Sunday, August 31, 2008

Senator McCain and the Politics of Misdirection

Sen. John McCain has run his entire campaign against Sen. Barack Obama based on the oft stated belief that Obama lacks the experience to lead this country. The McCain campaign has repeatedly discounted Obama's demonstrated knowledge of domestic and foreign policy and characterized the Harvard Law School graduate as a political neophyte.

Just three weeks ago on Face The Nation, Republican strategist Karl Rove opined that he expected the then presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama to choose a running mate based on political expediency, not the person's readiness for the job.

"I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice," Rove said. "He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he's going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He's not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president."

Rove then proceeded to single out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who was also a guest on Face The Nation, as an example of such a disastrous and ill-thought out selection for a vice presidential running mate, saying of and to Gov. Kaine (the man was sitting right there), "With all due respect again to Governor

Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished. I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America."

Funny, but I do believe that I could substitute Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin for Kaine and not have to change another word in Rove's statement. Oops! I'm wrong, Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, population in 2007, according to the U.S. census--9,780. (The 105th largest city of which Kaine was once mayor is Richmond,VA., population of 200,123 in 2007, according to the U.S. census.) I'm not certain as to where Wasilla ranks in population among U.S. cities but somehow I think that it is substantially less than 105th.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that having experience as mayor of a tiny town and only 20 months as governor of a state not known for being densely populated means that one is not qualified for the office of vice president. Nor am I flat out stating that Palin's anti-choice, pro-NRA, positions don't exactly make her the poster woman for the women's movement. Nor am I questioning the wisdom of selecting a running mate with whom McCain's own camp confirms he had only met once before selecting her to be on his ticket; a running mate who could feasibly find herself in the position of having to actually step into the oval office, given the age and prior health issues that have beset Sen. McCain. I'm just fascinated with the difference in attitude that the Republican party has towards its own choices and the choices of the Democratic party.

That's what led me to ponder why McCain selected Gov. Palin as his running mate. While I was busy pondering, headlines in newspapers and talking heads on my television explained it to me in terms that even a four year old could understand. The basic message appears to be that in selecting Gov. Palin, the McCain campaign has strengthened its position with women voters. All of the Hillary Clinton supporters, who were only voting for Hillary because she was a woman, will tumble for John McCain, and give up the vote.

With apologies to village idiots everywhere, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, is a class-A idiot if he really thinks that people supported Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. They supported Senator Clinton because she is intelligent, capable, and has leadership qualities; the same reasons that Obama's supporters support him. What an insult to every person who supported Hillary to assume that they will fall over themselves to jump on the McCain bandwagon just because he has a female running mate.

I have no more patience with those who continue to assert that Obama supporters do so because he has a black father or that Hillary's followers supported her because she was a woman. Get over yourselves and stop clinging to the belief that the only possible explanation for Obama's or Hillary Clinton's successes in this presidential campaign is because all black people support Obama and white women (feminists to boot!) support Hillary Clinton. Guess what, old white men are not the only, nor the best choice for leading everything. It's a new world in the United States of America, and it's about damn time.

Other countries have been able to broaden their horizons to encompass leadership that isn't dependent on having a penis--India, Pakistan, Great Britain, and Israel are just a few modern governments that come to mind. As for race, it should be the shame of this country, founded on the proposition that, "all men are created equal," that it has only seen fit to allow white males to ascend to the leadership of the allegedly most powerful nation in the free world.

Palin is a woman, and I certainly don't disparage her for her gender, but neither am I going to do cartwheels over her selection. (Btw, I proudly identify myself as a feminist.) I'm choosing to have faith in the ability of the majority of women to think rationally and I am refusing to succumb to any concern that the rest of my gender is going to fall down and worship at the altar of McCain simply because he has Palin at his side.

