Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dwell Time Tells the Secret?

McCain Campaign slurs against Barack Obama
Big Money, Big Lies and Pretending Really, Really Hard

Dwell time” was a term which arose in the famous Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative. That program introduced all sorts of interesting language. Aside from several rather glaring weaknesses (1. It didn’t work. The machines it created never functioned. 2. It was expensive, generating about $5,000,000,000,000 -- five trillion -- in national debt. This year, we will pay about $300,000,000,000 -- three hundred billion -- in interest on that debt from decades back.) the program did manage to fool the Soviets, playing a central part in ending the Cold War. (Extreme "good on it" for that!)

So, “dwell time?” That described how long our pretend Star Wars laser would have to “dwell” on a Soviet SS-18 ICBM to destroy it in its “boost phase.” We pretended that this pretend laser was so powerful that the required “dwell time” would be basically zero seconds. Happily, the other side bought our story. The President was an actor, after all.

The McCain Campaign has copied some of this old Cold War strategy. Now under the direction of a new, more aggressive and even cheaper campaign manager, it is pretending that one of its slurs can destroy the Obama Campaign while still in its “boost phase.” The dream of the McCain Campaign is that, sooner or later, if it just keeps trying, one of these slurs will connect, delivering its toxin with sufficient “dwell time” to wreck Obama’s bid for the Presidency.

Of course there is, for the McCain Campaign, a down side. So far none of these slurs has really actually connected very well at all. Yes, each one of them, if it had gained any traction, could have really have dented the Obama image. Unhappily for the McCain Campaign, however, none has. Also unhappily, the more times this is tried, and consequently, the more times it fails, the less anyone is inclined to consider that, maybe, the pretend slurs are actually true. The McCain slur inventory is losing credibility so fast that fewer and fewer people are pretending to believe it. Faster than a used car lot can fill up with SUV's!

Oh yes, the most stalwart, crusty old evangelical neo-cons still pretend they believe it. For them, their version of mindless neo-con patriotic duty easily trumps any messy facts that they may have been unable to avoid. After all, that is what is meant by “the base.” In an unthinking way, these old fogies somehow still expect everyone to believe that their pretend lasers are actually very, very powerful and effective. The hired guns and the talking heads of the major media they have bought and paid for may be trying to prop them up a little, but now, even those are getting pretty road weary.

Most of the junk we built for the Strategic Defense Initiative is now rusting away silently in some Defense Department land fill. The tragic remnants of McCain’s ridiculous and ineffective slur campaign is officially in the garbage truck on its way to join it there.

So keep an eye on all of these inflammatory McCain slurs about Barack Obama. If you are wondering whether or not something so outrageous might be true, just relax and watch for a little while. They will, as is inevitable for most lies, simply drift into nothingness in a few days as they, once again, fail to get any traction.

If you are still suspicious that you are being tricked by the Muslim black boy with the crazy Baptist preacher and the Islamic terrorist wife, ask yourself why the McCain Campaign didn't commit itself to a "full court press" since it obviously claimed that it had something of value started.

No problem. Since facts mean nothing to the McCainite neo-cons, they should just grab whatever they can use, keep saying it over and over and pretend that it's working. After all, Ronald Reagan proved that building a pretend zero dwell time intercontinental missile killing laser isn't exactly rocket science.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

In Praise of FOX News: America’s Entertainment

What could be more satisfying than searching for the good in everything?
It not only cleanses the soul, it is also a great boon to good health. 43

So, here goes.

FOX News has very nice and well maintained cameras and other equipment.

That wasn’t so bad now, was it?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Senator Barack Obama for President

My Unabashed, Straight Ahead, No Holds Barred Explanation
Why Barrack Obama Must Be Our 44th President 42

For most of my life I have voted for Republican Presidents. I am old enough that I have seen a good number of Presidents and a good number of elections. Right now, though, I need to talk about why I am going to vote for Obama. I need to talk about exactly why I think he is going to be a great President.

That means, I have to say why I think he is a good choice, how he is going to be different from what we have now and how he is going to compare with some of the past Presidents I liked and didn’t like. I have to “size up” Obama on pretty much three important ideas. Those ideas are completely involved in campaign politics right now. They are:

National Security
and, Leadership.

