McCain’s bizarre VP choice

There are many things being said about Gov. Sarah Palin being on the Republican ticket, which smacks of a tokenism worthy of a South Park parody, but what strikes me most is that it thoroughly undercuts the Republican argument against Barack Obama: That he is too young and inexperienced. If Palin can be a heartbeat away from the presidency under a 72-year-old four-time cancer survivor, Obama is eminently qualified to be at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Republicans can just put away the “Obama’s experience is the issue” rhetoric now. And I’ll take Joe Biden as president over Sarah Palin on any day, even the quietest one of any presidency ever.

That his VP destroys his argument against Obama speaks volumes about McCain’s judgment and willingness to pander mindlessly to the far right.

Next on the American Agenda: Generational debate

We’re pretty complacent right now. Everyone, all Americans. We know the country is on the wrong track, but everyone assumes the process will deliver a solution, whether that solution is named Obama or McCain. Complacent.

In fact, the United States is at a crossroads that isn’t being discussed at all: Are we ever going to begin to invest in the future, again. The Greatest Generation and their offspring, the Greying Generation, have rebelled against big government and social programs while building up a national debt inconceivable even to the greatest advocate of national spending. Basically, we have spent the future’s inheritance on a party of excess consumption while leaving virtually everyone unprepared for the changing demands of the 21st century.

So, instead of hearing about “tax relief” we should be hearing about the debt the nation owes its children, who have already shouldered $31,600 in debt per capita. How are we going to make this right? It may sound like a contradiction, but some government spending or, at least, government-facilitated spending on education and retraining would go a long way to solve the problem. We must prepare people to be successful and, in the new economy, that requires ongoing reinvestment.

But we also need to step up to the debt and pay it off. That means paying additional taxes now. Since the very rich have benefitted far more than the rest of America, it makes sense they carry more of the burden than the poor, the middle class and their children—yet it is everyone’s problem. Time to carry our burden to set the stage for our children’s opportunity.

K2 tragedy—why they do it….

I was working on Mt. Rainier in 1981, when a huge icefall took two ropes and the 11 climbers on them to their deaths on the Ingraham glacier; 14 other climbers survived, because they were not in the direct path of the avalanche. It was the worst climbing accident in North America then and now.

For days, professional climbers and rescuers would come into the restaurant where I worked, looking ashen and sick after having worked to recover the bodies—none were found, though climbing gear was seen in a crevasse that closed by the end of the summer.

I’ve been up the Mountain a few times when I was young, nearly dying once when a storm pinned our party down on the upper Ingraham glacier.

Why do it? It is not simply that the mountain is there, but that there is something inside people that needs to be surmounted. The mountain may stand as a symbol of that thing. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who viewed the mountains they climbed solely as external challenges. We’re climbing over ourselves when we struggle up mountains.

Strange to say, I realize upon reflection, that I never climbed that mountain again after seeing those rescuers who could barely speak about what they’d seen. The icefall in 1981 left house-sized blocks of ice strewn over the mountainside. Sheer chance had decided who lived and who died.

Reading about the K2 deaths this week, I started thinking about the climbers I’ve met, the climbing I’ve done (Rainier was the most technical mountain I ever climbed) and the way that climbing has changed. It appears to me to be more a hobby than a struggle for many today. When reading about some climbing tragedies, it is clear that the people shouldn’t have been on the mountain. They were unprepared or just stupid. It’s way too soon to judge what happened on K2, but I certainly was struck the the first clause of the following sentence, which sums up the finality of seeing people trudge out of the snow after such a thing….

Chaos on the ‘Mountain That Invites Death’ – NYTimes.com:
On Tuesday the climber likely to be the last of the survivors, an Italian, Marco Confortola, staggered on frostbite-blackened feet to the base camp, for a time refusing help and oxygen, preferring to make his own way down.

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Nudging Obama back to the true middle ground

Progressive voters are petitioning Barack Obama to stick to the principles he stood by during the primaries. I have been very concerned about his support for unrestricted wiretapping by the executive branch, though his willingness to compromise on some energy issues is understandable to me. The Nation has a copy of the letter you can sign and send to Senator Obama. This isn’t an issue of flip-flopping, rather it is characteristic of the general election, when candidates reach out for votes. Sometimes, however, candidates need to be reminded what matters to their base.

The ideas below are critical to restoring the balanced character of American government after a period of grotesque mistreatment of the Constitution and the idea that government power is a potentially positive thing. We don’t just want change, we want our country back.

Change *We* Can Believe In:
Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:

§?Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.

§?A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country’s collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.

§?Universal healthcare.

§?An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.

§?An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.

§?A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.

§?A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.

§?An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.

§?Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.

§?Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.

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