September 30, 2004

Debate? What Debate?

Tonight, as you all may well know, will be the first of three, so-called debates. While I am certainly excited to get to see the two candidates verbally joust, I really don't think that we're going to see anything different. I mean, really, since the two candidates have 31 pages of rules that were negotiated, we've not ended up with a debate at all, but more of an interview between the moderator, Jim Lehrer, and each of the candidates. Honestly, it makes me ill. Neither of the candidates can directly engage the other, which is what debate is supposed to be about. However, much like our leaders inability to give meaning to any sort of definition whether it be WMD, democracy or WAR, debate has now been changed to mean propaganda.

Do we really expect to hear anything different? Will Dubya take any responsibility for the failures that he was warned to expect? Will Kerry, aka the windbag, be able to actually say something that the average guy can relate? Not likely.

So tonight, as you chew on your grilled cheese sandwiches, take notice of the immitation flavor for that is exactly what you'll see tonight: imitators.


September 29, 2004

A Conservative Paper with a Mind Not Owned by Big Media

I really can't improve upon this endorsement, made by George Dubya's hometown paper in Texas. Let the truth be told!

The Lone Star Iconoclast

Kerry Will Restore
American Dignity
2004 Iconoclast Presidential Endorsement

Few Americans would have voted for George W. Bush four years ago if he had promised that, as President, he would:

  • Empty the Social Security trust fund by $507 billion to help offset fiscal irresponsibility and at the same time slash Social Security benefits.

  • Cut Medicare by 17 percent and reduce veterans’ benefits and military pay.

  • Eliminate overtime pay for millions of Americans and raise oil prices by 50 percent.

  • Give tax cuts to businesses that sent American jobs overseas, and, in fact, by policy encourage their departure.

  • Give away billions of tax dollars in government contracts without competitive bids.

  • Involve this country in a deadly and highly questionable war, and

  • Take a budget surplus and turn it into the worst deficit in the history of the United States, creating a debt in just four years that will take generations to repay.

These were elements of a hidden agenda that surfaced only after he took office.

The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda.

Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry, based not only on the things that Bush has delivered, but also on the vision of a return to normality that Kerry says our country needs.

Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding terrorism and Iraq.

President Bush has announced plans to change the Social Security system as we know it by privatizing it, which when considering all the tangents related to such a change, would put the entire economy in a dramatic tailspin.

The Social Security Trust Fund actually lends money to the rest of the government in exchange for government bonds, which is how the system must work by law, but how do you later repay Social Security while you are running a huge deficit? It’s impossible, without raising taxes sometime in the future or becoming fiscally responsible now. Social Security money is being used to escalate our deficit and, at the same time, mask a much larger government deficit, instead of paying down the national debt, which would be a proper use, to guarantee a future gain.

Privatization is problematic in that it would subject Social Security to the ups, downs, and outright crashes of the Stock Market. It would take millions in brokerage fees and commissions out of the system, and, unless we have assurance that the Ivan Boeskys and Ken Lays of the world will be caught and punished as a deterrent, subject both the Market and the Social Security Fund to fraud and market manipulation, not to mention devastate and ruin multitudes of American families that would find their lives lost to starvation, shame, and isolation.

Kerry wants to keep Social Security, which each of us already owns. He says that the program is manageable, since it is projected to be solvent through 2042, with use of its trust funds. This would give ample time to strengthen the economy, reduce the budget deficit the Bush administration has created, and, therefore, bolster the program as needed to fit ever-changing demographics.

Our senior citizens depend upon Social Security. Bush’s answer is radical and uncalled for, and would result in chaos as Americans have never experienced. Do we really want to risk the future of Social Security on Bush by spinning the wheel of uncertainty?

In those dark hours after the World Trade Center attacks, Americans rallied together with a new sense of patriotism. We were ready to follow Bush’s lead through any travail.

He let us down.

When he finally emerged from his hide-outs on remote military bases well after the first crucial hours following the attack, he gave sound-bytes instead of solutions.

He did not trust us to be ready to sacrifice, build up our public and private security infrastructure, or cut down on our energy use to put economic pressure on the enemy in all the nations where he hides. He merely told us to shop, spend, and pretend nothing was wrong.

