Friday, November 30, 2007

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Ron Paul

I'm afraid Wayne Wilson does appear to have run for the hills. Pity.

Anyway Ron Paul is the odd man out among the Republicans when it comes to Iraq, which is, of course, a big part of his appeal.
The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. This war has cost more than 3,000 American lives, thousands of seriously wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars. We must have new leadership in the White House to ensure this never happens again.

Both Jefferson and Washington warned us about entangling ourselves in the affairs of other nations. Today, we have troops in 130 countries. We are spread so thin that we have too few troops defending America. And now, there are new calls for a draft of our young men and women.
Ron Paul seems to be a libertarian isolationist. Nothing wrong with that, but his opposition to the Iraq war is on different grounds than many of the Democratic candidates (and much of the Liberal Base (although many are successfully fooling themselves otherwise)). Still it is nice to see a Republican admitting the obvious, even if he is kind of no - hoper.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - John McCain

I'm listening to Dust Galaxy's "Sons of Washington" right now. Seems bizarrely relevant. "They say to turn the other cheek / as the fire their guns right down your street / Winter judgment comes on the Sons of Washington."

Anyway McCain has a detailed plan on winning the war on Iraq. He wants to see us bolster the troops, implement a new counterinsurgency program, strengthen the Iraqi armed forces and polices, create the security necessary for political process and stability, accelerate political and economic reconstruction in a secure environment, keep senior officers in place, call for international pressure on Syria and Iran, and win the home front. Very long plans.

Winning the home front has an interesting statement, exposing one of the weaknesses of how this administration has pursued this war.
The American people also deserve to know that the path ahead will be long and difficult. They have heard many times that the violence in Iraq will subside soon - when a transitional government is in place, when Saddam is captured, when elections are held, when a constitution is in place. John McCain believes it is far better to describe the situation just as it is - difficult right now, but not without hope.
The fact is, however, that if the American people had had a firm idea of what this war would cost, they might well have preferred a more measured response to Iraq, something that didn't involve the lost of thousands of American Troops. It was only by disguising the cost of the Iraq war that the Bush administration could get us to fight it.

I was about to complain about the lack of rational for why we had to make these sacrifices, but he put it in a block next to his very long plan.
"In Iraq our national security interests and our national values converge. Iraq is truly the test of a generation, for America and for our role in the world. Faced with similar challenges, previous generations of Americans have passed such tests with honor. It is now our turn to demonstrate that our power, ennobled by our principles, is the greatest force for good on earth today. Iraq's transformation into a secure democracy and a force for freedom in the greater Middle East is the calling of our age. We can succeed."
I don't know if this is convincing myself; it's a lot like saying we need to test ourselves in the arena of greatness. But the truth is that real people, both Iraqi and Americans, are dying in this test. I think he'd be better of explaining how a secure democratic Iraq, however unlikely, would be good for the United States, rather than just saying, in effect, "Buck up, America - this is our chance to be a "Greatest Generation."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A short break

Sorry - today is proving kind of crazy. Be back tomorrow.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani's position on the Iraq War isn't much of a secret - he's in favor of it, and he is pretty sure we are winning. And of course Democrats are foolish for not wanting to continue it.
Like all Americans, Rudy Giuliani prays for the success of our troops in Iraq and their safe return home. But he believes setting an artificial timetable for withdrawal from Iraq now would be a terrible mistake, because it would only embolden our enemies. Iraq is only one front in the larger war on terror, and failure there would lead to a broader and bloodier regional conflict in the near future. Building an accountable Iraq will assist in reducing the threat of terrorism.
Maybe President Bush should have thought a bit more about the consequences of failure before invading Iraq.

The Iraq war does present a problem for both Republicans and Democrats, because it involves the future and there's no real way to know what will happen. You make your best guess and go with that. My best guess (and the guess of many Americans, according to polls) is that Iraq isn't likely to succeed. But, since the Republicans are committed to Iraq succeeding, they have to pretend like it can. The reverse is, to a certain extent, true as well.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Duncan Hunter

I am a bit disappointed that Wayne Wilson's website appears to be down - hopefully this is just temporary. In the meantime let's see what Hunter has to say on Iraq.
I also strongly support U.S. efforts to establish free societies in Iraq and Afghanistan. The greatest protection of human rights in this decade has been the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Religious freedom is part and parcel of any free society the U.S. stands up.
Well that's kind of non-specific, I have to say. Except the bit about religious freedom, which presumably means that Christian Missionaries should be accepted into Iraq and Afghanistan to teach the good work. As for the rest of this, he's in favor of Iraq but doesn't present any real plan on helping Iraq to succeed.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Tom Tancredo

Tom Tancredo doesn't have a lot of energy to spend on Iraq, given how focused he is on immigration. But he makes an effort on his website to cover the basics.
America's noble sacrifice has purchased Iraqis a precious opportunity for democratic change; it is now up to them to ensure success. Setting the President's November benchmark for shifting control as an actual timetable for disengagement will let regional powers and Iraqi factions cooperate to forge a new balance of power.
So basically, tell the Iraqs we are leaving and force them to solve their own problems? That doesn't sound very Republican to me - most Republicans are following Bush's plan of telling the Iraqis we are staying and not expecting them to fix the political situation.

Tancredo must be too distracted by illegal aliens to focus on this issue.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Fred Thompson

Thompson also doesn't spend a lot of time on the Iraq War on his issues page, although he does mention it.
We must defeat the terrorists abroad, and that begins in Iraq and Afghanistan—the central fronts in this global war. We must show the world we have the will to fight and win. A weakened America - or an America that appears weaker - will only encourage further attacks.
Pretty brief, but not much of a plan. That said, other than supporting the President's plan, what else can Thompson say?

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Mitt Romney

Romney doesn't wear his position on Iraq on his sleeve. Probably a smart move. He has three pages on the war on terror (one on the War on Terror, one on how bad Islamofascism is, and one on curbing Nuclear Proliferation (by which means Iraq)), but none of them talk about Iraq (well the page on Global Jihad mentions how we shouldn't focus simply on Iraq and Afghanistan, but realize this enemy could be anywhere). A recent press release covers his position on Iraq in a somewhat truncated way.
First, We Must Succeed In Iraq And In Afghanistan. At a minimum, success means not leaving behind a safe haven in Iraq and Afghanistan for Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, from which they can finance, train and launch devastating attacks on America, Israel, and the world. In Iraq, the Surge's success has been vital to ensuring that Al Qaeda is denied a safe haven from which to launch attacks.
Good plan, but of course it's a long way from free and stable, isn't it? I mean wouldn't a Saddam style dictatorship that was in our back pocket achieve these ends?

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee is in favor of continuing the war in Iraq to victory. His Iraq Page says that this war is very important and generational.
Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror. The Democrats delusionally deny that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terror even as we fight Al Qaeda there.

. . . General Petraeus and our troops are giving their all to provide a window of opportunity for the Iraqi government to succeed, while the Democrats are running for the exit doors. The surge has only been in place since the middle of June, but progress has already been made. It's way too early to write an obituary for the surge as the Democrat defeatists are doing.
Huckabee is a skillful politician, but usually he doesn't come off as didactic as this. The Republican gamble is this - right now people aren't keen on the War on Iraq, and think it was a mistake; but a year from now they might realize how great it is. A year from now Mike Huckabee chastising Democrats for lacking faith in our glorious success in Iraq might play very well. Today it is a gamble, necessary to hold the base (who loves bashing Dems), but not certain to play with the larger electorate.

At any rate, it certainly does seem that where Iraq is concerned, electing Huckabee is a lot like more of President Bush.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Alan Keyes

This should be an interesting day. Alan Keyes believes the war in Iraq to be a mistake, but once the mistake is made, we have to support the mistake. He does spend a lot of time on his issues discussion on the United Nations, and how they should be involved in Iraq.
Having, however, determined that we were going to go to war, and what we said was the best interest of defending the American people against weapons of mass destruction and other terrible elements of terrorism, somebody explain to me why it is that we see fit to then take the question to the United Nations?

When we respond to an attack on the United States and are moving forward with a strategy necessary to defend ourselves, we don't have to ask a "by-your-leave" from the UN — especially not when the regime established by the UN to keep Iraq under control had collapsed, without any effective action from other member nations.

