Sunday, October 31, 2004

Real Republicans

A friend took me to task for having lumped all registered Republicans together and called them a nasty name in a previous post. She was quite right – I am at fault. There are a wide range of people who are registered as Republicans, many of whom share most of my own values of fiscal responsibility, social liberalism, civil rights, and open, honest, accountable government. We differ in the policies and processes by which to achieve those ends, but not on the ends themselves. They are committed to government where differences are resolved through debate, persuasion, and compromise.

And then there is Bush and his thuggish supports who are committed to crony capitalism, preemptive war, and fascism as the fundamental form of government. These people have worked hard and fully deserve the epithet “Rethuglican”.

What has happened to the Republican party?

From my childhood, I have had seen a deep divide in the GOP. On the one hand are the demagogues, exemplified by Nixon, and on the other are true conservatives, exemplified by so very many men and women of character: Gerald and Betty Ford, Howard Baker, Dan Evans, Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, the Chafees, the Eisenhowers, Bob Packwood, Pete McCloskey, Bob Smith, and many others. When Dan Evans was governor of Washington State, we proudly called ourselves “Evans Democrats” because he was the best man for the job. I was old enough to understand the importance of Watergate when it happened. My parents made clear that the honor and integrity of the law was of utmost importance, and to judge people by that standard. In the early 70’s, there were Republicans up to that challenge.

"What did the president know, and when did he know it?" Thirty years ago, a Republican was the one to ask that question of another Republican. Can you imagine Tom DeLay or Dennis Hastert asking such a question of their good buddy George? No. Far from being willing to hold the president accountable for having deliberately misled the nation into war, for having conducted the war badly, and for failing miserably to secure the US itself against terrorism, this pack accuses people like myself of being traitors to the nation for daring to question Commander Codpiece.

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
Teddy Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

There are the words of a true Republican. Was TR blameless or perfect in his public service? Far from it, and he’d be the first to tell you so. What he did was set a standard and demand that Americans hold themselves accountable to it, particularly members of his own party. When they failed, he formed a third party, the Bull Moose party.

Check out the Bull Moose web site. This is a Republican who denounces Bush as no kind of conservative, as lawless and self-indulgent, and as destructive to the interests of the Republican party, indeed, of America. This is not someone who wishes to be a Democrat, though he thinks the Democrats have greatly improved in the last few years. This is someone who wants his party back.

What about these Republicans? Or these? These are people who care about their country as well as their party. They are horrified at the Rethug shift to extremism and ideology, for-us-or-against-us attitudes, insulting behavior towards allies, and attempts to cast those in disagreement with Rethug extremism as traitors to the nation. They decry the abandonment of true conservative principles. They are chilled by the cavalier attitude towards protection of civil rights and legal protections.

So, just exactly who are the Republicans? Me, I vote for the people who speak moderately and honorably, who strongly but respectfully disagree with me about how to solve governmental problems, and who are not trying to develop some fascistic cult of the leader to frighten people into voting for a total turd of mediocrity.

Then there is the sad third group. These people, like John McCain, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, are enablers of the lawless ideologues who have seized the reins of the GOP. This may be the majority of the party. Every GOP lawmaker, public servant and party official who knows what violence the Rethugs are doing to America and refuses to break with that faction is materially assisting the attack on America. They do so because of an unpleasant mix of desire for power and misplaced loyalty to a hijacked party machine. Perhaps they think they can direct this beast, or that they need to be in place to pick up the pieces when it collapses. Mostly it is their unwillingness to do as TR told them to do almost a century ago – judge what is in front of your eyes. Their unwillingness to do as Howard Baker did only thirty years ago – place the law before the party. Their unwillingness to speak the truth, lose an election cycle, take back control of their party, and emerge stronger than ever.

There are strong signs that Bush is going to lose badly this round, regardless of what the Gallup poll says. Remember, the polls had Gore behind as well and he won the popular vote. He won Florida, too, regardless of Jeb Bush’s machinations. A miscount is not the same as a win. Thus, the question on November 3rd will be – what kind of Republican are you?


Kerry/Edwards - It's going to happen

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Unreal - Blaming the Troops

The WH bastards are now blaming the troops for not securing the explosives. They sent Rudy Giuliani out to blame the fighting men and women for not being miracle workers as well as soldiers: "The president was cautious the president was prudent the president did what a commander in chief should do. No matter how you try to blame it on the president the actual responsibility for it really would be for the troops that were there. Did they search carefully enough? Didn't they search carefully enough?"

Wes Clark, once again, provides the rejoinder to this bullshit:

“For President Bush to send Rudolph Giuliani out on television to say that the 'actual responsibility' for the failure to secure explosives lies with the troops is insulting and cowardly.

The President approved the mission and the priorities. Civilian leaders tell military leaders what to do. The military follows those orders and gets the job done. This was a failure of civilian leadership, first in not telling the troops to secure explosives and other dangerous materials, and second for not providing sufficient troops and sufficient equipment for troops to do the job.

