Thursday, July 29, 2004

Breaking News From California

The budget was just voted on in the Senate. The vote was 26 Aye, 9 No, and 5 Nv. Chances are, of course, someone will change their vote and the budget will pass. I just thought that it was very interesting to watch. Also, not all No votes were Reps, FYI. I'll keep you all updated.

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Founding and Foundation

I was reading the Wall Street Journal this morning, which is something I often do. It is, after all, the only decent newspaper operated in the United States. I didn't feel like reading the FT and the newsstand near my office doesn't carry the Daily Telegraph (Tory-graph, for those in the know). At any rate, the middle column today is about the plight of historical re-enactors during the convention in Boston. Basically, the press and public are being schmucks and asking them things about modern politics and political issues during costumed historical tours.

This particular columng spoke to me on two points. First, when I was younger I wanted desperately to be an historical interpreter. Second, I am a Foundercrat. This means, for those of you who do not attend the Claremont Colleges, that I revere the Founding generation above and beyond the normal Fourth of July patriotism. This is not to say that I am blind to their failings. In point of fact, I celebrate their failings as well as their accomplishments. Their failings indicate a fundamental humanity that elevates their successes to a higher level.

At any rate, the fundamental question of this post is WWFD: What Would the Founders Do? with the political challenges of our time. Well, what are the political challenges and issues of our time? The DNC would have you believe that Stem Cells research, national unity, abortion (they call it "women's rights," but let's face it, they're talking about abortion,) the war on terror, the wealth gap, and the economy.

Stem cell research and abortion (they can be lumped together) are functions of modern science. It is exceptionally difficult to say, therefore, that Thomas Jefferson would have supported abortion or that John Adams (a devout Congregationalist) would have supported stem cell research, despite the claims of Sen. Kennedy. Even so, there was an understanding among the Founders that the rights of the majority are always tempered by the rights of the minority (hence, the bicameral legislature). The issue of abortion would probably have been relegated back to the states to make their own decisions, a typically Federal solution.

The wealth gap and the economy are difficult issues. The New England Puritans, including Adams, whom the Democrats keep lauding, would have said that the wealth gap is a function of grace. Some people got it, some people don't. At the same time, it is necessary for the wealthy to help the less fortunate. Thus, society is held together and the spectre of civil war can be avoided. The economy should be left alone, and allowed to recover on its own. A sizeable public works project, however, wouldn't hurt the recovery, if one is a disciple of Hamilton.

The War on Terror is, at the most basic level, an ideological war. The Founders lived in fear of a rebirth of the Religious Wars of the 17th century in England. This war on terror has the potential to be just as destructive. The Founders would have most likely relied on citizen vigilance and effective law-enforcement to maintain order and prevent terrorist activity within the United States. In terms of the Foreign Policy, however, the Founders would have been split. Thomas Jefferson would, effectively, have preferred unilateral action against threats to American interests. For example, look to his conquest of the Barbary Pirates. Hamilton's supporters would have prefferred to see American strength abetted by alliance with the world powers, but still unconcerned with the United Nations.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

A Quick Thank You

I know it doesn't mean much but our counter just recently passed 1,000 hits and I wanted to thank everyone that reads this blog.  I know most of that 1000 is probably just us posters but for those out there that enjoy what we write here I encourage you to let us know through comments.  I'm going to try to add a link section in the near future, so if you have a blog that you think might be of interest to us and our readers please let us know that too.  Again, thanks to everyone for helping get this counter up to four digits and I hope we can all look forward to many more posts to come!

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Breaking News From California

Budget bill passed on the Assembly floor, will be voted on in the Senate tomorow morning.

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Thoughts on the Morning After

The key speeches on Monday and Tuesday (Gore, the Clintons, Kennedy, and Dean's abysmal performance) all stressed some kind of unity.  Two electoral losers (Gore and Dean) talked about the need to unite behind one candidate.  Sen. Kennedy and the Clintons talked about national and international unity.  The question is, how much of this unity rhetoric is merely a function of the convention (i.e. forget the losers, rally round the flag, anybody is better than Bush) and how much of it will we see in the stump speeches during the next hundred days?  My first thought is that the anybody but Bush will disappear, replaced in full by the "George W. Bush is the most divisive president in history" line of argument.
  Speakers have also tended to rail against the War on Terror and the war in Iraq.  At the same time, polling data suggest that the American people would prefer Bush's policy to Kerry's policy.  I realize that there is a necessary disconnect between reality and a convention because a modern convention's purpose is to rally the troops.  Am I crazy, or is this particular disconnect larger than usual?
  What's with the self-pity of Algore and Dr. Dean?  Both of them have used the line "I had hoped to be here [under different circumstances.]"  Neither of them have elicited a laugh, which is the plain intention of the speech writers.  Is it just a snivelling attempt at humor or is it something more sinister, like a reminder of 2000?  From the crowd shots that C-Span has been making, I'd say the Dems need no reminder of their defeat in 2000.