Now, after we won the military victory in Iraq — which, thank God, everybody assumed we would — what should have happened? Well — and this is not the wisdom of hindsight either, because I said so at the time — what we should have done at that point was to keep the security aspects to ourselves and turn all the political junk over to the UN. That's part of why it's there.
Is it just me or does Keyes see the UN as kind of a trash removal specialist? He makes it clear that he doesn't respect it as a body, and that we should ignore it when it comes to us, but they should still be happy to come in and clean up our messes? I'm not sure Keyes has an understanding of human psychology.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm not There

Went and saw this movie on Saturday, and I quite liked it. It's the story of Bob Dylan (sort of) as told by six different actors, playing six different versions (visions?) of Dylan.

The movie has a sort of familiar surrealism, particularly in the section about Jude, the version of Dylan brilliantly played by Cate Blanchette.

There seems to be some division on the value of the Billy the Kid section; some reviewers describing it as tedious and pointless, and others key to the whole movie. I am more in the second camp; the quiet humanity of Billy the Kid is necessary to offset the nihilism of the Jude Section (which it interrupts). And the Billy the Kid section has the funeral sequence which has stuck with me more than anything else, set to a gorgeous version of "Going to Alcupulco."

Speaking of which, the Soundtrack is also well worth picking up - it only contains one song performed by Dylan (the movie uses mostly versions by Dylan, but a few of these versions show up there too).

At any rate, if you have any interest in Dylan or just want to see a thoughtful interesting movie, check out "I'm Not There."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Joe Biden

And finally we get down to Joe Biden, who, coincidentally, has an editorial on Iraq at the top of his website.
I am seeking the Democratic Party's nomination for president because I believe the people of Iowa are looking for a president who reflects their values, who speaks the truth and who will restore America's moral leadership.

We must start by ending the war in Iraq.

Iraq is the boulder in the road. The billions we spent have prevented us from tackling critical issues at home - making health care affordable, providing access to quality education and ending our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels.

Last month, I convinced 74 of my Senate colleagues to adopt the Biden exit plan for Iraq. As you know, my plan would keep Iraq together by giving the warring parties local control over their daily lives - their jobs, their police and their religion.

My plan would allow our troops to come home without leaving chaos behind.
I don't think Biden's plan is perfect, but it is a starting point. And like Dodd, he seems dedicated to doing what he can, as a Senator, to stop the war.

His page on Iraq has more details on his plan. His plan is to Federalize Iraq, by creating three regions that would run their own affairs - Sunni Iraq, Shi'ite Iraq, and Kurdish Iraq.
The idea is to maintain a unified Iraq by federalizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions. The central government would be responsible for common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues. The plan would bind the Sunnis - who have no oil -- by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenues.
There's a lot to like about Biden's plan, although it has some detractors as well. I think the catch is what gives us to right to tell the Iraqis to federalize, as well as details about who actually owns what land. That said, this is one of Biden's strong points, in that he has a more detailed and seemingly realistic plan for Iraq.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Hillary Clinton

Now that I think about it, I wrote that last one before looking at Hillary Clinton's page on the Iraq War. So perhaps a Mae Culpa is coming.

I'm mostly OK. Clinton does call on Bush to bring the troops home, but does not speak to what she as a Senator can do to pull the troops out. And her plans are for what she will do, once she is elected President.
The most important part of Hillary's plan is the first: to end our military engagement in Iraq's civil war and immediately start bringing our troops home. As president, one of Hillary's first official actions would be to convene the Joint Chiefs of Staff, her Secretary of Defense, and her National Security Council. She would direct them to draw up a clear, viable plan to bring our troops home starting with the first 60 days of her Administration.
Like other candidates she believes that a commitment to bringing our troops home will lead to less violence and more reconciliation. I am not sure of this prediction, but it would certainly be nice. Clinton also favors an increase in diplomacy and humanitarian aid to those hurt by this conflict.
As our forces redeploy out of Iraq, Hillary would also organize a multi-billion dollar international effort -- funded by a wide range of donor states -- under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to address the needs of Iraqi refugees. And as we replace military force with diplomacy and global leadership, Hillary will not lose sight of our very real strategic interests in the region. She would devote the resources we need to fight terrorism and will order specialized units to engage in narrow and targeted operations against al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in the region.
That last bit is interesting; particularly in the repeated assertions of Conservatives that Liberals don't want to fight terrorists. But I suspect you always knew that was nonsensical.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Chris Dodd

There's one thing that's been niggling me all day, and Chris Dodd has finally brought it out into the open, with his page on the Iraq War.
Chris Dodd understands that making America more secure starts with ending the Iraq war responsibly. It’s made us less secure, more vulnerable and more isolated. Our country’s men and women in uniform have performed heroically – but George Bush’s policy has failed.

But to end the war, we need clear, bold actions, and leadership that has the experience and judgment to recognize there’s only one way to responsibly end this war:

To set a firm deadline tied to funding.

It may not be an easy thing to say – but it’s the right thing to do. For our troops. For our security and standing in the world.
Now here's my problem with this. While this is indeed a smart position, it is not a Presidential position. This is a way for the Congress to stop the war. And as a Congressional approach, it's very good. And it's a bit of a mystery why Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and other Congressional Candidates aren't pursuing it further.

Clinton, Edwards and Obama told us what they would do if they were president, or what they will do if elected President. One is hypothetical; the other is more than a year away. Dodd is telling us what he wants to do, right now, to end the war. I don't know, it kind of makes Dodd look good in comparison.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Barack Obama

Obama is trying to sell himself as the next best thing to Dennis Kucinich. Kucinch would probably like you to know that it's one thing to oppose the war quietly when nobody is paying attention to you and another to oppose it from the House of Representatives - the Belly of the Beast, as it were. Still Barack has a point when he notes that of the top tier candidates he's the one who didn't vote for the Iraq War Resolution.
Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. In 2002, as the conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war, Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against the war. He said the war would lead to "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences." In January 2007, Obama introduced legislation to responsibly end the war in Iraq, with a phased withdrawal of troops engaged in combat operations.

Obama has a plan to immediately begin withdrawing our troops engaged in combat operations at a pace of one or two brigades every month, to be completed by the end of next year. He would call for a new constitutional convention in Iraq, convened with the United Nations, which would not adjourn until Iraq's leaders reach a new accord on reconciliation. He would use presidential leadership to surge our diplomacy with all of the nations of the region on behalf of a new regional security compact. And he would take immediate steps to confront the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Iraq.
Not bad stuff, all told. And I like the quote he leads off his page with.
I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war.
Not a bad statement, presumably designed to comfort people who don't want the Democrat party to be the party of wusses.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - John Edwards

John Edwards isn't going to go out as far on the limb as Kucinich or Richardson, but he's pretty emphatic in his statement on the war as well.
We don't need debate; we don't need non-binding resolutions; we need to end this war. In order to get the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their country, we must show them that we are serious about leaving, and the best way to do that is to actually start leaving.
He wants to pull 40,000 to 50,000 troops immediately and the rest within 9-10 months, save for a small guard for our embassy. Seems like that could cause trouble.
Edwards also favors returning to a previous policy of making sure troops were ready to go to war before sending them to war.
We should prohibit funding for any new troops that do not meet real readiness standards and that have not been properly trained and equipped. American tax dollars should be used to train and equip our troops, not to escalate the war.
Now, I'm no military genius or anything, but doesn't that make sense?

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Bill Richardson

I like how Richardson starts out his issues page on Iraq.
I have a one-point plan on the Iraq War -- END IT.
Nice. He has several planks of his plan, several of which seem to be removing all troops from Iraq.
Only when the Iraqis know we are leaving will they start seeing us as partners, instead of occupiers. A complete withdrawal gives us the leverage we now lack to get the warring factions to compromise, while our presence fuels the insurgency. The Iraqis must take responsibility for their country, and only a complete withdrawal gives them the incentive to kick out al Qaeda and heal their country. Any plan that leaves troops behind will allow the war to drag on, and will cost more American lives.
Again, while I think this is the right plan, I worry that it might be too optimistic to assume that our departure will get the Iraqi people working together. That said, I understand that you can't tell the American people that a plan won't work perfectly - we expect perfection here in the United States.

A brief pause

I'm not voting for Mitt Romney. I mean I wasn't before, but now I'm really really not voting for Mitt Romney.

Apparently Mitt Romney publically stated he wouldn't consider members of the Muslim Faith for cabinet positions.
I asked Mr. Romney whether he would consider including qualified Americans of the Islamic faith in his cabinet as advisers on national security matters, given his position that “jihadism” is the principal foreign policy threat facing America today. He answered, “…based on the numbers of American Muslims [as a percentage] in our population, I cannot see that a cabinet position would be justified. But of course, I would imagine that Muslims could serve at lower levels of my administration.”
So you get a position in the Romney campaign based not upon your qualifications but on how many people like you there are in the United States? Seems like a bad policy. And dubious, given that at least a portion of Romney's campaign is built around convincing evangelicals that they shouldn't judge him on his heretical (in their eyes) faith.

