Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Eco Terror?
No, I am not referring to the raping of lands in Nigeria for oil exploitation. This is about the tactics now being used by environmentalists against their opponents in industry. According to this CNN story eco-activists are turning to a form of terrorism to achieve their goals. The eco's target the homes of executives with late night/early morning (we're talking wee hours here) demonstrations. One group's website says, "We know where you live, we know where you work, and we'll make your life hell..."
One could certainly equate these types of actions to the fringe anti-abortion groups, which have been labelled terrorism by many in the pro-choice camp. But one wonders how silent many liberals will be on this one because they agree with the enviro-groups' aims. Groups have turned to this type of action because arranging and managing a successful boycott is so much more difficult. Plus, with the internet, it has become almost free of cost to mobilize protesters.
Ultimately, this is an instance in which the court of public opinion will decide how right or wrong these tactics are. If the public is turned off, support for eco-groups will diminish. If not, then other groups will use these same means to advance their agendas. Only time will tell.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Gore Stay Home!
I have noticed a frightening upsurge in the number of people who think Al Gore should come out of the mothballs for a re-match with GW Bush in 2004. Let's see.. this is a guy who lost despite being the incumbent VP with a blazing economy and you think he should run again why? People, people.. no matter what you think about Florida and 2000, there is NO reason for an incumbent VP with a wonderful economy to have anything but a landslide victory. Now, come to your senses, please!
P2004 Thoughts
I am not sure if anything has changed over the past week or so for me. My gut instinct is that at some point the Dean buzz will fizzle. And, let us be honest- the Dean buzz is largely an internet thing that has not shown up in ANY national polls. Sure, Dean is looking decent in NH, but he was the governor of a neighboring state, so he should poll well there. Yet, he is still below 5% on the national polls. I am still not quite sure what to make of the former VT governor. He compiled a decidedly moderate record, complete with fiscal conservative bonafides, yet he comes out blazing with the whole "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" schtick. It sounds a bit like an Al Gore-ish attempt to recreate himself, after all there were already multiple candidates with national New Democrat credentials in the race. Maybe Dean realized he could not compete on New Dem turf with heavyweights like Lieberman, Graham and Edwards (and sometime DLCer Gephardt). At what point, though, do the liberal clothes come off the Vermont Emperor?
I continue to think that Dean's arrogance will cost him support. He likes to portray himself as a straight talker, but he has had to apologize to two rival campaigns already for uttering baldly untrue comments. Maybe the good doctor is simply out of his league?

To me, John Kerry is becoming more and more appealing. A couple of months ago, I would have said that my allegiance would go to either Lieberman or Graham. But Lieberman continues to annoy me with his holier than thou rhetoric. I am not sure I trust him with my individual liberties, especially the 1st Amendment. And Graham is starting to sound like the candidate of the grassy knoll. Gephardt is too close to big union bosses and Edwards is way over his head, despite his fundraising success.

That leaves me with my homestate junior Senator, a man whom I have never been crazy about. I supported him in 1996 during his re-election battle with Bill Weld (someone whom I had been an ardent supporter of in 1990 and 1994). But something about Kerry has rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe he is too aloof or seems too plastic. But I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, having never met the man. I think he has good ideas, a sterling resume and a compelling personal story. Kerry has the national security and defense credentials necessary to take out the Shrub. I suppose his only downside is the stereotype of Massachusetts liberalism, but Kerry is not a lockstep, knee jerk liberal.

Sounds almost like I've made up my mind.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Coming Back
Will be back to blogging on Tuesday. Slow news weekend, so I'm waiting til the holiday is over.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted
That's the Go-Go's, right? Anyway, I guess that being away since Thursday qualifies as a vacation. Not sure if I have any plans for blogging today, either. Needed some time to recharge batteries and get out of the blogosphere for some fresh air. Even news and info junkies like myself need to go Luddite once in a while. The only thing I have really done on the computer for the past few days has been email and checking ESPN for sports updates. Will be back soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

What Century Are We In?
The following is a painful reminder of just how cruel a place our society can be to gays and lesbians.

A Newark teenager heading home from Greenwich Village early Sunday was stabbed to death because she and her friends told the killers they were lesbians, police said yesterday.
Shakia Gunn, 15, was attacked while waiting for a bus in Newark after she and several friends rebuffed sexual advances from two men by telling them they were gay, according to police investigating the bias crime.

(full story; hat tip Light of Reason)

Piss off the Right Wing
The American Family Association, a right wing religious outfit, is mad at the Make a Wish Foundation for holding events at which alcohol was served and there was gambling, too. This is the same group that supported Senator Santorum's ridiculous comments about homosexuals.
So, as a public service, I give you this. Like many groups AFA has an email action network. Use this link and you can send an email to the Make a Wish Foundation. I deleted the AFA's text and entered in my own message of support. You can do this with any of their action alerts, too. So, why not use their technology to counter their message?
God, I love the Information Age.

