Friday, October 31, 2008

Event: What Is Socialism? Is Obama a Socialist?

If this issue is going to be brought up in debate and discussion, we owe it to each other to confront the issue up front. College profs have a tendency to make it complicated, but as for the disputes dominating the news today, the discussion needn't be particularly complicated.

I write this as a socialist, who votes center Democrat 90% of the time, and makes occasional "fringe" comments that diminish my popularity. I consider myself a socialist because I believe that the socialist premise is correct and will ultimately lead the most stable, sane, humane, and productive society. I vote Democrat because of the two major parties their goals are closer to compatible with mine. The socialist premise demands popular support, and that this is a long-term game; one that requires generations on generations of social and cultural evolution, and I believe that compromise and consensus are the only valid means of achieving this goal, even if it comes after many tiny steps and innumerable setbacks. (I wonder if that would make me a Toynbee Socialist).

I strongly support Obama.

However, I will say this emphatically: he does not buy the socialist premise. He is not a socialist, nor a marxist, nor a communist, nor a social democrat. It is only reasonable to call someone an "-ist" or associate them with an "-ism" if 1) those terms mean something and 2) the person in question behaves accordingly.

Fortunately, these terms all mean something, and that something can be succinctly distilled.

Karl Marx was a German scholar (historian, economist, and philosopher) whose career spanned the second half of the 19th century. His argument, expounded in collaboration with Friedrich Engels, argued that history is a series of class struggles over control of the means of production. Capitalism, he argues, that is, our system of selling and trading, is based on fundamental inequality of resources that can only compound over time. Eventually the extremity of inequality will become so aggrivated that the disadvantaged masses will rise up and assume control, bringing about a classless state in which material resources are collectively owned. This is, in a nutshell, what Marx and Engels argue, and "marxism" is a term connoting a basic agreement with this premise.

"Communism" is a more-or-less direct offshoot of Marxism. It generally involves an revolutionary interpretation of Marxism developed by Vladimir Lenin prior to the Russian Revolution. Communism goes beyond predicting a revolution and outlines a specifically military answer to bring about the end of class warfare. Ironically, because communism empowers a military elite, the Soviet-style communist states of the later 20th century all involved a ruling elite with repressive controls over the press, education, the military, and so forth. This can also be said of non-Soviet style communist states such as Cuba or the People's Republic of China. They all have dismal economies and even dismaller human rights records, which is part of the reason why the Right likes to associate Democrats with Communists. Communism is not the same as Socialism, and as I said before, Obama is neither a Communist nor a Socialist.

"Socialism" predates Marxism as a social philosophy, but was heavily influenced by his writing (Marx drew on earlier examples of Socialist states, and his influence promoted the ideal of socialism internationally). In its simplest form, Socialism is a philosophy advocating collective ownership. It need not predicate itself on a fundamental premise of class warfare, and it certainly not resort to violent revolution. A number of modern nations have attempted socialism to varying degrees and with mixed-success. Socialist states in Latin America have a spotty record, although there appears to be a trend toward stability over time. Scandinavian states approach socialism with more unambiguous success, which is reflected in high taxes, low income inequality, and extraordinarily high standards-of-living.

"Social Democracy" is hybrid of Socialism and Capitalism, although in its theory it cleaves somewhat closer to Capitalism. Private enterprise is sanctioned and legally protected, but institutions deemed too important to the national well-being (such as health-care) or too powerful and influential to operate on their own (in many nations, banking systems) are either managed or heavily regulated by the government. When we think of Social Democracies the most emblematic examples are wealthy and progressive Western European states like France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. They have assertive economies dominated by some big players, but they also allow a much higher level of government intervention than we do in the U.S. But...

... here's the rub ...

... from a certain, and very fair, perspective all governments are, definitionally socialist to some extent. To socialize something is to compel collective ownership via a vis the government. The United States has a socialized postal service (though this is rarely controversial), socialized public education, and a socialized military. At times, prominent politicians (typically Republicans) argue to socialize military service: that's right, folks, the draft is socialism! This is why so many progressives roll their eyes at McCain's charge that Obama is a socialist: the recent take over of financial institutions by the White House is one of the most strident socialist acts in American history, and it was initiated and executed by Republicans!

* * * * *

In sum, capitalists argue that the latent potential in and initiative encouraged by markets trump the potential benefits of socialization. Socialists argue in response that the inequities of market systems will always poliferate, creating a society that is inherently unbalanced, unstable, and injust.

This is my attempt to overview the differences between the two philosophies in a neutral and unbiased manner.

I hope you can tell, at a glance, and in consideration of these observations, that Obama is not a socialist of any stripe. He does favor a few limited socializations. I say a "few" because only one of his initiatives -- health care -- will involve this on a large scale. I say "limited" because his health care plan does not dissolve insurance agencies or health care coverage (which would be a feature of any authentic socialist system) but instead provides a government alternative, much as the USPS is an alternative to FedEx or the UPS.

In the past, the Republican Party could honestly claim to be "less socialist" than the Democratic Party, given that they generally believed in less regulation by government. It was Reagan who put an end to this, with his massive expansion of the military and his embrace/invocation of a Religious Right that has been attempting to socialize religion in a very real way. Look at attempts to legislate marriage on the national level as the most conspicuous example; contrary to many on the Right there is little precedent for this in American history, with the possible exception of Prohibition. We all remember how that went.
The only remnants of the "small government" policies of the Republican Party are their continual provisions for repealing progressive taxation (ie. taxation that draws more heavily from the rich than the poor) and some areas of (typically economic) deregulation. Their governments are nevertheless at least as cumbersome, expansive, and socialized as those of the Democrats.

For those who assume socialism is an insult, a derogation, I'm posting this in part to show that it isn't. It is, like all systems of economics and government (including capitalism) neutral. It can only be evaluated by what it enables people to do and what it prevents them from doing. As such, it ought to be considered on a case-by-case basis. Cuba makes socialism look pretty bad; Sweden makes it look pretty good.

But Independents and Republicans and Democrats who stiffen at the notion of Socialism in general should take comfort: Barack Obama is no socialist. His support for the Wall Street bailout (like McCain's) is predicated on the assumption that markets are a workable premise, and this assumption fuel his plans to give a tax break to the middle class, to expand education as an incentive to global competition, to promotion of clean energy as an economic motivator.

Socialism isn't bad.

More: There's no reason to consider Obama a socialist.

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Gravitane 9, 31.



If you are dressing up, what are you going as?
If not, what *would* you go as?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Gravitane 8, 31.

I'll only do this about once every few months.
If you know any publishers, please forward them this url:
Hungry Rats, a novel by Connor Coyne.
Web design by Forge 22.

To whom should I next submit my novel?
(It's a second-person gothic noir with teenangsters, serial killers, and evil lumberjacks.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gravitane 7, 31.


Where is this?

Name one blog/website/journal will be going offline soon, and you will be very sad to see it go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Event: "We'll make 'em fit! It'll be fun!"


