John McCain, UFOs and the Toxic Avenger

John McCain believes in UFOs? Who knew? Maybe he believes in the Easter Bunny, too. But the real story here is Sarah Palin’s tenure as Mayor of Wasilla Alaska, where her policies supporting unfettered growth made the Lake Lucille an environmental death pit.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Today’s funnies are ture. Heck, one comes from FauxNews, so it must bee true, right? It all reads like a 50′s B movie, though. John McCain evidently believes in UFOs. Yeah, I’m not making this up. OK, I don’t know if the FauxNews footage is real. It’s evidently from the beginning of a movie. Still, if believing in UFOs could contribute to the downfall of the McCain campaign, then someone ought to look into this McCain thing further.

So, first is the UFOs, and now the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Don’t you know that’s got to be outside Sarah Palin’s house. Everyone knows all those monsters in the 50′s B movies were caused by escaped radioactive material. Mothra, Godzilla, etc. OK, at least that was the metaphorical cause. As we practiced “duck and cover” in the classrooms, we thrilled to giant mutations attacking our cities on the silver screen. In Sarah Palin’s case, and right outside her door on Lake Lucille, it isn’t the a nuclear horror rising from the Lake Lucille, but the Creature from the Black Lagoon rising from a body of dead water. It’s not any creature at all. The lake is dead, useful only for float plane landings.

This one is a very real story. Sarah Palin claims that all Alaskans are protective of the environment. From

Palin recently told the New Yorker magazine that Alaskans “have such a love, a respect for our environment, for our lands, for our wildlife, for our clean water and our clean air. We know what we’ve got up here and we want to protect that, so we’re gonna make sure that our developments up here do not adversely affect that environment at all. I don’t want development if there’s going to be that threat to harming our environment.”

But as mayor of her hometown, say many local critics, Palin showed no such stewardship.

Alas, because of the rampant development Sarah Palin sponsored during her time as Mayor of Wasilla, according to the article, Lake Lucille, already in dire condition, has become an overgrown pit where fish can’t live.

But while Mayor Stein tried to impose some reason on Wasilla’s helter-skelter development, and its growing pressures on Mat-Su Valley’s environmental treasures, when Sarah Palin took his place, she quickly announced, “Wasilla is open for business.”

“That’s for sure,” Church said. “Sarah was so eager for big-box stores to move in that she allowed Fred Meyer to build right on Wasilla Lake, and her handpicked successor, Dianne Keller, has done the same with Target.”

Under Mayor Palin’s reign, Fred Meyer, an emporium that sells everything from groceries to gold watches to gardening tools, lost no time in leveling a stand of trees overlooking the lake for its big-box store. When Fred Meyer applied for permission to pump the storm drainage from its parking lot – with all the usual automobile sludge – into the lake, outraged citizens finally cried enough.

“We mobilized public opposition,” said Church, who led the Friends of Mat-Su, a pro-planning group, at the time. “We forced them to put in ditches and grassy swales to catch the runoff.

“Sarah was such a great cheerleader for Wasilla, but she did nothing to protect its beauty. She’d go to these Chamber of Commerce meetings and say, –Wasilla is the most beautiful place in the world!’ And we’d just sit there gagging.”

A city official in nearby Palmer, who has lived in the Mat-Su Valley his whole life, sadly admitted: “Sarah sent the growth into overdrive. And now they’re choking on traffic and sprawl, all built on their ignorance and greed.

“I try to avoid driving to Wasilla so I won’t get depressed,” added the official, who asked for his name to be withheld, to avoid Palin’s “wrath.”

“You get visually mugged when you drive through there. I take the long way, through the back roads, just to avoid it.”

Wasilla City Council member Dianne Woodruff hears the same lament about her town all the time. “Everywhere in Alaska, you hear people say, –We don’t want to be another Wasilla.’ We’re not just the state’s meth capital, we’re the ugly box-store capital. Was Sarah a good steward of this beautiful valley? No. I think it comes from her lack of experience and awareness of other places, how other cities try to preserve what makes them attractive and livable.

Let’s say Sarah Palin was truthful when she said she wanted to preserve the environment. This evidence means she was a failure, far more interested in economic growth at the expense of the lake in her own back yard. Yeah, she lives on that lake. That kind of failure spells incompetence. She claims she thinks Wasilla is beautiful, yet can’t even see that the lake in her own back yard? That spells insanity, or lying to cover up her failure.

Of course, Republicans are not as concerned with the environment as Democrats, so this rape of the environment won’t cause her the support of the core GOP supporters. But independents should hear about this. Please pass the word.

