Wednesday, October 29, 2008



Rather than the usual I'm going to respond to this essay piece by piece as this may be the last election. What I mean by that is current technology combined with all the old tricks, and a few new ones, may render elections, especially state, national and large municipal elections, pointless as a means of determining the will of the people.

I'm going to weave my response into your essay to save anyone that reads this the trouble of jumping back and forth.


RANDOM: Historically, this nation has had a handful of critically important elections: The election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800 ensured that we would remain on the path of democracy. The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 marked the end of slavery. The election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 enabled us to survive the Great Depression and left the indelible legacy of the New Deal.

While the historical verdict must wait, the election of 2000, in which the losing candidate was allowed to take office, may some day rise to that level of importance. No one can doubt that the world would look different under the leadership of Albert Gore.

BERRY: Those are the same ones I would have chosen, including the 2000 election - the first clear indication that a last election might be upon us.

The current period also reminds me of two others. First, the period between Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln a string of presidents either did nothing or only made matters worse, especially in regards to slavery. Second, the period beginning with reconstruction when the wealthy could and often did buy government favors or buy office outright. In both cases incompetence and a callous disregard for democratic principles resulted in disasters that very nearly destroyed the nation – the Ciivl War in the former case and a series of wild peaks and depressions culminating in the Great Depression in the latter.

Though we are in the midst of the current financial crises and it is impossible to gauge how deep, broad or enduring it might be, it seems clear that we are on the brink of a depression. This depression might yet be avoided with careful management including the cooperation of the world's governing bodies and the financial corporations whose greed generated the crisis. Obama suggested such a summit months ago. Long before Bush, Paulson or McCain would even acknowledge the crisis.

RANDOM: The election of 2008 holds the same promise. After a campaign that has consumed the better part of two years, everything of substance that can be said has been. To use a legal analogy, all that remains is the summation.

BERRY: You indicate precisely one of the problems. A two year campaign. The primaries should be held in June and July of an election year, the conventions in August, and the campaign for general election in September and October.

RANDOM: With one week remaining before Election Day, here are nine compelling reasons to elect Barack Obama President of the United States:

1. John McCain is more of the same on economic policy.

He can cry all he wants. He can scream it from the mountaintop. He can file a protest with the League of Nations. He can glare into the eyes of the camera and proclaim: I am not George W. Bush. The fact remains that his economic policy is fundamentally indistinguishable from that of the current president. As all long-term residents of Washington must learn, the Senator cannot run away from his record. McCain is a free market fundamentalist. He is anti-labor and he does not believe in government regulation. His singular issue of dissent, his opposition to the Bush tax cuts during a time of war and mounting deficits (2001-2005), was sacrificed when he adopted those same tax cuts as the foundation of his economic platform.

If McCain was still the straight talker he is supposed to have been, he would have no choice but to admit that the Republican economic philosophy has led us to the crisis we now face. He could still blame Democrats for adopting Republican policies but with Senator Phil Gramm as his economic mentor, he cannot escape blame.

It is far too late to wake up now with the discovery that the world is in fact round and everything you have ever believed is wrong. Alan Greenspan was wrong, Phil Gramm was wrong, Thomas Friedman was wrong, Adam Smith was wrong and John McCain is the wrong man to break the mold.

BERRY: You make the case beautifully. The problem with McCain's economic policy is that it is exactly what he is: Republican. I would agree with Adam Smith and other free market thinking much of the time. A free market will rise and fall, but will more or less regulate itself based on the laws of supply and demand. However, one must be pragmatic. When criminals spoil the market by artificially inflating its value in order to make quick, deceptive profit (let's call it what it is: theft) then some governing body must act on behalf of its constituency to reign the excess. There are already laws on the books to accomplish this. There is no point in the legislature making laws if the executive will not enforce them. McCain gives no indication at all that he will do anything more than Bush, Reagan, or Hoover to bring white collar criminals to justice.

RANDOM: 2. John McCain is more of the same on foreign policy.

Lame Duck President George W. Bush has been forced to accept the hard cold realities of his failed policies in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world. From the global economic crisis to the Russian incursion into neighboring Georgia, we are no longer regarded as a dominant power. The government of Iraq, the same government we implanted in power, has resisted signing a status of forces agreement that would extend the legal grounds for a foreign occupation beyond the end of the year. Iraqi leaders have publicly stated they favor a withdrawal timetable corresponding to the exit strategy of Barack Obama. In Afghanistan military and governmental leaders alike have been pushing for a negotiated settlement.

While Obama has taken a hard line in Afghanistan, he has also embraced the policy of diplomacy. McCain has demonstrated nothing short of intransigence – the same sort of stubbornness that the Bush team has employed in achieving an unprecedented decline in America’s standing in the world.

