Saturday, October 18, 2008

Let's define "Anti-American"

It's a bit absurd how low the Republican party is going these days. The latest wave of attacks has thrown the word "Anti-American" out there in describing both Obama and certain parts of the country (San Francisco and the Bay Area, my home, probably being one of those parts).

The divisiveness (and hatred) in these people scares me, especially when you couple it with their apparent ignorance. In their eyes, it seems that doing or saying anything to criticize our country is "Anti-American".

Let's break that down, in ways even the most die-hard Republican would understand. Every Sunday, I sit down and watch the 49ers play. For the majority of this decade, that has been a painful experience. When coaches make dumb decisions, I tend to get angry. I probably call them names, in the heat of the moment. I also discuss with friends why those decisions are dumb, and what I thought should have been done instead. For example, a few weeks ago, the Niners were down by 6 late in 4th against the Pats. The Pats had the ball, 3rd and 20, on our 40 - basically 5-10 yard out of field goal range. On that play, the Niners didn't blitz, only rushed 3 guys, and gave the Pats ample time to pick up 10 yards on a short pass. They kicked a field goal, going up by 9 and essentially putting the game out of reach.

That's a dumb decision. We should have blitzed in hopes of not letting the Pats gain a yard and forced a punt, giving us a chance to win the game. And I said it, and called friends and we all bitched about it together, wishing for Nolan's firing and the like.

Sound familiar? And, more importantly (to the Palin-crazies in the world), do you see the parallel? I love the 49ers. And yet I can criticize them. And call their leaders names. And point out, rationally, what they're doing wrong and how it should be fixed.

Is Jeremiah Wright right (no pun intended) for saying awful things about American? Absolutely not. But have you listened to his speeches? Yes, he says "God Damn America" (much like most Sundays I'm left saying "God Damn 49ers"), but have you been to the South-side of Chicago? I haven't, but if it's anything like West Philly (of which I really only got a taste in my 4 years there) - and apparently it's worse - then, yes, God Damn Us for not doing our job. We need to be providing education and social programs to clean up the streets and keep kids in schools.

And Bill Ayers? I'm mostly playing devil's advocate, but I think he has a defense too. Yes, he bombed our own buildings, which is awful. But, his intent was never to kill (and other than one accident involving a member of his group), and he never did.

So, sure, he caused tons of property damage. But who is more on the wrong - the government that orders us into foreign soil, resulting in the loss of thousands of civilian and military lives, or the person who goes too far in trying to call attention to our poor decision?

Think about it. Who loves a country more - those of us who refuse to believe we can do any wrong, or those of us who stand up and call our country out when we do stupid things?

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've always wondered this...

Basically, why is the extremes in sizes always end up being the ones that end up at discount stores? I sort of buy the guy's argument - that it's a form of price discrimination - but, still, something strikes me as not quite right.

Then again, the flip side is that if these companies could be making more money by varying production levels of different sizes, they probably would have already done so. Who knows.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What is wrong with the Republican Party?

Today, the McCain campaign unleashed its first wave of new attacks - on Obama's character. Why it has come to this is baffling.

Does anyone ever wonder what happened to the Republicans? I'm not sure where to start. Perhaps at the top - if you can separate issues into social and economic, why do the ideas of the intolerant and stupid (NO on abortion, stem cells, gay marriage, healthcare, and just about everything but guns and creationism) have to be tied together with a rational, sound economic philosophy (less regulation, free trade, etc.)? But that's a tirade for a different day.

Also, thanks to the last 8 years, the Republicans are no longer the party of smaller government. Despite McCain and Palin's cries to "reign in spending," there is little evidence from their past to suggest we'll see a significant change in the size of government in a McCain administration (and if McCain gets us into another war, spending will go up even more). But again, this is also a tirade for another day.

What boggles my mind right now is why the Republicans have become the party of lies, secrecy, incuriousness, and dumb/puppet candidates. With the above worries, you can sort of see how it all played out (the demographics forced politicians to pander to the South and Midwest for the first concern, and Bush being an idiot caused the second).