Oh, just a little Palin bonus: What happened when Sarah Palin was asked if the Vice President’s office was part of the Executive Branch? Guess!

Friday, September 19th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Financial Meltdown: Math & The Myth Of Fiscal Responsibility

As we steel ourselves for the bail out of a failing financial system, it’s time to review the rhetoric of fiscal responsibility. For nearly three decades, the GOP has succeeded in hanging the “tax and spend” label on the Democrats. Accepting that premise has likely enabled this painful fleecing.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

While the details haven’t been disclosed, it appears that the powers that be are considering a plan to bail out Wall Street…in a big way…on the backs of the American taxpayer. Troubling as this sounds, it may be the only viable solution. Regardless of the eventual solution, one thing is clear, the losses will be large.

I want to focus on an analysis of the aftermath and the philosophy that led us to this point. I want to do so because I lived through the Savings & Loan scandal and I’ve been convinced for more than two years that the housing bubble, the artificially low interest rates, the lack of proper oversight, and the associated paper “equity” borrowing it fueled would lead to this type of meltdown.

Having established this backdrop, I want to make the case for driving a stake through the heart of trickle down economics, tax cuts for the wealthy, and the meme that the “tax and spend” Democrats are fiscally irresponsible.

Here’s the deal. The existence of large sums of money in the U.S. economy is a given…it has always been there and it will likely continue to be there (though eight years of GOP malfeasance will make digging out from under the enormous debt a formidable obstacle). With that said, we must begin to consider politics and the inevitable debate about what we will do with the money.

By and large, the party that succeeds in holding power and driving public sentiment gets to decide where the money goes. Without a doubt, the GOP has won this battle for the better part of the last thirty years. In doing so, they have succeeded in attaching the “tax and spend” label to the Democrats…driven primarily by highlighting the Democrats desire to fund and insure existing safety net programs (Social security, Medicare, Welfare, and Unemployment benefits…as well as expand others (Healthcare).

At the same time, the GOP has chosen to foster an economic structure that is weighted towards large corporations and the wealthy. Part and parcel of this approach has been the undermining of labor unions, the refusal to increase minimum wages, the willingness to ignore the huge number of uninsured, allowing the influx of illegals to provide cheap labor, and a willingness to accept the growing divide between the haves and the have nots.

So let’s step back for a moment to the S & L scandal (the late 80′s, early 90′s)…the last instance when profits were privatized and losses were socialized. Rampant real estate speculation and a lack of regulation of the financial industry made a number of investors very wealthy while saddling taxpayers with approximately 123 billion dollars of debt. As an aside, it should be noted that numerous investors were building commercial properties and apartments with no intention of ever managing them…they were simply milking the unregulated financial system.

Now let’s take a look at the GOP’s objections to any form of universal healthcare put forth by the Democrats. The argument suggests that it would cost anywhere from 60 to 100 billion dollars annually. At the same time, it must be noted that the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 have been projected to cost 2.5 trillion dollars over ten years…and we’re also spending approximately 120 billion dollars annually on the war in Iraq. As to the costs of the current Wall Street bail out, it’s difficult to determine the damages. For the sake of this argument, I’m going to estimate that the final tally will approach a trillion dollars.

Now lets calculate the total dollars these items represent. If we assume that only half of the tax cuts were unwarranted (they went to the very wealthy), we have 1.25 trillion. Let’s add in 600 billion for five years of the Iraq war (we’re being conservative). That leaves the 120 billion lost on the S & L scandal and the trillion dollars we’re assuming will be lost on the Wall Street meltdown. Taken together, this totals just under three trillion dollars.

OK, now lets see how many years have passed since the S & L scandal. We’ll use 1985 as our start date (again we’re being conservative), which equates with 23 years. For this exercise, we’ll go ahead and round that to 25 years.

If we take our 25 years and assume it would have cost 100 billion dollars per year to fund universal healthcare, that brings us to a total of 2.5 trillion dollars. Note that the use of 100 billion per year is also an extremely conservative number as it would have been far cheaper to provide in the earlier years.

As you can see by a simple review of the numbers, we had enough money to fund universal healthcare for the last 25 years…with nearly a half trillion dollars to spare. Unfortunately, we didn’t have universal healthcare. Instead, those of us that have had healthcare insurance, paid for it for 25 years…and we also received a meager tax cut for the last seven years. If you look at the total dollars the average family received in tax cuts for these seven years, I suspect one would be lucky if it would have paid for three or four years of healthcare insurance (we’re completely ignoring the deductibles and copayments).