As with the free market fundamentalists, John McCain signed up with the neoconservative brain trust on day one and he has never wavered. The same warmongering brain trust that was considered too extreme for Ronald Reagan was allowed free reign during the second coming of Bush. As with free market fundamentalism, the result is catastrophic: America is overextended, buried in debt and unable to sustain its legitimate interests.

McCain was for the war in Iraq before the Bush administration proposed it. McCain was for the Bush Doctrine of aggressive war and military dominance before it carried that name. That he would carry on those same policies cannot be doubted.

While Obama’s response to the situation in Georgia was measured and steady, McCain’s was bellicose and rash. To McCain, the lesson of Vietnam was not that we should not inherit imperialist wars from fallen empires. It was rather that we should fight on to “victory” at any cost. He feels the same about Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter what the cost, he will double down and double down again. He is as predictable as sunrise.

As a nation we can no longer afford an intransigent leader determined to bend the world to his knees. We cannot afford four more years of the Bush Doctrine under a new name.

BERRY: McCain does give every impression that he would resort to the use of the military even quicker than Bush. His foreign policy statements of the last eight years have been nothing short of belligerent imperialism. It does not seem to concern him that the military is exhausted, that soldiers have done repeated tours in the current wars. Would he send the military into Georgia? Would he expand the current wars into Syria and Pakistan? It seems the only thing that would stop him would be a revolt in the ranks.

Obama on the other hand indicates that his approach would be thoughtful and measured. That is, he would examine each situation as it arose, consult various counsel, then make what seemed to him the most expedient decision. In short, he would act like a president, not an emperor.

RANDOM: 3. America needs a New Deal.

Take it to heart: After eight years of unfettered corporate rule, we are on the precipice of economic collapse. The nature of the current crisis goes well beyond the housing bubble and the answers go well beyond rebuilding government regulatory authority. We are in debt because we could not sustain our standard of living on diminished wages. We are in trouble because we can no longer afford basic health care. We have witnessed a decline of organized labor and the decimation of American industry as our jobs have been transferred to cheap labor overseas.

Corporate America has killed the golden goose. In their thirst for immediate profits, they have destroyed the foundation of a consumer economy: the middle class.

Joe the Plumber is living in a world of delusion. In the age of the corporate elite, the dream of upward mobility is dead. When consumers can no longer support basic needs, small businesses are the first to fail. Capital is consolidated in fewer hands. International corporations grow larger. Labor exploitation is institutionalized. Government becomes an agent of the wealthy.

America needs a New Deal in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt. We need a government that can no longer be bought, that answers to the needs of the people, that provides jobs, that secures the rights of workers, that ends job exportation, that rebuilds roads, bridges and mass transit, that creates new job opportunities and funds education. We need universal health care, not some harebrained privatization scheme. We need to strengthen social security, not to dismantle it one brick at a time.

The New Deal was only possible because Roosevelt had the support of both houses of congress. We are beyond the minor fixes that can be accomplished through bipartisan compromise. The Republican way, the way of the elite international corporation, has failed. It is time for systemic change.

BERRY: One hopes that such a thing is still possible. The America that Roosevelt lived in no longer exists. At that time we were an industrial and agricultural economy that traded with other nations. At present, global institutions like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization make it difficult for any nation to act completely independently. Add to that the fact that our economic stability is dependent on credit from nations like China and Saudi Arabia. These nations will abandon us if we are are unable or unwilling to consume their products at rates that are very profitable to them.

Again, McCain will be business as usual or he will attempt temporary, short term, fixes. Obama seems more likely to convene the powers that be in order to attempt to arrive at a solution that works reasonably well for everyone.

We cannot hope to recover jobs from companies that outsourced then went bankrupt or were absorbed by global corporations. The president could make the case that it makes sense to build products closer to the consumer and thereby avoid shipping, tariffs, and all the other costs and hazards of import/export. If products built for the American market are made in America by Americans it benefits everyone. If we are able then to begin to recover economically and move closer to a balanced budget the government might be able to find the resources to finance job creation and job training programs.

Russia cannot live on oil revenue forever and the Chinese economy cannot continue to expand exponentially. The world will need a steady, reliable economy in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere to prevent depression when those economies slow or crash. The U.S. should act now to be prepared.

RANDOM: 4. The politics of fear and smear should be answered in kind.

For seven years we have been led down the path of our own demise by the politics of fear and smear. The Republican Party has long exploited the religious right’s fear of moral decay – abortion rights and gay marriage. After September 11, 2001, they expanded the politics of fear to terrorism and enemies of the American way of life. As they attacked the Bill of Rights, they accused anyone who stood in the way of terrorist sympathies. As they waged war on innocent nations, nations that were not responsible for the attack on our soil, they accused those who opposed them of appeasing the enemy and betraying our troops.

