Thursday, September 30

The Debates are Coming!

And along with them I expect most of our common sense will be leaving.

My predictions.

Bush will state that:

- "The World is Safer without Sadam Hussein"

- "The hope of democracy is better than the rule of and an evil-doer"

- "How can you tell what my opponent will do, he's had so many different positions on this he could pratically debate himself"

Kerry will state that:

- "I've had only one position on this subject Mr President. I wanted Sadam Hussein gone and I'm glad he's gone - but we entered this war in the wrong way"

- "We need to utilize our allies more effectively, to help cut the spiralling costs of the war, help ensure the legitimacy of the new Iraqi government and effectively fight the insurgency in order to bring security and a true democracy to the region"

- "How can you continue to trust this President, when he's been wrong so many times so far and has lead us down the wrong path time and time again?"

-----

And this will all probably happen in the first five minutes.

The real quesion is what happens after that? Most pundits agree that Kerry needs to land a devestating knock-out punch in order to bring himself out of the poll slump he's been in since the Republican Convention. He needs to answer and frankly bury the character question, if possible he needs to the throw the President off message by clearly and concisely pointing out the absurdities of that message.

Somehow, even without WMD's, Nuclear Weapons or actual ties to al Qaeda - Sadam Hussein became the most dangerous man in the world, and needed to be removed from power - not at some later date using deplomacy and negotiation as other despots such as Pinoche or Marcos were removed, but right now using force - even more urgently than Osama Bin Laden needed to be caught and his terrorist network dismantled?

That seems a tough sell to me, but that is exactly what this President has been successfully selling to the American public.

Kerry on the other hand has the problem of having a career almost entirely as a legislator, not an administrator. Other than his Vietnam experience, exactly how he would lead this nation as the chief executive, as opposed to how he might vote or argue within a body of equally powerful fellow lawmakers remains a serious question. Is he all talk and no action?

They say that a strong showing in a debate can "reset the clock" on a campaign erasing all past mis-steps and illuminating either a bright new path or a bleak and dreary trail for the future of the candidate.

Will this happen for either President Bush or Candidate Kerry?

We'll all find out tonight.

Let the games begin!!

Vyan


Wednesday, September 29

Preaching to the Unconverted

I have a theory. One of many.

I have a theory about why it is that mountains of facts, documents and figures in support of perfectly reasonable point of view - is not always going to be convincing, effective or persuasive for all persons.

Logic dictates that it should be. That in an honest, good-faith debate with the truth, the facts should prevail, but the real truth is that often they do not.

It's easy to rail that your opponent must be "too stupid" to comprehend.

They must be nuts! What's wrong with them?

Well, this is where my theory comes into play.

The problem is a matter of faith.

There are many types of faith, many types of believers. Especially TRUE believers. There are those who are true born-again Christian believers. There are devout Catholics. Pious Jews and fervant Muslims.

There are those who have a fervent and deep faith that the free-market will cure all public, private and social ills if it is only allowed to function at peak efficiency without governments, unions, trial lawyers or environmental activist gumming up the works.

There are those who believe that corporations are inherently greedy and evil, incapable of accomplishing anything except the exploitation of consumers, workers and despoiling the environment.

And all of these people, with all of there varying and opposing beliefs will in fact be correct - at least some of the time. All true believers can find isolated examples that justify their faith - while at the same time almost none of them can seem to make their rationales apply to all cases : equally guaranteeing repeatable results.

The problem isn't what they believe - it's why they believe.

The human animal is a strange twisted beast. An animal to be sure, but one that in addition to mere food, water and bread to survive - also needs to have a sense of understanding of the universe around it. Man needs a reason, for why the Sun doesn't fall from the sky and land on the porch. Why the wind blows on and on but we never seem to run out of air.

Without getting into a long description of how man first invented the concept of "Gods" - let's just skip to forward and recognize that two parrellel explainations continue to hold sway even in the modern time.

Creation vs Evolution.

