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Archive for September 2008

McCain To Debate: Did CNN Know?

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Although I generally like to write about topics which are underreported or not reported at all in the English-speaking press, if I’m not mistaken, this time I’ve got something which hasn’t been reported at all. So here it is, Short Circuit News Wire Breaking News:

CNN International Advertised Debate While McCain Claimed Intention Not to Participate

CNN’s international news channel has been advertising the debate multiple times per day, despite the fact that John McCain had officially suspended his campaign and stated that he would not be debating until “we have taken action to address this crisis”, referring to the Bush administration’s proposal to divert $700 billion of public funding into the failed predatory lending market.

While there are a few dissenters, the figure is agreed upon on both sides of the aisle. There are disagreements as to the specifics of the deal, but our representatives in Washington have pretty much agreed that we’re giving away $700 billion to these charlatans. I’m by no means convinced that this is necessary or proper to do. I find it hard to imagine that allowing these businesses to fall, or finding a solution which does not cost public funds or costs us less, will have repercussions costing more than $700 billion to resolve. I especially find it hard to swallow the Republican party line on this one when they’ve been denying the recession which has been commonly accepted to already be in place for months or years, and U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is warning that without the bailout we will enter a recession.

I’m happy to report that I’m not the only one who isn’t taking this for granted. Internetland is full of opinion writers, economists, and politicians who are stating their disagreement for a number of reasons, some of them saying we should be helping the people affected by the economic crisis, others saying that without resolving the underlying economic problems of our nation, this is just throwing money away and conserving the overly permissive environment for fishy business. Once again, in this matter Ralph Nader provides the leadership that the two-party system does not.

McCain’s strategy has always been to appeal to the undecided voters while letting Sarah Palin take over the job of energizing the right. McCain is trying to make himself look like he’s “bipartisan” and “above politics”. During the debate tonight, look for insinuations of, but probably not any direct mention of, Barack Obama’s lack of patriotism or inability to put “country first” and act in a bipartisan manner. McCain suspended his campaign and proposed to postpone the presidential debate until he could go to Washington to do his job as Senator, and while his hardcore supporters may be teary-eyed with pride over their candidate’s integrity, I think most people see this as a political move. The idea is certainly prominent.

McCain’s decision to take part in the debate was supposedly made not as a response to the widespread calls for discussion, Obama stating that with so many problems, a debate is more important now than ever, but because “enough progress” had been made on passing the bailout bill to justify his leaving Washington to participate. The wording of his announcement was perhaps vague enough to justify this decision without “flip-flopping” (I hate this term) but his words were: “We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates to delay Friday night’s debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.” Depending on whether you see “taking action” as having a discussion on the matter or whether you see it as actually passing, presenting, or agreeing on legislation, McCain’s work here may or may not be done, but whatever his criteria were, they were met in time for today’s debate.

CNN International has been advertising the debate as going forward even while reporting that McCain was not planning to participate. I don’t know if other news channels were doing the same; I’m in Buenos Aires, Argentina and the only English language news channels I have are CNN International and BBC International, so I would be interested in hearing from my nonexistent readers whether the news stations they watch have been advertising the debate or not.

CNN International may have been running these commercials for any one of three reasons: First, they could simply not have had time to change their commercial programming. Second, it could have been a gamble. They could have been hoping the debate would take place, and made the decision to continue running the commercials. Third, they may have known that McCain was going to show up. I am planning on emailing them and asking.

I’m a bit uneasy with these possibilities. Advertising a debate when you don’t know whether it will take place or not seems like an odd thing to do, and if it didn’t take place, I don’t know how it would make CNN International look to its viewers if they tuned in at the scheduled time and found no debate. It seems less than professional to me.

I’m also willing to entertain the idea that CNN and other news organizations may have been in on McCain’s media stunt. Obviously when someone talks to you off the record, or if there’s some kind of open secret, it’s not necessarily appropriate to report on it, but if you have inside information and advertise an event knowing it will take place, when the candidate involved is attempting to build expectation by claiming he may not show up, and at the same time contributing to this buildup of expectation by reporting the uncertainty as to whether the event will take place or not, represents, in my opinion, a lack of journalistic integrity. Journalists do have to follow certain rules of etiquette when dealing with important newsmakers in order to stay in the business and keep the contacts they need, but this is playing along too much and borders on conspiracy.

Another quick note on whether McCain’s story is consistent, CNN has reported that “John McCain has said he will not attend unless Congress passes bailout bill” in the story highlights for this news item. I don’t know if that’s a mistake on their part or if somewhere in the mess of interviews and press releases and stories, McCain or someone from the McCain campaign has defined having “taken action”.

Written by Alex (Capitalocracy)

September 26, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Election Wasteland Part III: Media Fallout and the New Election Landscape

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National Conventions Drop Like Nukes: Examining the Fallout and Election Wasteland, Part III

The election landscape has suffered a dramatic change after the Republican National Convention, as I was able to predict when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate. The Palin strategy has worked, so far, without a single setback, turning the poll numbers sideways and shifting the focus of this election from Barack Obama’s crusade to take back the nation from the Republican war machine to McCain, the old soldier who has managed to woo the press into eating up his image as a maverick candidate, despite the fact that he has no policy disagreements with his party or its financial backers and that he chose a truly frightening vice presidential candidate just to spread his numbers and build support in the conservative base.