(hat tip-- Hit & Run)
Buy a Senator
These days, the going rate for a Senator is about $20 billion. That's the amount it took in aid to states, in order to secure a yes vote for dividend tax elimination from Senator Nelson (CO) (NYT). Now, let me be honest, I do not oppose the elimination of the dividend tax as I do consider it double taxation. However, given the precariousness of our federal budget and the red ink spewing forth, this is hardly the time to be making corrections to the tax code that would disproportionatley benefit the wealthy. In addition, the GOP's claim that this would stimulate the economy is clearly erroneous as the most efficient way to stimulate would be to put money in the hands of those who consume a higher percentage of their earnings (ie. lower income folks). Plus, as I have noted on several occasions, there is a cost to the muni market (and taxpayers) from eliminating taxes on dividends.
Oh, and lets not forget that in order to get under the $350 billion cap, the dividend tax comes back in 2007. And if you believe that, I've got some prime swamp land in Florida to sell you.
Jesse's Hypocrisy
So, Jesse Jackson thinks that Alabama chose a less qualified white coach over a more qualified African American? And what does he base this on- quantitative factors such as years of coaching, head coach experience, etc. Now, as I noted before, I don't claim to know why 'Bama picked Shula. However, if it was a decision based on race, then I would say such a decision is wrong and runs counter to what universities ought to stand for. In other words, I would stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesse.
Yet, it seems odd that Jackson would not only fail to speak out, but actually support, those same types of race conscious decisions when made by the University of Michigan. When the University choses to accept minority applicants who have quantitative factors- GPA, LSAT or SAT- that are less than their white counterparts, they are engaging in exactly what Jackson alleges Alabama has done. Then why is it wrong for 'Bama to chose an underqualified white and not wrong for Michigan to chose an underqualified minority?
Oh, the irony of it all.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Politic's Most Overused Term
Working families
What does this term even mean? If one looks it at literally, it means a family in which one or more members work. Therefore, the only people who are not part of a working family are single folks who work or not work, couples in which both spouses as well as all of their underage children are either retired and/or unemployed. This is such a small percentage of America, that nearly EVERYONE is a part of a working family.
So then why must politicians continue to use this nomenclature? Well, it probably sounds better than just saying a generic term for Americans. Perhaps by saying working families, they may be trying to avoid "working class", especially since most Americans consider themselves middle class. Plus, I think there is a bit of class warfare here- working families, to a degree, might exclude the rich. Such that when Edwards (or Gore) says "I want to fight for working families" many of his listeners hear "Tax the rich."
Don't Mess With Texas (Dems)
In case you might have missed this story, Democrats in the Texas House have taken off to Oklahoma. And why have they done this? Well, you see, the Texas GOP has decided to redraw Congressional lines, just two years after they were redone subsequent to the 2000 Census. The proposed new lines would increase GOP representation in Congress by about 4 seats, thereby helping the GOP maintain its congressional majority.
I am certainly not an election law expert, but I cannot recall something like this happening in the past. District lines are redrawn every ten years to reflect the latest Census data. Obviously, both parties seek to maximize their winnable districts. But to go back to the well a second time for "better" districts is a bit disturbing and would create a dangerous precedent. What if control of the state legislature changes hands at some point between Census years, would they redraw lines each time?
To redraw lines now, at an uncustomary time, is indicative of the lows to which the GOP will stoop in order to hold onto power in Congress. The real losers won't be the Democrats, but the American people.
The Price of Obesity
Next time someone laughs at the lawsuits against fast food companies and Oreo cookies, point them in this direction. The cost in health care dollars of obesity is America is about $93 billion, with about half being picked up by Medicare and Medicaid. According to the authors of the report, this amount approaches the cost of smoking. This particular study only looks at the health care costs related to obesity, so it does not include other costs of obesity, such as productivity losses due to worker lost days, etc. In addition, it does not consider other, more efficient uses of that almost $100 billion, such as prenatal care, research into infectious diseases, etc. (note: this is an amount just over what Dean's health care plan costs)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Anti-Intellectualism in the White House
Great Alan Murray piece in today's WSJ. The whole thing is worth a read, but key excerpts are below.

President Bush prefers to get his advice on the economy from people who've been successful in the business world. Come to think of it, he seems to prefer even people who have been unsuccessful in the business world.