President Bush sent our troops to war without sufficient body armor, without a sound plan and without sufficient forces to accomplish the mission. Our troops are performing a difficult mission with skill, bravery and determination. They deserve a commander in chief who supports them and understands that the buck stops in the Oval Office, not one who gets weak knees and shifts blame for his mistakes.

No, Virginia, they have no shame.


Kerry/Edwards - Respect our troops

Creating Our Own Reality

I can't wait for next week when we can vote these lying bastards out of the White House.

Every realiable witness (not inside party hack) who knows shit about the missing explosives clearly says that the explosives were present after the US takeover, and that the looting occured under the US watch.

The WH keeps floating one idiot story after another, sourced through Druge or FOX, claiming they weren't a problem (I think that's probably the real attitude - who cares that these munitions are killing and maiming US soldiers every day?), that they were never there, that they were taken before the US arrived, oh, no, wait! We know! The Russians took 'em! Yeah, yeah, the Ruskies, that's it!

Can we say pathetic?

For the full scopp, just head on over to Talking Points Memo and settle in for a long and horrifying read. The first post can be found here if you would like to read them in order.

Myself, I like Wes Clark's rejoinder to the bullshit:

Today George W. Bush made a very compelling and thoughtful argument for why he should not be reelected. In his own words, he told the American people that “…a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your Commander in Chief.

President Bush couldn’t be more right. He jumped to conclusions about any connection between Saddam Hussein and 911. He jumped to conclusions about weapons of mass destruction. He jumped to conclusions about the mission being accomplished. He jumped to conclusions about how we had enough troops on the ground to win the peace. And because he jumped to conclusions, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq may very well have their hands on powerful explosives to attack our troops, we are stuck in Iraq without a plan to win the peace, and Americans are less safe both at home and abroad.

By doing all these things, he broke faith with our men and women in uniform. He has let them down. George W. Bush is unfit to be our Commander in Chief.

Having faith and being resolute isn't worth shit if you can't execute. Bush is not living on this planet (except when it comes to manipulating elections), and will consign thousands more US soldiers to a death trap because he believes we won the war back in May. That's when the invasion was supposed to end, so it did, and everything afterwards is just clean-up.

The reality is that unsecured explosives, which were left unprotected due to an ineptly planned and managed invasion, have been placed in terrorist hands, and soldiers and civilians around the world are going to pay for that oversight with their lives.

That's the reality.


Kerry/Edwards - In touch with reality

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Intermittant Reality, Criminal Activity

The Bush White House does have moments of lucidity. Sadly, they mostly involve getting itself reelected and are thoroughly corrupt. For example, they know their guy can't win a fair election, so they engage in criminal activity to try to interfere with voting. The one not getting enough big news is the Sproul attmepts, among other shenanigans, to collect Democratic voter's registrations and then destroy them so they don't appear on voter rolls. Salon's Farhad Manjoo has a long article on it:

Sproul play (Requires subscription or watching an ad first)

The deeper issue with the Bush group is that they simply do not give a shit about the rule of law. All that matters is staying in power, and whatever it takes to stay there is acceptable. Criminality is rewarded, not punished. This goes straight back to Nixon's enemies list and his grab-bag of dirty tricks.

Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo notes that Bush has put a criminal in charge of his New England reelection efforts:

Back on July 1st a source first told me that Allen Raymond, the man at the heart of the New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, had fingered Jim Tobin as one of his accomplices.(Tobin's role was reported first on TPM on October 11th.) Tobin, as we've noted earlier, was the New England regional director of the Bush-Cheney campaign until he resigned last Friday.

That's more than three and a half months ago. The Bush campaign has known at least since then. And I suspect much longer. And yet they left him in the post.

That means the campaign kept in place a man implicated in an election tampering scam that took place in the same part of the country over which the campaign had given him oversight.

What does that tell you?

Another point ...

To the best of my knowledge no political reporter covering the Bush campaign has asked a campaign spokesperson 1) when they found out about Tobin's role in the election tampering scheme and 2) why they didn't remove him from the campaign after they learned.

What does that tell you?

If anyone knows of a reporter who's asked or an article where an answer has been published, please let me know.

In other phone-jamming news, yesterday the Justice Department again went to the mat to prevent New Hampshire Democrats from gaining access to evidence about Tobin's role in the case. (Link)

In short, the one time when Bush appears to escape his fantasy world is when his own personal desires are threatened, and then he will gladly break laws and deprive citizens of legal rights in order to maintain his death grip on power. To me, this indicates that the White House isn't quite as out of touch with reality as we've been led to believe, but also indicates that what they care about is in conflict with lawful governance.

Kerry/Edwards - Committed to the rule of law, not the law of the jungle

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Reality of a Draft

I concur with a variety of bloggers and pundits that George Bush means it when he says he doesn't intend to restart the draft in his second term. The problem is that he is speaking from inside of his fantasy world where Saddam Hussein was in league with al-Qaeda, where there wouldn't be any casualties for the US in the Iraq war, where we acoomplished our mission back in May of 2003, and so forth. He honestly doesn't want to reinstate the draft. But wishful thinking and fervent assertions are no replacement for a cold, hard look at the real world.

