Category Archives: John McCain

A Step Back

On Saturday, President Obama reverted to type (since he was first elected, he has strenuously avoided the appearance of actually leading on anything) and announced that he would be seeking authorization from Congress to engage in military strikes in Syria.

Yesterday, we learned that Obama had actually been reconsidering on Friday, while the news media were banging the drums for an imminent attack.  We’ve been had, again.

But the drumbeat for war continued on the evening news last night:

  • “Air samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,” noted our Secretary of State.  That’s not particularly surprising: sarin is an effective chemical weapon.  But that doesn’t address the more important question: who used it?
  • We’re told that when Obama told his advisers that he would hold off on the attacks and seek authorization from Congress, his advisers tried to talk him out of it.  Why would he do such a thing?  Because by getting the US involved in a pointless war–by himself–he could get himself impeached.  And his fingerprints would be all over it.
  • Senator John McCain, Obama’s rival in the 2008 election, had a somewhat different take on it.  The actual merits of the case in Syria seemed beside the point.  But if the President deferred to Congress, and Congress voted him down, it would be bad for future Presidents who might need to engage in unilateral executive action.  And this is a problem… how?
  • The evening news then reported on Syrian refugees who are distinctly disappointed that America hadn’t come through with destruction.  “We are asking for Obama to strike Assad, like he promised,” one refugee remarked.  When all else fails, go for the heartstrings….

On last night’s news, other than noting that some Congressmen and Senators were opposed to the attacks, there was no discussion of the case against striking Syria.  Is this because the case is so self-evident as to not be worth reporting, or is it that the news media’s corporate masters really want us to drag out the blunderbuss?

Quickies

You Haven't Signed Yet

Today is President Obama’s birthday, and over the last week, the Obamoids have sent me about a dozen messages urging me to sign the President’s birthday card.  I’m creeped out: it seems something more fitting for a country with a Dear Leader, rather than a President.

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My birthday was last Thursday, and for the last week, my bank’s ATM has greeted me with ‘Happy Birthday!’  As far back as I can remember, one had to supply one’s date of birth when opening a bank account: I’m not wondering how they knew it was my birthday.  But I question the wisdom of displaying a birthday greeting on an ATM.  Some people don’t want to be reminded of their birthday.  For my part, it’s not really upsetting, but it’s creepy in a Big Brother sort of way.

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Why are we giving foreign aid to Egypt?

We’re broke, after all, and we have a law that says that a government that has perpetrated a military coup is ineligible to receive foreign aid.  And regardless of whether we believe the Egyptian military was right or wrong, the fact remains that a military coup has taken place.

Senator Rand Paul pressed the issue in the Senate.  His proposal was defeated, but what’s telling is why it was defeated.

Aid to Egypt is essential, we now understand, because if Egypt is sedated with foreign aid, it will be less of a threat to Israel.  Then again, if we don’t help the Egyptians, maybe the Russians will.

Senator and former Presidential candidate John McCain argued, “This is a question of whether the senator from Kentucky knows what’s better for Israel, or if Israel knows what’s better for Israel.”

Of course Israel knows what’s best for Israel.  But Israel has no inherent claim to American tax dollars.

Or do they?

Making the Choice

About two weeks ago, one of my colleagues sent me this cartoon:

A Democrat…

My immediate reaction was that, well, my colleague is a Republican.   But there’s a little bit more to it than that.

I know that giving to those who are ‘too lazy’ doesn’t work.  Despite the best intentions, it engenders laziness and corrodes personal honor.

But what happens when the world changes, and those who did not set out to be lazy find themselves in dire straits?  Unemployment is creeping up, and jobs are hard to find.  The eight-hour workday, for many, is a quaint relic of the past.  And almost every night on the news, there is a report of some large corporation or another firing a few thousand staffers.  For my part, I left my last job (and went into business for myself) because I was expected to give over my weekends for unpaid overtime, and was still in the doghouse with management for overrunning my budget.

Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate for President, proposes to reduce taxes for most of us, while increasing taxes on those earning over $250k per year and closing corporate loopholes.  It doesn’t solve the real problem, but it helps.  One aspect of Obama’s plan is that more people in the lower income levels would actually receive a tax credit instead of paying Federal income taxes.

The New York Post calls that ‘welfare.’  Perhaps, but a refundable tax credit is not enough to live on; it’s just intended to make life a little easier.  As long as the tax credit is tied to some actual earned income, it’s not going to erode the value of work.

To take the contrary view, that of the Republicans, is to redefine ‘lazy.’  If you want to go out and work, even if it’s physically demanding, you’re still ‘lazy’ if you expect your employer, in return for your efforts, to take care of you through health insurance or other benefits, or you expect to be able to have a working life that allows you time for your own pursuits.

The major problem with this view is that most of us were not brought up to be entrepreneurs and be comfortable taking risks.  We may like the sensation of risk–such as one experiences when bungee jumping or skydiving–but those activities, with their redundant safety measures, are probably safer than crossing the street, and do not prepare us to manage risk in our lives.