But relying on capitalists to keep a capitalist system humming is a mistake. Businessmen, by and large, don't like free and open markets. From John D. Rockefeller on, they have found markets to be messy, chaotic and insufficiently profitable. Whether it's oil companies seeking special tax preferences, steel companies seeking trade protection or pharmaceuticals companies seeking excessive patent protection, businessmen -- particularly when working hand in glove with government -- are among the greatest enemies of a free-market economy.
Dept. of Spineless Politicians
(Maybe that is redundant?) Two Democratic Senators have indicated that they are willing to consider a tax cut package larger than $350 billion agreed to by the Senate last month. (CNN) Senators Bayh (Indiana) and Nelson (Florida) each signaled that they were open to a larger package, if the details were right. Although there are probably scenarios under which an increased plan might be a good thing, such as a major payroll tax holiday, I doubt that anything this administration would offer might actually be beneficial in the long term. It is sad to see two New Democrats show their willingness to cave and sell out on the principle of balanced budgets.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Reaching for the Life Jacket
I think that pretty much captures Dean's strategy of attacking Kerry. Now that the war is over, and slipping out of many primary voters' minds, Dean has to do something to keep his name in front of the public. I have long argued that once liberals scratch away the anti-war veneer they will see a candidate much less to their liking. Dean's support of balanced budgets certainly calls into question his ability to support massive liberal social programs and his support of states' rights and gun rights certainly do not jibe with liberal orthodoxy. But, I think his tiff with Kerry allows him to sidestep those portions of his portfolio. In the end, though, Dean will have to do something substantive because Team Kerry will eventually realize the folly of fighting with a nobody like Dean.
A Poisoned Well?
The political dialogue over the past decade has become increasingly vitriolic. I do not know for sure that it began during the Clinton administration, but the allegations and smear tactics used against the President and his wife seem to be much more acidic than any such criticism of either of his predecessors. While I am sold on the notion of a vast right wing conspiracy, there was certainly an element of the right wing that wanted nothing more than to take down the President. And they were Machiavellian in their tactics, no low was too low. The pure hatred and vitriol spewed by Rush Limbaugh, the American Spectator and various other publications and commentators was nothing short of outright hatred.
The same can be said for a segment of the left wing, today. Since the left lacks much presence in talk radio, the job of hacking away at the President has been left to blogs and websites, with assists from a handful of commentators. Much of the hatred comes from what the left perceives as Bush's stealing of the 2000 election. Just as Clinton's critics drew upon their hatred, Bush's antagonists clearly loathe the man. There are people who opposed the war with Iraq merely because it was Bush in the White House.
The rhetoric of each group of Presidential haters displays a level of outright hatred and rage never before seen in American politics. To those individuals, Clinton or Bush represented pure evil. Each President has had his motives questioned and his morality doubted. For the groups that oppose each man, there can be no good to come of either one. They see each man as outside of humanity, somehow.
But it goes even further than that. Our politics has become so poisoned that each group questions the other's goodness. It is no longer about policy differences over which good people can disagree. Rather than debate merits, groups are more likely to slam each other and question their loyalty to America or to the common good. GOP tax cuts can only be driven by their love for the wealthy and hatred of the poor; Democratic questioning of Bush diplomacy can only be driven by anti-Americanism.
This type of screeching has replaced dialogue in American politics. And it has left most Americans disenchanted, disenfranchised, and distraught. But there is good news, I think. Over the past several years I have been able to meet a good cross section of people. I've lived in Boston, St. Louis, Delaware and upstate NY. I have worked with poor families in Cambridge; edited a play for a recovering alcoholic in Delaware; rubbed elbows with NY's political class; introduced to the gay subculture in both St. Louis and Boston. I have gotten to know people rich and poor, black and white, educated and uneducated, young and old, gay and straight. And what I have learned is that we all want the same thing- a good society, a better world. We may approach it in different ways, and that is fine. We should not aspire to be a monolothic society. America's great strength is her diversity and we need to listen to each other. But we need to begin from a point of mutual respect and a realization that we all share the same ultimate goals. The people outside of politics get this. It's just too bad that those who are a part of the political dialogue simply don't.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Protecting Bureaucracy, Instead of Providing Quality Education
Surprise surprise.. the President of NYC's teacher union has turned against the Mayor and Chancellor's plan for education reform (story). Imagine that- the head of an entrenched bureaucracy standing in the way of a reform plan that will minimize her power. Now there is a shocker!
And while there is enough blame to go around in the cesspool that masquerades as NYC's public school system, it is troubling that the UFT would decide to become an obstacle to, rather than a partner in reform. It was hoped that with governance changes the schools would be rid of the kind of bureaucracy and waste that have plagued the system for at least the past 30 years. But instead of chipping in to support the goal of quality education, the UFT has decided to obstruct, all in the name of preserving its power.
It is behavior like this that caused me to finally leave the field of education policy. There are too many entrenched interests who refuse to place student achievement ahead of their petty economic interests. Teacher unions, by and large, have stood in opposition to most school reform programs. They have preferred to hold onto a status quo that benefits their pocketbooks at the expense of children. And the children who are hurt the most because of union obstructionism are the most needy pupils in the public education system.
Unfortunately, teacher unions are typically the most powerful lobbying groups in state capitols and therefore have been able to hamstring reform efforts. They categorically oppose charter schools, despite their broad public support. They oppose merit pay, instead keeping in place a compensation system that would fit better with a Soviet era factory, thereby discouraging the best and brightest from entering the field. They have opposed allowing school administrators to assign teachers based on need, so that the best teachers are often not placed in the most needy classrooms.
I have seen this happen not only from my position as a policymaker, but also as a classroom teacher, a researcher and a school board member. And while there are some progressive teacher unions, such as those affiliated with TURN, the vast majority are still stuck in the old-economy adversarial mode of collective bargaining and spend more time protecting incompetent teachers than promoting professionalism and student achievement.
Original Intent?
This tidbit, by Supreme Court Justice Scalia, speaks volumes about what those who claim to adhere to original intent actually believe-
U.S. citizens tend to interpret the Constitution as giving them more power than the document actually provides. He went on to say that, "I will enforce the Constitutional minimums. But they are minimums. You've got to realize that."(hat tip Stuart)
