This Man Is A Pawn
On Friday, the food and drug commissioner, Lester M. Crawford, announced that he would indefinitely postpone a ruling on Plan B, the morning-after pill made by Barr Laboratories.
The law states that the Food and Drug Administration was required to reach a decision on Plan B eight months ago, last January.
But instead we've gotten nothing by delays.
The following is from the New York Times today.
Dr. Crawford said Friday that the F.D.A. would seek public comments over the next 60 days on whether it had the authority to approve Barr's application and whether it could enforce any regulation that would stop girls younger than 17 from buying the pill freely.
Here is my public comment Lester:
This pill, which does not abort a pregnancy, but simply stops one from happening, like the birth control pill does, should be available over the counter. In fact, it should have been last January.
UPDATE: Jason Chervokas writes in his excellent comment to this post:
What exactly is the compelling states interest in making sure that the fertilized eggs of 16 year old girls implant on uterine walls?
No sex without pregnancy, seems to be the goal.
Sure does Jason.
Gotta Have A Plan B
Plan B, commonly called the
morning-after pill, is a high dose of birth-control pills taken after
having unprotected sex. Scientists believe that the high dose of the
hormone progestin interferes with ovulation and also prevents implantation
of the embryo in the uterus if ovulation has already taken place. Two doses of the Plan B pill must be taken 12 hours
apart. If taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, the
treatment reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89%. The pills don't work if
a woman already is pregnant and won't induce abortion, unlike the
controversial RU-486 pill. Sounds great, right? Plan B prevents unwanted pregnancies before they start. But for some reason, the FDA doesn't want to make Plan B broadly available "over the counter". They are trying to figure out how to keep it out of the hands of 16 years olds even though they are fine with 17 year olds getting access to Plan B. Excuse me, but wouldn't it be smart to make the pill even more available to younger girls who are less able to handle the responsibilities of having and raising a kid? We are talking about prevention here, not abortion. According to the Wall Street Journal, which clearly is in touch with the kind of people who would oppose such a drug, "opponents of making the pill more readily
available argue that such access could lead some young teens to have
sex, leaving them more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases". This is the kind of ridiculous nonsense that makes me sick. Here we have an important scientific development, one that could save my kids and their friends from making a big mistake, and we've got nut jobs putting the brakes on it. I guess that's life in George W. Bush's America. Good thing we only have 3 more years left.
Plan B, commonly called the morning-after pill, is a high dose of birth-control pills taken after having unprotected sex. Scientists believe that the high dose of the hormone progestin interferes with ovulation and also prevents implantation of the embryo in the uterus if ovulation has already taken place.
Two doses of the Plan B pill must be taken 12 hours apart. If taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, the treatment reduces the risk of pregnancy by 89%. The pills don't work if a woman already is pregnant and won't induce abortion, unlike the controversial RU-486 pill.
Sounds great, right?
Plan B prevents unwanted pregnancies before they start.
But for some reason, the FDA doesn't want to make Plan B broadly available "over the counter".
They are trying to figure out how to keep it out of the hands of 16 years olds even though they are fine with 17 year olds getting access to Plan B.
Excuse me, but wouldn't it be smart to make the pill even more available to younger girls who are less able to handle the responsibilities of having and raising a kid?
We are talking about prevention here, not abortion.
According to the Wall Street Journal, which clearly is in touch with the kind of people who would oppose such a drug, "opponents of making the pill more readily
available argue that such access could lead some young teens to have
sex, leaving them more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases".
This is the kind of ridiculous nonsense that makes me sick.
Here we have an important scientific development, one that could save my kids and their friends from making a big mistake, and we've got nut jobs putting the brakes on it.
I guess that's life in George W. Bush's America.
Good thing we only have 3 more years left.
The Surprise We Expected
Ian McEwan has a very good Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times about yesterday's terrorist bombings in London.
I particularly liked this section of his piece:
In fact, now the disaster was upon us, it had an air of weary inevitability, and it looked familiar, as though it happened long ago. In the drizzle and dim light, the police lines, the emergency vehicles, the silent passers-by appeared as though in an old newsreel film in black and white. The news of the successful Olympic bid was more surprising than this. How could we have forgotten that this was always going to happen?
The mood on the streets was of numb acceptance, or strange calm. People obediently shuffled this way and that, directed round road blocks by a whole new citizens' army of "support" officials - like air raid wardens from the last war. A man in a suit pulled a fluorescent jacket out of his briefcase and began directing traffic with snappy expertise. A woman, with blood covering her face and neck, who had come from the Russell Square tube station, briskly refused offers of help and said she had to get to work. Groups gathered impassively in the road, among the gridlocked traffic, listening through open windows to car radios.
How could we have forgotten that this was always going to happen?
I rode the subways in NYC yesterday downtown, then back uptown, then out to Queens. They were teaming with police, but they aren't always teaming with police. Just in the wake of London, or Madrid, or some other terrorist attack.
I believe that slowly, but surely, we (meaning the civlized world) are accepting this as the new normal. Bombings will happen. People will die. But we will go on.
And when the terrorists realize that all their maiming, killing, bombing, and destruction is not doing anything, not even a little bit, to change our way of life, maybe then they'll realize the folly of their ways.
I am not going to change my routine one iota and haven't since 9/11 and I never will. It appears to me that most of the civilized world has decided to do the same.
Thank God There Are People Like This
Judith Miller promised that she'd keep her source's identity private and she's going to jail for it.
I totally respect what she is doing.
I don't really care if "national security" issues are at stake.
If you don't keep your sources secret, they won't talk.
And then what have we got?
Here are some quotes from the NY Times story on their own reporter:
Ms. Miller herself told the court that she would not reveal her source no matter how long they jailed her.
"If journalists cannot be trusted to guarantee confidentiality, then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press," she read from a statement as she stood before Judge Hogan. "The right of civil disobedience is based on personal conscience, it is fundamental to our system and it is honored throughout our history," she said before court officers led her away, looking shaken.
I am with her 100%. Thank god there are people like her in this world.
The swing vote on the court on so many issues is resigning.
Now the fun begins.
This is going to be a very nasty political summer.
What Price Freedom?
It took me almost a week, but I did get around to reading Michael Ignatieff's essay on Jefferson's dream of spreading democracy to the rest of the world and how its playing out in the world we all live in.
It's a good piece and lays out the historical context for the issues we are facing today in Iraq and beyond.
Cetainly all of you who commented passionately on my VC of the Week post this week should take the time to read this.
Ignatieff doesn't come out on either side of the debate and points out that America is having a hard time with the issue.
Let Her Speak
Tom Watson has been on a mission to create a groundswell of public outcry over Pakistan's attempt to silence Mukhtaran Bibi.
And he's getting results.
Over 100 bloggers have written about this story.
If you take the combined audience of those 100 blogs, I'd bet that millions of people have read about this story on blogs this week.
I don't have much to add to what's been written other than to say that I agree with Tom and support his efforts.
This is an important case that mixes human rights with womens rights. We live in a flat world now. We must care about how people are treated all over the world.
So I urge all of you to pay attention to this story and talk about it and blog about if that's what you do.
The Nuclear Blink
There is a reason that no nuclear bombs have been launched since the first ones were dropped at the end of WWII.
Nobody really wants to find out how nuclear war will go.
And so it was in the Senate this week. The Senate worked. We still have a government that can find the middle ground.
Jarvis calls for a "moderate revolution".
And Watson claims that First has lost and McCain is now the presumptive Republican nominee in 2008.
I am all for that.
If McCain had beat Bush in 2000, he'd have gotten my vote against Gore.
I'd love to see McCain in the White House.
He'd take the country back to a place it needs to go.
Cause and Effect
Here in NYC, Rudy Guiliani is a hero because he got crime under control through a combination of increases in police on the street and computer driven policing strategies. During his tenure as Mayor, from 1994 to 2002, crime rates in the city dropped by a huge amount leading to improved quality of life and an economic rebound.
Now Steven Levitt, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, has put forth a new theory on this massive reduction in crime that NYC and the rest of urban america has experienced in the past 10 years.
Levitt has done extensive research on the link between the legalization of abortion and the sweeping reduction in crime rates in urban america 15 to 20 years later. Levitt's research suggests a statisticly significant link between the legalization of abortion and the subsequent reduction in urban crime rates.
On the surface, this explanation makes so much sense that I have to wonder why nobody posited it until now. Unwanted, unloved, and uncared for children are so much more likely to turn to a life of crime than wanted, loved, and cared for children. And like it or not, legalized abortion has resulted in a lot less unwanted children over the past 20 years.
Clearly more research is needed to substantiate this link. But my gut says there is something to this analysis.
And I don't think the answer is to make abortion more prevalent in our society. But clearly criminalizing abortion isn't the answer either. I think we need to understand that unwanted children are not good for our society and we need a rational (ie secular) debate on this issue that leads to pragamatic solutions to the issue of unwanted children.
The Libertarian Party
Tom Evslin tracked back to me with his excellent follow up post on legalizing drugs.
In that post, he linked to The Libertarian Party's website.
So I've been aware of The Libertarian Party since I began to focus on politics as a teenager, but I never really paid any attention to them.
After spending some time on the website, I'd have to say that if they were a viable alternative, I'd have to take them pretty seriously.
I don't totally agree with their views on taxation and social security.
And I don't totally agree with their views on foriegn policy.
And I definitely don't agree with their position on guns.
But I believe that The Libertarians have got a lot of things right.
The Democrats should look their way in trying to figure out what a new Democratic party should look like.
The Gotham Gal Goes Global
At Bush and his cronies.
And this time its about his border crossing policies.
She wonders why we need to have a passport to go back and forth to Mexico and Canada.
She wonders why we don't do what they did in europe.
Create a uber nation and an uber currency, the amero. Why shouldn't we align with Mexico and Canada and get closer to them? (I used the word annex in an earlier version of this and upon reflection don't like that word).
Why do we need to put up walls. When our competitors are taking them down.
Good question Gotham Gal.
As an example of social pragmatism (and fiscal responsibility), I think the Democratic party ought to come out in favor of legalizing drugs.
One of my favorite blogs to read is the Becker Posner blog. It is co-written by Gary Becker, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and Richard Posner, a professor in the University of Chicago Law School. These two guys are really smart. And they cover a very interesting set of topics, with one new one each week.
A week and a half ago, they covered the "War on Drugs". There are four posts that you should read:
Becker's initial post on The Failure of the War on Drugs
Posner's reply to Becker's post where he essentially agrees with Becker and adds a legal framework for thinking about this issue.
Becker's reply to coments on his post.
Posner's reply to comments on his post.
These guys are a lot smarter about this stuff than I am. And they think drugs should be leglalized.
If Becker is right and the US is spending north of $100bn per year on a war that we are losing, we should try something else. If we legalized drugs and used tax policy and the law of price elasticity to regulate drug use in our society, we'd produce a huge new form of tax revenue for the state, local, and federal governments.
The net of all of this should be at least a couple hundred billion in less red ink per year and given where we are right now in terms of defecits, that's a big deal.
But the social benefits would massively outweigh the fiscal benefits. I believe we'd see less drug users, not more, I believe we'd improve the quality of life in our inner city neighborhoods, and I believe we'd stop channeling smart young black men into prisons so early in their life.
This is a classic example of where smart fiscal and social policy is being held hostage to "moral values". And its exactly the kind of issue where social pragmatism is a winning strategy.
Two Good Opinion Pieces
These are two former senators that I have always respected. They are smart and for the most part fairly centrist.
In his piece, Danforth states what everybody knows, that the Republican party has been taken over by the religious right. He says:
As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.
In Bradley's piece, he argues that the Democrats need a unifying strategy, vision, and mission. Bradley says:
A party based on charisma has no long-term impact. Think of our last charismatic leader, Bill Clinton. He was president for eight years. He was the first Democrat to be re-elected since Franklin Roosevelt. He was smart, skilled and possessed great energy. But what happened? At the end of his tenure in the most powerful office in the world, there were fewer Democratic governors, fewer Democratic senators, members of Congress and state legislators and a national party that was deep in debt. The president did well. The party did not. Charisma didn't translate into structure.
If Democrats are serious about preparing for the next election or the next election after that, some influential Democrats will have to resist entrusting their dreams to individual candidates and instead make a commitment to build a stable pyramid from the base up. It will take at least a decade's commitment, and it won't come cheap. But there really is no other choice.
I think the answer to Bradley's challenge to the Democrats lies in the very concerns that Danforth is artuculating for his party.
I believe Democrats need to stand for fiscal conservatism because balanced budgets help everyone and red ink only helps the rich who are lending the federal government the money to pay the bills.
And I believe that Democrats need to stand for social pragmatism because the average american does care about morality and values, but they are also realistic and pragmatic about how these values ought to be legislated. As an example, I think most americans want abortion to be available to women who choose to have one but they also want abortions to be rare and only used as a last resort. I believe most americans support the use of birth control. I believe most americans feel that gays should be treated fairly in our society. I believe most americans believe that stem cell research should be funded so that life saving drugs can be developed.
I think the Democrats need to become the party of the center as our country moves to the right. They need to be the party of sensible policies, not religious fundamentalism. That's a winning strategy.
The Nuclear Option
This coming Tuesday, Senator Frist, the senate majority leader, is likely to push the button and send the Senate into nuclear war.
The fight is over the attempt to eliminate the fillibuster as a tool to allow the minority party to derail judicial nominations they find offensive.
In the last term the Democrats fillibustered to block 10 out of Bush's 229 appointees. That doesn't seem like an abuse of the fillibuster tool to me.
Although I am left of center on most issues, I am a centrist at heart. I like compromise. I like middle of the road policies and people.
I believe that anything that forces a broader majority to agree on something is a good thing. Particularly something as important as judicial appointees.
The fact is that the fillibuster has been used for a very long time in the Senate, by both parties.
It is part of the culture of the Senate where compromise and collaboration across the aisles is important. And that is what makes the Senate so different from the House.
Senator Frist wants to eliminate that culture. He wants to turn the Senate into another House where majority rules, regardless of how slim that majority is.
In some ways, I am happy they are picking this fight. Because its another overreach by a party that thinks it has a massive mandate but in reality only got back in the white house by a few percentage points.
They are overplaying their hand just like Newt Gingrich overplayed his contract on america hand in his budget fight with Clinton which shut down the federal government and allowed Clinton to get re-elected with ease.
This time they are going to shut down the Senate. And I suspect the Democrats are going to hang tough on this one. What do they have to lose? They have already been marginalized by Bush and Frist and the rest of the Republicans. It's time to hang tough and play hardball.
I think the american public is going to side with the Democrats on this one. I don't think they are going to want to see the Senate throw away its culture, history, and tradition just because Bush and Frist want to ram a bunch of conservative judges down the throats of the American public.
This one is going to be interesting.
Why A Conservative Turns Liberal
Tom Evlsin posted an essay he wrote in 1979 as he was entering middle age and turning from a liberal to a conservative. He called it "Why A Liberal Turns Conservative". I won't paraphrase it here because it should be read in its entirety. It's a good piece, well thought out, and probably indicative of the movement of a generation of liberals to conservatives.
But I think Tom and his generation were not moved to the right by the aging experience, as he suggests, but by the formative experiences of his generation, which he outlines; the failure of the great society most notably the welfare system, the ravages of inflation brought on by lax monetary policy and the oil shock of the 70s, the failure of the Carter administration, and the crime wave that invaded our cities in the 60s and 70s.
I don't suspect that my generation is moving right in the same way as we age. For one thing, many of my generation started out in the conservative camp to begin with. We came of age with Reagan in the White House and the conservative movement was in full bloom. Tom's generation came of age in the 60s when liberalism was the popular way to think.
I am not sure if left and right are the correct words anymore either. The formative experiences of our generation have been the economic boom of the 90s built upon a balanced budget and a technology revolution, 9/11 and the arrival of terrorism in our country, and the dominance of "morality" and religious fundamentalism in our political system.
Where will all of this lead us? I doubt its further right. I also doubt its back to the failed liberalism that Tom's generation became so disillusioned with. My hope is we end up in the center, back to a democracy instead of a theocracy and back to fiscal prudence instead of red ink as far as the eye can see.
UPDATE: Jason Chervokas posts on why he's also becoming more liberal as he ages.
Back in January, around the time of the inauguration, I wrote a post where I talked about how all political movements have their peaks and valleys and they ultimately end with a big overreach.
I wondered in that post whether this current wave of republican conservatism that started with Nixon and is reaching its peak with Bush II, would end in an overreach on Social Security. While Bush looks like he's going to come up empty on that one, I don't think the general public is upset with Bush's Social Security plan. They just don't think Social Security needs to be changed (they are wrong - it is broken).
After talking to a bunch of people who are more sophisticated about politics than I am, it now seems to me that the overreach is more likely to come in the area of separation of church and state (or in this case the lack thereof). The religious right is the source of most of the republican conservative movement's base and strength and they are exercising their power more and more every day. This will ultimately backfire and cause their downfall.
I don't think the Schiavo matter is going to be the thing that does it. But its certainly getting people's attention. Jeff Jarvis has a great Easter morning post on this subject. And this comes from a religious man on his way to church.
One of my mentors in business used to say "beware too pious a man". Religion has its purpose in the world. It's a source of great comfort to many. It forms the foundations of many communities. It does enormous good in the world. But religion taken too far is also the source of most of the worst things in the world (terrorism, bigotry, hatred, strife).
So I say beware too pious a political party. We've got one and I am wary. And I believe many Americans are becoming wary of it too.
I hate orthodoxy. I don't like to be told what to believe, how to behave, what's right and what's wrong. I like to think for myself and make up my own rules.
So with that context I read Fernando Ferrer's comments this morning and had a knee jerk negative reaction. For those of you who live outside of the NY metro area, Fernando (Freddy) Ferrer is the leading democratic contender in this year's race for mayor in NYC. Freddy said:
"I want to earn your support because I do believe, Democrats, I do believe this is the year we take back City Hall. This is the year we send the message coast to coast: It starts here in New York City. Then we go to Albany, and then we take back the White House for Democrats, but most importantly for Democratic values."
The problem I have with Freddy's comments is that we have a person with Democratic values in City Hall right now. Except he's a Republican. I don't think electing Freddy Ferrer is the way to do anything good for the Democrats. I think getting Mike Bloomberg to convert to the party he really belongs in, and once was a member of, would be a much better thing for the Dems.
Labels suck. Liberal, progressive, conservative, right wing, republican, democrat. I hate them all. I prefer to look at the person and the policies. I believe that the national Republican party is on the wrong side of most issues and that is why I am a Democrat. But if they'd get on the right side of them, I'd be happy to call myself a Republican, as Mike did.
Fiscal conservatism and social pragmatism. That's my party affiliation. Mike Bloomberg is a mainstream politician in my book and he's getting my vote for sure. And I don't think it will have any impact on the Governor, Senate, or White House.
Said another way, if every Republican was like Mike Bloomberg and every Democrat was like Freddy Ferrer, I'd be a Republican.
A Step in the Right Direction
The Supreme Court yesterday put an end to the barbaric practice of executing people who comitted a capital crime when they were minors.
