Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Top Ten Conspiracy Theories of 2004

Every year produces its own raft of new conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Perhaps because we are living in a post-9/11, terrorism-suspicious, politically divisive, ultra-conservative environment, this year seemed to produce more conspiracy theories than usual.

As someone who tends to get involved in these and enjoys speculating on the dark forces at work in our society, I decided it was time to collect the best of the conspiracies of 2004 into one place.

Here are the rules for making the list:

A) It has to be a real conspiracy theory, that is, enticing possible, and with a hint of dark, nefarious forces at work, but not overblown political rhetoric (the media is a 'liberal' or 'conservative' conspiracy), and not something actually proven to be true.

B) It has to be specifically related to events in 2004 or newly postulated in 2004 - not a general conspiracy that comes up every year about time travel, the mark of the beast, or the end of the world.

C) It has to be something that has been fairly well circulated, on the internet, in news stories, etc., and with relevance to current events.

D) Ranking is determined by several factors, including seriousness, implied audacity, popularity, persuasiveness, and historical importance.

Naturally, the lions share of the list this year falls to the political realm. However, there was a good business conspiracy (from our usual suspect, Microsoft) as well as a couple of big media fiascos. Here then, is the list:

10. It was EITHER the Kerry campaign OR actually the BUSH administration ITSELF that was behind the fabricated anti-Bush documents aired on CBS.

9. The Janet Jackson bared breast fiasco was actually carefully planned in advance by both Jackson and CBS.

8. NASA is hiding the discovery of evidence of life on Mars.

7. The 9/11 commission has conspired to hide Bush's foreknowledge of the attacks.

6. In an effort to slow down the rise of the open-source software movement, it was actually Microsoft that was behind the SCO lawsuit claiming ownership of the Linux operating system.

5. Thanks principally to Michael Moore, we have a whole raft of Bush/Bin Laden innuendo, ranging from: The Bush family is financing Osama bin Laden, or just historically involved in a deep web of suspicious bin Laden activities, or merely behind the bin Laden's being whisked out of the country after 9/11.

4. It was a U.S. anti-aircraft missile, not a jet airplane, that hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. This one even comes with it's own, popular, short film.

3. Bush was wired with a hidden microphone giving him answers to questions during the Presidential debates.

2. Ariel Sharon and The Bush Administration assassinated Yassir Arafat.

1. Rigged Deibald machines stole the election in Ohio.

Hope you enjoyed - and I welcome any comments and especially your own additions to the list!

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Did the South have the right idea?

Go Here or here or many other places on the web and you can read about blue-state sucession.

Here are the best points being raised about this:

1. Blue states pay into the federal government and red states are like "welfare recipients" in relation to that.

2. The results of the last two elections seem to be reversing the old positions of Democrats and Republicans. Democrats, who favored a strong central government, are beginning to see the advantage of a lose confederacy of states rights. While Republicans have largely given up on states rights and now see a Federal government as their best means of imposing their values on the rest of us.

3. These positions were reversed in the past because it was the Federal government who helped out the poorer "red" states, making these souther, poorer states the home of the Democratic party. Now, Democrats are beginning to wonder if they should give up the ideals of Federal entitlements, which go more to the "red" states whose values they deplore.

4. Finally, many have pointed out that this disparity is really much more a cultural disparity of urban versus non/urban than state versus state.

Here's my take:

This is definitely a culture war. Who started the war, liberals or right-wingers? My feeling is that this war has been strategically fueled by the Bush Administration, which benefits by dividing America and driving wedges. Right-wingers have picked up on this animus and lefties are starting to feel as tarred and feathered as homos.

I don't see anything that would reduce this trend. The trend helps solidy Republican hold on power. It also energies the opposition and helps to solidify lefty straight people behind the values (such as gay rights and abortion rights) that the righties want to legislate away.

So, while cesession is a nice pipe-dream of the left, I do think the dream contains and portents a powerful counter-reaction that we could see over the next few years as a result of the culture wars. The Bush Administration and Republicans have been largely throwing away states rights and federalism as they cement their hold on power. Just read Andrew Sullivan's blog to see "old school" Republicans bemoaning this fact. Interestingly, I think that you might now see Democrats drift in the logically opposite course, and begin embracing states rights. With that, you might also see Democrats, who already have a better handle on economic issues, also start to be the ones dismantling the Federal Entitlement state. If we so disagree with foreign and domestic policy, why not start handing more of this back to the states?

