Politics


I subscribe to The New Yorker magazine and have read it on and off since seventh grade, when I used to carry home The New Yorker and Time magazine from a couples throw away pile, whom I worked for, performing yard work for them, and would have carried off their empty Calvert whiskey bottles if they in fact hadn’t been quite so empty.

I never get the sense that The New Yorker is right wing or even right of center. They seem to me to be middle of the road with left of center tendencies. This is why their magazine cover that’s in the news this week is perplexing.

I wonder if it is a case of the marketing department run amok? Surely this will sell a lot of magazines, with collectors even hoping to put them back up for sale on eBay in a few years.

One of the regular writers for The New Yorker is Hendrick Hertzberg who recognized the passing of Jesse Helms in his blog for the magazine by writing this:

July 4, 2008

Dropping the Helmsman

Far too late for it to do anybody any good, Jesse Helms has died. He has done so on Independence Day, which, since he was born too late to own slaves and in too liberal an age to allow him to outlaw sedition, will forever be his only resemblance to Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

It is rude to speak ill of the dead. Luckily, I did so ahead of time.”

I offer his quote as evidence that the magazine dishes it out to both parties and the members thereof.

I find the cover in bad taste, as a satirical vehicle, it lacks conveyance of understanding, and just plain ‘dirty pool’ as it were. Satire is only effective if you understand what they are trying to get at. Dunderhead that I am, I’m usually good at recognizing satire and love it as a form of comedic entertainment.

On the other hand, this seems to be proof that Senator Obama is the guy to beat in November. Everyone wants to expose the leading contender in politics, sports, business or whatever else is attracting the most attention at the moment.

A test of Senator Obama’s character will be how he responds to this. If I was him, I would announce that I would subscribe to the magazine just so I could have the pleasure of canceling it after the first issue arrives.

Me, I’m not canceling. Poor taste happens all the time, usually in combination with poor manners. I think it is a good magazine that just got a little off base this week.

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The Democratic National Convention Committee announced today that the acceptance speech that their candidate, Barack Obama, will give is to be held on August 28 at Denver’s Mile High Stadium, now known as Invesco Field. This venue will accommodate more than 75,000 fans, oops, I mean supporters, and will occur on the final night of the convention.

Traditionally this speech is given inside the convention area and only party insiders usually see it live and in person. This venue will allow many ‘regular’ people to attend and presumably create a lot of excitement in the process.

Coincidentally, or not perhaps, the date of his acceptance speech will be the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King giving a famous speech of his own; the “I Have a Dream” speech. It will be interesting to see what Senator Obama’s speech will say and how it is regarded in terms of memorability on the morning after.

Can John McCain do something similar? One wonders what it might be.

Internet traffic is booming and yet the United States ranks fifteenth among major industrial countries in average broadband speed at 4.9 megabits per second. This means it takes two minutes plus to download an average sized movie in Japan through iTunes whereas in the U.S., the same download takes nearly thirty minutes. This is in a country where most of the infrastructure, going back to DARPA in the seventies, originated.

Some sample speeds of various countries are below taken from the Wall Street Journal based on October 2007 data of the OECD and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

COUNTRY MBPS
Japan 63.6
South Korea 49.5
Finland 21.7
France 17.6
Sweden 16.8
Netherlands 8.8
Portugal 8.1
Norway 7.7
Canada 7.6
Austria 7.2
Belgium 6.3
Iceland 6.1
Germany 6.0
UNITED STATES 4.9
Denmark 4.6
Italy 4.2
Slovak Republic 3.5
Hungary 3.3
Luxembourg 3.1
United Kingdom 2.6
Average 9.2

 

We rank eleventh in terms of broadband-access affordability and tenth in broadband penetration. Cost per megabit is $12.60 versus $3.09 in Japan or $5.29 in England. Only 57% of American households have broadband compared with 93% in South Korea.

It’s time for a unified broadband policy in the United States, something the presidential candidates need to spend more time developing with their policy experts. Although not a critical issue at present, information technology is a big income generator for this country. We need to ensure we aren’t left behind the rest of the world. I believe a national board of some type should be set up to develop goals on how we want this infrastructure to look in the next 5 to 10 years, including broadband access for schools where affordability can be a problem, and what mix of private versus public investment is desired.

