Archive for the 'politics' Category

Wishing on a Tsar

Fight Club’s upcoming bout is on “Time for a Model Change” by Graeme Maxton and John Wormald, two car industry veterans and writers for the Economist.  So, I thought it was fitting that this morning’s Business View in the Economist was an entertaining review of current status of Detroit bail out.

gremlinThe automakers are arguing that unlike the airlines, bankruptcy would be devastating for two reasons: 1) airline tickets are short term commitments 2) the car industry has a long supply chain with 3 million workers.  And, as Jon Stewart deftly pointed out with a Hot Wheels version of the AMC Gremlin he drove in high school, that unlike the Financial Services bail out, at least the automakers produce something useful (even though they lose $2K/car they sell).

So, all this has led to the need for a Car Tsar.  The Economist (link above) gives us a little background on the various Tsars [or Czar (derived from Caesar) originally meaning Emperor in the European medieval sense] we’ve had since 1982:

 

The first such tsar is believed to have been America’s Drug Tsar, first described thus in 1982, who had a mandate to oversee America’s war on drugs, which included activities by several government departments. Since then, the term has been used on many occasions to describe officials with grand cross-departmental responsibilities. Even the Bush administration has had a war tsar, a bird flu tsar, and a bank bailout tsar, while Al Gore reportedly declined Mr Obama’s offer to make him the climate tsar.

The word “tsar” is used because its sounds powerful, though government tsars often find the opposite is true in practice. For one thing, they tend to be appointed during a crisis, and are often invested with unrealistic expectations. Also, having responsibility for activities in several government departments often turns out to mean no power over any of them.

Still, if there is car tsar he will have a huge advantage over other tsars: namely the threat of handing the whole mess over to someone with real power—a Chapter 11 bankruptcy judge, and nobody wants to face the sayonara tsar.

Franken or Coleman? Odds Favor A1.

A week later, we still don’t know who the 2nd Senator from Minnesota will be.  The margin between Coleman and Franken has shrunk over the last week to 221 or .0001% (there were 2,833,089 votes cast in the Senate race).

538.com has some excellent analysis on the probability of who is more likely to win in a recount.  It turns out that if 51.25% of uncounted votes (25,000 or 0.9%) turn out to be votes for Franken, he has a 98.8% chance of ultimately winning.

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Also, more details have emerged regarding Coleman’s friend and supporter Nasser Kazeminy improperly channeling $75,000 to Coleman in 2007 through Coleman’s wife’s employer.

Funny story: a friend of mine got a call from the Franken campaign.  They asked “are you going to vote for A-one Franken?”  Apparently, the L looked like a 1.  Ha!  Good on a steak, but for Senate?  Moral of the story: when you’re paying someone to call potential voters, you should make sure the people calling can read.

WSJ Opinion Suggests Treatment of George W. Bush Has Been Disgrace?

Last week Jeffrey Scott Shapiro suggested in a WSJ Opinion article that the treatment of George W. Bush has been a disgrace – citing as an example the San Francisco proposal suggesting to name a sewage treatment plant after him.  Mr. Shapiro suggests that like President Harry S. Truman, who also had a low approval rating of 22% before he left office but is now ranked as one of our most popular presidents, George W. Bush will also be seen as a strong president who lead our nation during a difficult time.  Mr. Shapiro further suggests that our disloyalty to our current president is a “shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.”

 

Well Mr. Shapiro… you are a patsy.  President George W. Bush is a disgrace but I also believe that he has also been played like a fiddle by his own team.  Cheney, Rumsfeld and their policy wonk lawyers (like Douglas Feith) have been of equal disgrace.  This president and his staff have lied to the American people on numerous occasions and put to doubt the patriotism of the American’s who have questioned his strategy and motives with the “embolden the terrorists” rhetoric.  America is great not because we all fall in line but because we think and we question, we have the courage to point out our flaws and shortcomings and not by covering them with the American flag in blind patriotism.  When faced with the conclusions of the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission Report, the president was asked if he agreed with their recommendations – his answer was “I didn’t read it” and that was his same response on the memos concerning “aggressive interrogation techniques”.

