May 31, 2008

Obama is Ever so Closer to Clinching the Nomination Outright!

Will the Democrats Come to Their Senses?

As the Democrats deciding what to do with Florida and Michigan, the math as to who will end up with more delegates will not change. I've supported the process and Sen. Clinton's right to fight for the nomination--and for as many delegates as she could get. But, this will have to end this coming week!

Back in August, all the representatives of Clinton to the rules committee agreed to the penalty for any state holding early contest (before Feb. 5th). The sole dissenter was one Obama supporter from Florida. Harold Ickes, chief Clinton campaign strategist was elated back then.

The process, as it was laid out clearly favored Sen. Clinton--she had name recognition and lots of money. A shorter campaign with several bigger media markets upfront favor such a candidate. The idea was to open up the process a little bit, and in order to convince states not to come before Iowa and New Hampshire, the DNC (and the RNC) made it clear that there would be penalties! [even though we have state parties, the national convention is controlled by the national committee]. Clinton believed that this contest would have been wra
pped up by mid-Feb, and that she'd be the inevitable winner.

One more thing about the rules. The Clinton campaign has been moving the goal posts and now is trying to change the rules after the game has reached its final minute! Florida and Michigan broke the rules and had been told that if they held their contests before Feb 5th, they would not count. They knew the rules before they decided to break them!

Let's say I'm a Dem voter in one of those two states. I'm told that the contests will not count. I decide to do something else with my time instead of voting in a "meaningless contest." Now, I'm told that the contests would count after all. Whaaaaaaa? How is that fair??!!! I am disenfranchised!


Update 5/31 (6:30pm)
There's been a compromise. Both Florida & Michigan delegations (pledged & unpledged) will be seated in full strength at the convention but with half their votes. This deal gives Clinton at least 94.5 more delegates, and Obama 68 more. Most importantly, however, it moves the goalposts to 2118--the number needed to clinch. Obama, therefore, may fall short of this new mark after all the contents are done this week. He may have to rely on more superdelegates' support to clinch... Which probably will happen. On the other hand, Clinton will not have any chance of getting the nomination unless there's a massive movement of the superdelegates to her side--this is not likely since the movement has been consistently in Obama's favor.

I expect lots of activity (public and behind the scenes) this coming week, because it's becoming more apparent that Clinton thinks more of herself than the party and the ultimate goal of stopping a Bush third term in November! This is a serious matter and should not be allowed to fester during the summer. I can see how this
perception may become a boomerang against Clinton. The Dems will see that they cannot blow this chance of winning.

I read Ickes's objections today (and from other Clinton reps) as keeping their options open to haul this fight all the way to Denver! This protracted fight should not be allowed to take place. The superdelegates and other party officials should immediately declare that the process has produced a nominee--a person who leads in the delegate count and the popular vote.

This compromise is to the satisfaction of the MI & FL Democratic parties even if the Clinton camp objects! It shows that the Clinton campaign has lost control of the party! It'll be very hard to maintain the same stance ("I'm staying in to fight to the end") until the convention.

By the numbers (5/31/08, 8 pm)

Obama needed 41 delegates to clinch before today, but now needs 64 of the remaining total 291 (pledged & supers). Clinton needs 241. It is estimated that Obama will be able to get 40-45 in the next 3 remaining primaries. That would leave him short of 20-25 only! I think this is a number he'll reach before the week is out. So, 2118 will be achieved before the convention. The only remaining question is whether Sen. Clinton will work for or against the Dems winning the White House this year.

Here's an excellent site that keeps track of all the numbers and dates.

editor's note: the picture is from Black Adder's 4th season, which satyrized the lunacy of WWI.

PS>In another unrelated story about nonsense, some conservatives have found an offensive corporate logo and are asking for a boycott. An American (US) Christian group called The Resistance says the chain's logo has a naked woman on it with her legs "spread like a prostitute... The company might as well call themselves Slutbucks". Starbucks says the image - based on a 16th century Norse design of a mermaid with two-tails - is not inappropriate.

What do you think? I think if you looked at the original logo with a magnifying glass you could see two dots around where the mermaid's tits should be.... not to mention that she's totally naked!.... Damn those ancient Greeks and their nudity, they started it!