Jarvis quotes a blogger who says:
all the countries that until recently executed juveniles have since outlawed the practice, leaving the US the last remaining country in the world to practice this barbarism - behind Iran, China, Pakistan and other garden spots. (Interestingly, with Iran’s change in policy the entire “Axis of Evil” now shuns juvenile execution while the US - until yesterday - still practiced it.
The graphic below comes from the front page of today's New York Times.
The two things that jumped off that page to me were the fact that four of our supreme court justices support executing juvenile defenders including moderate Sandra Day O'Connor and the almost perfect correlation between the "red states" and the states who continue to kill children.
As you probably can tell, I am opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. I think its wrong, uncilivlized, and prone to mistakes. The latter point is the one that really clinches it for me - to execute anyone wrongly is such an enormous mistake that it makes the whole issue of capital punishment incredibly distasteful to me.
Kurt Andersen wrote one of the most prescient pieces I have seen on the challenges of leaning left. It ran in NY Magazine several weeks ago.
In the piece, Kurt argues that liberals have a terrible option; to root for Bush to succeed in Iraq or to root against the possibility that he might succeed. I have personally struggled with this terrible choice for the past three years. And with the end of the election, I am not struggling with it anymore. Bush won a second term and I hope he succeeds in Iraq. Success to me means a quick establishment of a democratically elected government that can keep the peace and allow the US to get out. That would be a huge political win for Bush, but it would also be a great outcome for the US and our troops who are in harms way right now.
I've been meaning to post on that piece for several weeks but have not gotten around to it.
Jeff and I had some fun arguing about issues in the weeks leading up to the election last fall. We agreed about most everything other than Iraq. And he voted, very reluctantly, for Kerry. Here are Jeff's politcal views:
: I voted for Bill Clinton, eagerly.
: I am dying to vote for Hillary Clinton.
: I vote Democratic in local races in my corner of New Jersey, when they have the guts to run.
: I am pro-choice.
: I opposed the Bush tax cuts.
: I am against school vouchers.
: I am for gay marriage and quit the Presbyterian Church over its bigotry against gays.
: I am for universal health care.
: I fight for free speech in America and elsewhere.
: I wrote a cover story for The Nation.
Guess what? I'd vote for Jeff if he ran for office. He's a left leaning guy.
The war in Iraq needs to be buried in the past. It's over as a politcal issue. The left lost that one. There are bigger battles to fight like fiscal responsibility, a sound social security system, a woman's right to choose, etc. That's where my left leaning politics are strongest and its where the majority of the country agrees with the Democrats.
I wrote several weeks ago that the left needs to focus on Social Pragmatism and Fiscal Conservatism. That's a winning proposition. Opposition to the war in Iraq is not.
Fiscal Conservatism and Social Pragmatism
I am hoping that the Democratic party is developing a new mindset around the shared concept of fiscal conservatism and social pragmatism.
Hillary Clinton's recent remarks to an pro-life group that reducing unwanted pregancies was a shared goal of the pro-life and anti-abortion movement was an example of just the kind of pragmatism that is required, and is desired by the average voter.
On the subject of fiscal conservatism, I think it should be the centerpiece of the new democratic agenda, led by a balanced budget, a social security reform plan that makes sense, and a flat tax.
Tom Watson has a great post up today on the flat tax and social security reform that is exactly what I am talking about. He quotes a guy named Tom K in this post who says:
I am against an absurdly complex tax code that taxes honesty more than any other quality, and rewards the obsessive pursuit of tax avoidance more than any other behavior.
I'd like to see no taxation for the working poor and possibly the lower middle class, and a flatter tax structure overall -- even entirely flat if possible (putting aside the fact that it will not kick in until, say, $40,000).
But far more importantly, I want to see a system that the average person has some reasonable prospect of understanding, and a system that does not lead to billions of dollar a year being spent finding and exploiting loopholes, which typically are available only to the very rich because the professional costs of taking advantage of them are prohibitive unless you're going to save tens of millions of dollars.
In short, our current system isn't really progressive; it taxes honest people, not rich people, disproportionately. Worse, it re-defines "honesty" downward: if you don't take advantage of any avoidance options that you can afford to exploit, you aren't being "honest" - just as people taking advantage of legal avoidance options aren't "dishonest." It makes a sucker of he who is not a schemer, and could be much fairer and simpler and, I would submit, more "progressive" with a flattening of rates.
I agree with Tom K and I would love to see the Democratic party take this issue and run with it.
I have a dream that Howard Dean will turn out to be a great Chairman of the DNC.
I did not and would not have supported him for the job given the liberal bias he took in his failed presidential campaign. And the way it ended for him clearly makes him damaged goods in the political world.
But the most dangerous opponent is a wounded and laughable opponent. Hell, the Miami Dolphins beat the likely Super Bowl champs this year.
Dean has two big things going for him in my mind;
1 – He gets the power of the Internet and its ability to be a grass roots organizing and fundraising vehicle. None of the current party leaders come close to his firsthand knowledge and experience in that regard.
2 – His background as a fiscal conservative. The Democrats must stake out the territory that the Repulicans have given up. That being fiscal conservatism. Dean gets that. He has balanced budgets and understands that revenues and expenses must be the same number.
In truth, the battle for DNC Chairman reminded me of all the national democratic races in recent years. I didn’t like any of the candidates. So while Dean is surely a risky choice, he may turn out to be the best choice. I sure hope so.
I wrote this post almost a week ago when it became apparent that Dean was going to win the Chairmanship of the DNC. But I decided to leave it in the "slush pile" as Seth Godin calls it.
Then Hector suggested that Howard Dean recruit me in his comment to my Silence Means (continued) post. Dean doesn't need to recruit me. I am already a committed progressive thinker. And so I decided to post this. I hope you like it Hector.
Silence Means ... (continued)
My silence until now on Bush's speech last night just means I didn't watch it.
I decided that helping my kids with their homework and blogging and doing email was a better use of my time than watching Bush tell us what I already know.
That freedom is his goal internationally and social security reform is his goal domestically. Plus he is opposed to stem cell research, gay marriage, and abortion.
I know all of that.
Like Jeff, I don't agree with him on stem cells, gay marriage, and abortion.
I think social security reform is a great idea if we learn from the lessons of Sweden, Britain, and Chile.
And I believe freedom throughout the world is a wonderful thing as long as it really happens. But I wonder why the US has to be the freedom police for the rest of the world.
It's good to hear that Air America is going to make it.
This is a small piece of what's needed to build a strong opposition to Republicanism/Bushism. But it's an important piece and I'm happy to see it succeeding.
It would be nice to say that I wish Bush well in his second term. But I don't.
I don't like or trust the man and the people who work with him. It's that simple.
When Bush makes an appeal for "unity" so that the country can move forward, I cringe because Bush and his team are never interested in compromise
And compromise is what's required for unity.
They don't want unity, they want capitulation.
For example, he just re-nominated ten nominees to the federal court who had already been deemed unfit to serve by the last Senate. That's not compromise.
That's an insult, a slap in the face, a taunt.
That's the way these guys work.
And so I on the day after his inaugural, I find myself hoping he fails to achieve his grand plans.
And I find myself resolved to do my part to help the opposition find the people, the money, and the message to fight back.
UPDATE: It looks like half the country agrees with me that Bush is no "uniter".
Reinventing Social Security (continued)
Since my friend Bob accused me of putting politics before principals, I'll go back to the practical side of the equation.
A big issue with "privatizing" social security, and one I've mentioned a couple times already, is what happens to the people who invest the money foolishly and end up with nothing, particularly since half of the money was contributed by their employers. That sounds like a really bad scenario to me.
Well, I am not alone in worrying about that. My friend Gordon Gould has an excellent post on this exact topic.
Gordon doesn't have any easy answers, probably because there aren't any, but he outlines the issue really well.
A commenter on one of my Social Security posts wonders why I seem so pleased that the "poisoned atmosphere" in Washington is going to make real Social security reform impossible when I am a stated fan of social security reform.
Well I have to admit that as much as I'd like to see Social security fixed, I might prefer to see Bush and his friends in Washington come up empty on this one.
All movements have their peaks and valleys.
The Democrats peaked in the 60s with Lyndon Johnson's Great Society and have been in decline ever since.
The Clinton years were more of an exception to that trend than any kind of reversal.
One could argue that the Democrats overreached in the 60s and went much farther than the general public was comfortable with and have been paying the price ever since.
The Republicans also blew it in the 20s when they created a "laissez faire" approach to business and life that resulted in the great depression.
The Republicans had a few moments like the Eisenhower years, but the Republican party was generally the minority party from the 1930s until the election of Richard Nixon in 1968.
That was the beginning of the rise of Republicanism that has marked the last 40 years. The rise was greatly strengthened by the Reagan years and is, in my opnion, reaching its peak in the administration of George W. Bush.
I like patterns and waves. I believe that the pendulum swings back and forth in regular frequencies.
And so, like the 40 year run that the Democrats had, ending with Great Society, the 40 year run that the Republicans have had may end with the overreach of the current Bush administration with its cowboy capitalism and cowboy imperialism.
And I think Social Security reform may well be the straw that breaks the camels back.
At least I hope so.
Reinventing Social Security (continued)
I blogged some thoughts on this topic in late November. My thinking on this subject hasn't changed at all since then. But news is starting to leak out on what exactly Bush and his friends in congress have in mind. So we have more information to talk about in the blog world, which is always a good thing.
My dad sent me an email this morning with his thoughts on the topic. I replied back with mine. Then he replied to my email with some more thoughts and ended by saying that we don't need to start a "running dialog" on the topic.
Well, maybe my dad and I don't need a running dialog on the topic since we tend to agree on what needs to be done. And he's a lifelong republican and I am a lifelong democrat. And one of the things we agree on is the lifelong republicans and democrats in congress are unlikely to reach agreement as easily as he and I did.
It seems to me that we do need to put the ponzi scheme we've had in place for 70 years to an end. Each generation should pay for their own retirement, not their parent's retirement.
It also seems to me that we must honor the "contract" we have in place with the existing beneficiaries and soon to be benificiaries to pay the benefits they were promised and worked for years to earn.
And finally, it seems to me that expecting the average social security taxpayer to know exactly the best way to invest in their own retirement is unrealistic. There needs to be some kind of system in place that safeguards the money so it is invested wisely.
My dad had two suggestions to me that I liked.
The first was to phase in the personal savings accounts gradually over time. For example, you could start with 10% of the social security tax going to personal accounts, and raise it by 1-2% per year until the whole amount, or close to it, goes into personal accounts 50 to 100 years from now. You could phase out the defined benefit on the same timetable so nobody gets adversely affected.
The second was to limit personal savings accounts to "safe investments". One way to do that would be to limit the investments to government securities or government-backed securities. I think you could be more agressive than that and include equities for up to half the value of the account, as long as the equities are index funds or some other highly diversified and relatively conservative approach. I don't see why highly diversified real estate investment trusts and mortgage backed securities couldn't be part of the mix too.
As usually happens in government, the politics of this issue will certainly get in the way of doing the reasonable thing. The democrats have a lot to gain and very little to lose by pandering to the public's anxiety over changing the current system. And they also have little to no incentive to give the republicans any political cover by voting for social security reform. So the republicans are going to have to get all the votes for this on their side of the aisle. And that means getting the hard core to vote for this. Which means being much more agressive about phasing in personal savings accounts than is fiscally responsible and probably also means less control over where the personal investment accounts can be invested.
If the climate wasn't so poisoned in Washington, I might be more optimistic about one of the few initiatives in Bush's agenda that I can get excited about. But I'm not too hopeful about a good outcome here, despite the obvious path that this thing has to take.
Reinventing Social Security
After reading the front page story in today's Times about Social Security, The Gotham Gal asked me the question I've been wondering about as well.
When all the retirees blow up their "personal investment accounts" investing in speculative situations, who is going to bail them out?
I am no fan of our current social security system. My social security payroll taxes are going to fund the current retiree's benefits, not my future benefits. This is a huge ponzi scheme that is going to blow up at some point when there are more retirees to carry than current workers can support.
So reforming this system makes sense. And making it a "pay for your own benefits" system is a worthy cause. But allowing participants to manage their own account doesn't seem to make sense to me. I hope they come to their senses about that.
As for the "huge borrowing" referred to in the Times article that will be required to transform the system, it seems to me that this is the money that will be required to finance all the benefits that aren't going to be funded with the ponzi scheme anymore. It's an unwinding of the ridiculous way we've financed social security for the past 70 years.
I am all for taking our medicine and recognizing the huge liability that we've been taking on. If it requires "huge borrowing", so be it. We've borrowed the money one way or another, so putting it on the books seems like the wise thing to do.
I never understood why people cared so much about Dan Rather.
I don't watch him, I never have. I don't watch network news, I haven't in over 10 years.
All this ding dong the witch is dead stuff is much ado about nothing.
And Tom Watson hits the nail on the head with his post.
Thanks Tom, you said what I was thinking, and did it a lot better than I could.
My Senator (Continued)
Tom Watson inspired this post with his In Praise of Chuck post.
The Gotham Gal and I have been big fans of our senator, Chuck Schumer, for a long time. He's a nice guy, he "shows up" as Tom says, and he cares about what matters. He's also a master at raising money.
Chuck was thinking about running for Governor here in NY in 2006, pitting him in a primary battle against Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Since we like Eliot a lot too, that would have been a tough one for The Gotham Gal and me.
But Chuck did us a favor on Monday when he announced he was not going to run for Governor in 2006 and instead had joined the new Democratic leadership in the Senate and more importantly, had agreed to become the Chairman of the DSCC, which is the organization that works to elect Democratic Senators around the country.
A lot of people outside of New York probably think Chuck is a "liberal". He has been one of the most ardent proponents of gun regulations in Congress. He has led the Democrat's efforts to stop the appointment of conservative judges. And so he is seen as a liberal.
But the reality is that Chuck is a middle of the road guy. He's from Brooklyn. He understands the people and their everyday problems. He is very well liked in the Republican parts of upstate New York. He's a pragmatic guy who gets things done.
So I agree with Tom when he says that Chuck is the right guy to lead the Democrat's efforts to take back control of the Senate. If he asks us for help, we'll be there for him.
One of my readers sent me this cartoon in response to my The Honeymoon's Over post. I liked it so much, I decided to blog it.
The Honeymoon's Over
It's been two weeks since Bush won the election. I've tried to have a positive attitute about this. I've been hopeful that he'd use the fact that he doesn't have to run again to do what's right instead of what's politically smart. I've taken the high road.
But it didn't work. He's let me down at every turn.
The selection of Condoleeza Rice as our next Secretary of State is just laughable. She's his lap dog. She won't tell him what he needs to hear. Powell did that with Iraq and he's gone. Replaced by a friggin' lap dog.
God help us.
This doesn't surprise me, but it bothers me nonetheless.
Bush has a big time opportunity to dive into the Israel Palestine issue with the death of Arafat and the only person on his senior foreign policy team who had the chops to get it done, in my opinion, was Powell.
If its down to Danforth vs Condoleeza Rice, I sure hope he picks Danforth.
Great Leaders Lead, They Don't Follow
I was reading Tom Friedman's column in today's New York Times and it made me think that George Bush faces a very interesting test over the next four years.
Great leaders build legacies by leading their people (whether its a country, a company, or a cause) to do something that was considered impossible.
Nixon went to China. Clinton restructured welfare. Johnson passed the civil rights act. None of these were popular with their politcal base. But they saw the opportunity to use their political capital to do something that needed to be done and did it.
Friedman quotes Yaron Ezrahi who says about Ariel Sharon, "Sharon has started to give up his popularity among his own constituency, because he realizes the welfare of the Israeli people, as a whole, requires decisions that are unpopular but unavoidable."
I personally cant' imagine George W. Bush behaving in the same manner. But if he was suddenly taken with an interest in his legacy, I'd suggest the following intractable problems as ones he could use some of his political capital on:
- The Israel Palenstine issue
- True non-partisan election reform
- Alternative energy
- Making quality healthcare truly available for all americans
I am not expecting Bush to take on any of these problems with any real energy but I would be happy to see him try.
In my Ashcroft Out post, I stated that Bush's choice for a new Attorney General was going to be telling.
Well we got some insight with the choice of Alberto Gonzales. First, we see that Bush is a gifted politician. He sees that the hispanic vote is up for grabs and he intends to help make it Republican by filling important slots with hispanics. That's smart politics.
Second we see that he picked a loyalist. That's not surprsing. Bush values loyalty over almost everything else. This Justice Department will simply be a wing of the white house.
Third, he picked someone who is less idealogical and more political. I think that's good for the most part. Polarizing figures aren't good cabinet officers.
Apparently Gonzales, as a Texas Supreme Court Judge, allowed a teenage girl to get an abortion without her parent's knowledge because that was the Texas law. I can't imagine Ashcroft ruling that way.
On the other hand, this is the man who wrote the memo approving of torture in Abu Ghraib and there may be some connection to scandal ridden Enron, although I am not all that certain about it.
The nomination hearings will bring this man's background and views on a host of subject to light.
But in my quick reading about him, I feel better, not worse, about the likely new Attorney General.
Urban vs. Suburban
I agree with a lot of what's been written regarding the diverging views of urban america and suburban america.
We who live in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, and a host of other urban locations have a different reality than those of most of america who live in the suburbs. I see that every day in many little ways and many big ways.
I am fairly certain my friends who live in the suburbs don't have to kick the drugged-out bum off their stoop some mornings.
I am fairly certain that my friends who live in the suburbs don't have the guy playing his keyboard for small change down the street.
I am fairly certain that my friends who live in the suburbs don't have guys in their neighborhood park offering dime bags to their kids.
And I am fairly certain that my friends who live in the suburbs like it that way.
And Jeff Jarvis urges all of us urban dwelling democrats to move out to the suburbs. He says at the end of this post:
You'll survive, believe me. I did.
Well you know what, I didn't.
In 1993, with two kids and a third in mind, The Gotham Gal and I moved our family from Brooklyn to the suburbs. Chappaqua NY to be specific. Chappaqua is a wonderful place. It's exactly as Jeff describes the suburbs:
I like the 'burbs. I have land and trees around me and convenience and places to park my car and good schools and quiet and stores and malls and a big house.
We didn't survive the suburbs. We came back to the city. And thank god we did, because while we have druggies on our stoop, bums down the block, and drug dealers in our park, we also have a vitality that doesn't exist in suburbia.
It's what we chose for our life and we love it. And so do our kids. And so all I have to say to Jeff and the rest of the suburban majority is the following:
You can have your safe stepford country. It's fine with me. Just don't make me live it with you.
I am going to give George W. Bush kudos for removing one of the most cancerous elements of his administration.
Whether or not it was voluntary, and it probably was, the departure of John Ashcroft is a huge relief to me.
I just hope its not a prelude to a nomination to the Supreme Court to replace Rehnquist.
It will also be telling who Bush nominates to replace Ashcroft. If he puts forward someone that more of America can relate to, then it will signal he's looking for a legacy as a uniter. If he puts forward someone right of Ashcroft, then it will signal he's looking to remake the country in a significant way.
His stance on the Spector issue will also be telling.
