Friday, December 19, 2008

The Iraqi Reporter was wrong.

Given the opportunity to talk to George Bush about his presidency, the correct thing to do is put your shoe right up his ass.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Maybe I was simply raised differently.

It has taken me this long to figure out what really really bothers me about John McCain (and the other conservatives that got us into the Iraq war) ongoing and and deep abiding tantrum about being given credit for the surge.

Both Barack Obama and myself were raised primarily by single mothers - my mother (and I somehow suspect the same in true of Barack Obama) just didn't have the time required to hug me and congratulate me on cleaning up a mess I made. If you made a mess carelessly, you cleaned it up and got spanked.

It may be that the son of an Admiral is raised differently than that, or at least was in the 1930's and 40's.

Now, I am willing to grant that I thought the surge would have less effect than it seems to have had, and that in concert with a number of other factors (Most of which, such as the Anbar awakening, I believe were far more influential, and no, it was not the 'start of the surge', no matter how much John McCain would like to conflate the two.) it has helped. Whether it has helped less or more than an equal effort spent in others ways is hard to say, but it seems to have been at least a net positive in a war in which net positives are quite sparse.

But the fact is still that John McCain in particular, and conservatives in general, very clearly want 'credit' for the surge - and you don't get credit for helping to clean up a mess you made.

At the end of the day, we invaded a country on the premise that we were invading an ally of Al Qaeda that was on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons and still had biological and chemical weapons from previous years, an invasion that has cost us a great deal more than the estimates of it's proponents suggested, in money, in opportunity costs, and in blood.

Since then it has become clear that those that doubted those premises were correct, that there was no 'super dooper secret' data that only the President had that undercut those arguments, and that those that were on the inside and expressed doubts about either the justifications of the war or the costs were removed rather than listened to.

They attacked those that disagreed. They verifiably lied to those that they couldn't remove and thought might be persuaded with a few fear mongering untruths.

So the advocates of this war lie in three camps - The liars, that deliberately spread disinformation attempting to rally others to the cause, the careless, that had both the disinformation the administration provided, and access to other sources that readily debunked that information, but chose not to check, and the deceived, those that checked, but were deceived into support.

I have very little sympathy for the deceived - the adminstrations disinformation never seemed adequate to me and many others, and was debunked with astonishing regularity - but many of them have at least honestly accepted repsonsibility for having been deceived, and have done what they can to try and get us out of this mess.

The liars and the careless have yet to do so - they villified those that argued against them six years ago, and they still attempt to tar those that have never accepted their debunked premises as terrorist sympathizers, left wing nuts, even traitorous.

And yet, they insist, they deserve credit for the surge?

Bullshit - When you've dug yourself into a hole this this deep, you accept help graciously from anyone that deigns to try and help you out of it - you don't get extra credit doing some of the work yourself. End of story.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

John McCain is "shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on" . . . on Wall Street.

I'd give the man the benefit of the doubt, if I could figure out with certainty which doubt was better to benefit him.

Is it worse to assume he's being cynical - that, of *course* he knew, while deregulating Wall Street, that Wall Street, financial companies, investment houses were run by greedy speculators that would run any chain the regulatory agencies gave them to the very limit and, if they thought they could get away with it, past those limits.

Or, is it worse to assume he's being honest with us, and it did not *occur* to him that the denizens of Wall Street would, given the lax regulatory environment championed by John McCain, Phil Gramm, and their philosophical contemporaries in the GOP and on K Street, would be grabbing money for all it was worth, and hoping to dodge any consequences as they came?

The man is either a liar that knew Wall Street was run by greedy gamblers that were going to take his deregulation and run for all they were worth (but was ignorant enough to think the positive consequences would outweigh the negative consequences), or he's a fool that thought Wall Street was run by priest and nuns.

I guess I kinda hope he was ignorant about the history of regulation and lying to cover that up - that at least gives the chance he might learn from the mistakes of the past.

