Monday, September 29, 2008

Eve of Destruction?

I’ve read so much about the economic crisis I can’t remember which writer used the words “eve of destruction.” As a music junkie, it reminded me of the song "Eve of Destruction" sung by Barry McGuire. (words and music at

Written in 1965 by P. F. Sloan, the chorus of the song goes:

“But ya tell me
Over and over and over, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve of destruction.”

At the time, the US was in the midst of the Vietnam War, a cold war with the Soviet Union and China, race riots in the cities, and protests on college campuses. But with the market in free fall, banks failing around the world, the rings haunting true today.

Then I see some European blogs (like Euro Yank’s predicting the imminent fall of the American economy and maybe Europe, too. (Not to mention a prediction that the chaos will lead to Bush declaring marshal law and postponing the elections. Well, Euro Yank's got a apocalyptic blog, so he's been long predicting the outbreak of fascism in the US.)

I don’t know if how far things will fall, but it can be scary times. Clearly the 3 Horseman of the Economic Apocalypse (Bush, McCain and Obama) are clueless. Bush parrots Secretary of the Treasury Paulson’s recommendations for a socialist-style intervention of unprecedented proportions. Our candidates are reluctantly behind this recommendation. But, with widespread public outrage at the idea of bailing out Wall Street fatcats, the Congress voted down a bill today. (From verse 3, the prophetic words: "handful of senators can't pass legislation")

So, ya tell me over and over and over again, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Extraordinary Rendition

Extraordinary Rendition: the apprehension of a person on suspicion of charges and deportation to another country, typically without any trial or finding of guilt.

Since 9/11, the CIA has been linked to the rendering of hundreds of incidents of extraordinary rendition. Individuals suspected either of being terrorists or of aiding and abetting terrorist organizations were deported to countries including Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, and Uzbekistan.

Two weeks ago, a story of one such case was featured on Fresh Air (on NPR). An innocent man, Maher Arar, a telecommunications engineer with dual Canadian and Syrian citizenship, was deported to a Syrian prison on suspicion of being connected with terrorism. His crime: he had rented an apartment listing as a reference a person allegedly linked to a terrorist group.

Thanks to extraordinary rendition, the government, like Pontius Pilate, can keep its hands clean. Leave it to the Republicans to outsource torture!

There is a time, not so long ago, when it would be unheard of that America would deport someone to a foreign nation to be imprisoned and tortured.

In the case of Mr. Arar, he was tortured and imprisoned for nearly one year. He was released due protests by his wife and a Canadian government determination that he was not connected with any terrorists.

We’ve seen the Bush administration after 9/11 use fear of terrorism to enact erosion of our constitutional rights. Now even American citizens making international calls may find there conversations being listed to by the Feds on an unwarranted wiretap. And God help you if you are an American citizen of Middle Eastern background and your name is the same as, or similar to, someone on the “no fly” list.

But of all these attacks on the constitution, which is no less than the erosion of what our nation once stood for as a beacon of freedom, extraordinary rendition is perhaps the most grievous offence.

For anyone who loves liberty, the preservation of basic human rights is utmost. And the depravation of life or liberty without due process of law violates basic human rights. On this point, I believe that Libertarians and other who cherish freedom should never have to apologize.

Also, it is a clear violation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to return people to their home country if there is reason to believe they will be tortured.

The Administration talks about how Saddam was evil for using torture and imprisonment. They say the same about Iran, Syria, North Korea and other nations who “support the terrorists.” Yet the same Administration is responsible for exporting someone merely suspected of being a terrorists to one of the very nations they condemn.

Yes, at the RNC, speakers made fun of those who would grant due process to suspected terrorists. But we must reply that the Republicans are simply wrong on this point. No threat is so great that we should sanction torture by our forces or by others through extraordinary rendition.

What of our presidential candidates?

The “old” John McCain -- himself tortured as a prisoner of war -- used to speak boldly against any use of torture, and he did recommit to rejecting torture in last night's presidential debate. Still, after the RNC rhetoric, I can’t be sure that the “new” McCain still talks the talk. Barack Obama has also opposed torture, but does not have the gut distaste of torture that the "old" McCain had.

But with either candidate, change is likely.

The Change We Need

Our next President must reject the Bush administration’s actions that permitted imprisonment without charges, torture and extraordinary rendition. With these policies, we have become that which we most deplore! How can the US differentiate itself from the terrorists and states that sponsor terrorism if the US allows these practices?