I said last night while watching the convention that it was interesting to hear such a populist speech from one of America's few aristocrats (i.e. Ted Kennedy).  The statement requires some explanation.  The Kennedy clan, much like the Bush family, is one of the few genuine aristocratic families within the United States.  The scions of that family are guaranteed, by virtue of birth and by birth alone, to positions of power within American politics.  While at one point, Joseph Kennedy did "work and strive" to the highest pinnacles of meritocracy (granted, through illegal activity.  Joe Kennedy was a bootlegger during Prohibition.)  The fact remains that the present generations do not do anything.  They are not productive members of society at large.  They live off of the family name, much like the Dukes and Earls and Vicounts of the European families.  At least the Bushes have oil.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

From the Belly of the Beast: Part 2

While the true festivities have not officially begun for the night I couldn't help but be outraged early in the evening.  Mary Beth Cahill, Campaign Manager for John Kerry, was just interviewed on Special Report with Brit Hume and said some things that go well beyond "Democratic spin" (yeah I don't like to use that O'Reilly phrase either).  She claimed that Ron Reagan Jr.'s address to the DNC tonight would add a bipartisan tone and showed how people will cross party lines in the name of science.  If these inferences are not enough to sway you, Cahill directly called Reagan Jr. a Republican.  Perhaps she is confused.  I know Ms. Cahilll is a slightly older woman but she must be able to distinguish between Reagan Jr. and his father, the late-President Reagan.  By every account Ronald Reagan Jr. is a self-proclaimed liberal, not hiding his partisan bias against President Bush.  I know many Democrats might proclaim that Reagan Jr. merely finds Bush as unacceptable but maintains an open-mind toward Republicans, but this does not explain why he has been quoted as saying, "The Republican Party now is not the Republican Party of my father, not that it would be of great concern to me, one way or the other."  He would go further and proclaim that, "I'm not a Republican and I never have been."  I don't mind that Reagan Jr. is addressing the convention tonight; in fact, I welcome Reagan to voice his strong opinions on a very controversial issue.  All that I ask is that Cahill declare a "spade a spade" and paint Reagan Jr. as what he truly is: an unabashed liberal.

Kris (8:15 PM): I find it slightly ironic that Ted Kennedy keeps bringing up John Adams.  I understand the underlying comparison, patrio to supposed patriot, revolutionary in troubled time to alleged revolutionary, but nonetheless one must bring up the most glaring contradiction in Kennedy's use of Adams.  Adams was defeated by the predecessor to Kennedy's party, and while I know some would object to this based upon the loose lineage of modern day parties I still bring this up: Adams was defeated in large part due to Jefferson's rhetoric that he and his party served merely the elite in America.  This rhetoric sounds familiar....hmmm.....it seems that Kennedy and the Democrats haven't forgotten this tactic.

Charlie (8:30 PM): Interesting to hear such a populist speech from one of America's few aristocrats.


Kris (9:20 PM): An overall mediocre performance from Dean, though I'm sure that was the exact message he was asked to deliver.  I must say though, this was the most "Presidential" and subdued I've ever seen Dean.

Kris (10:00 PM): The choice is between "reason and ignorance."  Thanks Ron Reagan.  I don't mind what his partisan slant is or what his opinions on the stem-cell debate are, frankly my mind is not made up one way or another, but it is not conducive to call one side ignorant.  This is not what a truly inclusive Democratic party would believe.  A person's faith or belief system simply does not make them ignorant.

Kris (10:18 PM): If she is still being put in time-outs at the age of 12 then she has more problems than are readily apparent.  Also, while I'm not defending the Veep's choice of words to Leahy, or rather the situation that he used them in, I must point out to the "Kids for Kerry" that the wonderful woman they introduced was the same who called Ted Kennedy a "bastard" and told a reporter to "shove it."

Kris (10:23 PM): Yep, that "special sparkle" that comes from Teresa's background are those 3 + decades she spent as a Republican.
 
Kris (10:56 PM):  Okay so she finally finished.  Teresa's speech was long-winded and not too compelling.  I have to say, after following an act like Obama in particular, Heinz had her work cut out for her.  Tonight was certainly not the best night for speeches but at least Kennedy and Obama had some life in them.  If Heinz Kerry is to ever succeed in the "First Lady" role she needs to either learn to moderate her sharpe edges or failing that become more likeable.  I saw neither of these qualities tonight and frankly can't see what the PA Republicans ever saw in her when they asked Heinz to run for US Senate. 

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Something Other than DNC

I know that everyone is focused intensely on the DNC right now. However, I have something to post other than news and thoughts about my opponents in Boston. For those of you who care about California, as I do deeply, pay attention, this is big news.

Last night, a budget agreement was reached between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other members of "the big 5", Senators Burton and Ackerman, and Asseblymen Nunez and McCarthy. This agreement ends 26 days of stalemate on the budget. It still must be put into language and recieve 2/3 vote in each house. Some say it will be voted on as soon as tomorow, however, I believe it will not be untill early next week.

