Searching for a Simple Financial Truth

There is something about gold that attracts people.  It became the currency of choice for the Eastern and Western hemispheres before either one knew the other existed. Of course, its attractivness sciews judgement and creates hubris.  Governments have always enjoyed hording the stuff.

In the beginning, Roman coinage was worth the amount of gold it had in it.  As the government spent more than it grossed, they began to put less gold into their coins.  Eventually, the people wised up and realized that the coins weren’t worth as much as they once were.  Inflation began and so did decline.

There was a time when an America could take a dollar bill to the treasury and get it’s value in gold.  No more.  In fact, it’s illegal to own a lot of the stuff because the government wants to protect it’s monopoly on the money supply.  But what does that mean?

Despite reading quite a bit about this stuff, I still don’t understand how the Treasury and the Federal Reserve work.  I know the Treasury manufactures money, which is disconcerting in its own right because if someone forgot to turn the machine off at the end of the day, we’d all wake up and our money would be worthless.  I also know the Federal Reserve ‘regulates the money supply’ by determining interest rates and regulating reserve requirements, I don’t fully understand what they’re doing with treasury bonds?  And who makes sure the Fed is doing it’s job properly?  When did we decide the Fed could spend tax payer money (or am I deluding myself and it’s really government money?) to save one businesses but not the other?  Who regulates the Fed and makes sure they’re doing their job properly?

Basically, the point I’m trying to get at is this. Nothing in this world is free.  When government does something, there is always blow back, somewhere, sometime.  Right now, despite our ‘free market’ the government is influencing the financial markets from countless angles and things are spinning out of control.  If we were still on the gold standard, or a modified version of that system, would that allow the government to play a less significant role in the economy?  Would that create less incentives for financial service professionals to influence government policy? Could that pave the road for more honest regulation?

Sometimes it takes an Oil Man…

Is it just me or has T. Boone Pickens bitch slapped the entire environmental movement?  Pickens has done what an army of environmentalists never could: create momentum behind a national renewable energy initiative.  The Pickens Plan is a massive wind power initiative.  He wants to get America generating 20% of it’s power from our wind corridor in the middle of the country.  With that new electricity in the grid, Pickens thinks we can stop using natural gas in power plants and start using it in cars.  Thus we can free ourselves from the burdens of foreign oil.  I doubt things will go down like that but the fact is, he wants to strengthen our power grid and create a massive amount of renewable wind energy.  I dig it.

This man also gets things done.  This is the email update I got from him:

“We have big, big news! The Pickens Plan Pledge is ready and is already in the hands of EVERY Member of Congress. Every United States Senator. And every Governor.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico signed the pledge on Wednesday. Remember, Gov. Richardson was a Secretary of Energy, so he knows what the Pickens Plan is all about and he knows what it means to America.”

While the liberals complained, this Texas oil man acted. Thank you T. Boone.

Should we forgive him for financing the disgusting Swift Boat ads that sunk the Kerry campaign?

An Alliance between the Real “Change” and “Maverick” Candidates

What happens when you cross anti-corporate hippy socialists with anti-government conservative libertarians?  The most surprising (and interesting) political alliance of my lifetime.  Ron Paul and Ralph Nader have come together over four core issues neglected by the mainstream parties and media and discussed these ideas with Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room.  The following is the agreement from Ralph Nader’s website.  Excuse the odd use of bold and underlining, Nader is a quirky dude.

We Agree

Foreign Policy: The Iraq War must end as quickly as possible with removal of all our soldiers from the region. We must initiate the return of our soldiers from around the world, including Korea, Japan, Europe and the entire Middle East. We must cease the war propaganda, threats of a blockade and plans for attacks on Iran, nor should we re-ignite the cold war with Russia over Georgia. We must be willing to talk to all countries and offer friendship and trade and travel to all who are willing. We must take off the table the threat of a nuclear first strike against all nations.

Privacy: We must protect the privacy and civil liberties of all persons under US jurisdiction. We must repeal or radically change the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the FISA legislation. We must reject the notion and practice of torture, eliminations of habeas corpus, secret tribunals, and secret prisons. We must deny immunity for corporations that spy willingly on the people for the benefit of the government. We must reject the unitary presidency, the illegal use of signing statements and excessive use of executive orders.

