Friday, October 31, 2008

Vote for Social Action: Both Campaigns Advocate

This will likely be my last blog post before the 2008 presidential election and I hope it is either thought provoking if you are not likely to agree with me, or affirming if you do. In any case I would like to lay down a few reasons to (re)consider voting for John McCain. Here is my premise: You don’t have to vote for a particular political party to target dealing with issues of Social Justice this election year.

Whether you are a Christian like me or not we likely share a few values. From the economy, to war crimes, to poverty, to health care, to climate change, to energy, there is a lot to think about when attempting to balance the value of all of these relevant concerns. We know the world has many chaotic issues that are swirling around us and we want to be actively involved in the solution, as well as empower leaders who are poised to make a big difference.

Currently the spin I am hearing is that one campaign or the other has cornered the market on dealing with these issues. Both sides are accusing each other of being stagnantly well-entrenched in the old politics of their parties and if you want action on Social Justice issues then you have to either vote for them OR just stagnate in old timey red or blue politics of old. Having reviewed the cases on both sides, there is undeniably a measure of truth coming from both campaigns when it comes to being well entrenched in traditional party politics, but what is not so obvious is that Social Justices issues do in fact exist on both sides of this election year. If you are being told otherwise, then you are speaking to someone who is in fact entrenched in their political party. I have definitely watched regular everyday people promote this propaganda… on both sides of this 2008 election.

If you look at both campaigns, even quickly, they both want to address the major social concerns of our day. It is not a matter of IF one party or the other is tackling the issues you care about but rather HOW they propose the issue be tackled. Rest assured that both campaigns are covering the majority of the population’s issues. The question is not IF, it is HOW.

I really don’t want to break down each Social Justice issue, but here are a set of links to their platforms on many issues of Social Justice and Social Responsibility (they aren’t one-to-one since the platforms aren't exactly the same nor do they use the same terms.) The point here is to either take your time reading through this stuff, or take a cursory look. They do both handle issues, and the question is not IF but HOW:


The Democrat candidate: (If you are a Republican, shut up, sit down and follow the links... you should be educated on the Democrat platform)

Energy, Climate Change: http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newenergy

Healthcare: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/

Early Education, Education Policies, Higher Education: http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/education/

Vision for the Court System, Human Dignity and Life: http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/civil_rights/

Immigration: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/immigration/

Government reform: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ethics/



The Republican candidate: (If you are a Democrat, shut up, sit down and follow the links... you should be educated on the Republican platform)

Energy: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/17671aa4-2fe8-4008-859f-0ef1468e96f4.htm

Healthcare: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/19ba2f1c-c03f-4ac2-8cd5-5cf2edb527cf.htm

Early Education: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/read.aspx?guid=3883232c-bdeb-44e5-9387-22d1316e75ed

Education Policies: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/News/PressReleases/read.aspx?guid=2ca6f926-4564-4301-87cd-a5f35e68c0d4

Higher Education: http://www.johnmccain.com/informing/news/PressReleases/ed12978d-a54f-471e-aeed-65c65bcba6da.htm

Climate Change: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/da151a1c-733a-4dc1-9cd3-f9ca5caba1de.htm

Human Dignity and Life: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/95b18512-d5b6-456e-90a2-12028d71df58.htm

Community Safety: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/f26da5d0-8043-402d-ab84-769cf88a1a99.htm

Vision for the Court System; http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/News/PressReleases/read.aspx?guid=0bb29444-cdd1-4a60-81de-3263e9fb067e

Government Reform; http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/cb15a056-ac87-485d-a64d-82989bdc948c.htm

Immigration: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/68db8157-d301-4e22-baf7-a70dd8416efa.htm


A HUGE PROPAGANDA EXAMPLE:

The most intense example right now is a would-be mother’s relationship to abortion. Both sides care about this issue, but want to tackle it in completely different ways. The propaganda from both sides is “The issue is mostly political and the government can’t solve or fix it by changing the laws” and “We have to undo Roe vs Wade which will solve our abortion woes with a silverbullet.”

Platform Facts:

If you are for the rights of the mother as a priority, the Democrat Candidate will advocate for that by immediately passing the Freedom of Choice Act which will be more than adequate in fighting “choice limiting legislationremoving the ban on Partial Birth Abortion, undoing laws at the state level like in North Dakota this year where doctors offering abortions were required to explain the statistical chances of psychological side affects on would-be mothers as well as having to explain the abortion procedure as it affects the baby being aborted, which resulted in South Dakota seeing significant reductions in abortion, including a single day without one (since the Roe v Wade decision 35 years ago.) The net affect of laws like the Freedom of Choice Act will be uninhibited access toward making choices like Abortion at more stages in a pregnancy that we have seen in nearly a decade. As well additional funding will be provided to groups that advocate for the rights of choice to the would-be mother. These are big investments toward the Democrat Candidates HOW in this Social Justice issue.

If you are supporting the Republican Candidate then you are interested in undoing Roe vs Wade in the hope that a more reasonable rule of law be implemented that reduces the current trend of 40,000,000 U.S. abortions since 1973. You would be voting to federally support continued action at the state level by having a candidate that will not legislate against it. You would be joining that candidate to promote supporting the would-be mother through the birth experience so that the child could be made a blessing to adoptive parents that are currently enduring endless waits for adoption or have to go to foreign adoption agencies to pull that off. You would be joining the Republican candidate who refuses to arrest would-be mothers for taking part in an abortion if it still happens under these news laws, but at the same time prosecuting doctors who are willing to break the law.

No matter which side of the issue you find your values, both candidates agree that this election will determine the continued impact of Roe vs Wade upon the nation by promoting at least two Supreme Court candidates that will either uphold the rights of the mother or the rights of the child in priority for the foreseeable future in the U.S. Both candidates also believe in legislating their values on this intense topic and intend to do so.

I have heard a number of people say that nothing has changed on this issue since Roe vs Wade in 1973. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Democrat President in the 1990s implemented legislation to legalize Partial Birth Abortion advocating for the rights of the would-be mother. The current Republican President appointed two Supreme Court justices that have consistently promoted the Civil Rights of the unborn, and as well we have seen federal legislation to remove the legalization of Partial Birth Abortion as well as state level freedom to take action on behalf of the rights of the child. Under that Democrat President of the 1990s, abortions continued at a rate of 4,000 per day in the U.S. Under the current Republican President, that number is around 3,000 per day.

Legislation and court action does work and is a part of the agenda of both campaigns. If someone tells you either that it is not effective or that it is the definitive silver bullet, again, they are simply entrenched for the purpose of motivating you one way or the other.

Take a moment and think about a young Republican preacher by the name of Martin Luther King, jr who framed his argument for Civil Rights on both the Bible (values-based decision) and his understand of the Bill of Rights (which contains Judeo-Christian references.) He was fighting hard for social change, legislation, court judgments and enforcement, just as these two presidential candidates are, for the right to legislate and motivate the courts to advocate for this particular issue of Social Justice.

I have heard people say that it would be a hard road and that changing the laws doesn’t change people. The implication is that we would either pursue a failed legal approach OR pursue a strictly social form of changing hearts on a person-by-person basis. This is a false “OR” where they should be an “AND” really. Martin Luther King, historically, did both unashamedly desiring people to legislate that morality as a matter of Civil Rights and nobody would likely go back and convince him that because the road is going to be hard and because changing the laws do not change people’s heart, we shouldn’t pursue this in any legal or legislative sense. These perspective is fully entrenched and revisionist and doesn’t agree with either political candidate in the current election or our American history.

There are so many topics in their platforms and this is not meant to be comprehensive in nature. I have limited this post to simply outline the more pressing issues of Social Justice.

For me the decision started by reading biographies and books (the first book I read was John McCain’s book back in September of 2007), then examining their platforms, and then checking out their voting record. I encourage you to do the same. Do not fall prey to the idea that only one of these candidates will address your concerns for Social Justice. The fact is that both want to do more to help issues of Social Justice than you could likely participate in over the next four years. So, if you care, then get involved. But pick the candidate based on HOW they will help and not based on the false premise of IF they will help. They likely want to help!