May 28, 2008

The Ethical Code Violated, the People's Trust Betrayed... [McClellan: Now, Let's Sell Books Based on Trespasses While in Office]

No Ethical Barriers Could Stop the Bushies from Accomplishing their Mission!

Everyone has a sense of what's appropriate regardless of what the law is. I suppose that most people don't commit crimes because they think it's a bad thing to do; and they do so not because of the fear of punishment. Of course, I understand that a civil society relies on both--an ethical code and punishment, but I want to focus on the perception of what's appropriate. What's that ethical guide that makes people do the right thing even if there is no threat of legal punishment?

I just read some excerpts from the book by Scott McClellan (Bush's press secretary from 2003 to 2006), and I now dislike McClellan more than when he was pushing the Bush agenda from the White House podium. In addition to pleading being "misled" by others [like Lewis Libby and Carl Rove] in the Bush administration, he now admits that he played a part in pulling this huge misinformation campaign to deceive the public and plunge the country into a war, because his boss wanted to leave a greater mark in history than his father, Bush 41.

So, in plain language, McClellan is now trying to make money from his disservice to the country! Much like the former CIA chief, George Tenet [see post on this blog] tried to do recently. I bet you, Collin Powell and Condie Rice will come out with nice book deals to try to re-write history and make money while doing so. Yet, when their integrity was needed to serve the country, they conveniently and cowardly violated the ethical code of standing up and speaking the truth--and, if necessary, resigning in protest. We are not talking about minor policy issues or a difference of opinion here, but about propaganda to mislead the country into a bloody war of bad choice, to name one serious trespass.

When too many horrible things happen, they may blend into a mangled painful memory, so let me refresh our memory: Weapons of mass destruction, smoking gun in the form of mushroom cloud, Al Qaeda-911-Saddam, hurricane Katrina and the New Orleans disaster, Valery Plame's secret identity leak, torture & rendition, secret & illegal domestic spying...

Who could honestly tell us with a straight face that they served the nation when they facilitated unethical and illegal government policies? Only those who, with the same face & without missing a beat, told us they came to power to "restore honor and integrity to the White House"!!!

Update, 5/31

Bush&Co always had the same message that everybody repeats like a parot. They decide on a script and they stick to it. I'm talking about the same language and terminology. Now, they've decided that come-too-lately McClellan sounds "like a left-wing blogger"!

  • Former White House aide Karl Rove: “First of all, this doesn’t sound like Scott. It really doesn’t. Not the Scott McClellan I’ve known for a long time. Second of all, it sounds like somebody else. It sounds like a left-wing blogger.”

  • Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer: “We were wrong about whether Saddam had a WMD but that didn’t mean the president manipulated anything. And Scott uses the very same words that the far-left uses and I find that troubling because I find it inaccurate.”

  • Former counselor to the President Dan Bartlett: “But he uses these very infammatory and explosive words like, ’shading the truth,’ ‘propaganda,’ all these touchstones of the liberal left, which really makes me pause to think, ‘are these Scott’s words or are they the words of a liberal publisher who’s the guy behind this book.” [The Mike Gallagher Show, 5/30/08]

Does the truth have a liberal bias? McClellan is affirming what most us understood long time ago, but the conservatives refuse to acknowledge publically and are still trying to play the public for a fool.

PS>In a seemingly unrelated story about appropriate messages to the American consumer, the conservatives were upset that Dunkin Donuts coffee ads would remind Americans of anything even remotely Arabic... This ridiculous claim--that Rachel Ray's scarf looked Arabic--carried weight, because the conservative lunatic fringe is not marginal in the US. So, DD pulled this ad! [Here's the link and a photo, judge for yourselves]

May 23, 2008

How to Best Serve the Memory of Heroes: Prevent More Deaths

The Duty of a Patriot is Not to Serve as Cannon Fodder

Summer in the US begins with Memorial weekend. The beaches are now open with life guards and with admission fees. I hope this summer is good--obviously this means different things to different people--but we all agree that life should be as good as it can be. But, how do we establish those conditions that allow people to reach their own potential & fulfillment? We start by improving the way our government works and by sending better representatives to positions of power!