Dear Mr. Danziger,

For several years now I've openly described your work as my very favorite of political cartoonists. Your drawing has a precision that goes beyond a canny resemblance and your cutting captions can sum up an issue in better than a thousand words. Yours is a medium in which cheap shots seem to be both available and abundant, and the care which you take in your selections has always impressed me. After all, any sane critical thinker could spend eight years pummeling the Bush administration; your statements have been fresh and trenchant, and you've had ammo left over for the Democratic primaries, for Chinese domestic and foreign policy, and for all of the other misguided and tragically uninformed errrors in American politics this decade. Which is why I'm so dismayed by the lone autoworker you have exclaiming "we'll make 'em fit! It'll be fun" as he holds an oversized croquet mallet aloft this week.

I come to this personally: practically everyone in my family has worked for GM in Flint, Michigan and Oakland County. My father worked at Buick for almost 40 years before being bought out this year because the last plant in his division (Powertrain North) has closed. My aunt worked at EDS, my grandmother was a secretary at GMI, and my grandfather made spark spugs for AC Delco from the moment he got home from World War II.

Look, I know that doing what you do you are bound to anger people, that you can't be over-sensitive to anger, that calling things as they are is inevitably going to bruise some ribs along the way.

But I've always seen you as being very selective in choosing your targets, and more importantly, in choosing their foibles. In your recent piece you show an autoworker standing like an uneducated buffoon, a "Joe V6" who doesn't know a thing (and doesn't care) about anything other than banging metal on metal. Granted in the past you've called out the American automakers for their incompetent leadership, and maybe even for your perception that our domestic automakers have produced an inferior product. I have disagreed with many of these strips, but this is the first time it seems you've crossed the line.

Actually, excuse me, that's not right.

I should say, instead, that you've failed. After all, there are no lines that you should not cross. The mark of a great political cartoonist is the ability to eloquently disagree, and to render such disagreement visceral and visual to the larger public.

But why have you abandoned the rigor of your other pieces?

Why are you taking cheap shots at our autoworkers instead of their leadership or even their product?

For that matter, if you want to criticize autoworkers, why are you holding them up as mentally incapable, instead of criticizing a union that is as stubborn as it is often ineffective? Or holding accountable a rank-and-file that is often unable to look beyond their next paycheck to address the consequences of the agenda their employer is pursuing?

Why not pick a disagreement worth stating instead of promoting inaccurate misconceptions about the education and drive of our nation's most assertive and robust union workforce?

I could disagree with you on many of these other possible arguments, but these would be disagreements worth having.

Your characterization of the auto-worker in your recent strip is trite, pointless, obnoxious, insulting, and irrelevant. It does nothing to promote a worthwhile political argument, and it is a waste of both my own and your time. I wouldn't be so disappointed if not for the fact that you are my favorite political cartoonist. I hope that the abundance of material these days doesn't mean that your standards (the standards I most admire) are slipping; one could safely argue that an informed and powerful political critique in all media are more important these days than ever.


Connor Coyne

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Gravitane 6, 31.

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing it is not fish they are after."
Who said this?

Have you been fishing lately? When was the last time you went?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Event: Tom's Post of the Morning.

Tom is my godfather, and one of the most astute bloggers I read. Today's post is not only inspiring, but rigorous as it ties together many threads that have been dominating political conversation these days: the nature of change, the meaning of patriotism, an ideology of "others" in America. Read it. It is very well written.

Purple Scarf: In the real America ...

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Event: Information. Where to Get It and How to Use It.


Information on National and Local Races.


This website is a great, nonpartisan tool; it contains each candidates' statements of their own positions. Input your address and zip code and it will tell you which races are contested in the executive and legislative branches. Illinois residents can learn about their judicial candidates here.

Michigan voters should also consult the well-edited and comprehensive League of Women Voters guide.

Newspaper endorsements can be great as well. They have the benefit of knowing both the candidates and their immediate public thoroughly. Still, take a few minutes to scrutinize how they back up their assessments. Many editorial boards have at least a subtle partisan bent; it is telling this cycle that so many Republican-leaning rags have voiced support for Obama.

I personally, believe that it is very telling when a candidate won't provide a direct statement to surveys such as these; this is as close as we can get to direct, concise policy statements. It speaks volumes for a candidate to remain silent.

Additionally, each candidate deserves scrutiny on the basis of not only the particular office and policy positions they will hold, but on the political baggage they will bring to the position. Don't get me wrong; personality is important in any elected office. But in positions of national prominence, such as countrywide, congressional, or statewide posts, we should consider very carefully what a candidate's affiliations are, where their campaign money comes from, and who they are likely to appoint. These are at least as important as how likeable or reliable or even responsible the candidate is.

More locally, a small number of votes are more likely to make a big difference, and the cost of campaigning is low enough that it doesn't require candidates to take as many favors with strings attached. Often at this level personality is more important and party affiliation is less. Judicial races, city/township/town/village and county positions, school board governorships and so forth are all ideal for independent votes. They can give third parties and independent candidates a chance to assert and argue for their platforms without undermining a progressive coalition nationally, and liberation of such votes from compromise reduces the level of unnecessary baggage politicians tend to pick up early in their careers.

If you want to cast a protest vote in a national level race (I will be doing so, voting Green for Illinois' 9th congressional district), that can be effective, but please do so in an uncompetitive race. We need to acquire a large Democratic majority in this cycle.

If you consider yourself Independent, but want to vote Republican in a national level race, I urge you to consider very carefully why you are doing so. Parties change with time, and the last twenty years has made the Republican Party into a much uglier and more unfriendly entity than it has been in decades. These are not the Republicans who will cut your taxes or help small businesses, and they are certainly not the Republicans who will keep government out of your dining room and bedroom. Policy-wise, Eisenhower has more in common with Clinton and Obama than with Bush or McCain, and Gerald Ford spent the last several years of his life appalled at the behavior of his own party's leadership. An Independent who believes that extremes in government are destructive, and that policy-decision dictated by ideology and not a sober assessment of human nature and the world is an independent that should vote for Democrats this cycle.

Finally, it is a truism that when one party dominates government, it leads to a mess. However, the Republican party has pushed the U.S. so far to the right, and has drawn so much of the left towards center, that we need a Democratic supermajority in the senate and a large majority in the House to pass the needed changes. We will have to hold these Democrats accountable and make sure that they behave responsibly and answer to their constituencies, but there is a lack of both credibility and policy soundness in the Republican Party that cannot enjoy rational and reasoned discourse.

This doesn't mean that we should call off discourse; conversation with friends and enemies is essential, to paraphrase one of our presidential candidates in a different context.

But we shold be honest in confronting politicians and their organizations for what they are and how they have behaved.

The Republican Party does not deserved to be called sound or responsible this decade.

It deserves to be treated for the radical, reactionary, xenophobic position it has staked out in the world.

