Monday, December 31, 2007

These Beats were made for Walking

Well this is a fine kettle of fish. I got an I-Pod for Christmas and now it turns out that ripping copies of CDs I have legally purchased for personal use might be illegal. This is based on a story from the Washington Post.
Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."
The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings. "I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."
Part of me wonders if this story is being written to be a bit more alarming than it actually is; was this Howell character sharing his music files? Or was he simply possessing them?

This is an interesting question, because I'm ripping a CD now.

I will note that looking over the RIAA website, there are some unusual caveats.
If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you’re stealing. You’re breaking the law, and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages.
Then under a heading Easy Ways to Break the Law (which is nice, since I would hate to have to go out of my way to break the law), there's this interesting phrase, italics mine.
You make an MP3 copy of a song because the CD you bought expressly permits you to do so. But then you put your MP3 copy on the Internet, using a file-sharing network, so that millions of other people can download it.
I am tempted to go through my CDs and see how many expressly permit me to rip it. I would be surprised if many do. Finally there's this bit.
Beyond that, there’s no legal "right" to copy the copyrighted music on a CD onto a CD-R. However, burning a copy of CD onto a CD-R, or transferring a copy onto your computer hard drive or your portable music player, won’t usually raise concerns . . .

Say, would record companies make more money or less money if they required you to both buy the physical product (CD) and the digital product (from I-Tunes) for example? Seems like they would make more money.

Anyway I don't know if this is posturing or something more. I suppose we'll find out.

This story got written in the place of my Friday Beats year wrap up praising The Chemical Brothers "We Are the Night." It's a kick ass album; listen to it.

This isn't the best song on the album; but it is a great video.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Rudy Giuliani

Well Giuliani's statement is brief, and you have to go to his news page to get it.
“The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a tragic event for Pakistan and for democracy in Pakistan. Her murderers must be brought to justice and Pakistan must continue the path back to democracy and the rule of law. Her death is a reminder that terrorism anywhere — whether in New York, London, Tel-Aviv or Rawalpindi — is an enemy of freedom. We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.”
Frankly I got the same problem with this that I had with Mitt Romney's it feels like this tragedy is just another opportunity to push the war on terror agenda.

That said, at least Giuliani doesn't feel the need to take a shot at Democrats.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Ron Paul

Ron Paul has found the time to put out a statement in support of state efforts to pass a "Right to Life" amendment yesterday, but so far does not seem to have responded to the death of Madame Bhutto.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney sees this tragedy as a chance to remind you all that Islamic Terrorism is very scary and Democrats don't take it seriously (although a few may be getting the message).
Well, I think what's happened in Pakistan has made more clear in the mind of the American public and perhaps some of our Democratic colleagues as well that what we're dealing with in the global war on terror, this war against violent Jihadism, is not just an effort in Iraq or even extended to Afghanistan, but this is a worldwide effort on the part of violent Jihadists who have as the their intent the collapse of all nations, Islamic as well as Western. The attacks are not just on Americans and American leaders or even Western leaders, it does include leaders within the world of Islam. There have been death threats and death attacks against General Musharraf. There have been attacks and threats of attack against Madam Bhutto before, so we're facing a world which sees a dramatic growth in violent Jihad, and we're going to have to gather together the civilized nations of the world to help strengthen the ability of moderate, modern Islamic people and leaders for them to reject the extreme, because ultimately, only Muslims are going to be able to reject violent radical Jihadism.
Kind of despicable, Mr. Romney.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Mike Huckabee

You have to go to Huckabees newsroom page to find his statement on the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto. He also labels it "Presidential Candidate Mike Huckabee Issues Statement On Breaking News From Pakistan" which fails to mention Benazir Bhutto - not sure about that. Anyway, here's the statement.
“I am deeply troubled by the news accounts this morning of Pakistani opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination in a suicide attack. This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation.

”The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.”
Yeah I don't know about this. Seems cold and impersonal compared to many of the other statements; and I don't like the tone of American Exceptionalism at the end. Yeah America is great, but this doesn't seem like the right moment to rub that in.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Mike Gravel

Gravel's people are also apparently having a mellow Christmas - or working so hard they can't update the website. At any rate no mention of the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - John McCain

John McCain also has a link to his statement on the death of Benazir Bhutto on his website. Thank you Senator McCain.
"I was deeply saddened today to learn about the death of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. My deepest condolences go out to the family and supporters of this remarkable woman, an individual who paid the ultimate price for her embrace of moderation and rejection of extremism.

"The death of Benazir Bhutto underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism.

. . . "In my numerous visits to Pakistan - to Islamabad, to Peshawar, even to the tribal areas of Waziristan - I have seen first hand the many challenges that face the political leadership there, challenges so graphically portrayed by today's tragedy. There are, in Pakistan, brave individuals who seek to lead their country away from extremism and instability and into the light of a better day. America, I believe, must do all we can to support them."
Not bad. A little bit of a resume there at the end, but in general it's ok. Or as much as you can expect, anyway; he still believes in a war in terror, and I don't know how much it would take for Pakistan to be a third front in this war (after Afghanistan and Iraq).

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - John Edwards

You know it's not my fault all the Republican Candidates chose to have names in the lower part of the alphabet.

Well Edward's website links to his statement on the front page, which is, as mentioned previously, convenient.
"I want to say a word about the terrible tragedy that occurred in Pakistan earlier today. It's a terrible thing for the process of democratization in Pakistan, it's a terrible thing for the stability of Pakistan, and it's very important that we, America, and those of us who are running for president of the United States, be a strengthening and calming influence in these kinds of times.

. . . "I spoke to President Musharraf a few minutes ago and I urged him to continue the democratization process because of how important it is to the Pakistani people and how important it is to his country. I also urged him to allow international investigators into Pakistan so that, for the rest of the world, there can be credibility in determining what the facts were and what actually occurred.

"It's very important for the Pakistani people, for the stability of the world and for America's interests, that the democratization process continue, and I believe this is the time for America to be a strong and calming influence in a difficult and unstable environment."
I'm not sure about America's ability, under President Bush, to be a calming influence. But who knows.

Still this is pretty good all things considered.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Joe Biden

I like Joe Biden's statement as well, although you have to go to his newsroom page to find it.
"This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.

"Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

"I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

"This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

"I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

"The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”
I usually like to cut statements down to 4 paragraphs or less, but in this case I'm leaving the whole thing. It's that good. The only thing I wonder about is Biden encouraging Musharraf to increase security; seems a bit like gilding the lily.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Hillary Clinton

Clinton's statement on the Benazir Bhutto assassination is linked to right on her front page, which is nice. Makes it easy to find.
I am profoundly saddened and outraged by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a leader of tremendous political and personal courage. I came to know Mrs. Bhutto over many years, during her tenures as Prime Minister and during her years in exile. Mrs. Bhutto's concern for her country, and her family, propelled her to risk her life on behalf of the Pakistani people. She returned to Pakistan to fight for democracy despite threats and previous attempts on her life and now she has made the ultimate sacrifice. Her death is a tragedy for her country and a terrible reminder of the work that remains to bring peace, stability, and hope to regions of the globe too often paralyzed by fear, hatred, and violence.

Let us pray that her legacy will be a brighter, more hopeful future for the people she loved and the country she served. My family and I extend our condolences and deepest sympathies to the victims and their families and to the people of Pakistan.
Nicely done. I like this one; although Clinton could look into what this tragic event means for Pakistan.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Fred Thompson

Well Fred Thompson has chosen to highlight remarks he made on Fox News.
It is a tragedy, of course. It reminds us that things can happen in faraway places of the world that can affect the United States. I think this should be of great concern to us. It is almost a perfect storm in a very bad sense because two forces are operating against each other that are both desirable. One is democracy: they were making progress in that regard in that country. Former prime minister Bhutto was an important part of that process. But the other is stability. Pakistan is a nuclear country, and we cannot afford to let nukes fall into the hands of dangerous Muslim radicals. We are hoping those two things can be balanced out. We can see the continued progress toward a democratic society but also maintain stability in the country, which seems to be very much in doubt right now.
Now that's an interesting statement; because the next question is, "Well what if you can only get one? Which would you pick senator." (The Fox guy didn't ask this question of course). Because the answer would probably be "Well Democracy would be nice but we can't afford to let the bomb get in unstable hands."