So if we look at the rhetoric of the GOP for the last 25 years, they want us to believe that any consideration of universal healthcare would have been irresponsible. They’ve repeatedly told us that the Democrats would raise taxes and spend money we didn’t have…on programs we couldn’t possibly afford.

However, if we look at the numbers above, the only thing we received for supporting this philosophy for managing our government’s finances (our money), was minimal tax cuts…promised nearly every election cycle (surprise, surprise?). At the same time, those in charge squandered three trillion dollars of our money on tax cuts for the extremely wealthy, an unwarranted war, and two episodes of enabling unregulated and painful financial disasters.

In the end, you can slice it any way you like…but you can’t disregard the fact that the money was there to provide universal health care…or any number of other programs designed to benefit all Americans. In the interest of being fair, all of the blame can’t be placed on the GOP, since the Democrats went along with many of these ill-advised expenditures…or the policies that enabled them.

Regardless, it’s also true that the Democrats frequently did so because voter sentiment demanded it. In other words, voters bought into the rhetoric that the GOP would let us keep more of our money and the Democrats would undoubtedly take more of it away from us. Since we know that all politicians cater to the whims of voters in the hopes of winning elections, it’s no wonder the Democrats have acquiesced and appeared amazingly weak. They’ve been on the wrong side of the argument and they’ve failed to convince voters otherwise.

That brings us to where we now stand. If we voters fail to recognize what has happened in the last 25 years as a result of enabling the rhetoric and the policies of the GOP, we do so at our own peril. It’s time for us to demand that our money be spent on programs that serve the greater good; not the ones that line the pockets of the greedy and the wealthy. The money is there…it has always been there…it’s time we elect politicians that have the interests of all Americans at heart…politicians who will be honest stewards and spend our money wisely.

If we don’t, let me be the first to predict the next financial scandal. Unless we choose a different course, it will invariably happen as soon our memory of the last one fades and we resume our role as gullible voters who settle for false promises and paltry tax cuts. Rest assured, once the coast is clear, the greedy will gladly step in and bust the bank again…while their bullshitting benefactors turn a blind eye.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Friday, September 19th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

McGaffe: Oy Vey…er…Oh Mon Dieu…er…Ay Caramba!

In a recent radio interview, John McCain either espoused a rebuff of Spain and its Prime Minister, Jose Zapatero, or he simply failed to comprehend the subject matter and instead repeated his seemingly uninformed response…despite being given opportunities to correct his statement.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Yesterday, Barack Obama accused John McCain of being a member of the old boys club. If reports in the Spanish press are accurate, McCain demonstrated his bona fides as a founding member…at least as far as the “old” part is concerned.

While the details are sketchy, it seems that the senator grouped Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero in with the likes of Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro, and other foreign leaders he would not meet with…based upon their country’s rogue status.

From Talking Points Memo:

Our review of the audio suggests the same conclusion. In the interview, McCain is asked about Hugo Chavez, the situation in Bolivia and then about Raul Castro. He responds to each of these with expected answers about standing up to America’s enemies, etc. Then the interviewer switches gears and asks about Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister. And McCain replies –“ very loose translation –“ that he’ll establish close relations with our friends and stand up to those who want to do us harm. The interviewer has a double take and seems to think McCain might be confused. So she asks it again. But McCain sticks to the same evasive answer.

Obviously, Spain is an American ally and would never be viewed as the equivalent of Cuba or Venezuela. To be fair, it’s clear that anyone can make a mistake or find themselves confused in the heat of an interview. Unfortunately, in this instance, it appears that the reporter reiterated her question multiple times upon hearing the puzzling response from McCain. Undaunted, he reiterates his apparent rebuke each time.

The problem, as I see it, centers on a pattern of the Arizona senator repeating gaffes…seemingly failing to make the cognitive connections and recognitions needed to correct himself. Anecdotal as this may be, it’s a pattern I’ve seen in those elderly folks I encounter on a regular basis. While it certainly doesn’t disqualify their mental capacity, it does raise questions as to their functional fitness…especially in situations of a critical nature with far reaching consequences.

While McCain has been in government for years, I get the sense that there are situations that garner his interest, and there are others that hold little weight in his overall awareness. Granted, we’re all guilty of the same, but it is reminiscent of the casualness that seemed to typify the Bush presidency from time to time. Rather than focus on the factual considerations of each situation, there appears to be a tendency to rely on overarching ideologies. Couple that with an air of unchallenged confidence, a predisposition to neoconservatism, and a suspect temper, and one can quickly become alarmed.

Perhaps I’m simply showing my own bias. On the other hand, under the shadow of eight years of observing the patterns of George Bush’s governance, I still believe McCain’s gaffes, coupled with everything else, should leave us with reason for concern. Needless to say, the interview is drawing ample attention in Spain.