Bush's Economic Agenda
Based on what I've read in the past day and a half, the following are the highlighs of Bush's economic agenda for his second term:
- Convert social security from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan
- Eliminate taxation on investment income and gains
- Drastically reduce medical malpractice suits
This stuff works fine for me and my family but I have to wonder if its going to be that good for the very people who gave Bush his "mandate".
I woke up this morning energized. I've spent a fair amount of money, time, emotional energy, and blog real estate on this election. It's over and my guy lost. That's the way it goes. I am moving on.
There's some great stuff going on at work which I hope to be able to blog about soon.
The shape of this blog will change. Less politics. More venture and technology. Maybe more music. Maybe more of something else too. Who knows?
I don't plan to stop talking about my politics, but I know I'll have less to say for now.
It will be interesting to see how these changes affect my traffic.
Since Kerry doesn't seem to want to concede, I will.
Bush won 51% of the popular vote to Kerry's 48%.
That's a win. A narrow, but clear, win.
The Gotham Gal and I are having a hard time dealing with the fact that we are a minority here in America, but the fact is that we are.
Here are the exit polls and Jeff Jarvis' commentary on them:
The top issue (21%) was "moral values"; 78% of those who cared about that went for Bush, 19% for Kerry. That's a huge difference.
Next: economy/jobs at 20%; 81% preferring Kerry, 17% Bush. So Kerry got much better marks on the economy.
Terror comes in third at 18%; 85% preferring Bush, 15% Kerry. That's the one that amazes me -- not in the Kerry/Bush split but in the importance voters gave it. Bush ran on terrorism; it wasn't No. 1 in the minds of voters; yet he still won.
Iraq comes in next at 15%; 75% preferring Kerry, 24% Bush. No surprise.
This is very revealing. Bush's signature issues are "moral values" and "the war on terror". Kerry's are "the economy" and "Iraq". Both candidates won big on their signature issues. But "moral values" are slightly more important to Americans than "the economy". And "the war on terror" is slightly more important that the mess in "Iraq".
So Bush wins. I think its really that simple.
The "moral values" thing bothers me. I've said it was the Preacher vs the Professor and clearly the Preacher was the preferred choice.
The Gotham Gal told me this morning that "anti gay marriage" referendums won in 11 states last night. I have no idea if that's right, but if it is, it's one more signal that the faith-based platform looms large in this country. We've got a huge swath of the country between the pacific coast and the northeast and parts of the industrial midwest where faith and moral values matter most.
That's the political reality in our country this morning along with four more years of George W. Bush.
As I said last night, I'll do my best to support him, but it's going to be tough.
Fox Calls Ohio For Bush
I've seen this movie before.
I think I'll pack it in. I've watched enough TV and lost enough sleep over this.
I'll say this in closing out blogging this campaign.
Being president right now is a really tough job. We've got an economy that's bleeding over sky high oil prices and war and tax cut driven red ink. We are alone in Iraq. And we've got a terrorist enemy who won't stop at anything to take us down.
I would like to support Bush as Jeff urges us all to do, and I'll try, but it's going to be hard because I don't feel so good about where he's taking us.
Some Tough Math
I just saw that ~80% of the vote has been counted in Ohio and Bush leads by 160,000 votes.
By my math, that means that Kerry needs to take 60% of the remaining votes to win.
Hard to imagine, but so was the Red Sox coming back to take 4 straight games.
I think that's what its going to take at this point.
Carvile called it "an inside straight"
Jarvis Gets Some Air
Just saw Aaron Brown read Jeff Jarvis' pledge on the air.
My Latest Scenario
Bush wins Florida.
Kerry wins Ohio. Also picks up Michigan and Minnesota.
Bush gets Iowa and Colorado and Hawaii.
It comes down to Wisconsin and New Mexico and they can't be called at 2am.
This is what boredom does to a guy sitting up watching TV with everyone else asleep in the house.
Looks Like A Long Night
The early exit polls got everyone all excited, but, as we've been reminded, the early exit polls looked good for Gore in 2000 too.
I think I am going to be watching these talking heads for quite a while tonight.
I hope the bloggers keep going strong too.
TV vs Blogs
We've got the whole family in the family room watching TV.
We are switching between MSNBC, CNN, and Fox.
These TV guys are great for showcasing the drama of the night.
But the fact is that we are getting a lot more data from the blogs.
I've got Firefox up with 7 tabs open and hitting reload a bunch. And the data keeps coming in.
My favorite blog post so far?
I sure hope it turns out that way, but until Ohio is called, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Mid Afternoon Blog Check
I can't take it any more. I am taking some time out of the work day to find out what's going on.
Here is what I've found out.
1) Drudge is hard to log into. But he's got a Kerry leaning headline up.
2) Talkingoints is impossible to log into.
3) Buzzmachine is hard to log into from time to time.
4) Instapundit is slow as hell.
Maybe there is something wrong with my Internet connection. I can get to Yahoo!, Google, and Amazon.
As to the question of will the bloggers leak the exit polls? Of course, they will. Wonkette already has, twice. But there are doubts as to whether they are real. The numbers look too strong for Kerry.
Drudge has got exit polls up now too.
I don't know how the major media outlets are going to sit back and take this. If the blogs are outing the exit polls, won't they have to do the same?
This is a very interesting ending to a very interesting campaign with a lot more to come.
Voting 2004: My Votes
It's not the best picture, but here are my votes right before the girls pulled the lever.
I wanted to get that visceral satisfaction of pulling the lever, but I am satisfied enough. I've registered my opinion along with what will surely be a huge number of voters today.
In case you can't read the photo, I went with Kerry/Edwards for President, Chuck Schumer for Senator, and I split my judge votes, three Republican, two Democratic. The only other contested races were Congressman and State Senator and I went for the incumbents, Nadler and Duane, whom I like.
Voting 2004: The Kids
When we got to the booth, The Gotham Gal took Josh in with her and he got to see how we vote and he pulled the lever. The girls went in with me and did the same.
I love the fact that they are into it and care about voting.
Today at lunch Jessica and Emily are running a mock polling place at their school. Very cool.
Voting 2004: Huge Crowds
It took us over 30 minutes to vote.
This was the scene at PS41 in Greenwich Village this morning at 8:30am.
I hope everyone who reads this blog today votes, regardless of political affiliation and regardless of who you plan to vote for.
The Gotham Gal and I are taking our kids with us to the polls on the way to school. We want to teach them to vote too.
This may be the most important thing you do this week, month, or year. Please vote!!!
If you don't know where your polling place is, go here.
Here are some frequently asked questions about voting.
Electoral College (Continued)
I've been to most of the electoral college sites this morning and it is so close.
My two favorites are electoral-vote.com and electionprojection.com. You can see links to these two on the left hand column of my blog.
Electoral-vote.com has Kerry up this morning 283 to 246.
Election projection.com has Bush up this morning 286 to 252.
But my favorite map this morning is Tom Watson's map.
He's been to every site and looked at every number and he has the following to say:
So there are three scenarios for a Kerry victory - and one for Bush, according to my calculations. Kerry will win if he can pick off either Ohio or Florida. The third scenario has him losing both of those big battleground states, but sweeping the Southwest states, a longshot in my view. To mind my, Bush needs to win both Ohio and Florida and pick off a state in the Southwest.
So there you have it. We are back to where we were a month ago. Kerry needs to win either Florida or Ohio to win.
Seen Your Video
"Seen Your Video, We Don't Want To Know" - The Replacements
There's a lot of people who don't want to know what its like to be poor and at war in this country, including our chicken hawk, draft dodging president.
If you do want to know, go watch Eminen's new video - Mosh.
I love this guy and his music. And he makes a powerful statement about the importance of voting. Regardless of the failings of our democracy, the ability of an artist to make something like this that is so critical of our president is a testament to the wisdom of our founding fathers.
Thanks to the Gotham Gal for pointing this one out to me.
Nader on Bush
Ralph Nader called George W. Bush a "a chicken hawk, draft-dodging, messianic militarist presiding over a no-fault government."
Well if he feels that way, why is he siphoning off votes from the only viable alternative to Bush?
In Minnesota, Nader is polling 5% of the vote.
The Preacher vs. The Professor (continued)
I read all these news articles about the challenges of operating a clean election. We’ve got a ton of new voters registered in this presidential election cycle. That should be a good thing, right? But it’s not because they might be “fraudulent”.
So we’ve need thousands of temporary poll workers, we have lawyers being assigned to polling places, we’ve got volunteers to challenge the validity of voters, and we’ve got volunteers to challenge the challengers.
This is nuts. The Republicans fear that the Democrats are going to “stuff the ballot box”, that they are manufacturing voters somehow. The Democrats fear the Republicans are going to intimidate and confuse uneducated voters into not voting.
Maybe I am naïve about stuff like this, but I really don’t understand why we can’t have a one person, one vote system that works relatively simply. Why do we need registration at all? If you’ve got a social security number or a driver’s license, why shouldn’t you just be able to show up and vote?
That would be a true democracy in my mind.
Issues 2004 – The Rest
Jeff Jarvis does a good job of flying through 14 other issues.
I agree with Jeff on all of them.
Issues 2004 - The Supreme Court
I enjoyed the back and forth of the Issues 2004 posts that Jeff Jarvis started and I and others followed his lead on. But they stopped about three weeks ago. The Presidential election campaign isn't over yet, and so I am going to add one to the mix.
The news yesterday that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has thyroid cancer and had an emergency tracheotomoy reminded me that one issue we all should care a lot about is the makeup of the Supreme Court.
There are two justices over 80 years old, Rehnquist and John Paul Stevens. Stevens is 84 and has been on the court since 1975, almost 30 years. Though none of the Justices is a youngster (Thomas at 56 is the youngest), most are in good health.
This is a Republican court. That was evident when it cast the tie-breaking vote in the contested 2000 election and gave the White House to Bush. But it's equally obvious when you look at the appointments. Seven of the nine justicres were appointed by Republican presidents. Nixon appointed Rehnquist, Ford appointed Stevens, Reagan appointed O'Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy. Bush I appointed Souter and Thomas. The two democratic appointments were Clinton's choices of Ginsburg and Breyer.
While this is a Republican court, and while its Chief is a conservative, its a fairly moderate court today. The moderate wing is made up of Ginsberg, Breyer, Stevens, and Souter (two of the four nominated by moderate Republicans). The conservative wing is made up of Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. O'Connor and Kennedy make up the middle and where they go, so goes the court.
I'm fine with the court we have today. But I am worried that if Bush gets elected, we'll have a move to the right which will take us places we probably don't want to go. If Stevens retires or, god forbid, dies in the next four years, Bush is likely to replace him with someone more like Scalia than Stevens. If Rehnquist's cancer is more serious than we know, Bush will replace him with someone similar, but will also in all liklihood appoint Scalia to the Cheif Justice position. And that's a scary proposition, even if you are a moderate Bush supporter.
There are a lot of issues before the Supreme Court that are important. Issues like Civil Rights (Gay Rights), Due Process (Patriot Act), First Amendment (Free Speech), and of course the most emotionally charged of all Roe v. Wade - the woman's right to choose.
Do we want a court that is pushed to the right? Do we want a court that will move to the left? Do we want something similar to what we have today?
Those are critical questions that each of us must ask ourselves as we go into the voting booth a week from today.
If you don't like my political posts Hector and "Disgruntled Reader", please do me a favor and unsubscribe to my blog instead of posting bullshit comments. I am happy to hear that you disagree with me and why, but whining and complaining isn't allowed in my house or on my blog.
The Preacher vs. The Professor
As I was nearing 125th Street this morning on my bike ride, I saw a large billboard advertisement for Time Magazine. On it were pictures of Bush and Kerry from one of the debates. There they were side by side. And it hit me, we have a simple choice. The Preacher vs. The Professor.
These two pictures were so illuminating.
Bush was exhorting his parishoners to believe, to follow him to the promised land.
Kerry was standing upright and discussing the issues in his classic nuanced way.
This is our choice. Strong and wrong vs. nuanced and right.
I read Ron Suskind's Without A Doubt piece on Bush in the NY Times Magazine last weekend and it's been running around the back of my brain ever since.
No matter what political affiliation you are, this is a must read. Because we've got a preacher in the white house. If that's OK with you, then vote for him. In case you don't want to go read it, I'll quote just one paragraph where Bruce Bartlett, a close advisor to Reagan, speaks about Bush:
''This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He truly believes he's on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.''
I was raised a Catholic. I spent my youth listening to priests tell me how to behave and what to believe every Sunday morning. Then I'd come home and hear my Dad, whose spirituality is much more personal than programmed, tell me how the Pope condemned Gallileo to his villa until his death for stating his belief that the earth was round. Well you can guess what I took from that experience.
Fast forward to the present. I don't believe in absolute truth. It doesn't exist. The search for truth is what makes life meaningful for all of us, but we'll never get there. Because there is no final truth.
George W. Bush, the preacher, believes in absolute truth. John Kerry, the professor, searches for it every minute.
That is why I will vote for the professor a week from Tuesday. And if you live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Iowa, or Oregon, I sure hope you'll join me.
My Election Dashboard (continued)
I visited my election dashboard sites today.
Something weird is going on at the Iowa Business School Futures Market. They captured the big debate-driven move that Kerry made earlier this month, but now they have a sizable Bush bounce. I don't see that in my other two dashboard sites.
Take a look at Bush's approval ratings. After being sub 50% all year, Bush's approval ratings moved up above 50% in the late summer and held there until the debates. Now they are falling fast and may reach the low point of 45% before the election. That would be bad news for Bush. It's hard to be re-elected when 55% of the country thinks you are doing a bad job.
The electoral college numbers are also looking better for Kerry.
So I am not sure what to make of all this, but if I was trading on the Iowa Business School market right now, I'd be shorting Bush at $0.60 and buying Kerry at $0.40 all day long.
Kerry For President
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised that I agree with the New York Times that John Kerry should be our next president.
Right wingers will say, "of course the New York Times came out for Kerry", and I agree. But that doesn't mean the Times didn't get it right. Jeff Jarvis points out that most of the editorial was a slam on Bush's four years, a well deserved slam I might add, but it also had some good stuff about why a vote FOR Kerry is a good idea.
over the last year we have come to know Mr. Kerry as more than just an alternative to the status quo. We like what we've seen. He has qualities that could be the basis for a great chief executive, not just a modest improvement on the incumbent.
We have been impressed with Mr. Kerry's wide knowledge and clear thinking ... He strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.
Mr. Kerry has the capacity to do far, far better. He has a willingness - sorely missing in Washington these days - to reach across the aisle.
But this race is mostly a referendum on Bush. Why is why, Jeff, that most of these editorials spend most of their time talking about him.
And so I'll leave with a quote from the New York Times endorsement that says it all for me.
We look back on the past four years with hearts nearly breaking, both for the lives unnecessarily lost and for the opportunities so casually wasted. Time and again, history invited George W. Bush to play a heroic role, and time and again he chose the wrong course. We believe that with John Kerry as president, the nation will do better.
It's too close to call on the Presidential races. But the other important thing, no matter who wins, is the system of checks and balances. We have a situation where the Republicans control the White House, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. I'd much prefer it if each party controlled at least one of these three institutions.
Since we can't impact the outcome of the Supreme Court, other than voting for the presidential candidate whose "litmus test" we agree with, the Gotham Gal and I decided to get busy and figure out what's going on in the Senate Races.
A good place to start is Electoral-Vote.com's Senate pages. There is a lot of date there if you are interested, but here's the bottom line:
So what's the bottom line? Probably the Democrats will pick up Illinois but lose Georgia and South Carolina. Assuming they hold South Dakota and Nevada and the Republicans hold Missouri and Pennsylvania, the Senate will be 45 Democrats (including Jeffords) and 49 Republicans, with tossups in Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma. To take unambiguous control of the Senate, the Democrats have to win them all. If they win five of the six and Kerry wins and the Democrats win the special election in Massachusetts, they also take control of the Senate and John Edwards gets a real job--breaking ties in the Senate. A tall order, but not impossible.
After learning that, we talked to some friends in the senate, some people who do political fundraising, and talked it over some more. We decided to support the following candidates. These Democrats all have a good shot of winning, need money badly, and if they win, will give us the checks and balances we need.
The links are all to pages where you too can contribute. I don't care if its $20, $200, or $2000. If you feel the same way we do, go make a difference. It's the one way you can hedge your bets in this important election year.
Debate Night (continued)
I caught the second half and some of the post debate spin. I'd say we've learned all we are going to learn about these two guys. If you haven't made up your mind by now, go read some blogs!
The Fearful Voter
There's this post over at Buzzmachine that has me shaking my head this morning. I'll cut and paste parts of it here:
Your fears about Bush are (for the most part) about what he would DO that would be wrong. He would appoint right-wing judges; he would work to reverse Roe; he will, and has, worked to pass a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Stupid, divisive, wrongheaded moves all to pander to his Evangelical base.
By contrast, you are afraid of what Kerry would NOT do. You fear he would NOT act against our enemies without the imprimatur of the French. That he would dither....
For the most part, what you fear from Bush cannot be implemented by the President alone. But what you fear from Kerry CAN be.
Everything you fear from a Bush II administration, I do too. But he won't be able to do it -- for the most part -- without significant help from Congress.
By contrast, there is no power on Earth that can force a Kerry administration to bypass the UN when it's necessary. There is no provision for Congress to sidestep the President and send troops.
Then Jeff adds this to the mix:
It's ever-more fascinating to me how everything in this campaign is analyzed in the negative. We vote to keep the other guy out of office. We vote to stop something from happening. We don't vote because we're enthusiastic. We don't vote because we want to accomplish something but just prevent something.
If this is the way the American electorate is viewing this election then the negative campaigning has taken over and people are losing their good judgement. We need to vote for what a President will do and not against what he might do. We need to realize that Congress will provide its required system of checks and balances over whomever gets elected. We need to pick a direction we want to go in and vote for it, not against it.
We know what direction Bush wants to take the country in because he's been doing it for four years. We've got much lower taxes, a huge budget deficit, we are at war in Iraq, we've got most of the world really irritated with us, we've got efforts underway to make gay marriage and abortion illegal. If that's the direction you want, then vote FOR Bush.
We also know what direction Kerry will take the country because he's been in congress for a long time and he's been campaigning for well over a year with a platform that's available for anyone to see. He'll roll back the Bush tax cut, he'll cut the budget deficit, he'll stick it out in Iraq because he has to, he'll work to repair the issues we've got with the rest of the world, and he'll protect a woman's right to choose. If that's the direction you want, the vote FOR Kerry.
But please don't vote against the negative "worst case" image that both campaigns are creating of these two guys. As Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself."
Charting Bush (Continued)
I've been watching three charts for the past couple months.
The first is the Iowa Business School Futures Market. This is a real market where real dollars are traded. And this is by far the most volatile of the three charts. It's where you see small trends maginified. It's where you see the biggest movements. This is a market after all.
The second is Bush's approval ratings. There's been very little change on this chart so I am not going to post it right now. This election should be a referendum on the job he's doing. It wasn't that for about a month, after the Republican convention, but it seems the first debate put the campaign back to where it should be and this chart matters alot. Interestingly, the approval numbers are right at 50/50 and have been since the convention.