Personal note: I will be voting for John McCain. When it comes to issues like climate control or energy, he has more of a track record that Barack Obama. Barack has a lot to say and I don’t disagree with all of it. He just doesn’t have any experience to back it up. John McCain actually has a voting record and a plan. Obama often has a record that contradicts his announced position (on faith and life, as one example.) People are quick to refer to the fact that John McCain voted in favor of an Energy plan under Bush that lowered taxes on Oil Companies. Barack called that “giving” Oil Companies money (rather than the more appropriate explanation that He wasn’t giving them anything other than the Federal Government not taking it from them.) More importantly, Barack Obama voted exactly the same way on the same bill, “giving” Oil Companies the same tax breaks. So, press through the propaganda and read about their records and their platforms. McCain has non-tax-credit incentive programs to create Oil alternative competition and move the country toward independence predominantly through those alternatives. Both candidates support finding more oil at home as a short term solutions. But Barack Obama says he wants to break our dependence on Oil but at the same time BANKS on it. He says he will (1) tax Oil companies more, and (2) give money to average Americans to subsidize their fuel prices. The problem with this is that he is not advancing the cause. Rather he is BANKING on your continued addiction and the profitable Oil Companies. It is like Barack is saying “We need to break our dependence on drugs” but then taxing the profitability of drug dealers while specifically making funds available to you so you can go buy drugs cheaper. This is exploitative and not helpful. It is a Federal Fundraiser and not a fight against oil addiction. It brings into question the integrity of what he says he really wants to do. Many of his plans when dealing with environmental or energy related worst-practices are taxed as a solution by Obama and that is no solution to the problem at all.

I personally recommend and endorse John McCain for President.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nike is Going Green!


I just finished reading an article in Communication Arts on the efforts that the Nike brand is making in “going Green.” Beyond the traditional “greenwashing” (the author explains what that means) of the brand to market itself as a green company, Nike is taking a look at and investing in new green materials and resource companions to take it's various lines of products into the realm of corporate responsibility through sustainable approaches toward resource usage and consumption. It sounds like a good thing and I am sure it will be.

This got me thinking about marketing (my bachelor's degree in college was in business-M.I.S. and I was only two classes short for a minor in marketing and my brain never lets me live that down... why didn't I just finish that degree minor?) Right now companies use “green” as a differentiator, but this effort by Nike seems different to me, rather than just an adoption of a new differentiator. The more extensive review of sustainable-conscious decisions marks the very early beginning of the end of green as a differentiator by making less of a greenwash and more of an effort to actually just, well, be-green.

As a consumer we might want to be aware of the difference between green as a differentiator (i.e. the greenwash) and going-green as a matter of adopting a sustainable ideology. Right now, for example, I am becoming a big fan of Mac computers (i have spent 20+ years with PCs and my recent Macbook Pro purchase marks the purchase of my most solid computer to date!) The Mac packaging talks about having green values, but Apple as a company has one of the lowest ratings for actual green-production of their equipment. In contrast to Nike going-green, Apple is an example, at the moment, of greenwashing. Hopefully that will change.

As we go forward, hopefully more companies will actually go green rather than just greenwash their products. As smart consumers, if we are to go-green then we should want to understand the difference. Until going-green is the new standard and we simply have to watch out for the exceptions, the responsibility rest with us to get this right.

Which brings me to my final point. Political campaigns, especially here in 2008, are making “green” a talking point. But you have to watch out for greenwashing there as well. Let me show a few examples.

The U.N. since the late 1990 has setup an initiative to promote what they are calling the “Millennium Development Goals” or “the Millennium Project” for short. The idea here is that across a broad spectrum of issues the U.N. wants to standardize some values across the planet, all by 2015. One of those goals has to do with the environment.

Under the Millennium Project entire countries would be awarded limits with regard to Carbon emissions. If you are deemed in breach of your carbon emission limits then you have to purchase Carbon emissions offsets from a country that has not breached their limits. This “trading” would happen through the U.N. Equally as important, a country can reduce their Carbon emissions within their borders by buying offset credits by investing in “green” companies (typically, these are companies that are researching alternative power or are currently generating alternative power.)

So the natural question is, “How does this plan actually help us go-green?” A simple example helps us see how this works in the real world.

After the extreme popularity of the movie “An Inconvenient Truth”, it was discovered that the film creator Al Gore's personal home in Tennessee consumed as much power within three months as did the average American's home in one year. In other words, for being so concerned with the worlds need to go-green, his personal lifestyle wasn't by a household factor of 4 to 1 as compared to current average Americans. Now, as an American that has to make you feel pretty good, right? Al Gore blows the whistle on the need to go green and you find out that without even trying you are four times more green than Al Gore himself! To be fair Mr. Gore explained that he was investing in offsets by paying into green energy companies. So while he continued to consume four times the energy of everyday mainstreet folks, his offset investment brought him back down to average. Well, good for him. After all that whistle blowing we Americans are still the “green” standard.

Please, tell me you don't buy that? For one, everyday I can see opportunities to get even more green and while some of them I could do right now, a big one will be when we do away with our very consumer-driven disposable lifestyles. Breaking our dependence on bad non-green habits and lifestyles will truly mark the moment we all really go-green. You might be asking yourself, “How does this example explain the difference between going-green and a greenwash on the political scene?”

Buying carbon offsets just simply equals buying the right to not go-green. It is nearly by definition a greenwash. What is worse is that as a nation, to buy into the U.N. Millennium Project goals we have to pay off entire countries in the form of “offsets” to bare the weight of us not going-green. What would that really mean? What would become of that money? How will giving them money really equal an environmental offset of harm?

I am all for going green, but I am starting to think that this is a greenwash on a new U.N. world tax that simply “spreads the wealth around” on a global level. The U.N. as a political entity seems to be greenwashing their agenda.

In terms of U.S. politics we see the same thing going on with regard to oil dependancy. Since oil production and consumption is also green issues we are hearing a lot about “breaking the American addiction to oil.” Universally our Presidential candidates are talking about drilling for more oil, so no points for breaking dependance there. John McCain talks about Nuclear power, and reluctantly Obama talks about at best a willingness to pursue nuclear, so points to John McCain and the jury is still out on Obama because of the reluctance. John McCain has alos outlined a plan for America to lead the world in nuclear waste storage and management, which might actually mean we would train the world on how to deal with nuclear waste, so points to John McCain on that initiative. Obama doesn't even mention this other than to say that he won't think about nuclear unless we can store the waste safely (meaning he hasn't really gained an understanding in this area) so no points there either. Both candidates are fine with clear coal technology, so points there, even though the message from Obama has gotten washed out by the confusion brought to light by Democrat Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden, so those clear carbon points should relaly be pending as well. Obama gets some points for investing in green vehicles, as does John McCain. John McCain also is proposing a automobile power storage initiative award for companies that would race to build incredibly practical long distance zero emissions cars. Big points to John McCain on that one. Obama wants to give money to people to offset higher gas prices likely generated by raising corporate taxes AND implementing windfall profits taxes on Oil companies. This should be negative points, since he is going to raise the consumer fuel prices due to dual tax increases from multiple fronts, and then simply give the consumer more money specifically to offset the rising fuel costs. This is like battling drug addiction, by taxing drug dealers and then giving people more money to make those same drugs cheaper. Clearly, this plan makes no sense. John McCain claims that this would be similar to what Jimmy carter did during his administration, which had little to no benefit for the country. Obama wants to implement low carbon use standards nationally. This means what exactly? We don't know yet. It might just mean that he, like the U.N., will implement our own little internal Carbon tax. What is not clear is if we as citizens will also have to start paying carbon taxes. Again negative points for Carbon taxes, since they don't reduce the problem but rather make bank on the nature of the problem. Both Obama and McCain talk about increasing fuel efficiency of vehicles, so points to both on that since it means more green. Obama talks about prioritizing the Alaska naural Gas Pipeline. This one actually goes to Sarah Palin, even though Obama wants to claim it. Points to Sarah. John McCain also proposes tax reduction to Americans who buy zero emissions cars. Points to John McCain. John McCain talks about endorsing Flex Fuel Vehicles (something that has been successful in Brazil) that can run on E85 fuel with no loss in performance, so more points to John McCain. John McCain wants to see cellulosic alcohol fuels become an alternative to oil and eventually E85 (cellulosic fuel doesn't compete in corn crop generation as a food source) so points, again, to Mr. McCain. John McCain wants to re-examine tarrifs so that other fuel aternatives beyond just ethanol fuel alternatives can create oil competition, making room for more green alternatives. Points again for John McCain. Both candidates have green jobs initiative plans to bolster the “green economy”, so points to both.

