Thursday, September 30, 2004

Ugly Rhetoric

There is a very good article at Salon about the depths the Republican Party has stooped too in order to scare voters, and comparing it to the red scare era.
Historian Alan Brinkley, the provost of Columbia University, agrees that even during the height of the Cold War, scathing rhetoric that called into question the loyalty or patriotism of a presidential candidate was deemed too extreme. "This kind of rhetoric never would have come into a presidential campaign during the '50s or '60s. It would come from people widely dismissed as extremists -- people on the margin of the party who were tolerated or perhaps quietly encouraged -- but never from anyone identified as the party. Now it has migrated to the very center of the campaign."
The article also competently notes that many of the claims coming out of main stream Republican Party officials, such as the Vice President or House Speaker Dennis Hastert first appeared on the Rush Limbaugh program. This has to come as a bit of a shock to those who think that Rush Limbaugh's effect on the Republican Party is minimal.

The article also discusses the reaction of our "liberal media" to these attacks.
. . . mainly the press has treated this Republican rhetoric as just another development on the campaign trail. A CNN report this week, noting that Kerry had criticized Bush for bungling the war on terror, concluded it was fair to say "both sides can now be described as trying to politically exploit the issue," as if Republicans charging that terrorists would prefer a Kerry victory were the same as Democrats critiquing Bush's foreign policy.

The Washington Post's Sept. 24 article also stretched when trying to show balance by pointing to "questionable rhetoric" on the Democratic side equivalent to Sen. Hatch's suggestion that terrorists are working hard to elect Kerry. The Post's example? The crude sexual pun comedian Whoopi Goldberg had made at Bush's expense at a celebrity fundraiser for Kerry this summer.
It's a good article and well worth checking out.

The Winter Soldier

Suzanne Fields writes another column on the women vote today. That part isn't too exciting, other than that she doesn't spend any time wondering why nobody wants to analyze the "White Male" vote.

But she does include this history rewriting section.
Women, it seems to me, were turned off more by the replays of his slurs against the soldiers he left behind in Vietnam. It was one thing to attack the war, but quite another to attack the men fighting it.

When he described the American soldiers he left behind as guilty of raping, beheading and burning villages, the tales of his own heroism became suspect. Would he similarly mock the service and sacrifice of soldiers fighting in Iraq in what he calls "the wrong war"? Ask any wife, mother or daughter of a fighting man if that influences the way she weighs the candidates this fall.
Here are the questions before us. Were the accusations John Kerry read, and had entered into the congressional record, accurate (or as accurate as possible for the time)? And did John Kerry place the blame for such accusations squarely on the feet of the American Soldier?

The answer to the first one, as much as you might not want to believe it, soldiers in Vietnam did terrible, terrible things. I wish they hadn't, but they did. Senator Kerry's testimony was largely accurate by any serious historical standard. My Quiet Life has dedicated some time to reviewing this issue. But, of course, we are being asked not to judge his testimony by history, but by ideology.

Secondly, was John Kerry's mission to tear down and humiliate the American soldier? No, it was to decry the decisions that had led to a break down in military discipline. Somewhere along the way, these sort of actions became acceptable, from an institutional standpoint. Soldiers knew they could burn villages, or rape Vietnamese girls, and there would be little to no personal consequences to their actions. Once you put soldiers in a position where they know they can give into their darker impulses without consequences, than some will.

Of course, many, if not most, soldiers had an internalized moral code that kept them from doing such awful things. But some didn't. And the natural consequences followed. This is also what is so wrong with Abu Ghraib. Not what the individual soldiers did, which is bad enough, but that somewhere along the way the sort of brutality committed there became acceptable.

In fact it is a betrayal of our Soldiers that such lawlessness was allowed to exist, and fortunately, for the most part, it is not allowed today.

So to return to Suzanne Field's question, John Kerry told the truth in his testimony. Let me quote from My Quiet life.
John Kerry did his duty as a soldier, and he did it honorably. He then came home, and did his duty as a responsible citizen of this country. He spoke out. I think Dwight D. Eisenhower put it best:

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
Dead on, in my opinion.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Here is a sane and reasonable analysis of the importance of your vote in the Presidential election, from an interview Ann gave to Amazon.Com.

"Insofar as the survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry, I'd say 2004 is as big as it gets."

Just in case you missed it, Ann Repeated it a moment later, in answer to what she thought the big issue of the campaign should be.

"I repeat: The survival of the Republic is threatened by the election of John Kerry. I'd say that's the big one."

When asked what the five most important books one could read in order to understand the upcoming election she listed High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Slander, Treason, How to Talk to a Liberal (If you Must), and the Bible. Only one of those books was not written by Ann Coulter. Kind of supports my theory that she's only in it for the money.

And to wrap things up, she had this to say about what a Kerry Presidency might lead to.

"Quite possibly the destruction of the Republic."

Nice to see Ann has it all in perspective.

An Interesting Question

Rich Lowry, in his latest piece, poses a really interesting question.
The Bush/Kerry tie among women has engendered much commentary about how "the gender gap has disappeared." Actually, the gap is as yawning as ever. Bush still leads Kerry among white men by double digits, a considerable "gap" among a certain "gender." But the media has never dubbed the GOP lead among men a "gender gap" quite worthy of endless commentary and dozens of Kennedy School panels.
Yeah, if we are going to focus endlessly on why women (or Blacks, or Hispanics, or Muslims) are going to vote a certain way, why don't we devote an equal amount of time to analyzing the White Male and why he votes a certain way.

Well one reason is that we White Males (in the interest of full disclosure I am in fact a White Male) are allowed to be individuals. As a White Male I am allowed to vote based on my analysis of the candidates and which one of them will do a better job. All the other genders (and races and ethnicities) have to vote based on their allegiance to their category. That doesn't mean like they can't influence their decision and vote against what the majority of their category want, but in general they are influenced by their race or gender to vote a certain way.

Let me give you a visual metaphor. Imagine two pie charts one for the White Male, and one for Women. The charts measure ideas and influences that push a person to vote a certain way. The White Male chart is empty, he is free to be pushed or to push himself any direction he likes. On the other hand the Woman chart has a big slice of pie, maybe 35%, already taken out (which says, apparently, "Women Vote Democratic"). So she only gets to fill 65% of her pie with other influences and decisions.

White Males, as we see, are just not influenced at all by their societal position or their race. Frankly it's just coincidence that many White Males (but not me) are going to end up voting for President Bush. It's almost like we were influenced by our societal position to vote Republican. But clearly that's not the case.

I'm going to turn the glib sarcasm off for a moment and state the obvious. Everybody feels some pressure based on their skin color or their gender (not to mention region and religion) to look at issues a certain way, and that includes White Males. Due to centuries of being at the top of the heap, however, White Males are pretty well conditioned not to think about those pressures, but to assume whatever decisions they make are based purely on reason (unlike the more emotional women or ethnicities). This is crap. White Men are just as irrational as everyone else and in some cases more so.

The reason we look at why Black voters or Women voters act a certain way, but don't care why White Men vote a certain way, is because that's the way we've set up the Game. White Men are rational, nobody else is. The other side to the issue is that Republicans obviously don't want to be known as the "White Male" party. It makes them look like jerks.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Buying In

Karl Rove and President Bush are taking something of a gamble in how they conduct and hold rallies. They assume that this race will not be settled by the undecided voters but by the base. This is an assertion we've discussed here before, but now that we are down to the wire it's hard to say who's right and who's wrong.

At any rate the Bush Campaign's specific tactics were covered in a New York Times story by David M. Halbfinger.
The tactic points up a stark difference between the presidential campaigns: while Senator John Kerry is using his rallies and forums to try to reach undecided voters and to close the deal with standoffish Democrats, Mr. Bush is packing his audiences with supporters who must identify themselves as such in questionnaires and whipping them into brigades ready to blitz crucial districts to get every last voter to the polls.

Kerry aides scoff at the invitation-only audiences and what they say is the shanghai-ing of volunteers. "We don't require oaths of allegiance, and we don't take people captive," said Tom Shea, director of the Kerry campaign in Florida, after turning out close to 10,000 people for a rally in Orlando last Tuesday where, he said, 700 people signed up to help.

But Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale and the author of "Get Out the Vote! How to Increase Voter Turnout," said Mr. Bush's strategy was inspired. "There's a basic principle in experimental psychology, that the hand teaches the heart," Professor Green said. "You've now made phone calls for George Bush; that helps solidify your commitment to the campaign. If you weren't enthusiastic and committed already, you might be now."
It's a truism that if you contribute to a candidate, whether it's dollars or sweat, you are definitely going to vote for him. It's also hard to calculate how much some of these Bush Supporters might be able to influence their neighbors, families or friends.