Now, in the waning days of a desperate campaign, they have attacked Barack Obama with patently false and scurrilous rumors of anti-American sentiments: Obama is a closet Muslim, a secret foreign agent, an associate of terrorists, on and on.

There is no denying that Obama is black and we wonder how much of the attack strategy is founded on that solemn fact.

We will never be able to rub out the politics of fear and smear but we may be able to land a decisive and crushing blow. In this sense, the margin of victory is important. Let Karl Rove be remembered for something beside the theft of two elections.

BERRY: The arrest of two men from Tennessee who apparently planned to kill 100 people and THEN kill Obama is a clear display of the rot that lies at the core of southern conservatism. Based on recent history it seems that neo-conservative strategy succeeds by merging with racial and ethic hatred. It panders to fear of the other in order to extract power from a significant portion of the middle class and poor and use that power toward ends that designed to expand and maintain a global empire of wealthy elite that pay allegiance to no state, no government and no people save themselves. Obama may or may not challenge that system, but you can be sure that McCain will promote it.

RANDOM: 5. Restore balance on the Supreme Court.

Even before the appointments of Samuel Alito and John Roberts, the Supreme Court that overruled democracy in the 2000 election was tilted dangerously to the right. Much has been said about the danger of a new court overruling a woman’s right to choose abortion but little has been said about the Court’s corporate bias, a bias that undermines both individual rights and the public good.

The Court’s finding that corporate contributions are protected free speech means that no meaningful campaign finance reform will be allowed as long as this court remains intact. The Court’s ruling on public domain sacrificed individual property rights in favor of corporate development. The Court’s ruling on equal pay for equal work in the Lilly Ledbetter case effectively removed enforcement from the law.

While there have been some surprising rulings opposing the president’s egregious violations of due process, the one consistent strand has been a corporate bias.

It is no secret that the next president is likely to appoint at least two new justices to the Supreme Court. An Obama presidency would restore some sense of balance.

BERRY: This is one of the most compelling arguments in favor of the election of Obama. McCain has made it clear by name the kind of judges he would appoint – Alito and Roberts. This would complete the transformation of the court into a tool of Corporatism. Any rights left would only be those that did not interfere with continued corporate control.

This election makes one thing very clear. Barack Obama is not John McCain. His nominees for the court would be of a different order.

RANDOM: 6. Restoration of Civil Liberties.

In two hundred and thirty two years of history, perhaps no president has done more harm to the Bill of Rights than George W. Bush. He has used the War Powers Act and the USA Patriot Act to spy on American citizens without warrant or legal recourse. He has claimed the right to detain citizens and non-citizens indefinitely. He has institutionalized torture.

Under his leadership, the fourth estate was used as a fence for false and deceptive government propaganda. Under the guidance of his political mentor, Karl Rove, he is responsible for the disenfranchisement of more minority citizens than at any time since the days of Jim Crow. He has all but accused those who stood in opposition of treason – in polite society, appeasing the enemy.

Under his reign, the Department of Justice became a political agent, choosing to prosecute cases on the basis of partisan advantage rather than the rule of law and firing those who refused to cooperate.

It is too late to impeach George W. Bush but history will record that grounds for impeachment were strong on the basis of civil liberties alone. Fortunately, it is not too late to undo much of the harm.

BERRY: Here Obama can make significant change in a hurry. So much of the diminishment of our fundamental human rights and dignities are the result of the Bush administration's actions. All Obama would have to do is change the way the executive branch executes its power. He would not need congressional authority. All he need do is devote the energies of his administration to attacking the real enemies of the nation and not the rights of its citizens. I think we can be almost certain that he will make this change and make it almost immediately upon assuming office. If there were no other reason to vote for Obama this would be more than enough.

McCain on the other hand would continue or intensify the Bush doctrine.

RANDOM: 7. Restoration of Democracy: Payback.

If you still believe that George W. Bush legitimately won the White House in 2000 and 2004 you have not done your homework. Bush won in 2000 through a massive disenfranchisement campaign, a campaign that targeted black voters in critical battleground states – most notably in Florida. Bush won in 2004 through a combination of disenfranchisement and electronic vote flipping – most notably in Ohio. Had the corporate media done its job, those betrayals of the fundamental rights of democracy would have been reversed. Instead, the media chose to turn the page. As a consequence, those betrayals have continued and intensified with the advance of technology.

In the aftermath of Florida 2000, we should have been shocked to learn by the decision of the Supreme Court (Bush v. Gore) that voting is not considered a right. According to the law of the land as interpreted by the highest source of justice, the most basic right of citizenship is a privilege – and one that can be stripped away by political operatives.

That needs to be rectified. The right to vote is sacred and must be protected by our elected officials. It cannot happen under Republican leadership. It can only happen with new leadership in the White House.