  1. The US military is overextended. We're calling up the Black Horse regiment, moving troops out of Korea, and enacting stop-loss measures. These facts add up to a near-future need for more troops.

  2. Enlistment numbers are down. Recruiters are failing to make their enlistment quotas *in a period of record unenployment.* Young men and women who are not yet in the armed forces no longer see the military as a reasonable choice, where danger is balanced with opportunity. Re-enlistment numbers are also down as people at the end of their tours are not re-upping. They take one look at Iraq and calculate that the skills they've learned in the forces will be enough to get work, even in a depressed employment situation. It's not like they are paid a whole hell of lot while in uniform, remember.

  3. The Bush administration likes imperial adventures. They are sabre-rattling against Syria and Iran, even as Iraq becomes less governable by the day. They do not appear to have learned any lessons from either Afghanistan or Iraq in terms of planning, goals, and intelligent use of armed forces.

  4. Due to the mismanagement of relations with our allies (He keeps forgetting Poland in speeches, nowadays), we are not going to be given much support from other sources, particularly when our allies can see the real situation.

These are just a few reasons I can pull up with a little thought. The question isn't whether Bush *wants* a draft. The question is whether the known and observable policies of his administration, established over the last four years and defended as 100% correct, will place the US in a situation such that we will have to start conscription to meet basic defense needs.

What if a cold conflict turns suddenly hot, such as North Korea? We can't simply leave Iraq, we can't ignore that new attack, we will have to respond, and the one fast way to get trops is through a draft. That's why we have mandatory Selective Service registration.

Here are two articles in particular that discusss in more detail than I have why a draft is a strong possibility under Bush:

Lying About the Draft Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo

Yes, Virginia, there could be a draft Mark Kleiman

Both of them emphasize the selective part of the service - namely targeting skilled professionals such as medical providers and technology experts. So, don't think that your membership in a highly-skilled profession will keep you safe. It will probably make you more attractive.

So, while Bush's heart *might* be in the right place, his inability to understand, let alone acknowledge, that his perception of the world simply isn't in line with reality makes a draft more, not less, likely.

How does Kerry differ? First off, a realistic assessment of how things stand in Iraq and the rest of the world. Next, speaking honestly and respectfully with allies around the globe to clarify that a chaotic Iraq will bite us all and to win substantive support. This will definitely entail loosening Halliburton's stranglehold on contracts. My sense there is that we will all save some money by getting that pig away from the trough. Given a new assessment and better support, I anticipate a redoubling of efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan to pacify the countries. He has stated he will support the Geneva Conventions, measures that protect our fighting troops.

Kerry has already said he wants to create two new *volunteer* divisions (one combat, one support) in the Army to beef up US forces the right way, but this takes time, it takes allocation of funds (not some numbers pulled out of somebody's ass), and it means that his policies will have to reassure the men and women who are asked to join that their lives will not be thrown away on a fantasy vision of what we are doing.

Bottom line: Bush has squandered the wealth, stength and reputation of our country in pursuit of his obsession with Saddam Hussein. His actions have weakened the US to the point where we may have to institute a draft simply to cover basic defense needs. To give him four more years of chasing bogeymen practically gurantees this will happen.


Kerry/Edwards - Realistic policies to defend the US

Monday, October 18, 2004

It's the Reality, Stupid

John Kenneth Galbraith writes another great short piece for Salon, commenting on how the gung-ho economic fantacists of the Reagan era are stunned at the complete disconnect from anything approximating reality in the Bush White House. He discusses three of these figures, quoting what they have to say about Bush. The scariest is from an email by Paul Craig Roberts, John M. Olin Fellow at the Independent Institute:

"Bush's supporters demand lock-step consensus that Bush is right. They regard truthful reports that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and was not involved in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. -- truths now firmly established by the Bush administration's own reports -- as treasonous America-bashing ... In language reeking with hatred, Heritage Foundation Town Hall readers impolitely informed me that opposing the invasion of Iraq is identical to opposing America, that Bush is the greatest American leader in history and everyone who disagrees with him should be shot before they cause America to lose another war ... Bush's conservative supporters want no debate. They want no facts, no analysis. They want to denounce and to demonize the enemies that the Hannitys, Limbaughs, and Savages of talk radio assure them are everywhere at work destroying their great and noble country."

This is fascism. As Arendt points out repeatedly in her writings, why I cite her entreaty to bear witness to the truth, the sheer thereness or reality can be rejected by those determined determined to see the world in simple and brutal terms. Their story makes sense of the complexity and confusion, but that does not mean it is thereby more accurate. It creates a world in which there are the holy, the elect, the chosen, and the rest who deserve eradication. They are all too eager to deal out death in judgement. It seems like strength, certitude, decisiveness; in reality it masks fear, ignorance and lust for power.