On the other hand, I have to say I agree with the Kerry Campaign; by forcing loyalty pledges and work on the campaign to just see the President, it just shows how weak the President's message really is. He's the President of the United States of America. That makes him my President and yours. So why should he be so cowardly as to forbid me listening to his speech (it goes without saying that I'm not going to sign a loyalty pledge).

There is another interesting paragraph on how President Bush looks at these sorts of gatherings. ". . . Mr. Bush likes to call his retail politicking "fertilizing the grass roots,. . . " Too many jokes that can be made with that statement.

The Good Old Days

Bruce Bartlett's article today is on how presidential politics have changed since the good old days. Back in the good old days, before focus groups and the "science" of polling, it was hard for politicians to know just want voters wanted. But nowadays its easy.
Politicians are too busy raising money and journalists are too busy faking documents to bother with talking to real people. Instead, they rely on public opinion polls and focus groups arranged by professional pollsters to tell them what people are thinking. Gone are the days when a politician would figure out for himself how to vote. Today, all he wants to know is which way the is wind blowing.

John Kerry is a perfect example of the danger of this approach. On the day he had to cast a vote for the Iraq invasion, the wind was blowing in a pro-war direction, so he voted "yea." Then later, when the wind had reversed course, he voted to deny funding for the troops in Iraq. Thus, he was simultaneously pro-war and antiwar.
Well actually I'm not sure this plays out. Had the polls really changed by the time he voted against the $87 Billion? Let's see.

The vote for the approval of the $87 Billion was on October 17, 2003 (my birthday). At that time according to the Pew Charitable Trust, support for the war (or, those who thought going to war was the right decision) was still around 60%. Down from previous highs, but still greater than 50%.

But underlying this "critique" is the idea that Senator Kerry made his decision strictly based on poll numbers. I assume they are taking this tack because they want to claim that President Bush, no matter how boneheaded some of his decisions may be, at least he's not listening to the polls. No, President Bush is a man who governs from the heart, and even if his plans totally fail, at least he's a man for all of that.

Unfortunately we have another example of proof by assertion. Bartlett doesn't have any proof or even evidence that Senator Kerry voted based on polls; but he's comfortable making that the center of his argument anyway. Assuming this works, remember "Sending Me Money is More Fun than Ten Trips to Disneyland."

Monday, September 27, 2004

Debates and Popularity

The election in 2000 was about personality. George W. Bush was more likeable than Al Gore, so Bush won. It was a lot like a High School Election. Al Gore was the annoying loser who promised that we could all work together to build a great homecoming float and that he'd see that Study Hall was kept quiet. George W. Bush was the guy who said nothing about boring issues like that, made some vague promises and seemed to suggest a party might happen after the election that we'd all be invited to. And frankly, Candidate Bush wasn't boring and seemed like an OK guy (and it's not like it matters all that much).

This time we aren't under any illusions about the Presidency being unimportant. So the question is how are we to judge the debates? Well there's a certain faction of the media that will whole heartedly support President Bush, no matter how he does. There is a much much smaller group who will support Senator Kerry.

The majority of the media, worried about cries of "Liberal Bias" will go out of their way to be nice to President Bush, unless he totally screws up. But they won't want it to be a blow out either; the media wants ratings, and a close race means more ratings. So barring any real screw up or melt down, the media will play the debates down the middle, I think.

Adam Clymer, writing an op-ed at the Times today, talks about the debates, and puts front and center the role the media plays in how people see them.
. . . the debates provide critical moments when the public pays attention, when voters can measure one candidate against the other. And the press will, as it has for years, do a creditable job of summarizing what is said, broadcasting the encounters live and even printing transcripts.

That will not be enough. For just as the 2000 National Annenberg Election Survey showed that voters learned what candidates stood for by watching debates, other research has shown that the public's views are influenced by what the news media emphasize.

The immediate judgments of television watchers can be changed by analysts citing a moment as a blunder or an overall presentation as strong or weak, commanding or uninformed, human or condescending. Often that impression has not even been conveyed by a seriously developed journalistic case, but by the trivia of television sound bites or reports in newspapers, like Al Gore's sighs or his flawed recollection of just who accompanied him on a trip to a disaster in Texas. Or when George H. W. Bush glanced at his watch, a movement interpreted to prove that he was uncomfortable debating Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.
My biggest concern is Conservatives saying, "Look, the Democrats said that President Bush was too dumb to read scripted responses provided by Karl Rove, and it turns out they were wrong. Clearly President Bush is the right guy." Which is kind of what happened in 2000.

Willful Stupidity

Here's my plan. I'm going to say something really stupid, and hope that you believe it too. I'm going to trust that you aren't going to subject my statement to any scrutiny whatsoever. No attempts to independently verify my statement, and no attempts to subject my statement to the rigors of common sense. I'm hoping you will just accept it at face value.

Here's my statement.

Sending Make me a Commentator!!! Money is more fun the ten trips to Disneyland.

Yes I know that this statement seems stupid, and you could probably disprove it in a moment (by say, sending me money and finding out that while it's fun for me, it's not as much fun for you). But I'm hoping you won't.

It's this kind of willful stupidity that animates much conservative discourse these days, it strikes me. Take this statement from an article by Michael Barone.
At New York University on Sept. 20, Kerry said, "We have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure." There is an obvious tension between this and Kerry's statement on Aug. 9 that, knowing what he knows today, he would have voted again to authorize military action in Iraq and his statement last Dec. 17 that "those who doubt that we are safer with (Saddam Hussein's) capture don't have the judgment to be president."
Barone just hopes that his audience will be too stupid (or too filled with hatred for Kerry) to go and verify what Kerry might have meant. More and more it seems like the Conservative plan is to portray Kerry as a kind of schizophrenic, whose flip-flips are less the work of a political hack, but more the delusional fits and starts of a mental patient.

But of course, applying a little knowledge and common sense to this statement soon clears it up. I don't know that there are very many serious Conservative or Liberal politicians who didn't see Saddam Hussein as a dangerous man and a problem to be dealt with. Senator Kerry thought it was (and thinks it is) his duty to authorize the President to deal with situations like this. That said, the course President Bush took with that authorization is, in Senator Kerry's mind (and my own) a terrible, terrible mistake.

Is that hard to understand? No. But, for Mr. Barone's sake, please don't think about it too hard, and just accept it at face value. And also remember, sending me money is more fun than ten trips to Disneyland.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

New Quote

And a new format. And a new Quotes page. And yes, I'm up at 5:23 AM on a Sunday to see this gets done. That's how dedicated I am.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Coulter Fails to disappoint

I can see now why Coulter's earlier efforts lacked that necessary insane pizazz. She was saving it up for this statement on Hannity and Colmes. Upon hearing that more women were planning to vote for President Bush, she commented, "I'm so pleased with my gender. We're not that bright." Just goes to show, when it comes to mean-spirited insanity, Ann Coulter is still as good as it gets.

Ann Coulter than opined that "women, though they're not as bright, don't want to die any more than men."

What amazes me is that the RNC haven't used Ann more. Wouldn't you like to see Ann's unique perspective on womanhood in a larger audience? I think that if he wins reelection, President Bush should make Ann Coulter his press secretary. Not because it would be useful or anything, but just because I'd never run out of material.

By the way, it is the editorial opinion of Make Me a Commentator!!! that women (with certain notable exceptions) are smarter then men.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Terrorists for Kerry!

Joe Conason takes on this important story, one that we touched on earlier in the week. According to some on the right, Terrorists want Kerry in power. I've noticed they don't usually offer up much "evidence" or "proof." Usually they just heap scorn on anybody who would dare to suggest that the terrorists might be satisfied with President Bush.

Joe Conason, on the other hand, actually takes the daring step of analyzing what the terrorists want and lining it up to how President Bush has done.
The Europeans, whose assistance we rely upon in Afghanistan, and whose help we continue to need both there and in Iraq, believe that the invasion and occupation have "increased the threat of terrorism" around the world. (Incidentally, the same poll shows that 49 percent of Americans agree with that dismal assessment, while only 20 percent believe that the Iraq war has diminished the terrorist threat.)

It isn't that the Europeans don't worry about terrorism, since 71 percent of them said that international terror is an "important or extremely important" problem. It's just that they have lost confidence in the world's sole superpower to lead the war against the terrorists.