Of course, states are never going to fund a national military, but why not make military recruitement an issue more decided at the state level? Why not give state block grants based on population and let states manage entitlemenst like Social Security and medical care?

Republicans will fight this tooth and nail, of course, and with their majority hold, Federalism is likely to be reduced, not increased. But over the next few years, state versus government rights will be coming to a head, as the Federal government tries to strip states of things it doesn't like: medical marijuana, gay rights, stem cell research. This will provoke even further reaction from voters in California, New England, Illinois, who will vote for more and more local liberal values, and shift their fights from the federal level to the state level (pausing to fight on the Federal level whenever a state right is being threatened to be taken away).

If Republicans win again in 2008 with a social conservative agenda, if states lose several key rights to federal amendments (federally overturning gay marriage in Massechusettes, say, or arresting stem cell researchers in California), you can bet then that secession talk will turn from wistful to serious.

Then the question becomes, can our coastal cities really extract themselves from the rule of the Federal government? It will be an interesting development to watch. With so much animosity coming from the right, they might just as well be happy to see the cities go. And we'd be happy to get these country bumpkins off our airwaves and out of the papers, and we can set up an underground railroad for gay kids in Oklahoma to escape when they turn 18. If there were some serious leaders who could rally the blue frustrations in the cities, you could see real riots and demonstrations. For instance - what about a mass gay wedding demonstration in New York in which New York officials refused to recognize the new Federal Amendment? What about Californians defying orders to arrest stem cell researchers? Now that we have all been demonized by the right, there would definitely be back-up from all walks of blue America.

Red America would still control the military and there would, of course, have to be military put-downs and civilian casualties. I think that Federal America would certainly retain control - sucession just isn't a real possibility. But this would energize the movement further. It would be, in fact, a real civil war. Not over sucession, but over resources and access. After all, if the military moved into San Francisco to round up scientists and homos, do you think San Franciscans would after that say, "okay, goodbye?" I think the resulting chaos in all of the major urban centers - which after all contribute the money to the Federal government - would not result in cesession, but in governmental collapse. The red debt would be too great. The blue cities would convince Asian governments to pull their funds. The dollar would plunge to nothing. The government would be bankrupt.

No more money to support the Red military, feed the red poor, or build red highways. Of course, a national depression would hurt cities as well as the country.

But with a depression and Federal collapse, the blue cities would finally have the opportunity to retake or remake the country. Areas like New Jersey, California, New England would still be economically viable. Here is the key: with a collapse of the Federal government, the blue states WOULD have the opportunity to conduct their own foreign policy and stake out their own trade with the rest of the civilized world.

And after years of abuse from the reds, they would probably think that this time, leave those red-neck states behind. We would create "Chapter 11 America" - the post-bankrupt America, where this time, city-states like New England and West Coastline would re-emerge, create a new tax code that leaves the money and resources with them, and be able to write their own, new constitution.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Frank Rich Knows Moral Values

Rich gives a devastating deconstruction of this post-election moral values hooey.

It is a must-read:

On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Six Ways to Fix the Democratic Party

Like many of you I am disappointed by the results of the recent election. On the left, there has been much discussion about how to change political tactics for 2008; on the right, we have heard much about Democrats being out of touch with the electorate. I have been a loyal Democrat for twenty-four years. After some reflection, I do think the party needs to rethink some of its basic planks. If there were ten major issues in this campaign (and in 2000), my sense is that Democrats are consistently blowing their opportunities on six of these. It is understandable that they have been unable to win over the electorate with odds like that.

On four major issues, the Party is just plain wrong. On two others, the Party needs to significantly reframe the debate and its tactics.


#1. Iraq. Democrats found themselves obsessed this year with the lack of discovery of WMD in Iraq. Understandably, this issue was a metaphor for the current Administration's overall mendacity. But pointing out mendacity should not be a major Party platform. Our opponents were able to frame this as an issue of bringing Democracy to the Middle East and fighting world-wide terrorism. The public (rightly, I believe) concluded that vindication for justifications were not that important. Whether or not there were connections between Saddam and Al Queda, the public (rightly again, I believe) concluded that unchecked, undemocratic dictatorships in the Middle East do much to undermine our long-term safety at home. The Democratic Party has lost the big picture here. We need to forget about criticizing our opponents on day-by-day military tactics and outcomes and focus on creating a strategic vision for transformation of world in order to reduce Islamic militancy. Diplomacy with France is not it. Policing Al Queda is not it. We need a vision that competes with Bush's doctrine of "pre-emptive action" not because we are squeamish about using our military might or afraid of being called international bullies, but because it will be more successful. The public is uncomfortable with pre-emptive action too. But they won't abandon it until we have a simple, two-word articulation of something more effective.

