August 2008

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I know I’m late, but everyone else has said something about it, so I might as well. I’m just going to quote a few small bits from the speech and drop some comments.

I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night.

It’s been what, less than a week? And already I’m tired of hearing about Biden taking the train. We get it already.

We meet at one of those defining moments – a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more.

I was about to bitch about this, because there’s nothing unusual about us being at war and having less-than-stellar economic performance. It happens all the time. However, he did say it was “one of” the defining moments, so I’ll give him a pass.

These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush.

In a nutshell, that’s the basic bad idea of the Democrats: That government has to provide a solution to every problem. Lately, it’s also the basic bad idea of the Republicans.

We are more compassionate than a government that…sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes.

He’s talking about New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, right? Because it wasn’t just Bush’s FEMA that let the people of New Orleans down.

Tonight— tonight I say to the American people, to Democrats and Republicans and Independents across this great land – enough! This moment – this election – is our chance to keep, in the 21st century, the American promise alive. Because next week, in Minnesota, the same party that brought you two terms of George Bush and Dick Cheney will ask this country for a third. And we are here because we love this country too much to let the next four years look like the last eight. On November 4th, we must stand up and say: “Eight is enough.”

In other words, to no one’s surprise, Obama is running against George Bush.

But the record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than ninety percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a ten percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives – on health care and education and the economy – Senator McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this President. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisors – the man who wrote his economic plan – was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

Lots of McCain-slamming here. I’ll get back to that later.

Now, I don’t believe that Senator McCain doesn’t care what’s going on in the lives of Americans. I just think he doesn’t know. Why else would he define middle-class as someone making under five million dollars a year? How else could he propose hundreds of billions in tax breaks for big corporations and oil companies but not one penny of tax relief to more than one hundred million Americans? How else could he offer a health care plan that would actually tax people’s benefits, or an education plan that would do nothing to help families pay for college, or a plan that would privatize Social Security and gamble your retirement?

Once again, we’re hearing anti-corporate nonsense from Obama. Corporations exists only as legal entities, so they consume no real-world resources. If you let corporations keep more money, it all has to go to the people who own them, run them, loan them money, or work for them.

I’m unfamiliar with most of McCain’s other proposals that are being slammed by Obama, but I’m willing to bet that McCain’s privatization plan for Social Security is bad. Most privatization plans are ugly mixtures of government and private investment that provide very little benefit.

We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President

Some day I must find out where these job figures come from. Is that only jobs created, ignoring jobs lost? It seems too high for a net figure. And in any case, the unemployment numbers are probably more representative of our national welfare.

Unlike John McCain, I will stop giving tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, and I will start giving them to companies that create good jobs right here in America.

Good luck figuring out how to define that in a way that businesses can’t work around.

The only way I can think of to stop companies from shipping jobs overseas is to make it hard for them to import their products back here. If Nike can’t bring shoes into the country, they won’t have any reason to build factories outside the country.

Of course, making it harder to import shoes also makes it harder for Americans to buy shoes and drives up the price of footwear. For a guy who doesn’t want to help corporations at the expense of ordinary Americans, Obama sure seems willing to screw over consumers.

Also, if we start imposing import tariffs (or worse, quotas) so will our trading partners, which will hurt all American industries that are net exporters. Trade wars are never good for the economy.

I will eliminate capital gains taxes for the small businesses and the start-ups that will create the high-wage, high-tech jobs of tomorrow.

On the other hand, I never would have thought I’d hear a Democrat talking about reducing capital gains taxes.

And for the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: in ten years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.

Ten years? I say “no way.” It took us almost ten years to go to the moon, and that was much easier than converting the power generation and transportation facilities of a nation of 300 million people to use alternative energy sources.

As President, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

I gotta give him props. The estimates of our natural gas reserves are huge. And when was the last time you heard a Democrat say nice things about nuclear power?

I’ll help our auto companies re-tool, so that the fuel-efficient cars of the future are built right here in America. I’ll make it easier for the American people to afford these new cars. And I’ll invest 150 billion dollars over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels; an investment that will lead to new industries and five million new jobs that pay well and can’t ever be outsourced.

