Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Free Trade Helps Reduce World Poverty

Hi Everyone,

A lot of people blame trade for the world's problems. Anti-trade Republicans and anti-trade labor unions blame trade for unemployment in the USA (and other developed countries). Anti-trade activists in the Democratic and Green parties blame globalization and world trade for increasing poverty in the developing world.

In a previous posting (see archives) I argued that the real problem for the unemployed in the USA was lack of options for retraining and changing industries.

I recently found an interesting article about how trade effects the developing world. Its by Jagdish Bhagwati and T.N. Srinivasan (two economists from Columbia and Yale respectively). And its short (12 pages) so it won't take too long to read. Here are some of the highlights:

* An overwhelming majority of the world's poor live in rural areas of China and India.

* China and India have both dramatically increased their openness to world trade in the last 25 years.

* China is the fastest growing economy in the world and India is the 11th fastest growing economy in the world.

* Both China and India have dramatically reduced their poverty levels (both have cut poverty roughly in half since the late 1970s).

The authors argue that empirical evidence directly refutes the arguments that globalization and trade are making poverty worse.

Comments? Disagreements? Controversies?


Friday, May 28, 2004

How Should We Lessen US Dependence on Middle East Oil?

Hi Everyone,

We've been hearing a lot lately about the need to lessen the US dependence on Middle East Oil. There seems to be a broad consensus that this dependence forces the US to get entangled in messy conflicts in the Middle East that it would otherwise avoid (not sure this is a valid assumption but let's leave that alone for now). However, that seems to be where the consensus ends. Here is a brief presentation of some of the more often proposed options:

Option 1) Increase our imports from outside the Middle East. PRO: This would be a relatively cheap way out. Russia (a big potential oil exporter) and most African, Latin American and Asian producers are not in OPEC so increasing their role in the world oil market would tend to weaken OPEC and presumably lower the price of oil. We could impose many of the environmental costs of drilling on other countries. At the same time, US companies would likely be heavily involved in extracting, shipping and selling the stuff which would mean a tidy economic benefit for American business interests CON: We'd still be importing oil. Also, most of these non-Middle Eastern countries have many of the same problems with dictatorships, political instability, terrorist/rebel movements etc that make us worry about Middle East oil.

Option 2) Increase drilling in the US. PRO: We wouldn't be importing the oil anymore. The US would not have to depend on unstable, tin-pot dictatorships for its energy supply. This would mean more jobs and not all of them would be on the North Shore of Alaska. A lot of them would be in Southern states like Texas and Louisiana. CON: This is a short term solution at best. After we pump out all the oil in Alaska, the Gulf Coast or off shore from Santa Barbara, CA we'll be right back were we started only now we'll have ruined some beautiful parts of the country.

Option 3) Lower dependence on oil overall by shifting to renewable energy sources. PRO: This is the best, if not only, long term solution. CON: This is the most expensive solution in the short and medium term. Many of the alternative energy technologies are only in their initial stages of development and require a lot of investment to make them profitable and practical.

Anyone else have any comments?


No Excuse For Torture

[This is a Re-Posting from earlier this month]

This morning, Bush reiterated his claim that "nobody can doubt that Iraq is better off because it is free." This is, although not explicitly offered as such, his justification for the abuse of prisoners. Isn't torture okay, the argument goes, if we can get good results by doing so? Too many New Yorkers no doubt would say that the torture of a "few Arabs" would have been worth it, if it could have prevented 9/11.
Even Alan Dershowitz suggests, as he did after 9/11, that there should be "torture warrants" issued in select circumstances to elicit information. Shame on him. Shame on this administration. Torture is a bargain with the devil. And remember: the devil always wins.

It is on this issue, above all others, where the civilized world rallies or fails. The issue is not "police brutality." Torture is an attempt to break the spirit by depriving the victim of his sense of humanity through pain and humiliation. The hallmark of torture is not physical pain, but psychological destruction.
Torture is wrong. No exigent circumstances justify it. Its gradual abolition was one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment. Freedom from torture is our most precious freedom. No matter how badly the government hates us, it has no right to destroy us physically and psychologically. Thus we are free men and women with the right to dissent. Now we are seeing that in Iraq, the army - OUR ARMY- strips
prisoners naked, leaves them in the freezing cold and dark for days, forces them to perform acts of humiliation, and beats them. And that's just what they chose to photograph. If there were photographs of Guantanamo, we would likely see worse.

There must be house cleaning in the Defense department. If Bush and Rumsfeld cannot understand why this is wrong, they must be swept out of office on a wave of revulsion. America can survive more terrorist attacks. We cannot survive the introduction of torture. There was a time when our presidents would declare a "national day of humiliation and prayer" to take stock of our wrongdoing. This is the time for such a day.

I recommend that we all, as a nation and as individuals, set aside a day over the next week or two for reflection and education, or prayer if you are so inclined. It is an appropriate time to put away the yellow ribbon and don a black one, or simply dress in black clothing. We should ponder the question: how have we become so angry that we are willing to countenance this behavior? I propose May 28 - the Friday before Memorial Day.


Thursday, May 27, 2004

Consumer Victory

Relief is finally on the way for California cell phone consumers, at least. Hopefully such policies will follow for the rest of us, for as the saying goes: As goes California, so goes the nation.
California Public Utilties Commission - New Cellular Rules
These changes require, among other things:
(1) Late charges can be no more than 1.5% of the total, and must not accrue until 22 days after the bill is sent.
(2) Consumers have 30 days to cancel after service after signing up. No more signing on the dotted line for 2 years with no recourse and huge fees.
(3) All terms must be in at least 10 point type.
(4) All rates must be clearly posted on the internet, and if rates are not available to new customers they must be clearly marked.

The industry, of course, with its Republican backers, resisted mightily. In this election, Democrats need to remind consumers of who is on their side and who always backs big business and privilege against the middle class.


Minor changes

Hi Everyone,

I've made some minor changes to the side bar. I will change them back if the other citizens get upset. I would like to especially recommend checking out the link to the Federalist Papers which is a great website for poli sci nerds like me. Why let the Radio Talk Show crowd tell you what the Founding Fathers intended when you can actually look it up for yourself so easily!?

Also, I've put in a link to the U.S. Constitution.

Today's updates have been brought to you by the number 7, the letter B and the 6th Amendment.

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."



This is the lead paragraph of the body of Kerry's new stump speech on foreign policy:

More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American leadership in foreign policy. He said America should walk softly and carry a big stick. Time and again, this Administration has violated the fundamental tenet of Roosevelt’s approach, as he described it: “If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble.”

Anyboyd else think this is this aimed at John McCain?


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Extinct and Endangered Sub-species of Republicans

The rise of Evangelical (mostly Southern) protestants as a major political force since the Nixon "Southern Strategy" has doomed to extinction a couple of Republican factions with long histories in the party.

Many people know about the so called "liberal" Republicans (aka Rockefeller Republicans, aka Progressive Republicans). Arlen Specter is the last of that sub-species. Jeffords was of this type but he evolved into an Independent who votes with the Democrats.

But fewer people have heard of the Stalwarts. Stalwart Republicans are the Midwestern budget hawks, like Gerald Ford or Bob Dole. They tend to be fans of small businesses and family farms. They distrust big business and big labor alike. They distrust Southern politics and think talking about religion with strangers is nearly as rude as asking someone how much money they make. Most of them aren't Baptists, Pentecostal or other kinds of Evangelicals. Stalwarts belong to the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and other "mainstream" protestant sects mostly. Stalwarts like their religion quiet and their liquor laws strict - speaking in tongues just seems a little like public drunkenness. In places like small town Minnesota, they used to vote Republican as reflexively as Southerners used to vote Democrat and for much the same reason - a kind of collective hangover from the Civil War. These are the descendents of the Kansas Jayhawkers who fought against the spread of slavery (and plantation agri-business) in Bloody Kansas. In the 19th century, they got their name because they are supportors of a third term for U.S. Grant. These are the Republicans most likely to be bent out of shape over the deficit Bush is running. They would sooner end the tax cut than run up the debt. Stalwarts don't all live down on the farm any more. But suburban life (in places like Minneapolis, Milwaukee or Columbus) hasn't changed their ideology much.

This rock-ribbed sub-species of Republican would appear to be thriving. Republican candidates do well in the much of the Midwest but Bush seems to have abandoned the Stalwarts. The Bush administration has done little to keep this group happy. The high deficit spending is especially irksome to the Stalwart Republicans. The social conservative policies aimed to keep the Evangelicals happy only make Stalwarts uncomfortable. These voters are unlikely to vote Democratic. But it is easy for them to believe that they can just forget about the whole thing and not vote at all.

The Stalwart Republicans will be crucial for Bush in Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota and maybe even Missouri. Bush is behind in all but one of those states (Iowa) right now and he probably needs to win half of them. There is really nothing he can do to get the Stalwarts on his side at this point. Reversing himself on the tax cut would do the trick nicely but he will NEVER do that as it would alienate the populist NASCAR Nationalists.