In this election, in national races, we need to look to the Democratic Party for leadership.

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Gravitane 5, 31.

Last week was very productive, but one on which I felt in the doldrums. I did get a lot accomplished at work, which was nice. I felt sick on Friday night, which prevented me from going out to hear the Heaven Seventies. On Saturday, Jess and I threw our Ghost Story Party, and on Sunday I went to church and hosted wraith. Otherwise, it's that coolish darking Octobery winding down time of year...

Detroit Free Press: Auto workers fear worst could get worse.

Now that the weather is getting cold, what hot drink do you most enjoy?
(Sumara, you may have to creatively interepret this question). :)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Concept: Today: A Break from Politics!

Cannibals capture three men. The men are told that they will be skinned and eaten and then their skin will be used to make canoes. Then they are each given a final request. The first man asks to be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. His request is granted, and they poison him. The second man asks for paper and a pen so that he can write a farewell letter to his family. This request is granted, and after he writes his letter, they kill him saving his skin for their canoes. Now it is the third man's turn. He asks for a fork. The cannibals are confused, but it is his final request, so they give him a fork. As soon as he has the fork he begins stabbing himself all over and shouts, "To hell with your canoes!"

And this is just cool and dumb, but more cool than dumb.

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Gravitane 2, 31.


Make something happen. Then say what it was.

EVENT: Indulgent Gushing About the New York Times.

We all knew that the New York Times was going to endorse Obama.

They've endorsed Democrats since 1960, including such uphill candidates as Walter Mondale and George McGovern. And good on them for doing so. We might even say that the Chicago Trib's Obama endorsement is more significant in the grand scheme of things. They haven't endorsed a Democrat in their 160 years history, predating the Civil War.

But while the Trib endorsement is both a worthy tribute to a hometown hero and a sober assessment of the world we live in, it was really the Times' endorsement that made me a little teary-eyed today. Because here it was, the most recognized newpaper in the world, a home to Nobel Prize winning economists and the most effective political cartoonists alive, endorsing the candidate we have hoped and striven for during the dark days of the last decade.

And no, Obama isn't perfect. Some of my more conservative friends say, "well, we have reservations." I can honestly say, "what would you hope for?" "Who more could you ask for?" Was FDR perfect? Was JFK perfect? My favorite Democrat is LBJ, and he certainly wasn't perfect. Perfection isn't the issue. Having someone who hears you and recognizes you, who hears and recognizes the complexity of the world, and wrings the best of the world... having this person is the issue. And the New York Times stood up tonight and spoke emphatically where too many in the media have been inclined to hedge and qualify.

"Watching him being tested in the campaign has long since erased the reservations that led us to endorse Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries."

"Mr. McCain, whom we chose as the best Republican nominee in the primaries, has spent the last coins of his reputation for principle and sound judgment to placate the limitless demands and narrow vision of the far-right wing."

"After nearly two years of a grueling and ugly campaign, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has proved that he is the right choice to be the 44th president of the United States."

Thank you, New York Times. We didn't require your endorsement to understand the cost of the last decade or the promise of the next; the fact that our worst presidents shred the promise of an ambitious nation while the best define such ambition from the stuff of human flesh and soul.

But your words are correct, and simple, and direct, and eloquent.

They remind me that we were right about this stuff, this mess, this ache, the past, the hope and promise of the future.

This is our time, and it is a time I look forward to telling my children about.

More political caffeine to get us through the rough and tumble of the next two weeks...

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Event: Just Good Stuff.

I don't have the time today to write out something really thoughtful myself, so I'm going to link to some of the smart people I read, who regularly blog about politics. Here's some of their recent goodies.

EGAD, or demythologizing the fetish of place: Flames.
Purple Scarf: Entitlement.
Get Me a Beer, Bitch!

And because I'm still concerned about Michigan's Proposal 2, the most-likely dissapointment among this cycle's races: Cure Michigan.

In less than two weeks, the election will be over and this blog will start to return to normal. Thanks for bearing with me!

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Gravitane 1, 31.

Chapati Mystery: NSFW (stuff to be real proud of here).

Make me shout!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

EVENT: Why I'm Voting Against Jan Schakowsky in the Illinois 9th District Race.

U.S. House of Representative: Illinois 9th District
Incumbent Jan Schakowsky (Democrat) vs. Moe Shanfield (Green) vs. Michael Younan (Republican)

Blue Skies Falling endorses: MOE SHANFIELD (GREEN)

This is, actually, probably the hardest decision for me to make this cycle.

There is little question of the race's outcome, but I need to outline my reasoning, because I vocally supported Schakowsky in 2004. She has really let me down. Her Republican opponent is justly withering in his condemnation of her support for the recent Wall Street Bailout, which was passed without punitive measures for seeking instituions or sufficient regulation or oversight. I am still waiting for a response to the letter I wrote her last month, although I don't expect an answer until after the cycle is over. From the other side, Green candidate Moe Shanfield explains his choice to run thus:

In July, 2007, the 76 members of the House Democratic Progressive Caucus signed a letter to the President: They would vote against any war appropriation bill which failed to include a time table for troop withdrawal.

Then, on August 5, 2007, something changed. A total of 62 of those "progressives", including the 9th District incumbent, cast "Aye!" votes for the Department of Defense annual appropriation bill--providing more than $100 billion to keep the war going. There was no troop-withdrawal time table.

This is absolutely a legitimate point; maybe one could make a case for selective accomodation of conservatives on key issues in swing districts, but Schakowsky has won the last three elections by over 40 points. If any Democrats have the opportunity to forcefully challenge the status quo, it is these, and if Democrats such as Schakowsky challenged the status quo more often, we might be in less of a mess now.

For a few seconds I thought about voting for Younan; he's as progressive as any Republican candidates come these days. His discussion of diplomatic options in the Middle-East and his condemnation of the bailout were thought-provoking and refreshing. But he's still status-quo Republican on way too many issues for comfort: he's against Universal Health-Care and doesn't offer much as far as education funding. And, like most Republicans, he fetishizes taxes far beyond their actual role in the sum of things. An interesting guy, but not somebody who would vote for me on many of the issues I care about.

That just leaves Moe Shanfield.

Well, there he is.

He doesn't really go into his policy position on any other issue, although as a Green his views are probably pretty similar my own. Of course, I feel like all too often the Greens are out of touch with the voters they believe they represent, and their election strategies have been spoilers than Democrats more than I would like.

But there is a time and a place for a protest vote.

In 2006 when Debbie Stabenow enjoyed a comfortable, but not overwhelming, lead over challenger Michael Bouchard, I wrote her that I would not vote for her because of her support for the Military Commisions Act, which was not sufficiently strong against torture. I wrote in my vote for former Flint City Administrator Darnell Earley. Stabenow has since repudiated her own vote and has gone on to have a commendably progressive record. Now Stabenow is a exceptional senator, and I don't think my one vote or letter made that difference. One hopes, however, that the right number of votes and letters, sent at the right time and to the right people, do make a difference.