In the end, the U.N. carbon tax plan is a greenwash fundamentally. Obama seems to implement these greenwash taxing ideas as the majority of his plan to deal with non-green behavior. Worse yet he is going to increase the demand by helping finance non-green consumption at the same time, proving that the plan is simply a Federal fundraiser as opposed to a real plan to go-green. There are a number of items that both Obama and McCain agree about, like having initiatives for more fuel efficient vehicles, but McCains plan goes further to address automotive fuel alternatives that are more green or even zero emission approaches. McCain also has practical detailed plans for pursuing nuclear and leading the world in nuclear waste management.

My conclusion is that there is some greenwashing in both campaigns, but it seems to me that there is more of a plan to go-green under John McCain than under Barack Obama. Said another way, McCain is investing in rewarding going-green while Obama is focused on punishing non-green behavior without much of a real plan for going green, which again, seems more like a Federal fundraiser than a plan to go-green.

Getting Your Life on (sound)Track

Three music styles I really enjoy but that I still consider very niche:

First, Celtic music: While this is getting more popular through movies, the closest semblance to Celtic music in mainstream would be The Pogues or maybe The Chieftains. The richer, crazier rythms of traditional celtic / irish music are far more challenging, but once you “get” that sound, it is hard to shake.

Second, World Music: Sometimes the ethereal tones mixed with traditional instrumentation can really sooth the mind. Some world music can get all caught up in goofy lyrics and themes, but then again show me some music that doesn't I suppose. In any case, I like the sound when we are talking about Baaba Maal and the Album Nomad Soul. When I am listening to it, I feel like I'm sitting down with the world community.

Finally, classic remix mashups: Take for example, The Verve Remix compilations where they took classic jazz music and remixed those albums to create incredible old-jazz sounds with modern rythms. All of the jazz flavor with twice the funk punch!

If you've been following along, clicking the links or searching your favorite internet music search tool, then you are likely understanding my passion for rich rhythms and jazz progressions. I think that is why I like funk so much. It is this perfect mix between classical musical art and adventurous rhythms that captivate me.

Well, all of this to say... I have a new love. In the style of a remix mashup, but using Celtic music and World-style rhythms I have recently bumped into the Afro Celt Sound System which mixes these two seemingly unlikely companions. Having spent a little bit of time in Ireland I can tell you that the Boron drum is very compatible with Afro-world rhythms and it is a very fun ride when tin whistles and bagpipes cry along with accordions and guest vocalists like Sinead O'Connor.

So, to keep this short, if you are looking to add a fun upbeat, happy soundtrack to your life, I highly recommend the Afro Celt Sounds System, and specifically recommend “Volume 2: Release.” You can hear a nice little sample of it on iTunes. iTunes also has a number of previous albums, as well.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

NewParty.org Calls Barack Obama a "member"

OK, so I've read a lot of stuff that reaching many different directions on the whole “Obama is a Socialist” stuff and much of it is just conjecture at best. The problem with a lot of conjecture is that you end up getting overloaded with crapy information and as a result make a similarly opinionated jump,

“Oh, there is so much crap out there, it therefor must not be true, so I won't entertain the thought of it!”

when the reasonable response seems to be,

“So far, everything I have read is crap and based on that information Obama doesn't seem to be a socialist.”

That feels like a reasonable response. Why would i say that? Because unless someone can produce something that seems like legitimate evidence of such a connection, then there is no reason to believe it. Just because he wants to “spread (your) wealth around (through a government mandate)” and that seems fairly socialist in nature, doesn't mean he is himself a socialist. Fair enough. Oddly enough, reading some posts on a few news articles I came across a link to the wayback machine (this was a quick little link buried deep into some posts.) In an effort to ensure the information doesn't mysteriously disappear, I have grabbed a screenshot of the page, which is viewable below. To understand what you are looking at requires a little explanation. Check out the image and read more below to understand what you are looking at.



So this is a very bland looking web page that has a New Party logo at the top. The address for this is...

http://web.archive.org/web/20010306031216/www.newparty.org/up9610.html

Back when I worked for the Experimental Aircraft Association as we were doing various research around our websites we would use the wayback machine to review the progress and changes to various web sites of interest. The reason it looks very simple would have everything to do with the way the wayback machine archives web pages to reduce the overall size of the archive. To keep this simple, the page might have looked slightly more fancy when it was originally published, but in the archive here, we can at least read the content of the page, which is the important part.

Let's break it down. First from what we see here, the wayback machine archived this New Party website page March 6th, 2001, even though it refers to an October 1996 news items on their website. The page is from the website newparty.org which, according to domains.whois.com was purchased some time in 1995. Unfortunately the owner of the site employed a “proxy” registration service which keeps us from knowing who is actually behind the site / owns and manages the site itself. Based on the “page not found” messages as well as the domain registration itself, it appears that the site was and is hosted on the godaddy.com web hosting service. So, enough about the site itself. What does this page tell us really?

Admittedly, one has to make a few assumptions. I want to be upfront about that because we are dealing with a fairly serious topic here that raises serious questions about Democrat Presidential Candidate Barack Obama. It is one thing to ague about agreeing with his political agenda but another thing entirely to raise questions that propose a reasonable doubt about his denial of New Party affiliation.

In an effort to keep this review reasonable I will attempt to keep the assumptions separated from what appears to be the facts. Here are my assumptions:
  1. This article appears to be a press release on the 1996 fall campaign races and an itemized list of New Party (NP) candidates.

  2. This article seems to make a distinction between (1) NP backed candidates, (2) candidates that sought NP nomination and (3) actual NP members.
Let's get on to what appear to be facts that we can draw from this article.
  1. The New Party backs Democrat and Independent candidates. That is fairly vague, but simply validates what we are looking at. The New Party actively promotes something called “fusion” which, with a limited cursory understanding by me, seems to mean that New Party candidates are able to retain their New Party membership while running for office under another ticket. This might not sound too significant at first glance. Imagine if a Republican ran for office and was concurrently promoted as a Rotarian or an Elks Lodge member. The idea here is that they are appealing to Republicans AND specifically to a demographic of people who are affiliated with those clubs. Doesn't seem like a big deal, does it? But being a New Party member isn't the same as belonging to the Elks or the Rotarian. The Elks and Rotarian are not political parties. The New Party is a political party. So the idea with fusion is that you retain your affiliation to the New Party and at the same time can run under a different parties political ticket. The real question is, “Did Obama do this?”

  2. Under the Illinois section of this article, the New party website claims that Barack Obama was one of three New Party members who won Democratic ticket primaries. So, according to the official New Party website, the New Party are claiming that Obama was a member of the political New Party and actively involved in the “fusion” agenda.

  3. The last piece of evidence worth examining is our “control group” meaning the group that creates the contrast between how they classify Obama with regard to other types of New party candidates. Said another way (in the form of a question) , “Does this demonstrate that Obama is actually a member or is he just someone the New Party was backing?” According to fightthesmears.com the New Party did support Barack Obama, but it was unsolicited. But according to the research uncovered by Clintondems.com website Barack sought New Party endorsement, attended and participated in meetings of the Chicago New Party, and signed a contract with the NP promising “a visible and active relationship with the NP. (fightthesmear.com seems to possibly have some propoganda issues, if the assertions and links provided by the clintondems.com are true.)