Anecdotal Report From Ohio

Hi Everyone,

A number of posts and links on this site have pointed out that Kerry is ahead in Ohio and in other swing states. I was recently in Ohio for the wedding of two good friends of mine (to each other) and have the following non-scientific observations.

The neighborhood I was in most of the time was a suburb of Columbus known as a Republican stronghold. In fact, it was once common to say that the politics in this part of Columbus "range from far right to utter darkness." In the five days I was driving around town I saw exactly one (1) Bush-Cheney campaign yard sign. I did NOT see a lot of Bush-Cheney bumper stickers either... those I did see were very old looking and could be left over from 2000.

I've heard rumors that two relatives of mine who are life long supporters of the Republican party are very dissatisfied with Bush. In both cases, it was Bush's messianic style that most turned them off. Also, both relatives generally regard Bush as incompetent. Now only a mad man would think that either of these people would ever vote for a Democrat. But it is reasonable to imagine that they (and people of like mind) would stay home or at least only vote for Congressional races.

Bush's strategy of a Nationalist/Evangelical coalition seems to have left out a constituency long critical to Republican party success...fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives are a major component of Republican voting bases in Ohio and the rest of the Midwest - a fact that Southern Evangelicals are totally clueless about (more on that later). The Midwest is where the "swing states" are. Alienating these fiscal conservatives (Bob Dole or Gerald Ford style Republicans) will likely prove to be fatal for Bush.


Moral Rot?

A commentary in the Los Angeles Times today by Rebecca Hagelin, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, called "Down the Sewer to Abu Ghraib" claims that the reason for the abuse carried out by the soldiers in the photographs is the inevitable result of a culture that has turned from God and is suffering "moral rot."

Hagelin fails to mention, however, that those particular soldiers are from the Bible Belt, and almost certainly were raised in some "bible-believing" fundamentalist Christian sect (e.g., Southern Baptists and "non-denominational" groups). Reports are now coming out that prisoners complain of being forced to curse Islam and praise Jesus. This behavior is more likely to be a result of religious extremism, not modern secularism. These errant soldiers likely believe, as Bush does, that we are fighting "evildoers" and are therefore justified in treating them as less than human.

So it is not atheism and secularism that is to blame here, but misguided religion. The real issue is profound and depressing. These "Christians" have forgotten that true religion is hard and challenges one to become a better person, to love one's enemies and seek to find the image of God in every human being. False religion is easy, confirms existing prejudices, and indulges hate and anger. Our President's faith smacks of the latter, not the former. True religion asks "are we on God's side?" False religion simply claims that God is on ours. The gate is wide and the way is easy, that leadeth to perdition. Islamic extremists make the same error, and are condemned by the true faithful in their religion who see Islam as true surrender to the will of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate, not the justification for murder.


Iraqi Sovereignty

I am waiting for the President of the Navajo nation or the Cherokee to say to the new Iraqi regime, "Well, we're 'sovereign' too."

No country on earth uses the term "sovereignty" more loosely than the United States. States are sovereign. Tribes are sovereign. We're lucky that "sovereignty" is not applied to wildlife refuges or community college districts. In American jurisprudence, "sovereignty" really just means certain rights that were traditionally ascribed to sovereigns, but that is all. Perhaps the Bush legal team just does not understand what the rest of the world means by "sovereign" - not a mere legal fiction, but a real bundle of rights.

But the Navajo may have more advice to give yet. Come to think of it, are we planning to build a casino in Baghdad?


Amusing Speculation about the REAL Bush Plan

Hi Everyone,

There was a Frontline recently about the effect of religiosity on Bush. In it, one of the people being interviewed suggested that G.W. Bush believed in a “12 Step God” which he found out about while getting off the booze and blow (for the original 12 steps google them). and simply carried that over into the Post-9/11 era. In his recent speech – that no one saw – Bush outlined a 5 point plan. In that spirit, allow me to speculate about the real plan. You know, the 12 step plan for Iraq!

1. Iraqis must admit they were powerless over terrorism - that their lives had become unmanageable (at least by Iraqis).

2. Iraqis must come to believe that a power greater than themselves could restore them to sanity.

3. Iraqis must make a decision to turn their will and their lives over to the care of God as Bush understands Him in his role as God's instrument on Earth.

4. US Military Intelligence must make a searching and fearless moral inventory of the Iraqis themselves – by rounding up tens of thousands of people and actually taking an inventory, run it like a business it will be more efficient that way!

5. Iraqis must admit to God as Bush understands Him, to themselves, and to neutral country the exact nature or their wrongs.

6. Iraqis have to be entirely ready to have God as Bush understands Him remove all these defects of character - keep in mind that Bush is God's instrument on Earth.

7. The Iraqis must humbly ask Him to remove their shortcomings.

8. US Military Intelligence has made a list (see step 4) of all persons to be harmed, and has no specific plans to make amends to any of them.

9. US Military Intelligence might make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would look bad on Al Jazera or CNN.

10. US Military Intelligence will continue to take the personnel inventory (see step 4) and when MI is wrong, promptly release the personnel in question, except when to do so would look bad on Al Jazera or CNN.

11. The American people must seek though prayer and meditation to improve their conscious contact with God as Bush understands Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power we can grant to John Ashcroft to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, The President, in his role as God's instrument on Earth, calls on all Republicans to carry this message to as many voters as possible, especially in swing states, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Presidential Address

I wanted to ask some people about their opinions of Bush's recent address about Iraq, but then it hit me -- nobody saw it. It wasn't carried on any of the big four networks around here (although I heard that Fox at least offered it to its affiliates) so if you wanted to see it, you would have to turn to MSNBC or the like. How often does that happen, that a prime time presidential address is not aired? Well, it's sweeps month.

It's probably good for Bush that no one saw it. He seems to be having a terrible run of luck with any kind of publicity whatsoever...the big news was the Abu Ghraib is to be torn down. Does anyone else think this is not the best way to handle this? Why not make it into something positive, like a learning center or a soup kitchen, or really, anything at all? What's it going to be, a parking lot? And doesn't it seem weird to be essentially destroying evidence while an investigation is ongoing?

Maybe I'm overreacting. What does everyone else think?


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Another Low Moment for American Catholics

Over the weekend, several Roman Catholic bishops told their parishioners that they could not vote for candidates who believe that abortion should not be criminalized (regardless of the candidate's moral stance on abortion). They said the same about those who were agnostic on gay marriage. They also signalled that the candidates themselves, in particular John Kerry, might be denied communion.

Aside from being an unwanted intrusion into politics by conservative RC bishops, the hypocrisy was painful. Why is the church's teaching on abortion being elevated above its teaching on the death penalty or contraception, just to name two? Republican Catholics violate the church's ironclad teaching on the death penalty. Virtually ALL American Catholics violate the church's ironclad teaching against contraception. The Pope does NOT consider these to be "far less important" than abortion, as these conservative bishops falsely claim. Of course, they cannot be consistent here: there would be nobody left to vote for.

The truth is that with the exception of gay rights and abortion, Democrats are more in line with papal teachings than Republicans. Pope John Paul II repeatedly calls for social programs to combat poverty, and condemns treatment of prisoners in the USA, police brutality, and so forth. He condemns capitalist exploitation and indifference to the needs of the poor. The Vatican was also resolutely opposed to the Iraq war. Yet for the RC bishop of Colorado Springs and others, all of this is subjugated their political agenda and personal prejudice. Shame on this handful of Roman Catholic bishops, and shame on their fellow bishops for keeping silent rather than condemning their erring brothers.

But why should the silence of other Roman Catholic bishops be a surprise? Why should the shame be a surprise? It is a great distraction to take the moral high ground and make headlines by picking and choosing which laypersons' political views to punish. It is certainly better than getting tough on those who molested little boys and those who tried to cover it up.

Maybe we should stop asking whether the Roman Catholic church should deny John Kerry communion. Maybe if John Kerry is offered communion, he should not take it.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A Serious Look at the Reform Party and Third Party Politics

In 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot ran as the Reform Party candidate as a centrist/populist. In 2000 Pat Buchanan ran with the endorsement of the Reform Party from the far right. Now, in 2004, Ralph Nader is running with the endorsement of the Reform Party from the far left. Is the Reform Party nuts? Do they pay any attention to the candidates they endorse? The secret to understanding the Reform Party (and contemporary third party politics in general) is to realize that they are a one issue party and that issue is opposition to free trade.

Why is third party politics based on the trade issue? First, free trade benefits a sizable majority of American voters (we can debate that issue later, for now just trust me). Second, because of the first reason, the median voter in any state wide or national election (local areas can be hurt by trade) will be pro-trade. Since we have an electoral system that encourages parties to compete with each other for the support of the median voter, both the Democrats and the Republicans – especially in the Senate and the White House – will have pro-free trade positions. The two parties disagree sharply on issues such as abortion, welfare spending, taxes, etc but on trade, they agree.