The third chart is what ultimately matters. The electoral college. This is from the "pro-Kerry" site called electoral-vote.com so take the absolute numbers with a grain of salt, but its the trends I am talking about anyway. These numbers are moving in Kerry's direction too.
I'll be posting these charts every week or so from now until the election. I hope you like them as much as I do.
Debate Night (continued)
Bush did a lot better. Kerry was about the same. I'd call it a draw.
But Bush did nothing to erase the perception that he's stubborn and in denial about his mistakes in foriegn policy and Iraq.
Kerry missed a lot of opportunities to pummel Bush. It makes me think he doesn't have that killer instinct that would help him seal the deal with voters who want a tough president.
But there was one defining moment for me. Bush hit Kerry on his vote against partial birth abortion. Kerry said clearly that he is against partial birth abortion but wants an exception for circumstances where the life and health of the mother requires it. Bush then just shrugged, smiled, and said, "well he voted against it".
Strong and wrong versus nuanced and right. We'll see where the american public comes out on this one.
Issues 2004 - Communication
Jeff's post on "communication" should really be called "Derugating technology, media, and communcation".
For once, I can't argue with a word he's written. Further, he links to some good stuff.
Go read David Isenberg's piece on why the FCC is hampering free speech with their telecom regulations.
We are at an inflection point in communications technology. This blog is just one of many examples of that. My "printing press" costs me $5/month and with it I reach over 1000 people every day and that number keeps growing without any effort on my part other than the posts I write. Emily, Jessica, and Jackson's printing presses are free.
When you think about high speed data, wireless (cellular and wifi), VOIP, the web, digital TV, digital radio, etc, etc, you realize that trying to regulate all of this stuff is crazy. Things are moving way too fast and the consumer is benefitting in every way imaginable.
So, Jeff's right. Stop regulating and start deregulating technology, media,and communications and we'll all be a lot better off.
Issues 2004 - Election Reform
I am getting behind again, so it's time to tackle election reform.
Here's my three point plan to fix what's wrong with politics:
1 - Make all campaigns publicly funded. Every candidate gets exactly the same amount of money to run a campaign. It's just not right that wealthy candidates can buy elections and poor candidates cannot. Further, the fundraising part of the political process is corrupting. I know, I am part of it. It stinks. Money must be taken out of politics.
2 - Shorten up the political process. This should be tied to the public financing part. Candidates should not be allowed to campaign for any office (from President down to city council) for more than 180 days. The primary should be half of that, and the general election should be half of that. Candidates can only tap the public money during the 180 day period.
3 - Eliminate the two party system and move to a pariliamentary system. I posted on this idea back in the summer. Our two party system forces each party to pander to the fringes where their base is strongest and ends up producing candidates that don't represent the middle, where most of the voters are. A parilamentary system will allow for the development of many parties and the country can be governed by a coalition built around centrists. There are a number of changes we'd have to make to deal with the instability of parliamentary governments, but I believe improving the parliamentary system is better than trying to fix a badly broken two party system.
What's the chances of any of this happening? About zero. But it's what we need to do to fix the absolutely broken system we have now.
I tivo'd the debate and went to see Wilco last night.
I got up this morning and watched it.
I think Cheney and Edwards went toe to toe on Iraq and foriegn policy and while both drew blood, it ended up pretty even. Cheney made the "flip flop" case a lot better than Bush did the other night. Edwards defended Kerry with the skill of a world class lawyer, which he is. A draw on Iraq and foriegn policy seems like a win for Kerry/Edwards to me.
The domestic debate had some interesting moments. The differences between the two campaigns on taxes were fairly obvious. Cheney used the tried and true approach of labeling democrats as taxers. Edwards did a good job explaining that democrats prefer to tax the rich and reduce taxes on the middle class and poor.
The back and forth on gay marriage was clearly a difficult moment for Cheney. And Cheney missed an opportunity to make hay with the trial lawyers opportunity.
I think the Bush fans will see this as a clear victory for Cheney and I've seen that on some conservative blogs.
I think Kerry fans will see this as a clear victory for Edwards and I've seen that on some liberal blogs.
This probably means the VP Debate will turn out to be a non-event in the overall picture of this campaign.
Good thing I didn't pass up Wilco to watch it live.
My Election Dashboard (continued)
We went out with friends last night and they mentioned the new Newsweek poll that shows Kerry is now ahead of Bush 47% to 45%. I didn't believe it so when I got up this morning I went to look myself.
It's true, Newsweek says that Bush's lead has evaporated in the wake of the first debate. That is shocking to me and must mean that this 5-10% of the electorate that keeps moving around is on the fence and remains very much up for grabs.
My Election Dashboard
Tom Watson's post on the book makers in London changing the odds on Kerry made me think it was time to revisit my election dashboard. While it still shows solid numbers across the board for Bush, the trend is going Kerry's way for the first time since June.
Here are the three sites I visit to take the temperature of the election.
The first debate shifted the dynamic in this race for sure. The question is will it be a meaningful shift or a blip. I suspect the next couple debates, including the VP debate, will be the key to answering this question. If Kerry/Edwards continue to come off as thoughtful and presidential and Bush/Cheney continue to come off as defensive and bull headed, then Kerry will continue to gain. If Bush/Cheney get the race back to a referendum on Kerry, then the gains will be short lived.
What's interesting is that Bush's approval ratings are right at 50%. Half the country thinks he's doing a good job and half doesn't. Kerry has to convince pretty much every one of the half that thinks that Bush is doing badly that he can do better. That's a tough sale.
The changing dynamic in the race has not yet hit the electoral college sites. It will be interesting to see if that starts to change this week.
A Mom's Perspective
The Gotham Gal sees the world differently than I do. I tend to stick to intellect. She's all emotion. Togther we are a great combo.
Here's her take on last night. She calls Wolfowitz a "Neocom". That's great!
But this is my favorite part. A mom's (or daughter's) view of the two guys:
One small thing at the end of the debates sort of summed up the difference between Kerry and Bush too. Bush made a reference to both their daughters and then remarked that he is having a hard time trying to control them. Kerry said he that is not what he chooses to do. Control your children at 21? Good luck. How about having respect for your children so you can have an open and communicative relationship? Bush's relationship with his daughter's sounds like the relationship he is having with our country.
Kerry's New Speechwriter?
Nick Denton's got a new gig if he wants it. This is brilliant and what I too was hoping to hear from Kerry last night.
How's this? "The president says I've changed my mind on Iraq. Well, yes. Blind certainty is fine for Soviet ideologues, and Islamic fanatics, but I am an American. I believe that pragmatism is the American genius. This country was built by individuals who found themselves on an unfamiliar continent, in a promised land that wasn't always what they'd been promised."
Unfortunately for Kerry, Nick's got a pretty good day job.
Issues 2004 - Energy (continued)
My dad, who is way smarter about stuff like this than I am, pointed out in an email to me that the second law of thermodynamics is a bitch and that its going to be hard and expensive to replace what we get from carbon-based fuels with something else anytime soon.
But my new mantra on this topic is really simple - wind, water, and sun. We need to spend the money to make those resources deliver the energy we need. Why? Because they aren't likely to be depleted.
Two Views Of The Same Thing
The great thing about blogs is you can read what others are thinking and relate that to what you are thinking.
I read Jeff's take on the debate and was stunned. What debate was he watching? Jeff said:
It's that I don't hear iron will [from Kerry]. And in a time of war -- war against terrorism -- we need a leader with iron will.
Later I read Jason's take on the debate. He was watching the same debate on I saw. Phew! For a second I thought that I was seeing things that didn't happen.
Jason points out that Kerry is stronger than Bush on Homeland Security, Nuclear Proliferation, and the war with Al Qaeda. Bush blew it on those and wins the Iraq argument simply because he's strong and wrong.
What Jeff misses is that Iron Will combined with bad policy is even more dangerous!
The Morning After
I often say "I'll sleep on it". I believe my best work is often done while I sleep. I wake up with answers all the time.
And so I slept on the debate and woke up feeling even better about what John Kerry did last night. I think he rebuffed the notion that he's weak and can't be trusted to be President, which has been the message that the Bush Administration has been hammering home.
Bush has managed to turn this election from a referendum on his presidency (in which he was losing) to a referendum on a picture of John Kerry that he was painting (one he was winning). I think Kerry changed a bunch of people's views of him last night; not the right wingers, they'll be uncomfortable with Kerry no matter what. But there are a lot of independant voters who'd like to get Bush out of office but won't elect someone who will put the country in more danger (the central assertion of Bush's campaign against Kerry). Kerry comforted and surprised a lot of those people last night. That's what Kerry did for himself.
Bush hurt himself. Josh Micha Marshall has it right when he said that Bush doesn't like to be criticized. After all he's right, he's strong, and just let him do what he knows is best. Bush came across as a deer stuck in the headlights last night. An angry deer because Kerry was criticizing him.
We'll see how this plays out in the days ahead. Bush still has lots of advantages, but the debate should change the dynamic in the race for those who are trying to make up their mind.
It's Hard Work
That was Bush's tagline for most of the debate. The other one was "I am steady and don't waver". So Bush's foriegn policy comes down to that. Don't worry, its just hard work, but I am steady and I don't waver and all will be fine.
I thought Kerry made a more persuasive argument. It's one I made earlier in the day with my foriegn policy post. He said that we need friends to win the war on terror and Bush has made a lot of enemies. He also said that staying the course and ignoring the realities on the ground isn't a winning proposition.
I don't think there was a winner or a loser in this debate. The winning/losing part will happen on Nov 2nd.
Tonight, Bush was Bush. You either love him or hate him. I haven't met too many people who don't have a strong feeling about him. He probably made the people who love him love him even more tonight with his steadfast approach to foriegn policy.
Kerry was pretty good. I would have liked him to hit Bush harder on the flip flop issue on the vote to support the war. He gave Bush what he asked him for. And then Bush abused it by rushing to war without building a real coalition and wihtout giving diplomacy the chance to work. And Bush is now using it against him politically. But other than that, I thought Kerry made his point of view pretty well and since I agree with it, I was pleased to see that.
The two parts I liked best about Kerry were his strong stand that Bush did not go to war in Iraq as a "last resort". He made that point twice and he made it well. The other one was when he reminded Bush that the "enemy" who attacked us was Osama Bin Laden, not Sadaam Hussein. In fact, I believe that was the best moment of the night for either guy.
The media probably wants to see a horse race and so will be tempted to say that Kerry did great and he's back in it. If that's not the spin, I'll be surprised.
It's finally here. An opportunity to see if Bush can really make the case for his preemptive offensive foriegn policy to the american public in a forum where debate is tolerated.
And an opportunity for those who disagree with Bush (in the form of John Kerry) to make the case that Bush's foriegn policy is dangerous and wrong.
I think (and most everyone else does too) that it's John Kerry's big moment. He needs to stand toe to toe with Bush and make him answer the hard questions, like why we stopped fighting terror in the form of Al Qaeda and started creating terror where none existed (Iraq). And Kerry needs to put an end to the questions of whether he'd be a strong enough leader in the war on terror.
I've been reading that the debate is meaningless. What matters is the spin, the post-debate debate. And I've been reading that the spin is where the Bush team will ultimately win.
Well that's terrible if its true. Because I could care less what the pundits say. I care what the two guys have to say. So, I'll wach the debate at home with The Gotham Gal and my kids and we'll have our own post-debate debate. We won't watch the spin.
Apparently the NY Times' political reporter Adam Nagourney won't be participating in the post-debate debate. Maybe everyone is beginning to realize that they can think for themselves instead of being told what to think and write. That's the blog mantra taking hold.
I'll wrap up this rambling post with a request. I'd like every blogger out there to blog the debate. Watch it and tell us what each of you think, without listening to the spin. Don't just publish the Bush Debate Feed. Tell us what you really think.
I promise you I'll do that. And it won't be pro-Kerry spin unless I really feel he deserves it.
UPDATE: The Gotham Gal tells us what she really thinks about Bush and her advice for Kerry tonight.
Issues 2004 - Foriegn Policy
Jeff is killing me with the frequency of his Issues 2004 posts. I told him I'd try to keep up with him. But I've got a day job and the no child left behind due to blogging act is still in force in my family.
But I also can't let myself get more than a couple posts behind Jeff or I am toast.
So with that said, here goes my take on foriegn policy, in response to Jeff's excellent post on the same topic.
The US is the sole superpower in the world today. I do not believe we will hold that position for very long, though. I think China will catch us and probably surpass us in either my lifetime or my kid's lifetime.
So acting like the king of the world isn't too smart. It pisses people off.
We need to be willing to live with reality that the rest of the world won't always see things the way we do. In that case, we have two choices; do what we want and not worry about the impact or work with the rest of the world to get them to see things our way. I prefer the latter. I do not agree with Jeff when he says, "we cannot set that as the standard or else we find ourselves hostage to the French et al."
I think the Bush's doctrine of preemption is extremely dangerous and it is the primary reason that I feel very vulnerable with him as the leader of our country. This doctrine is based on unilateralism and U.S. international military dominance. I already stated that the former isn't my prefered way to operate and the latter isn't something that will always be the case. We may have the technological and economic advantage for now, but just go visit China and you'll realize that these advantages are not going to last forever.
For these reasons, I want the US to be a consultative leader. It's true that terrorism is a scourge in our world and we need to fight it. It's true that weapons of mass destruction are more available than ever and are in the hands of bad people (unfortunately its Kim Chong-il, not Sadaam that has them). It's true that there are lots of tyrants opressing their people. It's true that there's genocide going on in the world today. And it's true that the middle east remains a very volatile place.
Our role needs to be the leader in a world wide effort to deal with these problems.
Our role should not be to solve them all unilaterally.
The former approach (consultative leader) is frustrating in the short term but endears us to the rest of the world. It's democracy on a world scale.
The latter (preemptive unilateralist) is satisfying in the short run but ultimately ineffective (look at what's really going on in Iraq) and also extremely dangerous.
So that's my world view. Now on to Jeff's three ending statments and my responses, marked with >>
1. We must support the growth and strength of democracy.
>> Yes. But only with the aid of our democratic partners. We can't be the democracy police. It gives democracy a bad name in the world when its forced unilaterally on people.
2. We must protect our citizens.
>> Absolutely. A strong defense of our country is the primary reason that the american public support the enormous amount of money we invest in "defense" spending. When we use these resources offensively, it puts us at more risk, not less. The "best defense is a strong offense" approach may work in football, but not in foriegn policy. It didn't work for Hitler, Napoleon, The Romans, The Greeks, and it won't work for us either.
3. We must respond to human suffering under tyrannical regimes.
>> Maybe. But as Jeff correctly points out, "Who plays God? Who's the devil? Which tyrants do you choose to take out? Shouldn't we liberate North Korea? Shouldn't we be shuttling to Africa when wars and tragedy break out? Is Saudi Arabia oppressive enough to liberate? And isn't there a danger -- a history -- of using this doctrine not to liberate but to overturn for political convenience?"
I realize that I am going to get slammed by Hector, Hey, and a host others for my "weak, soft, pathetic, stupid, idiotic" views on foriegn policy. I don't really care. Because I know I am right on this one.
Issues 2004 - Energy
If you take all the Issues 2004 posts that I've done, none of them matter as much to me as this one.
I believe that our dependence on foriegn oil is the biggest threat to our economy, security, and way of life. And we need to do something about it.
Jeff's post was OK, but the comments had some gems. I'd like to repost parts of some of them here:
Known alternative forms of energy are not displacing oil because they are not competitive.
In some cases, they are not competitive for technical reasons. For example, hydrogen is not an alternative source of energy as much as it is an alternate way of storing energy, and the energy consumed in the process of storing it (generally from fossil fuels) is not economical.
Other alternate sources are not competitive because they simply do not carry the same bang for the buck as fossil fuels. Perhaps some method will be discovered to make those sources (e.g., biodiesel) more competitive, but there is no reason to believe that government funding of such research will produce that method, as opposed to private funding by businesses which would stand to profit greatly by such a discovery.
Other sources are feasible technically, but not politically or legally. Nuclear power is such a case in the U.S., as environmental activists and their lawyers have esssentially shut down new construction. I agree with Jeff that we should take steps to improve the nuke picture here, but I wonder which candidate in the current contest is more likely to work in that direction.
From Tim Worstall:
Just about every person on the planet who can usefully contribute to the development of alternative energy sources is already doing so. There are hundreds of companies and thousands of research groups beavering away. Whatever it is that we needed to do to start the ball rolling, we've already done it. Within two decades (and I hope to be around to crow about this prediction) we'll have solar power competetive with fossil fuel. At that point the greater energy efficiency of fuel cells will make the hydrogen cycle for cars work.
Don't get excited about it, don't start any "Manhattan Projects", above all don't waste hundreds of billions of dollars trying to change the world before the appropriate technologies are ready. They're being worked on and there is little one can do to make the engineering cycle move faster.
I won't bore you with masses of detail (or rather, might save it for a Techcentralstation piece) but I have seen at least 4 major breakthroughs in the last 18 months on the long road to getting free of our dependence upon fossil fuels. Ranging from making solid oxide fuel cells massively cheaper, to solar cells at 35-40% efficiency (at reasonable prices), a catalyst to use sunlight to manufacture hydrogen from water to a safe method of storing nuclear waste for 100,00 years.
Oil is not yet scarce in the world and yet because of geo-political reality, it is nearing $50/bbl. What do we see at the same time? Hybrid cars are the new big thing. They will only get more popular and oil will only get more expensive.
Big Oil is already figuring this out too. Most notably, BP is spamming the TV world with their ads about how BP stands for "Beyond Petroleum." Between Big Oil and Big Car, they are figuring out their own migration path to the new world. I am sure there will be major fallout along the way, but that migration is happening already.
These posts give me hope that the dramatic rise in oil prices in the past year is not a blip like we had in the 70's but a permanent rise which will lead to, and in some ways finance, the next wave of energy solutions.
I wish I knew enough about this topic to be able to profit from the coming changes. I believe that investment capital is needed to move alternative energy from the labratory into the marketplace. Finding the sources of this investment capital and the people talented enough to allocate it well among all the potential opportunities is going to be a challenge.
I'll end with a link to one of my favorite blogs, the Alternative Energy Blog. There's great stuff on this site every day.
Issues 2004 - Education
Education is a huge deal. We have a great education system in this country. Our K-12 education system has its challenges, but our college and university system in this country is outstanding.
I think that one of our great strengths versus other countries and other societies is that we have not turned eduction into some kind of rote learning experience. Our kids come out of our education systems, both K-12 and collegiate level, with a better ability to create, innovate, and respond to the changing dynamics of the work place.
I am not a fan of the No Child Left Behind Act and the reliance on testing that our country is turning to in an effort to improve our schools. This will take us in the direction of other countries who treat education like mass production and we'll be a weaker world competitor as a result.
I posted last week on progressive education and although it was not meant to be a reply to Jeff's Eduction post, it serves that purpose pretty well. It outlines what I think is the best way to educate a kid.