The Palin story is huge. An extremely divisive and controversial figure, she has become an instant media star. I don’t get a lot of traffic on my blog, but the two articles I’ve written on Palin have put a huge spike in my numbers. I don’t know how many people are actually reading this stuff, but I’ve gotten twice as many hits in the last week from my analysis of the strategic reasons Palin was likely chosen than from my previous top post, my analysis of marriage rights following the California decision in May that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

What follows will be an analysis of both conventions followed by the impact they’ve had in the public dialogue and on reshaping the political landscape at the beginning of the conclusion of this election cycle. This is the third part.

Part I: The Democratic National Convention

Part II: The Republican National Convention

Part III: Media Fallout and the New Election Landscape

The Republican Party has used the nuclear option with their choice of Sarah Palin as vice presidential candidate and the direction they are taking their campaign. As a presidential candidate, John McCain had a good shot at running against Barack Obama as the honorable veteran war hero archetype of candidate, forcing even his political opponents to openly recognize his goodness, human decency, and capability to lead, making them have to rely solely on making the case for change, but the Republican Party, strategically maneuvering and always willing to put political expedience above the good of the nation, will have it both ways if they can. They’re twisting the public dialogue to its breaking point, and the faithful among their constituents are having to swallow an ever more convoluted storyline in order to maintain their unwavering loyalty. The current election landscape is a barren radioactive wasteland, and we’ll all be lucky to make it out alive.

Palin’s media appeal was apparent the moment she was announced as VP candidate. The big night at the Republican National Convention was her speech. All eyes were on her, overshadowing even the actual presidential candidate’s rather flat call for sameness. When she came out on the stage at the RNC, she didn’t have to say a word. Facetious preliminary reticence on the part of the media as to whether or not the Republican Party would accept her made it clear to everyone attending the convention that they were to wear their support on their sleeves. The RNC has always been a theatrical affair, the Republican Party may be responsible for inventing the effect of releasing helium balloons from the floor and dropping air balloons from the ceiling simultaneously, and all Palin had to do was show up, and the Party hoisted her up to the hero status they knew she needed to have in order to serve her strategic purpose in the Party.

The media set the bar low for Palin. Leading up to the speech, media commentators repeated that her acceptance speech would be an important test for Palin. And since she read the words written for her intelligibly, she “really hit it out of the park”. The delivery of the speech was praised very highly, and to me it just seemed like a parent sticking a child’s drawing to the fridge.

The above YouTube user saw Fox’s coverage of Palin’s speech as biased toward the left because they mentioned the fact that someone else wrote her speech, while I saw CNN’s coverage as far too enthusiastic in suddenly defining her as some kind of grand orator because of how she delivered the speech. I think it’s fair to talk about the speechwriters and give them credit, and the speechwriters are often mentioned, but the fact is most candidates work with speechwriters rather than having a speech handed to them to read, especially in such important occasions.

I don’t understand why the media insisted that there was anything amazing about the delivery of this speech. It was far from inspiring from the standpoint of a national figure or leader. It was largely sarcastic and she delivered it as such, so maybe we can hold her to the same standards as a stand-up comedian rather than a vice presidential candidate, but even there she would fall short. She certainly served her purpose, but talking about the delivery of the speech seems an odd way for the media to go. I doubt they had anything of substance to say.

Let’s compare Palin’s oratory styling with that of some other female public figures of note. They’re not all speaking in English, but you get the idea.

Eva Peron

Former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Cristina Kirchner, President of Argentina

I’ve said my peace on this speech, so I’ll let Keith Olbermann respond. I used the term “smarmy”, he goes with “sarcastic”.

He’s not someone I knew much about before all this mess, but I was quite impressed with what I’ve seen of his convention coverage, all highlights by internet of course, I live in Argentina and the only English language coverage I get is CNN International and BBC International. When the Republican Party showed what any film student, my wife included, will instantly recognize as a propaganda film on the September 11th terrorist attacks (and bin Laden’s resume in general), he was the only reporter who was willing to say what needed to be said. He hit the nail on the head; more than an appeal to our fear in order to convince us to vote for a party that will protect us, as people on my side of the fence may tend to think, or a call for bravery and service in the face of adversity, as the Republicans would have us believe, but an evocation of pain. Why? Simply to associate their party with that patriotic catharsis and falsely gain our trust. And according to this article, it seems Olbermann got in trouble for doing his job. Self-censorship is alive and well, “my friends”.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin enjoyed a short press honeymoon, with kind of a “should we, shouldn’t we” attitude on whether to talk about her as a politician rather than just as a family woman and hockey mom. The fact is, she’s running as an outsider, and she’s fair game like any other candidate, but the initial reluctance to really analyze her in depth by the mainstream media has given her a real head start toward defining herself as the Mom Candidate.

During her convention speech, she told a little white lie that she sold the Alaska governor’s jet on eBay. She did not sell it on eBay, but just simply using the word eBay invokes a reaction in the American people. During these tough economic times, a lot of us are getting into stuff like that, and eBay is a name that’s as wholesome in the American mind as Oreo cookies. I myself am scraping my pennies together doing transcriptions on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, when I can’t find translation work. But my situation is a bit different and there’s no room for it here.

