Friday, January 31, 2003

I've been putting together a list of political figures I trust and respect, and ones I don't. Here's what I've got so far:

Trust:
John McCain
Colin Powell
Ralph Nader (conditionally - I think he's fighting exactly the problems that need to be fought, and that no one else will touch, but I often disagree with his policy aims)
Ted Kennedy

Don't Trust:
George W Bush
Donald Rumsfeld
Joe Lieberman

On the Fence:
Bill Frist
John Kerry
John Edwards


I'm not sure exactly what the purpose of this list is. I was looking at it and doing a little self-analysis. As far as my political support goes, I suppose I'm somewhat left-leaning, which actually surprised me to an extent. However, if I could appoint a president right now, it would unquestionably be Mr. McCain of Arizona. What I want out of my government is something that will protect the weak from the strong, the minority from the majority, and the future from the present, without resorting to attacking the strong in the name of the weak, the majority in the name of the minority, and the present in the name of the future. I suppose that I am left-leanign when I think about it. I support increased taxes at the highest brackets, and a great reduction or elimination of them at the lowest. Here's what I think: I think that a lazy, stupid bum living in the wealthiest, most powerful nation in history deserves a living.

There, I said it. I think that everyone who has an idea and works hard deserves to benefit from that dedication. And I think that if someone is making $50 million a year from that dedication, and he's obliged to give half of it to society, he's still benefitting to the tune of $25 million. Someone will cry that the government is stealing his money. Well, the government has to get its money from somewhere, that's a fact. And if taxation is stealing, so be it. If we have to steal, then I'll take rob from the rich and give to the poor over the converse.

As for giving the money to the poor, why do they deserve it? Because they're human. No more needs to be said. If you see a poor lost dog wandering around on the street, you'd take it in and take it to a shelter, maybe even give it a good home, regardless of the fact that it's done absolutely nothing for you. Is a human not worth that consideration? But let me take that analogy a step further. If you don't take that dog in, and it continues to wander the streets, maybe one day it catches a disease, and it spreads from there. Maybe it gets desperate and starts knocking stuff over looking for food. Maybe it starts biting people. Do you see where I'm going here? Leave the poor to their own devices, and you're looking right at the breeding grounds for crime, drug traffic, epidemics, urban blight, and a score of other disasters. What would be the real benefit of cutting these problems off at the bud? A good portion of urban ghettoes could be reclaimed for business. The competent worker pool would expand as people get off the street and out of dead-end jobs and get an education. As crime decreases, police departments are able to drastically improve their efficiency, we're all safer, and land values increase across the board. Tell me, does this not sound like a good return for the wealthy elites who financed it?

This is all theoretical, but I'm convinced that a guiding principle of our nation should be to limit inequality. If we really committed to it, I think we'd find that not only could we better the situation of the poor at little comparitive cost to the rich, but that contrary to the trickle-down theory, the benefits gleaned from raising society's baseline would lead to an economic boom Reagan could only dream of. It's an idea.
Today's wisdom from my father...

On hearing about John Ashcroft's project to put a sheet over the nude statue The Spirit of Justice in the Justice Department lobby: "Ironic, but appropriate, that he's putting a shroud over the Spirit of Liberty."

On how you're supposed to say Dwarf instead of Midget and Developmentally Challenged instead of Retarded: "As soon as any term for a minority group becomes commonplace, whether or not it's supposed to be offensive, they decide to be offended by it."

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

So, we need to balance the budget by cutting taxes, save the environment by cutting down the forests, solve our social problems by rerouting social spending to the church, and attack Iraq, because otherwise they might give their phantom weapons of mass destruction to the terrorists that hate Saddam about as much as they hate us. So says our fearless leader, anyway. I'd emphasize fearless, because it's clear he is. Courage is overcoming your fear. If you have no fear, you're either indestructable or stupid. And, as September 11th showed on one front and global warming, ozone depletion, and all our other forms of environmental suicide show on another, we are not indestructable.