I lived through what we called the “Cold War,” and that experience really made the National Security issue a big one for me. It was a frightening time, and while it was going on, it really had a lot to do with who we chose to be President. We were always looking for someone we could trust to tell us what was happening. The stakes were very high. We were continuously, day and night, ready to have a thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. That went on for years.

But, during that time, Americans really did know quite a bit about our situation. We were included in the whole affair, and that meant that we had a good grip on what was going on. Our leaders didn’t always have good news for us, but we had the feeling that we could trust what they were saying and understand why our country was doing what it was doing.

This really changed during the Viet Nam war. During those times, much of what we were told was simply made up to make things appear to be something they weren’t. At first, we believed what we were told, but as time went on, it got so far out of hand that most Americans couldn’t believe it anymore. This happened during the term of both a Democratic and a Republican President, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. It got so that it didn’t seem to matter what we as citizens thought, that war just kept going and going for decades.

Now, we are having more wars and, one more time, we don’t really know what is happening. We were lied to to get us into Iraq. Our War on Terror is full of secret reasons and secret plans. We have been told over and over that we have to fight, but we haven’t been told much about how it’s going.

I don’t really have a good idea whether we are winning or losing. The government is not being open about these matters. They are keeping everything secret. I have to believe that the government doesn’t really trust us, the people. If it did, it could be much more open about what it was doing, figuring that we would agree with it and support it.

We may be doing very well with this “War on Terror,” but we also may not be doing very well at all. For example, we haven’t had another attack, but does that mean we have stopped all the attacks since then or does it simply mean that there haven’t been any attempted? What’s the big deal about telling us what is happening?

I like Barack Obama for President because I think he is much more open. I think he will be much more honest with us. There are plenty of Generals to take care of the war-fighting if that comes up, but we need to have a President who will take care of that job and that includes being much more open and honest with us. We must know what is happening so we can be included in the decisions.

As for the economy, I have lived long enough to experience both good and bad times. During the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s wages went up every year. By the way, there were both Republicans and Democrats running things. People paid their taxes and, as always, complained about it. Some people grew rich, but most people like us had money and pretty good lives.

Now, things seem suspiciously different. The average wage in the United States has actually fallen lately. The very richest people have gotten richer, but middle class people have gotten poorer. Prosperity at our level has been sacrificed so those at the very top could get even more.

So, does the President control all of this? Not entirely, but when the President’s incredibly rich friends just seem to always get richer and richer no matter what they do while we seem to not even be able to hold our own, I have to think that maybe who is President makes a difference. Quite a few of the rich friends of this President have, in fact, gotten richer and richer because of decisions he has made -- decisions that should have included us and our interests but didn’t.

In my memory, I have never seen incredibly rich people pay so little in taxes while folks like us, again, are having trouble holding our own. As has always been the case, everyone complains about taxes and government inefficiency, but our real complaint is about what is being done with our tax money. What we are buying for the whole country. Things like roads and bridges and dams and schools and hospitals. I have watched the current government spend roughly eight trillion dollars of borrowed money on something, but I can’t see anything they bought! All I see is rich people getting richer and the rest of us getting left out.

Part of that eight trillion dollars was spent in Iraq, part went directly to subsidize oil companies. Part went to greedy bankers who got caught in the mortgage crisis. Part went to war profiteers who are friends of the President and Vice President. The problem is that part of it didn’t go to us! Our part in this amounts to just having to pay it back in taxes for the rest of our lives. Our ideas about borrowing all this money and our ideas about what it was spent for didn’t make any difference. No one was listening to our common sense. We were not included and we damned sure weren’t respected.

Now, our gasoline costs four times more, our dollars are worth half of what they used to be worth, our houses, if we are fortunate enough to own one, are worth 80% of what we paid for them, the stock market is getting lower and lower every day and our pensions and 401K’s are going down with it, our health care is costing more and more and our wages are getting less and less. A big bunch of money seems to just be evaporating, but it is going somewhere! In the middle of all this, President Bush’s friends seem to just be getting richer and richer.