The Reps have been holding out on 3 issues. First was the local government finance package, which I have already posted on. Next was a law dubbed the "Sue Your Boss" legislation passed and signed 2 years ago by Gray Davis. This law allows employees to sue their employers for any infraction, no matter how big or small, of code. The idea is good, because it protects workers from employers who would run their businesses very poorly. However, in practice, it was fraught with fraud, and the most minor infractions, which forced small fines on employers as penalties turned into multi-million settlements. This was damaging an already ailing business community in CA. Finally, there is a law that forces school districts to contract services like bussing through unions. This makes the costs of these services sky-rocket. Costing the state more money than it should.

In the end, the Reps gave on the school issue, in return for repeal of the "Sue Your Boss" law. The Reps also gave on the local govt issue. They decided to drop from a 4/5 vote requirement to borrow money in the future to a 2/3 vote. In the end, I feel the budget is what a compromise should be. What we gave on local govt wasn't a huge deal, because bi-partisan support is still needed to get 2/3 vote. I still think the school issue is a really bad idea, but the bonus is we got "Sue Your Boss". It is important to note that local elected officials have not yet signed on with the new local govt package.

I don't think that Arnold will be harmed much by the budget delay. The people of California love him, that's the bottom line. We shall see though soon enough.

For now...Farewell from the Left Coast.
Timmy

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Monday, July 26, 2004

Here's a thought from the DNC

The problem with the Democrats (and really why they won't win this November): they are still living in the Clinton era. Filled with such nostalgia and longing for what they call the 'good old days' when Republicans were the evil (wait still are) majority in Congress and terrorism was an afterthought that could be eradicated by lobbing cruise missiles.

#1. When the Democrats say they will be fiscally conservative, they mean they will raise taxes. Democrats will reduce deficits. How? Raise taxes of course.

#2 Democrats will increase minimum wage. And oh, create new jobs. Right. I'd believe the Democrats any day if they lower taxes and initiate tort reform to create the necessary conditions to create new jobs.

Increasing minimum wage does not equate to creating more jobs. You can't have both; but you can certainly have one at the expense of the other.

#3. I feel bad for Kerry. There's no way he can live up to Clinton's speech tonight.

"Strength and wisdom are not opposing values." Nice line. Democrats have a good chance to develop on this if they want.

So much for not bashing the Bush Adminstration and talking dirty about the Republicans.

More to come...

Clinton's a damn fine speaker. Reminds me of my childhood; after all I did grow up in the Clinton era. But I'm not nostalgic for more years of empty Clintonian schmooze and rhetoric.



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Thoughts While Watching the DNC

Byron (8:55PM): i am eagerly anticipating to see Jimmy Carter speak. Bright vision of the future? This coming from someone who blamed America for that malaise? I can't wait!
 
Byron (8:58PM): It's funny how Carter has more "accomplishments" to brag about post-Presidency. Usually it's supposed to be the other way around.
 
Kris (9:01PM): After hearing the song "Everyday People" twice tonight alone it makes me think....If John Kerry is representative of everyday people then I can only hope to one day be 1/10 as ordinary as Kerry is today.

Kris (9:05PM): Byron just informed me that the speeches of Carter, Hillary, and Bill Clinton can be found on
http://www.drudgereport.com/

Kris (9:08 PM): Carter just mentioned how we need to help assure basic human rights around the world.  Frankly, I couldn't agree more with him.  But I do find it odd how Carter then turns around and attacks the President for "making a mistake" by going into Iraq and freeing millions of innocent Iraqis from decades of oppression.

Kris (9:13 PM): "Third, we cannot do our duty as citizens and patriots if we pursue an agenda that polarizes and divides our country."  I think somehow turning a blind-eye to the obstructionist tactics of the Senate Democrats as a part of the greater polarization in American politics is quite foolish.

Kris (9:19 PM): The one thing I am glad to see in Jimmy Carter's speech is that he stopped blaming Americans for the problems of the country and has simply focused it down to one person. 

Kris (10:25PM): Has she had plastic surgery?

 
Kris (10:30PM): I'm glad she edited/extended her speech from the Drudge version. Overall, a pretty ordinary speech; I'm amazed she did what her role dictated. 
 
Kris (10:39PM): It amazes me how much the Democrats have kicked and screamed about Florida in 2000.  Didn't Clinton's theme song proclaim, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow?"

Kris (10:42PM): "Democrats want to build an America of shared responsibilities and shared opportunities." I'm glad someone just came out and said it.  Democrats and Republicans are fundamentally different.  Sorry, I'm a bigger fan of equality of opportunity with diverse responsibilities and results.  It's a difference that I guess we'll never overcome.
 
Kris (10:50PM): I guess Clinton's definition of "strong efforts against terror" includes letting Bin Laden's actions go unanswered on the global level and not enforcing U.N. mandates against Iraq.
 
 

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Breaking News From California

Developing. A budget agreement has been reached in California. The story will break tomorow morning. I will post on the details tonight.

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On Conservatism's Multitudes, continued

I ended my last post with libertarians, and said that I would resume on Friday afternoon.  It is now Monday morning.  Deal with it.
 

