...children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white.But don't stop here. If you missed it, read the whole thing. [End of Post]
...alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.
A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief — I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper — that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America. ...
Tuesday, 27 July 2004
Osama Bin Laden will be captured or killed sometime between the end of the Republican convention and the election, after polls show Kerry with a nearly double digit lead.
Election eve polls will show the race neck and neck.
In spite of some controversy in some state where the election is contested, Bush won't even top 200 electoral votes, and it will be a Kerry landslide by a double digit popular vote margin, with the largest turnout in recent history.
Republicans will be shocked to find that the House switches parties, with the Democrats taking a 4 to 18 seat lead.
We will return to an effective tie in the senate, 50 R, 49 D, & Jeffords.
. . . Of course the chances that ALL of the above will prove true are infinitessimally small, but I'm sticking with the general principle that the Democrats' actuals will substantially exceed their polling numbers. For my reasoning see my post from last month.
Friday, 23 July 2004
It is a useful metaphor to think of that which needs to be controlled, whether it is pollution, or mistreatment of employees, or the creation of unsafe products, as a body of water on a hill which ought to be constrained from flowing down the hill. Gravity is analogous to the greed or convenience which would cause the bad stuff to escape. Dams are analogous to the regulations which hold it back. It is not necessary or desirable to place a concrete cap over the whole lake to control it (over-regulation), but it is foolish to allow a torrent of water to cascade from a gaping mouth in the lake (under-regulation). The thing that people don't seem to get is that it is possible to have both over-regulation and under-regulation within a single system. In fact, sadly, it is often easier to establish rules which control minor leakages, than to fight for the major regulation that would stanch the rampant abuses. In my analogy, this is like creating little dams to stop places where rivulets are escaping from the lake, while allowing the gaping mouth to remain open.
Those who fight regulations at every turn are forever shining a spotlight on those cases where onerous requirements prevent reasonable actions, and arguing that we are fundamentally over-regulated. Those who want to keep misbehavior in check will shine the spotlight on the rampant abuses, and sometimes argue that we are thus under-regulated and therefore defend even ineffective regulations on the grounds that we can't afford to undo any regulations if they have any effect on curbing something undesirable. This is what I call turf-protecting, and I see that many environmentalists are guilty of it. It's time to concede that there is both under-regulation and over-regulation, and for both sides to cede ground in the regulation wars. My fear is that it is always easier to blow up those little dams controlling the rivulets than it is to construct the big one that would block the gaping mouth. [End of Post]
Wednesday, 21 July 2004
The differences are based on more than ideology: Each retailer has a stake in the election's outcome in areas from health care to the minimum wage to the way unions can organize work forces.Now let me get this straight. Costco is supporting Kerry because his plans will essentially have no effect on them because they are ALREADY paying ALL their employees over Kerry's proposed minimum wage and insure all of their employees. Wal-Mart doesn't do either, so of course they support Bush.
Kerry, 60, a four-term senator, pledges to induce more employers to insure workers with a $257 billion proposal calling for the government to pay most so-called catastrophic health-care costs -- only for companies that provide comprehensive coverage. He'd raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to join unions.
Those policies might benefit Costco and hurt Wal-Mart.
Issaquah-based Costco offers comprehensive health insurance to most of its 78,000 U.S. employees, making it eligible for Kerry's plan, said Kerry's top domestic policy adviser, Sarah Bianchi, 31. That could cut 10 percent, or $35 million, off its annual health care premiums.
Wal-Mart's health plan for its 1.3 million U.S. workers is probably not broad enough to qualify for the savings that Kerry's proposal would bring, since it doesn't cover enough workers, said Jason Furman, 33, the Democrat's chief economic-policy adviser. Fewer than half of Wal-Mart's employees are enrolled in the company health plan, according to figures supplied by the retailer.
Costco wouldn't have to raise salaries with Kerry's proposal to increase the minimum wage to $7 an hour, from $5.15 now. It already pays hot-dog vendors as much as $16 an hour, and the lowest wage it pays is $10 an hour.
That's higher than the $9.96 average wage paid at discount stores bearing the Wal-Mart name. Sam's Club spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart declined to provide wage information for the warehouse unit.
Maybe it would cost Wal-Mart too much to act like Costco. Let's see, if I'm reading this Income Statement correctly their 2003 PROFIT was over 9 BILLION DOLLARS. Again, that is PROFIT - PROFIT - for ONE YEAR. The question I have is did they really have to make that much money? Would it really be bad business to have their employees have heath insurance and let them make a decent wage? Who would that have hurt? I guess the same people that most benefited from the Bush tax cut. My personal Wal-Mart boycott continues. Costco knows paying their employees well is good for their business and they continue to get my enthusiastic support.
