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Saturday, September 04, 2004

How to inoculate yourself from criticism

In the wake of Zell Miller's speech at the GOP Convention, it seems he isn't all that cozy with the Neo-Cons after all. In an insightful piece at The Brad Blog (link to his whole blog at the top left), he details how the GOP threw Zell over the bow of the boat once he slung his slime at Kerry.


Who says they didn't learn from '92? It's not about slinging crap, just who slings it. So the Bush campaign can lie without suffering the consequences. Wow, now that's "compassionate conservatism".

Friday, September 03, 2004

How to say something without meaning it

Well, the Bush acceptance speech went off last night. And it was a good one. For someone who never held the office.


But for someone who has had 3 1/2 years in office, it was an exercise in willfull ignorance.


While the structure of the speech was masterful, the content was lacking. Because now, there truly is no "conservative" party anymore. Just two parties that want Big Government doing different things.


As Bush said himself last night: "...voters will make a choice based on the records we have built, the convictions we hold and the vision that guides us forward." Let's look at that record and those convictions


I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives

And yet he has done the following: tried to pass a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, has fought against the right for women to choose on abortion, has encouraged the FCC to set up draconian fines to limit freedom of expression. And that is but the tip of the iceberg.

To create jobs, my plan will encourage investment and expansion by restraining federal spending...make our country less dependent on foreign sources of energy...we will expand trade and level the playing field to sell American goods and services across the globe.

Bush has spent more federal money in his first term than Clinton. The 500 billion dollar Medicare giveaway. 200 billion on Iraq w/o trying to balance the budget. And in this very same speech, he promised over 7 million new affordable homes, a community health care center in every poor county, higher education spending, expanding Pell grants, and the list goes on and on. How in the Hell can he do this and "restrain" federal spending? He can't. So either he must raise taxes or send us further into debt. Guess which one he'll pick.

Another drag on our economy is the current tax code, which is a complicated mess, filled with special interest loopholes, saddling our people with more than 6 billion hours of paperwork and headache every year. The American people deserve -- and our economic future demands -- a simpler, fairer, pro-growth system.

Of course, he helped to create a lot of those loopholes he supposedly hates. And no mention of the encroaching AMT which sucks more and more middle-class families into its tax maw every year. Why? It's more money to spend. Why would they give it up?

We'll always keep the promise of Social Security for our older workers.

With the huge baby boom generation approaching retirement, many of our children and grandchildren understandably worry whether Social Security will be there when they need it.

We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account, a nest egg you can call your own and government can never take away.


Now, I am all in favor of this. Social Security is rambling head-first into a ditch. But this will never happen. Why? Because both parties, who love to spend OUR money, need what is left of the S.S. surplus to fund their profligate spending ways. So you really think they'll give it up? Even if they did go ahead, there would a period as workers shifted funds where some monies would have to be allocated by the government to cover shortfall. Where's that going to come from? He won't cut programs. So just slap more debt onto the pile.

To be fair, there are some things my opponent is for.

He's proposed more than $2 trillion in new federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts.

And to pay for that spending, he is running on a platform of increasing taxes. And that's the kind of promise a politician usually keeps.

His policies of tax and spend, of expanding government rather than expanding opportunity, are the politics of the past.


And you know, he's right about Kerry. But this is the proverbial pot and kettle. Add up what Bush has proposed, and I'll wager it costs more than $2 trillion. Hell, his Medicare and Iraq spending in his FIRST term almost make up $1 trillion alone. And he has the nerve to criticize Kerry? Hey George, raising taxes sucks. But so does a massive federal deficit. Spend-and-spend is just as bad as tax-and-spend.

Because a caring society will value its weakest members, we must make a place for the unborn child.

Forget all that "people running their own lives" he spoke about earlier. It's red meat time for fundamentalists.

I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America -- whatever it takes.

So we have fought the terrorists across the Earth, not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake.


