Push & Pull genre: Front and Center & Snapshot Thoughts
Sometimes Pushing & Pulling Wears You Out But Gets You Nowhere
A report on the rising number of incarcerated Americans provides a disturbing look at the unspoken impact of economic inequality and the high cost we pay for perpetuating it. At the same time, during each election cycle, politicians from both parties accuse each other of practicing suspect fiscal discipline.
For this discussion, I want to look at the costs of incarceration in relation to providing universal health care as well as the Bush tax cuts. Time and again, the GOP points out the exorbitant costs that might be associated with providing universal health care. From what I've read, the plans being pushed by Senators Clinton and Obama are reported to cost 10 to 15 billion dollars annually. That's a big expense...but before one concludes we can't afford it, one must consider the burgeoning costs of incarceration and the distribution and impact of the Bush tax cuts.
NEW YORK -- For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America's rank as the world's No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.
Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 - one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it's more than any other nation.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
So in the course of 20 years, we have increased our annual corrections spending by a whopping $38 billion dollars. That is roughly three times the projected annual cost to provide universal health care...health care that would help elevate the very people who are disproportionately represented in the prison population. Factor in the following data on the Bush tax cuts and one will begin to see the larger picture.
WASHINGTON - Since 2001, President Bush's tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.
The conclusions are stark. The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers -- whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 -- saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent. The poorest taxpayers saw their taxes fall 16 percent.
Unfortunately, these percentages are deceptive. Let's look at a practical explanation of what these tax cuts meant to the working poor.
Imagine you are a waitress, married, with two children and a family income of $26,000 per year. Should you be enthusiastic about the tax cuts proposed by President Bush? He certainly wants you to think so. He uses an example of a family like yours to illustrate the benefits of his plan for working Americans. He boasts that struggling low-income families will enjoy the largest percentage reduction in their taxes. The income taxes paid by a family like yours will fall by 100% or more in some cases. This is true--but highly misleading.
President Bush fails to mention that your family pays only about $20 a year in income taxes, so even a 100% reduction does not amount to much. Like three-quarters of working Americans, you pay much more in payroll taxes--about $3,000 a year--than in income taxes. Yet not a penny of the $1.6 trillion package of Bush tax cuts (in reality, closer to $2 trillion over 10 years) is used to reduce payroll taxes. Moreover, should your income from waitressing fall below $26,000 as the economy slows, your family could be among the 75% of families in the lowest 20% of the income distribution that stand to get absolutely zero from the Bush plan.
The President claims that the "typical American family of four" will be able to keep $1,600 more of their money each year under his plan. Since you won't be getting anything like that, you might be tempted to conclude that your family must be an exception. Not really. The reality is that the President's claim is disingenuous. Eighty-nine percent of all tax filers, including 95% of those in the bottom 80% of the income distribution, will receive far less than $1,600.
In other words, when a 100% tax cut is the equivalent of $20.00, a family of four might be able to translate that twenty dollars into a meal at McDonalds...one time in 365 days. On the other hand, if one is lucky enough to be in the top one percent (those with $915,000 in pretax income...and first class health care) of earners and receive a 20% tax reduction, I suspect the savings would buy more than one fast food dinner over the course of a year. The skewed advantages...and disadvantages...suddenly become obvious.
If that isn't bad enough, let's return to the costs of incarceration and look at future cost projections.
By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.
The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.
In less than four years, we will spend another $25 billion annually (more than enough to pay for universal health care) to incarcerate more and more Americans...the bulk of which come from the economically underprivileged.
More From The New York Times:
Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.
The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.
Let me be clear...crime is wrong...and it should be punished. However, we cannot ignore the factors that facilitate crime. Failing to provide opportunities to those most lacking in resources is also wrong...and it often leads to a lack of education and therefore a susceptibility to participating in crimes that are driven by poverty.
We have likely exceeded the point at which it will cost us more to punish and incarcerate those who commit these crimes of poverty than it would have cost us to insure their education, to raise the minimum wage above the poverty level, and to grant them the dignity and peace of mind that comes with knowing one's family members can receive health care when it is warranted; not just when it is necessary to prevent death.
Instead, under the guidance of the GOP, we have elected to ignore the fact that 47 million Americans lack health care and to focus upon further enriching the wealthiest...all the while being forced to endure asinine arguments that doing so will create jobs and thus facilitate a rising tide to float the boats of all Americans. It simply isn't true.
At a savings of $20 a year, millions of Americans can't even buy a seat in the boat...let alone stay afloat by treading water in the midst of the steady deluge of ever more ominous waves. If the number and availability of life preservers continues to dwindle, we are fast approaching the point at which our society will collapse under the weight of the inequity we chose to ignore.
If that happens, it will be as my grandfather argued many years ago, "They can eat you, but they can't shit you". The cannibalism has begun. What follows will not be pleasant.
Those hoping for a kinder gentler presidential election complete with a heaping helping of compassionate conservatism might want to prepare themselves for a plate of partisan politics that will be far less palatable. I find myself suspecting that the GOP may be laying the groundwork for a bait and switch strategy aimed at satisfying voters newfound penchant for a civil campaign.