Evolution being based on Science tends to explain the universe in cold unromantic terms. Creation grants that there is something, possibly someone, far beyond our understanding who has a plan for our lives and influences us in great and subtle ways in accordance with that plan.

Typical of a true Radical Centrist: I am going to state that my own belief is that both of these view are completely full of it - because both of them are most likely correct at the same time.

To me, the more you study in detail the exquisite design and incredible accomplishment and wonder of the smallest sub-atomic partical to the largest natural formations of rock and ice that exist on this world -- the more it becomes clear that the simple random cosmic luck that it would take to bring this into being is far beyond any explaination of science. But at the same time, the beleive that an single large male all-seeing all-knowing GOD in flowing white robes who created the heavens, the stars, sun, moon and earth in just seven "days" - is equally ridiculous.

The truth is somewhere between.

The world evolved, but that doesn't mean that this evolution didn't occur in stages (Just as culture "evolved" from the Neolithic Age to the Bronze and Iron Ages) - that evolution was not completely random, but the result of complex interactions of weather, climate, personality and chance.

A living model of fractal socialogy.

Or just possibly, is that complex, random but-not-so-random set of events in reality leading our lives from one point to the next in fact the hand of God in action?

Man needs Faith.

It explains and it comforts.

The problem is that it can also distort and blind. People like to cling to their faiths, they clutch and claw at them like an child's toy or teddy bear they refuse to outgrow.

Furthermore: Faith can be dangerous. It can be exploited and manipulated by other men. Men who recognize the power that Faith has to short-circuit common sense, and have for centuries utilized that fact to help line their own coffers and confer power and influences to their own houses.

Beware the false profits. Beware the power-whores.

Beware the Bin Ladin's. The al-Sudr's. The Falwells. And even the Jackson's and the Sharpton's, too.

Listen to all sources. Contrast and compare. Offer them all the benefit of the doubt, for all men will be right at least some of the time -- but in the end...

...just make up your own damn mind, and stop worrying about why "they" just don't understand.

Some of the faithful never will.

And frankly, some of the scientific types are the worst.

Vyan

Tuesday, September 28

Tax cuts cost the poor?

The Detroit News has just released a report, six months in the making that details how the Bush Tax Cuts have accompanied cuts in job training, support for low-income seniors, and college aid - while the primary beneficiaries of these cuts are people who are making over $300,000 and are far from in desperate need.

Those on the left are sure to claim this is an "Aha! Gotcha", while those on the right will claim that this yet again another example of left-wing class warfare.

But just where does the truth lie?

Vyan

Democracy for Sale: First Class and 4 Stars Only

Recently a team of Graduate Students from Northwestern researched through the archives of Congression Travel Records (kept underground beneath the Capital) and found that Congression Ethics rules are being regularly violated when it comes to free travel offerred to Congressmen by lobbyists.

Certainly none of this is shocking or even surprising, but the amount of money upwards of $14 Million in gifts given since 2000 and how this money has been used to modify votes and legislation both by Republicans and Democrats should be shocking,

It's become a sad state of affairs that this ongoing politlcal bribery is taken instride, and that ability of monied interests to turn the government into a wholely owned subsidary of their corporations barely raises and eyebrow anymore.

Just Take a look here and see just how many gifts your representatives have taken.

Using methods such as these, pharmecutical industry lobbyists were able to block access to cheaper canadian drugs and limit the ability of medicare's bulk buying power to keep the cost of prescription drugs down in the just passed Medicare Drug Bill.

These things matter.

And this is yet another reason why we need not just Campaign Finance Reform, we need Democracy Reform

Vyan

Kerry: Firm on Iraq from Day one

THe Bush Campaign has done a masterful job of painting John Kerry as an indecisive flip-flopper, but does this match reality?

Here's what Kerry said on the Senate floor before voting to give Bush the authority (to use force on Iraq):

Kerry (Oct. 9, 2002) Let there be no doubt or confusion about where we stand on this. I will support a multilateral effort to disarm him (Saddam) by force, if we ever exhaust those other options, as the President has promised, but I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible under any circumstances.