#2. The Economy. For some reason, the Party has lapsed into a sing-song of Populist corporation bashing over the last six years. I agree with every economic principle Kerry put forward. And Democrats are obviously better managers of our public coffers. But in terms of rhetoric, we need to stop the us-versus-them formulation. Bashing pharmaceutical companies does little to endear the millions of middle-class voters who work in the pharmaceutical industry. Yes, there is an immediate populist rush in finding an easy target to blame for economic woes. But we aren't just blaming CEO's – we have been in effect castigating vast swaths of middle-class voters who work in these industries and who embrace the American economy. Our Populism alienates as many voters as it energizes. Yes, corporate excess should be kept in check; but this party needs to be a champion of corporations and capitalism. That's how you create prosperity for the middle class, and money to fund health care and other popular social programs.

#3. Social Security. Bush has a plan for reforming Social Security. It may work, it may not. But at least it's an idea. What's ours? Do nothing. But Social Security needs to be reformed. We should stop using this as a wedge issue to court Senior voters and seriously come to the table with positive ideas here. If we don't, Republicans will take over this issue, and take credit as the party capable of successfully defending entitlements...and they will ultimately win the Senior voter.

#4. Immigration. Remarkably, Republicans have again trumped us on what is traditionally a Democratic issue. They have a plan for amnesty that is immensely popular with Hispanic voters. We again have no ideas and are losing what should be one of our core issues – and core constituencies. We need to be creatively listening to Hispanic voters and have equally bold plans to address their critical issues.


#5. Abortion. Barack Obama has the correct formulation here. No one wants to see more abortions. We need to get away from framing this as an issue of women's rights versus rights of the unborn. That's a moral impasse. Rather, we need to bring Democratic values to the cause of reducing abortions, by supporting single mothers and providing education, and argue that keeping abortion legal is the best way to reduce it. We have the majority of the public on our side on this issue. We also have statistics on our side. But as long as we look like we don't care about the unborn in our arguments, as long as we act like abortion is nothing more than another operation that women are entitled to, we will turn off the thoughtful swing voter.

#6. Gay rights. What's happened? Republicans have successfully turned this into a wedge issue because they have exploited our utter lack of coordination. Gay people are rightly frightened and feisty. The gay leadership is steaming ahead to fight for their rights. Gay people turn to the Democratic party three-to-one because they see Democrats as their only hope of not being bashed. Meanwhile, Democrats want those votes, but run from gays like they are radioactive. And this backfires on them – Republicans know Democratic candidates are scared of the issue, and use gay-baiting of their opponents even more. No one wins with this formulation: gay people are scapegoated even more, and Democrats running away form the gay issue are turned out of office.

Candidates need to have the courage to stop running away from the issue. This will help them politically. (I've seen it happen personally – it's the attempt to deflect the issue that brings you down.) A solid majority, more than 60% of the public, understands that gay people need some kind of rights to protect their partnerships. Democratic candidates need to be vocal in their defense of these rights, and they need to more openly coordinate with the HRC and other gay-rights organizations. By coordinating and getting behind the issue, Democrats can help gay-rights organizations to modulate their cause, to step back from overreaching and alienating the public, and keep public-relations fiascos like Gavin Newsom's under wraps. This is how Republicans have been working with Religious Conservatives for twenty years. They've now formed a powerful coalition that amplifies conservative concerns much more than reflects their public acceptance. Imagine Democrats and gay organizations like the HRC working together – backing off of the issue of marriage for now and working toward civil unions or relationship rights in a way that builds upon this solid support in the middle. Both sides would see victories. If Democrats and gay-rights organizations started coordinating half as well as Republicans do with conservative evangelicals, we could trounce this "values" vote with very little concern.

I respect Bill Clinton immensely, but on this issue, he is wrong. He is over-learning his attempt to eliminate discrimination in the military his first months in office in 1992. That backfired on him. But why? Because no one created this Democrat-gay rights coalition. Without the coalition, there is no popular mandate, and the timing of any of these issues is out of our control. Running from gay rights is only going to continue to tar the Democrats more.