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Duncan Hunter

I can't find any statement by Duncan Hunter on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Hopefully his campaign staff are having a nice restful holiday season.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Dennis Kucinich

I can't find anything on the Benazir Bhutto assassination on the Kucinich page; I know he did make a statement. But the website seems like it hasn't been updated since before the holidays.

I guess I understand that this is the holiday season; it still seems to me that your campaign needs to be ready to respond when news happens.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Chris Dodd

Well Chris Dodd has a banner at the top of his website, leading to his statement on the Bhutto assassination. That's nice to see.
"Today's news from Pakistan is both shocking and saddening. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have had the opportunity to travel to Pakistan and come to know Former Prime Minister Bhutto very well over the years. I spoke to her personally several weeks ago and have stayed in close contact with her since. She was a respected leader who played an important part in moving Pakistan toward democracy.

"As we recognize the loss of a leader today, we must also recognize the implication of today's tragedy to the security of the region and to that of the United States.

"At this critical time we must do everything in our power to help Pakistan continue the path toward democracy and full elections. Our first priority must be to ensure stability in this critical nuclear state.

"The United States should also stand ready to provide assistance in investigating this heinous act. And as Pakistan perpetrators to justice, it should also demonstrate that it will not allow such violence to derail democracy and proceed with elections in a timely manner."
I like this. I know I just took Richardson to task for interfering in Pakistani Affairs, but he was calling for Musharraf to step down. That's different than saying elections already planned should go forward.

Presumably you've already guessed I'm doing these in alphabetical order; it's not my fault a lot of Democrats have first names that come early in the alphabet.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson's statement isn't very realistic, unfortunately.
Benazir Bhutto was a courageous woman. Her death, and the deaths of so many of her supporters, is more than just a tragedy. It is a testament to the will of the Pakistani people to see democracy restored. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died today.

. . . We must use our diplomatic leverage and force the enemies of democracy to yield: President Bush should press Musharraf to step aside, and a broad-based coalition government, consisting of all the democratic parties, should be formed immediately. Until this happens, we should suspend military aid to the Pakistani government. Free and fair elections must also be held as soon as possible.

It is in the interests of the US that there be a democratic Pakistan that relentlessly hunts down terrorists. Musharraf has failed, and his attempts to cling to power are destabilizing his country. He must go.
That's just not going to happen. First of all Pakistan is a necessary ally in the war in Iraq and Bush isn't going to chuck Musharraf over board. Secondly though, why do we get the right to tell Pakistan they have to change Presidents? How would we react if Europe told us we had to dump President Bush (and given the way things are going, I'd be surprised if they hadn't considered it)? I don't like President Bush but I don't think I'd be keen on that.

And I doubt the Pakistanis would be either.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Barack Obama

On Obama's campaign Blog (done by campaign workers, not Obama) there's a reference to a public event in Des Moines, where Obama commented on the assassination.
We mourn her loss...We stand for democracy and...we will be steadfast in our desire to end the kind of terrorist acts that have blighted not just Pakistan but other parts of the world.
He also released a public statement.
I am shocked and saddened by the death of Benazir Bhutto in this terrorist atrocity. She was a respected and resilient advocate for the democratic aspirations of the Pakistani people. We join with them in mourning her loss, and stand with them in their quest for democracy and against the terrorists who threaten the common security of the world.
Pretty much the right tone, although it doesn't address what this death really means.

Candidate Review - Assassination of Benazir Bhutto - Alan Keyes

Going to run things a bit differently today. First of all we are going to do all 9 Republicans and all 8 Democrats in one day. Hence these will be a lot shorter than normal. Secondly we are going to be reviewing reactions to a recent event; as recorded on their campaign websites. Joan Walsh, at Salon, has a review of candidates public statements, which is also worth looking at.

So Alan Keyes, what say you?


Well you can't respond to every issue that comes down the pick - particularly when your most recent news as 10 days ago.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Friday Beats - Various Artists, "I'm Not There"

I think I would recommend the movie over the soundtrack, but seeing the movie might well make you want to get the soundtrack. For the most part (I'd say 65-70%) the movie uses the original Bob Dylan versions of these songs. The exceptions are really quite striking though, including Jim Jones and Calexico's version of "Going to Acapulco" played over a small western town funeral (a town where everybody celebrates Halloween all the time and also one in which the zoo animals have just been set free). Or the laid back cover of Tombstone Blues by Richie Havens (in the movie it incorporates Marcus Carl Franklin, and he acquits himself well, but the album version is better).

But most of the sound track is covers of Bob Dylan Songs that didn't appear in the movie. Cover albums are a mixed bag by their very nature, but this one connects more often than it misses, and there are at a dozen really great tracks here. Including Eddie Vedder and the Million Dollar Bashers version of "All Along the Watchtower," the aforementioned "Going to Acapulco" and "Tombstone Blues," "Fourth Time Around" by Yo La Tengo, "Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)" by Willie Nelson, "Just like a Woman" by Charlotte Gainsbourg (who also acts in the movie), "Wicked Messenger" by The Black Keyes, and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" by Ramblin' Jack Elliot. It's just a great album.

Yeah there are some clunkers, but even the clunkers aren't hideous misfires, just dull compared to the more lively tracks. So if you like Dylan's music at all, check it out.

Here is a live version of "Going to Acapulco." The sound quality isn't great, but it's still pretty good.

Friday Beats - LCD Soundsystem, "Sounds of Silver"

This is sort of my best of the year feature. Not top ten, because I doubt I'll get that far, but just a few albums I think were really good this year. Add to this list the Stars "In Our Bedroom After the War," which I covered earlier. Great album.

Anyway this was a kick ass dance record. LCD Soundsystem's first album was brilliant, but this is better - the songs are tighter and the flow is better. There's not a clunker among them and there are several high points - the Thrash of "North American Scum" and the flowing joy of "All My Friends." And it's an album; the parts are great and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

And it has one of the bests lyrics of the year. "Sound of silver talk to me / makes you want to feel like a teenager / until you remember the feelings of / a real life emotion of teenager / then you think again" Yep.

Here's the video to All My Friends

Be back later - hopefully with more adjectives.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Picking a Fight

I've written on the war on Christmas for a few years now, which is why I chose to forgo this time around (well that and the crazy way they are handling primaries this time around required me to start pretty early). But todays article from Bill Murchison underlines why this issue exists; it exists because some Christians want to fight.
Rather, on the authority of those same Gospel accounts, and that of Paul -- he was here among us to establish direct human link with the Almighty God who had made heaven and earth?

Yes, Dawkins, we hear you. Made what?! Heaven and earth, I believe I said. Not for the Dawkinses, such a non-scientific assertion of non-scientific premises.
I gather there haven't been as many anti Christmas acts this year, if you are reduced to raging against a book you don't happen to like. But there it is - it's not about any actual prejudice and persecution because there isn't any to speak of. It's about making a statement and pretending like you are persecuted for making that statement so as to dignify your statement. Murchinson's pro-Christmas stance hasn't hurt him any. And I'd 99.9999% of American's Christians have suffered not one whit for their Christmas celebrations.

But admitting that kind of blows the game, doesn't it?

Candidate Review - The Environment - Rudy Giuliani

Hey all.

I do feel kind of bad making you wait nearly a week to get this final piece of the electoral puzzle; but here we go.