Now, since the Reform Party (and other third parties) need to differentiate themselves from BOTH of the major parties, they need an issue that both Democrats and Republicans agree on that they (the third party) can rail against. Right now, the biggest issue that fits that bill is free trade. Normally, one of the two major parties will adopt the position of the new third party to capture their votes. To a certain extent, the Democrats have done that with both civil rights for minorities and with environmental protection. But they won’t move towards being anti-trade because trade is just too good for too many people. That’s why the Green Party is mainly an anti-trade/globalization party now rather than an environmentalist party.

To sum up: Trade is THE issue of third party politics because both of the major parties agree on that issue. The problem for third parties is that the reason both major parties support free trade is that free trade is good policy for the vast majority of Americans. So don’t let Green voters, Reform Party voters, Naderites, Pat’s angry peasants, or Ross Perot tell you that they lose because they are getting screwed by the system. The biggest reason the Greens or Reform Party have no chance of being anything but a spoiler is because the most important policy they advocate is bad policy.

(NOTE: if you click on the links above, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see a little graphic that places each person or party in a two dimensional ideological graph)


Funny and ha-ha funny

Ah, the Onion. A must-read every week. Here's my fave from the new one.

White House Slam Dunk Contest Results In No Slam Dunks
WASHINGTON, DC—The annual White House Slam Dunk Contest, a spring ritual since 1977, featured its usual share of cringe-worthy misses and twisted knees Monday, but once again, no slam dunks. "I tell you, this is some sorry stuff I'm seeing," celebrity judge and former San Antonio Spur George "Iceman" Gervin said, holding up a "1" card after press secretary Scott McClellan made an awkward leap in a pair of wingtips. "The three-point contest was bad enough, but this is just depressing." The last White House slam dunk on record occurred in 1983, when a blindfolded Secretary of the Interior James Watt leaped from the foul line to execute an aerial 360-spin into a tomahawk that shattered the backboard.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Vilsack for VP

Tom Vilsack(born December 13 1950) is a two-term Democratic governor of Iowa.

He may help balance the testosterone heavy foreign policy ticket with home and hearth values. He was an orphan, adopted from an orphanage. Apparently, he has overseen the increase in health care coverage for Iowa's children to 94% coverage.

Various quotes that indicate how he might play on the Democratic ticket:
"The first year of his second term saw the creation of the Iowa Values Fund, a $503-million fund designed to help boost the Iowa economy by creating higher-income jobs."

"Vilsack was elected to the Iowa State Senate in 1992. As a State Senator, Vilsack helped pass a law which allowed workers to receive their health coverage when changing jobs. In addition, he wrote a bill which required the state to pay for 50% of county mental health costs."


More Veep Thoughts

Hi Everyone,

Did someone bring up the VP speculation??? Here is a modestly updated old email I sent out to friends a couple of months ago. This was when the AWOL Bush thing was the hot story so I was looking especailly at candidates who had either served in the military or at least did not get embarassing deferments during Vietnam. I still think that's important because a comparison between Democratic "Veteran Doves" and Republican "Chicken Hawks" would be great. I think a governor would be preferable too as it is hard for two Congressmen to campaign for change - although the solid GOP control of both houses may loosen that up a bit. That said, my favorite VP candidate is Evan Bayh from Indiana - though he has draw backs.
Evan Bayh: He is in Senate Class III which means his term expires in 2005, so he's up for reelection in November. Running as VP might force him to resign his Senate seat - not a safe seat for the Dems. Bayh graduated from Indiana U in 1978 and graduated from UVA law school in 1982 so he was too young for Vietnam and too old for the Gulf war. No military service done but none really expected of his generation either. Frankly, I'm surprised this guy didn't make a serious run for the top spot on the ticket this time around. Makes me wonder if he's got problems I don't know about.

Getting a governor on the ticket would be great. They are more likely to be able to deliver their home state than a House Rep (like Gebhart). Information for governors: and,1169,,00.html
The current governor of Indiana is a Democrat named Joseph Kernan (he was a "flight officier" in Vietnam and was shot down - has won a bunch of medals including the DFC). He was elected Lt. Gov and moved up when Governor O'Bannon died from a stroke. He is up for reelection in November 04. Being up for reelection in 04 is a problem as he might have drop out of the race for governor with no likely Democrat to replace him. But he might put Indiana in play - and I can't imagine Bush losing Indiana and winning Ohio or Michigan.
Ed Rendell gov of Pennsylvania. He is up for reelection in November of 2006. He served in the Army after Korea and before Vietnam. Got a BA from U. Penn in 1965 so he's another Ivy Leaguer. He pushed through a 30% reduction in property taxes for homeowners - that's gotta make him popular in the suburbs of Philly. As Mayor of Philly he balanced a city budget that seems to have been badly out of whack. His wife, Marjorie Rendell, is a Federal appeals court judge in the 3rd Circuit. Pennsylvania is going to critical too (just like Ohio) and he could help a lot there. If Bush loses PA and OH, its over even if "[GW's] brother assures [him] that [they've] got Flordia."
Brad Henry gov of Oklahoma. BA from U. Oklahoma in 1985 (so too young for Vietnam too old for Gulf war). He is in his first term and was elected in 03. So he's kind of new. He has a string of electoral victories including balancing a budget without the kind of brutal cuts Schwarzenegger has put through to avoid raising taxes (more on that on request).

The problem the Dems seem to have is that many of their likely running mates are people who are up for reelection. Here are some Democratic Senators who are NOT up for reelection in Nov 04.

Bingaman (D-NM), got BA Havard 65, JD Stanford '68. Served in Army Reserve from '68 to '74 so he might be vulnerable on that. I would bet that he was a JAG officer but there is a suspicious lack of detail on his biography website.
Bill Nelson (D-FL), Was in the Army reserve (Capt) '65-'71 but was activated from '68-'70. Doesn't mention if he was in Vietnam but does a lot of Veterans affairs stuff. Was the congressman who went up in the Shuttle in 1986. Looks like a career politician - the Grey Davis of Florida. I don't know how popular the guy is down there. He might be able to shift the balance in a close Florida race.
Ben Nelson (D-NE), He's a cornhuskin' draft dodger I'm afraid. BA Nebraska '63, MA Nebraska '65, JD Nebraska '70. Stayed in school for the duration of Vietnam and never left U. Nebraska. Nothing against that institution but it ain't Harvard so one wonders if he was staying in school because of his intellectual calling or to stay out of the draft. Can't say I blame him, but the Republicans sure wouldn't miss the chance to raise the question.
Max Baucus (D-MT), JD Stanford '70 or '71 (doesn't say). Rode his Harley-Davidson to Sturgis for the big biker ralley there in 2000. So he and Kerry could do some biker themed photo ops. No military service and probably got student deferments while at Stanford where he no doubt complained about those smelly hippies over at Berkeley. (sorry could resist the chance to stir up Stanford-Cal rivalries with Law Talkin Guy and some of our loyal visitors). If Baucus is popular in Montana that could play into a "Western" strategy that would put Bush on the defensive in the only part of the country he's really popular outside the old Confederacy.
Joseph Biden (D-DE), BA Delaware '65, JD Syracuse '68 probably got student deferment but when he was prime draft age (18-22) Vietnam hadn't really heated up yet. By the time the war got going he was probably too old. He is the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee! Also a big friend of the environmental crowd (negate Green support for Nader?). Biden has been doing the Sunday morning talk show circuits exuding "gravitas" all over the place.
There are others to be sure anyone have any comments on any of these people or other possibilities?


Veep thoughts

Several people, including our own Raised by Republicans and Joe Biden, have suggested that the ideal running mate for John Kerry is John McCain.


If you're going to reach out and try to convert a Republican, you might as well go for the gusto -- the one person who would guarantee victory for Kerry and defeat for Bush:

Colin Powell.

Now hear me out: it's not as crazy as you might think. Have you read these accounts about the inner workings of the Bush administration? Geez, if these are accurate, then Colin Powell is that little guy in the office who has all these great ideas, you know? But his boss decides to listen to these other guys who he hates instead. And then, after
arguing about how it's stupid and it'll never work, he has to go and announce the other guys' plans to the world. How would you feel if that were your job?

But maybe you don't think he would jump ship and become a democrat. Have you seen Colin Powell's political views? Tell me he's not a democrat. He certainly would not be shunned by the party if he decided to join.

Like John McCain, Colin Powell is well-respected, well-liked and well-spoken. Those few idiots who wouldn't vote for a ticket with a black man on it are probably right-leaning anyway, so Kerry need not worry about that. But the biggest advantage he would give Kerry would be the devastation he would leave behind in the Bush camp. If he were to leave, even without saying anything, it would give tremendous credence to the reports about the inner workings of Bush's circle. Plus, Powell is the only Bush administration member that people actually, well, like. Who would become their public face, John Ashcroft?

No, it'll never happen. But if you're going to hope McCain jumps ship, why not Powell too?


Monday, May 17, 2004

Powell Interview (This is just spooky)

OK, now this latest thing is just unbelievable.