Thanks to Bush, the nations that united behind America after 9/11 are now divided and dispirited. Why would bin Laden want that to change?
But of course, who cares what Europe thinks. America has the best military in the world. All we need to do is get the terrorists to go stand somewhere in Afghanistan in a big line, like a real army, and we can mow them down. We don't need no stinking diplomats to like talk other nations into sharing information with us. We don't need no cops or FBI agents to investigate leads and put together dossiers on our enemies, and we certainly don't need any foreign cops or intelligence operatives. All we need to do is get our enemies to stand in a line somewhere so our military can take them out.

OK that might have been a little over the top, and I certainly don't want to give the impression that I don't respect or admire the brave efforts of our men and women in uniform. I do. But I am getting a little tired of pretending that the Bush Administration and their surrogates in the media aren't causing us harm when they pretend that the only legitimate way to fight terrorism is with the military. You might argue that they haven't done that. But that is precisely what they are criticizing Kerry on.

Senator Kerry wants a multi pronged attack on this problem, one that utilizes all of our resources, and the resources of our allies. President Bush, and particularly Vice President Cheney, denigrate this approach as weak. So what conclusions can we draw?

Anyway go read the Conason article, it's quite good.

Round the Horn 2022; Space Gangster Show

OK, let's do this space thing.

Pen Elyane on the Web drives past on her hover Porsche and shares a few choice words on Cat Stevens.

Respectful of Otters stands on the futuristic street corner and talks about the acceptable terrorists.

Bark Bark Wolf Wolf pulls out his space glock and reports on matters at CBS according to the Daily Show.

blogAmy throws a suspiciously heavy Future-Turkish-Rug off the bridge and has further reasonable and passionate comments on the CBS memogate story.

Reasonably Passionate would be a good name for a shoegazer band.

Collective Sigh shares a few space words about the old Cajun methods of eliminating the competition, as practiced in Alabama (hint: it involves Alligators).

Iddybud has a story in the Space Trunk of her Hover Chrysler on Michael Moore's recent speech in Syracuse.

Musings Musings has some other space gangster related activity to perform followed by a story about what Congress is doing with the few precious moments of the term remaining to them.

rubber hose takes a guy out into the cyber-ally and gives him the old one two, finally wringing from him a story of an ineffective justice department letting terrorists go free and punishing people who may be innocent.

Steve Gilliard's News Blog pops a space cap in the knees of the argument that Iraq isn't that bad by saying what it would be like if it were happening in the United States.

Dohiyi Mir gets gunned down in a space pizzaria with laser Tommy guns, but leaves us with some haunting words about interest in the upcoming Presidential Debates.

Just so we all know, my attempts at combining the Space show with the Gangster show are not intended to offend anyone but as another way to get through my weekly blogarounds in a mildly entertaining way; the articles really are quite good.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hard Knock Life

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. Republicans believe that guys making $20,000 a year have life a little too easy and guys making $200,000 a year have life a little too hard. Well they've done something about it.
Congressional negotiators beat back efforts yesterday to expand and preserve tax refunds for poor families, even as they added $13 billion in corporate tax breaks to a package of middle-class tax cuts that could come to a vote in the Senate today.
I particularly liked Salon's analysis of this vote.
The image of Washington politicians (Republican leadership in this case) "beating back" attempts to keep tax refunds for poor families while making sure corporations get their additional billions is too much to take. You can imagine the heated conversations that took place on Capitol Hill. A legislator with a conscience saying, "Well, if we're going to include that $13 bill for the corporations in this legislation that will add to the ballooning deficit and lead to cuts in programs that help poor people, maybe we should keep the refunds for poor people, too." How do you argue with that? Tom DeLay and Trent Lott found a way -- and they won.
Unfortunately, I doubt this particular story will get much play in the "liberal" media, not when we can focus on much more important typographical problems.

Coulter disappoints

I have to admit I was expecting a gleeful torrent of Schadenfreude, something I could really dig my teeth into. Usually if there is a chance to skewer the mainstream media, Ann jumps at it. Instead Ann Coulter's latest column is pretty formulaic, as many of her columns have been lately.

I mean she flat out says that Dan Rather knew the documents were forgeries and put them on the air anyway, which I guess is kind of crazy. And she harps on the "fact" that the swift boat vets, you know those guys who've been on every news station for months, aren't getting any news coverage.

She then refights Vietnam.
It's often said that we never lost a battle in Vietnam, but that the war was lost at home by a seditious media demoralizing the American people. Ironically, the leader of that effort was Rather's predecessor at CBS News, Walter Cronkite, president of the Ho Chi Minh Admiration Society.
This argument is right up there with "the Civil War had nothing to do with Slavery" in my book. It's distorting the historical record to achieve some momentary political advantage, a fact even Ann seems to acknowledge with her qualifier "It's often said . . ."

The truth is we didn't know what we wanted in Vietnam. We knew that we didn't want it to become a communist country, but we didn't know how to arrange that. This lack of focus led to a confused campaign on every level, and, eventually, to our first lost war. And ever since them, some have wanted to "blame the messenger" for pointing out things weren't going well. If only all Americans had blindly accepted what President's Johnson and Nixon told them, we would have won.

That's putting a lot of faith in the power of belief.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Bottom Line

Here is the simplest law of business. Make whatever you make for as cheaply as possible and sell it for as much as possible. But remember the cheaper you make it the less people will want it, and the higher the price, the less people will be able to buy it.

So when you are making you widget, always look for things that don't directly effect the final product, and that's where you cut your corners. Take for example security.

Having a secure factory adds little to the end project. Your customers aren't going to pick up a bottle of glass cleaner and say, "Well I can tell this was made in a secure facility." It's like worker safety. Nobody buys a can of soup and thinks, "Well this might cost a little more, but at least the workers who made it worked in safe conditions."

Of course with worker safety, the government has stepped in and forced certain minimum safety requirements. But there are still areas where you can cut corners.

For example lets say you own a chemical plant and your plant holds chemicals deadly enough to kill thousands of Americans. According to the EPA, there are 7,605 plants in the United States where an accident or sabotage could threaten more than 1,000 people, and there are 123 plants where such an incident could threaten over a million people. Now you'd think, what with all this focus on Terrorism, that such plants would be forced to have tight security.

ell, you'd be wrong. Yep these chemical manufacturers are free to have lax security, and pass the savings on to, well, themselves.

The Bush Administration has shown little to no interest in correcting this problem, although they did switch the handling of this issue from the EPA to the Department of Homeland Security. The Department of Homeland Security revised both of the above numbers down significantly (to 4,391 and 2 respectively), and installed security cameras in seven states, apparently.
Mr. Ridge has set in motion plans to install security cameras at chemical plants in seven states - but not in some high-threat states like Florida, Ohio and Minnesota. Although the department visits plants and offers advice, unlike the E.P.A., it doesn't have the power to enforce security measures and relies instead on voluntary efforts by the industry. Without enforceable requirements, chemical firms will remain reluctant to put sufficient safeguards in place, for fear that their competitors will scrimp on security and thus be able to undercut them on price.
I happen to live in Florida so that one jumped out at me a little bit.

We'll have to see if someone brings this up at the debates. As previously noted, John Kerry is aware of this problem, and prepared to do something about it. President Bush, thus far, seems less willing to attack this problem.

The Politics of Sensibility

Nicholas D. Kristof, writing at the New York Times, is discouraged by the tone of this campaign. Commenting on the Swift Boat attacks, he says;
Every single enlisted man who served with Mr. Kerry on his boats at the time he earned his Purple Hearts and Silver and Bronze Stars say the medals were all deserved, and they are all supporting his candidacy.

True, Democrats have also engaged in below-the-belt attacks. Some of "Fahrenheit 9/11," the Michael Moore film, was the liberal equivalent of the anti-Kerry smears. Its innuendos implying that Mr. Bush arranged the war in Afghanistan so backers could profit from an oil pipeline were appalling.

But I, along with some others, immediately complained about "Fahrenheit 9/11." Aside from John McCain, where are the sensible conservatives? Why don't they denounce the Swift Boat Veterans' attacks? And why doesn't President Bush condemn those attacks, showing the kind of integrity that Mr. Dukakis showed?
The last line refers to an incident in the 1988 campaign, in which some of the men who served with President Bush 41 in WW2 accused him of ditching his plane and leaving two other men to die. There was a brief investigation, little was found, and, as Kristof notes, Dukakis condemned the attacks.

Mr. Kristof, however, does engage in a little bit of rhetorical slight of hand himself.
The only hope for stopping the mudslinging is if well-meaning people try to police their own side.