Like many Republicans Rudy is more concerned with energy independence than he is the Environment.
Every potential solution must be pursued – from nuclear power to increased energy exploration to more aggressive investment in alternative energy sources. I believe that America can achieve energy independence through a national strategy that emphasizes diversification, innovation, and conservation.
Anyway he is in favor of clean coal which frankly tells me all I need to know. Clean coal is like saying gentle rape. The two concepts don't really belong together.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Candidate Review - The Environment - Mike Huckabee

Following some of his compatriots, Mike Huckabee has more of an energy page than an environmental page. Basically he wants us to get a lot more energy.
We have to explore, we have to conserve, and we have to pursue all avenues of alternative energy: nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass. Some will come from our farms and some will come from our laboratories. Dwindling supplies and increasing demand from newly-industrialized countries of fossil fuels are driving up prices. These price increases will facilitate innovation and the opportunity for independence. We will remove red tape that slows innovation. We will set aside a federal research and development budget that will be matched by the private sector to seek the best new products in alternative fuels. Our free market will sort out what makes the most sense economically and will reward consumer preferences.
Well it sure doesn't sound like protecting the environment is a priority does it? I guess it's something he'd like to do so long as it doesn't get in his way towards energy independence.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Duncan Hunter

I can't find much about Duncan Hunters stance on the environment. Apparently he does favor an "environment of less taxation and less governmental regulation." Don't think that counts.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Alan Keyes

Alan Keyes is no fan of environmentalism, apparently. He is a big fan of property rights.
Today, disruption of the right of property is threatened additionally by extreme environmental values that place greater importance on the so-called "rights" of animals, trees, and streams than on the legitimate and essential needs of mankind — extreme notions that increasingly strip human beings of normal and reasonable economic opportunity. I support responsible human stewardship of God's creation, but I also whole-heartedly seek to include in that stewardship conscientious and vigilant respect for the fundamental human right of property.
Streams rights? I think this response should disqualify Keyes from becoming president; because even if you disagree with the Environmentalists, they aren't fighting for Stream's rights.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Candidate Review - The Environment - John McCain

Here's a popular phrase from McCain's environmental policy - "common sense stewardship." That means you want to protect the environment, but not enough to annoy big business.
John McCain believes that America's economic and environmental interests are not mutually exclusive, but rather inextricably linked. Our economic prospects depend greatly upon the sustainable use of ample and unspoiled natural resources. A clean and healthy environment is well served by a strong economy. History shows that poverty is a poor steward.

As John McCain said, "Americans solve problems. We don't run from them." He believes that ignoring the problem reflects a "liberal live for today" attitude unworthy of our great country, and poses a serious and unacceptable threat to our environment, our economy, and U.S. national security.
Funny how ignoring environmental problems reflects a "liberal live for today" attitude; particularly since it is the liberals who are actually making this an issue.

At any rate I actually think McCain is somewhat serious about protecting the environment; but I also think he's not actually going to do anything.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Ron Paul

I like Ron Paul in some ways. He is at least a libertarian, and pretty consistent. And his environmental plan is libertarian as well.
The key to sound environmental policy is respect for private property rights. The strict enforcement of property rights corrects environmental wrongs while increasing the cost of polluting.

In a free market, no one is allowed to pollute his neighbor's land, air, or water. If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter, and government should protect that right. After paying damages, the polluter's production and sale costs rise, making it unprofitable to continue doing business the same way. Currently, preemptive regulations and pay-to-pollute schemes favor those wealthy enough to perform the regulatory tap dance, while those who own the polluted land rarely receive a quick or just resolution to their problems.
There's some value to this; I do like understanding that wanting corporations to clean up their environmental damage isn't some kind of hippy dippy plan; it's simple justice.

That said, this plan can't do anything about larger economic problems, particularly things like climate change.

Candidate Review -The Environment - Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has an energy page, which calls for more drilling and seeking out of energy.
"The United States must become energy independent. This does not mean no longer importing or using oil. It means making sure that our nation's future will always be in our hands. Our decisions and destiny cannot be bound to the whims of oil-producing states."
He does favor trying to find new supplies and building more nuclear plants, but I think he's made it clear that he's no threat to the oil companies. He specifically favors opening ANWR.

He doesn't seem to have a page on protecting the environment. Somehow that doesn't surprise me.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Tom Tancredo

As far as I know, Tom Tancredo hasn't quit the race yet, so I'll let you know that he doesn't, on his issues page, address energy or the environment. However there is a connection between environmental damage and Immigration, as you might expect.
First, all immigration explodes U.S. population by 100, 200, 300 million and more, which forces this nation toward a billion people by the end of this century. It will prove our greatest calamity as we outstrip our ability to water, feed and house ourselves. Unbelievable environmental dilemmas await future generations. We face a horrific energy crisis that will prove brutal to all of us.
Yeah it isn't our polluting ways - it's the immigrants.


Anyway he is probably dropping out soon.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson doesn't have an environment issues tab (all of his issues are on the same page, hidden under tabs), but he does have an "Energy Security" page. A nose by any other name.
The energy challenges our nation faces today are real and significant. Our dependence on foreign sources of oil threatens our national security and puts our economic prosperity at risk. America must rise to the challenge and take the steps necessary to become more energy independent before this becomes a crisis. No one solution will solve the energy challenges we face; all ideas must be on the table. Greater energy security will enhance our ability to pursue our foreign policy and national security objectives. Increasing our energy independence and investing in alternative energy sources will also produce a healthier environment. And while we don’t know for certain how or why climate change is occurring, it makes sense to take reasonable steps to reduce CO2 emissions without harming our economy.
I guess you can get a sense of Thompsons priorities, and cleaning up the environment ain't one of them.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Well I'm off to shoot myself in the head

I made the mistake of looking at one of Ann Coulter's recent columns.
The October 2007 Vanity Fair had a long, gaseous article explaining how the pro-Bush bias of the mainstream media cost Al Gore the 2000 presidential election. (For you kids out there too young to remember, Al Gore is a vaguely gay, morbidly obese former Clinton administration official who raised campaign cash from Buddhist monks and claimed he invented the Internet.)
The general thrust of her article is that we liberals should leave Joe McCarthy alone; because anybody critical of McCarthy must be a stinking liberal.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Candidate Review - The Environment - Hillary Clinton

Well Clinton also combines both her energy and environmental pages. I approve, but she then comments on how her plan will create five million new jobs.
Hillary has a bold and comprehensive plan to address America's energy and environmental challenges that will establish a green, efficient economy and create as many as five million new jobs.

Centered on a cap and trade system for carbon emissions, stronger energy and auto efficiency standards and a significant increase in green research funding, Hillary's plan will reduce America's reliance on foreign oil and address the looming climate crisis.
This strikes me as a little like pandering. It's no secret that America's labor unions are not as keen on environmental as other members of Clinton's potential coalition. I am also concerned that Clinton may be promising more than she can deliver.

Still there is a lot to like here.

Candidate Review - The Environment - John Edwards

John Edward combines both his environment and energy policy pages, a move that, as noted above, I like. They are really the same issue when you get right down to it. He basically calls on us as a nation to approach this problem with the same sort of seriousness we faced earlier challenges.
"Our generation must be the one that says, 'we must halt global warming,'" said Edwards. "If we don't act now, it will be too late. Our generation must be the one that says 'yes' to alternative, renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil. Our generation must be the one that accepts responsibility for conserving natural resources and demands the tools to do it. And our generation must be the one that builds the New Energy Economy. It won't be easy, but it is time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war."
I agree with Edwards here, but think it's going to be a hard sell. The oil and gas industry seems to have a thousand champions doing their best to confuse the issue and assure that the American people are unwilling to make the adjustments necessary to address this issue.

Still Edwards seems to ahve a pretty good handle on this issue.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Barack Obama

One nice thing about this issue is that all of the Democrats seem aware of it. I suspect we will get a different range of responses over in Republican land. Anyway Obama is taking Environmental issues pretty seriously.
The issue of climate change is one that we ignore at our own peril. There may still be disputes about exactly how much is naturally occurring, but what we can be scientifically certain of is that our continued use of fossil fuels is pushing us to a point of no return. And unless we free ourselves from a dependence on these fossil fuels and chart a new course on energy in this country, we are condemning future generations to global catastrophe.
His plan, as is normal for Obama, is quite detailed. There's a lot to like in it, and it shows that he's really grappled with this issue.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Bill Richardson

I am going to note once again that I like how Richardson has set up his page; it appears that he wrote it as opposed to having a campaign drone do it for him. I don't know if he actually did; but it's still nice.