Change in his position? There's been no change.

Vyan

Hijacking the Vote

From NPR's Morning Edition Reported Yesterday that:

Warlords in Afghanistan could hijack upcoming elections and entrench their own power, a report from Human Rights Watch warns. The group says local strongmen are using force, threats and corruption to dominate the election process and intimidate candidates and voters.

Read the HRW Report

This presents us in an interesting situation when contrasted with the level of security available in Iraq. If true security can not be established, can the final result of the any election be trusted?

Vyan

Monday, September 27

Blue Curtain Ads : True Campaign Reform

Few who take any real time to view the modern political landscape and the quality of public information these days would fail to lament it's sad sorry state.

Even after the passage of the McCain/Fiengold Campaign Finance Bill the problem seems worse than ever, more soft-money is flowing and the ability to get un-spun legitimate facts about our candidates and the choices we face becomes more and more difficult.

At the rate we're going it won't be long before Senator John Kerry will be accused of being a pot-head draft dodger, while President George Bush will be hailed as a battle-tested medal carrying war hero who bravely charged into a hail of bullets to save a drowning Vietnamese boy using nothing more than his teeth.

Or we might soon be hearing claims of how Bush has secretly been working in cohoots with the Bin Laden family to ensure that the events of 9/11 would not be impeded by the U.S. Government in exchange for al Qaeda guaranteeing that Bush, as an incumbent President during a War, would be certain to win a second term unlike his father.

Don't scoff - claims like this may be coming from a 527 near you quite soon, while Mainstream (and increasingly Right and even MORE Right-wing) media either sits on it's hands or rolls it's eyes.

The problem is that campaign financing, is not the problem.

It's not a question of supply, it's a question of demand.

By and large the greatest portion of campaign funds are spent on television advertising. And even in the modern age of the internet and blogs, the primary method that most people still receive their general news and information is from broadcast TV.

No matter how much we try to limit the ability of individuals and corporate entities to spend money on their political choices, the money will keep flowing and it will keep getting spent by the candidates on TV time. This we can not change, certainly not while the Supreme Court continues to define the process of giving money as "Free Speach".

But what can be changed is the type and quality of political commentary that we receive directly from the candidates. Currently the FCC sets rules which dictate that local TV stations are required to have a certain percentage of local news programming. They also set rules which dictate how many commercials can be shown per hour and to a large extent when. With this in mind, it's quite possible for the FCC to set a rule that requires that a certain number of minutes per day or week on each and every local broadcast television station (but not cable, as cable is a "paid" service, not a public institution and not subject to the same level of detailed FCC scrutiny - right Janet?) be dedicated to providing for local political statements directly from all potential candidates.

You can call them - the "Blue Curtain" spots, where the candidate has an oppurtunity to speak directly to the public, free of charge, before a generic blue curtain or screen, no expensive graphics or the booming voice of a professional narrator, no props, no dramatic footage of soldiers at war or workers in the factory, no frills at all, nothing but the candidate in their own words, telling us - the voters - their own ideas.

Neat, right?

In additional to this, the FCC has the ability to re-instate the Fairness Doctrine which lapsed in the Reagan era and would require that each opposing view would receive equal time and equal coverage. So if one candidate takes advantage of this free - but limited - local air time, each and every opposing candidate could do so as well.

Politicians spend a significant portion of the time that they're supposedly working for us raising funds and smoozing donors for their next campaign. Maybe instead of jet-setting from one fundraiser to the next - they might actually be able to sit down and read some of the legislation they're supposed to be voting on?

The "Blue Curtain" suggestion wouldn't eliminate political donations. There would still be paid political advertising by candidates (when the free time is exhausted, or through non-broadcast outlets such as cable), but wouldn't it be nice to put just a little dent in the swirling cesspoll of legalized bribery that currently passes for our political process?