Mr. Bush, in your position, you have more to be afraid of than anyone else I can imagine. If you love this country, you should live in constant fear, day by day, of causing it harm. Before you worry about what "the terrorists" might do, think about what your actions WILL do. You show courage by taking action, but you show far greater courage by refusing to take self-defeating action, especially when we know your moneyed backers are demanding it.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

As of this moment, this site has 6 hits in its history, all of which are me. I wonder how long until anyone else actually reads any of this. Ever? Oh well, it makes me feel good to write it, anyway.
OK, that stuff I said I was going to adress "next time"? Well, I'm not going to. Why not? Because I don't feel like it, and not being a public official or person in a position of responsibility, I don't gots to, so there. Maybe later.

As of right now, I first want to throw in a quick plug for a couple of really great programs. First is Project Vote Smart. Founded by former Presidents Carter and Ford, along with Newt Gingrich, George McGovern, and a whole bunch of other past and future big-shots, they maintain an extensive database on pretty much everything you'd want to know about anyone in politics, from mayors to the president, including voting records, approval ratings from a vast array of special interest groups (from NARAL to the National Right to Life Committee and from the US Chamber of Commerce to the Consumer Federation of America, and all kinds of other stuff), campaign finance sources, and more. They also administer the NPAT (Nation Political Awareness Test), a multiple-choice questionaire they send to every candidate for anything asking what they support on various issues.Their website is www.vote-smart.org. I highly recommend you do some research there before you cast another vote.

The second is Capitol Advantage/Megavote, at www.congress.org. This site is very similar to Vote Smart, albeit with a much smaller array of information. It also seems to be for-profit, while Vote Smart operates on donations using a mostly volunteer workforce. The reason I'd send you here is the Megavote program. Give it your email address and zip code, and it will send you a periodic report on how your congressmen and senators are voting on current bills. A very convenient way to keep up on what your boys in Washington are doing.

Monday, January 20, 2003

Just attended a speech by Charles Willie, a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr. and former head of the American Baptist Church. He applied the teachings of Dr. King to a number of current issues, especially the possible war with Iraq and the Michigan affirmitive action controversy. While I didn't agree with all his policy views - he was a little too pacifict for my view of the world, too unwilling to accept the neccessity of war under certain circumstances - I do have to agree with his baseline position on Iraq. Wars hurt, they don't heal. As Dr. King said, "you cannot drive out darkness with darkness, or hate with hate. Only light can drive out darkness, only love can drive out hate."

As I see it, Iraq is a state under the thumb of brutal dictator Saddam Hussein. A war will not solve anything. Even assuming we "get" Saddam, which our handling of Osama bin Laden shows is not completely ensured, the country will only fall into anarchy or civil war. We have no plan to liberate Iraq. If we wanted to do that, we'd send them food, not bombs. I do believe that a state, read the US, has a right and responsibility to defend itself. But look at the situation here. Saddam Hussein is brutal, yes, but stupid, no. He wants his power. As long as we don't get involved, he'll keep his power. So why would he provoke us? Saddam is no Osama. He won't attack us except - get this - in self defense. The only way we're going to see the "weapons of mass destruction" used against anyone but Iraqi dissidents is if the 1st Armored is driving on Baghdad and he's got nothing left to do except hit the nuclear (or chemical, or biological) button. He'll go out in a blaze of glory. That won't serve anyone's interests, not ours, and certainly not the poor oppressed Iraqi people our government claims to care so much about.

Back to what I said about food before. Here's what I'd do if I controlled the the UN. Iraq is a problem for the Security Council because it might have weapons of mass destruction, right? And it's a problem of the human rights commission and a score of other committees because it's starving, lacks any social services, and is under the thumb of Saddam's henchmen, right? These problems are not going to get better unless the world does something. But didn't I say earlier I'm opposed to War with Iraq? Well, here's my question - who said war is the only way for the world to get involved? You say, but if we send aid, Saddam will only use it to buy more plutonium and hire more bully boys. So here's my plan. A UN force is sent in under a resolution to return Iraq to a state of civilization - to bring food, to repair the infrastructure, and to restore human rights. The resolution shows that Saddam has shown his opposition to these goals, and, despite his status as the nation's sovereign, will not be permitted to interfere with them. Therefore, the UN force will include substantial military power, to protect it from any interference or reprisal from Saddam. Look - Saddam is Iraq's leader because he has the guns. He has no one's support except for the few bureaucrats he directly benefits. If we play our cards right, we're facing an Operation like France '44, not Vietnam '70. We'll be facing a population greeting us as liberators, no partisans behind our lines, and the only opposition being a rapidly crumbling foreign power. Saddam already has to run from house to house to sleep at night. If he was no longer even in military control of the country, how marginalized would he be? Who would follow him once he no longer could kill their families? We don't need to fight the Iraqi army, or the Iraqi people. We could do what Sun Tzu calls the aim of every war plan - to win before the battle starts. A good move here will change this conflict from US versus Iraq to UN and Iraq versus Saddam. That, I assume you, is a much better situation.

I need to pause and collect my thoughts. Next, why assassinating Saddam is inadvisable, and what the philosophical and practical differences between my proposal and war are, despite the fact that both insert combat troops into foreign territory.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Secondly, Super Bowl predictions. I'd like the Eagles to beat Tampa, but I don't see how they could pull it off. The Raiders will beat the Titans, however. Tennessee just doesn't have the defense to stop the Raiders pass. So, it'll be Raiders/Bucs in the Super Bowl, and I think the Raiders will win it. Tampa has an awesome defense, but it takess more D-Backs than they have to cover all the Raiders receivers, and the Raiders have a deep enough secondary to slow down Keyshawn et al. Alstott isn't enough to win the game all by his lonesome.

Besides, I really like the Raiders this year. They're just so OLD. I mean, what kind of team has 38 and 40-year old starting wide receivers?
Someone robbed my apartment over winter break. Between me and my roomates, there's about $650 of missing stuff, including a DVD player, phones, and my towels, probably to pad the electronics. Looks like they busted open a window lock. We'll have to be more careful over break next time, lock more stuff in security. I'm glad I did that with my iMac - it probably would have been light enough to take. Anyway, we'll probably never see this stuff again, since the guy was smart enough to wear gloves, although dumb enough to leave his house keys, which the police say are almost useless for investigative purposes. That's about it for now - no insightful (or otherwise) commentary. Later.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Was just watching Crossfire on CNN. Saw Novak and Begala agree substantiatively on an issue for the only time in history. They both think that you can't go to war on the basis of 11 empty chemical warheads. I'm glad to see that for an issue of this magnitude, where thousands of lives are on the line, even hard line party men can muster the courage to say "enough is enough." Scott Ritter's (chief UN inspector up until '98) testimony on the state of Iraq's arsenal, and exactly what going to war really means, was enough to make even a hawk think about whether war is something we really can even contemplate. He also said something chilling: Once an army gets big enough, it reaches a critical mass where it will go to war, regardless of what anyone wants it to do. As one of the Crossfire hosts, I believe Novak, said: "I hope to God we don't reach that point."

