vendredi, octobre 29, 2004

A Letter from Across the Pond

Let me start by saying that I am the world's best chess player. Well, in a way. I'm flawless when I am watching other people play. I can see the board really well, and I can spot a mistake a mile away. Somehow, when I'm playing, I get so wrapped up in my point of view, that I'm stunningly average - if not below average. Okay, I'm pretty bad.

Yesterday, a friend forwarded to me a letter that was written by a gentleman in Switzerland to a woman in Ohio whom he does not know. The letter was written to convince her to vote against George Bush next Tuesday. I loved the letter so much, that I wrote to the Scottish author (to make sure he is real and to get his permission), Scott Henderson, and asked him if I could publish it on my humble blog. He said yes. You can read it in a moment.

What does this have to do with chess? Well, I wonder if our friends overseas - our friends who are very concerned about the outcome of the election - might not be better chess players than we are. I wonder if they don't benefit from detachment and a broader perspective.

Like John Kerry, I don't think we should give foreign governments a veto over our national security, but I do believe that the actions of most nations (and especially nations with the influence of the United States) have an impact on the larger world. That impact requires our consideration. If there is to be role for diplomacy in the resolution of our war against Iraq, then we must rely on some regard in the international community. This is particularly true in the case of allies who, like England, have joined the coaltion of the willing. Every year, the world gets smaller and smaller. In recognition of this, although we must not defer to our friends from other countries, we must respect them, and we must consider thier opinions. Who knows, they may have wisdom and insights that might benefit us (as is the case below).

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

Dear Rosanne,

I hope that you don’t mind me writing to you, my name is Scott Henderson and I live in Switzerland. I am in my mid-thirties and originally from Scotland.

I got your name and address from the electoral roll in Springfield, this is a list of all of the people entitled to vote in the upcoming Presidential Election. An English Newspaper (The Guardian) feels that the result of the Presidential Election is so important to the rest of the world that its readers should do some ‘doorknocking’ on US Voters like yourself, so that we can try and convey to you, just how significant this election is.

Unfortunately, I am unable to come and knock on your door personally so I hope that you do not mind me writing. If you are offended by my actions or do not think that I have any business interfering in US politics; please accept my apologies and throw this in the garbage. Please be aware that your name is only provided once, so you will not receive another letter or communication like this.

If on the other hand, you feel as I and Millions of others do throughout the world that this result is important to the whole planet then please take a little time to read my letter :

My Parents fought alongside US Servicemen in the Second World War and they brought me up to have nothing but respect for your Nation. They told me of the honest and brave men who died to protect Europe from an Immoral Dictatorship. Nazi Germany was a country where ‘Freedom of Speech’ was curtailed, people were harassed and killed for their religious beliefs and the leaders declared that you are either ‘with us – or against us.’

Of course many normal people then went on to do terrible things because they were afraid of what might happen to them and so they gave in to peer pressure and perhaps thought that they were right because they believed the propaganda they saw in the media.

I myself have lived and worked in the US on several occasions and have many good friends who live there. Infact I am planning to spend Christmas in Minnesota this year. I love your country and all it has to offer but I am very afraid for its future.

I am deeply concerned over the result of the upcoming Presidential Election. Outside of the US we are able to have an objective view, we are able to see the impact that the US has on the world. Do you know that the most recognisable things in the world are all American ? Coca-Cola, MacDonalds, Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley the list goes on.

More recently the impact of the US in the outside world has not been too impressive. Unfortunately, the reputation of your current President Mr George W Bush is not great.

Now that the truth has come out regarding the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq we can see that Iraq Invasion was planned well before 9/11. Osama Bin-Laden was just an excuse and sadly the Iraqi people paid the price.

Please don’t get me wrong, I believe that 9/11 was a hideous crime and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. There was just no Iraqi connection, most people knew this before the invasion and everybody should know this now. Infact there is more evidence of collusion between the Iraqi Govt of Saddam Hussein and the CIA than there is of collusion with Al-Queda. (BTW – Al Queda was actually established with CIA money to fight against the Russians in Afghanistan).

If you don’t believe me, I suggest that you read a copy of ‘Dreaming War’ by Gore Vidal it is comprehensive, well researched and balanced. Or even look at some International Newspaper sites for example The truth is there, it is just that the US news networks refuse to show it.

As we speak the terrible situation in Iraq continues with no real end in sight. I think that Saddam Hussein was a cruel and terrible man but there were smarter ways to remove him or reform him. At present the death toll rises on a daily basis, we will never know how many Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the war because, no-one is counting. It is as if their lives mean nothing. On the other hand we do know that over 1,000 US Soldiers have died in this conflict, for what ? Certainly not protecting the US from Terrorism, because as the commissions prove there were no terrorists in Iraq and no plausible link with terrorists either.

My Brother was in the Navy when he died aged 18 years and everyday now American and Iraqi families are going through the same horror that my family endured, please use your vote to stop this meaningless war ! No-one deserves to suffer like that.

I am also concerned about the US Economy. This is the engine that drives the rest of the world, when this isn’t running well the rest of the world suffers. One of the reasons for this lack of growth is fear of the future or uncertainty. This has meant that investors and managers are being risk averse as the world is such an uncertain place at the moment. You must ask yourself why that is ?

I feel that one of the main reasons is the size of the US Budget Deficit, this is how much your country owes (like an overdraft at the bank). Since coming to power George W Bush has created the largest deficit in history. It is so large that I worked out that if it were to be divided equally between everyone in your country it would be a bill of $30,000 for every man woman and child. Think about how suffocating that debt must be for an economy ?

Tax Breaks under President Bush seem to benefit only the Ultra-Rich and the large international corporations, ordinary people seem to have missed out. What this means is that less revenue will be spent on healthcare insurance and pensions for retired people. I can see that there will be huge problems ahead for both sick and retired people, unless action is taken now.