I'm excited because there's a very good chance things will change for the better after the general election in November. Yes, I know, there's the big unresolved issue of Obama v. Clinton, but my guess is that this will be dealt with in a matter of weeks. Obama needs some 50 delegates to clinch the nomination and he will get those soon. There will be no fight at the convention and all this tension will be ancient history by Labor Day--when most Americans will start to be paying closer attention to politics.

This holiday is about remembrance, but in addition to paying respects to the war dead, we should take a moment and think what it is to be an American today; what it is to be a patriot. Big speeches, larger flags, and blind nationalism aren't very helpful, at best; at worst, they obscure reality and distract us from taking the necessary steps that actually make a big difference in most people's lives.

Sensible patriotism means to make sure that we don't waste our blood, sweat and tears. To make sure that we don't commit our troops to an ill-conceived war of choice. To make sure that the citizens are informed about the important issues and that they participate in the civic affairs of their country! We have to look beyond the smoke screen employed by leaders who want to lead a flock of sheep, and the bumper-sticker mentality must be rejected.

We have to wrest control of our government from the narrow special interests and make it work for the commonwealth. The US has socialized capitalism! Shocked? What do you call a situation whereas risk is socialized (we pay for it when big private companies fail) while the profit remains private? The middle class is shrinking in stature and wealth. There are two Americas out there, and one of them is dying prematurely. Lack of health care is devastating.

You'd think that any good patriot would like to save thousands of Americans: Prevention and treatment of disease is the key. Terrorists and all those "evil doers" want to kill us. OK, that's easy to understand, but let's put things into perspective here. Lack of health care (no health insurance or insufficient coverage) kills some 20,000 Americans every year--far more than all deaths from terrorism (foreign & domestic). And, we suffer unnecessarily too. The American Cancer Society estimates that 50% of cancer deaths can be eliminated in the US if all people got quick and adequate health care. Senator McCain [check his voting record on Veterans on this Memorial holiday] wouldn't be with us today if he was poor. [same for VP Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, etc.]

Let's remember that Memorial Day is for laying wreaths and respect, but it is also about preventing bad policies that lead to more deaths.

May 12, 2008

Dying for Love in a Country "Liberated" by the US. Exporting Democracy Hits Another Snag!

How to best promote not just democracy, but liberal democracy.

..It was her first youthful infatuation and it would be her last. She died on 16 March after her father discovered she had been seen in public talking to Paul, considered to be the enemy, the invader and a Christian. Though her horrified mother, Leila Hussein, called Rand's two brothers, Hassan, 23, and Haydar, 21, to restrain Abdel-Qader as he choked her with his foot on her throat, they joined in... Her shrouded corpse was then tossed into a makeshift grave without ceremony as her uncles spat on it in disgust...

Exporting democracy can be a very difficult task unless the local conditions permit such a regime to exist. Condi Rice Ph.D., should have known this much at least when she was advising the president on Iraq! But she wasn't hired by Dubya to contradict the neocons and she didn't have the personal integrity to utter what she probably had learned in grad school.

Anyway, what the US should try to do is to export the ideas of humanism and
constitutional liberalism, because it is through these values a society can function democratically--as we understand a liberal democracy to be.

Non-liberal governments often have come to power via the ballot box after "open & fair" elections. We've seen this too many times; that democratically-elected parties pursue totalitarian policies. It might even be the will of the people to brutally enforce conformity and exterminate all those dissenters who "give comfort to the enemy" by criticizing the government or challenging the popular wisdom.

Perhaps some of us in the west don't realize that many societies that may pay lip service to democracy don't view favorably things like religious tolerance (and a separation of church-state), privacy, individual rights, free expression that includes satire and offensive speech, etc.

The only countries that give true meaning to freedom are liberal democracies. They're not perfect--as we know from our own experience, especially under the BushCo government--but as long as we control our domestic Taliban, falling in love is not a death sentence for women.

The following story is from Iraq. A 17-year old girl was murdered by her father because she fell in love with the wrong man. Exchanging glances and an occasional greeting with an unrelated male can mean death for a woman in that part of the world. This "honor" killings are an acceptable norm. The law--based on some religious absurdity and primitive myths--supports this kind of behavior. The police that arrested Abdel-Qared actually congratulated him upon his release for doing the right thing by killing his virgin daughter.