For all the presidential elections of this decade, you've seen the Repubilicans far more than the Democrats engage in smear tactics and dirty politics. Sure, there are lies on both sides, but tweaking numbers to come up with impressive statistics when attacking an opponent's tax plan just doesn't compare to claiming Obama wanted to teach sex ed to kindergartners.

Why? Why do they need to lie about these things? Why do they need to resort to smears and character attacks? Our country is in dire shape, and when we need to talk about the issues most, they're essentially saying they want to use the final month of the campaign to attack Obama's character.

And why do the Republicans have to so actively glorify stupidity and incuriousness? What the hell is good about being "shooting from the hip" when that involves oversimplifying real world situations and making mistakes (Iraq - "oh I bet they have nukes" or Katrina - "they'll be ok"). And why do they have to select such dumb candidates??? McCain doesn't know the first thing about the economy. Think about that for a second - EVERY law on the books has some sort of economic impact (for example, speed limits affect driving habits affect gas consumption). To elect a presidential nominee who does not grasp the basic principles of economics is insanity.

And then there is Sarah Palin. The woman drives home all of these stereotypes - she doesn't understand any economic or foreign policy issues, and she PURPOSEFULLY speaks like a moron because she wants to connect with Middle America.

There was a basic lesson of the past 8 years - dumb, incurious people who are hotheaded and don't listen to others make HORRIBLE Presidents. So, the Republicans present us with... John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Now are we bombarded with outright lies and character attacks on Obama. And McCain and Palin don't go to the bathroom without running it by their campaign managers to make sure it's ok. And we're left wondering who is really pulling the strings, and why the Republican Party has come to this.

What sucks is that the net result of all this is to drag down the discourse of the campaigns - now Obama is planning to hit back with an attack on McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal in the late 80's (though even this is a little better than just taking swipes at associations, like the McCain camp is doing). I hope it doesn't happen, but the last month of the election could really devolve into a smearfest (significantly more so than it already has).

But there is one glimmer of hope - call me crazy, but I think we could see the end of the Republicans at some point. Political parties don't last forever, and you can't help but ask yourself what exactly it is that this one stands for these days. If Obama can continue and expand on his momentum, we could see a landslide victory for him - imagine he goes so far as getting North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri (meaning he definitely picks up Florida, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado) - crossing 375 electoral votes isn't out of the question. That sort of stinging defeat combined with the Dems picking up a super majority (60 seats) in the Senate (an outside shot that grows in likelihood with each passing day), and maybe the end of the Republicans might not be so far-fetched.

And wouldn't that be a great thing. The party that rises in their ashes could really move this country forward.

Friday, October 03, 2008

True Change

Fred Wilson has a great post up on AVC on what our country needs right now. And it's change. A lot of it. Our country is so screwed in so many ways - broken healthcare and education, crumbling foreign relations, and now this $700 billion (actually the new version is closer to $800 billion, I believe) bailout plan. Not to mention, we don't have the money for any of this, and we're plunging deeper in debt. This paragraph, in my mind, summed up what we need to do:

We have global ambitions that we cannot afford but we still pretend we can. We have tax revenues that do not cover our spending. And we don’t have the will to cut our spending. And in many cases, we cannot afford to cut our spending. We should not cut our spending on infrastructure, we should increase it. We should not cut our spending on finding cleaner and smarter forms of energy, we should increase it. We should not cut our spending on education, we should increase it. We should not live with the terrible health care system we currently have, we should fix it. And we continue to spend money on things like tax breaks for oil companies and subsidies for farmers that mystify me and most Americans. And we spend a lot of money fighting vices like drugs, prostitution, and gambling when we should simply legalize them, tax them, and regulate them and turn them into a profit center.

Interesting thought, especially the last part. It might sound like blasphemy to some, but I think it's coming, sooner rather than later. We're just way too in debt to be worried about spending federal money to enforce laws of morality. They're fairly pointless - not only do they not work (as the Prohibition taught us, people will engage in these activities despite the laws), but they cost the federal government money. The government should making money on this stuff, not losing it.

Very, very interesting times ahead...