Uncertainty also causes markets to be volatile, people will pay a lot of money for something they need if they think that it may be in short supply in the future. A good example of this is Oil, currently this is the most expensive it has ever been. I can appreciate how crippling this must be for the American people and their big cars. But there really is no problem with the supply of oil, the problem is with the market. The traders are worried about the future and this has caused the high prices

Why are people uncertain and worried about the future ? Well, I believe that this is due to the ‘War on Terror’. Yes, terrorists must be dealt with but there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way. I believe that the US by acting unilaterally has only served to help the terrorists. Many Muslims are only now disaffected and willing to oppose the US. However, you need to remember that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peace loving reasonable people rather like the American people themselves.

I grew up with terrorism, the IRA killed the Father of a close friend, and after more then 30 years of trouble in Ireland there has now been peace for over five years. The reason? Conciliation and Understanding, both sides have to live together and have come to an agreement. As a result stability has returned and Ireland is one of the worlds fastest growing economies.

The rest of the world wants to achieve this goal and is willing to help, but only if the American People want us to help. Sadly I believe that your current President is unwilling to reach out to rest of the world.

An early example of this was his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol for Global Warming. It may not have been the perfect solution but it was a start, by rejecting the agreement President Bush withdrew the one nation that could have made the system work and in the meantime the problem persists.

Finally, this ‘War on Terror’ makes peoples live difficult; for me I now have to give DNA samples every time I visit the US. I have no idea what purpose this serves and how this sample may be used. Infact I feel that it is an affront to my civil liberties.

However, this is nothing compared to being held without charges, without trial and without legal assistance for over two years. In a place where brutality and humiliation of prisoners is acceptable. This is exactly what is happening in Guantanamo Bay and is a total disregard of Human Rights. The same Human Rights that my countrymen and your countrymen fought and died to protect in the Second World War. Please don’t let their efforts go to waste.

Please make the right choice on November 2nd for everyones sake.

Yours faithfully

Scott Henderson

One parting comment: One night, after the second Presidential debate, I was channel surfing in an effort to find continuing analysis (it was a sickness with me). I stopped on PBS and they were showing BBC coverage of the day in Iraq. Without commentary or fanfare, they showed the coalition casualties for the day. They showed it. You saw the bombed Hummer and the smoke and the chaos. We don't have the benefit of that kind of reporting here, and I think it makes a difference. Would we, as Americans, support the war to the extent that we do, if we saw images every day? If there is a fatal car crash in the Twin Cities, the local news is there, "LIVE" with coverage and photos. Why is it different with the war?

mercredi, octobre 27, 2004

The Curse (1918 - 2004)

Okay, so I never believed in the curse much, last, at long last, the Red Sox have won the World Series!

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for having a wonderful season.

But most of all, congratulations to the Boston Red Sox!

My father was raised in Boston, and he was a huge Celtics and Red Sox fan. As a child, in the summer, my loving brother and I would visit our grandparents on Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury, Massachusetts. It was then that I became a Red Sox fan.

In 1987, when the Sox lost game 6 to the Mets (and I knew, somehow I knew they would lose game 7), I cried. I didn't let a tear or two fall, I actually cried.

And now, dear readers, forgive me a little emotion as I type this post and watch Damon and Ortiz and Ramirez and Lowe and Bellhorn and Arroyo and Timlin and Foulke and Martinez and Millar and Cabrero and Varitek and Mueller and Schilling and Wakefield (and Francona and Epstein) and all the boys host the trophy and drink a little champagne. Imagine 86 years of thirst. Imagine it.

Anyway, what else to say: I'm thrilled. I'm elated. I'm overjoyed. I'm also a little sleepy (it's been an emotional couple of weeks).

Good night. Sweet dreams, and when you dream tonight, dream of the Bambino letting go; dream of Bill Buckner finally set free; dream of a long suffering Red Sox Nation finally at rest!

Who Is That Man Over There Covered in Mud?

Kerry Is Hard to Know Because the Bush has Muddied the Water

After surviving a rigorous Democratic primary, one of Senator John Kerry’s biggest challenges was defining himself before President Bush could do it for him. Bush (or is it Rove?) - who I must admit is a masterful campaigner, in part because he is completely willing to win ugly - was bound and determined to help the American people get to know John Kerry, and he set about spending historic amounts of money to buy slingable mud. Then he started slinging. I was amazed when the first Bush commercial I saw, many, many months ago, was not a glossy and personal “morning in America” type of commercial, but was, instead, images or terrorism and mud thrown at Kerry. Mud, mud and more mud.

Kerry was branded as a false war hero, a flip-flopper, a tax and spend Democrat, a threat to national security, a sham Catholic, a gold digger, and worst of all, the most liberal Senator in the United States Senate. It is only fair to acknowledge that Kerry started slinging mud too. This campaign has been very muddy. My whole point with all this mud is that it has served to make Kerry hard to define – hard to know.

Kerry is Hard to Know Because Many Support Him as Most Likely to Defeat Bush (Again)

Kerry can stand on his feet. He can form a sentence. He seems Presidential, that’s good enough for me…

Undoubtedly, you will recall that Howard Dean was the heir apparent to the Democratic nomination before the Iowa surprise and before the emergence of an unspoken consensus that Dean might not play well in Peoria (“Yeehaaaaaw!”). Yes, he is a bright and charismatic man, but he probably couldn’t defeat Bush. Folks were convinced (and I think folks were right) that an American electorate would not embrace a candidate who opposed the war.

The strategy all along has been to beat Bush, and the strategy (Anyone but Bush), coupled with an aggressive campaign on the part of the Republicans, has combined to make it difficult to know who John Kerry is.

I hear it all the time “I don’t like Bush, but I don’t know who Kerry is.” Who is John Kerry?

