Thursday, October 23, 2008

If the Voters Show Up, Barack Obama May Win

The title for this post is deliberately tentative. The only poll that counts is the one that includes more than a hundred million ballots. The voters need to show up, the young, the old, those with mortagages, those losing jobs, those worried about their relatives in the military, those frustrated with high gas prices and stagnant wages and those trying to figure out where we are going in the twenty-first century. All elections are important. This election matters more because we are running out of time. The United States is a strong and capable country but it will not remain that way unless we begin to repair the damage of the last eight years and unless we start doing a better job of taking on the future. Barack Obama doesn't have all the answers but the right wing noise machine has effectively shut down people for too long who do have answers whether it is about energy, global warming, the economy, fairness or simply finding a way into the future. I am confident that Barack Obama is a listener and not just a very fine orator.

Joe Klein has come a long way in the last five years. Here's an excellent article in Time magazine on why Barack Obama is winning:
They were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way." The other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they agreed with Obama. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting — which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama's perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.

John McCain could still win this election. Events in the world might unfold so rapidly and in terms so favorable to McCain that Barack Obama could lose by a small margin. But McCain has run a poor campaign and damaged himself with an impulsive choice for vice president. We expect more of our presidents. Many years ago McCain served his country honorably and there may have been a period a few years ago when he had might have had sufficient command of the issues to become a better than average Republican president. It's possible he would have been better than George W. Bush if he had been elected in 2000. Perhaps not. Perhaps the Republicans in Congress would have dragged him onto the same failed path our current president has followed. But one thing is clear: the current reincarnation of John McCain seems far removed from a comfortable command of the current issues of the day. Lately, he has distanced himself from President Bush but there is no evidence that his policies would be much different.

This past Sunday on Meet the Press, Colin Powell not only endorsed Barack Obama but made a compelling case for Obama and a compelling case against McCain. I have mixed feeling about the former secretary of state. Colin Powell's 2003 presentation at the UN on Iraq will always be the low point of his career. And yet, time and time again, Powell offered clues for anyone willing to pay attention that not all was well. For example, in late 2002, when Iraq agreed to inspections, there was stories in the back pages of newspapers that Powell had noted that there were those in the Bush Administration who had no plan B; they had fully expected Iraq to say no to the inspections, thus giving them the justification for war.

Since leaving office, Colin Powell's relationship with the Bush inner circle has cooled considerably. Still, of all the Bush administration figures, Colin Powell was the one we expected better of; he was the one figure with credibility. Whatever Powell's motivations for endorsing Barack Obama, however, his word still carries weight. Many people tuned in to hear what Colin Powell said:

Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama on "Meet the Press" gave the Sunday chatfest its best ratings for a political interview since 2004. "Meet the Press" averaged 6 million viewers for its Sunday morning airing,...

Other Republicans have stepped forward to endorse Barack Obama. Bush's former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan now endorses Senator Obama. Here's a list of Republicans for Obama found on the website for the Philadelphia Inquirer:
A surprising number of recognizable Republicans are reportedly supporting the Democratic nominee: Susan Eisenhower, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest of Maryland, former Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, former Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Bush fund-raiser Rita Hauser, former National Review publisher Wick Allison, former National Review columnist Christopher Buckley (son of William F.), and former Reagan-Bush lawyer and pro-life legal scholar Doug Kmiec.

Note that it is in Pennsylvania that McCain is making his last flailing attempt to turn things around. I do not know the motivations of those Republicans supporting Obama. I'm sure the reasons vary. I'm sure it has much to do with the failures of the last eight years. I would like to believe that moderate Republicans and perhaps some conservatives are turning their backs on the hardcore right wing Republicans who have so damaged our country in recent years. I'm sure many are dissatisfied with McCain. And finally, some appreciate Barack Obama for who he is.

But think of it: right wing Republicans had control of the House, the Senate, the White House and pretty much the Supreme Court and their failures in retrospect have been staggering. Our prestige in the world has declined. Our economy is in tatters. What is one to make of Greenspan when he says:
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” ...


“Something which looked to be a very solid edifice and, indeed, a critical pillar to market competition and free markets did break down.

“And I think that … shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened.”

I think we all know what happened: the federal government, under Bush, stopped minding the store and Wall Street, drunk with greed, proceeded to pillage the American economy as well as the economy of the world. I don't know which is worse: that for years Greenspan pretended to be an economic oracle or that so much of the media and that so many Americans fell for it. And John McCain would like to give us a taste of Phil Gramm who would give us more of the same.

Vote. Whatever you do, make a statement at the ballot box. No matter how much Barack Obama might be leading in the polls, make a statement. Make a statement for the future. Make a statement for the generations. Let us see if American democracy still survives. Do it for yourself. Do it for your children and grandchildren. Whether Barack Obama is way ahead in your state or way behind, vote. Vote for the ages.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Republican Economic Philosophy is Bankrupt

For much of the past seven years, many experts have worried that George W. Bush's policies might drive the nation over the cliff. Here's a profile of the Dow over the last year.

For the sake of the nation, let's hope things start turning around. But we may have to wait a few months. It's clear McCain has little understanding of economics. Obama has the smarts, the steady hand and the economic advisers to give us a fighting chance, but there's work to be done. As we can see from the chart, the Republicans are leading us nowhere.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Oil Spills in the Wake of Hurricane Ike

My local newspaper carried a story on the oil spills caused by Hurricane Ike. Unfortunately, the story appeared on page 11; that's not exactly prominently displayed news (it was preceded by a major story on a new hotel being built and several human interest stories, including one on owners of exotic pets). Like Hurricane Katrina, the news coverage of oil spills caused by the latest hurricane has been minimal. Here's the AP story from the Austin American-Statesman:
Hurricane Ike's winds and waves caused at least a half-million gallons of crude oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico and the marshes, bayous and bays of Texas and Louisiana, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.

Days before and after the storm, which destroyed oil platforms, tossed storage tanks and punctured pipelines, companies and residents reported at least 448 releases of oil, gasoline and dozens of other substances into the air and water and onto the ground in Texas and Louisiana.

In California, even a 50,000 gallon oil spill is usually big news, at least in the bigger papers. The damage from an oil spill of that size can be documented. So the total of a half million gallons spilled in the wake of Hurricane Ike should be big news anywhere in addition to stories on all of the other damage. I give credit to AP for specifically focusing on the oil spill but I noticed the figure of 448 releases. That's curious. In the following story, the Houston Chronicle notes almost five times the number of spills or 'releases':
While state and federal authorities have reported 2,221 spills of oil and other hazardous materials from Houston to Lake Charles, La., none of them is considered major.

Maybe some reporter in Texas will take the trouble to explain the differences in the amounts and the characterizations. Certainly, given the failed oil executive currently occupying the White House, we are unlikely to get a clear answer from the federal government, though I suspect a few honest federal emplyees would love nothing more than to explain what happened.