    So, for fact number 3, take a look at the New York section of the article image included above. Here, rather than referring to the three New York candidates as NP “members”, they are simply referred to as “backed” in their races. At the same time review the Minnesota section, where the Progressive Minnesota candidates are referred to as having “sought (NP) nomination.” So, in summary, there seem to be candidates that “sought NP nomination”, candidates that are “backed” by the NP, and candidates like Barack Obama who were “members.”

fightthesmear.com is correct that Obama has run as a Democrat in his political career, but this is absolutely deceptive reporting because they are ignoring the “fusion” agenda which is still promoted by newparty.org today, and validated by the above image of the article archived at the Wayback Machine. You will also notice at the top of the fightthesmear.com site that the Obama campaign claims that they do not wield politics that smear, but in this politically deceptive article they immediately leave behind any real or reasonable facts and spend two thirds of the article smearing Stanley Kurtz. That is what we like to call “the pot calling the kettle, black.”

In conclusion, either Barack Obama and his 1995 state senator campaign manager Carol Harwell are telling lies or the New Party is misrepresenting it's relationship to Barack Obama in this above article. Between this article and the research done by the clintondems.com site, I believe there is more than a reasonable doubt that Barack Obama had a legitimate, sought after connection with the New Party as a member, enacting “fusion” agenda.

My personal commentary: If history repeats itself, the Obama camp will (1) soon admit to the New Party connection, and even though they have been denying it until now Obama will claim that he was always clear about his willingness to work with them on common goals. Then because of revealing information like this, they will (2) attempt to minimize Obamas involvement. Eventually, like in the case of his pastor, Dr. Wright, and a slew of other shady characters, Obama will have to (3) find a way to distance himself from the New Party by renouncing the connection.

As a reminder, please do not shoot the messenger. I am trying to be fair with my assessment of these revelations here. Don't be mad at me for revealing the affiliations of Obama. If you are upset, direct your queries to the campaign of Barack Obama.

Who The Heck Is Fred Smith?

Give me a moment to tell you a neat American success story. Many people have heard about famous big business like Federal Express (or FedEx.) Whether you are watching movies like “Cast Away” or shipping your valuables across the planet, there is a very good chance that if you are dedicated to the necessity of getting your package to its destination on time, you likely opted to use FedEx to pull that off. Well, for as many that know FedEx, equally as many likely do not know the story of Fred Smith of Tennessee.

Fred was the son of Frederick C. Smith, founder of Dixie Greyhound Bus Lines (this eventually became “greyhound bus lines”... ever heard of it?) and Toddle House, a cool little diner-style restaurant chain with a twist. While some folks might remember Dixie Greyhound Bus Line, it is Toddle House that is even more amazing. Toddle House while looking like the typical breakfast-only 24/7 diner had an honor-based payment system. What does that mean? It means that you order up your food, enjoy the meal and drop your payment in a box on the way out of the restaurant. Here is a business man that had a mission to transport and feed average Americans and that invested in trusting them and believing in the integrity of the American public! So cool.

Fred Smith's father, Frederick C. Smith died when Fred was only four years old and Fred was raised by his mother and his uncles. As a teenager Fred became a licensed private pilot and eventually earned his way into Yale University where he became friends with future politician John Kerry who shared his affinity for flying at the same time becoming friends with George W. Bush. having a diverse group of friends might have something to do with the fact that Fred also had an affinity for baking and eating pies.

After graduating from college with a bachelor's degree in economics and rather than immediately follow in his father's footsteps and going into business, he decided to serve his country as a U.S. Marine for four years from 1966 to 1969. As U.S. Marine he served two tours of duty in Vietnam, flying with pilots on over 200 combat missions. He left the Marines honorably with the rank of Captain, having been award with the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

By 1970 Fred Smith decided to go into business for himself. At first he ventured out, turning a love for flying into purchasing a business that did aircraft maintenance. Don't be confused here. When I say aircraft maintenance don't think I am talking about Boeing or United Airlines. I am talking about a business that employes mechanics that repair aircraft engines. If Joe the Plumber is talking about purchasing a business that employs plumbers, then Fred should be considered Fred the Airplane Mechanic, and he went ahead and bought the business. Then a big turn happened in his life that changed all of ours. Fred was left an inheritance. A $4 million inheritance. Rather than turning around and buying a huge home, or a moving to hollywood, Fred followed in his father's footsteps again and invested in his business, taking it to the next level. By 1971 FedEx was born and Fred invested his $4 million, and raised between $80 - 90 million in venture capital to launch the business with a solid plan. It looks like his love of flying coupled with his bachelors degree in economics played into helping him create a business that now operates in 220 countries employing tens of thousands of Americans.

Fred Smith believes in America and invests in Democracy. Since 1990 FedEx has made over $21 million in political campaign contributions to both Democrats (45% of donations) and Republicans (55%.)

In the case of the 2008 Presidential Election, Fred Smith, a great American hero in times of war and in business by creating jobs in America, decided to back another great American war hero and servant in Washington, D.C. with a rich 30 year history of inspiring change and responsibility, John McCain. You see, Fred knows that McCain will work to preserve the rights of Americans like Fred so that they can inherit money without the threat of the Government taking that inheritance for the purpose of spreading the wealth around. Obama intends to implement an inheritance tax to spread your wealth around. Fred also knows that McCain understands the value and reality that business owners invest in their businesses which means investing in people. In a conversation with economic analyst and Wall Street Journal writer Stephen Moore, Fred Smith said that Obamas plan to increase corporate taxes in America would kill FedExs ability to add more employees to the 30,000 Americans he already employs.

Fred gets it and wants Americans to know that McCain will not use the federal government's power to redistribute wealth, he wants to make the Capital Gains Tax elimination a permanent fixture of America, and reduce taxation on inheritance. Fred Smith supports John McCain's desire to reinvest in America by allowing businesses and businesses owners the freedom of keeping their hard earned money so they can create more employment opportunities.

Read here about how Obama's Capital Gains Tax will negatively affect the Gross National Product for America and as a result hurt the U.S. Dollar at home and abroad:

http://www.nysun.com/business/obama-capital-gains-tax-hike-would-hit-new-york/81902/

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Strawpoll: Presidential Lawn Signs

There are signs everywhere we look!

There is no doubt that the counting the lawn signs placed throughout a community does not necessarily positively correlate to the number of votes the candidate will receive in that community, scientifically or statistically speaking. But it is a fun exercise to make a few guesses about the amount of political interest and motivation that a community has around an individual candidate.

Now, New Jersey hasn't voted for a Republican President in 20 years and phone call polling just recently showed Obama in the lead according to Rasmussen but that doesn't mean that voting is not turning around. I have been the recipient of phone call polls in New Jersey and have noticed that the national polling numbers are a-changin' with regard to Obama and McCain. To be fair, Obama still leads, but according to the Associated Press, Obama only leads the national poll by 1 point. Many news groups are reporting that McCain is hitting the campaign trail hard and striking a nerve with the population on the topics of fiscally viable economic plans, increased taxation and problems with the concept of "spreading the wealth" around artificially using "socialist" techniques. So much for Obama thinking that McCain is out of touch.

Over the months I have noticed the presidential signage out on home and apartment lawns promoting one candidate over another. Not too long ago the lawn signs were quite significantly numbering in favor of Obama. But in just the last few weeks that seems to have changed. Today, on the drive to work I decided to count lawn signs. Now, in an effort of full disclosure, I didn't count my own community. The heart of Frenchtown sits in a valley and is statistically quite Republican (surprisingly... I know? I looked it up.) After I drove out of the valley next to the Delaware River, I started counting signs. What I found out really surprised me.

From highway 527 to 31 on into Hopewell where I work the score was 21 to 17... IN FAVOR OF MCCAIN! I couldn't believe it. This included a safe bit of rubber necking to catch all of the signs visually viewable from a car driving at a reasonable speed. I didn't take any special routes. I stayed on the major roads that so many people drive everyday and I pass through about four communities. Hopewell is by far visually more in favor of Obama based on this count, whereas all of the other communities along the way are visually in favor of McCain.

I have no idea what this means, but at the minimum I can say that it keeps me smiling on the way to and from work every day. In addition, it keeps me looking at the polls and reading and watching the news, which is what I believe those signs are intended to do. Good jobs, signs! You pulled it off!

