In re: Shouldn’t he know this?

One of the big plus factors behind McCain’s in the upcoming presidential election is his supposed expertise on foreign affairs and knowledge from top secret senate briefings over the years. Not trying to be ticky-tacky here but I must say I was a bit concerned when recently in a press conference Joe Lieberman corrects McCain’s assertion that Iran is training Al Qaeda (by whispering in his ear) McCain corrects himself but this is either one of two things, McCain did just slip up or he is going down the tried and true route of fear mongering and using the word Al Qaeda when ever possible. To his credit he corrected himself, but being a supposedly nuanced statesman shouldn’t he have known this? (Some say that this wasn’t a gaff and that he has been using this line before, see story here, and that if it was anyone but Lieberman he would have kept going) See video of the incident here

Update: Apparently McCain isn’t senile and that his campaign has retracted his retraction, standing behind the pledge that Iran is training Al Qaeda despite their religious convictions (see apparently we all can get along). See story on this in Salon

The curious retraction of the senator’s correction occurred on Thursday, when Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s national security spokesman, made the following statement to the New York Sun: “There is ample documentation that Iran has provided many different forms of support to Sunni extremists, including Al Qaeda as well as Shi’ia extremists in Iraq. It would require a willing suspension of disbelief to deny Iran supports Al Qaeda in Iraq….it is helpful to know that he was also a spokesman for the Committee to Liberate Iraq, the neoconservative outfit…[that] insisted on the connection between al-Qaida and Baghdad.”

From ‘Bomb, bomb Iran? John McCain’s gaffe about an Iran-al-Qaida connection revealed how he and his hard-line allies are itching to target the mullahs next.’ Salon.com

In re: Is $400 million for a helicopter democratic?

We live in a democracy that has changed a lot, with the addition of scores of security measures to protect our president at a huge cost.  As we became world policeman we invited more than domestic malcontents to make the president and his entourage a target.  Read an interesting thought on this in the Atlantic Monthly, in the ‘Current’ which comments correctly (I believe) that “democracies don’t need to protect one person at any cost, and shouldn’t. Despotic regimes must, and do. When a president is killed or incapacitated, another one seamlessly takes his place, following Article 2 and the 25th Amendment of the Constitution.” this point is made in the context of the new unbelievably expensive Marine One that is about the most advanced (and comfortable) helicopter ever, with an executive restroom to boot.

In re: Columbus No. 1 ‘Up-And-Coming Tech City’

Forbes Magazine has published a list of the Top 10 Up-And-Coming Tech Cities and Columbus, Ohio of all places tops out the list at number one.  Why you say?  “No. 1: Columbus, Ohio. In 1997, the Battelle Memorial Institute, Ohio’s largest research center, based in Columbus, managed a single lab for the U.S. Department of Energy with an annual budget of $1 billion. A decade later, Battelle oversees seven major laboratories for different federal agencies; current budget: $4 billion.”

Battelle is an example of exactly what Ohio is doing right (rare I know – see below on NAFTA) but Battelle is setup just south of OSU’s campus right next to the Olentangy river.  Like the Cleveland Clinic it is in a prime spot to feed off of surrounding educational institutions and helps create a potent supply and demand for fields.

Additionally Columbus has other tech ventures sprinkled around town, but a master plan to develop the ‘tech corridor’ along 315 is gaining steam.  See the 315 Research + Technology Corridor website .

In re: Ohio vs. NAFTA

The campaign has brought up (for Democrats at least) strong language against NAFTA (although you can’t get Hillary or Barrack to say they’d pull out) they do say that they would use the power to pull out to re-negotiate it with Canada and Mexico to include fairer terms (does Canada have a competitive advantage because of low labor standards?)  Unfortunately Ohio loves this kind of talk, we know we lost a lot of jobs in manufacturing, and its easy to point to something like NAFTA, but it really should be looked into a lot further as maybe more of the blame should fall on Ohio for its’ poor business environment (when they cut sweet heart deals with companies like Honda we see success, but GM and others continue to shed jobs burdened by both unions which have out lived their usefulness I believe as well as the horrible tax rates and business laws.  In reality its probably not NAFTA and it really is all kinds of competition, competition from more business friendly states and robotics are probably more to blame for the loss of auto jobs than anything else.

Unfortunately anytime times change (and oh boy they are changing) people need to retool, this means auto workers gotta stop clinging onto the idea of a fat pension and huge hourly wages when a robot will do it for cheaper and without the health insurance.  Retool means we need training programs and a climate that says it doesn’t mean your worthless, we gotta find something else for you to do (health care?).  Once the business climate improved companies inovate, grow and pretty soon we’d be in need again for those manufacturing jobs (retool back?) and we can start exporting to Mexico.