The next step was to build excitement yet lower expectations on further appearances by the new star candidate. The McCain campaign refused to let Sarah Palin talk to any reporters until her interview with a traditionally forgiving Charles Gibson. He was a little tougher than he used to be on Good Morning America, but as our attorney general would say, there was no organ failure during this interrogation. The choice to use the word “hubris” was interesting.

The timing of this interview was an interesting choice. Both presidential candidates made a huge deal out of the fact that they were taking the day off from partisan politics and electioneering to observe the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The McCain campaign, however, chose this day to launch their vice presidential star candidate into the media fray, doing their best to redirect the public discourse from the economy to the war on terror. Palin went into the interview and did her best to both separate her campaign from Bush policy and yet defend Bush policy at the same time, being sure to point out that some “mistakes” had been made in the war in Iraq, and defending the Bush doctrine while making it clear that she doesn’t actually know what it is. She also delivered the now famous claim that she has foreign policy credentials due to the fact that Russia is visible from Alaska. I’ll add an analogy to the plethora of those available. If I look up I can see the stars, so I guess my childhood dream of being an astronaut has come true.

Palin wants to say, without saying it, that we are fighting a holy war against the Jihadists. Holy war is out of vogue with the more mainstream voters, so she has to be careful how she says it. Saying that she’s praying THAT it is a mission from God may simply be the talking point given to her. The actual quote itself is a bit more complicated. The sentence structure is ambiguous, and like I said before, I’m a transcriptionist. This can be interpreted in two ways, the one she’s claiming is the correct one being a bit more complicated and harder to believe.

It could be written: “… pray for our military men and women, who are striving to do what is right, also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God.”

Or: “… pray, for our military men and women, who are striving to do what is right, also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God.”

Taking out some of the extra clauses to simplify, it’s: “Pray for our military men and women that our leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God,” or, “Pray, for our military men and women, that our leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God.” In the first example, a more poetic, archaic, or possibly clumsy use of the word “that” would be equivalent to “because”, ie, pray for them because we are sending them on a task from God. The second would be what she is referring to, that for their sake, pray that this task is from God.

Either option is kind of creepy and evokes the same image of holy war, which is why they had to add in the part about Lincoln, that I find it difficult to believe she was directly referencing when she made the quote. Remember, she likes to lie about little things like that to make them sound better, like selling planes on eBay. The thing is she has to be careful because her job is to appeal to the conservatives without losing voters in the middle. And today, among the voters in the middle, being on a mission from God is reserved for Muslim extremists, George W. Bush, and the Blues Brothers.

In this section she waffles on global warming. She never actually says one way or the other whether human activity affects climate, she simply says it may or may not with varying degrees of commitment, maybe some of it is man-made, I never said none of it is man-made. If she doesn’t know, it’s probably better that she admits it, but she doesn’t mention asking a scientist either. She even makes herself an authority on dealing with the effects of climate change because she’s from Alaska. This is one of the reasons she’s on the ticket.

Nothing but praise for Hillary Clinton here. Hillary’s the only Democrat Palin seems to be able to stand. Palin knows that her role is to appeal to the more conservative voters and attack the left, while McCain appeals to the center and plays the uniter. She is also attempting to gather up any disgruntled Hillary votes she can. It’s tempting to hope that women who would have voted for Hillary wouldn’t be so easily manipulated, or that they weren’t just voting for Hillary because she’s a woman in the first place, but the fact is that if Palin picks up even one Hillary vote that would have otherwise gone to McCain, she’s served her purpose. And she’ll get more than one. I hate to be sexist, but since it’s a literary quote that makes it OK: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Some of them will not cool off between now and Election Day.

She talks about reducing the growth of government, and it’s about time I put up my essay on the myth of the “big government” problem, but the fact is that her political advancement really resembles that of Lyndon Johnson’s. Johnson grew up in parts of Texas which, at the time, were very underdeveloped, much in the same way that parts of Alaska lack infrastructure resembling that of the more developed states today. His ambition was to collect power in any way that he could. He chose the Democratic Party because there was a power vacuum in his district that he figured out how to take advantage of, and used the Roosevelt model of infrastructure development to build up partnerships with large construction firms, specifically Kellogg, Brown and Root. As he advanced in his political career, KBR grew as an industry leader, and the two fed off eachother mutually until Johnson was offering important defense contracts and eyeing the presidency. The fact is that Johnson did a lot of important work in Texas, supporting New Deal initiatives which built roads, power grids, and promoted employment and education, but he did so in order to generate profits for his financial backers. The prevalence of military bases and infrastructure in Texas are the work of Lyndon Johnson, and he put those installations to work in Vietnam.

Sarah Palin has earned a lot of federal money for her hometown and for the state of Alaska. Her only response to the fact that her state received $231 in federal earmarks per person in 2008 was that they had drastically reduced earmark requests. Was this drastic reduction before or after that figure? If it was before, how much were they getting before? If it was after, then it hasn’t been that long, has it? She left Alaska in debt, showing her faith in the Bush deficit spending model.