As for the above picture, it was taken at a duplex in Princeton. Just out of view is a smaller handwritten sign promoting the idea of political co-existance. I think that is a great sign too!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Why in the World Would We Elect A 2-Year Junior Governor as Vice President?


Ask Teddy Roosevelt!

He was an outdoorsman, and a governor for 2 years before being invited to run with William McKinley.

A few fast facts about Teddy:
  • He served as governor for only two years before becoming Vice President of the United States of America.
  • He was only Vice President for one year before becoming President of the United States.
  • He was 43 years old which is one year younger than Gov. Sarah Palin.
In reality, Sarah Palin isn't as conservative as was Teddy R. but I think contrasting her with Joe Biden and his career, including gaffs and exaggerated and ill informed opinions, she is a wiser alternative. The truth, to this day, is that I honestly believe Biden would be backing McCain had he not gotten a "better (opportunity)."

It actually seems like Sarah has more experience, AND during that experience she proved that she is (1) a reformer, (2) keeps her word and (3) is absolutely willing to work and appoint individuals not in her party.

Read more here: http://chatterboxchronicles.blogspot.com/2008/09/sarah-palin-vs-teddy-roosevelt.html

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cigarette Tax Cost Trickledown

Hey, I love to eat. I will admit it. I have also been known to smoke a cigar from time to time. it's been a while, but I would be a hypocrite if this was a blog entry on the evils of cigarettes. It is not about that. I won't often be found buying a pack of smokes, but there is a good change you might find me with a pack of skittles rolled up under my sleeves and neither is very good for you. I want to say that, because I don't want to be acused of being irrationally judgemental about smoking, well, any more than I am about my own overeating. But I digress.

In this election there is plent of talk about the people sitting in the 95% of the population being cool with the highest boosting of taxes for the remaining 5% of the population. There is also quite a bit of speculation about how this will affect small businesses. I know a number of small buisness that are not going to bring in $250,000 of income in 2009 or likely soon after that. Most of those business are owned by an individual and don't employ other individuals on a fulltime basis. But what of the ones that do have multiple employees and increased costs of opperation due to having to manage that small business with a reasonable amount of community foot traffic? Well, they get hit and you also likely know a few folks who fit into this category. In New Jersey I frequent a few dinners that will fall into that category.

So what will happen if those taxes go up? We can look at the taxation on cigarettes as a historical example of that. Cigarettes are both state and federally taxed. They are taxed at the company level and at the consumer level. Why? Because we are addicted to the product and that yeilds a steady income for state and federal budgets. I am only partly kidding. There are a number of reasons, of which one factor is the stability of consumption on that market. Currently, automobile gas falls into this same category for many of the same reasons. There is a federal gas tax just like there is a federal cigarette tax.

So as cigarettes have increased in taxes those taxes are passed along to the consumer as an increased price. Take a look below at the price to tax ratio on cigarettes in high-income countries as outlined by the Disease Control Priorities Project.


This is 2:3 ratio meaning that for every $3 you spend on a pack of cigarettes, $2 tax dollars are added to the register-price for the consumer (for an average $5 pack.) In a sense, if you are smoker then the government is feeding and banking on the potential of your addiction. On the topic of oil, Obama is proposing a similar "windfall profits" measure on oil companies that make money based on our American addiction to oil in his words to address our "addiction to oil." The idea here is exactly the same. As profits go up for oil companies the Obama government would crank up taxes on those profits (this would obviously trickle down to consumers, just the same way the Fed taxes consumer cigarette purchases.) As a result he will give $1000 annual to couples and $500 to singles in a reverse-tax check to offset fuel prices. He is also proposing that the Federal government not undo the current gas tax on consumers. In this one example it will increase fuel costs, while attempting to keep us buying fuel by offsetting their cost through a reverse tax, while all along continuing to directly Federally tax you at the pump.

Now... imagine this economic cost trickledown rolling out through the entire economy for every significant business that employees people across the U.S? Companies will do what the Federal government is doing and increase the cost at the register, sharing that tax burden. From oil to a breakfast out with friends, increased taxes affect us on mainstreet. Like McCain said in the third Presidential debate, this is definitely not the time to be talking about raising taxes.

To simplify the idea here: The Federal government adds taxes to the at-the-register cost of cigarettes for the consumer. Business would likely follow-suite, doing the same thing the Federal government does to offset this huge increase in taxes (huge increased for both privately owned successful small busines as well as corporate taxes for large business that make everyday stuff like toiletpaper or socks or package milk.) Remember that "windfall profits" taxes and evil oil companies are the posterchild for the fight against corporate greed, but know that many regular consumer goods producing companies and company owners across America will see their personal and corporate taxes go up in Obamas plan as well.

McCain wants to repeal the gas tax. He wants to invest in pursuing and rewarding alternative fuel research rather than benefiting from our oil addiction. He doesn't want to grow the government and give out more money only at the expense of increased consumer costs for goods. This is one example of what McCain refers to as "risk" associated with Obama's plans.

Biden's Ignorance Exposed

That is a dramatic title to suck you in. Now that you are reading, please review the following news article about the fact checking the Vice Presidential debate.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,433314,00.html
Isn't it odd that Palin gets deemed completely unqualified by the news to be a Vice President and Biden gets a golden pass, but Biden has less of an actual understanding of that role, confuses historical facts and makes up and exaggerates other facts. People mess up facts all of the time, but he shouldn't get a pass if the press is going to BBQ Palin for also making mistakes. Where is the reasonable justice in that?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Christians Navigating Roe vs Wade In A Day of Uncertainty

Right now in the U.S. Presidential election of 2008 the American public are discussing the topic of Abortion. It seems that nearly everyone is frustrated with this topic for a number of reasons. Whether you feel that the issue is being exploited for political gain or you feel that it is the only issue a Christian can see clearly on in this tumultuous race, many folks are fighting a battleground of the mind to figure out have to come to some comfortable balance within themselves.

I read a comment on a blog recently that brought some very well thought out ideas on the issue of abortion during this current debate. As an admitted Christian the issue of abortion was definitely on the mind of the commenter. At the same time, the individual expressed heartfelt concern with the issues of ministry to the poor and justice against issue like corporate greed. For that writer, it wasn't that they were toiling over supporting abortion (which is complicated enough when you start to think about abortion in it's variations: partial birth, morning after, medical life-saving birth abortion, case of incest and rape, abortion as birth control, etc.) as much as the fact that they were skeptical that it would really be changed under either candidate and whether or not they could see a greater opportunity to make advanced in ministry to the poor and justice with regard to corporate and personal greed. Said another way, nobody could misunderstand their desire to advocate for their spiritual values, rather it was a debate as to which values were going to be the priority in this election.

Honestly, I personally support this writers personal dilemma and I don't want to undervalue it. At the same time I understand how someone could think that maybe this issue is simply being exploited for political gain. To be fair, on either side the candidates are adamantly in support of the opposite end of the issue when it comes to their voting records, speeches and published goals. So it isn't too difficult to build a reasonable case that would demonstrate that both McCain and Obama are pandering to either side for their respective votes. So how do you navigate these waters? If you thought I was going to arrogantly tell you how, then either way you would be making an over investment in my ego. At best I feel like I can put myself out there and explain the road I am walking down.

In this world of information overload no issue seems simple anymore. No matter how many polls you are reading, or scientific journals you are pouring over, or Bible verses you have amassed, it seems that no information is enough information so much that we can feel certain about anything anymore. This feeling is exaggerated by watching old T.V. preachers over-simplify issues. The result of this is a reasonable sentiment against simply adhering to the announced agenda of the “Christian Right,” even if the “Christian Right” is actually as elusive as the “Them” or “The Man.” As a Christians I find myself often being accused of but not always falling into the position of the elusive “Christian Right.” But this is a stereotype like any other, even if there is a measure of truth to it.