Of course, we haven't fought them in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or Syria or Iran or anywhere the terrorists ACTUALLY COME FROM. Yes, we did so in Afghanistan, and rightly so. And the world agreed with us, hence the NATO presence there. But all of a sudden we went into Iraq. A nation that did need to be reckoned with, but one that had nothing to do with 9/11. And it should not have happened when we still have not finished the job in Afghanistan. Bush makes it sound like we're finished there. And we aren't. We aren't even close.


And perhaps he could try to strengthen our Mexican border more. The one he is leaving relatively unguarded to court Hispanic votes. The one which numerous terrorists are trying to cross with illegal South African passports. If Bush is really that concerned, why isn't he beefing up protection there?


But I suppose that makes for a lousy speech.


So what did I learn from this? That Bush apparently has decided to ignore what he has actually done this past term. But more important, that there really is no "conservative" party in the classic sense. The GOP has become a mirror version of the Democrats, spending just as wildly. Only their goals differ.


That is a scary thing for America. With no one practicing fiscal restraint, we could find ourselves on the edge of a precipice that falls a long way down.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

How a failure as President will get re-elected (or The Poll Tolls for Thee)

I talked yesterday about what a disaster John Kerry's campaign has been up to now. With a beatable incumbent at hand, he and his staff have done everything imaginable to throw the 04 election away.


But hey, don't take my word for it. Check out a recent Zogby poll of undecided voters taken on Aug. 30.


The relevant points:


Keep that plurality in mind with these other results:

Okay, so after all this, we see a huge disconnect. Although the undecideds are apparently down on Bush in every catagory, and seem to have logically divorced the war in Iraq from our 9/11 response in Afghanistan, they still choose Bush over Kerry by a 3.5-to-1 margin. Why? Maybe these questions have something to do with it...

Yow. Basically, John Kerry is seen as unlikable. (Which is understandable. I lived in Boston for 10 years. No one really likes him there, either.) And, with a lot of voters, that is trumping the fact they know Bush has been an abject failure in office.


So who's fault is this? Cahill and Cutter, the two big names that are apparently on the chopping block. It astounds me that they have been utterly incapable of making headway against George Bush.


Two other notes: A whopping 87% of respondents said they are not satisfied with either candidate and wish for others. And on an ominous note, close to 50% of respondents said they would only be somewhat or not willing at all to support the winner of a razor-close election.

How to abuse patriotism

Well, if you caught the speeches last night, you know now that a vote against President Bush is tantamount to a vote against America. You love America, don't you? Don't you! Well, how can you dissent against the President and love America?!!!


....


Sorry about that. A bit of Zell Miller got into me. Anyway, I found the speeches last night pretty offensive, in that they basically called Kerry and any opponent un-American. Which is just a horrific way to talk and act. In '84, at the height of the Cold War, did Reagan ever call Mondale un-American? Exactly, but it seems the GOP just wants to take certain things from Reagan, not all of them.


Again, I refer you to Slate's William Saletan, who has as solid a handle on these speeches as anyone around.


When Bush addressed Congress after 9/11, Democrats embraced and applauded him. In the Afghan war, they gave him everything he asked for. Most Democratic senators, including John Kerry and John Edwards, voted to give him the authority to use force in Iraq. During and after the war, they praised Iraq's liberation. Kerry has never said that any other country should decide when the United States is entitled to defend itself.

But the important thing isn't the falsity of the charges, which Republicans continue to repeat despite press reports debunking them. The important thing is that the GOP is trying to quash criticism of the president simply because it's criticism of the president. The election is becoming a referendum on democracy.


That last line is key, because it strikes at a vital truth. In this election more than any other, criticism is being equated with un-Americanism. And the Democrats are not without blame in the demonization game either. But the Bush team is bringing it to a new level. If you can't criticise the President or hold him accountable, then why have elections? We may as well be Egypt, with the trappings of a democracy and little else.


Saletan again:


In a democracy, the commander in chief works for you. You hire him when you elect him. You watch him do the job. If he makes good decisions and serves your interests, you rehire him. If he doesn't, you fire him by voting for his opponent in the next election.