If they're intellectually consistent, Democrats will speak out not only against the Swift Boat Veterans but also against Mr. Kerry's demagoguery on trade, like his suggestion that outsourcing is the result of Mr. Bush's economic policies. Trade demagoguery may not be as felonious as an assault on a war hero's character, but it harms America by undermining support for free trade.
I certainly agree with that first statement. It is up to Republicans to reject the lies of the Swift Boat Vets and the demagoguery of Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter (I am dreading her article tomorrow, as she gets to fillet Dan Rather, a task which, I assume, she will approach with her usual gusto). I see no evidence, however, that they are interested in policing their own.

But the second part is interesting. In it, Mr. Kristof seems to suggest that telling lies about Senator Kerry's past is, in some ways, equivalent to Senator Kerry not holding the same opinion about free trade that he does. Why is Senator Kerry required to have exactly the same opinion on Free Trade that you do? Why is the Democratic Party required to have that opinion? The truth is that unregulated free trade has some serious downsides as well as a positive sides. Why shouldn't he draw attention to these problems?

And yes, President Bush might not have directly created these problems, but it's also a truism that he is completely unwilling to address fixing them (particularly if such a fix would come at the expense of corporate power).

Lies are not the same as Disagreements, Mr. Kristof. You rhetorically shoot yourself in the foot when you make them equivalent. Presumably this is what Mr. Tom Tomorrow is referring to when he labels you a Sensible Liberal.

At least I hope that is what Mr. Tomorrow is referring to. Mr. Tomorrow and Mr. Kristof have one thing in common; they both have very very strong ideas of what a Liberal must be and must think. If Senator Kerry suggests more regulation on Free Trade, than to Mr. Kristof, that's a betrayal of what a real liberal is supposed to be and a deception. If Mr. Kristof expresses support for Free Trade, than, in Mr. Tomorrow's eyes, he's betraying liberalism and must be denigrated as a phony liberal or a "sensible liberal."


Before talking about Walter E. Williams, let me just say what a breath of fresh air his columns are. I mean Williams is pretty nuts and I disagree with him on almost every issue; but at least he doesn't feel he needs to spend every column trashing Kerry. Instead Williams is going on about his normal business.

Plus Williams makes a rare good point today, although my application of it would be different than his. He spends most of his article discussing why we are willing to reward Shaq or Mel Gibson enormous sums of money, and not willing to give others money. He then concludes his article with this paragraph.
Far better good could be done for our fellow man by focusing more of our attention on productive inequality rather than income inequality. Income inequality is a result, and it's productive inequality that mostly explains that result rather than some insidious plot afoot. Whether it's individuals or countries, one seldom sees highly productive people poor or highly unproductive people rich unless there are government restrictions and subsidies at play. Making people more productive is the challenge. Whining about income inequality is a cop-out.
Mr. Williams is right in that the real problem is letting people be as productive. Where we would disagree, however, is what can be done to help people become more productive. Williams would place such responsibility entirely on the shoulders of the individual. I would place some of the responsibility on society. In other words, if a child isn't provided the tools to succeed, say by attending a loser high school, than that hurts us all. We, as a society, lose the potential of that child, and in fact, such children who grow up without the tools to succeed may turn against society through crime or drugs or weasel sniffing.

I will say there is some income inequality I think we as society do need to be concerned with. Mr. Williams is right when he says that millions want to see Shaq play, so he's worth millions. But when it comes to CEOs making six and seven figure salaries and providing little concrete to their employers than I have to say something is out of whack. As a stockholder myself, it bothers me that so much of our economy goes to pay people who's contributions to the companies they run (and sometimes ruin) seems nebulous at best. I'm not saying they shouldn't be well paid; I'm just saying their payment is out of proportion to what they contribute.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Soldier Vote

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article about how soldiers in the field may not be as 100% behind President Bush as previously thought.
Three factors make the military vote more in play for Democrats this year than in 2000, he says: the Iraq war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's tense relationship with the Army, and Bush's limited ability as an incumbent to make sweeping promises akin to Senator Kerry's pledge to add 40,000 new troops and relieve an overstretched force.

"The military as a whole supports the Iraq war," Mr. Feaver says, noting a historical tendency of troops to back the commander in chief in wartime. "But you can go across the military and find pockets where they are more ambivalent," he says, especially among the National Guard and Reserve. "The war has not gone as swimmingly as they thought, and that has caused disaffection.
I wouldn't give this 100% credence, as it is filled with a million qualifiers, but it is worth looking at.

Not Exactly A Revelation

When it comes to Governing, Conservatives and Liberals seem to approach issues with a completely different mindset.

Liberals often discuss the merits of programs in terms of more effective and less effective; Conservatives often see programs in terms of right or wrong.

Take Iraq; the main Liberal contention is that it has been an expensive program that has been an expensive program that has not achieve the foreign policy goal of making the United States safer. The common Republican counter punch, "so you'd prefer to see Saddam Hussein still killing helpless Iraqis?" is implicitly a statement about right or wrong, and calls into question the Liberals morality.

If the Liberal were a good person he would be happy to see Saddam Hussein gone (and, to be sure, many if not most liberals are happy with that particular part of the equation). But did we get rid of him in the most effective fashion, taking into account our long term goals?

Consider this analogy. You are standing outside of your house with your body the Red De-Atomizer. You comment, "Boy that tree in front of my house sure is an eyesore."

He puts his hand on your shoulder and says, "Leave that to me." Raising one mighty hand, he blasts the trunk of the tree causing it to disintegrate. The remainder of the tree topples over and destroys your hovercar.

Looking at him incredulously, he looks back quite unperturbed. Finally he says, "Didn't you want that tree destroyed?"

I think it's nice that we got rid of Saddam Hussein. But the methods President Bush and his advisors used to accomplish this worthy goal have brought other results that are nothing short of catastrophic.

This sort of thinking explains why Conservatives see Kerry's questioning of the methods President Bush is using to fight the war on Terror as proof that he doesn't really want to fight the war on terror. Because President Bush's plan is the Right plan (as distinct from the most effective plan), and because Senator Kerry doesn't support that plan, Senator Kerry must be a low down dirty dog.

This does give them a rhetorical leg up; it's always easier to frame your arguments in terms of right and wrong vs. less effective and more effective. It has a simple clarity to it and it makes you opponent look like, well, a low down dirty dog. I'm not sure why this is an insult, as I love dogs, but apparently it is. Instead of debating who has the more effective plan to fight terrorism, you debate why your candidate apparently doesn't even want to protect America.

Something to think about, at any rate.


I haven't dealt with David Limbaugh in quite a while it feels like. Truthfully I've started avoiding his articles. His whole modus operandi right now is to destroy Senator Kerry. So he's not fun to read. I mean he doesn't have the joie de vivre of his brother, nor does he have the charming insanity of Ann Coulter. Just a grim mean spiritedness that is unpleasant to read.

But I don't get paid the no bucks to just do easy articles. So let's dive right in.
Next, Senator, let's take you at your word -- as utterly unbelievable as it is -- that in 2002 you voted to give President Bush authority to attack Iraq with the understanding -- that you must have divined from some powerful '60s tea leaves -- that he would not attack until he'd satisfied a number of conditions. One of those conditions was that the president would continue to grovel at the defiant feet of Saddam Hussein and ask him countless more times to please quit being so mean to the U.N. weapons inspectors.
OK let's run this down.

I like how Limbaugh makes a big show of taking Senator Kerry at his word and then proceeds to completely distort what he says. Limbaugh can do this, because most people who read his column aren't going to bother going back and seeing what Kerry actually said. That would be work, and as we know, that's too much work.

So aren't you lucky you read Make me a Commentator!!! (ask for it by name). Here is what Kerry actually said.
Two years ago, Congress was right to give the President the authority to use force to hold Saddam Hussein accountable. This President . . . any President . . . would have needed the threat of force to act effectively. This President misused that authority.

The power entrusted to the President gave him a strong hand to play in the international community. The idea was simple. We would get the weapons inspectors back in to verify whether or not Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And we would convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: disarm or be disarmed.

A month before the war, President Bush told the nation: "If we have to act, we will take every precaution that is possible. We will plan carefully. We will act with the full power of the United States military. We will act with allies at our side and we will prevail." He said that military action wasn't "unavoidable."

Instead, the President rushed to war without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work. He went without a broad and deep coalition of allies. He acted without making sure our troops had enough body armor. And he plunged ahead without understanding or preparing for the consequences of the post-war. None of which I would have done.
Why did the inspections have to end at the time at which they did? I've never heard a good answer to that question (although I've often heard the non-sequitur "Look we gave him 10 years to disarm."). Limbaugh is apparently pretending, as many on the right do (including the President on occasion) that Saddam Hussein didn't let the inspectors back in. It's also worth noting that Limbaugh, his brother, and others on the right were furious at the inspectors for not finding the WMDs immediately, to the point that they accused them of working for Saddam.

