Evolution may favor religious diversity, but the tail does not wag the fish.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Time to Step Up

Time to Leave- New York Times Select:

"Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices - higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft - that might have made a long-term commitment to Iraq possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out. With some military units on their third tour of duty in Iraq, the superb volunteer army that Mr. Bush inherited is in increasing danger of facing a collapse in quality and morale similar to the collapse of the officer corps in the early 1970's."--Paul Krugman, 11/21/2005

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Everyone has their own pet issues. While I did not single-issue vote in the 2004 presidential election, it's obvious that foreign policy, the ill-advised war of choice in Iraq, the chain of eroding civil liberties in the ultra-reactionary response to 9-11, were among the character flaws I saw in "staying the course" with the present leadership.

I know others felt differently. And indeed, by a slim margin that was hailed as a national mandate, Mr. Bush was re-elected.

Despite that, my original issues of interest and my ongoing concern has not changed. Neither has my opinion of the present leadership. And, for whatever reasons, public polls seem to have drifted my way.

It's easy to dismiss polls--how accurate are they? Why would you fashion such important policies after their statistics?, etc. But I do have to ask some simple questions that do deserve follow up.

What one or two things were people expecting Mr. Bush to deliver? Not something vague like "keeping us safe at home" or "fighting for our freedoms abroad." But something specific. Job creation, economic stimulation? Alternative fuels? Educational assistance? Some type of social issue? Environmental protection? Smaller government? Fiscal responsibility?Whatever it was (and I do believe publically it was something about social security and tax reform), what can one point to that says "He's delivered."

And, if you can actually do that, how does that measure up on balance against the outlines of my ongoing concerns?

I just don't see where he's delivered. As the quote above suggests, there's nothing in the policies he did enact that seems to have helped my list of concerns, or even helped Mr. Bush to accomplish his own agenda.

How did they help you?
Other people are dying. It's time to weigh in on your vote.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Veterans' Day:Both Sides Talking

His Image Tarnished, Bush Seeks to Restore Credibility
[New York Times]:

"I point out that some of the critics today believed themselves in 2002 that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said Thursday at a news briefing. "They stated that belief, and they voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq because they believed Saddam Hussein posed a dangerous threat to the American people. For those critics to ignore their own past statements, exposes the hollowness of their current attacks."
I can already telegraph in my mind what Mr. Bush's Veterans' Day speech in PA today will say. Many on both sides of the aisle and in the international community believed in intelligence reports that overstated the WMD capabilities of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Both Democrats and Republicans, basing much of their confidence in those reports, then voted in favor of authorizing the use of force.

John Kerry, in his presidential election bid had the very hard and presumably unconvincing task of explaining how he voted for this authorization, but then later was opposed to the war. He used rhetoric about "how we did it in the wrong way." Mr. Bush, in the first presidential debate with Kerry, characterized this criticism dubiously by saying Kerry was asking the international community "to come join us in this grand diversion."

But there are certain things we know much more clearly now than we did then. THERE WERE NO WMD's FOUND. The intelligence reports were wrong. They were based on faulty information and outright forgeries. Colin Powell was sent on a fool's errand to the U.N. backed by the Rumsfeld/Cheney neo-con vision of imperialism in the middle east to use that same information to garner international support. Much of the international community and world religious leaders were not convinced.

And it turns out they were right not to be

Why is it so hard for democratic and republican leaders alike to cough up a believable mia culpa. Is Bush's tactic going to be "we're all to blame, so no one's at fault?" as the sleight of hand that passes the buck? Congress may have approved the order, but this is Bush's war.
We've passed the 2000 mark of American dead in Iraq. Civilian casualties and war injuries are dramatically higher than these figures. This too we now know as a result of our misinformed adventure. Can we not say we've reaped what we've sown?

Mr. Bush will most likely attempt to spread the blame as a soft approach to accepting responsibility and leadership. He will then follow up with a sense of firmness and resolve (despite this mistake) to claim that staying the course is still of the highest and purest moral integrity. God knows good can come from that which is not good. But that has never excused us from saying, "We were wrong."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Playing Chicken A Little

The Note: "God Is Not a Republican" [ABC]