The National Debt: We believe that there should be no increase in the national debt. The burden of debt placed on the next generation is unjust and already threatening our economy and the value of our dollar. We must pay our bills as we go along and not unfairly place this burden on a future generation.

The Federal Reserve: We seek a thorough investigation, evaluation and audit of the Federal Reserve System and its cozy relationships with the banking, corporate, and other financial institutions. The arbitrary power to create money and credit out of thin air behind closed doors for the benefit of commercial interests taxpayer bailouts of corporations and no corporate subsidies. Corporations should be aggressively prosecuted for their crimes and frauds.

We support opening up the debates beyond the two parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a private corporation co-chaired by former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic Party. It is time for our Presidential Debates to once again be hosted by a truly non-partisan civic-minded association.

As the mainstream ‘Change’ and ‘Maverick’ candidates continue their collective transformation into conventional politicians, it’s nice to see what real change would look like and who the real mavericks are.

If you haven’t watch Ron Paul give a speech, you’ll be shocked by his level headedness, philosophical consistency and candor.  His Rally for the Republic Convention Speech was great.  If you’re curious about the principles of Ron Paul’s libertarianism, watch his amazing discussion @ Google.

Three Commercials We Should Make for Barack

Alright Barack, when I gave you my support well over a year ago, I assumed you’d be able to handle these Republican fools with a swift shot of truth serum.  I know these polls are generally BS, but the media tone is clearly changing.  Right now you look like a sour puss.  Show those naysayers you know how to fight!

Commercial One: Sarah Palin’s New Book

“How many interviews did it take for you to get your job?  If your answer is ‘more than one,’ you should buy Sarah Palin’s new book: ‘How to convince someone you can be President in under two hours.’  In this fascinating page turner, Sarah Palin explains how she did the impossible: convince John McCain that she could be President of the United States after only one meeting.  Buy it now and you’ll receive Cindy McCain’s “How to steal another woman’s husband in a one night or less” absolutely free!

Commercial Two:The Meaning of Forgiveness

Let me tell you a story about Senator McCain’s amazing capacity to forgive.  In 2000, John McCain ran against George W Bush in the Republican primary.  John ran an amazing grassroots, issue based campaign.  His honesty was infectious as liberals and conservatives came together around his underdog candidacy.  Everything was looking great until, at the last minute, Bush’s campaign created a fictitious story about John having an illegitimate black baby.  Instead of getting upset like most Americans would about that malicious lie, John showed us all the true meaning of forgiveness.  Not only did he honorably serve President Bush in the Senate for the next 8 years, but he actually hired the same men who fabricated the illegitimate child story to run his next campaign for president.  John McCain’s stunning act of forgiveness is an inspiration to us all and one of the many reasons he is a true maverick”

Commercial Three: A Thank You Note to Small Town America

Dear America,

Thank you so much for the prosperity of the last few decades.  I know it must have been hard to see the factories shut down, the stores on main street close and the kids leave but you’re sacrifice has allowed America’s cities to become stronger.  To be honest, we were surprised you folks wanted less regulation in the financial services industry, allowing Wall Street to get rich by sending American money oversees.  We know it’s because you love free-market economics just like us.  We were also surprised when you decided to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans because, if you haven’t noticed, nearly all of us live in coastal ‘blue’ states.  We were also surprised by the warmth of your small town hospitality when you welcomed our big city mayor and Fortunate 500 CEOs to your convention so they could tell you how grateful we, America’s urban elite, are for your hatred of us.

Keep the surprises (and the tax cuts) coming in 2008. Vote Republican.

Apple will be taking over your TV soon

Most people in the Applephile world know that Apple is making an announcement tomorrow.  Since predicting Apple’s next moves is a celebrated past time for those who pretend to know what’s going on in tech, I’ll thow in my two cents while I still can.

Everyone is talking about new iPods.  Fuck that.  I’m sure they’ll have some nicely designed new iPods but unless they’ve figured out a way to incorporate a lighter and bottle opener into the design, they won’t make any iPhone users into iPod buyers.

What I’m waiting for, and hoping for, is that they combine their Mac Mini, Time Machine wireless internet/hard drive device and Apple TV into a single box top device that sits by your TV.  It should do the following:

Play steaming internet video.

Give me an innovative new keyboard that finally makes my TV into a useful computer.

Backs up all your computers wirelessly.

Hold all my media (audio, video, photos) and wirelessly send it to airport express like devices that I can  place by my other TVs and stereos.