I don't know what to say about the suggestion that Kerry required Bush to "grovel at the feet of Saddam Hussein" other than to suggest that Limbaugh may be simply delusional. Or, more likely, he can say what ever he wants and knows it.

Wake Up Everybody!

I don't know whether this is a good name for this one or not. Anyway it's about President Kerry's big speech yesterday, which was, in my opinion, a home run speech. Here's an excerpt.
In fighting the war on terrorism, my principles are straight forward. The terrorists are beyond reason. We must destroy them. As president, I will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to defeat our enemies. But billions of people around the world yearning for a better life are open to America's ideals. We must reach them.

To win, America must be strong. And America must be smart. The greatest threat we face is the possibility Al Qaida or other terrorists will get their hands on a nuclear weapon.

To prevent that from happening, we must call on the totality of America's strength. Strong alliances, to help us stop the world's most lethal weapons from falling into the most dangerous hands. A powerful military, transformed to meet the new threats of terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And all of America's power - our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, the appeal of our values - each of which is critical to making America more secure and preventing a new generation of terrorists from emerging.
Now see, to me that doesn't sound like a guy who wants to surrender or give up on defeating America's enemies. Certainly doesn't sound like someone who wants to be sensitive to Terrorists.

The rest of the speech is very good as well, taking apart exactly where Bush went wrong and giving several suggestions on how a Kerry Presidency will do better.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Another Sighting

Yep, William Saffire also uses the meme "Iraqi Insurgents are Killing American Troops to Persuade voters to vote for Senator Kerry" in his latest article. In it he puts himself in the mind of Senator Kerry, using previously unseen psychic powers. Speaking as the mind of John Kerry, he says the following.
Above all, win back the women who used to be with the Democrats. Bush has them believing that the fighting in Iraq is for the security of their families. Too many women can't get it through their heads that Iraq is just a distraction from the global terror war. And Bush's pitch about "better fighting over there than here" - tying Iraq to Al Qaeda - closes what used to be our huge gender gap. So I have to move on to "while he's spinning, we're losing" - and never mind that it makes me dependent on escalation by Zarqawi and pessimism from C.I.A. flip-floppers who were wrong before but who now want jobs in my administration.
So rememember every time you see an American Casuality . . . oh wait a second you aren't allowed to see those. Every time you hear of an American Casuality, don't think, "I wonder if President Bush's plan for Iraq is really working all that well." Instead, if you would, please think, "There's another soldier, killed by Iraqi dogs, on behalf of John Kerry's electoral hopes."

Media Matters has another example of this meme from William Krondacke, one of FOX's Beltway Boys, and CNN had Bill Shneider of the American Enterprise Institute on, and he made the similar claim that terrorists are hoping to use terror to affect the election in November. But that might be old news; what's new is linking it to the Iraqi resistance.

CBS, Rush Limbaugh, and The Way it Goes

CBS has admitted that they now believe the memos to be forgeries. So today's a good day to be Rush Limbaugh. Was listening to him at lunch as I drove around, and he was practically gleeful as he, more or less, called for CBS news to shut down, and for Dan Rather to resign in disgrace.

And of course saying as often as possible that it's likely these forged documents came from the Kerry Campaign. If he's right than the campaign is probably over.

Which is kind of sad when you think about it. I mean the central issue, whether or not President Bush actually fulfilled his duty in the guard, is still unresolved. And, as many have noted, it's a distraction from the real issues of this campaign.

Personally I don't think that the documents came from the Kerry campaign because that would just be too stupid a move to make. But I can't be 100% sure; after all this swift boat veteran story has riled a lot of people up, including some in the campaign I would guess. It's hard to listen to the media parrot such patently false charges and not want to strike back. Particularly if you believe President Kerry served honorably and nobly in Vietnam, and President Bush ducked the war. So it is possible that a Democratic operative passed on the memos. But I doubt it, and I hope not.

Watch them All Fall Down!

Bob Herbert has a good article over at Working For Change on the Flip-Flop Mantra. His take on it isn't entirely new, but it is entertaining.
Recently, several Bush supporters took issue with my suggesting that the president's stance on winning the war on terror was indeed a flip-flop.

In addition to calling me "terminally stupid" and reminding me of Sen. John Kerry's numerous flip-flops over the years, one individual posed a direct question: "How can anyone support a candidate who flip-flops?"

His question gave me cause for self-reflection.

My terminal stupidity notwithstanding, I ultimately came to the conclusion that the gentleman was correct. How could anyone support a candidate who flip-flops? Americans want a guy who says what he means and does not deviate. We want Howard Roarke incarnate!

I thought how fortunate we were to have a president who was immune from flip-flops. Could you imagine if President Bush were guilty of flip-flopping? That might change the whole rationale for supporting his candidacy.
He then proceeds to list a few the dozens of times President Bush has flip-flopped. Such as on the need for a Homeland Security office or Campaign Finance Reform. But of course, President Bush by virtue of being President Bush, a Republican, a Conservative, cannot really flip-flop. When he appears to flip flop, and it's often, you need to look a little closer to realize how it's not really a flip flop. Or something.

What Terrorists Want!

Jay Bryant makes an interesting statement in his latest article, which is dedicated to a new theory the Bush campaign and their surrogates are floating; Iraqi Insurgents want Senator John Kerry to win. We'll return to that in a moment, but first this statement.
So if you were al-Qaida, what would you do?

You desperately want George Bush out of office. Anyone who doesn't believe that (and liberal apologists sometimes try to claim otherwise) belongs in a can labeled "Planters."
Anybody who believes that the terrorists prefer President Bush to John Kerry is clearly nuts. Hmmmmmm. If you will excuse me for a moment, I am going to make a quick visit to my psychologist Ludwig Von Ludovich.

Nope, Dr. Von Ludovich says I'm about as sane as normal (normal for me, anyway). So let's deal with this question.

Analyzing what Presidential candidate al-Qaida would prefer requires looking at what al-Qaida's long term goals are. Al-Qaida doesn't want to commit acts of terror just for the sake of committing acts of terror. OK, there are probably some who do, but the leadership have larger goals and a larger ideology in mind. Their biggest long term goal is to defeat and humiliate the West. They have other smaller goals; like changing our policy towards Israel and the Palestinians.

A second point; they think they will win. God is on their side. Even now, with displays of American Military might in Iraq and Afghanistan, they think that our culture is weak and that they can defeat us. They are fighting a transformative war; one that will transform their culture to more closely approximate what they believe an Islamic society is supposed to be.

For a parallel look at American Neo-Conservatives. They wanted a war too. A transformative war that would show the Middle East how to be Democratic and America Loving. So would they have really been enthused by, say, Saddam Hussein stepping down and naming one of his ministers president in his place? Probably not. Certainly you can't imagine them saying, "Oh boy, with Saddam gone, this war will certainly be easier." The idea is laughable; while I am sure they are concerned about the health and welfare of American troops, they are also extremely confident in our Soldier's ability to defeat nearly any enemy.

Why are terrorists supposed to favor John Kerry over President Bush? Because John Kerry, according to Republicans, is a cowardly two-faced liar who will immediately begin surrendering in the war on terror.

Why would that be a positive thing for Terrorists? Instead of winning the terror war, they would get a forfeit, at best. Not the victory that could transform the middle east and possibly the world into their version of utopia.

Anyway, on to a new Republican Talking Point. The Iraqi insurgents are killing American troops because they want John Kerry to be the next President of the United States. Apparently this has popped up in a number of places, including Jay Bryants article. Atrios has a piece on the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who has made this point. Michael Barone uses it as a sideline in his article.
Before a grudgingly polite National Guard Association, Kerry argued that the Bush administration's record in Iraq is one of mistakes and failures. He can point to increasing violence and casualties. But Bush can respond that the terrorists are just trying to affect our elections and shake our resolve -- he will have a forum this week when Iraqi interim president Ayad Allawi visits Washington.
And Jay Bryant dedicates his whole article to a theory which is not, he is quick to deny, a conspiracy theory. It runs like this in short form.

The National Intelligence Committee, Al-Qaida, and John Kerry all want President Bush to lose in November. The National Intelligence Committee agrees to publish a very negative report on Iraq at just the right time. The Terrorists, conferring with their allies in the states, realize that an attack on US soil will help Bush. They realize, however, that attacking in Iraq will hurt President Bush by making his war look like a failure. So naturally they use a go-between to let Senator Kerry know that it's time to focus on Iraq, while stepping up their own campaign there.