As a result of a crippling exhaustion to consider all of the complication of any real world issue, in the end people say stuff like “clarity is overrated.” In the Christian world a gentleman by the name of Brian McLaren stated this notion the most clearly in one of his books. What he said specifically is that clarity is difficult hence overrated, and at the same time we are completely underrating the mystery that is Christianity. McLaren is not a fan of propositional theology, meaning he doesn't support the idea that we can look at the Bible and infer some values. In his writing, this is cause of the clarity obsession. I agree with McLaren and believe that there is a beautiful mystery in the Christian faith. This mystery is how Jesus could make such an amazing decision to trade his earthly life for ours as an ultimate gift of personal sacrifice. I think many Christians feel the same way and want to focus on this as by far the major Christian issue. Having said that, here is where the issue of underrating clarity kind of breaks down. In the book following McLaren previous books where he endorsed underrating clarity he said, “In one of my previous books, is said that clarity is sometimes overrated and that intrigue is correspondingly undervalued. But here I want to say – clearly ...” and McLaren went on to craft a statement using modern systematic theological techniques. I think McLaren nailed the point. Let's unpack it a bit. In some cases we struggle to gain a clear view of how to feel about an issue that is absent from the Bible. I think there are plenty of issues that do exist that fall into that category and the fact that some Christian folks get crazy pulling scriptures out of context to craft goofy support for some hard-edged religious dogma has resulted in many jaded Christians. But surely, like McLaren is showing here, clarity or truth or rightness isn't wrong and we shouldn't be afraid of stating it or believing it in cases where it is more clearly outlined in the Bible. David in the Old Testament talked about loving God's law and went on to say in the Psalms that there is blessing intended by God for us in knowing it and following it. Jesus talked about the law being made for us, not so that we can mistreat or ignore it, but so that we can learn from it and be blessed by it. Said another way, the word of God is “for us” and is made to bring blessing into our lives in a very New Testament context and we should avoid bending it by either disregarding it because “clarity is overrated” or abusing it through proof-texting by cherry-picking a number of scriptures out of context to create some convoluted or overstated view.

So I am thinking about this stuff. And I want to know what or if the Bible says anything about the issues the blog commenter above wrote about. Not as a matter of heartless adherence like some “Christian Right” atomaton. As a friend of Jesus, I want to know what the Bible says is His heart on the matter. There is also this issue of the Kingdom of God. This metaphor is where the concept of the “Lordship of Christ” comes from. Being around the faith for a long time, sometimes the phrase “Lord Jesus” just becomes a jumble of words. But the Bible explains the meaning of this concept of Lordship as a reference to the role of Jesus as “King” in that “Kingdom.” So, again Jesus my friend is speaking to my heart (and the hearts of Christians who are making it a point to listen, likely including you if you fall into that group) about these matters. As well, I am going to naturally subordinate my goals and purposes to Jesus my King, as I find them both in His Word and in His heart.

So now I have taken you through my completely internal process on this stuff. It's isn't really much more complicated than that. Basically it has be going back to the Bible and talking with the Lord about it. What about my external process? Well, this is a really sensitive issue, in that people can get quite cranked up about this. In some cases people get angry with each other when they disagree. Personally, I think it is the responsibility of the Lord to look into a persons heart and not my responsibility. On a practical level that means there is no reason to get mad at someone for what they think. What they think is up to them and not up to me. Having said that the Bible says we should “reason together.” This is cool. It means we should feed into each others process. Obviously the risk is that people want more influence than “feeding in” should allow them. From proof-texting T.V. pastors to parents to friends to hollywood, I've found that the influence of my mind is a battle ground. Whether you have wrapped your brain around an issue, pursuing Biblical clarity and finding it or if you are still searching, it is important that we pursue the kind of clarity that McLaren seems to value. But I am definitely not stopping short of searching for it or rejecting the biblical notion of “reasoning together” with people, trading in clarity for the idea that we shouldn't even be looking. David asked God to change his heart and God is in the business of doing this on a host of issues. If someone claims that this is not important, then I would challenge them to find a Biblical justification for choosing to imagine the world is completely gray (not that it is all black or white.)

So next I decided see if I could find some good example about these important Christian issues, and man there are a lot of scriptures, so I will only share a few inspirational ones.

On the topic of the poor, Jesus drew a cool parallel between himself and the poor and downtrodden. He said, “What you do to the least of these, you do to me.” This is like a protective older sibling on one hand and a friend appealing to another friend to take up His values on the other. It is clear that Jesus cares about the poor. Most of these scriptures in the New Testament are directed at the believers and not specifically the government, but then again the Bible was written for believers and not specifically for government officials. Obviously, if you are a government official and a believer then it would influence your desire to mobilize those values from your empowered position. Having said that, there are plenty of scriptures that outline that Jesus cares about the poor and helping out the poor is a Kingdom priority. On a personal note, and I think many Christians would agree, at the minimum -at the minimum- Jesus is holding Christians accountable for what we “do to the least of these.” This is first and foremost personal before it would ever be governmental. Our hearts would naturally motivate us to help people out in every responsible way we can.

The Bible has to say a bit about greed. Jesus actually doesn't talk too much about money but he did in a few parables and when he spoke to few people. Jesus said that the older woman who gave an offering at the synagogue gave more than everyone else. This isn't directly about greed. You have to get a little bit “propositional” to come to any conclusions about this, but it seems a lesson might be that she was an example about how not to be greedy, maybe. That is a stretch obviously. Jesus talked to the “rich young ruler” who will remain nameless to protect him from our judgment of him (I guess, I don't know.) In this situation Jesus helped the man see that it is harder for a rich person to get into heaven. Now, Jesus didn't say that all rich men to go to hell, which would be a stretch. I think (and this is propositional) that Jesus could be talking about replacing Kingdom priorities with wealth-oriented priorities. In the New Testament there is a story about someone who tried to lie about money issues and it inevitably killed the couple. It is also a common Biblical quote that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” This often gets misquoted as “money is the root of evil.” I think that the issue is a love for money being the root cause of all kinds of evil on the planet. Clearly the Bible has something to say about greed even if it is mostly determined by making a few propositional inferences from the Bible. McLaren might be uncomfortable about that and say that since it is mostly propositionally based that clarity on this point is overrated. I might be oversimplifying but I think the Bible cares that we advocate against greed.

Abortion is really an apples to oranges debate. The apples say it is about respecting and protecting the rights of the unborn. The oranges say that it is about respecting and protecting the rights of the mother to make decisions about her pregnant body. This is an oversimplification but I am not really writing this blog entry to come to some better understanding about a definition of the abortion debate. I am interested in what the Bible might have to say about it. Now, naturally as an “orange” here, I am thinking about the issue of conception. So here is a verse or two on the topic:

Psalms 139:13-18

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to [a] me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.

As a Christian it is clear that God is at work on that baby in the womb. This isn't really even a propositional assertion. Contextually, David knew that he was valued by God and with an eye to that valuation God crafted him intentionally. It is scriptures like this that remind us that God is completely in our corner, believing in us and rooting for us and wanting us to experience “wonderful(ness)” as David said. It seems clear that God cares about us from the moment of conception.

So back to the blog commenters dilemma.

Since this entry is about Roe vs. Wade in a time of uncertainty, I am going to talk a little about the candidates and their relationship to this case.

If Obama is championing relief to the poor and justice against greed, and McCain is championing pro-life causes, then one has a very serious and personal decision to make. In the third Presidential debate when discussing the issue of abortion Obama said that the next President will likely appoint at least one or more judges to the Supreme Court and as a result it will either affirm or overturn Roe vs Wade. Obama affirmed his illinois and Federal senatorial record having spoken out against overturning Roe vs. Wade and that when he was given a chance to vote for or against any pro-life legislation with regard to abortion he opted out of voting, even though he spoke out against the legislation. McCain and Obama both agreed that whomever they recommend as judges, these judges would be experienced and professional people. McCain confirmed his position as a advocate of rights for the unborn. It is clear that while they are interested in appointing skilled people and we can be happy about that, I don't think anyone feels that we don't understand both the histories of these candidates and the direction of their future Supreme Court appointments.

The bigger question for me as a person Biblically called to “reason together” with others would be, which of these values might be poised for the most change? Well, to answer that, I am reflecting on some big things that have happened this year on the Supreme Court.