Has communication functionality built into it.

Is all controlled via iPhone or iPod touch

Not give me cancer by filling my house with tons of radio waves.

I hope to see my brand new Apple iPort (?) tomorrow… and maybe an iPhone nano.

There Is No More Time – Contact Everyone You Know

After wallowing in my own disgust for the Republican Party and its supporters for about a week now, it has become very obvious that the time has come to do something substantial.  Writing articles about “facts” and “issues” is important, but only when dealing with people who care to begin to evaluate them.  As the Republican National Convention demonstrated, rationality and logic are not agreed upon frameworks for discussion. Mitt Romney denounced “Eastern elites” as the son of a Fortune 500 CEO-billionaire from Massachusetts.  Rudy Giuliani slandered “cosmopolitanism”, despite having mayored the largest American city and having openly supported an extremely liberal social agenda.  Sarah Palin argued that she has the experience to sit shotgun in the largest and most powerful government in the world, because she has run a town of five thousand people and possesses a vagina that works.  John McCain contended that his military service is enough of a qualification for office, despite having graduated fifth to last in his class at the Air Force Academy and having crashed five – count them – five aircraft before finally being captured. (Not that flying an airplane well would give him the qualifications to be President either.)

The fact of the matter is that Obama and Biden have to win this election or the United States is in serious trouble. Not the kind of trouble we have witnessed in Iraq, where the United States demonstrated that it could massacre a couple hundred thousand people and walk away with only a financial debt and a few thousand dead soldiers.  I’m talking about the kind of trouble that comes to your doorstep, creating problems that will force you to make decisions you’ve never had to make before.  If John McCain becomes President, or worse, Sarah Palin, with a contingent of social conservatives behind the wheel, I firmly believe that the United States will place itself and all of its citizens in clear and present danger. This is not like past presidencies, where we could make some proxy war mistakes and lose a couple more friends at the United Nations.  This time, the nuclear weapons are falling into place and we are telling their owners to go fuck themselves.  The Cold War came this close to committing global annihilation and we didn’t learn anything. We are so close to making this pretty little blue planet burn grey and red. So very close.

In the timely words of Radiohead, “We are not scaremongering, this is really happening.” McCain’s stated policies on Iraq, Georgia, and Iran are actually frightening.  McCain favors prolonged military action in Iraq, despite the pleading of generals in the American military, who believe that we can no longer protect ourselves if another conflict were to present itself.  We have the most professional and highly trained military in the world – they do not make statements like this unless they sincerely mean it. McCain supports the continued financing of the Georgia government, which demonstrated utter recklessness by provoking Russia into an armed overreaction in a highly volatile and newly democratic region.  It is true that democracies almost never attack other democracies, but democracies attack non-democracies more than any other state-group in international politics.  We cannot keep arming countries – it will come back to kill us.  It already has in Nicaragua, Panama, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea…the list goes on.  Bush just pushed through one billion dollars in aid to Georgia – one billion dollars, no questions asked – in order to continue the ridiculous provocation of Russia.  Russia is looking out for Russia, and if I was in Putin’s place and I cannot honestly say I would have a different foreign policy.  NATO and the United States are basically telling Russia that historical mistakes cannot be rectified, much like the English and the French to the Germans at Versailles.  Keep pushing them, watch what happens.  McCain believes that pre-emptive military force is justified against the Iranians, if they continue to develop nuclear energy. These are the preparations for the first truly global “World War”. These are the justifications that could easily culminate in the first regional nuclear war. Israel is geographically all alone, clutching their nuclear deterrence like someone walking down a dark alley at three in the morning. Iran feels contained behind treaties like the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and threatened by the presence of American battleships directly off of their coast.  What would you feel like if someone held you at gunpoint your whole life?

These are just a few of the most severe situations that absolutely have to be diffused in the near future through pure and unadulterated diplomacy.  Obama is clearly the person that we need to do it, McCain has stated he won’t.  My hands shake a little when I imagine John, the tortured war veteran, so painfully metaphorical to the French after World War I, still remembering those wounds at all times, sitting down to negotiate (or not at all) with angry foreign leaders.  We have to stop making demands and start listening to what our “enemies” are screaming.  Can you honestly listen to Putin or Ahmadinejad and not hear some truth in their words?  I’m not saying start giving them the USSR back or cut off Israel, I’m saying back the fuck off of their shit.  America needs to stop projecting its power abroad with battleships in the Red Sea and SAM missile batteries in Poland.  THE RUSSIANS ARE NOT GOING TO INVADE POLAND YOU FUCKING HAWKS. The Bush Administration has insisted they are in place to stop nuclear attacks from countries like North Korea on Europe. Fuck you, you lying pieces of shit – the missile range of the currently non-existent North Korean bomb can’t even reach the Western coast of Canada, let alone Europe.  Locking everyone in their boxes is going to make everyone want to escape.  And they will.