Let’s start with the fact that Texas’s growth puts the lie to the myth that free trade costs American jobs. Anti-Nafta rhetoric doesn’t play well in El Paso, San Antonio and Houston, which have become gateway cities for commerce with Latin America and have flourished since the North American Free Trade Agreement passed Congress in 1993. Mr. Obama’s claim of one million lost jobs due to trade deals is laughable in Texas, the state most affected by Nafta. Texas has gained 36,000 manufacturing jobs since 2004 and has ranked as the nation’s top exporting state for six years in a row. Its $168 billion of exports in 2007 translate into tens of thousands of jobs.”  ‘Texas v. Ohio‘  WSJ

There is a real good article in the Wall Street Journal ‘Texas v. Ohio’ on the Ohio fear of NAFTA and how Texas is loving it (and doing quite well because of it).   Also the rare article I’ll point to in USA Today “Our view on free trade: Bashing NAFTA misses real reason for factory job losses.  – Clinton, Obama hit wrong target. It’s productivity gains, not Mexico.”  So if USA Today gets it why can’t we get some people around here understanding that while we may have a problem, NAFTA ain’t it.

In re: Its 3am. Reading into this a bit too much?

You probably know about the White House phone call ad that Hillary Clinton put out prior to winning the Ohio and phone.jpgTexas primaries. Many people have been debating the ad (I thought the one on Real Time with Bill Maher was pretty good). Anyway, most people will agree that it is a negative ad (on Obama’s inexperience) and also pretty big in the direction of fear mongering, something Democrats I would have hoped would leave for the Republicans to be champions of. (See In re: Overblown on the issue of fear). Anyway back to the ad (oh you can watch it on YouTube if you missed it).

While I would have preferred to see candidates make ads that have a bit more substance, a bit less negative and a lot less fear, I don’t see at all the argument put forth by Orlando Patterson in the NY Times Op Ed “The Red Phone in Black and White“. The argument is that the ad is racist and harkens back to images such as ‘D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan. This is absurd in my opinion (and many comments on the NY Times site). The author, professor of sociology at Harvard, Orlando Patterson is probably used to looking at everything through racial glasses as that is probably his area of study (his recent book is “The Ordeal of Integration: Progress and Resentment in America’s ‘Racial’ Crisis.”)

Now I won’t deny that we still have racial problems in this country and I am all for being open and honest about the flaws we have had and still have with issues of race in America but I feel that while at Harvard studying our problems he should lay off whatever it was he was taking when he came up with article. Does the author think that following the ad we suddenly realized he was black and that the 12 states he won in a row didn’t realize that? (He is also wrong that the ad wasn’t shown in Ohio, but only in Texas – so not sure how much work was put into this piece)

when I saw the Clinton ad’s central image — innocent sleeping children and a mother in the middle of the night at risk of mortal danger — it brought to my mind scenes from the past. I couldn’t help but think of D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” the racist movie epic that helped revive the Ku Klux Klan, with its portrayal of black men lurking in the bushes around white society. The danger implicit in the phone ad — as I see it — is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat.” (The Red Phone in Black and White)

Update: The Clinton campaign has responded and said that Patterson has apparently not watched the ad closely enough and that one of the children in the ad is black (kinda a dark shadow makes it tough to tell) but considering how every family in a commercial these days is multi ethnic its not surprising that the Clinton campaign showing multiple families would have sought complete diversity (next time Hilliary make sure they are blacker is apparently the new complaint)

In re: Why We Fight

We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jan. 17, 1961.

200px-why_we_fight.jpgSomehow I missed out on seeing this documentary for a long time, but a weekend spent shoveling (we had 20 inches of snow here hit us in Columbus as the ‘Blizzard of 2008’ swept in Friday afternoon sending half my office home around noon – I live close enough by that I didn’t have to head out to dodge the snow) Anyway, the movie documents the rise of the ‘military-industrial complex’ (a term coined by Eisenhower). While it might not be anything new for the people who watch it (mostly people I would assume who already believe that the major corporations ‘of war’ prop up politicians who in turn give them the wars they need to sell their products). Roger Ebert wasn’t too keen on the film as it didn’t bring anything new, but I still found it pretty compelling (I had thought it more balanced and probably shows my bias as he says that it is a preaching to the choir documentary – like most he suggest).

One story line that is pretty interesting even to Ebert (and I now quote him):

There is one story thread that stands apart, and is compelling. It involves a retired New York cop named Wilton Sekzer. His son died in the 9/11 attacks, and he successfully lobbied the government to put his son’s name on one of the first bombs that was dropped in Iraq. He wanted revenge, and to a degree, he felt like he got it. That was before President Bush observed (some felt rather belatedly) that Iraq and Saddam Hussein had no direct involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Now Sekzer is bitter: He feels that Bush lied to him, and that his patriotism was manipulated and misused. The story of Sekzer is new, and suited to film. Much of the rest of “Why We Fight” says things that can be said as well or better in print, and have been. This doesn’t need to be a film…(Read his review here)

For someone who didn’t know about Eisenhower’s warnings and wasn’t clear that we always had bases around the world and that it isn’t really normal to spend so much on one’s military I recommend it (and you can catch it right now on Starz on demand if you have it).

In re: Why did you steal 40,000 hotel coat hangers?

An interesting case from the other side of the pond (fictional mind you) from column of the late Miles Kingston, humor columnist for the Independent (via Volkoh conspiracy blog) :

“A most extraordinary trial is going on in the High Court at the moment in which a man named Chrysler is accused of stealing more than 40,000 coat hangers from hotels round the world. He admits his guilt, but in his defence he claims that – well, perhaps it would be simpler just to bring you a brief extract from the trial. We join the case at the point where Chrysler has just taken the stand…” read the rest at the independent.co.uk