His environment page is mostly focused on conservation, or more focused on conservation than on climate change. I suppose that comes from his background, New Mexico isn't quite as polluted as, say, Washington D.C. He does address air pollution though.
We must fund federal programs and states to identify violations of the Clean Air Act by industrial facilities. We should also expand the Clean Air Act to include protections from old and dirty power plants and provide incentives for the use of cleaner fuels. We must stop attempts by the Bush administration to weaken controls on toxic mercury pollution and I strongly oppose Bush Administration policies allowing old coal plants to renovate without upgrading pollution controls.
Over all, his plan sounds pretty good, but non-specific.

Candidate Review - The Environment- Joe Biden

Joe Biden's page on climate change starts with an impassioned plea to take this issue serious.
The science is clear, and the physical consequences of global warming are obvious in shrinking polar ice caps, retreating glaciers, stronger storms, and changing rainfall patterns. We can expect rising sea levels, spreading diseases, and unpredictable, abrupt climate shifts. Even the richest nations will face huge costs coping with this challenge. The poorest nations will be hit the worst and will have the fewest resources with which to respond. This is a recipe for global resource wars, and even great resentment of our wealth by those less fortunate – a new world disorder. We must act.
He's not wrong. If the science holds true it will be poorer nations who suffer for our lack of effort in dealing with this problem. He focuses on dealing with our energy needs in a responsible fashion, although he is also in favor of Biofuels, which I'm not sold on personally.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Chris Dodd

Chris Dodd is showing some leadership by the way. Stupid Enough Unexplanation salutes his fight against telecom amnesty. This isn't the first time he's shown leadership skills above any of the front runners, and I think he deserves a closer look.

So let's look at his plan on the environment. After some pablum on how much people love his plan, we get his three big goals.
* Reduce 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The Dodd Plan will begin to turn back the clock on global climate change, safeguard our environment, and protect American health.
* Enhance national security by eliminating our dependence on Middle East oil by 2015. We must end the cycle of fighting terrorists on one hand while financing their supporters on the other.
* Strengthen our economy and create jobs. From our university labs to our farms, from manufacturing to our technology entrepreneurs, the Dodd Plan will create jobs across the economic spectrum.
I should note, that this is his energy plan, but he wisely conflates the two. The bulk of damage we cause to the environment seems to come from our pursuit of energy. Since we need energy, we need an environmental plan that address our need for energy.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel is pretty basic on this issue; but honestly he doesn't have an extensive issues page anyway.
Senator Gravel believes that global climate change is a matter of national security and survivability of the planet. As President, he will act swiftly to reduce America's carbon footprint in the world by initiating legislation to tax carbon at the source and cap carbon emissions. he will also initiate a massive scientific effort, integrating the world's scientific and engineering community, to end energy dependence on oil and integrate the world's scientific community in this task.
Sounds nice; not sure if it would actually work. For one thing I'm not sure congress will go along with taxing carbon at the source, and they would kind of have to.

Candidate Review - The Environment - Dennis Kucinich

I went to Democratic Underground for the suggestion of my latest topic. Several were suggested, but this seemed like a big area I had neglected, so I picked this one.

Kucinich is very concerned about the environment, as you might expect.
As the world population soars towards eight billion, critical issues of survival face all of us. Living on a planet of finite resources means that human life can not be sustained indefinitely without careful thought and compassion coupled with political courage.
I think this is a bit of a misstep. I don't know how Americans look at the exploding population, but I know they are largely opposed to any attempts to curtail such population growth.

Kucinich also makes the following statement.
As President, I will lead the way in protecting our oceans, rivers and rural environments. I will also lead in fighting for clean, affordable and accessible drinking water. I have worked hand-in-hand with the environmental movement on many battles, from thwarting a nuclear waste dump to boosting organics to demanding labels on genetically-engineered products. A clean environment, a sustainable economy, and an intact ozone layer are not luxuries, but necessities for our planet's future.
The one advantage Kucinich has is that he has been a committed liberal for a long time, so has a record. This is something Edwards and Obama lack; and Clinton's record is, at best, a mixed bag for liberals.

At any rate, I have little doubt that were Kucinch to be elected, he would be very strong on the environment; I don't know how successful he would be at getting Congress to go along with him, however.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Fred Thompson

I know I should have done this Friday - the Holidays are keeping me busier than I like. But fortunately I should be able to send out my packages tomorrow and then all will be good.

Anyway here we go on Fred Thompson and Immigration.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Throughout our history, legal immigrants have brought energy, ideas, strength, and diversity to our country, our economy, and our culture. This must continue. But in the post-9/11 world, immigration is more of a national security issue. A government that cannot secure its borders and determine who may enter and who may not, abrogates a fundamental responsibility. I am committed to:

* Securing our borders and enforcing immigration laws. Amnesty is not an option and the toleration of “sanctuary cities” must end.
* Reviewing our immigration laws and policies to ensure they advance our national interests.
* Uniting Americans by welcoming legal immigrants willing to learn English, assimilate into our communities, and become productive citizens.
Pretty bog standard - although he is willing to throw the sop to legal immigrants, unlike some of his candidates.

Fred Thompson has turned out to be a lot duller than anybody anticipated.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Tom Tancredo

This is Tancredo's signature issue, and hence, we can skip by it pretty quick.
Illegal aliens threaten our economy and undermine our culture. While our brave soldiers risk their lives to protect us overseas, our political elites lack the courage to defend us at home. I am 100% opposed to amnesty. As President, I will secure our borders so illegal aliens do not come, and I will eliminate benefits and job prospects so they do not stay.
He has a whole pdf if you want to read more detail - but truthfully - it's the end of the day and I'm done. I'll have to do Thompson tomorrow.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Mitt Romney

Well Mitt Romney does through a bit of a sop to legal immigration, but he's really down on illegal immigration, taking particular aim at sanctuary cities.
They said there's no way to stop them at the border, unless you close down the magnets. And the magnets are sanctuary cities and having employers sign people up that have come here illegally to do work here. You have to end sanctuary cities. You have to cut back on federal funding to cities that continue to call themselves sanctuary cities and welcome people in, as New York has done. And you have to say to employers that hire people illegally, 'That's also going to be sanctioned.' This is the way we're going to have to finally end it.
I do have to say I see some difference between a city saying that they aren't going to prosecute illegal immigrants too badly and employers saying we are going to exploit the hell out of people who can't really defend themselves. But Romney knows which is going to piss off the Republican base more.

He's also in favor of a national I.D. incorporating biometrics. And he's in favor of recruiting skilled immigrants. He doesn't really address the question of "Where are we going to get guys to pick tangerines for a fraction of what we would have to pay American workers?"

But none of the Republicans are addressing that one, I suppose.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Ron Paul

Ron Paul is seen as the no-hope liberal in the race for the Republican nomination because he opposes the war. On a lot of issues, however, he's pretty conservative, and Immigration is no exception.

Basically he wants to make to build the fence (his terminology is "Physically secure our borders and coastlines" and I can't think of what else that could refer to), and he wants to ensure no amnesty.
No amnesty. Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.
Ron Paul doesn't even really have the sop about rewarding Immigrants who come here legally. No, when it comes to Immigration, you can't really confuse Paul for a Democrat.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - John McCain

John McCain has been tarred on this issue pretty regularly, but let's see how he does.

Well he doesn't want to make America the world's largest gated community (I'm certain I ripped that line off from someone but can't remember who at the moment). In fact some of these phrases sound like red flags. Or they would sound like red flags to our buddies on the right. John McCain wants a plan that will
Recognize the importance of a flexible labor market to keep employers in business and our economy on top. It should provide skilled Americans and immigrants with opportunity. Our education system should ensure skills for our younger workers, and our retraining and assistance programs for displaced workers must be modernized so they can pursue those opportunities

. . . Recognize that America will always be that "shining city upon a hill," a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism.
Huh? What about the fear of being colonized? Does McCain want us to be colonized?