With the emergence of John McCain as the seemingly inevitable Republican nominee, voters may be under the impression that we're moving beyond choreographed character assassinations and stealth swiftboating strategies. My hunch is that the GOP's alternate approach includes John McCain appearing to take the high road while the usual suspects redouble their efforts to eviscerate the enemy.
I'll try to explain. This week, we may have witnessed a preview of the plan. My concern is that the orchestration was evidenced in Bill Cunningham's introduction of Senator McCain (and his effort to define Barack Obama)...which was followed by Senator McCain rapidly renouncing Cunningham's remarks...even though the campaign had arranged the appearance of the raucous radio personality.
What happened before and after McCain's criticism seems implausible to me. How could the McCain campaign have been so oblivious to what Cunningham was going to say? Why did Cunningham almost instantly withdraw his support for the Senator...stating instead that he would now join Ann Coulter in supporting Hillary Clinton? One, I can't imagine the McCain campaign didn't discuss the introduction with Cunningham. Second, I doubt anyone who is so well connected to a campaign such that they are chosen to introduce the candidate makes such an instantaneous about face. Hence, it's important to analyze his actions; searching for the underlying objective.
Note that in shifting his support to Clinton, Cunningham has left himself room to change his mind should Obama be the Democratic candidate (the same candidate he sought to define as a soft on terror Muslim sympathizer). If we project ahead, let's suppose Obama is the Democratic nominee; leaving the Coulter's and Cunningham's of the GOP without a candidate. We could assume they won't vote...or we could assume something far more strategically savvy. Using Cunningham's own word, I look for these current outliers to suddenly announce their own "kumbaya" moment...the one that states, "I actually supported Hillary Clinton...and that's a difficult calculation to make...but when I imagine an Obama presidency as the alternative to John McCain, I have to support John McCain".
So what does this achieve? Well, it sends GOP voters two important messages. First, it says that some establishment conservatives were actually willing to support one of the most reviled Democrats (Clinton)...a candidate the base could never support. Second, once Obama became the candidate, those same establishment conservatives decided to come back and support John McCain...because Barack Obama must be worse than Hillary Clinton. So what is the conclusion GOP voters will be asked to draw? If the choice in November is between John McCain and a candidate that is worse than Hillary Clinton, they have to get out and support John McCain.
By utilizing this approach, it allows people like Cunningham and Coulter to continue to rail against Obama as they supposedly support Clinton...all the while further defining Obama as worse than Hillary...doing the work for the McCain campaign while he keeps his hands clean and moves to higher ground. At the same time, the media darling McCain can stay below the radar and avoid being directly associated with the scorched earth strategy.
The bottom line is that the GOP desperately needs to define Obama...negatively. Having the GOP candidate do this dirty work isn't ideal in 2008 given that a majority of voters don't seem inclined to accept more of the partisanship fostered by the likes of Karl Rove. If this can be achieved by unattached surrogates who also have the ear of those Republican's less apt to be enthused with a McCain candidacy, all the better.
If they succeed, then the entire GOP can sit down at the table...together with the independent and moderate voters they must have to win in November...ready to indulge in the equivalent of a twice baked batch of kinder, gentler, compassionate and conservative, comfort food...a delectable dish of "Krafty Mac & Sleeze".
William F. Buckley, Jr. has died at the age of 82. I always found it fascinating to listen when Buckley spoke. Much of what he said, for me, walked the fine line between intellectual genius and laugh out loud temerity. Given the breadth of his intellect, I often wondered how often he made comments simply for the sporting value they might afford.
Some time ago, I did a posting that was intended to mimic Buckley's expansive use of language and to satirize current news and events. At the time, I chose the President's questionable handling of the war in Iraq as the topic. Basically, I created a question and followed it up with my tongue-in-cheek version of an answer William F. Buckley might have given.
With that said, the following was my imaginary question:
What would Bill Buckley say about the apparent inability of President Bush to acknowledge mistakes made in the execution of the war in Iraq and his unwillingness to move forward with evaluating alternative plans?
And my fabricated answer was:
The President, while seemingly embrangled in a sempiternal belligerency, appears to be ensnared by the conflation of narcissistic ideation and a religiose neocolonialist predisposition.
In truth, Buckley did conclude that the war in Iraq was a failure and stated the following in that regard:
"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed - different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat."
With Mr. Buckley's passing, we'll only be able to imagine his responses to the issues that may confront humanity in the future. Regardless of one's political persuasion, that will certainly present a measurable void.
The following is a compilation of some of Buckley's notable quotations:
William F. Buckley, Jr., Gratitude:
Materialistic democracy beckons every man to make himself a king; republican citizenship incites every man to be a knight. National service, like gravity, is something we could accustom ourselves to, and grow to love.
William F. Buckley Jr., Up From Liberalism:
I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth.
Sep. 08, 1964 - from his column in National Review:
I profoundly believe it takes a lot of practice to become a moral slob.
Nov. 01, 1997 - from a speech delivered to the International Conservative Congress, as quoted in National Review Magazine:
We are so concerned to flatter the majority that we lose sight of how very often it is necessary, in order to preserve freedom for the minority, let alone for the individual, to face that majority down.
William F. Buckley, Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495:
Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy ... and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with 'scientific support' ... fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. ... The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.