If you must vote for McCain, let it be because you don't believe that addressing the needs of the 47 million uninsured Americans is a priority, let it be because you believe that the wealthiest one percent of the population are entitled to even more tax breaks, let it be because you support an energy strategy that involves off shore drilling as a solution to the energy crisis, or because you agree with his position of staying in Iraq indefinitely, but for heaven's sake, don't fall for his Houdini-style misdirection act of selecting a woman as a running mate.

One of my favorite actresses is Bette Davis. I love Kim Carnes 1980s hit, Bette Davis Eyes. I know that Bette would never fall for some obvious manipulative ploy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama Is the Nominee, and I Like It!

"No way, no how, no McCain."--Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

I've been on that "working my ass off" hamster wheel again, but at 6:50 pm, I was given reason to pause. The phone rang and my long time friend, BT, aka boy toy, was on the line. Having just walked into the house, I was a little less than focused, and had to ask him to repeat his enthused statement.

"The black guy is officially the nominee!"

BT has known me for a long time, so he knew that he had to give me a few seconds for his words to sink in fully. There is a wonderful harmony in BT being the first person to inform me that Barack Obama was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party by acclamation. I first met BT when he was a senior in my high school English class. He returned to work at the same high school upon his graduation from college, and we became good friends. He played a substantial role in encouraging me to have the guts to quit my teaching job and go to law school. He also happens to be white. I think that our friendship is the perfect reflection of the potential that this country has to move beyond the barriers of separatism based on race.

I didn't talk with him very long. My call waiting beeped and knowing that it was my sister, I bid BT goodbye and switched to my sister's call. I think that I screamed in her ear but I don't know exactly what I said. We both admitted to crying tears of joy tinged with a hint of sorrow. Sorrow for all of the black men and women who are no longer with us, who never dreamed that this day would come. Sorrow for all of our ancestors who resolutely held on to their dignity in a society that intentionally and systematically sought to strip it from them. Sorrow for a childhood of "no coloreds allowed" and "white only."

But it is a sweet sorrow, a gentle sorrow, soothed by time and comforted by hope. I have an audacious hope that America is standing on the edge of a new era, an era in which no child's dreams will ever be deferred because of the color of his or her skin.

I know that there are those of you who continue to say that you are afraid of Barack Obama; perhaps you should be. You should also be afraid of me. I believe that all people are created equal. I believe that peace can only be achieved if we're willing to sit down with our enemies and find mutual ground. I believe that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that all of us have the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and health care. I believe that our public education system must be overhauled and shaped into a haven that brings out the best in every child. I believe that the purpose of government is to secure certain unalienable rights, and that among these rights are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." All of these things are among the reasons that I support Barack Obama. Clearly, me and Barack are very dangerous people.

Who knows what will happen when he becomes president? We might actually develop a doable strategy for bringing home our young men and women from Iraq. The wealthiest one percent of Americans may have to pay their fair share of taxes. Even the poorest among us may have full access to quality health care. Pretty scary stuff, but if this doesn't leave you quaking in your shoes, let me share something really scary. Perhaps under the Obama administration, John McCain may actually have to live in one house like the rest of us!

I'm 53 years old, black, female, and southern. I grew up under Jim Crow laws. I witnessed the steady growth and eventual blossoming of the civil rights movement that killed and buried Jim Crow. At times I've been high on hope, and at other times, drunk on despair as to the status of race relations in these United States. I know too much about hate to believe that Senator's Obama's nomination will instantaneously heal all the wounds of racism that have ripped apart this country for generations, but my joy overflows that today, at 6:48 pm eastern standard time, a giant step was made in the right direction towards becoming the America to which we aspire.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,...The Declaration of Independence, 1776

Love Train by the O'Jays was played at the DNC following Senator Barack Obama's nomination for president by acclamation. I found this video on reliable YouTube.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Me and Paris Are Tight

When I was much younger, I used to swear that I would never lament the wicked and sorry ways of the younger generation the way everyone over 40 bemoaned that my generation was heading straight for hell in a row boat. I lied. I find myself constantly lamenting the state of today's youth. However, I've decided to repent and take to higher ground, and it's all because of Paris Hilton. I confess that I have never been a fan of Paris Hilton; however, I now realize that Paris was not looking for a 53-year-old woman to hang with her at the club. She probably never knew and didn't care that I wasn't a fan. Nonetheless, I'm sorry Paris for my harsh words. I did stupid stuff when I was young too, and I'm only grateful that there wasn't a crowd of people following me around with a camera while I did it. Regardless of your misbegotten past, you have redeemed yourself in my eyes.