Galbraith concludes:

"All three of these men remain highly conservative. Bartlett has become a budget realist, stating frankly that taxes will rise in the next administration because they have to. Thus, he correctly argues, the choice is whether they should go up on capital and the wealthy, as they would under John Kerry -- or on consumption and the poor, as they would under Bush. Roberts has become an economic nationalist in the Pat Buchanan mold, mourning the loss of manufacturing jobs and writing stridently against free trade. Wanniski holds much the same economic views he always did.

And how are these three Reagan conservatives going to vote this year? I don't know. I haven't asked them. And so far as I know they haven't said in public. But their recent words speak powerfully to the emerging political divide in America today. It isn't left against right, rich against poor or North against South. It's reason against certitude. It's evidence against dogma. It's a willingness to argue facts against a refusal to brook doubt.

Welcome to the coalition of the reality-based."

Welcome, indeed.

Kerry/Edwards - It's the reality, stupid.

Reality Means Thinking Ahead

Bush's worst departure from reality was his unwillingness to hear from people who knew better than he did what was and wasn't possible with regard to fighting terrorism and then fighting in Iraq. He shoved Richard Clarke aside because the man wouldn't let up on the fact that Osama bin Laden is *not* a state actor, not even a henchman of a rogue state. Then Bush brushed aside the utterly realistic warnings by lifetime military men, like Gen. Shalikashvili, who said it would take tens of thousands of more US troops to effectively subdue Iraq, as well as involving a long, dangerous occupation. The Meocons ("It's all about *me* and what I want!") simply declared that we would be met as liberators. It's more than bad ideas - it is a lack of any connection to reality:

"In March 2003, days before the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, American war planners and intelligence officials met at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina to review the Bush administration's plans to oust Saddam Hussein and implant democracy in Iraq.

Near the end of his presentation, an Army lieutenant colonel who was giving a briefing showed a slide describing the Pentagon's plans for rebuilding Iraq after the war, known in the planners' parlance as Phase 4-C. He was uncomfortable with his material - and for good reason.

The slide said: "To Be Provided."

A Knight Ridder review of the administration's Iraq policy and decisions has found that it invaded Iraq without a comprehensive plan in place to secure and rebuild the country. The administration also failed to provide some 100,000 additional U.S. troops that American military commanders originally wanted to help restore order and reconstruct a country shattered by war, a brutal dictatorship and economic sanctions."

Planning for After the War in Iraq Non-Existent

Bush listened to the ultimate con man, Ahmed Chalabi (an Iranian spy, no less!), and let himself be sweet-talked into an invasion. The glorious war would simply happen, and then we would all come home, victorious over "terra". The inability of anyone to consider that there is an "after" to go with the "happily ever" boggles the imagination. Bush never thought about what would happen. Catastrophic success, indeed.

However, you always have to pay the piper. Phil Carter of Intel Dump reports on an article in the Sunday LA Times, where it is reported that the elite "Blackhorse" Army training division in southern California is going to be sent to Iraq to do real fighting:

"The Los Angeles Times provides a long report in Sunday's paper on the deployment of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, dubbed "Blackhorse" for the stallion on its shoulder patch, to Iraq for a year of combat duty. The regiment has long served as as the opposing force, or "OPFOR", for units from other installations coming to train at the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Now, with the Army stretched to practically its breaking point over the Iraq and Afghanistan missions, the Army has turned to the Blackhorse regiment for help.

For years, The Box has been a stage for the Army's elite "opposition force" — soldiers expert at assuming the roles of enemy fighters, be they the Taliban or Iraqi insurgents. Their mission is to toughen new soldiers with elaborate simulations — staging sniper fire, riots, suicide car bombings and potentially dangerous culture clashes.

Staging such scenes has long been the work of the fabled 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, or Black Horse Regiment. But starting next month, the 3,500-member unit will begin shipping out to Iraq from the Ft. Irwin National Training Center, near Barstow. Deployments are nothing new in the Army, of course, but there is a special sense of urgency about dispatching the Black Horse to tackle situations that it has trained roughly 500,000 soldiers to handle since 1994. Now the bombs and bullets they encounter will be all too real.

