The Personal and Political Ramblings of one guy in Texas.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

I am Shocked! Shocked to Find that Politics is Going On Here! 

It's sort of funny to see M!EK go all Inspector Renault on me in the comments to my post on Kerry's Vietnam troubles. Granted, my examples were not perhaps the best in the world (the Moore one in particular), but anyone willing to trot over to FactCheck.Org can find plenty on both sides.

I know few people as cynical as M!EK, yet he seems to have swallowed the idea that while the Swifties practically have a cubicle in the West Wing, Kerry's connections with the 527's and other groups (8 out of 10 of which, BTW are anti-Bush, according to OpenSecrets) are "neither short nor obvious". So, if you want to see these links, have a gander here and here.

I think that second link is most telling though I do have two objections to it. The first is its reference to a MoveOn ad that referred to Bush as a Nazi. That was not an official ad, it was an entry in a contest, and not even a finalist, if I recall correctly. Second, there is a link to a "reputed mobster". That's gratuitous.

Some more links to be found here. There are some repetitions, but still, it should demonstrate that the world or political action and finance is a small and incestuous place. And this link should give you an idea of the weird sort of universe we live in, where the harsh and at least partially not true accusation of the Swifties are the big news compared to the millions spent by a host of other groups on ads that are just as misleading.

Then there's the flap over this Ginsberg fellow, who's been lawyering for both the Bush campaign and the Swiftvets. Aha! More evidence of the illegal links, no? Well, maybe, but then you have this (scroll down a tad). Turns out that there is quite a bit of, shall we say, cross-pollination going on with Dem groups and their lawyers as well.

Oh heck, here's one more (scroll to the bottom):

The Democratic Party is partnering with, People for the American Way, Campaign for America's Future, and dozens of other groups representing millions of Americans to organize a massive public mobilization. On Wednesday, May 14, join us by calling and emailing your representatives in Congress to let them know that the majority of Americans oppose more irresponsible tax cuts that go overwhelmingly to the wealthiest sliver of Americans.

So, while the Swiftvets certainly do have a direct link to Bush (something I never denied) it should put to bed Josh Marshall's amazing insinuation that this is something new or unique to the Republicans.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Stupid Media, Part 2 

If this pans out its too rich. Apparently, some guy wrote a story for Harper's magazine that said this (I got it from Reason Online):

The speeches in Madison Square Garden affirmed the great truths now routinely preached from the pulpits of Fox News and the Wall Street Journal--government the problem, not the solution; the social contract a dead letter; the free market the answer to every maiden's prayer--and while listening to the hollow rattle of the rhetorical brass and tin, I remembered the question that [Richard] Hofstadter didn't stay to answer. How did a set of ideas both archaic and bizarre make its way into the center ring of the American political circus?

Of course, the convention hasn't happened yet. Oy.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Shameless Self-Promotion 

I've started another blog, one about my life as a stay-at home dad. It's called Homo Domesticus. Cruise on over and check it out. I'll probably update it a bit more often than this one.

The Vast Right-Wing Stupid Liberal Media 

There's no shortage of people trying to claim that the media is somehow biased against them and for the other side. The more fair-minded allow that this is not a conspiracy or even conscious on the part of the reporters and writers involved. And really, if you're looking for it, its not hard to find what you see as examples. Among the right-wing bloggers, the current case in point is the complete non-frenzy among the big papers concerning whether or not Kerry actually spent a Christmas across the Cambodian border 30 years ago. But you do have to compare that to the treatment Al Gore got for a series of stretches and even honest mistakes.

The main problem I think, is not that the media is biased in any ideological way (though they probably are, pick your direction) but that they have become fundamentally lazy. This is not exactly news to most of you I'm sure. But it sure seems that lately it has become more obvious; we're definitely in a bad patch when it comes to reporting. Or is it just because we now have blogs, and its easier to, as they say, "fact check your ass" and get it out to the entire WWW?

Let's make a pair of assumptions. 1. The "media" is generally ignorant of any semi-technical topic they are covering. 2. Reporters are lazy.

Examples of the first abound. The recent Iraq War was a good example. When fighting started, reporters constantly got details of the military hardware wrong, blindly cited aphorisms that did not apply to the situation at hand, etc. etc.

And reporters are lazy. Had they bothered, they could have learned a lot if this stuff beforehand. How many bloggers have shown that had a reporter been willing to just go to Google, they could have learned that a story or a source had a very checkered pedigree?