Senate Candidates Historically Have a Tough Time in Presidential Campaigns – The Senate is an Insular and Collaborative Body

On top of it all, Kerry is now an individual after years as one of 100. Many of his accomplishments are collaborative, but if he did not author enough legislation, then he’s lazy. If he voted against a bill that was loaded with pork, but contained a missile system, then he’s anti-defense. If he voted to increase taxes on (let’s say) gasoline, as part of an omnibus budget bill, then he voted to increase taxes 65,427 times. If two supplemental funding bills for the war against Iraq came through the Senate, and he voted against one (the one that wanted to fund it with deficit spending) and for the other (the one that wanted to fund the war by repealing the excessive tax cuts to the top 1%), then he is a flip-flopper, then he is uncertain, then he is unfit to govern. Who is this guy?

What’s on Deck…

Tomorrow, when the entire editorial staff here at iliveinminnesota unanimously endorses John Kerry for President, we will set out to answer the question: Who is John Kerry?

What’s in the hole…

On Friday, we will end this magical week with an A to Z listing of why George Bush should not be granted a second term.

Political Realism or The Case Against Ralph Nader

A couple of years ago, Winona LaDuke, spoke at my church. My plan was to give her a piece of my mind. I really felt (and still feel) that Bush would not be President today if not for the Nader/LaDuke candidacy. I maintain – even while I hope that I am wrong – that Nader will impact the result again – even if he makes it easier to dispute the result.

Anyway, I listened to Ms. LaDuke speak, and I was blown away. She was so soft spoken and so shy - she rubbed her necklace gently throughout her presentation. And just like a challenging book commands more of your attention, her words were tremendously compelling and memorable because we had to strain to hear them. Winona LaDuke is a beautiful person with an awesome spirit, and I’m pretty sure that had I seen her speak during her 2000 candidacy, not only would I have voted for her, I probably would have campaigned for Nader/LaDuke too.

But I digress. The web is filled with open letters and articles and posts and sites that are all pointed toward making the case against a Nader candidacy, and it is a compelling case. There is not much to add to the argument, so I’d like to add my own general idea to the conversation by talking about my voting philosophy - which I call political realism.

In the strictest sense, I would venture a guess that very few of us have voted for our perfect candidate. There are so many issues out there, and the chances that a person will support a candidate who agrees with them on all the issues are slim and none. This is especially true if you get into questions of extent. For example, a voter might agree with a candidate that gun control is a bad idea, but the candidate may draw the line at armor piercing bullets while the voter might not.

At some point, most voters make compromises and engage in an analysis that is simultaneously complex and simple. I think it goes like this:

First, which candidate most closely matches my stance on the issues?

Second, does that candidate have a chance to win?

Third, of those candidates who have a chance to win, which one most closely matches my stance on the issues?

Fourth, in order to support that candidate, do I give up so much on my key issues, that it is not worthwhile?

Fifth, by supporting the original candidate that most closely matches my stance on the issues, do I run the risk of electing a candidate who does not support my stance on key issues?

So, to apply this reasoning to Ralph Nader, I would probably conclude in the following way:

First, I might say of the 73 Presidential candidates, Ralph Nader most closely matches my stance on the issues (hypothetically).

Second, Ralph Nader does not have a chance to win (he’s not on the ballot in all 50 states).

Third, of the remaining viable candidates, John Kerry most closely matches my stance on the issues.

Fourth, in order to support John Kerry, I do not give up so much on my key issues that I might as well vote for Nader.

Fifth, by supporting Nader, I would run the risk of electing George Bush who does not support my stance on the issues.

So that's what I call political realism. There are some key sacrifices that must be made for this approach. We all have to do the best we can. The biggest sacrifices, of course, are that we never get a multi-party system, we never get the candidates of our dreams, we potentially are less excited about our suffrage, and we can count on having our hearts broken even if our (compromise) candidate wins (Clinton signed NAFTA, Wellstone voted for the Defense of Marriage Act). It becomes damage control, which is never as sexy or as compelling as like-mindedness or love or passion.

Someday, perhaps, we will have a multi-party system where it is easier to vote, ending the analysis after the first question: "which candidate most closely matches my stance on the issues?". Until that day, most voters have to live in the real world. We all have to get as much as we can, and that requires compromise and letting some things go in order to keep others.

It is sad, but true that voters who support Nader may vote for the person who most closely matches their stance on the issues, but, in so doing, they run the very real risk – we know it from the 2000 campaign – of undercutting the very policies that inspired their support for Nader in the first place.

lundi, octobre 25, 2004

Pop Quiz!

Greetings from Woodbridge, New Jersey!

Let's get right to it.

To me, how we have done in response to the attacks of September 11th, comes down to how we would answer these questions:

Yes or No Questions-

Was it worthwhile to oust Saddam Hussein?
Was it worth at least 1,000 American lives to do it?
Was it worth at least 13,000 Iraqi lives to do it?
Was it worth countless American and Iraqi injuries to do it?
Was it worth at least $140,000,000,000 to do it?
Was it worth letting Al Qaeda go unchecked?
Was it worth possibly letting North Korea get nuclear weapons?
Was it worth possibly letting Iran get nuclear weapons?
Was it worth a back-door draft?

Could it have been done with fewer lives lost?
Could it have been done with fewer injuries?
Could it have been done for less than $140,000,000,000?
Could it have been done after Al Qaeda was neutralized or weakened?
Could it have been done in a way that allowed us to monitor and maintain other threats?
Could it have been done without exhausting our active duty military and our reserves?
Would it be worth a real live draft?

