Mostly rational politics, with occasional rants about how a few crazy Republicans are ruining the country.
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Tuesday, February 28, 2006
If you haven't already, you must check out this video of an autistic high school senior who was manager of the varsity team and finally was allowed play for 4 minutes in the last game of the year. What happened in those four minutes is the stuff of legend.
Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.
Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.
How long until we find out that the CEO of Dubai Ports World is a political donor to Bush Sr.? Or was a member of Skull & Bones? Or is the husband of Bush's cousin? Or something like that. Bush only goes to the mat like this for his buddies.
As the NYT says,
The Bush administration has followed a disturbing pattern in its approach to the war on terror. It has been perpetually willing to sacrifice individual rights in favor of security. But it has been loath to do the same thing when it comes to business interests.
I was in Mexico at a wedding for the weekend, and among the things I noted while gazing out the windows of taxis and busses was that it was very clear that an election was going on. Rather than in the U.S. where most of the $ seem to be spent on television ads, there were many many HUGE billboards in the two Mexican cities I saw (Mexico DF and Cuernavaca), and on the highways. Candidates for President, Governor, Senator, and even some smaller positions were all trying to make their name and face known.
Many of the billboards were painted on walls on the side of the street, as opposed to the traditional kind we see hanging high up over the street (though there were plenty of those too). It had sort of a homemade, grassroots feel to it, though even the painted billboards were very consistently done - they all looked the same, had the same colors, and tag lines, etc.
And the tag lines, like in the U.S., were very cheesy. "Working for the People!" "Working hard for you!" "Making Mexico a Better Place!"
Hopefully someday, not just in the U.S. but across the world as well, we'll get to a place where Democracy is based on thoughtful ideas, not flashy signs. I won't lose any sleep waiting for that day though.
If he does run in 2008, I'm going to find it very easy to support him. This is what Democrats are supposed to do... talk about the injustice of rich capital owners taking more and more of the economic pie from the average laborer.
Peggy Noonan writes in the WSJ that Bush & co. might be starting to think about who would make a good VP instead of Dick Cheney. Not necessarily because of the hunting thing, but because we on the left are always going to hate Cheney (true!).
I've speculated on this before, even going so far as to include the hypothetical in an email to my college class that in June "new Vice President John McCain will be attempting to clean up lobbyist/congress relationships". [The other hypotheticals were that the Steelers would win the Super Bowl, and that Bode Miller would down a Coors Lite before winning the Giant Slalom... so 1 out of 2 so far ain't bad]
I'm out of town tomorrow, so here's this week's update to the 2008 odds, a day early:
GOP: - Cheney down from 75:1 to 125:1. Does this need explanation? - George Allen up from 7:1 to 6:1. Some buzz lately. - John McCain down from 3:1 to 7:2. The Obama spat wasn't very elegant. - Sam Brownback up from 30:1 to 20:1. Die hard conservatives might re-circle the wagons after disastrous Bushie.
Dems: - Al Gore back into the 4th spot, swapping with Evan Bayh. Some good press lately. - Dropping some of the middle tier people a little: Joe Biden from 17:1 to 20:1, Daschle 20:1 to 22:1. - Removing Ed Rendell... he's got a tough fight to keep the PA governorship from Lynn Swann.
Mike Bloomberg: Independent (or Democrat!) for President in 2008?
So speculates the NY Observer, saying that Bloomie's closest political aide is pushing for it, on a platform of nonpartisanship and competence. The article says he'd line up somewhere between a Hillary Clinton and a Giuliani. But that's a problem right there... I doubt Bloomberg would run against Giuliani, since he propelled Mike to City Hall.
Bloomberg has said briefly that he's not thinking of running, though he did write in his autobiography that the job interested him and that he thinks he'd be good.
He does have the $ to finance an independent run.
Anyway, this is all such wild speculation, but it's going to lead me to do something interesting: I'm inserting Mike Bloomberg into the Presidential Odds of BOTH PARTIES! He'll debut at 33:1 for the Democrats, and at 45:1 for the Republicans.
On Meet the Press this weekend, Tom Daschle made the point I made two posts below... that the spying program is necessary and should continue, but that it should be legislatively approved by Congress or conducted under FISA.
This is the right position, and is where Democrats should position themselves on this issue.
With 2006 now 1/12 over, the 2008 race will increasingly come into better focus. The first primaries are just about 2 years from now, meaning the running will start in earnest this time next year, and that 2006 will really help identify who has the potential to raise the big money needed to sustain the pace in 2007 and 2008.