Thus far I have discussed the Randian conservatives (who generally deny that they are conservatives) and the libertarian adherents.  If we increase the scope of government we arrive at the traditionalist, or mainstream, conservative or Republican.  This is probaly the largest grouping under the conservative banner.  Like their libertarian brethren, the traditionalist conservative would prefer a small government, limited in scope and abilities.  Unlike the libertarian conception, that small government, posesses and should exercise the power to levy income taxes, rather than drawing its sustenance from customs and excise.  National security and defense are traditional strong points, and most internal spending can be justified from that perspective (i.e. we need farm subsidies to maintain a domestic food supply.)  As a national character, the traditionalist conservative is resistant to change, operating on a basic philosophy of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Of course, if something is broken, the traditionalist conservative would prefer to examine the situation thoroughly and then prepare a modest course to rectify the problem.  Foreign policy is very dependent on the situation.  While a long, drawn-out war is not pleasant, the traditional conservative is likely to stand behind the administration, so long as the usual reasons of "fighting for freedom" remain at the forefront.  Morality for a traditionalist conservative tends to be religiously derived, but generally tolerant.  The traditional conservative does not wear religion on their sleeve and certainly does not use it to justify policy.
 
We can move on now to the last two groupings within conservatism: the so-called Neoconservatives and the Theocons.  These two, in my humble opinion, represent the scariest branches of the conservative movement.
 
The common descriptor for a Neoconservative is "born again."  The descriptor connotes the passion and fervor of a new religious convert.  Simply using a religious descriptor in a political discussion should tell you quite a lot about the Neoconservatives.  In Neoconservative ideology, a very Hawkish (pro-war and military action) foreign policy takes center stage over domestic policy.  This policy idea favors intervention wherever and whenever needed to promote democracy over tyranny, and will advocate unilateral action when necessary.  What domestic policy there is, tends to better resemble a Democratic agenda than a Republican one, with increased social spending replacing limited government.  I mentioned earlier that "Neocons" are "born-again" conservatives.  There is a very strong, almost religious devotion to "democratic government."  It is the New Crusade: to bring democracy to the wider world.  The means for that crusade are immaterial because the ends are just.    Morality with this group is a hodgepodge, generally individualist but with an undercurrent of intended uniformity.  That is, while most are content to leave moral decisions to the individual a handful of Neocons would rather see a Judeo-Christian morality brought to the world at large along wth democracy.  Of course, it goes without saying that the United States should be the first to adopt the Judeo-Christian tradition officially.  Some Neocons are born again religiously as well as politically, lending a double fervor to their politics.  Some are atheistic who worship Democracy instead of a deity. 
 
The final group really gives the rest of us a bad name, these are the Theocons, also known, perhaps, as Theocrats.  The Theocon, however, splits into two subfactions: the "Paleo-Theocon" and the "Neo-Theocon."  A Paleo-Theocon is a disciple of Pat Buchanan.  It is isolationist in its foreign policy, virulently nativist (anti-immigrant) and fervently religious in its domestic policy.  The government should not interfere in anything, except the bedroom and other areas of traditional privacy.  The government, in short, should involve itself in the private lives of citizens, to ensure that they are living Godly lives, but should let them stand or fall on their own in terms of their public lives.  You might also say that the PaleoTheocon is a "beady-eyed conservative," not prone to discussion of the finer points of conservative philosophy.  The PaleoTheocon tends also to blindly follow the dictates of any conservative who is willing to use God and patriotism in the same sentence.
 
The NeoTheocon is definitely the scariest of the group.  Combine the interventionism of the Neoconservative, with the religious fervor and virulent nativism of the Paleo-Theocon and the Neo-Theocon results.  Please note that pariotism = nativism with this group.  Phyllis Schlafly is a good example.  I don't think I need to say more.  If the NeoTheocons came into power in any significant way (say, a significant portion of the legislature + the executive)  I would be on the first plane to Tibet, where I plan to live as a goat until the world blows itself up.
 
I think this about summarizes our little conspiracy.  I'm sure that my treatment of Neoconservatism will draw some flak and I look forward to it.

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Friday, July 23, 2004

On Conservatism's Multitudes

In Wednesday's New York Times, which I only read because they offer a free online subscription, William Safire published a brilliant op-ed piece on the Republican Mind.  That article has inspired me to draft my own observations on Republicans and Conservatism in general.
 
Safire rightly points out that the "Republican" or "Conservative" label is enormous and, paraphrasing Walt Whitman, can be excused for its contradictions because it is enormous and therefore contains multitudes.  I have had the benefit of attending a number of conferences and gatherings geared towards the Conservative, young and old.  These gatherings have allowed me to put together the following list of categorizations and definitions, which I hope will help explain and illuminate the workings of this Conspiracy of ours.
 
In the most general way, this list moves from left to right on the political spectrum, but, as you will see, those demarcations are so relative as to be meaningless. When I refer to left and right, I refer to the size and scope of government, not to social or economic factors.
 
