Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Reforming the U.N.
I'm not one of those UN conspiracy theororists, but it should be clear to anyone that U.N. is in serious need of reform, reform that should start with a full disclose of who got paid off in the "Oil for Food" scandal and Mr. Annan's sacking.
Merita Hopkins, a city attorney in Boston, had told justices in court papers that the people who filed the suit have not shown they suffered an injury and could not bring a challenge to the Supreme Court. "Deeply felt interest in the outcome of a case does not constitute an actual injury," she said.
Yesterday afternoon at about 2:30 PM there was a large explosion on 15th Street across from the Washington Post Offices. It even rattled my office about a 1/2 a block away. Smoke was pouring out of a street grate and the power to a four block area was cut. No power, no work and I got to go home early.
Everything is Fine, Just Fine....
At least 133 U.S. troops have died in Iraq so far this month - only the second time it has topped 100 in any month. The deadliest month was last April when 135 U.S. troops died as the insurgency flared in Sunni-dominated Fallujah, where dozens of U.S. troops died this month.
Well, at least we're going after the insurgents now. I'm hesitant to armchair quarterback the war in Iraq, but it seems from the start we've short changed the number of troops we needed and made some major blunders like disbanding the Iraqi army and not keeping control after our initial "victory." With all the departures in the Bush cabinet there's only one that truly deserves to get the boot and that's Rummy. Why is he still there?
Monday, November 29, 2004
So much potential. That pretty much sums up last nights Simpson's episode. When Bart's patriotism is called into question, the Simpson's have to go to great lengths to get back into the public's good graces and end up as refugees in France.
The subject is so ripe for satire, yet the Simpson's writers missed the boat. The story line was awkward and contrived..(Bart goes temporarily deaf from a vaccine, his shorts are eaten by a donkey at a school donkey basketball game as the National Anthem is played resulting in Bart Mooning the flag). Sad thing is that ten years ago the writers would have skewered the politicians and public on this issue, but now seem capable of only the most crude attempts at social commentary. At least we still have South Park.
Anybody read the cover story in this months National Geographic? It's an interesting discussion on the theory of evolution. Funny thing is that roughly 44% of American's don't believe it. Another Coke-Pepsi, Red-State/Blue State duopoly thing? Who knows, but I've always been of the school that Evolution doesn't preclude creatationism or deny the existence of God. The more we know about how life has evolved, the more interesting, compelling and miraculous the world is. But alas, it's seems to be an either or proposition.
GEORGE BUSH wants to overhaul America's tax code. The newly re-elected president has declared tax reform to be a top economic goal for his second term, alongside the revamping of Social Security (the public pension system). A commission is being set up, to mull over options. Washington's tax wonks are busily speculating about what Mr Bush might do.
Rested, Relaxed and Ready to Go!
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
A Thunder Snow!
MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW WILL CONTINUE THROUGH THE REST OF THE AFTERNOON AND THIS EVENING. VISIBILITY WILL BE REDUCED TO LESS THAN A QUARTER OF A MILE AND TO NEAR ZERO AT TIMES IN HEAVY SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW. SNOWFALL RATES OF AN INCH AN HOUR ARE LIKELY WITH RATES OF TWO INCHES PER HOUR COMMON IN THE HEAVIEST SNOW BANDS. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 5 TO 9 INCHES ARE LIKELY ACROSS THE WARNING AREA. THIS WILL CREATE DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS.
Drive carefully everyone and enjoy the snow!
Ending the Day on a Good Note
Dog Who Longed for Puppies Nurses Kittens
While We Were Feasting
"In that scenario, not even strong US data can provide the dollar respite, with analysts now widely predicting the euro hitting 1.45 dollars and a two dollar pound is just around the corner. Meanwhile, there is even talk that the dollar could drop to 85 yen. "
"So what" many might say. Why am I so concerned about this? First, it shows a growing belief that the U.S. isn't serious about managing our countries finances (a sad shame with a Republican majority!) and will lead to two things. First to stop a free fall in the dollar, the Federal Reserve will have to boost interest rates at a faster pace, slowing economic growth. Second, all these wondefully inexpensive gifts and gadgets we'll be out buying on Friday will be substantially more expensive next year. Most of us may be to young to remember the late seventies and early 1980s when interst rates (mortgages) were in the teens and inflation was running 7, 8, and 9 percent annually. To put it into perspective, an annualized inflation rate of 7 percent over a ten year period of time will cut your purchasing power in half.
Looks like it's back to the future for us. Get ready.
Lame Duck Accomplishments
They don't call it a lame duck for nothing! The two shining accomplishments of the lame duck session seem to be 1) The Delay vote and 2) The provision granting appropriation chairmen the ability to designate an 'agent' to look at your tax returns. (Although this seems to be the rouge action of some House staffers. Never the less, as Senator McCain said, it's kind of surreal that they're voting on a huge omnibus bill (14 inched thick) that no-one is quite sure of exactly what's in it. And yes, I'm thankful for this silliness too.
So, now that I'm not afraid of my pipes freezing, I'm itching for some snow to help set the holiday mood. That maybe asking too much here in DC, but I spoke with my brother in Grand Rapids today and they are getting snow at the rate of an inch and hour! I'm very jealous.
Here's the report:
SNOW IS OVERSPREADING SOUTHERN LOWER MICHIGAN EARLY THIS AFTERNOON AND WILL BECOME HEAVY OVER MUCH OF THE AREA BY 400 PM. VISIBILITIES BY THE EVENING COMMUTE WILL BE FREQUENTLY BELOW ONE MILE. THE SNOW WILL BE MORE APT TO STICK ON THE GRASS... BUT DUE TO THE HEAVY RATE OF SNOW EXPECTED... EVEN THE ROADS WILL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BECOME SLICK. SNOWFALL RATES MAY REACH AN INCH OR HOUR OR SO.
On the other hand, while snow for the holidays is nice, snow in March and April is not. So, I guess there are trade offs to be made.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Stay home, prepare an enormous feast and gather with family and friends to enjoy the day and 'give thanks' for what we've got. Despite a crazy Monday, elephant's considers himself a pretty lucky guy. So, here's to hoping that you all have a great day of noshing on turkey and then falling asleep in front of the TV watching football!
See you on Monday!
Thursday Menu at Elephant's House
Euros, Yen and Yaun...Oh My!
Stephen Roach, the chief economist at investment banking giant Morgan Stanley, has a public reputation for being bearish.
But you should hear what he's saying in private.
Roach met select groups of fund managers downtown last week, including a group at Fidelity. His prediction: America has no better than a 10 percent chance of avoiding economic "armageddon.''
Wow, it's been a long time since I've had 'one of those days,' but yesterday certainly qualifies.
First as I am walking into the office someone comes up and hands me a flyer about 'coping with obesity.' (And they weren't handing them out to just anyone.... for the record Elephant is just over 6ft tall, around 220lbs, 48 chest, 36 waist and 17 arms...beefy maybe...but obese?) Anyway, I should have turned around and headed home at that point.
Your Flight Home for Christmas has Been Cancelled:
Next I headed into my office and while dosing up on caffeine was reading USAToday. In the travel section they had a story on how Independence Air is trimming service to selected cities and the city I'm flying home to for the Holidays was on that list. I checked out my online reservation to discover that they've dropped my flight to the Midwest, although I still have a flight returning to DC. I called to see if they could book me on an earlier flight, but having cut service from six flights a day to one, the remaining flight is full. "You should have called earlier,â€� they said. Alternative flights home for the holidays are now priced close to $1,000. So they're working with me to find an alternate flight. We shall see.