Original intent folks like Scalia despise the judicial activism of the Warren Court and what they view as its establishment of new rights, not implied by the Constitution. Yet, what Scalia and others of his ilk conveniently ignore is the 9th and 10th Amendments and their protection of unenumerated rights. The plain text of these two Amendments makes clear that the government has only the rights enumerated in the Constitution, yet the people retain rights that are not enumerated. In other words, the people are not limited by the freedoms promised in the Bill of Rights. Scalia and others would chose to ignore not only the 9th and 10th Amendments and their penumbra of rights retained, but also the words and deeds of the Founding Fathers. That the US government is dependent upon the consent of the governed was a bedrock principle for Washington, Jefferson et al. Further, they viewed our rights as having been given to us by our Creator, not by our government. We then cede some liberty to our government. But it is clear that the Founders did not intend for the Constitution or the Bill of Rights to limit the scope of the rights people might exercise. They quite purposely included the 9th and 10th Amendments as protection against the government claiming rights not already enumerated to the people in the Bill of Rights.
Scalia and his cadre of original intent cronies adhere only to a conservative notion that if a right is not specificially enumerated in the Constitution it does not exist and avert their eyes from the protection of individual rights guaranteed by the 9th and 10th Amendments. But to see only what one likes in the Constitution is no different from the judicial activism they accuse the Warren Court of engaging in.
Dept. of Phenomenally Bad Ideas
Facing one of it's worst fiscal crises, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is considering legislation that would allow the sale of naming rights to parks and forests (full story). Apparently it's not enough for corporations to have their names emblazoned on ballparks and preceding whatever bowl game they sponsor, now they want to have the Coca Cola Walden Woods. Is it too much to ask that corporations be public minded and simply donate money to help pay the costs of maintaining public properties during these tough fiscal times? Isn't the PR generated by footing the bill for a place such as Walden Woods enough of an incentive? I can see maybe a plaque, a small sign, or something in the brochure/map acknowledging corporate supporters, but naming rights is just ridiculous.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Crunchy Crustacean
That is what I am, according to the updated Ecosystem.
On another note, I forgot to celebrate hitting 1,000. Oops..
But what I would really like to know is who the heck is reading. Drop me an email or post something in the comments. Also, if you have a blog or a website, link me!
Tell Reverend Jackson to Shut Up!
According to ESPN, Jesse Jackson is set to mount a protest at the Alabama Capitol this week to protest the hiring of a white coach (Mike Shula) over an African American (Sylvester Croom). Both men are products of the University and have been assistant coaches in the NFL, though Croom does have more experience. Now, I was not involved in the process to select a new Tide football coach so I do not profess to know the why's of the situation. However, for Reverend Jackson to chalk it up to racism is simplistic and wrong. He goes so far as to compare the hiring of Shula to George Wallace's stand in the school house door. I guess this should not be a surprise coming from someone desperate to still matter in a post-civil rights America. Jesse Jackson still choses to see everything with a 1950-60's mentality. To him, any action with even the scarcest chance of racial overtones is akin to Birmingham.
Jackson also erupted earlier this year when the Detroit Lions hired Steve Mariucci as their new head coach without even interviewing a minority candidate. See, the problem was that EVERYONE knew the Lions wanted Mariucci, so why bother interviewing just to fill some sort of quota. Jackson and his cohort of affirmative action advocates cannot seem to fathom that the best way to increase African American representation among the ranks of major sports is to play off the success of those who already hold such positions. There are plenty of capable minority candidates for head coaching jobs and the teams that pass them over do so at their own risk. Notre Dame didn't need Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition to tell them Tyrone Willingham was a good coach, neither did the Portland Trailblazers need any nudging to hire Mo Cheeks. Forcing teams to interview minority candidates does nothing to further the cause. The only way to open up coaching is for the cream to rise to the top.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Mea Culpa
When Dick Gephardt unveiled his health care plan, I was a bit skeptical (here). But after further review my opinion has changed a bit. Based on his attack of the Gephardt plan, John Edwards showed a fundamental lack of understanding of both public policy and economics. He slammed the plan for doubling the tax exemption corporations receive for insurance premiums as a give-away to the Enrons of the world. Maybe because he is a trial lawyer Edwards does not understand that if you provide assistance only to those corporations that do not now offer health insurance, you would be punishing those employers who now provide insurance for doing the right thing. Plus, you create a major incentive for those companies that now provide insurance to stop doing so, in order to get whatever increased subsidy the government is providing to non-offering employers.
Edwards also fails to realize that the exemption is tied to the insurance premium and is not simply a fixed amount tax credit that a corporation could use for anything. Of course, for those companies that provide insurance already, there is an economic benefit. And they face several choices with their windfall- they could roll the money into salaries and either hire more employees or increase wages for those already employed; they could also pocket the money and increase dividends, if they are a public company; they could also chose to lower the price of the goods or services they produce as their cost of production has gone down; they might decide to use the money for capital investment; or they could do a combination of all the above. Regardless, it is money that would be returning to the economy in one form or another. Obviously wages and capital investment would provide the greatest stimulus.
But to nouveau populists like Edwards, this is all too confusing and it is much easier to play class warfare than to make real public policy.
More on Guns
While we are on the topic of guns and politics... I was more than a bit shocked that only Al Sharpton supported registration of all handguns when asked at Saturday night's debate. This may come as a surprise to some who see me as more conservative, but I have no problem whatsoever with gun registration. It strikes me as particularly odd that I have to register my vehicle, but not my guns. (note: I am also a former NRA member.) I believe that the 2d Amendment does provide me an individual right to keep and bear arms, however that does not preclude regulation. Requiring individuals to register their guns does not in any way, shape or form deny them of their rights.
Jumping the Shark?
For the past several months, pundits have wondered who in the Democratic field would have the first "Sista Souljah" moment. And to everyone's surprise, including mine, it appears that it's President Bush whose distancing himself from a portion of his base. The President has announced his support of extending the assault weapons ban, causing the NRA to have fits. But it should not be surprising because Bush promised, on the campaign trail in 2000, that he would support its extension. Yet many thought the President might backpedal or else keep silent enough that the bill would die in Congress.
While I am heartened that the President sees this as good policy, I just wish he had chosen to take on the Religious Right part of his base rather than the NRA.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