President Obama is going to include us and our interests in his Presidency. Things may not get better over night, but at least we will have someone in the White House who has actually lived like we live. He will know what things are like down here. He will understand what we face every month when we pay our bills. And our taxes.

President Bush is the son of a President and the grandson of a banker. John McCain is the son of an admiral and the grandson of an admiral. Neither of them has ever had to scrimp and budget to buy groceries or pay for a doctor. Barack Obama has. Maybe all the economic stuff going on now makes sense to someone like George Bush or John McCain. Neither one of them has ever had to pay off a student loan.

Senator Obama knows better. He just finished paying off his student loan.

That makes him a lot more like me, and I like that. That makes me trust him to be loyal to someone like me and my interests. George Bush has been very loyal to his rich oil friends for the last eight years. John McCain is already on the hook to be more loyal to his rich campaign contributors and the lobbyists running his campaign than loyal to someone like me. I don’t think I deserve to be left out. Quite frankly, I can’t afford to be left out like that for another four years of a McCain Presidency.

That goes for everyone I know, too.

The most important of the three things is leadership. Again, during the Cold War we really counted on Presidents like Eisenhower and JFK to lead us through it. We trusted them and they trusted us. We all knew that we were in that mess together and, that if we were going to get through it, we were going to do that together, too. Those weren’t times famous for “getting a good night's sleep,” but our worries weren’t about whether or not we could trust the President. Our worries were about the Russians and the missiles and the bombs.

Thank God, we had leaders we could trust. Whether we voted for them or not, we prayed for them and we loved them and we followed them and we supported them. That was our job as Americans. We could do that because, again, whether we voted for them or not, we trusted them to be loyal to us.

I can trust President Obama to be loyal to my country, to my safety and to my interests. I’m not completely sure why I trust him, but I do. In fact, my trust for him grows every time I hear him speak.

Trust in our leaders is a national value. With it we are richer, without it we are poorer. With it we are much stronger, without it we are much weaker. We are all going to decide who we can trust in November. I am placing my future in the hands of Barack Obama. That is not based solely on the incredible lack of trust I have for John McCain and everyone else who wants more of President Bush’s special favors, that is based on Barack Obama, the man. I trust him.

It is not political maneuvering that can put us back together as Americans. It is not going to be some sort of really clever trick of politics or policy. It will be trust. It will be about honor and loyalty. It will be about hope. Our path back to a strong, unified country is going to start with trust, honor, loyalty and hope. The Republicans can't say much about those things without lying.

You know. It is just going to start “feeling better.” It’s time.

It’s time for America to do better. It’s time for President Barack Obama.

We're Democrats. We live here!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Election Strategy: Bomb Iran

Why Did the Chicken or the Egg Cross the Road First?

Iranian Missle Tests: The Axis of Evil Comes to Call 40

As suggested in the title, it is occasionally difficult to determine whether certain phenomena are the cause of the effect. In some cases it seems straightforwrd enough, but in others no amount of careful thought seems to render any sort of reasonable decision at all.

Moving forward from that abstraction, we will consider the “phenomenon” of Iran’s sudden and intensely aggressive posture with respect to us. This most recent event isn’t really that mysterious. Our “Axis of Evil” talk a few State of the Union speeches ago, our undoubtedly disconcerting habit of “parking” nuclear aircraft carriers either a little closer or a little farther from Iran at various times, the provocative presence of the US army in the oil swamp of Iraq and the “entirely spontaneous” Isreali public position of its open retaliation are more than enough to inspire Iran’s actual government’s interest in being threatening in response. By “actual government” we mean, of course, the slightly medieval Islamic religionists who replaced the Shah, that is, our Shah Palavi.

Recent history sheds little light on this puzzle. About the time we decided to invade Afghanistan and capture Bin Laden, essentially this same Iranian government was quite cooperative. We were told that the Taleban, a group bearing an amazingly similar DNA profile with Al Queda, was a “blood enemy” of the Shi’ites in Iran. Given the prevailing competition between Sunnis and Shi’ites throughout the region, this media presentation was pretty palatable for our domestic consumption. We literally "gobbled" it down.