McCain doesn't have much of a chance at this point, and his views on Iraq are intolerable, but at least he has a few good bones in his body, I guess.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Alan Keyes

One think I like about Alan Keyes is that all of his website is written as his point of view, as if he had written it himself. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that he had written it all himself. Makes for a nice change.

Anyway he's not keen on illegal immigration, as you might expect. He wants to prevent what he calls colonization - by which he means the scary prospect that America might not be dominated by White Males.

Worth noting here that Keyes is black.
Until our political leaders put in place the tools and forces needed to control our borders, responsible and moral Americans should oppose any measures that would signal our acceptance of the de facto colonization of our country.

President Bush's guest-worker proposal and the Senate's amnesty bill are such measures. They may serve short-sighted business interests intent on cheapening the cost of labor in our economy, and they may serve the corrupt interests of Mexican and other foreign elites seeking to relieve the pressure created by their own policies of greedy exploitation, but they do not serve the common good. Serving the common good demands policies that give preference in immigration not just to workers seeking jobs and money, but to those who seek liberty and the responsibilities of citizenship.

Let me add that it is incongruous that in the midst of the struggle we are now waging against the international terror network--a struggle that has taken various forms, including, we are told, the effort we are making on behalf of self-government and liberty in Iraq--I think it's incongruous that we should be putting forth such a maximal effort of sending our men and women over there to risk their lives and spill their blood, and meanwhile we are being told that we don't have the right to defend the integrity of the identity and the borders and the self-government of our own people.
Well that's that. Still, Keyes is long on emotion here, and not as long on how he will protect us from the brown menace.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Duncan Hunter

Duncan Hunter has a lot to say on Illegal Immigration. He also wants to build a wall, and he's very keen on stopping amnesty.
America has one of the most generous immigration policies in the world. It is unacceptable that we allow millions of people to sneak in the back door of our country when the front door is available. We have tried amnesty and it does not work. We must enforce and, as necessary, tighten our immigration laws and secure our border–it is a matter of national security.
I'm not sure about us having one of the most generous immigration policies in the world. That might be more Republican "America is the Bestest" rhetoric.

Anyway he proposes denying citizenship to any candidate who doesn't have one parent who is a citizen (no more just being born here). He also wants an employee registration system, so that employers don't accidentally hire illegal aliens (although paying them a third of what they pay American employees might have been a tip off).

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee has a 9 point plan to stop Illegal Immigration. He's going to build the wall, increase border patrol, prevent amnesty, enforce the law on employers, establish an economic border (which means passing the Fair Tax, which Immigrants won't like), empower local authorities, ensure document security, discourage dual citizenship (not exactly sure why this is a big problem), modernize the process of legal immigration (the sop for the Hispanic voter (but it's not much of one, honestly)).

Pretty bog standard for Republicans, really. And not really quotable.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Rudy Giuliani

Well I suspect that most of the Republicans will have long and detailed ideas on how to deal with the "menace" of illegal immigration. Giuliani puts out his principles at the top.
"Real immigration reform must put security first because border security and homeland security are inseparable in the Terrorists' War on Us. The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect our citizens by controlling America's borders, while ending illegal immigration and identifying every non-citizen in our nation. We must restore integrity, accountability and the rule of law to our immigration system to regain the faith of the American people."
He supports building a wall between Mexico and the United States, favors a national I.D. (with biometrics, so it can't be faked), and Americanize immigrants - i.e. make them learn English. No mention of what to do for those illegals who are already here, although he is in favor of deporting any immigrant who commits a felony.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Romney's Miscue

Two responses to Romneys speech on faith from last week, the first from Townhall.
In a December 6-9 Gallup poll, nearly half of the respondents endorsed an even stronger anti-atheist statement, saying they would refuse to vote for "a generally well-qualified person" of their own party "who happened to be an atheist." The corresponding number for a Mormon candidate was 17 percent, about the same as before Romney's speech.

Romney tried to build on this advantage, wrapping together all religions, except for "the religion of secularism," in a warm, fuzzy package. "Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me," he said. "We do not insist on a single strain of religion; rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith."

Americans who have never "knelt in prayer" clearly should not bother auditioning for the "symphony of faith." Romney conspicuously failed to address the question of whether they also are excluded from his circle of friends and allies.
That's by Jacob Sullum, who brings up a pretty obvious question, one which Romney should answer. I mean if he believes that Freedom Requires Religion, what does he think of the non-believer?

The second is from Slactivist, who you should be reading regularly anyway.
Romney's gambit here comes straight from the school yard. As a Mormon, he is an outsider, getting picked on by the bullies of the religious right. Instead of standing up to the bullies, he sucks up to them, trying to prove his loyalty and win their approval by acting like them and picking on the other outcasts and outsiders. "You guys want to pretend that 'secular' and 'profane' are synonyms? I can do that. Look, I'll even beat up this atheist kid for you. See? I'm just like you guys!"

This desperate, canine obsequiousness infuses his sniveling speech with fearfulness and flopsweat. Romney is pleading, begging to be allowed to serve as the bullies' toady. As far as that goes, he has probably succeeded. Eager-to-please toadies can come in handy, so the bullies will probably be willing to accept him in that capacity.

But as useful as they may sometimes be, toadies are never liked, respected or admired by the bullies. Nobody likes or respects or admires an unprincipled coward. And the characteristics of a successful toady don't fit with anybody's notion of the characteristics of a potential president. A toady can't get elected president (the best he can hope for is a Connecticut senate seat).
I don't think he's wrong.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Barack Obama

Well Obama doesn't make the same mistake Kucinich does - rather, he has a page on what he wants to do on Illegal Immigration. Looks very detailed. I supposed I'd better read it.

I know this sounds dismissive of Obama - I think he's a really good candidate with a lot of good ideas. But I spent the day reading these candidates positions and I'm tired and he's the last one (which is why I try to rotate around so I'm not always ending on the same person).

Anyway Obama seems to have a lot of the right ideas. He wants to strengthen border security while being compassionate to those who are already here. He doesn't want to break up families, but he does want to crack down on businesses that employ illegals. The quote at the top is a good summary.
"In approaching immigration reform, I believe that we must enact tough, practical reforms. . . . We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace. . . . But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America. . . . Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should. . . . The time to fix our broken immigration system is now. It is critical that as we embark on this enormous venture to update our immigration system, it is fully reflective of the powerful tradition of immigration in this country and fully reflective of our values and ideals."
This makes a lot of sense. And I think Obama is about as solid on this issue as anybody.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Dennis Kucinich

This is weird. I am looking over Dennis Kucinich's site and I am having a hard time finding out his position on Illegal Immigration. I was particularly befuddled at his section on Race/Ethnicity Issues, in which he addresses African Americans, Native Americans, Arab Americans, and Irish Americans (?) but has nothing to say to Latino Americans. Anyway I'm off to look at Google.

Well the first hit is his assertion that you can't solve illegal immigration without solving NAFTA.
Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich told audiences in California and Oregon yesterday that the United States would not be able to resolve its economic and immigration issues until it resolves its trade policies, and he renewed his promise that his first act in office will be to cancel the United States’ participation in NAFTA and the WTO.
Well that's something at any rate. And most of the links here seem to refer back to this speech. I'm not sure that repealing NAFTA and ending our participation in the WTO is the panacea he thinks it is.

Really this is surprising to me - Kucinich is supposed to be a policy wonk, and really he normally is. I don't know why he would miss this issue.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - John Edwards

Well let's take a gander at Edwards - his Immigration policy is on a page intended for Latino Americans.
Our immigration system needs a fundamental overhaul. Our economy is harmed by an underground economy that features a large and unprotected labor force. And our values are violated by a system that keeps families apart and forces people to live in the shadows, vulnerable to abuse. The first step is to control our borders and stop illegal trafficking. At the same time, it is unrealistic to think that we can deport more than 12 million people. Edwards believes we need to give people here the opportunity to pay a fine and learn English to earn American citizenship.