There is a new addition (is that redundant?) to the blogroll on your left. And it's a lefty blog, to boot. It is MaxSpeak, the blog of Max Sawicky. You can see his bio here. He is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute and writes a mean blog. What I find best about Max's blog, as opposed to other left of center ones, is the commentary provided by both Max and his readers is insightful and rational. In short, the blog does not contain the level of vitriol and hyperbole that is so common on some other sites (cough, Atrios, cough). Do yourself a favor and check it out. I think it's worth your time, whether you agree with the views expressed or not.
But now that Max is also linking to me, I feel obligated not to take any more days off and to make my posts all intellectual and erudite. Damn expectations game!
Just as I was about to start liking John Kerry, this comes along. Ok, so maybe it isn't fair to not like someone based on his wife, but I don't think I want such a vain First Lady. This tidbit is from an upcoming issue of Elle, to whom Ms. Heinz Kerry gave an interview.
Her regular Botox treatments: "In fact I need another one. Soon." As for cosmetic surgery, "when I need it, I'll get it." She confides that she'd like to fix her nose, which has gotten "bulbier" with age.
Heinz adds that she has never had any reason to suspect either of her husbands. "Not for one day, because what I expect of them, they have a right to expect of me. Maybe I'm into 18-year-olds."
Oh yeah.. she's going to play well. Talk about bimbo eruptions.
Just Shut Up
More pablum from Scott "I Cruise for Underage Girls on the Internet" Ritter-- "I see no difference between the invasion of Iraq and the invasion of Poland by Hitler in 1939."
Not only are the Hitler comparisons completely ridiculous, but Ritter has such a problem with veracity that anything he says is suspect. He went from being a total Iraq hawk to being Saddam's biggest apologist in just over a couple of years. But, my biggest problem with Ritter is his run in with the law for cruising the internet for underage girls. Anyone who would contemplate meeting and having sex with an underage girl has given up all claims to authority on ANY issue.
And if the anti-war Left had a clue they would stop inviting Ritter to speak and showering him with praise for his "courage." He is a moral pariah and should be treated with nothing but scorn!
Dept. of Stupid Ideas
Is it just me or do Congressional Republicans think we are all as stupid as they are? A proposal to make portions of the tax cut, especially the dividend cut) temporary is making its way through the Senate. This is the same GOP whose members screech (rightly so) any time a temporary tax increase is proposed. Most people know that once it's in the code, it isn't likely to come out. Republicans will hold onto their tax cut even after it is scheduled to expire, and will deride anyone who wants to follow the sunset provision as wanting to increase taxes.
Sharing the Pain
In what is a symbolic move, the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives has ordered a 3% pay cut for his members. While it only generates a little over $250,000 in savings, it shows that no one is immune from the state's budget fallout. The Senate Majority Leader said he will take a 3% cut as well, but is leaving it up to his members whether they will follow suit. And, the Governor has accepted a 10% pay cut.
This is in stark contrast to my own state of NY where NONE of our politicians is taking a pay cut, yet they talk often about sharing the pain. Of course, sharing the pain in politicspeak usually means "I am going to raise your taxes", which is exactly what they're doing in NY. They are raising the sales tax, imposing a surcharge on the personal income tax for the wealthy, and raising a boatload of fees on everyone. I am still trying to figure out how my legislature is feeling any pain- they have the same sized staff, the same salary, the same per diem, the same lulu's for leadership positions. Leading by example is not their strong suit.

