New Franken Ad

After Norm Coleman decided to pull all his negative ads, after they had run for a long enough time to slander opponent Al Franken, other groups have decided to take up the mantle. A new one, from the group Americans for Job Security, is attacking Franken on the topic of sub-prime lending. A transcript:

Sub-prime lending has decimated our economy, and now we face a once in a century credit tsunami. Some in congress fought against stronger regulations for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And some, like Al Franken, actually encouraged sub-prime lending. “Many sub-prime lenders are doing a real service. They’re doing exactly what we want…” And now we are paying the price. Tell Al Franken no more sub-prime loans. Americans for Job Security is responsible for the content of this advertising.

This of course comes with pretty pictures of the various people involved as well as supporting sources and the like. But the problem lies, again, with what the quote leaves out. It comes from a National Press Club meeting with Franken from 2002. Here’s the full context of Al’s answer when asked about predatory lending:

“Okay. Here’s what I can tell you about predatory lending. First of all, it has increased tremendously over the last several years. Very often these are refinancing years. What happens is unscrupulous lenders will target a neighborhood, find uneducated, unsophisticated people and mislead them — people like Clarence Page — (laughter).

For example, a guy in a suit will go to a neighborhood. He’ll look for like an unrepaired roof, knock on the door. “Ma’am, I’ve noticed that your roof needs fixing. How about we refinance your mortgage, and I can give you some cash to fix your roof.” The woman refinances her mortgage. Now, the problem is, this is a predatory loan. There’ll be all kinds of hidden fees, prepayment penalties, which will prevent her from ever refinancing again, balloon payments, and very often — this is very often — built-in rate increases, so the mortgage goes up — the payments go up in a year.

Now, all of this will be buried in the fine print, and often borrowers end up not being able to make their payments and end up losing their homes or their businesses. It’s theft. Now, don’t get me wrong. Many sub-prime lenders are doing a real service. They’re doing exactly what we want — lending to people who couldn’t borrow money to buy a home or start a business. It’s the predators that we want to get rid of it.”

Surprising how different that sounds when you use the full context of it.

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The Big S: Its Implications and Relations to Modern Society

Karl Heinrich Marx - May 5, 1818–March 14, 1883

Karl Heinrich Marx - May 5, 1818–March 14, 1883

“Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.”

-Hubert H. Humphrey


It’s old news now that John McCain has been calling Barack Obama a socialist. Mostly, he’s citing what Obama said to everyman archetype “Joe the Plummer” when they met.

Joe: “Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn’t it?”

Obama: “It’s not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success too. My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody … I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Therein lies the question: Does Obama’s word use imply Socialism? What is Socialism?

Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating state or collective ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and the creation of an egalitarian society Modern socialism originated in the late nineteenth-century working class political movement. Karl Marx posited that socialism would be achieved via class struggle and a proletarian revolution which represents the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly, although there is considerable disagreement among socialists over how, and to what extent this could be achieved.

Socialism is not a discrete philosophy of fixed doctrine and program; its branches advocate a degree of social interventionism and economic rationalization, sometimes opposing each other. Another dividing feature of the socialist movement is the split on how a socialist economy should be established between the reformists and the revolutionaries. Some socialists advocate complete nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange; while others advocate state control of capital within the framework of a market economy. Social democrats propose selective nationalization of key national industries in mixed economies combined with tax-funded welfare programs; Libertarian socialism (which includes Socialist Anarchism and Libertarian Marxism) rejects state control and ownership of the economy altogether and advocates direct collective ownership of the means of production via co-operative workers’ councils and workplace democracy.

From Wiki

So what does Obama mean by spreading the wealth? Individuals making over $200,000 annually (couples $250,000) will go from the current 35% to 39% (Chicago Sun Times), the rate they were under the Clinton administration which managed to produce a budget surplus by the end Clinton’s term. This rate hike would be used to pay for several things the country needs, i.e. spreading the wealth, so to speak.

But my real point here was not to dwell on Obama’s plan. It was to study and discuss the use of the term Socialism in an election being decided quite possibly by those of us from ages 18-35. My question is: does Socialism and Communism still mean what it did, say, during John McCain’s day?

Red Scare has been retroactively applied to two distinct periods of strong anti-Communism in United States history: first from 1917 to 1920, and second from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. These periods were characterized by heightened suspicion of Communists and other radicals, and the fear of widespread infiltration of Communists in U.S. government.

From Wiki

McCarthyism is a term describing the intense anti-communist suspicion in the United States in a period that lasted roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. This period is also referred to as the Second Red Scare, and coincided with increased fears about communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the actions of U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, “McCarthyism” later took on a more general meaning, not necessarily referring to the conduct of Joseph McCarthy alone.

During this time many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person’s real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned, laws that would be declared unconstitutional, dismissals for reasons later declared illegal or actionable, or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.

From Wiki

I’ll make the correlation here: John McCain was born in 1936 and was a teenager during part of the McCarthy era. The word Socialism probably has much darker meaning to him, and people in older generations, than it does to people like us. What I’d suggest is that, while it probably does turn a few heads when McCain bandies a word like Socialist about, the word has mostly lost its meaning, its deeper weight. Young people, of which I’ve heard many times have the possibility to decide this election, do not connect Socialism to anything negative or anything positive either, unless they have some sort of background or teaching in it. We did not grow up in a time when the Communists were “out to get us” and therefore it is not an emotional response that is evoked when the term is used.