There is no more time – contact everyone you know.  Now is time when you have to participate in politics like you’ve never participated before.  Putting posters in your Illinois or California or New York apartment window is irrelevant – the Democrats have already won these states.  If you have any relatives in any red state, or, more importantly, any swing state (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, Florida, etc.), call them.  Make sure they know what is going on, because the United States no longer has a functioning media.  There is no trusted anchor, telling us the facts.  There are only people like Hannity, who should be deported to Antarctica for his lack of character.  There are only four companies that own every single TV station.  Four.  Viacom, GE, Disney, and News Corp.  The news has become entertainment and money laundering – whores to the highest bidder – and no one is going to hear about the reality of the situation unless you tell them.  Sure, the internet helps a lot – but not enough.  Polls are putting McCain ahead of Obama by 4% right now.  The end of comfortable times could be very near.  They are certainly closer than you think if McCain/Palin wins this election.  Pick up the phone.  Write some emails.  Rally the troops.  Or we are going to be the troops.

The Issues at Hand, #2 – Cosmopolitanism

When former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani indicted the Democratic party for being too “cosmopolitan” at the Republican National Convention, I lost feeling in the left half of my body, then collapsed on the floor.  After regaining consciousness and mobility, I did a few dictionary searches for the word cosmopolitan.  I was quite sure that I had missed an important definition change, because Giuliani used the word so pejoratively:

“I’m sorry that Wasilla, Alaska isn’t ‘cosmopolitan’ enough for Barack Obama…(moderate to heavy cackling like a vampire).”

Wikipedia, my non-biblical source of transhistorical Truth, confirmed that I did not take a Rip Van Winkle-like nap and that the word still implies the belief in a “single moral human community”.  The original Greek etymology of the word, taken directly, describes a person who believes they are a “citizen of the universe”.  Diogenes (G.O.P. Translation: Sinner) first invoked the idea of cosmopolitanism when he argued against a nationalist conception of the self.  He contended that identity politics, the foundation of nationalism, unnecessarily divided people and overtly denied the simple equality of all human beings.  Immanuel Kant (G.O.P. Translation: Nazi) later used the idea when he attemped to describe what a “perpetual peace” would look like on the international scale.  For Kant, cosmopolitanism expressed the idea of a mental space where people could co-exist without killing each other for shiny rocks and the right to say, “Fuck me?! Fuck you!”  He imagined a federation of republics, not democracies, for fear of stupid people taking over and ruining all of the hard work of the intelligensia (see page 487 of the Oxford English Dictionary for the definition of the word ‘foresight’).  Even though their territories and citizens were divided by name, Kant believed that universal disarmament and diplomacy under the guise of cosmpolitian thought could put an end to violent international conflict.  Martha Nussbaum, professor at the University of Chicago, home of the Fightin’ C++ Programmers, is the most prolific contemporary advocate of cosmopolitanism in her studies of international relations.  She sees an important place for the belief in a singular morality amidst the sectarian violence of the post-modern world.

So, what am I talking about and why is it relevant to the 2008 presidential election?  In this second installment of “The Issues at Hand”, I demonstrate the fortitude to follow through on my promise to address each important issue of the campaign. This, of course, stands in contrast to that piece of shit Sufjan Stevens, who, despite whatever claims he makes, clearly isn’t going to write a folk album for all fifty states.  [This entirely separate topic brings up a lot of questions like, what the fuck would be on the “Idaho” album? How many songs about potatos is too many? Could he write a song for Sarah Palin’s minor in political science at that state’s flagship “”””university””””? How many quotation marks does it take to get a point across?]  The issue that I’ve decided to take on revolves around the question of American hegemony – to what extent should the United States continue to forcibly assert its military and cultural dominance on the international community/shitstorm?  The above comment by Giuliani highlights the anti-cosmopolitanism that defined the Republican National Convention and enumerates the conservative commitment to coercively projecting American power abroad.  This is unacceptable.