On Meet the Press this Sunday, Collin Powell was being interviewed via satellite by Tim Russert when one of Powell's press aides, Emily Miller, tried to sabotage the interview before Powell could answer the final question regarding pre-war intelligence. Miller admits to interfering with the camera by pushing it away from the Secretary of State but insists that she only trying to get MSNBC to hurry because they were over due for an interview with another news agency. But if that were the case why would she be concerned that "they're editing it?" Its all very fishy. Here is part of the transcript of the interview:

"Russert: Finally, Mr. Secretary, in February of 2003, you placed your enormous personal credibility before the United Nations and laid out a case against Saddam Hussein citing...

Powell: Not off.

Emily: No. They can't use it. They're editing it. They (unintelligible).

Powell: He's still asking me questions. Tim.

Emily: He was not...

Powell: Tim, I'm sorry, I lost you.

Russert: I'm right here, Mr. Secretary. I would hope they would put you back on camera. I don't know who did that.

Powell: We really...

Russert: I think that was one of your staff, Mr. Secretary. I don't think that's appropriate.

Powell: Emily, get out of the way.

Emily: OK.

Powell: Bring the camera back, please. I think we're back on, Tim. Go ahead with your last question.

Russert: Thank you very much, sir. In February of 2003, you put your enormous personal reputation on the line before the United Nations and said that you had solid sources for the case against Saddam Hussein. It now appears that an agent called Curveball had misled the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that were delivering biological and chemical weapons. How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?

Powell: I'm very concerned. When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. We studied it carefully; we looked at the sourcing in the case of the mobile trucks and trains. There was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate. And so I'm deeply disappointed. But I'm also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation, it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment of the intelligence community. But it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that, I am disappointed and I regret it.

Russert: Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for joining us again and sharing your views with us today.

Powell: Thanks, Tim.

Russert: And that was an unedited interview with the secretary of state taped earlier this morning from Jordan. We appreciate Secretary Powell's willingness to overrule his press aide's attempt to abruptly cut off our discussion as I began to ask my final question."

I don't want to sound conspiratorial but this incident smells very fishy to me. The statement that Powell made after the camera came back to him is very embarrassing to the White House. I'm inclined to believe that the press aid knew it was coming and wanted to cut the interview short. That is the impression given by NBC's account of the incident as well.


Massachusetts Marriage Mania

Gay Marriage is turning out to be the butter knife of wedge issues. Doesn't cut well and few are interested. After all the furor over the possibility of a constitutional amendment, people around the country are asking, "So what?" And the pictures of happy newlyweds are adding to the "live and let live" attitude that co-exists with sexual puritanism in the American psyche. The Republican Congress is also not obliging the President's desire for a wedge issue - it looks like now that no vote at all will be taken this Fall. Can gay marriage, in the end, really not be such a big political deal?

The answer appears to be a miscaclulation of real magnitude. Gay marriage is working against the President: he looks powerless to prevent it. Or, he just plain looks mean and out of touch. Not a compassionate conservative. The clue to this analysis is in Governor Schwarzenegger. Instead of being part of some sort of resurgent Republican spearhead, Schwarzenegger is avoiding Bush altogether. Why, he must wonder, is the president talking about a gay marriage amendment instead of a balanced budget amendment? He's abandoned the President on gay marriage entirely. He has kept mum during the recent scandals. His new budget may relent on 'no new taxes'. And his advisor, Warren Buffet, has joined Kerry's team. Bush is leading his party into the wilderness.

Democrats seem united around "live and let live."
It's the Republicans who are divided.


Surprise, surprise.

This will be all over all of the blogs soon, so you should read it now: the new expose in the New Yorker. It's a long read but definitely worth it. In the interest of being fair and balanced, we should point out that the Pentagon is denying all of it, which of course they have to.

There's also this article which is much along the same lines. Really dynamite stuff.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Fog of War Discussion

Hi Everyone,

Some recent posts have focused on how best to deal with the situation our country finds itself in Iraq. I recently rented the DVD of "Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert McNamara" and I think it provides an excellent starting point for a discussion - indeed, it was intended to do just that.

I will list them here and my hope is that they will spark some comments to replace all the comments that we (who am I kidding) - Bell Curve - deleted in the recent excellent upgrade. But it was worth it, the upgrade was great.

First, some background: What ever you may think of Robert McNamara he is certainly one of the most intelligent and experienced Americans of the 20th Century. When WWII started he was an assistant professor of Economics at Harvard - most people would consider themselves very accomplished if that was all they ever did. When the war started he became an efficiency expert for the Army Air Force (later the Air Force) and served under Curtis Le May in the Pacific - the command that fire bombed Japanese cities and dropped both Atomic bombs. After WWII he went to work for a struggling Ford Motor company where he not only helped turn the company around but instituted seat belts for the first time - saving an estimated 20,000 lives a year (that was the estimate at the time, its saved far more I'm sure). In 1961, JFK asked McNamara to be his Secretary of Defense. McNamara was a key advisor when the Kennedy Administration avoided full scale nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. McNamara served both JFK and LBJ through much of the Vietnam war. After LBJ fired him in 1968, McNamara became the president of the World Bank which gives long term loans to developing countries to alleviate poverty and economic depression. To say that this man's life has had its share of moral contradictions is a bit of an understatement! Anyway, at the end of the film (which I strongly recommend!), McNamara presents 10 lessons that he's learned over the course of his life.

"1) The human race will not eliminate war in this century, but we can reduce the brutality of war - the level of killing - by adhering to the principles of a ‘Just War’, in particular to the principle of ‘proportionality.’
2) The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will lead to the destruction of nations.
3) We are the most powerful nation in the world –- economically, politically and militarily -– and we are likely to remain so for decades ahead. But we are not omniscient. I we cannot persuade other nations with similar interests and similar values of the merits of our proposed use of that power, we should not proceed unilaterally except in the unlikely requirement to defend directly the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii.
4) Moral principles are often ambiguous guides to foreign policy and defense policy, but surely we can agree that we should establish as a major goal of U.S. foreign policy, and indeed, of foreign policies across the globe: the avoidance in This century of the carnage –- 160 million dead -– cause by conflict in the 20th century.
5) We, the richest nation in the world, have failed in our responsibility to our own poor and to the disadvantaged across the world to help them advance their welfare in the most fundamental terms of nutrition, literacy, health and employment.
6) Corporate executives must recognize there is no contradiction between a soft heart and a hard head. Of course, they have responsibilities to stockholders, but they also have responsibilities to their employees, their consumers and to society as a whole.
7) President Kennedy believed a primary responsibility of a president –- indeed “the primary responsibility of a president -– is to keep the nation out of war, if at all possible.
8) War is a blunt instrument by which to settle disputes between or within nations, and economic sanctions are rarely effective. Therefore, we should build a system of jurisprudence based on the International Court -– that the U.S. has refused to support -– which would hold individuals responsible for crimes against humanity.
9) If we are to deal effectively with terrorists across the globe, we must develop a sense of empathy –- I don’t mean sympathy, but rather ‘understanding’ -– to counter their attacks on us and the Western World.
10) One of the greatest dangers we face today is the risk that terrorists will obtain access to weapons of mass destruction as a result of the breakdown of the Non-Proliferation Regime. We in the U.S. are contributing to that breakdown."



Friday, May 14, 2004


Great improvements! Thanks Bell Curve!

Recently, events in Iraq and the United States have drawn my attention away from the great mass of the world's population. Perhaps I should be forgiven since I am an American after all. But here is a little something about the two biggest countries on Earth: China and India.

China First: I recently got into a little argument with a good friend of mine about the effect of Chinese public opinion on Chinese foreign policy. This posting will probably start another argument. Oh well, he knows I'm still his loyal friend.

This past April, the Chinese Communist party unilaterally enacted a controversial scaling back of Democratic reforms in Hong Kong. Many in Hong Kong had expected to be allowed to vote directly for the Governor of Hong Kong by now. They also had expected universal suffrage and multi party elections for the Hong Kong legislature. The Guardian quotes,Qiao Xiaoyang, the Chinese Deputy Secretary General of the People's Congress as saying "Governments who are led by the nose by public opinion are irresponsible," (so much for the constraining effect of Chinese public opinion on Chinese government policy). This was not a reaction to some populist uprising in response to a temporary shift in public opinion. This gentleman was commenting on the idea of elections themselves.

I have two things to say to Mr. Qiao. First, he's demonstrably incorrect about the relationship between public accountability of government and effective or "responsible" government. Second, I would warn him of the eternal truth of Virginia's state motto: "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus Always to Tyrants)! He should pay close attention to the mood of the 500,000 odd protestors who hit the streets in Hong Kong after the announced limits on democratic reforms. Hong Kong has a total population of 6.8 million. Keep in mind that when the entire US population generates a demonstration with 500,000 people it is a protest of historic proportions (like MLK's March on Washington).

Now on to India: India is a marked contrast to the highly centralized, undemocratic, authoritarian regime in China. India is a functioning multi-party democracy with universal suffrage and federal administrative system. Governments tend to be coalitions of several parties which leads to policies based on compromise. For the past several years, India has been ruled by a coalition led by the BJP. The BJP is a Hindu-Nationalist party that wants India to reject its secular, multi-cultural traditions and move towards a society based on conformity with Hindu culture. The leader of this party, Mr. Vajpayee, have accomplished some good things: started some needed economic reforms, made moves towards a shaky detente with Pakistan. However, there have been dark sides to this government as well. BJP supporters were largely blamed for anti-Muslim massacres in the state of Gujarat.