We Will Install Your Gas Service in March, If You're Lucky
The two events above merely set the stage for the humdinger of the day. After pestering the gas company for four months now to hook up my house to service, I was excited to learn last Friday that they had scheduled yesterday for my installation. Getting hooked up to gas service has been an ordeal. My builder initially contacted the gas company back in July and after months of pestering and a $15,000 payment, they promised to be out yesterday to connect the gas pipeline to the House. (Maybe about four feet of piping!). Well, it was cloudy yesterday and no one showed up, nor did anyone call. So I called the gas company to see what was up. When I finally spoke with the engineer on my account he said that they weren't coming out because it was raining. "But it's not raining" I said (and it wasn't). He didn't like that much, nor did he like the fact that I've spoken with the Public Services Commission (which is the government oversight organization of monopoly unities), although I have not yet filed a formal complaint with them I have been keeping them abreast of the insanity of dealing with Washington Gas. So, he says that since I've talked with the PSC and I'm clearly not happy with the process, I can go to the back of the line and I may get service in March. Then he hangs up on me. GEESH!
I just want to be their customer...is that so wrong? Apparently yes, yes it is. So, I'm waiting to see if they arrive today. If not, then I'm going to have to buy a new furnace to get through the winter and perhaps hire a lawyer to sue em...which is unfortunate since that process will drag on for years at best. Sigh!
So far Tuesday's looking better!
Monday, November 22, 2004
Conservatives urge closer look at marriage
Conservatives urge closer look at marriage
Lowering Ethical standards, Yes...Budget, Security, No!
I'm guessing that the failure to pass both the omni-bus budget bill and the security reforms are no doubt because that rascal Tom Daschle is still in the Senate. But seriously, the only thing accomplished so far in the lame duck session has been the House's effort to lower the bar on ethics with the whole Tom Delay thing. Come on guys, don't you know you have a revolution to pass?
Two things stand out in the failure to pass the budget. First is that lack of control exerted by the leadership and second is a provision, that has delayed passage, which would have expanded Congressional powers to allow members and staff access to any tax payers records. The later seems to me to be the gross expansion of power that the old GOP would fight tooth and nail against. I guess that's still true as they're holding up passage of the omnibus spending bill until this issue can be resolved, but still I think it reflects a tremendous lack of coordination and discipline that has and will likely plague the majority party into the new Congress. There will be a revolution, so to speak, but it will be much more limited and a bit moderated by the same things that are plaguing the lame duck session.
Passage of Intelligence Bill Called Doubtful
Well, it was an unseasonably warm weekend here is DC. High temps. close to 70 degrees, so I took full advantage of the weather to get the house in ship-shape for the holidays. What was most surprising to me is how much fun I had raking my yard. If you'd told me 20 years ago that I'd ever consider raking the yard as a fun activity I would have laughed. But alas, part of aging I guess. Took my I-pod and a rake and went at it. Maybe part of the fun is that just three months ago my yard was barren dirt and is now fast becoming a lush carpet of green. I'm sure there's some metaphor here for the current political situation, but I'll leave that for you to come up with.
Also, got a head start on the Christmas season by putting up all my holiday lights. The whole front of my house is now outlined in little white lights. Tasteful and understated. The official lighting will be on Friday....
Friday, November 19, 2004
A New Name for the New Normal
I've decided that it's time I face up to the facts that the current leadership in the GOP has abandoned the core values of the Republican Party and moved on into the realm of Big-Government Paternalism with a dash of Fundamentalist Dogma. Good for them. But I for one am bound by no loyalty to any one person in the party and won't trade my core values so my increasingly wayward party can hold on to power at all costs. Thus, Elephant is exiling himself from the current batch of heretics who are in control. Elephant is no longer on the edge, he is merely in ideological exile.
As stated before, I began working with the GOP shortly after I arrived in DC over ten years ago. It was an exciting time. The GOP was actually holding itself to a higher standard than the long service, entrenched democratic interests in power at the time. They promised and actual worked toward a balanced federal budget, accountable federal agencies and implementing well thought out and effective policy initiatives like welfare reform. But that's not what they stand for today.
As we have seen this week, ethics takes a back seat to retaining power, at least in the case of Tom Delay. And accountability? Well we all know about the problems with our intelligence services, NSA and the DOD oversight of contractors in Iraq....or course no one ever gets in trouble in the current administration. Spending...forget about it... 1/2 trillion dollar annual deficits are here to stay and could very likely impoverish many of us as the dollar continues to free fall. Socially too the current crop really gets my goat. I don't need a politician, who may be under investigation for fraud, divorced, on his third marriage, addicted to gambling or what not telling me what is good and right. I'll decide that myself, within the context of my faith, not Pat Robertson's, or James Dobson's.
At the same time I'm not prepared to abandon these goals and become a Donkey, although I'll strongly support their efforts when interests coincide. I still stand for fiscal restraint, government accountability, respect for individual liberty and market oriented public policies. I won't join the chorus of lackeys here in DC who are all praising the emperor's wonderful new set of close. Just as I will not surrender my country to the radical fundamentalist, I will not surrender the legacy of Abraham Lincoln to these pseudo elephants. Throw me in the ranks of Hitchens, Sullivan, former Congressman Bob Barr, Governor Milliken and the likes and let me paraphrase Douglas Macarthur as he retreated from the Philippines by saying..."I shall return"
From the Tinfoil Thinking Cap Dept.
Those who know the elephant know that IÂ’m a boundless optimist in general and very much so when it comes to the possibilities and potential of the U.S.A. But IÂ’m finding myself increasing pessimistic about the current state of the world, our economy and just things in general. ItÂ’s not a Bush thing, or even an ideological thing. But lately I've been sensing the chilling fingers of an ill wind getting ready to blow.
First and foremost our countries current account deficit (trade and federal spending) are adding up to roughly $1 trillion dollars a year. That means $1 trillion in wealth is flowing out of the U.S. to places like China, the middle east and other places. Traditionally, the conventional wisdom was that say- unlike Argentina or other countries who experienced massive fiscal collapses as a result of spendthrift ways, the U.S. economy is so important to the world that this would never happen here. That may still hold true. The paradox is that growth in Europe and Asia are linked to our voracious demand for their products. But that demand comes at a price, with Japan, China and other countries forced to buy our bonds, equities, and currency to keep their products competitive and to do so they must purchase more than a billion dollars of U.S. assets a day to keep funding our spending. But this can only go on until 1) They get tired of doing it, 2) They find another market where they can get a higher return (think China) and 3) They stop believing that the U.S. is the best place for their money.
Recently there have been signs that our foreign creditors are becoming weary. I mean would you invest in a company, or country, that is showing an annual 'loss' of $500 billion to $1 trillion dollars. No, and I wouldn't either. Market analysts had this to say.
"As the dust settles after the U.S. elections, the one theme that is developing is the growing recognition [in the markets] of the need for more dollar depreciation," economists at J.P. Morgan told clients yesterday, citing as one major reason the likelihood that "there will be no serious new policies to trim the U.S. budget deficit."