The rhetoric of the RNC on the issue of a guiding framework for foreign policy, most notably the chants of “USA! USA! USA!”, securely places them in the camp of malignant nationalism.  What is most important to them is that the citizens that reside within the historically arbitrary borders that define the United States have it better than anyone else.  The constituency of the Republican Party, or, more accurately, its “con-stitch-ency”, believes that America must possess the best of everything at the expense of others.  Historically, this makes sense – after World War II, the US was handed a massively powerful place on the international stage that allowed it to define the norms and institutions that govern global politics and economics.  This was very helpful for the American standard of living and now we have it better than just about anyone.  The downside is that when you play the game of relative power, it is zero-sum and someone else must lose.  Enough people have lost enough in the world that now people are rising up against us (see wonderfully stupid post-9/11 books like “Why They Hate Us”).  Dividing up the world into “us” and “them”, as the object of Walther’s man-crush, Pink Floyd, sang, is the fundamental anti-cosmopolitian project.  Unfortunately, Karl Rove a.k.a “The Architect” a.k.a. “Angry Because He Was A Fat Fuck That Girls Wouldn’t Give A Reach-Around To” knows that nationalism is the best way to win an election and has once again engineered a campaign to make the vote about “patriotism” and “military service”.  I’m starting to realize that without wars, there wouldn’t be any military service for Republican candidates to use as an excuse for a patriotic qualification.  Oscar Wilde said, “Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious,” (and my mother said “The Rock” wasn’t educational) and that is precisely what flag-waving nationalist conservatives are – vicious.  They don’t want innovation in energy policy, because that would engage us in a non-zero-sum game. If you can keep getting more of something with renewable energy, that means you can’t take something from someone else.  You can’t own the wind or the Sun and that fucks the Republican understanding of private property without proper lubrication.

If the Republicans want to deny the equality of all human beings and their belonging to a single moral community, then they will continue to construct self-fulfilling prophecies of violent conflict throughout the world.  If politics is phrased as a conflict between “us” and “them”, then the anti-cosmopolitans will get their wars.  American hegemony is not what the world needs more of – what our foreign policy needs is to put an end to games of relative power that deny other people critical resources for survival and basic prosperity.  Agricultural subsidies, unfair trade agreements, and attempts to stifle growth in countries like China and India will only be met with more resentment and the perception of “enemy”.  Conservatives get so angry at their “enemies” without realizing that we are the ones who are making that declaration first.  They are our enemies because everything we do on the international stage, save a few token gestures and sincere philanthropy, tells them that the American Dream comes at the expense of the Human Dream.  Cosmopolitianism, Rudy, is everything that people should believe in, particularly in these increasingly anxious times.  But, then again, you should know that.  You lived with two gay guys and their pet Shih-Tzu, dressed in drag, and marched in gay pride parades down the streets of that quaint old town, New York City. I hope you choke on a pretzel. (Just kidding Carnivore, don’t invoke a rendition protocol and send Treadstone after me.)

Mrs. Palin, Go Back To Alaska and Stay There

Like many of our fellow Americans, I was caught completely off guard by Senator John McCain’s (Arizona-R) choice of Governor Sarah Palin (Alaska-R) for his running mate in the upcoming presidential election.  After reviewing her policies, and McCain’s alternatives, it has become painfully and frightfully clear why she was chosen.  I use the words painfully and frightfully with the utmost deliberateness, because if the Republican ticket wins this election, it means three things: (1) a George Lucas-esque “Return of the Oil Companies”, (2) an assault on the idea of social progress, and (3) the continuation of dishonest, manipulative, and coercive federal politics.  In other words, if McCain-Palin wins, buy a hat and hold the fuck onto it.

McCain needed a boost prior to his nomination of Sarah Palin.  His other choices, with the exception of Joe Lieberman (Connecticut-Indep.), would not have given him anything to work with.  Tom Ridge, Mitt Romney, and other wealthy, old, white men would not fit the bill, because they did not add anything but an increased tax bracket to the McCain ticket.  So, the critical question is: why Palin and not Lieberman?

