Thursday, August 28, 2008

The High Watermark

One of my idols has always been Hunter S Thompson. To put it simply he had a way with language that made it jump. His words weren't written by some dead person or translated from another language. They were alive. Hunter's word's lept from his typewriter onto paper and made your brain dance with a tempo and pace that was as furious as the man himself.

It's quite difficult to look up to a man who committed suicide, you kind of have to look past a few things in order to have that kind of a hero. But Hunter would have known that. Hunter looked up to Hemingway, another famous American writer who committed suicide. There are some conspiracy theorists who think that Hunter did not commit suicide, but I cannot imagine that they would have let him go this long and nail him after his brief flirtations with fame. Maybe it's old payback. Maybe I'm next for even talking about it.

Most people know about "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for it's ridiculous drug addled humor. But it's lesser known title is "The Death of the American Dream." "The Wave Speech" is where Hunter is talking about the end of the 60s, the end of the movement. When the 60s turned into the 70s and the counterculture morphed back into the establishment.
There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

It is sad that Hunter couldn't take any more of the Bush years. One can only suppose that after trying to show people the truth for years to see W Bush elected twice was a travesty. Utter disappointment in democracy is the only way to describe it. That is why I wish that he could have seen Obama's speech last night. We are building that sense again. The sense that we are winning. That we will be riding a wave that cannot be stopped.

Setting the Stage

The Democratic National Convention is moving today. It is moving to Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. This was decided several months ago for Obama to give a speech in front of 70,000 people to end the convention.

The talking heads are asking if this is too lofty or unapproachable for the common voter to feel a connection. They must need to need something to talk about. Politics is about the extension of self into society and how we are able to change our environment.

Setting the stage will be several Greek columns. This is somehow elitist. It is no mistake that almost all of the buildings in DC have columns. The Greeks are credited with the world's first democracy in Athens. The Romans are credited with the establishment of the Republic and idea famously proposed by Plato in his work by the same title.

Efficacy is a word that has been used in a few of my previous posts. It's definition means a personal sense of effectiveness in controlling or making change. I think that is what the Democrats are shooting for. Recalling the roots of democracy and reclaiming the long lost sense of American efficacy. We may vote,but there is a sense among Americans that they do not control their political destiny. Although we claim democracy it is clear that the citizens do not rule. This is more like an oligarchy they way the choke points in Congress are controlled by seniority and chairmen who are heavily influenced by industry and interests.

Obama is fighting the tag that all Democrats have been fighting, arrogance and elitism. Greek columns are never thought of as "elitist" in other settings so it must be the messenger. It is worth noting that the speech is open to the general public. It won't be just for party delegates. Obama is not trying to make himself out to be a god, but he is making an appeal to our more noble instincts and civic duty. Politics can be a noble pursuit, that is what people want.

The speech still needs to be made before final judgment is passed. It is Obama's strength, if he rises to the occassion his speech could be one of the most important in American history. The first Presidential acceptance speech by an African-American needs an equally historic moment that closes a chapter of American history and shows that the future is a tabula rosa ready to be written by each of us.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary's Big Night

Tonight is Hillary's big speech. Basically it is her time to throw her support behind Obama fully and recognize her shortcomings as a Presidential candidate.

Or not.

We'll see what she has in store for us tonight.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Odds and Sods

The Governor's race is tightening as the final ballots are being counted. Deja vu all over again. Rossi 46% Gregoire 48%. It's going to be getting even closer as the counting for the primary continues and count down to November begins.

Will the voters in the General Election be significantly different than the Primary voters? Usually the primary is a dry run for the get out the vote to test organizationWho was really trying to get their voters out?

Is this a democratic tide?

Doesn't seem like it. It doesn't seem as anti-incumbent as I would have guessed but it isn't 2006. McKenna is doing well in his statewide race. Sutherland is losing in the face of scandal and poor management, losing the election is the political trinity. And Darcy Burner can't seem to get over the hump. She has been campaigning for too long not to have made more of an impact in that district, but Reichert did catch the *ahem* Green River killer.

Here are some new items, youtube candidate questions answered by Rossi and Gregoire. Rossi's are way more slick, kind of an active background with the candidate positioned slightly right of center. The Governor's ad looks like it was shot in the laundry room in a dorm. Gregoire faces the camera with a background of Gregoire campaign signs, oh and Obama posters too. 2 signs for Obama and 2 for Gregoire.