I would like to see these techniques encouraged in our public schools. And I would like to increase the compensation levels for public school teachers. I ran into a guy running for Congress the other morning on the way to my kids school. He was campaigning by the West 4th Street Subway stop. I forget his name but I took his flyer. Most of his positions were forgettable, but one was not. He proposed making public school teachers' salaries tax free at the federal, state, and local levels. That would instantly produce a 30-40% increase in teacher compensation. I like that idea a lot.
Another thing we must do in our public schools is reduce class sizes. You can not teach to each kid as an individual with 30-40 kids per class. We need to reduce public school class sizes to below 30 and ideally below 25. That will require an investment in additional teachers and school facilities. But its a must if we really intend to improve our public schools.
There are those who would eliminate our public school system and rely instead on a for-profit system. I think that would be a terrible mistake. Our public school system has served our country incredibly well for a very long time. It's not time to scrap it. It's time to improve it and invest in it for the next century.
What Kind of Crap Is This? (continued)
The Republican Party acknowledged that they had sent mailings in Arkansas and West Virginia suggesting that if Kerry gets elected he will ban the Bible.
What kind of crap is that?
Matt has a great post up at Only Once on Admitting Mistakes.
the ability to admit mistakes [is] a critical component of emotional intelligence, the cornerstone of solid leadership.
I could not agree more. I've made my share of mistakes. And when I was younger, I had a hard time admitting them. Now, I can deal with the fact that I am far from perfect. Admitting them, dissecting them, and moving past them, is a critical business skill. It is essential in terms of managing up. The people who are relying on you to make good decisions need to know that you can recognize the bad ones and learn from them. Otherwise, they'll lose confidence in you no matter how good your batting record is.
Matt goes on to talk about how this plays out in the politcal world. He implies that Bush cannot admit to the screwup he made in Iraq without losing the election. Maybe that's true, but Clinton was toast until he finally admitted to the people that he had lied about the Lewinsky affair and felt terribly about it. After that, it was all over for the impeachment effort.
I'd feel a lot better about Bush if he'd admit he was human and screwed up every once in a while.
I am really enjoying this Issues 2004 thing that Jeff got started. I may not agree with most of the comments on my blog (in fact I don't), but I enjoy reading them and trying to understand the way others think about these issues.
I know its a diversion from most of what I've been blogging about for the past year, but we are in an election year and its a big one. So please be patient with this and I'll be back to my regular beat shortly. After all, this whole blogging thing for me is a big experiment and I see Issues 2004 as a great experiment within an experiment.
So, that said, after reading the comments section, I realized that I had left out one of the points I wanted to make in my healthcare post. It was about Medical Malpractice.
As badly as I feel for the people who have lost a loved one due to medical malpractice or the people who have been maimed for life, I think the benefits to these people are significantly outweighed by the negative impact on the quality of care and the significant increase in the cost of care that results from medical malpractice.
I feel that we need to eliminate medical malpractice from our tort laws. It should not be possible to sue for bad medical practice. I believe in its place, we should have two new systems. The first is the ability to purchase medical malpractice insurance. If you are going into a serious medical procedure, you should have the option to purchase an insurance policy that pays out if you are killed or disabled. That may exist now for all I know. The second is a public rating system on doctors that includes risk weighted outcomes data. This rating system should establish billing rates for doctors. The better the doctor, the more they are paid. The worse they are, the less they are paid.
I know most people will think this is nuts. And I also realize that many of the right wingers who've been nailing me for my liberal views will think I've finally come around. But they are wrong about that. I am just interested in anything that will make good medical care available to everyone. And I think eliminating medical malpractice is an important part of that.
The Patriot Act
I made the following comment in my post on Homeland Security:
The Bush Administration used 9/11 to put through a huge reduction in both our freedom and civil liberties. It's way overdone and dangerous.
Hector and Tony Alva want to know exactly what I mean by that.
Here are some examples of what I don't like in the so called "Patriot" Act:
The government no longer has to show evidence that the subjects of search orders are an "agent of a foreign power," a requirement that previously protected Americans against abuse of this authority.
The FBI does not even have to show a reasonable suspicion that the records are related to criminal activity, much less the requirement for "probable cause" that is listed in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. All the government needs to do is make the broad assertion that the request is related to an ongoing terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation.
Judicial oversight of these new powers is essentially non-existent. The government must only certify to a judge - with no need for evidence or proof - that such a search meets the statute's broad criteria, and the judge does not even have the authority to reject the application.
Surveillance orders can be based in part on a person's First Amendment activities, such as the books they read, the Web sites they visit, or a letter to the editor they have written.
A person or organization forced to turn over records is prohibited from disclosing the search to anyone. As a result of this gag order, the subjects of surveillance never even find out that their personal records have been examined by the government. That undercuts an important check and balance on this power: the ability of individuals to challenge illegitimate searches.
And here are some more things I don't like:
The "Patriot" Act puts the CIA back in business of spying on Americans. The Patriot Act gives the Director of Central Intelligence the power to identify domestic intelligence requirements. That opens the door to the same abuses that took place in the 1970s and before, when the CIA engaged in widespread spying on protest groups and other Americans.
The "Patriot" Act creates a new crime of "domestic terrorism." The Patriot Act transforms protesters into terrorists if they engage in conduct that "involves acts dangerous to human life" to "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion." How long will it be before an ambitious or politically motivated prosecutor uses the statute to charge members of controversial activist groups like Operation Rescue or Greenpeace with terrorism? Under the Patriot Act, providing lodging or assistance to such "terrorists" exposes a person to surveillance or prosecution. Furthermore, the law gives the attorney general and the secretary of state the power to detain or deport any non-citizen who belongs to or donates money to one of these broadly defined "domestic terrorist" groups.
The "Patriot" Act allows for the indefinite detention of non-citizens. The Patriot Act gives the attorney general unprecedented new power to determine the fate of immigrants. The attorney general can order detention based on a certification that he or she has "reasonable grounds to believe" a non-citizen endangers national security. Worse, if the foreigner does not have a country that will accept them, they can be detained indefinitely without trial.
I hope that helps.
Issues 2004 - Health Care
With this post, I think I am caught up with Jeff's Issues 2004 posts.
This one's in response to his first post of the series, on healthcare.
We had dinner last night with some good friends who are American but have lived in Toronto for almost 20 years and have raised a family there. We asked them about the Candian system. They told us that its not that bad. The quality of care is fine, but you have to wait for treatment. They ration healthcare in Canada to keep the costs down. They told us that compared to the US, if you are poor or lower middle class, their system is much better. If you are middle class, or upper middle class, our system is better for you. For the rich, it sort of doesn't matter. It's true that you can't "buy" healthcare in Canada, but if you "know a doctor" and its more likely that the rich people will know the right doctor, you can go to the front of the line. Worst case, if you are rich, you can go to the US. Buffalo, Detroit, and Seattle all have wealthy Canadian patients.
It sounds a lot like our public school system. The poor mostly benefit because they couldn't get an affordable education elsewhere. The middle class might suffer because if they could pay for education, they might be better off. And the rich mostly do pay for education, so it doesn't matter.
So, with that all said, let me tell you what I'd like to see in a healthcare system for the US:
1) Everyone must be insured. If you live in the US, if you vote, or go to a public school, or drive a car, or get social security, or are employed, or anything that requires that you deal with our government, you must have health insurance.
2) Kids must be insured. All children who reside in the US regardless of who their parents are must be able to get healthcare, and not in a hospital emergency room, but in a clinic or a doctors office.
3) Employers must stop footing the bill for healthcare. This is crazy that our employers are at the front line of the healthcare food chain. They aren't equipped to make those choices and they shouldn't be burdened with them.
4) Insurance must be collected in the same way as social security. It should be a payroll tax deduction. If you work and are paid, then you pay for your insurance.
5) For those who are unemployed or unable to work, healthcare must be an entitelment. The indigent end up in our hospital emergency rooms anyway, so we ought to do it right upfront.
6) We must have a preventive, wellness oriented healthcare system. We should vaccinate everyone. We should require annual physicals. We should eductate the children on how to eat properly. Etc, etc.
I don't get too excited about who runs this system. It's going to be run by a combination of government and industry. The whole idea of a government "take over" of our healthcare system was in my opinion more of a scare campaign by the healthcare industry than reality.
I believe that doctors, and hospitals, and the other companies that have the expertise to make the required investments in our healthcare system should be incented to do that. The goverment should be in the business of collecting the payments and moving the money around. They already do that for social security and other taxes. They are good at that.
One more point and then I am done. I went to Bush's healthcare page and was turned off by the emphasis on Healthcare Savings Accounts. This is all part of his "ownership society" nonsense. It works great for those of us who are in a position to save, but won't work for the majority of this country that lives paycheck to paycheck.
Then I went to Kerry's healthcare page and was embarassed. He has no plan for healthcare that he's willing to share with the american public right now. I'll gladly give him mine if he wants one.
Issues 2004 - Homeland Security
Jeff laid out his views on homeland security in his third post on Issues 2004.
I don't disagree with much of what Jeff has to say on this subject. It's strange that we essentially agree about homeland security but disagree so fundamentally about Iraq which was pitched as something we needed to do to make us safer at home.
I would like Bush/Cheney to take back the tacit accusation that a vote for Kerry is a vote for Al Qaeda and the rest of the terrorists because its nonsense. No president, no matter how stupid (and I don't believe Kerry is stupid), or how liberal (and I don't think Kerry is nearly as liberal as the Bush machine has made him out to be), would do anything to make us less secure. We have enormous investments in intelligence, security, and monitoring and they will only get increased under whomever runs this country for the next four years. Until Bush/Cheney acknowledges that fact, its really hard to have an intelligent debate about this issue. It's like my kids when they start bickering, you can't get back to a reasoned discussion.
Unlike Jeff, however, I do have an issue with the "Patriot" Act. We are a country that relishes our freedoms and civil liberties. The Bush Administration used 9/11 to put through a huge reduction in both our freedom and civil liberties. It's way overdone and dangerous. You'd think we'd all learn the lessons from doing things like imprisoning the innocent Japanse Americans in World War II. But we don't. We just keep making the same mistakes again and again.
I would focus more of our efforts on intelligence and I mean spies. People who will infiltrate the terrorists and neuter them. That's how we beat the Mafia. And that's how we'll beat the terrorists. It won't happen overnight, but done right with the proper investment of resources, training, and patience, it will happen.
Porter Gross, the nominee for the new CIA Director and a former spy, has said as much in his assessment of what's needed to improve our intelligence systems.
Finally, I think we need to maintain multiple intelligence agencies. The Pentagon should have its intelligence. The State Department should have its intelligence. The Justice Department should have its intelligence. We shouldn't merge it all into one single intelligence organization. We should, however, have some central coordinating role. I think that's what the job of the National Security Advisor should be. The President needs to have a strong and well respected person in that job who can enforce coordination and communication among these different organizations.
I use nuance every day to handle important but delicate issues. I believe that nuance is often the key to getting people to agree on issues that divide them.
But understanding of nuance is in short supply these days. As an example, I wrote a post last week saying that the "spam crisis is over". Matt got what I was saying and he blogged back that the crisis may be waning but the problem was still pretty bad. I blogged back that I agreed. Meanwhile, people were commenting on my blog saying how dare I claim that the spam problem had been solved. They failed to understand the nuance of my post. I was saying that the crisis was over, not the problem itself.
But spam isn't on my mind this morning. Presidential politics is. I am sick and tired of George Bush's lack of nuance and I am particularly sick and tired of his tendency to ignore the nuance in John Kerry's stand on Iraq.
John Kerry voted to give Bush the authorization to go to war. He did not vote to go to war. Only the President can do that. But every time Kerry says he would not have actually gone to war, Bush points to the vote, the respect frankly, that Kerry gave him two years ago. He did it again yesterday in reaction to Kerry's good and strong speech at NYU. The New York Times says:
Mr. Bush attacked his opponent's declaration that he would not have started the war, contrasting it with Mr. Kerry's Aug. 9 statement that he stood by his Senate vote to authorize the use of force.
There is nuance to Kerry's world. Lot's of it. And I like that. I am willing to take the time to parse through his positions and understand the nuance. When you are dealing with very divergent views, nuance can be a real asset.
Think about how this would play out in the business world.
Do you want to do the strategic deal with Microsoft? For Bush, its yes or no. For Kerry, its on what terms.
Do you want to buy this stock? For Bush, its yes or no. For Kerry, its at what price.
Do you want to hire that person? For Bush, its yes or no. For Kerry, its for what role?
I'll take nuance every day over strong and wrong. That's my new name for our current president and his administration.
Issues 2004 - Iraq
Since our campaign is almost devoid of discussion of the issues, Jeff Jarvis has taken it upon himself to start some discussion.
It's too bad that he is part of the problem spending his time running around to the TV news shows who are obsessed about Rathergate and also avoiding the issues.
That said, I applaud Jeff's desire to get the issues out front and center. His first piece was on Iraq, as it should be since Iraq is George Bush's biggest failure as President and one of the main reasons that many Republicans I know are leaning toward Kerry while "holding their noses".
John Kerry gave a speech yesterday morning about 4 blocks from my home, at NYU, and he said the following:
That means we must have a great honest national debate on Iraq. The president claims it is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war and the battle against our greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden and the terrorists. Invading Iraq has created a crisis of historic proportions and, if we do not change course, there is the prospect of a war with no end in sight.
This has always been my central issue with the war in Iraq. I was on the fence in 2002 and early 2003 as many of us were. The accusations about nuclear weapons and the Al Qaeda links were compelling. And I was reading Tom Friedman's assertions about the need to create a democratic government in the mideast as well. But I also could not get past the fact that Bush's father and his foriegn policy team, perhaps the most impressive foriegn policy team in my adulthood, were opposed to the war. Baker, Scowcroft, Powell, Bush I himself, these were people who'd gotten it right and had determined that unseating Hussein was destablizing. They believed that invading Iraq was a terrible idea. And it was.
More from Kerry's speech:
The intelligence estimate totally contradicts what the President is saying to the American people.
So do the facts on the ground.
Security is deteriorating, for us and for the Iraqis.
42 Americans died in Iraq in June -- the month before the handover. But 54 died in July…66 in August… and already 54 halfway through September.
And more than 1,100 Americans were wounded in August – more than in any other month since the invasion.
We are fighting a growing insurgency in an ever widening war-zone. In March, insurgents attacked our forces 700 times. In August, they attacked 2,700 times – a 400% increase.
Falluja…Ramadi… Samarra … even parts of Baghdad – are now “no go zones”… breeding grounds for terrorists who are free to plot and launch attacks against our soldiers. The radical Shi’a cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, who’s accused of complicity in the murder of Americans, holds more sway in the suburbs of Baghdad.
Violence against Iraqis… from bombings to kidnappings to intimidation … is on the rise.
Basic living conditions are also deteriorating.
Most Iraqis have lost faith in our ability to deliver meaningful improvements to their lives. So they’re sitting on the fence… instead of siding with us against the insurgents.
That is the truth. The truth that the Commander in Chief owes to our troops and the American people.
We've got a mess on our hands. A big mess. And its a mess that we created by going into Iraq. Americans weren't getting beheaded there when Hussein was in power. They are now. Terrorists weren't flocking there to plan their attacks on the US. They are now. We created a rats nest for terrorism when we should have been eliminating one.
And so what is Bush going to do about it? Novack says he's going to cut and run.
So what would Kerry do about it?
Here's what his plan is (also from his speech yesterday - go read the whole thing, I am not going to put it all here on this page):
We need to turn the page and make a fresh start in Iraq.
First, the President has to get the promised international support so our men and women in uniform don’t have to go it alone. It is late; the President must respond by moving this week to gain and regain international support.
Second, the President must get serious about training Iraqi security forces.
Third, the President must carry out a reconstruction plan that finally brings tangible benefits to the Iraqi people.
Fourth, the President must take immediate, urgent, essential steps to guarantee the promised elections can be held next year.
If the President would move in this direction … if he would bring in more help from other countries to provide resources and forces … train the Iraqis to provide their own security …develop a reconstruction plan that brings real benefits to the Iraqi people … and take the steps necessary to hold credible elections next year … we could begin to withdraw U.S. forces starting next summer and realistically aim to bring all our troops home within the next four years.
This is what has to be done. This is what I would do as President today. But we cannot afford to wait until January. President Bush owes it to the American people to tell the truth and put Iraq on the right track. Even more, he owes it to our troops and their families, whose sacrifice is a testament to the best of America.
Colin Powell told George W Bush, "you break it, you own it" when Bush told him he was going to war. We broke Iraq, unwisely and mistakenly, and now we own it. Many times in my experience, you can't expect the person who screwed something up to fix it. They just can't admit their mistakes and move on. You need someone new to fix it.
When it comes to Iraq, that's where I am. We've got to get someone new in charge if we have any hope of fixing the mess that is Iraq.
I can't read all the postings about Rathergate. I can deal with the fact that right wing bloggers nailed a left wing big media guy in the middle of a presidential election. I think Rather should have stepped down about 20 years ago. I've never watched him and wouldn't watch him. He's terrible.
But what I can't deal with is all the celebration around this david beating goliath. The blog world is full of so much crap that it makes mainstream media look clean by comparison. So anyone who thinks this is "vindication" for the bloggers is wrong.
I've wanted to post these feelings for days, but couldn't come up with a way to do it. The Tom Watson wrote this post and when I read it, I finally felt like posting my own thoughts on the subject.
Electoral College (Continued)
Well the two meters on my site are no longer that different and, it turns out, the one the right wingers were calling pro-Kerry has the better numbers for Bush right now.
Electoral-vote.com, the so-called pro-Kerry site, has it 296 for Bush, 238 for Kerry.
Electionprojection.com, the so-called pro-Bush site, has it 285 for Bush, 253 for Kerry.
There are a number of differences and it's too early to be making too big of a deal, but Electionprojection.com has Wisconsin for Kerry and Electoral-vote.com has it for Bush. Colorado and Iowa are also called differently on the two sites.
My friend Jason Chervokas commented on my last post on this topic, saying
Kerry needs a sweep of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan...he needs both Oregon and Washington....and then, assuming he loses Ohio and New Mexico (I think the former is certain, the latter less so), he needs both Florida and Pennsylvannia
Well using the pro-Bush numbers, right now Kerry has that entire mix with the exception of Florida. Is it possible that this election will come down to Florida, just as 2000 did?
I watched the first plane fly over my head and smack right into the World Trade Center that morning three years ago. My two colleagues and I were on the street about 10 blocks north and we stood there in shock. Then one of my friends said in a hushed tone, "Bin Laden did this".
I had no idea who Bin Laden was or what he was talking about. But I knew it was an attack. Because it was a huge commercial airplane, flying right over Thompson Street that morning and commercial planes don't do that.
As we stood there, I had this gut feeling that the tower was going to come down. Not because I spent for years at MIT learning mechanical engineering. But because of what I was witnessing. The fire, the smoke, and the explosions. I just knew it was coming down.
I thought of the times that I went up to Windows On The World. I always hated going up there and now I knew why.
The second plane was not a shock. Nor was the Pentagon. Or the fourth plane. We spent that morning reacting to the horror that was unfolding but from the moment that the first plane hit, nothing shocked me.