Multiple Choice Questions-

Why are we fighting the war in Iraq?

a. Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11 and it's payback time.
b. Saddam was connected with Al Qaeda, and it's part of getting at Al Qaeda.
c. We're fighting terrorists there so we don't have to fight them here.
d. To get those Weapons of Mass Destruction.
e. Saddam was an imminent threat to the United States.
f. It's always been this: Saddam is bad, and we need to liberate Iraqis.
g. It's part of a larger neo-conservative strategy in the Middle-East.
h. Iraq was unstable and sitting on top of oodles of crude oil.
i. Saddam put a hit out on President George H.W. Bush (Bush I).
j. answers "a" through "f"
k. answers "g" and "h"
l. none of the above

Short of a full-scale, pre-emptive and nearly unilateral military action, we could have removed Saddan Hussein by:

a. Asking him to go.
b. Sanctions. More sanctions.
c. Building an international coalition and taking Saddam into custody - Milosevich style.
d. Using a tiger team or an assassin.
e. Premise is faulty: war is not unilateral (i.e. "coalition of the willing" is strong).
f. Premise is faulty: we didn't have to remove Saddam at all.
g. Premise is faulty: war was not preemptive, it was response to 9/11 attacks.
h. Premise is faulty: this is not a full-scale military action.
i. None of the above, war was the last resort.

True/False Questions (circle one)-

Saddam Hussein was involved in the attacks of 9/11. T or F
Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction and was primed to attack America. T or F
Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States. T or F
At the time the war began, Saddam was the worst dictator currently in power. T or F
At the time the war began, Iraq needed liberating more than any other country. T or F
Saddam Hussein was a threat to American homeland security. T or F
Osama Bin Laden was involved in the attacks of 9/11. T or F
Osama Bin Laden was the biggest threat to homeland security. T or F
Saddam and Osama were in cahoots. T or F
Because Saddam and Osama were in cahoots it makes sense to take out Saddam. T or F
If you could only apprehend either Saddam or Osama, Saddam's the one you want. T or F
Better to have nuclear weapons in North Korea than aluminum rods in Iraq. T or F
Even if Iran gets nuclear weapons, I still feel safe. T or F
There is no need to be concerned about relations between Taiwan and China. T or F
Our regard in the international community is not important. T or F
The budget deficit has nothing to do with the war in Iraq. T or F
We couldn't use $140,000,000,000 for anything else anyway. T or F
Freedom is on the march. T or F
Everything is under control in Iraq. T or F
Iraqi insurgents are getting weaker every day. T or F
Bush has a plan to win the peace. T or F
Bush had a plan to win the peace all along. T or F
States and cities have adequate funding for homeland security. T or F
The borders are safe. T or F
President Bush will keep me safe. T or F
Only President Bush will keep me safe. T or F
President Bush is a competent and visionary Commander in Chief. T or F
I would send a son or daughter overseas to liberate Iraqis. T or F
Everyone knows you shouldn't change horses in midstream. T or F
Mistakes were made. T or F
The mission was accomplished. T or F
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. T or F

This is all my way of saying that we are kidding ourselves. We've been sold a bill of goods. We've been hoodwinked; we've been led astray. I think most of us know it, and the fundamental difference is this: some of us don't want to admit it. Some of us don't like what it says about us as Americans and about us as America if we acknowledge the awful truths.

We did not go to war as a last result.
We did not go to war in response to the attacks of 9/11.
Iraq was not an imminent threat to us.
There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction.
War in Iraq is not the same thing as the war on terror that we should be fighting.
Our safety is an illusion - a color-coded punchline to the worst joke ever told.
We are jeopardized by incompetent leadership.
The world is less stable and less safe than it was on September 10th, 2001.
We are fiddling while Rome burns.

I'll close with a quote from President George H.W. Bush, a competent and (as it seems) visionary leader:

Extending the war into Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Exceeding the U.N.'s mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.

Time magazine, 1998

vendredi, octobre 22, 2004

30,000 Minnesotans Can't Be Wrong or Why Bush Is in Trouble in This Swing State

Before I discuss political rallies and the great Kerry rally last night, here's a super neat story about a local group protesting the Sinclair Broadcast Group (article includes great photos).

I Guarantee a Kerry Victory in MN, and Here's Why-

Mark my words: Bush's invitation-only events are a mistake. On Wednesday, he spoke before an (all-together now) invitation-only group in Rochester, Minnesota (2,000 people were in attendance).

Yesterday, my main man, the man with the plan, the real-deal, the Boston bean who's lean and mean and extra green, spoke before a crowd of 30,000 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The entire iliveinminnesota staff was there - it was ELECTRIFYING (you gotta see this picture)!

One man reached 2,000 and turned away many (if you won't say you'll vote for Bush, you may not get in - you also won't get in if you want to protect civil liberties - if you only click on one link in this article, click on this one, you simply must see what tee shirts got 3 teachers banned from a Bush rally! Freedom is on the march indeed!); one man reached 30,000 and turned away very few.

Just for fun, let's say that Bush inspired everyone who saw him in during his (one more time) invitation-only event in Rochester to encourage their friends and loved ones to support him. He has 2,000 people working for him. How many undecided voters got to see him? Multiply whatever answer you get by zero. Think how many people a sitting president could reach if he was not so exclusive.

Now to continue the good times, let's say that Kerry only motivated half the people who saw him. He has 15,000 motivated grass-roots voter-turnout warriors working for him. How many undecided voters got to see him? As many as wanted to.

Kerry is a populist. Kerry understands what it's all about. Kerry is inspiring people, and it's only a matter of time before the undecided voters figure out exactly why it is that Bush will only appear in front of supporters (see how I cleverly avoided using "invitation only" in the last sentence there?).

jeudi, octobre 21, 2004

Faith-Based Parks

This article, concerning the Bush administration's support for a book which argues that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood, is worth a read.

As my friend SB says: "Well yeah-I thought everyone knew the world is only 4000 years old!!"

As the article notes, the Bush Administration also supported the return to Grand Canyon National Park of bronze plaques bearing Psalms verses. Separation of church and state...well, except certain churches.

mercredi, octobre 20, 2004

I Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, Ever Thought I Would Say This But...

Go Green Bay Packers!

