Heterodox Views on Politics and Public Policy from Michael Blaine

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Post-Election Analysis

Just One Of Many Questions

I am relieved that Barack Obama won this month's presidential election. He is a positive and well-spoken politician who ought to set a tone in Washington, DC that will feel like a salve after eight years of a White House that emanates sadism and stupidity.

Moreover, the other major-party ticket was abhorrent. It consisted of a simplistic old man who achieved "war hero" status by first dropping bombs on a distant agrarian society, and then getting shot down and imprisoned for it by the aggrieved, paired with a syntactically-challenged megalomaniac who believes that humans and dinosaurs (quite apart from her running mate) co-existed. If the Republicans somehow had won the presidency, it would have intensified the death throes of the USA. For once, America seems to have dodged a political bullet.

So, it is time now to move on to the three biggest post-election questions, judging from the mainstream press, facing the nation:

1. Whom should President-elect Obama choose to fill his cabinet? Many of my friends and family members, as well as former colleagues and professors, would make superlative candidates. These people have the experience, qualifications and moral fiber to do an outstanding job. Furthermore, none is beholden to the organized, monied interests of Washington nor wedded to the status quo manner of governing. If Mr. Obama would like me to forward specific names for his consideration, I will do so in an instant.

As for the other, well-known personalities being batted about by the media in connection with various cabinet posts, does it really matter? These people are so disconnected from and unconcerned about the average American that the federal government can scarcely be called "ours"; instead, it more closely resembles a parlor game, like pro sports. "Do you think Obama should keep Robert Gates on as secretary of defense?" "Do you think Hank Steinbrenner should try to put C.C. Sabathia in Yankee pinstripes?" Ultimately, it makes not a whit of concrete difference to us bystanders, the citizens.

2. What should the Republican party do now? That anyone feels genuine concern for a group of greedy; racist; superstitious; paranoid; and willfully ignorant zealots boggles the mind. That anyone still considers this pack of self-described "patriots" a legitimate political party is even more amazing. The GOP can best be understood as a religious cult. It confounds rational analysis. The best the rest of us can hope for is that the Republicans suffer their very own Jonestown.
3. What type of dog should the Obamas take to the White House? Obviously, they should take a cat.
Now that the above matters have been settled, the nation's commercial media and their endless supply of experts and pundits should feel free to move on to the next set of critical issues.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Told You So

For years, I told anyone who would listen that borrowing money from the Chinese to make wealthy Americans even wealthier, while simultaneously wasting hundreds of billions dollars on a pointless war in Mesopotamia, was terrible economic policy.

For years, I told anyone who would listen that the invasion of Iraq not only would produce no foreign policy success, but that the resultant death and destruction would also contribute to severe domestic moral erosion.

Today I feel vindicated but extremely rueful. I hope my country has learned its lessons so that it soon can begin to heal and evolve into a far better place.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

An Open Letter Against Time Magazine

Time Magazine Carries On A Deplorable Tradition

Dear "Time":

Your magazine's question "Is It Time To Invade Burma?" - posed to readers today online - represents possibly the most arrogant, irresponsible and reprehensible piece of rhetoric I have ever seen emanate from the mainstream press.

The assumption of the article in question that other countries are the mere playthings of the U.S. and its military shows that your publication will sink to the depths of the most sordid yellow journalism and the most brazenly jingoistic posturing.
Given the recent atrocious track record of our country in violent and imperialistic adventures, one might have expected more circumspection. Yet it is now more evident than ever that your publication is part of our nation's problems.


Michael Blaine

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

McCain The Fraudster

Featuring John McCain As "Shyster"

The "Los Angeles Times" revealed today that presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been collecting a tax-free disability pension from the US Navy that in 2007 totaled $58,358. Only two conclusions can be drawn: If McCain is (psychologically?) disabled, he's not fit to be president. If he is not disabled, he's been defrauding the federal government for decades and should be criminally prosecuted. Either way, McCain's candidacy needs to end immediately.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Alcoholic and the Torture Victim


A diverse country of 300 million people, continental in scale, the United States is full of talented individuals. So why was a dullard like George W. Bush put in the White House? A man who challenged the nation with such penetrating questions as, "Is our children learning?" A man who assured us, "I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." A man who told Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, "Germany is important." A man who declared to President Lula, "Wow! Brazil is big." That remains a mystery. But some day, with the benefit of hindsight, our country may come to realize, as Bush himself once observed, "people that are really very weird can get into sensitive positions and have a tremendous impact on history."
Fortunately, 2008 brings a new opportunity to select a national leader. Will Americans seek a person with the innate intelligence and cultivated wisdom to do the job properly? The Republicans think not. Their candidate, John Sidney McCain III, graduated from college with a class rank of 894 out of 899 students. This confirms, in spades, the reason McCain comes across as so lackluster and uninformative in his public remarks: he simply is not very smart.

Lack of intelligence in the White House impedes good policymaking, as has been amply demonstrated by George W. Bush. But what about other obvious warning signs in a presidential candidate? In my view, it always was clear that nobody who was an active alcoholic until age 40, as Bush was, should be voted into the presidency. It is welcome news whenever a problem drinker gives up the bottle, but that does not mean that the ex-drinker should go on to lead the entire nation. Clearly, decades of inebriation is poor preparation for such a task.

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

Hillary Takes On Shuster: In Defense Of An Independent Media

MSNBC'S David Shuster Discovers The Perils Of Covering The Clinton Campaign

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

A Cock-and-Bull Story

Ready for Congressional Testimony

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 Real Meaning of "Anchor Baby"

Just Wait Until They Get The Invoice For Their Share Of The Debt

"Each year, thousands of women enter the United States illegally to give birth, knowing that their child will thus have U.S. citizenship. Their children immediately qualify for a slew of federal, state, and local benefit programs. In addition, when the children turn 21, they can sponsor the immigration of other relatives, becoming 'anchor babies' for an entire clan."

--The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)

Many xenophobes and immigration demagogues in our country have latched onto the concept of the "anchor baby": the theory that a pregnant woman, always Mexican, would make the taxing trip North by land to give birth in America and thereby obtain US citizenship for her baby. The mother in this way obtains a foothold in our country and begins to enjoy all the wonderful financial handouts on offer. FAIR - quoted above - is possibly the most serious of the groups concerned about immigration into the US, but there is still another angle from which to view the issue: every American child, born to natives or not, is an "anchor baby" in the sense that he or she comes into the world with an economic anchor already around his or her neck.

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

Help The Poor? Edwards Can't Be Bothered

Heading Back to the Better of the Two Americas

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

Guilt, Bloodlust and Presidential Politics

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

Mao's Little Red Accounting Book

Brother, Can You Spare Some Yuan?

"The Bush administration is close to completing an economic-stimulus proposal that will include $800 rebates for individuals and $1,600 for households."
--Bloomberg News, 1/17/08

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Bridge To The Twentieth Century

After the Caucus Loss In Iowa: Hillary Clinton with Bill and Chelsea;
Over Hillary's Right Arm Peer The Hawk-Like Eyes of Former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright
Was the slogan on the podium "Ready for Change" meant to be ironic? Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby sunnily asserted, "Can't repeat the past? Of course you can, old sport!" Yet he protagonized the greatest tragic novel in American literature. Let's hope other American voters do their reading as well as Iowans apparently have. It's time for the country to move on and embrace a new and better political era.