Saturday, November 1, 2008


I was reading the Washington Post this morning and they report the 'speech or debate' clause that was was created to protect Congress from interference from frivolous lawsuits, is increasingly broadly interpreted and is making it difficult for the Justice Department to pursue corruption charges against several members of Congress. A court decision regarding an investigation targeting Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., expanded the scope of protection under the clause, making many kinds of communications off limits for prosecutors.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, tried to use the clause to have evidence against him thrown out but has so far been unsuccessful. Stevens was found guilty of lying about accepting favors last week but has vowed to fight on, both in the courtroom and the campaign trail. The NYT says leading Republicans have denounced Stevens and many believe he would be expelled from the Senate even if he were re-elected.

But then there is still Rick Renzi, (R), the latest member of congress to be investigated for corruption, and John Doolittle (R), Ton DeLay (R), Jerry Lewis (R), Jack Kingston (R),and former legislator Dennis Hastert (R) all being investigated for corruption and all using this obscure clause to try to avoid prosecution.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Something to Think About from AlterNet and Me - An Overview

"How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the United States come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind's closest living relative to spend two terms as president?

How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama is a Muslim and a terrorist?" Palin attended five colleges to receive a degree and John McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his class. The level of ignorance in America is unbelievable.

On one level, this is easy to answer: Ignorant politicians are elected by ignorant people. U.S. education, like the U.S. health system, is notorious for its failures. In the most powerful nation on Earth, 1 adult in 5 believes the sun revolves around the Earth; only 26 percent accept that evolution takes place by means of natural selection; two-thirds of young adults are unable to find Iraq on a map; two-thirds of U.S. voters cannot name the three branches of government; and the math skills of 15-year-olds in the United States are ranked 24th out of the 29 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But this merely extends the mystery: How did so many U.S. citizens become so dumb and so suspicious of intelligence? Susan Jacoby's book The Age of American Unreason provides the fullest explanation I have read so far. She shows that the degradation of U.S. politics results from a series of interlocking tragedies.

One theme is both familiar and clear: Religion -- in particular fundamentalist religion -- makes you stupid. The United States is the only rich country in which Christian fundamentalism is vast and growing.

And the United States is peculiar in devolving the control of education to local authorities. Teaching in the Southern states was dominated by the views of an ignorant aristocracy of planters, and a great educational gulf opened up. "In the South," Jacoby writes, "what can only be described as an intellectual blockade was imposed in order to keep out any ideas that might threaten the social order."

But this is true not only in the South, but nation wide. Try to have an intelligent political conversation with most anyone anywhere in America and you encounter folks who never do their homework but just take the words of right wing talk show hosts as gospel.

"The specter of pointy-headed alien subversives was crucial to the elections of Reagan and Bush. A genuine intellectual elite -- like the neocons (some of them former communists) surrounding Bush -- has managed to pitch the political conflict as a battle between ordinary Americans and an overeducated pinko establishment. Any attempt to challenge the ideas of the right-wing elite has been successfully branded as elitism.

Obama has a lot to offer, but until our education system is fixed or religious fundamentalism withers, anti-intellectuals will flaunt their ignorance."

And if there's anything we need in these perilous times, it's an intelligent president. Just look at all the damage an ignorant one has managed to wreak in just eight years.

George Monbiot is the author of Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning. Read more of his writings at This article in it's entirety originally appeared in the Guardian.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Early Voting

Well, we did it! We voted early today. We went to Cherryvale and met our friends, Tony and Gay, for lunch and afterward we stopped off at Independence at the courthouse and voted early. And we both voted for Obama. We don't believe there will be any surprises that would have induced us to change our vote anyhow. Scott, our son, and Jerod, our grandson, will be here over the weekend for awhile and we were going to be very busy and did not know how long the lines were going to be at the polls.

John McCain is very angry and is making a big deal about Obama backing out of public financing.

Here's "the rest of the story":

The hoopla over campaign financing is very frustrating because Obama knew the thing that killed Kerry in 2004 was the "527 groups," who pumped huge dollars running Swift Boat ads, bypassing financing laws. Obama's position was that he would take public financing IF McCain would reel them in. McCain refused. Of course, we never hear that in 'the rest of the story". McCain didn't want to do that.

Unfortunately for McCain, T. Boone Pickens and other 527 funders lost a lot of money on Wall Street this year ($2 billion for Pickens), plus they don't particularly care for McCain, so this money never materialized for McCain. They were smart enough to know not to back a loser. So McCain is furious with Obama for having that kind of foresight.