There he goes again, helping out those corporations he hates so much. I guess giving corporations 150 billion dollars is an investment in the economy that creates new jobs, but giving those same companies billions of dollars in tax breaks is evil.

And doesn’t he just like to frighten us with the outsourcing bogeyman?

Now is the time to finally meet our moral obligation to provide every child a world-class education, because it will take nothing less to compete in the global economy.

No, no, no. We don’t compete in the global economy. Individual firms may have competitors in other nations, but countries as a whole don’t compete in any meaningful sense of market competition.

I’ll invest in early childhood education. I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries and give them more support. And in exchange, I’ll ask for higher standards and more accountability. And we will keep our promise to every young American – if you commit to serving your community or your country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.

Yes, blow a kiss to the teachers’ unions. And is that a national service program he’s talking about?

And now is the time to keep the promise of equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want my daughters to have exactly the same opportunities as your sons.

With a few exceptions, women already have the same opportunites, they just don’t all want them. Much of the apparent pay differential can be explained by the fact that women don’t really have exactly the same jobs as men.

And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush Administration, even after we learned that Iraq has a $79 billion surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.

This is actually turning out rather well. The new Iraq security strategy seems to be working, so by the time Obama is in charge, everyone will probably want to withdraw our troops.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will never hesitate to defend this nation, but I will only send our troops into harm’s way with a clear mission and a sacred commitment to give them the equipment they need in battle and the care and benefits they deserve when they come home.

That sounds like the Powell doctrine, which the Bush administration abandoned for the Iraq war.

For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

This sort of rhetoric scares me. To the extent we have a true common purpose, we should work toward it, of course, but my family has purposes of our own, and I don’t want us to abandon them for any politician’s idea of what our “common purpose” should be. We’ll be hearing more about this in next week’s convention.

We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort.

One of these things is not like the others. Obama’s line that he doesn’t know “anyone who benefits when…an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers” is wrong on its face. He clearly knows who benefits, because he mentions them in the quoted sentence: When an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers, both the employer and the illegal workers benefit. So do consumers, who get cheaper products. Obama may want to formulate policy that ignores the welfare of those people, but it’s a lie to pretend that no one will be hurt.

On the other hand, it’s nice to see a mention of gay marriage in there, even if it’s hidden.

I know there are those who dismiss such beliefs as happy talk. They claim that our insistence on something larger, something firmer and more honest in our public life is just a Trojan Horse for higher taxes and the abandonment of traditional values. And that’s to be expected. Because if you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare the voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from.

Which is what Obama did to McCain when he was slamming him earlier in the speech.

You have shown what history teaches us – that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington.

This is a great line. “At defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. ” Awesome. I love it.

Never gonna happen.

A few weeks ago, Stuart Shepard from Focus on the Family created this now-slightly-famous video in which he suggested that Christians should pray for rain during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech:

Well, Obama gave his speech, and it didn’t rain.

The problem with such a public and specific prayer request is that if nothing happens, Shepard’s got some awkward explaining to do. I mean, doesn’t one of the following five statements have to be true?

  1. God doesn’t exist.
  2. God can’t make it rain.
  3. God doesn’t respond to prayer.
  4. God likes Obama more than he likes Focus on the Family.
  5. God thinks Stuart Shepard is a jerk.

(Hat tip: Kip)

I don’t know, but I suspect either the AP wire is getting its feed from the The Onion, or David Duchovny is just punking everyone:

LOS ANGELES – David Duchovny has entered a rehabilitation facility for sex addiction. In a statement released Thursday by his lawyer, Stanton Stein, the actor said he did so voluntarily, adding: “I ask for respect and privacy for my wife and children as we deal with this situation as a family.”

Deal with sex addiction “as a family”?

I suppose it’s possible—addictions do affect the whole family—or he could just be doing some culture-jamming publicity for his show Californication, where he plays a character who is obsessed with women and other vices. We are, after all, talking about the guy who gave Garry Shandling the “Sharon Stone flash” when he played himself on The Larry Sanders Show.

Or maybe I’m making fun of a family tragedy. Hollywood is confusing that way.