"All that is good is not embodied in the law; and all that is evil is not proscribed by the law. A well-disciplined society needs few laws; but it needs strong mores."
"If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all."
"Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years."
The following video offers a sampling of Buckley's many appearances on the Charlie Rose Show.
Charlie Rose: A Retrospective On William F. Buckley, Jr.
The Onion chimes in on gays in the military with a fuax general explaining that gays are too special to be placed in combat. According to General McBrayer, each gay individual is worth seven soldier's lives.
While the video is a spoof on the policy of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the actual rationale to prevent gays from serving in the military is also a joke...though not nearly as funny...or coherent.
In all the back and forth over the merits of the war in Iraq, we often hear about the money being spent but we're rarely presented with the specific items that could be purchased with that same cash.
The following video does just that. It provides a laundry list of the things that could be purchased for the American people with the money it costs to prosecute the war for one single day.
When one thinks about the war in this way...not to mention the many other costs including the loss of life...it is an astounding contrast and a stark reality check.
However, what ultimately amazes me is the arguments we have endured and will continue to endure during peace time...you know...the arguments that we can't afford health care, we can't assure that Social Security will survive, we can't afford to address poverty or homelessness, we cant assure that a college education is available to all of our citizens, and many more.
It begs an important question -- Why can we afford limitless spending on death and destruction and so little on the basic needs of the American citizenry?
This week Bill tackles the endless "My Friends" mantra of John McCain, the connection between hesitating to put a DVD in the player and a sexless marriage, the absurdity of chasing wild animals around, and his dislike of red meat...at least the edible variety.
He goes on to offer Hillary Clinton a campaign suggestion...go get drunk with the voters. He then puts to rest the comparisons of Lindsey Lohan to Marilyn Monroe, and he closes by suggesting America follow the example of Cuba and put a "brother" in charge.
A number of readers responded to the posting Hillary's Stellar Debate Moment. I truly appreciate hearing the thoughts and observations of my readers and I welcome engaging dialogue. I was going to reply in the comments section of the prior posting but I soon concluded it warranted a second posting.
I do so because I've noticed a trend that troubles me...one that is innately important to me and that highlights one of the overarching motivations behind the creation of Thought Theater. I'll attempt an explanation.
Throughout my life, I have prioritized the pursuit of more truth above all else (that doesn't mean I always lived it). In so doing, I often find I'm unable to permanently attach myself to any particular group, club, party, or affiliation. All too often, such allegiances include the requirement that each member adopt and affirm all of the beliefs (truths) of the organization...even if that arrests the pursuit of the truth...or...heaven forbid...demands the wholesale suspension of the truth.
What this means in practical terms is that I'm often viewed as a contrarian. I've accepted my role, though I prefer to characterize it as a commitment to seeking more truth...even if I find it painful...even if it makes me unpopular. What I've learned is that my pursuit of truth is far more sustaining than any of the perceived spoils that accompany affected affiliations.
Before I proceed to the topic at hand, some background might be beneficial. I attended high school at an all boys Catholic boarding school. We were allied with an all girls Catholic boarding school. Over time, it became vogue to denigrate the girls at our sister school and it became cool to date girls from the local high school. As with most trends in teenagers, the shift was facilitated by a vocal few and followed by the pliable masses.
Ironically, I (the closeted gay guy) came to the defense of the girls at our sister school...writing opinion pieces in the school paper assailing the mob mentality and the thugs who had triggered the entire ordeal. Simply stated, I defended the truth because it was the right thing to do. I took my share of flack from a few students but over time I won the respect of far more. In retrospect, it merely took someone to stand up and state the obvious. Sadly, it reinforced my belief that in the absence of a voice, the truth becomes little more than an amalgam of invented and inflicted animosities heaped upon the helpless and the hapless.
Having been bullied in grade school until I finally stood up for myself and bloodied the nose of the ringleader, I developed a keen sense of injustice and an unyielding commitment to fairness. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't remotely perfect then and I'm still not...but I can recognize a mean spirited assault in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, life isn't black and white or neat and tidy. Yes, when it comes to people, it's much easier to lump and label than it is to dissect and discern...but then who ever said the search for truth should be easy?
Hence, the most important thing I learned was that truth can be found in places and in people one wouldn't expect or predict. I came to realize that even a thug can speak the truth or act with fairness...but that required suspending my own bias in order to be objective...even while knowing I could rationalize doing otherwise. So what was the essential lesson? If I wanted fairness, I had to grant it to others...regardless of my own bias.
As I've followed politics and the upcoming election, I've found myself experiencing many of the same feelings and circumstances...and that includes allowing my own bias to interfere with the pursuit of truth. Fortunately, I'm still committed to fairness. With that in mind, I offer the following observations with regards to last evening's debate and the ongoing need to seek truth.
First, I'm including the content of an email I received in response to the posting. I also encourage readers to take a moment and read the comments in the posting as they provide the context for my remarks.
hi: i think you fell for a bit of theater--have you seen the utube of john edwards "after this is all done, we'll be ok" and its america he's worried about? or the clip of bill yakking about taking"hits." hill's greatest moment was empty gesture. the question was soft ball and hill was prepared with stolen words in an attempt to hit a home run. i thought you were more sophisticated than to buy her performance. or maybe your use of stellar was merely acknowledging the performing aspect. the message was old, the delivery not bad.