People bemoan declining newspaper circulation, but it seems to me that papers and tv news reporters have little room to complain. They just don't give us a good, trusted product anymore.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Free Associating 

Well, school's back in session. My son's, that is. So now, I have more time of my own in order to blog and do whatever. It never fails to amaze me how hard it is to get things done with a little one around. I'm not enough of a hard-ass, I reckon. I suppose I shouldn't complain. It'll seem like only a week has passed between "Dad, can you play?" and "Dad, can I borrow the car?" Damn you, Harry Chapin!

The wife-unit thinks that what should blog about instead of politics is what its like being a stay-at-home dad. I started this blog with the typical fantasies of starting a revolution that would create a world filled with my politics. But, seeing as I'm somewhere below algae on the blogging food chain, maybe I should reconsider. And when you're stuck with the situation of wanting to vote for a meteor strike on the debates, well...It does take some of the fun out.

Speaking of the whole stay-at-home thing, I've managed to advance this far in my efforts to decide what to do with my life: If I do go back to programming, I need to learn Peoplesoft. Working for the HR folks is best way to get into a programming environment that I would enjoy. I'm sure there are others, but that strikes me as the most likely. The job I enjoyed the most involved HR programming.

The next thing would be the acting thing. I've been taking a class over at our area theater, the Zachary Scott. While I've not set the place on fire (20+ years of dust is 20+ years of dust) I've done just fine, and have reconnected fully with how much fun it is to perform, even the cheesy little skits we're working with. I'd love to be able to appear in a couple of productions a year; just enough to make a little extra cash. It's a tough life, though. It's not New York or LA, but Austin is bound to be loaded with people trying to break into acting.

Finally, we have writing. I'm less sanguine about this than the wife-unit, mostly because I'm kind of lazy. Writing for real, books or articles is pretty hard work, and doing it right is probably not something you can do from your home, even if you have high-speed internet access, which we do not (yet). But she thinks I should make writing an article for someone a goal. Writing it, not getting it published. Which is easy for someone with two books and numerous articles under her belt to say. We shall see.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Not much blogging lately, and its not like there isn't stuff to talk about (Plame, Iraq, jobs, Cambodia, etc.). But I've been kinda busy doing the last bits of summer we can do, before Jake and Trish head back to their different sorts of school. Next week things should start to get more regular, we'll see.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

My Old Political Platform 

Four years ago (or thereabouts, it seems much longer than that) I sat down and tried to create a coherent document that described my political beliefs. It was part philosophy, part practical. To an extent, I also hoped that putting down my policy ideas would give me a window on the philosophical underpinnings. I never finished it, but I dusted it off the other day and was surprised by how well it still seemed to stand up. Obviously stuff like terrorism is not front and center, but I didn't do too badly. There are things I would change, but treat this as somewhat historical. And I've left in the places where I knew I needed a policy but hadn't gotten to around to writing it down.

Its a lot more "liberal", than the current GOP platform. I've no idea where it is compared to the Democratic one. At the time, I called it a "New Conservative Manifesto". These days neocon has a bad odor, but I 've not the time or imagination to come up with a catchy new slogan.

Its long, but its here. What you'd rather be working?


The New Conservative Manifesto

Basic Beliefs:

NC’s believe in personal liberty and responsibility. Government exists to secure these; it does not grant them. Government should as much as possible refrain from doing more than what is needed to secure personal liberty. Note however, that we are NOT Libertarians. History has shown that true Libertarianism cannot work. If humans were as good as they would have to be in order for Libertarianism to work, any governmental system would work.

So we recognize that government must provide certain services. To a certain extent, the services we see as valid for government to provide depend upon the level of government (national, state, local – see the plank on Federalism). It should also be noted that one reason for these limits is the nature of the Constitution. The US Constitution describes a government limited in scope and power. Policies which extend that power should perforce be preceded by amending the Constitution, not by reading powers into it. It is our opinion that looking for things in the Constitution is a practice that can too easily be abused.



NC’s believe that abortion is wrong but acknowledge that forbidding it will result in at least as much harm as good. Abortion should however be restricted. Late-term, partial-birth abortion should be outlawed (except in cases of medical necessity, such as to save the life of the mother). Minors should not be allowed abortion without parental or guardian permission, except in extreme circumstances. However, the so-called "gag-rule" regarding federal doctors and abortion should be eliminated.

A better policy is to do as much as possible to eliminate unwanted pregnancies via education and access to birth control for those who want it.

Further, tax incentives should be available for organizations which work to support women who choose not to abort, either to raise the child themselves or for adoption.

Civil Rights

The government needs to continue to vigorously combat discrimination in the workplace or in public accommodations. The NC’s strongly oppose quotas and the current system of affirmative action. Disadvantaged groups should be lifted up by improved education and/or training from the beginning, not via artificially boosted test scores at the end.