At the furthest reaches of conservatism's right wing you find the Randians, self-styled Students of Objectivism.  Those people who adhere in part or in whole to the teachings of dogmatic free-thinker Ayn Rand deny that they are conservatives.  In reality, they are Corporate Anarchists.  Generally, they advocate the total abolition of government and its coercive power.  In its place, the supermen, the "Creators," giants of unlimited creative potential produce for themselves, with lesser benefits accruing the people lower down the chain.  Foreign policy follows a similar track, having nations compete with each other the same way that companies do.  A massive wealth-gap is the natural order of things, as some people are simply naturally inferior in their productive capabilities.  "Reason," undefined and always capitalized, is the guiding force of society.  Morality in this grouping is "do as thou wilt."
 
If you moderate the anarchic leanings of the Randian, define "Reason," and instill Enlightenment morality (usu. a morality independent of a higher being and dependent on human rationality) you get the libertarian.  The libertarian as a political theory is distinct from Libertarian as a political party.  The libertarian political theory maintains the Enlightenment credo that all men are born equal with respect to their rights as men. (I realize that "men" is not PC, but if you're complaining about it, learn some history.)  There is no aristocracy by birth, only by achievement.  Government that operates on a libertarian model is minimal, preferring to let citizens settle their differences and fend for themselves.  The free market, private charity, and social networks provide a far better support system for citizens than bureaucracy.  Libertarian foreign policy is a kind of free-market isolationism.  Nations should trade with each other, not kill each other.  Military and political alliances are to be avoided.  Morality in this grouping falls to the individual.  Insofar as an action does not infringe on the right of another to life, liberty, the protection of his property, and ultimately his pursuit of happiness, it is moral.  In otherwords, a victimless crime is not a crime at all.  Legal systems, however, must naturally exist to help ensure fairness and equity in the disposition of the aforementioned rights.
 
In the interest of time and space, I will end my post here for this morning.  I will resume and complete this afternoon, covering the increasing scope of government as one moves further to the Left.  It might surprise you to learn that there are, in fact, big government Conservatives.

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Sometimes I Just Don't Get It

For those of you that merely write me off as a zealot who simply tows the Administration’s line, be prepared, I’m about to speak very bluntly about one of President Bush’s stupidest mistakes to date.  Mind you I’m a wishy-washy moderate on some issues, especially compared to some of my more conservative brethren that join me here on this blog, but that having been said I’m also about as conservative as they come on tax issues.  Given the choice I would choose any day to allow every class in society to keep more of the dollars that they earn to spend as they see fit.  I trust the individual and it’s just that simple.  Today President Bush effectively turned his back on this principle through his strong arm tactics in an election year.

I’m as committed as the next person to see a Republican dominated November 2 but certain priorities must be placed and thought must be paid to making everything into a mere “election year” issue.  For the past week the House and Senate GOP leadership had been in discussion over a proposed tax cut that would not require a committee hearing, a floor debate, or a floor vote.  Bill Thomas and Charles Grassley were ready to skip that whole process and take the tax extension straight to conference committee.  I know some of you are not “in the beltway” and therefore may not have heard about this “terrible precedent for representative government” but I assure you it was in the works.  The best part about it was that it was enjoying bipartisan support, even without spending offsets that most moderate GOPers and Democrats have been screaming for in the Senate.  I was excited.  The Republicans stood poised to deliver a major victory in extending the increased Child Tax Credit, the repeal of the marriage penalty, and the revised and expanded 10% income tax bracket.  These three tax cuts, unlike the corporate tax package recently passed by both bodies, has “sex appeal.”  These packages are aimed at lower to middle income families thus holding large sway with swing voters.  This package was one hell of an opportunity for the GOP.  After it all seemed said and done a bomb dropped this morning.  The two year extension agreed to by Senate and House negotiators (I use the term negotiators loosely as it was simply the Leadership that worked this one out) wasn’t good enough for the Bush White House.  They demanded a five year extension, or nothing.  Okay, look I’m in favor of a permanent extension of these tax cuts; I think they’re too important to let expire.  I make no secret about my views in this matter.

What the Bush Administration did was both politically stupid and electorally harmful.  I know the mindset was to push for a five year extension, pass it in the House and then pray it passes in the Senate.  Should the matter have been filibustered in the Senate, which it undoubtedly would have if it did not contain offsets, the Administration could have painted the Democrats as so obstructionist that they would vote against tax cuts for the poor.  The problem is at the end of the day those tax cuts would have expired.  I understand what the Bush Administration was thinking, and frankly I just think they’re wrong.  I know I’m no Karl Rove, but I think Bush should have run with the victory that he was assured with a two year extension and then looked forward to a mid-term fight over re-extending those cuts.  Remember, 2006 could be a bloody year even when Bush wins reelection.  A fight over lower-income tax cuts will always be a hot button issue and after what hopefully will be a couple of years of lowering deficits Bush might even get a permanent extension of the cuts.  This principled, but shortsighted view, may very well breed some sort of electoral success, but all I see is disaster.  The deal is as good as dead now, with Sen. Baucus undoubtedly backing away from the table and taking with him his fellow moderate cohorts such as our favorite RINO’s John McCain, Lincoln Chaffee, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins.  Oh well, hopefully Rove knows more than I do, or hopefully Bush will back down, either way electioneering on an issue as important as extending tax cuts is probably not the recipe to success that Bush probably sees it as.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Ann Coulter is not what is right with America