Our election system is sliding faster and faster toward being a fake form of democracy.

Here’s an anti-Obama ad created by the American Issues Project, which appears to be some sort of conservative organization. It points out some possibly troubling connections between presidential candidate Barack Obama and William Ayers, a member of a radical group called the Weathermen, which committed terrorist acts in the 1970’s.

I have no idea if the ad is accurate, because it’s not really the point of this post.  This is:

Obama general counsel Bob Bauer today sent a second, sharper letter to the Justice Department, directly attacking the Dallas billionaire funding a harsh attack ad, Harold Simmons.

“We reiterate our request that the Department of Justice fulfill its commitment to take prompt action to investigate and to prosecute the American issues Project, and we further request that the Department of Justice investigate and prosecute Howard (sic) Simmons for a knowing and willful violation of the individual aggregate contribution limits,” he wrote.

Wonderful. Now we have a politicians trying to prosecute each other’s supporters for illegal advertising. This is a predictable consequence of our insane campaign financing laws, which try to characterize all speech about candidates as being equivalent to providing financial support. This is a direct attack on free speech where it matters most: Politics.

Although, it’s not as if McCain doesn’t have it coming.

I remember some years ago when feminists in Canada pushed through anti-pornography legislation in the name of protecting women. Once the law became effective, the very first victim of the law was a lesbian bookstore.

Similarly, Senator McCain has been a leader in the push for these stupid campaign finance laws—the flagship law is the McCain-Feingold Act—so it’s only fitting that his supporters feel their sting.

Bizarrely, some right wing folks aren’t thinking too clearly about the source of the threat:

If Obama is elected President, will he appoint an Attorney General who will carry out politically-motivated prosecutions like the one he is now demanding? I suppose we can’t know for sure, but why wouldn’t he? If he demands criminal prosecution of free speech that opposes his political interests when he’s a candidate, why wouldn’t he order it as President?

Are we supposed to believe that McCain, the guy who invented these un-American laws, wouldn’t try to enforce them? 

With the conventions going on this week and next, both the Underdog Blog and Simple Justice have posts up reminding us that police state operations have become the norm around major political events, with protesters coralled blocks away in so-called “free speech zones.” Silly me, I thought the whole damned country was supposed to be a free speech zone.

Both of them post this video:

I find the visuals of the protesters being confronted by faceless black-clad cops very disturbing. It looks like something you’d expect from a dictatorship. I guess the way you can tell it’s still America is that they have batons and pepper spray instead of rifles and bayonets.

On the other hand, because of the way the video is put together it’s hard to tell what’s really going on. For one thing, I think a lot of the heavy police gear is body armor. That’s generally a good thing, because keeping the cops safe reduces the chances of any of them lashing out in fear and hurting people.

Also, in any crowd of protesters, there are always going to be a few people who attempt to provoke the police to create a propaganda incident. If those are the people we see getting capstunned or arrested, it’s hard to get outraged over them receiving exactly the attention they wanted.

To some extent, the distant free speech zones and the riot police are a response to the threat of sophisticated demonstrators whose goal is not only to protest the political events but to shut them down. They don’t want a repeat of Seattle’s WTO protests.

Things get really suspicious, however, when police start arresting members of the press who are there to cover the events, not take part in the protests. That’s what happened to ABC news producer Asa Eslocker yesterday. Again, I don’t know the facts, so he may have had it coming.

Still, I don’t like seeing this sort of thing in my country.

In the coming weeks and months, I’m planning to try to dilute some of the legal blogging on Windypundit with a little blogging about the healthcare crisis in this country.

I should admit right here at the start that I’m woefully ignorant of how the healthcare industry works. It’s the biggest industry in the world, and it will only become more important as I get older, so it seems I ought to start learning more about it. Blogging seems like one way to do that.

I plan to investigate several questions, such as

  • Where can I get good information about our healthcare system?
  • Is there a healthcare crisis?
  • What’s wrong with our healthcare system?
  • Who or what is responsible for the problem?
  • Can it be fixed?
  • How do we fix it?
  • Would a single-payer system be better?