Rather than using the billions of dollars expended on the invasion of Iraq to shore up our boundaries and go after Osama bin Laden and the Saudi Arabian terrorists, the funds were used to initiate a war with what Bush called a more immediate menace, Saddam Hussein, in oil-rich Iraq. After all, Bush said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction trained on America. We believed him, just as we believed it when he reported that Iraq was the heart of terrorism. We trusted him.

The Iconoclast, the President’s hometown newspaper, took Bush on his word and editorialized in favor of the invasion. The newspaper’s publisher promoted Bush and the invasion of Iraq to Londoners in a BBC interview during the time that the administration was wooing the support of Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Again, he let us down.

We presumed the President had solid proof of the existence of these weapons, what and where they were, even as the search continued. Otherwise, our troops would be in much greater danger and the premise for a hurried-up invasion would be moot, allowing more time to solicit assistance from our allies.

Instead we were duped into following yet another privileged agenda.

Now he argues unconvincingly that Iraq was providing safe harbor to terrorists, his new key justification for the invasion. It is like arguing that America provided safe harbor to terrorists leading to 9/11.

Once and for all, George Bush was President of the United States on that day. No one else. He had been President nine months, he had been officially warned of just such an attack a full month before it happened. As President, ultimately he and only he was responsible for our failure to avert those attacks.

We should expect that a sitting President would vacation less, if at all, and instead tend to the business of running the country, especially if he is, as he likes to boast, a “wartime president.” America is in service 365 days a year. We don’t need a part-time President who does not show up for duty as Commander-In-Chief until he is forced to, and who is in a constant state of blameless denial when things don’t get done.

What has evolved from the virtual go-it-alone conquest of Iraq is more gruesome than a stain on a White House intern’s dress. America’s reputation and influence in the world has diminished, leaving us with brute force as our most persuasive voice.

Iraq is now a quagmire: no WMDs, no substantive link between Saddam and Osama, and no workable plan for the withdrawal of our troops. We are asked to go along on faith. But remember, blind patriotism can be a dangerous thing and “spin” will not bring back to life a dead soldier; certainly not a thousand of them.

Kerry has remained true to his vote granting the President the authority to use the threat of war to intimidate Saddam Hussein into allowing weapons inspections. He believes President Bush rushed into war before the inspectors finished their jobs.

Kerry also voted against President Bush’s $87 billion for troop funding because the bill promoted poor policy in Iraq, privileged Halliburton and other corporate friends of the Bush administration to profiteer from the war, and forced debt upon future generations of Americans.

Kerry’s four-point plan for Iraq is realistic, wise, strong, and correct. With the help from our European and Middle Eastern allies, his plan is to train Iraqi security forces, involve Iraqis in their rebuilding and constitution-writing processes, forgive Iraq’s multi-billion dollar debts, and convene a regional conference with Iraq’s neighbors in order to secure a pledge of respect for Iraq’s borders and non-interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The publishers of the Iconoclast differ with Bush on other issues, including the denial of stem cell research, shortchanging veterans’ entitlements, cutting school programs and grants, dictating what our children learn through a thought-controlling “test” from Washington rather than allowing local school boards and parents to decide how young people should be taught, ignoring the environment, and creating extraneous language in the Patriot Act that removes some of the very freedoms that our founding fathers and generations of soldiers fought so hard to preserve.

We are concerned about the vast exportation of jobs to other countries, due in large part to policies carried out by Bush appointees. Funds previously geared at retention of small companies are being given to larger concerns, such as Halliburton — companies with strong ties to oil and gas. Job training has been cut every year that Bush has resided at the White House.

Then there is his resolve to inadequately finance Homeland Security and to cut the Community Oriented Policing Program (COPS) by 94 percent, to reduce money for rural development, to slash appropriations for the Small Business Administration, and to under-fund veterans’ programs.

Likewise troubling is that President Bush fought against the creation of the 9/11 Commission and is yet to embrace its recommendations.

Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton has been awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts without undergoing any meaningful bid process — an enormous conflict of interest — plus the company has been significantly raiding the funds of Export-Import Bank of America, reducing investment that could have gone toward small business trade.