Granted, the terrorists’ threat is real. As I write, there are those that would attack us here at home or abroad. But in our efforts to stop the terrorists, our government cannot stoop to violating human rights. Period.

For an overview of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, see:

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Economy Today

While we remain teetering on the brink of who’s knows what, we can watch the candidates in action.

McCain Jumps into Inaction

John McCain, our "man of action," stops campaigning, suggests delaying the debate, rushes to Washington to save the economy. But after the summit with President Bush, he has little to offer. He’s caught between the Administration’s proposal and Republican senators and representatives who don’t want to sign on (at least in an election year).

Obama Wants to Debate

Barack Obama, the "man of concensus" (let's get everyone at the table), meanwhile, sees no reason not to debate, and reluctantly returns to Washington for the meeting with the President. But like, McCain, is vague and uncommitted.

No news today. But the debate is on tonight!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

3 Horseman of the Economic Apocalypse?

With the US economy teetering on the brink of depression or collapse, most US papers were leading with Bush, McCain and Obama. None of the above convince me they have a clue on how to solve the situation.

Are we looking at the 3 Horseman of the Economic Apocalypse?

The chorus of nations responds: “God help us; God help us all!”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Time to Choose a Candidate for President

Well, the Sarah Palin frenzy is dying down and time is ticking until we have to choose a candidate. No matter what your politics, it generally boils down to a choice of the big two. Yep, there are the minor party candidates including Bob Barr and Ralph Nader. But most will choose between McCain and Obama.

So, what’s the view of this New Libertarian Socialist on the candidates?

It’s time to dedicate a few blogs to looking at the issues, positions, experience and my expectations of the candidates.

So here’s my method:
  • Look at the major issues of international and national importance, with emphasis on the preservation of liberty at home.

  • Look at the candidate’s baggage (their party’s advisors, platform positions, campaign contributors, and others with an insider’s influence)

  • Look at the candidate’s experience in and our of office:

    o How competent is the candidate as a decision maker?
    o Have the candidate’s actions in office been consistent with the campaign promises?
    o Does the candidate work “across the aisle” to get things done?

  • Think about what it would be like to have this candidate in office.

On this last point, I’ve used the example of buying a dress. See (Sorry, guys, if you don’t understand this example, but it’s not the same for guys buying a suit.)

Even after you’ve thought about what you’d like to buy (style, color, length, etc.) and you’re lucky enough to find a dress that you think you’d like, you may try it on you say “I’m not going out in public in this!” Then, you might stumble upon a dress you didn’t expect, and try it on and like it.

It’s the same with a candidate. They may say everything you want them to say and you might like their record. But when you take all this together with their personality, judgment, and interactions with others, you realize “I don’t want this person as President representing my nation to the world.”

How many Presidents have acted differently in office compared to their campaign promises and rhetoric? Who would have expected the anti-communist Nixon to open up normal relations with China? Who would believe that Bill Clinton was perhaps the most fiscally conservative President of the last 20 years? The office of President can produce surprising results. This is why the final and deciding factor needs to be this unquantifiable quality.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles - Volume 3

The Sarah Palin phenomenon has finally peaked, so maybe now we can figure out who she really is and do we want her for VP. We have just under 2 months of this ongoing job interview, where the nation’s voters can evaluate which pair of candidates are best for the job openings in January 2009.

Is She Ready?

Clearly Sarah is and has always been ready for almost anything. Growing up in Alaska, she has learned self-reliance and has developed both poise and self-confidence, needed for any position of public leadership.

In reality the US VP is like a “minister without portfolio” – clearly an advisor of the President, but unlike the Secretary of State or Defense, the VP is without a specific role in the Administration. As such, she seems to be the kind of person who could do whatever McCain would ask of her. But she doesn't have years of experience to provide the insight and wisdom that other more experienced politicians could give.

Being a heart-beat away from the big job, is she ready for that? Clearly, she has the self-confidence to step up to Chief Executive. But does she have the knowledge, experience, perspective, and judgment to be President?

That’s what we need to think carefully about.

Let me go over what I know about Sarah and how a New Libertarian Socialist would evaluate her for the job of VP.

What about her religious beliefs?

As a Libertarian, I believe we are all entitled to whatever religious beliefs we wish to uphold. And I would not discriminate for or against her based on these beliefs. Yes, they may influence her political philosophy and decisions she may make in office. But I look to her record in office to see how religious beliefs have or have not impacted her actions.