I’m not entirely sure where to start. Ideally, I’d like to just buy a good book about our healthcare system and build from there using online resources, but this is such a contentious issue that there’s a lot of biased information out there, and I don’t know how to separate the good from the bad.

I’ll probably just tear off a piece of the problem I understand and work out from there.

By the way, I’m posting this in the Disclosures department because one of the supposed problems with our current healthcare system is the large amount of money spent on bureaucracy, and my readers should therefore be told that a large share of my income is derived from helping companies stay on top of the paperwork for their employees’ healthcare benefits.

Wish me luck.

By now you have probably heard that police in Colorado have uncovered an apparent plot by white supremacists to assassinate Barack Obama.

I was just now skimming through the blog feeds I read when I noticed that Illinois Reason had a post up entitled “Obama assassination plot foiled in Colorado.” The main guy at that blog, Rob Nesvacil, is a rabid anti-conservative who really has it in for the right-wing blogosphere, so as I clicked through to his post, I thought “Wouldn’t it be funny if he was crazy enought to try to blame right-wing pundits for the assassination attempt?”

It turns out he does.

What happens when the one side constantly smears the other as unpatriotic, treacherous and disloyal simply because they disagree with that side’s ideas, no matter how valid they may be…

when they constantly promote six degrees of separation to anyone even remotely considered “bad” (no matter how thin the connection) even though the candidate was never involved in any wrongdoing and has routinely repudiated those others’ despicable acts…

when lie after lie after lie is promulgated to falsely insinuate a candidate either sympathizes with terrorists or is one himself…

when the elitist billionaires of one political side use their money not to do charitable good for society but to tear down any with whom they disagree as if such acidic poison were what our Founding Fathers had always hoped for when fighting a war to launch our independent democracy…

when the most vile of heretical and blasphemous rhetoric is used to lie about a candidate and portray him as not just evil, but perhaps even the Anti-Christ and harbinger of the End Times

…What happens when one side of the political spectrum, through fetid ranting over the course of a great many years, foments rage and anger and promotes and even glorifies violence in order to ‘pump up their base of voters’?

Idiots try to assassinate a presidential candidate, that’s what happens.

It doesn’t matter if they are alleged white supremacists or hopped up on meth. Something clearly pushed these people over the edge to think murder was somehow acceptable. Rational and sane folks do not simply load up a high-powered rifle and work on an assassination plot; something or someone prods them toward that disastrous destination.

This is the same sort of dubious “reasoning” that caused some liberal pundits to blame conservative pundits for the bombing in Oklahoma City because conservatives were against big government and, you know, the bombers blew up a government building.

This is strange and a little sad. From a Chicago Tribune report:

Someone broke into the Sept. 11 memorial near Naperville City Hall and stole a piece of concrete that had been part of the Pentagon, police said.

The theft occurred Wednesday, police said.

Naperville CrimeStoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The memorial honors victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including Navy Cmdr. Dan Shanower, 40, a Naperville native who was one of 125 people who died at the Pentagon.

I encountered the Dan F. Shanower memorial in 2005 and took a few pictures which I used in a memorial day post.

Though presumably accurate, the story is slightly confusing because it makes it sound like the thief broke into a building to steal the pieces of the Pentagon when in fact the memorial is outside and in the open.

Dan F. Shanower Memorial
Larger ImageDan F. Shanower Memorial

From the description, I think this is what they’re talking about:

Pieces Of the Pentagon
Larger ImagePieces Of the Pentagon

The little clear boxes contain fragments from the Pentagon. I guess someone broke open one or more of the boxes and stole the chunks of concrete from inside.

I imagine it was just some kid screwing around, but with a front-page article in the Chicago Tribune, it’s probably drawing more heat than he expected.

According to Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing, Maya Angelou once said

I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I don’t know if she really said that, but I thought it would make a nice blog post to explain how I’d handle those three things, so you folks can learn something about my character.

Rainy Day

I guess I don’t understand this one. Except for cancelling activities that require a clear day—outdoor photography, washing the car—rain has no effect on my day. I don’t mind driving in the rain, and I have rain gear to keep myself dry.

