Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hanging Chad, Anyone??

Floridians go to the polls for the GOP primary in that state today, a critical contest which should narrow the GOP presidential field (as we expect Rudy Guiliani's Campaign to go nipples-up shortly following poll-closing).

The real question is whether Florida will back McCain, which would very likely result in McCain all but securing the nomination on Super-Tuesday, or Romney, which would likely result in the nomination being hung up all the way to the convention.

We are watching Florida closely.  Under a new law, former fellons will be permitted to vote in this election, unlike in prior Florida elections.  Anyone familiar with Greg Palast's work, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy", knows that in this state, many people who had not committed felonies, but who shared identifying information with people who did (two names, a race, and a date of birth), were not permitted to vote in the 2000 or 2004 presidential elections.

The new law should fix this problem.  We feel that as a result, Florida will be blue in the presidential race, since literally thousands of disenfranchised African-Americans will be voting this time around in a state that tips by the thinnest of margins (537 votes, as we remember).  In the GOP primary, we feel this will give a bump to the most homophobic candidate.  The only problem is figuring which one that is... we're guessing Huckabee.

For the Democrats, well, we're not really following Florida, since they don't get any delegates (for braking the primary season rules).  Clinton is campaigning there in spite of the boycott - just like Michigan, a fact which irks us in addition to all the substantial flaws with her platform and personality.  Nonetheless, if SC is any indication, the Clinton's recent alienation of African-American voters might allow her to lose this meaningless contest to Obama anyway.

State of the Union

Good morning, fellow chasers of answers.

I have to confess, I did not see the State of the Union Address.  This is the 3rd GWB SOTU I've skipped -- but this time I had a good excuse -- Lennon's mom was working and I had to pick her up.

I did read (or skim) the prepared comments which were circulated prior to the address.

But I don't really have much to say about it.  Just three things:

1.  POTUS seemed upset about congress defeating his so called entitlement reform programs.  They were horrible programs Mr. Bush was advocating, and even if they weren't, congress is right not to trust the Bush administration to tinker with Social Security and Medicare.  I certainly don't trust them to work on these issues --- policies which are critical to the most vulnerable members of our society are really the Bush administration's weakest point -- which is saying something, as there are plenty of weak points to choose between.

2. POTUS is absolutely right to insist that congress act quickly on the stimulus package, to warn the Senate that an expended package is the same as no package at all, and to be cautionary about the state of the economy, generally.  From his prepared remarks, this was the most truthful of this president's SOTU addresses, we think.

3. We think that the low rating of the SOTU (as far as the Nielson people are concerned) confirms our position that Mr. Bush has been a lame duck since the midterms.  

Sunday, January 27, 2008

25 - 12 - 8 Obama, Hillary, Edwards, hut.

It is Sunday today. Typically, we don't work very hard on Sunday.
But today, Lennon insisted that we say something about Senator Barak Obama and his smashing performance in South Carolina. It isn't often a two-to-one margin. Wow.
We desperately hope Mr. Obama's resounding defeat of Mrs. Clinton in South Carolina yesterday (55%-27%, with Mr. Edwards collecting 18% CNN) reverberates throughout the nation on February 5, when many states select delegates to the national convention.