That is why I will be voting for Moe Shanfield on November 4th.

The Democrats are going to take the Presidency in this election, hopefully a supermajority in the Senate, and will cut even deeper into the House Republican minority.

Once they hold these seats, however, we need them to fight for us.

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Galvane 29, 31.


Where is this?

Make me cry.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Event: ELECTION 2008 : MICHIGAN : PROPOSAL 2008-02 : Embryonic Stem-Cell Research.

Proposed Legislative Amendment:

A proposal to amend the State Constitution to address human embryo and human embryonic stem cell research in Michigan. (Proposal provided under an initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State on July 7, 2008.)

The proposal would add a new Section 27 to Article 1 of the State Constitution to read as follows:

To ensure that Michigan citizens have access to stem cell therapies and cures, and to ensure that physicians and researchers can conduct the most promising forms of medical research in this state, and that all such research is conducted safely and ethically, any research permitted under federal law on human embryos may be conducted in Michigan, subject to the requirements of federal law and only the following additional limitations and requirements:
(a) No stem cells may be taken from a human embryo more than fourteen days after cell division begins; provided, however, that time during which an embryo is frozen does not count against this fourteen day limit.
(b) The human embryos were created for the purpose of fertility treatment and, with voluntary and informed consent, documented in writing, the person seeking fertility treatment chose to donate the embryos for research; and
(i) the embryos were in excess of the clinical need of the person seeking the fertility treatment and would otherwise be discarded unless they are used for research; or

(ii) the embryos were not unsuitable for implantation and would otherwise be discarded unless they are used for research.

(c) No person may, for valuable consideration, purchase or sell human embryos for stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures.

(d) All stem cell research and all stem cell therapies and cures must be conducted and provided in accordance with state and local laws of general applicability, including but not limited to laws concerning scientific and medical practices and patient safety and privacy, to the extent that any such laws do not:
(i) prevent, restrict, obstruct, or discourage any stem cell research or stem cell therapies and cures that are permitted by the provisions of this section; or
(ii) create disincentives for any person to engage in or otherwise associate with such research or therapies or cures.

(3) Any provision of this section held unconstitutional shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.

Blue Skies Falling: YES

The Detroit Free Press carried a balanced discussion of the charges the pro- and con- camps brought against each other.

It's good to have a balanced, reasonable discussion, and it's also reasonable to answer emphatically when one argument is objectively stronger than another. I support both of the ballot initiatives this year, but my support for Proposal 2 is both stronger and, to my way of thinking, more important. There are medical, moral, and economic reasons to support this initiative.

The MEDICAL reason to support this initiative.

Opponents of stem cell research like to make observations such as this: "adult and umbilical stem cells have proven to be way more helpful than ESCs, which have given us NOTHING so far."

The point is disingenuous, so we have to address it up-front. First, it evaluates the progress of research strictly on the basis of what has already borne fruit (and even so doing, neglects the fact that adult stem cells have been researched and utilized for much longer). The main advantage that embryonic stem cells have over adult and umbilical cells is that they have not yet developed a specific functionality; they are the most adaptable. This implies that, in the long run, they probably have more applications, and can do things that non-embryonic stem calls can not. Scientifically speaking, this is why there is such a thirst in the medical community to step up research to a level where more meaningful results will manifest. To mix metaphors a little, the Soviets got into space first, but we landed on the moon. It wasn't cheap to get there. Or to make the same argument a bit differently, Jonas Salk wasn't able to cure polio all at once.

The more distressing problem here is the anti- arguments' circular logic: anyone with a scientific or medical background will tell you that it is nearly impossible to make progress on new techniques and technologies without adequate funding, and government-backed funding has a decisive role here because private corporations lack the incentive to conduct research where the potential payoff is intangible or (in the present case) might lie years in the future. So of course embryonic stem cells haven't yielded results yet, because they are burdened by an overrestrictive research environment nationally. In states like Michigan, which outright prohibits research, the effect is absolutely stifling.

The MORAL reason to support this initiative.

Many conservative religious groups oppose embryonic stem cell research on a similar premise to their objection to abortion; life begins at conception, they argue, and it is an audacity against God and human dignity to exploit embryonic stem cells for medical profit, especially when it is fatal to the embryo. Hence the same blog I cited above argues:

This is where I need to bring up a key flaw in the whole debate over embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). You have the camp who opposes ESCR because they believe that life begins at conception, and I fall into this camp. Then you have the camp who argues, “But they’re going to be discarded anyway.” And this is where the ESCR opposition has somewhat failed. Many don’t address this issue and simply say, “Well, we shouldn’t be doing research on them.” That’s not the point. The point needs to be that instead of making EXTRA embryos for in vitro fertilization, we should be making embryos AS NEEDED. Sure, it’s costlier, but it doesn’t create embryos that will be destroyed.

Again, this argument is misinformed, both medically and economically. First, it is impossible to fertilize any egg without destroying thousands, if not millions of sperm. Second, the range of methods for extracting eggs, whether through induced ovulation or other methods are extremely expensive and often compromise the health of the donor. Quite simply, the presence, activity, and effectiveness of any fertility industry presumes that there will be more embryos than can ever be brought to term. It is a nod to sentiment here that the proposal limits the period during which stem cells can be harvested to 14-days of division, a time at which cells are still largely undifferentiated. But if one is making the argument that no more embryos may be conceived than can be brought to term, that must ultimately be a response to fertility treatment in general.

This is, however, the only argument that isn't mired in contradiction.
As long as there are extra embryos, they will be disposed of by some means because they cannot be brought to term. This is a reality that cannot be negated by any state constitution. And yet I rarely hear about concientious opposition to fertility treatment per se.

It is ironic, then, that religious arguments predicated upon the sacredness of life, impede the sustainment of life without a tangible benefit to anyone. The diseases that embryonic stem cells might one day treat are uniquely debilitating and fatal. Christians, including Catholics like myself, need to remember that prudence is a cardinal virtue. We are often forced to live as best we can in an imperfect world. I would argue that it is imprudent to renounce the opportunity to save actual human lives in exchange for an abstract "moral" victory that is hollow because it saves nobody in turn.

The ECONOMIC reason to support this initiative.

Michigan perennial zeitgeist (and where else would such a term even work?) is that its economy is in an unending freefall.

Many opponents of this bill say that it will result in new taxes; in fact the bill does prepare this debate, but it is itself silent on the subject of funding. Now: non-embryonic stem-cell research receives funding in the state; would it be unreasonable to offer financial support to some of the most promising medical research of a generation? It needn't inflate the state budget; again conservatives like to point out the many achievements of adult stem-cell technology... some of that funding could be shifted to embryonic stem-cell research. There are numerous options that will be on the table, but this proposal does not commit any taxpayer money to support the research itself.