Here’s the actual untranslated English version of the interview.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, September 18th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |

Football, Race, Equality, Respect

The home crowds came to a 63-0 loss at the first football game in nearly 50 years at Lincoln University. The students are proud, and the event even got coverage in the New York Times. From my seat, as a teacher there, the article and event underscore our need to elect Barack Obama.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I’m a big football fan. On Sundays you just don’t get between me and my Eagles on the TV or at the home games. I also teach at a local University, Lincoln University, and they have resurrected their football program this year. For real! You can read all about it in the New York Times:

The new Lincoln University football team, in its Tide-orange jerseys, gathered near the equipment shed on the hill behind the end zone. It was two hours before Saturday’s kickoff, and buses from campus began arriving at the parking lot nearby. Out spilled the cheerleaders. Then came members of the band, crisply costumed all the way to the orange tassels atop their chin-strapped hats.

Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! The drum major blew the whistle, and the drum line pounded a marching beat. Hips swayed and feet shuffled. Dancers and flag bearers and musicians, walking two by two, snaked into the stadium.

The Lincoln Lions had arrived, complete.

OK, there’s the lead by John Branch of the Times, and I’m not pleased. We’ve got drums and dancing and the insinuation that this fine and historic African American institution cannot be complete without football. There’s a bunch of descriptive words in this intro that can have stronger meanings than mere literal meanings, but then, I’m a writing teacher. My students don’t see that. They are proud of the New York Times featuring them for positive reasons. Still, there are some quibbles.

The Times is sure to note Lincoln University’s proud heritage. Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes, after all, are a couple high powered alumni. I’ve got no quibbles with writer John Branch on that score. But he also calls Lincoln University a “sleepy hilltop campus.” I can’t personally refute that claim, but my students sure do. For them, there’s almost too much excitement here, community, togetherness, so much so that some don’t get the sleep they need. Further, though, they think Branch’s use of the word “sleepy” refers also to “slow,” “lazy,” and other connotations that are less than flattering to these students here for an education and to rise in the world outside Lincoln.

All in all, I’m pleaed with this piece in the Times. I’m also pleased with my time here at Lincoln University, so far. Sure, students could be more enthusiastic, more prepared for college. The campus could be closer than 50 miles from home. But every single day this middle aged white guy learns from African Americans far more than he teaches. Every single day I see a student who is having the best year of his or her life, and while this is not true for all of them, sometimes that is because they grew up in the toughest of situations in our inner cities. No, I can’t go into detail. I can only strive to understand.

Is this political? I’m an Obama fan. I’m an unrepentent liberal who believes we should dedicate ourselves to helping those downtrodden by poverty, handicapped in even small ways by race or prejudice. I grew up thinking HBCUs were not necessary, that they were a form of that dreaded “separate but equal” formulation which really was constructed to keep African Americans in their place. That was growing up, but I’m thinking I still had vestiges of that sentiment when I stepped onto this campus for the first time a month ago. No longer. My students have convinced me that a structure to build up young African Americans is vitally important, especially for the young men. In the Times article John Branch notes that Lincoln University is bringing back the football team partly in order to get young men to enroll. From the Times:

Lincoln also wanted to increase its male enrollment and retention, as women account for 62 percent of the student population and earn roughly two of every three degrees. And it wanted elevate its athletic programs from N.C.A.A. Division III to Division II, largely so it could rejoin the C.I.A.A., the historically black conference it co-founded nearly 100 years ago.

There’s no reason to list the statistics about crime, about the populations in our jails, no need to quote Bill Cosby or Barack Obama on the need to save a whole generation of African American men. We all know the problem. What we will never get with any Republican is a solution, or anything approaching one. The solution itself is a society where prejudice is a dim memory. We can’t come to that point without electing an African American leader, and I’d far rather have that happen now rather than later.

Go Lions!

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Hurricane Ike: Myanmar Redux in the USA?

It’s been five days since Hurricane Ike hit the Texas gulf coast. Millions remain without power. The local, state, and federal governments have clamped a lid on media access and communications to the most affected areas. And the finger pointing for slow disaster response has started. Sound familiar?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Earlier this year, a cyclone ripped through the Indian Ocean country of Myanmar (formerly Burma). The complete casualty figure will never be known, but hundreds of thousands died from the storm, flooding, and lack of basic services following the disaster.