Lost Luggage

I would be filled with righteous rage. All manner of indignities are inflicted upon air passengers in the name of false security, but when it comes to keeping our luggage secure, pathetic failure is considered an acceptable standard. My anger would be tempered only by the knowledge that yelling at front-line customer service people never really helps me get what I want. I would keep the white-hot fury inside me as I fill out the paperwork.

Tangled Christmas Tree Lights

Those tiny lights don’t last very long and they only cost something like $2.99 for a string of 100. If I need some, I just buy new ones.

The greatest noir video game of all time is coming to the silver screen. And Max Payne is going to relive his long vengeful night once again.

Based on the 2001 video game from Remedy Entertainment, the Max Payne movie opens on October 17th and stars Mark Wahlberg in the title role as a cop out to avenge the murder of his wife and child.

IMDB tells me that Vladimir Lem and Alfred Woden aren’t in the movie, but most of the rest of the characters make it: Alex Balder and Jim Bravura, B.B. Hensley and Jack Lupino, Nicole Horne and Mona Sax. Of course Mona Sax.

From the trailer at the Max Payne move website, I can see that New York is still caught in a slow but relentless snowstorm, and junkies are going crazy on the new drug Valkyr. I saw some action taking place in the Aesir Corporation offices, and I thought I caught a glimpse of the Ragna Rock nightclub. And Max still has his leather coat and gun.

One odd bit from the trailer is that there are several scenes in which we see strange demonic creatures. Valkyr users in the game were always muttering about “the flesh of fallen angels” and other strange occult themes, so I’m not sure if we’re just seeing V illusions or if the filmmakers have taken the occult theme a little too seriously.

(Although, I have to admit that I’d played half of the Max Payne game before I stopped expecting vampires and demons to be part of the plot.)

It sounds like they’re keeping Max’s unforgiving internal dialog—although I didn’t hear any exact lines lifted from the game—but in the trailer they’ve replaced Max’s haunting violin theme with a somber guitar riff (taken from the Marilyn Manson song “If I Was Your Vampire”). The website has it looping in the background, and I’ve been listening to it as I wrote this. It seems to work.

No word on Lords and Ladies. Or Captain Baseball-Bat Boy.

One of the signs of emerging totalitarianism is the intrusion of the state security apparatus into areas where they don’t belong, have nothing to contribute, or can cause serious harm by usurping the authority of true experts. For example, DEA agents have increasingly been interfering with medical decisions, first with painkillers and now with medical marijuana.

Now Jim Campbell of Aero-News.Net has another example from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport where a Transportation Security Administration employee decided to check the security of parked aircraft by climbing up the outside of them. In doing so, he damaged the Total Air Temperature probes on nine American Eagle jets, causing all of them to be grounded by maintenance personnel.

If you or I did this, we would now be in federal prison awaiting trial, and in the old days, if some airport security employee had done this, he would have been fired and that would be the end of it. But since parts of airport security were federalized after 9/11, this fool is a government employee who is probably untouchable. Thus the expertise of highly-trained pilots and aircraft engineers is subjugated for the self-serving needs of government security agents.

This is, to be sure, a small thing. No one got hurt. It takes more than a bent probe to crash an airplane. But the police intrusion into medicine has certainly killed people—chemotherapy patients choking on vomit because they can’t control their nausea with medical marijuana or patients with painful diseases committing suicide because their doctor has been arrested for prescribing them too many painkillers. If this new intrusion isn’t stopped, it may only be a matter of time until airline passengers start dying.

(Hat tip: Jacob Grier)

While cops in Los Angeles were busy busting illegal bacon-dog vendors, our own Chicago cops were catching up to some bad, bad people.

With help from a surveillance tape and Cicero police officers, Chicago Police nabbed a 16-year-old girl for robbing and throwing acid on a Logan Square woman last month.

The teenage girl, who did not act alone, was charged as a juvenile with armed robbery and heinous battery for the July 28 incident, police announced Sunday. The girl had thrown a caustic liquid at 48-year-old Esperanza Medina as she left her home on her way to work.

“She has given a statement implicating herself and another juvenile offender,” said Grand Central Area Detective Commander Joseph Salemme.

Nicely done.