You can't cure stupid.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Beg Your Pardon

Article. V. - Amendment

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

It seems to me that President Bush, and the Republican Party have demonstrated, rather clearly, the need to put limits of the Presidential Power of the Pardon - not only did they pardon Libby for obstructing an investigation, but they have been commenting rather forcefully about the advantages of forestalling any future investigations by preemptively pardoning their fellow travelers rather than allowing the peasants their day in court.

So it seems to me to be reasonable to consider whether it's worth limiting this absolute privilege of the executive with a set of amendments.

28th Amendment (Proposed):

No pardon or clemency shall be issued prior to a finding of guilt for a crime by the judiciary, all such pardons shall be issued publicly, detailing in full the act or acts for which the pardon or clemency was granted.
29th Amendment (Proposed):

No pardon or clemency for any act obstructing an investigation of another criminal act, whether by perjury or other means, shall be issued.

30th Amendment (Proposed):

Neither the President, Vice President, President pre tempore of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives, any Justice of the Supreme Court, nor any Officer of the Executive appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate shall be eligible for pardon or clemency for any crime performed while in office.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Republican Party hasn't learned a darn thing in eight years

That's what I got from the GOP convention.

Let's be clear - theoretically, the Republican Establishment thinks that GWB didn't run the government in a conservative fashion, and that has damaged the GOP 'brand'.

Practically, in a three day convention they made it abundantly clear that there is no *particular* policy of the Bush administration that they have an intention of parting with.

From the rank and file of the party up through Governor Palin and Senator McCain, they made it quite clear that they very much did not want to be associated with George Bush or Dick Cheney, and should not be held responsible for their actions, despite the fact that the party completely supported them during their administration and fully intends to maintain the policies they implemented.

Wow. Just . . . Wow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Liberal Equation

I was listening to the radio this afternoon, and listened to self-described radical Mort Sahl talk about wealthy liberal support for liberal causes - that it was because liberals felt guilty over being wealthy.

It so much doesn't match my views about liberalism. Perhaps I'm not wealthy enough to experience liberal guilt, but since I've never felt bad about improving my position, don't expect to feel bad if I improve it further, and yet fully expect to someday be both wealthy, and liberal, I think there must be more to it than Guilt.

It seems to me that I hope to become wealthy for two reasons - one is for my own comfort, the other is because that positions me to help others, and that mere fact is a portion of the Liberal Equation - if you accept these premises, then you are probably a liberal.

First premise set: I gained my position through a combination of hard work and luck.

By 'Luck', I mean that entire combination of factors that you had no control over - being noticed by a boss, being born into wealth, having the right editor take a chance on your work, by lumping all these things into the category of 'luck' there becomes an obvious implication.

That one *could* be just as able, just as qualified, just as worthy, and yet not achieve the same thing.

Second Premise set: That my wealth, my taxes, and my actions, in addition to improving my life, improve the lives of others.

Seems obvious - it means I can and do help others via my personal actions *and* via the actions taken on my behalf by the government.

Third Premise set: The wealth, taxes, and actions of others, in addition to improving their lives also improves my own.

I am not unique. My actions and taxes help others, their actions and taxes help me.

It seems to me that a sane liberal accepts all of these premises, and a sane conservative rejects one or more of them.

The first set is the most obvious - luck implies that there are people just as worthy as oneself that never achieved as much simply because didn't get as many breaks.

Many Social Conservative consciously or unconsciously reject this premise.

Either A) They believe they got where they are through hard work - alone, or
B) they may grant that they got 'breaks', but those were through the Grace of God.

Either of those implies something much different from mere luck and hard work - most obviously, if you don't have what I have, it's because you don't deserve it is much as I do, either because I simply worked harder than you, or because God recognized my worth as being more than yours. I can see why to you it might *look* like luck, but it's not.

The second set tends to be rejected by fiscal conservatives. Liberals assume something that the fiscal conservative may even consider arrogant - that we *can* help others.

It's a fundamental disagreement - at best the fiscal conservative doesn't believe tax monies are ever the most efficient way to help, at worst he simply believes we can't help via financial means, in either case using the government to help is a waste.

