Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What the Candidates Don't Say

I have both Barrack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's websites open right now, and I will be refering to them here. I have not yet decided on a candidate and I watched their debate the other night with great interest and really enjoyed it.

At its conclusion, I thought they both did great. I was proud and I kept thinking about what fine command they both have on the issues, and how bankrupt the Republicans seem in comparison.

The big problem for me is that I'm still undecided. It got me thinking about what either one could say to secure my vote, and the answers I came up with stunned me in their obviousness.

I keep hearing talk from them about being bold, and new directions, and changing Washington, and transparency, but what they are not saying is almost embarrassing.

The thing is, the issues I came up with all have clear solutions but require some backbone.

The bedrock of all society is justice. Justice ensures that actions and transactions are zero-sum endeavors. Justice provides the capital to balance inequities: I don't steal a bag of chips from the store, I buy them if I am willing to pay the price. If I steal them, justice puts up the capital for me and charges interest.

When an injustice is allowed to stand, it results in something far worse than the injustice itself. It is an affront to all, and fuels the notion of an entitled class that is above the law, and a government that is indifferent to the needs of its people. The perception of belonging to a "lower" class cuts right to our dignity and breeds resentment. Resentment is our internal justice system that corrects the inequities not by raising our own sense of importance, but by lowering the value of the other class.

For example, my personal feeling toward Scooter Libby is that he is nothing but slime to scrape off my shoe. This strong feeling derives as much from the fact that he got away with what he did, as what he did. The law had him in its grasp too, but a more privileged class, one above the law, stepped in and saved him from the indignity of facing justice.

The press reported about the debate the other night but did not once mention the elephant on the stage. Did you see it?

Both Clinton's and Obama's web sites make mention of restoring America's credibility in the world. What on earth are they talking about? Do we have a credibility problem? I looked closely for any clue as to what this credibility problem is, but neither makes any mention of it; they both talk about the need to restore credibility for the purposes of furthering our interests globally.

They propose to restore credibility through dialog, but since neither one tells me why we have a credibility problem, I had to speculate on it, and I think I have a much more effective and rewarding solution than just dialog.

They don't say this, but I think there is a perception of a giant inequity with America's dealings in Iraq. I'm using "Iraq" as the moniker for what in reality could be viewed as a vast collection of unjust and inequitable actions inside that country. Neither candidate even remotely touches on full accountability for these actions or promise that justice will be served. Do they actually intend to pull a Nanci Pelosi on this issue? That sounds just like more of the same to me. It's neither smart, nor bold.

If either one promised investigations, and if necessary, trials for those who prosecuted and profited from this war, they would instantly have my vote. credibility throughout the world. Long term benefits to this country would include deterrence against future assholes who might wish to lie us into another war.

If I, as an American, see Iraq as an unjust situation, what do the people of other countries see? Has anyone even bothered to ask an Iraqi citizen if they think it's fair that Blackwater and others have special permission to kill them without consequence? Maybe I'm just a sensitive guy, but I imagine they might be put off by such an arrangement.

I believe in full disclosure, so I will warn that the following statement may be shaded with my own cynicism, but the fact that neither candidate has prominently expressed justice for those who created the worst disaster in America indicates bad things to me. It should be central to their platforms.

The debates are what we use to interview them for the job, and I expect them to at least glance at the large, hideous elephant standing on the stage with them. In fact, I would be extremely reluctant to hire someone if I couldn't check the box next to "Looked at elephant."

Hillary has ducked and dodged questions about her vote for the war. She will not come out and say it was a mistake. I think that is admirable because it means she is telling the truth. She wet her finger and stuck it up in the air at the time and did the politically expedient thing very much on purpose.

In a way, I don't blame her. All the generals were predicting sunshine and handjobs, and Rumsfeld was even firing people who dared to suggest that the exercise would involve anything more than catching flowers and kisses.

She gambled and lost, Obama gambled and won. His repeated mentioning of Hillary's vote, though, is disingenuous and in some sense is no different than Rudi saying 9/11.

This is how you be against the war:

This is not quite the same thing:

I can't help but come to the conclusion that one of them has to promise accountability. 13,600 barrels of blood. 4000 of our soldiers and one-million Iraqi citizens are dead because of 935 lies. Don't you think that has to be acknowledged?


I want to quickly bash the Republicans, but I have to keep it short because it can easily get out of control. The Republican notion of national security is purely retroactive. They will disagree and say that's not true. They will say that if they were inclined to tell the truth, they could prove a preemptive approach simply by showing the extent to which spying is even now taking place. Listening for terrorists is what they are doing.

To me, that is not preemptive. Preemptive would be to cut down on the amount of ordinance dropped around the world that has Made In America stamped on it. Preemptive would be to not give Saddam chemical weapons technology because giving it to him could be misconstrued as tacit approval for their use - why give it to him otherwise? Also, supplying both sides of a war with weapons could be construed by those people that we prefer them all dead. We did not try to help Iran or Iraq win the war, we tried to help both sides lose. Those kinds of actions can foster resentment and generate blowback. The Republicans should think about that, and what it means to be preemptive.

