Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Latest stuff

I thought I was going have more to say on current events, but two items seem to be dominating the news. One is the current worldwide financial crisis that's erupted within the past two and a half months, with banks all over the world having to be bailed out. The other is the increased stridency of the gay rights movement since the approval of Proposition 8 in California.

I really don't have any solid information right now to back up my opinions that isn't available elsewhere, so rather than contribute to the general excess of hot air, I'll wait until I do.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wait a minute

In my examination of Obama's potential administration, I found myself dealing with a fog of
speculation, pinned to rather few eractual facts. Furthermore, I noted, the groundwork for many of the events that are likely to happen is being laid by events that are happening. I decided that trying to keep up how the policies and personell of the new Administration are likely to shape up was probably not the best use of my limited time, especially as I'm developing the ability to keep and discuss current events from a different perspective. I'll keep watching, but it won't be my principal focus.

Most of my effort has gone to the construction of the knowledge base I describe on my Independent learning blog. After several false starts in the past year, I'm approaching a point where I can keep track of of them. With that as a starting point, I can start discussing events from the broader perspective I've been looking for.

One subect I've found interesting is the discussion of space technology. The recent visible imaging of planets around two fairly nearby stars is something I used to read was probably impossible, and it's quite a feat for the adaptive imaging technology that's been used to locate them. India has launched a , so far, highly successful lunar exploration mission, and China recently had its third manned spaceflight. The launch of endeavor to expand the International Space Station also represents progress. There are moreUS missions in progress and shortly scheduled. It seems to be an optimistic time of progress, but I have some concerns.

One is that the US seems to have lost or to be losing its lead in Space technology. The Space shuttle is scheduled to be retired in 2 years, and the US will be dependent on Russian technology and resources for about a 5 year gap. And that's in the best case, assuming continuing funding for NASA and no huge cost overruns or technacal delays. If Russia continues its show of belligerence, I am not certain this is such a wise strategy for the US. The US went from suborbital projects to a moon landing twelve years, and it seems that NASA has become such an ossified bureacracy that, in spite of nearly 40 years of progress in space flight technology, it could not duplicate the feat.

The private programs that are actually building and testing craft that may, in a couple of generations worth of technology, face a heavy burden of regulations. I hope the US in general and the economy in particular don't crash and take them down with it as I fear they might, but I'm no better at predicting the future than the next man.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Expected Executive Orders

John Podesta was on Fox News Sunday, discussing some of the Executive Orders Barak Obama
is likely to issue, several of which will apparently reverse long-standing policies that outgoing President Bush initiated. He mentioned four of these, specifically, and another advisor mentioned another.

Among the first orders to be reversed may be two that Bush signed shortly
after taking office in 2001. One of those barred the use of U.S. funds by family
planning groups overseas that provide abortion counseling.

Susan F. Wood, co-chairman of Obama's advisory committee for women's health,
said the president-elect also plans on reversing a policy that linked assistance
for combating AIDS in the developing world to requirements that health workers
emphasize monogamy and abstinence from sex over condom use.

Another is the limit on federal funding for embryonic stem- cell research,
a restriction that some scientists say hampers study to combat diseases such as

"They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile
lands in Utah that they're going to try to do right as they -- walking out the
door. I think that's a mistake,'' Podesta said.

On climate change and pollution, Obama previously has stated his opposition to
the administration's action that blocked California from regulating carbon
dioxide emissions from vehicles

Apart from the disrepsect for human life in general and children in particular that Obama's positions on abortion represent, there are other questions that arise:
1) Why should overseas family planning groups be receiving US taxpayer funding at all? Or any family planning groups?
2) Who benefits from restrictions on oil and gas drilling in the US? It is certainly not the companies that do it. and it may not be the environment. Might it be foreign suppliers?
3) Allowing California to impose carbon-dioxide emissions will make it harder on all autompbile manufacturers since automakers must in general design their vehicles for the entire country to meet the toughest state standards. This, at the very time when the new administration is proposing an expensive bailout for the US auto industry. Who benefits? I'm not sure I have a good answer for either one.


San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Duffy, at a rally outside the Oakland Temple earlier today,
November 10:

"The time has come to take it out there to the people who voted for this awful
thing, [Prop. 8]" said San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty. "The Mormon church
has had to rely on our tolerance in the past, to be able to express their
beliefs "... This is a huge mistake for them. It looks like they've forgotten
some lessons."

Am I reading this correctly as a threat to teach the Mormons a lesson? Religious liberty only exists when the GBLT community is willing to tolerate it? So when the Mormons express concern about gay marriage advocates eventually threatening their freedom of religion, it's a lie?