When examined based on all the facts, Kerry’s voting record is enviable and echoes that of many Bush allies who are aghast at how the Bush administration has destroyed the American economy. Compared to Bush on economic issues, Kerry would be an arch-conservative, providing for Americans first. He has what it takes to right our wronged economy.

The re-election of George W. Bush would be a mandate to continue on our present course of chaos. We cannot afford to double the debt that we already have. We need to be moving in the opposite direction.

John Kerry has 30 years of experience looking out for the American people and can navigate our country back to prosperity and re-instill in America the dignity she so craves and deserves. He has served us well as a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and has had a successful career as a district attorney, lieutenant governor, and senator.

Kerry has a positive vision for America, plus the proven intelligence, good sense, and guts to make it happen.

That’s why The Iconoclast urges Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country.

The Iconoclast wholeheartedly endorses John Kerry.

September 28, 2004

Republicans at the trough -- heeerree piggy piggy!

A few weeks ago, a long-time friend of mine engaged me in a discussion about the flow of tax dollars to those less fortunate. One of the fundamental misperceptions that exists among conservative minded individuals is that their taxes are going to responsibility shirking, welfare dependent, jobless and non-job-seeking, liberal loving leeches.

Okay, so maybe that's a bit strong, but the sentiment is definitely there. While, as a progressive I believe in a fiscally responsible government that doesn't view deficit spending as a bottomless wallet, I also believe that we have a responsibility to provide bootstraps to those less fortunate to allow them to further their interests, both economic and political. Of course there will always be people that are more than willing to jerk the system around, but these are people in a very small minority and are anecdotal at best.

So here's the low-down: the Tax Foundation has recently released an enlightening report detailing which states benefit from federal tax and spending policies, and which states foot the bill. Essentially, it is a report that puts some measurable numbers on how wealth is redistributed around the county.

Since this submission is attacking a fundamental misconception that Republicans have regarding the usage of their tax dollars, let's divide the country into Red States and Blue States, where each state's color is defined by how that state's year 2000 presidential electoral votes were cast. For example, Texas went for Bush and would therefore be considered a Red State. Conversely, California went for Gore and would be a Blue State. Here's a pic of our beautiful country, neatly divided into the Red and Blue states we've so come to love.

According to the report, 32 states and the District of Columbia receive MORE tax dollars by the way of federal spending than they PAY in taxes creating a positive flow of tax dollars to those states.

Of the 32 states (and DC), 76% (25/33) voted for the Republican candidate in the year 2000. In fact, 85% (17/20) of the states that received the LARGEST amount of tax payer dollars cast their electoral votes for the Republican candidate. Here is a list of states receiving a positive flow of tax payer dollars. The states highlighted in bold are Red States.

Top 10 States Receiving Most in Federal Spending Per Dollar of Federal Taxes Paid:
  1. D.C. ($6.17)
  2. North Dakota ($2.03)
  3. New Mexico ($1.89)
  4. Mississippi ($1.84)
  5. Alaska ($1.82)
  6. West Virginia ($1.74)
  7. Montana ($1.64)
  8. Alabama ($1.61)
  9. South Dakota ($1.59)
  10. Arkansas ($1.53)

In contrast, of the 16 states that receive less in federal spending than they pay in federal taxes, 69% (11/16) are Blue States that voted for the Democratic candidate in 2000. In fact, 79% (11/14) of states receiving the least federal spending per dollar of federal taxes paid are Blue States. Here is a list of states that supply the tax payer corn feed for the federal trough. The states highlighted in bold are Blue States.

Top 10 States Receiving Least in Federal Spending Per Dollar of Federal Taxes Paid:
  1. New Jersey ($0.62)
  2. Connecticut ($0.64)
  3. New Hampshire ($0.68)
  4. Nevada ($0.73)
  5. Illinois ($0.77)
  6. Minnesota ($0.77)
  7. Colorado ($0.79)
  8. Massachusetts ($0.79)
  9. California ($0.81)
  10. New York ($0.81)

"OK, so what?" you ask. Here's the pincer: Democratic, socially liberal fiscal policies are directly benefitting the very people that don't agree with those policies. How is that for irony?

Road Rage

Hello everyone in Bloggsville!

This is my first post and true to my nature, I will not be discussing politics directly as the title suggests, but rather take a more mundane and tortuous path to the arena of political discourse.

