September 30th, 2008

alan - joshua tree bloom

Good Morning!!

I sit with the news this morning or rather flit with it, one tree to another, trying to get some understanding.   Steve and I watched a documentary last night on the torture this country has engaged in under the Bush administration.   Cheney and Rumsfield clearly approved, enjoyed, and reveled in it.  Why did we think torture would stop there and not come back to us?   Why did we allow it?   Why did we allow a decrease in taxes on the rich while a war went on?  Why do we allow continued talk of war when there is no money to pay for it?  There is a great deal of discussion right now as to who is to blame.  In my opinion, the American people are to blame for believing fear-mongers and allowing the country to be controlled and not controlled in ways that made and make no sense.

We are also to blame for accepting a nomination for vice-president of a woman who can't even understand the questions to answer them.  We need to pay attention, demand accountability and access to the people who say they want to lead.   We have been distracted, and I'm not speaking for everyone, but I do see how when things are pretty good it may be hard to mobilize to say enough.   I think of Cindy Sheehan and Dennis Kucinich.  People have tried to speak and yet here we are.  A week ago, McCain said the economy was strong.  Obama was saying in the spring it was not, but, people will support the one who lies to them, and I'm not sure why.   I wish I had been more vocal, paid more attention to the seriousness of what was going on.  Certainly I wish I had been wiser with our retirement fund and now here we are.  How do we mobilize to aid the people of this country and keep it from collapse.  It would seem the first step is to bring our troops home and start from there.  The batlle is here, not overseas.

It seems it is time for humility.  I have never heard the word transparency used so much as in the last few months.  

Transparent -  Trans is a Latin noun or prefix meaning "across", "beyond", or on the opposite side of.

It seems some governmental parenting in the last few months and years would have been helpful.   If we look at the bandied about word of the moment, transparency, it might seem we have been on the opposite side of parenting.  Is that what led to this disaster?    If we elevate a woman to the vice-presidential position who goes back to work three days after having a Down's Syndrome child and flies on an airplane while in labor, and we allow her to campaign as a paragon of parenthood, maybe our idea of the demands, challenges, and responsibilities of parenthood needs to change.

barack obama

Reading -

I take the following from the column of Ruth Marcus this morning. 

She is thinking it would be interesting to have McCain who is actually a reader debate Sarah Palin, who clearly is not.  When asked on the Charlie Rose show about her favorite authors, Palin came up with one, C.S. Lewis, who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia, which are books for children.  Palin found them "very, very deep," and that is her book-reading experience.  She has also read columns by a man from Runner's World who is now dead.  

Ruth Marcus:

Asked about (not having a passport until two years ago,)  by Katie Couric
, Palin explained that "I'm not one of those who maybe come from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduated college and their parents get them a passport and a backpack and say, 'Go off and travel the world.' "

Instead, Palin said, "the way that I have understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective on the world."

This would be more reassuring if Palin had demonstrated more evidence of having read extensively about history or world affairs. Asked in an interview for PBS's Charlie Rose show last year ( about her favorite authors, Palin cited C.S. Lewis -- "very, very deep" -- and Dr. George Sheehan, a now-deceased writer for Runner's World magazine whose columns Palin still keeps on hand.

"Very inspiring and very motivating," she said. "He was an athlete and I think so much of what you learn in athletics about competition and healthy living that he was really able to encapsulate, has stayed with me all these years."

Ack!  I don't think we want to know what newspaper she may have read sometime in the past.

ayer's rock -

perspective -

For some perspective on the value of $700 billion, consider this:

According to the Wall Street Journal, half the money FDR spent on his New Deal program to lift the country out of the Depression and banking crisis was for public works projects. For $250 billion in today's dollars, the nation got 8,000 parks, 40,000 public buildings and 72,000 schools.

alan - purple flowers

from the Christian Science Monitor -

What does this column say about the American people?   Palin says Americans are not interested in "facts, figures, and policies".  If she's right, we're in even deeper trouble than is obvious right now.  

What it's like to debate Sarah Palin

I know firsthand: She's a master of the nonanswer.


When he faces off against Sarah Palin Thursday night, Joe Biden will have his hands full.

I should know. I've debated Governor Palin more than two dozen times. And she's a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the nonanswer, the glittering generality. Against such charms there is little Senator Biden, or anyone, can do.

On paper, of course, the debate appears to be a mismatch.

In 2000, Palin was the mayor of an Alaskan town of 5,500 people, while Biden was serving his 28th year as a United States senator. Her major public policy concern was building a local ice rink and sports center. His major public policy concern was the State Department's decision to grant an export license to allow sales of heavy-lift helicopters to Turkey, during tense UN-sponsored Cyprus peace talks.

On paper, the difference in experience on both domestic and foreign policy is like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing a bullet. Unfortunately for Biden, if recent history is an indicator, experience or a grasp of the issues won't matter when it comes to debating Palin.

On April 17, 2006, Palin and I participated in a debate at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks on agriculture issues. The next day, the Fairbanks Daily News Miner published this excerpt:

"Andrew Halcro, a declared independent candidate from Anchorage, came armed with statistics on agricultural productivity. Sarah Palin, a Republican from Wasilla, said the Matanuska Valley provides a positive example for other communities interested in agriculture to study."

On April 18, 2006, Palin and I sat together in a hotel coffee shop comparing campaign trail notes. As we talked about the debates, Palin made a comment that highlights the phenomenon that Biden is up against.

"Andrew, I watch you at these debates with no notes, no papers, and yet when asked questions, you spout off facts, figures, and policies, and I'm amazed. But then I look out into the audience and I ask myself, 'Does any of this really matter?' " Palin said.


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white owl

The Cost of War -


I am checking out Bob Woodward's latest book, The War Within, a Secret White House History 2006-2008 when I discover this one.  

The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict 

by Joseph E. Stiglitz (Author), Linda J. Bilmes (Author)

The reviews give a good sense of what the book is about and what we need to remember each day as we look at bringing on even more debt.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers may be surprised to learn just how difficult it was for Nobel Prize-winning economist Stiglitz and Kennedy School of Government professor Bilmes to dig up the actual and projected costs of the Iraq War for this thorough piece of accounting. Using "emergency" funds to pay for most of the war, the authors show that the White House has kept even Congress and the Comptroller General from getting a clear idea on the war's true costs. Other expenses are simply overlooked, one of the largest of which is the $600 billion going toward current and future health care for veterans. These numbers reveal stark truths: improvements in battlefield medicine have prevented many deaths, but seven soldiers are injured for every one that dies (in WWII, this ratio was 1.6 to one). Figuring in macroeconomic costs and interest-the war has been funded with much borrowed money-the cost rises to $4.5 trillion; add Afghanistan, and the bill tops $7 trillion. This shocking expose, capped with 18 proposals for reform, is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how the war was financed, as well as what it means for troops on the ground and the nation's future.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. .

Product Description

"This is a catalog [of costs] the Bush team never looked at. It's a catalog that they still don't want you to see."—James Galbraith

America has already spent close to a trillion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are hundreds of billions of bills still due—including staggering costs to take care of the thousands of injured veterans, providing them with disability benefits and health care. In this sobering study, Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard University's Linda J. Bilmes reveal a wide range of costs that have been hidden from U.S. taxpayers and left out of the debate about our involvement in Iraq. That involvement, the authors conservatively estimate, will cost us more than $3 trillion.

"Stiglitz and Bilmes have clearly demonstrated the need for Congress and the administration to ensure that those making sacrifices today will see those sacrifices honored in the future."—Dave W. Gorman, executive director, Disabled American Veterans