Certainly the opposition to idea will be fierce, particularly from Broadcast outlets who currently depend on the millions (billions?) of ad revenue dollars they regularly collect during election season. To offset some of these revenue loses, time donated by the stations to local and national political discourse in methods similar to the "Blue Curtain Spots" should be considered tax deductable at the fair market rate for ads within that timeslot. This would have the benefit of encouraging stations to show these ads in prime-time when people are actually watching rather than during dreamtime (3am to 6am) in between infomericals for "5 Minute Wash-Board Abs in 2 Seconds!" and the "New Improved Ass-Master - now with Kung-Fu Grip!"

But the truth is the airwaves do not legally belong to these corporations, they belong to the people, the public. And as such their use - first and foremost - should to serve the execution of the people's business.

Otherwise known as Democracy.

It's a simple Idea, but a simple idea still has the potential to change a great deal of our political landscape, our country and the world.

All we have to do is try, and at least trying to do something positive is better than throwing up our hands and walking away from the process as so many have done.

Vyan

The 2004th Psalm

Fun things I found on Democrats.org: Enjoy!

The 2004th Psalm

Bush is my shepherd, I shall be in want.

He maketh me to lie down on park benches.

He leadeth me beside the still factories.

He restoreth my doubts about the Republican Party.

He leadeth me from the paths of employment for his cronies’ sake.

Yea, though no weapons of mass destruction have been found,

He makest me continue to fear Evil.

His tax cuts for the rich and his deficit spending discomfort me.

He anointest me with never-ending debt:

Verily my days of savings and assets are kaput.

Surely poverty and hard living shall follow me all the days of his administration,

And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever. -Anonymous

Who wants who to win the Presidency?

Published on Thursday, January 22, 2004 by the Salt Lake Tribune
Al-Qaida will do Whatever it Takes to Assure Bush is Re-elected
by Gwynne Dyer

"I have always admired Edward Luttwak, one of the clearest American thinkers in the strategy/security game, and I have nothing but contempt for the U.S. Homeland Security Department (Heimatsicherheitsabteilung, in the original German) and its ridiculous color-coded threat levels.

So I started reading a recent article by the former on the latter with genuine pleasure, anticipating that Luttwak was going to condemn Homeland Security for its habit of running up the levels from puce to magenta and back down to mauve, shredding Americans' nerves with warnings nobody can respond to in a useful way, for no better reason than to cover its own bureaucratic behind.

That's just what he did, and the article was rollicking along with me cheering Luttwak on every line of the way -- when his whole argument suddenly veered off into the ditch, rolled three times, and lay there bleeding.

What he said was: "The successive warnings of ill-defined threats that frighten many Americans are achieving the very aim of the terrorists. Terrorism cannot materially weaken the United States, so their entire purpose is precisely to terrorize, to make Americans unhappy, in the hope that this will induce them to accept terrorist demands."

If one of the most clever security analysts in the country has got no further than this in his thinking about what the terrorists want, then it's no surprise that 60 or 70 percent of Luttwak's fellow countrymen believe that Saddam Hussein sent the terrorists. He thinks that the terrorists are trying to make Americans unhappy in order to "induce them to accept terrorist demands"? What demands could the Islamist terrorists of al-Qaida possibly make that the United States could conceivably grant?

Fly them all to Havana? Convert to Islam? Put the money in unmarked notes in a brown paper bag and leave it behind the radiator? The whole notion that this is some sort of giant extortion operation is as naive (or as wilfully ignorant) as the Bush administration's pet explanation that the terrorists attack the U.S. because "they hate our freedoms." Unfortunately, the post-9-11 intellectual climate in the United States has prevented any serious discussion of the terrorists' goals and their strategies for achieving them.

In the post-9-11 chill, even conceding that the terrorist leaders are intelligent people with rational goals seemed somehow disloyal to America's dead. Instead, it was assumed that their fanaticism made them too blind or stupid for purposeful action at the strategic level. Even terrorist groups as marginal and self-deluded as the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Weathermen had a more or less coherent analysis, political goals and some notion of how their attacks moved them toward those goals, but the public debate in the U.S. grants none of that to al-Qaida.