Monday, 19 July 2004
What a terrible message! Not voting is far better than voting in ignorance. I've heard people who should know better admit to voting without sufficient knowledge of the candidates or issues. One fact which I fear is not made sufficiently clear at the voting booth or on the ballots is:
Abstaining from voting in a particular race DOES NOT void one's votes for other races.
I now am on the permanent absentee roles, and wouldn't have it any other way. No longer am I surprised on election day by a race, resolution, or initiative that didn't receive the publicity it deserved before the election. It's still tough to get enough information to be confident about choices for every judgeship, so I'll still occasionally abstain on a case by case basis if I don't have sufficient information to make an informed decision. But it galls me that I'm abstaining while hundreds who have been cajoled into voting as their civic duty are guessing who to vote for on the flimsiest information, and feeling proud of themselves for doing so. [End of Post]
Thursday, 15 July 2004
I make no claims to know that such conversations actually occur. It's hard enough evaluating the veracity of all the various sources that are out there, such as this expose on Karl Rove. It's frequently possible to cherry pick the truth to make a case for or against all kinds of claims about the abuse of power, whether you are the Bush administration supporting claims about WMD or Michael Moore implying sinister motives behind the fundamental policies of Bush & Company. People on both sides go over the top to be sure, but it's not as simple as some would like you to believe to know just when that happens. There's a lot of earnest self-deception that plays a big role. It can be exhausting to do the footwork to get to reasonable educated guesses about what is true in the halls of power, but that should be the role of the media, and reasonable people of all political stripes should be concerned about the concentration of media ownership in the hands of fewer and fewer moneyed interest. The Onion humorously "reports" on the burnout and subsequent outrage fatigue that some of us fight with the constant barrage of information overload and suggestions of wrongdoing. I'll continue to fight mine, at least until November.
Tuesday, 13 July 2004
Solid 227 143
Lean 95 73
Total 322 216
States changing hands from 2000:
FL, MO, NH and OH to Kerry
Saturday, 10 July 2004
Friday, 9 July 2004
If this whole thing was about stopping terrorism then some of these things would have been done, but clearly it isn't about terrorism and never has been. Conde Rice, who can do the DC two-step with the best of 'em, summed it up most eloquently when testifying before the 9/11 commission by saying that Mr. Bush was "...tired of swatting at flies..." in reference to the White House focus on Iraq and not on Al Qaida. So let's get this straight, the Bush team unilaterally invaded a sovereign nation, ruining any chance to form an international coalition to fight terrorism not to mention losing what little support we had with Muslims and other allies, sacrificed several hundred American military personnel and wounded thousands of others, spent a few hundred billion of the tax payers hard earned dollars, and added fuel to the terrorist cause on this planet because he was annoyed by the actions of the ruler of Iraq. Seems rather petty...are you sure he's earned your support?
Thursday, 8 July 2004
Iraq is well served to be rid of Saddam Hussein.
Saddam Hussein would be in power today had the U.S. not militarily overthrown him.
I was adamantly opposed to the war before it occurred, and remain convinced it was an ill-conceived policy, implemented incorrectly, today. Still I'm not going to spend an iota of my intellectual capital trying to refute either of those two obvious statements. The long term brutality of Saddam was absolutely abhorrent, and regardless of how outraged some of us may be at what we see as outright deceptions used to justify our military action, we really ought to rejoice that at least Saddam has lost his power.
Now one thing that the community of nations ought to be doing is working on strategies for removing despots from power wherever they arise. It's a tough problem, but it deserves a lot more attention than it's getting. And I'm sorry, no matter how much one may believe in The Project for the New American Century, it's just not a tenable answer that the U.S. should be responsible for militarily overthrowing every tyrant that arises. Our military is already stretched too thin from two such enterprises, aside from the terrible cost in human lives of using such an approach for every despot. I wish I had the answer, but ignoring the problem isn't it.
