Friday, October 01, 2004

Random thoughts for the morning after 
Kerry kicked ass. Bush was on his heels all night, rallied a few times, but couldn't come up with a sustained defense and his attacks were weak.

Kerry definitely looked, acted, and sounded presidential. Bush looked and sounded weak and uncertain. He had flop-sweat.

Kerry in a unanimous decision.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Quick take: Debate 1 
Kerry: A-
Bush: C-

Quick take: Kerry - "Iraq is a colossal error and we must rebuild alliances to fix it"
Quick Take: Bush - "Being President is hard. It's hard. It's really hard"

Duberstein's trenchant analysis 
Ken Duberstein, who was once Ronald Reagan's White House Chief of Staff and now finds work as an advisor to Republicans and as a journeyman right-wing hatchetman on the talking-head shows, is described in his online bio as enjoying "bi-partisan demand for his insightful and honest appraisal of the political realities currently facing America."

He was on Hardball last night talking about John Kerry. If this is what passes for insightful appraisal, I've got a bridge to sell to Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: How can he on both sides of every issue if he‘s got a 100 percent liberal voting record?

DUBERSTEIN: Guess what?

MATTHEWS: Sounds to me like he‘s always on the liberal side.

DUBERSTEIN: And guess what? He‘s also nuanced, which is a French word!

Bit by bit ... 
... the Patriot Act's most odious provisions are being struck down as anathema to the American ideal and, not coincidentally, the US Constitution.

From today's New York Times:

Judge Strikes Down Section of Patriot Act Allowing Secret Subpoenas of Internet Data


A federal judge struck down an important surveillance provision of the antiterrorism legislation known as the USA Patriot Act yesterday, ruling that it broadly violated the Constitution by giving the federal authorities unchecked powers to obtain private information.

The ruling, by Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan, was the first to uphold a challenge to the surveillance sections of the act, which was adopted in October 2001 to expand the powers of the federal government in national security investigations.

The ruling invalidated one piece of the law, finding that it violated both free speech guarantees and protection against unreasonable searches. It is thought likely to provide fuel for other court challenges.

The ruling came in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against a kind of subpoena created under the act, known as a national security letter. Such letters could be used in terrorism investigations to require Internet service companies to provide personal information about subscribers and would bar them from disclosing to anyone that they had received a subpoena.

Such a subpoena could be issued without court review, under provisions that seemed to bar the recipient from discussing it with a lawyer.

Judge Marrero vehemently rejected that provision, saying that it was unique in American law in its "all-inclusive sweep" and had "no place in our open society."

The Dick  
Is this a flip-flop? Cheney's observations, circa 1992 [via Digby at Hullabaloo]
We stopped when we did, and it was a unanimous recommendation on the part of the President's advisors, civilian and military, we stopped when we did because we had achieved our objectives. We had said from the outset that our purpose was to liberate Kuwait and destroy Saddam Hussein's capacity to threaten his neighbors, his offensive military capability, we did that. We destroyed about two-thirds of his army in that portion that he sent in to Kuwait and Iraq, and stripped him of most of his weapons of mass destruction.

We could have gone on. There is no doubt in my mind, from a military standpoint we could have sent forces on down the road to Baghdad, captured Baghdad, but I would expect in terms of trying to get rid of Saddam Hussein that it would not have been an easy task. I don't think it was the kind of situation where we could have pulled up with a paddywagon in front of the Presidential Palace and said, "Come on Saddam, you're going to the slammer." I think we would have had to run him to ground, and doing that in Baghdad or in a nation as large as Iraq would have involved a lot of US forces.

Once we rounded up Saddam, then the question is what do you do? You're going to put a government in his place. Presumably, you're not just going to turn your back and walk away. You have to put some kind of a government in its place. And then the question comes is it going to be a Shi'a government or a Kurdish government, or maybe a Sunni government, or maybe it ought to be based on the old Baathist Party regime, or some combination thereof.

How long is that government to be able to stay in power without US military support to keep it there? How long can we maintain the coalition?

Remember we entered into this activity with the support of 30 other nations. A very important part of that support was the support of other Arab nations who took up arms against a brother Arab state, who allowed us to operate military forces from their territory, who sent combat forces to fight alongside our people in Kuwait.

How long could we have maintained that coalition of Arab states if we had been involved in the long-range occupation by the US in Iraq? I would guess if we had gone on to Baghdad I would still have forces in Iraq today. I don't know how we would have let go of that tar baby once we had grabbed hold of it.

A final point that I think is very important. Everybody is fond of looking back at Desert Storm and saying that it was, in fact, a low cost conflict because we didn't suffer very many casualties. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low cost conflict. The question, to my mind, in terms of this notion that we should have gone on and occupied Iraq is how many additional American casualties would we have had to suffer? How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? And the answer I would give is not very damn many.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Vote for Bush? Only in Bizarro-world 
A friend of mine who recently moved to a rather conservative town in California had emailed me, looking for some constructive criticism on a letter-to-the-editor he was composing in support of Kerry. In fact I didn't think much of his letter - it was way too wishy-washy and didn't define sharply enough why people should not vote for Bush. I sent him a long response, most of which delineated what I think are some of the major failings of the Bush administration, taking the issues my friend had raised in his letter point by point.