In spite of South Carolina's It does not appear that super Tuesday will be decisive. Mr. Edwards' third has been close enough to keep him in the race, and his sizable number of delegates should allow him to help set the Democratic platform or even secure the Vice-Presidency.
We feel that Mr. Obama has a single policy weakness -- overzealous support of US international trade policies such as those discussed in "Globalization and Its Discontents" by Joseph Stigletz. It is our hope and belief that Mr. Edwards will use his clout at the convention to moderate Senator Obama's inner free-trader.
That proviso aside, we believe Mr. Obama is more liberal, will be more focused on domestic issues, and is generally more in line with our point of view here. We believe he will be elected by a historic margin over any of his potential GOP rivals except McCain. We think Obama is the only Democrat in the field who can defeat McCain. Finally, we think Mr. Obama is the candidate most likely to play well with the legislature during his administration - and therefore the most likely to get something done. We at Small Answers believe government should get things done.
And really, even if our worst fears were correct, and the IMF and World bank were to return to their practices of the 1980s in Latin America and elsewhere, that would still be far preferable to another Clinton administration for several reasons.
On Inauguration Day, it will already have been 20 years since someone named anything but Bush or Clinton has been head of state. Not very characteristic of a republic, if you ask us. Senator Clinton will drive GOP turnout in the November election. Perhaps she would still defeat her GOP rival, but Democratic numbers in the legislature would suffer if she were atop the ballot.
Her policy strong points just aren't that in line with our values here at Small Answers, either. Mrs. Clinton and former president Clinton are basically Eisenhower Republicans, without the plan for interstate highways. That's what we hope for in Republicans (think Ramstad, Arlen Specter, or McCain in 2000), but not what we look for in an ideal Democratic presidential candidate.
Senator Clinton's policy flaw is her hawkishness on military policy and executive power, a fault much more serious, in our opinion, than Obama's flirting with ill-considered international trade policy -- besides, we think Senator Clinton will have a hard time rounding up 60 votes in the Senate, even for her Eisenhower Republican agenda, even if the make-up were to remain the same or turn bluer.
We did not consider the positions of the Skipper(AL) or the Professor (JNP) on the war in making our endorsement decision. We are convinced neither would authorize a new war and that neither could do anything about the current war in their capacity as a Senator. In short, we feel it is about as relevant to a US senate race as it was to my race for the Minnesota House in 2006 -- not the least bit relevant.
The presidential endorsement is something else entirely. We feel it is likely that the GOP will nominate a pro-war, pro-military enlargement, hawkish candidate. We want an anti-war, dovish candidate who appreciates the "walk softly" aspect of carrying Teddy's big stick.
That candidate is not Hillary Clinton. That candidate is Barak Obama. That's our choice.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Gandhi vs. Israel

Small Answer: 

It is wrong to destroy a person's reputation or even to hold them in low repute for nothing more than criticizing the actions of a nation state, even the US or, gasp, Israel.

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma, resigned from the peace center he founded after criticizing jews.  The full story above is courtesy of the AP and the Star Tribune.

Mr. Gandhi made some remarks which were poorly worded.  He apologized for implying that Israeli policies reflected the views of Jewish people, and resigned his position with the peace institute.

We at Small Answers strongly disagree with his resignation.  

We hope that he will fight to be re-instated.   His comments were meant in protest against self imposed intellectual censorship of any idea critical of Israel - a position which is significantly undermined by his capitulation to these same forces.  

And, while this censorship is self imposed, it is apparently enforced by the so-called anti-defamation league, who I notice had no trouble whatsoever destroying Mr. Gandhi's reputation through the use of defamatory statements such as calling him a "bigot", even though Mr. Gandhi had apologized for his comments.

It seems to us at Small Answers that people ought to be careful about how they use words, but it also seems to us that some people need to get over themselves, learn how to read, and use critical thinking skills to discern the context of statements.

It was clear to us from the text of Mr. Gandhi's post that he was criticizing the state of Israel and individuals within the government of that state throughout.  

We at Small Answers think that perhaps this was clear to the Anti-Defamation league people as well, but that they crucified Mr. Gandhi anway, in much the same way former president Carter was crucified for similar remarks.

That's just wrong.  It undermines debate, and by obscuring the causes, it precludes any remedy of the problems between Israel and Palestine, which are, as Mr. Gandhi says, a major wellspring of conflicts in the world today.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Al Franken: The Best Choice for Democrats

We at 'Small Answers' are very proud to Endorse Al Franken for the United States Senate.

Al's long experience discussing the issues, his deep Minnesota roots, his likable demeanor, his Harvard fellowship and his long-time participation in Minnesota DFL politics all helped to secure this endorsement, but in the final analysis, the only analysis which counts, Mr. Franken is in the strongest position to defeat Mr. Coleman this November.