However, not too much later, our “ally” during the Afghan incursion had converted itself to the “Axis of Evil.” The new media presentation is that these Iranians hate America and have done everything possible to make trouble everywhere they can in the Middle East.

A problem arises from all this. Of course, we can hardly wish to spend any more time considering the news reports. Their credibility has long ago been castrated by a terrified administration that fears and distrusts the American people more than the Iranians, or anyone else. This leaves us quietly speculating about what the actual situation might be, more or less isolated from any information that could possibly help in our considerations.

All that would be comfortably academic if a “certain somebody” weren’t still considering “nuking the hell” out of these people in our name then staggering out of the White House having accomplished the ingestion of a treasonous “poison pill” for our national security. The 9/11 attack, regardless of which conspiracy actually delivered it, has been this administration’s closest, and now, only, friend, but the burning World Trade Centers have become a bit road weary. Still, even though a dismally slow learner, Mr. Bush did notice that there was simply nothing more politically valuable than an insane enemy. After convincing half of the voting population that Sadam had bombed those buildings, a Texas style hanging in Baghdad has left the “cupboad bare” with respect to his next adversary.

Meet Iran.

The question: Does this disaster have anything to do with George Bush’s lies about it? There is the possibility that even in his twisted, self-serving statements, some kernel of fact has actually sneaked through and that these Iranians are, perhaps, as crazy and intractable as he proposes.

On the other hand, it is perhaps equally likely that the Iranians are responding to him. Now, now. Yes it stinks, but a proposition such as that one really must be an exaggeration! The enmity expressed toward us by Iran couldn’t possibly have been caused by a single American, not even one holding the Presidency with such calloused credentials. Even if this were a factor, the inertia of these events is still far greater than any possible Iranian response to a single man. George Bush could not possibly have precipitated this colosal disaster on the sole strength of his creepy character alone.

Well, perhaps not in a population like the one here in this country, but the government and the population of Iran simply don’t know him that well. It would be very nice to be able to tell them, “Although President Bush may be rather unsettling, please, he isn’t going to just attack someone out of mid air based on no more than his own secret (oil) reasons.” We might continue with, “The United States is a nation of laws. Sure, the President is very powerful, but something as egregious as this would simply be beyond even his most blood thirsty ambitions.”

But would that be honest on our part? He really might attack them based on the exact personality defects they fear the most. He seems to have purposely created the crisis to replace the lackluster memory of New York. He has certainly learned that his disasterous military adventures usually look pretty good to the American voters, at least until he starts losing again. And, finally, the time line is almost perfect. An attack on Iran might actually look fairly successful for the period between here and the election.

None of this is particularly calming to the Iranians. Darn, we were only trying to reassure them that we weren’t all as brutally selfish and ambitious as our alleged President. You know. Just like all Muslims aren't terrorists.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Big Thank You to the Oil Futures Traders

Passive Aggressive Communication 101
Letting the World Know What We Think Without Saying Anything 37

As we indulge our codependent natures, we gradually appreciate the important work of the oil futures market more and more.

Codependents are very uncomfortable with confrontation of any sort. If one can only extract pleasure from life by controlling others, this trait can be rather cumbersome.

As a nation, we could, of course, comment or complain about every little things that has happened anywhere in the world. Although we would probably enjoy doing this, we are reluctant to just “jump right into it.” We really don’t wish to appear shallow or supercilious as we rant and rave about all these parts of our planetary reality that we just don’t like.

In comes the “blessing” of the oil futures market. When one of these miniscule perturbations crops up, the oil futures traders can answer for us by raising the price of oil! With their help we don’t need to say anything at all, a sort of international or cultural passive aggression.

No matter how inconsequential the subject of our outrage or complaint, we won’t have to speak up, and in doing so, act like whining ninnies! If we don’t approve of some change in diet in Ecuador, if we are frightened by a few gun shots in Nigeria, no problem! We won’t have to make any sort of risky comment. Our oil futures traders will raise prices so these bothersome folks, whom ever they might be, whatever they may have done, can see how upset we are, and all without our saying so much as a word.