And check out the link to in the sidebar to keep up with the latest returns.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Art of the No-Story Story

The Top 2 primary went off yesterday and produced few if any surprises. There will be a few legislative races that pit two members of the same party against each other. Hopefully a few of them get nasty and start airing some dirty laundry.

Gregoire seems to have won the plurality of votes cast, although she is hovering dangerously close to 50%. If I was Gregoire I would be worrying right now. Any type of slip up or major admission of error by the state between now and the election will cost her the race.

Secretary of State Sam Reed and McKenna in the Attorney General's race shows that these are almost lifelong offices and that there is not going to be a wave of anti-GOP resentment. Either that or no one really cares or knows about what it is that these offices really do. Reed is rock solid. McKenna is more than likely safe during the general unless Ladenburg really goes negative on him. Current results show Ladenburg narrowly losing to McKenna in Pierce County, probably more results to come in will trend to Ladenburg. They had to be hoping to win Pierce County.

Sutherland is caught in the middle of a scandal regarding a former female employee at the Dept. of Natural Resources. He's losing right now.

So there is nothing new or noteworthy. Campaigns that were supposed to be in trouble are and the races that were supposed to be competitive are.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


As I sit at my second job--really my only paying job aside from my futile attempts to survive in the mortgage industry--I look outside and think to myself, "Hell! I should get a five week vacation!" I start daydreaming. Ohhhhh, what fun I could have with a paid five week vacation. I started asking myself a series of questions that all had the same answer, beginning with:

Who in America gets a paid five week vacation anyway?

Where could I work and put creativity to work? A place where no idea is too dumb. In fact, nothing I think of even has to work, but it has to be different than how we do it today; and, it needs to be something that can eat up at least a year's worth of discussion before the next five-week vacation. That's the only criteria. It would be like kindergarten all over again. Where could I work and get paid to use my imagination?

Wouldn't it be nice to just think something up, talk about it, then have it happen? It would be whimsical. Just thinking and talking about this makes it feel like something's changing already. I feel powerful.

Where could I embrace and love diversity and change so much, that I wouldn't change a thing because it might offend someone.

Hold on, I have a customer. I'll have to get back to this. The economy is backwards. I have to work two jobs to keep afloat. Times are tight. The world is practically at war. Oh if only Clinton were still president. If only there were a few statesmen (and women) left. Things have really gone to shit around here.

What's the opposite of progress? Congress!

Primary Day

It's the inaugural run of the "Top Two" primary in Washington State. There has been much discussion about the effects of this new primary on turnout and who will make it to the general election.

Making the "Top Two" in the primary doesn't seem like all that big of a hurdle, especially since the point is to be "first" anyway.

I haven't been commenting on any of the candidates at this point, there are independents who have registered, but if they are really campaigning it remains to b seen. If any of them even come close it will be a story.

Friday, August 15, 2008

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Missile Defense

Russia is dropping hints that Poland may find itself on the receiving end of an attack for its involvement with the United States in a Missile Defense shield. Why would a major power threaten a small-fry like Poland over a defensive system?

On the face of it a missile defense shield seems like a good idea. The threat of nuclear annihilation did not end just because the Cold War is over. There are several more nuclear powers in the world, India, Pakistan, and a few of the former Soviet states but the theories about the way that nuclear weapons would be used in a conflict have not changed.

Nuclear weapons are incredibly devastating. The one time that they were used it was against a state that had no capacity to retaliate. In fact the bombs dropped on the industrial centers of Hiroshima and Nagasaki severely limited Japan's production and ability to fight the War. They had to surrender.

The Cold War brought about some of the best acronyms that government minds had to offer. Nuclear Utilization Theorists (NUTs) developed the framework of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that guided us through the Cold War without nuclear fallout. MAD plays out like this: Country A launches attack against Country B, Country B retaliates with however many nuclear weapons weren't destroyed during the first strike. This is a little simplistic, there are submarines capable of launching nuclear attack and bombers in the air ready to retaliate (a la Dr. Strangelove), but the point is made.