BERRY: Yes. Here we are at the crux of the moment. We know from the past two elections, and the media's complicity, that if this election is close it can be stolen. Obama needs to win by several percentage points in the popular vote and a convincing majority of the electoral vote. One would hope that if this happens another of his primary objectives would be to guarantee the RIGHT to vote to every citizen and ensure that every vote be counted.

RANDOM: 8. Freedom from Ideological Intransigence.

Barack Obama has spoken at length about the politics of pragmatism. To the Senator from Illinois, it is the key to unity and working across the partisan divide. To many on the left (myself included) his refusal to identify more forcefully with a progressive ideology has been a source of frustration and opposition. However, after eight years of leadership governed by the tenets of an outdated, out of touch ideology, the politics of pragmatism begin to look appealing.

During his tenure in office, George W. Bush never thought twice, never looked back, never adjusted his thinking and never changed course. On the domestic front, his thinking was guided by a free market fundamentalism that disallowed the role of government. When warnings were sounded, he had only one answer: tax cuts and more tax cuts.

In foreign policy, his thinking stopped with the announcement of the Bush Doctrine, in which America would use military force to secure dominance in perpetuity. When Iraq imploded, he had no plan. When the debt mounted and the military was overextended, he was incapable of making an adjustment. When Afghanistan began to unravel, there was no contingency plan.

Ideology is important. It gives a leader a solid foundation. But in the real world, where the dynamics change and new realities emerge, a true leader must be able to adjust.

In the current, John McCain has demonstrated the same sort of ideological intransigence that haunted George W. Bush. He is out of touch and out of time. Obama’s time has come.

BERRY: Ideology is always dangerous. We need ideals, but also recognize that they are our guides. Occasionally we can accomplish a goal driven by ideals – the right of all citizens to vote, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or religion for instance. Jefferson was an idealist to say the least, but upon taking the office of president, and often before, he found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to compromise those ideals in order to maintain peace and support what at least at that time seemed to be the common good. The president must be guided by ideals, even an ideology or religion, but when those ideals conflict with the most reasonable course of action he or she must be guided by reason. No divine authority is going to save us. We must think for ourselves as free individuals. A president who fails to do this fails himself and everyone within his sphere of influence.

Obama seems to be a political pragmatist above all else. Indeed, one wishes he were more a champion of human rights, fair government, and so forth. But his actions suggest he will take the most practical course possible. It helps to remember that Kennedy in the Cuban missile crises was caught between two ideologies and found a practical middle course that spared us nuclear war.

McCain on the other hand appears to have decided after being swindled by Karl Rove in 2000 that the only way to win was to run a campaign just like Karl Rove. And he has continually supported the Bush administration, often voting with them while publicly stating he was opposed. Uncertain at best. And it would seem that he is willing to submit to an ideology rather than assert reason. It raises questions about his personal integrity.

RANDOM: 9. It is time to elect an African-American president.

It cannot be ignored and its importance cannot be understated: Barack Obama would become the first individual of African descent to lead any nation whose population is not predominantly black (the nations of Africa, Haiti, the Dominican Republic).

It is no secret that the world supports Obama. People around the globe are yearning for a real change in Washington. They are tired of the America that George W. Bush has created. They are tired of his go-it-alone arrogance. They are tired of a nation that defies the rule of law, that disgraces the name of democracy, and that violates with impunity the universal rights of human kind.

The road is paved and the time will come when this nation elects a woman president. It is inevitable and it will happen. On this scale, America is behind the curve. Numerous women have been chosen to lead democratic nations: Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, Indira Gandhi of India, Golda Meir of Israel, Angela Merkel of Germany. In this nation, there are many women on both sides of the political divide that are both qualified and prepared to become president. Sarah Palin is not one of them.

The election of Barack Obama would serve clear notice to the world: A change has come and the dream of freedom, justice and prosperity for all is still alive. Jazz.

BERRY: White as a racial designation has no basis in reality. It is a political assignation designed to prevent anyone who is not "white" from attaining significant political power. It makes the assertion that white is pure and anything, or anyone, that is not white is tainted in some way. This worked well in the service of slavery, the invasion and colonization of Africa and Asia, and in maintaining "white" authority where "white" people are in power or wish to be. It is time to destroy this concept and relegate it to the mistakes of history along with slavery and every other other injustice that it has sustained. The election of Obama would send a clear message to the world that the majority of Americans are ready to face reality and meet the world on realistic terms, as equals. We have been given a grand opportunity and if we neglect to take advantage of it the rest of the world will have no reason to think that we do not feel ourselves superior. It is time at long last to cast off the shame of our history. This election would be an excellent beginning. This one is easy. All we have to do is vote.

Rave on Jack.




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