The government regime in Myanmar was strongly criticized for many things in the aftermath. NGOs were not allowed into the affected area for weeks to provide relief assistance. Offers of help from foreign countries such as the U.S. were slow-tracked by the junta. Journalists were not allowed into the affected area to document the devastation. The government of Myanmar said it could handle the situation by itself (although it was plainly clear that this wasn’t the case), and didn’t want interference from outsiders. In a press conference at the White House on 5/5/08, two days after the disaster unfolded, First Lady Laura Bush was among the most critical of the Myanmar junta’s response:

The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.

I wonder if she would say that about the regime of her own husband, who visited the Hurricane Ike disaster area today, but left without making a statement of any sort.

It’s been almost five days since Ike ripped through southern Texas. This past Saturday, the media was wall-to-wall Ike, as the huge storm came ashore in Galveston, and tore a path well inland through Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city. The following day, when media reports started flowing in about blown out skyscraper windows, and power and basic services being knocked out, I had a gut feeling that things were pretty bad. Incidental reports that I was receiving through my own back channels only verified the extent of the damage in Houston.

But precious little information has been coming in regarding the situation south of Houston.

A no-fly zone has been established over the most devastated areas of the barrier islands on the Texas gulf coast, including Galveston, ostensibly “to provide a safe environment for disaster response and relief operations”. The thing is, no one has been able to determine who issued the no-fly order. News organization helicopters and others have not been allowed into the areas, and no media has been allowed in on the ground on the Bolivar Peninsula. Galveston Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas has clamped a lid on any city officials (other than her and the city manager) speaking to the press. There is even an unconfirmed report that FEMA has restricted all cell phone communications on Bolivar Peninsula.

There’s no indication as to why this media blackout is taking place – but it’s pretty clear – DHS, FEMA and the Bush administration are trying to manage the story. They don’t want another Katrina-style PR disaster on their hands, particularly in an election year. Take a look at this Coast Guard video, shot on 9/12 before Ike came ashore, and you might understand why.

It’s unclear how many people are still without power in southern Texas, but the number is in the millions, as of this evening. No lights, no air conditioning, no refrigeration for food. Gasoline (where available) is being restricted to 5 gallon purchases, at inflated prices. Businesses are closed. Schools might not reopen for weeks (or longer, in the most affected areas).

The finger pointing has already started. FEMA apparently belatedly showed up with manpower, but no relief supplies, and no distribution plan. They blamed the State of Texas. The State of Texas blamed local authorities. Sound familiar?

In the aftermath of Ike, federal and Texas officials blamed each other over delays in getting provisions, water and ice from staging areas in San Antonio and Fort Worth to relief workers and public distribution centers in the storm zone.

After taking criticism from U.S. Reps. John Culberson, R-Katy, and Nick Lampson, D-Stafford, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff claimed the state had failed to provide promised workers to run distribution centers. The supplies eventually arrived, and Houston Mayor Bill White downplayed the dispute as “a little drama.”

And according to today’s Houston Chronicle, FEMA is still “days away” from establishing a “mega relief center”.

It’s apparent that the only thing the Bush administration and DHS and FEMA have learned from the Katrina disaster of 2005 is message control. Maybe they asked for some pointers from the Myanmar junta that they so strongly criticized.

Update: Apocalypse Ike at Crystal Beach, Tx.:

Apocalypse Ike

(Found here in a huge gallery of Ike photos you’re unlikely to find anywhere else.)

Update, 9/17: New info – it’s only a matter of time before the pot starts boiling over in S. Texas:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff returned to Texas for a second time to check on recovery efforts amid growing criticism about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response.

In Houston, most people in the nation’s fourth-largest city remained without power for a fifth day, making it tough to track the latest information on where to pick up supplies. For most, the electricity wasn’t expected back on for at least another week…

Residents again waited in line for hours Wednesday at the nearly two dozen supply distribution centers set up in Houston to hand out food, water and ice. Mayor Bill White complained FEMA wasn’t bringing in the supplies fast enough, and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett had personally taken over coordination of efforts to hand out relief supplies.

FEMA officials in Houston said they were refining glitches in the relief effort and delivering millions of meals and water every 24 hours…

Heck of a job, Chertie.

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Need More Evidence of Oil Market Manipulation?