To use Bryant's own words.
If Kerry finally stops flip-flopping on Iraq and sticks to the rhetoric of his National Guard speech, it will be prima facie evidence of his confidence that the Iraqi security situation will not improve before November, though he may not himself know why. If he should happen to win, his strategy, and that of America's worst enemies, will have succeeded.
I mean it was inevitable that the Bush Campaign and their surrogates were going to paint Senator Kerry as the al-Qaida candidate, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But it is still depressing to know where this campaign is.

For those of you who feel this is a valid talking point, let's turn it around. How about if I wrote a piece along these lines.
Anybody who thinks that Al-Qaida wants President Bush to be defeated in November is clearly deluded. The terrorists have had so much more success with this Republican President than they have ever had in the past, that I can't believe they would want a change. First of all, they had their single deadliest attack on American Soil ever, killing nearly 3,000 people. That didn't happen under Clinton. It happened under good old George W. Bush. So it's clear. If you want more terrorism, vote for President Bush. If you want to be protected from terrorism, vote for Senator Kerry.
I can tell how typing that made me feel. Part of me was happy, but it was a small mean-spirited part of me. But if you are going to support this talking point, or Vice President Cheney's words a couple of weeks ago, you have to concede that this argument is at least as valid.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

New Quote, New Format!

Here we go. First of all a new quote. And a new Quotes page.

And of course we are changing the format again.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Republicans and the War on Terror

Yesterday Salon came out with an article, by Steven Holmes, entitled "Why the Republicans Can't Fight Terror." I think it's well worth reading, with a few caveats. First of all parties are always in fluctuation; right now the Bush Administration is operating under a set of beliefs that may hamper their ability to fight terrorism, but the Republican party probably won't stay married to those beliefs forever. I think the article would be strengthened if it was more tightly directed at those running our anti terrorism policies.

I also disagree with Mr. Holmes' assessment of the effect of religion on President Bush's waging of the war. It's just a little too convenient.

Still, it is a good article that presents a lot to think about. In particularly Mr. Holmes says too things that are nearly self-evidently true, but that are often denied in practice by Republicans.
The Republicans are ideologically and dogmatically opposed to nonmarket distributions of community resources from rich to poor, even when it is self-evident that such distributions are politically stabilizing. Underlying this hostility to nonmarket distributions is a tacit conviction that there can never be too much economic inequality in a society. This set of beliefs, like those discussed above, would probably prevent any Republican administration, and certainly an ideologically rigid administration such as the one we now have, from waging an effective war against transnational terrorism. The point is not that poverty "causes" terrorism, but rather that lack of economic opportunity increases the pool from which terrorist organizations can recruit. The Marshall Plan was a nonmarket distribution, designed to stabilize an unstable part of the world and to weaken support for anti-American ideas and political movements. An equivalent today would be massive American support to the Pakistani government, earmarked to wrest control of elementary education from private religious charities. Strategically, this makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, it conflicts violently with a Republican mind-set that compulsively denigrates all government spending and nonmarket redistributions of assets from rich to poor.
This just makes sense to me. Americans may not like the idea of taking money from their taxes and giving to other nations. I can understand that myself. But taking money and investing making other societies safer and less likely to kill Americans; that strikes me as an investment and not a giveaway.
One reason that the Bush counterterrorism strategy has gone so disastrously awry is that the Republicans are ideologically and dogmatically committed to the proposition that military means are invariably the most effective means for dealing with threats to U.S. security. The Republicans cannot be trusted to wage an effective war on terrorism, because the principal means for combating nonstate terrorism is not military force but international police cooperation and the principal means for combating proliferation is not military force but tightening up the existing international nonproliferation regime. Although military force and the threat of military force can be useful in these efforts, it cannot be the principal tool.
Again, this is self evidently true. I don't mean to disparage the military; on the contrary I have enormous respect for the efforts of those men to protect us. But the military is just one tool in the war on terror. It is no insult to the hammer to suggest that at times a pair of pliers is more effective.

Anyway something to think about.

That Darn Liberal Media!

Actually maybe that title is inappropriate since I'm dealing with "Fair and Balanced" Fox. Media Matters has an interesting sketch of Pat Caddell, who often appears on Fox News programs to provide the liberal or Democratic side. I mean you can't have balance unless you have a Conservative Guy and a Liberal Guy, right? Well Pat Caddell may not be really out there fighting for liberalism.

To use a sports analogy lets imagine a hockey game (I don't know much about it, but it's in my head). One side is at their bone crunching best, pounding the ice and making 900 mile an hour slap shots. The other team goes over and joins the first teams cheer leaders (not, as you might think, to flirt and hang out with cute chicks, but actually to join in cheering for the other side).

But since he describes himself as a liberal, I guess he is balanced enough for Fox News. By the way, when spell checking this piece, my program suggested Coddle as a good spelling fo Caddell. Coincidence?

World Class Education For All

Continuing and concluding our series on Kerry's proposals, let's look at what Kerry and Edwards plan to do about education.
Meet Our Responsibilities To Our Schools
John Kerry and John Edwards will establish a National Education Trust Fund to ensure that schools always get the funding they need. They will also ensure that No Child Left Behind works for schools, states, and teachers by rewarding those who meet higher standards and rewarding schools that turn around and improve.
First of all they commit to making sure that schools get the funding they need, but they also commit to No Child Left Behind stays in effect (which punishes schools for poor performance). I'm not sure about the balance here.
Continue Reform And Put A Great Teacher In Every Classroom
Great teachers are the foundation of a great school. As president, John Kerry will enact a new bargain that offers teachers more, including better training and better pay in troubled schools, and asks for more in return, including fast, fair ways to make sure that teachers who don't belong in the classroom don't stay there.
I have mixed feelings about this one as well. Clearly the key to getting ambitious and creative people to go into our schools is to reward them. Anybody who looks at going into the teaching profession these days knows that it is a route to economic mediocrity. So certainly if we are going to get better teachers, something has to be done about that. On the other hand, the second part of the paragraph might be clearer. Making it easier to fire teachers is a good thing when it comes to issues like abuse. But there has to be a balance; teachers like a certain amount of job security same as the rest of us.
Offer 3.5 Million After-School Opportunities Through "School's Open 'Til Six"
John Kerry and John Edwards are strong supporters of after-school programs. They give students extra help, keep them out of trouble, and offer peace of mind to working parents. The Kerry-Edwards "School's Open 'Til 'Six" initiative will offer after-school opportunities to 3.5 million children, through programs that are open until 6 p.m. and offer safe transportation for children.
The unfortunate reality is that this is really a good idea. Kids need supervision, and since all of our modern conveniences have allowed us to work longer hours (funny how that worked out), than there needs to be something available. Plus this might very well be a back end way to get music and arts back in the hands of kids.
Make College Affordable For All And Expand Lifelong Learning
As president, John Kerry will offer a fully refundable College Opportunity Tax credit on up to $4,000 of tuition for every year of college and offer aid to states that keep tuitions down. And he will launch a new effort to ensure that all of our workers can get the technical skills and advanced training they need.
I like this too (was impressed by college tax credit when it was proposed on the West Wing). College isn't the silver bullet, but it is key, and making it more attainable is always a good thing. On the other hand, I think the real work has to be done in the high-schools and junior highs getting kids ready for college.

Anyway I've decided to skip the environment, mainly cause I read some articles yesterday and today that I want to comment on, and also because the environment isn't going to be an election deciding issue this time around. For those who don't know, Kerry has a pretty good record on the environment and is likely to continue working in support of these issues.

Hope you have enjoyed this review; please feel free to refer to it the next time someone says "Well, Kerry isn't running on anything but Vietnam."

Around the Horn Part 12, Chocolate Donut

In which Bryant names the post after what he happens to be eating at the moment.

Anyway space week got pushed back, so instead we are presenting "normal" week.

All Facts and Opinions has a really moving post about Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and how it can apply in our world.

Left is Right takes on the sport of Ice Hockey and finds it wanting.

Chris "Lefty" Brown has a nice thought piece on when good superheroes turn evil.

Trish Wilson is all over the Batman Protest at Buckingham palace, since it concerns an issue that is important to her. Quick, without looking it up, tell me what the guy who dressed up as Batman was protesting in favor of? This is a helpful illustration of why dressing up as a superhero may not be as effective as, say, carrying a sign.

Speedkill gives his take on the memos used in the 60 Minutes II story last week, which is very close to my own.

The Fulcrum takes on a recent Maureen Dowd column and asks a provocative question.

Sooner Thought has the story of a few of Nader's former supporters who are now suggesting he reconsider his run this year.

Kick the Leftist has some insight into how Ralph Nader got on the Florida Ballot.