Here are the latest implications:
GOP: - The three Republicans running for House majority leader will all become bigger on the national stage. John Boehner won, beating Roy Blunt and John Shaddegg. All three are 56, and I'm sure would all love to run for president some day. Boehner is indeed the most presidential of the group, and comes from bellweather Ohio which is a great asset in a Pres race. But 2008 is too early for him, especially now that he's won a new post. If the Dems win in 2008, look for Boehner to throw his hat in the ring in 2012. - Chuck Hagel continues to be critical of the White House, which both helps and hurts his chances in 2008. And he scored a lead article in the NYT Magazine. I haven't read it yet, but will write up a summary when I do. Hagel is my favorite among the Republicans (which isn't saying much). I would be thrilled if he got the GOP nomination. - Haley Barbour said he wasn't running for President, but was going to run for re-election as Governor in 2007. So I'm dropping his odds from 19:1 to 40:1.
Democrats oppose Bush. For the last six years that's been our party's main function. Sure, we have positions, policies, ideas, principals and those influence when and how vehemently we oppose the President. But more often than not our principals are expressed as opposition to a conflicting Republican principal, rather than an uncoerced statement of our own.
Which brings me to the eavsdropping/wiretapping issue. Bush did something in the gray area of the law, and therefore Democrats have rushed to oppose it. It may or may not be smart politically - most Americans are very conscious of civil liberties and are glad Dems are standing up for them, but most Americans also think the Dems are weak on security, so we don't want to give the impression that we're soft, or that we won't use every power to protect citizens.
But it's worth noting that very conservative Republicans, like Sam Brownback also oppose this Bush policy. Is it because Bush has just gone too far?
I'm not so sure. As a European, I don't really get the American fascination with civil liberties above and beyond everything else. Safety, considering that I live in Iran's second and Al Qaeda's first favorite nuclear target, is one thing I definitely put ahead of my civil liberties. I understand that American democracy is about freedom, etc. But I actually (yikes) agree with President Bush that freedom doesn't mean squat if you're dead.
So let's be careful not to rush to criticize the eavsdropping itself. The legal framework through which it is conducted - fine. But let's also be clear that if the law is behind the technology, we must FIX THE LAW! Because what Bush is doing SHOULD be legal, whether or not it actually is.
To put forward a $2.77 trillion budget, calling for significant cuts in 140 programs, while also pushing to make his tax cuts permanent, both of which will give him tenure over the largest budget deficits to date and probably at least the near future.... takes serious cohones. This guy just doesn't seem to care what people think of him. I suppose, for that, he deserves some credit.
But my god, does he really expect us 20 years from now to look back on his policy of widening the already serious wealth disparities in this country as positive?
I think my online tax preparation software (taxactonline.com) votes Republican.
At the end of completing my taxes, it runs these alerts, which basically are supposed to tell you if anything looks weird in your filing. It's a nice little service.
But I just got this one. It is a "green" alert, meaning nothing to worry about, but you might be interested to know (numbers removed and replaced with appropriate letters)...
You have benefited from the lower capital gain tax rates. With a taxable income of $X you would have a tax of $Y using the tax tables or tax rate schedules. However, since you have capital gains or qualified dividends you are allowed to compute your tax at the lower capital gain tax rates. This gives you a tax of $Z. A savings of $GOP!
So thank you, Tax Act, for reminding me that George Bush has given me some extra profit on my investments this year. Hmm, am I going to take that extra profit and buy something, stimulating your economy? No. Like any investor, I'm going to reinvest it and try to get rich, so maybe someday I can vote Republican!
Elaborating on my initial read from last night, the State of the Union speech was somewhat encouraging politically, but discouraging from a how-the-hell-are-we-going-to-fix-this-country standpoint.
Clearly, the agenda has been downscaled in recognition of Bush's low popularity and the Democrats new-found effectiveness on batting away unpopular proposals (see 2005 and social security). To that end, Bush might have come across as good because he took few chances. He didn't propose anything extremely bold or Republican (but did propose things that are boring and Republican, like extending the tax cuts).
But it's discouraging that a President, with the nation watching, didn't do more to fix the world in the most immediate ways it needs fixing. When you tell us that America is "addicted to oil", give us some suggestions as to what we can do today, rather than just telling us that you're working for an X% reduction by Y year. Because I don't believe you are, Mr. Bush.
Bush's speech gives a political opening to the Democrats in this important election year. Because Bush will have failed to set the agenda by not mentioning any broad plans, Democrats have an opportunity to fill the idea vacuum. I heard all about this great platform they were going to roll out - outlining to the country what the party stands for.