienced paid off big, with people who cited experience as the most important voting issue breaking 10 to 1 for her.

Voters divided evenly between the two on the economy, which I think is likely to be one of the biggest issues in the general campaign. While unemployment is still low in much of the country, middle class incomes have been largely flat during the Bush Administration, and the housing slump is creating a "reverse wealth effect" that makes people feel even poorer. This is the first national decline in real estate prices since the Great Depression, and recovery is unlikely any time soon &mdash adjustable-rate mortage "resets" don't start to tail off until 2011. In short, a recovery that felt lackluster for most people is now showing signs of slumping off into another recession.

Clinton broached the idea of a Clinton-Obama ticket should she win the nomination. Now that it's a given that Clinton is still in the running, I hope this possibility stays open, because I think a Clinton-Obama ticket could actually be quite powerful. Obama's charm would help a lot in smoothing over Clinton's rough edges.

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