She wants to make the bridge to nowhere the “posterchild” for McCain’s war on earmarks. We all know she supported the bridge to begin with, and the fact is, she was right to support it. That kind of infrastructure is important, and people have the right to the infrastructure necessary to circulate, although this is a right which doesn’t get a lot of attention. However, rather than being a lesson in wasteful spending, when Congress denied the earmark for the bridge, Alaska received the funding anyway. What was done specifically with this funding is as of yet unknown, as are the specifics of whether this funding is funding they would have received without the initial bridge proposal or not, although the way Gibson phrases it, it seems the funding came with the bridge proposal. Demonizing earmarks is kind of silly, especially when the money still ends up leaving the treasury without a specific destination. That’s the proper function of an earmark, to specifically name the purpose of funding. Every dollar we spend should be earmarked. It is true that they are one method of getting public funds into the hands of a politician’s business affiliates, friends, or financial backers, but they’re far from the only method. Another good example is starting unnecessary wars.

Palin talks a bit about abortion; it’s her personal opinion and no explanation is given. A few other questions follow with fairly standard wishy-washy answers. There are so many abrupt cuts in this interview that it shows that it was difficult to put this interview together into a presentable product, and it makes me wonder how Palin speaks unscripted without the benefit of editing. I’m looking forward to the debates, both VP and presidential.

The tradition of adding “gate” to the end of nouns related to political scandals continues with Troopergate. There’s an investigation, and there could be an abuse of power issue, but I don’t think it’s going to affect Palin much politically, at least not when it comes to her actual purpose on the ticket, which is to appeal to the right, who will support her faithfully and are famously blind to hypocrisy, to lure over a few disgruntled Hillary voters, and to not scare off the middle that McCain is trying to appeal to. So much scandal over this issue may actually provide some stimulus among her supporters; here come the liberals/power elite/rule sticklers/bureaucrats/whatever to try to get in the way of a woman who’s doing whatever she can to protect her family. If half the things they say about the guy are true, the fact is he probably shouldn’t be on the police force. Of course, as is customary, the Republicans are trying to have it both ways on this one, making two mutually exclusive arguments at the same time. Palin makes it clear that the trooper should have been fired, then goes on to point out that she never asked for him to be fired.

And then the economic situation could no longer be contained, and the focus was switched forcefully and abruptly back to the broken economic system. McCain is struggling to keep up, since he was attempting to switch the focus away from any real economic reform to more amorphous matters of general leadership qualities and defining himself as the face of the nation and the war hero POW candidate ready to wage a century of warfare against our enemies.

I’d like to see what more economists are saying about the economic situation before I say too much about it and make myself look like an idiot, but this economist thinks that we’re living in a species of communism centered around the upper class rather than the proletariat. That seems about right. We’re spending a lot of money bailing out these businesses, and I wonder how badly we really need them. I know there are ripple effects and employment suffers, but the fact is that with minimum wages remaining stagnant, a total economic overhaul could be exactly what we need. We’re working to protect the debt infrastructure when what might be a better idea is to let these companies fall and drop the debts owed to them. Many of these companies in the real estate loan market have taken advantage of a weakening economic system to mortgage the foundation of the middle class, as much of their property as they can get their hands on, and when people started defaulting, the problems in the housing market, including dropping prices but mostly the fact that fewer Americans can actually conceivably purchase a home, made it no longer such a profitable thing for the lenders. If this model of business failed, I say let them fall. If the middle class loses their mortgage debt, and more Americans get to keep their homes and really own them for once, that’s the kind of windfall profit that could make our nation stronger.

As for the election, poll numbers are all over the place, probably because people no longer know what the hell is going on. It’s amazing that, after such definitive proof of the incapability or disinterest of the Republican Party to maintain a healthy economy by even the most neoconservative standards, anybody could possibly want to give a member of this Party the chance to govern thinking that they will enact change. But when things are already changing so quickly, people get confused, and there’s no telling what may happen. We have to take this election extremely seriously and not take any outcome, any state, any district, or any vote for granted.

“You see, we Democrats have a very different measure of what constitutes progress in this country. We measure progress by how many people can find a job that pays the mortgage, whether you can put a little extra money away at the end of each month so you can someday watch your child receive her college diploma. We measure progress in the 23 million new jobs that were created when Bill Clinton was President, when the average American family saw its income go up seventy-five hundred dollars $7,500 instead of down two thousand dollars like it has under George Bush.

We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500 but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job, an economy that honors the dignity of work.” – Barack Obama, presidential nomination acceptance speech.

We couldn’t ask for more.

Election Wasteland Part II: The Republican National Convention

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National Conventions Drop Like Nukes: Examining the Fallout and Election Wasteland, Part II

The election landscape has suffered a dramatic change after the Republican National Convention, as I was able to predict when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate. The Palin strategy has worked, so far, without a single setback, turning the poll numbers sideways and shifting the focus of this election from Barack Obama’s crusade to take back the nation from the Republican war machine to McCain, the old soldier who has managed to woo the press into eating up his image as a maverick candidate, despite the fact that he has no policy disagreements with his party or its financial backers and that he chose a truly frightening vice presidential candidate just to spread his numbers and build support in the conservative base.