First, I love politics and I understand that it often involves emotions and that can lead to pettiness, anger, animosity, and partisanship. Human nature is such that we're all prone to bias...and politics may be the arena where it is most noticeable.
As such, I find myself troubled by the refusal of so many individuals to acknowledge any positive acts on the part of the candidate(s) they don't support. Even worse, I'm amazed that one Democrat is willing to assail another simply because they don't support the same candidate. Truth be told, how can Democrats call Karl Rove and the GOP ruthless when Democrats engage in the same behavior...within their own party's primary?
I understand the desire to win...but I have never sought to win if it involved having to abandon my belief in the pursuit of truth. That means that I accept that "the truth" won't always be on my side...and it won't always vindicate me and vanquish those that I oppose. At the same time, if I'm committed to the truth, it will always lead me towards more of it...sometimes willingly and sometimes kicking and screaming. I cherish that reality even if it has the potential to kick my butt.
I mean no disrespect by the following remark, but it needs to be said. Time and again, people, motivated by their own bias, make statements that make them appear to be "full of shit". It's the equivalent of calling a square a circle and then expecting everyone to agree with you...simply because it supports the reality you're promoting. Sometimes it works...especially if one is skilled at manipulation...but it never circumvents the actual truth...ever.
Sadly, those who choose this approach, often aim their efforts at those who, by and large, share their same basic goals and objectives (e.g. Dems on Dems)...but for any number of reasons they seek to achieve those goals and objectives by virtue of their preferred path. I view such acts as unenlightened episodes of intellectual dishonesty. It's akin to the notion that the end justifies the means. I don't think it's that simple.
Let me explain. Truth is a function of consistency and those who seek to be affiliated with the truth can only remain so if their words and deeds are in fact consistent with it. Truth requires vigilance and commitment. Call it being on the watch for the flip flop effect...call it being willing to call a lie a lie...call it an insistence that deception and deceit must be exposed whenever it rears its head...but that which isn't consistent with the truth can never be called an impartial demonstration of objectivity and rationality. Hence truth can set us free or it can make us prisoners of our refusal to face it.
So let's return to the email and the issue of Senator Clinton's "stellar debate moment". A number of folks have pointed to the hypocrisy found in Hillary Clinton accusing Barack Obama of plagiarism and then proceeding to use the words of others in her closing remarks. So what truth can we discern from this inconsistency? Here's where it gets complicated.
First, I would argue that the definition of plagiarism has been stretched to score political points. We're all guilty of using words, ideas, and expressions that we've heard or read...but that fails to meet the intent of plagiarism. Making such an accusation may be an acceptable political strategy but it isn't consistent with the pursuit of truth.
Second, this means that Hillary's actions were inconsistent with the manipulated truth she had previously sought to create. At the same time, the fact that she demonstrated this inconsistency doesn't nullify the truth of the words (borrowed and original) she spoke last night...just as her accusations directed at Senator Obama didn't negate the truth of the words (borrowed and original) he recently spoke.
The fact that the Obama campaign employed the same manipulation of the truth in accusing Senator Clinton of plagiarism following last evening's debate was also inconsistent with the truth...albeit done as a tit for tat response (a rationalization). You see...this is the danger of deviating from the consistent pursuit of truth. It becomes a never-ending struggle to create truth rather than to find it and to honor it.
So let's look at Senator Clinton's actual remarks. Those intent on assailing the Senator have focused upon a small portion of a statement that was nearly three minutes in duration. I view that as an obfuscation of the truth. Her statement was more than "we're going to be ok but I'm not so sure America will be" and "I've taken some hits in my life". Ignoring the entirety of the statement is an attempt to score political points through manipulation. It's done all of the time...but it isn't consistent with the pursuit of truth.
Further, we've all found ourselves in situations where the words of others best describe our truth as well as larger, far more encompassing "truths". After all, the bulk of our thoughts have been experienced, spoken, or written by others. There just aren't that many original thoughts or wholly unique ways to express them. If there were, we'd all be esteemed authors and poets.
That brings us back to the intended meaning of the word plagiarism. The manner in which it has been utilized in this campaign is absurd...and the more we all embrace its false meaning; the more we convolute its true meaning. Such is the process that accompanies the destruction of language and therefore our ability to communicate effectively and honestly. It's truly an example of the slippery slope effect...and the deconstruction of fundamental truths.
I challenge everyone to go back and look at Senator Obama's face while he listens to Senator Clinton's closing remarks. I'm convinced that what you will see in his face is an acknowledgment and an affirmation of the truth he's hearing...regardless of whether some small portion of it was "lifted" from others. In the end, the truth of the words she spoke resonated with Barack and with the audience. It was a real moment because the listeners grasped the truth of the spoken words...even if it was a "performance"...even if Barack thought it was a performance.
To discount her statements because one thinks she prepared and practiced speaking them is to suggest that she should be singled out as a candidate who isn't entitled to avail herself of the long-established practices of public speaking and politicking. To suggest that the question was "a softball" ignores the fact that both candidates were given the same opportunity to answer it. It was a level playing field. Negating Senator Clinton's "home run" answer because she was prepared for the question is utterly illogical.