"No one ever thought the Black Horse would be taken out of the National Training Center; they are just too valuable here," said Maj. John Clearwater. "But the Army is stretched too thin, and Iraq is a big mission."
The article misses the most important point: deploying the OPFOR is like eating your seed corn. This unit is responsible for training other units and raising their level of expertise and combat readiness. The 11th ACR is being replaced by a National Guard unit. That's like replacing the Dodgers with a high school baseball team. Sure, they can both play baseball and wear the uniform — but one is a whole lot more proficient and experienced at its job. The OPFOR has a reputation as a tough enemy, and that's a good thing because it forces units training at the NTC to become better themselves. By replacing this unit with National Guard troops, the Army has hurt its ability to produce good units for Iraq in the future. Suffice to say, National Guard and active units that go through Fort Irwin aren't going to get the same tough experience they would have with the Blackhorse regiment as OPFOR — and that means they'll be less ready for combat when they get to Iraq. This is a desperation measure, and I think the Army will come to regret it." Permalink

Consuming the resources we need in order to fight off *real* enemies. All for the sake of a fantasy war. As an FYI, the Blackhorse unit was made into such a formidable training group by Gen. Wesley Clark, who learned from the last fantasy war, Vietnam, where he and thousands of other servicemen were sacrificed for a fantasy of hegemony. If forethought had been given to this imperial adventure, perhaps we still would have invaded, but on much different terms and with attention paid to what comes after the Iraqi army is defeated.

The Blackhorse is going into this fantasy/nightmare. What about those who are there? We're hearing more and more about the Reservists who refused to be sent on a fool's errand. If you want to see who is paying much of the price of Bush's fantasy, visit Operation Truth, a site run by returning Iraq veterans and their families. Look at how they are already fighting bureaucracy to get medical treatment for injuries, how Reservist families are being left destitute because they are losing pay when they are deployed with no end in site.

None of this should be a mystery. Hell, I wrote about much of this before any troops went in, and I'm not what you could call an expert military strategist. But I live in the real world, unlike Mr. Bush.

Kerry/Edwards - thinking ahead, not wishful thinking

Reality-based Community

This blog is part of the reality-based community, people of all political, religious, philosophical, and other thoughtful persuasions who understand that at some point reality must be answered.

This is in response to BMM (Big Media Matt, aka Matthew Yglesias), and his coining of a perfect catch-phrase, one that captures the true divide between Bush and the rest of the world. We live in and acknowledge reality, like the fact that invading another country on a pretext is Not A Good Idea(TM). Or gutting the treasury to put more money in the pockets of those who don't need it. Etc.

People who disagree on any number of points can agree that Bush is living in a fantasy land, unmoored from reality, and is pulling the rest of the world along with him into chaos.

Kerry/Edwards - Standing firmly on solid ground

Sunday, October 17, 2004

John Kenneth Galbraith on Social Security

CBS New anchor Bob Schieffer did a fine job of moderating the third presidential debate. Except for one thing. And that was when he began his question on Social Security by stating, "We all know Social Security is running out of money."

Social Security is not running out of money. Here are the facts.

  1. Social Security is part of the government. It cannot run out of money unless the whole government also runs out of money. And the government of the United States cannot run out of money. That is not my opinion, it's an economic fact.
  2. Social Security is an entitlement. Not even Congress can easily interfere with its payments. Congress would have to vote to default on the bonds Social Security holds for benefits to fail over the next 40 years. It would have made more sense for Schieffer to say, "We all know that the Pentagon is running out of money" -- military spending must be appropriated each year. But we all know that the Pentagon won't be permitted to run out of money. Ditto Social Security, in spades.
  3. Yes, the U.S. government can make policy mistakes. It could potentially run such large deficits that we would get a ruinous inflation, or a disastrous decline of the dollar. But such a result could never be due to Social Security alone. It's a risk of the budget deficit as a whole. Obviously, Bush's tax cuts made a much larger contribution to the overall deficit than Social Security ever will.
  4. Right now, Social Security isn't running a deficit. It's running a surplus. Yes, that's right. The payroll tax takes in more revenue than Social Security pays out. This will continue to be true until at least 2018. It could remain true for much longer than that -- if the economy starts to grow good payroll jobs, on which Social Security taxes are paid.
  5. After 2018, because of the retirement of the baby boomers, it's likely that Social Security benefits will exceed payroll tax revenues. Is this a problem? Not really. The program's trustees project that benefits can be paid with no changes at all in the program until 2042. The Congressional Budget Office says 2052. If the economy does as well between now and then as it did during the past 75 years, no changes will ever be needed. And if it doesn't, the real benefit when shortfalls hit will still be higher than today.
  6. If the Trust Funds eventually have to be adjusted in order for full promised benefits to be paid, minor adjustments will suffice. And they will be good policy. When payrolls are relatively small, why not tap other revenues to pay pensions? The tax increases in any decade from the '50s to the '80s would have been adequate to plug the gap. Suppose, for example, that the estate tax were not repealed but instead credited to Social Security? In that way, much of the shortfall could be covered from America's most progressive revenue source. (Even the New York Times' editorial board recently suggested this might be a good idea.)
  7. How long can we go on paying Social Security benefits at present and projected levels? Essentially forever. Social Security benefits are not grossly excessive. And at 6.6 percent of gross domestic product over the long run, they won't become grossly excessive. Unlike medical costs, per capita retirement costs are not exploding. As economist Dean Baker puts it: "There was no point in the years from 1937 until the 1983 reforms when the program would have looked as strong as it does today."
  8. When NBC's Andrea Mitchell accused John Kerry of pandering on Social Security after the debate, she reflected the mind-set of the coddled rich. Yes, it may be necessary someday to touch a little more of her income to cover all the bills. But frankly, Mrs. Greenspan, it's worth it -- both to protect America's elderly and to watch you squirm.
  9. After that lousy preface, Schieffer asked a good question. Privatization of Social Security would divert payroll tax revenues into private accounts. And that would blow a huge whole in the budget. Bush simply ignored this fact, as he always does. The fact is, Bush wants to gut Social Security. He made that clear Wednesday night.