Update on Sinclair

Sinclair, the family-owned media conglomerate with plans to air an anti-Kerry documentary on its 62 stations, has been struggling since the announcement. Their stock is down 11%, and stockholders are contemplating shareholder litigation. Advertisers are pulling advertisements because their customers demand it. The FCC has been pressuring Sinclair to change its approach, and it has resulted in a softening of the original plan. Sinclair will add a panel discussion after the the documentary in an effort to present both sides and save the doomed venture. Most notably, because of Sinclair's efforts, the FCC is questioning the wisdom of allowing so much media ownership by so few. This directly jeopardizes Sinclair's plan to expand by adding stations, further compromising its value. It seems that people value public air ways and regard the use of them as a responsibility, not a right.

It is proof once again that good things can result from bad things.

mardi, octobre 19, 2004

The Flu Vaccine

Today, my daughter got her flu shot. In truth, I was a bit concerned that she was not going to get it. When she was one year old, she was diagnosed with reactive airways. What this means is that she has a greater tendency for viruses and bugs to settle into her lungs. She is also more suceptible to pneumonia than most. The flu is particularly threatening to her. But today she got the shot, and I'm glad (I'm not sure she's glad, but...).

In most years my wife and I would get one as well. This would make us less likely to bring it home to her. This year we won't; we can't. I'm sure we'll be fine.

I'm intentionally avoiding anything overtly negative on this topic today. I'm merely writing to say that I'm glad my daughter got her shot, and I hope that if you have loved ones who need the vaccination, they are able to get it too.

lundi, octobre 18, 2004

What's In a Name?

This weekend I read with interest about the "American Jobs Creation Act of 2004," legislation which passed both houses of Congress by wide margins and was promptly signed into law by President Bush.

The name of this bill was brought to you by the same folks who brought you the USA Patriot Act, the Clean Skies Initiative, and the Healthy Forests Initiative.

A common adjective used to describe these naming conventions is Orwellian.

The USA Patriot Act is the most significant assualt on the Bill of Rights in the modern era (well, except the sacrosanct 2nd Amendment). All Patriots abhor the Bill of Rights, so it's good that we have a nice label there.

The Clean Skies Initiative can only be designed to address the pesky problem of clean skies (I'm so tired of breathing clean air), and the same can be said of the Healthy Forest Initiative (I have to admit that fewer trees might help my golf game).

The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 may create a job or two (not in proportion with it's corporate give back - and most will agree that with the same money, we could have created a lot more jobs), but it really is a gift to corporations with lobbyists. Economists speculate that most of the gains will be used to pay down corporate debt, not create jobs.

As the article just cited notes:

However, nothing in the legislation requires or even encourages businesses to use their tax breaks to make the investments that will likely create jobs. And in fact, one of the provisions of the bill, a section that even the Wall Street Journal calls a "tax windfall," will result in billions of dollars used to pay down debt and to improve corporate balance sheets. Not much immediate job creation there.

The specific section of the bill allows American companies to have their overseas profits taxed at a one-time rate of 5.25 percent rather than the usual 35 percent. That will mean a one-time "windfall" of almost $4.3 billion for a company like Hewlett Packard. HP has already stated that they will likely use much of the money for "debt payment." Not much immediate job creation there.

Without question what saddens me most about the Bush administration is how they have proven (and continue to prove) how easy it is to hoodwink Americans. If you say the right things (especially if you invoke God or stand in front of the flag), you can count on widespread support. If Bush wins a second term, to me it will stand for how willing people are to say that the emperor is dressed exquisitely even when he is totally naked.

My favorite example right now is that, with our troops over-extended and back-door drafted in Iraq, with Al Qaeda essentially ignored and growing stronger, with North Korea developing nuclear weapons, and with muslim extremists running wild in Eastern Europe, the whole Security Mom phenomenon even had 15 minutes of fame. We're fighting a war in Iraq that has been universally recognized as not having anything to do with terrorism while claiming that we are winning the war on terrorism. Nice.

But of course Bush will keep us more secure than Kerry. You know how I know, because he said so, and in Bush/Cheney America, not only is reality subject to perception (sure, Mr. Vice President, sure, there is a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, of course there is - you keep saying there is so it must be true), but words speak louder than actions.

Can't wait 'til those jobs start coming in...can't wait to be safe from terror...can't wait to breathe clean air in healthy forests.

And I must add - Mr. President, you look great in that cloak!

vendredi, octobre 15, 2004

I Have $55,000 More Than I Had Yesterday

There are two kinds of people in America - those who would win $100,000 in the lottery and say "I won $100,000 but after taxes it was only $55,000" and those who would win $100,000 and say "I have $55,000 more than I had yesterday. I'm the second type." -Duf

Perhaps now is a good time to tell you I don't really have $55,000 more than I had yesterday. I've just been thinking a lot about money and taxes. It all started last week.

Last week, on my way home, I stopped at the "Ghetto Rainbow," the affectionate name a group of friends and I have for a grocery store chain's location on University Avenue in the midway section of St. Paul. The store is in the heart of the city, and attracts a number of interesting characters. I've been solicited by a prositute there (yes, I declined), and I saw a woman beat her son because he vomited on the floor in the produce section. I don't think he did it on purpose. I think he wasn't feeling well.

My wife and I have the whole granola vibe going, and we tend to be fairly laid back when it comes to groceries and the cost of groceries. We usually go here for groceries, but we also go here. It depends on what we want and how we feel. I go as often as my wife does, and we both usually go beyond the list to grab other items. Last week I went in for rice milk and bread, and came out with $70 worth of stuff including fruit, english muffins (my favorite) and the my favorite snack chip.

The man just before me at the checkout stand, paid using an electronic debit card that the State of Minnesota issues to citizens who need financial assistance. The debit card covered more than $100 worth of his groceries, and he had to come out of pocket for the remaining $20 or so.