We got all of our people out of our company nearby, we sent them home. The ones who couldn't go anywhere walked up 6th Avenue with me to pick up my kids at school, where I met the Gotham Gal, and then up 7th Avenue to our house where we had about 20 people waiting all day to get out of town.
That's my 9/11 story. It's not nearly as horrible as thousands of other stories I've heard over the years. It's not the reason that I started blogging as it was for Jeff.
For me 9/11 was an affirmation of the fact that we aren't safe. But I've never felt safe. I don't feel less safe now and I don't feel more safe now. I feel the same today that I felt on Sept 10, 2001.
And I am not angry about 9/11 either. Sure I hate Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as much as anyone. But we live in a world full of hate, largely driven by religious idealism gone crazy. It's always been that way. And probably always will be.
I was picking up my daughter Emily this morning from a sleepover near the west side highway. As we left her friend's house and got to the highway, there were a bunch of people with signs remembering loved ones they'd lost. This spot was where the rescue effort was largely based on 9/11 and in the weeks after. That brought me back to that time. And I felt the tragedy that these people had experienced. I feel terribly for them. But I don't feel much other than that about 9/11.
For me, it's something that happened. It's in the past for me. And it didn't change anything for me. I feel a lot like Javier Marías described Spain in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings (thanks to Tom Watson for linking to that piece).
I know that many people will never be the same after 9/11. Apparently, the political system and the government won't be either. I guess it will be a defining moment for our generation. But it just hasn't impacted me that way.
A number of commenters told me that the numbers from electoral-vote.com are slanted towards Kerry.
I have no idea if that's true or not, but the same commenters directed me to another electoral college site that apparently is either less slanted toward Kerry or more slanted toward Bush called electionprojection.com.
That site also has a counter, but i don't like it as much since its a map and i'd prefer numbers. But in an effort to show that I am "fair and balanced" and also to prove Mandown that he's wrong about me, I've added it to my left column right next to electoral-vote.com's counter.
The next time I turned around, he was punching John Kerry.
If you feel like taking a few shots at either of these guys, or possibly roughing them both up, you might enjoy Presidential Knockout.
Go Read The Comments
My What Kind of Crap Is This? post has generated some great comments, both from the neocons and the liberals.
It's this kind of debate that most of us wish was going on between the Kerry and Bush camps, instead of mudslinging about who did what back in the Vietnam era.
You might not agree with either Jeff or Jason, but their debate is well written, passionate, and based on a good understanding of the facts.
Charting Bush (Continued)
So I've been using my election dashboard to monitor the post republican convention dynamic.
The Approval Ratings and Futures Markets show big moves for Bush post-convention. The futures market in particular is very troubling for Kerry.
But the Electoral College is still looking very good for Kerry. I don't totally understand this and am going to drill down. It appears to me that Kerry's hanging in there in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Mexico that didn't look good for him during the convention last week. Bottom line, the electoral college is still in a lot of flux.
And so I've added a new feature to the blog. I copied this from Tom Watson. Now you'll be able to follow the electoral college every time you visit my blog by looking down the left hand column, just below the Google search bar.
What Kind of Crap Is This?
Dictators have often used fear as a way to maintain their strangleholds on their people.
Yesterday I heard that Dick Cheney said the following about John Kerry.
"If we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Give me a break. We face that danger every day and Bush/Cheney didn't stop it in the past and the notion that they will stop it in the future and John Kerry can't and won't is just crap.
I wish the American public would see through this campaign of fear, but I have my doubts these days and it makes me really sad and really angry.
UPDATE: I am not the only person who is angry about this. Read Jason Chervokas' longer and better articulated perspective on the VP's comments.
Republican or Democrat?
All week long my kids have been asking us, what makes someone a Republican or Democrat? In talking to our friends, they've been getting similar questions from their kids.
It's a tough question because although I am a Democrat and have been since college, I don't want to indoctrinate my kids into being Democrats too. My Dad and Mom are Republicans and they allowed me to grow up and develop my own political leanings.
On the other hand, I think its important that our kids understand our politcal system and what makes the two parties different.
So I've been trying to come up with a fair and balanced list of issues that can define someone's political leanings.
Jackson has his list, and like his friend Tony Alva, I have some issues with it. While I emotionally agree with most of Jackson's assertions, it's not the kind of balanced list I want to give my kids.
So here's my list so far. Yes gets 1 point. If you have more than 6 points, you are probably a Democrat. I am open to any suggestions and improvements. That's what the comment link is for.
- A Balanced Budget vs. Lower Taxes - Is a balanced Federal budget more important to you than lower taxes?
- Tolerance vs. Morality - Is tolerance of other lifestyles more important than a moral code of conduct in our society?
- Individual Security vs. A Gun Free Society - Is a country without guns more important to you than a secure home?
- Prison vs. Capital Punishment - Do you favor imprisonment for life over capital punishment?
- Socialism vs. Capitalism - Do you favor a society with a big social safety net over a society where people get to keep more of what they make for themselves?
- Statesmanship vs. Unilateralism - Do you believe the US should always work in concert with other countries instead of "going it alone" when it needs to?
- Public vs. Private Education - Do you think the federal government should only fund public schools?
- Judicial Freedom - Do you think that judges should be free to "interpret" the laws of our country?
- Scientific Advances - Do you think science should be allowed to advance unchecked by our moral code?
- Enviroment vs. Business - Do you think the environment should be protected even if its harmful to business?
I answer all these questions with a Yes. That's my choice. That's why I am a Democrat and proud of it.
The Smile and The Knife in the Back
I read last night on Jeff Jarvis' blog that George W Bush called John Kerry "heroic" in an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show which airs this morning.
This is the same guy whose political advisers approved the Swift Boat ads which accused Kerry of lying about his record in Vietnam. I bet we'll find out sometime after the election that Bush himself approved of those ads.
We are witnessing a President who has his hatchet men do his dirty work and then appears on TV to pretend he's above it all.
Would you like a boss who does that? A co-worker who does that? A business partner who does that? I wouldn't.
The Unwelcome Guest
It reminded me of why I am not in my hometown this week.
Because its been highjacked by an Unwelcome Guest who in a cynical attempt to wrap his re-election campaign in the cloak of 9/11 has taken possession of a city whose values stand in stark contrast to his own.
And so for my MP3 of the week, I reached for the man of the people, Woody Guthry, who wrote a moving song about fighting the rich and powerful called The Unwelcome Guest. This version is sung by Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy and appears on the first Mermaid Avenue record.
Charting Bush (Continued)
Lot's of great stuff continues to come from the comments section.
Yesterday I was pointed to this site that tracks the polls in an electoral college format.
Right now, this site has Kerry 270, Bush 259 with Colorado too close to call.
Apparently the swift boat ads have cost Kerry Ohio, Wisconsin, and Missouri for the time being.
So now I've got three sites to check out when I want to know what's going on in the Presidential race
Charting Bush (Continued)
I asked for it and they gave it to me. You have to love the commenters. Some of these people are way smarter than I am.
It's a tight race right now.
It will be interesting to see how this chart looks after the Republican convention.
Charting Bush (Continued)
Tim commented on my last Charting Bush post that futures markets generally provide the best forecasts. In principal, I agree. Tim pointed me to a futures market run by the University of Iowa Business School.
This is pretty cool, but I'd like a price chart instead of just current prices. Trend is as important to me as absolute value.
If I read the quotes correctly, these markets are forecasting a very very narrow Bush victory right now.
Charting Bush (Continued)
It feels to me like a problem CEO situation. If you've got a CEO who is clearly not getting the job done, then you have to find someone new. You try your best to get someone who is better, but simply making the change is a first step to fixing the problem.
Now I am not saying the GW Bush is not getting the job done. That's a decision for everyone out there to make on their own. But I do think GW's approval polls are the single most important data point to be watching in this race.
And the best place that I know of to go for that data is a history professor at Univ of Minnesota named Steven Ruggles.
This guy takes every poll that is out there, charts them, and then gives you a five day moving average of all the data points. It feels like a much better way to look at the data than relying on any single poll, be it Zogby, CBS/NY Times, NBC/WSJ, etc.
So, back in May, I posted a chart of Bush's approval rating where it looked like a ski slope, all downhill, with a few bumps.
Since then, he's seemed to bottom out. And so, I'll be watching to see if the numbers start going up after the convention and into the fall or if they stay where they are. That's the key to this race in my opinion.
My Media Paradox
I live in a world where the traditional media outlets have been aggregated into powerful networks that turn out what is essentially propaganda.
I live in a world where the best news program on TV is on the Comedy Channel.
I live in a world where Ted Turner, the creator of many of the most influential news outlets of the latter part of the 20th century, says media has become too concentrated in too few hands.
I live in a world where everyone can have their own media channel (call it a blog or whatever else you want).
I live in a world where the lives of the Hilton sisters is more important to the media than the lives of the two income family that can't afford health care.
I live in a world where a presidential candidate can raise more money in $25 contributions over the Internet than in $5 million fundraisers at the Waldorf.
I live in a world where the administration can fool a liberal paper into being its “echo chamber” for it war drumbeat.
So, where are we headed with all of this? My hope is that we are headed toward a world that is more transparent, honest, open, and truthful than the one we live in today. But many of these facts point me to the opposite conclusion. It’s a real paradox for me.
How to Spend $144bn to Make Us Safer
We will have spent $144bn in Iraq by the end of this year in an attempt to make the US safer from terrorists.
The NY Times has an Op-Chart this morning on how we might have spent that $144bn on other ways to make us all safer.
Go look at the chart. Boy would I have loved to have spent the money another way.
Political Humor on the Net
This political season is going to produce some great humor and a lot of it is going to be delivered via the Internet.
Just this week, I've seen two things that are hilarious.
Most of you have probably seen Jib Jab by now. It's a great parody of Woodie Guthrie's This Land. If you haven't seen it, you really should click on the link and go see it.
And I just found White House West featuring Will Ferrell. Ever since that scene in Old School where Will shoots himself in the neck, I can't even see the guy without cracking up.
I am looking forward to lots more like this over the next three months.
Great CD, Great Cause
Those who regularly read my blog posts on music know that I love the following bands/artists:
Death Cab For Cutie
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Fountains of Wayne
The Flaming Lips
Well guess what? My brother Ted, aka Jackson, just pointed me to a great CD compilation featuring all of these artists and more doing political protest songs.
You can get it right now by making a $25 contribution to MoveOn.org. I just did.
$100 million and counting
In my post about Fahrenheit 9/11, I said the movie was going to do over $100 million at the box office.
Some friends of mine who don't share my political views took umbrage with that. I made a bet with one of them.
Guess what? I won.
I'll repeat what I said in my original post:
"Finally we have something to vent our pain with. And that is why this movie is going to do over $100 million at the box office before its done. And that is why America is so polarized. And that is why George W. Bush may well lose an election when the economy is turning sharply in his favor."
Adding Insult to Injury
Jackson, aka my brother Ted, points to one of the funnier gun control stories out there.
Charlie Rose and Ted Turner
The highlight of Brainstorm so far was Charlie Rose's interview of Ted Turner last night after dinner.
Charlie did his part perfectly and Ted was in rare form. In my opinion, Ted Turner is one of the greatest entrepreneurs around. He took big risks and got big rewards. He kept envisioning things and then making them happen.
There were enough one liners from Ted last night to fill a couple pages, but my favorite was "The US invasion of Iraq was as big a screwup as Time Warner's sale to AOL".
Last night we saw a humbler man. His fortune is 1/10th of what it was at its height, blown up by the decline in Time Warner stock. He admited that he "sold at the bottom because he was scared". He was candid, funny, and full of the energy and enthusiam for life that has always characterized this man.
The interview was taped and will probably broadcast on TV at some point. I don't see it on the schedule right now though.
The Oil Endgame
I just attended a presentation by Amory Lovins, the CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, on a plan to reduce the world's dependence on oil and other carbon-based fuels within 15-20 years.
The good news is it can be done with an investment of around $10bn per year over the next 15-20 years. And the payoff will be reduced oil costs of $135bn.
The panel was well attended by VCs and politicians which means to me that there's money in this and there's votes in it too. If that's the case, then let's get on with it.
Teresa Heinz Kerry
Teresa Heinz Kerry followed Carly Fiorina on the agenda here at Brainstorm and continued the trend of impressive women with something to say.
I had never seen Teresa speak before. She's calm, serious, and very thoughtful and well spoken. She makes a great impression. She will be a major asset for Kerry/Edwards. And if Kerry gets elected, we'll have a first lady who is a woman of the world. She was born in Mozambique, she's fluent in five languages, she runs a major foundation that is a force for innovation and social progress.
Our Graying Democracy
I was at a dinner the other night and was sitting next to a man much older than me. We were having a very interesting discussion about a number of topics including art, children, politics, and government. This man made a very interesting comment to me that I've been thinking about ever since.
He said that our democracy is too old and if we don't modernize it soon, we are in big trouble.
I've always felt that our founding fathers built the perfect democracy and as a result America has prospered beyond any other country.
Not so, according to this man. They built the perfect democracy for life at the end of the 18th century. But it doesn't work at the beginning of the 21st century.
His assertion is that the foundation of our democracy is built around relationships like rural vs urban and educated vs illiterate that don't exist in our society anymore. He thinks the two party system, the electoral college, and the presidency itself are outdated instutions that our holding our country back instead of moving us forward.
His solution? The modern democracies that have been established in the past half century. He thinks Israel and Japan's democracies are the best examples of what we need to create. He thinks a parliamentary system that allows for multiple parties is a much better representative government. He thinks that parliamentary governments get created and abolished more quickly and can respond much better to the dynamic nature of our globalizing world.
It's an interesting thought. At first blush, I liked it. I helps me understand what frustrates me so much about our current political environment where the religious right and the "head in the sand" left seem to control so much of our political dialog.
Will it happen? Not anytime soon. It will take a crisis of epic proportions to change our political system and I am not eager to go through that.
I like this choice. The Democrats now have the two most popular primary candidates on the ticket together.
I like the fact that Kerry did not pick someone like Bob Graham or Tom Vilsack who could deliver an important state. I also like the fact that he didn't pick someone like Dick Gephardt who he had a better relationship with.
Edwards is likely to help Kerry more than any of those other guys and he will warm up the ticket and help reach out to voters in swing states like Ohio where the race will be won or lost.
It is unfortunate that Kerry wasn't able to convince John McCain to run with him. Apparently the Bush camp will use that against Kerry. That's too bad because Kerry's attempt to create a non-partisan ticket was a great idea than many americans would have embraced with open arms.
Maybe the most interesting thing about this news today is that the NY Post somehow got it wrong. I heard the news via email this morning before leaving for work. On my way to work, I passed a newstand and saw this morning's edition of the Post with a picture of Dick Gephardt and the headlines "Kerry's Choice". I bought a copy to prove to my kids that you can't always believe what you read in the newspaper. That's got to be embarassing for Murdoch and crew today.
I finally got around to seeing the movie.
It is gratuitous, slanted, and the consummate hatchet job. It's everything that the Michael Moore hating critics have said it is.
But what I took from it was one huge primal scream from Michael Moore saying "For What?". And that's the question I've been dealing with for the past year and a half along with what appears to be many of my fellow americans. Finally we have something to vent our pain with. And that is why the movie was sold at at 4:30pm on a work day. And that is why this movie is going to do over $100 million at the box office before its done. And that is why America is so polarized. And that is why George W. Bush may well lose an election when the economy is turning sharply in his favor.
The F Word
I don't have the nicest of mouths but I've tried to clean up my act over the years, particularly around my kids.
I tend to agree with all of Jeff's posts arguing in favor of Stern and Carlin and everyone else who uses foul language on radio, TV, and other forms of media.
Today I read Jackson's post about Bloomberg and was cringing at his foul language. Jackson's dead right about the Ice Cream man and the barking dogs. But his liberal use of the F word did give me pause.
But then I read that our Vice President told Pat Leahy, the venerable Democratic senator from Vermont, to fuck off on the Senate floor.
I am not sure what to make of all the F words flying around. One thing is for sure. Guys like Dick Cheney have a double standard.
Balance in the Media
Jeff Jarvis has a long and angry post on Fahrenheit 9/11. I haven't seen it. I am going tonite. I may blog it, but i won't know if i want to until after i see it.
But what I want to know is why Jeff doesn't blog every show that O'Reilly, Rush, or Hannity does. They do the exact same thing that Michael Moore does. Every day. And they have been doing that for years.
I may not agree with Moore and probably won't. But i think its about time that the left is playing hardball at the same level that the right has been for years. Rush created the audience for Moore.
Truth and Transparency
You've heard me on this subject. My brother, aka Jackson, takes in a different, more political, direction.
I spent my morning catching up on A V/C, Fred Wilson's blog, and he recently posted some thoughts on honesty in the business world, and the virtues that make a good V/C (Passion, honesty, integrity, leadership, and smarts ) and I would like to add that those qualities would serve well for any one in any field. A music producer would be well served by those traits, and so would a pizza delivery person. In a perfect world we could have a President with at least two of them. In this less than perfect world, it seems we have a President who posesses none. I stress honesty above the rest simply because it simplifies one's life. If you never lie, you don't ever have to remember anything you've said. Lies create complications, and only serve to diminish yourself in others eyes as well as ones own. The truth may be difficult in the moment, but once the moment has passed, you are free.
I disagree with Jackson. Our current President does possess at least two of them, leadership skills and passion. He may be smart as well. But I can't be sure of that.
I am not into isms.
I am certainly not into nationalism. It's why the Olympics make me uneasy. All of us Americans waiving flags and cheering ours guys and gals against the Russians, Germans, etc just doesn't do it for me. I am not saying its wrong to be nationalist. It's just that I am not.
Looks like Jackson, aka my brother Ted, isn't into nationalism either.
Clinton on Being President
No, this is not a review of My Life. I don't yet have the book and given its size, it will take me a while to read it.
My friend Tommy told me today that he went to the premiere of The Hunting of The President and was surprised to find out that Bill Clinton was in the audience watching it at the same time as he was. At the end, as Tommy described it, Bill got up and gave an amazing history lesson on presidents and politics since the time of George Washington.
I know that there's a lot of people out there who hate Bill Clinton. I am not one of them. In fact, I love the guy. I wish I had been there. Apparently, Jeff Jarvis was.
Jon Stewart via Bit Torrent
My partner Brad swears by Jon Stewart. So does Tom Watson.
The Gotham Gal and I have started watching it. We Tivo it every night and end up watching it when we can.
But yesterday, I found a new way to watch the show. I downloaded the Wednesday show via Bit Torrents. Boing Boing sent me to a blog called Everything Isn't Under Control. This blog is hosting a bit torrent of the part of Wednesday's show where Stewart made mincemeat out of John Ashcroft.
I don't care who you are, Republican, Democrat, Non-political, or something else. You've got to see this piece. It's really funny but it's scary at the same time. We've got a guy who has no respect at all for the constitution running the Justice Department.
Waiting For the Bounce (Continued)
Jerry sent me to look at the new Zogby battleground state numbers at Dailykos.
I guess i was right when i said that Kerry wishes the election was today.
It will be interesting to see how Kerry plays as the frontrunner now.