Got this from the Carpetbagger.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Mike Gravel

Gravel is the easiest to do. His position on the Iraq War, like all his other positions, is short and to the point.
Senator Gravel advocates an immediate and orderly withdrawal of all U.S. troops. His current plan, if enacted, would have all U.S. soldiers home within 120 days.
I have to say, given the prominence of this issue, that seems a little sketchy.

Gravel is in favor of a more aggressive congressional strategy towards ending the war, according to an article reprinted at his site.
When asked by moderator Tim Russert how Senator Gravel would overcome the deadlock on passing legislation to end the war, he responded: “You stop the debate [over ending the war] by voting every single day on cloture. Twenty days, and you’ll overcome cloture. The president vetoes the law. It comes back to the Congress. And in the House at noon every single day you vote to override the president’s veto. You tell me that the votes aren’t there-you go get them by the scruff of the neck, that’s what you do. You make them vote.”
That sounds better than our current strategy I have to say.

Candidate Review - The Iraq War - Dennis Kucinich

I've noted before, it has to be a pain in the ass to be Dennis Kucinich, be pretty much right about the war, and still not be taken seriously. At any rate, Kucinich's position on the war is pretty straightforward - he's against it and he wants to get us out of it.
These are the elements of the Kucinich Plan:

1. The US announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw. The insurgency has been fueled by the occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent bases. A US declaration of an intention to withdraw troops and close bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight invaders and those who have supported US policy. Furthermore this will provide an opening where parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations towards peaceful settlement.

2. US announces that it will use existing funds to bring the troops and necessary equipment home. Congress appropriated $70 billion in bridge funds on October 1 st for the war. Money from this and other DOD accounts can be used to fund the troops in the field over the next few months, and to pay for the cost of the return of the troops, (which has been estimated at between $5 and $7 billion dollars) while a political settlement is being negotiated and preparations are made for a transition to an international security and peacekeeping force.

3. Order a simultaneous return of all US contractors to the United States and turn over all contracting work to the Iraqi government. The contracting process has been rife with world-class corruption, with contractors stealing from the US Government and cheating the Iraqi people, taking large contracts and giving 5% or so to Iraqi subcontractors.
I do think it's overly optimistic to assume that our pulling out will bring peace between the factions in Iraq; that said, I'm not sure us hanging around is helping either. But of course point 3 is were this really goes off the rails - after bombing and invading Iraq, we need to be able to exploit it. Otherwise, what's the point?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Manholes are Depressing

Don't believe me? Check out how they are made, according to the New York Times.

The picture is pretty damned convincing all in itself. But not to worry, there's an explanation as to why workers are making manhole covers bare-footed.
Mr. Modi said that his factory followed basic safety regulations and that workers should not be barefoot. “It must have been a very hot day” when the photos were taken, he said.
Isn't every day a hot day when you are working in a foundry?

Story found by the charming folks at Talking Points Memo.

Robert Novak Kneecaps Mike Huckabee

This is interesting; Robert Novak entitles his latest article "The False Conservative" and then makes it clear he's talking about Mike Huckabee. Interesting.
The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

There is no doubt about Huckabee's record during a decade in Little Rock as governor. He was regarded by fellow Republican governors as a compulsive tax increaser and spender. He increased the Arkansas tax burden by 47 percent, boosting the levies on gasoline and cigarettes. When he decided to lose 100 pounds and pressed his new lifestyle on the American people, he was far from a Goldwater-Reagan libertarian.
Interesting. I don't know, however, if this hurts or helps Huckabee. I mean Novak is a big city libertarian conservative; Huckabee might be able to paint him as a "Country Club" Republican, and thus build his reputation with his supporters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lazy Soldiers

It turns out, according to The Carpetbagger Report that some of our troops are being asked to return signing bonuses they received. These soldiers failed to complete their term of service, do to mission related injury.

No I know a lot of you are thinking this is harsh; maybe soldiers who have been shot deserve a bit of slack? But without fear of monetary punishment, our soldiers would have no incentive to avoid being shot.

So I whole heartedly support going to Walter Reed, or where ever these injured slackers are staying and getting the money back.

Got this originally from Salon's War Room.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blog Business

Hey there will not be a Candidate Review this week, because of Thanksgiving. Just so you know.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Beats - The Psychedelic Furs, "Talk Talk Talk"

she turns her self round and
she smiles and she says
this is it
that's the end of the joke

I'd like to be able to say that I was impressed with this album the first time I heard it. That I realized how great it was. That I understood songs like Mr. Jones and Pretty in Pink. But the truth was I thought it was a step down from the first album of theirs I'd heard, Mirror Moves.

movie stars and ads
and radio define romance

Mirror Moves was slicker and had started incorporating the more technological effects that would ruin their next album (Midnight to Midnight). Coming from a kid who was a big fan of Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode and the clean emo of the Smiths, well, I didn't know what to make of the ragged rough sounds found on Talk Talk Talk. I think I recognized Pretty in Pink as a brilliant song, but beyond that my brain just didn't work properly.

if you believe that anyone
like me within a song
is outside it all
then you are all so wrong

Plus of course I associated rock with metal and metal with getting beaten up. Unfair I know. I could tell that the Furs weren't that kind of rock band, but still couldn't quite get into them. I listened to them from time to time, but mostly Mirror Moves (which is still quite a good album) It wasn't until college when I had matured enough and become pretentious that I started really understanding the Furs. Not that you have to be pretentious to appreciate a song like "Into you like a Train" or "I Wanna Sleep With You."

the sound of people getting drunk
a ceiling and a sky
a bank that's full of promises
a telephone that lies

I guess I'd matured a bit. I guess I'd figured a few things out. But my second dance with the furs I figured them out; got them in a way I hadn't before. When Columbia put out a reissue of this album (along with the eponymously named debut and Forever Now), I snapped it up. It includes She is Mine, a song I had always adored, and alternate versions of Mr. Jones, So Run Down and All of this and Nothing (later the name of one of their best ofs.

met this girl and called her ma
i called her everything
i called her fab and mrs. fish
i didn't get her name

Anyway the Psychedelic Furs came. And they are still worth giving a listen too.

If I had Heat Vision

I would blast people who made U-Turns next to a sign clearly marked No U Turn.

I know a lot of you are probably wondering why I wouldn't blast tailgaters who I hate with the white hot passion of a thousand suns. Well that would require me to turn my head all the way around, which would hurt my neck and also be very dangerous. Unless I got the whole Superman package, in which case I would just fly everywhere.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Candidate Review - Health Care - Fred Thompson

I think this is my final one of the day. Fred Thompson's plan is pretty homespun - he wants everybody to have healthcare, but doesn't really want to ponder the question of what to do about those who can't currently afford it.
Americans have the best healthcare in the world. Some, however, choose not be insured; others cannot afford it. Every American should be able to get health insurance coverage that is affordable, fully accessible, and portable. Coverage should meet their individual needs and put them in control. Those who propose a one-size-fits-all Washington-controlled program ignore the cost, inefficiency, and inadequate care that such a system offers. Access to affordable, portable health care can be made available for all Americans without imposing new mandates or raising taxes. Current government programs must also be streamlined and improved so that those who truly need help can get the health care they need.
I like the reference to those who choose not to be insured - makes this a personal responsibility issue; those who choose not to be insured are obviously irresponsible. Of course you wouldn't want to force people who choose not to be insured to get insured; let those bums take care of themselves.

Or so the logic goes, I gather.

Anyway while Thompson seems aware that some people who want health care can't afford it, it doesn't seem like he's spending a lot of time worrying about them. And of course he's all about streamlining the government programs. Which usually involves making them smaller and weaker.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Wayne Wilson

I was kind of down after my review of McCain's health plan, but here comes Wayne Wilson to pick me right up.
. . . well-to-do liberals are indignant that ordinary folks like you and me can walk into any doctor’s office or hospital and receive the finest health care in the world. That’s a privilege that they think only they and their rich buddies deserve. That’s why when conservatives point out the waiting lists and inefficiencies of other state-run health care systems, the elitists know it, but don’t care. They want it that way. They want the quality and efficiency to go down so that ordinary citizens are denied or delayed service.
Yeap Wayne Wilson saw through our brilliant plan to keep ordinary Americans from having health care by giving them access to health care. We are so diabolical. Also of course we want to take more money away from you and we want social engineering. According to Wayne Wilson.