The Palin story is huge. An extremely divisive and controversial figure, she has become an instant media star. I don’t get a lot of traffic on my blog, but the two articles I’ve written on Palin have put a huge spike in my numbers. I don’t know how many people are actually reading this stuff, but I’ve gotten twice as many hits in the last week from my analysis of the strategic reasons Palin was likely chosen than from my previous top post, my analysis of marriage rights following the California decision in May that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

What follows will be an analysis of both conventions followed by the impact they’ve had in the public dialogue and on reshaping the political landscape at the beginning of the conclusion of this election cycle. This is the second of three parts.

Part I: The Democratic National Convention

Part III: Media Fallout and the New Election Landscape

Part II: The Republican National Convention

The DNC was surprisingly well organized this year. They seemed to have a clear message and everyone stayed in focus in the same set of issues and talking points. The Republican National Convention, on the other hand, was a well-oiled machine, as usual. The pageantry of this convention was typical of the kind of show the Republican Party likes to put on, a huge production, very little substance, and a consistent, uniform, yet self-contradicting message. They are the giant and the underdog at the same time, and they are proud to be Americans, proud to promote the priveleges of the wealthy (“I want everyone to get rich.”) proud to be at war, and proud to be afraid of the spread of liberalism and terrorism in the world.

The theme of this convention, in addition to the usual reinforcement of family values, the war on terror, and the Reagan model of economics where theoretically if the rich get rich enough, something has to fall through the cracks and into the hands of the poor, was to denounce partisan politics and negative campaigning and promote McCain as a uniter, able to break party lines and make things happen, and then on the other hand to make completely sarcastic, unfounded, and offensive claims about the Democratic ticket. Many speakers switched from one tone to the other in seconds within the very same speech.

Former Democrat Joe Lieberman showed up to make the case that McCain was a unifying force above party politics, and called both McCain and Palin “mavericks”, the buzzword they are hoping will stick. He went on to appeal directly to undecided voters and tried to capture a few votes from the Democrat side, specifically addressing “Reagan Democrats” and “Clinton Democrats”.

Rudy Giuliani spoke to the more paranoid conservatives, denouncing Hollywood and the left-wing media. It’s amazing people still believe this. He proceeded to pound the lack of experience attack, and I know you may be thinking, how can they keep using the same attack when the VP candidate is Palin? They’re trying to get around it by saying she has more experience, and they only need a weak argument, considering the fact that the conservative base Palin appeals to is very forgiving of hypocrisy and corruption as long as they are offered a candidate who claims to be on their side. He denounced Obama’s experience in community organizing, as did Palin, and the present votes in the Illinois legislature, as did Palin. He referred to an Obama presidency as “on the job training”, while Palin said it would be a “journey of personal discovery”. The speech in general was remarkably similar to that of Palin.

He went on to denounce the DNC because nobody said the specific words “Islamic terrorism”. Strong words were spoken at the DNC about combating terrorism, especially in Afghanistan, by many speakers including Biden and Obama. Giuliani said the Democrats were afraid of offending terrorists, simultaneously making them seem weak on defense and promoting the image of the politically correct liberal elite. Going on about Islamic terrorism specifically is good for the superconservative base, but it makes you look prejudiced or foolishly ignorant at best, and doesn’t help solve any of the world’s problems. Turning this conflict into a holy war is the perfect way to lead us into the century of war McCain so casually said may be our future. The ones who would be insulted are the ones who know that the conflict is more complicated than this. We have the power to put this conflict in perspective. For them it may be a jihad, but that doesn’t mean it needs to become a crusade for us.

The main event at the RNC was not McCain’s acceptance speech, but Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech. There is a lot of analysis of this out there and I’m not sure what I could add in this section, before I go on to the section on the media coverage and impact on the election of the conventions. I will say that some bloggers are saying that she really laid it on thick with the family, and that is true, she spent more time talking about and introducing her family than other candidates, but not by that much. The wives of both candidates spoke, and both VP candidates did spend some time talking about their families. All candidates are the same in this respect, their families are fair game for showing their integrity or values or resolve or humanity, but when there is a problem in the family that may put their values in question, they are off limits. It doesn’t bother me that much, but some candidates do use their families more than others to leverage votes.

Her speech was basically an introduction and a rewording of Giuliani’s speech, the side of the Republican coin which attacks the opposition, while the other reaches out across the aisle. With a few obscure and largely misleading policy statements and claims of personal integrity and experience mixed in, Palin’s main purpose being to court the hardcore conservatives, she took on the role of attack dog, while McCain was extremely careful to avoid negative campaigning and emphasized his bipartisanship. This may speak to the fact that the fiscally conservative crowd is probably quite tired of Bush, and the McCain/Palin ticket is engineered to reach both the middle and the extreme right as much as possible. The actual substance of Palin’s speech was mostly crude sarcasm and snide, unfounded, and childish comments. I believe the proper word for how she spoke is “smarmy”, but I’m open to suggestions.

John McCain’s acceptance speech was difficult to listen to. It was a reaffirmation of Republican values, expressed in the same backward rhetoric crafted by experts to convince people to sign away their wellbeing and the wellbeing of the nation in exchange for the unfulfilled promise to reinforce empty and meaningless ideals. It’s like they say, when you’re making a sale, you appeal to the prospective client’s emotions, not their needs or the advantages of your product. The accepted ratio in the sales world is 20 percent convenience and 80 percent emotional connection.