 

Well Mr. President, I am sorry to say that it is your job to read these opinions – whether you agree with them or not.  Your arrogance, hubris, and lack of respect for all of us “non-Bushies” is your legacy and you will have to live with that in infamy.

What are the responsibilities of Mayor of Wasilla?

There were a few folks after John McCain announced his running mate that drew the comparison between Sarah Palin and Teddy Roosevelt for their short time as governors and of course their leadership capabilities.  You know… leader of the First Calvary (Rough Riders) and Mayor of Wasilla… obvious conclusions.  And then there was the comment during Palin’s RNC address where she chided Obama about being a “community organizer” while she was just a small town Mayor with “Responsibilities.”  Well thank God for investigative journalism… we now know ALL of the details that the Mayor of Wasilla is responsible for… and it is a LONG list!  Watch for yourself from The Daily Show (details at the 2 minute mark).

New use for Twitter… Poll Cop?

I ust saw this one on Twitter… NPR wants you to tweet to #votereport if you “experience probs when voting, send a tweet with your zip, the tag #votereport & a description so we can investigate trends.”

What do you think?

Truth, Lies, & Taboos… how dearly do they cost us?

I have been doing a lot of think lately about several of our societal taboos… specifically talking about religion, politics, and money.  I have always been a fan of the quote “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, which refers to the benefits of openness and transparency.  There was a further suggestion from Louis Grumet, Publisher of The CPA Journal, who offered “We should not only accept criticism and suggestions, we should embrace them.  If questions from constituents, the public, or the media make leaders or other responsible parties obfuscate, the questions are usually valid and the answers are not.  People who feel uncomfortable under the bright light of scrutiny and criticism often have something to hide.”

I am suggesting that this impartive not only holds true for politicians but for all of us and that by conforming to the norms and labeling subjects as taboo we are supporting prejudice, hatred, misinformation, lies, deceit, and unaccountability – we are letting these lies survive in the dark alleyway between Truth & Freedom.  When women like Gayle Quinnell of Shakopee suggested that she didn’t trust Senator Barack Obama and called him “an Arab” at a Lakeville, MN, McCain rally we all thought wow… did she just say that in public?  My next question was, where had Gayle been “hiding” this racism?  Hasn’t she talked with others about the candidates?  Doesn’t she know that Barack is actually a Christian?  If her friends, family members, or fellow parishioners had heard her mention this idea before did no one speak up?  Did no one correct her on the facts?  When we avoid discussing our religious and political beliefs with others who do not agree with us we are protecting ourselves from having difficult or uncomfortable questions that we may not wish to face.  The latest of these taboos is the belief that we should not talk about money with friends, neighbors, or family.  A couple of stories that I thought I would share… 1) two years ago in a local fast food establishment I overheard a couple talking about how their daughter and son-in-law planned to file for bankruptcy immediately after returning from the cruise trip that they were on, 2) a year and a half ago friends were trying to sell their condo and plan for a down payment on their house – they had almost no money in savings but drove new Cadillac and Audi vehicles and spent lavishly on expensive clothes and purses, and finally 3) this weekend I overheard a few patrons talking in a restaurant about how one of them had four different vehicles in four years but had no money.  Where was the sense of responsibility from these people?  Did no one question their actions?  Did no one question their sense of accountability?  We need to again talk about our beliefs and actions… we need to expose them to the light of day… and we need to be more accepting of those who might question us or our motives… or we will continue to provide safehavens for prejudice, hatred, misinformation, lies, deceit, and unaccountability.

Payroll/Income Tax vs. Capital Gains Tax

A couple of Broken Spines members were talking Friday night with an old friend who revealed that she was supporting McCain and that she had supported Bush in the 2004 election.  The conversation went to taxes and we were discussing the “inequity” of the payroll/income tax vs. capital gains tax.  A suggestion was made that we need to move to a single tax rate avoiding the loopholes for the wealthy in our current tax structure.  We discussed Warren Buffett’s philosophy that the system isn’t fair to the middle class that his income is taxed at a lower rate than the people that he employs (their average rate is 32.9% vs. Buffett’s rate of 17.7%.).

Check out Buffet’s interview with Tom Brokow where he explains how US tax policy has tilted toward the rich and away from the middle class for the last 10 years.  Decide for yourself…


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