Over the last several weeks this enormous democracy (650 million + voters!!) has been conducting an election with admirable order and calm by the standards of most developing countries. The results are now in and the BJP has been soundly defeated by the Congress Party. "Congress" was founded by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandis K. Ghandi (who was assassinated by a member of a precursor of the BJP).

Comparison: I suggest that China's leaders look seriously at India. Not as they usually do, as a military threat and potential rival in the region, but as an example from which they can learn quite a lot. India is just as huge as China. India faces many of the same problems that China faces. But India manages to operate under a functional democracy with many parties, universal suffrage and federal administrative structures. Ultimately, China will have no choice to be become more like India. The question is how will it become like India. Will the Communist Party of China gradually - but steadily - increase the participation and accountability in Chinese political/governmental affairs? Or will they dig in their heals - as they seem to have done in Hong Kong - and try to keep the lid tight on the pot as the water comes to a boil.

India can in turn learn something from China. China has managed to do quite a bit to solve problems that India still struggles with. First, China is much more active economically (although this week's Economist suggests that China's high growth rates are bubble-like and unsustainable - a "hard landing" recession would be VERY bad for China, Asia and the world). Second, China's population is growing much slower than is India's. Granted, I doubt a democratic society could achieve that goal using some of the more draconian methods adopted by China but don't throw the baby out with the bath water (sorry for the pun).


Site Update

We (we? Who am I kidding) I have changed the comments feature of the site to use Blogger's comments, a new feature. Haloscan's commenting feature had some problems -- it made page loading slower and it restricted the length of comments. Blogger's should do neither. Unfortunately, all the old comments are now gone, but all of your opinions were worthless anyway :)


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Geneva Conventions

Wolfowitz is now admitting that some of the interrogation procedures we used in Iraq - the official ones under the "manual" - violate the Geneva convention. Senator Reed asked if these would be a violation if American soldiers were subject to the same. He was forced to admit it would be.

Will the Congress dare to demand that we behave in accordance with the treaty, which is, under Article VI of the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land?

Take a look at the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. It is quite explicit in what is permissible.

Also Article Article 12, of interest to Messrs. Bush and Rumsfeld:

"Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them."


More Poll stuff

Thanks Ross for the URL: The link to the most recent numbers from Ohio is:

To the rest of you, it's a great website with lots of information. However, its clearly a pro-Democrat site so visitors should approach what they say with some healthy skepticism.

The same guy runs a website about state politics at One of the postings on that site from March said that the Cuban emigre community in Florida was getting really ticked off at Bush about what they thought was lack of action against Castro. That might explain the recent series of new sanctions against Cuba that Bush announced in April.


More Polling News

Hi Again,

Just a couple of tidbits from the world of polls.

First, an Associated Press poll of registered voters found that 50% want Democrats to control Congress compared to 41% who want Republicans to control Congress. Now, keep in mind that this is a national poll and Congressional elections are heavily dependent on local district boundaries and the geographical distribution of Democrats and Republicans. But it does provide another indication that Bush and Republicans in general are being blamed for the widely perceived "wrong track" that the country is on. That seems fair to me since the GOP controls the White House and Congress - hard for them to blame Democrats under those circumstances.

Second, I heard on CNN earlier that Kerry is ahead in Ohio now 49% to 42%. I haven't been able to verify that number on the web. If anyone can find a recent (since May 5th) poll from Ohio or any of the other swing states, I'd really like to know where to find it.


Alternative Suggestion

I don't like it when people criticize my suggested approaches without supplying alternatives so I will offer one here.

Step 1) Establish an independent counsel to investigate the torture/abuse scandal. It is beginning to look like no one above the rank of sergeant is going to get court martialed over this. If that turns out to be true, the Iraqis will not respect or believe statements by US authorities that issue is behind us.

Step 2) Remove George W. Bush as President. His ignorance and incompetence are now combined with alienated allies. We probably can't succeed in Iraq alone. We certainly can't succeed in Iraq if our policy is a stumbling muddle conceived by an ideological and poorly informed leadership and implemented without any oversight.

Step 3) Stop trying to hand pick Iraq's leaders. If people like Sistani or former Baathists really are the popular leaders in their respective communities we should accept that. We should concentrate on guiding and enforcing the institutions within which those factions will compete politically.

Step 4) Invite increased participation by Western Europeans. Offer to increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo to relieve pressure on the over extended European militaries.

Step 5) Ultimately we will have to leave Iraq. It will be best for the Iraqis if they see us leave on something approaching their terms. I'm not saying we should allowed Iraqi mass opinion or levels of political violence drive the policy. However, it would be mistake to think that Iraq will be well served by the US alone dictating the terms of our own departure.


Chechenya and Iraq

Great analysis Law Talking Guy! I didn't realize there was a connection between Ingushetia and Chechenya. Isn't Ingushetia the part of Georgia that has been undergoing a lot of unrest?

I just have two areas where I disagree with you about things.

First, in your point 3 you say "Understanding your opponent is crucial to knowing how to make peace. Willful blindness to history will damn efforts to make stability, because the motivations of groups and individual persons cannot be deduced from their relative power or outside assessments of the benefits or disadvantages of cooperation."

The average age in Iraq is 19 years old, they have no direct memory of Iraq's colonial past. In fact, they probably few if any personal memories of the Iran-Iraq war. Everything they "know" about Iraq's history they learned from their local political leaders in the last year or so. I know you have taught college freshman in the United States. How complete would you say their understanding of American History is? How dependent would you say their perception of that history is on their current political ideology? What I am trying to get at here is that while what actually happened in the past is certainly history, the political relevance of particular past events, real or imagined, depends on how/what people are taught. How people perceive their country's history depends on their socio-political position. I'm not saying that these perceptions are not important. They are vitally important because they send signals about people's policy preferences. BUT what we really care about are the preferences themselves not the current interpretation of past events. People's current view of history is a symptom of current policy preferences NOT the cause. Based on that recognition, we should advocate direct talks with the current leaders of the various Iraqi factions. If they chose to express themselves in historical terms, fine, but the important thing is that we find out what each faction wants now and what they will accept now.

Second, I strongly disagree with the idea that the Arab league should take over in Iraq. It's tempting to think that because they are fellow Arabs and fellow Muslims that they will be effective at moving Iraq towards stability. However, if one looks at how the military and police behave in most of the countries of the Arab League one sees gross abuses of human and civil rights, no tolerance for political dissent and an alarming tendency to respond to protests with live ammunition. What we need - and apparently can't provide ourselves - is troops specially trained and experienced at peace keeping and policing civilian populations without abusing them. The Arab League simply can't supply those kinds of troops. The Western Europeans (NATO) can supply those troops. The problem is that Bush has so thoroughly alienated most of the NATO countries' leaders - and all of their populations - that increased participation by NATO so long as Bush is President is out of the question. NATO recently said as much. They announced that NATO would not consider official participation in Iraq until after the US elections in November.


The Chechnya File

A little backgrounder on Chechnya:
Chechens (they call themselves the Nachko, incidentally) descend from a Caucasian Muslim people. When the Russians invaded the Caucasus in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this tribe split between collaborators and resistors. The collaborators are now known as the Ingush, and have neighboring Ingushetia. The resistors became known as the Chechens. In their midst, the Tsars built the fortress of Grozny, which means "terrible" - it is the sobriquet of Ivan the Terrible - Ivan Grozny. The Tsars subdued the region by the 1880s. For the Russians, the Caucasus has the psychological importance of Texas. Its heroes in the 19th century won their honor fighting in places such as Vladikavkaz (The Mistress of the Caucasus). For them, it IS Russia.

Not so for the Chechens. In February 1942, Stalin (a Georgian who had all the Caucasian ethnic hatreds) declared the Chechens an enemy people and deported them en masse to Kazakhstan. More than 1/3 died before they were allowed to return in the 1950s under Khrushchev. That day in February 1942 is known as the "Day of Chechen Genocide" by the Chechens. Their leader Dudayev declared independence from Russia on the 50th anniversary of that day (February 1992). Russians have no comprehension of the desperation of the Chechen people to get out from under the Russian heel.

In the initial phase of the war, the Chechens, numbering approximately 500,000, lost 10% of their population. Grozny, the capital, is a wasteland. Chechens then turned to Islamic extremists for weapons and help. In the mid 1990s, Clinton agreed with Yeltsin that the Chechen problem was a problem of terrorism and gave a green light for continued action. Yeltsin's reelection was ensured when General Lebed negotiated a peace deal permitting de facto independence. This proved unsatisfactory to the Chechen guerrillas, who were not invited to the new government. It proved unsatisfactory to the Russians, as Chechen guerrillas continued to carry out terrorist attacks. Putin took office in 2000 and renewed the war. In 2003, Putin had elections, installed a president, and appeared to be re-integrating Chechnya. Last week, that president was assasinated.