In this and many economic arguments, fiscal conservatives tend to overemphasize the importance of taxes overall. As reasonable Hoosiers might tell you, for example, low taxes are a cold comfort when the economy is so bad that you've little income to be taxed, and this is where Michigan really has to think straight about this bill. Members of both parties seek to promote Michigan's economy by bringing in the kind high-tech jobs that are worthy successors of an ailing automotive industry. But if we look at the parts of the country where these industries have thrived -- California and the Pacific Northwest for example -- they are generally found in an environment where openness to technology and technological innovation has thrived. In fact this seems to be at least or more important than the rate of taxation. Sometimes (gasp!) investment opportunity trumps taxation.

The problem is so multivalent that it is difficult to summarize.

For example, some casualties are conspicuous. As the Detroit Free Press states in its endorsement of the proposal, "one clear loss is the departure of some prominent researchers from the University of Michigan -- where stem cell research is the most vigorous -- because of the ban." Thus Michigan loses the opportunity for such a faculty to draw private and pharmaceutical investment to Michigan through the establishment of amicable research.

Not all liabilities are so conspicuous, however. For example, endowments and funding tend to flow to colleges and universities where the most exciting research is happening. Michigan's top research institutions are uniquely positioned in terms of faculty, facilities, and location to be leaders in the country. Increased endowments often mean, among other things, greater resources for tuition assistance. The consequences of the present, unilateral ban are precipitous.

In short, it is always reasonable to consider another point-of-view, but there simply is not rigorous traction to be held against this proposal. The initiative is carefully worded, maintains protections on human dignity and the status and use of embryonic stem cells, while also being robust enough to make a meaningful change. I've outlined some of the scientific, moral, and economic arguments to support the proposal above, but there are many more. The proposal has been endorsed by both major Detroit newspapers and many others, President Bill Clinton, Senator Carl Levin, Governor Jennifer Granholm. Notably both Presidential candidates support the promotion embryonic stem-cell research.

You can contribute to the effort to pass Michigan's Proposal 2 here.

You can help promote the proposal here.

You can find out where you can get a yard sign here.

This proposal marks Michigan's best opportunity this election to set encourage an emerging precedent in the region, and most importantly, to improve the standard of living for its own citizens.

Vote YES on Proposal 2.

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Galvane 28, 31.

"He had apparently come into town from the south -- a man of about twenty-five as the town learned later, because at the same time his age could not have been guessed because at that time he looked like a man who had been sick. Not like a man who had been peacefully ill in bed and had recovered to move with a sort of diffident and tentative amazement in a world which he believed himself on the point of surrendering, but like a man who had been through some solitary furnace experience which was more than just fever, like an explorer say, who not only had to face the normal hardship of the pursuit which he chose but was overtaken by the added and unforeseen handicap of the fever also and fought through it at enormous cost not so much physical as mental, alone and unaided and not through blind instinctive will to endure and survive but to gain and keep to enjoy it the material prize for which he accepted the original gambit."
Who said this?

Make me laugh.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Event: ELECTION 2008 : MICHIGAN : PROPOSAL 2008-01 : Medical Marijuana

Proposed Legislative Amendment:

A legislative initiative to permit the use and cultivation of marijuana for specified medical conditions. (Proposal provided under a legislative initiative petition filed with the Secretary of State on November 20, 2007.)

The following is the language of the legislative amendment as it appeared on the legislative initiative petition.


An initiation of Legislation to allow under state law the medical use of marihuana; to provide protections for the medical use of marihuana; to provide for a system of registry identification cards for qualifying patients and primary caregivers; to impose a fee for registry application and renewal; to provide for the promulgation of rules; to provide for the administration of this act; to provide for enforcement of this act; to provide for affirmative defenses; and to provide for penalties for violations of this act.

Full Text here.

Blue Skies Falling: YES

It is true that the legalization of medical marijuana specifically or drugs more generally is not the most pressing issue we face this year. That is, we could stick with the status quo, and things would not get drastically better or worse in the world. It's hard to get away from the "legalize, dude," image of some guy in high school going on and on about how it would be great if we could just get stoned all the time. And on a more personal note, I've always felt that time, money, and energy is in short supply, and all three could be put to better use than providing for legal pot.

These concerns are, however, a major mischaracterization of the real issue.

FIRST, as the language above states, this is a bill to approve marijuana for medical, not recreational use. Similar proposals have been approved and implemented in twelve other states without a noticeable increase in illicit drug use. We need not conjure up images of two-dimensional stoners, nor do we need require that regulatory agency must be written in stone in order to pass meaningful legislation; the proposal is rigorous enough. The drug will be closely regulated by this proposal and will be going to very sick people with their doctors' prescription. Decriminalization is, alas, an entirely different conversation.

SECOND, a consensus has been emerging over the last several decades that marijuana prescription can be appropriate in a medical context. Medical approval has been voiced by such a range of diverse and reputable organizations as the American College of Physicians, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Nurses Association, as well as the American Bar Association and the National Association of Attorneys General, and individuals ranging from Barack Obama and Carl Sagan to Milton Friedman and Ron Paul. The Michigan Democratic Party supports this proposal, as have the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit News, and other news outlets.

Quite simply, the medical community is more reasonably able to assess the merits and drawbacks of medical marijuana. The alternative is to decide this issue in a political setting fraught with emotion and incentive, and few equivalents to the rigor of medical research and peer review. Individual doctors are best able to make decisions in their patients' interests.

Vote YES on Proposal 1.

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Galvane 27, 31.

Niceish week. I unlocked the secret powers in my new computer, and suddenly I feel as if sovereignty of the universe is at my fingertips. Mwa ha ha ha ha! On Wednesday we went over to Sky's to see the last debate. On Friday we went out with Barb, Reinhardt, and their friends Casey and Veronica. Saturday was RPGing, and on Sunday we met Sam and his mom for tea at Kopi. Also, I finished reading Morrison's Song of Solomon and now I'm well into Faulkner's Absalom! Absalom!

BBC News: Unholy row threatens Holy Sepulchre.

Two chickpeas and a rutabega walk into a bar...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Event: The Chicago Tribune has Endorsed a Democrat for President for the First Time Since it was Founded.

Daily Kos: Chicago Tribune endorses Obama.

By "first time since it was founded," we're going back to the year 1847.

Chicago Tribune: Tribune Endorsement: Barack Obama for president.

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Event: The Personal Email Conversation I've Just Had With David Plouffe.

I think I might have annoyed him, because after I responded to the personal email I received from Plouffe, he evidently forwarded my complaint to some campaign clerk who sent off some soulless form response.

From David Plouffe, to Connor Coyne:

Connor --

Now that Barack won the final debate, there's only one milestone remaining in this campaign -- Election Day.

But it's going to take a lot of work to make sure all of our supporters get to the polls. You can help support our get out the vote efforts right now.

Make a donation of $30 or more and you'll receive a limited edition Obama-Biden T-shirt:

You can also receive an Obama-Biden car magnet with a donation of $10 or more.