Wednesday, 7 July 2004
Like anyone, I am not immune from falling into traps and making unjustified inferences based on my own biases and associations. I like to think of myself as open to re-examining assumptions when faced with new information or perspectives. Being open-minded, however, need not mean that one necessarily eschew all radical views, or avoid making bold assertions if evidence suggests they are warranted -- even if someone's character is impugned. What I do my utmost to avoid is applying guilt by association to anyone defending a position that I find untenable, and in turn I am most appreciative when those with radically different viewpoints to mine respect the earnestness of my position, even though I may be taking a stand more radical from their perspective than someone that they already disdain. This may be redundant, but the point bears repeating. The seeming extremeness of a particular view, does not imply that it's holder is a shrill intolerant divisive close-minded ideologue. Conversely the seeming centrism of another view does not imply that it's holder is an open-minded bridge-building unifier.
Being pretty far to the "left" on some issues, I can attest to having heard acquaintances I know to be more centrist than me on those issues vilifying someone a little to their right, when I seriously doubt that the vilifier has sufficient knowledge about the basis of the belief of the person they defame to warrant the character assassination. Then if I later express a more extreme view than the intolerant person to my right, then gee, I must be a real whacko from the perspective of a more conservative person who heard both of us. Michael Moore has been getting a bum rap in part because of the kind of logic I'm alluding to here. Just because you can find liberals arguably considerably less liberal than Moore who are shrill and intolerant, doesn't mean Moore doesn't raise many points in Fahrenheit 911 worthy of due consideration. Sure he takes some cheap shots, and does selective digging to make his points, but the earnestness and genuine concern that motivates him to put such a documentary together are no more craven than the earnestness and genuine concern that motivates some neocons to believe that America's intervention in Iraq was a worthy and noble cause because it rid Iraq of an indisputably evil tyrant. Find the right neocon, and a lot of people would be amazed how civil a debate s/he might have with Michael Moore on the topic. For a fuller discussion on the importance of not dismissing such screeds in the interest of avoiding polarization, I recommend this article from the dialog promoting Co-Intelligence Institute. [End of Post]
Tuesday, 6 July 2004
Monday, 5 July 2004
In fact Americans are mostly extreme about being against extremes, to the point that we avoid engaging in constructive dialog with people whose views we deem to be out of the "mainstream", whatever that means to us. In our history, as in many other nations today, persons of very disparate political beliefs coexisted side by side without so much stigma attached to their positions. Sure there were arguments, and stigmatizations going on, but in 1912, Eugene Debs, a socialist candidate for President garnered six percent of the national vote. Not much, but no one calling themselves a socialist could draw anything like that today. Italians familiar with our politics would just laugh if you asserted that the American political parties were drifting toward extremes. There you have virtual fascists and communists in the mix along with all the other parties, and politics is more fluid than it is here. I'm not suggesting that is better than here, just that extremes are accepted more matter of factly as part of the political fabric.
Yes we need balance, but balance comes not by everyone finding some perfect centrist position, but by people with different perspectives engaging in dialog and civil debate. Ideas should be considered for action without the conclusions being foregone because of who suggested them.
It's vitally important in a republic that thoughtful points of view be fairly represented in our governing process. According to The Political Compass I'm substantially to the left of center and anti-authoritarian, but I don't think of myself as an extremist, nor do I think that someone who, for example, ardently defends free market capitalism is an extremist. In fact I will declare that it would be quite unhealthy and unbalanced for only my positions to be represented in the body politic, and even that having my positions be centrist would not be ideal. My views are very much in earnest, and they do deserve a place in our political discourse, but so do the views of libertarians, conservatives, and communitarians in our society. Policy should derive from a synthesis of reasonable viewpoints, arrived at after reasoned discussion and consideration of the impact on all of us.
So if it is not extremism, what does account for the polarization that we seem to be seeing in America today? I'm not sure, but I suspect many factors contribute to it. One factor is the "if you're not with us, you're against us" mentality, which emanates from the administration itself. They may declare that was not meant to apply globally to all issues, but it's hard to imagine more divisive language. It encourages those who agree with your policy to vilify those who don't, and creates hardened resentment among those who disagree.
Another factor is the packaging of talking points by both sides in our political debates, which encourage people to accept a whole litany of positions as tied together in one bundle, when in fact reasonable people choose positions individually according to their own values and experience. While I don't believe most people actually buy one slate of positions to the exclusion of the other slate, there is a subtle muzzling that goes on, which discourages those within organizations to take exception to particular portions of their organization's platform. We may belong to groups whose purpose is to make waves within our society, but then ironically be timid about making waves within the group.
Also contributing is the fact that some of the polarization is more perceived than it is real. The simple fact that so many polls find the country split so close to 50/50 causes many to perceive that split as a polarization, when in fact the percentage of people on either side of an issue has nothing to do with polarization. Yes there are many on both sides who do feel polarized, but there are also many on both sides who do not.