Earlier this year, I wrote that investment bank Morgan Stanley may have issued their infamous “$150 / bbl oil price” prediction in order to drive up the value of their holdings in the petroleum commodity market, as a way to offset a big S&P downgrade due to their exposure in mortgage backed securities. With the failure of Lehman and Merrill, plus oil prices falling $7, is market manipulation confirmed?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Earlier this year, when oil markets were going bonkers, and the price hit $147 / bbl because of remarks by an obscure Morgan Stanley commodities analyst, I wrote:

The other day, Standard and Poors downgraded Morgan Stanley’s rating because of their exposure in mortgage backed securities. From a market manipulation standpoint, could Morgan Stanley have issued their “prediction” in order to drive up the value of their holdings in the petroleum commodity market, as a way to offset the downgrade due to their exposure in mortgage backed securities? Hmm? Since Morgan Stanley is one of the biggest players in the commodities market, it’s a question worth exploring…

Listen, I’m no financial market genius. But when a neophyte like me can see that there are clear indications of significant market manipulations that are causing significant economic pain for all Americans, then it’s right out there in the open. The financial houses were doing it brazenly. And now, two more have tanked (Lehman and Merrill).

This morning, stock markets around the world are tanking. Such an event would normally be a “buy opportunity” for fungible commodities such as oil. What’s happening with the price of oil this morning, even following a big blow by Hurricane Ike in the gulf coast region this past weekend? This:

LONDON (Reuters) – Oil plunged $7 on Monday as investors fled to safer havens, due to turmoil in the U.S. financial system, and on early signs Hurricane Ike had spared key U.S. energy infrastructure…U.S. crude dropped $7 to $94.18 barrel at 1135 GMT, the lowest level in seven months.

When the price of a gallon of gas in the U.S. hit $4 in June, people (and companies) changed their energy usage habits out of sheer necessity. Demand was “destroyed”, in market parlance. And the price started dropping. When the price started dropping, oil commodity holdings by companies such as Lehmans, Merrill, and Morgan Stanley started losing value rapidly, and their commodity traders started dumping oil futures. The price slide continued. The value of the holdings could no longer mask their exposure in the mortgage markets.

A recent study presented to the U.S. congress confirmed that oil commodity speculation drove the price of oil to stratospheric levels, not supply and demand economics. Given the financial market bailouts in the past couple of months (except for Freddie and Fannie), it’s very easy to come to the conclusion that American consumers were raked over the gasoline coals because of big investment houses’ exposure in the collapsing mortgage markets.

Criminal proceedings should commence, and not one thin dime of taxpayer money should be bailing out the collapsed financial institutions.

Update: As would be expected, Eschaton is buzzing today about the markets. Good reading there. Here’s one comment that is so spot on, it almost hurts:

John McCain says he really doesn’t understand the economy. For that he relies on [former GOP congressman] Phil Gramm.

Phil Gramm is the man most responsible for the financial services and banking deregulation that made today’s disaster possible.

Phil Gramm says the problem is all in our minds and we’re just a nation of whiners.

Putting McCain and Gramm in charge of fixing this economy would be like asking the iceberg to save the Titanic.

And that, my friends, is the crux of the issue.

Monday, September 15th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Jesus Hearts Torture, According to Many Evangelicals

Is there a justification for torture? Maybe there is among evangelicals, the majority of whom when polled think torture is justified. Jesus loves us, I suppose, but does he love us to the extent of forgiving us for torturing others? That is an awfully big sin to forgive, ain’t it?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Oh, Jesus loves me, yes I know. Heck, the Bible tells me so. But I’m not an evangelical, so I didn’t know the corollary to that, that Jesus, according to many evangelicals, thinks torture is just OK. From a Pew study, via Andrew Sullivan and Human Rights First:

A new poll released Thursday (Sept. 11) finds that nearly six in 10 white Southern evangelicals believe torture is justified, but their views can shift when they consider the Christian principle of the golden rule.

The poll, commissioned by Faith in Public Life and Mercer University, found that 57 percent of respondents said torture can be often or sometimes justified to gain important information from suspected terrorists. Thirty-eight percent said it was never or rarely justified.

Oh, I guess it isn’t so bad as this. When reminded of the golden rule, which the evangelicals polled did not, evidently, use to form their decisions, they were quick to change their answers. Hmm, I guess that means their religious beliefs are not so central to their lives or something.

Jesus himself was tortured. He took it well, but he knew he was being tortured for us. I’m thinking he didn’t actually advocate torture, but these evangelicals polled here don’t seem to have everything figured out, so maybe they are identifying with those who tortured Jesus? Could they be as confused as all that?

Monday, September 15th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Sex and Drugs and Oil, Another Bush Scandal

A new Bush scandal has erupted. It is unclear whether Bush appointees are involved. The incompetence that allowed this trade in sex, drugs, favors and vacations has “Republican” written all over it. We cannot let Republicans manage our scarce resources, not when McCain wants to drill everywhere, mismanaging more contracts.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Just when John McCain is hyped up on drilling for oil everywhere he can, no matter the environmental concerns he used to espouse, we’ve got an Bush scandal that puts to doubt Republican management of government yet again. These folks are incompetents, after all. John McCain is espousing the drilling policies Bush has been pushing all along, but the Bush Administration can’t even manage its own people, who are trading the rights for drilling and exploration for sex, drugs, favors, etc. From CBSNews:

Government officials handling billions of dollars in oil royalties engaged in illicit sex with employees of energy companies they were dealing with and received numerous gifts from them, federal investigators said Wednesday.