The way in which McCain spoke was reminiscent of a combination of salesman and condescending teacher. McCain spoke to the American people as if we were stupid, not only for the tone in which he spoke but for the way in which he made his case. He spoke as if the ideas he stood for were simple and unquestionably true, as though only a person whose judgment was so clouded by their pretentious elitism that they couldn’t see how good things could be if the government would just let us grow.

It’s a convoluted message, and with very little change in the strategy which has worked so well for Republicans in the past. Since the days of Reagan they’ve been telling us that taxes are too high, and that government is doing too much to try to help us, and through their total incompetence, hurting us, and strangling us economically. Rather than attempting to improve the quality of government, their proposal is to reduce its “size” and therefore how much of a nuisance our naturally substandard government can be.

Republicans always want the size of government reduced when it comes to the government’s ability to help us, but not when it comes to the government’s ability to control us. And it’s completely inaccurate to claim that the reason we have hard economic times is because of taxation. Taxation is annoying to those who have their needs met, and those who don’t pay less, or nothing. If we had a competent government working toward a real working economy, the taxation necessary to pay for it would be a fair price to pay – although there will always be people who complain when they have to do their part.

McCain refers in his rhetoric to lowering taxes on small businesses, allowing them to hire more workers and invest. This may be partially true, and I would support a reduced tax burden on businesses which pay a living wage to their workers, but McCain and his party will always give the lion’s share to the largest businesses and corporations, without setting any ground rules. They will be allowed, as they have been for far too long, to do whatever they want, take jobs wherever they want, cheat their investors, pay as low a wage as possible, and threaten to take jobs overseas if not offered special deals, deregulation, and disproportionate tax breaks. And yet we still see the Republican Party fully supporting all deregulation efforts.

McCain was careful to not attack the other side during this speech, at least not in strong words. That was Palin’s job. While she makes snide comments about their political rivals, McCain takes the high road, trying to separate himself from a party which is so interested in the wellbeing of the rich that they are creating a precarious situation for themselves in that they are having a harder time selling the misconceptions they’ve so effectively spread that wealth placed in the hands of the few will trickle through their fingers and provide prosperity to the many.

There are smart people who fall for this fallacy, because they try to make their argument as convincing as possible and they have experts in building faulty logic structures, but when the middle class is collapsing, and we can no longer survive on hard work and ambition alone, it becomes apparent that we need an intelligent structure of business regulation in order to maintain the dignity of the American majority. The rules are simple: Pay your workers a living wage. As much as McCain tries to separate himself from the Republican image, he will never call for a living wage. Then again, Obama isn’t really either.

Election Wasteland Part I: The Democratic National Convention

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National Conventions Drop Like Nukes: Examining the Fallout and Election Wasteland, Part I

The election landscape has suffered a dramatic change after the Republican National Convention, as I was able to predict when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate. The Palin strategy has worked, so far, without a single setback, turning the poll numbers sideways and shifting the focus of this election from Barack Obama’s crusade to take back the nation from the Republican war machine to McCain, the old soldier who has managed to woo the press into eating up his image as a maverick candidate, despite the fact that he has no policy disagreements with his party or its financial backers and that he chose a truly frightening vice presidential candidate just to spread his numbers and build support in the conservative base.

The Palin story is huge. An extremely divisive and controversial figure, she has become an instant media star. I don’t get a lot of traffic on my blog, but the two articles I’ve written on Palin have put a huge spike in my numbers. I don’t know how many people are actually reading this stuff, but I’ve gotten twice as many hits in the last week from my analysis of the strategic reasons Palin was likely chosen than from my previous top post, my analysis of marriage rights following the California decision in May that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

What follows will be an analysis of both conventions followed by the impact they’ve had in the public dialogue and on reshaping the political landscape at the beginning of the conclusion of this election cycle. This is the first of three parts.

Part II: The Republican National Convention

Part III: Media Fallout and the New Election Landscape

Part I: The Democratic National Convention

In this year’s DNC, at times, it seemed like the Democratic Party may have finally noticed that part of the reason the Republicans have done so well (strategically, they were both quite close as far as actual public support) during the last two presidential elections is that they do a better job of making sure that every single voter on the extreme end of their base feels compelled to vote, rather than focusing on courting the undecided voters. The middle of the road isn’t a very good strategy because all you do when you spend all day denying claims that you’re too liberal or too conservative is to alienate your potential followers, giving them little reason to come to the polls while trying to woo undecided voters who have no reason to show up in the first place other than social obligation and may simply choose at random when they do.

Some of the Democratic speakers seemed a little less timid than they tend to be when taking the middle road and trying to seem like they are above the bickering of partisan politics. I think they’ve started to realize that those of us who have been paying attention over the last decade are looking for a party that will really take a stand against what is ever more obviously a party made up of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich, willing to increase the profits of their financial backers even if it means breaking our nation and the livelihood of its people. Many of us know that there is an organized movement to destroy the middle class in favor of a small ruling class and a mass of working poor, something which is happening all over the world and the United States will not be excluded. We used to turn a blind eye when it was going on internationally under Clinton, but now that it’s happening at home, the Democratic Party seems to finally be picking up on the fact that they have to speak to those of us who care about ethical economics.

