Sunday, October 19, 2008

Butting in where I'm not wanted

I've always taken an interest in US politics, chiefly because they always end up affecting all of us anyway, and because as 'the last remaining superpower' they need to be held accountable to intellects outside and in.

I've deliberately refrained from commenting on the current election because it is fascinating in that there is no incumbent standing, and the Republican candidate is different in both competence and integrity from the current crumb, so I have no reason (running mate aside)to offer support to Obama's run. History will see to it.

Let me instead offer you an editorial from a Utah newspaper. (Don't know what they would have had to say if Mitt Romney had been the GOP candidate)

A simple choice: The nation needs Barack Obama in the White House
Tribune Editorial
Article Last Updated: 10/18/2008 12:52:35 PM MDT

The next U.S. president will lead a nation that remains embroiled in two wars and is beset by an economic meltdown more severe than any since the Great Depression.
By necessity, the country's next commander in chief must also be its mender in chief, capable of inspiring his angry and divided constituents to join together in a recovery project to restore the peace, prosperity, and self-confidence we once knew.
We fear that a lesser effort may be insufficient to reverse America's slide toward economic, political and societal chaos. The times require dramatic and comprehensive change.
The presidential candidates know it, and have made it their mantra.
Most Americans know it, and, in growing numbers, are demanding it.
The countries that have long depended upon the United States for enlightened global leadership long for it.
For the sake of all, and for those who follow us, we must have it.
The editorial board of The Salt Lake Tribune believes that Barack Obama can deliver it.
Over the 22 months since announcing his improbable candidacy, Obama has transcended his image as a mere political and racial phenomenon. Though blessed with uncommon skills as a writer and orator, he was mistakenly thought to possess too little political experience, too little backbone, and too little evidence of the tangible, and intangible, qualities we ascribe to the best of our leaders. Democrats and Republicans alike thought Hillary Clinton would make short work of him.
Admittedly, we thought so too, and endorsed Clinton, not Obama, for the party's nomination.
Yet, Obama mounted an extraordinary grass-roots campaign, raised gobs of cash, and showed great fortitude and equanimity in the face of the Clinton juggernaut. He endured, and once the nomination was his, he set about uniting his divided party with an impressive display of magnanimity and diplomacy.
John McCain, meanwhile, crushed Mitt Romney to gain his party's nomination, but then blundered badly by not bringing the business-savvy Romney onto the ticket. Romney would have shored up McCain's poor grasp of economic policy.
Then, out of nowhere, and without proper vetting, the impetuous McCain picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. She quickly proved grievously underequipped to step into the presidency should McCain, at 72 and with a history of health problems, die in office. More than any single factor, McCain's bad judgment in choosing the inarticulate, insular and ethically challenged Palin disqualifies him for the presidency.
Still, we have compelling reasons for endorsing Obama on his merits alone. Under the most intense scrutiny and attacks from both parties, Obama has shown the temperament, judgment, intellect and political acumen that are essential in a president that would lead the United States out of the crises created by President Bush, a complicit Congress and our own apathy.
The candidates' positions on issues are, in most cases, distinctly different, and no more so than in health care reform. McCain would make a bad system worse by deregulating an insurance industry that is the root of the problem. He would give every family a $5,000 refundable tax credit for purchasing the insurance of their choice, but would tax employer-provided health benefits. Obama's plan would require large employers to offer insurance, or contribute a percentage of payroll to offset the cost of taxpayer subsidies. People could buy into a private or a government-run plan, and the premiums would be subsidized by tax credits based on income.
On tax policy, Obama would sensibly increase taxes for individuals making more than $250,000 a year, while cutting taxes for everyone else. He also would send money to the states for public works improvements that would generate jobs. His intent to increase the capital gains tax, however, is foolhardy while businesses struggle to weather the economic meltdown.
McCain would cut taxes for people in all income brackets, as well as mandate big reductions in corporate income taxes. It is a trickle-down plan that would do little to reduce the deficit.
McCain's foreign policy objectives virtually replicate Bush's disastrous course. His disdain for diplomacy is troubling, and his faith in eventual U.S. "victory" in Iraq is ill-defined. We simply cannot afford perpetual war. Obama knows this. And his nuanced approach would help America recover it's global prestige.
Indeed, we see too many of Bush's failed policies in McCain's recipe for recovery. The country desperately needs a new and well-defined road map for the 21st century and leadership that can unite the country behind it.
We believe that Barack Obama can give us both.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I've had a fascination with worsts for long enough for my oldest friend to know that a book on this aspect (of album covers) would be a good present.