Believe me, this issue isn't going away – as gays gain more acceptance, it is just becoming more of an issue. Eventually, Democrats embraced the NAACP and black people as a valued minority whose rights are worth standing up for, and blacks have found a natural home in the Party. The time has come to make the same overture with gay organizations and to bring this minority home to the Party as well. That is the only strategy that will neutralize the radioactivity of the issue.

So those are my concerns. I'm putting these out there as a loyal Democrat who feels that his party is the natural home to most Americans, and could do better at winning a solid majority. I know that there is much soul-searching happening these days. I hope that this missive has perhaps given you some ideas for how we can emerge more successful than ever, or re-enforced thoughts of your own.


By the way -
this cartoon
explodes the myth of the Bush "mandate."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Blue...And Proud Of It

The press says that Bush now has a mandate.

But what does a 51%/48% vote really mean? Of course, we've already read many conservatives claiming it as a mandate, or worse. Here's what one popular blogger has written:

"This is a decisive moment in American history. There’s no denying this fact. The nation stood at the crossroads yesterday and the people choose to go the right way. They rejected the Democrat Party and the pernicious things that those people stand for."

Here's another letter writer sending an email to Andrew Sullivan's popular Republican/Libertarian blog:

"I wonder if you noticed that yesterday all eleven states that considered the question of gay marriage voted to ban it. ALL ELEVEN. I think this sends a very clear message -- true Americans do not like your kind of homosexual deviants in our country, and we will not tolerate your radical pro-gay agenda trying to force our children to adopt your homosexual lifestyle. You should be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL that we even let you write a very public and influential blog, instead of suppressing your treasonous views (as I would prefer). But I'm sure someone like yourself would consider me just an "extremist" that you don't need to worry about. Well you are wrong -- I'm not just an extremist, I am a real American, and you should be worried because eleven states yesterday proved that there are millions more just like me who will not let you impose your radical agenda on our country."

So, quite obviously, we are not dealing with gracious winners here. The vindictiveness and hate that "red" America feels for "blue" America is not going to be slaked by this victory. Quite the contrary, it seems that they will see this as a validation to become even more extreme, even more partisan, and even more intolerant and vile to those who don't share their views.

Perhaps this is why most people I spoke with in New York yesterday were severely depressed. This article pretty much sums up the entire mood, as far as I can tell, on both coasts:

A Blue City (Disconsolate, Even) Bewildered by a Red America

I was depressed too. It was as if a close relative to all of us had died. What was that relative? Hope. Hope that we could persuade our neighbors to, if not completely see our cause, at least engage us in our ideas. Hope that we could find common ground. Hope that the "common sense" views of our issues - or at least, the most "obvious" of our issues: respect for equal treatment, respect for human rights, REAL protection of our citizens rather than bluster, fear, and dissembling - were indeed important issues. Respectful people can certainly respectfully disagree about how to improve the economy or conduct the war in Iraq. But those of us who supported Kerry, I think, felt that there were other values, more important obvious human values (such as not rounding up citizens and torturing them, or not appealing to outright prejudice to win an election), that this Administration had violated, and needed to be held accountable for. But listening to these denizens of the right give us the raspberry, of course we are depressed. Depressed that today it seems that America has stood up and embraced the values of contempt, fear, and loathing over discourse and humanity.

But we shouldn't be depressed for long. We are like fans of a great sports team that just lost the Series by 4 to 5. Of course that's depressing. But it doesn't mean that we are alone in our values. It doesn't mean that the 3% of Americans who gave Bush his mandate necessarily approve of this Administration's conduct. And we must pick ourselves up off the floor and get back into the fight. And there are many things to keep in mind in this fight:

1. We have demographics on our side. The under 30 group embraces our values and see what we see. Four more years of a rightward shift and a Republican dominated country will bring more young people into a liberal mindset. These next years really could be the final gasp of the cycle of hate and prejudice. Sometimes you really have to experience pain to feel the turnover.