If the French are cutting the subsidy for mud baths for the elderly, if Israel conducts military training or if some sheik in Saudi Arabia gets investigated for crooked military procurement, we can simply act as if we couldn’t care less. When the oil futures prices go up, these miscreants will know what we think of them!

When the North Koreans demolish a cooling tower or the Iranians test fire a few of their missiles, our polished passive aggressive communication can just swing into action. If the Indian Embassy in Kabul takes a bomb or the Russians complain about our missiles in Czech Republic, we don’t need to say anything at all. We can just raise oil prices! Then they'll know!

See? Everybody wins!

Understanding Education

Still Not Satisfied After All That Studying?

Avoid trying to gain too much from texts with titles including the word “training.”

Instead, pause. Try to remember everything you know about knowledge, everything you have learned about learning.

Training” justifies its effort in the future. “Learning” is complete in the moment.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Dancing with the "T" Word: Treason?

Enough of This Polite Confusion
None Dare Call It Treason? 37

Although this may be borrowing the title of an old book, we can translate its rather provocative question right into the present. As we measure our leaders we see them in essentially three dimensions.

The first is probably whether or not we agree with them. This matter spreads out to all sorts of things: economics, foreign policy, social ideals, justice and personal philosophy. No matter how contentious the issue might be, we can approach it with the confidence that we will survive, pretty much in the state we are accustomed to, even if we strongly disagree with the choice finally made. After these disagreeable matters are put into place through the action of our democratic system, we calm down, somehow comforted by the possibility that the next time will be our chance to prevail.

Issues of disagreement can be dramatized as “treason” while we rant and rave, but there is not really any actual treason at play.

The second dimension has to do with mistakes. Our national leadership can make military mistakes, foreign policy mistakes, domestic economic mistakes and all sorts of other mistakes. It would be comforting to categorize these mistakes as being “innocent” or “unavoidable” in one sense, or “suspicious” or “self-serving” in the other sense. In any event, although errors in judgment, the “conspiracy” side rarely materializes. We survive these in much the same manner as we survive the disagreeable variety. Quite comfortably.

Again, as citizens we are, of course, directly responsible for these mistakes, their consequences, usually to others, and their historical ramifications. Similar to the “disagreeable variety” we can correct them. We get out our voter id’s and go to town at the next election.

However, the third dimension of measure brings us quickly to the grave realm quite beyond either “disagreeable” or “incompetent.” The third measure falls to the threatening prospect of treason. It stands out beyond our considerations of “disagreeable” or “incompetent” because it offers the possibility of our not surviving it.

The conclusion of “treason” is not quite as murky as a conclusion of “disagreeability” or “incompetence.” Those lesser complaints rely rather heavily on opinion. Those easier ones are based, often, on the information we have made the effort to accumulate about a certain thing or other. In many cases, there will be contradictory information supporting an alternate opinion. Then we get to argue with each other. This, of course, is the American way. The end result of this is that we wind up hearing about the facts supporting the opinion of the other side, probably not changing our original position much, but at least, understanding the other side a little better.

However, returning to the matter of “treason,” we immediately must also address “trust.” After all, enough “trust” in the character and motivation of one of our leaders can serve to move what might have otherwise been “treason” to a more palatable place nearer what could be called, for instance, “incompetence.” We find it rather difficult to construct the indictment of “treason” even to situations presented with misdirection, deception, outright lies, confusing motives, intentional complexity and the like. With all those “buffers” in place, the fabric of inescapable “pure, true treason” can become elusive.

After all, he didn’t just hand Los Angeles over to the Chinese Army or something.

As tax payers, we have provided the President with some pretty potent tools to use for our protection and for the protection of the country as he steers us through risky situations and other challenges, not the least of these is the most expensive military the planet has ever seen. We elected him because we thought he would be much better at such tasks than we would be if we were President. We also made a statement in that election. We declared that we “trusted” him, his motivation, his ability and even his intuition. We also expected that he was going to “trust us” as far as possible as he did his job.

This President spoke, apparently convincingly, about “Political Capital.” That term describes something either the same as “trust” or, at least, very involved with “trust.” These comments about “Political Capital” may have been some of the most forthright comments this President has ever made.