This is why there was an arms race. It wasn't enough to have bombs enough to annihilate your enemy, you need to have a second strike capability that is a credible deterrent to a first strike. Primary targets of nuclear weapons are usually major cities and other nuclear weapon complexes. If you can wipe out a county's nuclear arsenal they cannot retaliate. So the supply needs to be large, theoretically large enough not to be destroyed by the other country's missiles.

If there was no threat of a second strike then there is no deterrent to launching the first strike. This is incredibly destabilizing to a system that has prevent a nuclear war for decades.

The idea of a missile defense shield is a relic. A tip of the hat to Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program. It has never worked in testing. It will likely never work. It is one of the many principles of physics that makes it a near impossibility to hit a moving object out of the sky. The theory goes that you can know where a missile is at any given time and you can know it's trajectory and speed, but you cannot know both at the same time. Increasing the accuracy of one measurement decreases the accuracy of the other. If missile defense is going to work you need to know both.

Bottom-line is that the stupid shield won't work and it gives the countries behind the shield the opportunity to strike first without being retaliated against. The MAD deterrent has been working just fine, so don't mess with it. The Russians are not happy about it and have made some threatening gestures to Poland for even thinking about it. The Russians know the difficulties of a feasible missile shield. They know their physics. But even during the Cold War they felt that if anyone could make such an idea reality it would be the Americans.

Theories are fine, but people are rarely that predictable. If you have not seen Dr. Strangelove of the Fog of War, I strongly suggest you do so. They illustrate the irrationality of people and dictators. Chilling moment during the Fog of War when Robert McNamara recalls a conversation with Fidel Castro about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Unless Castro was thumping his chest to the former Sec of Defense, we were a lot closer to nuclear war than anyone would have liked to admit.

Sure we would have been destroyed, but I still would have bombed the US. Fuck you guys anyway. So much for the assumption of a rational actor.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Georgia on My MInd

It is important to note that this particular Georgia is not a member of these United States. It is actually south of Russia and borders on Turkey and the Black Sea.

Georgia is one of the former Soviet states that broke away after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Georgia is in the "hot zone." It is part of the larger theater of Iraq-Iran and figures heavily in the Petro world. The oil pipeline is speculated to be the real reason, and the involvement of the west in Iraq surely must be the other.

Georgia was one of our allies in Iraq, they had troops along the Iran-Iraq border. They obviously had an interest in keeping Iran from gaining in the Iraq conflict, but the Georgians have much larger problems at this point.

This is the worst case scenario playing out before our eyes. The conflict in Iraq is spreading to neighboring areas and we do not have the forces necessary to be a deterrent to other states who wish to impose their will on other states.

The deterrence of collective security has been one of the hallmarks of foreign relations since World War I.

The basic concept of collective security is that when a state becomes aggressive to another state's sovereignty the other states will band together and attack the aggressor. This is what happened in Kuwait that precipitated the first Gulf War. Kuwait is a major oil port, much like Georgia. The Georgians are being accused by the Russians of depriving other ethnic minorities in South Ossetia of their rights?

Pot? This is the Kettle, you're black.

Are they serious? The Russians are using human rights violations as an excuse to invade. They don't even have a leg to stand on. They don't even have a bloody stump to stand on. They have a horrendous human rights record.

Aside from not having available military forces to deter Russia. Europe is dependent on Russian oil and gasoline. So they can't afford a conflict with Russia.

The new model for foreign security was supposed to "interdependence." While similar to the deterrence of collective security, interdependence simply states that the world is too depend on world trade to instigate conflict. However, some states are more dependent on others. Case in point, we need Russia a lot more than they need Georgia. So we can't enforce collective security and we do not have a credible deterrent against major producers of oil.

Trade and interdependence was supposed to save the post-Cold War world, in this case it appears to have hamstrung us terribly. What does this lesson teach China? That we are not a credible threat to them or Russia. Does that mean that other conflicts are going to start cropping up? Does this mean that countries such as South Korea and Japan can no longer count on American military might to act as that deterrent?

This is eerily similar to what has happened before. Things don't happen the same way twice. The world is far less stable than it was before the Iraq war, and in relative terms, other countries are stronger militarily because of our involvement in Iraq. This war has proved to be not only unnecessary and ill-conceived, it weakened us dramatically.