John Kerry gave the kind of speech it would have been nice to hear when he was a candidate. I’d like to see more people making what should be a simple statement, that we should not be allowing, encouraging, or forcing our troops or our allies to torture our prisoners for any reason. This is an important point of discussion on McCain. For the sake of political expediency, he has not done enough to oppose policies meant to legalize some of the same forms of torture he endured as a prisoner of war. This is a less-than-maverick characteristic, as a matter of fact, it’s barely human. Kerry also called for an energy revolution, which is something he probably should have done during his own candidacy.

Hillary Clinton’s main job at the DNC was to patch things up with her more loyal supporters who got stuck with an Obama ticket. There’s no question that she would prefer Obama over McCain (unless she’s looking at 2012), and her “no way, no McCain” statement did the trick. The rest of the speech was rather presidential candidatey, rich with the kind of personal anecdotes that her husband made famous.

Bill Clinton didn’t tell any of his famous average American personal anecdotes during this convention. He was too busy giving an inspiring speech making surprisingly bold statements for such a classically middle of the road Democrat. He spent a lot of his time speaking to Hillary supporters and defending Obama’s preparedness to lead, but he touched on a few issues. He talked about the importance of diplomacy with military force being the last option, and the increasing income gap. He even gave a shout-out to unions, which is still a hard sell even when Wal-Mart is making a name for itself by requiring employees to sign away their right to organize.

Although he hasn’t been the most popular Google search, Joe Biden gave an excellent speech which will leave no doubt in the minds of those who heard it that this election is about the struggle we will face in correcting the devastation caused by the Bush administration and the economic burden it created. The bulk of the speech was a laundry list of McCain policies, “That’s not change, that’s more of the same!” and comparisons to Obama, “John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right.” Do you remember the George W. Bush/John Kerry debate in 2004? I imagine Biden’s debate with Sarah Palin will be similar.

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech had a few Bill Clintonesque anecdotes and a candidate always tends to exaggerate or dance around certain issues to maintain that balance between courting new voters and keeping the base in line, but Obama’s speech actually seemed quite bold in some respects. More than anything, it was a continuation and expansion on what Biden delivered, a broad perspective on the national identity. While being careful to always emphasize hard work and education, Obama made it clear that he felt the government needs to intervene in the economic crisis facing our nation, and that the government has failed to help its constituents when they were in need.

Obama’s speech spoke to a lot of issues that coincide with my worldview. Presidential candidates do like to offer things that they may not even be able to do, considering the fact that they don’t actually legislate, they just approve or veto what Congress submits to them, but if Obama, as party leader, were to accomplish some of these things along with the Democrats in Congress, I would be quite pleased.

He proposed a 10-year plan to achieve independence from foreign oil, and without limited expansion of drilling, as it now seems he supports, I assume part of this would have to do with alternative fuels. I think 10 years is quite long enough to make a full transition from gasoline civilian automobiles to a completely different system altogether, and I would need to see the specifics of this plan, but I would definitely be excited if the Democratic Party really stood behind this and made it a part of their platform and gained control of Congress and the White House.

Obama pointed out one of the basic differences in the mindset of liberals and conservatives today when he was discussing the economy. He mentioned McCain’s false claims that Obama would raise taxes, quoting McCain’s $5 million a year line from the Saddleback forum, some would say out of context, but I believe it’s pertinent. He made reference to trickle-down theory and Reaganomics and went on to say, “We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500 but by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job, an economy that honors the dignity of work.” This is the kind of important issue that the Democrats tend to avoid, and I’m glad to see the actual situation working people in the U.S. are going through making its way into the public dialogue. It’s true, also, that there are different ways of measuring the success of the economy, and the way we tend to measure it is how rich the rich are. Business news always reports on how well a company is doing, and how much their stock is worth, but for most of us, this is not an important economic indicator. When these companies increase their profits, half the time they do so by finding a more desperate nation with a cheaper workforce that they can outsource. There’s a reason they call it “human resources”.

National Conventions Drop Like Nukes: Examining the Fallout and Election Wasteland

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The election landscape has suffered a dramatic change after the Republican National Convention, as I was able to predict when Sarah Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate. The Palin strategy has worked, so far, without a single setback, turning the poll numbers sideways and shifting the focus of this election from Barack Obama’s crusade to take back the nation from the Republican war machine to McCain, the old soldier who has managed to woo the press into eating up his image as a maverick candidate, despite the fact that he has no policy disagreements with his party or its financial backers and that he chose a truly frightening vice presidential candidate just to spread his numbers and build support in the conservative base.

The Palin story is huge. An extremely divisive and controversial figure, she has become an instant media star. I don’t get a lot of traffic on my blog, but the two articles I’ve written on Palin have put a huge spike in my numbers. I don’t know how many people are actually reading this stuff, but I’ve gotten twice as many hits in the last week from my analysis of the strategic reasons Palin was likely chosen than from my previous top post, my analysis of marriage rights following the California decision in May that banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional.

What follows, in three parts, will be an analysis of both conventions followed by the impact they’ve had in the public dialogue and on reshaping the political landscape at the beginning of the conclusion of this election cycle.