I will note that other than opposing Liberals evil plans, Wilson has no plans to address American Health Care. With it being the finest in the world, I guess I can see why. Funny how so many others seem to think it's an issue worth addressing, including all the Republicans. But oh well, I'm sure Wilson knows best.

Oh we'd like to thank Captain Oblivious for pointing out that "The FDA IS the Medical and Pharmaceutical industry, moron." down below. I'm not sure that's accurate - I thought there were these things called insurance companies and doctors and hospitals and what not, but possibly I've been misinformed.

Candidate Review - Health Care - John McCain

Well McCain's health plan is pretty daunting. It is a list of bullet points. 19 Bullet Points then a paragraph (on Insurance Company Reform) then 5 Bullet Points, then a paragraph (on Personal Responsibility) then 3 more Bullet Points. For those playing along at home, that's 27 bullet points.

Lord Almighty.

Anyway I will note some highlights. Using Bullet Points. One turn deserves another.
  • McCain is in favor of allowing Vets better access to local health care. "America's veterans have fought for our freedom. We should give them freedom to choose to carry their VA dollars to a provider that gives them the timely care at high quality and in the best location."
  • He does favor providing Access to Health Care for all. "While we reform the system and maintain quality, we can and must provide access to health care for all our citizens - whether temporarily or chronically uninsured, whether living in rural areas with limited services, or whether residing in inner cities where access to physicians is often limited." I suspect the phrase "Access to" to be key. Many people have Access to health care right now who can't avail themselves of that access do to lack of money.
  • He also specifically favors moving away from employer sponsored health plans. "Reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance, and provide all individuals with a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) to increase incentives for insurance coverage. Individuals owning innovative multi-year policies that cost less than the full credit can deposit remainder in expanded health savings accounts."
  • Like others he does treat it primarily as a consumer issue; the American medical consumer isn't being served as well as he or she should be. Of course this leaves out those who aren't being served at all.
Bullet points are annoying.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Rudy Giuliani

Well Giuliani isn't going to be accused of being a Socialist either. It is interesting how many Conservatives treat the inaccessibility of medical care to sick people as if it were a simple consumer problem, almost on the level of an inconvenience.
"America is at a crossroads when it comes to our health care. All Americans want to increase the quality, affordability and portability of health care. Most Republicans believe in free-market solutions to the challenges we face. I believe we can reduce costs and improve the quality of care by increasing competition. We can do it through tax cuts, not tax hikes. We can do it by empowering patients and their doctors, not government bureaucrats. That's the American way to reform health care."
A lot of Americans want access to health care, not just increases in quality and portability. And a lot of Americans aren't comfortable with the idea that life saving medical procedures are the province of a chosen few.

But that's the problem that Republicans have with this issue; they are fundamentally in favor of the system we currently have, although perhaps with even less government involvement (Giuliani mentions reforming the FDA for example).

He mentioned Tort Reform, which Tancredo mentioned as well, but which hasn't been a big stand out. Which I have to admit I find a little surprising. Tort Reform has been a big republican issue for years, I'm surprised they aren't hitting it harder.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Tom Tancredo

For Tom Tancredo the chance to comment on Health Care leads naturally to a discussion of Illegal Immigration. As do all other issues.
The two major problems are the high cost of care and the number of uninsured. Tort reform and immigration enforcement would save the system billions and drive down costs. In California alone, illegal immigrants cost the system $800 million annually and have forced 84 hospitals to close.
I find myself imagining Tancredo being asked "Representative Tancredo, what is your favorite parade?" "Well I'll tell you one parade I don't like. The Parade of Illegals across our border!" At any rate he has some other ideas as well, but you don't have to worry about socialized medicine with Tancredo.
As for the uninsured: as many as 25% of them are illegal aliens and should be deported or encouraged to leave. For citizens and legal residents who are employed by businesses which cannot afford coverage, I favor association health plans which band small businesses together to access lower cost insurance. For those out of work, state governments should be the primary source of relief, although I would not rule out federal incentives or limited subsidies to make sure families who have fallen on hard times are not without coverage.
Does that mean he thinks Association Health Plans are simply a good idea? Or does it mean that he favors using his office as President to encourage and support them in some fashion? Hard to say.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Mike Huckabee

Well Mike Huckabee strides the line very skillfully; he is, I have to say, quite a skillful politician. He says that Government doesn't need to mandate health, but that does need to encourage preventative medicine.
The health care system in this country is irrevocably broken, in part because it is only a "health care" system, not a "health" system. We don't need universal health care mandated by federal edict or funded through ever-higher taxes. We do need to get serious about preventive health care instead of chasing more and more dollars to treat chronic disease, which currently gobbles up 80% of our health care costs, and yet is often avoidable. The result is that we'll be able to deliver better care where and when it's needed.

I advocate policies that will encourage the private sector to seek innovative ways to bring down costs and improve the free market for health care services. We have to change a system that happily pays $30,000 for a diabetic to have his foot amputated, but won't pay for the shoes that would save his foot.
I'm not sure exactly how he's going to accomplish this; Insurance companies won't pay for anything not covered; they have an incentive to turn down services. I don't know how you change that through logic.

I also don't know how this helps people who don't currently have insurance. But then again, maybe it's not supposed to.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Ron Paul

There are too many Republican Candidates. Oh well. Here's Ron Paul who is busy protecting the Medical and Pharmacutical industry from the FDA.
Americans are justifiably concerned over the government’s escalating intervention into their freedom to choose what they eat and how they take care of their health.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in order to comply with standards dictated by supra-national organizations such as the UN‘s World Food Code (CODEX), NAFTA, and CAFTA, has been assuming greater control over nutrients, vitamins and natural health care providers to restrict your right to choose the manner in which you manage your health and nutritional needs.

I have been the national leader in preserving Health Freedom.
If Ron Paul has an opinion on Uninsured Americans, I can't find it. And I'm not sure the FDA is the bogey man that Ron Paul portrays it as.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Mitt Romney

Romney likes to have you watch him speak rather than read his words. I don't have time to listen and transcribe and frankly I'm not interested in doing that anyway. So you have to put up with what little text he has on his website, which is a brief statement and two quotes.
The health of our nation can be improved by extending health insurance to all Americans, not through a government program or new taxes, but through market reforms.

"We can't have as a nation 40 million people -- or, in my state, half a million -- saying, 'I don't have insurance, and if I get sick, I want someone else to pay."
The quote is from a USA Today story, and I'm not sure how flattering it is. Certainly a section of the Republican base wants to hear "Sick people who don't have health insurance get what they deserve." But I don't know how that will fly in America as a whole. The other quote isn't much better.
"It's a conservative idea," says Romney, "insisting that individuals have responsibility for their own health care. I think it appeals to people on both sides of the aisle: insurance for everyone without a tax increase."
Again from USA Today. But of course what is lacking (and I've not reproduced the entire page) is any suggestion of how people who aren't insured now are going to get insured. Is Romney just going to take the presidential podium, look America in the eye and say "You uninsured people - get insured. Thank you and goodnight." Or what?

In other Romney related news, there's a post by Glenn Greenwald on Romney's service as a Mormon Missionary during the Vietnam War - a war he supported but didn't feel much desire to participate in (he got a mission deferment and then an educational deferment).

Candidate Review - Health Care - Duncan Hunter

Well Duncan Hunters plan likewise steers well clear of socialism. Rather his plan is to give consumers more options.
Since World War II, when employer sponsored health care became a more widely offered employee benefit, spending has increased from 5% of GNP to 16% today. Systematically, the eye of the health care consumer has been removed from the market place. Whether it is employers offering a single insurance option or the government making health care choices on behalf of the elderly and the poor, consumers have been increasingly removed from the market place. The result has been a system with costs increasing at rates that are neither sustainable nor practical.

The solution is freedom for the consumer to pursue their own health care choices. Therefore, I propose three major reforms that will bring the consumer back into the health care equation: 1. freedom to buy health insurance across state lines; 2. freedom to make informed health care choices; and 3. freedom to innovate to save money and improve medical outcomes.
The problem with this plan is something Hunter notes in the first paragraph quoted. Most individual consumers don't make decisions on their health care. I am not tempted to go into Alabama to get my health care, because my health care decisions are made by the Human Resources director at the place I work at. And there is also a real question if, even if the government allowed me to buy health insurance in Alabama, would the insurance companies be interested in selling it here?