  • the discipline of the Rove-Mehlman team in keeping negative the-sky-is-falling quotes out of the papers today is remarkable (but just wait until tomorrow)
  • if the Republicans can avoid mass retirements in Congress, even a politically weak Bush probably won't cost them control of either chamber (but they will obsess about all this for quite some time)
  • the Washington Post Metro staff needs some deprogramming to get over its Mark Warner Stockholm Syndrome
  • thank goodness that the Schwarzenegger political consultants aren't afraid of Maria Shriver
  • Terry McAuliffe and Howard Dean are friggin'geniuses
  • winning is better than losing
  • if John Kerry could talk as comfortably about his personal faith as Tim Kaine can, he would be the President of the United States right now
  • if Howard Dean could talk as comfortably about his personal faith as Tim Kaine can, he would have been the Democratic nominee in 2004
  • and, one of the few positive trends in American political journalism is the vast curtailing of the practice of over-reading the results of off-off-year elections.
Everybody happy now?
Let's hope so.
Trying its best not to oversimplify the off year election results and what that may portend for 2006 and 2008 elections, ABC's the Note offers this wide-spray snippet. I think Tim Kaine will be tested by his Republican Lieutenant Governor. Additionally, whatever extent Tim Kaine was elected by coat-tails or continuity with Mark Warner, will be tested by Kaine's ability to work in a bi-partisan, moderate way. And to what extent those talents and inroads may run counter to the Republican conservatism, that at least in rhetoric, came out to challenge him and lost.

As in my previous post, this isn't the time to gloat. But it is a time to change.

The Note goes on to quote the Washington Post Editorial Board:

"Kaine's triumph in Virginia's gubernatorial race is a watershed — the victory of a southern Democrat who prevailed despite his principled opposition to the death penalty and his refusal to rule out new taxes."
And contrasts that with the Stu Rothenberg of the Washington Times attributing Kaine's win in Virginia to "a lack of enthusiasm and energy among Republicans."

Senators and Congressman can count themselves lucky for now. But we still have three more years to wear this President. And he's got a lot of stepping up to do.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

VA Election: The End May Already Be Here

Voter Fraud Crackdown for Tuesday's Va. Election
[WTOP Radio]:

"Because the Virginia gubernatorial contest is so close, there are some concerns about problems at polling places, including voter fraud.
For the first time the U.S. Department of Justice will be monitoring for voter fraud in a statewide election in Virginia. The Election Day Program is designed to deter election fraud and discrimination at the polls."

I don't know how the VA Elections will turn out. I do know that the polling going in had Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore in a very tight race. Over this past weekend, just days and hours before the election day, I've also witnessed smear campaigns typical of my part of NoVa.

Today's Washington Post Today notes:
The State Board of Elections fined the Kilgore campaign $100 yesterday for sending a misleading mailing to Democratic voters. The mailing purports to be a "progressive, Democratic" voters guide comparing Potts and Kaine but actually was produced by the Kilgore camp. Last week, the board fined Kaine for producing a similar mailing that appeared to be from a conservative anti-tax group.

But this doesn't even make mention of the robocalling incident launched late over the weekend. (My wife and I received two different versions of the call on Sunday and Monday).

Daily Kos offers this diary entry:

So here's the deal -- the Republicans took statements Kaine has made and spliced them together to put together this out-of-context call. The horrible music in the background is there to mask the splicing.
This call is being played in liberal areas. A different spliced version of the call, talking about how liberal he is on choice and all those other hot-button social issues, is being played in conservative areas.

The text and MP3 of the robocall are available here.

Again, I don't know how the election will end. But I do know that I am sickened and appalled at how low and dirty local and state politics has become. And I am certain it has become so in part because of the increasing polarity played out with increasing hubris on the national level.

A modest proposal: For all the grassroots growing that my wife and I have entered into since May 2003 on behalf of many a progressive group, individuals of good will, and people of faith, we hope that we can "take back our country" not by running our wing against their wing. We hope instead to bring moderates of both sides together because the worst in each end is tearing us apart.

We believe in better angels. And we believe in a better end than just winning.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Taxable Woes

Tax panel would slash deductions, cut rates:
[Reuters Busines Channel]
"Both plans would replace the current mortgage interest rate deduction, which taxpayers can claim on mortgage debt up to $1.1 million. Instead, the panel proposes a home credit equal to 15 percent of mortgage interest paid.
A credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax, while a deduction is an amount that reduces the income subject to tax."

I admit that when I hear the daily market report the S&P, Dow, and NASDAQ numbers don't make much sense to me. I also get that there are positive connotations to the notion of tax reform. However, none of the coverage I've read so far is very encouraging.

It would be helpful if someone would point out not just the differences such as one of the (rather objectionable) changes noted above. But also indicated how the basic formula has changed. Currently, the tax payer states income, subtracts deductions, and pays taxes on an adjusted gross income. Or they take their adjusted gross income and apply a standard deduction.

So far, I understand that the two proposals want to replace deductions with credits, but I haven't been told how that relates to a final tax table. Nor have I been told what the rationale is behind the two new plans. At least with the old plan, I understood that there were certain ways (incentives) in which you could spend or invest your money and this helped bring your tax liabilities down by adjusting your income. One of the major ways to do this was home ownership and the tax deductions of interest mortgage.

Why don't these business people simply give us everyday people some simple old way/new way numbers and examples to show how each system works and whether or not it looks promising. So far, it sounds like the beginnings of a failed ad campaign in the footsteps of the new old Coke is better.