Whatever the causes of our polarization, whether perceived or real, there is a yearning on the part of many to bring civility and reason to the fore, and to dispense with the name calling and vilification that has become so rampant. Of course ugliness has always been with us, and always will be, but our system of government with its checks and balances and legislative process still provides a framework to find common ground and enact policy in the public good if we can protect it from those who would subvert and corrupt it to bend to their narrow interests.
Sunday, 4 July 2004
It's more beautiful.
It's easier to sing.
Nearly everyone knows it.
It focuses on the land and the people, not a military moment in the distant past.
It stirs the heart.
It doesn't divide the country.
[End of Post]
Saturday, 3 July 2004
When it comes to graver news though, I will not wish for disasters or failures, even though such news would contribute to a desired political result. I may not be surprised if what I see as folly leads to a failed foreign policy, but in spite of the folly I actually DO hope for better results. For instance I genuinely hope that the transition of power in Iraq leads to markedly reduced bloodshed and abates Arab resentment toward America. However skeptical I may be that the recent ‘hand over’ has resulted in anything close to full sovereignty, it is a step in the right direction. I hope that the chosen transitional leaders have the wisdom to make decisions in the best interests of all Iraqis to the extent that is possible. If better news in the coming weeks from Iraq results in a bump for Bush in the polls, that’s a tradeoff I can take. The continuing problems of our troops being spread too thin in the world, and having their terms of service extended past their original commitment aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.
Though they may sometimes be at odds with each other, most of the time I will continue to hope for good news in real life AND regime change at home come November.
Evil is a strong word and a loaded word. Evil lies within the hearts of all men. ... Where you have any man you have the elements of evil. Where you have any institution of men you have the elements of evil. Of course you also have the opposite -- good, purity, the amazing capacity for selfless service, joy, peace, and above all reconciliation and forgiveness. I believe even the lowest of men are redeemable, therefore no man is purely evil. Nor do I believe that I personally have the insight into a man's heart (especially men I know only by what others pro or con have written ...) "Walk a mile in a man's moccasins ..."Sage advice for anyone engaging in political discourse, I believe, lest they become too smug in their own righteousness.
For my part, I will reserve evil accusations not for individuals but for clear movements of an evil force such as the holocaust, or the Bataan death march, or American slavery (any slavery), etc ... All of these are examples that anyone influenced by evil can do things that otherwise their good educated common sense would not let them do!
Leading the world's strongest nation in a world filled with conflict and powerful means of destruction is a job I do not envy, and I certainly appreciate that leaders are called upon to make decisions where ill-effect might be anticipated from every imaginable option. How best to handle Saddam for instance, whether one year ago or ten years ago is not a question to which I have a comfortable answer.
Where I get agitated is when evidence suggests that avarice trumps human concerns in the making of life and death decisions. To the extent to which I think that is likely, I think it is my duty to say so. If saying so happens to impugn someone's character, I'll not back away from stating what I believe to be true just in the interest of being nice. I will avoid personalizing the accusation and illogically tainting all policy and actions of a particular individual or institution based on an instance where I believe a wrong-headed decision was made. If, however, there appears to be a pattern of ill-conceived decisions on the part of an individual or institution in power, then it only makes sense to apply greater scrutiny to all decisions and policies emanating from that entity.
Pardon me, but I see a pattern. From Halliburton to Enron to Saudi connections to secret energy task forces, I see a pattern. From exaggerated or fabricated claims about WMD to exposing CIA agents identities to withholding information about the real cost of a prescription drug bill, I see a pattern. It's not necessary for me to believe that the administration is evil in order to conclude that they are untrustworthy, and hence undeserving of another four years in office.
Friday, 2 July 2004
...our most serious problems, both the public ones and those that seem most personal, are in large part common problems, which can be solved only through common efforts. The dream of private sanctuary is an illusion. It erodes our souls by eroding our sense of larger connection, whether to our fellow human beings or to that force many of us call God. The walls we're building around ourselves, around those closest to us, and ultimately around our hearts may provide a temporary feeling of security. But they can't prevent the world from affecting us. Quite the opposite. The more we construct such barriers, the more private life, for most of us, will grow steadily more insecure.This book published in 1999 toward the end of the Clinton years, is sufficiently timeless to be worthy of a read today. That said I eagerly await the release of Mr Loeb's upcoming book, The Impossible Will Take a Little While due out in mid August. [End of Post]