(Michigan story on CNN)

Monday, May 05, 2003

Almost Forgot
So I have not gotten around to opining about MLB and the anti-Bush/anti-Clinton similarities. Oh well.. maybe later. This is the good thing about a blog. I control what I do and do not do. I love control. Really I do.
"A group of about a half dozen members of an anti-gay organization gathered at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Sixth Street to protest what they called Rogers' failure to condemn homosexuality. The group, which included an 8-year-old girl, held signs expressing their hatred of gays and, while standing on a torn American flag, their hatred of America. "
Where do these people come from?

(full story; hat tip HnR)
My Point, Exactly
This is from Will Saletan's piece on Saturday night's debate. He hits the nail squarely on the head.

"Edwards is running as a man of the people, the first in his working-class family to go to college. So is Gephardt. If Edwards can label Gephardt a corporate lackey, he'll have the heartland populist niche—maybe the best niche in the race—to himself. How the rap on Gephardt changed overnight from union lackey to corporate lackey is a mystery to me, but if Al Gore could make Bill Bradley look like an enemy of the welfare state, I suppose anything's possible. The larger threat is that Edwards, like Gore, will score this tactical success in the primary at the price of strategic disaster in the general election. If Democrats sound like they're more interested in fighting corporations than helping people, it won't matter who won this debate."
Moral Blindness
Sometimes the liberal Left just says and does things so incredibly stupid that a punch line is not even necessary. This is one such time. Just weeks after Fidel Castro began a crack down on artists, journalists and activists, a cadre of leftists issued a statement of support for Cuba and Castro. Among the luminaries supporting the declaration are Harry "Tally Man" Belafonte, Danny Glover, "Latin American Nobel laureates Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Rigoberta Menchu, Aldolfo Perez Esquivel and South African writer Nadine Gordimer, also a Nobel prize winner."
Here is a modest proposal- Glover, Belafonte, et al can trade places with ordinary Cubans who wish to flee Castro's regime. Sort of like a prisoner swap. We know that Glover and Belafonte loathe the US as much as many Cubans detest Castro, so it sounds like a fair plan to me.