'I don't have a daughter now, and I prefer to say that I never had one. That girl humiliated me in front of my family and friends. Speaking with a foreign soldier, she lost what is the most precious thing for any woman. 'People from western countries might be shocked, but our girls are not like their daughters that can sleep with any man they want and sometimes even get pregnant without marrying. Our girls should respect their religion, their family and their bodies.

'I have only two boys from now on. That girl was a mistake in my life. I know God is blessing me for what I did,' he said, his voice swelling with pride. 'My sons are by my side, and they were men enough to help me finish the life of someone who just brought shame to ours.'

Two weeks after The Observer revealed the shocking story of Rand Abdel-Qader, 17, murdered because of her infatuation with a British soldier in Basra, southern Iraq, her father is defiant. Sitting in the front garden of his well-kept home in the city's Al-Fursi district, he remains a free man, despite having stamped on, suffocated and then stabbed his student daughter to death.

Homosexuality is punishable by death, a sentence Abdel-Qader approves of with a passion. 'I have alerted my two sons. They will have the same end [as Rand] if they become contaminated with any gay relationship. These crimes deserve death - death in the name of God," he said, and he added that his daughter's bad genes were passed on by her mother...

It takes a very long time and a good deal of education for people to change their views or gain enough confidence to examine long-held beliefs that have become part of their identity. Political scientists concern themselves with the question of change, which includes progress towards more freedom; there's a wealth of writings views on change, and the kind of desirable change. Yes, change can be slow coming as societies often move like molasses. Or, change can be imposed from above with the force of either the state or an external source. Let's not look far, civil rights in our own country were enforced by federal troops not so long ago.

Unfortunately, a bunch of ideological idiots and incompetent bureaucrats were in charge of the occupation of Iraq. Instead of bringing change, they unleashed all the evils present in a ill-concocted country like Iraq--where religious factions, tribalism, thuggery, and old unsettled scores got a chance to surface because of the US invasion produced a failed state.

When Germany and Japan were occupied after WW2, they were cohesive nations, but nevertheless, there was enough military occupying power to dictate how the new politics, and to a great extend the legal system, were to proceed. This situation produced stable democratic countries that are our allies today.

The best thing the US should be doing is to promote the ideals of freedom and lead by example. The age of the military empires is gone so the imposition of freedom from above or from the outside isn't possible any longer--not that the former imperialist empires had freedom on their minds or in their practice...

People in unfree countries have to see the benefits and the quality of life enjoyed by those who do have liberty. Modernity can be threatening to traditional societies and there'll always be reactionary movements, but modernity coupled with liberal freedoms can be attractive too. The US should encourage this kind of progress. One way to influence countries is by offering help--which is cheaper, and dare say, more effective than the militaristic approach favored by the neocons. For example, eliminating malaria in Africa for $12 billion is a bargain, and the benefit many-fold, measured in human lives and good will towards the US.

We need smart people in positions of leadership who can re-evaluate the strategy and long-term interests of the US. Without giving in to those who want to impose ideas and political systems unfit for modern humans, we have to think big, outside the sophomoronic approach of: I can punch you really hard...

The more peace, health, education & prosperity spreads, the more likely to have stable conditions for a liberal democracy to flourish. The more of those democracies, the better for all us the world will be. Now, that's a great progressive culture of life!

May 10, 2008

Raising Humanity One Child at a Time

Happy Mother's Day!

If we want to make our mothers happy, we should celebrate them more than one day, and, generally speaking, we should try to elevate the position of women everywhere.

Linguist George Lakoff in his book, Moral Politics, he talks about the strict disciplinarian father and the nurturing mother as two different models of government. Lakoff suggests that we need more of the mother model--which is preferred by the progressives. The conservatives appeal to people's belief in a strict father; and it seems, that many people need the rigid structure in their lives as they prefer to follow than lead.

We are different after all. Progressives want to explore the world, entertain ideas, are open to change & revision, and have a more positive view of human nature. Conservatives, like GW Bush, don't want debate (or talking back). Why, exchanging liberty for a promise of safety i
s welcome... Oh, and an absurd reductionist approach: with us or against us; good or evil; hero or villain; moral or immoral, etc.