In 2008 the Supreme Court added to their agenda a desire to review the impact of Roe vs. Wade on the last 30 years of it's history. A part of that review has been the opportunity for women with very personal stories being asked to bravely share their experiences as individuals who have undergone abortions. Specifically their testimonies are being used to supplement a study reviewing the devastating psychological health issues related to abortion. A part of such information going before the Supreme Court is the need to review new technology that can tell us much more about babies in the womb. Back in the early 1970s they didn't have the technology or understanding about how babies can writhe in pain in the womb. There has been a reasonable amount of speculation about how such evidence would overturn this antiquated case and demand a new set of constraints on abortion based on reasonable information about what is going on in terms of child development in all trimesters. So this process has already started.

Again, Obama said the next President will likely appoint people who will either affirm or overturn Roe vs. Wade.

Finally, both the Democrat National Convention as well as the RNC have acknowledged a need to solve issues around abortion. Over the last 30 years Americans have aborted 50 million babies. Both camps agree, whether you are thinking of the mother or the child, that 50 million babies is too large a number. At the same time, America continues to have 3000 abortions per day. Again, everyone agrees that this number is too large. Contextually it is deemed too large when considering the fact that only 2-3% of those 3000 abortions per day are related to pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Everyone also feels that 100 pregnancies per day caused by rape or incest is too large a number. Something is definitely wrong and abortion in the context of Roe vs Wade is a part of creating problems for our country, not just by killing babies, but by negatively affecting the mental health of a huge portion of our country. Most of the country agrees that we aren't living in a gray issue here. If there is a gray then the gray has more to do with how to undo Roe vs. Wade yet still allow cases for abortions in life threatening or other reasonable situations.

I don't personally think that there is a better time to consider fixing a big problem with abortion in America. Agreeing with both McCain and Obama, who both said it in different ways, the real problem is a cultural one. But having said that, if we have an opportunity to correct a legal problem that has facilitated 50 million abortions in our country by undoing a broken and antiquated law, then we force America to start talking about taking a more reasonable and educated approach with a responsible view of abortion. We need this change. For me, I do believe that like Jesus said, “the poor will always be with us” and Jesus will be personally validating His word making me responsible for how I treat and help out the poor. As well, I believe Jesus wants me to be very careful about my attitude toward money and avoid attitudes of greed as well as to fight for justice with regard to greed. At the same time I don't believe that government entitlement programs are about to go away or that private sector philanthropy or justice initiatives will go away any time soon. But who knows when we will have a clearer opportunity to address the problems obviously and inherently found in Roe vs Wade. By the opinion of Obama himself, this will be a product of this current election.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Record: Breaking An American Addiction To Oil

There is a lot of talk in this campaign about breaking America's addiction to oil. This is one of those areas of the campaign where Obama and McCain are not too awfully far apart in terms of having a verbalized goal, it would seem. This goal enters their speach when they say phrases like "break our dependance" or "break our addiction." The techniques they want to employ to achieve those goals, however, are quite different.

Introduction: I have heard a number of Obama supporters say that they would be fine paying higher gas / oil prices if it meant breaking an American addiction to oil. If that is your goal, then you are actually more in line with the goals and plans of John McCain when you look at the details, which we will do by reviewing an article by the Council on Foreign Relations: http://www.cfr.org/publication/14755/

Let's a take a look through these independently researched facts:

Obama-

The core of his plan to deal with our addiction has everything to do with the windfall profits tax he would like to apply to oil companies. This is how this would work. A windfall profit tax would be applied to those companies and as a result the proceeds would be turned into “tax rebates” ($1000/yr for couples and $500/yr for singles.) The idea here is that if oil companies are making windfall profits (this is vague, as in not yet defined as to what a windfall profit is exactly) then the tax would help offset the cost at the pump. Assuming windfall profits go away, so would the tax rebates (this part is a little more unclear.)

My analysis: tax rebates fall into the category of entitlements. This means that once the rebates are voted on, then the money has to come from somewhere to pay for them. In a sense, we would need windfall profits to pay for these rebates. In that sense, if the rebates pass congress then Congress is counting on the windfall “fundraiser” to follow successfully. Folks like McCain are saying that this plan actually creates a federal addiction to oil through planning on and needing the tax proceeds of big oil companies. Imagine how unfulfilling this plan might feel if we were talking about a drug addiction. Taxing a drug dealer to reduce the cost of the drugs we are addicted to. I am not sure how this solves the problem.

Next Obama in august of 2008 Obama said he “supports the sale of 70 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve "for less expensive crude, which in the past has lowered gas prices within two weeks." This statement signaled a shift of position for Obama, who in July 2008 said he did not believe the United States should use that reserve supply.

My analysis: It keeps us in oil, and aims to provide cheaper oil.

Obama said he would close loopholes that jack up oil prices.

My analysis: Still talking about making oil cheaper.

Next Obama said we need to use less oil as a country.

My Analysis: Honestly, this sounds like Gov. Palin but more importantly every candidate is saying this and I think it is a good goal. However, it will take some advances in technology to make this more possible. I am glad he says this is what he wants, but hopefully we as a country will move toward this technologically.

In 2007 one month after Obama announced his run for the Presidency, Obama co-authored the Fuel Economy Reform Act, which proposed that automobiles become more fuel efficient.

My analysis: This is yet again less to do with getting ride of oil dependance and more about cheeper. This “bill” never saw the light of day. It wasn't that it was shot down. It was that it was never introduced to be voted on.

Obama said in January 2008 that he would support nuclear if it was safe and the waste was well taken care of.

My analysis: Finally we are done talking about more and cheaper oil. Again, many candidates agree, but the additional speculation here is the apparently uneducated fear around nuclear waste disposal is a slightly more outdated perspective. Obama has caught some flack for simply not understanding issues surrounding advances in nuclear technology.

McCain-

McCain says he supports an "all of the above" approach to energy security, meaning he will "support the development of alcohol-based fuels, establish a permanent research and development tax credit to support energy innovation, and will encourage an even-handed system of tax credits for renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biomass."

My analysis: This is a long term approach since what he is saying is that we need to focus on seeing technology develop to the degree that we can actually do away with dependence. Recall above that Obama said we need to use less oil. This is how that would happen.

He said he would lift federal restrictions on domestic oil exploration in the United States. At the same time he has stressed the importance of protecting refuges like the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. This is what McCain calls the “Lexington project.”

My analysis: Like Obama, this is less about avoiding an oil addiction and more about just making oil cheeper. Speculation here says that oil prospecting takes time and that this would again possibly take a while to see the benefit.

McCain has been a proponent of nuclear power. The Lexington Project includes aggressive goals about running more of the country on nuclear power. That plan has always included safe storage of nuclear waste and included a desire to position America as championing safe storage as a world leader in cooperation with other countries.

My analysis: McCain has given Obama a bit of a hard time about not having a more reasonable understanding of nuclear power as an alternative energy source. Rightly so. Obama entered the conversation quite late for whatever reason. McCain also speaks to the need for America to champion the storage and management of nuclear waste. Obama doesn't speak about nuclear energy on this level.

At about the same time McCain and Leibermann proposed the Climate Stewardship Act and they said it “harness the power of the free market and the engine of American innovation to reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough and quickly enough to forestall catastrophic global warming." Later versions of the McCain-Lieberman legislation included billions of dollars in subsidies for nuclear energy companies. In one felled swoop McCain attempted to reduce oil dependence and work toward protecting the environment. The bill didn't pass.

My analysis: McCain receives a lot of flack for supposedly not backing alternative energy efforts. In this Act he was backing subsidizes support for nuclear American investment and environmental protection. While there have been some bills and acts about alternative fuel that he took objection with, generally the accusation is false.

Again, McCain does not support the windfall profits tax for the above reasons.

My analysis: See my Obama criticism on this talking point.

Finally, McCain promoted the idea of a “clean car challenge” as well as a $300 million challenge to get companies to pursue building an automobile energy storage solution that can out-power modern hybrids.

My analysis: I like these two initiatives because they are proven to work. An example would be the modern “space race” in the form of the private industry “X-Prize” paid out to a company named scaled composites for building a more efficient private sector equivalent to the NASA Space shuttle. It was an amazing success. In the case of being both clean and breaking a dependence on oil, this recommendation again pulls that goal off.