Kerry's answer on Social Security wasn't pandering. He said that we can keep the system we have. He said we must not privatize it -- "an invitation to disaster." He said our priority should be to create jobs, the best way to pay for the system. And he said that we can well afford to wait until later to see if some minor changes would be wise. Kerry was right on all of these facts.


Taken from Salon's Opinion section - requires subscription or viewing an advertisement.

Galbraith's observations about the real state of Social Security and the venality of those pushing for its privitization are spot on. His big point is don't listen to the fear mongers. If somone starts talking doomsday, look to see where their own financial interests lie - as with "news" reporter Andrea Mitchell a.k.a Mrs. Alan Greenspan.

Brad DeLong, Berkley economist and all around insightful thinker, extends the observations by Galbraith here by looking at where risk falls when comparing an entitlement program to a do-it-yourself investment scheme. Basically, the risk falls entirely on the individual, while providing many opportunities for private profit at the expense of the taxpayer. In short, it is a scheme to get at more cash and then leave the future taxpayers faced with supporting Granny & Grandpa directly out of their own pockets.

Kerry/Edwards - sane fiscal policy

There's Something About Mary

When John Kerry used Mary Cheney as an example of an out lesbian, one who is owed the full protection of the law, it was a little bit of a cheap shot, particularly in contrast to the more oblique treatment Sen. Edwards gave her the previous week. However, it was something that needed to be said. If anything, Kerry did not go far enough. He should have pounded home the fact that the Rethuglican party is the one who stirs up homophobia for the sake of electoral votes, even as they don't really think being gay is a problem. Assuming you have enough money, of course.

Then again, maybe Big John did just that.

The Rethug response, particularly from Lynne Cheney, has been nothing short of evil. Led by this woman, they are trying to portray Kerry as having called Mary something foul or criminal. The only way in which this could be true is if you are part of the shrinking minority of people in the US who think being homosexual is something horrible, a sin, "selfish hedonism" according Alan Keyes - who has an out lesbian daughter. By protesting that calling Mary a lesbian is doing her a wrong, you are arguing that to *be* a lesbian (or anything short of heterosexual) is wrong.

I think there is some discomfort among Kerry supporters that he was so deliberate in naming Mary. This is misplaced. Mary is not closeted and she actively uses her sexual orientation to gain high-profile employment. I wish Kerry/Edwards was flatly pro-gay rights. That I do criticize them for. However, it was overdue for the Rethugs to be called for their pandering.

Rethugs have no intention of passing a gay marriage ban. The upper leadership couldn't give a shit less if you fuck dead goats as long as you give them funds and votes. What they want to do is make the "assault on marriage" the next "killing the unborn" campaign. This is practised evil, because, in the end, they don't care *one way or the other* what happens to gays and lesbians in the US, because their true loyalty is to their own power. The VP from Wyoming does not need to worry about *his* homosexual child being beaten and crucified, left to die on a fence in Wyoming. Their money makes sure that she can live in security, escaping the brutal mass who understands nothing except kill what scares it.

Remember that. It isn't that Cheney/Bush hate fags; it is that they are indifferent to the fate of an oppressed minority and are happy to exploit hatred and cruelty to stay in power.

It's not something about Mary. It's something about protecting human rights and dignity.

Kerry/Edwards 2004 - protect human rights for all

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Realistic Foreign Policy

There are two posts by bloggers that are well worth reading. The first is by Kevin Drum, writing the "Political Animal" blog for The Washington Monthly, where he presents a short, clear distinction between rogue states, such as Iran or North Korea, and failed states, such as Afghanistan.

Rogue States vs. Failed States

The second post is by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, his own blog. In this post, he quotes an Atlantic Monthly article on the ways in which terrorism flourishes in failed states, and *why* Bush foreign policy is completely inadequate to addressing this problem:

Talking Points Memo - Policy Differences

The link between these two articles, and the key to understanding why Bush foreign policy has failed, is how the Bushies cannot see the reality in front of their noses - chaotic conditions are where extra-state actors with large amounts of cash and global communications can flourish. A rogue state is characterized by a controlling and hostile regime who stamps out dissent internally. That such states are also fragile and when they can no longer maintain themselves (whether due to internal or external pressures) shatter in spectacular ways, such as Iraq, should also be noted - a rogue state may collapse abruptly into a failed state. Thus, a terrorist organization within a rogue state may be paid or directed by that state (such as Hezbollah & Iran), but is (if equipped with an extra-state funding source), can easily survive the downfall of that state and may even flourish after its demise (think just about everyone and Iraq).