Just in case you've been in a remote part of the Sahara without access to any media, let me provide you with a little background. Senator McCain and his campaign made a lot of noise about Senator Obama's alleged lack of foreign policy experience, suggesting that he lacked the knowledge and skills to be viewed credibly as a leader by the leadership of foreign governments around the world. They challenged Obama to go abroad and suggested that if he did so, he would be revealed to be unprepared to face a world stage. Well, Senator Obama took the challenge, went overseas, and...well let's just say, he went, he saw, and he conquered. Crowds in the hundreds of thousands cheered him, heads of state welcomed him, the foreign press reported him to be knowledgeable and personable, and favorably compared him to other great statesmen in history who preceded him.

Senator McCain's camp was displeased. That displeasure was expressed with a little video that chides Obama for being nothing more than an international celebrity, incapable of doing more than smile and wave. To hammer home the point, the video pictures Brittney Spears, followed by Paris Hilton, and then that fluffy celebrity, Barack Obama. Unlike some of the bizarre attacks on Obama, this one is not from some fringe group; the closing voice-over and tag-line say it all, "I'm John McCain and I approve this message."

I'm going to reveal something that may shock some of you; I laughed so hard when I saw this video that I gave myself the hiccups. Can you spell d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e, boys and girls? First, the McCain campaign said that Obama didn't have what it takes to be the representative of the free world, now their take is that he's too popular! Somebody in McCain's campaign not only smoked but inhaled--a lot! I can only assume that the ad is meant to be an attack on Senator Obama. Sorry, Senator McCain, but if I were you, I'd pimp slap whoever dreamed up the idea for this commercial. (BTW, check out an entertaining post about the video and other campaign matters on a journal, Skelligrants , that I recently started reading.)

Just when I thought that I was all laughed out, I came across a response to the McCain campaign ad, not from Senator Obama, but from Paris Hilton. I laughed, I hiccuped, snorted and cried. I would have rolled on the floor but I didn't want to have to call Bob and announce, "I've fallen and I can't get up." I don't want to hear anyone say a single bad word about my new BFF ( best friend forever). Paris, you rock.

The following news video includes Paris' response video.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The National Debt or How Many Zeroes Are in a Trillion?

I've never thought of myself as a math person; my focus has always been on literature, philosophy, history, even geography but not math, which is probably why I've never devoted any effort to fully understanding all the ins and outs of the national debt and the federal budget deficit. However, the headlines proclaiming in large type, followed by an exclamation point, that the federal budget deficit is projected to be a record $499 billion for fiscal year 2009 caught my attention. Before I went into a chicken-little-the-sky-is-falling conniption fit, I decided to do a little research. (I love the Internet!) After checking out the US Treasury site, Bloomberg News, NPR, the National Debt Clock, and MSNBC, I no longer worry about the sky falling; I'm worried that the earth is going to fall out of its orbit and crash into the sun. (Okay, maybe I've watched one too many episodes of Dr. Who.)

In addition to being frightened, I'm even more befuddled by the folks who spend their time worrying about Senator Obama's middle name and whether or not he wears a flag pin. People, the sky is falling. Depending on which financial reports you read, the amount of the projected federal budget deficit for 2009 varies from a low of $410 billion to a high of $500 billion. The Bloomberg folks polled 28 economic experts and the average number from that group is $447 billion. Like me, you may wonder exactly what is the federal budget deficit and how does it differ from the National Debt?