I can't stand Ann Coulter. She is everything wrong with humanity. No, not just the Right. I will admit; there are some psychos on the right-wing just like there are the insane ones on the left. But Ann Coulter takes the trophy for being a nonsensical queen-bitch. There is nothing admirable about Coulter. And she makes me ashamed to be even affiliated in the same 'political ideology' with her.

Have a field day with this one folks. You won't get many of these.

Oh yeah, Sean Hannity used to be decent. But then he became famous and now he's a hack. I cannot stand that.

Linda Rondstadt, your music is lame. What surprised me was not what you said, but by the sad, sad fact that there were people who were willing to pay to hear you sing. I'm glad to know they at least had enough sense left in them to boo you off.

Kerri Dunn's on trial.

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Monday, July 19, 2004

All the President's Men (President Clinton that is)

There seems to be a story unfolding here.  Who knows if anything will come of it but I figured it's worth pointing out seeing as CNN has not found it fit to put on their website.  Oh and before anyone makes a snide remark about Fox News I've decided to post the AP article from Yahoo News.  We'll see what happens here and I'm sure there's much left to be said: 
 
Sandy Berger: You've Got Some Explaining to Do!

Update: Sandy Berger stepped down from his official post as an advisor to the Kerry-Edwards Campaign.  While I'm happy that Berger would fall on the sword in this manner, it is troubling that he is this concerned over the criminal investigation.  I know there is still probably nothing here (I don't want to be too "conspiratorial"), but if he was simply "mistaken" in stuffing the documents in his socks then what does he have to hide or prove.  Interesting...I think/hope we'll see and hear more from Mr. Berger soon.

Even Later Update: Just read an interesting article from World Magazine.  Usually this isn't a magazine that I'm all too interested but the current issue describes another Sandy Berger debacle.  Turns out disclosing, or rather mishandling, classified information is not something new to Mr. Berger.  Read it and check it out for yourself:

http://www.worldmag.com


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Friday, July 09, 2004

My First Day in the Big Leagues (An Update from the California Legislature)

I bring to you another update from Sacramento. Enjoy.

Last Friday was the most exciting day that I've had yet. Let me start with some background...In early May, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sat down with representatives from local governments throughout the state, this was a multi-partisan group with Reps, Dems, and Indies. His goal was to come up with a solution to help solve some of California's ridiculous budget problems. They negotiated for a long time, and eventually the two parties came to support a compromise.

This deal was complex, so I'll try to explain it so that people can understand it. Over the next two fiscal years, the state was going to cut $1.3 billion a year, for a total of $2.6 billion, from local governments. How exactly this would be done is the complex part and is very technical. The $2.6 billion in cuts is the important part. In exchange for this money, a constitutional amendment would be passed to protect local governments. It would include protections against further cuts in the future, reforms to the mandate system, and prohibitions against revenue shifts. Once again, I could get more technical, but I don't want to put people to sleep.

I began work here on May 19. On May 24, I was given my first real, substantive issue assignment. I was to write a letter about the compromise to the local elected officials in our district to solicit their input. I had to learn the issue inside out, I would be very grateful for the extra time I spent reading on the subject later.

So on the morning of Friday, July 2, I arrived in the office as usual. I was the first one in the office, so I started a pot of coffee and opened up my inbox. It was a few minutes before I saw the e-mail. It was from a Policy Analyst in the Republican Caucus whose name I recognized from talking to him on the phone while researching the issue. I opened it up and read. According to the e-mail, the Democrats had been meeting late into the night the day before. Budget issues were a priority for everyone that week, and nearly the entire budget was complete. Late Thursday night, early Friday morning, somewhere around midnight, the Democrats released a copy of a proposal that they had produced.

I was really surprised at what had happened. Perhaps this was just because I am a naïve rookie; perhaps I really should have been surprised. I just couldn’t believe that at the eleventh hour, the Dems had come out with a proposal of their very own and ignore the work that had been done for two months and all of the support that the original package had received.

The Democratic local government finance package would still cut the $2.6 billion from local governments. The difference between the two packages was in the constitutional provisions. The state would still be allowed to suspend the rules and cut money from local governments when they needed it. In fact, the way that the proposal is written, it would be easier in the future to steal their money. Also the proposal did not reform the mandate system, which is currently bleeding local governments dry. Essentially, this package turned into a major, major cut to local governments without any benefit for them. It was no longer a compromise.