The truth is that most of what we see in a debate is performance. Criticizing a candidate for a stellar performance is akin to shunning a good movie because one of the actors (who you don't particularly like) was superb. Yes, we're all entitled to our subjective conclusions...but passing a biased opinion off as an objective analysis circumvents the discernment of truth.
It happens all the time in politics and all too often in life. It is a virulent virus...one that has the potential to replicate so fast that we're on the verge of untruth becoming a pandemic infection. Even worse, how does one cure a disease that is self-inflicted and self-perpetuating? If the motivation to pass a virus exceeds the desire to defeat it, then sickness has trumped sanity.
Truth is never old and it remains truth whenever and wherever it is delivered. Truth isn't the sole domain of any individual; it is bigger than than...because it must be. One can dislike the messenger while still acknowledging and accepting the message.
Politics is an attempt to get voters to embrace both. Regardless, if we collectively focus on affirming truth whenever and wherever we see it, hear it, read it, or find it, we send our own message of rejection to those who may be engaged in delivering a corrupted version of it. If we consistently send that message, we inoculate ourselves from the ravages of untruth and we single out those who have become its carriers. In so doing, we begin the process of retraining the body politic to reject deceit and deception and we set in motion a system that rewards those who pursue it and perform it...consistently.
The truth is...when the end and the means are one and the same...the truth is.
Favor who you will in the Democratic nominating process, but one of the finest moments of this campaign season was delivered by Senator Clinton at the close of tonight's debate in Austin. It was both magnanimous and uplifting and it warrants an acknowledgment.
It's a shame that the Senator is unable to show this side of herself on a regular basis. Nonetheless, it certainly affirms the opinions of those who know her best - that she is a warm and thoughtful individual who sincerely cares about her country and its citizens.
For the life of me, I've yet to figure out why she elicits such vitriol from so many in the media as well as with a segment of the voting public. Unfortunately, such is the nature of politics.
However it turns out, the Senator will always be able to reflect back upon this stellar demonstration of her decency and her dignity. You go girl!
Honestly, I couldn't care less if John McCain is a womanizer. If so, that puts him on par with most of his colleagues and many of his fellow citizens. Frankly, if he is, it's not a predictor of competence and it shouldn't automatically disqualify a candidate from consideration. Nonetheless, it may make sense to seek an understanding of the behaviors that might accompany an individual's propensity to engage in such escapades.
I've known men that are virtually unable to function without the prospect of a budding relationship...whether married or not. Men of this ilk are prisoners of their prurient pursuits. They are apt to make compromising decisions that jeopardize their existing relationships as well as their own well-being. Money is often no object and they will frequently take unwise and unwarranted risks. Hence, when these individuals are in the throes of their latest interlude, their judgment is not only suspect; it may well be incorrigible.
As I read the accounts of Senator McCain's involvement with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, I immediately recalled watching an episode of Headliners and Legends chronicling his life. The pursuit of women was a persistent theme of the biography...a pattern not only confirmed by friends of McCain; but also by McCain himself.
In one particular segment of the program, McCain basically states that he and his fellow servicemen were preoccupied with seeking female companionship. While understandable given the circumstances, the manner in which the Senator recounted the story immediately reminded me of my discomfort with his habit of winking at people on the campaign trail. Instinctually, both instances strike me as part and parcel of a persona I might be inclined to suspect is focused on the pursuit of the opposite sex...a behavior set I would equate with a tendency towards objectification.
As the biography progresses, the narrator notes that McCain's first wife Carol waited patiently for his release from his captors only to see their marriage fall apart as a result of the Senator's many extramarital dalliances. When asked about that period of time, McCain's former wife, a victim of a disabling car accident, apparently told others that once her husband turned forty, he decided he wanted to be twenty five again. Hence, he divorced his first wife and soon married his much younger (and wealthy) current wife Cindy.
In the biography, McCain speaks about his affairs and while he accepts blame and acknowledges his actions were inappropriate, he also posits that he was motivated by "selfishness and immaturity". In my way of thinking, I could entertain giving him the benefit of the doubt had he suggested that his actions may have been a reaction to his years of confinement and the denial it certainly included. To his credit, he refuses to offer that rationale, though it's possible he did so because it wouldn't square with his history of womanizing prior to his stint in Vietnam.
Returning to the New York Times report, I was particularly struck by the following excerpt:
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client's corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself -- instructing staff members to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
What troubles me about this revelation is the sense, by his advisors, that the Senator was capable of sabotaging his own campaign. Presumably, the advisors had a good sense of their candidates idiosyncrasies...a fact that seems to have led them to conclude the Senator lacked the proper judgment with regard to romantic involvements. Whether this caution resulted from prior experiences wasn't revealed...but it isn't much of a stretch to draw that conclusion given the Senator's self-confessed track record.
So where does that leave us? Well, as is so often the case with such stories, we're forced to rely upon the speculations of others. Clearly, the Senator's history has contained instances of a similar nature and he freely admits as much. Whether he does so to help him arrive at the current straight talking maverick war hero image may never be known...though he wouldn't be the first public figure to craft a message that masks the actual man. Lastly, he can ill-afford to acknowledge an infidelity or an influence peddling impropriety at this critical juncture in his political life. Such is the nature of the political beast.