Yet the Islamist radicals have always been completely open about their goals. They want to take power in the Muslim countries (phase one of the project), and then unite the entire Muslim world in a final struggle to overthrow the power of the West (phase two). They are still stuck in phase one, with little to show for it despite 30 years of trying, so in the early 1990s Osama bin Laden and his colleagues switched from head-on assaults on the regimes in Muslim countries to direct attacks on Western targets. Yet their first-phase goal remains seizing power in the Muslim world, not some fantasy about "bringing the West to its knees."

Terrorists generally rant about their goals but stay silent about their strategies, so now we have to do a little work for ourselves. If the real goal is still revolutions that bring Islamist radicals to power, then how does attacking the West help? Well, the U.S. in particular may be goaded into retaliating by bombing or even invading various Muslim countries -- and in doing so, may drive enough aggrieved Muslims into the arms of the Islamist radicals that their long-stalled revolutions against local regimes finally get off the ground.

Most analysts outside the United States long ago concluded that that was the principal motive for the 9-11 attack. They would add that by giving the Bush administration a reason to attack Afghanistan, and at least a flimsy pretext for invading Iraq, al-Qaida's attacks have paid off handsomely. U.S. troops are now the unwelcome military rulers of more than 50 million Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and people there and elsewhere are turning to the Islamist radicals as the only force in the Muslim world that is willing and able to defy American power.

It is astonishing how little this is understood in the United States. I know of no American analyst who has even made the obvious point that al-Qaida wants Bush to win next November's presidential election and continue his interventionist policies in the Middle East for another four years, and will act to save Bush from defeat if necessary.

It probably would not do so unless Bush's number were slipping badly, for any terrorist attack on U.S. soil carries the risk of stimulating resentment against the current administration for failing to prevent it.

Certainly another attack on the scale of 9-11 would risk producing that result, even if al-Qaida had the resources for it. But a simple truck bomb in some U.S. city center a few months before the election, killing just a couple of dozen Americans, could drive voters back into Bush's arms and turn a tight election around. Al-Qaida is clever enough for that. "

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
© Copyright 2004, The Salt Lake Tribune


One Wonderful Site...

I highly recommend that anyone interested in that elusive sasquatch of of politics - TRUTH - take some time to visit Factcheck.org This site calls both sides of this upcoming election to the carpet for their lies and exaggerations, and God Almighty do we need someone to do this because we're wading neck deep is double-talk this year, yet never before have we needed to know the truth and to make the correct decision for our future, our childrens future and the future of the world.

Vyan

Give me one reason...

When will the Repubs finally reach their breaking point with Bush?

The CIA says - "We're looking at Civil War (In Iraq)." Bush says -"Everythings fine. They (the CIA) are just guessing" (Just guessingnow, or they've just been "guessing" all along?)

Two years ago the Bush Administration said that his tax cuts would generate 5.6 Million jobs. Today we're still over 3 million jobs short of that projection, but Bush says the "economy is doing just fine".

The Bush Admin claims that Kerry is weak on defense because he voted against one defense appropriations bill in 1990, yet fail to mention the other 16 appropriations bills that he voted FOR, and that then Secretary of Defense DICK CHENEY testified before Congress that year that we didn't need the Apache Helicopter and dozens of other weapons systems any more in the post-cold war world, not to mention that then President G.H.W. Bush proceeded to cut most of the funding for the B-2 Bomber and implemented the Base Closing Commission.

They claim that Kerry voted against supporting our troops in Iraq, when in reality he was voting against $20 Billion worth of no-bid contracts for companies like Halliburton, and the Bush Adminstration's failure to adequately supply the soldiers in Iraq. We have spent over $140 Billion in spending in Iraq so far, yet still there are frequent outages in power, water and sewage handling.

They've proposed bills to revolutionize our education system and "Leave no Child Behind", then failed to fully fund it.