Not every country works this way. In some countries, the commander in chief builds a propaganda apparatus that equates him with the military and the nation. If you object that he's making bad decisions and disserving the national interest, you're accused of weakening the nation, undermining its security, sabotaging the commander in chief, and serving a foreign power—the very charges Miller leveled tonight against Bush's critics. Are you prepared to become one of those countries? (emphasis added)


"Wait!" some of you say. "Miller never said that! You're just a shill, Teddy!!" Oh?


From Zell ("Buchannan has nothing on me") Miller's speech:


While young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats' manic obsession to bring down our Commander-in-Chief.

Motivated more by partisan politics than by national security, today's Democratic leaders see America as an occupier, not a liberator.

In [Democratic leaders'] warped way of thinking, America is the problem, not the solution. They don't believe there is any real danger in the world except that which America brings upon itself.

Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending. I want Bush to decide.


I especially loathe the first line. Essentially, Miller is saying that dissent is destroying America, so stop it already. Forget those pesky rights you have, or the fact we have a government built on the very principle that leaders are answerable to the populace.


That makes me want to puke.


So here is a campaign based not on telling us their accomplishments (because there aren't many worth bragging about), but rather set around slandering and impugning the decency of their opponents. If you want to reward that, then vote for Bush.


I'll leave off with a last Saletan quote:


...there are three ways to make national security a campaign issue. One is to argue the facts of a particular question, as Kerry has done in Iraq. The second is to sweep aside all factual questions, as Cheney and Miller did tonight, with a categorical charge that the other party is indifferent or hostile to the country's safety. The third is to create a handy political fight, as Republicans did two years ago on the question of labor rights in the Department of Homeland Security, and frame it falsely as a national security issue in order to win an election.

So now you have two reasons to show up at the polls in November. One is to stop Bush from screwing up economic and foreign policy more than he already has. The other is to remind him and his propagandists that even after 9/11, you still have that right.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

See? The Seattle Times gets it!

Weighing in with an endorsement before Bush is even officially nominated, the Seattle Times has backed John Kerry for President in 2004.


The Times backed Bush in 2000. But rightly, they have judged him on what he said he would do and what he has done. Apparently, getting into wars without exit strategies, using tarriffs, spending tax money like Robert Byrd on crack and trying to implement a fundamentalist Christian agenda are at odds with his 2000 campaign promises. Gee, who'd of thunk it?


Get used to this, b/c this won't be the last paper who decides that Bush hasn't earned a second endorsement.

How to influence people and shoot yourself in the foot

Two of the biggest opponents to the invasion of Iraq were France and Russia. So, in a stunning failure of logic, Islamic terrorists have kidnapped two French journalists and holding hundreds of schoolchildren hostage in Moscow, threatening to blow them up. This after a car bomb and two blown-up airliners.


Yes, there are the ancilliary problems. France banning the head scarf and Russia's bleeding ulcer known as Chechnya. But to perform these types of actions is only going to drive these countries further into the US camp of direct confrontation. Which is a good thing for us. But it shows a (thankfully) lacking sense of long-term vision by these terrorists. You'd think their advisor was Mary Beth Cahill.

How to lose a winnable election in 90 days

The Kerry campaign continues to show that George W. is the luckiest sumbitch in the world today. Here is a President with a bogged-down situation in Iraq. The deficit is growing. The economy is slowing down. He speaks like the English language is an obstacle course for the mind. And yet he is TIED in almost every poll regarding the 2004 campaign. How is that possible?


Well, a good start is to cram your campaign staff full of newbees and holdovers from Gore's 2000 debacle. (Why would you hire the losers? It's like asking the French for military advice). Then, go to your convention and say NOTHING about your opponent's policies or your own. Instead, focus on four months of your life as if that's enough to propel you to victory. Then, when a bunch of bitter partisans start lying about those four months, don't be overtly critical of them until right before your opponent's convention, so to ensure your voice will be blotted out. And never call them liars. (Heck, go to the DNC site. They talk about "lies" and "lying smears." But never once do they call them "liars." Wimps.)


Did I miss anything?