While many of us may have set up lemonade stands when we were kids, I can’t remember taking a course in high school or college about the basic principles of business.  (There were courses in economics, which is not the same thing.)  And I wonder how our young people, who live in constant communication with each other with their cell phones and their computers, will adapt to the process of going into business for one’s self, which is intensly personal and involves, to a surprising extent, being able to keep secrets.

But that is what lies before us under the Republicans.   And in that direction, to take the zeroth-degree approximation, lies armed revolution: we will learn to be violent before we learn to be businessmen. Actually, we already know how to be violent, so it won’t be a big leap.

And that is why, despite my misgivings about Barack Obama, I will pull the lever for him tomorrow.

‘Maverick’ and ‘Reformer’?

We’re told the John McCain, the Republican candidate for President, is a ‘maverick’ who won’t necessarily follow the traditional Republican orthodoxy, and a ‘reformer’ who will stop corruption. After eight years of Our Fearless Leader, it sounds like a refreshing change. But is it?

McCain was long known as a hell-raiser who wanted his own way. In the Naval Academy, he graduated near the bottom of his class, not so much for poor grades, but for accruing large numbers of demerits for breaking the rules. Nobody has said this, but I will: could it be that the flippant and careless attitude that he had towards the Academy rules carried forward to his active duty, and was part of the reason he was captured by the enemy?

In 2000, McCain ran a moderate Republican candidate, and was derailed in one of the early primaries, in South Carolina, by an aggressive smear campaign. In early 2001, he even contemplated leaving the Republican party. But since then, he has followed the Republican line very closely. Today, despite the ‘maverick’ persona, he is a clone of Our Fearless Leader in terms of his actual decisions.

Through 2007 and early 2008, his candidacy for President seemed moribund, but then it was suddenly resuscitated. Perhaps the Republican leadership realized that there would be a backlash in their base against voting for a Mormon (Romney), and that they would have difficulty getting swing voters to go for a former preacher (Huckabee). McCain still had the glow of being a contrarian, even though he wasn’t any more, and he’s old, and could be expected to delegate much of the work of being President to his subordinates.

As far has his actual tendencies as a reformer, he is against ‘pork-barrel’ politics, where politicians get money voted for their favorite projects. It’s the closest that one can come to legally sticking one’s hand in the cookie jar of public money, and it’s odious.

Until you consider the alternative. In the wake of the initial destruction of the Iraq war, we spent billions of dollars to rebuild the place. As a practical matter, we had the moral responsibility to do that after busting the place up. Since there is no Congressional district that covers Iraq, this was not an instance of pork. No one stood up in Congress and said that Baghdad needed a new generator for its airport.

Instead, the money was dished out through an army of bureaucrats, without clear guidelines. Large firms with political ties snared the biggest contracts. Phantom contractors appeared to take the money and run. (I missed my calling: why do I have to work hard to function as a real contractor in New York City, when I could have easily been a fake one in Iraq?) Much of the work was poorly constructed, and over half the money was effectively pissed away, with nothing to show for it.

And this is better than pork-barrel spending…how?

Off the Fence for Obama

Like everyone else with half a brain in this country, I’ve been looking at the Presidential candidates and trying to decide whom I should vote for in November.

I’ve started with the premise, among others, that Iraq is off the table as an issue.  There is an agreement in place with the Iraqi government on how we will withdraw our forces over time, and while the initial decision to go to Iraq was a spectacularly bad judgement, neither of the present candidates was specifically responsible for it.

The Democrats are running Barack Obama, a wonderful orator with big plans for how the government will help us.  He grants that these plans will cost money, and proposes to pay for them by eliminating tax loopholes for businesses, and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire.  His approach to foreign policy emphasizes the use of diplomacy over military force.

The Republicans are running John McCain, a former Navy pilot and prisoner of war who has the vibe of being a ‘maverick.’  On the other hand, his actual votes in the Senate track very closely the Bush administration’s desires.  He wants to keep the tax cuts and considers the world a dangerous place, where the use of force is a real consideration.

Part of me really wants to vote for McCain.  I believe that he has better judgement than Bush, I don’t like taxes (who does?), and I’m genuinely skeptical of big government plans to help people, because I’ve seen them backfire.

On the other hand, a government, like a household or a company, has to take in enough money to maintain itself and do the things it does.  And maintaining a strong military and being prepared to use it aren’t cheap.  Moreover, I don’t buy into the thought that lowering tax rates will stimulate economic activity to the point where the government will take in more money than if it had left taxes alone: if taxes were oppressively high, as they were a generation ago, it might be true, but not now.

In the second quarter of 2008, the US economy grew by 2.1%, so that we can officially say that we’re not in a recession, but shed over 500,000 jobs. Who wins and who loses when that happens?

And what good does it do to make ourselves safe from terrorists if most of us end up worse off in terms of our daily standard of living, in a country that is becoming no longer the land of opportunity?

McCain will do nothing to stop this.  Obama will at least try.

For this reason, despite my misgivings, I’ve decided to vote for Barack Obama in the next election.

But God help us, either way….