Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On a serious market democracy?

Here's something that's been bubbling up in me for a long, long time. I have friends who are very, very conservative. One of them, my friend since childhood, visited not long ago. We've jousted over the years on issues and always felt a spirit of camaraderie anyway. Another is a woman who is more on the right than I am on the left. Now, I mention them because I have been listening to and reading comments for a long time about free-market capitalism, of which these friends are adherents, and a comment at the Daily Kos focused it a little more sharply for me today. I have to ask, then: which is more important, this country or the free market?

I hate to impugn anyone's patriotism. God knows I've been on the receiving end of that for years as a liberal, which (thanks to Fright Wing media manipulation ever since Reagan) has become synonymous with radicals, terrorism, and anarchy. But I honestly wonder when Adam Smith free-market capitalism became synonymous with America.

Since when does the United States Constitution prevent regulation and direction in the market? Both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin expressed deep misgivings about the excesses of capitalism and its threats to a truly free society. As it is now, after 19 years of Republican rule (27 if you count Clinton, the proto-Republican), we have determined that in terms of maintaining a free society, free market capitalism does not work.

What got me to write about this was the AT&T party for "Blue Dog Democrats" during the Dem convention. Rep. Steny Hoyer denied that it had anything to do with Congress having given immunity to telcos from civil suits over FISA violations, but that's a lot like saying the water is not the reason you're going into the swimming pool. This is just the latest example of massive corporations having bought the American system entirely, reducing the voters to simply approving one or another choice supported by Big America, Inc.

The response, as I have heard from Smith capitalists, is that as long as corporations and people have the money, they have the right to do with it as they will. I do not agree. Nothing in the Constitution says you have the right to subvert the democratic process because you have wealth. Nothing gives a corporation the right to despoil the environment for future generations. No one has the right to pollute our air and water for the simple love of excess.

Jefferson wrote that the American government was to provide for the common welfare. Today, as jobs have moved overseas, as our environment turns into garbage, as judges maintain that "free speech zones" ("freedom cages") are entirely legal, as media corporations determine the news that moves out to us, as transnational corporations suckle off the American tax dollar without paying taxes in return (Halliburton, I am talking to you), as all of our lives are bought and sold for cheap by soulless corporations, it's time to ask: Which is most important to you...your country or the free market?

They aren't one and the same.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"surgical strike"

How often are surgeons called upon to make missile strikes? I mean, really?

Hillary Promises: "This Shiv For McCain"

AUG. 26 (ROOTERS) - In a widely-hailed speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention, former candidate Hillary Clinton held aloft a blade once destined for the back of Barack Obama and promised: "This shiv is now reserved for John McCain."

The blade, which has a long Clinton family history, is slender yet strong, its handle a simply-tooled ash with ivory inlay. "There was a time," Senator Clinton said, "when this would have gotten me the Presidency," alluding to the vice-presidential nomination she had expected. "That possibility is now past. In the name of unity, I now promise that this blade will find its home only in the back of John McCain, should he be fool enough to be elected."

The blade, which had been unadorned, is now laser-engraved with the legend, "Unity '08" and a picture of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shaking hands.

Rumors had arisen in the days after the Clinton concession that she was angling for the vice-presidential spot. Less speculated on was what has been referred to as "Roman succession" and "the breaks." However, since Biden accepted Obama's offer of the vice-presidential spot on the ticket, any internecine plots on Clinton's behalf were rendered moot. Speculation exists that her promise to lay aside any revenge slaying is contingent on an appointment to the Supreme Court.

Senator McCain, campaigning this week at the Mars Cheese House in Wisconsin, vowed not to let her come near. "Not that I ever have," he added. "She's trouble."

Monday, August 25, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Joe Lieberman's Ego Nominated for Republican VP

SEPT. 4, 2008 (ROOTERS) - John McCain stunned voters and colleagues alike today with the nomination of Joe Lieberman's ego as his vice-presidential choice.

"Joe Lieberman has the support of many voters in this country," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. "He brings in a lot of Jewish voters, traditional voters, and swing voters. However," he added, "a lot of his positions lose us traction among traditional Republican voters. For instance, he's pro-choice. We can't lose the fundamental Christian vote. So the next best thing was to nominate his ego."

Lieberman's ego, which has previously been seen to be impervious to criticism and electoral challenge, was gratified to be on the ticket.

"I see this as a great step forward for independents who have ambition but no scruples," said the ego. "Without being tied down to any policy or morals, we can accomplish great things. Such as getting elected."

The Obama camp was swift to respond. "It's not fair," said a spokesman. "We have to contend against one of the greatest egos in American politics, and if it gets elected, we still have to deal with Lieberman's policies in the Senate. We're filing a protest and issuing a strongly-worded letter."

Unknown is whether the ego will carry with it Lieberman's speaking habits. Mr. Rogers insisted, though, that they are working to eliminate all traces of sonorous monotony from the voice of the ego.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"NOW I can vote for Obama"

There were questions about whether Obama could gather together the Hillary voters who felt disenfranchised when she lost the race. There were suggestions that Hillary voters would turn to McCain, or third party candidates, or simply stay home. Hillary supporters were talking about protesting the convention, and even recently there was speculation that somehow Hillary was going to try to steal the nomination away from Obama.