 

Is Senator Clinton about to lose the nomination due to her campaign’s incompetence, reliance on the same-old, same-old shameless populism, and her willingness to go negative? Joe Klein of Time magazine thinks so.

Is Senator Clinton staying in the race, hopeless as it seems for her, in order to get the vice presidential post? George Stephanopoulos of ABC News thinks so.

Will Senator Obama claim after May 20 that he has a majority of committed delegates (not including Florida and Michigan); or, will the Democratic National Committee’s rules committee meeting May 31 produce a compromise that gives Florida and Michigan some representation but leaves Obama well positioned to claim a majority of delegates; or, will Senator Obama after the June 3 primary, announce a cascade of 20 to 40 superdelegates, which puts him over the top without identifying any single superdelegate as having made the decision? Michael Barone of U.S. News thinks these are plausible scenarios.

Here’s how it stacks up as of today:

       Senator Obama      Senator Clinton
Pledged Delegates           1589           1424
Super Delegates             261             272
Total Delegates           1850           1696
Popular Vote              49.6%              47.3%
Pop Vote w/Florida              48.7%              47.5%

 

She faces an impossible task now, and should save her money and go to Bermuda for a couple of weeks. Maybe she could get a gig in the Corona beer commercial with Bill, where the couple lie on the beach, sipping beer while the waves crash ashore.

I think she did a good job, but it’s time for a reality check for her campaign. However, having said that, I think she should stay in until the West Virginia and Kentucky primaries are finished. She is heavily favored to win these primaries and if she withdraws from the campaign now, she is likely to nonetheless win these states. She is on the ballots there and can’t be removed. This would be an embarrassment to Senator Obama.

Most pundits are thinking the Clinton and Obama campaigns will abide by a sort of ‘nuclear non-proliferation’ agreement from now on. In other words, she will agree to stop slinging the mud at Senator Obama and he will likewise cease any negative comments toward her campaign. I think this is probably correct. Her attacks on him have not worked and generally help the McCain campaign more than anything at this juncture.

Will she be asked to be Vice-President? She brings all the demographics that would greatly enhance Senator Obama’s campaign against Senator McCain. I think she will be asked to join the ticket. What’s passed is past, and it was just politics anyway. I have to say, I might have some hard feelings about it if I were in his shoes but that’s why he is where he is at and why I am where I am at. He can get over it.

Which is why I think he would be a good President.

Also, I thought his stand on the gas tax issue summed up his character. The proposal to cut the gas tax for the summer probably wouldn’t have passed until summer was well over, and it was what it was thought to be by most everyone. Pandering.  He stood at variance with Senator Clinton and Senator McCain, which took some courage to do.

 

The gas tax proposal as promulgated by Senators McCain and Clinton is a bad idea as shown in this Ben Sargent cartoon as it will: increase demand for a commodity that should be conserved, reduce funds available for repairing roads and bridges that the gas tax is used for, and increase the federal deficit.

The proposal to suspend the 18 cent per gallon tax for the summer while the average cost per gallon is currently $3.60 is only 5% of the cost. It doesn’t nothing except pander to the voting public and allow these two candidates to over hype the proposal like they’re delivering a windfall to the American public. In fact, since Senator McCain first made the proposal a few weeks ago, the cost of gasoline has risen over 20 cents per gallon, obliterating any savings the consumer may have gained.

However, the proposal seems to be resonating some with Indiana voters. I hope they will consider the trade-off of short-term relief (very short-term) versus the long-term damage the tax suspension will create. I would be more in favor of a small tax credit for low income tax payers rather than an across the board cut for everyone, including those with large vehicles.

I believe Senator Obama is on the right side of this issue. In informing us of his decision he is going against popular sentiment, however, we need someone to start talking straight to us. It’s tiring to hear those in or vying for positions of responsibility to make all sorts of promises only to conveniently ignore the same promises once they are elected to office. Let’s show Senators Clinton and McCain that we’ve wizened up a wee bit over the past few years.