Again, I repeat, the philosophical difference is that we like the nurturing approach in our government--not a nanny state, but a government that creates the conditions in the country for the individual to have a reasonable opportunity to reach self-fulfillment!

Mothers have played a greater role than fathers in raising the generations of humans. They're the keepers of the culture--even if this often means discriminating and prejudicial practices against them! But, without their long investment in our well-being, humanity would not have arrived at where it is today.

We do need a progressive culture of life, whereas family values, for example, have a true meaning... Not when the government or religion try to control a woman's reproductive choice, but during pregnancy and soon after birth mother & child are left to their own devices to survive! Not when women are treated as chattel and as vessels for procreation. On the contrary, it means pre-natal care, full health care coverage for mother & child; it means good educational opportunities for the children too.

Since societies became militaristic, wo
men were relegated to the bottom of the social ladder and their duty & self-fulfillment was to be found by serving their husbands. This has to change fast. For goodness' sake, we've come a long way to the 21st century; at least we should bring all humanity to the present and not leave them in the past!

We hear about family values but we see little in the way of policy that actually promotes those conditions that enhance family life when it matters! Family values should mean a lower (to non-existent) infant mortality. Every minute a mother dies due to childbirth complications. Her children die of malaria and other preventable diseases. But, even before a woman becomes a mother, she can greatly benefit from formal education. An educated mother is less likely to totally depend on her husband, less likely to get AIDS (and more likely to be healthy), and less likely to have too many children.

Some of the conditions in the developing world are appalling. But, poverty, hunger, and preventable diseases are not strange to American mothers either. The US is a much better place than the Third Wold, but we do have the weakest social safety net among the advanced democratic countries! The indicators of the health of the nation tell the story... we're number 37 on the World Health Organization's list.

The bottom line is this: we honor motherhood by treating our mothers well. It makes sense, doesn't it? Better mothers & better conditions for motherhood and we all benefit. After all, we exist because we were the recipients of our mothers' nurturing and love. That's a smart culture of life, and good family values!

May 1, 2008

G W Bush: Mission Accomplished! [oh, well, that's what he told us on May 1, 2003]

Update, 5/2.
There's this perception that the media has a liberal bias. [This is not so, but I'll grapple with this topic in a future post.] Let's see how this "liberal" media has been so kind to the Bush administration for far too long; and how it surrendered its professional credentials during the time when the country was getting ready for the war in Iraq. When we needed the media to serve the public interest the most, they just became Bush&Co's lapdog.

Chris Mooney wrote a great article in the Columbia Journalism Review:

Here’s what these six editorial pages did write, during the crucial six-week period between Powell’s speech and the beginning of hostilities on March 19, 2003. They ranged from hawkish without a shade of doubt (The Wall Street Journal and, to a lesser extent, the Chicago Tribune), to prowar but conflicted (The Washington Post and USA Today), to antiwar without United Nations approval (The New York Times and Los Angeles Times).

None of these six unconditionally opposed war. Neither did any of them throw their weight behind intellectually appealing, but nevertheless unofficial, prowar arguments. These included the so-called “liberal hawk” position, which focused less on Hussein’s status as an imminent threat and more on the moral case for overthrowing a murderous tyrant. In other words, of the six papers we studied, for the most part, the ones that supported war also accepted Bush’s justifications for it.

Among the nation's most "liberal" voices [mainstream press], the Washington Post, was one of the most hawkish supporters of the war; and, we can't forget Judith Miller's front-page articles in the NY Times! These two papers (among many) echoed BushCo's claims for the necessity of the Iraq War! Let's not forget all the aspects of how we got there...

Fiver years later... Are we winning yet?

PS>Our top military commanders in Afghanistan are alarmed and calling for a serious reinforcement and attention to that conflict over there, because the Taliban has been gaining and, they say, there are serious threats to our national security originating in Afghanistan! But, the mainstream media haven't picked up on this story yet. I guess Rev. Wright is more dangerous for America...

Update, 5/5:
This another shocking news.
The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government's top psychiatric researcher said. [from]