The Democrats too. Both Barack and Hillary think nuclear weapons are bad, and they are indeed correct. I don't want to throw water on their efforts to secure loose nuke material, and I fully encourage them to pursue that. However, I would just like to point out that small arms kill a substantially larger number of people every day than do nuclear weapons. I'm not talking about hunting rifles and hand guns, I'm really talking about:

Heavy machine-guns, grenade launchers, small mortars, mobile anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns, mobile rocket launchers, shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launchers, and mortars of calibers under 100 mm.

Ammunition includes:
Cartridges for small arms, shells and missiles for light weapons, anti-personnel and antitank hand grenades, landmines, explosives, and shells for single-action anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems.

I think a great start to improving the quality of life for people in developing nations would be to not help kill them with small arms.

What would it hurt either candidate to mention in a debate that 48% of all deaths from global conflict came from small arms originating in the US? I don't even want to mention how many people that is.

If either candidate mentioned in casual passing that they would stop the export of small weapons from this country and impose withering sanctions on any country who does export small arms, they would have my vote.

Idealist, you say? I say not complicit. Indiscriminate weapons such as mines and cluster bombs should be added to the Geneva conventions as weapons whose use is a war crime. Stop exporting death.


I fully recognize that industry and commerce are things to be protected under the umbrella of national security, but people are people too, and I have to be honest here and tell you that dead is dead, no matter how it happens.

In spite of CNN's and Faux's best efforts, I am not as concerned about the danger to my family from terrorism as I am about illness and accident. Under article III of the Constitution, you and I are actually entitled to demand good health. It's one of the unalienable rights; the right to life.

I believe in the free market. For all its warts, capitalism is a wonderful engine to sustain existence. I fully support a person's or company's right to reap rewards from risk, as long as they play by the rules of equity in their dealings. And there are rules.

The government establishes and enforces rules that are ultimately intended to ensure equity in trade. The republicans will tell you that this is a bad thing and that the market always sorts itself out. Republicans lie. If they believed what they say, then they would let me perform surgery on them and offer it at a great discount compared to a licensed doctor. Eventually I will be good at it. Who knows, maybe I already am. If I am not, the market will eventually let me know.

So we are willing to regulate aspects of the medical industry to ensure quality - to ensure health. The problem is that we can't afford it. The BS that is shoveled out for our consumption on this issue is unbelievable. Mention lower drug prices and you will hear endless lies and excuses from industry and politicians. They all lie like rugs.

Both Hillary and Barack displayed great knowledge on the subject and expressed genuine desire to help provide relief for the people of America. The fact that they are talking about portable coverage without the scrutiny from pre-existing conditions, which only costs a percentage of your income is a remarkable thing.

Both talked about reducing costs as being central to its reality. The thing is, they both forgot to mention the simplest, most cost effective and all-around beneficial solution to at least the prescription drug problem: eliminate drug patents.

The idea that a company can own the cure for a disease is fucking ridiculous. But we spent billions on research, we need to protect our investments.

You are right; you should be relived of the burden of research; forcefully. Since the government already picks up half the tab, let it go the rest of the way. Think how much simpler the operations become for the drug company; all they have to do is build the fucking pills. Them and 100 other companies. In the spirit of capitalism, they can compete for volume using lower prices and greater efficiency, just like all the other industries.

Drug companies currently spend $2 dollars on marketing for every dollar they spend on R&D. They can skip that too, because they won't own any products to brand. We can order drugs called Heart Medicine and Low Blood Pressure Pills and they can stop introducing new words with the letters X and Z in them.

The research could still be done by private industry. If a company only did drug research with the understanding that it owned no patents on the product, then it would not care if the drug sold to 10 people or 10 million people. It would only wish to research as much as possible. More drugs might get to people with rare, money-losing diseases. It is such a win-win solution that it must take enormous effort to keep the idea secret from the public. C'mon Barack, c'mon Hillary, it's for our lives.

The constitution says we have a right to life, not to drive cars. The right to life deserves special treatment. Drug research can be under the Department of Homeland Security for all I care. Our health is our security, it's not a profit center.


I think the same model could apply to the heat-resistant crops that will be needed to feed people in the future. I don't want to buy ears of SoliCorn(tm) and Thermapples(tm) in the future.

To both candidates I say, forget your carbon credits because if there is a need, industry will make it anyway. Any tax levied will be passed on to the consumer. We will just be poorer and hotter. You should start collecting money right now to be put in a fund to aid in the large migrations that will be necessary in the future.

Or not. The addiction to profits is so strong that I don't see industry slowing down until they start running out of people to sell to. That might end up being the ultimate solution to global warming - lower the demand for consumption. Hysteresis is a favorite trick of nature. The earth exists on a timescale we find difficult to relate to.


I would like to mention one last thing. I saved it for last because it always seems to create problems. Since this diary is about confronting problems and even offering (simple-minded) solutions, I will go ahead and lay it out.

Both candidates make specific points to mention their unwavering, deep loyalty and commitment to the peace and security of Israel. Hillary outlines her level of commitment, Barrack goes one better and provides actual quotes from a speech he gave to AIPAC, but it is offset, in my opinion, by an earlier comment on the same page:

And I will send once more a message to those yearning faces beyond our shores that says, "You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now."