Edwards will end the backlog of background checks for people who are already in this country and are applying to become lawful permanent residents and, eventually, citizens. Our immigration policies should bring families together, not keep them apart. Edwards believes family reunification is an important value that should be preserved in our immigration laws.
Well not bad, but lacking on detail. I'm not sure exactly you resolve the conflict between the need to preserve families and the need to enforce the laws, and I'm not sure Edwards knows either.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Chris Dodd

Dodd doesn't have a page dedicated to Immigration, and it's hard to tease out his position on Immigration because his website allows comments and there are plenty who want to push him this way or that on Immigration. He does have a statement on the failure of the Comprehensive Immigration bill, earlier this year.
"I am gravely disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform has again been put off, and at the tenor with which the debate was conducted. The failure of this bill was in part due to the divisiveness that has been sewed into the American political fabric over the last six years. We need to restore leadership that can bring people together to get things done."
That is more about partisanship than immigration, I suppose.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel's statement on Immigration is pretty bare bones, but at least he has one.
While Senator Gravel supports protecting our borders, he also advocates a guest worker program and naturalization procedures that fairly bring immigrants into legal status. He would also address the root cause of illegal immigration: NAFTA.
I don't know about that last line; but kicking NAFTA is very popular among populists in both parties.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Joe Biden

Joe Biden doesn't have a section on Illegal Immigration. He did have this to say when the Comprehensive Immigration Plan broke down in June.
Our immigration system is broken and we have an obligation to work on it until we fix it. The immigration bill isn’t perfect, but it’s an important step forward. To be honest, there are many things I don’t like about it such as the temporary worker program and a green card system that overemphasizes wealth and devalues family ties. But we owe it to the people we serve to work through our differences and ultimately resolve this problem. That’s why I voted to keep working on the bill – this issue is too important to just quit on.
Fair enough, and it gives an idea of where he is on Illegal Immigration. But I think he's calculated that this isn't an issue he is going to win a lot of points on.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson is, as you might expect, pretty strong on Illegal Immigration. He's Latino and he's the governor of a border state. So he's coming at this with a little experience.
As the Governor of a border state I deal with the effects of immigration, legal and illegal, every day. The federal government has not done enough to solve the problem. In 2005 violent crime, drugs, and crime were out of control along New Mexico's border with Mexico. I took action, declaring a state of emergency along the border, making $1.75 million available to local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols and add personnel. As a result, arrests are up, crime is down, and the flow of undocumented immigrants has slowed. The New Mexico border town of Village of Columbus, for example, saw an 80 percent reduction in crime.

Building a fence will not increase security, just as attempting to deport 12 million illegal immigrants is not feasible or reasonable. I believe a realistic immigration reform plan must address the problem from all sides -- securing the border, penalizing employers for knowingly hiring illegal workers, offering a tough but reasonable path to legalization, engaging Mexico in the reform process, and improving our current immigration quota system.
I'd like to be snarky hear, but really this is the right tone to take. We need to approach this problem sensibly, without pie in the sky promises about magical fences that will keep everybody out. And this sounds like a good, balanced approach.

Of course it's not going to play in Republicanland, but we'll get to their proposals in due course.

Candidate Review - Illegal Immigration - Hillary Clinton

After doing a subject last week that was strong for Dems and weak for Republicans, let's switch it around this week. Illegal Immigration is a complex issue, but it's clear that Republican's call for tougher immigration laws and fences is resonating with the American people a bit. Plus it will be good to give Tom Tancredo his moment in the sun.

Hillary Clinton's plan seems somewhat akin to the comprehensive Immigration bill that failed to pass last year.
Hillary has consistently called for comprehensive immigration reform that respects our immigrant heritage and honors the rule of law. She believes comprehensive reform must have as essential ingredients a strengthening of our borders, greater cross-cooperation with our neighbors, strict but fair enforcement of our laws, federal assistance to our state and local governments, strict penalties for those who exploit undocumented workers, and a path to earned legal status for those who are here, working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law, and willing to meet a high bar.
Sounds pretty balanced; with a good combination of, well, respecting both reality and the rule of law.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - John McCain

It would be hard for John McCain to ignore the issue of campaign finance reform, I suppose. His solution is pretty standard for the Republicans actually, although expressed more emphatically.
As John McCain has said, "Americans believe that political representation is measured on a sliding scale. The more you give the more effectively you can petition your government." It is no coincidence that the most influential lobbyists with the greatest access in the nation's Capitol are also the most prolific political fundraisers, and that incumbents attract money in far greater volumes than most challengers.

Most Americans understand that competitive elections in a free country require money. Since campaigns require spending funds to communicate with voters, they know we can never take money completely out of politics, nor should we. Americans have a right to support the candidates and the parties they endorse, including financially if they so choose.

But what most Americans worry about profoundly is corporations or individuals with huge checks seeking the undue influence on lawmakers that such largesse is intended to purchase. That is why John McCain has fought to enforce long-standing prohibitions on corporate and union contributions to federal political parties, for sensible donation limits, disclosure of how candidates and campaigns are funded, and the diligent enforcement of these common sense rules that promote maximum public participation in the political process and limit opportunities for corruption.

John McCain understands that in America the people are sovereign, and deserve a political process worthy of the sacrifices that have been made by so many to keep us free and proud. As President, John McCain will see to it that the institutions of self-government are respected pillars of democracy, not commodities to be bought, bartered, or abused.
In other words, he's aware of the issue, but he doesn't favor much more than bandaids. Still even proscribing band-aids is enough to get him in trouble with the Republican Base.

I will say after a week of reviewing these candidates, I still think public financing of elections, mandatory paper trails, and redistricting to make races competitive are all good and necessary ideas.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Ron Paul

Here is Ron Paul's only reference to Campaign Finance Reform.
Those collecting contributions through group activity may be unwittingly running afoul of complex campaign finance regulations or may be deceptively collecting money for other purposes.
No references to Electoral Reform or Voting Machines. Guess Ron Paul isn't interested in this issue.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Fred Thompson

Fred Thompson would also like to point out that Romney has supported campaign finance reform in the past. Of course Thompson voted for McCain Feingold, so he can't pretend to be exactly clean on this issue. Which would explain why he doesn't really address it.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Rudy Giuliani

Well Giuliani thinks that Romney is a lot like Hillary Clinton. That's dirty pool from what I hear. Apparently Romney and Hillary CLinton agree that campaign finance is an issue that out to be addressed - well Giuliani doesn't feel that way. He's in favor of ignoring the issue, to judge by his issues page. The only reason to refer to Campaign Finance is to bash Mitt Romney.

In a bizarre turn of events, one page (the one referenced above) claims that Romney is in favor of McCain Fiengold (or at least things like that). A month later, Giuliani's staff put out a page attacking Romney for being excessively negative, i.e. by criticizing McCain Fiengold. So it really doesn't matter what opinion Romney has on Campaign Finance - either way you should support Giuliani.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Mitt Romney

One good thing about Mitt Romney; he's very predictable. He knows what the right positions on the issues are, and, by gum, he takes them! On campaign finance, the answer is "McCain Fiengold Bad, Public Disclosure Good."
Repeal McCain-Feingold. Governor Romney believes that McCain-Feingold should be repealed because it restricts our First Amendment rights. He believes we should enact reforms that promote transparency and disclosure, preserve grassroots activism and protect the ability to criticize or endorse current officeholders and candidates.

Restore The Free Speech Rights Of The American People. Political speech is at the heart of the First Amendment. The American people must be allowed to advocate for their candidates and their positions without the burdensome limitations of McCain-Feingold.

. . . Support Transparency And Disclosure. McCain- Feingold has driven money into secret corners and given more power to hidden special interests. Governor Romney believes we must have more transparency and disclosure in the process, rather than more restrictions and censorship of political speech.
I don't know exactly how this would work; how hard is now to find out who's donating to political campaigns? Doesn't seem that hard. And one of the problems he's referencing, indirect donations, wouldn't be solved by repealing McCain Fiengold. At any rate, like Keyes, his big issue is preserving the influence of big business over our politicians.

