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Should Your President Be Self-Serving or Conscientious?

How do you  go about choosing a candidate to support? Is it an entirely rational process? Do you decide what the most important issues are for you and then compare each candidate’s proposed policies on them point by point to make your selection? Or do you go by your “feel” for the integrity and character qualities of the individual candidates? When the candidates are in broad agreement on the major issues (such as ending the Iraq occupation, providing healthcare for all Americans, restoring constitutional limits on executive power, etc.) and they only differ in some specifics of how they would get to those goals, questions of character begin to take on more weight, even among those who are most wonkishly informed and passionate on the issues.

Political psychologist Aubrey Immelman, research director and founder of the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict in Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minnesota, specializes in developing personality profiles of prominent political figures (as well as criminals – heh).

Death? or Life? – You Choose

When you hear “we need to increase military spending to support the troops” what do you think of?

Money going for body armor, armored vehicles, assault rifles and sidearms, helicopters, uniforms, various forms of advanced training?

All of us want to make sure our men and women in uniform have the tools they need to protect themselves and succeed in the missions they’re sent on. But what about when hundreds of billions of our hard-earned tax dollars go to something like Future Combat Systems?:

The Army’s mammoth Future Combat Systems push is “arguably the most complex” modernization project the Defense Department has ever pursued, according to the Government Accountability Office’s Paul Francis.  

So complex, in fact, that the Army figured it couldn’t pull off FCS by itself.  The service just didn’t have the know-how to manage something as big, as ambitious as remaking just about everything in its inventory — tanks, artillery, drones, you name it — and then building a brand new, absolutely titanic operating system and set of wireless networks, to tie it all together.  Forget a traditional defense contract; the Army needed an industrial partner, instead — some company that could watch over the zillions of moving parts needed to make FCS work. Eventually, the service settled on Boeing as that partner, or “Lead Systems Integrator,” in Pentagonese.

At first, it sounded like a good idea.  But the result was that the contractor basically wound up policing itself, and the military wound up spending lots of its time playing nice with its new partner – rather than cracking the whip.

The outcome has been less than impressive.  In 2003, when the LSI contract officially kicked off, Future Combat was meant to be a $92 billion effort; today, that figures stands at $200 billion, minimum — and maybe more than $230..

The idea was to modernize the Army – to create a new, faster, lighter, more high-tech fighting force for the 21st century. But that’s not how it’s turned out:

Why Do We Pay So Much in Taxes?

Canada is vilified in the US as a country with high taxes. Sure they have universal health insurance, but look how much they pay in taxes!! Not like here in the good ol’ US of A.!


Actually, maybe not. According to a recent study from the World Bank and PricewaterhouseCoopers, Paying Taxes 2008: A global picture, Canada ranks 99th out of 178 for total tax rate. (Top-ranked are low-tax havens like Vanatu, the Maldives and the United Arab Emirates; bottom-ranked are a number of sub-Saharan countries where taxes actually exceed 100% of commercial profits – ouch.)

Canada at 99th beats out the US at 102nd.


Discrimination is not a bad thing.

Discrimination (to distinguish or note differences, discernment) is useful. A finely tuned sense of discrimination can help you tell the difference between (for example) meaningful political discourse and a load of steaming inflammatory bullshit.

People will always make discriminations about characteristics that belong to some of the people around them and not others. Do you remember when you were a child? I remember quite well at the age of seven becoming aware that my friend’s black skin meant something more than its actual color to the adults around me.

The question is what people choose to do with the discriminations they make.

I tend to believe that racism, in the sense of appreciating the beauty of another whose beauty is unlike your own, is a discrimination that is part of being a sentient and esthetically aware human being.

Racism in the sense of exclusion and depriving of others of the best fruits of society on the basis of an arbitrary physical characteristic is a contingent result of history and economics. History cannot be changed, but economics can.

In American society, wealth (and the power that goes along with it) is the key factor to ending racism in the bad sense. The more steeply progressive the tax system, the more social and racial equality will result. GOP and libertarian low-tax schemes are inherently racist, in that they perpetuate the status quo.

The way to end racism is to eat the rich!!

Seven Wars in Five Years

Things could be worse than they are right now.

Gen. Wesley Clark in his new book mentions two conversations he had with another general at the Pentagon two weeks after 9-11 and then six weeks after that:

the first one, two weeks after 9/11, yielded a bit of gossip from one of his fellow generals, who told him that the invasion of Iraq had already “basically” been decided on. The second visit, six weeks later, revealed more shocking news from the same source. Clark asked if the Iraq invasion plan was still on, and the answer he got was chilling:

“‘Oh, it’s worse than that,’ he said, holding up a memo on his desk.
‘Here’s the paper from the Office of the Secretary of Defense [then Donald Rumsfeld] outlining the strategy. We’re going to take out seven countries in five years.’ And he named them, starting with Iraq and Syria and ending with Iran.”

Video below.

Oh God, More Meta: “The Netroots”

It’s a mistake imo to talk about “the netroots” as if it’s a something instead of many things, because it gets thinking about what can be done off on the wrong foot right from the start. It’s like saying “the American citizenry is at a crossroads.” Um, OK, but not particularly useful.

The leftosphere blogs perform five main functions that I can see:

A Civil Debate

To judge by how I/P discussions proceed on blogs and end up tearing them to pieces with the vitriol from both sides, it would seem there’s no other way and that the topic can’t even be discussed.

I’d just like to call your attention to the debate series called The Doha Debates. I’ve only watched one, when it was on BBC, the March 28th, 2007 one, on the topic of Palestinians’ right of return, and found it very illuminating, unlike the invective-laced “discussion” anything I/P brings out on the blogs.

If these people can talk civilly with one another and share their life-and-death opposed perspectives without killing one another or insulting one another’s integrity, surely people here can too:

Ritter: What Katie Couric Should Be Asking About Iraq

At Truthdig former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter writes:

There is no reason to believe that the compliant war facilitators who comprise the “anti-war” Democratic majority in Congress will do anything other than give the president what he is asking for.  No one seems to want to debate, in any meaningful fashion, what is really going on in Iraq.

Why would they?  The Democrats, like their Republican counterparts, have invested too much political capital into fictionalizing the problem with slogans like “support the troops,” “we’re fighting the enemy there so we don’t have to fight them here,” and my all-time favorite, “leaving Iraq would hand victory to al-Qaida.”