My point about that will be clear in a moment. They both mention their desire to help facilitate the two-state goal, and both mention their willingness to provide aid to the Palestinian people. That last part bothered me a bit because they specifically make a distinction between the government elected by the Palestinians and the Palestinians themselves.

First some good news: 20% of the Israeli population is Arab. They enjoy citizen rights such as voting, but do not yet enjoy what are called nationality rights. 70% of Arab Israeli's would prefer to remain Israeli citizens in the event a Palestinian state is formed. On one level, this proves that Arabs and Israeli's can exist side-by-side in peace, but:

Of the 40 towns in Israel with the highest unemployment rates, 36 are Arab towns. Difficulties in procuring employment have been attributed to a comparatively low level of education vis-a-vis their Jewish counterparts, insufficient employment opportunities in the vicinity of their towns, discrimination by Jewish employers, and competition with foreign workers in fields, such as construction, agriculture, etc.

According to the Central Bank of Israel statistics for 2003, for those Arabs citizens who are employed, salary averages are 29% lower than salary averages for Jewish workers.

That was from Wiki and should at least vaguely resonate with both Barack and Hillary. It sounds like Israel has some of the same internal problems we do. One difference is that we do not control any occupied territories whose population is nearly the same as our citizenship. One half of that population is officially listed as refugees.

Now the bad news: there are problems between Israel and the occupied territories, and the problems are getting worse. Their problems have very much become our problems. In fact, those problems are the touchstone for nearly all issues that we deal with in the Mid-East. It's not about a group of displaced people; it's about the cause that has risen over the group of displaced people throughout the Arab (and Persian) world. Assigning blame for the problems is both futile and useless. Blame is always a backward-looking affair, so right away we can eliminate 50% of the problems from a temporal perspective; we agree to only look forward.

Israel is understandably worried; they control a population that is fervently against the state, and will soon number larger than their own population. What surprises me is that Israel thinks an acceptable solution is to keep this population scratching in the dirt and stripped of dignity. The Palestinians certainly are not blameless, but Israel is imposing collective punishment on the entire population. They, and we, have imposed brutal conditions on this population ever since the Palestinians democratically elected the wrong government.

I don't make any claims to wisdom so any judgment I pass must be greatly discounted as the observations of a possibly wrong-thinking individual. With that said, it appears to me the way the governments of Israel and the US are thinking is that through oppression, the population will begin to appreciate both the Israelis and the US much better. I think we are hoping for a large scale Stockholm effect. I have doubts about this strategy and there may be historical precedence to back that up. But is it insane to try the same thing again? It may get a different result.

Both Obama's and Clinton's website seem to favor towing the line. They suggest virtually nothing new. To recap, the current strategy can find its roots in that forward-thinking institute called Project for A New American Century. I don't remember all the details, but I do remember it didn't have a plan B. Plan A had something about reshaping the entire world and bla bla.

I have a much simpler suggestion but it involves some tough love. Since we all know a separate state only draws an official border around the problem, and may never happen anyway, we should feel free to take some baby steps right away.

First, it must be stated very clearly that the country named Israel will always exist, and that the US will never allow any sovereign nation to attack it. The US should also demand that Israel begin restoring dignity to the people in the occupied territories. This includes stopping some of the irritants such as building settlements. I think a great show could be made of this by giving any new settlement sufficient notice of evacuation and then televise the tomahawking of the settlement, kind of like what Israel does when it destroys the structures of Palestinian leaders on TV.

I never understood Israel's attitude with regards to the settlements. They lose nothing and gain everything by not having them. It might embarrass them a bit, but it would greatly enhance the sense of fairness in our dealings if we publicly demand a permanent stop to the settlements. Israel is staring down the barrel of much larger problems than a little slap. Israel is quite possibly facing a fundamental change to their charter, one that moves them from a Jewish state to a state of its citizens. As jarring as that sounds, worse things have happened. All men are created equal and destroying the Mid-East is not an acceptable solution to preserve an identity. Culture is practiced, not imposed.


I look back with embarrassment at being so naive that I actually emailed the TV stations in 2003 telling them they have to correct Dick Cheney because he keeps mentioning Iraq and 9/11 in the same sentence. Someone in their continuity department must have missed these little slips of the tongue by Cheney, because surely they would not be complicit in a massive campaign of disinformation.

So I waited for the correction until I saw those wonderful graphics and splashy titles when the bombs started falling on Iraq. I emailed them plenty after that with all kinds of suggestions on where to stick things and what to use.

The blessing/curse about being enlightened is that once you see it, there is no way to go back and un-see it. My outrage emotion is worn-down to a nub, and the problem is exacerbated by my bullshit detector, which picks up more bullshit and outrage than ever before. I always check for the static of cynicism and the loose connections of conspiracy and filter accordingly.

For some time now, my BS detector has been emitting a steady, low warble and it seems to be coming from all around. It's in the background; it's the things that nobody talks about. It's time we do. We, and the world, deserve some daylight. The things I have mentioned here are tough on politicians, but they claim to be up to the task. They may even be surprised by all the love.

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