Several things stood out to me about this scene. First, the guy, in many ways, was a lot like me. I would place him in his mid-30's. He was pleasingly portly, and he was African-American. We didn't visit, but he seemed like a nice guy. After I bagged my groceries and as I was walking to my car, I found myself wondering two things. I wondered what he bought at the grocery store (I wish I'd taken a moment to see how he spent his assistance - because I think it matters to some I do remember seeing a whole chicken), and I wondered how he was getting home. Not because I wanted to give him a ride home and interview him for my blog, but because I was curious.

Also, two images from the past came to mind. First, I remembered a time in my childhood in Wichita, Kansas, when my brother, a babysitter and I went to the Dillons on 13th and Oliver and got sandwich fixings. It was the first time I remember seeing food stamps, and I recall our babysitter telling us about them. I think I was about 12.

The second image was of Ronald Reagan's notorious welfare queen - you know, the one with the Cadillac and the swimming pool. I think that's why I wanted to see how the guy was getting to the grocery store. Did he take the bus, or did he roll up in a '05 Escalade with 20" dubz?

My enduring thought was this. I am truly blessed. I am blessed in many ways. Scenes like this one can call to mind how fortunate we are. Those of us who do not require assistance from the government are fortunate. We are fortunate because we are self-sufficient, and we are fortunate because if we ever do require such assistance, it will be there for us. I am blessed, and so is the man who used the debit card that night.

Of course, he has the card because the government gave it to him. He met the qualifications, and he received it. Good for him. The card is paid for using money from tax payers like myself. How fortunate we are to benefit others through our work and through our system of government. There are some who see this differently than I do. They see the money that the government takes away (the money they don't have), and they wonder why a seemingly healthy man is not paying his own way. They want lower taxes, and they want him to get a job.

As for me, I can tell you that, in the heart of my heart and with every fiber of my being, I don't care. I don't care what kind of car he drives, I don't care what he spent the money on. I don't care. I can't really know anything about him except that he used a government issued debit card to buy his groceries. I don't know why, and I don't care. For all I know he was a welfare cheat. For all I know he was a government employee testing the cards and the store. He might have been getting groceries for his elderly mother. He might be a highly specialized worker in a depressed industry. He might be a drug dealer who took the card from a junkie in exchange for crack cocaine. He might be using it for the last time because he got a job, and he starts in two weeks. I can't know. I don't know, and (one more time) I don't care, except in this way:

I want everyone who wants to work and who is able to work to be able to work. I want work to make sense for them. I want it to be rewarding (I believe all work has value), and I want them to be able to meet their basic needs (plus a little bit extra) using income drawn from work. As books like Barbara Ehrenreich's remarkable "Nickel and Dimed" point out, there are too many jobs that do not provide a living wage, and until all jobs do (and even after), I will be thankful for programs that allow the underprivileged to buy food. When jobs pay a living wage and all who want jobs can have them, I will still argue for a publicly funded safety net to support folks during emergencies.

Two closing thoughts to make a long blog even longer. Some argue that private charity is a better approach to helping the poor than government assistance. I disagree for two reasons. First, charity is, and always will be voluntary. As anyone who has ever worked with a non-profit can tell you, when times are hard, charities suffer - right when more folks need assistance. Second, to receive charity, you must go to a designated place. You must go to a shelter or to a soup kitchen, and requiring people to queue up for their basic needs undermines their dignity. It is better to allow them to shop in grocery stores and to control their destiny by making choices for what they will eat and how they will spend their money. It is more dignified and less segregated.

Second (last thought in an effort to tie it all back): those who want smaller taxes are missing an essential point. If you make $100,000 per year, and your take home pay is $55,000, then you're still doing quite all right. You're still pulling in about $4,500 per month, and that's not too shabby. You are self-sufficient. You are making a contribution to your community and to the world. You are blessed, and you several thousand dollars better off than a lot of folks are. The same argument applies for folks making $50,000 and $20,000. It's all fiction. You don't negotiate for the salary, you negotiate for what you will take home. In a world with no taxes, folks making $100,000 today would make $55,000. Taxes and other stuff is already factored in, and it's silly to pretend otherwise.

I guess what I'm saying is we'd all be a lot better off if we focused on what we have, not on what we don't have but think we should.

mercredi, octobre 13, 2004

From Swing to Swing or the Compulsion Toward Dialogue

My daughter has a swing set in the backyard and loves to pass the hours swinging. I think it is part of a longing for flight. It is bliss to be with her during these times of happiness. One habit she has is that she likes to get off one swing and go to another swing. It never made sense to me until yesterday.

Greetings from Columbus, Ohio.

Yesterday, I left on a business trip with two colleagues that I hold in high regard. One is a democrat from a republican home (would we call her a flip-flopper?), and the other is a republican from a republican home. We left one swing state, Minnesota. For another swing state, Ohio.

To save money for the mothership (we all work for a Fortune 500), we flew to Dayton and drove from there to our meetings in Columbus. As we worked our way east on highway 70, the landscape was reminiscent of my home state, Kansas. It also called to mind Minnesota and Nebraska and Iowa - all the rural settings of America - but especially the heartland. The landscape was dotted with campaign signs - most of them for Bush and Cheney (I think they will win the rural vote big), but the bumper stickers favored Kerry and Edwards, and as we got closer to Columbus, the landscape changed.

It was an experience that I will remember for a long time, sitting next to a republican driving within a swing state, seeing all those signs and wanting to engage in dialogue. Instead, we honored the corporate tradition and stayed quiet (the republican reports in through a team for which I am tangentially responsible - so I had to be very careful).

Dialogue. There are so many opportunities for dialogue. This year, more than most, dialogue is so compelling. It's funny when you recall that four years ago, so many people struggled to see meaningful differences between Republicans and Democrats, and now, the contrasts may never have been sharper.