Rather than focus on this current assertion, I decided to have a little fun developing my own theory of McCain-ometrics. First, some background facts are needed. In 1965, at the age of 29, McCain married his first wife. In 1979, 14 years later, at the age of 43, McCain began courting his future second wife. In 1980 he left his first wife, who was 2 years his junior, for his new 27 year old wife...17 years younger. Nearly 20 years later, in 1999, at the age of 62, McCain is reported to have become "involved" with a 31 year old woman who was also roughly 31 years younger than he.
So here's the formula and a riddle. John McCain spends 14 years with his first wife (Carol)...and then finds a new love interest (Cindy in 1979 - 1980)...and then, down the road, in approximately half again more years...minus one...(14 + 7 - 1 = +20 = 1999), he finds Vicki. Simultaneously, he doubles the net age difference between himself and each subsequent (love) interest...going from a baseline of a woman 2 years younger (Carol) to one 17 years younger (Cindy) for a net of 15 additional years younger...which means we must double the 15 year age gap to predict that the subsequent (love) interest would be approximately 30 years younger (Vicki 31, John 62 in 1999). Let's also assume that John McCain doubles the years he stays married to each wife...plus one...thus 14 years with Carol x 2 + 1 = 29 years with Cindy. As such, he should be due for both a new (love) interest and wife in 2009 (14 + 7 - 1 = +20 plus half again more (minus one) = 20 + 10 - 1 = +29 years...or 2009).
OK, so if one applies this formula, how old would you approximate his new (love) interest and bride to be when he marries her and how many years would you anticipate he'd remain married (assuming he lives that long, of course) to this third wife?
You see, when it comes to the "evil" New York Times, I just hate to think that Republicans would conclude that its tawdry invective can't be substantiated through a mathematical metric. I know I feel better having put pencil to paper.
P.S. Feel free to offer your answers...or your own equations in the comments. I'll provide the answer derived from my metric in the comments at the end of the day.
Tagged as: 2000 Presidential Campaign, 2008 Election, Adultery, Divorce, Headliners & Legends, Humor, Influence Peddling, John McCain, Lobbyist, New York Times, Prisoner Of War, Psychology, Vicki Iseman, Vietnam
Just how many revised economic forecasts does it take to finally conclude that the U.S. is in a recession? Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan likes to up his odds we're heading into a recession by approximately 20 percentage points every quarter. Current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke seems to prefer a different approach. His modus operandi is to lower GDP a few tenths of a percent with each revised outlook.
As an outside observer, this measured slide towards using the "R" word feels like being in my car at a red stoplight with my favorite backseat driver seated beside me. As we wait for the lights to change (because we know they will), my trusted traffic manager sits there predicting the seconds until the opposing green light will turn yellow...never getting it quite right...but jubilant each time he announces...after the fact...that "The light just turned yellow". This process continues until our red light turns green and we can proceed to the next intersection...to start all over again.
While I realize my analogy isn't an actual equivalent, the frustrations are much the same. Yes, predicting the twists and turns of the economy isn't an exact science...but I do find our willingness to grant these prognosticators a free pass each time they err to be a rather absurd practice. The fact that the nation holds its breath each time a new report is scheduled for release merely supports my contention.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lowered its projection for economic growth this year, citing damage from the double blows of a housing slump and credit crunch. It said it also expects higher unemployment and inflation.
Under its new economic forecast, the Fed said that it now believes the gross domestic product will grow between 1.3 percent and 2 percent this year. That's lower than a previous Fed forecast for growth, which at that time was estimated to be between 1.8 percent and 2.5 percent.
With economic growth slowing, the Fed projected that the national jobless rate will rise to between 5.2 percent to 5.3 percent this year. That is higher than the central bank's old forecast for the rate to climb to as high as 4.9 percent. Last year, the unemployment rate averaged 4.6 percent.
And, with energy prices marching upward, the Fed also raised its projection for inflation. The Fed now expects inflation to be between 2.1 percent and 2.4 percent this year. That's higher than its old forecast for inflation, which was estimated to come in at around 1.8 percent to 2.1 percent.
The Fed said its revised forecasts reflected a number of factors including "a further intensification of the housing market correction, tighter credit conditions .... ongoing turmoil in financial markets and higher oil prices."
In truth, I suspect that the average American has just as good a sense of where the economy is headed as those who get paid to inform us. If the last number in our checkbook is negative, we conclude we have a problem. Why wouldn't the same math hold true for our national economy?
No, we allow our political leaders to sell us on the notion that a tax rebate of $300.00 to $1,200.00 is all that matters and all that is needed to jump start the economy...even as they continue to predict further economic contraction. Excuse me, but isn't that on par with each of us taking a cash advance on an already debt heavy credit card and thinking we're suddenly in the black?
Look, I understand the notion of spending an economy out of a downturn. However, the rest of that equation posits that the increased spending will result in new jobs, greater investment and productivity, and increasing revenues for the individual, the corporation, and the government.