It made me wonder. When I was first mulling over the idea of worsts for the last entry, I was searching for worsts. Worst food, worst animal. It made me realise how many approaches one can take to selecting the worst. The foods seemed to be bad because the old photos made it all look garish, and it was dangerously fattening. But apart from that..

And the animals were badly designed more than anything. They weren't the kind that bored into some part of your anatomy and caused you grief but freaks of nature, if you will.

In some corners of the animal kingdom this is seen as objectivity. After all, in the food chain we all have our predators and our prey. A well designed eagle should pip an awkward elk whatever the cuteness ratio of the creature it hunts.

I suppose what I see entertaining in 'worst of's is the humour of really bad, but earnest, attempts. To this end, it's probably more fruitful concentrating on things that aren't severe to start with.

Black humour has only carried me a certain way and I probably prefer a witty riposte. But the best worsts (!) are good for a laugh.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Putting the worst behind me

Having said that, these are strictly based on personal experience. And I didn't say 'least favourite' because that would be a different list.
There are ghastly concoctions far worse than the humble cape gooseberry and I'm sure I'd hate Mussolini on sight, but it's second hand information if you haven't been up close. Something you hear someone mention they read somewhere.

But, hell, here's a stab at bad politics at least.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Right mess

Have you ever known a kid who was always blaming someone else the minute he did something wrong?

It reminds me a lot of US conservatives right now. Not the honest libertarians and the fiscal conservatives who dutifully pulled out their remaining hairs at the ballooning deficit, but the large voting bloc out there who took Bush at his misspoken word.

I argued with this one guy about the dangers of two and three trillion dollar budgets, much of which is spent on the War and pork barreling, only to have him tell me - repeatedly - that the US economy was fine.

Now that it demonstrably is not fine, he's wailing at the Democrats for forcing the banks to finance houses for poor people. So spending ________ a month on the Iraq War won't hurt the economy, but mortgages, which can at least be prosecuted, will?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Drinkers and Stinkers vs Thinkers

Cannabis less harmful than drinking, smoking: report
October 3, 2008

Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, according to a report by a British research charity, which called for a "serious rethink" of drug policy.

The Beckley Foundation, a charity which numbers senior British and other academics among its advisers, said banning cannabis has no impact on supply and turns users into criminals.

"Although cannabis can have a negative impact on health, including mental health, in terms of relative harms it is considerably less harmful than alcohol or tobacco," says the report by the Foundation's Global Cannabis Commission.

The British government is pressing for cannabis to be re-classified in law as a Class B drug compared with its current, less serious, Class C classification.

Authorities are concerned notably by the growing prevalence of the potent "skunk" form of the drug. Around 80 per cent of cannabis seizures are of this strain, said to be linked to mental health problems, official figures show.

The Beckley Foundation, a charitable trust, claimed only two deaths worldwide have been attributed to cannabis, while alcohol and tobacco use together kill an estimated 150,000 people in Britain alone.

"Many of the harms associated with cannabis use are the result of prohibition itself, particularly the social harms arising from arrest and imprisonment," it said.

"It is only through a regulated market that we can better protect young people from the ever more potent forms of dope," it added.

The decision to reclassify cannabis upwards into the more punitive Class B category -- which includes amphetamines -- is a U-turn for Britain's Labour government.

Cannabis was downgraded from Class B when Tony Blair was prime minister, but Gordon Brown announced a review of its status soon after taking over in June last year.

An earlier review of the cannabis classification, at the time of the last 2005 general election, resulted in it remaining Class C.