2. I know that we all expected this "swing back" to happen in this cycle. It didn't. These things take time. After all, we suffered a dramatic attack AFTER Bush was elected, and he has astutely played the constant war/endless fear card for the last two years to keep a solid majority behind him no matter what. But this era won't last forever. We already now have an active anti-war movement, a mobilized youth culture, straight people supporting rights of gay couples. That's what we've achieved in just a couple of years. We will achieve even more coalition building and value shifting over the next four. Our issues will only come forward even more

3. There IS a culture war in this country. But we are not loosing. In fact, we have the upper hand. The so-called "blue" states give twice as much money to the Federal government as the "red" states. Red states receive twice as much money back.

Blue states create the culture that Red states consume and complaign about.

Blue states lead the innovations that provide jobs to Red state complainers and bigots.

Blue states have many influental churches, synagogues, mosques, and secularists who are spiritual, outspoken, and active supporters of equal rights, scientific research, and economic justice, and who can go one-on-one with those who use the Bible to bash minorities and sow fear.

So what if Blue states have more in common with Europe and European values than the rest of Red America? We can be proud of that. We belong to the rest of the civilized world. We are part of a first world democratic culture that believes in progress, human rights, diversity, and accountability. Let Red-state America have it's Taliban-like fundamentalism. Let them fall into line with the Fundamentalist war against our shining cities, our beacons of Democracy, creativity and hope - our New York's and L.A., Chicago's and San Francisco's. Our cities are on the right side of history and will prevail against Fundamentalists at home and abroad.

It's time to wake up, Blue States. We are the economic engine of this country. We control the innovation, the ideas, and the purse books. We are the heart and the engine of America. We are America's spiritual soul. It's time to stop financing the red-state lopsided sense of values. Cut them off. It's time we do everything we can to strip Red states of their subsidies, their government financing. It's time that Blue states directed more money to themselves and kept their money from the Federal government. It's time we stop making "bland" culture and let our entertainment tell it like it really is. It's time we take a principled, spiritual stand against war-mongering and hate, and excommunicate these sinners from our churches. It's time we unite with our European brothers and form our own international alliances against international fascism and fundamentalism everywhere. It's time we stop using Red-state labor to support our factories, telecom companies, and financial industries when we can find cheaper labor with partners overseas who support our values.

We need to bleed them till they cry! That's OUR mandate over the next four years. Let's start spreading this word. Stop financing and accomodating the values we detest.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Why Can't We Love Kerry?

I have a confession to make. I actually like Kerry.

There, I've said it. I've read so much about people who are reluctant to vote for Kerry, people who think Kerry will be a disaster, people who are holding their nose at the lesser of two evils, etc. etc. Yet I actually like Kerry. I would have voted for him in the primaries (if the primaries had mattered in New Jersey). And I haven't yet read anything on a blog that praises Kerry - just criticism, carping, etc. etc. So, for those of you who are wondering if you can work up any enthusiasm at all for this man, here is my list of reasons why I like Kerry, why he was my candidate from the beginning (over Dean and Edwards and Clark) and why I think he would be a fantastic President.

First, no one is perfect, so let's get the nit-picking out of the way. Yes, he can sometimes say in forty-five words what is best expressed in two. (Even his campaign team teases him on this.) Yes, he sometimes looks like the old man in the tree. And yes, he can be a bit of a wonk when what is called for is political poetry - or vice versa, and lapse into platitude when we need an astute critique. And yes (and I'll get into this more below), he was strategically late in forcefully getting out his position on Iraq and has been playing catch-up to Karl Rove on this ever since. Would I vote for a John McCain or Barack Obama over Kerry if either of those men were ever at the top of their ticket? Probably - but those are dream scenarios that we would likely never see. I know Kerry's not the salvation. He's just a man who happens to be in the U.S. Congress. But I think that, at least compared to all the other choices we could have been faced with this election, we can be pretty excited to have a man like him as President.

Secondly, I guess I should get my political leanings out of the way. If you must put me anywhere on the spectrum (and I feel sometimes that I really defy this view, but why not), I think you'd have to say that I'm center-left. Maybe libertarian. Social-liberal-economic-conservative. I sometimes dismay my liberal friends and I certainly can infuriate my conservative ones. I admit, I've never once in my life voted for a Republican President (with the exception of Nixon in '72 - but I was in fourth grade at the time, so it was just a provisional ballot). But I think I would if they ever put forward a candidate that wasn't held hostage to the Religious Right. And I've voted for many more Republican New York mayors in my life than Democrats.

So now that that's disclosed, let's get down to what there is to like about this man Kerry, and why you can feel good voting for him, no matter your political affiliation.