He wanted me to edit it a bit and then submit it to his paper as a possible op-ed. It's not that good - but it does hit a lot of reasons why Bush is so undeserving of election. So I'm posting it here, for whatever its worth:
I do not believe George Bush believes in any of the things you mention, at least in any way outside of fantasyland, where all people are white, straight, fundamentalist Christian, and wealthy. Leave the rhetoric aside - by his actions over the last four years Bush has demonstrated his disdain for education, his lack of interest in the the needs of working families, and his contempt for seniors.

He forced NCLB[No Child Left Behind] through Congress, guided by an Education Secretary who likened the teachers union to a terrorist organization. He's cut back on all the programs that help support struggling families - AFDC[Aid to Families with Dependent Children], WIC[Food Stamps], HEAP[Home Energy Assistance Program] - while his income tax cuts have forced the burden of public programs increasingly onto working folks, via increases in fees, state and local income taxes, property tax, gasoline tax, sales taxes - all of which are far more regressive than the income tax and thus hurt people who work for a living, for wages. (whether their income is $10,000 or $250,000 per year). Under Bush, seniors have been forbidden by law to seek less expensive Canadian prescription drugs, Medicare has been forbidden to seek volume drug discounts, Medicare's new "drug discount card" program, for which seniors must pay, provides them in many cases with drugs that cost MORE than they would cost at retail, and privatizing social security would require either drastic benefit cuts or 4 TRILLION dollars of new taxes to make up the shortfall in Social Security fund income.

On National Security: Yes, Bush says he's for a strong defense, but his conduct of American foreign and military policy demonstrates the opposite. His lack of knowledge and misunderstanding of what would provide security - strong alliances and a perception in the Muslim world that the US is a fair arbiter - argue against him. The conduct of the Iraq war, from its conception to today, show that (beyond the war's dubious merits) he and his team do not understand and are incapable of pursuing an effective military policy. Our armed forces are grossly understaffed, deployments in Iraq are at half or less of the levels needed, and every senior General who said so has been demoted or forced into retirement. On the Homeland Security front, our ports, borders, and chemical plants are no more secure than on 9/10/2001. The CIA today has fewer Middle East experts and Arabic speakers than in 2001.

George Bush may very well believe that the economy is growing. Why shouldn't he? It is doing very, very well for Halliburton, CACI, The Carlisle Group, Exxon-Mobil, and other friends of the Bush and Cheney families. Paradoxically, the unemployement rate is at a modest 5.4%, but economists believe that this is, in large part, a result of the long-term unemployed dropping off rolls when their benefits end. Indeed, there are about 1 million fewer jobs today than in January 2001 when Bush took office, and the number of jobs that ought to have been created in the last 4 years but have not is about 6.5 million - we are SHORT 7.5 million jobs. Not good for workers. And even the stock market isn't doing very well. The DJIA has been hovering around 10,000 for several years - about 10% lower than in 2001 - and the NASDAQ average has declined by 15% in just the last few months. In part due to failures in Iraq and partly due to the long-standing relationship between the Bush, Saud, and bin Laden families, oil prices are at an all-time high (and thus, in the medium-term, the price of EVERYthing will go up - note that interest rates on on the rise, too). The economy is weak, and likely soon to get weaker.

You have the right facts on education - but again, I think they demonstrate that Bush's goals are the exact opposite of what he claims. His real goals seem to be to dismantle the American system of public education entirely, in favor of parochial/religious schools for the "lower" classes and prohibitively expensive private schools for the wealthy.

Finally, I do not agree that Bush has a clear vision of where he wants the country to be in 4 years. Certainly some of his advisors do - the neo-cons see a future of US world hegemony and a fantasyland Pax Americana that is collapsing as we watch. The Christian right sees an equally fantastical world of 100% Jesus-loving heterosexuals who have sex only for procreation and even then only in the dark. But Bush himself? He seems to have no vision beyond being the coolest guy with the best toys in the world. In true Bizarro-world fashion, Bush has tarred Kerry with the brush that really applies to him - he's taken almost every side of every issue over the past few years - his clear vision, if he has one, extends about 72 hours out. Beyond that, all bets are off.

Oil wars 
A key focus for John Kerry's presidency is going to be ENERGY. Yeah, oil. It's not that we're in danger (yet) of running out of the stuff, but consumption is on the rise worldwide. Prices, now at or near their all-time highs, will only get higher still. 2003 the first year EVER when proven oil reserves did not increase. China has emerged as the world's second largest oil consumer and, as the Indian economy also generates a rapidly growing middle class, they too are increasing their energy demands.

