Why I’m voting for Obama: part 2

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In the middle of the Carter presidency, for reasons unrelated to national politics, my mother died and my family was bankrupted. I was sixteen, and almost overnight I went from living in a middle-class suburban household to living in my car, a 1971 Vega that was a hand-me-down from my brother. I ended up in a trailer in southern Illinois, starving and broke, and stayed there for five years.

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Why I’m voting for Obama: part 1

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I am two months younger than Barack Obama.  I grew up in a Chicago suburb called Crystal Lake.

Whenever I asked my parents why they chose to live and raise their children in Crystal Lake, out of all the other possible bedroom communities, towns like Lake Forest and Dundee and Barrington and Woodstock, the answer was always the same: because of the schools.

It was the mid-1960s.  When you’re a child, you don’t know anything about current events.  I couldn’t have picked Lyndon Johnson out of a lineup.  I didn’t know there was a war in Vietnam until it was almost over, and I never heard a whisper about the assassinations of Martin Luther King or Robert Kennedy.

I voted for my first president in 1968.  I was seven and in second grade.  We had a class election, with a little voting booth and everything.  I didn’t know anything about either candidate, so I voted for the guy I had heard of: Richard Nixon, who I had heard my father talking about at some point.  To this day, I clearly remember sitting on the front lawn of the school, waiting for the bus to come, when they announced on the loudspeaker that Nixon had won the school-wide election.  I remember cheering, not because I had any idea who Nixon was, but because I had somehow “guessed right.”  When it was announced later that night that Nixon had also won the national election, it felt anti-climactic.

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Some notes on the second presidential debate

I wasn’t that impressed or thrilled by the first presidential debate — I honestly thought it was a draw. Even though I find myself in a rare consonance with many things Obama believes, I thought he was stiff and mysteriously unconvincing, and while I disagree with almost everything John McCain says, I thought he presented himself well, especially considering all the hysterical drama he had tried to manufacture surrounding the event.free stats

This was different.

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Economic update

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I’m sure glad they passed that $700 billion-dollar bailout (with an added $150 billion pork attached). Now the economy is saved!

For those interested, below the fold is the text of the email I received in response from my senator Barbara Boxer:

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Obligatory Vice-Presidential Debate Thread

You know who I miss? Lloyd Bentsen. And Admiral Stockdale. Those guys were great.free stats

Congratulations are due to governor Sarah Palin for recovering her poise — it’s much easier to watch her recite her fake homilies and Republican talking points than it was to watch George W. Bush fumble his way through simple sentences consisting of words of one syllable.

I’ve never actually seen Joe Biden ever do anything before tonight, and I was impressed with him as well — his thinking is both fluid and pointed, and he looks exactly like someone you’d cast in the role of vice-president.

In general, I enjoyed last night’s debate. Knockout blows like the ones delivered by Lloyd Bentsen twenty years ago seem to have been written out of debates these days, so they lack in drama — Obama tends to shy away from appearing too angry about the past eight years of governmental mismanagement, McCain must keep his contempt for his opponent in check or risk appearing to look like a cranky old man, Biden is lucid but polite, Palin (last night, anyway) was polished but insubstantial. (And, for my younger readers, let me add that Lloyd Bentsen, despite mopping the floor with Dan Quayle, then wringing him out and hanging him up to dry, did not, after all, become vice-president.)

So Governor Palin informed us that gay people are so by choice, and that, as a governor, she must tolerate their presence. That’s an honest, if politic, answer from a conservative fundamentalist, and if you feel similarly, go ahead and vote for her. Same with her views on global warming: she’s not here to think about what caused it, she only knows what needs to be done about it, and that seems to involve doing absolutely nothing to stop the exploitation and burning of fossil fuels. Again, well-spoken and lucid, and if you feel similarly, go ahead and vote for her.  She also stated that she thinks that Dick Cheney missed a couple of opportunities to expand the powers of the vice presidency.  Which, you know, good for her, and if you want Sarah Palin to be more powerful than Dick Cheney is, go ahead and vote for her (that is, certainly, the hopes of the Republican base she is meant to energize).  She misidentified our troop leader in Afghanistan as General McClellan, which I think is an honest mistake to make — if you, like McClellan, are an arch-conservative secessionist (to say nothing of the whole slavery thing).