And his second plank falls on the same problem; there are some who buy individual insurance but a lot don't. His final plank calls for four test hospitals which will be free of government interference, apparently, and free to provide experimental treatments to those who qualify. Good enough as far as it goes, but not that exciting.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Dr. Alan Keyes

As I said Tuesday, the challenge for Democrats is to push for improved and, in most cases, universal health care WITHOUT appearing socialist. For Republicans the challenge is to defend the current system WITHOUT appearing unaware of the problems faced by Americans without Medical Insurance.

Well Keyes is a pretty hardline guy when it comes to the market, and his issue page makes it clear that there will be no socialism in the medical profession on his watch. That said, he also makes it clear that he is aware of the plight of the uninsured.
I don't believe in government-controlled health care, and I think that what we need to look at is ways in which we can put the consumer in proper charge of their own health care plan, so we can drive the cost down, instead of up.

Part of the problem with our present system, which I think has contributed to skyrocketing costs, is the fact that we have a third-party-payer system. You go home after you get the service, and you don't even know what it costs. If we bought cars that way, what do you think would happen to our car industry?

We need to adopt plans, such as the one that President Bush is talking about, where people can set up tax-deductible medical savings accounts and combine that with catastrophic insurance that will guarantee them against the major liability and at the same time give them greater freedom, greater control, and a greater reward when they are making good, effective judgments on how to get their health care.
This does sound hard on the Insurance industry, but really it is kind of a gift to the Financial industry. That said, I think that Keyes has accurately determined the problem in the industry, the lack of connection between costs and services. His solution, though, seems like more of a band-aid. If you can't afford medical insurance, how are tax deduct able accounts going to solve the problem?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

President Bush's Tax Cuts

Walter E. Williams takes issue with calling Tax Cuts that President Bush drafted and championed and signed into law his tax cuts. Constitutionally I suppose he is correct.
Presidents can propose or veto taxes and Congress can override vetoes. The bottom line is that all taxing authority rests with the U.S. Congress. The next time you hear someone condemn or praise Bush's tax cuts, ask them whether the Constitution has been amended to give the president taxing authority.
Bit of a nitpick though, isn't it? I mean hooray for accuracy and all, but the truth is that if Gore had been President we wouldn't have gotten those Tax Cuts. President Bush was instrumental in passing them. I also note that he and his fellow Republicans aren't shy about attributing economic success to the Bush Tax Cuts.

Anyway the rest of William's article is about how rich pay more taxes than the poor. Of course he carefully doesn't mention the bit of tax cuts on the middle class, because that would, well, give the game away.

Liberals are better than Conservatives

I know you'll all be shocked to find out that I have this opinion, but it's true. I think Liberals are better than Conservatives. It's interesting why that should be shocking; Conservatives have no trouble describing Liberals in the blackest terms possible. But Liberals don't have the same standards; we are expected to see both sides of the issue. Well I do see both sides of the issue, and Liberals are better than Conservatives.

This is triggered by a comment of Random Goblins last week in response to this post.
I question just how tolerant liberals are of different ideas.
The answer, for those playing along at home, is a hell of a lot more tolerant than Conservatives. Want some evidence? We got evidence.

Point number one - there is no Liberal Ann Coulter. There is nobody on the left who has the same combination of malice, hatred AND success. I'm sure there genuinely nasty people on the left side of the fence; hell, I've been described as a liberal Ann Coulter (by a guy who went on to steal $90 of books of mine). But we don't reward them to the same tune that the Conservatives have rewarded Ann Coulter (and many others like her).

Ann Coulter's whole oeuvre is dedicated to tearing down liberals, often in personal terms. Who is there on the left who goes after the right with that kind of vehemence? Nobody of comparative importance.

Point number two - Liberals are generally interested in understanding Conservatives. Conservatives are content to caricature their political opponents. Salon's War Room had this story yesterday.
Liberals, the pollsters found, were "much more likely" than conservatives to tune in to commentary and entertainment with which they disagree politically. The result: The "potential audience" for, say, Rush Limbaugh is "larger than that of liberal competitors because more liberals say they will listen to conservatives than vice versa."
Kind of sad isn't it? Limbaugh has more listeners because of liberals like me who will turn in; Franken is screwed because Conservatives aren't interested in hearing view points other than their own.

Point number three (and I'm about out of points), consider Liberal and Conservative Media Criticism. Conservative Media Criticism is very clearly working the refs; you read or listen to Brent Bozell and he's not interested in a fair and balanced media. He's interested in a media that supports the conservative viewpoint. Consider the long list of liberals he and other conservatives think shouldn't be allowed on TV. Media Matters and FAIR on the other hand are, while critical from a liberal point of view, much more involved in getting better news in general, as opposed to simply making it more liberal.

David Brock (founder of Media Matters) doesn't want to get Ann Coulter off the air; he simply wants someone liberal to challenge her. And too often that's not the case.

Anyway I might come back to this later on today, but that's enough for now; Liberals really are more tolerant than Conservatives.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Candidate Review - Health Care - John Edwards

John Edwards plan seems a bit short on details - I know just a while ago I was complaining about an excess of details, but what I can I say? I'm a fink!

Anyway what's here is good - Edwards wants universal coverage, he wants to make it better for people who already have insurance and businesses will have it easier too. And to accomplish these goals.
* Requiring businesses and other employers to either cover their employees or help finance their health insurance.
* Making insurance affordable by creating new tax credits, expanding Medicaid and SCHIP, reforming insurance laws, and taking innovative steps to contain health care costs.
* Creating regional "Health Care Markets" to let every American share the bargaining power to purchase an affordable, high-quality health plan, increase choices among insurance plans, and cut costs for businesses offering insurance.
* Once these steps have been taken, requiring all American residents to get insurance.
I guess it will be a bit like auto insurance, only more affordable? Or about the same? Will some people have the bare minimum coverage, while others will have good complete coverage? Hard to say.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Dennis Kucinich

Well Kucinich avoids mentioning the Congressional Health Plan - he's got something better. Single payer.
America's patchwork of for-profit, private insurers waste billions of dollars on spending that has nothing to do with paying for care. Elaborate underwriting, billing, sales and marketing divert huge amounts of money away from delivering health care. Huge profits and staggering compensation for the insurance companies' top executives and CEO's.

To cope with the endless bureaucracy of private insurers, health care providers maintain huge administrative staffs. The administration of the health care system today consumes approximately 31% of the money spent for health care. The potential savings, as much as $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to every American without paying any more than we already do.

In Congress, Representative Dennis Kucinich has co-authored HR 676, legislation which would establish Medicare for All - a universal, single-payer, not-for-profit health care system that leaves no American behind.
Either Kucinich isn't ready for the Country or the Country isn't ready for Kucinich.

Probably the latter.

At any rate this is pretty clearly socialized medicine, and Kucinich isn't ashamed to make it clear what he's doing. You kind of have to admire him for that.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Bill Richardson

After the last two discourses, Richardson's health care page is much more manageable. He does mention the magic words.
Working families and small businesses will be able to purchase coverage through the same plan that members of Congress enjoy. Americans 55 and older will be able to purchase coverage through Medicare. Veterans will get access to the high-quality care they deserve, when they need it, without bureaucratic hassles.
I should think the idea of ordinary citizens getting the same health care as our senators must be a powerful one. Enough Democrats seem to be pushing it at any rate.

Anyway Richardson references his experience as a Governor on this issue a number of times, and talks about a "Heroe's Health Card" provided to all veterans so that they aren't trapped in the VA system.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Joe Biden

Joe Biden, like Obama, has a long and complex page on Health Care. This is why I am somewhat wary of this one, because I feel like a punk if I don't read the whole thing, but being incredibly lazy, I don't want to go to the trouble of reading it.

Don't laugh; it's laziness like that that has made Stupid Enough Unexplanation Americas 434th most trusted news source.

Anyway I just read his plan and he has four key components.
1. Cover all Children
2. Access for Adults
3. Reinsurance For Catastrophic Cases
4. Encouraging Prevention and Modernization
The first one is straightforward enough; the second is giving the uninsured the option to buy into the Senate system - which to give it's official name, is called the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan. They can buy in on a sliding scale depending on their means.

The third reflects the problem of one member on an insurance plan developing a big problem - say Cancer. Obviously in a big company that might not be too big a deal, but in a small company that can be a big problem.
By creating a federal reinsurance system for catastrophic costs, the risk and burden of covering these patients are spread among the general population, instead of smaller subgroups of employees.