Unfortunately, this equation may no longer be valid...especially since the jobs are often created in other nations, the investments are frequently targeted for countries with cheap labor such that productivity is less relevant, and the only increased revenues find their way into the pockets of formerly impoverished third world individuals and the corporations and their CEO's that benefit from the enhanced bottom line that ensues.
So what does the average American get? A stimulus package that provides a single check that won't overcome the unfavorable wage-inflation ratios, the higher costs of fuel, the expanding credit card debt, the skyrocketing health care costs, and the ever shrinking job opportunities.
At the same time, some of our political leaders clamor for making the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans permanent and lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent. I don't know about anyone else, but these refund checks remind me of the dynamics underlying "the world's oldest profession"...the one where one party gets poked for a few bucks by the fat cat who realizes that money can buy him anything he wants.
In the end, getting the powers that be to speak the "R" word is an exercise in relabeling. After all, once the deed has been done and the hush money has been paid, does it really matter what we call an old fashioned screwing? I think not.
The fact that the bulk of the American public's military assessments are filtered through the prism of the powers that be...a la the Bush administration...can be rather misleading and may well engender a false sense of security. Implied in these assessments is an assurance that our nation is being sufficiently protected from harm. It's not only possible that this is a rose colored view; we may be one unforeseen crisis away from the need to reinstitute a military draft.
A survey of a few thousand current and former military officers overwhelmingly concludes that our military has been stretched dangerously thin by the war in Iraq. What the survey doesn't state may be the ominous six hundred pound gorilla in the room.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has been stretched dangerously thin by the Iraq war, according to almost 90 percent of retired and current military officers polled on the state of America's armed forces.
Eighty percent said it would be unreasonable to expect the U.S. military to wage another major war successfully at this time, according to the poll by the Center for a New American Security think tank and Foreign Policy magazine.
More than 3,400 serving and retired officers took part in the poll, organizers said. Around 90 percent were retired officers, a large majority had combat experience and about 10 percent had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
"We are putting more strains on the all-volunteer force than it was ever designed to bear," Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, a prominent counterinsurgency expert, said at a panel discussion in Washington on Tuesday to announce the results of the survey.
Eighty-eight percent of respondents said the U.S. military had been stretched dangerously thin by Iraq. Sixty percent said the military was weaker than five years ago, 25 percent said it was stronger and 15 percent said it was about the same.
Truth be told, most Americans still look at military service as an abstract notion that rarely hits home. Yes, they are aware of the failings evidenced during the execution of the Iraq war and the tragic and prolonged loss of life...but they rarely have to worry that their family members might face the prospect of a draft.
If this survey provided only one insight, it should be a recognition that we may be one military crisis away from the necessity to reinstate a policy of involuntary military service. Even more disquieting is the prospect that we may not be able to properly respond to an unexpected military conflict.
In reality, the implementation of a draft would not facilitate an instantaneously fortified military nor would it come without a tremendous price tag. Hence, we could well find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to prioritize our military engagements...or prosecute them with dangerously compromised strategies.
Not only does that suggest a level of vulnerability not seen since being forced to ramp up in order to meet the challenge of past World Wars...it points out just how absurd it was for George Bush to ask Americans to go shopping in the aftermath of 9/11. It also demonstrates the inherent short-sightedness of our commander in chief and the degree to which he prefers placation and prevarication to the direct dissemination of the low-down.
The fact that we have repeatedly found ourselves in unrevealed and/or unexpected positions and predicaments suggests that Americans shouldn't take comfort in the assurances that a draft is out of the question.
A look at the recent Pakistani election and the evaporating power of Pervez Musharraf highlights our current president's propensity to put all of America's proverbial eggs into one basket. All too often that basket has turned out to be a leaky sieve filled with little more than broken and empty shells. The need for a draft may be the next egg scheduled for a surprise scrambling. That would not be a delectable dish.
The BBC documentary, Baby Bible Bashers, may be one of the most disturbing examples of children being abused by the misguided religious beliefs and manipulative ambitions of their parents. The documentary chronicles three child "evangelists" who are being touted by their parents as virtual crusaders for God. Two reside in the United States and one lives in her native country of Brazil.
The story of Samuel Boutwell, a seven year old boy from Mississippi, was the most troubling of the three. He reportedly gave his first sermon at the age of three and he frequently protests outside an abortion clinic. His father, a self-confessed sinner who has been "born again", travels with his son to preach to people on the streets of major metropolitan areas including Washington DC and New York City.
It seems that the common denominator of the parents of many of these children centers on their own troubled lives. As with so many born agains, they operate under the belief that goodness can only be found in fear of God and the punishment he will meet out to those who sin against him. Unfortunately, God serves as the only means by which they believe they can keep their "sinful" inclinations in check. From there, they project those fears and insecurities onto their innocent children...supposedly turning them into the model citizens they were unable to become.
These children are being set up for tremendous disappointment. It is obvious they have begun to internalize their parents grandiose visions and they are well on their way to actually accepting that they have been chosen to speak on behalf of God.
Sadly, each of them is being taught their trade by the adults in their lives...trained like circus animals to perform to the crowds for the benefit of their handlers...and there can be no doubt that these adults seek to profit from their efforts.
