Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
In McCain's case, his status as someone who was tortured during the Vietnam War gives great pause. How terrible that any human being is ever abused, and how difficult the recovery from such a harrowing experience must be. But McCain's five years in a POW camp, and the torture he endured there, are hardly solid preparation for taking the helm of the United States of America. America desperately needs a smart, steady hand in Washington. Any presidential candidate whose resume features a black hole in the middle, no matter how unfortunately come by, should be turned away. Let those wrestling with awful ghosts do so far from the halls of power.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
David Shuster is (was?) a TV journalist I had grown to respect enormously for his mastery of the arcane details of the trial and conviction of White House lawyer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. When Shuster last week described the process of Hillary Clinton utilizing her daughter Chelsea to court anti-democratic "superdelegates" by using the verb "to pimp out," he employed a phrase that is colloquial yet quite apt. Hillary's subsequent bullying of Shuster's network - MSNBC - into forcing him to apologize on the air strikes a blow against independent media and reveals the presidential candidate's arrogance and propensity for authoritarianism. MSNBC and Shuster should have stuck to their guns, even if it meant forgoing the Clinton machine's advertising revenues.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
This week, after CIA director Michael Hayden admitted that his agency has tortured prisoners, the US Congress snapped into action by holding a hearing to question baseball pitcher Roger Clemens about his alleged steroid use. With this bold stroke, the "People's House" sent a clear message to the rest of the world: cheating in the highest professional ranks of the national pastime could have negative consequences, although we will still ask you for your autograph. Our elected officials proved that the beacon of democracy shines on.But the story does not end there. As official government confession on torture sank in, civic groups raised a hue and cry for the humane treatment of . . . roosters. New York Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez and former San Francisco Giants pitcher and Hall of Famer Juan Marichal turned up in a YouTube video releasing cocks in a fight two years ago in the Dominican Republic. (For the record, Marichal's rooster killed Martinez'.) Notwithstanding that this activity is legal and wildly popular in the pitchers' native country, the president of the Humane Society declared that "(a)nimal fighting has no place whatsoever among those who presume to be role models for youngsters . . . It's animal cruelty, no matter where it occurs."
Although I'm sympathetic to the Dominicans' own cultural standards, the Humane Society's position is perhaps defensible. But until the American government repudiates wars of aggression; extra-territorial occupations; the murder of civilians, intended or otherwise; and torture, it stands to reason that whether or not baseball players attend a cock fight will have only a marginal impact on our kids. At one time in this nation it would have been obvious that the real issue is not defending roosters, but the universal rights of human beings. If American children see Congress focused on steroids while society's institutions wreak violence on humans, our country can hardly expect its youngest members to behave humanely.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
The national debt currently stands at $9.2 trillion, and will surpass $10 trillion within just two years. Divide the current number by the US population of 300 million, and you get a static liability of $32,600 per person. In other words, every "anchor baby" born on US soil automatically is on the hook for that amount of money. The picture gets worse if you look at future obligations. In 2006, the Government Accountability Office estimated that each full-time worker in the US had an unfunded liability exposure of $400,000, meaning he or she would have to pay that much over a working life toward financing federal "entitlement" programs. How many mothers-to-be would continue into the US if they were handed those figures at the border?!! Given those shocking numbers, it seems we could use all the workers we can possibly attract just to dilute the burden.
Since our political "leaders" in Washington, DC, steadfastly refuse to run the nation's fiscal accounts on an adult basis (see how they are rushing to send us checks funded by the Chinese this election year under the guise of "economic stimulus"), I predict we will see a reversal of the "anchor baby" phenomenon: expectant American parents may want to abandon the US in order to have their children in a country that offers jus soli or birthright citizenship and also has its books in order. An obvious choice in this regard is Canada, which has run a budget surplus for over a decade and enjoys a declining national debt both absolutely and as a percentage of GDP. In short, it is a country where a baby can start life with a basically clean slate, free of financial anchors.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Erstwhile Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards promoted an appealing rhetoric: The working poor in America should get a larger piece of the very large national economic pie. In the interests of equity and social harmony, this was the right stance to take, especially after years of government sponsorship of class warfare against society's most vulnerable members. Edwards, it appeared, had made a personal and moral commitment to creating a fairer America.