. . . Ken Thorpe, a professor at Emory University, has estimated that a stop-loss plan that pays 75 percent of claims above a catastrophic threshold would, on average, reduce the variance in claims costs by more than 50 percent. Reducing the risk factor for health plans would translate into lower health insurance premiums.
Make a certain amount of sense; but of course Free Market Conservatives would counter by saying that risk is part of the market place. You can't take out the risk without taking out the ability to succeed.

The fourth one contains a lot of interesting ideas as well, such as standardizing billing and claims.
When the Utah Health Information Network (UHIN) was created in 1994, health officials there estimated the state could save $100 million to $200 million per year by switching to a common system for medical billing. UHIN created a computer system that allows the many different billing systems used by doctors, insurers and hospitals to communicate with one another. But the network also required substantial cooperation from Utah's competing insurers. They agreed, for example, to cut a list of 900 codes for accepting or denying medical claims down to 90 and also agreed on common definitions.

The cost of health insurance has remained flat in Utah while it has increased an average of 13 percent per year in the rest of the United States. Several states are already studying what Utah was able to accomplish.
This reminds me a lot of Clinton and the West Wing - a bit of policy wonkery - but the good kind of policy wonkery - the kind that actually makes things better.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Barack Obama

Obama also uses those magic words; the Congressional Health Care plan. I should note that his health care plan is unusually complete even in it's initial presentation - many of the candidates have additional websites you can go to and read their policy; Obama has those too, but also a lot of information just on his page on health care. Some emphatsis on the problem of health care which is a good enough Idea i suppose. And then his plan. It has 6 planks.
1. Obama's Plan to Cover the Uninsured. Obama will create a new national health plan to allow individuals without access to affordable insurance coverage to buy coverage similar to that available to members of Congress. . . .

2. National Health Insurance Exchange. Obama will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase private insurance. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible.

3. Employer Contribution. . . .

4. Mandatory Coverage of Children. . . .

5. Expansion of Medicaid and SCHIP. . . .

6. Flexibility for State Plans. Obama's plan allows states to continue innovating on health care reform.
And that doesn't count his plans to modernize our health care system. It's very comprehensive. I do think he does emphasize the choice and of course that its based on the Congressional Health Plan. On the other hand the completeness of this plan probably doesn't help it much. You look at a plan like this, and it becomes evident that Obama does want to change how Healthcare works.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Chris Dodd

Dodd says at the beginning of his section on health care, "There is no more important issue this election than getting health care right." I'm not sure I can go along with that. It is important, but I'd say getting foreign policy, particularly Iraq, might be more immediate and, therefore, more important.

At any rate his plan is the popular give to the people what Senators already have.
The Dodd plan will create a health insurance marketplace called Universal HealthMart that is based on, and parallel to, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan (FEHBP). Every American will have access to the same plans that members of Congress have. Alternatively, people and businesses can keep their existing insurance arrangements if they want to.
He then has this fascinating phrase.
Universal coverage will be achieved through a shared mandate on individuals and businesses: universal coverage through universal responsibility.
Republicans like the term responsibility so maybe that's what he is shooting for; but I'm not sure if Dodd and the Republicans are using it in the same way. I think Dodd means that Everybody is responsible for Everybody's Health Care; Republicans mean, I believe, that Everybody is responsible for their own health care.

At any rate this is a crowd pleasing plan and does walk the line pretty nicely, I think.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel proposes eliminating the Income Tax and replacing it with a national Sales tax. We'll get back to that in due course, but since he mentions it in his very very short section on National Health Care, I thought I would explain what he is talking about.
Senator Gravel advocates a universal healthcare system that provides equal medical services to all citizens, paid for by a retail sales tax (a portion of the Progressive Fair tax). Citizens would pay nothing for health benefits.
Sounds nice doesn't it? So Mike Gravel would eliminate the IRS and the Medical Insurance Industry at one fell swoop, eh? That's gonna be one hell of a sales tax, I'd guess.

Candidate Review - Health Care - Hillary Clinton

This is one of the bigger issues; but I figure I'm going to have to do the hard one's sooner or later.

What will be interesting is that both Demcorats and Republicans do have different selling points. Democrats are assumed to be doing something about health care, so they have to be careful to assure voters that their plans won't be intrusive and won't be overly socialized. Republicans (which we'll get to on Thursday) are assumed to be opposed to socialized medicine, so have to convince America that they actually do care about health care (except for those who say nuts to the whole thing).

Anyway Clinton, as you might expect, balances this line pretty well, and is careful to stress the non-socialistic side of her plan.
Hillary's American Health Choices Plan covers all Americans and improves health care by lowering costs and improving quality. It speaks to American values, American families, and American jobs.

It puts the consumer in the driver's seat by offering more choices and lowering costs. If you're one of the tens of million Americans without coverage or if you don't like the coverage you have, you will have a choice of plans to pick from and that coverage will be affordable. Of course, if you like the plan you have, you can keep it.
She stresses that her plan is no threat to successful health plans that you might currently have; of course if you feel like your company health plan is a crappy, you can switch over to hers. Or to put it another way, in the marketplace of health insurance, the Government will now be a player. Not sure how that would work.

In striving to head off socialistic accusations, she underlines that her plan will be good for small businesses (almost certainly true) and will allow freedom of choice (we'll see, but probably true). I don't know if that will be enough, but then I don't know who those reassurances are aimed at. If they are aimed at Conservative Idealogues, well, Clinton could propose, word for word, the same plan as Mike Huckabee and they would call her a socialist. On the other hand if it's aimed at Middle America, giving them just enough coverage to buy into the plan, well that could work. We'll see.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Friday Beats - The Byrds "Younger than Yesterday"

"Good and Bad I define these terms, quite clear, no doubt, somehow"

This weeks pick is an oldie (obviously) but definitely worth a listen. In 1967 the first lineup of the Byrds was on it's last legs (and would fall apart during the making of their next album), but there was little sign of it in the music which is tight.

"Just get an electric guitar and take some time and learn how to play."

The singles, "So You Want to be a Rock'n'Roll Star" and "My Back Pages" are both brilliant. The former is propolsive and irreverent; the latter is more thoughtful. Other great tunes include the dream like "Renaissance Fair," the mournful "Everybody's Been Burned" and the flowing "Thoughts and Words."

"Loveliness to gaze upon / To feel your magic pulling me away"

It does have a clunker or two - particularly Crosbys tunelessly earnest "Mind Gardens." But for the most part even the secondary tracks are enjoyable. I should also note that the Columbia Reissue of this album adds 6 additional tracks, including the incredible "It Happens Each Day" also by Crosby (why couldn't he put that on the album and regulate "Mind Gardens" to a B-Side?). It also has the ironic "Don't Make Waves" and the beautiful "Lady Friend."

"Here it comes again, the night is going to fall"

Anyway if you haven't heard this album and are looking for some top-notch folk rock, check it out.

Your Weekly Rush - Boys Don't Cook

I should say at the beginning I love to cook; hence there may be profanity ahead.
How many of you parents out there -- stick with me on this -- have little boys that are say, seven, six, five, and four? I know a lot of you do. How many of you have gone out and bought little play kitchens for them to play in? This is an Associated Press story, and it's a chickified news story, written by Melissa Kossler Dutton. "William Batson knows firsthand that when friends visit, they're likely to gather in the kitchen. The 6-year-old regularly invites guests into his play kitchen to prepare pretend meals, wash dishes or stow food in the refrigerator." We are raising the next generation of girlie men. In the kitchen, now!
Even with the transcript, it's hard to convey how boneheaded and dumbass Rush sounded. Basically he's disgusted with the idea of boys/men being encouraged to cook. I don't go to Rush for meaningful gender analysis but this is a new low.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Wayne Wilson

I can't find Wayne Wilson's position on Free Trade/Fair Trade. I know. I'm disappointed too. But let me give you Mr. Wilson's background as compensation.
Wayne Wilson grew up in Knoxville, a small town in northwest Illinois, lettering in football and track. He helped his father in the summers building apartments. After marrying his college sweetheart, he worked as a carpenter, private school teacher, warehouse manager, and contractor. Lately, he's been hauling milk and livestock feed as a truck driver. He has two married sons, one 7-year-old daughter, and three grandchildren with more, hopefully, on the way. He and his family live in northeastern Indiana and enjoy museums, tractor pulls, swimming, symphonies, and shooting sports.
So Wilson enjoys museums and symphonies, eh? Sounds like a metrosexual!