The third set is the reason I call myself a Greedy Progressive - as other people rise in quality of life, their quality of life improves my own, and vice versa. Some 'Guilty Liberals' may donate to causes to assuage guilt - I never have.

It's an Investment - I hope I'm not going to benefit directly since that would indicate that I myself have fallen upon hard times - but the better off everyone is doing the better off I am doing. I don't care if I keep up with the Jones, I *do* care how *I* am doing, and it turns out the Jones and I benefit from each other.

But that seems to be the minimum set of assumptions to make a sane Liberal. That there was luck involved with doing well, that you can help others do better at little cost to yourself, and that the investment in others turns out to make your life better as well.

If you accept those three things, you are probably a liberal. If you don't accept any one of them, you're probably a conservative.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How to lose any competition

Play your weaknesses against the other guy's strengths.

Sometimes, if you're good enough all around, you can get away with that for awhile, but the longer you sustain pitting your weaknesses against the other guys strength, the more you're going to lose doing so.

Which brings us to economics.

Why in the world would we keep playing on an economic platform that is based in oil, when that's just not our strength? We are the worlds 3rd largest country, the 4th largest population (4.5%) and we have the worlds 12th largest oil reserves (1.6%) and the 6th largest gas reserves (3.2%)

If we were trying to sustain the 'average' lifestyle the rest of the world has, this would put us at a disadvantage. We're trying to sustain a better one than most of the world has, at the same time when a lot of other nations are trying to raise their lifestyle to match the standard we have set.

That means oil is becoming a losing proposition, and it's doing so at a pretty fast pace, and trying to maintain our lifestyle based on that oil is going to put us at a disadvantage.

If we play fair, and don't go to war, then we're going to spend a larger and larger percentage of our money to maintain our standard of living. I don't know how that's working for you, but I've been looking at last years heating bills, and my gs bills, and I can't afford it.

If we don't play fair and we go to war to protect our supply, then we have to pay to maintain large military forces in other countries. Taking Iraq as a thumbnail estimate, that costs us about $4,100 per household. Again, I don't know how that's working for you, but I can't afford it and I can't convince myself that the bill is never going to come do.

So, if we can't afford to buy oil, we can't afford to seize oil, and we don't have enough of our own oil to sustain our lifestyle, then it would appear that oil is not the answer.

So, any attempt to drill our way out of this with offshore drilling seems to me to be throwing good money after bad. Unfortunately, we don't have the time and money left to keep dicking around with this.

It's time to start pitting our strengths against the problem and start using our brains. Solar, wind, whatever it takes so that we can start selling energy rather than buying it.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In other news: Does Joe Lieberman think he's just that good?

I just have to ask myself, after watching Joe Lieberman explain on Meet the press this week how, if he spoke at the GOP convention he was "And frankly, I'm going to go to a partisan convention and tell them, if I go, why it's so important that we start to act like Americans and not as, as partisan mudslingers here in Washington."

Really Joe?

Since the great GOP revolution in 1980, the Republican Philosophy has been that you don't simply beat Democrats in the polls.

You destroy them.

You lie about them releasing rapists.

You pursue impeachment charges for personal failings.

You photoshop them with Osama Bin Laden.

You grant huge amounts of money to swiftboat them.

You generate fear by manipulating homeland security levels to make people think a terrorist attack is imminent.

Rather than compromise a single whit, you threaten to 'go nuclear' and rewrite the senate rules mid-session to eliminate the filibuster. (And by the way - wouldn't life be so much easier now if the Dems had stood firm and *let* them? Instead we now have a media that takes it as a given that when Democrats are in charge, it takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate, and when Republicans are in charge Democrats are routinely blocking bipartisan compromise by filibustering legislation that should easily pass with the required 51 votes.)

You explain to Lobbyists that, if they want to work with you, they will give *no* support to the Democratic Party. None - don't hire Dems, don't talk to them, *nothing*. And you bloody well keep them in line on that too.