1. Most criticism of Kerry focuses on his anti-war history, his vote against the first Gulf war, and his qualifications of the current war. They paint Kerry as anti-war and reluctant to pull the trigger. But Kerry isn't pro-war or anti-war. He's pro defending this country using common sense. The key is to listen to what Kerry has said in these sessions.

a) When he spoke against Viet Nam, he had come back from war and personally witnessed disturbing acts against civilians in a muddled, complicated theater of war. The war had grown immensely unpopular. Yet he didn't shirk duty. He did what was required of him and then spoke his consciousness in an effort to correct policy. This is the hallmark of a young man who both respected service and respected the responsibility of his conscious. Compare this with George W. Bush's service and I think you have a difference of character that is stark. As young men, neither Bush nor Kerry would be making decisions about whether our country should go to war. But they did make personal decisions about responsibility and ethics, and Kerry's ethics here are about as admirable I think as you can get from anyone in politics. He may have said things hurtful to other veterans, but from what I've read and seen of these remarks, they are certainly more mild and statesmanlike than those of other activists and protestors of the time - and beat in a country mile what W. Bush was doing at the time, which was puking drunk in a parking lot while avoiding his national guard duty.

b) About Gulf War 1, Kerry voted against going to war "at that time." His comments were that "we are rushing to war when we have not yet exhausted avenues to remove Saddam from Kuwait." I do not take this to mean that Kerry was expressing a reserve at sacrificing lives because all war is bad. Yes, Kerry did use some language in defending his explanation that referred to avoiding the same tragedies as in Viet Nam, and yes, in today's climate that can strike us as perhaps overapplying the lessons of one conflict in the face of another (but don't try to tell me that Bush isn't guilty of precisely the same sin in comparing Iraq to the liberation of Europe in WWII). But that language, I believe, was an unfortunate choice that only looks bad in a situation now when we are facing a direct threat, and in fact was only a small part of his assessment. I take the majority of his comments about his vote to be a strategic assessment of geopolitics, of the best way to confront Saddam, and the differences between staging an invasion AT THAT PARTICULAR MOMENT and looking to push Saddam out by other means. You must remember many things here - 1) We had put Saddam in power and we were backing Saddam's army. 2) Bush I's ambassador to Iraq had actually tacitly encouraged Saddam to enter Kuwait. 3) As Powell and Rumsfeld knew, any military action on Iraq would require a sustained military base of operations in the midst of radical Islamic undemocratic regime. 4) There were, undoubtedly, other ways of getting Saddam out of Kuwait that were worth a try. Invading and setting up a permanent base in Saudi Arabia was a recipe for the rise of Anti-American terrorism, precisely what we are reaping now (and I might add, particularly since we didn't finish the job and remove Saddam at the time). It might have been a last resort, but Kerry's only point with his vote here was that we were choosing the option of last resort first - and I think that it's very possible he could have been right in his assessment (we'll of course never know).

c) The next war vote of contention: Kerry voted for giving Bush the *authority* to go about Gulf War II. Had he changed his mind? Was it politics? Dean and other Dems would not have cast that vote, but Kerry did, and I believe this was the correct vote, even if Kerry now critizes Bush for abusing the authority he was given (a completely consistent critique). You can't equate Gulf 1 and Gulf 2 as if the political scenario between these two is exactly the same or even as if the two votes were on the same matter (one was for approving a determined action, the other for giving the President pre-approval for a yet-to-be determined action). And on the ground, the reality is different in 2002. This time, we WERE conceivably at the last resort. And Kerry is a man who has consistently refused to be boxed into a political corner in dertmining which military action to support. He leaves his options open. This is exactly what we need to prosecute the war we now find ourselves in (certainly not pig-headed arrogance masquerading as strength). I believe that Kerry also knew that containing Saddam required that the stick of potential war have the full force required from this vote. It was also a vote in support of Presidential power. If you listen to Kerry's remarks on this, he says precisely that the President needs to have the authority to wage war as needed and to make threats that have the full believability of being backed up. Kerry is basically saying that ANY President must be willing to pull the trigger - that is what this vote means and I think it is very clear from this that Kerry IS a trigger puller (notwithstanding the goose-hunt photo op).