When we voted, we voted against any incumbent. That's our personal protest against the mess we are all in now.

Afterward we came on home and met the appliance repairman who repaired our range. It had a short in the switch. The range was bought in 1993 and after fifteen years, this is the first repair. Not bad for an appliance that's used every day.

Bob is gone to a Red Cross meeting tonight but will be back in about an hour or so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Infomercial

Bob and I just watched the Obama infomercial and he just laid out the same plan he has laid out every time he speaks but he does it with such conviction that one has to believe he can do it.

This ad, which aired on CBS, NBC, Fox, BET, Univision, MSNBC, and TV One, was powerful. If this doesn't put the man in the White House, it will be because of America's racism.

I particularly liked it when he said, "I will not be a perfect president, but I can promise you this, I will always tell you what I think and Where I stand." That's so refreshing after eight years of a man who cannot bring himself to admit he was wrong.

He discussed health care as well as the nation's economic problems. He stressed his plan to offer tax cuts to the middle class and raise taxes on those who make over $250,000 a year. And, once again, he referred to our present situation as the "final verdict on eight years of failed policies." The video showed a lot of his supporters as well as ordinary people.

McCain, whose campaign could not afford to do this, sniped at Obama. "He's got a few things he wants to sell you. He's offering government run health care, an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling, and an automatic wealth spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed." Sour grapes, I'd say. McCain needs to check with

The ad did not appear on ABC because by the time they decided to sell Obama the time, the buy was already made.

Obama's eldest daughter, Malia, 10, was afraid the ad was going to make her miss her programs. Obama had to tell her that they did not buy the Disney Channel. That relieved her.

This is a good and decent man and we don't see a lot of those in Washington. I urge all my readers to vote for him.

Oh, as a postscript:

Joe the Plumber says Obama hates Israel. The Republicans had better put a bucket over that guy's head. Between him and Palen, they are going to lose all credibility with intelligent voters.

In The Rain

Did you see Obama out in the rain yesterday campaigning? Now that is a dedicated campaigner! I understand that John McCain canceled his meetings yesterday. Of course, the old man has to worry about catching cold or worse yet, pneumonia. There's a lot of "crap" out there on Obama. This morning at the beauty shop a women said she got an e-mail telling her that Obama was born in Kenya. She believed it. That's ridiculous. But I advised her to check out . It's a non-partisan site that corrects "mistakes" on both sides.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

From Alter Net

At this point, is an Obama victory a cinch? Maybe not. Consider this New York Times reporting published on Oct. 24: "Pollsters say there has never been a year when polling has been so problematic, given the uncertainty of who is going to vote in what is shaping up as an electorate larger than ever. While most national polls give Mr. Obama a relatively comfortable lead, in many statewide polls, Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain are much more closely matched. Even a small shift in the national number could deliver some of the closer states into the McCain camp, making an Electoral College victory at least possible."

In fact, it's possible that Obama could win a clear victory in the popular vote while McCain manages to claim enough electoral votes to move into the White House. Crucial to such an outcome would be Missouri (which, as the Times notes, "has been a bellwether in every White House race during the last century except 1956"). Is taking that risk worth the satisfaction of getting a couple percent of the vote for Ralph Nader for president in 2008?

On the two health care plans, Bob Herbert quotes the Tax Policy Center that says:

Mr. Obama’s plan is the better one because it would cover far more of the uninsured, spread risks and costs more equitably and result in more comprehensive coverage for most Americans. We fear Mr. McCain’s plan would jeopardize employer-based coverage without providing an adequate substitute. At a time when so many employers are reducing or dropping coverage, that is not a risk that the country can afford to take. The $5,000 tax credit would not go far for coverage for families that now have to spend $12,000 for barely adequate coverage.

Today President Bush showed up at the Republican National Committee headquarters to campaign for McCain. I wonder how McCain really felt about that since Obama says McCain voted with the president 90% of the time and that has been a very strong argument for Obama and his call for change.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Scary Prospect

This very disturbing story is breaking this afternoon:

A plot by two Neo-Nazi skinheads to assassinate Barack Obama and kill dozens of other African Americans has been foiled, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said Monday.

Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Ark., were charged Friday with making threats against a presidential candidate, illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun and conspiracy to rob a gun store.

Jim Cavanaugh, special agent in charge of the Nashville ATF field office, said the two men sought to go on a national killing spree that included an unnamed African-American school, with Obama as their final target.