Why talk about Chechnya here? It is an object lesson on Iraq.
Lessons of Chechnya:

1. Terrorism is a predictable phase of guerrilla war, if there is no attempt to make peace with the guerrillas.
2. Sheer brutality will not defeat terrorists/guerrillas, unless you are willing to engage in genocide.
3. Understanding your opponent is crucial to knowing how to make peace. Willful blindness to history will damn efforts to make stability, because the motivations of groups and individual persons cannot be always deduced from their relative power or outside assessments of the apparent relative benefits or disadvantages of cooperation.
4. Once a war slides into a pattern of guerrilla war and terrorism, peace becomes almost impossible. Because the invading state believes that negotiating with terrorists/guerrillas is unacceptable, it will try to negotiate with self-proclaimed moderates, or even puppets, who cannot effectively negotiate because they do not control the terrorists/guerrillas. If neither side will negotiate, the impasse will continue.
5. The populace will likely side with the terrorists/guerrillas because (1) their nationalist sympathy lies with them anyway, and (2) the usual reaction of the state/invader is to oppress all civilians because they cannot tell civilian from guerrilla.
6. This sort of terrorism works. Northern Ireland and Palestine show that peace is possible only when the state power is willing to sit down and reward the terrorists for their behavior, something they are loath to do.
7. No state power has yet figured out how to win the "hearts and minds" of an occupied people.

So how to make peace in Iraq?
We are not yet at the breaking point. If elections, under any conditions, were held next week, a coalition including lots of nasty people could yet be induced to accept a UN-run transitional government that grants significant autonomy and protection to minorities and splits the national oil resources between groups. The Arab league could guarantee the security of the Sunnis against the Shi'a majority goverment. It might not be a democracy as we would want it, but it might be stable and allow the Americans to go home.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Springtime of Discontent

The polls are now coming in too strongly to be ignore. Approximately 60% of the public in poll after poll says they are dissatisfied with the way things are and that we are headed in the wrong direction. This is, of course, eating away at the president's job approval rating (below 50% now) and at the electoral contest (Kerry by a nose).

The level of discontent is the suprise -- it is a 180 degree change from last summer. It's starting to look like the person who needs a rally is Bush, not Kerry.


Some interesting editorials from the military press

If anyone is thinking that the political views of the military community are all about photo ops and cheers for the Bush administration, check out this link.

The Army Times editorial accuses Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers of "professional negligence" and calls for accountability for "failed leadership."

Army Times is part of Military Times which has Navy, Air Force and Marines versions as well. I'm not sure but from a brief and informal comparison between its website and that of Stars and Stripes, I'm guessing that Army Times is more independent of the Defense Department. For example, there were no editorials easily located on the Stars and Stripes page - just letters to the editor covering more or less innocuous subjects. For example, whether the exercise uniform should have a hat to protect against sun burn.


Another swing state heard from

A friend of mine forwarded me an article about a little scandal in Appleton, Wisconsin. It seems that the Appleton area paper, the Post-crescent was so alarmed about the mostly anti-Bush letters to the editor that they published a call for more pro-Bush letters to achieve "balance."

Some background: Wisconsin overall is a pretty liberal state. Unions are very influential and Madison is a famously left-wing university town. However, the Appleton-Green Bay area (aka the Fox Valley) is pretty conservative. The Fox Cities (a collection of small cities strung out around the north shore of Lake Winnebago and down the length of the Fox River)were the home town of Joe McCarthy. The area is now the home to the John Birch Society. The cities economies are dependent on paper mills. The biggest paper company in the area is Kimberly-Clark which is so right wing that it makes Coors Brewery look down right liberal. I've heard rumors from people I know in the area that a lot of the paper mill jobs have been disappearing there recently.

CNN et al are all saying that Wisconsin is "in play." That is they think that while Wisconsin voted for Gore in 2000, Bush might pick it up in 2004. If Bush is going to pull that off, he MUST have a huge Republican turn out from the Appleton area.

If the Appleton area is generating mostly anti-Bush letters to the editor that is TERRIBLE NEWS FOR BUSH. The only thing that could put Wisconsin back into the winnable column for Bush is if Nader draws off a lot of support from Kerry (probably in Madison).


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Is Al Haig in charge? (a response)

I was just going to post a "comment" but it got out of hand and exceeded the character limit.

Confused chains of command are often seen in American institutions. These convoluted institutional structures often result from implementing the principles in my favorite quotation from the Federalist papers (the one from Madison's Federalist 51 about "opposite and rival interests").

The problem we've got in Iraq is that institutions that used to be "opposite and rival" have been transformed into a single ideological leviathan by the post 9/11 "war on terror" rhetoric and the lack of Congressional oversight that has gone along with it.

The result is that instead of acting as a "centinel" [see, the Founders couldn't spell either!] over public rights, these institutions have created a barrier to oversight. By confusing the chain of command, the Military/Intelligence leviathan increases what social scientists call "informational asymmetries." The rough translation of that little bit of jargon is that it helps the Military/Intelligence leviathan to make sure that they know more about what's going on than Congress (or anyone else) does.

Once again, it all comes down to oversight.


Is Al Haig in Charge?

The Senate uncovered today one of the real problems in Iraq: uncertain chains of command. I cannot help but remember Rumsfeld's coy line last Friday that he had made the chart of the chain of command but "forgot" to bring it. It is more reasonable to suggest that chains of command were deliberately confused in Iraq to allow military intelligence operatives (and private mercenaries) to get around the normal authorities and use the "stress and duress" (read: torture) tactics to extract information from prisoners.

Some, like Senator Imhofe (R-Oklahoma), believe that the problem is "the do-gooders swarming all over the prisons looking for abuses." So, for the right wing, the Red Cross is the problem. Once we get our meds straightened out, the facts point to one conclusion. Since 9/11, this administration has proceeded under the Goldwater principle that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Well, it is a vice. It is also illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional. Ye shall know a tree by its fruits. And the fruits are soon to be on video.

Trust the government, they say. Don't ask questions, don't think about the dead soldiers and civilians, and if you have to, shut your eyes. We'll keep you safe. Except, of course, that we are in more danger than ever.


When we let the executive branch muck about with due process...

One of the reasons democratic societies insist that their governments respect due process and civil rights is to avoid unintended consequences for innocent people.

The main story:

There are reports afternoon that the American, Nick Berg, who was brutally beheaded by Al Qaeda terrorists was arrested and detained without due process by US forces holding him for two weeks. When he was released the Iraqi security situation was deteriorating and he was kidnapped by Al Qaeda while he was attempting to leave Iraq. Mr. Berg was arrested by Coalition authorities in a "sweep" operation near Mosul. He was held without access to lawyers, family or other outside persons or organizations.

His family tried to find out where he was when his communications with them suddenly stopped on March 24th six days before he planned to leave the country. They claim they got little cooperation from Federal authorities in the United States. However, the FBI did "interview" the family about Mr. Berg's reasons for being in Iraq on March 31st. In early April the Berg family filed suit against the US Defense Department. Berg was released on April 6th and was kidnapped by Al Qaeda on April 9th.

To say that this guy got cruelly abused from every side is understatement to the point of almost being crass. Had Coalition authorities given him his constitutionally guaranteed access to a lawyer or at least to his family, he might have been released earlier and/or released into the company of friends instead of dumped alone into a chaotic war zone a week after he had planned to leave the country. I'm not blaming the US authorities for something Al Qaeda did. Clearly, Al Qaeda bares responsibility for his cruel murder. However, that murder doesn't change the fact that the US controlled "coalition authorities" violated this man's rights in a way that - unintentionally I hope - set in motion that chain of events.

Another story:

I heard on MSNBC yesterday that the family of one of the US soldiers filmed abusing Iraqi prisoners has also complained that the soldier was detained incommunicado for weeks. Family members in the US tried unsuccessfully to find out what had happened to their relative through US State and Defense departments as well as the Red Cross. The soldier was eventually given access to a lawyer just before CBS broke the story of abuses in the prison.

This soldier was not an "enemy combatant." His alleged crimes are indeed against Iraqis who are classified as "enemy combatants."

Does anyone else see these two cases as alarming evidence that we have begun the great slide down the slippery slope to tyranny?


Let's not judge before all the facts are in

One of my favorite movies is Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove: or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb" which I believe is one of the greatest satires in the history of film (go rent it today!). It doesn't take much for me to see parallels between real life and that film. For some reason, Rumsfeld's attitude toward the torture scandal in Iraq has me thinking of the following exchange from the film: President Merkin Muffley has just been told that an Air Force General, Jack T. Ripper, has ordered his wing of B-52s to drop nuclear weapons on the USSR without authorization. He is being briefed by the commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC - the branch of the air force responsible for nuclear weapons), General Turgidson.


The duty officer asked General Ripper to confirm the fact the he had issued the go code and he said, 'Yes gentlemen, they are on their way in and no one can bring them back. For the sake of our country and our way of life, I suggest you get the rest of SAC in after them, otherwise we will be totally destroyed by red retaliation. My boys will give you the best kind of start, fourteen hundred megatons worth, and you sure as hell won't stop them now. So let's get going. There's no other choice. God willing, we will prevail in peace and freedom from fear and in true health through the purity and essence of our natural fluids. God bless you all.' Then he hung up. We're still trying to figure out the meaning of that last phrase, sir.