This is why defeating the Taliban did nothing to stop al-Qaeda, and why defeating Saddam Hussein actually opened up opportunities for terror. Osama bin Laden does not need a state sponsor. He just needs a place to hang out and can handle his own fund-raising, thank you.

Marshall's post points out that the US has faced the problem of failed states before and has succeeded - in the Balkans. The success there, and the birth of a new, modern, and effective US foreign policy, was the recognition that state building is not something to be avoided, but embraced. Successful states create stability which deprives terrorists and organized crime of a place in which to operate. Successful states are not easy to build and cannot be done simply through "the free market" (i.e., rapacious contractors) forces and application of gunfire. They take negotiation, economic incentives, application of force, and most particularly, engagement of the local population. They have to live there, after all.

Thus, the "Hellfire and Hallibuton" approach was doomed to fail when addressing the problem of failed states, and it appears only to be able to make failed states out of rogue states.

It is not a mistake that Kerry has, as his two top foreign policy advisors, William Holbrooke and Wes Clark, architects of the Balkan plan. They will be the foundation of a very agile and intelligent foreign policy team for President Kerry.


Keery/Edwards 2004 - For a realistic foreign policy

The Bush Cocoon

"One more quick note on Bush's Osama bin Laden gaffe. I think the most interesting question about it is: why? Why did he say it?

It's inexplicable at first glance. After all, he could have easily ignored Kerry's barb and moved on, or at worst just made a generic statement about how Osama is a top priority and always has been. Why did he specifically deny saying something that the whole world knows he's on videotape saying?

I suspect the answer lies in the cocoon Bush lives in. Not only has he convinced himself that he never really said that he wasn't concerned about Osama, but he has no idea that the outside world believes otherwise. He doesn't realize that not only is his Osama statement well known, it's actually quite a popular target of mockery. What's more, nobody on his staff has ever clued him in.

It's a pretty good metaphor for Bush's biggest problem: his staff spoon feeds him a rosy view of the outside world and he honestly believes that this rosy world is the real world — and that's why he makes so many disastrous decisions. After all, you can't solve real world problems if you refuse to understand the real world in the first place."

Kevin Drum, "Political Animal," The Washington Monthly

Arrogant, clueless, lost in his own fantasyland that what he wants to be is so. As Kerry said, you can be resolute *and* wrong, and Smirky the Wonder Chimp seems resolutely wrong at every turn.

This spoiled rich boy, lost in his own alternative reality, is backed by a fascist party dedicated to keeping itself in power at all costs. Voter registration fraud, voter intimidation, illegal redistricting to break up voting districts, illegal purging of voters from rolls, support of voting machines that are ddemonstrated to be untrustworthy and are manufactured by one of their own, and so on. We don't even need to get into their kleptocratic plundering of the nation - its wealth, its military, its reputation, its hope - to see what it is they are about.

Finally, Smirky's fake-religion act is wearing thin. This man has no faith. He is mouthing platitudes and fanticizing that God talks to him. He cannot actually tie his behavior to his faith. In short, he is as delusional and mendacious about his belief as his is about his policies. When standing next to a man of faith, we begin to see the difference. Of course, the Xtians yamemring on about the sacred embryos (We believe in a right to life until birth, whereupon you little shits can go starve, die of disease, and be murdered at crime-ridden schools.) are as delusional and mendacious as their Great Leader.


Kerry/Edwards 2004 and 2008 - Hope is On the Way

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Voter Registrations Possibly Trashed

Well, well, well. The Rethuglicans are at it again. While their Xtian adherents rant about the sacred life of embryos, the Republican National Committee is disenfranchising their rivals through the most crude manner possible - destroying Democratic voter registrations:

Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.

Anyone who has recently registered or re-registered to vote outside a mall or grocery store or even government building may be affected.

The I-Team has obtained information about an alleged widespread pattern of potential registration fraud aimed at democrats. Thee focus of the story is a private registration company called Voters Outreach of America, AKA America Votes.

The out-of-state firm has been in Las Vegas for the past few months, registering voters. It employed up to 300 part-time workers and collected hundreds of registrations per day, but former employees of the company say that Voters Outreach of America only wanted Republican registrations.

Two former workers say they personally witnessed company supervisors rip up and trash registration forms signed by Democrats.

"We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, handed them to her assistant and he ripped them up right in front of us. I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assisatnt to get those from me," said Eric Russell, former Voters Outreach employee.

Eric Russell managed to retrieve a pile of shredded paperwork including signed voter registration forms, all from Democrats. We took them to the Clark County Election Department and confirmed that they had not, in fact, been filed with the county as required by law.

So the people on those forms who think they will be able to vote on Election Day are sadly mistaken. We attempted to speak to Voters Outreach but found that its office has been rented out to someone else.