For a moment, imagine the clamor among aides at the McCain headquarters on the “Straight Talk Express”.  You have two sides intensely arguing with Senator McCain in the middle, much like his experience in Washington.  One says, “Lieberman: he brings the experience and liberal mindedness to capture those elusive swing voters and independents, as well as his previous supporters from prior presidential bids.  He could steal votes from right under the Democrats’ noses!”  The other group says, “What if we got a woman? What if we stole all those uppity Hilary Clinton supporters who care more about gender than issues? And, most importantly, WE NEED SOMEONE WHO WILL GALVANIZE THE BASE! WE’VE GOT IT…PALIN!”

For all of you who are wondering what it means when pundits spout this phrase, let me play the role of political translator.  It means, “We simply cannot have every social reactionary in the Midwest and the South sit at home rather than vote for McCain, who unfortunately does not hold views from the eighteenth century.” It means, “Our VP choice needs to be someone that mega-churchgoers can stand up (or kneel) for, and the only way to do that is to find someone who thinks the only trinity better than Jesus, God, and the Holy Ghost is Guns, Oil, and War.”  It means, “Fuck any attempt at fixing any problems in this country, because winning this election is more important to our friends in large corporations who stand to get fucked straight in their smelly pocketbooks if the Democrats win (at least for a little while).”

Surely, the Republicans among you, if there still are any, are seething.  This won’t help. Sarah Palin is either a moron or in extremely intense denial. There, I said it.  At this day and age, anyone who truly believes after a period of intense thought that: (1) the solution to our energy crisis is more oil drilling, (2) gay people are bad, (3) there is no such thing as global warming,  (4) the protection of the 2nd Amendment is necessary, (5) “hockey mom” is a legitimate qualification for the second highest office in the country, and (6) the war in Iraq is “directed by God” does not have a fully functioning brain or is so tied up in identity politics that they are incapable of rational thought.  If you don’t think that these are her policies, please read The Weekly Standard – I assure you, they are.  If you think that I am a moron for saying this, please continue reading.  Assuming this article, of course, is not being dictated to you because you’re illiterate.

All jokes aside, Palin’s stance on the issues is…well, scary.

Talking Point #1: The Return of Big Oil

Governor Palin has repeatedly supported drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).  Bypassing the whole ‘endangering the caribou’ problem, anyone who thinks that ‘more oil’ is a solution hasn’t really come to terms with the nature of energy policy.  The only way that humanity can survive its ‘Green Challenge’ is to once again become a part of nature by taking out what it puts back in.  Finding oil is not the issue and neither is driving down gas prices.  McCain may pretend he likes wind turbines, but, as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has aptly pointed out in a couple of recent Op-Ed articles, McCain has missed or voted against the last six renewable energy bills.  Why?  That would severely hurt his campaign finances from the conservative business lobbies, who would eat shit if people didn’t use oil anymore.  It’s as simple as that.  Palin is just another example of how the McCain ticket has no regard for the environment or energy policy.  The last time we gave Big Oil the reigns, it didn’t work out so well (See: 2000-2008).  Moreover, Palin’s husband is employed by British Petroleum.  Although I’m sure that won’t effect her decision making at all.

Talking Point #2: The Assault on the Idea of Social Progress

It doesn’t matter what your stance on abortion is.  Blasphemy for a liberal, I know.  But, what is more important is the idea that ideas can evolve.  Not surprising that someone who discounts evolution, would deny it in other contexts, but then again, it should be.  Palin campaigned hard in Alaska to introduce a “Creationist” curriculum in public schools.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  What do scientists have to do, short of inventing an animal that evolves every twenty minutes, to demonstrate that they are not making this up and that the Jews didn’t put them up to it?  Palin also is firmly against gay marriage, something that conservatives like to call a “pro-family” stance.  There is nothing “pro-family” about it.  Palin takes what biblical scripture is interpreted to mean by questionably-in-the-closet pastors and that is the end of the debate.  That is anti-logical and we can no longer support that kind of thinking.  Use your rational faculties to come to decisions based on evidence and we’ll talk.  What does it take to convince people, nearly two thousand years after Aristotle, that logic is actually a legitimate knowledge production device?  It makes me want to pull out my hair.