The two planned to shoot 88 black people and decapitate another 14, he added. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community.

They said that would be their last, final act — that they would attempt to kill Sen. Obama,” Cavanaugh said. “They didn’t believe they would be able to do it, but that they would get killed trying.”

The world is full of nuts. If Obama is elected and I believe he will be unless the Bradley Effect occurs, his life will be constantly in danger....even more then the usual president because our society is so racist.

What a tragedy!When will Americans finally learn to live with one another in peace? Why do we have so many drive-by shootings and so much violence in this country? There are more inmates in American prisons then there are populations in some countries.

And, no, even in this enlightened age, we still cannot guarantee a fair trial for African Americans. Just look at the list of people cleared by the Innocence Project. African Americans predominate.

Quiet Day

This has been a welcome quiet day after all the exciting events of last week. I did some cleaning this morning then after lunch Bob and I went to the market to pick up a few things for dinner.

My friend came over this morning and we discussed at length her problem with her married daughter and their relationship stalemate. I agreed to be their go between as an objective outside observer who loves them both. I believe we have the dilemma solved. I have e-mailed her daughter our suggestion for the compromise. I am waiting for her return from work and her answer. It will be wonderful if this problem could be solved. Sometimes communication is all that is needed and she had refused to communicate with her mother but would communicate with me.

I have read the rest of the afternoon and Bob has read and slept. Even Missy Kitty is sleeping here behind me on the daybed. It is brisk out now. I dread winter.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sixty Minutes

Sixty Minutes had another program this evening on those credit default swaps that are causing all the problems in the economy right now. Credit default swaps are totally unregulated. They were also completely illegal for most of the twentieth century. It was in the year 2000 when the very rich convinced congress to make them legal. It was called the Commodity Exchange Act of 2000.

Credit default swaps were a kind of derivative… a side bet. The bet was whether people would default on their mortgages. The rich didn’t have to actually buy the mortgages to make money on them. Instead they bought the swap..which was the same thing as insurance except it couldn’t be called insurance because the insurance industry is regulated.

Then the mortgage market began to fail. Everyone wanted to get paid on those credit default swaps. But there was nothing backing up the swaps. So with such great demand, the markets really began to fail. There was no money behind the "insurance".

The previous regulation was put in place following the great depression. Bucket shops were the latest thing then and people, with a mind to make some fast and easy money, bought stocks with very little down and the rest on credit. This problem today is very much like that one. Now we know why the regulation was put in place initially.

Deregulation., according to Alan Greenspan, was one of his mistakes. In order for deregulation to work, he said recently, you must have honest people and too many of these people who made their fortunes since 2000, had no ethics. Bill Clinton and Alan Greenspan, who was the most powerful man in Washington at that time, both thought deregulation was a good thing. But Jim Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer said Greenspan also said there was not enough oversight for it to work. A free market only works when folks are honest.

What are hedge funds? They are an investment company that uses high-risk techniques, such as borrowing money and selling short, in an effort to make extraordinary capital gains. Hedge funds are personal opportunities for only the rich...they are called the Credit Opportunities Fund. They are casino capitalism and let’s face it, capitalism is greed driven. There was a complete lack of transparency in these transactions.

So now who is paying for these rich folks mistakes? We are. The middle class will be paying for the rich's mistakes. Do you think they will suffer for them? Not on your life. It's the pension funds of folks like you and me that will suffer. And our grandchildren will be paying off this enormous debt.

Three years ago, while Bob was gone on a disaster, I decided something unsavory was going on to drive the market up the way it was going. I knew this country had a major recession every twenty years and it was past due. I took what little I had left out and just put it in a CD at 4% interest. At least I still have that.

Busy Sunday

We got up early this morning and I fed the animals and fixed breakfast before we left for church school and church. I had the bulletin to print since Bob was presiding this morning. There were 19 at church this morning. For us, a nice crowd. I sent out nine "we missed you at church today" notes this afternoon.

But I'm getting ahead of my story. After church, our daughter and son-in-law went to lunch with us at El Puebleto. It was good, as usual. Then we changed our clothes and went back out to the campgrounds to take down all the decorations from last night's party and put them away. I wrapped all breakables and labeled the boxes so Cyndi could find them again at Halloween next year. That took two hours. We came home and Bob took his Sunday afternoon nap and I did my aforementioned notes. They're all done now and it's 5:05.

We will get a bowl of chocolate chip ice cream and watch 60 minutes here in a little while.