The federal budget deficit is the yearly amount by which government spending exceeds revenue. The National Debt is the total amount of money that the federal government owes, currently a whopping $9.589 trillion dollars. I gave this some thought and here's what I think this means in plain English. Let's say that you earn $50,000 per year (revenue), you spend $60,000 per year (expenses), and you owe $250,000 for mortgage, credit cards, car note, and insurance (debt). At the end of the year you will have a $10,000 deficit because you spent more than yu earned and you have a debt of $250,000.

Now let's suppose that in 2009, you are more fiscally responsible and you only spending $52,000, reducing your deficit by 80%, but your debt has interest, so it increases to $275,000 and once again you don't have any money to spend towards your debt. What to do? You borrow money to pay down your current debt and in doing so you create new debt.

Try to imagine this on a grander scale, a scale measuring billions and trillions of dollars. When you read news stories telling you that the deficit is less, that's nice, but it really doesn't address our serious national debt. However, when you read the current headlines that the deficit is increasing, it's time to get out the hard hats and look out below.

All those other scary terms like recession, unemployment, and housing foreclosures are close friends with an increasing federal budget deficit and a growing national debt. However, here's what has made me take to my bed. In 2001 when President G.W. Bush took office, the National Debt was alive and well, but--and here's the scary part, please don't allow children to read this--there was no deficit. Instead, there was a budget surplus of $128 billion.

I don't pretend to be an expert in economics or market analysis or any of that other math related stuff, but I can balance a check book, I. Evidently President Bush has fewer math skills than I do. He managed to take a surplus and in the course of his two terms of office, deplete the surplus and generate one of the largest deficits on record. How did the Bush administration accomplish this feat? Economic analysts say that it is at least partly due to the additional $10 to $12 billion that is added to the government's National Debt every month to cover the expenses of maintaining the war in Iraq. Economic experts also cite the stimulus checks sent out to rev up the economy as substantially increasing the National Debt, and point out that the economy is more sluggish than revved up, leading me to think that perhaps the stimulus checks fell short of their goal.

All of this reading about debt and deficits made me wonder who owns the National Debt, who are we borrowing this money from, and do we have to pay it back?

From what I was able to gather from the experts, the U.S. Treasury auctions off Treasury securities every three months. Individuals, corporations, foreign and domestic, states, and foreign countries purchase these treasury securities and then the government uses the money to pay off some of the National Debt. The Treasury securities are like IOU's backed up by the U.S. Treasury. So you could say that the government is borrowing money from these investors. Oh, and the investors earn interest on the money that they lend to the government.

No, I don't understand it fully either. Some of the Treasury debt, around 52% ,is held by the U.S. government. Some of that money/debt is held in savings accounts for programs like Social Security and Medicare. I don't know about you but I don't understand the connection between debt and a savings account. Some of this debt is owed to foreign governments who purchased Treasury securities. I couldn't find a clear answer as to whether or not the U.S. government has to repay this debt. Although, it does appear that every three months when the securities are auctioned off, the proceeds are used to pay some of the national debt that has come due. Unfortunately, as we continue to over spend, the deficit increases which makes it difficult to make any real progress in lowering the debt. If you would like to read more about this fascinating process or want to invest in Treasury securities yourself, check out this article on MSNBC. By the way, the MSNBC article was written in 2007 when the National Debt was only $8.5 trillion. The earlier number that I mention, $9.589 trillion is the current figure, which is changing by the minute.

As if all of this wasn't enough to make any southern woman take to her bed with the vapors, another headline this week brought alarming news. Exxon Mobil had predicted profits of $2.53 a share for the second quarter of this year but only achieved a profit of $2.22 a share for a net of $11.68 billion. I don't know how those Exxon Mobil executives are going to make it with such disappointing profits. Somebody bring me my smelling salts!

The video is For the Love of Money by the O'Jays. I love the bass in this song. I dare you to sit still and listen to this song. Come on, you know you wanna get up and dance!