Behind such sentiments is the belief that the U.S. economy is too dependent on foreign investors, and that they may balk at pouring money into U.S. securities if the country's debt continues to soar. Foreigners have provided much of the money the government borrows to cover its deficit, which was $413 billion in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.
So, the dollar will continue to fall. Prices on imports will go up and the U.S. will become proportionally less economically powerful versus our rivals in Europe and China. A 25% fall in the value of the dollar per the Euro or Yaun not only makes goods from Europe or China more expensive for us, it makes Europe and China's proportional economic power roughly 25% greater.
We've seen this happen time and time again around the world. The Asian crisises of the 90s, Russia, and Argentina to name a few. What would the impact of a massive devaluation of the dollar have on the already frayed social/political fabric of the U.S.? Hard to tell. But the underlying element to all this is that deficits do matter and eventual a reckoning will happen. The severity of which can be controlled if the GOP and Democrats show leadership on spending in Washington...which may be asking for too much.
But then, the incredible thing about our country is that when threatened we pull together and usually find a way to muddle through. Let's hope that's the case here.
Newly released records hint at a horrifying U.S. complicity in dark deeds of right-wing dictators.
(Of course this type of thing never happens today....er..yeah).
Will Iran Be Next?
Soldiers, spies, and diplomats conduct a classic Pentagon war game-with sobering results.
After the Taliban
New figures show Afghanistan's opium output is rising fast
(Hurray! Cheaper Heroin!)
President Bush's Kissing Cabinet
Bush gives both Rice and Spellings a smooch, shakes hands with Gonzales.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Moderates 1, Taliban 0
For all of us who were worried we'd be faced with an arch conservative as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at such a critical time, we can breath a little easier. The WaPo is reporting that Senator Specter has been unanimously approved to take over the Judiciary Committee in 2005. Yes, he's making all sorts of statements right now about supporting Bush nominees, etc., etc., but his elevation to chairmanship is an important sign that the GOP isn't going to give away the store to the 'religious' right.
Think about the great political theater here. Some conservatives deeply and sincerely want to ban abortion, but others don't. There rationale may be religious, ideological or even political (can't win a campaign on abortion if there is no abortion...). But seriously, what does Specter owe anyone? He's 74 and likely to retire in six years. He's a moderate republican who has consistently stuck to his principles over the years and isn't likely to cave on any of them, especially now. So having Mr. Specter as chair is probably the best outcome, given the make up of the Senate, that we libertarian minded folk could have hoped for. Plus, we get the added bonus of watching fringe groups like "Concerned" Women of America and the Family Research Council go f'ing nuts over this.
Message to the American Family Association
Yes folks, welcome to the great re-learning. Apparently some hack over at the American Family Association read a satirical article in the Onion and used it as a basis for their press release on how America's number 1 movie is a secret ploy to turn your child gay. It'd be sad if it weren't true.
I haven't seen Shark tale, but it sounds to me, at least basing my conclusions on the AFA's press release, that the core message here is about tolerance, not homosexuality. Of course to anyone at the AFA, vegitarianism is probably a sure sign of gayness anyway.
I'm looking forward to their white paper on Bert and Ernie.
Something's Swishy About Shark Tale:
Cartoon Primes Kids with a Pro-Homosexual Message
The Fading Revolution
I've said it before, but this Tom Delay thing really is cementing it for me. When I moved to Washington, DC over ten years ago, I have lucky to be working as part of the revolution that put the GOP into the majority in Congress for the first time in a generation. This revolution was based in part of the GOP publically declaring that it would hold itself to a higher standard and was embodied in the Contract with America, an actual promise to get things done. And we did!
What was even more compelling was that the folks we were working against at the time were entreched, arrogant, out of touch and long serving democrats and republicans who had simply been in Washington way too long. It worked. In the years after the 1994 revolution, there were exciting and productive developments like welfare reform, reducing the size of government and fiscal surpluses. Now the revolutionaries are either gone (Sarborough, Gingrich, Watts, et. al.) or have themselves become the entrenched powers. Sad, but then again that's the way things have worked for more than 200 years. The GOP was most innovative, most effective when it was reaching for the brass ring. Now that they have it, they're no different than the long serving fat cats they ousted.
There's an old saying that politicians eventually will fail their supporters. I couldn't think of a more truer statement.
Rethinking My Christmas List
On the advice of many of my friends, I've decided to get a TiVo for Christmas this year. But this article has me rethinking that decision. Recording shows to watch when I want and skipping commercials is compelling and convenient, but today TiVo announced that it will use 'pop-up' ads that will fill the screen when you try to fast forward. Worse, congress is stepping in to make it illegal to fast forward through commercails, yes, use that little FF button and it could be a felony. Instead of trying to protect the radidly crumbling system of commercials and such that support program development, the industry should seek out new business models. Otherwise I'll have to wait for Apple to extend it's inovation to video entertainment the same way it did for audio tracks.
No Shortage of Red Ink
I don't know which is more horrifying, that Congress has increased the debt limit by $800 billion dollars or that this new increase will only tide over these spendthrifts for about 18 months before the limit has to be increased again. Or maybe it's the fact that the only people complaining about the deficit are Democrats.
Yes, 9/11 and the mild recession add to the deficit (Iraq is often mentioned, but the costs of the war are 'off budget' and not counted in the deficit numbers). But the majority of the deficit has been created by illconcieved big government programs sponsored and voted for by the GOP. Increasing Ag. subsidies, prescription drugs for seniors, the recent corporate tax bill. Maybe, if the GOP hadn't target Daschle he could have 'obstructed' their less than stellar record on fiscal stewardship.
While I've been on the road the last few weeks, I've spoiken a bit on the idea of tax reform and it's potential upside and downside. Today, tid-bits of Bush's broad policy goals are trickling out. The national sales tax concept seems to be DOA and more likely is a shift to eliminate double taxation on income and investments. Great! But the proposal to pay for it scares me.
To pay for them, the administration is considering eliminating the deduction of state and local taxes on federal income tax returns and scrapping the business tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, the advisers said.
Here's what it means for me. Last year I paid approximately $9,000 or so dollars in state and local income taxes. Because this is deductible from my total income (none of that $9,000 goes to me, so why should I pay federal taxes on it?) it lowers my tax liability to the federal government by roughly $3,000 per year.
So eliminating that deduction will increase my taxes by roughly the same amount. Will that increase be offset by tax reductions in other areas? Maybe, maybe not. My investments are for the long term so I have no capitol gains liability at the moment, and the way the stock market has been going I have actually a negative return since 2000. I'm hard pressed to come up with a scenario where my taxes go up by $3,000 a year and I'm somehow getting back more than $3,000 in some sort of benefit. I'll have to schedule a lunch with my old boss, a former federal reserve economist, to discuss.
But, as I've said in many of my speeches the last few weeks, beware of any politician, dem. or rep., who promises tax reform while the government is running 1/2 trillion dollar annual deficits.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
He Probably Took the "El"
The young buck apparently entered through an automatic freight door leading to the unsecured lower level of Terminal Two. It may have been injured elsewhere on the grounds and was seeking shelter, according to Annette Martinez, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
She said animal control officers were able to corner the animal and sedate him in an area where there were no passengers before taking him away to examine him.
O'Hare, the country's busiest airport in terms of air traffic, is located near large open grounds and forested areas.
Naked Backs Are Evil! Evil!