You know, “honest.” Oh, yeah, anyway. Well, you know.

We can gauge our “trust” a bit by looking at who our “leader” has “trusted.” That would be “Brownie” of FEMA-Katrina fame, Putin, the man whose soul he saw, or something, the Iraqis, the ones he “trusted” would simply leap into democracy, the “Generals” who managed to create a five and half year long meat grinder, Mr. Wolfowitz, a neo-con genius, Mr. Bremmer, a neo-con genius, Mr. Rove. a neo-con and alleged "human" of unknown origin, Mr. Rumsfeld, a neo-con military genius, Mr. DeLay, a political neo-con genius exterminator (yeah, bugs), Mr. Abramhoff, who he quit “trusting” when it became difficult, Mr. Cheney, you know, “shooter,” and others. He even “trusted” the famous Jeff Gannon of enough to give him Helen Thomas’s seat at press conferences.

We can take a look at the stuff that makes our country strong. He has pretty much wrecked the Army while losing a battle with a trailer park east of Cairo. He has tanked the economy which is the basis for the wealth we need to defend ourselves. He has managed to drive off most of our friends, those would be the ones who couldn’t be bribed or threatened. Sometimes friends are helpful in matters of national security.

He has always been tormented by his fear about decisions he makes to “trustanyone. He clearly believes that “enough authority” means one doesn’t have to “trustanyone. Where does “incompetence” make the last journey to outright “treason?”

Perhaps the suspicious transfer of billions of tax dollars to his friends via tax breaks can resist the new definition, thereby remaining no more than “incompetence.” Perhaps a national debt, not counting the “emergency funding billions” for Iraq and Afghanistan, rising to an astounding nine trillion dollars with nothing to show for the purchase can still be simple “incompetence.” Maybe his “line blocking” Republican cronies in the Congress obstructing a record seventy-eight House bills with their filibuster threats, extracting his war profiteering funds by the hundreds of billions every time he asked, protecting his impeachment investigation from proceeding are really just in the “disagreeablecategory.

So, no “treason’” right?

Not exactly. Our nation is apparently able to survive all this damage. We recall that “treason” didn’t really cross the line until it threatened our national security. Has that happened, too?

Yes. It has.

The most valuable “trust” of all is our confidence that this man will step up to lead us through really dangerous matters should they arise. We have no choice but to count on him for such matters. Even if we “disagree.” Even if we think he is “incompetent.” He remains the only “horse” we’ve got, and that means he is the one we have to count on, his judgment may be faulty, his ability may suggest “incompetence,” but he remains the one with the keys to set our defense in motion should the need arise.

Our problem is that we can no longer trust him. Sure, he remains an incredibly powerful man thanks to the assets we have given him, but we can no longer “trust” him when he tells us that we are facing danger or that we must go to war. We have learned the painful lesson that his words will always be self-serving and deceptive. We, frankly, have no reliable means to determine for ourselves the gravity of situations which might face us. We are “flying blind.”

That frightening situation is beyond “disagreeable,” beyond “incompetent.” Through his own strategy he has emasculated the political leadership we have created to protect our democracy and our nation. His careful, premeditated, intentional creation of that state of affairs is treason.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Reconciling with President George Bush

Getting Over My Bad Attitude
Being Less Critical of the President 36

When I find myself continuously astounded with my own negative impression of the leadership of George Bush, Dick Cheney and their ilk, I seek some reconciliation with my own opinions. Have I slipped into such a critical point of view that I have descended to outright hysterical name calling and complaining? Have I become so entrenched with my criticism that I have simply eliminated the possibility of a more compassionate opinion?

Well, I have to confess that I have. Now, I must seek out the positives, search for mind sets I have held which are, frankly, far too harsh, re-examine them and ponder other, less radical possibilities. As mea culpa, here goes:

I no longer think that First Lady, Laura Bush, deserves a prison sentence. That is a blanket statement. No domestic indictments, no impeachment, no war crimes trials. No nothin'.

So, how's that? It’s the voice of a new, more compassionate, more forgiving me! Right?