Talking Giraffe Movie

Some people don’t test well. I totally get it. If you point a camera at me and ask me to name a Supreme Court decision I disagreed with, I will probably blank too. (Well, not really — the one that illegally installed Bush in the presidency is rarely far from my mind.) Maybe Sarah Palin is a wonderful executive, smart and canny, capable of inspiring others to their best work, able to negotiate complex networks of ever-shifting political alliances and directing huge forces of manpower and economic strength. Who knows? I don’t.free stats

Here’s the thing:

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Now is the winter of our discontent

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I was reading this article over at ABC News and came across this little item:

Bush’s Disapproval Rating Highest in History

Just two presidents have had lower approval (Richard Nixon and Harry Truman) than President Bush, and none has had higher disapproval in polls since 1938.

This is, of course, not news, and certainly not around my house, where Bush’s disapproval ratings have maintained their 100% level for eight years, even among the cats, who are staunch supply-siders. I only mention it because I was reading the article a little too fast and for a moment I thought it said "Just two presidents have had lower approval (Richard III and Harry Truman)."

What I know so far.

I’ll say it again: I am not an economist and, unlike a lot of people skulking around the internet at this point in time, I won’t pretend to be one. If there is anyone in my readership who can better illuminate the current economic situation, I would very much like to hear from you.free stats

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Hooray for the red, white and blue!

"The sale [of Wachovia] would further concentrate Americans’ bank deposits in the hands of just three banks: Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup."free stats

Hey, consolidation of the nation’s wealth into a whole three banks — that can’t be bad for consumers, can it? I can feel my $700 billion dollars growing already, it’s the most awesomely effective bailout ever! I must be sure to forward my thanks to President Pinochet Bush!

And if you wrote to your representatives to stop this bill, why not go ahead and write to them again?  If Bush says it’s an emergency, it cannot possibly be an emergency, and if the world economy is doomed to go into the shredder, this $700 billion give-away is not going to prevent it from doing so, and the middle class will end up screwed either way.

And Michael Moore agrees with me, so there. Nyah.

Pinochet approves of the bailout

Teacher, pupil, kid at the back of the room napping.

In an airport in Tulsa yesterday with nothing to read, I picked up a copy of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine — I had already finished my copy of Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. Little did I know that last year’s bestseller would prove more informative than the morning’s newspapers.  The thesis of the book is that certain economic policies can only be imposed in the wake of a shocking event, such as a flood or a coup or a bombing, and that, if these events do not occur on their own, they must be created by the people who wish to impose said policies.

The following I found on pp 105-106:

[For those coming in late, the Chicago school of economics was devised by Nobel economist Milton Friedman. Friedman’s idea, simply put, is that a perfect economic state will be realized when a government cuts absolutely all social programs, reduces taxes to a bare minimum, pays only for military spending and the police, puts all government programs (education, infrastructure, etc) into private hands and eliminates all corporate regulations. The only problem with Friedman’s economic utopia is that, since people don’t like to see social programs disappear, it can only be implemented by a ruthless dictator. In 1973, Pinochet took over Chile in a bloody coup, killed all his political enemies, terrorized the population and imposed a Friedman-style economic plan on the nation.]
"…In 1982, despite its strict adherence to the Chicago doctrine, Chile’s economy crashed: its debt exploded, it faced hyperinflation once again and unemployment hit 30 percent — ten times higher than it was under Allende. The main cause was that the pirahnas, the Enron-style financial houses that the Chicago Boys [the Friedman-trained Chilean economists who imposed Pinochet’s economic policy] had freed from all regulation, had bought up the country’s assets on borrowed money and run up an enormous debt of $14 billion."

"The situation was so unstable that Pinochet was forced to do exactly what Allende had done: he nationalized many of these companies.

"It’s clear that Chile was never the laboratory of ‘pure’ free markets that its cheerleaders had claimed. Instead, it was a country where a small elite leapt from wealthy to super-rich in extremely short order — a highly profitable formula bankrolled by debt and heavily subsidized (then bailed out) with public funds. When the hype and salesmanship behind the miracle are stripped away, Chile under Pinochet and the Chicago Boys was not a capitalist state featuring a liberated market but a corporatist one…a mutually supporting alliance between a police state and large corporations, joining forces to wage an all-out war on the third power sector — the workers — thereby drastically increasing the alliance’s share of the national wealth.free stats

"That war — what many Chileans understandably see as a war of the rich against the poor and middle class — is the real story of Chile’s economic ‘miracle.’ By 1988, when the economy had stabilized and was growing rapidly, 45 percent of the population had fallen below the poverty line. The richest 10 percent of Chileans, however, had seen their incomes increase by 83 percent…if that track record qualifies Chile as a miracle for Chicago school economists, perhaps shock treatment [Friedman’s term for his theory] was never really about jolting the the economy into health. Perhaps it was meant to do exactly what it did — hoover wealth up to the top and shock much of the middle class out of existence."

Any questions?


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