Pundits also speculated on whether Obama could win unless he put Hillary at his side. He needed her experience, both on the campaign trail and in the office. Without her substance, he would fail. Speculation was that if he chose someone without the standing, substance, and energy of Hillary, he would fail. If he did not include Hillary, he would lose the female vote, he would lose the older vote, the blue collar vote. Without Hillary, he would fail.

I don't say this with any animosity to the Hillary camp. I'm reflecting the words of the newspaper pundits, talking heads, and more than a few bloggers. But I believe the turning point has come. I have a friend, a woman and a Hillary voter, who had previously asserted that there was no way she could vote for Obama. She cited the many reasons that others do: his lack of experience, his associations, and one thing no one had really pointed out--that there had to be some dirt about Obama not yet dug up. She never bought into the obvious nonsense (he's a Muslim!), but she had serious questions about him and was either going to vote third-party or stay home.

Today, after Biden was announced, I received an e-mail from her. The subject was, "NOW I can vote for Obama." Biden turned the tide for her. His working-class roots, his foreign policy experience, his intelligence, his character made the difference. Choosing Biden showed Obama's good judgment. Biden gets respect. He's plainly on the side of the working man and woman, and, really, all women. He has the gravity that completes this ticket.

I am convinced that a great many Hillary voters will see the Biden choice with the same relief. All right, their candidate didn't make it--but Obama chose wisely. He has reassured the Democratic voter that he does indeed know what he's doing. He's made it clear to the Hillary voter, the kitchen-table voter, the working voter, that he's heard them and still intends to look after them. iCal it: this is the week Obama won the Presidency.


OCT. 12, 2008 (REUTERS) - Tropical Storm Fay has settled into the living room of Mr. and Mrs. Manny Glickstein of Ocala, Florida.

The Glicksteins, a retired couple originally from Great Neck, NY, were throwing a dinner party for their friends, the Feldmans, to celebrate Mr. Feldman's ascension to the chair of the math department at the University of Florida Ocala when Fay showed up at the door unannounced. Fay, which brought a bowl of spinach dip, was awkwardly invited in.

"What could we do?" Sally Glickstein was quoted as saying. "Fay's applied for tenure."

Unknown still is when Fay intends to leave. Although most of the party guests have already gone home, Fay is reported to have spotted a copy of Scrabble™ in the den closet and enthusiastically asked if anyone would like to play.

"Manny is such a Scrabble™ maniac, too," said a weary Gil Feldman. "But he's so SLOW."

Indications are, though, that Fay may leave, as the only beverages left in the house are some bottled water, a little orange juice, and coffee, and it's just too late for coffee.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good deeds in a weary world

In the past couple of weeks, two people I know and love did things which amazed me. I wish I had been there to see them. Especially when one of them was Andy, my dear friend of over twenty years. He's not the physically bravest of people--being targeted when you're young tends to do that to you. But a couple of weeks ago he was in downtown Minneapolis, about to cross a street, when he saw a man on the other side attacking a woman. I won't share his private thoughts with you, but safe to say he was alarmed and frightened. This man was pulling the woman's hair and beating at her, and no one was helping her out.

Now, Andy could have been like anyone else on the street, minding his own business, and he had every right to fear for his own safety if he intervened. But as he said, he was brought up that you don't hit women, so when he crossed the street and the man hadn't continued, Andy walked up to him and hit him...with an umbrella.

Don't laugh. Really. Andy hit him hard enough that the umbrella handle broke. The man was stunned enough that he backed away from the woman. Andy put himself between the man and the woman and wielded the umbrella like a sword, keeping the confused and enraged man at bay until the sirens were heard. (At which point, like a coward, the man ran.) Andy had saved the day. I just don't have enough words to express how proud I am of him. He not only did the right thing, he did the brave thing knowing that he could get hurt himself. That takes courage, and he has it. He's on my Best Persons in the World list now.

The other is my nephew. He has a similar story. The other night he was coming out of a movie theater with a friend and saw a man apparently choking a woman in the parking lot. There was a small bunch of frozen onlookers. Just as one guy said that maybe somebody should do something, Kyle charged up and pulled the guy off the woman. He said later that he didn't seem to be actually choking her, but grabbing her in a way that looked like it. And it turned out the guy was mentally handicapped and the woman was his caretaker. But Kyle put himself between the guy and the woman and kept him at bay until the cops showed up.

I'm just as proud of my nephew, though to be honest, he's a lot younger and a lot more muscular than Andy. He doesn't take crap from anybody. But when other people were wondering what to do, he stepped in and did it. He saved that woman from possible, real damage. (I bet she called the agency for another assignment in the morning.) You have to do the right thing, and here are two people who did so without hesitation. I am proud to know them.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Solar Energy Breakthrough

For copyright considerations I won't reprint the article here. But the article states the obvious: virtually free, limitless energy. What it doesn't say is what this could mean for the global environment. Just imagine if, in ten years, this is engineered so that solar batteries collect energy to power our cars as well as our houses. For many of us, we would make the shift in lifestyle to adapt to shorter-range vehicles, perhaps leaving long-distance travel to trains or whatnot. Within ten years, global emissions could be drastically reduced as coal plants are shuttered, cars convert to zero-emission energy, and the only combustion engines would be those necessary for long-distance travel such as trucks and trains. It wouldn't eradicate all carbon emissions, since there's not really a way to substitute for airplane travel, for instance, but it could potentially slow global warming within a few decades.

As long as Exxon doesn't crush this or gain control of the technology, that is.