Drugs are a scourge on our nation. They waste lives and destroy them as well. They destabilizing friendly governments – and making other less friendly. The hard drugs should remain controlled substances. We think legalization is the wrong message to send. However, the current War on Drugs is a failure. Our prisons have too many non-violent drug offenders in them. Our Constitution is being eroded to fight the "war".

The current emphasis on destroying or staunching the flow of drugs into the USA is not working. It cannot work without a commitment in dollars that is astronomical and policies that are probably unconstitutional. NC’s believe that the only way to win the drug war is to cut down on the demand for drugs here in the US. This means increased funding for treatment of addiction, and an end to harsh sentences for drug users.


The NC’s note that the constitution has no provision for a federal role in education. However, at the state level, we support the following:

The NC party supports school choice. We also support vouchers which allow students from failed public schools to attend other public or private schools.
We support English-immersion teaching. It has been shown superior to bilingual education in California.

We also support increased pay for teachers. The NC party strongly believes that to attract the best people one must pay a commensurately high salary. In exchange, teachers and administrators may be fired for cause with two weeks notice. There shall be no tenure at the high-school or elementary levels.

States should equalize funding across schools on a per-student basis allowing for different costs of living. It is wrong for students at in poorer school districts to be punished for living in an area with a weak tax base.

In general, teachers should hold a degree in their area of instruction. However, states should create an examination procedure to allow people with the correct knowledge if not the degree to become teachers (a Physics degree holder should certainly be able to teach high school calculus).

Students should be tested. While standardized tests are imperfect tools for judging individuals, they should be used to determine overall school effectiveness. A process should be available for students failing graduating tests to demonstrate competency in other ways.

At the college level, the emphasis needs to be on teaching, not research.


A laisez-faire approach to the environment will not work. As the air, water, etc are held in common and are required for everyone for life, the government clearly has a mandate to ensure that the environment remains as clean as reasonably possible.

Property rights must be balanced with the need to ensure clean air and water. Owners should be compensated if changing regulations or rulings forbid the use of their land/water as they so choose.

The government should support research for ways to reduce environmental damage.

Gun Control

The NC Party believes that the Second Amendment means that private citizens can own firearms, rifles, shotguns, and handguns.

We oppose any and all licensing or registration schemes.

We oppose all gun bans.

We support instant-check programs, including at gun shows.

We support mandatory inclusion of trigger-locks with guns, but not their mandatory use.

Health Care

Patients should have the right to sue any organization or individual which makes a decision regarding their medical care.

Patients should have full control over their medical histories.

Current policies which essentially force employer-supplied (and employer-limited) selection of medical insurance should be re-examined with the aim of increasing individual choice and affordability.


America is a nation of immigrants. Immigration keeps the pool of imagination and willingness to work filled. There is no need at this time for excessive controls on immigration.

English should be declared the official language of the US. Immigrants who wish to become citizens must speak English. All efforts should be made to instruct non-speakers who wish to learn. However, official documents must be available or quickly attainable in other languages in areas where a large number of non-English speakers reside (Ex: Spanish translations in large parts of Texas).

Currently, much labor (chiefly unskilled, low-pay, physical labor) is performed by illegal immigrants, mostly from Mexico. There is a clear need for this labor, and a willing source for it. Therefore we propose a means of obtaining inexpensive work visas for these illegal workers. This will reduce the very real risks which they undergo in order to work here, as well as provide a means for collecting (low) taxes to cover the costs of such governmental services they may use. It should also lower the potential for them to be exploited by unscrupulous employers. This naturally leads to questions regarding minimum wage and employer health insurance coverage which will have to be answered before this policy can be implemented.


Law Enforcement

Social Security/Medicare

Social Security needs reform. The salary cap on FICA taxable income needs to be lifted to $250,000 and the rate decreased. People should be allowed to invest their SS deductions in the stock market.

SS should be means-tested. Well-off retirees do not need SS, and it is time to end the fiction that SS is a pension system.

There should be a constitutional amendment granting the government permission to maintain a social security/welfare system.

Tort Reform

Damage awards to plaintiffs should be limited to actual damages. This should include expected medical costs, lost future income, etc.

Juries may choose to award punitive damages, but these awards should not go to the plaintiffs. They should be deposited in the general fund of the appropriate governmental jurisdiction. This should allow for the appropriate punishment of the defendant while reducing the incentive to chase "deep pocket" entities in search of windfall awards or settlements.

In the event a suit is determined to be frivolous or fraudulent, the defendant’s legal costs are to be paid by the plaintiff and/or the plaintiff’s legal representatives to the extent they are able to do so. This determination should be made by a panel of judges of the appropriate jurisdiction.


The government should acknowledge all religions equally – not ignore them all equally. Support and tax breaks should be given to support and encourage those groups performing useful services.