The alleged transgressions involve 13 Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington. Their alleged improprieties include rigging contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants, and having sexual relationships with – and accepting golf and ski trips and dinners from – oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department’s inspector general.

The investigations reveal a “culture of substance abuse and promiscuity” by a small group of individuals “wholly lacking in acceptance of or adherence to government ethical standards,” wrote Inspector General Earl E. Devaney.

The reports describe a fraternity house atmosphere inside the Denver Minerals Management Service office responsible for marketing the oil and gas that energy companies barter to the government instead of making cash royalty payments for drilling on federal lands. The government received $4.3 billion in such Royalty-in-Kind payments last year. The oil is then resold to energy companies or put in the nation’s emergency stockpile.

Between 2002 and 2006, nearly a third of the 55-person staff in the Denver office received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, the investigators found.

No doubt McCain will now crow how he and only he can clean this sort of scandal up, because he’s MarverickMan! But only if he’s got his sidekick Sarah “Bridge to Earmarks” right beside him. As such, we need to hit McCain hard on his close ties to the oil industry and its lobbyists. We need to also hit McCain on his close ties to the incompetence that is the Bush Administration. How many of his campaign team worked for Bush, for instance. How many bucks have been given to McCain by those companies involved in this scandal? This shouldn’t be too hard for folks to research.

Now Sarah Palin is one who knows about oil royalties, as the Governor of a state that depends on them for its very survival. Surely there’s a way to tie her into this mess as well.

We might look also at the Brownie factor. Did Bush put incompetents in charge at the Department of interior? Oh, there are bloggers out there who can give you the scoop on Gale Norton, the woman in charge when this scandal started, better than I. I do know from the Wikipedia article on Norton that she was invloved with Abramoff both through donations by Abramoff to the CREA, which she founded, and also through Rep. Doolittle of CA. Norton left the Department of Interior through a revolving door to a lucrative position at Shell Oil. The current occupant of the office, Dirk Kempthorne, seems harmless, except for his extreme low scores from the League of Conservation Voters. .

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |

Osama bin-Laden: Preferred Oil Supplier to the U.S. of A.?

When the Big Oil lobby is so desperate to get an offshore oil lease deal done before their best friends leave office that they invoke the specter of Osama bin-Laden as a preferred oil supplier to the U.S., there’s something going on. And you can be sure that it isn’t in your best interest.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Perhaps the most striking take-away from the four days of GOP conventioneering in St. Paul was the “DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW” crowd. Every single time one of the speakers mentioned oil, the crowd resounded with a “DRILL HERE, DRILL NOW” chant. It was somewhat humorous, but lost its edge about the tenth time that Big Oil lobbyists led the chant from the sky boxes in the hall.

There is no question that Big Oil is pulling out all of the stops in order to open up restricted offshore drilling areas prior to the Bush regime sneaking out the back door of the White House in January, 2009. The volume from the noise machine has grown very loud, and increasingly shrill.

Never mind that, if the offshore fields were opened up today, it would be five to ten years before a drop was flowing from the region. Never mind that the oil lobby appears to be trying to short circuit the lengthy environmental impact studies that must be completed before exploration begins. Never mind that conservation measures which would reduce demand by as little as 5% would have the same impact on oil supplies that billions and billions of dollars worth of drilling would have. Never mind that it’s not about actually about, you know, drilling – it’s really not – it’s about the leases for the fields.

I received the following email from an outfit called “Americans for American Energy”:

From: Greg Schnacke
Subject: More American Energy Hurts The Terrorists
To: allspinzone
Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2008, 2:11>

Drill Here, Drill Now

When the Big Oil lobby is so desperate to get an offshore oil lease deal done before their best friends leave office that they invoke the specter of Osama bin-Laden as a preferred oil supplier to the U.S., there’s something going on. And you can be sure that it isn’t in your best interest.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008 by Richard Blair |

2008 Election: Why The Supreme Court Matters

The 2008 election will either reignite the culture wars or provide the first signs that the American public will no longer tolerate the politics of division. Should the electorate choose the former, the war will be extended for a generation by virtue of the Supreme Court appointments that will ensue.

Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

Sarah Palin’s selection as John McCain’s running mate has evangelicals feeling all warm and fuzzy. Her presence on the ticket has energized the conservative base and rekindled concerns that this election will see the reemergence of a full-scale culture war. Truth be told, the culture war had never ended…it had just been sent into a funk with the selection of John McCain.

While many in the media have focused on the enthusiasm Palin has brought to this election cycle (high ratings and ad revenues anyone?), few have actually attempted to impart the significance of the Palin selection. It’s my suspicion that John McCain, unable to gain traction in the polls, elected to heed the lessons learned by those who are now leading his campaign…those who previously crafted the campaigns of George W. Bush. What this means is that the GOP, once thought to be moving away from values politics, has again opted to return to what it knows best…the politics of division.

Those who think this is a momentary relapse may want to think again. The appetite for wedge issue politics is immense…and the size and enthusiasm of the crowds, at the once lukewarm McCain campaign stops, is all the evidence one needs.

While I believe there is a movement in the evangelical community towards expanding their list of relevant issues…a movement that would likely lead some values voters to reconsider the merits of always voting with the GOP…there must be concern that the Palin selection will do little to advance that shift. Frankly, who could blame these fledgling pastors for abandoning their efforts to expand the consciousness of their followers and return to the red meat issues that have proven so successful in motivating the masses. If nothing else, it becomes a question of financial viability. Vegetarian values may seem vogue…but it’s still the red meat that sells.

What is often lost in the media’s focus is an understanding of the actual objectives of those voters who have seen a new dawn in the selection of Sarah Palin. Yes, the generalized analysis offered by the media chooses catch phrases like “God, guns, and gays”…but the stakes that underlie this culture war are far more ominous.

In fact, the tactics used by the GOP are much the same as those employed by the religious right. An example may be beneficial. For years, Christian conservatives have utilized a strategy of repetitious rhetoric…designed to define their opponents as an imminent threat to their beliefs. The best example is the constant assertion that there is a “militant homosexual agenda”.

Now aside from the Stonewall Riots, a skirmish between subversives in skirts and the police department that sought to harass them, the notion of militancy is strictly hyperbole. Regardless, this hyperbole establishes an extremely effective mindset in the moral minions…one that believes the enemy seeks to vanquish their values and install a new world order. Where this strategy deviates from past propaganda employed by partisan politicos is in its effort to cast the opposition as the aggressor…not the aggrieved.

I’m of the opinion that the lessons learned in the civil rights era serve as the foundational basis for this new strategy. The efforts to maintain segregation (think George Wallace) were eventually viewed as extreme by a majority of Americans. Proponents of maintaining racial inequality did little more than voice their prejudice…exposing their objectives and alienating the fair minded.

In the last thirty to thirty five years, many of those who shared these ideological leanings have reconstituted themselves as evangelicals. Let me be clear…by no means am I implying that all evangelicals hold the same views or that being an evangelical is evidence that one does. What I am saying is that it became the chosen vehicle for a group of like minded individuals intent upon waging war against the social issues they opposed.

Call it a softer gentler strategy…at least on its surface. Insert language that implies one is defending family values and Christian principles…from militant groups who have no regard for our long standing cultural traditions…and one begins to see the shift, subtle as it may be. At the same time, it is essential to argue that the enemy’s objective has no connection to civil rights or constitutional inclusion; rather it is a rogue lifestyle intent upon undermining our values.

Now let’s look at goals. Again, a look at the civil rights era sheds light on the strategy. What was learned from the civil rights era is that any legitimization is apt to insure more…eventually leading to judicial justification, legislative affirmation, and ultimately societal acceptance. When social conservatives invoke the slippery slope argument, they are actually explaining their own perceptions of the process that led to racial inclusion and therefore guides their opposition to any and all measures that validate homosexuality.

Like their black and white interpretations of the Bible, they see the battle against gays in the same manner. The rush to embrace Biblical literalism represents the commitment to this new strategy. As such, any compromise is akin to capitualtion…which means ideology must be absolute if one is to successfully repel the efforts of the enemy. At the same time, the ultimate goals must be disguised and deflected with rhetoric that is palatable to the general public. The door must be shut (constitutional amendments) before they can ultimately unveil their moral manifesto.

That leads me to the latest and clearest evidence of the obscured, but unfolding, objective. I wrote about this subject previously, when it was in its foundling state. As it turns out, the first foray into the execution of the plan has proceeded and is scheduled to be implemented at the end of this month. Take a look at the details.

From The Washington Post:

Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

“For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. “It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It’s not for the government to mandate the role of church in society.”


Monday, September 8th, 2008 by Daniel DiRito |
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