Along those lines, my wife and I did not put a yard sign up this year. We just moved to our neighborhood in May, and we are just getting to know people. We thought it best to take the year off. Also, my wife is not the yard sign type. I think most folks could guess where we come down, and this year, yard signs seem somewhat territorial (if not divisive - especially the giant ones). For example, a few houses down, there is a woman whose company we enjoy quite a lot in the brief exchanges that happen as she walks her dog and as we rake our leaves. Let's call her Mary. She is a school teacher, and she is very close friends with our next door neighbors - a lesbian couple (you couldn't ask for better neighbors either - they often bring us tomatoes and strawberries). Let's call them Linda and Cindy. Well, Mary posted a Bush Cheney sign in her yard, and my reaction surprised me. I found myself thinking "gee, you think you know a person." I found myself trying to square my understanding of her with my understanding of the Bush Cheney administration. I wondered how she can be close friends with Linda and Cindy and support and adminstration that seeks to treat them as second class citizens and to deny their sincere (and long-standing) love for each other by the force of the constitution. I wondered how Linda and Cindy felt about the sign.

Eventually, I reached two conclusions. First, of course, there are many, many wonderful and sincere people who, after much thought and based on their history, have reached conclusions different from my own. Mary is one of them of course, and I have many wonderful republican friends. I believe in my heart that they are wrong, and I assume that they believe in their hearts that I am wrong too (they're wrong about that). I try to understand positions that differ from my own, and I hope to have a friendly conversation with Mary the next time I see her. Putting the sign up is an invitation for dialogue, right? Dialogue. Dialogue.

The second is that she must be a single issue voter! I mean come on! She's a school teacher (think un-funded mandate, think decreased federal aid to states and resulting impact to the schools, think about the devastating impact on curriculum of initiatives like No Child Left Behind and of all the testing, think about the republican governor in MN who has hit the schools very, very hard) which means she's probably in a union (solidarity to my brothers and sisters in unions and with all the workers of the world - the people, united, will never be defeated). Also, she is very close with Linda and Cindy. She lives in a democratic state and in a democratic neighborhood (and she has for decades). She lives near a lake and has an obligation as an environmental steward. I could go on and on.

For the record, I intend my second conclusion to be light-hearted (it kinda contradicts the first, no?).

If I get a chance for dialogue with Mary, I will report about it here. Dialogue is compelling and (now more than ever) essential. Dialogue not pointed toward changing view points, but pointed instead toward understanding them. Respectful and sincere dialogue.

lundi, octobre 11, 2004

Is this the October Surprise?

So there're plans for a television movie criticizing my guy, John F. Kerry, but no plans for equal time.

Per Sinclair:

FCC - who needs 'em?

McCain-Feingold - feh!

Noble (time honored) concept of equal time - overrated!

But this is what disturbs me the most: If you serve in combat, you are significantly more vulnerable to criticism than if you don't. Kerry was passionate about his service, and he was passionate about the abuses he witnessed. For his service and for his courage in standing up for his concerns, what does he get?

All Americans, from both sides of the aisle, should be very concerned about this. Take it away from Kerry versus Bush, and ask do we want the media used for partisan messages. I would march for their right to make this into a movie and market it in movie houses (like a certain hit film just out on DVD), but using television media, using the public airwaves in this way is just plain wrong.

Call Evil by Its Name!

The Top Ten Ways the Yankees are Like the Republican Party or The Top Ten Ways the Evil Empire is Like the Evil Empire

10. Behind both is a tremendous amount of money.

9. Both believe that they can buy success.

8. For both, success comes at the expense of the little guys.

7. In order to succeed, both play the game in a way that hurts the game.

6. They both rely on pitching more than they should.

5. They both have had better pitchers in the past.

4. They both believe in the slogan "win if you can, cheat if you must" (a.k.a. they both believe that the end justifies the means).


3. Both of them cause a lot of suffering among compassionate and caring people - among people who remember a simpler time - among people who remember a time when some things were sacred (like a policy against preemption, like internaitonalism, and like a level playing field) and some things were out of bounds (like push polling and like exploting the fact that your team is in the nation's largest radio and television market and the fact that teams like KC can't realistically compete against you - oh well, it's an accident of birth and just as some underserving folks get to go to Harvard and Yale, some teams get to rake in the cash because they were born in the Bronx).

2. Both rely on jingoism and patriotism to try to make their ugliness seem less ugly.

1. Both will lose to Boston-based victors.

Who Won? Well, All I Can Say Is: No One Lost

Here's my reaction to the debate on Friday:

Why was W winking? Was winking what W wanted? Were W's winks wrong? Will W wink Wednesday? Wink, wink. Well, when Willy winked, Washington went wacko. Why's winking wrong when willy winks while welcome with W? Wow, what white-washing. What weird, wrong-headed white-washing.

Anyway, I'm not sure I can identify a winner. I can say definitively that no one lost. If you are part of Kerry's base (comme moi), you found reasons to continue in your support of him. If you are in Bush's camp, then you won't stray. If you are part of the (who are these people?) undecided voters, I'm not sure how you sort through it all. But stick with me, and I will explain why to vote democrat this year and every year (at least until my dream of a multi-party system is realized and there is a super-liberal or super-progressive party out there).

Back to the debate: Kerry keeps saying he has a plan, and Bush keeps spouting the rhetoric with no regard at all for its accuracy or veracity.

(SIDENOTE on a SIDE-ISSUE or TANGENT on a RED-HERRING: I have to give Bush credit, he has managed to somehow make an issue out of medical malpractice reform - is there anyone out there who really believes that if we cap pain and suffering damages then health care costs will go down significantly? Doesn't everyone realize that litigation damages represent less than 1% of total health care costs? Can't everyone see that changing the medical malpractice litigation system (by enacting reforms that benefit the big guys at the expense of the little guys (just like the Bush tax cuts) will have no impact at all? In fact, next year's rise in health insurance costs will more than absorb any benefit gained by limiting malpractice awards. Doesn't everyone realize this is just a tactic to take attention away from a healthcare crisis that has worsened significantly under President Bush? But hey, I can't blame Bush for trying. Because, if you are a doctor or a (gullible) small business owner, well... then at least it all sounds good).