But as soon as it became clear he would not obtain his party's nomination, John Edwards quit. It reminded me of something I had almost forgotten: On election night 2004 I went to bed having heard vice-presidential candidate Edwards promise to explore every legal channel in Ohio in a bid to move that state's electoral votes into the Democratic column and potentially propel the putative opposition party into the White House. By the very next morning, though, the great American appeaser had capitulated and that was the end of the matter. His running mate John Kerry went back to his cushy job as a senator, and our nation got four more years of George W. Bush.
This time around, knowing full well he would end his presidential bid the next day, John Edwards found himself in a union hall in St. Paul, Minnesota, urging the gathering (along with potential donors) to stay in the election fight with him. I guess announcing the campaign's end at that time was inconvenient from the standpoint of publicity generation, but there should have been great compunction about leading supporters on for such self-serving reasons. Edwards took advantage of the union members, hiding his real intentions until one last opportunity to grandstand before the national press during prime cable news hours.
If Edwards really cared about poor Americans as he claims, he would stay in the race until the Democratic convention in August and broker a deal there on their behalf. But clearly this cause of the poor is not worth another few months of work for the former senator. When the going got tough, he folded. Meanwhile, 37 million poor Americans will remain that way, without an explicit champion on the national stage.
The disingenuous Edwards had this to say as he threw in the barely-perspired-upon towel: "But I want to say . . . . this son of a millworker's gonna be just fine." With that reassurance, America's working poor must have breathed a tremendous sigh of relief. The system actually works, at least for half-hearted politicians with millions of dollars to fall back on.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Ol' "Blood and Freedom" Thompson
"We must never forget that America has shed more blood defending freedom here and abroad than all the other countries in the world combined."
--Republican Presidential Candidate Fred Thompson
I heard Fred Thompson (on TV) make the above statement to his supporters after losing the South Carolina primary. It drew great applause, and struck me as one of the oddest utterances of the tedious 2008 presidential campaign. It is a risible assertion, patently impossible to substantiate, even if the term "freedom" were objective. Yet it drew wild applause.
As a search of the Internet shows, Thompson trots out this enigmatic and grisly phrase a lot. What can it mean? Why does it strike a chord? Here is a hypothesis: It at once assuages repressed guilt for the mass violence wreaked by our country on Iraq, and validates the collective bloodlust so prevalent among hardcore Republicans. It also implies that, in a manner befitting the Aztecs, the GOP - if returned to power - will continue to sacrifice humans as a talismanic ritual.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The US financial crisis has become so severe -- domestic stock markets have plunged nearly ten percent since the start of the year -- that the president seems to have taken notice. So, after spending $4,100 per household so far on the invasion and occupation of Iraq, he is on the verge of giving over one-third of it back. How beneficent.
But where will this money come from? After all, the US government already owes $9.2 trillion, up from $5.7 trillion in 2000 -- a rise of 61% in just over seven years. The proportion of this debt held by foreigners is approaching fifty percent, with nearly half of that held by two countries: Japan and China. If these countries overcome their increasing reluctance to accept Treasury paper denominated in ever-weaker dollars, they would be the parties to whom Bush turns to prop up the national economy.
So I propose we cut out the middle man, and have the Asian Development Bank issue checks to American citizens directly. That way, we all would know who bailed us out and to whom we must return the money when (or if) we're on better footing.
Why the current government cares about the state of the American economy now is somewhat of a mystery. Fiscal, tax and monetary policy for years have been driving us to this moment of reckoning, so it can not come as a surprise. Plus, with only a year remaining in office and approval ratings securely in the doldrums, popularity for the Bush administration must not be much of a concern. There is also a dim prospect of the next president being a Republican no matter what happens over the next few months.
Ulimately, the "stimulus package" that we citizens are going to get is due to a nefarious bipartisanship: If the economy becomes too rocky in an election year, the two major parties that have controlled government for as long as anyone can remember may have to answer some real questions and propose some real solutions. And that is something they can not abide. But they can always provide a quick fix now and work out a payment plan with the Chinese later.