This past weekend, my buddy Jay and I went on our yearly camping trip. We were short by one person, as our nefarious DWPMF brother Marcelle was not able to make it. He was mightily missed, but the show must go on! While camping, we typically engage in massive, binge drinking and general discussions of porn, bitches and ho's (sorry Ma!). That's not to say that our conversations are not enlightening, but simply that we tend to commune with nature in a more animanly manner. But I digress. While driving back from the black wasteland of the previous three days, Jay and I began to discuss the nature of road rage. Now, for those of you that know me, road rage is an addiction that I too often succumb. Well, here's the bottom line:

  • In America, as population density has increased, our ability to offer courtesy as a normal trait of communication between strangers has declined.

  • As courtesy has declined with regards to strangers, the level of selfishness has increased. In fact, it may even be a converse relationship although I have no proof of this statement.

  • Road rage REQUIRES communication amongst strangers.

Generically speaking, road rage requires a cause. I mean, really, whoever suffered through the adrenaline rush of road rage on a long, lonely road? Couldn't the driver of a vehicle be considered mentally unstable if he suddenly engaged in road rage all on his own? Both of these questions really get at the crux of the issue. You see, Jay is a firm believer that road rage is caused not by some courtesy lacking dumb-ass, but is rather caused by the person experiencing said dumb-ass' behavior. Now, while I agree that none of us can blame our emotions or lack of self-control on someone else, I can equally state the exercise of self-control would never become an issue if it weren't for the initial cause of the exercise; the other driver's selfish behavior. How we choose to react is subsequently open to argument.

This past summer, my wife and I did a bit of travelling. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit friends and family in Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. It was refreshing to get to drive out West again. People are generally and overtly more courteous. If I were driving in Boston and came upon someone enforcing the speed limit (which no-one even remotely follows) in the fast lane (that'd be the far left lane for all of you New Englanders), my neighborly Bostonian would ensure that I knew, that they knew they were now impeding my progress. As is often the case, this behavior can be further manifested by the middle-finger and general ranting that follows when I am forced to pass on the right. I hate to pass on the right because if I'm passing you on the right, it means you are in the wrong fucking lane forcing me to pass on the right. Conversely, out West, people act genuinely embarrassed if someone is forced to pass them on the right.

Ultimately, all this angst could be dispensed with by simply introducing a little courtesy into our daily driving. However, being courteous doesn't also give you a pass to be a dumb-ass. For instance, stopping in the middle of the damn road where no stop-sign, traffic light or other traffic maintenance device exists to let someone into the flow of traffic is not courteous, it's being a dumb-ass. Wouldn't it be nice if we all had some standard rules of behavior?

  • When entering a flow of traffic, speed up to the flow, don't make the flow slow down for you. This will make merging so much easier on you AND your fellow drivers.
  • Stay out of the fast lane unless you're passing. Ignore this rule if in a traffic jam.
  • Don't enforce the law as it applies to motorists. You'll only create a bigger problem. Hell, if you feel strongly about it, hang up your damn cell-phone and actually use it for something other than an excuse to endanger other people and call a cop.
  • When two lanes merge into one, take your fucking turn instead of cutting off some poor ol' lady that has irritable bowel syndrome and wants to get to her destination just as much as you.
  • And the biggest rule of all! Don't engage other motorists in argument. The 2nd amendment still applies and you don't know shit about that twitchy fucker in the other car.

So what does any of this have to do with politics? Democratic, political discourse follows a similar paradigm to that governing interaction between strangers. If we are unable to discuss issues without a modicum of courtesy, we end up in a rage. Rage is unhealthy, both for the individual and the Republic. The type of blither that is produced by big media and consumed by the majority of our countrymen does nothing to inform our compatriots, but does everything to inflame our brethren. Similar rules should apply to political debate as they do to driving courteously.

  • When discussing politics, take turns and don't cut off people. Their opinion matters just as much as yours.
  • When merging into a discussion you know nothing about, get up to speed before making statements that are subjective rather than objective.
  • Don't enforce your opinion. This is not to say that you can't argue in an ardent manner, but that the Thought Police should exist only in Orwell's fiction.

So there it is, the relationship between road rage and politics!