So really, I don’t think this technique being used by the McCain/Palin campaign is a useful one. My personal theory is that it is lost on many, if not most, of the current voting public. As always, though, I invite people to respond with their ideas. Intelligent discourse is always valuable, and I am more than interested to hear what other people believe, especially those new voters and people in the 18-30 demographic.

Bachmann’s Bad Ad

Now that the NRCC pulled its funding from Michelle Bachmann’s campaign after her “misstatement,” in her own words, on Hardball with Chris Matthews, it looks like she’s running her own ads. And here’s one of the most recent I’ve seen:

It’s called “Shocked” and is horribly flawed. First, if you’ll notice, she doesn’t even bother to cite sources at the bottom of the ad, as is customary with most political ads. It’s like writing a research paper: if you make a claim, that claim needs to be backed up with concrete evidence. Now, here’s a video fact-checking this ad from KSTP (Link opens in new window. You’ll have to link over since Vopod doesn’t seem to want to grab it).

A couple points then. First, it seems like Michelle Bachmann has given up on running a legitimate and truthful campaign, however unsure I am that she was doing so to begin with. Her words on Hardball have definitely hurt her campaign, and hopefully will make people think twice before they follow the party vote. My second point, watch your ads carefully. If, when a point is made, there is no source cited anywhere on the ad, it is likely untruthful. As it stands, often times the truth and the facts cited are twisted and taken out of context to make them slant the way the campaign wants them to. Do your research and don’t take anything at face value. Intelligent and informed voters are the most important people this country has.

Oh Minnesotans! – A Poll

Here’s the ad, just to help out.

The Fear of Science

Sarah Palin, discussing the McCain/Palin policies, said this:

“Too often, even in our own day, children with special needs have been set apart and excluded,” said Palin, whose infant son Trig has Down syndrome. “Too often, state and federal laws add to their challenges, instead of removing barriers and opening new paths of opportunity. Too often, they are made to feel that there is no place for them in the life of our country, that they don’t count or have nothing to contribute. This attitude is a grave disservice to these beautiful children, to their families, and to our country — and I will work to change it.

[…]

“That’s more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA,” she said. “And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good — things like fruit fly research in Paris, France, or a public policy center named for the guy who got the earmark. In our administration, we’re going to reform and refocus. We’re going to get our federal priorities straight, and fulfill our country’s commitment to give every child opportunity and hope in life.”

From Washington Post

But here’s just one example as to why the money is going to fruit fly research:

Neurons, or nerve cells, communicate with each other through contact points called synapses. When these connections are damaged, communication breaks down, causing the messages that would normally help our feet push our bike pedals or our mind locate our car keys to fall short.

Now scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for these nerve cell connections to form and function correctly.

The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

From Local Tech Wire

Congratulations, Sarah, you just outsmarted yourself. Zing!

Why does it seem that the Republicans with louder voices have a defined fear of the sciences. Its almost as if we’re heading toward a new dark ages: villify the sciences, the higher learning and even reading in the country. As a holder of a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, the zealotry and religious fundamentalism that are becoming mainstream, along with this hatred of the sciences, frightens me. You can suggest all you want the validity of your “theories” of Creationism and Intelligent Design, but the theory of evolution is the only scientifically based explanation for the origin of creatures and thus humankind. These people who simply close their eyes to the world out their front doors, who daren’t take a look at something biological, chemical, or physical and say, “hmm, I wonder how this works,” have no place in higher office. If a person as closed-minded as that could become president or vice (one heartbeat away) president, something is significantly wrong.

Arne Carlson Picks Obama

From the Star Tribune:

Former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson endorsed Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama today, saying Obama represented the best hope for an America facing an economic crisis and criticizing Republicans for waging a mean-spirited campaign that has “been going down all these side roads.”

Introduced to a standing ovation at the State Capitol by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, Carlson said his party had strayed from the moderate philosophies of past Republican leaders such as Ohio Sen. Robert Taft and President Dwight Eisenhower. “I consider myself a Republican maverick,” Carlson said in explaining his endorsement of Obama.

“I think we have in Barack Obama the clear possibility of a truly great president,” he said. “I would contend that it’s the most important election of my lifetime.”

Carlson also took aim at Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, saying that her controversial remarks of the past week, suggesting Obama may have anti-American views, had led him to endorse the Democratic nominee. After hearing Bachmann’s comments, Carlson said he telephoned former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Minnesota Democrat, to tell him of his plan.

At one point, Carlson compared Bachmann’s statements to the tactics of Joseph McCarthy, the Wisconsin senator during the 1950s who helped define an era when the patriotism of many Americans was publicly questioned.

“I don’t want Minnesota to continue to be seen in the national picture as some sort of a land that has these rather strange views — we don’t,” he said.

The former governor said Obama’s policies on the Iraq war, economic issues facing the middle class and alternative energy solutions meshed with his own views. “I think the disappointing part of the McCain campaign has been its inability to develop a national vision,” he said.

Arne Carlson served as the 37th Governor of the state of Minnesota, from the years 1991-1999. He was a member of the Republican party and considered himself a Progressive Republican. He was well liked during his term as Governor, and his endorsement means a lot in the Minnesota government scene.

KICK KICK KICK

In fifteen days and some change we as Americans will have chosen the next President of the United States. That is exactly how much time we have to make sure that every Obama supporter gets to the polls or votes early so they will not have to stand in line on election day.  Things are looking good right now but we are not over the finish line yet that is why we need you. Please head down to your local office and sign up for Get Out The Vote.  If you have an hour to kill get out and volunteer we have the lead right now but we have to get across the line so to quote my old track coach KICK KICK KICK.