The landlord says Voters Outreach was evicted for non-payment of rent. Another source said the company has now moved on to Oregon where it is once again registering voters. It's unknown how many registrations may have been tossed out, but another ex-employee told Eyewitness News she had the same suspicions when she worked there.

It's going to take a while to sort all of this out, but the immediate concern for voters is to make sure you really are registered.

Call the Clark County Election Department at 455-VOTE orclick here to see if you are registered.

The company has been largely, if not entirely funded, by the Republican National Committee. Similar complaints have been received in Reno where the registrar has asked the FBI to investigate.


Yeah, *that* RNC kids. The RNC is paying a front company to destroy Democratic registrations.

Of course, since the Chimperor has God talking in his head (time to up the meds, George), it is not wrong for them to destroy their enemies and abjure the law. After all, they have Truth on their sides.

What a bunch of fucktards - and yes, if you are registered as a Republican, I *am* talking about you.


Kerry/Edwards - Law and Order for All

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Irreversibility and the Power to Forgive

“[T]he remedy against the irreversibility and unpredictability of the process started by acting does not arise out of another and possibly higher faculty, but is one of the potentialities of action itself. The possible redemption from the predicament of irreversibility – of being unable to undo what one has done though one did not, and could not, have known what he was doing – is the faculty of forgiving. The remedy for unpredictability, for the chaotic uncertainty of the future, is contained in the faculty to make and keep promises. The two faculties belong together in so far as one of them, forgiveness, serves to undo the deeds of the past, whose “sins” hang like Damocles’ sword over every new generation; and the other, binding oneself through promises, serves to set up in the ocean of uncertainty, which the future is by definition, islands of security without which not even continuity, let alone durability of any kind, would be possible in the relationship between men.

Without being forgiven, released from the consequences of what we have done, our capacity to act would, as it were, be confined to one single deed from which we could never recover; we would remain the victims of its consequences forever, not unlike the sorcerer’s apprentice who lacked the magic formula to break the spell. Without being bound to the fulfillment of promises we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each man’s lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities – a darkness which only the light shed over the public realm through the presence of others, who confirm the identity between the one who promises and the one who fulfills, can dispel. Both faculties, therefore, depend on plurality, and the presence and acting of others, for no one can forgive himself and no one can feel bound by a promise made only to himself; forgiving and promising enacted in solitude or isolation remain without reality and can signify no more than a role played before one’s self.


The discoverer of the role of forgiveness in the realm of human affairs was Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that he made this discovery in a religious context and articulated it in religious language is no reason to take it any less seriously in a strictly secular sense. … The only rudimentary sign of an awareness that forgiveness may be the necessary corrective for the inevitable damages resulting from action may be seen in the Roman principle to spare the vanquished (parcere subiectus) – a wisdom entirely unknown to the Greeks – or in the right to commute the death sentence, probably also of Roman origin, which is the prerogative of nearly all Western heads of state.

It is decisive in our context that Jesus maintains against the “scribes and pharisees” first that it is not true that only God has the power to forgive, and second that this power does not derive from God … but on the contrary must be mobilized by men towards each other before they can hope to be forgiven by God. Jesus’ formulation is even more radical. Man in the gospel is not supposed to forgive because God forgives and must do “likewise,” but “if ye from your hearts forgive,” God shall do “likewise.” … [T]respassing is an everyday occurrence which is in the very nature of action’s constant establishment of new relationships within a web of relations, and it needs forgiving, dismissing, in order to make it possible for life to go on by constantly releasing men from what they have done unknowingly. Only through this constant mutual release from what they do can men remain free agents, only by a constant willingness to change their minds and to start again can they be trusted with so great a power as that to begin something new.

In this respect, forgiveness is the exact opposite of vengeance, which acts in the form of re-acting against the original trespassing, whereby far from putting an end to the consequences of the first misdeed, everybody remains bound to the process, permitting the chain reaction contained in every action to take its unhindered course … the act of forgiving can never be predicted; it is the only reaction that acts in an unexpected way and thus retains, though being a reaction, something of the original character of action. Forgiving, in other words, is the only reaction which does not merely re-act but acts anew and unexpectedly, unconditioned by the act which provoked it and therefore freeing from its consequences both the one who forgives and the one who is forgiven. The freedom contained in Jesus’ teachings of forgiveness is the freedom from vengeance, which incloses both doer and sufferer in the relentless automatism of the action process, which by itself need never come to an end.

The alternative to forgiveness, but by no means its opposite, is punishment, and both have in common that they attempt to put an end to something that without interference could go on endlessly. It is therefore quite significant, a structural element in the realm of human affairs, that men are unable to forgive what they cannot punish and that they are unable to punish what has turned out to be unforgivable.


…Action is, in fact, the one miracle-working faculty of man, as Jesus of Nazareth, whose insights into this faculty can be compared in their originality and unprecedentedness with Socrates’ insights into the possibilities of thought, must have known very well when he likened the power to forgive to the more general power of performing miracles, putting both on the same level and within the reach of men.”

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition