Friday, September 17, 2004

As if you needed more reasons to vote against Bush...

Here are three:

• The top U.S. weapons inspector has concluded that Iraq had no WMDs. "Fallen Iraqi President Saddam Hussein did not have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, but left signs that he had idle programs he someday hoped to revive, the top U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq concludes in a draft report due out soon."

• The White House wants to cut the FAA budget. "The Bush administration wants to trim the Federal Aviation Administration's budget for buying new air traffic control equipment at a time when more planes are in the air."

• The CIA is understaffed and inefficient. "A senior CIA officer says bad decisions, understaffing and infighting among intelligence agencies stifled efforts to stop Osama bin Laden and his network. More than three years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the agency remains short-staffed, he says."

So, he got us into a war based on a threat that didn't exist, a war that has now cost us 1,000 American lives and $200 billion (yes, billion) in taxpayer dollars. Strike one.

He wants to cut the budget of the agency that oversees all domestic air travel; in particular, he won't give the air traffic controllers the equipment and manpower they need to prevent dangerous accidents, like planes flying into one another in midair. Strike two.

His CIA has not found the man who perpetrated the September 11th terror attacks over three years ago, in part thanks to his imposing a "hiring freeze" on the agency's main bin Laden unit. Strike three.

That's three strikes, Dubya. You're out.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

One More Reason to Re-Defeat Bush

Excerpts from a Los Angeles Times column by George Skelton:

Want to keep military-style assault weapons off the streets and out of schoolyards? Remove President Bush from the Oval Office.

Think Americans in other states should be free to buy practically any firearm that intrigues them, with a jumbo clip so they can squeeze off 50 rounds without having to reload? Then reelect the Republican president and return Republicans to power in Congress.

Voters have just seen a vivid illustration of what it means to elect Democrats or Republicans, at least on the issue of firearms.

In 1994, under a Democratic president and a Democrat-controlled Congress, the federal government banned assault weapons and the manufacture of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds. On Monday, with Republicans now in power, the president and Congress allowed the ban to expire.

Democrats enact gun controls; Republicans cower from the gun lobbies.

During legislative debate [on whether to ban .50-caliber BMG super-rifles], there was heated argument over whether the guns are capable of bringing down low-flying passenger jets. Republicans were willing to risk it. Only two voted to ban the weapons: Assembly members Shirley Horton of Chula Vista and Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria. Both are in competitive legislative races and live along the coast, where gun control is more popular than in the rural inland valleys.

Not one Republican voted for two other gun bills now on the governor's desk. One seeks to protect children from unsafe storage of handguns. Another would require sellers of handgun ammunition to keep ID records of buyers and make the information available to police. Both bills are sponsored by Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena), a gun control crusader whose son was killed in a shooting accident.

One Republican exception is former legislator Steve Kuykendall, who is seeking an Assembly seat in the San Pedro-Palos Verdes area. A Vietnam combat veteran who packed an assault rifle, Kuykendall says: "I know how vicious these weapons are. And I don't think they play any role in our urban communities." He has voted to ban them.

It took a Democratic governor, Gray Davis, and a Democratic Legislature to enact the state's strong gun control laws, including a tough assault weapons ban. That will remain on the books, despite Washington's surrender to the gun lobby.

Feinstein intends to propose an even tougher federal ban next year. California-tough, she says. But this likely will be a futile exercise unless America changes presidents or the Congress.

So, according to various survey results (available at PollingReport.com), between 67 and 78 percent of Americans support the federal assault-weapons ban. President Bush claims to support it, but he has done nothing to attempt to influence the Republican leadership in Congress to bring up the issue.

And now we have Republicans in the state legislature who are willing to vote against banning a gun that might have the power to bring down low-flying planes. The kind of gun a terrorist might use!

For the record, Schwarzenegger gets no thanks for signing that particular bill. Sorry, but you don't get credit for doing what's right and popular; you get it for doing what's right and unpopular, for taking risks. Although I'm at least grateful that, given the choice between cowering before the gun lobby and cowering before overwhelming public opinion, Schwarzenegger chose the latter option.
Recall Arnold?

Okay, so I don't update very often, but every now and then something comes along that warrants an update. For now, it's today's Mercury News article on Gov. Schwarzenegger's excessive fundraising. Since you can only access the Mercury News online if you register (for free), I'll reprint some of the highlights below...

After pledging to reject money from special-interest groups, Arnold Schwarzenegger has accepted five- and six-figure donations from a wide array of businesses with a stake in some of the hundreds of bills the Republican governor must sign or veto by month's end.

• Last week, Schwarzenegger cashed a $5,000 donation from a pharmaceutical company days after signing a bill it co-sponsored that expands its access to state nursing homes.

• The governor received a $100,000 check from ChevronTexaco in late August as he was poised to begin considering a series of measures that would benefit the oil industry.

• State dentists gave the governor $25,000 two weeks ago while hoping he will sign several bills. One would impose new limits on state regulators who oversee their profession; a second could save their company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Schwarzenegger's top fundraiser said Wednesday that he may have to return the donation after learning that it may violate the governor's self-imposed ban on accepting money from single-interest trade groups.

During last fall's recall, Schwarzenegger attacked Davis over his ties to special-interest groups and assured voters he would not be beholden to anyone but the people of California.

Since he took office in November, Schwarzenegger has undercut that image by breaking all fundraising records.

This is from the man who said, in his inauguration speech last November, "For the people to win, 'politics as usual' must lose."

So why are things just as they've always been? I understand Arnold has a 2006 re-election campaign to worry about, and several ballot initiatives between now and then to campaign for, but the guy's a multi-millionaire film star. Why the hell does he need to fundraise?

Frankly, I've had enough of this. No Republican or Democrat should be as beholden to special interests as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Gray Davis. RECALL ARNOLD! Anybody with me?

Monday, July 12, 2004

Believe It or Not, Americans DO Prefer Taxes Over Death

If you've ever argued politics with me, you know I love polling data. It's true. Polls are great because, although not always completely accurate, they give you a pretty good sense of the general public opinion. A better sense than you get, say, from talking to your friends and coworkers.

Which leads me to the confusing subject of why no major-party politician will address the need to touch that third rail of American politics: raising taxes.

I shouldn't have to explain to you why revenues need to be raised; the federal budget deficit is over $500 billion this year. President Bush and the Republican Congress are, as The American Conservative so aptly put it, spending like a drunken Democrat. And yet the continue to insist that their tax cuts must stay in place. Why?

John Kerry, for his part, has suggested repealing Bush's tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year. (His running mate, Mr Edwards, would prefer the cap set at $240,000.) But he hasn't made this a central part of his campaign because I imagine he fears that voters won't agree with him. Oh really?

According to data from PollingReport.com...

• 63% of Americans believe that "upper income people" are paying "too little" in federal taxes; 69% believe the same of corporations.
• If given the choice between balancing the budget and cutting taxes, 61% of Americans would choose balancing the budget; just 36% would cut taxes.
• When asked if they thought the Bush tax cuts had helped the economy, had no effect, or hurt the economy, 55% said "hurt" or "no effect," compared to 41% who said "helped." In fact, 61% say the 2003 tax cuts have not helped their family's finances this year; only 30% say they have.
• Here's one of my favorites. When asked which groups -- the rich, the middle class, and low-income workers -- would benefit most from the 2003 tax cut, 72% said the rich would benefit "some" or "a lot"; 50% said the same for the middle class; only 34% for low-income workers.
• And finally, when asked whether they supported the 2003 tax cut, given that it could not be paid for without money being taken from the Social Security Trust Fund, 82% of Americans said they opposed it; including 70% of Republicans and 76% of independents.

So there you go, Mr Kerry. Go ahead, touch that third rail. It won't bite.

Monday, June 28, 2004

It's Gotta Be Clark

Okay, so I know I haven't updated in a long time, but that's largely because other people have been saying everything I could have said. But there's one thing that needs to be said which I haven't heard at all in the last several weeks: John Kerry should pick Wesley Clark as his running mate.

If you've been watching the news at all recently, you know that John Kerry is the last major presidential candidate to have not chosen a running mate. Bush, obviously, has Cheney, and it looks like he'll be keeping the grumpy, profanity-spouting old fart for his reelection campaign. (There's still a possibility that Cheney could be dumped at the GOP convention in September, perhaps in favor of Colorado Gov. Bill Owens or former NY Mayor Rudy Guiliani, but it's unlikely.) Ralph Nader has chosen Peter Camejo as his "Vote Nader, Re-Elect Bush" partner in crime. Even the Green and Libertarian nominees (whoever they are) have running mates. So where's Kerry?

The Senator has been going through a very arduous and very personal process in the search for a future vice president, according to recent news stories. His short list, "accidentally" leaked to various media sources, apparently includes Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri, and Sen. Bob Graham of Florida. Fine men, all, but I don't think either will do much to help the Kerry ticket.

(Before I discuss the pros and cons of various contenders, let me note that I'm aware that no one is perfect and every possible choice will bring some flaw or another to the Democratic campaign. It's simply a matter of deciding which flaws will do the least amount of damage.)