Good. Well, perhaps the idea that they're throwing away this contest is sinking in. Apparently, a large shakup is coming. And on the chopping block are campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill and communications director Stephanie Cutter. Personally, I'd add Bob Shrum to that list. These three have saddled Kerry with a lame message, a lame response ability and a lame overall campaign. It's shocking to see the exact same msitakes the Dems made in 2000 get repeated. So, since I want a nice gridlocked government and W to be placed as far away from the White House as possible, here's hoping these bozos can get their act together.

How to make me nostalgic

So, I caught Arnie's speech the other night. It was a good speech. But, as William Saletan said on Slate today:

It's telling that Schwarzenegger says he's "proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, the party of Teddy Roosevelt, the party of Ronald Reagan, and the party of George W. Bush." The GOP under Bush is nothing like what it was under Lincoln or even Roosevelt. The notion of wartime deficit tax cuts would have made Lincoln ill.

And that is precisely the problem. The GOP Arnie spoke of is the GOP from when I was a kid, not the party as it stands today. Schwarzenegger's ideas of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism are no longer welcome in the GOP. Sure, they give it lip service, but no moderate Republican is in any position of power amongst the hierarchy. DeLay, Hastert, Brownback...these are the men who run the party on Capitol Hill.


Let's make it real simple: There is no big tent. Maybe once there was, but that time is long-gone. The party is lurching towards something unrecognizable to Lincoln, TR, and even Reagan. A big-spending, socially-repressive, nation-building, religiously-intolerant, government-growing monolith. It's frightening. What party is there now to speak for individual freedom, limited spending and fiscal responsibility? None.


Two more Saletan quotes, which sums up what is right and wrong with Bush (as well as Kerry):


Schwarzenegger applauds Bush for taking a hard line on terrorism. So do I. Bush's clarity on this subject is his finest quality. But it doesn't make his foreign policy wise, any more than liberal piety about compassion makes liberal social programs effective. In Iraq, Bush has confused a mortal enemy with a less urgent one, and he has botched the worthy idea of American military leadership by biting off more than we can chew.

and

I'm no huge fan of John Kerry. He sees two sides of every one-sided issue, and four sides of every two-sided issue. But the alternative is a president who sees one side of every issue, no matter how many sides it has. Given the how many sides there usually are, and given how little effort Bush makes to learn about each issue, the odds are that, on average, he'll pick the wrong side.

As an aside to Arnie...don't use Nixon as a touchstone for free enterprise. This is the same guy who instituted wage and price controls.
How to save money on the backs of the poor

Rather than save government funds by limiting upper-class tax cuts, getting back overcharges from Halliburton or reining in bloated government Medicare giveaways and farm subsidies, the Bush Adminstration is trying to save a few bucks by cutting Section 8 housing vouchers.


Hey, let's starve some poor kids at school and kill Head Start while we're at it!!


Here's the deal. The government groups together cities and towns into districts to determine the average rent for the area. Then vouchers are issued to landlords who rent to low-income tennants, who pay 1/3 of their monthly income for rent. The voucher makes up the difference. Landlords like the program b/c of the guaranteed income. It also gets people out of public housing projects, which breed crime and poverty.


Up to now, Boston (the city in question in this article) has been grouped with cities like Cambridge and Newton. Which makes sense as they are directly abutting one another. But now they are going to group Boston with places like Quincy and Revere. Quincy does abut Boston to the south, but Revere doesn't! It's separated by Winthrop, Chelsea and Everett. So why the new grouping?


Because Cambridge and Newton are high-income/high-rent areas, while Quincy and Revere are low-income/low-rent areas. The result is a 15-30% drop in the voucher values in Boston, which share the rent levels of Cambridge and Newton! So now these landlords are going to drop out of the program b/c they'll take a loss on the rental income. And these Section 8 housing tenants will be forced to go back to low-income communities, which is what this program was supposed to prevent in the first place.


Wow. Great plan. Now we can take this money and what? More sugar subsidies? Shave another 1/4% off the capital gains tax? Maybe put it towards military equipment that we'll buy and then never send over to Iraq.


"Compassionate Conservative" my ass. What a crock.

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