Bush has promised that the world without Sadam Hussein is "safer" and maybe it is, except for beheadings of American and British journalists in Iraq, the train bombings in Madrid, School hostages and bombings by Chechen rebels in Russia, and French journalists kidnapped to allow Muslims in France to wear Burkas in School!

They've proposed to include prescription drugs for medicare - but hid the true costs from Congress until after the vote was over, like theives in the night.

At Abu Ghraib they've presided over one of the most gross failures of leadership and justice in our military, possibly since My Lai.

UN Headquarters in Baghdad is bombed - UN personally who are supposed to implement next years election in Iraq, pull out due to security concerns.

They've used confidential CIA operative information about Valerie Plame to punish her whistleblower husband for revealing that the claims of an Iraqi attempt to aquire nuclear material was incorrect and based on forged documents.

More countries are pulling out of Iraq by the day, and international confidence in America's ability to deliver on it's promises is waning. Iran is starting a Nuclear Program, and there's a very mysterious explosion with a slight mushroom shape in North Korea.

Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld just made the absolutely LOONY suggestion that since we don't have full control of all of Iraq -because of the insurgents in Najaf and Fallujah, we'll just have to have "Partial" elections - because an almost-election is better than no election at all, right? (So that is what happened in Florida in 2000, now I don't have to wonder anymore)

Purple Heart Band-aids!!!! (Way to show the Troops you really care!)

They claim to have caught or killed 2/3rds of the Al Qaeda leadership, then two days later claim that it's now 3/4ths of Al Qaeda (man, that's fast progress!) but fail to mention that all of those people have since been *REPLACED* by new recruits.

We've held hundreds of so-called "Enemy Combatants" at Guantanemo Bay for almost three years and so far managed to successfully convict - NONE of them! Zip. Zero. Every case has fallen completely to pieces.

Cat Stevens (ie. Yusuf Islam), author is "Peace Train", was just deported for being a "terrorist sympathizer", yet there is no evidence that he has ever been any such thing.

LA's Chief of Homeland Security was arrested the other day for carrying a loaded gun on a plane. Good job keeping us safe there dude, who'se keep you safe?

And they still haven't caught Osama Bin Ladin, meanwhile Bush says -"I don't think about it much..."

Guys, we don't know if we're coming or going here! There are signs that some of this is sinking in through the partisanship - Dick Lugar & John McCain have joined Joe Biden in speaking out - but that isn't enough.

I want to know when, at what point are the repubs going to recognize this mounting pile of lies and feces for what it is - and realize that you have to "change horses in mid-stream" (talk about Waging the Freakin' DOG!) when it's obvious that that horse is completely LAME!

How can anyone reasonable and rational continue to support this Presidency?

I know there's gotta be a reason, right? Something that isn't just another set of mimeographed talking points. Something calm. Something logical. Something, ANYTHING that makes sense?

All I need is one good reason.

Vyan

Smear Boat Veterans

Yes, that's right President Bush's favorite 527 is at it again with a brand new ad - this time claiming "John Kerry committed TREASON by secretly going to Paris to negotiate with our enemy". And yet again- they're dead wrong.

John Kerry didn't go to Paris "secretly" - he was on his Honeymoon.

From the blog on Democrats.org:

While he was there, he was approached by the negotiating teams from North Vietnam (Who were *already* in place with representives fromboth the U.S., North Vietnam and South Vietnam). He took the opportunity to once again fight for American soldiers, specificall your POWs.

He met with Madamn Mihn and was told that no American POWs would be released unless America unilaterally withdrew from Vietnam. Further, he reported the contact to Congress upon his return:

"I have been to Paris. I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam andthe Provisional Revolutionary Government and of all eight of MadamBinh's points it has been stated time and time again, and was stated by Senator Vance Hartke when he returned from Paris, and it has been stated by many other officials of this Government, if the United States were to set a date for withdrawal the prisoners of war would be returned. I think this negates very clearly the argument of the President that we have to maintain a presence in Vietnam, to use as a negotiating block for the return of those prisoners.

-John Kerry, April 1971.