As a note, Ritter is a controversial figure. He is anti-war, citing the fact that Americans, as well as Iraqis, will die, and our administration hasn't even showed us any proof of their accusations. As he said in a speech at Bryn Mawr college last year: "If a doctor says 'I have to operate on your brain,' you don't just say 'OK', you say 'can I see the x-ray first? Where's the problem?' And the doctor, if you need the surgery, will show you the x-ray. He doesn't accuse you of being unpatriotic for not doing what he says, no questions asked." It was an hour and a half speech, so I won't try to summarize it here, but suffice it to say that his argument followed what seemed to me to be impeccable logic, with the exception of a few probable exaggerations, and he convinced me that the US cannot go to war unless someone comes up with a really, really good reason. Like, a lot better reason than any of the speculations they've thrown at us as of yet. One of the guys on Crossfire on the same episode, who came on after Ritter (I forget his name, but he was from defensecentral.com or somesuch, and an unrelenting hawk) came out blasting with a list of mostly incomprehensible accusations. The only one I caught was something about Ritter taking a payoff from the Iraqi government. Sounds most likely like BS to me, something someone made up to discredit a very persuasive opponent. Ritter himself admits to being the target of several FBI investigations, which he claims were launched on frivolous charges in retaliation for his anti-war stance. So can I be sure I can trust him? No. But after seeing the man in person and hearing what he has to say, I trust him further than I trust the whole Washington establishment put together. Good luck, Scott.
OK, so first, some background. I'm a student in Pennsylvania, formerly of Southern California. Politically, I'm not affiliated with any party. I think they all say some things that makes sense and some things that don't (in varying proportions, of course.) I'm closest to a Libertarian, but I think the Libertarian party takes it way too far - for example, I'm in favor of tough gun control and environmental laws. Further, I'm inclined to let states make pretty much whatever kind of crazy laws they want. I'm of the opinion that governments are supposed to guarantee freedom and justice, and while you can get a pretty solid definition of freedom, justice varies with the people. So, while only a big government with a lot of strength behind it can do a good job defending freedom, only a small government, closely linked to all those governed by it, can guarantee justice. If the people in state A don't like how things work in state B, they ought to voice their opinion on the matter and then be quiet, because if the people in state B didn't like the way state B worked, they'd move to state A (I think that made sense...) The one major exception I can think of is in the case of outright oppression by the law. Then we move into the whole big-government-protects-freedom-better thing I talked about, and it ought to do that. Civil Rights laws in the 60s come to mind.

A big problem is that, as the phrase goes, power corrupts. The federal government has power. A lot of it. Unfortunately, it does what the Constitution was supposed to stop it from doing, which is use that power in whatever way seems to make sense at the time. As far as I can tell, the federal government was designed to have highly circumscribed authority to be used only in the case of national crisis when all other forms of recourse have failed. Now, people are more likely to petition the White House for something than to petition City Hall. What kind of sense does that make? And when you put the guys in Washington in that kind of position, and every act they take gives them an opportunity to insert some kind of cockamamie rider supporting their pet project, exactly how much discretion do you expect? They're going to do whatever they feel like, and they do.

Like right now, the health insurance crisis. OK, condition one met, its a pretty big deal. But now they're saying they want a federal health insurance standard to override all the state ones. What kind of sense does that make? So, if a state is perfectly satisifed with what it has, or even better, is phasing in a plan that provides much better results than the white house plan, they can't use it because it's not Dubya approved? Guess what, George - no one asked your opinion. Environmental law is a more egregious example. Washington says that states can't impose fuel efficiency standards more strict than the federal ones on vehicles sold in their state. Why in the blue blazes not? The cars are being sold IN THEIR STATE! They ought to be able to set whatever kind of limits they want, and the record shows they would be if the white house wasn't blocking them at every turn. Federal hegemony allows special interests to spend a few mil in campaign donations in one place and own the whole country in return for their investment. That's why they set up a divided government - they knew centralized power was bad, so they reserved it only for emergencies.

Wow, I was going there for a while. That's about it for now. Later.
This is my foray into blogging. Who knows whether this will be around in a month? Anyway, one I figure out how to work this crazy thing, I might actually start saying something, which may involve topics related to (but not limited to):

- George "Dubya" Bush
- Global Warming
- How religion lost its way
- The IRS
- The INS
- OMS
- State/Federal Controversy
- Affirmative Action
- The word "tube" (I just like that word)

So, either I'll see you again or, uh, I won't. Later.