Yes, the world is a horrible place when, on Monday Night Football they have an ad that shows a women naked, from the back and only from the waist up. Perhaps the titillation gets in the way of the physical violence inherent to football and maybe interferes with the total violence desensitization program that is television.
Was the add crass...maybe, but the question remains, why do we willingly accept violence in entertainment, but abhor the human body and sexuality?
Kmart is Road Kill
Just a week or so ago, Kmart was trying to squeeze extra tax incentives out of its home state of Michigan by threatening to move it's corporate HQ to Atlanta. Now they've become road kill in the Bi-polar world that is America. You're either a Coke person or Pepsi person, Wal-mart or target, Dem or Rep. I guess Kmart will still be Kmart, but will survive as a division of Sears. Let's hope they don't bring down Sears or else where would we buy our craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances?
When You're The Majority....
Back when the GOP was struggling to take the House, it launched several "ethics" attacks on prominent House Leaders. The Republicans used the momentum of several ethics scandals involving democrats to
(A)dopted the indictment rule in 1993, when they were trying to end four decades of Democratic control of the House, in part by highlighting Democrats' ethical lapses. They said at the time that they held themselves to higher standards than prominent Democrats such as then-Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), who eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced to prison. It was this kind of leadership by example that drew me to the party. They weren't, like the tired democratic majority at the time, going to hold themselves to a lower standard for the sake of retaining power.
What a difference a decade makes. The GOP is firmly in control and the revolutionary principles they rode into power are being shed faster than cabinet secretaries.
House Republicans proposed changing their rules last night to allow members indicted by state grand juries to remain in a leadership post, a move that would benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, according to GOP leaders.
The proposed rule change, which several leaders predicted would win approval at a closed meeting today, comes as House Republicans return to Washington feeling indebted to DeLay for the slightly enhanced majority they won in this month's elections. DeLay led an aggressive redistricting effort in Texas last year that resulted in five Democratic House members retiring or losing reelection. It also triggered a grand jury inquiry into fundraising efforts related to the state legislature's redistricting actions.
Power is a funny thing isn't it? Somehow, some way, the GOP leadership has convinced themselves that Delay's infractions of the rules and possible criminal indictment are not worthy of the standards they set that helped them take the majority in the first place. It's too bad.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Why The GOP Needs the Moderates
I saw an interesting quote from the moral fringe group "Concerned Women of America" regarding moderate republicans. It read...
"If they can't agree and support the president and the platform, then they ought to go over to the Democrats," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the conservative group Concerned Women for America.[...]
Ok, if Jan LaRue (could that last name be more appropriate?) gets her wish, then the GOP will no longer control the Senate. That's right, an even cursory listing of moderate republicans that includes Senators Snowe, Collins, McCain, Chaffee, Specter, Smith and Hagel would be enough to push the left side of the aisle to a majority of 51 to 48.
Those who may be concerned that the policy agenda will veer to the far right should find some level of comfort in this. Even with the new and improved numbers in the Senate, the nuances of democratic government ensure some moderation and compromise even with the GOP holding 55 seats. The unrealistic demand of the far right folk like the Concerned Women, Family Research Council and such will prove to be politically untenable as they are not the type of folks to search for common ground on their issues, and as you can see, the numbers, even with the GOP firmly in control, still lend themselves to a more moderate agenda. But it probably won't stop them from trying anyway!
Another example of what a truly cool and brilliant system of government we have.
The Local News Is Sooo Lame
As bad as the network and cable news can be, is it just me or is local news a total joke. This morning I heard a radio ad for a story on how Cancer is Contagious. The promo said, "Fox has information even your doctor doesn't know." Uggh! Also, it is not news to do a story on a popular TV program like my local affiliate is doing with a local version of "The Biggest Loser."
Don't believe me?! Here's a story on the dangers of Linseed Oil...seriously.
REPORTER:" LET ME PAINT YOU A PICTURE. KEEP IN MIND, ONE OF THE MATERIALS A PAINTER USES IS LINSEED OIL. IT THINS AND SHAPES THE PAINT AND GIVES IT A GLOSSY SHEEN. BUT IF YOU DON'T HANDLE IT PROPERLY IT SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTS!
Well, I've wrapped up most of my fall speaking engagements and let me tell you, I'm tired! All the events were very fun and my last trip to Montgomery, AL was very nice, met the governor, toured the state Capitol. But as I was commuting into work this morning I actually thought it was Friday...which it is not...it's only Tuesday! Uggh. But, I'm back home and will be able to pay more attention to EOTE.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Behind Closed Doors
There's been a lot of talk about the agenda for Bush II, but an important rule of politics is that you should pretty more ignore what is said and look at what is being done to figure out the true aims of your allies or opponents. Over the next few weeks, behind closed doors in Washington, a feverish battle is being waged on the direction of the Republican Party that will have important implications for the direction of our country. Most notably the continued viability of such important Supreme Court precedents as Roe v. Wade (abortion rights), Griswold v. Connecticut (access to birth control), Lawerence v. Texas (consensual pirvate sexual relations) and other issues of personal liberty and personal morality. Senator Frist and conservative activists are pushing hard to ditch incoming Judiciary Committee Chairman Specter because he supports current precedent, especially on abortion rights. In fact, as we've discussed here, First and Co. are so comsumed with this issue they're willing to ditch the long tradition of the filibuster to accomplish their task. (Not really an admission of strength on their part). As we move through this process Specter's fate is emblematic of the direction of the Administration and Congress over the next four years. Will it be a conservative, yet centrist approach embodied by Specter? or will it swerve to the far right? As usual, John McCain is the voice of reason.
I've talked about this issue since the election, maybe too much, but despite of of the pre-109th Congress rumblings and the shadow of extreme right policies, one issue stands above the rest and that's social security reform. Bush has said it is a priority and I hope it is. It needs to be fixed and when a news report from the liberal SF Gate endorses Bush's endevour, you know he's hit a nerve that could help heal the wounds of the election.
Which Are the True Christians?
Coming Out for One of Their Own: An Oklahoma Teen Finds Love Where He Least Expected It
The Future is Moderate
He's not perfect on all the social issues, but Chuck Hagel is the kinda of Republican that makes me happy (as much as any type of politician can make me happy). He's no Bush disciple and he actually voted against many of the President's more dissapointing spending proposals, oh yes...he's also a Vietnam Veteran and is considering running for President in 2008. If there is a person who can bring the party back to reality it's Mr. Hagel. Great profile in the WaPo today.
The Skeptic: Sen. Chuck Hagel May Take His Blunt Brand of Politics Into the 2008 Presidential Race
If it's Monday, this must be Montgomery!
Friday, November 12, 2004
Slouching Toward Facism
There used to be a time, not long ago, when the radical elements of the GOP railed against increasing federal power, you remember the "Black Helicopter Crowd." Now it seems that the three co-equal branches of government are getting in the way of the new agenda, at least for John Ashcroft. Technically, the only federal court required by the Constitution is the U.S. Supreme Court and we've already seen efforts in the House to strip lower federal courts from hearing issues related to the pledge and gay marriage. Again, our two hundred years of democratic taditions and civil values appear to have no place in the new order.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
The triumph of the religious right
It may look like that, but liberals should think again before despairing
(How can you not like an article that quotes "A Confederacy of Dunces, one of my favorite books!)
The Values-Vote Myth
David Brooks examines the many interpretations of 'values'
No Through Street
The "reopening" of Pennsylvania Ave. is just another stage in the closing of Washington, D.C.