Most people want Kerry to pick Edwards; polls have shown that, and several pundits have discussed the former trial lawyer's charisma and youthful good looks. (He's in his early fifties, but we can dream, can't we?) But Edwards doesn't have the foreign-policy experience necessary to be a vice presidential nominee, or, for that matter, a vice president. (More on the importance of foreign policy experience in a minute.) Also, the general consensus is that Americans would prefer at least someone who's not a "Washington insider" on the ticket. Two sitting senators does not project such an image.

As foreign policy goes, Kerry could do better to pick Dick Gephardt, a long-serving Congressman (and former House Democratic Leader) from Missouri. Gephardt has experience and then some, in virtually every area of government. But he's got two big flaws working against him. The first is that he's every bit as charismatic and interesting as, well, Dick Cheney. A vice-presidential debate between Cheney and Gephardt would put chronic insomniacs to sleep. The second, and more important, flaw is that Gephardt voted for, and continues to support, the Iraq War. He's not interested in discussing foreign policy because he's on the wrong side of his Democratic base; note how his failed presidential campaign focused almost exclusively on domestic issues. Gephardt debating Cheney on foreign policy would be like Ben debating Jerry on whether or not to sell ice cream.

It might seem, then, that the obvious choice is Florida Senator Bob Graham. Respected in his home state (which is also this year's hottest swing state), the retiring Senator knows a lot about foreign policy from his three terms in the Senate. He's also got some degree of charisma -- more than Dick Gephardt, at least. Alas, Graham is neither a nationally known name nor a respected one; he has suggested that President Bush may have (to a certain degree) known about the September 11th attacks in advance. He may be right (after all, the CIA did send Bush a letter in early August 2001 suggesting that Osama Bin Laden might hijack planes to attack the U.S.). But Americans consider such talk vapid "conspiracy theory," and the Republicans would have a field day painting Graham as a senile Oliver Stone wannabe, ranting and raving; "Are UFOs and alien abductions next?", their commercials would taunt.

The obvious choice, at least to me, is retired General Wesley Clark, former NATO Commander and failed candidate for president. Why Clark? Several reasons: he's a nationally known name after his presidential campaign; he's a foreign-policy expert from his NATO experience; he's a decorated veteran who could embarrass Dick "I had other priorities [during the Vietnam War]" Cheney and bring crossover Republican and independent votes with him; he's got enough Clinton-style charisma to at least make people smile, if not laugh; and he seems to be popular in his home state of Arkansas, a key swing state which, if combined with another moderate Southern state (West Virginia, perhaps, or Louisiana; even Tennessee) could tip the election in Kerry's favor.

Foreign policy will, indeed, play a larger role in this election than in generations of American presidential campaigns. This is because Americans, and their candidates, are divided on a major foreign policy issue for the first time in decades. A look at the history of elections where foreign policy was a key issue confirms this.

In 1916, both Woodrow Wilson and Charles Hughes agreed that the U.S. should not get involved in World War I (even though we did); a quarter-century later, in 1940, both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie spoke in vagueries about the need for the U.S. to remain neutral in World War II (even though we didn't); in 1960, both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon supported a strong anti-communist policy; in 1968, both Nixon and Hubert Humphrey had supported the Vietnam War but believed it was time to get out; in 1992, both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush had supported the First Gulf War (which was more a war for oil than it was to free Kuwait).

But this year, Americans are as divided as ever. According to recent polls (most of which are available at PollingReport.com), about half (or more) of Americans think the U.S. invasion of Iraq was a bad idea, while about half (or less) still think it was the right thing to do. The good news for Kerry is that the number of antiwar respondents is going nowhere but up; the bad news is that he has to give these people a reason to vote, which he has yet to do.

Choosing Clark will go a long way toward solving that problem. Tens of millions of Americans will watch this year's presidential debates. Three debates will be showdowns between the presidential candidates -- one each will focus, respectively, on domestic and foreign policy, while another will feature questions from members of a preselected audience. The vice presidential candidates will square off only once, which means Kerry's running mate will have only one opportunity to impress untold millions of undecided voters.

Wesley Clark will bring experience, personality, and the "right" side of the issue to that debate. He, like many Americans, supported the removal of Saddam Hussein but felt that going to war was unnecessary, and that it was conducted in a hasty and unprofessional manner. He can bring those reservations to the table when he sits down with Dick Cheney, without having to oppose the war outright. This, it seems to me, is the perfect way to pull votes from moderates, independents and Republicans who once supported the war but now have doubts, while still holding onto the party's left-wing antiwar base.