So…8:30 rolled around on Friday morning, and the phone started ringing off the hook. There were local elected officials calling, and lobbyists, even staffers in the DO and they all wanted to know what in the hell was going on. Since, I was the only one in the office who had dealt extensively with this issue; all the calls were transferred to me. I’ve talked to plenty of people before on the phone at this job, but when you have lobbyists and constituents and all other kinds of people calling about a very technical problem in a very short period of time, it can get a little stressful. Eventually it began to calm down a little bit.

The Assemblyman that I work for went down to session finally, and they began their normal business. There are always lots of TV’s on in the office during session so we know exactly what’s going on down on the floor. So I was waiting to see when the local government finance packages came up. Here’s why this was such a big deal. This package is a constitutional amendment, which means that it needs a 2/3 vote and then is put on the ballot in November for the voters to approve. Friday was the deadline for all constitutional amendments to be passed by the Legislature. This means that it was supposed to go up for a vote, and everyone expected it to go up for a vote.

So I watched and waited. Finally, they finished all regular business. They were supposed to move on to the local government packages. Then, a Democrat moved to recess. All the Dems voted aye, Reps nay. The Speaker said to stay within 30 min of the capitol because session would be called at any time.

The Assemblyman met with his chief of staff and capitol director in his office. Then, they called me in. So, I went in and they were talking about local government finance. I leaned forward and whispered something to the capitol director, who is really my boss, about the package. She said say it. So, I said what I had to say, which was that the suspension clause was all the local elected officials really truly cared about. Then they asked me my opinion. This was intimidating. I’m just some punk out of college; I was really picking and choosing my words carefully. I said that I thought that it was really foolish to give in on the suspension clause. Anything else could go. That was the sticking point. I said I was confident that the local elected officials would be supportive if they got what they wanted only on the suspension clause.

The meeting ended. I felt like I had just stepped up to the plate in the majors. My opinion was affecting policy. Perhaps it was not a huge deal, and I have very little influence. But, the point is that something I was saying could make a difference, and could possibly really help someone out.

Back to waiting…We waited…For four hours we waited while nothing happened. The waiting was killing me. I just wanted to know what was going to happen. I still had adrenaline pumping through me that had been going since 8:30 in the morning and wasn’t slowing down. At about 4:15 p.m. the Assemblyman was sitting in his office, and I was in mine, and there was one other guy in the office. All of the sudden he yells why are there people on the floor? I looked at the TV, then at the other guy in the office. I hadn’t been notified that there was session, and neither had the other guy, so we said session hadn’t been called yet. More people showed up on the floor, and the Assemblyman grabs his jacket and literally runs down to floor yelling they’re calling session. Once again that day, I was surprised and a little confused at what was going on.

Sure enough, 2 minutes after he ran out the door, session was back on. Immediately, a Dem moved to adjourn. I didn’t understand. It came to vote. I didn’t understand. 36 Dems, 8 Reps. I didn’t understand. Session was adjourned. I didn’t understand. Finally, I understood. By adjourning with even debating the issue, let alone voting on it, the Dems had effectively killed the local government package. To do this, the Speaker’s office called only the Dems to let them know to go down to the floor. This was unbelievable.

Shortly after this chaos, the Reps in the Assembly held a press conference, calling for the Dems to simply open the floor up for debate so that the Assembly can deliberate the way a deliberative body should. Shortly after that, Governor Schwarzenegger held a press conference condemning what had gone on that day in the Legislature.

I had managed to get myself caught up in the middle of a major power play between the Dems in the Legislature and Arnold. There was speculation that the reason they were so scared to bring it up was that we had the votes to pass the original proposal, but not the votes to pass the new proposal. This is possible, but it’s just speculation, and I would guess the votes wouldn’t have been there. I think it was just the Dems way of telling Arnold that they are in charge around here.

In the end, who knows what will actually happen? We are back to waiting here in Sacramento. There has been little progress made since last Friday. It appears that we are in for a long fight. I know that this was a monster of a post, and I apologize for that, but I would also like to applaud you for actually reading it all. I will let you all know when something else goes down here.

For now…Farewell from the Left Coast.

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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Majority Rules

Today was one of those days that makes me extremely happy to be a politics nerd. Once in a great while is there a political tactic used so adeptly In the House of Representatives the majority rules to the extreme. Some call it tyranny of the majority, but I call it fair game.

Representatives Sanders (I-VT) (by the way what the heck is up with “Independent” Vermont Congressmen that aren’t so independent) came forward with his amendment to the CJS Appropriations bill. The amendment would alter the rules governing the Justice Department by limiting access to library records when investigating terrorism. This some might remember as the cannon fodder provision of the Patriot Act. The amendment enjoyed nominal bipartisan support with several Republicans crossing the aisle in an attempt to end what they believed as an infringement upon civil liberties. Republicans countered that argument with the testimony of Representative James Sensenbrenner, chair of the Judiciary Committee, which stated that the provisions in the Patriot Act are necessary in the new and changing war on terror. Apparently, a previously undisclosed report discussed that terrorists have indeed tried to use library resources, such as internet terminals, to discuss terrorist activities. It was with these facts at hand that the Representatives then went forth and voted on the amendment.