Our get out the vote effort will determine the outcome of this election.

Every day, our team carefully reviews the resources we have available and makes crucial decisions about where we can be most competitive.

We're maintaining hundreds of offices across the country, employing thousands of organizers, and printing literature with local voting information for every community we canvass.

Make a donation right now to receive your T-shirt and help our campaign succeed:

Thank you for your support,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

The thing is, my wife and I have already made a donation, and by our standards, quite a substantial one. We were supposed to get the car magnet in exchange for this, but it never came. Hence my reply:

From Connor Coyne to David Plouffe,

Dude, we're still waiting for our magnet! :)

Alas, this is the reply I received, and quite likely, the final word.

Obama for America to Connor Coyne:

Dear Friend,

Thank you for contacting Senator Barack Obama and Obama for America.

Barack is gratified by the overwhelming response to his candidacy, and we appreciate hearing from you. Please note, though, that we are now replying only to emails sent through our webform. You may resend your message through the webform here:

We also encourage you to submit your policy ideas through the My Policy feature of our website, here:

We have also created the Answer Center, an easy-to-search database of questions and answers that lets you find information on a wide range of subjects from volunteering to policy positions. Try it out here:

The webform and other technologies help improve our ability to communicate with you and efficiently read and respond to the thousands of messages we receive every week. Please note that you can use it to cut and paste large messages and links to other websites.

Thank you for using the webform, it helps us improve the process of communicating with you.


Obama for America

Look, I didn't write Barack Obama. I replied to David Plouffe, and he wrote me first. All I want is my car magnet!

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Galvane 24, 31.


Pop Quiz!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Galvane 23, 31.

No On 8, Don't Eliminate Marriage For Anyone.

Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Event: California Proposition #8.


This initiative measure is submitted to the people in accordance with the provisions of Article II, Section 8, of the California Constitution.
This initiative measure expressly amends the California Constitution by adding a section thereto; therefore, new provisions proposed to be added are printed in italic type to indicate that they are new.
SECTION 1. Title
This measure shall be known and may be cited as the "California Marriage Protection Act."
SECTION 2. Section 7.5 is added to Article I of the California Constitution to read:
SEC. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

This election is not just about the next President.

I will spend the remainder of this week talking about California's Propositon 8; while Obama is currently predicted to beat McCain by 2:1 in the electoral college, polls of Proposition 8 have swung from predicting narrow defeat to narrow success.

Two important things must be said about this bill, and why its passage would be uniquely tragic in the history of gay rights.

First, so far we have observed roughly two tiers of legislation in "definition of marriage" referenda. One tier, including states such as Tennessee, have prohibited same-sex marriage but do not explicitly prohibit a status conferring marriage-like benefits. A second tier, including such as Michigan and Wisconsin, explicitly prohibits both same-sex marriage and the establishment of any status conferring marriage-like benefits.

We have also observed several tiers of legislation and judicial precedent favoring civil unions and marriage for gays. California, Massachusetts and, as of this week, Connecticut all permit same-sex marriage. New York does not permit same-sex marriage, but recognizes same-sex marriages performed out of state. New Jersey and Hawaii do not recognize same-sex marriage at all, but by court mandates the provision of a status with marriage-like benefits.

These pro- and con- tiers not only determine where marriages are performed but where they are recognized.

California is only the second state to recognize same-sex marriage, and with a population of well over 30 million, is the most populous state by a huge margin and in the last several months an estimated 11,000 same-sex marriages have been performed there. Considering the population sum of states in which same-sex marriage is 1) permitted and 2) recognized, roughly 25% of the U.S. population is represented. Passage of this bill would almost halve this number.

Second, the proposition would be almost impossible to overturn. This is evident by the history of this debate in California. Proposition 22 passed in 2000 strictly defined marriage as only existing between a man and a woman. Following San Francisco mayor Gavin Newson's decision to permit same sex marriages, almost 4,000 marriages were annulled by the California Supreme Court in accordance with Proposition 22. This is ostensibly why Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislative attempts to validate same sex marriage. He claimed to want the matter settled in the courts. This past May, the Supreme Court overturned Proposition 22 as a violation of equal protection as defined by the state constitution. Ergo, same-sex marriage is currently legal in California.

Proposition 8 raises the stakes considerably because, unlike Proposition 22, or the legislative initiatives vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger, it changes the constitution itself. With all branches of state government having set precedent on the issue and the voters having altered the constitution, Proposition 8 would be essentially written in stone. There would be no hope or appeal for gay rights activists or same-sex couples to change the situation until the issue is (finally) settled once-and-for-all by the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is a likely inevitability...

but it could take decades to get there.

IN SHORT, one of the most socially progressive states in the nation has extended same-sex marriage benefits and recognizes same-sex marriage among its 36 million citizens. Proposition 8, which is ahead in the most recent poll by 5%, would counteract all of these advances, and make further progress all but impossible for many years to come.

I KNOW that you want Obama to win. I do too. But if you are planning to donate, and really want to get some mileage out of your contribution, your help is probably needed even more HERE.


I will be writing about this issue for the rest of the week, and have invited several qualified friends to comment on this issue. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to share them.

Please consider a small donation.

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Galvane 22, 31.


All right, pop quiz. Airport, gunman with one hostage. He's using her for cover; he's almost to a plane. You're a hundred feet away.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Galvane 21, 31.

- Ding Dong (BONG!) ding dong (bong) Ding Dong (BONG!) BONG!

Survey USA: California Proposition 8 Too Close To Call.


Truly landlocked people know they are. Know the occasional Bitter Creek or Powder River that runs through Wyoming; that the large tidy Salt Lake of Utah is all they have of sea and that they must content themselves with bank, shore, and beach because they cannot claim a coast. And having none, seldom dream of flight. But the people of the Great Lakes region are confused by their place on the country's edge -- an edge that is border but not coast. They seem to be able to live a long time believing, as coastal people do, that they are at the frontier where final exit and total escape are the only journeys left. But those five Great Lakes which the St. Lawrence feeds with memories of the sea are themselves landlocked, in spite of the wandering river that connects them to the Atlantic. Once the people of the lake region discover this, the longing to leave becomes acute, and a break from the area, therefore, is necessarily dream-bitten, but necessary nonetheless. It might be an appetite for other streets, other slants of light. Or a yearning to be surrounded by strangers. It may even be a wish to hear the solid click of a door closing behind their backs.

Who said this?

Do you support gay marriage?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Galvane 18, 31.


What is a flavor of ice cream that you would like to discover somewhere?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Galvane 17, 31.



Where the Hell is Matt?

Name one person who seems mysterious to you.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Diary: October 2004.

I have to point out from time to time that it is completely random which month I write about... half of the time, I flip a coin, with heads meaning that I write from the most recent four year period (ie. 2001-2005) and tails meaning I write about an earlier time. The other half of the time, it's a raw calculation of one year from 1978 to the present. I have to explain this because it sometimes seems like serendipity, the way things add up.