The combination of these economic forces and the recent production shortfalls resulting from dicey political conditions in Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, have produced $50/bbl crude, and the outlook is for prices to stay there, and even to increase as demand does. The 2.5 BILLION people in Asia's emerging capitalist states can and will use a hell of a lot more oil than we do - competition for that limited resource is going to be really stiff.

That coming competition, if not addressed now, will almost certainly lead to wars. Big ones, and lots of little ones. Wars over access to oil, access to shipping lanes, access to pipelines, access to ports, access to refining capacity. The art of attracting other countries into regional, political, and economic pacts and alliances will make the Cold War look like a game of pattycake.

Unlike George Bush, who is a child of and is beholden to the awl bidness, John Kerry can strike off into new territory - new industries for alternative energy sources like photovoltaics, fuel cells, windpower, geothermal, and alternatives to gasoline like biodiesel and alcohol. A lot of good research has been done over the last 30 years and, with even a moderate amount of new research money, photovoltaics could become a viable option for many homeowners. A PV cell / battery / controller setup large enough to power a small, energy efficient home can be had today for $15,000-$20,000 - and as PV cell efficiency increases (it's now around 8%) - such systems will become both smaller and more economical. At $50/bbl for oil, those alternative technologies that have been moribund for years because they've been more expensive than oil will come back - again, with a bit of help in research money and tax incentives from the Feds. If we (the USA) show that we can replace our dependence on fossil fuels with renewable, less polluting, AND CHEAPER sources, we'll be back in the world's economic driver's seat.

We can do this - we have the know-how and we now have the incentive - all that's wanting is someone to lead. George Bush ain't gonna do it - it's contrary to his interests. John Kerry can and, for the future of the US and the health of the world, he must.

Scottso signs off for the last time 
No more Friday afternoon "Things from England." No more gravelly-voiced Professor. Scott Muni, legendary New York DJ and one of the creators of free-form radio, has passed away at the age of 74. I still miss the WNEW-FM of its 1969-80 heyday - with its quirky mix of Muni, Jonathan Schwartz, Alison Steele, Dave Herman, and the even quirkier B-team - Vin Scelsa, Michael Cuscuna, John Zacherle - all of whom were given jobs by Muni, who was the longtime Program Director at 'NEW.

That kind of intelligent radio is hard to find anymore - Scelsa on Saturday nights at WFUV, Schwartz on WNYC on weekend afternoons, here and there on satellite radio or the internet. It used to be the rule - now it's the exception. I miss it, and I'll miss Scottso.

Concert for Kerry/Edwards 
I'm really pleased to be a sponsor of an exciting fundraiser for John Kerry and John Edwards - the
Concert For Kerry Edwards Victory '04

The concert, to be held at the Maplewood Women's Club on October 17th, features some of my absolute favorite musicians: Odetta, Marshall Crenshaw, Greg Brown, The Roches, and Iris DeMent. I don't know if there's ever before been such a star-studded concert in Maplewood. Tickets start at $100 and, considering the talent on view, would be well worth it even if it were only for the music. It's oh so much better that the money is going to help elect John Kerry.

And, of course, you might even get to meet me. What more could you want?

For more details and tickets, visit the website or call 973-325-0936.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Not 900K, not 1.7M, but 7,500,000 jobs lost since 1/2001 
Okay - I am not an economist.

Every month, like everyone else, I see news reports about the number of new jobs and the number of new unemployment claims. Almost daily I, like everyone else who's paying attention to the election, hear the competing claims about jobs - Bush crowing about the low unemployment rate, Kerry about the loss of jobs over the last 4 years. There seems to be little doubt that jobs HAVE been lost since Bush took office, even if the number of jobs is in dispute - Kerry supporters claim 1.7 million fewer jobs while Bush supporters (when they can be pinned down on the issue) admit to 900,000 or so fewer jobs than in January 2001.

Here's where my lack of economic sophistication comes into play. The conventional wisdom vis-a-vis job growth is that, given the current US population, the economy must create 150,000 new jobs (in addition to those already in existence) in order to keep up with work-force growth. I.e., about 150,000 people enter the workforce every month. Both the Bush and the Kerry job numbers address only those jobs that existed in January 2001- but, by that workforce growth rule-of-thumb, the 44 months of the Bush administration should have seen the creation of (44*150,000=)6,600,000 new jobs. According to the most recent job numbers I saw, the US economy had 131.5 million jobs, compared to 132.4 million jobs at the end of the Clinton administration, for a net loss of about 900K jobs. But that ignores the 6.6 million jobs that should have been created over the same period to keep up with workforce growth. There ought to be 138.1 million jobs in the US today.

Again, I'm not an economist, so I have no way of knowing if my reasoning here is valid, and I'd appreciate someone telling me if these numbers work ... but it certainly seems as if, during George Bush's tenure, the jobs shortfall is at least 7.5 Million.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?