After the 15 minute vote ended it was held open in an attempt to let “all those members present in the well to vote.” Well as Nancy Pelosi pointed out, there were no members waiting to vote in the well. What was actually being done was strong-arming by the Republican leadership to get members to change their votes. They needed approximately 10 Republicans to change their votes from “Yea” to “Nay,” and they succeeded in only 38 minutes. For those in the minority that additional 23 minutes was a travesty and they treated their colleagues to their thoughts by chanting “shame, shame, shame” over and over again. Once it was all over and the Republicans had successfully swayed the vote, the Democrats continued to rail against the actions of the Republican leadership but to no avail; the bill passed handedly as few Representatives wanted to go on record as voting against funding three crucial branches of government.

The message and lesson to learn from all of this: If you’re in the minority in the House you mine as well be in the Zimbardo Prison Experiment. Lock them up in the basement for all I care; the minority is subject to the whims of the majority. This isn’t tyranny though, or it’s not even unjust, it’s simply the way the House works. In this matter I can’t help but feel that we’re lucky that the Republicans succeeded today. While I understand that there are significant concerns to be dealt with when considering a provision such as this one, we cannot remember that we must be vigilant throughout our War on Terror. Sensenbrenner also brought up several other interesting points to remember when attempting to dismantle this piece of judicial capability. For example, when you take out this section of the Justice Department code you also destroy the safeguards that are currently in place to prevent abuses of the system. Even though this Justice Dept power does permit them to investigate activities in libraries, it also requires that for law enforcement officials to obtain anything they must bear the burden of proof before a judge while they attempt to obtain permission to do so. Under the effects of the Sanders Amendment, were it enacted today, the Justice Department would only need to go before a Grand Jury to obtain a general mandate to investigate in very similar manners. Either way, despite how you feel about the individual provision (which I know so many of our readers probably hate), you cannot help but admire the tactics used by House leadership. In the House the majority rules in all circumstances and that’s just the nature of the chamber. If you are looking for tyranny of the minority perhaps you should examine that other chamber which has lately caused the legislative process such headaches, the U.S. Senate.

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The Kerry-Edwards Ticket

As you all know, John Kerry has finally unveiled his selection for Vice-President: Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. This was who I thought Kerry would select, but I think there are some significant drawbacks to selecting Edwards as VP. He's definitely not the worst of all evils, but Edward's redeeming qualities as a politician (did I really say that?) may ultimately overshadow Kerry, the presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee.

Edwards has somethng that Kerry completely lacks; vitality, vigor, and charisma. Kerry is right to select Kerry to energize his lackluster campaign. Look at Edwards' smile; he actually looks like he's having a good time. there's a funny line from Billy Crystal: "hey John Kerry, if you're having fun, SMILE!" Perhaps Edwards will infect the Kerry campaign with a dose of optimism that will remove the constant stream of pessimism. As the RWC's favorite, Zell Miller, points out, "I lived in the Great Depression. And this is not the Great Depression", referencing Kerry's numerous comparisons of the economy to the Great Depression.

Americans don't like sour grapes. They don't like bitter partisan hacks. And they don't like it when all one can do is paint a dreary picture and not offer any substantive and clear alternatives. John Kerry has droned on and on ad nauseum about how America has transformed into the most deplorable nation in the world. Kerry is well aware that it's a referendum upon President Bush; how much he can say or not say will not make too much of a difference. But this is a digression from the topic on hand: John Edwards.

John Edwards' appeal and charm may undermine the Kerry-Edwards ticket. If you asked me, I would say that it should be the Edwards-Kerry ticket, not Kerry-Edwards. Edwards is everything that Kerry is not; youthful, energetic, and possessing an infectious smile. These simple qualities can go a long way. Will they pick up votes? Yes, they can. But let's not forget that we're picking between Bush-Cheney & Kerry-Edwards, not Edwards.

This is not to say that I support Edwards. Pairing the MOST liberal senator with the fourth-most liberal senator (the king of the trial lawyers) together into a protectionist/tax and spend/tort deform administration spells a lot of trouble for America. We can almost guarantee a raise in taxes if the Kerry-Edwards (I'm sorry, if any Democrat takes office) wins the election, followed by a more protectionist stance in free trade, and a leap back into the beckoning arms of the United Nations. What this will result in: a halt to the economic growth that we have enjoyed recently, a surrender of American sovereignty to the round-table of the United Nations, and the true creation of 'two Americas'.

John Kerry says, 'let America be America'. John Edwards says there are two Americas. Well, which is it?

Believe us when we say that if the Kerry-Edwards ticket wins, there will be two Americas; the "I have no money" group and "I have some money for the governement to take away" group.

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Follow-up to Faith

"One that comes to mind immediately is: We walk by faith, not by sight. I think especially now...when we have so many difficult decisions and we're faced with so many challenges everywhere, and there's a lot of anxiety because of what happened on 9/11, that we do walk by faith and not by sight. We don't know what's going to happen, but we have faith. We have faith in God and we have faith in the people of America."

-First Lady Laura Bush

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