All Facts and Opinion has some interesting questions on the intersection between letting the assault weapons ban expire and the War on Terror.

Corrente has a nice little bit on the Vice President's mouth which may need to be cleaned out.

And that's this week's edition. I'll be back later to continue my examination of Kerry's Programs (still have education and the environment to go).

Thursday, September 16, 2004

A Safe and Secure Homeland

OK. So now we are back to one of the key issues of the campaign. As the Vice President has made extremely explicit, if you vote for John Kerry you are running the risk of America being hit by terrorists again. So let's see what John Kerry and John Edwards propose to do about protecting you and me.
Track And Stop Terrorists
Many of the intelligence problems that allowed terrorists to slip into our country before 9/11 have not been addressed. John Kerry and John Edwards will improve our ability to gather, analyze, and share information so we can track down and stop terrorists before they cause harm.
I'm not sure what specific problems they are proposing to fix here. I mean it is clear that many of the recommendations of the 9/11 committee and others have yet to be implemented. But beyond that this is mostly a good idea, not necessarily a plan.
Protect Our Borders And Shores
Today, our borders, our ports, and our airports are not as secure as they must be. John Kerry and John Edwards will make our airports, seaports, and borders more secure without intruding upon personal liberties.
This is a common complaint, but an accurate one. The Bush Administration in pursuing its war in Iraq and in protecting it's taxcuts for the wealthy have neglected upgrading systems to protect us at our vulnerable points.
Harden Vulnerable Targets
Chemical industry lobbying has kept the Bush administration from strengthening security at chemical plants, where an attack could endanger 1 million Americans. John Kerry and John Edwards will always put Americans' safety ahead of big business interests and take strong measures to harden likely targets-including nuclear plants, trains, and subways-against possible attack.
Another very good proposal. And one that illustrates the ideological differences between President Bush and Senator Kerry. President Bush favors a hands-off approach to corporations, even when such an approach might be dangerous for the American people. Senator Kerry favors a more realistic approach.
Improve Domestic Readiness
Our first defenders will respond to any attack with courage and heroism-but they also need the equipment and manpower to do the job. John Kerry and John Edwards will back up their words with resources and ensure that America's first responders have everything they need to protect their communities.
There's an old poem / parable about a fence up on the hill or an ambulance down in the valley that I suspect Bush Supporters like to trot out. Yes, providing better equipment, training, and compensation to first responders doesn't answer the question of stopping terrorists from hitting us. But it is still a damn smart thing to do, as both President Bush and Senator Kerry and everybody else with half a brain has admitted that the odds are very good we will be hit again no matter what we do.
Guard Liberty.
We must always remember that terrorists do not just target our lives - they target our way of life. John Kerry and John Edwards believe in an America that is safe and free, and they will protect our personal liberties as well as our personal security.
This is a not very well disguised critique of the PATRIOT act, but it is something to consider. It is comforting that Edwards and Kerry at least recognize the inherent difficulties in giving up a little liberty for security.

As before feel free to look along the right of the linked webpage for more details.

An Energy Independent America

I've been thinking about health care the last hour, and I've concluded that it just isn't that important. Don't get me wrong; in the long run fixing America's Health Care system is essential. But in this election, at this time, the key issues aren't going to include health care.

One could make the argument that this subject, energy policy, is similarly unimportant (to the current election). But I think that that is inaccurate; our long term ability to deal with terrorism will hinge, to a certain extent, on our ability to wean ourselves from middle eastern oil. So let's see what Kerry and Edwards plan to do.
Explore And Develop New Energy Sources
Tomorrow's energy economy will be fueled by new energy sources. The Kerry-Edwards plan will invest in the research and exploration needed to turn ideas into fuel and develop renewable energy sources.
Well this is a good start, if not exactly a detailed plan. I can fill in the blanks myself (they will push for funding of alternative energy research and so on), but it's not much more concrete than saying they want to modernize the military.
Develop Tomorrow's Technology Today
Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, America will take the lead in developing the new technology and production methods needed to ensure that resources such as coal and natural gas are used more efficiently and cleanly, and fully integrated into the New Energy Economy.
There's are long running urban legends about cars that run on water or lightbulbs that never need changing that are surpressed by big business. There's a reason such myths have such longevity; because human nature is such that they are believable (at least the part about big business quashing such ideas). How many of you would support a proposal that, despite having long term real benefits for your neighbors and fellow-citizens, would also put you out of a job? Still our reliance on coal and natural gas will require us to figure out ways to use these fuels better and more efficiently, and obviously developing the technology to do so is a good idea.
Make America Energy Independent Of Middle East Oil
Our security in the war on terror demands an end to our dependence on Middle East oil. Under the Kerry-Edwards plan, we will strengthen our national security while growing our economy and protecting our environment.
This of course is the point to focusing on energy.

As always, please check to the right of the Kerry Web Page if you want more details on these plans.

Affordable Health Care for All

I'm going to skip a little lighter over this section . Health Care Proposals are a Democratic staple, so it should come as little surprise, even to someone who thinks that John Kerry is running only on his medals, that he has one.
Cut Your Premiums
John Kerry and John Edwards will cut family premiums by up to $1,000. That's $1,000 in real savings people can use to buy groceries, pay the bills, and save for their children's future. And that will mean more jobs and more competitive American businesses.
Certainly Mr. Kerry is right that reducing premiums would pump money into peoples pockets, but he doesn't explain (here) how he intends to do this. For that you need to look into the details of the plan.
Cover All Americans With Quality Care
The Kerry-Edwards plan will give every American access to the range of high-quality, affordable plans available to members of Congress and extend coverage to 95 percent of Americans, including every American child. Their plan will also fight to erase the health disparities that persist along racial and economic lines, ensure that people with HIV and AIDS have the care they need, end discrimination against Americans with disabilities and mental illnesses, and ensure equal treatment for mental illness in our health system.
This is a veritable banquet of programs, some of them quite sensible. But the question remains; will American's accept the idea that all Americans should have access to health care? Many would argue that those who do not have coverage, don't have it because they have failed to plan for their futures and so don't' deserve it.
Cut the Cost of Prescription Drugs
The Kerry-Edwards plan will reduce prescription drug prices by allowing the re-importation of safe prescription drugs from Canada, overhauling the Medicare drug plan, ensuring low-cost drugs, and ending artificial barriers to generic drug competition.
I do think drug companies have the potential to be as demonized as, say, French people, and certainly this provision socks it to them. Even some conservatives I know complain about the enormous profits taken by the drug companies. But the other side to this is that they have to fund research. So what is the proper balance between greedily gouging themselves at the expense of Americans Health and their justifiable need to make a profit after investing so much in research and development? It's a tricky question.
Cut Waste And Inefficiency
Today, approximately 25 percent of health care costs are wasted on paperwork and administrative processing. The Kerry-Edwards plan harnesses American ingenuity to cut waste, save billions, and take new steps to ensure patient privacy.
Now this is more like it. One of my favorite arguments against "socialized" medicine is "Well if you have socialized medicine you'll have a bunch of bureaucratic red tape and forms to fill out." I always wonder if the person making that argument has actually been to a doctor recently. We already got enormous amounts of paperwork and red tape.

More than the other sections we've covered, understanding the details of the Kerry-Edwards health plan requires a more in-depth reading.

A Stronger Economy

Continuing our series from this morning; we are going to look at what John Kerry and John Edwards plan to do about the economy.
Create Good-Paying Jobs
As president, John Kerry will cut taxes for businesses that create jobs here in America instead of moving them overseas. John Kerry and John Edwards will also stand up for workers by enforcing our trade agreements.
This might have been better named, as I assume all Presidents, including President Bush, would like to create Good-Paying Jobs. The substance of the proposal, however, is more promising. Cutting taxes on companies who employ Americans will increase the value of American workers, which is a good thing. Enforcing our trade agreements would also help protect and provide jobs. One of the advantages to moving overseas is the lack of worker protections and the lack of environmental standards (among other things). Many of these items are addressed in our treaties, but are casually ignored. So this could be another way to make American Companies (and our foreign Competition) play by the rules.
Cut Middle-Class Taxes To Raise Middle-Class Incomes
When John Kerry is president, middle-class taxes will go down. Ninety-eight percent of all Americans and 99 percent of American businesses will get a tax cut under the Kerry-Edwards plan.
I'm not sure what to think about this one; I have kind of a "I'll believe it when I see it" attitude. On the other hand, I don't think President Kerry is likely to raise taxes dramatically or at all on the middle class.
Make Washington Live Within A Budget
John Kerry will cut the deficit in half during his first four years in office. He will end corporate welfare as we know it, roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and impose a real cap to keep spending in check. And when John Kerry puts forward a new idea, he'll tell you how he's going to pay for it.
Used to be anybody who talked about the federal government living within a budget was a Conservative. Times have changed. Clinton, a liberal, managed the government and got budgets that created a surplus. President Bush, a conservative, expanded the Government and due to his foolish fiscal policies, expanded the deficit to an enormous amount.
Invest In The Jobs Of Tomorrow
Today, businesses are harnessing new technology to manufacture energy-efficient cars, high-grade steel, advanced plastics and other new products. And this requires a bigger, skilled labor force to make them. John Kerry and John Edwards believe we should invest in these jobs and invest in the people who will fill them.
I don't know exactly what this means, but it sounds good. Kind of like modernizing the military, it's something every President is going to promise. I don't see much here on how he is actually going to train American workers to work in these jobs.