You know it is surprising that Wilson isn't allowed to participate in the debates. I mean surely his experience as a carpenter, private school teacher, and truck drive qualify him to run the entire country! Come on Republicans; bring in Wilson.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Rudy Giuliani

Giuliani is in favor of Free Trade in a big way; in fact he wants to tear down walls that keep Free Trade out. Or in.
Bringing more countries and people into the global marketplace will make America safer and create new markets for our products worldwide. America must promote higher living standards around the world, help reform the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to encourage pro-growth policies, and distribute foreign aid in ways that reinforce good governance and economic freedom, similar to the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

. . . Rudy will tear down the walls to free trade and create new markets for American-made products. He will protect America's innovations and intellectual property by enforcing our trade agreements aggressively.
I just have an image of Giuliani with a baseball bat knocking down unfair trade agreements, Teddy Roosevelt style. At any rate, I suspect that what Giuliani is talking about, by promoting higher living standards, is making sure that American Corporations are allowed to continue exploiting whoever they want.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson doesn't address Free Trade or Fair Trade, on his issues page. But a Google search reveals that he did give a speech in which he touched on Free Trade (which he prefers to fair trade) enough to give a pretty clear sign of where his thinking is.
Some people are saying that in effect after this war in Iraq is over we need to come back home and close the doors and lock them and pull down the shades and build up walls of protection and trade protection and raise taxes and redistribute the income.

. . . . On globalization we aren’t afraid of America; it’s a good thing for America. We do more things better than anybody else. We have more innovation; we invest more in innovation in this country and in our service economy than anybody in the world. Free trade and free prosperity have done more things and caused more prosperity in the world than anything any central planner ever could have come up with and America is the best example of that.

If we want to help our friends in South America and Africa for example and other places, we need to lower our trade barriers, we need to have more trade.
Pretty straightforward; but pretty shallow at the same time. Still I think it's clear, at this point, that Thompson is better at playing a politician than actually being one.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Dr. Alan Keyes

Alan Keyes follows Tancredo's lead, but is a bit more conflicted. He seems to realize that the business community, which he is trying to court as well, will have different attitudes on this issue.
I have always been a staunch defender of free enterprise and an opponent of the domineering bureaucracies, both national and international, which try to suffocate it. But I cannot stand with those so-called conservatives who believe that "free trade" is more important than free government, or the "fiscal conservatives" who seem to believe that money and economic advantage matter more than our right to constitutional, elective self-determination. Trade socialism must be defeated root and branch, even when it is called "free trade."

I think we gave away a portion of our sovereignty that we should never have surrendered when we entered the WTO. It violates the fundamental principle of our way of life: no legislation without representation. I’m not interested in protectionism or withdrawal. But folks ought to be paying a premium price to enter this market, or else giving us something concrete in return that’s of tangible benefit to the American people.

I believe we need to move away from negotiating multinational trade agreements, and ought to focus instead on cutting better deals by bargaining one-on-one with individual countries. I also believe we should impose tariffs on countries that undercut American farmers and manufacturers with cheap products.
The question is whether or not we can afford a trade war with a nation such as China for example. If China threatens to close their markets to us, what is our response? Probably capitulation.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Tom Tancredo

Tancredo's position fits with his other positions; he wants to see trade treaties negotiated and approved by the Congress, not the President.
The President's fast track authority should not be renewed. The constitution gives Congress not the Executive the power to " regulate commerce with foreign nations." Those who would delegate that authority to the President argue that the complexities of negotiation in a global economy require it. But that argument has lost its force because the Presidents have abused the power. Instead of sticking to trade agreements, they make commitments on matters of domestic policy, like immigration and carbon dioxide emissions, in the guise of international accords.
It is somewhat nice to see a Presidential candidate asserting that his office should be less powerful. Certainly that hasn't been President Bush's policy.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Mitt Romney

In contrast, Mitt Romney comes down squarely on the side of Free Trade; he favors competing with Asia, not locking it out.
"We have to keep our markets open or we go the way of Russia and the Soviet Union, which is a collapse. And I recognize there are some people who will argue for protectionism because the short-term benefits sound pretty good, but long term you kill your economy, you kill the future. What you have to do in order to compete on a global basis long term is invest in education, invest in technology, reform our immigration laws to bring in more of the brains from around the world, eliminate the waste in our government. We have to use a lot less oil. These are the kinds of features you have to invest in, you have to change in order to make ourselves competitive long term."
Romney is the business candidate in a way, so this fits his appeal.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Mike Huckabee

Well Huckabee comes out in favor of Fair Trade. What's interesting is that the split between Free Trade and Fair trade is not a party line split - there are both Republicans and Democrats who think we should move towards more isolationist policies, and there are both Republicans and Democrats who favor free trade. Anyway, Huckabee is a populist, and so favors protecting American jobs.
I believe in free trade, but it has to be fair trade. We are losing jobs because of an unlevel, unfair trading arena that has to be fixed. Behind the statistics, there are real families and real lives and real pain. I'm running for President because I don't want people who have worked loyally for a company for twenty or thirty years to walk in one morning and be handed a pink slip and be told, "I'm sorry, but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here."

I believe that globalization, done right, done fairly, can be a blessing for our society. As the Industrial Revolution raised living standards by allowing ordinary people to buy mass-produced goods that previously only the rich could afford, so globalization gives all of us the equivalent of a big pay raise by letting us buy all kinds of things from clothing to computers to TVs much more inexpensively.
Well that's populist - I note that he doesn't spend much time considering what our trade policies are doing to other nations; but I suppose his audience isn't much interested in that.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Duncan Hunter

Duncan Hunter's issues page is one of the easier ones to use; all his issues are on one page, and the one's he doesn't care about get short shrift. Trade for example; he follows the populist isolationist line, with a side of China bashing
Further, America’s one-way-street trade relationship with China and other nations has reduced manufacturing jobs severely in the U.S. I would change the one-way-street into a two-way-street by putting the same charges on foreign goods that they put on ours.
He's also aware of NAFTA, but sees it mostly in terms of the illegal immigration issue.

I will say I mean easy to use for me; I don't think Hunter's issues page is very effective. It makes it seem like Hunter hasn't thought very hard about the issues, when you compare it to other websites that have a page or more dedicated to each group of issues.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Ron Paul

Well Ron Paul isn't as keen on Free Trade as McCain is; rather he's in favor of protectionism, it appears. His section on Free Trade appears under the heading American Independence and Sovereignty, and he links free trade strictly to free trade organizations.
So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation. They transfer power from our government to unelected foreign elites.

The ICC wants to try our soldiers as war criminals. Both the WTO and CAFTA could force Americans to get a doctor’s prescription to take herbs and vitamins. Alternative treatments could be banned.

The WTO has forced Congress to change our laws, yet we still face trade wars. Today, France is threatening to have U.S. goods taxed throughout Europe. If anything, the WTO makes trade relations worse by giving foreign competitors a new way to attack U.S. jobs.

NAFTA’s superhighway is just one part of a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico, called the North American Union. This spawn of powerful special interests, would create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system. Forget about controlling immigration under this scheme.
Actually just the other day I was putting some cilantro on an omelet when a WTO official came in and asked to see my prescription. It could have been a really tricky situation, but then I realized I don't like cilantro.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - John McCain

John McCain doesn't have a section on Economics, he has a section on Government Spending. The full title is "Government Spending, Lower Taxes and Economic Prosperity" which I guess does cover Free Trade. And make no mistake, John McCain is about Free Trade, not Fair Trade.
A global rising tide of economic isolationism is threatening our entrepreneurs. Opening new markets is a key to U.S. economic success. Today, despite all the defeatist rhetoric, America is the world's biggest exporter, importer, producer, saver, investor, manufacturer and innovator. Americans do not shy from the challenge of competition: they welcome it. Because of that, we attract foreign investment from all over the world. Our government should welcome competition as our people do, and not pretend that we can wall off our economy.

Neither should we fail to recognize that competition can lead to painful dislocations for some individuals. We must remain committed to education, retraining, and help for displaced workers all the while reminding ourselves that our ability to change is a great strength of our nation.
Hmmmm. But if I check page 45 of the Conservative Hymnal doesn't it say something about how it's not Governments job to take care of people cradle to grave? I mean shouldn't those workers, displaced by McCains free trade policies, pull themselves up by their bootstraps?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Oh Canada!

Michael Medved asks a very trenchant and meaningful question in his latest article, one I think we should all consider.
Those who claim that the United States has become a rapacious, arrogant, destructive, domineering and imperialistic power must somehow explain the continued independent existence of the nation of Canada.
Why haven't we invaded Canada? Why oh why?

Well cause Canada sucks. And we don't want it.