(I should say at this point that I do agree with some of the criticism of Democratic strategy to place all of Kerry's appeal in this regard on his Viet Nam fighting history. That is really no argument at all - plenty of Presidents who were never in a war could very well defend the country and push the big red button if they needed to. And it opened him up to precisely the Swift Boat attacks on his character rather than on his policy stances. I wish instead that Kerry had simply come out and said that the moment he got in office, we would conduct his own war on terrorism. But that STRATEGICALLY, his war would not go through Iraq but through the heart of Islamic fundamentalism. That has been his policy and it is too bad he hasn't been able to state that more clearly. I don't think it is so much a rhetorical style problem of Kerry's (that is part of it - he does sometime wander, when he is tired) -I think it was more of a campaign blunder on the part of Kerry's earlier handlers, whom he has since replaced).

And on what to do next in Iraq, Kerry's position is pretty much Bush's. But only because Bush moved closer to Kerry on the need for UN oversite of elections. I was never a Deaniac. I believe in Powell's Pottery Barn dictum - we broke it, we bought it. The question is, do we really have the resources to pull this off on our own, without sending our own economy into a tailspin? If you want to know who is likely to have more success building a coalition to come in and help us out, it's not going to be Bush. In Friday's Times, Germany and others are already sending signals that a Kerry administration would be able to twist their arms to join the party. Imagine having a trans-Atlantic coalition determined to fight terrorism and see through Democracy in Iraq? That's inspirational. The Bush Administration can only play one note: fear and loathing. We've exhausted that. Changing the emotional tenor of the war, while still prosecuting the war, has been Kerry's consistent position, and I can't see how that's not a vision to celebrate.

2. All of this has been pretty long because I believe that the foreign policy issue is THE issue in this election. When Bush came to power, his lack of any experience whatsoever abroad was certainly suspect. Oddly, I was at first comforted a bit by the team of Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Powell, thinking that at least they had some experience in world matters. Little did anyone expect 9/11, the sidelining of both the Powell doctrine of fighting to win as well as 200 years of American human rights standards, and an ideological fatwa that would turn a national tragedy into an excuse to go on bender to remake the world come hell or high water. And in the end, the Administration has cornered itself after all into a "my way or the highway" attitude that, whether or not it makes us more or less secure, certainly makes us more isolated, fearful, and weak. And I think that Kerry's intelligence, proven courage under fire, and political savvy is precisely the thing that can help reverse that.

But it is not just a matter of choosing between a "fuck you, world" or a "let's play together" attitude, or who will more vigorously hunt down Bin Laden. Either man is going to be limited by realities on the ground. But having an understanding of your objective is the only thing that will make success even possible. I believe that Kerry understands the underlying logic of terrorism better than either Bush or anyone else the Dems had to offer. Even better, perhaps, than Clark (who was my original choice). But Clark's view, I think, is ultimately limited to military strategy. Kerry is right to say that fighting terrorism is a multi-pronged effort in which diplomacy, police work, and military might all work hand in hand. In fact, this was the Bush dictum too right after Sept. 11th. They've abandoned that dictum in search of a re-election and in slavish servitude to a discredited ideology. I think that's unconscionable.

3.Regarding health care. Kerry has a plan that I like. It is not socialized medicine, it is not a Hillary Clinton plan. It is a plan to extend benefits and to help our private system provide coverage better. We essentially have two options in health care: better care for fewer and fewer people (with there always being a chance that you could go from being one of those with care to one of those without), or worse care for more people. I think Kerry's plan balances these two poles nicely, while other Dems and Republicans would wash us up on one or another shoals. I am willing to give up a little bit of quality to have more security that I'll have health care at all - but I don't want us going from 1st world to socialized hack medicine either. Can Kerry fund the plan as much as he wants? Probably not. That's probably a good thing. He'll scale it back and fix it a little bit - better than nothing.

4. Regarding the economy. No contest. Rolling back the over 200K tax cut is a no brainer. Are we in a war or what? We're spending 150 billion a year on Iraq. Come on - a little reality check here, people. Has anyone ever heard of the fall of Rome? Four more years of this and there's a good chance of a catastrophic economic collapse. Where will all your trickle-down economics be then? Jobs going oversees...well, I personally see that trend starting to slow down, but as even Pat Buchanan says, there's no reason to be creating tax policy that ENCOURAGES looting our country's economic resources. We need to build industries, not export them. Some corrections on this just make sense. Certainly the campaign rhetoric on the Dem's side can sound protectionist, but none of that is Kerry's policy. He's bringing in a solid new-Democratic economic team, and I think it's exciting to think we could restart our economic engine with vim and vigor again, like we had in the nineties. Then we'll see deficit reduction AND prosperity.