My review of her terms as City Councilor, Mayor and Governor does not reveal any actions that emanate from her religious beliefs. As Councilor, she supported allowing bars to stay open late, even though her denomination opposes the use of alcohol. Yes, there was a controversy about banning of books, but no books were actually banned. Yes, there were times she invoked the name of God in relation to the war in Iraq, but she has explained the context of that quote.

So, what about her pro-life stance? As a Libertarian, I do not believe the state should limit the access to safe abortion. While Libertarians are strongly for life and liberty, I don’t believe that politicians or state/federal bureaucrats have the moral authority or wisdom to draw the line between when abortion should be legal and when it should be illegal.

All that said, my evaluation of Sarah considers what a VP would do about abortion of other pro-life issues. The answer: probably nothing!

Republican VPs Bush, Quayle, and Cheney, though elected on a pro-life platform, did absolutely nothing in any official capacity to limit abortion. Only another Supreme Court decision or a constitutional amendment would fully reverse Roe v. Wade. So there is little chance she might every do anything that would change the availability of abortion in the nation.

My conclusion: her religious beliefs will have no significant impact on her performance as VP.

What about her knowledge of domestic and foreign affairs?

Clearly, her experience as Governor gives her an understanding of the oil industry and environmental issues. But on other issues from health care to the national economy to foreign affairs, she still has much to learn. As VP, she’ll have time to learn on the job. If she has to move up to the Oval Office, she would have to be dependent on advisors to develop both positions and policy, at least initially.

On the other hand, our current President is not exactly the brightest bulb in the chandelier. Clearly, Cheney and the Cabinet are creating policy and making most of the decisions. If GWB is the benchmark, Sarah at least can talk coherently and run circles around Bush as a communicator!

My conclusion: not quite ready for prime time, but willing and able to learn. If nothing else, she can communicate effectively with the American pubic.

What about her decision making? Her ability to work with the legislative branch? Her skills in executive office?

Here we’ve seen some mixed results. As Mayor, she was able to cut some taxes and use bonds for public works (road, sewers, bike paths), but also created a new tax for a sports complex. As Governor, the gas pipeline deal shows an ability to work across party lines and made more progress than previous administrations.

The “bridge to nowhere” illustrates a flip-flopping. She was pro-bridge in her run for Governor, but 8 months in office, she cancelled the project when gained national fame as an example of pork barrel spending. Then, there are reports in the New York Times and USA Today about vendettas, firing of officials who crossed her, valuing loyalty over competency, and blurred the line between government and personal grievance. That are disputed interpretations of these events is evident of partisan interpretations.

Running for Governor, she championed ethics reform and was to enact a bipartisan ethics reform bill.

My conclusion: Hmmm. Can be effective with bipartisan legislation. Sometimes changes opinion with the political winds. Overall, she is all over the board on taxes (she’s cut some, raised others), and her bipartisan effectiveness also blurs her actual opinions. But not following any strict partisian pattern could be a sign of someone who can think for herself – thinking for oneself gains points with me. Now the controversy over alleged vendettas and cronyism is somewhat par for the course for many a politician. But anyone who values loyalty over competency looses points with me.

Overall Grade: B-

What about Sarah as Sarah?

Despite many differences in political and religious views, I have to say I still like Sarah. I have to respect her for being one of those women who can do a good job of balancing work and family. Though an urban creature, I am fascinated by the wilderness and sheer beauty of her native Alaska. And like me, she is a mix of English, Irish and German. And I just love that cute little Piper Palin! So, I’m still fascinated by this VP candidate.

Would I Vote for her?

That’s the big question. Unless we’re convinced that McCain isn’t healthy enough to last a full term, we’re really not voting for or against Sarah – we’re voting for McCain or Obama. And with either candidate, we also more or less get their party platform, policies, and advisors.

So, I get to escape without answering the question. My decision will be based on the policies of McCain and Obama and how I think each would govern. That’s something for another blog entry.

[But here's a hint: I can't trust McCain 2008 -- is he the "old" McCain who boldly opposes torture or the "new" McCain who would continue the Bush era erosion of our freedoms? Sorry, Sarah. I think you're a pretty good Governor for Alaska, and, for now, we'll be better off if you keep you current job.]