As I've said many times, 2004-05 was one of the happiest and most eventful times in my life, and October was no exception. It started out early on when Sam and I threw a housewarming party for our new place in Edgewater Beach. We'd managed to kill most of the roaches through successive layers of poison, and had just unpacked enough that we could really enjoy the spectacular views. I invited people over early for swimming, but I was the only person to dip in the seashell and seagull crusted waters licking the rocks of the Thorndale Beach. I went home, and changed into my Hawai'ian shirt. I thought Hawai'ian shirts seemed Gothic Funky, and that was a party of how the whole thing started. Amber, who I did not know that well back then, was one of the first guests, and we listened to music and hung out until Sam got back and others started to trickle in. The night was deja vu, because I hadn't seen many of these kids in over a year: Joe and Mercedes and (bless him!) Ben. Maybe twenty or so people came out and we demolished a case or two of Old Style. I know that I drank 10 because I made a pyramid out of the empty cans as I finished them.

I'd spent much of September applying for jobs all over the neighborhood but as this latest unemployed stretch grew toward and beyond two months I had to do what I always did in those years; called up Advanced Resources and ask them for an assignment. After a couple of busted attemps to count people using the urinals at Bears games (I kid you not) I got an assignment at a Lasik surgery center at the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation. By this time I'd worked at five or six different departments of this institution and while the overall atmosphere was a little grouchy when I showed up, I settled in quickly. It would turn out to be my favorite assignement of all; an assignment I would hold for a year and, with interruptions, eventually become the job I have today.

I was also boring down on this Gothic Funk thing. The phrase was infectious to me. I picked up Walpole's Castle of Otranto and finished it in an afternoon; then I was onto Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho. I remember I stayed up late compiling playlists and soundtracks to these novels. I was really getting into electronic music for the first time, listening to a lot of Orbital and Underworld and a little Infected Mushroom.

I still remember the weekend I took the train home... Amtrak... eating bagels and drinking coffee the whole way, and reading Radcliffe's masterpiece as I went. It was on the train that I read of her first encounter with the fatal castle. I was hooked. This became my favorite novel.

Early in the month, I had applied for a canvassing job that I did not get, but the interview was held in the West Loop and I was so excited that I bought a cover of the New York Times and sat in a coffee shop on LaSalle street read all of the important looking articles with small print.

A lot on the plate.

The real story for me at this time was the election, which is key to what I'm doing with this blog today.

I volunteered here and there, and I blogged a lot. Did I change any minds? Probably not. But it was a start. I wrote this and this and this and this and more.

Where were you in October 2004?

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Concept: Palate cleanser.

This is beautiful.

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Happy People Dancing on Planet Earth.

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Event: "Here's how Gov. Sarah Palin's Clearwater visit unfolded"

"Palin goes on the attack in Clearwater"
"Palin Wows 'Em In Clearwater"
"Palin rally brings 20000 to Clearwater"

I'm starting to feel fearful.

"Palin goes on attack in visit to Clearwater"
"Clearwater crowd welcomes Sarah Palin to Florida"
"Palin folksy, feisty in Clearwater"

While I'm politically on the same page as most of my friends, I often think that they're alarmist. We're up against the banality of evil, which operates most effectively when it can hide under a superficial veneer of esteem and respectability. I've made it a point to disagree with those who've compared the Bush administration to the fascists of the 1930s; we shouldn't have, I argue, to attain the atrocity of those regimes for something to be unacceptably bad. We needn't prove that Republicans are all degenerate monsters; we need to demonstrate policy flaws. A policy flaw can be repudiated without name-calling. That ought to be a liberal strength.

But there is a time to start feeling fear.

"Palin Supporters File Into Clearwater's Coachman Park"
"Palin In The Park"
"Palin in Florida at critical time for McCain"

The above are top-of-the-list headlines for a Google News search on the word "clearwater" today. You may think that I post these to underline a fear that the McCain ticket will turn the tide and win in November. But that is not my fear. In fact, this is looking less and less like a close election, and each day I am more confident in the success of the Obama-Biden ticket.

My fear is what these articles and headlines do not report.

Just in case you don't follow that link:

Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew.

"Kill him!" proposed one man in the audience.

Presumably in reference to Ayers, though possibly to Obama.

One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."

And while I can't pull up an uncensored quote on this, I think we can probably guess what was shouted.

Here's the thing. Why does the news cover this as if it were an ordinary political rally, with crowds and cheering? With a little digging, the event sounds like the precursor to a lynch mob. Shouldn't we be seeing at least some prominent headlines like:

"Palin supporters turn on media"
"Palin rally attendees threaten violence"
"Cameraman harrassed at Palin speech"

Why is this acceptable?

Why is this buried?

Why isn't this news?

And this is where I take one, two, no, one-and-a-half steps back, in consideration of some of my more alarmist friends.

They have earned that ground.

I can't think of a more reliable predictor to bigotry and catatrophe than this. Oversight is telling; it tells us what is assumed. What is unusual is worth reporting. What is accepted is left unsaid. What does it say, that the reportage of harrassment, of vigilante threats, of racism is taken off the table?

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Galvane 15, 31.

"When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear."
Who said this?

If there was one course from high school or college that you could take over again, what would it be?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Galvane 14, 31.

- The week was still... I played on my new computer, downloading ActRaiser and The Addams Family for the ZSNES. On Thursday, I cleaned and Sky and Emma came over to watch the vice-presidential debate.
On Friday we went over to Ukrainian Village and hung out and played Solar Quest with Sam and Kender.
On Saturday I got up at seven and went to church because I missed the mass of the three archangels. Dungeons and Dragons happened in the afternoon, preceeded by a short siesta.
Sunday was church and a welcome to the parish, which included coffee and donuts and a tour of the facilities (it's a large parish).
Considering this was a weekend devoted to just hanging out and trying to get stuff done, it sure went by fast.

New York Times: Stocks Fall Sharply on Credit Concerns

What do you think of term limits, generally?
What do you think of Mike Bloomberg's attempt to become the mayor for a third term?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Event: Well, so much for instantaneous victory.

... some problems cannot be solved just by throwing money at them...

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Event: The Bill Passed.

Now I go from stern to angry.

If the upcoming months show this to pan out the way the "restraint" argument has predicted they will (ie. poorly), then this will be an excellent point for primary race candidates to raise with me. In fact, I will seek out their position on this issue, and be sympathetic to them if they opposed the bill.

Dale Kildee voted aye.
Jan Schakowsky voted aye.
Edolphus Towns voted aye.

Barack Obama voted aye.
Dick Durbin voted aye.
Hillary Clinton voted aye.
Charles Schumer voted aye.
Carl Levin voted aye.

Dabbie Stabenow voted nay.

Again, a thank you to Senator Stabenow. You get an A+.