There's nothing to figure out General Turgidson. This man is obviously a psychotic.


Well, I'd like to hold off judgment on a thing like that, sir, until all the facts are in.


anger rising General Turgidson, when you instituted the human reliability tests, you assured me there was no possibility of such a thing ever occurring.


Well I don't think it's quite fair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip up sir.


I want to speak to General Ripper on the telephone, personally.


I'm afraid that's impossible, sir.


General Turgidson, I am becoming less and less interested in your estimates of what is possible and impossible. "

I'll conclude with a gratuitous Simpsons reference to keep Bell Curve happy. "Take that Maynard G. Crebbs!" (said by Homer as he rode a nuclear bomb down towards a couple of bongo playing hippies in a park)


Monday, May 10, 2004

What the Founding Fathers really said

There is an enormous amount rhetoric out there - especially from conservatives - along the lines of "the Founding Fathers never intended blah blah blah." However, it is my experience when talking to conservatives who like to make these arguments that very few of them have actually read anything written by the "Founding Fathers" or the Constitution itself for that matter. Which is really strange because these guys were really prolific authors. I've been reading The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay a lot lately in relation to my own research on political institutions and here are some of my favorite quotations.

"For it is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger, when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion." - Federalist 25 (Hamilton)

I think the quotation above speaks to the "trust Bush, he has moral clarity" justification for greater executive power we hear from conservatives.

"This policy of supplying by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power; where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other; that the private interest of every individual, may be a centinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of supreme powers of the state." - Federalist 51 (Madison)

This quotation by Madison is my favorite of all time. Consider what Madison would think about the enormous concentration of executive power (and executive police power at that) in a single agency in the form of the Homeland Security Agency.

"Its is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. Different interests necessarily exist in different classes of citizens. If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: The one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority, that is, of the society itself; the other by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens, as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole, very improbable, if not impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self appointed authority. This at best is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests, of the minority party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority." - Federalist 51 (Madison)

OK, that was a long one. But it speaks to my earlier posting (which generated so much controversy) arguing that economic diversity was a necessary condition for democracy. It also speaks to the demands by religious conservatives that all government policy reflect "traditional American values" (read conservative Evangelical values).


Who do the terrorists want to win in November?

OK Everyone, in keeping with the wild speculation theme of the blog universe...

Who do you think Al Qaeda wants to win the 2004 Presidential election in the USA and why?

I suggest that they want Bush to win because their goal is the radicalization of the Islamic world and the initiation of a "Clash of Civilizations" style war with the West. Bush's policies seem to play right into that strategy. A more moderate US foreign policy based on international cooperation would blur the Islam vs the West image Al Qaeda want to sell to people.

Now, you all tell me what you think!


Protestant fundamentalism and intolerance

I think the attitude of the Bush circle and their supporters is a direct result of their religious fundamentalism.

Because their ideology is religiously founded, they see dissent as against the will of God and deserving of intolerance if they are citizens and persecution abroad. This is in marked contrast with the traditional divisions in American politics which were based on Enlightenment style reason. It used to be that liberals and conservatives could agree to disagree while recognizing that each were pursuing the more or less legitimate (if misguided) interests of their constituents. No more. Because the conservatives have become dominated by a new religio-ideological cult, all dissent from the conservative view is un-American, immoral and illegitimate. Consider the dramatic reduction in courteous behavior towards the minority party in Congress since the Evangelical conservatives rose to prominence in the GOP (more on that on request).

People who oppose the war in Iraq, or any other Bush policy for that matter, are "aiding the terrorists" or "don't value life" or "don't share American values." People who advocate equal protection under the law for homosexuals are "pushing for special rights for gays" who in turn are portrayed in dehumanizing ways.

Which brings me to my final point, I believe that what has Bush et al really upset about the torture in Iraq is its homo-erotic qualities rather than the fact that torture is used as an interrogation technique. If it were just beatings and dog maulings, would Bush have condemned it? Probably, at least in a bland, official press release. Would he have been "sickened" by it? I wonder. There was no response from the White House about this until the pictures broke despite the fact that they knew about it a year ago in Iraq and even longer in Afghanistan and Guantanamo (knew from the ICRC).


No Excuse For Torture

This morning, Bush reiterated his claim that "nobody can doubt that Iraq is better off because it is free." This is, although not explicitly offered as such, his justification for the abuse of prisoners. Isn't torture okay, the argument goes, if we can get good results by doing so? Too many New Yorkers no doubt would say that the torture of a "few Arabs" would have been worth it, if it could have prevented 9/11.
Even Alan Dershowitz suggests, as he did after 9/11, that there should be "torture warrants" issued in select circumstances to elicit information. Shame on him. Shame on this administration. Torture is a bargain with the devil. And remember: the devil always wins.

It is on this issue, above all others, is where the civilized world rallies or fails. The issue is not "police brutality." Torture is an attempt to break the spirit by depriving the victim of his sense of humanity through pain and humiliation. The hallmark of torture is not physical pain, but psychological destruction.
Torture is wrong. No exigent circumstances justify it. Its gradual abolition was one of the greatest achievements of the Enlightenment. Freedom from torture is our most precious freedom. No matter how badly the government hates us, it has no right to destroy us physically and psychologically. Thus we are free men and women with the right to dissent. Now we are seeing that in Iraq, the army - OUR ARMY- strips prisoners naked, leaves them in the freezing cold and dark for days, forces them to perform acts of humiliation, and beats them. And that's just what they chose to photograph. If there were photographs of Guantanamo, we would likely see worse.

There must be house cleaning in the Defense department. If Bush and Rumsfeld cannot understand why this is wrong, they must be swept out of office on a wave of revulsion. America can survive more terrorist attacks. We cannot survive the introduction of torture. There was a time when our presidents would declare a "national day of humiliation and prayer" to take stock of our wrongdoing. This is the time for such a day.

I recommend that we all, as a nation and as individuals, set aside a day over the next week or two for reflection and education, or prayer if you are so inclined. It is an appropriate time to put away the yellow ribbon and don a black one, or simply dress in black clothing. We should ponder the question: how have we become so angry that we are willing to countenance this behavior? I would propose May 28 - the Friday before Memorial Day.


Sunday, May 09, 2004

Running the Economy on Adrenaline

So we get the news that the economy has added new jobs. To celebrate, there is a stock selloff? Fear of inflation through wage pressure is not the issue. We know that incredibly low unemployment and wage increases for low-income workers in the late 1990s was accompanied by, of all things, deflation. The sources of the recent uptick in inflation can be traced to the effect of surging energy prices and the price of raw materials, such as steel, that China is demanding at ever-increasing rates. Not to mention the falling dollar making all imports more expensive. Inflation does not seem to be the boogeyman now -- the fear rather is that an improving economy means higher interest rates. The intuition in a stock selloff is that higher interest rates will be worse for major corporations than the benefits indicated by the other good economic news.

What's going on here? Why is the good news not so good?

We can't solve the whole economy in one post, but a few things seem clear.
Federal tax breaks for corporations have turned out not to be a great success. The falloff in federal tax dollars has left states and localities to take up the slack with tax hikes and service cuts. This burden falls more heavily on small business than big businesses who often negotiate with cities to avoid tax burdens in turn for relocating. Service cuts hurt local economies in so many ways, not the least of which is cutting the income of small businesses that handle construction, maintenance, and the like. We would be out of this recession faster if the federal government had used deficit spending to invest in capital projects. Instead, the deficit spending has been dumped down a hole in Iraq. We are literally blowing up our tax dollars. While defense spending has some positive impacts through the defense industry, the bigger pain is the loss of reservists (and their purchasing power) from small communities which are the same ones hit by the service cuts and tax increases. Worse still, the deficit adds to the likelihood that interest rates will rise. Rising energy costs, health care, and tuition are taking away middle class purchasing power and reversing the real gains in living standards. Cheap money is the only thing making this economy bearable for the middle class - through low-interest credit cards and home equity loans, we are borrowing to stave off bankruptcy. No wonder the stock market plummets on news that that well might run dry.

Thus, the fundamentals of economic recovery are not here. In 1993, the Democrats committed the country to reduced deficits through a combination of federal spending cuts (on defense and social programs, both of which are ineffective GNP stimulators) and progressive taxation. The Republican Congress in 1994 was even more committed to the goal of a balanced budget. With this consensus in Washington on getting the federal house in order, the stage was set for real confidence in long-term investments. The internet boom of the 1990s was played out on this platform. You could argue that tax hikes caused the boom, but that would be as foolish as the Republicans arguing that tax cuts will jump start the economy.