Conclusion:

Obama- grade of C

Obama appears to support energy alternatives, but the large majority of his plans simply make oil cheaper or more abundant rather than provide significant goals toward alternatives. On the upside, Obama has made a number of changes to these plans and might change them again sometime in the next few weeks before the election. Personally, again... my blog, Obama's talk about “change” could be interpreted as him “changing” his mind on stuff, which often makes nailing his goals down a little difficult (example: definition of a “windfall” and how that tax actually breaks our dependence on oil.) Again, in the short term he seems to have a goal of lower gas prices, but the goal of eliminating an American dependence on oil seems to have gone missing almost entirely.

McCain- grade of B

He appears to have supported energy alternatives in form of voting and co-authoring bills, historically, as well as making plans to promote an effort and investment toward the goal of breaking a dependence on oil. Note that this runs contrary to the Obama accusation directed at McCain. On the downside, there doesn't seem to be as many short term goals of lowering the cost of oil which seems to be a priority of Obama.

Intro Review: Again, I have heard a number of Obama supporters say that they would be fine paying higher gas / oil prices if it meant breaking an American Addiction to oil. If that is your goal, then you are actually more in line with the goals and plans of John McCain when you look at the details.

Update:
If I wanted to be more specific about giving them a score, I could award a point for plans that include breaking dependence and a negative point for plans than do not help this goal. I considered this, but in the end McCain would end up with a number that was very positively correlated toward this goal and Obama would have ended up with a negatively correlated score. Do the math for yourself. Even if I had simply awarded a point for items that helped achieve the goal, ignoring those that do not help, McCain would still get a much higher score than Obama.

Palin and the Alaskan Independance Party

A friend of mine let me know about a connection of Palin to the Alaskan Independance Party. Now, you may not know about the Alaskan Independence Party because they never blew anything up, or got involved in real estate scandals or anything like that, but that doesn't mean there might be a connection between the historic activity of the Independence Party and Sarah Palin.

So who is the Alaskan Independence Party? Well they are very much like the other third-political-party groups across America. Namely, they are quite conservative, believe in home schooling, feel that government should be a small institution, and (here is the hum-dinger) wanted to secede from the United States of America (I know, wow?) So that is what I read about them in the press, for example, this L.A. Times article.

Consulting wikipedia, what you can find is that back before 1973 (hey, that was the year that I was born) the party still talked about seceding. In reality they had a couple of options on the table:
  1. Remain a territory.
  2. Become a separate nation.
  3. Accept common wealth status.
  4. Become a state.
Did I mention this was on the ballot back in 1958? Well, that is when the group got it's start. So a lot of people feel like maybe there is something un-American about the state of Alaska seceding. Where they not purchased in 1867? Isn't it un-American to suggest leaving America... AS RECENT AS 1958?

Well, context is everything. Alaska become a U.S. State as the result of the 1958 ballot becoming the 49th U.S. State in January of 1959. So, basically, the Alaskan Independence Party has continued to wish they had seceded for the next 13 years. It is now 35 years later and the party still exists, but according to wikipedia, again, they aren't pushing for seceding.

So that is all I know about the Alaskan Independence Party. If you know more, please add a comment on the blog.

So what of Gov. Palin's connection with the party?

Well, ABC News posted a web story a while back stating that Gov. Palin was previously a member of that party, that she had attended a part convention in 1994, that she spoke at a convention in 2006 and that her husband was a party member.

Here is what I've found. In 1994 Sarah Palin attending the party convention with her husband, who was a party member at the time. She was not. In fact she has never been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party. According to the Alaskan Division of Elections, she has been a registered republican since 1982.

Sarah Palin did speak at the 2006 AIP convention. She was running for Governor of Alaska as a republican at the time. So again, for the record, she was not an AIP. She was pimping her Republican credentials to AIP members asking them to vote for her, a Republican.

Since the ABC web posting stating that she was an AIP member the McCain / Palin campaign corrected those rumors and called them to task for not doing their homework it seems. People get stuff wrong all of the time. As long as they fix it, that is what is important. Palin and McCain have since reiterated the message that Palin supports the pursuit of appropriate political action from any party, not just her own, and has a proven record of working with people from other parties, including appointing people not in her party to her governatorial administration. I think that this once again bares that reality out.

She is conservative. She is a Republican. She does work with people across party lines, and she doesn't switch hats to pull that off.

As a final note (thus far, I am new to this AIP issue so there might be more to come) I don't hold her husbands affiliation with the AIP against Sarah Palin. Why? Am I giving her a pass? Before you jump to saying yes, let's talk about Michelle Obama. It was during her husband's run for the presidency (2008) that she said that this was the first time in her adult life that she was proud to be an American. I think there are people out there who have been reasonably embarrassed about stuff that had an American stamp on it, but a very small contingent of America says such things. Honestly, I think she was being colloquial. I don't think she was embarrassed her entire adult life with being an American. She was just caught up in the moment and said something just ever so slightly dramatic. I will give her un-American sentiment a pass and absolutely give Obama a pass. Even if she had spent her entire American adulthood embarrassed at this great, amazing, philanthropic nation and decided to spew her anti-American "my husband is the only great thing about America" rhetoric (which I don't think she was doing), I would still give him a pass because... he is not his wife. Likewise, even though being AIP isn't the worst thing in the world (from what I can read so far), Palin is not her husband.

Fall in New Jersey

A photo from the drive to work!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Barack O'Copy

So it is week number two and I am sweating on an elliptical trainer at the gym over lunch. To pass the 30+ minutes I typically listen to my iPod and watch the news on mute and read the closed captioning.

Today, once again, I saw Barack follow after John McCain, pretending yet again that he is a pioneer. About a week ago today during the debate John McCain was undermined by both Obama and later the press for suggesting that the government should specifically bail out mainstreet by specifically addressing the fact that many Americans are struggling under mortgages that many can't afford. Regardless of what you think about any of the bailout plans there has been a hort-load of speculation about how expensive or unreasonable or redundant a specific mainstreet bailout would be. Now, John McCain is talking about the federal government buying up those mortgages and then, over time, the government makes its money back from the value of those mortgages. The idea is that the U.S. government can wait out a very long term investment a lot easier than banks or home owners.

Now take a look at Barack O'Copy's plan. His answer for mainstreet is to simulate the market and create jobs, assuming that a lack of employment is what is responsible for people defaulting on loans. Next, he wants to block foreclosures on homes where the owner only owns one home, for three months. Next, he wants to give tax-breaks to companies that create jobs here in America. Let's look at what this will do for home owners. Employment might be one reason for defaulting home loans, but we know it is not to blame for variable rate loans from predatory lenders. The three month delay on foreclosures will do just that: delay the foreclosure for three months. If renegotiating loans can't get done in time (this is incredible pressure on a currently stressed out banking system) and jobs are not to blame, or people cannot get jobs quickly enough, then three months is too little too late. Finally, giving companies a tax break sure sounds like John McCain. I think the distinction is that O'Copy only wants to give those breaks to mid-sized companies (not the evil large corporations) ... why????? Oh... My.... Goodness....! Wait for it!? Because tax breaks for companies mean simulating the economy toward growth! Whaaaaat? Wait? Obama said that this is the very exact "failed policy of Bush and the Republicans." Obama!? Isn't this basically the same trickle-down policy by another name? Isn't the net effect the same (lowered tax burden for everyone equaling more jobs!?)

But the bottom line is that companies don't just create jobs so they can get a tax break. There has to be work for those new employees to do. And if those companies could create jobs, and Obama is promising them tax-burden relief for two years, how would that really work? Two years means this whole job creation thing wouldn't kick in quick enough to solve the mainstreet mortgage issue in reality.

Obama is a stinker! But we don't have to be! He is showing his true colors. Taxing the rich isn't our duty. He isn't about justice through taxation, or fairness through taxation, or duty or patriotism! He is simply holding a federal fundraiser for his expensive programs. But once again, in true form, Obama is taking a lesson from the guy who should be president, John McCain, but somehow the ignorant public are thinking that if Obama says it, well... it must be his idea, right?