Mr. Franken's most serious competition for the DFL endorsement is Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.  Professor Jack is a wonderful candidate and lovely person, and should have been more seriously considered in his 2006 race for the US House.  Unfortunately, in the few cases where a difference on an issue between Mr. Franken and JNP exists, we find that the Franken position is more moderate and mainstream, and we feel JNP is at a disadvantage to Mr. Franken outside the cities as a result.  Add to this Mr. Franken's vastly superior fundraising ability and name recognition, and the choice presented to DFL caucus goers is clear.

There is only candidate positioned to turn out the long-standing DFL base, energize new voters, and compete for disgruntled moderate republicans in November.  Mr. Franken says that he is serious about fighting for Minnesotans.  Minnesotans who are serious about taking back Senator Wellstone's seat from Norm Coleman ought to get behind Franken and head to caucus for him on February 5. 

The list goes on...

Tim Pawlenty would have been a great GOP candidate for President.

He's a Governor, which historically would put him at an advantage over the Senators who are running.  

He's personally affable and comes off as trustworthy (like Huckabee, unlike Romney, in our opinion).

He's a proven fiscal conservative, cutting spending even in very popular programs like Minnesota Care (unlike any of the candidates).

Just as much, he's a social conservative, signing all the MCCL legislation the legislature was able to deliver to his desk. 

He is a tough administrator, managing to stick the blame on the legislature when things don't run smoothly.

He had excellent media exposure during the 35 W bridge catastrophe, and the GOP already thought that MN was a swing state -- besides which, they're going to wasting money here on Coleman anyway, so may as well have a favorite son at the top of the ballot. 

That said, he makes a terrible VP candidate.  He brings little to any ticket as the also ran.  If the GOP candidate is not Huckabee, then a southerner should be chosen, perhaps the Georgia Governor, or perhaps Huckabee.  If Huckabee is the nominee, then a Senator should be chosen for foreign policy experience and strong bipartisanship - probably McCain.

Economic Stimulus?

President Bush and Congress have agreed to an economic stimulus package, and both are putting pressure on the Senate to act quickly to provide rebate checks.
Small Answers thinks that stimulus packages are, in general, good government, however, the 2008 it is too small and will arrive too late to stop the economy from going into recession.
This stimulus package is an improvement on the 2001 package which was seen by the author to be little more than a vehicle for huge tax cuts delivered to the very wealthy by the Bush administration.  This package delivers the vast majority of the government aid in such a way that it will reach working Americans, who are most likely to spend it quickly on American goods or services - the act which stimulates the economy.
Some conservatives deny that government can stimulate the economy at all, others simply think it is wildly inappropriate for government to do so.  The news media, however, widely agrees that the 2001 stimulus package worked, bringing us out of the recession caused by the uncertain 2000 presidential election and strengthened by 9/11.
Small answers thinks that CNN et al are incorrect in this assessment.  It was not the tax cut or the $300 rebate checks which brought us out of that recession, at least not by any Keynesian mechanism.  It was renewed, massive, and prolonged military spending coupled with an expectation that taxes for business would not go up for the duration of the Bush presidency.
The 2008 stimulus package will fail for the same reason that the 2001 stimulus package did.
Keynes assumed an effective savings rate around 30%, which was generally standard in industrialized nations in the 30s.  The US now has an effective average savings rate of around negative 1%.  As a result, when Americans receive windfall income, they use it to service debt or to shore up their very much lagging savings.
This does not create additional economic growth.  It is necessary to buy goods or services so that businesses will perceive heightened demand and hire laborers to increase production, in order to meet this demand.  Paying for the shoes you are already wearing does not increase demand for shoes.

Small Answers finds that the John Edwards plan, which calls for direct government investment in infrastructure projects - public works which require labor, would be far more effective at stimulating the economy, whether they were administered directly by the government or by contractors.  It would have the additional beneficial effect of improving infrastructure, a priority which some of us in Minneapolis feel has been neglected.