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sarah Palin – the 4th Celebrity!

I think America now has its 4th Celebrity. Let’s add Sarah Palin to trio of Barack Obama, Parish Hilton and Britney Spears!

You probably recall the famous TV ad by the McCain campaign that stated Barack Obama is “the biggest celebrity in the world.” Mixed in with crowds at his speeches are 1/2 second fade-ins of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, followed by a voice over questioning his ability to lead the nation.

But the Republican National Convention has given America a new star! We are now 2 weeks in a post-Palin America. Crowds flock to her speeches. Sales of her style of eyeglasses are up nationwide. Everyone knows the name of America's favorite hockey mom! She was even featured in a skit on Saturday Night Live! I declare that we now have a 4th celebrity: Governor Sarah Palin, Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican Party!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Change I Can Count On!!!

Yep, I got change I can count on!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles – Volume 2

This was the Week of Sarah Palin and I think I’m coming off a sugar high!

I couldn’t believe it that the party of conservatives would do something both bold and interesting!

They picked this woman – I think that’s quite something in itself! And she actually looks and talks like she could be your neighbor– a regular, middle class working mom. Only thing she’s been a mayor and a governor. And being from Alaska (a place I’d love to visit), there’s this kind of frontier woman side to her – she’s accomplished at hunting and fishing. Then she comes out of virtually no where and is standing in front of nearly 40 million viewers, taking it in stride and talking to the nation with poise and confidence.

And, even in full “attack mode” she’s just so not Bush/Cheney/Rove/etc. She’s actually likeable,

And she’s got a very handsome looking family. Certainly things aren’t perfect in the family (one case of pre-marital pregnancy), but no one is covering it up or denying anything (as the Nixon era Republicans would do) – the family is simply doing the right thing and moving on.

And she’s got that cute little daughter Piper. With a name line Piper Palin how could she not be cute!

But at some point, we have to come down from this sugar high and get back to making the choice of McCain-Palin or Obama-Biden.

The first downer was thinking back on McCain’s acceptance speech where he’s acting like the outsider and the maverick instead of the Senator who came to Washington 25 years ago as a Congressman.

It got me thinking if the whole RNC was not a “bait and switch” sales pitch where they sell McCain-Palin as the mavericks of change for the elections only to get 4 more years of same conservative Republican policies. Here’s my unanswered questions:
  • If McCain voted over 90% of the time in line with the Bush administration, where’s the policy change?

  • How can you want to cut taxes more when already we in deficit spending to pay for the war and reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • What specific government spending does he want to cut?

  • How effective could McCain be with what looks like a Democrat majority in the House and Senate?

These McCain promises are little more than the sugar candy that conservative feast on. Reality is sometimes a big downer. But once you’re back down, you can really see that, in the big picture, little has changed in the course of this week.

If the Republicans win, expect 4 more years of Republican policy. The management may change, but the menu will be the same.

Super but Undocumented

Truth, Justice and the American Way! Republicans endorse Superman, a fictional undocumented alien. But they sure don't endorse the 12 million non-fictional undocumented aliens!!!

Here's a letter to the editor from July 2006:

The letter is also posted on the blog Liberty Together:
Liberty Together: Super but Undocumented

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Sarah Palin Chronicles – The Continuing Saga

The Sarah Palin story gets more interesting day by day. People and the press want to know who she really is and what she is like. Yeah, we know her politics and religious beliefs are very conservative. But we want to know:
  • Who is this Sarah from Alaska?

  • What makes her tick?
Yeah, well yes, in another blog entry I emphasized how the choice of VP should be on the candidate’s competency. So, shouldn’t I be focused on evaluating her competency?

Nah, competency shompentcy! For now, it’s more interesting just to discuss who she is.

And who she might become if elected VP.

Last night the nation saw her acceptance speech. I think it was great that she introduced herself, her family, and gave us a little insight of where she is from and what she is like. She’s a wife, a mom, a hockey mom (otherwise known as a pit-bull w/lipstick), a mayor and a governor. She’s also ambitious, hard-working and ready for anything. And she comes across as “real” – a middle class, working mom, balancing family and profession.

Though an unlikely candidate for VP, she doesn’t seem in anyway overwhelmed by McCain’s choice.

We heard a little of her conservative politics (e.g., pro-drilling) and her accomplishments as governor (e.g., selling off the governor’s plane, turning down money for the “bridge to nowhere”). The NY Times and others have reported that she both backed and then opposed federal funds for this bridge – but, hey, she wouldn’t be a politician if she hadn’t done a 180 on at least one issue!