What about the values and traditions of our democracy?
The Senate is considered the greatest deliberative body in the World. It's a truly painful concept if you job, like mine, requires you to pay close attention to what's going on, but it's role is critical to the checks and balances that are fundamental to our democracy. All states are equal in the Senate, regardless of population, state GDP, or size. It ensures that the worst instincts of the majority are tempered by unlimited debate and the ability of any Senator to stop a bill by a non-stop oratory. Of course, no one does the Mr. Smith goes to Washington speeches anymore, they merely threaten a filibuster and that triggers a cloture vote. To end the 'debate' a 60 vote majority must agree. This is a strong incentive to encourage consensus. Unfortunately, Senator Frist doesn't think that the GOP's 55 seat majority is good enough, so he's looking to scrap this important tradition. That tells me two things, first is that there is no interest in bipartisanship in the new Senate, and second, Frist is preparing to launch an agenda that 49% of American's probably don't want. One of the reasons the US has had a long history of peaceful political progress is that the filibuster and power of individual Senators has served as a moderating factor on the urges of the majority. By eliminating it, Frist is telling 49% of the public to go to hell.
We've heard alot about 'tradition' and 'values', but if Frist follows through with his threat, then he's really thumbing his nose at important traditions and values of our democracy. Besides, if his agenda is the will of the people, then mobilized voters should be able to peel off a mere five conservative democratic votes in the new senate on key issues.
The History of the Filibuster
Using the filibuster to delay debate or block legislation has a long history. In the United States, the term filibuster -- from a Dutch word meaning "pirate" -- became popular in the 1850s when it was applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent action on a bill.
In the early years of Congress, representatives as well as senators could use the filibuster technique. As the House grew in numbers, however, it was necessary to revise House rules to limit debate. In the smaller Senate, unlimited debate continued since senators believed any member should have the right to speak as long as necessary.
In 1841, when the Democratic minority hoped to block a bank bill promoted by Henry Clay, Clay threatened to change Senate rules to allow the majority to close debate. Thomas Hart Benton angrily rebuked his colleague, accusing Clay of trying to stifle the Senate's right to unlimited debate. Unlimited debate remained in place in the Senate until 1917. At that time, at the suggestion of President Woodrow Wilson, the Senate adopted a rule (Rule 22) that allowed the Senate to end a debate with a two-thirds majority vote -- a tactic known as "cloture."
The new Senate rule was put to the test in 1919, when the Senate invoked cloture to end a filibuster against the Treaty of Versailles. Despite the new cloture rule, however, filibusters continued to be an effective means to block legislation, due in part to the fact that a two-thirds majority vote is difficult to obtain. Over the next several decades, the Senate tried numerous times to evoke cloture, but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds vote. Filibusters were particularly useful to southern senators blocking civil rights legislation in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1975, the Senate reduced the number of votes required for cloture from two-thirds (67) to three-fifths (60) of the 100-member Senate.
Many Americans are familiar with the hours-long filibuster of Senator Jefferson Smith in Frank Capra's film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but there have been some famous filibusters in the real-life Senate as well. During the 1930s, Senator Huey P. Long effectively used the filibuster against bills that he thought favored the rich over the poor. The Louisiana senator frustrated his colleagues while entertaining spectators with his recitations of Shakespeare and his reading of recipes for "pot-likkers." Long once held the Senate floor for fifteen hours. The record for the longest individual speech goes to South Carolina's J. Strom Thurmond who filibustered for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
The Battle for the GOP
Well, it's begun. The battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Specter is on the outs because of his statement supporting existing Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights. The far right is furious, but the reality is that a majority of American's support a woman's right to choice, although most don't want tax dollars paying for it.
This is an important battle that will set a bench mark on how much President Bush is willing to hand over to the far right.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Post Election Reality Check
Wow, the world is really going into the crapper isn't it? Sudan, Iraq, The Netherlands, Thailand... I don't think we've even waded waist deep into this clash of civilizations yet. I'm sort of feeling like it's 1939 all over again.
Thai riot official death toll questioned
Iraqi PM's relatives kidnapped and threatened with death
Murder Inspires Wave of Dutch Attacks
So Much for Vitamins
Ok, what really gets me about this article is the headline, "increases death risk." Since we are all mortal beings, isn't the death risk already 100% for all of us? It's like when I'm enjoying a smoke and some one tells me "You're gonna die." Well, duh...we all die, some of us just enjoy an occasional cigarette or cigar on the journey. Don't forget to take your toxic vitamins tonight.
The Gonzalez Memo
Hey, I didn't start this values thing, but it does pose an interesting question. Yes, we need to protect America and sleep deprivation, 'truth serum' and such are not what I would consider torture, but electrical shock, sexual abuse, beatings etc. may be pushing the line. We had one Attorney General who thinks the terror war is important enough to do an end run around Consitutional protections against search and siezure, right to counsel etc. Now we get a candidate who bends the spirit of the Geneva Convention and to pave the way for the Iraqi prison torture scandal?
If you didn't like the original, you're not gonna like the sequel.
Read the famous memo and decide for yourself.
What to make of Alberto Gonzales?
Don't know what to make of Bush's selection of Alberto Gonzalez for AG. Although he's widely credited with writing the dubios legal memoranda that said Bush could legally indefinitely hold terrorist suspects (including U.S. citizens) without trial, charges or access to lawyers. The Supreme court didn't agree.
For instance, Gonzales publicly defended the administration's policy - essentially repudiated by the Supreme Court and now being fought out in the lower courts - of detaining certain terrorism suspects for extended periods without access to lawyers or courts.
He also wrote a controversial February 2002 memo in which Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture law and international treaties providing protections to prisoners of war. That position drew fire from human rights groups, which said it helped led to the type of abuses uncovered in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.
Meanwhile, Ashcroft's requiem paints him as not being fully on board with the torture, detention issues. Interesting.
Bush is right on Immigration
President Bush's plan on immigration is sound and actually good public policy. He supports, as does elephant and the business community, the creation of a guest worker program and the creation of a program that let's illegal immigrants earn legal U.S. citizenship. Seems to me that this represents the very best of 'values' based leadership. Don't reward illegal activity, but provide an opportunity for illegal aliens and those wishing to come to the U.S. to work to earn their citizenship. Too bad power players in his own party oppose it.
Hydrogen Energy: I Pipe Dream?
Priming the Public For Hydrogen Fuel
Benning Road Station Is First of Its Kind in U.S.
And This Iraq Thing
Is this Falluja assualt going well or not? I must admit I've lost track of all things Iraqi since the closing days of the election. Evans and Ashcroft are leaving, what about Rummy?
That Mandate Thing
Much has been said about Bush's electoral mandate. Don't get me wrong, he certainly has some political capitol to spend, but there are other factors that come into play that will temper his power as we approach the ingauguration in January.
Fallujah Strike Could Spend, Swell Bush 'Capital'
Fall Train Ride to New England
Well, got back on the train last night from New England. When the Amtrak trains run on time here on the East Coast, it's a great way to travel. Gave my speech yesterday in Connecticut then jumped back on the train for DC. Sunny fall day, lots of colorful trees and excellent views of Manhattan, Philly, B'more and such. Sadly, no internet access. Alas!