John Kerry has clearly done so many things right in his presidential campaign thus far. (If you don't believe me, note that many believed him to be within days of dropping out before his unexpected victory in Iowa; and that he is now polling neck-and-neck, or slightly ahead, of the president, despite being outspent on TV ads by tens of millions of dollars.) He now has an opportunity to make the single decision which could win or lose this election for him, and he'd better make the right one. Senator, pick Wesley Clark. Do the right thing.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

For Sale: One California Government, Complete with Legislators and Governor

Diaper recycling isn't something you read about in the news all the time. In fact, if you're like me, it's something you just read about for the first time this morning. But it turns out it's a big problem for California, or so the diaper recycling industry says. (Yes, there is a diaper recycling industry in California. No, I am not kidding.)

Knowaste LLC, the nation's only diaper recycling company, pushed a bill (SB 1882) through the California Legislature in 2002 that would have required the state to study Santa Clara's diaper recycling program for possible statewide use. After Senator Dede Alpert introduced the bill and got it passed in late August, Knowaste donated $2,500 to her Senate reelection committee. They also donated to the campaigns of Senators Liz Figueroa and Mike Machado, and Assemblymembers Barbara Matthews, John Campbell and Keith Richman -- all of whom voted for SB 1882.

(On a side note: Governor Gray Davis vetoed the bill a few weeks later, citing cost concerns. If only Knowaste had given money to his reelection campaign -- diaper recycling might be the law in California today!)

And that's not nearly the end of it all. Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that state Senate Majority Leader Don Perata, who reintroduced mandatory diaper recycling in the 2003-04 session, has been receiving $100,000 per year in "consulting fees" from a firm hired by Knowaste. Translation: push a bill through the legislature requiring diaper recycling, we'll benefit because we're the only diaper recycling company in the United States, and we'll let you share some of the benefits.

For goodness' sakes, $100,000 is more than Perata makes as a senator! If we're going to let legislators receive outside income (especially in the form of shady "consulting fees," for which no actual consulting has been done), can we at least limit it to less than we pay them for being legislators?!

Unfortunately, this is how our government is run in California. If you give money, the state will work for you. If you don't, you're basically screwed.

(On another side note: Senator Dede Alpert, who carried the diaper recycling bill in 2002 and got $2,500 for doing so, ran for her second and final Senate term in 2000. She is barred by term limits from running again -- so why did she even have a "Dede Alpert for State Senate" committee in 2002? Could it be so she could get paid to write bills benefiting lobbyists and corporations??)

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

A Tale of a Wardrobe Malfunction...

So according to the Time/CNN poll, America is split between whether seeing Janet Jackson's right breast was "a new low in bad taste" or "people are overreacting." Actually, the latter has a slight advantage, 48%-47%. But the more interesting numbers are in the age groups.

Among 18 to 34-year-olds, 66% feel that conservative protesters like Bill O'Reilly, Matt Drudge and Ann Coulter are looking too much into the incident; only 29% think it was in poor taste. Among those over 65, however, the numbers are reversed -- 67% think Janet should have kept her goods covered up and only 28% aren't bothered by it.

What does this mean for America? I think this is the "values gap" conservatives are always talking about. They don't understand that progress is, by nature, progressive, and that society cannot stay stuck in its old ways forever. Now, does this mean that exposed naked bodies on network television are the future? Maybe. But will we survive? Sure. After all, in ancient Rome it was not uncommon to attend stadium events where men were ripped apart by hungry tigers.

Then again, Rome did fall. Now there's something to think about...

Thursday, February 05, 2004

An Urgent Message to My Fellow Democrats

*sigh* Democrats, Democrats, Democrats. Why, oh why, are you voting for John Kerry for president? What evidence do you have that he can beat President Bush in the November election?? Consider:

• He can't win by attacking special interest groups and PAC money; he's recently come under fire from conservatives for taking more special interest and PAC money than any of the other Democratic candidates.

• He can't win on his military record (though it may earn him a handful of votes) because conservatives lambast him for, as Ann Coulter recently said, "trashing his fellow Vietnam vets by calling them genocidal murderers" when he returned home in 1970 to form Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

• He can't win by appealing to "working people"; as the Drudge Report and other conservative websites and magazines love to point out, he is a Northeastern liberal married to a woman worth half a billion dollars, whose haircut alone costs $150.

Don't be stupid, Democrats. Accept the truth -- Kerry can't win. The two candidates with the best chance of beating Bush are Dean and Edwards, though even Clark is more hopeful than Kerry. So let's not do to ourselves what we seem to do every election, and pick a candidate destined to lose. (Cruz Bustamante, anyone?...)

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?