While NC’s would prefer there were not governmental welfare, it must be accepted that any attempt to eliminate it would be both cruel and unrealistic. Therefore, we support the following basic ideas:

A constitutional amendment granting the federal government permission to create and maintain such programs.

To the extent possible, individual welfare programs should be folded together under one roof. This should reduce administrative overhead and make it easier for applicants. One form should serve to apply for what today would be many different programs.

Welfare recipients should be expected to perform some sort of public service in exchange for their money. This work should be determined based upon the recipients circumstances.


Corporate Welfare/Subsidies

If welfare is a bad idea for individuals, it’s worse for business. It encourages corruption in politics and distorts the free market. NC’s believe that there should be an end to corporate welfare and subsidies. The only exception to this should be those businesses that are vital to national defense. We may not need a new aircraft carrier every year, but its good to keep the people who can build them going, because eventually we will need another one.

Free Trade

Free trade ultimately benefits all involved. The NC supports low trade barriers aside from those needed to insure health and safety. Trade restrictions should only be imposed for reasons of national security or gross violations of the spirit of free trade by trading partners.


Tax rates should be low. Tax codes should be simple.
The estate tax should be repealed. At a minimum, its current confiscatory rates should be lowered.

Technology Development


American foreign policy should follow that of enlightened self-interest. We should always encourage liberal democratic ideals and free markets. However, realism dictates that there are times when important long or short term goals require dealings with unsavory governments.


Africa from below the Sahara to the border of South Africa is a mess. The US should where possible continue to funnel strategic aid to the continent via independent groups, bypassing the generally corrupt and weak governments of the region. If it is not possible to be reasonably certain the money will be used as intended, then it should not be sent.



If China was a small, poor nation we would ignore them. But China is too big to ignore or isolate. Therefore we must pursue engagement with China while continuing to pressure for improved justice and human rights.

The NC believes that any reunification of China and Taiwan must be through mutual agreement, reached without threats or coercion. The NC is willing to support the self-determination of Taiwan militarily if need be.


Unlike China, the US can afford to ignore Cuba. However, it is our opinion that the overall embargo no longer serves a useful purpose. Trade should be liberalized, while working to our utmost to not involve the Cuban government.


The EC



The NC’s support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and to a lesser extent the ruling Baath party. While we would prefer a democratic and inclusive government, we will satisfy ourselves with one that poses no threat to our friends in the region.
The NC’s support refining the sanctions regime in order to ease the burden on ordinary Iraqis while still restricting those items with more direct military applications.


The NC fully supports the nation of Israel in its efforts to defend itself. The US should publicly affirm its willingness to support Israel in any such conflict, including the use of combat troops.

The NC also recognizes that as Israel holds most of the land, it will have to make the most concessions in order to achieve peace with its neighbors. The NC supports the overall peace process and is willing to provide a level of material support to help achieve peace.

Latin America

Because of a checkered past, US relations with Latin America are checkered as well. Current drug issues do not help. We must deal with these countries in a respectful manner and treat them as equals to the extent possible. Dealing with our own drug problem would probably be the best thing we could do for many of them.


Dealing with our drug problem would be a boon to Mexico. Further, the illegal immigrant issue should be dealt with by creating some sort of legal status for migrant workers. See also the plank on immigration.

Both countries need to work together to deal with pollution problems along the border.

Middle East

Comprehensive peace with Israel will do much to help ensure the stability of this region, important to the US for its oil supplies. The vulnerability of the US to oil shocks means that while we should continue to push for human rights and democratic ideals, we have to tread lightly.


Russia is not the global threat to the US that the Soviet Union was. However US and Russian interests do conflict and Russia is capable of causing severe problems for the US in certain regions. Russia is also a threat to several nations on its borders that would like closer relations to the US. NC’s propose strong engagement in areas of agreement, without backtracking on those where we disagree (human rights, et al.)


Composition and size

A military’s size and composition is determined by the sorts of assignments it is likely to perform.

National Missile Defense

NC supports the creation of a national missile defense system. However, such a system needs to be shown to be workable. We do not support deployment until tests show a good chance of the system doing its job.

Social Issues

Women may be placed in combat units if they pass the same physical requirements as men. These requirements should not be lowered in order to insure a "sufficient" number of women pass. Women who pass shall be assigned to combat units in the same manner as men are. Women who fail those standards may still serve in non-combat support roles.

Sexual orientation is not the business of the military. Homosexuals may serve just as honorably as heterosexuals. "Don’t ask don’t tell" shall be replaced with "Who cares".

Fraternization between enlisted people or officers in the same unit should be forbidden.

Relationships must be terminated or one member transferred.


The Role of the National Government

The Role of the States

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