Talking Point #3: Coercive, Manipulative, and Dishonest Electioneering

McCain’s choice of Palin over Lieberman says one thing most explicitly – I don’t care about representing anyone but me.  Like Lieberman, whose turncoat and extremely eerie speech at the Republican National Convention made even Republicans cringe, McCain has made it clear that he is in it for himself.  He just wants to win.  I get it John, it’s a lot of power.  But maybe for just a moment you can see this as not another righteous battle between you (virtue) and bad (bad).  This is about more than you.  Palin has no function in this election except to get people who you clearly don’t regard very highly – reactionaries.  If you did like them, and if they liked you, you would not need Palin.  You appeal to them because their votes count as much as my vote and that makes them powerful.  As Walther pointed out, President Bush still has a 30% approval rating.  WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? People that John McCain is desperately trying to befriend.  David Brooks of the New York Times claims that McCain saw in Palin a “maverick” nature like his own, accepted it, and looked no further.  They only met once for crying out loud – I don’t think that was it.  Brooks is right, however, that Palin’s space should have been for someone with experience and strategy.  Instead McCain opted for hockey sticks and guns.  I’m holding my breath until after the election.

The Issues At Hand, #1 – The Second Amendment

As much as I enjoy reading every pundit say this and that about Barack Obama and John McCain, I think that it would be much more productive to actually address specific issues.  I don’t really care whose baby Sarah Barracuda’s daughter is having, unless of course it is Alf’s.  As much of a head rush I get from listening to Barack Obama speak, what is the point of agreeing with someone because they are charismatic?  That seems to me to be a dangerous method for making decisions and quite similar to the herd-mentality embraced by Republicans that us so-called Liberals decry.  That is why I am launching an ongoing column, in many parts, called “The Issues At Hand”.  Today, I’m going to analyze what appears for some reason to be a continued talking point in the presidential election – the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Conservatives that compose the “base” of the Republican Party seem extremely intent on continuing to possess firearms, while Democrats have pointed out that guns are for shooting people.  I have chosen this issue first, because, in my opinion, it isn’t very difficult to poke fun at.

John Kerry, Idiot

This is the full text of the Second Amendment:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Talking Point #1: “Guns are important because they allow me to defend myself from a possible dictatorship.”

I have bad news for anyone who thinks that having an assault rifle or grenade launcher is going to the stop an aggressive American federal government.  They have these things.  One is called the Air Force, the other is called the Navy.  As much power as you feel from gripping your sweaty Republican hands against some American Steel, at this point there is simply no way of ever standing up to the US military.  This is a lost cause.

More importantly, any scenario where the US government “comes after” its citizens either collectively or in part is well beyond highly improbable.  When I say “comes after”, I mean anything that would warrant opening fire on them as they come tanking down Cherry Street to your lovely home.  Let’s say they have some completely unjust reason to pursue you, like being “X” minority.  Is the general idea that you’re going to start killing federal marshalls until they leave you alone?  Wouldn’t it be better just to get arrested and let the other citizens of the country try to save you?  Even if a 1984 state comes to power, it could only happen with the support of the citizenry of the United States.  As a democratic state, if crazy people take office, it’s because we put them there.  It’s almost like this is some huge catch-22: “I need to protect myself from crazy government officials with a gun, but the only way I can keep having a gun is to vote for crazy government officials. Fuck!”  So, short of everyone democratically deciding to hunt your ass down, having a gun isn’t going to save you from any action brought by the federal government.  Stop deluding yourself.  Even under the guise of a “state’s rights” argument, this is ludicrous.  I’d love to see the Texas Air Force compete with the US Air Force.  What would that last, like five minutes?  To those of you who might be saying, “Well, doesn’t that mean we should just arm our states more?”  To which I reply, (1) with what money, (2) we’ll still lose, and (3) internal arms races have not historically proven helpful at keeping a state unified.  The text shown above only appears to support the maintenance of “state militias”.  If you want to join the National Guard, I think that is what the Second Amendment protects.  But having an AR-17 in your closet is not a “state militia”.

Talking Point #2: “I have a gun to protect me from when the Russians/Chinese/aliens invade!”

Yeah, that’s how it’s going to go down.  The Russo-Sino-ETs are going to land their ships on the coasts and start pouring in.  Then it will be every person for themselves as martial law grips the country and one man must save America using only his wits, a gun, and some dental floss.  I don’t think so MacGuyver.  Remember that military we have?  I think that they can handle it.  If you honestly think there is a probability that they cannot, don’t you think that in that situation the feds would just start handing out weapons to everyone?  If we had a draft for a proxy war in Vietnam, can you imagine what would happen if the US was actually on the brink of falling to a foreign state?  I think it would be a credible assumption to say that the military would get us involved if they thought they had to.