Part I: The Democratic National Convention

Part II: The Republican National Convention

Part III: Media Fallout and the New Election Landscape

Why the Palin Pregnancy Story Deserves Resolution and Analysis

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It looks like everyone’s got something to say about the Sarah Palin, the birth of her son or grandson, and her daughter’s pregnancy, with tones varying from righteous indignation to rampant speculation and a few dirty jokes thrown in between. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were not true. I wouldn’t be surprised, if it were not true, that it was a simple mistake, that it was a political ploy on the Democrat side, or that it was a political ploy on the Republican side; after all is said and done, it’s possibly the best way to reveal the pregnancy and shotgun wedding of a values candidate’s 17-year-old daughter without having to choose between a proud announcement and a possible backlash for supporting irresponsible premarital relationships or an apologetic announcement and a possible backlash for not supporting the family.Honestly, there’s plenty of interesting evidence on both sides, but it’s all kind of convoluted and presented in a biased way. Nobody was looking for these photos before Palin was announced as vice presidential candidate, and everything is backdated now with claims that some sources have cleared their online photo archives. It is a suspicious story, considering the fact that the story of the mother concealing a daughter’s unwanted pregnancy is all too common. It’s more a thing of the past, but it looks like this tradition may be alive and well today.

I’m not going to come down on either side of the debate on whether this is true or not. It demonstrates not only the incompetence of the mainstream media that this rumor has been cited but they have not taken the time to convincingly prove its validity or falsehood, or even tried, but also the fact that we bloggers aren’t quite ready to replace them just yet as a reliable source of information. I guess I’ll believe it when I see it on factcheck.org.

Whether it’s true or not, the constructive thing to do is to take the opportunity to bring some issues to light that merit discussion on their own. If it is true, we have to discuss these topics in relation to an important presidential campaign. More than one blogger has stated their opinion that this is a private family matter and that we shouldn’t waste time on it even if it is true, but that’s something I definitely disagree with. I know Palin can’t control her daughter, but the issue of conservative promotion of a certain definition of values, the exclusivity of abstinence in educational and institutional policy, and abortion do come into play here. If it is true, and please let me reiterate that I am not claiming that it is, this would reveal a conservative’s reaction when the abstinence-only policy fails, to respond with secrecy and lies. Sarah Palin could have legally adopted her grandson if taking charge of his care as his grandmother was not enough.

Palin’s daughter’s reported long-term case of mono is extremely suspicious. Such a long-term case is possibly unprecedented; not unprecedented is its use as an excuse to avoid embarrassment in cases of unwanted pregnancy among young women. Simply missing that much school is a huge violation of the young lady’s rights, if it was done for the preservation of the family’s image and Palin’s political career. Maintaining this kind of secrecy requires some level of isolation, which again, is unfair for the young mother, more so depending on how many people she could confide in and who she had to lie to, and who was allowed to see her when the pregnancy would have been obvious. It would be a moot point if the case is untrue, but a reminder of the discrimination, persecution, and isolation women have suffered in the very recent past while carrying unplanned children, and may still suffer in individual cases today.

Another important aspect of this issue, obviously not pertaining to Palin if these rumors aren’t true but an opportunity to discuss something that we kind of take for granted in the U.S. but is violated in these cases, is the issue of the right to identity. If you lie about a person’s birth records, if you falsify a birth certificate, you are violating this person’s right to identity. This is the right to know where you come from and who your parents are, and spans into other areas including documentation, citizenship and its recognition, and therefore the protection of other rights, as well as issues involving adoption, immigration, and inheritance, and others may apply. This Palin story is big right now and I want to get this out quickly, and I’m not prepared at the moment to go into full detail on the issue of right to identity. It’s recognized by the UN and human rights organizations, and the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo (Grandmothers of May Square) do a lot of work in this area.

They’re cleaning up after the remnants of the military dictatorship, which the U.S. funded under Henry Kissinger’s guidance along with Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile, in the same era. The military dictatorship would kidnap people and take them to clandestine detention centers, under the guise of fighting leftist terrorism, for anything from being part of a violent leftist group to simply studying in college or participating in education programs for poor people, and torture them, ask them for names, many were killed, and the children of any pregnant women were taken and adopted extralegally by members of the dictatorship to be raised under their worldview. This is a huge mess, and it’s estimated that over 400 people still don’t know that they are living with oppressors as parents under falsified identities and don’t even know their real names. Obviously this has nothing to do with this specific case, just a little background on the origin of the identity rights movement.

I wonder how this will affect the campaign. The whole mess may turn out to be terribly ugly for the election in general. If the accusation is not proven, it may be a big boost for McCain, showing the far left not just to be paranoid, but to be equally capable of low, dirty campaigning as the Republican Party. If the accusations are confirmed or widely believed enough to cause trouble for the McCain campaign, or even cause a near mirror-image scenario to the Eagleton affair, it won’t improve the situation. Thomas Eagleton was not straightforward with George McGovern in the ’72 election, and the resulting mess led to a landslide for Richard Nixon. If this turns into a scandal and contributes to a loss for McCain, Palin or the scandal surrounding her might be blamed, fueling Republicans to claim that the election was less than fair and costing Obama the general perception of having a mandate for change.

Don’t get me wrong, I want this to come to a conclusion just as much as anyone else, but I am also a big fan of the truth and I’d like to see it truly resolved.