(full story Wash Times)
Adam Nagourney has more on Saturday's Democratic debate and what he sees as the emergence of two camps of candidates (here). He categorizes them as either pragmatist or fiery partisans, which I think is a fairly reasonable starting point. However, I disagree a bit over his inclusion of Gephardt as fiery partisan. Nagourney bases his judgment on Gephardt's willingness to repeal the Bush tax cuts, but what he glosses over is Gephardt's constant reminder that he supported the war with Iraq. I think to ignore the candidate's position on Iraq is to miss a crucial difference and one that is clearly very important to Democratic primary voters.
Gephardt is a tough candidate to get your arms around. He had early ties to the centrist DLC, yet is extremely close to labor. His anti-free trade votes put him outside of the orbit of the DLC, as do some of his previous votes on taxes and spending. But he avoids the kind of fiery rhetoric of the Dean and Kucinich. He even saw his health care proposal get attacked from the Left (by Edwards) Saturday night. It is tough, at times, to tell who the real Dick Gephardt is. Still, I think this is not because of opportunistic changes of position, but from what may be idiosyncratic personal beliefs.
Nagourney also noted Edwards' populist themes and his claim to "fight for working people." This, to me, is eerily reminiscent of the Gore campaign. Edwards has sounded these notes several times on the campaign trail and seems to be adopting it as his campaign mantra. While this may play well in Democratic primaries and caucuses, it does not work so well in general elections. There are many people in the Democratic Party who relish a bit of class warfare, driven by their animosity towards the wealthy. But the average American, despite the scandals of Enron and WorldCom, etc., do not view the wealthy as some sort of enemy to be beaten. Most voters are intelligent enough to realize that there are bad people in every socio-economic class. And, as many Americans aspire to wealth, they refuse to punish the wealthy for their success.
One last note. Is it just me or did Dean look awful Saturday night? He grimaced every time Senator Kerry spoke. And, when Dean himself spoke he came across as stiff and perhaps a bit out of his league. Now that the Iraq war is over Dean has lost a good deal of his thunder, and his appeal narrows just to those Democrats who will not accept our victory in Iraq, similar to the Dems who are still reliving the 2000 campaign.
But, was there a winner Saturday night? I would have to lean towards either Graham or Lieberman.

Sunday, May 04, 2003

First Impressions
I have to say that as a Democrat I was pleased with the performance of all nine candidates. Now, that does not mean I would be pleased to have any of the nine represent the party, but that they all came across as respectable and thoughtful individuals. I must admit to being a bit surprised by Braun, Sharpton and Kucinich. All three are fringe candidates, but they did not act or speak that way. In fact, Braun made me half wish that she was not such a phenomenal screw up as a US Senator, and thus not a contender.
But the debate did provide a means to narrow my choices down, in terms of who I will eventually support. Prior to the debate I had settled on Graham, Lieberman or Edwards. And, I walk away with only one of those intact- Graham. I thought that Edwards was a bit too populist in his message, much like Gore in 2000. This is troubling in two senses- one is that I am not enamored, as some Democrats are, of class warfare; second, eventhough Edwards comes from humble roots, the American people will still have some difficulty accepting that a multi-millionaire trial attorney is one of them. As for Lieberman, I want to like him, I really do. But his constant reference to the Bible and his moralism serve to turn me off (and I think they are equally off-putting to many others).
Graham had a great line, mocking Dean by saying he represented "the electable wing of the Democratic Party." Graham brings with him not only moderate bonafides, but has served as governor of the 4th largest state as well as US Senator. He also noted that he is a centrist and believes that you "don't make policy from either end zone, but from the 50 yard line." The question in many people's minds is whether Graham has the charisma needed, but after watching the debate he did not seem to be deficient as compared to his opponents, and he is cerainly no Paul Tsongas.
Alas, my list may have dropped two contenders, but it has added at least one and maybe two. I was very impressed by Gephardt. He was eloquent, knowledgeable and articulate. Sure, he's been around the track before, but I am not certain that isn't an attribute. He has an understanding of both foreign and domestic policy, he supported the Iraq War, and he has appeal to middle America.
One candidate that I cannot seem to make my mind up about is my home state Senator- John Kerry. I respect his intelligence and his record of public service, but at times he seems too calculating for my taste. I must say, though, that I find the squabble between Kerry and Dean to be a bit stupid.
Ok, so the debate didn't clear up all my questions, obviously. But what it did show is that a few candidates up on the stage are not presidential timber and the sooner they exit the race the better, for it will allow more time for those candidates who actually have a chance to get out their message. So, will Kucinich, Braun, Sharpton and Dean please do the Party a favor and hit the showers.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
Imagine the loud voice for that, just like the old monster truck rally commercials. Just to say that I will be posting some thoughts later, but they are still germinating. Topics under consideration- last night's debate (have to watch it on CSPAN today); the parallels between the anti-Clinton Right and the anti-Bush Left; MLB's All-Star game changes (stupid, stupid, stupid).

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Take a Trip
Haven't finished my first cup of cofffe yet, so the brain isn't quite up to speed. Luckily, there is plenty of other stuff to read.
For example, Kinsley on GOP deficit hypocrisy; Erin covers the decline in men on campus; there is a lively thread over at CalPundit over class size reduction (including one by yours truly). But now I am off to eat and drink more coffee to fuel up for some blogging of my own.