All of the others have failed the Econ homework today.

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Event: House Begins Bailout Debate.

I'm excited, and you should be too, that while both VP candidates performed at their height of their ability last night, viewers overwhelmingly felt that Biden won. Many arguments point to Palin's lack of experience and dependence upon memorized talking points. I would add to that list that McCain has left her with a crap record on the issues most pressing in this election.

And yet, while the election remains of great importance, and shouldn't be underestimated, this is looking less and less like a close race.

Meanwhile, the House is debating the Senate's bailout plan.


New York Times: House Begins Debate on Bailout.

New York Times Economix: Live-Blogging the House's Bailout Debate.

This ghastly bill has a large chance of passing, with absolutely no guarantees or even a reassuring number of favorable models suggesting that it will work. It will ironically exacerbate the environment of deregulation that is behind so many of America's (and the world's) economic instabilities, and that still lacks any robust standards of accountability.

Meanwhile, 200 economists have signed a petition against the plan. The petition includes members of the Chicago School of economics. As an undergrad I railed against these people, because they represent a very pro-market perspective. It is telling that even they, with a whole gulf of idological and philosophical differences separating us, agree that the arithmetic and big numbers involved in this bill are unlikely to take us anywhere pretty.

Consider if the bailout does not prevent a financial meltdown, and we are forced to resort to government programs similar to those that got us through the Depression. Is another $700 billion in debt something we need going into such a crisis?

Keep up those calls and letters!

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Galvane 11, 31.

Saudi Arabia

Are you a bigger fan of the easter bunny or the tooth fairy?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Event: Get Out of My House!

Concept: The Pumpkins Will Be Coming to Chicago

The Smashing Pumpkins are on tour again, and this time they are finally going to grace Chicago with their presence. Ungrateful muffins that they are...

I do love their new artwork, though.

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Event: Regarding American Housing Stock of the Last Decade.

As quoted by the good folks at the Affordable Housing Institute.

"It’s under the care of top men."
"Top. Men."

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Galvane 10, 31.

I've linked here before, but I feel the times call for a repeat.
Visit this site to send Balls to Congress.

I'm going to resist the temptation to write a political QOTD today... in this charged atmosphere it seems like everythings about politics, but this isn't a political blog. It's a life blog.
With that in mind, if you were to die and had to choose one celebrity whose name starts with the letter L to care for your family in your absence, who would you choose?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Event: My favorite senator tonight.

In 2006 I wrote Debbie Stabenow a scathing letter denouncing her support of the Military Commissions Act and pledging to write in a candidate symbolically instead of her or her Republican opponent. Since then, she has recanted her vote on that issue (one of only a few senators), and her record has been one of the most impressive in the senate. She has all the idealism that represents this party at its best, and an obstinacy that flies in the face of the wimpy Democratic leadership; she is practical in a pure Michigan tradition of reconciling drastically different constituent needs.

I wrote six democratic senators a letter last night asking them to vote down a bill that pandered to the banking industry: they are Clinton, Durbin, Levin, Obama, Schumer, and Stabenow.

Of these, only Stabenow voted the proposal down.

Thank you, Debbie Stabenow, for voting with clarity, sense, resolve, and restraint, and for recognizing Michigan residents before the panic machine that has been driving our domestic policy this week.

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Event: Here's an article.

I lied about not posting again today...

NPR: 200 Economists Vs. The Senate.

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Event: The Bailout. A letter to Jan Schakowsky.

This is the only post that I will be writing today; the subject is too important and I do not want anything else to distract from it.

Below please find a copy of the letter I sent to Jan Schakowsky, my congressional representative. I will also be sending letters to Representatives Dale Kildee of Michigan, Edolphus Towns of New York, Senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin of Illinois, Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer of New York, and Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

I think this issue is very important. I encourage you to write your own letters, and you can borrow any portion of mine if you think it would be helpful. In this case, letters to Representatives will be more significant than letters to Senators. Be sure to note whether you are part of their constituency.

Dear Ms. Schakowsky,

I remember hearing you speak with Senator Biden at a rally in Skokie in 2004, so that day has been prominent in my memory for the last several weeks. I'm writing you today to urge you to reconsider your vote of "yes" on the bailout package that will be moving through congress again in a few days.

I know that you and many of your peers in Congress supported this bill while "holding their noses," to paraphrase Senator Clinton. And yet while I know that the economic crisis is real, and a response is needed, it is just as important to respond appropriately and rationally as it is to respond quickly. It is a feature of the stock market (as we saw in the Monday decline of the DOW and its resurgence Tuesday) that investors have the advantage of responding quickly and the tendency to not respond in a particularly deliberative manner.

We look to our elected officials for responsible leadership, not the stock market.

It is with this in mind that I offer a few considerations, and point out that, yes, these are things I consider about when deciding who to vote for:

1) The White House plan to address this crisis represents almost every possible extreme. It is an extreme in the amount of money requested ($700 billion being an arbitrarily high figure), in the lack of oversight required for that money (the last bill's tax penalties for companies seeking protection and "transparency" via the agency distributing the money), and from all reputable news sources, the new bill is largely being shaped by concessions to Republicans.

2) Many economists, such as David Sirota, Paul Krugman, and the team at The Nation, among others do not believe that this plan will best amend the problem, largely because it does not provide sufficient oversight. The "concessions" to CEO compensation caps and transparency are a joke: what meaningful oversight occurs when the agency that disburses money gets to monitor the use of the funds?

3) It is appropriate that Paulson plan is a response to a sub-prime mortgage; $700 billion dollars in short order would mortgage the Obama administration. The last time Democrats had the opportunity to make real progress on issues such as health care and education was fourteen years ago. Any acceptable bill has to incorporate a timetable of disbursements, because unnecessary expenditure at even a small percentage of $700 billion is a horribly large chunk of our economy. A timetable, on the other hand, attached to $50 or $100 billion disbursements would give Obama and the next congress an opportunity to introduce progressive changes to the bill, and so doing, provide the long term solution that we cannot obtain in this deregulated environment.

4) When doctors practice with incompetence, it is malpractice and illegal. When an attorney misrepresents the law or her client, it is malpractice and illegal. We require our legal and medical professionals to act with knowledge and discipline because their actions constantly and profoundly affect the lives of those with whom they interact. It is time for Wall Street to be held similarly accountable. Those who brought about this crisis through greed and incompetence should be held guilty of malpractice, and this is the right and fitting time to establish such a notion.

I won't tell you to unconditionally vote down the bill that will be presented very shortly to the House of Representatives. I do urge you to act with deliberation, and do not support any bill that panders to a shrinking Republican minority. It is rightly observed that the costs of inaction are high, but Democrats should not forget that the middle and lower-class have been suffering for years under a housing and health care crisis that did *not* require immediate action and did *not* result in a congressional bailout.

The sky is not falling today.

Don't vote for any bailout plan that does not deserve your vote.


Connor Coyne

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