No actually Canada doesn't suck. The truth is we largely get everything we want out of Canada already, without invading it. The point to United States Imperialism in the 21st century isn't territory; if it was we would have made Iraq the 51st state. The point is control over natural resources. We are getting control over Iraq's national resources while allowing them to govern themselves (so long as they don't infringe on our interests). Frankly we largely treat Canada the same way (although we give them a lot more leeway, obviously).

Anyway the rest of Medved's article is an argument that we have always been a meddling nation, involved in wars and conflicts; this is true. Doesn't make it right, however.

Voting for Satan

I want to point you to two Salon articles that are worth watching the ad for. The first is by Michael Scherer and is about Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney and his Mormonism. Basically it tells us what we already know; a lot of conservatives aren't comfortable with his Mormonism. For a few it's a deal breaker, for others they are ok with it so long as he largely keeps it out of the campaign. Scherer explains using an interesting metaphor - Evangelicals are like Coke, Mormons are like Pepsi, and they need to team up to defeat Starbucks, i.e. secular and evil America. Many Mormons abstain from caffeinated drinks entirely, incidentally.

Those that do oppose the Romney campaign have an interesting argument; by electing him president they legitimize Mormonism, which, as a false religion, will lead more people to hell.
Keller, the televangelist, remained convinced that a Mormon president will lead to more lost souls. And his fury is no longer just directed at Romney. He calls those Christian leaders who support Romney "Judases" and clowns. "They all come back and say, we're looking for the best president. He's the commander in chief, not the pastor in chief, blah blah blah," Keller said. "What they have done is, they have totally dismissed the fact that this guy's influence is going to lead people to hell."
At any rate, I think Romney has an uphill climb in a number of ways.

The other article is an an interview with Cass Sunstein, who thinks that the internet is encouraging us to congregate with people of like minds. Liberals will hang out with liberals; conservatives will hang out with conservatives, and nobody will have their views challenged. I think there's a point to be made here, but I think he's a little too centrist here.
Liberals are sometimes defined as people who can't take their own side in an argument. I actually don't think there's a difference, though. I would say that there are many liberals who think that, in the last few elections, to vote for a Republican presidential candidate is just mindless, that there's no rational reason that people would vote Republican. If liberals are thinking that, there's probably a problem. I think many liberals think that to vote for Bush, some part of their brain is on fire and the rest of it isn't functioning, or that they've been fooled in some way, or that they're not paying attention. So I think that a lot of liberals are in an echo chamber where they share a set of views, some of which are probably wrong.
Obviously there is an element of truth in this; but and this is a big but, Conservative ideologues tolerance for different ideas is still much much less than that of Liberals. Take Rush Limbaugh, for example. He's made a mint off of telling conservatives that they are right and allowing no differing positions; and he hasn't needed the internet to do it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Joe Biden

Well Biden's comments on Free Trade came on a page about jobs. Apparently Biden wants to support the American Worker at the international trade bargaining table.
Joe Biden believes that US trade negotiations must protect American workers by insisting on basic labor and environmental standards. That’s why he opposed CAFTA and fast track authority for President Bush. He will continue to fight for better labor and environmental standards in trade agreements and will oppose new trade agreements that don’t meet high standards.
Well sounds familiar but obviously not a bad idea at all.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - John Edwards

It Takes a Seven Nation Army to Hold Us Back!

Sorry - just swept away by the music. Anyway John Edwards has quite a long and detailed section on Trade, which is nice. It does tie into one of his campaign themes, though, which is Two Americas. Our trade polices enrich one America while hurting the other. So he proposes "Smart Trade."
Today, John Edwards proposed "smart trade" policies: insisting on pro-worker provisions in new deals, holding trade partners to their commitments, investing more in dislocated workers and communities, and ensuring that imports are safe. He believes that the U.S. should not enter any new trade deals that do not meet these tests.
Makes a lot of sense; Trade seems to be one of Edward's strengths.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Chris Dodd

Dodd's commentary on Free Trade comes in a section entitled Economic Opportunity which makes sense, more or less. He's in favor of enforcing trade laws.
Enforce Trade Laws at Home and Abroad. Chris Dodd will insist that every trade agreement America enters into is fair, by ensuring that workers in those countries are guaranteed fair wages, fair working conditions, and strong environmental protections. Above all, Dodd will insist U.S. trading partners open their markets to American products.
Seems pretty bland, actually. More platitudes than a demonstration of genuine understanding about this issue.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Barack Obama

Obama doesn't seem to have a solid position on Free Trade yet; but he did make some revealing comments that were reported at his website.
"We're not going to draw a moat around the United States' economy. If we do that, then China is still trading, India is still going to be trading," said Obama, who voted against the recent Central American Free Trade Agreement and opposes the current pending trade deal with South Korea.

"I think that NAFTA and CAFTA did not reflect the interests of American workers but reflected the interests of the stock owners on Wall Street, because they did not contain the sorts of labor provisions and environmental provisions that should have been embedded and should have been enforceable in those agreements. ... You got the stock market sky-high. Corporate profits going up, but those workers who get laid off as a consequence of displacement, there's some sort of weak retraining program that trains people for jobs that don't exist in communities all across the country."
So he seems more in the reform of NAFTA and other trade program, rather than the elimination of said programs. Which makes sense.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson's stance on Free Trade is hard to find - it's near the end of his detailed economic plan which has some other bits worth commenting on (hopefully we will get back around to them). At any rate he does reference Fair Trade, and he makes a certain amount of sense.
We need to move beyond tired debates of 'free trade' versus 'protectionism,' and instead roll up our sleeves and pursue better trade agreements: agreements which enhance rather than erode U.S. jobs, and which are socially just, environmentally responsible, and politically sustainable.

When trade agreements ignore labor, social, and environmental objectives, they can lead to a 'race to the bottom,' as companies displace production to countries with weak labor and environmental protections. But if trade agreements truly prioritize social and environmental objectives, they can raise living standards and expand opportunities for both American and foreign workers.

Our trade agreements must expand markets for U.S. exports and encourage job-producing investment. But they can and must do more than merely expand markets. They also must improve governance worldwide, so that strong and enforceable rules protect the rights of workers, indigenous communities, and the global commons. Such rules must be central and integral to all future bilateral and multi-lateral trade agreements.
That makes a lot of sense, particularly the bit about moving beyond "free-trade" and "protectionism." Frankly they are poles that don't add anything to the discussion; most people are in the middle. We need trade, but we need to negotiate better in how we set it up.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Mike Gravel

Well Mike Gravel is also not a fan of Free Trade - and, like Kucinich, calls for an end to NAFTA. His issues page simply refers to NAFTA under the illegal immigration section (which he describes as being caused by NAFTA). However, he has a PDF that goes into more detail.
Any discussion of immigration must include NAFTA and the concept of “free trade.” The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been a disaster for the working class of both the U.S. and Mexico and a boon to the international corporate interests. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that over 1 million U.S. jobs were lost as a result of NAFTA, a third of them manufacturing jobs. In Mexico, 1.3 million farm workers lost their jobs in the same period. This has led to a wave of immigrants looking for work in the U.S. Reforming unfair trade policies spawned by measures like NAFTA will stimulate job growth on both sides of the border.
I'm not sure what to make of this; does he intend to fix NAFTA? End it? Or does he simply want to go on record as understanding that NAFTA is bad?

The latter, I guess.

Candidate Review - Fair Trade - Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton doesn't highlight her position on the economy - rather she talks about helping support the middle class, which I suppose is a bit better way to frame it. But she does have a Modern Progressive Vision - which does address free trade; both the problems and a solution.
Globalization and economic policy dynamics are generating rising income inequality. In 2005, all income gains went to the top 10% of households, while the bottom 90% saw their income decline – despite the fact that worker productivity has increased for six years. In 1970, the top 1% of households held roughly 9% of our nation’s income. In 2005, they held 22% -- the highest level since 1929.

. . . Eliminating incentives for American companies to ship jobs and profits overseas. Specifically, the tax code rewards companies for offshoring jobs by enabling them to defer paying American taxes for as long as they hold the money abroad. The current policy puts companies that create jobs in America at a competitive disadvantage. We must pursue tax policies that reward the decision to create jobs in America, rather than abroad.
I'm usually pretty down on Clinton, but this isn't bad at all. She has a good diagnosis and a good treatment.

That said, there are other incentives besides tax breaks that induce American Corporations to move over seas. Such as the opportunity to pay their workers considerably less, and the relaxed environmental standards. I'd obviously like to see her plan address those issues as well.