In the last debate, I would like to see Kerry get away from overstating the case. Creating 10 million jobs sounds pretty tough, and there is no need to say the war has cost $200 billion (and it may have). It's okay to say that cost projections run from $130 billion to $200 billion. To me, it's about like quibbling over whether an injured soldier had her leg amputated above the knee or below it. Either way, it's more cost than we, as a nation, should bear for an unjustified and preemptive and rushed war. Also, Kerry is absolutely barred from using the phrase "I have a plan."

My prescription for Bush is keep seeing your reality, dude. Yep, things are going well in Iraq and "staying the course" is a good idea (wouldn't be prudent to change horses at this juncture - sound familiar?). Yep, you enacted meaningful healthcare reform. Yep, the jobs outlook looks good. Yep, permanent tax cuts during a war is a good idea. Yes, keep seeing your reality. You might pick up the hemp vote, dude. Wink, wink.

I expect that in the final debate, Bush will avoid mistakes, and do what he has to do not to lose support from his extremely loyal base. Same with Kerry. Our candidates have perfected not making mistakes (first debate not withstanding). Not a good thing.

Next election cycle, I have one rule: the campaigns have no say in the rules of debate engagement. They get the date and the location and that's it. Candidates will be expected to think on their feet, to look and act and sound Presdential and to do it all extemporaneously. All answers will begin with the word "yes" or the word "no" - although candidates will be allowed two "it depends" beginnings per debate. Under that system, we will really learn something about our candidates. The only way to have meaningful debates is to require the candidates to appear in a setting that is not completed crafted by their campaigns. Let them sweat a bit.

But this year, more than in past years, the debates will not decide the election. Turnout will.

So, using special closed-circuit technology developed by our crackerjack IT staff here at I Live in Minnesota, Inc., and using retinal scanning technology implanted in your computer(s) by the FBI, the CIA and Condolezza Rice, I offer the following closed-circuited and bracketed message that is only viewable by liberal and/or progressive people and democratic friends.


vendredi, octobre 08, 2004

In the Town Hall (for a Free Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas)

This morning, National Public Radio - whose news coverage I would describe as fair and balanced - had a great feature on their Morning Edition program. NPR heartthrob Nina Totenberg filed a report on how the two campaigns handle dissenters at rallies. There is no transcript of the article, but here is a synopsis:

Some would-be attendees at President Bush's campaign events say they're being asked to leave for wearing clothes or stickers that support the president's opponent. At Sen. Kerry's rallies, the presidential hopeful ruefully acknowledges the presence of the opposition. NPR's Nina Totenberg examines the rights of campaign event planners and attendees.

And if you go here, you can listen to the audio of the report.

Like Bush and Cheney, I'll set aside the constitutional concerns. I also won't get into what this says for the Bush Campaign's feelings on freedom of speech (see, also, abuses of the USA Patriot Act). Instead, I'll only suggest that I think this might be a poor strategy for President Bush, and I'll cite three reasons.

First, as the NPR report makes clear, there are a number of undecided voters who are being turned away, and I'm not sure being forcibly removed from campaign rallies makes them more inclined to vote for President Bush. In fact, I'm sure they tell their friends and end up in newspapers too.

Second, and I guess we'll see tonight, I wonder if removing doubters prepares President Bush for appearing in front of crowds that have not signed a loyalty oath. (Read about loyalty oaths here and here and here). Might President Bush be hampered by not having a few unfriendlies in front of him from time to time? During the Republican convention, President Bush seemed genuinely rattled by protester attempts to bum rush the stage.

Third and last, it makes Senators Kerry and Edwards look good, and it makes President Bush and Vice President Cheney look bad. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

President Harry S. Truman (a Democrat) used to speak from train cabooses to mostly friendly crowds, but he faced hecklers all the time, and he made out just fine. President George H.W. Bush (Bush I) had to endure a man in a chicken suit showing up at a lot of his rallies.

To me the questions are: do we learn something about our candidates based on how they handle dissent? Bush often argues that Kerry will change his mind at the first hint of a pressure. I disagree with that, but does all of this suggest that Kerry won't wilt? Is Bush too shielded from opposing viewpoints? What does an unwillingness to appear in front of "the people" in "the marketplace of ideas" say about the President? What do loyalty oaths say about Bush and Cheney? Are there questions they don't want to answer? Why?

jeudi, octobre 07, 2004

Democracy Like Tennis, Is Mostly Footwork

Go to this.

Greetings from Minnesota

Hi. My name is Duf, and I am a blogger. "Hi, Duf."

This, as you may have guessed, is my blog. "Hi, blog." Today is her birthday.

I am active in a website discussion group that I encourage you to visit. You'll find it here. Great folks, fine humor, good times. Good times...

So then why have your own blog, Duf?

Well, my friend, these are desperate times, and desperate times call for more blogging. I wanted to have a site where I could be more political and share the good word about progressive politics and the liberal movement (coming soon to a town near you). All of this from my point of view.

I named my site, "I live in Minnesota" because to me, our state aspires to embody and sometimes actually does embody all the things that are great about the progressive movement: we vote here, we are very grass roots, we put signs in our lawn, we march, we wear buttons, we sing about overcoming, we pass referenda to increase funding to the schools, and we blog.

Yes, we make mistakes. Sometimes we make very, very big mistakes. And we are not quite as progressive as this state, or this state, or this state, or this place that should be a state, but we are trying - we are under attack from a great sea of folks who want low taxes, have 30% of the facade as garage and want to live in places with no sidewalks and low taxes even if it comes at the expense of their quality of life (low taxes). But, above all that, in the upper atmosphere where hopes and dreams inspire the movement, there is a vibrant and wonderful community of people who value life and peace and the environment and schools and freedom and the Bill of Rights and tofu.

Anyway, I'm one of them. Thanks for coming by...let me know what you think.

With special thanks on this inaugural blog to an unlikely friend.