A FIRST LOOK AT 2008. President Bush has yet to be inaugurated for a second term and already the speculation is swirling as to who will run for President when he retires in 2008. For the first time since 1952, neither a sitting President nor an incumbent VP will be running to hold the White House. Instead, both sides will see wide open contests. On the Republican side, names floating include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY), Colorado Governor Bill Owens, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and -- despite his official protestations of disinterest -- Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's (R-PA) name was formerly in play, but his star power has greatly declined over the past two years. To increase his national strength within the party, Giuliani may decide to first challenge former First Lady Hillary Clinton (D) for her US Senate seat in 2006. Another consideration: Presuming Jeb stays out of the race, will President Bush openly or tacitly support anyone as a successor ... or will he stay above the nomination fight? On the Democratic side, the speculative names in play include Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), John Edwards (D-NC), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), former Vice President Al Gore (D-TN), former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, retired Army General Wes Clark (D-AR), Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, and Virginia Governor Mark Warner.
Visit Politics1.com here: http://www.politics1.com
Monday, November 08, 2004
Thomas as Chief Justice?
To be honest, I've only read one Supreme Court opinion that was penned by Justice Thomas. It was on state imposed term limits on Congressional representatives and it was actually quite good. But if the Bush Administration what's to enact a lasting legacy on the direction of the Court, it seems to me that the natural choice would be Justice Scalia. Scalia and Thomas are of like minds on Constitutional interpretation, but Scalia has been far, far more influential on moving the Court to the right. Perhaps that's why the rumor of Thomas.
Could it be that when faced with two conservative justices they are choosing to play the race card?
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Pre-Emption: A Hope for the Center
President Bush is sitting on a pile of political capital. Granted the pile is not as big as say the capital Ronald Reagan was sitting on when he won with 515 to 13 in the Electoral College. But none-the-less, even my republican friends on Capitol Hill are a bit shocked and nervous by the successful outcome. So how do folks in the center and left of center respond?
It's not going to be enough to simply stand up and say, "I want to protect social security." Protecting the status quo is a ticket to political ruin. Moderates and Democrats should borrow a page from the master of triangulation, Bill Clinton. They should pre-empt, as best they can, Republican efforts on Social Security and social issues like the FMA by pre-empting the administration by introducing and hitting the airwaves with their own proposals.
The Dems are masters at scaring the hell out of the senior crowd with repeated calls that any social security reform amounts to a cut in benefits or privatization. But the reality is that social security is a demographic time bomb that needs to be addressed by cutting benefits, raising taxes, partial privatization or a combination of the three. If the dems or centrists have concerns, they should incorporate them into their own proposal and drop it the first day the 109th Congress meets. It should borrow heavily from one of the three plans the President is considering, but should contain elements that 1) cost less and 2) offer a fig leaf of protection for current beneficiaries. It worked for Clinton on welfare reform and the result is one of the most successful implementation of conservative policy principles in the last decade.
Follow wise King Solomon and split the baby on this one. Yes, some will complain that banning gay marriage relegates gay men and women to second class citizens, but offering up a compromise could undermine the President's position and pull off enough moderates to continue to doom the FMA. Both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are on record supporting civil unions. Take them at their word and introduce a modified FMA that protects states from having to recognize other states gay marriages, but also creates civil unions with most, but not all of the rights of marriage. Radical right-wingers would hate it, but the middle and even the public (according to most recent polls) may find it an acceptable resolution to this issue. Accompany the amendment with a host of legislative proposals that would really 'protect' traditional marriage like the permanent elimination of the marriage penalty, banning of no-fault divorce or incentivizing 'covenant marriages' and upping the child tax credit. That's pro-family and probably the best counter offensive they could offer.
The federal system and its checks and balances offer up a host of ways to make the voices of the 49% of Americans who don't totally support the Bush agenda are heard. It's worked in the past, it can work now, but obstructionism will continue to play into the hands of Karl Rove and friends.
Meanwhile in Iraq
Yep, "Mission F'ng accomplished" alright. We need to prevail in Iraq, it is Bush's albatros and will limit his room to manuever here at home as long it continues to sink into chaos. Let us hope, in the next few days, he show's us that "leadership" he keeps talking about.
The Future is Moderate
Ok, we're almost a week after the 2004 election and no big changes yet, they're probably coming, but for now we can be both hopeful and alert. But this radically conservative bench doesn't appear to be very deep. Much like there was no true follower to Clinton's new democrat paradigm, those that look most likely to follow Bush in 2008 are not cut from the same cloth.
So far, those that have announced their interest in running for president in 2008 include John McCain, Chuck Hagel, Rudy Guilliani, George Pataki, and of course less savory candidates like Bill Frist, George Allen and (gasp) Rick Santorum. But I like the odds nearly 50-50 moderates to arch conservatives. Yes, things look pretty unnerving right now with people like Coburn and DeMint in charge, but the long term prospects look promising. We can hope!
So who's waiting in the wings for 2008's show?
Saturday, November 06, 2004
Specter Going to Re-Education Camp
Maybe Mr. Specter spoke too soon when he warned Bush on anti-abortion justices. He was right of course, even with 55 seats in the Senate, it's not enough to push through a Bork like candidate and there are likely others within the GOP that share his views. But it seems now that Republicans are maneuvering to skip over Mr. Specter and give the chairmanship to someone whose more willing to tow the conservative line. But will that be the answer for the GOP? Two GOP justices, O'Connor and Souter (a single man who lives with his mother...hmmm?) seem to be supportive on maintaining current precedent. Cultural issues may have tipped the balance for the GOP, but they also strike at the core values of the party that values individual liberty over government interference in personal decisions.
Judiciary chairmanship looms as abortion issue
Friday, November 05, 2004
Disillusionment or Activism: That's the Choice
It's quiet in DC, really, really quiet. Both my democrat and republican friends are still trying to figure out were we are going and exactly what the "Rural Revolution" means in terms of the direction of policy in the U.S. But this is the reality folks and we need to gear up to find common ground for the sake of the country.
Despite the fact that the youth vote was a huge flop, some aren't standing down, but are choosing activism over disengagement. Good for them.
Students Won't Leave Until GOP Answers
Elephant on the Go
Next week is rathr brutal for elephant from a travel perspective. I'm headed off to the Northeast for two speeches and then jetting off to the South for another two speeches, all within a weeks time. Postings will continue but may be at odd times and with some delay as access to the internet and WiFi hotspots is not garunteed. So patience is appreciated. Light weekend postings are likely to continue as well.
We continue to see record readership growth here at EOTE and I really want to build on that momentum.
Now, unite us
In the end, America's presidential election closed with a familiar-sounding result that prompted a weary and anxious groan: a cliff-hanger, with George Bush winning after a technical wrangle in a heavily contested state. But that is misleading. Do not underestimate the scope of the Republicans' victoryâ€”or its importance for both America and the world.
Do the Shuffle
Who's in, Who's out in Bush II
Dollar Falls On Fears of U.S. Deficits
Deficits do matter
And What of This FMA
Now that the election is over, will the expanded majority in the Senate revote on the FMA? I doubt it. The 'crisis and attacks' on 'traditional marriage' will fade into the background for now as the war, social security and taxes take center stage. But expect the 'crisis' to reemerge as we approach the 2006 mid-term elections. This fear mongering of gays is too effective to be taken off the table by a federal amendment.