On these issues, there’s little surprise: she’s a conservative and she talks like a conservative. And her digs on Obama were so “heard-that-tell-me-something-new-will-yah.”

But, as I say in another blog entry, you can’t judge a candidate just on what she/he says or what party politics she/he parrots in speeches. I think you need to imagine this person in office and how she/he would function in that roll.

What I see is a person who is ready for anything but who is also miles from what we’ve seen the Republicans serve up. She is about as 180-degrees from the Bush-Chaney—Rumsfield-Rove mold that we’ve had for 8 years. Her conservatism comes from a practical common-sense base, and not neo-conservative ideology. Her understanding of issues comes from her lived experience, and not some theoretical product of think tanks.

Right now she may be a Washington outside. But as party VP candidate, will this last? Will she become the attack dog mouthpiece for the party platform, with a direct feed from party headquarters? Will the party handlers morph her into an insider?

Does she have any chance to remain the maverick she says she is? Will she be able to reach across the isle and engage Democrats, as she had done as Governor? If she becomes VP, could she ever achieve that 80% favorable rating she has as Governor?

In the conservative wing of the Republican Party, the old guard is salivating on the arrival of a young, ambitious, and willing conservative. Will she become their new standard bearer? Will she walk the path of conservatism without wavering? Or will she tread a maverick’s path such as the “old McCain,” even to the point of annoying the party faithful from time to time?

So the question for now is, which Sarah will she be if McCain and she are elected?
  • Will she remain the outsider, a maverick, and a “real person?”
  • Or will she become yet another conservative “stiff shirt” and mouthpiece of conservative ideology?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin -- The Unexpected VP Candidate

Sarah Palin is just the person to bring new life to the Obama-McCain race, just when the never-ending campaign was about to put us all to sleep.

So, has the “old McCain” come through with a bold move (very bold, for a conservative republican)? Does this signal that the ‘old McCain” – the maverick, the free thinker is back? Or is this a brief reprise in a campaign where McCain has been straight-jacketed by his need to parrot misguided Republican Party platform planks.

(Personally, I enjoy the “old McCain who used his God-given intelligence to think for himself and his first amendment rights to say what he thinks! This is the foundation of my view of American politics – we all need to think for ourselves and say what we think! I have no respect for the McCain as a party platform parrot.)

No matter whether the old or new McCain is behind it, the selection of Palin makes the campaign interesting again.

Sarah Palin doesn’t quite fit any mold, even though the Republicans might like to say she does. Yes, she’s pro-life, a mother of 5, NRA member, and strongly pro-drilling for oil and gas. (This is all encouraging to traditional conservatives.)

Yet, she fought against her own party about corruption (something that would endear her to McCain). And in a party dominated by older white guys, she’s a younger woman - a working woman.

As a women, her life’s been a lot different than most of the party guys. She’s been through the struggle and balancing act of raising a family and having a job and working hard at both – something those Republican guys just don’t know first-hand. And unlike Cheney, who pretends to be a hunter, her credentials are bona fide.

Raising a Down syndrome child testifies to the strength of her person. This is no small accomplishment as anyone who knows first-hand about the heartache, struggles, and joys can tell you. (My mother used to teach one-on-one Sunday school lessons to Downs syndrome children – she knew that patience and endurance yielded great rewards and a lifetime of appreciation by the child’s family.)

The news of her daughter being pregnant won’t derail her, as it would in the “stained glass, holier than thou” piety of Pat Robertson/Ralph Reed/televangelist mold. Rather, in a more contemporary and “real” view of Christianity, there is the recognition that we may make mistakes (yes, even Christians may sin), but the key is turning away from the sin and then “doing the right thing.” And her daughter seems to be doing that by having the baby and planning to marry the father.

It’s too soon to see what Sarah Palin will be like in the campaign. Will she simply parrot what the conservatives want to hear? Will some shady details of her past political life put a shadow on her integrity? Or will she be her real self, for better or for worse, and tell us how she came to her political views from her life experience as a women, mother, Christian, and elected politician?

A McCain-Palin ticket with 2 mavericks speaking their mind would really spice up the election. Having a pair of party parrots will lull us back to sleep. (In that case, wake me when Obama is being sworn in.)