What is needed is one thing: stability. A return to normalcy. Instead we're making up wars, devaluing the dollar, terrifying the public with multicolor alert systems, and gutting the core investment in roads, bridges, schools, and such. The Republicans are trying to run this economy on adrenaline. It's a cowboy mentality. Reversing the recent tax cuts will be a good step in telling corporate America that they can't wait for government giveaways to make their bottom lines. There's no quick fix, be it Iraq or tax cuts. John Kerry must run on a platform of financial discipline, fixing the spiraling health care, tuition, and energy costs, and international stability.


The common theme is oversight (or lack of it)

If there is a common theme to the Bush administration it is that they have managed to avoid the normal amount of oversight that the other two branches of government exert over the executive in the United States. The key to this ability is the Bush administration's use of "the war on terror" rhetoric.

So what is the role that suppressed oversight plays? As George Will (the prominent conservative pundit) said on what I still think of as This Week With David Brinkley on ABC (paraphrasing what I remember he said on TV today): when you have no consequences for failure you get a lot of failure, and we've seen an awful lot of failure from this administration and very little in the way of consequences.

George Will's point is that oversight has been lacking. The Bush administration has been able to weather a series of policy disasters (pre-9/11 intel botches, no WMDs in Iraq, the torture scandal etc) with no major resignations, and a remarkably few trips to Capitol Hill by cabinet members. Will implied that this allows officials to take unreasonable risks with little forethought and planning.

Why are there no consequences? With respect to the Judiciary, I suspect it is the result of the Republican partisan sympathies of a core group in the Supreme Court. But in defense of the Judiciary, the relevant cases are only now reaching the highest level. I'll leave it to Law Talking Guy to disagree, agree and/or elaborate on that.

With Congress there are two factors. First, the Republican party has majorities in both houses of Congress. The Republicans are easily capable of blocking anything the Democrats might want to do.

Second, to make matters worse, Republicans used 9/11 as a political tool very early on to silence Democratic criticism of the Bush administration's policies with regard to terrorism and the middle east in general. Consider the Chambliss (R-GA) attack ads against Max Cleland (former D-GA) that prominently featured pictures of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and with the statement that Cleland opposed the Homeland Security Act (which Cleland opposed because it dramatically reduces oversight mechanisms).

A friend (the other political scientist) who we know visits this blog but has yet to contribute told me that he's tired of hearing about blind support for "the troops" because he believes that it is this tendency to avoid holding the military accountable that has led to these problems. In other words, the "support the troops" mantra is preventing needed oversight of the military. If I got that wrong, he should correct me in a comment or posting. nudge nudge.


Saturday, May 08, 2004

Dig up stupid!

In my morning survey of news sources in the internet, I found that the LA Times has two stories today that deserve attention. And neither of them is about Kobe Bryant or Michael Jackson!

The first presents pretty strong evidence that the Marines have essentially turned Fallujah over to the insurgents. This was sold to the public as a transfer to a neutral Iraqi force that could establish order. The LA Times interviewed a member of the new Iraqi force that has been given control of the city by the Marines. This Iraqi guy says that he was an insurgent a week ago and considers his stint in the American sanctioned "Fallujah Brigade" as a pause in his fight against the Americans. This brigade is supplied with weapons by the US. So basically, the US forces attacked the city, failed to take it, then delivered a supply of arms and ammunition to the people who just fought the Marines to a stand still.

The second story speaks to the White House claim that they were kept in the dark about the torture in Iraq by Rumsfeld. This story quotes the Operations Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross as saying that his organization reported torture by American soldiers in Iraq and that these reports were repeatedly brought to the attention of Coalition authorities in Iraq "throughout 2003." What is more damning for the White House is the assertion by the Washington Delegation of the ICRC that they had face to face meetings with officials at the US Dept. of Defense, Dept. of State AND THE WHITE HOUSE about problems with torture by US and coalition forces in Iraq. This directly contradicts the White House version of events that puts it all on Rumsfeld's failure to bring the story to the President. The President knew all about this from the ICRC, what Rumsfeld sat on was the fact that CBS was about to break the story on national TV. I'm convinced that for this administration 90% of the problem with this situation is that there are photos. If it were just a story about torture but without photos, they wouldn't (and didn't) take it seriously. This leads me to believe that root of the problem will continue to fester and there is a good chance torture will continue and sooner or later new photos will come out taken since April of this year.

The solutions to both Fallujah situation and the torture scandal remind of the Simpsons episode where Mayor Quimby, Chief Wiggum, Homer, and Otto have dug a deep hole and can't get out.

"Quimby: I guess we're not going to find anything.
Otto: Um, how are we going to get out of here?
Homer: We'll dig our way out!
Wiggum: No, dig _up_, stupid."


Friday, May 07, 2004

Political Fallout From Iraq

Time to start premature speculation about what is going to happen in terms of the political fallout from the torture scandal. Rumsfeld warned on Capitol Hill that there are worse reports yet to be released!!!! (By the way I strongly recommend that everyone buy a copy of this week's Economist at the news stands. This Libertarian/Conservative magazine has a powerful cover page demanding that Rumsfeld resign). So what will all this do to the political situation here in the US?

I will get the ball rolling...
The Bush campaign right now is based on two strategies. First, pushing the image of George Bush the firm, solid leader. Bush is portraryed as the "War President", the man with "moral clarity." Second, Kerry is a flip flopper who doesn't take responsibility for his votes in Congress.

This mess in Iraq directly undermines both strategies. The current Bush solution to the scandal (blame it on Rummy) will only satisfy Bush's most steadfast supporters. Many others will see Bush as dodging his responsibility as "Commander in Chief." Also, its hard to say this administration is about "moral clarity" when we are in the middle of revalations about wide spread torture in Iraq etc.

The question will be how salient is the Iraq thing to most voters. But the Bush ads have been based on the "war President" idea and little else. So even if this issue is not salient, it undercuts the reelection strategy and forces them to "play defense" at a time when the polls have Bush and Kerry neck and neck.

And what about internationally?

We can all guess what reaction in the Middle East will be (Great Satan does it again - see we told you).

What about Europe? I think this makes it political suicide for any European leader to increase their country's level cooperation with the US in Iraq. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if some allies currently in Iraq pull out over this. If the USA is lucky, Europeans will blame this on the current administration and a future Kerry administration will be allowed to mend fences. But Bush has 0 political capital with the Europeans right now.

Any other ideas for potential fall out.


Something fishy

Well, baseball backed off from putting Spider-man ads on the bases. Do you ever get the feeling that someone put one over on you?

"We listened to the fans," said Geoffrey Ammer, president of worldwide marketing for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group. "We never saw this coming, the reaction the fans had. It became a flashpoint -- the reaction was overwhelming." I find it very hard to believe that they never saw this coming. Everyone knows baseball fans are a bunch of purists. Mr. Ammer also said, "We saw some of the polls on the Internet that said that 71 and 81 percent of the fans didn't approve of it." So after ONE day of floating this idea, they pulled it because of a few loud fans like myself? One ESPN poll had 40,000 respondents. Who knows how many people voted several times?

I think this was all staged. They should have known a huge reaction was coming and developed a plan for waiting it out. Instead, they immediately do an about-face -- but keep the other parts of the promotion. This way, everybody wins, from their perspective. Sony's new movie gets essentially free advertising from the press, à la "Passion of the Christ". Baseball looks like an extremely responsive and caring entity that puts the wishes of the fan before all else. The promotion goes on --

"Other parts of the promotion will be unchanged. Movie trailers will be featured on stadium scoreboards, the logos will be placed in the on-deck circles, and fans attending the games will receive "Spider-Man 2" foam fingers and masks. Movie branding will also appear on a ceremonial pitching rubber and home plate -- both of which will be replaced with the standard white variety once play begins." (from ESPN).

-- with MLB still getting $2.6 million from SONY. And now, the idea of advertising on the field has been planted in our heads.

What would have happened had they initially announced this promotion the way it is now? There still would have been a huge and violent fan reaction to MLB's greediness. But now that we've killed the sacrificial lamb, we tend to overlook the rest.


Thursday, May 06, 2004

Let the guessing begin! (response)

This $25 billion request is nonsense. Everyone in Washington knows that the Bush administration is low balling the appropriation to lower voters' "sticker shock" until after November. There is already an open secret that there will be a further request for the balance of the bill in February (right after what they hope will be Bush's second inauguration).

Here is what I think Senator Kerry should do. Don't simply vote no. Instead, he should propose an amendment to the appropriation that will force the Republicans to vote "no." How? With an amendment with two parts. First, propose that the tax cuts for the top 2% of the income distribution be suspended for the duration of the "war on terror." Second, conditional on the suspension of those tax cuts, increase the appropriation dramatically to bring more in line with what the war is actually costing.

The Senate is a strange place and Kerry might just be able to get the amendment to a floor vote. If he can, it would force the Republicans go on the record as preferring tax cuts for the rich to more money for our troops.

If it passes, Kerry got rid of the tax cuts until the Republicans admit that the "war on terror" is a rhetorical device as much as a real war. If it fails, Kerry can claim, "I proposed a substantial increase in the funding for our troops and the Republican leadership killed the proposal in committee to protect tax cuts for their fat cat friends." That way even if he votes "no" he can say he voted "no" because the amount was too small.