I really don't have the time to waste searching for words to properly express how I feel about this speech. So I'll just say they're rather the opposite of approving and leave it at that.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

For the past five years, John Podesta, the former Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton, has been building up the Center for American Progress, a liberal-oriented "think tank", or, as it is sometimes called, a virtual government-in-exile. According to this article,

Mr. Podesta has also poured money into building up liberal political communications. The center schedules events that often end up being shown on C-Span; sponsors about 60 liberal college newspapers; hosts a prominent blog, ThinkProgress.org; and provides a free downloadable daily news package called Mic Check for liberal radio stations to broadcast.

A number of wealthy donors and groups which have given grants to this group have been
identified, and it is heavily staffed by former Clinton administration officials.


Valerie Jarrett is described as a close family friend, "Obama's big sister" and even "the other side of Barak's brain". Her connections are not so much with Washington, but with the Chicago community of affluent blacks, many of whom have graduated from Ivy league universities.


Peter Rouse was formerly chief of staff for Senator Tom Daschle. When Daschle failed
re-election, Rouse began working for the newly elected Obama, and is credited with
helping direct his career in the Senate and his rise in the Democratic party and to the nomination.

Andrew Sullivan, writing about Rahm Emmanuel, as already mentioned, confirms his
a reputation as something of a shark. He is known for being in "the face" of opponents,
twisting arms, extracting commitments, and bullying, corralling, and pinioning party
members to get things accomplished.

In 2000, Emanuel was on the board of Freddie Mac, the now disgraced mortgage public-private entity whose overly generous loans helped to bring about the financial meltdown of the past two months. He has received a huge amount of campaign money from hedge funds, private equity firms and the financial industry.


Although I'm not familiar with the names of Obama's economic advisors or their
qualifications or political orientation, a number of them have been listed.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Press Conference

President-elect Obama spoke briefly about what he expects his first moves to be in his first
press conference since winning the election.

He outlined a far-reaching and extensive stimulus package that he intends to push through
Congress as fast as possible (I note that the newly elected more heavily democratic majority that would speed his proposals through isn't in office yet) He mentions the credit crisis, increased unemployment insurance, job creation, help for the Automotive industry (While I would applaud more fuel-efficient cars, the government does not control either the laws of physics or consumer preferences). He also mentions thatstate and local governments are facing a crunch: They must raise taxes or cut services. This neglects the fact that the Federal government has a similar problem, because if the economy doesn't improve instantly, tax revenues will also decline, and with all these stimulus programs in place, spending will increase. Maybe he has a plan to deal with this, but I've seen more slogans than economic wisdom from his campaign.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More on Obama's crew

Rahm Emmanual is reported to have accepted the job as Obama's chief of staff, and will
resign his seat as Representative.

According to the New York Times,

In turning to Mr. Emanuel and Mr. Podesta, Mr. Obama sought out two of the
hardest-hitting veterans of President Bill Clinton's administration, known
for their deep Washington experience, savvy and no-holds-barred approach to
politics. Neither is considered a practitioner of the “new politics” that
Mr. Obama promised on the campaign trail to bring Republicans and Democrats
together, suggesting that the cool and conciliatory new president is
determined to demonstrate toughness from the beginning.

Obama is expected to hold a press conference for tomorrow, Friday, Nov 8.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's crew

Jake Tapper of ABC News reports President-Elect Obama's transition team is being run by former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, Valier Jarrate, and Obama campaign chief of staff Pete Rouse.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano;
former Clinton Transportation and Energy Secretary Federico Peña, and
former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley
have been named to the transition team advisory board.

He also reports that President-elect Obama has asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a
Democratic representative from Illinois, to be his chief of staff.
Columnist Yura Levin at the Corner on National Review describes Emanuel as "a vicious graceless partisan: narrow, hectic, unremittingly aggressive, vulgar, and impatient". To me, this
doesn't sound good in a Chief of Staff.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

US President-elect Barak Obama

I was wrong, last August, when I predicted he and his campaign would self-destruct.
However, I cannot bring myself to congratulate him on his victory.
We as Americans have put our trust, not in God, but in a man, and we will very
shortly see what kind of man we have elected. I do not believe he will be the "One",
the miracle-worker, the Messiah figure that many of his supporters have made him
out to be.
Now that the has won the campaign and no longer needs to promise the voters anything to
get elected, we will begin to see what kind of man we really chose: Whether he is the
thoughtful, judicious person he presented himself as, or whether he attemts to defame and silence his critics: whether he upholds the law to see that it is faithfully executed, or whether he views it as a straitjacket to be wriggled out of.

I recall a line I read somewhere a long time ago, about how if you want to know which direction the new captain is going to steer the ship, watch who he puts on the bridge crew. Who is the President-elect Obama going to name as his officials and advisors?

I for one will be watching. Closely. Starting now, with his victory speech.