Bush's Capital Intensive Agenda
Ok, so we're three days into this brave new world or as the self-appointed morals tsar and gambling addict Bill Bennett would say, 'The age of relearning." (I kind of like how that sounds, much less harsh than the 'age of re-education'.). Anyway, I'm taking some solace in the fact that the President seems to be focusing on two big issues to try to secure his legacy.
He's talked about social security reform and that's probably a good thing. Democrats and Republicans both understand that the current system is not sustainable and something needs to be done about it. It's a politically thankless project, which is why its been put off for so long, but if Bush is willing to tackle it, great, we need to debate this and figure out what to do before the system goes bankrupt. It's also important to note that Social Security has probably the most active voting block behind it, seniors. So this enormous task will likely soak up a large portion of Bush's political capital he's 'earned' by his 51% victory. A complex and costly task that will absorb congress's and the public's attention for some time to come.
There's also a lot of talk about tax reform. This will prove to be a much bigger challenge. Yes, the tax code is complicated and some things like investment income are taxed twice. But the tax code is the main mechanism that is used to benefit various constituencies and as a result there is massive, entrenched interests that will work day and night to oppose any substantive changes. This idea of a national sales tax is DOA from my perspective. Too complicated and easy to get voters ire up over the fact that each time they go to the store, they'll have to pay 35% more for things. Every day will be tax day. For those Simpson's fans out there, I'd offer up the episode where the IRS takes over Krusty Burger. The dialogue:
So tax reform seems pretty unlikely from my perspective.
Homer Simpson: Um ... I'll have four taxburgers, one IRSwich - withhold the lettuce - three dependent-size sodas and a FICAccino.
Squeaky-Voiced Teen: Fill out Schedule B. You should receive your burgers in 6 to 8 weeks.
Meanwhile, more countries are leaving the Iraq Coalition. Poland and Hungary are pulling out their troops and the situation is still unstable. Oh, yes and the growing federal deficit that will be another record breaker in 2005.
So there are constraints, and the focus is on actual government programs rather than social issues, for now at least. Some things to focus on before us city dwellers are relocated by the Armies of Compassion for our 're-learning'.
Analysts Call Outlook For Bush Plan Bleak
Too Much Deficit, Not Enough Revenue
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Social Security as we all know is a ticking financial bomb. As is being widely reported, it's looking like Bush will spend his political capitol on two major fronts, making the 2001 tax cuts permanent and social security reform. The Republican budget hawks will make the first goal difficult, and Social Security is the so called third rail of politics and has been seen as untouchable. But the demographics aren't on anyone's side here. This probably should have been addressed back in the 1980s, but better late than never.
Here's a primer from the SSA talking about the basic challenges that lie ahead.
What's Up With the Elephant
Elephant's decided to eschew ranting and raving about the election. The people have spoken and everyone knows my concerns. I remain confident in the system, its brilliant design ensures that rights of the ideological minority are respected (and whose in the minority changes from issue to issue). It's hard to get things done here in Washington and that's good. As we've seen from the last two years, the GOP leadership can be its own worst enemy, having failed to pass the energy bill two years running.
So, I'm choosing to lay my plan for the issues I think are important, support policy initiatives forwarded by the president that I think are good and to keep hope alive as they say. I'm not backing down on anything and I look forward to the debates ahead. Clearly the environment we'll be operating in has shifted a little to far right as far as I'm concerned, but with the many challenges we're facing, I'm sure there's common ground to be had and well as differences to be aired.
Armies of Compassion: Field Report
I regret to report a SNAFU in our East Asian efforts. Full report below.
Yours in Faith
Back to Work
Energy worries and budget deficit high on the agenda for second term.
Back to Work
Energy worries and budget deficit high on the agenda for second term.
Metro In Crisis
Occasionally, I use this forum to vent about the rapid deterioration in service on DC's metrorail system. So far this year we've had floods, fires, derailments and drivers abandoning trains leaving passengers stranded. Yesterday it got worse. Two trains collided at my former metro station in Woodley Park. No deaths thank goodness, but check out the damage. As of this morning the train was still on the track as they try to figure out what happened.
As a note, the Red line was the first segment of DC's metro system to open. It's one of the busier lines (although these days they are all busy). It's dissruption is painful to those of us who commute by mass transit.
Major Delays Expected After Metrorail Crash
Metro Officials Say Red Line Is Operating at 50 Percent Capacity
The GOP Can Fix Social Security
If there is one thing that the GOP should make a priority, it's fixing social security. President Bush had this as a top priority before 9/11, but it got pushed aside for good reason. But now, we're facing the baby boomer retirement, a much smaller retiree to worker ratio and huge and growing costs. John Kerry supported transferring general fund revenues to fund the deficit, a robbing Peter to pay Paul proposition. Bush's plan has huge up front costs, but it's bold and doesn't ignore the problems we're facing on the pension front. I'm optimistic.
We'll look at this issue more in the days and weeks ahead.
2nd-Term Agenda Will Need Means
Specter Warns Bush
(B)luntly warned newly re-elected President Bush today against putting forth Supreme Court nominees who would seek to overturn abortion rights or are otherwise too conservative to win confirmation.
This revolution is not absolute folks.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
First things first, Congress is coming back to finish up the still pending appropriation bills and will have to act of raising the debt limit so we don't go bankrupt. So that will be the focus of attention for us in the near term here in DC.
After that we can look for indication of the direction of Bush II from the pending cabinet shuffle. It was widely reported that Attorney General Ashcroft, who has been in poor health, was looking to step down. Rumsfeld, who's been under wraps since the prison abuse scandal, is also reported to be on the block. Will Powell stick around? These announcements will give us some indication of the direction in which we're headed.
Finally, we still face great challenges, not only on the foriegn relations front, but here at home too. We still have a jobs deficit, health care coverage is a continuing problem, social security is ticking like a bomb and then there's the deficit. Challenges that I wouldn't wish on anyone. Will the House and Senate be able to get to business or will they get caught up in inter-partisan battles that doomed the energy bill in the last two sessions? If they can't get back to business, who'll be the new scapegoat?
We shall see. We shall see.
I Believe in Redemption
Ok, I haven't got time for the rage, so to speak. I believe in redemption and while Mr. Bush has a long way to go in my book, I certainly hope that he takes some steps to heal the nation. First, the political season may have constrainded Bush from admitting mistakes on the iraqi front or firing people like Rumsfeld for example. While I may not agree with Mr. Bush's approach to a lot of issues, and I mourn some of the fear mongering by his sorrogates, I know, like Mr. Kerry he wants to make the U.S. a better place. (although 'better' is clearly subjective!). Leadership requires more than just scaring people about those who are different, it requires implementing policies that actually move the nation forward. The Republican's long term success will depend upon that and I'll support efforts that move us forward. But as we've seen in the last few years, even with a majority in both chambers, their worst enemey seems to be themselves. Reflexive animosity isn't in any of our interests right now and neither is blind faith.
My Promise for the Next Four Years
I'm sanguine that there will be proposals and efforts by the GOP and President that I can rallly behind in the next four years. Social Security reform is top among them. Kerry's plan to fund the looming deficits in the trust fund were unrealistic by any calculation and Bush's plan has promise, but is costly. So, I'm hopeful and looking forward to issues that can help bridge the divide.