As before if you want to see more detail on these plans, and there is considerably more detail here, please go to the right of the screen linked to above.

Dealing with a Contention

Why are the Swift Boats relevant? Because, the right wing tells us, that's what Future President Kerry's whole campaign is about. It's all he's running on. Of course these are the same people who tell us that Kerry wants to solve terrorism by being sensitive to Terrorists so you have to take what they say with a grain of salt.

At any rate to deal with this contention I've decided to spend a day dealing with President Kerry's actual proposals. While you might disagree with what he proposes; at least that's a step up from saying that he has no proposals at all.

So let's start with National Security. If you go to Senator Kerry's website, and click on one of the issues, you see a page divided into too parts. The top part is a general overview of the issue, and the bottom part are several specific proposals. I'm going to focus on the proposals, and assume that you are at least somewhat aware of the problems facing our nation in the area of National Security.
Launch And Lead A New Era Of Alliances
The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale - to utilize every available resource to get the terrorists before they can strike at us. As president, John Kerry will lead a coalition of the able - because no force on earth is more able than the United States and its allies.
This is one of Mr. Kerry's most repeated criticisms of how the Bush Administration handled the run-up to the Iraq War. Bush Diplomacy, which I've referred to as bully diplomacy on more than one occasion, basically means that all the rest of the nations of the world should do whatever the hell we say. It seems like Kerry will bring a more balanced approach to dealing with our allies; an approach that involves listening as well as telling. So of course this gets distorted into "Senator Kerry won't protect America unless France says we can."
Modernize The World's Most Powerful Military To Meet New Threats
John Kerry and John Edwards have a plan to transform the world's most powerful military to better address the modern threats of terrorism and proliferation, while ensuring that we have enough properly trained and equipped troops to meet our enduring strategic and regional missions.
This is standard boilerplate. Everybody promises to upgrade the military. But one advantage Senator Kerry will have over President Bush in this regard is that he won't be as determined to protect a tax cut for the very wealthy. That will probably free up some cash to spend on this and other goals.
Deploy All That Is In America's Arsenal
The war on terror cannot be won by military might alone. As president, John Kerry will deploy all the forces in America's arsenal - our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas - to make America more secure and prevent a new generation of terrorists from emerging.
I have to say I really like this approach. One of my criticisms of the Bush Administration, which I touched on above, is their near total disdain for Diplomacy and the Diplomatic Corps. I get the impression a Kerry Presidency would see these people in a different light.
Free America From Its Dangerous Dependence On Mideast Oil
To secure our full independence and freedom, we must free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil. By tapping American ingenuity, we can achieve that goal while growing our economy and protecting our environment.
I don't know whether or not this goal is achievable in the short term, but it definitely has to be part of our long term goals for a number of reasons. We don't have an infinite supply of oil for one. For two, on of the biggest difficulties we have with dealing with the Middle East is that it does have oil so we can't really get tough with countries like Saudi Arabia. So I applaud putting this on the table.

Anyway that's all for now. Some of you might disagree with these proposals; I expect that there will be ones that I'm not 100% comfortable with. But at least it's a discussion about his actual proposals rather than pretending that he hasn't got any. If you want further details on these proposals, you can visit the link above. On the right side of the page are speeches and plans on the subject.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

An Update

Early in the week we reported and had guest commentary on the plight of Ms. Lynne Gobbell who was fired for having a John Kerry bumper-sticker on her car. Well it appears that Ms. Gobbell has a new job; she's a campaign worker for Mr. John Kerry.

I contacted Mr. Irwin J. McIckleson, a made up 1910's plutocrat, to see if he had any commentary on this new development. He was in busy supervising the construction of the worlds tallest solid gold garden gnome, but he consented to say a few words.
I feared something like this might happen. Now Ms. Gobbell and other employees like her will have the deluded impression that they should she be treated with kindness and decency. This Mr. Kerry is upsetting the natural order of society, which I discussed at length earlier in the week. Ms. Gobbell should have gone hungry and been forced to sell apples dressed in a potato sack! That is the proper fate of a disrespectful employee who dares to disagree with her employer. I don't think Mr. Kerry will be getting my vote this year, or any other year he happens to run for something.
Mr. McIckleson, being a made up character with no basis in reality, does not get to vote anyway. In other news if you would like to lend Ms. Gobbell a hand, please visit this site and donate.

Those Poor Wealthy People

Walter E. Williams latest column has everything I could ask for. He makes a beautifully impractical and wrong-headed proposal (which I'll get to in a moment). And he uses his favorite tic, that of putting words in his readers mouth. You might say, "Wait a moment, Bryant, what do you mean by that?" Well kind of just like that.

But back to his impractical and wrong-headed proposal. Basically he proposes the wealthy should get more votes.
So here's my idea. Every American regardless of any other consideration should have one vote in any federal election. Then, every American should get one additional vote for every $10,000 he pays in federal income tax. With such a system, there'd be a modicum of linkage between one's financial stake in our country and his decision-making capacity.
The impractical part of this scheme is that in order to pass it you have to make explicit that the poor just don't count. I mean we all know that that's true anyway. I gave some $300 in political contributions during this election cycle, which is probably somewhat above the median for all U.S. Citizens, and I have exactly no possibility of getting personal consideration of what I'd like in Government. We all know that it's the guys who can make donations with lots of zeroes in them (before the decimal point) that can get their representatives ear (Republican or Democrat).

William's system just makes that explicit. And of course it is a spit in the face of people who work hard, raise kids, pay their taxes, but don't make enough to have to pay $10,000 in taxes. It denies the egalitarian spirit of the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Williams proposal, in effect, says that we are not created equal, but that the wealthy deserve a little more. Well, the truth is they get more than a little more already. Do we need to make it explicit?

I will say that if Mr. Williams proposal was part of a larger plan of complete publice financing of Senate and House races, I might be able to compromise. But I'm pretty sure Mr. Williams buys the "money equals speech" argument and so would want the Wealthy to retain that part of their power over the United States Government as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fly Paper

In truth I need some fly paper; or I needed it a couple of weeks ago. Seemed like all I had were flies. But since I gave up my policy of throwing trash on the floor, they seem to have disappeared.

But of course, what I am really referring to is the so-called "Fly-Paper Strategy" espoused by Andrew Sullivan and others to explain why our troops being in constant danger in Iraq is a good thing. Basically the theory is that if the terrorists are fighting our soldiers in the middle east, they can't fight us in the west. Well, this argument has a number of flaws in it, and I particularly like the way Joshua Micah Marshall dealt with it this week.
As a TPM reader put it to me both hilariously and brilliantly more than a year ago, this 'fly paper' thesis is like saying we're going to build one super dirty hospital where we can fight the germs on our own terms.

Clearly that analogy points in some uncomfortable directions. But the salient point is clear: everyone who is not an utter fool knows that the number of young and disaffected men in the Muslim world who are potentially willing to take up arms against America is, for practical geopolitical purposes, all but infinite. Killing those already bent on suicide missions against the US is undeniably a good thing. But doing so in a way that is guaranteed to replace them with ten new volunteers is the most foolish way to go about it. It is the classic case of dousing the fire with gasoline.

Of course that leaves untended the fact the guerrillas we're blowing up in Iraq aren't the folks running the safe houses in Karachi and Peshawar who constitute the real threat. Adrift as well is the straightforward matter that turning Iraq into a killing field isn't really compatible with making it into a redoubt of democracy, prosperity and western values.

Knocking holes in this argument is really too easy and after a bit beside the point. The real problem with this argument is its proponents -- folks who seem inclined to put insipid wordplay above the lives of American soldiers and marines, indeed, above against the future security of the country itself.
Mr. Marshall also had a very solid article on how Iraq is both at the center of this campaign and largely undiscussed in any serious way.