Talking Point #3: “I have a gun for self-defense from criminals.”

This is a slightly more compelling argument, but only because the last two involved the US military attacking its citizens and alien invasions.  Every study ever done has shown that the only person you’re likely to shoot is a member of your family.  Carrying a Derringer in your purse isn’t going to help you get out of a sticky situation anyway.  Unless you have a serious Annie Oakley complex, drawing on someone in the street doesn’t seem like a safer option.  The conservatives reply, “That’s why we train at shooting ranges.”  I have a better idea, become a police officer.  From what I’ve seen, it’s not that hard to get in.

Talking Point #4: “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEE-HAW!!!! Hunt me up some animals.”

This final point is what I believe all of this to really be about.  People like guns because you can use them to shoot a twelve-point buck with a forty odd scope at two hundred yards.  This right to hunt animals, however, clearly falls into that category of “not fucking important at all unless you’re an egomaniac” category.  Could it be fun?  Sure.  Are there positive benefits to hunting?  Sure.  Do these pros outweigh any of the cons?  Absolutely not.  There is simply no need to have guns available to the general population for hunting.  As for “keeping populations in check”, volunteer for the Forestry Service.

Final Talking Point:  This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.

This is the most “history-defunct” Amendment to the Constitution.  I say “history-defunct” because the Second Amendment is the perfect example of something that used to be important, then lost its necessity and became a burden.  Two hundred years ago, when the Britons were all up in our shit – i.e. the War of 1812 – the Second Amendment looked pretty damn compelling.  One hundred and fifty years ago, when white Southerners tried to secede to maintain slavery – the Second Amendment made sense (wait, aren’t most pro-gun advocates white Southerners?).  Since then, however, a few things have happened.  Like planes.  And nuclear deterrence.  Not to mention that the unified nature of the US government has made state militias irrelevant anyway.  The Founding Fathers wanted America to survive in the face of violence.  Guns allow you to do that.  That is, however, what the military and police are for.

Questionable Hiring Practices at the McCain Camp

A tanker of ink will be spilled over the qualifications of Sarah Palin to be President of the United States of America.  People will analyze everything she’s said while in office and everything she will say throughout the campaign.  Many different authors will write many different life narratives for Sarah, ranging from the glowing to the ghastly.  Her relatives and friends will be contacted by the press and they’ll tell stories that reveal her character traits beyond the “Sarah Baracuda” that’s already been widely reported.  Reports will continue to surface about ‘troopergate‘, her pregnant 17 year old daughter and the father of the child.  (“I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some s- – – and just f – – -in’ chillin’ I guess.”)  This wealth of media-worthy material will likely obscure the most important aspect of the Palin story. John McCain is a fool for picking a stranger to be his VP.

We all get wrapped up in the political circus as it unfolds before us, but every now and then we need to remember that the President is the most powerful person in the world.  John McCain was willing to give that power to someone he met only twice, and only once in person.  Only a fool would believe that a single, one on one interview is enough to determine whether or not someone could be President of this country.  John McCain proved to be that fool.

It isn’t as if McCain had no one else to chose from.  It was widely reported how McCain wanted to run with Joe Liberman or Tom Ridge.  Both were people with whom McCain was exceedingly familiar and both are at least superficially qualified. Unfortunately, neither was a friend of the Evangelicals.  Instead of opting to do the ‘maverick’ thing and picking someone he trusted, McCain opted for the quick political fix.  After an amazingly brief vetting process, he chose an attractive woman who is  highly regarded among Evangelicals.  He disregarded the fact that he is placing a stranger (someone he does not know) one martin olive away from the Presidency.  I know it sounds glib, but seriously: how could John McCain be so callous about America’s insurance policy against his death?  You may love McCain, but I don’t think it’s logically possible to argue that he picked someone he was confident could lead America if something happened to him.  Unless he looked into Palin’s soul like Bush looked into Putin’s, I think he’s going to have an extremely difficult time explaining to Americans that Sarah Palin was chosen for anything other than the most desperate political reasons.  I hope people will remember that even in today’s cynical poltical environment, the VP is more than a political shoehorn for a presidential candidate: she is an insurance policy.  I, for one, am not comfortable with Sarah Palin being the McCain Presidency’s insurance policy and as more information about her is revealed to the public, I think it’ll be clear that McCain was never comfortable with his selection either.