If you're sitting at home today and in dispair about things like the Supreme Court, abortion rights, gay marriage and such, don't dispair, even with the margins in the Senate, the GOP can't steam roll over you on these issues. But if you are truly concerned about these issues or others it is very important that you stay engaged. In fact it is probably more important that you stay active now than during the election. If you want to protect the right to choice, committ to staying informed on the court nominees and for pete's sake committ to donate money to your cause. Same thing on Patriot Act issues, gay marriage and other libertarian ideals. The battle didn't end last night, it's just begun.
Dealing With BC04 Family Members
Ok, so your not so eagerly awaiting a call from your parents, brother or other relative that has been a huge BC04 supporter. (I know I'm not) What to do? Especially if they see this as a validation of their views and are a bit overbearing? One, congratulate them and let them know that it's nice to be on the winning side and acknowledge that they must feel pretty happy. Then see if there's any common ground to focus on like, "Well, with an increased majority in the Senate, House and control of the presidency, I really hope they can get spending under control." That kind of thing. Let them have their moment, because in the end, all politicians will eventually dissapoint their supporters and those who are powerful today, will be a minority when the pendulum swings in the other direction. Politics is a funny thing, but family is much more important.
Adivce for Kerry Supporters
Yeah, I know for some of you out there it feels kind of like "The Empire Strikes Back." I mean the rebellion against the heavy handed empire isn't going well and Kerry is hanging over a vast abyss with Darth Vader looming over him. But fear not, our system is such that your concerns and voices can still be heard. Remember the following.
1) Stay organized: The political system responds to organized pressure. If you've been active with a meetup group or move on or similar organization, stay connected, it's the best way to stay organized and fight for what you think is important.
2) Remember not all Republicans are the same. With the election hysteria still in the air it's easy to see things as an us v. them situation, but not all republicans are cut from the same cloth. For evey DeMint or Coburn, there's a McCain, Snowe and Hagel. Some of the issues the Republicans get so giddy about, like the FMA actually fracture their party.
3) Don't take it personally. This isn't a vote on the worthiness of your values or views, its a popularity contest. If your a Kerry person, take solice in the fact that 48% of the folks in this country tend to agree with you.
I for one don't plan on backing down or muting my criticism of anyone, so keep fighting for your issues.
The People Have Spoken
It's pretty much over this morning and if your a Bush supporter today is a bright sunny day. If you're like Elephant had harbored deep doubts and dissappointments on Bush's record, it's a day of mixed emotions. Many surprises last night, including the lack of surge in youth voting. So what to make of it all? I'm not sure yet as I haven't poured over any of the exit polls or interviews. Bush and his folks should be happy, they worked hard and organized the troops in a manner never seen before in the GOP and it appears to have paid off for them in many states, including Ohio.
So what should we expect in the next four years? Elephant is hopeful that the expanded Republican majority will find religion on spending and get the budget in line, focus on the economy and terrorism rather than divisive social issues and work toward a more accountable government. But of course, with the sad record of the administration and the GOP controlled congress in the last few years I'm hopeful, but not deluded. Part of my concern is that the GOP has done such a bad job of governing (and with $400 billion plus deficits that's not an opinion, its empirical fact) and that the voters didn't find that important enough to hold them accountable that there is no incentive to change their behavior. Besides, we here in Washington aren't very imaginative, so if a certain message works, we stick to it. So I would expect that we will continue to see the focus on social issues, tax give-aways and a deficits don't matter attitude. But I can still be hopeful.
Of course while Bush may have won another four years, he's still got his work cut out for him. Most American's still feel we're on the wrong track and more than half of us dissapprove of his job performance. The federal budget will increasingly constrain the abilty of congress to develop new programs, reform social security and increase spending on healthcare and education. It's going to be a tough four years not only for the dissapointed Kerry supporters, but for the Republicans as well.
So even if the pundits and party hacks are calling this a revolution, it's not quite that grand, but does reflect important gains for the GOP. Let's hope they make the most of it.
Personally, I was looking forward to critiquing a new administration, but I'm sure this one will continue to provide us with material to talk about.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Down to the Wire
In other news, it look like the election is going down to the wire. Bush is leading in OH and FL which will be crucial if he is to win reelection, but so far none of the urban precincts have reported and they favor Kerry. The media has shift from pesimistic on Bush to a more cautious approach to the potential winner. Record numbers of voters, some of us may be dissappointed with the outcome tonight, but I for one am proud of my fellow citizens for turning out to vote.
Still No Surprises
From the Desk of Nelson Muntz:
Alan Keyes doesn't even deserve 10%.....
This is one salve tonight....Kerry leading in Florida.
Gosh, this is fun....
Wow, what a great start!
Well, the party is underway, shushi is being gobbled and states are turning red and blue. The current total is 94 Bush and 77 Kerry with no surprises in terms of which way the states are going yet. One thing I'm picking up on is that there seems to be an undercurrent of pessimism towards Bush from the media folk. Also, Arkansas is too close to call, that's probably good news for Kerry!
Gotta run, need to put out more Satay Chicken!
Ok, party preparation is in full swing. I just finished making a bunch of Vietnamese "Swift Boat" Summer Rolls and I've picked up the sushi platters. Also on hand are Crackers and Cheese in a can, Swedish meatballs, cheese and crackers, prosciutto and assorted a pastry. Oh yes, and lots and lots of liquor...just in case.
Voting in DC
Ok, I didn't mention how easy voting was today. There were about 100 people at my polling place, but everyone was in a great mood and the volunteers manning the polling station we cheerful and dedicated (thanks!). The DC ballot was quite short, the only things I got to vote on were:
2) DC Congressional Representative (non-voting)...A Dem. and a Green candidate
3) My ANC Commissioner
4) Two City Council At Large Seats.
Pretty easy, not like those pesky novel length ballots in CA.
Signs of Trouble?
As is being widely reported on news sites and blogs around the internet, early returns are breaking for Kerry. What other surprises await us tonight?
The big question is when will they state coloring in the states? That's my favorite part!
(Yes, I know they start coloring them in tonight around 8pm)
Party Prep Begins
Hey, as promised I'll be blogging throughout the day, but right now I need to run off to the store to pick up my party supplies for tonight!
Party Prep Begins
Hey, as promised I'll be blogging throughout the day, but right now I need to run off to the store to pick up my party supplies for tonight!
Hoping It Doesn't Go to the Court
Rehnquist's Illness Could Deadlock the Court.
Republicans and Democrats Can Agree
On this potentially divisive day, let me just say that I stand shoulder to shoulder with liberal blogger Atrios on this:
Dear Tim Russsert,
Your use of a whiteboard in 2000 was not the culturally iconic moment you've convinced yourself that it was. Resurrecting it now makes you look even more foolish than you did then. Have the geniuses at General Electric build you something which isn't completely unreadable under studio lights.
Whose Watching the Watchers?
At what point does this poll watcher thing become intimidation? I've already read stories where GOP operatives sent registered letters to democrats, who refused them and the GOP then used this as the basis for challenging their ability to vote. I'm sure there will be shenanigans on both sides, but this Ohio thing really gets to me. If I were an undecided voter, or even a weak Bush supporter in Ohio, I'd definitely cast a protest vote against the republicans.
High court clears way for Ohio poll challengers
Sorry for the Dealy, I Voted!
Sorry for the delay, I went off to the polling place this morning. It's an elementary school just a block from my house. There was a long line, but it was fun waiting and visiting with all the people from the neighborhood. I'm proudly wearing my I Voted sticker.