Full public funding of campaigns seems like the better bet.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Tom Tancredo

Let's start with a relatively good joke by Conan O'Brien, as quoted by Tom Trancredo in one of his speeches.
The other night Conan O’Brien announced that Hillary Clinton had raised $36 million dollars, Barak Obama raised $25 million, and Tom Tancredo had raised two children…

He is right. I have raised two children, both of whom I am mighty proud-and they are raising five grandsons. It doesn’t get better than that.

But what Conan is saying is that it is far more important to have raised money than children--- or anything else for that matter-- if you are running for President. I don’t believe that. I won't believe it-because if that is true - corporate America has won--and the good people of this great nation have lost.
That's not bad; but let's see if Tancredo has any solution to the problem of Presidents needing too much money to run for President.

Nope - none that I can find. He is opposed to illegal aliens voting, but that appears to be about it. And he's upset that the moneyed interests that support Republicans and Democrats aren't in favor of getting serious about illegal immigration (well serious as Tancredo defines it, which is very serious and possibly lethal).

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Alan Keyes

Keyes does have a section on Campaign Finance Reform; he's not a fan of McCain Fiengold, and feels that people should be allowed to donate whatever they want to support the candidates. That said, he does have a few caveats.
The first principle is that there will be no "dollar" vote without a ballot vote. Only people who can walk into the voting booth and cast a vote for a candidate should be able to make a contribution to his campaign. This means no corporate contributions, and no union contributions, except from unions truly acting on the authority of members freely associating and intending to make a contribution. There must be no financial contributions whatsoever from any entities that are not actual, breathing voters.

The second principle is that when anyone casts a "dollar" vote, it should be publicized immediately. The whole world should know who is giving how much, and to whom, so that the voters can enforce the result.
Well that's a bit more thoughtful than Duncan Hunter, anyway. But I'm still not sold, mainly because Keyes' priority is to protect the right of the wealthy to donate, not to protect the people from the machinations of the wealthy.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Duncan Hunter

I should tell you how I am doing this, since I am probably going to say several times today "Candidate X doesn't address this issue." Here's the score. I first go to their website and look on their issues page for something that looks likely. I might scan the recent speeches as well. If the website has a search function I will use that with the following three terms "Electoral Reform," "Voting Machines," "Campaign Finance." If that doesn't pan out, or the website doesn't have it's own search engine, I go to Google Advanced and do a similar search in the domain.

I did all that with Duncan Hunter; he apparently has no opinion on Electoral Reform.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Mike Huckabee

Vertical Politics. I don't like the sound of it - because it makes me think of a hierarchical system - people at the top running what happens down below. But when Mike Huckabee uses the term, that's not what he means.
Everywhere I go on the campaign trail, I meet voters with a real thirst for a healthy discussion of the issues. Ultimately, people don't care whether an issue comes from the left or the right. What they want to talk about are ideas that lift America up and make us better. It's what I call "Vertical Politics" and it is why we felt it was so important to set a "Vertical Day" aside to focus on the issues.

One of the goals of Vertical Day, is to give you the ability to promote our campaign and my positions on the issues within your extended network of friends, family members and co-workers.
Hmmmm. So Vertical day is a day for people of all political creeds to get together and support Mike Huckabee? You know people say that Huckabee is an optimistic guy; I guess they are right.

Beyond that, however, unable to find comments on Campaign Finance Reform, Voting Machines or Electoral Reform. A few of his supporters take shots at McCain-Fiengold but other than that not much.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Beats - The Beautiful South, "Blue is the Colour"

This is kind of a different one, because Beautiful South aren't as well known stateside. I love them, but they aren't big hit-makers. So while I am going to celebrate "Blue is the Colour" I'd also like to say that all of their albums are good - particularly "Quench," "0898" and "Miaow." You wouldn't be amiss grabbing "Gold" their greatest hits collection - looks like it grabs a lot of great tracks.

And he's a world-wide traveller
he's not like me or you
But he comes in mighty regular
for one who's passing through

Anyway, "Blue is the Colour" was the Beautiful South's second opportunity to grab a United States audience. They had released three albums ("Welcome to the Beautiful South," "Choke," "0898") that had been released in both the UK and the US. They hadn't gone well, so their fourth "Miaow" was not released Stateside. Then came "Carry on Up the Charts," a greatest hits collection, which became the most popular CD ever in the UK. So they got a second chance to win over the United States.

Imagine my wish for a future that cannot hold my wish

"Blue is the Colour" starts out "Don't Marry Her (Fuck Me) a sing I find trite, but it immediately picks up. "Mirror," "The Sound of North America," "Have Fun," "Liars Bar," "Rotterdam or Anywhere," "One God," "Alone" all have great tunes and the wry intelligent lyrics I have come to expect from this band.

The sound of North America
isn't Christians quietly praying
It's the sound of shuffling feet
that don't know where they're going

It's not a happy album, all told. The world is made up off plastic happy people (see "One God" and "Rotterdam") and those who think and see the world as it is, but who are just as trapped in it. Anyway you look at it the world is a pretty cold place. This is the Beautiful South's blues album, and while there is always a dark track or two, ("Woman in the Wall" for example), they balance it with a few more upbeat tracks.

Have fun
And if you can't have fun
Have someone else's fun
'Cause someone sure had mine
They came in
now they're having a whale of a time

Here's a video for "Liar's Bar" but it's not one from the band. It's fan creation, but it's not bad. Anyway check out the Beautiful South.

Friday Beats - Dave Stewart and the Spiritual Cowboys

Well their first album. Which they called "Dave Stewart and the Spiritual Cowboys." Just seems too long to type out, you know?

"You might think that He's a Hero / but like Nixon, Mao or Nero / all you know is that they came, then they went."

Anyway Dave Stewart was the musical half of Eurythmics. Or maybe musician half? His voice shows up on a scant few Eurythmics tracks, but mostly Annie Lennox sings (because she's a much stronger presence and, let's face it, an unearthly singer. Dave Stewart provides the blips and bleeps (early on) and plays guitar and writes the tunes (for the most part).

"Jukebox, electric, shining in your face / arms like a gorilla playing a stumbling bass"

This was his first, and, to my knowledge, best solo album. It is, as the name suggests, steeped in spiritual imagery, but it's a pretty worldly spirituality. It's also pretty varied musically. From more mellow tracks like "Heaven and Earth" and "This Little Town" to more aggressive tracks like "On Fire" and "Party Town"

"He said I'm finished with acting / makes you feel like Jesus or John Wayne."

The Singles were "Love Shines" and "Jack Talking," both of which are good enough, but work better on the album than by themselves. Distributors wildly over purchased this album, so for a time it was very very easy to get used. That said, I really like it, and think it's worth paying full price for (but if you get it used, may as well).

"It's funny how money can make you deaf as well as blind."

Anyway if you see it in the shops, pick it up. That's not likely unfortunately, but you never know.

Due to pretty horrible car troubles, I didn't post my Republican Candidate Reviews yesterday - will do it tomorrow. Also will be doing three Friday Beat columns today to catch up a little.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Barack Obama

Obama also has a page on electoral reform and voting rights. So all of the top tier candidates have a page on this, while a number of the secondary candidates don't. I wonder if it is just because this is seen as a secondary issue? The candidates with plenty of money can afford to put one together, but those who's operations are a little more shoe-string have to pick and choose which issues they want to address? Probably.

Anyway here is Obama on making sure everybody has access to the polls.
In recent elections we have seen political operatives purge voters from registration rolls for no legitimate reason, uneven distribution of polling equipment, and efforts to deceive voters about the time, location and rules of elections. A recent study discovered numerous organized efforts to intimidate and mislead voters and suppress voter turnout in minority communities. Few states have enacted clear and effective prohibitions against these abuses. Senator Obama introduced the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act to enable investigations into deceptive practices. It establishes significant harsh penalties for those who have engaged in fraud and it provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
That is a good and necessary step, but it doesn't address the concerns about voting fraud that occurs after the vote is cast - i.e. Diebold.