Waiting For the Bounce
The people who commented on my post about Charting Bush were fairly unanimous that the President's approval rating was oversold and a "bounce" was coming. Maybe his speech tonight will do that. But the latest CBS poll shows it's gone even lower in the past week. Kerry sure wishes that the election was being held this week.
For those of you who were reading my blog last fall, you know that I am a big fan of General Wes Clark. He was my favorite of the Democrat presidential candidates. I am fine with the choice of John Kerry, but I thought then and still think that Wes Clark's strong views on how we need to fight the war on terrorism are right on the money.
So with that, I send you to Wes' most recent piece on this subject which was printed in the Washington Monthly this month. He makes the case that the war on terror and the related desire to bring freedom and democracy to the middle east is not something we can do with guns and bullets. He argues for a strategy like the one we used to fight Communism.
My first thought was of the brilliant Peter Sellers movie when I read this Michael Moore quote about scenes in Fahrenheit 9/11 right before Bush declared war - "In your wildest dreams you couldn't have imagined Franklin Roosevelt behaving this way 30 second before declaring war, with grave decisions and consequences at stake. But that may be giving him credit for thinking that the decisions were grave."
When I first started in the venture business i worked in a firm where one of the senior partners was a guy who always charted stocks. I learned a lot about stocks from him. He would draw trend lines, show me breakouts, gaps up, gaps down, etc. I never fully got the gist of the stuff he was doing, but i came away from this whole learning experience thinking that the stock chart was something you should always consider in an overall evaluation of a stock. I do not think charts are stupid as some people think. I believe they are predictive in some important ways.
So with the preamble, please look at this chart of George W Bush's approval ratings. I can't draw the trend lines and don't know what this says. But I want to know if there are any chartists out there who can. If so, please comment on this post and tell me what this means for Bush.
What exactly do these words mean? And how can they possibly be used to defend what we are doing in Iraq?
When George W. Bush talked to his "real father" about whether he should go to war with Iraq, he must not have been listening when the good lord said, "He who is without sin should throw the first stone".
Now many will say that Bin Laden threw the first stone and i don't disagree with that. But what does Iraq have to do with Bin Laden?
More importantly though, the first stone in the conflict between Christians and Muslims (that's what this is all about in the end) was probably thrown long before those words got into the Bible in the first place.
Which takes me back to "moral authority". Claiming to have "moral authority" in a mess like this is the most arrogant and dangerous thing a country can do. And we have done it.
I've Had Enough (continued)
Zogby Calls The Election
Six months in advance, pollster John Zogby is calling the November election.
Rumsfeld Should Go
The NY Times says Rumsfeld should go. They are right. But it's his boss that should really go. Shit flows down in an organization. Let's hope americans get that right this November.
Jeff vs. Tom
I've Had Enough
My biggest reservation about the war in Iraq has always been that it was likely to foster more ant-american hate, and the resulting terror, than less. And now I see shit like this in the NY Times this morning:
We are screwing up big time. War is hell. Bad stuff happens. John Kerry talked about the "war atrocities" he witnessed when he was in Vietnam. I don't blame our troops over there. They are just dealing with the reality of the ugliness they find themselves caught up in.
I blame the guy who sent them there. George W. Bush has unleashed a wave of anti-americansism that is making us less safe, not more safe.
And I've had enough of it.
Keeping My Thoughts To Myself
Jim commented on my second Utterly Sure post that maybe I should keep my thoughts to myself.
Charlie says on the same post that I am not qualified to talk about politics and I should stick to technology.
Well, Jim and Charlie and everyone else that reads my blog, you should know that if I wanted to keep my thoughts to myself on politics, music, technology, life, love, and anything else that comes to my mind, I wouldn't be blogging.
If you don't like what I have to say, disagree with me on my comments section, like many of you have.
Or set up a blog yourself (as you may have done).
But don't suggest I should keep my thoughts to myself. Because I won't.
Utterly Sure (Continued)
I don't normally get the desire to respond to the comments i don't agree with on my blog. I figure that people are allowed to express their opinion as much as i am. An open exchange of ideas and thoughts is what blogging is all about.
But today, i am moved to respond to something i think is important in the upcoming election.
Hmmm...lessee...a president who stands by his words and convictions or one who can't make up his mind.
Pretty tough decision this November.
I don't think its a tough decision. I'll take the thoughtful considerate decision maker over the hasty bull headed one every time. Recognizing the other side's perspective and keeping an open mind is something i really appreciate in a leader. I recognize this is a matter of taste and that many americans prefer the illustion of strength that Bush exudes. But not me.
Oil Is The New Slavery
300 years ago, the foundation of the US economy was slavery. Labor costs were low because everyone used free slave labor. The leaders of our country knew that slavery was wrong, but it took over 50 years of infighting and a bitter civil war that devastated a generation of men to rid our country of that disease.
As I look at the front page of the NY Times today and see a blown out building framed on both sides by articles about bombings in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, I can’t help but think that oil is our new slavery.
We know that our addiction to oil is bad. It’s a non-renewable source of energy that is slowly eating away at the atmosphere and leading to global warming. And the countries that control the world’s supply of oil are run by a collection of the worst dictators around. We know all too well about Iraq and our problems there. But what about Venezuala, Iran, and the worst of all, Saudi Arabia? These countries are all bad news. But we fill their pocketbooks every day at the gas pump.
What if we had renewable sources of energy that were clean, affordable, and under our control? That would be nirvana.
I am by no means an expert in this area, but I believe that had our government made renewable energy a priority 25 years ago (as opposed to the investment in space exploration, for example) we would now have a viable renewable energy industry that would be well on its way to achieving my nirvana.
Why don’t we do that? Well, it’s not in the interests of the automobile industry, the oil and gas industry, the labor movement, and a host of other entrenched political interests. It’s certainly not in the interest of our current president who calls the Saudis to discuss his war plans before he talks to his own Secretary of State. After all, he needs these Saudi thugs to lower the price of oil at the gas pump the month before the election to insure he gets another four years.
I think that we are in for some rough times. Ridding our country of its addiction to oil is going to be as long and costly a battle as ridding our country of its addiction to slavery.
Update – I wrote this post this morning right after I looked at the front page of the New York Times. Later this morning, I read the op-ed section. While Friedman doesn’t make the slavery analogy, he sure does feel the same way I do about the lack of investment in renewable energy.
Jeff Jarvis has an interesting blog of a talk Bush gave to the AP lunch.
He describes Bush's style as "utterly sure".
That's what scares the hell out of me about this guy. He has no doubt he's right.
Kerry's Military Record
The NY Times (courtesy of the AP) has a good piece on John Kerry's military record.
You Break It, You Own It
Apparently that's what Colin Powell told Bush in January 2003 when Bush told Powell that he was going to invade Iraq.
We broke Iraq.
And now we own a big mess.
Jeff Jarvis posted an excerpt from Bush's speech last night. Jeff liked what he heard. I didn't much care for what i read. Here is Jeff's excerpt with my comments in italics.
America's commitment to freedom in Iraq is consistent with our ideals and required by our interests.
required by what interests? - our reliance on oil from the mideast because we have no other energy policy?
Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror and a threat to America and to the world....
As I have said to those who have lost loved ones, we will finish the work of the fallen.
America's armed forces are performing brilliantly, with all the skill and honor we expect of them. We're constantly reviewing their needs. Troop strength now and in the future is determined by the situation on the ground. If additional forces are needed, I will send them. If additional resources are needed, we will provide them....
why not ask our friends - or the countries that used to be our friends before Bush pissed them all off - to send some of their troops to help us out?
Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver....
this is only the case because Bush decided to make Iraq the place where he would fight these "enemies of the civilized world". maybe he should have picked a better place to do that
Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable.
then why were we in such a hurry to pick a fight there? didn't we realize that the risks of failure were so large?
Every friend of America in Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder, as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.
We will succeed in Iraq.
at what cost? and why did it have to be this way?
Jeff Jarvis talks about John McCain's comments on The Today Show. McCain, whom I like and admire, says we can't leave Iraq.
Maybe he's right.
But what I want to know is can we admit we were wrong to thumb our nose at our friends and allies? Can we do what it takes to get some help in Iraq? Can we let others have some say in what goes on there? Can we share the bloodshed? Can we do what it takes to let the Iraqis know that they are fighting the world instead of the jerks who run our country?
That's what I want to know.
If the Bush Adminstration and their attack dog cronies would spend even half the energy they spend on attacking their critics on addressing important issues like homeland security, jobs, and energy, we'd have a much better country.
I am sick of the jerks who run this country!
Spain and War Analogies
I had a debate with a friend of mine the other night about the wisdom of Spain's decision to pull out its troops. I was defending the new spanish government's decision and she was saying it was a disaster. So she pointed me to Tom Friedman's column where he makes her argument, as my friend put it "more elegantly".
I like Friedman and usually agree with him. But something doesn't feel right about this one where he uses a bunch of WWII analogies. The spanish people were lied to by their government, pulled into a war with an enemy they didn't want to fight, and now have elected a government that is doing what they want. That's democracy.
Jeff Jarvis has a good debate going on over at Buzzmachine (read the comments) on this Friedman article that is worth browsing as well.
I think the problem with the war in Iraq is that the world didn't and doesn't support it. Our current government never learned the lessons of another war, Vietnam, which was that you can't go fight an invisible enemy in a hostile land thousands of miles from home, do nation building, etc, without the support of a significant part of the world with you. I recommend the movie Fog of War to anyone interested in learning the lessons of Vietnam.
If we had continued to fight terrorism straight up, instead of trying to settle old scores in a part of the world that wasn't the center of terrorism (but is now), then i think we would have had the support of the world in that war. But our current government didn't do that and screwed up the whole post 9/11 coalition against terrorism. And spain's decision is just the most recent sign of that screw up.
That's my feeling on the matter and hopefully i've stated it more elegantly here than i could to my friend the other night.
And Tom Friedman has a nice column in Sunday's NY Times linking the two big issues of this election, offshoring and terrorism. I really like the way Friedman thinks. He reduces complex issues to their basic elements and that makes sense to me.
From Tom Watson (no not the UK blogger), comes a dream ticket - Kerry/McCain. John McCain is the only Republican i've ever wanted to vote for President. If he would join Kerry on the ticket, that would be really be something.
A Civics Lesson
I took my son Josh to the polling place to vote this morning on the way to school. He's the cute kid in the picture with me at the top left of my blog.
We went into the voting machine together and i showed him how we move the lever over to start the process. Then we turned the little knobs to select who we wanted to vote for. We voted for John Kerry if you are curious.
The we had to select all the delegates we were going to vote for. I just selected all the Kerry delegates. Josh wanted to know why we were voting for all these people we've never heard of. I promised him I would point them out this summer on television when the Democratic convention is happening. I think he understood what the role of delegates is in the political process, but he asks a good question why we really need them.
Then he asked me if we could vote for Wes Clark instead. I told him I didn't think Wes wanted us to do that and that he had thrown his support behind Kerry. Josh met Wes when we did a fundraiser at our house and liked him so he wasn't so keen on the idea of voting for Kerry. But then he asked if he could turn the knob for Wes, then change his mind and turn the knob for Kerry. That sounded like a good idea to me, so that's what we did. We acted out our own decision-making process in the voting booth. Then we pulled the lever back together to register our vote. It's a heavy lever and it makes this great sound. I doubt they'll be able to make an electronic machine that is as satisfying an experience. It was like I was shwoosing away Bush. At least that's what it felt like to me at that moment.
It was fun. Then we walked to school and I talked to Josh about how important voting is and why he should always go to the polls on election day and exercise his right to vote. I think he got it. Which makes me happy.
Way To Go New York City
John Battelle has a great post on the NY City Council's resolution saying NO to the "Patriot Act" and I am using quotes for a reason.
Wes Clark - A Class Act
I could see it in his eyes last night when he thanked his supporters. Wes had recognized the obvious.
As readers of this blog know, Wes Clark was my favorite of the democratic candidates. I still think he would have made a great president, but he didn't pass the required test of being a great candidate.
He was good, but not great. He was a rookie and understandably made some rookie mistakes. But none of that changed my opinion that he'd have made a great president. Because he is a great leader.
I look forward to supporting Wes in whatever he does next. He is truly a class act.
Recognizing the Obvious
The race for the democratic nomination is over. John Kerry is going to be the nominee.
He's my third favorite after Clark and Edwards, but he's the favorite of most everyone else judging from the results so far and the poll numbers in the next three states, Tennesee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
By Feb 10th, Kerry will have won big in the southern states of Tennesee and Virginia, where Clark and Edwards are likely to make their last stands. On the 17th, he will win big in Wisconsin which is the place Dean has said he'll make his last stand.
I am not sure it will actually go that long before the Dean, Clark, and Edwards campaigns throw in the towel. It's hard to keep these campaigns funded when the contributors know who is going to win. Nobody likes to "throw good money after bad".
Is such an early victory good for the Democrats? I am not sure. Kerry is a "known quantity" so its not like we are taking a risk with someone who hasn't been battle tested. But the overwhelming media attention that the Democrats have been getting has been in parallel with a significant slip by Bush in the approval ratings. I think there are a number of reasons for Bush's problems, many of them self imposed, but the spotlight of the media on Kerry and the other attractive Democrats like Edwards and Clark, and their attacks on Bush, are also an important part of the slip in the ratings for Bush.
If the campaign ends this week or next, how are the Democrats going to stay in the spotlight? I don't know.
And the Bush smear campaign will start in force now that they know who to smear. That worries me.
All I can say is those of us who want someone who values policy over politics, truth over lies, and friends over enemies should get behind John Kerry now and don't stop working for him until the election is over in November.
Dean's Boat Anchor
And speaking of correlations, the other chart I want to see is Dean's numbers correlated with the level of involvement that Al Gore has had in his campaign.
I don't have the data, but I suspect Dean peaked right around the time that Gore endorsed him and its been downhill since, culminating in the firing of the mastermind of Dean's brilliant Internet-based strategy Joe Trippi and the replacement of him with Gore's bore, Roy Neel.
Josh Marshall sums up my feelings about all of this.
Looks Do Matter
I wonder what the correlation between John Kerry's rise in the polls and his mysterious fountain of youth formula (he denies its Botox). Click on that link to see the pictures. It's incredible.
I don't mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with Kerry. He's a good man and I agree with most of his positions and he'd certainly make a fine president.
But it's kind of interesting how much looks matter in politics.
Clark Is Toast?
Well I think that if Clark and Edwards come in a relative tie for third with between 10% and 15% of the vote, or even if Clark comes in fourth with a double digit percentage, he's far from toast. I think anything Clark achieves north of single digits in New Hampshire, a place very far from his base in the south, will be impressive.
To bastardize an Al Sharpton quote, "If I got 18% of the vote, I'd still be in Iowa hooting and hollering". If you look at the total vote count and not on the expectations that the spin masters focus on, you see a different picture.
For one thing, this guy just started his campaign four months ago and had to skip Iowa because he couldn't mount an effective campaign in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And he's missed out on the post Iowa bounce that Edwards got that could have been his.
And, this guy is still a rookie. He hasn't been able to spend years developing a nuanced position on abortion or gun control or whether Bush indeed was AWOL or not. He just jumped into the race and became easy fodder for guys like Tim Russerts and Peter Jennings who love to take apart these guys every chance they get. I point to Dave Winer for more on this thought.
So if the Democrats want to send their talented rookie back to the minors just because he gave up some homers to Tim and Peter last week, that is their perogative. But I think sending out the old guys with tired arms may be a mistake too. Let's at least let the rookie pitch a few more games before we start calling him "toast".
Am I Really That Liberal?
Jeff Jarvis was getting slammed a week ago for saying he was a liberal when a lot of people who read his blog thought otherwise.
Well I think I've got a different problem, at least according to an AOL/Time Inc service on the web called President Match.
I think I'm a centrist Democrat who sometimes talks like a Republican. But it seems that self perception isn't reality.
My daughter told me about this President Match thing that said she should vote for Dennis Kucinich.
So I figured that I ought to see who AOL and Time think I should vote for.
I went through the whole thing and it asked a bunch of good questions which I dutifully answered.
And the results are in. I should vote for Kucinich too. After that, Al Sharpton should be my next choice.
And I thought I was a Clark man. He's #4 on my list, after John Kerry.
In light of last night, this column is worth reading again.
Clark vs. Edwards
I watched both of these guys talk to Bob Dole last night on one of the cable new channels. I can't remember which it was.
Clark fought with Dole for no reason and came off as an agressive, arrogant, jerk.
Edwards schmoozed with Dole and came across as a likeable, smart, polished professional.
If Clark is going to make it through NH, he'd better change that act in a hurry.
I think Iowa showed that the people of the Democratic party want someone who can beat Bush, but they also want a positive, likeable person.
I don't think Edwards can beat Bush. I don't think Kerry can either. But I would love to convince myself otherwise on both of these guys because I've met them both and like them and their politics. I think Clark can beat Bush, but not by acting the way he acted last night with Dole.
I hope his handlers saw what I saw and tell him to change his tune - fast.
Well that's what it's come down to after the dramatic surge by Kerry and Edwards (and the equally dramatic plunge by Dean). Now its on to NH. It looks like Gephardt is out tomorrow and I think Lieberman will be gone after NH.
What's going to be interesting is if Clark can weather the post Iowa bounce that Kerry and Edwards are going to get and make a strong showing in NH. If he can, then its a four man race for a while. The next week is going to be interesting.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I've been saying the democratic race is between Dean and Clark. Well I may be wrong. It looks like Kerry and possibly Edwards are still in it. Kery in particular has been picking up a lot of steam over the past week in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Although I think the NY Post is a terribly slanted publication, I am pointing to a piece written by John Podhoretz in yesteday's Post. John's analysis shows that Dean is slipping and there are a number of candidates who can beat him.
Another interesting thing to look at is the ARG New Hampshire tracking poll which shows Dean's lead slipping and Clark and Kerry gaining quickly.
If Kerry wins Iowa, and that appears to be a real possibility now, and Clark, Dean, and Kerry come in a three way tie in NH, then its not Dean vs Clark anymore, its Dean vs Clark vs Kerry.
None of this changes my conviction that Wes Clark is the best guy in the race and the most likely to beat Bush. But in many ways Kerry is a lot better than Dean and I think democrats are waking up to that fact this week.
Bush In 30 Seconds (Cont)
Following up on my previous post on the MoveOn ads, they have selected a winner. It's called Child's Play and it wasn't one of my favorites, but it's a good ad that raises an important issue about the ridiculous budget deficits that the Bush Administration is running up. I guess the Bush Administration doesn't care about defecits because as Dick Cheney told Paul O'Neill, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter".
Well there is more to the story. Jeff Jarvis points to a story in Ad Age that says that CBS may not run the ad. That's a travesty if that happens. This ad is the winner of a contest that was of the people, by the people, and for the people. As I said in my previous post, "These ads were written and filmed by citizens like you and me who are expressing their feelings about our political leadership. This is democracy in the age of digital video and the Internet."
If you agree with me, post your thoughts on your blog and spread the word.