Friday, May 02, 2003

So I have made some additions and subtractions to the roll this week. But I have to make a particular note about Asymmetrical Info. I had stayed away for a while, I think because of the war. Today I surfed over to find some interesting discussions about tax policy and making fun of non-economists who think they are social scientists. (aren't you in that category?- ed. good question, but I do have a minor in economics and my grad work focused on economics of education, so go back to Kaus' site!)
Sometimes I simply do not understand some of the people I share this world with. It seems that in a small, rural town in Georgia, there are still whites only proms. Some enterprising students held the first integrated prom at the school last year, though a good number of whites have decided to hold a whites only event again this year. I should note that there is also an integrated prom that most students will attend.
But what does it say about society that there are still people who think a single race prom is necessary. That there are still people who are afraid of inter-racial dating. Although this seems eminently more dumb, I also question the wisdom of single race dorms at college and universities. The extent to which people desire separation from one another causes me to wonder if we are really moving forward towards a race blind society.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Can You Hear Me Now?
Watching the White House ignore the views of the vast majority of economists and charge ahead with its tax cut plan is almost comical. It reminds me a bit of the Verizon commercial where the economists are the Verizon guy and Bush is on the other end of the line, except he can never hear.
Alan Greenspan, Fed Chair, became the latest in a line of experts questioning the tax cuts yesterday, largely because of the size of the deficit. Greenspan said that, "we already have a significant amount of stimulus in place." He also noted that the economy was positioned to grow this year.
How long can the White House go on ignoring mainstream economists and its own Fed Chairman?

(NYT story)
All Too Predictable
I knew it would only be a matter of time after the Santorum comments that we would see a hate crimes bill, and here it is. Now, given my response to Santorum and other homophobes one might expect that I would support such a bill. However, you would be dead wrong. I have long been opposed to hate crimes statutes.
First, hate crimes laws enhance the existing criminal penalties for a particular crime, such as assualt. Now, this presents a couple of problems. Why is it that two crimes, of the same nature, should be punished differently? I think there is a legitimate debate to be had over this issue. Also, how is it that a judge or jury determines if it is "hate" that motivated the crime? It is not always so simple as the assailant yelling "nigger" or "fag". But my other question is what type of violent crime does not have an element of hate to it? If indeed we can ascertain that a perpetrator was motivated by our definition of hate, then are we not just punishing him for his thoughts? What if somewhere down the line other thoughts or opinions become taboo, will they too be subject to punishment?
My other philosophical problem with the bill is that it attempts to federalize even more crime. There is a legitimate role for federal law enforcement in very narrow areas, such as those involving national security and interstate commerce. Yet the past two decades have seen an enormous amount of federal encroachment into state and local law enforcement domain.
I understand the impetus behind hate crimes laws. We all want a tolerant society (er, well, most of us), but we cannot legislate morality (understand that Christian Coalition?). We should not, as a society, apply punishment based on someone's thoughts or biases. To do so leads us towards an Orwellian nightmare.
Emotionally Exhausted
The past week or so has taken an enormous toll on me and my hope for the goodness of mankind. The furor surrounding Senator Santorum's comments has made me question my faith in humanity. Living in the tolerant Northeast allows me a bit of a cocoon from the other parts of the country, but it also blinds me to reality at times. I suppose that there have always been intolerant souls in the world and I just can't understand why god has chosen to populate the earth with such people. I imagine it is for the same, or similar, reasons that there is suffering in this world.
Unlike the intolerant Christian fundamentalists I believe that god created us all- gay and straight; black and white; rich and poor. But there are times when I question the wisdom of god, and this is one of those times. I know that I should be forgiving of their ignorance, yet there is a part of me who absolutely loathes these individuals. I am sickened by their moral righteousness and their smug certainty that they alone know what is god's way.
Anyone who has spoken to me in the past week or so knows just how much this has affected me. I am saddened by the lack of condemnation from other political leaders (hint, hint White House), but also from some of my own peers. Too many of them are content to chalk this up to a few religious zealots mouthing off and/or something that does not affect them. But the truth is, whether gay or straight, this does affect all of us. If we do not stand up and make our voices heard, then these fanatics will have won. We must show them that America will not be held hostage to a cadre of religious conservatives. We must show them that America is a tolerant country that values all of her citizens. We must show them that America is not a theocracy and that she respects the religious diversity of her people. We must show them that America is a country in which all people are treated equal and that she will always stand strong to protect individual liberty. Anything less is admitting to defeat.