Although if there was a point to bring democracy not just to Iraq but to the whole of the Middle East, instability was bound to be a part of that change. On many levels, politics is conflict, and war is just another political process. We have been incredibly naive up to this point. It's time to start thinking ahead. If this conflict does spread we had better start watching the President very closely. This could be his excuse to not hold elections and to remain in office as the first American Emperor.

It is my truest and most sincere hope that this conflict subsides before it spreads further. There are too many states and parties with too much at stake, if the conflict spreads or even continues more and more people will become involved with the conflict.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tax Fairness

The General Accounting Office (GAO) recently released a report that declared that 55% of corporations with "with more than $250 million in assets or $50 million in gross receipts" paid no taxes in 2005. Of that total, 80% were not showing a profit on the books and the rest using other deductions and credits against income tax owed.

The only real reform an overly complicated tax structure is a more simple tax structure. There is no doubt that the current Federal Income Tax code is complicated, and grows increasingly complicated with each Congress, it becomes increasingly difficult for one individual to understand the entire code.

Does any amount of tax reform solve this issue?

If these corporations can legitimately claim that they are not making a profit, they can't be taxed. Besides corporations were designed to escape liability in the first place. That includes tax liability.

It is important that people have confidence in the government. Especially the money that they pay. A lot of people living paycheck to paycheck are going to see this statistic and get pissed off when they look at their paystubs and see how much money the government takes away.

Ordinary people don't show much of a profit either. But they are the ones paying the bills. They are just paying the bills to themselves. Or their parent corporations. Business Week has a great blog on this topic.

Just who is paying income tax anyway?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sir, You Are No Paris Hilton

Just when you think that things aren't going to get any weirder. McCain pulls another attack that bears the acme of the GOP.

Celebrities are highly sought after commodities in politics. Politicians and actors have what the other one wants. Actors want power and influence and politicians want to be cool. Politicians are the ugly cousins of actors and DC is their Hollywood. Another difference is that people will actually listen to celebrities. So they have a marriage of convenience.

The stereotype is that celebrity actors in California are liberal, there are several conservative stars. Celebrities aren't usually from Hollywood are they? Charlton Heston set the bar for celebrity conservatives, before him there was Ronald Reagan and most recently there has been Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Governator of Callyforneeya.

Celebrities become politicians, but rarely has a politician crossed over to become a celebrity. Kennedy did, to a lesser extent Clinton did, Reagan was already on the B-list when he was governor of California, and now we have Barack Obama.

The GOP has been trying to cast Obama as elitist and out-of-touch-with-regular-Americans tag throughout this entire campaign. So John McCain tried to compare him to Paris Hilton.

It kind if makes sense, Paris is part of the elite and so fabulously out of touch, it is a decent political analogy. A better analogy would be a wiley coyote with the same tired bag of tricks that cannot catch up with a the roadrunner on a lonley Arizona highway.

But did you ever look to see who John McCain married? Cindy McCain is more like Hilton than Obama is. Cindy is more a Patty Hearst-style heiress category than Paris Hilton is (translated, Cindy is more accomplished, possibly more talented). She has a few internet rumors of her own if you care to do a little research. And believe me Cindy's rumors are way hotter than "One Night In Paris." Is it slightly hypocritical of McCain to make this comparison given his own penchant for rich blondes? At least Cindy is moderately accomplished. She ran a couple of non-profits (embezzled prescription pills from one of them) has her pilot's license (big deal) anything else? Oh yeah she's rich. Made even more money when Anheuser-Busch sold to the Belgian brewer InBev earlier this summer, but she isn't going to disclose her income tax return. Taking care of John McCain is quite charitable of her she has to comb his hair, he can't lift his arms above his head thanks to years of torture. Kudos to you Cindy.

McCain wouldn't have made this attack if he thought that he was winning this campaign. Barack is incredibly popular for a reason, it's got nothing to do with fake celebrity like Hilton.

But at least it gave Paris an excuse to put herself back out there again. Check out her campaign ad. Hopefully this is the red light at the crossroads of popular culture and politics. Thanks to the internet this video will forever live as part of the indictment of our culture, the true death of the American dream

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

BTW, I know Paris Hilton, Paris Hilton is a friend of mine.....we used to make movies together. Paris, call me.