Basically - sometimes explicitly sometimes not, the GOP plan has been to destroy Dems, burn them out, shoot the escapees, and salt the land they lived on as a warning to the next ten generations.

And Joe Lieberman is going to sell them on the glories of Bi-Partisanship? Seriously?

No wonder the Republican Party thinks Democrats will sell out everything to talk to the enemies of the United States - the ones they talk to keep coming back to the table no matter how many times the GOP abuses that trust.

Joe Lieberman *is* the Neville Chamberlain of bipartisan politics, and this fact needs to be made explicitly clear - don't let him negotiate for or represent the Democratic party.

Neville Chamberlain was not a bad man. He was a man that assumed a certain degree of honesty in his allies, rivals, and adversaries - a degree of honesty that is a reasonable assumption, most of the time. They may lie to you while negotiating, deceive, cheat, beg and steal, but if you get fooled it's your own fault and at the end of the day they will hold to what was agreed to.

It assumes a certain investment in the status quo - you're going to have to negotiate again, so you need to maintain that ability to be negotiated with, down the line. Chamberlains fundamental failure was that he never recognized that, so far as the Nazi's were concerned, they were never going to be so weak as to need to negotiate with Britain ever again. Thus, whatever the result of the negotiation, it needed to be held to only so far as that was convenient for Germany.

The GOP has no intent to be held to any standards of behavior that result of any meeting of the minds betwixt them and any Democratic 'ambassador', any longer than is convenient to the end of being the sole political party with meaningful power in the United States, ever again. That has been their stated goal, and the leadership that espoused that goal has not changed.

They fete upon Joe Lieberman for no reason other than that Joe Lieberman is of use to them in achieving this goal, despite their setbacks of the last congress. They don't regret their actions, they have no respect for an alternate point of view, they have no particular respect for Joe Lieberman.

Which, unfortunately, he does not seem to realize.

Joe - you are not going to secure "Peace in our Time", or even bipartisanship.

Ted Stevens: Welfare Queen?

It occurred to me watching "Now"'s coverage of the Ted Stevens indictment, there is something really disgusting about the *concept* of an Alaskan senator that brings home the pork.

Here is a supposedly Republican state, anti-taxes all the way, whose oil assets bring in so much money they can afford to not only have no income tax *and* no sales tax, but in lieu of an income tax they can actually pay their citizens a rebate.

Now - I'm fine with that. Their oil money, if they don't feel a need to invest in infrastructure like everyone else, that's their option.

But that the same GOP that complains about welfare queens is content to run an entire state like one? Because they're evidently perfectly content to sit and take *my* money for bridges to nowhere, and thank "Uncle Ted" for bringing home the Pork?

It's been long known that the wealthy Democratic leaning states tend to contribute to the federal budget, and the poor states that lean Republican tend, in balance, to be recipients of federal largesse. Since I'm a Democrat in a predominantly Republican state I can both be okay with this on the general principle of believing in the concept of Welfare as a rule, and accept the benefits of that welfare with a simple thanks.

But Alaska takes it rather far to the extreme even for my tastes. They actually say they are anti-tax, and have the nerve to waste money on what even they admit are pork projects?

Why has this never been a Democratic talking point?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is torture an "Eternal Sin"?

The thought has passed through my mind all to often lately, building up through the last few years.

Torture is after all, deliberately and with malice, attempting to someone's spirit. Not in a metaphoric, but in a literal sense.

Via Wikipedia "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (Book of Matthew 12:30-32)

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fundamentalist, and I am a christian only in the same sense that Jefferson was a christian, in that I think Christ had a great deal of wisdom to impart.

Among that wisdom however was that - to blaspheme against the Spirit, is an unforgivable sin. Whether you are someone such as myself that respects many religions, or a Christian Fundamentalist, it seems to me that if one gives any weight to a divine spark in the human soul whatsoever, that to torture is by definition to blaspheme against it.

To torture.
To condone torture.
To permit torture.
To not speak out against torture.