Primaries are scheduled in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6. Senator Obama is generally considered the stronger candidate in North Carolina. Therefore, Indiana, which as of right now appears to be a dead heat, will be decisive for Senator Obama. If he wins there, the game is over. If Senator Clinton wins there, then we continue in extra innings. Senator Obama is focusing on Indiana at this moment.

Time for some levity.

Gary, Indiana!
What a wonderful name,
Named for Elbert Gary of judiciary fame.
Gary, Indiana, as a Shakespeare would say,
Trips along softly on the tongue this way–
Gary, Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary, Indiana,
Let me say it once again.
Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana,

I think Senator Obama would be great as Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man.

Seventy six delegates led the big rally With a hundred and ten electors close at hand They were followed by rows and rows of the finest politicos; the cream of every math tally.

Sorry, the last rhyme was a little weak.

Senator Clinton should adopt the mantra of Dorothy when meeting the Good Witch of the East for the last time; wear red patent leather shoes, click your heals and repeat over and over in a last ditch effort to pick up votes.

“There’s no place like Indiana. There’s no place like Indiana. There’s no place like Indiana.”

Perhaps when she awakens, she’ll be in bed with her husband Bill by her side, along with Chelsea. They’ll tell her that she dreamed of being President and of running for election in Oz. Now she’s awake and George Bush has just been elected for a third term, with Vice-President Arnold Swartzenegger. Hillary – you’ve been having a nightmare. No, Hillary says – you all are having the nightmare!

Terry McAuliffe, Senator Clinton’s campaign manager, said that this will all be over by June 15, as he told David Corn, per Corn’s blog post of April 28.

It’ll be over by June 15, then we’ll wrap this baby up.

Yeah, right.

 

 

 

People in small town America are bitter, or more than halfway down the road to bitterness, in my opinion, at least is the neck of the woods I’m from. Twenty-five years ago, most small towns in Central and Southern Illinois had their own grocery stores. This is rare now. Rare also, are local hardware stores, local eateries, local bowling alleys, local outdoor theatres, local drug stores, local manufacturing plants, and so on. The only common businesses in small towns are gas stations and small banks. There are of course other business but they tend to be sole proprietors. Not places many people looking for work would be able to become employed.

Companies like Walmart locate in the county seat and eliminate rivals in small towns in a forty to fifty mile radius of their store through discounts garnered through the power of nationwide bulk purchases. They haven’t yet, as far as I know, shown movies or offered bowling at their stores. However, they are essentially now the local hardware store, pharmacy, car repair shop, and grocery store, among other things. They employee workers part time, at low wages, and poor health care benefits, if any. Agriculture is more productive than ever through the use of expensive machinery, so employment in agriculture is down. Coal mines in small towns in Illinois have been laying off or closing down. One can make the case that their high-sulfur coal is the culprit. So what? The end result is lost employment, people not trained for anything else, and bitterness. Just because there exists a reasonable explanation for the unemployment doesn’t take away people’s right to be bitter about it.

People who do find work in cities with populations greater than 20,000 often find the local employer being purchased by a large city (Chicago, say) competitor and everyone is let go except the sales staff, which is often reduced and pay slashed. Due to Internet connections and electronic commerce, the support positions that used to employ people are folded into the corporate parent operations, hundreds of miles away.

Many people in small towns who are employed have seen their pay stagnate, or reduced if they are in union jobs. A barrel of oil cost $20 before President Bush invaded Iraq; it is now close to $120 per barrel. Yet, for all its wisdom, the government still maintains the inflation rate is 3% or less. The minimum wage has failed to even keep up with the government’s official inflation rate, much less the real rate that goes unmeasured due to exceptions, exclusions and supposed non-core one-time events that are omitted.

People feel this every day and are complaining. Complaining about the price of gasoline, the price of groceries, the low wages, the underemployment, the cost of medical care, the lack of government assistance in re-training and for college. I have heard the government in the last eight years has incurred more public debt than in the entire 224 years combined prior to President Bush and since the Declaration of Independence.

Senator Obama is right in my opinion. People in small towns are bitter and frustrated.

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