5. The environment. Let's just take the long view on this for a moment. I sincerely believe that ten generations from now, people will look back on the early 21st century. And will they say, "that was the time they fought terrorism" or "that was when Democracy came to the Middle East" or even "that was a great advance in science" or "gay rights" or "return to values"? No. What they will say is, "that was the last generation to enjoy a beautiful, abundant, healthy green world...and they could have saved that world, but instead, those selfish bastards let us inherit a sewer."

That may be a bit dour. And certainly no one can be blamed for being a little more concerned about being incinerated in a nuke or riddled with Anthrax than whether or not sea levels rise ten generations from now. But the environment is the legacy that this generation is entrusted with. If there is one positive contribution we can make to preserve it, we ought to.

For me, that's the sum of it. Chart out whatever numbers and statistics you will. I certainly do not believe that the current administration cares, or cares to even try, to address the environment, with the possible exception of finding more ways to exploit it for our short-term gain. Kerry, I believe, does care what kind of environmental legacy we leave. Sign Kyoto, don't sign Kyoto - that's not the issue for me. That's just the details. For me, the issue is whether you understand the long view and have the cojones to shove aside some of your immediate self-satisfaction to put it on your agenda. You either do or you don't. Kerry does. Bush doesn't. That's all there is to that.

6. Regarding Ideology. Kerry worked across the isle with McCain to close the book on Vietnam POWs. I admire Kerry's reaching out to moderate Repubs and his flexibility to place thought over ideology. Certainly one must flush the current Administration on this regard. A Hillary or Dean candidate on the Dem side wouldn't give me much faith in building a broad middle consensus either. Kerry does, and I like that.

7. Character. I just like Kerry. I think he is intelligent and forceful. A great talker when he's rested and...I know this sounds counter-intuitive - but I find him personable. This whole flip-flop thing is a complete campaign media fabrication, so I discount it completely. In fact, I find it disturbing whenever I read a Republican blog or a New York Times reporter mentioning it. It's like listening to droids on Star Wars being hypnotized by Obi Wan Kanobi. You can criticize Kerry for many things (his appearance on the Daily Show was a complete snooze, for instance), but not that. The guy is reassuring and has a very definitive moral center. Sure, he's more of a politician than someone like Clark. I think that is Senatorial syndrome. It would actually be nice to have a President who can work with the Senate, even an opposition Senate, to get critical legislation passed that will protect this country from terrorism and get people flu shots. And he may not have the zing of Clinton, but I believe he can keep his pecker in his pants. In my mind, that's a plus in a President.

[Teresa...well, that's a different matter. Ever had a good friend whose girl you found a bit of a (how to put this about 'ditz-pill'?). Yes, well, the best thing to do with such a friend is schedule things like bowling and baseball watching, where the women won't come along. Everything I've seen about Teresa - and I'll admit, it all only totals maybe three hours - suggests to me a self-absorbed and out-of-touch heiress who couldn't reason her way out of a paper bag. But I've gotten no hint from Kerry that he's planning a 'co-Presidency' with Teresa, so I'm pretty comfortable that she'll be as much of a non-entity in the new administration as Laura Bush has been in this one.]

8. What else is there? Is there any other issue of import? Of course: the culture war. Supreme Court. Gay rights. Abortion. Stem cells. In my mind, none of these issues is determined by the President - it's about the party that controls the White House. As long as Republicans control Penn. Ave., we're going to see gay-baiting and bible thumping from the far right. I'm sorry if that disgusts me but it does. The only Republicans I would ever trust to withstand such a right-wing assault would be Powell or McCain. (I'm sorry, Giuliani, but you've lost my faith.) So on these issues, any Republican just has a big liability with me trying to lug that Republican Radical-Right Platform around on his back. If I truly believed Kerry was a no-go on these other issues I'd consider the Republican. But Kerry excites me and if as a bonus we can put the Bible-thumpers in a cave and block the door for the next four years, I'm all for it.

Welcome to Common Mistakes

Common Mistakes is my blog for sending comments to friends, family, and the public. Mostly politics and cultural criticism, I suspect, but really not limited to any specific subject. The point of view is simply my own.