Bush In 30 Seconds
Say what you will about the negativity of these ads, I think the idea of hosting a web-based contest to come up with great political ads is a perfect use of the interactivity and two-way nature of the Internet. These ads were written and filmed by citizens like you and me who are expressing their feelings about our political leadership. This is democracy in the age of digital video and the Internet. And I love it.
So, that said, these are the ones I like best.
Most of the rest are too over the top, too heavy handed, and too negative for my taste.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I've been saying on this blog for the past four months that the Democratic race is between Dean and Clark (and more recently that i'm a fan of Clark).
I just read about an interesting USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup poll that suggests the two things i believe:
1 - Bush is going to be very hard to beat as the economy is getting better just in time, and
2 - Clark is the only Democratic candidate who has a chance to beat Bush
Here's a link to USA Today's story on the poll
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
Wes Clark wants to change the tax code.
He wants families of four or more making less than $50k/year to pay no taxes.
He wants all taxpaying families making under $100K/year to get a tax cut.
He wants the tax form to be simplified for most families to three lines; income, number of children, and marital status.
He wants to fund this by closing corporate tax loopholes and increasing the tax rate on income over $1mm/year by 5%.
He calls this plan Families First.
I like it.
Well this is big news. Saddam Hussein has been captured by US troops and will now go on trial in Iraq. This is big for the Bush team. It's not clear how much of an impact it will have on the ongoing strife in Iraq, but its a huge political victory which shows that Bush's plan in Iraq is having the results he's looking for.
If you want to see some great pictures and commentary on this breaking news, go to Jeff Jarvis' Buzzmachine.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I have always been fascinated by polls. I love data and in the world of politics, polls are the best data that you can get. They are never perfect, but if you pay attention to them, you'll generally know what's going on, who's going up, who's going down, etc.
There is a new Newsweek poll out on the Democratic presidential primary.
It shows that Dean is in command, not surprisingly. It also shows that Clark and Lieberman and Gephart are playing for second place, and everyone else is so far back that they really can't be taken seriously anymore.
Interestingly, Clark polls better than Dean in a race against Bush. With Dean beating Clark by 12 points in among Democrats, what does that tell you about Clark's crossover appeal?
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
Seems like the comments section of my blog is a mini Dean vs. Clark debate site.
So I'll throw some fuel into the fire by linking to Josh Marshall's interesting post on Dean vs. Clark.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I just heard Gore is going to endorse Dean. That's huge for Dean and bad news for everyone else, including my favorite Wes Clark.
It will be interesting to hear why Gore is supporting Dean. I think Gore is a very smart guy, but he was a terrible candidate who lost his home state.
And I also feel as my friend Cliff said to me today that the train is leaving the station before the debate has even been held before anyone other than the core activist wing of the Democratic Party. I just fear this is going to backfire badly in the general election.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
As I've said in this blog recently, I am for Clark. I've taken some heat for that stance, but sitting here a couple weeks after making that decision, I honestly think its the right place to be if you are a Democrat that wants to win back the white house.
Josh Marshall put up a post on his Talking Points Memo blog on Friday evening that captures the essence of where we are. Dean doesn't have a chance of beating Bush but he's almost instoppable in the Democratic primary.
Add to that this morning's article in the New York Times about the Super Tuesday primaries and its clear to me that the only candidate who has a chance of stopping Dean is Clark. And he needs to win big on Super Tuesday to do that.
By the way, check out the picture of Dean in the NY Times article. That picture says it all to me about Dean. He's way too defensive to make it in the bigtime against Bush. He's going to get slaughtered.
Jeff Jarvis on Clark
Sorry for spending so much time on this subject today, but its on my mind.
Jeff Jarvis thinks i should invite a few more candidates over for coffee before making up my mind on Clark.
Maybe i should. It would be Dean, Kerry, and Gephardt if i had to choose. Dean because he's in front and knows something about the Internet and its power to fuel democracy like nothing else. Kerry because i like him, i think he's a good man, he served his country well in Vietnam, and i mostly agree with his politics. And Gephart because i think he is the truest to his core beliefs with the possible exception of Wes Clark. But i don't think any of these three has a chance in hell of beating Bush next year.
But Jeff is wrong about a few things he said in his post.
Jeff says this about the flag burning issue:
I'm appalled by his promise to sign a Consitutional amendment banning flag burning. During Vietnam, authorities in New York started arresting people for displaying the peace-sign-American-flag button. My father -- a staunch Republican, a veteran, a proud patriot -- was so incensed at this violation of Constitutional rights of free speech that he asked me to give him one of my buttons and he wore it with defiance: Arrest me! I was so proud of him for that. I'm not proud of Clark's stand. It's Constitutionally naive and dangerous. It's pandering that will get him nowhere.
Well Jeff, Clark isn't talking about banning the "peace sign american flag" button. He's talking about burning the flag. The symbol of America. We make our kids pledge allegiance to it in school. What's wrong with saying the flag's off limits for pyrotechnics. And Clark simply said to a bunch of veterans in an American Legion hall that he'd sign it, not that he'd push for it. In fact, he specifically said he's not going to push for it.
Jeff says this about the Clark's plan for Iraq:
I'm quite unimpressed with his "plan" for Iraq: pull the hell out and hand it over to Iraq now, with minor help. That is downright irresponsible. We have a moral duty to help the Iraqi people build a strong democracy and economy. Pulling out, Vietnam-like, won't do that. This, too, is pandering.
I don't know why we have a moral duty to help the Iraqis build a strong democracy. We shouldn't have gone in there in the first place. Sadaam didn't attack us. Bin Laden did. And Bush pulled the greatest bait and switch on the american public in history and used 9/11 to galvanize public opinion for a war against someone who had no way and no will to attack us. So Bush may have a moral duty to help clean up his mess, but America doesn't.
And we didn't pull out of Vietnam until we'd spent 10 years there and countless lives. The whole problem with Iraq is that its just like Vietman. Clark knows that. He wants our troops out of Iraq because its a quagmire like Vietman that's getting worse. We are fighting an unwinnable war. So let's do our best to help the Iraqis and then get out before we spend too much blood there.
I think Jeff's a smart guy, but i disagree with him on this stuff. Hopefully, he'll give Clark another chance.
Wes Clark (Continued)
My mom read my blog this morning and asked me about Wes Clark, the man.
This is what I wrote to her:
my sense of him is that he's smart and a good guy. he's a duty, honor, country type. sure he's ambitious. and i am sure he's got a big ego. but he seems to be a man on a mission and the mission is to move the country to the center, regain our standing as the good guys in the world, and to get our troops out of harms way. and i am in agreement with all of that.
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog know that the usual title of my posts on democratic presendential politics is "Dean vs. Clark".
Well I am now solidly in the Clark camp.
Last night we had about 70 people at our house to meet Wes Clark. He was everything I expected him to be. He is serious and funny, straight and compassionate, smart and warm, proud and humble, a great man and a regular guy.
He has that magic that great politicians have. He looks you in the eye and you feel special.
He spoke to our group for about 6-7 minues and then took questions for about 40 minutes.
He didn't wait for the question about flag burning, he took it straight on. He said that free speech is a constitutional right and he recognized all the reasons why there may never be constituional protection for the flag. But he's fought under the flag, seen men come home in coffins draped in the flag, and he knows how much the flag means to people. He said symbols are powerful things in our society. And so if all the things required to get a constitutional amendment passed on this issue were to happen, he'd be happy to sign it. I can't argue with that logic. In fact, I think its right.
He talked about jobs and why we are are losing so many. I asked him to talk about his comment in Monday's debate about software jobs going to India. He said that the US can't and won't stop these jobs from going to India, and for that matter, Russia, Eastern Europe, and possibly China. He said that anyone with a computer, an Internet connection, and a talent for writing great code can become an employee of a software company these days. He's right. And further, I am impressed that he understands that. So many of our candidates don't.
He talked about getting our troops out of Iraq. He wants to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis right now. He wants to bring Bremer home. He wants to bring the airborne and armor and all the traditional forces home. He wants to send in 20,000 troops who have been trained in policing. Teach them Arabic. Set them up all over the country in police stations alongside Iraqis. He wants to create a multi-national authority, not NATO, but something like NATO with Arab nations included. He wants that multi-national authority to oversee the transition. He wants to take our troops out of the impossible position they are in of being liqhtning rods for the Iraqi's frustration and sitting ducks for their guns and bombs. That sounds like a good plan to me.
He said that the 2004 election is not going to be about the economy. It's not going to be a replay of 1992. He believes the defining issue of this election, no matter who runs against Bush, is going to be our foreign policy, Iraq, the war on terror, homeland security, and the future of the America's relationship with the world. He believes that he is the man to take on Bush on those issues, to show Americans a different and better way.
And that is why I am for Clark. I know he's stuck in the low teens and is 20 points behind Dean in many polls. But I think he's got what it takes to beat Bush, and I believe that Democrats all over the country will recognize that once they have the opportunity to take the measure of the man as I now have.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I took the time yesterday to read Peter Boyer's lengthy criticism of Wes Clark's handling of the war in Kosovo in The New Yorker. It certainly left me with some big question marks about what i have said is Clark's long suit - foreign policy. Then i read Fred Kaplan's reply in Slate and felt a lot better about Clark.
Taken together, they give me a really great picture of this debate about Clark's dismissal and the "character and integrity" issues that Hugh Shelton slammed Clark with and now refuses to elaborate on.
If you are looking at Clark's candidacy and trying to figure out this guy, i'd suggest reading both pieces.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I know that all my links to Jeff Jarvis are getting boring, but the simple fact is that Jeff blogs more than anybody i know with the possible exception of Jim Cramer, and you've got to pay to read Jim (although the money you'll make reading him will more than offset the cost).
But Jeff is truly prolific and reads everything and links to a lot of stuff that's really good. Which takes me back to my original subject, which is the race for the soul of the Democratic party, or as Seth Godin would say, "Who Will Beat Bush".
Jeff has a post up that talks to my favorite political topic, Dean vs. Clark, or as Jeff puts it, "Deanlash".
Read the links. Think about them. Dean feels skimpy to me too Jeff.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I've done a lot of homework on these two guys. As i've said before on this blog, i think this campaign will quickly be between Dean and Clark.
Dean has built a tremendous grass roots campaign. He's used the Internet beautifully. He gets it. He's using direct communication with his supporters to energize them, empower them, and raise tons of money. My bet is he'll get enough support today to decide to give up matching funds. And his money machine will keep Dean in this race for the long haul.
Clark is smart, really smart. He is playing his cards much closer to the vest. His long suit is foreign policy. He's got more crediblitiy than Bush on national security and foreign policy and that's what's going to matter in this race. Clark knows that. He's sticking to a very middle of the road strategy on all the other issues and making hay with foreign policy.
And that's the only way the Democrats are going to win in 2004. Because the economy is getting better. Bush won't be beatable on pocketbook issues.
But we've still got black hawks going down in Iraq, kids coming home in coffins, Sadaam and Osama and their followers taking shots at us, and that's not going down very well at home.
Wes Clark has a plan and the credibility to get us out of this mess.
And that's why i am leaning towards Clark.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
Dick Morris (I know he's got credibility issues) wrote an opinion piece in today's NY Post called "Wes' Losing Plan".
If you're interested in the summary, Dick suggests that Clark's decision to blow off Iowa and downplay New Hampshire is a big mistake. He suggests that Clark is giving Dean the opportunity to win both of those primaries and emerge with big time momentum.
And, even more interesting to me, is Dick's assertion that "cyber roots" has supplanted "grass roots" as the essential vitality of a "come out of nowhere" political campaign.
This takes me back to the point i made in one of my earlier Dean vs. Clark posts. Clark's campaign has traditional political operatives, big time contributors coming out of the woodwork, and supposedly better poll numbers against Bush. But as Dick Morris points out, Clark lacks real backing. And Dean has used the Internet to build lots of real backing.
And now Clark is effectively giving away the first two primaries to Dean. Not a great way to build momentum. It makes me wonder the exact same question that Dick Morris ends with. Are Clark's managers "like the generals of France who enter each war perfectly prepared to win the last one"?
Blogging for dollars
For those of you who are interested in politics, blogging, and money, the Wall Street Journal has a good front page story today about how Dean's campaign has used email addresses and blogs to jump to the front of the pack.
Dean vs. Clark (Continued)
I've been thinking all day about this looming race between Dean and Clark for the soul of the democratic party.
Clark polls much better against Bush than Dean. That's a big deal. There's no point in supporting someone who can't beat Bush.
But what i've been mulling about is the attractiveness of the Internet-centric, inclusive campaign that Dean has run to date and whether Clark has the personality and brain trust to do the same. I badly want the Democratic candidate to be someone who understands what we all understand - that the Internet changes the game fundamentally and must be harnessed as part of a progessive forward thinking political effort like running for President.
And i finally came upon some words of wisdom, that Jim Moore, who is a great thinker, posted on his blog today.
If you are interested in this topic, i'd suggest you go read what Jim has to say.
Dean vs Clark (Continued)
If you are like me and want to know more about this man Wesley Clark, i highly recommend it.
Clark vs Einstein
The New York Times today pointed to a story on Wired.com that ran last week that somehow I missed.
Wesley Clark thinks we'll be able to travel at speeds in excess of the speed of light. That's pretty provocative stuff.
Dean's Not A Liberal
The New York Times has a piece on the front page today "Dean Struggles With A Stance Over Medicare". The gist of the story is that Dean is under attack from his competitors over his comments in the mid 90's over scaling back Medicare and and Social Security. It suggests that he's got a real problem with these comments.
Well I think he should trumpet these comments not run from them. He's not a liberal. He's a Clinton-esque New Democrat who believes in fiscal responsibility. This is a huge asset, not a liability. Look at the way the Bush Administration has savaged our federal budget with massive spending increases and big tax cuts. Dean can fix all of that. He can make the tough choices, take the unpopular positions, and get us back to a balanced budget.
And the truly liberal losers like Gephardt should stop damaging one of the Democrats two real viable candidates before they weaken him.
Checking Out Clark
My dad's a retired US Army officer. He spent over 30 years in the Army, graduated from West Point, served in Vietnam, etc. So I figured if I wanted to check out Clark, he should be the first call.
He pointed me to the attached story in the Los Altos Town Crier
It pains me to know that Rush Limbaugh also linked to this story from his website, but I guess that's the way it is in an open society using an open platform like the web.
However, my father also said the following about Clark:
1 - It is highly unusual for one general to make comments about another general like those the former Chairman of the JCS is reported to have made in this forum. Shocking, even. That another officer is lacking in character and integrity is absolutely the worst thing one could say.
2 - While he doesn't know the basis for General Shelton's opinion, he suspects that it has to do with Clark's use of the NATO chain of command during the Kosovo fracas to try to get around restrictions put on him by Clinton/Cohen/Shelton. That's an excellent way to get fired, but he would not call it a character/integrity issue. In fact it could be argued the other way around: Clark had the guts to use all the means at his disposal to try to save lives and accomplish his mission. My dad has a very soft spot for Douglas MacArthur so it's not surprising to hear him say that.
3 - He doesn't think that Shelton's opinion matches Clark's overall reputation in the military. That reputation can be characterized by two words: brilliant, abrasive.
4 - He likes Clark better than any of the other candidates including our current President. And he's normally a Republican. He thinks that the "abrasive" part of his personality, to the extent that it's true, is a serious problem for him. If that comes out clearly in the campaign, he'll never get elected, and probably not nominated. Less obviously, if abrasive means unwilling to listen to advice from those he considers his intellectual inferiors, that's a bad mistake that would make him a less effective, even dangerous, president.
All of this is incredibly helpful to me. It gives me some context to work with in my effort to get to know this man.
The California Recall - Part 2
My friends tell me there is no time limit that has to pass before the next governor can be recalled.
They also tell me it cost $1.6mm to fund the drive to get the signatures to recall Gray Davis.
So if the terminator wins, I expect the fundraising will start the next day.
They call this democracy in California.
Dean vs. Clark
For me it's that simple.
I like and respect John Kerry. He's not going to beat Bush though.
It took me a while to warm up to Dean. I fear his "liberal" reputation. But after seeing Gephart go after him for being with Newt Gingrich on Medicare, I know he's not a liberal. And my daughter likes Dean because his wife is Jewish. That's a good thing too. I like diversity of all kinds.
I fear that Clark is too much of a rookie and an oportunist. This guy voted for Bush and Reagan. How is that he's a Democrat now?
But I just read Michael Moore's post on Clark at http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/message/index.php?messageDate=2003-09-12
To quote from that post:
1. He opposes the Patriot Act and would fight the expansion of its powers.
2. He is firmly pro-choice.
3. He filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan's affirmative action case.
4. He would get rid of the Bush tax "cut" and make the rich pay their fair share.
5. He respects the views of our allies and want to work with them and with the rest of the international community.
6. And he opposes war. He has said that war should always be the "last resort" and that it is military men such as himself who are the most for peace because it is HIM and his soldiers who have to do the dying. He finds something unsettling about a commander-in-chief who dons a flight suit and pretends to be Top Gun, a stunt that dishonored those who have died in that flight suit in the service of their country.
So I've got to give Clark a chance too.
I am going to spend the next couple months meeting these two guys and learning more about them.
The California Recall
So the Terminator thinks that the recall is a "great idea" according to the New York Times this morning.
Well I think that if he's elected Governor, the Democrats should immediately start a second recall process to get rid of him.
This is nutty. It makes a total mockery of the democratic process.
When is an election not an election? When the Republicans lose. That was proven in Florida and now it looks to be the case again in California.
Chuck Schumer is the senior senator from NY. He's a good guy.
He's against guns in the hands of the wrong people, conservative judges, people trying to turn back the clock on abortion rights.
He's for rebuilding NYC, improving poor people's access to prescription drugs, fighting the war on terrorism, and protecting us all from spam and telemarketing.
In short, he's my kind of guy.
We held a small get together for Chuck last night at our home in NYC. He was there to raise money for his next campaign. That's the unfortunate part of the politcal game. The fortunate part is that the people who came got to see a real person hanging out and telling it like it is.
He thinks Bush is dangerous, that he's right of Reagan, that's he's made a deal with the ultra right wing of the republican party to nominate judges who are committed to rolling back the clock on important laws that protect our freedoms. He thinks Bush is beatable. He thinks that the current slate of Democratic Presidential candidates is weak and we don't have a clear winner in the group. He likes Clark but thinks he's going to make rookie mistakes unless he gets a lot of help fast. He supported the war in Iraq, but thinks the Bush Administration's lack of a plan to get us out has put us in a costly and dangerous predicament.
The best part of it was my kids got to sit there and listen to all of that. They asked questions. And got to see a glimpse of how politics works. How our country is governed. Chuck loves kids. He told us how he wished he'd had more than his two wonderful daughters.
I hate the money part of politics. It makes everything suspect. But last night was OK. Probably because Chuck is my senator and I like the guy.
If you want to learn more about Chuck Schumer and how to support him, go to http://www.senate.gov/~schumer/
The Dali Lama On War
The Dali Lama spoke in Central Park this weekend. He said, "The very concept of war is out of date," he said to applause. "Destruction of your neighbor as an enemy is essentially a destruction of yourself."
I agree with that. I wish our leaders did too.
See the whole article at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/22/nyregion/22DALA.html