All these are in some degree, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Yet we have somehow permitted ourselves to be saddled with a government whose interests lie in defining some 'magic line', in which breaking a persons spirit is allowed, if only we can do it with leaving bodily marks.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Can we starve Their Beast?

It's a long supported conservative meme, to "Starve The Beast" - to so reduce the government in terms of taxes and cash that it cannot effectively finance liberal programs.

And they have done a rather good job of it in the last few years. The Budget is not broken, but it *is* at an all time high, even accounting for changes in GDP. The war in Iraq has done a very good job of dispersing the funds on hand before they were used for some other purpose - and given the political sieve through which businesses were sifted, it looks as though a large percentage of those funds were in fact funneled back into conservative accounts, whether legally, via contracts (whether bid, or all to often, channeled to specific companies), and one suspects that a large percentage of the "Missing money" that has disappeared may well be brought back into circulation having passed through conservative hands.

Financially, conservative reserves should be riding high. But they don't actually seem to be - McCain is not getting the financial support he should be getting from a large well of conservative financial backing. That may change in the general election, but as of yet, he's hardly pulling in donations in large amounts.

Which would seem, to me, to indicate that they are actually much weaker financially than one would expect. I'm not sure as to why - it seems counter-intuitive to me, given the level of war-profiteering that has occurred, but if there is a deep well of conservative financial power out there, the cause doesn't seem to be tapping it.

So, my question is, can that financial well, however deep it is, be tapped out? The fact of the matter is that consumer money seems to me to be in large part in the hands of those 'Liberal Elitists'. 'Liberal' organizations like public radio are almost defined by being able to get funds by getting small amounts in large numbers, by people that find NPR useful. I donate $5.00 a month to NPR, the EFF, and the ACLU, via automatic bank transfers (Because I'm lazy, and having it initiated from my bank gives me absolute control over whether I choose to change amounts or timing for whatever reason.)

It is conservative organizations, like AEI, National Review, etcetera that are typically kept afloat by large donations from a few wealthy groups. They collect together a group of intelligent conservatives that can get together to fight the intellectual battles in the form of a 'respected thinktank' . The thinktanks in turn churn out white papers that, however badly reasoned, can be used to justify bad government policies, which in turn often channels money back into conservative causes.

It seems to me that these are actually the greatest point of vulnerability in the conservative cycle. Not all conservatives support them, they tend to get their funds through a few specific channels, they produce nothing that is advantageous to anyone *but* the idealogues, but they are absolutely critical in the cycle that maintains conservative groupthink.

In a more general way, I would like to reduce the conservative financial reserves. Every liberal dollar spent at Wal-Mart is a donation to helping keep unions from forming freely. Every Dollar spent at Costco is a donation to making it clear that companies can be competitive while treating their employees well - and it turns out I save money over buying at Wal-mart as well.

But changing retailers is the easiest way to do so - I have to actually go online or walk into the store to buy from Costco or Wal-mart. I've even been sneaky and bought memberships for conservative relatives, knowing they'll go there when convenient, and it has to help.

What other, simple habits can be done that, if done by enough people, will slowly drain the coffers of the conservative movement.


One rule really - It needs to be a habit, automated. I go to Costco First - not Walmart. I donate $15 a month to my three causes because I can set it up automatically - I'm way too lazy to go to the effort of actually filling out a check for five bucks every month. And when I donate to Barack, I will do it exactly the same way.

So it can't be something that requires having information at your fingertips at all times. If I'm looking at a microwave, I'm making a decision based on whether GE or Panasonic has features I like, not on whether GE supported Bush and Panasonic supported Kerry.

Nor is it a (for instance) a boycott - a boycott is something done to stop a specific action by a company. When the company quits doing it, you quit boycotting.

This is done for a more general purpose - I want to drive Richard Mellon Scaife to bankruptcy and make the AEI do a pledge drive for funds. I don't want there to be *money* to do "Expelled II - Ben Stein takes on Continental Drift".

How can we do this, in a set of simple ways, for your average, lazy, liberal by habit person but works 8-10 hours a day and is *tired* at the end of the day person to do.