If you aren't able to watch the entire documentary, I highly recommend taking the time to view part five. In that segment (from about 2:30 to 4:50 into the video) you will see Samuel Boutwell break down under the pressure being applied by his father. It's heart wrenching to witness...and I can't imagine the damage being done to this poor child. Watch his actions as he begins to cry. It's obvious that he tries to suppress his emotions. When he starts to glance around, it struck me that he was worried his tears might elicit a scolding from his father on the need to be strong. So much for Christian values.
Baby Bible Bashers - Part One
Baby Bible Bashers - Part Two
Baby Bible Bashers - Part Three
Baby Bible Bashers - Part Four
Baby Bible Bashers - Part Five
Who knew Mo Rocca could carry a tune? In the following clip, Mo tears it up with his own Obama music video. The premise of Mo's little ditty is that Barack needs to win the Hispanic vote...so Mo decides some salsa is in order.
Mo doesn't stop there...take a look at the shirt he's wearing...now that's bedazzling...and he probably used his own BeDazzler! Unfortunately, he forgot to put on his pointy toed Old Gringo Valentino cowboy boots.
The funniest thing about the video is the fact that Mo sings his song with the same perfect syllabic enunciation he uses when he speaks. Regardless, he does a killer job of rolling his R's. You go Mo!
This video is an amazing demonstration of how far people of faith will go in their efforts to substantiate their beliefs. The fact that Sean Hannity narrates the piece is just icing on the cake.
In this video, a man recounts falling asleep and finding himself in hell for 23 minutes. Never mind that he is simply describing his dream. Apparently we are supposed to believe that the images in this man's dreams are a real representation of hell and proof that there is a God and a heaven and hell. Yea...I know I'm convinced.
I guess this is a good example of Fox's "we report, you decide" mantra. Suffice it to say that I've made my decision...these people are loons.
By the way, I had a dream last night that I went to hell and Fox News was the only available television station...and the programs of Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly were played on a continuous loop 24/7. Now that's one hellacious nightmare I wouldn't want to live.
The writer's strike is over...finally...and Bill Maher's New Rules is back. Given the number of New Rules, it's clear that the writers were doing more than walking the picket lines. Maher takes on the baseball steroids scandal, the 2008...
Recent news events highlight some of the issues that routinely concern gays. It's not the first time and it won't be the last time that we see a confluence of events. However, as one reviews the content of these...
Tagged as: Bigotry, Brian McInerney, California, E.O. Green Junior High, Gay, Gay Bashing, Homophobia, James Dobson, Lawrence King, LGBT, Oxnard, Parenting, Pat Robertson, Prejudice, Same-Sex Marriage, Transgender, Transsexual
Creationists spend an inordinate amount of time crafting simplistic arguments aimed at undermining the theory of evolution. If one wants to see some of their best work, one need only navigate over to GodTube. It's a YouTube knock off...because...
For homeowners facing rising interest rates, higher payments, and dwindling or nonexistent equity, the roll out of "Project Lifeline" seems little more than a "dying by inches" strategy. The plan's 30-day freeze on foreclosures seems to be the equivalent...
Tagged as: 2008 Election, Economy, Foreclosures, George W. Bush, GOP, Housing Bubble, Housing Crisis, Interest Rates, Mortgage Industry, Project Lifeline, Recession, RTC, S&L Scandal, Sub-Prime Lending, U.S. Treasury
If you haven't seen the video touting Barack Obama and his message of "Yes We Can", you can view it below. I've also included a parody of that video (John.he.is) that is intended to illuminate John McCain's unfavorable contrast....
"Sometimes when you get too close, you get too far" is one of many pearls of wisdom handed down from my Italian immigrant grandparents. They used the expression to warn their children that all relationships weren't the same and...
If you didn't see Mitt Romney's announcement that he is suspending his campaign, you missed the coup de grace of Mittens' prolific pandering. It seems that on the heels of contributing 35 million dollars to his campaign, repositioning himself...
In an effort to reassert their relevance, Catholic Bishops in Spain are rallying their shrinking congregations to oppose the country's sitting government and it's leader, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The Bishops hope to influence the March 9th...
At long last, the infamous Dr. Dobson has elected to endorse a candidate for the 2008 presidential contest. Having eliminated most of the GOP's candidates in prior proclamations, "private citizen Dobson" has announced his support for Mike Huckabee. I...
NOTE: This posting will appear as the lead item throughout the day and any new entries will be added below it until Wednesday morning. At long last, Super Tuesday has arrived...and with it an opportunity for millions of Americans...
If you've never heard of Phill Kline, consider yourself lucky. At the same time, if you oppose those who have made a career of vilifying abortion providers for political gain, Phill Kline may be enemy number one. When one...
Tagged as: Abortion, Contraception, Dr. George Tiller, Kansas, Kansas Supreme Court, Late Term Abortions, Phill Kline, Planned Parenthood, Premarital Sex, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Roe v. Wade, Sedgwick County, Sex Education, Teen Pregnancy
OK, maybe I'm giving him too much credit...but the actions on the part of Attorney General Michael Mukasey to insure fair treatment for the LGBT employees at the Department of Justice is certainly a welcome sign. Going back to...
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