Obama also has a page on fixing government, but it doesn't go to the heart of the matter; campaign financing. I mean looking at the perks a Jack Abramoff might give you like free flights or hookers is important. And of course it makes for "sexy" news stories. But the real problem is that our legislatures have to spend much of their time raising funds to run for their office again.

Still I think he'll probably have one leg up over the Republicans.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has a full page on Electoral Reform as well. Nice to see. I find it mordantly funny that she describes herself as a champion of Electoral Reform, but let's see what her ideas are.
She has introduced the Count Every Vote Act to avoid repeating the problems of the past and ensure the integrity of our elections. Her bill:
* Provides a paper trail for every vote cast.
* Designates Election Day as a national holiday.
* Allows same-day registration.
* Minimizes long lines at the polls.
* Makes sure that impartial officials administer our elections.
* Allows the attorney general to bring suit against anyone using deceptive practices (like distributing flyers with incorrect information about voter eligibility) to keep voters from voting.
* Helps states invest in better voting technology.
Some of these sound pretty superficial (minimizing long lines at the polls?), while others are good ideas (making Election Day a national holiday and allowing same day registration).

On the other hand, I'd like to see Clinton talk about ensuring that better voting technology is secure. I'd also like to hear her talk about public financing of elections, which I think is pretty necessary.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - John Edwards

I have to admit I got a bit frustrated yesterday, but I'm back in the saddle today. It helps that Edwards heard of the need for electoral reform and actually addresses it.
America ought to set an example with the most trustworthy, inclusive and secure election system in the world. But recent elections have exposed major flaws, from insecure voting machines to laws and practices that disenfranchise citizens.
Right on both points. Edwards wants to protect American's votes (by insuring that machines use open source software and are audited regularly), expanding voting right and participation (by making election day registration a reality), and ending voter intimidation and suppression.

As for campaign finance reform, Edwards has an idea there too.
Edwards will create a new Grassroots Presidential Financing System to empower regular Americans in a potentially universal public financing system. It will match small donations under $100 by eight to one, making two $100 donations as valuable to a campaign as a single $1,000 donation. (Each $100 donation would receive an $800 match, making them worth $900 each. The $1,000 donation would also receive an $800 match and be worth $1,800.) Edwards will also reduce the maximum contribution from $2,300 to $1,000 per person to better reflect the incomes of most Americans and update the campaign spending limits to attract all candidates into the system.
I don't know - this is a lot like fixing health care by making sure everybody has insurance. It superficially addresses the problem, but doesn't really fix the underlying concerns. He has the right idea when it comes to congressional races (full public funding) but he should go whole hog and use full public funding for all races. Still, while I'm not keen on this idea, it is an idea, which is better than many other candidates can come up with.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Joe Biden

The only thing I can find on Campaign Finance Reform, Electoral Reform or Voting Machines at the Biden site is a statement suggesting that a judicial nominee was unacceptable because he believed Campaign Finance Reform to be unconstitutional. That is certainly a start.

It's possible I'm missing something.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Mike Gravel

I suspect that as bad as it is with the Democrats, Republicans aren't going to mention electoral reform at all (although I suppose Tancredo will mention his fear that illegal aliens might vote). We'll have to see.

Anyway Campaign Finance doesn't warrant a spot on Gravel's issues page, but he has talked about it.
When the senator was questioned on whether or not he supported campaign finance reform, he responded, “Is the Pope Catholic? All these candidates opting out of matching funds, I’m trying to opt in. All I need is $10,000 and I can win with that. Believe me.”

Senator Gravel wrapped up the appearance by promoting his plan for direct democracy; the National Initiative.

“People who acquire power are not want to share it with the people from whom they acquire it. You are theauthority on your life. For the first time in US history we can at last have a government that is not just for the people and of the people, but truly by the people.”
Recent evidence suggest that the Pope is, indeed, Catholic. Not sure what I think about a national initiative. He's right when he says the technology is there and wasn't before, but not sure about the wisdom of turning over certain questions to, well, everybody, and hoping for the best.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Chris Dodd

This might not have been the best subject as I am having to hunt in some cases. And I can't find anything relevant from Chris Dodd's webpage on Electoral Reform or voting machines. According to the West Branch (Iowa) Times, as reprinted at the Dodd campaign website, he is in favor of campaign finance reform.
He has proposed pay-as-you-go legislation to balance the federal budget, campaign finance reform and the patient’s bill of rights.
Presumably he doesn't think it's all that important an issue, or he hasn't gotten around to addressing it yet.

Ironically plugging in Campaign Finance into his websites searchn engine does bring up announcements of several possible internships with the campaign.

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Bill Richardson

On his Civil Rights page, Richardson talks about ensuring voting is handled well, and he appears to have some experience as well.
In 2006, Governor Richardson signed into law the landmark New Mexico Make Every Vote Count Act, that moves the state to a single paper ballot system, makes New Mexico's elections system more transparent and helps guarantee that every New Mexican's ballot will be counted.
Sounds good to me. But what does he have to say about campaign finance? He doesn't mention it on his issues page (that I could find) but he did release a press release on his signing a law having public financing for judicial candidates.
“With the signing of this bill, New Mexico becomes one of only two states in the country to have public financing for judicial races and fulfills a key recommendation of my Ethics Reform Task Force,” said Governor Bill Richardson. “Public financing helps assure that Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges can run for office without the pressures of partisan campaigning or fundraising, and complements other measures passed this session such as limits on gifts and higher standards of conduct for government officials.”
Sounds pretty good, but the record isn't as deep as I would like

Monday, December 03, 2007

Candidate Review - Electoral Reform - Dennis Kucinich

I am using this title to cover both campaign finance reform, as well as electronic voting, redistricting and other issues. Kucinich is in favor of fixing our electoral system, as you might expect.
A corrupt campaign finance system, coupled with vulnerable electronic voting have eroded America's confidence in our elections.
There it is - how many people really believe that their vote matters?

Kucinich does say the magic words - Complete Public Financing of Elections. Good idea! He also opposes electronic voting; and I'm not with him on this one. Or I see the same problem but don't proscribe the same solution.
We need real voting reform now. Throw out electronic voting machines, that Diebold technology election hacker's dream. Go to paper ballots, a paper trail. Make our election process honest again.
I would rather see us fix the electronic voting machines to provide a paper trail - in the same way that an ATM provides a paper trail.

Response to Comments

I have been planning this for some time now, but never got around to it till now.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post explaining why I think that Liberals are better than Conservatives. This engendered two pretty stupid responses.
Liberals are better than conservatives?!?!

Maybe when the sun rises in the west...

Liberals are liars, they have to be since facts ALWAYS undercut their stance, regardless of what the stance is...

Liberals believe in wealth redistribution, in other words THEFT...

Liberals are PARASITES, living off the productivity of others...

Liberals are clueless since who but the clueless believe in, "fair"?

Liberals don't believe in the Constitution and live in abysmal ignorance of Artile 1, Section 8 of the Constitution but are damn sure that LBJ's War on Poverty is part of the Constitution....
Not much to say in response to this one - I have to admit that I've never even heard of Artile 1. Course the author might have been referring to Article one.

Oh, and I have a job and am gainfully employed. I don't live off the productivity of others. And I'm not a liar.

But I wanted this up to respond to the second one.
No liberal version of Ann Coulter? How about Al Franken? Bill Mahr? Believe me, you have plenty vile spewing, personally attacking people on your side of the isle. Liberals don't see both sides, opening themselves up to all points of view. They only open themselves to views that they think are "open minded" and "tolerant". i.e. gay marriage, paying poor people for sitting on their asses, and throwing personal responsibility out the window.
Here's the difference. Ann Coulter's entire shtick is attacking Liberals just for being liberals. Kind of like commenter number one. Liberals are bad lazy evil people, stupid dumbasses. That's different than Al Franken or Bill Mahr taking shots at individuals. And, for the record, Bill Mahr isn't a liberal. I know he's in the media, so you think he is, but he's really not.

Attacking an individual may be base and mean (and we do have people on our side of the fence who do that) but it's not the same as attacking an entire political movement.